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with idolatry, because, while ignorant of the unseen but Omnipresent God, he invests the glowing sun with divine attributes, or bows himself down before the brightness of the silvery moon, and shall that man be judged free from idolatry, who resigns his whole being to the influence of intoxicating drinks—who says, by the praises he heaps upon them—by the wealth he devotes to their service, and by the frequency with which he courts their favour, “Ye are my Gods ?”
It is not the picture, the statue, the altar, or the temple, which the idolater may reverence, that gives birth to the sin of idolatry. These things are but the visible signs of that alienation of the heart, from the living and true God, which preceded their existence. They are but the symbols of erroneous principles, and perverted affections; and the idolatry of the inner man has often subjugated every power, and feeling, and sentiment to itself, while its existence has been unattested by any statue, or altar, or temple, or priesthood.
But the idolatry of intemperance is not, merely, a sin of the heart :-it is not, merely, the going forth of the soul after a creature, to the neglect of the Creator. The subject of this sin is subject to it in body, soul, and spirit; and wherever its votaries exist, in any number, and
are permitted to follow out the suggestions of their depraved desires, they give the most substantial proofs of their devotion to their idols,proofs, as obvious as any which demonstrated to the mind of the Apostle, that Athens was a city wholly given to idolatry,
The Intemperance of Britain is distinguished by all the external characters, which have ever marked the most imposing or offensive forms of idolatry.
These are now far more numerous than the sanctuaries of God :* and many of them, both in magnitude and splendour, very far surpass the majority of those temples which have been erected to the honour of the Almighty.
Go through the length and breadth of all the chief cities of the land, and it will be found, that while many of our houses of prayer are of the humblest description, are often concealed in courts and alleys, and are only to be seen at distant intervals, the places dedicated to the traffic in intoxicating drinks, are erected at the corner of almost every street, and, while towering far above every adjacent building, are often adorned with every embellishment, which ingenuity can devise, or wealth can purchase. Athens, it is true, exhibited
* In England and Wales there are one hundred thousand !
a few imposing monuments of its idolatry. It had its temples which were sacred to Jupiter, to Neptune, to Ceres, and other imaginary deities, but especially to its own Minerva; and some of these were noble displays of its taste, and wealth, and power : but London, alone, can boast of its 5,000 temples, devoted to as gross, and humiliating an idolatry, as was ever chargeable upon the most enraptured worshipper of a Venus, or a Bacchus. Bacchus is, indeed, the god who is, literally, enshrined in many of those temples. The pictures and statues, by which they are ornamented, are the representations of his person, or the symbols of his worship; and were an ancient Greek, or Roman to be introduced to some of them, he could by no possibility imagine them to be otherwise than sacred to that God, whose likeness he would see so lavishly, and attractively displayed.*
IN THE SECOND PLACE, OUR IDOLATRY IS DIS
TINGUISHED BY ITS PRIESTHOOD. The idolatry of Athens, like other pagan systems, was not without its priesthood, who furnished whatever was necessary for its servicewho ministered in its temples, and at its altars,
* See appendix B.
and who received the oblations of its credulous and deluded votaries. In like manner, intemperance is upheld by a numerous and powerful priesthood. Thousands upon thousands* are engaged in its service, who, being like the shrinemakers of the Ephesian Diana, deeply interested in the perpetuity of their craft, denounce every attempt to awaken their infatuated supporters to a sense of their folly, as an act of impiety and sacrilege.
These priests and priestesses of the British Bacchus, may, at one time, be seen in vast establishments, preparing the insinuating liquor which is sacred to the drunken god, and by which their own mighty influence is upheld; and at another, arrayed in their gayest vestments, presiding in
* In England and Wales at least a million persons are employed in making and selling strong drink. The number in Ireland and Scotland is much larger in proportion to the population. In Glasgow, in 1832, there was one spirit dealer to every fourteen families. In Dumbarton, one to every eleven and a half families.
From Dr. Cleland's Statistics of Glasgow, it appears, that there were more people employed, in that city, in the · preparation and sale of intoxicating liquors alone, than as bakers, confectioners, butchers, fishmongers, poulterers, grocers, victuallers, gardeners, fruiterers, and all classes employed in the preparation and sale of food.--Rep. on Drunkenness, p. 136-7.