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A VOICE FROM THE VINTAGE.
PECULIARITIES OF INTEMPERANCE AS A VICE.
s None who have ever been truly awak
human observation, there are certain points of distinction which demand particular at
tention, and require appropriate treatment, If the physician, on taking charge of an as we see by the variety of regulations invalid, should simply employ himself in instituted for the well-being of society, and laying down rules for the preservation of the still greater variety of systems of moperfect health, it is evident that his advice ral discipline brought into exercise for the would be of but little service in the re-purpose of controlling the evil tendencies moval of any existing disease under which of our common nature. his patient might be laboring. His rules might be excellent, his theory correct; ened to a sense of the all-sufficient power but how would such a patient benefit by of religious influence upon the human either? His malady would require the heart, will be liable to suppose, that any application of some direct and practical mode or system of moral discipline, simremedy, before he could be in a situation ply as such, can be effectual in its operato take advantage of any method, however tion upon the life and character, so as, ul. excellent, for the preservation of perfect timately, to secure the salvation of the health.
soul; but as a child is carefully taught It is thus with the moral, as well as the that truth and kindness are good, and physical maladies of mankind. It would falsehood and cruelty evil, long before it be a comparatively easy and pleasant task knows any thing of the religion of the Bito lay down rules for the preservation of ble; so, in the case of every particular sobriety, order, and happiness, provided vice which has been known in the world, they had never been interrupted; but it may fairly be said to be better that it when evil habits have once gained the as
should be given up, than continued ; procendancy, and the moral harmony of so- vided only, it cannot be overcome except ciety has been destroyed, there must be a by the substitution of another. It is no corrective employed to check what is small point gained, when an immortal beevil, before any incentive can efficiently ing, a fellow-traveller in the journey of operate in promoting what is good. life, is prevailed upon to cease to do evil
Although the exceeding sinfulness of in any one respect. He is, at least, in a sin precludes all idea of there being in the better condition for learning to do well, Divine sight, any degree or modification than while persisting in his former course. in the nature of sin itself; yet with regard If a child, a servant, or any one under to particular vices as they come under our care, has been accustomed to tell
falsehoods, we rejoice over the first symp- his time deprived of that highest attribute toms of their having learned to fear a lie, of man-his rational faculties. It is, even though their conduct should evince however, a fact, deserving our most se. no other indication of a moral change. rious consideration, that in this state he is We do not say, “Let him return to the more alive, than under ordinary circumevil of his ways, for it is of no use his stances, to the impulse of feeling, and of leading a stricter life in this respect, unless passion; so that while on the one hand he becomes altogether a changed charac. he has less reason to instruct him how to ter." We do not say this, because we act, on the other he has more restlessness know that the well-being of society, and and impetuosity to force him into action. the good of every individual connected It has been calculated that of persons with him, require that he should give up thus degraded, there are at the present this particular habit, and if for no other time existing in Great Britain more than reason, we think it sufficient that it should six hundred thousand, of whom sixty thoube given up for this—that the tendency sand die annually, the wretched victims of all evil is to contaminate, and that no of this appalling vice.
, vice can exist alone, but if indulged will Such, then, is the peculiarity of intemnecessarily extend itself, and pollute what perance, that while all other vices leave ever it comes in contact with, by this the mind untouched and the conscience at means producing innumerable poisonous liberty to detect and warn of their comfruits from one deleterious root. Thus mission, this alone subdues the reasoning the state of society is proportionally im- powers, so that they have no capability proved every time a vicious habit is whol- of resistance; and while all other vices ly given up; and if this be true of vice are such from their earliest commence. in general, how eminently is it the case ment, this alone only begins to be a vice at with that if intemperance; because there that precise point when the clearness of is no other, which, on the one hand, is so the mind, and the activity of the conscience, countenanced by the customs of the world, begin to fail; and thus it progresses, acand which, on the other, spreads its bane. cording to the generally received opinion, ful influence to so fearful and deadly an by increasing in culpability in the exact extent.
proportion by which mental capability Intemperance is the only vice in the and moral power are diminished. dark catalogue of man's offences against What an extraordinary measurement the will, and the word, of his Maker, of guilt is this for an enlightened world to which directly assails the citadel of hu- make! In all other cases a man's culpa. man reason, and by destroying the power bility is measured precisely by the ability to choose betwixt good and evil, renders he has to detect evil, and the power he the being whose similitude was originally possesses to withstand temptation. In divine, no longer a moral agent, but a this alone he is first encouraged by sociemere idiot in purpose, and animal in ac- ty, and this is while his natural powers retion. The man who is habitually intem-main unimpaired. No blame attaches to perate consequently makes a voluntary him then. He is a fit companion for wise surrender of all control over his own con. and good men : but no sooner does his duct, and lives for the greater portion of reason give way than he is first slightly
censured by society, then shunned, then highest scale of religious scrupulosity, despised, and finally abhorred; just ac- take this quantity, and more, and deem it cording to the progressive stages by which right to take it, even to double or treble it he has become less capable of understand- as occasion may demand, it must be strong ing what is right, and controlling his own evidence that quantity, as regards a few inclinations to what is wrong.
thousand drops, can be of little conseIt is another striking feature in the quence. Still there is, there must be a character of intemperance as a vice, that precise point at which mankind ought to it commences not only under the sanction stop, or why is the unanimous voice of of the low, but under that of what is call. society lifted up against the intemperate ? ed the best society; not only under the But why, above all, are we told that no sanction of the world, but under that of drunkard can enter the kingdom of Heavreligious professors, who believe themen ? selves called out of darkness into light. Ask this question of a hundred persons, It begins with the first welcome which and they will in all probability each give kind and Christian friends assemble to you a different account of the measure. give to a young immortal being, just ush- ment by which they ascertain at what ered into a state of probation, by which it point intemperance begins; because there is to be fitted for eternity ; and it extends are all the different habits and constitu. through all the most social and cheering, tions of mankind to be taken into account, as well as through many of the most
as well as all the different degrees of polasting and sacred associations we form on tency in the intoxicating draught, accordearth; until at last, when the tie is bro. ing to its name and quality. Of twenty ken, and the grave receives our lost and persons seated at the same table, and reloved, the solemn scene is closed, and the galing themselves with the same wine, it mourner's heart is soothed, by the com- is more than probable that the fatal drop mencement of intemperance.
at which intemperance begins, would not I say the commencement, for who can be in the same glass with any two among tell at what draught, what portion of a them. Who then shall decide this mo. draught, what drop, for it must really mentous question ? for it is momentous, come to this—who can say, then, at what since eternal condemnation depends upon drop of the potent cup sobriety ceases, it. Let us reduce the number of persons, and intemperance begins ? The intem- and see whether by this means the case perate man himself cannot tell, for it has will be more clear. We will suppose, justly been observed, that “instead of then, that three persons sit down to table feeling that he is taking too much, his to take their wine, or whatever it may be, only impression is, that he has not had in what is called an innocent and social enough.” Who then shall warn him ? way. Out of this small number, it is Even if he were in a condition to listen possible that one may commit a deadly sin to remonstrance, who should be his judge? without taking more than the others. Yet If it be perfectly innocent, nay right, in to him it is sin, simply because the drop the first instance to partake of this bever. of transition between good and evil, from age, say to the extent of two thousand the peculiar constitution of his bodily drops ; if all sorts of persons, up to the frame, occurs in his glass at an earlier
stage than it does with the others. These plied to as unimpaired; nor would any three men, consequently, rise from that ta- other of the faculties of the mind have ble according to the opinion of the world suffered in the slightest degree from the in a totally different moral state, for one commission of a dishonest deed. Neither has been guilty of a degrading vice, and are there any degrees of theft openly the others are perfectly innocent. Yet all countenanced by the world, and by relihave done the same thing. Who then, I gious society. We will not say that there would ask again, is to decide in such a are not tricks in trade, and dishonest case? I repeat, it cannot be the guilty practices which exist to the discredit of man himself, because that very line which our country and our profession, but they constitutes the minute transition between are chiefly done in secret, and acknowl. a state of innocence and a state of sin, is edged, at least in the pulpit, to be w
wrong. the same at which he ceased to be able Another characteristic of intemperance clearly to distinguish between one and the is, that it often begins in what are consid. other.
