« PreviousContinue »
nation. The question to be deter- stances which often divest them of mined is this; Are the language their odious characters, which tend and representations of the stage to awaken and invigorate them in conformable to the instructions de- the minds of the spectators; and livered by Jesus Christ and his they invest, with a spurious nobleApostles; or, in other words, are ness and brilliancy, many of the they in harmony with the genius, worst passions which infest and spirit, and tendency of Christianity? agitate the bosom of man. The If they agree with the plain, ob- passion of love, with all its satelvious precepts which are delivered sites good and bad, forms a constiin the Gospels and Epistles, no ob- tuent part of almost every
dramajection founded upon the accidental tic exhibition; and it is equally the abuse of the drama will prove an undeniable purpose of the author attendance on the theatre to be un- and the actor, by the most approlawful; but if it can be shown, that priate and impassioned language, a most conspicuous disagreement by an ingenious arrangement of exists between the compositions difficulties and distresses, by those performed on the stage, and the expressive signs in action which all unquestionable declarations of the may comprehend, and none can New Testament, no arguments misunderstand, to excite emotion founded on the beneficial effects and tumult in the minds of the which may be occasionally derived spectators; to send them home from them, can be admitted as with hearts glowing with all the valid in their justification, or sanc- ardours of the passion which has tion a Christian in his patronage been represented before their eyes. . of the theatre.
“ In close connexion with les“ The sacred Scriptures forbid so congenial to the sensual all profanation of the name of God; part of the human constitution, the the introduction of that holy name spectators are instructed further in on light and frivolous occasions; the several arts of simulation, hyall trivial and unnecessary appeals pocrisy, deceit, unfaithfulness, to the Deity, or wanton invocation treachery. By frequently exhibitof him, combined with curses and ing the malevolent passions, their imprecations against our fellow- odious agencies become familiar ; creatures. But plays abound with thus they lose much of their deforexpressions and declamations di- mity, and, instead of exciting horrectly at variance with this prohibi- ror and disgust, too frequently contion; they have, consequently, a ciliate the sympathy and kindly manifest tendency to teach and en- feelings of the audience. Men are courage profane cursing and swear- taught the expressions of unconing
trolled resentment, determined ha“ The word of God censures all tred, implacable malice, and fuimmodesty and impurity of dis- rious revenge, rendered more forcourse or gesture; it inculcates the cible by the aid of eloquence, and duties of self-government, of con- sharpened with all the asperity that trolling and regulating the affec- the most rancorous malignity can tions and passions; a wise mode- infuse. Their ears are accustomed ration, and a religious reserve, in to the terms generous pride, noble the indulgence of the most pure and ambition, honourable revenge, jusdisinterested, as well as of the tifiable retaliation, and to hear a more selfish and animal propensi- train of other immoral tempers ties of our nature. But plays ex- softened, or adorned, by specious hibit pride, ambition, vanity, emu- epithets, calculated to conceal their lation, revenge, envy, hatred, ly- sinful and detestable character, and ing, sensuality, &c. under circum- consequently to sustain and cherish
them in the hearts of those who themselves to be Christians, who delight in the amusements of the have “ promised and vowed in stage.
their baptism to renounce the devil, “ He who has learned practi- and all his works, the cally to regard murder as an affair vanities of this wicked world, and of honour, seduction as a piece of all the sinful lusts of the flesh;” gallantry, adultery as an amiable that those who have not only enweakness, the successful usurpa- tered into this solemn engagement, tion of the rights of another as but have subsequently ratified it, skill and dexterity, may enjoy would require few arguments to some consideration in the eyes of dissuade them from frequenting his fellow-creatures; but, in the such dangerous amusements. But judgment of the holy and righteous mistaken or inadequate concepGovernor of the universe, he is tions of the extent and purity of the worthy of death. Then the school divine laws, misconceptions of the where these things are imparted, as nature and requisitions of the Gosspeculative principles, and impress- pel of Jesus Christ, and the attraced with all the power and art of tive power of this world on those dramatic illusion, is an institution, who live within the sphere of its the direct tendency of which is to magnetic influence, combine to sow the seeds of vice, to nurture render the heart and affections an moral depravity, and to corrupt the easy prey to the seductive and fasmanners of the visitants.
cinating illusions which people its. “ The advocates of the stage atmosphere. The predominance of have commonly asserted, that it is a worldly temper and spirit is ina school of morality, where exorbi- consistent with the reality of retant passions are restrained and ligion, as it implies the absence of corrected, where licentiousness is a true taste and relish for objects censured and degraded, and vice which are spiritual and divine; and folly receive the castigation of these are not desired by such percontempt and ridicule. But what- whose unsatiated cravings ever may have been the good in- lead them to seek refreshment and tentions of dramatic authors, and repose in the harassing amuseperformers on the stage; if it has ments and turbulent pleasures of a been proved again and again, that restless and disordered world. It their morality is spurious, and would be a great mistake, if these commonly at variance with that votaries of pleasure were to suptaught in the Holy Scriptures; if pose, that a detachment from the experience has demonstrated, that tumult of gaiety, and the hurry of the animated exhibition of culpable dissipation, was the result of a stupassions tends to foster them and pid incapacity for such gratificapromote their growth, rather than tions, that it implied the prevalence to blight them and destroy their of gloomy moroseness, or melanfertility; if sin be of too serious and choly, or that the pious man was awful a nature to be made the sub- perpetually doing violence to his ject of wit, satire, and merriment; inclinations, and exercising a rigorthen the supporters of the theatre ous constraint on his desires and have lamentably failed of their propensities. No; he renounces purpose; they have diffused and all these glittering shows as mere aggravated the malady by the very inanities, insipid, spiritless, unmeans which they have adopted suited to his state and condition as for its extinction.
