YOU have, as yet, escaped the lash; but there is a third table, crowded with most honorable guests. I believe there have been more princes and Kings, mayors and aldermen, and great merchants sitting at this table, than at any other. It is called the table of worldliness. “Humph!” says a man, “well, I dislike the profligate. There’s my eldest son. I’ve been hard at work saving up money all my life, and there’s that young fellow, he will not stick to business: he has become a real profligate. I am very glad the minister spoke so sharp about that. As for me — there now! I don’t care about your selfrighteous people a single farthing; to me it is of no account at all; I don’t care at all about religion in the slightest degree; I like to know whether the funds rise or fall, or whether there is an opportunity of making a good bargain; but that’s about all I care for.” Ah, worldling! I have read of a friend of yours, who was clothed in scarlet, and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day. Do you know what became of him? You should remember it, for the same end awaits yourself. The end of his feast must be the end of yours. If your god is this world, depend upon it you shall find that your way is full of bitterness. Now, see that table of the worldly man, the mere worldling who lives for gain. Satan brings him in a flowing cup, “There,” says he, “young man, you are starting in business; you need not care about the conventionalities of honesty, or about the ordinary oldfashioned fancies of religion; get rich as quickly as ever you can. Get money, get money; honestly if you can, but if not, get it anyhow,” says the devil; and down he puts his tankard. “There,” says he, “is a foaming draught for you.” “Yes,” says the young man, “I have abundance now. My hopes are indeed realized.” Here, then, you see the first and best wine of the worldling’s feast, and many of you are tempted to envy this man. “Oh, that I had such a prospect in business!” says one. “I am not half so sharp as he is, I could not deal as he deals; my religion would not let me. But how fast he gets rich! Oh, that I could prosper as he does!”
Come, my brother, judge not before the time, there’s a second course to come — the thick and nauseous draught of care. The man has got his money; but they that will be rich, fall into temptation and a snare. Wealth ill-gotten, or ill-used, or hoarded, brings a canker with it that does not canker the gold and silver, but cankers the man’s heart; and a cankered heart is one of the most awful things a man can have. Ah! see this moneylover, and mark the care which sits upon his heart. There is a poor old woman who lives near his lodge-gate. She has but a pittance a week, but she says, “Bless the Lord, I have enough!” She never asks how she is to live, or how she is to die, or how she is to be buried, but sleeps sweetly on the pillow of contentment and faith; and here is this poor fool with untold gold; but he is miserable because he happened to drop a sixpence as he walked along the streets, or because he had an extra call upon his charity, to which the presence of some friend compelled him to yield; or, perhaps, he groans because his coat wears out too soon.
After this comes avarice. Many have had to drink of that cup; may God save us from its fiery drops! A great American preacher has said, “Covetousness breeds misery. The sight of houses better than our own, of dress beyond our means, of jewels costlier than we may wear, of stately equipage, and rare curiosities beyond our reach, these hatch the viper brood of covetous thoughts; vexing the poor who would be rich; tormenting the rich who would be richer. The covetous man pines to see pleasure; is sad in the presence of cheerfulness; and the joy of the world is his sorrow, because all the happiness of others is not his. I do not wonder that: God abhors him. He inspects his heart as he would a cave full of noisome birds, or a nest of rattling reptiles, and loathes the sight of its crawling tenants. To the covetous man life is a nightmare, and God lets him wrestle with it as best he may. Mammon might build its palace on such a heart, and Pleasure bring all its revelry there. Honor all its garlands — it would be like pleasures in a sepulcher, and garlands on a tomb.” When a man becomes avaricious, all he has is nothing to him; “More, more, more!” says he, like some poor creatures in a terrible fever, who cry, “Drink, drink, drink!” and you give them drink, but after they have it, their thirst increases. Like the horse-leech, they cry, “Give, give, give!” Avarice is a raving madness, which seeks to grasp the world in its arms, and yet despises the plenty it has already. This is a curse of which many have died; and some have died with the bag of gold in their hands, and with misery upon their brow, because they could not take it with them into their coffin, and could not carry it into another world.
