Sunday, December 08, 2013

The perils of wine - The Instructor on drinking

This is a continuation of my series on Clement of Alexandria and his book, "The Instructor." If you are new to this series or are unfamiliar with Clement and his book, you may want to first read the introduction to this series. You may also want to read the introduction to Book 2 of The Instructor as it give advice on how to understand Clement and his writings.
"So he adds these most monitory words. 'Who has woes, who has clamour, who has contentions, who has disgusting babblings, who has unavailing remorse?' You see, in all his raggedness, the lover of wine, who despises the Word Himself, and has abandoned and given himself to drunkenness. You see what threatening Scripture has pronounced against him. And to its threatening it adds again: 'Whose are red eyes? Those, is it not, who tarry long at their wine, and hunt out the places where drinking goes on?' Here he shows the lover of drink to be already dead to the Word, by the mention of the bloodshot eyes,—a mark which appears on corpses, announcing to him death in the Lord. For forgetfulness of the things which tend to true life turns the scale towards destruction." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 2)
As with many things in this world, their use can bring much benefit and enjoyment to life, yet their abuse can bring harm and destruction. One who drinks to excess drinks great harm to himself. There is no one else to blame, no one else to charge with his errors, he himself is responsible for the wounds he has received. The threatenings of the scriptures are not the threatenings of judgment but rather the reminders of the natural results of too much drink. These are promises from God that you will undoubtedly not find in any promise box, yet they remain just as true.
"It is agreeable, therefore, to right reason, to drink on account of the cold of winter, till the numbness is dispelled from those who are subject to feel it; and on other occasions as a medicine for the intestines. For, as we are to use food to satisfy hunger, so also are we to use drink to satisfy thirst, taking the most careful precautions against a slip: 'for the introduction of wine is perilous.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 2)
Wine is perilous! If we choose to drink we must do so with this in mind. We must always be cognizant of our own selves and the effect wine is having on us. We must be vigilant while drinking to retain our reason and to leave off before foolishness sets in. We should drink like one walking along a precipice, always aware of the danger, always careful to keep one's balance, and always knowing their distance from certain death.
"We must not therefore trouble ourselves to procure Chian wine if it is absent, or Ariousian when it is not at hand. For thirst is a sensation of want, and craves means suitable for supplying the want, and not sumptuous liquor. Importations of wines from beyond seas are for an appetite enfeebled by excess, where the soul even before drunkenness is insane in its desires... For why should not the wine of their own country satisfy men’s desires, unless they were to import water also, like the foolish Persian kings?"(Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 2)
When choosing to drink, we must ask our selves, "Is it worth it?" The effort we put forth to "find the right wine," the perilous risk we assume to ourselves and our relationships, is it all worth it? To be consumed by something so earthly, whose enjoyment last but a brief time yet whose dangers are eternal, is it worthy of a life well lived? If we desire to live a purposeful life, is there any such place for such voluptuous desires? These are questions I cannot answer for anyone else, but they are questions we must ask ourselves.

David Robison

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