Ellen G. White Writings

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The Review and Herald

October 15, 1914

The Temperance Work

Mrs. E. G. White

In our earlier labors in the message, my husband and I always felt it our duty to demonstrate in every place where we held meetings, that we were fully in harmony with the workers in the temperance cause. We laid this question before the people in plain terms. And when invitations would come to us to speak in different places on the temperance question, I always accepted if it was possible. This has been my practice throughout my public ministry, not only in this country, but in Europe and in Australasia.

Of all who claim to be numbered among the friends of temperance, Seventh-day Adventists should stand in the front ranks. A flood of light concerning the principles of true reform has been shining on our pathway for many years, and we are accountable before God if we fail to let this light shine to others. Years ago we regarded the spread of temperance principles as one of our most important duties. It should be so today. Our schools and sanitariums are to reveal the power of the grace of Christ to transform the whole being,—body, soul, and spirit. Our sanitariums and other educational institutions should be centers of light and blessing in the cause of every Bible reform.

We need at this time to show a decided interest in the work of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. None who claim to have a part in the work of God, should lose interest in the grand object of this organization in temperance lines. It would be a good thing if at our camp meetings we should invite the members of the W. C. T. U. to take part in our exercises. This would help them to become acquainted with the reasons of our faith, and open the way for us to unite with them in the temperance work. If we do this, we shall come to see that the temperance question means more than many of us have supposed. In some matters, the workers of the W. C. T. U. are far in advance of our leaders. The Lord has in that organization precious souls, who can be a great help to us in our efforts to advance the temperance movement. And the education our people have had in Bible truth and in a knowledge of the requirements of the law of Jehovah, will enable our sisters to impart to these noble temperance advocates that which will be for their spiritual welfare. Thus a union and sympathy will be created where in the past there has sometimes existed prejudice and misunderstanding.

I have been surprised as I have seen the indifference of some of our leaders to this organization. The Lord gave the best Gift of heaven to the world that he might win men back to their allegiance to him. We should do all in our power to cooperate with heavenly agencies for the promulgation of truth and righteousness in the earth. We cannot do a better work than to unite, so far as we can do so without compromise, with the W. C. T. U. workers.

Concerning this matter I wrote to one of our sisters in 1898:

‘The Lord, I fully believe, is leading you that you may keep the principles of temperance clear and distinct, in all their purity, in connection with the truth for these last days. They that do his will shall know of the doctrine.... The Lord does not bid you separate from the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. They need all the light you can give them. Flash all the light possible into their pathway. You can agree with them on the ground of the pure, elevating principles that first brought into existence the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. The Lord has given you capabilities and talents to be preserved uncorrupted in their simplicity. Through Jesus Christ you may do a good work. As souls shall be converted to the truth, have them unite with you in teaching those women who are willing to be taught, to live and labor intelligently and unitedly.”

And in Testimonies for the Church 6:110, 111, I have written:

“In our work more attention should be given to the temperance reform. Every duty that calls for reform, involves repentance, faith, and obedience. It means the uplifting of the soul to a new and nobler life. Thus every true reform has its place in the work of the third angel's message. Especially does the temperance reform demand our attention and support. At our camp meetings we should call attention to this work, and make it a living issue. We should present to the people the principles of true temperance, and call for signers to the temperance pledge. Careful attention should be given to those who are enslaved by evil habits. We must lead them to the cross of Christ.

“Our camp meetings should have the labors of medical men. These should be men of wisdom and sound judgment, men who respect the ministry of the word, and who are not victims of unbelief. These men are the guardians of the health of the people, and they are to be recognized and respected. They should give instruction to the people in regard to the dangers of intemperance. This evil must be more boldly met in the future than it has been in the past. Ministers and doctors should set forth the evils of intemperance. Both should work in the gospel with power to condemn sin and exalt righteousness. Those ministers or doctors who do not make personal appeals to the people are remiss in their duty. They fail of doing the work which God has appointed them.

“In other churches there are Christians who are standing in defense of the principles of temperance. We should seek to come near to these workers, and make a way for them to stand shoulder to shoulder with us. We should call upon great and good men to second our efforts to save that which is lost.

‘If the work of temperance were carried forward by us as it was begun thirty years ago; if at our camp meetings we presented before the people the evils of intemperance in eating and drinking, and especially the evil of liquor drinking,—if these things were presented in connection with the evidences of Christ's soon coming, there would be a shaking among the people. If we showed a zeal in proportion to the importance of the truths we are handling, we might be instrumental in rescuing hundreds, yea, thousands, from ruin.

“Only eternity will reveal what has been accomplished by this kind of ministry,—how many souls, sick with doubt and tired of worldliness and unrest, have been brought to the Great Physician, who longs to save to the uttermost all who come unto him. Christ is a risen Saviour, and there is healing in his wings.”

