Sloth and Presumption

“Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep.” – Solomon
“Presumptuous are they; self-willed.” – Peter
Simple, Sloth and Presumption, a trio of sleeping fools! You find them in a bottom, in the arms of Morpheus, and taken by the heels in the iron clutch of man’s worst enemy, Sin. Even aroused out of sleep, they remain shackled like members of a chain-gang, but entirely oblivious to their captivity. They are living proof that
“Sin is a prison, hath its bolts, its chains,
Brings into bondage who it entertains;
Hangs shackles on them, bends them to its will,
Holds them, as Samson’s grinding at the mill;
‘Twill blind them, make them deaf; yea. ‘twill them gag,
And ride them as the devil rides his nag.
Wherefore look to is, keep it out of door,
If once its slave, thou mayst be free no mores.”
It is not saying much when it is averred that Sloth has a better head than Simple. Almost everyone has a better head than Simple. But Sloth makes no better use of his better head. In fact, he uses is less than Simple uses his. Usually, the extent of his thought is expression, “Yet a little more sleep.” Really, though you would never know it from his life and appearance, Sloth is a man of envious ability. That ability put to use would make the church a hundred fold greater force in the world. Great men of the church, Calvin for example, became great because they melted the fetters of sloth from their flesh by the white-heat zeal of hard work. Calvin, you know, was no pedantic old man,. He didn’t live long enough to be an old man. But he produced more (wonderful and lasting work) than many older men. He believed others ought to be encouraged to be productive for God and His kingdom. What do you think of the following advice? “Although many things contained in this book are beyond the capacity of your age, yet I am not acting unreasonably in offering it to your perusal, and even to your attentive and diligent study. For since the knowledge of ancient things is pleasant to the young, you will soon arrive at those years in which the history of the creation of the world, as well as that of the most ancient church, will engage your thoughts with equal profit and delight.” That recommendation was made to a ten year old boy, urging him to read Calvin’s commentaries on the Book of Genesis. The task would be worth it to a boy if the only thing he could at first do with it would be to spend two years learning to use the dictionary and so to learn Calvin’s vocabulary. That age is not too young to learn and begin to watch and pray, to fight the good fight of faith, to run with endurance the race, to keep the faith, to study the Word of God daily, rising early to do so, and continuing until late, and standing in the evil day with the whole armor of God. Calvin further counsels, in a chapter in the Institutes on Angelology, “Let us make it the grand object of our attention that we suffer not ourselves to be oppressed with slothfulness and inactivity, but, on the contrary, arousing and collecting all our courage, be ready for a vigorous resistance; and as this warfare is terminated only by death, let us encourage ourselves to perseverance.”
Sloth loves his sleep; so much that it matters not where he sleeps, prison or in a bottom. It matters not that he, committing sin, is the bond slave of sin that he is under tribute to that tyrant-king, Sin, who reigns unto death. Strangely enough, Sloth does, occasionally, get up enough energy to go hunting. He can push himself to the exertion of that sport. But he never enjoys what he takes in hunting; never dresses, roasts or relishes it. He wouldn’t go to that trouble. He either gives away his catch, often to his brother, Waster (Prov. 18:9), or throws it to his dogs. He can’t hack it because his way is always hedged up with thorns. Isn’t that enough to make a man’s hands refuse to labor? It is for the man who fears effort and loves ease. He desires no more effort than turning over in bed (Prov. 26:14). You are getting like this fellow when reading of Bible at the table is boring and is the only contact you have during the week with Scripture. You are getting like him when you almost never engage in spiritual conversation, and find it difficult whenever you do. In that case, you are beginning to tire of the ways of God. Wake up, or you may be found mumbling sleepily, “Sloth, move over!”
