By J.R. Miller
Christian teachings deal with life. To begin with, here is a word about debt-paying. "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another." We should never fail to pay a debt when it falls due. The person to whom we owe it expects the money at that time, and bases his own engagements upon the receiving of it. If we do not pay him, he in turn is left unable to pay another to whom he is indebted, and who can tell how many other people, in turn, will be disappointed, and perhaps left in embarrassment, because of our failure to pay our debt? Then, it is a bad habit for anyone to form--allowing debts to go unpaid. Like other habits, too, it grows easily, and soon becomes so fixed that a man thinks nothing of being in debt.
There is a kind of indebtedness, however, which none of us can help--the debt of love. We never can get it paid off. Of course, we are to pay it as fast as it falls due. But even when we do this we cannot get out of love's debt. At the close of a day we may feel that we have met all our obligations of love to all about us--family, friends, neighbors. Yet, when we arise next morning, we find all the debts of yesterday facing us again, not one of them diminished. We can do nothing but begin to pay them off again, toiling the whole day to do it.
Love includes all other duties. "He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law." All the other commandments are mere fragments of the law of love. All the duties which we owe to others, really gather themselves in concentration into the one golden duty of love. He who loves--truly obeys all the commandments. This Paul illustrates in the following verse. "The commandments: "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
Love never does another any harm. "Love does no harm to its neighbor." Love always thinks of other people's good. Whatever, therefore, injures another in any way--is a violation of love's duty. What about the man who tempts a boy to drink and puts the first glass of alcohol into his hand? Has he wrought no harm on his neighbor? Suppose that a few years hence this boy has become a drunkard--whose is the guilt of having started him in his course of ruin? What about the saloon-keepers, who, to make money, deal out intoxicating drinks to the men--young and old, weak and strong? Think of the ruin wrought in lives, in homes? Is there any good to counterbalance the evil? Are any homes, brightened, sweetened, made happier, better, holier, truer--by the saloon? Are any lives made purer, cleaner, more earnest, more beautiful, nobler, more godlike--by the saloon?
There is a call here to awake. "It is time for you to awake out of sleep." The picture suggested is of one still asleep when the sun is high in the heavens. There is a great pressure of duty--but the man sleeps, indifferent to all calls. During the day we have duties, which would crowd every moment if we were doing them all. But here are men sleeping away half their day, leaving their work untouched.
The man who never thinks of eternity is asleep; yet he may be very busy in worldly things, a "wide-awake man," his neighbors may call him ambitious, alert, diligent, successful--but if he does not think of God and the eternal world, he is asleep. The world is full of such people, and we ought to try to wake them up before it is too late.
Night covers many deeds of sin and shame. When day comes, wrongdoings hangs its head. We are living in the light and we should be ashamed to continue doing the things of darkness. Here again we touch the saloon business. Surely it is among the "works of darkness." Even saloon keepers practically admit this, for who ever saw a saloon open to the daylight and to all eyes, as other kinds of business are? Its windows are made dim or opaque, and its doors are made to shut quickly after a man enters. No one passing outside can see what is going on inside. This itself is a confession, which puts a question on the business. It all were open to the public, as a dry goods store, men would be ashamed to go in.
In the thirteenth verse we come again upon intemperance, "Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy." Whatever anyone may say about the Bible's position on the question of wines, there is not a shadow of doubt where it stands concerning drunkenness. It puts it down among the most debasing of sins, the most degrading, the most ruinous of all vices. Can there be anything more debasing of a man with an immortal nature--than to get drunk! Of course, no one intends to get drunk when he begins to drink. But the story is familiar to need writing out--of the end of nine cases out of ten of moderate drinking. The only absolute safety is total abstinence.
"Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature." The only true way to get rid of the wrong things in our life--is to put on Christ. Being good merely by not being bad, is not enough. There is a striking parable of an expelled evil spirit. He went out of the man under some pressure, and wandered, desolate and restless, through deserts until, discontent not to be injuring someone, he wandered back to his old place and found the man in whom he had dwelt. He found his old house swept and garnished--but empty yet, and gathering up some other demons worse than himself, he reentered the unoccupied house, and the last state of that man was worse than the first. It is not enough to put out the demon; we must also admit the Christ into our heart's house. Emptiness is always a condition of peril.