Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 16 (1901)

382/447

Ms 132, 1901

Extracts from Testimonies on Daniel 1

NP

1901

Portions of this manuscript are published in CG 166-167; BTS 11/1912; 4MR 123.

In order rightly to understand the subject of temperance, we must consider it from a Bible standpoint; and nowhere can 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 Hebrew associates in the court of Babylon. 16LtMs, Ms 132, 1901, par. 1

It was not their own pride or ambition that had brought these young men into the king’s court—into a companionship of those who neither knew nor feared the true God. They were captives in a strange land, and Infinite Wisdom had placed them there. 16LtMs, Ms 132, 1901, par. 2

When these youth were selected to be educated in the “learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans,” that they might “stand in the king’s palace,” there was appointed them a daily allowance from the king’s table, both of food and wine. “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.” [Verses 4, 5, 8.] Daniel’s companions, also, resolutely denied selfish desires, and put away hurtful gratifications. 16LtMs, Ms 132, 1901, par. 3

At this trial of their loyalty, they considered their position, with its dangers and difficulties, 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. This purpose was not formed without due reflection and earnest prayer. When Daniel was required to partake of the luxuries of the king’s table, he did not fly into a passion, neither did he express a determination to eat and drink as he pleased. Without speaking one word of defiance, he took the matter to God. He and his companions sought wisdom from the Lord, and when they came forth from earnest prayer, their decision was made. There was much involved in this decision. They were regarded as slaves, but were particularly favored because of their apparent intelligence and comeliness of person. But they decided that any pretense, even to sit at the table of the king and eat of the food or accept of the wine, even if they did not drink it, would be a denial of their religious faith. There was no presumption with these youth, but a firm love for truth and righteousness. They did not choose to be singular, but they must be, else they would corrupt their ways in the courts of Babylon and be exposed to every kind of temptation in eating and drinking. The corrupting influences would remove their safeguard, and they would dishonor God and ruin their own characters. 16LtMs, Ms 132, 1901, par. 4

Daniel could have argued that at the royal table, and at the king’s command, there was no other course for him to pursue. But he and his fellows had a council together. They canvassed the entire subject as to how they would improve their physical and mental powers by the use of wine. They studied this subject most diligently. The wine of itself, they decided, was a snare. They were acquainted with the history, which had come to them in parchments, of Nadab and Abihu. In these men, the use of wine had encouraged their love for it. They drank wine before their sacred office in the sanctuary. Their senses were confused. They could not distinguish the difference between the sacred and the common fire. In their brain-benumbed state, they did that which the Lord had charged all who served in holy office not to do. They put the common fire upon the censers, when they had been expressly charged to use only the sacred fire of the Lord’s own kindling that never went out. 16LtMs, Ms 132, 1901, par. 5

Nadab and Abihu had not in their youth been trained to habits of self-control. The father’s yielding disposition, his lack of firmness for right, had led him to neglect the discipline of his children. His sons had been permitted to follow inclination. Habits of self-indulgence, long cherished, obtained a hold upon them which even the responsibility of the most sacred office had not power to break. They had not been taught to respect the authority of their father, and they did not realize the necessity of exact obedience to the requirements of God. Aaron’s mistaken indulgence of his sons prepared them to become subjects of the divine judgments. 16LtMs, Ms 132, 1901, par. 6

The instruction given to the people was carefully treasured up and often composed into song and taught to their children, that through song they might become familiar with the truths. Daniel and his companions had been educated in regard to Nadab and Abihu, and also Abel, Seth, Enoch, and Noah. They cherished the truth that had been given them from human lips, passing down the line from one generation to another. The image of God was engraved upon the heart. 16LtMs, Ms 132, 1901, par. 7

A second consideration of those youthful captives was that the king always asked a blessing before his meals, and addressed his idols as deity. He set apart a portion of his food to be presented to the idol god whom he worshiped, and also a portion of the wine. This act, according to their religious instruction, consecrated the whole to the heathen god. To sit at the table where such idolatry was practiced, Daniel and his three brethren deemed would be a dishonor to the God of heaven. These four children decided that they could not sit at the king’s table, to eat of the food placed there, or to partake of the wine, all of which had been dedicated to an idol god. This would indeed implicate them with heathenism and dishonor the principles of their national religion and their God. 16LtMs, Ms 132, 1901, par. 8

