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A lie is, in itself, a work of darkness, sufficiently base and scandalous, a sin, which, in holy Scripture, stands distinguished among other sins, by being peculiarly ascribed to the devil, as its author. But when God is solemnly called upon to bear witness to the truth of a lie, which is applied to the establishing some grievous piece of injustice, it then sets before us one work of darkness enclosed within another, and that within a third, so bold and impious, as hardly to admit of a comparison.
These distinguished works of darkness make their approaches to our minds by others, equally mischievous in their consequences, but not branded by vulgar repute with so black a name. It is impossible to be particular in so great a crowd. I shall therefore only lay down some general rules, by the observation of which, the springs of all that is vile and wicked may be discovered and avoided by you, who, perhaps, are not furnished already with a more particular and perfect knowledge of these things.
That which helps you to impose on yourself, to cloak or lessen your sins, to raise your opinion of your own worth, to make you partial to yourself, or indulgent to your own weaknesses, is an instrument of darkness.
That which blunts reflection, by either stupifying the mind, or amusing it with vain entertainments, with idle hopes or fears, is an instrument of darkness.
That which hinders you from attending to, and pursuing your greatest interest, and leads you off to the pursuit of small or false interests, such as the flesh or the world set before you, is an instrument of darkness.
That which renders you deaf, or averse to good advice, particularly that of your spiritual guide, is an instrument of darkness.
That which hinders the mind from attending to the truths of religion, and, by making its arguments seem weak and disagreeable, enfeebles and staggers its faith, is an instrument of darkness.
That which renders the mind cold and careless in attending the service of God, in visiting and conversing with him at his house, and by his word, in keeping the Sabbath, according to the nature and end of its institution, in celebrating the sacrament of the Lord's supper; inasmuch as
these are the great inlets of Christian light, you may assure yourself, is an instrument of gross and dangerous darkness.
As a Christian, by the light of your religion, you may easily take a view, from one end to the other, of that road which is filled with works of darkness. You may clearly see, that, although it is wide and easy at the entrance, yet, at some distance, it grows more narrow and craggy, and that those unhappy people who travel on it, grow blacker and uglier every step they advance; till, by degrees, they contract a shocking resemblance to certain frightful beings, that stand at the lower end of it to receive them. Is it possible you can see such a road as this, and perceive the dreadful place it ends in, and yet choose to enter into it, or continue on it? Does your religion afford you its light for no other purpose, but to expose the blindness and extravagance of your ways, while you seek what it were better you should never find; and shun what you ought to pursue ? Unthinking wretch! you search for happiness, as if it were not placed directly before your eyes; and although it is recommended to your desires by all that is great and glorious, you knock at riches, and ask, is it here? You inquire of honour, whether it be there? You apply to power, but it cannot command it. You search for it in sensual pleasures, but cannot find it. You ransack all the vices, but meet with no footsteps of it. What can you hope for, after so many disappointments, from these "unfruitful works of darkness,' the pursuit of which is only vanity and vexation, and 'the wages death? Wherefore, · Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.' And, See that you walk circumspectly, not as a fool, but as wise, redeeming the time.'
And now may God be graciously pleased to put away from us all' works of darkness;' may he put on us the armour of light;' may he raise us out of our sleep of sin, and enable us to walk honestly, as in the day,' through Jesus Christ our Saviour; to whom, with God the Father of lights, and God the blessed Comforter, be all might, majesty, and honour, now, and for evermore. Amen.
WOE TO THE DRUNKARD.
Isaiah v. 22. Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to
mingle strong drink. There are certain vices, which, considered in themselves, can by no means be ranked among crimes of the deepest die, and which therefore, common opinion, and the customs of particular countries, seem to place only in the number of human infirmities, and mere misdemeanors. And yet, if these vices are judiciously weighed by the multitude of their unhappy effects, they will be found, perhaps, to look as black and frightful, as those sins, that call for the severest punishments from men, and the most terrible judgments from God.
That drunkenness is one, or rather the chief of these, I hope the present discourse will fully prove, by shewing, that it is the source of innumerable other vices; that the woe denounced in my text, against those who distinguish themselves for an uncommon ability in this vice, is made up of the unavoidable effects it produces; and that this woe, or these effects, are too dear a price to be paid by a reasonable creature for all the sensual pleasures of this life, did they accompany this single sin.
