Imágenes de páginas

fierce disease, and laid in the grave, is as really unnatural as for the tree to be cut down in its greenness and freshness by the axe of the husbandman. The operation of the ordinary laws of nature is in both cases equally interrupted by the intervention of a foreign and violent agency. And inasmuch as morbid influences are much more powerful when introduced among the delicate organs of the animal system, than when acting externally, we see the reason why intemperance in diet is so much more fatal to health and longevity than any other cause.

What the laws of physiology would thus lead us to expect, as the effect of temperance upon health and longevity, experience abundantly confirms. For there have been a few in all ages, whose practice has corresponded essentially with the principles of temperance which I have advocated in previous discourses.* Many of the ancient philosophers, especially the Pythagoreans, restricted themselves to a vegetable diet, with water alone for drink, and experienced the health, longevity, and vigor of intellect, which such temperance naturally brings along with it. The early Christians too, particularly those driven by persecution into banishment, by the practice of similar abstemiousness, were rewarded by similar blessings. Many a modern biography, also, of the great and the good, affords a demonstrative example of the truth of my position. But the case of one who, living and dying, bore a most beautiful testimony on this subject, is all that can be here exhibited. “ I am now ninety-five years of age,” says he, "and find myself as healthy and brisk, as if I were but twenty-five. Most of your old men have scarce arrived at sixty, but they find themselves loaded with infirmities : they are melancholy, unhealthy, always full of frightful apprehensions of dying: Blessed

be God, I am free from their ills and terrors—I hold that dying, in | the manner I expect, is not really death, but a passage of the soul.

from this earthly life to a celestial, immortal and infinitely perfect existence—It cannot be too frequently or too earnestly recommended, that as the natural heat decays by age, a man ought to abate the quantity of what he eats and drinks; nature requiring but very little for the healthy support of the life of man, especially of an old man. Would my aged friends but attend to this single precept, which has been so singularly serviceable to me, they would not be troubled with one twentieth of those infirmities, which now harass and make their lives so miserable. They would be light, active and cheerful, like me, who am now near my hundredth year. From these two evils (sickness and death) so dreadful to many, blessed be God, I have but little to fear. For, as for death, I have a joyful hope, that the change,

* Nos. 10 and 12, Vol. vii.

come when it may, will be gloriously for the better. And as for sickness, I feel but litle apprehension on that account, since by my divine medicine, TEMPERANCE, I have removed all auses of disease; so that I am pretty sure I shall never be sick, except it be from some intent of divine mercy, and then I hope I shall bear it without a murmur, and find it for my good. All who have a mind to live long and healthy, and die without sickness of body or mind, must immediately begin to live temperately; for such a regularity keeps the humors of the body mild and sweet, and suffers no gross fiery vapors to ascend from the stomach to the head. And when, in process of time, and after a long series of years, he sees the period of his days drawing nigh, he is neither grieved nor alarmed-his end is calm, and he expires like a lamp, when the oil is spent, without convulsion or agony, and so passes gently away, without pain or sickness, from this earthly and corruptible, to that celestial and eternal life, whose happiness is the reward of the virtuous."'*

2. Temperance softens down the fierceness and turbulence of the animal appetites and passions.

It is over-stimulation that renders these appetites and passions ungovernable. But temperance furnishes them only with the stimulus that is necessary to enable them to fulfil the offices for which their Creator intended them. Temptation, therefore, in a great measure loses its power over the temperate man: while the self-denial which he exercises over one propensity to excess, strengthens his hands for holding in the reins of every other. On the other hand, he who is guilty of dietetic excesses, throws a firebrand into the midst of all that is combustible in the human constitution, and goads onward every thing in it that is excitable. By yielding up the reins to one appetite, he loosens also his hold upon every other. We may expect, therefore, as the result, a wild and irregular action among the animal powers, and fierce outbreakings of passion and appetite.

All this accords fully with experience. Is it the fruit of temperance that fills our weekly, and even daily public journals, with the details of intrigues, adulteries, thefts, personal contests, robbery and murder ? The records of our courts of justice and of our prisons, testify unequivocally to the inseparable counection between intemperance and crime. And the records of social life, the records of every observing man's experience, give equally clear testimony to the amiable temper and conduct of those who are temperate in all things: who not only abstain from erery intoxicating mixture, but have a proper regard to the quantity and quality of their necessary food.

Life of Cornero, p, 29,

Not only are they free from the grosser vices, but they stand aloof also from the thousand petty contests, jealousies, and heartburnings, that so frequently convert society into an arena of battle, and fill it with hatred and suffering.

The private history of the temperate man, also, testifies to his inward serenity and peace. Passions and appetites, like other men, he indeed possesses, which require to be watched over with vigilance and restrained with energy. But they have not acquired, through excess, giant strength and ferocity. The winds of passion and the currents of appetite are strong enough to keep the vessel in pleasant motion, but not strong enough to throw the waves into mountains, nor to form the devouring whirlpool.

