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other apostle says, If any man is merry, let him sing psalms. Jam. v. 13. And the whole tenour of the New Testament requires us," to pray always, to rejoice in the Lord always, to give thanks to God for all things, to admonish one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to the Lord :" And this is the Christian way of expressing joy and gratitude. But dancing and vain merriment shows a Spirit entirely inconsistent with the true spirit of Christianity.
OBJ. Yet the Scriptures no where forbid dancing.
ANS. But do not the Scriptures require us to love God with all our heart and with all our strength? And is not that inconsistent with a frolicsome spirit? Do not the Scriptures require us" to lay up our treasure in heaven, and to have our conversation in heaven, to set our affections on things that are above, to pray always and to rejoice in the Lord evermore ?" And are not all these things inconsistent with a frolicsome spirit? And do not the Scriptures forbid us to be "carnally minded, to live after the flesh, to make provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof?" &c. Do not the Scriptures require us to "crucify the flesh, to mortify our members which are upon the earth, to dený ourselves?" &c. Do they not require of young people in particular that they be sober, discreet, giving none occasion to despise their youth? And is not this inconsistent with a frolicsome spirit?
Besides, what do you think of those words of holy Job, (Chap. xxi. 11, &c.) where, giving the character of the wicked, he says, "Their children dance, they take the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ. Therefore they say unto God, depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. What is the almighty, that we should serve him? And what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?" First, they indulge themselves in carnal sports and pleasures; and then, as a natural consequence, they say unto God, depart from us. In Job's opinion this is the character of the wicked. And is not this very exactly the description of the gay and licentious in our days? Again, what think ye of that of the prophet, Isa. v. 11, 12. "Wo unto you that rise early in the morning, that ye may follow strong drink; that continue until night, until wine inflame
them. And the harp, and the vial, and the tabret, and the pipe, and wine, are in their feasts?" The consequence whereof is this, "But they regard not the work of the Lord, nor consider the operation of his hands!" And so again, Amos vi. 1-6. "Wo to them that are at ease in Zion; that put far away the evil day, that chaunt to the sound of the viol, that drink wine in bowls: (and what is the consequence?) But they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph." And thus, you see, the holy Scriptures set a life of carnal pleasure in just the same light that your faithful ministers do. In Scripture-account, it is the way of wicked men, of secure sinners, of those that are at ease in Zion; and it makes them bid God depart from them; it makes them put far away the evil day, and disregard all the judgments of God, and calamities of his church and people. And the holy Scriptures denounce an awful wo against all such.
OBJ. "But if I renounce dancing and fashionable amusements, and bid farewell to my vain companions, and enter upon a life of serious and strict religion, I shall never be respected any more, nor take any more enjoyment of my life."
ANS. If your vain companions do not love you as they used to; yet they will fear and reverence you, as Herod did John the Baptist. And if you never have any more of your former carnal enjoyment, yet you may have spiritual consolation, which is infinitely better. But make the worst of things, and suppose you must part with every thing that is at present dear to you, what then! Is not this our Saviour's constant language, that no man can be his disciple, unless he denies himself, takes up his cross, and follows him; unless he heartily gives up his reputation and all carnal delights and pleasures, and is heartily willing to sacrifice every thing that is dear to him, even his very life, for Jesus Christ? But then Christ has assured such, that they shall have a hundred-fold in the present world, besides eternal life in the world to come. Bid farewell, therefore, to a life of sensual pleasure; and no more turn aside after satan; quit the tents of wickedness, and list under the banner of Jesus Christ. Let the world say what they will, follow ye the captain of our salvation; thus go victorions and triumphant to eternal glory.
By this time I suppose, my young friends, you are all rationally convinced, if you have suitably attended to what has been said, that it is your duty, without any more delay, entirely to change your careless vain way of living, and enter upon the great business of religion. Yea, some of you, I hope, have already determined to do so. Yet I fear there may be some among you, who are disposed to resist conviction, and harden your hearts, saying within yourselves some such words as these which follow.
OBJ. "Well! others may do as they please, but for my part, I am resolved to take my pleasures, and live a merry life. Let ministers say what they list, I shall not regard it; if young people do not attend balls and theatres, and other parties of pleasure, they will do that which is as bad. And I hate your precise ways."
