Popular Science Monthly/Volume 18/January 1881/The Sabbath II
THE moods of the times—the "climates of opinion," as Glanvil calls them—have also to be considered in imposing disciplines which affect the public. For the ages, like the individual, have their periods of mirth and earnestness, of cheerfulness and gloom. From this point of view a better case might be made out for the early Sabbatarians than for their survivals at the present day. Sunday sports had grown barbarous; bull-and bear-baiting, interludes, and bowling were reckoned among them, and the more earnest spirits longed not only to promote edification but to curb excess. Sabbatarianism, therefore, though opposed, made rapid progress. Its opponents did what religious parties, when in power, always do—exercised that power tyrannically. They invoked the arm of the flesh to suppress or change conviction. In 1618 James I published a declaration, known afterward as "The Book of Sports," because it had reference to Sunday recreations, Puritan magistrates had interfered with the innocent amusements of the people, and the King wished to insure their being permitted after divine service to those who desired them; but not enjoined upon those who did not. Coarser sports, and sports tending to immorality, were prohibited. Charles I renewed the declaration of his father. Not content, however, with expressing his royal pleasure—not content with restraining the arbitrary civil magistrate—the King decreed that the declaration should be published "through all the parish churches," the bishops in their respective dioceses being made the vehicles of the royal command. Defensible in itself, the declaration thus became an instrument of oppression. The High Church party, headed by Archbishop Laud, forced the reading of the documents on men whose consciences recoiled from the act. "The precise clergy," as Hallam calls them, refused in general to comply, and were suspended or deprived in consequence. "But," adds Hallam, "mankind loves sport as little as prayer by compulsion; and the immediate effect of the King's declaration was to produce a far more scrupulous abstinence from diversions on Sundays than had been practiced before."
The Puritans, when they came into power, followed the evil example of their predecessors. They, the champions of religious freedom, showed that they could, in their turn, deprive their antagonists of their benefices, fine them, burn their books by the common hangman, and compel them ta read from the pulpit things of which they disapproved. On this point Bishop Heber makes some excellent remarks. "Much," he says, "as each religious party in its turn had suffered from persecution, and loudly and bitterly as each had, in its own particular instance, complained of the severities exercised against its members, no party had yet been found to perceive the great wickedness of persecution in the abstract, or the moral unfitness of temporal punishment as an engine of religious controversy." In a very different strain writes the Dr. Bownd who has been already referred to as a precursor of Puritanism. He is so sure of his "doxy" that he will unflinchingly make others bow to it. "It behooveth," he says, "all kings, princes, and rulers that profess the true religion, to enact such laws, and to see them diligently executed, whereby the honor of God in hallowing these days might be maintained. And, indeed, this is the chief est end of all government, that men might not profess what religion they list, and serve God after what manner it pleaseth them best, but that the parts of God's true worship [Bowndean worship] might be set up everywhere, and all men compelled to stoop unto it."
There is, it must be admitted, a sad logical consistency in the mode of action advocated by Dr. Bownd and deprecated by Bishop Heber. As long as men hold that there is a hell to be shunned, they seem logically warranted in treating lightly the claims of religious liberty upon earth. They dare not tolerate a freedom whose end they believe to be eternal perdition. Cruel they may be for the moment, but a passing pang vanishes when compared with an eternity of pain. Unreligious men might call it hallucination, but if I accept undoubtingly the doctrine of eternal punishment, then, whatever society may think of my act, I am self-justified not only in "letting" but in destroying that which I hold dearest, if I believe it to be thereby stopped in its progress to the fires of hell. Hence, granting the assumptions common to both, the persecution of Puritans by High Churchmen, and of High Churchmen by Puritans, had a basis in reason. I do not think the question can be decided on a priori grounds, as Bishop Heber seemed to suppose. It is not the abstract wickedness of persecution, so much as our experience of its results, that causes us to set our faces against it. It has been tried, and found the most ghastly of failures. This experimental fact overwhelms the plausibilities of logic, and renders persecution, save in its meaner and stealthier aspects, in our day impossible.
