Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.—Rom. 8.33


Excerpted from:

VOL. II.        JUNE, 1880.        NO. 14.
Temperance signifies moderation of the appetites and passions. Applied and restricted to the appetites of eating and drinking, it denotes moderation in these, as opposed to gluttony and drunkenness. Since our fall in Adam we all need the solemn caution, "Be not among wine-bibbers, among riotous eaters of flesh." [Prov. 23.20.] For more than half a century we have witnessed the efforts of Temperance Societies to counteract drunkenness, as being the prolific source of individual and social vice and crime—ruinous to soul and body. Accordingly we are sufficiently warned that "drunkards shall not inherit the kingdom of God." [1 Cor. 6.10.]

It appears that about forty-eight years ago Covenanters began {438} to co-operate with the advocates of temperance in Ireland. Professor Edgar was encouraged by the editor to ventilate his views in the pages of the Belfast Covenanter. At that date the learned gentleman distinguished between temperance and abstinence. His object was to combat the use as a beverage of "distilled spirits," disavowing expressly any hostility to the use of wine or other merely fermented liquors. He said, "So far am I from taking this high ground, that I most fully grant the use both of wine and strong drink. I have no desire to pronounce the use of them sinful." The professor was not ignorant of Paul's distinction between what is lawful and what is expedient; but he could not anticipate the "advanced thought" of our age, which confounds or disregards this inspired distinction: and this is one of the many ways in which the "mystery of iniquity" is permeating "them that dwell on the earth." The Romish church authoritatively "commands abstinence." 1 Tim. 4.3; while others use only moral suasion—both parties violating the law of charity.

In Professor Edgar's time Sophomores in learning had not yet piled up volumes of Biblical Criticism, so called, consulting Greek and Hebrew lexicons, to prove that oinos, yayin, tirosh, &c. are words of doubtful meaning; or at least so far as any of them signifies intoxicating liquor, that "they have the curse of God upon them, and that the use of them is everywhere in the Bible absolutely forbidden—even at the Lord's table." Now we believe that the blind zeal and extravagance of those who thus wrest the Scriptures, do more to counteract that engkrateia, that Scriptural temperance, which is a grace of the Holy Spirit, than the infallible authority of Rome. Gal. 5.23. To be "filled with the Spirit" is the best, the only effectual antidote to "being drunk with wine, wherein is excess." Eph. 5.18. Although "the kingdom of God is not meat and drink;" nevertheless, "it is good neither to eat flesh nor to drink wine," when the using of this liberty would hinder a brother's edification in the circumstances existing in Paul's time: yet no Protestant is hereby bound {439}—no, nor Papist either, to keep the Romish weekly fasts or annual Lent. Ignorance of the law of charity, which is the sum of the moral law, Rom. 13.8; 1 Tim. 1.5, is the source of manifold Popish and Protestant errors on this, as on other questions in casuistry. Was it not from sinful ignorance of the spirituality and extent of God's law, that slavery was legalized by the Christian nations (?) of Britain and America? that the unjust, oppressive, and tyrannical "Fugitive Slave Law" ever blackened a page of civil statutes?

While it is true that "excess of wine" has always been associated with "lasciviousness, lusts, revelings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries among the Gentiles," 1 Pet. 4.3; it is also true that our Lord has created and given His people wine to make glad, and bread to strengthen their heart [Psalm 104.15]; and that these elements, as symbols, are pledges of His unchangeable love and faithfulness till the end of the world. It is likewise true, that the "unsearchable riches of Christ" are exhibited throughout the Bible, as in the Song of Solomon, Isa. 25.6, etc., under the emblem of wine. Now, such passages must harmonize with all others; such as, "Wine is a mocker; strong drink is raging," Prov. 20.1. From this it appears that strong-intoxicating liquor was in use among the "many inventions sought out" by fallen man, anterior to that of distillation. Doubtless our Saviour ate flesh and drank wine like other sober people, otherwise he would not have been slandered as "a gluttonous man and a wine-bibber." Acts 10.41. Were the sanctions of the divine law promptly applied to drunkards and other criminals by the official guardians of morality, and especially enforced by their own example of piety and morality; voluntary combinations would be useless, being without object, as they are without divine sanction. Indeed it is because men have lost faith in God's ordinances of the family, the church, and the state, that substitutes for all these are invented; and in city and country their "name is legion." {440} These are all predicates on the unscriptural, American assumption—"That moral suasion can effect moral reformation." The truth is, however, that neither argument nor punishment, nor both combined, can effect moral reform. "Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar, yet will his foolishness not depart from him." "The rod and reproof give wisdom," not from inherent efficacy, but by the divine blessing; and we have no promise of the blessing on the use of any means but those of divine appointment.

