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society does it condemn them? To what act 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 honor 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 honor 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 a snare. 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 habits, 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 whirpool 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 smiles, to stand more in fear of the hiss of dying men than of the deadly serpent— this slavery, common in the world, is one to which Christ's freemen should not yield—no, not for an hour. Hear how God asks, as in surprise, " Who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass; and forgettest the Lord, thy maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth?"
Yet see, how men of the coblest genius and proudest intellect have crouched, slave like, before the world, laying their heads in the very dust at her feet. When Byron, for instance, stood aloft on the pinnacle of his fame,he confessed that the disapprobation of the meanest critic gave him more pain than the applause of all the others gave him pleasure. Miserable confession, and miserable man! not less a slave that laurels wreathed his brow, and that a star glittered on his breast. What a contrast do we see in Paul? He was a freeman! Like some tall rock, he stands erect; unmoved from his place, or purpose, or judgment, or resolution, by the storm of a world's disapprobation raging fiercely around him. "With me," he says, " it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment; ... he that judgeth me is the Lord." What more grandeur is here! What a testimony to the elevating power of piety! What a glorious illustration of the poet's words,
"He is the freeman whom the truth makes free,
In old times, men and women were said to have sold their souls to Satan, consenting that he should have them at death, on condition of receiving a power to command, in their lifetime, any wealth, any honors, any pleasure their hearts might desire. As the story goes, the devil held them to the bargain; and when they died, the old castle shook, and the screech-owls hooted, and the dogs howled, and the lights burned blue, and the tempest roared, and people crossed themselves as they heard the shrieking spirit borne away through the black night to hell. An old superstition! True; yet fables are often less wonderful than facts; and there are things more incredible in real life than you or I have read in the wildest romance. Did Satan, according to these old legends, drive a hard bargain? With sinners, now, he drives a harder. Deluded, defrauded, cheated, the poor sinner has no lifetime, no season of profit and pleasure. He sells himself for nought. 1 could fill this house with living proofs of it. They swarm in our streets in their rags and wretchedness. And what though many, who are living a life of sin, are apparently happy and prosperous? If their hearts had a window whereby we could look within, and see the fears that agitate them, the gnawing of remorse, the stings of conscience, the apprehensions of discovery and impending evil that haunt the steps and cloud the path of guilt, we should conclude that, though there were neither hell nor hereafter, the way of transgressors is hard. From their way I pray all here to turn. Why will ye die? Why? when Christ is willing, wishful, waiting to save. Sin's is a miserable thraldom. If its wretched slaves, you are the objects of deepest compassion. Nor ever more so than when, intoxicated with the pleasant but poisoned cup, you sing and laugh and dance in chains. To men in your circumstances, and with your appalling prospects, how may we apply the words, I said of laughter, It is mad; and of mirth, What doeth it? God help you! God bring you to a better mind ; that, raising your fettered arms and weeping eyes to heaven for help to burst these fatal, accursed bonds, you may be free—blessed with holy liberty, and true peace, and pure pleasure, and lasting joys—redeemed and ransomed by the blood of Christ.