Thomas A. (Thomas Asbury) Morris.

Miscellany: consisting of essays, biographical sketches and notes of travel online

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speaking;" that is, relating the faults of absent persons,
which is as plainly forbidden as any other sin. While
James says, "Speak not evil of one another, brethren,"
Paul requires Titus to "put them in mind" of what he
had previously taught the brethren; namely, "To speak
evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, showing all
meekness unto all men," whether friends or foes. To
expose the faults of one who is not present to answer for
himself, betrays a want of moral courage, and is called,
by the inspired writers, "backbiting;" and he who perpe-
trates it, is designated a "backbiter," because he acts
like a dog that creeps after and seizes you unawares.
When evil-speaking is carried on confidentially, in a low,
soft tone, it is called "whispering;" and when the evil
report is received and carried on to another, it is called
"tale-bearing." But whatever form it assumes, it is con-
demned as sinful. Evil-speaking is productive of discord


and strife. It hardens the heart of the speaker, prejudices
the mind of the hearer, and injures the victim of it, with
all concerned. It alienates friends, and frequently ends
in Church trials, lawsuits, or acts of violence. Well might
an inspired apostle say, "Behold, how great a matter a
little tire kindleth ! And the tongue is a fire, a world of
iniquity ; . . . and setteth on fire the course of nature ;
and is set on fire of hell." The same apostle testifies,
"If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth
not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's
religion is vain." Yes, such a man's religion is worthless,
however long his face, or loud his pi-ofession. The only
hope for him, and all other evil-speakers, is in sincere
repentance for the past, and full confidence in the blood
of Christ, which alone can wash out the deep stains of
their guilt. Also, they would do well, for the future, to
adopt the resolution of David: "I said, I will take heed
to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue : I will keep
my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me."
Most people are pleased with the idea of a long and pros-
perous life. The means of securing it is clearly pointed'
out in the following beautiful words of the Psalmist:
''What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many
days, that he may see good ? Keep thy tongue from evil,
and thy lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil, and
do good ; seek peace, and pursue it."


The reader of this article will scarcely suspect me of

being influenced by the love of popularity, in selecting

this topic. I am fully persuaded, however, that the sig'is

of the times suggest it as an appropriate one; and I have



as much right to claim the blessing of persecution for
introducing it as any other person.

Various opinions appear to prevail respecting the prac-
tice of dancing. Some profess to regard it as a useful
exercise, for the promotion of health. Whether any reg-
ular-bred physician, of good reputation, ever gives this
prescription, is doubtful. Perhaps the process by which
operatives in the business arrive at this conclusion has
more to do with the heart, "which is deceitful above all
things," than with enlightened reason. No intelligent
individual, whose single aim is to promote health, it is
presumed, would ever think of accomplishing that object
by spending his or her nights amidst the revelry of a
ball-room, in preference to quiet slumber at home. That
exercise, taken in moderation, is good for health, is readily
admitted; but it can be always had in a much more
rational and profitable manner than dancing.

There are others who seem to view dancing, if not as a
necessary recreation, at least as an innocent amusement.
But how can any amusement be innocent which consumes
a large amount of time, attention, and means, without
imparting any good whatever? No one will seriously
contend that dancing confers any useful knowledge, any
love of mental improvement, any means of support, any
lasting pleasure, or any weight of character in respectable
society: on the contrary, it tends to idleness, frivolity,
prodigality, the neglect of domestic duties, and lowers its
devotee in the estimation of all serious and sensible people.

