As we have seen in the chapters on the "Crusade," the "Woman's Christian Temperance Union," and the "Reform Clubs," this new temperance movement, which has attained in the last few years such large dimensions, has in it many of the features of a religious revival. On this account, and to distinguish it from all preceding efforts to break down the liquor traffic and save the drunkard, it has been called a Gospel temperance movement. Its chief reliance with many has been on prayer and faith, as agencies by which the mighty power of God could be so determined as not only to save the drunkard from the curse of his debasing appetite, but to so move and act upon the liquor-seller as to lead him to abandon his accursed traffic.
THE VALUE OF PRAYER AND FAITH ALONE.
At the commencement of this movement, which took the form of what is known as the "Woman's Crusade," the power of prayer seemed for awhile to be an almost irresistible force. Thousands and tens of thousands of men were, as they felt assured in their hearts, freed in an instant of time from an appetite which had been growing and strengthening for years, until it held complete mastery over them; and this in answer to the prayer of faith. And hundreds of saloon and tavern-keepers abandoned their evil work, because, as was believed, God, in answer to the prayers of pious men and women, had turned upon them the influences of His Holy Spirit, and constrained them to this abandonment.
For awhile this power of prayer was regarded as the force that was to break down the liquor traffic, and rescue the people from the curse of appetite. If prayer were persistent enough, and faith strong enough, God would come to the rescue, overthrow the enemy, and redeem and save the wretched victims he was holding in such cruel bondage. But, as time moved on, and the enemy, whose ranks were at first thrown into confusion, rallied his forces and held himself secure against renewed attack, there came a doubt in the minds of many as to the value of prayer and faith, as the sole agency by which the rule of the demon of intemperance was to be overthrown; and the same doubt came as to the power of prayer and faith alone to work the removal of an appetite for drink, when it was found by sad experience that of the thousands of men who signed the pledge under religious excitement, and made public declaration that, through faith in Christ, they had been healed of their infirmity, only a few were able to stand in the hour of temptation; and these stood fast because they rested in no vain security. They knew, from an inner conviction, that appetite had not been destroyed; and that, in some unguarded moment, it would spring upon and endeavor to enslave them again. But, with God's help, they had resolved to hold it in check. Humbly they looked to Him for strength--meantime watching, as well as praying--to fight and overcome when their hour of trial and darkness came. So they stood ever on guard; and God gave them the strength they asked for, and victory after victory, until their enemy was under their feet; not dead, but held there by the power which is given to every one who will use it against the enemies of his soul.
PRAYER SUPPLEMENTED BY ORGANIZED WORK.
Not so much dependence on prayer and faith now as on organized work in the natural plane of means and forces. This came as an orderly sequence, and gave to the cause of Gospel temperance a surer foundation to rest upon, and a larger promise of success. There was no turning away from God; no weakness of faith in His Divine power and readiness to save; but clearer light as to His ways with man, and as to how He is able to save, to the uttermost, all who come unto Him. The instances going to show that men were not cured of the appetite for strong drink in a moment of time by prayer and faith, were too many and too sorrowful not to force this conviction upon the mind of every thoughtful and observant Christian man and woman. And, so, even while many sincere and self-devoted workers in this cause still hold to the view that God can, and will, if the faith be strong enough, change a man in an instant of time, and with no co-operation of his own beyond this act of faith, from vileness to purity--from a love of evil to a love of good--the sounder, safer and more Scriptural doctrine that, if a man would be saved from the enemies of his soul, he must fight and overcome them in the strength which God gives to all who will ask and receive, is the one now more generally preached to reformed men; and, as a result, the number of those who stand fast in the new life to which they have attained, is steadily increasing.
THE APPETITE FOR DRINK NOT TAKEN AWAY IN A MOMENT.
Still, far too widely in this Gospel work of saving fallen men from the power of appetite, is the delusive idea held out that if a man will "give his heart to Christ," as it is called; that is, pray humbly, sincerely and in faith to have his sins forgiven, and his soul purified from all evil by an application of Divine grace; God will, in answer to this prayer alone, and in an instant of time, take away the appetite for drink which has been for years gradually gaining the mastery over him. We have heard a man declare, in the presence of an assemblage of men who had been slaves to drink, and who were seeking for a way of escape, that God had, in answer to his prayers, destroyed in a moment the appetite which had long held him in a close bondage; and that, if they would come to Him and give Him their hearts, He would work in them the same miracle of spiritual healing. As we listened to his confident speech, we felt how great was the danger in which he himself stood, and how much better it would have been for his hearers if he had kept silent.
