A TIME TO DANCE. A SERMON ON DANCING.
PREACHED BY REV. J.R. SIKES.
SECOND REVISED EDITION.
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OFFICE OF THE TEACHERS’ JOURNAL
As will be seen on another page of this pamphlet, this sermon was preached twelve years ago. The first edition was nearly all disposed of in a short time. Having a few copies on hand, we advertised them for sale in THE TEACHERS’ JOURNAL. There was in consequence an uncommonly brisk demand for them, so that we saw ourselves necessitated to issue a second edition.
This second edition, with the exception of a few corrections or verbal alterations by the author, is an exact reprint of the first edition.
Balls, or dances are frequently an annoyance to Christian parents and ministers. A French dancing-master comes to town and opens a dancing-school. Some of the “First Families” in town, occasionally also church members, send their daughters to acquire this “graceful accomplishment,” to “learn good manners,” and “get into genteel society.” At the end of the quarter’s teaching there is a grand ball to wind up with. Many church members would like to know “what harm there can be in this innocent amusement,” and “why Christian people can not be allowed to attend a respectable ball?”
This sermon, we think, will answer this question satisfactorily to every one that honestly desires to know what God’s word teaches on this subject.
The author very correctly remarks, “It is not the simple act of dancing that is sinful; persons may dance without committing sin thereby; but it is the manner of dancing, the kind of music danced after, the spirit in which you dance, and the object you have in view.”
A SERMON ON DANCING
PREACHED BY REV. J. R. SIKES,
ENGLISH EV. LUTHERAN CHURCH OF ASHLAND, PA.,
JANUARY 6, 1867.
TEXT:—”A TIME TO DANCE.” Eccl. 3:4.
This passage of Scripture is often quoted by the advocates of modem balls as sanctioning their practice. But such persons either do not understand the general teachings of Scripture, and therefore should be careful how they quote it, for the Apostle speaks of the “unlearned and unstable wresting Scripture unto their own destruction,” 2 Peter, 3:16; or if they do understand it, they ought to be honest, and confess that it does not sanction the modern practice of dancing. It is no small offence thus to pervert Scripture, for “Cursed is he that handleth the word of God deceitfully.”
Dancing is referred to a number of times in Scripture. In most of these instances it is a religious dance that is spoken of. Thus Miriam and the Jewish women danced after crossing the Red Sea, Ex. 15:20. Thus David danced before the ark of God as he removed it from the house of Obed. Writers who have studied this subject tell us that these dances scarcely bear any resemblance to the measured artificial step of modern times, but that it was a leaping for religious joy, that it was performed in the open air, and that the two sexes never danced together. A modern ball gotten up on this style might be a novelty, but it would not likely be very highly relished by most of the ball-goers of the present day.
There are, however, some instances, in which dances of a different character are mentioned in Scripture. Let us examine a few of them and note the result:
1. The Israelites danced around the golden calf that they had made while Moses was in the Mount receiving the law, and what was the result? Listen, ye that dance not to the glory of God! 3,000 of them were slain on the ground. Ex. 32:28.
2. The Moabites enticed the children of Israel to idolatry by the dancing of their maidens, and 24,000 were slain at the ball. Num. 25:1-9. Josephus says the Moabites enticed the Israelites to dance. This association of Zimri and Cozbi grew out of the dance, &c. Paul is supposed to refer to this circumstance, 1 Cor. 10:8.
3. The daughter of Herodias danced before Herod and pleased him, but her mother taking advantage of the occasion, caused Herod to commit one of the darkest crimes recorded in history—the beheading of John the Baptist.
Such are a few of the many irreligious dances and their results. The ancient Pagans were very fond of dancing. Indeed the modern style of dancing is derived from them. And yet Cicero, Rome’s greatest orator, said, “No man will join the dance unless he is either drunk or crazy.” Quintillian said, “Our children should by no means be formed after the art of the dancing master.” And Scipio, the conquerer of Hannibal and the destroyer of the power of Carthage, said, “It was much to be regretted, that in his day, the children of respectable parents were becoming fond of the dance, when their ancestors looked upon it as degrading.” Now, these men were Pagans without a tithe of the light and knowledge that we have, respecting man’s accountability to God, and yet their reason taught them that it was a disgrace and sin to dance as modern dancers do.
The fact is, abandoned women were generally the dancers, and our young ladies, fair and virtuous as many of them are, are nevertheless in the ball room forming after these models, and perpetuating a practice properly pertaining to those with whom they would blush to be associated in any respect.
But suppose, for the sake of argument, we grant for a moment that Solomon had reference to balls of the modern stamp. I do not see that anything would be gained to the advocates of the practice. He simply says, “There is a time to dance,” that is a time when dancing is done, but he does not say that it is right to dance. He also says, in the same connection, that there is a “time to hate,” “a time to loose,” “a time to cast away,” yea “to everything under heaven there is a time.” That is, there is a time in which these things are done. He no more says that it is right to dance, than he says it is right to steal, to murder, &c., and he sanctions one just as much as the other, for “to everything under heaven there is a time.” The truth is, it proves nothing either for or against dancing, but simply states that there is a time in which it is done. And now why is it that the advocates of dancing quote this passage so often, when it really can afford them no shelter, no strength? Is it because it is the only show they have? the only passage they can torture into any thing like a sanction of their sinful practice? To those who quote this passage so often and so exultingly, I have a proposition to submit or rather a challenge to throw out, and I sincerely hope it may be accepted. It is this: For every passage of Scripture that you will present that sanctions the practice of dancing as performed in modern balls, I will furnish two passages that sanction the taking of human life—or murder, if you please. Now let us try and see how your system of interpreting or rather of perverting Scripture will work.
I may now take the ground that modern balls, as they are conducted, are morally wrong. It is not the simple act of dancing—persons may dance without committing sin thereby—but it is the manner of dancing, the kind of music danced after, the spirit in which you dance, and the object you have in view.
Before I enter further into this discussion permit me to give you Bishop Soul’s opinion of dancing. Several years ago this venerable man of God was stopping at the house of a wealthy gentleman who was the father of two amiable and accomplished daughters. There was to be a ball in the house that night. The young ladies were not a little perplexed to know how they should act. They wished to join in the dance, and yet they did not wish to lower themselves in the esteem of the Bishop. At length they concluded to ascertain if possible, just what the Bishop thought of dancing. Accordingly they approached him with becoming respect and introduced the subject in the hope that they might draw something from him that they could construe into a sanction of the practice. If they could succeed in this, then they could enter into it much more heartily. After some conversation on the subject they asked the Bishop plainly what he thought of dancing. “Well,” said the Bishop, “my dear children, so far as I have seen it practiced I must say that I have no objection to it. I never witnessed but one scene of the kind and with that ! was pleased. I thought it became the dancers admirably, for it was a number of monkeys that were dancing.”
The Bishop’s opinion then is simply this: Dancing will do very well for monkeys, but does not become refined and accomplished young ladies. But to the point. I argue that the modern practice of dancing as carried on in the ball rooms of the present day is wrong:
I. FROM ASSOCIATIONS. What are they? Who visits the ball room? You seem astonished at the question, and answer, “Why, sir, the wealthy, the intelligent, and the refined; the Bon ton of society visit there! Very well. I concede the fact that many that are wealthy, many that are intelligent, and many that are in a mere worldly sense refined, do visit the ball room and seek and seem to find enjoyment there; but they are none the better in a moral point of view because they are rich, refined and intelligent. These things procure them no license in the sight of God to do that which He has forbidden others to do, and I must beg leave to say that whatever may be their social standing, they are not morally good. I have never known a devotedly pious man or woman to seek enjoyment in the ball room. The truth is, piety cannot flourish there. They are wicked men and women that seek their pleasure there. Their thoughts so far as we can judge from their words and actions, are ungodly. They are not moral, and therefore they are immoral, and to be shunned by all who fear the wrath to come. Yet I must say that I respect these open ball goers more than the hypocritical professor of religion who will wrap himself up in the garb of the profession of Christ and then secretly countenance or openly connive at such sins. Again, I argue it is wrong, from
