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only reason is this, because in both these instances we are really in earnest. When you are in earnest in your religion, you will act as consistently, and in the same manner there. When you desire solid piety, as you desire sound health, your chief concern will be about your own disorders; you will thank divines and casuists for making you their chief care; you will be giad to have them examine and search into your ways of life, to be rightly informed of the follies, vanities, and dangers of your state; you
will be glad to read those books, and consult those casuists, which are most exact and faithful in discoveriug your faults, who question and examine all your ways, who discover to you your secret corruptions, and unsuspected follies, and who are best able to give you the surest rules of arriving at Christian perfection. When you are in earnest in your religion, you will as certainly act in this manner, as you act in the same manner with the lawyer or physician. Take this also for an undeniable truth, that till
you do act in this manner, you are not in earnest in your religion. This therefore is a good rule to examine yourself by. Do you find that you act in religion, as you do in other cases, where you are in earnest? Are you as suspicious of yourself, as fearful of mistake, as watchful of danger, as glad of. assistance, as desirous of success, as in other matters, wliere your life or fortune are at stake, or where your heart is engaged? Never imagine that
your religion is founded in a true fear of God, and a hearty desire of salvation, till you find yourself acting as you do in other matters, where your fears are great, and your desires hearty. If you had rather : read books that entertain the mind, than correct the heart; if you had rather hear a casuist examine other people's lives than your's;, if you had rather hear him talk of the excellency and wisdom of religion, than be exact in trying the excellency and · wisdom of your way of life, you must take it for
granted, that you are not in earnest in the reformation of your life, and that there are some tempers in you more strong and powerful, that more rule and govern you than the fear of God, and a desire of salvation. To return now to my subject.
I had observed, that people who are religious upon a true principle, who are devout with their reason and understanding, cannot possibly either relish or allow the entertainment of the stage. I observed, that these contradictory tempers, a delight in the offices and divine service of the church, and a delight in the entertainments of the stage, are no more possible to be in the same good men, than in the same good angels. This made it necessary for me to step a little aside from my subject, to consider some false appearances of religion, which are chiefly founded in natural temper, custom, education, and the way of the world; which yet so far deceive people, as to make them fancy themselves in a good state of religion, while they live and act by another spirit and temper.
Now, I readily own, a man may come up to those appearances of religion, he may carry on a course of such piety as this, and yet relish the diversion of the stage. It is no contradiction for a man to like to say his prayers, to be often delighted with the service of the church, to hear sermons, to read divinity, to detest heretics, and yet find a constant pleasure in the vain entertainments of the stage. The world abounds with instances of people who swear, drink, and debauch, with all these appearances of religion. Now as we are sure, that where we see these vices, those persons have only an appearance of religion, which is founded in something else, than a true fear of God; so whereever we see sober and regular people, lovers of the church, and friends to religion, taking the pleasure of the stage, we may be sure, that their religion is defective, and founded in something that is weak, and false, and blind, that
permits them to act so inconsistently. For the reasoning is full as strong in one case as in the other. Now although I would not have people to be solely guided by what they feel, or think they feel in their own minds; yet this we may depend upon, as certain in our tempers, that we never love or affect any thing truly, but we hate and avoid all that is contrary to it in an equal degree. So that we may be assured, that all that love, or zeal, or affection, that we pretend for any thing, is but mere pretence, and a blind motion, unless it appears by a zealous, lively abhorrence of every thing that is contrary to it. Upon this ground I again affirm, that it is impossible for truly religious people to bear the entertainments of the stage. For consider only the matter in this short view. A truly religious person is to love, and fear, and adore God, with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his strength. Now I ask you, who it is that has this true love of God? Is it he that delights in profaneness at all times? Or is it he that can bear with profaneness some times?
Or is it he that abhors and avoids it all times and in all places? Which of these three hath a right to be esteemed a true lover of God? Now he that goes to a play at any time, though he may say that he does not delight in profaneness, yet he must own that he can sometimes, and in some places, bear with profane
For profaneness of some kind or other, is in most of our plays, almost as common as the name of God in Scripture. But I will suppose it were only now and then, and that no profaneness, either of thought or expression, happened above twice or thrice in an entertainment; yet this is profaneness, and he that can bear with so much, that can seek the entertainment as a pleasure, must acknowledge, that though he does not delight in profaneness such, yet he can bear with profaneness for the sake of other delight. Now ask yourself
----Has not he a truer love of God, whose piety will not suffer him
to bear with profaneness at any time, or in any place, or for any pleasure? Am I not therefore supported by plain reason and common sense, when I affirm, that it is for want of true piety, that any people are able to bear the entertainment of the stage ?
You see also, that no higher degree of piety is required, to fill one with a constant abhorrence of the stage, than such a piety as implies an abhorrence of profaneness at all times, and in all places.
When you are thus pious, when you thus love God, you will have a piety, a love of God that will not suffer you to be at an entertainment that has any mixture of profaneness. Now as there must be this manifest defect in true piety, before you can bear with the profaneness of the stage; so if you consider every other part of the character of a truly religious man, you will find, that there must be the same defect run through the whole of it, before he can be fit for such diversion.
You tell me that you love the church, and rejoice at the returns of divine service, though you now and then go to a play. Now consider what it is wbich these words mean. If you love and delight in the service of church, then you love to be in a state of devotion, you love to draw near to God, you love to be made sensible of the misery, guilt, and weight of sin; you love to abhor and deplore your iniquities, and to lament the misery and vanity of human life; you love to hear the instructions of divine wisdom, to raise your soul unto God, and sing his praises; you love to be on your knees praying against all the vanities and follies of life, and for all the gifts and graces of God's Holy Spirit.
Now all this is implied in the true love of church-service, for unless you love it for what it is, and because you feel its excellency, your love is only a blind mechanical motion; but if you love it in truth and reality, if you are thus affected with it because all its parts so highly suit the condition of
human nature, whilst you are thus disposed, you can no more relish the wicked spirit and foolish temper of stage-entertainments, than sincere, dying penitents can delight in the guilt of their sins.
Never imagine, therefore, that you are sincerely affected with the confessions of the church, or that you are truly glad for the return of those hours, which humble you in the sight of God; never imagine, that you truly feel the misery and weight of sin, or sincerely lament the corruption of your nature, whilst you dare go to the fountain-head of corruption, the place where sin reigns, and exercises its
Never imagine, that you have the spirit of devotion, that your heart is renewed with the Holy Ghost; that it truly rejoices in the means of grace, and the hope of giory; never iniagine, that it is your joy and delight to worship God in the beauty of holiliness, to send up your soul to him in prayers and praises, so long as the way of the stage, its impious nonsense, vile jests, profane passions, and lewd speeches, are not your utter abhorrence. For it is not more absurd to believe, that a corrupt tree may bring forth good fruit, than to believe, that a pious mind, truly devoted to God, should taste and relish the entertainment of the stage. For the taste and relish of the mind, is a more certain sign of the state and nature of the mind, than the quality of fruit is a sign of the state and nature of trees.
Had the impure spirits, which asked our blessed Saviour to suffer them to enter into the herd of swine, said at the same time, that it was their only delight and joy to dwell in the light and splendour of God, no one could have believed them, any more than he could believe light and darkness to be the same thing.
When you have the Spirit of Christ, when you are devoted to God, when purity, holiness, and per
real when you desire to live in
fection is your