With true courage and Christian courtesy, they requested the officer who had them in charge to give them a more simple fare; but he hesitated, fearing that such rigid abstinence as they proposed would affect their personal appearance unfavorably and bring him into disfavor with the king. The explanation Daniel gave was that the mind must not be clouded with these articles, which, if he should eat, would be difficult of digestion. Even in articles of healthful food there must be a restriction in the quantity taken. The food placed in the stomach Daniel had under his own control; therefore he could co-operate with God in keeping his stomach in a healthful condition by not benumbing his sensibilities by overeating or by the use of wine and fleshmeats, which are not healthful or necessary for physical strength. A proper regard for the articles of food eaten would keep a healthful current of blood flowing through his veins, and his mind and body would be in a condition for hard, stern labor; for mind and body would not be oppressed with a variety of fleshmeats. 16LtMs, Ms 132, 1901, par. 9

These youth urged most earnestly that the one who had charge of their food should not compel them to partake of the king’s luxuries, or drink of his wine. They begged him to try them ten days only, and then examine them, and decide by their physical appearance whether their abstemious diet would be to their advantage. Their request was granted, for they had obtained favor with God and with men. 16LtMs, Ms 132, 1901, par. 10

Why did Daniel and his companions refuse to eat at the king’s table? Why did they refuse his meats and wines? Because they had been taught that this class of food would not keep the mind or the physical structure in the very best condition of health to do God’s service. They sought to acquire knowledge for a purpose—to honor and glorify God. They must perfect a Christian character and have a clear intellect in order to stand as the representatives of the true religion amid the false religions of heathenism. To them the will of God was the supreme law of life. They practiced temperance in eating and drinking, that they might not enfeeble brain or muscle. The food appointed them would include meats pronounced unclean by the law of Moses. Those four Hebrew youth chose to have their mental powers clear and undimmed, and their physical health was to them a matter of the highest consideration. They would not imperil the physical and moral powers for the indulgence of appetite. They saw that perils were on every side and that, if they resisted temptation, they must make most decided efforts on their part and then trust the rest with God. 16LtMs, Ms 132, 1901, par. 11

When they came in for examination, the result was decidedly in their favor. These youth were found to be far more healthy in appearance than were those who had partaken of the king’s dainties. It was otherwise with the youth who had eaten of the luxuries of the king’s table and drank of his wine. The clear sparkle of the eye was gone; the ruddy, healthful glow had disappeared from the countenance. The four Hebrew captives were thereafter permitted to have the diet they had chosen. What effect did it have upon mind and character? They had conscientiously refused the stimulus of flesh and of wine. They obeyed God’s will in self-denial, and He showed His approval. He desired His servants to honor Him by their adherence to steadfast principle in all their habits of life. Their countenances would be a certificate of physical soundness and moral purity. 16LtMs, Ms 132, 1901, par. 12

Though surrounded by temptations to self-indulgence and dissipation, they would not consent to violate their consciences. They made God their strength, their minds were not enervated by habits of indulgence which crush out true, godlike manhood, and they were prepared to attain both moral and intellectual greatness. As a result, their minds became strong and vigorous. They chose the real, the true, and the useful, rather than the momentary indulgence of appetite and pride. They did all in their power to place themselves in right relation to God, and the Lord was not unmindful of their firm, persevering, earnest effort. 16LtMs, Ms 132, 1901, par. 13

These youth had the Lord as their educator. The golden links of the chain of heaven connected the finite with the Infinite. They were partakers of the divine nature. They were very careful to keep themselves in touch with God. They prayed and studied and brought into their practical life strictly conscientious, humble minds. They walked with God as did Enoch. The Word of the Lord was their meat and their drink. These youth were sincere, faithful Christians. True education must be all-sided, not one-sided. Such an education Daniel and his fellows were determined to have. 16LtMs, Ms 132, 1901, par. 14

The Lord can impress the mind, if it is in a healthful condition. Then the human agent and God are in co-partnership. The created human agent and the Creator are working to make man in every sense complete in Jesus Christ. There is no war instituted by the human agent against the law of his being. Daniel purposed in his abstemious habits of nonuse of meats to glorify God. The blessing of the Lord attended the youth who would, through love and fear of God, discard everything they deemed detrimental to their advancement in their physical, mental, and moral perfection. Under God they were in perfect training, that all their faculties might do highest service for him. 16LtMs, Ms 132, 1901, par. 15

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 were not actuated by pride or unworthy ambition, but sought to acquit themselves creditably for the honor of their down-trodden people and for His glory whose servants they were. 16LtMs, Ms 132, 1901, par. 16

