All who profess to be followers of Jesus should feel that a duty rests upon them to preserve their bodies in the best
condition of health, that their minds may be clear to comprehend heavenly things. The mind needs to be controlled, for it has a most powerful influence upon the health. The imagination often misleads, and when indulged, brings severe forms of disease upon the afflicted. Many die of diseases which are mostly imaginary. I am acquainted with several who have brought upon themselves actual disease by the influence of the imagination.
One sister was carried by her husband from chair to bed, and from room to room, because she thought that she was too feeble to walk. But as the case was afterward presented to me, she could have walked as well as myself if she had thought so. Had an accident occurred,--had the house taken fire, or one of her children been in imminent danger of losing life by a fall,--this woman would have been aroused by the force of circumstances, and would have walked quite readily and briskly. She could walk, so far as physical strength was concerned; but diseased imagination led her to conclude that she could not, and she did not arouse the power of the will to resist this deception. The imagination said: You cannot walk, and you had better not try. Sit still; your limbs are so weak that you cannot stand. Had this sister exerted her will power and aroused her benumbed and dormant energies, this deception would have been exposed. In consequence of yielding to the imagination, she probably thinks, to this day, that when she was so helpless she was so of necessity; but this was purely a freak of the imagination, which sometimes plays strange tricks upon diseased mortals.
Some are so afraid of air that they will muffle up their heads and bodies until they look like mummies. They sit in the house, generally inactive, fearing they shall weary themselves and get sick if they exercise either indoors or out in the open air. They could take habitual exercise in the open air every
pleasant day, if they only thought so. Continued inactivity is one of the greatest causes of debility of body and feebleness of mind. Many are sick who ought to be in very good health and thus in possession of one of the richest blessings they could enjoy.
I have been shown that many who are apparently feeble, and are ever complaining, are not so badly off as they imagine themselves to be. Some of these have a powerful will, which, exercised in the right direction, would be a potent means of controlling the imagination and thus resisting disease. But it is too frequently the case that the will is exercised in a wrong direction and stubbornly refuses to yield no reason. That will has settled the matter; invalids they are, and the attention due to invalids they will have, irrespective of the judgement of others.
I have been shown mothers who are governed by a diseased imagination, the influence of which is felt upon husband and children. The windows must be kept closed because the mother feels the air. If she is at all chilly, and a change is made in her clothing, she thinks her children must be treated in the same manner, and thus the entire family are robbed of physical stamina. All are affected by one mind, physically and mentally injured through the diseased imagination of one woman, who considers herself a criterion for the whole family. The body is clothed in accordance with the caprices of a diseased imagination and smothered under an amount of wrappings which debilitates the system. The skin cannot perform its office; the studied habit of shunning the air and avoiding exercise, closes the pores,--the little mouths through which the body breathes, --making it impossible to throw off impurities through that channel. The burden of labour is thrown upon the liver, lungs, kidneys, etc., and these internal organs are compelled to do the work of the skin. Thus persons bring disease upon themselves by their wrong habits; yet, in the face of light and
knowledge, they will adhere to their own course. They reason thus: "Have we not tried the matter? and do we not understand it by experience?" But the experience of a person whose imagination is at fault should not have much weight with anyone.
The season most to be dreaded by one going among these invalids is winter. It is winter indeed, not only outdoors, but in, to those who are compelled to live in the same house and sleep in the same room. These victims of a diseased imagination shut themselves indoors and close the windows, for the air affects their lungs and their heads. Imagination is active; they expect to take cold, and they will have it. No amount of reasoning can make them believe that they do not understand the philosophy of the whole matter. Have they not proved it? they will argue. It is true that they have proved one side of the question,--by persisting in their own course,--and yet they do take cold if in the least exposed. Tender as babies, they cannot endure anything; yet they live on, and continue to close the windows and doors, and hover over the stove, and enjoy their misery. They have surely proved that their course has not made them well, but has increased their difficulties. Why will not such allow reason to influence the judgement and control the imagination? Why not now try an opposite course, and in a judicious manner obtain exercise and air out of doors, instead of remaining in the house from day to day, more like a bundle of drygoods than an active being?
