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(and perhaps hath fit opportunity at other times to profess his dissent). 16. It is lawful to preserve the honest and sober love to our friends, by keeping their pictures; or to shew our love by decent monuments. 17. Where we may use creatures themselves to profit us by the sight, we may (ordinarily) use the images of those creatures. As the sight of trees, fruits, cities, 8tc. may delight us, and mind us of the power, wisdom and goodness of God, (or the sight of the sun, moon, stars, &c.); so may the pictures of the same things. And as a dead body, skeleton or skull, may profitably mind us of our latter end; so may the picture of any of these, which we may more conveniently keep. 18. It is not unlawful to pray before or towards an image, in a room where images are placed only for ornament, and we have no respect to them as a medium or object of our worship, (except by accident as aforesaid). 19. It is not unlawful to make an image (out of the cases of accidental evil before named) to be 'objectum vel medium excitans ad cultum Dei,' 'an object or medium of our consideration, exciting our minds to worship God.' (As a death's-head, or a crucifix, or an historical image of Christ or some holy man, yea, the sight of any of God's creatures, may be so holily used, as to stir up in us a worshipping affection, and so is 'medium cultus excitans vel efficienter.') But no creature, or image, (I think) may lawfully be made the 'medium cultum vel terminus, in genere causae finalis,' a worshipped medium, or the ' terminus,' or the thing which we worship mediately, on pretence of representing God, and that we worship him in it ultimately. And this I take to be the thing forbidden directly in the second commandment; viz. To worship a creature (with mind or body) in the act of Divine worship, as representing God, or as the mediate term of our worship, by which we send it unto God, as if it were the more acceptable to him. So that it is lawful by the sight of a crucifix to be provoked to worship God; but it is unlawful to offer him that worship, by offering it to the crucifix first, as the sign, way, or means of our sending it to God. 20. Yet a creature may be honoured or worshipped with Vol. v. II
such worship as is due to him, by the means of such a representing ' terminus' or image. If the king command his subjects to bow towards his image or throne when he is absent, as an act of honour, or human worship to himself, it is lawful so to do, God having not forbid it. But God hath forbid us to do so by himself, because he hath no image, and is confined to no place, and to avoid the danger and appearance of idolatry. 21. Yet is it lawful to lift up our hand and eyes towards heaven, as the place of God's glory; and I condemn not the ancient churches that worshipped towards the east. But it was not heaven, or the sun, or east that they worshipped, or to which they sent their worship, as any 'terminus medius,' or thing mediately worshipped; but only to God himself, whose glory is in the heavens.
Quest, cxiv. Whether stage-plays, where the virtuous and vicious are personated, be lawful?Because this is a kind of imagery, the question may be here fitly handled. But I have said so much before of stage-plays, and the sin that is used in them, Part i. Chap. 18. that I have nothing more to say here, but only to decide this particular case of conscience concerning them. As I am not willing to thrust any man into extremes, nor to trouble men with calling those sins, which God hath not forbidden; so I have reason to advise men to go, in doubtful cases, on the safer side, much more to dissuade them from undoubted sin, and especially from great and multiplied sins; and therefore I must thus decide the question. 1. It is not absolutely unlawful to personate another man, nor doth the second commandment forbid such living images in this extent. I pass by the instance of the woman of Tekoah, 2 Sam. xiv.; because the bare history proveth not the lawfulness. But Paul's speaking as of himself and Apollos the things which concerned others, was approveable; and as Christ frequently taught by parables, so his parables were a description of good and evil, by the way of feigned history, as if such and such things had been done by such persons as never were. And this fiction is no falsehood; for the hearer knoweth that it is not meant as an historical narrative, but a parable; and it is but an image in words, or a painted doctrine. And if a person and action may be feigned by words, I know not where it is forbidden to feign them by personal representation. Therefore to personate another is not simply a sin. 2. To personate good men in good actions, is not simply unlawful; because, 1. It is not unlawful as it is personating, as is shewed. 2. Nor as lying; because it is not an asserting, but a representing; nor so taken. 3. To personate a bad man, in a bad action, is more dubious; but seemeth not in all cases to be unlawful. To pass by David's feigning himself mad (as of uncertain quality,) it is common with preachers, to speak oft the words of wicked men, as in their names or persons, to disgrace them: and Prov. v. 11, 12, &c. cometh near it. And whether Job be a history, or a dialogue personating such speakers, is doubted by the most learned expositors. 4. I think it possible to devise and act a comedy or tragedy, which should be lawful, and very edifying. It might be so ordered by wise men. 5. I think I never knew or heard of a lawful stage-play, comedy or tragedy, in the age that I have lived in; and that those now commonly used, are not only sins, but heinous, aggravated sins; for these reasons, 1. They personate odious vices commonly viciously, that is, 1. Without need, reciting sinful words, and representing sinful actions; which as they were evil in the first committing, so are they in the needless repetition. "But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, (or lust) let it not be once named among you as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting which are not convenient; but rather giving of thanks. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret'." 2. Because they are spoken and acted commonly without that shame, and hatred, and grief which should rightly affect the hearers with an abhorrence of them; and therefore tend to reconcile men to sin, and to tempt them to take it but for a matter of sport.
