Three texts of Scripture introduce the thought of this study.
Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth (3 John 2).
What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's (1 Cor. 6:19, 20).
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).
The message that Seventh-day Adventists have for the world at this time is one that is calculated to prepare a people for the second coming of Christ and for an eternity in a sinless new earth where righteousness, and peace, and joy shall prevail (Rom. 14:17; Rev. 14: 1-12).
This calls for a transformation that includes the spiritual, the mental, and the physicalthe heart, the mind, and the body.
The writings of Ellen G. White, like the Bible itself, deal with this threefold reformation needed by all men everywhere. Her messages but reinforce the plan of salvation, which is the theme of the Scriptures and the only plan whereby men may be saved from a life of sin and made ready for a life of right thinking and right doing.
In this particular chapter we look into the health message as it is set forth in the writings of Ellen G. White, and in doing so we wish to emphasize the fact that the instruction on this subject is abundant and scattered throughout the whole field of her writings. Therefore it becomes necessary to read extensively before one is qualified to say, This is what Mrs. White teaches on this phase of the over-all subject of health. This chapter merely introduces the subject, opens it up for more detailed study, and points out some dangers and pitfalls into which some of our people are likely to fall.
Again we should take our stand by the side of Mrs. White, and not go to extremes in any direction. Many people are turned against the remnant church by the unwise and unwarranted use of sentences and paragraphs lifted out of their context.
I am especially serious about this, and I shall tell you why. Back in 1910, when the truth first came to our family, I was only a small boy, but was very much interested in all that I was hearing from a good lay brother who was doing missionary work. We were
coming along very nicely in the acceptance of the messages he was giving to us from week to week. Just as we were reaching the point of decision, there came to our town a very well-intentioned woman. She was so zealous and so earnest and so sincere that everyone admired her, but she lacked tact and understanding.
She made it her business to come to our house just at mealtimebe it dinner, breakfast, or supper. She did not come every day, but each visit was at mealtimenot an hour before, not an hour after, but just in time to be invited to join the family as we sat down to eat. And, of course, since we were good Pennsylvania Dutch people, our table was spread with the appetizing dishes of southern Pennsylvania. This woman never refused to sit down and have a meal with us.
When the whole family was seated around the table we would thank God for the food and ask His blessing upon it. Then she would look over the table, and very seriously say, That should not be on the table of a good Seventh-day Adventist. No Seventh-day Adventist would eat that! This certainly is not proper. Why, Sister, if you begin to be an Adventist and eat things like that, you will never go to heaven! Thus she spent the whole time of the meal hour criticizing everything that was on the table. My dear friends, that is not right or proper. My mother was very anxious and much concerned during every one of those meal occasions. The result was that every member of my family turned against the truth except my mother, an older sister,
and me. We have not been able to break down the prejudice that was thus created by that well-intentioned, but very unwise and untactful woman.
Brethren and sisters in the church, we must learn how to use the Testimonies, and we must know where and when to use the Testimonies. We can turn people against this truth and harden their hearts by a misuse of them. I think that is a very serious thing, for because of this experience of more than forty years ago my family cannot be reached by this message even today. It turned them against this truth. I speak very seriously and very earnestly out of a rather personal family experience. I accepted the truth in spite of what the sister did, not because of what she did or said. I cannot emphasize it too strongly. Ellen G. White would never have used such a method. I am confident of that. Neither should we. We should learn the proper use of the Testimonies, and remember that they are written primarily for ourselves personally.
A year or so ago I was on a campground, and a good brother came rushing up to me one day. He said, Elder Rebok, do you eat three meals a day?
I answered, Yes, brother, I eat three meals a day when I can get them.
To which he replied, You will never get into the kingdom of heaven if you eat more than two meals a day.
Well, now, I countered, I am not so sure about that. Where did you ever get hold of that idea?
Why, he said, it is in the Testimonies. Mrs. White wrote it.
I asked, Could you tell me just where that is found? I would like to read it.
He hesitated and stammered, WellbutBrother, I can't remember the book, nor the chapter, nor the page, but it's there. If you eat more than two meals a day, you will never be in the kingdom of heaven!
Well, I said, I think I can read to you what Mrs. White has written on this subject. We were very close to the book tent, and so we went over there. I picked up a volume entitled Medical Ministry, and turned to page 284. This is what I read:
It is plain that two meals a day are better than three.
Why, he shouted, of course, that is the very thing. Now that shows you that what I said is right. And still you eat three meals a day?
I said, Yes, sir.
He replied somewhat triumphantly, Brother, your name is just wiped off the page. There is no hope for you at all!
Then I looked at him, and said very calmly, But listen to the rest of the paragraph:
I believe and practice this, but I have no Thus saith the Lord that it is wrong for some to eat the third meal.
Now I smiled, Brother, that means me. But that is not all. Listen to the rest of the paragraph: We
are not to be as the Pharisees, bound about by set rules and regulations.
His face changed. He said, Brother, is that in there?
And I replied, Not only that. Let me read a little more:
God's word has not specified any set hours when food should be eaten. We are to be careful not to make laws like the laws of the Pharisees, or to teach for doctrines the commandments of men. Let your regulations be so consistent that they will appeal to the reason of those even who have not been educated to see all things clearly.
I looked at the poor man and said, Brother, what do you get out of the whole passage?
