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XIII

THE LAW OF PLEASURE
The Problem of Questionable Amusements

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S it wrong? Is it wrong to dance? Is it wrong to play cards? Is it wrong to go to the theatre?

Is it wrong to smoke? Is it wrong to drink a glass of light wine occasionally? Is it wrong to indulge in an innocent flirtation? Is it wrong to gamble, with just a quarter of a dollar thrown in, in order to make it interesting? Is it wrong? Is it wrong?

Give a man a rule to live by and he becomes a Pharisee-give him a principle and he becomes a Christian. Christianity to-day stands for the essence of truth and the quintessence of principle as applied to life, conduct and character. Into every life there enters certain elements of chance and choice. Character pivots on choice. Inability to choose-that is to choose the right-opens the door for the whirlwind of chance. The genuine Christian builds on choice and pluck in preference to chance and luck.

Charles Stewart Parnell, sitting in a London theatre and watching an acrobat performing on the stage, inquired of a friend : “Why should that man yonder be acting a part behind the footlights, while I am sitting here before the footlights gazing upon his facial contortions and physical involutions ? Why is it that I am called a statesman and he is called a clown ?Parnell's answer to his own question was expressed in these words : "Chance, just chance. Everything is chance! Nothing but chancel"

But the life of Charles Stewart Parnell proved just the opposite. It proved that everything is character! The man who could enter the halls of British legislation and place the iron heel of a dogged determination on the machinery of parliamentary progress and insist that not a wheel should move until the rights of a small island in mid-ocean should be recognized and considered was a man who stood forth as the incarnation of character. Everything is character! Character is the sky-chance is the cloud. Character is the mountain-chance is the mist. Character is the continent-chance is the whirlwind. Only character endures.

The best guarantee of a successful life is a strong personality. Everything pivots on personality. The elements of strength are from within. The historian said concerning Henry Clay : “He was not a hard student-not a lover of books. He was too fond of excitement, too fond of social enjoyment, too fond of pleasant company. He had few resources within himself.” A friend said to Wilberforce : “Is your soul saved ?" Wilberforce answered: “I had forgotten that I had a soul !" He was consumed with a desire to smite slavery a death-dealing blow and had become unconscious of his own spiritual needs

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-a pretty healthy condition by the way. Inward strength and a dominating purpose are the signs of a strong personality.

John Wesley took the old, dry as dust theology of his day and set it on fire l-What are you doing? General Booth carried the Gospel to the submerged tenth I-What are you doing? Frances Willard preached the doctrine of moral reform in every American city of ten thousand population or more ! -What are you doing? David Livingstone kindled a torch amid the midnight blackness of a dark continent I-What are you doing? George Williams called the Christian young men of the world into conference and association What are you doing ? Dr. Grenfell founded a mission in the lonely wilds of Labrador I-What are you doing? Doing? Aye, doing!

What does your personal influence count for? A young Scotchman once said: “I am a Christian because Marcus Dodds is one.” Did anybody ever venture such a statement concerning you? Are you aware that you are living in the brightest hour of the world's history? It was said of Cromwell that: “He lived in a group of years in which every day was great." We are living in a greater day than that of Cromwell. Isaiah's prophecies are being fulfilled. The dream of Joseph is being realized. The visions of the apostles are being brought to pass. The golden age is passing. Humanity is on the verge of spiritual conquests as radiant as radium.

All character and ability is pivoted on the will. "Is it wrong?” “Is this wrong?” “Is that wrong?” -Everything is wrong which infringes on or decreases your will power. A strong will means a strong character. A weak will reveals a weak character. Guard well the citadel of your will. Rum rots the brain and robs a man of will power. It destroys the physical foundations of mental strength. The man who can drink or let it alone-usually drinks. And the more he drinks the more he is likely to drink. Rum fools the man who fools with it. Rum rots the brain, darkens the mind, blackens the soul, smothers the conscience, blots God out of human consciousness, turns love into hate and sets on fire every mean, low and devilish passion in the nature of man. If you would be sure of yourselflet liquor alone.

Certain men practice predestination. They make sure of failure. They invite defeat. They court disaster. They covet trouble. They guarantee their own misery. They contribute financially towards their own ruin. They systematically lock themselves within the dungeons of despair. They burn out the fuses of their strength by adding intoxication to intoxication. They are under the influence of liquor even when they are sober. Friends warn, loved ones plead, employers expostulate, but nothing avails. Cæsar, surveying a field where his enemies had fallen by the thousands, calmly remarked : “They would have it so."

Every man ought to know his own limitations. Justin McCarthy remarked concerning the Duke of Wellington: "Wellington knew what he could not do.” That was where Napoleon failed; he did not know his own limitations. A wise man will recognize his own weaknesses and guard against them. Colonel Rawlins, a subordinate officer but a warm personal friend of General U. S. Grant, who was also a gentleman of high social position and great personal influence, used to put his hand on the shoulder of Grant in the hour of temptation, and whisper quietly : “Remember I gave my own word of honour that you would not drink.” Happy the man who possesses such a friend. Happier the man who has no need of such warnings and expostulations. Give yourself a wide margin on the right side of the border line. Stay by the lessons which you have learned. Be stubborn when you know you are right. Get under the control of good habits. Cut out all indulgences which make you feel less of a man. Stand in the strength of your own self-knowledge. Let no man dictate your pleasures.

They have found in Egypt, recently, the massive tomb of a princely young man who had been buried alive some three thousand years ago. Within the dark chamber of death he frantically fought for life. There were evidences of a fearful struggle. The inner walls of that ancient tomb were stained with blood. The imprisoned youth had battered the granite door of that silent dungeon until the flesh had fallen from the bone. But I have seen men in a deeper dungeon, in a darker prison, and in a tighter grip than that which befell the prince of ancient times.

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