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Smir. Well, Sir, I can't see that we should give up the fine sentiments, that are generally held out on these occasions; I still maintain it, that the stage, when properly conducted, is a very rational amusement.
Far. In my vain days, when I attended these places, I know not what I, or any one else, went there for unless to make game, and to kill time, as we most wickedly used to call it. The Lord knows, that bad I went there, and worse, I am sure, I came away, for, as to all the wicked things I heard there, they stuck to my heart like burrs to my worsted stockings ; and as to the morality, that all ran off as fast as it came on, like fair water from a duck's back.
Smir. O, but then you did not consider the proper intent of them! for they are designed to shew the deformity of vice, and lash the follies of mankind.
Far. I thought that was the office of you ministers; and for sure you cannot want the heip of a set of strošling players to assist you in reforming your neighbours. But can either of you, gentlemen, in your consciences think so? When vicious people get exposed and lashed, they are ashamed to face it out; they will never stand their ground. But where do all these sort of people run to? Why, to the playhouse. And what do they go there for? Because it feeds and pampers their vanity and pride, while they make a downright merriment of sin. And as to the stories they trump up on these occasions, it is wonderful that any modest woman will go to hear them. ashamed to think how many different lewd tricks and projects I have heard from them, dressed up almost in every shape. In short, nothing is such nuts . for them as that which sets them all a laughing at adultery and whoredom. Thus, “ fools make a mock
at sin*;" and it is a pity such gentlemen as you should
follow the multitude to do evil.”
Mrs. Lit. Why, though I don't like my husband being so over religious, yet I cannot but agree with him, that it would be much better if our daughters would but stay at home and mind their business, and not waste their time in running after such wonderments. I do not think my son Harry would have turned out so bad, if he could have been kept away from such sort of company.
Far. Ah, that was one of the first things which brought on the ruination of my boy. It was there he got instructed in all the wicked ways of the world ; and being so ignorant and careless myself
, as I then was, I could not have the face to correct him. Oh how I deserve the punishment of old Eli! For “my. son made himself vile, and I restrained him not.” Lord, forgive me, and grant that I may once more see him back again from sea! I hope to the Lord, that I may be able to say something to him for his good, and may God change his heart !
Miss Nancy. Mother, have you got the key of the back pantry ? for Sam is terribly bruised, and we are going to bathe his cheeks and side with some hot verjuice. [Mrs. Littleworth gives the key.]
Far. Now, all this riot and wickedness comes of these abominable pastimes, whether out of doors, or in, it is just as bad ; nothing but uproar and confu. sion all the town over. While every 'prentice and servant man and maid is tempted to run away from their families, to which they belong; and then away they go to these schools of wickedness, and come home at dark night, fit for the practice of every abominable vice that comes in their way. Thus busi. ness is neglected; the common people are robbed both of their morals and their money, while the pawnbroker and alehouse-keeper live on the 'spoil.
And these are your innocent amusements, gentiemen.
Smir. Now, after all that you have said, bad people will make a bad use of every thing: but that don't prove things to be bad in themselves.
Brisk. I am quite of your opinion, Mr. Smirking, for there is nothing against these things in scripture; nay, there is a time for all things, even a time to dance ; and we should regard the scriptures.
Far. With all my heart, Sir, I shall be glad to come to that touchstone. We are commanded to search the scriptures.—Patty reach the Bible.
Patty. Why, father, the gentlemen have scarce done supper; you cannot want the Bible yet.
Far. Nay, nay, girl, we have been talking all the time, as most people do over their meals, and talking about religion won't choke us any more than about politics and the world.
Smir. We have both done supper, Sir, and it begins to be late.
Far. It is not wholesome torise so soon after meals; and you love a glass of wine after supper. [Dame, reach us a nice bottle of your best currant wine.] (To Mr. Smirking) Sir, gentlemen in your way love a pipe, shall Patty bring you one ?
Smir. No, I thank you, Sir; it begins to be late. Far. Now, let us have the Bible. (Nancy brings it.)
Miss Nancy. Father, I can shew all the places we turned down, while my sisters and the ministers were at the play ; which Mr. Lovegcod made use of when he preached against these wickednesses.
Far. Well, then, let us see: Here is Eph. iv. 29. “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the learers.” [To the Ministers)-Did the play run in that style to-night, gentlemen ?
Brisk. Go on Sir; we will answer you by and by:
Far. Why then, it is said, " That for every idle word men shall speak they shall give an account ia the day of judgment.” Why, Nancy, it would not do for you and me to die in a playhouse; for there is nothing else but idle words there. And then again, we are forbidden" foolish talking and jesting, which is not convenient.” And there we have nothing else but foolish talking and jesting all the way through; aye, and if possible, worse still ;' for if they present
any good, they are almost sure to make a scof at it, and as for pride, anger, revenge, and such like passions, these. they dress up in such a manner as though there was little or no evil in them, and as though nobody could live without them.-In a thousand instances they represent virtue to be vice, and vice to be virtue, or it would not be so · pleasing to the sort of customers who attend them. After this, you know, Mr. Lovegood mentioned that text against “profane and vain babblings;” and their babblings are profane enough, I am sure ; and these we are s to avoid.” And here it is again, “ Let your conversation be as becometh the gospel of Christ.” And here again, “ Our conversation is in heaven.”
Nancy. And you know, father, it is said, " that the righteous soul of Lot was vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked.” And I am sure, in all the plays that you and I have seen, there is enough of the filthy conversation of the wicked.
Par. But Nancy, we must not forget that text which pins it all down to a point, which Mr. Lovegood explained to us against these abominable doings, in Gal. v. 19--22. in which, after a long list of wickednesses forbidden to all christians, revellings, and such like,” are mentioned; and these are again forbidden, 1 Pet. iv. 3. Now, Mr. Lovegood told us they meant masked dances and songs, much after the fashion of our plays. And then you know, he told us that all horse-racings, bull-baitings, useless fairs and wakes, cock-fightings and dancings, were all of them revels. And again, he observed, that midnight revels were the worst sort of revels, because it gave a more convenient opportunity to the sons of darkness to practise their works of darkness. And we all know what sort of innocent amusements people are sure to have among themselves at these times, cursing, swearing, fighting, whoring, drunk. enness, and every other abominable evil.
Fine sort of sights these for ministers to attend. Gentlemen, have you had supper enough?
Ministers. No more, we thank you, Sir. But we must be moving
Far. Why, you would not be running away because the Bible is fetched, that would be strange indeed for ministers. You have been near three hours at the play : We should, at least, spend one hour over the Bible.- Patty, take away every thing but the Bible. Now gentlemen, can you shew us any places in scripture that countenance your sort of proceedings?
Brisk. Why, did I not mention that the scripture says, there is a time to dance ? And did not David dance before the ark?
Far. Yes; and he danced with holy joy before the Lord, praising and blessing his name all the time; quite in a rapture of thanksgiving for his great mercies to Israel. Surely you won't compare your sort of dancings to that of David, where God is quite forgotten, and thrust out of the question, and all of you may make merry in sin.
Smir. But then, Sir, we are forbidden to be “ righteous over-much.”
Miss Polly. There, father, I am sure that is as much to the point as any of your texts.