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Ephesians ?. 18, 19. Be not drunk with wine, wheretn is excess ; but be filled with the spirit: speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and sphritwd songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, On the first reading of these words, it may not be eyident to every one what is the connection between the first part of them and the second, between the command not to be drunken with wine, and the bidding tliem to be filled with the Spirit. When we begin to think, however, about it, we shall recollect that when the Spirit first descended on the day of Pentecost, some of those who saw its efiects said mockingly, * These men are full of new wine ; ' and when we consider it a little more, we shall see that the direction of the Apostle in the text relates to that which in this generation is even more familiar tlian it was of old ; to that which, varying in form, is yet in one shape or other universally acceptable, and is found to be one of the greatest of human pleasures, — ^"I mean, excitement. The Apostle notices one sort of evil excitement, the lowest certainly, but one of the most common of all ; and on the other liand he notices one sort of good and wholesome excitement, not indeed the most common of all, yet tlie best and piu-est.
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Let us first see what we mean by excitement ; a term which may not be quite clear to all of us, or at least
our notions may not be distinct about it, though we may understand its meaning generally. ow here, if we understood our nature perfectly, we might perhaps be able to describe what excitement properly speaking is, how it is caused, and on what part of our system it acts. But^ as in so many other instances, the imperfections of our knowledge oblige us to be content with much less than this ; we cannot do more than describe excitement by its efifects. To speak generally, that is excitement which interrupts our quiet and ordinary state of mind with some more lively feeliug ; which makes us live more consciously, and in a manner quicker, than we do in commoD. This more lively life, if I may so speak, is pleasant universally, or almost universally ; but the nature of the excitement, or rather the things which are capable of exciting different classes of men, and different individuals, are of course exceedingly different. Highly agreeable and intellectual society, which to some is one of the most exciting things in the world, is to others one of the least so ; and the same may be said of poetry and of music. But whatever does excite us, also pleases us ; and the pleasure, or at any rate the craving, grows with the indulgence; whence arises the known difficulty of persuading a confirmed drunkard to leave off his habit of drinking. Life is so insupportable to him when robbed of its excitement, that he cannot persuade himself to abandon his propensity, although knowing its sin and its danger. The direction of the Apostle in the text bids us choose that excitement which is good and healthy, instead of that which is bad and mischievous. And, as I said before, the command which was needful in his days is even more so now. I do not mean, indeed, with regard
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to the particular excitement of drunkenness ; for although that was not, probably, a very general vice in those days amongst the inhabitants of a warm climate, yet neither is it in our rank of society general amongst us now. And comparing our own country, and the richer classes in it especially, with what they were forty or fifty years ago, we shall find that there is much less danger from this temptation now than formerly; in feet, in the ordinary state of things, it can hardly be called a danger at all. But the increase of other sorts of excitement has more than kept up with the decrease of this. The whole state of society is more exciting ; — the great inventions which have been made in various ways enable men to do more than they coidd formerly, and in a much less time ; that is, they enable them to live at a quicker rate ; they also multiply pleasures, and put tliem more within our reach, thus acciLstoming us the more to crave for them. And in books this is exceedingly striking. We have heard of the 8tory of that Grecian king who ordered a magnificent Persian feast to 1)6 served up side by side with the simple meal of his own countrymen, to contrast the luxury of tlie one with the plain and frugal habits of the other. So if we could place side by side the books which formed a Ixiy's entertaining reading thirty or forty years ago, with those which are within his reach now, the difference woidd not be less extraordinary. Those whose experience does not reach so far back would hardly believe how simple was the feast, so to speak, which was set before their fathers, when compared with the variety and the richness of that which they now enjoy. All this is not without its effect, nor can it be. The mind early Ix^^ins to lose the keenness of its wonder, because it is so early made acquainted with such a variety of objects. Forty years ago, the probability would have been, that out of a number of persons of the age of those
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who now hear me, very few would have travelled further than from their own homes to school, and all else would have been new to them. But now the exception would probably be of those who had not seen more than this ; in most cases it would be much the contrary. Thus, manhood is in various ways anticipated in youth. Much that used to strike the mind at twenty, or five and twenty, with all the freshness of novelty, is now become familiar to it before that period ; there is, therefore, a craving for something more ; and it seems difficult to conceive what will be the effect twenty or thirty years hence, when those who have been brought up amidst all this excitement shall have passed the prime of life, and shall have exhausted in forty years more than those sources of interest which used formerly, under a more sparing distribution of them, to last out for our threescore years and ten. Again, with regard to that low excitement spoken of in the text, the course to be taken is sufficiently plain. ' Be not drunk with wine ;' — abstain, as you may do, from a vice so degrading and so fatal. But how can we say, ' Be not led away by the excitement of our present state of society?' How is it possible for you to escape it? Is it not around you on every side ? And with regard to books in particular, would it be wise, even if it were practicable, to advise you to content yourselves with such as amused your fathers? Here, then, is an excitement, of doubtful character indeed, yet still inevitable. The world is moving at a quicker pace, and we cannot help moving on with it. Yet two things we can do; the one to watch ourselves amidst this worldly excitement, and not allow ourselves to move faster than we must ; the other to have recourse betimes, to begin early, and to go on late, with that other and divine excitement of which
