[Table of Contents]
|Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)
THE SANCTIFICATION OF THE LORD'S DAY.
Often have I purposed to call the attention of our brethren and readers to the proper sanctification of the Lord's day. It is a subject to which there appears to be too little attention paid by the great majority of teachers and professors: and yet, all seem to think that it is an institution of the Great Redeemer, worthy of the special attention of every Christian. We sometimes sing--
|"Day of all the week the best,
Emblem of eternal rest."
But do we exhibit this view of the subject, in the manner in which we celebrate it? This is an important question.
While musing on this subject, there was sent me, from Scotland, a tract written by a lady, beautifully styled "THE PEARL OF DAYS," developing the advantages of the Sabbath to the working classes, by a laborer's daughter, with a sketch of the author's life, dedicated, by royal permission, to the Queen of Great Britain.
I regret that the authoress of this tract was obliged, by the letter of the proposition and demand for a prize essay, to call it "The Christian Sabbath." It is, in no evangelical sense, the Christian's rest, or "The Christian Sabbath," in the typical and Jewish import of that word. He that has entered into Christ's rest hath "ceased from his own works," not on one day, but on all the days of "the week, as God ceased from all his" physical works on the first (seventh) day of newborn time. The Christian's Sabbath begins with his conversion, and continues through life. Still, I would not be fastidious in terms, nor hypercritical in words that mean no harm, only as they consecrate papistical errors and bewilder weak minds.
The author [Barbara H. Farquhar] says: Man is not left, even in this state of existence, like the lower animals, to draw his chief happiness from the  indulgence of his appetites, or to be led by the blind but unerring impulse of instinct, to his chief good. He is endowed with reasoning powers and moral sentiments, which require to be enlightened and exercised, in order to their proper direction and healthful development. His happiness is as inseparably connected with the cultivation and exercise of the faculties of his mind, as it is with the healthful development and proper exercise of his bodily organs. We meet with abundant proof of this in the state of savage tribes, who shelter themselves in clay-built hovels, wrap themselves in the skins of beasts, and obtain a precarious subsistence from the scanty produce of the uncultivated ground, or the flesh of wild animals. If we compare their means of sustaining life, their sources of enjoyment, their religious worship, their daily habits, and their daily labors, in a word, their whole state, with the state of civilized and enlightened community--even could we bring ourselves to look upon man as merely an intelligent and improvable animal, formed exclusively for his present life--we are irresistibly led to the conclusion, that whatever tends to elevate or refine his nature, to give to his reasoning faculties and his moral sentiments a controlling power over his appetites and propensities, is of vast importance to his well-being. It guards him from evils to which, while his animal nature is left without due restraint from his higher faculties and sentiments, he is exposed, opens to him sources of enjoyment, and discovers supplies, of which, while his intellectual nature is uncultivated, he is incapable of availing himself.
The labor to which, in the present state of society, the majority of the working population of our country is subjected, in order to obtain their subsistence, is of that incessant and tasking nature, which, when the daily hours of toil are closed, leaves the system too much exhausted for mental application or intellectual enjoyment. Hence among those of the laboring classes who are not led by religious principle to avail themselves of the opportunities for self-improvement which the weekly rest affords, we rind, with comparatively few exceptions, low and degrading pursuits the principal sources of their amusement; while their highest enjoyments are derived from the gratification of their appetites and propensities. Nor is this strange; no one who has for any considerable length of time been subjected to severe and unremitting toil, whose employment called for the exertion of his muscular power till real fatigue ensued, will deny, that, while in such a state, man is equally incapable of availing himself of the more refined pleasures of social intercourse, or of the improvement to be derived from mental application; that the craving is for animal gratification, or nervous excitement; and that a continued routine of such labor, without the seventh-day rest, would soon sink  the laboring population into a condition worse than that of absolute barbarism. This is no mere speculative theory; we have only to enter into social intercourse with those around us, to meet with more than abundant proofs of its reality.
Were it possible, then, to view man as only formed for this world--as a mere link in the chain of causation--doing his little part, enjoying his brief existence, and then reduced again to his original elements, passing away alike forgetting and forgotten; and were we to regard the Sabbath as merely a civil institution, the appointment of human government; even thus separated from all its religious relations, it would, were it possible for man destitute of the knowledge of God, to improve the opportunities afforded by it, confer benefits upon working men which they could not otherwise obtain. The Sabbath limits, to some extent, the power of employers, whom selfishness and avarice, in not a few instances, have rendered alike regardless of the comfort and the health of their servants; and secures to those whose daily avocations require their absence from the family circle, the pleasures and the comforts of home; the softening and refining influence of family relations and domestic intercourse. Its rest refreshes and invigorates the physical constitution, and affords time to apply the mind to the attainments of useful knowledge: it ought therefore to command the respect of all who are sincerely desirous of promoting the improvement of the working population.
