Questionable Amusements and Worthy Substitutes Part 2

So prizes are offered in the social gambling "to lend devotions to the game." It is under such circumstances as these that young men and young women receive their first lessons in card-playing. A passion for card-playing is called forth, developed, and must be satisfied, even though it takes one in low places among vile associates. "A Christian gentleman came from England to this country. He brought with him $70,000 in money. He proposed to invest the money. Part of it was his own; part of it was his mother's. He went into a Christian Church; was coldly received, and said to himself: 'Well, if that is the kind of Christian people they have in America, I don't want to associate with them much.'

So he joined a card-playing party. He went with them from time to time. He went a little further on, and after a while he was in games of chance, and lost all of the $70,000. Worse than that, he lost all of his good morals; and on the night that he blew his brains out he wrote to the lady to whom he was affianced an apology for the crime he was about to commit, and saying in so many words, 'My first step to ruin was the joining of that card party.'"

In all of its forms gambling is loaded down with evil. In the first place it destroys the incentive to honest work. Let the average young man win a hundred dollars at the races, it will so turn his head against slow and honorable ways of getting money that he will watch for every opportunity to get it easily and abundantly. The young girl who risks fifty cents and gets back fifty dollars will no longer be of service as a quiet, contented worker. The spirit of speculation, the passion to get something for nothing, is calculated to destroy the incentive to honest toil and to honorable methods of gain. As one values his character, as he values his peace of mind, so should he zealously guard himself against overfascinating games of chance. Once we had a family in our Church who played cards, and who taught their children to play cards. Of course these families had no time for prayer-meeting, nor for Christian work. Card-playing for amusement or for money will create a passion that must be satisfied, although one must give up home and business and pleasure. In a town where we once lived a young man and his wife attended our Church. In every way the husband was kind, and attentive to business. But he had fallen a victim to playing cards for money.

When that passion would seize him he would leave his business, his hired help, his home and wife and little one, and would lose himself for days at a time seeking to satisfy that passion. An enviable husband, father, citizen, and neighbor but for that evil; but how wretchedly that ruined all! Dr. Holland, of Springfield, Massachusetts, says: "I have all my days had a card-playing community open to my observation, and yet I am unable to believe that that which is the universal resort of starved soul and intellect, which has never in any way linked to itself tender, elevating, or beautiful associations, but, the tendency of which is to unduly absorb the attention from more weighty matters, can recommend itself to the favor of Christ's disciples. I have this moment," says he, "ringing in my ears the dying injunction of my father's early friend: 'Keep your son from cards. Over them I have murdered time and lost heaven.'"

Gambling is dishonest. It seeks something for nothing. Man possesses no money, that he might risk giving it to some rogue to waste in sin. All the property one possesses, he possesses it by stewardship to be used wisely and honestly for good. Every age has needed a revival of the Golden Rule in business. Much of the business of to-day is attended to on the dishonest principle that characterizes gambling, "Get as much as possible for as little as possible." This spirit is first cousin to the spirit of gambling. The only difference is, one is called wrong and is wrong; the other is wrong and is called right. Tell the gambler he is a thief; he will acknowledge it, and will beat you, if he can, while he is talking to you. Tell the other man he is a thief, and he will sue you at court and win his case, although it is just as wrong to steal $100 from an unbalanced mind, as it is to steal $100 from an unlocked safe or off of an untrained football team. It will be an easy matter to produce professional gamblers so long as society upholds dishonest dealers by another name. What men need in this matter is moral and spiritual vision, spiritual discernment. Some persons live by taking advantage of those who are down.

In all of its forms gambling leads to a long train of crimes. In addition to his crime of theft the professional gambler, through passion or drink, becomes a murderer. I knew a professional gambler who killed a man, with whom he had been playing cards for money, for fifty cents.

After it was all over the man was sorry he had done it, for he had committed the crime in a passion while he was intoxicated. The one who speculates on the markets is not counted dishonest by the world, but how often and how quickly it leads one into crime! In our neighboring town in Illinois a man of a good family and of good standing in the community began to speculate on the Chicago Board of Trade. He was as honest a person, perhaps, as you or I. He thought he was. For years he had been a trusted, Christian worker, and treasurer of the Sunday-school. But he made just one venture too many. He had lost all; could not even replace the Sunday-school fund that he had simply used, no doubt expecting to replace it with usury; but the loss and disgrace were too much for him to face, so he deserted home and friends and honor and all, and secretly ran away. The speculating gambler became a deserting embezzler. The person who has acquired a passion for betting on races and games is on a fair way to professional gambling and to speculating on the markets. And rarely does one ever escape these, if once he gets a start in them.

