Tired Church Members
Written by: Warner, Anna Posted on: 03/16/2008
Category: Classic Christian Library
TIRED CHURCH MEMBERS.
AUTHOR OF THE "FOURTH WATCH," "THE OTHER SHORE," ETC.
"So two or three cities wandered unto one city, to drink
water; but they were not satisfied: yet have ye not returned
unto me, saith the Lord."--Amos iv. 8.
"Choked with cares and riches and pleasures
of this life."--Luke viii. 14.
HURST & COMPANY
By ROBERT CARTER & BROTHERS
By HURST & COMPANY.
TIRED CHURCH MEMBERS
TIRED CHURCH MEMBERS
I suppose one never goes heartily into any bit of Bible study, without
finding more than one counted upon. And so for me, searching out this
subject of Christian amusements some curious things have come to light.
As for instance, how very little the Bible says about them at all. It
was hard to find catchwords under which to look. "Amusement"? there is
no such word among all the many spoken by God to men. "Recreation"?--nor
that either; and "game" is not in all the book, and "rest" is something
so wide of the mark (in the Bible sense, I mean) that you must leave it
out altogether. And "pastime"? ah, the very thought is an alien.
"This I say, brethren, that the time is short." 
Redeem it, buy it up, use it while you may,--such is the Bible
stand-point. It flies all too quickly without your help.
"My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle." 
"Pass the time of your sojourning here in fear." 
Not in frolic. So you can see that I was puzzled. However, by patiently
putting words together, noting carefully the blanks as well, some things
become pretty plain; and the vexed question of Christian amusements is
answered clearly enough for those who are willing to know. But as we go
on searching and comparing, think always of the command once given and
"He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the
For we call ourselves Christians,--that "people of laws divers from all
other people"; and now we are consulting our statute book.
You think, then,--says somebody,--that Christians are to do nothing but
work, work, from morning to night: that the Bible forbids all play and
all pleasure? No, I think nothing of the sort. But let us see what it
really does say. "To the law and to the testimony,"--and abide by them.
To begin then where most of all, perhaps, the old and the modern times
are like each other,--feasts have always been in vogue and always
permitted; only for Christians, like all else that concerns them, with a
special set of regulations as to time, manner, and behaviour. You do not
think of this when you dress for your dinner party: you did not suppose
the Bible meddled with such things. Nay, it "meddles" (if you call it
so) with the very smallest thing a Christian can do.
The feasts of old time were in all essentials so like the feasts of
to-day, that not all the changes of race, dress, and viands can much
confuse the likeness. There is the great baby celebration for Isaac,
and the wedding feast for the daughter of Laban, and the impromptu
set-out in Sodom wherewith Lot thought to entertain the angels. There
are the great gatherings of young people over which Job was so
anxious; and the yearly sacrifice at the house of Jesse "for all the
family,"  reminding one of our Thanksgiving.
Then follow state dinners of amity between two contracting powers; as
when Isaac feasted Abimelech, and David feasted Abner. Then
court entertainments: the birthday feast of Pharaoh to all his servants,
when he lifted up one and hanged another, and the birthday feast of
Solomon which marked his entrance upon a new life of duty, opportunity,
and promise, and which he kept like a young heir coming of age.
These are all well known to us: and alas, so also are the feasts of
social excess, like those of Nabal; and the idolatrous feasts of the
men of Shechem, and of the king of Babylon; wherein men praise
only "the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, and of iron, of wood and
"And the harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine, are in their
feasts: but they regard not the work of the Lord, neither consider the
operations of his hands." 
"A feast is made for laughter,"--but this laughter is "mad"; utterly
interdicted to all those who would "live soberly, righteously, and godly"
in this world. Such "revellings" are classed among "those works of
the flesh which are manifest"; there can be no question about them: the
"revellings, banquetings,"  for which "the time past of our life may
suffice us."  That time when we were without God in the world,
walking as other Gentiles walk. With all such "recreations" the true
Israel have absolutely nothing to do.
