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the genius of Claude Lorraine, has spent thousands of dollars to hang his parlor-walls with paintings, of which the most that can be said is, that they are good imitations or reproductions of what is in fact inimitable, of what can not be truly repeated; he admires and patronizes the art of the copyist, while the original of such copies he almost never notices. The sun rises and sets, and he never dreams of remarking the effect of light and shade upon dwelling, tree, hill-top and cloud. But, let the artist arise who can transfer this effect to canvas, and his admiration can find no expression in words.
Precisely so, to appreciate the advent of spring, and the wonder-working power of our Creator in grass and plant and tree, it is not needful to migrate permanently to the country, and surround ourselves with forests and orchards and meadows. A single flower, a single grassy sod, a single tree, may speak to us more emphatically than the country's richest profusion of greenness, foliage and bloom is accustomed to speak to the unreflecting husbandman. We need only the power to notice and appreciate what is passing around ụs. And if we have this power, even the daisies and buttercups which grow by the wayside, the trees that spread their arching branches over our more favored streets, will be sufficiently eloquent of the wisdom and goodness of our Maker.
“And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed and the fruit-tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth!” This original mandate of Jehovah has already gone forth again, and the grass, the herb, the tree respond. The earth acknowledges her Maker, and
“Fair-handed Spring unbosoms every grace;
And full ranunculus of glowing red." The sower goes forth, as in the parable, sowing his seed; the gentle rains descend; the pastures are repeopled with flocks and herds;
Is prodigal of harmony." And shall man be mute? Shall he fail to recognize his Father's hand ? Bowed down by the burdens of life, ensnared in its cares and toils, shall he have no voice of gratitude and praise?
TRENCH derives the word "amusement" from "a" and “musis," from the Muses, and supposes it to mean the turning off the mind from severer studies to lighter enjoyments. The correctness of this etymology may, however, be doubted. The word would seem to have meant originally something, whether a pleasure or a care, which might lay hold of and engross the mind's attention. The word is not found in the English Bible, though used in the English language, long before our present version of the Scriptures was formed.
The following are some examples of its use among old Enylish writers. Says Fleetwood, in the preface to his "Lay Baptism”: “Here I fell into a strong and deep amusement, revolving in my mind, with great perplexity, the amazing change of our affairs.” Says Holland, in his translation of Plutarch: “One day Alcibiades knocked at Pericles' door, and answer was made him that he was not at leisure to be spoken with, for that he studied and was amused how to render up his accounts to the Athenians.” Says South, in his sermons (Vol. vii, Ser. 1): “Reason would contrive such a religion as should afford both sad and solemn objects to amuse and affect the pensive part of the soul.” Says Milton, (Paradise Lost, B. vi):
1 Study of Words, p. 219. In a later book, "Glossary of English Words," etc., p. 4, the author himself objects to this derivation.
“To whom thus Belial, in like gamesome mood;
And stumbled many." “Being amused,” says Fuller, in his Church History of Britain, (B. ix, $44,) “with grief, fear and fright he could not find the house."
But whatever may have been the original sense of the word, its present meaning is sufficiently clear. Every one understands by it some pleasurable pursuit which engages the mind to the exclusion of laborious or serious occupation. This definition, however, would include recreations, diversions and entertainments as well as amusements, words whose meaning, though similar, is not the same. A recreation is some pleasurable pursuit taken up as a refreshment from business and only enjoyed because the worn and wasted powers become thus recreated, while an amusement is pursued and enjoyed for its own sake and not because it procures anything farther than itself. In recreation we always take some active part, but in amusement we may find our pleasure simply in the passive reception of it. Thus a game of cricket may furnish recreation to the players and amusement to the lookers on. Still farther we are diverted by that which turns off our thoughts to something of livelier interest; we are entertained by that which brings our minds into agreeable contact with others, as conversation or a book, but our amusement is that which occupies us lightly and pleasantly without reference to any other person or any other end.
