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I am resolved, by the grace of God, to mingle such recreations with my business, as to further my business by my recreations.
HAVING wholly devoted myself to God, all I have, or am, is still to be improved for him; insomuch that was it not for the necessities of nature, every moment of my life should and ought to be spent in the immediate worship and service of him. But though nature requires some time from my solemn serving him, for the recreating of myself; yet grace requireth, that this recreating of myself should still be for the promoting of his service; so that my recreations do not only fit me for further service, but they, in themselves, should some way or other, be serviceable to him; which that they may be I must have as great a care in the choice, as in the use of my recreations.
There are some recreations that are so far from conducing to his service, that they may make more for the incensing of his wrath: as drinking and gaming, which though in themselves lawful, yet, as they often prove an occasion of swearing, lying, cheating, and contention amongst men, and by consequence of wrath in God; so they ought, by all means, to be shunned and avoided. Indeed, it may be questioned, whether gaming be ever a lawful recreation? For, either it is a lottery, or not. If it be a lottery, it is not lawful, because it is a great presumption and sin to set God at work to recreate ourselves; for poor nothings to employ the chiefest good, immediately to determine such 181frivolous and trifling impertinencies. If it be not a lottery, then it is not a pure recreation, for if it depends upon man’s wit and study, it exercises his brain and spirits, as much as it’ he were about other things: so that being on one side not lawful, on the other side no recreation; it can on no side be a lawful recreation.
For what is the end of recreation, but to revive my languishing spirits, to let them rest and be quiet a little, when they are .tired with too much exercise, that they be fresher, livelier, and fitter for work afterwards? hence it is, that God indeed hath provided a recreation for all sensible creatures; sleep, which is the rest of the spirits in the nerves. When the little animal spirits have been all the day running up and down upon the soul’s errands, to lie down still and quiet, is a great refreshment and revivement to them, provided still, that it be moderately used. Whereas the indulging ourselves too much in it, is rather a clogging and stupifying of them: as we see in our bodies, which, when not accustomed to, are most averse from, and unfit for exercise.
So that the chief and only time for recreation, is, when my spirits are either weary with labour and study, or else called in to some necessary employment in some other place; as at and after meals, especially such as are of a hard digestion; for then the spirits have enough to do, to turn the food we eat into good nourishment. And, therefore, the intenseness of study, running, wrestling, and such like violent exercises, are not proper at such a time; because in studying, we draw the spirits from the stomach to the head; so in the other exercises, such as moderate walking, conference, 182and free discourse about common but necessary points, we send them from the stomach into other parts of the body, where they are to be set on work.
But, that which I have found the best recreation, both to my body and mind, whensoever either of them stands in need of it, is music, which exercises, at once, both my body and my soul; especially when I play myself. For then, methinks, the same motion that my hand makes upon the instrument, the instrument makes upon my heart; it calls in my spirits, composes my thoughts, delights my ear, recreates my mind, and so, not only fits me for after business, but fills my heart, at the present, with pure and useful thoughts, so that when the music sounds the sweetliest in my ears, truth commonly flows the clearest into my mind. And hence it is, that I find my soul is become more harmonious, by being accustomed so much to harmony, and so averse to all manner of discord, that the least jarring sounds, either in notes or words, seem very harsh and unpleasant to me.
That there is something more than ordinary in music, appears from David’s making use of it, for driving away the evil spirit from Saul, and Elisha for the bringing of the good spirit upon himself. From which I am induced to believe, that there is really a sort of secret and charming power in it, that naturally dispels, from the mind, all or most of those black humours, which the evil spirit uses to brood upon, and by composing it into a more regular, sweet, and docible disposition, renders it the fitter for the Holy Spirit to work upon, the more susceptible of divine grace, and more faithful messenger, whereby to convey truth to the understanding. But however that be, I must necessarily acknowledge, 183that of all recreations, that is by far the more suitable to my temper and disposition, in that it is not only an exercise to my body, but to my mind too; my spirits being thereby made the more nimble and active, and, by consequence, the fitter to wait upon my soul, and be employed by her, in whatever business she is engaged.
But in this and all other recreations, I must always take care not to exceed my measure, either in point of time or intention; I must not follow them too close, nor spend too many hours in them, but still resolve to use them, as they may not become a snare to me, but answer the ends for which they were designed, that when God shall call me to it, I may give him as good an account of my recreations, as of my necessary duties.
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