ANS. Just so Pharaoh of old impudently lifted up himself against the Almighty, and said, Who is the Lord? I know not the Lord; nor will I obey him. But wherein he exalted himself, God was above him; and thus spake the Lord to him, For this very cause have I raised thee up, for to show in thee my power, and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth, Exod. ix. 16. So, thou stubborn and haughty wretch, gird up your loins, set your face like a flint, fight against heaven, as much as you please, and scorn to mind the authority of almighty God: but know it, from God almighty, the hot thunderbolts of his vengeance, if you repent not, will ere long smite your guilty soul down to hell. And the God, whom you now contemn, will get himself a great name in your eternal destruction. Nor are you strong and hardy enough to bear up under the wrath of the Lord almighty, and to endure the torments of the lake of fire and brimstone. Alas! your courage will fail you, when the unquenchable flames have kindled upon you, and the smoke of your torments shall ascend up for ever and ever. Then you will cry out in horror, in extreme anguish and despair; and will weep, and wail, and gnash your teeth. And it will add to your eternal torments, that this day you have been repeatedly warned, int he name of the living God, but hated instruction, and despised reproof.
You say, "Young people will do that which is as bad, if they do not attend balls and theatres." I only reply, then they will be as bad fools, and in the end shall they go to as bad a hell.
But, parents, (to turn myself to you in a short address,) will you stand by, and see your children drown themselves in perdition! Where are your former solemn engagements to God! Your children are the Lord's: you gave them to God in baptism. Remember the bonds you are under, and defer not to pay your vows. Where are your bowels of pity! Where is your parental authority! Who is on the Lord's side! Who! Their blood will be required at your hands, if through your neglect they run to ruin, and are finally lost. O, therefore, by your prayers and counsels, your example, and authority, do all you possibly can to restrain and reform them. Remember the heavy judgments Eli brought upon his family by not restraining his children, when they made themselves vile. And consider, that bringing up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, or teaching them to obey God, is a most effectual method to make them obedient to you, to train them up for being blessings in their place, and to render them great comforts to you in your old age; besides all the happy consequences that will accrue to them, in time and to eternity. Therefore resolve with good Joshua, that as for you and your house, you will serve the Lord.
OBJ. But what if our children should lay aside all obstinacy, and put on an obedient, dutiful air, and say, "my father, my mother, I would by no means go contrary to you in this matter, nor would I willingly do any thing displeasing to God: I own that young people are too extravagant. But if dancing might be carried on civilly, and break up seasonably, what harm would there be in it? There is such a minister, and there is such a deacon, and there is such a good mun, who let their children go to balls and would you have us singular? And besides, if we never go abroad, we shall never know what genteel behaviour is, nor how to conduct ourselves in company." And now what shall we say, or what shall we do, in such a case?
Ans. Were they my children, I would in the first place,
with all the love and goodness of a tender parent, assure them that I did not desire to deprive thein of any liberty, which, (all things considered,) would be reasonable, and for their good. And I would furnish them with such books as were proper, not only to instil religious sentiments into their hearts, but also to improve their minds. The money that others waste upon their childrens' pride and extravagancies, I would lay out in valuable books for them. And besides, I would use my best skill to teach them a decent, an amiable, and agreeable behaviour. I would also allow them, at proper times, to visit such of their companions as were discrete in their deportment, and religiously disposed; and I would teach them to be endearing in their carriage toward all. Nor do I doubt but that in this method of education, they would soon find such sensible advantages, as would effectually convince them that dancing is not at all needful to learn them polite behaviour, or to fit them for a most agreeable conversation among the better sort of men. But then, at the same time, I would tell them,
1. That as things are circumstanced, it is impossible to bring dancing under such regulations, as will prevent its tendency to be greaily detrimental to a life of serious piety. Because the generality of young people are so very vain, and extravagant, and ungovernable.
2. I would tell them, that if they should go to balls, then either they must, contrary to their own consciences, do as others do, or else, in being singular thère, be more ridiculous : and that therefore, it is for their interest and reputation to keep away. And,
3. I would tell them, that if balls were brought under such regulations as aforesaid, it would be impossible to maintain them: for those that only mean to gratify the flesh, would not like them, nor go to them, much sooner than to a praying meeting. And others that only mean to use recreation in the fear of God and for his glory, that they may be the better fitted for the great duties of life; these would presently say, they do not want to dance, they had rather read and pray, and sing psalms together; and all with one consent would be for turning their frolics into meetings for religious exercises.