1 Thessalonians 5:7
For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.
In Thessalonica Paul had his first experience of an European rabble. The Jews employed the tactics by which every sinking cause has fought for life. "Lewd fellows of the baser sort" who were not unaccustomed to the sight of "the world turned upside down," loungers confused oftener than not with drink, and could be bought for any shameful purpose, children of the darkness and the night, "set the city in an uproar." There is no need to further describe these birds of evil omen; the scum and the froth are the same everywhere and all time through. But these miserable creatures were not always so. The wildest of that mob was once a happy, innocent child. Some of them eventually came to be children of the light. And such may every drunkard become through Christ.
I. THE ASSERTION WHICH PAUL MAKES. "Drunken in the night."
1. The words were probably meant to be taken literally. "Man goeth forth to his work and to his labour until the evening. There is little drunkenness till then. Between this and midnight the work is done (Romans 13:13).
2. But they were also meant to bear a figurative application. The night" was the whole life of the world, of the nation, of the man, until Christ rose like a glorious sun (1 Peter 4:3).
(1) Explain the mystery that a habit so degrading should from the earliest time have obtained so firm a hold. What originates drunkenness? Night, says Paul, in the intellectual and moral nature. Paul's method, and that of the gospel, differs from that of many temperance advocates in going deeper. Get rid of drunkenness, urges the reformer, and you will get rid of most of your crimes. Get rid of the night, says Paul, and you will get rid of drunkenness.
(2) What night? The night of ignorance, says one — let the man be taught; the night of discomfort — give the man a happy home; of solitude — find the man companions; of dullness — furnish wholesome excitement; of idleness — keep the man employed. Well, these are shadows of the night, but not night itself. Paul's "night" is that of Christlessness. "Without God and hope in the world." Jesus said, "I am the Light of the world," etc. (John 8:12).
(3) There is one thing which the prince of darkness cannot do when attacked in his citadel of drunkenness. If you say that education will cure this evil, he will take the intellectual powers and stimulate them into fascinating play by the wine cup. He can furnish the public house with comfort, provide companionships, give excitement, and keep the hands busy. Try every weapon, but remember that the public house will catch the cue and point them at your own heart. But there is one power to which the devil will not appeal, and that is Christ (1 John 3:8).
II. THE APPEAL WHICH PAUL URGES. "Let us who are of the day be sober."
1. Paul was addressing Christians. A line was then drawn, clear cut, between the believer and the unbeliever. Now things have got somewhat mixed. The sad truth that we have to face is that it is an easier thing for thousands around us to grow up in drunken than in sober habits. Your free library may not be open on Sunday, but by command of government your public houses must. Whatever weight your legislation has ever the first day of the week is in favour of drunkenness rather than intelligence. Moreover, you cannot choose your neighbours or keep your children from contamination. Count and contrast the public houses and sanctuaries; which has the need of bell, ritual, sensational element to attract to its services "lewd fellows of the baser sort"? In one large town in England 10 percent go to a place of worship once a week, and 25 percent go every day to the public house.
2. Under the deep conviction that this vice must be grappled with, barriers are built behind which the young and tempted may find shelter. The pledge, guild, league, and society are all to be honoured. But they are nothing to the Christian for his own sake. He has higher ground to occupy. He dreads not so much breaking his bond as sinning against God. Christ outweighs every other consideration.
3. High ground this. Yes, and we dare not lower it. Prove that drunkenness is profitable to the National Exchequer, that it is a characteristic of the best workman, that it is the fashion, which are all dead against the evidence; but I am not careful to answer in this matter. The end of life is not an overflowing exchequer, a ready hand, an entrance into society. "What shall it profit a man?" etc. The drunkard is degraded, unsafe; therefore bind him with pledges and securities. But I look beyond the present, beyond the beggared home, the loathsome death, to something worse — damnation. In that city where there is no night there is no drunkard. Conclusion: Here is a message for all mankind (vers. 9, 10).
(T. H. Pattison.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.