The voice of him that cries in the wilderness, Prepare you the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.…
I. THERE ARE CERTAIN THINGS WHICH HINDER THE SPREAD OF THE REDEEMER'S KINGDOM, spoken of here as valleys, hills, etc. Heathenism abroad: ignorance and vice at home. Intemperance hinders the progress of God's kingdom on every hand.
1. Intemperance hinders the progress of God's kingdom at home. Our country is occupied by three armies — an army of paupers, an army of criminals, and an army of police, to stand between the vicious and the virtuous, and protect the latter from the assaults of the former. How is this? There is this huge evil established amongst us, which casts its dread shadow over everything that is lovely and of good report. Where, e.g., are the working men of England to be found to-day? Not in the house of prayer. In the case of many of them, they have no suitable clothes; but why is this? Because wages are low? Because trade is bad? I answer, because the money is carried to the public-house, and is thus worse than wasted. There are some who go many times, perhaps regularly, to the house of God, and yet are not saved. Why? The grand neutraliser of the Gospel is the habit of drinking intoxicating liquors.
2. It is also a hindrance to the spread of the Gospel abroad.
(1) They tell us that we cannot, as Christians, take possession of the world, because we have not the means. Is it a truth that England, the richest land upon earth, made rich too by her Christianity, has done what she could for Him who redeemed her when she gives eightpence per head for the conversion of the world? Is it so? Alas! no; for while we have done this, we have spent £4 per head on strong drink.
(2) They say the world is not converted because we have not the men — especially suitable men. How is this? There are men to be found for everything else. One reason is, that the drinking customs have done much to enervate the Church. Strong drink aims high. It aims at the men of active brain and warm heart.
(3) Then there is the third reason — want of success. There are European barriers that are much stronger than heathenism and idolatry. The missionary tells us, over and over again, that he is far more afraid of English drinking than of native idolatry.
II. IT IS THE DUTY OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH TO SWEEP THIS ENEMY AWAY. God has decreed that these mountains shall perish.
1. The Church can remove this mountain. Look at her power as a teacher. Are not the children of our country in her hands? Look at the political power which she possesses. Is there an election in which the Christian Church cannot turn the balance? She has not only the ordinary power which men have, but she has omnipotence at her command.
2. The Church must, if she would hold her own. If we are not assailing strong drink, it is assailing us.
3. The Church must, if she would please her Master. How are we to proceed? Abstinence first; then entire prohibition of the traffic.
III. THE GLORIOUS RESULT.
Parallel VersesKJV: The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.