The combat over Sunday continued, the Sabbatarians continually gaining ground. In 1643 the divines who drew up the famous document known as the Westminster Confession began their sittings in Henry VII's Chapel. Milton thought lightly of these divines, who, he said, were sometimes chosen by the whim of members of Parliament; but the famous Puritan, Baxter, extolled them for their learning, godliness, and ministerial abilities. A journal of their earlier proceedings was kept by one of their members. On the 13th of November, 1644, he records the occurrence of "a large debate" on the sanctification of the Lord's day. After fixing the introductory phraseology, the assembly proceeded to consider the second proposition, "To abstain from all unnecessary labors, worldly sports, and recreations." It was debated whether "worldly thoughts" should not be added. "This was scrupulous," says the naive journalist, "whether we should not be a scorn to go about to bind men's thoughts, but at last it was concluded upon to be added, both for the more piety and for that the fourth command includes it." The question of Sunday cookery was then discussed and settled; and, as regards public worship, it was decreed "that all the people meet so timely that the whole congregation be present at the beginning, and not depart until after the blessing. That what time is vacant between or after the solemn meetings of the congregation be spent in reading, meditation, repetition of sermons," etc. These holy men were full of that strength already referred to as imparted by faith. They needed no natural joy to brighten their lives, mirth being displaced by religious exaltation. They erred, however, in making themselves a measure for the world at large, and insured the overthrow of their cause by drawing too heavily upon average human nature. "This much," says Hallam, "is certain, that when the Puritan party employed their authority in proscribing all diversions, and enforcing all the Jewish rigor about the Sabbath, they rendered their own yoke intolerable to the young and gay; nor did any other cause, perhaps, so materially contribute to bring about the Restoration."
In 1646, the "Confession" being agreed upon, it was presented to Parliament, which, in 1648, accepted and published its doctrinal portion. There was no lack of definiteness in the Assembly's statements. They spoke as confidently of the divine enactments as if each member had been personally privy to the counsels of the Most High. When Luther in the Castle of Marburg had had enough of the arguments of Zuinglius on the "real presence," he is said to have ended the controversy by taking up a bit of chalk and writing firmly and finally upon the table, "Hoc est corpus meum." Equally downright and definite were the divines at Westminster. They were modest in offering their conclusions to Parliament as "humble advice," but there was no flicker of doubt either in their theology or their cosmology. "From the beginning of the world," they say, "to the resurrection of Christ the last day of the week was kept holy as a Sabbath"; while from the resurrection it "was changed into the first day of the week, which in Scripture is called the Lord's day, and is to be continued to the end of the world as the Christian Sabbath." The notions of the divines regarding the "beginning and the end" of the world were primitive but decided. An ancient philosopher was once mobbed for venturing the extravagant opinion that the sun, which appeared to be a circle less than a yard in diameter, might really be as large as the whole country of Greece. Imagine a man with the knowledge of a modern geologist uttering his blasphemies among these Westminster divines! "It pleased God," they continue, "at the beginning, to create, or make of nothing, the world and all things therein, whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days, and all very good." Judged from our present scientific standpoint, this, of course, is mere nonsense. But the calling of it by this name does not exhaust the question. The real point of interest to me, I confess, is not the cosmological errors of the Assembly, but the hold which theology has taken of the human mind, and which enables it to survive the ruin of what was long deemed essential to its stability. On this question of "essentials" the gravest mistakes are constantly made. Save as a passing form, no part of objective religion is essential. Religion lives not by the force and aid of dogma, but because it is ingrained in the nature of man. To draw a metaphor from metallurgy, the molds have been broken and reconstructed over and over again, but the molten ore abides in the ladle of humanity. An influence so deep and permanent is not likely soon to disappear; but of the future form of religion little can be predicted. Its main concern may possibly be to purify, elevate, and brighten the life that now is, instead of treating it as the more or less dismal vestibule of a life that is to come.
The term "nonsense," which has been just applied to the views of creation enunciated by the Westminster Assembly, was used, as already stated, in reference to our present knowledge and not to the knowledge of three or four centuries ago. To most people the earth was at that time all in all; the sun and moon and stars being set in heaven merely to furnish lamplight to our planet. But though in relation to the heavenly bodies the earth's position and importance were thus exaggerated, very inadequate and erroneous notions were entertained regarding the shape and magnitude of the earth itself. Theologians were horrified when first informed that our planet was a sphere. The question of antipodes exercised them for a long time, most of them pouring ridicule on the idea that men could exist with their feet turned toward us, and with their heads pointing downward. I think it is Sir George Airy who refers to the case of an over-curious individual asking what we should see if we went to the edge of the world and looked over. That the earth was a flat surface on which the sky rested was the belief entertained by the founders of all our great religious systems. Even liberal Protestant theologians stigmatized the Copernican theory as being "built on fallible phenomena and advanced by many arbitrary assumptions against evident testimonies of Scripture." Newton finally placed his intellectual crowbar beneath these ancient notions, and heaved them into irretrievable ruin.
