Ellen G. White Writings

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Bible Echo and Signs of the Times

March 1, 1887

Temperance in the Family

By Mrs. E. G. White

Our accountability extends as far as our influence reaches, and that is constantly affecting others, either for good or for evil. In a pre-eminent degree is this true of parents. Fathers and mothers who gratify inclination and appetite at the expense of health, not only work against their own physical health and moral advancement, but leave to their children their perverted appetite and enfeebled moral power. Liquor drinkers and tobacco devotees transmit to their offspring their own insatiable craving, their irritable nerves, and their inflamed, corrupted blood. The licentious hand down as an inheritance to their children their own weakness and wickedness, with a host of vile and loathsome diseases the result of their transgressions.

The violation of God's law lies at the foundation of all the misery that flesh is heir to. It is intemperance, transgression of the laws of life and health, that has shortened the years of men, and made these few years full of sorrow and pain. In consequence of sinful habits, the world has become a vast lazarhouse. And while Satan exults at the success of his devices, society is demoralized, the church is cursed, and God is dishonored.

The effect of stimulants and narcotics is to lessen physical strength; and whatever affects the body will affect the mind also. A stimulant may for a time arouse the energies and produce mental and physical activity; but when the exhilarating influence is gone, both mind and body will be in a worse condition than before. Intoxicating liquors and tobacco have proved a terrible curse to our race, not only weakening the body and confusing the mind, but debasing the morals. As reason is set aside, and loses the reins of control, the animal passions bear sway. And the more freely these poisons are used, the more sensual and brutish will become the nature and disposition of man.

The efforts of temperance workers are not sufficiently far-reaching to banish the curse of intemperance from society. The principles of true temperance extend to our tables, to the quality and quantity of the food that we eat. Parents who indulge appetite by eating to excess, even of wholesome food, place a needless tax upon the system. Such parents transmit their own perverted appetites to their offspring, who have far less moral power than had the parents, and they will be disposed to self-indulgence and gluttony. Habits once formed are hard to overcome; and many times, parents, instead of seeking to cure the evil which they have wrought, by their own example educate their children to indulge appetite regardless of reason. Many children die before reaching maturity; while many are ruined for time and for eternity by tempers and appetites inherited in consequence of the sinful indulgences of the parents.

It should be the constant effort of every mother to conform her habits to the will and law of God, that she may preserve her children from the health-and-life-destroying vices of the present day. Her thoughts and feelings have a powerful influence upon her child. If she allows her mind to dwell upon her own feelings, if she indulges in selfishness, if she is peevish and exacting, the disposition of her child will testify to the fact. Thus many have received, as a birthright, almost unconquerable tendencies to evil. Our great enemy understands this matter much better than do many parents. He will bring his temptations to bear upon the mother, knowing that through her he can affect the child. The mother's only hope is in God. She may go to him for strength and grace, and she will not seek in vain.

It is a deplorable fact that there is a wide-spread neglect of those precepts of the Bible which have a bearing upon life and health. Many make the subject a matter of jest. They claim that the Lord does not concern himself with such minor matters as our eating and drinking. But if the Lord had had no care for these things, he would not have revealed himself as he did to the wife of Manoah, giving her definite instructions respecting her habits of life, and twice enjoining upon her to beware lest she disregard them. Is not this sufficient evidence that the Lord is not indifferent in regard to these matters, and does not look upon them as unimportant?

About the time of Christ's first advent, the angel Gabriel was sent from the heavenly courts with a message to Zacharias similar to that given to Manoah. The aged priest was told that his wife should bear a son, whose name should be called John. “And,” said the angel, “thou shalt have joy and gladness, and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.”

Thus according to the directions of the angel, this child of promise was to be brought up with strictly temperate habits. An important work of reform was to be committed to him, to prepare the way for Christ. Intemperance in every form existed among the people. Indulgence in wine and luxurious food was lessening physical strength, and debasing the morals to such an extent that the most revolting crimes did not appear sinful. The voice of John was to sound forth from the wilderness in stern rebuke of the sinful indulgences of the people, and his own abstemious habits were also to be a reproof of the excesses of his time.

Reform should begin with the mother; her responsibility is great. Mothers should without delay place themselves in right relations to their Creator, that by his assisting grace they may build around their children a bulwark against dissipation and intemperance. If they would but follow such a course, if the instructions which God has given were faithfully obeyed, intemperance would cease to exist, and they might see their children, like the youthful Daniel, reach a high standard in moral and intellectual attainments; they would be firm and decided for the right, and would become a blessing to society and an honor to their Creator.

Fashionable vices are debilitating and debasing the race. Had parents for years past studied the Scriptures more, and the magazines of fashion less, had they realized that their course might determine the destiny of hundreds, and perhaps of thousands, what a different state of society might now exist. We are responsible for the good we might have done, but failed to perform because by our own act we have placed ourselves in a condition of mental and physical inefficiency. The cause of reform is suffering for want of men and women of integrity and moral worth. They are needed to advocate by precept and example the principles of self-denial which will be a safeguard to our youth.

Can we look upon the unbelief, intemperance, and crime that seem to be deluging the earth, without feeling our souls stirred to the very depths? Infidelity is rearing its proud head. “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” The cry of fathers and mothers, and of nations that have forsaken God and been forsaken by him, will ere long rend the heavens. What can hinder the crime, what stay the woe, that is upon all nations? This evil might have been prevented, had previous generations been trained to obey, love, and reverence God. Let us now do what we can as individuals to bring about these changes. Explicit instructions have been given in the word of God. Let these principles be carried out by the mother, with the co-operation and support of the father, and let children be trained from infancy to habits of self-control. Let them be taught that it is not the object of life to indulge sensual appetite, but to honor God and do good to their fellow-men.

Fathers and mothers, labor earnestly and faithfully, relying on God for grace and wisdom. Be firm and yet mild. In all your commands aim to secure the highest good of your children, and then see that these commands are obeyed. Your energy and decision must be unwavering, yet ever in subjection to the Spirit of Christ. Then indeed may we hope to see “our sons as plants grown up in their youth, and our daughters as corner-stones, polished after the similitude of a palace.”

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