"Gill never besieged an error which he did not force from its stronghold, nor ever encountered an adversary whom he did not baffle and subdue."
In Gill's classic multi-volume work The Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, Gill commented on Paul's statement "Be not drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18; updated with modern punctuation and grammar).
"The sin of drunkenness is a custom, or habit, of voluntary excessive drinking of any strong liquor, whereby the mind is disturbed, and deprived of the use of reason. Though wine is only here mentioned, that being the usual liquor drank in the eastern countries, the same (principle) holds good of any other strong liquor. Drinking for necessary reasons is not prohibited, nor is the drinking of alcoholic beverages for honest delight and lawful pleasure prohibited. It is the excessive drinking of alcohol that is forbidden. This sin is voluntary, and with design, and on purpose -- for sometimes persons may be overtaken and intoxicated, through ignorance of the strength of the liquor, and their own weakness. It is also a custom, or habit of excessive drinking, and not a single act. It is a series of actions, a course of living in this sin, and is what denominates a man a drunkard. It causes persons to be excluded from the communion of the church; and, without the grace of true repentance, (these persons) shall not inherit the kingdom of heaven. Many things might be said to dissuade people from drunkenness: it hurts the mind, memory, and judgment; it deprives of reason, and it sets a man below a beast; it brings diseases on the body, and it wastes the estate; it unfits for business and duty; it opens a door for every sin, and exposes to shame and danger; and therefore should be carefully avoided, and especially by professors of religion."
I love Gill's expositional abilities, and like Spurgeon, I consider this Baptist theologian an expositor without equal in his day or ours. There are some modern Southern Baptists who allege that total abstinence from alcoholic beverages is the only Christian and biblical treatment of alcohol. As stated before, personal total abstinence from alcohol as a conviction should be respected, but demands for personal abstinence by all Southern Bapists should be resisted. Why? There are four reasons:
(1). The Bible does not command total abstinence, but commands God's people to abstain from the sin of drunkenness.
(2). The historic Baptist position, as articulated by Gill, is that of moderation, not total abstinence.
(3). To totally abstain for the sake of others is wisdom and biblical Christianity, but to demand others totally abstain from alcohol for your sake and to meet your self-imposed standards is unwise and evidence of an extra-biblical religion.
(4). If one concedes to the wishes of those that all Southern Baptists be defined by their total abstinence from alcohol, then it will not be long before other extra-biblical standards will be used to attempt to define Southern Baptists.
(5). Our faith and practice as followers of Jesus Christ is best defined by the Bible and not any other religious standard.
There may be 50 percent of Southern Baptists who disagree with the above five statements, but I have yet to see any Baptist provide a definitive rebuttal to Gill's biblical and historic Baptist beliefs regarding the consumption of alcohol.
Until I do, I shall remain Southern Baptist, a believer in the inerrancy of Scriptures, a supporter of the individual who is convicted to totally abstain from alcoholic beverages, but a firm resistor to to that person who demands that everyone else in the Southern Baptist Convention totally abstain.
In His Grace,