But it is impossible thus to regard man. Man has a spiritual, never-dying, as surely as he has an animal and moral nature, which act and re-act upon each other, so that the well-being of the one is essential to the well-being of the other. He, therefore, who would confine man's views to this word, and limit his endeavors after happiness to the present life, snatches from him, along with the hopes of the future, the riches of the present. Debarred from his Father's house and his Father's table, he will soon be wallowing in the mire of ignorance and vice, and feeding on the husks of sensual indulgence. He who chains man to continuous and unremitting exertion of his physical system, unfits his mind for activity, and degrades him to a condition little above that of a beast of burden. The Sabbath, then, must be viewed in its relation to every part of man's nature, in its influence upon him as a whole, before we can fully appreciate even the merely temporal benefits it is calculated to confer upon the human family.
Some have said, that another arrangement would be beneficial--that, were more time for repose allotted to each day without a Sabbath, the purposes of Sabbath rest would be more fully attained. Were the Sabbath a human institution, appointed by earthly legislators, for purposes relating to this life, this point might be open to  discussion. As it is not the institution of man, however, but that of our all-wise Creator, I shall merely ask those who advocate such a change, how they propose to bring it about? and how preserve it when once obtained? Is it not that the Sabbath claims to be an institution of Heaven, and thus, laying hold of man's conscience, ensures attention to its demands from all who fear God and tremble at his word--is it not its appearing in this character which secures to it any degree of attention and respect from society? It is the influences of the Sabbath which will yet introduce a better regulated system of labor during the week; and he who would abolish it as a step towards such an improvement, flings away the most safe and certain means of accomplishing his object.
It is only by the advancement of the laboring classes themselves in intelligence and civilization, that any really important or beneficial change can ever take place in the regulation of labor; but even were such a change effected, were the hours of daily toil considerably shortened, would there not still be abundant room for a Sabbath? How are the moral and intellectual character, the tastes and habits of working men to be elevated without the opportunities and the influences of this institution?
He who would abolish the Sabbath, and distribute its hours among the days of the week, that he might increase the comfort, and improve the character and the condition of working men, would act as a builder would do, who should dig up the foundations of a house that he might obtain materials wherewith to finish its upper story. Religion, like the Father of lights, from whom it emanates, bestows abundance of blessings upon many who know not the bounteous Hand from whence they come; and the Sabbath, one of its most glorious and beneficent institutions, confers numerous benefits even upon that portion of society, who, trifling with its sacred obligations and spurning its salutary restraints, fail to reap from it that amount of good which it is so well calculated to afford them.
We can form no just estimate of what the condition and circumstances of the human race would have been, if left entirely destitute of religion, from our intercourse with those who, though perversely refusing submission to its government, have, while their being was dawning, their minds and habits forming, been surrounded by its light and influences, and who, in their childhood and youth, have partaken largely of the blessings which this heaven-bestowed institution, the Christian Sabbath, affords. No; it is only from the condition and character of those tribes of mankind who have little or no vestige of revelation among them, that we are enabled to form a correct idea of what our state would have been, had the pure light of Christianity never dawned upon us. So, in like manner, in judging of  the importance of this divine institution, we must compare the condition and the habits of a laboring population who have never known a Sabbath, whose bodies the Sabbath rest has never refreshed, and whose minds Sabbath instruction and Sabbath exercise have to no extent, strengthened or cultivated, awakened or enlightened. We must compare their character and condition, their hearths and homes, with the hearths and homes, the state and character, not of the mere Sabbath sleeper, or Sabbath dresser, or even of the mere church attender or sermon hearer, but of those who, with activity and energy, avail themselves of all the opportunities of self-improvement and family culture which the Christian Sabbath is so well fitted to afford, before we can have any correct idea of even the merely temporal benefits which the Sabbath is calculated to confer upon the laboring population, or of the immense loss its discontinuance would prove to the temporal interests of society.
