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selves. Again-- Those portions of the be so many speakers, as to extend church which are most distant from debates or discussions beyond all the place where the Assembly con- reasonable bounds; and thus to revenes, have always had an unequal quire such prolonged sessions of representation in that body, owing the Judicature, or the leaving unfito the difficulty of obtaining repre- nished or untouched some imporsentatives who could and would en- tant business, as to give conscicounter all the difficulties and dis entious men no alternative, but couragements of an attendance either to submit to grievous inconFew, comparatively, have, in fact, venience or to desert their duty. ever attended: And it is obvi- Nor is a multitudinous Assembly ous, that the effective influence favourable either to wise counsels of a few is always diminished, just or to a sense of responsibility. The in proportion as an Assembly is nu- celebrated Montesqueiu, in his far merous-In a word, their relative famed treatise on the “Spirit of influence is lessened by a multi- Laws,” says, in his curt and pointtude. This is greatly to be regret- ed manner, "Every body of men ted in the case before us; because more than a hundred is a mob.” it is of much importance that the Without adopting this dictum acremote parts of our church should cording to the letter, it may be safebe satisfied with the acts and pro ly affirmed, as the result of all exceedings of the Supreme Judica- perience, that a well selected Astory; and they never will be fully sembly of a hundred men, will be satisfied, if their representatives far more likely to act wisely, and have not their proper share of influ under a deep sense of responsibi. ence, in making the decisions of the lity, than five times, or three times, Assembly what they are found to or even twice that number. Does be. If the Assembly were compa. any one believe that the Continenratively small, a proper proportion tal Congress that declared the inof distant members might" easily dependence of our country, or the have the whole amount of their ex Convention that framed the present penses defrayed, and the clerical Constitution of the United States, members might have some satisfac would have manifested all the wis. tory provision made for the supply dom which they displayed, or felt of their pulpits in their absence; all the responsibility which rested and thus their general and punctual on the mind of every member, if attendance might be insured. Once those bodies had each consisted of more. The General Assembly, as two hundred individuals? He who at present constituted, is not fa- thinks they would, must have vourable to deliberation, to wise little knowledge of human nature, counsels, nor to that felt sense of or the history of the world. We responsibility, which ought to rest pretend not to say what should be with weight on the mind of every the exact number of members in a member. The complaint was free well constituted General Assemquently made in the last Assembly, bly of the Presbyterian Church, but that the speaker could not be heard; we have no hesitation in saying, and it was unquestionably the fact that it ought not to be half as large that it required a strong voice, or a as it is likely to be, in that which painful effort of enunciation, for will next be convened. any speaker to be easily and fully We have said so much on the heard' in every part of the Assem- subject of our present number, bly-What will it be, when a hun. from a hope that it may possibly dred members more are added to have some little influence in satis. the Assembly? In such an Assem- fying the minds of the members of bly, moreover, there will always the next Assembly, that they ought
to do what the last Assembly re. that when we commenced the series fused. Many of the remarks which of papers, of which the foregoing we have submitted, are in substance is a part, we supposed it not improthe same with those which were bable, that we should meet with made and urged, but all in vain, on something very like what we have the floor of the Assembly in May begun to receive-strictures and last-particularly by the Moderator assertions, intended to implicate of the preceding year, Dr. Fisk, character, confute our opinions, who discussed the subject in a very and invalidate our statements: And luminous, and as we thought, pow we determined that we would not erful and conclusive manner. Why be turned from our general purpose, that Assembly decided as they by any thing of this kind—with the did, if not from the belief that it single exception, that if we should would prove more favourable to the be convinced that we had commitviews and wishes of the majority, ted an error, we would correct it in regard to the future, that the As- with as little delay as possible. sembly should continue to be pres We have seen nothing as yet to byterially rather than synodically correct; and shall therefore only represented--that it should remain say farther, at present, that it has multitudinous rather than become always been our intention to reply select-we are unable to conjec in due time, if others should not do ture, and must leave it to our read- it previously, to every thing miliers to determine.
tating with our views and reasonings, that should appear plausible
in statement or temperate in arguSince writing the above, we have ment; and to treat every thing of a seen Dr. Beman's “ Review and different character with silent neVindication, No. I." We remark, glect.
