« AnteriorContinua »
Evangelical Sense is totally incompatible with the perpetration of this act; and absolutely forbids the voluntary destruction of our own lives. He, who meditates the voluntary termination of his own life, ought solemnly to remember, that he is indulging a spirit which is directly opposed to that of Christ, and strongly assimilated to that of Saul, Ahithophel, and Judas.
EPHESIANS V. 18.—And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess.
IN the preceding discourses I have considered several methods, in which life is destroyed, in opposition to the Sixth Command of the Decalogue. In this discourse I shall make some observations concerning another of these methods; viz. DRUnkenness.
Drunkenness is nearly allied to Suicide. It is equally certain means of shortening life. The principal difference, so far as the termination of life is concerned, lies in the mode. What is appropriately called Suicide, is a sudden, or immediate, termination of life. Drunkenness brings it gradually to an end. The destruction, in both cases, is equally certain; and not materially different in the degree of turpitude. In many instances, indeed, this catastrophe is brought to pass at least as suddenly by drunkenness, as by Suicide. There is, also, another difference between these crimes. The Suicide intends directly to destroy his life, and makes this his prime purpose. The Drunkard thinks of nothing less. The prime object in his view is the gratification of his relish for strong drink, united with that bewildered elevation of spirits, which he feels in the hour of intoxication.
In the text we are expressly, and universally, forbidden to commit this sin. The penalty, incurred by the commission, is as expressly declared in 1 Cor. vi. 10: where it is said, that Drunkards shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. This threatening we are not indeed to consider as absolute, any more than others, expressed in a similar manner. Undoubtedly, no person, who enters eternity in the character of a drunkard, will inherit the kingdom of God. But I know of no reason to conclude, that he, who though once a drunkard, has become a penitent, will not be accepted. This interesting subject I design to consider at large under the following heads.
I. The Nature;
III. The Evils; of Drunkenness; and,
I. I shall make a few observations concerning the nature of this ain.
Drunkenness is that singular state of man, in which he loses, either partially, or wholly, the use of his bodily and mental pow
ers, under the operation of spirituous drink, opium, or other means of intoxication.
Drunkenness is either occasional, or habitual.
Occasional Drunkenness exists only in irregular, separate, solitary, or even single instances; and is produced sometimes by design, and sometimes by accident.
Habitual Drunkenness is a frequent, and usually a regular, intoxication; occasioned by that increased and peculiar love of strong drink, which is generated by Occasional drunkenness.
Habitual Drunkenness will be the principal subject of this discourse. It will only be necessary to remark concerning Occasional Drunkenness, that all the observations, almost, concerning Habitual Drunkenness, will be applicable to it, although in an infe rior degree; and that, wherever the subject shall appear to demand any serious discriminations, I shall endeavour to make them in the progress of the discussion.
II. The Causes of this Sin, by which I intend not the immediate, and properly efficient, causes; such as those already men tioned: but those, which, although more remote, are yet deeply concerned in the production of it; are principally the following.
By this intend, that we gradually acquire a habit of Drunk enness, by seeing others drink; and, if I may be allowed the expression, catching the practice merely from the fact, that we often witness it in others. Wherever the character of those, who set the example, is the object of particular affection, esteem, or reverence, the influence of the example becomes proportionally great and dangerous. Parents, in this manner, become peculiarly, and other relations and friends generally, powerful means of seduction, and ruin to their children, and other relatives. In this case I suppose nothing but the example, and the veneration, and endearment, by which it is accompanied, to produce the corruption of those, to whom it is exhibited.
2. Frequenting those places, where strong drink is conveniently obtained.
A Tavern, especially a vulgar one, or a dram-shop, or an alehouse, newly opened, usually exhibits strongly, as well as clear ly, the efficacy of this cause. Each of them soon begins to attract its train of drinking customers; and within a moderate period becomes surrounded by its circle of drunkards. There is scarcely a greater nuisance to society, than houses of this nature; in which spirituous liquors are sold, in small quantities, to the neighbouring inhabitants. Millions of the human race have in these baleful haunts taken the first fatal step towards perdition.
3. Evil Companions.
These usually combine all the efficacy of the former causes, with many additional temptations. They present the example: they provide the retreat, and the convenience. At the same time,
they add to these the force of direct and powerful solicitations; the sprightliness of wit; the gayety of sports, and songs; the pungency of ridicule; the influence of good nature, and affection; and the power of that sympathy, which is always found in social festivity. Such a combination is too powerful to be resisted by common minds; perhaps by any mind, which is voluntarily, for any length of time, within its reach. He who frequents the society of jovial companions in an habitual manner, may fairly consider himself as destined, in the end, to become a sot.
