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On the Dissipation of large Cities.
'Let no man deceive you with vain words; for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience."-Ephesians v. 6.
THERE is one obvious respect in which Here, then, is a point, in which the general the standard of morality amongst men, dif- morality of the world is at utter and irrefers from that pure and universal standard concilable variance with the law of God. which God hath set up for the obedience Here is a case, in which the voice that cometh of his subjects. Men will not demand very forth from the tribunal of public opinion urgently of each other, that, which does pronounces one thing, and the voice that not very nearly, or very immediately, af cometh forth from the sanctuary of God fect their own personal and particular in- pronounces another. When there is an terest. To the violations of justice, or agreement between these two voices, the truth, or humanity, they will be abundant- principle on which obedience is rendered to ly sensitive, because these offer a most vi- their joint and concurring authority, may sible and quickly felt encroachment on be altogether equivocal; and, with relithis interest. And thus it is, that the social gious and irreligious men, you may obvirtues, even without any direct sanction serve an equal exhibition of all the equifrom God at all, will ever draw a certain ties, and all the civilities of life. But when portion of respect and reverence around there is a discrepancy between these two them; and that a loud testimony of abhor-voices-or when the one attaches a crimirence may often be heard from the mouths nality to certain habits of conduct, and is of ungodly men, against all such vices as not at all seconded by the testimony of may be classed under the general designa- the other-then do we escape the confetion of vices of dishonesty. sion of mingled motives, and mingled authorities. The character of the two parties emerges out of the ambiguity which involved it. The law of God points, it must be allowed, as forcible an anathema against the man of dishonesty, as against the man of dissipation. But the chief burden of the world's anathema is laid on the head of the former; and therefore it is, that, on the latter ground, we meet with more discriminative tests of principle, and gather more satisfying materials for the question ofwho is on the side of the Lord of hosts, and who is against him?
Now, the same thing does not hold true of another class of vices, which may be termed the vices of dissipation. These do not touch, in so visible or direct a manner, on the security of what man possesses, and of what man has the greatest value for. But man is a selfish being, and therefore it is, that the ingredient of selfishness gives a keenness to his estimation of the evil and of the enormity of the former vices, which is scarcely felt at all in any estimation he may form of the latter vices. It is very true, at the same time, that if one were to compute the whole amount of the mischief The passage we have now submitted to they bring upon society, it would be found you, looks hard on the votaries of dissithat the profligacies of mere dissipation go pation. It is like eternal truth, lifting up very far to break up the peace, and enjoy- its own proclamation, and causing it to be ment, and even the relative virtues of the heard amid the errors and the delusions world: and that, if these profligacies were of a thoughtless world. It is like the Deity reformed, it would work a mighty aug- himself, looking forth, as he did, from a mentation on the temporal good both of cloud, on the Egyptians of old, and trouindividuals and families. But the con-bling the souls of those who are lovers of nexion between sobriety of character, and pleasure, more than lovers of God. It is the happiness of the community, is not so like the voice of heaven, crying down the apparent, because it is more remote. than voice of human society, and sending forth the connexion which obtains between in- a note of alarm amongst its giddy generategrity of character, and the happiness of tions. It is like the unrolling of a portion the community; and man being not only of that book of higher jurisprudence, out a selfish, but a shortsighted being, it fol- of which we shall be judged on the day of lows, that while the voice of execration may our coming account, and setting before our be distinctly heard against every instance of eyes an enactment, which, if we disregard it, fraud or of injustice, instances of licentious- will turn that day into the day of our comness may occur on every side of us, and being condemnation. The words of man are reported on the one hand with the utmost levity, and be listened to, on the other, with the most entire and complacent toleration.
adverted to in this solemn proclamation of God, against all unlawful and all unhallowed enjoyments, and they are called
ON THE DISSIPATION OF LARGE CITIES.
words of vanity. He sets aside the au- | his keeping all the rest. It may be the only thority of human opinion altogether; and, point on which the character of his loyalty on an irrevocable record, has he stamped is really brought to the trial. All his consuch an assertion of the authority that be-formities to the law of God might have been longeth to himself only, as serves to the end of time for an enduring memorial of his will; and as commits the truth of the Lawgiver to the execution of a sentence of wrath against all whose souls are hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. There is, in fact, a peculiar deceitfulness in the matter before us; and, in this verse, are we warned against it-"Let no man deceive you with vain words; for, because of these things, the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience."
rendered, because they thwarted not his own inclination; and, therefore, would have been rendered though there had been no law at all. The single infraction may have taken place in the only case where there was a real competition between the will of the creature, and the will of the Creator; and the event proves to which of the two the right of superiority is awarded. Allegiance to God in truth is but one principle, and may be described by one short and summary expression: and one act of disIn the preceding verse, there is such an obedience may involve in it such a total surenumeration as serves to explain what the render of the principle, as goes to dethrone things are which are alluded to in the text; God altogether from the supremacy which and it is such an enumeration, you should belongs to him. So that the account beremark, as goes to fasten the whole terror, tween a creature and the Creator is not like and the whole threat, of the coming ven- an account made up of many items, where geance-not on the man who combines in the expunging of one item would only make his own person all the characters of ini- one small and fractional deduction from the quity which are specified, but on the man whole sum of obedience. If you reserve who realizes any one of these characters. but a single item from this account, and anIt is not, you will observe, the conjunction other makes a principle of completing and and, but the conjunction or, which is in- rendering up the whole of it, then your chaterposed between them. It is not as if we racter varies from his not by a slight shade said, that the man who is dishonest, and of difference, but stands contrasted with it licentious, and covetous, and unfeeling, in direct and diametric opposition. We shall not inherit the kingdom of God-but perceive, that, while with him the will of the man who is either dishonest, or licen- God has the mastery over all his inclinatious, or covetous, or unfeeling. On the tions, with you there is, at least, one inclisingle and exclusive possession of any one nation which has the mastery over God; of these attributes, will God deal with you that while in his bosom there exists a single as with an enemy. The plea, that we are and subordinating principle of allegiance to a little thoughtless, but we have a good the law, in yours there exists another prinheart, is conclusively cut asunder by this ciple, which, on the coming round of a fit portion of the law and of the testimony. opportunity, developes itself in an act of And in a corresponding passage, in the transgression; that, while with him God ninth verse of the sixth chapter of Paul's may be said to walk and to dwell in him, first epistle to the Corinthians, the same with you there is an evil visitant, who has peculiarity is observed in the enumeration taken up his abode in your heart, and lodges of those who shall be excluded from God's there either in a state of dormancy or of favour, and have the burden of God's action, according to circumstances; that, wrath laid on them through eternity. It is while with him the purpose is honestly not the man who combines all the deformi- proceeded on, of doing nothing which God ties of character which are there specified, disapproves, with you there is a purpose but the man who realizes any one of the not only different, but opposite, of doing separate deformities. Some of them are something which he disapproves. On this the vices of dishonesty, others of them are single difference is suspended not a question the vices of dissipation; and, as if aware of degree, but a question of kind. There of a deceitfulness from this cause, he, after are presented to us not two hues of the telling us that the unrighteous shall not in- same colour, but two colours, just as broadly herit the kingdom of God, bids us not be contrasted with each other as light and deceived-for that neither the licentious, darkness. And such is the state of the alnor the abominable, nor thieves, nor covet-ternative between a partial and an unreous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
served obedience, that while God imperatively claims the one as his due, he looks on the other as an expression of defiance against him, and against his sovereignty.
He who keepeth the whole law, but offendeth in one point, says the Apostle James, It is the very same in civil government. is guilty of all. The truth is, that his dis- A man renders himself an outcast by one obedience on this one point may be more de- act of disobedience. He does not need to cisive of the state of his loyalty to God, than I accumulate upon himself the guilt of all the
higher atrocities in crime, ere he forfeits his life to the injured laws of his country. By the perpetration of any of them is the whole vengeance of the state brought to bear upon his person, and sentence of death is pronounced on a single murder, or forgery, or act of violent depredation.
And let us ask you just to reflect on the tone and spirit of that man towards his God, who would palliate, for example, the vices of dissipation to which he is addicted, by alleging his utter exemption from the vices of dishonesty, to which he is not addicted. Just think of the real disposition and character of his soul, who can say, "I will please God, but only when, in so doing, I also please myself; or I will do homage to his law, but just in those instances by which I honour the rights, and fulfil the expectations, of society; or I will be decided by his opinion of the right and the wrong, but just when the opinion of my neighbourhood lends its powerful and effective confirmation. But in other cases, when the matter is reduced to a bare question between man and God, when he is the single party I have to do with, when his will and his wrath are the only elements which enter into the deliberation, when judgment, and eternity, and the voice of him who speaketh from heaven are the only considerations at issuethen do I feel myself at greater liberty, and I shall take my own way, and walk in the counsel of mine own heart, and after the sight of my own eyes." O! be assured, that when all this is laid bare on the day of reckoning, and the discerner of the heart pronounces upon it, and such a sentence is to be given, as will make it manifest to the consciences of all assembled, that true and righteous are the judgments of God-there is many a creditable man who has passed through the world with the plaudits and the testimonies of all his fellows, and without one other flaw upon his reputation but the very slender one of certain harmless foibles, and certain good-humoured peculiarities, who when brought to the bar of account, will stand convicted there of having made a divinity of his own will, and spent his days in practical and habitual atheism. And this argument is not at all affected by the actual state of sinfulness and infirmity into which we have fallen. It is true, even of saints on earth, that they commit sin. But to be overtaken in a fault is one thing; to commit that fault with the deliberate consent of the mind is another. There is in the bosom of every true Christian a strenuous principle of resistance to sin, and it belongs to the very essence of the principle that it is resistance to all sin. It admits of no voluntary indulgence to one sin more than to another. Such an indulgence would not only change the character of what may be called the elementary principle of regene
ration, but would destroy it altogether. The man who has entered on a course of Christian discipleship, carries on an unsparing and universal war with all iniquity. He has chosen Christ for his alone master, and he struggles against the ascendency of every other. It is his sustained and habitual exertion in following after him to forsake all; so that if his performances were as complete as his endeavour, you would not merely see a conformity to some of the precepts, but a conformity to the whole law of God. At all events, the endeavour is an honest one, and so far successful, that sin has not the dominion; and sure we are, that, in such a state of things, the vices of dissipation can have no existence. These vices can be more effectually shunned, and more effectually surmounted, for example, than the infirmities of an unhappy temper. So that, if dissipation still attaches to the character, and appears in the conduct of any individual, we know not a more decisive evidence of the state of that individual as being one of the many who crowd the broad way that leadeth to destruction. We look no further to make out our estimate of his present condition as being that of a rebel, and of his future prospect as being that of spending an eternity in hell. There is no halting between two opinions in this matter. The man who enters a career of dissipation throws down the gauntlet of defiance to his God. The man who persists in this career keeps on the ground of hostility against him.
Let us now endeavour to trace the origin, the progress, and the effects of a life of dissipation.
First, then, it may be said of a very great number of young men, on their entrance into the business of the world, that they have not been enough fortified against its se ducing influences by their previous education at home. Generally speaking, they come out from the habitation of their pa rents unarmed and unprepared for the contest which awaits them. If the spirit of this world's morality reign in their own family, then it cannot be, that their introduction into a more public scene of life will be very strictly guarded against those vices on which the world placidly smiles, or at least regards with silent toleration. They may have been told, in early boyhood, of the infamy of a lie. They may have had the virtues of punctuality, and of economy, and of regular attention to business, pressed upon their observation. They may have heard a uniform testimony on the side of good be haviour, up to the standard of such current moralities as obtain in their neighbourhood; and this, we are ready to admit, may include in it a testimony against all such excesses of dissipation as would unfit them for the prosecution of this world's interests
But let us ask, whether there are not parents, who, after they have carried the work of discipline thus far, forbear to carry it any farther; who, while they would mourn over it as a family trial should any son of theirs fall a victim to excessive dissipation, yet are willing to tolerate the lesser degrees of it; who, instead of deciding the question on the alternative of his heaven or his hell, are satisfied with such a measure of sobriety as will save him from ruin and disgrace in this life; who, if they can can only secure this, have no great objection to the moderate share he may take in this world's conformities; who feel, that in this matter there is a necessity and a power of example against which it is vain to struggle, and which must be acquiesced in; who deceive themselves with the fancied impossibility of stopping the evil in question and say, that business must be gone through; and that, in the prosecution of it, exposures must be made; and that, for the success of it, a certain degree of accommodation to others must be observed; and seeing that it is so mighty an object for one to widen the extent of his connexions, he must neither be very retired nor very peculiar-nor must his hours of companionship be too jealously watched or inquired into-nor must we take him too strictly to task about engagements, and acquaintances, and expenditure-nor must we forget, that while sobriety has its time and its season in one period of life, indulgence has its season in another; and we may fetch from the recollected follies of our own youth, a lesson of connivance for the present occasion; and altogether there is no help for it; and it appears to us, that absolutely and totally to secure him from ever entering upon scenes of dissipation, you' must absolutely and totally withdraw him from the world, and surrender all his prospects of advancement, and give up the object of such a provision for our families as we feel to be a first and most important concern with us.
"Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness," says the Bible, "and all other things shall be added unto you." This is the promise which the faith of a Christian parent will rest upon; and in the face of every hazard to the worldly interests of his offspring, will he bring them up in the strict nurture and admonition of the Lord; and he will loudly protest against iniquity, in all its degrees and in all its modifications; and while the power of discipline remains with him, will it ever be exerted on the side of pure, faultless, undeviating obedience; and he will tolerate no exception whatever; and he will brave all that looks formidable in singularity, and all that looks menacing in separation from the custom and countenance of the world; and feeling that his main concern is to secure for himself and for his fa
mily a place in the city which hath foundations, will he spurn all the maxims and all the plausibilities of a contagious neighbourhood away from him. He knows the price of his Christianity, and it is that he must break off conformity with the world-nor for any paltry advantage which it has to offer, will he compromise the eternity of his children. And let us tell the parents of another spirit and principle, that they are as good as incurring the guilt of a human sacrifice; that they are offering up their children at the shrine of an idol; that they are parties in provoking the wrath of God against them here; and on the day when that wrath is to be revealed, shall they hear not only the moanings of their despair but the outcries of their bitterest execration. On that day, the glance of reproach from their own neglected offspring will throw a deeper shade of wretchedness over the dark and boundless futurity that lies before them. And if, at the time when prophets rung the tidings of God's displeasure against the people of Israel it was denounced as the foulest of all their abominations that they caused their children to pass through the fire unto Moloch-know, ye parents, who in placing your children on some road to gainful employment, have placed them without a sigh in the midst of depravity, so near and so surrounding, that, without a miracle, they must perish, you have done an act of idolatry to the god of this world; you have commanded your household after you to worship him as the great divinity of their lives; and you have caused your children to make their approaches unto his presence-and, in so doing, to pass through the fire of such temptations as have destroyed them.
We do not wish to offer you an overcharged picture on this melancholy subject. What we now say is not applicable to all. Even in the most corrupt and crowded of our cities, parents are to be found, who nobly dare the surrender of every vain and flattering illusion, rather than surrender the Christianity of their children. And what is still more affecting, over the face of the country do we meet with such parents, who look on this world as a passage to another, and on all the members of their household as fellow-travellers to eternity along with them; and who, in the true spirit of believers, feel the salvation of their children to be, indeed, the burden of their best and dearest interest; and who, by prayer, and precept, and example, have strenuously laboured with their souls, from the earliest light of their understanding; and have taught them to tremble at the way of evil doers, and to have no fellowship with those who keep not the commandments of Godnor is there a day more sorrowful in the annals of this pious family, than when the course of time has brought them onwards
to the departure of their eldest boy-and he must bid adieu to his native home, with all the peace, and all the simplicity which abound in it-and as he eyes in fancy the distant town whither he is going, does he shrink as from the thought of an unknown wilderness-and it is his firm purpose to keep aloof from the dangers and the profligacies which deform it—and, should sinners offer to entice him, not to consent, and never, never to forget the lessons of a father's vigilance, the tenderness of a mother's prayers.