Well, then, there comes the next course. Baxter, and those terrible old preachers, used to picture the miser, and the man who lived only to make gold, in the middle of hell; and they imagined Mammon pouring melted gold down their throat. “There,” say the mocking devils, “that is what you wanted; you have got it now; drink, drink, drink!” and the molten gold is poured down. I shall not, however, indulge in any such terrible imaginations, but this much I know, he that liveth to himself here, must perish; he who sets his affections upon things on earth, hath not digged deep — he has built his house upon the sands; and when the rain descends, and the floods come, down must come his house, and great must be the fall thereof. It is the best wine first, however; it is the respectable man — respectable and respected, everybody honors him; and afterwards that which is worst, when meanness has beggared his wealth, and covetousness has maddened his brain. It is sure to come, as sure as ever you give yourself up to worldliness.
The fourth table is set in a very secluded corner, in a very private part of Satan’s palace. There is the table set for secret sinners, and here the old rule is observed. At that table, in a room well darkened, I see a young man sitting, and Satan is the servitor, stepping in so noiselessly, that no one would hear him. He brings in the first cup — and oh how sweet it is! It is the cup of secret sin. “Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” How sweet that morsel, eaten all alone! Was there ever one that rolled so delicately under the tongue? That is the first; after that he brings in another — the wine of an unquiet conscience. The man’s eyes are opened. He says, “What have I done? What have I been doing? Ah!” cries this Achan, “the first cup you brought me, I saw sparkling in that a wedge of gold, and a goodly Babylonish garment; and I thought, ‘Oh, I must have that;’ but now my thought is, ‘What shall I do to hide this, where shall I put it? I must dig. Ay, I must dig deep as hell before I shall hide it, for sure enough it will be discovered.’“ The grim governor of the feast is bringing in a massive bowl, filled with a black mixture. The secret sinner drinks, and is confounded; he fears his sin will find him out. He has no peace, no happiness, he is full of uneasy fear; he is afraid that he shall be detected. He dreams at night that there is someone after him; there is a voice whispering in his ear, and telling him, “I know all about it; I will tell it.” He thinks, perhaps, that the sin which he has committed in secret will break out to his friends; the father will know it, the mother will know it. Ay, it may be even the physician will tell the tale, and blab out the wretched secret. For such a man there is no rest. He is always in dread of arrest. He is like the debtor I have read of, who, owing a great deal of money, was afraid the bailiffs were after him; and happening one day to catch his sleeve on the top of a palisade, said, “There, let me go; I’m in a hurry. I will pay you to-morrow,” imagining that someone was laying hold of him. Such is the position in which the man places himself by partaking of the hidden things of dishonesty and sin Thus he finds no rest for the sole of his foot for fear of discovery. At last the discovery comes; it is the last cup. Often it comes on earth; for, be sure your sin will find you out, and it will generally find you out here. What frightful exhibitions are to be seen at our police courts of men who are made to drink that last black draught of discovery!
The man who presided at religious meetings, the man who was honored as a saint, is at last unmasked. And what saith the judge — and what saith the world of him? He is a jest, and a reproach, and a rebuke everywhere. But, suppose he should be so crafty, that he passes through life without discovery — though I think it is almost impossible — what a cup he must drink when he stands at last before the bar of God! “Bring him forth, jailer!
Dread keeper of the dungeon of hell, lead forth the prisoner.” He comes!
The whole world is assembled. “Stand up, sir! Did you not make a profession of religion? Did not everybody think you a saint?” He is speechless. But many there are in that vast crowd who cry, “We thought him so.” The book is open, his deeds are read: transgression after transgression all laid bare. Do you hear that hiss? The righteous, moved to indignation, are lifting up their voices against the man who deceived them and dwelt among them as a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Oh, how fearful it must be to bear the scorn of the universe! The good can bear the scorn of the wicked, but for the wicked to bear the shame and everlasting contempt which righteous indignation will heap upon them, will be one of the most frightful things, next to the eternal endurance of the wrath of the Most High, which, I need not add, is the last cup of the devil’s terrible feast with which the secret sinner must be filled for ever and ever.