The evil of society gambling is most dangerous of all, because it is most subtle of all. Ah first no one would suspect an innocent game of cards, played just for fun. You may be the fourth one to make up a game; you may not know how to play, but you are told you can quickly learn.

You brave it, and go in for a game. The next time a similar circumstance arises, you can not easily decline, for you must confess you have played, and so you go in as an old player. This may be as far as the matter ever goes with you. But here is one who is more impulsive than you; his surroundings are entirely different. He learns to play, and comes to revel in it. A passion is created for the game. He is shrewd; soon learns the tricks, and one evening--purely by chance, as it seems to him--he wins his first five dollars. Strange possibilities with cards lay hold upon him. He is consumed by that passion. He plays for business, for keeps; he has become a professional gambler. Ah! this is no finespun tale; it is being worked out every year in our country, all over the world. Among many things for which I have to thank my father and mother not the least is, that they would allow no gamblers, nor gambling, nor the instruments of gambling about our home. Better keep a pet rattlesnake for your child than a deck of cards; for if he gets poisoned by the snake he may be cured; but if the passion for card-playing should happen to seize him, there is little chance of a cure. The inmates of our penitentiaries to-day, almost to a man, testify that "card-playing threw them into bad company, led them into sin, and was one of the causes of their downfall." Dr. Talmage was asked if there could be any harm in a pack of cards. He Said: "Instead of directly answering your question, I will give you as My opinion that there are thousands of men with as strong a brain as you have, who have gone through card-playing into games of chance, and have dropped down into the gambler's life and into the gambler's hell." A prisoner in a jail in Michigan wrote a letter to a temperance paper, in which he gives this advice for young men: "Let cards and liquor alone, and you will never be behind the gates." Friends, not every one who touches liquor is a drunkard, but every drunkard touches liquor; so not every one who plays cards is a professional gambler, but every professional gambler plays cards. Is there nothing significant about these facts. "A word to the wise is sufficient." "In a railway train sat four men playing cards. One was a judge, and two of the others were lawyers. Near them sat a poor mother, a widow in black. The sight of the men at their game made her nervous. She kept quiet as long as she could; but finally rising came to them, and addressing the judge, asked: 'Do you know me?' 'No, madam, I do not,' said he. 'Well, said the mother, 'you sentenced my son to State's prison for life.' Turning to one of the lawyers, she said: 'And you, sir, pleaded against him. He was all I had. He worked hard on the farm, was a good boy, and took care of me until he began to play cards, when he took to gambling and was lost.'" Dr. Guthrie writes: "In regard to the lawfulness of certain pursuits, pleasures, and amusements, it is impossible to lay down any fixed and general rule; but we may confidently say that whatever is found to unfit you for religious duties, or to interfere with the performance of them; whatever dissipates your mind or cools the fervor of your devotions; whatever indisposes you to read your Bibles or to engage in prayer, wherever the thought of a bleeding Savior, or of a holy God, or of the day of judgment falls like a cold shadow on your enjoyment, the pleasures you can not thank God for, on which you can not ask His blessing, whose recollections will haunt a dying bed and plant sharp thorns in its uneasy pillow,--these are not for you..Never go where you can not ask God to go with you; never be found where you would not like death to find you. Never indulge in any pleasure that will not bear the morning's reflection. Keep yourselves unspotted from the world, not from its spots only, but even from its suspicions."


DANCING is the expression of inward feelings by means of rhythmical movements of the body. Usually these movements are in measured step, and are accompanied by music.

In some form or another dancing is as old as the world, and has been practiced by rude as well as by civilized peoples. The passion for amateur dancing always has been strongest among savage nations, who have made equal use of it in religious rites and in war. With the savages the dancers work themselves into a perfect frenzy, into a kind of mental intoxication. But as civilization has advanced dancing has modified its form, becoming more orderly and rhythmical. The early Greeks made the art of dancing into a system, expressive of all the different passions.

For example, the dance of the Furies, so represented, would create complete terror among those who witnessed them. The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, ranked dancing with poetry, and said that certain dancers, with rhythm applied to gesture, could express manners, passions, and actions. The most eminent Greek sculptors studied the attitude of the dancers for their art of imitating the passions. In a classical Greek song, Apollo, one of the twelve greater gods, the son of Zeus the chief god, and the god of medicine, music, and poetry, was called The Dancer.

