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This is just the feeling you should have. When you are really conscious that you are weak, then you will be made strong. You should remember that the Lord of Hosts, who is mighty in battle, is on your side when you once enlist under his glorious banner, and though your way should scem dark and dreary, there will still be a bright and morning star which will lead you safely over the stormy waves of life's tempestuous sea. When the waves are highest, and roll like billows over your downcast spirit, then a lovely voice will gently whisper, “Peace, be still." ' not say
“Go, then, earthly fame and treasure,
Come disaster, scorn and pain;
With thy favor less is gaio.
I have set my heart on thee;
All must work for good to me.'
THE DESERTED WIFE.
BY JAM 880, PERCIVAL,
He comes not-I have watched the moon go down,
THE FIRST CHRISTIANS ON DANCES AND SHOWS.
FROM THE GBRMAN OP ARNOLD, BY 2. KRILIR.
To the renunciation of the world, in their view, belonged that Christian should avoid the slightest forbidden pleasure; that, as a true warrior, he should keep himself disentangled, “that he might please Him who had chosen him to be a soldier." 2 Tim. ii, 4. Consequently they loved neither dancing, nor shows, nor other foolishness of this world, since nothing of the kind would harmonize with the Christian life. Their arduous faith, and the self-denial arising out of it, suffered them not to do anything which might interrupt their peace in God. The exceeding great peace, which was spread abroad in their hearts, was far too precious than that it should be disturbed by such toys. They left, therefore, such wantonness to the heathens, who considered them not only 48 allowed, but even as laudable.
We will bring forward but a few of their testimonies. Chrysos tom says: “Where there is dancing, there surely the devil is; for God did not give us our feet that we should act foolishly and unbecoming with them, but that we should pass along discreetly, and not jump like camels; these dance, too, just like women; but we are to keep quire with angels. When, moreover, the body behaves so shamefully, how much more does the soul become disgraced; thus the devils dance, and thus the servants of them are deceived. No person whatever should dance, neither virgins, married people, nor others; for to what is dancing necessary ? At the idol.worship of heathens, indeed, dances take place, but with us things must be conducted quietly, honestly, chastely and temperately, hence there must be no dancing at an entertainment, or at a wedding.”
Ambrosius says: “Modesty is in danger, and seduction very much to be feared, where the dance finally includes all other voluptousness. I desire that all godly virgins may be far from it; for as a heathen teacher hath said, “No one dances unless he is deranged. If, therefore, even according to the wisdom of this world, gluttony or even insanity is a consequence of dancing, why should it not be forbidden in scripture.”
Basilius writes: “Men learned dancing from the devils. When masked persons appear on the stage they use such demon-masks, that at one time they dance like the furies, take the most unbecoming positions, and at another time they even represent the devil himself.” Especially did they set before their own household the example of Herod's daughter, (Matt. xiv, 6,) who committed great sin, not only on account of the murder of John, but also with the dance itself.
a double sin," says Chrysostom, “since she not only danced imprudently, but also pleased Herod
" It was
to such an extent that she received the death of John as her reward.” Hear this ye virgins, and ye married people, who behave unbecoming at weddings, and are not ashamed to dance, to skip, and to disgrace the female sex! Remember how there was nothing annecessary and unfit at the wedding of Isaac, or at that of Jacob; there was no such devilish wantonness—no music-no dancing--no gluttony and drunkenness, but all was decency, order, and sobriety. Hear this, you who esteem such satanical wantonness, and who disgrace honorable weddings. Had they at that time in use fifes and violins ? and had they such devilish dances ?" Ambrosius adds: “John, who was killed at the word of the dancing mistress, serves as an example, that the enticing dance harmed more than the wicked madness of the rest. And, moreover, what decency can there be where there is dancing, jumping and tilting ?" They checked dancing not only with words but by severe public prohibitions, and with ecclesiastical discipline.
Gradually, however, as Christian energy vanished away, it was believed that only ministers and elders should be restricted, and all looseness was allowed to others. Yet still, many sincere hearts were found who lacked not in giving warnings and exhortations. “Let us,” they said, “commemorate holydays, yet not in a carnal but in a spiritual manner; not in a heathenish but in a Christian manner; not that we dance, or with fifes and violins make fools of ourselves; let us not defile the feasts with shameful words and with intemperance. Do not dance after the manner of the Jews, but praise the Lord after the manner of the apostles.”
On this account the Christians indeed exposed themselves to all manner of slanderings. They were called sour-heads, timid, selfish people, that would not grant amusement but would take away all pleasures. Yet these did not regard it, but had the straight and narrow path, which Christ had pointed out to them, constantly before their eyes, (Matt. vii, 14;) for on that path it was not proper to dance and to play. Thus the hand of their God preserved them from the dangerous snares of the devil and of the world, that they dragged neither themselves by their conduct, nor others by their example into destruction.
