Phoebe Palmer: Alcohol ‘This evil in the church’

Phoebe Palmer portrait
Phoebe Palmer

This evil in the Church and the world is the stumbling-block of iniquity over which thousands of professors are falling away from God, and tens of thousands of the masses are being plunged into endless perdition. …

When a man that was well known as among the most successful in promoting the interests of the Church, in things that appertain to its true glory, was mentioned in your official board to be the successor to your departing minister, and it was whispered, “Do you know that he is a temperance man?” what is the reason that you and your anti-temperance friends turned so quickly away from him? Not because your conscience did not whisper the truth, and tell you that temperance principles promote the interest of souls, but because you preferred the ministrations of those who, “walking in the spirit of falsehood, do lie, saying, I will prophesy to thee of wine and strong drink: he shall even be the prophet of this people” (see Micah ii. 11).

“But,” says another, “some of the most liberal supporters of our Church enterprises are among those who are engaged in the liquor-traffic.” This is true; but is it not insulting to God that the price of blood should be thrown into his treasury? Would that it were not lawful now as in the days of the betrayer of our Saviour! Were the founder of Methodism now among us to renew his enactments, he would spurn the subscriptions coming from such a source as a desecration of the Wesleyan-Church treasury.

You think me too hasty and contracted in my opinions on this subject. Well, since we are Wesleyans, let us turn to Wesley’s sermons on the right use of money. Wesley, being dead, shall yet speak for himself:—

“But all who sell this ‘liquid-fire, commonly called drams, or spirituous-liquors,’ in the common way, to any that will buy, are poisoners-general. They murder his majesty’s subjects by wholesale; neither does their eye pity or spare. They drive them to hell like sheep; and what is their gain? Is it not the blood of these men? Who, then, would envy their large estates and sumptuous palaces? A course is in the midst of them: the curse of God cleaves to the stones, the timber, the furniture of them! The curse of God is in their gardens, their walls, the roof, are stained with blood! And canst thou hope, O thou man of blood! Thou art ‘clothed in scarlet and fine linen, and farest sumptuously every day,’ – canst thou hope to deliver down thy fields of blood to the third generation? Not so: for there is a God in heaven; therefore thy name shall soon be rooted out. Like as those thou hast destroyed body and soul, ‘thy memorial shall perish with thee.’”

Phoebe Palmer, 1866, ‘Four years in the Old World’, pp. 383-385.

The Holiness movement grew out of the Methodist Church in the mid-nineteenth century. Early Methodist ministry in the U.S. focused primarily on conversion and church extension, at times neglecting John Wesley’s emphasis on sanctification and perfection. As Methodism became more established in the nineteenth century, there was renewed interest in the doctrine of perfection. One of the key figures in this revival of holiness teaching was the travelling evangelist and writer Phoebe Palmer (1807-1874), who experienced sanctification by the Holy Spirit in 1837. She worked tirelessly to bring others to a similar experience of holiness.

Frank S. Mead, 2010, ‘Holiness Churches’, Handbook of Denominations in the United States 13th Edition

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