Heviews. As the theatrical campaign for mistake, if this review and the quothe ensuing winter is about open- tations it contains will not produce a ing in the city where we write, and powerful impression. A lady who in all the other cities or towns of was a patient of the late Dr. Rush, the United States where theatres and who had, in her illness, become are established, we have thought it very thoughtful about her eternal very seasonable to publish the fol. interests, asked him, when she was lowing review, extracted from the on the recovery, whether she might London Christian Observer, for not innocently go to the theatre, at July last. We have no expectation least occasionally, to please her that on the gay and thoughtless the husband and other friends— “No, atre going throng it would be likely Madam,” replied the Doctor, " the to have much effect, even if they theatre is the Devil's ground, and should read it. But they will not do you keep off of it. This was read it,-indeed we are aware that the truth-multum in parvo. but few of this class ever look into such publications as the Christian Observer and the Christian Advo
Preached at St. cate. Our address is to those who James's Church, Sheffield. By have yet left some serious sense of the Rev. T. Best, A. M. Shefreligion, and of the value of their field, 1831. immontal souls; and on them we “ What harm can there be in
SERMONS ON THE AMUSEMENTS OF
harmless amusement? What more unnecessary for us now to discuss. innocent than innocent recreation? We deal with facts as we find them, What more sober than a sober tra- and, to all who value supremely gedy? And where can be the im- their eternal salvation, those facts morality of a good moral play?” are abundantly lucid. Men are Something very like this is often ashamed to be disciples of Jesus heard, with a tautological iteration Christ: otherwise there would be which takes for granted the very little room for any discussion, to points to be proved, and gives no prove that our theatrical entertainbetter reason to show that the de- ments are utterly opposed to the precated practice is lawful than a spirit of our holy religion. gratuitous assumption that it is so. Still, however, as plausible exBut after all such arguments, it is cuses are currently offered in palliaquite certain that the great body of tion of this popular immorality, we religious and exemplary persons in ought to feel very grateful to those, every age have instinctively avoided who, like the author whose work and condemned many of the recrea lies before us, have exerted themtions current in ordinary society, selves with great zeal and diligence especially play-going, and with a to guard the publick against this inrange of prohibition proportioned sidious snare. Mr. Best has long to their own advancing spirituality been honourably distinguished in of character. This, to say the least, this cause, in the sphere and neighis no hopeful presumption in favour bourhood of his ministrations; and of the litigated indulgences. his labours, as we understand, have,
It must to a Christian mind be by the blessing of God, been attendargument sufficient against thea- ed with signal success. For about trical amusements—as such amuse- fourteen years, we believe, he has ments ever have been, and are ever preached an annual sermon on the likely to be conducted—that these subject; and his faithful arguments things are not of the Father, but of and appeals have attracted great the world. A higher, a more con- attention in Sheffield, and powervincing, a more affecting reason, fully tended, it is said, to open the cannot surely, and needs not be, eyes of the publick as to the serious produced. If any man will gravely evils of stage entertainments, and argue, that these things are not of to diminish the number of attendthe world, and are of the Father, it ants upon them. Several of his diswill then be requisite to show by courses have, we believe, been pubfacts that his hypothesis is untena- lished either as tracts or in the local ble: but till then we feel inclined newspapers; but the present colto take the matter for granted; for lection is printed with the author's sure we are, that if it is to be de- permission by an individual, once cided by the sensibilities of a spi- much attached to the drama, but ritually-minded man, there will be who, having been convinced by Mr. no difference of opinion. It is only Best's arguments, is anxious that because “all men have not faith, they should be brought under the and those who have not, proffer ar- consideration of others who have guments in excuse for their world. not yet seriously reflected upon the liness of spirit, that any question subject. The publication being thus needs be held upon a matter so ob. extorted from the author, not by his vious as the unchristian and demo. own estimate of its value, but imralizing character of the stage. partially, and for the publick bedeWhat it might be under certain fit, we should receive it with indulsupposed circumstances of refine- gence, if it needed it: but it needs ment, which never have practically it not, as it is throughout an honest, existed, or are likely to exist, it is scriptural, reasonable, and, we may Vol. IX.Ch. Adv.
