For a number of years I have viewed with considerable alarm the premature incapacitation of leading workers in the cause by reason of physical and mental disaster, and this frequently in the case of men who really ought to be in their prime.
It is particularly unfortunate that premature physical and mental failure should overtake one, because each year of added life devoted to a worthy cause means increased usefulness and efficiency, and each year curtailed or lost means depriving the world of the benefits and contributions of such a life. Every man blessed and enriched by a knowledge of great and vital truths must ever be conscious, as was Paul, of the thought, "I am a debtor." With this tremendous obligation resting upon him, he should ever anticipate the possibility of curtailment of his usefulness, by daily following such a program as will promote the highest type of physical and mental achievement.
Many years of quite intimate contact with ministerial brethren have given me quite abundant opportunity for observing their habits and practices; and I have noted that many of these are prejudicial to the accomplishment of the very best in service and efficiency, habits and practices leading to premature old age rather than to the postponement of it.
Solomon recognized the value of great God-given principles in the matter of the life span, when he said that, if these laws were not forgotten and the heart would keep these commandments, "length of days, and years of life, and peace." would they add to the one who observed them.
To--suggest-briefly-and ta discuss a few of the deteriorating features in the lives of ministers, I will mention first sedentary habits and lack of physical exercise. Sitting at study, sitting at meals, sitting on boards and committees, occupies the time of many ministers largely in sitting, like the old colored brother who said, "Sometimes I sits and think, and sometimes I just sits." Apparently, about all the exercise some ministers take is in the gestures they make while speaking. Perhaps this is what a young student in the ministerial course in one of our leading colleges had in mind when he consulted the writer some years ago, and very solicitously inquired regarding the removal of a small wart on one of his fingers. When asked how he thought it might militate against his success in life, he replied that he was very anxious lest "it might interfere with his gestures."
Every person should exercise to the point of free perspiration at least once each day. Sedentary habits and excessive mental activity produce congestion of blood in the brain. Physical exercise will send the blood coursing through the whole body, thus relieving any localized congestion, and will stimulate active elimination through the skin and kidneys. Thus "cobwebs" will be removed from the brain, and accumulated bodily waste and poisons excreted, and healthy tissue activity will be vigorously promoted.
As age advances and the function of the kidneys diminishes, the eliminative function of the skin becomes more important. It has been demonstrated by experimentation that, through sweating, from ten to twenty per cent of the solids ordinarily found in the urine can be eliminated through the skin. Exercise promotes oxidation, or increased activity of the vital fires, thus preventing the excessive deposits of fat, leading to obesity,—a condition so likely to develop with advancing age.
Exercise, to accomplish its best results, must give pleasure. In my opinion every man should have an avocation (pleasurable diversion) as well as a vocation. Delight in exercise adds tremendously to its value, as its enlivening, revivifying, activating potency is enormously increased. Mere expenditure of energy in uninteresting physical exertion largely fails in producing the mental rejuvenation which is so necessary a part of proper exercise, particularly for the mental worker. If one really enjoys chopping wood, mowing the lawn, or making a garden, well and good; but if these are dull and uninteresting tasks, he should go farther afield in the pursuit of delightful relaxation.
Walking is one of the best forms of exercise. Hill climbing, if one's heart and blood vessels will bear it, is good. Swimming is a nearly perfect form of exercise, as it combines the stimulating effect of cool or cold water with the activity of most of the groups of muscles in the body. Cycling is an excellent form of exercise, and many conference workers would be far better off physically if they were granted mileage for riding a bicycle from one appointment to another rather than for sitting inactive in their automobiles.
Exercise in the open air, especially when it is cold, and in the sunshine with the least possible clothing on, and the practice of deep breathing, is a combination of very great value to sedentary workers. Five to ten minutes of so-called "setting-up" exercises each morning. followed by a cool or cold bath or shower and vigorous rubbing down with a coarse Turkish towel, will give the best kind of start-off for the day.
Los Angeles, Calif.