In a Greek line Zeus himself is represented as dancing. In Sparta, a province of ancient Greece, the law compelled parents to exercise their children in dancing from the age of five years. They were led by grown men, and sang hymns and songs as they danced. In very early times a Greek chorus, consisting of the whole population of the city, would meet in the market-place to offer up thanksgivings to the god of the country.

Their jubilees were always attended with hymn-singing and dancing.

The Jewish records make frequent mention of dancing, but always "as a religious ceremony, or as an expression of gratitude and praise." As a means of entertainment in private society, dancing was practiced in ancient times, but by professional dancers, and not by the company themselves. It is true that the Bible has sanctioned dancing, but let us remember, first, that it was always a religious rite; second, that it was practiced only on joyful occasions, at national feasts, and after great victories; third, that usually it was "performed by maidens in the daytime, in open air, in highways, fields, or groves;" fourth, that "there are no instances of dancing sanctioned in the Bible, in which both sexes united in the exercise, either as an act of worship or as an amusement;" fifth, that any who perverted the dance from a sacred use to purposes of amusement were called infamous. The only records in Scripture of dancing as a social amusement were those of the ungodly families described by Job xxi, 11-13, who spent their time in luxury and gayety, and who came to a sudden destruction; and the dancing of Herodias, Matt. Xiv, 6, which led to the rash vow of King Herod and to the murder of John the Baptist. So much for the history of dancing.

The modern dance in which both sexes freely mingle, irrespective of character, purely for amusement, at late hours, at which intoxicants, in some form, are generally used, is, essentially, an institution of vice.

The modern dance is as different from the dancing of ancient times, and from the dancing sanctioned in the Bible, as daylight is from dark, as good is from bad. The modern dance imperils health, it poisons the social nature; it destroys intellectual growth; and it robs men and women of their virtue. Let us understand one another. To attend one dance may not accomplish all of this in any person. One may attend many dances, and he himself not see these results marked in his character, but some one else will see them. For in the nature of the institution the modern dance affects in all these particulars those whom it reaches.

The tendencies in a single dance are in these directions. In a way peculiar to itself the modern dance imperils health. Though detestable and out of date, as are the modern kissing games, yet no one ever heard of one of those performances continuing until three and five o'clock in the morning. Young people do not stay up all night, ride five, ten, and twenty miles to play authors, or to snap caroms, or to play charades, as interesting in a social way as these innocent amusements may be. The fact that one will go to this extreme in keeping late hours to attend the dance, and will not keep such late hours for any other form of amusement, proves that the dance, as an institution, is at fault in producing such irregularities. And then who ever heard of one having to dress in a certain way to attend a purely social gathering. But let a young lady attend a fashionable ball or a regular round dance of any note, whatever, and if she wears the civil gown she will be thought tame and snubbed. She must dress for this occasion, and thus, from a health point of view, so expose her body that after the excitement and heat of a prolonged round she takes her place in a slight draught of air, and a severe cold is contracted. And this exposure is further increased by the sudden change from a close, hot room to the damp, chilly air of the early morning, on her journey home. It is possible to guard against all of this, but are those persons who attend such exercises likely to be cautious in such practical matters. At least, this risk of exposure for men and women is peculiar to the dance, and it is certain that many are physically injured in this way. The modern dance poisons the social nature. The chief exercise at the modern dance is dancing. Those who have attended dances, as a social recreation, have complained that they never have an opportunity to get acquainted with one another. Such a luxury as a complete conversation on any theme is out of the question.

It is a form of amusement that stultifies the communicative faculties, and fosters social seclusion. Some one might say this may be a good thing, since every grade in moral and social standing are represented.

Yes, but this only acknowledges the lack of opportunity for social fellowship. It is not true that the dance, as an institution, is not patronized by the most capable in conversation and companionship?

Certainly this is true in the so-called higher society, among those whose sole ambition is to excel in formal manners and in personal appearance at the gay function, and at the social ball. To be communicative one must have something to communicate, and this means a cultivation of the mind and heart. True social fellowship is one of the sweetest pleasures of life and always has its source in the culture of the soul. Whatever may be said for or against the modern dance, it is true that because of the mixed characters of its attendants, and for want of opportunity to communicate, the social nature becomes neglected and abused, and may be fatally poisoned.

The modern dance destroys intellectual growth. The person who has the dance-craze cares no more for mental improvement and growth than a starving man cares for splendid recipes for fine cooking. The thought of a problem to be solved, of a book to be read, of an organ exercise to be practiced, of all things, are most tame to the one who is filled with dreams of the last dance, and with visions of the one that is to come.