Well, he shook his head, I don't know what to say about that. I've been taught that anybody who eats more than two meals a day just can't be saved, and that the Lord is going to judge every individual by how many meals a day he eats; if he eats two, he will be saved; if he eats more than two, he will not be saved.
In pity and with a sad heart I said to him, Brother, you are all wrong. That is not the teaching at all. He was very much perplexed, and wanted to know more about it. When I go back to the office in Washington, I assured him, I shall gather together all the instruction that I can find on the two-meal-a-day question and send you a copy.
I went back to the Ellen G. White Publications
office and found some fourteen pages of very interesting material on that subject alone. Now I believe, brethren, that it is right and proper that we should be fair to all in dealing with such questions. We should be consistent and well balanced in our convictions and in our promoting of such ideas. To that dear brother the number of meals eaten by each and every church member was a very serious problem, and to me it was a very serious matter when he was condemning me to the nether regions because of the third meal that I had been in the habit of eating.
I am of the opinion that when we deal with any topic in the Spirit of prophecy we should not be satisfied with one word, or one sentence, or one paragraph. We should bring together everything that is said on that subject, and then look at all the counsel and instruction. Until we have done that, we are not qualified to pass judgment on anybody or anythingindeed, we are not qualified to bring judgment even on ourselves. This ill-advised and unfortunate way of using the writings of the Spirit of prophecy is so serious that I want to emphasize it again and again. When we talk to others about the teachings of the Spirit of prophecy, let us be sure that we know what she says and what she teaches.
Let me present just a few very interesting paragraphs from this collection of statements on the number of meals Seventh-day Adventists should eat each day.
In most cases, two meals a day are preferable to three. [And I know some of our very, very fine people who eat
but two meals a day. It is good for them.] Supper, when taken at an early hour, interferes with the digestion of the previous meal. When taken later, it is not itself digested before bedtime. Thus the stomach fails of securing proper rest. The sleep is disturbed, the brain and nerves are wearied, the appetite for breakfast is impaired, the whole system is unrefreshed, and is unready for the day's duties.Education, p. 205. (Italics supplied.)
That sounds very sensible indeed.
Again, I read in the book The Ministry of Healing, page 321:
The practise of eating but two meals a day is generally found of benefit to health; yet under some circumstances, persons may require a third meal. This should, however, if taken at all, be very light, and of food most easily digested. (Italics supplied.)
That, too, seems to be very reasonable.
Most people enjoy better health while eating two meals a day than three; others, under their existing circumstances, may require something to eat at suppertime; but this meal should be very light. Let no one think himself a criterion for allthat every one must do exactly as he does.
Never cheat the stomach out of that which health demands, and never abuse it by placing upon it a load which it should not bear. Cultivate self-control. Restrain appetite; keep it under the control of reason.Counsels on Health, p. 156. (Italics supplied.)
You see, the brother was going about with a mistaken idea of his duty and a wrong conception of the message. Everybody he met was asked the same question, Do you eat three meals a day? Of course, there were
others like me, and he put the same condemnation on all of them that he put on me. That, my friend, is not what Mrs. White says at all.
She frankly and freely counsels, Let no one think himself a criterion for all, that every one must do exactly as he does. Well, I like that kind of instruction, and I have made it a practice to allow each person to settle such questions between himself and God. It is entirely up to that person. It is not any of my business how many meals a day he eats. My business is to find out what agrees best with me, and to do the thing that is best for me under my own personal, peculiar circumstances.
To make sure of my position in this matter I approached D. E. Robinson, who lived in Mrs. White's home for many years, and I asked him, How many meals a day did Mrs. White serve in her home? Two meals a day at the table, and then she frankly told each one, Now if you feel the need of something light in the evening, you may feel free to go to the pantry or to the icebox and help yourself. He added, And this I always did. Furthermore, everybody else in that household did the same.
Mrs. White ate only two meals, but she was not engaged in heavy physical labor. She found that she did not need that extra food, so she got along very well on her two meals, but she never forbade the rest of her household to eat the third. She did say, If you eat the third meal you do well to eat a light meal in the
evening. That is my own personal habit, and I find that I get along very well on it. Somehow I like the way she puts her counsels and instructions, and I shall follow the plan that seems to agree with my physical habits and to meet my need in maintaining good health.
Here is another very interesting bit of instruction that comes from volume 4 of the Testimonies, pages 501, 502. In writing these testimonies she would refer to Brother H or Brother A or Brother T, because the instruction was directed to some particular person, and yet it might have an application to others in a similar situation. It is evident that the course of Brother H had not been what it should have been. Of him she says:
His likes and dislikes are very strong, and he has not kept his own feelings under the control of reason. Brother H, your health is greatly injured by overeating, and eating at improper times. This causes a determination of blood to the brain. The mind becomes confused, and you have not the proper control of yourself. You appear like a man whose mind is unbalanced. You make strong moves, are easily irritated, and view things in an exaggerated and perverted light. Plenty of exercise in the open air, and an abstemious diet, are essential to your health. You should not eat more than two meals a day. If you feel that you must eat at night, take a drink of cold water, and in the morning you will feel much better for not having eaten.
You see, that was the specific instruction to a man who needed such counsel. There may be a number of Brother H's around the world. When I see them pile up one plate after another, I begin to wonder whether
I should say anything, but I refrain, for that is not my business. I am sure you know that overeating is one of the greatest weaknesses among Seventh-day Adventists generally. Our women have learned how to prepare such delicious and tasty dishes that most of us tend to overeat. But I shall not make it my business to go around and tell which one is overeating and which one is not! God has given to you and me alike the same instruction, and we can each read it.
