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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 74

Timothy's Stomach

Timothy's Stomach.

Coming to the scriptural argument, we note that at the beat the moderate drinker may find here a pretext for his indulgence; he cannot profess to find it enjoined as a duty. St. Paul's recommendation to Timothy is his great stand-by:—" Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities." It has been acutely pointed out that this can be no more binding upon us than St. Paul's direction to the same correspondent to fetch his cloak from Troas (2 Tim. iv. 13)—a task which I have not yet heard of the most conscientious drinker endeavoring to carry out. It is also worth observing that just three verses ahead of the words we are considering is one of those texts which less than forty years ago were being used to thwart the crusade for the freedom of the American slave. We recognise now that in so doing the worshippers of the letter were pressing the word of God into the service of the devil. The same class of worshippers should beware lest they are rendering the devil a similar service now. They admit that the apostolic precepts with regard to slavery do not justify the institution in the changed conditions of our time; they are satisfied that if they had lived in the Southern States a generation ago they would not have sided with the slave-holders, or been "partakers in the blood of the prophets"; but they forget that it is always easy to wax heroic over the abuses of the past, and that it is only in defence of the abuses of the present that it is ever worth while to wrest the word of God. Vested interests, greed for gain, want of imagination, subservience to custom, prejudice, laziness, selfishness indifference, and a deference to the letter of scripture, sometimes interested page 8 and hypocritical, sometimes sincere but narrow—these formed the alliance for the maintenance of American slavery. The crusaders in every land for the abolition of the deadlier tyranny of the liquor traffic find precisely the same forces arrayed against them.

If, dismissing these considerations, we come to close quarters with the text, we at once perceive that the quality and strength of the wine pre scribed for Timothy and the precise nature of his infirmities are not on record. But his complaint seems to have a very wide vogue amongst conscientious students of the scriptures whose health would otherwise appear to be sufficiently robust. And too often they seek to carry out the prescription by the consumption of liquors of a strength undreamed of is St. Paul's day and with a disregard to the two elements in it which have an approach to definiteness—"a little wine for thy stomach's sake." The quantity is to be small, and sickness the occasion; "for thy stomach's sake" and not for thy palate's. If the prescription had been preserved for us. I should still have declined to accept St. Paul's authority in these days on a point of medical science; but the whole matter is fortunately left by him in so vague a position that the question of his medical inspiration does not arise,* and we can only hand over the Timothys of our own age to the doctors to deal with. Much as we sympathise, we cannot treat their [unclear: se] infirmities as an excuse for a general indulgence, or for putting stumbling. Blocks before the people i u violation of the whole spirit of St. Paul's teaching. And if our doctors, instead of pandering to their patients' tastes, will only take the trouble to make their alcoholic prescriptions as unpalatable as their other doses, I have little fear that the cult of Timothy will long maintain such proportions as to constitute a serious trouble to the [unclear: profess] or a serious danger to the State.

* To so vague a prescription the mast orthodox must agree that Erasmus's criticise of the book of Revelation exactly applies :—" Moreover, even were it a blessed thing to believe [unclear: w] is contained in it no man knows what that is."