Health is more than healing. There's more of it. It calls for more of the Creator's power. It means more to a man. And it will be the means of greater spiritual blessing if things are as they were meant to be. The task of keeping men in health, even as much health as they have, is immeasurably greater than healing all who need healing, even if they would all come for healing. Christ is greatest in the unrecognized power He is expending on men all the time. And all this power has the Calvary mark upon it. It is all red-tinged. Health means rhythm, the smooth working of all parts together. Disease is a break in the rhythm. Rhythm is ease. A break in the rhythm means absence of ease, dis-ease, of some sort. When there's full rhythm within your body and with your fellows, and with Christ, and with nature, there's fulness of life flowing in and flooding out. But, but, there's a break, a bad break in the rhythm of life, within and without and above. Within we call it disease, without friction and strife, strikes and war. Above we call it sin. But, in spite of the break, Christ continues His touch of creative power on all life, giving health and strength. This becomes less as we hinder. There is full life only as we let Him do and give all He wants to. There's the added touch, giving healing, where the way is open to Him for that. The first is the natural thing, the second is supernatural in addition to the natural. The first is for all, the second is for those needing it and who will come where He can give it. There's one thing better than being healed. And this is being kept in health. Then healing isn't needed. It's the higher level, higher in intelligence and maturity of character. It is higher in obedience, and in the taking from Christ's hand, day by day, all we need. And it costs Christ more in the continual giving out of power. Christ's creative power through natural channels is commonplace, blessedly commonplace. It is everywhere. It is in every one, without exception. His supernatural power is exceptional. Where His natural power is allowed freest hand there is less need of the supernatural. But that break of sin is so sore, and so much in evidence everywhere, that there is a constant need of the supernatural. And there would be far more of the super natural if the way were open. For Christ will do anything and everything to overcome the break of sin. He came that we might have life, and have it in uncommon measure. There is the divine side of health and healing, and there is the human side. The two intermingle so continually that it's difficult to talk about the one without touching on the other. But, just now, we want to talk a little about the human side. There's so much need of simple, clear teaching. Living in that touch with Christ's natural laws of life, and in the direct touch with Himself, where health is the common thing and healing is not needed, this, this, is the higher, the highest level of living. It is striking to find two distinct trails in the Old Testament, a healing trail and a health trail. The two run side by side. And it is of intense interest to find the health trail greater in the space it takes up, and in the emphasis laid upon it. It is the more interesting because this little Hebrew nation becomes a model of life in the ideals taught and insisted upon. We traced partially, in an earlier Talk, the healing trail in the Old Testament. It was a trail of teaching and of healing. There is the plain teaching that God would heal. And it is used as a plea to pull them up to the higher level. And there is the string of incidents where men were actually healed in a positive supernatural way.
The Jew Health Trail
Now, side by side with that, goes this other trail, longer, broader, more marked. It is a teaching about health. There is a remarkable course in personal hygiene here. Instruction is given repeatedly, and obedience is insisted upon. Some of these items may seem very homely and commonplace. But it is careful attention and obedience to detail that makes perfection in any thing. Nothing is too common or commonplace if its practice means physical vigour. And physical vigour affects mental alertness and spiritual attainment. There is particular stress laid upon food. Pains are taken to specify the things they must not eat (Leviticus 11:1-23). And Moses repeats this in much detail (Deuteronomy 14:3-21).... This would cultivate a thoughtfulness about food. Without any question there is a hygienic principle underlying all these instructions and restrictions. They were an agricultural people, with small exporting facilities, and so the fruits of trees and soil would naturally bulk big in their daily food.Then the item of physical exercise had a big place. There was plenty of work to be done, in connection with cultivation of fields, orchards, vineyards, and common gardening. It was a common custom that every Hebrew had some fixed occupation. And every one shared in the daily tasks indoors and out. The ideal communities that have sprung up here and there, where all share in all tasks, have their truest highest ideal actually practised among these pastoral agricultural Hebrews. And one is keen to note the other side of this. There was particular attention given to rest, relaxation. There is a rare poise between work and rest aimed at here. There are