I came across a very interesting letter written in 1901, under our File No. 145. In it was this paragraph:
With regard to the diet question, this matter must be handled with such wisdom that no overbearing will appear. It should be shown that to eat two meals is far better for the health than to eat three. But there must be no authoritative forcing seen. No one connected with the sanitarium should be compelled to adopt the two-meal system. Persuasion is more appropriate than force.Ellen G. White, Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 117. (Italics supplied.)
This again was written to a specific person, in a specific institution, and for a very specific reason. Yet it has a caution in it that we do well to heed.
In 1902 Mrs. White wrote a letter, No. 200, in which she said:
In regard to the third meal, do not make eating but two meals compulsory. Some do best healthwise when eating three light meals, and when they are restricted to two, they feel the change severely.Ibid., p. 178. (Italics supplied.)
I once had that experience, and I came to the conclusion that those who live on two meals a day are generally the poorest examples of real health reform among us as a people. They eat more in their two meals than the ordinary person eats in three moderate meals.
We must be consistent. We must be sensible. We must live according to reason. If Ellen G. White was anything at all, she was reasonable, sensible, and took good care of those about her.
We could read much more on this subject, but there are other subjects far more important. I use it only as an example of how we can become extremists in our viewpoints and misuse the writings of the servant of the Lord. None of us want to do that, I am sure.
Mrs. White then describes another class, who in their desire to set a right example go to the opposite extreme. Concerning them she says:
Some are unable to obtain the most desirable foods, and instead of using such things as would best supply the lack, they adopt an impoverished diet. Their food does not supply the elements needed to make good blood. Their health suffers, their usefulness is impaired, and their example tells against rather than in favor of reform in diet.
Others think that since health requires a simple diet, there need be little care in the selection or the preparation of food. Some restrict themselves to a very meager diet, not having sufficient variety to supply the needs of the system, and they suffer in consequence.Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 318. (Italics supplied.)
I was in a home several years ago where they had a kind of mixing machine. The lettuce went in at the topthe cabbage, the carrots, the tomatoes, the potatoes, about everything that you could imagine, all went in the topand all raw. Out it came a sort of thick liquid. The lady took a glass of that mixture and handing it to me, said, Here is your dinner. I drank it along with the rest of the family.
Ellen G. White never used such methods in her home. The people who lived with her for years tell of the bountiful attractive table of well-selected and well-prepared foods. There was always an abundance for all. No, my brothers and sisters, health reform does not demand that we become extremists in anything. It expects that we shall be good, sensible people, able to reason from cause to effect, ready to choose that which is wholesome, and discard that which is harmful.
From the examples cited thus far it becomes apparent that we must read everything Mrs. White has written on any given aspect of health reform before we are qualified to speak with authority as to just what she taught and advocated. This becomes more apparent as we deal with questions as to the use of eggs, milk, butter, cheese, flesh foods, and the like.
It is high time that we faced these problems and dealt with them frankly and fairly, so as to do justice to the one who is so frequently misquoted, misinterpreted, and misunderstood. Again I say that on all these questions we must take our position right by her
side, giving due consideration to every statement, not going to either extreme, not running ahead of her, or falling so far behind that we are out of step with her.
To make sure of our position on all of these much-discussed issues let us classify her instruction in three groups: first, the instruction that sets forth the ideal, that which is best, most positive, most strictthe highly desirable; second, the instruction that recognizes the exceptions, the emergencies, the conditions that do not permit of the ideal, the perfect, and that call for a second bestthe best one can do under existing conditions; third, those statements that seem to be a summarization or a conclusion of the whole matter.
To my mind, that is a fair, a reasonable, and a sensible approach to these questions that are now proving so troublesome and perplexing to some, and are even becoming obstacles and stumbling blocks to others. When all the instruction on any given topic is studied, Ellen G. White is found to present what must be recognized as a well-balanced, reasonable, and highly satisfactory solution or exposition.
My appeal to all Seventh-day Adventists everywhere is that we might use just such a sane and sensible approach to all the counsel and instruction contained in the writings of Ellen G. White. By thus taking our position by her side, we can and should be correct in our interpretation, and a harmony of thought and action should result.
Let us apply this principle first to the question regaming
the eating of eggs. From volume 2 of the Testimonies, page 400, we read:
Eggs should not be placed upon your table.
Without giving heed to the setting of this statement it seems to be all-inclusive, and has a finality that is beyond compromise. And some of our folks say, Therefore, eat no eggs.
In that second group of qualifying statements I find this:
It is true that persons in full flesh and in whom the animal passions are strong need to avoid the use of stimulating foods. Especially in families of children who are given to sensual habits, eggs should not be used.The Ministry of Healing, p. 320.
Now that gives quite a different view of the subject. The first sentence said, Eggs should not be placed upon your table. Let us continue:
But in the case of persons whose blood-making organs are feeble,especially if other foods to supply the needed elements can not be obtained,milk and eggs should not be wholly discarded. Great care should be taken, however, to obtain milk from healthy cows, and eggs from healthy fowls, that are well fed and well cared for.Ibid. (Italics supplied.)
