Friday, March 02, 2007

John Pugh VI: Gospel Temperance

The question as to whether Christians ought to drink alcohol is a vexed one. To some modern Christians, the idea of temperance is connected with moralism, while to others it is clear that Christians should not drink, as drinking itself is sinful.

In the nineteenth century, drink was, without doubt, a curse. Cheap liquor was sold in establishments whose sole purpose was to get men drunk; drunkenness reduced many famillies to want. Death, diease and squalor attended the consumption of alcohol. And a drunken man, whose insides are rotting from over-indulgence cannot give heed to the words of life. This Pugh believed, and equally that a man, converted from the world must make a clean break with the world. Converts from the 1882 mission in Pontypridd were encouraged to sign the Pledge and wear a blue ribbon as a sign they longer touched drink.

Not that Pugh was one of those whose conception of total abstinece is taking men out of bars and leaving them alone on Friday and Saturday until they get bored. Pugh understood that the only way to keep men away from drink is to provide alternative facilities. So John Pugh became involved in the campaign to provide a free library for the town.

Disgracefully, this innovation was opposed by the tavern-keerer, under the pretence that this would increase local taxes. In fact, they feared for their business. The day of the vote saw both sides trying to turn out their supporters. As the polls were closing, Pugh went as far as to drag eight Scottish members of his congregation off the station platform so they could vote. When the votes were counted, it was found that these men had cast the deciding votes - Pontypridd was to have a library (pictured).
In addition to his local work, Pugh spread his network of contacts beyond Wales. His involvement with the international temperance body, The Good Templars brought him into contact with Americans, while his evangelistic missions in Pontypridd attracted men such as the Rev. William Ross of Cowcaddens Free Church, Glasgow, who had done great work for the Lord among the poor of that city, men as in thrall to drink as any in Pontypridd.
It was through Ross' agency that Pugh received a call to pastor a church in Glasgow. At the same time, Clifton Street Calvinistic Methodist Church in Cardiff extended an offer to the evangelist-pastor. Both were located in areas of great need, and for the first time, Pugh faced a dilemma: Glasgow or Cardiff, which was it to be?



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