« PreviousContinue »
not be conscious of any impropriety. And if this " moderate indulgence" be habitual, there must, of course, be a corresponding and increasing mental debasement, till conscience is " seared as with a hot iron," and the mind is lost to the power of being affected by truth, as well as to the capacity of being useful to others. And is this destruction of the talents God has given, consistent with the injunction to " stir up the gift that is within you," and to “ glorify God in your bodies and in your spirits, which are his ?"
2. This habit of drinking is incompatible with that desire of eminent holiness and growth in grace, which a consistent profession implies. The great Founder of Christianity enjoins, “ Be ye perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” This will be the true Christian's daily desire. And a soul animated with such heavenly desire, and aspiring to the image of God, will have no relish for any counteracting spirit.
Does any one say, that for eminently holy men to be found " mingling strong drink,” may seem inconsistent; but not so for those less spiritual? This is making the want of spirituality an excuse for sensuality ; thus manifestly adding sin to sin, and provoking the Holy One to anger. His mandate is universal ;“ Be ye holy, for I am holy." And all professing Christians are solemnly pledged to abide by this rule, and make it their constant effort to be like God.
To this end they are charged to "abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul;" to “mortify their members which are upon the earth ;" to " exercise themselves rather unto godliness ;" and to “be kindly affectioned toward all men.” But who does not know, that distilled liquor not only 6 eats out the brain," but “ taketh
the heart," diminishes even “ natural affection,” and deadens all the kindlier feelings; while it cherishes those very passions which the Holy Spirit so pointedly condemns? And how can one“ professing godliness,” and aspiring to the divine image, drink that which thus tends to destroy all that is pure, and spiritual, and lovely, while it kindles in body and soul the very flames of hell ?
3. The use of this liquor is inconsistent with any thing like pure and high spiritual enjoyment, clear spiritual views, and true devotion. A sense of shame must inevitably torment the professor, who, in such a day, cannot resist those “fleshly lusts which war against the soul ;" his brethren will turn from him in pity or disgust; and, what is infinitely more affecting, the Holy Spirit will not abide with him. And thus, without an approving conscience, without the cordialities of pure Christian intercourse, and without the smiles of the blessed Comforter, how can he enjoy religion?
Abstinence from highly stimulating liquor or food has ever been regarded as indispensable to that serenity of soul and clearness of views, so infinitely desirable in matters of religion. Hence the ministers of religion were solemnly commanded not to touch any thing like strong drink, when about to enter the sanctuary. And this, adds God, shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations; that ye may put difference between holy and unholy; clearly showing his views of the effect of temperance on spiritual discernment.
On the principle of abstinence we may also account, in part, for that holy ecstasy—that amazing clearness of spiritual visionsometimes enjoyed on the death-bed. “ Administer nothing," said the eloquent dying Summerfield," that will create a stupor, not even so much as a little porter and water—that I may have an unclouded view." For the same reason Dr. Rush, (who so well knew the effect of strong drink,) peremptorily ordered it not to be given him in his last hours. And probably for the same holy reason, the dying Savior, (" who knew all things,”) when offered “wine mingled with myrrh"-" received it not.” The truly wise will not, in the trying hour, barter visions of glory for mere animal excitement and mental stupefaction. Then surely not, in the meridian of health.
Equally illustrative of our principle is the confession of an aged deacon, accustomed to drink moderately ; " I always, in prayer, felt a coldness and heaviness at heart,-never suspecting it was the whis. key! but since that is given up, I have heavenly communion !" what an increase of pure light and joy might there be in the church, would all its members understand this, and be “ temperate in all things."
4. The use of ardent spirit by professing Christians is inconsistent with the good order and discipline of the church. A minister of great experience in ecclesiastical concerns, gives it as the result of his observation, that nine-tenths of all the cases calling for church discipline are occasioned by this liquor. This is a tremendous fact. But a little examination will convince any one that the estimate is not too high. And can it be right to continue an indulgence that is bringing tenfold, or even foursold more trouble and disgrace on the church, than all other causes united? Do not these foul “ spots in our feasts of charity” clearly say, “ Touch not the unclean thing ?" Can we countenance that which is certain to inflict the deepest wounds in the body of Christ ? “ It must needs be that offences come ; but wo to that man by whom the offence cometh.”
