Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1


Chapter 99—The Health Institute

In the vision given me December 25, 1865, I saw that the health reform was a great enterprise, closely connected with the present truth, and that Seventh-day Adventists should have a home for the sick where they could be treated for their diseases and also learn how to take care of themselves so as to prevent sickness. I saw that our people should not remain indifferent upon this subject and leave the rich among us to go to the popular water cure institutions of the country for the recovery of health, where they would find opposition to, rather than sympathy with, their views of religious faith. Those who are reduced by disease suffer not only for want of physical but also of mental and moral strength; and afflicted, conscientious Sabbathkeepers cannot receive as much benefit where they feel that they must be constantly guarded lest they compromise their faith and dishonor their profession, as at an institution whose physicians and conductors are in sympathy with the truths connected with the third angel's message. 1T 553.1

When persons who have suffered much from disease are relieved by an intelligent system of treatment, consisting of baths, healthful diet, proper periods of rest and exercise, and the beneficial effects of pure air, they are often led to conclude that those who successfully treat them are right in matters of religious faith, or, at least, cannot greatly err from the truth. Thus if our people are left to go to those institutions whose physicians are corrupt in religious faith, they are in danger of being ensnared. The institution at ——, I then saw (in 1865), was the best in the United States. So far as the treatment of the sick is concerned, they have been doing a great and good work; but they urge upon their patients dancing and card playing, and recommend attendance at theaters and such places of worldly amusement, which is in direct opposition to the teachings of Christ and the apostles. 1T 553.2

Those connected with the Health Institute now located at Battle Creek should feel that they are engaged in an important and solemn work, and in no way should they pattern after the physicians at the institution at —— in matters of religion and amusements. Yet I saw that there would be danger of imitating them in many things and losing sight of the exalted character of this great work. And should those connected with this enterprise cease to look at their work from a high religious standpoint, and descend from the exalted principles of present truth to imitate in theory and practice those at the head of institutions where the sick are treated only for the recovery of health, the special blessing of God would not rest upon our institution more than upon those where corrupt theories are taught and practiced. 1T 554.1

I saw that a very extensive work could not be accomplished in a short time, as it would not be an easy matter to find physicians whom God could approve and who would work together harmoniously, disinterestedly, and zealously for the good of suffering humanity. It should ever be kept prominent that the great object to be attained through this channel is not only health, but perfection, and the spirit of holiness, which cannot be attained with diseased bodies and minds. This object cannot be secured by working merely from the worldling's standpoint. God will raise up men and qualify them to engage in the work, not only as physicians of the body, but of the sin-sick soul, as spiritual fathers to the young and inexperienced. 1T 554.2

I was shown that the position of Dr. E in regard to amusements was wrong, and that his views of physical exercise were not all correct. The amusements which he recommends hinder the recovery of health in many cases to one that is helped by them. He has to a great degree condemned physical labor for the sick, and his teaching in many cases has proved a great injury to them. Such mental exercise as playing cards, chess, and checkers excites and wearies the brain and hinders recovery, while light and pleasant physical labor will occupy the time, improve the circulation, relieve and restore the brain, and prove a decided benefit to the health. But take from the invalid all such employment, and he becomes restless, and, with a diseased imagination, views his case as much worse than it really is, which tends to imbecility. 1T 554.3

For years I have from time to time been shown that the sick should be taught that it is wrong to suspend all physical labor in order to regain health. In thus doing the will becomes dormant, the blood moves sluggishly through the system and constantly grows more impure. Where the patient is in danger of imagining his case worse than it really is, indolence will be sure to produce the most unhappy results. Well-regulated labor gives the invalid the idea that he is not totally useless in the world, that he is, at least, of some benefit. This will afford him satisfaction, give him courage, and impart to him vigor, which vain mental amusements can never do. 1T 555.1

The view that those who have abused both their physical and mental powers, or who have broken down in either mind or body, must suspend activity in order to regain health, is a great error. In a very few cases entire rest for a short period may be necessary, but these instances are very rare. In most cases the change would be too great. Those who have broken down by intense mental labor should have rest from wearing thought, yet to teach them that it is wrong and even dangerous for them to exercise their mental powers to a degree leads them to view their condition as worse than it really is. They become still more nervous and are a great trouble and annoyance to those who have the care of them. In this state of mind their recovery is doubtful indeed. 1T 555.2

Those who have broken down by physical exertion must have less labor, and that which is light and pleasant. But to shut them away from all labor and exercise would in many cases prove their ruin. The will goes with the labor of their hands, and those accustomed to labor would feel that they were only machines to be acted upon by physicians and attendants, and the imagination would become diseased. Inactivity is the greatest curse that could come upon such. Their powers become so dormant that it is impossible for them to resist disease and languor, as they must do in order to regain health. 1T 556.1

Dr. E has made a great mistake in regard to exercise and amusements, and a still greater in his teaching concerning religious experience and religious excitement. The religion of the Bible is not detrimental to the health of body or mind. The exalting influence of the Spirit of God is the best restorative for the sick. Heaven is all health, and the more fully the heavenly influences are felt the more sure the recovery of the believing invalid. The influence of such views as are advanced by Dr. E has reached us as a people in some degree. Sabbathkeeping health reformers must be free from all these. Every true and real reform will bring us nearer to God and heaven, closer to the side of Jesus, and increase our knowledge of spiritual things and deepen in us the holiness of Christian experience. 1T 556.2

It is true that there are unbalanced minds that impose upon themselves fasting which the Scriptures do not teach, and prayers and privation of rest and sleep which God has never required. Such are not prospered and sustained in their voluntary acts of righteousness. They have a pharisaical religion which is not of Christ, but of themselves. They trust in their good works for salvation, vainly hoping to earn heaven by their meritorious works instead of relying, as every sinner should, upon the merits of a crucified, risen, and exalted Saviour. These are almost sure to become sickly. But Christ and true godliness are health to the body and strength to the soul. 1T 556.3

Let invalids do something instead of occupying their minds with a simple play, which lowers them in their own estimation and leads them to think their lives useless. Keep the power of the will awake, for the will aroused and rightly directed is a potent soother of the nerves. Invalids are far happier to be employed, and their recovery is more easily effected. 1T 557.1

I saw that the greatest curse that ever came upon my husband and Sister F was the instructions they received at —— in regard to remaining inactive in order to recover. The imagination of both was diseased, and their inactivity resulted in the thought and feeling that it would be dangerous to health and life to exercise, especially if in doing so they became weary. The machinery of the system, so seldom put in motion, lost its elasticity and strength, so that when they did exercise, their joints were stiff and their muscles feeble, and every move required great effort and of course caused pain. Yet this very weariness would have proved a blessing to them had they, irrespective of feeling or unpleasant symptoms, perseveringly resisted their inclinations to inactivity. 1T 557.2

I saw that it would be far better for Sister F to be with her family by herself and feel the responsibilities resting upon her. This would awaken into life her dormant energies. I was shown that the broken-up condition of this dear family while at —— was unfavorable to the education and training of their children. For their own good these children should be learning to take responsibilities in household labor and should feel that some burdens in life rest upon them. The mother, engaged in the education and training of her children, is employed in the very work which God has assigned to her and for the sake of which He has in mercy heard the prayers offered for her recovery. While she should shun wearing labor, she should above all avoid a life of inactivity. 1T 557.3

When the vision was given me at Rochester, New York, I saw that it would be far better for these parents and children to form a family by themselves. The children should each do a part of the family labor and thus obtain a valuable education which could not be obtained in any other way. Life at —— or in any other place, surrounded by waiters and helpers, is the greatest possible injury to mothers and children. Jesus invites Sister F to find rest in Him and to let her mind receive a healthy tone by dwelling upon heavenly things and earnestly seeking to bring up her little flock in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. In this way she can best assist her husband by relieving him of the feeling that she must be the object of so much of his attention, care, and sympathy. 1T 558.1

