TIRED CHURCH MEMBERS.
AUTHOR OF THE “FOURTH WATCH,” “THE OTHER SHORE,” ETC.
“So two or three cities wandered unto one city, to drink
water; but they were not satisfied: yet have ye not returned
unto me, saith the Lord.”–Amos iv. 8.
“Choked with cares and riches and pleasures
of this life.”–Luke viii. 14.
HURST and COMPANY
By ROBERT CARTER and BROTHERS
By HURST and COMPANY.
TIRED CHURCH MEMBERS
TIRED CHURCH MEMBERS
I suppose one never goes heartily into any bit of Bible study, without
finding more than one counted upon. And so for me, searching out this
subject of Christian amusements some curious things have come to light.
As for instance, how very little the Bible says about them at all. It
was hard to find catchwords under which to look. “Amusement”? there is
no such word among all the many spoken by God to men. “Recreation”?–nor
that either; and “game” is not in all the book, and “rest” is something
so wide of the mark (in the Bible sense, I mean) that you must leave it
out altogether. And “pastime”? ah, the very thought is an alien.
“This I say, brethren, that the time is short.” 
Redeem it, buy it up, use it while you may,–such is the Bible
stand-point. It flies all too quickly without your help.
“My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle.” 
“Pass the time of your sojourning here in fear.” 
Not in frolic. So you can see that I was puzzled. However, by patiently
putting words together, noting carefully the blanks as well, some things
become pretty plain; and the vexed question of Christian amusements is
answered clearly enough for those who are willing to know. But as we go
on searching and comparing, think always of the command once given and
“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the
For we call ourselves Christians,–that “people of laws divers from all
other people”; and now we are consulting our statute book.
You think, then,–says somebody,–that Christians are to do nothing but
work, work, from morning to night: that the Bible forbids all play and
all pleasure? No, I think nothing of the sort. But let us see what it
really does say. “To the law and to the testimony,”–and abide by them.
To begin then where most of all, perhaps, the old and the modern times
are like each other,–feasts have always been in vogue and always
permitted; only for Christians, like all else that concerns them, with a
special set of regulations as to time, manner, and behaviour. You do not
think of this when you dress for your dinner party: you did not suppose
the Bible meddled with such things. Nay, it “meddles” (if you call it
so) with the very smallest thing a Christian can do.
The feasts of old time were in all essentials so like the feasts of
to-day, that not all the changes of race, dress, and viands can much
confuse the likeness. There is the great baby celebration for Isaac,
and the wedding feast for the daughter of Laban, and the impromptu
set-out in Sodom wherewith Lot thought to entertain the angels. There
are the great gatherings of young people over which Job was so
anxious; and the yearly sacrifice at the house of Jesse “for all the
family,”  reminding one of our Thanksgiving.
Then follow state dinners of amity between two contracting powers; as
when Isaac feasted Abimelech, and David feasted Abner. Then
court entertainments: the birthday feast of Pharaoh to all his servants,
when he lifted up one and hanged another, and the birthday feast of
Solomon which marked his entrance upon a new life of duty, opportunity,
and promise, and which he kept like a young heir coming of age.
These are all well known to us: and alas, so also are the feasts of
social excess, like those of Nabal; and the idolatrous feasts of the
men of Shechem, and of the king of Babylon; wherein men praise
only “the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, and of iron, of wood and
“And the harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine, are in their
feasts: but they regard not the work of the Lord, neither consider the
operations of his hands.” 
“A feast is made for laughter,”–but this laughter is “mad”; utterly
interdicted to all those who would “live soberly, righteously, and godly”
in this world. Such “revellings” are classed among “those works of
the flesh which are manifest”; there can be no question about them: the
“revellings, banquetings,”  for which “the time past of our life may
suffice us.”  That time when we were without God in the world,
walking as other Gentiles walk. With all such “recreations” the true
Israel have absolutely nothing to do.
Does it follow then that a Christian must stand aloof from all
festivities that are not wholly among Christian people? Not quite that.
“I am a companion of all them that fear thee,” said David, and it
certainly looks ill for a man if his habit is the other way. Yet there
are exceptions, there must be,–else, says the apostle, “ye must needs go
out of the world.”  But like everything else for you and me, it is
all within regulations. First as to the going.
“If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed
to go–” 
And then follows the first rule. Whatsoever you can do there
Christian-wise; whatsoever you can join in that will not implicate you as
a possible worshipper of _his_ idol that bade you–even the god of this
world–that do. But otherwise there is the strictest hands-off! And for
“Eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake.” 
No matter if it be something as simple as eating and drinking. That is
the instance given by the apostle, the eating of meat which had been
first offered to an idol. And just as once the missionaries in a far off
Eastern island never tasted beef for two whole years, because they could
get none which they were sure had not been so offered; in like manner are
you called upon to absolutely let alone everything which may cast even a
doubt upon your loyalty to your Master.
Can you go to the entertainment so, keeping your garments spotless? Can
you go as the Lord did?
“And Levi made him a great feast in his own house; and there was a great
company of publicans and others that sat down with them.” 
Pharisees murmured, but the Lord knew why he went.
“And Jesus answered them, They that are whole need not a physician; but
they that are sick.” 
If you can go thus, to do your Master’s work; mingling with his enemies
to win them for his friends; seeking their company not for their wealth
and place, but rather because of their deepest need and danger; not for
their gaiety, but for the abounding joy you would fain make known to them
out of your own heart-store: then I should say again: “If any of them
that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go,”–_go_!
But beware of compromises,–that specious temptation not to make religion
disagreeable. It can never be really that if it is the true thing,–a
burning fire, a shining light,–but some one has well said: “When
religion loses its power to repel, it loses also its power to attract.”
It must be intense, active, clear enough to do both. “The disciple is
not above his Master. If they have called the Master of the house
Beelzebub, how much more them of his household”!
And it is only as an uncompromising servant of the Lord Jesus, that you
can ever hope to do anything for him. On all days, in all places, you
must count yourself on duty and under orders. You cannot pledge a man in
the wine cup to-night, and to-morrow plead with him to escape for his
life. You cannot join in the “foolish talking and jesting, which are not
convenient,”  and afterwards reason of “righteousness, temperance,
and judgment to come”: or if you do, people will not listen. You will
find that, like Lot, you have “lost your spiritual credit.” “He seemed
as one that mocked, to his sons-in-law.”
“I had dined every week all winter with Dr. —-,” said a lady to me,
“and never guessed that he was a clergyman till yesterday!” Johnson said
of Burke, that “you could not stand with him five minutes under a gateway
in a shower of rain, without finding out that he was an extraordinary
man,”–and how long shall it take people to learn that you are a
Christian?–one bought back from slavery, called to be a saint, heir of a
kingdom? Ah, how ready men are to parade their worldly honours; their
orders of merit and badges of bravery; but leave their Christian colours
at home, and hide their uniform with a pair of the world’s overalls!
Alas!–“If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself
for battle?” 
Yes, if you can go into mixed society as the Lord went, then go. But
otherwise, for your own enjoyment, a different model is set.
“Then Jesus, six days before the passover, came to Bethany, where Lazarus
was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made
him a supper; and Martha served; but Lazarus was one of them that sat at
the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard,
very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her
hair; and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.” 
How exquisite the picture! how rare the intercourse, how precious the
results! A few of the Lord’s own people met together with the Lord
himself; the one expensive thing mentioned being bought for him. It was
only “a supper”; and there were sorrows before them, and sorrows behind,
and only the spikenard was “very costly,”–that consecration to God which
gives him all we have: but its fragrance filled the house. And not all
Arabia was ever so perfumed.
And must Christians give no other feasts but such as that? some one may
ask. There is another sort mentioned, nay even insisted upon; but if the
first looks to you dull, the second will seem–impossible! You will find
a full description of it in Luke xiv. 13. And so far as I know, this is
the only sort of great entertainment that Christians are encouraged to
give; ruling out in toto the tit-for-tat customs of modern society. “For
they cannot recompense thee.” But it also spares you the perplexing
question of full returns, for _these_ people have given you nothing.
