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where more offensive expressions would not be endured. By such means, that delicacy of mind which is one of the preservatives of youthful virtue, has often been wholly destroyed. Images and ideas have been communicated, which, winding their way into the very recesses of the heart, have there taken root, and have at length produced the deadly harvest of a licentious conversation and a profligate life. Oh! my dear Brethren, if the tendency of Theatrical Amusements be thus to corrupt the morals, and vitiate and taint the mind with sensual sin, can there be a question as to what is the duty of those who desire to act consistently with their acknowledged principles ?
Some may say, there are better things than these taught upon the stage. It may be so; and occasionally there may be heard a moral sentiment expressed with inimitable force and beauty. But while such a sentiment may be observed and admired by a few persons of more refined taste, sentiments of another kind are doing their mischief in : the minds of the greater part of the audience. Let us bear in mind that the spectators of a play are not holy angels, who would repel from them, by the very impulse of their nature, every impurity, and only retain what might be harmless or useful; but they are fallen and corrupt beings, ever prone to sin, into whose minds evil finds ready entrance; —there already exists in the heart a congeniality with sin, which has predisposed and prepared it
for moral infection; while, at the same time, that part of what is heard, which may be instructive and worth remembering, soon slips out of the mind, because there is no natural affinity or attraction for what is good.
Is any one, then, desirous of being “pure in heart?" Does he look to an increase of holiness as a source of growing happiness? Is he so convinced that without holiness no man shall see the Lord, as to be pressing on towards the high and perfect standard of his Saviour's example? Then, what will be his conduct and determination with respect to the Theatre ? It will be needless to reply. Every man's own conscience has already answered. He will shrink back from such a place with dread and abhorrence, and shun it as he would the plague and the pestilence.
Again, spirituality of mind is another essential part of the Christian character which the sacred Scriptures continually enforce. No man can have a good hope that he is going to heaven, unless he has a growing taste and tendency of mind for those things which are to constitute his future employment and happiness.
Now, I would not condemn the Theatre because it does not promote these feelings, but because it is incompatible with them ;—the two things cannot subsist together;—and if any individual, possessing spiritual feelings and heavenly desires, were to attend the Theatre, its direct and sure effect
would be to deaden and destroy them. In shewing that the stage is opposed to spirituality of mind, I would not refer particularly to the injurious effect which would be produced upon the religious feelings by the company—the conversation-the gaiety of the general scene, because the Theatre shares this evil with almost
every other species of worldly dissipation; but I would refer to the peculiar gratification of the stage—its own proper pleasure.—The mind is powerfully affected by some creation of a vain fancy—the feelings are roused — the passions stimulated the imagination heated ; and during this paroxysm of mental excitement, life is transformed into a dream, and is embellished with various impracticable and unattainable pleasures, and the scenes which are spread before the ardent and youthful mind are as flattering as they are false; and when this intellectual fever subsides, it leaves the mind relaxed-weakened-wearied-unfitted for ordinary employments, and sick of sober realities, and, like an appetite vitiated by highly seasoned food, requiring a constant succession of stimulants; and hence that ardent and insatiable desire after the works of novel-writers, dramatists, and every and any kind of composition which is calculated to pamper and please the imagination, which an attendance on the Theatre often excites and always strengthens in young persons; and this desire will be in proportion to the quickness
of perception and susceptibility of excitement, which the mind possesses; so that young persons of the greatest intellectual promise are generally the first to feel this pernicious effect of Theatrical Amusements.
Here then is another reason why all who truly desire to act consistently with their professed principles, will carefully abstain from such amusements; because their influence is directly opposed to that sobriety and spirituality of mind which the Sacred Scriptures so earnestly enforce, and for the preservation of which the most serious Christian has constant need to watch and pray that lie enter not into temptation.
I might here go through the whole catalogue of Christian graces, and the several parts of the Christian character; and then shew that the stage tends directly to weaken and destroy them all, and to feed and foster the very contrary dispositions. On the stage, humility and contentment appear mean and low.
Pride and ambition, which it is so difficult a thing to keep under subjection, are exalted into virtues. A forgiving spirit, which would rather take wrong than avenge itself, is stigmatized as cowardly and contemptible. The very excellencies and virtues of the stage, when tried by the touchstone of truth, are all so many showy sins; and most of the moral sentiments which the stage dresses out in fascinating colours, contain principles which
the Bible condemns, and which it is the object of religion to root out and destroy. Profligacy and vice are not indeed openly recommended and taught; but, by an impossible union, they are joined to some of the noblest qualities of human nature; while religion and piety are sometimes connected with the most pitiable weakness and narrowness of mind; and are, at other times, combined with such hateful hypocrisy, and represented under such ludicrous circumstances, that the mischief which follows is only the more sure and abiding, in consequence of being done by imperceptible and unsuspected insinuation. The open-handed and noble-spirited profligate interests the imagination, wins the heart, and excites to emulation; while the mean and low-minded puritan only provokes contempt and derision, which are unconsciously extended to the religion which is thus misrepresented and ridiculed.
Without enumerating any other points of direct contrariety between the stage and the Bible, I will only add one general observation, which may appear harsh and uncharitable, but which, upon examination, will be found universally true. Take the good man of the stage-the patterncharacter of the play—that which is avowedly held up for imitation as a moral example;—then compare the representation with the Christian character as exhibited in the Word of God, and with the example which our Saviour Christ has