One man regards a certain day above the others, while someone else considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.
I. EACH HAS TO SETTLE SUCH QUESTIONS FOR HIMSELF. "Let each be assured in his own mind." Others cannot do our part in investigation and decision. No one is authorized to come between us and God in such matters; even the apostle does not intrude on the province of several judgement. We must decide what our conscience prescribes, and where our conception of Christian service requires us to draw the line. Only let each see to it that he be not satisfied with giving the least amount or rendering the slightest obedience possible. He is wrong and condemns himself who asks, "How near the dangerous cliff can I walk without peril?" or, "What is the minimum religious work I can undertake as a servant of Christ?' We need to study Scripture, to prayerfully ponder on its law of life, its principles, and the illustrations afforded by the lives and acts of the noblest heroes. Nor are we precluded from seeking the help and enlightenment which other books and companions may furnish. Yet the conclusion come to must be felt to be our own, in harmony with the dictates of our conscience, and ratified by our independent judgment. Then we may go fearlessly forward. Men differ in the conclusions they reach honestly enough, according to their breadth of intellect, their natural temperament, their surroundings, and their education, mental and experimental.
II. WE CANNOT BE ENDLESSLY ARGUING THESE QUESTIONS. He who is ever debating with himself settles nothing. He wastes his brief moments in deciding what to think and do, instead of beginning at once the discharge of his duties and the exercise of his gifts. Much in Christian doctrine and practice is unambiguous. To cultivate love, peace, godliness, to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit in activity, benevolence, holiness, - the rightness of this needs no process of reasoning. The man possessed by an idea is the man who influences his fellows; not he who is sure of nothing, who has only conundrums to propound instead of a way of salvation to proclaim and suggestions for usefulness to enforce. The ring of conviction in the voice begets assent and confidence in the hearers. "We believe, and therefore we speak," this is the preaching which is mighty unto conversion. A dainty scepticism has but negative chilling power. Doubters can hardly be fruit-bearers. Once a decision has been arrived at, the reasons on which it was founded may not be always present to the mind, but the impression remains. This does not forbid a growth of opinion, the gaining of a wider outlook and clearer penetration modifying previous conclusions. Time and experience confirm or alter views by imperceptible degrees, without the ferment that attends constant restlessness of debate.
III. WE HAVE NO RIGHT TO IMPOSE OUR PARTICULAR JUDGMENT AND EXAMPLE AS ARTICLES OF FAITH ON OUR FELLOW-MEMBERS. There must be mutual concessions. Let not the strong contemn the weak as narrow-minded, nor the scrupulous censure the liberty of others as an infraction of Christian morals. Teetotallers err when they pass strictures on non-abstainers, and the latter are equally guilty when they ridicule the former's self-denial. The good of the society, though best secured by the welfare of each unit composing the alliance, is yet of greater worth than the satisfaction and triumph of any separate section. "Follow after the things which make for peace." Divine charity, which bears long with all sorts and conditions of men, is reflected in the membership which knows how to be tolerant without laxity, and comprehensive without indefiniteness. The building up of the temple of God will take long if we are always deliberating on the right of individual stones to a place in the structure. Is the mark of the Master-mason on the stone? Has God received such? Then it is not for us to question or exclude. - S.R.A.
One man esteemeth one day above another.
I. THE WHOLE REASONING HAS REFERENCE TO OBSERVANCES DISTINCTLY JEWISH. But the Sabbath was no such institution; it was instituted for mankind at the creation. If so, then it was not among the things that "vanished away" with the Jewish dispensation.
II. IN CONTROVERSY UNQUALIFIED TERMS ARE ALWAYS TO BE UNDERSTOOD ACCORDING TO THE EXTENT OF THE SUBJECT IN DISPUTE. Suppose, e.g., in a controversy respecting the propriety of certain days long observed in the Romish and Anglican churches, a person might use the language before us, and speak of one man "esteeming one day above another," while "another esteemed every day alike," without being understood to refer to Sunday. No one would think of such a thing; but simply of the days in question. So the present difference was about days of Jewish observance; and therefore the previous question would demand settlement, Was the Sabbath one of these?
