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CALL TO PROFESSING CHRISTIANS ON TEMPERANCE.
JAMES, iv. 17.—To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to hɩm it is sin.
ACTs, xvii. 30.—The times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent.
LUKE, xxii. 32.—When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. MALACHI, iii. 11.—And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground.
IN professing the religion of the Bible, we covenant with God to make his word our rule of life. This requires us, to "present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God;" to "purify ourselves, even as he is pure;" to "give none occasion of stumbling to any brother;" to "give none offence to the church of God;" to "love our neighbor as ourselves;" to "do good to all as we have opportunity;" to "abstain from all appearance of evil;” to “ use the world as not abusing it ;" and, "whether we eat or drink, or whatsoever we do, to do all to the glory of God."
If any think these precepts too strict for frail men, be it remembered, God is too benevolent to prescribe rules of action less holy. He has given them, and they are "the same that shall judge us in the last day." Any indulgence, therefore, not consistent with these divine precepts, is actually sinful, is inconsistent with a holy profession, and must disqualify us for " standing in the judgment." VOL. 5.-No. 8
Such a sin, very obviously, is the habit, which some professing Christians still indulge, of drinking and tempting others to drink distilled liquor, in this day of meridian light. To those who admit the binding authority of God's precepts, and whose minds are not clouded by " sipping a little," this sin must, on examination, be perfectly manifest.
1. The use of such liquor, instead of enabling us to " present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable," actually degrades, impairs, and prematurely destroys both body and mind. The most eminent physicians uniformly tell us it is poison. Dr. Rush, after enumerating various loathsome diseases of mind and body, adds, that these are" the usual, natural, and legitimate consequences of its use." Another eminent physician says, "The observation of twenty years has convinced me, that were ten young men, on their twentyfirst birth day, to begin to drink one glass of ardent spirit, and were they to drink this supposed moderate quantity daily, the lives of eight out of the ten would be abridged by twelve or fifteen years." When taken freely, its corrupting influences are strikingly manifest. And even when taken moderately, very few now pretend to doubt that it operates as a slow, insidious poison, and inevitably shortens life. But nothing can be clearer than that he, who, by any sensual indulgence, wilfully cuts short his probation, five, ten, or twenty years, is as truly a suicide, as if he slew himself violently. Or, if he knowingly encourage his neighbor to do this, he is equally guilty. He is, by the law of God, "a murderer." And perhaps worse than the common murderer, as his course of guilt, instead of appalling, insidiously leads multitudes to the same crime. And can this character be consistent with that religion which teaches, that no murderer shall inherit eternal life?
But besides impairing and prematurely destroying the body, distilled liquor stupifies and debases the immortal mind; and thus destroys its capacity for usefulness, and for the clear perception of truth. To illustrate the blinding and perverting influence of a small quantity of such liquor on the mind, let a strictly temperate man spend an evening, or an hour, with a dozen others, indulging themselves" moderately;" they will be sure to say things and do things, which to him will appear silly, if not wicked; and which will appear so to themselves, on reflection; though at the time they may
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 "eats out the brain," but "taketh away 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 infi
nitely 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 whiskey! but since that is given up, I have heavenly communion!" O, 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 fourfold more trou
ble 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 rebuse 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 denietł 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