Only the Lord has given,–and now bids you keep open house for him in his
absence. And do you see? the great Master of assemblies will count the
invitations as given to himself, and will one day make a royal return for
them all when he cometh in his kingdom. “They cannot recompense thee.”
 What!–never invite your friends unless they happen to be poor? O,
yes indeed,–invite them, enjoy them, make much of them, precious things
as friends are; yet _spend_ the most on the portionless lives that are
all around you. There are fancy fountains in the rich man’s grounds,
throwing up jets of water just to catch the sunlight: let your small
rills of refreshment flow silently to places where the tide is out and
the streams run dry.
“They cannot recompense thee; but thou shalt be recompensed at the
resurrection of the just.” 
And as soon as you make ready a blessing–not a compliment–in your hand,
unfashionable dresses will not matter, untutored tongues will sound
sweet; and your feast will be all glorified, for the Lord himself will be
“Go your way, eat the fat and drink the sweet, and send portions unto
them for whom nothing is prepared.” 
“The Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow,” –“the
poor that are cast out” –these were Israel’s special charge under
the law. But the gospel gives deeper work.
“When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy
brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also
bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee. But when thou makest a
feast call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind; and thou shalt be
blessed, for they cannot recompense thee; for thou shalt be recompensed
at the resurrection of the just.” 
The Lord dates the note of payment far ahead, but indeed I think he is
better than his word, and deals out much coin as we go along; it is such
wonderful pleasure to fill an empty cup! This is “recreation,” true and
sweet; for of all the refreshments from one’s own toil and sorrow, I
think ministering to other people is about the best.
I have said nothing–is it needful to say aught?–of the Bible rules for
_behaviour_ at a feast. One is ready to imagine that _Christians_ do
only that which is “lovely, and of good report.” Yet notice a few things.
“They love the uppermost rooms at feasts,”  was spoken of the
Pharisees; but to his disciples Christ said: “Whosoever will be chief
among you, let him be your servant.” 
“When thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room.” 
Other things follow close and easily upon that.
“Let your moderation be known unto all men.”
“Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do it all to the
glory of God.”
And to people with hearts so set, that other vexed question of dress will
be easy; for all will be “clothed with humility”; and the spotless
garments will so far outshine the pearls and costly array, that no one
will miss them, nor wish them there.
 I Cor. vii. 29.
 Job vii. 6.
 I Pet. i. 17.
 Rev. iii. 22
 Gen. xxi. 8.
 Gen. xxix 35.
 Gen. xix. 3.
 Job i. 7.
 I Sam. xx. 6.
 Gen. xxvi. 30.
 II Sam. iii. 20
 I Sam. xxv. 26.
 Judges ix. 27.
 Dan. v. 1.
 Isa. v. 12.
 Titus ii. 12.
 Gal. v. 21.
 I Pet. iv. 3.
 Ps. cxix. 63.
 I Cor. v. 10.
 I Cor. x. 27.
 I Cor. x. 28.
 Luke v. 29.
 Luke v. 29.
 Matt. x. 25.
 Eph. v. 4.
 I Cor. ii. 8.
 John xii. 1-3.
 Luke xiv. 14.
 Luke xiv. 14.
 Neh. viii. 10.
 Deut. xiv. 27.
 Isa. lviii. 7.
 Luke xiv. 12, 13.
 Matt. xxiii. 6.
 Matt. xx. 27.
 Luke xiv. 10.
 I Pet. v. 5.
 Sir Matthew Hale thus charged his grandchildren: “I will not have
you begin or pledge any health; for it is become one of the greatest
artifices of drinking, and occasions of quarrelling in the kingdom. If
you pledge one health, you oblige yourself to pledge another, and a
third, and so onward; and if you pledge as many as wilt be drunk, you
must be debauched and drunk. If they will needs know the reasons of your
refusal, it is a fair answer: ‘That your grandfather that brought you up,
from whom, under God, you have the estate you enjoy or expect, left this
in command with you, that you should never begin or pledge a health.'”
“What do you mean by ‘the world’?” said a gentleman to me. “I suppose
of course you rule out music and painting.” So people judge; taking
for granted that whatever is pleasant, religion makes wrong. Rule out
music?–why it exorcised Saul’s evil spirit! Yet even for the
enjoyment of sweet sounds there are laws and limitations.
It will be a good day when our so-called sacred music (much of it) more
nearly resembles that of old time and has less kinship with the title
of a little book yclept “Rhymes and Jingles.” A paid choir (no
objection to that, if you can buy up their hearts as well) an operatic
organist, a silent, criticising congregation. Is there much praise in
that? much worship? much refreshment for a tired heart? Look how it
was when the ark of God, the visible sign of his presence, was brought
home to Jerusalem,–all took part in the music, from the king down; and
did it _unto God_.
“And David and all Israel played before God with all their might, and
with singing, and with harps, and with psalteries, and with timbrels,
and with cymbals, and with trumpets.” 
“The singers went before, the players on instruments followed after;
among them were the damsels playing with timbrels. Bless ye God in the
congregations, even the Lord, from the fountain of Israel.” 
Not much like a quartette and its mute audience! Or how does this
compare, with the way we hand over the praise to some who do not even
profess to feel it?
“And David spake to the chief of the Levites to appoint their brethren
to be singers with instruments of music, psalteries and harps and
cymbals, sounding, by lifting up the voice with joy.” 
There is not much “joy” like that behind most of the choir curtains in
our day; but by such means one would be pretty sure of good music. We
are not told whether the women took part in the ordinary public music
in the temple; but on all special occasions of deliverance and
thanksgiving they had their full share. We people in this Western
world are so silent in our joy as in our grief,–as apt to bow the head
for gladness as for sorrow,–we know nothing like those grand
spontaneous bursts of music that once resounded on the shores of the
Red Sea, or echoed through the hill country round about Jerusalem.
“Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord,
saying, I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously.”
That was from the men. And answering them came the softer voices of
Miriam and “all the women,” cheering them on:
“Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously.” 
This was no written music they had met to practise; it was fresh out of
their hearts; with all their enemies “dead upon the shore,” and Israel
Or listen to the chorus of women that “came out of all the cities of
Israel” to meet the army, when David had conquered the Philistine in
“And the women answered one another as they played, and said,
“Saul hath slain his thousands”–
“And David his ten thousands”–
You perceive that they understood music in those days; every word in
the great swell of song so distinct, that Saul heard every word–and
“was very wroth.”
So “at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem” (think of _dedicating_
a city wall! how they must have believed Ps. 127) the dedication was
“With gladness, both with thanksgiving, and with singing, with cymbals,
psalteries, and harps.” 
And as the bands of people went up to Jerusalem to the three great
feasts, they sang and chanted from time to time as they marched along,
the Levites at their head beginning the song, and the rest joining in.
“I was glad when they said unto me–” 
“As the mountains are round about Jerusalem” –and all the rest. Ah
what music! You see the Bible is a great favourer of sweet sounds.
But all this, you will say, was public and special,–not meant for
recreation. Let us listen to the Bible music which is private and
personal, and you will find it every bit as sweet.
“Praise the Lord with harps. Sing unto him with the psaltery and an
instrument of ten strings. Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully
with a loud noise.” 
Are you not glad of that word “skilfully”? You see you may cultivate
your talent to the last point, and may have any amount of new music.
The Lord’s people are not meant to be bunglers, in any line. And yet
some seem to think it is no matter how they sing holy words! This “new
song” may perhaps be what David speaks of in another place:
“He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God.” 
For as “his mercies are new every morning,”  so should also our
praises be; new, fresh, vigorous; not always the same old words to the
same old tune. “The songs of Zion,” so sung, are wondrously sweet;
even the poor captives in Babylon were called upon to sing them for the
pleasure of their heathen captors.
“The songs of Zion.” Many of you imagine they are all pretty much
alike; all solemn and tedious and slow. But listen.
“I will sing unto the Lord, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.”
