The City, its Sins and
"He beheld the city, and wept over it." - LUKE xlx. 41.
Without driver, without hand to curb or guide him, a startled, maddened horse, with snowy foam speckling his mane, and the fire flashing from his heels, was once seen tearing along through a country village. He dragged a cart behind him. A little child was in it, who, every moment in danger of being dashed upon the road, clung to its sides in pale terror. A woman, as it passed, shot from her doorway, like an arrow from the bow-string. With outstretched arms, dishevelled hair, and flying feet, she followed in full pursuit, filling the street with cries that might have pierced a heart of stone - " Save that child! save that child!" Whereupon a man, who had not humanity enough to join the chase and swell the cry, far less bravery enough, at his own peril, to throw himself across the path, and seize the reins, coolly turned round on her to bid her cease her cries - saying, "Woman, it is not your child." The information was not new to her. She had left all her own safe in their nest at home. Nor did that heartless speech for a moment arrest her step, or still the cry of "Save that child! save that child!"
In that circumstance, we have more than a touching example of the tenderness of a womans heart. It illustrates the spirit of the gospel. A noble - and generous woman! She was imbued with the large loving-heartedness that is unhappy if others are miserable, that will not eat its own bread and drink its own cup alone, that is not content to be safe without also saving. There, in these outstretched arms, that anxious cry, those feet that hasten to save, you see, standing out in beautiful contrast to selfishness, the broad, wide, warm benevolence of the gospel, the spirit of Calvary, the mind that was in Jesus Christ - and which, let me add, is in all that are Jesus Christs. This furnishes a touchstone for testing a religious profession.
A man, I pray you to observe, may be a true Christian, who falls even into grievous sin. Many a bark with sprung masts, and torn sails, and shattered bulwarks, gains the port. And many a man gets to heaven who has been all but wrecked. Indeed, "the righteous scarcely are saved," and the vessel which has her head laid heavenward, keeping careless watch, and thrown, so to speak, on her beam ends by some sudden gust of temptation, may all but founder. In Bible story, as well as in other records of Christian experience, how many solemn warnings have we to watch and pray; how much that rolls out the loud alarm, "Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall." We do not say that a Christian man cannot fall into sin. Yet it is one thing to fall into sin, it is another to lie in it, to love it, to seek it, to court it, to pursue it, to enjoy it - as they do who, in place of rejecting and ejecting it "like gravel in the mouth," "roll it as a sweet morsel under their tongue." It is one thing, being overcome of evil, to be the devils captive - bewitched, beguiled, caught in a snare and cast into dark. ness - and another to be a base deserter, a bold soldier, fighting in the ranks of Satan.
Far be it from me to excuse or even palliate those sins in good men which crucify the Lord afresh, and inflict the deepest wounds upon his bleeding side. Yet the sin, which has set loose many a ribald tongue, which they "tell in Gath, and publish in the streets of Askelon," which fills the church with grief, and makes the world ring with scandal, which, as when some shot in battle dismounts a cannon, or explodes a magazine, or cuts down a man of mark, is hailed by the enemy with shouts of triumph, even such a sin may say less against a mans piety, than the love that embraces the lost, and a deep interest in the best welfare of others, says for it. Look at Noah beneath the mantle which filial piety has flung over his shame. Look at Peter stoutly denying his Master. Look at the saintly David covered with blushes and confusion, and cowering under the fixad look and eagle eye of him, who points his finger, saying, "Thou art the man!" Such scenes, even such humbling scenes in a mans life, do not present an aspect of character incompatible with a true and genuine piety. But such an aspect is presented by many a decent man, who never, indeed, brought a scandal on religion, yet never beheld the city to weep over it, never spent one anxious thought on any interests but his own, never spared a tear for any losses but his own, never, so be that his own nest was warmly feathered, troubled himself about others wants, nor cared what came of them, if he accomplished his own selfish ends. The sins of a good man are only the diseases of life - the irregular palpitations of a living heart; but that cold indifference, that unfeeling selfishness - these are the rigidity and frigidity of death.
