Walk circumspectly, or strictly.
The apostle goes on to urge a circumspect, wise, and earnest life, closely conformed in all things to the will of God, fashioned according to that idea of wisdom which is set forth in the proverb, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Nothing is of more value than fixed principles for guiding our life. One settled conviction may be of inestimable value; e . g . the conviction that nothing can come to any good in the end which is against the will of God. Whenever greatness is achieved in any sphere of life it is through the force of well-kept rules. Every great author, artist, statesman, has owed his success to certain principles of action to which he has rigidly adhered. It has been remarked that the puritan age was an age of convictions; ours is an age of opinions. But what we need is convictions, and pre-eminently the conviction that the only true, safe, and blessed rule of life is to follow implicitly the will of God. We find here rules for a careful Christian life,
I. APART .
1. Walk circumspectly, or strictly, not carelessly.
2. Walk wisely, taking pains to ascertain that you so walk as to gain the great end.
3. Redeem the time, or buy back the opportunity (see Exposition).
4. Understand; i.e. lay to heart and follow the will of Christ.
5. Avoid intoxication and all wild excitement and unhallowed pleasure.
6. Be filled with the Spirit, and the holy, blessed emotions which he genders.
II. IN CHRISTIAN SOCIETY .
1. Cultivate Christian song, and make melody in your heart to the Lord.
2. Let thanksgiving have a special place in your exercises.
3. Submit yourselves one to another in the fear of the Lord.
As Christians have not only duties, but also joys, belonging to their individual life, so they have both duties and joys belonging to their social life. What is most characteristic of the social duties of Christians is mutual submission; consideration of one another—of what is due by one to another, and still more of the loving service which one may be able to render to the other. What is most characteristic of their social joys is the element of thankfulness in which they flourish; they should ever live as those, who in Christ have received mercies beyond all calculation; and they should make abundant use of song to give expression to such feelings and to deepen them in so doing. This joyous element goes a long way to give brightness to the social life of Christians; they will not miss the more carnal delights on which worldly men set so much store, but will feel that God puts joy in their hearts, more than in the time that their corn and wine increased.
Warning against drunkenness.
The tremendous sin of intemperance must have had a great hold upon a commercial city like Ephesus. It was necessary that Christians should beware of such an insidious vice.
I. IT DISHONOURS THE LAW OF GOD . ( Romans 13:13 .)
II. IT DISTURBS THE REASON OF MAN .
III. IT ENDANGERS THE HEALTH OF THE BODY .
IV. IT INJURES THE SOUL . ( Hosea 4:11 .)
V. IT WASTES THE SUBSTANCE AND TENDS TO BEGGARY . ( Proverbs 23:21 .)
VI. IT CONSUMES PRECIOUS TIME AND DETERIORATES THE CHARACTER OF WORK .
VII. IT IS THE CAUSE OF OTHER SINS . Such as swearing, strife, licentiousness ( Proverbs 23:19 ).
VIII. IT UNFITS FOR RELIGIOUS DUTIES .
IX. IT KEEPS SOULS OUT OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD . ( 1 Corinthians 6:9 .) Therefore Christians ought to avoid it, abstaining altogether from intoxicating drinks on the grounds of Christian expediency, and using their influence to rescue others from its ruinous fascination.—T.C.
The true antidote to drunkenness.
There is a real contrast here exhibited between fullness of wine and fullness of the Spirit. There is an intensity of feeling produced in both cases. "There is one intensity of feeling produced by stimulating the senses; another, by vivifying the spiritual life within. The one commences with impulses from without, the other is guarded by forces from within." The one tends to ruin, the other to salvation. The Spirit-fullness "will keep the soul holy, the body chaste, and render the Christian fit for the service of God on earth and meet for the fruition and enjoyment of God in heaven." The exhilaration caused by the Spirit finds a threefold expression.
I. IN PSALMS , HYMNS , AND SPIRITUAL SONGS .
1. The heathen festivals were remarkable for songs of drunken revelry. The excitement of the worshippers found vent in singing. Christians are likewise to express their exhilaration in songs. "The hearts and spirits of good men are full of spiritual mirth and joy; they are as merry in the Lord as sinners in their lust; it is, therefore, lawful and laudable for them to express their mirth and give vent to their spiritual joy by singing."
2. There is a happy variety in such songs adapted to the various moods of the singers. We have the Psalms of David; we have the hymns composed by pious men like Zacharias and Simeon; and we have the compositions, for public assemblies, of those inspired by the Holy Spirit ( 1 Corinthians 14:1-40 .).
3. There must be a harmony in these songs between the artistic service of the voice and the inner melody of the heart. Otherwise the spirit and meaning of the exercise will disappear.
4. Singing has always been a powerful instrument of promoting the spread of true religion (Reformation, periods of revival).
5. The singing here enjoined was for social intercourse as well as for the public assemblies of worship. Christians ought to exercise their gifts of song to spiritual ends.
II. IN GIVING OF THANKS . The heart which is filled with the Spirit brims over with thankfulness.
1. To whom thanks are to be given . "To God, even the Father." To God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore our Father in him.
2. How should we give thanks to him?
3. What must we thank him for? "For all things."
4. How often must we thank him? " Always ." It must be continuous. The heart must be kept in a constantly thankful frame, and not expend itself at mere intervals in acts of devout thanksgiving.
5. Through whom are our thanksgivings to be made acceptable to God? "In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ." We are authorized to use this Name as our warrant for expecting the acceptance of our services as well as the fullest enjoyment of all spiritual mercies.
III. MUTUAL SUBMISSION . The effect of the Spirit's full enjoyment is to produce a humble and loving spirit among Christian people.
1. The duty of mutual submission . This principle, which is inconsistent with a reverse egotism or a self-opinionated superiority, has great and happy effects. It reduces the friction of human life, and contributes greatly to its comfort and peace. It has nothing in common with the servile and obsequious temper which is such a dishonor to manhood. Let us mutually condescend to each other. "In lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves" ( Philippians 2:3 ). "All of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility" ( 1 Peter 5:5 ). We are not isolated units in society. "The essential equality of men and their mutual dependence lay the foundation for the obligation of mutual subjection."
2. The element or sphere in which this duty is to be maintained . "In the fear of Christ." This is not terror, but the solemn reverence with which we bow to the authority of our Divine Lord. Our submission is grounded in our reverence for him, in our fear of offending him by our airs of assumption or authority, in our supreme regard for his holy will. Thus Christianity lifts the commonest duties and civilities and amenities of social life into the highest sphere, by connecting them with the supreme lordship of Christ over his saints.—T.C.
Inspiration, spirituous and spiritual.
Following up his exhortations about holy living, Paul now proceeds to the subject of understanding the Lord's will. In doing so he comes across the necessity which human nature feels for excitement of some kind, and, warning the Ephesians against the low excitement of wine, he commends the high excitement of the Spirit, with all its pleasurable manifestations. In other words, he speaks of inspiration, but condemns the spirituous while he commends the spiritual. We have thus suggested—
I. THE NEED OF SOME STIMULUS FROM BEYOND OURSELVES .
(Verses 17, 18.) This is apparent from the fact that every one needs some excitement, as it is called, to keep him moving—something to "interrupt 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." We all feel this. Now, this goes to show that we are not self-contained, no matter how much we desire to be so, but need a helping hand from without our personalities. Withhold food, and we perish. Withhold all stimulus from us, and we go of necessity to pieces. The whole question comes to be, therefore, where we shall get our required stimulus.
