Henry Smith

The first sermon of Noahs drunkennes.
A glasse wherein all drunkards may behold their beastliness.

1591

 

"Noah also began to be an husbandman and planted a vineyard, and he drank of the wine and was drunken, and was uncovered in the midst of his tent." Gen. 9.20-21

 

First we are to speak of Noah, then of Cain his wicked son, and after of Shem and Japheth his good sons. In Noah, first of that he did well, and then of his sin. In Cain, first of his and then of his curse. In his brethren, first of their reverence and then of their blessing. Now we we will speak of the father, and after of his children. Then (saith Moses) Noah began to be a husbandman, This is the first name which is given to Noah after the Flood, he is called an husbandman, and the first work which is mentioned was the planting of a vineyard. One would think, when all men were drowned with the Flood and none left alive to possess the earth but Noah and his sons, that he should have found himself something else to do, than to plant vineyards: and that the Holy Ghost should have entitled him King of the World, and not an husbandman of the earth, seeing there be no such men as Noah was, which had more in his hand, than any king hath in the world, or shall have to the world's end. But hereby the Holy Ghost would show that God doth not respect kings for their titles, nor men for their riches as we do, and therefore he nameth Noah after the work which he did, not after the possessions which he had, an husbandman.

It seemeth that there was a great diversity between their age and ours. For if we should see a king go to plough, a nobleman drive the team, a gentleman keep sheep, he should be scorned for his labor more than Noah was for his drunkenness. Yet when we read how this monarch of the world thought no scorn to play the husbandman, we consider not his princely calling, nor his ancient years, nor his large possessions to commend his industry, or modesty, or lowly mind therein. Which may teach us humility, though we learn to disdain husbandry. Of whom will we learn to be humble, if kings give examples and the Son of God humbleth himself from heaven to earth, and yet we content in the examples of the kings of the earth; and not the example of the King of heaven.

The time was when Adam digged and delved, when David kept sheep, and all the House of Jacob were called men occupied about cattle, but as they for this were abominable to the Egyptians (as Moses saith in the same verse) so they which do like them are abhorred of their brethren. And they which live by them, scorn them for their work, which would be chastened themselves, because they work not. There was no art nor science which was so much set by in former times (and is now profitable to the commonwealth, bringing less profit unto itself), that may so justly complain of her fall without cause and her despite from them which live by her, as this painful science of husbandry. That it is marvel that any man will take pain for the rest to be contemned for his labor and be a scorn for the rest, which might hunger and starve if he did not labor for them more than they do for themselves. No marvel then though many in the poor countries murmur and complain that other cannot live by them and they cannot live themselves; but it is marvel if their complaint do not grow in time to rebellion and pull other as low as themselves. For why should the greatest pain yield the least profit? Yet this is their case. For if you mark, you shall see that the husbandman doth bate the price of his  fruits as soon as the dearth is past, though he raiseth it a little whilst the dearth lasteth. But they which raise the price of their wares with him, seldom fall again, but make men pay as dear when the dearth is past,  as if it were a dearth still. Thus a plentiful year doth damage him , and a hard year doth vantage them.

So this painful man is fain to live poorly, fare meanly, go barely, house homely, rise early, labor daily, sell cheap and buy dear. That I may truly say that no man deserveth his living better, no man fulfilleth the law nearer (that is, thou shalt get thy living by the sweat of thy brows) than this poor son of Adam, which picks his crumbs out of the earth. Therefore he should not be mocked for his labor, which hath vexation enough though all men spake well of him. And in my opinion, if any deserve to be loved for his innocency, or for his truth, or for his pain, or the good which he brings the commonwealth, this realm is not so much beholding to any sort of men (but those that feed the soul) as those which feed the body, that is those that labor the earth. Yet you see how they live - like drudges - as though they were your servants to provide food for you, and after to bring it to your doors. As the beasts serve them, so they serve you, as though you were another kind of men. I cannot think upon their misery, but my thought tells me that it is a great part of our unthankfulness that we never consider what an easy life and living God hath given unto us in respect of them.

