Page images
PDF
EPUB

denying ungodliness, and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world."

I cannot but reject expediency, then, as the basis or exponent of Bible Temperance. In this sentiment I apprehend you agree with me. You have well said, in your comments on the letter of the Rev. Dr. Yale (p. 24, of the Enquirer), "I have supposed that christian expediency requires that we should give up the use of anything innocent in itself for the good of others; but when the article to be abandoned is known to be positively injurious, by testimony and experience, I have supposed the rule cannot apply; and it then becomes a duty not to use the article at all. St. Paul says, 'It is neither good to eat flesh, nor drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.'

"Now meat is innocent in itself, as a common diet; still we should abandon its use if the good of others require it. It has been taken for granted by some, that St. Paul refers to intoxicating wine; are we sure of this?

"If he referred to the pure, unintoxicating wine, then the rule of expediency with regard to abstinence from wine, rests on exactly the same foundation as on meat; both innocent, both in themselves proper, and right to use; but both, like other good things, liable to abuse, and to be abandoned to prevent a weak brother from stumbling."

St. Paul appears to me to have been most unmercifully dragged out of his true position as the apostle of the Gentiles; who gloried in the cross; the greatest philanthropist that ever lived (second only to Immanuel Himself-the perfect Godman,) to bear the brunt and odium of this dangerous error.

Many will have it, that there is only one kind of wine spoken of in the Bible, and that intoxicating. It is very convenient for such persons to seize upon this saying of the apostle, and try to turn it to account. But it is decidedly a perversion of the passage just quoted, and from this perversion and others

of a similar nature, numerous and enormous evils have resulted. To make of alcoholic wine "a good creature of God," like wholesome meat, "not to be refused if it be received with thanksgiving," when it is, in truth, a most dangerous and delusive poison, in the ratio of the alcohol which it contains, must surely be a pestilent error. Thus, men are liable to be misled by their spiritual guides and instructers, and falsely to conceive that there is nothing in the Word of God, which hinders the use of alcoholic drinks, more than of nutritious food, and that there is nothing in these drinks of a deceitful and enticing kind which tends to the formation of an insatiable appetite, which, when gratified, poisons both soul and body. Thus, their minds may be steeled against the reception of those vivid statements of Holy Writ which plainly teach this great lesson, that the use of these intoxicating, or poisonous liquors by man, in his normal state of health, is an abomination in the sight of God. This aberration from the truth sets up, as it were, St. Paul in the place of God, and makes him the antagonist of the Divine law. It excludes, from the temperance movement, God in Christ, Who ought always to have been acknowledged as the founder and law-giver of all genuine temperance, and makes the devoted and heroic apostle the unconscious and unwilling instrument of that exclusion, from which, his noble, generous spirit (were he now on earth) would shrink back with grief and consternation. This doctrine, moreover, as a natural consequence, extinguishes temperance, as a christian grace, and destroys its Divine motives and sanctions; making it seem to be merely a giving up of a good thing, for a longer or shorter period, for the sake of a weak brother, instead of an imperative duty and precious privilege, consisting in the abandonment of an evil thing, alcoholic wine binding upon man, at all times, in his normal state of health; because enjoined by the law of God, as distinctly, (when all the Scriptures upon the subject are considered,) as the sacred observance of the Lord's day, and as necessary, to secure and maintain

the right worship of Jehovah, and the happiness of the human race. Meat is a good creature of God: a friend of man, which (as the chameleon changes its tint from the reflected color of surrounding objects), may assume a sombre appearance in the eyes of a superstitious observer, in consequence of its temporary. connexion with an evil companion—say an idol-and yet retain all its intrinsic good qualities, unimpaired.

Alcohol (including every alcoholic liquor,) is a poison, which, like the venom distilled from the serpent, is such a sworn friend of Satan, and deadly enemy to man, that it is scarce possible it can be made more hostile, or dangerous by any association which may be formed by it. It may be expedient for me not to eat a portion of meat offered to an idol, in the presence of a weak, but conscientious brother, who has lately escaped from the darkness of paganism, and who believes an idol to be something in the world, lest I should prove a snare to him; but I am not likely to meet with such a brother often, and when out of his sight, I need not be so scrupulous, knowing that "an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one:" the only living and true God.