Even as a cessation from labor, as a rest to the worn-out frame, the Sabbath is no trifling boon to the bowed-down sons of toil. When we look upon it merely as a day on which the most toil-worn drudge unchidden may stretch his wearied limbs upon the couch of rest--whereon the most dusty, sweaty, dirt-smeared endurer of the consequences of man's transgression may wash himself clean, dress genteelly, and enjoy the society of his fellowmen; a day when he, who, during the six days of labor, must eat his dry, cold, hurried, and comfortless dinner alone, can sit in leisure and comfort, in the society of beloved relatives, with the clean, shining, glad faces of his little ones around him, and his wife, clean and neat, as upon her bridal-day, by his side, and enjoy his neatly prepared, though homely, repast; a day when brothers and sisters, early forced by necessity, from the parental roof, to seek a hard-earned subsistence elsewhere, may weekly enjoy each other's society amid the blessed influences of the home of their childhood--the Sabbath, though looked upon as bestowing only privileges like these upon working men, must command the respect of every enlightened and philanthropic mind. But when viewed as a day in which all this is associated with the hallowed influences of religion--in which man enjoys the pleasures of social intercourse blended with, and elevated by, the most sacred and purifying associations--in which the body enjoys repose, not only that the mind may be fitted for exertion, but that it may engage in the study of subjects supremely important to man, that it may apply itself to the contemplation of themes the most sublime and interesting--a day in which men not only meet together that they may be instructed, strengthened, and refined, by intercourse with each other, that mind may have communion with mind, and heart with heart; but in which they are invited to meet with God himself; that  their minds may have communion with His mind, and their hearts with His heart; that they may be instructed, strengthened, and refined, by the wisdom and love of God; that they may be moulded in His image, and renewed in His likeness. It seems strange that any one who believes man to be possessed of a moral and intellectual nature, capable of improvement, should set light by, or trifle with, such an institution; and passing strange, that those who name the name of Christ, who, profess to be His followers, who emphatically taught that the Sabbath was made for man, should despise such a privilege, fling away its hallowed restraints, and disregard its sacred obligations.
It needs but a glance at the toilsome life of our rural or our manufacturing population, to convince any one that the Sabbath, viewed merely in relation to man's temporal well-being, is of great value to the working man. The important influence which the frequent return of such a day, with all its cheering and inspiring exercises and associations, must have upon the health of thaw who observe it, is not to be overlooked. The wearied frame is refreshed and invigorated, the depressed spirits enlivened, and the flagging energy restored; while its public observances call for such attention to personal appearance as can not fail to have a beneficial effect at once upon the habits and the constitution, as also to form a strong inducement to exertion for the improvement of their condition. Hence it is, that, when we enter the house of the church-going, Sabbath-keeping laborer, we generally find a marked difference between it and the home of him who rarely or never enters a place of worship, and who regards not the sacred claims of the day.
In the home of the Sabbath-observing, church-attending laborer--even though, as is too often the case, he should know little or nothing of the vital power of religion, though his observance be mere outward observance, and his religion but form--we observe useful, though sometimes rude furniture, clothing and food, cleanliness and comfort, a cheerful fire on the hearth, and a few books on the shelf; every thing indicating some little relish for the conveniences and comforts of civilized life.
On Saturday evening there is washing of little faces, combing and brushing of flaxen heads, laying out of clean little frocks and pinafores, or jet black shoes set ready for little feet, that, without hurry or confusion, clean and neat, they may be ready on Sabbath morning to accompany father or mother, or, if possible, both, to the place
|"Where Christians meet to praise and pray,
To hear of heaven, and learn the way;"
or that they may trip joyously to their beloved Sabbath-school, there to sing of that happy land where every eye is bright, of that  glorious city, the streets of which are of pure gold, where the water of life is continually flowing in a broad river, clear as crystal, from the throne of God and of the Lamb, into which nothing that defileth can enter, neither whatsoever loveth or maketh a lie; to learn, that to depart from evil is the highway to those blessed mansions of love, and joy, and life everlasting--that that highway is called holiness; and to be told, in childhood's own simple language, of the love of Him who is himself the way, for he shall save his people from their sins; how he said: "Suffer little children to come unto me," and took them up in his arms, and blessed them; how, when they have journeyed along the rugged path of this toilsome life, those that come unto God by him shall never again taste of death or sorrow, pain or disease; for the Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne, shall feed them, and lead them to living fountains of waters, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
What do we find in the place of all this, in the home, and among the children of the working man who profanes the sacred hours of the Sabbath? Squalor and wretchedness force themselves upon our observation. The appearance of the house and its inmates tell, in language not to be mistaken, what would be the condition of working men, were this blessed day, with all its exalting and purifying influence, set aside. How often, on Saturday night, are the children tossed into bed unwashed and uncombed, while the mother puts their few rags of clothing in the wash tub, and then hangs them up by the dusty hearth, that they may be dry in the morning! Even this little attention to cleanliness, partial as it is, is of some benefit, and the benefit, so far as it goes, is from the Sabbath; for, were it not for that regard to appearance, and those ideas of decency which the public observances of the Sabbath have introduced, the skin and the clothing of the working man and his children would seldom, indeed, be subjected to the refreshing and purifying process of washing.
