« ForrigeFortsæt »
THE TEMPERANCE QUESTION.
"What! know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's."-1 COR. vi. 19, 20.
The Christian obligations which lie upon us in the direction of physical health and strength and beauty are almost unknown to ascetic theology. We have come down bearing yet in us the effect of the false theology which taught men to despise this world, and to call it all manner of names; to despise the man in the body, and to inculcate the duty of destroying a large part of man's nature. By a perversion of the figurative language of Scripture, men have been taught that it was their duty to sacrifice the affections and appetites and passions, in order that the spiritual life might have power which is as if one should teach shipmasters making voyages in steamers to put out the furnace, and to keep all grease from the engine-room, in order that the cabin might be kept sweeter and pleasanter. You might roll forever in an eternal storm or calm if you destroyed propulsion. Power in the hull is necessary to the well-being of the cabin; and power in the human body is essential to the wellbeing of the mind. It has not anything that needs to be extinguished. There is not an appetite too many. There are no passions which are not needful. We are compactly and symmetrically organized. Harmonization, regularity, subordination-these are needed; our rampant affections need to be tamed; they need to be brought under some intelligent
SUNDAY EVENING, April 12, 1874. LESSON: Psalm xix., HYMNS (Plymouth Col. lection): Nos. 1008, 1001, 1020,
plan; they need to maintain their position as servants, and should never be allowed arrogantly to assume the port and mien of masters; but they are not to be put out.
On the other hand, we are to honor the body. It is a part of our Christian duty to honor it, by vigor, by health, by all that fruitfulness in worldly ways which springs from buoyancy of spirit and soundness of body; and he sins against himself who, by appetite and passion, or in any other way, perverts the uses of his body.
I purpose, to-night, not so much to discuss directly the subject of Temperance, as to present the subject at large as it lies in my mind; and this with reference to a general view, suggesting some considerations which ought to enter into our daily life, and into all the exertions which are being made in our time to stay the evils of intemperance.
There are naturally two departments of this subject. The one is the traffic in intoxicating drinks or injurious substances; and the other is the use of them. Both of these themes are now brought before the minds of our citizens; and we are called, and must be called, inevitably, to act in regard to them both.
I shall speak first as to the traffic in intoxicating drinks. This depends, not on anything that is inherent in it, but on this: that it supplies the strongest and most impetuous craving which human nature can know. I suppose that there is no other demand so strong as the morbid taste for stimulants; and just as long as men crave them with all the impetus of their being, just so long that craving will be supplied. You may make up your minds to that. If men have to dig a thousand fathoms deep, and build walls in the very center of the earth, they will build them; and as long as the demand for intoxicating drinks remains, so long it will be supplied, clandestinely or openly. Therefore this traffic, either illicit or permitted, will exist so long as those morbid conditions and cravings exist which create a demand for it in society.
The knowledge of this fact does not touch the theory of right or wrong, but it touches the question of prudence in procedure. In regard to the right of the community to ex
tirpate this traffic if it can, there is in my mind no doubt whatsoever. If we have a right to regulate every part of business for the public weal, to forbid the sale of poisonous elements except under certain regulations and conditions, to forbid that men shall carry concealed weapons, to maintain the peace of the whole community by one and another restriction, then, certainly, we have the same right, in a more imperative form, to defend the community against an evil which sums up in itself almost every other evil which is known to human society. To say that you have no right to suppress the traffic in intoxicating drinks is to indulge in an unwarrantable license of speech. It is one thing to say that you have no right; it is another thing to say that it is not expedient.
In regard to what is called the "Maine Law," which absolutely forbids this traffic, that law is right. It is conformable to all the analogies of civil society. There is but one single fault to be found with it—you cannot make it work. If you could, I think there would be an end of the argument. You may enforce it in neighborhoods, in particular communities; but, looking upon this nation, I anticipate that a hundred years will not see such an educated public sentiment, nor such conditions of general living and health, as will make it possible to maintain such a law.
