missionary biographies

John G. Paton on Total Abstinence

John PatonGreat good resulted from this Total Abstinence work [in Glasgow, Scotland, City Mission]. Many adults took and kept the pledge, thereby greatly increasing the comfort and happiness of their homes. Many were led to attend the church on the Lord's Day, who had formerly spent it in rioting and drinking. But, above all, it trained the young to fear the very name of intoxicating drink, and to hate and keep far away from everything that led to intemperance. From observation, at an early age I became convinced that mere Temperance Societies were a failure, and that Total Abstinence, by the grace of God, was the only sure preventive as well as remedy. What was temperance in one man was drunkenness in another; and all the drunkards came, not from those who practised total abstinence, but from those who practised or tried to practise temperance. I had seen temperance men drinking wine in the presence of others who drank to excess, and never could see how they felt clear of blame; and I had known ministers and others, once strong temperance advocates, fall through their "moderation," and become drunkards. Therefore it has all my life appeared to me beyond dispute, in reference to intoxicants of every kind, that the only rational temperance is total abstinence from them as beverages, and the use of them only as drugs, and then only with extreme caution, as they are deceptive and deleterious poisons of the most debasing and demoralizing kind. I found also, that when I tried to reclaim a drunkard, or caution any one as to intemperate habits, one of the first questions was,—

"Are you a pledged Abstainer yourself?"

By being enabled to reply decidedly, "Yes, I am," the mouth of the objector was closed; and that gave me a hundred-fold more influence with him than if I had had to confess that I was only "temperate." For the good of others, and for the increase of their personal influence as the servants of Christ, I would plead with every Minister and Missionary, every office-bearer and Sabbath-school teacher, every one who wishes to work for the Lord Jesus in the family, the Church, and the world, to be a Total Abstainer from all intoxicating drinks.


Copied for WholesomeWords.org from John G. Paton, Missionary to the New Hebrides: An Autobiography. Edited by his brother. New Illustrated ed. New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, [1889?].

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