The chief if not the only reason why many become invalids is that the blood does not circulate freely, and the changes in the vital fluid, which are necessary to life and health, do not take place. They have not given their bodies exercise nor their lungs food, which is pure, fresh air; therefore it is impossible for the blood to be vitalised, and it pursues its course sluggishly through the system. The more we exercise, the better will be the circulation of the blood. More people die for want of
exercise than through overfatigue; very many more rust out than wear out. Those who accustom themselves to proper exercise in the open air will generally have a good and vigorous circulation. We are more dependent upon the air we breathe than upon the food we eat. Men and women, young and old, who desire health, and who would enjoy active life, should remember that they cannot have these without a good circulation. Whatever their business and inclinations, they should make up their minds to exercise in the open air as much as they can. They should feel it a religious duty to overcome the conditions of health which have kept them confined indoors, deprived of exercise in the open air.
Some invalids become wilful in the matter and refuse to be convinced of the great importance of daily outdoor exercise, whereby they may obtain a supply of pure air. For fear of taking cold, they persist, from year to year, in having their own way and living in an atmosphere almost destitute of vitality. It is impossible for this class to have a healthy circulation. The entire system suffers for want of exercise and pure air. The skin becomes debilitated and more sensitive to any change in the atmosphere. Additional clothing is put on, and the heat of the room increased. The next day they require a little more heat and a little more clothing in order to feel perfectly warm, and thus they humour every changing feeling until they have but little vitality to endure any cold. Some may inquire: "What shall we do? Would you have us remain cold?" If you add clothing, let it be but little, and exercise, if possible, to regain the heat you need. If you positively cannot engage in active exercise, warm yourselves by the fire; but as soon as you are warm, lay off your extra clothing and remove from the fire. If those who can, would engage in some active employment to take the mind from themselves, they would generally forget that they were chilly and would not receive harm. You should lower the temperature of your room as soon as
you have regained your natural warmth. For invalids who have feeble lungs, nothing can be worse than an overheated atmosphere.
Invalids too often deprive themselves of sunlight. This is one of nature's most healing agents. It is a very simple, therefore not a fashionable remedy, to enjoy the rays of God's sunlight and beautify our homes with its presence. Fashion takes the greatest care to exclude the light of the sun from parlours and sleeping rooms by dropping curtains and closing shutters, as though its rays were ruinous to life and health. It is not God who has brought upon us the many woes to which mortals are heirs. Our own folly has led us to deprive ourselves of things that are precious, of blessings which God has provided and which, if properly used, are of inestimable value for the recovery of health. If you would have your homes sweet and inviting, make them bright with air and sunshine. Remove your heavy curtains, open the windows, throw back the blinds, and enjoy the rich sunlight, even if it be at the expense of the colours of your carpets. The precious sunlight may fade your carpets, but it will give a healthful colour to the cheeks of your children. If you have God's presence and possess earnest, loving hearts, a humble home made bright with air and sunlight, and cheerful with the welcome of unselfish hospitality, will be to your family, and to the weary traveller, a heaven below.
Many have been taught from childhood that night air is positively injurious to health and therefore must be excluded from their rooms. To their own injury they close the windows and doors of their sleeping apartments to protect themselves from the night air which they say is so dangerous to health. In this they are deceived. In the cool of the evening it may be necessary to guard from chilliness by extra clothing, but they should give their lungs air.