II. THE STIMULUS OF WINE IS ATTENDED WITH DANGER .
(Verse 18.) This is an inspiration which comes through sense. Now, all of us need a stimulus through our senses. Food is such a stimulus. A well-digested meal makes life move faster and quicker than fasting would. But the vinous inspiration leads to "riot" (Revised Version), and is inconsistent with that unity of the Church for which the gospel calls. We should abstain from such a dangerous stimulus as this, for its effect has been hostile to unity of spirit. But we might extend the precaution here to all those excitements of a sensual nature which exhaust and retard the spirit. As Robertson says, "Wine is but a specimen of a class of stimulants. All that begins from without belongs to the same class. The stimulus may be afforded by almost any enjoyment of the senses. Drunkenness may come from anything wherein is excess—from over-indulgence in society, in pleasure, in music, and in the delight of listening to oratory, nay, even from the excitement of sermons and religious meetings. The prophet tells us of those who are drunken, and not with wine." Arnold, in the same way, bases upon this passage warnings against excess of bodily exercise, excess of intellectual exercise, excess even in our hours of work, excess, in a word, so far as it militates against Christian sober-mindedness.
III. THE INSPIRATION FROM ABOVE CAN HAVE NO ATTENDANT EXCESS .
(Verses 18, 19.) We may be filled with the Spirit, and no riot result, nothing which will do anything but foster the glorious unity. For, as Arnold shows, the gospel and the inspirations from God "at once excite and soothe," so that the soul is kept in holy equilibrium, and the inspiration has its natural manifestation.
1. There will be harmony in social song . Poetry and music will become tributary to unity of spirit. The Holy Ghost will permeate by his harmonizing presence social praise.
2. The praise offered to the Lord will be heartfelt . It will not be a form of praise, but the very heart going up to heaven.
3. Thanksgiving will be mightily promoted. In the midst of manifold mercies our God in heaven looks for constant thankfulness from us. And, indeed, if we understand his love we shall be prompted to give thanks "always for all things," in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
4. And inspiration will promote mutual subjection in the fear of Christ (so Revised Version). Thus it comes to pass that an inspired people proves a praising and united people. What harmony the society filled with the Spirit realizes! It is heaven begun below. What we need, therefore, is a Pentecost. If the Holy Spirit is pleased to fill us, then shall our discords vanish and our hearts beat in unison. It is by inspiration that the unity of the Church shall be secured.—R.M.E.
Exhortation to exercise wisdom in regard to our manner of walk.
"Look therefore carefully how ye walk, not as unwise, but as wise." The object to which we are to look is this—how we walk; in other words, the conduct of our life. In regard to this we are to be careful. At cross-roads there are sometimes finger-posts put up to indicate where the different roads lead to, that travelers may be at no loss. By looking carefully at these, they may save themselves much trouble and delay. So it becomes every traveler to eternity to know the road that he is taking, whether it is the narrow or the broad. There are finger-posts put up by God (in the Word) by which we may ascertain this and put ourselves right if we have to our grief taken the wrong road. But, seeing many do not make use of these finger-posts (do not look at them at all, or only carelessly, and thus exhibit great folly), the exhortation takes the negative as well as the positive form. "Not as unwise, but as wise." The word translated "carefully" may also be translated "precisely," and suggests this, that we are not only to look to the general correctness of our conduct, but to look to it down to the smallest details. It is only by thus going carefully over it in detail, with no foregone conclusion in our mind, but earnestly seeking God to search us and to discover to us what can be altered for the better, that we may be able to bring it out into some beauty of conception as a whole. There are two things in regard to which we are to exercise wisdom .
I. TIME . "Redeeming the time, because the days are evil." The right management of our time is what we are particularly to look to. The exhortation is to redeem the time, that is, the time meted out to us on earth, in which to fulfill the Divine purposes. Literally, as given in the margin, we are to buy up the opportunity. The idea is that every moment has its own duty assigned to it. By doing the duty in the moment, we make a purchase of the opportunity, we turn it into a gain. We keep abreast of time; we avoid subsequent collision of duties. Whereas by not doing the duty in the moment, we contract debt, we fall behind. Instead of being the free owners of our time, we become slavish debtors to it. We are to be like merchants that seize every vantage that is going. Merchants, that travel about from place to place, do not get a vantage at every turn. They must lay their account by an amount of fruitless toil. But as heavenly merchants, we are in this enviable position, that every moment comes laden with golden opportunity. And we are to make our moments as they pass rich in all the gains of a good life.