The inquiry is occasionally heard, is it not advisable to
teach young people the art of dancing, in order to give
them a graceful carriage ? I have yet to learn that any
affected carriage is either graceful or becoming. It may
pamper the pride of the young heart, and call forth the
empty applause of deceitful admirers; but the natural
o-ait and appearance of any individual will always be pre-


ferred by the judicious of every community. The good
opinion of those whose admiration of a lady could be
excited by seeing her leaping and stepping to the sound
of a violin, is of no real value. What sensible young
man would choose a companion for life, who was cele-
brated only for the dissipating amusements of the merry
dance ? He would very naturally conclude, that those
who are good for dancing, are seldom good for any thing
else. But if the art of waltzing, with its kindred fool-
eries, be unworthy the attention of an intelligent lady, it
is certainly more contemptible in the view of any sensible

Of what real use to mankind is a French dancing-mas-
ter? What respectable man or woman in America envies
him on account of all the influence he acquires in society,
by teaching little misses to walk on tiptoe, and caper about
like imitative monkeys? The children, of course, are not
to be blamed ; but what estimate will be placed upon the
judgment of the parents, who commit the responsible duty
of forming the principles and manners of their juvenile
daughters to such a fashionable trifler, newly imported
from a country famous for its libertinism ? The tendency
of all dancing schools among us, is to rear up a generation
of dancing Americans, and even to impart the spirit of the
thing to those who can not practically participate therein ;
so that when any foreigner of doubtful morals comes along,
dancing for pay, they can readily get clear of hundreds
and thousands of dollars, without receiving any, the least,
benefit in lieu thereof.

The most inconsistent of all people, however, on the
subject of dancing, are those professors of religion who
show it any countenance. A member of any Church who
attends masquerades, or balls, or allows his children to
attend them, or sends his children to cotillon parties, or
dancing schools, publicly contradicts his own profession of


religion, and thereby notifies all men, that he has only a
name to live, while he is spiritually dead. "Ye can not
serve God and mammon." Praying and dancing never
can be carried on to advantage at once, led by the same
individual ; nor can parents ever succeed in giving their
children a religious education, who teach or have them
taught to dance, any more than they could teach them to
practice the principles of temperance, while giving them
bitters in the morning, grog at noon, and wine in the
evening. The idea of dedicating children to the service
of God, with an expressed or implied pledge to tr^in them
up to a life of piety, and then sending them to a dancing
school, is too absurd to be entertained for one moment.

I know that many professors of religion entertain the
opinion that, though it is wrong to dance in public, it is
proper to dance in private ; and ask, how can young peo-
ple enjoy this harmless recreation at home, or at a friend's
house, unless they learn it at school, in their childhood?
This notion is as dangerous as it is absurd. Children
who are taught to dance at school, and encouraged to
practice with their young companions at home, or at a
friend's house, will have strong temptations to go to the
public assemblies, and show with what skill they can
"trip the light, fantastic toe." If your son be taught to
play cards at home, first for amusement, then for apples,
then in the social party for half- dimes, to keep up the
interest, and then for something to drink, you may next
expect to find him among blacklegs, staking his money,
reputation, and happiness, at once, on the uncertain game
of hazard. Vice is progressive, and in no cases more so
than in drinking, gambling, and dancing.

All the truly pious, of every Church, regard dancing to
be foolish in itself, and sinful in its tendency. The time
and money wasted in preparations — the needless orna-
ments and costly decorations supposed to be requisite for


appearing at the "splendid ball" — the chaffy conversa-
tion indulged in about beaux, belles, and parties, and the
public performance itself, are all foolish in the extreme,
and unbecoming rational beings ; but how much more
unsuitable do they appear, when those rational beings are
viewed as candidates for an eternal state of retribution!
God has often rebuked such folly in a signal manner, by
the sudden affliction and death of some one of the party.
In all such cases, the ball is at an end; but if dancing,
with its appurtenances, be right in the sight of Heaven,
why not dance on amidst affliction and death? The devo-
tion of religious people is not checked, but rather increased
by those solemn dispensations. The fact is, their own
conscience reproves the votaries of the ball-room. They
not only feel that all its professed pleasure is hollow-
hearted and unsatisfying, but that the whole affair is one
of sin and condemnation ; and when the shafts of death
begin to fall around them, they have not the courage to
proceed, but acknowledge with some of old, "The joy of
our heart is ceased: our dance is turned into mourning."
What young lady would feel prepared to exchange the
habiliments of the ball-room for a shroud? What young
gentleman would be willing to be summoned from that
scene of folly and rebellion to the judgment-seat of Christ?
And how inconsistent it is to indulge in that course of
conduct for which we know we must repent sorely, or be
undone forever!