III. THE LANGUAGE CANNOT BE UNDERSTOOD WITH NO QUALIFICATION; for then it would follow that they were under obligation to appropriate no day whatever to religious services. Now let us try this in application both to the seventh and to the first day of the week.
1. As to the former — those whose argument I am considering, hold the continued obligation of the seventh day upon Jewish believers, till the final overthrow of the nation. Very well, then; if it did continue obligatory its observance could not be optional and left to the mere persuasion of every man's own mind.
2. As to the latter — it is clear that if the reference be to it, the apostle's language leaves all at perfect liberty to observe it or not. It is vain to say, that by agreement of the Church, its stated meetings for worship were held on that day; for the terms of the passage contradict such agreement. From which it would follow, that here was a church that had no fixed observance of social worship, but every one left to do what was "right in his own eyes." Whether such a state of things be consistent with that God who is not the Author of confusion, I leave you to judge. The passage, therefore, having reference to Jewish days of the week, does not in the least invalidate the fact of the observance of the first day, as it had no place among the days in dispute. And if it has no bearing against the observance of the first day, it leaves the reasonings for it from other sources in full force.
IV. ALTHOUGH THE SABBATH WAS NOT A PECULIARLY JEWISH INSTITUTION, YET, BEING ENJOINED UPON THE ISRAELITES BY MOTIVES PECULIAR TO THEMSELVES, IT BECAME SO. WE MAY ADMIT, THEREFORE, THAT THE APOSTLE REFERS TO IT IN THE LIGHT IN WHICH IT WAS CONTENDED FOR BY THE ADHERENTS OF THE LAW — because, if the original and universal Sabbath was transferred to "the first day of the week" in commemoration of the finished work of redemption, then it could only be as a part of the Jewish law that the retention of the seventh day was contended for. And this view of the case suits well with the apostle's argument, and avoids the difficulty as to there being no day at all on which they were at one, as to the duty of spending it differently from other days.
(R. Wardlaw, D.D.)
I. THE PRINCIPLE ON WHICH PAUL DECLARED THE REPEAL OF THE SABBATH.
1. Christ had vindicated all for God: therefore there was no one thing more God's than another.(1) God's parental right to all humanity. "There is neither Jew nor Greek," etc.(2) God's property in all places: therefore there could be no one place intrinsically holier than another.(3) The sanctification of all time. To assert that Sunday is more God's day than Monday, is to maintain Monday is less His.
2. It is not at all inconsistent with this, that just as it became desirable to set apart certain places for worship, in which the noise of business should not be heard, so it was desirable to set apart certain days for worship. But then all such were defensible on the ground of wise and Christian expediency, and not on that of a Divine command. Accordingly in early times the Church felt the necessity of substituting something in place of the ordinances which had been repealed. And the Lord's day arose.
II. THE MODIFICATIONS OF THIS VIEW.
1. With reference —(1) To those who conscientiously observed the day. "He that observeth the day, observeth it to the Lord." Let him act then on that conviction.(a) The spiritual intent of Christianity is to worship God every day in the spirit. But had this law been given to the unspiritual Jews, instead of turning every week-day into a Sabbath, they would have transformed every Sabbath into a week-day. Therefore the law specialised a day, in order to lead them to the broader truth that every day is God's. Now, so far as we are in the Jewish state, the fourth commandment is indispensable. For who is he who needs not the day? He is the man so conformed to the mind of Christ, that he needs no carnal ordinances to kindle spiritual feelings, seeing he is, as it were, in heaven already. The Sabbath was made for man. The need of it, therefore, is deeply hidden in human nature. He who can dispense with it must be holy and spiritual indeed. And he who, still unholy and unspiritual, would yet dispense with it, would fain be wiser than his Maker.(b) No man, therefore, who knows himself or the need of his brethren will wantonly desecrate it. And no such man can look with aught but grave apprehensions on a scheme which will invite millions to an unreligious use of the day of rest.(2) To the religious nonobservance of the Sabbath. He who, not observing it, observeth it not to the Lord, feels that Christ has made him free and strives to live all his days in the spirit. But he who, not trying to serve God on any day, gives Sunday to toil or pleasure, his non-observance is not rendered to the Lord. He may be free from superstition; but it is not Christ who has made him free; and Paul would not have said that his liberty is as acceptable as his brother's scrupulosity.
