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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 74

The Cana Miracle

The Cana Miracle.

But in the Cana miracle it is claimed that we have the direct authority of Christ for the indulgence in strong drink. It is right for me to say that I do not, make a fetish of the Bible, that the miracles are to me a wholly non-essential part of it, and that, as my reason compels me to reject them all, I have no especial difficulty here. Upon the general question I will

A friend in whose taste and judgment I place great confidence complains of the 1"arrogance" ol this remark. It was certainly not made in any such spirit, nor with any [unclear: wa] desire to complicate the difficulties of my task by the introduction of irrelevant [unclear: contro] but simply because I did not think it honest, when discussing the hearings of particular miracle, to conceal my view of miracles as a class. I hope, therefore, that those [unclear: w] differ may respect my motive and not take such offence at my abruptness as to decline to [unclear: ww] on its merits the argument that follows.

page 9 merely make this passing observation, that the insistence upon miracles by so many Christian teachers as being of the essence of the faith appears to me responsible for more of the scepticism of the day than all that the so-called "freethinkers" could by their own efforts have achieved.* But I wish reverently to consider the supposed moral of this story of the wedding-feast from the point of view of those who prize it, if that be possible, as highly as the Sermon on the Mount. Christ, we are told, turned water into wine; before we are justified in drinking wine to-day. The inference is absurd. If there be any orthodox believer who has maintained that the manufacture of consumption of alcohol, in any strength or in any quantity, at any place [unclear: s] any time, for any purpose or under any conditions, is in itself a wrong, to such a man this miracle is a conclusive answer. But so [unclear: culous] a creature I have never yet met or seen, nor ever heard of except [unclear: f] the vain imaginings of hostile critics. Neither of alcohol nor of anything whose could such a sweeping proposition be rationally maintained. It is all a matter of time, place, and circumstance. More particularly we may answer:—
(1)If there was a power present to convert water into wine, there was a power present to prevent consumption running to excess, even though renewed at the end of a feast. Even in those days we should raise objection to alcoholic temptations if there were an omnipotent power at land to ward off their evil effects. For the faithful, with the Master at hand, [unclear: I] sea of Galilee was as safe a place to walk on as the streets of Capernaum, but it in these days and without that help we have to travel over lake or [unclear: an,] we prefer a steamer's deck. Yet Peter's example might as well be quoted to us in the one case as the precedent of Cana in the other.
But the safe and solid answer is this:—Alcohol is admittedly the dead-[unclear: f] scourge of civilization to-day. Was it so in Christ's day? Then the Good shepherd made peace with the most ravenous enemy of his flock. Was it not so in Christ's day ? Then his attitude affords no argument for us. The former supposition is both blasphemous and historically false; the latter is the truth, and the inference satisfies both conscience and common sense, [unclear: it,] that we are not discharged from our warfare against the greatest

* "People imagine that the place which the Bible holds in the world, it owes to miracles. [unclear: ew] It simply to the fact that it came out of a profounder depth of thought than any other book."—Emerson, quoted by Rev. Heber Newtons, Right and wrong uses of the Bible, p. 54.

The substance of this Argument I owe to Dr, Dawson Burns. Its weakness is that nothing [unclear: s] said or done at the feast to limit the application of the miracle in the manner suggested, and that in the absence of any such caution it would naturally be taken sanctioning the general use of wine.

page 10 destroyer of our race because its Saviour did not sound the war-note while the enemy still slept.*

* I have thought it best to place no reliance on the two wine theory. I must [unclear: le] Hebraists the discussion of the difference between [unclear: tiro] and yayin, but so far as thr [unclear: s] Testament is concerned the single Greek word oinos is used for all kinds of [unclear: d] whatever they may have been. If St. John recognised the vital distinction between [unclear: fres] and unfermented wine which is drawn by the modern teetotaller, is it possible he would [unclear: h] left us in doubt as to whether the miraculous wine was fermented or not? Since my address was delivered I find in the Exposition 4th Series Vol. 5, p. 356, the following able [unclear: state] Dean Chadwick of what I conceive to he the true position with regard to Christ example:-

"The anxious moralist would be much more successful if he were content to before as circumstances are now entirely altered; that the invention of distilled liquors has revolution ised both the nature of che evil and the stringency of the remedies demanded; that [unclear: je] never recorded to have needed to rebuke a drunkard; that in the Old Testament wine [unclear: d] mentioned sometimes kindly, sometimes bitterly, according to contemporary social usages; [unclear: a] that our Lord enjoined all that reasonable abstainers need for their justification when He [unclear: o] that what offended, even if were dear and useful as a member of the body, should be [unclear: ff] and cast away."