On an autumn evening we were once travelling in a crowded car, where the atmosphere was rendered very impure by the
mingling of so many breaths. The exhalations from lungs and bodies caused a most sickening sensation to come over me. I raised my window and was enjoying the fresh air, when a lady, in earnest, imploring tones, cried out: "Do put down that window. You will take cold and be sick, for the night air is so unhealthy." I replied: "Madam, we have no other air, in this car or out of it, but night air. If you refuse to breathe night air, then you must stop breathing. God has provided for His creatures air to breathe for the day, and the same, made a little cooler, for the night. In the night it is not possible for you to breathe anything but night air. The question is: Shall the night air we breathe be pure, or is it improved after it has been breathed over and over? Is it for our health to breathe the polluted night air of this car? The exhalations thrown off by the lungs and bodies of men steeped in tobacco and alcohol, pollute the air and endanger health; and yet nearly all the passengers sit as indifferent as though inhaling the purest atmosphere. God has wisely provided for us, that in the night we should breathe night air, and in the day, the air of the day. If we fail to answer the plan of God, and the blood becomes impure, our wrong habits have made it thus. But the air of night, breathed in the night, will not of itself poison the current of human life." Many are suffering from disease because they refuse to receive into their rooms at night the pure night air. The free, pure air of heaven is one of the richest blessings we can enjoy.
Another precious blessing is proper exercise. There are many indolent, inactive ones who are disinclined to physical labour or exercise because it wearies them. What if it does weary them? The reason why they become weary is that they do not strengthen their muscles by exercise, therefore they feel the least exertion. Invalid women and girls are better pleased to busy themselves with light employment, as crocheting, or
embroidering, or making tatting, than to engage in physical labour. If invalids would recover health, they should not discontinue physical exercise; for they will thus increase muscular weakness and general debility. Bind up the arm and permit it to remain useless, even for a few weeks, then free it from its bondage, and you will discover that it is weaker than the one you have been using moderately during the same time. Inactivity produces the same effect upon the whole muscular system. The blood is not enabled to expel the impurities as it would if active circulation were induced by exercise.
When the weather will permit, all who can possibly do so ought to walk in the open air every day, summer and winter. But the clothing should be suitable for the exercise, and the feet should be well protected. A walk, even in winter, would be more beneficial to the health than all the medicine the doctors may prescribe. For those who can walk, walking is preferable to riding. The muscles and veins are enabled better to perform their work. There will be increased vitality, which is so necessary to health. The lungs will have needful action, for it is impossible to go out in the bracing air of a winter's morning without inflating the lungs.
Riches and idleness are thought by some to be blessings indeed. But when some persons have acquired wealth, or inherited it unexpectedly, their active habits have been broken up, their time is unemployed, they live at ease, and their usefulness seems at an end; they become restless, anxious, and unhappy, and their lives soon close. Those who are always busy, and go cheerfully about the performance of their daily tasks, are the most happy and healthy. The rest and composure of night brings to their wearied frames unbroken slumber. The Lord knew what was for man's happiness when He gave him work to do. The sentence that man must toil for his bread, and the promise of future happiness and glory, came
from the same throne. Both are blessings. Women of fashion are worthless for all the good ends of human life. They possess but little force of character, have but little moral will or physical energy. Their highest aim is to be admired. They die prematurely and are not missed, for they have blessed no one.
Exercise will aid the work of digestion. To walk out after a meal, hold the head erect, put back the shoulders, and exercise moderately, will be a great benefit. The mind will be diverted from self to the beauties of nature. The less the attention is called to the stomach after a meal, the better. If you are in constant fear that your food will hurt you, it most assuredly will. Forget self, and think of something cheerful.
Many labour under the mistaken idea that if they have taken cold, they must carefully exclude the outside air and increase the temperature of their room until it is excessively hot. The system may be deranged, the pores closed by waste matter, and the internal organs suffering more or less inflammation, because the blood has been chilled back from the surface and thrown upon them. At this time, of all others, the lungs should not be deprived of pure, fresh air. If pure air is ever necessary, it is when any part of the system, as the lungs or stomach, is diseased. Judicious exercise would induce the blood to the surface, and thus relieve the internal organs. Brisk, yet not violent exercise in the open air, with cheerfulness of spirits, will promote the circulation, giving a healthful glow to the skin, and sending the blood, vitalised by the pure air, to the extremities. The diseased stomach will find relief by exercise. Physicians frequently advise invalids to visit foreign countries, to go to the springs, or to ride upon the ocean, in order to regain health; when, in nine cases out of ten, if they would eat temperately and engage in healthful exercise with a cheerful spirit, they would regain health and save time and money. Exercise, and
a free and abundant use of the air and sunlight,--blessings which Heaven has freely bestowed upon all,--would give life and strength to the emaciated invalid.
