Ellen G. White Writings

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The Signs of the Times

July 8, 1880

Necessity of Temperance

By Mrs. E. G. White

The case of Aaron's sons has been placed upon record for the benefit of God's people, and should teach those especially who are preparing for the second coming of Christ, that the indulgence of a depraved appetite destroys the fine feelings of the soul, and so affects the reasoning powers which God has given to man, that spiritual and holy things lose their sacredness. Disobedience looks pleasing, instead of exceeding sinful. Satan rejoices to see men, formed in the image of their Maker, yield themselves as slaves to a depraved appetite; for he can then successfully control the powers of the mind, and lead those who are intemperate to act in a manner to debase themselves and dishonor God, by losing the high sense of his sacred requirements. It was the indulgence of the appetite which caused the sons of Aaron to use common, instead of sacred, fire for their offerings.

The punishment visited upon the sons of Aaron for their sin in departing from God's commandment, should be a warning to those who transgress the fourth commandment of Jehovah, which is very plain: “Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work,” etc. Nearly all the professed followers of Christ profane the day which God has sanctified and required them to keep holy as a memorial of the Creator's rest. They labor upon God's holy time, and rest on the first day of the week, thus honoring a common working day, a day upon which God did not rest, and upon which he has placed no sacred honor.

A departure from the fourth commandment will not now be immediately visited with temporal death; yet God does not regard the violation of his commandments any more lightly than he did the transgression of Aaron's sons. Death is the final punishment of all who reject light, and continue in transgression. When God says, Keep holy the seventh day, he does not mean the sixth, nor the first, but the very day he has specified. When men substitute a common day for the sacred, and say that it will do just as well, they insult the Maker of the heavens and the earth, who instituted the Sabbath to commemorate his rest after the six days of creation. It is a dangerous thing to deviate from the commands of God. He who is infinite in wisdom has given explicit directions in regard to his own worship, and all who desire to serve him should follow the exact course he has prescribed. God will teach all his creatures that he means just what he says.

Parents and children should be warned by the history of Nadab and Abihu. Appetite, indulged, perverted the reasoning powers, and led to the breaking of an express command, which brought the judgment of God upon them. Notwithstanding children may not have had the right instruction, and their characters not have been properly molded, God proposes to connect them with himself as he did Nadab and Abihu, if they will heed his commands. If they will with faith and courage bring their will in submission to the will of God, he will teach them, and their lives may be like the pure white lily, full of fragrance on the stagnant waters. They must resolve in the strength of Jesus to control inclination and passion, and every day win victories over Satan's temptations. This is the way God has marked out for men to serve his high purposes.

Men who make laws to control the people should above all others be obedient to the higher laws which are the foundation of all rule in nations and in families. How important that men who have a controlling power should themselves feel they are under a higher control. They will never feel thus while their minds are weakened by indulgence in narcotics, and strong drink. Those to whom it is intrusted to make and execute laws should have all their powers in vigorous action. They may, by practicing temperance in all things, preserve the clear discrimination between the sacred and common, and have wisdom to deal with that justice and integrity which God enjoined upon ancient Israel. Man may cultivate his powers, and with invincible determination rise to the high standard God has set for him in his word. Then with wisdom he may judge uprightly and with a sense that the eye of God is upon him, he will not swerve from the right, but will be kind, sympathizing, despising bribes, and governed by the highest motives in all his service.

Many who are elevated to the highest positions of trust in serving the public are the opposite of this. They are self-serving, and generally indulge in the use of narcotics, and wine and strong drink. Lawyers, jurors, senators, judges, and representative men have forgotten that they cannot dream themselves into a character. They are deteriorating their powers through sinful indulgences. They stoop from their high position to defile themselves with intemperance, licentiousness, and every form of evil. Their powers prostituted by vice opens their path for every evil. An elevated position of trust does not make the man after God's own heart, but too frequently it leads him to despise persevering labor, and to forget that sin alone will make man really mean and low. He who toils in earnest labor, striving to make the most of his God-given powers, in homage and love to his Creator is doing his work as faithfully in his sphere as are the cherubim and seraphim in their most sacred work, and loftiest ministrations.

Intemperate men should not by vote of the people be placed in positions of trust. Their influence corrupts others, and grave responsibilities are involved. With brain and nerve narcotized by tobacco and stimulus they make a law of their nature, and when the immediate influence is gone there is a collapse. Frequently human life is hanging in the balance; on the decision of men in these positions of trust, depends life and liberty, or bondage and despair. How necessary that all who take part in these transactions should be men proved, men of self-culture, men of honesty and truth, of stanch integrity, who will spurn a bribe, who will not allow their judgment or convictions of right to be swerved by partiality or prejudice. Thus saith the Lord, “Thou shalt not wrest the judgment of the poor in his cause. Keep thee from a false matter; and the innocent and righteous slay them not, for I will not justify the wicked. And thou shalt take no gift; for the gift blindeth the wise and perverteth the words of the righteous.”

In order to carry out these stern principles of right, intemperance is positively forbidden of God. God requires that the faculties of man should be well balanced, the judgment clear and discriminating, that ideas may be received through the senses and compared with one another, investigating calmly, patiently, critically, evidences presented and arranging the matter with the action of sound judgment without a faculty being perverted. This was God's purpose, and he forbids on penalty of death that the gifts of intellect he has bestowed upon man shall be subverted by narcotics or stimulus of any kind, that the talents he has intrusted to man may be a tower of strength to the people, in the place of a power to ruin and destroy. All who would meet the mind of God and come off conquerors, must bid adieu to ease, luxury, flattery, and vice, and arm themselves for the mighty, soul-testing struggle against indulgence of appetite.

Men would not in our day venture to so recklessly depart from God's requirements were not their moral powers weakened by indulgence of perverted appetite. The example of our first parents, and the result of their disobedience, would deter them from a like experience. The history of this one family is traced by the pen of inspiration for the benefit of all who should live upon the earth, that they should not follow in the same steps.

The history of Nadab and Abihu is also given as a warning to man, showing that the effect of wine upon the intellect is to confuse. And it will ever have this influence upon the minds of those who use it. Therefore God explicitly forbids the use of wine and strong drink. No one can pervert his reasoning powers and alone suffer the consequences. God designs that man should be a help to his fellow-man; that with clear, unimpaired faculties he should study the divine plan for the advancement of God's work, and the upbuilding of his cause in the earth. He is inviting men even in this age to connect with him, and through strictly temperate habits, with clear perception honor God. He has made provision that the life of not one should be profitless. He proposes to lift up and ennoble man to a companionship with himself.

Those who would have the peace that Christ can give must not shrink from self-conflict, and self-denial. Those noble virtues which shine forth in the Christian character amid the fiercest temptations, and that firm endurance which no trial or misfortune can wear out, are not found with those who use wine, tobacco, or strong drink. Men who have formed an appetite for these things may overcome if they but seek the help of Jesus. Their light need not go out in darkness. In Christ they may be strong, and in his all-powerful name they may conquer. They must never allow self-indulgence to come between them and their God. They must be prepared to risk everything, even life itself, rather than defile the soul temple.

They have, contrary to God's will, created unnatural appetites, and now they must seek to undo their former work. The will must be brought under the control of the will of God; this will give them power to lead others into close relation with Christ, and help them to build up a character as fixed in righteousness as the everlasting hills. If we would go in safe paths we must be controlled by divine rules, and must wash our robes of character in the blood of the Lamb from every defilement.

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