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As the toss'd bark, amidst the ocean's foam,
Now gleams the moon on Arthur's mighty crest,
It speaks of former scenes--of days gone by
DRUNKENNESS is either actual or habitual ; just as it is one thing to be drunk, and another to be a drunkard. What we shall deliver upon the subject must principally be understood of a habit of intemperance; although part of the guilt and danger described, may be applicable to casual excesses; and all of it, in a certain degree, forasmuch as every habit is only a repetition of single instances.
The mischief of drunkenness, from which we are to compute the guilt of it, consists in the following bad effects :
1. It betrays most constitutions either to extravagances of anger, or sins of lewdness.
2. It disqualifies men for the duties of their station, both by the temporary disorder of their faculties, and at length by a constant incapacity and stupefaction.
3. It is attended with expenses, which can often be ill spared.
4. It is sure to occasion uneasiness to the family of the drunkard.
5. It shortens life.
To these consequences of drunkenness must be added the peculiar danger and mischief of the example. Drunkenness is a social festive vice; apt, beyond any vice that can be mentioned, to draw in others by the example. The drinker collects his circle ;
the circle naturally spreads ; of those who are drawn within it, many become the corrupters and centres of sets and circles of their own : every one countenancing, and perhaps emulating the rest, till a whole neighbourhood be infected from the contagion of a single example. This account is confirmed by what we often observe of drunkenness, that it is a local vice; found to prevail in certain countries, in certain districts of a country, or in particular towns, without any reason to be given for the fashion, but that it had been introduced by some popular examples. With this observation upon the spreading quality of drunkenness, let us connect a remark which belongs to the several evil effects above recited. The consequences of a vice, like the symptoms of a disease, though they be all enumerated in the description, seldom all meet in the same subject. In the instance under consideration, the age and temperature of one drunkard may have little to fear from inflammations of lust or anger; the fortune of a second may not be injured by the expense; a third may have no family to be disquieted by his irregularities; and a fourth may possess a constitution fortified against the poison of strong liquors. But if, as we always ought to do, we comprehend within the consequences of our conduct the mischief and tendency of the example, the above circumstances, however fortunate for the individual, will be found to vary the guilt of his intemperance less, probably, than he supposes. The moralist. may expostulate with him thus: Al
though the waste of time and of money be of small importance to you, it may be of the utmost to some one or other whom your society corrupts. Re. peated or long-continued excesses, which hurt not your health, may be fatal to your companion. Al. though you have neither wife, nor child, nor parent, to lament your absence from home, or expect your return to it with terror; other families, in which husbands and fathers have been invited to share in your ebriety, or encouraged to imitate it, may justly lay their misery or ruin at your door. This will hold good whether the person seduced be seduced immediately by you, or the vice be propagated from you to him through several intermediate examples. All these considerations it is necessary to assemble, to judge truly of a vice which usually ineets with milder names and more indulgence than it deserves.
I omit those outrages upon one another, and upon the peace and safety of the neighbourhood, in which drunken revels often end ; and also those deleterious and maniacal effects which strong liquors produce upon particular constitutions; because, in general propositions concerning drunkenness, no consequences should be included, but what are constant enough to be generally expected.
Drunkenness is repeatedly forbidden by Saint Paul: “ Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess." “ Let us walk honestly as in the day, not in rioting and drunkenness." o Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extor
tioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God." Eph. v. 18; Rom. xiii. 13; 1. Cor. vi. 9, 10. The same apostle likewise condemns drunkenness, as peculiarly inconsistent with the Christian profession: 66 They that be drunken, are drunken in the night: but let us, who are of the day, be sober.” 1 Thess. v. 7, 8. We are not concerned with the argument; the words amount to a prohibition of drunkenness, and the authority is conclusive.
It is a question of some importance, how far drunkenness is an excuse for the crimes which the drunken person commits. . In the solution of this question, we will first suppose the drunken person to be altogether deprived of moral agency, that is to say, of all reflection and foresight. In this condition, it is evident that he is no more capable of guilt than a madman; although, like him, he may be extremely mischievous. The only guilt with which he is chargeable, was incurred at the time when he voluntarily brought himself into this situation. And as every man is responsible for the consequences which he foresaw, or might have foreseen, and for no other, this guilt will be in proportion to the probability of such consequences ensuing. From which principle results the following rule, viz. that the guilt of any action in a drunken man bears the same proportion to the guilt of the like action in a sober man, that the probability of its being the consequence of drunkenness bears to absolute certainty. By virtue of this rule,