Have you ever had the experience of studying the Bible with someone who did not fully grasp its simple truths? You would never think of giving a study on the prophecies to someone who had been given an anesthetic, would you? Yet you and I do this very thing when we try to give the message to people whose minds are narcotized by nicotine and alcohol.
About two years ago four of us who worked at the Review and Herald drove thirty miles into the country to give four Bible studies once a week. Each night we presented a new topic of the third angel's message; but one subject that I never reached was that of temperance, dealing with the use of tobacco, tea, coffee, and alcoholic beverages.
As I look back on that experience I can see how wrong I was. Why? Because I should have stressed the importance of giving up these hab its, so that we could take up more spiritual truths. The family and I followed the usual order of topics in Bible study: the Bible as the Word of God, Daniel 2, the second coming of Christ, and the meaning of current events. On one occasion we discussed the mark of the beast. But no place was given to mental and physical health; no study was devoted to this all-impor tant question. And I feel now that that is the primary reason why this man and his wife were not baptized. Of course there were other contributing factors, but in my mind this was the outstanding one. How could I expect them to comprehend spiritual truths when their minds were clouded by tobacco, coffee, and alcohol?
Another of the girls studied with a mother and a group of children whose father was a habitual drinker. He needed the temperance message given in a positive way. And the other girls of our group were meet ing with those who needed help to keep their bodies fit and minds clear. None of these people fully accepted the Advent message, but all of them gave mental assent to the pertinent truths that were pre sented, as far as their minds could comprehend them.
Ellen G. White emphasized over and over again the effects that tobacco, alcohol, tea, and coffee have upon the mental powers of the in dividual. They act as anesthetics to the brain. "Satan is taking the world captive through the use of liquor and tobacco, tea and coffee. The Godgiven mind, which should be kept clear, is perverted by the use of narcotics. The brain is no longer able to distinguish correctly. The enemy has control. Man has sold his reason for that which makes him mad. He has no sense of what is right."—Evangelism, p. 529. (Italics supplied.) Even one of these habits can have a debili tating effect upon the brain. The same author says: "Tobacco, in whatever form it is used, tells upon the constitution. It is a slow poison. It affects the brain and benumbs the sensibilities, so that the mind cannot clearly discern spiritual things, espe cially those truths which would have a tendency to correct this filthy indulgence."—Counsels on Health, p. 81. For a year we made these weekly trips to the country, and we did not reap any harvest. How ever, we do not know what seeds of truth were planted that will eventually bear fruit. I fully intend to return to that home and renew the studies. But this time I shall put particular emphasis upon temperance.
An Effective Demonstration
There is, however, a brighter side to this discussion of temperance. I can remember how, in my childhood, my father would rise early every morning and drink cup after cup of steaming black coffee. He was also a constant user of tobacco. Two years ago he, now in his seventies, accepted this message and was bap tized. After thirty years of praying, my mother saw her prayers answered. What achieved this?
One August day Dad had a stroke, was taken to the hospital, and found himself partially paralyzed. Then when he was recuperating from his paralysis in one of our self-supporting institutions, the Christian doctor told him that he must give up these habits. After a few weeks his mind cleared, although he has never regained the use of his left arm and leg.
One of the doctors began to study the Bible with him, and he seemed to understand the message completely. This doctor reviewed those things that Dad had known for years, but had never accepted. When he had given up tobacco and coffee, he was able to comprehend the message. How happy we were the day he was baptized and became a member of the remnant church! "It [tobacco] is unclean; it is a narcotic; it stupe fies the senses; it chains the will; it holds its victims in the slavery of habits difficult to overcome; it has Satan for its advocate. It destroys the clear percep tions of the mind that sin and corruption may not be distinguished from truth and holiness."—Temperance, p. 58. It would seem that now is the time for us to give special emphasis to the question of tem perance, at this time when the Journal of the American Medical Association has announced that no more tobacco or liquor advertisements will be accepted for that magazine, when many of the top medical authorities are stating that it is possible that lung cancer is caused by the use of tobacco, and when many people are breaking the chains that smoking has placed
upon them. Concerning this matter Ellen G. White writes: "Brethren and sisters, we want you to see the im portance of this temperance question, and we want our workers to interest themselves in it, and to know that it is just as much connected with the Third Angel's Message as the right arm is with the body. We ought to make advancement in this work."—Quoted in The Review and Herald, Feb. 14, 1888, p. 108. What more need be said to arouse us to the importance of teaching temperance as we try to give the message for the last days? "It is impossible to work for the salvation of men and women without presenting to them the need of breaking away from sinful gratifications, which de stroy the health, debase the soul, and prevent divine truth from impressing the mind. Men and women must be taught to take a careful review of every habit and every practice, and at once put away those things that cause an unhealthy condition of the body, and thus cast a dark shadow over the mind." —MRS. E. G. WHITE in The Review and Herald, Nov. 12, 1901. In the light of the instruction Adventists have received for these last days, would it not be well for those who give Bible readings to non-Adventists to re-evaluate their studies and perhaps revamp their plans of procedure?
While we have. been admonished by the Spirit of prophecy to work with people where they are, and to skillfully find the proper approach for introducing our message, we should seriously consider also the counsel that our health work is the entering wedge, as it has proved to be in heathen lands. With the present and increasing health consciousness in more civilized lands, our use of the "right arm" of our message is proving to be a successful approach in many places. The alert gospel worker will study the needs of the people and the conditions of the times as well as his message. "The temperance cause needs to be revived as it has not yet been."—Ibid., Jan. 14, 1909.