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long enough. These fountains of corruption have been wide open, pouring forth their polluting streams upon city and country, long enough. Let them be egpoused and abandoned by all good people—by all the friends of religion and their country. And let the voice of an injured community be raised against them, never to be hushed but with their suppression and overthrow.
From Boguo and Bennett's History of Dissenters. “ The following defence of abstinence from amusements, by a dissenter of the primitive stock and spirit, will give some idea of what those, who think with him, have to say in their own behalf. There was a large company, and the conversation turned on amusements. A decent old lady, who sat by him, knowing his sentiments, said to him, ' Pray, sir, what harm can there be in cards, or an assembly, or in the theatre? I keep to my church, and the sacrament, and prayers on Wednesdays and Fridays; and if I spend two or three hours in an evening at the card-table, and carry my nephew and niece with me to our monthly assembly, and eight or ten times a year we go together to the play, you are a rigid man if you blame our conduct. Shew me where such things are forbidden in the word of God.''
“Some were silent, but most of those who were present ranged themselves on her side, and with the exultation of triumph demanded the reasons for this queer opinion. Being thus pressed, he entered on the subject in his own vindication, and said, 'You will, my friends, while I talk to you, carry this in your thoughts, that I confine my reasoning to Christians. That amusements will suit the taste of the people of the world, and be agreeable to their inclinations, and be, as it were, their heaven, is readily granted; and that, while they are under the dominion of earthly principles, they will not think these scenes of vanity unsuitable to their ideas of the Christian religion, nor incompatible with their profession of it. But that these amusements accord with the sentiments, pursuits, and engagements of a true Christian, I cannot assent. I must likewise insist that the character of a Christian be deduced entirely from the word of God, and not from the sentiments of the fashionable world : you must therefore weigh my reasoning in the balance of the sanctuary, not in the scales of human opinion. It is enjoined on a Christian, you know, not only that he should turn away with abhorrence from every sin, but that he should avoid every appearance of evil, and shun those things which are not of good report. And is not this the light in which such practices have been regarded by truly pious people, not in one sect of Christians, but in all; not merely in the prssent, but in every preceding age.”
" Besides, if, for the sake of argument, it were granted that there is no positive evil in them, it will not be pretended that there is any
good, either in their nature or their tendency. But ought not every Christian to aspire after as exalted a measure of excellence of character as it is possible for him to attain ? Ought he not to aim at presenting before the eyes of the world a pattern of purity and dignified goodness of the highest kind? But can you say that amusements conduce to so noble an end? Is it by them that such characters have been formed, or by them that they are sustained ! The kings of France had no box at the theatre; it was conceived beneath their dignity to be there."
“But I have stronger accusations to bring. I charge all those amusements with producing a waste of precious time. How many hours of life are here consumed in what neither improves the mind, nor conduces to health. When relaxation is necessary, it may be found in exercises which, while they unbend the mind, enlarge its stores of useful knowledge, and giving vigor to the body, render it more fit for labor. But the waste of time by those who make these amusements a part of the plan of life is gravely to be considered : the number of hours consumed in such useless things will form a very serious and extensive article of what they must give an account, at the day of judgement.”
“But I must charge them with a positive evil influence, and this is, in my mind, a more weighty objection against them. Are they not the common resort of the irreligious ? Are these not, if their station will permit, to be found at the card-table, the assembly, and the theatre ? Are not these their delight, their heaven ? Will it be presumption to hint, that the fondness of such persons gives reason to suspect that there is something in them which is wrong, when you see them to be the universal resort of those who are not only destitute of religion, but under the influence of the worst principles, and addicted to the most vicious practices.”
