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the light of God's Holy Spirit, to act by his motions, to rise from grace to grace till you are finished in glory, it will be as in possible for you, whilst you continue so disposed, either to seek or bear the entertainment of the stage, as it is impossible for pure and holy spirits to ask to enter into a herd of suine. If you want the delight of so corrupt an entertainment, so contrary to the spirit and purity of religion, you ought no more to believe yourself, when you pretend to true piety and devotion, than you ought to have believed those impure spirits, if they had pretended to have been angels of light. For this is absolutely certain, and what you ought carefully to consider, that nothing ever gives us any pleasure, but what is suitable to the state and temper of mind that we are then in. So that if the corruption, the immorality, the profane spirit and wanton tem per of the stage entertainment, can give you any pleasure, you are as sure that there is something like all these vices in your heart, as you can be of any thing that relates to a human mind.
Lastly, Ask yourself, when you think that you have a true love for divine service, whether he is not a truer lover of it, whose soul is so fashioned to it, so deeply affected with it, that he can delight in nothing that is contrary to it; who can bear with no entertainment that is made up of speeches, passions, harangues, and songs, so opposite to the wisdom, the discourses, instructions, and hymns of divine service. This, I believe, you cannot deny; and if this cannot be denied, then it must be owned as a certain truth, that he who can bear with the stage entertainment, has this farther defect, that he wants the true love of divine service.
Again; It is part of a truly religious man to love the Scriptures, and delight in reading them: you say this is your temper, though you go to plays. I answer, that it is for want of a true love and delight in the Scriptures, that you are able to relish plays. You may perhaps so love the Scriptures, that you may think it your duty to read them, and desire to understand them. But when you once so love the Scriptures as to love to be like them, to desire that the spirit and temper of Scripture may be the one spirit and temper of your life: when, for instance, you love this doctrine, Strive to enter it at the strait gate. If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee. When you are of the same mind with this Scripture, Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary, the devil, 7 Dat is as a roaring lion, walketh about, seek : ing whom he may devour.
When you are intent upon this truth, For we must all appear before the judgment- ocor v 10.
2 Cor. v. 10. seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body. When this text has taken possession of your heart, Seeing then that all these things must be dissolved, what
2 Pet. v. 6.
Data manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness? : When you resign up your whole soul to this exhortation, Take my yoke upon you, and Nott vi 29. learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart. When your heart can truly bear you witness to this doctrine, that you put on the whole armour of Christ, that you may be able to stand, that you live by faith, and not by sight, pressing after the prise of your high calling. When you thus love and delight in the Scripture; when you thus enter into its spirit and temper; when its purity is your purity; its fears, and hopes, and joys, are your fears, and hopes, and joys; you will find yourself one of those who constantly, and at all times, abominate the folly, impertinence, and profaneness of the stage.
Let me desire you, when you are dressed for a play, to read over our Saviour's divine sermon on the Mount before you go; try whether your soul is
full of the spirit that is there taught; examine whee ther you then feel in your heart such a love of the Scripture, as to love those conditions of blessedness that are there described, Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are they that mourn, blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness. Do you find yourself in these heights of holiness? Is your soul reformed, purified, and exalted, according to these doctrines ? Or can you imagine, that you are conforming yourself to those doctrines, that you depart from none of them, when you are preparing yourself for a pleasure, which is the proper pleasure of the most corrupt and debauched minds? Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Can you think that you are rightly affected with this doctrine, that you are labouring after this purity, that you are preparing to see God, when you are going to an entertainment, to which they ought only to go who have no thoughts of seeing God, nor any desires after that purity which prepares us for it?
Lastly; Another virtue essential to Christian holiness is chastity; our blessed Saviour has given us the measure of this virtue in these words: But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. We are sure, therefore, that this virtue is not preserved, unless we keep ourselves clear from all immodest thoughts and impure imaginations; we are sure also, that the guilt of these is like the guilt of adultery. This is the doctrine of Christ. Look now into the play-house, and think whether any thing can be imagined more contrary to this doctrine.
For not to consider the monstrous lewdness and immodesty of the stage, take it in its best state; when some admired tragedy is upon it: are the extravagant passions of distracted lovers, the impure ravings of inflamed heroes, the tender com. plaints, the joys and torments of love, and gross descriptions of lust; are the indecent actions, the amorous transports, the wanton address of the actors, which makes so great a part of the most sober and modest tragedies---are these things an entertainment consistent with this Christian doctrine? You may as well imagine, that murder and rapine are consistent with charity and meekness. I hope it will not now be said, that I have spent too much time upon this subject, that seems not necessary in this treatise upon Christian perfection. For though these things are generally looked upon as little, because they are called pleasures and diversions ; yet they may as justly be called vices and debaucheries; they affect religion, as lies and falsehoods affect it, in the very heart and essence, and render people as incapable of true piety as any of the grossest indulgences of sensuality and intemperance. And perhaps it may be true, that more people are kept strangers to the true spirit of religion, by what are called pleasures, diversions, and amusements, than by confessed vices, or the cares and business of life. I have now only one thing to beg of the reader, that he would not think it à sufficient answer to all this, to say in general, that it is a doctrine too strict and rigid; but that he would consider every argument as it is in itself; not whether it be strict and rigid, but whether it be false reasoning, or more strict and rigid than the doctrine of Scripture: if it prescribes a purity and holiness which is not according to the spirit and temper of the Scriptures, let it be rejected; not as too strict and rigid, but as a species of false worship, as vain and ridiculous as idolatry : but if what is here asserted be highly conformable to the most plain doctrines of Scripture; the saying that it is too strict and rigid, is of no more weight against it than if it was said, that it was too true. It is not my intention to trouble the world with any particular notions of my
own, or to impose any unnecessary rules, or fancied degrees of perfection upon any people. But in declaring against the stage, as I have done, I have no more followed any particular spirit, or private temper, or any more exceeded the plain doctrine of Scripture, than if I declared against drunkenness and debauchery. Let a man but be so much a Christian, as not to think it too high a degree of perfection, or too strict and rigid to be in earnest in these two petitions, Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; and he has Christianity enough to persuade him, that it is neither too high a perfection, nor too strict and rigid, constantly to declare against, and always to avoid the entertainnient of the stage.
Christians are called to a constant State of Prayer
It is one principle article of our religion, to be1 lieve that our blessed Saviour is now at the right hand of God, there making perpetual intercession for us, till the redemption of mankind is finished. Prayer therefore is, undoubtedly, a proper means of drawing near to God, a necessary method of restoring sinners to his favour; since he, who has conquered sin and death, who is constituted Lord of all, is yet, as the great advocate for sinners, obliged to make perpetual intercession for them.
Whenever therefore we are in the spirit of prayer, when our hearts are lifted up to God, breathing out holy petitions to the throne of grace, we have this encouragement to be constant and fervent in it, that we are then joining with an intercession at the