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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 75

The Attitude of our Churches to Prohibition

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The Attitude of our Churches to Prohibition.

title - The Attitude of our Churches to Prohibition

"The Voice of the Churches" Meeting at Palmerston North was one long to be remembered for its enthusiasm, power and usefulness. There are thousands of Christians in the several Churches who are themselves loyal Prohibitionists, but there is yet much to be done in getting all these so organised as to enable them to act together in a manner that would produce an effect which, as compared with the present unorganised effort, would be as much greater as the avalanche is than the boy's snowball. The various speakers felt and voiced this fact in a way that fired the audience.

The Rev. George D. Cox, Baptist, of Napier, quoted a letter from the President of the Baptist Union of New Zealand, in which he stated that the Baptists of the colony were almost unanimous in their support of Prohibition, and that next to the work of his own Church the temperance movement had his fullest sympathy and practical support.

Mr. Cox stated that while he could not speak as representing the whole of the 7000 members and adherents of the Baptist Church but only from his personal knowledge, he rejoiced in the growth of public opinion upon this subject, and, paying graceful tribute to those, who indifferent sections of Christ's Church, had led the van, he urged his audience to give themselves anew to most determined conflict with their old enemy. Let them count the cost and then rally to the old war cry of Total Abstinence for the individual and Prohibition tor the State. His forceful address was received with frequent applause and was a good keynote for the after meeting.

The Rev. J. Dawson, President Primitive Methodist Conference, said it afforded him pleasure to send forth the voice of the Primitive Methodist Church on the drink question, for it has ever been pronounced against the traffic in intoxicants. Their last Conference re affirmed the hearty concurrence of the Church with the principles of the Alliance.

The first meeting of the United Kingdom Alliance was held in a Primitive Methodist Church, and was presided over by the veteran Rev. J. Macpherson.

January 30th of this year was celebrated as Christian Citizen Sunday in England when 5000 temperance sermons were preached from 3500 Primitive Methodist pulpits.

Of 920 Primitive Methodist Ministers 901 were pledged abstainers, and fully 80 per cent of the lay preachers and members were abstainers and workers in the temperance cause.

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The voice of the Church said it was the duty of every Christian man to endeavour, by personal example, by speech, and by the use of his vote in municipal and national matters, to discountenance the manufacture, the sale and use of intoxicating drinks. There should be no half-heartedness, no compromise in this matter, no fellowship with this unfruitful work of darkness. The destruction of the liquor traffic is one of the most honest, patriotic and philanthropic enterprises ever espoused by the followers of Jesus Christ. Enthusiasm in this cause is the only justifiable spirit for Christian men and women.

Our municipal as well as national Parliaments want purifying of all beery, gambling, political self-seekers who are prepared to sell their brothers in the interest of a trade that flourishes on the vices and the degradation of our fellow-men.

He called upon Christians to vote as they pray, and not to make any league with the trade, but to live and if needs be to die in the cause of freeing the enslaved from the power of drink. He reminded them that regulation in various forms had been tried for hundreds of years, but that in spite of all this the wreckage and ruin still went on. He appealed in the name of humanity, the Church, and of God that the licensed traffic in strong drink should be prohibited at the very next poll, reminding the audience that the solution of this great social problem is now in the power of the voters.

The Rev. R. M. Ryburn, Convener of the Presbyterian Temperance Committee, said it was a great mistake to think the Prohibition movement had received its death blow. There never was better heart among its workers than now. The efforts of Mr. T. E. Taylor on the Police Commission had been helpful. It was a great mistake to think the Churches were not in favour of Prohibition. The Church he represented gave no uncertain sound on this matter. It was well to remember that the movement aimed at the improvement of the individual. The sphere of labour was man. While local option received attention, Bands of Hope and moral suasion should not be neglected. The great difficulties to be overcome were unreasoning conservatism selfishness, and lack of organised effort. The Presbyterian Church was distinctly in favour of Prohibition.

Major Birkenshaw, of the Salvation Army, said: I believe the drink traffic to be the deadliest evil which affects mankind. The enemies of temperance reform say we exaggerate. I maintain we do not, for what graphic powers of description could convey any adequate idea of the evils and sorrows that march in the train of this terrible vice. After 20 years experience in dealing with all classes I have to say that my heart has been wrung by the sight of the noblest who have been wrecked. The memory of these wrecked lives and brother hearts nerves me to continue a determined battle against this mighty foe. On behalf of every Salvation Army Officer and Soldier in this colony I can say we are one with every regiment of this temper- page 5 ance crusade for the emancipation of the drunkard and the swooping away of the drink traffic.

The Rev. H. W. J. Miller, Congregationalism Napier, said he had received a call to the front only a few hours ago to fill the gap caused by the non-arrival of the Chairman of the Congregational Union. He regretted the absence of the Rev. W. Saunders, of Dunedin, for he was well-known in the South as an ardent social reformer, and had he been present there was no doubt that he would have spoken to them in burning words, both of the effects of the traffic in intoxicating liquors and the relation of their Churches thereto. The speaker said he had no authority to speak on behalf of the Congregational Church of New Zealand, hut he could assure the meeting of the hearty sympathy of a large majority of their members with the great Prohibition movement. There, was a growing spirit of opposition to a traffic which was constantly defying law, and which has shown itself to be a growing menace to the weal of the people. Ever since the Prohibition question had become one of the real live questions of the day the Council of their Churches had spoken with no uncertain sound. At the last annual meeting of the Union the delegates had adopted two very strong resolutions, which he regretted to say he could not read, not having copies in his possession here. Their Churches thought the people should have control of the traffic, not a partial but a complete control. They would not rest until Colonial Option was before the people for their yea or nay. They believed that the Licensing Act should be so amended as to remedy its obvious defects, and that every form of license should be subject to the vote of the electors. Referring to his own experience Mr Miller said he could do no other than light to the death a traffic which was probably the most prolific source of crime and woe of which he knew. As Christian ministers they must be earnest. How could they help being so? Let some call them fanatics, they were in good company. They remembered what Lowell said about the fanatics of one age becoming the heroes and saints of succeeding ages. What was Christianity but chronic war—-chronic war against sin. Led by their great Captain, Jesus Christ, they would never rest until this huge monopoly of organised evil were destroyed.

The Rev. T. J. Wills, Anglican, Ormondville, said: I have no authority to speak on behalf of the Church of England, but I do believe that the Church of England is moving very surely in the direction of Prohibition. A few years ago while many Church of England people were delegates representing various Temperance Societies, the Church of England itself was not directly represented. This year we have twelve delegates representing the Church. In England we have a most ardent teetotaller in the chair of Canterbury. His Grace Dr. Temple is one of the most pronounced opponents of all drinking of intoxicants, and was for many years a Vice-President of the United Kingdom Alliance for the Suppression of the Liquor Traffic.

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For myself I feel that as a man and a Christian I must do all in my power to destroy the liquor traffic.