Then it was that penetrating minds, seeing the nature of the change wrought by the new astronomy in our conceptions of the universe, also discerned the difficulty, if not the impossibility, of accepting literally the Mosaic account of creation. They did not reject it, but they assigned to it a meaning entirely new. Dr. Samuel Clarke, who was the personal friend of Newton and a supporter of his theory, threw out the idea that "possibly the six days of creation might be a typical representation of some greater periods." Clarke's contemporary, Dr. Thomas Burnet, wrote with greater decision in the same strain. The Sabbath being regarded as a shadow or type of that heavenly repose which the righteous will enjoy when this world has passed away, "so these six days of creation are so many periods or millenniums for which the world and the toils and labors of our present state are destined to endure." The Mosaic account was thus reduced to a poetic myth—a view which afterward found expression in the vast reveries of Hugh Miller. But if this symbolic interpretation, which is now generally accepted, be the true one, what becomes of the Sabbath-day? It is absolutely without ecclesiastical meaning; and the man who was executed for gathering sticks on that day must be regarded as the victim of a rude legal rendering of a religious epic.
There were many minor offshoots of discussion from the great central controversy. Bishop Horsley had defined a day "as consisting of one evening and one morning, or, as the Hebrew words literally import, of the decay of light and the return of it." But what then, it was asked, becomes of the Sabbath in the Arctic regions, where light takes six months to "decay," and as long to "return"? Differences of longitude, moreover, render the observance of the Sabbath at the same hours impossible. To some people such questions might appear trifling; to others they were of the gravest import. Whether the Sabbath should stretch from sunset to sunset, or from midnight to midnight, was also a subject of discussion. Voices, moreover, were heard refusing to acknowledge the propriety of the change from Saturday to Sunday, and the doctrine of Seventh-day observance was afterward represented by a sect. The earth's sphericity and rotation, which had at first been received with such affright, came eventually to the aid of those afflicted with qualms and difficulties regarding the respective claims of Saturday and Sunday. The sun apparently moves from east to west. Suppose, then, we start on a voyage round the world in a westerly direction. In doing so we sail away, as it were, from the sun, which follows and periodically overtakes us, reaching the meridian of our ship each succeeding day somewhat later than if we stood still. For every 15° of longitude traversed by the vessel the sun will be exactly an hour late; and after the ship has traversed twenty-four times 15°, or 360°, that is to say, the entire circle of the earth, the sun will be exactly a day behind. Here, then, is the expedient suggested by Dr. Wallis, F. R. S., Savilian Professor of Geometry in the University of Oxford, to quiet the minds of those in doubt regarding Saturday observance. He recommends them to make a voyage round the world, as Sir Francis Drake did, "going out of the Atlantic Ocean westward by the Straits of Magellan to the East Indies, and then from the east, returning by the Cape of Good Hope homeward, and let them keep their Saturday-Sabbath all the way. When they come home to England they will find their Saturday to fall upon our Sunday, and they may thenceforth continue to observe their Saturday-Sabbath on the same day with us!"
Large and liberal minds were drawn into this Sabbatarian conflict, but they were not the majority. Between the booming of the bigger guns we have an incessant clatter of small-arms. We ought not to judge superior men without reference to the spirit of their age. This is an influence from which they can not escape, and so far as it extenuates their errors it ought to be pleaded in their favor. Even the atrocities of the individual excite less abhorrence when they are seen to be the outgrowth of his time. But the most fatal error that could be committed by the leaders of religious thought is the attempt to force into their own age conceptions which have lived their life, and come to their natural end, in preceding ages. History is the record of a vast experimental investigation—of a search by man after the best conditions of existence. The Puritan attempt was a grand experiment. It had to be made. Sooner or later the question must have forced itself upon earnest believers possessed of power, Is it not possible to rule the world in accordance with the wishes of God as revealed in the Bible? Is it not possible to make human life the copy of a divine pattern? The question could only have occurred in the first instance to the more exalted minds. But, instead of working upon the inner forces and convictions of men, legislation presented itself as a speedier way to the attainment of the desired end. To legislation, therefore, the Puritans resorted. Instead of guiding, they repressed, and thus pitted themselves against the unconquerable impulses of human nature. Believing that nature to be depraved, they felt themselves logically warranted in putting it in irons. But they failed; and their failure ought to be a warning to their successors.
