Let us ascertain, as well as we can, what lessons it may be calculated to convey to persons situated as you and I are.
I. It seems, then, to contain the thought—a thought of very wide application—that there is something peculiarly bad in God’s sight in the endeavour to induce another person to act in opposition to his conscience.—Take the case of one who is pledged to what we call total abstinence—either for a time or for life. You may have your own views upon the subject. Very well; you are entitled, of course, to your own opinion on the subject, provided always you are willing to leave him in the enjoyment of his. But there is one thing that you are not entitled to do, and that is, to coerce him, or to use ridicule, for the purpose of making him to be unfaithful to the promises he has made,—whether it be a vow to God or only a promise to man,—in either case, you are bound as a Christian, and indeed as a person of right and honourable feeling, to respect your neighbour’s determination, and to do what in you lies to uphold him in it.
II. From this particular instance, we will pass out into the broader field of general religious experience.—Nothing, I suspect, is much more common amongst us in the metropolis than the ‘offering of wine to a Nazarite.’ You know what I mean. A young fellow comes up from a country home and enters one of these vast commercial establishments. He has been religiously brought up. He knows little or nothing of the ways of mankind. He is pure in heart and fresh in feeling, but he is no fool for all that, and is very likely (if circumstances favour) to obtain for himself in time a creditable and useful position in the world. With no little anxiety, and with not a few prayers, his parents have sent him forth to encounter the temptation of the huge and perilous city. They hope, and yet they fear. And they obtained from him a promise that he will not neglect his religious duties—that he will pray as he has done in days gone by; that he will attend the house of God, and spend a little time every day in the reverent and careful reading of Holy Scripture. You know as well as I do what often happens. The lad’s simplicity makes him a butt for his careless or profligate seniors in the establishment. Now, he may stand his ground or he may not. But it is perfectly clear that these companions of his are exposing themselves to the prophet’s malediction by offering ‘wine to the Nazarite.’ And you can see what a grievous offence it is for any one to attempt to break a promise made, and, by so doing, to defile that conscience which it should be the great object of our life to keep pure and undefiled.
III. I should like to push the consideration of our subject a step forward.—By ‘offering wine to a Nazarite,’ we are clearly casting in our lot with the opponents of the cause of Christ, and helping on their mischievous designs. There are two great kingdoms in the world—the kingdom of light, or of moral goodness; the kingdom of darkness, or of moral evil. These are not only diverse in character, but they are also in direct and positive antagonism; and the object of each party is to win to its own side the members of the other. We must choose whether we are to be on the side of Christ or of the world in the great conflict.