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as well as a time to weep. Cheerful conversation is of. ten of real use to enliven the drooping spirits and dis. pel gloomy cares, to endear society, and sweeten the pleasures of friendship.
Jesting is not foolish, or inconvenient, when it is made use of to expose the absurdity of error, and the folly of vice. There are some errors too gross for serious argumentation, and there are some minds too callous to feel force of grave and pointed reasoning. In such cases wit and redicule are sometimes applied with success.
Can you imagine any thing more ludicrous and satyrical than Elijah's advice to the besotted priests of Baal? He mocked them and said, “Cry aloud, for he is a God ; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth and must be awaked.” The style of the ancient prophets is remarkable for its gravity and solemnity; and yet in no author do we meet with a finer and keener piece of raillery, than in the book of Isaiah. Representing the ridiculous foolery of the worshipper of carved images,
“ He planteth an ash, and the rain doth nour. ish it; he burneth part of it in the fire, and with part of it he eateth meat ; hę baketh bread, he roasteth flesh and is satisfied; he warmeth himself and saith, ah, ha, I am warm, I have seen the fire. And the residue thereof he maketh a God, even bis graven image. He falleth down to it and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me for thou art my God.”
Sarcastic wit is not, however, a weapon ordinarily to be used by preachers, though sometimes used by the prophets. Few men have judgment to point it properly, or skill to manage it successfully. In awkard hands it may wound truth, and leave error to escape unhurt.
Since there are cases, in which wit and humor may be innocent, and even useful, it will be asked, What as that jesting which the Apostle condemns :
As jesting stands here connected with filthiness and foolish talking, we may suppose he particularly intends lewd and obscene jesting; or what he before calls corrupt communication, such as tends to inflame the lusts of the profligate, to debauch the minds of the simple, and to wound the ears of the modest. Lewd conversation and obscene writings are always criminal and dangerous; but most so when they are recommended by the fascinating charms of a lively wit and humorous ima. gination.
Profane jesting is also condemned. If we may sometimes indulge a sportive fancy in our friendly conversation, yet we may never trifle with sacred things, make a mock of sin, employ the word of God as the subject of humor and drollery, and turn the awful doctrines of religion into merriment and ridicule. Such jesting proceeds from a vain and impious heart, and will increase unto more ungodliness.
Repiling and defamatory jesting is unbecoming among Christians. They are not to speak evil one of another, nor indeed of any man except when some serious occasion requires it, and truth will justify it. Evil speaking never wounds so deeply, nor infuses in the wound such fatal poison, as when it is sharpened by wit and urged home by ridicule. A clumsy, dull expression, however defamatory, is little regarded and soon forgotten. But wit gives edge to abuse, and adds wings to scandal. The story is remembered for the humor and repeated for the pleasantry; repetition gives it credit and circulation ; ard a virtuous worthy man, only for a natural infirmity or innocent singularity, becomes an object of ridicule and contempt. But he who thus utters a slander is a fool ; for though he may excite the laughter of the vain, he becomes the abhor. rence of the wise ; and while he holds up his neighbor as an object of derision, he exposes himself to gen., eral hatred. The man who values himself on witty conceits and satyrical touches, makes no distinction of
objects; and they who laugh at his jesting today, may themselves become the subjects of his humor tomors row. He sacrifices truth and friendship to his predom, inant passion, and thus alienates his friends, and renders all men his enemies.
Having considered the nature of the several vices which the Apostle warns Christians to avoid, we will, secondly, attend to the arguments subjoined.
1. The Apostle tells us, that impurity, covetous. ness and foolish talking are unbecoming in saints.
Christians are called to be holy, to imitate the char, acter of God, and to be conformed to the image of his Şon, to walk under the influence of the Holy Spirit, and to prepare for a world wherein dwelleth right eousness, and into which nothing enters that defiles. They who are Christ's have crucified the flesh. They who walk in the Spirit, will not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. They who are delivered from this evil world, seek the things which are above, and place their affec. tions there. They mortify their members which are on the earth, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence and covetousness. If Heathens walk in the lusts of uncleanness, and according to the course of the world, yet a different conversation may be ex. pected from Christians, who haye been taught the truç character of God, have known the truth as it is in Jesus, and have seen the heavenly world displayed be fore them. “ Ye were sometime darkness," says the Apostle,“ but now light in the Lord ; walk as child ren of light."
2. Foolish talking and jesting are not condenient, as the Heathens imagined them to be, but are criminal in their nature, and fatal in their tendency.
This Apostle says to the converted Romans, “What fruit had ye then in those things, whereof ye are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death." This vain talking is contrary to the design of speech, which is to glorify God, and to edify and comfort one
& another. Therefore the Apostle adds, Rather give i thanks. A man addicted to vain language, dissipates
a sense of piety, and extinguishes a spirit of gratitude and devotion. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh. In a heart filled with vain and trifling thoughts, there is no room for pure and spiritual sentiments and affections : From such a heart will proceed evil speakings; and till the heart is purified, vain words will have no end.
Such talk is hurtful to the hearers, It wounds the feelings of the virtuous, and awakens the corrupt dispositions of the vicious.
It often provokes anger, brings on contention, corrupts good manners, separates near friends, and, in short, leads to every evil work, It is sound speech, speech seasoned with wisdom, that ministers grace to the hearers. « The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for want of wis. dom.”
3. The Ephesian Christians are warned, that the indulgence of these sins is inconsistent with a title to heaven. Whatever they might think in the time of their ignorance ; yet now, says the Apostle, “ Ye
know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor : covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inherite ance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.”
However imperfect our ideas of the heavenly state may be, one thing is exceedingly plain, that it is a state of holiness, and that our happiness there must chiefly consist in holy dispositions and exercises ;
hence we may certainly conclude, that no man can - enter into it without a previous preparation by the re
newal and sanctification of his mind. It is the constant
language of the gospel, that without holiness no man 1 shall see the Lord. To these Ephesians, who had
been taught the truth as it is in Jesus, the Apostle į says, " this ye know, that no unclean person has any
inheritance in that spiritual kingdom.”. And to the Corinthians he says, “ Know ye not that the unright: YoL. III.
eous shall not inherit the kingdom of God ? Be not deceived, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor effemin. ate, nor covetous shall inherit this kingdom.”
4. The Apostle tells them, that these sins, not only exclude them from heaven, but bring upon them the wrath of God. “Let no man deceive you with vain words, for because of these things cometh the wrath of God on the children of disobedience."
Evil men often act as seducers; they practise every art of deception and enticement, to draw others into a partnership with them in wickedness. They call evil good; and good evil; they put darkness for light, and light for darkness. To hide from the eyes of the simple the shamefulness and deformity of vice, they spread over it fair and tempting colors ; and that the incau. tious may mistake the nature of moral good and evil, they confound them by false and fictitious names. Strict virtue they deride as superstition ; and humble devotion they stigmatize as hypocrisy : They applaud licentiousness as manly freedom; and commend the boldness of impiety as indicating a greatness of soul.
But let men say what they please, still there is an essential difference between virtue and vice; and all arguments used to confound them, are but sain words; and with these let no man deceive you. Heark- . en to no enticements which would draw you away from the plain path of virtue ; enter into no particular connexions with persons of licentious principles and corrupt manners; choose for your companions them who fear God and keep his commandments. Steadily and invariably follow the plain precepts of the gospel ; and, whatever attempts may be made to explain away the meaning, or to relax the strictness of them, still remember, that by these, and not by the licentious opinions of men, you must finally be judged. If you mistake them, it is at your peril ; if you despise them you must take the consequence. The gospel has