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Religious Statistics.

43 There are differences. The old text speaks of one God, the tablets of many. Genesis paints in blacker colours, and with a much finer perception of the real nature of sin, the crimes which caused the deluge ; but these differences are due to the special teaching God gave to the Hebrews : and they bear witness to the greater purity of the source of the Hebrew history. The Mosaic account describes an inland people. Sisit's speech is that of the member of a sea-faring community. Geographical position accounts for this. Substantially they are one; and therefore we may say once more, The word of the Lord standeth fast for ever."

The singular opportuneness of these discoveries must strike every thoughtful mind. At no time in the history of the world were men so ready to let slip their faith in the Old Testament: at no time have attacks on the scriptures been so determined and numerous : and as Jesus sought out the man who was expelled from the synagogue and sympathized with, and helped him, so God, in these and similar events, comes to the aid of a feeble and fainting faith in His truth.

Doubtless there is yet more light to break forth on God's holy word. We have not reached the end of these revelations. Indeed we are but just opening this long closed store-house of information. In Warka, Babylon, and other Bible lands, there are buried libraries which will rectify our chronology ; interpret anew the books of the Kings and Chronicles,* and make more vivid to us the life of the era of the captivity of the Jews, and the changes in Jewish thought, belief, worship, and life, consequent thereupon.

The canon of revelation is closed, but its full interpretation is yet to be given, and " he that believeth shall not make haste.

J. CLIFFORD.

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RELIGIOUS STATISTICS.

OUR readers ought to be in possession of the aggregate results of the important enquiry recently conducted by the Nonconformist into the details of the religious accommodation of eighty-four of the principal towns of England and Wales. These towns comprise a population of 5,913,919, and they have 4,843 places of Worship, containing 2,644,523 sittings. These figures show that these towns have religious accommodation for 44.7 per cent. of the population; being only 13.3 per cent. short of the maximum required, i.e., 58 per cent. The rate of progress of seventy-seven of these towns, during twenty-one years, is 49.2 per cent., and that of the population is 34.4 per cent., so that religious zeal is amply sufficient to meet the spiritual needs of these towns so far as concerns facilities for public worship. Of the above accommodation the Established Church provides under TWO-FIFTHS, and the non-established over THREE-FIFTHS. The rate of progress of the Church of England since 1851 has been 36 per cent., but that of the Free Churches 59.1 per cent., i.e., 23.1 per cent. higher. The following inferences are deducible from these statistics :-(1.) There is abounding life in the Christian church. Religious zeal is not dead. (2.) Home Mission work is increasing: Apart from Town and City Missions there are between 500 and 600 mission rooms belonging to churches and chapels. (3.) Nonconformity grows faster than the State Church in our large towns; and this is not due to its wealth, or social position, but to its spiritual power: Christ is sufficient for His church without the State. (4.) The Established Church is only a sect after all. Nor is it the “poor man's church ;" the Primitive Methodists, who appeal most exclusively to the working classes, far excelling the Establishment in attractive power. (5.) But not many of these places need filling; and is it not necessary to consider in what ways we can best bring all the saving influences of public worship to bear on the people of the land.

J. CLIFFORD.

* Mr. G. Smith is now at work upon a history of Sennacherib from the tablets, some parts of which are already in type. At the instance and by the support of the proprietors of the Daily Telegraph, this distinguished Assyrian scholar is about to proceed to these buried libraries with a view to disentombing more of their precious relics.

THE SCRIPTURE ARGUMENT FOR TOTAL ABSTINENCE.

BY REV. SAMUEL COX, NOTTINGHAM.

“I please all (men) in all (things), not seeking mine own profit, but that of the

many, that they may be saved.”—1 Cor. x. 33.

At the recent meetings of the Congregational Union in this town, some offence was given by a minister who said, that he had never met an advocate of Total Abstinence who, in the conduct of his argument, did not pervert Scripture and exaggerate facts. In making that simple statement of his personal experience, he was understood to sneer at what is called “Teetotalism,” and was quickly taken to task for his unintentional offence. I chanced to dine that day with some of the leading ministers and laymen then in the town, and took the opportunity of asking them what their experience on that point had been. Without a single exception, they replied that they, too, had seldom heard the argument handled in a fair and reasonable way, without passion, exaggeration, intemperance, and manifest perversions of Holy Writ. I, in my turn, was obliged sorrowfully to confess that, for the most part, my experience tallied with theirs, and that I did not doubt that the notorious and proverbial intemperance of temperance orators had done much to alienate fair-minded and reflective men from their cause. Here the talk seemed likely to end with a general sigh over the faults of our neighbours ; but, as that did not seem a whole some conclusion, I added : “We are all agreed as to the fact, then ; but how about the inference to be drawn from it ? I don't know what your inference may be, but I infer from it that, if no one else will do it, it is high time that some of us took up the argument, and stated it in what we at least should consider a candid and reasonable way.”

