THE theme of this discourse, though not a very common theme for a religious discourse, is by no means outside of the Bible. It is found in the Bible in several different forms. It is not, therefore, an untaught subject, on which the Bible is silent. It is, then, perfectly legitimate that we should pay our respects to it.
DANCING AS A RELIGIOUS EXERCISE.
We know of no people, but one, that hold dancing as an item in their religious teaching, and regularly practice it as a religious exercise. The Shakers hold dancing as an item in their religion, give it a place in their reaching, and regularly practice it. But, even taking the Old Covenant as their rule, they do not practice it in the true sense. Let us then open and read from the Bible, of dancing as a religious exercise.
Exodus xv. 20, 21: "And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her, with the timbrels and with dances. And Miriam answered them, Sing you to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and the rider hath been thrown into the sea." What are the facts found in this history? 1. That the women danced. There is no account of any men dancing. 2. That it was in daylight. 3. It was a religious exercise, as much as the singing. 4. It was at the time of great victory; a special favor conferred by supernatural interposition, which brought their deliverance from Egyptian bondage, and was an expression of gratitude in joy, praises and thanksgiving, in view of what the Lord had done for I them. It was no regular and stated dance, for amusement, fun, and to show themselves off; but an extraordinary performance, in view of the wonderful work of God in their deliverance, and the overthrow of their enemies. It was no regularly established custom for hilarity and amusement, but an extraordinary event.
Judges xxi. 20, 21: "Therefore they commanded the children of Benjamin, Go and lie in wait in the vineyards; and see, and behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances." 1. This dancing was in daylight. 2. The women danced alone. 3. It was a religious exercise, in view of a great victory the Lord had given them. 4. It was not a regular established custom, but an extraordinary transaction, on all extraordinary occasion, an occasion of great victory and triumph over their enemies, in expressions of praise and gratitude to God. There was no dancing for pleasure, amusement, or fun.
1 Samuel xviii. 6: "And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women came out of the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with timbrels , with joy, and with instruments of music." 1. This dancing was a religious exercise. 2. The women alone danced. 3. It was in daylight. 4. It was an expression of praise and gratitude to God in view of an extraordinary event in their behalf. It was no regularly established custom, but an extraordinary transaction, in view of a wonderful divine favor.
2 Samuel vi. 12-14: "And it was told King David, saying, The Lord has blessed the house of Obed-edom, and all that pertains to him, because of the ark of God. So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom into the city of David with gladness. And it was so, that when they that bore the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed oxen and fatlings. And David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was girded with linen and an ephod." 1. This dancing was a religious exercise, in an expression of praise and gratitude to God, in view of special favor conferred. 2. It was in daylight. 3. David danced alone. 4. It was no regularly established custom, but an extraordinary transaction, in view of special favor. It was not a dance for pleasure, amusement, fun, nor one in.which the giddy and frivolous participated, or any one but Israel's psalmist and prophet.
1 Chronicles xv. 25-29: "So David, and the elders of Israel, and the captain over thousands, went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the house of Obed-edom with joy. And it came to pass, when God helped the Levites that bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord, that they offered seven bullocks and seven rams. And David was clothed with a robe of fine linen, and all the Levites that bore the ark, and the singers, and Chenaniah the master of the song with the singers. David also had upon him an ephod of fine linen. Thus all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the Lord with shouting, and with sound of the cornet, and with trumpets, and with cymbals, making noise with psalteries and harps. And it came to pass, as the ark of the covenant of the Lord came to the city of David, that Michal the daughter of Saul, looking out at a window, saw King David dancing and playing: and she despised him in her heart." Here we have the following facts: 1. The dancing was in daylight. 2. David danced alone. 3. It was a religious exercise. 4. It was no regularly established custom, but on an occasion of great joy, and an expression of thanksgiving and gratitude, in view of signal favor from God. It was in view of this kind of dance that David said, Psalm cxlix. 2; "Let Israel rejoice in Him that made him: let the children of Zion be joyful in their King. Let them praise his name in the dance." And again, Psalm cl. 4: "Praise him with timbrel and dance: with stringed instruments and organs."