Of the truth of this, did the limits of this little essay permit, or did the time and circumstances of the author allow of such researches, I venture to affirm that abundant evidence could be presented from the state and habits, in regard to personal cleanliness; of the laboring population of any country where the Sabbath is disregarded, as compared with the condition and habits of the same class in countries where the Sabbath is observed as a day of public assembly for religious worship; or from the habits of the lower classes of our own, or of any other country, before the introduction of the Christian Sabbath, as compared with their habits in this respect, after the Sabbath has been for some time received and regarded among, them, as at once a day of cessation from ordinary labor, and a season for public religious observance. And if the important influence which  cleanliness has upon health and comfort be taken into account, the improvement of their habits in this respect will be allowed to be no trifling advantage resulting from the Sabbath to the laboring population.
But to return to the family where the Sabbath is not regarded as a day sacred to the worship of God: how frequently do we find the father, with his equally reckless companions, taking on Saturday evening his seat in the house of the spirit-dealer, there to waste, in the gratification of his debased and depraved appetite, his hard-earned wages. But what need to describe the Sabbath hours of such a family? Who that has been at all conversant with the laboring population of this country, but has witnessed the comfortless and fretful confusion of the morning? while the succeeding hours are devoted to the preparation of the noonday meal, the one great feast of the week; and, perchance, the fields, the public promenade, or a trip by railway to some place of public resort, is the occupation of the evening. And thus are all the rich opportunities which such a day affords for self-improvement and family culture, trampled under foot. And what is the condition of the children of such parents? Do they not grow up in ignorance and vice, in utter neglect, unless, indeed, they are gathered together for Sabbath instruction by the enlightened and benevolent, who would seek to do what in them lies to rescue their fellow creatures from ignorance and degradation? This, however, will but slightly supply the want of the fireside instruction of a Sabbath-keeping family; and is it likely that these children will ever attain to that degree of mental culture, or be governed by those moral principles which would enable them to obtain an equal standing in society with the children of those who conscientiously observe the Lord's day? Let those who think so, enter the house of him who keeps holy the Lord's day, and the home of the Sabbath-breaker; let them converse with their children, observe their habits, and then answer. Those who feel inclined to trifle with the sacred obligations of this day would do well to consider, ere they slight its beneficial restraints, what a blessed privilege they fling away--what a glorious birthright they would barter for less than a mess of pottage!--a birthright, the due appreciation and the proper use of Which would soon enable them to cast off that yoke of bandage, those servile feelings, with which the working classes too often regard their superiors in circumstances; would enable them to stand erect and unabashed in the presence of their fellow-man, whatever his wealth or rank, as brother in the presence of brother; would give them power of their own minds--a conscience illuminated by the light of heaven, and unfettered by subjection to man. Moreover, if the imbecility of mind, the consequent limitation of resource,  and liability to become the dupes of imposture, the tools of crafty, selfish, and unprincipled men, be considered, which usually result from the dependence of one class of men upon the mind and will of another class, this will appear to be no mean advantage, as regards temporal condition, which the proper observance of the Sabbath is calculated to confer upon the laboring population. For proof that such happy results do invariably follow the introduction of the Sabbath among the working classes, in proportion to its proper observance, we have only to glance at the character and condition of the people in countries where the Sabbath is, in some measure, rightly understood and observed, as compared with the state of the people in lands where the Lord's day is unknown, or devoted to mere amusement.
The rest of the Sabbath is invaluable to the laborer who is desirous of cultivating his own mind by study, of strengthening and gaining the control of his intellectual powers, of increasing his stock of knowledge by reading. When he returns from his daily labor, to enjoy his brief hour of leisure in the evening, his system Is too much exhausted by his previous exertion, and, consequently, his animal spirits too much depressed, for close application of mind or energy of thought. If he attempt to peruse any really serious and useful author, he not unfrequently falls asleep with the book in his hand. The lighter pagers of the novelist, with their intellectual intoxication, and too often pernicious views of human life and human nature, may be able, by their excitement, to overcome, for a time, this fatigue; and, therefore, if he reads at all, for these, the works of the natural and moral philosopher, of the historian, the moralist, and the theologian, are laid aside; and thus his moral and intellectual nature, not receiving wholesome food or healthful exercise, becomes weak and diseased, and unfitted to fulfil the offices of enlightening him; his passions and appetites, unrestrained by an enlightened conscience and cultivated understanding, lead him captive at their will; and his whole character and condition strikingly prove, that, as a general rule, the degradation of one part of man's nature is the degradation of the whole.