We now turn to volume 9 of the Testimonies, page 162, for Mrs. White's final summarizing statement regarding eggs:
While warnings have been given regarding the dangers of disease through butter, and the evil of the free use of eggs by small children, yet we should not consider it a
violation of principle to use eggs from hens that are well cared for and suitably fed. Eggs contain properties that are remedial agencies in counteracting certain poisons. (Italics supplied.)
Suppose we had stopped on the first sentence. Suppose we had stopped on the first two sentences. Then I would not be doing justice to the teaching of the Spirit of prophecy on this subject. It means that I must have the whole picture before me in order to understand the significance and the meaning of the instruction given.
Brethren, sisters, I appeal to you once again. Let us be sure that we have the whole picture, the whole body of instruction, before we pronounce a judgment upon anyone. It seems to me that we should be most careful to use the writings of the Spirit of prophecy in the way that Ellen G. White intended they should be used.
Frankly, what was the situation that called forth the positive statement on page 400 of volume 2? A brother and his wife were having trouble with their boys. The boys had some habits that were not good for them, affecting their health and their mentality. Mrs. White sent them a testimony which we find in volume 2 of the Testimonies. The chapter in which that particular sentence is found is entitled Sensuality in the Young. There you will find the whole picture set forth, and the reason for that sentence, which so many of our people lift right out of its context. They use it as a basis for everybody, everywhere, and declare that the
eating of eggs is wrong. You see, you must read the whole chapter, beginning on page 390, in order to get the clear picture.
More than that, you should read the chapter in The Ministry of Healing, the chapter in volume 9 of the Testimonies, and in fact, everything that has to do with eggs before you begin to tell anybody else what to do about eggs.
Dr. Daniel Kress, over in Australia, away back in 1900 and 1901 was a very careful health reformer, and in every sense a fine, true Christian gentleman. But he had taken an extreme view of health reform and had brought upon himself a very serious case of anemia. Dr. Kress was going down physically very fast, and his prospects for living were becoming rather uncertain. Mrs. White, who was in California, was given a vision in which Dr. Kress's condition was revealed to her, and the reasons for his impaired health. Of course he was not using meat, but he had also given up eggs, milk, butter, and cheese. In vision Mrs. White was shown that he should return to the use of dairy products, and that he should use raw egg in grape juice every day, for it would save his life. Dr. Kress, in telling the story, said that he was completely amazed at such instruction coming from Mrs. White. He followed the counsel, turning from his extreme interpretation of health reform, and he regained his health. He served the cause of God nearly fifty years after that, and at this writing is still living, well over ninety years of age.
As I said before, Ellen G. White was very sensible, and she would have us be the same.
Let us turn to another food problem and take a brief glance at the instruction on dairy productsmilk, cream, and butter. Here, too, is a question that vexes many of our people. Again we must take our stand by the side of Ellen G. White if we would rightly understand and represent her views on this subject.
We begin with the unqualified statements:
The light given me is that it will not be very long before we shall have to give up any animal food. Even milk will have to be discarded. Disease is accumulating rapidly. The curse of God is upon the earth.Australasian Union Conference Record, July 28, 1899, quoted in Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 357.
Tell them that the time will soon come when there will be no safety in using eggs, milk, cream, or butter, because disease in animals is increasing in proportion to the increase of wickedness among men.Testimonies, vol. 7, p. 135 (published in 1902).
Disease in the animals is the reason given for these statements. The contamination of the source, and the method of handling, would seem to justify the discontinuance of dairy products from one's diet. Before coming to a conclusion, however, we turn to the qualifying instruction, and we must give it due consideration because it, too, came from the pen of Mrs. White:
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 a vigor of intellect that are not produced by a stimulating diet.Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 92. (Italics supplied.)
Further we read:
The time may come when it will not be safe to use milk. But if the cows are healthy and the milk thoroughly cooked, there is no necessity of creating a time of trouble beforehand.Ibid., p. 357. (Italics supplied.)
As for myself, I have settled the butter question. I do not use it. This question should easily be settled in every place where the purest article cannot be obtained. We have two good milch cows, a Jersey and a Holstein. We use cream, and all are satisfied with this.Ibid., p. 351. (Italics supplied.)
It was in 1909 at a General Conference session that Ellen G. White preached a powerful sermon on health reform. This sermon now appears in Testimonies, volume 9, and I consider it as a sort of summarization of her teachings on this important topic. Every Seventh-day Adventist would do well to read and analyze it. From it we take several statements:
Food should be prepared in such a way that it will be appetizing as well as nourishing . Vegetables should be made palatable with a little milk or cream, or something equivalent . Some, in abstaining from milk, eggs, and butter, have failed to supply the system with proper nourishment,
and as a consequence have become weak and unable to work. Thus health reform is brought into disrepute .
The time will come when we may have to discard some of the articles of diet we now use, such as milk and cream and eggs; but it is not necessary to bring upon ourselves perplexity by premature and extreme restrictions. Wait until the circumstances demand it, and the Lord prepares the way for it.Page 162. (Italics supplied.)
A few years earlier she wrote:
Milk, eggs, and butter should not be classed with flesh meat. In some cases the use of eggs is beneficial. The time has not come to say that the use of milk and eggs should be wholly discarded. There are poor families whose diet consists largely of bread and milk. They have little fruit and cannot afford to purchase the nut foods. In teaching health reform, as in all other gospel work, we are to meet the people where they are. Until we can teach them how to prepare health reform foods that are palatable, nourishing, and yet inexpensive, we are not at liberty to present the most advanced propositions regarding health reform diet.Ibid., vol. 7, p. 135. (Italics supplied.)