Can anything be gayer than that? Or anything sweeter than this:
“My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give
Or where will you find richer chords that this:
“I will sing of thy power, yea, I will sing of thy mercy in the
morning: for thou hast been my defence and refuge in the day of my
New, skilful, and then comes in another requirement; songs should be
“I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding
Know what you sing. Does this keep out all _but_ sacred music? I
should not think that. But it _does_ forbid singing you know not what
in a foreign tongue, or mere dead nonsense in your own. I cannot see,
for my part, why it is much better to sing “idle words” than to say
them. How vapid, how senseless, is many a song one hears from a pretty
mouth and a sweet voice. And in music as elsewhere, there is no middle
ground: whatever does not edify–build up–pulls down.
“It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear
the song of fools.” 
How run the directions?
“Singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord.” 
Can you do that? If not, music is no true recreation to you. Whatever
chills your feeling for eternal things, making them seem dull and far
away, is no breath of life-refreshment, but comes bearing the fumes of
Do you think you would never sing at all, unless you sometimes forgot
such solemn thoughts? Ah there you are mistaken.
“Behold, my servants shall sing for joy of heart.” 
Not forgetfully, but in full remembrance.
“Is any merry? let him sing psalms.” 
“Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.” 
Now somebody will say that I have wandered quite away from recreation,
and gone off to church. But no; I am speaking of heart and home music.
You all know that there is no _recreation_ about most of your music
now-a-days. You bore yourselves and other people with much practising,
and when you have learned, as you think, then you drop it all. Who is
ready with a song for some weary, tuneless life? or who “keeps up her
music” till the tired years of her own? Work for it, pay for it, drop
it,–that is the record. Your music, as it is, is a dead thing; and I
want you to put the principle of life in it. For whatever you begin
for your Master, you will also hold fast for him.
Read over these words and ponder them well:
“He that had received the five talents, went and traded with the same,
and made them other five talents.” 
Every gift the man had, was used for Christ.
How precious a gift this musical power is! how usable a gift.
“A very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play
well on an instrument.” 
How much it can do for ourselves, for the world.
“David took an harp, and played with his hand; so Saul was refreshed,
and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.” 
I have never forgotten how a lady with no great musical skill or
education sang a verse of a hymn for me one night. It was at a little
party, so she could not raise her voice above the softest undertone;
but she sang that verse just to let me hear the tune, which I did not
know. The words were familiar:
“There is a fountain filled with blood”–
I suppose I have often heard them what you call “better sung”; but
never with more lovely effect. Every word, every note, was absolutely
distinct and clear, yet not one rising above that undertone: I doubt if
even the people nearest to us heard; and the most restless nerves, the
weariest head, could have listened and been refreshed. I know my eyes
grew full; and I thought to myself, “Ah, you have practised your voice
by many a sick bed, and trained it for just that work.”
“The evil spirit departed from Saul.” But what of music that puts the
evil spirit into men? Of songs, however sweet sounding, that are
written in the service of the devil, and sung at the high court of the
world? For this is your rule:
“Singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” 
Like your speech, “alway with grace.”
 I Chron. xiii. 8.
 Ps. lxviii. 25, 26.
 I Chron. xv. 16.
 Ex. xv. 1.
 Ex. xv. 21.
 Neh. xii. 27.
 Ps. cxxii. 1.
 Ps. cxxv. 2.
 Ps. xxxliii. 2, 3.
 Ps. xl. 3.
 Lam. iii. 13.
 Ps. xiii. 6.
 Ps. lvii. 7.
 Ps. lix. 16.
 I Cor. xiv. 15.
 Eccle. vii. 5.
 Eph. v. 19.
 Isa. lxv. 14.
 James v. 13.
 Ps. cxix. 54.
 Matt. xxv. 16.
 Ez. xxxiii. 32.
 I Sam. xvi. 23.
 Col. iii. 16.
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under
And so it comes among the rest, that there is “a time to dance.” 
Such being the case, we have only to find out the when and the how; for
of course, for Christians, dancing too must have its rules. In
feasting the word is, “Do all to the glory of God”; and in music, “With
melody in your hearts to the Lord”; and now for dancing the order comes:
“Let them praise his name in the dance.” 
We are to praise the Lord with our whole lives; in our recreation no
less than in our work. You see it is all one: with that proviso you
may do anything.
“Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent
“Praise him with the timbrel and dance.” 
I fancy you did not expect this, secretly believing that the Bible was
all against dancing. I fancy most people would start back and say it
cannot be done. _If_ it cannot, or if by _you_ it cannot, then–for
you–the dancing question should be settled once and for all. The Lord
has given you “the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness,” 
and you are not at liberty to lay it off for any dancing gear whatever.
“Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a
peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath
called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” 
The condition is absolute; and all doubts upon the dancing question are
at an end for you. But for those who like to inquire into
possibilities, let us search a little further. “Praise him in the
dance.”–Has it ever been done? Never,–in such dances as you are
accustomed to. But a great while ago, on the shores of the Red Sea,
while the men were chanting the praises of that God who had brought
them safe out of Egypt, the women banded together “with timbrels and
with dances”  (no _mixed_ dances, observe), and so, dancing for joy
at the great deliverance, answered the men, chorus like:
“Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously.” 
So after Jephthah’s victory, came out his daughter to meet him “with
timbrels and with dances.”
So after the rout of the Philistines,
“The women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing,
to meet king Saul.” 
And though praise of the human agents mingled in, yet only Divine power
had won the day, and well they knew it. And again you remember how
when the ark was brought home to Jerusalem,
“David danced before the Lord with all his might.” 
Does it seem very strange to you? So it did to David’s wife on that
occasion; for as she had no praise in her heart, no sympathy with the
joy, of course the expression of it tried her patience. Dancing for
joy,–we often use the image, but these people did the thing. It is
hard enough to keep still sometimes, if one is very happy.
Not like our dancing!–you say. Indeed not much. No special steps, no
intricate figures, no elaborate positions, no dressing for effect.
David even laid his royal robes aside, instead of putting them on; they
were in his way. How could one dance for joy in a state dress? No
need of partners, where every one danced for glad thankfulness of
heart. No “envy, malice, and all uncharitableness” stirred up by
another’s dancing or another’s dress; no “wall-flowers,” no monopoly.
No late hours, leaving mind and body jaded for the next day’s work. I
think “dancing before the Lord” must have been very pure refreshment.
And by the way, speaking of dress, I feel, somehow, as if–would people
but choose their ornaments out of that treasure-chest of jewels “a meek
and quiet spirit,” ball dresses would lose their charm, and the German
its great attraction. One never likes to go where one’s dress is out
Christian dancing, for Christian joy. There was music and dancing, as
well as feasting, when the prodigal son came home; returned from his
sins, washed from his defilement, clothed at last in “the best robe” a
sinner can wear. According to the word:
“Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing.” 
Is such glad thankfulness so rare in our days that people have
forgotten how it acts? And would such dancing be possible now? I do
not know. But answer this question, and you settle at once the other
perplexity whether Christians may dance. For there is no other sort of
dancing permitted to them, than this which springs up out of the
mercies of the Lord, and is all consecrated to his praise.
it is not quite the only sort mentioned in the Bible; but the others do
not look attractive upon paper. One of them indeed comes more properly
under another head, and the rest are all idolatrous; in the service and
honour of that biggest idol, the world; whether any special graven
image was set up or not. Dances indulged in only by heathen, or by
nominal Christians who had swerved from their allegiance.
When Moses tarried long in the mount, receiving his orders, the people,
you remember, grew tired and restless,–in want of recreation, we
should call it now,–and then they “quickly corrupted themselves.”
Weary of waiting, impatient of the monotony of their life, out of their
own possessions they made themselves an idol, and then–danced before
it! conducting themselves as well became those who had chosen a god
that could neither hear nor see.
“The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” 
And you will find this is always just what people do after unhallowed
recreation: they _never_ rise up to do good work. Test your amusements
by that. Recreation _should_ be a re-creation to every noble end.
Neither joy, nor thankfulness, nor the unbending from labour, was there
among those poor Israelites–those people of the Lord in name; but only
lawless mirth and unhallowed indulgence.
“He saw the calf and the dancing, and Moses’ anger waxed hot.” 