It can hardly be doubted that the desire for amusement is natural to the human breast. Everybody has it. The child plays by an original impulse long before he knows anything about work. After he has been taught to labor he still finds greater delight in his sports, and runs to these at every opportunity with tireless interest. The same is true when he be
At Potsdam, in one of the palaces built and occupied by Frederick the Great, there is still to be seen a grotesque Chinese toy with which the great warrior and king used to amuse himself in moments released from more serious cares. To some it might seem strange that such a man could
comes a man.
ever occupy himself with such a trifle, but, probably, if we could discover the actual facts in any man's experience we should never, even among the most laborious, find a similar disposition entirely wanting.
Is then this desire, thus original and permanent, wholly wrong? Should we treat it like one of the impulses of our selfseeking nature, which we should ever repress and endeavor to extirpate? It is certainly not wrong to desire rest from protracted toil, for God has appointed the Sabbath as a day of rest no less truly than of worship. Moreover, what is our worship when closely and truly considered ? Certainly it is not work. Our acts of worship are no means put forth to secure some end beyond themselves. They are themselves an end. Even prayer, in its highest and most satisfying exercises, is not the seeking for some future good, but the enjoyment of a present blessedness. It is most spiritual, most blissful, most heavenly, when the supplication loses itself in adoration. We do not, indeed, call these acts of worship amusements, and yet their deepest element is precisely that absence of all means to a farther end, and that enjoyment of the end in the exercise itself, which we have seen to be the precise quality in amusement. What shall we say then? Is the desire to stop working, the desire to forsake the treadmill, and delight ourselves in what has no constraint of drudgery or toil, an unhallowed longing? But the desire for communion with God is just such a feeling. And so is the desire for anything truly spiritual. In fact the distinction between our natural and our spiritual life is in just this point. Our natural life is a life of toil. In it whatever we do not for its own sake, but for the sake of something to be thereby gained. We build houses that we may have a home, we toil that we may eat and be clothed, we labor that we may live. Even those processes of our natural life which may be called spontaneous never rest in themselves. We breathe in order to keep up the circulation of the blood; our hearts beat that the course of assimilation and nutrition may continue unimpaired; and while these go forward in order to the preservation and perfecting of our bodily life, the life itself is consciously for the sake of something beyond. We all live for some end other than life. But it is very different when we enter the realm of our spiritual activity. Here everything has an intrinsic value. Whatsoever is spiritual we prize on its own account and not because it will purchase for us something else. We would sell everything in our natural life, even the life itself for a sufficient price, but can any price be named for our spiritual possessions? Can there be anything more valuable than goodness? And can the worth of truth be more than truth itself?
We sometimes speak of frivolous amusements and the term is doubtless well chosen. How trifling many of them seem! But low as they may be, they reveal glimpses of something truly lofty. Sin itself, with all its degradation, gives us a very powerful impression of the original dignity of a sinning sou). In the very depth of our fall there is evidence of the height from which we came, and which we even now should occupy. The brute can not sin, and is incapable of a fall. The fact of sin, dark as it is, shows us to be possessed of an endowment above the brutes and kindred with the angels. In like manner, even our frivolous amusements disclose a serious aspect of our being. We never speak of the amusements of an animal. What we sometimes call the sportiveness of a kitten or the play of dogs is only the early and instinctive exercise of what will afterward show itself in the pursuit of their prey or their game. They amuse us but not themselves. It is with this as with laughter. The brute does not laugh. He can not. He has not even the muscles requisite for it. The power of laughter, however inane some of its exhibitions may be, bears witness to what is both rational and cultivated. If he is a simpleton who is laughing all the time, we should call him a savage who never laughs at all.
We can not then properly lament the possession of this universal desire for amusement. Neither can we properly seek to repress or to remove it. It belongs to the realm of our spiritual activity.
It points us upward, however earthly many of its manifestations may seem. The right treatment of it is to give it a right direction. We can not wish that we had no souls because they have led us to sin and brought upon us unspeakable woe, but we remember that these very souls are as capable of glory as of shame, and instead of the power to annihilate we