HOW MANY ARE REALLY SAVED.
Facts are solid things, and weigh heavily in the scale of argument. They are not always pleasant to look at; but it is weakness to ignore them. Let us take a few facts in connection with this Gospel temperance work. The first of these came to our knowledge while we were revolving the contents of this chapter, and before we had commenced writing it. A leading temperance worker, who was an active participant in the Murphy movement, and who holds that there is for the confirmed drunkard no hope or safety but in the power of religion, stated to us that during the Moody and Sankey revival in Philadelphia, something over two hundred drunken men were reclaimed and converted; changed in heart, as it was declared, and "saved" by the power of God. These were gathered together on a certain evening in one of the churches, and the gentleman to whom we have referred was among those who addressed them. The poor, weak, and in too many instances, friendless and homeless men were talked to, and then committed to God in prayer. They had His grace in their hearts--had been "saved" through prayer and faith--and would He not care for, protect and defend them?
Alas, for the sequel! Of all these two hundred converted and "saved" men, who had, in a moment of time, been changed from servants of sensuality and sin into children of God, their souls made "whiter than snow," not over five or six can to-day be found in the ranks of sober men!
In and around Pittsburgh, during the religious temperance revival which, under Francis Murphy, wrought such marvels in that city and neighborhood, over fifty thousand signatures were obtained to the pledge, the signers, in a large number of cases, professing faith in Christ, and having an inner assurance, as they believed, that He would keep them, by the power of His grace, from again falling into the sin and misery of intemperance. But, to-day, only a small proportionate number can be found out of this great multitude who are standing fast by their profession. A like result has followed the great Gospel work of Mr. Murphy in Philadelphia. Of the thirty or forty thousand who signed the pledge and professed to be saved through faith in Christ, the number of men who have been rescued from drunkenness can scarcely be counted by hundreds; and of these the large proportion owe their salvation to the natural safeguards and orderly external conditions which were brought to the aid of spiritual resolve and spiritual forces.
When the excitement of these great revivals was over, and the contagious enthusiasm had died away, and men fell back into their old ways, amid old surroundings and temptations, each alone in the house of his own real life, then came
THE TRIAL AND THE TEST,
and it was found that to depend on grace alone, and the inner change it had effected in answer to prayer, was to rest, too often, in a vain security. The new convert was the same as to the essential evil quality of his life as before his conversion--or turning round to go the other way--and if he stood still where he had turned, and did not, in a new life of practical obedience to Divine laws, walk forward in the Heavenly road, his conversion would avail him nothing. Not that he was left alone by God to stand or fall as he might. No human heart ever felt even the faintest motions of that Divine pity, and compassion, and yearning to save his lost and perishing children, which is felt by our Heavenly Father, who is very love itself. But He cannot save humanity by destroying it, and this destruction would take place the moment he touched man's freedom to choose between good and evil. Of his own will, man has turned away from God; and of his own will he must return to Him if ever he return at all. The way of return has been opened and made plain, and God is forever calling and entreating His poor, wandering ones to come back, and offering them strength to walk, and weapons to fight, and armor for defense. But He cannot walk for them, nor fight for them, nor defend them unless they put on the armor His mercy supplies. They must, of themselves, using the strength He gives them, walk in the Heavenly way; and with the sword of Divine truth He places in their hands, do battle with the enemies of their souls. There is no other means of attaining Heaven. This strength to walk and fight and overcome, is the Divine grace that saves. It is the free gift of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; the very power of God unto salvation.
THE DIVINE GRACE THAT SAVES.
It is by the application of this Divine grace that men are saved from their sins and from the power of hell. But they can never receive it as passive subjects. They must take it and apply it in and of themselves, and use it as if it were their own; yet never forgetting that it is the gift of God, and never ceasing to acknowledge and thank Him for His infinite goodness and mercy in teaching their "hands to war;" in "girding" them "with strength unto the battle," and in giving them a "lamp unto their feet and a light unto their path," so that they may walk in safety.
If salvation were of grace alone, as so many teach in this Gospel temperance work, what need of "sword," or "armor," or a "lamp unto the feet?" for if, in answer to prayer and faith, a man's evil nature is instantly changed, he is no longer subject to temptation, and cannot, therefore, enter into combat with evil; and if God lift him out of the darkness of his carnal nature into the light of regeneration solely in answer to prayer, what need of any lamp unto his feet or light unto his path? He is no longer a pilgrim and a wayfarer, journeying heavenward through an enemy's land.