2. Here, then, we are at issue with the defenders of public recreations on the Sabbath-day. With respect to —(1) The grounds on which they are approved. They claim liberty; but it is not Christian liberty. They demand a license for non-observance; only, it is not "nonobservance to the Lord." The abolition of Judaism is not necessarily the establishment of Christianity; to do away with the Sabbath-day in order to substitute the Sabbath of all time given up to God, is well. But to do away with the special rights of God to the Sabbath, in order merely to substitute the rights of pleasure, or of Mammon, or even the license of profligacy, that is not St. Paul's "Christian liberty!"(2) The assumption that public places of recreation, which humanise, will therefore Christianise the people. Aesthetics are not religion. It is one thing to civilise and polish; it is another thing to Christianise. The worship of the beautiful is not the worship of holiness; nay, the one may have a tendency to disincline from the ether. It was so in ancient Greece, when the arts debilitated and sensualised the nation's heart. No; the change of a nation's heart is not to be effected by the infusion of a taste for artistic grace. Not art, but the Cross of Christ.
3. On the other hand, we dissent from those who would arrest such project by petitions to the legislature.(1) It is a return to Judaism. It may be quite true that such non-observance of the day is only a scheme of mere pecuniary speculation. Nevertheless there is such a thing as a religious non-observance of the day; and we dare not "judge another man's servant." We dare not refuse a public concession of that kind of recreation to the poor man which the rich have long not hesitated to take unrebuked. We cannot substitute a statute law for a repealed law of God. We may think that there is much which may lead to dangerous consequences in this innovation; but we dare not treat it as a crime.(2) Coercion is in danger of injuring the conscience. It is always dangerous to multiply restrictions and requirements beyond what is essential, because men feeling themselves hemmed in, break the artificial barrier with a sense of guilt, and thereby become hardened in conscience and prepared for transgression against commandments which are Divine.(3) There is a danger of mistaking a "positive" law, which is one laid down for special purposes, and corresponds with statute laws in things civil, and a moral law, which is one binding for over, which a statute law may declare, but can neither make nor unmake. Now when men are rigorous in regard to laws positive, the tendency is to a corresponding indifference to the laws of eternal right. The Pharisees who observed the Sabbath, and tithed mint, anise, and cummin, neglected justice, mercy, and truth. And so, many a man whose heart swells with what he thinks pious horror when he sees the letter delivered or the train run upon the Sabbath-day, sits calmly in a social circle and scarcely feels uneasy in listening to its slanders, and surveys the relations of the rich and poor in this country, and remains calmly satisfied that there is nothing false in them. No, it may be that God has a controversy with this people. But if judgments are in store for our country, they will fall — not because public permission is given to the working classes for a few hours' recreation on the day of rest — but because we prefer pleasure to duty, and traffic to honour; and because we love our party more than our Church, and our Church more than our Christianity; and our Christianity more than truth, and ourselves more than all.
(F. W. Robertson, M.A.)
Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind1. Under the Christian dispensation much is left to the determination of a man's own conscience.
2. He must, however, be fully persuaded in his own mind — whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
3. It follows this liberty may not be infringed by the dictation of others.
(J. Lyth, D.D.)I. ITS NATURE — it is the right of determining our own conduct in things indifferent.
II. ITS EXTENT. It reaches to all matters —
1. Not determined by the Word of God.
2. Not settled by human relations, or law.
3. Not calculated to offend the consciences of others.
III. ITS TEST.
1. Can we do it to the glory of God?
2. Can we give God thanks?
(J. Lyth, D.D.)1. There had been a hot discussion upon the subject of dietetics. There were some vegetarians who quarrelled with those who thought it right to eat flesh. Paul decides the matter, "Now, let this quarrel stop. You men who want to eat herbs, eat herbs. You men who want to eat flesh, eat it. Your own consciences must rule: 'Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.'"