When the health message is studied in this way duty and responsibility become apparent to everyone. There is no need or basis for extreme views, for narrow bigotry, for pharisaical restrictions, or for salvation by works.
Seldom do we travel in any part of the world today and talk about the Spirit of prophecy but that some people come and say, Now tell us all about the meat question. What did Mrs. White really have to say regarding the eating of flesh foods?
It is a good question. I am inclined to think that some are more exercised about it than they should be. It gives me the impression that the food question is a great cross in the lives of many of our people, for they talk and fret so much about it. When my mother, sister, and I became Adventists in 1910, and learned that flesh food was not a part of the Seventh-day Adventist diet, we immediately cast it out of our house and out of our experience. Our family had been eating some kind of flesh food three times a daybreakfast, dinner, and supperand yet it was dropped from our dietary immediately. We did not understand all the reasons why. We were simply told we should not eat it. I did not take the time to read all the instructions for myself, but when we were told that it is not a part of a Seventh-day Adventist's life, we canceled it out, along with everything else objectionable.
We lived next door to the manager of the motion-picture theater. He had two small children, and he wanted them to see the pictures every night, so I took them every night, and never paid a cent during the years we lived beside those people. Yet when this truth came to me, and I found that the theater does not fit into the life of a Seventh-day Adventist, I stopped that immediately. So one thing after another was given up, and I find that I am not the loser for having given up any or all of these things. Indeed, they have no place or part in my happy Christian life. God does not ask us to give up anything that is good for us. He asks us
only to give up those things that are not good for us. Thus one thing after another promptly disappeared from our lives and from our table until we thought we were living in harmony with God's teachings.
The sad part of my experience is that, after giving up so much, I actually became guilty so far as real health reform was concerned, but in a different wayperhaps different from anything that you have ever heard of or done. In spite of giving up all these thingstea and coffee and flesh foods and all suchI became guilty in other matters that are equally important in the full health message.
For some reason or other, I do not know why, I thought it my duty to get up at three o'clock in the morning and begin my day's work. I felt that I had so much to get done, and so little time in which to do it, that I must begin at three o'clock in the morning. For a number of years I did that conscientiously, and worked like a slave all day long because I thought it must be done.
As a good, conscientious Seventh-day Adventist I thought it was my duty to work harder than anybody else, but when I married a young woman who did not like such early rising, I changed my habits and got up at four-thirty. All through my twenty-three years of work in China it was either four-thirty or five o'clock when my day began, and it ended about eleven at night.
Then to make matters still worse I came to think that I had to worry for everybody on the school campus.
I became the official worrier for everybody, and with that kind of programup at four-thirty or five in the morning, to bed at eleven at night, and worrying about everybody's problems between eleven and four in the morningit was not long until my stomach gave way, and I suffered for about eight years.
Nobody ever told me that I was a poor example of health reform. I just lived that kind of life. I never thought of taking time out for a rest, relaxation, or vacation. As a matter of fact, a vacation or a holiday was for me a waste of time and a terrible bore. I just could not stand it. I had to have something to do every minute, or I was of all men most miserable. With no hill leave, or anything of that kind, from 1917 to 1940, I was a good subject for a permanent return to the United States, and home they sent me and my family.
After reaching the United States of America in June, 1940, I went to our own White Memorial Hospital, and paid a lot of money for the X-rays, and all the regular and special examinations, but I was not much impressed by what the doctors said. Honestly, I paid no attention to it, but kept going until the fall of 1940 when I reached the place where I could not stand erect. With constant pain in the abdomen I had to walk like a bent-over old man, and finally had to go to a doctor.
This time I went to a doctor who was not a Seventh-day Adventist, but a specialist in internal medicine and
a professor at the George Washington University Medical College. He looked me over and said, Well, Mr. Rebok, so you are a Seventh-day Adventist. Don't you believe in God? Don't you pray?
Somewhat perplexed, and a bit ashamed, I said, Surely.
He inquired, But don't you think God hears your prayers?
Well, I mumbled, I think so.
To which he thoughtfully replied, But you don't act like it. You would not be in the condition you are in today if you believed in God, and if you knew how to pray and how to work.
Remember, he was not an Adventist.
Then he said, Now, of course, I know that in the diet I am going to give you, you would prefer not to eat meat.
That is right, I agreed, if I can get a perfectly balanced diet without it.
He assured me that I could get a perfect diet without meat, and then proceeded to give me the simplest kind of diet one could ever imagine. He went further and prescribed, You must stay in bed until six o'clock in the morning. You must be in bed before ten o'clock at night. You must lie down for twenty minutes of rest at noon when you come back from your work, before you eat. He said that I must do this and that until he had given me a complete program of activity, and a simple, well-balanced diet to live on.
It came the nearest to being what I find described in the Ellen G. White books of anything I could imagine. No cakes, no pies, no sugar, and no sweets of any kind. No meat, no condimentsnone of these things. He said, Of course, I know there is no need to tell you about tobacco and liquor. I know you do not use them. If you did, they, too, would all go. When all was said and done he gave me the program by which I was to live for two years.
