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“A certain innkeeper, in an adjoining village, who once had bitterly mocked and cursed the pions people, who passed by his house, on their way to the weekly service at Worden, came thither, himself, one new year's afternoon. Having, as usual, reproached the neighbours as they went by, he said, he would
once, and see what was to be bought at Worden. As he could find no seat empty, he stood just before the pulpit. I was preaching, as it was the new year, and also preparatory to the communion, from Gen. xli. 9, 'I do remember my faults this day.' The man was convinced that he had transgressed all the Divine commands, and had neglected them all, and that no one had more faults than he had to call to remembrance. Here was an instance of the goodness of God! Even before the service had ended, the door of hope was opened to him, and he was enabled to see that the blood of Jesus Christ was shed for the forgiveness of sin. This brand, thus plucked from the fire, became a living epistle, by the grace of God; and now he gathered together, in his own house, those whom he had once despised and reviled, and the dwelling, which had once been the gate of hell, became a little sanctuary.
“ Many pleasant hours have I afterwards spent, whenever I had business in that direction, among the pious people who inhabited this public-house. Instead of cursing others for going to church, he was one of the earliest and most zealous attendants. He has often, before service, come to me, with tears in his eyes, when he witnessed my difficulty in breathing; He soon gained courage and strong confidence in God, and was desirous of laying aside his former employment. Here, however, I checked him, advising him to wait until his way was made clear. . He consented, and before I left Worden I saw him settled comfortably as a pious farmer, surrounded by a happy and prosperous family."
From a German Work.
THEATRICAL EXHIBITIONS. MY DEAR FRIEND,—You are probably aware that I have been to witness the performances of the Viennese Dancers. Before I decided to go I had scruples as to the rectitude of the act, and finally yielded in compliance with the persuasions of esteemed friends, who assured me that I should neither see nor hear anything offensive to good taste, or repugnant to the strictest morality. I was informed also, that “ other professors of religion” attended, and had expressed their approbation of the amusement, as both attractive and rational. Besides, my children were anxious to go, and I thought it better that they should be accompanied by their parents, than entrusted to the care of less interested persons.
Within a few days I have heard that you are very decided in your opposition to such amusements. If this be true, then you will doubtless consider my conduct as reprehensible. Will you have the goodness to state frankly your opinion respecting my course, and the grounds upon which that opinion rests ? If I have done wrong I wish to be convinced of it, and, if possible, to make reparation.
With true confidence, etc.,
ESTEEMED FRIEND,—You have imposed upon me an unwelcome service. Had you solicited my opinion before you went to the place which you mention, I should have felt a pleasure in giving it, of which you have now deprived me. Gladly would I have aided your conscience in enforcing the
scruples” which you say you had, and, from your known candour, I am very sure that I should have withheld one votary from the shrine of folly, and saved the injured cause of religion from one stain. But
you have perpetrated the act, and now request me, if I regard it as wrong, to show you wherein the wrong consists. I can state my views; but, knowing something of human nature, I shall have little hope of convincing you to such an extent as shall issue in genuine repentance. I have learned by much observation that when professors of religion deliberately sacrifice their “ scruples," and do that which lays them open to animadversion, they are generally the most difficult to be convinced of their faults, and the most reluctant, after conviction, to make full, thorough confession. The Christian who is “ overtaken,” as was Peter, in wrong doing, can be “ restored,” often by the simplest means. But he who first hesitates to do a wrong thing, and then does it, is very apt to study a defence, and commit himself to it, and persist in self-justification, notwithstanding the clearest evidence, and the most affectionate remonstrances. Still, as you express a willingness to be “ convinced," and to make all suitable
reparation," I am not entirely without hope that your case may prove to be an exception.
Before proceeding to assign reasons why I regard your conduct in this matter as objectionable, I wish to propose a few questions.
Did you go to witness those exhibitions at the theatre because you thought it your duty ?
Did the considerations which you mention as inducements finally to go, entirely satisfy your conscience ? Did you receive
benefit from the performances, or the society assembled to witness them?
What good did you do to your children or to others by your presence in that place?
Before you went, did you ask God to bless the exhibition to yourself and your children? Could you have done it with a sense of congruity? After you returned, did
have family prayer children? Did you pray at all that night? If so, for what did you pray?
With a full knowledge of what the New Testament requires of a Christian, do you candidly think that you have not, in this matter, dishonoured your profession?
Will the act bear reflection at the communion-table, on the bed of death, or at the judgment-seat of Christ ?
