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A Portraiture of Quakerism, Volume 1 by Clarkson

Disqualify for the pleasures of religion


Quakers believe also, that the exhibitions of the drama must, from their own nature, without any other consideration, disqualify for the pleasures of religion. It was a frequent saying of George Fox, taken from the apostle Peter, that those who indulged in such pleasures were dead, while they were alive; that is, they were active in their bodies; they ran about briskly after their business or their pleasures; they shewed the life of their bodily powers; but they were extinct as to spiritual feeling. By this he meant that the pleasures of the theatre, and others of a similar nature, were in direct opposition to the pleasures of religion. The former were from the world worldly. They were invented according to the dispositions and appetites of men. But the latter were from the spirit spiritual. Hence there was no greater difference between life and death, than between these pleasures. Hence the human mind was made incapable of receiving both at the same time; and hence the deeper it were to get into the enjoyment of the former, the less qualified it must become of course for the enjoyment of the latter.


_Theatre forbidden--because injurious to the happiness of man by disqualifying him for domestic enjoyments--Quakers value these next to the pleasures of religion--sentiments of Cowper--theatre has this tendency, by weaning gradually from a love of home--and has it in a greater degree than any other of

the amusements of the world._

The Quakers, ever since the institution of their society, have abandoned the diversions of the world. They have obtained their pleasures from other quarters. Some of these they have found in one species of enjoyment, and others in another. But those, which they particularly prize, they have found in the enjoyment of domestic happiness; and these pleasures they value next to the pleasures of religion.

[6] "Domestic happiness, thou only bliss Of Paradise, that has survived the fall! Thou art the nurse of virtue--In thine arms She smiles, appearing, as in truth she is, Heav'n-born, and destin'd to the skies again. Thou art not known, where pleasure is ador'd, That reeling goddess, with a zoneless waist And wandering eyes, still leaning on the arm Of Novelty, her fickle, frail support; For thou art meek and constant, hating change, And finding, in the calm of truth-tried love, Joys, that her stormy raptures never yield. Forsaking thee, what shipwreck have we made Of honour, dignity, and fair renown!"

[Footnote 6: COWPER.]

But if the Quakers have been accustomed to place one of the sources of their pleasures in domestic happiness, they may be supposed to be jealous of every thing that appears to them to be likely to interrupt it. But they consider dramatic exhibitions, as having this tendency. These exhibitions, under the influence of plot, dialogue, dress, music, action, and scenery, particularly fascinate. They excite the person, who has once seen them, to desire them again. But in proportion as this desire is gratified, or in proportion as people leave their homes for the amusements of the stage, they lose their relish, and weaken their powers, of the enjoyment of domestic society: that is, the Quakers mean to say, that domestic enjoyments, and those of the theatre, may become, in time, incompatible in the same persons; and that the theatre ought, therefore, to be particularly avoided, as an enemy, that may steal them, and rob them of those pleasures, which experience has taught them to value, as I have observed before, next to the pleasures of religion.

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