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A Portraiture of Quakerism, Volume 1 by Clarkson

Quakers conceive they can sanction no amusements


_Quakers conceive they can sanction no amusements, but such as could have originated in christian minds--exhibitions of the drama could have had, they believe, no such origin--early christians abandoned them in their conversion--arguments of the latter on this subject, as taken from Tertullian, Minucius Felix, Cyprian, Lactantius and others._

The Quakers conceive, as a christian society, that they ought to have nothing to do with any amusements, but such as christians could have invented themselves, or such as christians could have sanctioned, by becoming partakers of them. But they believe that dramatic exhibitions are of such a nature as men of a christian spirit could never have invented or encouraged, and that, if the world were to begin again, and were to be peopled by pure christians, these exhibitions could never be called into existence there.

This inference, the Quakers judge to be deducible from the nature of a christian mind. A man, who is in the habit, at his leisure hours, of looking into the vast and stupendous works of creation, of contemplating the wisdom, goodness, and power of the creator, of trying to fathom the great and magnificent plans of his providence, who is in the habit of surveying all mankind with the philosophy of revealed religion, of tracing, through the same unerring channel, the uses and objects of their existence, the design of

their different ranks and situations, the nature of their relative duties and the like, could never, in the opinion of the Quakers, have either any enjoyment, or be concerned in the invention, of dramatic exhibitions. To a mind, in the habit of taking such an elevated flight, it is supposed that every thing on the stage must look little, and childish, and out of place. How could a person of such a mind be delighted with the musical note of a fiddler, the attitude of a dancer, the impassioned grimace of an actor? How could the intrigue, or the love-sick tale of the composition please him? or how could he have imagined, that these could be the component parts of a christian's joys?

But this inference is considered by the Quakers to be confirmed by the practice of the early christians. These generally had been Pagans. They had of course Pagan dispositions. They followed Pagan amusements, and, among these, the exhibitions of the stage. But soon after their conversion, that is, when they had received new minds, and when they had exercised these on new and sublime subjects, or, on subjects similar to those described, or, in other words, when they had received the regenerated spirit of christians, they left the amusements of the stage, notwithstanding that, by this act of singularity in a sensual age, they were likely to bring upon themselves the odium and the reproaches of the world.

But when the early christians abandoned the theatre, they abandoned it, as the Quakers contend, not because, leaving Paganism they were to relinquish all customs that were Pagan, but because they saw in their new religion, or because they saw in this newness of their minds, reasons, which held out such amusements to be inadmissible, while they considered themselves in the light of christians. These reasons are sufficiently displayed by the writers of the second, third, and fourth centuries; and as they are alluded to by the Quakers, though never quoted, I shall give them to the reader. He will judge by these, how far the ancient coincide with the modern christians upon this subject; and how for these arguments of antiquity are applicable to modern times.

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