Another error, of a far graver character than that just noticed, may receive a passing mention here. At the time when the Sabbath controversy was hottest, and the arm of the law enforcing the claims of the Sabbath strongest and most unsparing, another subject profoundly stirred the religious mind of Scotland. A grave and serious nation, believing intensely in its Bible, found therein recorded the edicts of the Almighty against witches, wizards, and familiar spirits, and were taught by their clergy that such edicts still held good. The same belief had overspread the rest of Christendom, but in Scotland it was intensified by the rule of Puritanism and the natural earnestness of the people. I have given you a sample of the devilish cruelties practiced on the Christians at Smyrna. These tortures were far less shocking than those inflicted upon witches in Scotland. I say less shocking, because the victims at Smyrna courted martyrdom. They counted the sufferings of this present time as not worthy to be compared with the glory to be revealed; while the sufferers for witchcraft, in the midst of all their agonies, felt themselves God-forsaken, and saw before them instead of the glories of heaven the infinite tortures of hell. Not to the fall of Sarmatia, but to the treatment of witches in the seventeenth century, ought to be applied the words of your poet Campbell:
The mind sits in sackcloth and ashes while contemplating the scenes so powerfully described by Mr. Lecky in his chapter on "Magic and Witchcraft." But I will dwell no further upon these tragedies than to point out how terrible are the errors which our clergy may commit after they have once subscribed to the creed and laws of Judaism, and constituted themselves the legal exponents and interpreters of those laws.
Turning over the leaves of the Pentateuch, where God's alleged dealings with the Israelites are recorded, it strikes one with amazement that such writings should be considered binding upon us. The overmastering strength of habit, the power of early education—possibly a defiance of the claims of reason involved in the very constitution of the mental organ—are illustrated by the fact that learned men are still to be found willing to devote their time and endowments to these writings, under the assumption that they are not human but divine. As an ancient book, claiming the same origin as other books, the Old Testament is without a rival, but its unnatural exaltation provokes recoil and rejection. Leviticus, for example, when read in the light of its own age, is full of interest and instruction. We see there described the efforts of the best men then existing to civilize the rude society around them. Violence is restrained by violence medicinally applied. Passion is checked, truth and justice are extolled, and all in a manner suited to the needs of a barbarian host. But read in the light of our age, its conceptions of the Deity are seen to be shockingly mean, and many of its ordinances brutal. Foolishness is far too weak a word to apply to any attempt to force upon a scientific age the edicts of a Jewish law-giver. The doom of such an attempt is sure; and, if the destruction of things really precious should be involved in its failure, the blame will justly be ascribed to those who obstinately persisted in the attempt. Let us, then, cherish our Sunday as an inheritance derived from the wisdom of the past; but let it be understood that we cherish it because it is in principle reasonable and in practice salutary. Let us uphold it, because it commends itself to that "light of nature" which, despite the catastrophe in Eden, the most famous theologians mention with respect, and not because it is enjoined by the thunders of Sinai. We have surely heard enough of divine sanctions founded upon myths which, however beautiful and touching when regarded from the proper point of view, are seen, when cited for our guidance as matters of fact, to offer warrant and condonation for the greatest crimes, or to sink to the level of the most palpable absurdities.
In this, as in all other theological discussions, it is interesting to note how character colors religious feeling and conduct. The reception into Christ's kingdom has been emphatically described as being born again. A certain likeness of feature among Christians ought, one would think, to result from a common spiritual parentage. But the likeness is not observed. Christian communities embrace some of the loftiest and many of the lowest of mankind. It may be urged that the lofty ones only are truly religious. To this it is to be replied that the others are often as religious as their natures permit them to be. Character is here the overmastering force. That religion should influence life in a high way implies the preëxistence of natural dignity. This is the mordant which fixes the religious dye. He who is capable of feeling the finer glow of religion would possess a substratum available for all the relations of life, even if his religion were taken away. Religion, on the other hand, does not charm away malice, or make good defects of character. I have already spoken of persecution in its meaner forms. On the lower levels of theological warfare such are commonly resorted to. If you reject a dogma on intellectual grounds, it is because there is a screw loose in your morality; some personal sin besets and blinds you; the intellect is captive to a corrupt heart. Thus good men have been often calumniated by others who were not good; thus frequently have the noble become a target for the wicked and the mean. With the advance of public intelligence the day of such assailants is happily drawing to a close.
