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Pride soon begets insolence and rudeness; insomuch that every one will give the greatest, and none bear the slightest, affront. The most unmeaning, and often the kindest expressions, are wrested and resented. In the midst of harsh gibing, loud laughing, and boisterous talking, resembling, to a sober ear, the quarrelling of a parcel of dogs, it would be very surprising, if anger should not be roused by such a cry; or, when roused, if it should not vent itself in bitter reproaches, broils, broken heads, bloodshed, and even murder.
You see, by this time, that drunkenness travels with a huge train of other vices, and requires the whole width of the broad way to give it room. Where its journey is to end, you know, so that if the guilt and misery which attend it here, be not enough, there, at least, the drunkard having to his horror, opened his eyes, and recovered the use of his reason, will perceive the truth of my text, and acknowledge, that great, beyond all power of conception, is the woe denounced against them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink.'
It is a common remark, whether strictly trụe or not, I shall by no means stay to inquire, that no drunken woman was ever reformed. It is however certainly true, that the vice of drunkenness is itself much harder to be reformed, and makes all the other vices of the drunkard much more difficult to be subdued, both in men and women, than any other kind of wickedness whatsoever. How this comes to pass, is easily conceived. Other vices leave a man the use of his reason, and consequently some handle for advice and reflections to lay hold of. But this having degraded him to a senseless brute, makes it almost as ridiculous to reason with him, as with an ass or a swine. And as to the hope of reformation from the grace of God, it shocks common sense, and all our notions of religion, even to conceive, that the Holy Spirit should come to, or remain in, a man who is often drunk. No: such a habitation is fitted up for another kind of spirit.
However, it may not be altogether useless to preach on this subject, since, by so doing, they who are not addicted to the vice, may be prevented from falling into it; and he who is but lately fallen, may be snatched from the mouth of this gulf. To such a one as this, let me cry with a lamentable voice,' like that of Darius, when he called to Daniel in the lion's den, Othou servant of the living God, is thy infinitely gracious Master willing to deliver thee from that lion, that goeth about seeking whom he may devour,' and hath unhappily got thee into his den? Or, hast thou thyself sense enough left to know where thou art, and what sort of company thou art in? Wilt thou not come forth while God still offers thee his help, and thou hast yet some strength to fight thy way.
• If you have ears to hear, let them hear. God gave you reason that you might know and practise your duty. To stupify it with strong liquor will not excuse you, for that is itself a very provoking sin; and one sin can never be made a cloak, or an apology, for another; it can only increase the guilt, and double the punishment. God gave you natural spirits to be as cheerful as he approves of, or as a due sense of your sins should suffer you to be. Let those content you; and pray consider, that a poor guilty wretch, like you, hath no right to a high excess of mirth, were that mirth ever so innocent in its kind. Hear what Solomon says in this case, 'It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to the house of feasting, Sorrow is better than laughter. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.' God gave you health that you might turn it to his service, your own comfort, and the good of the community ; particularly of your own family: do not apply it to the very contrary ends; do not sacrifice it to the devil. God hath put it in your power to provide necessaries for your family; perhaps to relieve the distresses of the poor; do you think this wise Master, who would by no means excuse your wrapping it in a napkin, will suffer you to go unpunished, if you make use of it to destroy all your other talents of health, time, understanding; to promote all other vices, lust, wrath, oppression, perhaps murder; to turn yourself from a rational creature into a brute, from a Christian into a devil, or rather into such a mixture of brute and devil, as the swine were, when a legion of evil spirits had entered into them, and were hurrying them down the precipice to death and destruction ? If God sends the sunshine and rain on your fields, and blesses your labours with a plentiful increase ; or, if he prospers you in the way of trade; shall you immediately ' forget who gave you all this abundance,' and, in a fit of drunkenness, offer up to the devil the first-fruits of God's bounty to you? You see I speak to you on a supposition that you have gathered what you have by the blessing of God on your industry, or other fair and lawful methods. But if you have got it by fraud or oppression, no part of this discourse is intended for you. The devil hath a sort of a right to expect from you a profitable return on one vice, out of that which he helped you to by another; and God will admit no offerings nor services from substance so acquired, till repentance and restitution have put it into the hands of the right owners. You wish, perhaps, in some fit of sickness, pray, for health; will you endeavour to drink it away when you have got it? Would you have God work a miracle to restore the health, and prolong the life, of so perverse a fool, only that you may be drunk by the year, or by the century? Do you ever, in a lucid interval, go on your knees ? If you do, what is it you ask of God? Give me leave to guess. Perhaps you sometimes pray for wisdom, in imitation of David, who said, O give me understanding, and I shall live;' and of Solomon, who'chose it rather than riches. But how can you, who labour to destroy your reason, desire wisdom? Do you think this gift of God, also may be employed in procuring money to be expended on your detestable vice? You pray likewise for your daily bread;' but is it to impose on Providence, by drinking instead of eating it? Do you ask' the necessaries of life to consume them on your lusts? If thus you ask bread,' will not God serve you right, 'if he give you a stone?' If thus you ask an egg,'can you complain, ` if he should give you a scorpion?'