2. This lays down a principle applicable to ten thousand cases of conscience. The religious world is divided into a great variety of sects. While our conscience will not allow us to choose some of these beliefs, we must allow to others the liberty of conscience which we demand for ourselves.
3. The air and the sea keep pure by constant circulation, and there is a tendency in religious discussion towards moral health. Between the fourth and sixteenth century the Church proposed to keep down all error by prohibiting free discussion; but the world has found out that you cannot change men's beliefs by twisting off their heads. Let error run! Only let the truth run with it, and in the long run truth will win.
4. A king who had a great deal of trouble with his subjects was afterwards imprisoned, and to while away the time he made watches and clocks, and tried to make the watches tick alike, and the clocks strike alike. Of course he failed. Then he said to himself: "What a very foolish king I was! How could I expect to make all my subjects alike?"
I. THE CAUSES OF BIGOTRY.
1. Wrong education in the home. There are some who caricature and throw slurs upon other denominations in family circle and produce little bigots ten years old.
2. The superior power of any one denomination. People think that all other churches are wrong, and that theirs is right, because it happens to be more fashionable, wealthy, or influential.
3. Ignorance. Knowledge enlarges the mind. A thorough bigot is the man who thinks he knows a great deal, but does not. In the East there is an obelisk; one side of it is white, another blue, another green. Some travellers went to look at that obelisk, and soon got into a fierce contest — one saying that it was white, another blue, etc. "Stop this contest," said some one. "I walked all round, and find you are all right and all wrong." If there is any man to he pitied, it is the man who has just one idea in his head.
II. ITS EVILS.
1. It cripples investigation. The different denominations were intended, by holy rivalry and honest competition, to keep each other wide awake. While each denomination ought to preach all the doctrines of the Bible, I think that it is the mission of each more emphatically to preach some one doctrine, e.g., the Calvinistic Church to preach the sovereignty of God, the Arminian man's free agency, the Episcopal the importance of order and solemn ceremony, the Baptist the necessity of ordinances, the Congregational the individual responsibility of its members, the Methodist holy enthusiasm; but when one says, "All others are wrong, and I am right," from the realm of God's truth, over which the archangel might fly from eternity to eternity without touching the limits, they shut themselves out, and die like blind moles under a corn-sheaf.
2. It prejudices people against Christianity. The perpetual bombardment of other sects drives men away from religion. You go down the street and you see a contest and hear the report of firearms. You are not foolish enough to go through that street.
3. It hinders the Church's triumph. How much wasted energy! Suppose there were a common enemy riding up the Narrows to-morrow morning, and our batteries around New York were to fire into each other, you would cry out, "National suicide!" And yet while all the navies of darkness have been riding up the bay, sect has been warring with sect, and belief with belief, and there has been suicide instead of conquest.
III. HOW TO CURE IT.
1. By a realisation of our own infirmities and weakness. If we make so many mistakes upon other things, ought we not to be a little modest in regard to our religious belief?
2. By dwelling chiefly upon those things on which we agree, rather than upon those in which we differ. The gospel platform is large enough to hold all who put their trust in our Lord Jesus Christ.
3. By realising that all denominations of Christians have yielded beneficent institutions and noble men, and therefore are to be respected. One gave to the world a Robert Hall and an Adoniram Judson; another gave a Latimer and a Melvill; another a Wesley and a Summerfield, etc.
4. By toiling in Christian work with men of other beliefs. Here are two men in hostility. Let them go and kneel by that dying woman and commend Christ to her soul. If they went into that room with antipathies, they will come out with love.
(T. De Witt Talmage, D.D.)I. TO OURSELVES.
1. We act on fixed principles.
2. Are preserved from wavering.
3. Secure inward peace.
II. TO OTHERS.
1. They know with whom they have to do.
2. Can put confidence in us.
3. Derive benefit from our example.
(J. Lyth, D.D.)