A large class of women are content to hover over the stove, breathing impure air for one half or three fourths of the time, until the brain is heated and half benumbed. They should go out and exercise every day, even though some things indoors have to be neglected. They need the cool air to quiet their distracted brains. They need not go to their neighbours to gossip, but should make it their object to do some good, working to the end of benefiting others. Then they will be an example to others and receive real benefit themselves.
Perfect health depends upon perfect circulation. Special attention should be given to the extremities, that they may be as thoroughly clothed as the chest and the region over the heart, where is the greatest amount of heat. Parents who dress their children with the extremities naked, or nearly so, are sacrificing the health and lives of their children to fashion. If these parts are not so warm as the body, the circulation is not equalised. When the extremities, which are remote from the vital organs, are not properly clad, the blood is driven to the head, causing headache or nosebleed; or there is a sense of fullness about the chest, producing cough or palpitation of the heart, on account of too much blood in that locality; or the stomach has too much blood, causing indigestion.
In order to follow the fashions, mothers dress their children with limbs nearly naked; and the blood is chilled back from its natural course and thrown upon the internal organs, breaking up the circulation and producing disease. The limbs were not formed by our Creator to endure exposure, as was the face. The Lord provided the face with an immense circulation, because it must be exposed. He provided, also, large veins and nerves for the limbs and feet, to contain a large amount
of the current of human life, that the limbs might be uniformly as warm as the body. They should be so thoroughly clothed as to induce the blood to the extremities. Satan invented the fashions which leave the limbs exposed, chilling back the life current from its original course. And parents bow at the shrine of fashion and so clothe their children that the nerves and veins become contracted and do not answer the purpose that God designed they should. The result is, habitually cold feet and hands. Those parents who follow fashion instead of reason will have an account to render to God for thus robbing their children of health. Even life itself is frequently sacrificed to the god of fashion.
Children who are clothed according to fashion cannot endure exposure in the open air unless the weather is mild. Therefore parents and children remain in ill-ventilated rooms, fearing the atmosphere out of doors; and well they may, with their fashionable style of clothing. If they would clothe themselves sensibly, and have moral courage to take their position on the side of right, they would not endanger health by going out summer and winter, and exercising freely in the open air. But if left undisturbed to their own course, many would soon complete the sacrifice of their own lives and those of their children. And those who are compelled to have the care of them become sufferers. The invalid who is controlled by imagination is to be dreaded. All who live in the house with her become enfeebled. The husband loses his nervous energy, and becomes diseased because, a considerable part of the time, he is robbed by his wife of the vital air of heaven. But the poor children, who think that mother knows best what is right, are the greatest sufferers. The mother's wrong course has enfeebled herself, and, if chilly, she bundles up in more wrappings, and provides the same for the children, thinking that they also
must be chilly. The doors and windows are closed, and the temperature of the room increased. The children are frequently puny and weakly, and do not possess a high degree of moral worth. Husband and children are thus shut up for the winter, slaves to the notions of a woman controlled by imagination, and sometimes having a set will. The members of such a family are daily martyrs. They are sacrificing health to the caprice of an imaginative, complaining, murmuring woman. They are deprived, in a great measure, of air, which will invigorate them and give them energy and vitality.
Those who do not use their limbs every day will realise a weakness when they do attempt to exercise. The veins and muscles are not in a condition to perform their work and keep all the living machinery in healthful action, each organ in the system doing its part. The limbs will strengthen with use. Moderate exercise every day will impart strength to the muscles, which without exercise become flabby and enfeebled. By active exercise in the open air every day, the liver, kidneys, and lungs also will be strengthened to perform their work. Bring to your aid the power of the will, which will resist cold and will give energy to the nervous system. In a short time you will so realise the benefit of exercise and pure air that you would not live without these blessings. Your lungs, deprived of air, will be like a hungry person deprived of food. Indeed, we can live longer without food than without air, which is the food that God has provided for the lungs. Therefore do not regard it as an enemy, but as a precious blessing from God.