I remember a remark which once dropped from the lips of an aged minister. The subject of his discourse was our Lords last sufferings. And when he narrated how they had brought him to Calvary and nailed him on the tree, and was telling bow the impenitent thief turned on his cross - a dying man to mock a dying Saviour - he stopped to remark, that while there was almost no sin which a child of God might not fall into, there was one thing which he had never read of a good man doing, and, which he believed no good man had ever done or would do - he would never occupy the scorners chair, or make a mock of piety. And another such test of real religion this subject presents. It may also be employed to prove the truth or falsehood of our profession. I venture to affirm, that, however great his faults may be, no man of God, no man animated by the spirit of Jesus Christ, no child baptized into the nature as well as name of that heavenly Father, who is unwilling that any should perish - no man allied to those angelic beings, who minister to suffering saints, and rejoice in the conversion of the lowest of the lost - no man imbued with the love which, to save the most wicked, most worthless, and most wretched of us, left the Fathers bosom to hang in infancy on a womans breast, and hang in death on a bloody tree - will refuse to lend me a willing ear, when I lay open the sores and sorrows, - and plead for the souls of men. Of too many this may be true: "They lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the Calves out of the midst of the stall; they chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of music, like David; they drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments, but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph." But I cast myself with confidence upon Gods people. I resume my subject, and proceed to set forth the sins and sorrows of our cities - fully assured that I shall not meet from lips which the altar-coal has touched, the words with which the murderers of our Lord thrust forth the traitor - " What is that to us? See thou to that."
II. The intemperance of the city - or, to use a plainer term, to call things by their right names, to be done with sacrificing mens souls and public morals to a spurious delicacy, to make vice as disgusting and detestable as possible, As to rub off the paint that conceals the rotten cheek - let me say in plain broad Saxon, its Drunkenness.
Our subject is one for the pulpit. From preachers it claims more notice and warning, more plain denunciation and earnest pleading, than perhaps it usually receives. Some might be better pleased were I, instead of conducting them through loathsome scenes, to be their guide into the temple - to show them, in succession, the sublime mysteries of our faith. But what saith the Lord: - "Son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel, therefore thou shalt hear the word from my mouth, and warn them from me. When I say unto the wicked man, thou shalt surely die, if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked man from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at thine hand." Again, what saith the Lord: - "Set the trumpet to thy mouth. Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain." Are people concerned for the honour of the temple? How can they so well express this feeling as by attempting with Jesus to purify its courts? Is the Lord, as some think, coming? Let us go forth, like John Baptist - forerunners to prepare his way. Have we asked of them who keep ward and watch on the towers of Zion, "Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?" and got back the startling answer, "The morning cometh and also the night?" The more need have we to abandon all airy speculation, and betake ourselves to the practical work of setting heart and house, town and country, church and state in order. If Christ be coming, let us all get ready, and get all things ready for the second advent. Laying aside the telescopes which we had turned in the expected direction, let us gird up our loins, and go down into the field of work, that we may make straight what is crooked, and smooth what is rough; and, preparing his way, remove whatever would offend the eye of our coming King.