Does it follow then that a Christian must stand aloof from all
festivities that are not wholly among Christian people? Not quite that.
"I am a companion of all them that fear thee," said David, and it
certainly looks ill for a man if his habit is the other way. Yet there
are exceptions, there must be,--else, says the apostle, "ye must needs go
out of the world."  But like everything else for you and me, it is
all within regulations. First as to the going.
"If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed
to go--" 
And then follows the first rule. Whatsoever you can do there
Christian-wise; whatsoever you can join in that will not implicate you as
a possible worshipper of _his_ idol that bade you--even the god of this
world--that do. But otherwise there is the strictest hands-off! And for
"Eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake." 
No matter if it be something as simple as eating and drinking. That is
the instance given by the apostle, the eating of meat which had been
first offered to an idol. And just as once the missionaries in a far off
Eastern island never tasted beef for two whole years, because they could
get none which they were sure had not been so offered; in like manner are
you called upon to absolutely let alone everything which may cast even a
doubt upon your loyalty to your Master.
Can you go to the entertainment so, keeping your garments spotless? Can
you go as the Lord did?
"And Levi made him a great feast in his own house; and there was a great
company of publicans and others that sat down with them." 
Pharisees murmured, but the Lord knew why he went.
"And Jesus answered them, They that are whole need not a physician; but
they that are sick." 
If you can go thus, to do your Master's work; mingling with his enemies
to win them for his friends; seeking their company not for their wealth
and place, but rather because of their deepest need and danger; not for
their gaiety, but for the abounding joy you would fain make known to them
out of your own heart-store: then I should say again: "If any of them
that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go,"--_go_!
But beware of compromises,--that specious temptation not to make religion
disagreeable. It can never be really that if it is the true thing,--a
burning fire, a shining light,--but some one has well said: "When
religion loses its power to repel, it loses also its power to attract."
It must be intense, active, clear enough to do both. "The disciple is
not above his Master. If they have called the Master of the house
Beelzebub, how much more them of his household"!
And it is only as an uncompromising servant of the Lord Jesus, that you
can ever hope to do anything for him. On all days, in all places, you
must count yourself on duty and under orders. You cannot pledge a man in
the wine cup to-night, and to-morrow plead with him to escape for his
life. You cannot join in the "foolish talking and jesting, which are not
convenient,"  and afterwards reason of "righteousness, temperance,
and judgment to come": or if you do, people will not listen. You will
find that, like Lot, you have "lost your spiritual credit." "He seemed
as one that mocked, to his sons-in-law."
"I had dined every week all winter with Dr. ----," said a lady to me,
"and never guessed that he was a clergyman till yesterday!" Johnson said
of Burke, that "you could not stand with him five minutes under a gateway
in a shower of rain, without finding out that he was an extraordinary
man,"--and how long shall it take people to learn that you are a
Christian?--one bought back from slavery, called to be a saint, heir of a
kingdom? Ah, how ready men are to parade their worldly honours; their
orders of merit and badges of bravery; but leave their Christian colours
at home, and hide their uniform with a pair of the world's overalls!
Alas!--"If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself
for battle?" 
Yes, if you can go into mixed society as the Lord went, then go. But
otherwise, for your own enjoyment, a different model is set.
"Then Jesus, six days before the passover, came to Bethany, where Lazarus
was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made
him a supper; and Martha served; but Lazarus was one of them that sat at
the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard,
very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her
hair; and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment." 
How exquisite the picture! how rare the intercourse, how precious the
results! A few of the Lord's own people met together with the Lord
himself; the one expensive thing mentioned being bought for him. It was
only "a supper"; and there were sorrows before them, and sorrows behind,
and only the spikenard was "very costly,"--that consecration to God which
gives him all we have: but its fragrance filled the house. And not all
Arabia was ever so perfumed.