If invalids allow themselves to encourage a diseased imagination, they will not only waste their own energies, but the vitality of those who have the care of them. I advise invalid sisters who have accustomed themselves to a great amount of clothing, to lay it off gradually. Some of you live merely to eat
and breathe, and fail to answer the purpose for which you were created. You should have an exalted aim in life and seek to be useful and efficient in your own families and to become useful members of society. You should not require the attention of the family to be centred upon you, nor should you draw largely upon the sympathies of others. Do your part in giving love and sympathy to the unfortunate, remembering that they have woes and trials peculiar to themselves. See if you cannot, by words of sympathy and love, lighten their burdens. In blessing others, you will realise a blessing yourselves.
Those who, so far as it is possible, engage in the work of doing good to others by giving practical demonstration of their interest in them are not only relieving the ills of human life in helping them bear their burdens, but are at the same time contributing largely to their own health of soul and body. Doing good is a work that benefits both giver and receiver. If you forget self in your interest for others, you gain a victory over your infirmities. The satisfaction you will realise in doing good will aid you greatly in the recovery of the healthy tone of the imagination. The pleasure of doing good animates the mind and vibrates through the whole body. While the faces of benevolent men are lighted up with cheerfulness, and their countenances express the moral elevation of the mind, those of selfish, stingy men are dejected, cast down, and gloomy. Their moral defects are seen in their countenances. Selfishness and self-love stamp their own image upon the outward man. That person who is actuated by true disinterested benevolence is a partaker of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust; while the selfish and avaricious have cherished their selfishness until it has withered their social sympathies, and their countenances reflect the image of the fallen foe, rather than that of purity and holiness.
Invalids, I advise you to venture something. Arouse your
will power, and at least make a trial of this matter. Withdraw your thoughts and affections from yourselves. Walk out by faith. Are you inclined to centre your thoughts upon yourselves, fearing to exercise, and fearing that if you expose yourself to the air you will lose your life; resist these thoughts and feelings. Do not yield to your diseased imagination. If you fail in the trial, you can but die. And what if you do die? One life might better be lost than many sacrificed. The whims and notions which you cherish are not only destroying your own life, but injuring those whose lives are more valuable than yours. But the course we recommend will not deprive you of life or injure you. You will derive benefit from it. You need not be rash or reckless; commence moderately at first to have more air and exercise, and continue your reform until you become useful, a blessing to your families and to all around you. Let your judgement be convinced that exercise, sunlight, and air are the blessings which Heaven has provided to make the sick well and to keep in health those who are not sick. God does not deprive you of these free, Heaven-bestowed blessings, but you have punished yourselves by closing your doors against them. Properly used, these simple yet powerful agents will assist nature to overcome real difficulties, if such exist, and will give healthy tone to the mind and vigour to the body.
In this age of the world, when vice and fashion control men and women, Christians should possess virtuous characters and a large share of good common sense. If this were the case, countenances which are now clouded, bearing the marks of disease and depravity, would be hopeful and cheerful, lighted up by true goodness and a clear conscience.
The do-nothing system is the greatest curse that has befallen our race. Children so unfortunate as to be brought up and educated by mothers who do not possess true moral worth, but who have diseased imaginations and suffer imaginary ailments, need the sympathy, patient instruction, and tender care
of all who can help them. The wants of these children are not met, and their education is such as to unfit them for useful members of society while they live, and to bring them to an untimely grave. If their lives are protracted, they will never forget the lessons taught them by the mother. The errors of her life have been impressed upon them by her words and her actions, and in many cases they will follow in her footsteps. Her mantle falls like a dark pall upon her poor children. Her inconsistent course has given the stamp of her character to their lives, and they cannot readily overcome the education of their childhood.
