T H E
By J O H N.B U N Y A N.
AN EPISTLE TO ALL THE SLOTHFUL AND CARELESS PEOPLE.
olomon saith, that The desire of the slothful killeth him; and if so, what will slothfulness itself do to those that entertain it? (Prov 21:25). The proverb is, He that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame (Prov 10:5). 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 briars, nettles, and stinking weeds, than he that is slothful for heaven, hath his heart full of heart-choaking 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 shall 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 (Cant 5:2-4; Prov 13:4).
Slothfulness, it is condemned even by the feeblest of all the creatures. Go to the ant, thou sluggard, consider her ways and be wise (Prov 6:6). The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold (20:4); that is, he will not break up the fallow ground of his heart, because there must be some pains taken by him that will do it; therefore shall he 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 25:10-12.
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 plying his work: 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, be altogether 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 season 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 the bank? &c. (Luke 19:22). 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 you 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 neighbours 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, nor the devils will not neglect to fetch thee, nor hell neglect to shut it's mouth upon thee.
Sluggard, art thou asleep still? art thou resolved to sleep the sleep of death? Wilt neither tidings from heaven or hell awake thee? Wilt thou say still, Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, and a little folding of the hands to sleep? (Prov 6:10). Wilt thou yet turn thyself in thy sloth, as the door is turned upon the hinges? O 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! O that I could with Jeremiah let my eyes run down with rivers of water 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 O it is for ever! O this cutting EVER! What a soul-amazing word will that be, which saith, Depart from me, ye cursed, into EVERLASTING fire! &c.
Object. 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.
Answ. And if thou dost, thou wilt run into the bosom of Christ and of God, and then what harm will that do thee?
Object. But if I run this way, then I must run from all my sins.
Answ. That is true indeed; yet if thou dost not, thou wilt run into hell-fire.
Object. But if I run this way, then 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 neighbours.
Answ. And if thou dost not, thou art sure to lose the love and favour of God and Christ, the benefit of heaven and glory, and be mocked of God for thy folly, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will 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 (Prov 1:26-28).
Object. But surely I may begin this time enough, a year or two hence, may I not?
Answ. 1. 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 mayst not live so long. And therefore, 2. Wilt thou be so sottish and unwise, as to venture thy soul upon a little uncertain time? 3. 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, O that I had begun to run before the day of grace had been past, and the gates of heaven shut against me. But, 4. If thou shouldst see any of thy neighbours 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 fore-runner, 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. O 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, &c., for we have seen the land, and behold it is very good; and are ye still, or do you forbear running? Be not slothful to go, and to enter to possess the land (Judg 18:9). Farewell.
I wish our souls may meet with comfort at the journey's end.