Herodotus, the Greek historian, says that Cyrus attacked and took Babylon at night, when the king and the nobles were drunk. That was not the first nor the last kingdom to be lost when men were under the influence of strong drink.
In contrast with Belshazzar is the story which Xenophon relates of the young Cyrus. Cyrus as a youth was taught to shun the intoxicating cup. Once, on a visit to his royal grandfather in Media, Cyrus asked to be permitted to act as the cupbearer. Cyrus did everything to perfection, and was loudly applauded by the nobles present, who were delighted with his perfect mimicry of the cupbearer, stepping so grandly and solemnly about. The king, too, praised him, but called his attention to one omission—he had neglected to taste the wine, as the cupbearer always did before he handed it to him. Cyrus said that the reason he had not tasted the wine was that he thought it had been poisoned. Asked why he imagined that, he answered, "It was poisoned the other day when you made a feast for your friends on your birthday. I knew by the effects. The things you do not allow us boys to do you did yourself, for you were very rude and noisy. You could not even stand erect and steady. So I thought that the wine which produced these effects must have been poisoned."
There is a sermon on liquor and strong drink which is unanswerable in its simplicity and in its power.
A religious leader of note in our country, riding on a train toward Chicago, fell into conversation with a soldier. The question of drinking came up, and she asked him if he drank. At first he said No, and then he said that on several occasions with his fellow soldiers he had taken a few drinks. On his last furlough, on the way to Chicago he had been drinking with his companions on the train, and by the time he reached Chicago he was drunk. He had wired his fiancee to meet him at the station, and as the train pulled in he was hoping and praying that something might have kept her from coming to the station, so that she would not see him in that condition. But she was there, waiting at the gate, when he came staggering along the platform. When she saw his condition she called a taxicab, pushed him into it, gave the driver his home address, slammed the door, and walked off. For several days afterward the young man tried ineffectually in his bitter remorse to get in touch with her. At length she relented, in so far, at least, as to write him a letter with the promise of another opportunity. But in the letter she said this: "I would far rather receive one of those telegrams from the War Department saying, 'Missing in action,' or 'Killed in action,' than ever again see you as I saw you that day at the station." Words that were wisely spoken. "Missing in action," "Killed in action"; in that there is no stain, no defilement, but honor rather than dishonor.
There died recently at the age of eighty-five a man who was well known in London and throughout Great Britain as an apostle of temperance, partly because he gave up a fortune of six million dollars for conscience' sake and for the sake of his fellow man.
Frederick N. Charrington was out one evening making a night of it with a group of friends. Strolling down one of London's most notorious streets, they passed a gin palace. Suddenly a woman, ragged and pale, reeled out, her frail frame convulsed with sobs. She was clinging to a ruffian who was trying to shake her loose. "For God's sake," she cried, "give me a copper. I'm hungry, and the children are starving." But the man clenched his fist and struck her to the ground. Young Charrington and his friends rushed in to intervene and protect the woman. After the police had taken the couple away he happened to glance up at the illuminated sign over the saloon door, and there he read in letters of gold his own name—"Drink Charrington beer."
"The message," afterward wrote this young man, "came to me then as it had come to the Apostle Paul. Here was the source of my family wealth. Then and there I raised my hands to heaven, that not another penny of that tainted money should come to me, and that henceforth I would devote my life to fighting the drink traffic." He had a sudden awakening to his responsibility and his influence, and saw that the earth was being cursed for his sake.
"Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging." (Prov. 20:1.) Oliver Wendell Holmes, physician and philosopher, told the whole truth about it when he said that strong drink "destroys men's viscera when they are alive and confers immortality on those parts when they are dead."
Sometimes Negro speakers—and white also, for that matter—get their words mixed up. This Negro meant to use a word which sounded very much like the one he did use, but was quite different. , Nevertheless, his mistake enabled him to utter a profound truth, so far as strong drink is concerned. He had applied for a job and was asked if he ever used strong-drink. He thought a moment, and answered, "I don't know that I do, and I don't know that I don't. But I do know that I don't drink to success." Who ever did "drink to success"? To what do men drink? They drink to the failure to get a job when they apply for one; they drink to the loss of their job when they have one; they drink to the loss of their health, to the loss of honor and happiness, and the hope of heaven, but never to success.
It was nine o'clock in the morning, but this particular passenger on the platform of the trolley car still wore a much crumpled evening suit.
As the car swung swiftly around a curve this riotous liver was jolted off, and fell heavily on the cobble stones. The car stopped, and the conductor, running back, helped the unfortunate man to scramble to his feet. The bibulous passenger was severely shaken, but very dignified.
"Collision?" he demanded.
"No," the conductor answered.
"Off the track?" was the second inquiry.
"No," said the conductor again.
"Well!" was the indignant rejoinder. "If I'd known that, I wouldn't have got off."
The very convivial gentleman left his club happy, but somewhat dazed. On his homeward journey, made tackingly, he ran against the vertical iron rods that formed a circle of protection for the trunk of a tree growing by the curb. He made a tour around the barrier four times, carefully holding to one rod until he had a firm grasp on the next. Then, at last, he halted and leaned despairingly against the rock to which he held, and called aloud for succor:
"Hellup! hellup! Somebody let me out!"
The highly inebriated individual halted before a solitary tree, and regarded it as intently as he could, with the result that he saw two trees. His attempt to pass between these resulted in a near-concussion of the brain. He reeled back, but presently sighted carefully, and tried again, with the like result. When this had happened a half-dozen times, the unhappy man lifted up his voice and wept.
"Lost—Lost!" he sobbed. "Hopelessly lost in an impenetrable forest!"