Ecclesiastes 3:3-4
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;…

The play impulse is, I verily believe, as sacred in the Divine intention as the work impulse. Indeed, Dr. Bushnell has undertaken to show how what he calls the state of play is the ultimate state of redeemed and regenerated humanity, up to which it climbs through previous discipline in the working state; and though in his argument he has not actually done so, yet I presume he would regard that prophetic picture of the new heavens and the new earth wherein Zechariah declares that "the streets of Jerusalem shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof" as only a poetic description of the heavenly employments of children of a larger growth. For, when we come to look a little deeper than the surface, what do we mean by play? Coming home at the end of the day, weary and worn and fretted, you open the door upon your little one roiling and tumbling upon the floor with a kitten. It is certainly not a very classical nor a very dignified scene, and yet, somehow, your heart straightway softens to it, and you sit down and watch the romp with a sense of sympathy and refreshment that you have not had through all the dull and plodding day. Why is it? Why, but because after all that is life without effort or care or burden, joy without labour or rivalry or tedium, bounding motion and bubbling glee without anxiety and without remorse! And what is such a life, disengaged from its animal characteristics and ennobled by a spiritual insight, but the true idea of heaven, where, if there be activity, there will be no effort, but where all that we do and are will be the free spontaneous outburst of the overflowing joy and gladness that are in us.

I. MERE AMUSEMENT OUGHT NOT TO BE, AND CANNOT HEALTHILY BE, THE END OF ANY LIFE. We speak of child-life as the play period of a human existence. And yet, have you never noticed that even the child cannot play, unless he has climbed up into the sphere of play through the toilsome vestibule of work? We see him careering over the ground in the wild joy of his young freedom, climbing the trees, scaling the hillsides, racing through the fields, or gambolling on the grass, and we say, "what glad surrender to pure impulse!" But do we remember how he has come to that free command of himself, his limbs and lungs and muscles; how he has tottered first of all on his tiny feet, and fallen, and risen, only to fall again; how by slow gradations he has taught his muscles to obey his will, and his feet to do the bidding of his thought, and his hands to grasp and hold the things he reaches after? Not without effort, surely, has he come into that larger freedom of the first play state; and not without work, as his best qualification for the really sacred privilege of amusement, has God meant that any one of us should come to our playing moments!

II. WHAT ARE THE PRINCIPLES THAT OUGHT TO REGULATE OUR AMUSEMENTS? Those principles are threefold. Our amusements ought to be genuine, innocent and moderate.

1. Let me explain what I mean by a genuine amusement. If amusement has, as we have seen, a definite and recognizable place in every healthful and well-ordered life, then we must at least require of it that it shall honestly serve its purpose — that it shall really and veritably recreate, re-create us. Now, viewed in this light, I did not, e.g. call a ball a genuine amusement. Our amusements ought to leave us fresher and brighter than they found us, net jaded and irritable and lack-lustre-eyed when the next day's duties roll back upon us. And therefore, I do not wonder that a great many young persons especially, who seek their amusements (Heaven save the mark!) in such channels, are constrained to "key themselves up" to work by the artificial means of unhealthy stimulants.

2. If amusement is not something outside but inside the sanctions of an earnest and Christian life, then our amusements ought also to be innocent. The concern of one who is deciding the question between amusements that are innocent and those that are not innocent, is with the drama as he actually and ordinarily finds it; and this includes the drama whether classic or tragic or comic, or seminude and spectacular; and if any complain that the Church of God frowns upon innocent amusements, and if it utters no downright condemnation, at least withholds its approval from innocent forms of amusement, let them remember that it is because ordinarily those who have once crossed a certain line in this matter, no matter what may be their professions of decorum or religion, are far too commonly wont to cast all restrictions utterly and absolutely behind them. For there is in fact almost absolutely no pretence of discrimination in these things, and persons of pure lives and unspotted name are seen, in our day, gazing upon spectacles or hearkening to dialogue, which, whether spoken or sung, ought to bring a blush of shame to any decent cheek.

3. But, let us also remember, amusement may be thoroughly innocent in its nature, and yet very easily be excessive or immoderate in its measure.

(Bp. H. C. Potter.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

WEB: a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A Christian View of Recreation
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