1 Peter 4:3-5
For the time past of our life may suffice us to have worked the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts…
Look at the qualities that are here forbidden. Lust, lasciviousness, drunkenness, carousings — all these are especially mentioned; and the apostle declares that the time past suffices. You have had experience enough in regard to those things; it is time to leave them. There are multitudes of men that are sacking their very constitution; for whatever may be the opinions of men as to the morality of lascivious conduct, there can be no doubt as to the folly of it. And what shall I say of the concurrent danger of drunkenness, or excessive indulgence of the appetite? Surely I need not point out how base the life of a man is whose whole being circles around about that carnal, animal appetite; upon whom the habit is growing, and, like a maelstrom, swings into its centre, destroying everything that is pure and beautiful that comes near it. It sacks and ransacks the whole nobility of a man. The time past is sufficient for such things. But then there are a great many men that do not consider themselves either lascivious or drunkards. Nevertheless, carousings are familiar to them. What an ignoble way of living to make the whole of life consist, not in building up, but in the commerce of the lower feelings, and the prostitution of the sanctities of friendship to make the friendship of the cup, in all that wild excitement which breeds no single new idea, cleanses no single passion, throws light upon no single element of beauty, but is pure buoyancy of the flesh and the enjoyment of animal life! Higher than these, but still under the ban, are all forms of life where feeling and endeavour are concentrated upon frivolous social enjoyments, with their very selfishness and vanity and pride. I would not restrict the enjoyment of the young, except it trenched upon higher and nobler obligations. I love elasticity of spirit, overflow of pleasantry. All these things I believe belong to life; and just as much under the gospel as outside of it — yea, more. Now in regard to these passions, and the lower forms of intense self-indulgence particularly, the apostle is speaking here, and says, "The time past ought to suffice." All these wastes and degradations ought to cease absolutely. They shut out a man's reason. They shut out his best nature. They stand in the way of the accomplishment of the final ends of life. There are times when all these indulgences may be left. The time past gives men sufficient experience and knowledge, both of their uselessness and of their wastefulness, and also of their peril; and that is the time when men should stop and say, "Well, I have had enough of that, now and forever." Time enough to bring the higher qualities of your mind to sit in judgment over the lower. The conscience is Chief Justice. Call up those criminal appetites. Let them hear the judge decide, and follow the decision. The time past is sufficient for knowledge and for judgment. That which is true of these lower passions and appetites is lust as true of the higher and inanimate one of a frivolous, self-indulgent, wasteful life that proposes nothing, but dances on from hour to hour, with no more purpose than the butterflies or the insects of a summer day have. The time past is sufficient. Now, allow me to ask you: Are there not in your life some things palpitating, fresh and warm in your bosom, that you know to be wrong in your career? Is it not time for a change? And if your faults are superficial, if they are simply faults of temper, or of balance in the development of your life outwardly, is there nothing in your home life, is there nothing in your friendship life, is there nothing in your business life, judged by the canons of morality, and still more judged by the higher forms of supreme duty, that needs to be changed? Are you the chief occupant of your own self? or are there vermin that dwell in the cracks and crevices and partitions of the soul house? And if there is something more than faults, if there is something that lies deeper, ought you not, above all, for this to make a solemn pause? Be manly, and take a nobler view of what a man is born for, and of what his duty is to himself, to his fellow men, to society, to God, and to eternity; and form a judgment of your self for the old year; and on that deliberate personal investigation of facts and dispositions in your own case put the question to yourself, "Have not I carried this thing far enough?" If you will do that, you will have taken one step; and will you follow that up by proposing to yourself a deliberate decision? Now, in all these changes that are going on in the human soul it is too often the case that a man says, "I mean to try it; but I am not going to expose myself to ridicule, because I may not be able to carry this thing out; and if I don't, well, nobody will know it, and I will be no worse off than I was before." That is to say, you leave a door of retreat open for yourself. I would not give the turn of my hand for a man's purpose who says he is going to change, but leaves all the old influences at work, and all the means of escape from his resolution at command. It is an illusion, and it is the repetition of these things that discourages men finally, and makes them believe they cannot reform and cannot do what they ought to do. If you are going to make a decision, do it on business principles. As all resolutions are so fugitive, so unstable, and as experience has shown that they are so unless when a man wants to correct a habit, commit yourself. What is the effect of committing yourself? Your pride and your vanity now work toward you and for you, whereas otherwise they would work against you. It is going with the current, instead of against it; with the wind, instead of against the wind. Therefore, hedge yourself; trust in somebody. Now is the time for thought; now is the time for purpose; now is the time for declaring your purpose; now is the time to begin. Whatever changes are necessary, will you make them now?
(H. W. Beecher.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: