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The Sluggard in Harvest
I. First, let us try to bring out the principles which are crystallized in this picturesque saying.
1. The first thought evidently is: present conduct determines future conditions. Life is a series of epochs, each of which has its destined work, and that being done, all is well; and that being left undone, all is ill. The mystic significance of the trivialities of life is that in them we largely make destiny, and in them we wholly make character.
2. The easy road is generally the wrong one. Never allow yourselves to be guided in your choice of a road by the consideration that the turf is smooth, and the flowers by the side of it sweet. Remember the sluggard would have been warmer, with a wholesome warmth, at the plough-tail than cowering in the chimney-corner. Fix it in your minds that nothing worth doing is done but at the cost of difficulty and toil.
3. The season let slip is gone for ever. Opportunity is bald behind, and must be grasped by the forelock. Life is full of tragic might-have-beens. The student who has spent the term in indolence, perhaps dissipation, has no time to get up his subject when he is in the examination room, with the paper before him. And life, and nature, and God's law, which is the Christian expression for the godless word nature, are stern taskmasters, and demand that the duty shall be done in its season or left undone for ever.
II. In the second place let me say a word 1. About the lowest sphere to which my text applies. This proverb is simply an inculcation of the duty of honest work, and of the necessity of being wide awake to opportunities in our daily work.
2. Let me apply the text in a somewhat higher direction. Carry these principles with you in the cultivation of that important part of yourself your intellects. I should like all of you to make a conscience of making the best of your brains, as God has given them to you in trust. 'The sluggard will not plough by reason of the cold.' The dawdler will read no books that tax his intellect, therefore shall he beg in harvest and have nothing.
3. Again I may apply these principles to a higher work still that of the formation of character. Nothing will come to you noble, great, or elevating in that direction unless it is sought, and sought with toil. In the making of character we have to work as a painter in fresco does, with a swift brush on the plaster while it is wet It sets and hardens in an hour. And men drift into habits which become tyrannies and dominant, before they know where they are. Do not let yourselves be shaped by accident, by circumstance.
4. Let these principles be applied to religion, and teach us the wisdom and necessity of beginning the Christian life at the earliest moment
5. But there is a more solemn thought still. This life as a whole is to the future life as the ploughing time is to the harvest, and there are awful words in Scripture, which seem to point in the same direction in reference to the irrevocable and irreversible issue of neglected opportunities on earth, as this proverb does in regard to the ploughing and harvests of this life.
A. Maclaren, The Wearied Christ, p. 137.
References. XX. 4. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlviii. No. 2766. W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 409. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Esther, Job, Proverbs, etc., p. 226. XX. 5, 6. W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 413. XX. 11. S. Martin, Rain Upon the Mown Grass, p. 395. XX. 12. W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 417. XX. 14. W. Baird, Sermons, p. 13. W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 126. XX. 17. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Esther, Job, Proverbs, etc., p. 236. XX. 18. F. J. Jayne, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvi. 1899, p. 225. XX. 29. D. Watson, ibid. vol. xlvi. 1894, p. 166. J. Vickery, Ideals of Life, p. 31. XXII. 1. W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 431. XXII. 2. Ibid. p. 434. J. M. Neale, Sermons for Some Feast Days in the Christian Year, p. 402. C. A. Salmond, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlviii. 1895, p. 100. R. R. Dolling, ibid. vol. lxi. 1902, p. 136. J. A. Alexander, The Gospel of Jesus Christ, p. 159. XXII. 3. T. Barker, Plain Sermons, p. 40. W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 438. XXII. 6. Ibid. p. 441. A. Murray, The Children for Christ, p. 170. E. W. Attwood, Sermons for Clergy and Laity, p. 388. XXII. 7. W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 452.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Proverbs 20". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany