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EPHESIANS, v. 18, 19.
Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess ; but be filled with
the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.
On the first reading of these words, it may not be evident to every one what is the connexion between the first part of them and the second, between the command not to be drunken with wine, and the bidding them to be filled with the Spirit. When we begin to think, however, about it, we shall recollect that when the Spirit first descended on the day of Pentecost, some of those who saw its effects, said mockingly, “ These men are full of new wine;" and when we consider it a little more, we shall see that the direction of the Apostle in the text relates to that which in this generation
is even more familiar than it was of old; to that which varying in form is yet in one shape or other universally acceptable, and is found to be one of the greatest of human pleasures -I mean, excitement. The Apostle notices one sort of evil excitement, the lowest certainly, but one of the most common of all; and on the other hand he notices one sort of good and wholesome excitement, not indeed the most common of all, yet the best and purest.
Let us first see what we mean by excitement; a term which may not be quite clear to all of us, or at least our notions may not be distinct about it, though we may understand its meaning generally. Now here, if we understood our own nature perfectly, we might perhaps be able to describe what excitement properly speaking is, how it is caused, and on what part of our system it acts. But, as in so many other instances, the imperfections of our knowledge oblige us to be content with much less than this; we cannot do more than describe excitement by its effects. To speak generally, that is excitement which interrupts our quiet and ordinary state of mind with some more lively feeling; which makes us live more consciously, and in a manner quicker, than we do in common. This more lively life, if I may so speak, is pleasant universally, or almost universally; but the nature of the excitement, or rather the things which are
capable of exciting different classes of men, and different individuals, are of course exceedingly different. Highly agreeable and intellectual society, which to some is one of the most exciting things in the world, is to others one of the least so; and the same may be said of poetry and of music. But whatever does excite us, also pleases us; and the pleasure, or at any rate the craving, grows with the indulgence; whence arises the known difficulty of persuading a confirmed drunkard to leave off his habit of drinking. Life is so insupportable to him when robbed of its excitement, that he cannot persuade himself to abandon his propensity, although knowing its sin and its danger.
The direction of the Apostle in the text bids us choose that excitement which is good and healthy, instead of that which is bad and mischievous. And, as I said before, the command which was needful in his days is even more so now. I do not mean, indeed, with regard to the particular excitement of drunkenness; for although that was not, probably, a very general vice in those days amongst the inhabitants of a warm climate, yet neither is it in our rank of society general amongst us now. And comparing our own country, and the richer classes in it especially, with what they were forty or fifty years ago, we shall find that there is much less danger from this temptation now than formerly; in fact, in the ordinary
state of things, it can hardly be called a danger at all. But the increase of other sorts of excitement has more than kept up with the decrease of this. The whole state of society is more exciting ;-the great inventions which have been made in various ways enable men to do more than they could formerly, and in a much less time; that is, they enable them to live at a quicker rate; they also multiply pleasures, and put them more within our reach, thus accustoming us the more to crave for them. And in books this is exceedingly striking. We have heard of the story of that Grecian king who ordered a magnificent Persian feast to be served up side by side with the simple meal of his own countrymen, to contrast the luxury of the one with the plain and frugal habits of the other. So if we could place side by side the books which formed a boy's entertaining reading thirty or forty years ago, with those which are within his reach now, the difference would not be less extraordinary. Those whose experience does not reach so far back would hardly believe how simple was the feast, so to speak, which was set before their fathers, when compared with the variety and the richness of that which they now enjoy.
All this is not without its effect, nor can it be. The mind early begins to lose the keenness of its wonder, because it is so early made acquainted with such a variety of objects. Forty years ago,
the probability would have been, that out of a number of persons of the age of those who now hear me, very few would have travelled further than from their own homes to school, and all else would have been new to them. But now the exception would probably be of those who had not seen more than this; in most cases it would be much the contrary. Thus, manhood is in various ways anticipated in youth. Much that used to strike the mind at twenty, or five and twenty, with all the freshness of novelty, is now become familiar to it before that period; there is, therefore, a craving for something more, and it seems difficult to conceive what will be the effect twenty or thirty years hence, when those who have been brought up amidst all this excitement shall have passed the prime of life, and shall have exhausted in forty years more than those sources of interest which used formerly, under a more sparing distribution of them, to last out for our threescore years and ten.
Again, with regard to that low excitement spoken of in the text, the course to be taken is sufficiently plain. “ Be not drunk with wine;" — abstain, as you may do, from a vice so degrading and so fatal. But how can we say, “Be not led away by the excitement of our present state of society.” How is it possible for you to escape it? Is it not around you on every side? And with