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we cannot be always intent upon our business: both our bodies and minds require some relaxation. We need intervals of diversion from business: it will be necessary to be very explicit upon this head, as it is a point which has been much misunderstood.
2. Diversions are of various kinds. Some are almost peculiar to men, as the sports of the field: Hunting, Shooting, Fishing, wherein not many women, (I should say, Ladies,) are concerned. Others are indifferently used by persons of both sexes: some of which are of a more public nature: as Races, Masquerades, Plays, Assemblies, Balls. Others are chiefly used used in private houses, as Cards, Dancing, and Music: to which we may add, The reading of Plays, Novels, Romances, News-Papers, and fashionable Poetry.
3. Some diversions, indeed, which were formerly in great request, are now fallen into disrepute. The Nobility and Gentry, in England at least, seem totally to disregard the once fashionable diversion of Hawking: and the Vulgar themselves are no longer diverted, by men hacking and hewing each other in pieces at Broad-Sword. The noble game of Quarter-staff, likewise, is now exercised by very few. Yea, Cudgelling has lost its honour, even in Wales itself. Bear-baiting also is now very seldom seen, and Bull-baiting not very often. And it seems Cock-fighting would totally cease in England, were it not for two or three Right Honourable Patrons.
4. It is not needful to say any more of these foul remains of Gothic barbarity, than that they are a reproach, not only to all religion, but even to human nature. One would not pass so severe a censure on the sports of the field. Let those who have nothing better to do, still run Foxes and Hares out of breath. Neither need much be said about Horse-races, till some man of sense will undertake to defend them. It seems a great deal more may be said in defence of seeing a serious Tragedy. I could not do it with a clear conscience; at least not in an English Theatre, the sink of all profaneness and debauchery; but possibly
others can. I cannot say quite so much for Balls or Assemblies, which though more reputable than Masquerades, yet must be allowed by all impartial persons to have exactly the same tendency. So, undoubtedly, have all Public Dancings. And the same tendency they must have, unless the same caution obtained among modern Christians which was observed among the ancient Heathens. With them men and women never danced together; but always in separate rooms. This was always observed in ancient Greece, and for several ages at Rome: where a woman dancing in company with men, would have at once been set down for a prostitute. Of playing at Cards, I say the same as of seeing Plays. I could not do it with a clear conscience. But I am not obliged to pass any sentence on those that are otherwise minded. I leave them to their own Master; to him let them stand or fall.
5. But supposing these, as well as the reading of Plays, Novels, News-Papers and the like, to be quite innocent diversions, yet are there not more excellent ways of diverting themselves, for those that love or fear God? Would men of fortune divert themselves in the open air? They may do it by cultivating and improving their lands, by planting their grounds, by laying out, carrying on, and perfecting their gardens and orchards. At other times they may visit and converse with the most serious and sensible of their neighbours: or they may visit the sick, the poor, the widows, and the fatherless in their affliction. Do they desire to divert themselves in the house? They may read useful History, pious and elegant Poetry, or several branches of Natural Philosophy. If you have time, you may divert yourself by Music, and perhaps by Philosophical Experiments. But above all, when you have once learned the use of prayer, you will find, that as
"That which yields or fills, All Space, the ambient Air, wide interfus'd Embraces round this florid Earth :”
so will this, till through every space of life it be interfused with all your employments, and wherever you are, what
ever you do, embrace you on every side. Then you will be able to say boldly,
"With me no melancholy void,
And only JESUS know."
VI. One point only remains to be considered; that is the Use of Money. What is the way wherein the generality of Christians employ this? And is there not a more excellent way?
1. The generality of Christians usually set apart something yearly, perhaps a tenth or even one-eighth part of their income, whether it arise from yearly revenue, or from trade, for charitable uses. A few I have known who said, like Zaccheus, "Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor." O that it would please God to multiply those friends of mankind, those general benefactors! But,
2. Besides those who have a stated rule, there are thousands who give large sums to the Poor: especially when any striking instance of distress is represented to them in lively colours.
3. I praise God for all of you who act in this manner. May you never be weary of well-doing! May God restore what you give, seven-fold into your own bosom! But yet I shew unto you a more excellent way.
4. You may consider yourself as one, in whose hands the Proprietor of heaven and earth and all things therein, has lodged a part of his goods, to be disposed of according to his direction. And his direction is, that you should look upon yourself as one of a certain number of indigent persons, who are to be provided for out of that portion of his goods, wherewith you are entrusted. You have two advantages over the rest: the one, that "it is more blessed to give than to receive;" the other, that you are to serve yourself first; and others afterwards. This is the light wherein you are to see yourself and them: but to be more
particular, First, if you have no family, after you have provided for yourself, give away all that remains: so that "Each Christmas your accounts may clear,
And wind your bottom round the year."
This was the practice of all the young men at Oxford, who were called Methodists. For example. One of them had thirty pounds a year. He lived on twenty eight, and gave away forty shillings. The next year receiving sixty pounds, he still lived on twenty-eight, and gave away two and thirty. The third year he received ninety pounds, and gave away sixty-two. The fourth year he received a hundred and twenty pounds. Still he lived as before on twentyeight; and gave to the poor ninety-two. Was not this a more excellent way? Secondly, if you have a family, seriously consider before God, how much each member of it wants, in order to have what is needful for life and godliness. And in general, do not allow them less, nor much more than you allow yourself. Thirdly, this being done, fix your purpose, to "gain no more." I charge you in the name of God, do not increase your substance! As it comes daily or yearly, so let it go: otherwise you "lay up treasures upon earth." And this our Lord as flatly forbids, as murder and adultery. By doing it, therefore, you would "treasure up to yourselves wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God."
5. But suppose it were not forbidden, how can you on principles of reason, spend your money in a way, which God may possibly forgive, instead of spending it in a manner which he will certainly reward? You will have no reward in heaven, for what you lay up: you will, for what you lay out every pound you put into the earthly Bank is sunk it brings no interest above. But every pound you give to the Poor, is put into the Bank of heaven. And it will bring glorious interest: yea, and such as will be accumulating to all eternity.
6. Who then is a wise man, and endued with knowledge among you! Let him resolve this day, this hour, this
moment, the Lord assisting him, to choose in all the preceding particulars the more excellent way: and let him steadily keep it, both with regard to sleep, prayer, work, food, conversation, and diversions: and particularly, with regard to the employment of that important Talent, MONEY. Let your heart answer to the call of God, "From this moment, God being my helper, I will lay up no more treasure upon earth: this one thing I will do, I will lay up treasure in heaven: 1 will render unto God the things that are God's; I will give him all my Goods, and all my Heart."