And must Christians give no other feasts but such as that? some one may
ask. There is another sort mentioned, nay even insisted upon; but if the
first looks to you dull, the second will seem--impossible! You will find
a full description of it in Luke xiv. 13. And so far as I know, this is
the only sort of great entertainment that Christians are encouraged to
give; ruling out in toto the tit-for-tat customs of modern society. "For
they cannot recompense thee." But it also spares you the perplexing
question of full returns, for _these_ people have given you nothing.
Only the Lord has given,--and now bids you keep open house for him in his
absence. And do you see? the great Master of assemblies will count the
invitations as given to himself, and will one day make a royal return for
them all when he cometh in his kingdom. "They cannot recompense thee."
 What!--never invite your friends unless they happen to be poor? O,
yes indeed,--invite them, enjoy them, make much of them, precious things
as friends are; yet _spend_ the most on the portionless lives that are
all around you. There are fancy fountains in the rich man's grounds,
throwing up jets of water just to catch the sunlight: let your small
rills of refreshment flow silently to places where the tide is out and
the streams run dry.
"They cannot recompense thee; but thou shalt be recompensed at the
resurrection of the just." 
And as soon as you make ready a blessing--not a compliment--in your hand,
unfashionable dresses will not matter, untutored tongues will sound
sweet; and your feast will be all glorified, for the Lord himself will be
"Go your way, eat the fat and drink the sweet, and send portions unto
them for whom nothing is prepared." 
"The Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow," --"the
poor that are cast out" --these were Israel's special charge under
the law. But the gospel gives deeper work.
"When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy
brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also
bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee. But when thou makest a
feast call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind; and thou shalt be
blessed, for they cannot recompense thee; for thou shalt be recompensed
at the resurrection of the just." 
The Lord dates the note of payment far ahead, but indeed I think he is
better than his word, and deals out much coin as we go along; it is such
wonderful pleasure to fill an empty cup! This is "recreation," true and
sweet; for of all the refreshments from one's own toil and sorrow, I
think ministering to other people is about the best.
I have said nothing--is it needful to say aught?--of the Bible rules for
_behaviour_ at a feast. One is ready to imagine that _Christians_ do
only that which is "lovely, and of good report." Yet notice a few things.
"They love the uppermost rooms at feasts,"  was spoken of the
Pharisees; but to his disciples Christ said: "Whosoever will be chief
among you, let him be your servant." 
"When thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room." 
Other things follow close and easily upon that.
"Let your moderation be known unto all men."
"Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do it all to the
glory of God."
And to people with hearts so set, that other vexed question of dress will
be easy; for all will be "clothed with humility"; and the spotless
garments will so far outshine the pearls and costly array, that no one
will miss them, nor wish them there.
 I Cor. vii. 29.
 Job vii. 6.
 I Pet. i. 17.
 Rev. iii. 22
 Gen. xxi. 8.
 Gen. xxix 35.
 Gen. xix. 3.
 Job i. 7.
 I Sam. xx. 6.
 Gen. xxvi. 30.
 II Sam. iii. 20
 I Sam. xxv. 26.
 Judges ix. 27.
 Dan. v. 1.
 Isa. v. 12.
 Titus ii. 12.
 Gal. v. 21.
 I Pet. iv. 3.
 Ps. cxix. 63.
 I Cor. v. 10.
 I Cor. x. 27.
 I Cor. x. 28.
 Luke v. 29.
 Luke v. 29.
 Matt. x. 25.
 Eph. v. 4.
 I Cor. ii. 8.
 John xii. 1-3.
 Luke xiv. 14.
 Luke xiv. 14.
 Neh. viii. 10.
 Deut. xiv. 27.
 Isa. lviii. 7.
 Luke xiv. 12, 13.
 Matt. xxiii. 6.
 Matt. xx. 27.
 Luke xiv. 10.
 I Pet. v. 5.
