The following article selected from The Christadelphian Magazine of one hundred years ago, contains a very timely warning for today even though the world has witnessed major changes in society with a corresponding decline in morality. Some would perhaps see the issues facing the brotherhood in 1895 as rather innocuous by comparison with today and yet the brethren last century saw the need to address them in a direct and forthright fashion. What would the writer of this article say if he were alive today and saw the world in which we live and how well would he think we are coping with the problems facing us? We must see the issues just as clearly as J.C.B. did in 1895 and address them in the same direct and forthright manner.

At one time or another, the question of entertainment and amusement is raised by young believers. Living at a time when society is greatly given to the lighter frivolities from which coarseness and vulgarity have been somewhat removed [it may have been in the Victorian age, but certainly not now—Ed], it is not strange that young believers, and some others, regard some of the modern forms of amusement as comparatively, if not altogether, harmless. The theatre, where the play is not too coarse, and occasionally the ballroom, are not thought to be especially compromising. Without the loving restraint of the truth, the laxity of the times is felt strongly, and steps toward wordly enjoyment are easily taken.

It is not the purpose of this writing to deprive the young saint, or anyone, of legitimate enjoyment, but simply to draw attention to things that should be avoided. Music, art, in its higher forms, nature everywhere and in every form teaching of God, instructive and profitable miscellaneous reading, the association of intelligent brethren, the end of whose conversation is “Jesus Christ—yesterday, today and for ever” (Heb 13:7) should be sufficient sources, not only of amusement, but entertainment for every intelligent believer of the gospel (or even those who are seeking to know the truth) who is at all disposed to heed the words of the Master: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” Nor should it be felt a real cross to keep oneself from “fleshly lusts that war against the soul,” from “foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition” (1 Tim 6:9).

Solomon truly said, “There is a time to laugh”. When is the time? Is it the time while we are striving “through much tribulation to enter the kingdom of God?” for “thereunto were we called”. Is it the time to laugh at the follies that belong to the theatre, where God’s dear and hallowed name is had in no reverence, either by those who are playing mere counterfeits or by those who gaze at them? Is there anything in Shakespeare (who is the best by far) or in the work of any other playwright, to lead you, dear one, to God? Is it not true that when the mind becomes absorbed in the play “God is not in all your thoughts?” How, then, can you say God is near you? Do not deceive yourself. You are most seriously deluded if you think God is near you or with you when your thoughts are far from Him. Let it never be forgotten that the Heavenly Presence is with you and near you only as you have Him in your affections and in your thoughts. And if God be absent from your thoughts, can you truly say you are not being hurt? Can there be any more certain evidence of hurt, and most serious, too, than that the things of God are neglected because there is more thought and love for pleasure? O, how sadly such statements carry their falsity right on their face. And be assured God will not divide your service with Him. He will have all or none.

Now, is the time any better spent on the floor of a ball-room? for it is spent, not in thinking of God and His goodness to you, but in the enjoyment of the empty things which at the best bring but a passing and fleeting pleasure and, like so many other things of a similar nature which serve no good purpose, the end of it is death.

Where the cares of life and its necessities demand our attention day-by-day, if the nights are devoted to this mild form of dissipation, what time will you have, dear young brother and sister, or friend, to give to Him who has done so much for you, and whose word is with you and in you, to guide you? Detriment? O is there anything but detriment in such things? The danger lies in the fact that a vitiated taste is cultivated, and this will invariably be found to be to the necessary exclusion of other and better things. Where this exists surely there can be no thought of God, much less of the holiness He enjoins upon His children, who can only prove their love for God, and their thought of Him, in keeping His commandments. Divested these sins may be of some of the grossness and vulgarity characteristic of the swinish multitude, but they are none the less offensive, and “naked and open to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” Nor are they less displeasing to God because they receive the approval of a perverted society which is respectable only from its own imperfect point of view. Where such a society creates its own standard of morality, it is certain not to be elevating, but debasing.

What a solemn word is this that comes to us from John, the dear disciple whom Jesus loved. He says: “Love not the world, neither the things 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 lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life IS NOT OF THE FATHER, but is of the world, and the world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” With such impressive words ringing in our ears, what apology can be made for association with the godless assemblages that frequent the theatre and the ballroom? A blessing is pronounced upon him who “hath clean hands and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity” (Psa 24:4). Surely no greater vanities curse respectable society, so called, than those named.

What a picture is presented when we think of our Saviour and his suffering followers being seen in such places, and taking part in the festivities. The heart purified by the truth grows sick at the thought. Paul said, “Be ye followers of me as I am of Christ.” Would he be found in such places? And would he urge, as an excuse, that he could not in such things be as his Lord? Or, worse, that he would not make the effort because of his love for them? To such questions there can be but one answer. But if one have a desire for such things, how noble, how like Christ, who “pleased not himself”, to trample these earthly, fleshly loves under foot and take a stand once for all on a higher plane. Do not add “rebellion which is as the sin of witchcraft” (1 Sam 15:23) to human weakness. Paul urges the brethren to “glorify God in their bodies, and in their spirits (body and mind) which are God’s” (1 Cor 6:20). Pray how can this be done with the loose, flippant, vulgar things of the theatre, or the light and empty frivolities of the ball-room? Dear young brother and sister, you who have tasted of these things in the past, know that it is impossible. You know it from your own experience, and yours is that of hundreds of others in whose hearts the love of God is not, nor is He in all their thoughts.

Can it be said, in any sense, if you thus fritter away the golden hours of heavenly favour and opportunity, that you are heeding the solemn warning of Paul to “redeem the time because the days (of human life) are evil?” Your answer must be no. Then you are simply disobedient. This is the issue squarely. “Whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God,” said Paul, the splendid example for us all. Could even a thoughtful alien presume to think there is anything glorifying to God in the theatre or ball-room? Let us flee these “youthful lusts”, ruinous alike to body and mind, of which the world holds so many sad illustrations in wrecked bodies and corrupted and perverted minds. Those who have followed such a course have found a wasted life barren of consolation in after years, peradventure they may have been permitted to live through “the vanities of youth”.

 The truest happiness is happiness in the truth in God; and he who makes choice of this abiding good will find it a yoke he can take with gladness of heart, and by means of it throw aside the excesses of other days. To such an one it is a pleasure, a joy to please God and to know His will. This is a delight before which all else fades into nothingness, and leaves a sweet sense of blessedness and harmony with God.

That there are earthly pleasures which may be enjoyed need not be questioned, but certainly they are not of the character the world approves of. In this it is safe to judge of the tree by its fruit. It is neither sweet nor beautiful. The things “lovely and of good report” which Paul enjoins exclude both the theatre and common ball-room with all their godlessness. Always a true guide in matters pertaining to “life and godliness,” he makes clear the right frame of mind for the saint who has passed from “death unto life” in Christ.

“Let your moderation be known to all men. Be careful for nothing (in making provision for fleshly lusts), but, in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God (what incomparable joy) which passeth understanding, shall keep your hearts. Finally, brethren … whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue … think on these things” (Phil 4:5—8). Don’t, dear young disciple of Christ, or you, young seeker after the truth, think of the theatre and ballroom. They have nothing in common with the holy things mentioned by Paul. “Put off, concerning the former conversation, the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and TRUE HOLINESS” (Eph 4:22—24).