four distinct items in the rest or relaxation program, which Moses was careful to mark out for them, at God's direction. One day in seven was to be kept, sacred from toil, sacred to rest of body. The emphasis upon this is marked and continuous. Three times a year there were special times of relaxation from their usual occupation, the Passover, the Feast of the First-fruits, and the Harvest-home Festival. Each was for seven days. The men were to go up to Jerusalem to these feasts. Including travel it must have meant a ten-days' relaxation for most of them, with an absorbing objective. Every seven years the land must lie fallow. Modern farmers might well note this. The land enriched itself. The land rested, and of course the people rested. There would be much to attend to, but there was a break in the work schedule. It meant the rest and relaxation of a change. Every fiftieth year was the time of special jubilation, following the plan of the seventh year. The average man would be likely to go through, at least, two of these jubilee years. Then, of course, in common with all men, every day had its night. There was the daily alternation of rest and work. And nature itself provides for more sleep in winter and less in summer. A simple pastoral folk follows nature more closely. So, all told, there were six items in the common Hebrew rest or relaxation program, a day of sleep for every day's work, and a longer time of nightly sleep for half the year. Then there was one day in seven, three special times each year, one year in seven, and an extra year in every fifty years. Rather a remarkable program that. Yet the fact of its being provided by Moses, at God's direction, is immensely suggestive. Physical exercise, and time for the mind to store up and meditate, time for social recreation and enjoyment, time for worship, all this becomes of greatest interest from the health point of view. And particular directions were given about the ablutions, the frequent all-over bathing by the priests. And the priests were the practical rulers of the people. The priesthood was the fixed system of national administration through the centuries. They were the leaders. And what the leaders do the people do. Like priest, like people. There were special directions for special bathing in connection with their sanitary and quarantine codes. They were a bathing people. Cleanliness of person was a fixed habit. There were careful community sanitation regulations covering the individual tents and the whole encampment in the Wilderness, and after ward when settled in Canaan. The quarantine regulations were explicit and rigid, inspection by experts, isolation, and segregation. The strictest watch was constantly kept on the people's health, on all suspicious cases, and on the diseased. Quarantine is worthless unless rigid, and rigidly enforced. Their ideals have never been improved upon. And, of course, their inflexible law of circumcision was rooted down in the physical. Apart from other significance it was a hygienic regulation. It belonged in their scheme of cleanliness and provision against infection. Now, note keenly, that the Hebrews were essentially an out-of-doors people. They lived in God's open air. There were the four hundred years in Egypt. Egypt was an open-air country characteristically, and is to this day. The absence of rain, the dryness of the air, and its rare tonic qualities, were marked features, and are. The open air habit had a good start in Egypt. The forty years in the Wilderness sands simply meant forty years in the open air. Quite likely most of them slept out in the open. Moses himself was habituated to this open air life through his sheep-tending years in Midian, as well as his earlier Egypt years, and later Wilderness years. And there's one more item worth mentioning in this health memorandum. Their land laws, their scheme of inheritance, the reversion of land to the original owner every fifty years which entered into all sales and transfers, these, of course, would tend to contentment of mind regarding the future. Fear of the future, mostly groundless, makes a shorter road to the graveyard. Here are eight items in their national health program to which they were habituated through the centuries. It included food, work or exercise, rest and relaxation and play, personal cleanliness, community sanitary measures, quarantine against disease, open-air living, and a measure of contentment about the future, the rainy day. This is the health trail that runs all through these Old Testament pages, and clearly ran all through the physical life of this remarkable race of people. Without doubt it plays a large part in attempting to explain the astonishing physical vigour of the Jews even to-day. Inheritance persists. They have suffered persecutions, hardships, privations, that would have killed off any ordinary people. Plainly they are not ordinary people. Their health program certainly was not ordinary. It was rather extraordinary. What nation to-day can come near it? This is the health trail running side by side with that blessed healing trail. It persists through these old pages. It puts a remarkable emphasis on the human side of health and healing. It was planned by God. It surely becomes a personal model for the thoughtful man to-day, and especially the thoughtful Christian man.
