"Be not drunk with wine, wherein is luxury." Apocalypse iii. 16.
SYNOPSIS.Drunkenness a great sin. A disgrace in the eyes of men. Conversion of the habitual drunkard most difficult. Many people prone to make light of this vice, and excuse the same. To undeceive these people, I will show
I. It is beyond the power of mortal man to describe the full extent of the havoc wrought by this vice. We are able to see, however, that great evil results from intemperance. We cannot be indifferent to the loss of good name, health, and salvation. The degradation of man by drink. The Holy Ghost tells us the drunkard should learn moderation from the beasts. What disgrace to human nature, if the beast is held up to it as example. This sin is not one that abates with advancing age. Drunkards not easily reformed. Disadvantages of the drunkard in social life. Ruin of his soul. The Council of Mayence holds that the drunkard transgresses all the ten commandments.
II. Some excuses advanced to justify excesses. Sociability. Some claim they can drink a great deal without getting intoxicated. Business. Reform. The means.
St. Paul assures us that the drunkard will not enter into the kingdom of heaven; drunkenness must, therefore, my dear brethren, be a very great sin. This is easily understood, for no matter how we look at it, this sin is even a disgrace among men, even in the eyes of the heathen, and Christians should be more afraid of this vice than of death. The Holy Ghost speaks of it in an awe-inspiring manner. He tells us: "Woe unto you who drink wine immoderately, and who become drunk, woe to those who arise in the morning with the thought of giving themselves up to drunkenness." Alas, dear friends, very few of those once addicted to this terrible vice, ever break themselves of it. There are persons who see no wrong in getting drunk upon every occasion; others imagine that so long as they do not get so drunk as to lose their reason, they do not commit a great sin; others again excuse themselves, saying they are led into it by their companions. To undeceive all those who hold these views I will show them:
To show you properly, my dear brethren, the enormity of the sin of drunkenness, I should have to show you the full extent of evil which this vice entails for time and eternity, and this is beyond mortal man to do, because it is known to God alone. Everything that I might say to you upon the subject will be insignificant in comparison to what the evil really is. In the first place you will agree with me that any one having a little common sense and religion, cannot be indifferent and insensible at the loss of their good name, their health, and their salvation. It is a plain fact that the drunkard, by his excesses, ruins his health, and draws down upon himself the loathing of men and the curse of God. I should think, dear friends, that this alone should be sufficient to inspire you with sufficient horror of it. What a disgrace for a person, especially a Christian, to let himself sink to the level of the vulgar and beastly sot. The Holy Ghost tells us in Holy Writ that the drunkard should be joined to the unreasoning cattle, that he may learn moderation in drinking from them. When we want to persuade a sinner to renounce his sins, we hold up to him the example of Jesus Christ and of the saints; but the drunkard is so low that the example of the beasts is held up to him, and we need not hesitate to select the uncleanest of them all. What a terrible blow is this to the dignity of human nature. St. Paul tells us that drunkards should not be tolerated amongst men, but that they should be driven forth into banishment amongst the animals of the wilderness. This vice is odious even in the eyes of the heathen. It is recorded in history that in the ancient city of Sparta, whose inhabitants were very abstemious, upon a certain day every year a slave was made drunk and brought upon the public square so as to show the young people how unworthy this vice was of reasonable creatures. When the young people beheld this man they were sufficiently disgusted to abstain entirely from intoxicating drink. You see, my friends, that although pagans they would not give way to a passion which reduced man to such disgraceful condition.
This sin is not one which is renounced with advancing age, and an habitual drunkard is seldom converted. The reason is this: intemperate people have no faith, no piety, no respect for anything sacred; nothing is capable of opening their eyes to their unhappy state. If you remind them of death, judgment, or hell, if you speak to them of the bliss which God has prepared for those who live a good life, the answer they give you is a scornful smile, which means: "Perhaps you think you can frighten me as you would little children; but I do not belong to those who believe everything that is said to them." And this is all you can obtain from them. They imagine with death everything is at an end. Their God is wine, and they cling to it. Beware, godless man, the Holy Ghost says to such as you, "the wine which thou drinkest immoderately, is a viper, which will cause thy death."
