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Temperance and Prohibition in New Zealand

(2) The Baptist Church

page 157

(2) The Baptist Church

The Baptist Church, both in England and in America, had an intimate part to play in the Liberation Movement. A Baptist missionary from Jamaica thrilled England and paved the way for Wilberforce. A Baptist parson, a rank abolitionist, married Tom Lincoln to Nancy Hanks. Young Abe drank through those lips the hate he ever bore to black slavery. That the Baptists of New Zealand should have marched with the van of the Prohibition movement was to be expected. The immortal ‘Abe’ said, ‘The next snarl we must straighten out is the liquor snarl.’ He was a true prophet. Before the full programme came from dreamland to the statute books, there were two prominent Baptists who mounted the blue ribbon and wore it in all places and in all cases. There were the Hon. Thomas Dick and the Hon. Gilbert Carson. The bit o' blue lost its significance with time, but it was good pioneer work, and these men took shares in it. One of the very early workmen from among the Baptist people was Mr. Justice Adams, who was then a rising young lawyer, looking hungrily for briefs. His eagerness on this issue lost him quite a few, but he never lost his head, or his honour. His elevation to the bench was one of the most thoroughly deserved of all promotions. For many years he startled the country with his annual liquor bill. For many years he was president of this movement, and steered it with rare skill through many political storms. The Party is not likely to forget the rare eloquence of Mrs. A. R. Atkinson. To competent knowledge she joined the orator's charm. She shared the page 158 honour on the women's side with two others who are celebrated elsewhere. In R. S. Gray the prohibitionists had a leader with much personal magnetism, with a fine humour, and a control of crowds, through wit and repartee, such as is seldom met with. He had also a practical side to his life. He was very competent in business matters. When he was minister of Hanover Street Church he was released to lead the Prohibition cause through those great Efficiency Campaigns that went so nearly to the solving of the problem. He wore his invaluable life out in this fight, and left imperishable memories behind him. The Baptists have been strongly represented at each stage of the Movement. The names of Boreham, Hinton, Maunder, Dewdney, Milligan, Nicol, Hoby will awaken memories. They are also well represented to-day. Three young lawyers, F. B. and Herbert Adams of Dunedin, and F. W. Honer of Hawera, are always at it. Of ministers in service J. W. Kemp, F. E. Harry, J. J. Nortn and others are heard as polls draw on. It will never be said of the Baptist Church that she quitted this well-fought field.