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and designers, who wantoned in unexperienced plenty ; and employed their powers in celebrating their patron. But in a short time they forgot the distress from which they had been rescued ; and began to consider their deliverer as a wretch of narrow capacity, who was growing great by works which he could not perform, and whom they overpaid by condescending to accept his bounties. Abouzaid heard their murmurs, and dismissed them; and from that hour continued blind to colours, and deaf to panegyric.
As the sons of art departed, muttering threats of perpetual infamy, Abouzaid, who stood at the gate called to him Hamet the poet. “ Hamet," said he, “thy ingratitude has put an end to my hopes and experiments. I have now learned the vanity of those labours that wish to be rewarded by human benevolence. I shall henceforth do good, and avoid evil, without respect to the opinion of men ; and resolve to solicit only the approbation of that Being, whom alone we are sure to please by endeavouring to please him.”
The folly and misery of idleness
The idle man lives not to himself, with any more advan. tage than he lives to the world. It is indeed on a supposition entirely opposite, that persons of this character proceed. They imagine that, how deficient soever they may be in point of duty, they at least consult their own satisfaction. They leave to others the drudgery of life ; and betake themselves, as they think, to the quarter of enjoyment and ease. Now, in contradiction to this, I assert, and hope to prove, that the idle man, first, shuts the door against all improvement; next, that he opens it wide to every destructive folly ; and, lastly, that he excludes himself from the true enjoyment of pleasure.
First, He shuts the door against improvement of every kind, whether of mind, body, or fortune. The law of our nature, the condition under which we were placed from our birth, is, that nothing good or great is to be acquired, without toil and industry. A price is appointed by Providence to be paid for every thing; and the price of improvement, is labour. Industry may, indeed, be sometimes disappointed. The race may not always be to the swift, nor the battle to
the strong. But, at the same time, it is certain that, in the ordinary course of things, without strength, the battle cannot be gained ; without swiftness, the race cannot be run with success. If we consult either the improvement of the mind, or the health of the body, it is well known thap exercise is the great instrument of promoting both. Sloth enfeebles equally the bodily, and the mental powers. As in the animal system it engenders disease, so on the faculties of the soul it brings a fatal rust, which corrodes and wastes them ; which, in a short time, reduces the brightest genius to the same level with the meanest understanding. The great differences which take place among men, are not owing to a distinction that nature has made in their original powers, so much as to the superior diligence with which some have improved these powers beyond others. To no purpose do we possess the seeds of many great abilities, if they are suffered to lie dormant within us. It is not the latent possession, but the active exertion of them, which gives them merit. Thousands whom indolence has sunk into contemptible obscurity, might have come forward to the highest distinction, if idleness had not frustrated the effect of all their powers.
Instead of going on to improvement, all things go to decline with the idle man. His character falls into contempt. His fortune is consumed. Disorder, confusion, and embarrassment, mark his whole situation. Observe in what lively colours the state of his affairs is described by Solomon. " I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding. And lo! it was all grown over with thorns ; nettles had covered the face thereot; and the stone wall was broken down. Then I saw and considered it well. I looked upon it, and received instruction.” Is it in this manner, that a man lives to himself? Are these the advantages, which were expected to be found in the lap of ease ? The down may at first have appeared soft, but it will soon be found to cover thorns innumerable. This is, however, only a small part of the evils which persons of this description bring on themselves ; for,
In the second place, while, in this manner they shut the door against every improvement, they open it wide to the most destructive vices and follies. The human mind cannot remain always unemployed. Its passions must have some exercise. If we supply them not with proper employment, they are sure to run loose into riot and disorder. While we are unoccupied by what is good, evil is continually at hand ; and hence it is said in Scripture, that as soon as Satan “ found the house empty,” he took possession, and filled it “ with evil spirits.” Every man who recollects his conduct, may be satisfied, that his hours of idleness have always proved the hours most dangerous to virtue. It was then, that criminal desires arose ; guilty pursuits were suggested ; and designs were formed, which, in their issue, have disquieted and embittered his whole life. If seasons of idleness are dangerous, what must a continued habit of it prove ? Habitual indolence, 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 every thing before them. But after having overflowed their banks, their impetuosity subsides. They return, by degrees, into their natural channel ; and the damage which they have done, can be repaired. Sloth is like the slowly-flowing, putrid stream, which stagnates in the marsh, breeds venomous animals and poisonous plants ; and infects with pestilential vapours the whole country round it. Having once tainted the soul, it leaves no part of it sound; and, at the same time, gives not those alarms to conscience, which the eruptions of bolder and fiercer emotions often occasion. The disease which it brings on, is creeping and insidious ; and is, on that account, more certainly mortal.