We have now before us the sum of religious dancing, or dancing as a religious exercise, as found described on the pages of Scripture--an expression of praise and gratitude to God. The following facts appear in connection with this dancing:
1. It was not a regularly established practice, at stated times, like the Shaker dance, but an occurrence that only took place on extraordinary occasions.
2. It occurred at times of signal favors, great deliverances, or triumphs, specially wrought by the hand of God, as at the time of the crossing of the Red Sea. This explains Solomon, Ecclesiastes iii. 4, where he speaks of a "time to dance," when God wrought some special and miraculous deliverance, or gave some great victory. This was a time to dance--not for pleasure, amusement and hilarity, but in devout thanksgiving and gratitude to God.
3. This dancing was in open daylight. There was no dancing in the night, to say nothing of protracted dancing all night.
4. The men or women danced alone. There was no mixed dancing, or men and women dancing together. The men, or the women, danced alone.
5. The dancing was not for amusement, pleasure, or hilarity; not for healthful exercise, relaxation, or diversion; nor for entertainment, art, or gracefulness; nor to show how accurately they could stop to the music; but an expression of their greatest and most ecstatic joys, their most devout thanksgiving and gratitude to God. It was performed by the most devout, pious and godly, and not by the wild, the thoughtless, the "lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God."
6. This dancing was a religious exercise, a part of their devotions, in expressions of great joy, gratitude and thanksgiving, and practiced on occasions of extraordinary interference of the Lord in their behalf, and in honor and praise of God, accompanied by sundry instruments of music, was practiced before the giving of the law, and also under the law; but no such religious exercise is found in the religion of our Lord. He and his apostles never danced in their devotions; nor did they ever teach anybody to "praise Him in the dance;" nor is there an intimation of any such religious exercise in all the Lord and the apostles ever taught; nor an account in the Holy Book of any such exercise among the first Christians, no matter bow signal the victories, as when Jesus rose, when he ascended, when he gave the Spirit in his wonder-working power, when three thousand were added in one day, when Samaria or the Gentiles received the word of God. They had "great joy," and were filled with the love of God; were unspeakably happy, but always expressed their gratitude in some other way--never in a dance. Shaker dancing, as a religious exercise, finds no support, even in the Jewish religion, nor anywhere in the Bible. It is a human invention, turning the worship of the Most High into secular amusement, pleasure, entertainment for thoughtless and light-hearted people. Nor do our modern dancers, for amusement, pleasure, entertainment, healthful exercise, relaxation and hilarity; who vie with each other to excel in the refinement, the art of dancing, gracefulness and politeness, find any support here--no matter whether the "parlor dance," the "social dance," or any other kind.
But we now proceed to some dancing a little more enthusiastic. It is not exactly devoid of a religious aspect. Let us have the history of it from the book of God.
Exodus xxxii. 15-24: "And Moses turned and went down from the mount, and the two tables of the testimony were in his hand: the tables were written on both sides; on the one side and on the other were they written. And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables. And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp. And he said, It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome; but the voice of them that sing do I hear. And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh to the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses' anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount. And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strewed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it. And Moses said to Aaron, What did these people to thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them? And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my lord wax hot: thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief. For they said to me, Make us gods who shall go before us: for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. And I said to them, Whosoever hath any gold, let him break it off. So they gave it to me. Then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf."
Our modern dancers will hardly go here for an example for dancing the "social dance," the "parlor dance," the "square dance," the "round dance," or any other. It appears that this was religious dancing, on an extraordinary occasion--the advent of the molten calf. It was no devotion to the Lord; but devotion in blind and stupid idolatry. We can not learn whether the dancing was mixed, the men and women together; whether both sexes danced, or only one. The dancing was in daylight; not any regularly established custom, but an unusual occurrence, on an extraordinary occasion--the advent of a new god to go before them. The unintelligible noise they were making was no credit to the occasion, the dancers, or the dancing. It was, however, no regularly established practice; nor was it for pleasure, amusement, or hilarity, but an attempt to be happy over their new god, and express great joy. But their joy was soon turned into regret, when Moses made them drink the water with the gold dust in it. The modern dance, for pleasure, amusement, relaxation, or exercise, finds no footing here, no matter which sort of the many refined and graceful dances they speak of.
Judges xi. 34: "And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances." This dancing was an expression of joy and rejoicing on meeting her father, and no regular dance for pleasure, or amusement. Yet the judgment of God was upon the poor damsel. There is nothing in the case to encourage dancing for pleasure.
1 Samuel xxx. 16, 17: "And when be bad brought him down, behold, they were spread upon all the earth, eating and drinking, and dancing, because of all the great spoil that they had taken out of the land of the Philistines, and out of the land of Judah. And David smote them from the twilight even. to the evening of the next day: and there escaped not a man of them, save four hundred young men who rode upon camels, and fled." This was no religious dancing, nor religious exercise, but regular reveling. They were eating, drinking and dancing--carousing. In the midst of it their fates were upon them. Destruction came and swept them. away. Certainly no dancer, or apologist for dancing, will attempt to find any support for any of the kinds of dancing practiced in our day in this Scripture. The dancing was in bad company, and soon followed by terrible retribution.
Job xxi. 11-20: "They send forth their little ones like a flock, and their children dance. They take timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ. They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave. Therefore they say to God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? Lo, their good is not in their hand: the counsel of the wicked is far from me. How oft is the candle of the wicked put out! and how oft destruction cometh upon them! God distributeth sorrow in his anger. They are as stubble before the wind, and as chaff that the storm carrieth away. God layeth up his iniquity for his children: he rewardeth him, and he shall know it. His eyes shall see his destruction, and he shall drink of the wrath of the Almighty."
What a description this is from first to last! This is no religious exercise, nor dancing as an act of devotion, except to their own lust. This dancing is not approved, nor were the people who were engaged in it approved. It was the dancing of the rich, the wicked--for pleasure, amusement. It was no expression of praise to God, or thanksgiving, or gratitude; it had no such idea in it. It was dancing for the sake of the dance, the love of it and devotion to it; for amusement, pleasure, pastime. It was not for relaxation; but for idle people, that do nothing, and need no relaxation; nor for exercise, because they needed exercise, but for the sake of dancing. This is the dance of those "who say to God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. What is the Almighty, that we should serve him?" Here our modern dancers can find their kind of dance, and dancers, and the Lord's description of, them. It is a dark picture.
Mark vi. 18-26: "John had said to Herod, It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife. Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not: for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him: and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly. And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high, captains, and chief estates of Galilee; and when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said to the damsel, Ask of me whatever you will, and I will give it you. And he swore to her, Whatever you shall ask of me, I will give it you, to the half of my kingdom. And she went forth, and said to her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist. And she came in straightway with haste to the king, and asked, saying, I will that you give me, by and by, in a charger, the head of John the Baptist. And the king was exceeding sorry; for his oath's sake, and for their sakes who sat with him, he would not reject her. And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison, and brought his head in a charger" (basin), "and gave it to the damsel: and the damsel gave it to her mother."
In this case it does not appear that any one danced except the damsel; though this is not certain, nor is it important. The dancing was for pleasure, amusement, entertainment. It was for the sake of the dance; it was in hilarity--a part of the entertainment; it was no religious exercise, and not in expression of praise or gratitude to God, in view of any favor bestowed; nor did it appear to have any higher motive in view than to please the king. It did that in perfection, and opened the way for the mother of the dancing damsel to accomplish a malignant purpose she had in her heart. She had an old grudge in her heart against the Immerser. John had said, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." This offended Madam Herodias, and, being a refined lady, she determined to have revenge. She watched for an opportunity. The king, being pleased at the dancing of the damsel, made a rash vow, opening the way for her to accomplish her purpose. She told her dancing daughter to demand the head of John the Immerser in a basin! What a present, that! What taste the mother and daughter must have had, to have been gratified with the head of the man of God all in a gore of blood! The guilt of her living in an unlawful marriage was still on her soul, and now a malignant murder added to the previous crime! Dancing for amusement, entertainment, pleasure--for the sake of dancing--is found in bad company here, and with bad surroundings. This was the dancing of the wicked.
Galatians v. 19: "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these, Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditious, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." Here we have all awful catalogue of works of the flesh, and the list is not complete, for the Apostle adds to the list the words, "and such like." What is the decree of God in regard to those who do such things?" It is that "they shall not inherit the kingdom of God." "Such things" are not, then, to be trifled with; nor is the doing of them of small moment, seeing that it excludes from the kingdom of God.
The things in this list are not things difficult to determine beyond all doubt. They are works of the flesh, and manifest. They are matters clearly wrong. In this catalogue we find "revelings." The original word, komos, and the English word, revelings, includes dancing. The authorities are well agreed about it; that it embraces feasting, loud talking, music, and dancing. It is not dancing, as an expression of thanksgiving and gratitude, or in joy, in view of some signal victory or special favor from the Lord, or as a religious exercise of any sort; but dancing for amusement, pleasure, hilarity--for the sake of the dance, the, love of it, or in devotion to it. This is the dance that is reveling, and that excludes from the kingdom of God. It is a work of the flesh, and to be shunned by the children of God, as they shun witchcraft, adultery, idolatry, or murder.
The question is not whether there are not degrees in it; whether it is all to be put down alike or not. There are degrees in drunkenness, many degrees in it, but they are only degrees in the same thing. It is drunkenness, whether there is much or little of it. It is the same thing in kind, though not the same in degree. A man so drunk that he can not walk is certainly a degree further than one who is so drunk that he only staggers, but can walk. There are degrees in stealing; but then it is stealing to take one dollar without liberty, as certainly as it is to take a thousand--the same thing in kind, though not the same in degree. But he is the greater simpleton, and thinks the least of his honor, who will get drunk at all, though in the smallest degree. Drunkenness is a work of the flesh, and sin, no matter how small the degree of it, and excludes from the kingdom of God. We are not to divide drunkenness into several kinds, and then assume that Christians may participate in one kind and not in another. They are not to participate in drunkenness at all. If they do, they sin, and should be called to account.
There are degrees in adultery. He who commits adultery only a few times does not reach the same degree in it that he does who practices it regularly for twenty years; but it is adultery, sin, a work of the flesh, and there stands the law of the great King before him, that "they who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." Hatred is a work of the flesh, no matter whether it reaches, a greater or less degree, and may not be indulged at all. The same is true of reveling, no matter whether in a greater or smaller degree--it is still reveling, and may not be indulged. Any dancing, for pleasure, amusement, or entertainment; for the sake of the dance itself, for the love of it, and in devotion to it, is reveling, no matter how small the degree, and should be utterly repudiated. We want no philosophers, speculating on the degrees Christians may go into sin. We are on dangerous ground the moment we attempt to speculate on the degrees we may go into sin. The only safe doctrine is to keep as far from it as possible.
We can not divide the works of the flesh into different kinds, some of which may be practiced by Christians, and some of which may not be practiced by Christians. When the Apostle closes this terrible list, he adds, "and such like." This includes not only the things enumerated, but all of that kind. None included in the list can be left out, and all others of the same kind are to be included in the catalogue. It is frequently said of dancing, or reveling, and it is to be remembered that all dancing for amusement, for pleasure, for the love of it, or for the sake of dancing, is reveling, is no worse than some plays and performances, about which nothing is said. But that is a poor compliment to dancing, that it is no worse than something else that is wrong. All these other things are included in the words, "and such like;" and after making the catalogue long and fearful, in order to be sure and embrace them all, he adds, "and such like," and then pronounces that "they who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." Notice, he does not say, "they who do these things," but they who do such things." There is no escape from this language.
We have a solemn charge from the Apostle to "Give no offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the Church of God." Dancing is offensive; not to ignorant, prejudiced and weak people, but to the best informed, the most pious and devout. If there were nothing else against it, that would stamp it with the seal of condemnation. It is under ban, not only in the view of pious persons, but all classes. No one, in the Church or out of it, regards it as any credit to dance, or to be a good dancer. The view of the masses generally is, that people of the world, young and thoughtless people, may dance; the lovers of pleasure, of amusement and entertainments; the irreligious may dance. But religious persons, who profess godliness, who have been made partakers of the divine nature, and are led by the Spirit, and have the mind of Christ, do not dance. It would be shocking to the minds of all people, with an ordinary education, in this country, to see any one rise from the communion table, go into the next room and join in the dance for pleasure, amusement, fun. So would it be equally shocking to the mind to see any one go from the dance, even your refined "parlor dance," under the eye of parents, and confined to proper hours, into the assembly of the saints, and take a seat at the Lord's table! The people of the world would notice it and make remarks about it. There is an incompatibility about it that strikes every one, like going out of the darkness of the night into the light of day, or the coldness of winter into the warmth of summer. The works of the flesh are incompatible with the works of the Spirit. The spirit that leads those who practice the works of the flesh is not the same as that which leads those who bear the fruits of the Spirit.
Those who lead in the dance for pleasure, amusement or entertainment, we care not what their pretext for it is, whether for "healthful exercise," "relaxation," or to "learn gracefulness," are not the people that lead in religion, in worship, or piety. They are of a different type, a different spirit, and under the influence of a different set of impressions, emotions and impulses. They are not in front in the assembly of the saints, leaders in the devotions. The prayers, exhortations, and songs, do not come from them. They are not even the regular attendants. When they do attend they are found in the remote parts of the house, if in the house at all. Nor are they the grave and attentive hearers, the most orderly or respectful portion of the audience; but the most light, thoughtless and frivolous. They are the parties where a little side-talk starts up in the time of preaching, or a meaningless titter about some trifling thing. They are not the parties from whom the funds come to support religion, nor who support it in any sense. They are not the examples in manners, in dress, order, or in any good sense. If there were none but dancers, no church deserving the name, would have in existence.
Dancing stands in no credit, even among the people of the world. In their biographical sketches of men whom they aim to honor, after they die, they never record that he danced, that he loved the dance, that he was an accomplished dancer, that he taught and encouraged dancing! The dancers themselves would be astonished and shocked to find a sketch of that kind of some man whom they delighted to honor. No one thinks that would honor any man after his death. In these sketches it is common to tell that be was a good and industrious farmer, or mechanic; professor or president in a college, or a school teacher; a true and trustworthy officer of State, doctor, lawyer, or preacher; telegrapher, engineer, conductor in the employ of the railway; an artist, botanist, or anatomist; but they never say he was an accomplished dancer; that he loved dancing, encouraged it, and greatly improved the dancing in his community! Why do we find nothing of this kind? Because they do not consider it any credit to any man, to say nothing of a religious man, and leave it blank.
Some ten years since we talked with an intelligent and pleasant lady, of high pretensions in Church, who advocated dancing--maintained that it was a "healthful exercise;" "good for relaxation;" and "taught young people how to be graceful, polite," etc.; said she "loved it," "delighted in it," etc. We tried sundry arguments, but soon found that they had no effect; that she could not be made to feel the force of any argument, or, indeed, to listen to any ordinary reasoning. When we fully saw the situation, we inquired whether she really thought it was all right, and as good a thing as she had represented. She said she did. We then told her that if she should die before we did, and her friends should call us to attend her funeral, and make a few remarks in memory of her, we would state, in reference to her life, that she loved the dance, was a beautiful dancer, encouraged dancing; and, no doubt, her influence and practice had given dancing a new impetus, and greatly extended its prevalence. And that, if I should be called on to write an obituary notice of her departure, I would state how she had conversed with me herself, and assured me that she loved the dance; thought it a graceful, healthful and delightful exercise; that she, in her lifetime, encouraged dancing, improved the dancing of the community, and greatly increased its prevalence; that she was a most accomplished and estimable dancer; and that the dancing community were greatly indebted to her for what she had done in the cause of dancing--toward making it creditable and respectable. Furthermore, that I would have engraven on her tombstone:--
Miss ---------- ----------, A Member of ---------- ---------- ---------- Church, An Accomplished Dancer, Who never Wearied in the Encouragement of Dancing, Or in the Practice of it.
