“Intoxicating Liquors” and “Uncontrollable Drunkenness”

The temperance movement in Canada began in Nova Scotia in the early 1800s. Societies were formed to advocate moderation or complete prohibition of alcohol, as many of society’s problems were blamed on the consumption of drink. At the 1867 Synod of the Canada Presbyterian Church an overture was made by the Rev. Inglis that the Synod “enact that manufacturers and vendors of intoxicating liquors be excluded from the sealing ordinances of the church.” A response moved “that the overture be received, and that the Synod renew its earnest recommendations to ministers and people, to oppose in every legitimate way the evils connected with the manufacture of, and traffic in, Strong Drinks; but decline to entertain the question of making manufacture or sale of Intoxicating Liquors a term of communion.” This motion was passed by the majority.

The Home and Foreign Record of the Canada Presbyterian Church in October 1867 published an essay on “Uncontrollable Drunkenness.” In this essay they put forward the idea of establishing “asylums for the intemperate”, which would be under the powers of the law, thus allowing for the law to step in and offer protection to the intemperate man’s family and property from himself. Further, the periodical felt, “we are sure that many a drunkard would gladly seek the protection of an asylum, and would submit even to a degree of restraint, in order to escape from the intolerable bondage in which he is held.” The Home and Foreign Record of the Canada Presbyterian Church happily reported in August that a Temperance Association was formed with Rev. Dr. Taylor of Montreal as President. The periodical trusted much good would come from the Association.

The Presbyterian Church of the Lower Provinces published a report of the Committee of Temperance in their periodical’s August issue. The report stated that the Committee had sent out and received back surveys to all congregations to ascertain the state of temperance in the church. Only “a very few persons have withdrawn their support from our ministers in consequence of our advocacy of total abstinence.” The Presbyterian Church in Canada in Connection with the Church of Scotland 1867 Synod instructed ministers to bring the matter of intemperance to the attention of their congregations, “to urge upon them anew the adoption of such means as they may consider to be best adapted, according to the word of God, to prevent the sin and remedy to evil referred to.” Many, though not all, Presbyterians in Canada 150 years ago supported temperance, and it is likely many ministers referred to the subject in sermons to their congregations.

Click here to read “Uncontrollable Drunkenness”, an article published in the October issue of The Home and Foreign Record of the Canada Presbyterian Church.

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