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On the Dissipation of large Cities. "Let no man deceive you with vain words; for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the
children of disobedience."--Ephesians v. 6. There is one obvious respect in which Here, then, is a point, in which the general the standard of morality amongst men, dif- morality of the world is at utter and irrefers from that pure and universal standard concilable variance with the law of God. which God hath set up for the obedience Here is a case, in which the voice that cometh of his subjects. Men will not demand very forth from the tribunal of public opinion urgently of each other, that, which does pronounces one thing, and the voice that not very nearly, or very immediately, af- cometh forth from the sanctuary of God fect their own personal and particular in- pronounces another. When there is an terest. To the violations of justice, or agreement between these two voices, the truth, or humanity, they will be abundant- principle on which obedience is rendered to ly sensitive, because these offer a most vi- their joint and concurring authority, mar sible and quickly felt encroachment on be altogether equivocal; and, with relia this interest. And thus it is, that the social gious and irreligious men, you may obvirtues, even without any direct sanction serve an equal exhibition of all the equifrom God at all, will ever draw a certain ties, and all the civilities of life. But when portion of respect and reverence around there is a discrepancy between these two them; and that a loud testimony of abhor- voices—or when the one attaches a crimirence may often be heard from the mouths nality to certain habits of conduct, and is of ungodly men, against all such vices as not at all seconded by the testimony of may be classed under the general designa- the other—then do we escape the consttion of vices of dishonesty.
sion of mingled motives, and mingled auNow, the same thing does not hold true thorities. The character of the two parties of another class of vices, which may be emerges out of the ambiguity which intermed the vices of dissipation. These do volved it. The law of God points, it must not touch, in so visible or direct a manner, be allowed, as forcible an anathema against on the security of what man possesses, and the man of dishonesty, as against the man of what man has the greatest value for. of dissipation. But the chief burden of the But man is a selfish being, and therefore it world's anathema is laid on the head of is, that the ingredient of selfishness gives a the former; and therefore it is, that, on the keenness to his estimation of the evil and latter ground, we meet with more discriof the enormity of the former vices, which minative tests of principle, and gather more is scarcely felt at all in any estimation he satisfying materials for the question ofmay form of the latter vices. It is very who is on the side of the Lord of hosts, and true, at the same time, that if one were to who is against him? compute the whole amount of the mischief The passage we have now submitted to they bring upon society, it would be found you, looks hard on the votaries of dissithat the profligacies of mere dissipation go pation. It is like eternal truth, lifting up very far to break up the peace, and enjoy- its own proclamation, and causing it to be ment, and even the relative virtues of the heard amid the errors and the delusions world: and that, if these profligacies were of a thoughtless world. It is like the Deity reformed, it would work a mighty aug- himself, looking forth, as he did, from a mentation on the temporal good both of cloud, on the Egyptians of old, and trouindividuals and families. But the con- bling the souls of those who are lovers of nexion between sobriety of character, and pleasure, more than lovers of God. It is the happiness of the community, is not so like the voice of heaven, crying down the apparent, because it is more remote than voice of human society, and sending forth the connexion which obtains between in- a note of alarm amongst its giddy genera tegrity of character, and the happiness of tions. It is like the unrolling of a portion the community; and man being not only of that book of higher jurisprudence, out a selfish, but a shortsighted being, it fol- of which we shall be judged on the day of lows, that while the voice of execration may our coming account, and setting before our be distinctly heard against every instance of eyes an enactment, which, if we disregard it, fraud or of injustice, instances of licentious- will turn that day into the day of our com ness may occur on every side of us, and be ing condemnation. The words of man are reported on the one hand with the utmost adverted to in this solemn proclamation of levity, and be listened to, on the other, with God, against all unlawful and all unhalthe most entire and complacent toleration. I lowed enjoyments, and they are called words of vanity. He sets aside the au-| his keeping all the rest. It may be the only thority of human opinion altogether; and, point on which the character of his loyalty on an irrevocable record, has he stamped is really brought to the trial. All his consuch an assertion of the authority that beformities to the law of God might have been Jongeth to himself only, as serves to the rendered, because they thwarted not his end of time for an enduring memorial of own inclination; and, therefore, would have his will; and as commits the truth of the been rendered though there had been no Lawgiver to the execution of a sentence law at all. The single infraction may have of wrath against all whose souls are taken place in the only case where there hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. There was a real competition between the will of is, in fact, a peculiar deceitfulness iii the the creature, and the will of the Creator; matter before us; and, in this verse, are and the event proves to which of the two we warned against it—“Let no man de- the right of superiority is awarded. Alleceive you with vain words; for, because giance to God in truth is but one principle, of these things, the wrath of God cometh and may be described by one short and on the children of disobedience.”
