AN EPISTLE TO ALL THE SLOTHFUL
AND CARELESS PEOPLE
Solomon saith, that "The desire of the slothful killeth him;" and if so, what will slothfulness itself do to those that entertain it? The proverb is, "He that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame;" and this I dare be bold to say: no greater shame can befall a man, than to see that he hath fooled away his soul, and sinned away eternal life. And I am sure this is the next way to do it — namely, to be slothful; slothful, I say, in the work of salvation. The vineyard of the slothful man, in reference to the things of this life, is not fuller of briers, nettles, and stinking weeds than he that is slothful for heaven, hath his heart full of heart-choking and soul-damning sin.
Slothfulness hath these two evils: First, to neglect the time in which it should be getting of heaven; and by that means doth, in the second place, bring in untimely repentance. I will warrant you that he who should lose his soul in this world through slothfulness will have, no cause to be glad thereat when he comes to hell. Slothfulness is usually accompanied with carelessness, and carelessness is for the most part begotten by senselessness, and senselessness doth again put fresh strength into slothfulness, and by this means the soul is left remediless.
Slothfulness shutteth out Christ, slothfulness shameth the soul. Slothfulness is condemned even by the feeblest of all creatures. "Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways and be wise." "The sluggard will not plough by reason of the cold, (that is, he will not break up the fallow ground of his heart, because there must be spree pains taken by him that will do it;) therefore he shall beg in harvest," (that is, when the saints of God shall have their glorious heaven and happiness given to them;) but the sluggard shall have nothing — that is, be never the better for his crying for mercy, according to that in Matthew 25:10, 11, 12.
If you would know a sluggard in the things of heaven, compare him with one that is slothful in the things of this world; as —
1. He that is slothful is loth to set about the work he should follow; so is he that is slothful for heaven.
2. He that is slothful is one that is willing to make delays; so is he that is slothful for heaven.
3. He that is a sluggard, any small matter that cometh in between he will make it; a sufficient excuse to keep him off from playing his works; so it is also with him that is slothful for heaven.
4. He that is slothful doth his work by the halves; and so it is with him that is slothful for heaven. He may almost, but he shall never altogether, obtain perfection of deliverance from hell; he may almost, but he shall never (without he mend) altogether, be a saint.
5. They that are slothful do usually lose the season in which things are to be done; and thus it is also with them that are slothful for heaven; they miss the seasons of grace. And therefore,
6. They that are slothful have seldom or never good fruit; so also it will be with the soul-sluggard.
7. They that are slothful, they are chid for the same; so also will Christ deal with those that are not active for him. Thou wicked or slothful servant, out of thine own mouth will I judge thee; thou saidst I was thus and thus; wherefore then gavest not thou my money to rite bank? etc. Take the unprofitable servant and cast him into utter darkness, where shall. be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt 25:26-30).
WHAT SHALL I SAY? Time runs, and will ye be slothful? Much of your lives are past, and will you be slothful? Your souls are worth a thousand worlds, and will you be slothful? The day of death and judgment is at the door, and will you be slothful? The curse of God hangs over your heads, and will you be slothful? Besides, the devils are earnest, laborious, and seek by all means, every day, by every, sin, to keep you out of heaven and hinder you of salvation; and will you be slothful? Also your neighbors are diligent for things that will perish, and will you be slothful for things that will endure for ever? Would you be willing to be damned for slothfulness?
Would you be willing the angels of God should neglect to fetch your souls away to heaven when you lie a-dying, and the devils stand by ready to scramble for them? Was Christ slothful in the work of your redemption? Are his ministers slothful in tendering this unto you? And lastly. If all this will not move, I tell you God will not be slothful or negligent to damn you, (whose damnation now of a long time slumbereth not,) the devils will not neglect to fetch thee, nor hell neglect to shut its mouth upon thee.
Sluggard, art thou asleep still? Art thou resolved to sleep the sleep of death? Will neither tidings from heaven nor hell awake thee? Wilt thou say still, Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, and a little folding of the arms to sleep? Wilt thou yet turn thyself in thy sloth as the door is turned upon the hinges? Oh that I was one that was skillful in lamentation, and had but a yearning heart towards thee, how would I pity thee! How would I bemoan thee! Oh that I could, with Jeremiah, let my eyes run down with rivers of waters for thee! Poor soul, lost soul, dying soul, what a hard heart have I that I cannot mourn for thee! If thou shouldst lose but a limb, a child, or a friend, it would not be so much, but, poor man, it is thy soul; if it was to lie in hell but for a day, but for a year, nay, ten thousand years, it would (in comparison) be nothing; but oh it is for ever! Oh this cutting ever! What a soul-amazing word will that be which saith, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into EVERLASTING fire!" etc.
Objection. But if I should set in and run as you would have me, then I must run from all my friends, for none of them are running that way.
Answer. And if thou dost thou wilt run into the bosom of Christ and of God, and then what harm will that do thee?
Objection. But if I run this way, then I must run from all my sins.
Answer. That is true, indeed, yet if thou dost not, thou wilt run into hell-fire.
Objection. But if I run this way I shall be hated, and lose the love of my friends and relations, and of those that I expect benefit from or have reliance on, and I shall be mocked of all my neighbors.
Answer. And if thou dost not, thou art sure to lose the love and favor of God and Christ, the benefits of heaven and glory, and be mocked of God for thy folly, ("I will laugh at your calamities, and mock when your fear cometh;") and if thou wouldst not be hated and mocked, then take heed thou, by thy folly, dost not procure the displeasure and mockings of the great God; for his mocks and hatred will be terrible, because they will fall upon thee in terrible times, even when tribulation and anguish taketh hold on thee; which will be when death and judgment comes, when all the men in the earth and all the angels in heaven cannot help thee.
Objection. But surely I may begin this time enough a year or two hence, may I not?
Answer. First. Hast thou any lease of thy life? Did ever God tell thee thou shalt live half a year or two months longer? Nay, it may be thou mayest not live so long. And therefore, Secondly. Wilt thou be so sottish and unwise as to venture thy soul upon a little uncertain time? Thirdly. Dost thou know whether the day of grace will last a week longer or no? For the day of grace is past with some before their life is ended; and if it should be so with thee, wouldst thou not say, Oh that I had begun to run before the day of grace had been past and the gates of heaven shut against me! But, Fourthly. If thou shouldst see any of thy neighbors neglect the making sure of either house or land to themselves if they had it proffered to them, saying, Time enough hereafter, when the time is uncertain, and besides, they do not know whether ever it will be proffered to them again or no — I say, wouldst thou not then call them fools? And if so, then dost thou think that; thou art a wise man to let thy immortal soul hang over hell by a thread of uncertain time:, which may soon be cut asunder by death?
But, to speak plainly, all these are the words of a slothful spirit. Arise, man! be slothful no longer; set foot, and heart, and all into the way of God, and run; the crown is at the end of the race; there also standeth the loving Forerunner, even Jesus, who hath prepared heavenly provision to make thy soul welcome, and he will give it thee with a willinger heart than ever thou canst desire it of him. Oh therefore do not delay the time any longer, but put into practice the words of the men of Dan to their brethren after they had seen the goodness of the land of Canaan: "Arise," (say they, etc.,) "for we have seen the land, and behold it is very good," and ye are stilt, (or do you forbear running.) "Be not slothful to go and to enter to possess the land."
Farewell. I wish our souls may meet with comfort at the journey’s end!