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force evaded is this :-Such it is said, is the opinion of one class of persons respecting the Amusements of the Stage; but there are others who hold very different sentiments upon this subject; and amongst these are many individuals of universal estimation in society,—of undeniable moral character and conduct-of acknowledged talent, and of exalted station; who not only frequent, or have frequented the Theatre, but have also defended it as a rational and innocent recreation, and even as a source of useful instruction, and as a school of good morals. Thus, authority on the one side is set against authority on the ether. It is found that the voice of the many is in favour of the Theatre;—the weight of numbers turns the scale; and the conscience is silenced, if not satisfied.
Now, it will be my aim, this afternoon, to lay open this fallacy and device of the Devil; and the consideration of the text will, I think, prepare the way for the conviction which I am desirous of leaving upon your consciences; that although the Theatre may be “highly esteemed among men," it is, nevertheless, “abomination in the sight of God.”
May God the Holy Ghost open the eyes of your understandings, and give you a right judgment; and may He effectually incline your hearts, and bring you to a right determination!
Our Lord had been declaring the utter impossibility of combining avarice and piety;—the love
of the world with true religion. “Ye cannot serve God and Mammon.” “The Pharisees," we are told, “who were covetous, heard all these things, and they derided him." The servants of the Redeemer must not think that some strange thing has happened unto them, when they are ridiculed as visionaries and enthusiasts, for condemning the favourite pursuits of the world; since not even the wisdom with which the Saviour spake could shield him from sneers and scorn and contempt.
“ Jesus saith unto them, ye are they which justify yourselves before men.” We may here observe, that it is no new thing for that which is evil to be supported and recommended by pretences so plausible as to have the appearance of being justifiable and right. “But," observed our Saviour, “God knoweth your hearts." He
eth not as man seeth : and therefore he judgeth not as man judgeth. And he then adds the words which I have read as my text; “ For that which is highly esteemed among men, is abomination in the sight of God."
This observation was evidently made by our Lord in proof of what is plainly implied in the passage; namely, that the character of the Pharisees appeared in a very different light to the Searcher of Hearts, to that in which it appeared to their fellow-mortals, who looked only on the outward appearance.
The Pharisees justified
themselves before men, and were held by them in high esteem; but God, who could not be deceived, and from whom nothing could be hid, and who knew their hearts, formed a very contrary judgment respecting them; and the contrariety between the judgment of God and the judgment of man in this particular instance, was in accordance with an established principle, which admitted of broad and extensive application ; "for that which is highly esteemed among men, is abomination in the sight of God." The case before them was but a single example of the general truth, that God abhors what man highly esteems.
It will be understood that I am speaking of man as he is “by nature ;” and not of man as he is "by grace," when God has converted him, and given him a spiritual discernment and a new heart. Every thing which is highly esteemed by the natural man" is abomination with God."
Now, my dear Brethren, the minds of many of you may be staggered by the advancement of a principle so very humbling to the pride of human nature, and which sweeps away at once the boasted dignity of man's moral powers; but it would be no difficult thing to illustrate the general principle in so many particulars, as to bring full conviction to every sincere and candid inquirer. We might take all those amusements which the world generally prefers ;-all those principles which the world most approves ;-all
those pursuits which are commended by the world as most honourable :—we might select those very things which are held in most repute ;-which are regarded with the greatest admiration, and rewarded with the loudest applause: and we might show, from the Volume of Inspiration-the written transcript of the divine mind-that in every case, man highly esteems what God holds in abomination. The limits of a single discourse, however, would not allow of my thus entering into detail; and the occasion requires that I should specially confine myself to one point;that I should apply the general principle to the particular case of the Theatre.
From the explanation which has been given of the text, if I have made myself understood, and if we allow its truth, we are prepared for this conclusion ;-The Amusements of the Stage may be, and are highly esteemed among men ;but it does not therefore follow, that they are approved of God; on the contrary, our Saviour having laid it down as a general principle, that what man highly esteems God abhors,—the very circumstance of the high and general estimation in which men hold the Amusements of the Stage --- is, of itself, a proof that they are “abomination in the sight of God.”
The man whose mind has been enlightened to judge rightly of the state of human nature, and of the Divine character, will have no difficulty
whatever in coming to this conclusion. He will receive with full and undoubting belief our Saviour's observation, that what is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God. And being convinced of the truth of this statement, and knowing that the amusements of the stage are highly esteemed among men, the conclusion will be to him clear and inevitable; therefore, the Amusements of the Stage are abhorred of God.
But I am fully aware that the validity and force of the argument rests upon this point, whether or not it may be assumed as a general principle, that what is highly esteemed among men is abomination in God's sight; and I am aware that the inference which I have drawn will be admitted by none but those whose minds have been prepared to believe the humbling truth stated by our Saviour in the text.
If your minds, my dear Brethren, have been enlightened by the teaching of God's Holy Spirit; you feel no hesitation in receiving the statement of the text, as generally, and as broadly, as it is there made; but if your minds have not been previously prepared by spiritual illumination, then the declaration of our Saviour must have appeared to you a hard saying; or you are ready to doubt the correctness of the exposition which has been given of the passage, or to deny the justice and propriety of its unqualified application.