January 24, 2007

Pressing Back the Tide of Evil

Some Seventh-day Adventists have difficulty believing that they or any members of the church ought to involve themselves in the moral issues of their society. The following excerpts from an article about alcoholic prohibition first published 125 years ago in this magazine well illustrate both the history and the passion with which devout Adventists have historically engaged with the issues of their world.—Editors.
2007 1503 page14 capUR CREATOR HAS BESTOWED HIS bounties upon man with a liberal hand. Were all these gifts of Providence wisely and temperately employed, poverty, sickness, and distress would be well-nigh banished from the earth. But alas, we see on every hand the blessings of God changed to a curse by the wickedness of men. There is no class guilty of greater perversion and abuse of His precious gifts than are those who employ the products of the soil in the manufacture of intoxicating liquors. The nutritive grains, the healthful, delicious fruits, are converted into beverages that pervert the senses and madden the brain. As a result of the use of these poisons, thousands of families are deprived of the comforts and even the necessaries of life, acts of violence and crime are multiplied, and disease and death hurry myriads of victims to a drunkard’s grave.
This work of destruction is carried on under the protection of the laws of the land! For a paltry sum, men are licensed to deal out to their fellow men the potion that shall rob them of all that makes this life desirable and of all hope of the life to come. Neither the law-maker nor the liquor-seller is ignorant of the result of his work. At the hotel bar, in the beer garden, at the saloon, the slave of appetite expends his means for that which is destructive to reason, health, and happiness. The liquor-seller fills his till with the money that should provide food and clothing for the family of the poor drunkard.
This is the worst kind of robbery. Yet men in high position in society and in the church lend their influence in favor of license laws! And why?—because they can obtain higher rent for their buildings by letting them to liquor-dealers? because it is desirable to secure the political support of the liquor interest? because these professed Christians are themselves secretly indulging in the alluring poison? Surely, a noble, unselfish love for humanity would not authorize men to entice their fellow-creatures to destruction. . . .
2007 1503 page14Were the only evil arising from the sale of ardent spirits the cruelty and neglect manifested by intemperate parents toward their children, this alone should be enough to condemn and destroy the traffic. Not only does the drunkard render the life of his children miserable, but by his sinful example he leads them also into the path of crime. How can Christian men and women tolerate this evil? Should barbarous nations steal our children and abuse them as intemperate parents abuse their offspring, all Christendom would be aroused to put an end to the outrage. But in a land professedly governed by Christian principles, the suffering and sin entailed upon innocent and helpless childhood by the sale and use of intoxicating liquors are considered a necessary evil!
The word of God plainly declares, “Woe unto him that giveth his neighbor drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken.” Would that all who support the liquor traffic could realize that if, understanding its evils, they continue to uphold it, the curse of God is upon them, that retributive justice will one day overtake them, and they will see and feel the results of their sinful course.
There is a cause for the moral paralysis upon society. Our laws sustain an evil which is sapping their very foundations. Many deplore the wrongs which they know exist, but consider themselves free from all responsibility in the matter. This cannot be. Every individual exerts an influence in society. In our favored land, every voter has some voice in determining what laws shall control the nation. Should not that influence and that vote be cast on the side of temperance and virtue? . . .
Satan exults as he sees the slaves of evil habit daily crowding under his black banner, going down to misery, death, and hell. We may call upon the friends of the temperance cause to rally to the conflict and seek to press back the tide of evil that is demoralizing the world; but of what avail are all our efforts while liquor-selling is sustained by law? Must the curse of intemperance forever rest like a blight upon our land? Must it every year sweep like a devouring fire over thousands of happy homes? We talk of the results, tremble at the results, and wonder what we can do with the terrible results, while too often we tolerate and even sanction the cause. The advocates of temperance fail to do their whole duty unless they exert their influence by precept and example—by voice and pen and vote—in favor of prohibition and total abstinence. We need not expect that God will work a miracle to bring about this reform, and thus remove the necessity for our exertion. We ourselves must grapple with this giant foe, our motto no compromise and no cessation of our efforts till the victory is gained. . . .
What can be done to press back the inflowing tide of evil? Let laws be enacted and rigidly enforced prohibiting the sale and the use of ardent spirits as a beverage. Let every effort be made to encourage the inebriate’s return to temperance and virtue. But even more than this is needed to banish the curse of inebriety from our land. Let the appetite for intoxicating liquors be removed, and their use and sale is at an end. This work must to a great degree devolve upon parents. Let them, by observing strict temperance themselves, give the right stamp of character to their children, and then educate and train these children, in the fear of God, to habits of self-denial and self-control. Youth who have been thus trained will have moral stamina to resist temptation, and to control appetite and passion. They will stand unmoved by the folly and dissipation that are corrupting society.
The prosperity of a nation is dependent upon the virtue and intelligence of its citizens. To secure these blessings, habits of strict temperance are indispensable. The history of ancient kingdoms is replete with lessons of warning for us. Luxury, self-indulgence, and dissipation prepared the way for their downfall. It remains to be seen whether our own republic will be admonished by their example and avoid their fate.
The above is excerpted from an article, “Temperance and the License Law,” which first appeared in the Advent Review and Sabbath Herald (now the Adventist Review) on November 8, 1881. Seventh-day Adventists believe that Ellen G. White exercised the biblical gift of prophecy during more than 70 years of public ministry.