God gives man no permission to violate the laws of his being. But man, through yielding to Satan’s temptations to indulge intemperance, brings the higher faculties in subjection to the animal appetites and passions, and when these gain the ascendancy, man, who was created a little lower than the angels—with faculties susceptible of the highest cultivation—surrenders to the control of Satan. And he gains easy access to those who are in bondage to appetite. Through intemperance, some sacrifice one half, and others two thirds, of their physical, mental, and moral powers, and become playthings for the enemy. –
Those who would have clear minds to discern Satan’s devices must have their physical appetites under the control of reason and conscience. The moral and vigorous action of the higher powers of the mind are essential to the perfection of Christian character, and the strength or the weakness of the mind has very much to do with our usefulness in this world and with our final salvation. The ignorance that has prevailed in regard to God’s law in our physical nature is deplorable. Intemperance of any kind is a violation of the laws of our being. Imbecility is prevailing to a fearful extent. Sin is made attractive by the covering of light which Satan throws over it, and he is well pleased when he can hold the Christian world in their daily habits under the tyranny of custom, like the heathen, and allow appetite to govern them.
If men and women of intelligence have their moral powers benumbed through intemperance of any kind, they are in many of their habits elevated but little above the heathen. Satan is constantly drawing the people from saving light, to custom and fashion, irrespective of physical, mental, and moral health. The great enemy knows that if appetite and passion predominate, the health of body and strength of intellect are sacrificed upon the altar of self-gratification, and man is brought to speedy ruin. If enlightened intellect holds the reins, controlling the animal propensities and keeping them in subjection to the moral powers, Satan well knows that his power to overcome with his temptations is very small.
In our day, people talk of the dark ages and boast of progress. But with this progress wickedness and crime do not decrease. We deplore the absence of natural simplicity and the increase of artificial display. Health, strength, beauty, and long life, which were common in the so-called “dark ages,” are rare now. Nearly everything desirable is sacrificed to meet the demands of fashionable life.
A large share of the Christian world have no right to call themselves Christians. Their habits, their extravagance, and general treatment of their own bodies are violations of physical law and contrary to the Bible. They are working out for themselves, in their course of life, physical suffering and mental and moral feebleness.
Through his devices, Satan, in many respects, has made the domestic life one of care and complicated burdens in order to meet the demands of fashion. His purpose in doing this is to keep minds occupied so fully with the things of this life that they can give but little attention to their highest interest. Intemperance in eating and in dressing has so engrossed the minds of the Christian world that they do not take time to become intelligent in regard to the laws of their being, that they may obey them. To profess the name of Christ is of but little account if the life does not correspond with the will of God revealed in His word.
In the wilderness of temptation Christ overcame appetite. His example of self-denial and self-control, when suffering the gnawing pangs of hunger, is a rebuke to the Christian world for their dissipation and gluttony. There is at this time nine times as much money expended for the gratification of appetite and the indulgence of foolish and hurtful lusts as there is given to advance the gospel of Christ.
Were Peter upon the earth now he would exhort the professed followers of Christ to abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul. And Paul would call upon the churches in general, to cleanse themselves from “all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” And Christ would drive from the temple those who are defiled by the use of tobacco, polluting the sanctuary of God by their tobacconized breaths. He would say to these worshipers, as He did to the Jews, “My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” We would say to such, your unholy offerings of ejected quids of tobacco defile the temple and are abhorred of God. Your worship is not acceptable, for your bodies, which should be the temple for the Holy Ghost, are defiled. You also rob the treasury of God of thousands of dollars through the indulgence of unnatural appetite.
If we would see the standard of virtue and godliness exalted, as Christians we have a work devolving upon us individually to control appetite, the indulgence of which counteracts the force of truth, and weakens moral power to resist and overcome temptation. As Christ’s followers, we should in eating and drinking act from principle. When we obey the injunction of the apostle, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God,” thousands of dollars which are now sacrificed upon the altar of hurtful lust will flow into the Lord’s treasury, multiplying publications in different languages to be scattered like the leaves of autumn. Missions will be established in other nations, and then will the followers of Christ be indeed the light of the world.
The adversary of souls is working in these last days with greater power than ever before, to accomplish the ruin of man through the indulgence of appetite and passions. And many who are held by Satan under the power of slavish appetite are the professed followers of Christ. They profess to worship God, while appetite is their god. Their unnatural desires for these indulgences are not controlled by reason or judgment. Those who are slaves to tobacco will see their families suffering for the conveniences of life and for necessary food, yet they have not the power of will to forgo their tobacco. The clamors of appetite prevail over natural affection, and this brute passion controls them. The cause of Christianity, and even humanity, would not in any case be sustained if dependent upon those in the habitual use of tobacco and liquor. If they had means to use only in one direction the treasury of God would not be replenished, but they would have their tobacco and liquor, for the tobacco idolater will not deny his appetite for the cause of God.