In regard to the other luxuries of the world the ancients judged accordingly. Tertullian, for example, writes to the heathens : “We renounce your shows, since we desire to have nothing further to do with the spirit which originates them, for we know they came from infidelity; we desire neither to see nor hear nor speak anything of your furious races, of your unchaste plays, of your murderous contests; for a Christian can find no pleasure in senseless racing, cruel contests, nor in the disorderly comedies. What shameful deeds are shown on the stage; what shameful words tho fools utter, when they wish to be applauded. Since, therefore, we desire to be far from all unrighteousness, we also keep away from
all theatres, which are a collection of all impurity, where nothing is recognized as good except what is not good in other places; the greatest attractions in them are made up of the greatest lewdness, where the actors represent all manner of abominations, and yet not even women are ashamed! Yes, some would sooner blush in their own houses, than in the theatres. The most lewd persons, who exercised themselves in it from their infancy, are made prominent and are even praised--not to speak of other things, which must remain in darkness, lest they should defile the light of day! O, that the government might become ashamed of itself! O, that all classes might be afraid on account of such things ! May the impudent harlots blush before the people. If we consider this as being a disgraceful matter, why should we be allowed to listen to such things as we dare not even express ? Since we know that all useless words and works shall be judged of God. Why should we be permitted to behold things which could not be done but with great sin? Why should not that which is permitted to enter through the eyes and the ears into the heart, 'disgrace just as much as that which is spoken with the mouth? The eyes and ears are subject to the spirit, and it cannot remain pure when its servants become impure." Others said: “Shows are very powerful to pervert hearts, and therefore a wise man mast avoid them, because they were only invented for the honor of heathen gods. Whoever looks on or is: present, he appears as though he had left the true worship of God, and had adopted the names of heathens. In theatres, in comedies they speak of impurities--of shameful love; and in tragedies of incests and murders. Young persons, which in their age should . be well-bred and governed, see only such abominations, and through such pictures they become instructed in all infamy and vice.
If to any one the sin of attending shows should still appear small, let him remember that there is no pleasure there, but bitter death; for what else may we call it but to run headlong into de-straction, when we lose the source of life--the grace of God!
The heathens err with less accountability, since they injure no covenant with God. But what shall we Christians answer? We have made our confession of faith, and nevertheless it is thus over-turned. Where is our Christianity if we only promise to God, that we may sin the more, when we prefer plays to the assemblies before God, and honor theatres.
Shows and races are the means by which he who has a desire to sin-either to lewdness or to stealing, or to other vices, becomes fully inspired. For when one or the other, on account of age, is no more able to enjoy it, yet, nevertheless, his evil passions are awakened. In the tragedies the old abominations are re-acted.
What should a Christian do here, since he dare not even think of these vices? Why should he take delight in the representations of lewdness, either to lay aside his modesty, or to become bold in
sin? Sarely he would learn to imitate what he sees represented; therefore believing Christians must avoid such vain, degrading and blasphemous plays, and preserve eyes and ears from them, sinoe it is easy to become accustomed to that which is seen and heard."
“You know," they further said, “what you promised God in baptism, but in shows a backsliding takes place. Yes, a sin unto death. For what else is confessed in baptism but that we renounce the devil and all his works and ways? But now the shows are & work of the devil. How then, a8 a Christian, can you go to comedies after baptism? You have once renounced the devil, and now you go knowingly and willingly to the devil again if you turn to such things.'
Such as were accustomed to say, “We love to look on, but these things do not injure us," they answered, “Should you not injure your soul, when it happened even to David. Do you still deny that you could be wounded in such foolish plays, when he received an arrow in his heart, who had such great grace of the spirit? You look on in the theatre, where even the place alone makes you deserve punishment. Yes, you not only look on, but you also hear wicked expressions and disgraceful songs. There your heart 18 besieged on all sides by beholding what you see, and by hearing what you hear. Since there are so many dangers there, how can we think that you could remain uninjured from the wild beasts."
Besides this they reminded them of the confession of other wise men which had made the same sad experience. The heathen Seneca said, for example, “Nothing was more dangerous to good morals than to sit in a play, where vices creep in the easier thrcugh sensuality, that we always go away more miserly, more sensual, prouder, more cruel and inhuman from comedies than we come to them.” The same testimony Augustine made of his former life, and confessed uprightly: “The plays of theatres also dragged me along, since they were full of the pictures of my misery, and of tinder to my sinful flames."
All these things show what ardor and earnestness the first Christians manifested towards such things, and how they held the true pleasures in God above the mere shades of pleasure in the world. They endeavored to exercise themselves and others in selfdenial; but as to the unbelicving, they sought to draw them away from such foolishness. “A Christian," it was said, “hath far better shows-he has true and beneficial pleasures when he collects himself in himself; for, to say nothing of that beauty which he cannot yet behold, he has at least the beautiful creatures, which he can see and admire. Yes, all the works of God are to the believe ing Christian true shows. Whoever recognizes himself as a child of God, he will never be astonished at the works of men; but whoever regards any thing except God a8 high, he steps sadly down from his high position.'