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Moses Stuart

[Moses Stuart was perhaps the most important theologian in the early temperance movements. He graduated from Yale in 1799, became the pastor of Centre Congregational Church in New Haven in 1806, and was appointed professor of sacred literature at Andover Theological Seminary in 1809. In addition to his other works, Stuart published a pamphlet in 1848 and a book in 1849 in which he proposed and promoted the new “two wine” theory. The following is a heavily edited version of his essay entitled, “What is the duty of the churches, in regard to the use of fermented (alcoholic) wine, in celebrating the Lord’s Supper?” It appeared in several publications, including The Methodist Magazine and Quarterly Review of 1835. Though an ardent proponent of temperance, and warning against the “habitual” use of all alcoholic beverages, even wine, Stuart concedes that “the Savior employed it in the institution of the sacramental supper.” His essay provides the reader with a picture of the progress the temperance movements were making in his time, as well as their effect on the administration of the Lord’s Supper. Scholar Jennifer L. Woodruff Tait calls Stuart’s essay the “first article ever questioning the use of alcohol in the Eucharist.”]

What is the duty of the churches, in regard to the use of fermented (alcoholic) wine, in celebrating the Lord’s Supper?

A satisfactory answer to this question is necessarily connected with the present state of the temperance question in general. What positions in respect to this may be regarded as well established, and what still remain in a greater or less degree doubtful, are inquiries that of course precede the discussion of the subject immediately before us.

A brief answer to these inquiries is all that can be expected on this occasion; and in reality such an answer is all that is desirable. So widely diffused at present are the excellent publications in different parts of our country, on the subject of temperance, that there is no reader in any of the walks of life, who may not have access to a knowledge of its leading principles, and few indeed to whom they are not in some degree known. The points that are universally admitted by reasonable and considerate men, of whatever denomination or party, may be summarily stated as follows :— 1. All intoxication is forbidden by the Scriptures, and by the laws of our physical nature. Those who do not admit the authority of the Bible will concede that intoxication is injurious to health, usefulness, estate, morals, and reputation. It follows, 2. That all such use of intoxicating liquors of any kind, as will produce drunkenness, or injure health or usefulness, is unlawful. Argument on these subjects is no longer necessary for the mass of our community, and surely it is not needed for Christians. Among these, moreover, and among all sober and judicious men in our community, with few exceptions, the following positions may be regarded as fully and finally established; viz., That the habitual and common use of ardent spirits, or distilled intoxicating liquors in any form, or the manufacturing and vending of them for common use as a drink, IS AN IMMORALITY.

Among no class of citizens is the opinion that drinking ardent spirits is injurious more widely diffused or more firmly held, than among physicians. To their distinguished honor be it said, that contrary to their pecuniary and worldly interests, they have come forward, and already more than two thousand of them have testified that in no case does drinking of ardent spirits promote health; that it increases exposure to disease, and renders the management of this, when existing, much more difficult, and the issue more dangerous.

This testimony being allowed, (and who is competent to contradict it?) it follows, that the use of ardent spirit as a common drink is a sin against our physical nature. The unbeliever therefore, who professes to be only the disciple of natural religion, as well as he who admits the authority of revelation, must confess that the general and particular temperance conventions of our land, assembled for the sake of discussing questions pertaining to the subject of temperance, have rightly decided that the using or vending of ardent spirit as a common drink IS AN IMMORALITY.

Such then are the general positions at present, in regard to the subject of temperance, positions which may now be taken as a basis for future argument and action. Accordingly I shall so consider them, in the remainder of this Essay ; and consequently I may leave them without farther remark.

But there is one interesting part of this great subject which yet remains in some degree unsettled in the minds of many sober and excellent men. A great part of the temperance conventions and societies have as yet, in their discussions and decisions, left the question respecting the use of wines untouched. It is well that they have done so; for it is always best in such great matters as this respecting temperance, first to produce, if possible, union of sentiment and action on points that are of a plainer and more fundamental nature. This being done, and the general subject being better understood by a course of discussion and experiments, points that seemed to be difficult or doubtful at first may finally have such light cast upon them as that a general union of sentiment may be produced respecting them. Some of the general conventions, however, on the subject of temperance, and many local societies and Churches, have already considered the question as it respects wines and every species of intoxicating liquors, and have decided the broad and general principle, that duty requires abstinence from all intoxicating liquors of every kind and name.

