The Relation of Diet to Health and Morals
by Ellen White
ONLY one lease of life is granted us; and the inquiry with everyone should be,
"How can I invest my powers so that they may yield the greatest profit? How can I do
most for the glory of God and the benefit of my fellow men?" For life is valuable
only as it is used for the attainment of these ends.
Self-Development a Duty
Our first duty toward God and our fellow beings is that of self-development. Every
faculty with which the Creator has endowed us should be cultivated to the highest degree
of perfection, that we may be able to do the greatest amount of good of which we are
capable. Hence that time is spent to good account which is used in the establishment and
preservation of physical and mental health. We cannot afford to dwarf or cripple any
function of body or mind. As surely as we do this, we must suffer the consequences.
Every man has the opportunity, to a great extent, of making himself whatever he chooses
to be. The blessings of this life, and also of the immortal state, are within his reach.
He may build up a character of solid worth, gaining new strength at every step. He may
advance daily in knowledge and wisdom, conscious of new delights as he progresses, adding
virtue to virtue, grace to grace. His faculties will improve by use; the more wisdom he
gains, the greater will be his capacity for acquiring. His intelligence, knowledge, and
virtue will thus develop into greater strength and more perfect symmetry.
On the other hand, he may allow his powers to rust out, for want of use, or to be
perverted through evil habits, lack of self-control or moral and religious stamina. His
course then tends downward; he is disobedient to the law of God and to the laws of health.
Appetite conquers him; inclination carries him away. It is easier for him to allow the
powers of evil, which are always active, to drag him backward, than to struggle against
them, and go forward. Dissipation, disease, and death follow. This is the history of many
lives that might have been useful in the cause of God and humanity.
Temptation Through Appetite
One of the strongest temptations that man has to meet is upon the point of appetite. In
the beginning the Lord made man upright. He was created with a perfectly balanced mind,
the size and strength of all his organs being fully and harmoniously developed. But,
through the seductions of the wily foe, the prohibition of God was disregarded, and the
laws of nature wrought out their full penalty.
Adam and Eve were permitted to eat of all the trees in their Eden home, save one. The
Lord said to the holy pair, In the day that ye eat of the tree of knowledge of good and
evil, ye shall surely die. See Genesis 2:16-17. Eve was beguiled by the serpent and made
to believe that God would not do as He had said. She ate, and, thinking she felt the
sensation of a new and more exalted life, she bore the fruit to her husband. The serpent
had said that she should not die, and she felt no ill effects from eating the fruit,
nothing which could be interpreted to mean death, but, instead, a pleasurable sensation,
which she imagined was as the angels felt. Her experience stood arrayed against the
positive command of Jehovah, yet Adam permitted himself to be seduced by it.
Thus we often find it, even in the religious world. God's expressed commands are
transgressed; and "because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily,
therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." Ecclesiastes
8:11. In the face of the most positive commands of God, men and women will follow their
own inclinations, and then dare to pray over the matter, to prevail upon God to allow them
to go contrary to His expressed will. Satan comes to the side of such persons, as he did
to Eve in Eden, and impresses them. They have an exercise of mind, and this they relate as
a most wonderful experience which the Lord has given them. But true experience will be in
harmony with natural and divine law; false experience arrays itself against the laws of
life and the precepts of Jehovah.
Appetite Ruled Antediluvians
Since the first surrender to appetite, mankind have been growing more and more
self-indulgent, until health has been sacrificed on the altar of appetite. The inhabitants
of the antediluvian world were intemperate in eating and drinking. They would have flesh
meats, although God had at that time given man no permission to eat animal food. They ate
and drank till the indulgence of their depraved appetite knew no bounds, and they became
so corrupt that God could bear with them no longer. Their cup of iniquity was full, and He
cleansed the earth of its moral pollution by a flood.
Intemperance After the Flood
As men multiplied upon the earth after the Flood, they again forgot God and corrupted
their ways before Him. Intemperance in every form increased, until almost the whole world
was given up to its sway. Entire cities have been swept from the face of the earth because
of the debasing crimes and revolting iniquity that made them a blot upon the fair field of
God's created works. The gratification of unnatural appetite led to the sins that caused
the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. God ascribes the fall of Babylon to her gluttony
and drunkenness. Indulgence of appetite and passion was the foundation of all their sins.
Esau had a strong desire for a particular article of food, and he had so long gratified
himself that he did not feel the necessity of turning from the tempting, coveted dish. He
allowed his imagination to dwell upon it until the power of appetite bore down every other
consideration and controlled him. He thought he would suffer great inconvenience, and even
death, if he could not have that particular dish. The more he reflected upon it, the more
his desire strengthened, until his birthright lost its value and sacredness in his sight,
and he bartered it away. He flattered himself that he could dispose of his birthright at
will and buy it back at pleasure; but when he sought to regain it, even at a great
sacrifice, he was not able to do so. He then bitterly repented of his rashness, his folly,
his madness, but it was all in vain. He had despised the blessing, and the Lord had
removed it from him forever.
Israel Desired the Fleshpots of Egypt
When the God of Israel brought His people out of Egypt, He withheld flesh meats from
them in a great measure, but gave them bread from heaven and water from the flinty rock.
