Spiritual and Physical Sickness
(Sunday Morning Talk, Feb. 28, 1897.)

SOME of the principles that have been coming to us lately show us the relation that we should sustain to the gospel of health. Here is a statement which I will read that will furnish a foundation for what I have to say:-

    The ministers in our land should become intelligent upon health reform.  They need to become acquainted with the science of physiology.  If they will be intelligent in regard to the laws that govern physical life, and their bearings upon the health of mind and soul, then they will be able to speak correctly upon this subject.

    The need of healthful habits is a part of the gospel which must be presented to the people by those who hold forth the word of life. The importance of the health of the body is to be taught as a Bible requirement.

    This is a subject which needs to be presented to the people. The question of health reform is not agitated as it must and will be.

When these statements are read the impression is very apt to be created that it is an impossible task; that the bewildering mass that one would have to study in order to acquire this ability cannot be compassed by us; that we cannot trace out all the relations between sickness and health.  Oftentimes the Lord's requirements seem to us impossibilities, but as we approach them they become possible and practicable. The Lord does not at this day require the workers to leave their work and spend long years trying to unravel the mysteries of the medical profession. The fact is that spiritual and physical laws lie almost parallel - side by side each other.  Having obtained a segment of the circle of truth, whether it be a physical or a spiritual law, one may easily complete the circle.  The discovery of this fact - that spiritual and natural truths lie parallel, and correspond with each other - gave me great joy. If we learn how God works in the spiritual realm, we can know how he works in physical things.

It is said that there are fifteen hundred ways in which a person may get sick, and the study of the peculiar features of each disease is more than one mind can master.  In harmony with this statement, we may say that there are more than fifteen hundred ways in which a man may get into sin.  But you ministers do not think it necessary to study the peculiar symptoms of every particular sin in order to be able to prescribe a cure.  There was a time when every sin was thought to require special treatment, and the matter of propitiation became so intricate that common people said, "We cannot know anything about that."  And so, if a man was spiritually sick, he at once went to the priest, and the priest diagnosed his case, and indicated the remedy. For stealing, the penalty was so and so. For lying, another remedy was pointed out. And so throughout the whole system of spiritual therapeutics.  In the midst of this state of things Martin Luther arose, and declared to the world that there was but one principle underlying the plan of salvation, and that was a cure for every form of sin. That cure was justification by faith in Jesus Christ.  The priests ridiculed the simplicity of this treatment, and endeavored to hold a veil of mystery over God's plan for the forgiveness of sin.  The same truth which was brought out by the Reformation of Luther, will apply in the treatment of physical diseases. Here are fifteen hundred forms of sickness, but the principles which govern health are but few; and every form of sickness is but a violation of one or more of those few principles.  God's remedies are the simple remedies of nature. I will read the following from Testimony No. 32, page 199:-

    God's remedies are the simple agencies of nature that will not tax or debilitate the system through their powerful properties. Pure air and water, cleanliness, a proper diet, purity of life, and a firm trust in God, are remedies for the want of which thousands are dying; yet these remedies are going out of date because their skillful use requires work that the people do not appreciate. Fresh air, exercise, pure water, and clean, sweet premises, are within the reach of all with but little expense; but drugs are expensive, both in the outlay of means, and the effect produced upon the system.

A thorough understanding of these simple truths forms the great basis of the treatment and management of all forms of disease.  I do not say that the remedies which are applied from the standpoint of human wisdom do not do good from the human standpoint. They do often relieve the symptoms and remove the pain, but they do not restore and build up the system. As we have read, pure air, proper diet, proper clothing, sufficient exercise, and firm trust in God are the great measures for the restoration of health; and there are thousands to-day who are dying for the want of these simple remedies.  But the moment you begin to recommend these measures and use them, you subject yourself to ridicule.  But advancement is being made along these lines, as you all know. When you old men were boys, you can remember you could have no water in case of fever, and the room had to be closely shut for fear the patient would catch cold. The skin was not allowed to be moistened, for the same reason. And many other superstitious ideas existed which shortened people's lives, and deprived nature of the assistance she needed for recovery.