 Sir Matthew Hale thus charged his grandchildren: "I will not have
you begin or pledge any health; for it is become one of the greatest
artifices of drinking, and occasions of quarrelling in the kingdom. If
you pledge one health, you oblige yourself to pledge another, and a
third, and so onward; and if you pledge as many as wilt be drunk, you
must be debauched and drunk. If they will needs know the reasons of your
refusal, it is a fair answer: 'That your grandfather that brought you up,
from whom, under God, you have the estate you enjoy or expect, left this
in command with you, that you should never begin or pledge a health.'"
"What do you mean by 'the world'?" said a gentleman to me. "I suppose
of course you rule out music and painting." So people judge; taking
for granted that whatever is pleasant, religion makes wrong. Rule out
music?--why it exorcised Saul's evil spirit! Yet even for the
enjoyment of sweet sounds there are laws and limitations.
It will be a good day when our so-called sacred music (much of it) more
nearly resembles that of old time and has less kinship with the title
of a little book yclept "Rhymes and Jingles." A paid choir (no
objection to that, if you can buy up their hearts as well) an operatic
organist, a silent, criticising congregation. Is there much praise in
that? much worship? much refreshment for a tired heart? Look how it
was when the ark of God, the visible sign of his presence, was brought
home to Jerusalem,--all took part in the music, from the king down; and
did it _unto God_.
"And David and all Israel played before God with all their might, and
with singing, and with harps, and with psalteries, and with timbrels,
and with cymbals, and with trumpets." 
"The singers went before, the players on instruments followed after;
among them were the damsels playing with timbrels. Bless ye God in the
congregations, even the Lord, from the fountain of Israel." 
Not much like a quartette and its mute audience! Or how does this
compare, with the way we hand over the praise to some who do not even
profess to feel it?
"And David spake to the chief of the Levites to appoint their brethren
to be singers with instruments of music, psalteries and harps and
cymbals, sounding, by lifting up the voice with joy." 
There is not much "joy" like that behind most of the choir curtains in
our day; but by such means one would be pretty sure of good music. We
are not told whether the women took part in the ordinary public music
in the temple; but on all special occasions of deliverance and
thanksgiving they had their full share. We people in this Western
world are so silent in our joy as in our grief,--as apt to bow the head
for gladness as for sorrow,--we know nothing like those grand
spontaneous bursts of music that once resounded on the shores of the
Red Sea, or echoed through the hill country round about Jerusalem.
"Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord,
saying, I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously."
That was from the men. And answering them came the softer voices of
Miriam and "all the women," cheering them on:
"Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously." 
This was no written music they had met to practise; it was fresh out of
their hearts; with all their enemies "dead upon the shore," and Israel
Or listen to the chorus of women that "came out of all the cities of
Israel" to meet the army, when David had conquered the Philistine in
"And the women answered one another as they played, and said,
"Saul hath slain his thousands"--
"And David his ten thousands"--
You perceive that they understood music in those days; every word in
the great swell of song so distinct, that Saul heard every word--and
"was very wroth."
So "at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem" (think of _dedicating_
a city wall! how they must have believed Ps. 127) the dedication was
"With gladness, both with thanksgiving, and with singing, with cymbals,
psalteries, and harps." 
And as the bands of people went up to Jerusalem to the three great
feasts, they sang and chanted from time to time as they marched along,
the Levites at their head beginning the song, and the rest joining in.
"I was glad when they said unto me--" 
"As the mountains are round about Jerusalem" --and all the rest. Ah
what music! You see the Bible is a great favourer of sweet sounds.
But all this, you will say, was public and special,--not meant for
recreation. Let us listen to the Bible music which is private and
personal, and you will find it every bit as sweet.
"Praise the Lord with harps. Sing unto him with the psaltery and an
instrument of ten strings. Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully
with a loud noise." 
Are you not glad of that word "skilfully"? You see you may cultivate
your talent to the last point, and may have any amount of new music.