I am being aroused anew on this subject. We have a work to do along this line besides that of speaking in public. We must present our principles in pamphlets and in our papers. We must use every possible means of arousing our people to their duty to get into connection with those who know not the truth. The success we have had in missionary work has been fully proportionate to the self-denying, self-sacrificing efforts we have made. The Lord alone knows how much we might have accomplished if as a people we had humbled ourselves before him and proclaimed the temperance truth in clear, straight lines.

A large work of seed sowing is yet to be done. The light of truth has flashed upon many minds who have not yet fully taken their stand, and these souls are waiting to see what next. The Lord's workers are to draw nigh to him, and he will give them keener perceptions and broader views of his purpose and of their individual duty.

We need to put away our narrowness of vision. We need to search the Scriptures, studying the works of Christ in his efforts to reach every class of people. Again and again Christ was charged with receiving sinners and eating with them. But he said, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

Voting Against the License Law

While we are in no wise to become involved in political questions, yet it is our privilege to take our stand decidedly on all questions relating to temperance reform. Concerning this I have often borne a plain testimony. In an article published in the Review of November 8, 1881, I wrote:

“Our Creator has bestowed his bounties upon man with a liberal hand. Were all these gifts of Providence wisely and temperately employed, poverty, sickness, and distress would be well-nigh banished from the earth. But, alas! we see on every hand the blessings of God changed to a curse by the wickedness of men.

“There is no class guilty of greater perversion and abuse of his precious gifts than are those who employ the products of the soil in the manufacture of intoxicating liquors. The nutritive grains, the healthful, delicious fruits, are converted into beverages that pervert the senses and madden the brain. As a result of the use of these poisons, thousand of families are deprived of the comforts and even the necessities of life, acts of violence and crime are multiplied, and disease and death hurry myriads of victims to a drunkard's grave.

“This work of destruction is carried on under the protection of the laws of the land. For a paltry sum, men are licensed to deal out to their fellow men the potion that shall rob them of all that makes this life desirable and of all hope of the life to come. Neither the lawmaker nor the liquor seller is ignorant of the result of his work. At the hotel bar, in the beer garden, at the saloon, the slave of appetite expends his means for that which is destructive to reason, health, and happiness. The liquor seller fills his till with the money that should provide food and clothing for the family of the poor drunkard.

“This is the worst kind of robbery. Yet men in high position in society and in the church lend their influence in favor of license laws.... Thus society is corrupted, workhouses and prisons are crowded with paupers and criminals, and the gallows is supplied with victims. The evil ends not with the drunkard and his unhappy family. The burdens of taxation are increased, the morals of the young are imperiled, the property, and even the life, of every member of society is endangered. But the picture may be presented never so vividly, and yet it falls short of the reality. No human pen or pencil can fully delineate the horrors of intemperance....

“How can Christian men and women tolerate this evil? ... There is a cause for the moral paralysis upon society. Our laws sustain an evil which is sapping their very foundations. Many deplore the wrongs which they know exist, but consider themselves free from all responsibility in the matter. This cannot be. Every individual exerts an influence in society. In our favored land, every voter has some voice in determining what laws shall control the nation. Should not that influence and that vote be cast on the side of temperance and virtue? ...

“We may call upon the friends of the temperance cause to rally to the conflict and seek to press back the tide of evil that is demoralizing the world; but of what avail are all our efforts while liquor selling is sustained by law? Must the curse of intemperance forever rest like a blight upon our land? Must it every year sweep like a devouring fire over thousands of happy homes? We talk of the results, tremble at the results, and wonder what we can do with the terrible results, while too often we tolerate and even sanction the cause. The advocates of temperance fail to do their whole duty unless they exert their influence by precept and example—by voice and pen and vote—in favor of prohibition and total abstinence. We need not expect that God will work a miracle to bring about this reform, and thus remove the necessity for our exertion. We ourselves must grapple with this giant foe, our motto, No compromise and no cessation of our efforts till the victory is gained....

“What can be done to press back the inflowing tide of evil? Let laws be enacted and rigidly enforced prohibiting the sale and the use of ardent spirits as a beverage. Let every effort be made to encourage the inebriate's return to temperance and virtue. But even more than this is needed to banish the curse of inebriety from our land. Let the appetite for intoxicating liquors be removed, and their use and sale are at an end. This work must to a great degree devolve upon parents. Let them, by observing strict temperance themselves, give the right stamp of character to their children, and then educate and train these children, in the fear of God, to habits of self-denial and self-control. Youth who have been thus trained will have moral stamina to resist temptation, and to control appetite and passion. They will stand unmoved by the folly and dissipation that are corrupting society.

“The prosperity of a nation is dependent upon the virtue and intelligence of its citizens. To secure these blessings, habits of strict temperance are indispensable. The history of ancient kingdoms is replete with lessons of warning for us. Luxury, self-indulgence, and dissipation prepare the way for their downfall. It remains to be seen whether our own republic will be admonished by their example and avoid their fate.”

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