Man naturally resents insult or injury. He would punish with a blow that enemy who makes him appear either wicked or ridiculous before his fellows; yet he will take into his mouth and swallow down his throat that, which overcoming his natural mind, may make him either a base knave or a poor fool. He makes laws to convict and punish thievery, yet, with relish, will deliberately place a thief within his mouth that steals away honor, virtue, manhood and intellect. He would repel the advance of an aggressive foe, who should aim a blow at the life or peace of his gentle wife or innocent children, yet with a smack of enjoyment he will pour into his stomach that soul destroying enemy, which slowly but surely lays its unholy hands upon his cherished ones, plundering them of father, husband, happiness and home.
He despises the insidious smile of hypocrisy, and yet smiles back complacently upon the allurements of that hypocritical spirit which whispers in his ear the damning lie, “that there is no harm in the convivial glass.” No harm in the convivial glass! Who says it? Not the drunkard’s wife, as she sits without light or food or fire, shivering and listening to the howling winds of winter, as she watches for the drunken husband’s coming through the lone hours of night. Not her starved and ragged children, who feel the gnawing pangs of hunger, and the chill of the cruel blast, as it sweeps along on its remorseless journey. Not the widowed mother who sees her son, the stay of her declining years, turning into the path which led his father to death and dishonor. Not the orphaned children whom the monster rum has bereft of father, mother, friends and name. It is none of these who tell the world, “there is no harm in the social glass.” It is the strong man, who in the youth or prime of life lifts the tempting glass to his lips, and spurns with contempt the thought that the day will ever come, when rum shall be his master. Secure in the strength of his manhood, he quaffs the bowl of temptation, while he looks upon the poor inebriate with pity or contempt.
O stop, strong man, and ask the degraded drunkard, in his fifth and rags, if there was not once a period in his life’s history, when he like you boasted in his strength, despised like you the weakness of the sot, and like you, thought there was no danger to him in the social glass. He will sadly answer, yes. He will tell you that to-day he might have been well clothed, well fed, and rich in the associations of kind friends and a happy family, if he had turned away while strong, and touched not, tasted not, handled not. And when you speak of reform, and hold up the possibility of yet regaining these best gifts of God, he will tell you in the sullenness of despair, that it is too late, that he has gone over the abyss that forever separates him from present peace and future hope.
Then ye strong ones pause, and hear the cry of the drunkard’s widow, see the helplessness of the drunkard’s orphan children, and witness the despair of the lost drunkard on his road to hell. Ask if it is not best to turn away once and forever from the allurements of the cursed wine cup.
[The Contributor, Apr. 1881]
[transcribed and proofread by David Grow, May 2006]