But, before we proceed to disclose this woe in all the variety of misery it contains, it may not be amiss to remove out of our way those excuses, the drunkard usually brings in his defence, that, when his punishment comes to be laid open, his understanding, so dark and unthinking in itself, may not have these also to blind its sight, and throw a veil over the gloomy and horrible prospect.
The drunkard's first excuse is charged to the account of good fellowship : he drinks, if we believe him, not that he loves the liquor, but that he may promote friendship, and give a greater gaiety to conversation.
How words are abused ? Did the dish or the bottle ever make a real friend ? Surely friendship can never be founded on any thing else, than a sweet and affectionate disposition, a likeness of temper, and true honesty of heart, on both sides. Will strong drink bestow these on us? Can mutual love and confidence be built on vice? On a vice, which, of all others, most effectually impairs the memory, and with it the sense of all obligations ? On a vice, remarkable for blabbing and betraying secrets ? On a vice, that unavoidably hurries those that are addicted to it, to a speedy ruin of that foundation, on which it raises the short-lived union of drunkards, by bringing them soon to an end, either of their fortunes, or their lives? What then is the friendship of drunkards? It is only the heat of strong liquor, smoking out either in wild unmeaning professions of love, with a mixture of nauseous kisses, and sour belches, or in loud oaths or unguarded expressions, usually ending in quarrels and broken heads ; which I shall as readily allow to be the testimonies of true friendship, as the professions and kisses already mentioned.
And how doth drunkenness promote the gaiety of conversation? Does it not destroy all conversation ; for what is conversation, but the communication of rational and agreeable thoughts? If conversation is to begin where thinking ends, may it be my lot to have no one to converse with. Surely it is better to live in a desart, than a bedlam, especially if I am to be as mad as the other lodgers. The man of sense and spirit needs not the assistance of strong liquors; and is never more gay and agreeable, than rising from a calm and natural night's rest. On the other hand, in vain doth the stupid blockhead hope, that strong drink will give wings to his heavy soul. It is impossible for him to find a moment's medium of sprightliness between his natural dulness, and his drunken madness. Such a one may be a fool or'a madman; but he can never be a wit; even his ridiculous flashes, of which he is so vain, are not the issues of his own brain, but of a bottle; and are nothing better than the froth of what he hath drank. If he makes his company merry, do they not rather laugh at him, than with him? Do not silly people, like them, laugh at a natural fool, for no other reason, but because they are tickled with the sight of one who is even sillier than themselves ? And if they should at any time express their admiration by their mirth, certainly it is hard to say, whether the stupid and empty jest, or the senseless peal of laughter that roars in its applause, is the stronger proof of folly. To imagine that strong drink can help to pump wit out of a blockhead, is surely a strange opinion; buffoonry indeed, and impertinence, with wild flights and sallies, it may. He, who is so void of sense, as to seek for honour this way, knows not what honour is, and it is folly next his own, to spend time with him; and therefore I shall dismiss him with the words of the prophet, *shameful spewing shall be on his glory.
The next excuse for drinking to excess, is, that it stupifies the cares and troubles of the drunkard ; which arise from three different quarters; his ill state of health, the unfortunate posture of his worldly affairs, or the stings of his guilty conscience.
As to his ill health, it must be owned indeed, that in some cases, a temperate use of generous liquors may be of considerable service; and accordingly, physicians often prescribe it, as St. Paul did to Timothy, for a strengthener of low spirited and feeble constitutions. But this hath nothing to do with the point we are handling, which is drunkenness, a vice we are not at liberty to practise, even to procure health, or prolong life, were it in any measure useful for those ends. But so far is it from being either, that poison cannot more surely, though it may more speedily, hurt us in both respects. The health of a man depends as absolutely on the right state of his brain, as his reason does; insomuch that it is impossible to hurt the one, without proportionably impairing the other. There is hardly a disease, of which intemperance, especially excess in drinking, is not the cause, or at least the fuel. Strong liquors, if taken in too great a quantity, corrupt and inflame the blood, burn and shrivel the nerves, dry up and thicken the spirits, and remarkably impair the brain, as may be seen by the immediate effect they have on it, which is as violent and manifest, as the stroke of a staff or stone; only with this difference, that if such an outward impression do not deprive us of life and reason, it soon ceases; whereas in the case of drunkenness, the cause of our disorder, being mixed with the blood,