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private. It is worthy of notice, also, that the great number of laudable plans and institutions started within a few years, in the way of Christian enterprise, are not unlikely to lead to the appointment of many special seasons of prayer for their prospe
The Sabbath-school cause now occupies the second Monday evening of every month; and several other similar assignments, for different purposes, have been proposed, but not yet fully adopted. Now, if every Monday evening throughout the year should be thus appropriated, besides three or four other evenings in every week, some truly pious individuals, who have large families and many cares, might really be cut off from the opportunity of attending, as they ought, to their own'closet duties, and to the instruction of those committed to their care. But if the plan were adopted, of making every ordinary prayer meeting, so to speak, specific, and of infusing interest and life into it, by presenting, on every successive occasion, some grand object to its special notice; there would be less inducement to multiply meetings unduly, and, especially less inducement to set apart particular days in each month or week, over and above all the other stated weekly appointments, to pray for particular objects. Due attention to all these objects might be provided for on the plan proposed, without any inordinate or inconvenient multiplication of public services.
It is hoped none will suppose that there is any intention here to discourage those meetings for prayer which are strictly special or extraordinary in their character. As the providence of God toward civil communities often prompts politicians to peculiar celebrations and extra efforts, so in the church, dispensations of Providence more than usually frowning or joyful in their aspect, undoubtedly call for special mourning and fasting, or thanksgiving among her members. Far from intending to oppose such observances, I would say, that Christians are deeply criminal when they do not hear the voice of God speaking to them in such dispensations, and repair to his throne with corresponding sentiments. It is not to oppose this that the present article is intended, but to recommend that an attempt be made to render every prayer meeting as lively, pointed, and appropriate as possible; to impart to every one, however stated, something of the prominency and impressiveness which all expect to find in those meetings for prayer which are strictly extraordinary in their nature.
The writer of these pages is far from being confident that what he has suggested is worthy of attention. He has taken
VOL. III. No. I.-F
the liberty of offering it to the notice of those who are most competent to judge; and if he should prove to have been the means of conveying the smallest hint which shall be directly or indirectly useful in imparting the least interest or life to a single meeting for social prayer, he shall feel himself richly rewarded. Certain it is, that whatever has a tendency to confer upon such meetings a character of deeper feeling, a more profound sense of what we need, and a more intense pleading with God for his blessing, is so much gained to the best interests of Zion. We are, probably, approaching times of solemn conflict, when all that faith, and prayer, and sanctified effort can achieve, will be put in requisition. Our “weapons” in this conflict must in no case be “ carnal.” And of those which our Master has put at our disposal, none are more universally accessible, or more powerful than PRAYER. Happy will be that individual Christian, or that church, which may be found, in the progress of the conflict, wielding this weapon with most constancy and persevering confidence! With this weapon, guided and animated by faith, we may defy the kingdom of darkness, “ stop the mouths of lions, quench the violence of fire, and turn to flight the armies of the aliens.” If Christians looked less to “ the arm of flesh," and more to the promises, power, and faithfulness of their covenant God, they would have more comfort in their own souls, and be far better sustained in their controversy with Satan's kingdom.
Art. IV.--SUGGESTIONS IN VINDICATION OF THE TEM
In endeavouring to arrest the progress of intemperance, the points which principally claim our attention are two; to communicate just impressions of the calamities and crimes which spring from the use of intoxicating liquors, and to propose and recommend some remedy for the alarming evil. The destructive influence of ardent spirits upon the health, the moral character, the fortune, the reputation, and the eternal hopes of men, has been ably and repeatedly presented to view. It is therefore our purpose, at this time, to confine ourselves to a vindication, first of the principle of entire abstinence, and
secondly of the measures of the Temperance Society, as founded upon that principle.
I. The principle is to be defended. Total abstinence from spirituous liquors, except for medicinal purposes, is to be vindicated upon the ground of moral obligation, as well as of expediency. That which under all the circumstances of our present condition is plainly expedient, becomes, from this very expediency, a moral duty in the view of all who regard the welfare of their fellow men.
A familiar illustration may be used, which, although beyond the limits of probability, may present the subject in a new light, and elicit our more impartial judgment. Let us suppose that by some change in the human constitution, animal food should cease to afford nutriment; that those who partook of it, in any considerable quantity, were observed to lose their self-control, to become wild and giddy, loquacious and boisterous, confused in intellect, and misled by false impressions of external objects; that their limbs became powerless, and that they at length fell into a disgraceful and helpless stupor. Suppose that, after many painful symptoms, the recovered man should be found to seek again and again the dangerous morsel, and crave the unnatural excitement; nay, that multitudes were seen haunting the places where it was sold, and multitudes daily under its influence; that millions of dollars were annually consumed in its purchase, thousands of lives every year sacrificed to its power, and hideous crimes perpetrated in its frantic orgies. Suppose, further, that the morbid appetite should grow upon the most unsuspecting, and prey upon the most beloved; should we not retreat from it as a poison, the poison of the soul? Could we be willing to endure it in our sight, or to admit it over our threshold, or, worse still, to prepare or to vend it? Should we not dread to approach it lest others might be allured to taste, and tremble to partake of it, lest our neighbour should sink into its abyss of woes?