I. THE PREVAILING WANT OF STRONG RELIGIOUS CONVICTIONS.
1. Paul's faith was not a vague, cloudy sentiment, but his very life. He was not a fanatic; yet he was willing to even die for his principles. The martyrs of the early church — Savonarola, Huss, Wiclif, Luther, Calvin, the — furnish examples of people governed by strong convictions in the sphere of faith and practice.
2. It is to be feared that most Christians are not characterised by such earnest convictions in our day. The masses do not think; they let the press do their thinking for them. It is too possible to have our editors, lecturers, professors, and preachers do our thinking for us. This intellectual lassitude is especially blameworthy in religion. Sunday-school teachers should strive to have views of their own concerning Bible subjects, not relying implicitly upon any mere "lesson helps." Church members should cultivate independence, depth and earnestness of thought. We are each, in our separate personalities, to stand before the judgment-seat of Christ. We are to be judged for our thinking and acting; not for those of others.
II. INCENTIVES TO THE CULTIVATION OF STRONG RELIGIOUS CONVICTIONS.
1. A person of strong religious convictions will be an active figure in life. This explains the prominence in the anti-slavery movement of men like Wendell Phillips, Whittier, and Beecher. Followers of Christ, with an intense belief in the need and power of the gospel, will be inside the vineyard instead of standing in the market-place idle.
2. The possession of strong religious convictions gives the believer a purpose in life, gives life a meaning and a definite end. To live for Christ, to believe in that life is to have life directed to a definite port, to supply compass, quadrant, chart, helm, and pilot, to keep it in the straight line through waves and storm till the voyage is over. No life was ever a failure that was genuinely lived for Christ.
3. Truth is promoted where emphatic views of things prevail. The hardest class of hearers are those who have no opinions and do not care what the truth is. A mind which tends to earnest thinking is like fertile soil. It may be full of weeds now; but even that is better than a soil that will support no life whatever. A sea-captain would rather encounter an opposing breeze than to be held in a dead calm.
(G. F. Greene.)I. THERE ARE CIRCUMSTANCES UNDER WHICH THIS EXHORTATION HAS A PECULIAR MEANING.
1. As a young artist, lawyer, doctor, etc., enters upon his profession, advisers gather about him, and some kind, thoughtful old man says, "I have but one thing to say to you, be true to yourself."
2. At times communities sink down into a sort of dead contentment. Enterprise is, comparatively speaking, unknown; men read little and think less; religion, for the most part, is a repetition of things, and everything goes on in a servile and ignoble routine. Now, under such circumstances, it is a wholesome thing for a man to stir men up, and inspire them with curiosity, and make them long for other views of truth, and nobler ideals of life. Then, when there is resurrection from sloth, stupidity, and base conformity to a vulgar life, there is power in the maxim, "Be true to yourself."
II. TO BE TRUE TO YOURSELF YOU MUST UNDERSTAND THAT THERE IS A DEVILISH AND A DIVINE SELF IN EVERY MAN.
1. Now the lower animal self no man can afford to be true to. Shall you say to a man who lives for eating and drinking, or to an old miser, "Be true to yourself"? Fidelity to self has been their damnation. One man is true to himself: he is a peacock. Another man is true to himself: he is a monkey. Another man is true to himself: he is a lion, or a tiger, or a bear. I say, in regard to your whole lower self, "Deny, discipline, educate, restrain that self."