You think I am very hard upon dancing; and I have reason. “Two years
ago,” said a young girl to me, “you told me that if I went on doing
these things I should myself change; that I _could_ not do them, and
keep myself. I was almost angry then, but do you know it has come
true? I _have_ changed. Things that I minded and shrank from then, I
never notice now. I have got used to them, as you said. It frightens
me when I think of it.” Poor child!–neither fright nor warning have
stayed her course since then. A ceaseless thirst for excitement, an
endless round of unsatisfying pleasure–so called,–a weary, old,
disappointed look on the young face; broken engagements, forgotten
promises, a wasted life,–this is what it has all come to. “Hard upon
dancing”? yes, I certainly have reason. Do I not find it right in the
way of some of my Bible Class who might else become Christians? do I
not know how it tarnishes the Christian profession of others? Do not
the careless young men in the class boast that they can get the Church
members to go with them anywhere–for a dance? Or how would you like
to have a young girl come to you, frightened at things she had
permitted at a ball the night before, entreating to know if you thought
them “_very_ bad”?
Examine it, test it for yourself; only be honest. Can you dance “in
armour”? crowned and shielded and shining with “the hope of salvation,”
with “righteousness” and “faith”? Are your shoes “peace”? peace of
heart, of conscience. Is your belt the girdle of “truth”? Can you
“shew your colours” in the throng? _Dare_ you? Are they not rather
trailing in the dust, or quietly pocketed, or left at home? Think
honestly, and answer to yourself how it is. As in feasting, so here:
you cannot dance all night with people, and next day warn them against
“the world, and the things of the world,” and even hope to be listened
to. “I am as good as most Church members,”–ah how often we teachers
and talkers meet that rebuff! And how well the Lord knew when he said:
“He that is not with me, is against me.”
“Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?”
“A time to dance.”–Yes: whenever, and wherever, you can do it as the
whole-souled servant of Christ. And how about dancing at home, among
ourselves, as people say?–Without going any further, one thing forbids
it all. If you dance anywhere,–you, a professing Christian,–in the
eyes of the world you dance _everywhere_. The world allows no middle
ground for Christians. “I saw her dancing,”–and nobody stops to
inquire when, or with whom, or how. So that there is nothing for you
“Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away.” 
 Eccle. iii. 1.
 Eccle. iii. 4.
 Ps. cxlix. 3.
 Ps. cl. 2, 4.
 Isa. lxi. 3.
 I Pet. ii. 9.
 Ex. xv. 20.
 Ex. xv. 20.
 Judges xi. 3.
 I Sam. xviii. 6
 II Sam. vi. 14.
 Luke xv. 11.
 Ps. xxx. 11.
 Ex. xxxii. 6
 Ex. xv. 19.
 James iii. 11.
 Prov. iv. 15.
If I say that it degrades oneself to find pleasure in degrading things
or degraded people, you will perhaps admit the fact but deny that it
has any application to theatre-going. Is it not a fashionable,
intellectual, and what not, amusement? Let us see.
Many of you who yet are theatre-goers, know well that you would feel
yourselves degraded if even a dear friend went on the stage.
“She has trailed an honoured name in the dust,”–so have I heard the
comment, from one who was not even a personal friend. “She might at
least have taken another name!”–And the speaker was not brought up
among Puritans, and belonged to a Church which–as a Church–has no
fear of the theatre. I think occasional indulgence was common enough
in the family. And the young actress had done nothing but become an
actress, keeping her own name. Friends are mortified,–and yet friends
go to see, and to help along.
“But what shall actors do?” you say; “it is their way of getting a
livelihood.” No, not if support were given only to _other_ ways. A
man may make a round sum at a rowing match which cripples his strength
for life; or by leaping across Passaic Falls, till he breaks his neck;
he may set up for a wizard or a conjuror or a quack doctor,–he may
pick your pocket or fire your house,–all in the way of business. The
only question is in which way will you help him on. Things must be
judged of quite apart from their money-making results. The old African
maker of “greegrees” (charms) burns them all when she becomes a
Christian; and the young carpenter just converted under Mr. Moody’s
preaching, gives up his only job because he can not do it for Christ,
and will not even drive a nail in the scaffolding about a theatre. For
the money that changes hands there, is the price of “the souls of men.”
You do not believe all this: you do not believe that evil can hide
among such fascinations. And for the actors, they are not men and
women! Are they not kings and queens and fairies? The glamour of
their dress, the strangeness of the scenes, the un-everyday tragic or
fantastic air of it all; with sometimes the witchery of music or the
wonders of artistic effect, lay a spell upon your common sense. Do I
not know? Have I not seen young Christian girls from the country a
standing jest with people who knew the world, because–beginning with
what the laughers called “a holy horror” of the theatre–they yielded
and went “just once.” Then, “only once more,”–and then presently
would go every night, to see everything!
When Miriam was six years old, some acquaintances over-persuaded her
father to let them take her to see Cinderella,–Cinderella and some
part of Der Freischutz; and one who was there remembers well how hard
the little hands grasped the edge of the box, and how impossible it was
to win the young eyes round, even by a vision of sugarplums. To the
end of her life, I fancy, she will see now and then a picture out of
that fairyland. Next day Miriam entreated earnestly to have the
pleasure over again; strengthening her plea with this remarkable
promise, that if she might go once more, she would never do anything
wrong again as long as she lived! Her father paced up and down the
room with a grave smile upon his lips, the little suppliant following
with eager feet, ever renewing her request, and he answering little;
for the matter was beyond her ken. But he was a Christian who kept off
the Debatable land; and where his foot might not enter, he would not
send his child. Had he not himself dedicated her to be the Lord’s?
She never went again. Never to the theatre; never again to any such
place, until long afterwards; and with that going he had nothing to do.
Miriam had grown up, had become a Christian and a happy one; and as yet
no “flatterer” had beguiled her off upon the “Enchanted Ground.” But
at last the temptation came, in a very specious way.
There was a new Prima Donna at the opera house that winter; a young,
pretty woman, working hard (it was said) to support her mother; and
Miriam, going daily to see dear friends at the same hotel, often heard
the singing and practising that went on in the Prima Donna’s rooms.
And Miriam was very fond of music, and had been able to hear very
little that was really good; and now in a moment one thing took
possession of her; she _must_ go to the opera!–Tickets too costly, and
no one to take her, made the thing look impossible on the one side; and
on the other–there was her Christian name and promise. Of course it
was wrong for Christians to go!–she knew that. Yet for the time,
nothing seemed tangible or real but this; go she _must_! And so from
week to week this fever of desire grew and increased, fed from time to
time by those snatches of song that floated through the great hall of
At last one day her friends said (knowing nothing of all this),
“Miriam, you must go with us to an undress rehearsal. We have got
tickets, and you must go.” Then beginning to answer the objections
they expected–“It is only undress,” they said; “the house half
lighted, and the actors not in costume. Anybody might go,–and you
_must_.”–“It’s a very moral opera,” began another. “Of course we
would never take you to see anything else.”
Miriam was too ignorant of the world and its theatres to fairly
understand all these advantages,–indeed I fancy longing made such a
din in her ears that she paid but little attention. For a while she
withstood–then desire rose up like a whirlwind and carried all before
it. They had tickets for that very night,–her friends, said one
morning,–a ticket for her also–and an escort. She yielded and went.
Went first to take tea with her friends, on the way; and I have heard
her speak of the thrilling, pent-up excitement of that hour or two
before it was time to set out:–Excitement that made her as still as a
mouse, and the careless chatter of her friends incomprehensible!–that
made cake into plain bread and butter, and bread and butter
into–chips, for all she knew. Whether the excitement was all pleasure
I doubt if she could tell; yet if you think Miriam knew she was doing
wrong, you would be mistaken. Perhaps it was with her, in the tumult
of longing, as Fenelon says: “O how rare it is to find a soul still
enough to hear God speak!” Or perhaps the Lord, in his wisdom, chose
this time to let her set her own lesson. I can only vouch for the
dream in which she sat at tea, and walked along the street, and entered
the Opera House; glad to get out into the starlight, almost awe-struck
to find herself at last within those walls.