If the Apostle's rule were kept, they which do not work should not eat; but now, they which do not work eat most, and the husbandmen which work, eat not but are like bees which prepare food for others and pinch themselves. Let us consider this, for they had not one law and we another. But the same curse which was denounced upon Adam, was denounced upon all his children, that every man should get his living by the sweat of his brows. Although I know there be diverse works and diverse gifts and diverse callings to work in, yet always provided: they which do not work, shall not eat. For in the sweat of thy brows, thou king, and thou judge, and thou prelate, and thou landlord, and thou gentleman, shalt get they living as Adam thy father did; or else thou dost avoid the curse and a greater curse shall follow - that is, they which will not sweat on earth, shall sweat in hell.

Adam had food as well as thou and so had Noah, and more than thou, unless thou hadst all, for they had all, and yet they might not be idle, because their hands were not given them for nothing. Some work with their pen, some with their tongues, some with their fingers. As nature hath made nothing idle, so God would have no man idle. But that he which is a magistrate, should do the work of a magistrate; he which is a judge, should do the work of a judge; he which is a minister, should do the work of a minister; as when Noah was called an husbandman, he did the work of a husbandman. This contempt of the country doth threaten danger to the land as much as anything else in our days, unless their burden be eased and their estimation qualified in some part to their pains. Thinking that you have not heard of this theme before, seeing the words of my text did lie for it, I have spoken to put you in mind, how easily you live in respect of them; and to certify our minds towards our poor brethren which indeed seem too base in our eyes, and are scorned for their labors as much as we should be for our idleness.

Then (saith Moses) Noah began to be an husbandman. In that it is here said that Noah began, it doth not disprove that he gave not himself to husbandry before, but it importeth that Noah began to set up husbandry again after the Flood before any other. So this good man, re-comforted with the experience of God's favor (which had exempted him and his seed out of all the world) and rejoicing to see the face of the earth again after the waters were gone, though an old man and weak then he was, yet he returneth to his labor afresh, and scorned not to till and plant (for all his possessions) as though he were still an husbandman. Such lowliness is always joined with the fear of God - they that are humbled with religion do not think themselves too good to do anything. Here note by the way, that none of Noah's sons are said to begin this work, but Noah himself. The old man, the hoary head and careful father begins to teach the rest, and shows his sons the way how they should provide for their sons, and how all the world after should live by labor and travail, till they return to dust. So the old man whom age dispenseth withal to take his ease, is more willing to provide for the wants of his children than they which are bound to labor for themselves and their parents too; as the stork doth feed the dam when she is old, because the dam fed her when she was young. What a shame is this to Shem and Japheth, that is to us which are young and strong, that the father should be called a laborer while the sons stand by.

Now the land was barren because of the Flood and could not bring forth fruit of itself because of the curse, therefore it pitied Noah to see desolation and barrenness and slime upon the face of the earth, which he had seen so glorious and sweet and fertile with all manner of herbs and fruits and flowers before. Therefore he setteth himself to manure it, which waited for nothing now but a painful laborer to till and dress it, that it might bring forth delights and profits for sinful man as it did before. By this we may learn to use all means for the obtaining of God's blessings and not to loose anything which we might have or save for want of pains, for that is sin. As Solomon noteth in the 24 Proverbs when he reproveth the slothful husbandman because his field brought forth nettles and thistles instead of grapes, not because the ground would not bear grapes but because the slothful man would not set them. Shall God command the earth and all his creatures to increase for us and shall we not further the increase for ourselves? As we increase and multiply ourselves, so are we bound to join hand and help that all creatures may increase and multiply too, or else the fathers should eat the children's portion and in time there should be nothing left for them that come after. This regard Noah seemeth to have unto his posterity, and therefore he gave himself unto husbandry, which is commended in him unto this day and shall be recorded of him so long as this book is read. Whereby we are warned that he which liveth only to himself is not to be remembered of them which live after. But as David cared how the realm should be governed after his death as well as he did during his life, so though we die and depart this world yet we should leave that example or those books or those works behind us which may profit the church and commonwealth when we are dead and buried, as much as we did when we lived among them. Even as Noah planted a vineyard not for himself but for the ages to come after.