2. But then, there is a Divine self. God comes into our consideration. Our mind takes in a nobler sphere, a larger range. Now, in regard to this higher self, be true to it.(1) Every child who comes out of his father's house should be exhorted, "Be true to yourself, as a man of honour." The spirit of honour is one of the things without which society would be bankrupt. No man, therefore, ought to go into society without having it. I love to hear a man, where there is occasion for it, say, "Do you doubt my honour, sir?" It is not best that he should talk much about it, or boast of it; but he ought to have it, and it should be fashioned on those elements which constitute a Christian gentleman. Sir Philip Sidney Was considered a perfect gentleman; but not, I take it, on such a pattern as 1 Corinthians 13 prescribes. Oh that I could make a bath of that chapter, and roll men in it till the colour struck through and through! What perfect gentlemen I would make of them! This is a thing of education. It is a work for the table and for the nursery. It is a process which we are to carry along with religious instruction. Young men! do not adopt that base and servile maxim, "When you are in Rome do as Romans do." You might as well say to a man, "Among foxes do as foxes do; among wolves do as wolves do; among lions do as lions do." No; be a man always and everywhere; and never forget that the more sensitive your honour the better for you. And if others are unlike you, let your light so shine that men shall see in your religion the type of higher character.(2) Cultivate conscience, too, which is something more comprehensive than honour.(a) Do you tell me that you cannot get along and be an honest man? I say that you cannot afford to get along then. I reply to you as Talleyrand replied to a man who said, "Why, you know I must live" — "I do not see that." Do you say, "I must have money"? Ah! that ends it for you. "They that will be rich," says the apostle, "fall into temptation and a snare." "The love of money is the root of all evil." If you cannot maintain your integrity and succeed, less success with a clear conscience will bring you more happiness. And success surely comes with conscience in the long run, other things being equal. Capacity and fidelity are commercially profitable qualities.(b) Be true to yourself, also, as a consciencebearer against ridicule. Many a man from fear of this goes aside from what he understands to be the truest and best things. "Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind." Do not comply with others' opinions unless they commend themselves to your judgment. Do that which you think is right, whatever others may say or think.(c) Be true to yourself against sympathetic bias through your best affections. We hear people who have done what they knew was wrong say: "I could not say 'No,' and disoblige one who has been so kind to me." No one ever became a full man without some cross-bearing.(d) Be true to your conscience against all those society compliances which may be easy and pleasant, but which in the end lower the tone of your manhood and self-respect.(3) Be true to yourself, likewise, as a Christian man — a man according to the pattern of Christ Jesus. Be true to that manhood which has for its father, God; for its friend, Christ; for its light, the Holy Ghost. Conclusion: In attempting to be true to yourself, beware of conceit, narrow-mindedness, indecent haste, of that laziness which refuses to read or think, of that presumption which leads you to suppose you can safely depart from the results of centuries of experience. So be true to yourself, not in any vandal spirit, but with humility and meekness, with teachableness, with yearnings for a higher and better life.
(H. W. Beecher.)1. There are questions relating to the degree of our conformity to the world, and to the share it is lawful to take in its company and amusements, about which there is the greatest indecision from the absence of any decisive principle of authority to bear upon them. And so the mind fluctuates, for while one class dogmatises with all the readiness of minds that are thoroughly made up, others wait till a clear reason approve itself to their judgments, ere they utter a confident deliverance.
2. When the renunciation of these things is laid down for the observance of the young disciple in the shape of so many categorical impositions —
I. IT IS VERY POSSIBLE THAT HE MAY BE THEREBY MISLED AS TO THE DESIGN AND NATURE OF CHRISTIANITY.
1. For these acts of abstemiousness occupy the place of works, and may minister the complacency of self-righteousness. And, besides, they are such acts as do not necessarily imply any graceful or elevated morality, and may be the mere heartless austerities of Pharisaical devoteeship — the morose penances of one who denies himself that gratification which he nevertheless is still most desirously set upon. So Christianity instead of a religion of freedom, because her only control is that of heavenly principle over delighted votaries, may be transformed into a narrow system of bigotry, whose oppressive mandates of "touch not, taste not, handle not," bear no relation whatever to the spiritual department of our nature.
2. For this reason it is greatly better, with every young inquirer at least, to begin at the beginning — to aim a blow at the root of his corruption, instead of mangling and lacerating at one of its branches; instead of charging him with a matter of doubtful criminality, to put it direct to his conscience, whether the world, or He who made it, has the greatest ascendency over him. After having reached his convictions on this point we would tell him that the thing for adjustment was not the habitual attendance of his person upon places of amusement. We should rather move the previous question — or proceed to the order of the day. The point of immediate urgency is his general state with God. Our indictment is not that he has been incidentally seen in places which lie without the territory of sacredness, but that from that territory he is wholly an outcast and a wanderer.
