The Review and Herald


November 9, 1886

Mental Inebriates


What shall our children read? is a serious question, and demands a serious answer. I am troubled to see in Sabbath-keeping families periodicals and newspapers containing continued stories that leave no impress of good upon the minds of the children and youth. I have watched those whose taste for fiction has been thus cultivated. They have had the privilege of listening to the truth, of becoming acquainted with the reasons of our faith; but they have grown to maturer years destitute of true piety and practical godliness. These dear youth need so much to put into their character-building the very best material—the love and fear of God and a knowledge of Christ. They should copy his example in denying self, in living to do good, and in obeying all God's commands. Christ says, “I have kept my Father's commandments.” RH November 9, 1886, par. 1

But many know little or nothing of the reasons of our faith, and have little of an intelligent knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus. The mind is feasted upon sensational stories, and the brain is excited just according to the food given it. They live in an unreal world, and are unfitted for the practical duties of life. I have observed children allowed to come up in this way. Whether at home or abroad, they are restless or dreamy, and are unable to converse save upon the most commonplace subjects. Religious thought and conversation is a channel quite foreign to their minds. I have felt sincere pity for these souls when I have considered how much they were losing by neglecting opportunities for knowledge of the religion of Jesus Christ, in whom our hopes of eternal life are centered. How much precious time is wasted in which they might be studying the Pattern of true goodness and loveliness of character! They might become like Jesus, pure and undefiled in a world of fierce temptation, reflecting the rays of light from the character of our blessed Example. Thus confessing Jesus to the world, they would reveal on whose side they stand. RH November 9, 1886, par. 2

But when an appetite for reading exciting, sensational stories is cultivated, and the habit of reading any and every thing that is to be had, is established, the moral taste is perverted, and the mind is unsatisfied unless fed upon this trashy, unwholesome food. I am pained to see young men and women thus ruining their usefulness in this life, and failing to obtain an experience that will prepare them for an eternal life in heavenly society. I can think of no more fit name for them than mental inebriates. Intemperate habits of reading have a similar effect upon the brain to intemperance in eating or drinking. RH November 9, 1886, par. 3

I am personally acquainted with some who have lost the healthful tone of the brain through wrong habits of reading; and they will go through life with a diseased imagination, magnifying every little grievance. Things which a sound, sensible mind would not notice, will become to them unendurable trials and insurmountable obstacles, and life will be to them a constant shadow. The nerves of the brain are constantly and unnecessarily taxed by this passion for reading. The nobler powers of the mind, adapted to higher pursuits and contemplation, are educated to be contented with commonplace, yes, worse than commonplace, things, and are thus abused, debased, and dwarfed. Those who indulge the habit of racing through an exciting story, are simply crippling their mental strength, and disqualifying their minds for vigorous thought and research. When the intellect is fed and stimulated upon this depraving food, the thoughts become impure and sensual. Youth and even those of mature age have been afflicted with paralysis from no other cause than excess in reading. The nerve power of the brain was kept constantly excited, until the delicate machinery became worn and refused to act, some of its fine mechanism gave way, and paralysis was the result. There are men and women now in the decline of life who have never recovered from the effect of intemperance in reading. The habit, formed in early years, grew with their growth, and strengthened with their strength. Determined efforts to overcome this sin of abusing the God-given power of intellect were partially successful; but many have never recovered the vigor of mind God bestowed upon them. RH November 9, 1886, par. 4

Others continue as they began. All desire to be practical Christians ends with the wish; for they cannot be truly Christ-like, and continue feeding mind and soul upon the class of literature they have chosen. Professedly obeying God and loving his word, they are crowding their minds with all kinds of sensational reading, until their moral powers are perverted, they become useless in the world, and God is dishonored. I have seen Sabbath-keeping young ladies fairly unhappy unless they had on hand some new novel or some paper with an exciting, fascinating story. During their leisure moments the mind craved stimulation, as the drunkard craves intoxicating drink. These youth manifested no devotion; no heavenly light reflected upon their associates to lead them to the Fount of knowledge. They had no deep religious experience. If this class of reading had not been constantly before them, there might have been some hope of their reforming; but they craved it constantly, and must have it. RH November 9, 1886, par. 5