The Eden Health Model
Now, there's another model of life in these older pages. The Hebrew nation, as planned by God, gives one model. Here's another. It's yet earlier. It comes in before the break of sin had set things so askew. It's the model of the true full human, the human as yet unhurt by sin. It's the Adam-and-Eve-in-Eden model. It is really God's ideal of human life. And it is put here at the very first where anyone can quickly see it. Of course, I am a little old-fashioned about man's start on this earth. This other teaching has so befogged all the air that it's quite refreshing to turn back to God's own picture. I am rather fond of some old-fashioned things, water, open air, fresh fruit, natural wheat, the Bible, and the like. Adam was made the true full normal human, by direct act of God. He stood at the highest point of mature manhood, physically, mentally, and in spirit understanding. He knew civilization at its highest, in miniature. For civilization does not consist in the culture which the Greeks had, nor the highly organized life of the Roman, nor the organized complexity of modern times. Civilization is a moral thing. Civilization means harmonious life in contact with others. And the essential thing there is moral ideals and moral conduct. So far as any civilization lacks these it is less than real civilization. Look at God's picture, His model in Eden. It is simple, delightfully simple, but never crude, and certainly not savage. Here is a human, fresh from the hand of God. He is on terms of intimacy with God. They talk and walk and are busily occupied with their work together. This man has an intimate congenial human friend at his side sharing all his life. He has a daily occupation, caring for a garden. He has before him a great inspiring task, subduing the whole earth. There's the immediate and the distant, the near and the far, something for hands and something for mind. He lived in the open air, sleeping as well as working and resting there. The second day he lived was marked as a rest day. He had a daily task, work and exercise combined. He had a fruit diet. His food was all sun-cooked. He had pure water to drink. There was running water to bathe in. Is it not a winsome picture? One is more than ever insistent on getting away from the modern phrase "the ascent of man," and toward the older phrase "the descent of man." Certainly it would be a going up to go back to that old Eden standard of civilization and culture and life. And there is a plain intimation, too, that this first man's bodily vigour hinged on his keeping in touch with his friendly Companion, God. Do you remember that day they are standing under that tree of opportunity? Through choosing not to eat of it as God wished him not to do, choosing to choose God's choice, Adam would be stepping into a still closer intimacy with God. The highest thing can come only through choice. There is a gentle but very plain word of warning about that tree. He could misuse the opportunity it gave him. He could break friendship with God if he chose. And this is the word of warning, "For in the day that thou eatest thereof, dying, thou shalt die" (Genesis 2:17, paraphrase). The dying would come automatically through the break. There would be a beginning, a continued process, and a final result. The moment he ate was the beginning. The process went on for years. The actual bodily death didn't come till long years after. Now, that intimation naturally includes the reverse, i.e., if thou keep in touch with me, by thine own voluntary choice, living, thou shalt live. There would be the same movement in the opposite direction, a beginning, a process, a final result. Choosing God's way would bring him yet closer to God. That would be the beginning of a new life by his own choice. And that would grow from less to more until a fulness of life would come, such as one simply can't take in. Touch with God is the basis of full life, bodily, mental, of the spirit. The other word for touch is obedience. Obedience is a music word. It means the rhythm of God's will and a man's will. No sweeter music was ever made on earth, or heard in heaven. All this, you notice, has to do simply with the human side of health. This early model gives God 's own thought of the true full natural human man, as He planned him. This Eden idea says, in effect, that a man should have a noble passion, a human friend, a daily task, and an outreaching purpose that calls for all there is in him. His immediate bodily needs are open air, simple food, the exercise of a daily task, a time of rest, and running water near by. This first man's passion was for his Friend, to please Him. To carry out His plan. By his side was his complemental self, his one nearest human friend with whom all his life was shared. There was a garden of trees and flowers and all growing things to care for, and the cultivation of the whole earth entrusted to him to think about and plan for.
The Christian and the True Human
Now, will you notice keenly that the Christian life means simply the true human life? Sin made the break. Christ mends the break. He renews and restores man. The natural thing native to a man's being is this of living the true, full, Christian life. Anything that isn't really Christian isn't human. It's lower down. It's less, or a bad more, or a distortion. Sin, selfishness, are lower down than the human level. They hurt the true human. They hurt our health and strength. The true Christian life is the real key to health, and to healing where healing is needed. The emphasis, of course, is on that word "true." We are so used to the cheapened, thinned-out meanings, being "saved" from hell and into heaven, church membership, with some attendance, some giving of money and maybe service, more or less, as happens to suit one's ideas; this seems the sum total ofttimes. It's a sort of insurance policy. The chief thing is keeping up the premiums. It's a sort of immunity bath, a quarantine measure. Sometimes it is the ticket of admission into certain social circles. So much Christianity has no ethical quality to it. It never hurts anybody's conscience, nor changes his habits. Of course, in the simple, true meaning the Christian life is a tender passion burning deep, and then deeper. It's a purpose gripping all one's powers. It means on the inner side spirit fellowship with the Man that died, on the outer side a warm upright human touch with one's fellows. It means the Jesus passion in control. It's very simple. Some of the simplest unlettered homeliest folks, as well as some of the most scholarly and cultured, quite understand all this. They live it. Christ enriches everything He touches. The Devil vulgarizes everything he can lay his hands on. Christ makes the commonest thing hallowed. The Devil makes the purest, the hallowed things, vulgarly common and cheap. The Devil puts the devilish touch into man's life, sometimes foul, sometimes cultured, always devilish. Christ restores the hurt human up to the true human level. Calvary neutralizes the Devil's power, and restores and enriches the Eden ideal. The new Eden has the passion of sacrificial love in it. Now, it is of the simple real Christian life that I am thinking when I say this: the Christian life is the key to health and to healing. This is the human side of both.
