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Having thus shewn you what sin is, and what it is to make a mock at sin, and having endeavoured in some degree to expose the unspeakable folly of such conduct;—I proceed to apply my subject to Theatrical Representations and Amusements.—Now I fear not to affirm, that it is one main part of the business of the stage “to make a mock at sin.” Sin is there treated lightly and in jest.—The sacred names of God—the profane oath-the dreadful words " hell” and “ damnation”-the impure allusion- all these are uttered as flippantly and as unscrupulously, as though it were no crime to take God's name in vain-to trifle and sport with eternal punishment, and to defile the imagination.—And are they not heard with gay and careless indifference, if not with applause and admiration? What can these things mean, but either that sin is not that abominable thing which the Bible describes it to be, -or that God will not require it, or that he hath forgotten, and hideth his face and will never see it ?What must be the effect of such scenes, but to familiarize the mind to the thought and practice of sin ?-to weaken the sense of its deformity and danger—to break down the remaining scruples to sear the conscience and to embolden the hesitating youth to commit it with daring presumption, and with a high hand ? It is the sure tendency of the Theatre to cause sin to be considered rather as a thing to be laughed at, than as a great and dreadful evil to be constantly hated and feared and fled from.
But again, upon the stage sin is frequently boasted of and gloried in. It matters nothing whether this be done in the real, or in the represented character. The offence and the effect are much the same. How often does the licentious profligate, or the successful knave, or the shameless seducer, recite his wicked plans and practices, and pride himself in his iniquity or in the ingenuity and success of his schemes; and perhaps not satisfied with his true share of guilt, represents himself more vile than he really is, with boasting exaggeration ! Now, my dear Brethren, how must this appear in the sight of a holy and jealous God;—and what must be the effect upon a mind already prone to sin-prepared to receive the congenial evil, and to catch fire with the first kindling spark which falls
But again, it is upon the stage that sin is mimicked and exhibited in mockery and merriment for the amusement of spectators. It is this burlesque imitation which constitutes a principal part of the entertainment. It may be professed that the object is to hold up sin to contempt and reprobation ;—but the manner in which it is done plainly shews that this is not the aim ; nor will it be the effect. To make sport and to furnish amusement are the real design; and the specta
tors divert themselves with seeing how exactly sin can be imitated, and how entertaining the exhibition of it can be made.
And now, my dear Brethren, call to mind what sin is,-what sin has already done,—and what it will do hereafter;--and then tell me what those persons must be who either afford amusement, or seek amusement, by making a mock at sin.The Bible says that they are “ fools,” and I think your own consciences will confirm the decision ;your own hearts must tell you that the judgment of God is according to truth. I am anxious that you should have your minds deeply impressed with this view of Theatrical Amusements and Representations. You have, perhaps, never before considered the subject in this light. Think, my dear Brethren, if on the stage sin be thus made a mockery and sport, as is assuredly the case; Oh! think, what is the character of both actors and spectators in the estimation of God. The term is a degrading one, but I dare not change it. God, who cannot lie, has said it-they are “ Fools."
Consider then what you are doing when, by your attendance, you are sanctioning and supporting such Amusements. You are countenancing and encouraging your fellowcreatures in making themselves “fools," and in provoking God. They degrade their characters, and risk, if not ruin their souls, for your diversion. If there were no other argument against
Theatrical Amusements than this, it would be decisive in every feeling and reflecting mind; and you would have no fellowship with these unfruitful works of darkness, from an unwillingness to tempt a fellow-creature to continue in these ways of shame, and wickedness, and risk, and ruin. Charity is sometimes pleaded as an argument, or as an apology for the support of the stage ; but it is a false charity-a charity which, while it is so questionably kind to the body, is most unquestionably cruel to the soul.
But, my dear Brethren, think not only for others, but for yourselves. Consider what you are doing, when you are enjoying such Amusements; think how you are making “fools” of yourselves. The Eye of God is upon you in every place; and while you are making merry with the burlesque exhibition of sin, think how you are regarded by him. While the crowded Theatre is pealing with laughter at some idle jest, or at some profane and wicked wit,-think in what manner God looks down from Heaven upon you ; -remember what it is that you are trifling and sporting with. It is sin, which has ruined the world, and filled it with misery and death. It is sin, which God will punish with everlasting destruction from his presence. It is sin, which has peopled the unblest abodes of everlasting anguish and despair ; and which,
without repentance, will surely plunge your own soul into the lake of fire and torment.
My dear Brethren, sin and sinners must one day be viewed in a very different light to that in which they are now seen. In this world, sin wears a mask. Sinners are kept in countenance by general example ;—and while you follow the spirit and maxims of the world, the world will love and speak well of its own. But the day is coming, when the blinding infatuation which now covers and deceives mankind, will be removed ;—when the mask will be torn from the face of sin, and it will be seen in all its deformity and baseness; and when sinners will awake to a full sense of their own folly and disgrace. Think then in what light these Amusements will appear in that day ;-think how such scenes will rise to your recollection when you awake to shame and everlasting contempt; and when your conduct will appear to yourselves in all its exceeding sinfulness, and bring down upon you the full measure of its deservings. With what confusion will
you be overwhelmed when you discover that the very sin at which you had made a mock, is now making you a scorn and derision to all that are round about you, and is bringing upon you the contempt of heaven and of hell. If then, you have any regard for your souls—any care for their salvation—any fear of eternal death --any desire after the glory of heaven ;-I beseech