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The preceding command prohibits all trespasses against purity; this against property.
To steal, is to take privately the property of others, with an intention to convert it to our own use. To rob, is to take the same property, for the same purpose, openly, and with violence. There can be little necessity of expatiating upon a crime so well understood, and so universally infamous, as stealing, before an assembly whose education, principles, and habits furnish so strong a barrier against it. It may however, be useful to observe, that this crime has its origin in that spirit of covetousness which prompts us to wish inordinately for the enjoyments and possessions of others. This spirit, when indulged, continually acquires strength; and in many instances becomes ultimately so powerful, as to break over every bound of right and reputation. The object in contemplation is seen to be desirable. As we continue to contemplate it, it becomes more and more desirable. Wbile the attention of the mind enjoyments, put into his hands by the bounty of his Creator. These blessings he barters for the love of ease. The price which he pays is very great ; that which he gets in return is dross and dung.'
The mischiefs of idleness are numerous, and important. 1. Idleness is a sinful waste of our time.
Our time is a possession of inestimable value. The best employment of it, that is, such an employment of it as the Scriptures require, involves all which is meant by our duty. The loss or waste of it is therefore no other than the loss or omission of all our duty; the frustration of the purpose for which we were created.
2. Idleness is a sinful waste of our talents.
By these I mean all the powers of body and mind, and the mcans which God has furnished us in his providence of employing them for valuable ends. Our time and talents united constitute our whole capacity of being useful, our worth, our all. The idle man wastes them both ; ' wraps them up in a napkin, and buries them in the earth.' In this manner he robs God of the end for which he was made, and becomes a burden upon the shoulders of his fellow-men. He eats what otbers provide; and, while they are industriously engaged in labour, his business is only to devour. Thus he is carried by mankind, as a load, from the cradle to the grave; is despised, loathed, and execrated while he lives; and, when he dies, is buried like the carcase of an animal, to fulfil the demands of decency, and merely to get rid of a nuisance.
In the mean time, his : drowsiness clothes’ himself and his family with rags ;' prevents them from the enjoyments common to all around them ; disappoints without a reason perceivable by them, all their just expectations; and, as was formerly observed concerning the drunkenness of a parent, sinks them below the common level of mankind. Want in every form, and all the miseries of want, arrest them daily, and through life. Their food is poor and scanty ; their clothes are rags; they are pinched with cold, through the destitution of fuel; and deprived of refreshing sleep, because their bed is the earth, and because their dwelling, a mere sieve, admits without obstruction snow and rain, the frost and the storm. Thus, while they see almost all others around them possessed in abundance, not of the necessaries only, but of all the comforts, and most of the conveniences of life; they themselves are forced to look on, and thirst, and pine for the tempting enjoyments; while, like Tantalus, they are forbidden by an iron-handed necessity to taste the good.
At the same time, the man is forced to feel, while his family also are compelled by him to feel, that, he, their husband and their father, is the subject of supreme folly and insignificance, and of gross, unremitted, and hopeless sin; of folly, which is causeless ; insignificance, voluntarily assumed ; sin, unnecessary and wanton; and that he is an object of general and extreme contempt. The contempt, directed immediately to him, is of course extended to his family also ; and they are compelled, at their first entrance into the world, to encounter the eye of scorn, and the tongue of derision. All these evils are sustained, also, only that the man may lead the life of a sluggard, be assimilated to the sloth in his character, and rival the swine in bis favourite mode of life, and his most coveted enjoyments.
3. Idleness exposes a man to many temptations, and many sins.
A lazy man is, of course, without any useful engagement: his mind is therefore vacant, and ready for the admission of any sin which seeks admission. To such a man temptations may be said to be always welcome. They are guests, for which he is regularly prepared ; and he has neither company nor business to hinder him from yielding to them, whatever attention or entertainment they may demand. The proverbial adage, that “ Satan will employ him, who does not find employment for himself,” is founded in experience and good sense. The mind even of the idlest man will be busy; and the mind which is not busied in its duty, will be busied in sin. On such a mind every temptation is secure of a powerful influence ; entices without opposition, and conquers without even a struggle, or a sigh. Hence we find such a man devoted, not only to the general sin of idleness, but to all the other sins which he can conveniently practise.
