Page images
PDF
EPUB

man; so that if there be, as there always is, unjustifiable licentiousness, if not of action, at least of language and thought, to which all persons inflamed with liquor are subject; or if there be certain particular feelings and extravagances which the infirmity of particular constitutions when disordered by intemperance is sure to draw men into, then, and to both these, the guilt may be deemed equal to the deeds, if committed with all our senses and faculties about us; for it makes little or no difference whether we deliberately commit a crime, or deliberately put ourselves into a condition in which we know beforehand that we shall be tempted to commit it. Of crimes and outrages which are the effects of drunkenness, but are unusual or unthought of, the judgment is not quite the same; they cannot be accounted of, as if proceeding from deliberate wickedness, because they are the effects of a condition which admits of no deliberation; nor can it be said here, as before, that the drunken man foresaw, or might have foreseen these effects, when he suffered himself to be brought into such a condition ; for they are by the supposition unusual, and therefore not foreseen; but though unusual, they are not impossible, nor perhaps, all things considered, very improbable. Therefore there is a guilt, and a very great one, in incurring the hazard, or even the possibility of perpetrating those crimes and outrages from which we had power or had reason to withhold us; and from which we are safe, or at least distant, so long as we neither abused that power nor that reason. I here put the supposition more in favor of intemperance than it will properly bear; for I supposed that the disorder occasioned by it deprives a man of the use of his understanding, and leaves him, at the time of committing the crime, in the absolute condition of an insane person; so that the very guilt he was capable of, consisted in bringing himself into that condition. Now this is seldom the case in reality. In intoxication, some selfcommand, some conscientious sense of right and wrong remains with men ; and for so much as does remain they are accountable, as much then as ever. Another circumstance should likewise always be noticed, which is a great aggravation of drunkenness; when a man finds by experience the mischievous, the pernicious consequences which intemperance produces to himself, or through him to others, and does not take warning by them, but returns to his drunkenness at every opportunity, and whenever the temptation comes round, it will be difficult to distinguish such a man's misconduct from the same misconduct in a sober person; at least, there is a wide difference between this case, and

his who has been casually betrayed into intemperance, and, by intemperance, into improper behaviour, and takes little caution from the experience of his own infirmity, to keep out of the way of a second temptation, or gains little resolution to withstand it.

One considerable part of the mischiefs and evil tendency of intemperance, is the example, especially in people whose example is likely to influence others; as of masters of families, persons in public stations, those who are, or ought to be, the instructers of others.

Drunkenness effectually puts an end to all authority; for it so degrades and debases the drunkard, as not only to bring him upon a level with the lowest of those over whom bis authority should be preserved, but much beneath them. It is ridiculous in a drunkard to talk to others of decency, order, good manners, quietness, peaceableness, industry, activity, usefulness, who himself, in this one vice, exhibits a public example of the violation of all these duties. And this matter of example, in this, as well as in a thousand other instances, may lead us to enlarge our views of the consequences of our actions, and see a guilt in them which we may not discern in them considered simply in themselves. In the case before us, expense, for instance, may not be a consideration to all; but their example, or their company, may draw in others to make it a consideration very serious. In like manner, the shame, and distress, and terror, and uneasiness which intemperance is sure to occasion to a person's own family, is an important aggravation of the offence. This is not applicable to those who have no family; but then the infection of their example, or the exercise of their vice, propagates itself to those who have families, and so makes them indirectly the authors of misery which, very possibly, they never intended or suspected.

I have thus enumerated the effects of drunkenness, without exaggeration ; for I do not wish to indulge in invective or excite indignation against it, further than the solid mischief it produces will justify. Universally we ought to take into the account, not merely the mischief it produces at the very moment of committing the crime, but altogether, sooner or later, directly or indirectly ; to ourselves, in our fortunes, health, constitutions, understandings; to our families, in their subsistence, expectations, morals, peace, and satisfaction; to the neighbourhood and the public at large, by the outrages, indecencies, and extravagances into which it betrays us; or more generally, by the evil tendency of our example, which will operate afterwards where it is more pernicious than in ourselves, and for which we are in a very serious degree answerable.

It remains that we state the judgment of scripture concerning this vice; which you will find to be agreeable to what the light of nature, rightly attended to, indicates of its evil tendency;

Be not drunk with wine,' says St Paul, 'wherein is excess.' You here find no rigid rules of abstinence or self denial ; nothing of that unnecessary mortification or painful refusal of the satisfactions of life, which all religions that are founded on enthusiasm or imposture have been wont to enjoin. St Paul does not forbid wine ; but being drunken with wine, wherein is excess. The reasonableness of this precept entitles it to respect.

