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EPHESIANS v. 18
And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess.
DRUNKENNESS, though in general disallowed among the Heathens, was admitted in their Bacchanalia, as an expression of gratitude to the God, who gave them wine. This Pagan rite the Apostle seems to have in his mind, when he says to the Ephesians, newly converted to the religion of Christ, "Be not ye drunk with wine, wherein is excess," dissoluteness and luxury, "but be filled with the Spirit." Instead of those wild and brutal indulgencies, by which you once pretended to express your joy, seek the sober and rational pleasures, which are communicated by the Holy Spirit.
The opposition here made between being filled with wine, and filled with the Spirit, shews that drunken. ness is inconsistent with the pure religion taught by the gospel.
We will, first, consider the nature and extent of this vice; and then represent the guilt and danger which attend it.
I. We will consider the nature and extent of the sin, which the Apostle calls drunkenness.
Be not drunk with wine."
The Apostle does not mean to debar Christians from all use of wine and other spiritous drinks; for "every creature is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving." He advises Timothy to (6 use a little wine for his stomach's sake." God causes the earth to bring forth wine, which rejoices, as well as bread, which strengthens the heart of man. It is not a life of austerity and mortification, but a life of rational sobriety, which the gospel enjoins. We are not to emaciate the body, and extinguish the glow of
ealth by an abstinence from innocent delights; but to keep under the body and bring it into subjection, by an abstinence from fleshly lusts.
"Take heed to yourselves, says our Lord, "lest at at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and the cares of this world." The use of meat and drink is to support and comfort the body. Whatever is more than these, may be called
Of intemperance, as of other vices, there are various degrees. The highest degree is such an indul gence as suspends the exercise of the mental and bodily powers. It is this idea, which is usually attached to the word drunkenness. And some who are wholly under the dominion of a sordid appetite, may perhaps think themselves temperate, because they seldom or never run to this gross excess. But remember; as you may be guilty of murder without taking away your neighbor's life, and of injustice without burning his house-so you may be guilty of intemperance without transforming yourself into a beast.
If by the indulgence of your appetite, you unfit your body for the service of the mind, or your mind for the service of God-so waste your substance, as to defraud your family of a maintenance, or your cred
itors of their dues become enslaved to a sensual habit, and fascinated to dissolute company-are diverted from the duties of religion, or the business of your worldly calling-Awaken criminal desires and excite guilty passions-stupify your conscience, extinguish the sentiments of honor and banish the thoughts of futurity; you are chargeable with a criminal excess. Though the world, perhaps, will not stigmatize you as a drunkard, yet you are not far from that odious character. They who serve divers lusts and pleasures-they who are given to appetite-they who are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drinkthey who tarry long at the wine, and go to seek mixed wine, they who rise up early that they may follow strong drink, and continue until night, till wine inflame them -in a word, they who make provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof, fall under the condemnation of scripture, as well as the atrocious drunkard. I proceed,
II. To represent the guilt and danger which attend the vice under consideration.
1. This is an ungrateful abuse to God's bounty.
God gives us all things richly to enjoy, and fills our hearts with food and gladness. He not only allows us necessary supplies, but indulges to us a thousand comforts. A rich variety of creatures he has put into our hands, some for our support, others for our delight, And shall we abuse to his dishonor the fruits of his beneficence, which are given to strengthen our faculties gladden our hearts and awaken our gratitude?
2. This vice divests the man of his native dignity, and sinks him, below the brutal herds.
"Wine takes away the heart"-the understanding, which constitutes the man. It is only reason and speech, which raise man above the animal tribes. While these powers are suspended, what is he better than they? Man, brutalized by intemperance, is really more despicable, than the native brute. The latter
obeys; the former contradicts the nature which God has given him. The one appears in his proper form; the other assumes a monstrous figure. His motions are wild his visage distorted, his conversation silly, his manners ridiculous. Could the drunkard in a sober hour have a view of himself, as he appears under the power of intoxication, and be persuaded, that this uncouth and antic figure is really himself, he would, unless shame is extinguished, blush to be seen. He would retire to obscurity, conscious of his fall from manhood.
3. This vice is injurious to the body, as well as mind.
It benumbs the senses, enervates the limbs, palls the appetite, breeds diseases, creates dangers and hastens death. "Who hath woe? Who hath sorrow? Who hath contentions? Who hath babbling? Who hath wounds without cause? Who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; that go to seek mixed wine."
3. This consumes men's substance.
When we see one given to intemperance, we at once predict his poverty, and we trust him with caution. "The drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty, and be clothed with rags."
We think the man unhappy whose substance is destroyed by fire. More wretched is he, whose estate is consumed by his lust. If this man has any sensibility left, how must his conscience reproach him? How must the cries of a helpless family pierce him? How must the demands of his disappointed creditors confound him? With what shame must he reflect on the infamous exchange which he has made of a decent fortune for a transient pleasure? How must it gall him to see strangers in possession of the inheritance which he received from his father's industry, and has alienated by his own folly? How must it mortify him to think that he is changed from a man of reputable business, to a
miserable, reeling drunkard? And that they who once approached him with respect, now point at him with the finger of contempt ?
But this is not the worst of his case; for,
5. He has wasted his conscience as well as his substance.
Dead to the feelings of honor, the obligations of virtue, and the apprehensions of futurity, he proceeds in his guilty course, without fear or restraint.
Ye, who have addicted yourselves to pleasure and gaming, to dissolute company, and the free use of strong drink, inquire, whether you cannot perceive some unhappy effects of your indulgence. Is not the love of these sensual objects growing upon you, and gaining a more absolute dominion over you? Are you not more indifferent about the concerns of immortality, than you were formerly ?-Is not your conscience more unfeeling to guilt, and less apt to rebuke your unworthy conduct?Are you not more negligent in attending the duties of the closet, the family and the sanctuary? Are you not more disposed to make light of religion, to cavil at the scriptures and to despise reproof? Can you not more easily flatter yourselves with safety in a way of sin, and with a hope that the threatenings contained in the Bible will never be executed? Can you not remember the time, when you would have shuddered to bear those licentious opinions, which now you listen to with pleasure; and to think of such stupidity of soul, as you now really feel? Is this a just description of your state? Then inquire from what cause this increasing irreligion and impiety have proceeded. You need not be long in doubt. Your own experience, if you consult it, will confirm the truth of the scripture, which describes the sensual, as hating instruction, despising reproof, scoffing at religion, and flattering themselves, that they shall have peace, though they add drunkenness to thirst.