The question is not, “Is it lawful?” but “Is my joy complete in Christ?”
From William Gurnall (1617-1679), The Christian in Complete Armour (What Peace is Here Meant)
Here are sober thoughts for professing Christians, on the subject of partaking in, and finding delight in, worldly pleasures such as movies, theatre performances and the like.
Titles are not the author’s.
Is the Gospel a Complete Joy, or Can Worldly Entertainments Complete the Cup of Blessing?
Is the gospel message of glad tidings? Do not then for shame, Christian, run on the world’s score by taking up any of its carnal joy; you need not go out of God’s house to be merry. Here is joy enough in the glad tidings of the gospel, more than you can spend, though you should live at a higher rate than you do and can here on earth.
Abraham would not take so much as ‘a thread’, or ‘shoe-latchet’ from the king of Sodom, lest he should say that he made Abraham rich, Gen 14:23. A Christian should deny himself of the world’s joy and delights, lest they say, “These Christians draw their joy out of our cistern.” The channel is cut out by the Spirit of God, in which he would have his saints’ joy to run. If any be merry, let him sing psalms. Let the subject of his mirth be spiritual; as, on the other hand, if he be sick, let them pray, James 5:14. A spiritual vent is given to both affections of sorrow and joy.
A prince’s recreation must not be like a ruffian’s [thug’s]: no more a Christian’s joy like the carnal man’s.
Woe to this Generation
If ever there was a need to call upon Christians to feed the lamp of their joy with spiritual fuel, holy oil, the drops from a gospel pipe, now the time is, wherein professors do symbolize with the world in their outward bravery, junketings [feastings], fashions, pastimes, and are so kind to the flesh in allowing of (yeah in pleading so much for) a carnal liberty in these things, that shows too plainly that the spiritual joy to be drawn out of these wells of salvation does not satisfy them; or else they would not make up their draught [drink] from this puddle-water, which was wont to be thirsted after only by those that had never drunk of Christ’s cup.
The Reason Christian Professors Are Attracted to the Pleasures of the World
Oh what is the reason that those, who would pass for Christians, forsake this pure wine of gospel joy, for the sophisticated stuff which this whore the world presents in her golden cup to them? Is it because the gladsome message of the gospel is grown stale, and so its joy– which once sparkled in the preaching of it, as generous wine does in the cup, and cheered the hearts of believers with strong consolations – has now lost its spirits? or can that pure stream of spiritual joy, which has run so long through the hearts and lives of the saints in so many generations, without mingling with the brackish water of the world’s sensual pleasures, at last fall in with them, and be content to lose its own divine nature and sweetness in such a sink? Oh no!
The gospel is the same it was; the joy it brings as sweet and brisk, as spiritual and pure, as ever it was, and will be as long as God and Christ continue to be the same, out of whose bosom of love it first flowed, and is still fed; but the professors of this gospel now, are not the same with those holy men and women of primitive times. The world grows old, and men’s affections with it chill and become cold. We have not our taste so lively, nor our spirits so chaste and pure, to relish the heavenly viands [food] – dished forth in the gospel. The cheer is as good as ever, but the guests are worse.
The Poisoning of Carnal Affections
We are grown debauched in our judgments, and corrupt in our principles; no wonder then if carnal in our joys. Error is a whore, it takes away the heart from Christ and his spiritual joys. The head, once distempered soon affects the heart, and, by dropping the malignity of its principles upon it, poisons it with carnal affections; and carnal affections cannot fare with any other than gross and carnal joys. Here, here is the root of the misery of our times.
Has not, think you, the devil played his game cunningly among us, who, by his instruments – transforming themselves into the likeness of angels of light – could first raise so many credulous souls into a fond expectation of higher attainments in grace and comfort from their new pretended light, than ever yet the saints were acquainted with, and then at last make them fall so low, be so reasonable (or rather unreasonable) as to accept such sensual pleasures and joys as this world can afford, in full payment for all the glorious things he promised them?
Well, sirs, this I hope will make some love the gospel the more, and stick closer to it as long as they live.