Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene


Chapter 2—Our Reasonable Service

“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.” [Romans 12:1, 2.] CTBH 15.1

In the ancient Jewish service it was required that every sacrifice should be without blemish. In the text we are told to present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is our reasonable service. We are God's workmanship. The psalmist, meditating upon the marvelous work of God in the human frame, exclaimed, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” [Psalm 139:14.] There are many who are educated in the sciences, and are familiar with the theory of the truth, who do not understand the laws that govern their own being. God has given us faculties and talents; and it is our duty, as his sons and daughters, to make the best use of them. If we weaken these powers of mind or body by wrong habits or indulgence of perverted appetite, it will be impossible for us to honor God as we should. CTBH 15.2

We can understand the value of the human soul only as we realize the greatness of the sacrifice made for its redemption. The word of God declares that we are not our own, that we are bought with a price. It is at an immense cost that we have been placed upon vantage ground, where we can find liberty from the bondage of sin wrought by the fall in Eden. Adam's sin plunged the race into hopeless misery; but by the sacrifice of the Son of God, a second probation was granted to man. In the plan of redemption a way of escape is provided for all who will avail themselves of it. God knew that it was impossible for man to overcome in his own strength, and he has provided help for him. How thankful we should be that a way is open for us, by which we can have access to the Father; that the gates are left ajar, so that beams of light from the glory within may shine upon those who will receive them! CTBH 15.3

Christ began the work of redemption just where the ruin began. His first test was on the same point where Adam failed. It was through temptations addressed to the appetite that Satan had overcome a large proportion of the human race, and his success had made him feel that the control of this fallen planet was in his hands. But in Christ he found one who was able to resist him, and he left the field of battle a conquered foe. Jesus says, He “hath nothing in me.” [John 14:30.] His victory is an assurance that we too may come off victors in our conflicts with the enemy. But it is not our heavenly Father's purpose to save us without an effort on our part to co-operate with Christ. We must act our part, and divine power, uniting with our effort, will bring victory. CTBH 16.1

We meet intemperance everywhere. We see it on the cars, the steamboats, and wherever we go; and we should ask ourselves what we are doing to rescue souls from the tempter's grasp. Satan is constantly on the alert to bring the race fully under his control. His strongest hold on man is through the appetite, and this he seeks to stimulate in every possible way. All unnatural excitants are harmful, and they cultivate the desire for liquor. How can we enlighten the people, and prevent the terrible evils that result from the use of these things? Have we done all that we can do in this direction? CTBH 16.2

Some will say that it is impossible to reclaim the drunkard, that efforts in this direction have failed again and again. But although we cannot reclaim all who have gone so far, we may do something to check the growth of the evil. I appeal to you, parents, to begin with your children, and give them a right education. Seek to bring them up so that they shall have moral stamina to resist the evil that surrounds them. The lesson of self-control must begin with the child in its mother's arms. It must learn to restrain passionate temper, to bring its will into subjection, and to deny unhealthful cravings. CTBH 16.3

Teach your children to abhor stimulants. How many are ignorantly fostering in them an appetite for these things! In Europe I have seen nurses putting the glass of wine or beer to the lips of the innocent little ones, thus cultivating in them a taste for stimulants. As they grow older, they learn to depend more and more on these things, till little by little they are overcome, drift beyond the reach of help, and at last fill a drunkard's grave. CTBH 17.1

But it is not thus alone that the appetite is perverted and made a snare. The food is often such as to excite a desire for stimulating drinks. Luxurious dishes are placed before the children,—spiced foods, rich gravies, cakes, and pastries. This highly seasoned food irritates the stomach, and causes a craving for still stronger stimulants. Not only is the appetite tempted with unsuitable food, of which the children are allowed to eat freely at their meals, but they are permitted to eat between meals, and by the time they are twelve or fourteen years of age they are often confirmed dyspeptics. CTBH 17.2

You have perhaps seen a picture of the stomach of one who is addicted to strong drink. A similar condition is produced under the irritating influence of fiery spices. With the stomach in such a state, there is a craving for something more to meet the demands of the appetite, something stronger, and still stronger. Next you find your sons out on the street learning to smoke. It is a grievous lesson; it makes them deathly sick. Yet they press the matter through with a perseverance that would be praiseworthy in a better cause. Tobacco weakens the brain, and paralyzes its fine sensibilities. Its use excites a thirst for strong drink, and in very many cases lays the foundation for the liquor habit. CTBH 17.3

The use of tobacco is an inconvenient, expensive, uncleanly habit. The teachings of Christ, pointing to purity, self-denial, and temperance, all rebuke this defiling practice. When we think of the long fast that Jesus endured in the wilderness of temptation in order to break the power of appetite over man, we marvel that those who profess to be his followers can indulge in this habit. Is it for the glory of God for men to enfeeble the physical powers, confuse the brain, and yield the will to this narcotic poison? What right have they to mar the image of God? What says the apostle?—“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.” CTBH 17.4

A great responsibility rests upon us. We cannot render to God true service unless we present our bodies a living sacrifice. No one can be justified in marring this wonderfully intricate human organism. If we do this, not only do we suffer ourselves, but the evil is transmitted to our children. Can we wonder that the children who have such a legacy do not fear God? How often do we see boys not more than eight years old using tobacco! If you speak to them about it, they say, “My father uses it, and if it does him good, it will me.” They point to the minister or the Sunday-school superintendent, and say, “If such good men as they use it, surely I can.” How can we expect anything else of the children, with their inherited tendencies, while the older ones set them such an example? God pity the poor slave to these indulgences! CTBH 18.1

Both tobacco and liquor break down nerve force, and dull the finer perceptions, so that the slaves to these habits cannot discern between sacred and common things. An example of the demoralizing effect of intoxicants is seen in the case of Nadab and Abihu. They ventured to partake of wine before they entered the tabernacle to perform the duties of their sacred office, and the result was, they could not distinguish between common fire and that which was consecrated to the holy service. For this breach of trust they were slain. Some will say, “If they were intoxicated, and could not discern the difference between these fires, why should they be punished?” When they placed the cup to their lips, they made themselves responsible for all their deeds committed while under its influence. CTBH 18.2

How is it with our law makers, and the men in our courts of justice? If it was necessary that those who ministered in holy office should have clear minds and full control of their reason, is it not also important that those who make and execute the laws of our great nation should have their faculties unclouded? What about the judges and jurors, in whose hands rests the disposing of human life, and whose decisions may condemn the innocent, or turn the criminal loose upon society? Do they not need to have full control of their mental powers? Are they temperate in their habits? If not, they are not fit for such responsible positions. When the appetites are perverted, the mental powers are weakened, and there is danger that men will not rule justly. Is indulgence in that which beclouds the mind less dangerous today than when God placed restrictions upon those who ministered in holy office? CTBH 19.1

Christ fought the battle upon the point of appetite, and came off victorious; and we also can conquer through strength derived from him. Who will enter in through the gates into the city?—Not those who declare that they cannot break the force of appetite. Christ has resisted the power of him who would hold us in bondage; though weakened by his long fast of forty days, he withstood temptation, and proved by this act that our cases are not hopeless. I know that we cannot obtain the victory alone; and how thankful we should be that we have a living Saviour, who is ready and willing to aid us! CTBH 19.2

I recall the case of a man in a congregation that I was once addressing. He was almost wrecked in body and mind by the use of liquor and tobacco. He was bowed down from the effects of dissipation; and his dress was in keeping with his shattered condition. To all appearance he had gone too far to be reclaimed. But as I appealed to him to resist temptation in the strength of a risen Saviour, he rose tremblingly, and said, “You have an interest for me, and I will have an interest for myself.” Six months afterward he came to my house. I did not recognize him. With a countenance beaming with joy, and eyes overflowing with tears, he grasped my hand, and said, “You do not know me, but you remember the man in an old blue coat who rose in your congregation, and said that he would try to reform?” I was astonished. He stood erect, and looked ten years younger. He had gone home from that meeting, and passed the long hours in prayer and struggle till the sun arose. It was a night of conflict, but, thank God, he came off a victor. This man could tell by sad experience of the bondage of these evil habits. He knew how to warn the youth of the dangers of contamination; and those who, like himself, had been overcome, he could point to Christ as the only source of help. CTBH 19.3

In my travels I have witnessed scenes of feasting and revelry; and as I have marked the effects of unrestrained indulgence, as I have listened to the blasphemous mirth, and seen the indifference and even contempt for all things sacred, I have thought of the sacrilegious feast of Belshazzar, to which were invited a thousand of his lords, his princes, his wives, and his concubines,—that feast where wine was freely drunk from the sacred vessels of the temple of God, while the revelers sang the praises of their gods of silver and gold. They knew not that an unseen Watcher heard every word of blasphemy, beheld every impious action. CTBH 20.1

In the midst of the revelry, Belshazzar saw the bloodless hand of an uninvited guest tracing upon the wall of the palace words that gleamed like fire,—words which, though unknown to that vast throng, were a portent of doom to the new conscience-stricken revelers. The boisterous mirth was hushed, and they shook with a nameless terror as their eyes fastened upon the wall. Where but a few moments before had been hilarity and blasphemous witticism, were pallid faces and cries of fear. A wild cry from the frantic king rang out in the assembly, calling for some one to come and read the writing. The wise men were called in, but those mystic characters were as strange to them as to the others. CTBH 20.2