As to the extent of the accommodations of the Health Institute at Battle Creek, I was shown, as I have before stated, that we should have such an institution, small at its commencement, and cautiously increased, as good physicians and helpers could be procured and means raised, and as the wants of invalids should demand; and all should be conducted in strict accordance with the principles and humble spirit of the third angel's message. And as I have seen the large calculations hastily urged by those who have taken a leading part in the work, I have felt alarmed, and in many private conversations and in letters I have warned these brethren to move cautiously. My reasons for this are that without the special blessing of God there are several ways in which this enterprise might be hindered, for a time at least, any one of which would be detrimental to the institution and an injury to the cause. Should the physicians fail, through sickness, death, or any other cause, to fill their places, the work would be hindered till others were raised up; or should means fail to come in when extensive buildings were in process of erection, and the work stop, capital would be sunk, and a general discouragement would come over all interested; also there might be a lack of patients to occupy present accommodations, consequently a lack of means to meet present expenses. With all the efforts in every department put forth in a correct and judicious manner, and with the blessing of God, the institution will prove a glorious success, while a single failure in any one direction might sooner or later prove a great injury. It should not be forgotten that out of many hygienic institutions started in the United States within the last twenty-five years but few maintain even a visible existence at the present time. 1T 558.2

I have publicly appealed to our brethren in behalf of an institution to be established among us, and have spoken in the highest terms of Dr. F as the man who has in the providence of God obtained an experience to act a part as physician. This I have said upon the authority of what God has shown me. If necessary, I would unhesitatingly repeat all that I have said. I have no desire to withdraw one sentence that I have written or spoken. The work is of God and must be prosecuted with a firm yet cautious hand. 1T 559.1

The health reform is closely connected with the work of the third message, yet it is not the message. Our preachers should teach the health reform, yet they should not make this the leading theme in the place of the message. Its place is among those subjects which set forth the preparatory work to meet the events brought to view by the message; among these it is prominent. We should take hold of every reform with zeal, yet should avoid giving the impression that we are vacillating and subject to fanaticism. Our people should furnish means to meet the wants of a growing Health Institute among us, as they are able to do without giving less for the other wants of the cause. Let the health reform and the Health Institute grow up among us as other worthy enterprises have grown, taking into the account our feeble strength in the past and our greater ability to do much in a short period of time now. Let the Health Institute grow, as other interests among us have grown, as fast as it can safely and not cripple other branches of the great work which are of equal or greater importance at this time. For a brother to put a large share of his property, whether he has much or little into the Institute, so as to be unable to do as much in other directions as he otherwise should, would be wrong. And for him to do nothing would be as great a wrong. With every stirring appeal to our people for means to put into the Institute there should have been a caution not to rob other branches of the work; especially should the liberal poor have been cautioned. Some feeble poor men with families, without a home of their own, and too poor to go to the Institute to be treated, have put from one fifth to one third of all they possess into the Institute. This is wrong. Some brethren and sisters have several shares when they should not have one, and should for a short time attend the Institute, having their expenses paid, wholly or in part, from the charity fund. I do not see the wisdom of making great calculations for the future and letting those suffer who need help now. Move no faster, brethren, than the unmistakable providence of God opens the way before you. 1T 559.2

The health reform is a branch of the special work of God for the benefit of His people. I saw that in an institution established among us the greatest danger would be of its managers’ departing from the spirit of the present truth and from that simplicity which should ever characterize the disciples of Christ. A warning was given me against lowering the standard of truth in any way in such an institution in order to help the feelings of unbelievers and thus secure their patronage. The great object of receiving unbelievers into the institution is to lead them to embrace the truth. If the standard be lowered, they will get the impression that the truth is of little importance, and they will go away in a state of mind harder of access than before. 1T 560.1

But the greatest evil resulting from such a course would be its influence upon the poor, afflicted, believing patients, which would affect the cause generally. They have been taught to trust in the prayer of faith, and many of them are bowed down in spirit because prayer is not now more fully answered. I saw that the reason why God did not hear the prayers of His servants for the sick among us more fully was that He could not be glorified in so doing while they were violating the laws of health. And I also saw that He designed the health reform and Health Institute to prepare the way for the prayer of faith to be fully answered. Faith and good works should go hand in hand in relieving the afflicted among us, and in fitting them to glorify God here and to be saved at the coming of Christ. God forbid that these afflicted ones should ever be disappointed and grieved in finding the managers of the Institute working only from a worldly standpoint instead of adding to the hygienic practice the blessings and virtues of nursing fathers and mothers in Israel. 1T 560.2

