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Full text of "Dancing as a Christian amusement."

No. 189. 




1334 CHESTNUT STREET. DANCING AS A Christian Amusement. 



Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1879, by THE TRUSTEES OF THE PRESBYTERIAN
BOARD OF PUBLICATION, In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington. 

Westcott & Thomson , Stereotypers and Electrotypers, Philada . No. 189. DANCING. 

The scriptural titles of a minister of Jesus Christ are suggestive. Among them are "watchman,"
"shepherd" and "bishop." The particular charge which the pastor is to watch, to feed and to
oversee is "the Church of God, which he has purchased with his own blood." When any social amusement,
fashionable custom, secular business or heretical propagandism threatens the Church with
injury and society with demoralization, it is the right and duty of the Christian pulpit or
church-court to use all proper means in a proper spirit to confront, expose and resist the threatening
danger. This should be done in a kind, gentle, respectful manner, not in an arrogant, ascetic,
self-righteous spirit. 

The amusement under discussion is sustained by the opinion and practice of the fashionable
world, and sometimes, too, by members of the Church. I deem it at least questionable, as a barrier
to the progress of Christian society, as unfriendly to virtue and grace, and as a leaven of individual
and social corruption. Can this conviction be sustained? The recreation is seeking recognition
and encouragement in families and churches where once it was utterly excluded. Is this a necessary
consequence of our growth in wealth and evangelical liberality? This fact, and the recent
and continuous deliverances of every grade of church-courts, make it a timely theme for our

Let us first consider and answer some of the most plausible defences of dancing. 

1. Honest appeal has been made to the authority of Scripture in favor of this amusement. It has
been found in such a passage as this, "There is a time to dance," and in the example of such worthies
as Miriam and David. A reliable writer, whose criticism my personal examination sustains,
says: "I have consulted every passage in the Bible which speaks of dancing, from all which it
appears-1. That dancing was a religious act, both in true and also in idol-worship. 2. That
it was practiced exclusively on joyful occasions, such as national festivals or great victories.
3. That it was performed on such great occasions by one only of the sexes. 4. That it was performed
usually in the daytime in the open air-in the highways, fields and groves. 5. That men who perverted
dancing from a sacred use to purposes of amusement were deemed infamous. 6. That no instances
of dancing are found upon record in the Bible in which the two sexes united in the exercise either
as an act of worship or amusement. 7. That there are no instances on record in the Bible of social
dancing for amusement, except that of the 'vain fellows' void of shame alluded to by Michal,
of the irreligious families described by Job, which produced increased impiety and ended
in destruction, and of Herodias' daughter, which terminated in the rash vow of Herod and the
murder of John the Baptist." The sum of this biblical testimony is that the dancing approved
was in every respect very different from the modern amusement bearing the name, that it was
performed on great national and religious occasions by the sexes separately as a spiritual
exercise, that its perversion to amusement was regarded as a sacrilege, 1* and that in every
case where it is mentioned as a social amusement it is associated with condemnation or circumstances
of horror Pastors will find the study of these passages repaid by a full, interesting and instructive
line of argument different from that which follows in this essay. 

2. It is urged that dancing is a healthful exercise. I shall deny this of fashionable dancing.
But even if it were admitted, would it be a sufficient justification of a practice which many
weighty objections make at least of questionable propriety? "Bodily exercise" (ascetic
or otherwise) "profiteth a little," but that tittle would be sadly purchased by the price of
"godliness, which is profitable unto all things, having the promise of tim life that now is,
and of that which is to come." The pursuit of physical health by many innocent and delightful
ways accessible to all needs not the addition of an exercise seriously objectionable on moral
and religious grounds. 

3. It is said that dancing promotes graceful movement and polite manners. These are attainments
which we ought to seek, for they are important elements of personal attraction and usefulness,
alike desirable in society and in the Church. They should be taught and sought by all means that
do not entail consequences dangerous to health, beauty and purity. It is admitted that instruction
and practice in dancing do contribute to ease and grace of movement, but, as shall be seen, at
the risk of bodily, mental and moral injury. Early instruction, judicious labor and regular
outdoor exercise, as in play, walking, riding and gymnastics, will produce far greater ease
and dignity, strength and grace of movement. This is proven by innumerable instances all around
us of persons who never set foot in the dance, and thus were never exposed to the wanton freedom
of attitude and manner so commonly inculcated in the dancing-school and encouraged in the
ball-room. It is fair to remark here that some calisthenic exercises in our mixed schools are
open to the objections which lie against promiscuous dancing. 

