2. A Talk on Temperance—1891

Satan was the first rebel in the universe, and ever since his expulsion from heaven he has been seeking to make every member of the human family an apostate from God, even as he is himself. He laid his plans to ruin man, and through the unlawful indulgence of appetite, led him to transgress the commandments of God. He tempted Adam and Eve to partake of the forbidden fruit, and so accomplished their fall, and their expulsion from Eden. How many say, “If I had been in Adam's place, I would never have transgressed on so simple a test.” But you who make this boast have a grand opportunity of showing your strength of purpose, your fidelity to principle under trial. Do you render obedience to every command of God? Does God see no sin in your life? Te 273.2

Would that the Fall of Adam and Eve had been the only fall; but from the loss of Eden to the present time, there has been a succession of falls. Satan has planned to ruin man, by leading him away from loyalty to the commandments of God, and one of his most successful methods is that of tempting him to the gratification of perverted appetite. We see on all sides the marks of man's intemperance. In our cities and villages the saloon is on every corner, and in the countenances of its patrons we see the dreadful work of ruin and destruction. On every side, Satan seeks to entice the youth into the path of perdition; and if he can once get their feet set in the way, he hurries them on in their downward course, leading them from one dissipation to another, until his victims lose their tenderness of conscience, and have no more the fear of God before their eyes. They exercise less and less self-restraint. They become addicted to the use of wine and alcohol, tobacco and opium, and go from one stage of debasement to another. They are slaves to appetite. Counsel which they once respected, they learn to despise. They put on swaggering airs, and boast of liberty when they are the servants of corruption. They mean by liberty that they are slaves to selfishness, debased appetite, and licentiousness. Te 273.3

The Controversy Is On—A great controversy is going on in the world. Satan is determined to have the human race as his subjects, but Christ has paid an infinite price that man may be redeemed from the enemy, and that the moral image of God may be restored to the fallen race. In instituting the plan of salvation, God has made it manifest that He values man at an infinite price; but Satan is seeking to make this plan of no effect, by keeping man from meeting the conditions upon which salvation is provided. Te 274.1

When Christ began His ministry, He bowed on the banks of Jordan, and offered a petition to heaven in behalf of the human race. He had received baptism at the hands of John, and the heavens opened, the Spirit of God in the form of a dove encircled His form, and a voice was heard from heaven saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The prayer of Christ for a lost world was heard, and all who believe in Him are accepted in the Beloved. Fallen men may through Christ find access to the Father, may have grace to enable them to be overcomers through the merits of a crucified and risen saviour. Te 274.2

Significance of Christ's Victory—After His baptism, Christ was led of the Spirit into the wilderness. He had taken humanity upon Himself, and Satan boasted that he would overcome Him, as he had overcome the strong men of the past ages, and he assailed Him with the temptations that had caused man's downfall. It was in this world that the great conflict between Christ and Satan was to be decided. If the tempter could succeed in overcoming Christ in even one point, the world must be left to perish. Satan would have power to bruise the heel of the Son of God; but the seed of the woman was to bruise the serpent's head: Christ was to baffle the prince of the powers of darkness. For forty days Christ fasted in the wilderness. What was this for? Was there anything in the character of the Son of God that required such great humiliation and suffering? No, He was sinless. All this humiliation and keen anguish were endured for the sake of fallen man, and never can we comprehend the grievous character of the sin of indulging perverted appetite except as we comprehend the spiritual meaning of the long fast of the Son of God. Never can we understand the strength and bondage of appetite until we discern the character of the Saviour's conflict in overcoming Satan, and thus placing man on vantage ground, where, through the merit of the blood of Christ, he may be able to resist the powers of darkness, and overcome in his own behalf. Te 275.1

After this long fast, Christ was in a famishing condition, and in His weakness Satan assailed Him with the fiercest temptations. “The devil said unto him, If Thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread.” Satan represented himself as the messenger of God, claiming that God had seen the willingness of the Saviour to place His feet in the path of self-denial, and that He was not required to suffer further humiliation and pain, but might be released from the terrible conflict that was before Him as the Redeemer of the world. He tried to persuade Him that God designed only to test His fidelity, that now His loyalty was fully manifest, and He was at liberty to use His divine power to relieve His necessities. But Christ discerned the temptation, and declared, “It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” Te 275.2

When tempted to the unlawful gratification of appetite, you should remember the example of Christ, and stand firm, overcoming as Christ overcame. You should answer, saying, “Thus saith the Lord,” and in this way settle the question forever with the prince of darkness. If you parley with temptation, and use your own words, feeling self-sufficient, full of self-importance, you will be overcome. The weapons which Christ used were the words of God, “It is written;” and if you wield the sword of the Spirit, you also may come off victorious through the merit of your Redeemer. Te 276.1

Satan More Successful With Man—The three leading temptations by which man is beset were endured by the Son of God. He refused to yield to the enemy on the point of appetite, ambition, and the love of the world. But Satan is more successful when assailing the human heart. Through inducing men to yield to his temptations, he can get control of them. And through no class of temptations does he achieve greater success than through those addressed to the appetite. If he can control the appetite, he can control the whole man. Te 276.2

There are but two powers that control the minds of men—the power of God and the power of Satan. Christ is man's Creator and Redeemer; Satan is man's enemy and destroyer. He who has given himself to God will build himself up for the glory of God, in body, soul, and spirit. He who has given himself to the control of Satan tears himself down. Many a man sells reason for a glass of liquor, and becomes a menace to his family, his neighborhood, and his country. His children hide when he comes home, and his discouraged wife fears to meet him, for he greets her with cruel blows. He spends his money for strong drink, while his wife and children suffer for the necessities of life. Te 276.3

Satan leads the victims of appetite to deeds of violence. The liquor drinker is a man of fierce and easily excited passions, and any trivial excuse is made a cause for quarrel; and when under the influence of passion, the drunkard will not spare his best friend. How often do we hear of murder and deeds of violence, and find that their chief source is the liquor habit. Te 277.1

Moderate Drinking—There are those who call themselves advocates of temperance who will yet indulge in the use of wine and cider, claiming that these stimulants are harmless, and even healthful. It is thus that many take the first step in the downward path. Intoxication is just as really produced by wine and cider as by stronger drinks, and it is the worst kind of inebriation. The passions are more perverse; the transformation of character is greater, more determined and obstinate. A few quarts of cider or wine may awaken a taste for stronger drinks, and in many cases those who have become confirmed drunkards have thus laid the foundation of the drinking habit. Te 277.2

For persons who have inherited an appetite for stimulants, it is by no means safe to have wine and cider in the house; for Satan is continually soliciting them to indulge. If they yield to his temptations, they do not know where to stop; appetite clamors for indulgence, and is gratified to their ruin. The brain is clouded; reason no longer holds the reins, but lays them on the neck of lust. Licentiousness abounds, and vices of almost every type are practiced as the result of indulging the appetite for wine and cider. It is impossible for one who loves these stimulants and accustoms himself to their use, to grow in grace. He becomes gross and sensual; the animal passions control the higher powers of the mind, and virtue is not cherished. Te 277.3

Moderate drinking is the school in which men are receiving an education for the drunkard's career. So gradually does Satan lead away from the strongholds of temperance, so insidiously do wine and cider exert their influence upon the taste, that the highway to drunkenness is entered upon all unsuspectingly. The taste for stimulants is cultivated; the nervous system is disordered; Satan keeps the mind in a fever of unrest; and the poor victim, imagining himself perfectly secure, goes on and on, until every barrier is broken down, every principle sacrificed. The strongest resolutions are undermined, and eternal interests are too weak to keep the debased appetite under the control of reason. Some are never really drunk, but are always under the influence of mild intoxicants. They are feverish, unstable in mind, not really delirious, but as truly unbalanced; for the nobler powers of the mind are perverted. Te 278.1

Tobacco Also—Those also who use tobacco are weakening their physical and mental power. The use of tobacco has no foundation in nature. Nature rebels against the narcotic, and when the tobacco user first tries to force this unnatural habit upon the system, a hard battle is fought. The stomach, and, indeed, the whole system, revolts against the abominable practice, but the evildoer perseveres until nature gives up the struggle, and the man becomes a slave of tobacco. Te 278.2

If salvation were offered to man on terms as hard to endure, God would be looked upon as a hard master. Satan is a hard master, and requires his subjects to undergo severe tests, and to make themselves the slaves of passion and appetite; but God is consistent in all His requirements. And asks of His children that only which will work for their present and eternal happiness. Te 278.3

“Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.” This is the command of God, and yet how many, even of those who profess to be the servants of God, are the devotees of tobacco, and make it their idol. When men should be out in the pure air, with sweet breath, praising God for His benefits, they are polluting the atmosphere with the fumes of pipe or cigar. They must go through the ordeal of smoking, in order to stimulate the poor relaxed nerves as a preparation for the duties of the day; for if they did not have their smoke, they would be irritable and unable to control their thoughts. Te 278.4

He Had Not Had His Tobacco—As an illustration of the inability of tobacco users to command their senses when without the stimulant, I will relate an occurrence that came to my notice. An aged man who was at one time my next-door neighbor was a great user of tobacco; but one morning he had not taken his usual smoke when I went in to get a book I had lent him. Instead of getting the book I had asked for, he handed me a bridle. In vain I strove to make him understand what I wanted; I had to go away without the book. Next day I went again the made the same request, and he immediately handed me the book. Then I asked him why he had not given it to me the day before. He said: “Why, were you in yesterday? I do not remember it. Oh, I know what was the trouble, I had not had my tobacco!” This was the effect upon his mind when he was without the stimulant. His physician told him that he must cease its use or he could not live. He did give it up, but all his life after he suffered from the constant longing for the accustomed stimulant; he had to fight a continual battle. Te 279.1

When ninety years old, he was one day seen searching for something. When asked what he wanted, he replied, “I was looking for my tobacco.” He suffered without it, and yet it would have been death to him to continue its use. Te 279.2

A Way of Deliverance—God requires that His children shall keep themselves free from such unnatural and disastrous habits. But when men are bound in these chains, is there no way of deliverance? Yes, the Lord Jesus has died that through the merits of His life and death men may be overcomers. He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him. He came to earth that He might combine divine power with human effort, and by co-operation with Christ, by placing the will on the side of God, the slave may become free, an heir of God and joint heir with Christ. Te 279.3

Moral Sensibilities Benumbed With Wine—In the days of Israel, when the sanctuary service was instituted, the Lord directed that only sacred fire should be used in the burning of incense. The holy fire was of God's own kindling, and the fragrant smoke represented the prayers of the people as they ascended before God. Nadab and Abihu were priests of the sanctuary, and although it was not lawful to use common fire, these priests, when they went in before God, presumed to kindle their incense with unconsecrated fire. The priests had been indulging in the use of wine, and their moral sensibilities were benumbed; they did not discern the character of their actions, or realize what would be the fearful consequences of their sin. A fire blazed out from the holy of holies and consumed them. Te 280.1

After the destruction of Nadab and Abihu, the Lord spoke to Aaron, saying: “Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations: and that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean; and that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses.” The priests and judges of Israel were to be men of strict temperance, that their minds might be clear to discriminate between right and wrong, that they might possess firmness of principle, and wisdom to administer justice and to show mercy. Te 280.2

If Men Were Strictly Temperate—What an improvement would there be in our own land if these injunctions were carried out, if men in sacred and judicial positions should live by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Does not God, who made man, know what is best for him, what is most conducive to his spiritual and eternal interests? God is working for the highest good of His creatures. If men were strictly temperate, we should not have a tithe of the deaths we now have, and physical and mental suffering would be greatly diminished. There would be far fewer accidents by land and sea. It is because man will do as he pleases, instead of submitting to God's requirement, that so much evil is in the world. Te 280.3

God has given us laws whereby to live, but now, as in the Noachic age, the imagination of men's hearts is evil and only evil continually; men walk after the desire and devices of their own hearts, and so accomplish their own ruin. God would have men stand in their God-given manhood, free from the slavery of appetite. Te 281.1

How can men trust the decisions of jurors who are addicted to the use of liquor and tobacco? If they are called to decide on an important case when deprived of their accustomed stimulants, they cannot exercise their minds in a healthful way; they are in no condition to render an intelligent judgment; and what would their decision be worth? Te 281.2

Men in responsible positions should be men of temperance and integrity, and especially should those who are entrusted with judicial functions be men of sober habits, that they may render justice, and be unbiased by bribe or prejudice. But how widely different is the condition of our judicial and governmental affairs from that made possible through obedience to the commands of God. Liquor, tobacco, low morals, lead men to deal treacherously with their fellow men. Te 281.3

Temptation on Every Hand—On every hand there is temptation for our young men, as well as for those of mature years. In both America and Europe the places of vice and destruction are made attractive by exhibitions and music, that unwary feet may be led into the snare. Everything possible is done to lure the young into the saloon. What shall be done to save our youth? Christ made an infinite sacrifice, He became poor that we through His poverty might become rich and have a life that measures with the life of God, and shall we make no sacrifice to save those who are going to ruin about us? What are we doing for the cause of temperance, to save our youth today? Who is standing by the side of Christ, as a laborer together with God? Te 281.4

Parents, are you teaching your children to overcome? Are you seeking to check the tide of evil that threatens to overwhelm our land? Mothers, are you doing your work as educators? Are you teaching your children in their childhood habits of self-control and temperance? Do not wait till passion holds them in its iron bands, but now take them to God, teach them that Jesus loves them, that Heaven has claims upon them. In their youth put their hands into the hands of Christ, that He may lead them up. Mothers, rouse to your moral responsibility, and work for your children as those who must give an account. We must do something to stop the tide of evil, that the children and youth may not be swept down to perdition. We must be overcomers, and must teach our children to overcome. Te 282.1

Christ Overcame in Our Behalf—In the wilderness of temptation, Christ passed over the ground where Adam fell. He began the work where the ruin began, and on the point of appetite He overcame the power of the evil one in our behalf. Satan left the field a vanquished foe, and no one is excused from entering the battle on the Lord's side, for there is no reason why man may not be an overcomer if he trusts in Christ. “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne.” Te 282.2

Through the merits of Christ we are to be purified, refined, redeemed, and given a place with Christ on His throne. Could any greater honor be conferred upon man than this? Could we aspire to anything greater? If we are overcomers, Christ declares, “I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels.”—The Signs of the Times, June 22, 29, and The Signs of the Times, July 6, 1891. Te 283.1