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In the text before us the slothful man is made to give the reason for his slothfulness. Of course it is easy to see that his reply is a mere excuse. He does not want to bestir himself. He much prefers the comfort of his own fireside. Still he must show some reason for his conduct. This lion is simply the creature of his lively imagination. Yet in his judgment any excuse is better than no excuse at all, hence his words 'There is a lion without, in the streets'.
I. No man can close his ears to the call of duty from either real or imaginary dangers without a tremendous loss to himself. 'The slothful man saith, there is a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets.' He refuses the call of duty in consequence. Does he remain the same as before? By no means. He is poorer in every way. He is poorer because he refuses that activity which is life to all created beings. It is a most instructive study to note how severely nature punishes all refusals to exercise that energy by which growth and progress are accomplished. What we call a freak in nature is, in almost every case, nature's punishment of the slothful. It is even so in the moral and spiritual world.
II. There is in that moral and spiritual world an universal duty relative to God on the one hand and man on the other. We are all brought face to face with a duty we owe to God, an obligation to worship Him in spirit and in truth. There is a call of His Spirit which comes to every man.
The slothful man knows full well that though the lion is but a mere excuse, the vain creation of his own imagination, yet there is involved in the call to action perils of a very real kind. The soul that arrays itself by the side of Jesus Christ, and in every thought, word, and deed, seeks to translate into its own life the spirit of the Lord, will find the lion without in the street.
The call of the human is as imperative and universal as the call of the Divine. God is calling us up in worship, and man is calling us out in service, and both unite in demanding that we should spend and be spent in the kingdom of Christ.
III. Let us consider the effect of the conduct of the slothful man upon himself. The path of the slothful endeth in death. He turns in upon himself, and feeds upon his own soul, and is as the camel in the desert who feeds upon its own hump, and when that is done dies. Christ has indicated the end of the slothful man. 'Whosoever shall save his life shall lose it.' His real danger is from within. He is his greatest enemy.
J. Gay, Common Truths from Queer Texts, p. 14.
The greatest foe in Central Africa is the terrible sleep sickness. The victim gradually, but none the less surely, settles down into a sleep from which there is no awakening in this world. In its first stages at any rate activity is salvation. Slothfulness is a mental and moral sleep sickness. From its terrible end we may be saved if taken in time. But there is only one invariable effect Its feet lead down to the valley of death. True life is the very opposite to the slothful, and is incompatible with luxury and ease.
J. Gay, Common Truths from Queer Texts, p. 23.
References. XXII. 13. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii. No. 1670. XXII. 22, 23. W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven far Life on Earth, p. 465. XXIII. 1. J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Blessed Sacrament, p. 99. XXIII. 1-3. W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 460.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Proverbs 22". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany