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But further, “ Blessed is the man that standeth not in the way of sinners," “nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.” By “the scornful,” we are to understand those who make a mock at religion; who despise and ridicule the truths, and ways, and people of God;—who endeavour to bring sacred and spiritual things into derision and contempt. Now, my dear Brethren, the Theatre is the very seat of the scorner.
I do not mean that God and the Bible, and the aweful realities of eternity, are openly and avowedly set at nought, and scorned and insulted. Blessed be God, such is the influence and ascendency which religion has gained in this country, that, perhaps, a large promiscuous assembly could no where be collected, in which this could be done without calling forth a general expression of disgust and reprobation. But, at the Theatre, the effect is produced, more indirectly indeed, but not less really. Religion is safely ridiculed under the name of hypocrisy. A preacher of God's Word, is, perhaps, exhibited in strong caricature, with affected gravity and absurd grimace. A sermon is delivered in burlesque imitation. A religious character is introduced, for the purpose of being placed in the most ludicrous points of view, and exposed as a person of weak intellect and of pitiable credulity. His conscientiousness and fear of sinning are made contemptible by being displayed only in petty and punc
tilious scrupulosity. His purity of mind is connected with circumstances of exquisite absurdity. His meekness under insult is made to appear only as mean and unworthy timidity. His simplicity and sincerity of heart are represented as rendering him the dupe of every designer, and the butt for every dart which malice or mirth may choose to throw. And, while he is thus set forth as a laughing-stock, many a scoff and jest is uttered respecting over-righteousness and puritanical zeal. The words “Saint” and “Holy” are used only in sneer and sarcasm. “ Heaven” and “Hell,” and terms of equally aweful meaning, are employed with levity and laughter. And thus, while religion in the general is, perhaps, complimented with some unmeaning expression of regard; its sanctity is profaned,—its character is degraded,-its authority and its influence are undermined, and its several parts, and its conscientious professors are brought into derision and contempt.
Would you, then, be “ blessed ?” enter not the place where these things are done, and sanctioned, and applauded. “ Blessed is the man that sitteth not in the seat of the scornful.”
And now, my dear Brethren, may I not confidently appeal to your judgments and your consciences ? Is not this first part of my text in direct opposition to the whole character of the Theatre? Has not every advancing step by which
we have proceeded, confirmed the inevitable conclusion, that the path which leads to “blessedness" turns directly away from the Theatre ? That the Theatre is the very place where “the ungodly counsels," “the sinners," and “the scornful"'-against which we are cautioned, and which the blessed man escapes and avoids, — are all known to abound, and, therefore, a place which we ought most carefully to shun?
But we have only considered the negative part of the character of the “ blessed man.” We have only seen what he dreads to do ;—what he departs from doing. Let us proceed to the remaining part of the description. “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” The word “ delight” means the inclination of the will—the bent of the desires--the tendency of the mind, as well as the satisfaction and gratification of the soul. The
blessed man” is the man who loves his Bible; and who, in his inmost heart, inclines and turns with unfeigned desire, and ever fresh delight, to the study and contemplation of God's Holy Word. There is nothing so precious in his esteem-nothing so delightful to his soul-as the records of truth and salvation. “They are more desirable than gold-yea, than much fine gold—they are sweeter also than honey, and the droppings of the honey-comb."
Now, my dear Brethren, I again appeal to your understandings and to your hearts. Is a
delight in Theatrical Amusements compatible with this part of the character of the blessed man? Can the two combine and agree together? Would not such a man turn with unfeigned aversion of heart from such amusements ? Could that man relish the counsels of the ungodly, whose soul has been imbued with the truths of the Bible ? Could he be at home and happy in the society of sinners, who holds habitual communion with Heaven? Could he endure the sneers and jests and sarcasms of the scornful, who, while he loves his Bible, “trembles at God's Word;" and who at all times regards sacred and spiritual things with mingled feelings of reverence and affection ? Could he do such things ? Could he have pleasure in them that do them? I need not answer; common sense will reply—there is nothing in the Theatre congenial with the taste and temper of such a man; and were such a man, in ignorance of its character, to resort to it for amusement, he must soon quit it in deep and sincere disgust.
But, my dear Brethren, if you were desirous of attaining to that spiritual mind which is one of the distinguishing marks of “the blessed man;" -or, if having experienced, in any degree, such a tendency of soul;- if your desires had been in any measure turned and inclined to God's Word, and to what is revealed there ;—and you had experienced any portion of delight in the contem
plation of high and holy and heavenly things ;and wished to preserve such a state of mind, and to confirm and strengthen it ;-could you take a more sure way to prevent success than by attending at a Theatre ? Must not the inevitable, the necessary effect of such attendance, be equally to indispose and to unfit your mind for spiritual exercises ;-for delight in, and meditation upon, God's Law? On returning from such amusements, you might force yourself to read a portion of your Bible; but could you delight yourself in God? Would your meditation be sweet? Would your mind be in that holy devotional frame, in which it would be fitted to hold intercourse with God, and to receive the visitations of his Spirit, and to feel the power and enjoy the comfort of the Scriptures? No such thing.
You know, your conscience would be wounded, if not hardened. Vain thoughts would fill, or, at least, distract your minds. The world would have increased its power over you, and the things of God would have relaxed their hold. You would have just lost so much ground, and set yourselves at so much further distance from the attainment and enjoyment of true blessedness. If, then, you wish to have your mind brought to incline to the Holy Scriptures, and to take delight in them, and thus to attain to the character and enjoyment of “the blessed man,” one thing is clear;—the Theatre is a place which you must shun. The