The apostles were not content to preach only what are called doctrinal discourses. In the texture both of their sermons and epistles, they wove up doctrine and duty together. These were intermingled as the woof and warp of that loom, where the flying shuttle weaves the sail with which men catch the breezes of heaven, and impel the bark onward to her desired haven. We see these inspired preachers coming down to the common business and practical duties of life - down from the throne of God - down from the heights of the cross - down from regions of such high speculation, that Peter owns himself to have lost sight of Paul, just as in summer day, when watching the lark as she rose from the dewy grass, we have seen her mount up on untiring wing, till she became a mere dark speck upon the blue sky, and then, although her song still came ringing down, vanished from our field of vision. From heights so lofty the men who were moved by the Holy Ghost descended to expatiate on the most common topics that belong to practical piety. They instructed masters how to rule, and servants how to work. They taught husbands how to love, and children how to obey. They laid down rules for a bishops table. They no more deemed it beneath their dignity to tell young women how to attire their heads and dress their hair, than to warn young men to "flee youthful lusts." They lifted up their warning against the sins of ordinary life. They erected beacons on every quicksand and sunken rock. They buoyed out the narrow channel of salvation. Describing with downright plainness those fruits of the flesh which exclude from the kingdom, they never sacrificed divine truth, human virtue, precious souls, upon the altar of a false and spurious delicacy. They went in among corruption, like the sunbeam which reveals it, but suffers no taint through the contact. Descending from the loftiest to the lowliest subjects, theirs was the course of the eagle, which, now on cloud-cleaving wing, mounts upwards - soaring out of sight - and now sweeps down to brush the heather, or settle in her rocky nest. Regardless of human censure, and overleaping all the laws of spurious delicacy, theirs was the noble spirit of the Roman. Men placed him at the bar of his country. They charged him with a violation of her laws. Fresh from the fight, covered with the blood of a battle-field where he had led his countrys armies to victory, he replied, "I have broken the law, but I have saved the state." And could I, by Gods blessing, save a sinner, could I pluck some perishing one from ruin, could I successfully warn that young man or woman, who, all unconscious of their danger, are drawing near the brink of destruction, I would throw delicacy to the winds - saying, I have broken its laws, but I have saved a soul.
With what plainness of speech did Paul warn! With what truth and tenderness did he plead! He looks on sinners as a trembling mother on her rash boy, when, hanging halfway over some beetling cliff, he stretches down his hand to pluck from the rock its wild and withering flowers. "As my beloved sons," Paul cries, "I warn you." He exhorts Timothy to rebuke "in season and out of season." He eschews those general denunciations of sin that are as little felt as general confessions of it are - that, like things with broad blunt points, neither pierce the skin nor penetrate the sore. The apostle enters into particulars. One by one, name by name, sin by sin, he writes out, on several occasions, the long black catalogue of prevailing vices. And in these, as if like the poisoned garment that stuck to Hercules, it could not be plucked from the body of humanity, this vice of drunkenness - the sin,the shame, the weakness of our nation - finds a never failing and prominent place. It is the weakness as well as sin and shame of our country. The world knows that. Other nations taunt us with that. Nor do scenes at home long allow me to forget the strange but stinging remark of a foreigner who said, "It is a blessed thing for the world that you Anglo-Saxons are a drunken race. Such are your powers, and energy, and talent, that otherwise you would have become masters of the world!" So much for taking up the subject. Now let us look -
1. To the extent of this vice.
First, In our country.
No good cause has ever but suffered from injudicious zeal and extravagant statements. Regard for truth, and my very anxiety to see this evil arrested, unite in preventing me from indulging in exaggeration - were it possible here to exaggerate: I say possible to exaggerate. For what flight of fancy, what bold strokes of painting, what graphic powers of description, could convey any adequate idea of the evils and sorrows that march in the train of this direful, and most detestable vice? Standing on the surf-beaten shore, when ocean, lashed by the tempest into foaming rage, was up in her angry might, I have seen a spectacle so grand; and where she couched in the valley, arrayed in a gay robe of summer flowers, I have seen nature so beautiful; and where rattling thunders mingled with the roar of the avalanche, and untrodden peaks of eternal snow rose clear and serene above the dark mysterious gorge, within which the battle of elements was waging, I have looked upon scenes so sublime, as to pass description. Nor colour nor words can convey an adequate idea of them. To be understood they must be visited, to be felt they must be seen.
