IN one of the cities of the West, lately, it was arranged to celebrate by a ball, the opening of a mission depot. The celebration happened to be appointed by Wednesday night.
“The ministers of sixteen churches of the city established “an emphatic protest,” among other things, “against the presumption of arranging for such celebrating on the night generally conceded to the prayer-meeting, without any consultation with those who nearly concerned.”
This is another of those general pointers that show how determined are the preachers to rule everybody in everything. They insist that people who are too religious shall conform in an altogether outward and formal way, to the ways and institutions of those who are religious. That is, they insist that people who are not religious, shall act as though they were religious, when the have no heart in it.
People who are not religious have just as much right to find entertainment in the way that they choose as do people who are religious have to find entertainments the way that they choose. In other words, people who are not religious have just as much right to go to them as people who are religious have to go to a prayer-meeting. And there is no sort of presumption in those who are not religious, going to such entertainment on the same night that the religious ones go to prayer-meeting. Indeed, the only presumption in the case is in anyone calling such a thing presumption.
Now we are not admitting for one moment that a ball is as good as a prayer-meeting. There is no … comparison between them. A ball is not a good … at all; while a prayer-meeting is only good. But there is also a great difference between the two sorts of people. The people who go to balls, ought to go to prayer-meeting instead. They ought never to go to balls at all, and they ought to go to prayer-meeting every time.  And this must be of their own free choice. And to show a disposition that would compel them to go to prayer-meeting if we could; or that censures them for going somewhere else on prayer-meeting night; is not the best way to cause them to choose, or incline them, to go to the prayer-meeting.
THE REALITIES OF CHRISTIANITY
Of course no Christian ever goes to a ball. The Christian has substantial pleasures and entertainments of an order so much higher than balls or anything else that this world can furnish, that such things can find no place in his thought at all. To him the prayer-meeting so far surpasses the ball or any other worldly entertainment, that there can never be any shadow of rivalry or divided purpose when the two things fall on the same night. He is a Christian. He is not of this world, even as Christ is not of this world. His mind, his affection, his heart, is set on things above, not on things on the earth. And his pleasures and entertainment are from a source as much purer, and are of an order as much higher, than this world or anything that is of this world, as is the difference and the distance between heaven and earth.
Now the person who goes to balls and finds his pleasures and entertainment in such things as this world affords, does not know that Christianity presents these higher pleasures and richer entertainments. And while he does not know this, shall he be deprived of what little fleeting pleasure he may be able to find in the world where he is? And above all, shall he be deprived of it by professed Christians? And more than this, when “the ministers of sixteen churches” show so much jealousy of his little joy, is such action calculated to convince him that there is a reality about the superior pleasures which they say belong with the religion that they profess?
SEPARATION FROM THE WORLD
These ministers said of themselves: “We, as ministers of the gospel and followers of a religion that demands of us separation from the world, take this opportunity to offer our emphatic protest,” etc. It is true enough and it is supremely proper that they should be followers of a religion that demands of them separation from the world. Why, then, being separated from the world, do they still try to run the world as though they yet belonged to it? The proper thing for us to do, who are separated from this world, is so to present the transcendent glories of the world to which we belong that people will leave this old sinful, troublesome, fleeting world, and come over to the happy, holy, eternal bliss of the world to come, but which to the Christian begins already in this.
Those who are of this world know that the best that they can get from it is unsatisfactory. They know that even the best pleasures that it can afford do not satisfy—that they are not pleasures at all for more than the moment. On the other hand those who have hold on the heavenly world know that every item is very satisfaction itself—their joy is full, their peace passeth all understanding, their meditation is sweet, their study is a delight, their very labor is restful. Those who know this good of the other world even in this, are to let its love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness and goodness, so shine in their lives, they are to be so glad, so rejoicing in the Lord always—and all this is simply to say that they are to be Christians—that those who know only the apples-of-Sodom-pleasures and good of this world shall see that there is a source of pleasure and of all goodness and truth—that there is indeed a world that is so much better than this one that they will freely, gladly, leave the fleeting shadows of this one, and enter into the enjoyment of the eternally-enduring substance of the other world.
LET US NOT BE HARD-HEARTED
Then even though they will not take the good and the joy of the world to which we belong, oh let us not be so hard-hearted as to want to deny to them the little pleasures that they try so hard to find in this world. There is but little of it at the very best, and even though there were much of it there is but a very short time at the most in which they can possibly have it. Then when the pleasure is so little, so fleeting, so unsatisfying, and the time so very short in which they can have it, even though they take all the time they will ever have, it is cruel to want to deprive them of it; and to brand it as presumption if the times of their uncommon pleasures happen to fall at the times of our common ones.
No, no. The Christian, while exceedingly sorry that people who for the taking can have the best that the universe affords will seek to be pleased and satisfied with the very worst, will not attempt to take from them against their will or their wish the little empty pleasures that they may be able by such hard endeavor to gain.
DON’T AMSK PEOPLE TO BE DISHONEST
It is proper also to say to these “ministers of sixteen churches” and to all others, that the Lord Jesus does not want any person to make pretensions to being religious from any sort of outward considerations whatever. He does not want any person to act as though he were religious when his whole heart is not in it. Here is His word: “Either make the tree good and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt and his fruit corrupt; for a tree is known by his fruit.” The Author of Christianity would rather have a man to be openly and honestly worldly than to have him make a profession and an outward show of Christianity when he is not a Christian. Either make the tree good and his fruit good, or else make the tree corrupt and his fruit corrupt, and be done with it.
The Lord wants no criss-cross work. He wants it straight and honest from the heart, or not at all. And every man who has any respect for himself wants it so too. And it is in every way better to have it so. It is better for a man to be honestly wicked than to be hypocritically good. An honest infidel is better—he is a better man and it is better to have him in the world—than a dishonest Christian.
Of course, rightly speaking, there is no such thing as a dishonest Christian; for if he is dishonest in anything he simply is not a Christian. But yet every Christian is obliged with sorrow to confess that there are those who bear the name, and make the profession, of being Christians, who are not honestly such. They are such only from policy of some phase—perhaps indeed that they may not be counted presumptuous by the ministers of sixteen churches, when the night of their worldly pleasures happens to be the same as the prayer-meeting night. But may the Lord save the people from all such religion as that!
Let all who bear the name of Christian be Christians indeed; then there will not be nearly so many people going to balls on prayer-meeting nights; and then those who do go to balls on prayer-meeting nights will not be denounced as presumptuous by those who do not go.