3. Temperance promotes clearness and vigor of intellect.

This position, like those that have preceded, requires only an appeal to the laws of physiology and the experience of mankind to demonstrate it. If the functions of the brain be not in a healthy and vigorous state, equally unhealthy and inefficient must be those of the mind. Now there is no organ of the body so easily affected by irregularity and difficulty of digestion and assimilation as the brain. Excess in food, therefore, operates directly to cloud and impede the movements of the intellect. This is so well understood by literary men generally, that they never attempt any difficult investigations, nor powerful mental efforts, soon after a hearty meal. Few, however, are aware that even slight excesses at the table, produce a permanent depression and stupor of mind. But where such excess is habitual, the elasticity of the mental powers is never sufficient wholly to free them from the incubus that bestrides them. Like the overloaded bodily organs, the mind is gradually more and more weakened, until great efforts are out of the question, and the whole physical and intellectual constitution sinks into premature imbecility. But rarely is a man aware of the difficulty under which he labors, until he ceases to overload his stomach :-then he finds such a buoyancy, clearness, and vigor of mind to be the result, as to astonish and delight, while at the same time it mortifies him, to find how long his nobler part has been made the slave of his animal nature.

Most strikingly coincident with these views, has been the history of intellectual greatness in every age. Indeed, that history will bear me out in asserting, that the highest and most successful intellectual efforts have ever been associated with the practice of those general principles of temperance in diet for which I plead. I am aware that there is a kind of literature, and very popular too, that is often successfully pursued by the man whose powers are subject to the morbid excitement and horrid depression which intemperance produces: I refer to works of imagination; to poetry and romance.

But success in these departments depends more upon strong excitability, and a lively imagination, than upon strength of mind, or patient thought. Hence productions of this description are neither to be regarded as holding a very high rank as intellectual efforts, nor as the most suc: cessful or useful. It is the mighty minds that have grappled most successfully with the demonstrations of mathematical, intellectual, and moral science, that stand highest on the scale of mental acumen and power: and it is such minds that have found strict temperance in diet essential to their success. I cannot refrain from adverting to the history of a few of these master spirits of the human race.

The philosophers of ancient times have been already noticed, as illustrious examples of temperance. The names of Hippocrates and Galen among ancient physicians, of Demosthenes and Cicero among the orators, and of Pythagoras, Plato, and Socrates among the philosophers—men whose temperance not only lengthened out their days, in most instances, long beyond the term of three score years and ten, but enabled them also to impress upon all coming times their characters as prodigies of intellect-must ever be regarded as standing at the head of the temperance phalanx of Greece and Rome. In modern times, also, the princes of the intellectual world have almost all belonged to the same sacred band:

Foremost on the list stands Sir Isaac Newton. The treatise of his, that cost him the mightiest intellectual effort of all his works, was composed while the body was sustained by bread and water alone. And in spite of the wear and tear of such protracted and prodigious mental labor as his, that same temperance sustained him to his eighty

fifth year.

Upon no one perhaps has the mantle of Newton fallen so fully, at least so far as learning is concerned, as La Place. And we have the testimony of biography that he “had always been accustomed to a very light diet; that he gradually reduced it to an extremely small quantity ;)* and "that he was enabled to continue his habits of excessive application to study until within two years of his death, without any inconvenience, owing to his always using very light diet, even to abstemiousness." He lived seventy-eight years.

Another distinguished mathematician was Euler. And he too, by strict temperance, not only lengthened his days to seventy-six years, but accomplished a large amount of most profound intellectual labor.I

* Amer. Journal of Science, Vol. 25, p. 11. † Journal of Health, Vol. 3, p. 204.

| Idem, p. 203.

The illustrious Boyle must ever be regarded as one of the fathers of modern science, particularly of chemistry. With a very feeble constitution he prolonged his days to sixty-five years; and it is testified that “the simplicity of his diet preserved his life long beyond men's expectations: and in this he was so regular that in the course of above thirty years, he neither ate nor drank to gratify the varieties of appetite, but merely to support nature."*

The writings of Chancellor Bacon bear ample testimony to his belief and vindication of the great principles of temperance in living ; although, as it happened in respect to his moral and religious character, his practical exemplification of those principles was not always what could be desired. Still he was sufficiently strict in their observance to derive from them great benefit in the prosecution of his intellectual labors.

The celebrated John Locke, with a feeble constitution, outlived the term of three score years and ten by his temperance. “To this temperate mode of life too, he was probably indebted for the increase of those intellectual powers, which gave birth to his incomparable work on the human understanding, his treatises on government and education, as well as his other writings, which do so much honor to his memory."

Another intellectual philosopher, who saw four score years, was the venerable Kant. “ By this commendable and healthy practice," (early rising) says his biographer, "daily exercise on foot, temperance in eating and drinking, constant employment and cheerful compary, he protracted his life to this advanced period;"I and we may add acquired the power for his immense labors of mind.

Whatever be thought of his hypotheses and of his religious character, none can deny the possession of a mighty intellect and profound learning to Leibnitz. And when his biographer informs us that “he was temperate in eating and drinking, and lived on plain food,"| we are let into one of the secrets of his success, and of his longevity.

A like gigantic grasp of intellect, and a brighter picture of moral loveliness, was exhibited by Dr. Thomas Reid: and his biographer testifies, that it was his “temperance and exercise” that kept those powers in play for eighty and six years.

The operations of Pascal's mind seem to have been too powerful for a material organization like the human body long to sustain. And it was undoubtedly owing to a temperance and abstemiousness so * Aikin's Biographical Dictionary. Also, Thomton's Piety Exemplified, p. 630. Journal of Health, Vol. 3, p. 208.

1 Aikin's Biography, # Same works

Same work,

« AnteriorContinuar »