Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/267

This page has been validated.
255
THE SABBATH.

logical requirements of the question. Week-day drownings were not dwelt upon, and nobody knew or cared how the question of proportion stood between the two classes of bathers. The civil war was regarded as a punishment for Sunday desecration. The fire of London and a subsequent great fire in Edinburgh were ascribed to this cause; while the fishermen of Berwick lost their trade through catching salmon on Sunday. A Nonconformist minister named John Wells, whose huge volume is described by Cox as "the most tedious of all the Puritan productions about the Sabbath," is specially copious in illustration. A drunken peddler, "fraught with commodities" on Sunday, drops into a river: God's retributive justice is seen in the fact. Wells traveled far in search of instances. One Utrich Schrœtorus, a Swiss, while playing at dice on the Lord's day, lost heavily, and apparently to gain the devil to his side broke out into this horrid blasphemy: "If fortune deceive me now I will thrust my dagger into the body of God." Whereupon he threw the dagger upward. It disappeared, and five drops of blood, which afterward proved indelible, fell upon the gaming-table. The devil then appeared, and with a hideous noise carried off the vile blasphemer. His two companions fared no better. One was struck dead and turned into worms, the other was executed. A vintner who on the Lord's day tempted the passers-by with a pot of wine was carried into the air by a whirlwind and never seen more. "Let us read and tremble," adds Mr. Wells. At Tidworth a man broke his leg on Sunday while playing at football. By a secret judgment of the Lord the wound turned into a gangrene, and in pain and terror the criminal gave up the ghost.

You may smile at these recitals, but is there not a survival of John Wells still extant among us? Are there not people in our midst so well informed regarding "the secret judgments of the Lord" as to be able to tell you their exact value and import, from the damaging of the share-market through the running of Sunday trains to the calamitous overthrow of a railway bridge? Alphonso of Castile boasted that, if he had been consulted at the beginning of things, he could have saved the Creator some worlds of trouble. It would not be difficult to give the God of our more rigid Sabbatarians a lesson in justice and mercy; for his alleged judgments savor but little of either. How are calamities to be classified? Almost within ear-shot of those who note these Sunday judgments, the poor miners of Blantyre are blown to pieces, while engaged in their sinless week-day toil. A little farther off the bodies of two hundred and sixty workers, equally innocent of Sabbath-breaking, are entombed at Abercarne. Dinas holds its sixty bodies, while the present year has furnished its fearful tale of similar disasters. Whence comes the vision which differentiates the Sunday calamity from the week-day calamity, seeing in the one a judgment of Heaven, and in the other a natural event? We may wink at the ignorance of John Wells, for he lived in a pre-scientific