These reflections, which connect themselves with reminiscences outside the Sabbath controversy, have been more immediately prompted by the aspersions cast by certain Sabbatarians upon those who differ from them. Mr. Cox notices and reproves some of these. According to the Scottish Sabbath Alliance, for example, all who say that the Sabbath was an exclusively Jewish institution, including, be it noted, such men as Jeremy Taylor and Milton, "clearly prove either their dishonesty or ignorance, or inability to comprehend a very plain and simple subject." This becomes real humor when we compare the speakers with the persons spoken of. A distinguished English dissenter, who deals in a lustrous but rather cloudy logic, declares that whoever asks demonstration of the divine appointment of the Christian Sabbath "is blinded by a moral cause to those exquisite pencilings, to those unobtruded vestiges, which furnish their clearest testimony to this institute." A third writer charitably professes his readiness "to admit, in reference to this and many other duties, that it is quite a possible thing for a mind that is desirous of evading the evidence regarding it to succeed in doing so." A fourth luminary, whose knowledge obviously extends to the mind and methods of the Almighty, exclaims, "Is it not a principle of God's Word in many cases to give enough and no more—to satisfy the devout, not to overpower the uncandid?" It is of course as easy as it is immoral to argue thus; but the day is fast approaching when the most atrabilious presbyter will not venture to use such language. Let us contrast with it the utterance of a naturally sweet and wholesome mind. "Since all Jewish festivals, new moons, and Sabbaths," says the celebrated Dr. Isaac Watts, "are abolished by St. Paul's authority; since the religious observation of days in the fourteenth chapter to the Romans, in general, is represented as a matter of doubtful disputation; since the observation of the Lord's day is not built upon any express or plain institution by Christ or his apostles in the New Testament, but rather on examples and probable inferences, and on the reasons and relations of things—I can never pronounce anything hard or severe upon any fellow-Christian who maintains real piety in heart and life, though his opinion on this subject may be very different from mine." Thus through the theologian radiates the gentleman.
Up to the end of the eighteenth century the catalogue of Mr. Cox embraces three hundred and twenty volumes and publications. It is a monument of patient labor; while the remarks of the writer, which are distributed throughout the catalogue, illustrate both his intellectual penetration and his reverent cast of mind. He wrought hard and worthily with a pure and noble aim, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Cox at Dundee in 1867, when the British Association met there, and I could then discern the earnestness with which he desired to see his countrymen relieved from the Sabbath incubus, and at the same time the moderation and care for the feelings of others with which he advocated his views. He has also given us a rapid "Sketch of the Chief Controversies about the Sabbath in the Nineteenth Century." The sketch is more compressed than the catalogue, and the changes of thought in passing from author to author, being more rapid, are more bewildering. It is to a great extent what I have already called a clatter of small-arms, mingled with the occasional discharges of mightier guns. One thing is noticeable and regrettable in these discussions, namely, the unwise and undiscriminating way in which different Sunday occupations are classed together and condemned. Bishop Blomfield, for example, seriously injures his case when he places drinking in gin-shops and sailing in steamboats in the same category. I remember some years ago standing by the Thames at Putney with my lamented friend Dr. Bence Jones, when a steamboat on the river, with its living freight, passed us. Practically acquainted with the moral and physical influence of pure oxygen, my friend exclaimed, "What a blessing for these people to be able thus to escape from London into the fresh air of the country!" I hold the physician to have been right, and, with all respect, the Bishop to have been wrong.
Bishop Blomfield also condemns resorting to tea-gardens on Sunday. But we may be sure that it is not the gardens, but the minds which the people bring to them, which produce disorder. These minds possess the culture of the city, to which the Bishop seems disposed to confine them. Wisely and soberly conducted—and it is perfectly possible to conduct them wisely and soberly—such places might be converted into aids toward a life which the Bishop would commend. Purification and improvement are often possible where extinction is neither possible nor desirable. I have spent many a Sunday afternoon in the public gardens of the little university town of Marburg, in the company of intellectual men and cultivated women, without observing a single occurrence which, as regards morality, might not be permitted in the Bishop's drawing-room. I will add to this another observation made at Dresden on a Sunday after the suppression of the insurrection by the Prussian soldiery in 1849. The victorious troops were encamped on the banks of the Elbe, and this is how they occupied themselves: Some were engaged in physical games and exercises which in England would be considered innocent in the extreme; some were conversing sociably; some singing the songs of Uhland, while others, from elevated platforms, recited to listening groups poems and passages from Goethe and Schiller. Through this crowd of military men passed and repassed the girls of the city, linked together with their arms round each other's necks. During hours of observation, I heard no word which was unfit for a modest ear; while from beginning to end I failed to notice a single case of intoxication.
