Dear Brethren and Sisters of the Church at -----: I have been shown that as a church you are not growing in grace and in the knowledge of the truth. There is not that consecration to God, that devotion to His service, and that disinterested labor for the upbuilding of His cause which would make you a prosperous and healthy church. You are not subject one to another. There are too many among you who have their own ideas to maintain and their own selfish plans to carry out, and some who occupy prominent places in the church are of this number.
Brother K has not an eye single to the glory of God; he does not view things from a right standpoint. He is giving heed to suggestions of Satan and taking counsel of his own unsanctified judgment, and he grasps at every word that can be framed into a justification of his wrong course. He is self-deceived; he does not see that he is shutting himself away from the Spirit of God. When he entered upon this path he did not know its dangers nor realize where it would lead him. All who are walking in the same way would do well to turn their feet at once into the path of safety.
We are living in an age of intemperance, and catering to the appetite of the cider bibber is an offense against God. With others you have engaged in this work because you have not followed the light. Had you stood in the light, you would not, you could not, have done this. Every one of you who has acted a part in this work will come under the condemnation of God unless you make an entire change in your business. You need to be in earnest. You need to commence the work at once to clear your souls from condemnation.
Some of you in ----- developed wonderful zeal in denouncing the red-ribbon clubs. So far as you were actuated by a desire to condemn the evil in these societies, you were right; but when you acted as though it were a crime to speak at all in their favor, or to show them the least good will, you carried matters to extremes. You should be consistent in all things. You have cherished a hatred for the very name "red-ribbon club" that savors not of the Spirit of Christ, and your feelings of bitterness have not helped you or anyone else.
You have taken the testimonies given in reference to our people's mingling with the temperance societies to the detriment of their spiritual interest, and by perverting them have used them to oppress and burden souls. By this treatment of the light given you have brought my work into disrepute. There was not the least necessity for this, and some of you have a work to do to make this matter right. You would make an iron bedstead for others; if too short, they must be stretched; if too long, they must be cut off. "Judge not, that ye be not judged."
After you had taken a decided stand in opposition to active participation in the work of the temperance societies, you might still have retained an influence over others for good, had you acted conscientiously in accordance with the holy faith which you profess; but by engaging in the manufacture of cider you have hurt your influence very much; and what is worse, you have brought reproach upon the truth, and your own souls have been injured. You have been building up a barrier between yourselves and the temperance cause. Your course led unbelievers to question your principles. You are not making straight paths for your feet, and the lame are halting and stumbling over you to perdition.
I cannot see how, in the light of the law of God, Christians can conscientiously engage in the raising of hops or in the manufacture of wine or cider for the market. All these articles may be put to a good use and prove a blessing, or they may be put to a wrong use and prove a temptation and a curse. Cider and wine may be canned when fresh and kept sweet a long time, and if used in an unfermented state they will not dethrone reason. But those who manufacture apples into cider for the market are not careful as to the condition of the fruit used, and in many cases the juice of decayed apples is expressed. Those who would not think of using the poisonous rotten apples in any other way will drink the cider made from them and call it a luxury; but the microscope would reveal the fact that this pleasant beverage is often unfit for the human stomach, even when fresh from the press. If it is boiled, and care is taken to remove the impurities, it is less objectionable.
I have often heard people say: "Oh! this is only sweet cider; it is perfectly harmless, and even healthful." Several quarts, perhaps gallons, are carried home. For a few days it is sweet; then fermentation begins. The sharp flavor makes it all the more acceptable to many palates, and the lover of sweet wine or cider is loath to admit that his favorite beverage ever becomes hard or sour. Persons may become just as really intoxicated on wine and cider as on stronger drinks, and the worst kind of inebriation is produced by these so-called milder drinks. The passions are more perverse; the transformation of character is greater, more determined and obstinate. A few quarts of cider or wine may awaken a taste for stronger drinks, and in many cases those who have become confirmed drunkards have thus laid the foundation of the drinking habit. For some persons it is by no means safe to have wine or cider in the house. They have inherited an appetite for stimulants, which Satan is continually soliciting them to indulge. If they yield to his temptations they do not stop; appetite clamors for indulgence and is gratified to their ruin. The brain is benumbed and clouded; reason no longer holds the reins, but they are laid on the neck of lust. Licentiousness, adultery, and vices of almost every type are committed as the result of indulging the appetite for wine and cider. A professor of religion who loves these stimulants, and accustoms himself to their use, never grows in grace. He becomes gross and sensual; the animal passions control the higher powers of the mind, and virtue is not cherished.
Moderate drinking is the school in which men are receiving an education for the drunkard's career. So gradually does Satan lead away from the strongholds of temperance, so insidiously do the harmless wine and cider exert their influence upon the taste, that the highway to drunkenness is entered upon all unsuspectingly. The taste for stimulants is cultivated; the nervous system is disordered; Satan keeps the mind in a fever of unrest; and the poor victim, imagining himself perfectly secure, goes on and on, until every barrier is broken down, every principle sacrificed. The strongest resolutions are undermined; and eternal interests are not strong enough to keep the debased appetite under the control of reason.
Some are never really drunk, but are always under the influence of cider or fermented wine. They are feverish, unbalanced in mind, not really delirious, but in fully as bad a condition; for all the noble powers of the mind are perverted. A tendency to disease of various kinds, as dropsy, liver complaint, trembling nerves, and a determination of blood to the head, results from the habitual use of sour cider. By its use many bring upon themselves permanent disease. Some die of consumption or fall under the power of apoplexy from this cause alone. Some suffer from dyspepsia. Every vital function is deadened and the physicians tell them that they have liver complaint, when if they would break open the cider barrel and never replace it, their abused life forces would recover their vigor.