One's Mental Attitude
There are two things that will grow up in such a simple, true, Christian life. They are simple things, but they lie at the very foundation. They are, a right mental attitude, and an intelligent obedience to the laws of health. And these are the two things to be emphasized in this Quiet Talk. Let us talk first about that right mental attitude. I do not mean that you are to try to have a right mental attitude, simply. That becomes incidental. The emphasis is on something else. That attitude comes naturally out of that something else. I mean this: you think about Christ. He died for you. He has won the love of your heart. You trust Him. You believe Him. You accept what He says in the Book. You follow where He plainly leads. All this is what faith is. It is thinking about Him. You get filled up with Him, who He is, how He loved and loves, what He did, His plans for you, and His promises to you. You are full of this, that He is living to-day. He is all absorbed with things down here. He's intensely interested in you, with personal solicitude for your personal need, and with a plan for your life. This is what faith means; not thinking about your faith, thinking about Him. It isn't looking in; it's looking up -- to Him. Now, once that gets fixed in some measure, as a habit, a growing habit, it will affect your mental attitude. Your plans and problems, your difficulties and perplexities, your personal habits and temptation, all will instinctively be affected by this mental attitude. Christ will loom up in your mind practically as the biggest thing in all your life. You will get into the habit of connecting everything with Him. And that mental attitude will vitally and radically affect your body. The worst enemy we all have (outside of the Devil himself) is fear. I mean the fear that is a dread of something. There are three kinds of fear. The fear of reverence grows out of love, and is good. The fear of caution grows out of the presence or possibility of danger, and is only good. The fear that is afraid of something or some one, a dread, a slavish fear, is bad, only bad, and is a positive injury to one's body. It may grow out of ignorance. Often it is a result of overwrought nerves. It exerts an in calculable influence on one 's bodily condition. It controls the imagination, and the imagination controls the body. All diseases and bodily ailments of whatever sort fall into three groups. Those that are imaginary; they have no existence at all except in imagination. Then there are those ailments which are the result of the imagination's influence on the body. And then there are ailments originating otherwise. It will seem astonishing if I say that a very large proportion of all bodily ailments is above the ears, or have their origin there, that is, in the imagination. And the smaller proportion is below the ears. This seems astonishing. It may be honestly questioned by those not familiar with the subject. But increased observation only tends to confirm the truth of the statement. Job says, "I feared a fear and it came upon me" (Job 3:25 - free reading). His sense of dread acted so on his imagination that it actually produced in his body the thing he feared.
The Power of Fear
Only a little thinking will remind any one that fear, the slavish fear that dreads, is inbred in most people. From the cradle up, the whip of fear is the commonest thing known. This fear is instilled, unconsciously, unintentionally, ignorantly, habitually, from earliest years on through school life and long after. It is inbred further by the very evil abnormal atmosphere of our surroundings. It becomes a habit of mind. And the actual bodily injury done is quite beyond calculation. An illustration that has become notable of this sort of thing is the story of the man condemned to death for murder. A group of physicians proposed an experiment as a matter of scientific research. The civil authorities concerned agreed. They proposed to the condemned man that he submit to a serious surgical operation. And if he survived his sentence of death would be remitted and he allowed to go free. He agreed. He was stretched on the operating table, face down. A thin bit of cold steel was slowly drawn across his back as though a knife cutting. At the same time it was arranged that water would drip from his back, drop by drop, steadily down, so it could easily be heard. The physicians talked together in his hearing, giving the impression that he was bleeding from a wound, and would certainly bleed to death. The man actually expired. Yet his body had not been touched except as described. I am not defending the deceit used. It is a striking illustration of the slavery of the body to the imagination. He imagined he was surely bleeding to death. And the imagination actually brought death. He feared a fear and it came upon him.... It is a commonplace with the medical fraternity that the mental attitude affects, and affects most seriously, bodily conditions. It has been demonstrated that anger, fear, and the like, not only check secretions and have a paralyzing effect internally, but actually cause the secretion of poisonous substances within the body.