Here we touch the core of the whole matter—the appeal to experience. Sabbatical rigor has been tried, and the question is, Have its results been so conducive to good morals and national happiness as to render criminal every attempt to modify it? The advances made in all kinds of knowledge in this our age are known to be enormous; and the public desire for instruction, which the intellectual triumphs of the time naturally and inevitably arouse, is commensurate with the growth of knowledge. Must this desire, which is the motive power of all real and healthy progress, be quenched or left unsatisfied, lest Sunday observances, unknown to the early Christians, repudiated by the heroes of the Reformation, and insisted upon for the first time during a period of national gloom and suffering in the seventeenth century, should be interfered with? To justify this position the demonstration of the success of Sabbatarianism must be complete. Is it so? Are we so much better than other nations who have neglected to adopt our rules, that we can point to the working of these rules in the past as a conclusive reason for maintaining them immovable in the future? The answer must be, No. My Sabbatarian friends, you have no ground to stand upon. I say friends, for I would far rather have you as friends than as enemies—far rather see you converted than annihilated. You possess a strength and earnestness with which the world can not dispense; but, to be productive of anything permanently good, that strength and earnestness must build upon the sure foundation of human nature. This is that law of the universe spoken of so frequently by your illustrious countryman, Mr. Carlyle, to quarrel with which is to provoke and precipitate ruin. Join with us, then, in our endeavors to turn our Sundays to better account. Back with your support the moderate and considerate demands of the Sunday Society, which scrupulously avoids interfering with the hours devoted by common consent to public worship. Offer the museum, the picture-gallery, and the public garden as competitors to the public-house. By so doing you will fall in with the spirit of your time, and row with, instead of against, the resistless current along which man is borne to his destiny.
Most of you here are Liberals; perhaps Radicals, perhaps even Democrats or Republicans. I am a Conservative. The first requisite of true conservatism is foresight. Humanity grows, and foresight secures room for future expansion. In your walks in the country you sometimes see a wall built round a growing tree. So much the worse for the wall, which is sure to be rent and ruined by the energy which' it opposes. We have here represented not a true, but a false and ignorant conservatism. The real conservative looks ahead and prepares for the inevitable. He forestalls revolution by securing, in due time, sufficient amplitude for the national vibrations. He is a wrongheaded statesman who imposes his notions, however right in the abstract, on a nation unprepared for them. He is no statesman at all who, without seeking to interpret and guide it in advance, merely waits for the more or less coarse expression of the popular will, and then constitutes himself its vehicle. Untimeliness is sure to be the characteristic of the work of such a statesman. In virtue of the position which he occupies, his knowledge and insight ought to be in advance of the public knowledge and insight; and his action, in like degree, ought to precede and inform public action. This is what I want my Sabbatarian friends to bear in mind. If they look abroad from the vantage-ground which they occupy, they can hardly fail to discern that the intellect of this country is gradually ranging itself upon our side. Statesmen, clergymen, philosophers, and moralists are joining our standard. Whether, therefore, those to whom I appeal hear, or whether they forbear, we are sure to unlock, for the public good, the doors of the museums and galleries which we have purchased, and for the maintenance of which we pay. But I would have them not only prepare for the coming change, but to aid and further it by anticipation. They will thus, in a new fashion, "dish the Whigs," prove themselves men of foresight and common sense, and obtain a fresh lease of the respect of the community.