To grow, the mind must be free from excitement. The fault with the dance in this respect is that it has in it a fascination that does not exist in the ordinary social amusement. Some persons complain that they can not get an evening to go off well without dancing. But this is only an open confession to mental vacuity, to intellectual poverty. For one need know but little to flourish at the dance. And always, where little is required, intellectually, little is given. It is the rule that those who are in the greatest need of mental cultivation and growth are those who make up the dancing crowd. And the fact that the dance, as an institution, in no way stimulates intellectual thought, destines those who dance to remain on the lower intellectual plane.

Last, and worst of all, the dance robs men and women of their virtue, and this often at the first unconsciously. If it is not for health and physical vigor that one follows up dancing; if it is not the peculiar social tie that binds dancers together; if it is not the incentive to intellectual growth and equipment, what is it? A secret lies hid away somewhere in the institution of the modern dance, that makes it the chiefest attraction of worldly-minded and often of base-hearted people.

What is that secret? Ah, my friend, it is the appeal to the most sacred instincts and passions of a man and of a woman! This appeal is peculiar to the modern dance by the accident of physical contact that men and women assume in dancing, and also by the circumstances that attend it, namely, mixed society, late hours, and the customary use of strong drink. No honest, normally passionate person, who has made it a practice of attending dances, will deny the truth of this charge. One may never have thought of it in this way, but when he stops to think he knows that it is true. It is through ignorance of these circumstances, and of their bad effects, that many a well-meaning person, presumably to have a good time, or to acquire heel-grace, goes into the dance, secures a passion for dancing, and through its seductive influences are led into sin and shame. The following is an incident out of his own experience related by Professor T. A. Faulkner, an ex-dancing master. Professor Faulkner is the author of the little book entitled "From the Ball Room to Hell." A book which every person who sees no harm in dancing should read.

"Here is a girl. The one remaining child of wealthy parents, their idol and joy. A dancing-school having opened near their home, the daughter, for accomplishment, was sent to it. She came from her home, modest, and her innate spirit of purity rebelled against the liberties taken by the dancing-master, and the men he introduced to her. She became indignant at the indecent attitudes she was called upon to assume, but noticing a score of young women, many of them from the best homes in the town, all yielding to the vulgar embrace, she cast aside that spirit of modesty which had been the development of years of home-training, and setting her face against nature's protective warnings, gave herself, as did the others, to this prolonged embrace set to music. Having learned to dance, its fascinations led her an enthusiastic captive. Modesty was crucified, decency outraged, virtue lost its power over her soul, and she spent her days dreaming of the delights of the sensual whirl of the evening.

Hardly conscious of the change she had now become as bold as any of the women, and loved the embrace of the charmer. The graduation of the class was, of course, the occasion of a waltzing reception. To that reception she went, attended by her father, who looked with a proud heart on the fulsome greeting his dear one received. After a little the father retired, leaving his daughter to the care of the many handsome gallants who danced attendance upon her. The reception did not close until the small hours of the morning. Each waltz became more voluptuous; intoxicated by sensuality, the dancers became more bold, and lust was aroused in every breast. How many sins that reception occasioned, I do not know; this, at least, is sure, that this girl who entered that dancing-hall three months before, as pure as an angel, was that night.robbed of her honor and returned to her home deprived forever of that most precious jewel of womanhood--virtue. Her first impulse the next morning was self-destruction; then she deluded herself with the thought of marriage with her dancing companion, but he still further insulted her by declaring that he wanted a pure woman for his wife. What was her end? Shunned by the very society which egged her on to ruin, her self-respect was gone with her lost purity, she went to her own kind, and in shame is closing her days." "Of two hundred brothel inmates to whom Professor Faulkner talked, and who were frank enough to answer his question as to the direct cause of their shame, seven said poverty and abuse; ten, willful choice; twenty, drink given them by their parents; and one hundred and sixty-three, dancing and the ball-room." "A former chief of police of New York City says that three-fourths of the abandoned girls of this city were ruined by dancing." Of the dance, one says: "It lays its lecherous hand upon the fair character of innocence, and converts it into a putrid corrupting thing. It enters the domain of virtue, and with silent, steady blows takes the foundation from underneath the pedestal on which it sits enthroned. It lists the gate and lets in a flood of vice and impurity that sweeps away modesty, chastity, and all sense of shame. It keeps company with the low, the degraded, and the vile. It feeds upon the passion it inflames, and fattens on the holiest sentiments, turned by its touch to filth and rottenness. It loves the haunts of vice, and is at home in the company of harlots and debauchees." George T. Lemon says: "No Church in Christendom commends or even excuses the dance. All unite to condemn it." The late Episcopal bishop of Vermont, writes: "Dancing is chargeable with waste of time, interruption of useful study, the indulgence of personal vanity and display, and the premature incitement of the passions. At the age of maturity it adds to these no small danger to health by late hours, flimsy dress, heated rooms, and exposed persons." Episcopal Bishop Meade, of Virginia, declares: "Social dancing is not among the neutral things which, within certain limits, we may do at pleasure, and it is not among the things lawful, but not expedient, but it is in itself wrong, improper, and of bad effect." Episcopal Bishop McIlvaine, of Ohio, putting the dance and the theater together, writes: "The only line that I would draw in regard to these is that of entire exclusion..The question is not what we can imagine them to be, but what they always have been, will be, and must be, in such a world as this, to render them pleasurable to those who patronize them. Strip them bare until they stand in the simple innocence to which their defenders'

