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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Proverbs 6



Verses 6-10



Proverbs 6:6-10. Go to the ant, thou sluggard: consider her ways and be wise: which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her fool in the harvest. How long wilt they sleep. O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: so shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.

FORESIGHT in relation to temporal concerns, though not universally practised, is universally approved: and it is a ground of thankfulness that those classes of society who have hitherto scarcely known how to secure any little sums which they might save, have now, by the establishment of Provident Banks, encouragement to provide for themselves against the day of adversity [Note: Preached the week before the establishment of a Provident Bank at Cambridge.]. Happy would it be if a similar zeal were now exerted in relation to the concerns of eternity. But here, alas! there is still a sad indifference amongst us. The wants which we are sure to feel in the eternal world are not anticipated: nor is the importance of providing for them generally felt. In relation to these things, all around us are cast, as it were, into a deep sleep, from which they need to be roused by the most solemn warnings. This address therefore of Solomon to the sluggards of his day may well serve us as a foundation for a similar remonstrance with those who are yet sleeping in security and sin.

Addressing ourselves to persons of this description, we will speak,

I. In a way of humiliating reproof—

Justly does Solomon observe, that “a sluggard is wiser in his own conceit, than seven men that can render a reason [Note: Proverbs 26:16.].” The more careless men are about their souls, the more confident they are of their future safety. But how confident soever they may be, they may go and learn wisdom of the meanest insect.

There is scarcely any thing in the whole creation from which we may not derive the most valuable instruction. The ox and the ass, the crane and the swallow, are brought forward by God himself to teach and reprove us [Note: Isaiah 1:3. Jeremiah 8:7.]: and here we are referred for instruction to the ant. She collects in summer the food that is necessary for her subsistence in the winter. She does it with incredible labour, dragging to her cell grains of corn, that one would scarcely conceive she should be able to move. And this she does “without any guide” to direct her, or “overseer” to watch her, “or ruler” to call her to account. And, that her labour may not ultimately prove vain, she bites off, we are told, the ends of every grain, to prevent it from vegetating in the ground.

Go now to the ant, thou sluggard, and consider her ways: consider,

1. Her wise foresight—

[Has she a time approaching, against which it is needful for her to provide; and hast not thou? Is there not a time coming, when thou must stand in the presence of thy God, and give an account of every thing that thou hast done in the body, whether it be good or evil? And hast thou not now to provide a righteousness wherein to appear before God, even the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ, wherein alone thou canst ever stand in the presence of a holy God? Hast thou not a new nature also to obtain, in order to fit thee for the enjoyment of the heavenly world? — — — And is not the present the only time when this provision can be made? If thou neglect the present opportunities, wilt thou find them in the eternal world? Is there “any work or device to be executed in the grave, whither thou goest [Note: Ecclesiastes 9:10.]?” — — — If her work, which relates only to the short transient life of the body, is important, is not yours, which relates to the eternal interests of the soul, much more important! — — — Go then to the ant, and learn wisdom of her.]

2. Her voluntary labour—

[She has none to direct her: she is guided by instinct alone. But you have reason to guide you, and to assure you of the certainty and importance of those things which you have not yet seen with your eyes. You have God himself also inspecting every thing that you do, and pledged to call you into judgment for it, and to assign you your everlasting portion according to it. Should not you then exert yourselves with all diligence? Are you not convinced, that to prepare for eternity is “a reasonable service.” yea, that it is, in fact, “the one thing needful?” — — — Will you then grudge your labour? Will you not put forth willingly and habitually all the powers of your souls in this blessed work? — — —]

3. Her prudent care—

[Is she careful to prevent her labours from ever proving abortive: and should not you prosecute your work to a successful issue? Yet Solomon justly observes, that “the slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting [Note: Proverbs 12:27.]:” yea, that “his very desire killeth him, because his hands refuse to labour [Note: Proverbs 21:25.].” Some kind of pains we all have taken in attending ordinances, and in complying with outward forms: but there we have rested, without any persevering efforts to render those means effectual for the salvation of our souls. We feel somewhat of a general desire after eternal happiness: and with that consciousness of desire we are satisfied, without pressing forward for the attainment of the things desired: and thus is fulfilled in us another declaration of Solomon. “The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing [Note: Proverbs 13:4.]?” If good desires would suffice, the sluggard would get to heaven as well as others: but if great and persevering exertions are necessary, he will rather forego the prize, than use the diligence necessary for the attainment of it. In a word, instead of “looking to himself that he lose not the things that he has wrought, but that he receive a full reward [Note: 2 John. ver. 8.],” he suffers Satan to take out of his heart the seed that has been sown in it, and to keep him, like the foolish virgins, from providing oil for himself, till it is too late. Say, thou sluggard, whether these things be not true of thee, and whether thou hast not need to go and learn wisdom of the diminutive and despised ant?]