Incredible as it may appear, this remark is no less true of many regions of sorrow, and starvation, and disease, and vice, sad devilry, and death, that the smok-stained walls of these dingy houses hide from common view. These were for years the painful field of my labours. Let no man fancy that we select the worst cases, or present the blackest side of the picture. Believe me it is impossible to exaggerate, impossible even truthfully to paint the effect of this vice either on those who are addicted to it, or on those who suffer from it - crushed husbands, broken-hearted wives, and most of all, those poor innocent children that are dying under cruelty and starvation, that shiver in their rags upon our streets, that walk unshod the winter snows, and with their matted hair and hollow cheeks, and sunken eyes, and sallow countenanties, glare out on us, wild and savage-like, from these patched and dusty windows. Besides, if the extent of this evil has been exaggerated, it is a fault that may be pardoned. It is a failing that "leans to virtues side." Perhaps she exaggerates his danger, but who quarrels with the mother, whose love for her sailor boy keeps her tossing on a sleepless pillow - praying through the long hours of a stormy night, as her busy imagination fancies that in that wild shriek of the fitful wind she hears his drowning cry. When the nursery only has caught fire, and a faithful domestic, plucking the babe from a burning cradle, rushes into your chamber, and makes you leap to the cry, The house is all on fire; will he, that hurries away to save the rest, challenge the exaggeration? Exaggeration is as natural to earnestness of purpose and depth of feeling, as a blush to shame, or a smile to happiness, or the flash of the eye to anger.
I admit, indeed I assert, that in regard to our own division of the island, the extent of this evil has been exaggerated. Not many years ago, a distinguished patriot rose in the Commons House of Parliament, and mourning over his fatherland - for he had drawn his first breath on this side of the Border - declared that Scotland was the most drunken country, and its inhabitants the most drunken people on the face of the earth. I am well aware that with all the superior privileges which are our boast, we cannot hold up an unabashed and unblushing face before France, or Germany, or Switzerland. In the course of last summer, I spent seven weeks in these countries. I saw Paris at a time of national rejoicing, and the population of that gay city all let loose from business to pursue pleasure at their will. In in that mighty crowd, there were gloomy looks thrust on the royal pomp and serried regiments that conducted to his baptism the infant heir of a throne, which - unlike our Queens, so firmly based on the affections of the people - sits unsteadily on the rim of the wheel of fortune, the eye detected no drunkard. If some were sullen, all were sober; and that feature characterised also those dangerous quarters of the city, where the lowest classes resided, where rebellions had been hatched, and volcanic revolutions had burst forth to bury throne and altars in a common ruin. I was also in Brussels during three days of prolonged public fetes. All its people were abroad in the streets, and the mighty throng was swelled by some fifty thousand who had poured into the Belgian capital from the various cities of the kingdom. Yet, in these different kingdoms, neither in their mountain hamlets nor crowded cities, were there presented so many cases of intemperance in all these seven weeks, as may be often seen in Edinburgh, or any other large city of our island, in seven short hours.
Yet it is not true that Scotland is the most drunken country in the world. This is a mis-statement. As a lover of my country, I am anxious to deny it; and still more anxious to deny it, because I see that men have taken occasion from it to sneer at our religion. They allege, that our strict observance of the Sabbath is the cause of our intemperance. They say, that if we would sanction public amusements, and open our theatres, on the Lords day, we should check this evil, and nurse our people up in habits of sobriety. Much as I value our Sabbath observances, I would not defend them at the expense of truth. I would not blacken other countries to make my own look fair. But the statement is not consistent with fact. The Lapland mother pours strong brandy over the throat of her sucking child. In the northern parts of Europe, among the nations who inhabit its colder regions, deep drinking is as rife as it is here. Shall we cross the channel? In Ireland, I saw more well-to-do-like men and women leaving a market town on an ordinary market day with unsteady step, than I ever saw upon a similar occasion on this side the Irish channel. Shall we cross the Border? During occasional visits to London, I have seen drunkenness on a scale far more gigantic than, during a residence of twenty years, I ever saw it in the lowest districts of this city. In the charges of the English judges, who has not read how they attribute almost all the crimes of their country, directly or indirectly, to the baneful influences of drink? I have been present in Englands high courts of justice, and when panel succeeded panel at the bar, the course of the trials brought out the fact, that the beer-shops were in almost every case connected with the crimes.
