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but a companion of fools shall be destroyed." O, then, forsake the foolish, and live. Seek some pious companion, and make such an one your friend, who will kindly instruct, advise, and admonish you, as there may be occasion. For it is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools. Eccl. vii. 5,
4. The gratifying of a favourite lust is of very dangerous tendency. Commonly there is some special beloved sin which lies in the way of young people's entering upon a religious life, and causes them to break a hundred good resolutions; often some secret sin, which it seems almost impossible to part with, and which they often fall into; whereby the Holy Spirit of God is grieved, conviction killed, conscience seared; and it is a wonder if it does not prove their final ruin. (Eph. v. 12.) Now when this is the case, there is nothing to be done to any purpose, until this Achan be slain. With fasting and prayer, therefore, seeking to God for his grace, engage in the conflict with your beloved sin, and never leave, until you have gotten the victory..
In the last place,
5. One of the greatest hinderances to serious pièty among young people, in most towns and societies, is the habit of attending places of vain and fashionable amusements. This is a habit of long standing in the country; one generation after another has been trained up in the practice of it, whereby a spirit of seriousness and sobriety has been almost rooted out of the land, though a land once famous for religion, for sobriety and universal temperance. Indeed, a few years ago this practice was generally laid aside, throughout all the country. When the Spirit from on high was poured out, when the great things of the eternal world were realized, when conscience was enlightened, awakened, in multitudes; then this practice was judged to be sinful. Aud no doubt there were hundreds, yea, thousands and thousands of vows, and solemn resolutions made among young people in New-England, for ever to lay aside the pernicious and ensnaring practice of dancing. But since the spirit of God has withdrawn, and sinners have fallen asleep again, the old practice is set up anew. And here, in this school of debauchery and corrup
tion, the rising generation are training up in pride and vanity, in wantonness and levity; if not in drunkenness, and luxury, in lasciviousness, in gaming, cursing, and swearing. In a word, a passion for vain amusements and parties of pleasure, has been heretofore one principal means of banishing almost all appearance of serious religion, from the generality of young people especially. And it has been so of late very evidently.
Nor is it any wonder; for this is its natural tendency. It tends to stifle all serious reflections, to cherish a vain and airy temper, and to promote an idle and dissolute course of life. It tends to draw off the heart from God, to loosen the thoughts from eternal concerns, and to give the mind a relish for nothing but carnal and sensual pleasures. It tends to make young people forget that they are sinners, and that they inust die and come to judgment. It tends to make them neglect reading, meditation, and secret prayer; and to put off religion, until they are settled in the world, under the vain notion of their having a better time then. It tends to render them deaf to all the inward warnings of God's Spirit, and to the checks of their own consciences; and deaf to all the outward calls of the Gospel, and counsels of their ministers, their parents, and other spiritual friends: whereby all the means of grace become of no advantage to them. Or, if at any time a youth is met with by the Spirit of God, and awakened to some sense of his sin and guilt and danger; if a sermon reaches his conscience; if a fit of sickness, or the death of one of his companions, excites him to serious thoughts, and resolutions for a new life, a few amusements and gay parties will presently put an end to all. Hereby his serious impressions are worn off, and he quickly becomes as vain and thoughtless
These things being evident, vain amusements must therefore be for ever renounced, if you would remember now your Creator in the days of your youth. That you are under infinite obligations to have a sense of God on your hearts, and such a sense of God as will effectually divoree you from all other things, and influence you to be entirely devoted to him; this has been already proved. Hence, to forget God, and to
live unmindful of him, is infinitely sinful. To indulge yourselves, therefore, in what you know has a most natural tendency to make you do so, must be infinitely sinful too. But following those vain amusements, you know, is a thing that has such a tendency.
And since such is the nature of that custom, hence every time you go to such a place or party, you turn your back upon the God of heaven; and practically say, "I love vuin company, more than I do communion with God." You turn your back upon a crucified Saviour, and upon all the grace of the Gospel; and practically say, "I do not care for the dying love of Christ, nor for the kind invitations of the Gospel: I have something else to do besides repenting and returning to God through Jesus Christ; I must have my pleasures first; Christ must wait until this season is over, until I get settled in the world; it will be time enough then to hearken to him." Thus you make light of the Gospel-invitation, like those in Matth. xxii. 5.-And what infinite contempt is herein cast upon God and Jesus Christ, and upon all the blessings purchased by his blood! But wherefore do the wicked condemn God, and tread under foot the Son of his love!