summary expression: and one act of disIn the preceding verse, there is such an obedience may involve in it such a total surenumeration as serves to explain what the render of the principle, as goes to dethrone things are which are alluded to in the text; God altogether from the supremacy which and it is such an enumeration, you should belongs to him. So that the account beremark, as goes to fasten the whole terror, tween a creature and the Creator is not like and the whole threat, of the coming ven- an account made up of many items, where geance—not on the man who combines in the expunging of one item would only make his own person all the characters of ini- one small and fractional deduction from the quity which are specified, but on the man whole sum of obedience. If you reserve who realizes any one of these characters. but a single item from this account, and anIt is not, you will observe, the conjunction other makes a principle of completing and and, but the conjunction or, which is in- rendering up the whole of it, then your chaterposed between them. It is not as if we racter varies from his not by a slight shade said, that the man who is dishonest, and of difference, but stands contrasted with it licentious, and covetous, and unfeeling, in direct and diametric opposition. We shall not inherit the kingdom of God-but perceive, that, while with him the will of the man who is either dishonest, or licen- God has the mastery over all his inclinatious, or covetous, or unfeeling. On the tions, with you there is, at least, one inclisingle and exclusive possession of any one nation which has the mastery over God; of these attributes, will God deal with you that while in his bosom there exists a single as with an enemy. The plea, that we are and subordinating principle of allegiance to a little thoughtless, but we have a good the law, in yours there exists another prinheart, is conclusively cut asunder by this ciple, which, on the coming round of a fit portion of the law and of the testimony. opportunity, developes itself in an act of And in a corresponding passage, in the transgression; that, while with him God ninth verse of the sixth chapter of Paul's may be said to walk and to dwell in him, first epistle to the Corinthians, the same with you there is an evil visitant, who has peculiarity is observed in the enumeration taken up his abode in your heart, and lodges of those who shall be excluded from God's there either in a state of dormancy or of favour, and have the burden of God's action, according to circumstances; that, wrath laid on them through eternity. It is while with him the purpose is honestly not the man who combines all the deformi- proceeded on, of doing nothing which God ties of character which are there specified, disapproves, with you there is a purpose but the man who realizes any one of the not only different, but opposite, of doing separate deformities. Some of them are something which he disapproves. On this the vices of dishonesty, others of them are single difference is suspended not a question the vices of dissipation; and, as if aware of degree, but a question of kind. There of a deceitfulness from this cause, he, after are presented to us not two hues of the telling us that the unrighteous shall not in- same colour, but two colours, just as broadly herit the kingdom of God, bids us not be contrasted with each other as light and deceived-for that neither the licentious, darkness. And such is the state of the alnor the abominable, nor thieves, nor covet- ternative between a partial and an unreous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor ex- served obedience, that while God imperatortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of tively claims the one as his due, he looks God.
on the other as an expression of defiance He who keepeth the whole law, but of- against him, and against his sovereignty. fendeth in one point, says the Apostle James, It is the very same in civil government. is guilty of all. The truth is, that his dis- A man renders himself an outcast by one obedience on this one point may be more de-act of disobedience. He does not need to cisive of the state of his loyalty to God, than I accumulate upon himself the guilt of all the
higher atrocities in crime, ere he forseits his ration, but would destroy it altogether. lise to the injured laws of his country. By The man who has entered on a course of the perpetration of any of them is the whole Christian discipleship, carries on an unvengeance of the state brought to bear upon sparing and universal war with all iniquity. his person, and sentence of death is pro- He has chosen Christ for his alone master, nounced on a single murder, or forgery, or and he struggles against the ascendency of act of violent depredation.