the Apostle speaks, and whose virtue, alike to kindle, to
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strengthen, and to soothe, keeps pace by Christ's appointment with the increased activity of what is of doubtful character, or of evil. And first, let us watch ourselves amidst this worldly excitement, and not allow ourselves to move faster than we must. In this respect our studies here greatly help us. For as it were foolish to bid you live out of your own time, and not to avail yourselves of its inventions and activity, so it is the happiness of our employments here that they hinder us from living in our own time exclusively. They aa^uaint us and oblige us to become familiar with a calmer and simpler beauty, with a less pretending and excited wisdom than that of our own age. And what the studies of this place do for us, we may also now and hereafter do for ourselves. We may, and should, always temper the draught of modem interests, and tastes, and passions, with the cooling and sobering study of those of past times. In this way it is possible to partake of the activity of the present witliout catcliing its feverishness ; our very taste will shrink from what is over-exciting, as the healthy appetite shrinks from over-luxuriousness of living in matters of food. Again, — although this undoubtedly is harder to practise, — yet those who are entering upon life may in other ways also t<^mper and moderate the vehemence of their progress. It may not be needful, or far less needful than formerly, to say, * Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess ; ' but it is quite needful to warn against excesses of other kinds. I do not speak of tilings absolutely sinful, but of things over-exciting. Excess of bodily exercise, to which consciousness of strength often tempts us ; excess of intellectual exercise,
whether in reading or in society, to which we are no less tempted by a consciousness of power of mind ; excess even in our hours ;— for though it seems a little thing to speak of, yet it is really not so ; and the habit of sitting
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up during a great part of the night is essentially injurious^ let the hours thus unnaturally gained be employed as they wilL I well know that to all these things there are abundant temptations ; but do you suppose that, forty or fifty years ago, the temptations were less to the grosser excitement of drunkenness ? And if every one would say that it would have been our duty then to struggle against that temptation, shall we not confess also that it is our duty to strive against those temptations of our own days, wherein there is excess also, though of another kind ; excess and excitement opposed to that happiest of all tempers, the temper of Christian sober-mindedness ? But most of all, while we strive to lessen our worldly excitement, let us begin early and go on late with that divine excitement of which there is no fear of drinking in over-measure. I am not forgetting the evils of fanaticism ; but is the spirit of fanaticism indeed the Spirit of Grod ; and is not the Spirit of God as truly a spirit of peace and wisdom as it is a spirit of love and of power ? Truly we need put no caution, no restraint, on the Apostle's command, * Be ye filled with the Spirit.' Study the things of God in their depth and in their simplicity, and then see how they realize that seemingly impossible problem, at once to excite and soothe. I spoke of exhausting subjects of human interest, — of having accustomed our taste and feelings to such varied indulgences from early years, that ere the vigour of man-
hood was over they would have lost all healthful activity, and crave the strongest excitements to awaken them. But who can ever exhaust the subjects of eternal interest? Who has come to the end of the goodness of God ? Who has sounded the depths of His wisdom, or drained to the bottom the cup of His love ? Enter life as Christians, and you need not fear lest the world should hurry you on too rapidly. There is much to learn, much to admire, much
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to eiyoy, and maeh to do. Vast powers are at work, vast results producing ; do not despise them, nor yet fear them. Walk amidst them, study them, use them ; you will not be carried away with their intoxication ; for on the one hand you see also what there is in them of weakness and of unworthinesB, whilst you see and know what is hid firom other eyes, — the workings of a far greater power, results a thousand times more wonderful; — good brought out of evil, — good triumphing amidst evil, and over it, — self ¦abdued, — Ood glorified, — Christ's kingdom advanced in man^s salvation. ever at any time, since the Ghxipel was first preached to mankind, were its peculiar qualities better fitted to the peculiar evils of the world. It raised and excited an age of barbarism : it is no less able to excite and to tranquillixe an age of the highest civilization. For let the human mind go on as fiur as it will, and the wisdom of the Gospel still expands before it, satisfying its highest refinement, as it humbled itself to its greatest ignorance. But whilst giving a perpetual interest to life, it is also perpetu^ ally soothing, because it calls us to those thoughts and to those quiet and humble actions which must be sobering ; which must stay the vehemence of our feelings, and give us intervals of rest and of peace. But who can be thus filled with the Spirit, unless he
seek the appointed mean of gaining it? In comparing the reading of the present generation with that of their fistthers, I cannot but think that amongst the higher classes of ^society the Scriptures are less familiarly known than they were formerly, in those cases where religion has been really attended to. There were more instances of utter ignorance and carelessness in former times ; but where there was a serious mind, and a religious education, I am not sure whether the Bible was not more familiarly known than it is in similar instances now. But be this as it may, it is at least certain that very many who are in earnest. and who serve God in Christ Jesus, are yet so far deficient in their knowledge of the Scripture, that its various stores for counsel, for encouragement, for warning, are not enough at their command ; they go out into the world, knowing some other things better. This, however, should not be so ; it is not well to be more familiar with anything than with the word of life and truth. This should be our most complete knowledge, as it is our best ; and thus only will the Gospel be found to answer as fully to our intellectual wants, as we know it to answer to our moral wants, even when our knowledge of it is far less perfect.
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