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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 29

Chapter VIII. — Moral and Spiritual Injury from Smoking

Chapter VIII.

Moral and Spiritual Injury from Smoking.

57.—It is the peculiar feature of habitual narcotism that, by a species of infatuation, it leads its victim to seek, in repeated doses, relief from the ennui and depression caused by previous indulgence, The uneasy, restless craving, in fact, that leads the smoker to long for his pipe, and the snuff-taker or chewer for his customary pinch or quid, is neither more nor less than the irritation induced in the system by previous doses of the poison. This irritation, like a repeating echo, becomes gradually fainter and fainter as the length of the interval is increased; and would the victim only hold out determinedly till it died away his emancipation would be complete.

58.—It is a terrible wrong done to an unsophisticated youth when he is tempted by others to learn to smoke. The man or the boy who can thus trifle with the health, the comfort, the character, the welfare for time and eternity, of one of these young candidates for the honours of a noble manhood, and the joys of a virtuous life and a happy eternity, is little better than a friend in human form. Words fail to express the sense of wrong that a truly tender and virtuous father feels instinctively, at the thought of his promising, bright-eyed, intelligent boy being tampered with, made the willing instrument of his own degradation, and the destroyer of his glorious capacity for the future.

59.—It would be well for the Church and for the world, if veteran Christian smokers could be roused to an adequate sense of their responsibility and their guilt. Their example is all-powerful. page 30 So long as older persons smoke, boys and youths will follow their example. Boys are largely endowed with the faculty of imitation. This is a faculty of immense value, when rightly directed, in preparing them for future duties. But when the examples set before them are wrong, the consequences are disastrous in the extreme. Children naturally look up to their parents, and think that whatever they do must be right. Actions speak louder than words. The father who trifles with his own best nature cannot raise the son to a higher moral tone than his own. Even when precept and example unite their forces on the side of virtue, there is difficulty enough in securing a right course on the part of children. But if, in any respect, the father allows himself to do what his conscience and better judgment condemn, his influence for good over his boy is lessened, the keen discrimination of childhood detects the inconsistency, the father's self-respect is impaired, and the consequences may be disastrous. The anguish caused to a loving parent by the ruin of his child must be terrible, even when he has conscientiously done his duty. What must it be, when he has himself to blame for the evil bias of his example?

60.—The same reasoning applies to teachers, to guardians, to ministers, and, indeed, to all Christians. We are answerable for the influence of our example on the young. No sophistry can shake off this responsibility. Smoking is, at best, a "lust of the flesh;" an artificial mode of prolonging mere sensation at the expense of vital force that was given us for other uses. It is an indulgence, the very opposite of that manly self-denial which Christ sets forth as the entrance-gate to the narrow way that leads to his kingdom, and which he enjoins as an essential condition of discipleship. It lessens the disposition for active exertion, and encourages a languid, listless, dreamy state, fatal to that watchfulness which is the Christian's highest privilege and duty. "It cries Peace, Peace, where there is no peace. It preaches contentment where the divinest duty is discontent and laissez faire where everything requires undoing."

61.—Great responsibility rests upon all whose business in life is that of the education of youth. In school and college the depraving indulgence prevails to an alarming extent. It is true that many schoolmasters not only abstain themselves, but strictly prohibit the practice in their establishments; but it is also true that some school proprietors and teachers are inveterate smokers, encouraging, by their example, the boys under their care and even winking at their indulgence. How will they answer for the injured health, the lowered moral standard, and the evil tendencies thus occasioned in those to whom, for the time, they stand in the place of parents?

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62.—Christianity presents the highest and purest standard of conduct that the world has ever seen. It involves the culture of whatsoever things are "pure, lovely, and of good report." Such is not the practice of smoking tobacco; and Christians know that it is not. The more of the spirit of Christ man has, the more clearly must he feel the incompatibility of that indulgence with his high calling. And yet, alas, how many Christians lower the tone of their spirituality, lessen their peace and joy in believing, and bring haziness on their spiritual vision, and a diminished sense of union with their God and Saviour, through this ignoble indulgence. We know this to be so, because hundreds of Christians have made the confession; especially those who having been enslaved for a number of years, have at last been enabled, through Divine grace, to conquer their besetment—to shake off the coils of depraved habit, and to become men once more.

63.—What must be the effect of the smoking Christian's example on the world outside, and on young people connected with our churches and Sabbath schools? If the minister smokes, the Christian parent, the church officer, the Sunday school teacher, surely the practice cannot be so very wrong. So boys reason, and so the world outside reasons. The writer once remonstrated with a boy who was smoking, and was immediately met by the enquiry, "don't some ministers smoke?" Another boy, when an anti-tobacco tract was presented to him, promptly replied—"You should take them to the church-goers." The sophistry by which veteran smokers delude themselves into believing that they have a liberty, to which younger people are not entitled, of depraving self-indulgence, is too hazy for the keen sense of consistency that distinguishes unsophisticated youth. Terrible is the woe pronounced by our Great Master against those who cast stumbling blocks in the way of his "little ones"; terrible the responsibility of those parents and Christians who, by their example in this demoralizing practice, encourage the young people that surround them. Powerful must be the charm of this pernicious weed, and stupefying its effects on the conscience and the affections, when it thus renders the professors of the self-denying and benign religion of Jesus indifferent to the effect of their own example on our precious youth. Feeble, indeed, must be that love to Christ that is not strong enough to obtain the mastery over this vile species of slavery! Glorious is the sense of freedom enjoyed by those who, awakened to a fresh sense of their responsibility, summon, for a decisive effort, the latent powers of their manhood, shake off the stupor of past years of indifference, break the bonds that bind them, and stand erect once more, free men in Christ Jesus, to rejoice, as no votary of narcotic indulgence can do, in that glorious moral and spiritual freedom with which the truth makes free.

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64.—Happy will be the day for our country when Christian patriots take up this question with the fixed determination that they will never allow it to rest until the united voice of all Christian communities is lifted up in stern protest against the habitual use of narcotics, and measures are inaugurated that shall deter both old and young from the snare; thus adding incalculably to the forces now in operation for good, and removing one of the greatest hindrances out of the way of the coming of that time when all evils shall be abolished, when "they shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea"—a day that cannot possibly come so long as brain, and body, and conscience, are narcotised by tobacco, even though all other impediments were removed.

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