He remembered having given up smoking by the wish of his ministerial brethren, when he was twenty-one years of age, for four years. But then, he had resumed the habit, for he declared during that four years he never saw or smelt a cigar which he did not want to smoke. How, however, he felt it to be his duty to give it up again, and so unequal did he feel to the self-denial, that he "took his cigar-box before the Lord," and cried to Him for help. This help he intimated had been given, and the habit renounced.
Mr. Spurgeon, whose smoking propensities are pretty well known, instantly rose at the conclusion of Mr. Pentecost's address, and, with a somewhat playful smile, said,
Then, you would have afforded no pretext to the young men of your congregation and others to follow your example in smoking, without your motive, and without your excuse. If you had told your people that you only smoked because thereby intense pain was relieved, a weary brain soothed, and refreshing sleep obtained, we should have remembered your abundant labours, your exceptional position, the enormous strain put upon you, bodily and mentally, and we should have held our peace.
True, we might have thought of one August Sufferer, who, in more intense pain, and greater mental weariness, refused and put away from Him
"Well, dear friends, you know that some men can do to the glory of God what to other men would be sin. And notwithstanding what brother Pentecost has said, I intend to smoke a good cigar to the glory of God before I go to bed to-night.
"If anybody can show me in the Bible the command, 'Thou shalt not smoke,' I am ready to keep it; but I haven't found it yet. I find ten commandments, and it's as much as I can do to keep them; and I've no desire to make them into eleven or twelve.
"The fact is, I have been speaking to you about real sins, not about listening to mere quibbles and scruples. At the same time, I know that what a man believes to be sin becomes a sin to him, and he must give it up. 'Whatsoever is not of faith is sin' [Rom. 14:23], and that is the real point of what my brother Pentecost has been saying.
"Why, a man may think it a sin to have his boots blacked. Well, then, let him give it up, and have them whitewashed. I wish to say that I'm not ashamed of anything whatever that I do, and I don't feel that smoking makes me ashamed, and therefore I mean to smoke to the glory of God."
REV. C. H. SPURGEON'S LETTER
To the Editor of the Daily Telegraph.
"YOU cannot regret more than I do the occasion which produced the unpremeditated remarks to which you refer. I would, however, remind you that I am not responsible for the accuracy of newspaper reports, nor do I admit that they are a full and fair representation of what I said. I am described as rising with a twinkling eye, and this at once suggested that I spoke flippantly; but indeed, I did nothing of the kind. I was
rather too much in earnest than too little.
"I demur altogether, and most positively, to the statement that to smoke tobacco is in itself a sin. It may become so, as any other indifferent action may; but, as an action, it is no sin. Together with hundreds of thousands of my fellow-Christians, I have smoked, and with them I am under the condemnation of living in habitual sin, if certain accusers are to be believed. As I would not knowingly live even in the smallest violation of the law of God, and sin is the transgression of the law [I John 3:4], I will not own to sin when I am not conscious of it.
There is growing up in society a Pharisaic system which adds to the commands of God the precepts of men, to that system I will not yield for an hour. The preservation of my liberty may bring upon me the upbraidings of many of the good, and the sneers of the self-righteous; but I shall endure both with serenity, so long as I feel clear in my conscience before God.
"The expression 'smoking to the glory of God,' standing alone, has an ill sound, and I do not justify it; but in the sense in which I employed it, I still stand to it. No Christian should do anything in which he cannot glorify God—and this may be done, according to Scripture, in eating and drinking and the common actions of life. When I have found intense pain relieved, a weary brain soothed, and calm, refreshing sleep obtained by a
cigar, I have felt grateful to God and have blessed His name; this is what I meant, and by no means did I use sacred words triflingly. If through smoking I had wasted an hour of my time—if I had stinted my gifts to the poor—if I had rendered my mind less vigorous—I trust I should see my fault and turn from it; but he who charges me with these things shall have no answer but my forgiveness.
"I am told that my open avowal will lessen my influence, and my reply is that if I have gained any influence through being thought different from what I am, I have no wish to retain it. I will do nothing upon the sly, and nothing about which I have a doubt.