With this they were not satisfied. They loathed the food given them and wished themselves
back in Egypt, where they could sit by the fleshpots. They preferred to endure slavery,
and even death, rather than to be deprived of flesh. God granted their desire, giving them
flesh, and leaving them to eat till their gluttony produced a plague, from which many of
Example after example might be cited to show the effects of yielding to appetite. It
seemed a small matter to our first parents to transgress the command of God in that one
act--the eating from a tree that was so beautiful to the sight and so pleasant to the
taste--but it broke their allegiance to God and opened the gates to a flood of guilt and
woe that has deluged the world.
Intemperance and Crime
Crime and disease have increased with every succeeding generation. Intemperance in
eating and drinking, and the indulgence of the baser passions, have benumbed the nobler
faculties of man. Reason, instead of being the ruler, has come to be the slave of appetite
to an alarming extent. An increasing desire for rich food has been indulged, until it has
become the fashion to crowd all the delicacies possible into the stomach. Especially at
parties of pleasure is the appetite indulged with but little restraint. Rich dinners and
late suppers are served, consisting of highly seasoned meats, with rich sauces, cakes,
pies, ices, tea, coffee, and so forth. No wonder that with such a diet people have sallow
complexions and suffer untold agonies from dyspepsia.
Against every transgression of the laws of life, nature will utter her protest. She
bears abuse as long as she can; but finally the retribution comes, and it falls upon the
mental as well as the physical powers. Nor does it end with the transgressor; the effects
of his indulgence are seen in his offspring, and thus the evil is passed down from
generation to generation.
Our Youth Lack Self-Control
The youth of today are a sure index to the future of society; and as we view them, what
can we hope for that future? The majority are fond of amusement, and averse to work. They
lack moral courage to deny self and to respond to the claims of duty. They have but little
self-control, and become excited and angry on the slightest occasion. Very many in every
age and station of life are without principle or conscience; and with their idle,
spendthrift habits they are rushing into vice, and are corrupting society, until our world
is becoming a second Sodom. If the appetites and passions were under the control of reason
and religion, society would present a widely different aspect. God never designed that the
present woeful condition of things should exist; it has been brought about through the
gross violation of nature's laws.
The character is formed, to a great extent, in early years. The habits then established
have more influence than any natural endowment, in making them either giants or dwarfs in
intellect; for the very best talents may, through wrong habits, become warped and
enfeebled. The earlier in life one contracts hurtful habits, the more firmly will they
hold their victim in slavery, and the more certainly will they lower his standard of
spirituality. On the other hand, if correct and virtuous habits are formed in youth, they
will generally mark the course of the possessor through life. In most cases, it will be
found that those who in later life reverence God and honour the right, learned that lesson
before there was time for the world to stamp its image of sin upon the soul. Those of
mature age are generally as insensible to new impressions as is the hardened rock; but
youth is impressible. Youth is the time to acquire knowledge for daily practice through
life; a right character may then be easily formed. It is the time to establish good
habits, to gain and to hold the power of self-control. Youth is the sowing time, and the
seed sown determines the harvest, both for this life and the life to come.
Responsibility of Parents
Parents should make it their first object to become intelligent in regard to the proper
manner of dealing with their children, that they may secure to them sound minds in sound
bodies. The principles of temperance should be carried out in all the details of home
life. Self-denial should be taught to children and enforced upon them, so far as is
consistent, from babyhood. Teach the little ones that they should eat to live, not live to
eat; that appetite must be held in abeyance to the will; and that the will must be
governed by calm, intelligent reason.
If parents have transmitted to their children tendencies which will make more difficult
the work of educating them to be strictly temperate, and of cultivating pure and virtuous
habits, what a solemn responsibility rests upon the parents to counteract that influence
by every means in their power! How diligently and earnestly should they strive to do their
duty by their unfortunate offspring! To parents is committed the sacred trust of guarding
the physical and moral constitution of their children. Those who indulge a child's
appetite and do not teach him to control his passions may afterward see, in the
tobacco-loving, liquor-drinking slave, whose senses are benumbed, and whose lips utter
falsehood and profanity, the terrible mistake they have made.
It is impossible for those who give the reins to appetite to attain to Christian
perfection. The moral sensibilities of your children cannot be easily aroused unless you
are careful in the selection of their food. Many a mother sets a table that is a snare to
her family. Flesh meats, butter, cheese, rich pastry, spiced foods, and condiments are
freely partaken of by both old and young. These things do their work in deranging the
stomach, exciting the nerves, and enfeebling the intellect. The blood-making organs cannot
convert such things into good blood. The grease cooked in the food renders it difficult of
digestion. The effect of cheese is deleterious. Fine-flour bread does not impart to the
system the nourishment that is to be found in unbolted wheat bread. Its common use will
not keep the system in the best condition. Spices at first irritate the tender coating of
the stomach, but finally destroy the natural sensitiveness of this delicate membrane. The
blood becomes fevered, the animal propensities are aroused, while the moral and
intellectual powers are weakened and become servants to the baser passions.
The mother should study to set a simple yet nutritious diet before her family. God has
furnished man with abundant means for the gratification of an unperverted appetite. He has
spread before him the products of the earth--a bountiful variety of food that is palatable
to the taste and nutritious to the system. Of these our benevolent heavenly Father says we
may freely eat. Fruits, grains, and vegetables, prepared in a simple way, free from spice
and grease of all kinds, make, with milk or cream, the most healthful diet. They impart
nourishment to the body and give a power of endurance and vigour of intellect that are not
produced by a stimulating diet. Counsels on Health, 107-115