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while feeding thousands by miracle, could still say, “ Gather up the fragments which remain, that nothing be lost.”
4. By continuing this destructive business, you greatly offend the virtuous and respectable part of the community.
The temperance reformation has been commenced and prosecuted by enlightened men. It is not the enterprise of any political party, or religious sect. It has the general support of ministers and Christians of different denominations, of statesmen, judges, lawyers, physicians, and hundreds of thousands in the walks of private life. They regard the enterprise as one, on the success of which hang the liberties of our republic, and the happiness of future millions.
You cannot be surprised, then, that they look with pain on operations directly adapted to defeat their plans, and perpetuate the dread evil they deplore. You cannot suppose that their eye will light on the fountains of this mighty evil, but with inexpressible grief, disgust, and indignation. And if you have the common magnanimity of our nature, you will surely cease to outrage the feelings of the virtuous throughout the nation.
5. You pursue a pernicious calling in opposition to great light.
The time was when good men extensively engaged in the distilling business; and when few seemed to be aware of its fearfully mischievous tendency. The matter had not been a subject of solemn and extensive discussion. The sin was one of comparative ignorance. But circumstances have changed. Inquiry has thrown upon the community a flood of light. The evil of intemperance has been exhibited in its complicated horrors. Ardent spirit has been found to be not only useless, but fearfully destructive. So that the guilt of manufacturing it is now enormously aggravated.
Good men were once engaged in importing slaves. They suspected not the iniquity of the business. And an apology can be offered for them on the ground of ignorance. But that trade has now come to be regarded by the civilized world in the same odious light as piracy and murder. The man who engages in it is stamped with everlasting infamy. And the reason is, that, like the distiller, he now sins amid that fulness of light which an age of philanthropy has poured around him.
6. Perseverance in the business of distilling must necessarily be at the expense of your own reputation and that of your posterity.
You are creating and sending out the materials of discord, crime, poverty, disease, and intellectual and moral degradation. You are contributing to perpetuate one of the sorest scourges of our world. And the scourge can never be removed till those deadly fires you have kindled are all put out. That public sentiment which is worthy of respect calls upon you to extinguish them. And the note of remonstrance will wax louder and louder, till every smoking distillery in the land is demolished. A free and enlightened people cannot quietly look on, while an enemy is working his engines and forging the instruments of national bondage and death.
Without a prophet's vision, I foresee the day when the manufacture of intoxicating liquor for common distribution will be classed with the arts of counterfeiting and forgery and the maintenance of houses for mid
night revelry and corruption. Like these the business will become a work only of darkness, and be prosecuted only by the outlaw.
Weigh well, then, the bearing of your destructive employment on personal and family character. The employment may secure for you a little gain, and perhaps wealth. But, in a day of increasing light and purity, you can never rid treasures, thus acquired, of a stigma, which will render him miserably poor who holds them. Upon the dwelling you occupy, upon the fields you enclose, upon
that entombs your ashes, there will be fixed an indescribable gloom and odiousness, to offend the eye and sicken the heart of a virtuous cominunity, till your memory shall perish. Quit, then, this vile business, and spare your name, spare your family, spare your children's children, such insupportable shame and reproach.
7. By prosecuting this business in a day of light and reform, you peculiarly offend God, and jeopard your immortal interests.
In“ times of ignorance,” God, in a sense, “ winked at” error. But let the error be persisted in under a full blaze of light, and it must be the occasion of a dread retribution from his throne.
The circumstances of the distiller are now entirely changed. His sin was once a sin of ignorance; but is such no longer. He knows he is taking bread from the hungry, and perverting the bounties of Providence. He knows he is underinining the very pillars of our Republic. He knows, that by distilling he confers no benefits upon mankind. He knows he is directly accessary to the temporal wretchedness and the endless wailing of multitudes. And knowing these things, and keeping on his way, be accumulates guilt which the Holy One cannot overlook. If endless exclusion from heaven be the drunkard's doom, can he be held guiltless, who deliberately prepared for him and perhaps placed in his hand the cup of death and damnation! This is not the decision either of Scripture or of common sense. Wilfully persevering to furnish the sure means of death, you carry to the judgment the murderer's character, as clearly as the midnight assassin.
And now, what is the apology for prosecuting a business so manifestly offensive to God, and ruinous to yourself as well as others? Do you say, It is necessary as a means of support? But whence have you derived authority to procure a living at the sacrifice of conscience, character, and the dearest interests of others? And is the maintenance of a public nuisance really necessary to your support? In a country like this, the plea of necessity for crime is glaringly impious. Many and varied departments of honest and honorable industry are before you, all promising a generous reward. And, neglecting them for a wicked and mischievous occupation, you must bear the odium of a most sordid avarice or implacable malignity.
You virtually, too, impeach the character of God. You proclaim, that he has made your comfort and even subsistence to depend upon the practice of iniquity. It is an imputation he must repel with abhorrence and wrath. Nor is it sustained by the conscience, reason, or experience of any man.
But possibly you urge in self-justification, Others will manufacture spirit if I do not. But remember the guilt of one is no excuse for another. * Every one of us shall give account of himself to God." If others pursue
a business at the sacrifice of character and of heaven, it becomes you to avoid their crime, that you may escape their doom.
It is not certain, however, that others will prosecute the destructive business, is you abandon it. Men of forethought will not now embark their silver and gold on a pestilential stream, soon to be dried up under that blaze of light and heat which a merciful God has enkindled. They will not deem it either wise or safe to kindle unholy and deadly fires, where the pure river of the water of life is so soon to overflow. In the eye of thousands the distillery on your premises adds nothing to their value. Indeed, should they purchase those premises, the filthy establishment would be demolished, as the first effort of improvement. And every month and hour is detracting from its value, and blackening the curse that rests upon it.
Let the thousands now concerned in distilling, at once put out their fires, and the act would cause one general burst of joy through the nation; and any effort to rekindle them would excite an equally general burst of indignation and abhorrence. None but a monster of depravity would ever make the attempt.
But again, perhaps you say, No one is obliged to use the spirit that is made. But remember that you make it only to be used. You make it with the desire, with the hope, with the expectation that it will be used. You know it has been used by thousands-by millions—and has strewed the land with desolation, and peopled hell with its victims : and you cannot but acknowledge, that you would at once cease to make the liquor, did you not hope it would continue to be used! Indeed, you must see that, just in proportion to your success, will be the amount of mischief done to your fellow-men!
It seems hardly needful to say, that the foregoing considerations are all strictly applicable to such as furnish the materials for the distiller. Were these withheld, his degrading occupation would of course cease. By suffering, then, the fruits of your industry to pass into his hands, you perpetuate his work of death. You share in all his guilt, and shame, and curse. And remember, too, that the bushel of grain, the barrel of cider, the hogshead of melasses, for which you thus gain a pittance, may be returned from the fiery process only to hasten the infamy and endless ruin of a beloved son, or brother, or friend!
Nor is the crime of the retailer of ardent spirit essentially different. He takes the poison from the distiller, and insidiously deals it out to his fellowmen. It is truly stirring to one's indignation to notice his variety of artifice for rendering it enticing. His occupation is one which the civil authorities have, in some places, with a noble consistency, ceased to tolerate ; and one which must soon be put down by the loud voice of public sentiment.
Indeed, the retailer, the distiller, and he who furnishes the materials, must be looked upon as forming a TRIPLE LEAGUE, dangerous alike to private and social happiness, and to the very liberties of the nation. And an awakened people cannot rest, till the deadly compact is sundered. Why not, then, anticipate a little the verdict and the vengeance of a rising tone of public sentiment, and at once proclaim the unholy alliance dissolved? Why not anticipate the verdict of an infinitely higher tribunal ?--why not believe God's threatening, and escape the eternal tempest that lowers for him who putteth the cup to his neighbor's lips? Why not co-operate promptly in a public reform, that is regarded with intense interest in heaven, on earth, and in hell ?
O review, as men of reason, and conscience, and immortality, this whole business : And if you have no ambition to benefit your fellow-men-if you can consent to ruin many for both worlds—if you can persist in wasting and perverting the bounties of a kind Providence-if you can outrage the feelings of the most enlightened and virtuous—if you can pursue a work of darkness amid noonday light-if you can sacrifice a good name, and entail odium on all you leave—and if you can deliberately offend God, and jeopard your immortal interests for paltry gain,--then go on--go on a little longer;—but, “O MY SOUL, COME NOT THOU INTO THEIR SECRET ; UNTO THEIR ASSEMBLY, MINI HONOR, BE NOT THOU UNITED!"
SERMONS LXXXV. & LXXXVI.
By AMBROSE EDSON, A.M.
THE EARLY CONVERSION OF CHILDREN.
MARK, x. 14.-Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid then
not; for of such is the kingdom of God.
This declaration of Christ was uttered on an interesting occasion. Several young children, or, as the Evangelist Luke styles them, "infants," were brought to Christ, to receive his blessing ; but the disciples, supposing that they were too young to be benefited by the instructions of their Master, rebuked the parents for thus trespassing upon his time. With this rebuke Christ was displeased, and encouraged the little children to come unto him, assigning as a reason, “of such is the kingdom of God.” This is the reason why little children, and even infants, should not only be suffered to come, but be brought to Christ, to receive his blessing. The objection of the disciples seems to have been founded upon their age; they were thought too young to derive any benefit from the Messiah, the Lord of men and angels; but his reply, and the treatment they received from him, show distinctly, that, young as they were, their age was no objection ; for “ he took them
in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them." The reasoning is this : if children, young children, infants, are proper subjects of Christ's spiritual kingdom, let them have all the religious advantages in which they can possibly partake. So far from throwing any obstacle in the way, suffer them to come-encourage them-nay, let parents bring them to me, and I will bless them.
It wild be deeply interesting to learn the subsequent history of these little ones, that were thus permitted to receive the benediction of the Son of God; and it may be proper to observe, that, according to the testimony of Nicephorus, Ignatius, a disciple of John, and afterward bishop of Antioch, who was honored with martyrdom about seventy-four years after the death of Christ) was one of those very “ infunts."
If, then, infants actually did receive the blessing of Christ when on earth; were thus regarded as proper subjects of his visible and spiritual kingdom, and consequently of the kingdom of glory; it is certainly fair to infer, that they may, at this age, become the subjects of grace--may be converted-may become real Christians.
To this sentiment, supported by the text, I now solicit your attention ; and to prevent misapprehension, I remark, that the term infancy will be used in its strictly proper application, as embracing the first six years of life. I repeat, then, that infants may become the subjects of grace, may be converted.
1. In elucidating this truth, it may be remarked, in the first place, that there is no natural impossibility in the case. If there be any incapacity to become Christians, between the commencement of moral agency and sin and any subsequent period, then, during that period salvation is absolutely impossible, and their condition hopeless! But is such a portion of our race, who have commenced moral agency, and have sinned, rendered incapable of salvation, by not being able to comply with the terms of the Gospel? Is the remedy so inade quate to the disease?
Moral agency in doing what is forbidden, or refusing to do what is required, supposes the existence of all that ability that is needed for a compliance with duty. Destroy this, and you sweep away, at one fatal stroke, the obligations to comply with the terms of the Gospel-the only method revealed in the Bible, in which the wrath of God can be avoided, and the soul saved.
But I would ask, why a person, who is capable of sinning, is not capable of repenting of sin? The former act is a violation of obligation, that was either known, or that might have been known; the latter implies a feeling that such an obligation has been violated. And if a moral agent can violate obligation, he can feel that he has done so. No stronger mental powers are necessary for repentance than for sinning. What is there, then, in the nature of tite case, that makes the conversion of young children impossible?
2. But it may be remarked, in the second place, that infancy, or the first period of life, is the best time for piety to commence. I do not say simply that it would be most desirable for it to commence then, but that it is the most favorable time. The word of God teaches us, that when habits of sin have become fixed, the breaking of these, in all human probability, is as hopeless as that the Ethiopian will change his skin, or the leopard his spots. And observation and experience testify the same. If, then, the principle be correct, that a continuance in sin will strengthen sinful habits, and make a change in the character and life more difficult, and consequently more hopeless, is there any time so favorable to this change as when there are the fewest sins committed, and habits of sin have not been formed!
If it be a more favorable time to become a Christian in youth than when