Monday, April 12, 2010

Charles H. Spurgeon on Alcohol

“I hope they will be full of spirit against evil spirits, stout against stout, and hale against ale.”
-Charles H. Spurgeon, letter to temperance society, March 19, 1884.

Occasionally you hear someone defending social drinking by using Charles Haddon Spurgeon (AD 1834-1892) as an example. Or as an excuse. If the great Baptist preacher of London did not believe in abstinence from beverage alcohol, then it must be alright for us to drink.

Contrary to this view, we should follow biblical teaching and the common sense God gave us. Some will be surprised, however, to see what Spurgeon came to believe about the recreational use of the drug alcohol.

In his early years, Charles Haddon Spurgeon disagreed with those who preached abstinence from alcohol. But as time went by, the temperance advocates (those who promoted total abstinence from beverage alcohol), convinced Spurgeon; or maybe the Holy Spirit convinced him. Spurgeon actually became a temperance advocate. Temperance meetings were held in Spurgeon’s church, the Metropolitan Tabernacle.

In 1882 Spurgeon would boldly declare, “Next to the preaching of the Gospel, the most necessary thing to be done in England is to induce our people to become abstainers.” I’m strongly against drinking, but I’m not even sure that I would go as far as Spurgeon, with his above statement.

Dr. Lewis Drummond stated of Spurgeon, “Obviously he had become a strong advocate for abstinence.”

The two above quotes are from Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers by Dr. Lewis A. Drummond, Foreword by Carl F. H. Henry, Kregel Publications; 1992. Dr. Drummond was a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. As a result of the SBC Conservative Resurgence, Drummond was the first conservative president of SEBTS.

Charles Spurgeon also spoke to the issue of Communion Wine stating that his church used only unfermented wine.

“We use Frank Wright’s unfermented wine at the Tabernacle, and have never used any other unfermented wine. I am given to understand that some of the so-called unfermented wine has in it a considerable amount of alcohol; but Mr. Wright’s is the pure juice of the grape. One person advertised his wine as used at the Tabernacle though we had never used it even on one occasion. So far as we are concerned, we use no wine but that produced by Messrs. Frank Wright, Mundy, and Co.
Yours truly, C. H. SPURGEON.” -Westwood, June 20, 1887.
(; accessed 4-12-2010)

Notice that Spurgeon calls this pure juice of the grape “unfermented wine.” Some erroneously say there is no such thing, that all “wine” is fermented. Spurgeon, Aristotle, Nicander, Horace, Pliny, Polybius, Cato, Plutarch, and others would disagree.

Next time you hear someone say Spurgeon was for social drinking, tell them the rest of the story. Charles H. Spurgeon became a strong advocate of total abstinence from alcohol.

-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, April 12, AD 2010.

Note:  You may also be interested in Preserving Unfermented Wine in Bible Times, and other articles under Gulf Coast Pastor Articles (Labels) in the bottom right margin. 

Deuteronomy 14:26 - Does it Commend Alcohol?
Ancient Wine and the Bible - the Book

Other Articles in lower right margin.  


  1. Thanks David.

    Every now and then I see someone refer to Spurgeon's drinking as though that justified it. The rest of the story needs to be told.
    David Brumbelow

  2. Too bad he wasn't inspired by scripture. Then he would know that total abstinence is not Biblical.

  3. Robert,
    But the Bible does call for total abstinence. Proverbs 23:29-35 gives a detailed description of fermented, alcoholic wine, and says not to even look at it. It also says alcoholic wine is like a venomous snake. Proverbs 20:1 calls wine a mocker.

    1 Thessalonians 5:6-8; 1 Peter 1:13; 5:8 all tell us to be sober. You can’t drink and be sober; ask Alcoholics Anonymous.

    And remember in Bible times, as today, they had a choice. They had alcoholic and nonalcoholic wine and other drinks. The wine God condemned was the kind that is a mocker and raging. See my previous articles on Wine and Alcohol for more details.

    Charles H. Spurgeon saw this truth and turned against this drug that has ruined so many lives.
    David R. Brumbelow

  4. Blah Blah Blah. You continue to spew your out of context, misinterpreted scripture to support your preconcieved notion about how you think people should behave. I can quote many and more scriptures that show you are dead wrong. But I have been there and done that. It is frustrating when intelligent people refuse to see truth because it doesn't match up with what they think is right. Try reading the Bible instead of reading into the Bible.

  5. I enjoyed this well written and reasoned post. Spurgeon was great, but it is too bad he didn't believe the Bible (add in heavy sarcasm here).

  6. Joe,
    Isn’t it a shame that Spurgeon didn’t believe the Bible! What a shame that so many preachers read the direct words of the Bible, as well as biblical principles, and then turn on such innocent businesses as the alcohol trade. Don’t they know beverage alcohol is making this world a better place? (warning, this comment also contains sarcasm).