Who are you, and what are your circumstances, all this while? Why, you are fallen, guilty, polluted, condemned creatures; hanging over the grave and hell, by the brittle thread of a frail life; entirely at the mercy of an incensed Deity, in whose hand is your breath, and whom you are insulting and continually affronting to his face. And how does it look, to see condemned malefactors singing and dancing round the mouth of the pit, ready every moment to drop into hell; and kept out merely by the power and clemency of the God whom they despise, and whose redeeming grace they trample upon !-Think of this, O young man; think of this, O young woman; and tremble to see what your temper and conduct have been and now, this day, come to an unalterable determination, for ever to renounce this vile practice. See your danger, break the snare, and escape; and if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.
Here, to fortify you against their enticement, I will briefly
consider and reply to some objections, that may be made against this part of my discourse.
OBJECTION. But is there no recreation lawful for young people?
ANS. 1. No recreation is lawful, that naturally tends to make them unmindful of God, and to indispose them for a lite of the strictest piety. See Heb. xii. 1. No recreation is lawful, that tends only to please the flesh. See Rom. viii. 12, 13. And Chap xiii. 14. No recreation is lawful, that cannot be done to the glory of God. See 1 Pet. iv. 1–11. Vain amusements therefore are not lawful, according to the Scriptures.
2. The only design of recreation is to fit us the better to attend on the great duties of life. We were made for the service of God; and all our time, even quite all of it, is to be spent in doing his will. And every employment undertaken by us, ought to be with a view to the great end for which we were made. Cor. x. 81. Such recreation, therefore, and so much of it as is necessary to fit us for the service of God, is lawful but the rest, all the rest, is sinful. The practice of dancing, so prevalent among young people, like all other vain amusements, is sinful; for this is so far from having any tendency to fit them for the service of God, that it naturally tends to keep them secure in the service of sin.
3. No recreation is lawful, but that which, upon the whole, (all things considered,) is a duty. For all our time is to be entirely devoted to God, and all our powers employed in glorifying him. (1 Cor. vi. 20.) Every duty is to be gone about, out of love to God, in his fear and for his glory. But dancing is such a thing, in its nature and circumstances, that I do not see how it is possible young people should be influenced to it from love to God; or attend upon it in his fear, and with an eye to his glory. So far as these principles and views prevail in the heart, so far will the heart be entirely averse to dancing. And therefore this custom is not lawful, but forbidden, and to be shunned by all that would flee youthful lusts.
OBJ. But Solomon says, there is a time for all things. Eccl. iii. And particularly, there is a time to dance. ver. 4.
ANS. Yes, and he says too, There is a time to be born, and a time to die, ver. 2. Now do you think, that he means, there is a time when it is lawful to be born, and lawful to die? Surely no but only, that there is a time when men are born, and a time when they do die. For neither our birth, nor death, come under the notion of lawful, or unlawful. So that, from the context, it is evident, that Solomon does not mean to say in the words objected, what is lawful, or unlawful but only speaks of events happening, or that such and such things do come to pass. And besides, that Solomon did not design to befriend dancing, is evident from Eccl. vii. 2-6.
OBJ. Again it is pleaded, that holy David danced before the ark.
ANS. But can any be so weak as to think, that David was in a frolic at that time, a time of so great solemnity! No, he only expressed a religious pleasure, by dancing before the Lord, and playing before the Lord. 2 Sam. vi. 14. 21. OBJ. Nay, Christ himself went to a wedding. ANS. Yes, but he did not go to a ball, nor do any thing a-kin to dancing. He abstained from all appearance of such an evil.
OBJ. When the prodigal son came home, there was music and dancing.
ANS. Christ is there only showing what joy there is in heaven over a sinner that repenteth, by a similitude borrowed from the common custom of this world: but says nothing about the lawfulness of that custom among his disciples. So in the parable of the unjust steward, (in the next chapter, Luke xvi.) from his wicked policy, he takes occasion to recommend and inculcate spiritual wisdom. But we cannot from hence argue that Christ approved of the unrighteous conduct of that steward. And besides, Paul says expressly, Be not conformed to this world. Rom. xii. 2. And expressly forbids chambering and wantonness, Rom. xiii. 13. And an
b"He doth not here speak of a time allowed by God, wherein all the fol lowing things may lawfully be done, which is wholly besides his scope and business, but only of a time fixed by God, in which they would or should be done." Poor's Annot. on the place.