1. Good planning . If we would redeem the time in its days, then we must anticipate them by wise economical arrangements. We must see them coming, and know how (God willing) we are to fill them up. The light that we have got from past days we are to put into some workable scheme for the days to come. To the excellence of a day-plan it is essential that we rightly proportion between the various duties of life (so that none are left out or do not get their proper place). We are to keep up the right proportion between our severer and our lighter engagements . It behooves every one to have a task, a definite task, a task that taxes his energies. And if he does not have it by necessity of procuring his daily bread, yet should he have it by necessity of steadying himself. But it is not good for the bow to be always bent, and, if we manage well, we shall find time (and find it good for the doing of our task too) to relax ourselves in social enjoyment. We are also to keep up the right proportion between our religious and our secular duties . The latter, as a general arrangement, must take up a large proportion of our time. Six to one is the proportion indicated in the command. But in every well-planned life there will be found ample time for religious duties. Every day is to begin with an acknowledgment of God. It may seem utopian to expect morning devotions of one who has to be at his work at six o'clock. And yet it only requires a little taken off sleep or off the previous evening to secure the necessary time for God. And surely that is not too much to expect of any Christian in the interest of a well-ordered life. Morning devotions alone will not make the day good. Only when these have been conscientiously engaged in there will be felt to be an obligation to make the day's work harmonize with them. The evening may be utilized for self-improvement and ministries to others. And the day is to end, as it began, with God. It is only by such planning (in the name of him who is not the author of confusion), that we can expect to be like merchants accumulating a large fortune.
2. Good planning followed up by decisiveness in execution . There is a reason given for redeeming the time: "Because the days are evil." The very earth has taken a complexion from the degeneracy of the dwellers on it. And so our days are evil, and not such as they would have been under normal conditions.
II. WINE .
1. Dissuasive from false excitement . "And be not drunken with wine, wherein is riot." It is evident from the language which is here employed that the wine drunk in those times was intoxicating. The apostolic advice must be regarded as even more applicable to drinks of stronger intoxicating qualities, which are manufactured now. It has its application to the intoxicating cup of the world in every form—to the intoxication of novel-reading, to the intoxication of keenness in business, to the intoxication of political excitement. This advice is not inaptly connected with the previous advice as to the right management of time. For it is when time is not properly filled up, when it is insipid, monotonous, or when it is filled up with wrong-doing, that there is the temptation to go after some form or other of earthly excitement. It cannot be said that the use of wine at all is forbidden by this precept. But there is certainly sounded in connection with it the note of alarm. There is put up beside it the red flag of danger. " Be not drunken with wine ." Drunkenness is the feverish desire, the morbid craving, for drink. The man with his noble powers becomes one huge, ever-seeking, never-satisfied appetite. It is a vice into which all classes are in danger of falling. If the idle take to drinking to relieve the tedium of existence, the overwrought take to it to make up exhausted strength. The young take to it from a love of excitement, and the aged and debilitated take to it to get new tone to their system. Men of a coarse nature take to it because they are incapable of higher pleasures, and men of fine sensibility take to it because it is a source of inspiration to the intellect. Men of social tendencies take to it because it helps good fellowship; and the saddest thing is that women take to it in private, because of a peculiarly sensitive frame and inequalities of feeling. It is a vice, then, which must be said to be of a peculiarly fascinating, dangerous nature. And let no one think that he is out of danger. Many of those who have fallen were not like failing at first. They did not take drink at all for a time, and their friends had hope in them that they would prove temperate men. And when (with other social surroundings in some cases) they began to make any use of it, they seemed to be taking it in a perfectly innocent or needful way, until the liking was formed, and they could not do without a certain and an increasing amount of drink. Now, let it be observed on what ground the apostle condemns drunkenness. It is in the line of his thought that we are to exercise wisdom as to our manner of walk. Wherein , he says, is riot . Drunkenness is a madness. There is a form of it to which this description is specially applicable, that which is known as delirium tremens . But even in its ordinary working it has a close resemblance to madness. It takes away from men the guiding power of reason, their self-possession, their self-restraint, and leads them to make such exhibitions of themselves as in their calm moments they would be ashamed of. "Riot," which is the word employed in the Revised translation, is defined by Johnson to be "wild and loose festivity."
