The New Zealand Evangelist
Wellington. The Coming Fete
Wellington. The Coming Fete.
Years revolve and Anniversaries return. What the character of the coming Fete is to be, we have not ascertained; but as preparations are being made for one of the entertainments, that takes the precedence of all the rest, we may safely conclude that the amusements of this year will bear a close resemblance to those that are past. We are no enemies to fetes or festivals; the bow regains its elasticity by being occasionally unbent; and so do both body and mind. High health and buoyant spirits—a sound mind in a sound body—are the greatest of all temporal bessings [sic: blessings>]; and so far as relaxation and amusement secure or promote these, they are worthy of encouragement; they are the cheapest medicines, and the most effective remedies; but we are greatly mistaken, if the amusements of the Fete, as a whole, when weighed in this balance, will not be found completely wanting. With a portion of what is innocent, is there not in them much that is doubtful, and a great deal that is vulgar, cruel, and positively antagonistic to the gospel? On this account we feel called upon to make a few remarks.
There are two classes to whom we need say nothing—first, the decidedly pious; those who are dead to the world because alive to Christ—who have seen the things of time by some portion of the light of eternity—who live in another element, and, having tasted the pure water of life, have no relish for those muddy and turbid streams; these need no hortations to keep them away:—and second the thorough and decided votaries of pleasure, who can see no harm in any of those amusements, and who would laugh at the idea of seeking pleasure any where else, to these we need not write; as well might we speak to the whirlwind, thinking to arrest its course; we must leave them for the present to the providence of God.
But there is another class to whom we are desirous and feel bound to say a few words—the undecided; page 247 those who feel an inclination to attend such scenes, but who generally go with some uneasy qualms of conscience, and who invariably return dissatisfied with themselves, and disappointed in their expectations; or those who inwardly disapprove of them, but who have not moral courage to say no,, when solicitation, persuasion, ridicule, or example urges them to attend. Some of these occasionally ask, “What harm is there in attending the amusements of the Fěte, in looking at the regatta, the races, or the rural sports? We are not going to drink, or gamble, or swear, or do anything that is improper, we go simply to pass the day, see the people, or meet with some friend; there are multitudes of most respectable people there, and what ill is there in mingling in the crowd?” To all who put these objections in an honest spirit, who are really anxious to know their duty in order to do it,—and it is only for such we write—we would say, Remember that Satan rarely presents his temptations, in the form of unmixed evils; he invariably lays his most dangerous snares among much that is innocent, and it may be commendable; he is far too sagacious a fowler to think of catching many birds with chaff,—far too skilful an angler to think of fishing much with naked books—We are far from saying that all the entertainments of the Fěte are bad, or that they are all alike objectionable; but looking at their character as a whole, we can clearly see that they must exert a most pernicious influence upon the thoughtless and the young. It may be well to look at their great outlines from a few different points. For example, how did horse-racing and rural sports originate, and how have they come down to us. Are they not the remains of that spirit that produced gladiatorial exhibitions among the Romans; bull-baiting, among the Spaniards; and prize fighting, dog-fighting, and cock-fighting, among the most degraded of the population in Britain? They are doubtless manifestations of the same spirit, but modified, and stripped of some of their most repul-page 248sive features by the refining and elevating influences of Christianity. Again, by what class of people are these amusements most eagerly projected and most vigorously carried on? We do not ask whose names are paraded as patrons or stewards of the public amusements, or as subscribers to the general funds; many of these are very passive in the matter, who have been unthinkingly persuaded, or completely dunned so as to yield to the one or the other, and who have few sympathies with these scenes; but we ask who are the moving master spirits that give life and energy to all the attractions of the Fěte? We are sadly misinformed, if the greatest portion of this spirit does not come from a class who find the week of the Fěte, or the races, more productive of gold, than a weeks digging in California. Again what are some of the most common effects of these so-called innocent amusements? Do they refine, elevate, or improve those who attend them? Do they not lead to a great amount of dissipation, drunkenness, betting, lying, swearing, and other immoralities? Are not many of the worst passions of the human heart called forth, and roused up to fearful activity? Do the various wheels in the social system move on as easily and spontaneously on the following day as they did before, or is there not much that is fearfully disjointed, and does it not often require weeks to restore society to its wonted state? Have not these amusements always been considered as opposed to the very spirit of the gospel, and pre-eminently calculated to promote the interests of Satan's kingdom? Are they not therefore very dangerous scenes for christians, who are either young in years or weak in principle? “Avoid every appearance of evil.”