Faith Runs Fear Out-of-Doors
Now, the thing to mark most keenly is this: a simple childlike trust in Christ drives that spirit of dread and fear clean out (I John 4:18). It changes radically one 's mental attitude. The imagination is radically affected. And that change at once begins to work changes in the body. It works in three ways. It will actually remove imaginary ills, and also those ills resulting from a tortured imagination. It will actually work toward changing bodily conditions, healing where there has been weakness and disease. It will tend steadily toward keeping one in prime condition, in full vigour and strength. It will actually ward off disease threatening by contact. That new mental attitude reacts in a marked way on one 's nerves. There is a normal relaxing of tense nerves. Tense nerves are responsible for bodily ailments to an incalculable extent. A normal relaxation removes a long list of bodily ills. The latest expert word on defective eyesight is that it is caused by nervous tension in the eye itself, very largely. It is said that relaxation is the great corrective making glasses not needed. And this theory is being worked out with some most surprising results. And, be it marked keenly, all this is simply on the natural level of action. I have tried to make it clear that Christ uses supernatural power in healing when need be. But this thing I am speaking of now is on the purely natural level. The right touch with Christ affects the mental attitude. And the mental attitude controls largely the functions and sensations of the body.... Turning your thought toward Christ fills you with the conception of His reality, His love, His power. Time daily spent over the Book, reaching through to Christ, brooding thoughtfully about Him, all this brings that attitude of heart and mind commonly called faith. It fills your heart with love, love for Him. And love, this drawing of you out tenderly toward Him, this casts that slavish fear out. You don't try to turn it out. You're thinking of Christ. He draws your heart out to Him. You resist the fear. It goes. The love drives it out. You find it gone. Now note, that simple faith in Christ does two things. It releases that natural creative healing power within your body. That power swings into action. Its power is beyond calculation. At least, nobody has yet calculated it fully or adequately. It does a second thing. It opens the way for any direct supernatural touch needed in addition to that natural creative healing power. It was in the days of his wisdom that Solomon said, "A tranquil heart is the life of the flesh" (Proverbs 14:30). Now this is the first of the two main things we are talking about, the right mental attitude which comes as a natural result of a simple, true faith in Christ. This is the first half of the chapter of what happens. But, mark keenly, it is only half. There's a second half.
The Body -- Master or Servant?
The second thing that will mark the true Christian is -- what? obedience? That is only part of the answer. Shall I say obedience to God's laws? Again that doesn't tell it out fully. It is this, obedience to Christ in everything, and this includes the common laws of health. Now, some saintly folk will begin to think that this is rather dropping to a low level. "The laws of our body!" you say. The truth is it is climbing up a bit for most of us. Oh, yes, I know you say you would gladly sacrifice bodily comforts and strength for Christ's sake. And you mean it. Yes, but you need to be on your guard lest you are disregarding the law of your body for your own sake, because of what you prefer, or don't prefer. And, and, this may deprive Christ of the messenger He needs. You may be giving Him a poorer crippled service when you needn't. And it may be in an emergency when your poorer service, your failure, slows up His plans. For Christ's sake, in the thick of the emergency of life, the true Christian seeks to make his body the strongest possible, the most disciplined channel through which Christ's power may flow. And this is done through a thoughtful obedience to its laws. This is keeping "the body under," under the control of that Christ passion. Disobeying its law, carelessness, not-thinking, may be letting your body get the upper hand. It gets from under, up on top, hindering your best service. Christ has been robbed of the needed service of many a saintly child of His, through unconscious thoughtless disregard of his body, or worse. The touchstone of the Christian life is the same as the touchstone of the true human life, obedience. But obedience is not a matter of doing or not doing certain things. It's on a higher level than that. It's doing as a certain One wants or would prefer. Not "things," but "a Person" holds your eye. It's getting or keeping in better shape for the errand He has sent you on. The thing that seems small or trivial in itself is now thought seriously about. Because so you can be a truer Christian in your conduct, and so you are better fitted for what that One wants done, and more serviceable to your fellows. It's astonishing the commonness of indifference to, and disobedience of, the rhythmic laws of health, among not only good but really saintly people. Such disobedience or indifference or carelessness in other matters would rule a man out of life. It would make him a forced exile. He couldn't keep a bank account without careful obedience to the laws of the bank. He couldn't run an automobile, nor be a student in any sort of college or school, nor run a successful business, nor move in polite society, nor be member of a club. Obedience to law (a recognized agreed-upon sequence of action) is the commonplace of all intercourse. And the thing moves up to a wholly higher level when it concerns a Christian, and especially when it concerns his body. For the Christian aims to live the truly ideal life in a practical way, for Christ's sake, as well as for his own. And his body is the fine tool he works with. He'll surely keep his tool in the best possible shape all the time for the sake of the work it does. The true Christian takes pains to learn about his body, and to think into its need, that so he can be free of his body, free to do his work. Obedience means intelligence, being informed, becoming skilled. So the habit of a wise obedience is formed, and one is strong and free. One thinks about his body so he can forget it in the thick of his work. It is striking that the Book of God gives the principles of everything we need. There are the two models here for the bodily life. The earliest is Adam in Eden before the serpent got in. The second is the model of God's messenger nation. It is much fuller and more explicit, because the serpent had gotten in. And now there are things to guard against. These have been already spoken of. Recalling these two models, there are some six things that the thoughtful Christian will think about, so he needn't think about them when absorbed in his work. In a sane, intelligent way he will think about and form certain habits. Then he is free to do something worth while.
