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There was nothing in the coming, or in the character, or in the conduct of “the Prince of Peace,'' or in the tendency of his doctrine, calculated to kindle strife, or to produce domestic disunion and discord ;-to such evils, however, did even the Gospel of peace and salvation afford occasion, through the malice of Satan and the enmity of the human heart against God and his truth. And it is to be expected, my dear Brethren, that irritation-resistance--reviling—and a more resolute perseverance in evil—will be found amongst the inevitable consequences of all attempts to expose and condemn any fashionable sinful practice, or favourite pleasure of the world ;-whether that world be heathen, or nominally Christian.
I cannot but hope, my dear Brethren, that I have not to address stout-hearted and reckless sinners, who will knowingly, deliberately, and in the face of clear conviction, rush upon their ruin, · and persist in those things which they believe to be as hurtful to their souls, as contrary to their profession ; but the people amongst whom I am called to minister are, I trust, for the most part, such as would be ready to say, “Only let me be satisfied that the Theatre is a place at which I shall be exposing myself to fearful danger, and directly obstructing my salvation ;—where I must almost of necessity take hurt or hindrance;' and I henceforth renounce it.” Now, my dear Brethren, my object in these discourses is to pro
duce this conviction, and to lead to this determination; and thus to withdraw you from one hurtful snare; and to keep you out of one of those powerful and contrary currents, which can only set you more and more distant from that course in which it is my heart's desire and prayer that I might see you daily proceeding.
Now, I think, the passage which I have read as the basis of this discourse, is calculated to place the subject of Theatrical Amusements in the very point of view in which I am desirous that you should see it.- And may it please God so effectually to favour and bless this discourse, that you may be enabled henceforward to put away from you all hurtful things, and to follow all such things as are profitable for your salvation.
In this Epistle, St. Paul, having stated the leading doctrines of the Gospel, proceeds to enforce its more general duties, as well as those which specially belong to the several relations in which we stand to our fellow-creatures. He warns the Ephesians against “fornication and all uncleanness;"'-against“ filthiness, and foolish talking, and jesting, which are not convenient;" against every thing which would come under the description of “ corrupt communications.” These things were so directly contrary to their profession, that they must not be known,-not even
once named amongst them ;' -and he endea
vours to excite them in all their communications, and through their whole conduct, to speak and to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith they were called. Thus to resist temptation, and to maintain a character and conversation becoming the Gospel ;-to fight under the banner of the cross against sin of every kind;-and to acquit themselves as good soldiers of Jesus Christ; all this was indeed a conflict and a service to which they were of themselves utterly unequal. The Apostle therefore closes his exhortations by pointing out the source of their strength; the means of defence and resistance which God had provided for them; and the urgent necessity which there was for their putting on the whole armour of God, that they might be able to stand against the wiles of the Devil.
Now, my dear Brethren, the consideration of our spiritual enemies, and of our spiritual armour, as they are described in the passage before us, will, I trust, make it manifest that the Theatre is an evil which cannot be too greatly dreaded, and too carefully avoided by those who would not be overcome by the assaults of Satan, and fall victims to his ruinous arts.
Let us consider then first, our enemies, and secondly, our armour.
First, our enemies. “ Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the Devil. For we wrestle not against
Aesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers,-against the rulers of the darkness of this world, -against spiritual wickedness in high places."
We have to stand against the wiles of the Devil.
“The Devil" is the head or leader of the angels that sinned,” whom “God spared not, but cast them down to hell; and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment.” These wicked spirits are full of envy, malevolence,-rage and rebellion against God; and they endeavour with restless desire to thwart his purposes, and to bring all his rational creatures whom they are able to overcome, into the same state of hopeless ruin and wretchedness with themselves.
Under the entire ascendency of these devilish passions, they are perpetually plotting the destruction of mankind.—To this end, they are continually going about, employing all possible means, and seizing all favourable opportunities, for effecting their malicious designs; assuming, as it may best suit their object, the character of the “subtil serpent,”—or the “roaring lion,”or the “angel of light.”
Now, although God will overrule for his own glory, and for the accomplishment of the purposes of his will, the rage and resistance of the Devil ; -yet He did permit him to beguile Eve, and bring upon mankind all the sad consequences of
the fall; and He does still permit him with tremendous success, to try his various arts and devices, in order to ensnare and ruin the bodies and souls of men.
It is of this eternal foe of God and man that the Apostle speaks in the text. He warns us of his power-“We wrestle not against flesh and blood.” The enemies against which we have to contend, are not beings of the same feeble nature with ourselves; they are not enemies with whom we are matched in skill and strength ; or with whom we might strive on equal terms, and with some probability of success :--but “we wrestle against principalities and powers.” We have to conflict with beings who were originally created with endowments of strength, and speed, and activity, and with intellectual faculties so far surpassing the mind and the might of man, as to exceed our comprehension ;-and who, though fallen, are still permitted to exercise their superior faculties and powers within the bounds which God has set them; and formidable as the meanest of them must be to feeble man, they yet excel each other in power and might, according to the several gradations of rank which exist amongst them. .
We are further warned of the means which our enemy can employ.-Satan is “the prince” and " the God of this world.”—He still exercises his usurped dominion; and although he is already cast out in the purposes of God, and shall, ere