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THREE

LETTERS

ΤΟ

MISS TH

149

LETTER 1.

MY DEAR MADAM,

LET what has been said on the subject of acquaintance, &c. suffice. It was well meant on my side, and well taken on yours. You may perhaps see that my hints were not wholly unnecessary, and I ought to be satisfied with your apology, and am so. The circumstance of your being seen at the play-house has nothing at all mysterious in it: as you say you have not been there these six or seven years, it was neither more nor less than a mistake. I heard you had been there within these two years: I am glad to find I was misinformed. I think there is no harm in your supposing, that of the many thousands who frequent public diversions, some may in other respects be better than yourself; but I hope your humble and charitable construction of their mistake, will not lead you to extenuate the evil of those diversions in themselves. For though I am persuaded, that a few, who know better what to do with themselves, are, for want of consideration, drawn in to expose themselves in such places; yet I am well satisfied, that if there is any practice in this land sinful, attendance on the play-house is properly and eminently so. The theatres are fountains and means of vice: I had almost said, in the same manner and degree as the ordinances of the gospel are the means of grace; and I can hardly think there is a christian upon earth who would dare to be seen there, if the nature and effects of the theatre were properly set before them. Dr.

Witherspoon of Scotland has written an excellent piece upon the stage or rather against it, which I wish every person who makes the least pretence to fear God had an opportunity of perusing. I cannot judge much more favourably of Ranelagh, Vauxhall, and all the innumerable train of dissipations, by which the God of this world blinds the eyes of multitudes, lest the light of the glorious gospel should shine in upon them. What an awful aspect upon the present times have such texts as Isaiah xxii. 12-14. iii. 12. Amos vi. 3, 6. James iv. 4! I wish you, therefore, not to plead for any of them, but use your influence to make them shunned as pest-houses, and dangerous nuisances to precious souls; especially, if you know any who, you hope, in the main, are seriously disposed, who yet venture themselves in those purlieus of Satan, endeavour earnestly and faithfully to undeceive them.

The time is short; eternity at the door was there no other evil in these vain amusements than the loss of precious time (but, alas! their name is legion,) we have not leisure in our circumstances to regard them. And blessed be God! we need them not. The gospel opens a source of purer, sweeter, and more substantial pleasures: we are invited to communion with God; we are called to share in the theme of angels, the songs. of heaven; and the wonders of redeeming love are laid open to our view. The Lord himself is waiting to be gracious, waiting with promises and pardons in his hands. Well, then, may we bid adieu to the perishing pleasures of sin; well may we pity those who can find pleasure in those places and parties where he is shut out; where - his name is only mentioned to be profaned: where his commandments are not only broken, but insulted; where sinners proclaim their shame as in

Sodom, and attempt not to hide it; where at best wickedness is wrapt up in a disguise of delicacy, to make it more insinuating; and nothing is offensive that is not grossly and unpolitely indecent.

I sympathise with all your complaints; but if the Lord is pleased to make them subservient to the increase of your sanctification, to wean you more and more from this world, and to draw you nearer to himself, you will one day see cause to be thankful for them, and to number them amongst your choicest mercies. A hundred years hence it will signify little to you whether you were sick or well the day I wrote this letter.

We thank you for your kind condolence. There is a pleasure in the pity of a friend; but the Lord alone can give true comfort. I hope he will sanctify the breach, and do us good. Mrs. exchanges forgiveness with you about your not meeting in London; that is, you forgive her not coming to you, and she forgives you entertaining a suspicious thought of her friendship (though but for a minute) on account of what she was really unable to do. I am, &c.

LETTER II.

MY DEAR MADAM,

Sept. 1, 1767.

I SHALL not study for expressions to tell my dear friend how much we were affected by the news that came last post. We had, however, the pleasure to hear that your family was safe. I hope

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