4. In favor of dancing is urged that it is fashionable. True, and many would not dance or allow
dancing if it were not fashionable; they yield to the fashion with a secret protest of their
moral sense. Many other enormous evils which burden society are fashionable. Fashion is often
a most dangerous enemy to grace. It has lured unnumbered souls to ruin, and its testimony in
favor of any practice should at once awaken suspicion. Yet fashion has its legitimate place
and is entitled to a large share of respect; but when it approves and advocates any custom or
amusement objectionable on physical or moral grounds, it should be rejected by all, especially
by those who axe "not to be conformed to the world." 

5. It is said that dancing is not sinful in itself. Just so, but then the plea implies that it may
be sinful. This plea should always awaken close inquiry as to the propriety of any recreation
in defence of which it is employed, although it is often lawfully and unanswerably used. Its
admission will not weaken our position if the real, not the ideal, dance of modern fashionable
society is proven sinful and improper. The plea is made mainly to justify family and non-promiscuous
dancing. What are we to understand by non-promiscuous dancing? Is it dancing by one sex alone,
or only by members of the family or kindred or neighbors? Or does it include all of a given social
circle and the strangers who may be introduced by them? And may any lady or gentleman exclude
any other one who, though belonging to the family or social circle, ought for good. reasons
be excluded from the familiarities of the dance? How difficult to define non-promiscuous
dancing! How hard to get up dancing-parties that are not promiscuous! How can you restrict
dancing to select company? How can you restrain within prescribed bounds the passion you have
educated? In this, too, we perceive the subtlety of Satan, and that "the beginning of sin is
like the letting out of water." Indulge your children in the occasional and abstemious use
of intoxicating drinks at the family board or evening-party, and you create an appetite that
may be satisfied only with the indulgence of the bar and the inebriate. Gather them round the
card-table, and you invite them to the doors and experience of the gambling-saloon. Provide
private theatricals, and you may arouse an appetite which will seek gratification amid the
corrupt surroundings and impure pure teachings of the public drama. Private dancing supplies
the ball-room as does the nursery the orchard or the school the college. It is urged that liability
to perversion or excess cannot be conclusive against a practice or indulgence, as in the case
of eating, drinking, sleeping, and the like. Admitted, but these are necessities of nature,
duties of life, in the use or non-use of which we have no choice, and it is denied that they are
necessarily Or generally liable to abuse; whereas dancing is not a necessity of nature or duty
of life, and is generally productive of some form and measure of bodily, mental and moral injury.
Besides, so long as family and square dances are vindicated, you protest almost in vain again
the ball-room and round dances. But the objections I shall Urge against dancing as it is apply
to it as an amusement under any and all circumstances. 

6. It has been argued that dancing is not expressly forbidden in the Bible. I think that is true;
and yet even if it be true, of what force is the argument? Must we have an express declaration
of the Bible to know the moral nature and lawfulness of every action, sentiment or custom? Have
we any such declaration as to the slave-trade or arson or gambling or time theatre or obscene
literature? And yet what mind enlightened by Scripture can hesitate to believe that these
things are as forcibly forbidden by the spirit and implications of the Bible as they could be
by direct. declaration? Now, if dancing is hostile to the spirit of the Bible and to that life
which the Bible enjoins, then it is forbidden by the Bible. 

7. It is charged in palliation of dancing that those who object to it amuse themselves in ways
as objectionable, or more so. This is assertion, not argument, but it is so often made that with
many it has the force of argument. But the intelligent and really pious people who object to
dancing are not given to these kinds of amusement. Besides, the choice is not left us which of
objectionable amusements we shall select: all are alike-forbidden. Rather than apologize
for the dancing of some by the card-playing, or even the evil gossip, of others, it would be safer
to suspect that the entire atmosphere of such society was minted. Must the alternative be dancing
or gossip? Are these the boundaries of rational and moral capacities in the matter of social
recreation? I pity the individual or company whose culture is so limited. Besides, on reflection,
I am persuaded that gossip is less dangerous than dancing, and I think it can be shown that dancers
have not a monopoly of intelligent and virtuous conversation. It must be imbecile society
indeed that cannot find pastimes at once pleasant, proper and profitable. 

