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corrupts our hearts, and separates the Holy Spirit from us. You will now, perhaps, ask me, if it is unlawful for a Christian to go to the play-house: I answer, that it is absolutely unlawful. As unlawful as for a Christian to be a drunkard, or a glutton, or to curse and swear. This, I think, after what has been above observed, will be easily proved.
For let us resume the doctrine of the apostle; we are absolutely forbid all corrupt communication, and for this important reason, because it grieves and separates the Holy Spirit from us. It is unlawful, therefore, to have any corrupt communication of our own? And can we think it lawful to go to places set apart for that purpose ? To give our money, and hire persons to corrupt our hearts with ill discourses, and inflame all the disorderly passions of our nature? We have the authority of Scripture to affirm, that evil communication corrupts good manners, and that unedifying discourses grieve the Holy Spirit. Now the third commandment is not more plain and express against swearing, than this doctrine is plain and positive against going to the play-house. If you should see a person that ackuowledges the third commandment to be a divine prohibition against swearing, yet going to a house, and giving his money to persons, who were there met, to curse and swear in fine language, and invent musical oaths and imprecations, would you not think him mad in the highest degree? Now consider, whether there be a less degree of madness in going to the play-house. You own that God has called you to a great purity of conversation, that you are forbid all foolish discourse, and filthy jestings, as expressly as you are forbid swearing; that you are to let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but such as is good for the use of edifying; and yet you go to the house set apart for corrupt communications; you hire persons to entertain you with all manner of ribaldry, profaneness, rant, and
impurity of discourse; who are to present you with vile thoughts and lewd imaginations in fine language, and to make wicked, vain, and impure discourse more lively and affecting than you could possibly have it in any ill company. Now is not this sinning with as high a hand, and as grossly offending against the plain doctrines of Scripture, as if you was to give your money to be entertained with musical oaths and curses? You might reasonably think that woman very ridiculous in her piety that durst not swear herself, but should, nevertheless, frequent places to hear oaths. But you may as justly think her very ridiculous in her modesty, who, though she dare not say, or look, or do an immodest thing herself, shall yet give her money to see women forget the modesty of their sex, and talk impudently in a public play-house. If the play-house was filled with rakes and ill women, there would be nothing to be wondered at in such an assembly; for such persons to be delighted with such entertainments, is as natural as for any animal to delight in its proper element. But for persons who profess purity and holiness, who would not be suspected of immodesty, or corrupt communication, for them to come under the roof of a house devoted to such ill purposes, and be pleased spectators of such actions and discourses, as are the pleasure of the most abandoned persons, for them to give their money to be thusentertained, is such a contradiction to all piety and common sense as cannot be sufficiently exposed.
Again; When you see the players acting with life and spirit, men and women equally bold in all instances of prafaneness, passion, and immodesty, I dare say you never suspect any of them to be persons of Christian piety. You cannot, even in your imagination, join piety to such manners, and such a way of life.
Your niind will no more allow join piety with the behaviour of the stage, than it
will allow you to think two and two to be ten. And perhaps you had rather see your son chained to a galley, or your daughter driving a. plow, than getting their bread on the stage, by administering in so scandalous a manner to the vices and corrupt pleasures of the world. Let this therefore be another argument to prove the absolute unlawfulness of going to the play. For consider with yourself; is the business of players so contrary to piety, so inconsistent with the spirit and temper of a true Christian, that it is next to a contradiction to suppose them united ? How then can you take yourself to be innocent, who delight in their sins, and hire them to commit them? You may make yourself a partaker of other men's sins, by negligence, and for want of reproving them; but certainly if you stand by, and assist men in their evil actions, if you make their vices your pleasure and entertainment, and pay your money to be so entertained, you make yourself a partaker of their sins in a very high degree. And, consequently, it must be as unlawful to go to a play as it is unlawful to approve, encourage, assist, and reward a man for renouncing a Christian life. Let therefore every man or woman that goes to a play ask themselves this question, Whether it suits with their religion to act the parts that are there acted? Perhaps they would think this as inconsistent with that degree of piety that they profess, as to do the vilest things. But let them consider, that it must be a wicked and unlawful pleasure to delight in any thing that they dare not do themselves. Let them also consider, that they are really acting those indecencies and impieties themselves, which they think is the particular guilt of the players. For a person may very justly be said to do that himself which he pays for the doing, and which is done for his pleasure. You must therefore, if you would be consistent with yourself, as much abhor the thoughts of being at a play, as of being a player yourself; for to think that
you must forbear the one, and not the other, is as absurd, as to suppose, that you must be temperate yourself, but may assist, encourage, and reward other people for their intemperance.
The business of a player is profane, wicked, lewd, and immodest; to be any way therefore approving, assista ing, or encouraging him in such a way of life, is as evidentiy sinful, as it is sinful to assist and encourage a man in stealing, or any other wickedness.
To proceed: When I consider churches, and the matter of divine service, that it consists of holy readings, prayers, and exhortation to piety, there is reason to think, that the house of God is a natural means of promoting piety and religion, and render: ing men devout and sensible of their duty to God. The very nature of divine assemblies thus carried on, has this direct tendency. I ask you, whether this is not very plain, that churches thus employed should have this effect?
Consider therefore the play-house, and the matter of the entertainment there, as it consists of love-ina. trigues, blasphemous passions, profane discourses, lewd descriptions, filthy jests, and all the most extravagant rant of wanton, vile, protligate persons of both sexes, heating and intlaming one another with all the wantonness of address, the immodesty of motion, and lewdness of thought, that wit can invent; consider, I say, whether it be not plain, that a house so employed, is as certainly serving the cause of immorality and vice, as the house of God is serving the cause of piety ? For what is there in our churchservice, that shows it to be useful to piety and holiness; what is there in divine worship to correct and amend the heart, but what is directly contrary to all that is doing in the play-house ? So that one may with the same assurance affirm, that the play-house, not only when some very profane play is on the stage, but in its daily common entertainment, is as
certainly the house of the devil, as the church is the house of God. For though the devil be not professedly worshipped by hymins directed to him, yet most that is there sung is to his service; he is there obeyed and pleased in as certain a manner as God is worshipped and honoured in the church.
You must easily see, that this charge against the play-house, is not the effect of any particular temper, or ucakness of mind; that it is not an uncertain conjecture, or religious whimsy, but is a judgnient founded as plainly in the nature and reason of things, as when it is affirmed that the house of God is of service to religion. And he that absolutely condemns the play-house, as wicked and corrupting, proceeds upon as much truth and certainty, as he that absolutely commends the house of God, as holy, and tending to poomote piety.
When therefore any one pretends to vindicate the stage to you, as a proper entertainment for holy and religious persons, you ought to reject the attempt with as much abhorrence, as if he should offer to show
you, that our church-service was rightly formed for those persons to join in, who are devoted to the devil. For to talk of the laufulness and usefulness of the stage, is fully as absurd, as contrary to the plain nature of things, as to talk of the unlawfulness and mischief of the service of the church. He therefore that tells you, that you may safely go to the play-house, as an innocent, useful entertainment of your mind, commits the same offence against common sense, as if he should tell you, that it was dangerous to attend at divine service, and that its prayers and hymns were great pollutions of the mind.
For the matter and manner of stage-entertainments is as undeniable a proof, and as obvious to common sense, that the house belongs to the devil, and is the place of his honour, as the matter and manner of church-service proves that the place is appropriated to God.