She thought that would be ridiculous. So it would be; because dancing for pleasure is a folly, and nothing to the credit of any one. It would not appear ridiculous to mention, in remarks, on the occasion of her funeral, that she was an accomplished school teacher, or had any real accomplishment; but dancing is not accomplishment at all. It is on the down grade, the demoralizing side of the question. It is a vice, and, like all vices, needs no advocacy. It is not an article of culture; it needs no culture, but is a spontaneous growth, that comes in the absence of cultivation. It requires no man to go through the country and lecture on dancing, advocate it, argue in its favor, or discuss its merits. It will not bear argument, discussion, investigation. It wants no speeches made in its favor. All it asks, that all keep still, let it alone, say nothing, about it. It will come itself, like the weeds in the rich garden, in the absence of cultivation; like the briers, burs and ragweeds that come up on the rich farm, where cultivation is neglected. That is the way the dance comes. It is no accomplishment, acquirement, or credit in any way, and not a thing to mention to the credit of any one after death. We no wore think of mentioning dancing to the credit of any one who has died, than we do swearing, drinking, or gambling. Those who practice it do not want it mentioned; their idea is to leave it blank.
Why do the dancers inquire of the preacher, "Is it any harm to dance?" Because it is of doubtful repute, under suspicion, not of good report. When about to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, or do deeds of humanity, we never inquire, "Is it any harm? " There is no doubt about these deeds. When about to read the Scriptures, we never inquire, "Is it any harm?" When about to assemble for worship, we hear no one inquire, "Is it any harm?" We never make that inquiry when about to do anything that is manifestly right. It is the label for doubtful things. Is it any harm to go to theater? Is it any harm to go to the circus show? Is it any harm to have church festivals? Is it any harm to buy lottery tickets? Is it any harm to go to the races? Is it any harm to go and see the dance ? Is it any harm to dance? When these questions come, if you will watch, you will see the poor weak-kneed preachers, the shaky ones. They will begin to shuffle, higgle and wriggle. "It is no worse than some plays. I am opposed to the round dance, the square dance, the French Can-Can, or the ball, with their mixed crowd," the preacher makes out to say. But the dancer proceeds: "I mean the select company, in the parlor, and limited to prudent hours, under the eye of parents." The preacher says, "That alters the case; and if your weak brother is not offended with your dancing, and you do not injure yourself, and God is not dishonored thereby, it is no harm." That is enough. The dancer returns with. the joyful news: Bro. ---------- says, "It is no harm." That is license enough. All the dancers in the community are informed that the preacher said, "It is no harm," and his "ifs" and "provisos" are all left out, and dancing is free in the whole community.
Your preacher, after that, may tell of his "consistent opposition to dancing" till doomsday; but all the dancers will quote him on their side. He is their man. He is a strong-minded man, a man of great learning, and quotes Latin and Greek, talks of logic, and the great principles that underlie the mere truth that appears on the surface; and discourses to us of "heart culture," "the law of love," "the spirit of obedience," and delights our hearts with the profoundness of his discourses, the depth of his arguments, and the beauty and elegance of his descriptions. It is wonderful how the people admire him! Here is the outcome. The demoralizing influence runs like fire in the stubble. It is like some man said of a lie--that "it would travel half round the world before truth would got its boots on to start." A demoralizing word from a preacher will be heard, handed from hand to hand, remembered, repeated and enlarged on for an age; but words of resistance, repressing demoralization, are not often repeated, but soon forgotten; or, if repeated at all, forgotten to such an extent that the force is lost more and more, till it is finally gone forever.
Evil is a spontaneous growth, and requires no advocacy. No man goes through the country advocating manufacturing intoxicating drinks. No lecturers are paid for lecturing in favor of such manufacturing. Nor are any lecturers sought or paid for lecturing on selling those destructive drinks. But the work of manufacturing and selling, both wholesale and retail, goes on briskly. They hedge it in, load it down with legal enactments, taxation and fines, but it makes its way on and fills the land. The State comes down upon those engaged in it, arrests, tries and imprisons a whole lot of them for dealing in "crooked whisky;" but it does not stop it. Ten thousand preachers denounce the whole thing--manufacturing, selling, drinking, and all; a thousand hired temperance lecturers go out and assail it in every possible form; and millions of temperance people set their faces against it; and the cries of thousands and tells of thousands--drunkards' wives, widows, orphans, fathers and mothers--are lifted against the terrible evil, and still the nefarious work goes on.
The same is true of all works of the flesh--they need no advocacy. They are the spontaneous growth that springs up in the absence of cultivation. The modern dance, for amusement, pleasure, fun; for the sake of the dance, the love of it; for hilarity, is the same way. It needs no advocate; it needs no indorsement from preachers, or religious scribes and editors. A few easy and loose sentences, such as that, "It is no worse than some plays;" that "it is a healthful exercise;" that "the parlor dance is no harm," from the poorest preacher in the land, will be sufficient license for a whole community of dancers. They will quote him, and boast of him as a good man, pious and refined, and tell that "he don't object to dancing." One thoughtless chap, in the shape of a "dancing master," with a fine suit, no matter whether paid for or not, bowing and scraping, with his hat turned up on his left arm, will set a whole community in a fever for the dance, and pass for a gentleman of refinement into the bargain--no matter whether he ever read a chapter in the Bible or not, or whether he knows a noun from a verb, or what the word logic means. It requires no argument to lead people in the wrong direction on the down grade. Nor do they stop to reflect when the wrong is presented. They never study seriously, unless it is when they are entreated to do right. They then reflect. It is a serious matter to turn from the wrong and do right. It is easy to do wrong, but more difficult to do right. There are many wrong ways, but one right way. Any way you call go is wrong, except the right way. It is easy to pull down, but laborious to build up. One incendiary can set on fire and destroy more property in one night than a thousand men can build up and make good in a year. "One sinner destroyeth much good." One dancing master can demoralize and pull down society more in three months than can be repaired by the whole community in five years.
You talk about dancing being "no harm!" Who ever sends for a dancing master to visit and comfort a dying person? No one ever thinks of such a thing. Who ever sends for dancers to comfort sick and dying people? Dancers themselves do not. When they sicken and think they are in danger of death, they never send for dancers to comfort them. They know full well that there is no comfort there. No; they turn away from their own class and seek comfort somewhere else. But the genuine Christian goes to his own class for comfort, in the immediate expectation of death. He goes to those with whom he formerly met and worshiped; and he wants the associations in death he had in life. This has the appearance of sincerity and honesty at all events.
We have now a few charges to prefer against dancing. We mean the same kind all the time along here; dancing for pleasure, amusement, fun; for the sake of the dance, the love of it; for devotion to it; or for recreation.
1. It is exciting and bewitching, and leads people beyond all reason. Think of some people who can not lose sleep to care for a sick person for a single night. If they lose their rest it makes them sick. But see them at the dance! Any complaint about its being late, about being kept so long? Not a word. Any complaint about the fatigue, exhaustion, poor ventilation? Not a bit of it. Any complaint about the laborious character of the dance? Not a word. Midnight comes, and no complaint of its being late; two o'clock comes, no complaint yet; break of day comes, and no one thought of its being daylight yet. The night has fled, and not one particle of sleep! What is all this for? Healthful exercise? Relaxation, after close application in business? Not a word of it; but pleasure, amusement, fun, hilarity; the love of the dance. Who will defend such a bewitching influence as this? Where has reason fled? Where is common sense? They are lost, bewildered and carried away with the hallucination of the dance. They have lost all reasonable regard for soul and body, and all thought for health, personal safety and propriety. Who is safe under the influence of such a frenzy as this? Talk about its being "no harm," when it carries away all reason in such style as this! It sets aside the human judgment itself, and acts without judgment.
2. It carries them away in expenses beyond all reason. Think of the outfit, the immediate expense, and ask, Can people be under the influence of sane minds who will incur such expenses in view of all they got in return? The young man who attends the dance, with his partner in due form, and pays his portion of the expenses, for one night's pleasure, pays out the hard earnings of a week. What does he get in return? Do you say, Relaxation, healthful exercise, pleasure, amusement? It is pretty severe "healthful exercise," "relaxation," "pleasure," amusement! But that is not all he gets. He gets the loss of a night's rest, a night's "healthful exercise," that turns out to be exhausting, fatiguing and laborious exercise, most injurious to health; demoralization of the whole man, from which the physical man does not recover in a week, and from which the moral man, in many instances, never recovers! His money is gone, and he is injured in every sense. If he would give as much to the church in twelve months as he does for the "healthful exercise" for one night, he would be counted liberal. In the place of the least improvement in heart, mind, or body, he is injured in heart, mind and body. "The wages of sin is death." It is no exaggeration or extravagance to say he has been led away into folly, demoralized and damaged in heart, mind, body and purse.
3. But some polite sister is ready to respond, "I do not justify the ball, the promiscuous dance, made up indiscriminately of all sorts of people, and dancing in close rooms, not ventilated, at a late hour. I think that would be imprudent. But I mean a select company of Christians, in a parlor, under the eye of parents, limited to prudent hours." That is only the primary school, the initiatory, where they get accustomed to it, get off the embarrassment that all sensible people have at first, the preparatory deportment--not an end, but a means to an end. It looks forward to the great dance, where statesmen, rich men, and the nobility dance--prepares and qualifies for that. There is no use in mincing the matter. Here is the end had in view. It is the dance, the same thing, no matter whether little or big. It is like a snake--it is the same kind, the same species, and produces the same sensation, no matter if it is not six inches in length. We can find no good kind of snakes, nor drunkards, nor swearers, nor liars, nor thieves. Some of them are worse than others, but there are no good ones. Some dancing is worse than others, and some dancers are worse than others; some are not so bad as others; but there are none good. They are all evil, and only evil, and that continually. Some of them are greater than others, and some of them smaller; but then, they are simply greater and smaller evils.
In the same way, there are greater and smaller good things. Some good things are better than others; but, then, they are all good. The ground that produced thirty-fold was good; but not so good as the ground that brought sixty-fold; and the ground that brought sixty-fold was not so good as the ground that brought an hundred-fold; but then, it was all good. We do not stop to inquire whether dancing is worse than something else, or not so good; or whether one kind of dancing is better than another, or not so bad. It is all bad; and we want none of it. We are not set to compare and measure evil, and decide how much evil one can possibly do and be saved, or at least not lost. We do not desire those whom we instruct to study how much evil they can do and still enter in at the strait gate, or how they can live and gain a bare entrance into the everlasting kingdom; but we desire them to so live that they may "gain an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ."--See 2 Peter i. 11. "If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?" 1 Peter iv. 18.
Alluding to the end--the dissolution of the heavens and the earth--the Apostle says, "Seeing, then, that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting to the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?"--2 Peter iii. 11, 12. With these, and numerous other Scriptures like them, that can easily be produced, we can not clear our skirts without warning all against the follies of the world--specially the folly of dancing. It is on the other side from piety. Dancing is inimical to it, and destructive of it. Pious and godly people do not dance. Mothers that teach their children the Scriptures, and pray with them, do not send them to dancing school. Those in the spirit and love of Christ have no love for the dance. It is perfectly insipid to them. "If any man loves not the Lord Jesus Christ he will be accursed. The Lord comes." May we all be saved from the follies of the world, and prepared to meet Him at his coming!