8. Lastly, with a painful insensibility to parental obligation, it has been pressed apologetically
for dancing that "young people will be amused, and if you restrain them in one thing they will
indulge in another." Now, to the first point I reply that we want young people, and old too, to
be amused; whilst the second I deny, and assert that the young, restrained in wrong-doing,
are apt to keep from wrong-doing, and those indulged in one wrong tiling will indulge in other
wrong things. In fact, the assertion is a devil's blow at all parental restraint and responsibility.
It contradicts God and affronts his government of manhood. To admit it either as a principle
of action or an excuse for neglect is to remove all restraint upon or in anything and everything.
It is a parent's duty to forbid all improper associations and practices; and if, in spite of
parental fidelity, a child succeeds in the gratification of evil propensities, then the guilt
rests upon the child, and the blood of betrayed trust will, not fall upon the parent. 

Another sophistry of parental indolence and devilish malignity is, "Let a child learn the
evil for itself." Then grant it the largest license, indulgence in everything! But no. Experience
of evil is not necessary to the knowledge of evil, nor does such experience, as does the want
of it, swell the sum of our moral force; nor does the experience of evil, as does the gracious
absence of it, intensify abhorrence and rejection of evil. Nor is it necessary that the experience
of moral evil, any more than of physical evil, should be individual and universal in order to
the prevention or cure of evil, general or particular. Parental knowledge, whether earned
by experience or observation, should be employed for the protection of the child, and, as to
dancing, is as valuable and should wield as strong authority 2 as in anything else as injurious.
Let your children suffer by your example or culpable neglect, and they will thank you in neither
time nor eternity, nor will you escape the displeasure of the almighty Father of the children.

I have made an honest endeavor to cover the ground generally and plausibly occupied in favor
of dancing as a social amusement. If any point in its favor has been omitted, it is because I am
ignorant of it, and not from any desire to avoid it. Nor do I desire to diminish, but to increase,
lawful amusements. I myself like to be amused, and I am easily amused. The man who invents an
innocent amusement, or who, without vulgarity or impurity, makes mankind laugh, is a public
benefactor, as well as the man who makes two blades of grass grow where but one could grow before.
We owe a large debt to our pure humorists. If I were a heathen, like Socrates, I would, for sanitary
reasons, offer a cock to AEsculapius for every one of them; but as I am not a heathen, nor a Socrates
either, I thank God for them. But I cannot commend or encourage an amusement which constantly
needs to be defended, and by defences so weak, against the large majority of the best people
of all religious sects, and against the judgment of so many of the best and wisest people of the

It already appears that social dancing is at least a very questionable amusement, and that
ought to be enough-it is enough-for serious Christians or thoughtful parents. It also appears
that the defences of social dancing are really weak, and must yield to the pressure of substantial
objections. To such I now address myself. I ask permission to press upon your candid consideration
some reasons why, as a father, a Christian and a minister, I must enter my protest against this
social amusement. I will try to do this kindly, truthfully, and with an earnestness that yet
deprecates resentment, for I cannot afford to lose, nor can any man afford to lose, friendships,
except in the path of duty. I. Effect of Dancing on Bodily Health . 

As this presents perhaps the strongest and most plausible defence of this amusement, it may
seem hazardous to assail it, and safer, in the strength of other objections, to let this point
pass. Yet I must unhesitatingly declare dancing in its most popular forms an eminently dangerous
exercise. We must take the custom, not under conceived conditions, but as we find it in ordinary
Social practice. With much assurance and poetry we are frequently referred to the healthful
dancing of European peasantry as illustrative of its beneficial effect upon bodily health
and grace. Yet certain areas of Europe and European society are not the best sources from which
to import customs and amusements for American youth and the Christian home. If we do, we must
also take their morals, for the manners and morals of a people are inseparable. The peasant-dances
of sunny France and Spain and Italy are performed upon the green sward and under the pure, exhilarating
atmosphere of heaven, while the moralities of that peasantry are never recommended for adoption
in the homes of this land. 