ered the happiest and most social mo. It is impossible, then, that this question ments of a person's life. It begins when should ever be decided, unless every one the hospitable board is spread, and when who indulges in the use of such beverage friend meets friend; when the winter's would take the trouble to calculate the fire is blazing; when the summer's ramexact distance between the extremes of ble is finished; on the eve of parting, sobriety and intoxication, not only com- when moments glide away with the preputed by every variety of liquid in which ciousness of hours; when hearts warm alcohol is contained, but by every variety towards each other; when broken confi. of bodily sensation which he may be liable dence is restored; when the father wel. to experience. This calculation will comes back his son ; and when the young bring him to one particular point, which and trusting bride first enters her new may not improperly be called the point of home. All these, and tens of thousands transition, at which positive evil begins, of associations, all as tender, and some of and beyond which it is a positive sin to them more dear, are interwoven with our go. Who, then, I ask again, shall fix this recollections of the tempting draught, point? It must of necessity be left to the which of itself demands no borrowed calculations of the man whose inclination sweets. in the hour of temptation is not to see it, How different from this are all other whose desire is to step over it, and whose vices! Injurious to society in the first perceptions at that time are so clouded instance, as well as in the last, selfish in and obscured, that he could not ascertain their own nature, and avowedly abhorred, it if he would.
they no sooner appear in their naked Here, then, we see a marked difference form, than a check is put upon them by betwixt intemperance and every other the united voice of society. The thief is vice. Theft, for instance, is as much not welcomed into the bosom of kind famtheft at the beginning as it is at the end ; ilies after he has been known to steal a and if a case should occur in which there little. The miser, whose evil propensiwas any doubt about the act being really ties are, next to intemperance, the most such, reason might immediately be ap- insidious in their nature, is spurned and
hated before his failing has become a belonging to the lowest grade of human vice. And so it is with all who sin in beings, frequenters of vicious haunts, and other ways. They are acknowledged to perpetrators of every abomination. It is be dangerous as companions, and injuri- a melancholy truth that such for the most ous as citizens, in the commencement of part they become ; but it is equally true, their guilt. It is only by denying a a that many, if not most of them, have knowledge of their actual conduct, that been thinned out from the ranks of honest they are supported and countenanced and of honorable men, whose principles even by their friends. So far as they are and habits were precisely the same as acknowledged to be guilty, they are con- their own, in the first instance, but whose demned, though having sinned but a bodily constitution, and whose powers of little ; while the victim of intemperance self-mastery, were stronger, and who alone carries with him the sanction of so- thus happened to remain on the safe side ciety long after the commencement of his of the transition line. career; nay, he drinks of the very same I would not, for an instant, be supposed bowl with the religious professor until he to doubt the efficacy of constant watchfulhas lost the power to refrain.
ness, under the influence of religious prinThe victim of intemperance may have ciple; and, above every other consideraoriginally sat down to the same cheering tion, the all-sufficient power of that Divine draught as the religious man. He may assistance, which alone can be expected in have been his friend. But it so happens answer to fervent and heartfelt prayer. I that his constitution of body is different. would not insinuate a doubt that thousands With him the transition point occurs at have not been prevented by this means an earlier period than with the other. from going too far, even under the critical He
passes this without being aware of his circumstances already described. But I danger, and his mastery over himself is speak of people generally-of society as lost. What horror then seizes the reli- it is constituted—of things as they are ; gious man, not against himself for having and I speak under the conviction, that, ,
, rtaken with his friend, but against that notwithstanding all the efforts of ministers friend for having gone too far. Had he of religion, and of zealous and devoted begun with him to commit a little theft, friends to the promotion of the Gospel of or to tell a slight falsehood, and his friend Christ, some additional effort is required, had gone too far, he would have blamed and some other means are necessary, in himself for the remainder of his life for order to rescue from destruction the thoubeing accessory to the downfall of that sands who now fill the ranks of intemperfriend; but here he starts back, considers ance, and the thousands beyond these, himself, and is considered by others, as who, from cultivating the same habits, are perfectly innocent; while his friend, who following unconsciously in the same fatal has committed nothing but a little more of course. the very same act, is shunned as degrad- There is another important point of difed, and denounced as guilty.
ference betwixt the victims of intemperThe voice of society is most injurious, ance and those who are addicted to any and unfair, with regard to intemperate other vice. The dishonest man begins persons. They are classed together as his guilty course with a meanness of pur