arguments would reduce them and the world would not have them." A Roman Catholic priest testifies that "the confessional revealed the fact that nineteen out of every twenty women who fall can trace the beginning of their state to the modern dance."


WITH drunkenness, gambling, and dancing, theater-going dates from the beginning of history, and with these it is not only questionable in morals, but it is positively bad. Every one who knows any thing about the institution of the theater, as such, knows that it always has been corrupting in its influence. Not only those who attend the theater pronounce it bad, as a whole, but it is frowned upon by play-writers, and by actors and actresses themselves. Five hundred years before Christ, Jew, Pagan, and Christian spoke against the theater. It is stated on good authority that the dissipations of the theater were the chief cause of the decadence of ancient Greece. At one time, Augustus, the emperor of Rome, was asked as a means of public safety, to suppress the theater. The early Christians held the theater in such bad repute as to rank it with the heathen temple. And to these two places they would not go, even to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ. Nor has the moral tone and character of the theater improved, even in our day. Dr.

Theodore Cuyler, for many years an experienced pastor in Brooklyn, Says: "The American theater is a concrete institution, to be judged as a totality. It is responsible for what it tolerates and shelters. We, therefore, hold it responsible for whatever of sensual impurity and whatever of irreligion, as well as for whatever of occasional and sporadic benefit there may be bound up in its organic life. Instead of helping Christ's kingdom, it hinders; instead of saving souls, it corrupts and destroys." Dr. Buckley gives this testimony: "Being aware of the fact that the drama, like every thing else which caters to the taste, has its fashions--rising and falling and undergoing various changes--now improving, and then degenerating, I have thought it desirable to institute a careful inquiry into the plays which have been performed in the principal theaters of New York during the past three years. Accordingly, I procured the copies used by the performers in preparing for their parts, and took pains to ascertain wherein, in actual use, the actors diverged from the printed copies. They number over sixty, and, with the exception of a few unprinted plays, include all that have been produced in the prominent theaters of New York during the three years now about closing..It is a singular fact, that, with three or four exceptions, those dramatic compositions, among the sixty or more under discussion, which are morally objectionable, are of a comparatively low order of literary execution. But if language and sentiments, which would not be tolerated among respectable people, and would excite indignation if addressed to the most uncultivated and coarse servant girl, not openly vicious, by an ordinary young man, and profaneness which would brand him who uttered it as irreligious, are improper amusements for the young and for Christians of every age, then at least fifty of these plays are to be condemned."

In the first place the theater leads one into bad company. As a class, the performers are licentious. How can one be in their company, be moved to laughter and to tears and not be contaminated by them? One who has studied the theater tells us that the "fruits of the Spirit and the fruits of the stage exhibit as pointed a contrast as the human imagination can conceive." The famous Macready, as he retired from the stage, wrote: "None of my children, with my consent under any pretense, shall ever enter the theater, nor shall they have any visiting connection with play actors or actresses." Dr. Johnson asks the question: "How can they mingle together as they do, men and women, and make public exhibitions of themselves as they do, in such circumstances, with such surroundings, with such speech as much often be on their lips to play the plays that are written, in such positions as they must sometimes take, affecting such sentiment and passions--how can they do this without moral contamination?" And we would ask, how can persons live enrapt with this sort of thing for hours and hours each week, the year around, and not become equally contaminated, for to the onlooker all this comes as a reality, while to those who are performing, it is hired shamming? Therefore, as the pupil becomes the teacher, so the attendant at the theater becomes like the one who performs. So that to go to the theater is to "sit in the seat of the scornful or to stand in the way of sinners." "There you find the man," says one, "who has lost all love for his home, the careless, the profane, the spendthrift, the drunkard, and the lowest prostitute of the street. They are found in all parts of the house; they crowd the gallery, and together should aloud the applause, greeting that which caricatures religion, sneers at virtue, or hints at indecency." Not only the actors and the onlookers of the average theater are vile, but all of the immediate associations of the playhouse must correspond with it. If not in the same building with the theater, in adjoining ones, at least, are found the wine-parlor and the brothel. It is generally conceded that no theater can be prosperous if it is wholly separated from these adjuncts of evil.

