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Work and Play
I shall set play in a threefold light: I. In the light of work. II. In the light of the Gospel. III. In the light of heaven.
I. Play in the Light of Work. What is the difference between work and play? It is not in the things we do so much that the real difference between work and play is found: it is in the spirit in which the thing is done. And can we distinguish that difference of spirit? I do not suppose that it was ever better done than by that great thinker and poet, Horace Bushnell. 'Work,' he said, 'is activity for an end, and play is activity as an end;' and if we think of that we shall find the depth of it. In other words, back of our work is duty, back of our work is hunger, back of it is constraint But back of play there is no force like that. It is labour, but in the labour there is liberty.
II. Play in the Light of the Gospel. I think we will all admit that we owe to Christ the dignity of labour. Did you ever think of this, that the Gospel of Jesus has dignified our play? Yet the one is just as true as the other. I mean that, in the Gospel view of man, there is such compass, there is such wisdom, there is such compassion, that the element of play comes to its own again. I have read of that great saint Borromeo, that while engaged with some friends in a game of chess, the question was started what they would do if they knew that they were to die within the hour. 'I would go on with my game,' replied Borromeo. And that is the true spirit of the Master. Even a game of chess can be illumined, brought into line with the great purpose of life, and made to echo with the praise of God.
Do you think it a mere figure of speech that we talk of the waters playing on the shore, or of the wind playing among the trees, or of the sunlight playing on the grass? These words are real, penetrative. For the creative work of the Infinite is play. It is. not task-work. It is the outcome of love, of liberty, of superabundant, everlasting life. And hence the irresistible conviction witnessed in human speech, of the play-element in the handiwork of God.
III. Play in the Light of Heaven. What is your first thought of heaven. The first thing that we think of heaven is rest. Do you really think it will be that? And do you really think that you will want that? Consider.
For us all there comes the Friday night Our week of school is done. God's discipline is over. We lay aside our pencils and our books. And we are wearied with the stress of it, and we cry out, 'O God, to be at rest!' And so we fall asleep. Then dawns the Saturday, the everlasting Sabbath, and we awake, and Jesus Christ is there. And every faculty is full of being, and every part is wondrously expanded; and we are quivering, inspired with life, and we do not want to rest: we want to serve, and the service of eternity is play! For here we must be driven to service, but yonder to serve will be our very joy. G. H. Morrison, Flood-Tide, p. 115.
References. VIII. 5. B. D. Johns, Pulpit Notes, p. 29. VIII. 6. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxix. No. 1747. VIII. 9, 13. T. Parr, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lviii. 1900, p. 74. VIII. 12 and 16. C. Silvester Home, ibid. vol. lxi. 1902, p. 382. VIII. 13. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ix. No. 543; vol. liii. No. 3045. VIII. 17. J. Parker, Studies in Texts, vol. i. p. 159. VIII. 19. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxviii. No. 2248. 'Plain Sermons' by contributors to the Tracts for the Times, vol. x. p. 239. J. H. Newman, Sermons Bearing on Subjects of the Day, p. 431. W. Percival Ward, Love the Truth and Peace. VIII. 21. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix. No. 1107. IX. Ibid. vol. 1. No. 2883. IX. 9. Ibid. vol. xxxi. No. 1861. C. Holland, Gleanings from a Ministry of Fifty Years, p. 34. IX. 10. A. Rowland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvii. 1895, p. 360. IX. 11. T. A. Gurney, The Living Lord and the Opened Grave, p. 1. IX. 11, 12. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlix. No. 2839; vol. 1. No. 2883. IX. 12. T. A. Gurney, The Living Lord and the Opened Grave, p. 37. C. J. Vaughan, Last Words in the Parish Church of Doncaster, p. 54. IX. 17. F. E. Paget, Faculties and Difficulties for Belief and Unbelief, p. 86. W. H. Hutchings, Plain Instructive Sermons on Holy Communion, p. 65. J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Blessed Sacrament, p. 35. H. Ward Beecher, Sermons, p. 119. X. 1. J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Prophets, vol. ii. p. 181. X. 6. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xliv. No. 2588.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Zechariah 8". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany