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by vices to which they were once addicted. Oh, let not then the enemy of your peace and salvation persuade you to continue in any of these things, which will thus diminish your usefulness, and embitter and embarrass your progress, even though it may please God to convert you from a chosen career of acknowledged folly and sin ;-a change however, be it ever remembered, so rare, that to calculate upon it must be a most dangerous delusion.
Ask any person who from a child has been studying and striving to keep his heart right with God, and to rule his way according to God's word, and who can speak from experience; and he will tell you that the conflict which he has to maintain against inward and outward counteraction, even under the most favourable circumstances, and with every early advantage, is so constant and so difficult, as to render it a benefit and blessing of incalculable value, not to have to grieve over the guilt and the injurious influence of past years of youthful vanity, or vicious indulgence.
I have thus endeavoured to employ the argument suggested by the text, in dissuading you, my dear young Friends, from the dangerous Amusements of the Theatre. It is manifestly inconsistent and absurd to pray “Lead us not into temptation," and then, to run into temptation. The very giving of such a prayer is a practical and perpetual warning against the moral dangers to which the attendants at a Theatre must necessarily be exposed; and the offering of such a prayer implies on our part, a dread of such dangers, and a pledge that we will carefully shun them. To pray, therefore, in the words which your Saviour has left you, and at the same time to attend Theatrical Amusements, is a solemn mockery of God. Your prayer is the prayer of the hypocrite, and of the double-minded; and it is not a useless form merely, but it is sin, —an abomination in the sight of God, provoking his wrath, and aggravating your guilt and condemnation.
I have confined myself to Theatrical Amusements, as being the temptations to which you are, at this time, more especially and directly exposed; and because the Theatre is, in all respects, an evil so greatly to be dreaded. The argument, however, applies to every kind of amusement which is either sinful in itself, or in its necessary or probable consequences. It applies to the fascinating and ensnaring influence of the Ball Room; to the irritating and time-killing amusements of the Card Table; to the cruel sports of the Race Course; to every kind of Gambling; -in a word, to all those things by which we are unnecessarily exposed to temptation, and by which we are likely to be drawn into sin. If we pray in sincerity, and with the desire of the heart, “Lead us not into temptation," we shall steadily renounce and forsake them all.
And now, whether you will avoid and forsake these sinful and dangerous Amusements, and act consistently with your professions and your prayers, remains to be tried. Bear in mind that you will never again attend the Theatre, in ignorance, unadmonished and unwarned. You cannot therefore attend henceforward without deeper guilt and condemnation. May God give you grace to withstand this and all other temptations; and enable you to decide and to act now, as all those who turn away from such counsel will wish, in the bitterness of unavailing remorse, that they had decided and acted, when nothing shall remain of the pomps and vanities and pleasures of the world, but the stinging remembrance of their folly and their guilt!
DEUTERONOMY xxiii., 21.
“When thou shalt row a vow unto the Lord thy
God, thou shalt not slack to pay it ; for the Lord thy God will surely require it of thee; and it would be sin in thee."
It has been my practice now for some years, on the opening of the Sheffield Theatre, to warn my hearers of the evil nature and tendency of such entertainments; and to point out the inconsistency, and sin, and danger of attending them. I have done this, I trust, from a sincere desire to dissuade you, my dear Brethren, from what would be extremely hurtful to your souls, and displeasing to God; and with a view to promote your
moral and religious benefit, and the cause of truth and piety. Nor have I laboured altogether in vain. I have heard from time to time, of one and another, here and there, who have been induced to give this subject an impartial and attentive consideration, and have been convinced of the absolute unlawfulness of stage amusements; and who have acted up to their convictions, and have renounced what they had been compelled to condemn. With such encouragement, neither scornings, nor reproaches, nor misrepresentations, shall deter me from renewing my endeavours to keep back the people committed to my charge from exhibitions and amusements, whose nature and spirit are directly contrary to the nature and spirit of true religion; and whose tendency is to promote impiety, immorality, and vice. By the blessing of God, these discourses may be the means of leading some careless frequenter of the Theatre to serious thought ;-of causing some who are halting and wavering, to form a right judgment and decision ; and of establishing and confirming those who are already convinced. The perhaps fading impression of the unchristian and dangerous character of stage-entertainments may be, on this occasion, renewed and revived ; or, should I do none of these things, I shall, at least, have disburdened my own conscience, and, so far, I shall have delivered my soul.
A time has been in England, when a Theatre was generally felt to be a great evil ;-when Bishops and Clergymen denounced such Amusements from their pulpits, and were thought to be fulfilling a most important and bounden duty in so doing; and when the City of London, through its Magistrates, “petitioned the Queen and her privy Council, and obtained leave of her