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No. 6. VOL. 9.]
NEW-YORK, NOV. 1834.
(WHOLE No. 102.
By. REV. EDWARD HITCHCOCK, Professor of Chemistry and Natural History in Amherst College, Mass.
BLESSINGS OF TEMPERANCE IN FOOD. DANIEL 1. 12–15.--Prove thy servants, I beseerh thee, ten days, and
let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink. Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king's meat; and as thou seest, deal with thy serrants. So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days. And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king's meat.
DANIEL was prompted by conscientious scruples in making this request. He knew, perhaps, that the “portion of the king's meat and wine” which was sent them, had been previously offered in sacrifice to some idol god, and feared lest he should seem to connive at such idolatry. He had, moreover, doubtless observed, that such rich living, as must have been common in that luxurious court, operated unfavorably both upon body and mind. The result of ten days trial of a simple yet nourishing vegetable diet, making their countenances fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat of the king's meat, has been regarded by some commentators as miraculous : and so it seems to have been considered by the Babylonian eunuchs, who had the charge of Daniel and his companions. Indeed, the general opinion among the great mass of mankind, in almost every age, has been, that a diet of simple bread and other vegetable food, with nothing but water for drink, is not only most unfriendly to comfort and happiness, but inconsistent with vigorous health and fullness of muscle and strength. But the man who has perseveringly tried such a diet, after using one of a more stimulating character, sees in its effects upon these Jewish youth, nothing but the natural consequence of a return to the proper course of living. The more luxurious course
Vol. 9-No. 6.
urged upon them by the king, must have had a peculiarly unfavorable effect upon the health of these virtuous Jews, who had probably all their former days practised temperance; and very likely they had now become somewhat emaciated. A return to their former healthy diet, even for ten days, might therefore have perceptibly added to their muscular fullness, and especially to the fairness of their complexion. We need not, therefore, call in the aid of a special miracle to explain the result: or rather, it is one of those cases, (fortunately not uncommon at this day,) in which God commissions temperance to perform the work of a miracle, without any suspension or contravention of the laws of nature.
Such a case as this, therefore, may serve as a convenient starting point in describing the salutary effects of temperance in the use of food. And this is the use I shall make of it in the present discourse.
I shall take it for granted, that he who adopts a strictly temperate course in respect to food, is equally temperate in respect to drink; and that he abjures every alcoholic and stimulating mixture; using for his daily beverage, that pure and only fluid, which God has created and widely diffused for the drink of man and other animals. Let the community but adopt such a system of temperance, and the following blessings will be the result:
1. Health and Longevity.
I would guard against conveying the opinion, as some writers on this subject seem to have done, that even the strictest temperance in diet will infallibly secure to a man the blessings of health and longevity. For there are other causes of disease and premature decay, besides dietetic excesses; and to some of them we are all inevitably exposed; and we often
ourselves to those that are not inevitable. There is exposure to vicissitudes of climate and weather; to the damps and chills of the night; to the prostrating heats of a vertical sun; to the unhealthy miasms of decaying vegetable and animal matter; to deleterious chemical agents in the processes of the arts; to the reaction of the soul on the body when the labors of the intellect have been too severe, or the nobler powers have been overdone with care;
and above all, to the deadly influence of unrestrained consuming passions. He who has escaped all these influences, has been favored almost miraculously. But none do escape; and often they plant the seeds of disease in the constitution, too deeply for the strictest diet and regimen to eradicate. Yet temperance in diet, joined with appropriate exercise, and regularity in other habits, will, if any thing can do it, bring back to the invalid health and happiness. It will also fortify the system more vigorously to resist all morbid influences; and thus it becomes a chief auxiliary to health and longevity.
That these blessings must naturally result from temperance in all things, the laws of physiology would lead us to expect. God has constructed the machinery of the human system so perfectly, and adapted its moving powers with such admirable skill, that health and longevity are natural to it, and disease and premature decay unnatu. ral. Nay, he has given to it an internal elasticity, by which it is able to resist, without permanent injury, the ordinary vicissitudes and morbid influences to which it is exposed. The moment an injurious agent comes in contact with the system, or is introduced into it, a multitude of springs and pumps and chemical affinities are at work to resist and expel the poison. And it is only when the morbid action is severe, or long continued, that a permanent injury results, and the delicate machinery becomes deranged, and the vital energy impaired. True, there is sometimes a malformation in the system-an original imperfect and deficient construction of parts—which infallibly entails disease and early death. But if once carried through the period of infancy, we may generally calculate, that with proper attention and care, the human constitution may last through the ordinary term of human existence. Not a few constitutions may easily be made to continue in play far beyond that period; and to number even a cen. tury of happy years. The reason why the period beyond three score and ten is usually labor and sorrow, is, that some kind of unnecessary exposure or excess, either in food, drink, or physical or intellect. ual effort, have overtasked the organs of the body, and exhausted the vital energies, and introduced disease. Now the system of temperance for which I plead, imposes upon the organs of digestion only that amount of labor which is necessary to give to the system, bodily and mental, the most perfect health and energy. It does not allow of overloading the digestive or assimilating organs in the least, for tho sake of gratifying the palate. Consequently these organs are never oppressed, and disease is never the consequence of what is taken in the form of food and drink : because God has so constructed the hu. man machine, that it can perform labor to this amount, without the slightest inconvenience. Unless, therefore, some extraordinary morbid influence intervenes, such a man's constitution will run on in perfect health, till that period of extreme old age, when, according to divine appointment, this earthly house of our tabernacle must be dissolved by the operation of natural laws—the same as those which limit the duration of other animals, and of trees, and the smaller vegetables. For a man to be assailed, while in health and vigor, with