The simple basis of their reasoning may be stated in a few words. The Scriptures forbid all intoxication, in any degree. The laws of our physical and mental nature equally forbid it; because both body and mind are injured by it. No species of liquor which intoxicates can be used habitually, without great danger of forming an excessive attachment to it ; for so the universal voice of experience decides.—No person, therefore, can indulge himself in the habitual or frequent use of any liquor which has an inebriating quality, without at the same time incurring the danger of forming a habit which will prove injurious to him, and which may be fatal. Now it cannot be innocent nor consistent for those who are taught to pray, Lead me not into temptation, thus voluntarily rush into it. It is a settled point—one now past all dispute—that water is the best and safest of all drinks. No other liquor therefore can be necessary: some medicinal cases only excepted, which need not be and are not here brought into the account.

It follows then, since water is the best of all drinks, and since no intoxicating liquor can be taken either habitually or frequently without danger, that it is contrary to the true spirit of Christianity and to the laws of our physical and intellectual nature, to indulge in the frequent or habitual use of wine, or of any other liquor which can inebriate. Thus do the Churches and societies argue, who have proscribed the common use of wine. Most of them advance indeed still farther.—

They are willing to make the supposition that wine does no harm as a common drink, in order to present the most favorable side of the argument to those who differ from them in opinion. Allowing now for the sake of argument that it does no harm, they have still another and an important question to ask, viz., Does it do any good ? Physically or mentally, (a few cases of bodily indisposition excepted, where stimulant is temporarily required,) habitual or often repeated stimulus does no good, except merely to gratify the taste. All well educated and sober physicians are now agreed that habitual or frequent stimulus of any kind must not only do no good, but inevitably do harm in the end. The reason is very plain. He who takes stimulus in health can derive little or no benefit from it in sickness. The gratification of taste then seems to be the only good that is to be accomplished by the common or frequent use of wines. But is this of so high and noble a nature that it should be sought after and indulged in by a Christian at the expense and hazard which must of necessity attend it ? And beside, it is quite certain that the drinkers of pure water acquire a higher relish for that element, and have more enjoyment in partaking of it than ever falls to the lot of those who habitually indulge in the drinking of wine. Those who have made a fair experiment of both may be confidently appealed to for a decision on this question. To the inquiry then, ‘Does the drinking of wine often or habitually do any good?’, the persons in question suppose we may answer without any hesitation, that it accomplishes no important good ; that it sacrifices a greater good, even on the score of taste only ; and that the danger with which it is always attended makes it at the very best a practice of great hazard.

The writer of this, who for a long time after the efforts to bring about the temperance reformation had commenced, did not think it expedient to bring forward the discussion respecting wines, is persuaded that the time- has now come, in which the question should be fully and fairly discussed. After often and deliberately examining the subject proffered by the question, what is the fundamental inquiry for every true friend of temperance to make, in order to satisfy himself as to the course which duty now bids him to take ; he cannot perceive that this inquiry can amount to more or less than what is contained in the question : Is intoxication itself, or only the method in which intoxication is produced, the main subject of our concern ? How can the sober inquirer after simple truth and duty hesitate as to the answer which should be given to this last question?

I admit that some of these liquors are more costly than others, and some of them more immediately and highly deleterious than others. Drunkards upon ale prepare for a speedy ossification of the heart, and must expect a sudden death. Newly distilled whiskey and other liquors of the like nature are more inflammatory than spirits which are matured by age. Immoderate wine drinkers may live perhaps longer than the immoderate drinkers of liquors highly alcoholic. But their estate is sooner wasted. Wretchedness and poverty of course sooner come upon their families. The example which they set, moreover, may in appearance have less of what is odious and horrible in it; but for that very reason it is likely to do the more mischief to others. Intoxication, and all approach toward it, in all its stages, from whatever liquor it proceeds, is deleterious to body, mind, and outward estate. There may be some differences and some gradations in the mischief done by inebriating liquors; but in a mere question of duty and conscience they can scarcely be worth regarding. In cases of a moral nature, of religious duty, the question is not simply, in most cases not at all, whether a thing is more or less evil, but whether it is evil, and therefore to be avoided.

