Ellen G. White Writings

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The Signs of the Times

January 6, 1876

Christian Temperance

By Mrs. E. G. White

We are living in an age of intemperance. Health and life are sacrificed, by very many, to gratify their appetite for hurtful indulgences. These last days are characterized by depreciated morals and physical debility, in consequence of these indulgences and the general unwillingness to engage in physical labor. Many are suffering today from inaction and wrong habits.

The majority of the youth of this generation are fond of amusements and afraid of work. They generally lack moral courage to deny appetite and respond to the claims of duty. They have but little self-control, and become excited and passionate on the slightest occasion. Idleness and plenty of money to spend in amusements, exciting pleasures, wines, liquors and tobacco, lay the foundation for disease and ruin. Manhood and virtue are sacrificed upon the altar of lust. Very many of every age and station in life are without principle or conscience, and with spend-thrift habits are rushing into all vices, and are corrupting society, until our world is becoming a second Sodom.

Gluttonous feasting and the indulgence of narcotics and stimulants, are carried to great lengths even by the Christian world. How many close their last precious hours of probationary time, in scenes of gaiety, feasting and amusement, where serious thoughts are not allowed to enter, where the spirit of Jesus would be unwelcome! Their last precious hours are passing while their minds are benumbed with tobacco and alcoholic liquors. There are not a few who pass directly from the dens of infamy to the sleep of death; they close their life-record among the associations of dissipation and vice. What will the awakening be at the resurrection of the unjust!

The eye of the Lord is open upon every scene of debasing amusement and profane dissipation. The words and deeds of the pleasure-lovers pass directly from these halls of vice to the Book of final records. What is the life of this class worth to the world, except as a beacon of warning to those who will be warned, not to live like these men, and die as the fool dieth. The apostle thus entreats, “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.”

When we pursue a course of eating and drinking that lessens physical and mental vigor, or become the prey of habits that tend to the same results, we dishonor God, for we rob him of the service he claims from us. Those who acquire and indulge the unnatural appetite for tobacco, do this at the expense of health. They are destroying nervous energy, lessening vital force and sacrificing mental strength.

Those who profess to be the followers of Christ yet have this terrible sin at their door, cannot have a high appreciation of the atonement and an elevated estimate of eternal things. Minds that are clouded and partially paralyzed by narcotics, are easily overcome by temptation, and cannot enjoy communion with God.

Those who use tobacco can make but a poor plea to the liquor inebriate. Two-thirds of the drunkards in our land created an appetite for liquor by the use of tobacco. Those who claim that tobacco does not injure them, can be convinced of their mistake by depriving themselves of it for a few days; the trembling nerves, the giddy head, the irritability they feel, will prove to them that this sinful indulgence has bound them in slavery. It has overcome will power. They are in bondage to a vice that is fearful in its results.

The love of tobacco is a warring lust. Means are thereby squandered that would aid in the good work of clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, and sending the truth to poor souls out of Christ. What a record will appear when the accounts of life are balanced in the book of God! It will then appear that vast sums of money have been expended for tobacco and alcoholic liquors! For what? To ensure health and prolong life? Oh, no! To aid in the perfection of Christian character and a fitness for the society of holy angels? Oh, no! But to minister to a depraved, unnatural appetite for that which poisons and kills not only the user but those to whom he transmits his legacy of disease and imbecility. God does not propose to work a miracle to preserve our health and strength which we are daily injuring by vice and habits of hurtful indulgence.

Food prepared with condiments and spices inflames the stomach, corrupts the blood and paves the way to stronger stimulants. It induces nervous debility, impatience and lack of self-control. Tobacco and the wine-cup follow.

We have seen that the victories gained by the “Temperance Crusade” are not often permanent. In those places where the excitement ran highest and apparently the most was accomplished in closing liquor saloons and reclaiming inebriates, after the lapse of a few months, intemperance prevailed to a greater extent than before the effort to suppress it was made.

The reason of this is evident. The work is not deep and thorough. The axe is not laid at the root of the tree. The roots of intemperance lie deeper than mere liquor drinking. In order to make the temperance movement a success, the work of reform must begin at our tables. Eating flesh-meat does not increase physical, mental, or moral health, but, on the contrary, frequently causes diseases of a very aggravating character. The use of highly seasoned meats creates an appetite for stronger stimulants such as tobacco and liquor.