“ How can you bear, madam, to herd with such companions ? You, as well as myself, are advancing in life, and have been taught by experience to respect ourselves; and have a regard to the company which we keep. How then can you bear with such associates ? But if submitting to the dishonor, and conceiving that you will receive no injury from their vicious principles, how can you introduce your nephew and niece into such society? They are in the bloom of life, when the heart is sensible of the faintest impression : the charms of conversation and manners which such sort of persons frequently possess (and it is all they can boast of,) will instil the poison of evil more certainly into the soul. In such company, they will soon learn to be ashamed of religion, and to blush at the idea of denying themselves, taking up their cross, and following Christ. A bias of an opposite nature is produced : dissipation of mind is the certain consequence, and levity of disposition, and the rank growth of appetites and passions unfavorable to the pure virtues of the heart, and to the innocence of the Christian character. The exercises of devotion lose all their relish; they dislike everything that is serious; and they soon afterwards dislike those who are lovers of seriousness. A new set of acquaintances is acquired, who displace the old ; the grave and the wise make room for the thoughtless and the gay.
“ Another very serious evil arising out of them is, that they indispose the mind for the common duties of life. Wherever there is a' high relish for amusements, these duties become insipid ; they are performed with reluctance as an irksome task; and the person longs for the conclusion of them, that he may betake himself to his joys. Where the mind is not thus perverted in its taste, the ordinary offices of life have pleasure blended with their performance, and this secures a continued attention to them through the whole of life. Whatever, therefore, banishes this pleasure, and converts an agreeable office into a painful drudgery, is an evil of no ordinary magnitude.
" It becomes you likewise very seriously to consider, that you are accountable for the example which you set before the world. That multitudes of young people, and some of maturer years, are involved in utter ruin by these amusements, and lose fortune, health, and present and future happiness in the pursuit, is too evident to be denied. But should any of them have been initiated in these vanities by your example and countenance, and emboldened in them by seeing you a patron and constant visitor at the card-table, the assembly, or the theatre, it may not be so easy to exculpate yourself from heinous guilt at the awful tribunal of God, as you now imagine.”
“ That persons, who make any pretensions to eminence in piety, keep at the greatest distance from these scenes, and consider them as altogether unsuitable to their condition, you must allow. Nay, you must be sensible that to be seen there does not accord with your ideas of sanctity of character. What would be your sensations, if, on taking up a morning newspaper, you were to read the following paragraph: "Last night the apostle Paul, and the Evangelist Timothy were at the assembly. St. Paul played all the evening with two old matrons and a middle aged gentlemen at cards. Timothy danced with the young ladies, and charmed them all with his elegance, his wit, and his mirth? Would you not be shocked at the intelligence, as containing something abhorrent to the ideas which you had formed of those holy men ? But is there more than one rule for the disciples of Christ? Is there a strict formulary and a lax one, designed for different classes of mankind ? No, there is but one, and all should observe it in all its precepts; and you, and I, and every person professing Christianity, should be as good and holy as the apostles and evangelists, as Paul and Timothy were."
“Not to be tedious, can you hear the idea of death finding you occupied in these amusements ? To die, while engaged in your business; or in conversing with your family and friends, or in walking abroad in the fields ; or in lying down on your couch to rest, has nothing unsuitable to the Christian character: it awakens no painful sensations as if the person had been surprized by death in an improper place. To die at church, or in family devotion, or in the closet at secret prayer, would be considered by you as according well with a Christian's profession, and you would covet it as an honor, and say, 'Let my last end he like his. But would you like to die at the card-table, in the midst of a dance, or in a box at the theatre? You would not : the idea shocks you? But why? There must be
something wrong, that excites such emotions in your breast. If you shudder at the thought of dying in your beloved amusements, it must be more than improper to live in them.
“ Consider these hints. I will not press the subject farther. I only say, can you pray for the blessing of God upon them ! You can do it for the exercises of religion; you can do it for your worldly business; but can you do it for these amusements ? You cannot. Indulge no longer, my friends, in practices on which you cannot pray for the divine blessing.