The rehearsal was very “undress” indeed. The house, not half lighted,
had yet fewer spectators than jets of gas,–a handful of shadowy
figures, hid away by twos and threes in the dim boxes; which were
almost too dark for the reading of libretti. However eyes were young,
and the party put their heads together and began to study out the
coming opera, and so get a taste of the pleasure beforehand.
Until–Well, as I said, Miriam was young and ignorant of the World, but
a woman’s instincts (if they have not been tampered with) outgrow her
years and are independent of her experience. And as the girl bent over
the libretto, some of these instincts took fright. She found out
suddenly that those small pages were not just the reading she liked,
with a gentleman looking over her shoulder; and instantly sat back,
leaving the rest to their studies, and read not another word that
night. She kept still, waiting for the music,–and then the music
You who see such places only with all the conjuring power of light and
dress upon them, have no idea how they look when things are transformed
back again, and Cinderella has lost her glass slippers, and the coach
is a pumpkin, and the coachman is a rat. This night the actors came on
the stage in more–or less–than ordinary dress; as men look when they
have put on their dowdiest, for bad weather or dirty work: and these
men wore their hats. Only the young Prima Donna was bare-headed, and
of course (being a woman) had not made herself a fright. “Can a maid
forget her ornaments?” And this just touched off the effect of all the
rest. But the music!–
The many discords and melodies of life since then have at last confused
in Miriam’s recollection the sounds she listened to that night; but for
years liter she could hear them almost as distinctly as at first; and
the _picture_ has never faded. The slim, fair girl; the rough,
unwashed, unkempt-looking men; men whom (had she been _your_ sister)
you would not have let touch her–as we say–“with a pair of tongs.”
The play went on. Perhaps the libretto had given an uneasy stir to
Miriam’s satisfaction, for as she sat now entranced with the music,
suddenly there came to her the astounding revelation that this young
girl on the stage, was singing those very words which the other young
girl in the boxes had not quite liked to read. Singing them at the top
of her sweet voice,–trying to bring them out distinctly and with full
effect. It was only a queen, to be sure; but somehow (missing the
royal robes) Miriam could see only a woman. Close upon this came
another shock. These dingy, untidy, soiled-looking men were now making
love to the young Prima Donna,–first one and then another; this one in
bass, and that one in baritone, and she answering in her clear soprano.
Answering,–sometimes _responding_. Then they touched her, and handled
her, and drew her about, as the exigencies of the piece demanded. And
there was no glitter of dress to turn the one into a kingly suitor and
the other into a faithful knight; the tarnished men were but men; and
she–poor little uncrowned princess–was but a woman among them all;
rubbing off the bloom and reserve of her woman’s nature with every
Miriam could never tell how sick hearted she grew as she looked.
_That_ was this girl’s livelihood; to go through all sorts of
situations, with all sorts of men, for the amusement of other people.
O yes, it paid well. Had she been a teacher,–had she painted cups or
stitched seams for a living,–her salary, her wages, would have been
brought down to the lowest figure; but on the stage, at _that_ work,
give her what she asks!–or make her so popular that the manager will.
Does she not “amuse” us all?
If ever anybody was thoroughly cured of theatre going, that was Miriam.
It had been the greatest temptation of her life; but now a great recoil
came over her, so that from that day, the mere thought of the stage
brought only loathing and disgust. And so all women, _as_ women,
should set their faces against it in every shape; even down to the most
“private” of private theatricals. There cannot possibly be a wholesome
imitation of a bad thing.
I know it is very unfashionable doctrine. I know that even while I
write, the newspapers set forth an advertisement of a play, prepared by
a clergyman, to be acted by Sunday Schools in this sweet Christmas
time. Alas poor Sunday Schools!–in full training for service under
“the world, the flesh, and the devil.”–“Feed my lambs,” the Lord Jesus
said,–and between meals you give them whiskey and water! Nor is it
the children only who suffer. I could tell of one lady in that very
man’s church, who being much delighted with some such performance in
the Sunday School, went off the very next night to a theatre, to see
the same thing _done better_.
N. B.–She had never been before.
“I will have dances at home for my children, lest they seek them
“I will take my boys to the theatre, because I do not want them to go
anywhere without me.”–
Real sayings, of real mothers, church members both. Which sayings, in
everyday English, read thus, “Since I want my children to keep out of
the world, I will bring the world to them at home.”–“Since my boys
will do what I do not approve, I will guard them by doing it too.” Far
different from the strong stern-words of Scripture:
“Come out of her, my people.”
“Touch not the unclean thing.”
And then the wonderful sayings of Psalm i. 1.
If anybody thinks I have given an unfair instance, or that I
characterize it unfairly, let them take other testimony where no
prejudice can be supposed. Read Mrs. Kemble’s “Journal” of her stage
life. Read the opinion she gives of it all in her later
“Recollections.” Yet from childhood some of her nearest and dearest
she had known as actors.
I have spoken first as to people bound by the Golden Rule, and
forbidden therefore to help anybody even to get a living in an evil
way. For the work the theatre does upon yourselves, you know it, if
you will be honest. People answer: “O if it hurt me, of course I would
give it up.” Be honest with yourself, and you will come out of that
delusion. You _know_ it does not make love to Christ warmer, or
thoughts of heaven sweeter; or the atmosphere of your everyday life
more wholesome and sound. You know it leaves a restless craving for
excitement,–you know it exalts the world before your eyes; and if you
think a little you will find that, like my poor young friend in her
dancing, you are not edified, not built up, but pulled down. Let me
tell you of one case where the mother was a Church member, and had
prayers regularly every morning with her family, But the command to
_watch_ as well (_i.e._, “keep awake”) she had forgotten. And the
desire seized her to see–I will not write the name down here, but it
was one of those foreign importations which have beguiled thousands.
She did not want her son to know of her going, and so went with her
young daughter for escort! But she found her son already there, and
for twenty-eight nights running he was there again. Why not?–if his
mother went once? And as might be expected, the daughter has become
(as people say) “wild for the theatre.”
Among the people who loved Mr. Lincoln best, and could best understand
the semi-official way in which he went to the theatre that fatal night,
there was not one, I fancy, who did not feel an added shock at learning
where he was when the messenger came, and who did not wish that he had
been almost anywhere else. Yet why? If the theatre is a proper place
for Christians to enter, it is as good a place as any other to be
“Waiting–waiting–when the Lord shall come.”
The only thing I think of mentioned in the Bible that is much like
modern performances on the boards, is the dancing of the daughter of
Herodias before Herod. She worked for hire, she beguiled her audience.
“She pleased the king,” and got from him all she asked for. It sounds
very dreadful to you, no doubt, that the prophet’s head should have
been danced off by a pair of whirling feet?–but that is a slight
matter. If dancing and theatre going did only take off the heads of
protesting saints, like an old-time persecution, they at least would
but exchange the prison for the palace, and so not lose much. But this
stealing away the heart and service once vowed to Christ, is another
matter. You think it does not do this. You think your eye is as clear
for heaven in the boxes as elsewhere. You think you can dress and go
and look on and listen, keeping close to this command:
“Whatsoever ye do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord
_Do_ you think so?
“I have never been to hear him,” said Dr. Skinner, speaking then, only
of a false prophet in a false Church, “because I could not expect to
meet my Master there; and I will go nowhere for pleasure where he is
not.” What about the theatre, tried by that test?
How surely the world marks every Christian who is seen at such places;
how certainly the children know that the parents have not yet forsaken
all for Christ. And how constantly ungodly men fence off your warning,
with the words: “Look at —- and —-, I am as good as they. I do
this and that, and they do it too. I don’t see the difference.”
But “nobody knows.” O yes, everybody knows. No matter if you are
across the sea,–“A bird of the air shall carry the matter.” But
especially, the Lord knows. He setteth “a print on the heels of my
feet” –and step you never so lightly, the mark will be there, and
the Lord will know.
