« ElőzőTovább »
morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them. Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness. Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink.' They may, for a time, 'look upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. But, at the last, it will bite like a serpent, and sting like an adder. Their eyes shall behold strange women, and their hearts shall utter perverse things. Yea, they shall be as he that lieth down in the sea, or as he that lieth
the top of a mast. They have stricken us,' shall they say, 'and we were not sick : they have beaten us, and we felt it not. When shall we awake ? we will seek it yet again.” Yes, as the dog does his vomit; but, however, ‘ye shall perceive, at last, that wine is a mocker, and that whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.'
The second work of darkness, mentioned by St. Paul in this passage, is chambering and wantonness; the cleanest words that could be found to express a vice so foul, that it is almost impossible to speak of it, or even to reprove it, without exceeding the bounds of modesty. It is that vice which brought fire and brimstone upon Sodom; that cut off the city of Sichem at one blow; that made even Samson weak, David a murderer, and Solomon a fool. No man was ever so abandoned, as not to be, in some measure, ashamed of it. For this reason, and because it is seldom committed without an irreparable injury to others, as well as to those who join in it, the greatest darkness is always sought for to screen it. It cannot bear the light of the sun, or even of a candle; much less that of the gospel. But where is that dungeon or privacy to be found, that can hide the committers of such a crime from the all-searching eye of God, to whom the darkness and light are both alike?'
If history is consulted, it will be found, that this sin hath proved the ruin of more great men, and powerful kingdoms, than all other sins put together. If the heart is examined, it will be easily perceived, that, of all vices, this finds the readiest entrance, and sinks the deepest into a corrupt heart; that it leaves the foulest stain, and most obstinate habit, behind it. From whence he that is at all concerned about the salvation of his soul, hath more reason to be alarmed at the approach of such a fiend, though decked out in all the painted disguises of harlotry, than at temptations to vices, that carry their own antidote in a shocking aspect. Fair and tempting as his face may seem, there is not a devil in all the regions of darkness, that draws after him a more dreadful tail and sting.
In the rise, progress, and accomplishment, of this vice, it is altogether foul and shocking. It draws its original from a most detestable passion. It cannot attain its end without breaking through all the restraints of conscience, honour, modesty, religion ; without trampling on the sacred duty to parents, or the yet more solemn ties of matrimony. And what does it end in? In immediate shame and remorse ; often in private murders, as of Uriah ; in public massacres, as of the Hammonites; in ruinous wars, as that between the Benjamites and the other tribes of Israel, about the Levite's concubine; and, what is infinitely worse than all, in impenitence and damnation. If this be not a work of darkness, what is? And yet in this country, which styles itself Christian and reformed, it is in a manner tolerated by law, and openly practised by some, as a genteel amusement, while *such things are done in secret' by others, who nevertheless pretend to a character, as it is a shame to speak of:
The last work of darkness mentioned by the apostle, in the words that follow my text, is 'strife and envying;' in which, though at first there seems to be two vices expressed, yet, in reality, there is but one, and that is malice, which shews itself chiefly by contention, and discontent at the welfare of others. As this vice never takes up its abode, but in the basest minds, and produces, at the same time, the most odious effects, he who is addicted to it, is generally more detested and despised than any other man. Our minds cannot help spurning at those, with the greatest abhorrence, whom we find impatient at our happiness, comforted with our misery, and ever watching for opportunities to do us all the mischief they can.
And as this is the vice directly opposite to that charity, which stands at the head of the Christian virtues, and crowns them all; as the blessed beings above are joined together by charity, like notes in the same harmony; and the damned by malice, like fagots, in the same fire ; so there is nothing which the fountain of all good abhors so much as the latter, nor is so pleased with as the former.
A vice so detested by God and man, naturally ranks itself among the blackest works of darkness; and therefore lurks as deep as it can, within the gloomy mind that entertains it. However, this prevents it not from venting itself as often as it is in his power; and, when it does, it is like the opening of hell. Nothing but pestilential vapours, devouring flames, serpents armed with fire and stings, and devils thirsting for destruction, issue from it. It feeds on all the miseries it meets, and, when it cannot find misfortunes sufficient to glut its infernal appetite, it makes, and then enjoys them. It holds a general intelligence, that no misfortune may pass by unrejoiced at, nor any happiness of others untainted. It inflames old quarrels, it sows the seeds of new ones, A good character is that which gives it the greatest torment; and therefore, scandal is its favourite instrument, with which helped out by artifice and cunning, it will nurse a groundless insinuation, till it swells to public infamy; so that its malicious secrets are known to all the world, and its whispers heard at a greater distance than thunder. Fame rejoices in being its handmaid, and gives ten times the breath to a scandal, that it does to a good report. How far is this malignant disposition, so full of rancour against mankind, and so incapable of peace with itself, that unless it be pampered with the misfortunes of others, it must, like a stomach without food, prey upon itself; how far is such a disposition from the affectionate, the generous, the forgiving temper of Christianity? As far as darkness from light, and hell from heaven.