The tenderest earthly tie is that between the mother and her child. The child is more readily impressed by the life and example of the mother than by that of the father; for a stronger and more tender bond of union unites them. Mothers have a heavy responsibility. If I could impress upon them the work which they can do in moulding the minds of their children I should be happy.
If parents themselves would obtain knowledge, and feel the importance of putting it to a practical use in the education of their dear children, we should see a different order of things among youth and children. The children need to be instructed in regard to their own bodies. There are but few youth who have any definite knowledge of the mysteries of human life. They know but little about the living machinery. Says David: "I will praise Thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made." Teach your children to study from cause to effect; show them that if they violate the laws of their being they must pay the penalty by suffering disease. If in your effort you can see no special improvement, be not discouraged; patiently instruct, line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little. If by this means you have succeeded in forgetting yourself, you have taken one step in the right direction. Press on until the victory is gained. Continue to teach your children
in regard to their own bodies and how to take care of them. Recklessness in regard to bodily health tends to recklessness in moral character.
Do not neglect to teach your children how to cook. In so doing, you impart to them principles which they must have in their religious education. In giving your children lessons in physiology, and teaching them how to cook with simplicity and yet with skill, you are laying the foundation for the most useful branches of education. Skill is required to make good light bread. There is religion in good cooking, and I question the religion of that class who are too ignorant and too careless to learn to cook.
We see sallow complexions and groaning dyspeptics wherever we go. When we sit at the tables, and eat the food cooked in the same manner as it has been for months, and perhaps years, I wonder that these persons are alive. Bread and biscuit are yellow with saleratus. This resort to saleratus was to save a little care; in consequence of forgetfulness, the bread is often allowed to become sour before baking, and to remedy the evil a large portion of saleratus is added, which only makes it totally unfit for the human stomach. Saleratus in any form should not be introduced into the stomach, for the effect is fearful. It eats the coatings of the stomach, causes inflammation, and frequently poisons the entire system. Some plead: "I cannot make good bread or gems unless I use soda, or saleratus." You surely can if you become a scholar, and will learn. Is not the health of your family of sufficient value to inspire you with ambition to learn how to cook and how to eat?
That which we eat cannot be converted into good blood unless it is of a proper quality, simple and nutritious. The stomach can never convert sour bread into sweet. Food poorly prepared is not nutritious and cannot make good blood. These things which fret and derange the stomach will have a
benumbing influence upon the finer feelings of the heart. Many who adopt the health reform complain that it does not agree with them; but, after sitting at their tables, I come to the decision that it is not the health reform that is at fault, but the poorly prepared food. Health reformers, above all others, should be careful to shun extremes. The body must have sufficient nourishment. We cannot subsist upon air merely; neither can we retain health unless we have nourishing food. Food should be prepared in good order so that it is palatable. Mothers should be practical physiologists, that they may teach their children to know themselves and to possess moral courage to carry out correct principles in defiance of the health-and-life-destroying fashions. To needlessly transgress the laws of our being is a violation of the law of God.
Poor cookery is slowly wearing away the life energies of thousands. It is dangerous to health and life to eat at some tables the heavy, sour bread and the other food prepared in keeping with it. Mothers, instead of seeking to give your daughters a musical education, instruct them in these useful branches which have the closest connection with life and health. Teach them all the mysteries of cooking. Show them that this is a part of their education and essential for them in order to become Christians. Unless the food is prepared in a wholesome, palatable manner, it cannot be converted into good blood to build up the wasting tissues. Your daughters may love music, and this may be all right; it may add to the happiness of the family; but the knowledge of music without the knowledge of cookery is not worth much. When your daughters have families of their own, an understanding of music and fancy work will not provide for the table a well-cooked dinner, prepared with nicety, so that they will not blush to place it before their most-esteemed friends. Mothers, yours is a sacred work. May God help you to take it up with His glory
in view and work earnestly, patiently, and lovingly for the present and future good of your children, having an eye single to the glory of God.