MASTER GREENHAM’S ADVICE.
AMAN cannot be idle and yet have Christ’s sweet company. Christ is a quick walker, and when his people would talk with him they must travel quickly too, or else they will soon lose his company. Christ, my Master, goes about doing good, and if you would walk with him you must go about upon the same mission. The Almighty lover of the souls of men is not wont to keep company with idle persons. I find in Scripture that most of the great appearances that were made to eminent saints were made when they were busy. Moses kept his father’s flock when he saw the burning bush; Joshua is going round about the city of Jericho when he meets the angel of the Lord; Jacob is in prayer and the angel of God appears to him; Gideon is threshing, and Elisha is plowing, when the Lord calls them; Matthew is in the receipt of custom when he is bidden to follow Jesus; and James and John are fishing. The manna which the children of Israel kept till morning bred worms and stank: idle grace would soon become active corruption.
Moreover, sloth hardens the conscience: laziness is one of the irons with which the heart is seared. Abimelech hired vain and light persons to serve his turn, and the prince of darkness does the same. O friends, it is a sad thing to rust the edge off from one’s mind, and to lose keenness of moral perception; but sloth will surely do this for us. David felt the emasculating power of sloth, he was losing the force of his conscience, and was ready for anything. The worst is near at hand. He walks upon the housetop, and sees the object which excites his lust; he sends for the woman, the deed is; done; it leads to another crime, he tempts Uriah; it leads to murder, Uriah is put to death; and he takes Uriah’s wife. Ah, David! Ah, David! how are the mighty fallen! How is the prince of Israel fallen, and become like the lewd fellows who riot in the evening! From this day forth his sunshine turns to cloud, his peace gives place to suffering, and he goes to his grave an afflicted and troubled man, who, though he could say, “God hath made with me an everlasting covenant,” yet had to precede it with that very significant sentence, “Although my house be not so with God.”
Is there anyone among the Lord’s people who would crucify the Lord afresh and put him to an open shame? Is there any that would wish to sell their Master, with Judas, or turn aside from Christ, with Demas? It is easy of accomplishment. Oh, you say you could not do it. Now, perhaps, you could not. Get slothful; do not fight the Lord’s battles, and it will become not only easy for you to sin, but you will surely become its victim. Oh, how Satan delights to make God’s people fall into sin! for then he doth, as it were, thrust another nail into the bloody hand of Christ; then he doth stain the fair white linen of Christ’s own garment; then he vaunteth himself that he hath gotten a victory over the Lord Jesus, and hath led one of the Master’s favorites captive at his will! Oh, if we would not thus make hell ring with Satanic laughter, and make the men of God weep because the cedars of Lebanon are cut down, let us watch unto prayer, and be diligent in our Master’s business, “fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.”
David was saved. I only speak to you who are saved, and I beg and beseech of you to take notice of David’s fall, and of the sloth that was at the beginning of it, as a warning to yourselves. Some temptations come to the industrious, but all temptations attack the idle. Notice the invention used by country people to catch wasps. They will put a little sweet liquor into a long and narrow-necked phial. The do-nothing wasp comes by, smells the sweet liquor, plunges in, and is drowned. But the bee comes by, and if she does stop for a moment to smell, yet she enters not, because she has honey of her own to make; she is too busy in the work of the commonwealth to indulge herself with the tempting sweets.
Master Greenham, a Puritan divine, was once waited upon by a woman who was greatly tempted. Upon making inquiries into her way of life, he found she had little to do, and Greenham said, “That is the secret of your being so much tempted. Sister, if you are very busy, Satan may tempt you, but he will not easily prevail, and he will soon give up the attempt.” Idle Christians are not tempted of the devil so much as they do tempt the devil to tempt them. Idleness sets the door of the heart ajar, and asks Satan to come in; but if we are occupied from morning till night, if Satan shall get in, he must break through the door. Under sovereign grace, and next to faith, there is no better shield against temptation than being “Not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.”
Let me remind those who are doing little for Christ, that once you were not so cold as this. There was a time with David when the sound of the clarion of war would have stirred his blood, and he would have been eager for the fray. There was a day when the very sight of Israel marshaled in goodly phalanx would have made David bold as a lion. Oh, it is an ill thing to see the lion changed like this! God’s hero stays at home with the women!
There was a time when you would have gone over hedge and ditch to hear a sermon, and never minded standing in the aisles; but now the sermons are tedious to some of you, although you have soft cushions to sit upon. Then if there was a cottage-meeting, or a street-preaching, you were there. Ah! you say, that was wildfire. Blessed wildfire! The Lord give you the wildfire back again; for even if it be wildfire, better wildfire than no fire at all; better be called a fanatic than deserve to be called a drone in Christ’s hive.