Ellen G. White Writings

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The Health Reformer

May 1, 1877

The Primal Cause of Intemperance

Second Paper

By Mrs. E. G. White

One who fills the sacred office of father or mother assumes the responsibility of teacher. Upon no account should the marriage relation be entered upon until the parties have a knowledge of the duties of a practical domestic life. The wife should have culture of mind and manners that she may be qualified to rightly train the children that may be given her. It should be the mother's aim to educate her precious charge to take a position in society to elevate the sinking standard of humanity; and for this reason there should be no more children in the family than can be properly cared for and educated. For the sake of their children, if for no other reason, mothers should cultivate their intellects, for they bear a greater responsibility in their work than does the king upon his throne. Few mothers feel the weight of the trust that is given them, or realize the efficiency they can attain for their peculiar work through patient, thorough effort in self-culture.

And first, the mother needs to strictly discipline and cultivate all the faculties and affections of the mind and heart, that she may not have a distorted or one-sided character, and leave the marks of her deficiency or eccentricity upon her offspring. Many mothers need be roused to see the positive necessity of a change in their purposes and characters in order to perform acceptably the duties they have voluntarily assumed by entering upon the married life. The channel of woman's usefulness can be widened and her influence extended to an almost unlimited degree if she will give proper attention to these matters, which affect the destiny of the human race.

The mother needs the most perfect self-control; and in order to secure this she should take all precautions against any physical or mental disorder. Her life should be ordered according to the laws of God and of health. As the diet materially affects the mind and disposition, she should be very careful in that particular, eating that which is nourishing but not stimulating, that her nerves may be calm and her temper equable. She will then find it easier to exercise patience in dealing with the varying tendencies of her children, and to hold the reins of government firmly yet affectionately. Children should virtually be trained in a home school from the cradle to maturity. And, as in the case of any well-regulated school, the teachers themselves gain important knowledge, the mother, especially, who is the principal teacher in the home, should there learn the most valuable lessons of her life.

Well may the mother inquire with deep anxiety, as she looks upon the children given to her care, What is the great aim and object of their education? Is it to fit them for life and its duties, to qualify them to take an honorable position in the world, to do good, to benefit their fellow-beings, to gain eventually the reward of the righteous? If so, then the first lesson to be taught them is self-control; for no undisciplined, headstrong person can hope for success in this world or reward in the next. Children should be taught that they must not have their own way, but that the will of their parents must guide them. One of the most important lessons in this connection is the control of appetite. They should learn to eat at regular periods, and to allow nothing to pass their lips between these stated meals, which should be served twice or at most three times a day.

For more than twelve years we have taken only two meals each day, of plain, unstimulating food. During that time, we have had almost constantly the care of children, varying in age from three to thirteen years. We worked gradually and carefully to change their habit of eating three times a day to two; we also worked cautiously to change their diet from stimulating food, as meat, rich gravies, pies, cakes, butter, spices, etc., to simple, wholesome fruits, vegetables, and grains. The consequence has been that our children have not been troubled with the various maladies to which children are more or less subject. They occasionally take cold by reason of carelessness, but this seldom makes them sick.

We have, as an occasional experiment, changed the number of their daily meals from two to three; but the result was not good. In the morning their breath was offensive; and after testing the matter for a few weeks, we were thoroughly convinced that the children were better upon two meals a day than upon three; and we therefore returned to our former system, with marked improvement in the health of the children as a result. If tempted with the sight of food prepared for others, they incline to think they are hungry, but usually they do not miss or think about the third meal. Children reared in this way are much more easily controlled than those who are indulged in eating everything their appetite craves, and at all times. They are usually cheerful, contented, and healthy. Even the most stubborn, passionate, and wayward, have become submissive, patient, and possessed of self-control by persistently following up this order of diet, united with a firm but kind management in regard to other matters.

Parents will have much to answer for in the day of accounts because of their wicked indulgence of their children. Many gratify every unreasonable wish, because it is easier to be rid of their importunity in this way than in any other. A child should be so trained that a refusal would be received in the right spirit, and accepted as final. Children are generally untaught in regard to the importance of when, how, and what they should eat. They are permitted to indulge their tastes freely, to eat at all hours, to help themselves to fruit when it tempts their eyes, and this, with the pie, cake, bread and butter, and sweetmeats eaten almost constantly, makes them gormands and dyspeptics. The digestive organs, like a mill which is continually kept running, become enfeebled, vital force is called from the brain to aid the stomach in its overwork, and thus the mental powers are weakened. The unnatural stimulation and wear of the vital forces make them nervous, impatient of restraint, self-willed, and irritable. They can scarcely be trusted out of their parents’ sight. In many cases the moral powers seem deadened, and it is difficult to arouse them to a sense of the shame and grievous nature of sin; they slip easily into habits of prevarication, deceit, and often open lying.

