Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/268

This page has been validated.
256
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

age; but it is not pleasant to see his features reproduced, on however small a scale, before an educated nation in the latter half of the nineteenth century.

Notwithstanding their strictness about the Sabbath, which possibly carried with it the usual excess of a reaction, some of the straitest of the Puritan sect saw clearly that unremitting attention to business, whether religious or secular, was unhealthy. Considering recreation to be as necessary to health as daily food, they exhorted parents and masters, if they would avoid the desecration of the Sabbath, to allow to children and servants time for honest recreation on other days. They might have done well to inquire whether even Sunday devotions might not, without "moral culpability" on their part, keep the minds of children and servants too long upon the stretch. I fear many of the good men who insist on a Judaic observance of the Sabbath, and who dwell upon the peace and blessedness to be derived from a proper use of the Lord's day, generalize beyond their data, applying the experience of the individual to the case of mankind. What is a conscious joy and blessing to themselves they can not dream of as being a possible misery, or even a curse, to others. It is right that your most spiritually-minded men men—who, to use a devotional phrase, enjoy the closest walk with God—should be your pastors. But they ought also to be practical men, able to look not only on their personal feelings, but on the capacities of humanity at large, and willing to make their rules and teachings square with these capacities. There is in some minds a natural bias toward religion, as there is in others toward poetry, art, or mathematics; but the poet, artist, or mathematician, who would seek to impose upon others not possessing his tastes the studies which give him delight, would be deemed an intolerable despot. The philosopher Fichte was wont to contrast his mode of rising into the atmosphere of faith with the experience of others. In his case the process, he said, was purely intellectual. Through reason he reached religion; while in the case of many whom he knew this process was both unnecessary and unused, the bias of their minds sufficing to render faith, without logic, clear and strong. In making rules for the community these natural differences must be taken into account. The yoke which is easy to the few may be intolerable to the many, not only defeating its own immediate purpose, but frequently introducing recklessness or hypocrisy into minds which a franker and more liberal treatment would have kept free from both.[1]Nineteenth Century.

  1. "When our Puritan friends," says Mr. Frederick Robertson, "talk of the blessings of the. Sabbath, we may ask them to remember some of its curses." Other and more serious evils than those recounted by Mr. Robertson may, I fear, be traced to the system of Sabbath observance pursued in many of our schools. At the risk of shocking some worthy persons, I would say that the invention of an invigorating game for fine Sunday afternoons, and healthy in-door amusement for wet ones, would prove infinitely more effectual as an aid to moral purity than most of our plans of religious meditation.