The appeal which some make to the Bible, in justifica-
tion of this fashionable vice, is unfortunate for their cause.
What was seriously performed, as a religious act of praise
to God, though under a dispensation of comparative dark-
ness, affords no excuse for those who dance for worldly
amusement. David danced before the Lord, in a religious
procession after the ark, thus performing his part of a
religious ceremony, which would be a questionable mode


of public worship under the Gospel dispensation. When
our modern pleasure-takers dance in the fear of God, and
in the conscious enjoyment of his love, as David did, we
will let them pass.

There are other cases, quite different from this, on
sacred record. Some of the Israelites in the wilderness
forsook the God that made them, and had miraculously
delivered them, and danced round a golden calf, the work
of their own hands, for which their names were blotted
out of the book of life. In this matter they acted about
as wisely as do those of our day, who dance round the
imaginary idol of worldly pleasure. Another case is
recorded for our admonition in the New Testament. King
Herod's birthday was celebrated with feasting and danc-
ing. At the time referred to, his "august majesty" was
living with his sister-in-law, Herodias, in an unlawful
manner, for which John the Baptist had reproved them
sharply. She had a daughter by her lawful husband,
Miss Salome, who figured largely at the ball; for she
danced before the king, and pleased him well, so that he
rashly bound himself with an oath, in presence of wit-
nesses, to give her whatsoever she would ask, to the half
of his kingdom. Instructed by her infamous and revenge-
ful mother, she said, "Give me, by and by, in a charger,
[or dish,] the head of John the Baptist," which was done.
This cruel and outrageous murder of a faithful minister
of God was one of the fruits of dancing, and its kindred
vices. It is to be hoped that American patriots may
never disgrace the memory of Washington, by celebrating
his birthday in a similar manner.

Dancing, like other sinful amusements, has had its ebbs
and flows of popularity; has been sometimes in more, and
then in less repute among us. It is a barbarian practice.
There is much more dancing in heathen nations than
in Christian nations. The lower people are degraded


by ignorance and sin, the more they are devoted to this
sort of dissipation. It flourishes most in this country
when religion prospers least, and then declines again as
vital piety prevails. The extraordinary revivals in the
United States, some years ago, nearly drove dancing out
of the country ; but during the religious declension of the
past few years, it has again reappeared more generally.
This is easily accounted for: the more people pray, the
less they feel like dancing; and the more they dance, the
less they pray, or love praying. It was said by Solomon,
"The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but
the heart of fools is in the house of mirth."

I will close this article with an extract from Mr. Wes-
ley's sermon on The More Excellent Way: "I can not
say quite so much for balls or assemblies, which, though
more reputable than masquerades, yet must be allowed,
by all impartial persons, to have exactly the same tend-
ency. So, undoubtedly, have all public dancings. And
the same tendency they must have, unless the same cau-
tion obtain among modern Christians which was observed
among ancient heathens. With them, men and women
never danced together; but always in separate rooms.
This was always observed in ancient Greece, and for sev-
eral ages at Rome, where a woman dancing in company
with men, would have at once been set down for a ."

It is ungrammatical. Murray says, "The first rule
for promoting the strength of a sentence, is, to prune it
of all redundant words and members. It is a general
maxim, that any words which do not add some importance
to the meaning of a sentence, always injure it." Now,


profane words never add importance to the meaning of a
sentence, but are always redundant, and therefore ungram-
matical. No profane swearer is a good practical gram-
marian. This abuse of language is found, mostly, among
the ignorant and illiterate part of the community.

It is uncivil. A civil or polite man never wantonly
insults any company into which he may be incidentally
thrown, however he may differ from them in opinion on
religious subjects, or respecting his general manner of life ;
but the profane man outrages the feelings of every serious,
orderly company in which he appears. This is insuffer-
able. Children who have been kindly and genteelly
brought up, are sorely grieved to hear their parents slan-
dered and abused, or even lightly spoken of; but not more
so than Christians are, to hear the name of their heavenly
Father profaned, or blasphemed. This is known to all
intelligent men : hence, he who swears profanely, is not
only no gentleman ; he is a ruffian, unfit for civil society,
and should be expelled from it, if he can not be reformed.