While these youth on their part were working out their own salvation with fear and trembling, it was God who was working in them both to will and to do His own good pleasure. The conditions of the reward for our own good are as if everything depended upon ourselves. To make God’s grace our own, we must act our part. There is a work that is laid before us to do, and this work must be done with fidelity, and the fruit we bear will manifest before God, before angels, and before men the character of our work. The penny was given to the laborer in the vineyard, but not to the loiterer in the market place. Those who in this life want to become all that God designs that they should, will ever be learners. This knowledge will not generally come in a supernatural manner, although this is not impossible. There are stores of information to be obtained by painstaking effort. Thus it was with Daniel. He kept close to God, and while he applied himself closely and earnestly to acquire all the knowledge possible, God added his blessing. 16LtMs, Ms 132, 1901, par. 17

The Scriptures declare of Daniel and his fellows, “As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.” [Daniel 1:17.] These youth had placed themselves in connection with the Source of all wisdom. They learned of Christ, the world’s greatest teacher. While improving their opportunities to obtain a knowledge of the sciences, they were obtaining also the highest education which it is possible for mortals to receive. They received light directly from the throne of Heaven, and read the mysteries of God for future ages. 16LtMs, Ms 132, 1901, par. 18

When the ability and acquirements of these youth were tested by the king at the end of the three years of training, none was 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. Therefore they stood before the king. “And in all matters of understanding that the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.” [Verse 20.] 16LtMs, Ms 132, 1901, par. 19

These youth determined that the talents entrusted to them of God should not be perverted and enfeebled by selfish indulgence. They reverenced their own manhood. They kept their eyes fixed steadfastly on the good which they wished to accomplish. They honored God, and God honored them. God always honors the right. The most promising youth from all the lands 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] elastic step, the fair countenance, 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. 16LtMs, Ms 132, 1901, par. 20

The history of Daniel and his companions contains a lesson for us. Inspiration declares that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” [Psalm 111:10.] Religious principle lies at the foundation of the highest education. If our youth are but balanced by principle, they may with safety improve the mental powers to the very highest extent, and may take all their attainments with them into the future life. But temptations assail the young on every hand. Fathers and mothers should give thought and study and persevering effort to the training of their children, that they may stand unsullied by the prevailing evil, as did those Hebrew youth in the court of Babylon. 16LtMs, Ms 132, 1901, par. 21

We would that there were strong young men, rooted and grounded in the faith, who had such a living connection with God that they could, if so counseled by our leading brethren, enter the higher colleges in our land, where they would have a wider field for study and observation. Such was the method pursued by the ancient Waldenses; and if true to God, our youth, like theirs, might do a good work even while gaining their education, in sowing the seeds of truth in other minds. 16LtMs, Ms 132, 1901, par. 22

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. 16LtMs, Ms 132, 1901, par. 23

Daniel and his companions enjoyed the benefits of correct training and education in early life, but these advantages alone would not have made them what they were. The time came when they must act for themselves—when their future depended upon their own course. Then they decided to be true to the lessons given them in childhood. The fear of God, which is the beginning of wisdom, was the foundation of their greatness. His Spirit strengthened every true purpose, every noble resolution. 16LtMs, Ms 132, 1901, par. 24

The lesson here presented is one which we would do well to ponder. Our danger is not from scarcity, but from abundance. We are constantly tempted to excess. Those who would preserve their powers unimpaired for the service of God must observe strict temperance in the use of His bounties, as well as total abstinence from every injurious or debasing indulgence. 16LtMs, Ms 132, 1901, par. 25

The rising generation is surrounded with allurements calculated to tempt the appetite. Especially in our large cities, every form of indulgence is made easy and inviting. Those who, like Daniel, refuse to defile themselves, will reap the reward of their temperate habits. With their greater physical stamina and increased power of endurance, they have a bank of deposit upon which to draw in case of emergency. 16LtMs, Ms 132, 1901, par. 26

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 youthful Hebrews stand firm amid great temptations and bear a noble testimony in favor of true temperance? The youth of today may bear a similar testimony. 16LtMs, Ms 132, 1901, par. 27

We who are living in this age have greater light and privileges than were given to Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and other ancient worthies, and we are under correspondingly greater obligation to let our light shine to the world. The Lord would have us learn a lesson from the experience of Daniel. There are many who might become mighty men, if, like this faithful Hebrew, they would depend upon God for grace to be overcomers and for strength and efficiency in their labors. 16LtMs, Ms 132, 1901, par. 28