“You may think the life of a person, who abstains from your favorite pleasures, dull and gloomy beyond enduring. This judgement, I know, is frequently passed on it by those who know no higher principles than the spirit of the world can infuse. How,' say they, 'can you, and those who think and act as you do, bear existence? Melancholy and misery must reside continually in your habitations. No, this is an egregious mistake. It is a poor miserable life that depends for its happiness on cards, and dancing, and plays. After bidding adieu to them all, we have enough behind for comfort and happiness; the banishing your amusements heightens our felicity. There remain with us the pursuits of literature, the charms of agreeable conversation, the satisfaction and quiet peace arising out of the performance of our every day's duties, the delights of relative affection in domestic intercourse, which are to be reckoned among the sweetest joys of life ; delights, which your amusements tend to lessen and destroy; and above all, the still superior pleasures of religious worship and devotion. From these sources we derive our happiness, and these ingredients, thrown into the cup of life, render it swect and pleasing to our taste.”
EXTRACT FROM DR. ADAM SMITI.
The following extract from Dr. Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments, pp. 157 --160, exhibits the views of this distinguished philosopher on some very important moral subjects, such as the nature of virtue, the insufficiency of human merit, and our need of an atonement. Possibly some may be induced to listen to him, who would not regard the instructions of a professed minister of Christ.
“That the Deity loves virtue and hates vice, as a voluptuous man loves riches and hates poverty, not for their own sakes, but for the effects which they tend to produce; that he loves the one, only because it promotes the happiness of society, which his benevolence prompts him to desire; and that he hates the other, only because it occasions the misery of mankind, which the same divine quality renders the object of his aversion; is not the doctrine of untaught nature, bit of an artificial refinement of reason and philosophy. Our untaught natural sentiments all prompt us to believe, that
as perfect virtue is supposed necessarily to appear to the Deity, as it does to us, for its own sake, and without any further view, the natural and proper object of love and reward; so must vice, of hatred and punishment. That the gods neither resent nor hurt, was the general maxim of all the sects of the ancient philosophy ; and if, by resenting, be understood, that violent and disorderly perturbation, which often distracts and confounds the human breast; or if, by hurting, be understood, the doing mischief wantonly, and without regard to propriety or justice, such weakness is undoubtedly unworthy of the divine perfection. But if it be meant, that vice does not appear to the Deity to be, for its own sake, the object of abhorrence and aversion, and what, for its own sake, it is fit and right should be punished; the truth of this maxim seems repugnant to some very natural feelings. If we consult our natural sentiments, we are even apt to fear, lest, before the holiness of God, vice should appear to be more worthy of punishment, than the weakness and imperfection of human virtue can ever seem to be of reward. Man, when about to appear before a Being of infinite perfection, can feel but little confidence in his own merit, or in the imperfect propriety of his own conduct. If the presence of his fellow-creatures, he may even justly elevate himself, and may often have reason to think highly of his own character and conduct, compared to the still greater imperfection of theirs. But the case is quite different, when about to appear before his infinite Creator. To such a Being, he fears, that his littleness and weakness can scarce ever appear the proper object, either of esteem or of reward. But he can easily concieve, how the numberless violations of duty, of which he has been guilty, should render him the proper object of aversion and punishment; and he thinks he can see no reason why the divine indignation should not bel et loose, without any restraint, upon so vile an insect as he imagines that he himself must appear to be. If he would still hope for happiness, he suspects that he cannot demand it from the justice, but that he must entreat it from the mercy of God. Repentance, sorrow, humiliation, contrition at the thought of his past conduct, seem, upon this account, the sentiments which become him, and to be the only means which he has left for appeasing that wrath which he knows he has justly provoked. He even distrusts the efficacy of all these, and naturally fears, lest the wisdom of God should not, like the weakness of man, be prevailed upon to spare the crime, by the most importunate lamentations of the criminal. Some other intercession, some other sacrifice, some other atonement, he imagines must be made for him, beyond what he himself is capable of making, before the purity of the divine justice can be reconciled to his manifold offences. The doctrines of revelation coincide in every respect with these original anticipations of nature; and, as they teach us how little we can depend upon the imperfection of our own virtue, so they show “us, at the same time, that the most powerful intercession has been made, and that the most dreadful atonement has been paid, for our manifold trans gressions and iniquities.”