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Mind, Character and Personality, volume 1

Chapter 13

Food for the Mind

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Wise Improvement Versus Abuse.-God bestows upon us talents for wise improvement, not for abuse. Education is but a preparation of the physical, intellectual, and moral powers for the best performance of all the duties of life. Improper reading gives an education that is false. The power of endurance and the strength and activity of the brain may be lessened or increased according to the manner in which they are employed.-Testimonies for the Church 4:498 (1880).

Healthful Food for the Mind.-Pure healthful reading will be to the mind what healthful food is to the body. You will thus become stronger to resist temptation, to form right habits, and to act upon right principles.-The Review and Herald, December 26, 1882. (Sons and Daughters of God, 178.)

Guard the Avenues of the Soul.-We have a work to do to resist temptation. Those who would not fall a prey to Satan's devices must guard well the avenues of the soul; they must avoid reading, seeing, or hearing that which will suggest impure thoughts.

The mind should not be left to wander at random upon every subject that the adversary of souls may suggest. "Girding up the loins of your mind," says the apostle Peter, "be sober, ... not fashioning yourselves according to your former lusts in ... your ignorance: but like as He which called you is holy, be ye yourselves also holy in all manner of living" (1 Peter 1:13-15, RV).

Says Paul, "Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things" (Philippians 4:8). This will require earnest prayer and unceasing watchfulness. We must be aided by the abiding influence of the Holy Spirit, which will attract the mind upward, and habituate it to dwell on pure and holy things. And we must give diligent study to the Word of God. "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to Thy Word." "Thy Word," says the psalmist, "have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee" (Psalm 119:9, 11).-Patriarchs and Prophets, 460 (1890).

Character Revealed by Choice of Reading.-The nature of one's religious experience is revealed by the character of the books one chooses to read in one's leisure moments. In order to have a healthy tone of mind and sound religious principles, the youth must live in communion with God through His Word. Pointing out the way of salvation through Christ, the Bible is our guide to a higher, better life. It contains the most interesting and the most instructive history and biography that were ever written. Those whose imagination has not become perverted by the reading of fiction will find the Bible the most interesting of books.-The Youth's Instructor, October 9, 1902. (Messages to Young People, 273, 274.)

Some Books Confuse the Mind.-Many of the books piled up in the great libraries of earth confuse the mind more than they aid the understanding. Yet men spend large sums of money in the purchase of such books, and years in their study, when they have within their reach a Book containing the words of Him who is the Alpha and Omega of wisdom. The time spent in a study of these books might better be spent in gaining a knowledge of Him whom to know aright is life eternal. Those only who gain this knowledge will at last hear the words, "Ye are complete in Him" (Colossians 2:10).-(Pamphlet) Words of Counsel, 1903. (Counsels on Health, 369.)

Confused Understanding.-When the Word of God is laid aside for books that lead away from God and that confuse the understanding regarding the principles of the kingdom of heaven, the education given is a perversion of the name. Unless the student has pure mental food, thoroughly winnowed from the so-called higher education, which is mingled with infidel sentiments, he cannot truly know God. Only those who cooperate with heaven in the plan of salvation can know what true education in its simplicity means.-Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 15 (1913).

Despotic Power of Infidel Authors (words from the angel instructor).-Human minds are easily charmed by Satan's lies; and these works produce a distaste for the contemplation of the Word of God, which if received and appreciated, will ensure eternal life to the receiver. You are creatures of habit and should remember that right habits are blessings both in their effect on your own character and in their influence for good over others; but wrong habits, when once established, exercise a despotic power and bring minds into bondage. If you had never read one word in these books [by infidel authors] you would today be far better able to comprehend that Book which, above all other books, is worthy to be studied and which gives the only correct ideas regarding higher education.-Testimonies for the Church 6:162 (1900).

Superficial Reading Produces Diseased Imagination.-There are many of our youth whom God has endowed with superior capabilities. He has given them the very best of talents; but their powers have been enervated, their minds confused and enfeebled, and for years they have made no growth in grace and in a knowledge of the reasons of our faith, because they have gratified a taste for story reading. They have as much difficulty to control the appetite for such superficial reading as the drunkard has to control his appetite for intoxicating drink.

These might today be connected with our publishing houses and be efficient workers to keep books, prepare copy for the press, or to read proof; but their talents have been perverted until they are mental dyspeptics, and consequently are unfitted for a responsible position anywhere. The imagination is diseased. They live an unreal life. They are unfitted for the practical duties of life; and that which is the most sad and discouraging is that they have lost all relish for solid reading.

They have become infatuated and charmed with just such food for the mind as the intensely exciting stories contained in Uncle Tom's Cabin. That book did good in its day to those who needed an awakening in regard to their false ideas of slavery; but we are standing upon the very borders of the eternal world, where such stories are not needed in the preparation for eternal life.-Testimonies for the Church 5:518, 519 (1889).

Books That Enfeeble the Mind.-Love stories and frivolous, exciting tales constitute another class of books that is a curse to every reader. The author may attach a good moral and all through his work may weave religious sentiments, yet in most cases Satan is but clothed in angel robes the more effectually to deceive and allure. The mind is affected in a great degree by that upon which it feeds. The readers of frivolous, exciting tales become unfitted for the duties lying before them. They live an unreal life and have no desire to search the Scriptures, to feed upon the heavenly manna. The mind is enfeebled and loses its power to contemplate the great problems of duty and destiny.-Testimonies for the Church 7:165 (1902).