"When his headstrong riot hath no curb,
When rage and hot blood are his counselors,
When means and lavish manners meet together."
"So senseless of expense
That he will know neither how to maintain it
Nor cease his flow of riot."
He spends on self-indulgence what, if saved, would not only increase the comfort of his home, but would do much good besides. The drunkard is prodigal of his time , and thus violates the previous precept. The golden opportunity, which he might employ for informing his mind or instructing his children, he wastes in the public-house. The drunkard is prodigal of the stuff of which his frame is made . He wastes his physical powers, takes away his clearness of head, his steadiness of hand, and his general vigor, induces disease and premature death (again violating the previous precept in throwing away years that in the paths of temperance would have been his). The drunkard is prodigal of his worth to his fellows , as the temperate man is preservative in this respect. When the Indian general saw disaster waiting on his country's arms, because, alas! in an emergency his regiments were found besotted with drink, "Call out Havelock's saints!" he exclaimed; " they are never drunk, and Havelock is always ready." The drunkard is prodigal of his better feelings . He deadens his home feelings. He does not value the society of his wife and children; he does not study their happiness; nay, he can see them want in order that he may be gratified. He deadens his spiritual sensibilities. And to his wife the most dreadful thought may be, not that she is set aside or the children neglected, but that for his idol he is casting off his God.
2. Persuasive to true excitement . "But be filled with the Spirit." The apostle does not forbid all excitement; rather for the excitement which he negatives as false would he substitute a true excitement.
(a) Singing . It is known how to take advantage of harmonious sound in encouraging men to go into battle in "the shrill trump, the spirit-stirring drum, the ear-piercing fife." It is also known how to use it as an auxiliary in the service of superstition, revelry, and vice. And God, in his infinite wisdom, has seen fit to make use of the same instrumentality. In the old Jewish temple four thousand Levites, an entire fourth division of them, were employed in connection with the service of praise. God has inspired and enabled men to write psalms and hymns for the sanctuary; and he has also enabled men to compose suitable music for them. The singing of musical words, with or without an instrumental accompaniment, has a wonderful power in stirring emotion, in waking sweet and glad memories, and even in exciting the imagination in a certain vagueness and immensity which belongs to the sounds. As in a sea-shell pressed to the ear we are said to hear the sound of the ocean from which it has come, So in the sweet strains of music may we hear a sounding as from the eternal shores.
"Thou, Lord, art the Father of music:
Sweet sounds are a whisper from thee."
In an elevated mood (as here supposed) we naturally give expression to our feelings in song. "Is any cheerful? let him sing praise."
( α ) Singing together . "Speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." Men, under the excitement of the Spirit, delight to sing spiritual songs (as distinguished from the songs of the drunkard). Under this come the psalms in their grand historic position. And there also come hymns, that is, songs other than the psalms, which are used in praise. We are to speak one to another by means of these. Pliny records of the early Christians that they were wont on a fixed day to meet before daylight (to avoid persecution), and to recite a hymn among themselves by turns to Christ as to God. Luther greatly advanced the cause of the Reformation by his hymns, which were sung at the firesides of the people. How we can thus breathe the spirit of confidence, of courage, of hope, into one another! Having encouraged ourselves in the Rock of our strength, we turn and thus speak to our fellow-worshippers, one to the rest, or one section to another—
"Ye people, place your confidence
In him continually;
Before him pour ye out your heart:
God is our Refuge high."
( β ) Singing with the heart . "Singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord." Singing together can only occupy a small proportion of our time. But in our other engagements we may be so full of trust, so free from care, that we sing with the heart. And the song that we sing all day is set to the Name of Christ, to the work of redemption.
"There are in this low stunning tide
Of human care and crime,
With whom the melodies abide Of the everlasting chime;
Who carry music in their heart
Through dusky lane and wrangling mart,
Plying their daily task with busier feet
Because their secret souls a holy strain repeat?"