Some do think that Noah planted the first vineyard and drunk the first wine, and that there was no use of grapes before. Which opinion they are led unto that they might excuse Noah, and mitigate his fault if he did sip too deep of that cup, the strength and operation whereof was not known unto him or any man before. But it is not like that the excellent liquor and wholesome juice of the grape did lie hid from the world so many hundred years, and no doubt but there was vines from the beginning, created with other trees. For how could Noah plant a vineyard unless he had slips of other wines or grapes that grew before, seeing he did not create fruits but plant fruits as we do? For this is principally to be noted, that so soon as he had opportunity to do good, he omitted no time but presently after the Flood was gone and that earth began to dry, he plied it with seeds and wrought it till he saw the fruits of his labor. By this we learn to omit no occasion to do good, but whensoever we may do good, to count it sin if we do not. But if we be so exercised then all our works shall prosper like the vineyard of Noah, because the fruit of the vine doth cheer the countenance and glad the heart of man.

Therefore some have gathered upon the planting of this vineyard a signification of gladness and thankfulness in Noah for this late deliverance, as the Jews by their solemn feasts did celebrate the memorial of some great benefit. But I rather judge that God would have us see in this example what men did in those days, and how we are degenerate from our parents, that we may prepare against the fire as Noah prepared against the water. This is worthy to be noted too, that God did not so regard his husbandry but that he had an eye to his drunkenness, and speaks of his fault as well as his virtue. Whereby we are warned that though God bless us now while we remember him, yet he will chasten us so soon as we forget him. Though we be in good name now, infamy will rise in an hour. Though we be rich at this present, poverty may come suddenly. Though we be well while we are here, yet we may fall sick before night. Even as Noah is praised in one verse and dispraised in another; even now God commends him for his lowliness and now discommends for his drunkenness, as though he had forgot all his righteousness so soon as he sinned and would call in his praise again.

This was to show that Noah was not saved from the Flood because he deserved to be saved, but because God had a favor unto him, for he which was not drowned with water was drowned with wine. As the Pharisees when they had done well were proud of it and lost their reward, so when Noah had done a good work he spotted it with sin and was dispraised where he was praised, as though God repented him that he commended him. He planted well but he drunk not well. Therefore that which was good did him hurt, that seeing he was trapped with a good work, whatsoever we do we may remember how easy it is to sin, if we miss in the matter or in the manner or time or the place or the measure, as Noah did. He which planteth the vineyard is worthy to taste of the grape, but if thou have found honey (saith Solomon) eat not too much lest thou surfeit. So if thou has found wine, drink not too much lest thou surfeit. A little wine is better than a great deal, and if thou wilt follow the Apostle's counsel, thou must drink it but for thy stomach's sake, lest that happen to thee which thou shalt hear of this noble patriarch.

Though he was never so righteous before God and men, though he escaped the destruction which lighted upon the world, though he had all the fowls of the air and beasts of the land at his command, though he passed the pilgrimage of man nine hundred years, yet Noah was but a man. So ancient, so righteous, so mighty, so happy, Noah showed himself but a man, for - drinking the wine which himself had planted - he was drunken. This is Noah's fault. He was drunken with his own wine, as Lot was defiled with his own daughters. If Cain, his son, had taken too much and stripped himself as his father did, the Holy Ghost would scarce have spoken of it because he was a man of no note. But when the father forgot himself and gave this offence, mark the manner of the Holy Ghost, as though he would show you a wonder. He diplayeth Noah's drunkenness as Cain displayed his nakedness; as if he would say, come and see the strength of man? He which was counted so righteous. He which believed the threatening like Lot when the rest mocked. He to whom all the fowls of the air and the beasts of the earth flocked in couples as they came to Adam. He which was reserved to declare the judgments of God and to begin the world again. Noah, the example of sobriety, the example of moderation is overcome with drink, as if he had never been the man. How easily, how quickly the just, the wise, the prudent, hath lost his sense, his memory, his reason, as though he had never been the man.