The following are some of the grounds” upon which my“ opinion rests” that your course has been wrong:
1. You have violated a law of Christian ethics. You learn from the inspired word, that if a man has a doubt respecting the rectitude of an act to which he is tempted, and yet perpetrates that act, he incurs guilt. He must abstain from it until convinced that it is right. You admit that you had a doubt whether it would be right for you to go to the theatre. The full benefit of that doubt you should have given to Christ, and his cause. That you did not do, and therefore you are an offender against Christian law. Conscience gave you an admonition, but you did not heed the warning
2. You have encouraged inhumanity. Forty-eight little children have been brought hither, away from their homes, their relatives, and their schools, and subjected to a thousand exposures and discomforts, for the sole purpose of gratifying crowds of immortal beings by their skill and activity in mere puppet-playing. The whole procedure is inhuman; it is barbarous. Would
you like to have your little daughters borne away to Germany, and hawked about from city to city, and kept tripping, night after night, on the boards of theatres, all to fill the purse of some madame, who should care for nothing but the flexibility of their limbs?
3. You have countenanced the theatre. You have given
your money, your personal influence, and the sanction of your Christian profession to its support. If the church of which you are a member should allow you to pass uncensured, then, you have virtually pledged the influence of that church as so much capital for theatrical business.
4. You have brought reproach on the Christian name. Within the last week I have twice heard you mentioned, as a living proof that Christians are no better than others.
5. You have wounded the feelings of your pastor. This I know. He says that you contradict his preaching, and cripple his usefulness.
6. You have grieved the most pious and spiritual members of your church. You knew that their consciences were tender upon this point, and that your conduct would occasion them pain. It is easy to call them “bigoted," but by so doing you do not throw off the responsibility incurred by trifling with their scruples.
Now what “reparation" can you make for such a complication of wrong? You may repent, confess, and hereafter be more considerate, and thus obtain forgiveness from God and your brethren; but how will you extract from this community the influence of your example? By what process can you arrest the diffusion of that influence, or counteract its injurious efficiency? You have made impressions upon minds that you may never know until you meet them at the bar of God; impressions derogatory to the religion of Christ, and unfavourable to its progress in the circle of your acquaintance. You little know how deeply the influence of your conduct may enter into the composition of your children's character, and affect the interests of their souls for eternity. How will you repair the damage which they have received? If, in the judgment, they shall hold you responsible for the consequences of this act, what will you answer?
Here I leave the subject. I have written plainly, but with no malign intention or emotion. As a disciple of Christ, I am wounded and grieved by your departure from Christian consistency. May God forgive and restore you, and accept you at last through the merits of his beloved Son.
CONSCIENCE A PROPHET. 1. And one that will have a hearing. Other prophets have been denied this. People have stopped their ears, as in Stephen's case, or locked the prophet up in a dungeon, as in Jeremiah's case, that the senseless walls might hear his prophesying, and not they. But here is a prophet they cannot dispose of after such fashions. Not hear conscience ! Men have tried it well; but the stern voice at midday, and the whisper at midnight, louder than the noise and bustle of the world, has taught them that conscience would have a hearing.
2. And a bold and plain-spoken prophet, too, is conscience. Some prophets have been timid and time-serving, more among the moderns than among the ancients. They have dreaded to give their whole message. They have seen woe approaching, but have shrunk from giving the trumpet its full blast. But people have not to complain of conscience on this behalf. Conscience has a word to say to guilty minds, and says
it. Herod and Felix shall hear, as well as the meanest of the people.
3. And here is a prophet who compels assent to his own predictions. Men who hate the prophets and their messages are very willing to disbelieve them, and succeed in making themselves believe such prophecies falsehoods. But when conscience lifts up its prophetic voice, and tells what woe betides the guilty, there is an inward response to that alarming voice.
The soul's own conviction of its own guilt makes the prophet's picture a painful reality. The warning voice cannot be disbelieved. Other prophets may be lightly esteemed, and their messages set at nought by reckless unbelief. But not so a prophesying conscience. Its very voice is one of woe, and is felt to be a specimen of the approaching sorrows it describes. Its own words are sparks, and the hearer and sufferer cannot question that they portend a great flame that cannot be quenched. They are the murmurings of the coming storm.
4. And here is a prophet whose presence cannot be escaped. Men
may flee from the voice of man; or they may drive from them the proclaimers of evil tidings, as Elijah by the fury of Ahab. But there is one who cannot be thus shaken off. Its victim is guilt, and guilt shall find it on its track wherever it may flee, or wherever it may hide itself. Rush to the theatre, the dance, the banquet, the intoxicating bowl. But conscience is there. If you can stupify the soul for a moment, so that its dreadful voice is not heard, it can be but for a moment, and then the louder and more terrible is its voice, from the fact that you wickedly sought to repel so kind a friend. The wave recedes far from the shore only to rush