4. Customary and regular drinking.
Multitudes of persons accustom themselves to take a moderate quantity of strong drink, day by day, at regular periods in the morning, immediately before dinner, or in the evening. Labouring men, in this country, are, to a great extent, accustomed to use ardent spirits at certain given times of the day; considering them as necessary to recruit their strength, which is supposed to be wasted by their toil. Some of them, less attentive to particular times of drinking, demand stated quantities of strong drink, which they regard as indispensable to enable them to pursue their daily labour. Men of wealth and fashion, with nearly the same regularity, consume large quantities of wine, at, and after, dinner. In these, and in all other cases of regular drinking, an habitual attachment to strong drink is insensibly begun, strengthened, and confirmed. The man, who drinks spirits regularly, ought to consider himself as having already entered the path of habitual intoxication.
5. Affliction, also, is not unfrequently, a Cause of Drunkenness. The affliction, here referred to, is both bodily and mental. Certain diseases of the body, it is well known, bring with them lowness of spirits, discouragement, and melancholy. The patient oftentimes resorts to the use of strong drink, as a remedy for these evils; and finds in it a temporary relief from the pressure. Oftentimes the physician prescribes this remedy in form; and thus adds the sanction of his skill, and character, to the patient's inclination. In every case of this nature, a degree of pain is usually experienced in that part of the stomach, which is sometimes called the "Second Sensory." This is commonly relieved, at least in some degree, by the use of strong drink, taken, at first, in moderate quantities. The remedy, however, leaves the disease worse than it found it. To produce the desired effect, a greater quantity is soon necessary; and then a greater still. In this manner multitudes of persons become Drunkards.
The mental evils, which give birth to this unhappy habit, are numerous. Most, or all, of them, however, are such, as, instead of exciting, waste, or destroy, the energy of the mind. Of this nature are a strong sense of irretrievable disgrace; a painful consciousness of perplexed, or desperate, circumstances; merited loss of esteem and affection, highly valued by ourselves; long-contin
ued suspense concerning some important interest; final discouragement of ardent wishes, or favourite pursuits; together with several other very anxious, and hopeless, situations of the mind. From the distress, suffered in these and the like cases, it often be takes itself for relief to spirituous liquors. The relief is necessari ly transient; and, in order to be enjoyed to any great extent, must, therefore, be often repeated. By this repetition the sufferer soon becomes of course habitually intemperate.
6. A small number of persons find a Cause of Drunkenness in an original, native appetite for strong drink.
The number of these is so small, and the Cause itself so little needs explanation, that it is unnecessary to dwell on this part of the subject.
III. The principal Evils of Drunkenness are the following. 1. It exhibits the subject of it in the light of extreme Odiousness, and Degradation.
Drunkenness always deprives a man, either partially or wholly of his reason; and very often of his bodily faculties. A man without reason is either a maniac, or a brute; and, for the time, presents the eye with a spectacle, more sunk, than the brute, and more painful than the maniac. The loss of Reason is, to man, the loss of all, which renders him either comfortable, respectable, or useful. How painful, how humiliating, is the sight of an Idiot! How excruciating the appearance of a Lunatic! How lowering to human pride and independence, to sober contemplation, and real dignity, a respectable man, transformed by age, or sickness, into a Driveller! Such a transformation the Drunkard accomplishes for himself, during every period of his intoxication; and adds to all the other circumstances of degradation the peculiarly humbling, and hateful one, that he has voluntarily degraded himself.
In this situation the Drunkard becomes, in the literal and most emphatical sense, a fool. His conversation is that of a tongue, vibrating without a mind; moving, because it has been accustomed to move; lisping and babbling an imperfect, cluttered, and dragging articulation: a kind of instinctive effort, resembling that of the Idiot, who, having learned to count the strokes of a Clock, continued to count, after the Clock had ceased to go.
In the mean time, many Drunkards, who partially lose their reason, set their passions on fire. All restraints, in this case, vanish with their reason. The mind becomes a furnace of frenzy; and the bodily powers, stimulated to more than ordinary vigour, are employed only as the instruments of rage and violence. In the former case, the man sunk down to the level of a Swine. In this, he converts himself into a Tiger. In the former case, he became loathsome and despicable, In this, he becomes equally the object of hatred and terror.