Is his temporal condition abject, his body subjected to unremitting toil? his intellectual condition, too, is debased, and his mind enslaved. Is his intellect uncultivated, and his moral nature vitiated? his outward appearance1 and condition are degraded, rude, and comfortless. The Sabbath, by the repose it affords, not only renews man's physical energy, renovates his animal system, it also qualifiers his mind to apply itself to self-culture, and to the acquisition of solid and useful knowledge. Nor does it stop here--it leaves him not  unaided and unguided to grope in darkness for the knowledge which is essential to his well-being; it pours upon his path a flood of light, opens wide the gate of knowledge, and bids him enter. It leaves him not to mope alone over the dreamy speculations of sceptical philosophers who have attained to no belief, who have no certainty of knowledge, but have chosen their perpetual abode in those gloomy regions of darkness where the dense fogs of doubt are forever settled, till his mental energy is exhausted and his mind unhinged. No; it calls him forth in exulting joy to seek the society of his fellowmen, that mind may awaken and strengthen mind, and heart warm heart--that they may ponder together the meaning of facts--facts attested by incontrovertible evidence--facts the most sublime and interesting that have ever engaged the attention of man. It calls men together to study, in each other's society, a system of morality pure and perfect, founded upon these facts. It furnishes him with subjects surpassingly glorious, in the contemplation of which he may exert and cultivate his intellectual powers. It inspires him with hopes which give him fortitude to endure the unavoidable evils of his condition, and energy to surmount its difficulties. Yes, the Lord's day, with its communion with God, its memorials, its exercises, its instructions, and its social intercourse, ever as it returns gives a fresh impulse to human advancement. It is, truly, a fountain whence spring innumerable benefits.
Not only does each returning Sabbath give a new and powerful impetus to man's advancement in his heavenward course; but in so doing, it urges him onward and upward in civilization, refinement, and comfort.
A day of rest, of cessation from active and toilsome exertion, is, doubtless, as ministering to the health and vigor of the animal system, of immense value to working men. I have no hesitation, however, in affirming, that, amongst those who view it in no other light than as a day of rest and recreation, as a season set apart to no higher purpose than that of refreshing and invigorating the body, it generally fails of accomplishing even this: they almost invariably devote the day to the service of their divers lusts and pleasures, while the neglected appearance of their families, and the jaded and abused state of their bodies, wofully testify to the degrading effects of misusing its hallowed hours; and clearly demonstrate, that it is "the Sabbath of the Lord," the Lord's day alone, as appointed by himself, which is really calculated to benefit mankind, and not a day of man's devising. And why? Because the Sabbath day is appointed by our all-wise Creator, by Him who knoweth what is in man, and what is needed for man. And it is exactly suited to man--it meets the wants at once of his physical and intellectual  constitution, and of his social and spiritual nature. He who wears purple and fine linen and fares sumptuously every day, whose hand has never been hardened, nor his brow moistened by toil, whose every day makes him the companion and instructor of his family, and who, fresh and unwearied, can seat himself in his quiet study, and enjoy his daily returning hours of leisure, may slight the obligations of the Sabbath, and break loose from its restraints, without, in the eye of his fellow-man, appearing to suffer in mind, character, or condition. But on him whose daily returning wants call for strenuous and incessant exertion, that they may obtain a needful supply, the abuse of Sabbath hours is soon visible in a beggared and degraded mind, a depraved moral character, and a consequently degraded condition in society; in squalid, untrained children, and a comfortless home; and not unfrequently, in absolute want of the very necessaries of life.
It might easily be shown that, among the numerous advantages which the weekly rest affords the working man, is this, namely, that it gives him its rest, without diminishing, in any degree, his means of subsistence and comfort. By preventing the seventh day from being brought into the labor market, it enables him to procure a remuneration for six days' labor equal to that which, were there no such day, he would be able to obtain for seven. Although those who degrade the Sabbath from its place as a religious institution, to a day of mere bodily rest and recreation, enjoy this advantage in common with him who regards the day in its proper character, as a day set apart for the public worship of God, and the study of his word; yet, they are generally by far his inferiors in comfort and independence. It is no uncommon thing to find them, while actually engaged in some kind of employment which brings higher wages than the occupation followed by their neighbor obtains, before the close of the week begging or borrowing from him the necessaries of life. Few will have mingled much among laboring men and their families, without meeting with many instances of this kind, all demonstrating the truth of what has already been advanced, that it is the Christian Sabbath, observed as appointed by our Lord himself, that can ever really improve even the temporal character of the laborer, and that no human institution ever can supply its place, or have the same beneficial influence upon society.