This false charge, let me remark, has arisen from circumstances, which are rather creditable to us than otherwise. I will explain that. There is a city in England, which contains a larger population than our own; and yet it appeared from the police reports that it presented three times fewer cases of drunkenness. This seemed to crown them with glory, and cover us with shame. But upon further inquiry, we found that they had no right to the laurel. There the police conduct the drunkard home, and thus his case does not appear upon record; here, on the other hand, regarded as a public nuisance, deserving no such gentle treatment, he is conducted to the police office, and so gets his case entered into our statistics of crime. Thus, as you will see, our superior strictness made us, as compared with some other cities, appear worse than we really were. Such also has been the effect of our very efforts boldly to expose this evil; with Gods blessing resolutely to arrest its progress. Thanks especially to our temperance societies, they have thrown a flood of daylight upon the subject. And be it remembered, that the chamber of him who has opened the shutters, and let in the sunbeams, and is busy sweeping cobwebs from the wall and dust from the floor, foul as it seems, may be less so than a room more unused to brooms and less fully illuminated with the light of day. We have brought out the evil. We have dragged the monster from his den, for all the world to gaze at him, and hate him, and kill him, if they can.
In standing up for my country, in stating what I believe to be nothing more nor less than the truth, where or when, let me ask, did our Scottish Sabbaths ever present such scenes as those that follow? They appear in evidence given before a committee of the House of Commons. Horrible illustrations of what our religion and country have to suffer from this crime, it is painful, it is loathsome, to read them. Yet he who would cure disease, and save from death, must nerve himself to endure the horrors of the dissecting-room.
A member of the vestry, and a governor of the poor, in the parish of St. Margarets, was asked whether the increase in the number of drinkers had exceeded the increase in the number of inhabitants. He replies, "Yes; and I think the character of the drinkers has deteriorated! Last Sunday morning, I arose about seven oclock, and looked from my bed-room at the gin-palace opposite to me. I saw it surrounded with customers; amongst them I saw two coal porters apparently with women who appeared to be their wives, and a little child, about six or seven years old. These forced their way through the crowd after much struggling; they got to the bar, and came out again in a short time, one of the women so intoxicated as to be unable to walk; she went against the door-post, and then fell flat on the pavemient, with her legs partly in the shop. The three who were with her attempted to raise her, but they were so intoxicated as to be unable to perform that task; their efforts to perform that were ludicrous, and the doors were opened wide into the shop to admit of the ingress and egress of customers, who passed by laughing at that which appeared to them a most comic scene. After a considerable time, they succeeded in raising the woman, but she fell again; they then brought her to the side, and placed her against the door-post, and there she sat, with her head in her bosom, apparently insensible; the little child who was with her came and endeavoured to arouse her, by smacking her on the legs, and on the body, and on the face, but she appeared quite insensible; the little thing appeared to be the most sensible of the party. During this time, a woman almost in a state of nudity, with a fine infant at her breast, the only dress being its night-shirt, followed by another child about eight years old, an interesting little girl, naked, except a night-shirt, and without either shoes or stockings, followed a wretched-looking man into the house, and remained there some time. I saw them struggling through the crowd to get to the bar. They all had, their gin; the infant had the first share from the womans glass; they came back to the outside of the door, and there could hardly stand, but appeared ripe for quarrel. The little child in her arms cried, and the wretched woman beat it most unmercifully."
He states also : - " Last Sunday morning, I had occasion to walk through the Broadway a few minutes before eleven oclock. I found the pavement before every gin-shop crowded; just as church time approached, the gin-shops sent forth their multitudes, swearing and fighting, and bawling obscenely; some were stretched on the pavement insensibly drunk, while every few steps the foot-way was taken up by drunken wretches being dragged to the station-house by the police."
The same witness was asked:- Has the habit of drinking among women much increased, so far as your observation extends? He answers:- " I think it has extended, and the children appear to be initiated to the drinking of spirits from their infancy;" and he calls the special attention of the committee to the fact, "that the poor wretched girls who live by prostitution, and who are the best customers to the gin-shops, die off in about four years."
Now, mark how that brief course of vice and its terrible end stand out in contrast to the unholy gains of those who feed its fires. This witness states, that in three gin-shops close by him, "more than twenty thousand pounds is year by year taken for spirits consumed upon the premises; and that within a circle containing a population of 40,000 peoplp, not less than £50,000 is expended on gin alone!" Oh, if that is a frightful vice which eats, like a cancer, into a womans breast, that is a frightful trade, which, fungus-like, lives upon the corruption of human nature - the decay of our noblest faculties, the death of our best affections. He is, for himself, a wretched fool, who builds up a fortune out of sin and misery. One blow of deaths hand will shatter it, and what will he do when he has to confront all those who accuse him of their ruin - when he stands at the bar of God as ragged and naked as that wretched woman whom first a villain spoiled of her virtue and threw her away, and next he plunders of her shame and money - casting her forth upon the cold, hard street.