a candidate for heaven, as an heir “ It might be presumed, if ex- of immortality. The heart and afperience did not evince the con- fections of a Christian have retrary, that those who consider ceived a new direction; his wants,
his pleasures, and his enjoyments, tianity consider further, that the life. are of a higher order; those beams of a man ought to have some conwhich have descended into his soul sistency with his prayers, if he from the chambers of heaven have would avoid the guilt of simulation impaired and obscured the lustre of or hypocrisy. Every Christian that inferior objects, by disclosing their uses the Lord's Prayer, requests emptiness and vanity. His renova- that he may not be led into temptated spirit moves through the groups tion, but be delivered from evil; of shadowy and unsubstantial forms yet he cannot enter the theatre withwhich solicit his regard, as the well-out encountering the most daninformed traveller crosses the burn- gerous temptations, and deliberateing sands of Egypt or Arabia; he ly exposing his virtue and piety, presses forward, unseduced by such as they may be, to evils calthose atmospherical illusions which culated to subvert every good purmock the scorched and thirsty pas- pose, and corrupt every holy dissenger with fantastic visions of position of the heart. If sincerity groves and streams, expecting no and uprightness do not require a shade or refreshment, where he correspondence of words and acknows that aridity, barrenness, and tions; if the vocal expression of desolation, have fixed their
be unconnected with tual residence.
the internal dispositions of the heart, To pretend that the same persons without any impeachment of truth can be devout worshippers of God, and integrity; if a prayer be a mere take delight in his service, and in- formal ceremony, a mechanical tend a sincere conformity to his re- conformity of gestures with words, vealed will,who require the gratifica- imposing no moral obligation on the tion of theatrical amusements, is a supplicant, then a hungering and palpable contradiction, implying a thirsting after theatrical amusements hatred of profaneness and indeli- is not incompatible with “ hungering cacy, with an eagerness to contem- and thirsting after righteousness;" plate those who exhibit these vices and there is neither self-deception, as a fund of necessary diversion. nor mocking of God, in offering up If it be urged, that this indulgence petitions, the fulfilment of which is is not frequently allowed, but is a neither expected nor desired. rare and occasional amusement; If any, who profess to lead a dethis remark diminishes in no de- vout and holy life, can be comfortgree the force of the arguments able and contented with a course against it. If it be consistent with of such pharisaical services, let a truly religious spirit to visit the them seriously and honestly consitheatre three times in the year, it is der, whether a divided heart can equally consistent to visit it thirty be acceptable to God; whether a times in the year. To resort thither supreme desire of sanctification can frequently, or seldom, may indi- exist in a mind captivated by the cate the degree in which the passion blandishments of fashionable pleafor dramatic representations exists, sures; and whether the incongruous but cannot change the quality of the union of piety with the spirit of this action. Whatever is evil in its evil world, will receive the final apown nature, is always evil; whe- probation of that righteous Judge, ther the number of criminal acts be who has declared, that, “ without few or many, the measure of crime holiness, no man shall see the Lord.” may be varied, but the essential “ Il faut être uniforme dans la character of the sin remains unal- pieté ; Dieu et le culte qu'on lui tered. Let the professor of Chris- doit, est indivisible."
ESSAYS ON THE FIFTY-THIRD CHAPTER OF ISAIAH.
ESSAY X.-CHRIST'S SUPFERINGS AND REWARD. Isaiah, liji. 10.-Yet it pleased the “ It pleased the Lord to bruise
Lord to bruise him; he hath put him.” The Lord with his own him to grief: when thou shalt hand crushed the divine Saviour make his soul an offering for sin, beneath the weight of his displeahe shall see his seed, he shall pro- sure! Men were permitted to aflong his days, and the pleasure flict his body, and, .so far as he of the Lord shall prosper in his could feel those painful sensations hand.