every other. It is his sustained and habitual And let us ask you just to reflect on the exertion in following after him to forsake tone and spirit of that man towards his God, all; so that if his performances were as who would palliate, for example, the vices complete as his endeavour, you would not of dissipation to which he is addicted, by merely see a conformity to some of the alleging his utter exemption from the vices precepts, but a conformity to the whole law of dishonesty, to which he is not addicted. of God.' At all events, the endeavour is an Just think of the real disposition and cha- honest one, and so far successful, that sin racter of his soul, who can say, "I will has not the dominion; and sure we are, please God, but only when, in so doing, 1 that, in such a state of things, the vices of also please myself; or I will do homage to dissipation can have no existence. These his law, but just in those instances by which vices can be more effectually shunned, and I honour the rights, and fulfil the expecta- more effectually surmounted, for example, tions, of society; or I will be decided by than the infirmities of an unhappy temper. his opinion of the right and the wrong, but So that, if dissipation still attaches to the just when the opinion of my neighbourhood character, and appears in the conduct of any lends its powerful and effective confirma- individual, we know not a more decisive tion. But in other cases, when the matter evidence of the state of that individual as is reduced to a bare question between man being one of the many who crowd the broad and God, when he is the single party I have way that leadeth to destruction. We look to do with, when his will and his wrath are no further to make out our estimate of his the only elements which enter iņto the de present condition as being that of a rebel, liberation, when judgment, and eternity, and of his future prospect as being that of and the voice of him who'speaketh from spending an eternity in hell. There is no heaven are the only considerations at issue- halting between two opinions in this matter. then do I feel myself at greater liberty, and The man who enters a career of dissipation I shall take my own way, and walk in the throws down the gauntlet of defiance to his counsel of mine own heart, and after the God. The man who persists in this career sight of my own eyes.” O! be assured, keeps on the ground of hostility against that when all this is laid bare on the day of him. reckoning, and the discerner of the heart Let us now endeavour to trace the origin, pronounces upon it, and such a sentence is the progress, and the effects of a life of disto be given, as will make it manifest to the sipation. consciences of all assembled, that true and First, then, it may be said of a very great righteous are the judgments of God—there number of young men, on their entrance is many a creditable man who has passed into the business of the world, that they have through the world with the plaudits and not been enough fortified against its sethe testimonies of all his fellows, and with- ducing influences by their previous educaout one other flaw upon his reputation but tion at home. Generally speaking, they the very slender one of certain harmless come out from the habitation of their pafoibles, and certain good-humoured pecu- rents unarmed and unprepared for the conliarities, who when brought to the bar of test which awaits them. If the spirit of account, will stand convicted there of having this world's morality reign in their own famade a divinity of his own will
, and spent mily, then it cannot be, that their introduchis days in practical and habitual atheism. tion into a more public scene of life will be
And this argument is not at all affected very strictly guarded against those vices on by the actual state of sinsulness and infirmity which the world placidly smiles, or at least into which we have fallen. It is true, even regards with silent toleration. They may of saints on earth, that they commit sin. have been told, in early boyhood, of the inBut to be overtaken in a fault is one thing; famy of a lie. They may have had the virto commit that fault with the deliberate con- tues of punctuality, and of economy, and sent of the mind is another. There is in the of regular attention to business, pressed upon bosom of every true Christian a strenuous their observation. They may have heard a principle of resistance to sin, and it belongs uniform testimony on the side of good beto the very essence of the principle that it haviour, up to the standard of such current is resistance to all sin. It admits of no vo- moralities as obtain in their neiglibourhood; luntary indulgence to one sin more than and this, we are ready to admit, may into another. Such an indulgence would not clude in it a testimony against all such exonly change the character of what may be cesses of dissipation as would unfit them called the elementary principle of regene-) for the prosecution of this world's interesis