Six or Sick?
These six things are, food, air, exercise, sleep, cleansing, and posture. Just a few words about these. The body needs food. It needs enough. It is hurt by too much. How much? Enough to keep it strong and fit, and no more. It has become quite a commonplace that we all eat too much. Drunkards and topers are supposed to be gone, but eat-ards, and food topers, are still in abundant evidence. Much of our strength is taken up in digesting food that tasted good, but adds nothing to our strength. Indeed it takes from strength and makes us less fit. The sense of taste shouldn't decide what we eat. It has its important place. But, knowledge of food, the sense of taste, and keeping fit for one's work, these together should decide. The body needs food of the sort that will keep it in the best fighting shape. One naturally believes that the Creator thought about our bodily needs in the provision He made. For instance, wheat has in it numerous substances that our bodies need. If commercialism takes most of that nourishment out, so the whitened product can be stored without spoiling and loss of money, one naturally avoids such a product. Using it is robbing his body of certain things it must have for health and vigour. And this same sort of thinking can be applied to all foods. If the way the food is cooked washes much or most of it away, the finer, subtler elements, clearly the body isn't getting something it needs. A man may be partially starved, even with a loaded table, and a full stomach. Proportion of food figures in. Adam in Eden reached up for his food. He had a fruit and nut diet. It was all sun-cooked. After the :Flood Noah reached down as well as up. He added the things that grew under and close to the soil. And he added animal food. That would suggest that the original diet was a fruit and nut diet. It would suggest that flesh food was only one of three sorts. That puts it in a minor place. This suggests pro portion, a balancing of one's food. But all life has greatly changed. It is not normal. What is absolutely best (outside of morals), is very often not best under certain circumstances. And this change affects our bodies and their need. If a Christian man, that is a really human man, finds that much less meat and more of the succulent and leafy vegetables and the juicy fruits, day by day, helps him to be less irritable, and in better control of his temper, he will be quick to make the change. For the life is more than food, much more, his Christian life. And in that case he will find his body stronger too. The thoughtful man comes to know that a radical change takes place in his body about the time an initial four gets into his age. The building stage is past. It required certain foods that go to building the body up to its maturity. Now, as he passes that line of bodily change, food is taken simply to repair the waste of his day 's work. More than that much adds excessive weight, which itself is a diseased condition, and leads to other diseased conditions. Weight over normal is a diseased and abnormal condition. The great insurance companies are modifying their standard tables of age and weight. The standard of weights is being made less. Money sharpens their wits. The thoughtful man comes to find that after a certain age a smaller quantity, the lessening or omitting of the heavier foods (meats, eggs, and the like), actually adds to his physical and mental vigour. And as a Christian he does this, for it affects his Christian character, and his usefulness to It is notable that the common diet of many nations runs so largely to the meat-potato-white-bread sort of food, and so little to the succulent and green leafy vegetables and juicy fruits. Yet the dietary experts insist on the necessity of a balanced diet, and especially a lessening of the heavier foods and an increase of the lighter, in middle life and after. The thoughtful Christian thinks into these things in a sober, sane, sensible way because he is a Christian. He adjusts his habits. So he keeps his body under control. And so he is freer and stronger for his life task. And there is a fine, quaint homeliness in the way the Holy Spirit guides in just such things.... Man is an open-air being. Our abnormal modern life, called (or miscalled) civilization, has made him an indoors animal. One of the most prevalent disease plagues, tuberculosis of the lungs, is an indoors disease. There is no question that the common indoors habit both weakens and shortens life. As things actually are we can't live a wholly outdoors life. But the nearer we can come to it the nearer we are to the true full normal human. And no words are adequate to tell the physical blessedness of sleep in the open air. There is nothing that so rebuilds and cushions one's nerves. All out-of-doors air is good air, night and day. God's air is always good. It's the shut-up, warmed-up, used-over-and-over-again, air that poisons us. Habitual deep breathing, thorough ventilation of every space used, and particularly all the out-of-doors air it is possible