In the early days of Methodism as now, not every capitalist operated out of corrupt motives of greed. One contrary example, a contemporary of Wesley and deeply influenced by the Methodist leader, was Young Arthur Guinness, an up-and-coming eighteenth-century businessman in Dublin. Guinness was a brewer, during a time when beer had a significant health benefit over many other kinds of beverage, including water:
No one in those days understood micro-organisms and how disease is spread. They routinely drank from the same waters in which they dumped their garbage and their sewage. Unknowingly, they polluted the rivers and lakes around their cities. People died as a result, and this made nearly everyone in Guinness’ day avoid water entirely. Instead, they drank alcoholic beverages.
Usually, this was done in moderation and all was well. Occasionally, though, excess set in. . . . This is what happened in the years just before Guinness was born, in the period historians call “The Gin Craze.” Parliament had forbidden the importation of liquor in 1689, so the people of Ireland and Britain began making their own [, and drunkenness became widespread.] Every sixth house in England was a “gin house.” (Stephen Mansfield, “The Story of God and Guinness,” Relevant magazine, March 24, 2010.)
An advertisement for one of these dens of squalor read, “Drunk for one penny, dead drunk for two pence, clean straw for nothing.”
Poverty deepened; crime rose. And “to help heal their tortured society, some turned to brewing beer.” It was much lower in alcohol than gin, “the process of brewing and the alcohol that resulted killed the germs that made water dangerous, and it was nutritious in ways scientists are only now beginning to understand.”
This young brewer, Arthur Guinness, fell under John Wesley’s influence. Continue reading