Diogenes threw on the ground a large vessel of wine, that was bestowed him; and when the giver took it amiss, •Why,' said this heathen, if I had drank it, I had but spilt it, and myself too into the bargain.' Shall be not rise in judgment against the men of this generation, and condemn them, to whom Christ, both by precept and example, preaches not only temperance, but abstinence? How shall you, a Christian drunkard (O the contradictory expression!) hold up your face at the last day, before that other heathen philosopher,
who said, “The first glass for thirst, the second for cheerfulness, the third for pleasure, the fourth for madness? You could teach him another lesson, the fifth for poverty, the sixth for rags, the seventh for hunger, the eighth for cold, the ninth for contempt, the tenth for vomiting, the eleventh for the devil, and the twelth for damnation ; and yet you are but in the middle of your career.
Let me ask you a very important question : Do you intend ever to reform? If you do, why not now? It will be much easier to do it now, than any time hence. I remember on my speaking in this manner to a noted drunkard some years ago, he told me, he did fully intend to quit the vice, but he saw no reason for being in haste. This unhappy man continued his course for more than a year afterward, and ended it with breaking his neck in a fit of drunkenness. Have you any reason to promise yourself a better end ? A young man came drunk and reeling into the school of Zeno the philosopher, who changed his subject to such a lecture against drunkenness, as roused the profligate to a sense of his folly, and to an effectual resolution never to be drunk again. Shall the word of God have less force in my mouth than mere human reasoning had in that of Zeno? Or shall you, who are now sober, be more impenetrable to religion, than that young Pagan, in the midst of a debauch, to a sort of philosophy, that was not founded on faith in the true God, nor an expectation of heaven or hell? If this is the case, tell it not to unbelievers, publish it not among the enemies of Christ, lest they take an occasion from thence to deride and blaspheme the religion you profess.
But if the force of reason, the power of God's word, and the divine grace, are now struggling with your abominable vice, turn your heart to your duty; fix a firm resolution against the vile unworthy sin ; let God have the victory, and to him, in the unity of the ever blessed Trinity, be the praise, the honour, and the glory, now and for evermore. Amen.
PRIDE AN HUMBLER.
Prov. xxix. 23.
The author of human nature hath planted in every man a greater love for himself, than for any thing else in the world; insomuch that, were he left merely to the motions of nature, he would prefer his own interest, his happiness, and his life, to those of all mankind. Now where there is so much love, there must be some esteem ; there is, therefore, in every man, some degree of esteem for himself. Since, then, selfesteem is as natural to us as self-love, every degree of it cannot be culpable, for God will never judge us for that which he himself hath made a part of our nature. We say of a man whom we think proud, He hath too good an opinion, or he sets too high a value on himself; by which it plainly appears, we do not blame him for having some esteem for himself, but only for having too much.
What, then is pride, considered as a vice? It is the having too great an esteem for ourselves on account of some inward excellence which we either have not, or over value; or on account of some outward advantages, which we are too apt to value ourselves upon, as if they made a part of ourselves. Pride, like all other vices, consists not in the natural affection itself, but proceeds from the abuse or excess of it.
The setting too great a value on ourselves is that vice of pride, which brings a man, low,' which comes before a fall;' and which is threatened in Scripture, and, by the natural make of men and things, with perpetual and grievous mortifications. The whole world, with all the persons and things of which it is composed, are so framed by their Maker, as to enter into a natural combination to pull down pride.