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RIDICULE and satire have been censured as always injurious and unchristian. When they are employed, as is too commonly the case, merely to inflict pain, esalt self, or depress others, the charge is just. But the use of them for such unworthy ends, proves nothing against them as means of reformation. If experience, observation, and the Bible, shew the necessity, benefit, and lawfulness of sometimes employing them, it is not the principle, but the perversion of it, which is criminal. Vices do exist which no other ordinary means can correct. “Many follies are so humble that grave admonition cannot notice them; and if it did, would notice them in vain : and many vices are so gigantic, and those who practice them are so callous as to be proof against every weapon but the polished and barbed dart of satire." Against such it has often been directed with effect. The ab
surdities of Idolatry were so ridiculed by the Fathers, and the impositions of Popery by the Reformers, as greatly to facilitate the spread of the gospel. Addison, Cowper, and others, liy satirizing vice, have done great service to morality; and who may not see faults daily corrected and prevented by the same means ? The sacred writers relate without co'nsure instances of ridicule in the conduct of saints : anil,while speaking as they were moved by the Holy Gibost, they employ it themselves. When the priests of Baal sacrificed and prayed to him for miraculous evidence of his divinity, "Elijah mocked them, and said, cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth and must be awaked,” Isaiah, to expose the superstition of the Heathen, describes their idols in a ludicrous manner. Paul, in order to shame to repentance the Cor-inthians who had grown proud of their good estate, ironically exclaims, “now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us:" and to mortify their submission to teachers who gloried after the flesh, he says, “ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise." The following words of Christ, spoken to reprove the Jews, have been supposed to partake of a similar spirit. “What went ye out into the wilderness for to see ? a reed shaken with the
wind? But what went ye out for to see ? a man clothed with soft raiment ?"_"Whereunto shalt I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the market, and calling unto their fellows, and saying unto them, we have piped unto you and ye have not danced; we bave mourned unto you and ye have pot la mented. For John camé neither eating nor drinking and they say he hath a devil. The Son of man came eating and drioking, and they say, behold a man gluttonous, a wine bibber, a friend of publicans and sinpers."
We would not by these remarks, countenance the abuse of satire, or the indulgence of vain and wanton mirth. Wit is commonly the idol of its possessor. “ Half that have it are undone,” and employed in undoing others. The awful consequence of faults the most deserving of ridicule, ought to change “our laughter to mourning,” and make us “ watch unto prayer."
Satire is allowable only on very peculiar occasions : and even then, it must be used with great caution, and with a sincere aim at the glory of God and the good of man. Thus it seems to have been used by the author of the World Unmasked.
" If his ex pressions ever wear an air of pleasantry, it is because he would tempt his readers by a smile to hear him out” on subjects involving their highest happiness.
Offensive allusions and local references; harsh, low and obsolete words, contained in former editions, are in many instances omitted or changed in this without sacrificing or altering any important thought. Anecdotes of the author, taken from “Cheerful Piety," are inserted in his life : and a hope is indulged that obstacles to the circulation of this book are removed ; and, that whatever improvements remain to be made in its phraseology or divinity, it will contribute to enlighten men, and make them wise unto salvation.
Nantucket, August, 1822.