    Reminds me of a few young preachers back in 2006 that were saying if you were against drinking you did not believe in the inerrancy of the Bible. Now that was a whopper of an allegation.
    David R. Brumbelow

  7. And let the twisting begin. I never said that Spurgeon didn't believe the Bible. I never said that drinking was good, even advisable. I do say that it is intellectually iresponsible to say that alcohol in the Bible was non alcoholic. It is a fantasy to say the Bible says that drinking is strictly forbidden. The words and passages that you quote over and over again are explained and refuted by over 90% of the most respected and educated theologians of our day. Jesus Christ himself drank alcoholic wine. To suggest otherwise is just ignorant.

    I choose not to drink. I would counsel others not to drink. But I will not tell them that the Bible says something that it does not.

  8. Gentleman: As an avid reader and studier of Charles Spuregon, let me tell you the truth behind what you have quoted.

    Charles Spurgeon still believed that moderate drinking was fine, but later in his life he saw his cigars being marketed as Spurgeon smokes, while mothers were trying to get their children not to smoke or drink. Temperance groups were springing up and advocating the evils of drink. Spurgeon gave up his liberties for the good of all. He voluntarily gave them up as Paul tells us to in order for others not to stumble. That is the context of his preaching and his life.

  9. Robert,
    You are apparently unaware that Spurgeon, Aristotle, Pliny, Nicander, Columella, Athenaeus, Cato, Throphrastus, and others spoke of unfermented or un-intoxicating wine. All these, save Spurgeon, lived in ancient or classical Greek, Roman times. To say Jesus drank alcoholic wine is a slander on Him, and is your interpretation, not just taking the Bible for what it says. Please show one verse where the Bible says Jesus drank alcoholic wine.

    The biblical and ancient use of the word wine is like our use of the word “drink.” If someone says they saw Pastor Jones eating and drinking, that does not mean he was partaking of an alcoholic beverage. If you assume that, well, that is your assumption. It is certainly not a fact. That is what you are doing in assuming Jesus drank alcohol.

    Above I give direct biblical prohibitions against drinking (in a previous post I’ve given biblical principles that condemn alcohol). You have not spoken to any of them, other than just cavalierly dismissing them.
    David R. Brumbelow

  10. Debbie,
    You say, “Charles Spurgeon still believed that moderate drinking was fine.” That sure doesn’t agree with the statements Spurgeon made. Read them again:

    “Next to the preaching of the Gospel, the most necessary thing to be done in England is to induce our people to become abstainers.” -Charles H. Spurgeon
    (The context of this quote is clearly speaking of alcohol; Dr. Drummond uses this quote in his book.)

    “I hope they will be full of spirit against evil spirits, stout against stout, and hale against ale.” -Charles H. Spurgeon, letter to temperance society, March 19, 1884.

    Those statements do not sound like one who believes in moderate drinking.

    Spurgeon grew up in a day when drinking was rampant and accepted even by clergy. But as he grew in age and in the ministry he came to see the devastating results of drinking. The church in general awakened to this fact as well; similar to their realization of the evils of slavery. For at least the last ten years of his life, Spurgeon was adamantly opposed to alcohol.
    David R. Brumbelow

  11. A couple more thoughts:

    I appreciate and admire the fact that you do not drink.

    The temperance groups that Spurgeon supported did not advocate moderate drinking, but abstinence from drinking. Some today mistakenly think their use of the word temperance meant they were only for moderation in drinking.

    By the way, some of the earliest temperance groups, before Spurgeon’s time, did promote moderate drinking; but they soon learned, as AA today, that “moderation” produced more problems and was unworkable. Those early temperance groups soon turned to abstinence.
    David R. Brumbelow

  12. David,
    As I have said numerous times, here and other blogs in response to your Biblical evidence; Your belief that wine in the Bible was non-alcoholic is irresponsible and undeniably wrong. That statement is not interpretation it is fact. In order to come to an alternate conclusion, one must manipulate the context of scripture, stretch word meaning and interpretation, and ignore all historical evidence from that time period. If that is what you wish to do, fine. I personally do not care what Spurgeon said on the issue. I instead will rest on accurate reading of scripture to form my opinions.

  13. The common Hebrew and Greek biblical words for wine were used of both fermented and unfermented wine. This is true in biblical literature, as well as in classical literature. This is not opinion, it is fact.

    See my previous post, Evidence for the Two Wine Theory. Much more evidence and many more quotes could be given. Some chose to ignore the evidence; and present no evidence of their own.
    David R. Brumbelow

  14. Anonymous,
    You do not seem to want to deal with the points made here other than to ridicule. You speak of great evidence, yet present nothing.

    I will publish your comments when you do two things.

    First, reveal who you are. I put my full name on my comments and am accountable for them. You refuse to do so. If you are going to condemn and mock, put your name behind it.

    Second, deal with the points made in the post and the comments. Just offering ridicule is not good enough.

    Others, I welcome your comments.
    David R. Brumbelow

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