It is impossible for such men to realize the binding claims and holiness of the law of God, for their brain and nerves are deadened by the use of this narcotic. They cannot value the atonement or appreciate the worth of immortal life. The indulgence of fleshly lusts wars against the soul. The apostle in the most impressive language addresses Christians, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God.” If the body is saturated with liquor and defiled by tobacco it is not holy and acceptable to God. Satan knows that it cannot be, and for this reason he brings his temptations to bear upon the point of appetite, that he may bring us into bondage to this propensity and thus work our ruin.
The Jewish sacrifices were all examined with careful scrutiny to see if any blemish was upon them or if they were tainted with disease, and the least defect or impurity was a sufficient reason for the priests to reject them. The offering must be sound and valuable. The apostle has in view the requirements of God upon the Jews in their offerings when he in the most earnest manner appeals to his brethren to present their bodies a living sacrifice. Not a diseased, decaying offering, but a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God.
How many come to the house of God in feebleness, and how many come defiled by the indulgence of their own appetite! Those who have degraded themselves by wrong habits, when they assemble for the worship of God, give forth such emanations from their diseased bodies as to be disgusting to those around them. And how offensive must this be to a pure and holy God.
A large proportion of all the infirmities that afflict the human family are the results of their own wrong habits, because of their willing ignorance or of their disregard of the light which God has given in relation to the laws of their being. It is not possible for us to glorify God while living in violation of the laws of life. The heart cannot possibly maintain consecration to God while the lustful appetite is indulged. A diseased body and disordered intellect, because of continual indulgence in hurtful lust, make sanctification of the body and spirit impossible. The apostle understood the importance of the healthful conditions of the body for the successful perfection of Christian character. He says, “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” He mentions the fruit of the Spirit, among which is temperance. “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”
Men and women indulge appetite at the expense of health and their powers of intellect, so that they cannot appreciate the plan of salvation. What appreciation can such have of the temptation of Christ in the wilderness, and of the victory He gained upon the point of appetite. It is impossible for them to have exalted views of God, and to realize the claims of His law. The proposed followers of Christ are forgetful of the great sacrifice made by Him on their account. The Majesty of heaven, in order to bring salvation within their reach, was smitten, bruised, and afflicted. He became a Man of sorrow and acquainted with grief. In the wilderness of temptation He resisted Satan, although the tempter was clothed with the livery of heaven. Christ, although brought to great physical suffering, refused to yield a single point, notwithstanding the most flattering inducements were presented to bribe and influence Him to yield His integrity. All this honor, all this riches and glory, said the deceiver, will I give Thee if Thou wilt only acknowledge my claims.
Christ was firm. Oh! where would now be the salvation of the race if Christ had been as weak in moral power as man? No wonder that joy filled heaven as the fallen chief left the wilderness of temptation, a conquered foe. Christ has power from His Father to give His divine grace and strength to man—making it possible for us through His name to overcome. There are but few professed followers of Christ who choose to engage with Him in the work of resisting Satan’s temptation as He resisted and overcame.
Professed Christians who enjoy gatherings of gaiety, pleasure, and feasting cannot appreciate the conflict of Christ in the wilderness. This example of their Lord in overcoming Satan is lost to them. This infinite victory, which Christ achieved for them in the plan of salvation, is meaningless. They have no special interest in the wonderful humiliation of our Saviour, and the anguish and sufferings He endured for sinful man while Satan was pressing Him with his manifold temptations. The scene of trial with Christ in the wilderness was the foundation of the plan of salvation, and gives to fallen man the key whereby he, in Christ’s name, may overcome.
Many professed Christians look upon this portion of the life of Christ as they would upon a common warfare between two kings, and as having no special bearing upon their own life and character. Therefore, the manner of warfare and the wonderful victory gained have but little interest for them. Their perceptive powers are blunted by Satan’s artifices, so that they cannot discern that he who afflicted Christ in the wilderness, determined to rob Him of His integrity as the Son of the Infinite, is to be their adversary to the end of time. Although he failed to overcome Christ, his power is not weakened over man. All are personally exposed to the temptations that Christ overcame, but strength is provided for them in the all-powerful name of the great Conqueror. And all must, for themselves, individually overcome. Many fall under the very same temptations wherewith Satan assailed Christ.
Although Christ gained a priceless victory in behalf of man in overcoming the temptations of Satan in the wilderness, this victory will not benefit him unless he also gains the victory on his own account.
Man now has the advantage over Adam in his warfare with Satan; for he has Adam’s experience in disobedience and his consequent fall to warn him to shun his example. Man also has Christ’s example in overcoming appetite and the manifold temptations of Satan, and in vanquishing the mighty foe upon every point and coming off victor in every contest. If man stumbles and falls under the temptations of Satan, he is without excuse; for he has the disobedience of Adam as a warning, and the life of the world’s Redeemer as an example of obedience and self-denial, and the promise of Christ that “to him that over-cometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.”