Behold, my friends, with what horror the Holy Ghost inspires us for this sin, for He tells us not to look upon the wine when it is red. If you drink immoderately, he says further, it will sting you like a snake, and poison you like a basilisk. Do you wish to know, St. Basil asks us, what a drunkard is? Well, he is a receptacle for the refuse of the saloon. The drunkard usually is sickly; he is incapable of doing anything else but to ruin his health. This passion must be a very ignoble one, for even the world, bad as it is, holds the drunkard in contempt, and looks upon him as a public nuisance. Is he not detested when, through his neglect, his business is ruined, and his family reduced to poverty? Is he not abhorred for the scandal that he gives by his shameful life? Where will you find a father who would give his daughter in marriage to a drunkard, if he knows him to be one? Where would you find a young girl to accept for a husband a young man given to drink? Where would you find a decent and respectable man who would let himself be seen in the company of a drunkard? St. Basil tells us that even the animals, if capable of understanding the real condition of a drunkard, would not suffer him in their company-they would consider themselves disgraced thereby. I think you can now, my dear brethren, form an idea of the enormity of the sin of intemperance. We find it very dreadful, and yet only have a very limited knowledge of the malice worked by this sin.
The council of Mayence proclaims that the drunkard transgresses all the ten commandments. If you desire to be convinced of this, examine them one after the other, and you will see that a drunkard is liable of doing everything forbidden by the ten commandments. St. John Chrysostom says in addressing the people of the city of Antioch : "Take care, my children, not to give way to drunkenness, because this sin so disgraces mankind, that it lowers them beneath the unreasoning animal. Alas, dear brethren, must not this sin be terrible in the sight of God?
We shall see, my dear brethren, that drunkards have no excuses to justify their excesses. St. Augustine says that, although the drunkard is condemned by everybody, he believes that he has sufficient excuse for his misconduct. The one will say his friends are the cause of his intemperance. St. Augustine tells us: "What, miserable man, you have been drinking and making yourself the friend of drunkards, of ungodly men, whilst at the same time you became the enemy of God!" But it is not your friends, it is your own evil desire that makes you drink. There are others who claim that they can drink a great deal without feeling the effects of it, but, my friend, do not let this deceive you. Although you may not lose your senses, you are not less culpable if you drink to excess. There are those who say: "We do it for business, to transact money matters, etc." Alas, my friend, do you really believe you can properly attend to business matters, when under the influence of strong drink? Have you not heard of many men, who, dazed by drink, were lured into business transactions by which they lost their all - business, property, home, and honor? What conclusion should we draw from all this, my friends? Just this. That those addicted to intemperance should enter seriously into themselves and remember what the Lord has said through the mouth of the prophet Joel: "Arise, drunkard, because all kinds of evils await thee. Weep and lament at the sight of the punishments which the just wrath of God prepares for you in hell on account of your drunkenness." Arise, miserable man, at the cry of that wife of yours, whom you have ill treated in your cups. Wake up, drunkard, at the cry of your poor children, whom you drive to the poorhouse, and, probably, to death by privation. Listen, shameless drunkard, to this neighbor, who demands the money that you owe him, and which you squander in debauchery and in the saloon. He needs it for the support of his wife and children, who are suffering from want on account of your iniquity. Alas, miserable man, what did you promise so often to God in the Sacrament of Penance? You promised not to fall again into your disorderly ways. How have you kept this solemn promise? And what have you deserved? Nothing better than hell, there to burn for all eternity. You have deserved to be seated at the table of the evil spirits, there to be nourished and entertained with the rage which they, have towards Jesus Christ Himself. You will be the victim upon which the just anger of God will fall heavily for all eternity!
You perhaps never have pictured to yourselves the gravity of the sin of drunkenness, of the state to which it reduces those who are its slave, of the evils which it causes them in this life, and of the punishments which it prepares for them for the other life. Do penance, you drunkard, for your disorderly life, for the bad examples that you have given. Cry to heaven for mercy, that you may obtain pardon of the Lord. Let us ask God to preserve us from this awful sin, which makes it so difficult, in fact, almost impossible, for those addicted to it to save their souls. Lead temperate, good lives, so that you may be an ornament to your faith, your community, and to your family. Follow the path that guides to eternal happiness. Amen.