Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

a whole nation, nothing can be more untrue. And nothing is more easy than to show, that if in a whole nation the observance of Sunday were to be abolished, though the rich would be greatly benefited, no poor man would be bettered in point of pecuniary concerns to the amount of a single farthing, and in many respects the comforts and enjoyments of the poor would be very greatly abridged. Some persons have maintained that a day of rest is a day of idleness and dissipation, alike destructive to the purses and the morals of the industrious part of the community. This is to reason against the use, from the abuse of a thing. It only shows the necessity of proper regulations. A person may as well argue against the planting of vines or barley, because people get drunk.

65. As a human ordinance, nothing can be more wise than the observance of a periodical day of devotion, rest, and recreation : but, as a Sabbath, in the strict sense of the Jews and Calvinists, nothing can be well more pernicious. The practice of the Roman Catholics seems to be not only the most consistent with Scripture, but the most rational. After their devotions are over they have no scruple to join in any innocent recreation and amusement. How different this is to the conduct of our modern Pharisees ! Many persons will not on any account read a newspaper on a Sunday, or allow a little music in their house on that day on any consideration. An instance is known to the author, where a Scotchman informed a young man, visiting at his house, that it was not usual with them to laugh on the Lord's day, and he hoped he would abstain from it. All this arises from the mistaken idea, that the observance of the Lord's day is a renewal of the Jewish Sabbath.

66. The author feels a pleasure in stating, that the old law of England, before its late corruption by the modern Pharisees, was perfectly accordant with his view of the subject. The Sunday is classed amongst the festivals, not the fasts. All works of necessity were permitted, and only such as were not necessary were forbidden ; vid. Act of Charles 2d, c. 2. s. 7: and by King James's Book of Sports, such amusements were allowed as at that tinje were thought necessary and innocent; such as DANCINC, archery, leaping, vaulting, May games, Whitson ales, morris dances, a species of dramatic entertainment, &c.: vid. Dalton, c. 46. It is very much to be desired that they were re-enacted, that the people might be encouraged after divine service to apply to cheerful amusements, instead of the ale-house, or what is as bad, the petty conventicles of morose Calvinistic fanatics, who fancy they have a

See Edinburgh Review, No. LXVII. p. 23. 2 Calvin, the founder of the doctrine of these people, who burnt Servetus

call to preach up, what in their hands is nothing better utan a prava immodica et exitiabilis superstitio,' to their gaping auditors, almost as ignorant as themselves, for which there is no remedy but silent contempt.

67. The following injunctions were published by Queen Elizabeth and Edward the Sixth; and as no doubt they speak the opinions of the leading reformers of that day, they are curious, and deserving of respect.

* All parsons, vicars and curates shall teach and declaro unto the pcople, that they may with a safe and quiet conscience, after their common prayer in time of harvest, labour upon the holy and festival days, and save that thing wbich God hath sent. And if for any scrupulosity or grudge of conscience they shall abstain from working upon those days, that then they shall grierously offend and displease God.'

68. It is necessary to observe that festival days, according to act of parliament, include all Sundays. It is a thing very much to be desired, that the generality of persons engaged in business would be content with the religion of their ancestors, at least until they can produce some good reasons for making a change; leaving the task of expounding difficult texts of the Bible to the divines and polemics.

69. A learned traveller, speaking of France, says,

• Methodists and enthusiasts there are none; and nothing more astonishes a Frenchman than to describe the ascendancy of methodism in England, the death-like gloom of an English Sunday, and the vagaries of the jumpers and other such fanatics, who disgrace the intelligence of the British people. It was repcated to me at least fifty times in reply to my observations'though men are forbidden to work on a Sunday, they are not forbidden to play ;'* aud is,' said a French priest to me, you would keep Sunday out of respect to our Lord's ascension, instead of keeping the Sabbath, surely that ascension is a subject rather of gaiety than sadness.''

70. When a Frenchnian has performed the devotional exercises required by nis religion, he does not think there is any thing wrong in doing such occasional labor or work on a Sunday, as may offer itself or be required. He does not consider that he is acting against the word of God; he is only giving up part of his own enjoyment, the recreation wbich is allowed to him: and if he have a family, he thinks he is making a meritorious sacrifice, rather than otherwise. And this is perfectly consistent with the idea of it, as a day of festivity ordained by the church.

for differing in opinion with him, declared he believed in what he taught, quia incredibile est, because it is incredible. He was quite right; it is the only ground on which it can be believed, because it is contrary to the moral attributes of God. Pliny, Tacitus, Suetonius. VOL. XXVII. Pam.

NO. LIIS.

N

71. It has been said that Jesus wept, but never laughed; but for all this, he had no objection to cheerful society, and that to a pretty liberal extent, or he would not by a miracle, at Cana in Galilee, have provided more wine, when the guests had already taken as much as the host bad thought proper to provide for them. Nor would he have attended a feast on the Sabbath-day, as de. scribed Luke xiv.

72. The people of Geneva appear to keep the Sunday more correctly than any other persons. During divine service all the wine-houses, shops, &c. are closed, and the gates of the town opened to none but surgeons and accoucheurs, except some very urgent case is made out to the satisfaction of the magistrate. The Jabors of husbandry are permitted in harvest, and at other times, when the magistrate gives permission for them, and thinks it proper. After the day's devotion is over, the evening is spent at dramatic entertainments, or in visiting, dancing, playing at athletic games, such as foot-ball, &c.

