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ed churches; that the reader may hence learn what he is to think of himself, if the stage is ever bis diversion : for I am fully persuaded, that he will here find arguments against the stage, as strong and plain as any that can be urged against the worship of images, or any other corruption of the most corrupt religion.
Let it therefore be observed, that the stage is not here condemned, as some other diversions, because they are dangerous, and likely to be occasions of sin; but that it is condemned, as drunkenness and lewdness, as lying and profaneness are to be condemned; not as things that may only be the occasions of sin, but as such as are in their own nature grossly sinful.
You go to hear a play: I tell you, that you go to hear ribaldry and profaneness; that you entertain your mind with extravagant thoughts, wild rant, blasphemous speeches, wanton amours, profane jests, aud in pure passions. If you ask me where is the sin of all this? You may as well ask me, where is the sin of swearing and lying. For it is not only a sin against this or that particular text of Scripture, but it is a sin against the whole nature and spirit of our religion.
It is a contradiction to all Christian holiness, and to all the methods of arriving at it. For can any one think that he has a true Christian spirit, that his heart is changed as it ought to be, that he is born again of God, whilst he is diverting himself with the lewdness, impudence, profaneness, and -impure discourses of the stage? Can he think that he is endeavouring to be holy as Christ is holy, to live by his wisdom, and be full of his spirit, so long as he allows himself in such an entertainment? For there is nothing in the nature of Christian holiness but what is all contrary to the whole spirit and temper of this entertainment. That disposition of heart, which is to take pleasure in the various re
presentations of the stage, is as directly contrary to that disposition of heart which Christianity requireth, as revenge is contrary to meekness, or malice to good will. Now that which is thus contrary to the whole nature and spirit of religion, is certainly much more condemned than that which is only contrary to some particular part of it.
But this is plainly the case of the stage; it is an entertaininent that consists of lewd, impudent, profane discourses; and, as such, is contrary to the whole nature of our religion. For all the parts of religion, its whole nature, has only this one design; to give us purity of heart, to change the temper and taste of our souls, and fill us with such holy tempers, as may make us fit to live with God in the society of pure and glorious spirits.
An entertainment therefore which applies to the corruption of our nature, which awakens our disordered passions, and teaches to relish lewdness, immoral rant, and profaneness, is exceeding sinful; not only as it is a breach of some particular duty, but as it contradicts the whole nature, and opposes every part of our religion.
For this diversion, which consists of such discourses as these, injures us in a very different manner from other sins. For as discourses are an application to our whole soul, as they entertain the heart, and awaken and employ all our passions; so they more fatally undo all that religion has done than several other sins. For as religion consists in a right turn of mind, as it is a state of the heart; so whatever supports a quite contrary turn of mind, and state of heart, has all the contrariety to religion that it can posssibly have.
St. John saith, Hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us. There is no other certain sign of our belonging to Christ; every other sign may deceive us: all the external parts of religion may be in vain; it is only a state of our
mind and spirit, that is a certain proof that we are in a true state of Christianity. And the reason is plain; because religion has no other end, than to alter our spirit, and give us new dispositions of heart, suitable to its purity and holiness. That therefore which immediately applies to our spirit, which supports a wrong turn of mind, which betrays our hearts into impure delights, destroys all our religion ; because it destroys that turn of mind and spirit, which is the sole end and design of all our religion.
When therefore you are asked why it is unlawfur to swear, you can answer, because it is contrary to the third commandment. But if you are asked, why it is uniawful to use the entertainment of the stage, you can carry your answer farther; because it is an entertainment that is contrary to all the parts, the whole nature of religion; and contradicts every holy temper, which the spirit of Christianity requireth. So that if you live in the use of diversion, you have no grounds to hope that you have the spirit and heart of a Christian.
Thus stands the first argument against the stage: it has all the weight in it, that the whole weight of religion can give to any argument.
If you are only for the form of religion, you may take the diversion of the stage along with it; but if you desire the spirit of religion, if you desire to be truly religious in heart and mind, it is as necessary to renounce and abhor the stage, as to seek to God, and pray for the guidance of his Holy Spirit.
Secondly. Let the next argument against the stage be taken from its manifest contrariety to this. important passage of Scripture; “ Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying; that it may minister grace to the hearers;" and “ not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed, to the day of redemption,'
Here we see that all corrupt and unedifying communication is absolutely sinful, and forbidden in Scripture for this reason, because it grieves the Holy Ghost and separates Him from us. But if it be thus unlawful to have any corrupt communication of our own; can we think it lawful to go to places set apart for that purpose? To give our money, and hire persons to corrapt our hearts with ill discourses, and inflame all the disorderly passions of our nature? We have the authority of Scripture to affirm, that “ evil communications corrupt good manners," and that “unedifying discourses grieve the Holy Spirit.”
Now the third commandment is not more plain and express against swearing, than this doctrine is plain and positive against going to the playhouses. if you should see a person that acknowledges the third commandment to be a divine prohibition against swearing; yet going to a house, and giving his money to persons, who were there met to curse and swear in fine language, ard invent musical oaths and imprecations: would you not think him mad in the highest degree? Now consider whether there be a less degree of madness in going to the playhouse. You own that God has called you to a great purity of conversation; that you are forbid all foolish discourse, and filthy jestings, as expressly as you are forbid swearing; that you are told to let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but such as is good for the use of edifying:” and yet you go to the house set apart for corrupt communications:
you hire persons to entertain you with all manner of ribaldry, profaneness, rant, and impurity of discourse; who are to present you with vile thoughts, and lewd imaginations, in fine language, and to make wicked, vain, and impure discourses, more lively and affecting than you could possibly hare it in any ill company. Now is not this sinning withi as high a hand, and as grossly offending against plain doctrines of Scripture, as if you were to give your money to be entertained with musical oaths and curses?
You might reasonably think that woman very ridiculous in her piety, that durst not swear herself; but should nevertheless frequent places to hear oaths. But you may justly think her very ridiculous in modesty, who, though she dares not to say, or look, or do any immodest thing herself, should yet give her money to see women forget the modesty of their sex, and talk impudently in a public playhouse. If the playhouse was filled with rakes, and ill women, there would be nothing to be wondered at in such an assembly: for such persons to be delighted with such entertainments, is as natural, as for an animal to delight in its proper element. But for persons who profess purity and holiness, who would not be suspected of immodest or corrupt coinmunications: for them to come under the roof of a house devoted to such ill purposes, and to be pleased spectators of such actions and discourses, as are the pleasures of the most abandoned persons; for them to give their money to be thus entertained, is such a contradiction to all piety and common sense, as cannot be sufficiently exposed.
Consider now, if you please, the worship of images. You wonder that any people can be so blind, so regardless of Scripture, as to comply with such a devotion. It is indeed wonderful. But is it not as wonderful, that you should seek and delight in an entertainment, made up of lewdness, profaneness, and all the extravagant rant of disordered passions; when the Scripture positively charges you to forbear all corrupt communications, as that which grieves the Holy Spirit, and separates him from us? Is not this being blind, and regardless of Scripture in as high a degree? For how can the Scripture speak higher, or plainer, or enforce its doctrines with a more dreadful penalty, than that which is here de çlared? For without the Holy Spirit of God, we