But let us ask, whether there are not pa- | mily a place in the city which hath foundarents, who, after they have carried the work tions, will he spurn all the maxims and all of discipline thus far, forbear to carry it any the plausibilities of a contagious neighbourfarther; who, while they would mourn over | hood away from him. He knows the price it as a family trial should any son of theirs of his Christianity, and it is that he must fall a victim to excessive dissipation, yet are break off conformity with the world-nor willing to tolerate the lesser degrees of it; for any paltry advantage which it has to who, instead of deciding the question on offer, will he compromise the eternity of his the alternative of his heaven or his hell, are children. And let us tell the parents of ansatisfied with such a measure of sobriety as other spirit and principle, that they are as will save him from ruin and disgrace in this good as incurring the guilt of a human salife; who, if they can can only secure this, crifice; that they are offering up their chilhave no great objection to the moderate dren at the shrine of an idol; that they are share he may take in this world's conform parties in provoking the wrath of God ities; who feel, that in this matter there is against them here; and on the day when a necessity and a power of example against that wrath is to be revealed, shall they hear which it is vain to struggle, and which must not only the moanings of their despair but be acquiesced in; who deceive themselves the outcries of their bitterest execration. with the fancied impossibility of stopping On that day, the glance of reproach from the evil in question and say, that business their own neglected offspring will throw a must be gone through; and that, in the deeper shade of wretchedness over the dark prosecution of it, exposures must be made; and boundless futurity that lies before them. and that, for the success of it, a certain de- And if, at the time when prophets rung the gree of accommodation to others must be tidings of God's displeasure against the peoobserved ; and seeing that it is so mighty ple of Israel it was denounced as the foulest an object for one to widen the extent of his of all their abominations that they caused connexions, he must neither be very retired their children to pass through the fire unto nor very peculiar-nor must his hours of Moloch-know, ye parents, who in placing companionship be too jealously watched or your children on some road to gainful em-inquired into-nor must we take him too ployment, have placed them without a sigh strictly to task about engagements, and ac- in the midst of depravity, so near and so quaintances, and expenditure—nor must we surrounding, that, without a miracle, they forget, that while sobriety has its time and must perish, you have done an act of idolaits season in one period of lise, indulgence try to the god of this world; you have comhas its season in another; and we may fetch manded your household after you to worfrom the recollected follies of our own ship him as the great divinity of their lives; youth, a lesson of connivance for the pre- and you have caused your children to make sent occasion; and altogether there is no their approaches unto his presence—and, help for it; and it appears to us, that abso- in so doing, to pass through the fire of lutely and totally to secure him from ever such temptations as have destroyed them. entering upon scenes of dissipation, you We do not wish to offer you an overmust absolutely and totally withdraw him charged picture on this melancholy subject. from the world, and surrender all his pros | What we now say is not applicable to all. pects of advancement, and give up the ob-| Even in the most corrupt and crowded of ject of such a provision for our families as our cities, parents are to be found, who nowe feel to be a first and most important bly dare the surrender of every vain and concern with us.
flattering illusion, rather than surrender the " Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his Christianity of their children. And what righteousness,” says the Bible, “and all other is still more affecting, over the face of the things shall be added unto you.” This is the country do we meet with such parents, who promise which the faith of a Christian pa- look on this world as a passage to another, rent will rest upon; and in the face of every and on all the members of their household hazard to the worldly interests of his off- as fellow-travellers to eternity along with spring, will he bring them up in the strict nur- them; and who, in the true spirit of beture and admonition of the Lord; and he will lievers, feel the salvation of their children loudly protest against iniquity, in all its de- to be, indeed, the burden of their best and grees and in all its modifications; and while dearest interest; and who, by prayer, and the power of discipline remains with him, precept, and example, have strenuously la. will it ever be exerted on the side of pure, boured with their souls, from the earliest fiultless, undeviating obedience; and he light of their understanding; and have will tolerate no exception whatever; and he taught them to tremble at the way of evil will brave all that looks formidable in singu-doers, and to have no fellowship with those larity, and all that looks menacing in sepa- who keep not the commandments of Godration from the custom and countenance of nor is there a day more sorrowsul in the the world ; and feeling that his main con- annals of this pious family, than when the cern is to secure for himself and for his fa- 1 course of time has brought them onwards
to the departure of their eldest boy—and he the spirit of this world's morality, are not must bid adieu to his native home, with all sensibly arrested in this career, either by the peace, and all the simplicity which the opposition of their own friends, or by abound in it—and as he eyes in fancy the the voice of their own conscience. Those distant town whither he is going, does he who have imbibed an opposite spirit, and shrink as from the thought of an unknown have brought it into competition with an wilderness—and it is his firm purpose to evil world, and have at length yielded, have keep aloof from the dangers and the profli- done so, we may well suppose, with many gacies which deform it-and, should sinners a sigh, and many a struggle, and many a offer to entice him, not to consent, and look of remembrance on those former years never, never to forget the lessons of a fa- when they were taught to lisp the prayer ther's vigilance, the tenderness of a mother's of infancy, and were trained in a mansion prayers.