73. It is constantly the boast of Christians, that their religion is a religion of cheerfulness, in opposition to objectors, who have charged it with being the contrary. Surely the objection must be considerably strengthened by the conversion of fifty-two days (oneseventh of the whole year) from days of festivity into days of mourning and sadness. Though the fanatic may approve this conversion, the philosophic Christian, the real philanthropist, must view it with sorrow and regret.

74. Thus, when the day is considered as it ought to be, merely as a human ordinance, it can be regulated without difficulty, by the governors of states, as is most suitable to times and circumstances. But if it be considered as a divine command, it is evidently out of their reach or control. However pernicious an effect inay arise, they have no means to obviate it, without what ought never to be seen-the government intentionally violating the laws which it tells its people are sacred, and cannot be violated without the commission of a great sin the governors despatching mail-coaches in all directions, and fining poor men for being shaved before they go to church on a Sunday morning.'

75. It will now probably be demanded, whether a wish is entertained to abolish the observance of the Sunday or not: to which the reply is, certainly not. The Jewish Sabbath was abolished by Jesus ; and if it were in the power of the author, it should not be restored by him. But the question is not about the seventh day of the week, but about the Sunday, the first; and concerning the latter, the question is, not whether it is to be abolished, but whether it is to be kept, subject to the regulation of the government, as a fast or a feastwhether it is to be made for man, or man is to be made for it :

1 Strain not your scythe, suppressors of our vice,

Reforming saints! too delicately nice!
By whose decrees, our sinful souls to save,
No Sunday tankards foam, no barbers shave;
And beer undrawn and beards unmown display
Your holy reverence for the Sabbath-day.

Byron, English Bards and Scotch Reviewers.

-whether, with the modern Pharisees, it is to be kept like Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, or, with Bishop Cranmer, Edward the Sixth, Elizabeth, and all our early reformers, it is to be kept like Easter Sunday and Christmas-day; and it may be added also, with all the Catholic and Greek Christians, and many of the followers of Luther and Calvin, at Geneva, and several parts of Germany, beyond all comparison much the greater part of the Christian world.

76. If it were observed to our little, though increasing junto of Puritans, that it is incumbent on them to pay some attention to the great majority of the Christian world, who entertain an opinion on this subject different from them, and that they ought uot to be too confident in their own judgment, but to recollect that it does not become them in fact, though perhaps not in vame, to assume to themselves that infallibility which they deny to the vnited church of Christ with the Pope at its head; they would probably reply, that they have a right to judge for themselves, that they will not be controlled by Antichrist, or the scarlet whore of Babylon. With persons who can make this auswer, the author declines all discussion; he writes pot for them, but for persons who, baving understandings, make use of them : and to these persons he observes, that he does not wish their opinions to be controlled by any authority ; but he begs them to recollect the beautiful story of the cameleon--that others can see as well as themselves ; and that when a great majority of the Christian world is against them, it is possible that they may be in error; and that therefore it is incumbent on them to free their minds from passion or prejudice as much as possible, in the consideration of this very important subject. 'l'hat on the decision respecting it depends the question, whether the Christian religion is to be a system of cheerfulness, of happiness, and of joy, or of weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth.

77. It is unnecessary to add any thing more on this subject. It has been shown, that the intention of the writer of the first chapter of Genesis, and of the remainder of the Pentateuch was, to teach that the institution of the Sabbath was expressly limited to the children of Israel ; that it was a sign of the covenant betwixt them and God; and that the sign and the covenant went together. It

has been shown, that it was abolished by Jesus, when he did not enumerate the Sabbath amongst the commandments which he ordered to be retained, and by his conduct in breaking it on various occasions. It has been shown, that it was abolished at the first council of the Church held by the Apostles at Jerusalem ; and that St. Paul has in the clearest terms, and repeatedly, expressed his disapprobation, not only of Sabbaths, but of the compulsory keeping of set-days as an ordinance of religion. Not a single passage can be produced from the Gospels or Epistles in approbation of the continuation of the Sabbath, or of the substitution of any day in its place. Nor can it be shown, that the early Christians considered the observance of Sunday as the renewal of the Jewish Sabbath, or in any sense as an institution of divine appointment; and therefore, from a careful consideration of the whole argument, and of all the circumstances relating to it-its antiquity -its utility when not abused—and the many comforts which it is calculated to produce to the poor and working-classes of mankind, it may be concluded, that the observance of Sunday is a wise and benevolent human, but not divine ordinance; a festival, which it is on every account proper and expedient to support, in such due bounds as will make it most conducive to the welfare of society. That with Christians it ought not to be a day of penance and aumiliation, but of happiness, joy, and thanksgiving, as it was established by Edward the Sixth at the Reformation, a festival, to celebrate the glorious resurrection of their Saviour to life and immortality.

WHEN THOU PRAYEST, ENTER INTO THY CLOSET: AND WHEN THOU HAST SHUT THY DOOR, PRAY TO THY FATHER WHICH IS IN SECRET; AND THY FATHER, WHICH SEEST IN SBCRET, SHALL REWARD THBE OPENLY.

« AnteriorContinuar »