THE TABLE OF THE PROFLIGATE.
TAKE a warning glance at the House of Feasting which Satan hath builded; for as wisdom hath builded her house, and hewn out her seven pillars, so hath folly its temple and its tavern of feasting, into which it continually tempts the unwary. Look within the banqueting-house, and I will show you four tables and the guests that sit thereat; and as you look at those tables you shall see the courses brought in.
At the first table to which I shall invite your attention, though I beseech you never to sit down and drink thereat, sit the profligate. The table of the profligate is a gay table; it is covered over with a gaudy crimson, and all the vessels upon it look exceedingly bright and glistening. Many there be that sit thereat; but they know not that they are the guests of hell, and that the end of all the feast shall be in the depths of perdition. See ye now the great governor of the feast, as he comes in? He has a bland smile upon his face; his garments are not black, but he is girded with a robe of many colors; he hath a honeyed word on his lip, and a tempting witchery in the sparkle of his eye. He brings in the cup, and says, “Hey, young man, drink hereto, it sparkleth in the cup, it moveth itself aright. Do you see it? It is the wine-cup of pleasure. ” This is the first cup at the banqueting-house of Satan. The young man takes it, and sips the liquor. At first it is a cautious sip; it is but a little he will take, and then he will restrain himself. He does not intend to indulge much in lust, he means not to plunge headlong into perdition. There is a flower there on the edge of that cliff: he will reach forward a little and pluck it; but it is not his intention to dash himself from that beetling crag and destroy himself. Not he! He thinks it easy to put away the cup when he has tested its flavor! He has no design to abandon himself to its intoxication. He takes a shallow draught. But oh how sweet it is! How it makes his blood tingle within him! What a fool I was not to have tasted this before! he thinks. Was ever joy like this? Could it be thought that bodies could be capable of such ecstasy as this? He drinks again; this time he takes a deeper draught, and the wine is hot in his veins. Oh, how blest is he! What would he not say now in the praise of Bacchus, or Venus, or whatever shape Beelzebub chooses to assume? He becomes a very orator in praise of sin! It is fair, it is pleasant; the deep damnation of lust appeareth as joyous as the transports of heaven. He drinks, he drinks, he drinks again, till his brain begins to reel with the intoxication of his sinful delight. This is the first course. Drink, O ye drunkards of Ephraim, and bind the crown of pride about your head, and call us fools because we put your cup from us. Drink with the harlot, and sup with the lustful; ye may think yourselves wise for so doing, but we know that after these things there cometh something worse; for your vine is the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah; your grapes are grapes of gall, the clusters are bitter; your wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps.
Now, with a leer upon his brow, the subtle governor of the feast riseth from his seat. His victim has had enough of the best wine. He takes away that cup, and he brings in another, not quite so sparkling. Look into the liquor; it is not beaded over with the sparkling bubbles of rapture; it is all flat, and dull, and insipid: it is called the cup of satiety. The man has had enough of pleasure, and like a dog he vomits, though like a dog he will return to his vomit yet again. Who hath woe? Who hath redness of eyes?
They that tarry long at the wine. I am now speaking figuratively of wine, as well as literally. The wine of lust bringeth the same redness of the eyes; the profligate soon discovers that all the rounds of pleasure end in satiety. “What,” says he, “what more can I do? There, I have committed every wickedness that can be imagined, and I have drained every cup of pleasure.
Give me something fresh! I have tried the theaters all round: there, I don’t care so much as one single farthing for them all. I have gone to every kind of pleasure that I can conceive. It is all over. Gaiety itself grows flat and dull. What am I to do?” And this is the devil’s second course — the course of satiety — a fitful drowsiness, the result of the previous excess.