Persons who indulge the habit of story-reading make no progress mentally or morally. The time so devoted is worse than wasted. The gospel seed that is sown in the heart remains unfruitful, or is choked by the weeds sown by such reading. Seed that does not spring up and bear fruit loses its power of germinating. The fig-tree which bore no fruit was doomed to be cut down, condemned as an encumbrance to the very soil it occupied. God requires healthy growth of every tree in the garden of the Lord. But story-reading dwarfs the intellect. Childhood and youth are the time to begin to store the mind, but not with the chips and dirt found in modern newspapers and sensational literature. The mind should be guarded carefully. Nothing should be allowed to enter that will harm or destroy its healthy vigor. But to prevent this, it should be preoccupied with good seed, which, springing to life, will bring forth fruit-bearing branches. If all kinds of seed are sown—good and bad indiscriminately—the mind's soil will be impoverished and demoralized by a wild and noxious growth. Weeds of every kind will flourish, and good seed attain no growth at all. A field left uncultivated speedily produces a rank growth of thistles and tangled vines, which exhaust the soil and are worthless to the owner. The ground is full of seeds blown and carried by the wind from every quarter; and if it is left uncultivated, they spring up to life spontaneously, choking every precious fruit-bearing plant that is struggling for existence. If the field were tilled and sown to grain, these valueless weeds would be extinguished, and could not flourish. RH November 9, 1886, par. 6

The similarity between an uncultivated field and an untrained mind is striking. Children and youth already have in their minds and hearts corrupt seed, ready to spring up and bear its perverting harvest; and the greatest care and watchfulness are needed in cultivating and storing the mind with precious seeds of Bible truth. The children should be educated to reject trashy, exciting tales, and turn to sensible reading that will train their minds to be interested in Bible story, history, and arguments. If their imagination becomes excited by feeding it upon highly-wrought fictitious stories, they will have no desire to search the Scriptures or obtain a knowledge of truth to impart to others. Truth is what our youth should read and study, not fiction—truth to be practiced every day, that truth which Christ prayed might sanctify his disciples. RH November 9, 1886, par. 7

When the mind is stored with Bible truth, its principles take deep root in the soul, and the preference and tastes become wedded to truth, and there is no desire for debasing, exciting literature, that enfeebles the moral powers, and wrecks the faculties God has bestowed for usefulness. Bible knowledge will prove an antidote for the poisonous insinuations received through unguarded reading. RH November 9, 1886, par. 8

Parents are asleep as to the importance of this subject. Instead of recommending your children to read “Robinson Crusoe” or fascinating stories even of real life, such as “Uncle Tom's Cabin,” open to them the Scriptures, and have hours of reading God's word and searching the Scriptures for evidences of his truth. Parents can choose, if they will, whether or not their children's minds shall be filled with pure and holy thoughts and sentiments; but their tastes must be disciplined and educated with the greatest care. They must commence early to unfold the Scriptures before the expanding minds of their children, that proper habits and tastes may be formed. The Bible would not be neglected as it is if parents would take the proper course in teaching it to their families. The elements of evil cannot be exterminated except by the introduction of food for pure, solid thought. RH November 9, 1886, par. 9

The Bible should be a book for study. The precious pearls of truth do not lie upon the surface, to be found by a careless, uninterested reader. Christ knew what was best for us, of whatever age, when he commanded us, “Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of me.” Jesus, the greatest teacher the world ever knew, would have men and women and children and youth reach the highest standard of excellence of character. He would have them become fully developed mentally, morally, and physically. RH November 9, 1886, par. 10

The holy Bible is neglected in many homes because so many other things are allowed to crowd it out. Center tables are covered with fictitious literature, newspapers, magazines, albums, and trinkets; and although the Book of books may be there also, its covers are seldom if ever opened by the younger members of the household, because of the ever-present temptation in the form of some alluring tale. Love for solid thought and reading is little cultivated by such literature. RH November 9, 1886, par. 11

Men who are under the power of the evil one, are inspired by him to write overwrought fictitious stories, with which our world is flooded. In this they are fulfilling Satan's own plan; for if left to itself, the mind naturally chooses such food, to the neglect of the important saving truths of God's word. Our youth and children, and even those of mature age, should firmly pledge themselves to abstain from indulgence in reading the fascinating novels and sensational literature of the day. They delude the imagination, and fill the mind with such an amount of trash that there is no room for storing the sacred utterances of the prophets and apostles, who wrote as they were moved upon by the Holy Spirit. RH November 9, 1886, par. 12

