Counsels on Health, by Ellen G. White (1923)

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CHIn the lobby of the White Memorial Hospital, which was founded in memory of the writer of the “Counsels” which compose this book, is a bronze tablet bearing the inscription:

“This hospital is dedicated to the memory of Ellen Gould White, whose long life was unselfishly devoted to the alleviation of the woes and sorrows of the sick, the suffering, and the needy; and to inspiring young men and women to consecrate their lives to the work of him who said, ‘Heal the sick.’”

To those who knew Mrs. White these words are freighted with tender memories of almost countless incidents in the life of that most kindly soul. Of the women who have lived in modern days, no other, in all probability, has exercised so deep and lasting an influence upon the lives of her fellows as Ellen G. White. In no realm were her teachings more far-reaching and thorough than in that relating to the care of the body—the temple of the Holy Spirit.

From many and varied sources, during the last half century, a flood of light has been thrown upon this important theme. From out the mind of the renowned Pasteur came shafts of light of brilliant and penetrating power on matters relating to health and disease. From him the world received its knowledge of bacteria, the causative factors of so many diseases. From Louis Pasteur came the cure that conquered anthrax, that devastating sickness afflicting both man and beast. He it was whose unremitting toil culminated in the discovery of a cure for hydrophobia, one of the most dread diseases of all the ages.

Lord Lister, by applying the principles of Pasteur to the operating room, made surgery safe for mankind. His genius transformed hospitals from being shambles of horror and gangrene to places of comfort and cure. He demonstrated that pus in surgical wounds is unnecessary, and reduced surgical mortality to a relatively insignificant figure.

Then there was Semmelweiss, the obstetrician, to whom Kugelmann wrote: “with few exceptions the world has crucified and burned its benefactors. I hope you will not grow weary in the honorable fight which still remains before you.” It was this Semmelweiss who wrestled with the dread monster of puerperal fever, and through whose brain there throbbed the queries: “Why do these mothers die? What is childbirth fever?” His efforts cost his life, but he conquered the fearful malady.

And I might continue to tell of the blessings the world has received at the hands of many others, from Koch, Ehrlich, Nicolaier, Kitasato, Von Behring, Flexner, Ronald Ross, and many another. But to Ellen G. White a different role was given. While her lifework and teaching were in harmony with truly scientific medicine, it was in the realm of the spiritual side of the healing art that she shone with a brilliance of holy luster. In the matter of appealing to men and women to regard their bodies as a sacred trust from the Highest One, and to obey the laws of nature and of nature’s God, she stands without a peer. She it was who exalted the sacredness of the body and the necessity of bringing all the appetites and passions under the control of an enlightened conscience. Others emphasized science in health; to her it was left to impress the spiritual in the treatment of the temple of the body.

No other one of modern day has entered this field of spiritual endeavor to anything like the extent she did. Her efforts were tireless from the days of her young womanhood to the hour of her death at a very advanced age. In books, in magazine articles, in papers, in tracts and pamphlets, she constantly and unswervingly called men and women, old and young, in clarion tones, to a more rational, a higher, purer plane of spiritual living. From the platform in churches and lecture halls, at convocations and conferences, her voice was continually heard urging the need of consecrated, Christian living in things relating to the body and its care. Others brought to light scientific facts concerning disease, its cause, and its cure; Ellen G. White drove home those facts on the spiritual side to the innermost citadel of the souls of men and women.

It is fitting, therefore, that though she sleeps in her quiet grave, her tired hands folded across the sainted breast, her works should follow her. It is meet that in this volume her “Counsels” should live, to bless, to fortify, and to direct the lives of those who seek to point their fellow beings to that blest One who alone has healing in His wings.

It was the apostle Paul who wrote in his second letter to the youthful Timothy:

“In a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor, and some to dishonor. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the Master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.”

Paul wrote especially concerning the members of the Lord’s church. But how wonderfully applicable also are the words to the human stones which form the structure of the great house of the healing art on earth today! In it there are doctors and nurses of gold, and doctors and nurses of silver, doctors and nurses of wood and of earth, and some to honor and some to dishonor. To purify the great house of healing, to help to mold it after the similitude of the Mighty Healer, is the object of “Counsels.”

In this sordid day, when everything that was once sacred is being commercialized, when the golden calf is being worshiped on every hand, there are and ever will be some men and women wistfully longing for the highest ideals that properly belong with a profession second in sacredness only to the ministry of the word of God. In the hope and with the simple prayer that this volume may contribute to the purest and most unselfish profession of medicine, it is now launched upon its mission.

Percy T. Magan.

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