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Lesson XVII.

THE GARDEN OF THE SLUGGARD.

I

WENT by the field of the slothful,

And by the vineyard of the man void of under-
standing;

And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns,
The face thereof was covered with nettles,
And the stone wall thereof was broken down.
Then I beheld, and considered well:
and received instruction.

I saw,

Yet a little sleep, a little slumber,

A little folding of the hands to sleep:
So shall thy poverty come as a robber;
And thy want as an armed man.

PROVERBS, chapter twenty-four.

THE GARDEN OF THE SLUGGARD.

Doing Something.

Once more we have a Passage from the book of Proverbs, a famous one. It generally goes with the extract: "Go to the ant, thou sluggard. Consider her ways, and be wise.”

But you may say, What has work to do with Sunday Schools and Bible teaching? Very much.

What does Jesus say?

My Father has worked hitherto: now I work.

Our lesson tells us that we must do something in this world, or we are not true children of God.

Jesus also said, Wist ye not I must be about my Father's business?

There are many kinds of work. The sluggard is not only one who refuses to use his hands: he may not use his mind; he may not use his opportunities.

A Picture.

The Passage is a picture, a parable, as we say. Our natures are gardens. We may not cultivate them. Then bad habits creep in, and, like weeds, fill the places where flowers might grow.

Let us see what the picture means to us, living in this great country and having wonderful privileges. The Ungrateful Slothful.

There are many kinds of sluggards: one is the ungrateful boy or girl. They do not appreciate what they have. They are always looking for better conditions, and envying others. They say, Oh, if only I had a different place, or a different home, or more "chances." It is generally a wrong feeling.

Make the place good where we are. Use what we have. Work! Work diligently over books and duties. Then the garden will not be choked with the weeds of fault-finding and scolding. It is a very bad habit.

The Careless Slothful.

Another poor fellow is the careless one, who says: Wait! there is no need of hurry. Wait, and all will come out right.

There's luck in this world. Work is too hard. Besides, it is not necessary.

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His garden is overgrown with "might-have-beens," crastination, failures. There is no "luck" in this life of ours. Nothing comes from nothing. Like brings like. If we sow carelessness, we reap disappointment. We see some things that seem strange, and call them results of chance. But they are, in God's sight, the results of laws.

The Obstinate Slothful.

Still another sluggard. He refuses to do his part as boy or man, because "the world owes me a living." The world does not owe any one a living. The world owes us fair treatment, help, brotherhood. We do not always get these things. But, getting or not, our duty is to work on and up to our light. The garden of such a sluggard is full of brambles and thorns. Nothing beautiful or useful grows in it. The men become tramps and criminals. You remember the parable of the one talent, told by Jesus.

Christian Character.

But we are not studying in this lesson how to get a living or how to be successful in business. Our search is for Bible truth and Christian rules.

All we have said bears on religion and character-making. The slothful never becomes a Christian. He never follows the commands of Jesus. The garden of his soul runs to waste.

Nothing comes by chance in religion.

God sows the seed

of his love and truth in "good soil." Our gardens must be ready. We read that God's rain and sunshine fall on the good and the evil, on the just and the unjust. True. But they are received differently and used differently by each.

We must learn early that what we call our religious nature is one thing, and what we call our religious character is another thing. There is nothing hard to understand in this.

You have a thinking power: it is part of your nature. When you study and educate yourself, you make a mind,— your mind. You have in your nature ambition. When you turn its great force to noble aims, you make character.

A garden is only so much soil and seed. After the gardener has worked, watched, and tended, then we have flowers and vegetables, shrubs and fruits. Work, and only work, brings all this about, intelligent, persistent work,

Genius and Work

How often it is said, "Some are born great and good"! No! You are mistaken. It is only half true. There are differences in boys and girls; but work is necessary for all, the brightest and the dullest.

There is always one kind of work each one can do. Helping to make the world better. Doing good. You have heard Edward Everett Hale's motto: Lend a hand. To do this, we must not be sluggards. There is not a day when this activity is not needed.

How the garden of the heart becomes filled with weeds of selfishness when we fail in this! "A little more sleep," wait till to-morrow, then I will do some great good act, so says the sluggard. Now is the time. To-day. Do the small act, the little kindness, the home virtue.

HINTS FOR TEACHERS.

1. Have the class memorize this sonnet. (See Moulton's "Reader's Handbook of Proverbs.")

2. Go down deep in explaining the ethical roots of this law of work. Doing is not everything, but religion and life without practical application are wasted.

3. Translate life to the pupils in the word "opportunity." That is, opportunity to do good, to work with God.

QUESTIONS FOR PUPILS.

What did Jesus say about work? Can you tell the parable of the talents? How many kinds of sluggards are described in the lesson? Can you mention others? What is the difference between a religious nature and a religious character? Will you mention some illustrations on this point in the lesson? If you worked a little more over your Sunday-School lesson, would you not get more out of it? What did a famous man say? (Genius is only hard work.) Do you believe it? What work is always possible? Where can we do it?

Lesson XVIII.

HERALD AND MESSENGER.

IT

is written in Isaiah the prophet, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way; the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make ye ready the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. John came, who baptized in the wilderness and preached the baptism of repentance unto remission of sins. And there went out unto him all the country of Judea, and all they of Jerusalem; and they were baptized of him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. And John was clothed with camel's hair, and had a leathern girdle about his loins, and did eat locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, There cometh after me he that is mightier than I, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. I baptize you with water; but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost. Now after that John was delivered up, and Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe in the gospel. MARK, chapter one.

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