Let us now, in the next place, pass from that state of things which obtains among the young at their outset into the world, and take a look of that state of things which obtains after they have got fairly introduced into it-when the children of the ungodly, and the children of the religious, meet on one common arena-when business associates them together in one chamber, and the omnipotence of custom lays it upon them all to meet together at periodic intervals, and join in the same parties, and the same entertainments-when the yearly importation of youths from the country falls in with that assimilating mass of corruption which has got so firm and so rooted an establishment in the town-when the frail and unsheltered delicacies of the timid boy have to stand a rude and a boisterous contest with the hardier depravity of those who have gone before him-when ridicule, and example, and the vain words of a delusive sophistry, which palliates in his hearing the enormity of vice, are all brought to bear upon his scruples, and to stifle the remorse he might feel when he casts his principle and his purity away from him--when, placed as he is in a land of strangers, he finds, that the tenure of acquaintanceship, with nearly all around him, is, that he render himself up in a conformity to their doings-when a voice, like the voice of protecting friendship, bids him to the feast; and a welcome, like the welcome of honest kindness, hails his accession to the society; and a spirit, like the spirit of exhilarating joy, animates the whole scene of hospitality before him; and hours of rapture roll successively away on the wings of merriment, jocularity, and song; and after the homage of many libations has been rendered to honour, and fellowship, and patriotism, impurity is at length proclaimed in full and open cry, as one presiding divinity, at the board of their social entertainment.
And now it remains to compute the general result of a process, which we assert of the vast majority of our young, on their way to manhood, that they have to undergo. The result is, that the vast majority are initiated into all the practices, and describe the full career of dissipation. Those who have imbibed from their fathers
the spirit of this world's morality, are not sensibly arrested in this career, either by the opposition of their own friends, or by the voice of their own conscience. Those who have imbibed an opposite spirit, and have brought it into competition with an evil world, and have at length yielded, have done so, we may well suppose, with many a sigh, and many a struggle, and many a look of remembrance on those former years when they were taught to lisp the prayer of infancy, and were trained in a mansion of piety to a reverence for God, and for all his ways; and, even still, will a parent's parting advice haunt his memory, and a letter from the good old man revive the sensibilities which at one time guarded and adorned him; and, at times, will the transient gleam of remorse lighten up its agony within him; and when he contrasts the profaneness and depravity of his present companions, with the sacredness of all he ever heard or saw in his father's dwelling, it will almost feel as if conscience were again to resume her power, and the revisiting spirit of God to call him back again from the paths of wickedness; and on his restless bed will the images of guilt conspire to disturb him, and the terrors of punishment offer to scare him away; and many will be the dreary and dissatisfied intervals when he shall be forced to acknowledge that in bartering his soul for the pleasures of sin, he has bartered the peace and enjoyment of the world along with it. But, alas! the entanglements of companionship have got hold of him; and the inveteracy of habit tyrannizes over all his purposes; and the stated opportunity again comes round; and the loud laugh of his partners in guilt chases, for another season, all his despondency away from him; and the infatuation gathers upon him every month; and a hardening process goes on within his heart; and the deceitfulness of sin grows apace; and he at length becomes one of the sturdiest and most unrelenting of her votaries; and he, in his turn, strengthens the conspiracy that is formed against the morals of a new generation; and all the ingenuous delicacies of other days are obliterated; and he contracts a temperament of knowing, hackneyed, unfeeling depravity; and thus the mischief is transmitted from one year to another, and keeps up the guilty history of every place of crowded population.
And let us here speak one word to those seniors in depravity-those men who give to the corruption of acquaintances, who are younger than themselves, their countenance, their agency; and who can initiate them without a sigh in the mysteries of guilt, and care not though a parent's hope should wither and expire under the conta gion of their ruffian example. It is only upon their own conversion that we can