9 January 1892
The following communication was handed to a white ribboner by a gentleman who was a member of the church mentioned below, and who would guarantee the authenticity of the letter. The local W.C.T.U. are very anxious to see fermented wine banished from the Lord's table in all the city churches, and are entreating ministers and Christian workers of all denominations to make the communion table safe for the young people of Winnipeg.
The letter is as follows:-
"Dear Sir, - As a Christian member of your congragation, may I ask if it would be possible for you to have "unfermented wine" at the Lord's table?
I shall spend no time in apology for asking this, but just give my reason and leave it to you. When you have read this think what course Jesus would take and ask: 'Lord what would'st thou have me to do?'
Just before I was six years old, my father cut his throat, leaving my mother with five children, three girls older, and one younger than myself. My eldest sister took to drink when she was quite young. Fourteen years ago I was converted. Twelve years ago I heard a sermon on 'Christians and Total Abstinence.' I signed the pledge with two of my sisters and we tried to persuade the one given to drink to give it up. She was married and in a good position. Over and over again she signed the pledge and tried to keep it. Over and over again she was tempted and fell. At last, of her own accord, she went into a home for the cure of the intemperate, her husband paid 12p. per week and she stayed one year. She came out a changed woman - a sober wife and mother, and things went on very happily for a few months. Then her husband had a severe cold, but his duty compelled him to go out, so to fortify himself against the cold, he took a glass of hot whiskey. He was careful enough not to have it in her presence for fear it should be a temptation. He drank it and came to kiss her before starting. In that kiss the fumes of alcohol were transmitted and all the old cravings came back. She went out soon after her husband and in less than an hour was a drunken mad woman. Poor thing! She never tried again, she said it was no use, no one knew the fearful struggle, and that unless she could keep out of sight or smell, she could never be free. For years we wrestled with God in prayer for her, never doubting that he would give the needed strength some day. She could not keep sober, so she left her husband and two children, one a dreadful cripple through her drink. She has had eight children, six of these have been victims to the curse. Her husband allowed her enough to live on while he lived, but he died two years after she left him. A white-haired, broken hearted man only forty five. We never knew where she lived, she used to come to us at home now and then, we gave her clothes and tried in every way to win her back, for she was a mere beggar. She said she would always keep out of our way, but she must and would have the drink. I need not follow her history for if you read the life of "Annie Chapman", one of the worst victims in the terrible Whitechapel murders, you read the end of my sister's life. Yes, sir: all through that terrible time I sat unknown in Halkin St. Church on Sundays, praying that God would give us grace to trust Him, for my sister's end after all our prayers, shook my faith to its very foundation. I don't question God's dealings. He is too wise to err, too good to be unkind. Now, sir, you would think the drink demon had got enough out of our family, but my only brother, aged 28, inherits the curse. It was he who had the painful task of identifying my murdered sister and of laying her in the grave. Instead of sobering him it seemed to goad him on, for just one month from the date of her death he was turned out of his situation at a minute's notice for drinking and using money not his own. He was manager in a city warehouse. Some kind friends got him a situation in Oxford St. He was in it one month, took to drink again and absconded with some money, leaving a young wife and two little ones quite penniless. We sought him everywhere for a week, till on the Saturday his wife received a letter telling her that he had surrendered himself to the police at Gloucester and was to be brought to London and tried at Marlbro' street on the morning she received the letter. At the bottom of the letter were these words:
'Oh, my darling wife, it is all the cursed drink, for God's sake don't let the children touch it.' His sentence was three months hard labour at Millbank, and he is undergoing that now. I went to the prison begging to see him but was refused. There is only one gleam in this dark cloud, as I looked up at the iron bars and strong walls of his prison I thanked God that while they shut him in they shut the drink out. I pray that Jesus may break the chains of drink while these prison chains bind him.
Dear Mr. Patterson, I know you are brave in the cause of right, and I want you to think of the danger it would be to my brother to come with me to your church with the strong smell of alcohol on the Lord's table, and like that fatal kiss to my sister meet his end from that time. It is easy to get 'unfermented wine' I know you deacons might object, and some of the church members. I never touch the wine and I hold my breath while it passes, for I am afraid of it. I know the grace of God is powerful to keep, but Noah was righteous enough to be saved, when all the world was drowned, yet the grace of God did not keep him from drink and its fearful results, and ever since that time it has had its victims, even from the very church. I know my case is an exception, but who would think as I sit with the congregation on Sundays, that I bear the scars of drink in its threefold curse of suicide, murder and theft. There may be other brothers and sisters like mine there. Oh, make the church at least safe for them, least they find a path to hell from the Lord's table. When I come to that table it is to wrestle with Jesus, who would not snap the bruised reed. But it has been laid on my heart to unite action with prayer, so I have written this story to you, a most painful task, but it may be one way of glorifying God out of all this darkness.
You might preach a sermon as you did about feeding the lambs, and if you think fit to use any part of this terrible true story, you may do so. I don't want to be known, so you will try not to let enquiries be made, because we are so scorned, even by Christians and there may be some who think I ought not to come to God's house. My sister and I have my murdered sister's children to keep and we don't want them to know it, also my aged mother knows nothing of it. I know you will take this to God in prayer, and oh, I do hope you will hear Him ask you to remove the curse from the people and begin at His sanctuary.
We that are strong enough to beat the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves, for even Christ pleased not Himself.
(Copy of a letter received by Rev. James Paterson, Presbyterian minister, Chelsea.)