It is not necessary to go into the intricate details of diagnosis when we find a sick person.  (I am speaking now of acute diseases.) The application of nature's remedies will in most cases work the necessary cure.  When you, as ministers, meet a sinner who is sick with sin, you do not stop to diagnose his case, but you strike at the root of the matter by pointing out the simple remedy of repentance and faith in Christ.  There is but one way to get out of spiritual sickness, and that is by the use of the simple remedies which God has provided; and it is the same in physical illness.

But what about those who are well? - The same principles apply there.  There are but few principles involved in making a man a sinner.  Disobedience of the plain principles of truth covers the whole field of transgression.  In order to keep a man well spiritually, we have but to hold up the principles of righteousness as expressed in the ten commandments, or as expressed in the life of Christ, for his imitation. And it is so in physical life. Though there are so many hundreds of forms of sickness, they are all brought about by the violation of a few general principles.  We find a man who is sick physically.  It is because his food is improper, or he has been breathing bad air, or is wearing improper clothing, or he lacks sufficient exercise, or has not a firm trust in God; that is, he is troubled in mind.

The Spirit of God tells us that nine-tenths of all the diseases from which men suffer have their foundation in the mind.  And the physician who does not recognize that fact, is not prepared to deal with more than one-tenth of his patients. And you ministers can see how many go to the physicians who should go to the ministers. Satan acts upon the mind, and if he can accomplish more for his cause by setting people free from disease, when the disease is in the mind, than by keeping them under the power of a diseased mind, he does so through his agents, and thus they obtain the reputation of being great healers.  So, if we desire to keep those well who are well, we have only to set before them a few principles in reference to proper diet, proper clothing, pure air, proper exercise, and faith in God.

It is not necessary for us to become confused by these intricate systems.  I have just seen two large books, larger than the Standard Dictionary, giving the definitions of diseases, and pointing out their specific cures; but God by his Spirit is bringing out his own system of simple remedies. We have never realized all there is in the promises of God.  We have never obtained all there is for us in the use of means that God has put within our reach.  There is a promise of God linked up with every one of these simple remedies.  I know that, because we see that our missionaries, going forth with limited knowledge and appliances, use these simple remedies, and, with the blessing of God, become the means of accomplishing a great deal of good for suffering people. We shall yet see a great deal of good coming out of these things that we have not yet seen.

Just in the last few years physicians have discovered that fever is due to the presence of poisons in the system; but it should be nothing new to us, for the Lord told us this thirty years ago.  The other day there was a man at Battle Creek whose kidneys ceased to act, and in thirty-six hours he was dead.  If we stop breathing four or five minutes, death ensues, principally because the poisons are not eliminated, but accumulate so rapidly in the system that the action of the heart is paralyzed, and life is extinguished.  So I read:-

    The impurities of the body, if not allowed to escape, are taken back into the blood and forced upon the internal organs. Nature makes an effort to free the system, and the effort produces fever and what is termed disease.

That being true, then when a man gets a fever, what shall we do? - Help him to get rid of the poison.  First for the lungs, where the impurities of the blood are thrown off, we must secure plenty of pure air. But if the room in which the patient lies is already saturated with poisons, the lungs cannot eject the poison any more than a bottle that is filled with water can discharge itself when it is immersed in water. In order to aid the kidneys to discharge their impurities, the patient must have plenty of pure, soft water.  According to the old system of treatment, he must have neither pure air to breathe nor water to drink. To aid the skin in its work of elimination, the patient must be frequently bathed; but this could not be done under the old regimen, lest the patient should take cold.  Now, we know that a person cannot take cold when in a fever.  It is simply the observation of these few principles that constitutes the great secret of success in the treatment of disease.  If the enemy can induce us to live in violation of these principles, we shall not be able to comprehend the grand spiritual truths of God. The violation of natural laws always conduces to the violation of spiritual laws; and the nearer we come to the pure and simple principles of righteousness, both in physical and spiritual living, the nearer we will come to God's plan of saving men.  All that he wants us to do, is to come into the paths of simplicity of living.

Wisdom should be used in making changes. Wherever changes are made, they should be made gradually. No one should be called upon to make a change unless something better is substituted for that which is discarded. It is better to come one step short of the truth, than to go one step beyond it; for he who goes beyond the truth must retrace his steps in order to be saved, and that is more discouraging than progress.