add, not exaggerated appeal; sim- persons of the greatest intellectual prople, earnest, convincing, and well mise are generally the first to feel this worthy of a faithful minister of Je. pernicious effect of theatrical amuse
ment. sus Christ.
“ Here then is another reason why all We proceed to cite a few of the who truly desire to act consistently with writer's arguments.
their professed principles, will carefully The following passage in the first abstain from such amusements; because sermon relates to the point which sobriety and spirituality of mind which we have above touched upon the Sacred Scriptures so earnestly enforce, namely, the contrariety of the the. and for the preservation of which the most atre to that spirituality of mind serious Christian has constant need to which is an essential part of the watch and pray that he enter not into Christian character.
temptation." pp. 15–17.
The author then specifies several "No man can have a good hope that he is going to heaven, unless he has a
graces; such as humility, growing taste and tendency of mind for contentment, and a forgiving spithose things which are to constitute his rit; and shows how directly the future employment and happiness. Now, stage tends to weaken and destroy I would not condemn the theatre because them, and to foster the contrary it does not promote these feelings, but because it is incompatible with them ;
dispositions. The very virtues of the two things cannot subsist together;— the drama, he shows, are antiand if any individual, possessing spiritual christian; so that even the avowfeelings and heavenly desires, were to edly good man of the play, the moattend the theatre, its direct and sure effect would be to deaden and destroy. imitation, is opposed to the Chris
ral man, the man who is held
up for posed to spirituality of mind, I would not tian character as exhibited in the refer particularly to the injurious effect word of God, and to the image of which would be produced upon the reli. that Saviour who hath left us an exgious feelings by the company--the con. versation—the gaiety of the general scene, ample that we should tread in his because the theatre shares this evil with steps. The spirit, the maxims, the almost every other species of worldly dis. objects, the motives of the applaudsipation; but I would refer to the pecu. ed dramatick character are irreconliar gratification of the stage-its own cilable to the mind that was in proper pleasure.-Tbe mind is power: Christ Jesus, and to the course of fully affected by some creation of a vain fancy--the feelings are roused-the pas. his holy life. What then shall we sions stimulated the imagination heated; say of the less reputable characters? and during this paroxysm of mental ex. In the second sermon, from the citement, life is transformed into a dream, test “ Fools inake a mock at sin," and is embellished with various impracti. cable and unattainable pleasures, and the we find many proofs of this
proposcenes which are spread before the ardent sition in its application to the stage. and youthful mind are as flattering as they will any friend of theatrical amuseare false; and when this intellectual fever ments undertake to confute the folsubsides
, it leaves the mind relaxed lowing statement? If he will, our nary employments, and sick of sober re pages shall be open to his reply. alities, and, like an appetite vitiated by “I fear not to affirm, that it is one main highly seasoned food, requiring a con. part of the business of the stage 'to make stant succession of stimulants; and hence a mock at sin.' Sin is there treated light. that ardent and insatiable desire after the ly and in jest:- The sacred names of God works of novel-writers, dramatists, and the profane oath--the dreadful words every and any kind of composition which "hell' and . damnation'-impure allusions is calculated to pamper and please the all these are uttered as flippantly and as imagination, which an attendance on the unscrupulously, as though it were no theatre often excites and always strength. crime to take God's name in vain—to triens in young persons; and this desire will file and sport with eternal punishment, and be in proportion to the quickness of per. to defile the imagination.-And are they ception and susceptibility of excitement, not beard with gay and careless indiffer. which the mind possesses; so that young ence, if not with applause and admiration?