Thousands there are who are drinking of the tasteless cup of satiety every day; and some novel invention whereby they may kill time, some new discovery whereby they may give a fresh vent to their iniquity would be a wonderful thing to them; and if some man should rise up who could find out for them some new fashion of wickedness, some deeper depths in the deeps of the nethermost hell of lasciviousness, they would bless his name for having given them something fresh to excite them. That is the devil’s second course. And do you see them partaking of it? There are some of you that are having a deep draught of it. You are the jaded horses of the fiend of lust, the disappointed followers of the will-o’-the-wisp of pleasure.
God knows, if you were to speak your heart out you would be obliged to say, “There! I have tried pleasure, and I do not find it pleasure; I have gone the round, and I am just like the blind horse at the mill, I have to go round again. I am spell-bound to the sin, but I cannot take delight in it now as I once did, for all the glory of it is as a fading flower, and as the hasty fruit before the summer.”
Awhile the feaster remains in the putrid sea of his infatuation: but another scene is opening. The governor of the feast commandeth another liquor to be broached. This time the fiend bears a black goblet, and he presents it with eyes full of hell-fire, flashing with fierce damnation. “Drink of that, sir,” says he, and the man sips it, and starts back, and shrieks, “O God, that ever I must come to this!” You must drink, sir. He that quaffs the first cup, must drink the second, and the third. Drink, though it be like fire down your throat! Drink it, though it be as the lava of Etna in your bowels! Drink! you must drink! He that sins must suffer; he that is a profligate in his youth must have rottenness in his bones, and disease within his loins.
He who rebels against the laws of God must reap the harvest in his own body here. Oh! there are some dreadful things that I might tell you of this third course. Satan’s house has a front chamber full of everything that is enticing to the eye and bewitching to the sensual taste; but there is a back chamber, and no one knoweth, no one hath seen the whole of its horrors.
There is a secret chamber, where he shovels out the creatures whom he hath himself destroyed — a chamber, beneath whose floor is the blazing of hell, and above whose boards the heat of that horrible pit is felt. It may be a physician’s place, rather than mine, to tell of the horrors that some have to suffer as the result of their iniquity. I leave that; but let me tell the profligate spendthrift that the poverty which he will endure is the result of his sin of extravagant spend thrifty; let him know also that the remorse of conscience that will overtake him is not an accidental thing that drops by chance from heaven, it is the result of his own iniquity; for, depend upon it, men and brethren, sin carries an infant misery in its bowels, and sooner or later it must be delivered of its terrible child. If we sow the seed we must reap the harvest. Thus the law of hell’s house stands — “first, the good wine, then afterwards, that which is worse.”
The last course remains to be presented. And now, ye strong men, who mock at the warning, which I would fain deliver to you with a brother’s voice and with an affectionate heart, though with rough language. Come ye here, and drink of this last cup. The sinner has at the end brought himself to the grave. His hopes and joys were like gold put into a bag full of holes, and they have all vanished — vanished for ever, and now he has come to the last, his sins haunt him, his transgressions perplex him; he is taken like a bull in a net, and how shall he escape? He dies, and descends from disease to damnation. Shall mortal language attempt to tell you the horrors of that last tremendous cup of which the profligate must drink, and drink for ever?
Look at it: ye cannot see its depths, but cast an eye upon its seething surface. I hear the noise of rushing to and fro, and a sound as of gnashing of teeth and the wailing of despairing souls. I look into that cup, and I hear a voice coming up from its depths — “These shall go away into everlasting punishment:” for “Tophet is prepared of old, the pile thereof is wood and much smoke, the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, shall kindle it.” And what say ye to this last course of Satan? “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire?” Profligate, I beseech thee, in the name of God, start from this table! Oh, be not so careless at thy cups; be not so asleep, secure in the peace which thou now enjoyest! Man’s death is at the door, and at his heels is swift destruction! As for you, who as yet have been restrained by a careful father and the watchfulness of an anxious mother, I beseech you shun the house of sin and folly. Let the wise man’s words be written on thine heart, and be thou mindful of them in the hour of temptation — “Remove thy way far from her, and come not nigh the door of her house: for the lips of a strange woman drop as an honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil: but her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell.”