II. THE RESULTS OF THE BALL ROOM.
I. The Physical Results.—Injury to Health. I know that many argue that it is good for their health. I shall content myself at present with showing that the contrary is true. The mode of dressing for balls, the unnatural excitement, and the excessive exercise all tend to invite and develop disease. Cold is contracted, fever, rheumatism or consumption follows, and death often ensues as thee result. I have a case in point. Some years ago a young lady of, amiable disposition and the daughter of wealthy parents received and invitation to a ball. It was her first invitation; It came from a highly respectable young man whom she highly esteemed and very much desired to please. Her classmate said to her, “You are not going, are you?” “Why not?” was the rejoinder. “It is a dancing party,” was the reply. “So much the better, I have long wanted to attend a ball, and now I mean to go just this once and see what it, is.” She did go. But she was not satisfied with this once. Charmed with its fascinations she went again and again. Scarcely a ball came off in the town without Ellen being present: After some months had passed thus her friend and classmate one day surprised her in tears. Finding she was discovered, she said, “I have been reviewing, my life for the past few months.” “And are you resolving to do better?” asked her classmate. “Not just yet. I have one more engagement for Christmas eve. I must fill that, and that shall be my last.” She did fill that, and it was her last. She took cold, went home and, took her bed, grew worse from day to day, and after an illness of several weeks she died. In her last hours, as her classmate stood beside her bed, she looked up and exclaimed, “I am lost, forever lost!” When they spoke to her of Christ and his willingness to save, she would only repeat, “I am lost—forever lost! …. That ball—that, first ball has been my ruin!” and thus she died. Now, reviewing the direct moral results in this case, we argue that it is a sin thus wontonly to destroy the health of our bodies which God has given us, And as the ball room does, in many instances, lead to such results, therefore it is wrong.
2. The Moral Results. I must in advance beg your pardon for any seeming indelicacy in discussing this subject, for it is of too great importance to be passed over lightly. I shall confine myself to one particular result—the demoralizing effects of the ball room on females. Of all the inventions devised by the arch enemy of souls for robbing virtuous females of that which to them is more valuable than life itself (I mean their virtue) the ball room is the best adapted to and most successful in. the accomplishment of this fiendish design. The associations, the unnatural excitement, the frequent passing of the wineglass, and the dance itself all combine to pave the way for the disrobing of woman of her chief ornament, and that without which life itself is not desirable. And many are the unhappy creatures that lament and weep bitter tears of regret over the sad results of the ball room. Take the city of Paris as an illustration. Paris is not only the great metropolis of fashion, but it is also noted for its frequent and costly balls, and where under the heavens will you find more wretched females—wretched in body and ruined in soul, than you find in Paris. This at least shows that brothels and ball rooms are akin to each other. And were it not for shocking your modesty I might relate facts that would astonish and startle every virtuous female visitor, of these sinks of sin. A short time since I had a conversation with an intelligent gentleman on this subject. He frankly confessed that he was an advocate of balls, and had taken great pleasure in the dance, and after advancing the usual arguments in favor of dancing, he said, “After all, it must be conceded that ball rooms are among the worst places in the world for virtuous females.” This is enough. I will add no more on this point. The moral results prove, to the regret of thousands, that modern balls are not favorable to virtue or piety.
III. YOUR CONSCIENCE CONDEMNS IT. Let me prove this:
1. You would not respect any minister of the gospel as such, if he frequented the ball room. Why? You answer that his position as a minister of the gospel forbids him to indulge in such things. I reply that the minister is under no moral law that you are not. If it is innocent amusement, he may indulge in it as well as you, and it is no more wrong for him than you. And the very fact that you consider it not a fit place for a minister of Christ, proves that in your conscience you feel that it is inconsistent with the gospel, and therefore wrong.