And where your feet go, there others will follow. “Is Miss Hope going
to such and such a performance?” inquired a young man of me. I said
no. He stood gravely thinking, and the talk drifted on. Then suddenly
I heard him say–to himself as it were:–“Then I will not go either!”–
Persuasions, entreaties, ridicule, are nothing, _mean_ nothing, if only
you stand firm. And I have known gentlemen spend their strength in
entreaties, and then when the lady held out in her quiet refusal, they
said afterwards to other people that they liked to see any one true to
Staying once with some friends of rather free opinions and practice,
Priscilla was beset to go with them on a certain evening to the
theatre. So eager were the words, so well-loved the friends, that at
last she grew desperate. Turning round upon the head of the house, she
said: “Do you really want me to go?”–He looked at her, sat back in his
chair in silence, then answered soberly: “Well, I guess I’d just as
lieve you didn’t!”
Depend upon it, the very people who press you hardest, professing to
see “no harm,” will feel they have lost something if you make them
think the King’s Country is just like their own. Whatever has happened
to _your_ moral sense, _they_ know that the theatre is no place for a
true-hearted servant of the Lord Jesus, if the Master is all he is
represented to be. If they met you there unawares, it would be with a
thrill not of pleasure but of pain.
Let me repeat my question, Is it as a Christian you go to the theatre?
can you go and keep your armour bright? does the helmet of salvation
rest securely on your head? Is the girdle of truth,–truth of life,
purpose, and heart,–fast bound? the breastplate of righteousness
burnished, the shield of faith ready against every dart that may fly in
that great building? Are they the shoes of peace on which you go in?
not pleasure, but _peace_? Is it the sword of the Spirit with which
you meet and parry the thrusts of idleness, folly, mischief? Ah you
know better! When you go to the theatre these defences are left at
home, as not fit for the occasion. The house is built and managed and
filled in the interests of the enemy; and of course your uniform is out
of place. Tired Church members, do you go there for _rest_?
 Job xiii. 27.
Dr. Skinner used to say that all games of chance were unlawful. For
inasmuch as there is no chance in the economy of this world, all use of
dice or lottery in any shape is really an appeal to him of whom it is
“The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of
the Lord.” 
And you will agree with me that this is not a thing to be done lightly.
In old times the casting of a lot was a solemn religious service:
ushered in even among pagans with prayer and often with fasting; but
what careless, reckless ignoring of God as the Governor among the
nations, is there in all connected with the lot in our days. What foul
associations cloud and wrap up almost every game of chance: how soiled
are the cards, how unhallowed the rattle of the dice. What degrading,
debasing work is done by every species of lottery; what desperate evils
spring up and grow out of “a chance” at a Church fair! Some years ago,
at the time of the great German and French fairs in New York, a lady
thoughtlessly gave her young son leave to buy “a chance” for a gold
watch. Thoughtlessly,–it was just a dollar to the fair and an
amusement to the boy. And before twenty-four hours had passed, she
would have given anything in the world to recall her permission. For
at once the boy’s mind became wholly absorbed in his “chance.” The
fair went on, the drawing was long delayed; and day after day–hour by
hour, if he could–he went to inquire and to watch; and the mother saw
her child in a true gambling fever, and she obliged to let it run its
course. Mercifully, as she said, the watch fell to another. “If it
had come to George, I don’t know what in the world I should have done.”
“We play for sugarplums,”–we “toss up” for nuts; but each time the
evil seeds are planted. The mere habit of _talking_ of “chance,” of
“luck,” of “fate,” as if you believed in them all, tends directly to
weaken your realizing trust in the Great Ruler of the world; who counts
his sparrows, and numbers the hairs of your head. Chance? If the
watchmaker could not control one smallest wheel or point in his watch;
if even a grain of dust got in and defied him; what think you he could
do with mainspring and hands? One unmanageable atom would stop the
To quote Dr. Skinner again,–one to whom I think it never occurred to
like anything but what God liked,–in his early life as a young man he
had seen much wild company; and so strong was their association with
evil, that to the end of his life he could never even hear the dice
fall without a shiver.
“Put it away, my dear,” he would say of even the backgammon board. “I
don’t like it–I don’t like it!”
For games of chance, as a rule, gather round them a setting of sin and
sorrow which other games do not. I suppose men take in their practical
infidelity, and grow lawless. You do not mean to appeal to God in your
games of “chance,”–but if not to him, then to some other power
supposed to be outside his rule or beyond his notice: “chance,” “luck,”
or the devil. And it does not much matter which word you use. Yet
“tired” Church members will play euchre and whist, and there are cards
in the table drawer in the parlour, and of course a dingier pack in the
kitchen, in many a so-called Christian house; though the family hide
them or apologize before people who are called “intense.” The minister
comes in upon a card party in his parish, and all rise in deprecatory
confusion; and perhaps (ah I know it happened in one case) the minister
waves his hand graciously, with a “Don’t let me disturb you,”–and so
passes on. O it hurts one to have a fellow Christian ask in the quiet
evening at her own house, “Would you object to our bringing out the
cards?”–“I could not touch them,” was all the answer, and the drawer
stayed shut. But I wish a Nonconformist Church could rise up in these
days. We are so busy calling ourselves Episcopalians, Methodists,
Presbyterians, that we seem to forget the old far-better name which
should include all. In the war it was only loyal or disloyal: and New
York was proud of the Wisconsin boys that were all six feet two; and
Ohio wept for those of Massachusetts who were among the first to shed
their blood. Dear friends, it is war time now: if you could only
realize that, a good many things would be set straight. Not able to
give up doubtful games and questionable dances? Why in ’76 the women
fired at their tea kettles!–
Nonconformists. But now, “My mother does it,”–“my aunt goes,”–“my
father likes it”: so run the excuses which the members of your Bible
Class, children of Church members, fling in your face.
But what you call “lawful” games, are stupid. Not all of them,
perhaps; but if they were, that would not touch the question. Paul’s
“If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world
standeth,” was crippled with no such condition as “If I can get bread.”
And when the Lord bade us cut off the offending right hand, no question
of whether we could live without it came in. It is not absolutely
needful that Christ should find all his tired Church members rested and
fresh; but it _is_ necessary that they should be “spotless,”
“faithful,” “ready,” when he comes.
There are other amusements that might be touched upon just here, but
perhaps they are as well not named. Whatever takes you full into the
ranks of Christ’s enemies, not to fight but to follow them; whatever
you cannot do straight through in the name of the Lord Jesus; whatever
turns you away from the shining presence of his face; is unlawful for
you. Once remember that there is no middle ground, and then ask
yourself what standing room there can be for you on a race course, what
seat at a circus. If you are not with Christ, openly, unmistakably,
you are “scattering,” even in your games. I asked a friend (a minister
of deep experience) lately, if he had seen much of this private card
playing among Church members? He answered, “Yes, a great deal.” Then
I inquired what was the effect, as he had noticed it. And the reply
was instant and emphatic:
Carlyle tells of “patriots” in the French Revolution who shaved each
other out of the fragments of bomb shells, and wore ghastly trophies
from the guillotine. But short of a Reign of Terror, making all men
mad, one does not expect such things. Few people (I fancy) if they
knew it, would care to use the glass from which some poor wretch had
drunk his draught of poison; and even to touch the murderer’s knife
stored up in a public museum, would turn most hearts sick. But if you
could only see as God sees; if things in society were but labelled and
classed; you would find your cards dark with the soul-life blood of
thousands, and could hear their ruin in every fall of the dice.
I was much interested in a recent English essay (“On the Criminal Code
of the Jews”) to find how the typical Israel regarded games of chance.
As if something of the old blessed “The Lord is our King,” staid by
them, even in the days of their downfall. The writer says:
“All who made money by dice-playing or any games of hazard, by betting
on pigeon matches and similar objectionable practices, were not only
incapable of becoming members of a tribunal, but were not permitted to
give evidence. The Ghemara regards a man who gains money by the
amusements named, as dishonest.”
 Once pastor of the Mercer Street Church, New York, and Professor in
Union Theological Seminary.
 Prov. xvi. 33.