of piety to a reverence for God, and for all Let us now, in the next place, pass from his ways; and, even still, will a parent's partthat state of things which obtains among the ing advice haunt his memory, and a letter young at their outset into the world, and from the good old man revive the sensibilities take a look of that state of things which which at one time guarded and adorned him; obtains after they have got fairly introduced and, at times, will the transient gleam of into it-when the children of the ungodly, remorse lighten up its agony within him; and the children of the religious, meet on and when he contrasts the profaneness and one common arena-when business asso-depravity of his present companions, with ciates them together in one chamber, and the sacredness of all he ever heard or saw the omnipotence of custom lays it upon in his father's dwelling, it will almost feel them all to meet together at periodic inter- as if conscience were again to resume her vals, and join in the same parties, and the power, and the revisiting spirit of God to same entertainments—when the yearly im- call him back again from the paths of wickportation of youths from the country falls edness; and on his restless bed will the in with that assimilating mass of corrup- images of guilt conspire to disturb him, and tion which has got so firm and so rooted the terrors of punishment offer to scare him an establishment in the town—when the away; and many will be the dreary and frail and unsheltered delicacies of the timid dissatisfied intervals when he shall be forced boy have to stand a rude and a boisterous to acknowledge that in bartering his soul contest with the hardier depravity of those for the pleasures of sin, he has bartered the who have gone before him—when ridicule, peace and enjoyment of the world along and example, and the vain words of a de- with it. But, alas! the entanglements of lusive sophistry, which palliates in his hear- companionship have got hold of him; and ing the enormity of vice, are all brought to the inveteracy of habit tyrannizes over all bear upon his scruples, and to stifle the re- his purposes; and the stated opportunity morse he might feel when he casts his prin- again comes round; and the loud laugh of ciple and his purity away from him--when, his partners in guilt chases, for another seaplaced as he is in a land of strangers, he son, all his despondency away from him; finds, that the tenure of acquaintanceship, and the infatuation gathers upon him every with nearly all around him, is, that he ren- month; and a hardening process goes on der himself up in a conformity to their within his heart; and the deceitfulness of doings-when a voice, like the voice of sin grows apace; and he at length becomes protecting friendship, bids him to the feast; one of the sturdiest and most unrelenting and a welcome, like the welcome of honest of her votaries; and he, in his turn, strengthkindness, hails his accession to the society; ens the conspiracy that is formed against and a spirit, like the spirit of exhilarating the morals of a new generation; and all the joy, animates the whole scene of hospitality ingenuous delicacies of other days are obbefore him; and hours of rapture roll suc- literated; and he contracts a temperament cessively away on the wings of merriment, of knowing, hackneyed, unfeeling deprajocularity, and song; and after the homage vity; and thus the mischief is transmitof many libations has been rendered to ted from one year to another, and keeps up honour, and fellowship, and patriotism, im- the guilty history of every place of crowdpurity is at length proclaimed in full and ed population. open cry, as one presiding divinity, at the And let us here speak one word to those board of their social entertainment. seniors in depravity-those men who give
And now it remains to compute the gene- to the corruption of acquaintances, who are ral result of a process, which we assert of younger than themselves, their countethe vast majority of our young, on their nance, their agency; and who can initiate way to manhood, that they have to under- them without a sigh in the mysteries of go. The result is, that the vast majority guilt
, and care not though a parent's hope are initiated into all the practices, and should wither and expire under the contadescribe the full career of dissipation. gion of their ruffian example. It is only Those who have imbibed from their fathers upon their own conversion that we can