Ellen G. White Writings

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The Signs of the Times

February 11, 1886

Temperance Reform from a Bible Standpoint

By Mrs. E. G. White

We can have no right understanding of the subject of temperance until we consider it from a Bible standpoint. And nowhere shall we find a more comprehensive and forcible illustration of true temperance and its attendant blessings than is afforded by the history of the prophet Daniel and his associates in the court of Babylon. When they were selected to be taught the “learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans,” that they might “stand in the king's palace,” “the king appointed them a daily portion of the king's meat, and of the wine which he drank.” “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank.”

Not only did these young men decline to drink the king's wine, but they refrained from the luxuries of his table. The food apportioned to them “from the king's table” would include swine's flesh and other meats pronounced unclean by the law of Moses, and which the Jews were forbidden to eat. They requested the officer who had them in charge to grant them more simple fare; but he hesitated, fearing that such rigid abstinence as they proposed would affect their personal appearance unfavorably, and bring himself into disfavor with the king. Daniel pleaded for a ten days’ trial. This was granted; and at the expiration of that time, these youth were found to be far more healthy in appearance than were those who had partaken of the king's dainties. Hence the simple “pulse and water” which they at first requested was thereafter the food of Daniel and his companions.

It was not their own pride or ambition that had brought these young men into the king's court, into the companionship of those who neither knew nor feared the true God. They were captives in a strange land, and Infinite Wisdom had placed them where they were. They considered their position, with its difficulties and its dangers; and then, in the fear of God, made their decision. Even at the risk of the king's displeasure, they would be true to the religion of their fathers. They obeyed the divine law, both natural and moral, and the blessing of God gave them strength and comeliness, and intellectual power.

These youth had received a right education in early life; and now, when separated from home influences and sacred associations, they honored the instructors of their childhood. With their habits of self-denial were coupled earnestness of purpose, diligence, and steadfastness. They had no time to squander in pleasure, vanity, or folly. They were not actuated by pride or unworthy ambition; but they sought to acquit themselves creditably, for the honor of their down-trodden people and for His glory whose servants they were.

God always honors the right. The most promising youth of every land subdued by the great conqueror, had been gathered at Babylon; yet amid them all, the Hebrew captives were without a rival. The erect form, the firm, elastic step, the fair countenance showing that the blood was uncorrupted, the undimmed senses, the untainted breath,—all were so many certificates of good habits,—insignia of the nobility with which nature honors those who are obedient to her laws. And when their ability and acquirements were tested by the king at the close of the three years of training, none were found “like unto Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.” Their keen apprehension, their choice and exact language, their extensive and varied knowledge, testified to the unimpaired strength and vigor of their mental powers.

The history of Daniel and his companions has been recorded on the pages of the inspired word for the benefit of the youth of all succeeding ages. What men have done, men may do. Did those faithful Hebrews stand firm amid great temptation, and bear a noble testimony in favor of true temperance? The youth of today may bear a similar testimony, even under circumstances as unfavorable. Would that they would emulate the example of these Hebrew youth; for all who will, may, like them, enjoy the favor and blessing of God.

The lesson from the experience of these youth is one which we would all do well to ponder. Our danger is not from scarcity, but from abundance. We are constantly tempted to excess. But those who would preserve their powers unimpaired for the service of God must observe strict temperance in the use of all his bounties, as well as total abstinence from every injurious or debasing indulgence.

Right physical habits promote mental superiority. Intellectual power, physical strength, and longevity depend upon immutable laws. There is no happen-so, no chance, about this matter. Heaven will not interfere to preserve men from the consequences of the violation of nature's laws. There is much of truth in the adage that every man is the architect of his own fortune. While parents are responsible for the stamp of character, as well as for the education and training which they give their sons and daughters, it is still true that our position and usefulness in the world depend, to a great degree, upon our own course of action.

Let old and young remember that for every violation of the laws of life, nature will utter her protest. The penalty will fall upon the mental as well as the physical powers. And it does not end with the guilty trifler. The effects of his misdemeanors are seen in his offspring, and thus hereditary evils are passed down, even to the third or fourth generation. Think of this, fathers, when you indulge in the use of the soul-and-brain-benumbing narcotic, tobacco. Where will this practice leave you? Whom will it affect besides yourselves?

Wherever we go, we encounter the tobacco devotee, enfeebling both mind and body by his darling indulgence. We rarely pass through a crowd, but men will puff their poisoned breath into our face. Is it honest to contaminate the air which others must breathe? Have men a right to deprive their Maker and the world of the service which was their due? Is such a course Christlike?

We are suffering for the wrong habits of our fathers, and yet how many take a course every way worse than theirs! Every year millions of gallons of intoxicating liquors are drank, and millions of dollars are spent for tobacco. Opium, tea, coffee, tobacco, and intoxicating liquors are rapidly extinguishing the spark of vitality still left in the race. And the slaves of appetite, while constantly spending their earnings in sensual indulgence, rob their children of food and clothing and the advantages of education.

There can never be a right state of society while these evils exist. And no real reform will be effected until the law shall close up liquor saloons, not only on Sunday, but on all days of the week. The closing of these saloons would promote public order and domestic happiness. And why can they not be closed? It is not too much to say that liquor saloons would speedily be closed, in obedience to the dictates of reason and religion, if public officers were not among the patrons. These men by their influence corrupt society, and then they judge and condemn the erring ones who follow their example.

Only men of strict temperance and integrity should be admitted to our legislative halls and chosen to preside in our courts of justice. Property, reputation, and even life itself, are insecure when left to the judgment of men who are intemperate and immoral. How many innocent persons have been condemned to death, how many more have been robbed of all their earthly possessions, by the injustice of drinking jurors, lawyers, witnesses, and even judges!

The use of intoxicating liquor dethrones reason, and hardens the heart against every pure and holy influence. The inanimate rock will sooner listen to the appeals of truth and justice than will that man whose sensibilities are paralyzed by intemperance. The finer feelings of the heart are not blunted all at once. A gradual change is wrought. Those who venture to enter the forbidden path are gradually demoralized and corrupted. And though in the cities liquor saloons abound, making indulgence easy, and though youth are surrounded by allurements to tempt the appetite, the evil does not often begin with the use of intoxicating liquors. Tea, coffee, and tobacco are artificial stimulants, and their use creates the demand for the stronger stimulus found in alcoholic beverages. And while Christians are asleep, this giant evil of intemperance is gaining strength and making fresh victims.

There is need now of men like Daniel,—men who have the self-denial and the courage to be radical temperance reformers. Let every Christian see that his example and his influence are on the side of reform. Let ministers of the gospel be faithful in instructing and warning the people. And let all remember that our happiness in two worlds depends upon the right improvement of one.

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