2 Timothy 3:2-5
For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,…
I. THE SPIRIT OF AMUSEMENTS. Amusements are dangerous things. Can any of you explain how it comes to be that in amusements in general there is such a lack of all reference to God? Where is the party that will more brutally resent the intrusion of religion, or flee more abashed at its mention, than just the party of pleasure? Instinctively there is felt an incongruity between the two. The startled response to Mr. Blackwood in a ball-room, I take to be the outspeaking of the universal feeling — "For goodness' sake, Mr. Blackwood, don't introduce that here!" In the lull of a dance, he had spoken to his partner something about the Saviour. This utter absence of God in amusements is an ominous symptom. As a rule they are thoroughly secular. Even when they begin with a mixture of religion, how soon that drops, and the secular takes its place. The natural history of entertainments has been one away from God. The several stages of their course have been religious, semi-secular, worldly, the profane, the lewd. I must ask you Christians to look that fact straight in the face, and ponder it to its full weight, because it is full of import. To me it is a revelation of the spirit of all these amusements, for it is by this means that we can most certainly discern the spirit. Generally speaking, the initial beginning between right and wrong has the form of a narrow fork like the points in a railway line. With the slightest jolt, you are shunted from one track to the other. Can you determine the exact point when you have left the right line? But soon as the divergence grows you know to your pains. Two seeds are before you. Each has within it a hidden germ, the image and ideal of a great tree. Can you determine their species in the seed? You may not be able, and argument will be useless. But plant them, and when one has grown into an ash and another into a maple, then the difference and the kind is patent. Yet these seeds were specifically different. A different germ, a different life principle, resided in each; and they could grow only into what they originally were. Each had a potency to become what they eventually grew into. Your pleasures grow from a germ, a spirit. A life principle pervades the whole. I refuse to argue the matter at a microscopic stage, the seed difference, the narrow railway point. Taking the Master's great principle, we know them by their fruit. Can that be right which needs the Bible laid aside, prayer neglected, God forgotten, and to which the name of Jesus is a jar?
II. THE DESIRE FOR PLEASURE A MORBID SYMPTOM. The healthiest tone in manhood and society is when people are busy, when they are bent on some great ideal, and do not need to be amused. Even a healthy child needs far less to be amused than mothers and nurses think. Its great idea of amusement is to do something. The honest workman, the colonist, say, in a new country, busy in felling timber, reclaiming land — his own now — erecting his homestead, and in other works of homely husbandry, give him the solace of his wife's society, the prattle of his children, his Bible, a rest in the evening, and the church on Sabbath, and he will live a life above entertainment — a life of such solid satisfaction, that entertainments would be a mockery to it. The kingdom that is at its best, the society that is at its healthiest, and the Church of God at its most useful stage, do not need entertainments. In the old days, when old Rome was slowly climbing the splendid height of mistress-ship of the world, her citizens were sober, frugal, and industrious. Her dictators held the plough, and her matrons the distaff. Then the gladiatorial shows had no existence, and adultery was unknown. The men were freemen, and the women virtuous. It was when the citizens had let themselves be debauched by the games and consented to be amused, that they sank into the position of public beggars, issuing of a morning from their squalid cabins for their daily dole of the public bread, to idle away the livelong day on the benches of the amphitheatre and circus, with an occasional lounge in the public baths, doing no work, all labour being considered degrading as the lot of slaves. Then was the time of Rome's decay, till at last they lost to the hardier Goths that semblance of liberty they were too effeminate to defend. Drill your minds, steer your course through life with the grand helm of duty, and not let yourselves roll on the wave of self-indulgence and entertainment.
III. WHAT, THEN, SHOULD BE THE CHRISTIAN'S ATTITUDE TOWARDS AMUSEMENTS? In answering this, let me distinguish between Christians in their collective capacity as the Church, and the Christian by himself as an individual. As for the Church of Christ, or Christians collectively, I fail to see that she has got anything to do with amusements whatever. God never instituted the Church to amuse people; so to speak, it is outside her commission. Since Christians cannot go down to the world's pleasures, all the more sedulously should they cultivate that domain which relates to the pleasant in their own religion; for there is distinctly a pleasurable department in Christianity. The restfulness, the kindness, the sincerity, the readiness to oblige and put one's self about to please, the unfeigned humility and readiness to commend — yea, and relish for all that beauty so copiously strewed in nature without. The cause of conversion often is said to be, "These Christians seemed so much happier than I was." Instinctively, somehow or other, the unsaved feel that if you profess religion you belong to another party from them, and ought to be better; and when they see you indulging in the amusements they indulge in, and which they probably have a shrewd idea are not just the right thing, they are the first to feel the incongruity and to wonder at you. Their idea of religion is taken from you, and you are found false witnesses of God. Perhaps the impression your conduct may produce on their minds is utter scepticism of the reality of all vital religion whatever. The Christian that goes down to worldly pleasures is guilty of bringing a slander on his religion.
IV. AMUSEMENTS AND THE UNSAVED. I know that in touching your amusements I am touching the apple of your eye.
1. Let me tell you frankly, then, that your worldly entertainments and amusements are sinful. Sinful, for they are to you the rivals of Christ, and keep you from salvation — yea, even more than ridicule and persecution.
2. They are also unseasonable. There are positions in life in which all acknowledge that anything like jollity or mirth is out of place. If a man has committed a crime, and he is placed in the dock to be tried for his life, frivolity and laughter would be counted exceedingly unbecoming. If you, as the Bible tells you, are a sinner; if you have done things that have angered God that is above, and if His wrath is abiding in your souls, is mirth seemly in your state? Sorrow, repentance, prayer, a turning to Christ, realising that your state is one of sin against the Infinite Jehovah — that is the becoming state for you to be in.
(Alex. Bisset, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,