to get, this is native to us. And the more we can actually stay out in the open the nearer we come to normal conditions. And the body needs exercise. Most of us have to work with our bodily strength for a living, and that gives a certain amount of exercise. Though modern life is apt to make it partial and quite onesided. Watch your baby on the floor twisting and stretching strenuously, pulling and turning. That's its exercise. That helps it digest the food, and keep healthy and grow. Walking is by far the best single exercise. No one thing is so good for health as an easy swinging walk, with easy shoes, and loose fitting clothing, and head up, and chest out, and arms swinging. One can walk away any weakness or disease. The exceptions are few. Graduated walking, beginning with little and increasing gradually, until several miles are easily done, will work wonders simply in getting and keeping in bodily vigour. And the mental stimulus and spirit refreshing keep pace. And so, very soberly, one says that the true Christian walks for health, for Jesus' sake. For so he is more usable. He can be of better service to his fellows. And he finds the zest, the sheer zest, of being alive. If the editor of a religious paper finds that an hour's easy swinging walk to his desk or away from it, clears his brain, and steadies his nerves, and sharpens his sentences. and makes clearer and simpler his pen-preaching and teaching, if so, he'll never miss that walk. He is a better editor, a better religious teacher. Men and women are helped more. Christ has a fuller use of him. He could now write a helpful article on walking as a means of grace. But exercise should be on the baby system. It should include everything from toes to hair, and out to finger-tips. Ten minutes given, morning and night, with loose garments, in the open air or at an open window, to a simple series of stretching exercises, regardless of age, is a necessity for vigorous health. The advertising columns are full of suggestion. There are plenty of books to run through. One can make up his own simple series of movements. The point to be kept in mind is that the body is stretched, thoroughly stretched from head to foot. Watch the baby. He is a good teacher of how to do it. Or the cat after a nap. The item of sleep gets in without any effort. Some people ought to wake up. But some ought to sleep more. Sometimes sleep is a confession of faith, when it 's sleep time and your body needs it, but anxiety keeps you awake, or your nerves. The thoughtful Christian thinks about his sleep until a good sleep-habit is fixed. These nerve-racking days one must sleep. And the earlier in the night it is started the better. Sleep before midnight is beauty sleep, because it is strength sleep. One plans for enough, sometimes foregoing something else. He thinks about the details that help sound, deep, refreshing sleep. Sleep renews the strength while food repairs waste. If the mother finds that a half-hour's lying down in a quiet room in daytime, whether sleep comes or not, makes her more patient and gentle with the children, and with better self-control in the home, she will prayerfully plan for it. So she is a truer Christian mother, and shapes better the children's character, present and future. She becomes more serviceable to her Master. And cleansing figures in so much bigger than any of us takes in. It is of two sorts, inner cleansing and outer. There are people who bathe fastidiously who would be shocked at their filthy condition inside. Health, it is sometimes said, is dependent on three things, food, assimilation, elimination. That is, enough of the right sort of food, the ability to digest and absorb it into the body, and the prompt full throwing out of all the waste. It is surprising how much waste there is to be thrown out. Nature provides two ways for its removal, through the skin and through certain inner organs. So many diseases are dirt diseases. Often the disease that comes is merely nature trying to get rid of this accumulation of filth. A healthful body takes care of its own waste products. Careful, prayerful obedience to the laws of the body makes a healthful body. Careless indifference is pretty apt to make the body very dirty, inside. Bathing, and especially preserving the bodily rhythm, are not beneath the attention of the thoughtful Christian. And posture figures in much bigger than one suspects. We Americans are great sinners in the matter of posture. Man is the one upright animal of all creation. But that fact is slurred over this side of the salt water. Our American habit of slumping down in the chair, sitting on the small of the back, drooping the shoulders and the like, is a serious thing. The vital organs are crowded for space. The whole inner machinery is badly disturbed. The habit of upright posture, standing and sitting and walking, affects one's health enormously. But proper posture is impossible without easy-fitting low-heeled shoes. Nothing is more injurious to the whole inner organism than these strange high heels.