And how hard it is to avoid sin when occasion is at hand and pleasant opportunity tempteth to sin? It is easier for the bird to go by the net than to break the net, so it is easier for a man to avoid temptations than to overcome temptations. Therefore God forbad Balaam not only to curse the people, as Balack would have him, but forbad him to go with Balack's servants, knowing that if he went with them and saw the pomp of the court and heard the king himself speak unto him and felt the tickling reward, it would strain his conscience, and make him doubt whether he should curse or bless. Peter but warming himself at Caiaphas fire was overcome by a silly damsel to do that which he never thought - even to forswear his Lord God. therefore Daniel would not eat of the king's meat, lest he should be tempted to the king's will, showing us that there is no way to escape sin, but to avoid occasion. Therefore David prayeth, Turn away mine eyes from vanity, as though his eyes would draw his heart as the bait tilleth on the hook.

Noah thought to drink, he thought not to be drunk. But as he which commeth to the field to sound the trumpet is slain as soon as he which commeth to fight, so the same wine distempered Noah which hath distempered so many since. Where he thought to take his reward and taste the fruit of his own hands, God set an everlasting blot upon him which sticks fast till this day, like a bar in his arms. So long as the name of Noah is spoke of, that we cannot read of his virtue but we must read of his sin. Whereby every man is warned to receive the gifts of God reverently, to use them soberly, and to sanctify himself before he reach forth his hand unto them, that they may comfort and profit us with that secret blessing which God hath hid in them or else everything - the best gifts of God - may hurt us. As this pleasant wine stained and confounded the great Patriarch when he delighted too much in it, which he might have drunk as Christ did at his Last Supper, and this disgrace had never been written in the story. But God would have a fearful example, like the Pillar of Salt, to stand before those beasts whose only strife is to make trial who can quaff deepest ad show all their valiantness in wine.

Because there is such warning before us, now we have the drunkard in schooling, I shall spend the time that is left to show you the deformity of this sin. If any hear me which have been overtaken with it, let them not marvel why he cannot love his enemies, which loveth such an enemy as this, which leadeth till he reeleth, dulls him till he be a fool, and stealeth away his sense, his wit, his memory, his health, his credit, his friends. And when she hath stripped him as bare as Noah then she exposeth him like Noah to Cham, and all that see him to mock him. It is a wonder almost that any man should be drunk that hath seen a drunkard before - swelling and puffing and foaming and spewing and groveling like a beast - for who would be like a beast for all the world? Look upon the drunkard when his eyes stare, his mouth drivels, his tongue falters, his face flames, his hands tremble, his feet reel. How ugly, how monstrous, how loathsome doth he seem to thee? - so loathsome dost thou seem to others when thou art in the like taking. And how loathsome then dost thou seem to God? Therefore the first law which Adam received of God was abstinence, which if he had kept, he had kept all virtues beside, but intemperancy lost all.

In abstinence the Law came to Moses and he fasted when he received it, to show that they which receive the word of God, receive it soberly. A temperate man seldom sinneth because the flesh which doth tempt is mortified lest it should tempt. But when the handmaid is above the mistress and a man hath lost the image of God and scarce retaineth the image of man, all his thoughts, speeches and actions must needs be sin and nothing but sin, because the bond of virtue in broken - sobriety, which kept all together. When didst thou want discretion to consider? When didst thou want patience to forgive? When didst thou want continency to refrain? When didst thou want heart to pray? - But when sobriety was fled away and intemperancy filled her room?  If shame let to sin, it casteth out shame. If fear let to sin, it casteth our fear. If love let to sin, it expulseth love. If knowledge let to sin, it expulseth knowledge, like a covetous landlord which would have all to himself and live alone.