This evidence, no doubt, was given some years ago; but with our own eyes we have seen spectacles of sin and squalid misery in London almost as bad as anything that witness has depicted. Let us hear no more, therefore, of the strict Sabbaths of Scotland driving our people into the arms of intemperance. It was the fair face of England these loathsome spectacles blotted. They were to be seen in her metropolis, under the shadow of religions antique and venerable towers, near by the palace of royalty, and in the immediate vicinity of the halls of legislation. While our senators, fired with the ambition of old Rome, push Britains conquests to distant lands, and flare up with indignation at the slightest insult offered to her flag, let them learn that these scenes most of all dishonour us. It is neither my pleasure, nor my part, to speak "evil of dignities;" but having regard only to the interests of truth, of humanity, of Gods glory and mans good, I will be bold to say, that unless those into whose hands we have committed the affairs of our country cease to swell the revenues of the state out of the vices of the people, and promptly apply every possible cure to these crying evils, they will peril the existence and betray the best interests of our empire. If conquests are to be pushed abroad, while our deadliest enemies are left to make such havoc at home, our legislators will stand open to the charge of Solomon:- " The eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth." A remark, let me add, not more applicable to the state than to the church, if, in seeking to convert the heathen abroad, she forgets the heathen at home.
Secondly, Let's look more particularly at the intemperance of our own city. She has no occasion to sit proudly on her bills and look down on others. We have cause to thank God for that Act of Parliament, by which, in answer to the voice of an all but unanimous people, the drinking-shops of Scotland were closed, and all traffic in intoxicating liquors pronounced illegal from Saturday night till Monday morning. We give God thanks for that. What we gained, we intend to keep. What we won, we shall resolutely defend. We have no intention of retreating. On the contrary, we are not afraid to express our wish that the law of the Sabbath were extended to every day of the week, and all shops opened for the mere purposes of drinking, shut - shut up, as a curse to the community - as carrying on a trade, not less than the opium shops of China, incurably pernicious. The evil, which cannot be cured, condemns itself to death.
But amid the improved aspect of our Sabbaths, we cannot forget that before the Act which I have alluded to was passed, in the more than forty thousand visits paid on the Lords day to the drinking-shops, we had a fact, terribly symptomatic of the extent and virulence of the disease. Nor can we shut our eyes to week-day scenes. You have only to walk our streets to see how this vice rages far and wide, and goes about, "like a roaring lion, seeking whom it may devour." I should be ashamed to walk some districts of this city with a native of that ancient nation, with which we are now at war - and to which, God grant that we may soon be reconciled. "The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God;" and who would not rather see our fleets with flowing sails approach these distant shores to land a freight of merchandise, Bibles, and messengers of peace, than cannon, and serried regiments, and other armaments of war? With a pagan from any part of that vast empire, but one which our opium tirade and greed of gain had demoralised, I say that I should be afraid to find myself in many districts of this city of schools, and colleges, and churches, and hospitals, and benevolent societies, a end people of high Christian worth and unquestionable piety.
Amid the idle groups of bloated women, and half-naked children, and wrecks of men, filling up many a close-mouth and foot of filthy stair - with our path crossed by some reeling drunkard, who launches himself headlong into the common sewer - with so many shops, under Government licence, turning health into disease, decency into tattered rags, love into estrangement or bitter hatred, young beauty into loathsomeness, womans natural modesty into loud and coarse effrontery, mothers milk into poison, mothers hearts into stone, and the image of God into something baser than a brute - how could I look that sober, upright pagan in the face, and ask him to become a Christian? I must be dumb, lest he should turn round on me to ask : - Are these Christians? Be these the fruits of Christianity? I would repel the charge.