The Blood is the Life
There's a significant sentence in the Book, "the blood is the life." There is much said all through the Scriptures about blood. And there is the deep spiritual significance in much of it referring to the sacrifice of Christ. But quite apart from that teaching just now, there is here a great truth for our bodily health. The blood is indeed the life of our bodies. The stomach makes it, the heart pumps it, the lungs purify it, proper exercise keeps it in proper circulation. The whole bodily rhythm is concerned with the blood, its quality and quantity and its being kept moving just as planned. Good blood, in right quantity, kept moving naturally through the body, means full vigorous life. Poor blood, not enough blood, means a poor defective quality of life. Bad blood means diseased life. Congested blood, too much in one part and too little somewhere else, means disorder, disease. Enough blood, not too much, of the right quality, not too rich, in normal circulation, gives vigorous abundant physical life. Any slip at any point means either defective or diseased life. And the sort of food decides the sort of blood. There are two purposes in bathing. The common use, of course, is for cleansing. The other purpose is to help circulation of the blood, and so through that affect the health in a radical way. An old German priest years ago became famous for his so-called water cure. And water cures sprang up everywhere. The dear old man thought it was simply some virtue in the water. And of course that part is true. But the thing goes much deeper than that. It is the application of varying temperatures to the body through the medium of water. This affects the disturbed congestion of blood. Cold water drives the congested blood away. Hot water draws it to where it is needed. The skilful application of various temperatures radically changes the circulation of the blood. And it is astonishing how long a list of bodily ills can be quite removed in this way. There's a lot of natural healing and of health in our bath tubs if one knew how to use them in this way. On the same principle walking in the bare feet on the grass in the dew of the morning acts as a stimulant. Nature hurries warm blood to the feet to relieve the sense of cold. The excess of blood in the head or somewhere else is relieved. There is no filler tonic for tired brain or over-wrought nerves than walking in bare feet on the cool dewy grass. Care should be taken not to let the feet be cold afterward. All this sort of talk may seem rather trivial and homely to some good saintly folk. But, but, if the tired-out preacher Sunday night finds that dipping his feet in sharply cold water, repeatedly, for a few minutes, and then drying thoroughly, and maybe a bit of friction on the soles, If, I say, he finds this steadies his nerves and refreshes his brain, plainly he can be of more service to his congregation. Their sleep can be postponed until after the church service is over. For the shortest road to a nervously tired, aching head is usually through the feet. The two ends may meet helpfully in that case. Proper care of the feet is often the surest way to help the head. And this includes easy natural sort of shoes. If that same preacher finds that the habitual daily scrubbing of the soles of his feet with a stiff nail-brush full of lather clears the cobwebs out of his weary head, And so, makes the sermon better, the sentences clearer and sharper, the words simpler, the illustrations bite in better, and the people helped for the morrow's task, he is surely likely to wear that nail-brush out at a lively rate, and then get another. He's glad to do it for Jesus' sake, and for the sake of the crowd, too, that needs help for the daily round. If a Christian man finds that plunging his head repeatedly into a deep bowl of cold water, doing it cautiously till he gets somewhat used to it, and being sure the hair is bone-dry afterward, if he finds that that sends the excess of blood in his head elsewhere, where it is needed, and there's a sense of refreshment, isn't he likely to do it? Just because he's a Christian? He's an easier man to live with now. He makes a better father and husband, and worker and neighbour. He becomes a better Christian in his daily contacts. Surely anything that will help like that, he'll do, for Christ's sake. These are the six things suggested by those two old models of personal life, food, air, exercise, sleep, cleansing, and posture. They come under the head of obedience, the second of the two main things we are talking of just now.
Nine Bodily Sins
Some of the commonest sins are not classed as sins at all. Yet they are sins against our bodies, and so against Him whose dwelling-place our bodies are. Here are the nine commonest sins against the body. Too much food and an unbalanced diet, lack of balanced exercise, breathing poisonous indoor air, lack of inner cleanliness, taking poisons into the body in the shape of stimulants, sedatives and drugs, tense nerves, overwork, wrong posture, and the use of the propagating organs otherwise than as intended by nature. These are responsible for by far the greatest number of diseases. Repentance here would result in most physicians losing their practise. But there seems little need for the physicians to worry on this score. And obedience, intelligent, thoughtful, sensible obedience, to the requirements of our bodies would quite remove them. The exceptions are decidedly in the minority. Of course, overwork is one of the commonest sins among conscientious Christians. It may come through a lack of judgment. Most times it is, at root, evidence of a lack of faith in Christ, practically. There are no breakdowns in the path of obedience. But the path of service is strewn thick with saintly wrecks. The touchstone of the true life is, not the crowds and their need, not service, not suffering nor sacrifice. The touchstone is obedience, simple, clear, intelligent, full obedience to the Holy Spirit's plain leading. And when in doubt, wait. There's a Lord to the harvest. There's a Chief-of-staff. The ordering of strategy and tactics and movements is with Him. Our part is the quiet heart, the open ear, the trained discernment for His voice, His leading. And then doing as He leads, and only that. But, but, the thing to remember constantly is this. It is Christ's will to forgive the truly penitent, and to heal their bodies. And He is at your side now eagerly waiting to do whatever is needed.