Rev. Talmage: on Cold winters

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WINTER NIGHTS.
BY REV. T. DE WITT TALMAGE of Brooklyn, New York.

The inhabitants of one of the old cities were told that they would have to fly for their lives. Such flight would be painful, even in the flush of spring-time, but superlatively aggravating if in cold weather; and therefore they were told to pray that their flight be not in the winter.

There is something in the winter that not only tests our physical endurance, but, especially in the city, tries our moral character. It is the winter months that ruin, morally, and forever, many of our young men. We sit in the house on a winter’s night, and hear the storm raging on the outside, and imagine the helpless

crafts driven on the coast; but if our ears were only good enough, we could, on any winter night, hear the crash of a hundred moral shipwrecks.

Many who came last September to town, by the first of March will have been blasted. It only takes one winter to ruin a young man. When the long winter evenings have come, many of our young men will improve them in forming a more intimate acquaintance with books, contracting higher social friendships, and strengthening and ennobling their characters. But not so with all.

In warm weather, places of dissipation win their tamest triumphs. People do not feel like going, in the hot nights of summer, among the blazing gas-lights, or breathing the fetid air of assemblages. The receipts of the grog-shops in a December night are three times what they are in any night in July or August.

I doubt not there are larger audiences in the casinos in winter than in the summer weather. Iniquity plies a more profitable trade. December, January, and February are harvest-months for the devil. The play-bills of the low entertainments then are more charming, the acting is more exquisite, the enthusiasm of the spectators more bewitching.

Many a young man who makes out to keep right the rest of the year, capsizes now. When he came to town in the autumn, his eye was bright, his cheek rosy, his step elastic; but, before spring, as you pass him you will say to your friend, “What is the matter with that young man?” The fact is that one winter of dissipation has done the work of ruin.

This is the season for parties; and, if they are of the right kind, our social nature is improved, and our spirits cheered up. But many of them are not of the right kind; and our young people, night after night, are kept in the whirl of unhealthy excitement until their strength fails, and their spirits are broken down, and their taste for ordinary life corrupted; and, by the time the spring weather comes, they are in the doctor’s hands, or sleeping in the cemetery. The certificate of their death is made out, and the physician, out of regard for the family, calls the disease by some Latin name, when the truth is that they died of too many parties.

Young man, take it as the counsel of a friend, when I bid you be cautious where you spend your winter evenings. Thank God that you have lived to see the glad winter days in which your childhood was made cheerful by the faces of fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, some of whom, alas! will never again wish you a “happy New Year,” or a “Merry Christmas.”

Let no one tempt you out of your sobriety. I have seen respectable young men of the best families drunk on New Year’s day. The excuse they gave for the inebriation was that the ladies insisted on their taking it.

There have been instances where the delicate hand of woman hath kindled a young man’s taste for strong drink, who after many years, when the attractions of that holiday scene were all forgotten, crouched in her rags, and her desolation, and her woe under the uplifted hand of the drunken monster who, on that Christmas morning so long ago, took the glass from her hand. And so, the woman stands on the abutment of the bridge, on the moon-lit night, wondering if, down under the water, there is not some quiet place for a broken heart. She takes one wild leap,-and all is over!

Stop and look into the window of that pawnbroker’s shop. Elegant furs. Elegant watches. Elegant scarfs. Elegant flutes. People stand with a pleased look gazing at these things; but I look in with a shudder, as though I had seen into a window of hell.

Whose elegant watch was that? It was a drunkard’s watch!Whose furs? They belonged to a drunkard’s wife!Whose flute? Whose shoes? Whose scarf? They belonged to a drunkard’s child!

If I could, I would take the three brazen balls hanging at the door-way, and clang them together until they tolled the awful knell of the drunkard’s soul. The pawnbroker’s shop is only one eddy of the great stream of municipal drunkenness.

Stand back, young man! Take not the first step in the path that leads here. Let not the flame of strong drink ever scorch your tongue. You may tamper with these things and escape, but your influence will be wrong. Can you not make a sacrifice for the good of others?

When the good ship London went down, the captain was told that there was a way of escape in one of the life-boats. He said-“No; I will go down with the rest of the passengers!” All the world acknowledged that heroism.

Can you not deny yourself insignificant indulgences for the good of others? Be not allured by the fact that you drink only the moderate beverages. You take only ale; and a man has to drink a large amount of it to become intoxicated. Yes; but there is not in all the city to-day an inebriate that did not begin with ale.

  • XXX:” What does that mark mean? XXX on the beer-barrel: XXX on the brewer’s dray:
  • XXX on the door of the gin-shop: XXX on the side of the bottle. Not being able to find any one who could tell me what this mark means, I have had to guess that the whole thing was an allegory:
  • XXX-that is, thirty heartbreaks. Thirty agonies. Thirty desolated homes. Thirty chances for a drunkard’s grave Thirty ways to perdition.

Especially is temptation strong in such times as this, when business is dull. I have noticed that men spend more money when they have little to spend.People wish they had more time to think. The trouble is, now during winter, that people have too much time to think.

Devote these December, January and February evenings to high pursuits, innocent amusements, intelligent socialites, and Christian attainments. Do not waste this winter. We shall soon have seen the last snow-shower, and have passed up into the companionship of Him whose raiment is exceeding white as snow—as no fuller on earth can whiten it.

You can read his whole set of essays over here on Gutenberg. They are pretty good.

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