2. There are usually so many words materially false, (though not proper lies) used in such actings of good and evil, as is unsavoury, and tendeth to tempt men to fiction and false speaking. 3. There are usually such multitudes of vain words poured out on the circumstantials, as are a sin themselves, and tempt the hearers to the like. 4. They usually mix such amorous or other such ensnaring expressions or actions, as are fitted to kindle men's sinful lusts, and to be temptations to the evils which they pretend to cure. 5. A great deal of precious time is wasted in them, which might have been much better spent; to all the lawful ends which they can intend. 6. It is the preferring of an unmeet and dangerous recreation, before many fitter; God having allowed us so great choice of better, it cannot be lawful to choose a worse. The body, which most needeth exercise, with most of the spectators, hath no exercise at all; and the mind might be much more fruitfully recreated many ways; by variety of books, of converse, by contemplating God and his works, by the fore-thoughts of the heavenly glory, &c. So that it is unlawful, as unfitted to its pretended ends. 7. It usually best suiteth with the most carnal minds, and more corrupteth the affections and passions, as full experience proveth: those that most love and use them are not reformed by them, but commonly are the most loose, ungodly, sensual people. 8. The best and wisest persons least relish them, and are commonly most against them. And they are best able to make experiment, what doth most help or hurt the soul. Therefore when the sensual say, 'We profit by them, as much as by sermons,' they do but speak according to their own sense and lust; as one that hath the green-sickness may say, 'Coals, and clay, and ashes do me more good than meat;' because they are not so fit to judge, as those that have a healthful state and appetite. And it seldom pleaseth the conscience of a dying man, to remember the time he spent at stage-plays. 9. Usually there is much cost bestowed on them, which might be better employed, and therefore is un lawful. 10. God hath appointed a stated means of instructing souls, by parents, ministers, &c., which is much more fit and powerful; therefore that time were better spent. And it is doubtful whether play-houses be not a stated means of man's institution, set up to the same pretended use as the church and ministry of Christ, and so be not against the second commandment. For my part I cannot defend them, if any shall say that the devil hath apishly made these his churches, in competition with the churches of Christ. 11. It seemeth to me a heinous sin for players to live upon this as a trade and function, and to be educated for it, and maintained in it. That which might be used as a recreation, may not always be made a trade of. 12. There is no mention that ever such plays were used in Scripture times by any godly persons. 13. The primitive Christians and churches were commonly against them; many canons are yet to be seen, by which they did condemn them. Read but Dr. J. Reignolds against Albericus Gentilis, and you shall see unanswerable testimonies, from councils, fathers, emperors, kings, and all sober antiquity against them. 14. Thousands of young people in our time have been undone by them; some at the gallows, and many apprentices who run out in their accounts, neglect their master's business, and turn to drunkenness, and whoredom, and debauchery, do confess that stage-plays were not the last or least of the temptations which did overthrow them. 15. The best that can be said of these plays is, that they are controverted and of doubtful lawfulness; but there are other means enough of undoubted and uncontroverted lawfulness, for the same honest ends; and therefore it is a sin to do that which is doubtful without need. Upon all these reasons, I advise all that love their time, their souls, their God and happiness, to turn away from these nurseries of vice, and to delight themselves in the law and ordinances of their Saviourf.