434. As to social gatherings, they were composed in the primitive church of such as called themselves brethren in Christ; they were therefore assemblies of charity, because there was spiritual brotherhood. They were also a consolation in the adversities of the church, seasons of rejoicing on account of its increase, recreations of mind after study and labor, and at the same time opportunities for conversation on various subjects; and as they flowed from spiritual love as from a fountain, they were rational and moral from a spiritual origin. There are at this day assemblies of friendship, which regard as an end the delights of sociability, the exhilaration of the mind by conversation, the consequent expansion of the feelings and the liberation of imprisoned thoughts, and thus the rekindling of the sensual faculties and the renewal of their state. But as yet there are no gatherings of charity; for the Lord says,
In the end of the age (that is, at the end of the church), iniquity will be multiplied and charity will grow cold (Matt. 24:12).
This is because the church has not yet acknowledged the Lord God the Savior as the God of heaven and earth, and gone to Him directly, from whom alone genuine charity goes forth and flows in. But social gatherings where friendship emulating charity does not bring minds together, are nothing but pretenses of friendship, deceptive attestations of mutual love, seductive insinuations into favor, and sacrifices offered to the delights of the body, especially the sensual, whereby people are carried away like ships by sails and favoring currents, while sycophants and hypocrites stand in the stem and hold the helm.