But what if he should follow it up with a blow less easy to parry? Pointing up to those here who are rolling in wealth, or enjoying the abundant comforts of their homes, or the ordinances of their worship, he might next ask : - What are these Christians doing? What do they to save their fellow-creatures from miseries, that move a pagan to tears? What to save them from crimes unpractised by those whom you call the followers of the false prophet, by us to whose distant land you send your missionaries to turn us from our fathers idols? What could I say? How would I look? With what answer could I meet the withering sarcasrn - " Physician, heal thyself?"
But let us leave the lowest class, and rise into a higher region. Not that it would alter my position, or abate my zeal, if I believed that it was none but the lowest of the low, who fell victim to this vice, They are our brethren. They shiver in the cold, and pine under hunger, as well as we. They have feelings, sensitive to wrong. and pain, as well as we. They have heart-strings to be broken, as well as we. They have souls to be saved, as well as we - souls as precious and priceless as our own. A diamond is a diamond whether it lies buried in a dust heap, or flashes on beautys finger, or is set in a golden crown. I hold a beggars soul to be as valuable as a kings; and that he who dies in a hovel, goes on the same footing before a God in judgment, as the hero, whose death has thrown a nation into mourning, and who is borne to the tomb, through crowded streets, with the honours and parade of a public funeral.
Go not away, I pray you, under the delusion, that like a fog-bank which lies thick and heavy on the valley, when heights are clear, and hilltops are beaming in the morning sun, intemperance is confined only to the lowest stratum of society. I know the contrary. Much improved as are the habits of the upper and middle classes - and we thank God for that, extending as that improvement has done to those who stand beneath them in the social pyramid - and we bless God also for that, and hoping that this improvement, like water percolating a bed of sand, will sink down till it reaches and purifies the lowest stratum - we have met this vice in all classes of society. It has cost many a servant her place, and - yet greater loss - ruined her virtue. It has broken the bread of many a tradesman. It has wrecked the fortunes of many a merchant. It has spoiled the coronet of its lustre, and sunk the highest rank into contempt. It has sent respectability to hide its head in a poor-house, and presented in luxurious drawing-rooms scenes which have furnished laughter to the scullions in the kitchen.
But it has done worse things than break the staff of bread, lower rank, wreck earthly fortunes and crown wealth with thorns. Most accursed vice! What hopes so precious that it has not withered, what career so promising that it has not arrested, what heart so tender that it has not petrified, what temper so fine that it has not destroyed, what things so noble and sacred that it has not blasted! It has changed into ashes the laurel crown on the head of genius, and, the wings of the poet scorched by its hell-fire flame, he, who once played in the light of sunbeams, and soared aloft into the skies, has basely crawled in the dust. Paralysing the mind even more than the body, it has turned the noblest intellect into drivelling idiocy. Not awed by dignity, it has polluted the ermine of the judge. Not scared away by the sanctity of the temple, it has defiled the pulpit. In all these particulars, I speak what I know. I have seen it cover with a cloud, or expose to deposition from the office and honours of the holy ministry no fewer than ten clergymen, with some of whom I have sat down at the table of the Lord, and all of whom I numbered in the rank of acquaintances or friends.
The frightful extent of this vice, however, is perhaps most brought out by one melancholy fact. There are few families amongst us so happy as not to have had some one near and dear to them either in imminent peril - hanging over the precipice- or the slave of intemperance, altogether "sold unto sin." Considering the depravity of human nature, and the temptations to which our customs and circumstances expose us, that fact, however melancholy and full of warning, does not astonish us. But, to see a father or mother, to see a brother or sister venturing on the edge of a whirlpool, in whose devouring, damning vortex they themselves have seen one whom they loved engulphed, does fill us with astonishment. I knew a mother once, who saw her only son drowned before her eyes. Years came and went ere she could calmly look upon the glorious ocean, or bear without pain the voice of the billows amid which her boy was lost. How many have a better, or rather a bitterer, cause for hating the sight of the bowl! Considering how many are lost - sink into perdition, victims to this vice - I do wonder that so few Christian, or no Christian, but loving parents, candidly consider the question, whether it be not their duty to train up their children according to the rule, "Taste not, touch not, handle not." I have wondered most of all to see a pious father indulging in the cup that had been poison - death to his son. Why does he not throw it away - cast it from him with trembling horror? Taking up the knife, red with the blood of his child - making sure that it shall bathe death of no one else - why does he not fling it after the lost - down, down into the depths of hell?
