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With respect to many who hear me, I rejoice to believe that honest conviction, and a determined abandonment of these sinful and dangerous pleasures, have rendered these annual admonitions unnecessary.
Would to God it were so with all. But for the sake of those who have not been brought to this so far happy issue, I feel it my duty to persevere in bearing my testimony against this public evil; and in warning those who give it their countenance and support, of the guilt and peril of so doing, and of the injury which they thereby bring upon themselves and occasion to others.
May you all be enabled to forsake, not only the
I now pass on to the subject before us.
“Evil communications" may be made by va-
Evil may be communicated through the eye, or through the ear. It may be expressed in words,
or embodied in actions. Evil scenes may be
presented to the sight, or evil sentiments may be uttered in the hearing. Evil may be taught directly by the inculcation of pernicious principles, or indirectly by the exhibition of pernicious examples.
It may be addressed to the understanding, and pervert the judgment; or it may be addressed to the passions, and corrupt the heart. Evil
may be imparted by the simplest forms of speech, in which thoughts can be expressed, and ideas conveyed; or it may call to its assistance the splendour, and sublimity, and attractive force of eloquence and poetry; or it may unite with all this, the further aid and advantage of living and skilful imitation.
Now all these modes of evil communication are employed in Theatrical Exhibitions. Evil is thus spoken and personated ;-seen and heard ;clothed in language of the most imposing and seductive kind; and accompanied and aided by all the impression and effect which voice, and look, and gesture can produce.
But there may be different kinds of evil communication, as well as various modes of evil communication. Evil men, who corrupt others,the tendency of whose example and conversation is, to deprave the minds and morals of such as are exposed to their contagious influence,--have different ways of sinning, according to their par
ticular predominant evil propensities, and prevailing habits of profligacy and wickedness. There are the profane,—the scorners,—the sensualists, and all the other classes of the impious and the abandoned of mankind.
Now, in the Theatre, and on the Stage, these several classes are personated; and, with as near an approach to perfect similitude as dramatic art can attain, the fictitious characters aie represented as speaking and acting, just as the real persons would speak and act in real life under like circumstances. It follows, therefore, that the audience who witness the exhibition, do, in effect, and for the time, place themselves in the company of the profligate and profane characters of the drama. They go to hear all that disgusting mass of filthy and corrupt communications, which, just in proportion as the characters are faithfully represented, must proceed out of the mouths of their representatives and living substitutes.
In order to preserve the truth of nature, all the persons of the play speak in character. The impious and the infidel utter their wicked blasphemies. The scoffers shoot out sometimes their bitter words and hard speeches; and sometimes their jests and sneers against religion and religious persons. The profane take the name of God in vain, and swear their lighter or their more serious oaths; and, in jest or in earnest, imprecate curses on themselves and others. The
sensualists exultingly relate and recapitulate their acts of profligacy ;-boast of their excesses; and glory in their shame. The licentious wit—the dissolute rake of fashion—the man of criminal pleasure, and other classes of infamous character, are permitted to pour forth their torrents of impurity, and “filthy conversation,” and “foolish talking.” This is the case so far, at least, as modern refinement will permit; and far enough, I doubt not, frequently to shock the ears of the more virtuous part of the audienee; who, nevertheless, in many cases, persevere most inconsistently in exposing themselves to the high probability, if not the absolute certainty, of having their better feelings grossly outraged, and their moral sensibilities insulted and endangered.
But if we pass from these grosser scenes to the less offensive, but no less mischievous portions of dramatic exhibitions; here we shall find generally that sentiments are inculcated, and examples held up to imitation, which are in direct contrariety to the principles of Christianity, and to the moral precepts of the Bible.
Resentment- pride---ambition -- the love of pomp, and pleasure,--and other dangerous and sinful passions of our fallen nature, are approved, and applauded, and held up to admiration; so as, in many cases, to leave a lasting impression upon the mind, and to exert an influence over the after-life and character, as permanent as it is
pernicious. And not to enter further into particulars, we may observe generally, that the very characters which dramatic authors design to make examples of virtue, and to hold up as patterns for imitation, are just those “men of the world,” which the Bible places in direct contrast with the true servant of God, and the faithful disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. They follow the received maxims and customs of the world ;—they walk according to the course of the world;—they are conformed to the world ;—they speak of the world, and the world heareth them ;—they love the world, and the things of the world. Their standard of practice is the opinion of the world; and the end and object of their desire and pursuit is, the honour that cometh from man, or some other kind, or portion of this world's good. And I scruple not to assert, that if you were to take the very best character to be found in any dramatic composition or performance which is represented on the Stage, and then compare it with the unerring standard of truth, and the strait rule of God's commandments: you would find it to be a character plainly condemned in the Holy Scriptures ;-you would discover that this pattern of worldly virtue was pursuing one of the ten thousand ways which lead down to destruction; and if you were to follow the example set before you in this school of morals, you would follow it to the present peril, and, without a change, to the eternal perdition of your soul.