We will yet further prosecute our address,

II. In a way of solemn warning—

As a man who has no provision independent of his labour, and no disposition to exert himself, must soon feel the pressure of poverty and want, so, sluggard, shalt thou feel these evils in relation to thy soul—

1. Reflect on the awfulness of thy state—

[The consequences of thy sloth are coming upon thee: they are coming gradually indeed, but irresistibly. “A traveller” comes not to his journey’s end all at once, but gradually, and almost imperceptibly, by many successive steps. So neither wilt thou find the fatal consequence of thy sloth all at once: but every day and hour brings them nearer towards thee; and that too so clearly, that, if thou wouldst stop to examine, thou shouldst see evident symptoms of their approach. Who has not found, that the longer he lives in any sin, the more he becomes addicted to it, and enslaved by it? The truth is, that as a man by indulging sloth, whether of mind or body, becomes daily more unfitted for exertion, so the man who is remiss and negligent in his spiritual concerns becomes daily more alienated from God, and more averse to those efforts that are necessary for his salvation [Note: Proverbs 10:4; Proverbs 19:15.]. The curse which is denounced against him seems so distant, that it will never come: but it is advancing as fast as the wings of time can carry it; as St. Peter says, “Their judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not [Note: 2 Peter 2:3.].” O sluggard! remember this: thou mayest “linger, like Lot in the plain;” but “thy judgment lingereth not; thou mayest slumber on yet a little while, but thy damnation slumbereth not:” the time is fast approaching when God will say to thee, as to him who hid his talent in a napkin, “Thou wicked and slothful servant!” and will give orders concerning thee, “Cast the unprofitable servant into outer darkness, where shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth [Note: Matthew 25:26; Matthew 25:30.].”

These judgments too shall come upon you irresistibly. You well know how entirely a man unarmed and sleeping is at the mercy of “an armed man” that seeks his life. And such will be your state, in the day that God shall deal with you, and visit you for your sins. You may call on the hills to fall upon you, and the rocks to cover you, from the wrath of your offended God; but they cannot perform for you this friendly office: no creature in the universe can help you: “though hand join in hand, you cannot pass unpunished.” Reflect on this, thou sluggard! Now thou mayest “puff at God’s judgments:” but ere long thou wilt bitterly regret that thou didst not improve the opportunities afforded thee to escape from them.]

2. Reflect also on the vanity of thine excuses—

[There are none so hardened as to avow a fixed determination never to seek after God: on the contrary, there is in almost all an indistinct purpose to turn unto the Lord at some more convenient season, which they hope is at no very great distance. Hence to those who would rouse them to exertion, they say, “A little more sleep, a little more slumber, a little more folding of the hands to sleep.” They acknowledge in general terms the propriety, and even the necessity, of exertion; but they wish a little more time for indulgence to the flesh, before they set themselves in earnest to mortify and subdue it. But what has been the consequence of indulgence hitherto? Are you at all more disposed for exertion now, than you were when first you were bidden to arise? Is your ability for God’s service at all increased by deferring your attempts to serve him? Have you not found, invariably, that procrastination has increased your difficulties, at the very time that it also enfeebled your powers? Say not then any longer, “There is a lion in the way,” nor plead any longer for delay: but arise and call upon your God, if peradventure time may be yet afforded you to “work out your salvation,” and to “flee from the wrath to come.”]


1. Those who have never yet been awakened—

[Have you no work to do? or is it a matter of small importance whether it be done or not? Is not the present life the only time for doing it? “How long, then, wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? When wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?” Knowest thou not, that if thou sleepest on till this short life be past, thou wilt assuredly awake in hell? What then shall I say to thee? Shall I say to thee, as Christ did to his sleepy disciples, “Sleep on now, and take thy rest?” No: God forbid. Let me rather say, “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light [Note: Ephesians 5:14.].” Verily, if thou wouldst now, even now, call upon his name, it should not be too late. Whatever thou wantest, it should be given thee: he would give thee the light of truth to shine into thy heart; the light of joy in his reconciled countenance: the light of holiness to attest thine acceptance with him: and the light of glory to perfect thy felicity. While ye have the light then, walk in the light, that ye may be the children of light.]

2. Those who, though in part awakened, are yet disposed to give way to slothful habits—

[This, alas! was the case both with the wise and foolish virgins: “they all slumbered and slept.” But let me affectionately guard you against yielding to sloth. It is said, and the very best amongst us know the truth of it by bitter experience, that “the idle soul shall suffer hunger [Note: Proverbs 19:15.].” Who has not heard of the vineyard of the sluggard, where, through inattention, nothing was produced but nettles and thorns? To him is the same warning given as to the sluggard in the text [Note: Proverbs 24:30-34.] Guard then against the excuses which ye are ready to make. See the excuses made by the Bride in the book of Canticles; how injurious to her welfare! how destructive of her peace [Note: Song of Solomon 5:2-7.]! “Watch ye then, and pray always.” Had the disciples watched, when they were directed to do it by their Lord, they would never have forsaken him as they did in the hour of his deepest trial. But, if you do not watch and be sober, depend upon it that Satan will prevail against you, and “sift you as wheat.” “Be sober then, and vigilant.” Give not way to drowsiness in your spiritual calling: but “give all diligence to make your calling sure.” And, seeing that ye look for a period when God shall come to judge the world, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot and blameless. And “what I say unto one, I say unto all, Watch.”]


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Proverbs 6:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.

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