Presumption is the third man who lay in irons a little way this side of the cross. It was he who had said, “Every tub must stand on its own bottom!” One old tub had a torpedo shot through its bottom. Of course, it got to the bottom of things in a hurry. Another old tub had a leak in its bottom. It ended up in the same place but wondered why. Presumption also says, “Let us do evil that good may come. Let us continue in sin that grace may abound.” He thinks, I can sin as I please and still have remission. Or he says, “I am young, and so have plenty of time.” Or when he is old he says of a neighbor two years older, “When he dies I’ll buy his property at auction.” Or he says, as he lays thinking on his prison cot, “I’m smarter now; next time I won’t get caught.” When he hears the curses of Mt. Ebal, he presumes upon mercy and blesses “himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, and add drunkenness to thirst’” (Duet. 29:19. 20). But he presumes even more on God’s power. He flaunts his sin against God as if he were a party with power to bargain with Him. He provokes the Lord; he presumes he is the stronger (I Cor. 10:22). He stretcheth out his hand against God, and strengtheneth himself against the Almighty (Job 15:25). Sleeping with Simple and Sloth, Presumption will wake up with a jolt. For “the soul that doth aught presumptuously…reproacheth the Lord, and…shall be cut off” (Numbers 15:30).
Presumption is so intent, so determined to carry out and enjoy his sin that he waves off God with, “How doth God know?” (Job 22:13). “God hath forgotten: He hideth His face; He will never see it” (Ps. 10:11). He belches out with his mouth whatever he pleases, thinking “who doth hear?” (59:7). Presumption joins his deistical associates in their works of darkness with the attempt to convince himself that “the Lord seeth us not; the Lord hath forsaken the earth” (Ezek. 8:12). Settled on his lees, comfortable in his wickedness, Presumption says in his hear, “The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil” (Zeph. 1:12). He believes that God will never call him to account, or punish him for his sins. He thinks there is no God, or that he has forsaken the earth, or that he is a weak and careless God. Presumption, shackled and sleeping in a bottom, is at bottom an atheist. He believes that God will be merciful though he goes on in his sins. “Is not God merciful?” he asks, as though that were all He is! He cannot believe that God is as severe as faithful preaching and concerned Christians have told him. So Presumption turns the grace of God to lasciviousness (Jude 4). He cannot accept that as the inspired, infallible Word of God which says of the curse, “the Lord will not spare him” (Deut. 29:19f). That could never apply to him! For he presumes that he will eventually repent. He forgets Nadab and Abihu, taken way in the act of sin. He forgets Korah, Dathan and Abiram, wiped out in the thick of their rebellion. What kind of a man is he who is so sure he will yet repent, yet does not from day to day, gambling with his own soul? Live in the way of the reprobate and a man may only expect God to give him up to hardness of heart so that he can never repent.
“Is it true that the best of men may sin presumptuously? Ah! It is true! It is a solemn thing to find the apostle Paul warning saints against the most loathsome of sins. He says, ‘Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth, fornication, uncleanness,, idolatry, inordinate affection…’ What! Do saints want warnings against such sins as these? Yes, they do. The highest saints may sin the lowest sins, unless kept by divine grace. You old, experienced Christians, boast not in your experience; you may trip yet, unless you cry, ‘Hold Thou me up, and I shall be safe.’ Ye whose love is fervent, whose faith is constant, whose hopes are bright, say not, ‘I shall never sin,’ but rather cry out, ‘Lord, lead me not into temptation, and when there, leave me not there; for unless Thou hold me fast I feel I must, I shall decline, and prove an apostate after all.’ There is enough corruption, depravity and wickedness in the heart of the most holy man that is now alive to damn his soul to all eternity, if free and sovereign grace does not prevent. O Christian, thou hast need to pray this prayer.” So spoke Chas. H. Spurgeon on Psalm 19:13.
Say, old Christian! Do I detect a limp in your walk? Why! I see the reason for it, too! Your legs bear shackle scars, and your ankle bones still have imbedded in them bits of the devil’s poisonous iron. True, is his open answer, but if you have a new Master, as I, then come with me and let us sing,
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy grace, Lord, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee!

Originally Published in:
Vol. 30 No. 5 August September 1970