The immediate results of meat-eating may be apparently to invigorate the system, but this is no reason for its being considered the best article of diet. The moderate use of brandy will have the same effect for the time being, but when its exciting influence is gone there follows a sense of languor and debility. Those who depend upon simple and nutritious food, that is comparatively unstimulating in its effects, can endure more labor in the course of months and years than the meat-eater or the liquor-drinker. They who work in the open air will feel less injury from the use of flesh-meats than those of sedentary habits, for sun and air are great helps to digestion, and do much to counteract the effect of wrong habits of eating and drinking.

All stimulants hurry the human machinery too fast, and although, for the time, activity and vigor may seem to be increased, in proportion to the irritating influence employed, there must be a reaction; a debility will follow corresponding in degree to the unnatural excitement that has been produced.

When this debility is felt, something to stimulate and tone up the system is again used to give immediate relief from disagreeable languor. Nature is gradually educated to rely upon this oft-repeated remedy, until her powers are enfeebled by being often aroused to unnatural action. All persons should become acquainted with the laws of their being. It should be an important subject of study, how to live, how to regulate labor, and how to eat and drink in reference to health.

The more simply and naturally we live the better shall we be able to resist epidemic and disease. If our habits are good and the system is not weakened by unnatural action, Nature will furnish all the stimulus that we require.

If men and women perseveringly live in accordance with the laws of life and of health, they will realize the blessed results of an entire health reform. But many make a mistake at the very commencement of their reform. They go to extremes. They carry their ideas too far. Their views in regard to healthful diet are too narrow. They have the same articles of food upon their tables, with scarcely a variation, from week to week, and from month to month. They take no pains to prepare fruits and grains in an inviting as well as healthful manner, and, after this course has been rigidly followed for a while, they decide that they cannot follow out the principles of health reform, and go back to their former manner of living.

Those who set out from impulse and pursue a radical course for a time and then go back, do great injury to the cause. Many make too great and sudden changes in their diet. As the light of health reform comes to them, conscience is aroused in regard to their eating and drinking, and in their effort to change their habits of living they do not preserve a safe medium, but go to an extreme at once. They reduce the quantity and quality of their food. This abstemiousness reduces their strength, and really injures their health. They finally conclude that they cannot live the health reform. The real facts in the case are, they never did carry out its principles. Health reform as we understand it, does not consist in an impoverished diet. The table should be well provided with fruits and grains prepared in such a manner that they are not only nutritious but inviting.

Some get the idea that to adopt the health reform is to subsist upon the very cheapest food prepared with the least labor. This is not true. It is a libel on the principles of health reform. The human system must have nourishment, and all cannot relish the same dishes. So when the table is spread with the same article of food, prepared in the same way, meal after meal and day after day, some members of the family may be well satisfied and enjoying their food very much, while others may be only able to eat sparingly of one dish and the wants of the system will not be met; for it is a fact that some persons cannot relish, or be nourished by articles of food which others enjoy and thrive upon. But every person may do much towards educating the taste and appetite to relish plain and healthful food, such as graham bread and oat-meal gruel, and various vegetables, even if they are at first distasteful to them.

The rule which some recommend, is to eat whenever there is a sense of hunger, and to eat until satisfied. This course will lead to disease and numerous evils. Appetite at the present day is not generally natural, therefore is not a correct index to the wants of the system. It has been pampered and misdirected until it has become morbid and can no longer be a safe guide. Nature has been abused, her efforts crippled by wrong habits and indulgence in sinful luxuries, until taste and appetite are alike perverted. It is unnatural to have a craving for flesh-meats. It was not thus in the beginning. The appetite for meat has been made and educated by man. Our Creator has furnished us, in vegetables, grain, and fruits, all the elements of nutrition necessary to health and strength. Flesh-meats composed no part of the food of Adam and Eve before their fall. If fruits, vegetables and grains are not sufficient to meet the wants of man, then the Creator made a mistake in providing for Adam.

The habits of the age are serious obstacles to the perfecting of Christian character. Physically we are composed of what we eat, and our minds are greatly influenced by our bodies. If we subsist largely upon the flesh of animals, the animal nature is increased in like proportion. Man is sufficiently animal in his nature without cultivating those propensities by the eating of food which stimulates and excites the animal organs to activity. As these propensities are strengthened the mental and moral powers are diminished.

God did not withhold meat from the Hebrews in the wilderness simply to show his authority, but for their good, that they might preserve physical and moral strength. He knew that the use of animal food strengthens the animal passions and enfeebles the intellect. He knew that the gratification of the appetite of the Hebrews for flesh-meats, would weaken their moral powers, and induce such an irritable disposition that the vast army would become insubordinate, that they would lose the high sense of their moral obligations, and refuse to be controlled by the wise laws of Jehovah. Violence and rebellion would exist among them, making it impossible for them to be a pure and happy people in the land of Canaan. God knew what was best for the children of Israel, therefore he deprived them in a great measure of flesh-meats.

Satan tempted them to consider this unjust and cruel. He caused them to lust after forbidden things, because he saw that through the indulgence of perverted appetite they would become carnally-minded and could be easily brought to do his will; the lower organs would be strengthened, while the intellectual and moral powers would be weakened.

Satan is no novice in the business of destroying souls. He well knows that if he can lead men and women into wrong habits of eating and drinking, he has gained, in a great degree, the control of their minds and baser passions. In the beginning man ate of the fruits of the earth, but sin brought into use the flesh of dead animals as food. This diet works directly against the spirit of true refinement and moral purity. The substance of that which is taken into the stomach, passes into the circulation, and is converted into flesh and blood.

Those who subsist largely upon flesh-meats inflame the stomach thereby, the blood becomes torpid and impure, head-aches and indispositions follow. The system is filled with humors; fevers, scrofula and cancers are the consequences. Especially is this true of those who eat swine's flesh. Yet so great is the tendency to ignore these evils, that few can be brought to realize the true effects of this sort of diet upon the human system.

God requires that his people should be temperate in all things. The example of Christ, during that long fast in the wilderness, should teach his followers to repulse Satan when he comes under the guise of appetite. Then may they have influence to reform those who have been led astray by indulgence, and have lost moral power to overcome the weakness and sin that has taken possession of them. Thus may Christians secure health and happiness, in a pure, well-ordered life and a mind clear and untainted before God.

January 6, 1876

Mrs. Ellen G. White—Her Life, Christian Experience, and Labors

[Note: This article introduces a series of fifteen, published from January 6 to May 11, 1876, provided by James White, the editor. It represents his method of bringing to the attention of the general public the call and work of his wife, Ellen G. White. Each article is comprised mainly of the story of her life as she told it in 1860 in Spiritual Gifts, Volume II, an autobiographical account she wrote for the reading of the household of faith. As it was prepared for the columns of the missionary journal of the church, it was slightly edited to better fit the needs of the general reading public. Being a variant of the Spiritual Gifts account, the articles are included in this facsimile reprint.]

White Estate.

The name of Mrs. Ellen G. White is widely known in consequence of her writings and her public labors as a speaker in nineteen of the States and in the Canadas. Her books in print amount to about four thousand pages which have had an extensive circulation. And her labors as a speaker cover a period of more than thirty years. But in the last ten years the providence of God, in harmony with the wishes of the people with whom she has been connected, has moved her out to speak to the crowds at our annual conferences and camp-meetings in the several states where they have been held. Newspaper reporters have given sketches of her addresses, and have made statements of their effects upon audiences which have given her prominence in the minds of thousands who have neither read her books nor heard her speak. And the fact which is made prominent in her books that Mrs. White has received the sentiments she has taught by direct revelation from God, has made her a person of peculiar interest to all those who have received her as one thus favored of the Lord. And, on the other hand, persons have not been wanting among those who reject her testimony and her work, to mention her name unfavorably through the press, and in the spirit of persecution seek to excite prejudice against her. This, however, has served as an advertisement, and has greatly increased the desire of the people to hear her speak, and to read her books.

In view of the situation, we have for several years felt that it was due the public that the life, Christian experience, and labors of Mrs. White, be brought out in a humble volume for circulation as extensively as her name is known. Almost every opponent, in preaching and writing against the Sabbath and other doctrines held by the Seventh-day Adventists, refers to Mrs. White and her work in a scoffing manner, in order to please the rabble, and prejudice honest people. And many, in consequence of misrepresentations of her work, and from want of knowledge of the facts in the case, take unfavorable views of the cause with which she has held close connection from its earliest existence. It is therefore necessary in order to disabuse honest minds, and for the general good of the cause of Bible truth, that her work be correctly represented, and properly defended before the people. The reader will doubtless be interested in brief sketches of Mrs. White's parentage and early life.

Her parents, Robert and Eunice Harmon, were residents of Maine. In early life they were earnest and devoted members of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In that church they held prominent connection, and labored for the conversion of sinners, and to build up the cause of God for a period of forty years. During this time they had the joy of seeing their children, eight in number, all converted and gathered to the fold of Christ. Their decided Second Advent views, however, severed the connection of the family from the Methodist Church in the year 1843, after which meetings were held in their house in the city of Portland much of the time for several years. Of her early life and Christian experience we will here let Mrs. White speak for herself, as taken from her second volume of Spiritual Gifts.

“At the age of nine years an accident happened to me which was to affect my whole life. In company with my twin sister and one of our schoolmates, I was crossing a common in the city of Portland, Maine, when a girl about thirteen years of age, also a member of our school, becoming angry at some trifle, followed us, threatening to strike us. Our parents had taught us never to contend with any one, but if we were in danger of being abused or injured, to hasten home at once. We were doing this with all speed, but the girl followed us as rapidly, with a stone in her hand. I turned my head to see how far she was behind me, and as I did so, she threw the stone and it hit me on the nose. A blinding, stunning sensation overpowered me, I fell senseless.

“When I revived and became conscious, I found myself in a merchant's store, my garments were covered with blood which was pouring from my nose and streaming over the floor. A kind stranger offered to take me home in his carriage, but I, not knowing how weak I was, told him that I preferred to walk home rather than soil his carriage with blood. Those present were not aware that I was so seriously injured, and allowed me to have my own way; but I had only walked a few rods when I grew faint and dizzy. My twin sister and my schoolmate carried me home.

“I have no recollection of any thing further for some time after the accident. My mother said that I noticed nothing but lay in a stupor for three weeks; no one but herself thought it possible for me to recover. For some reason she felt that I would live. A kind neighbor, who had been very much interested in my behalf, at one time thought me to be dying. She wished to purchase a burial robe for me, but my mother said ‘Not yet,’ for something told her that I would not die.

“When I again aroused to consciousness, it seemed to me that I had been asleep. I did not remember the accident and was ignorant of the cause of my illness. As I began to gain a little strength, my curiosity was aroused by overhearing those who came to visit me say ‘What a pity!’ ‘I should not have known her,’ etc. I asked for a looking-glass, and as I gazed into it, I was shocked at the change in my appearance. Every feature of my face seemed changed. The bones of my nose had been broken and caused this disfigurement.

“The idea of carrying my misfortune through life was insupportable. I could see no pleasure in my existence. I did not wish to live and I dared not die for I was unprepared. Friends often visited my parents and looked with pity upon me and advised them to prosecute the father of the girl who had, as they said, ruined me. But my mother was for peace; she said that if such a course could bring me back my health and natural looks there would be something gained, but as this was impossible, it was best not to make enemies by following such advice.

“Physicians thought that a silver wire might be put in my nose to hold it in shape. This would have been very painful, and they feared it would be of little use, as I had lost so much blood and sustained such a nervous shock that my recovery was very doubtful. Even if I revived it was their opinion I could live but a short time. I was reduced almost to a skeleton.

“At this time I began to pray the Lord to prepare me for death. When Christian friends visited the family, they would ask my mother if she had talked to me about dying. I overheard this and it roused me. I desired to become a Christian and prayed as well as I could for the forgiveness of my sins. I felt a peace of mind resulting. I loved every one and felt desirous that all should have their sins forgiven and love Jesus as I did.

“I well remember one night in winter when the snow was on the ground, the heavens were lighted up, the sky looked red and angry, and seemed to open and shut, while the snow looked like blood. The neighbors were very much frightened. Mother took me out of bed in her arms and carried me to the window. I was happy, I thought Jesus was coming, and I longed to see him. My heart was full, I clapped my hands for joy, and thought my sufferings were ended. But I was disappointed; the singular appearance faded away from the heavens, and the next morning the sun arose the same as usual.”

J. W.

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