To the husband and father, whose family require his daily labor for their support, and who is anxious to impart to them that instruction which is so necessary to the perfect and healthful development of their mental powers, the Sabbath is of inestimable value. Dearly as he loves to meet the joyous welcome of his little ones upon his return from his day's labor, pleasant as it is for him to enjoy their  childish prattle, while they are seated together around the evening fire, yet, having just returned, exhausted by a day of toil, while they climb his knee, and chat over the little adventures of the day, they are more to him as playthings, than as beings the training of whose minds and habits for after life is entrusted to him. This, during the six days of labor, devolves, almost exclusively, upon the mother, or, as is too often the case, it is utterly neglected, because it requires the most incessant and laborious exertions of both father and mother to enable them to obtain a subsistence for themselves and their offspring; and were it not for the weekly return of Sabbath rest, and its opportunities for improvement, they would grow up untrained, as the wild ass's colt. But the Sabbath places the Christian father refreshed and vigorous in the midst of his family, his mind enlightened and enriched by its instruction, and his feelings soothed by its devotional exercises; thus fitting him to impart instruction, in a manner at once calculated to reach the understandings and win the hearts of his little ones.
What a delightful sense of tranquil enjoyment is to be met with in the family of the laborer when the Sabbath is properly appreciated and actively improved? Has the reader ever spent a Lord's day in such a family? has he seen the children, awaking from the light slumbers of the morning, glance on the more than usual order, cleanliness and quiet of the humble apartment, and then ask, Mother, what day is this? and heard the reply, This is the Sabbath, the best of all days, the day which God has blessed! Has he seen their father dandling the baby, till their mother should finish dressing the elder children, and then, when all were ready, heard the little circle join in the sweet morning hymn, and seen them kneel together, while the father offered up a simple, but heart-felt thanksgiving for life, health, and reason preserved, through the toils of another week; and for the privilege of being again all permitted to enjoy, in each other's society, the blessed light of the first day of the week; that morning light which brings to mind an empty grave, and a risen Saviour; those peaceful hours which, undisturbed by the labor, hurry, and anxieties of the week, they can devote to the advancement of that spiritual life in their souls, which shall outlive the destruction of death itself? Has he heard the words of prayer, the questions of the father, and the replies of the children; and has he not felt assured that the mind-awakening influences of such subjects of thought, and such exercises, would be seen in the after years of these children?
Or, has he, on their return from the meeting place of Christians, witnessed their afternoon and evening employments? Has he seen the eager and intelligent expression of those young faces, as the beautiful story of Joseph and' his brethren was read aloud to them; or that  of Daniel cast into the lions' den; or how the servants of the living God walked unhurt in the midst of the fire, while its flame slew those men who cast them in; or the narrative of the wandering prodigal, wretched and despised in a foreign land, whilst the meanest of his father's servants were living in abundance and comfort? Has he heard their voices, each low but earnest; and then listened to the reading of the Word of God? heard the reciting by turn, some beautiful hymns, or reading some interesting chapter, or engaged in conversation familiar and pleasant, though serious and instructive; children asking questions of parents, and parents of children, concerning what they have been hearing and reading during the day? And is not he who has been the spectator of all this, convinced, that such a day is to the laborer and his children, an inheritance of surpassing value; that it is weekly adding a fresh impulse to their progress and improvement, and preparing them to take advantage of whatever opportunities the week may afford? Will not the Sabbaths of their childhood leave an impression upon their future years, which will never be effaced; an impress of superiority in intelligence and morality, and a consequent superiority in circumstances?
One important advantage which is connected with the observance of the Lord's day, among the laboring population, is the influence which it has in elevating the mind, character, and condition of the female portion of the community. Where Christianity and its weekly rest are unknown, the condition of woman is abject in the extreme; but the religion of Jesus raises her from her degraded situation, by calling her forward to engage in the exercises, share the instructions, and receive the influences of its Sabbath. The Lord's day calls her thinking powers into action, gives her a mind and a conscience of her own, cultivates her intellectual and moral nature, and gives her to man a helpmate indeed, fitted to became not merely his slave or his toy, but the companion of his labors and his studies, his devoted friend, and his faithful and judicious adviser; not merely the mother and nurse of his children, but their intelligent instructor and guide--his most efficient assistant in their intellectual and moral twining. And if we consider the influence which the training that man receives in his early years has upon his character in after life--that, for the most part, in the families of working men, infancy and childhood are spent in the society of the mother, and, therefore, the impressions by which the character is, in a great measure, formed, are made by her, we shall feel convinced that the cultivation of the female mind and character must have an incalculable influence upon the condition of the laboring population.
