What do you think of when you hear the names: Arthur Guinness, John Cadbury, Thomas Welch and Asa Candler? If you associate Guinness with a brand of beer, Cadbury with chocolate candy, and Welch with grape juice you would be correct. Most folks probably don’t know the name Asa Candler who was the founder of Coca-Cola in Atlanta. There is much more to the story of these men than just the type of food or beverage they introduced into our world. All four of them were men of deep Christian faith and that faith impacted all of their lives – how they ran their business, what they did with their money, how they raised their families and how they treated their workers.
Guinness was born into a period of time the historians called “The Gin Craze.” Parliament had forbidden the importation of liquor in 1689, so the people of Ireland and Britain began making their own – gin. Drunkenness became the rage, every sixth house in England was a “gin house, and it became a terrible, poverty-ridden, crime-infested time. Guinness and his beer helped to change the world in which he lived. Beer was lower in alcohol than gin, it was safe because the process of brewing killed the germs in the polluted water, it was nutritious and because Guinness brewed such a “heavy” beer it was also so filling that people tended to drink less. One Sunday John Wesley came to Dublin – Arthur heard Wesley preach and from that time on Arthur had a new resolve. Wesley was known for his teaching “Earn all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can,” and “Your wealth is evidence of a calling from God, so use your abundance for the good of mankind.” Arthur set out to apply this teaching to his life.
Guinness poured himself into founding the first Sunday schools in Ireland and gave leadership on the board of a hospital designed to serve the needy. More than that he passed on his faith and the values he learned from his study of the Bible to his children – who went on to build the Guinness Corporation on the strength of their father’s vision and faith. There are many many more inspiring stories from his life which you can read in the links below. Stephen Mansfield wrote a book about Guinness and he concludes that “The Guinness tale is not primarily about beer. It is not even primarily about the Guinnesses. It is about what God can do with a person who is willing and with a corporation committed to something noble and good in the world.”
John Cadbury is known as a shrewd business man who dealt in cocoa and built a candy empire – but he was much more than that. A Quaker, he took from his faith a commitment to equality as well as objections to slavery, alcohol, war, and the frivolous lifestyle of the “high society.”
Likewise the story of the life of Thomas Bramwell Welch is one with the Christian faith at the heart of it. Most of us don’t know that Welch was a Methodist pastor (don’t you think he looked the part??) and later a Doctor and then a Dentist! He was determined to get alcohol out of Christian worship – i.e. Communion wine – but this was a real problem because throughout the entirety of Church history the most sacred of Christian sacraments involved the consumption of wine. So he developed a process that created what he called “Dr. Welch’s Unfermented Wine” or what we call grape juice. (If your church uses grape juice instead of wine for communion you can blame it on a Methodist!) He passed on to his children his faith and his concern for the world in which he lived. His son Charles signed all his checks “Charles E. Welch, Trustee” because he considered himself a “Trustee for the Lord.”
Coca-Cola’s Candler was the brother of Methodist bishop Warren Candler and he took seriously the biblical injunctions to use one’s wealth for the benefit of others, writing “What shall it profit us if we gain fortunes and lose the whole world… What can so arouse the wrath of The Lamb as the inhuman indifference which allows souls to perish for whom He died?”
A Breakpoint article about Arthur Guinness concludes with some words that although written about the Guinness family would also apply equally well to the lives of these other men: They are a brilliant example of the good that business can do in the hands of people who understand the Gospel, its place in the world, as well as the legacy dedicated Christians can leave in the promotion of the Gospel and the love and good works that should accompany it.
The following list of articles is a good place to begin reading more about these men and their families – and their faith:
11 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Guinness (just for fun)