After Temperance Societies had been zealously advocated by the Covenanter published in Belfast, Ireland, and within the first year of its issue; the Reformed Presbyterian Synod in Scotland, two years afterwards, (in Oct. 1833,) while "these principles were comparatively new," expressed the cautious sentiment following: "While the Synod would be distinctly understood to be favorable to the cause of Temperance Societies, it is by no means enacted that the principles of these Societies shall be made a term of church communion?" And why not? Because "many pious and excellent persons belonging to the church may not yet be prepared," &c. The Synod was "favorable" only to the cause, not explicitly to the Societies or the principles! Who may not discern chicanery here? evasion to obscure the truth? There was a consciousness that actual co-operation and mutual pledges would be inconsistent with other solemn pledges to covenanted unity; or that "many pious and excellent persons were not yet prepared," but would fear to "come down to the plain of Ono." [Neh. 6.2.]

We have never yet joined a merely voluntary association for the purpose of effecting reformation. Some of our reasons are:

1. Because God's law and covenant are the only means for accomplishing the moral renovation of our apostate world.

2. Each association commonly has but one object, and consequently but one condition of fellowship, by which to effect that object.

3. Persons of opposite principles and character are equally {441} eligible, and of equal power to control and direct joint action.

Thus, an Abolition Society admits, or does not exclude infidels, drunkards, profane swearers, Sabbath-breakers, &c. A Temperance Society excludes none but drunkards. A National Reform Association admits, or does not exclude, Universalists, Socinians, Prelates, &c. Such combinations are not only without warrant by the Holy Scriptures, but contrary to the whole tenor of the Bible, and utterly subversive of the covenanted unity and uniformity required by the word of God.

We know, and we have often weighed the objection, "That only pious men and evangelical churches" are contemplated in these combinations for reform. This is one of the most popular objections, and its very popularity renders it proportionally delusive and pernicious: and it is one of the most subtle forms assumed by modern infidelity. It puts evangelical churches or good men in the place of the Bible as a rule, and in God's place as authority. No man's piety is our rule. We must go beyond the best men's example for an infallible guide, 1 John 4.1. Paul directs thus, "Be ye followers of men, as I am of Christ." They who "compare themselves among themselves are not wise." 2 Cor. 10.12. The disciple of Christ is bound by the divine law and his own solemn vow to be "temperate in all things," 1 Cor. 9.25: and if these cords do not effectually bind, all substitutes or additions will prove only as ropes of sand.

We have seen that wine is emblematical of covenant blessings; but the Holy Spirit speaks of another kind of wine, the intoxicating qualities of which are still more pernicious to the soul than those of the other: but alas! how few even among Covenanted professors or others seem to dread its inebriating properties! This wine is in a golden cup. It hath made all the earth drunken: the nations have drunken of this wine; therefore the nations are mad, Jer. 51.7. Now, this cup had reference to the literal Babylon; but the mother of harlots is represented as "having a golden cup, of which she made all nations drink." {442} Rev. 14.8; 17.4. Oh, how stupefied, exhilarated, or frenzied, have multitudes become by indulging in excess of this wine! Under its deleterious influence a person is "as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth on the top of a mast." Surely it is the imbibing of this wine that causes any to "wonder after the beast:" that generates the hallucination that "rites Roman in form" may also be "scriptural in substance:" that inspires the imagination of one who fraternizes with the votaries of Rome, atheists, and deists as "fellow citizens!"1