It is immoral. Legislation on the subject has so de-
fined it, making it a penal offense, which subjects the
offender to a fine in all cases ; and public sentiment is in
favor of this law, and would sustain magistrates in the
enforcement thereof, otherwise it would not continue a
part of our civil code in a free, elective government.
Moreover, the offender's own conscience confirms this
truth, unless it be "seared as with a hot iron." How
awful he feels, when he thinks of facing the Judge of all
the earth, whom he habitually insults, by a language more
like the dialect of devils, than that of a rational man !

It is impious. A profane use of the name of God is
characteristic of extreme wickedness, and is expressly for-
bidden by the divine law, under penalty of endless death.
The folic wing are a few of the many prohibitions and
threats in the case : " Thou shalt not take the name of the


Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not bold him
guiltless that taketh his name in vain." "Swear not,
neither by heaven, neither by earth, neither by any other
oath." " Because of swearing the land mourneth." "By
swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and com-
mitting adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth
blood." "Every one that sweareth shall be cut off."
"But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath
never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation."
These denunciations of the divine law are too awful for
comment; let those who violate, read them, and tremble.

From this rapid view of the whole subject, I think the
following inferences are legitimate: Profane swearing is
unprofitable ; it adds nothing to a man's fortune, reputa-
tion, or personal happiness ; it does not secure for him the
good opinion of others, nor a belief in the truth of his
declarations, but the contrary ; for it is generally admitted,
that "he who will swear, will lie;" this is obvious from
his daily practice, because the less truth there is in his
words, and the more they are disputed, the harder he
swears to confirm the belief of them.

It is a heinous offense against society, being a palpable
and inexcusable violation of the laws of God and man ;
those who indulge in it are abominably wicked, and should
receive no countenance from decent society, till they leave
it off entirely.

Magistrates should so execute the duties of their office,
as to be a terror to all such evil-doers. They are bound
not only by their honorable and responsible relation to
society, but also by the oath of office, to enforce the law
for the suppression of vice, and can not, consistently with
that oath, suffer men to swear with impunity under their
jurisdiction, from any consideration of fear or favor. He
who does so, betrays his trust, and is not worthy of the
place he fills.



Lastly: all good men should co-operate with civil offi-
cers to put down this desolating vice. Ministers should
preach pointedly against it; private Christians should
reprove it ; and all parents should positively prohibit and
prevent it among their children, teaching them the fearful
consequence of such evil ; and to this end, keep them from
all swearing company, for "evil communications corrupt
good manners."

The propensity of our fallen nature to falsehood, or to
utter what is known not to be true in fact, for deception,
is not new. When David's mind was much affected,
not only with sore trouble, from which no human power
could deliver him, but with an awful sense of man's uni-
versal depravity, "he said in his haste, all men are liars.'*
The sin of falsehood was prominent in the days of Christ
and his apostles, as appears from their frequent and public
reproofs of it. Indeed it appears to be one characteristic
of our native depravity. Of the wicked, David says,
"They go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies."
If this vice were to prevail universally, as it now does
with some, all the confidence that men now have in each
other would be lost : every useful organization in society,
whether civil, religious, social, or benevolent, would be
prostrated ; the world would become one great scene of
disorder, and universal despair would reign throughout
the whole. With this view of the subject, and believing
that the "spirit of lying" is abroad in the land, I make
no apology for writing a few plain, but well-meant things
on the subject. I will just premise, however, that these
remarks are intended for general purposes; therefore,

those who feel clear in these matters, will have no occa-
sion to receive the reproof; those who may feel guilty, are
requested not to transfer to their neighbors what belongs
to themselves; and if they suit no one's case, then let
this article go for lost labor.

