Christian Recreation[*REPORTED AS SPOKEN BEFORE A COMPANY OF ABOUT TWO HUNDRED WHO WERE ENJOYING A SEASON OF RECREATION AT GOGUAC LAKE, NEAR BATTLE CREEK, MICHIGAN, MAY, 1870.]
I have been thinking what a contrast would be seen between our gathering here today and such gatherings as they are generally conducted by unbelievers. Instead of prayer, and the mention of Christ and religious things, would be heard silly laughter and trifling conversation. Their object would be to have a general high time. It would commence in folly and end in vanity. We want to have these gatherings so conducted, and to so conduct ourselves, that we can return to our homes with a conscience void of offense toward God and man; a consciousness that we have not wounded nor injured in any manner those with whom we have associated, or had an injurious influence over them.
Here is where very many fail. They do not consider that
they are accountable for the influence they daily exert; that they must render an account to God for the impressions they make, and the influence they cast, in all their associations in life. If this influence is such as shall have a tendency to draw the minds of others away from God and attract them into the channel of vanity and folly, leading them to seek their own pleasure in amusements and foolish indulgences, they must give an account for this. And if these persons are men and women of influence, if their position is such that their example will affect others, then a greater sin will rest upon them for neglecting to regulate their conduct by the Bible standard.
The occasion we are enjoying today is just according to my ideas of recreation. I have tried to give my views upon this subject, but they are better illustrated than expressed. I was on this ground about one year ago when there was a gathering similar to this. Nearly everything passed off very pleasantly then, but still some things were objectionable. Considerable jesting and joking were indulged in by some. All were not Sabbathkeepers, and an influence was manifest that was not as pleasant as we could wish.
But I believe that, while we are seeking to refresh our spirits and invigorate our bodies, we are required of God to use all our powers at all times to the best purpose. We may associate together as we do here today, and do all to the glory of God. We can and should conduct our recreations in such a manner that we shall be fitted for the more successful discharge of the duties devolving upon us, and that our influence shall be more beneficial upon those with whom we associate. Especially should it be the case upon an occasion like this, which should be of good cheer to us all. We can return to our homes improved in mind and refreshed in body, and prepared to engage in the work anew, with better hope and better courage.
We believe that it is our privilege every day of our lives to glorify God upon the earth; that we are not to live in this world merely for our own amusement, merely to please ourselves. We are here to benefit humanity, to be a blessing to society. And if we should let our minds run in that low channel in which many who are seeking only vanity and folly permit their minds to run, how could we be a blessing to society, a benefit to our race and generation? We cannot innocently indulge in any amusement which will unfit us for the more faithful discharge of ordinary life duties.
We want to seek the elevated and lovely. We want to direct the mind away from those things that are superficial and of no importance, that have no solidity. What we desire is, to be gathering new strength from all that we engage in. From all these gatherings for the purpose of recreation, from all these pleasant associations, we want to be gathering new strength to become better men and women. From every source possible we want to gather new courage, new strength, new power, that we may elevate our lives to purity and holiness, and not come down upon the low level of this world. We hear many who profess the religion of Christ speak often like this: "We must all come down upon a level." There is no such thing as Christians coming down upon a level. To embrace the truth of God and the religion of the Bible is not coming down, it is coming up upon an elevated level, a higher standpoint, where we may commune with God.
For this very reason Christ humbled Himself to take upon Him our nature, that by His own humiliation and suffering and sacrifice He might become a steppingstone to fallen men, that they might climb up upon His merits, and that through His excellence and virtue their efforts to keep God's law might be accepted of Him. There is no such thing here as coming down upon a level. We are seeking to plant our feet upon
the elevated and exalted platform of eternal truth. We are seeking to become more like the heavenly angels, more pure in heart, more sinless, harmless, and undefiled.
We are seeking for purity and holiness of life, that we may at last be fitted for the heavenly society in the kingdom of glory; and the only means to attain this elevation of Christian character is through Jesus Christ. There is no other way for the exaltation of the human family. Some talk of the humiliation they endure and the sacrifice they make, because they adopt the truth of heavenly origin! It is true that the world do not accept the truth; unbelievers do not receive it. They may talk of those that have embraced the truth and sought the Saviour, and represent them as leaving everything, giving up everything, and making a sacrifice of everything that is worth retaining. But do not tell me this. I know better. My experience proves it to be otherwise. You need not tell me that we have to give up our dearest treasures and receive no equivalent. No, indeed! That Creator who planted the beautiful Eden for our first parents, and who has planted for us the lovely trees and flowers, and provided everything that is beautiful and glorious in nature for the human race to enjoy, designed that they should enjoy it. Then do not think that God wishes us to yield up everything which it is for our happiness here to retain. He requires us to give up only that which it would not be for our good and happiness to retain.
That God who has planted these noble trees and clothed them with their rich foliage, who has given us the brilliant and beautiful shades of the flowers, and whose lovely handiwork we see in all the realm of nature, does not design to make us unhappy; He does not design that we shall have no taste for, and take no pleasure in, these things. It is His design that we shall enjoy them and be happy in the charms of nature, which are of His own creating.
It is right that we should choose such places as this grove for seasons of relaxation and recreation. But while we are here it is not to devote our attention to ourselves merely, and fritter away precious time in amusements which will encourage a disrelish for sacred things. We have not come here to indulge in jesting and joking, in foolish talk and senseless laughter. We here behold the beauties of nature. And what then? Shall we fall down and worship them? No, indeed. But as we behold these works of nature we should let the mind be carried up higher, to nature's God; let it be elevated to the Creator of the universe, and then adore the Creator who has made all these beautiful things for our benefit and happiness.
Many delight in lovely paintings and are ready to worship the talent which can produce a beautiful drawing, but where do those who devote their lives to this work obtain their designs? where do the artists get their ideas of things to put upon canvass? From nature's beautiful scenery--from nature, only from nature. Individuals devote the entire strength of their being, and bestow all their affections, upon their tastes in this direction. Many withdraw their minds from the beauties and glories of nature that our Creator has prepared for them to enjoy, and devote all the powers of their being to perfection of art; yet all these things are only imperfect copies from nature. Art can never attain the perfection seen in nature.
The Maker of all the beautiful things of nature is forgotten. I have seen many who would go into ecstasies over a picture of a sunset, while at the same time they could have the privilege of seeing an actual and glorious sunset almost every evening in the year. They can see the beautiful tints in which nature's invisible Master Artist has with divine skill painted glorious scenes on the shifting canvass of the heavens, and yet they carelessly turn from the Heaven-wrought picture to paintings of art, traced by imperfect fingers, and almost fall
down and worship them. What is the reason of this? It is because the enemy is almost constantly seeking to divert the mind from God. When we present God and the religion of Christ, will they receive them? No, indeed. They cannot accept of Christ. What! they make the sacrifice they would have to make to receive Him? Not at all! But what is required? Simply the heart's best and holiest affections for Him who left the glory of the Father and came down to die for a race of rebels. He left His riches, His majesty, and His high command, and took upon Himself our nature, that He might make a way of escape--to do what? to humiliate you? to degrade you? No, indeed. To make a way of escape for you from hopeless misery, to elevate you at last to His own right hand in His kingdom. For this the great, the immense, sacrifice was made. And who can realize this great sacrifice? Who can appreciate it? None but those who understand the mystery of godliness, who have tasted the powers of the world to come, who have drunk from the cup of salvation that has been presented to us. This cup of salvation the Lord offers us, while with His own lips He drained, in our stead, the bitter cup which our sins had prepared, and which was apportioned for us to drink. Yet we talk as though Christ, who has made such a sacrifice, and manifested such love for us, would deprive us of everything that is worth having.
Of what good would He deprive us? He would deprive us of the privilege of giving up to the natural passions of the carnal heart. We cannot get angry just when we please, and retain a clear conscience and the approval of God. But are we not willing to give this up? Will the indulgence of corrupt passions make us any happier? It is because it will not that restrictions are laid upon us in this respect. It will not add to our enjoyment to get angry and cultivate a perverse temper. It is not for our happiness to follow the leadings of the natural
heart. And shall we be made better by indulging them? No; they will cast a shadow in our households and throw a pall over our happiness. Giving way to the natural appetites will only injure the constitution and tear the system to pieces. Therefore God would have us restrict the appetite, control the passions, and hold in subjection the entire man. And He has promised to give us strength if we will engage in this work.
The sin of Adam and Eve caused a fearful separation between God and man. And Christ steps in between fallen man and God, and says to man: "You may yet come to the Father; there is a plan devised through which God can be reconciled to man, and man to God; through a mediator you can approach God." And now He stands to mediate for you. He is the great High Priest who is pleading in your behalf; and you are to come and present your case to the Father through Jesus Christ. Thus you can find access to God; and though you sin, your case is not hopeless. "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."
I thank God that we have a Saviour. And there is no way whereby we can be exalted, except through Christ. Then let no one think that it is a great humiliation on his part to accept of Christ; for when we take that step we take hold of the golden cord that links finite man with the infinite God; we take the first step toward true exaltation, that we may be fitted for the society of pure and heavenly angels in the kingdom of glory.
Be not discouraged; be not fainthearted. Although you may have temptations, although you may be beset by the wily foe, yet if you have the fear of God before you, angels that excel in strength will be sent to your help, and you can be more than a match for the powers of darkness. Jesus lives. He died to make a way of escape for the fallen race, and He
lives today to make intercession for us, that we may be exalted to His own right hand. Hope in God. The world is traveling the broad way; and as you travel in the narrow way, and have to contend with principalities and powers, and to meet the opposition of foes, remember that provision has been made for you. Help has been laid upon One that is mighty, and through Him you can conquer.
Come out from among them, and be separate, saith the Lord, and I will receive you, and ye shall be sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty. What a promise is this! It is a pledge to you that you shall become members of the royal family, heirs of the heavenly kingdom. If a person is honored by, or becomes connected with, any of the monarchs of earth, how it goes the rounds of the periodicals of the day and excites the envy of those who think themselves less fortunate. But here is One who is King over all, the monarch of the universe, the Originator of every good thing; and He says to us: I will make you My sons and daughters; I will unite you to Myself; you shall become members of the royal family and children of the heavenly King.
Says Paul: "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." Why should we not do this, when we have such an inducement, the privilege of becoming children of the Most High, the privilege of calling the God of heaven our Father? Is not that enough? And do you call this depriving you of everything that is worth having? Is this giving up everything that is worth possessing? Let me be united to God and holy angels, for this is my highest ambition. You may have all the possessions of this world; but I must have Jesus; I must have a right to the immortal inheritance, the eternal substance. Let me enjoy the beauties of the kingdom of God. Let me delight in the paintings which His own fingers have colored. I may enjoy
them. You may enjoy them. We may not worship them, but through them we may be directed to Him and behold His glory who made all these things for our enjoyment.
Again I say: Be of good courage. Trust in the Lord. Let not the enemy rob you of the promises. If you have separated yourselves from the world, God has said that He will be your Father, and you shall be His sons and daughters. Is not that enough? What greater inducement could be presented before you? Is there any great object in being a butterfly and having no substance or aim in life? Oh! let me stand on the platform of eternal truth. Give me immortal worth. Let me grasp the golden chain that is let down from heaven to earth, and let it draw me up to God and glory. This is my ambition; this is my aim. If others have no higher object than dress, if they can delight in outward display and satisfy their souls with bows and ribbons and fantastic things, let them enjoy these. But let me have the inward adorning. Let me be clothed with that meek and quiet spirit which is in the sight of God of great price. And I recommend it to you, young gentlemen and ladies, for it is more precious in His sight than the gold of Ophir. It is this which makes a man more precious than fine gold, even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir. My sisters, and you young people, it will make you more precious in the sight of Heaven than fine gold, yea, than the golden wedge of Ophir. I recommend to you Jesus, my blessed Saviour. I adore Him; I magnify Him. Oh, that I had an immortal tongue, that I could praise Him as I desire! that I could stand before the assembled universe and speak in praise of His matchless charms!
And while I adore and magnify Him, I want you to magnify Him with me. Praise the Lord even when you fall into darkness. Praise Him even in temptation. "Rejoice in the Lord alway," says the apostle; "and again I say, Rejoice." Will that bring gloom and darkness into your families? No,
indeed; it will bring a sunbeam. You will thus gather rays of eternal light from the throne of glory and scatter them around you. Let me exhort you to engage in this work, scatter this light and life around you, not only in your own path, but in the paths of those with whom you associate. Let it be your object to make those around you better, to elevate them, to point them to heaven and glory, and lead them to seek, above all earthly things, the eternal substance, the immortal inheritance, the riches which are imperishable.