With us the dance is generally performed on dusty carpets and floors, in heated, confined often
crowded rooms, whose atmosphere is poisoned by the rapid, increased respiration of the company.
The movement is unnatural, violent, especially for women, producing unhealthful nervous
excitement, quick inhalation of impure air surcharged with the dust of the floor and fine loosened
particles of carpets. the body becomes heated to that degree that the temptation to seek a colder
atmosphere is seldom resisted, while frequently such exposure from open doors and windows
is unavoidable. The hours of dancing are generally those which Nature and science declare
unfitted for exercise, permitting only gentle exertion and soon calling for entire repose.

The physical effects of dancing, then, are great bodily debility, undue excitement and reactive
prostration of the nervous system, poisoning and obstruction of the lungs and throat, often
resulting in hemorrhages and consumption, palpitation and other diseases of the heart, frequent
headaches, with their train of evils, and internal injuries of various kinds. This is a strong
indictment of dancing, but I am sure it is not exaggerated. Within six months of the writing
of this tract, I became 2* cognizant of six cases of sudden death by dancing. In addition to these,
while preaching on this subject recently at Hanover, a funeral-procession passed the church,
following the remains of a young woman who died of rapid disease caused by dancing. Could the
truth be ascertained, I doubt not we all would be startled by the amount of sickness, infirmity
and death which would find its chief or only source in this popular social amusement. Should
any one reply, "Confine dancing to a gentle bodily movement, remove it to the open lawn or bare
floor, and limit it to a brief time," I answer, "You conceive a mode of dancing Seldom or never
found in social life, which lovers of this pleasure would ridicule and refuse, and which, therefore,
I am not called upon to discuss now. I am now to consider dancing, not as a calisthenic exercise
or pastime for children under possible regulations, but as asocial amusement, as it actually
exists in present society, with its usual circumstances and prevailing tendencies." II.
Moral or Religious Considerations involved in this Amusement . 

Of course these are the most serious, and require intelligent, prayerful and honest discussion,
for we wish to determine our proper attitude as Christians to this custom. 

1. Its Criminal Waste of Time and Money .-This commences with the dancing-school, and terminates
only with the close of fashionable life. I do not object to spending time and money for amusement-it
is a happy necessity of our nature, and, in proper indulgence, may demand its share of expenditure-but
the time and money consumed on the dancing-school I deem extravagant and criminal, because,
if bodily health and grace are the objects, that expenditure is unnecessary, since these results
can be better secured by easier means, in better places, without physical and moral exposure.
In these schools the young acquire a taste for this amusement which parental pride and the weak
ambition to be esteemed fashionable are not slack to gratify. A vanity is aroused and cultivated
which imperiously craves indulgence. Times and places are set apart for dancing. Clubs are
formed; and when parents have retired, young people of both sexes prolong the dance into the
"wee sma' hours," or under the silent darkness find their way home. As the ball-room and assembly,
of all places, are those selected for the exhibition of personal charms and rich attire, much
time and money as well as thought and feeling is expended in prolonged preparation and upon
costly dress and ornament. The love of admiration and display is innate; and once fairly aroused
and stimulated by envy and jealous rivalry, it is never satisfied, being alike insensible
to the wreck of fortune, the ruin of souls and the unrelieved suffering of the poor. 

2. The Evil Associations of Dancing .-These commence in the dancing-school. Society looks
with contempt upon the employment of a dancing-master. All think they know his social position
and character. As a class, dancing-masters are excluded from the intimacies of refined society-are
indolent, dissolute and bankrupt in fortune or morals. Possibly this opinion does injustice
to some exceptional cases. I pity them, but I cannot alter this popular verdict. Yet to such
teachers, invariably of marked inferiority of some kind, in the privacy and familiarity of
the dancing-school, fashionable or would-be fashionable parents commit what they strive
to think is only the physical training of sons and daughters, of whose bodies and souls they
must render account at God's awful assize. In these schools children encounter companions
of various social culture and position as classmates and partners in the dance. Though out
of school-hours this acquaintance may be ignored, the dangerous moral impressions of this
brief intimacy by touch, look or word may never be effaced. But generally the school-acquaintance
is not ignored. It has involved many families in unhappiness and dishonor-enough, at least,
to warn those parents who are apt to forget that they are appointed to select the companions
of their children. 