Would to God that it were a sketch of fancy! The observation of every reader has already enabled him to apply it to the case before us.
The fear of coffending” others, (to use a scriptural expression) that is, of occasioning sin in others, or making our brethren stumble, would, in the case supposed, lead every Christian man to cast it aside. Now this is the doctrine of the apostle Paul: “ It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother is offended or is
made weak.” And this abstinence needs the sanction of no positive command, but becomes binding by all the stress of the law of love, on him who endeavours to love his neighbour as himself. Applying the principle to the case before us, and acknowledging, as we all do, that intemperance is an evil incalculably great, we argue, That in the present state of society, it is the duty of every prudent and benevolent man, to abstain from any use of alcoholic liquors, except as a medicine.
We say the duty, because that which is so far expedient, that, if neglected, it leads our brother into sin, is our duty.
In the days of early Christianity, it was a question whether meat which had been offered upon the altars of heathen gods might be lawfully eaten by a believer. There were many who supposed that the indulgence was, in itself, sinful, as giving countenance to Pagan rites, and symbolising with idolaters. Paul was clearly convinced of the contrary, and believed that he might, with unquestioning security of conscience, eat whatever was sold in the shambles. Yet mark the purity and charity of that great and holy mind: he does not say, like many among us in similar cases, My conscience is clear, and I am not bound by the sanctimonious scruples of others.' No, his quick perception descries the danger of leading others to do sinfully, what he could do conscientiously: his sincere love felt the argument, None of us liveth to himself, and he concludes, Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, if my lawful indulgence lead my brother into sin, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend. The principle of the gospel, therefore, is plain: if by any indulgence, however innocent in itself, or by any practice which is not morally obligatory, I lay a stumbling-block, an offence, an occasion to sin, in the way of others, that indulgence is to be forborne. And the application of the principle to the case of any individual, is equally plain. If, by the use of ardent spirits, however innocent in my own case, I lay temptation in the way of others, it is my immediate duty to abstain totally from this gratification.
The case is not hypothetical, as just stated. What has been presented as a supposition is an undeniable truth, and by every indulgence in spirituous liquors, however limited, guarded or temperate, we lay an offence in the way of others. Grant for the moment, what is always questionable, that any given individual is fully competent to restrain his desires, and to limit
himself to the proper modicum, that he is never heated, never misled, never injured; can he, in like manner, answer for those who surround him, and copy his example? Others see him partake, but they see not his secret cautions and rules and measurement. They are led to taste, to tamper with the poison, to believe it innocent, to submit themselves to its power, to become drunkards, to perish! Such is the gradation witnessed in instances innumerable. Such an one may observe his neighbours and dependants improving upon his model; he may know that ravages are hourly made upon soul and body by the same stimulus; he may hear the entreaties of Christian friends, who sorrowfully warn him against the practice; yet he replies, I am not subject to other men's consciences, nor answerable for other men's sins.' Listen to the piercing rebuke of the apostle, in a like case: If thy brother be grieved by thy meat, (mark that a single word only is to be changed) now walkest thou not charitably; destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. Let not your good be evil spoken of. It is even so, the painful truth is not to be dissembled; the unguarded indulgences of moral and Christian men are ruining the bodies and souls of thousands. The temperate drinker is seen by his children, his domestics, his associates, to partake of the polluting draught. What wonder if they drain the cup, which he only tasted? What wonder if the son feels no dread of the liquor which his father buys or sells or uses?
It is in this way that the use of ardent spirits, however limited or temperate, tends to keep up the injurious habits of society. We have heard it justly stated, as one of the most fruitful causes of inebriety, that the almost universal custom of men overwhelms the voice of prudence and religion. False ideas of hospitality, of generosity, of festive celebrations, and of encouraging labour, promote the criminal indulgence. Every drop which we take, goes to confirm and extend these habits of society. However small our influence, we are accountable for it. When we taste of the liquor, we indulge in that which is slaying its victims throughout our land, and has already plunged millions into perdition. The sin is national; we are tainted as a community; because of drunkenness, the land mourneth, and as the nation is made up of individuals, each man is called upon to shake off, at least from his own shoulders, the burden of infamy.
He who makes any use, even the slightest, of ardent spirits,