Of course my brethren laughed at having the tables turned on them in that fashion; but, when we were grave again, I promised myself that I at least would be no longer silent on the question; that, whether my neighbours liked what I had to say or disliked it, I would at least deliver my own soul, and state what I hold to be the true Scripture argument on this urgent and momentous question. And I am here, to-night, to redeem that promise as best I I limit myself to the argument

from Scripture for two reasons ; first, because I know nothing but what all who read the public journals may know of the arguments to be drawn from medical science, social conditions, and imperial statistics; and, secondly and mainly, because I have now given nearly thirty years to the study of the Bible in the original tongues, and have therefore earned some right to speak on questions of biblical doctrine and interpretation. And as there is no one of you who might speak to me on a point on which you were prepared to give me the results of many years thought and experience to whom I would not listen with respect and gratitude, so I hope that on this question, the Scripture argument for Total Abstinence, you will give me a candid and attentive hearing, although you may not agree with much that I say. Still, I do not wish to tax your candour or patience too far. And, therefore, to those of you who are ardently devoted to the Temperance cause let me say at once, that, if I shall have to dispute the soundness of some of the arguments on which you may have relied, I fully intend to furnish you with an argument which I hold to be far more weighty and conclusive.

What I have to do, if I can, is, then, to state the Scripture argument for

can.

The Scripture Argument for Total Abstinence.

45 total abstinence from intoxicating drinks in a reasonable way; so to state it as to satisfy the just demands of thoughtful and cultivated men.

To prevent misapprehension I must preface what I have to say by defining the sense in which I am about to use the word “wine.” For the sake of convenience and brevity we want a single term which includes every kind of alcoholic beverage, such as beer, wine, spirits. I shall use the word “wine” in that broad sense, except where I expressly disclaim it: and you will understand, please, that “wine” stands for and includes all the infinite variety of liquors capable of producing intoxication, which the ingenuity of man has devised. 1. And

now, if I wanted, as I do, to shew men of culture and thought that there is warrant for Total Abstinence in Holy Writ, I certainly would not undertake to prove that the wine approved in Scripture was an unfermented wine; or that God never meant man to drink wines in which alcohol had been developed by fermentation; or that the Lord Jesus, who did no sin, never drank such wines : or even that, in the present conditions of society, it is absolutely, and in every case, wrong to drink them. Many have taken in hand to prove all this, and more; but I am sure that they have attempted to prove too much ; that their arguments cannot fail to break down so soon as they are examined by men of candour and competent learning. I know, indeed, that much may be said, a great deal more than even most well-educated men think, in proof that the Hebrews, like the Greeks and Romans, did drink unfermented wines, what we should call syrup, in fact, or vinegar, rather than what we understand by wine; and that they often took great pains, and went to much expense, to prevent the process of fermentation in some of the wines that were most esteemed by the connoisseurs of the antique world. But, on the other hand, there is the broad fact, patent to the most simple and unlettered, and the proper effect of which no collection of curious and minute details will ever refute, that the prophets and apostles constantly reproved the drunkenness and excess of which their compatriots were guilty: and what did they mean by condemning drunkenness, if no intoxicating wines were in use ? or by condemning excess, if a temperate enjoyment of such stimulants were either forbidden or impossible ? Nor can I understand, save as I admit the blinding power of prejudice, how any careful student of the Gospel which records the marriage at Cana of Galilee can doubt, that our Lord Himself drank fermented wine, if at least he considers all the facts there recorded, and especially the speech in which the jovial symposiarch, or master of the feast, commends the wine last placed upon the board. From all the various ways in which the antique world has left its form and pressure on the minds of men, I hold it to be certain beyond dispute that, in Syria, as in Greece and Rome, drunkenness was a common sin; and that therefore the use of intoxicating beverages was a common custom; though, happily for them, the Hebrews, like most Eastern races, were more temperate, or less intemperate, in this respect than the modern nations of the West. Nor can I find a single clear instance, in which the use of wine was forbidden, by prophet or apostle, as a moral offence, though I find many exhortations to sobriety, many rebukes of intemperance. In short, the broad impression which my study of the Scriptures has borne in upon my mind from a thousand different points is briefly this: That, among the Hebrews, wine, and the wine that 'intoxicates when taken in excess, was regarded as a good creature of God, a choice gift of Heaven; and that it was the abuse, not the use, of it which their holiest men avoided and condemned. And, therefore, I, for one, cannot affirm that it is always wrong for those to drink wine who can drink it with temperance and a cordial gratitude to Heaven. It may be wrong for some, and for others it may be right.

2. Nor, again, would I lay much stress on any argument drawn from single passages of Scripture, however favourable to the cause of Temperance they seemed. To insist on isolated texts, or passages, is always dangerous, whatever the point to be proved. And the champions of Teetotalism, like their neighbours, have too often fallen into this dangerous snare, and by the eagerness with which they have pounced on texts which seemed to tell for them, or the audacity with which they have perverted texts which seemed to tell against them, have done much to alienate the thoughtful and sincere from their cause. Of course, it is quite impossible in a single discourse to follow them through all the fragments of Holy Writ on which they have relied. We must select one as an illustration of the rest. Now if I take St. Paul's famous dissertation on the use of meats, I think you will feel that the selection is a fair one, that I am meeting them on grounds which they specially claim for their own, and even on grounds which they themselves would probably have selected. And yet this ground, for all so solid as it seems, is no rock on which they may securely build up an argument, but a shifting treacherous sand in which their logical structure will only too surely be engulphed. So long indeed as we are content to mark only a part of what St. Paul says, we have an argument for abstinence which none can resist ; but no sooner do we take up the whole passage, no sooner do we listen to his counsel to the weak brother as well as his counsel to the strong brother, than our logical weapon shivers in our hands. Listen, and judge for yourselves.