"I am most sorry that prominence has been given to what seems to me so small a matter—and the last thing in my thoughts would have been the mention of it from the pulpit; but I was placed in such a position that I must either by my silence plead guilty to living in sin, or else bring down upon my unfortunate self the fierce rebukes of the anti-tobacco advocates by speaking out honestly. I chose the latter; and although I am now the target for these worthy brethren, I would sooner endure their severest censures than sneakingly do what I could not justify, and earn immunity from their criticism by tamely submitting to be charged with sin in an action which my conscience allows.—Yours truly,C. H. SPURGEON.
"Nightingale Lane, Clapham, Sept. 23."
TO THE REV. C. H. SPURGEON.
THE LORD has greatly honoured you, and wonderfully blessed your labours as a Christian minister. The churches of Christ of all denominations have rejoiced in your success, and blessed God for all that He has accomplished through your instrumentality. Your name has become a "household word" throughout Christendom, and your utterances are carried all over the civilised world. Men hang upon your lips; they cherish your earnest faithful words in their memories and in their hearts; and multitudes are moulding their lives according to the truth you have preached to them. You have become a
power in the Church and in the world; and, thank God, a power for good. These are no words of flattery; they simply express evident truth—apparent to all—universally admitted; and I use them, not as a sycophant, but rather as a censor (if I may venture to say so), and with the view to press upon you the solemn responsibility of every word you speak. Thousands of people believe what you say because you say it.
True, they ought to be more like the Bereans of old, but they are not. You must know this. Your people at the Tabernacle know it. We, Christians of other churches, know it; and we bless God that grace has been given you to prove yourself worthy of this great trust, and to lead these weaker brethren into the way of truth.
But suppose, in your teachings of doctrine or duty, you yourself
should be misled into error upon any point—however trivial it may seem—what a misleading that would be! What a follow-
ing you would have in the wrong path! What mischief—irreparable in time or eternity—might be wrought! Why, sir, angels might weep, and hell would hold carnival! Pardon the suggestion I make of such a possibility. You are not infallible, nor do you desire to be thought so.
Many hearts have been deeply grieved by your apology for smoking—made in God's House, and forming part of the Sabbath Worship therein. We feel that a great calamity has overtaken us. We stagger under the blow of a giant. We shudder when we think of the consequences. The greatest power for evil upon earth is the false teaching of a good and great man. The greater and the better the man, the more terrible the evil influence.
Sir, have YOU contemplated the results of your defence of smoking? Have you thought of the result upon the young men who light their cigars, on Sunday evening, within the precincts of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, and walk away from God's House puffing a good [sometimes a very bad] cigar, or a short dirty pipe? Is it well that these young men should be confirmed in their self-indulgence (disgustingly offensive to
hundreds of their fellow-worshippers) by your powerful voice?
They have no "intense pain" to be relieved—no "weary brain" to be soothed, and their nightly slumbers need no artificial help.
Some of them do waste many hours in smoking—they do stint the gifts they ought to bestow on the poor—nay they are often embarrassed to pay their lawful debts—they do render their minds less vigorous—and now, in answer to the remonstrances of their friends, they will be ready to say, "SPURGEON PREACHES IN FAVOR OF SMOKING; let's have 'a good cigar to the glory of God.'"
Have you thought of men of riper years—poor men—who cannot buy tobacco except by depriving their wives and children of the food, or clothing, or education they ought to have? These men are now armed in triple mail. They are proof against all the assaults of the anti-tobacco "Pharisees." "Spurgeon's
Sermon on Smoking" (so they call it) is at once a helmet, a sword, and a shield to them.
Sir, it is no figure of speech—it is no rant of a fanatic—it is sober, solemn, awful truth, that pious mothers are shedding bitter tears when they contemplate the influence of your words [Matt. 12:36] upon their sons, just acquiring the filthy habit; wives are weeping over the encouragement you have given to their husbands to continue an expense they cannot afford; and children will be deprived of home comforts by those who will plead your example and advice for their unmanly conduct. Sir, I fear your words have given a powerful push downwards to multitudes who are already in the road which leads to temporal and eternal ruin.
