Quotes on Worldliness

Tertullian (c. 155 – c. 240 AD):

“Are we not…commanded to put away from us all immodesty. On this ground…we are excluded from the theatre, which is immodesty’s own peculiar abode…Is it right to look on what it is disgraceful to do? How is it that the things that defile a man in going out of his mouth, are not regarded as doing so when they go into his eyes and ears?…The rejection of these amusements is the chief sign to them that a man has adopted the Christian faith.”

Franklin Ferguson (1866-1957), editor of The Treasury magazine for 30 years:

“Be careful of recreation, which is going mad these days. A pleasant walk, a little gardening, fishing, some home hobby, etc. were once the recreations – good for body and mind alike. Now it is the tennis party, the golf links, the cricket and football field, the bowling green – mixing of saved and unsaved together. In the evening, the social party, the popular music, the entertaining lecture, and last and worst, the ‘pictures’. These are not God’s provision for the recreation of His redeemed ones, purchased by the blood of His crucified Son; but they are pleasures this world provides for its own. Pleasure, rightly understood, is of God and is good; but it is pleasure in fellowship with Christ and in the simple things His own hand provides.”

E.J. Poole-Connor (1872-1962), editor of The Bible League Quarterly:

“Does anyone pretend that if a Christian is watching a theatrical piece, or a music-hall turn, or playing a game of cards, or joining in a dance, he is not being conformed to this world? What else is he doing? Nor can we admit the plea that if this prohibition be so interpreted it would equally forbid all innocent physical and mental recreation…[e.g. a game of chess]…seeing that the world also engages in these things. Not so. The world eats and drinks, sleeps and walks, but these things belong to man as man, and innocent recreation is one of them. But the theatre, the card-parties, and the ball are peculiarly and specially things of the world. The mark of the world is unmistakable upon them. Who except those who want an excuse would ever question it? Let us be honest. Let us either say frankly that we no longer accept the New Testament teaching concerning non-conformity to the world; or else, accepting it, let us admit that theatre-going, card-playing and dancing are wholly incompatible with the Christian profession.”

C.H Spurgeon (1834-1892) writing on Attending places of Entertainment:

“As I look abroad, I am grieved and have great heaviness of spirit at what I see among professing Christians. A very serious matter concerns the amusements engaged in by professing Christians. I see it publicly stated, by some who call themselves Christians, that it is good for Christians to attend the theatre, so that the tone and character of the productions may be improved. The suggestion is about as sensible as if we were bidden to pour a bottle of lavender water into the main sewer to improve its aroma. If the church is now supposed to raise the tone of the world by imitating it, things have strangely altered since the day when our Lord said, “Come out from among them…and touch not the unclean thing.” Is Heaven to descend to the infernal lake to raise its tone? Such has been the moral condition of the theatre for many a year that it has become too bad for mending. And even if it were mended it would soon become corrupt again. Pass by it with averted gaze, for the house of the strange woman is there. It has not been my lot ever to enter a theatre during the performance of a play, but I have seen enough when I have come home from journeys at night, while riding past the theatres, to make me pray that our sons and daughters may never go within their doors. It must be a strange school for virtue which attracts the harlot and the debauchee. It is no place for a Christian if it is best appreciated by the irreligious and worldly. If our church members fall into the habit of frequenting the theatre, we shall soon have them going much further in the direction of vice, and they will lose all relish for the ways of God. If theatre-going became general among professing Christians, it would be the death of piety. Yet one finds the taste for such things increasing on every hand. We cannot even enter places once dedicated to science and art without finding ourselves in the presence of something like a theatrical performance. Such gimmickry, though in itself harmless enough, has helped foster the taste which leads ultimately to the theatre and its surroundings. Who can suppose amusements surrounded with the seductions of vice to be fit recreation for a pure mind? Who could draw near to God after sitting to admire the performances of the debauched (and I am told that some who have dazzled London society are such)?

“…Beware of the leaven of worldly pleasure, for its working is silent but sure, and a little of it will leaven the whole lump. Keep up the distinction between a Christian and an unbeliever and make it clearer every day. Have you heard of the minister who complained to the devil for running off with one of his church members? The fiend replied, “I found him on my premises, and therefore I claimed him.” I, also, may say, “Stop!” to the arch-deceiver, but it will be of no use if he finds you on his territory. Every fowler claims the bird which he finds in his own net. This is the argument: “I caught him in my net, and therefore he is mine.” We shall in vain try to dispute this right of property with the arch-enemy, for possession is nine points of the law. Avoid the appearance of evil. “But we must not be too rigid,” says one. There is no fear of that in these days. You will never go too far in holiness, nor become too like your Lord Jesus. If anybody accuses you of being too strict and precise, do not grieve but try to deserve the charge. I cannot suppose that at the last great day our Lord Jesus Christ will say to anyone, “You were not worldly enough. You were too jealous over your conduct, and did not sufficiently conform to the world.” No, my brethren, such a wrong is impossible. He Who said, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,” has set before you a standard beyond which you can never go. “Well, but,” says one, “are we to have no enjoyments?” My dear friend, the enjoyments which are prepared for Christians are many and great, but they never include sin and folly…

“If worldlings enjoy the pleasures of the world and sin, let them have them, poor souls. They have nothing else to enjoy. They have no paradise for the everlasting future. They have no Christ and Saviour to lean their heads upon. Let them have that which makes them happy while they can be happy. But when I am talking to the children of God I adopt another tone, since for you these things have no charms if you have truly tasted the high delights of fellowship with God…

“How far may we go in conformity to the world?” is a question that is frequently asked. Have you never heard the story of a lady who wanted a coachman? Two or three called to see her about the post, and, in answer to her enquiries, the first applicant said, “Yes, madam, you could not have a better coachman than myself.” She replied, “How near do you think you could drive to danger without an accident?” “Madam, I could go within a yard of it, and yet you would be perfectly safe.” “Very well,” she said, “you will not suit me.” “The second applicant had heard the question upon which the other had been rejected, and therefore he was ready with his answer, “Danger! Madam, why I could drive within a hair’s breadth, and yet be perfectly safe.” “Then you will not suit me at all.” When number three came in, he was asked, “Are you a good driver?” “Well,” he replied, “I am careful and have never met with an accident.” “But how near do you think you could drive to danger?” “Madam,” he said, “That is a thing I never tried; I always drive as far away from danger as ever I can.” The lady at once replied, “You are the kind of coachman I want, and I will engage you at once.”

“Get such a coachman as that yourself to guide your own heart and lead your own character. Do not see how near you can go to sin, but see how far you can keep away from it. If you do not take that advice, and if the Spirit of God does not produce in you purity of life, by and by the church will have to hold up its hands and say, “Who would have thought it? These were the nice young people of whom so much was expected; these were the good people who used to say, ‘You must not be too strict’ and where are they now?” To avoid the worst keep clear of the bad.

“As for your Lord’s work, be bound to the altar of Christ and be united for ever to Him, and I am sure you will not find that you are losers by giving up worldly pleasures. The Lord’s ways are ways of pleasantness, and all His paths are peace. There is a safe and sweet pleasantness in holy living, and the pleasantness lies very much in the fact that an abounding peace springs from it. God grant us grace to keep in these peaceful paths, even though others should call us Puritans and ridicule our holy fear of sin.”