To the strong man, who knew that an idol was nothing in the world, and felt that he might eat any meat for which he gave God thanks, St. Paul virtually said: “You think you may eat meat that has been offered to idols. You are right: I think so too. But you must not despise him that eateth not. That will be your special temptation. Guard against it. If he think any kind of food unclean, to him it is unclean; and you must respect his scruples, though you do not share them. To walk in love is even better than to walk in liberty; for love's sake, therefore, curtail your liberty. If your weak brother is scandalized, i.e., encouraged to sin, by your claiming liberty to eat the food he distrusts, don't eat it, or you will no longer be walking in love. You that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak. You and I know indeed that the earth is the Lord's alone, and the fulness thereof. But this knowledge is not in all men. Many think that what we know to be lawful is unlawful, because they suspect an idol to be something, and are not sure that God is all in all. Shall we assert our right to eat at their cost ? Rather let us claim the dearer right of waiving our right, that our weaker brethren may take no harm from us. Let us not seek our own liberty, but their welfare ; not our own profit even, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved. As for me, if, by eating meat, I make my weak brother to offend, I will eat no more meat while the world standeth, lest I make my weak brother to offend.

Now if we apply this sequence of thought to the question of abstinence from intoxicating drinks, no doubt the argument is all on our side in the end, though I must admit it begins somewhat lamely. We reel it off triumphantly—thus : You think it right to drink wine; and you are right: I think so too. But you must not despise him that does not drink wine. The Scripture Argument for Total Abstinence.

47 That will be your special temptation, and you must be on your guard against it. If he think it wrong to drink wine, for him it is wrong, and you must respect his scruple, though you do not share it. To walk in love is even better than to walk in liberty. And if your weak neighbour is encouraged to sin by your drinking the wine which is a snare to bim, don't drink it; curtail your liberty, that you may walk in love with him. What are you strong for, save that you may bear the infirmities of the weak ? You and I know indeed that wine, like all other the fulness of the earth, is the gift of God. But all men have not this knowledge. Many think that unlawful, which we know to be lawful, because we know that all things are of God, and that therefore all things are ours. Shall we assert our right to drink at their cost ? Let us rather claim the dearer right of waiving our right, that we may do them no harm. Let us not seek our liberty, but their welfare; not our own profit even, but theirs, that they may be saved. As for me, my purpose is fixed ; if by drinking wine, I make my weak brother to offend, I will drink no more wine so long as the world stands.

You see? Nothing can be more conclusive. We cannot doubt that St. Paul would have all who are strong enough to take wine without excess to give it up lest they should lead the many, who are weak, into the excess from which they themselves are secure. At least we cannot doubt it, until we look at the other side of the question. For we must not forget, though many forget or overlook the fact, that St. Paul has counsel for the weak brother as well as for the strong. In his Epistle to the Romans he says to the weakling for whom Christ died : “You think it wrong to eat the idol-meats; for you, then, it is wrong, though it is very weak of you to think so. Others, who are wiser and stronger than you, think it right to eat them; and for them it is right. If they must not despise you, you must not judge them. Your abstinence is holy, if you give God thanks for it; but so also is their eating, if they give thanks. Who are you that you should judge them? Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind, and prepare to give account of himself unto God, instead of judging his neighbour.”

In his Epistle to the Corinthians the apostle counsels the weak brother thus :—“The wise know that there is but one God, and that therefore an idol is nothing in the world, a mere nonentity, a name and nothing more. If you don't know it, you have much to learn. Meantime, food will not affect our standing with God. Before Him, you are none the better for not eating, and your neighbour is none the worse because he eats. It is the heart, not the meat, for which God cares. You want a rule ? a clear definite rule of conduct? Well, if you will have a rule instead of a principle, the rule is : Don't judge your brother ; but overget your own scruples as fast as you honestly can. Whatever is sold in the shambles, that eat, making no scruple about it, although it have been offered before idols. If any heathen neighbour ask you to a feast, and you care to go, go; you need have no scruple about that. All you have to care for is that, whether you eat or don't eat, whatever you do, you do all to the glory of God: and how can you glorify Him, while you judge and condemn the brother who is as devoted to God as you are, and shews himself to be of a larger riper wisdom ?

Now these counsels to the Weak, which I think must strike you all as wonderfully fresh and strong, as a signal illustration of the breadth and justice of St. Paul's habit of thought, of his determination not to be a bigot or a partisan,—these counsels are likely to be very unwelcome to the man who sees, and is resolved to see, only one side of a question, and that his own. If

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