Nothing can be more certain, than that intoxication, in all its gradations from the lowest to the highest, is evil moral and natural. Can it be lawful then for me to incur this evil by the use of any liquor whatever, so as in any degree to intoxicate myself? Plainly it cannot.

Now if wine be an intoxicating liquor, (as all must know, who know any thing of its nature, or who are aware that most of our fashionable and common wines are nearly one half as strong as brandy,) then why is it not as wrong for me to use wine so as to produce any degree of intoxication, as it is to produce the same effect by any other liquor? Is it possible to make any difference here as to the principle which is concerned, that will amount to any thing worthy of serious notice in a moral point of view?

The true and fundamental principle then, of all Churches, and of all the real friends of temperance, would seem to be, that the frequent or habitual use of all liquors which can produce intoxication is to be avoided. All that comes short of this fails of reaching the essential point to be aimed at. Surely it will be conceded that the grand object of all temperance measures must be to put a stop to intemperance, and not merely to discuss the niceties of difference between one intoxicating liquor and another. Can any thing effectually do this, but to refrain from the frequent, the habitual, or excessive use of all liquors, whatever may be their specific name or nature, which contain sufficient alcohol to produce intoxication, when drank in any quantity that we can well suppose men capable of drinking?

Stimulating the system habitually with alcohol, whether in wine or any other drink, cannot possibly, if we credit the best physicians, be otherwise than injurious to the health of body and mind. It is therefore an offence against the laws of our nature ; and consequently against the will of that God who ordained them…. Habitual drinking of wine, then, may be less deleterious and in some respects less criminal than the habitual drinking of ardent spirit; but does it therefore follow that stimulating with wine in such a manner is not really evil in the sight of God?

It is time then for all our Churches and all the friends of temperance, to look for the future at things, and not to be influenced in their measures by names. The public now know, or may know, on the subject of alcohol, what a short time ago they did not fully and satisfactorily know; and what a few years since they did not know at all. Our measures, therefore, ought to keep pace with our light. Fermented alcoholic liquors should henceforth become the proper subjects of avoidance and prohibition, and not merely distilled ones. The enemy should be opposed and routed, whether in the open field or in ambush.

But here we shall of course be met with the allegation that has often been repeated: ‘The Bible—the Holy Scriptures—allow, yea enjoin the use of wine. In a multitude of places they speak of it as in use among pious and excellent men of ancient days ; and the Giver of every good and perfect gift Himself required that it should be made a part of every daily oblation in the temple ; and the Lord of glory Himself has made it one of the elements of that holy supper, by which His sufferings and death are commemorated among all His faithful disciples.’

The truth of the facts now stated I do most fully and readily acknowledge. Whoever will open his Bible at Exod. xxix, 40, and Num. xxviii,7, will see that wine or strong drink was part of the daily offering to God, which was to be made by the priests. By consulting Mark xiv, 35, moreover, he will perceive that the cup which Jesus gave to His disciples, when He instituted the sacrament, contained the fruit of the vine, i. e. wine. That wine was drunk on sacramental occasions by the disciples of Christ at a subsequent period is quite clear also from 1 Cor. xi, 21, where the apostle sharply reproves some of the Corinthian Christians, because they intoxicated themselves at the holy supper.

On one other occasion the Hebrews were permitted to use wine and strong drink. In Deut. xiv, 22-26, they are commanded to tithe all their increase or productions, and to eat of this tithe before the Lord, in the place where He shall appoint. But if the place where they live is so distant that they cannot conveniently carry up the tithe itself with them, when they go to present themselves before the Lord, they are directed to sell it, to carry the money with them, and to purchase ‘ oxen or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatsoever their soul desireth,’ and to eat and rejoice before the Lord.

The nature of this permission amounts to the same thing as a permission in our country, in those states where public thanksgiving is kept, to drink wine and such strong drink as the Hebrews used upon that day.

There are two cases more which merit our attention. Jesus at the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee (John ii, 2-11) turned water into wine, for the accommodation of the guests who were present; and Paul directs Timothy to drink a little wine, on account of his frequent infirmities, 1 Tim. v, 23.