These evil associations are attendant on the whole life of the dancer. Women must take such
partners as the accident of the dance brings them, even though it throws them into the hands
and arms or under the gloating, sensual gaze of the dissipated and licentious; for Fashion-child
of Sin and Death-will embrace incarnate corruption, though reeking with the filth of bar-room,
theatre or brothel, if only it comes with gold and gay attire or respectable social connections.
The rules of this social amusement will allow a man guilty Of every crime which should make women
loathe him and banish him from all respectable company to take liberties with the person of
wife and sister and daughter which under no other circumstances than marriage would be permitted
to the man of purest morals or closest friendship. 

Nor ought we lose sight of those too frequent adjuncts to the dancing-party-viz., win cards,
immodest dress and the masquerade, with their demoralizing consequences. Some may say I am
confounding things essentially distinct-that these evils are not necessary to dancing.
Once more you compel me to reply that we must take things as they are; and I ask, Are not these evils
generally as inevitable upon dancing as are others upon horse-racing, wine-drinking, card-playing
and theatre-going? We must not only resolve things into their essential elements, but also
regard them in their affinities, attractions and tendencies. 

3. The Injurious Effects of Dancing upon Mind and Heart .-Few passions take a stronger hold
or exercise a more imperious sway. This amusement awakens and indulges some of the worst propensities
of the unrenewed nature, and interferes with intellectual and moral improvement. It appeals
to vanity by the opportunity it affords for the display of costly dress and personal charms;
and this wig such force as to induce immodest exposure, risk of health, waste of time and cruel
extravagance, a hardened selfishness deaf to the rights and feelings of others, to the appeals
of suffering and to the duties of benevolence. It cultivates pride in personal beauty, and
grace, fashionable appearance and triumph over others, or else envy dark and mean at the superior
accomplishments, impressions and success of others. 

But the most objectionable feature of this amusement is its tendency to sensuality. The movements,
attitudes and, exposures of the body, the nervous, passionate excitement, and the undue license
allowed, awaken impure thoughts and feelings in which the filthy and passionate revel, and
which hold the pure with a fascination the nature of which they never analyze but to blush. Very
few escape this dangerous state of feeling. Hence the impure are always eager for the dance.
Hence dancing is one of the propelling forces which plunge men and women down to profligacy,
ruin and death; while many others who escape these lower depths of the pit in secrecy of mind
and heart learn to revel in forbidden thoughts and scenes. Some lovely and virtuous, and others
cold and passionless, may mingle without such injury in the voluptuous mazes of the dance,
but oh how painful to see loveliness and innocence in such fellowship with most hideous vice,
breathing this tainted air and embracing pleasure along these precipices of moral death!

Those who have any considerable experience or observation know that these statements are
substantially right, whether or not they have candor to make the admission. By the gentle,
patient, firm restraints and instruction of parental piety I have been preserved from the
indulgence of this amusement, for which my manhood and maturer judgment give a devout mother
sincere and loving gratitude. Though without personal experience, I am sure these statements
are right. I judge from personal observation, from frequent remarks and comments on the dance,
and from a long array of facts. I know it from confessions made to me. I believe it from my knowledge
of our poor, passionate nature, ever sensitive to temptation in this direction. I infer it
from my knowledge of those who love the dance as they love nothing that does not minister to sensuality.
I know it from remarks made and eyes feeding upon the forms of those in the dance whom we would
never have looked upon but with purity, respect and honor. I know it from the dislike we feel
in seeing those we love and cherish mingling in the dance with those whose lives or nature we
abhor, and from the shrinking which pure men feel on watching wives and daughters in the promiscuous
dance. I know it from the reason many have given, and which more could give, fur the intense love
they have for the dance. 3 

Christian parents and friends, I am conscious of the delicacy of this subject, that I am treading
ground that needs cautious steps, that I may be accused of a pharisaic prudery, and that I may
be risking friendships which I have no desire to lose. I deprecate your displeasure. But neither
for peace nor friendship, nor from false, ill-timed delicacy, can I keep back convictions
that have grown upon my mind, not without resistance, which are the growth of much observation
and thought and discussion with good and load, wise and foolish-convictions which the corruptions
of fashionable life have long ago provoked and justified. I regard promiscuous dancing as
a great moral whirlpool; and when I see any I love within the charmed circle, I dread the shock
their moral nature must sustain, the lifelong struggle with forbidden feeling they are calling
into activity; I tremble lest some of them by successive steps be drawn down to shame and death.
How can we otherwise regard an amusement which finds its eager rotaries and conveys its pleasures
in the tavern, the gambling-hell, the theatre and the brothel, as well as in the parlor and drawing-room?
How can we otherwise regard an amusement which the passionate and profligate so much love,
which furnishes so much food and opportunity to vice, and which leads to so much mental dissipation
and physical and moral harm? How can we otherwise regard a custom which proffers to strangers,
and invites from them, liberties which should be confined to the nearest relations and domestic

4. Dancing is Unfriendly to the Purity and Growth of Religious Life .-(1.) Dancing leads to
neglect of religion. It prevents religious impressions where they do not exist. It is a noticeable
fact that a revival of religion which leaves innocent amusements untouched breaks up all dancing-clubs
and parties within its sphere, and that revivals rarely occur in those persons and communities
where dancing is a prevailing custom. All ministers regard this amusement as more or less hostile
to religious conviction and inquiry, and the awakening of a soul hopeless while under its fascination.
There is nothing in any of the forms of dancing friendly to the power of truth or to the spirit
of holiness, while it is in entire harmony with worldly-mindedness and impenitency. Nor is
this merely a negative influence. The spirit of the amusement is one of positive hostility
to pure religion. When the world desires to secularize the Church or defeat its evangelical
purposes, dancing is sure to be prominent and effective among the means employed. Worldly
people, alarmed at the religious thoughtfulness or consistency of children or companions,
will seek to engage them in the dance, well appreciating its antagonism to a Christian life.
In those infidel schemes which deride and denounce the Bible and the present structure of society
dancing is introduced because of its hostility to serious reflection, to religious thought
and to social purity. 

(2.) Dancing is prominent as a worldly amusement. Although the world has often appealed to
the support of the Bible and the Church, still it freely admits that this amusement is not religious-has
no reference to the approval, worship or honor of God. Nay! On account of its acknowledged frivolity
and worldliness, many persons other than religious are properly excluded from it. An eminent
writer puts these pertinent and caustic inquiries: "Do men admire a physician in the giddy
whirl of the voluptuous dance, or a judge in the stream of the silly gallopade, a presbyter exhibiting
his prowess in the reel, a bishop sloping his person to the quaint movements of the minuet, or
an archbishop laboring at the agilities of a Highland fling? Yea, even character is allowed
to have its weight. Literary or scientific men, if they only say, 'I don't usually attend such
amusements,' or 'I never dance,' are at once excused." I might multiply similar opinions of
distinguished laymen from Cicero to Daniel Webster. The world does not expect or approve of
such characters in the dance; and if it ever does induce them to enter the charmed circle, it
regards them with a loss of respect and reverence which largely detracts from their professional
standing and usefulness. On the other hand, in the heart it respects that official dignity
or consistent piety which refuses to participate in this amusement. If it seeks to entrap the
Church, it is only to disarm opposition to a recreation which is not defended because of its
moral elements, but simply on the score of its asserted innocence. 3* 

(3.) Dancing is opposed to the precepts of the Bible concerning our personal life. It is opposed
to that sobriety, dignity and earnestness of life enjoined in such words as "See that ye walk
circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil;" to
that new birth and life expressed thus: "As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves
according to your former lusts in your ignorance;" to that crucifixion to the world enjoined
by such counsel as "Be not conformed to the world," "Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the
world;" to that elevated life suggested by such words as "Set your affection on things above,
not on things on earth," "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world;" to that
religious solicitude and diligence inspired by such warnings as "Let us therefore fear lest
a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it;"
to that loving, thoughtful example and influence, inculcated by such words as "Avoid even
the appearance of evil," "If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no more flesh while the
world standeth;" and to such consecration to God as is expressed by these words: "Let your light
so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven,"
"Glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are his." Thus might your memory add Scripture
to Scripture, the spirit and scope of each of which would contain an unmistakable sentence
against a social amusement as questionable as this. 

