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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Idleness

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aversion from labor. The idle man is, in every view, both foolish and criminal. He lives not to God. Idleness was not made for man, nor man for idleness. A small measure of reflection might convince every one that for some useful purpose he was sent into the world. Man is placed at the head of all things here below. He is furnished with a great preparation of faculties and powers. He is enlightened by reason with many important discoveries; even taught by revelation to consider himself as ransomed by the death of Christ from misery, and intended to rise to a still higher rank in the universe of God. In such a situation, thus distinguished, thus favored, and assisted by his Creator does he answer the end of his being if he aim at no improvement, if he pursue no useful design, if he live for no other purpose than to indulge in sloth, to consume the fruits of the earth, and spend his days in a dream of vanity? Existence is a sacred trust, and he who thus misemploys and squanders it away is treacherous to its author. Look around, and you will behold the whole universe full of active powers. Action is, so to speak, the genius of nature. By motion and exertion the system of being is preserved in vigor. By its different parts always acting in subordination to each other, the perfection of the whole is carried on. The heavenly bodies perpetually revolve. Day and night incessantly repeat their appointed course. Continual operations are performing oil the earth and in the waters. Nothing stands still. All is alive and stirring throughout the universe. In the midst of this animated and busy scene, is man alone to remain idle in his place? Belongs it to him to be the sole inactive and slothful being in the creation, when in so many ways he might improve his own nature, might advance the glory of the God who made him, and contribute his part to the general good? The idle live not to the world and their fellow-creatures anymore than to God. If any man had a title to stand alone, and to be independent of his fellows, he might consider himself as at liberty to indulge in solitary ease and sloth, without being responsible to others for the manner in which he chooses to live. But there is no such person in the world. We are connected with each other by various relations, which create a chain of mutual dependence that reaches from the highest to the lowest station in society. Without a perpetual circulation of active duties and offices, which all are required to perform in their turn, the order and happiness of the world could not be maintained. Superiors are no more independent of their inferiors than these inferiors of them. Each have demands and claims upon the other; and he who, in any situation of life, refuses to act his part, and to contribute his share to the general stock of felicity, deserves to be proscribed from society as an unworthy member. "If any man will not work," says Paul (2 Thessalonians 3:10), "neither shall he eat." If he will do nothing to advance the purposes of society, he has no right to enjoy its benefits.

The idle man lives not to himself with any more advantage than he lives to the world. Though he imagines that he leaves to others the drudgery of life, and betakes himself to enjoyment and ease, yet he enjoys no true pleasure. He shuts the door against improvement of every kind, whether of mind, body, or fortune. Sloth enfeebles equally the bodily and the mental powers. His character falls into contempt. His fortune is consumed. Disorder, confusion, and embarrassment mark his whole situation. Idleness is the inlet to licentiousness, vice, and immorality. It destroys the principles of religion, and opens a door to sin and wickedness. Every man who recollects his conduct must know that his hours of idleness always proved the hours most dangerous to virtue. It was then that criminal desires arose guilty passions were suggested, and designs were formed, which, in their issue, disquiet and embitter his whole life. Habitual idleness, by a silent and secret progress, undermines every virtue in the soul. More violent passions run their course and terminate. They are like rapid torrents, which foam, and swell, and bear down everything before them; but, after having overflowed their banks, their impetuosity subsides, and they return, by degrees, into their natural channel. Sloth resembles the slowly flowing putrid stream, which stagnates in the marsh, produces venomous animals and poisonous plants, and infects with pestilential vapors the whole surrounding country. Having once tainted the soul, it leaves no part of it sound, and, at the same time, it gives not to conscience those alarms which the eruptions of bolder and fiercer emotions often occasion, Nothing is so great an enemy to the lively and spirited enjoyment of life as a relaxed and indolent habit of mind. He who knows not what it is to labor, knows not what it is to enjoy. The happiness of human life depends on the regular prosecution of some laudable purpose or object, which keeps awake and enlivens all our powers. Rest is agreeable, but it is only from preceding labors that rest acquires its true relish. When the mind is suffered to remain in continued inaction, all its powers decay: it soon languishes and sickens; and the pleasures which it proposed to obtain from rest terminate in tediousness and insipidity. See Blair, Sermons, Sermon 39; Warner, System of Divinity and Morality, 3, 151; Logan, Sermons, Sermon 4; Robinson, Theological Dictionary, s.v.


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Idleness'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/i/idleness.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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