Then the queen-mother remembered Daniel, who, so many years before, had made known to king Nebuchadnezzar his forgotten dream and its interpretation. Standing before that gorgeous, terror-stricken throng, the prophet of God reminded the king of Nebuchadnezzar's sin and fall, and reproved him for his own crimes. Then turning to the writing on the wall, he read the message from Heaven. The hand was gone, but four terrible words were left. With bated breath the people waited as Daniel announced their meaning: “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin:” “God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it;” “thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting;” “thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.” [Daniel 5:25-28.] CTBH 21.1

Just as surely as there was a Witness at the feast of Belshazzar, there is also a Witness in every scene of sacrilegious mirth, and just as surely is the recording angel writing, “Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.” CTBH 21.2

Intemperance is on the increase, in spite of the efforts made to control it. We cannot be too earnest in seeking to hinder its progress, to raise the fallen, and shield the weak from temptation. With our feeble human hands we can do but little, but we have an unfailing Helper. We must not forget that the arm of Christ can reach to the very depths of human woe and degradation. He can give us help to conquer even this terrible demon of intemperance. CTBH 21.3

But it is in the home that the real work must begin. The greatest burden rests upon those who have the responsibility of educating the youth, of forming their character. Here is a work for mothers, in helping their children to form correct habits and pure tastes, to develop moral stamina, true moral worth. Teach them that they are not to be swayed by others, that they are not to yield to wrong influences, but to influence others for good, to ennoble and elevate those with whom they associate. Teach them that if they connect themselves with God, they will have strength from him to resist the fiercest temptations. CTBH 21.4

In the Babylonian court, Daniel was surrounded by allurements to sin, but by the help of Christ he maintained his integrity. He who cannot resist temptation, with every facility which has been placed within his reach, is not registered in the books of heaven as a man. The Lord never places men in positions so trying that it is beyond their power to withstand evil. Divine power is ever ready to protect and strengthen him who has been made a partaker of the divine nature. CTBH 22.1

Temptations to the indulgence of appetite possess a power which can be overcome only by the help that God can impart. But with every temptation we have the promise of God that there shall be a way of escape. Why, then, are so many overcome? It is because they do not put their trust in God. They do not avail themselves of the means provided for their safety. The excuses offered for the gratification of perverted appetite, are therefore of no weight with God. CTBH 22.2

Daniel valued his human capabilities, but he did not trust in them. His trust was in that strength which God has promised to all who will come to him in humble dependence, relying wholly upon his power. CTBH 22.3

He 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; for he knew that such a diet would not strengthen his physical powers or increase his mental capability. He would not use wine, nor any other unnatural stimulant; he would do nothing to becloud his mind; and God gave him “knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom,” and also “understanding in all visions and dreams.” [Daniel 1:17.] CTBH 22.4

In later years the cares of state were heavy upon him, he was taxed to the utmost of his capacity; but he grew strong in the conflict with difficulties. He held fast by the hand of Infinite Strength, and would not be overcome. He knew that in order to do his work well, he must have help from God. He realized that amid his trials and persecutions he could not walk apart from God one hour. He prayed three times a day, and God answered his prayers. Daniel's purpose was known to the heavenly Watcher, and as Daniel placed himself on the side of God, to keep his ways, the Lord placed himself on Daniel's side, to keep him. CTBH 23.1

Daniel's parents had trained him in his childhood to habits of strict temperance. They had taught him that he must conform to nature's laws in all his habits; that his eating and drinking had a direct influence upon his physical, mental, and moral nature, and that he was accountable to God for his capabilities; for he held them all as a gift from God, and must not, by any course of action, dwarf or cripple them. As the result of this teaching, the law of God was exalted in his mind, and reverenced in his heart. During the early years of his captivity, Daniel was passing through an ordeal which was to familiarize him with courtly grandeur, with hypocrisy, and with paganism. A strange school indeed to fit him for a life of sobriety, industry, and faithfulness! And yet he lived uncorrupted by the atmosphere of evil with which he was surrounded. CTBH 23.2

The experience of Daniel and his youthful companions illustrates the benefits that may result from an abstemious diet, and shows what God will do for those who will cooperate with him in the purifying and uplifting of the soul. They were an honor to God, and a bright and shining light in the court of Babylon. CTBH 23.3

In this history we hear the voice of God addressing us individually, bidding us gather up all the precious rays of light upon this subject of Christian temperance, and place ourselves in right relation to the laws of health. CTBH 23.4

We want a share in the eternal inheritance. We want a place in the city of God, free from every impurity. All heaven is watching to see how we are fighting the battle against temptation. Let all who profess the name of Christ so walk before the world that they may teach by example as well as precept the principles of true living. “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.” CTBH 24.1