previously observed, the Washington Society occupies a strictly neutral
position on these subjects. All our efforts are devoted to the one single
object of inducing all, the temperate and intemperate, to sign a total-abstinence
pledge, and to drink no more while the world stands.
the subject of political action, we have previously stated the principles
of the society. Perhaps our relation to the matter of religion is of
more importance, and less understood. We have been represented as being
adverse to religion - as arraying ourselves against the Church - as
declaring our labors to be higher and holier than those of the Christian
ministry - as substituting Temperance for religion. In all these charges
we are wholly and entirely misrepresented or misunderstood. Our true
principles on this subject are as follows: as a body, retaining our
original position as a unit, we have nothing to do whatever with religion
or politics; any more than a political party has to do with religion
or temperance. If a man will only comply with our constitution he may
be a Catholic, a Protestant, or an Infidel, if he chooses. We do not
enquire into his creed or notions. This is not our business. He may
be anything or nothing in this respect. But he must not bring his creed
or party into the society. When he comes into the Washington Temperance
Hall, he leaves his church creed and party politics at home; and meet
all his fellow-members not as Democrats or Whigs, not as Presbyterians,
Methodists, Catholics, or anything else - no, not even as Christians,
(for they may not all be such,) but as his fellow-men, on the one common
platform of total-abstinence. We do not mean that anyone is to so any
thing in the society, or as a member of the same, contrary to his religious
creed and obligations, or his political notions; but he is not to introduce
them to the society. No matter then who the man may be, we give him
the hand of a brother Washingtonian, if he signs our pledge and keeps
it, and conducts himself becomingly among us, - and few cold-water men
are other than gentlemen.
thus, how then could the society, as such, legitimately have anything
to do with religion. The members, as individuals, have to do with religion
as they had before they joined. If they were drunkards and have reformed,
this only places them back in their original position as men; and to
their God and their own consciences must they stand or fall.
these sentiments, the society does not have any religious worship connected
with their regular meetings in their Hall. Yet when they are permitted
to occupy, for their public meetings, any usual place of worship, they
are in the habit of requesting some minister or religious person to
open the meeting with prayer, according to the mode and form in use
where they meet.
a clergyman joins the society, he is precisely on the same footing with
all the other members; and his ministerial character is not recognized
this neutrality is necessary in order to combine the heterogeneous elements
that make up the Washington Society. The object is not only to avoid
all sectarianism, but even the appearance or suspicion of sectarianism.
Indeed we have more in view. The design is to prevent all suspicion
that the Temperance cause is a church affair; and that with this wise
and benevolent design; we wish to reach and save all men from intemperance,
even those who are embittered against the church. Heretofore most of
the Temperance societies were connected more or less, nominally or otherwise,
with some church or other; the meetings were usually held in churches,
conducted with religious exercises, and more or less under the direction
of ministers; many of the addresses were made by ministers, and partook
of the nature of sermons rather than Temperance speeches. All this was
very well, so far as it went. It had its designed effect; but only on
a portion of the community. While these arrangements were calculated
to accomplish much with the upright and religious, they were strongly
calculated to make the impression upon the drinking man, that the Temperance
reform was a church affair, and that joining a Temperance society, was
more or less a religious business.
anyone who knows anything of drunkenness knows that most drunkards are
strongly averse to religion, if not infidel at heart. They want to hear
nothing about "moral reform" and "church societies."
Hence this class of men rarely went near a temperance meeting formerly.
Indeed many of them in their degradation and wretchedness would not
have gained admission to a church. It was to reconcile such feelings
and aversions, that this strongly neutral ground was taken in the first
place, and is still held by the Washington Temperance Society.
drunkard is prejudiced against the church and her ministers. Satisfy
him that these have nothing to do with your society, and he will listen
to you. When he joins and is reformed, and has come to his proper senses
and his conscience, no one can doubt the effect of his reformation will
have on his notions of church matters. Cold water clears the head; and
though it does not regenerate, it greatly unwraps the heart. And though
a man reformed from intemperance, may still be an unconverted man so
far as religion is concerned, yet he is now prepared to view matters
in their true light, with a cool head; and now, if ever, he will be
likely to attend religious worship and become a Christian. Religious
influences now have access to him; before they had not.
statements will explain much in which the society has been wrongly represented.
When the president and the members, after the foundation of the society,
over and over again said to the public:” We have nothing to do
with religion," they meant as we have explained above, and do not
array themselves against religion. Indeed there are now men in the Washington
Society of as much piety as any men in the city of Baltimore. As regards
being opposed to Clergymen, the society has shown no such feeling. We
number among our members several of the principal evangelical ministers
of the city; which is sufficient evidence that all is right on that
true position of the Washington Society is this: as a body we recognize
no creed of religion. Our members may be as much or as little religious
as they please, provided they do not violate our pledge. We do not substitute
temperance for religion, nor place temperance above religion. On the
contrary we hold that a man's reformation from intemperance only places
him in his original position, and leaves him to deal with the Church
and his God, according to the dictates of his own conscience. Of one
thing we are certain: sober men are more likely to be religious than
drinking men; and the church will gain more members where there is a
Washington Temperance Society, than where there is none.
conclusion on this subject, instead of the society being infidel, and
setting itself up as independent of all divine influence, we have often
heard its founders remark, that such has been the result of their efforts,
beyond all they could have anticipated, that they cannot but believe
that the hand of GOD has been in this reform; and that they have been
made the humble instruments in the hands of Providence, of accomplishing
these great things.