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cation in the Spirit ;” that we should continue instant in prayer;” yea, that we should “ out ceasing.”
Smir. But, Sir, if you take these texts in so strict a sense, how is the business of the world to be carried
Far. Why, the sense in which I take these words is, that we should live in such a holy habit and frame of mind, as to be at all times in a fit state for prayer ; and that we can be looking up to God in frequent prayer while we are at our daily labour. And I am sure, when this is the case, the world will go on a thousand times better than it does at present.
Brisk. Well Sir, such a frame of mind is not amiss, especially at the latter end of our lives.
Far. However you, gentlemen, would advise us to put off these things till the latter end of our lives, while God's word directs us to “be always ready;' yet you ministers are instructed to give “yourselves wholly to these things, that your profiting may appear unto all men.” Now, pray Sir, if any of the people had been taken for death, and had sent for you to pray with them, and to administer the holy sacrament to them, how would you have felt in
your devotions, after having heard so much of the profane stuff and nonsense they talk over at these plays? What sort of prayers would yours have been? Could you have drawn
with a true heart in full assurance of faith,” before a holy God?
Smir. I must leave you Mr. Brisk, to answer that question; for being co-pastor with Dr. Dronish, among the rational Dissenters, we are not in the habit of being called upon on these occasions; but these things should be no bar against a candid and liberal intercourse with each other; for in all the principal points of religion we seem very well agreed.
Brisk. Why, Mr. Littleworth, that is not a probable case.
Far. But, in my opinion, it is a very probable case. And I did hear of one minister who was called out of a Puppet Shew, to go to prayer with a man who was likely to die ; and in every parish there always must be some who are sick, and near their end. If you are not sent for oftener than you are, it is because your negligence has made them as careless as yourselves, even to their dying moments; and no wonder that they think so little of the prayers of such ministers who pray so little for themselves.
Smir. Mr. Brisk, I believe we had better walk home, for Mr. Littleworth seems quite angry.
Fur. No, no, gentlemen, I am not angry; though I confess I am grieved at heart that my daughters should have been led to such places by gentlemen of your profession, where, I am sure, they could get nothing but wickedness. I always was hospitable to my neighbours; and you are welcome to stop, and I wish you would, that we may talk over matters before my daughters; for to speak plainly, your ex. ample hardens them much in their vain ways.
Smir. Why, truly Sir, I thank you for your civility, but I think, from the dreary notions of religion you have lately adopted, you have taken up such high prejudices against plays as are not just; for, in many plays, there are fine lessons.of morality, if we would but attend to them.
Far. Ah, and they are all the worse for that, as it makes the wicked things in them go down the more glib. And we suppose we have a licence to hear all the foolish and lewd stories and blasphemous romances, because they are messed up with a little morality? Pray, Sir, do the people that go to tiose places, go after religion and morality, or after vanity and mirth? VOL. I.
Brisk. Why, Sir, we go after a little innocent amusement to be sure. And if we do hear of bad things we need not practise them.
Far. But do they, whose hearts are good and upright, think that they are at liberty to go after things that are bad? Or if I hear things which are bad, is that likely to make me good ? Besides, I am directed to cease to hear the instruction that causeth us to err.” Pray, did either of you, gentlemen, ever find that wicked people, at any time, were made more moral by following these loose fellows, who go romancing about the country with their plays and morality?
Smir. I don't know that we have. But they might have been the better, if they would; for I stiil maintain it, that there are plays which contain excellent strokes of morality.
Far. Well, if I am to go after their nonsense and ribaldry for the sake of their morality, I might also expect to be made a better man, if I should hire some wicked wretch to curse and blaspheme, and use all manner of filthy foolish talk, made up of lewdness, craft, and pride, provided I had one of you gentlemen at my elbow, to give me a little of your morality at the same time. But, I should be glad to hear by what law we go, when we attend such abominable
pastimes, and use such wicked language. Have either cf you, gentlemen, any right to tell us a set of vain, filthy, romancing stories, and every now and then bring out a shocking oath, and then mess it
with a little morality for our instruction ?
Smir. Oh, no, Mr. Littleworth, we did not say so!
l'ar. Why, then, did you do right in hiring all these loose blades to do it before you?
Brisk. Sir, this is very uncharitable; for, if they said these bad words, we did not hire them for that purpose.
Far. Yes; but you knew they would come in with the general bargain; and all the profane foolish people, up and down the country, were there to hear them. And how must this harden them in their sins when they saw so many ministers with them, at their wretched sport. So that I am sorry to tell you, (for I am an old man and must speak the truth,) you have been “ sitting in the seat of the scornful, and attending the councils of the ungodly;" and the Lord help me! how grieved I am that my daughters, whom I brought up in such a vain way in my thoughtless state, should have been with you!
Smir. By your account, Sir, one would think these men do nothing but curse and swear all the time.
Far. Pray, Sir, do they curse and swear any of the time?
Smir. Yes; I confess, I now and then hear some such expressions. But then they are only meant as embellishments; and after all, with a moral intent to expose the wickedness of such words.
Far. Expose such wickedness !—Why, what can give it such countenance, when all the people round about come together. Genttefolks, Justices and Parsons, attend all the time giggling and laughing while such oaths are swearing. But what did you mean, Sir, by 'bellishments? I did not understand that hard word?
Smir. Sir, I meant ornaments.
Far. Well, this is to admiration, that oaths are ornaments! But you say, these are sworn but now and then. So, you think, we may go to places where people swear but a little. Now, to my way of thinking, we should be in no company but with such as mind our Lord's words, “ Swear not at all.”
Brisk. Why, if ever they do swear, they always cover it very decently; they only say damme, god
zounds, and such sort of words. And they mean nothing by it.
Far. Why, that they mean nothing by the whole of it, for it is nothing better than a pack of makė-believe nonsense, there is no doubt. But you clergy know, that taking the Lord's name in vain means the making use of his holy name in a vain manner. And, I am sure, it cannot be done in a vainer manner than it is done on the stage ; especially in their profane mock devotions, even upon their kness, which are ten thousand times more blasphemous than their oaths.
Smir. Well, I confess, I wish they would lay aside such exclamations; for these sort of amusements wouid be quite as good, and as rational, without them. But where is the harm of the word zounds ? it is a word without any meaning:
Far. To be sure, that is a famous excuse for them! for all their words, in a sense, are words without meaning. For all their fine shews are nothing better than sham and nonsense: but the word zounds is a most desperate profane oath indeed. It means, by God's wounds; and I thought, for sure, you gentlemen had sufficient larning to have known that.
Smir. O, Sir! it is only an old expression, invented in the times of popery, when people believed in the divinity of our Saviour, and the atonement; but these doctrines are now universally exploded among the ràtional Dissenters. And you know Mr. Brisk, many of the clergy also are of our sentiment in regard to these points.
Far. The infidel Dissenters you mean, Sir.
Far. Ah! my child, I find you have not been to that wicked school for nothing; for so many times as I have told you of it, yet you still take " the Lord's name in vain."