There is no sin but hath some show of virtue - only the sin of drunkenness is like nothing but sin. There is no sin but, although it hurt the soul, it beautifieth the body or promiseth profit or pleasure or glory or something to his servants. Only drunkenness is so impudent that it descryeth itself, so unthankful that it maketh no recompense, so noisome that it consumeth the body, which many sins spare lest they should appear to be sins. Ever sin defileth a man, but drunkenness makes him like a beast. Every sin defaceth man, but drunkenness taketh away the image of a man. Every sin robbeth a man of some virtue, but drunkenness stealeth away all virtues at once. Every sin deserves punishment, but drunkenness upbraids a man while the wine is in his stomach, and though he would dissemble his drunkenness yet he is not able to set a countenance of it, but the child descryeth him, the fool knows that he is drunk because his face betrayeth him, like the leprosy which brast out of the forehead - so worthily hath he lost the opinion of sobriety which hath lost itself. His son thinks himself now more master than his father. His servant makes him a fool. His children lead him like a child. His wife useth him like a servant.

And although his drunkenness leaveth him when he hath slept, yet no man seeks to him for counsel after; no man regards his word; no man reckons of his judgment; no man is persuaded of his counsel; no man accounts of his learning; no man hath any glory to accompany with him. But so soon as drunkenness hath made him like a beast, every man abhorreth him like a beast as they did Nebuchadnezzar. The spirit flyeth from him lest he should grieve it; his friends go away lest he should shame them, and no virtues come near lest he defile them. How many things fly out when wine goes in? How is it then, that he which loveth himself can be so cruel to himself, that he should love his life and shorten his life? that he should love his health and destroy his health? that he should love his strength and weaken his strength? that he should love his wealth and consume his wealth? that he should love his credit and crack his credit? that he should love his understanding and overturn his understanding? that he should love his beauty and deform his beauty?

The poets need feigning no more that men are transformed into beasts, for if they were living now they should see men like beasts - some like lions, some like wolves, some like foxes, some like swine. Who is the beast, when the beasts satisfy nature and men satisfy appetite? when the beast keep measure and man exceeds measure? when the beasts are found labouring and men found surfeiting? who is the beast? I have read of a bird which hath the face of a man but is so cruel of nature that sometimes for hunger she will set on a man and slay him. After, when she comes for thirst unto the water to drink, seeing the face of him whom she devoured, for grief that she hath killed one like herself, takes such sorrow that she never eateth nor drinketh after but beats and frets and pines herself to death. What wilt thou do then which hast not slain one like thyself, but thyself, thy very self with a cup of wine and murderest so many virtues and grace in one hour?

As Esau sold his land and living for a mess of potage, so the drunkard selleth his sense and wit and memory and credit for a cup of wine. Thou hast not murdered thy brother like Cain, but thou hast murdered thyself like Judas. As the Rechabites abstain from wine as Jonadab bade them obtained the blessing which God had appointed to the Israelites, so let us take heed lest they which we account idolaters whilst they fast and watch obtain the blessing which God hath appointed for us (get way the blessing) while we sit to eat and play. Therefore, as Christ said, Remember Lot's wife, so I say, Remember Lot - one hour of drunkenness did him more harm than all his enemies in Sodom. Remember Noah - one hour of drunkenness discovered that which was hid for six hundred years. Ten times more might be said against this vice, but I have said enough to make you abhor it. I have said as much as I would.

Some go about to excuse Noah because he was an old man and therefore might soon be taken cup-short. Some because the wines were hotter in those countries than they are with us. Some because as most men delight in that which by great labour they have bought to pass of themselves, so no marvel Noah had a longing to his own grapes :  following herein the example of a curious cook which doth sup and sup his broth to taste whether it be well seasoned, that he may men it if he can or mend the next. But as the fly by often dallying with the candle at last scorcheth her wings with the flame, so taking he was taken and was at last drunk. Yet this is imputed to him for his fault, that he was drunk; as the punishment which follows doth witness.