The theater, therefore, kills spiritually and degrades the moral life of the one who attends it. The theater deals with the spectacular.

This appeals to the eye, to the ear, and to all of the outer senses.

Spirituality depends upon a cultivation of the spiritual senses that Grace has opened up within the soul. Hence, the spectacular is directly opposed to the spiritual. The deep, contemplative, spiritual soul could find little or no food in the false, clap-trap representations of the modern stage. And to find an increased interest here is evidence that one lacks spiritual life, at least deep-seated spiritual life. This is why so many professing Christians are so eager to go to the card-party, to the dancing-party, and to the theater. The inner-sense life of the soul is dead, and one must have something upon which to feed, hence he feeds upon the husks of "imprudent and un-Christian amusements." And let one who has a measure of spiritual life, instead of increasing it, seek to satisfy his soul-longing by means of the spectacular, of false representations in any form, soon he will lose the spiritual life that he has. And this loss will be marked by an increased demand for the spectacular. The surest proof to-day that the spiritual life of the Church is waning in certain sections, is not so much that her membership-roll is not on the increase, but that professing Christian people are running wild after cards and dancing and the theater.

Evangelist Sayles declares: "The people of our so-called best society, and Christian people, many that have been looked upon as active workers, sit now and gaze upon scenes in our theaters, without a blush, that twenty-five years ago would not have been countenanced..The moral and spiritual life of many a Christian has been weakened by the eyes gazing upon the scenes of the theater." Says he, "The Christian, through attendance upon the playhouse, creates a relish for worldly things, and so spiritual things become distasteful."

Then, to go to one theater, sanctions all. To have heard and to have seen Joe Jefferson in "Rip Van Winkle," Richard Mansfield in "The Merchant of Venice," or Edwin Booth or Sir Henry Irving, or Maude Adams, or Julia Marlowe in their best plays, is to have received a deeper insight into human nature, and a stronger purpose to become sympathetic and true, but who can afford to sanction all that is base and villainous is the institution of the modern theater for the sake of learning sympathy and truth and human nature from a few worthy actors, when he may find all of this as truthfully, if not as artistically, set forth by the orator, by the musician, by the painter, and by the author? It is not cant, it is not pharisaism, it is not a weak claim of Christianity, but it is common honesty, mighty truth, a cardinal and beautiful teaching of Jesus Christ to deny one's self for the welfare of the weaker brother. Let one go to hear Mansfield in Shakespeare, and his neighbor boy will take his friend and go to the vaudeville, and his only excuse to his parents and to his half-taught mind and heart will be, "Well, Mr. So-and-So goes to the theater, he is a member of the Church and superintendent of the Sunday-school; surely there is no harm for me to go." To the immature mind what seems right for one person seems lawful for another. This is because such a person has not learned to discriminate between what is bad and what is good. Therefore, if the theater as an institution has more in it that is bad than It has in it that is good, rather if the general tendency of the theater, as an institution, is bad, the safe thing for one's self and for those who read one's life as an example, is to discard it entirely.

In view of these facts, no person can attend the theater at all without hurting his influence. The ideal life is that one which gives offense of stumbling to no one. A successful preacher who had an aversion toward speaking on the subject of questionable amusements, when asked what he believed concerning a certain form of amusement, replied: "See what I do, and know what I believe." It is a glorious life whose actions are an open epistle of righteousness and peace, read and believed and honored by all men.

"Some time ago a gentleman teaching a large class of young men in a Chicago Sunday-school, desired to attend a theater for the purpose of seeing a celebrated actor. He was not a theater-goer, and thought that no harm could come from it. He had no sooner taken his seat, however, than he saw in the opposite gallery some of the members of his class.

They also saw him and began commenting on the fact that their teacher was at the theater. They thought it inconsistent in him, lost their interest in the class, and he lost his influence over the young men.

That teacher tied his hands by this one act, so that he could not speak out against the gross sins of the theater."

