Ellen G. White Writings

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The Health Reformer

October 1, 1871

Words to Christian Mothers

On the Subject of Life, Health, and Happiness—No. 2

Obedience to the laws of our being should be regarded of great importance, and to every individual, a matter of personal duty. Indifference and ignorance upon this subject is sin. The two great principles of God's moral government are supreme love to the Creator, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. We are under obligations to God to take care of the habitation he has given us, that we may preserve ourselves in the best condition of health, that all the powers of our being may be dedicated to his service, to glorify his name, whose we are, and whom we ought to serve. It is impossible to render to God acceptable service while we, through wrong habits, are diseased physically and mentally.

We are also under obligation to ourselves, to pursue a course which will not bring unnecessary suffering upon ourselves, and make our lives wretched, we groaning under the weight of disease. If we injure unnecessarily our constitution, we dishonor God, for we transgress the laws of our being. We are under obligation to our neighbors to take a course before them which will give them correct views of the right way to pursue to insure health. If we manifest an indifference upon this great subject of reform, and neglect to obtain the knowledge within our reach, and do not put that knowledge to a practical use, we will be accountable before God for the light he has given us, which we would not accept and act upon.

I have heard many say, I know that we have wrong habits that are injuring our health; but our habits have become formed, and it is next to impossible to change, and do even as well as we know. By hurtful indulgences these are working against their own highest interest and happiness in this life, and are, in so doing, disqualifying themselves to obtain the future life. Many who are enlightened still follow in a course of transgression, excusing themselves that it is very inconvenient to be singular. Because the world at large choose to war against themselves and their highest earthly and eternal interest, they who know better venture to do the same, disregarding the light and knowledge which hold them responsible for the result of their violation of nature's laws. God is not responsible for the suffering which follows the nonconformity to natural law and moral obligations to him. Enlightened transgressors are the worst of sinners, for they choose darkness rather than light. The laws that govern physical life, they may understand if they will; but the desire with them is so strong to follow popular, sensual indulgences of the day that are in opposition to physical and moral health, that they are insensible to its importance, and will not impress it upon others either by precept or example.

Their neglect of this important subject exposes them to a fearful accountability. Not only are they suffering themselves the penalty of nature's violated law, but their example is leading others in the same course of transgression. But if men and women would act in reference to their highest temporal good, untrammeled by fashion, living naturally, we should see fewer pale faces, hear less complaint of suffering, and attend less death-beds and funerals.

Because the majority choose to walk in a path which God has positively forbidden, shall all feel compelled to tread the same path? The question is not, What will the world do? but, What shall we as individuals do? Will we accept light and knowledge, and live simply and naturally, feeling that we are under obligation to society, to our children, and to God, to preserve health and a good constitution, serene tempers, and unimpaired judgment? We have a duty to live for the interest of others. In order to benefit others, many think they must conform to custom, or they will lose the influence they might have upon the world. But when they do this, their influence to reform and elevate is lost, and their example leads away from reform. They are on a level with transgressors, therefore, cannot elevate them while their own example sanctions the customs and enslaving fashions of this age. The only hope of benefiting society is in showing them a better way by proper instruction sustained by a correct course on our part.

Those who have means at their command, can do a good work if governed by religious principles. They can demonstrate, if they will, to rich and poor, that happiness does not consist in outward adornings and needless display. They may show by their own simplicity of dress and unaffected modesty of manners that there are higher and nobler attainments than conformity to the latest styles of fashion.

If we would have happiness in this life, we must live for it, and show to society that we can preserve firm principles in defiance of extravagant and injurious fashion. If we conform to the world and bring on disease by violating the laws of life and health, fashionable society cannot relieve us of a single pain. We shall have to suffer for ourselves, and if we sacrifice life, we shall have to die for ourselves. We should as individuals seek to do right, and to take care of ourselves by living naturally instead of artificially.

We cannot afford to live fashionably, for in doing thus, we sacrifice the natural to the artificial. Our artificial habits deprive us of many privileges and much enjoyment, and unfit us for useful life. Fashion subjects us to a hard, thankless life. A vast amount of money is sacrificed to keep pace with changing fashion, merely to create a sensation. The votaries of fashion who live to attract the admiration of friends and strangers, are not happy—far from it. Their happiness consists in being praised and flattered, and if they are disappointed in this, they are frequently unhappy, gloomy, morose, jealous, and fretful. As a weather vane is turned by the wind, those who consent to live fashionable lives are controlled by every changing fashion, however inconsistent with health and with real beauty. Very many sacrifice comfort and true elegance, to be in the train of fashion. The most enfeebling and deforming fashions are now enslaving those who bow at her shrine.

