Page images
PDF
EPUB

stopping their mouths at least ; but still, where there is usefulness, the world will be angry, and it will find ways of showing it. Breaking the peace of families, (as it is called,) and introducing a difference of sentiment and practice, between husbands and wives, parents and children, friends and neighbours, (who all sleep quietly together in sin and ignorance, till the gospel disturbs them,) will surely give offence. However, you need not be careful about it; the cause is good ; Jesus is worthy that we should suffer shame for His sake; and the salvation of the soul is an object of such inconceivable importance, that to be instrumental in so great a work, is an over amends for all the contradiction and unkindness we can meet with. I believe the Lord has taught you to avoid increasing your own difficulties, by that hasty, injudicious zeal, which, though it means well, is more under the influence of self than some people are aware, and so mạch of the cross as you meet with, if you are faithful, I trust He will enable you to embrace as an honour. The word "prudence," which dropped from my pen, has been so much abused, as a cloak and plea for cowardice and wrong compliances, that it is become suspicious, and some are almost ready to discard it, both name and thing, as if a minister of the gospel had no business with it. However, I believe there is a prudence, which is not only allowable, but a grace of the Spirit, which we cannot too earnestly seek by prayer—for it can only be taught by the wisdom which cometh from above. It is very desirable to know and consider the force of prejudices, which lie against the reception of the gospel, so as to do nothing which may needlessly influence and strengthen them ; at the same time, it must be confessed, that they who are unwilling to give pain, and who would, if possible, please all men to their edification, have need to set a watch upon their spirits, that they do not give into a prudence, falsely so called, which enervates endeavours, and precludes

So far as we are influenced by a single eye to the glory of God, and a true love to the souls of men, we shall avoid this snare. True prudence will not trust to an arm of flesh, nor seek expedients to make the truth palatable to the natural heart, but will simply and plainly declare things as they are, and leave the event to Him who alone can give the blessing ; will aim at a scriptural consistency of conduct, and will dare to be singular, without affecting singularity.

We are poor creatures, liable to be easily and imperceptibly biassed, and can seldom be duly impressed with the inconveniences of one extreme, without insensibly verging towards its opposite. But there is a golden mean, in the midst of the path of judgment, into which the Lord leads those who humbly implore his guidance. This St. Paul was well acquainted with. He knew when and how to become all things to all men, and he knew when and where likewise to stand his ground, unmoved by any solicitations, and determined not to give place, no, not for an hour. And the Lord who taught him, is able and willing to teach us likewise ; but we may be assured, that this, instead of making every thing easy to ourselves, will rather expose us to the censure of the zealots on all sides.

We are here pretty much as usual : I am supported in my public services, and I hope I do not speak wholly in vain. But I seem to get

success.

poorly forward myself; my spirit is languid, my consolations few, my conflicts many: yet I am not wholly forsaken: my hope seems to stand firm ; though, if doubting and questioning could be right at any time, in those who have tasted that the Lord is precious, none seem to have more cause for giving way to suspicions than myself. But the views I have received of the Saviour, and the way of salvation, satisfy me in the main. I cannot doubt his power, compassion, or faithfulness, the value of his blood, and the truth of his promise. Had he come to befriend the righteous, I could have no claim ; but I read, he came to save sinners, and that he is able to save them to the uttermost. His own word and Spirit first invited, and enabled me to venture my all upon him : I know that I have committed myself to him a thousand times, how then can he give me up?

Thus I endeavour to reason against the enemy. He can easily prove that I am worthless, ungrateful, and unfaithful; but he cannot prove that Jesus did not die, or that he is still in the grave, or that he did not say, “Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.” I would not part with this text for all the world! It sometimes seems the only one I can lay hold of; but “ in no wise,” extends to all the complicated varieties of my case ; and therefore I am bold to infer with the poet,

“ He is my sun, though he forbear to shine;

Though for a moment he depart,

I dwell for ever on his heart;
For ever he on mine!"

I beg you to present my affectionate respects to Mr. -. I wish him, with you, the best desires of your hearts ; increase of grace, and peace, and abundant usefulness.

I am, dear Sir,
Your sincerely affectionate friend and servant,

JOHN NEWTON. .

DANCING.

LETTER FROM A FATHER TO HIS DAUGHTER.

MY DEAR DAUGHTER, -Admitting that to dance, in a moral point of view, is as innocent as to walk, to ride, or to sail, is it expedient for those who hope they are Christians, and who have engaged, in the most solemn manner, to live according to the gospel, to join in the vain, promiscuous, unseasonable dances of both sexes, as they are generally practised ?

Christians, you know, are not to do every thing that is lawful. The great apostle to the Gentiles saith, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.”

I shall here give you, my daughter, the principal reasons why I think it inexpedient for Christians to dance.

I. Because dancing is, very generally, considered as a favourite amusement of the gay world—of those who appear the most thoughts

[ocr errors]

are."

less about death, judgment, and the world to come. The professors of religion, if they are what their profession implies, are different from the world ; they are “ born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature ; old things are passed away ; behold, all things are become new. St. John, in his first letter, saith, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lusts of the flesh, and the lusts of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but of the world.” Those who are born of the Spirit of God, are different from the world in their views, affections, and relations, and ought to distinguish themselves by their conduct : Know ye not that ye are the temples of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you ? If any man defile the temple of God, him will God destroy : for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye

“ What concord hath Christ with Belial; or, what part hath he that believeth with an infidel ? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols ? for ye are the temples of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and my daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”

Who, my daughter, young or old, but a thoughtless wretch, would presume to dance in the temple of God? Shall Christians, then, dance, who are declared by an inspired apostle to be the temple of God, and to have the Spirit of God dwelling in them ? to be a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that they should show forth the praises of Him who hath called them out of darkness into his marvellous light.

The same apostle directed Titus, whom he left at Crete, to speak " the things which become sound doctrine; that the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness ; not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things ; that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. Young men likewise exhort to be sober-minded.” In all this, you say, there is no direction not to dance, nor any thing which looks like it. All are exhorted to be sober ; not merely to be temperate in meats and drinks, but to have their whole conduct according to the gospel. James says, “If any are merry, let them sing psalms.” And Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, mentions with “weeping” those “who mind earthly things.” He likewise saith, “ To all that be at Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints. Be not conformed to this world ; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” To the faithful in Christ at Ephesus, he saith, "See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the

[ocr errors]

Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit ; speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart unto the Lord, giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Who, I seriously ask, ever heard any one devoutly “ give thanks unto God and the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ," for an opportunity to mingle and dance with those, who, to say the least, generally know not God, nor the power of his grace ?

Where was there ever a ball opened or closed with prayer ? Would it not rob this amusement of its charm, were any one, as the mouth of the party, publicly to ask the blessing of heaven to rest upon them?

II. It is inexpedient for Christians to dance, because it grieves most of their religious friends; and to do this, knowingly, is a direct violation of the divine law. “ Give none offence, neither to the Jew, nor to the Gentile, nor to the church of God.” “ But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat for whom Christ died. Let not then your good be evil spoken of.” The same apostle also said, in the sincerity of his heart, “ If meat maketh my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend."

III. It is inexpedient, as the prophet Isaiah expressly saith,—“Take up the stumbling-block out of the way of my people." Dancing in the manner described, is to put one in the way. It is contrary to the self-denying spirit of the gospel. The Lord Jesus, when upon the earth, said, “ If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take

up

his cross, and follow me.” And Paul says, “ Abstain from all appearance of evil.” “Let us not sleep as do others; but let us watch and be sober.”

All who have the Bible in their hands, and read it, know how Christians are required to live; therefore, when they see any at a dance, who have witnessed a good profession, been at the table of the Lord, and partaken of the symbols of his body and blood, it is a "stumblingblock” in their way. They are confounded, and stumble. They know not what to think or what to say. They turn to their Bibles and read, “ Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus ;" “ who was harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners ;" “ walk in wisdom towards them that are without.” They readily recollect how solemn the communicants appeared, while upon the Sabbath they were, symbolically, eating the body, and drinking the blood of Christ : but, how strangely altered before this holy day returns ! They are dancing, full of glee, and sharing in all the mirth and hilarity of the most thoughtless. This stumbling-block, it is to be feared, often rises into a large mountain. It becomes a complete barrier in the way of many. Being full of unbelief, they scoffingly say, there is nothing in religion! Those who profess it do not believe it. We are just as well without any

such pretensions, as they are with them. To those fashionable professors, who, instead of taking up the stumbling-block out of the way, put one in the way, I would say, as David did

" Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon ; lest the daughters of the uncircumcised should triumph.”

another case,

66 The

IV. It is inexpedient on account of its inconsistency with the spirit, if not with the words of the covenant, into which professing Christians have voluntarily entered, “to preserve the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.'

For any needlessly to do what they know will grieve those for whom Christ died, is directly to break “the unity of the spirit.” It often greatly interrupts Christian communion.

For communicants to dance, and to join in all the frivolity of the young and gay, is so far from reproving sin, that, in the view of many very conscientious people, it does much to promote it. Let the profession of men be what it may, there is much meaning in the proverb, “ Actions speak louder than words."

When any are “ lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God," when they are taken up in" ' serving the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever more, the tendency of their conduct is to bring great dishonour upon the cause of Christ. It tends to make sinners quiet and bold, and to say, “ peace, peace, where there is no peace.”

V. It is inexpedient, as the Great Head of the church, who is himself the light of the world, expressly saith, “ Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." What light, or good work, is there in dancing? What is there to lead any to glorify their Father who is in heaven? bride, the Lamb's wife," is not distinguished for bodily activity and natural accomplishments, but for her moral beauty.

*sThe king's daughter is all glorious within ; her clothing is of wrought gold.” She is clothed, not in her " own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”

A few broken-hearted sinners, crying "unclean, unclean," cheerfully giving up all for Christ, conscientiously observing all the laws of God and man, daily bearing the fruits of the Spirit, “ love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance ;' who are ready to every good word and work, and who actually excite “joy in the presence of the angels of God," are worth infinitely more, to shed around them the lustre of true religion, than a whole host of dancing professors.

VI. It is inexpedient, as Paul, who was distinguished for his ability and piety, saith, “ Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them who walk so, as ye have us for an example.” We have no example that Paul, or any of the apostles, ever danced. There is not the least reason to believe that any of them ever did, after they were converted to the Christian faith. If their example is to be followed, it is clearly evident, that Christians ought not to dance. The apostles left all, and followed Christ; Christians should follow their example. A wish to mingle in the dance, when found among those who have named Christ, does not look like “ forgetting the things that are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before," and pressing “ towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God, in Christ Jesus.” It appears much more like those Israelites in the wilderness, who said to Moses, " We remember the flesh which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the

« PreviousContinue »