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ST. LUKE xxi. 34.
And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.
THESE are our Lord's own words to us in the Gospel. In the preceding verses He had been speaking of the signs which should immediately go before His coming— signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars, upon the earth distress of nations, the sea and the waves roaring. When these signs should be seen, His people were to lift up their heads, for their redemption was at hand. Lest, however, that awful Advent of their Lord to judgment, should prove to any of them, not a day of redemption, but of final captivity—lest its suddenness should take them by surprise, He urges them, in a very solemn manner, to be prepared against it. And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and the cares of this life, and so
that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye, therefore, and pray always, thut ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man!
Now, brethren, I have often said it, the coming of the Son of man is to each of us, as far as our individual interests are concerned, the same as the day of our death. Then the soul meets its Judge. Then we stand with our life's work ended, before the Great Master, Who will render to each of us according to that we have done, whether it be good or bad.
I do not say that no time will intervene between our death and the actual coming of the Lord—there may be countless ages in the interim, but the delay will in no wise affect us. We shall probably know nothing, or feel nothing, from the moment that we draw our latest breath, to that moment when, raised up out of our graves by His voice, we stand at the dread tribunal, and give account, each of himself, to God.
Such being the case, the language of our Lord in the text, His warning against unreadiness, His call to us to watch and pray always, is a call and a warning good for us to hear at all times.
In spite of the uncertainty of life--in spite of the quickness with which it passes, few of us, I fear, observe an attitude of watchfulness-few of us so use our life that we may be accounted worthy to escape those things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man !
For all of us, then, the Take heed to yourselves, which is here spoken to us by Christ, may, under any circumstance, be a fit subject for exhortation.
But there seems a peculiar fitness in the employment of such a text just now. We have lost one of our number by an untimely death-a death that fills the heart with grief to contemplate—a death that justifies all too literally the foreboding of our Lord_death following close upon-must I not say caused by-drunkenness!
I cannot but hope and pray, brethren, that such a death may prove in itself a warning to us here—more solemn, more effectual, than any words of mine about it. But I would, if I mignt, press the warning home. And to this end I again invite your attention to the charge addressed to us in the text-Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares !
Surfeiting and drunkenness—the word surfeiting, in our English Bibles, means, in the original language in which St. Luke wrote, dizziness or headache caused by excess in drinking. Coupling with this the immediate mention of drunkenness—surfeiting and drunkenness—and what a witness have we against the sin of intemperance !
Observe, brethren, it is Christ Who says it-and what He says is this, that the sin of drunkenness is one chief hindrance to a man's being ready against His comingTake heed, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and so that day come upon you unawares.
I dwell upon this, because it is one of the points I wish we should all remember—a habit of drinking endangers the soul-it prevents a man from being ready
—from living so that he may meet his Lord with joy.
For can there be a question about it? When saw you a drunkard who did not transgress in other things as well ? When saw you a drunkard who was not also a blasphemer as well ? not afraid of taking God's name in vain ? not afraid of mocking at holy things ? When saw you a drunkard who reverenced the sabbath ? When the church bells chime on a Sunday, and they that fear the Lord are on their way to worship Him, where, for the most part, are the men who in any parish are addicted to the common vice of drinking? Why, at home-in bed, sleeping off the effects of the Saturday night's surfeit, or loitering listlessly about, till such time as the doors are open where they may renew their revelling.
I ask you, my brethren, if it be not so ? The blessed day of the Lord's rest—that day which He gave us, that we might recruit our tired frames, and attend to the interests of the soul—that day—we all know it—is profaned far and wide throughout England by drunkenness. The hours that ought to be given to God—the precious hours which, rightly used, might make wise unto salvation, are wasted by thousands, and tens of thousands amongst us, in an occupation which brings scandal upon public morals, while it is deadly to the miserable man who is engaged in it.
We shall all be agreed, then, that a habit of drinking unfits a man for death and judgment. It need not be that we should be carried off—as we have seen happen here—while actually under the stupor of his sin—such awful occurrences are, it is to be hoped, but seldom. But, granted that nothing unusual befalls him, granted that the drunkard is spared to die like another manwith space of illness before he is summoned—yet even still you will find in him a great unreadiness, a sad want of preparation. He himself will often tell you that he is not fit to die—he will shrink from appearing, after such a life, before the pure eyes of his Maker and his Judge!
Then, as you care for your immortal souls ! as you would not lose the hope of seeing God, nor forfeit that blessed inheritance which is yours as Christians — be warned, I beseech you, to flee this debasing vice of drunkenness!
If you have already gone some way in this evil path, I pray you, in God's name, stop !-stop while you can, before the habit is too strong for you-before it has wound its chains so entirely round you, that you cannot, if you would, be free! Stop, I say, in time—and with you who are young, there is surely yet time—and turn back from the broad path of intemperance, and so this iniquity shall not be your ruin !
But again. I have shewn you that a habit of drinking is ruinous to the soul, destructive of our hopes of heaven -it is not less ruinous to the body—not less destructive of our happiness on earth.
Drunkenness, as every medical man will tell you, enfeebles the human frame-takes from the strong man his strength-takes from the healthy man his health—fills