Volume. XXVII, No. 44
Sunday, 28 April 2013


Directions about Sports and Recreation


Direct. I: On Lawfulness

If you would escape the sin and danger, which men commonly run into by unlawful sporting, under pretence of lawful recreations, you must understand what lawful recreation is, and what is its proper end and use.

No doubt but some sport and recreation are lawful, yea needful, and therefore a duty to some men. Lawful sport or recreation is the use of some natural thing or action, not forbidden us, for the exhilarating of the natural spirits by the fantasy, and due exercise of the natural parts, thereby to fit the body and mind for ordinary duty to God. It is some delightful exercise.

We do not call unpleasing labour by the name of sport or recreation; though it may be better and more necessary. We call not every delight by the name of sport or recreation; for eating and drinking may be delightful; and holy things and duties may be delightful; and yet not properly sports or recreation. But it is the fantasy that is chiefly delighted by sports.

All these things following are necessary to the lawfulness of a sport or recreation, and the want of any one of them will make and prove it to be unlawful:

(1) It must be engaged in with the glory of God in view. The end which you really intend in using it, must be to fit you for your service to God; that is, either for your callings, or for His worship, or some work of obedience in which you may please and glorify Him (cf. 1 Cor 10:31). Therefore the person that uses it, must be one that is heartily devoted to God, and His service, and really lives to do His work, and pleases and glorifies Him in the world: which none but the godly truly do! And therefore no carnal, ungodly person, that has no such holy end, can use any recreation lawfully; because he uses it not to a due end. For the end is essential to the moral good of any action; and an evil end must needs make it evil: “Unto the pure all things are pure, [that is, all things not forbidden,] but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure, but even their mind and conscience are defiled” (Tit 1:15).

(2) It must fit you for God’s service. A lawful recreation must be a means fitly chosen and used to this end. If it has no aptitude to fit us for God’s service in our ordinary callings and duty, it can be to us no lawful recreation. Though it be lawful to another that it is a real help to, it is unlawful to us.

Therefore all recreations are unlawful, which are themselves preferred before our callings, or which are used by a man that lives idly, or in no calling, and has no ordinary work to make him need them. For these are no fit means, which exclude our end, instead of furthering it.

Therefore all those are unlawful sports, which are used only to delight a carnal fantasy, and have no higher end, than to please the sickly mind that loves them.

And therefore all those are unlawful sports, which really unfit us for the duties of our callings, and the service of God; which, laying the benefit and hurt together, do hinder us as much or more than they help us, which is the case of all voluptuous wantons.

(3) It must not take time away from greater works. All sports are unlawful which take up any part of the time which we should spend in greater works: such are all those that are unseasonable; (as on the Lord’s day without necessity, or when we should be at prayer, or any other duty;) and all those that take up more time than the end of a recreation does necessarily require (which is too common).

(4) It must not be sacrilegious. If a recreation be profane, as making sport of holy things, it is a mocking of God, and a villainy unbeseeming any of His creatures, and laying them open to His heaviest vengeance. The children that made sport with calling the prophet “bald head” were slain by bears (2 Kgs 2:23).

(5) It must not be at the expense of others. They are unlawful sports which are used to the wrong of others: as players, that defame and reproach other men; and hunters and hawkers that tread down poor men’s corn and hedges.

(6) It must not involve deriving pleasure from the sin of others. It is sinful to make sport of other men’s sinning, or to act it ourselves so as to become partakers of it; which is too common with comedians, and other profane wits.

(7) It must not be unclean or obscene. Unclean, obscene recreations are unlawful; when filthiness or wantonness is represented without a due expression of its odiousness, or with obscene words or actions. “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting” (Eph 5:3–4).

(8) It must not evoke lust and other sinful reactions. Those sports are sinful, which plainly tend to provoke ourselves or others to sin: as to lust, to swearing, and cursing, and railing, and fighting, or the like. Those also are sinful, which are the exercise of covetousness, to win other men’s money of them; or that tend to stir up covetousness in those you play with.

(9) It must not be cruel. Cruel recreations also are unlawful: as taking pleasure in the beholding of duellers, fighters, or any that abuse each other; or any other creatures that needlessly torment each other.

(10) It must not be too expensive. Too costly recreation also is unlawful: when you are but God’s stewards, and must be accountable to Him for all you have, it is sinful to expend it needlessly on sports.

(11) It must not be forbidden to us by our superiors. Unnecessary recreations forbidden by our lawful governors are unlawful. If they were before lawful to you, yet now they are not; because your king, your pastor, your parents, your masters, have power to rule and restrain you in such things; and you must obey them.

By this it is easy to judge of our common stage-plays, gaming, cards, dice, and diverse other such kind of sports. If they have but any one of these evil qualifications they are sinful.
All these are applicable both to young and old. But I would especially address our youths, who are sadly being carried by the love of sports and pleasure from the love of God, and the care of their salvation, and the love of holiness, and the love of their callings; and into idleness, riotousness, and disobedience to their superiors:
(1) Do you not know that you have higher delights to mind? And are these toys beseeming a noble soul, that has holy and heavenly matters to delight in?

(2) Do you not feel what a plague the very pleasure is to your affections? How it bewitches you, and befools you, and makes you out of love with holiness, and unfit for any thing that is good?

(3) Do you know the worth of those precious hours which you play away? Have you no more to do with them? Look inwards to your soul, and forward to eternity, and bethink you better.

(4) Is it sport that you most need? Do you not more need Christ, and grace, and pardon, and preparation for death and judgment, and assurance of salvation? Why then are not these your business?

(5) Have you not a God to obey and serve? And does He not always see you? And will He not judge you? Alas! You know not how soon. Though you be now merry in your youth, and your “heart cheer thee…, and [thou] walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: yet know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment” (Ecc 11:9).

(6) Observe in Scripture what God judges of your ways. “We ourselves… were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving diverse lusts and pleasures”(Tit 3:3), being “lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God” (2 Tim 3:4).“Flee… youthful lusts: but follow after righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim 2:22; read also 1 Peter 1:14–15; 2:11–12; 4:1–4; 2 Peter 3:3).

(7) You are but preparing for your future sorrow, either by repentance or destruction; and the greater is your pleasure now, the greater will be your sorrow and shame in the review.

By Rev Richard Baxter


(Rev Richard Baxter (1615–1691) pastored the church at Kidderminster, near Wales. He was much admired in his own day in the area of casuistry, or practical theology)

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Working Bees yesterday.
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Journey mercies: Rev Edward & Mrs Lehia Paauwe; Dn Edwin D’Mello (Adl); Dns Joyce Gong (Adl/Melb); Bro Raphael (Adl/Barossa) & Sis Bernadette Ng & family (Barossa/Adl); Bro John & Sis Josephine Wong & family (Melb); Bro Houston Li (Barossa/Adl); & others who are travelling.  
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