THE RULINGS OF CONSCIENCE IN THE HOUSE OF BODY: TEMPERANCE
Principle underlying Temperance.— Conscience is not, in fact, so much concerned with the manner of our intemperance as with the underlying principle which St Paul sets forth when he condemns those who “worship and serve the creature more than the Creator.” This is the principle according to which we shall be justified or condemned; and, in its light, we have reason to be suspicious of any system of diet or exercise which bespeaks excessive concern for the body, whether that concern be shown by a diet of nuts and apples, or peacocks’ brains, or of cock-a-leekie. England is in serious danger of giving herself over to the worship of a deity whom we all honour as Hygeia. But never did men bow down before so elusive a goddess, for the more she is pursued, the more she flees; while she is ready with smiles and favours for him who never casts a thought her way. In truth and sober earnest, the pursuit of physical (and mental) well-being is taking its place amongst us as a religious cult; and the
danger of such a cult is, lest we concentrate our minds, not upon Christ, but upon our own consciousness. We ‘have faith’ to produce in ourselves certain comfortable attitudes of mind and body; this serenity satisfies us, and we forget the danger of exalting the concerns of the creature above the worship of the Creator. The essence of Christianity is passionate love and loyalty towards a divine Person; and faith, the adoring regard of the soul, must needs make us like Him who is ‘meek and lowly of heart.’ A faith which raises us to a ‘higher plane’ should be suspect of the Christian conscience, as seeking to serve ourselves of the power of Christ, less to His glory than our own satisfaction.
Well said Carlyle that, whether you or I be in a state of well-being or not ‘is not the central fact of the Universe.’
If undue attention to the physical nature be a kind of intemperance, still more so is the neglect of that nature through which every function we are enabled for is performed; and such neglect has its sources in the indifference of sloth and the excesses of greed. ‘Take no thought for the life, what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink.’ ‘Eat that which is set before you.’ These are the rules laid down by our Master, whereby we may ‘keep our bodies in temperance, soberness, and chastity.’ ‘Take no thought,’ for all offences against the body begin in the thoughts.
We Live in our Times.—I appear to have wandered wide of the mark, seeing that my subject is the dealings of Conscience with the House of Body in the matter of Temperance; but, indeed, it is necessary to keep a wide outlook upon the movements of the day, as well as upon those of our own appetites. We live
with our times; and we must bear in mind that there is no freak of the moment,—whether it be that fruit-eating colony in the Pacific, or the living upon one meal a day, or the not permitting ourselves to drink anything at all, not even water,—for which Reason is not capable of being enlisted as special pleader. Only the instructed conscience is proof against persuasion. Let us hail Punch as our faithful mentor; whether we would be quadrumanous persons or nut-eaters, Punch laughs us into common sense!
 The Fortunes of Nigel, by Sir Walter Scott.
 Preface to Plutarch’s Lives.
 Quentin Durward, by Sir Walter Scott.
 The Virginians, by W.M. Thackeray.
 The House of the Seven Gables.
 Past and Present.