Chapter 33

  1. Temperance

There is beauty in temperance like that which is portrayed in virtue and in truth. It is a close ally of both, and, like them, has that all-pervading essence and quality which chastens the feelings, invigorates the mind, and displays the perfection of the soul in the very aspect. Like water from the rill, rain from the cloud, or light from the heavenly bodies, the thought issues pure from within, refreshing, unsullied, and radiant. There is no grossness, no dross, no corruption, for temperance, when effectually realized, is full of loveliness and joy, and virtue and purity are the lineaments in which it lives. Temperance is a virtue without pride, and fortune without envy; the best guardian of youth and support of old age; the preceptor of reason as well as of religion, and physician of the soul as well as the body; the tutelar goddess of health and universal medicine of life.

Temperance keeps the senses clear and unembarrassed, and makes them seize the object with more keenness and satisfaction. It appears with life in the face and decorum in the person. It gives you the command of your head, secures you health, and preserves you in a condition for business. Temperance is a virtue which casts the truest luster upon the person it is lodged in, and has the most general influence upon all other particular virtues of any that the soul of man is capable of; indeed, so general is it that there is hardly any noble quality or endowment of the mind but must own temperance either for its parent or its nurse; it is the greatest strengthener and clearer of reason, and the best preparer of it for religion; it is the sister of prudence and the handmaid to devotion.

Pleasure has been aptly compared to a sea. Intemperance is a maelstrom situated in the very center of this great sea. Not one path alone leads to this gulf of woe; not one only current, as too many have supposed, hurries down this dark abyss, but all around, on every side, the waters tend downward. There are a thousand currents leading in. Some, it is true, are more rapid than others. Some rush in quickly and bear down all who ride upon their waters to quick and certain ruin. Others glide more slowly, but none the less surely, to the same end. The streams of intemperance are legions. The allurements that lead downward are equally numerous. Every appetite, lust, passion, and feeling holds out various allurements to intemperate indulgence. There is not a power of the mind, affection of the heart, nor desire of the body that may not dispose to some form of intemperance which may injure the physical being or paralyze the energies of the mind. All forms of intemperance are evil and destroy some function of mind or body—some member or faculty, the disease of which spreads inharmony through the whole. The dangers from this source are imminent and fearful, and spread on every hand.

Temperance conduces to health; indeed, it may be said that health can only be acquired or maintained by temperance. This is the law primary and essential which every youth should know, and know by heart. Bodily pains and aches tell of intemperance in some directions. Pain means penalty, and penalty means that its sufferer should reform. The most of our pains are occasioned by intemperance. This is the fruitful mother of nine-tenths of the diseases that flesh is heir to and the sins that the soul doth commit. We sin by excess of anger, lust, appetite, affection, love of gain, authority, or praise. Few, if any, are the sins that grow not out of intemperance in some form. Intemperance means excess. A thing is good as long as it is necessary. All beyond necessity, or what is necessary, is evil. Money is good; more than what is necessary to the ends of life is evil. Food is good; too much is evil. Light is good; too much will put out our eyes. Water is good; too much will destroy us. Heat is good; too much will burn us. The praise of men is good; too much will ruin us. The love of life is good; too much will make us miserable. Fear is good; too much hath torment. Prayer is good; too much cheats labor of its life and is evil. Sympathy is good; too much floods us with perpetual grief. Reason is good; too much pressed with labor it dethrones the mind and spreads ruin abroad. Any excess in the use or activity of a good thing is intemperance and, therefore, evil, and to be avoided.

Temperance as a virtue dwells in the heart. It consists in a rigid subjection of every inward feeling and power to the rule of right reason. He who would be thoroughly temperate must master himself. His passions must be his subjects obeying his will. From the heart he must be temperate. He must remember that the intemperance slope is an almost imperceptible one, and that he may be gliding down it when he dreams of naught but safety. He must remember, too, that the field of temperance is a broad one, covering the whole area of life. It is not simply against one form of appetite, one species of indulgence that he is to guard, but against all. There are other species of intemperate indulgence, of which we are all more or less guilty, than indulgence in drink. Indeed, the indulgence of appetite carries away more victims from the earth than does drunkenness, and spreads a wider devastation and a more general blight.

All species of intemperance grow of a want of self-control. To be a temperance man a man must master himself, must be a brave, noble conqueror of every enemy within his own bosom. It is no small matter. It is the masterpiece of human attainments. The laws of temperance can never be broken with impunity. The excess is committed to-day, but the effect is experienced to-morrow. The law of nature, invariable in its operation, is, that penalty shall follow excess. The punishment is mild at first, but afterwards more and more severe, until, when nature’s warning voice has been unheeded and her punishments disregarded, the final penalty is death. If an admonitory sign-board were hung out for the benefit of the young, there should be inscribed upon it in prominent characters “no excess.” It is to be remembered that the best principles, if pushed too far, degenerate into fatal vices. Generosity is nearly allied to extravagance; charity itself may lead to ruin; the sternness of justice is but one step removed from the severity of oppression.

If one would make the most of life he must be temperate in all things. It is the application of reason to all the daily acts of life. It is the highest and best form of life that one can attain to. It leads not only to the greatest happiness, but also to honor and position. By abstaining from most things it is surprising how many things we enjoy. To establish thoroughly and widely the principles of temperance we must begin with the youth. They have a high aspiration to be good and true. They see a glory in the path of right. Freedom is a word of power in their ears. Virtue has many charms not only for their hearts, but for their imaginations. They have health, competency, and happiness. They are ambitious of every good. When the true principles of temperance are established in early life and made the controlling power through life, they insure health, freedom from pain, competency, respectability, honor, virtue, usefulness, and happiness—all for which true men have or hope in this life. Happy would it be if they were general and all youths would practice them. Then would religion assert her mild and gentle sway, peace plant her olive wreath in every nation, wisdom, divine and time-honored, shed every-where her glorious light. A race of men and women, full of rosy health, strong, active, symmetrical, beautiful as the artist’s model: pure, virtuous, wise, affectionate, full of honor and lofty principles, would grow up into communities and nations, and make the earth bloom and rejoice in more than Eden gladness. A new heaven and a new earth would surround us with beauty and arch us over with glory, for the, old would have passed away.

, In, pager

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