What can these things mean, but either tenderest feelings;-much to interest the that sin is not that abominable thing which cultivated mind;
-there is every thing of the Bible describes it to be,-or that God outward decoration, and beauty of lanwill not require it, or that he hath forgot. guage, to catch and to gratify the eye and ten, and hideth his face and will never see the ear;-and together with all this, moral it? What must be the effect of such lessons and virtuous sentiments are inter. scenes, but to familiarize the mind to the spersed here and there, which serve to thought and practice of sin ?-to weaken lull and to pacify the conscience. All the sense of its deformity and danger- these circumstances conspire to spread to break down the remaining scruples over the theatre a most dangerous fascito sear the conscience-and to embolden nation. Under all this show of harmless the hesitating youth to commit it with dar. mirth and innocent gratification, however, ing presumption, and with a high hand ? It are concealed the most destructive evils." is the sure tendency of the theatre to pp. 63, 64. cause sin to be considered rather as a thing to be laughed at, than as a great We are frequently told of the and dreadful evil to be constantly bated excellent sentiments inculcated in and feared and fed from.” pp. 34, 35.
plays; the scraps of high-toned moNor is this the whole, or the rality, and magnanimous virtue and
exalted sentiment. Mr. Best does worst; for sin is not only made a mock of, but is gloried in, and espe- not deny this; or that in the motley cially the sin of licentious profli. assemblage at the theatre there are gacy. We shall not sully our pages and good estimation in society.
to be found persons of character with proofs; but no man can deny But he justly adds : the fact.
The third sermon shows that the “ These circumstances, instead of paltheatre is inconsistent with the liating, only increase the evil, and render duty of loving God with all our
it much more to be dreaded. Were the
sentiments taught on the stage uniformly hearts, and our neighbour as our.
and unequivocally contrary to the moral. selves; of the former part of which ity of the Bible;-—did the frequenters of it were proof enough that the cha- the theatre consist only of the abandoned racter of God is holiness, and of and the profligate;-then, this engine of the latter, that the theatre is a de. Satan would not be half so successful as
it is found to be. In such a case there structive engine of vice and immo- would be comparatively little need for me rality.
to warn the young persons of this conIn the fourth sermon, on the di- gregation against frequenting such a yinely taught prayer, Lead us not place; you would shun it as you shun the into temptation, we find the follow. brosser scenes of shameless wickedness,
of which you hear and read with unfeigning passage. Let the frequenter of ed abhorrence
:-but the mixture of a the play, after reading it, say whe- little good with much evil; the interther he can continue his accustom- spersing of a few correct sentiments with ed gratification, and yet honestly that mass of moral poison whose only efpray not to be led into temptation. fect can be to call into active exercise the
depravity of the heart; the countenance “There are few dangers so much to be and support of a few estimable, and, as dreaded as those which arise from the far as worldly virtue goes, excellent peropening of a theatre. Were impiety and sons; all this serves as a lure to draw impurity to appear in all their naked, un. many to the theatre, who could not other. disguised, and exceeding sinfulness - also as an apology to their consciences
wise have been persuaded to enter it, and they would be less perilous. But the the. when they are there; it furnishes a plauatre conceals its mischief and its wicked sible argument to the advocates of the ness under a specious and imposing mask. stage, and is employed to sanction and It seems to offer nothing but harmless en sanctify all the abominable things with tertainment;-it comes with very plausi- which it is connected.” pp. 139, 140. ble pretences ;-it makes very fair profes. sions;-it is one of those wiles of the devil, In answer to the charge of proin which he has discovered in a peculiar faneness and sporting with sacred manner, what the Bible calls bis subtlety. In these amusements there is much things on the stage, it is often reto entice and entrapr-much to excite the plied, that the reprobation or ridi