This pleasure-loving, pleasure-seeking,
and pleasure-inventing age
(John Angell James, "HINDRANCES to Christian Progress")
A taste for worldly amusements will inevitably prove,
wherever it is indulged--a powerful obstacle to growth
Man is unquestionably made for enjoyment. He has a
capacity for bliss--an instinctive appetite for gratification;
and for this, God has made ample provision of a healthful
and lawful kind. But "a taste for worldly pleasure" means
that this God-given capacity is directed to wrong sources,
or carried to an excess.
Now there are some amusements which in their very
nature are so utterly incompatible with true godliness,
that a liking for them, and a hankering after them, and
especially an indulgence in them--cannot exist with real,
earnest, and serious piety.
The dissolute parties of the glutton and the drunkard;
the fervency for the gambling-table; the pleasures of
the race-course; the performances of the theater--are
all of this kind. A taste for them is utterly uncongenial
with a spirit of godliness! So is a love for the gay and
fashionable entertainments of the ball-room, and the
wanton parties of the upper classes. These are all
unfriendly to true religion, and are usually renounced
by people intent upon the momentous concerns of
We would not doom to perdition, all who are at any
time found in this round of worldly pleasure--but we
unhesitatingly say, that a taste for them is entirely
opposed to the whole spirit of Christianity! They are
all included in that "world" which is overcome by faith
and the new birth.
True religion is, though a happy, a very serious
thing--and can no more live and flourish in the
uncongenial atmosphere of those parties, than
could a young tender plant survive, if brought
into a frigid zone!
But in this pleasure-loving, pleasure-seeking, and
pleasure-inventing age, there is a great variety of
amusements perpetually rising up, which it would be
impossible to say are sinful, and therefore unlawful.
Yet the 'supposition of their lawfulness' viewed in
connection with their abundance, variety, and constant
repetition, is the very thing that makes them dangerous
to the spirit of true religion.
A taste for even lawful worldly amusements, which
leads its possessor to be fond of them, seeking them,
and longing for them--shows a mind that is in a very
doubtful state as to vital piety.
A Christian is not to partake of the pleasures of the
world, merely to prove that his religion does not debar
him from enjoyment. But he is to let it be seen by his
"peace which passes understanding," and his "joy
unspeakable and full of glory," that his godliness
gives far more enjoyment than it takes away--that,
in fact, it gives him the truest happiness!
The way to win a worldly person to true religion is not
to go and partake of his amusements; but to prove to
him, that we are happier with our pleasures--than he
is with his; that we bask in full sunshine--while he has
only a smoking candle; that we have found the "river
of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the
throne of God and the Lamb"--while he is drinking of
the muddy streams which issue from the earth!
"Many are asking, 'Who can show us any good?'
Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord.
You have filled my heart with greater joy than
when their grain and new wine abound!" Ps. 4:6-7
After all, it is freely admitted--
1. That true religion is not hostile to anything
which is not hostile to it.
2. That many things which are not strictly pious,
though not opposed to piety--may be lawfully
enjoyed by the Christian.
3. That what he has to do in this matter is not to
practice total abstinence--but "moderation".
4. Yet the Christian should remember how elastic
a term "moderation" is, and to be vigilant lest his
moderation should continually increase its latitude,
until it has swelled into the imperial tyranny of an
appetite which acknowledges no authority--and
submits to no restraint!