Such is the providence of God that his mercy might be glorified in all, he hath concluded all under sin and suffered the best to fall, that no man might trust in his own strength, and that we seeing their repentance may learn to rise again how grievous soever our sins be. I we have been idolaters, if adulterers, if persecutors, if murmurers, if murderers, if blasphemers, if drunkards, Aaron and Moses and Lot and Abraham and David and Solomon and Peter and Paul and Noah have been the like, who reign now in the kingdom of Christ with his angels. And so may we, if we repent like them. These examples, saith Paul, are not written for our imitation but our admonition.

Thus you have seen Noah sober and Noah drunken. Where by we see that a man may be drunk with his own wine. He may surfeit with his own meats. He may lust with his own wife. He may offend with his own gifts. His own honour may make him proud. His own riches may make him covetous. His own strength may make him venturous. His own wit may make him contentious. Therefore as the child plucks out the sting before he takes the honey, so let every man before he receives the gifts of God, sit down and look what baits, what snares, what temptations Satan hath hid in them. And when he hath taken out the sting, then eat the honey and he shall use the blessings of Christ as Christ did himself.

FINIS


[Spelling and punctuation modernized]

Henry Smith (1550? - 1591) was known as "silver-tongued Smith" for his talents at preaching. He was a lecturer at Saint Clement Danes in London from 1575. His puritan tendencies almost got him into trouble with the Bishop John Whitgift, but he was protected by William Cecil, Lord Burghley to whom Smith had dedicated his collected sermons.

Cain = Ham or Cham

saith Moses = It was generally believed until late in the seventeenth century that the first five books of the Bible (the Pentateuch) had been written by Moses, while inspired by the Holy Spirit.

old man = Genesis 7:6 "And Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters was upon the earth."

delved = to dig over the ground in preparation for sowing. A traditional English rhyme asked  "When Adam delved and Eve span, Who was then the gentleman?"

Genesis 46:33-34 "And it shall come to pass, when Pharaoh shall call you, and shall say, What is your occupation? That ye shall say, Thy servants' trade hath been about cattle from our youth even until now, both we, and also our fathers: that ye may dwell in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination unto the Egyptians."

bate =  to lower (related to abate)

the sweat of thy brows = Genesis 3:19 "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."

in respect of them = in comparison with them

the Apostle's rule = II Thessalonians 3:10  "For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

curse = Genesis 3:20: "And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life"

Solomon noteth = Just as it was believed that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible, so King Solomon was held to be the author of the Book of Proverbs and King David of the Book of Psalms. Hence the rhyme:
                King David and King Solomon led merry, merry lives
                With many, many concubines and many, many wives
                But when old age crept over them, with many, many qualms
                King Solomon wrote the Proverbs and King David wrote the Psalms.

Proverbs 24: 30-33 = "I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down"

Proverbs 25:16 "Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it."

I Timothy 5:23 "Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities"

Numbers 22:12-13 "And God said unto Balaam, Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed. And Balaam rose up in the morning, and said unto the princes of Balak, Get you into your land: for the Lord refuseth to give me leave to go with you"

Mark 14:54, 66-68 "And Peter followed him afar off, even into the palace of the high priest: and he sat with the servants, and warmed himself at the fire. …And as Peter was beneath in the palace, there cometh one of the maids of the high priest And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked upon him, and said, And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth. But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew."

Psalms 119:37 "Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way".

let = in the sense of hinder

Esau = He sold his brother Jacob his inheritance for a "mess of pottage" (bowl of lentils) in Genesis 25:29-34.

Jeremiah 35:6 "But they said, We will drink no wine: for Jonadab the son of Rechab our father commanded us, saying, Ye shall drink no wine, neither ye, nor your sons for ever"

Luke 17:32

I Corinthians 10:11 "Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come."