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goodly pearls ;” let us seek the "one pearl of great price, and sell all that we have, to buy it." (Matt. xiii. 45, 46.)
Again, what blessing hatlı been more abused than that of strong drinks and wine. How few — how very
few—are temperate as they should be, drinking only for the sake of health, or to exhilarate the heart, stopping short before the glass of excess. Yet, because this blessing is daily and hourly abused, shall we prohibit it, and put it away from us? No: it is given to comfort us in our “ often infirmities" (1 Tim. v. 23.;) it is given us to“ make glad the heart of man” (Psalm civ. 15.;) and it is one of the symbols of our salvation (Matt. xxvi. 27, 29.) Let us put away the sin, and, when we drink, do it “ to the glory of God.” So let it be with the amusement in question.
But, “ when the Stage is defended as a mean of instruction,” it is further objected, “ that it is a method altogether uncommanded and unauthorized in the word of God," and we are • not to look for his blessing upon it."*
To this it may be replied, that, even supposing we were not in possession of the authorities before cited for the origin of the Drama,
* Witherspoon, p. 71 and 72.
the Stage, abstractedly considered, does not seem to bear a character so decidedly different from preaching, from conversation, from reading pious and moral books and instructive history, and of setting a good example, to “ let our light shine before men,” (Matt. v. 16.) as to make us doubt its propriety. The Drama is, in fact, embodied history, brought visibly before our eyes, to afford us examples of bad men to be avoided, and of good men to be followed. It can introduce us to the manners and customs of distant nations, and make us acquainted with places and persons to which we should otherwise be ever strangers: nay, it can go farther, and almost give us the advantage of having lived in remote ages, and profiting by the examples of others, who have long since ceased to be inbabitants of this world.
Besides, is it unlawful to make use of any means of instruction, but such as are immediately pointed out by God? The Prophets and Priests were appointed to preach the law to the people, the King was to write a copy of it with his own hand, and the people were to attend the reading of it in the place of public worship. The Apostles continued this mode, and wrote Epistles for the instruction of their converts.
But, has this prerented pious Christians, when the art of printing became known, from taking advantage
of it, to multiply copies of the Scriptures, and to teach men the knowledge of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ? This salutary invention, likewise, was at first attributed, by ignorance and fanaticism, to the art and contrivance of the devil. It hath been perverted by the devil, no doubt, to the worst of purposes, in spreading blasphemy, vice and immorality, throughout the world; but it is to that, likewise, we now owe, that the Gospel hath dispelled the mental darkness, which at that time covered the earth, that it is now making its way to the remotest corners of the world, and that the poorest peasant among us, if he please, may enjoy the inestimable blessing of reading himself, in his own cottage, and in his own language, the words of eternal life.
In the question of the lawfulness of the Stage, must, in a great measure, be involved that of the profession of a Stage-player. If the Stage be in itself unlawful, then, not only those who carry
on, but those likewise who attend it, and those who sanction it, become partakers in the sin. But, if the Stage be a source of moral instruction, as well as of amusement, then the profession is not only innocent, but highly useful and commendable. The only case for doubt appears to be, where the Stage is' considered merely as an amusement; and, then, how
far it may be lawful for any human being to employ his whole time in subserviency merely to the amusement of mankind, is the question to be determined. Together with the divine, who watches for the souls of mankind, the physician, who administers to the diseases of the body, and the lawyer, who is the guardian of his property, we must surely consider those as the most valuable members of society, who admịnister to our worldly wants, — the labourer, who tills the earth to supply us with food, the artisan, who constructs our habitations, and supplies us with the implements of husbandry and art, and the manufacturer, who provides with cloathing;—then may be considered those, who afford the innocent luxuries and elegancies of life;—but all, who administer to the vanities, the follies, and the vices of the world, must certainly be considered as the nuisances of society; and these will include a list not generally branded with infamy like the profane Stage-player. The law, indeed, formerly affixed this title of infamy upon the player, but it was upon a race of men, certainly less respectable in themselves, and performing dramas more exceptionable: and these performances are now generally sanctioned by the same constituted authorities. But I shall have occasion, in a future discourse, to speak farther on this subject; and I should now proceed to consider, what
I proposed as my second object of inquiry, namely, What are the abuses of the Stage,--but that it seems necessary to anticipate an objection, which
be made against the inquiry.
An attempt to reform the Stage is considered by the adversaries of it as chimerical and impracticable; and he, who shall attempt it, will be stigmatized as a mere theorist, and his plan as Eutopian. • What defender of the Stage (says one of them) will be so sanguine as to affirm, that it is, or that he hopes to see it regulated so as to be safe or profitable to every mind * ?" “ It may, indeed, (he continues) be matter of wonder, that among the many schemes and projects daily offered to the consideration of the public, there has never been any attempt to point out a plausible way, how the stage may be brought into, and kept in such a state of regulation as to be consistent with the Christian character. - None, so far as I have heard or seen, , have been so bold as to lay down a distinct plan for the improvement of the. Stage. When this is added to the considerations already mentioned, it will confirm every impartial person in the belief, that such improvement is not to be expected t.”
Witherspoon, p. 108. Styles, p. 44.