Those who defend theater-going say that if Christian people would patronize the theater that it would be made more respectable. But over a thousand years of history proves that this principle fails here as it does elsewhere. A Christian woman marries an unchristian man with the hope that he will become a Christian; a steady, sensible woman in all other matters marries a man who drinks, with the thought of reforming him; one associates with worldly and sensual companions, expecting to make them better; but, alas, what blasted hopes, what wretched failures in all of these instances, at least in the most of them! You can not reform vice; you may whitewash a sin, but it will be sin, still. To purify a character or an institution one must not become a part of it by sympathy, nor by association. This is what the psalmist meant when he said, "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsels of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful." And so it is, that every effort at reforming the theater, thus far has failed. The Rev. C.W. Winchester says concerning the reforming of the theater: "The facts are, (1) that the theater in this city and country never had the support and encouragement of moral and religious people it has now; (2) that the theater here was never so bad. Clearly, if Christian patronage is going to reform the theater, the reform ought to begin. But the grade is downward. The theater is growing worse and worse." Dr. Wilkinson makes this statement on the question of reforming the theater: "Now the Protestant Christians of New York number, by recent computation, less than seventy-five thousand souls, in a population of a million. Supposing a general agreement among them all that a regular attendance at the theater was at this juncture the most pressing and most promising method of evangelical effort, they would not then constitute even one-tenth of the numerical patronage which the management would study to please." Dr. Herrick Johnson says: "The ideal stage is out of the question. It is out of the question just as pure, chaste, human nudity is out of the question..The nature of theatrical performances, the essential demands of the stage, the character of the plays, and the constitution of human nature, make it impossible that the theater should exist, save under a law of degeneracy. Its trend is downward; its centuries of history tell just this one story. The actual stage of a moral abomination. In Chicago, at least, it is trampling on the Sabbath with defiant scoff. It is defiling our youth.

It is making crowds familiar with the play of criminal passions. It is exhibiting women with such approaches to nakedness as can have no other design than to breed lust behind the onlooking eyes. It is furnishing candidates for the brothel. It is getting us used to scenes that rival the voluptuousness and licentious ages of the past." As never before to-day, has the theater asked for the support of Church members. And the ideal stage, with virtuous performers, and with pure dramas, are held up as a sample of what Christian people are invited to attend. Dr. Cuyler says: "Every person of common sense knows that the actual average theater is no more an ideal playhouse than the average pope is like St.

Peter, or the average politician is like Abraham Lincoln. A Puritanic theater would become bankrupt in a twelvemonth. The great mass of those who frequent the playhouse go there for strong, passionate excitements..I do not affirm," says Dr. Cuyler, "that every popular play is immoral, and every attendant is on a scent for sensualities. But the theater is a concrete institution, it must be judged in the gross and to a tremendous extent it is only a gilded nastiness. It unsexes womanhood by putting her publicly in male attire--too often in no attire at all."

"So competent an authority as the famous actress, Olga Nethersole, recently declared that the only kind of play which may hope for success with English-speaking audiences at the present day is the play which is sufficiently indicated by calling it immoral. There is no doubt about it that the theater, as at present conducted, is pulling the stones from the foundations of public morality, and weakening, and in many quarters endangering, the whole structure of society. The atmosphere of the modern theater is lustful and irreverent. It is a good place for Christians to keep away from. It is a good opportunity for the strong man to deny himself for the sake of his younger or weaker brother."


"Get the spindle and thy distaff ready, and God will send thee flax."



TO-DAY every one reads. Go where you may, you will find the paper, the magazine, the journal; printed letters, official reports, exhaustive cyclopedias, universal histories; the ingenuous advertisement, the voluminous calendar, the decorated symphony; printed ideals, elaborate gaming rules, flaming bulletins; and latest of all, we have begun to publish our communications on the waves of the air. In this hurly-burly of many books and much reading, it is no mean problem to know why one should read; and what, and how, and when. Especially does this problem of general reading confront the student, the lover of books, and those of the professions. Essays are to be read, the historical, the philosophical, and the scientific; novels, the historical and the religious; books of devotion, books of biography, of travel, of criticism, and of art. What principles are to guide one in his choice of reading, that he may select only the wisest, purest, and helpfulest from all these classes of books?


Read to acquire knowledge. Knowledge is the perception of truth. One arrives at knowledge by the assimilation of facts and principles, or by the assimilation of truth itself. Three sources of knowledge are experience, conversation, and reading. Experience leads one slowly to knowledge, is limited entirely to the path over which one has passed, and is a "dear teacher." To acquire knowledge by conversation is to put one at the mercy of his associates, making him dependent upon their good favor, truthfulness, and learning. But reading places one in direct communication with the wisest and best persons of all time. To acquire knowledge by reading is to defy time and space, persons and circumstances, at least, in our day of many and inexpensive books.