It were worth ascertaining, how many of those who have risen up from among the laboring population to adorn and bless humanity by  their talents and their philanthropy, to enlighten and benefit society by useful and important discoveries in art and science, or by patient persevering labor to advance mankind in virtue and intelligence--how many of these had their minds awakened to activity, and their principles formed, by the instructions which hard-working parents were enabled to give them upon the Lord's day, the only time they could devote to such a purpose. And would it not shed a fearful light upon this subject, could we possess ourselves of the history of the early Sabbaths of those who have made themselves notorious by their crimes; or of those who, having sunk themselves deep in moral pollution, have destroyed themselves, degraded humanity, and cursed society by their vices? Would not such records give startling evidence of the ruinous effects resulting from the abuse of the weekly rest, and clearly demonstrate the truth of what has been already advanced, that, were the Sabbath abolished, or given to working men as a day of mere bodily refreshment and recreation, and not as a religious institution, they would soon be reduced to a condition worse than that of the untaught savage?
Yes, man is equally liable to degenerate as he is capable of improvement--more so, for he must be aroused, urged forward, forced on, almost against his will: to take the downward path of degeneracy, he needs only to be left unmolested to choose his own way.
Are there those who deny this--who look upon man as not a fallen and depraved being, shorn of the glory of his primeval excellency, ever liable to sink lower and degenerate farther, unless influences from without reach him--but as a being who has raised himself by the unaided exercise of the powers of his own mind, from a condition little above that of the brute creation, to his present state? I ask them but to survey the page of human history, to become convinced of the absurdity of such an idea. Can they point to the records of any tribe of the human family which, from a condition of rude barbarism, and shut out from all intercourse with civilized nations, has ever raised itself above such a state?2 They can not--it has uniformly been the entrance of the missionary, the trader, the emigrant, from more enlightened and civilized nations, which has changed the condition of such a people.
Had it been as they say, had man been formed the being they represent him, and had the voice of God never reached his ear, had no celestial visitant ever arrived upon our planet, man had never risen one step above his first condition. If, then, as the history of mankind abundantly proves, religion founded upon revelation be the  only really efficient means by which man can be raised to that state of perfection he is capable of attaining; if, as we trace the progress of Christianity among the nations, we find an advancement in civilization following in her footsteps, and an amelioration of the social condition of the people marking her progress, may we not reasonably attribute to her seventh-day rest all the temporal blessings which, as she advances, she is conferring upon the laboring population? And would not the abolition of this institution, or the appropriation of Sabbath hours to other than their proper use, be effectively to exclude those who obtain their daily bread by the labor of their hands, from a participation in the benefits which the knowledge or revelation confers upon man? No more effectual step could be taken towards the demoralization, I had almost said the brutalization, of the laboring population,, than that of inducing them to look upon it as a mere human holiday, which may be occupied in any way fancy may dictate. Barbarous and degrading sports, bull-baiting, cock-fighting, and such like; drunkenness, revelry and riot, would, with fearful rapidity, take the place of the solemn assembly.
He who would seek to enslave and degrade the working man, could not more effectually accomplish his object, than by persuading him to regard and occupy the Sabbath as a day which he might spend in amusement. Were the Lord's day blotted out, or spent in mere recreation--were the sons of toil no more to enjoy or avail themselves of its rich provisions for their instruction and elevation--not only should we soon see religion disregarded, that blessed light of heaven, that sunshine of the sky which is chasing the shadows of ignorance, and dissipating the mists of error and superstition; which is awakening man to spiritual life, arousing to healthful activity in him all the springs of moral feeling and intellectual energy; not only would this morning beam be shut out from the sons of toil, those glad tidings which Jesus so frequently preached to the poor in the weekly assembly upon the Sabbath day, be put without the reach of working men--but we should soon see them deprived of those civil institutions which secure to them personal liberty, and degraded to a condition of mere vassalage.
Let no one be startled when I affirm that it is the Sabbath which has bestowed upon the laboring population the civil privileges they enjoy, and raised them to the position they occupy; that it is the Lord's day which is the great, the everlasting bulwark of human freedom. It is that moral force which intelligence and virtue bestow upon a people, which unlooses effectually the iron grasp of the oppressor; which makes their voice heard clearly and distinctly in the legislation of their country, and blots pernicious, partial and unjust laws out of the statute-book; and it is, as we have already  seen, the knowledge of God obtained from revelation, which awakens man's dormant powers of mind, which leads him onward and upward in virtue and intelligence.
