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LETTER OF EDWARD C. DELAVAN, Esq. TO THE EDITORS OF THE NEW YORK OBSERVER.
The publication of Prof. Bush's letter, in your paper of July 4th, followed by that of the Extra Observer of last week, containing the substance of the Biblical arguments of "Anti-Bacchus" in respect to the use of wine as a beverage, has afforded me the sincerest pleasure. I rejoice in it, not merely because the results of the author's inquiries go to confirm the previous impressions of my own mind-impressions derived, however, rather from moral than scientific consideration-but because I see in these results gratifying evidence that the great question of the Scriptural authority for the use of wine, is tending to a more definite determination. So far as I am able to sit in impartial judgment on what passes within my breast, the desire that truth may be established on this, as on every other subject of Christian morals, is paramount. Indeed I should feel myself unworthy the advocacy of that cause to which I have strenuously devoted so many years of my life, were I not more rejoiced at the triumphs of truth, than of any particular hypothesis or measure on which my heart was set. It has long been with me a settled persuasion, that if the duty of total abstinence from ALL intoxicating drinks cannot be fairly made out from the unforced testimony of the word of God, we should cease to appeal to that authority in urging our enterprise, although we should in that case at once be left without the greatest of all sanctions to one of the best of all causes. Yet, for myself, I must say, that I have never feared that we should be thus deprived of the countenance of the Bible in a work which is so palpably in accordance with the whole scope of its benign teachings. And although my confidence, as to what the Scripture testimony would eventually prove to be, has considerably outstripped that of many of my fellow laborers, yet it has continually grown stronger up to the present
time, when the course of physiological, critical, and historical investigation seems to be decidedly setting towards a confirmation of the same view. Still it must be admitted that the question is not yet absolutely settled, and it would be rash to prejudge its issues. Whatever be the verdict of the learned and the good, if I mistake not my own consciousness, I shall implicitly yield to it when fully ascertained.
In the mean time, I cannot but feel it the duty of every friend to the cause of truth, morality, and human welfare, not only to keep his mind open to the admission of such new light as may beam from the word or providence of God, but also to contribute whatever quota of argument or illustration he may be able, towards a satisfactory solution of the grand point in debate. My own resources of this nature are indeed but scanty, yet having been for several years an industrious gleaner of facts and statistics relative to the use of wine, and having, in my recent tour in Europe, kept the subject in its various bearings continually before me, it may not perhaps be presumptuous to imagine that I have collected some information which will be both new and interesting to a large portion of your readers. The publication of last week's Extra offers an occasion, which I know not how to neglect, of occupying, with your leave, a few columns with the statements which it happens to be in my power to make.
Previous to my tour abroad, I had imbibed the strong conviction that our Savior never made or drank intoxicating wine. I am ready to admit that my early conclusions on this point were founded on reasonings drawn from my estimate of the character of the Savior of the world, as the best and most benevolent of all beings, having at heart the universal interest of the human family. I found it impossible to bring my mind to think that he would make and use a beverage which, since its introduction, has spread such an amount of crime, poverty, and death through this fair world. He came to save, not to destroy; and how could I believe, with my views of alcoholic wine, that he would make it or use it?
While these were my feelings, there were difficulties in the way, which prevented me from resting with perfect assurance on the ground which I had taken. I was at a loss as to one or two leading matters of fact; as, for instance whether wines, or the fruit of the vine, could be kept in an unfermented state for any length of time, and in any part of the world; as, also, whether they were in use, to any extent, among the Jews. I only wished to answer these questions to my satisfaction in the affirmative, to be satisfied that our Lord neither made nor drank alcoholic wine. I concluded that from this I could raise an argument which would go far to allay every scruple in the mind of
every conscientious disciple of the Savior. "If," said I, "he had the choice between making innocent and poisonous wines, would he not rather have made the former than the latter? Would he have made that which would steal away the senses, and destroy both body and soul, when he could as easily have made that which was harmless, nutritious, and palatable?" I grant that in arriving at this conclusion, I in some measure reasoned in ignorance of facts; but I was drawn to it rather than to its opposite, from which my moral sense shrunk back. Being in a dilemma, I clung to that alternative which honored the Savior's character as holy and good, rather than to that which bestowed upon him equivocal praise. With such impressions on my mind for years past, I went to Europe, and visited France and Italy, seeking for light as I traveled. The facts which I was enabled to collect in wine countries have very much confirmed my previous views. I am able to show that the discussion in the Temperance Intelligencer concerning the kind of wine proper for the Eucharist, and which for a time occasioned such a sensation in the ranks of temperance men, and such an exultation in those of the enemy, was a fair and proper subject of discussion; and I now only regret the yielding to the fears of our friends, who allowed it to sleep. I am now prepared to show that the answer so triumphantly given to us, viz: that since unfermented wines could not be had out of the countries producing them, it was impossible that the Lord's Supper could be celebrated in other countries, provided the alcoholic wine was objected to, was without foundation. This argument, so staggering at that time, has stood in the way of discussion, and has kept the honest mind from_advancing in an open field of inquiry. I am willing now, as I was then, to honor the jealousy of the Christian public, who, trembling the precincts of holy ground, were unwilling to lay a rash hand upon any thing associated with our salvation. Indeed, the very sensitiveness, which they manifested on the subject then, gives me more confidence in them now, that they will come up with a noble and manly spirit to the examination of this great question, determined to apply to it all the lights and tests which modern facts, ancient history, chimistry, and sound principles of dietetics can be made to furnish.