5. The use of distilled liquor by professors of religion is inconsistent with the hope of reforming and saving the intemperate. The Christian knows that every soul is inconceivably precious, and that drunkards cannot inherit eternal life. He knows also that hundreds of thousands in this land- now sustain, or are contracting this odious character; and that if the evil be not arrested, millions will come on in the same track, and go down to the burning gulf. But the Christian who drinks just so much as to make himself “ feel well,” cannot reprove the drunkard, who only does the same thing. The drunkard may say to him, “My appetite is stronger than yours; more, therefore, is necessary in order to make me feel well ;' and if you cannot deny yourself the little that seems needful, how can I control a more raging appetite ?" This rebuko would be unanswerable. All
agree that total abstinence is the only hope of the drunkard. But is it not preposterous to expect him to abstain, so long as he sees the minister, the elder, the deacon, and other respectable men, indulging their cups? With mind enfeebled, and character lost, can he summon resolution to be singular, and live even more temperately than his acknowledged superiors ?-thus telling to all that he has been a drunkard! This cannot be expected of poor sunken human nature. No; let moderate drinking be generally allowed, and in less than thirty years, according to the usual ratio of their deaths, armies of drunkards greater than all the American churches will go from this land of light and freedom to “everlasting chains of darkness.” If, then, the drunkard is worth saving, if he has a soul capable of shining with seraphim, and if there be in members of the church “any bowels of mercies,” let them give him the benefit of their example. Professing to “ do good to all as they have opportunity,” let them be consistent in this matter. By a little self-denial they may save millions from hell. But “ he that denieth not himself, cannot be Christ's disciple.” He that will not yield a little to save his fellow-sinners from eternal pain, has nothing of the spirit of Him, who, for his enemies, exchanged a throne for a cross; nor can he consistently bear his name.
Could all the wailings of the thousand thousands slain by ardent spirit come up in one loud thunder of remonstrance on the ear of the churches, they would then, perhaps, think it incon sistent, by their example, or by any act, to sanction its use. But “ let God be true,” and those wailings are as real, as if heard in ceaseless thunders. But God hath no pleasure in the death of the drunkard, and the drunkard can have no pleasure in the second death; it cannot, therefore, be consistent, either with love to God or love to man, to add to the multitude who shall swell the eternal wail.
6. The use of distilled liquor by professing Christians is incon'sistent with the hope of ever freeing the nation from intemperance. All former efforts to arrest this alarming sin have failed. A glorious effort is now making to wash it off for ever with pure water. Thousands of patriots and philanthropists are rejoicing in the remedy. Not a sober man in the nation really doubts its efficacy and importance. Who, then, that regards our national character and our glorious institutions, can hesitate to adopt it? O, who, that loves his neighbor or his God, can still thirst for that which has darkened the pathway of heaven, threatened our liberties, desolated the land, and peopled hell? Who can be expected to adopt this substitute, if they do not who have sworn allegiance to the Holy One ? It they withhold their example, will worldly and sensual men, and the enemies of all righteousness, take up the work, and reform themselves, and purify the land ? For professors to expect this is preposterous ; and to pray for it, while they cling to the abominable thing, is gross insult to the Most High. His manifest language to the churches, then, is, “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” “ And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground.”
Is it said, that the influence of a small church is unimportant ? Not so: it is “a city set on an hill;" “ the glory of the Lord is upon it;" its light may save the surrounding region; its example may influence a thousand churches. And let the eight hundred thousand professing Christians in this land resolve on TOTAL ABBTINENCE~ let this great example be held up to view-and it
says, “ Let
would be such a testimony as the world has not seen. Let such a multitude show that ardent spirit is useless, and reformation easy and the demonstration would be complete. Few of the moral would continue the poison ; thousands of the immoral abandon it at once; and the nation be reformed and saved. Hence,
7. The use of this liquor by professing Christians is utterly inconsistent with the proper influence of their example. The Savior
your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." But will men esteem Christians the more for drinking ? and thus be led to glorify God on their behalf? Or will the Savior praise them for this, " when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe ?” Rather, will not their drinking lead some to excess, and thus sully the Creator's work? Nay, is it not certain, that if professing Christians thus indulge, the example will lead millions to drunkenness and perdition ? And, on the other hand, is it not morally certain, that if they would abstain, their combined influence might save millions from infamy and endless ruin? But every professor shares in this mighty power of example. How, then, in prospect of a day when all the bearings of his conduct shall be judged, can he hesitate on which side to lend his influence? This is not a little matter : for who can con ceive the results of even one impulse, among beings connected with each other and with infinity by ten thousand strings !
8. The use of ardent spirit by a part of the church is inconsistent with that harmony and brotherly love which Christ requires in his professed followers. He requires them to “ love one another with a pure heart fervently ;" to “be all of one mind;" to be “ of one heart and one soul.” But who does not see the utter impossibility of this, if some members continue an indulgence, which others regard with abhorrence? Since public attention has been turned to this subject, thousands have come to the conviction that drinking distilled liquor is a wicked as well as filthy practice. The most distinguished lights of the church, and all such as peculiarly adorn their profession, decidedly embrace this sentiment. And how can such have anything like cordiality with those who continue a habit, now so extensively viewed with disgust? Ah! the professor of religion, who, in a day like this, “ will have his glass, not caring whom he offends," must have it; but with it, he must also “ have