• The sluggard,' says Solomon, is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason. From this miserable vanity, of which their deplorable mismanagement of their own affairs ought to cure them at a glance, it arises, that sluggards so commonly become the professed counsellors of
mankind. Hence it arises, that so many of them are politicians, pettifoggers, and separatical preachers. They know nothing, it is true, except what an abecedarian knows, of either divinity, law, or government. Still they feel and declare themselves to be abundantly able to teach the way to heaven, which they have never learned ; and to explain laws, which they never studied. The affairs of a nation, so numerous, so complicated, and so extensive, as to be comprehended only by minds peculiarly capacious, and to demand the laborious study of a life, these men understand instinctively; without inquiry, information, or thought. Their own affairs, it is true, they manage in such a manner as to conduct them only to ruin. Yet they feel perfectly competent to manage the affairs of a nation with pre-eminent skill, and certain success. Every thing in the concerns of the public, if you will believe them, goes wrong; and will never be set right, if you will believe them a little further, by any body but themselves. These men are . smoke to the eyes, and vinegar to the teeth,' of persons possessing real understanding. To the public they are mere nuisances, living on the earnings of others; fomentors of discontent, active agents in riots and broils, incendiaries, who consume the
peace and comfort of all around them, and who well deserve to be the bye-word and the hissing' of every upright and benevolent citizen. Such were the men whom the Jews of Thessalonica gathered into a company against Paul ; who set all the city in an uproar;' and attempted to destroy the apostle and his religion by the violence of a mob. They were ayopa101 ; translated • lewd fellows of the baser sort;' literally, 'idle, lounging haunters of market places.'
It ought particularly to be remembered, that persons of this character rarely become converts to Christianity. Among all those who within my knowledge bave appeared to become sincerely penitent and reformed, I recollect only a single lazy man; and this man became industrious from the moment of his apparent, and, I doubt not, real conversion. The sinful prostitution of his time and talents by idleness, and his ready admission of temptations to his heart, fix the idler in a regular hostility against all the promises and threatenings of religion ; while his self-conceit makes him too-wise willingly to receive wisdom even from God. Few cases in human lifo are, in this respect, more desperate than that of the idler. A preacher destined to address an assembly of such men might, with nearly the same hope of success, exchange his desk for the church-yard, and waste his eloquence upon the tenants of the grave.
In the mean time, every lazy man ought steadily to remember, that his very subsistence is founded on fraud. If any man will not work,' saith the Proprietor of all things, * neither let him eat.' For him to eat is to rob; to rob his Maker of his property, and his fellow-men of theirs.
2. Prodigality is another fraud, of the same general nature.
There are various modes of prodigality. Property may be wasted by negligence, by foolish bargains, by the injudicious management of business, by bold adventures, and by direct profusion. The guilt in the different cases may vary some what. The general nature of the conduct, its folly, and its end, are substantially the same. There will, therefore, be no necessity of distinguishing it here with any particular attention.
The effects of prodigality are, in many respects, exactly the same with those of idleness. By both these vices property is effectually wasted. The negligent waster of property is influenced by the same motives which govern the idler; and shups the labour of preserving it, as the idler the labour of acquiring it, from the mere love of ease. The spendthrift squanders it, for a foolish fondness for the several enjoyments of which he makes it the price; from the love of show, the indulgence of whim, and the relish for luxurious and voluptuous gratification. The objects of his expense are, either in their degree or their kind, always unnecessary to his true interest, and his real comfort. Passions which ought not to be indulged, whims which ought not to exist, much less to be cherished, govern his mind with despotic sway, and make him their absolute and miserable slave. Unsatisfied with what he is, and what he has, he pines incessantly with a sickly taste for some new gratificationt; for objects in which he supposes happiness to lie, and in which he expects to satisfy a relish, too restless, craving, and capricious ever to be satisfied. His appetite is canine; not merely eating and drinking, but devouring; and, although daily crammed, is still hungry.
Vanity and pride are also perpetual prompters to the prodigal; vanity, which cries with an unceasing voice, "Give,