Beside these, taken notice of by the apostle, there are other works of darkness, that do no less dishonour to the profession of Christianity; such as luxury, which is the reigning vice of the rich, who generally pass their days in a close application to sensual pleasures. Those of them, who are not chargeable with the grosser vices, think they may be very well allowed the ease and plenty their fortunes afford them; and therefore they say, with the rich man in the gospel, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.' Thus they settle
upon their own lees,' and banish the sense of duty, and remembrance of morality. The screen between their souls and religion becomes too thick for the light to penetrate. In this state of mind, like the gluttonous Israelites, with the flesh of the quails yet unchewed between their teeth, death seizes them, and requires these pampered souls at their hands.
If matters are examined by the light of the gospel, the rich will be found to be only the trustees and stewards of their fortunes, which were not given them by the just God to revel while others pine, and surfeit while thousands starve. We do not perceive, that the rich man in the gospel was charged with any other crime, than making this selfish application of his wealth; and yet we find him soon after in a place of torment, miserably suing for the assistance of that beggar, whom, a little before, he thought scarcely good enough company for his dogs.
However, the sin of luxury does not only consist in this, that the food and clothing of many is by oppression collected, and gluttonously poured into one throat, or ostentatiously spread out upon one back; but more especially in the violent passions and detestable lusts, that are either raised or inflamed by luxury, as if by the mouth of hell. What a figure does this monster make, with its horrid spawn, when viewed by the light of God's word !
Another work of darkness is fraud and treachery. This vice requires a great degree of darkness, both within and about the wretch that is guilty of it; for where there is any light within, it is too ugly to be admitted ; and where there is any without, it cannot be executed. Notwithstanding all that is said against it in Scripture, what infinite swarms of people are there, who build their hopes and fortunes on no other foundation! insomuch that the most prudent man in his dealings knows not whom to trust. The word or promise of a man passes for nothing ; nay, the long formalities of deeds, and the most wary precautions of bonds, with all the infinite volumes of the law, are, on many occasions, found too weak preservatives of justice, often become the very instruments of fraud. One could hardly imagine human nature capatle of contracting a fondness for so base a vice; and yet we every day see those, who could more easily and
certainly attain their ends by honest means, choosing to trust to the success of some pitiful trick, or low evasion; and what is still more surprising, we sometimes find this sort of people, for lack of others to impose on, actually cheating themselves, as if they were afraid of losing the goodly knack for want of practice.
He who is intent on raising and enriching himself, at the expense of others, by indirect means, as he takes his measures in the dark, observes not the risk he himself runs, by walking without light. He is but a more decent sort of thief, who is generally betrayed, by that very night, to which he trusts the success of his crime. With all his cunning, he will find at last, perhaps indeed a little too late, that one, more artful than himself, hath been all the time practising upon him ; and hath, while he was cheating others out of worldly trifles, cheated him out of his soul; so 'that he is caught in the crafty wiliness which he imagined, and in the net which he hid privily for others are his own feet taken;' so true it is, that the knave is always a fool.
Another work of darkness, and one of the blackest, is perjury; which, in order to be guilty of, a man must shut out God from his thoughts, at the very instant he is appealing to him by his words, in the most solemn manner; for it is not to be supposed, that a man, who is guilty of so great injustice and impiety, can have either God or religion before his eyes at the time. So nice a peculiarity cannot fail of making it extremely difficult to place one's mind in such a degree of darkness, as is necessary for the committal of this crime. Yet so great, and so frequent is the call for this horrible instrument of iniquity, and so ready are the illprincipled part of mankind to answer this infernal call for gain, that an oath may be had at a cheap rate, for any purpose, though ever so enormous. So common are perjuries grown, that the most insignificant jobs, which gross folly, low knavery, or trifling spite, can have to do, find themselves immediately furnished with affidavits. It is a short and easy method to carry any little point by an affidavit or two. It is only scoring on the conscience, and so there is nothing to be feared, till the day of judgment. Recourse is therefore had to it on all occasions, whence proceeds the surprising fruitfulness of the commodity.