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    April 2, 1885

    “Light Literature the Bane of Purity and Peace” The Signs of the Times 11, 14, pp. 217, 218.

    LAST week, in studying the Scripture injunction to be sober, we found that it is especially insisted upon in the last days, because that its opposite—“lightness”—will be most prevalent; and in the definition of the word we found that, “sober is opposed to flighty.” Flighty is thus defined: “Indulging in flight, or wild and unrestrained sallies of imagination, humor, caprice, etc.; given to disordered fancies and extravagant conduct; volatile, giddy;” and this is exactly what is referred to in Jeremiah 23:32, where it is declared that “lightness” is a characteristic of the last days; and it is the events foreshown in Jeremiah 23:16-32, to which Paul has reference, when, in 1 Thessalonians 5:6, 8, he exhorts us to “be sober.”SITI April 2, 1885, page 217.1

    Now let any sober-minded person take this definition of “flighty,” and, bearing it in mind for a week, compare with it the actions of the people generally, as they come under his notice either by direct observation, or as reported in the daily papers, and we are sure that he will be ready to admit that certainly these are the times pointed out in these scriptures. And the longer he conducts the observation, the more thoroughly will he be convinced that this is so. And another thing of which he will be convinced by such observation is that the one source, more than all others, whence this instability, this flightiness, this lightness springs, is the “light” literature that is found everywhere, low and high, from the hovel to the palace, from the gamins to the pampered heirs of millions.SITI April 2, 1885, page 217.2

    Light literature it is called, and properly so, for light it is. In it is embodied every element that tends to lightness. There is not a single idea contained in the definition of flighty that is not demonstrated in this light literature. The mind, like the body, is, in this respect, an assimilation of what it feeds on; and the mind that dwells upon this kind of literature soon becomes as light and shallow as the stuff that is read. It is a poison to the mind as veritably as is whisky, or tobacco, or any other poison, to the body; and like other poisons it creates an appetite which nothing but itself can supply; and as there is absolutely nothing in it by which the mind is fed, developed, or strengthened, the more of it that is devoured, so much the more is demanded, and so much weaker and more morbid the mind becomes. And so the mind is rendered almost useless for any sober purpose; it is almost if not altogether impossible for such a mind to concentrate itself upon a subject that requires deep thought; to follow a line of sound reasoning; or to appreciate the principles that underlie the most important concerns of life.SITI April 2, 1885, page 217.3

    One of the most noticeable instances in proof of this is the fact that when the attention of such is called to the benefits to be derived from the study of the Bible, the complaint is made that they cannot remember the Scripture when they do read it; while at the same time they can remember the characters and their career, in the whole course of perhaps a half-dozen of the continued stories in the Ledger, Weekly, Saturday Night, Chimney Corner, Fireside Companion, and other such namby-pamby papers, pamphlets, etc. If the mind were as diligently and persistently bent to the study of the Bible, if it were brought into such sympathetic harmony with the Scripture as it is with these stories, there would not be the least difficulty in remembering it. Then all its glorious beauty would pervade the mind; its rich treasures would there be bestowed; its important truths would enlighten, and its sound principles confirm the mind, which would thus be fed, developed, strengthened, and ready for every good work.SITI April 2, 1885, page 217.4

    We do not say that the Bible alone must be read, to the utter exclusion of every other book; this the Bible itself would not allow; but we do say that the Bible must be read before any other production. It must lead the way; it must guide the mind; it must be the center whence every line of thought radiates; upon its principles must every course of conduct be founded. Without this there can be no well built, properly rounded, symmetrical life in this world; with it the universe becomes our own, to study and to enjoy. The Bible will show us what we are and how to become what we ought to be; it will guide us through all the mazes of human history; it will lead us to the enjoyment of the wealth of the wondrous works of God; it will enable us to think the thoughts of the Almighty, after him. Thus we may honor God, and be an honor to the human race. And thus the life that we now live will be simply the beginning of that to which there is to be no end; and the habits of mind, and the courses of thought, will be those which are never to cease, nor to be broken in upon.SITI April 2, 1885, page 217.5

    It is not so with the light literature of which we write. Of that the nature and the tendency are, in every respect, directly the opposite, so that in it all there is no good thing. But it is asked, Are not these stories pictures of real life? No. They are altogether fictitious; the very name, “novel,” means “a fictitious tale or narrative;” but the fictitious part is not the worst, it is “intended to exhibit the operation of the passions, and particularly love.”—Webster. There is expressed the dangerous, the destructive influence of this kind of literature. The passions are given full swing. All the baser elements of human nature,—envy, jealousy, hatred, strife, deception, ingenious trickery, murder,—are exhibited in their most active energy. Obscenity is forbidden by the law, but in this respect what this literature lacks in plain expression, is amply made up in suggestiveness. So that even were it granted that it is real life that is portrayed it would still be altogether objectionable, because it is the action of the worst elements of human nature that is pictured.SITI April 2, 1885, page 217.6

    In the definition above given, it is said that it is “particulary [sic.] love” that is intended to be exhibited, and these are sometimes called “love stories,” but, whatever may be intended, it is not love that is therein exhibited; it is simply an exhibition of extravagant, misguided passion. And this counterfeit is dressed in all the gorgeous and dazzling array that rhetoric can invent, and is paraded as love; the readers of these stories mistake it as such; and then, of course, to them, anything that lacks the distinguishing traits of the leading characters in the stories, cannot be love. So when, unfortunately, the time comes when they shall choose for themselves, the choice must be made in accordance with the most approved style of romance; it must be made in opposition to the most sacred wishes of parents and friends, so that the consummation of it must be by an elopement or a secret marriage, and then—SITI April 2, 1885, page 218.1

    Ah! then the fiction vanishes and the fact appears; then the romance ends and the reality begins; the glamour of years is swept away in a day; it is found that true, genuine love is something widely different from this dazzling array of platitudes; and that this one all-essential element of a happy wedded life is sadly lacking. Then there follows, as the inevitable consequence, disgrace or a life of misery, and in the very nature of the case there is absolutely no power that can prevent it.SITI April 2, 1885, page 218.2

    These dangers beset us on every hand. Parents of precious children, and even those professing to be Christians, will so far forget their duties toward God, toward their children, and toward themselves, as to spend their time in devouring this poison. Is it by filling the mind with such wild ideas, with such base thoughts, with such vain imaginations, that it is to be prepared to receive the things of the Spirit of God? Is it by such means that a people are to be prepared for the coming of the Lord? Of a truth, “Of the times and the seasons” of his coming we need not write so much, but of the duties, and the manner of life by which we must be prepared to meet him, we must write more. “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.” “Abstain from all appearance of evil. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”SITI April 2, 1885, page 218.3

    A. T. JONES.

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