But some will say, “There have always been races and rural sports—running, leaping, and grinning through collars—and my staying away would not hinder their continuance.” So might the Primitive Christians have said respecting the gladiatoral exhibitions; but where have been the gladiators for page 249 many long ages? The spirit of the gospel is a living principle that silently but surely leavens the whole mass of society. We know a locality where, with a larger population than this, the pulpit was sufficiently powerful to close the race-course…. Such a consummation may appear very distant here; but we are far from being hopeless. In addition to the innate power of the gospel, there is much in the spirit of the age and the signs of the times to encourage our hopes. This is an earnest age, and these are times of rapid change; men are earnest in every thing; in science, in business, and even in religion. The hearts of many are ill at ease; they find an aching void, and Satan's Patent Elixirs, in the form of exciting amusements, will not remove the pain. Thoughlessness and forgetfulness of God, they find, will not make them happy; they are seeking rest but can find none, in such things. An “earnest ministry,” and a “Church in earnest,” are “the want of the times;” because the world is in earnest'; and no doubt God will in mercy grant both. Halt, therefore, no longer between two opinions. Be in earnest. Those who are in earnest about salvation, whether their own or that of others, will have neither taste nor time for such amusements.
But some will say, “How shall we spend the day? How can we enjoy ourselves if we do not mingle in the crowd?” Spend it almost any other way you can devise, and you will probably be gainers. If you must have amusements let them be innocent and elegant, calculated to refine and civilize,—to give new tone and energy to body and mind; let them not he cruel, or vulgar; the reflection of the dark ages, the invention of heathens, boors, and barbarians; calculated to impede social improvement, and to perpetuate ignorance, rudeness and immorality. Aim at something purer and higher. Our friends at Karori have for many years marked the Anniversary of the Colony by a social Tea Meeting, which has invariably proved both pleasant and profitable. Some others have occasionally done the same; might page 250 not meetings of that kind be encreased with advantage both in town and country? But where these are impracticable or not desirable, there are many other sources of innocent amusement—many entertainments that, like Plato's suppers, are not only pleasant at the time but equally so the next day. Does not an idle day at this season of the year, when the weather is so delightful, furnish one of the best opportunities for promoting family and friendly intercourse? Where families are broken up, might not the scattered members meet for a day, and revive all the emotions of childhood, under the parental roof? Might not brothers and sisters who are settled in life, devote this day to mutual exchanges of hospitality? and might not friends and acquaintances do the same? Why might not friendship in its varied relations receive an impetus from a day like this? Might not even pic-nics be so regulated as to be subserviant to health, cheerfulness, and friendly feelings?
In this intellectual and enlightened age, when the study of nature in all its branches is so eagerly followed by many, could these ardent disciples of this philosophy go any where better than into the Grand temple of Nature, to spend their holy days? At a season of the year when air, earth, and ocean, are teeming with life, and shining with freshness and beauty, they may riot in the exuberant plenty which God has provided for their enjoyment. The mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms are pouring forth their choicest treasures. Wood and water, hill and dale, fields and gardens, the summits of the distant mountains, and the depths of the primeval forests, the murmuring of the brooks, and the sweet tinkling music of the birds, all furnish pleasing objects of study and contemplation. Few districts can vie with this; there is so much that is wild and romantic; and so much that is lovely and beautiful; so many objects that poetry and science might invest with interest, and the observing of which would furnish enjoyment to the least cultivated minds. These page 251 entertainments, whether, enjoyed in society or solitude, are innocent, healthful, cheering, calm, and permanent in their beneficial offects, The stirring amusements of the Fěte, are loud and noisy, but short-lived enjoyments. “Like the crackling blaze of thorns under a pot,” they promise much but perform little. They provoke laughter, in which the heart is sad, and excite mirth, the end of which is heaviness.