(b) Thanksgiving . "Giving thanks always for all things, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father." This is another beautiful manifestation of spiritual excitement. In our higher moods we naturally turn to God in joyful gratitude. Thanksgiving (to which the drunkard must be a stranger, for he abuses his mercies), like song, is to run like a golden thread through the whole of our life. In the depths of our heart we can be always thankful, though the language of thankfulness cannot be always on our lips. We have to thank God that a joyful thrill of the Spirit can pass through our being, better than of wine. We have to thank God for innumerable mercies.
"New mercies each returning day
Hover around us while we pray;
New perils past, new sins forgiven,
New thoughts of God, new hopes of heaven."
We have to thank God even for our afflictions, which are blessings in disguise; for though, in so far as they are evil, we are to be reconciled to them, yet we have to thank God for that which is good in them, viz. the merciful design, the accompanying comfort, the resulting benefit. And as we receive all only through Christ, so we are to give thanks to the Father in the Name of Christ.
(c) Subjection . "Subjecting yourselves one to another in the fear of Christ." It seems strange that this should be mentioned as one of the manifestations of spiritual elevation. We can only think of it in this way. As men under the excitement of wine are apt to be self-assertive, heady, so under the excitement of the Spirit we have such a fund of joy in ourselves that we are content to fall into every position of subjection in which God would place us. The particulars of this subjection follow; it here only concerns us to note the peculiar feeling which is associated with it, viz. the fear of Christ. We know that from all the joy of his first visit as a youth to the temple, the joy of his being there about his Father's business, he could go down and be subject to his parents. And we know that, amid all the rapture of the transfiguration, he could yet think of subjection to the Father's will in his decease. As, then, we reverence Christ and fear to offend him, let us (with all that we experience of the higher excitement) be subject one to another.—R.F.
(2) Two worlds of one race.
"See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And 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; giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ; submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.' All these verses must be brought in under the same heading as the verses discussed in our preceding article, viz . —Two worlds of one race . These verses continue to indicate the duties pertaining to the world of Christian men. The duties, which we previously discussed, were separation , reprehension , illumination , and resuscitation ; the duties which we have now to notice are Christian consistency , holy excitement , and social worship .
I. CHRISTIAN CONSISTENCY . "See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise." The verses teach that walking strictly in harmony with the Christian creed implies:
1. Wisdom . "Not as fools, but as wise." A conduct inconsistent with the Christian creed we profess is exceedingly foolish.
Hypocrisy is in every way unwise .
2. Diligence . "Redeeming the time"—"Buying up opportunities." How is time to be redeemed? Not by regaining any portion of the past. The past is irrecoverably gone. Not by inoperative regrets concerning the wrong of the past. Not by mere sentimental desires that the future may be better. How then?
" Because the days are evil," says Paul. The times in which Paul wrote were corrupt; our times are corrupt. There are several things that make our times evil.
3. Inquiry . "Understanding what the will of the Lord is." God has a will concerning us, and it is our duty to endeavor to understand it, and for this purpose we must inquire into it.
II. HOLY EXCITEMENT . "Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit." This verse suggests several thoughts.
1. Man has an instinctive craving for excitement . The words evidently imply this. Paul assumes that his readers must have excitement, in telling them in what they should and in what they should not find it. Excitement is a necessity of our nature. The soul has a deep hunger for it.
2. Man has recourse to improper expedients for excitement . "Be not drunk with wine." Wine stimulates excitement. It quickens the pulse, it heats the blood, it fires the passions. Hence men like it. They use it, not for the sake of intoxication, but excitement. Wine-drinking is only one of many improper expedients for excitement. Drunkenness is here a type of whatever improperly stimulates the senses and enkindles the lusts.
III. SOCIAL WORSHIP . "Speaking to yourselves," etc. These verses (from the nineteenth to the twenty-first) show what is meant by being "filled with the Spirit."
1. High spiritual intercourse with man . "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." Speaking to men the highest things in the highest forms of language—poetry. High feeling always runs into poetry.
2. Devout fellowship with Christ . "Singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord." The soul pouring out its devotions in sweet melodies in the Divine ear.
