By John James Kirkwood
On his journey to meet Charles Haddon Spurgeon for the first time, a nearly 400 lb. Dwight Lyman Moody passed a billboard featuring Spurgeon holding a big, black cigar. When they met, Moody indicted Spurgeon, “Do you know what you’re doing to the temple of the Holy Spirit with those big, black cigars?” Spurgeon retorted, “I suppose the same thing that you’re doing with your knife and fork.” The story may be apocryphal, but it rings true enough. Well, I for one would have loved to share a cigar with C.H. and a meal with D.L. And that’s one of the things that I love about cigars – they’re social.
When I wrote my last column on THE MAJESTY OF THE CIGAR, I didn’t anticipate the “friendly fire” that I’d take from the Christian community. A number of brothers and sisters took me to task for being a man of the cloth and a brother of the leaf. More than one neo-Pharisee assured me that I was “leading people astray,” blinded by the machinations of the devil.
Not willing to waste many words on the self-righteous, I simply offered to perform the Heimlich maneuver as they were “straining on a gnat.” Then after the smoke from my .500 Nitro cleared and I drained the last drop of Merlot from my glass; a moment of inspiration overtook me and I began to put together pictures of some of the most influential Christian minds of the last century or few; men that are quoted frequently by the same saddle-soars that had roasted my reputation; men that had two things in common – adoration of Christ and a love of tobacco.
Chesterton, Tolkien, Lewis, Barth, Bultmann, Muggeridge and Spurgeon were all men who visibly shook the world with their impact for Christ and on occasion enjoyed a pipe, a cigarette or a cigar. Chesterton famously quipped, “In Catholicism, the pipe, the pint and the Cross can all fit together,” and while I am not a Catholic, I certainly would enjoy sitting with Gilbert at his favorite pub to discuss the soundness of this doctrine. I’d even pick up the first round.
While Francis Schaeffer was not a smoker he did enjoy a glass of sherry nearly every night as he relaxed and talked to his students and in one of his last public speeches before his death he spoke to a group of pastors with visible anger at the legalism that was creeping into American pulpits. He responded to this creeping self-righteousness by saying, “When man’s standards come in, God’s standards go out.”
In similar fashion Charles Haddon Spurgeon responded to those who attacked him for smoking cigars when he wrote, “There is growing up in society a Pharisaic system which adds to the commands of God the precepts of men; to that system I will not yield for an hour. The preservation of my liberty may bring upon me the upbraidings of many good men, and the sneers of the self-righteous; but I shall endure both with serenity so long as I feel clear in my conscience before God.”
So friends this weekend with freedom on my mind, I celebrate two men who have meant so much to its defense – Rush Limbaugh and Doug Giles. And in the best way I that I know – the free market, I will support their entrepreneurial spirit because I am a free man made in the image of God. Why would I order my cigars from Giles new joint endeavor, Safari Cigar Company, while there are so many fine cigars to be had in the closest smoke shop? For the same reason, that I pass by Snapple and Lipton and order my Two if by Tea – it’s an exceptional product made by men who stand for something that is dear to me – FREEDOM!
While others may boycott firms that disappoint them, let us remember those exceptional souls who stand on the wall and suffer the slings and arrows of the darkest night. And by the by, it will be the most enjoyable stand that you may ever take. Trust me, I know, I’m practicing what I preach as I write this column.
As to the legalists who would have me turn in my sanctification card, I refer to the exchange that occurred between Dr. Pentecost and C.H. Spurgeon. Pentecost, as a guest of Spurgeon’s was asked to say a few words about sin and took the opportunity, either in innocence or ignorance, to opine against cigar smoking to which, Spurgeon rose up and replied:
“Well, dear friends, you know that some men can do to the glory of God what to other men would be sin. And notwithstanding what brother Pentecost has said, I intend to smoke a good cigar to the glory of God before I go to bed tonight. If anybody can show me in the Bible the command, ‘Thou shalt not smoke,’ I am ready to keep it; but I haven’t found it yet. I find Ten Commandments, and it’s as much as I can do to keep them; and I’ve no desire to make them into eleven or twelve.
The fact is, I have been speaking to you about real sins, not about listening to mere quibbles and scruples. At the same time, I know that what a man believes to be sin becomes sin to him, and he must give it up. ‘Whatsoever is not of faith is sin’ [Rom. 14:23] and that is the real point of what my brother Pentecost has been saying.
Why, a man may think it a sin to have his boots blacked. Well, then, let him give it up, and have them whitewashed. I wish to say that I’m not ashamed of anything whatever that I do, and I don’t feel that smoking makes me ashamed, and therefore I mean to smoke to the glory of God.”
Now, if you all would excuse me, I’m on my way to have my boots shined and then to view the fireworks with a raspberry Two if by Tea in one hand and a fine Safari Cigar in the other. God go with you. – The Parson