Teaching Christian Temperance

Because there has been indicated, by the votes cast in many places in the United States, a decided trend away from legal pro­hibition of the use of intoxicating liquors, many have felt that the temperance cause has re­ceived a fatal blow.

By H. H. VOTAW

Because there has been indicated, by the votes cast in many places in the United States, a decided trend away from legal pro­hibition of the use of intoxicating liquors, many have felt that the temperance cause has re­ceived a fatal blow. We may admit that prob­ably not for a long time, if ever, will state-wide temperance legislation be enacted by most of the legislatures or for the whole nation by the Federal Congress.

Doubtless the Eighteenth Amendment would not have come to the end that it did if those who had labored so hard for its enactment had remembered that no law can be effective unless it commands the respect of the people, or is held by them to be necessary. I believe that the Eighteenth Amendment was not nullified by the activities of the bootleggers, but by the indifference of the people at large; and it seems clear that the indifference rested upon igno­rance. A new generation had arisen who had not known the horrors of the old saloon days, and who were led to believe that the liquor traffic could be and would be effectually con­trolled under a government licensing system.

The failure of the methods adopted since re­peal, the increase in drunkenness shown by the ever-mounting number of arrests, the drunken drivers figuring in automobile accidents, the attempts of liquor dealers to debauch the youth, etc., may all be used as evidence that repeal was a mistake. But to rely upon new laws only, as our hope for better things, will delay the good we seek to accomplish. If success in temperance work depended upon legal enact­ment alone, the outlook would be dark. When, however, it is remembered that temperance and sobriety are fundamental parts of the Christian religion, and that temperance is properly given special emphasis in the last-day message, Ad­ventists may view the situation with hope. Not a few have felt that the repeal of the prohibi­tion laws may result in people's appreciating that education can do what mere legislation can never do.

The duty of Seventh-day Adventists is clear. To us has been committed light upon the care of the body that makes us every one a tee­totaler. There is no other part of our message which more quickly arrests the attention and the interest of people in general than that which has to do with health. The high ground we take on the subject of temperance lifts our efforts above mere attempts to influence social legislation.

It is right to seek the enactment of temper­ance laws. We have not done our duty unless we work by "voice and pen and vote," but it should be noted that "voice" and "pen" come before "vote" in the admonition, and all will recognize that these two can be effective when no opportunity for the latter is offered. When defeated at the polls, educational means are still open to us. If it were possible to convince all minds of the evils of the use of alcoholic beverages and to persuade all hearts to do what is known to be right, no civil laws would be needed to help men to be sober. Recognizing that this will never be accomplished, does not in any way lessen the value of the method.

The temperance speaker is distinctly handi­capped if he is confined to an appeal to mate­rial benefits to be derived from temperance. As ministers of the gospel, it is time for us to support every argument by Scriptural reference and to climax every appeal by the use of the stirring words of Inspiration. We can stir this nation if every preacher, every Bible worker, every teacher among us sets himself to teach Christian temperance. We may as well admit that we, along with most other temperance workers, have depended upon civil law to do work that can always be best accomplished, and often can only be accomplished, by the influence of the gospel.

In seeking civil legislation we are confined to social needs as an argument for prohibition laws, because the state cannot properly legis­late on any subject upon the ground of religious teaching. On the other hand, when we seek to get men and women, boys and girls, to pledge never to drink intoxicants or to give up their use if they are addicted to them, the whole ar­ray of warning, exhortation, and appeal of the Scriptures can be marshaled, and if need be there can be set forth the frightful condemna­tion of Heaven that rests upon the drunkard.

Time was when no preacher ever held a series of meetings without giving emphasis to the temperance question. It is time to return to our first love. 

Washington, D. C.


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By H. H. VOTAW

November 1935

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