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therefore he wrought with his hands at tent-making, and maintained himself by it : not, says he, because we have not power to eat your bread while we teach you the gospel ; but to make ourselves an example to you.
See Acts xviii. 3. and 2 Thessalonians iii. 8, 9. And good Dorcas, when she had no business of her own, made coats and garments for the poor, Acts ix. 36, 39. Such honourable examples as these deserve our imitation.
DIRECTION 3. Let us keep a strict watch over ourselves when we indulge mirth, and set a double guard upon the seasons of recreation and divertisement.
The rules of religion do not so restrain us from the common entertainments of life, as to render us melancholy creatures and unfit for company. There is no need to become meer mopes or hermits, in order to be Christians. The gospel does not deprive us of such joys as belong to our natures, but it refines and heiglitens our delights. It draws our souls farther away from mean and brutal pleasures, and raises them to manly satisfactions, to entertainments worthy of a rational nature, worthy of a creature that is made in the image of God. The innocent entertainments of life are not utterly forbidden to Christians, but are regulated by the gospel.
When we have considered and found them to be Jawful, then they are to be regulated these two ways,
1. All our recreations and divertisements must have some valuable end proposed.
2. We must distinguish the proper time and season of them, and confine our diversions to that
1. They must always have some valuable end proposed. The chief and most useful design of them is to make us more cheerful and fitter for some hours or days of service afterwards. Recreation
must not be our trade or business, but merely used is a means to prepare us for the valuable businesses of life.
The scripture indeed tells us, that " of every idle word that men shall speak, there shall be an account given in the day of judgment,” Matt. xii. 36. And much more of idle hours and actions. But this doth not utterly exclude all manner of recreations, or all words of pleasantry, which may be innocently and properly used upon some occasions ; but whaisoever words, whatsoever conversation, whatsoever sort of pleasurable entertainments, we indulge ourselves in, which have no valuable end, no useful design in them ; these will bear but an ill aspect before the judgment-seat of Christ. We shall not be able to give a tolerable account of such idle words or hours at that day ; and it is the judge hirself who tells us so, and adds his amen to it.
It is proper more especially for persons that are of a melancholy temper, or that have perhaps been everwhelmed with some hodily diseases, or overloaded with some sorrows or cares or businesses of life, to give themselves a little loose or diversion now and then in delightful conversation, or other re'creations and exercises. These may be as useful as a glass of wine to refresh nature, to make the heart glad, and the spirits lightsome ; for they tend to fit this animal body of ours for better service to the soul in future duties that God calls us to ; and solong as we con fine our recreations to this design, and keep this end in view, our words of pleasantry in private conversation, and even our recreations and diversions that are more public, may be agreeable to the mind and will of God; for it is his will, chat our whole nature, flesh and spirit, should be kept in the fittest frame for duty. And some natures Bre so constituted, that they will hardly be kept in a temper fit for duty without some divertisements and
recreations. Where this therefore is the end, these practices cannot be called idle, that is, impertinent, and to no purpose. But where no reasonable design is proposed, sports and merriments are hardly to be defended, for all rational creatures ought to act with a view to some valuable end.
2. Another regulation which ought to be given to all our diversions is this, we should narrowly watch lest the time of our recreations intrude upon the hours and seasons of business or of religion. There is a time to laugh, the wise man tells us, as well as a time to labour or to pray ; but laughter must be confined to its proper place and proper time, and not intrench upon the season where affairs of bigger importance, and matters of grave and serious consequence should be transacted.
Conscience has something to do in matters of recreation as well as in our religious or civil affairs ; and as it can never be lawful to rob God or our families of any of the time that should be devoted to their service, on purpose to lay it out in diversion, so neither is it by any means proper to let the seasons of diversion come too near the seasons of worship. When a loose is given to all the natural powers in mirth and pleasure, they are not so easily recollected al. at once for the sacred service of religion. Nor should we run bastily away from the duties of worship, and plunge ourselves into the midst even of innocent merriment ; for this would look as though we were weary of devotion, and longed to be at play. A wise Christian will divide his times aright, and make all the parts of his conduct to succeed one another in a decent order.
Besides, the hours of recreation should not be multiplied by those persons who have least need of them; such are persons of a cheerful and healthy constitution ; and they will be used more sparingly by Christians of maturer age and longer standing in
religion. As a child grows up toward man, he leaves off the impertinences of infancy, and the sports and trifles of childhood ; and as a man grows up more and more toward a perfect Christian, his methods of pleasure will be changed from light and gay to that which is grave and solid.
To conclude this subject, I would mention only one powerful motive to preserve Christian gravity, and that is, that hereby the temper of your spirit will be better prepared for every religious duty, whether it be prayer or praise, and better fitted to meet every providence, whether it be prosperous or afflictive ; whereas those who perpetually indulge a merry temper of mind, when a prosperous providence attends them, they are tempted to excessive vanity and carnal joy ; their hearts are not filled with thankfulness to that God from whom their mercies come, being too thoughtless and regardless of the original donor. On the other hand, when affliction smites them, they are in danger of despising the stroke of the rod, nor does the correction of their heavenly Father make so deep and useful an impression upon their spirit as it ought to do.
When in the course of our lives we maintain such a grave and composed frame as becomes a Christian, we find our hearts more ready for all the duties of worship ; we are prepared to receive evil tidings as well as good, and to attend on the will of God in all his outgoings of providence; we are ready to receive messages of sorrow, or the summons of death, for we are still conversing with God ; we keep the invisible world in the eye of our faith ; and our spirits are ready prepared to depart from the flesh, and to meet our God and our Saviour in the unknown regions of light and immortality.
HYMN FOR SERMON I.
ARE we not sons and heirs of God?
Are we not bought with Jesus' blood ? Do we not hope for heavenly joys, And shall we stoop to trifling toys? Can laughter feed the immortal mind? Were spirits of celestial kind Made for a jest, for sport and play, To wear out time and waste the day?
Doth vain discourse or empty mirth
What if we wear the richest vest,
Lord, raise our hearts and passions higher ;
Touch our vain souls with sacred fire ;
We'll look on all the toys below