An Epistle to all the Slothful and Careless People

Friends,

Solomon says, that, “The desire of the slothful killeth him”, and if so, what will slothfulness itself do to those that allow it in their lives? (Proverbs 21:25). The proverb is, “He that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame.” (Proverbs 10:5). Can I be so bold to say that, no greater shame can come upon a man, that to see that he has lost his soul through foolish living, and sinned away eternal life. Yet I am certain that there is another way to do this; namely, by being slothful; slothful, I say, in the work of salvation. The vineyard of the slothful man, with regards to the things of this life, is not as full of brambles, nettles, and weeds, than that of a man who is slothful for the things of heaven. He that is slothful for heavenly things is full of heat-choking and soul-damning sin.

Slothfulness has these two evils: First, to neglect the time that should be spent in seeking God; and because of this does, in the Second place, bring him to repentance too late. I assure you, that he, who will lose his soul through slothfulness, shall have no reason to rejoice in it when he stands in hell.

Slothfulness and carelessness usually go hand in hand, and carelessness for the most part is a product of senseless living; and senseless living gives slothfulness its strength, and through it the soul is left without any means of recovery.

Slothfulness shuts out Christ; slothfulness shames the soul. “I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night. I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them? My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him.” (Songs of Solomon 5:2-4). “The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.” (Proverbs 13:4).

Slothfulness is condemned by even the weakest of all creatures. “Go to the ant, thou sluggard, consider her ways and be wise.” (Proverbs 6:6). “The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold” (Proverbs 20:4); that is, he will not break up the fallow ground of his heart (Hosea 10:12), because there needs to be some effort in him that will do it; “therefore shall he beg in the harvest”. This means, when the saints of God receive the rewards of heaven, the sluggard will “have nothing,” that is, he will never be better though he cry out for mercy, just as is recorded in Matthew 25:10-12, “And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.”

If you want to know who is a sluggard in the things of God, simply compare him with a sluggard in the things of this world. This is how you may notice him: (1) The slothful person is too lazy even to begin his work; so it is with those who are slothful regarding the things of God. (2) The slothful person seeks ways to delay the work, so it is with those who are slothful regarding the things of God. (3) The sluggard will allow the slightest of personal problems to keep him from work, so it is with those who are slothful regarding the things of God. (4) The slothful person, if he does work, will only complete half the job, so it is with those who are slothful regarding the things of God. He may almost, but will fully obtain complete deliverance from hell; he may almost, but will never be a saint, unless he mends his ways. (5) The slothful usually miss the opportunity for getting things done, and so it is with those who are slothful regarding the things of God. (6) They who are slothful rarely or never produce good fruit, so it is with the soul-sluggard. (7) They that are slothful are rebuked for their laziness, so also will Christ deal with those who are not active for Him. You wicked or slothful servant, out of your own mouth will I judge you; you said I was thus and thus, why did you give my money to the bank? &c. (Luke 19:22). Take the unprofitable servant, and cast him into utter darkness where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 25:26-30).

What shall I say? Times runs, and will you continue to be slothful? You’ve wasted so much of your life, and will you continue to be slothful? Your soul is worth a thousand worlds, so will you continue to be slothful? The day of death and judgement is at the door, so will you continue to be slothful? The curse of God hangs over your head, and will you continue to be slothful? Nevertheless, the demons are earnest, hard working, and seek all possible means every day, through every sin, to keep you out of heaven, and destroy your salvation, so will you continue to be slothful? Also, others around you are diligent for the things that perish, and will you continue to be slothful concerning the things that are eternal? Are you willing to be damned for slothfulness? Are you willing for the angels of God to fail to bring your soul to heaven when your body dies, while demons wait to drag you to hell? Was Christ slothful in the work of your redemption? Are His ministers slothful in bringing this message to you? Finally, if all this does not move you, I tell you God will not be slothful or negligent to damn you (such damnation that is over you even now), nor will the devils fail to take you, nor hell willing to receive you.

Sluggard, are you still asleep? Are you determined to sleep the sleep of death? Will neither truth about heaven or hell awaken you? Will you continue to say, “Yet a little sleep, a little slumber,” and “a little folding of the hands to sleep”? (Proverbs 6:10). Will you continue to turn yourself in your sloth as a door is turned upon its hinges? I wish that I was skilful in lamentation, and that I had an aching heart towards you, how greatly I would pity you! How I would weep over you! O that I could, like Jeremiah, let my tears run like rivers of water for you! Poor soul, lost soul, dying soul, how hard my heart must be if I cannot mourn over you! If you lost just one limb, a child, or a friend that would not be as great as losing your soul. If it should spend a day, or a year, or ten thousand years in hell, it cannot be compared with eternity. Yes, hell is for ever! That word ‘ever’ cuts deep. How dreadful that word will be when you hear God say, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire”! (Matthew 25:41).

Objection: But if I should mend my ways, and run as you want me to, then I must run from all my friends; for none of them are running this way.

Answer: If you do this, you will run into the arms of Christ and of God, so what harm will that do you?

Objection: But if I run this way, then I must run from all my sins.

Answer: Absolutely true. If you do not, then you will run into hell-fire.

Objection: But if I run this way, then I will be hated by others, lose the love of my friends and relatives, especially those whom I rely upon, and I shall be scorned by all who know me.

Answer: And if you do not, then you are certain to lose both the love and favour of God and Christ. You will lose heaven and its glory, and be mocked of God for your folly; “I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh” (Proverbs 1:26). If you desire not to be hated and mocked, then make sure that your reckless life does not bring the displeasure and mockings of the great God upon you; for His mocks and hatred will be terrible, because they will fall upon you in terrible times, even when distress and anguish are upon you. This will happen when death and judgement come; when all your friends on earth, and all the angels in heaven, cannot help you … “I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me” (Proverbs 1:26-28).

Objection: But surely I can wait a year or two before I do this?

Answer: (1) Do you own a lease on your life? Has God told you that you have another year or two months to live? No, well it may be that you will not even live that long anyway! (2) Would you be so foolish and unwise as to gamble your soul upon the uncertainty of life? (3) Do you know whether the day of grace will last for another week? For some people the day of grace is already past before their life is over: and if this was true with you, would you not say, How I wish I had begun to run before the day of grace ended and the gates of heaven were closed against me. (4) Suppose you saw one of your neighbours neglecting their house or property, saying that they had enough time to make repairs. Since their time on earth is certain, would you not call them fools? If this is true, do you think that you are wise to let your immortal soul hang over hell by the thread of the uncertainty of life, which may be cut short at any moment?

All such objections are the words of a slothful spirit. Wake up! Refuse to be slothful any longer! Step forward! Put your heart and your all into the way of God, and run. The crown is at the end of the race. At the finishing line stands the loving forerunner, even Jesus, who has prepared heavenly provision to make your soul welcome, and He will give it to you more willingly than you could ever desire it from Him. So 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, for we have seen the land, and behold it is very good; and are ye still, be not slothful to go, and to enter to possess the land” (Judges 18:9).

I wish our souls may meet with comfort at the journey’s end.

Farewell.

John Bunyan.

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