After I had been faithfully carrying out this program without a deviation in any way whatsoever for more than a year, I said to him, Have you ever read our Seventh-day Adventist books on health?
The doctor replied, No, I have never seen them.
Well, I said, what you have given me to eat, and the daily program on which you have placed me, corresponds more closely to the pattern set forth in our books than anything else I have ever seen.
At the end of two years I was completely recovered, and have had no return of that trouble since.
What was the cause of all my trouble? In the first place, I did not know how to work. In the second place, I did not know how to relax. Third, I did not know how to take proper physical exercise that would really build up and strengthen my body. I had no problem or questions regarding food, but I must admit that I seldom if ever thought about the eight factors in the complete health message, and especially the eighth which is trust in divine power. Somehow or other I had just
taken that for granted, but we must become more aware of God's presence and power in our daily lives.
Living on that simple program of work and exercise and rest with the simplest kind of food in the most simple combinations, I found that I could live happily and keep perfectly well. All of that was in the books from the time I accepted this truth in 1910, but I tell you honestly, my friends, most of us allow it to remain in the books unheeded, and certainly seldom carry it out in all of its detail.
I am convinced that the Lord through Mrs. White has given us a program of health that includes all phases of healthful living. You will find it stated in one sentence on page 127 of the book The Ministry of Healing I wish you would memorize it. If it is not memorized, then remember where it is found. Pure air, sunlight, abstemiousness, rest, exercise, proper diet, the use of water, trust in divine powerthese are the true remedies. Our health message is all wrapped up in that sentence, and it includes all eight phases of living, and not just one. We can be ever so careful in what we eat, but if we lack the other seven essential factors, which are of equal importance, we shall not be living true health reform. So I appeal to you at this time to learn what health reform really means and all that is included in it.
Now we come to the question of flesh foods. Someone asks, Can you prove from the Bible that you should not eat meat? My answer is, No, we cannot
prove it from the Bible. The Bible merely makes clear to us the diet God provided for men originally, and in this we see God's plan, His intention. Under certain circumstances He permitted the use of flesh foods. Therefore I never use the Bible to prove that I should not eat meat. My appeal is to God's original design, to the facts of science, and to the fact that disease among animals is so prevalent, and the preparation and marketing of meat and fish are so uncertain, that we do well to find a safer source of food.
I read in Counsels on Diet and Foods:
Again and again I have been shown that God is bringing His people back to His original design, that is, not to subsist upon the flesh of dead animals. He would have us teach people a better way .
If meat is discarded, if the taste is not educated in that direction, if a liking for fruits and grains is encouraged, it will soon be as God in the beginning designed it should be. No meat will be used by His people.Page 82. (Italics supplied.)
Vegetables, fruits, and grains should compose our diet. Not an ounce of flesh meat should enter our stomachs. The eating of flesh is unnatural. We are to return to God's original purpose in the creation of man.Page 380. (Italics supplied.)
Reading further we find these words:
Among those who are waiting for the coming of the Lord, meat eating will eventually be done away; flesh will cease to form a part of their diet. We should ever keep this end in view, and endeavor to work steadily toward it. I cannot think that in the practice of flesh eating we are
in harmony with the light which God has been pleased to give us.
We also read the following caution:
There are those who ought to be awake to the danger of meat eating, who are still eating the flesh of animals, thus endangering the physical, mental, and spiritual health. Many who are now only half converted on the question of meat eating will go from God's people to walk no more with them.Ibid., p. 382.
Is it not time that all should aim to dispense with flesh foods? How can those who are seeking to become pure, refined, and holy, that they may have the companionship of heavenly angels, continue to use as food anything that has so harmful an effect on soul and body?Ibid., p. 380.
It is for their own good that the Lord counsels the remnant church to discard the use of flesh meats, tea, and coffee, and other harmful foods. There are plenty of other things on which we can subsist that are wholesome and good.Ibid., p. 381.
Thus it becomes apparent to all that God would have His people eat a diet as near to the original ideal diet as is possible. The advantages and blessings are clearly outlined. Just as far as possible we should live by the ideal, the best.
To be absolutely fair and unbiased on this matter of meat eating we should also present the passages that recognize emergencies, special cases and situations. These are known by some, and they are frequently used as justification for using flesh foods even when there is an abundance of other food available. We present
them in order to have the whole picture before us and to enable us to come to right conclusions.
The compilers of the book Counsels on Diet and Foods listed on page 481 some principles that guided Ellen G. White in her dietetic practices:
First: The diet reform should be progressive. .
Second: We do not mark out any precise line to be followed in diet. .
Third: I make myself a criterion for no one else.
Mrs. White wrote of her own experience in these words:
I accepted the light on health reform as it came to me. It has been a great blessing to me. I have better health today, notwithstanding I am seventy-six years old, than I had in my younger days. I thank God for the principles of health reform.Ibid., p. 482.
Light came to me, showing me the injury men and women were doing to the mental, moral, and physical faculties by the use of flesh meat. I was shown that the whole human structure is affected by this diet, that by it man strengthens the animal propensities and the appetite for liquor.
I at once cut meat out of my bill of fare. After that I was at times placed where I was compelled to eat a little meat.Ibid., p. 487. (Italics supplied.)
The compilers add this cross reference:
[At times compelled to eat a little meat when other food was not available699].