I was, from the carliest day, an advocate of that law. I believe it still, as much as ever I did, to stand in just principles, and to be a thing much to be desired; but I have given up the expectation of seeing it exist with any considerable working force in our time.
Then it was supposed that if you could not enforce a law absolutely excluding drink, perhaps you might indirectly gain the end sought by making the men who traffic in intoxicating drinks responsible for all the mischiefs which they do. Well, that did look feasible; but it does not work, either. Men will not prosecute nor serve as witnesses in such cases; magistrates drink; and the desired results are not produced, to say nothing of the fact that the consequences of inordinate drinking are dubious, and that the worst mischiefs are of a kind which you cannot meet with law. It may be that if a
man goes home and brutally beats his wife and children, and sets fire to his house, and burns it down, you may catch him, and have him punished; but the thousand irregularities, the want of attention to business, the ill-temper, the sourness of disposition, and the disgrace and misery and wretchedness of the household, which grow out of this traffic-how are you going to prefer charges and collect damages for having produced these? Although, when this plan was first adopted, men felt that at last the great principle had been struck, the devil was not caught nor bridled nor saddled that time.
Well, it is thought that local option may be a modified form of the Maine Law. It seems to me more reasonable than any other of the expedients which have been devised; for there are many neighborhoods where I think the vote of a large majority can be obtained to prevent the promiscuous manufacture and exposure for sale of intoxicating drinks. In so far as that has been tried, I believe it has been to a very large extent with benefit; and I am inclined to think that we may expect good results from local option, or the determining of each town for itself whether license shall be granted within its limits or not. It is very certain that regulation of the traffic may be effected by that means, and that, a right public sentiment being formed, we may hope, even in our large cities, to shear off much of its mischief. Drinking-houses may be shut up on the Lord's day; they may be shut up on days of election; they may be shut up except where they are licensed; they may be brought under police inspection or surveillance; many restrictions may be laid upon them. If this result is not attained, it will be the fault of the great body of citizens who do not demand it, and do not support those whose business it is to secure it. Magistrates and executive officers will always enforce those laws which the great body of citizens demand that they shall enforce. That which you want, and will have, you can have; but never can you find magistrates and officers who will do for you disagreeable work which you do not want to do, nor have anything to do with. If you suppose that you can appoint legal scullions, and have them do all the disagreeable work of the community, while you stay at home and
rejoice that society is being scoured and washed and made clean, you do not understand human nature. You cannot do it. Under such circumstances the work will not be done. Police regulation and restriction will go just as the public sentiment goes. It will be strict when public sentiment is stringent, and lax when public sentiment relaxes.
It is in vain for men to call for new laws when they do not secure the execution of the wholesome laws which they already have. It is in vain for them to inveigh against the police for not enforcing laws which they do not demand the enforcement of. If some interpreting policeman, with an eloquent tongue, were to stand in my place, and tell what he sees good citizens do, and what he sees them shirk doing; if such a policeman were to tell you how he looks at human society and good citizenship, I think we should have a more wholesome all-round knowledge than now we have. It is very easy for you, in the morning, while drinking your coffee, to utter a little curse upon the delinquency of the police force; but they are as you are. If you hide yourself, if no moral influence goes out from you, you might as well expect that your water-mill would run without any river to turn the wheel, or that your wind-mill would grind without wind, as that your laws will be executed. Magistrates will not do their duty unless you are a moving force, compelling them to do it.
So far, then, as regulation is concerned, it seems to me that very much more may be done to shear off the grossness and ubiquity of the traffic in intoxicating drinks than has been done; but as far as its suppression is concerned, that largely awaits the time when men shall imperiously demand it.
Let us look, then, at the other department of this subject, and consider the fact that our reformatory exertions must be directed largely upon those who use, or may be taught to use, intoxicating drinks.
When the temperance reformation first began, we had to take such light as we could get; and it is not strange that there were very many reasons given for courses which were not as wise in practice as they were sound in principle. The reform principle which men first found was that the use of