While I was in Italy I obtained an introduction to one of the largest wine-manufacturers there, a gentleman of undoubted credit and character, and on whose statements I feel assured the utmost reliance may be placed. By him I was instructed in the whole process of wine-making, as far as it could be done by description, and from him I obtained the following important facts:
First, That with a little care, the fruit of the vine may be kept in wine countries free from fermentation for several months, if un
disturbed by transportation. Wine of this character, he exhibited to me in January last, several months after the vintage.
Secondly, that the pure juice of the grape may be preserved free from fermentation for any length of time by boiling, through which the principle of fermentation is destroyed; and, in this state, may be shipped to any country, and in any quantity, without its ever becoming intoxicating.
Thirdly, that in wine-producing countries unfermented wine may be made any day in the year. In proof of this, the manufacturer referred to, informed me, that he then had in his lofts (January) for the use of his table till the next vintage, a quantity of grapes sufficient to make one hundred gallons of wine; that grapes could always be had at any time of the year to make the desirable quantity; and that there was nothing in the way of obtaining the fruit of the vine from fermentation in wine countries, at any period. A large basket of grapes were sent to my lodgings, which were as delicious and looked as fresh as if recently taken from the vines, though they had been picked for months. I had also twenty gallons made to order from these grapes, which were boiled before fermentation had taken place; the greater part of which I have still by me in my cellar. As a further proof that wine may be kept in its sweet and unfermented state, I traveled with a few bottles of it in my carriage over 2000 miles, and upon opening one of the bottles in Paris, I found it the same as when first put up.
One of the strong arguments brought against us, was, that even in wine countries, the communion could only be celebrated on unfermented wine during the vintage; that, consequently, even in wine countries, that holy ordinance must be omitted for a great proportion of the year, provided the alcoholic wine was objected to. My examinations have entirely convinced me of the unsoundness of this position. Previous to my leaving the United States, I ascertained from M. M. Noah, Esq. that it was universally the custom of the Jews in New York, to make the wine used at the Passover from dried grapes, so as to have it free from the intoxicating principle of alcohol, and he furnished me with a recipe for making it. I was diligent in my inquiries with regard to the custom, in this particular, of the Jews in Europe, and I found it was the same; and in answer to my inquiry, Why is this? the reply was, that they did not feel at liberty to use any thing containing leaven on that occasion. If the Jews of the present day follow the custom of their brethren at the time of the Savior, it appears to me conclusive, that "the fruit of the vine," used at the institution of the Lord's Supper, must have been unfermented, as the cup followed immediately the eating of the passover at the same sitting.
The subject is now engaging the attention of men of learning and piety in Great Britain, and I feel assured that the public mind is yet to undergo a great and radical change with regard to it. There cannot be a question that, from the earliest times, two kinds of wine were in common use-one intoxicating, (that used by Noah,) the other unintoxicating, (that pressed from clusters of grapes into Pharaoh's cup by his butler;) the one containing alcohol, a poison to man in health; the other free from that deleterious principle, a delicious and nutritious beverage, and a blessing. Indeed, at this time, not only in Italy, the Island of Sicily, and throughout the whole Eastern world, where the grape is abundant, it comes in extensively as food. The juice of it is preserved in various ways. Much the greater proportion is doubtless carried into fermentation, which I believe occasions a great part of the crime and poverty of those countries; but much is preserved free from this dangerous principle, by various methods. With the ancients, the fruit became, at first, a useful part of diet, and the recently expressed juice of the grape, (which I have before stated can be had, in wine countries, any day in the year,) a cooling, delicious drink. To prevent fermentation, heat is used to evaporate the watery particles, over a gentle fire, reducing the grape juice to a sirup, or a thick jelly, or sometimes to a paste, which rendered it incapable of spontaneous fermentation. It could thus be kept in any country for any space of time. When possessed of this degree of consistence, the wines were generally diluted with hot water, and then cooled previous to being used. A thousand evidences might be adduced, to satisfy any reasonable mind, that the fruit of the vine, in an unfermented state, is not only now, but always has been, from its earliest history, in common use throughout the Eastern countries. In an English author, now before me, I read thus: "Modern Turks carry the unfermented wine always with them on long journeys."-Barry on the Wines of the Ancients, A. D. 1775. Captain Charles Stewart, of the Madras Army, who spent 14 years in Hindostan, and traveled extensively through the Eastern world, says that "in India, Persia, and Palestine, and all over the East, the unfermented juice of the grape, and sap of palms, is a common and delightful beverage." Chaptal on Wines, says, "The celebrated ancient wines appear, in general, rather to have deserved the name of sirups or extracts. They must have been sweet, and little fermented. It is difficult to conceive how they could contain any spirit whatever, or possess in consequence any intoxicating principle." "Greece," says a writer in the Athenæum, p. 105, produced numerous sweet wines, such as those of Chios, Lesbos, Crete, and Thasoe, most of which were thick and fat from boiling; honey and dates