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A man who knows that he is not what he ought to be, in order that conscience may let him more quietly pursue his unrighteous course, is sometimes found to set himself very diligently about correcting his neighbours. In the same way, a thief, as a sort of quietus to his conscience, will sometimes give a portion of his ill-gotten treasure, to relieve the distress of some real object of charity; and, from an equally defective principle, it is to be feared, that many are induced to support, our various religious institutions. By doing so they are flattered into the conceit, that they are really anxious for the conversion of the world; which is a source of self-satisfaction, procured with infinitely less trouble, than it would cost them to overcome the weakest of their evil passions, or to sacrifice the least cherished of their animal gratifications. · First cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye,”* is the imperative, and reasonable injunction of the Divine Legislator ; and unless his church is as much in earnest to free herself from the influence of that idolatry, which is the national sin of Britain, as she is to convert the Pagan world, to the faith of the Gospel, she will be justly chargeable, not merely with inconsistency,
* Matt. vii. 5.
but with something like the guilt of Achan, who, through retaining the “ accursed thing,” brought defeat and misery into the camp of Israel.*
But is there sufficient reason to charge the church herself, with being infected with the Idolatry of Intemperance ? Let us solemnly and candidly examine this matter.
First. Is she not proved to be herein guilty, by the number of her members who become actual drunkards?
This remark does not apply, solely, to those corrupt portions of the church, in which Christian discipline is but a name, but to its very purest sections. Let the records of every Christian denomination be but carefully examined, and it will soon be found, that actual drunkenness has done more to bring upon them disgrace, and to thin their numbers, than all other causes put together. As of old, so also in our own times, even prophet and the priest have erred through wine, and through strong drink have gone out of the way;" while many a private member, after a few years of doubtful profession, has so far yielded to the love of strong drink, as entirely to sink the character of the Christian, in that of the worldling, if not of the sot! To the mind that has been truly awakened, in
* Joshua, chap. vii.
connexion with this subject, nothing can be more affecting than the thought, that thousands, who, at one time, appeared to be earnestly pressing “ toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling,” have been beguiled, from their honourable and useful career, by the infatuating influence of intoxicating liquor, and have, at length, settled down among the throng of despised, and miserable, and hopeless inebriates.*
* The writer has now had nearly twenty years' experience in the ministry, and the result of his observations and inquiries is the firm conviction, that full five-sixths of the cases, in which Christian professors have either been expelled from Christian communion, or have been obliged to withdraw from it, have been cases of intempe
This vice has long been the chronic disease of the church, while it has been to the world, a wide-spreading and devouring pestilence, that has spared neither age, nor sex, nor rank.
What says the devoted Richard Knill on this subject ? " That nearly all the blemishes which have been found on the characters of ministers, for the last fifty years, have arisen, directly, or indirectly, from the free use of intoxicating liquors.”
Within the last few days, the writer has been deeply grieved, to hear of the fall of a once highly respected, and influential pastor of an independent church, by the same fatal cause.
And who were the men that mainly contributed to his ruin ? The respectable members of his church and congregation ; who, from being his tempters, became his accusers and tormentors ?
Now, as intemperate drinking must necessarily precede actual drunkenness, even supposing that the church should expel from her communion every drunkard, as soon as detected, it is certain, that she must have been greatly infected with the guilt of intemperate drinking ; for, otherwise, so many of her members could never have become guilty of actual inebriety.
The process by which drunkards are produced, even among those who have never professed, nor felt
any attachment to religious truth, is, in most cases, exceedingly gradual; not only from the period when the first drop of intoxicating liquor is tasted, to the period, when that kind of unnatural excitement, or mental delirium, which approximates to what is usually called drunkenness, is, for the first time, willingly indulged in, but, also, through all the successive stages of the drunkard's progress. To suppose, then, that religious professors plunge, at once, from perfect sobriety, into perfect drunkenness, is altogether absurd; and, consequently, there must have been a vast amount of intemperate drinking, in the purest Christian communities, to produce that large amount of open intoxication, by which the honour of Christianity has been tarnished, and its strength impaired. In other words, the church herself must have been, and there is reason to fear, still is, extensively infected with the Idolatry of Intemperance.
Secondly. She is proved to be herein guilty, by the tardiness with which she exercises her discipline upon those of her members, who may be found guilty of this offence.
Should the member of a Christian society be detected in the act of stealing some trifling article from a fellow-member, what an outcry would be immediately raised against the offender. The whole community would be in commotion, and his excision would be speedily resolved on. Should the sin of adultery be but suspected to exist, what careful inquiries would be made into the grounds of the suspicion; and what godly indignation would be manifested against the transgressor, should the suspicion be confirmed. But how different is the procedure in reference to intemperate drinking ; and yet, what sin is more awfully denounced in the sacred Scriptures ? 'Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink,"* is only one of the many denunciations, contained in the Word of God, against intemperate drinkers ; but, hitherto, so low has been the sentiment of the church, upon this subject, that her very
officebearers may be known to “sit long at the wine,”
* Isaiah v. 22.