(4.) The habit of dancing is unfriendly to Christian life and growth. It unfits body, mind and
soul for prayer, spiritual thought, communion with God, and other private religious duties.
It impairs personal consecration to the love and work of Jesus. Its element of sensualism undermines
Christian virtue and chills regenerate emotion. It awakens and nourishes pride, jealousy
and others of the worst passions of our nature. It affords food and stimulus to the worst forms
of gossip. If any professed Christians deny this, let them compare their present views and
feelings about dancing with those they held and felt at conversion or during the revival of
religious principles and activities. In short, to show the completeness of the antagonism
between this amusement and the holy religion of Christ, study with candor as well as with charity
those churches and professors who excuse, practice and advocate dancing. Are not such churches
without marked tokens of the presence of the Holy Spirit, given to external observances, unevangelic
in spirit, with a lower standard of personal consecration, undervaluing religious privileges
and pleasures, extenuating many other worldly amusements and questionable pursuits, and
ready to open the privileges of the sacraments to all who desire them without close scrutiny
of their religious principles and experience? Are not those members of the Church who practice
this amusement generally weak or ignorant or formal or worldly? Did you ever know one who was
prominent for dancing also eminent for piety? Do they not generally avoid and lightly esteem
the more Pious and earnest of their fellow-Christians, and in their associations, resorts,
conversation, reading, amusements and conduct of affairs show more of the spirit of the world
than of grace? As a rule, are they not so liberal in their views and habits and speech, or so silent
and undemonstrative as to religion, that strangers would never suspect their profession?
There are dancing Christians active in certain departments of church-work and habitually
attendant upon religious services, but is their religious life broad and deep enough, or are
their numbers great enough, to negative the inquiries above made? I believe the concurrent
successive testimonies of the devout children of God are the testimony of the Holy Comforter
whom Jesus promised to his disciples to teach and guide them in all things, and the concurrent
successive voice of the Church has been emphatically against dancing as an amusement in Christian
families and society. 

Near the time of the first writing of this paper, a young lady in all the splendor and prodigality
of a rich ball-room dress was found in her chamber in the cold embrace of death by those who came
to bear her to the ball. About the same time in a Western city another maiden, amid the merry ring
of music and giddy maze of the dance, fell dead upon the floor. Close to the time and place of this
writing a young man in the eager, exciting dance from the arms of a beauty fell bleeding to the
floor, and was borne away to a bed of sudden death. Why did the silence of the sepulchre come down
with dread and guilt upon these gay and happy companies? Why did they hastily separate and fly
to their homes as if from the presence of a judgment? Why did the blood chill as the eye fell upon
the intelligence widely scattered by the press? Why do you now chill as I feebly repeat these
facts? Why do our eyes follow with instinctive fear those young souls in their sudden summons
to the bar of God? Tell me why, if the dance be that altogether innocent thing which some would
make it out to be. Why is death in the dance, at the card-table, in the theatre or on a Sabbath journey
associated with peculiar sadness? bereaved parent can tell with no shrinking of respect for
the departed of the death of a son or daughter in the street, on the thoroughfare, at the table
of refreshment, in some happy social circle or on the field of battle, but why this agonized
hesitation, this uncontrolled grief, these welling sobs and scalding tears, as parental
lips tell of the soul of some loved child going from the dance to the tribunal of God? 

Dancing, as we know it, is a questionable and dangerous amusement. In such belief it must not
receive approval, nor, what would be worse, must it receive connivance. We should meet it at
the threshold of our fold and rebuke its presence. If any persist in its practice and encouragement,
when they and we stand at the bar of our Lord Jesus Christ they must acquit us of unfaithfulness
and bloodguiltiness in this thing. But, Christian brethren, I would not have you indifferent
as to this amusement. For the sake of your higher life in Jesus, I entreat you, touch not the unclean
thing. By the sorrows of many pious parents whose children have stifled convictions in the
dance, by the death-agony of many youths which this amusement has sent apparently unprepared
to meet God, by the grief of parents over many whom it has sent to untimely graves, by the lifelong
remorse which many will carry to their graves, by the ample testimony of the world, the Church
and word of God against it, I entreat you, touch not the unclean thing. For the sake of your children
and friends, for the sake of weak and wandering lovers of pleasure, for the sake of the dear Church
of our Lord Jesus Christ, I entreat you, touch not the unclean thing. "Finally, whatsoever
things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things
are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any
virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." Phil. iv. 8. 

Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1334 Chestnut St., Phila.