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*[" And in thus habitually interfering and combining with moral sentiments and speculations, the Christian principles will greatly modify them. The evangelical ideas will stand in connexion with the moral ones, not simply as additional ideas in the train of thinking, but as ideas which impart or dictate a particular character to the rest. A writer whose mind is so possessed with the Christian principles, that they thus continually suggest themselves in connexion with his serious speculations, will unavoidably present a moral subject in a somewhat different aspect, even if he make no express references to the Gospel, from that in which it would be presented by another writer, whose habits of thought were clear: of evangelical recollections. · And in
train of thinking, in which the serious recognition of those prin ciples would produce this modification, it ought to be produced; so that the very last idea within the whole compass of speculation, which would have a different cast, as a ray of the Gospel falls, or does not fall upon it, should be faithfully exhibited in that light alone.”
“The far greater part of our elegant literature appears to fall under the utmost weight of this condemnation. After a comparatively small
* On account of the great length of this Sermon, the passages marked between brackets, were not delivered from the pulpit.
number of names and books are excepted, what are called the British Classics, with the addition of very many works of great literary merit, that have not quite attained that rank, present an immense vacancy of Christianized sentiment. The authors do not exhibit the signs of having ever deeply studied Christianity, or of retaining any discriminative and serious impression of it. Whatever has strongly occupied a man's attention, affected his feelings, and filled his mind with ideas, will even unintentionally shew itself in the train and cast of his discourse. Of their being solemnly conversant with these views, you discover no notices analogous, for instance, to those which appear in the writing or discourse of a man, who has lately passed some time amidst the wonders of Rome or Egypt, and who shews you, by almost unconscious allusions and images, naturally and often occurring in his language, even on other subjects, how profoundly he has been interested in contemplating triumphal arches, columns, temples and pyramids. Their minds are not naturalized, if 'I may so speak, to the images and scenery of the kingdom of Christ, or to that kind of light, which the Gospel throws on all objects.—You might observe, the next time you open one of these works, how far you may read without meeting with an idea of such a nature, or so expressed, as could not have been, unless Jesus
Christ had come into the world ;* even though the subject be one of those which he came to illuminate, and to enforce on the mind by new and most cogent arguments. And where so little of the light and rectifying influence of these communications has been admitted into the habits of thought, there will be very few cordially reverential and animated references to the great Instructor himself. You might have read a considerable number of volumes, without becoming apprized that there is such a dispensation in existence, or that such a sublime Minister of it had ever appeared among men. And you might have diligently read, for several years, and through several hundred volumes, without at all discerning its nature and importance, or that the writers, when alluding to it, admitted any high
importance to be connected with it. You would only have conjectured it to be a scheme of opinions and discipline, which had appeared in its day, as many others had appeared, and left us, as the rest have left us, to follow our speculations our own way.”]+
I have dwelt longer on this subject, as it is a consideration of infinite moment, not only to
* Except perhaps in respect of humanity and benevolence, on which subject his instructions have improved the sentiments even of infidels, in spite of the rejection of their divine authority. + Note E.
Foster's Essays. Essay IV. vol. ü. Letter VII.
writers, but to those by whom writers are employed, to the Licencer who sanctions their productions, and to the hearers and readers, who give currency to them, and who will undoubtedly be influenced by them.
3. The office of Licencer, which is lodged in the breast of the Lord Chamberlain, an officer immediately attendant on the person of royalty, presents a station of the utmost importance, as he is the arbiter of the amusements of a people, enlightened beyond any other nation in the world, and enjoying a greater degree of liberty, and, consequently, liable to fall into greater degrees of licentiousness. But, it is to be feared, that this power is rarely exercised, except for the purposes of checking political liberties. * The honour of God is left to shift for itself. “ When, in any nation, (says an excellent writer) we see offences against man punished with severity, and offences against God passed over in silence, depend upon it that nation is hastening to destruction."
The Author of the valuable Works on the Duties of Men and of Women, hath made the following remarks on this subject: " The superintendance of the Drama, exercised by legal
* Note G.
authority to prevent the Stage from being rendered an instrument of political machinations, and of personal calumny and resentment, is extremely useful. Other benefits of the highest value would attend its exertions, were they directed with an increase of energy to purify the Stage from incidents, expressions and allusions, offensive to modesty, and injurious to the principles of moral rectitude. Whoever possesses a power of accomplishing a change of such moment to the interests of morality and virtue, cannot but be responsible for the use and for the neglect of it. The influence of the Managers of our Theatres, aided by the authority of the Lord Chamberlain, would probably be adequate to accomplish the purification of the Stage in this particular. But if not, there is a quarter from which it might be effected at once.
To those who act under a royal licence,” (and will not this apply to all, by whatever Licence they act?) “ a single hint from Royal Authority” (or that particular authority under which they act) “ would be sufficient. The respect due to wishes intimated from that authority would, of itself, insure the rejection of every future composition contaminated with indecency, and the omission/ of every scene, passage, and expression, liable to similar objection in any of the performances, whether of