But you will say, I leave nothing for you, then; no amusements, no
recreation. Is that true? Is the narrow way indeed so barren, that we
must step out of it to rest? Has the Lord only food and water for his
flock, and when they need change and refreshment must they leave their
Shepherd, and go over to the wolf for a run upon the hillside? That
sounds hard for weak human nature–and strange, for a Lord of boundless
resources. And somehow the Bible pictures of the flock shew wondrous
contentment. “A stranger will they not follow.” 
Then following the Master must be very sweet; for all men like variety,
and the mere fact of a new voice is of itself enough to draw one aside.
Yet “a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him,”–O how
much that tells! And here we touch the very root and spring of true
refreshment, of real recreation. For while good general health is the
best specific against mere bodily fatigue, so against a jaded,
over-wrought state of nerves and energies, there is nothing like a
heart full of joy and a mind at rest.
“He that believeth on me shall never thirst.” 
And if this satisfaction does not underlie all your pastimes, they will
be a failure. No other stream alone can freshen even the small dry
barrens of this earth.
But besides that, what is there left for Christian people?
To begin: “Dancing is such good exercise!” people say. Granted. Or at
least it _might_ be. But instead of night hours in a ball room, get on
horseback for two hours in the open day, and then balance the profit
and loss. You don’t know how?–then learn. You have no horse? Go to
riding school. An hour in the ring will stir your blood better than
twenty Germans. But you “cannot afford” to take riding lessons.–Well
to say nothing of ball dresses, just throw satin slippers and long
gloves and carriage hire together, and see if you cannot afford it.
Ay, and have a ticket now and then for some one poorer than yourself.
Then for people who live within reach of the opera, there is generally
much other good music to be had, at far less expense and with none of
the objections. And there again, the money and time spent at the
opera, would train the voices at home into a lovely choir. Voices
which now “have no time,” and talents perhaps unknown.
“Everybody cannot sing.”–No. And neither can everybody paint; but it
is a delicious pleasure to those who can. What joy to go sketching!
what delight to work up the sketches at home. What pure, noiseless,
exquisite play it is. And if some of the party care nothing for
pencils, let them lie under a tree with a book, and be part of your
“Ah, books!–Of course you disapprove of novels,”–some one exclaims.
Indeed no. A good novel is very improving as well as refreshing. And
after much study over that word “good” (that is, for us, worth reading)
I can give no better meaning than this. A good book, whether novel or
other, is one which leaves you further on than it took you up. If when
you drop it, it drops you, right down in the same old spot; with no
finer outlook, no cleared vision, no stimulated desires, it is in no
sense a good book for you. As well make fancy loaves of sawdust, and
label them “Good Bread”; and claim that you rise from the banquet
A novel has special power of its own. It may be deeply historical,
like “Waverly,” and “The Tale of Two Cities.” It may be a picture of
vivid local colouring, like “Ivanhoe,” or “Lorna Doone,” or “Dr
Antonio.” It may be full of social hints and glimpses, with many a
covert wise suggestion, like Miss Austin’s “Emma.” It may shew up a
vital truth or a life-long mistake, like Miss Edgeworth’s “Helen,” or
open out new natural scenes like the “Adventures of a Phaeton”; or life
scenes, like “Oliver Twist”; or be so full of frolic and fun and sharp
common sense, that the mere laughter of it does you good “like a
medicine.” Witness “Christie Johnstone,” and Miss Carlen’s “John.”
All such books are utterly helpful, and leave you well in advance of
where they found you. They enlarge your world, they stimulate your
life. Only read none that enlarge it by a peep through the gates of
hell. On _that_ side knowledge is death.
But how is one to tell? you ask. Books are not labelled “good,” “bad,”
and “indifferent.” No: and when you go to shops and houses you do not
know what air you will find, perhaps not till you open the door. But
you start back from one room, and hold your breath in another,
hastening to get away; not because you have studied chemistry and can
analyze the air, but because your keen physical sense is smitten. Keep
your moral sense as fresh, as keen; and the moment you find foul air in
a book, throw the book in the fire. Do not leave it about to poison
some one else. And if you find no wholesome stir, no real refreshment,
but only a feverish thirst beginning, lay the book down: remember, you
are after _recreation_.
Re-creation,–the remaking and refitting of ourselves for better work,
the resting for more labour, the learning, that we may grow thereby.
_That_ is what you profess to need, dear fellow Christians. Then seek
it,–and take no makebelieve.
“Nothing left?”–Why the world is so full of delightful things to do,
that one can but look at a quarter of them. They stand at my elbow ten
deep. Books and music, and painting, and riding, and gardening, with
all sorts of studies of the wonderful works of God. You are not shut
up to novels. Books of art, books of travel, books of poetry, books of
science. O how I have rested in the coolness of Longfellow’s
“Cathedral”; and with what delight seen Alpine heights with Ruskin.
Then there is that wonder of refreshment, the stereoscope. One comes
back from a half hour there in a Swiss valley as into a new world, with
the dust all blown away. A stereoscope costs little, and views are not
expensive,–that is if you are content with one or two at a time, which
is the real way to buy them; choosing, considering, carefully selecting
only those you cannot possibly go home without! I know we began with
six; those six sorted out with jealous care from the contents of many
boxes; and by ones and twos the little collection has grown into
something worth having. And if you turn over every lot of views you
come across, you will often find one rare and fine and cheap, thrown in
among the rubbish.
Then there is the microscope,–full of rich pleasure and deep study and
wonderful revealings. And here again no great outlay is needed. The
days of only sixty dollar glasses are quite gone by, and for five or
ten dollars–even less–you can get a microscope that will keep ahead
of you for some time to come.
On the other hand, if one has neither the skill nor the means to
furnish a home-made telescope, there are other ways of studying the
stars, from the days of Ferguson down. You remember he used to measure
the distance from star to star with beads upon a string. I have seen a
man who could neither read nor write, and yet could tell by the stars
the hour at any time of night; and it is a shame that we educated
people who know so much, should also know so little.
If you are in the country, and fond of “stones,” get a geologist’s
hammer, and Hugh Miller’s books, and give yourself up to happiness. Or
if you like flowers, study _them_; learning to know families and
sub-families through all the floral peerage.
But perhaps you “do not care for out-door things?” Then get a bit of
wood and a few carving tools, and see what dainty wonders you can make
at home. Or lose your cares in “illuminating”; or bury them fathom
deep in German. From any of these, well begun and carried on, you will
come back re-created for your work: made over “as good as new.” Not
poisoned with bad air, nor wearied by late hours; not singed and jaded
with chagrin, vanity, and disappointment. Riding, rowing, archery,
fishing, ought to give Christian people enough exercise, without their
being obliged to frequent ball rooms to find it; and as for the “grace”
people talk of, nothing teaches that like a heart full of
graces–“love, joy, peace,” and the rest. Do _they_ flourish at your
doubtful entertainments? do they not rather droop and hang their heads,
like the dear flowers in your bouquet?
And if people sought their refreshment among all those sweet and
wholesome things, conversation would no longer be the difficult and the
dry thing it is in many a company. There would be something to talk
about worth talking of; and men of sense would venture to talk sense,
even to women; and gossip would go down. How much more interesting is
a butterfly, than the curtains of the house across the way!–
The world is full of joys and pleasures and wonders, even yet, outside
of Eden. So full that as I said, you can only begin to taste them all,
in all your life. I think it is stated that no ordinary life-term
would suffice for the thorough study of merely the great family of
orchids. And all these things which I have named (the list is really
much longer), yes, every one of them, rightly used, will ennoble you,
and build you up, and refresh you, with every time of using. Not like
the snail which crawled up three feet every day and fell back two feet
every night: onward and upward shall be your course; with soul and body
and mind re-created, restored by right means, to right ends. Only make
one rule to yourself: where anything is doubtful, let it alone.
If you tell me I do not know the fascination of these other things, I
tell you that I do; and in one line at least have known it as deeply as
any one could. But I have also known, that with the coming of Christ
into my heart, with the new knowledge of his presence, the old taste
fell dead in a moment, and never arose again. I cannot say it was not
much to give up, for it was _nothing_. The former fascination fell
off, like the dry skin of a chrysalis when the butterfly spreads its
wings. And here we reach the very point of the whole difficulty. For
with all their crosses, privations, and givings-up, the Lord’s people
are not meant to dwell in any land of darkness or of drought. Listen
to some of the promises.
“The righteous shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands
shall be stronger and stronger.” 
“They go from strength to strength.” 
“They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.” 
“For the joy of the Lord is your strength.” 
I believe the words are true for the body as for the mind. It is
nowhere promised that you shall not be tired; but so waiting, so
living, so abiding by the head waters of all strength, the most lovely,
fresh, ever-renewed life shall be yours.
“The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree.” 
“Their souls shall be as a watered garden.” 
It is the man “whose delight is in the law of the Lord” who not only
“bringeth forth his fruit in his season,” but also when the time for
freshness and life and growth seems over,
“They shall still bring forth fruit in old age.” 
Not only “created in Christ Jesus unto good works,” but perpetually
recreated in him, from hour to hour, from year to year. Has he not
said: “I will be as the dew unto Israel”?  No more age for them,
thus dwelling in “the power of an endless life”; no empty hands,
for those who “have all things, and abound.”  No disgust of life
or hopelessness of labour for servants who every now and then–from the
midst of their work–follow the Master (but only him) “apart to rest
awhile,”  “A stranger will they not follow.” You have seen such
people; you may see them every now and then; with smooth brows and
sweet faces and eyes full of the peace of God.
“And I said, This is the rest, and this is the refreshing.” 
I am persuaded, that without this, all forms of recreation that can be
tried will be but as quack medicines, giving a temporary relief, only
to be followed by a sorer need. And while there are a hundred lawful,
sweet, wholesome means of rest at our disposal, I believe that even
they will fail if used alone. And if you throw in all unlawful
pleasures also, the failure will but be the more complete, “All my
springs are in thee,”  and these other things are but channels
through which may flow the loving kindness of the Lord. From him comes
all your skill to study, your power to sing: the ingenious fancy, the
quick intellect, the deft hand, are all his gift. In this exquisite
world of his wherein you work, his power, his care, his laws are around
you as surely when you play as when you work. So that you can walk
with Christ always, as you are meant to do; looking up to him from
relaxation as from labour, thus missing the intoxication of the one and
forgetting the toil of the other.
Now whatever lawful things such a disciple may “amuse” himself with,
you can see at once that for even the doubtful he could have no relish;
counting them but as a draught from that “troubled sea whose waters
cast up mire and dirt.”  Neither would he come to his recreations
tired of life, nor because his daily round had turned to “white of
egg”; but with genuine, honest fatigue, taking amusement as he
takes sleep, and going back from it with a joyous rebound to his
special weedy corner in the vineyard.
“I know I am getting rested,” I heard a minister once say in his
vacation, “for I am getting hungry for my work!”
“My people have forgotten their resting place”–let it not ever be said
of you and me.
But it is those not merely “planted in the courts of the Lord,” but who
“flourish” there, that are the trees whose “leaf shall not wither”; and
in this you have the whole story. A Christian who is _flourishing_
where he belongs, will never go where he does _not_ belong. And no one
who is dwelling daily in the clear sunshine of Christ’s presence, will
need a dance to enliven him, or a horse race–or a walking match–to
keep up his interest in life. There will be “melody in his heart”
without the opera; and life will be full and bright and strong, without
a speck of tinsel pleasure. Work will be sweet, and play will be
joyous; and by one and by the other the man will _grow_–
“Grow, like the cedar in Lebanon.”
Now that you may prove all this, that you may begin right, be careful
to take the full good of all the ordered resting times: to wit, the
Sundays. I wish all tired people did but know the infinite rest there
is in fencing off the six days from the seventh. In anchoring the
business ships of your daily life as the Saturday draws to its close,
leaving them to ride peacefully upon the flow or the ebb until Monday
morning comes again. O the delight, the lull, of feeling: “No need to
settle this question–no need to think of this piece of work–for a
whole long, sweet thirty-six hours!” Why do you take Sunday papers, to
keep your nerves astir with business on the Lord’s own day of rest?
Why do you add up and consult and consider in the pauses of the sermon,
or make opportunity for a business whisper in the porch, and on the way
home? Why do you let the perplexities of servants, of means, of plans,
ruffle your spirits on the one great day of freedom? Do not you know
that even a debtor may walk abroad on Sunday, with no fear of a prison;
and house doors may stand open, and no sheriff can enter. Shall it be
worse with your mind than with your body?
“Sleep, sleep to-day, tormenting cares,
Of earth and folly born,”–
It is the high court of the Prince of Peace.
“Rest on Sunday!”–I hear some earnest worker cry. “Why Sunday is the
hardest of all the week!”
Yes, in a way that is true, for workers in the Lord’s work. Yet as far
as possible do not make it so. Do not imagine that you have the whole
world on your shoulders: do not try to have. Do not lift up a burden
you can by no means bear. The messengers came back to the Lord with
their reports,–so you.
“Lord, they will not hear–“
“Lord, it is done.”–
Work with your whole heart and strength; but then take work and class,
and lay them at the Lord’s feet; and with them the tired worker too.
So doing your work peacefully. And if Monday morning finds you tired,
it will find you also rested. The air of the world will have cleared
somewhat, giving a nearer view of “the city”; its mountains will have
sunk down well nigh out of sight, before the everlasting hills to which
you may lift up your eyes for help. And labour and care and profit and
loss will cease to be a tangle when stamped with this order:
“Occupy till I come.”
But for you who are _not_ workers (the why and wherefore are for
yourselves to say) do you too make the Sabbath a day of rest. Yet do
not let your Sunday rest run into Sunday dissipation by trying to hear
all the good sermons at once. Choose (and abide by) some true church
so near that no street car shall be run for you, and yet–if
possible–far enough off to give you a freshening walk as you go and
come. Neither take out your carriage, “that thine ox and thine ass may
rest.”  Of course I speak only of places where it is possible to
walk to church.
Get up early enough to have no hurry and no “late.” Have a simple
church dress that will need no fussing; have a simple breakfast,
without “hot cakes,” and a cold dinner, “that thy man servant and thy
maid servant may rest as well as thou.” 
I know it is charged upon the men of the family that they will never
“stand” a cold dinner. But I have catered for just such many times,
and I know they will. Only be you careful on Saturday, to provide a
dainty repast that is _fit_ to eat cold–and then see. You will find
those very grumblers charmed with their dinner, and praising it before
any other in the week. You can always grace your cold dishes with hot
coffee and baked potatoes.
O the rest, the “recreation” of such a day! With all earth’s turmoil
pushed aside, and Christ himself the one invited guest. Unless indeed
some needy friend, who can have no “Sunday” elsewhere. People talk in
these days with horror of the old Puritan sabbath. But even if
everything be true that they tell of it, I would rather spend Sunday
with blinds shut and pictures turned to the wall, than in the full
week-day glare which fills some houses. And if you want refreshment
from your play-times in the week, if you want heart and mind and face
to keep fresh, begin the week with the Lord’s day kept wholly to the
“Verily, my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you
throughout your generations.” 
A sabbath, a rest. Rest of mind which lingering in bed will not give;
rest of body which feasting could only hinder; a rest of heart by
dwelling all day in the deep shadow of the Lord’s presence. So
beginning the week, this promise shall be upon you as each day rolls on,
“My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.” 
“And in all things that I have said unto you be circumspect; and make
no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of
thy mouth.” 
 John x. 5.
 John vi. 35.
 Job xvii. 9.
 Ps. lxxxiv. 7.
 Isa. xl. 31.
 Neh. viii. 10.
 Ps. xcii. 12.
 Jer. xxxi. 12.
 Ps. xcii. 14.
 Hosea xiv. 5.
 Heb. vii. 16.
 Phil. iv. 18.
 Mark vi. 31.
 Isa. xxviii. 12.
 Ps. lxxxvii. 7.
 Isa. lvii. 20.
 Job vi. 6.
 Ex. xxii 12.
 Deut. v. 14.
 Ex. xxxi. 13.
 Ex. xiii. 14.
 Ex. xxiii. 13.