Parents deplore these things in their children, but do not realize that it is their own bad management which has brought about the evil. They have not seen the necessity of restraining the appetites and passions of their children, and they have grown and strengthened with their years. Mothers prepare with their own hands and place before their children food which has a tendency to injure them physically and mentally. Unwholesome diet makes a poor quality of blood. The appetite continually indulged is constantly craving something more stimulating; with the weakening of the moral powers bad associates are made, and the young man who has thus gone from bad to worse finds in the saloon that which meets the unnatural wants of his appetite. It then becomes a lion that can be tamed by no common means. Shame vanishes and manhood is sacrificed to an insatiate desire.

There is a general mourning that intemperance prevails to such a fearful extent; but we fasten the primal cause upon fathers and mothers who have provided upon their tables the means by which the appetites of their children are educated for exciting stimulants. They themselves have sown in their children the seeds of intemperance, and it is their fault if they become drunkards. What account in the day of final Judgment will that father and mother give whose child has become corrupt and dissolute in life through their indulgence of his appetite, and neglect to cultivate the moral attributes of his mind! Parents see that something must be done, for anguish has entered their homes, so they attempt to seize the monster of intemperance and hold it with their feeble strength; but they find it too strong for their feeble hands to conquer. In their ignorance they nourished and strengthened it until it is beyond their control. Could parents realize the great responsibility resting upon them when their children are innocent babes in the home, much sin and misery might be averted; temperance would then be taught at the fire-side and the table would afford practical lessons repeated every day. Line upon line, precept upon precept, children should be taught the necessity of self-control and self-denial; and then true reform would make rapid progress.

Parents may, by earnest, persevering effort, unbiased by the customs of fashionable life, build a moral bulwark about their children that will defend them from the miseries and crimes caused by intemperance. Children should not be left to come up as they will, unduly developing traits that should be nipped in the bud; but they should be disciplined carefully, and educated to take their position upon the side of right, of reform and abstinence. In every crisis they will then have moral independence to breast the storm of opposition sure to assail those who take their stand in favor of true reform.

Individual effort on the right side is needed to subdue the growing evil of intemperance. Oh! that we could find words that would melt and burn their way into the heart of every parent in the land! Mothers can do much toward sweeping away the cloud of darkness and iniquity that settles down over the earth like the pall of death. Mothers, can we not do our work better? Can we not labor more faithfully to bring up our children to real usefulness in the world? Let us teach the little ones to help us while their hands are small and their strength is slight. Let us impress upon their minds the fact that labor is noble, that it was ordained to man of Heaven, that it was enjoined upon Adam in Eden, as an essential to the healthy development of mind and body. Let us teach them that innocent pleasure is never half so satisfying as when it follows active industry. If we teach our children to be industrious, half the danger is over; for idleness leads into all manner of temptation to sin. Let us educate our children to be simple in manner without being bold, to be benevolent and self-sacrificing without being extravagant, to be economical without becoming avaricious. And above all, let us teach them the claims which God has upon them, that it is their duty to carry religion into every department of life, that they should love God supremely, and love their neighbor, not neglecting the little courtesies of life which are essential to happiness.

How earnestly and perseveringly the artist labors to transfer to canvas a perfect likeness of his model; and how diligently the sculptor hews and chisels out the stone into a counterpart of the copy he is following. So the parents should labor to shape, polish, and refine their children after the pattern given them in Christ Jesus. As the patient artist studies, and works, and forms plans to make the results of his labors more perfect, so should the parent consider time well spent that is occupied in training the children for useful lives, and fitting them for the immortal kingdom. The artist's work is small and unimportant compared with that of the parent. The one deals with lifeless material, from which he fashions forms of beauty; but the other deals with a human being whose life can be shaped for good or ill, to bless humanity or to curse it; to go out in darkness, or to live forever in a future sinless world.

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