Fiction and Sensual Thoughts.-The mental food for which he [the fiction reader] has acquired a relish is contaminating in its effects, and leads to impure and sensual thoughts. I have felt sincere pity for these souls as I have considered how much they are losing by neglecting opportunities to gain a knowledge of Christ, in whom our hopes of eternal life are centered. How much precious time is wasted, in which they might be studying the Pattern of true goodness.-Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, 123, 1890. (Messages to Young People, 280.)

Mind Sinks Into Imbecility (words of caution to an invalid housewife).-For years your mind has been like a babbling brook, nearly filled with rocks and weeds, the water running to waste. Were your powers controlled by high purposes, you would not be the invalid that you now are. You fancy you must be indulged in your caprice of appetite and in your excessive reading.

I saw the midnight lamp burning in your room while you were poring over some fascinating story, thus stimulating your already overexcited brain. This course has been lessening your hold upon life and enfeebling you physically, mentally, and morally. Irregularity has created disorder in your house, and if continued, will cause your mind to sink into imbecility. Your God-given probation has been abused, your God-given time wasted.-Testimonies for the Church 4:498 (1880).

Mental Inebriates.-Readers of frivolous, exciting tales become unfitted for the duties of practical life. They live in an unreal world. I have watched children who have been allowed to make a practice of reading such stories. Whether at home or abroad, they were restless, dreamy, unable to converse except upon the most commonplace subjects. Religious thought and conversation was entirely foreign to their minds. With the cultivation of an appetite for sensational stories, the mental taste is perverted, and the mind is not satisfied unless fed upon this unwholesome food. I can think of no more fitting name for those who indulge in such reading than mental inebriates. Intemperate habits of reading have an effect upon the brain similar to that which intemperate habits of eating and drinking have upon the body.-Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 134, 135 (1913).

Excessive Indulgence That Is Sin.-Excessive indulgence in eating, drinking, sleeping, or seeing is sin. The harmonious healthy action of all the powers of body and mind results in happiness.... The powers of the mind should be exercised upon themes relating to our eternal interests. This will be conducive to health of body and mind.-Testimonies for the Church 4:417 (1880).

Overtaxing the Mind.-The student who desires to put the work of two years into one should not be permitted to have his own way. To undertake to do double work means, with many, overtaxation of the mind and neglect of physical exercise. It is not reasonable to suppose that the mind can assimilate an oversupply of mental food; and it is as great a sin to overload the mind as it is to overload the digestive organs.-Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 296 (1913).

Investigate Also Your Conversational Food.-It is best for every soul to closely investigate what mental food is served up for him to eat. When those come to you who live to talk and who are all armed and equipped to say, "Report, and we will report it," stop and think if the conversation will give spiritual help, spiritual efficiency, that in spiritual communication you may eat of the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of God. "To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious" (1 Peter 2:4). These words express much.

We are not to be tattlers, or gossipers, or talebearers; we are not to bear false witness. We are forbidden by God to engage in trifling, foolish conversation, in jesting, joking, or speaking any idle words. We must give an account of what we say to God. We will be brought into judgment for our hasty words that do no good to the speaker or to the hearer. Then let us all speak words that will tend to edification. Remember that you are of value with God. Allow no cheap, foolish talk or wrong principles to compose your Christian experience.-MS 68, 1897. (Fundamentals of Christian Education, 458.)

A Woman Whose Sight of Eyes Perverted the Heart.-Sister_____, although possessing excellent natural qualities, is being drawn away from God by her unbelieving friends and relatives, who love not the truth and have no sympathy with the sacrifice and self-denial that must be made for the truth's sake. Sister_____has not felt the importance of separation from the world, as the command of God enjoins. The sight of her eyes and the hearing of her ears have perverted her heart.-Testimonies for the Church 4:108 (1876).

Sounds, Sights, and Influences Which Demoralize.-There is reason for deep solicitude on your part for your children, who have temptations to encounter at every advance step. It is impossible for them to avoid contact with evil associates.... They will see sights, hear sounds, and be subjected to influences which are demoralizing and which, unless they are thoroughly guarded, will imperceptibly but surely corrupt the heart and deform the character.-Pacific Health Journal, June, 1890. (The Adventist Home, 406.)

Some Associations Like a Slow Poison.-Could my voice reach the parents all through the land, I would warn them not to yield to the desires of their children in choosing their companions or associates. Little do parents consider that injurious impressions are far more readily received by the young than are divine impressions; therefore their associations should be the most favorable for the growth of grace and for the truth revealed in the Word of God to be established in the heart.

If children are with those whose conversation is upon unimportant, earthly things, their minds will come to the same level. If they hear the principles of religion slurred and our faith belittled, if sly objections to the truth are dropped in their hearing, these things will fasten in their minds and mold their characters.

If their minds are filled with stories, be they true or fictitious, there is no room for the useful information and scientific knowledge which should occupy them. What havoc has this love for light reading wrought with the mind! How it has destroyed the principles of sincerity and true godliness, which lie at the foundation of a symmetrical character. It is like a slow poison taken into the system, which will sooner or later reveal its bitter effects. When a wrong impression is left upon the mind in youth, a mark is made, not on sand, but on enduring rock.-Testimonies for the Church 5:544, 545 (1889).

Eyes Fixed Upon Christ.-When Christ took human nature upon Him, He bound humanity to Himself by a tie of love that can never be broken by any power save the choice of man himself. Satan will constantly present allurements to induce us to break this tie-to choose to separate ourselves from Christ. Here is where we need to watch, to strive, to pray, that nothing may entice us to choose another master; for we are always free to do this. But let us keep our eyes fixed upon Christ, and He will preserve us. Looking unto Jesus, we are safe. Nothing can pluck us out of His hand. In constantly beholding Him, we "are changed into the same image from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Corinthians 3:18).-Steps to Christ, 72 (1892).