The Higher Ministries of Sleep
George H. Morrison
Song of Solomon 5:2
When we divide life, as we generally do, into a waking and a sleeping period, we are prone always to exalt the former and to depreciate the latter. That sleep is essential to the body and that for wearied bodies it is a blessed thing, that of course is familiar to us all as one of life's unvarying experiences. But much less familiar is the other thought of the higher and holier offices of sleep, of its moral and religious values. When we think of character we think of action. We recall the stress and struggle of the day. We dwell on the conscious efforts which we make and on the battles with temptation which we fight. And sleep is so utterly diverse from all that and so separate from those struggles which make manhood, that we rarely reckon with it very seriously in the moral and spiritual life.
This point of view is often so exaggerated that sleep is spoken of contemptuously. Men have forgotten that most gracious text, "He giveth his beloved sleep" (Ps. 127:2). All right-thinking people scorn the sluggard, and they scorn him because they are right-thinking. "A little slumber-a little sleep-a little folding of the hands to sleep" (Prov. 6:10). The Bible trains its artillery of scorn on the man who wastes his precious hours slothfulness, and conscience is the ally of the Bible. What men have often failed to keep in mind is that the worst is the corruption of the best. They have forgotten that slothfulness is bad just because sleep is good. They have not remembered that every hour of being has its contribution to the higher life, and that the ordering of our existence is of God. How often holy men have spoken of sleep as if it were a thing to be despised. Asceticism has held it in contempt; sainthood has fought against it gallantly. And this superior attitude toward sleep, so often the attitude of cloistered piety, rests on the feeling that for the higher life the hours controlled by sleep ...
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