The Lord, in his great mercy, has revealed to us in the Scriptures his rules of holy living, his commandments, and his laws. He tells us therein the sins to shun; he explains to us the plan of salvation, and points out the way to heaven. If they obey his injunction to “search the Scriptures,” none need be ignorant of these things. The actual progress of the soul in virtue and divine knowledge, is by the plan of addition,—adding constantly the graces which Christ made an infinite sacrifice to bring within the reach of all. We are finite; but we are to have a sense of the infinite. The mind must be taxed contemplating God and his wonderful plan for our salvation. The soul will thus be lifted above commonplace things, and fastened upon things that are eternal. The thought that we are in God's world, and in the presence of the great Creator of the universe, who made man in his own image, after his own likeness, will lift the mind into broader, higher fields for meditation than any fictitious story. The thought that God's eye is watching us, that he loves us, and cared so much for fallen man as to give his dearly beloved Son to redeem us, that we might not miserably perish, is a great one; and whoever opens his heart to the acceptance and contemplation of these great themes, will never be satisfied with trivial, sensational subjects. RH November 9, 1886, par. 13

Light and truth are within the reach of all and those who have the knowledge of the truth are to be as light in darkness; but if they do not set their minds to searching God's word, Satan will find chaff to fill their minds, leaving no room for the growth of the precious seed of truth. Amid the perils of these latter days, every individual member of the church should understand the reasons of his hope and faith, which are not difficult of comprehension if the mind is only kept free from the perverting and paralyzing influence of modern romance and fiction. There is work for the brain to do if we would grow in grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Then let us labor most earnestly to impress and urge upon our children the necessity of understanding the reasons of our faith. We are surrounded with temptations so disguised that they allure while they taint and corrupt the soul. Satan varies his enticements to suit different minds; and he takes advantage of every circumstance to make his plans for a soul's destruction successful. RH November 9, 1886, par. 14

God inspired holy men to record for our benefit instruction concerning these dangers that beset our salvation, and how to escape them. The great needs of the soul will be felt upon becoming acquainted with God's word. The Bible declares that obedience to all God's commandments is essential to our salvation. It teaches us our duty to him, and his will concerning us. We are pointed to the cross of Calvary, and the voice of God says, Look in faith upon Him whom your sins have pierced, and live. Direct the eye of faith to the Lamb of God, and the sins that bruised the blessed body and broke the tender heart of God's dear Son will become hateful and abhorrent. The heart must realize its sins and repent of them. If there is faith in the pardoning blood of Jesus, who is full of compassion and divine love, gratitude and heavenly joy will fill the heart. Confidence in the power of Christ to save will steal into the soul, and thoughts of heavenly things will fill the mind. Jesus, precious Jesus, will become the chief among ten thousand, and the one altogether lovely. Have we individually opened the door of our hearts to welcome the blessed Redeemer? If we have, we shall find no satisfaction in feeding upon husks; for we feast with Christ, and he feasts with us. Nothing more is wanted for the soul's comfort or salvation. RH November 9, 1886, par. 15

I call upon the children and youth to empty their minds of foolish vanities, and make Jesus their everlasting friend. Be sure you have a well-grounded hope. Nothing short of this should satisfy the soul. Make no mistake, for we are working for eternal results. It is insanity to be quiet and at ease as so many are at the present time, having no assurance that they are indeed sons and daughters of God. Eternal interests are at stake. Put away that story, fall upon your knees in prayer for strength to overcome temptations, and devote your time to searching the Bible. And when Jesus reveals himself to you as a sin-pardoning Saviour, reflect the heavenly radiance upon others. You need not remain in suspense; true light shines from God's word upon all hearts that are open to receive its precious rays; and it is your privilege to say, “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” The Spirit will bear witness with your spirit that you are indeed children of God. You may commune with Christ, who will be within you a hope of glory. This is true religion. All else is deception, a delusion. Let us open our hearts to its influence, that when Christ comes, we may be ready to receive him in joy and peace. RH November 9, 1886, par. 16

Nimes, France.