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knees before God in real life? We are commanded, indeed, not to pray in public, for the sake of being seen of men, (Matt. vi. 5.) for the motive ought to be to please God; but we are commanded to “ let our light so shine before men, that they may see our good works, and GLORIFY OUR FATHER WHO IS IN Heaven." (Matt. v. 16.) Besides, can we not find similar cases, confessedly lawful, wherein we place ourselves in the situations of others, which are not exactly suitable to our own circumstances, and make use of their words, for the sake of instruction and example? Many passages of Scripture, which we read publicly, are of this description, and especially many of the Psalms.”*
5. The subject of Prophecy is, likewise, introduced upon the Stage; sometimes, indeed, seriously, but, at other times with great levity and impiety; and which cannot but tend to increase that indifference, or infidelity and scoffing, which have ever, more or less, prevailed in the world on this subject. +
6. Profane cursing and swearing have, in some measure, been mentioned before; but, besides the improper objects of heathen worship, to whom these addresses are often made, the frequency of oaths, both of the most trifling
and of the most profane kind, and used upon the most trifling occasions, and uttered in the most daring manner, is truly shocking. *
7. To these must be added the very frequent and profane use of Scripture language, and of words appropriated almost exclusively to sacred subjects, as the words Redeemer, Saviour, Sacrifice, Atonement, Adore, Worship, Create, Deity, Divinity and God, and these applied to the lowest and most impure objects.fi
These are some of the principal instances, wherein the Stage seems to have adopted some sort of false religion, as it were, of its own, and so to confuse the minds of its votaries, and lead them from the true God to lying fables, After these we may consider,
II. What may be called the Morals of the Stage.
1. The subject, which now forms the leading principle of our Dramas, is love. Not, as it was intended to be by the Great Creator of man, a passion pure in itself, and subject to the guidance of reason and religion; but a romantic passion, often only an appetite, defying reason,
the common duties of life, and the restraints of religion, and frequently running to the height of idolatry for its object. *
of this is, that parents are set at nought, and the great bonds of social life are burst asunder: Such are the fruits of those lessons of romantic love taught from the Stage, where parents are commonly represented as cruel, and thwarting the happiness of their children, and the great object in the children is, to contrive in what manner they may outwit and cast off obedience to them. Innumerable are the instances, in which parents have had to deplore in their children the practice of those lessons, which, by taking them to the theatre to witness, they have themselves contributed to their learning. t
3. The consequences of marriages thus entered into, is satiety, disgust, and aversion. Romantic love leads but to unhappy and disgraceful unions; and, accordingly, the sacred institution of marriage, intended for the happiness of man, even in a state of innocence, and as the happiest state which this fallen world can produce, is exhibited as generally, and almost necessarily, to be a state of indifference or aversion. * Note J. + Note K.
i Note L.
4. The sanction and encouragement which the Stage gives to Profligacy is another of its vices. The libertine is there exhibited, not as a character odious, and to be avoided, but he is represented as the interesting, and the amiable, and the rewarded character; while soberness, virtue and piety are neglected and contemned. *
5. These are the common subjects of the lighter species of Dramas; but they are to be found, likewise, to a considerable degree, in the more serious. “ There runs” besides (as it hath been admirably remarked)
through the whole web of the Tragic Drama (and indeed to a considerable extent likewise of the Comic) a prominent thread of false principle. It is generally the leading object of the poet, to erect a standard of Honour, in direct opposition to the standard of Christianity, And this is not done subordinately, incidentally, or occasionally; but worldly honour is the very soul and spirit, and life-giving principle of the Drama. Honour is the religion of Tragedy. It is her moral and political law. Her dictates form its institutes. Fear and shame are the capital crimes in her code. Against these all the eloquence of her most powerful, pleaders, against these her penal statutes, pistol, sword, and poison, are in full force. Injured honour can only be vindicated
* Note M.
at the point of the sword; the stains of injured reputation can only be washed out in blood. Love, jealousy, hatred, ambition, pride, revenge, are too often elevated into the rank of splendid virtues, and form a dazzling system of worldly morality, in direct contradiction to the spirit of that religion, whose characteristics are charity, meekness, peaceableness, long-suffering, gentleness, forgiveness." • The fruits of the Spirit,” and the fruits of the Stage, if the parallel were followed up, as it might easily be, would perhaps exhibit as pointed a contrast as human imagination could conceive.” *
6 When it is considered how many young men pick up their habits of thinking and their notions of morality from the play-house, it is not perhaps going too far to suspect, that the principles and examples exhibited on the stage, may contribute in their full measure and proportion towards supplying a sort of regular aliment to the appetite (how dreadfully increased !) for duelling, and even suicide.”+
6. Murder, and Suicide, are, indeed, two of the great engines of the Drama; and, it is to be feared, very much tend to diminish the horror and impiety of them to the human mind. One
* Mrs. H. More's Preface to her Tragedies, Vol. üi, p. 16. + Ditto, p. 21. Note N.