The Lord's people are not meant to be bunglers, in any line. And yet
some seem to think it is no matter how they sing holy words! This "new
song" may perhaps be what David speaks of in another place:
"He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God." 
For as "his mercies are new every morning,"  so should also our
praises be; new, fresh, vigorous; not always the same old words to the
same old tune. "The songs of Zion," so sung, are wondrously sweet;
even the poor captives in Babylon were called upon to sing them for the
pleasure of their heathen captors.
"The songs of Zion." Many of you imagine they are all pretty much
alike; all solemn and tedious and slow. But listen.
"I will sing unto the Lord, because he hath dealt bountifully with me."
Can anything be gayer than that? Or anything sweeter than this:
"My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give
Or where will you find richer chords that this:
"I will sing of thy power, yea, I will sing of thy mercy in the
morning: for thou hast been my defence and refuge in the day of my
New, skilful, and then comes in another requirement; songs should be
"I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding
Know what you sing. Does this keep out all _but_ sacred music? I
should not think that. But it _does_ forbid singing you know not what
in a foreign tongue, or mere dead nonsense in your own. I cannot see,
for my part, why it is much better to sing "idle words" than to say
them. How vapid, how senseless, is many a song one hears from a pretty
mouth and a sweet voice. And in music as elsewhere, there is no middle
ground: whatever does not edify--build up--pulls down.
"It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear
the song of fools." 
How run the directions?
"Singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord." 
Can you do that? If not, music is no true recreation to you. Whatever
chills your feeling for eternal things, making them seem dull and far
away, is no breath of life-refreshment, but comes bearing the fumes of
Do you think you would never sing at all, unless you sometimes forgot
such solemn thoughts? Ah there you are mistaken.
"Behold, my servants shall sing for joy of heart." 
Not forgetfully, but in full remembrance.
"Is any merry? let him sing psalms." 
"Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage." 
Now somebody will say that I have wandered quite away from recreation,
and gone off to church. But no; I am speaking of heart and home music.
You all know that there is no _recreation_ about most of your music
now-a-days. You bore yourselves and other people with much practising,
and when you have learned, as you think, then you drop it all. Who is
ready with a song for some weary, tuneless life? or who "keeps up her
music" till the tired years of her own? Work for it, pay for it, drop
it,--that is the record. Your music, as it is, is a dead thing; and I
want you to put the principle of life in it. For whatever you begin
for your Master, you will also hold fast for him.
Read over these words and ponder them well:
"He that had received the five talents, went and traded with the same,
and made them other five talents." 
Every gift the man had, was used for Christ.
How precious a gift this musical power is! how usable a gift.
"A very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play
well on an instrument." 
How much it can do for ourselves, for the world.
"David took an harp, and played with his hand; so Saul was refreshed,
and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him." 
I have never forgotten how a lady with no great musical skill or
education sang a verse of a hymn for me one night. It was at a little
party, so she could not raise her voice above the softest undertone;
but she sang that verse just to let me hear the tune, which I did not
know. The words were familiar:
"There is a fountain filled with blood"--
I suppose I have often heard them what you call "better sung"; but
never with more lovely effect. Every word, every note, was absolutely
distinct and clear, yet not one rising above that undertone: I doubt if
even the people nearest to us heard; and the most restless nerves, the
weariest head, could have listened and been refreshed. I know my eyes
grew full; and I thought to myself, "Ah, you have practised your voice
by many a sick bed, and trained it for just that work."
"The evil spirit departed from Saul." But what of music that puts the
evil spirit into men? Of songs, however sweet sounding, that are
written in the service of the devil, and sung at the high court of the
world? For this is your rule:
"Singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." 
Like your speech, "alway with grace."
 I Chron. xiii. 8.
 Ps. lxviii. 25, 26.
 I Chron. xv. 16.
 Ex. xv. 1.
 Ex. xv. 21.
 Neh. xii. 27.
 Ps. cxxii. 1.
 Ps. cxxv. 2.
 Ps. xxxliii. 2, 3.
 Ps. xl. 3.
 Lam. iii. 13.
 Ps. xiii. 6.
 Ps. lvii. 7.
 Ps. lix. 16.
 I Cor. xiv. 15.
 Eccle. vii. 5.
 Eph. v. 19.
 Isa. lxv. 14.
 James v. 13.
 Ps. cxix. 54.
 Matt. xxv. 16.
 Ez. xxxiii. 32.
 I Sam. xvi. 23.
 Col. iii. 16.
"To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under
And so it comes among the rest, that there is "a time to dance." 
Such being the case, we have only to find out the when and the how; for
of course, for Christians, dancing too must have its rules. In
feasting the word is, "Do all to the glory of God"; and in music, "With
melody in your hearts to the Lord"; and now for dancing the order comes:
"Let them praise his name in the dance." 
We are to praise the Lord with our whole lives; in our recreation no
less than in our work. You see it is all one: with that proviso you
may do anything.
"Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent
"Praise him with the timbrel and dance." 
I fancy you did not expect this, secretly believing that the Bible was
all against dancing. I fancy most people would start back and say it
cannot be done. _If_ it cannot, or if by _you_ it cannot, then--for
you--the dancing question should be settled once and for all. The Lord
has given you "the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness," 
and you are not at liberty to lay it off for any dancing gear whatever.
"Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a
peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath
called you out of darkness into his marvellous light." 
The condition is absolute; and all doubts upon the dancing question are
at an end for you. But for those who like to inquire into
possibilities, let us search a little further. "Praise him in the
dance."--Has it ever been done? Never,--in such dances as you are
accustomed to. But a great while ago, on the shores of the Red Sea,
while the men were chanting the praises of that God who had brought
them safe out of Egypt, the women banded together "with timbrels and
with dances"  (no _mixed_ dances, observe), and so, dancing for joy
at the great deliverance, answered the men, chorus like:
"Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously." 
So after Jephthah's victory, came out his daughter to meet him "with
timbrels and with dances."
So after the rout of the Philistines,
"The women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing,
to meet king Saul." 
And though praise of the human agents mingled in, yet only Divine power
had won the day, and well they knew it. And again you remember how
when the ark was brought home to Jerusalem,
"David danced before the Lord with all his might." 
Does it seem very strange to you? So it did to David's wife on that
occasion; for as she had no praise in her heart, no sympathy with the
joy, of course the expression of it tried her patience. Dancing for
joy,--we often use the image, but these people did the thing. It is
hard enough to keep still sometimes, if one is very happy.
Not like our dancing!--you say. Indeed not much. No special steps, no
intricate figures, no elaborate positions, no dressing for effect.
David even laid his royal robes aside, instead of putting them on; they
were in his way. How could one dance for joy in a state dress? No
need of partners, where every one danced for glad thankfulness of
heart. No "envy, malice, and all uncharitableness" stirred up by
another's dancing or another's dress; no "wall-flowers," no monopoly.
No late hours, leaving mind and body jaded for the next day's work. I
think "dancing before the Lord" must have been very pure refreshment.
And by the way, speaking of dress, I feel, somehow, as if--would people
but choose their ornaments out of that treasure-chest of jewels "a meek
and quiet spirit," ball dresses would lose their charm, and the German
its great attraction. One never likes to go where one's dress is out
Christian dancing, for Christian joy. There was music and dancing, as
well as feasting, when the prodigal son came home; returned from his
sins, washed from his defilement, clothed at last in "the best robe" a
sinner can wear. According to the word:
"Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing." 
Is such glad thankfulness so rare in our days that people have
forgotten how it acts? And would such dancing be possible now? I do
not know. But answer this question, and you settle at once the other
perplexity whether Christians may dance. For there is no other sort of
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