In the sixth chapter of the first epistle to the Corinthians, St Paul enumerates the offenders of whom he says, they shall not inherit the kingdom of heaven.' Amongst these we find drunkards; neither thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall enter the kingdom of heaven.' This declaration admits of no comment save one; that we must understand the apostle to speak of habitual offenders, persisting in their respective crimes, without repentance, change, or reformation. In other passages, St Paul is at some pains to teach his disciples how inconsistent this vice is with their particular characters and profession. It was a common way of preaching with bim, to describe those who were indulged with the light of the gospel as children of light, and of the day, in opposition to the rest of the world, who lived, as to religious matters, in night and darkness. In this view of their condition as Christians, he takes occasion to enforce upon them the duty of sobriety; • They that be drunken, are drunken in the night; but let us who are of the day be sober. I am not concerned to discuss the arguments. The passage shows St Paul's sentiments of the crime of drunkenness, and its absolute inconsistency with the christian profession.

With respect to the preservatives against this vice, the first thing to be remarked is, that there is no trusting to our natural aversion to excessive drinking. Most people have this aversion at first. Therefore, a man being drawn in notwithstanding, proves that that is no security to be depended upon.

If, then, from our business, in which we are exposed to much company and many invitations to excess, or from any other cause, that we find our aversion abating, and a liking or a desire after this indulgence beginning, I know of no better advice that can be given, than to tie ourselves down by rules, and resolutely and constantly to abide by them.

All such rules are absurd when they are unnecessary; but they are not unnecessary when we are exposed to such danger by the consequences of falling into such a habit, so utterly destructive of all that is good, and of such incalculable mischief; and from which there is so little hope, if there be any indeed, of ever recovering.

The next great caution I would recommend is, to beware of indulgences of the kind when alone, at home, and in our own families. So long as we confine our intemperance to occasions of feasting or of company, that can be repeated no oftener than the occasions return, which is not constantly. Whenever we cease to wait for occasions, and have found the way of betaking ourselves to this gratification by ourselves, there is less, there is nothing, to hinder or interrupt a settled habit of intemperance fastening upon us. As I have observed already, the most plausible excuse to ourselves for indulgence is fatigue. Thousands have been drawn in by this excuse. It is always, therefore, prudent to place the danger full before our eyes ; to reflect how easily and how gently refreshment leads to intemperance, indulgence to excess. We shall consult our safety and happiness by forbidding to ourselves such indulgence, the moment we perceive that there is danger of its gaining ground upon us, and laying, however slowly, the foundation for every other vice.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

Let no man deceive you with vain words, for because of these things cometh

the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience,

These are awful words. They assert most satisfactorily, that there are certain things, which, let men say or think what they will, are sure of bringing down the wrath of God upon those who commit them. They further intimate, that, although this be certainly true, and will be found to be so, yet many

sure of things, whihey asser

mistake, fatally mistake the matter, hold flattering opinions upon the subject which will prove to be false, thereby overlooking or remaining ignorant of their own danger, and of the end to which they will come ; that there are deceivers and deceived; they who are laboring to deceive others, and they who are very willing to be deceived. For when the apostle uses these words of warning, · let no man deceive you,' he knew that such deceptions were abroad, were common, were employed, were listened to, succeeded, and prevailed over the minds and consciences of many. Then he apprizes them of the danger, of the necessity of preparing and fortifying themselves against such delusions. He bids them, for this is the meaning and force of his admonition, he bids them look neither to the right hand nor to the left; to listen neither to what one man said, nor to what another man said ; neither to this specious persuasion, nor to that plausible argument, but to keep close to this one momentous, this never to be forgotten consideration, that these, however varnished, however colored over, however extenuated or diminished, however excused or defended, will in the event feel the wrath of God.

• Because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Because, you will ask, of what things ? That undoubtedly is the first question to be considered. What were the things which St Paul had particularly in his mind when he wrote the words of the text; I say particularly, for that he had some particular view, or some particular class and kind of view in his contemplation, cannot be well disputed. Now the context, the words which go before, must show us what he meant by these things, because they were things which he had already mentioned. The term these things implies that ; it is a term of reference. But what he had been speaking of before, to which the text relates, was as follows ; · Fornication and all uncleanness, or covetousness, neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting which is not convenient ; for this ye know, that no whoremonger nor unclean person, nor covetous man who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.' And then he goes on ; 'Let no man deceive you with vain words, for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Now I say that the class of crimes which the apostle had particularly, and I think had solely in view, were crimes of licentiousness and debauchery. I include all crimes arising from the unlawful and licentious indulgence of men's passions. The terms made use of by St Paul, are · for

« PreviousContinue »