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November 2016 - Considerations on Lots
by John M. Mason
Synopsis: In his “Lectures on Calvinism,” (1898), Dutch Reformed theologian Abraham Kuyper listed dancing, theater attendance and card playing (and dicing) as the three diversions no serious Christian, especially the Calvinist, would dare to engage to participate. Undoubtedly, many professing Christians today view various card games and board games as innocent diversions. Many very likely will find any suggestion that they are not only of dubious use but embody elements which strike against the Third Commandment as absurd or, worse, a kind of stifling legalism. Nonetheless, in an age wherein Christian practice has been so lax and Christian thinking so thin, it behooves serious believers to challenge their complacent worldview.
“Considerations on Lots” explains what a lot is and why it is involved in various games played with cards and dice. Dr. Mason explains the connection with the Third Commandment and then chronicles numerous evils attendant upon the abuse of the lot. Mason’s series of letters on lots provides a cogent and relatively easy to understand exposition on the subject. To this work, several other pieces on the lot have been added in this publication. There is a letter from Thomas McClellan, a 19th century Reformed Presbyterian minister, addressing the question of card playing, in which he recommends Mason’s “Considerations.” William Ames (1576-1633) was an English Puritan of high reputation. In the extract from his work on Conscience, he distinguishes between several kinds of lots and reasons upon their use in gaming. This is followed by an extract from New England Puritan Increase Mather (1639-1723) on the sinfulness of abusing lots in dicing and playing at cards. Finally, there is a chapter from Pike and Haywards’s masterful “Cases of Conscience” (written by Samuel Pike [1717-1773]) in which the subject of card playing is addressed and the matter of the lot discussed.
Author(s) Bio: John Mitchell Mason was born in New York City, March 19, 1770. He was the son of John Mason, a Presbyterian minister who emigrated to the United States from Scotland, in 1761. In May, 1789, he graduated from Columbia College, New York. In 1791, he went to Scotland to complete his theological education at the University of Edinburgh. In 1792, the sudden death of his father brought him back to New York and, in April, 1793, he became pastor of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian congregation of New York City. The degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred upon him by the university of Pennsylvania, in 1804. Beginning in 1806, he edited the “Christian’s Magazine” for several years, writing many of its articles, including the one on lots serialized in this pamphlet. In 1810, he was appointed professor of theology for the A.R. church; and, in 1811, he became Provost of Columbia College. During his life, Dr. Mason was noted for several controversies but his works on church government and practical religion met with broad approval. Among his published works, there were numerous sermons on doctrinal subjects, including Hope for the Heathen (1797), The Warning Voice to Christians on the ensuing election of a President of the United States (1800), Pardon of sin by the blood of Jesus (1801), A Sermon on ‘Christian Assurance’ (1829). After a period of extended illness, he died, on December 26, 1829.
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