We press this subject on the reader's attention, because so much of success or failure in this great Gospel temperance work depends on a right understanding of spiritual laws and a true comprehension of the means of salvation. Holding, as we do, that, for the thousands and hundreds of thousands of unhappy and wretched men and women in our land who have become the almost helpless slaves of an appetite which is rarely, if ever, wholly destroyed, no true succor lies in anything but Divine grace and help, we feel that a great responsibility rests with all who, in the providence of God, have been drawn into this work.
Referring to the loose, and we cannot help saying hurtful teachings of too many temperance revivalists, Rev. Charles I. Warren, writing in the New York Christian Advocate, says:
"Religious conversion, all are agreed, is the first necessity for all men, and especially for inebriates, as the surest hope of a real and permanent reformation of life. And intemperate men, especially those who become demented rather than demonized, it is well known, are always easily moved by religious influences, even when so drunk that they would wisely be deemed incompetent to execute a will for the disposal of earthly property, and incapable of giving testimony in a court of law.
"Yet, this idea of a spiritual renovation of the heart, while the head is too intoxicated to apprehend a moral obligation, is almost beyond rational belief. It is difficult to conceive that any man, in such a state of voluntarily-induced imbecility, too drunk to hold intelligent converse with men, can be competent to transact business with God, to receive and answer those calls from the Holy Spirit that decide the eternal destinies of the soul."
And he adds: "We judge instinctively that all men, intemperate or sober, must work out their own salvation with fear, while God works in them to will and to do."
This is the key-note to the whole subject of spiritual regeneration. It is active co-operation; work, conflict, victory; and this down on the sphere of common life, and in the midst of temptation--not out of the world, but "in the world;" not something done in and for a man while he waits in prayer on God, but after he has fought his battle with some enemy of his soul, and overcome in the strength which God has given him in answer to prayer. Only they who have fought and conquered can possess the land and dwell there in safety.
AN UNSOUND AND DANGEROUS DOCTRINE.
In a meeting at which we were present, and where from one to two hundred reformed men were gathered for religious worship, and for help and counsel, the hymn commencing
"Prone to wander, Lord I feel it,"
was sung. At its close, a man rose from his seat and entered his protest against the singing of that hymn any more. It is not true, he said, that the man whom God has converted feels any proneness to wander. He had had the grace of God in his soul for--we don't remember how many years--and he could testify that the desire to wander from God's commandments had been wholly removed. He, therefore, repeated his protest against the use of a hymn containing a sentiment so dishonorable to a truly saved Christian. As he sat down, a very young man arose and added the weight of his testimony to the assertion of his older Christian brother. He also, in answer to prayer, as he confidently asserted, had attained unto that higher life which is not only free from sin, but from even the desire to wander from the ways of holiness.
As we looked into and read the faces of these two men, we sighed for what we saw therein, and pitied them for the peril in which they stood. But our greater concern was for the poor, weak, almost helpless ones we saw around us, and for the effect of this delusive error which had been so needlessly thrown into their minds. If any of them should rest in the belief that they, too, had, by the grace of God, been wholly set free from the bondage of sin; that the appetite for drink and the lust of all evil had been extinguished, and their proneness to wander from God taken away in simple answer to prayer, then would their danger, we felt, be so imminent as to leave but little room for hope of their standing in the new life. A stumbling-block had been laid in their way over which they must almost surely fall.
We are writing for the help and safety of men for whom there is but little or no hope of rescue from the depths of evil and sensuality into which they have fallen, except in a truly religious life; not a life of mere faith, and sentiment and fancied holiness, but of earnest conflict and daily right living. A life in which not only intemperance is to be shunned, as a sin against God, but every impure and evil desire of the heart, and every thought and purpose of wrong to the neighbor. And, believing as we do, that God's grace and power can only be given to those who will take it as active subjects--not mere passive recipients--and by using it as if it were their own, avail themselves of its purifying and regenerating influence, we can do no less than question and reject any doctrine that even seems to give a different impression, as delusive and exceedingly dangerous.
To make Gospel temperance the true power of God unto the salvation of intemperate men, we must have in it, and with it, the Gospel of conflict with evil, the Gospel of daily right living, the Gospel of love to the neighbor and the Gospel of common sense. And these are coming more and more into the work, which is widening and increasing, and every year adding thousands upon thousands to the number of those who are saved from the curse of drink.