One constant effect of idleness, is to nourish the passions, and, of course, to heighten our demands for gratification; while it unhappily withdraws from us the proper means of gratifying these demands. If the desires of the industrious man are set upon opulence or distinction, upon the conveniences, or the advantages of life, he can accomplish his desires, by methods which are fair and allowable. The idle man has the same desires with the industrious, but not the same resources for compassing his ends by honourable means. He must therefore turn himself to seek by fraud, or by violence, what he cannot submit to acquire by industry. Hence, the origin of those multiplied crimes to which idleness is daily giving birth in the world; and which contribute so much to violate the order, and to disturb the peace of society. In general, the children of idleness may be ranked under two denominations or classes of men. Either, incapable of any effort, they are such as sink into absolute meanness of character, and contentedly wallow
with the drunkard and debauchee, among the herd of the sensual, until poverty overtakes them, or disease cuts them off ; or, they are such as, retaining some remains of vigour, are impelled, by their passions, to venture on a desperate attempt for retrieving their ruined fortunes. In this case, they employ the art of the fraudulent gamester to insnare the unwary. They issue forth with the highwayman to plunder on the road ; or with the thief and the robber, they infest the city by night. From this class, our prisons are peopled; and by them the scaffold is furnished with those melancholy admonitions, which are so often delivered from it to the crowd. Such are frequently the tragical, but well known, consequences of the vice of idleness.
In the third, and last place, how dangerous soever idleness may be to virtue, are there not pleasures, it may be said, which attend it? Is there not ground to plead, that it brings a release from the oppressive cares of the world ; and sooths the mind with a gentle satisfaction, which is not to be found amidst the toils of a busy and active life?—This is an advantage which, least of all advantages, we admit it to possess. In behalf of incessant labour, no man contends. Occasional release from toil, and indulgence of ease, is what nature demands, and virtue allows. But what we assert is, that nothing is so great an enemy to the lively and spirited anjoyment of life, as a relaxed and indolent habit of mind. He who knows not what it is to labour, knows not what it is to enjoy. The felicity of human life, depends on the regular prosecution of some laudable purpose or object, which keeps awake and enlivens all our powers. Our happiness consists in the pursuit, much more than in the attainment, of any temporal good. Rest is agreeable ; but it is only from preceding labours, that rest requires 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, end in tediousness and insipidity. To this, let that miserable set of men bear witness, who, after spending great part of their life in active industry, have retired to what they fancied was to be a pleasing enjoyment of themselves in wealthy inactivity, and profound repose. Where they expected to find an elysium, they have found nothing but a dreary and comfortless waste. Their days have dragged on, in uniform languor ; with the melancholy remembrance often returning, of the cheerful hours they passed, when they were engaged in the honest business, and labours of the world.
• We appeal to every one who has the least knowledge or observation of life, whether the busy, or the idle, have the most agreeable enjoyment of themselves ? Compare them in their families. Compare them in the societies with which they mingle ; and remark, which of them discover most cheerfulness and gaiety, which possess the most regular flow of spirits ; whose temper is most equal ; whose good humour, most unclouded. While the active and diligent both enliven, and enjoy society, the idle are not only a burden to themselves, but a burden to those with whom they are connected ; a nuisance to all whom they oppress with their company.
Enough has now been said to convince every thinking person, of the folly, the guilt, and the misery, of an idle state. Let these admonitions stir us up to exert ourselves in our different occupations, with that virtuous activity which becomes men and Christians. Let us arise from the bed of sloth ; distribute our time with attention and care ; and improve to advantage the opportunities which Providence has bestowed. The material business in which our several stations engage us, may often prove not sufficient to occupy the whole of our time and attention. In the life even of busy men, there are frequent intervals of leisure. Let them take care, that into these, none of the vices of idleness creep. Let some secondary, some subsidiary employment, of a fair and laudable kind, be always at hand to fill up those vacant spaces of life, which too many assign, either to corrupting amusements, or to mere inaction. We ought never to forget, entire idleness always borders, either on misery, or on guilt. At the same time, let the course of our employments be ordered in such a manner, that in carrying them on, we may be also promoting our eternal interest. With the business of the world, let us properly intermix the exercises of devotion. By religious duties, and virtuous actions, let us study to prepare ourselves for a better world. In the midst of our labours, for this life, it ought never to be forgotten, that we must " first seek the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and give diligence to make our calling and election sure:” otherwise, how active soever we may seem to be, our whole activity will prove only a laborious idleness : we shall appear in the end, to have been busy to no purpose, or to a purpose worse than none. Then only we fulfil the proper character of Christians, when we join that pious zeal which becomes us as the servants of God, with that