For those who sleep, sleep at night; and those who get drunk, get drunk at night.
I. THE CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT.
1. These are in darkness. The darkness is not confined to the illiterate. Nor is it confined to the inhabitants of heathen lands. People in Christian countries, who are familiar with the language of the New Testament, may be totally ignorant of its spiritual thought. Such people, though they sit in university chairs as professors of divinity, are blinded with midnight blackness. Was not Faust in the night?
2. Some of the children of the night sleep. These are the thoughtless and careless. They may be awake to secular business. But they slumber over moral and spiritual subjects. If they think of them at all it is with dreamy unconcern.
3. Others of the children of the night are awake only to evil. They spend the night in drunkenness. They hide shameful practices under the cloak of darkness.
4. The guilt of the children of the night is mitigated just in proportion as their benighting is not willful. If it arises from their unhappy circumstances, these unfortunate people cannot be condemned to the same doom as that of men who sin with their eyes open, or as that of those who willfully put out their eyes because they love darkness.
II. THE SONS OF THE DAY.
1. These are enlightened. They may not be brilliantly intellectual nor highly educated. They may be illiterate in human lore. But the "eyes of their hearts" (Ephesians 1:18) are opened. By faith and love and obedience they have come to know what God has revealed through his Spirit.
2. Sons of the day are expected to be wakeful. It is natural to sleep in the night. Sleep in the day betokens sinful indolence. The indifference of spiritually ignorant people is natural. That of Christians on whom has risen "the Dayspring from on high" is monstrous.
3. Sons of the day are expected to be sober. It is bad enough to be drunken in the night, but a debauch which is not shamed by the light of day proves itself to be scandalously depraved. There are excesses of passion, of self-will, and of worldly excitement which Christian people who have escaped the coarser sins fall into. These are not excusable in the children of the night, but they are much less excusable in the sons of the day. Sobriety becomes the enlightened Christian. This sobriety need not consist in Puritan rigor; much less should it partake of sourness, gloom, or prim formality. The sober Christian should remember that the typical citizen of the kingdom of heaven is a little child. Sobriety is just the opposite to unrestrained passionateness of pleasure or anger.
4. Sons of the day are provided with armor. The three graces - faith, hope, and love - constitute the armor of the Christian. They protect the two most vital parts - breast and head. Faith and love come together, for they interact. Faith working by love protects the heart. Hope, the hope of final deliverance from trial and temptation, is the helmet, because it protects the head by keeping the thoughts clear and calm. - W.F.A.
They that sleep sleep in the night, and they that be drunken are drunken in the night
I. THE ASSERTION WHICH PAUL MAKES. "Drunken in the night."
1. The words were probably meant to be taken literally. "Man goeth forth to his work and to his labour until the evening. There is little drunkenness till then. Between this and midnight the work is done (Romans 13:13).
2. But they were also meant to bear a figurative application. The night" was the whole life of the world, of the nation, of the man, until Christ rose like a glorious sun (1 Peter 4:3).(1) Explain the mystery that a habit so degrading should from the earliest time have obtained so firm a hold. What originates drunkenness? Night, says Paul, in the intellectual and moral nature. Paul's method, and that of the gospel, differs from that of many temperance advocates in going deeper. Get rid of drunkenness, urges the reformer, and you will get rid of most of your crimes. Get rid of the night, says Paul, and you will get rid of drunkenness.(2) What night? The night of ignorance, says one — let the man be taught; the night of discomfort — give the man a happy home; of solitude — find the man companions; of dullness — furnish wholesome excitement; of idleness — keep the man employed. Well, these are shadows of the night, but not night itself. Paul's "night" is that of Christlessness. "Without God and hope in the world." Jesus said, "I am the Light of the world," etc. (John 8:12).(3) There is one thing which the prince of darkness cannot do when attacked in his citadel of drunkenness. If you say that education will cure this evil, he will take the intellectual powers and stimulate them into fascinating play by the wine cup. He can furnish the public house with comfort, provide companionships, give excitement, and keep the hands busy. Try every weapon, but remember that the public house will catch the cue and point them at your own heart. But there is one power to which the devil will not appeal, and that is Christ (1 John 3:8).
II. THE APPEAL WHICH PAUL URGES. "Let us who are of the day be sober."
1. Paul was addressing Christians. A line was then drawn, clear cut, between the believer and the unbeliever. Now things have got somewhat mixed. The sad truth that we have to face is that it is an easier thing for thousands around us to grow up in drunken than in sober habits. Your free library may not be open on Sunday, but by command of government your public houses must. Whatever weight your legislation has ever the first day of the week is in favour of drunkenness rather than intelligence. Moreover, you cannot choose your neighbours or keep your children from contamination. Count and contrast the public houses and sanctuaries; which has the need of bell, ritual, sensational element to attract to its services "lewd fellows of the baser sort"? In one large town in England 10 percent go to a place of worship once a week, and 25 percent go every day to the public house.
2. Under the deep conviction that this vice must be grappled with, barriers are built behind which the young and tempted may find shelter. The pledge, guild, league, and society are all to be honoured. But they are nothing to the Christian for his own sake. He has higher ground to occupy. He dreads not so much breaking his bond as sinning against God. Christ outweighs every other consideration.
3. High ground this. Yes, and we dare not lower it. Prove that drunkenness is profitable to the National Exchequer, that it is a characteristic of the best workman, that it is the fashion, which are all dead against the evidence; but I am not careful to answer in this matter. The end of life is not an overflowing exchequer, a ready hand, an entrance into society. "What shall it profit a man?" etc. The drunkard is degraded, unsafe; therefore bind him with pledges and securities. But I look beyond the present, beyond the beggared home, the loathsome death, to something worse — damnation. In that city where there is no night there is no drunkard. Conclusion: Here is a message for all mankind (vers. 9, 10).
(T. H. Pattison.)
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