On page 394 we find this paragraph, No. 699:
Where plenty of good milk and fruit can be obtained there is rarely an excuse for eating animal food; it is
not necessary to take the life of any of God's creatures to supply our ordinary needs. In certain cases of illness or exhaustion it may be thought best to use some meat, but great care should be taken to secure the flesh of healthy animals. It has come to be a very serious question whether it is safe to use flesh food at all in this age of the world. It would be better never to eat meat than to use the flesh of animals that are not healthy. When I could not obtain the food I needed, I have sometimes eaten a little meat; but I am becoming more and more afraid of it. (Italics supplied.)
There is another paragraph written back in 1894 that gives some light on possible exceptions to the general rule Mrs. White sets forth as good practice for Seventh-day Adventists:
Some honestly think that a proper dietary consists chiefly of porridge. To eat largely of porridge would not ensure health to the digestive organs; for it is too much like liquid. Encourage the eating of fruit and vegetables and bread. A meat diet is not the most wholesome of diets, and yet I would not take the position that meat should be discarded by every one. Those who have feeble digestive organs can often use meat, when they cannot eat vegetables, fruit, or porridge. If we would preserve the best health, we should avoid eating vegetables and fruit at the same meal. If the stomach is feeble, there will be distress, the brain will be confused, and unable to put forth mental effort. Have fruit at one meal and vegetables at the next.Ibid., pp. 394, 395.
For a summarization of the principles and counsels, given in 1909, we read:
If we could be benefited by indulging the desire for
flesh foods, I would not make this appeal to you; but I know we cannot. Flesh foods are injurious to the physical well-being, and we should learn to do without them. Those who are in a position where it is possible to secure a vegetarian diet, but who choose to follow their own preferences in this matter, eating and drinking as they please, will gradually grow careless of the instruction the Lord has given regarding other phases of the present truth, and will lose their perception of what is truth; they will surely reap as they have sown.Ibid., pp. 402, 403; Testimonies, vol. 9, pp. 156, 157. (Italics supplied.)
We do not mark out any precise line to be followed in diet; but we do say that in countries where there are fruits, grains, and nuts in abundance, flesh food is not the right food for God's people.Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 159. ( Italics supplied.)
We are not to make the use of flesh food a test of fellowship, but we should consider the influence that professed believers who use flesh foods have over others. As God's messengers, shall we not say to the people, Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Erroneous eating and drinking result in erroneous thinking and acting.Counsels on Diet and Foods, pp. 404, 405; Testimonies, vol. 9, pp. 159, 160. (Italics supplied.)
On several occasions Mrs. White gave counsel on the care that should be exercised in leading people to change their dietetic habits. Note this:
Among the people in general [in Australia], meat is largely used by all classes. It is the cheapest article of food; and even where poverty abounds, meat is usually found upon the table. Therefore there is the more need of handling wisely the question of meat eating. In regard to this
matter there should be no rash movements. We should consider the situation of the people, and the power of lifelong habits and practices, and should be careful not to urge our ideas upon others, as if this question were a test, and those who eat largely of meat were the greatest of sinners.
All should have the light on this question, but let it be carefully presented. Habits that have been thought right for a lifetime are not to be changed by harsh or hasty measures. We should educate the people at our camp meetings and other large gatherings. While the principles of health reform should be presented, let the teaching be backed by example. Let no meat be found at our restaurants or dining tents, but let its place be supplied with fruits, grains, and vegetables. We must practice what we teach. When sitting at a table where meat is provided, we are not to make a raid upon those who use it, but we should let it alone ourselves, and when asked our reasons for doing this we should in a kindly manner explain why we do not use it.Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 462. (Italics supplied.)
I have never felt it was my duty to say that no one should taste of meat under any circumstances. To say this when the people have been educated to live on flesh to so great an extent would be carrying matters to extremes. I have never felt that it was my duty to make sweeping assertions. What I have said I have said under a sense of duty, but I have been guarded in my statements, because I did not want to give occasion for any one to be conscience for another.Ibid., pp. 462, 463. (Italics supplied.)
Now what would you make of all that advice and instruction? Is it right to eat meat under any circumstances? Would God permit flesh foods at all under any conditions?
He outlines first the idealthat which is best for us alland then He seems to make provision for those who live in some parts of the world where that ideal diet is not available. Likewise, He makes provision for those who, because of some special physical condition, might find it necessary to use flesh foods rather than combinations of vegetables and fruit, and milk and sugar, and other things that you could mention.
To me this is very sensible. God tells us the best thing to do, and He wants us to do it, and then He makes provision where we cannot do the best. In my reading I came across this paragraph, and I think it sums it all up so far as what to eat is concerned:
Health reform is an intelligent selection of the most healthful articles of food prepared in the most healthful, simplest form.My Life Today, p. 132.
Dear brethren and sisters, if we follow that instruction, we shall be safe and in harmony with the very best counsel. This is the primary purpose in all the writings. What we have presented is only a small part of the mass of instruction that we have in her writings.
Unfortunately, some of our people have tended to make the food question the all-important thing in connection with the writings of the servant of the Lord. I think it is very unfortunate, because it gives us a wrong impression and tends to cause many of us to lose an interest in all the other subjects that are so vitally important.