Standing amid havoc and ruins, with so many in our neighbourhoods, and in our churches, whom this vice has utterly wrecked; what prayer so suitable as this: - " 0 God! lift up thy feet unto the perpetual desolations! Thine enemies roar in the midst of thy congregations. They break down the carved work thereof with axes and with hammers. They have cast fire into thy sanctuary. They have defiled the dwelling-place of thy name. 0 God! how long shall the adversary reproach? Shall the enemy blaspheme thy name for ever? Have respect unto thy covenant! The dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of horrid cruelty. Forget not the congregation of thy poor for ever. Arise, 0 Lord, and plead the cause that is thine own."
What, now, although the evil may have been exaggerated? It has been alleged that not less than sixty millions of money are spent year by year on intoxicating stimulants within the United Kingdom. Reduce the sum by one-half, let it be but thirty, and apart altogether from the ruin it works in so many cases of all that is good, snd noble, and blessed, and beautiful, and holy, how great a waste! Are there no hungry ones to feed, no naked to clothe, no orphans to adopt, no unhappy children left uncared for and untaught, no favourable outlets for our money on the heathenism of home or foreign fields? There are. And when the poor are starving, when souls are perishing, when we are straitened for want of funds to supply the gospel at home, or send missionaries to tell the heathen world of Jesus and his love, in the name of God I ask, how shall we face a day of judgment - we who spend a sum equal to half the whole revenue of the British empire on what is in all cases a luxury, in most cases an injury, and in many a most fatal indulgence? Before we are summoned into the Masters presence, it is well to be thinking how we are to meet the demand, "Give an account of thy stewardship."
Again, it has been stated, that through the direct and indirect effects produced by these stimulants, sixty thousand lives are annually lost. Reduce that also by one-half, and what a quotient remains! Thirty thousand human lives offered by these islands in annual sacrifice at the bloody shrine of this idol! Death is bitter enough in any circumstances to the bereaved. However precious our comforts be, all methory of the dead is more or less painful. We put out of sight the toys of the little hands that are mouldering in the silent grave. The picture of the dear one, whose eyes our fingers have closed, and whose face the shroud has tovered, hangs veiled upon the wall. The remembrance of the loved and lost wife threw on lifes brightest scenes the cold shadow of a cloud, which discharges its burden of grief sometimes in a few drops, sometimes in a shower of tears. But over how many of these thirty thousand deaths is there the black mourning that has no hope! What incurable wounds have they inflicted! What sad memories have they left Not cowardlice, but humanity, shrinks from war. What is war to that? Give me her bloody bed, bury me or mine in a soldiers rather than in a drunkards grave! Innocent children, killed off by cold and hunger, slowly starved to death - coffins that hold broken hearts - womans remorse for her virtue lost, gnawing like a vulture at lifes quivering vitals - poor, pitiable wretches, with palsied hands and shrivelled limbs, in loop-holed poverty, who would give the world to be able, as in better and bygone days, to love their wives and bless their children, and enjoy the esteem of their neighbours, sinking into death by inches, or staggering at a sudden cell up to the bar of judgment!
Thirty thousand such cases, year by year, in this kingdom! Than that, give me rather the battle-field. With a good cause to fight for, and bugles sounding the assault, give me the red rush of gallant men who dash across the lines of death, and leaping in at every breach and embrasure, strike for the liberties of man, - falling with their mothers Bible in their breast, a mothers and Jesus name mingled on their dying lips. "No drunkard shall inherit the kingdom of God." But of those who sleep in Jesus, whether they died with gentle and holy voices in their ear, or amid the crash of musketry and roar of cannon - " I heard a voice from heaven, saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, from henceforth, yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours, and their works do follow them."
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