I observe, with some satisfaction, that the tone of your letter to the Editor of the Daily Telegraph is very different from the tone of your Tabernacle address. The earlier utterance was that of defiant championship—the later, and more deliberate one, is softened down to an apology and an excuse. If, in reply to "Brother Pentecost" you had said just what you afterwards wrote, namely, that your "good cigar" was to be smoked—not as a gratifying indulgence—not for the enjoyment it would afford—but on account of the "infirmities of the flesh," then little objection would have been taken, even by those who are most earnestly opposed to the use of tobacco in any form.
the offered opiate by which relief could have been obtained [Matt. 27:34]; but we should have been silent. We should have looked upon your cigar in the same light as we look on Timothy's wine; and, in our charity, we should have remembered that "the flesh is weak."
But your Tabernacle utterance was defiant. Its teaching was: Smoking is right and proper for all men; and those who say otherwise are adding to God's commandments. And, in your letter to the Editor of the Telegraph, though your tone is subdued, and your language that of apology, you are still intolerant and unjust. First, you say that we, anti-tobacco advocates, charge you with living in habitual sin. We do not.
We say, Smoking is a dirty habit—bad habit—injurious to the body and the mind—leading to other worse and more ruinous habits; but we do not say that every man who smokes is living in habitual sin. We see the habit growing—we mark its evil effects upon our young men—we discover that it holds tens of thousands in cruel bondage—and we try to persuade our young people never to contract the habit, and our older friends to break it off.
We declare war to the knife against tobacco, and the drinking customs which go hand in hand with tobacco, but we do not presume to sit in judgment upon you or any other man. You must be guided by your own judgment and conscience. To your own Master, you stand or fall [Rom. 14:4]. We should like to make a convert of you. We know what a powerful ally you would be. But even while you are arrayed against us and smiting us with vigorous, blows, we believe that you are honest and sincere in your antagonism, and we feel sure that if you believed smoking to be an evil thing you would at once and at any cost abandon it.
You are less charitable in your treatment of us. You call us Pharisees—you insinuate that we are self-righteous—you charge us with adding to the commandments of God the precepts of men—and you intimate that we desire to invade your liberty. Do you really believe all this? Are the conductors of the Band
of Hope [Ed Note: the church youth group] at your Metropolitan Tabernacle a company of Pharisees, training up the young in the "Pharisaic system?" If you think so, pray give orders to shut it up at once. I do not know whether a pledge against tobacco is taken with the pledge against intoxicating drinks in the Tabernacle Band of Hope. Probably
so. But if not, it matters little to my argument. 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.
"Pharisees," are we? Well, we are in good company. We follow that arch-Pharisee who said,
"If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth [I Cor. 8:13];"
We know tobacco is a stumbling-block, and an offence, and a cause of weakness to multitudes of our brethren—brethren in the Church of Christ—brethren in the bonds of a common humanity—and so we practise what "Pharisee" Paul teaches, and sacrifice personal indulgence, lest it should be a snare to others. We think we have also a Higher Authority and a Greater Example—even the authority and example of Him who "pleased not Himself [Rom. 15:3]."
May I, without intentional impertinence, illustrate this? Two men stand side-by-side on the platform of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, the one a "Pharisee," the other—Mr. Spurgeon. One describes his pilgrimage along the steep rough path of self-denial, and tells us how he "took his cigar-box before the Lord, and cried for help." The other prefers the easier, smoother, smokier path of self-indulgence, holds fast to the cigar-box, and declares his intention to smoke a good cigar before going to bed. WHICH OF THESE LOOKS MOST LIKE
"It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything [is it possible that the word "anything" can include "a good cigar"?] whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak [Rom. 14:21]."
CHRIST? Which would it be to the advantage of the young men, who heard both, to follow?
But I wish in this letter to raise a question of far greater importance than that of smoking. In defending your "good cigar," you laid down a principle. You indicated a rule of Christian life and conduct.