Now you say, Is there a time when we could or
should properly use flesh foods? Well, as I have traveled through the different parts of the world I must confess I have very seldom found myself in a place where it seemed necessary to resort to flesh foods. Several times in China I have found myself where they had taken the vegetables out of the garden, after having fertilized them in their own way with night soil or human excreta, and then stirred them around in a little dirty water, and put them in a pan with a little grease at the bottom, moved them around for a minute or two, put them in a dish, and handed them to me to eat. Frankly I could not eat them, for that would not have been in accord with health reform. I would in that way be getting some types of animal life which I could not take into my stomach without paying a price in dysentery or cholera or something of that type, and therefore I would not and did not eat such vegetables.
Yes, I have been in a position where there was nothing to eat but rice and fried eggsthree times a day for eight or ten weeks at a time. That, I must admit, got a little tiresome, but there was nothing else I could eat. I did not dare touch the vegetables, for I knew they were not safe. And in such a situation I think the Lord expects us to use good common sense, and we should do the best we can. Remember the definition given by Mrs. White herself: Health reform is an intelligent selection of the most healthful articles of food prepared in the most healthful, simplest form. And I believe, dear friends, the Lord has made provision for such emergenciesthe
difference in climate and the various geographical sections of the world field.
But now you say, Are you giving us liberty to eat flesh foods any time, anywhere? No, you will not find such a statement in the chapter in volume 9 of the Testimonies. She makes provision only for the exception. The trouble is that if I have made meat and diet the all-important thing in my life, I may be inclined to think that wherever I am there will be an emergency all the time, everywhere. That I am sure would not be in harmony with the instruction. Again I say God has made provision for emergencies in this old world in which we find ourselves today.
I wish, dear friends, above everything else, that in every church, in every center where our people live and gather in church services, somebody would take upon himself or herself the burden of teaching our people how to prepare good, wholesome foods, and then we should not need to be like the sister I met at a camp meeting last summer. She came to me in desperation. She wrung her hands and said, Elder Rebok, I am so tired of hearing about food that I never want to hear about it or see it again. I am anxious that the Lord shall come soon, so that I do not have to worry about what to eat and what not to eat.
Well, I said, Sister, you have made a mistake. God never intended that you should worship your stomach and make it the all-important thing in your life. That should be the least of your worries, and it will
be, when you have made the preparation for your entrance into God's kingdom the one and only objective of your sojourn in the world.
I believe some of us have been thinking too much about what we eat and what we do not eat. I have learned from experience that I can get along on a very simple dietI marvel at the simplicity of itand yet there is a perfect balance of all the elements I need for my body. God has made ample provision. It is for you and me to find out what we can do about it and how.
There is another subject that means much to the health of our boys and girls. It has to do with the question of sports. Here again I have followed my plan of dividing up the instruction into three groups. The first presents the ideal, or the strongest possible statement on the question; the second brings the balancing statements; and then the third group sets forth the summarizing statements. This I have done in the matter of sports. Listen:
A view of things was presented before me in which the students were playing games of tennis and cricket. Then I was given instruction regarding the character of these amusements. They were presented to me as a species of idolatry, like idols of the nations.Counsels to Parents and Teachers, p. 350.
How much time is spent by intelligent human beings in horse racing, cricket matches, and ball playing! But will indulgence in these sports give men a desire to know truth and righteousness? Will it keep God in their thoughts? Will it lead them to inquire, How is it with my
soul? All the powers of Satan are set in operation to hold the attention to frivolous amusements, and he is gaining his object.Ibid., p. 456.
The public feeling is that manual labor is degrading, yet men may exert themselves as much as they choose at cricket, baseball, or in pugilistic contests, without being regarded as degraded. Satan is delighted when he sees human beings using their physical and mental powers in that which does not educate, which is not useful, which does not help them to be a blessing to those who need their help. While the youth are becoming expert in games that are of no real value to themselves or to others, Satan is playing the game of life for their souls, taking from them the talents that God has given them, and placing in their stead his own evil attributes.Ibid., pp. 274, 275.
It looks as though there is no place for the game of ball or any other sports of that nature in a Seventh-day Adventist Christian's life. Is that right? Now listen again while I read the counsel in the middle group:
I do not condemn the simple exercise of playing ball; but this, even in its simplicity, may be overdone.The Adventist Home, p. 499.
Now what shall we do about that? Again we find Mrs. White to be very human and very sensible. She did not condemn the throwing of a ball. She did not condemn the hitting of a ball. She did not condemn the running after you have hit the ball. What then did she condemn? She warns against overdoing such things, against making something of that kind so all-important in the life that everything else fades into insignificance.
Brothers, sisters, when you put the instruction all together, there is a place for the boy and his ball. There is a place for the boy and his bat. The question is, How far? and when? May I say, dear friends, that the book The Adventist Home has a whole section on recreation, on sports and amusements, and it sets forth a balanced picture so that our young people in reading it will know what they can do with sports and what they should not do. Again I say, I love these writings because they are so sensible, so reasonable.
Seventh-day Adventists need periods of rest and relaxation. As a people we tend to be too serious in our task, and so intense that we do not take periods away from our work. This is good to a certain extent, but too many of our people forget that the body is in need of time for recreation. Therefore, to live health reform in all its phases we must be consistent and use good judgment.
The writings of Ellen G. White set forth a program of living that will bring honor to God in all that we do as good Seventh-day Adventist Christians. We must give heed to every phase of her counsel and instruction, for only in so doing can we be consistent, well-balanced representatives of the health message.