2. Your conscience again condemns it, because you have never known any moral good to result from it. Have you ever known any person to become more pious, more devoted to God in the ball room? Have you ever known the influences of the ball room to bring any one to Christ? I have heard of one single instance in which souls were converted at a dance, and that was an extraordinary circumstance. The celebrated Peter Cartwright was once traveling through the west. He put up at a tavern in a small town where the people were given to dancing and other sins. A ball came off that night in the hotel in which he was stopping. He was invited to attend. His eccentricity of character led him to accept the invitation, for he was always ready for any emergency. He accordingly took his seat in the ball room. After frequently declining invitations to dance, he at length yielded to the solicitations of a young lady, on condition that he should have his own way in the matter. To this she readily consented, and was willing to yield almost anything, only so she might have the pleasure of dancing with the eccentric stranger. Taking her hand, he led her out on the floor. All eyes were turned to the stranger and the belle. The musicians tuned up, ready to compliment the stranger with their best efforts. When all was ready, Peter, looking over his audience, said: “My friends, I have long made it a rule of my life to do nothing without first asking the blessing of God upon it; let us pray.” Some of the company ran off, some screamed out with fear, and Peter, holding fast the hands of the belle, who screamed as though she was in the claws of a tiger, prayed with all the fervor of his soul. The result was, the ball was changed into a religious meeting, several souls were converted, and a church was organized. But it was Peter’s prayer, not the dancing, that led to this result. And now, let me ask if the ball room is so innocent, and dancing so consistent with religion as some of its advocates would have us believe, why were these persons so frightened when the man of God proposed to pray? Why did the young lady he held by the hand scream as though she was in a tiger’s grasp, when God’s servant only wanted to ask His blessing on the party—why?
3. Another evidence that your conscience condemns it, is found in the fact that you are not willing to die in the ball room. I have asked a number of persons this question, “Would you be willing to die in the ball room, and go to judgment from it?” and I have not yet found the person that was willing to go from this place of innocent (?) amusement to the bar of God. There seems to be something in this not exactly consistent with their constant protestations of its harmlessness. Let me relate a fact that illustrates this: In the year 1829 a young dancing-master, in the State of M——, formed the acquaintance of a very pious minister of the gospel, whom he always treated with the highest respect. Some months after this the young man was sick, but no danger was apprehended for some ten days, when all at once he began to sink very rapidly. He sent for this minister, and requested him to pray for him. After he had prayed with and for him, and began to speak to him of Jesus, the young man turned himself in his bed, and pointing to his violin, which was near by, said to the minister, “Burn my violin; it has been the cause of my ruin!” and died, exclaiming, “Is there no mercy for me! Is there no mercy for me!”
4. Again, another evidence that your conscience does not approve of it, may be drawn from the fact that when you are sick and likely to die, you never send for the dancing-master to comfort you, but for the minister of the gospel, at whom you sometimes become very angry because he preaches against the ball room, and warns you of your danger. Now, pray, why is this? Now you get angry at the minister because he does not sanction dancing, and praise the dancing-master; then, when you think you are likely to die, you discard the dancing-master and send for the minister. Why not send then for the dancing-master, if dancing is so harmless, and the master contributes so much to your happiness. If in this you find your chief enjoyment and really believe there is no harm in it, why do you change so suddenly when death appears? Are you not inconsistent.? Does not your conscience condemn you?
5. One thought more and we are done with this head. To parents who send or permit their children to attend the ball. Suppose the Saviour were yet on earth, and were to call on you for a night’s lodging, while your children were in the ball room. Suppose he were to say to you, “Where are your children?” Would you like to come out and tell the truth, or would you blush and smother your .words, and murmur, “They have gone to the B-A-L-L?” Now, if you think it a place not fit for a minister of the gospel—if your conscience testifies that you have known no good to result from it—if you are not willing to die in the ball room, and go to judgment from it, if you are not willing to have the leader of the dance to comfort you in your dying hour, and if you would not, as parents, be willing to tell the Saviour, were he in body your guest, that your children had gone to the ball, I think you ought to reflect seriously before you go yourselves, or permit your children to go again. And, after all the sophistical arguments the world can produce in favor of these things, these moral tests are the only true ones at last. If the practice will not bear these tests, it is not safe to indulge it, for by moral tests it must stand or fall at last.