Let no one obtain the idea that the Institute is the place for them to come to be raised up by the prayer of faith. That is the place to find relief from disease by treatment and right habits of living, and to learn how to avoid sickness. But if there is one place under the heavens more than another where soothing, sympathizing prayer should be offered by men and women of devotion and faith it is at such an institute. Those who treat the sick should move forward in their important work with strong reliance upon God for His blessing to attend the means which He has graciously provided, and to which He has in mercy called our attention as a people, such as pure air, cleanliness, healthful diet, proper periods of labor and repose, and the use of water. They should have no selfish interest outside of this important and solemn work. To care properly for the physical and spiritual interests of the afflicted people of God who have reposed almost unlimited confidence in them and have at great expense placed themselves under their care will require their undivided attention. No one has so great a mind, or is so skillful, but that the work will be imperfect after he has done his very best. 1T 561.1

Let those to whom are committed the physical and also to a great extent the spiritual interests of the afflicted people of God, beware how they, through worldly policy or personal interest or a desire to be engaged in a great and popular work, call down upon themselves and this branch of the cause the frown of God. They should not depend upon their skill alone. If the blessing, instead of the frown, of God be upon the institution, angels will attend patients, helpers, and physicians to assist in the work of restoration, so that in the end the glory will be given to God and not to feeble, shortsighted man. Should these men work from a worldly policy, and should their hearts be lifted up and they feel to say, “My power, and the might of my hand hath done this,” God would leave them to work under the great disadvantages of their inferiority to other institutions in knowledge, experience, and facilities. They could not then accomplish half as much as other institutions do. 1T 562.1

I saw the beneficial influence of outdoor labor upon those of feeble vitality and depressed circulation, especially upon women who have induced these conditions by too much confinement indoors. Their blood has become impure for want of fresh air and exercise. Instead of amusements to keep these persons indoors, care should be taken to provide outdoor attractions. I saw there should be connected with the Institute ample grounds, beautified with flowers and planted with vegetables and fruits. Here the feeble could find work, appropriate to their sex and condition, at suitable hours. These grounds should be under the care of an experienced gardener to direct all in a tasteful, orderly manner. 1T 562.2

The relation which I sustain to this work demands of me an unfettered expression of my views. I speak freely and choose this medium to speak to all interested. What appeared in Testimony No. 11 concerning the Health Institute should not have been given until I was able to write out all I had seen in regard to it. I intended to say nothing upon the subject in No. 11, and sent all the manuscript that I designed for that Testimony from Ottawa County, where I was then laboring, to the office at Battle Creek, stating that I wished them to hasten out that little work, as it was much needed, and as soon as possible I would write No. 12, in which I designed to speak freely and fully concerning the Institute. The brethren at Battle Creek who were especially interested in the Institute knew I had seen that our people should contribute of their means to establish such an institution. They therefore wrote to me that the influence of my testimony in regard to the Institute was needed immediately to move the brethren upon the subject, and that the publication of No. 11 would be delayed till I could write. 1T 562.3

This was a great trial to me, as I knew I could not write out all I had seen, for I was then speaking to the people six or eight times a week, visiting from house to house, and writing hundreds of pages of personal testimonies and private letters. This amount of labor, with unnecessary burdens and trials thrown upon me, unfitted me for labor of any kind. My health was poor, and my mental sufferings were beyond description. Under these circumstances I yielded my judgment to that of others and wrote what appeared in No. 11 in regard to the Health Institute, being unable then to give all I had seen. In this I did wrong. I must be allowed to know my own duty better than others can know it for me, especially concerning matters which God has revealed to me. I shall be blamed by some for speaking as I now speak. Others will blame me for not speaking before. The disposition manifested to crowd the matter of the Institute so fast has been one of the heaviest trials I have ever borne. If all who have used my testimony to move the brethren had been equally moved by it themselves, I should be better satisfied. Should I delay longer to speak my views and feelings, I should be blamed the more both by those who think I should have spoken sooner and by those also who may think I should not give any cautions. For the good of those at the head of the work, for the good of the cause and the brethren, and to save myself great trials, I have freely spoken. 1T 563.1