« PreviousContinue »
letters, Jew and Greek, bond and free, are all branded and bound; and, like the gang of miserable captives which the slave-dealer is driving to the sea-bord, they are moving on to eternity-bound in one long chain with every minor distinction sunk in the one misery, that all are sold under sin. In this, every difference of race, and rank, and colour, is merged. Every man's heart is black-whatever his face may be.
It matters little, indeed, nothing before God, whether a man has a dark face or a pale one; but it is all important whether he has a black heart or no-whether our sinstained souls have or have not been washed white in the blood of Jesus Christ. What avails it that you are not bound in fetters of man's forging, if you are bound in the devil's chain? The difference, yonder, between the white master with his lash, and the poor, trembling, crouching black, over whom he cracks it, is lost in this, that both are under bondage to sin. And I dare to say that of the two, the bigger, blacker, baser slave is he, who, boastful of his vaunted freedom, and proud of his blood and colour, holds a brother in chains. The driver is more a slave than the driven ; the oppressor than the oppressed. What chain, I ask, has been forged for human limbs so strong, degrading, intensely hateful in the sight of God, as the base cupidity which breeds human beings, like cattle, for the market; and grasps at wealth, although its price be groans and tears and blood and broken hearts?
3. This slavery is the actual state of all unconverted men.
Some are slaves of one sin; some of another; and the forms of slavery are as many and varied as the sins which people are addicted to. Let me give a few examples.
(1.) Some are slaves of gold. How they drudge for it! Their tyrant, the love of money, rules them with a rod of iron. Naturally kind, they feel disposed to assist the poor; but, No, says their master; and with an iron heel he crushes the tenderest feelings of their heart. Visited occasionally with solemn thoughts, and not altogether dead to the claims of Christ, they would part with something worthy of their wealth and of his cause; but what is Christ to Mammon? Again, their master says, No; you must make more money; toil on, ye slaves ; you may not trust man, and you cannot trust God; toil on; you must be as rich as that man, and leave a fortune for your heirs to quarrel about over your grave, or squander in folly and dissipation. And thus, blushing at his mean excuse, the poor wretch—for I call him poor who has money which he cannot use—sends Christ's cause away to beg with more success at a much poorer door. Talk of slaves and slave-masters ! What bondage like that which condemns a man to do what he condemns himself for doing, to harden his heart against the claims of pity, to deny his own flesh and blood, to lie, cheat, and defraud, or, if not that, every day of his life to run counter to the divine saying, What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? From such bondage, good Lord, deliver us ! Thou, O man
of God, flee these things, and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness;" "fight the good fight of faith ;” and, like gold which a drowning man will drop to clutch the rope flung to him from ship or shore, let go the world. With thy hands set free, lay hold on eternal life.
(2.) Some are the slaves of lust. To what base society does it condemn them? To what acts of meanest treachery and blackest villany do their tyrant passions drive them? Think of a man drowning his conscience, and by that deed effacing from his soul the most distinct remaining traces of the image of God! Of all sinners, these are most like their master, the Devil, when he changed himself into a serpent, with its lying tongue and smooth glittering skin, to win a woman's trust. They creep into the bosom which they intend to sting, and put forth their powers to fascinate some happy singing bird, who goes fluttering, but, spell-bound, cannot help going, into their open devouring jaws. Better be a slave and die heart-broken, than be a heart-breaker. The thief—the mean, sneaking, pilfering thief-that steals my money, is a man of honour compared with him who steals a woman's virtue, and robs a household of its peace.
(3.) Some are slaves of drunkenness. Of all slavery this is the most helpless, and the most hopeless. Other sins drown conscience, but this reason and conscience too. More, perhaps, than any other vice, „this blots out the vestiges of that divine image in which we were originally formed, and reduces man to the lowest degradation-lower than a beast. Smiting him with
the greatest impotency, in such slavery as that of iron to a magnet is the poor besotted drunkard to his cups. He who is a slave to man, may retain his self-respect, cherish his wife, and love his children; and, raising his fettered hands in prayer to heaven, may preserve and present in his very chains the image of God; but yonder wretch, with beggary hung on his back, and dissipation stamped on his bloated face—dead to shame, or, hanging his head, and passing old acquaintances with averted eye -degraded before the world, and expelled from the communion of the church-lying in the gutter—or beating his wife, or cursing his flying children, and in his sober moments cursing himself—ah, he is a slave indeed. What hope for a man who reels up to the bar of judgment, and staggers drunk into his Maker's presence ? Let his fate excite your fears as well as pity. I say with the apostle, “ Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall." Have I not seen many, whose spring budded with the fairest promises, live to be a shame, and sorrow, and deep disgrace? And, though it were revealed from heaven that you yourself should never fall, is there nothing due to others? Does not that bloody cross, with its blessed victim, call upon every Christian to live not to himself, but to think of other's things, as well as of his own ? Every man must judge for himself; to his own master he standeth or he falleth. But when I think of all the beggary, and misery, and shame, and crime, and sorrow, of which drunkenness is the prolific mother, of the many hearts it breaks, of the happy homes it curses, of the precious
souls it ruins, I do not hesitate to say that the question of abstinence deserves the prayerful consideration of every man; and that, moreover, he appears to me to consult most the glory of God, the honour of Jesus, and the best interests of his fellow-men, who applies to all intoxicating stimulants the Apostolic rule, Touch not, taste not, handle not. In regard to no sin can it be so truly said that our adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour.
(4.) Some are slaves to the opinions of the world. It was the boast of the Macedonian that he had conquered the world ; the world can boast that it has conquered them. Subservient to its opinions, theirs is the miserable condition of an unhappy servant, who has to bear in some ill-governed household the caprices, not of one mistress, but of many.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but the fear of man bringeth
How many of the young are ruined, just because they have not the courage to say, Nay, to do what they know to be right--allowing themselves to be laughed out of their virtuous babits, and early holy training. Then, into what misery do we see parents plunge themselves and their families by a course of extravagance, into which they are drawn by the whirlpool of fashion. To sacrifice the well-being of your children to a wretched vanity, to do mean or dishonest things that you may appear genteel, to prefer the approbation of the world to that of your own conscience, to incur the wrath of God that you may win a man's or woman's