Falsehoods are of various kinds, involving different
degrees of criminality, according to the intent of him who
commits them, and the evil they are calculated to produce.
Some things, spoken or written, are untrue, but not known
to be so by the speaker or writer at the time they are put
forth ; these are rather mistakes and infirmities, than sins,
and, therefore, excusable. Yet they who commit such
errors should embrace the first opportunity of correcting
them, for the sake of truth, justice, and mutual confidence.
But falsehoods, properly speaking, are numerous and vari-
ous. Of these, I will here name a few.

Lies of ceremony, or fashionable lies. Of this de-
scription are most of the compliments paid to men high in
office, the puffs bestowed on play-actors, and the fashion-
able ceremonies of social life. In this country we have

nothing to do with his Imperial Majesty, King of ,

his Holiness, the P , or his Lordship, Bp. of .

We sometimes hear of an intellectual feast, presented,
with inimitable grace, by the highly-accomplished and

justly-admired Mrs. , who appears on the stage for

the entertainment of the rabble; enough to sicken any man
of sense, not to say of religion. But the same spirit of
"lying vanity" appears more or less in the daily inter-
course of men. When two strangers are introduced, it is
common to hear it said, "I am very happy to be ac-
quainted with you," though, in most cases, no such hap-
piness is felt. One individual, wishing to be thought hos-
pitable, or to accomplish some other selfish object, will say
to another, in conformity to the rules of politeness, "I
should be highly delighted to see you at my house,"


while, in his heart, he hopes the invitation may not be
accepted, or, rather, that the visit may not be paid.
Again: a man will write a letter filled with abuse, that
betrays prejudice and hatred, and finish with these words :
"I am, dear sir, yours, respectfully." This short compli-
ment, in every such case, contains two lies ; for the person
addressed is neither dear to, nor respected by the writer.
Another will subscribe himself, "Your obedient, humble
servant," who could not be more highly incensed, by any
insult, than to be called the "servant" of any man.

Marvelous lies. These are often told by those who
are addicted to relating wondrous stories, and who, for the
sake of the tale, or blowing the trumpet of their own fame
the louder, will magnify a little occurrence into a large
one ; changing or supplying facts so as to set off the story
to the best advantage. Can a man tell what he knows to
be false, in whole or in part, to excite admiration or won-
der, even though the story, in other respects, be harmless,
and yet remain innocent? "I trow not." Again: many
individuals, perhaps without designing any evil at first,
contract a foolish habit of indulging in extravagant say-
ings and comparisons, such as these: "I am as cold as
ice;" "I thought I should have died laughing;" "I am
wearied to death;" "This bread is as hot as fire;" "I
would ten thousand times rather live in the country than
in the city," etc. This impropriety is found occasionally
among people who, in other respects, appear to be harm-
less and even pious, which shows that, in such cases, it is
more the result of habit than evil intention. Some years
since, a brother in the Church given to this fault, was
reproved by a venerable minister, and advised to be more
guarded in future ; he received it kindly, and promptly
acknowledged he was sorry for his numerous offenses of
the sort; adding, "Brother C, I have shed barrels of
tears on that very account!"

KSS A v b. 149

Selfish lies. These are often told by trading men,
from considerations of interest, to impose on others for
the sake of "a good bargain." If "salesmen," "horse-
swappers," and "land-mongers," are clear of the charges,
so much the better. Some men involve themselves in the
charge of falsehood by want of punctuality in business.
A mechanic advertises to execute work with neatness and
dispatch, and invites custom. A bill is handed in for
work, and accepted. The work is promised at a certain
day, and called for, but not obtained. The customer is
put off with some trifling apology, and a renewal of the
promise that his work shall certainly be done by a given
time; but he is again disappointed. After going from
three to six times after a hat — I did not say bonnet —
coat, pair of shoes, watch, or some implement of hus-
bandry, or mechanism, of which he has the promise, and
hearing twice that number of lies told by the master of

Online LibraryThomas A. (Thomas Asbury) MorrisMiscellany: consisting of essays, biographical sketches and notes of travel → online text (page 11 of 30)