We ought not to forget that there is yet a third kind of wine, prepared for those who indulge in both or either of the former; and it is either "full of mixture"—fatal ingredients, Psalm 75.8; or "without mixture"—undiluted, and equally deadly, Rev. 14.9,10. Let the witnesses of Christ dread intoxication by any of these: and equally dread the wresting of the Scriptures by adopting as a "canon of interpretation, That a symbol is to be limited to only one object in nature"—a canon which is false.

An Item from the June, 1879 Issue of The Original Covenanter.

A minister of the General Assembly is greatly perplexed as to what his church "ought to do about the Temperance Reform Movement." He says, "The reform is not in our hands, nor are the reformers willing that it shall be. Some of the leaders are profane; others are unclean; others are Sabbath breakers; others are open infidels. Their meetings are on Sunday, in halls and opera houses; and things said and done in the meetings—the anecdotes, the laughter, the applause—do not sanctify the day."—The minister's perplexity might cease if he could only perceive, that to add a "temperance pledge" to a preceding solemn one, involves an insult to the Redeemer.


1. The author is here referring to a scandal surrounding a so-called "Covenanter" or "Reformed Presbyterian" minister by the name of J.C.K. Milligan, of New York. In the December 1878 issue of The Original Covenanter, an Item was included at the end of the said number, reading as follows:

Rev. J.C.K. Milligan, of New York city, tells the public that he "attended one of the Sabbath evening services of a priest, and was impressed with the belief that Christ was truly worshipped in rites that were Roman in form, but Scriptural in substance,"—a novel combination indeed! This fact reminds us that some sons of Covenanter doctors of divinity in this land have heretofore found a "fat living" in the Romish priesthood. A liberal interpretation of the Pittsburgh Bond will show that these and such like are its legitimate results.
This Item of information is gathered from Mr. Milligan's article in the October 1878 issue of the Christian World. Mr. Milligan later published a Complaint against the Item published in the Original Covenanter. This Complaint was then responded to by Mr. John McAuley, one of the ministers of the Reformed Presbytery, in the December 1879 issue of The Original Covenanter; which response can be found therein, pages 378-382, containing some details about Mr. Milligan's attendance at certain services performed by "Father McNamara" who styled himself as "a regularly ordained priest—of the anti-Roman Irish Catholic Church." Whether or not the Item is accurate in drawing a connection between Mr. Milligan's practice and the Pittsburgh Bond of 1871 can be fairly determined by any reader thereof. Certainly one is left to wonder whether or not the phrase "we will strive to maintain Christian friendship with pious men of every name, and to feel and act as one with all in every land who pursue this grand end" was phrased in such ambiguous terms to the end that men may arbitrarily determine for themselves who are to be considered "Christian friends" and "pious men." And if this friendship ought to encompass men of "every name" who seek the "visible oneness of the Church of God," why not those of the name "anti-Roman Irish Catholic Priests." But besides the consistency of Mr. Milligan's actions with the 1871 Bond, as an ambiguous article of ecclesiastical defection, hinted at in the Item quoted above, it is beyond question that his actions are the legitimate results of the RPCNA's sinful tolerance of occasional hearing and occasional communion, whereby the members of her communion were given to understand that they were at liberty to attend the official administrations of ministers in ecclesiastical communions against which the RPCNA itself was presently testifying on account of their false doctrines and sinful practices, and that such members might determine for themselves with which of these other ecclesiastical communions they ought to occasionally fellowship. The tendency of such a freedom, or liberty, (or rather licentiousness,) can only be to become looser and looser until men of sinful curiosity and prideful "charity" choose to fellowship with the worst sort men to their own confusion.—JTK.