Through books facts live, principles operate, justice acts, the light of philosophy gleams, wit flashes, God speaks. Every book-lover agrees with Channing: "No matter how poor I am..if the sacred writers will enter and take up their abode under my roof, if Milton will cross my threshold to sing to me of Paradise, and Shakespeare to open to me the words of imagination and the workings of the human heart, and Franklin to enrich me with his practical wisdom, I shall not pine for want of intellectual companionship, and I may become a cultivated man, though excluded from what is called the best society in the place where I live." Kingsley says: "Except a living man, there is nothing more wonderful Than a book!--a message to us from the dead,--from human souls whom we never saw, who lived, perhaps, thousands of miles away; and yet these, in those little sheets of paper, speak to us, amuse us, terrify us, teach us, comfort us, open their hearts to us as brothers..If they are good and true, whether they are about religion or politics, farming, trade, or medicine, they are the message of Christ, the Maker of all things, the Teacher of all truth." The wide range of truth secured through reading acts in two ways upon the reader. It spiritualizes his character, and it makes him mighty in action. Knowledge on almost any subject has a marked tendency to sharpen one's wits, to refine his tastes, to ennoble his spirit, to improve his judgement, to strengthen his will, to subdue his baser passions, and to fill his soul with the breath of life. It is only upon truth that the soul feeds, and by means of knowledge that the character grows. "It cannot be that people should grow in grace," writes John Wesley, "unless they give themselves to reading. A reading people will always be a knowing people." Reading makes one mighty in action when it gives one knowledge, since "knowledge is power," and since power has but one way of showing itself, and that is, in action. Knowledge takes no note of hardships, ignores fatigue, laughs at disappointment, and frowns upon despair. It delves into the earth, rides upon the air, defies the cold of the north, the heat of the south; it stands upon the brink of the spitting volcano, circumnavigates the globe, examines the heavens, and tries to understand God. With but few exceptions, master-minds and men of affairs have been incessant readers. Cicero, chief of Roman orators, whether at home or abroad, in town or in the country, by day or by night, in youth or in old age, in sorrow or in joy, was not without his books. "Petrarch, when his friend the bishop, thinking that he was overworked, took away the key of his library, was restless and miserable the first day, had a bad headache the second, and was so ill by the third day that the bishop, in alarm, returned the key and let his friend read as much as he liked." Writes Frederick the Great, "My latest passion will be for literature." The poet, Milton, while a child, read and studied until midnight. John Ruskin read at four years of age, was a book-worm at five, and wrote numerous poems and dramas before he was ten. Lord Macaulay read at three and began a compendium of universal history at seven. Although not a lover of books, George Washington early read Matthew Hale and became a master in thought. Benjamin Franklin would sit up all night at his books. Thomas Jefferson read fifteen hour a day. Patrick Henry read for employment, and kept store for pastime. Daniel Webster was a devouring reader, and retained all that he read. At the age of fourteen he could repeat from memory all of Watt's Hymns and Pope's "Essay on Man." When but a youth, Henry Clay read books of history and science and practiced giving their contents before the trees, birds, and horses. Says a biographer of Lincoln, "A book was almost always his inseparable companion."

Then, read for enjoyment. Fortunately, a habit so valuable as reading may grow to become a pleasure. So that as one is gathering useful information and increasing in knowledge, he may have the keenest enjoyment. Such an one sings as he works. He has learned to convert drudgery into joy; duty has become delight. But even for such an one a portion of his reading should be purely for rest and recreation. If one has taught school all day, or set type, or managed a home, or read history, or labored in the field, or been shopping, heavy, solid reading may be out of the question, while under such circumstances one would really enjoy a striking allegory or a well-written novel. Or, if one is limited in knowledge, or deficient in literary taste so that he may find no interest in history, science, philosophy, or religion, still he may enjoy thrilling books of travel, of biography, or of entertaining story.

In this way all may enjoy reading. "Of all the amusements which can possibly be imagined for a hard-working man, after his daily toil, or in its intervals, there is nothing," says Herschel, "like reading an interesting book. It calls for no bodily exercise, of which he has had enough or too much. It relieves his home of its dullness and sameness, which, in nine cases out of ten, is what drives him out to the alehouse, to his own ruin and his family's. It accompanies him to his next day's work, and, if the book he has been reading be any thing above the very idlest and lightest, gives him something to think of besides the mere mechanical drudgery of his every-day occupation, something he can enjoy while absent, and look forward with pleasure to return to."

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