But wine and other strong drink being themselves the basest idols the most devouring and destroying Molochs, no idolatrous communication with other idols, however intimate, can make them more execrable than they now are; neither can any association with holy persons or things, in the least degree improve them, although it will most certainly taint the reputation of their associates. One contingency it is just possible to conceive, and only one, to which the language of the apostle (supposing his allusion to have been to alcoholic wine as a good thing) could have been applicable; that is, to the whole family of man, struck down suddenly and simultaneously with typhus fever, or some other asthenic disease of the same class, for the cure of which alcoholic drinks are very generally believed to be a suitable, if not the best, remedy.

Let the advocate of expediency make the most of this argument, and seek support from the following apposite remarks of Professor Miller, of Edinburgh, in his recent work, "Alcohol, its Place and Power." Speaking of alcohol, as a tonic in fever, he says: "But in the trough of fever, dosing goes on without one sign of drunkenness; the brain, on the contrary, growing clearer and clearer in all its functions. Nay, it is perhaps wrong to speak of wine and brandy, when judiciously handled, having a stimulant action in such circumstances. They do not excite the brain above the normal standard; they merely bring it up to the normal working, counteracting the state of depression in which they found it sunk, and thus approaching the character of a true tonic.

"In order to do this accurately and thoroughly, however, it is plain that both a careful and skillful management of the remedy is required. Like other poisons, it is not to be rashly and empirically prescribed, or the dosing fixed by routine. The case must be suitable; the disease and the necessity for the remedy must be there; the dose must be well adjusted at starting, and its effect must be carefully watched, in order that it may be duly regulated accordingly." Is this the good creature, which, even in disease where its use is beneficial, requires to be so closely watched, and skilfully managed? Can it then be used promiscuously, and at random, in unmeasured quantities, in health, where it is not required medicinally; where it cannot nourish, and where it must prove poisonous? In future letters, should it be the will of God, that I shall be privileged from time to time to address you upon that department of Bible Temper-. ance which relates to wine and strong drink, I shall endeavor, trusting in the "promises of God, which in Him (Jesus) are, yea, and in Him, amen," to be guided in my researches by the sound views of your distinguished countryman, Jonathan Edwards, who, "being dead, yet speaketh" in the following words of sterling worth and profound wisdom: "The mind and will

of God, concerning any duty to be performed by us, may be sufficiently revealed in His word, without a particular precept, in so many express terms, enjoining it.

"The human understanding is the ear to which the word of God is spoken; and if it be so spoken, that the ear may plainly hear it, it is enough. God is Sovereign, as to the manner of speaking His mind, whether He will speak it in express terms, or whether He will speak it, by saying several other things which imply it, and from which we may, by comparing them together, plainly perceive it. If the mind of God be but revealed—if there be but sufficient means for the communication of His mind to our minds, that is sufficient; whether we hear so many express words with our ears, or see them in writing with our eyes; or whether we see the thing which He would signify to us by the eye of reason, and understanding."

I am, my dear sir,
Affectionately

yours,

JOHN MAIR.

MY DEAR SIR,

LETTER II.

Never was greater injustice done to any book, than has been done to the Bible, in regard to drunkenness, its causes and cure. If hemlock and hellebore, which belong to the same class of poisons as alcohol, had been substituted for wine and strong drink; or in modern phraseology, "wines and spirituous liquors," as dietetic articles of ordinary use, less wonder should have been excited in the minds of impartial judges, than ought to have been produced by the habitual use of alcoholic liquors, by man in his normal state of health; because, neither hellebore nor hemlock is specially spoken against in Scripture; whereas, wine and strong drink are frequently represented there, in the most unfavorable light, that they may be shunned.

« PreviousContinue »