I now propose a brief examination of some of the reasons assigned for attending balls:
1. For the sake of amusement. I do not doubt that it is a source of amusement to those who enjoy it. But it will be no great pleasure when you have gone to perdition through its influence, to remember that you were amused by it on earth.
2. It is good for the health, say some. We have shown the contrary to be true. But suppose it were, can you not find some other exercise, less pernicious, that will have just as good an effect on your physical system? And if you cannot find any other exercise that will have the same effect on your health which you claim for this, still it is a question you should seriously consider, whether any amount of physical benefit you can be supposed to receive from it, will compensate you for the loss of your virtue and your soul.
3. Parents say, “I would not let my children go but for the sake of getting them into good society.” What! is there no good society outside of the ball room! Hear, O Heavens! and be astonished, O Earth! Has it come to this? Is our world so bad that the best society is to be sought in the ante-room to hell! What do you call “good society?” The rich, the learned, the refined? I answer, No! emphatically, No! not if they exert an immoral influence. These things are good in their place, but only the more to be dreaded when they are perverted to the service of Satan. Yet, really some persons seem to think if they can only get their children into such society, the goal of life is reached, without ever pausing to ask, “How will it affect their morals?” It is bad enough for men and women of the world thus to send their children on the way to ruin. But it is infinitely worse when professors of the religion of Christ act thus. A circumstance, strikingly illustrating the folly of this course, occurred in the State of Kentucky, some years ago. A young lady whose parents were devoted to the world made a profession of religion and joined the church. She had been accustomed to attend balls and dances, but of course ceased to do so after her conversion. Her father was much grieved at this, and made repeated efforts to induce her to resume her former position. But she would say, “No, father, I do not wish to go; I have no pleasure in such things now.” A large and fashionable ball was to come off in the neighborhood. Her father feeling very anxious that she should go into good society, as he termed it, renewed his entreaties. At first she refused; but at length he said to her, “My daughter, I am very anxious that you should go just this once, it will not hurt you, and now if you will go I will buy you the finest silk dress in the market, and have it made up in the finest style.” She reluctantly consented. The dress was bought and made. The ball came off, and the daughter was there; and while there lost the love of God from, or out of her heart, the former fascinations of the dance renewed their hold upon her. She continued to go to balls for a few months, when she sickened and died. Calling her father to her bedside, a short time before she departed, and pointing to the fine silk dress as it hung upon the wall of the room, she said, “There, father, there is the price of my soul, you hired me with that to go to the ball; I went; I lost the love of God from my heart, and now I am dying and must be lost. Remember, when I am dead, that dress was the price of my soul.” And thus she died.
Parents beware! there is danger—great danger in such a course as this. Do not let the fascinations of what the world is pleased to term genteel society, lead you to the betrayal of your children’s eternal interests. Parents that do these things—either persuade or permit their children to go to the ball room and dance, are greatly to blame, more so than the children. Remember, you must answer at the bar of God for all these things. If you would not have your children point to you and reproach you on that day, with the ruin of their bodies and souls, be careful how you advise them to join in those things which result in their ruin. I do not say that it is absolutely certain that every one who goes to the ball will be ruined in soul and body; but I do say, if they are not it is not the fault of the ball room, for it is certainly well adapted to work such results.
“There is a time to dance.” When you convert your modern balls into religious rejoicings, have none but pious people at them, or have for their object the glory of God, and the good of souls—when you do this and dance after sacred music, I shall be happy to join you and bid you God speed. Until then, let me warn you, be careful how you pervert Scripture, in order to make it sanction a practice, which your own heart, and God who is greater than your heart, condemns.