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So, in the same manner, if you speak of temperance to him, who hath been accustomed to drink his bottle of wine daily; he will exclaim against the doctrine as dull and spiritless, and say, that, were he to attempt to practise accordingly, the effect would be to bring on melancholy, and that it would be to the injury of his health. Let him, however, but once set about the reform with prudence and firmness, effecting the change by degrees; and when he is fairly returned within the bounds of temperance, he will find his reward in improved health, alacrity of spirit, and the answer of a good conscience. When Paul reasoned with Felix “ of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, he trembled.” (Acts xxiv, 25.) He deferred his repentance, however, to “ a more convenient season,” which never arrived. Let not this be done in the present case.
The reform will leave us all the interest of striking incident and marked character, beautiful and instructive sentiment, and pure and brilliant wit and humour, and all these set off by the graces
of elocution, and the charms of painting and music. Our Oratorios, (Sacred Dramas, performed with music, but without the aids of action and scenery) are sufficiently interesting to attract all
* Note W.
ranks of persons: and, be it said to our praise, that some of our best Dramas are ihe most
Much - very much --perhaps incalculable mischief hath been done to multitudes by our corrupt plays; yet, it may reasonably be supposed, where the good hath lighted upon good ground, that it hath produced good effects; nay, when we consider, that many, who frequent plays, never go to a church, or any where else, where they might learn that which is good; we are, perhaps, indebted to the good sentiments and good examples exhibited upon the stage, that those persons learn some good, and that men are not worse than they are. + The place where we are now assembled does not seem to authorize descending to particulars; but, besides the instances to which I have before alluded, it may be said in general, That the Stage hath, in these times, contributed much to maintain in the minds of the people sentiments of Patriotism and Loyalty, and sentiments of Generosity and Philanthropy. The Stage, I believe, hath bad a very considerable part in influencing the public mind with respect to the state of the Negroes, and the infamous traffic of the Slave-trade: Nor hath Religion, the purity and superiority of the CHRISTIAN Religion, been wholly neglected in some few of our Dramas. I
The Stage, in short, it must be allowed, partakes of the Character of the World, and of the Times in which it exists. There is much in it worthy of commendation, too much, alas ! which a sense of duty, and a regard to truth, must censure ; and which a sense of duty and of truth, we hope, will earnestly endeavour to reform. The first step towards reformation is to be aware of the necessity of it, and the next is to wish to carry it into effect; were this but once to prevail in all parties concerned in it, the task were easy. What hath been done, shews what may be done, and gives us hope, that it will be attempted.
The most probable means of carrying the design into effect must be the subject of a future discourse. In the mean time, let us reflect, that it is not from the Stage alone, that we are to expect this blessed effect; all persons are concerned in it, and all must unite their efforts : above all, let the teachers of Christianity exert themselves to spread the purity of the Gospel in their several spheres; and in proportion as Christianity prevails, so will heathenism and vice disappear, wheresoever and howsoever disguised, 66 evil communications" will cease to
corrupt good manners," and men will learn, " Whether they eat or drink, or whatsoever they do, to do all to the glory of God.”
On Wit and Ridicule : their Lawfulness, and the Uses
and Abuses of them.
EPHES. V, 3, 4,
FOOLISH TALKING, NOR JESTING, WHICH ARE NOT CONVENIENT, BE ONCE NAMED AMONGST YOU, AS BECOMETH SAINTS.
The City of Ephesus, the capital of Proconsular Asia, was noted in its gentile state, for the idolatry and skill in magic, for the luxury and lasciviousness of its inhabitants. The Apostle Paul, on his way from Corinth to the Passover at Jerusalem, called at this famoụs city, and preached to the Jews in their Synagogue, and left them with a promise to return to them again; which he did the year following; when he preached with such success, that he converted a considerable portion of the gentiles from their idolatry, who, in abhorrence of the wicked arts, which they had formerly practised, brought together their books upon these subjects, of very considerable value, and burnt them. The Apostle continued at Ephesus nearly three years; and afterwards, when a prisoner at Rome, he addressed this Epistle to his converts at Ephesus, in which he gives them much
salutary advice, both for their faith and practice. At the beginning of the chapter I have just quoted, he exhorts them: Be ye followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour. But fornication and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named amongst you, as becometh saints': neither filthiness, nor foolish-talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient; but rather giving of thanks.- Let no man deceive you with vain words, for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be ye not therefore partakers with them. ye were sometimes darkness, but now are yo light in the Lord: walk as children of the light;-proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” (v. 1-11.)
By the words, foolish-talking and jesting, many well-meaning, but, as we conceive, mistaken Christians have imagined, that all jesting, or wit, and facetiousness, are prohibited. One of the writers against the Stage, whose work I lave had occasion to mention in
former Discourses, says, that St. Paul, by these words, “ intended to prohibit the plays, that were then