3. Thankful recognition of Divine favors . "Giving thanks always for all things unto God."
4. Godly devotion to the common weal . "Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God." All this is implied in being "filled with the Spirit?' And is there not sufficient excitement here? To be filled with the Spirit is to be filled with the Spirit's ideas; and what exciting ideas are his! With the Spirit's purposes; and what inspiring purposes are his! With the Spirit's love; and what an immensity of stirring impulses is in that love!—D.T.
Drunkenness and its antidote.
I. THE SIN . It was the mistake of some of the earlier advocates of temperance to dwell too much on the economic arguments against drunkenness, to the neglect of those which are supplied by religion. That dissipation wrecks a man's position in the world is plain and sad enough. But it is not worldly self-interest that is chiefly outraged thereby. The sin of drunkenness is its great condemnation. It is a sin against God and man.
1. It desecrates the temple of the Holy Ghost .
2. It unfits a man for his mission in the world .
3. It occasions brutal unkindness to others , robbing the family of daily bread for the sake of gross self-indulgence, bringing poverty and gloom, wretchedness and terror on the home, and giving to children a hideous inheritance of disease and constitutional tendencies to the same vice.
4. It opens the door for other vices . Instead of pleading intoxication as an excuse for a crime committed in the madness of drink, a man should be made to feel that the wickedness of putting himself into such a condition was aggravated by the terrible results.
II. THE TEMPTATION . In order to remedy the fearful evil we must consider how it arises.
1. From customs of sociability . Drinking has been regarded as an almost necessary accompaniment of friendly intercourse.
2. From lack of mental occupation . Men spending hours together of a winter's night without any education to supply food for the mind resort to the glass as the one available relief from the tedium of doing nothing.
3. The craving or nervous stimulation . This is the real thirst of the excessive drinker. What is called "low spirits," resulting from general ill health, or nervous debility, or trouble, or as the natural consequence of previous indulgence , creates the craving for stimulants. Early in the present century , Lord Jeffrey quoted a statement of a physician of Liverpool, respecting some of the most prosperous merchants of that town. "He informs me," said the lord advocate, "that few of the richer sort live to be fifty, but die of a sort of atrophy. They eat too much, take little exercise , and , above all , have no nervous excitement ." This condition tempts to indulgence in nerve-stimulants.
III. THE ANTIDOTE . We must have an antidote if we would remedy the evil. Mere negative abstinence without anything to support and encourage it is impossible on a large scale and in the worst cases. St. Paul, by a flash of inspiration reveals the cure. "Be filled with the Spirit." These are old words. Yet they read strangely in the present connection—so little have they been heeded by zealous but unimaginative and unspiritual social reformers. We are to pray for the Spirit of God which Christ assures us will be given to all who ask for it ( Luke 11:13 ). How is this to counteract drunkenness?
1. It counteracts the craving for nervous stimulation . It is itself a pure and vitalizing spiritual stimulus, infusing at once restfulness and energy.
2. It supplies interest and occupation . For the Spirit of God is the inspiration of thought and power.
3. It purifies and elevates social intercourse . They who are filled with the Spirit will find that "singing and making melody in their hearts" is a more congenial accompaniment of social intercourse than drinking strong drinks.—W.F.A.
THE WALK SUITABLE TO THE CHILDREN OF LIGHT .
And be not intoxicated with wine, wherein is dissoluteness. Drunkenness is suggested because it is a work of darkness; it is the foe to vigilance and earnestness, and it leads all who yield to it to act unwisely. It is the social aspect of drunkenness the apostle has in view—the exhilarating influence of wine in company, giving a rush of high spirits. ασωτία , from α and σωζω , the opposite of savingness, wastefulness, dissoluteness, or the process of being dissolved, involving perdition. Spoken of the prodigal son, "riotous living;" the habit which sends everything to wreck and ruin . But be filled with the Spirit. Instead of resorting to wine to cheer and animate you, throw your hearts open the Holy Spirit, so that he may come and fill them; seek the joy that the Spirit inspires when he makes you to sit with Christ in heavenly places, so that, instead of pouring out your joyous feelings in bacchanalian songs, you may do so in Christian hymns.