These are, I apprehend, all the decided cases of approbation or sanction to the drinking of wine, which the Bible exhibits. The case in which Wisdom invites her guests to a feast, (Prov. ix, 2-5,) and the injunction to give wine or strong drink to him who is ready to perish or is of a heavy heart, (Prov. xxxi, 6 ; ) the case in which it is said that the Lord will make for His people a feast of fat things, and of wines on the lees well refined, (Isa. xxv. 6,) all range themselves under the same principles as the ones already specified. On special occasions of feasting, such as weddings, thanksgivings, and the like, there can be no doubt that the Jews were accustomed to drink wine, nor any doubt that they were permitted to do so ; for the Scriptures do not speak of the temperate use of wine, on such occasions, with disapprobation.—

But let it be noted, that they no where command it, except in cases where the restoration of lost health is concerned. Wine or strong drink (such as the Hebrews used) must be given to those who are of a heavy heart or ready to perish, i. e. to those who are sunk down and dispirited by disease ; and Timothy is required by the apostle to take wine on account of his frequent infirmities ; while the use of it at feasts is mentioned merely as a circumstance which was usually connected with them, and a thing which was not forbidden. On this ground, we find that Jesus was accused by the Pharisees of being a glutton and a wine-bibber, because He accepted of invitations to attend such meals or feasts as were prepared in special honor of Him. It would seem to be a natural conclusion, that wine was exhibited at those feasts ; although there is no proof whatever that the Savior habitually drank it when He attended them.

The amount of the whole Scriptural representation seems to be, that while the use of wine or strong drink was enjoined in oblations to God, and while on the day of Jewish thanksgiving the Hebrews were permitted to drink it—while the Savior employed it in the institution of the sacramental supper, and sanctioned the use of it at a wedding feast, and possibly at other feasts, and Timothy was enjoined to use it for a medicinal purpose, yet, for the most part, the Bible is filled with warnings against it, and all excessive use of it is plainly prohibited under the highest penalty.

The lawfulness of occasionally using such wine or strong drink as they had in Palestine, is then established, as we must concede, on a basis which cannot be shaken so long as the authority of Scripture and the example of Jesus remain. Among intelligent and enlightened Christians there never can be any controversy on this part of the subject, so far as the simple fact is concerned. It is only the modifications and limitations which we are now called to examine.

We are approaching near to the final issues of our inquiries, ‘Is it the duty of the Churches to make use of fermented (alcoholic) wine a in celebrating the Lord’s Supper?’ One thing we may truly say, in answering this question, which is, that Christ and His disciples have left no direction or command to make use of strong alcoholic wines.—

As to their example, it certainly cannot go to show the propriety or lawfulness of using artificial and brandied wines at the Lord’s table; which most Churches are known at present to do. In respect to pure wine, moreover, if it can be had, there is not even a distant probability, as we have already seen, that it was drunk at the table by Jesus and His disciples, without being reduced by water. Why should we depart now from their example? If we must use wine at the sacramental table, then let us imitate, as nearly as possible, the original use of it; and this, as we have seen, could not have been wine drunk without any reduction by water ; at least no probability of this kind can be made out.

The question has been asked, ‘Is it necessary to employ wine at all to at the table of the Lord?’ To which I would answer, It is not necessary;* for wine was chosen as the representative of one of the natural aliments of the body, viz. drink ; by which is symbolized the necessity of our souls’ being nourished by faith in the blood of Jesus. It is a natural emblem, even from its color, of that blood. Necessary, however, to symbolic use, it plainly is not. The Lord’s Supper might be celebrated without it, in like manner as we dispense with celebrating it in an upper chamber—with lying down—with unleavened bread—and with other things of the like nature. But still I do not think, with some of my Christian brethren, that it is expedient to dispense with wine at the table of the Lord. The custom of using it may be so managed, that no reproach, no difficulty, no danger will come to the Church or to religion in consequence of it.

*The editors of The Methodist Magazine and Quarterly Review here added the following in a footnote. “We are inclined to dissent from the professor at this point, as, if it had not been the most proper element for the purpose of commemorating the death of the Savior, He certainly would not have selected It, as water or any other liquid was at hand, and therefore might have been used by our Lord on this solemn occasion, had He considered it equally suitable. We think we might dispense with water in baptism with as much propriety as we could wine in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. But with this exception, the above Essay has our most hearty approbation, and we therefore earnestly commend it to the serious consideration of our readers.—Ed.”