Now, Sir, (forgive me if I seem, uncharitable and harsh) I hold that that principle is false, mischievous, and utterly repugnant to the teaching of Christ and his Apostles. This is a far more important question than that of your right to "smoke a good cigar." If your words about the ten commandments [Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-21] mean anything, they mean that all that is required of us is obedience to the letter of those commandments. You expressly repudiate any other law, when you decline to be bound by an eleventh or a twelfth commandment.
Did it strike you that this was a two-edged argument? If all that is required of us be obedience to the letter of the Decalogue—then literal obedience to each command is imperative. You told us (I do not say "Pharisaically") that you do obey all these—though you find it hard work. What?—the fourth? To the letter? In every detail? If so, you are a much maligned man. Pray understand that I am not expounding the Law of the Two Tables; I am merely following your exposition of Christian Duty.
Clearly, the rule of life you laid down in your defence of smoking is this:—That a Christian man is at liberty to exercise self-indulgence in all matters against which there is no direct and express command in Scripture. I have not so learned Christ. I read the Master's command, "DENY THYSELF, take up thy cross, and follow me [Matt. 16:24; Mark 8:34; Mark 10:21; Luke 9:23; Luke 14:27]," and my chief object in addressing you is to point out the essential viciousness of the principle you laid down.
I will do this, not by argument, but by use. Let us hear your utterance, and then listen attentively to the echoes of that utterance which may be imagined to come from persons whose inclination leads them, not to smoking, but to other indulgences which
Christians condemn, but which are not prohibited by express command:—
The Rev C. H. SPURGEON says (I quote the Christian World's report):—"If any body can show me in the Bible the command, 'Thou shalt not smoke,' I am ready to keep it; but I haven't found it yet. I find ten commandments, and it's as much as I can do to keep them; and I've no desire to make them into eleven or twelve."
ECHO No. 1.—"If anybody can show me in the Bible the command, 'Thou shalt not frequent the play-house,' I am ready to keep it; but I haven't found it yet. I find ten commandments, and it's as much as I can do to keep them; and I've no desire to make them into eleven or twelve."
ECHO No. 2.—"If anybody can show me in the Bible the command, 'Thou shalt not frequent the race-course, and share in the betting,' I am ready to keep it; but I haven't found it yet. I find ten commandments, and it's as much as I can do to keep them; and I've no desire to make them into eleven or twelve."
ECHO No. 3.—"If anybody can show me in the Bible the command, 'Thou shalt not gamble with cards or dice,' I am ready to keep it; but I haven't found it yet. I find ten commandments, and it's as much as I can do to keep them; and I've no desire to make them into eleven or twelve."
ECHO No. 4 (once very popular in the Southern States of America).—"If anybody can show me in the Bible the command, 'Thou shalt not hold slaves,' I am ready to keep it; but I haven't found it yet. I find ten commandments, and it's as much as I can do to keep them; and I've no desire to make them into eleven or twelve."
Illustrations might be multiplied, but these may suffice.
Yet one word. Can any Christian picture to himself the
Blessed Master with "a good cigar in His mouth?" Should we
not be shocked to see such a representation—even though painted
with all the exquisite skill of the best of the old masters? I
think so. Practical Christianity consists in a constant endeavor to
to be in all things like Christ.
97, Camberwell Road,
|I am, Sir,|
|W. M. HUTCHINGS.|
Also by W. M. Hutchings
|Christianity and Secularism Contrasted: Report of the Two Nights' Debate, at Wigan, Between Iconoclast [i.e. Charles Bradlaugh] and W.M. Hutchings (with Charles Bradlaugh, 1833-1891) (London: Barker and Holyoake, 1861)|
|Adults must not set a bad example. See Meta Lander, The Tobacco Problem (Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1882), pages 271 and 282.|
Rev. Spurgeon did change position in response to pleas such as the above. The tobacco lobby made an advertisement saying, 'Smoke the Cigars that Spurgeon Smokes.' He came to realize that such a message about him and his example undermined his testimony, so he stopped smoking.
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