Fashion loads the heads of women with artificial braids and pads, which do not add to their beauty, but give an unnatural shape to the head. The hair is strained and forced into unnatural positions, and it is not possible for the heads of these fashionable ladies to be comfortable. The artificial hair and pads covering the base of the brain, heat and excite the spinal nerves centering in the brain. The head should ever be kept cool. The heat caused by these artificials induces the blood to the brain. The action of the blood upon the lower or animal organs of the brain, causes unnatural activity, tends to recklessness in morals, and the mind and heart is in danger of being corrupted. As the animal organs are excited and strengthened, the moral are enfeebled. The moral and intellectual powers of the mind become servants to the animal.

In consequence of the brain being congested its nerves lose their healthy action, and take on morbid conditions, making it almost impossible to arouse the moral sensibilities. Such lose their power to discern sacred things. The unnatural heat caused by these artificial deformities about the head, induces the blood to the brain, producing congestion, and causing the natural hair to fall off, producing baldness. Thus the natural is sacrificed to the artificial.

Many have lost their reason, and become hopelessly insane, by following this deforming fashion. Yet the slaves to fashion will continue to thus dress their heads, and suffer horrible disease and premature death, rather than be out of fashion.

Pleasure-seeking and frivolity blunt the sensibilities of the professed followers of Christ, and make it impossible for them to place a high estimate upon eternal things. Good and evil, by them, are placed upon a level. The high, elevated attainments in godliness, which God designed his people should reach, are not gained. These lovers of pleasure seem to be pleased with earthly and sensual things, to the neglect of the higher life. The enjoyments of this life, which God has abundantly provided for them in the varied works of nature, which have an elevating influence upon the heart and life, are not attractive to those who are conformed to the fashions of the world. They rush on unmindful of the glories of nature, seen in the works of God's hands, and seek for happiness in fashionable life, and in unnatural excitement which is in direct opposition to the laws of God established in our being. The Marshall Statesman says:

“A physician, writing a series of letters to a school-girl, devotes one to the nice keeping of the hair. Among other directions he remarks that much is said against wearing switches, or jutes, or chignons, because they breed pestiferous vermin, whose life is fed by their drain on the small blood-vessels of the scalp; but all such objections to these monstrosities become as nothing compared with the objection which arises from the congested condition of the blood-vessels of the back brain by reason of their use. A switch or chignon is a substance which, in itself, is a great conductor of animal heat. As the back of the head has a great deal of blood, and a great deal of blood has a great deal of heat in it, the surplusage of this heat should be allowed to pass off outwardly. To wear one of these appliances is to keep the heat in, and as the part thus dressed becomes excessively heated, disease takes place in a little while, and the whole bodily structure becomes affected. In women there is such an intimate connection between the back brain and the reproductive structure, that when the former becomes enfeebled the latter invariably takes on morbid conditions.”

God has surrounded us with his glories, that the natural eye may be charmed. The splendor of the heavens, the adornments of nature in spring and summer, the lofty trees, the lovely flowers of every tint and hue, should call us out of our houses to contemplate the power and glory of God, as seen in the works of his hands. But many close their senses to these charms. They will not engage in healthful labor among the beautiful things of nature. They turn from shrubs and flowers, and shut themselves in their houses, to labor and toil in closed walls, depriving themselves of the healthful, glorious sunlight, and the pure air, that they may prepare artificial adornments for their houses and their persons. They impose upon themselves a terrible tax. They sacrifice the glow of health God has given in the human face, the blended beauty of the lily and the rose, and tax the physical and mental in preparing the artificial to take the place of the natural. The beauty of the soul, when compared with outward display, is regarded almost valueless. In the anxiety to meet the standard of fashion, beauty of character is overlooked. A writer has well said:

“Curls and cosmetics are all in requisition to enhance the beauty of ‘the human face divine;’ but what is the result? Youth's roses only flee the faster—old age will creep on apace; rouge cannot hide its wrinkles, nor can it make any face beautiful. We are decided believers in the old adage, ‘handsome is that handsome does.’ No face has true beauty in it that does not mirror the deeds of a noble soul. There is not a thought, word, or deed, that does not leave its autograph written on the human countenance; and we care not whether kind nature has given her child an ugly face or a handsome one, if the heart that beats underneath all is warm and loving. And if the soul that looks out from the eyes be true and pure, the face will be beautiful always, for it has found the true fountain of youth; and though time may fold the hair in silver, and furrow the brow, yet there will ever be a beauty lighting it up that years cannot dim, for the heart and soul never grow old.”