As the years roll by, the term "materialist" will lose more and more of its evil connotation; for it will be more and more seen and acknowledged that the true spiritual nature of man is bound up with his material condition. Wholesome food, pure air, cleanliness—hard work if you will, but also fair rest and recreation—these are necessary not only to physical but to spiritual well-being. The seed of the spirit is cast in vain amid stones and thorns, and thus your best utterances become idle words when addressed to the acclimatized inhabitants of our slums and alleys. Drunkenness ruins the substratum of resolution. The physics of the drunkard's brain are incompatible with moral strength. Here your first care ought to be to cleanse and improve the organ. Break the sot's associations; change his environment; alter his nutrition; displace his base imaginations by thoughts drawn from the purer sources which we seek to render accessible to him. For two centuries, I am told, the Scottish clergy have proclaimed walking on Sunday to be an act of "Heaven-daring profaneness—an impious encroachment on the inalienable prerogative of the Lord God." Such language is now out of date. If we could establish Sunday tramways between our dens of filth and iniquity and the nearest green fields, we should, in so doing, be preaching a true gospel. And not only the denizens of our slums, but the proprietors of our factories and counting houses, might perhaps be none the worse for an occasional excursion in the company of those whom they employ. A most blessed influence would also be shed upon the clergy if they were enabled from time to time to change their "sloth urbane" for healthy action on heath or mountain. Baxter was well aware of the soothing influence of fields, and countries, and walks, and gardens on a fretted brain. Jeremy Taylor showed a profound knowledge of human nature when he wrote thus: "It is certain that all which can innocently make a man cheerful, does also make him charitable. For grief, and age, and sickness, and weariness, these are peevish and troublesome; but mirth and cheerfulness are content, and civil, and compliant, and communicative, and love to do good, and swell up to felicity only upon the wings of charity. Upon this account, here is pleasure enough for a Christian at present; and if a facete discourse, and an amicable friendly mirth, can refresh the spirit and take it off from the vile temptation of peevish, despairing, uncomplying melancholy, it must needs be innocent and commendable." I do not know whether you ever read Thomas Hood's "Ode to Rae Wilson," with an extract from which I will close this address. Hood was a humorist, and to some of our graver theologians might appear a mere feather-head. But those who have read his more serious works will have discerned in him a vein of deep poetic pathos. I hardly know anything finer than the apostrophe in which he turns from those
A Sunday walk,
to the description of what Sunday might be, and is, to him who is competent to enjoy it aright:
The gracious prodigality of nature,
The balm, the bliss, the beauty, and the bloom.
The bounteous providence in every feature,
Recall the good Creator to his creature,
Making all earth a fane, all heaven its dome!
To his tuned spirit the wild heatlier-bells
Ring Sabbath knells;
The jubilate of the soaring lark
Is chant of clerk;
For choir, the thrush and the gregarious linnet;
The sod's a cushion for his pious want;
And, consecrated by the heaven within it,
The sky-blue pool, a font.
Each cloud-capped mountain is a holy altar;
An organ breathes in every grove;
And the full heart's a Psalter,
- Such was the view of Dr. John Owen, who is described by Cox as "the most eminent of the Independent divines."
- Cox, vol. ii, p. 211, note.
- Theophilus Braboume, a sturdy Puritan minister of Norfolk, whom Cox regards as the founder of this sect, thus argued the question in 1628: "And now let me propound unto your choice these two days: the Sabbath-day on Saturday or the Lord's day on Sunday; and keep whether of the twain you shall in conscience find the more safe. If you keep the Lord's day, but profane the Sabbath-day, you walk in great danger and peril (to say the least) of transgressing one of God's eternal and inviolable laws—the fourth commandment. But, on the other side, if you keep the Sabbath-day, though you profane the Lord's day, you are out of all gunshot and danger, for so you transgress no law at all, since neither Christ nor his apostles did ever leave any law for it."
- The sufferings of reputed witches in the seventeenth century, as well as those of the early Christians, might be traced to panics and passions similar in kind to those which produced the atrocities of the Reign of Terror in France.
- Melanchthon writes finely thus: "Wherefore our decision is this: that those precepts which learned men have committed to writing, transcribing them from the common reason and common feelings of human nature, are to be accounted as no less divine than those contained in the tables of Moses."—(Dugald Stewart's translation.) Hengstenberg quotes from the same reformer as follows: "The law of Moses is not binding upon us, though some things which the law contains are binding, because they coincide with the law of nature."—(See Cox, vol. i, p. 389.) The Catechism of the Council of Trent expresses a similar view. There are, then, "data of ethics" over and above the revealed ones.
- The late Mr. Joseph Kay, as Traveling Bachelor of the University of Cambridge, has borne strong and earnest testimony to the "humanizing and civilizing influence" of the Sunday recreations of the German people.