3. On the personal settlement of this question a great personal change takes place. Other glories than those of this world's splendour now engage the affections; and other paths than those of this world's dissipations are now the ways of pleasantness. It may not, however, be with the fierce intolerance of a bigot that he looks on the amusements of other days, but simply with the indifference of one who has found his way to higher and better amusements. And should the result be that he keeps himself from the ball-room or the theatre, this result is only one among the many.
II. IT GIVES TO THE GENERAL EYE AN APPEARANCE OF NARROWNESS TO OUR RELIGION WHICH REALLY DOES NOT BELONG TO IT.
1. Better surely to impregnate the man's heart first with the taste and spirit of our religion; and then, if this should supersede the taste and affection for the frivolities of life, it impresses a far nobler character of freeness and greatness, than when it is merely a reluctant compliance with a rigid exaction of what seems to be an unreasonable intolerance. Better that it spring up, in kindly vegetation from the soil of the new nature, than be forced forward at the call of an uncompromising or unmeaning dogmatism. The new wine that was put into old bottles had not yet done with its fermentation; and the bottles that had lost their elasticity did not expand to the process, but burst, so that both wine and bottles were destroyed. And the same may often be the result of prematurely putting into an unregenerated man those new observations which are in most pleasing accordancy with the whole desire and habit of an altogether Christian. When the new wine is put into a new bottle, both are preserved. The commandment to renounce the amusements of the world ceases to be grievous, or rather ceases to be necessary. He is taken up with something else that he likes better. As the new wine is suited to the new bottle, so are the present habits of the present heart of the new creature in Jesus Christ our Lord. The reply that was once given by an aged Christian to the question of an anxious beginner whether he should now continue to go to the theatre was that he might go as long as he could. And was this not greatly better than admitting him to doubtful disputation?
2. But still it may be asked, Is it not true that in all the amusements referred to the spirit of earthliness has the predominancy; and that the places where they are held, leave their company on the broad way? Grant this to be true, and that all these assemblages were broken up and their visitors dispersed, these visitors may still keep on the broad way; and we cannot see what is gained by drawing thousands away from the theatre and ball-room, if they shall all tarry at any point short of the conversion of their souls. We should feel as if nothing had been effected by pulling any one away from the theatre, if we had not pulled them across the mighty line of separation that marks off the region of grace from the region of unconverted nature. Whitfield once preached for several days at one of the great London fairs, and we may be sure that he was not content with denouncing with intemperate and untimely zeal as a gross abomination the scenes of madness wherewith he was surrounded. He went there charged with the gospel, and his errand was not to put down one of the modifications of worldliness, but all worldliness. He did not break up the fair, but he did a great deal better, he gathered out of it a harvest for eternity.
3. To intrude a sermon now into any place of amusement would be impossible, and could not be tolerated. But among her other caprices fashion has been known to send her votaries to church; and to vary by a sermon on the Sabbath the giddy round of her week-day entertainments. And should any of her enamoured followers be now listening, we would have them to know that it is not with any of those entertainments that we are holding controversy. We are charged with one far more tremendous. Our direct affirmation, and let them carry it to their consciences and try it there, is, that they live without God in the world; and that in the whirl of time's gratifications and concerns, they have buried all effective consideration of eternity. Be first Christians, and then we may satisfy your curiosity about the lawfulness or unlawfulness of theatres. Conclusion: A heart with rightly-set affections and desires is the best of casuist. If the heart in its various regards be as it ought, this is our securest guarantee that the history in its various manifestations will be as it ought. The new-born desire of a Christianised heart is worth the catalogue of a thousand solutions to a thousand perplexities. We need scarcely speak on the details of Sabbath observation to him who already loves that hallowed day. Give us a heart set on the things that are above, and what call for warning against the amusements of the world the man who in the midst of higher and better engagements feels their utter insipidity!
(T. Chalmers, D.D.)
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