Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: My daughter Corrie shared a story she heard in church today. Now, you’ve read on this wiki- about how John Wesley worked tirelessly to change English laws to provide poor people with bread. But, did you also know that he influenced wealthy business leaders to care for the poor too? The story of Arthur Guinness and the generosity of this family to the poor might be traced to John Wesley’s visit to Dublin.
The Story of God and Guinness: How the faith of Arthur Guinness inspired the vision for his famous beer
By Stephen Mansfield, Relevant Magazine, March 24, 2010.
(Arthur) Guinness lived at a time when no one 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 and drunkenness plagued the land. 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. It was too much temptation. Drunkenness became the rage. Every sixth house in England was a “gin house,” many of which advertised, “Drunk for one penny, dead drunk for two pence, clean straw for nothing.” It was a terrible, poverty-ridden, crime-infested time.
To help heal their tortured society, some turned to brewing beer. It was lower in alcohol, it was safe—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. Monks brewed it, evangelicals brewed it and aspiring young entrepreneurs like Guinness brewed it. And they were respected and honored for their good works…
What makes this Sunday in Guinness’ life so important is who he is about to hear, because on this day John Wesley is in town. Wesley is the founder of the Methodist church, the man who started a small group at Oxford University from which a great revival grew. Wesley and his friends wanted simply to be good Christians—to “perfect holiness,” as they said—and so as they preached the Gospel, they gave to the poor and visited prisoners and raised money to serve the needy. Whole cities were changed by the preaching of John Wesley, his brother Charles and the famous George Whitefield. And now John Wesley had come to Dublin and was preaching at the soaring St. Patrick’s Cathedral. And Arthur Guinness was there.
We do not know exactly what Wesley preached, but we can know a few things. Wesley would have called the congregation at St. Patrick’s to God, of course, but he also would have had a special message for men like Guinness. It was something he taught wherever he went. “Earn all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can,” he would have insisted. “Your wealth is evidence of a calling from God, so use your abundance for the good of mankind.”
On this Sunday and on other occasions when he heard Wesley speak, Arthur Guinness got the message. He also got to work. Inspired by Wesley’s charge, Guinness poured himself in founding the first Sunday schools in Ireland. He gave vast amounts of money to the poor, sat on the board of a hospital designed to serve the needy and bravely challenged the material excesses of his own social class. He was nearly a one man army of reform.
If the Guinness story was only about Arthur Guinness, it would be a small footnote in the pages of history. But Arthur Guinness added to all his good works by teaching his children the values he learned. His children, then, built the Guinness corporation on the strength of their father’s vision and faith. This is what became the great legacy of the Guinness family…With the passing of decades, they became one of the most generous, life-changing employers the world had ever known…
Deeds like these fill the Guinness story and are almost as inspiring as the character of some of the Guinness family members themselves. One Guinness heir received 5 million pounds sterling for a wedding gift, but then moved his new bride into a poor neighborhood to draw attention to the blight of poverty in the land…