August 7: Samuel Miller on the Jersey Shore

It’s August and it seems that everyone is away on vacation. So now for something completely different:

Put down the books and get some exercise.

In the biography of the Rev. Dr. Samuel Miller, we find this snippet from a letter he wrote, dated August 7th, 1801. Miller’s son, who served as his biographer, writes that this letter “will give an idea of some of the expedients of the city clergy of that day, for bodily and mental recuperation:

“On Wednesday week last, I went down with a large party of gentlemen, (twenty-six in number,) to amuse myself with fishing on the sea-bass banks. These banks are in the ocean, about twelve or fifteen miles to the southward of Sandy Hook, and nearly opposite Long Branch. The company was pleasant, the fishing delightful, the bathing highly refreshing, and the mirth and jollity of the party, notwithstanding the presence of several clergymen, so great, as almost to border on being excessive. We returned the next evening; and I think I felt ten per cent, at least, better for the jaunt. Contrary to all my expectations, I escaped sea-sickness; though my wish was, for the sake of its salubrity, to experience that painful disorder.”

Words to Live By:
For bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:8, NASB)

It would be a mistake to understand Paul as saying that bodily exercise is of no use. Rather, he is making a comparative statement, that bodily exercise is of little profit when compared with the eternal gain of godliness. Even the most physically fit person will eventually die, whereas godliness holds promise for the present life and for the life to come. A corollary verse would be Mark 8:36: “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” If the benefit of living a healthy life and getting some regular exercise is so obvious, can’t we see the vastly greater benefit of first trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior and then living out that faith in accordance with God’s Word, the Bible?

Source: The Life of Samuel Miller, (1869), vol. 1, p. 142.

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