“Next to the preaching of the Gospel, the most necessary thing to be done in England is to induce our people to become abstainers.”
– Charles Spurgeon, 1882 (Baptist Church)
Charles Spurgeon promoted teetotalism more and more consistently and strongly from the 1880s following a closer examination of the Holy Bible.
1855: the twenty-year-old Spurgeon preached: ‘I might speak of men who will venture into the midst of temptation, confident in their boasted power, exclaiming with self-complacency, “Do you think I am so weak as to sin? Oh! no, I shall stand. Give me the glass; I shall never be a drunkard. Give me the song; you will not find me a midnight reveller. I can drink a little and then I can stop.” Such are presumptuous men.’
Charles Spurgeon 1855, A Caution to the Presumptuous, Sermon 22, Delivered on Sabbath Morning, May 13, 1855, by the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon At Exeter Hall, Strand.
1865: Charles and Susannah’s twin sons took the teetotal pledge at his church. ‘I am not a teetotaller myself, and it is not likely that I shall ever be. I believe, however, that if children are brought up to abstain from alcoholic liquors, they will never need them; and therefore I think it right that they should have no instruction on the use of them from their parents … knowing that the society [Band of Hope – a teetotal society] does a great deal of good, I am glad to help it as much as I possibly can.’ [Actually, he did later quit himself.]
Charles Spurgeon 1865 cited in Lewis A. Drummond 1992, Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers, p. 449.
1874: Dr. Pentecost (a fellow Baptist preacher) had told the church where Spurgeon ministered how the Lord had helped him renounce a smoking habit. On this occasion, Spurgeon had defended his own use in front of the church. Subsequently he received rebuke from another Christian for defending his cigar-smoking like this. Newspapers reported the issue. To Spurgeon’s disgust, some cigar sellers kept putting the preacher’s name / picture on their advertisements. More is known today about tobacco’s harm, but a friend of the preacher would become very sick from it. So Charles gave it up for several months. (William Williams also said Mr. Spurgeon never used a pipe all the years he knew him.)
W. M. Hutchings wrote to Spurgeon in 1874: ‘The crusade against tobacco is conducted on precisely the same principles as the crusade against strong drink; and the arguments by which we advocate the one are almost identical with those by which we advocate the other.’
W. M. Hutchings, October 1874, Letter to the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon.
‘Not a few caricatures represented him smoking a pipe, but he never used a pipe all the years I knew him.’
From William Williams, Charles Haddon Spurgeon: Personal Reminiscences (London: The Religious Tract Society, n.d.), 30-32.
1877: Spurgeon would ‘wish the utmost success to the abstinence cause.’ [Nevertheless, at this time he relied on somebody – who seemed to be convincing – and who thought teetotallers had misunderstood the Bible on the Lord’s Supper. By the 1880s, he further examined matter by the Holy Bible. ‘The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him.’ (Prov. 18:17)]
The Sword and the Trowel, 1877, p. 437.
1880: By this time Spurgeon become a teetotaller himself. ‘I abstain myself from alcoholic drink in every form.’ He preached, ‘That which goes under the name of wine is not true wine, but a fiery, brandied concoction of which I feel sure that Jesus would not have tasted a drop.’ ‘Had our great Exemplar lived under our present circumstances, surrounded by a sea of deadly drink, which is ruining tens of thousands, I know how he would have acted.’ [He now began to see that non-intoxicating wine existed. Both types existed in Biblical times. A couple years later, his views became stronger still.]
Charles Spurgeon 1880, The Waterpots at Cana, Sermon 1556, Delivered by C. H. Spurgeon, At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
1882: ‘Drunkenness is one of the most debasing of sins – it lowers the whole tone of the person who is held in bondage by it. We sometimes talk of a man being “as drunk as a beast,” but whoever heard of a beast being drunk? Why, it is more beastly than anything a beast ever does! I do not believe that the devil himself is ever guilty of anything like that. I never heard even him charged with being drunk! It is a sin which has no sort of excuse – those who fall into it generally fall into other deadly vices. It is the devil’s backdoor to Hell and everything that is hellish, for he that once gives away his brains to drink is ready to be caught by Satan for anything.
Oh, but while the drunkard cannot have eternal life abiding in him while he is such, is it not a joy to think of the many drunkards who have been washed and saved? This night, there are sitting here, those who have done with their cups, who have left behind them their strong drink and who have renounced the haunts of their debauchery. They are washed and cleansed – and when they think of the contrast between where they used to spend their evenings, and where they now are, they give echo to the question – “Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?”’
Charles Spurgeon, September 7, 1882, A Marvelous Change, Sermon 2661, Delivered by C. H. Spurgeon, At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
Yet the preacher noted how easily some became very angry, ‘I see that great objection has been taken’ against him suggesting that abstinence would make a good example – even when he had preached it very very softly initially. In hindsight Spurgeon recalled, ‘I did not urge abstinence as a duty to one’s self, as I might have done; but I gently placed it on the footing of concern for the welfare of others.’ He quipped, ‘Are they so insecure in their own position that they are afraid to have it challenged, even in the gentlest manner?’ [Undated quote from Spurgeon. Perhaps he was referring back to what he had said around 1880 – which might have been stronger. By 1882 he was preaching stronger than merely suggesting abstinence.]
Charles Spurgeon, Two Common Dangers, undated address within collection Only A Prayer Meeting, Forty Addresses at Metropolitan Tabernacle and Other Prayer Meetings. London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1901.
‘Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.’ (Titus 2:15)
‘For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.’ (Tit. 2:11-14)
1882: After Spurgeon suggested others also be teetotallers, by 1882 it became more than a suggestion. Resistance did not deter him from preaching repentance (compare Mark 1:14-15). He said with great zeal in 1882, ‘Next to the preaching of the Gospel, the most necessary thing to be done in England is to induce our people to become abstainers.’
Charles Spurgeon, March 15, 1882, Letter to the Tabernacle Total Abstinence Society.
1884: ‘Those beer shops are the curse of this country—no good ever can come of them, and the evil they do no tongue can tell; the publics were bad enough, but the beer-shops are a pest; I wish the man who made the law to open them had to keep all the families that they have brought to ruin. Beer shops are the enemies of the home; therefore, the sooner their licenses are taken away, the better. Poor men don’t need such places, nor rich men either; they are all worse and no better, like Tom Norton’s wife. Anything that hurts the home is a curse and ought to be hunted down, as gamekeepers do to the vermin in the copses.’
Charles Spurgeon 1884, England’s Curse, The Life and Works of Charles Haddon Spurgeon with Ploughman’s Talks and Pictures, p. 288.
1884: ‘The drink must be dried up, fountain, stream, and pool; this river of death must cease to flow through our land. God’s grace will help us. His pity for sinners will move Him to aid every loving effort for the salvation of the fallen.’
Charles Spurgeon, March 19, 1884. The Autobiography of Charles H. Spurgeon, p. 129.
1887: Somebody asked Spurgeon what type of unfermented wine was used for the Lord’s Supper at the Tabernacle. Spurgeon said a particular supplier was chosen which supplied them nothing alcoholic but only ‘the pure juice of the grape.’
Charles Spurgeon, June 20, 1887. The Autobiography of Charles H. Spurgeon, p. 135.
1887: Downgrade Controversy – Spurgeon again shows willingness to stand for right even when it is controversial.
1890: ‘I heard of a brother who claimed to long having been a teetotaller, but some doubted. When he was asked how long he had been an abstainer, he replied, “Off and on for twenty years.” You should have seen the significant smile upon all faces. An abstainer off and on! His example did not stand for much. Certain professors are Christians off and on, and nobody respects them.’
Charles Spurgeon 1890, All the Day Long, Sermon 2150, Delivered on Lord’s Day Morning, June 22, 1890.
1891: ‘Go not to wine for comfort in the hour of depression! Above all things, dread the intoxicating cup in all its forms!’
Charles Spurgeon 1891, The Best Strengthening Medicine, Sermon 2209, Intended for reading on Lord’s Day, June 21, 1891.
Spurgeon: ‘The fewer of those licensed slaughter-houses, called gin-palaces, the better.’
Charles Spurgeon, undated, in Sword and Trowel, cited in ‘Bacchus Dethroned: Prize Essay’.
‘As to that terrible matter of drunkenness, I believe there are many palliations for the disease, but I am equally certain that there is no complete and universally applicable cure for it except the gospel. The best way to make a man sober is to bring him to the foot of the cross. It is a practical question, well worth your pondering, whether, in order to bring him there, it may not be necessary to get him sober first, for we cannot hope to see men converted when they are drunk. You may find it wise to use with vigor all the appliances which the temperance movement has so amply provided; but whether you personally agree to do so or not, if you see others earnestly warring with the demon of drink, even though they use weapons which you do not admire, do not despise them, nor treat them otherwise than as allies. Let your own personal habits be such as shall tend to overthrow the evil, and to encourage those who are laboring to that end. Let the current and tone of your conversation be always friendly to the man who fights this foe, even if he does not come upon your platform, for the enemy is so strong and so all-devouring that no honest helper may be scorned. But, after all, the gospel is the needle-gun of the conflict. If you could make every man in England sign the pledge of total abstinence, you could not secure sobriety for any length of time, since pledges are too often broken; but if men’s hearts are changed, and they become believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, then the stamina of principle will, by Divine grace, be given to the mental constitution, promises will be kept, and vices will be forsaken.’
C. H. Spurgeon, undated, How To Meet the Evils of the Age, An All-Round Ministry Address to Ministers and Students, Chapter 4.