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sions to which females can betake themselves. Every congregated body of either or both sexes, is liable to the same imputation, but yet the evil is generally distinct from the occupation itself. If there were in the stage itself any thing which made evil a necessary result, or were it the only exposure to which women could be subject, your objection would be worth attending to. But as by the constitution of the world evil must be faced, and some be more, some less exposed to it, let those whose lot it is to be most exposed, meet their trials, as in spite of all our vain endeavours they must do! We encourage not their vices, but their talents, and the exercise we require of those talents is in no way dependent upon their vices for effect, but on the contrary. Female virtue has triumphed even upon the stage, and has met with its due encouragement from frequenters and patrons of the theatre, and I see no good reason why it should be considered as in any peculiar danger. I sincerely believe that the stigma that has been attached to the profession has been more the result of the general heartless profligacy of former ages, than of any thing peculiarly dangerous in the profession itself. Still, however, allowing for popular prejudice, it must be admitted, that there is ample scope for two opinions upon the subject. We accordingly agree, that he who goes to the theatre,
does well; and he who abstains does well also1, provided the first goes without violence to his conscience, and the latter stays away, from strict sincerity of feeling. The merit of abstinence in this, or any similar case, must, of course, depend entirely upon faith, that which would be a good deed in one of your opinions, would be valueless in one of mine. If a Catholic eats meat on Friday, he commits a sin; if you and I do so, we commit none. The Scriptures no where, I believe, either forbid or discourage the use of wine, yet we read of marked commendation bestowed upon the Rechabites for their resistance to a proposal, which, it is not pretended, was in itself sinful, notwithstanding all the abuses which may be charged upon wine, with certainly at least as much justice as those you charge upon the theatre.
To prove us under the title of nominal Christians, (p. 245), defective in love of our fellow-creatures, you propose to us a number of questions, amounting simply to this, "Do you perform every possible duty towards your fellow-creatures in every the most minute circumstance, and in the most delicate cases, with the utmost conceivable perfection? Because, let me tell you, you ought! The Scripture
1 St. Paul, on eating of the heathen sacrifices: be it remembered also, that this apostle alludes to public amusements (the Olympic games) without any thing like censure.
commands all this, and if you fall short of it, you are not real, but only nominal Christians!" Certainly, Sir, at this rate, we are nominal only, very nominal indeed, for we cannot say that we perform half what you enumerate, and which we fully admit to be a correct definition of what the Scripture requires. But, then, if we are only nominal Christians, because we do not perform the whole law in the most perfect manner, those only can properly be called real who do. Where, then, shall we find these paragons, that we may take example? Do you claim this degree of perfection for yourself? If you can, I give you joy; but beware of undoing it by presumption. But if you claim it for a sect, you are at best but the dupe of your own zeal, and probably not merely the dupe, but the tool of hypocrites. As I have before remarked, and may have to remark again, concerning that large portion of your work which fairly comes under the head of preachment, a great, perhaps the greater part, would not only be admissible, but good, did it own itself what it is, and assume the title as well as the style of sermons, proposed as advice and models of self-examination for individual consciences. But when, as in the present instance, it is used to insinuate an imputation upon an entire body of Christians, confounding individuals with the body, and the body with individuals; and when
this imputation is to be made in the form of an odious comparison between these and another party, put forward as an equal body forming a fair contrast, but being in fact no more than a few individuals of high religious pretensions; and more especially, when the individuals of this contrasted party are to be represented as all holding certain peculiar opinions, and it is the evident design to lead the unreflecting reader to confound these peculiar opinions with the perfect practice of Christianity; then I do say such preachment is objectionable in the highest degree.
You next suppose us to make an appeal to the public effects of Christian charity in this country, to shew that Christianity has had its effect upon the public mind at large, and this you would represent as a claim made by us to be considered individually charitable; a claim which not the most vain amongst us would ever think of making upon such grounds. The first effects of the Christian precepts of charity must of course be to induce men to part freely with superfluities for the relief of others, and if they do this, it is so far good. It is certainly no rule that because a man parts freely with superfluities for a particular purpose, that, therefore, he will part with necessaries, or even deprive himself of gratifications, and we have never contended that it is. But still less is it to be pre
sumed, that because charity has carried him thus far, that, therefore, it will carry him no further, where occasion requires. This were, by réversing the argument, to fall into a still greater absurdity. It is calculated to disgust by overstraining those who really need your counsel; and to distract the weakly amiable who do not need it, and lead them to an improvident and unsatisfactory dispensation of their means, which will not only cause themselves unnecessary privation, but do infinite mischief to the very cause you seek to serve. Let each bear his portion of the burden cheerfully, steadily, and unflinchingly; but let him not gall his shoulder unnecessarily, by seeking to do more, until called upon by special occasion so to do. only be meritorious where it is requisite, then the submitting to it is an evidence of sincerity. Your doctrine would allow no merit but in a wound necessarily or unnecessarily acquired; no merit to the officer who fights steadily in his ranks, but to him only whose imprudent zeal leads him to dash forward upon every occasion, requisite or not requisite, and expose himself for exposure's sake. Upon a principle something similar, those only are Hindoo saints who perform torture penances, or cast themselves under the car of Jaga-Naut. The rest are only nominals. You say that our Saviour, after stating, "that by being kind and courteous to