Principle of Total Abstinence; Division; Temperance Societies

 •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 15
I do not judge temperance societies to be good or scriptural, because they impose another law, and give other motives and other obligations, than scripture or the doctrines of Christ give, and though in particular instances where followed with an unfeigned desire for good, God may have in sovereign mercy overruled them for good (as I dare say may have been the case), yet their general moral effect has been harmful, as all unscriptural things must be. But this is not the ground I go on here, though it is a monstrous thing to substitute an unscriptural invention of man for the institution of God, in a matter which, as to institutions, forms the central expression of the christian system. Further, I think all vows or undertakings of this kind to be positive sin.: and am I really to give up the scriptural remembrance of Christ to support a system whose basis I believe to be really (though unwittingly) a sin?
But what is the character of the act? It is not respecting the scruples of others, and leaving them free to act on them, even if seeking to enlighten them, but it is claiming to impose a law instituted by man on the whole church of God, a law which they cannot pretend to see in scripture. This is not respecting individual conscience, not could I tolerate that the institution of Christ should be subordinated or made to vary for the fancies of men. It is not a question of a certain number at, who may perhaps have no very clear idea of the importance of the question. You are changing the institution of Christ for the whole church of God, if indeed in principle you count yourselves one body with it, and imposing unscriptural inventions on the whole body of Christ. Supposing other Christians to come to-who have clear enough judgment to condemn morally the whole notion and principle of temperance societies, and who felt scandalized at the institutions of Christ being subjected to the inventions and vows of men, what are they to do? I avow to you I would not break bread where I saw Christ's order (in a most touching part of His service too) made the sport of man's inventions. It is the very idea of the dishonor done to the Lord's institution which offends me: the acquiescence of twenty or thirty saints in -, dear as they may be to me, could not affect that.
To me, therefore, I avow to you, it is intolerable: I mean the pretension to subject the whole church of God (for, let it be well weighed, that is what it amounts to) to a notion which is not or cannot be pretended to be a rule of scripture, and which I judge to be sinful in its very nature, and to subject the institution of Christ to it. I judge Christians ought not to break bread where it is knowingly done.
April 21St, 1848.