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John Wesley

 

On what motive do you thus poison yourself? Only for the pleasure of doing it? What! Will you make yourself a beast, or rather a devil? Will you run the hazard of committing all manner of villanies; and this only for the poor pleasure of a few moments, while the poison is running down your throat? O never call yourself a Christian! Never call yourself a man! 

 

John Wesley (1703-1791)

A fourth example as to how the church responded to social changes took place in Britain in the 18th century. The industrial revolution was under way, along with its many attendant horrors such as the use of child labor and a disregard for environmental issues. Many people found solace in alcohol — A phrase used at the time was, “Drunk for a penny, dead drunk for tuppence (two pennies)”. Hogarth’s well-known illustration ‘Gin Lane’ illustrates the problem.

The Anglican church of that time had become somewhat complacent and indifferent to the plight of these industrial workers. In response to this situation John Wesley and others founded what was later to become the Methodist church. One of the cornerstones of their Christian faith was that it is wrong to drink alcohol. As the following quotation shows, he did not mince words.

 

We now think of Wesley as being a strict teetotaller, as evidenced by the quotation at the head of this post. However, as discussed in the post Gin Lane and Social Media, his attitude toward alcohol was actually moderate and not completely consistent. The The full Hogarth cartoon, as shown below, is entitled Gin Lane and Beer Street. It condemns the vice and misery associated with gin, but it actually promotes the value of beer consumption. It is probably more accurate to say that Wesley was more opposed to drunkenness than he was to drinking per se.  Nevertheless, he recognized that the church was not responding adequately to a major social ill, so he energetically promoted a faith-based solution.

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