ON THE VICE OF SPIRITUAL SLOTH
Consider first, that spiritual sloth is a most pernicious evil, whether we consider it in a more general acceptation as a laziness of spirit, or a backwardness, negligence, and carelessness, with regard to all the things of God and Christian virtues, with a loathing and repugnance to the taking of any pains for the acquisition of them; or, as it is taken by divines, when they number it amongst the seven capital sins – a particular indisposition of the soul with regard to the love of God, opposite to the virtues of godliness, devotion, and prayer, and a loathing, as it were, of divine love in the soul. The former is a more extensive evil, an enemy to all virtues in general, by opposing them all, and a mother or nurse of all other vices, by letting them all in, and nourishing them all in the soul. The latter is particularly opposite to the divine virtue of charity, the queen of all virtues, and to the glory of God’s name and his kingdom in our souls. And therefore when it is considerable in its kind, it is a great mortal sin, by reason of its direct opposition to divine love, which it banishes from the soul. And no wonder, for if it be a great crime to oppose the spiritual good of our neighbour, by envying or resisting the reign of the love of God in his soul, it must be no less criminal to withstand and oppose the coming of the kingdom of God’s grace and his love into our own souls.
Consider 2ndly, the numberless evils that flow from the vice of spiritual sloth, when once it possess the soul; more especially in the way of sins of omission, such as the neglect of prayer and of all other religious exercise, the keeping away from the sacraments, and consequently the stopping up, or turning off from the soul all the channels of divine grace, and laying her open, unguarded, and defenceless to all her enemies. And thus the slothful soul is made a daily prey to Satan and to sin, and lives, in a manner, without God. Hence the daughters of this spiritual sloth, according to St. Gregory, are, 1. Despair, or giving up the cause of God and of the soul, so as to have neither hope nor concern for one’s eternal salvation; 2. Pusillanimity or cowardice, dreading or flying from the least pains or labour in the service of God; 3. A numbness of soul with regard to all the divine precepts; 4. Malice, or an aversion to all sanctity, and to the professors of it; 5. A rancour, or an indignation against all such as seek to bring us to God. and lastly, a dissipation of mind turned away from the things of God, and always running after creatures. From these unhappy fruits you may judge of the worthlessness of the tree which produces them, and learn to dread so pernicious a vice.
Consider 3rdly, that this vice of sloth is the more dangerous, because like the rest of the spiritual sins it lies deeper in the soul, and is easier overlooked, by such as will not take the pains to think, and to examine well the state of their interior. Carnal sins are more easily discovered, because their guilt carries with it greater shame in the eyes of men, which makes it fly in the face of the sinner, and he cannot disguise it, but spiritual sins are more heinous in the eyes of God, though not much considered by men, and often not regarded at all. And thus, as thousands live and die under the mortal guilt of the spiritual vices of pride, envy, hatred, or covetousness, unregarded and unrepented of, so ’tis to be feared thousand live and die under the mortal guilt of spiritual sloth, unregarded and unrepented of. For what other judgment can we make of those slothful servants whom the gospel so loudly condemns? Or what can be said in favour of them, who being sent into this world upon no other business but to learn to love and to serve their God, through this unhappy sloth live and die, without so much as once seriously thinking upon this great business, much less putting it into execution?
Conclude to look well to thyself, and to examine thyself well, how thy heart stands affected with regard to the glory of God’s name, the advancement of his kingdom within thee, and the reign of his love. If this be what thou seekest in the first place, all is well; but if thou admittest of a loathing or repugnance to this, and givest the preference in thy heart to anything else, assure thyself that the demon of spiritual sloth possesses thy soul, and that God has no share in thee.