which treachery, ingratitude, slanWhen our Lord Jesus Christ der, and cruelty occasion, to afsuffered for us men, and for our flict him in his soul. But it was salvation, his sufferings were in- his heavenly Father's hand that fficted not only by the hands of sin- bruised him most sensibly, by ful men, who were permitted by withdrawing, his presence, taking divine Providence to carry their away (for the time) all comfort, enmity against him thus far; but and leaving him under the awful he was afflicted by the immediate feeling of divine vengeance. Christ, hand of God; and what he suf- as man, was accustomed to look
up fered in his soul from his heavenly to his heavenly Father with the Father's hand, was far more in- greatest delight, and to view his tolerable than all that he endured heavenly Father looking down upon from the hands of men. We find, him with the highest satisfaction; therefore, that our Lord complained, as when a voice from heaven dein the bitterness of his soul, when clared, “This is my beloved Son, he felt himself forsaken of his God; in whom I am well pleased.” whilst all that he suffered from Matt. iii. 17. But when " it men did not draw from him a single pleased the Lord to bruise him," complaint. In the passage of all sensible comfort was taken Holy Scripture now under consi- away; he could see nothing before deration, the Prophet uses a strong his eyes but God's indignation expression when he says, that " it against sin; he felt himself forsaken pleased the Lord to bruise him;" at of God; a dark cloud overspread the same time it is intimated, his mind. He seemed to have no that he himself had done nothing consolation from his divine nature, to deserve punishment. The pre- and to have felt in his soul even the ceding verse declares, that he pains of hell, so far as he could had done no violence, neither was feel them who knew no sin. This any deceit in his mouth;" and yet bruising first began in the garden, (as the Prophet here mentions) - it when he fell into an agony; and it pleased the Lord to bruise him.” ended on the cross, when a little There was, therefore, an important before his death he seems to have end to be answered by the suf- recovered his composure of mind, ferings and death of Christ. The and said, “ Father, into thy hands salvation of souls was connected I commend my spirit: and having with those sufferings, for they were said this, he gave up the ghost.” to be the means of bringing many sin- Thus Jesus was bruised by the ners to God; a numerous offspring immediate hand of his heavenly was to arise from the Redeemer's Father; “ He hath put him to expiring groans; and having been grief:” 'nor was there any grief or made a sin offering, he was to “see sorrow to be compared with that his seed,” to “prolong his days, which Christ endured when his and the pleasure of the Lord” was Father's hand lay heavy upon him. prosper in his hand.”
For the greatest grief is that which OCT. 1823.
affects the mind, the anguish which by bruising the divine Saviour when tears the heart. “ The spirit of a he stood in the place of sinners, man will sustain his infirmity; but his word, which had denounced the a wounded spirit who can bear?” punishment of death against sinProv. xvüi. 14. If the heart be ners, would have been broken. but supported, the body can bear But when the Lord spared not his a great deal. The martyrs who own Son, his faithfulness was unsuffered for the cause of Christ impeached, his holiness undimiwere often so greatly supported by nished, and a way made for his the consolations of the Gospel, that mercy to be exercised consistently the sense of pain was in a measure with the strictest justice to every lost. When Stephen was stoned, returning sinner. he appears to have been under no In this awful transaction, the terror of mind, but with great in- soul of Jesus was made an offering ward peace to have endured that for sin; “ When thou shalt make cruel death, “ calling upon God, his soul an offering for sin.” Under and saying, Lord Jesus receive my the law, those sacrifices which spirit.” Acts, vii. 59. But when were offered to God to make a the Lord Jesus was put to grief, he typical atonement for sin, were endured the anguish of a wounded called, “ sin offerings.” They had spirit, the darkness of a soul that the very name of sin put upon felt itself forsaken of God. The them, to show that the sins of expressions in the Psalms well de- those who offered them in faith scribe the greatness of his sorrow: were typically transferred to them. • The sorrows of hell compassed But Christ was the true sin offering, me about.” Psalm xviii. 5.-" Thy the only sacrifice that was availwrath lieth hard upon me, and able to take away sin; “ For he thou hast afflicted me with all thy hath made him to be sin for us, waves.”—“ Mine eye mourneth by who knew no sin; that we might reason of affliction.”—" Lord, why be made the righteousness of God castest thou off my soul! why in him.” 2 Cor. v. 21. This was hidest thou thy face from me? the reason why it pleased the FaWhile I suffer thy terrors I am ther to bruise him; for though we distracted. Thy fierce wrath goeth cannot suppose that the Father over me; thy terrors have cut me could be pleased with the suffer
ings of Christ, considered simply It pleased the Lord to bruise and in themselves; on the contrary, the afflict bis beloved Son, because he divine displeasure was particularly stood in the place of sinners, to shown against those who crucified satisfy the demands of his broken the Lord of glory, and repented law. If the Lord had pardoned not; yet as Christ was made an sin without satisfaction being made offering for sin, his sacrifice, as to his eternal justice, his law would the sacrifices under the law, is have been dishonoured, his com- called a sweet savour unto God.” mandments broken with impuni- Christ also hath loved us, and hath ty, and his authority disregarded. given himself for us an offering and Rather, therefore, than God would
à sacrifice to God, for a sweet suffer this, which would have been smelling savour.” Eph. v. 2. an insult on his moral government A gracious recompence was to of the world, he was pleased to follow Christ's acceptable sacrifice; bruise Jesus, and to put him to " When thou shalt make his soul grief. In this, the Lord manifested an offering for sin, he shall see his his truth and faithfulness, as well seed." X numerous and spiritual as his holiness. For, if the Lord seed was to arise from his being had not taken vengeance for sin, made an offering for sin. Our