Cider drinking leads to the use of stronger drinks. The stomach loses its natural vigor, and something stronger is needed to arouse it to action. On one occasion, when my husband and myself were traveling, we were obliged to spend several hours waiting for the train. While we were in the depot, a red-faced, bloated farmer came into the restaurant connected with it, and in a loud, rough voice asked: "Have you first-class brandy?" He was answered in the affirmative, and ordered half a tumbler. "Have you pepper sauce?" "Yes," was the answer. "Well, put in two large spoonfuls." He next ordered two spoonfuls of alcohol added, and concluded by calling for "a good dose of black pepper." The man who was preparing it asked: "What will you do with such a mixture?" He replied: "I guess that will take hold," and, placing the full glass to his lips, drank the whole of this fiery compound. That man had used stimulants until he had deadened the tender coats of the stomach.
Many, as they read this, will laugh at the warning of danger. They will say: "Surely the little wine or cider that I use cannot hurt me." Satan has marked such as his prey; he leads them on step by step, and they perceive it not until the chains of habit and appetite are too strong to be broken. We see the power that appetite for strong drink has over men; we see how many of all professions and of heavy responsibilities, men of exalted station, of eminent talents, of great attainments, of fine feeling, of strong nerves, and of good reasoning powers, sacrifice everything for the indulgence of appetite, until they are reduced to the level of the brutes; and in very many cases their downward course commenced with the use of wine or cider.
When intelligent men and women who are professedly Christians plead that there is no harm in making wine or cider for the market because when unfermented it will not intoxicate, I feel sad at heart. I know there is another side to this subject that they refuse to look upon; for selfishness has closed their eyes to the terrible evils that may result from the use of these stimulants. I do not see how our brethren can abstain from all appearance of evil and engage largely in the business of hop raising, knowing to what use the hops are put. Those who help to produce these beverages that encourage and educate the appetite for stronger stimulants will be rewarded as their works have been. They are transgressors of the law of God, and they will be punished for the sins which they commit and for those which they have influenced others to commit through the temptations which they have placed in their way.
Let all who profess to believe the truth for this time, and to be reformers, act in accordance with their faith. If one whose name is on the church book manufactures wine or cider for the market, he should be faithfully labored with, and, if he continues the practice, he should be placed under censure of the church. Those who will not be dissuaded from doing this work are unworthy of a place and a name among the people of God. We are to be followers of Christ, to set our hearts and our influence against every evil practice. How should we feel in the day when God's judgments are poured out, to meet men who have become drunkards through our influence? We are living in the antitypical day of atonement, and our cases must soon come in review before God. How shall we stand in the courts of heaven if our course of action has encouraged the use of stimulants that pervert reason and are destructive of virtue, purity, and the love of God?
The lawyer asked Christ: "Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself. And He said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live." Eternal life is the prize at stake, and Christ tells us how we may gain it. He directs us to the written word: "How readest thou?" The way is there pointed out; we are to love God supremely and our neighbor as ourselves. But if we love our neighbor as ourselves we shall not throw upon the market anything that will be a snare to him.
To love God and man is the Christian's whole duty. The law of love is written upon the tablets of the soul, the Spirit of God dwells in him, and his character appears in good works. Jesus became poor that through His poverty we might be made rich. What sacrifices are we willing to make for His sake? Have we His love enshrined in our hearts? Do we love our neighbor as Christ loved us? If we have this love for souls, it will lead us to consider carefully whether by our words, our acts, our influence in any way, we are placing temptation before those who have little moral power. We shall not censure the weak and suffering, as the Pharisees were continually doing, but we shall endeavor to remove every stone of stumbling from our brother's path lest the lame be turned out of the way.
As a people we profess to be reformers, to be light bearers in the world, to be faithful sentinels for God, guarding every avenue whereby Satan could come in with his temptations to pervert the appetite. Our example and influence must be a power on the side of reform. We must abstain from any practice which will blunt the conscience or encourage temptation. We must open no door that will give Satan access to the mind of one human being formed in the image of God. If all would be vigilant and faithful in guarding the little openings made by the moderate use of the so-called harmless wine and cider, the highway to drunkenness would be closed up. What is needed in every community is firm purpose, and a will to touch not, taste not, handle not; then the temperance reformation will be strong, permanent, and thorough.
The love of money will lead men to violate conscience. Perhaps that very money may be brought to the Lord's treasury, but He will not accept any such offering; it is an offense to Him. It was obtained by transgressing His law, which requires that a man love his neighbor as himself. It is no excuse for the transgressor to say that if he had not made wine or cider, somebody else would, and his neighbor might have become a drunkard just the same. Because some will place the bottle to their neighbor's lips, will Christians venture to stain their garments with the blood of souls,--to incur the curse pronounced upon these who place this temptation in the way of erring men? Jesus calls upon His followers to stand under His banner and aid in destroying the works of the devil.
The world's Redeemer, who knows well the state of society in the last days, represents eating and drinking as the sins that condemn this age. He tells us that as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be when the Son of man is revealed. "They were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and knew not until the Flood came, and took them all away." Just such a state of things will exist in the last days, and those who believe these warnings will use the utmost caution not to take a course that will bring them under condemnation.
Brethren, let us look at this matter in the light of the Scriptures and exert a decided influence on the side of temperance in all things. Apples and grapes are God's gifts; they may be put to excellent use as healthful articles of food, or they may be abused by being put to a wrong use. Already God is blighting the grapevine and the apple crop because of men's sinful practices. We stand before the world as reformers; let us give no occasion for infidels or unbelievers to reproach our faith. Said Christ: "Ye are the salt of the earth," "the light of the world." Let us show that our hearts and consciences are under the transforming influence of divine grace, and that our lives are governed by the pure principles of the law of God, even though these principles may require the sacrifice of temporal interests.