Another writer says under the caption,

“Dangerous Fashions,

“The cruelties the tyrant of fashion inflicts upon her slaves—willing though they be—are indeed appalling. Just to think of ladies upon whom nature has lavished her charms, submitting to the enameling process only to become subject to paralysis or drop dead from its effects. Others, again, seeking to be fairer than the fairest, are allured by the glaring words, ‘laird's bloom of youth,’ and similar poetic phrases, and eagerly seize upon the poisonous compounds, only to suffer the excruciating pains of neuralgia or breathe out a painful and lingering existence from the effects of slow poison introduced into the system by their use.”

The majority of pleasure lovers attend the fashionable night gatherings, and spend in exciting amusements the hours God has given them for quiet rest and sleep in order to invigorate the body. Hours are spent in dancing. The blood becomes heated; the system is exhausted; and while in this feverish state of excitement, the late suppers are introduced, and the unnatural appetite is indulged, to the injury, not only of the physical, but the moral health. Those things which irritate and burden the stomach, benumb the finer feelings of the heart, and the entire system must feel it, for this organ has a controlling power upon the health of the entire body. If the stomach is diseased, the brain nerves are in strong sympathy with the stomach, and the moral powers are overruled by the baser passions. Irregularity in eating and drinking, and improper dressing, deprave the mind and corrupt the heart, and bring the noble attributes of the soul in slavery to the animal passions.

Many in returning to their homes from these night scenes of dissipation, expose themselves to the damp, chilly air of night. They are thinly clad with thin slippers upon their feet, the chest not properly protected, and health and life are sacrificed. By the limbs and feet becoming chilled the circulation of the blood through the system is unbalanced. Very many have, by pursuing this course, brought upon themselves lung difficulties and various distressing infirmities, which have, in a few months, carried them to an untimely grave.

Many are ignorantly injuring their health and endangering their life by using cosmetics. They are robbing the cheeks of the glow of health, and then to supply the deficiency use cosmetics. When they become heated in the dance the poison is absorbed by the pores of the skin, and is thrown into the blood. Many lives have been sacrificed by this means alone.

The following selection we here insert hoping that it may arrest the attention of some of the votaries of fashion, and excite their fears, if it does not arouse their consciences, to put away the pride and sin which produces such dangerous results:

“The Fatal Effects of Painting

“No one can ride or walk through the fashionable portion of New York city, attend any place of amusement, or go to any evening party, without becoming aware of the horrible fact that many women of whom better things might be expected, have fallen into the pernicious habit of applying to their skins the enamels which, under various attractive names, are advertised and sold in all parts of the land.

“Not only faded faces, but countenances so young, plump and pretty in outline that they must in their natural condition be attractive, are lacquered over with an unnatural polish of fine porcelain, which produces an effect such as one might imagine if a china doll were afflicted with the consumption.

“This practice is as pernicious as it is disgusting—the seeds of death or paralysis being hidden in every pot and jar of those mixtures, which are supposed to be not only innocent, but also to possess the virtues of the undiscovered fountain of perpetual youth.

Some who use them will suddenly have a severe illness; and receiving a private warning from the family physician, will cease the use of the cause of their disorder, and recovering, go through life with an extremely bad complexion, as a reminder of their folly.

“Others will drop suddenly, with their features twisted on one side, and perhaps deprived of the use of their limbs. Others will die outright, no one guessing why. The effect on any particular person cannot be calculated. What one suffers paralysis from, may kill another outright. The only safety is in having nothing to do with any of these baneful preparations.”

If God had required of society so great a sacrifice for his sake, what mourning we should bear of the terrible burdens imposed upon those who follow Christ. But the slaves to fashion take these burdens upon themselves, and make their own life very wearisome with needless care, in their anxiety to keep pace with fashion. They lay upon the altar of fashion, health, happiness, life and Heaven.

Christians cannot afford to make this great sacrifice. They cannot afford to sow to the flesh and reap corruption. That which ye sow ye shall also reap. Now is the sowing time. The reaping time hasteth. What will the harvest be? The inspired apostle addresses us, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

After completing the foregoing, I found the following. I have had some experience in using Mrs. S.A. Allen's World's Hair Restorative, also Hall's Vegetable Sicilian Hair Restorative. I have made applications of these preparations upon the head of my husband, to prevent the falling off of the hair. I observed that when using these preparations, he frequently complained of giddiness of the head, and weakness and pain of the eyes.

In applying these preparations, my eyes, that were naturally strong, grew weak, and twice seemed to be greatly inflamed. Eruptions appeared upon the lids, and continued for weeks. I was convinced that I was poisoned by applying these preparations to the head of my husband. We discontinued the use of these altogether, and I have had no weakness of the eyes since. My husband has been free from the peculiar sensations he experienced while using these preparations, and my experience has been for twenty years, that pure soft water is best for my head and hair.

E. G. W.

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