Deprive religion of its weekly rest, and by what means is it to gain access to the ears and to the understandings of working men and their children? When is it to pour its light into their minds, and the influence of devotion into their hearts? When shall the laborer study the book of God, or working men gather together to hear, not the teachings of erring man, but, with the Scriptures of truth in their hands, to listen to the voice of that infallible Wisdom which was with God when he lain the foundations of the earth? Shall it be after a day of laborious exertion has rendered them unfit, by exhaustion, for the close application of their minds to any serious study? Alas for the advancement of the laboring portion of the community in intelligence and morality! Alas for the refinement of manners, and the cultivation Of mind among them, if it is to be left to such seasons! So absolutely essential to the well-being of man does the Sabbath appear, whether viewed in relation to his eternal or his temporal interests, that, could we suppose it possible for man, destitute of the weekly rest, to become conscious of the wants of his own nature, we should conclude that he would have instituted, of his own accord, a Sabbath for himself. Those who, either for worldly gain or the pursuit of pleasure, profane the sacred hours of Sabbath rest, are not only despising one of the most important institutions of religion, but they are doing what in them lies to undermine one of the most enduring defenses of human liberty.
He who would take from the working man his Sabbath, would take with it the mind-awakening influence of religion; would keep the gate of knowledge, and forbid his entrance; would throw an impassable barrier in the way of his progress to civilization, and leave him the slave of the despot, the tool of the crafty politician, and the follower of the superstitious zealot, or the religious impostor.
Let those, then, who would seek to transmit to their children that liberty and those rights for which their fathers have struggled and bled, rear them amidst Sabbath influences, fill their minds with those subjects for the study of which the weekly rest was instituted, and accustom them to Sabbath exercises; and, most assuredly, they will rise above the oppression of the tyrant, see through the devices of the crafty, the subtlety of the sophist, and the deceit of the impostor.
All the efforts which have been made by the rude arm of physical force, to rescue mankind from oppression, have been utterly futile, and if any one will survey the state of the nations, at the present moment, he wilt find the liberty and the privileges enjoyed by the people, to be exactly proportioned to the extent to which general  intelligence and the knowledge of the word of God are diffused among them. What has the sword ever effected for the redemption of mankind from tyranny? It may have wrenched power from the hand of one party, but it has only been to give it into the hand of another equally liable to abuse it. Has it been torn from the hand of a lawless and merciless despot? It has been given into the hands of an insolent and brutal soldiery, or a superstitious mob, who soon trampled under foot that liberty which had been purchased for them with the blood of their brethren. Every revolution which has been effected by violence, affords proof of this.
It has been the blood of the martyr--the patient endurance and unshaken fortitude of him who would rather yield up liberty and life itself, than deny the truth--the peaceable, but persevering and indefatigable missionary, whose exertions have been devoted to the spread of the knowledge of God among men, who, by introducing religion and its Sabbath, and bringing man into intercourse with his God, the great Lord of all, to whom all are equally responsible, the governed and the governor, the subject and the prince, the servant and his master; and thus, by awakening in men a sense of their personal responsibility, has aroused their minds to activity. It is the knowledge of their responsibility--of the great truth that all must stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, to give, each one, an account of the deeds done in the body--which causes men to think and act for themselves, and thus raises them above the subtlety and power of selfishness and ambition.
Although the Sabbath comes laden with blessings for the sons of men, yet let it never be forgotten, that he only whom the truth has made free, he who has left the service of sin, to become the Lord's free man, doing the will of God from the heart, can fully appreciate or enjoy, not only its spiritual, but even its merely temporal blessings. He who has never tasted that God is good, who has never in joyful confidence committed the salvation of his soul into the hand of Jesus, will but abuse its benefits, neglect its duties, and despise its privileges.
How often does Monday morning give painful evidence of the total uselessness of the weekly rest to those who look upon it merely as a day of rest from toil, and a season for recreation! Even the rest they talk of is thrown away, and they are jaded and exhausted by folly and intemperance. Monday finds them scarce fit for the labor Of the day; instead of the animal system being refreshed and health improved, the batty is abused and disease engendered; while among those who, though knowing nothing of the living power of religion, yet influenced by the customs and opinions Of society around them, show no small regard for the Sabbath, how often are its  blessed influences almost entirely buried underneath the rubbish of mere ceremonial sanctity! No wonder, if childhood, sternly commanded to assume the serious gravity of age, through the long, weary, empty hours of an inactive Sabbath, should imbibe a deep-rooted dislike to religion and its Sabbath. No wonder, if, in families where it is thus observed, the minds of the young should become disaffected to that religion, of which such an empty, gloomy institution is viewed as a part; that, having received such a false idea of religion, they should plunge headlong into the pleasures, follies, and vices of the world, thinking that such lifeless and gloomy exercises will better suit the weakness and infirmity of age, than the fresh and buoyant activity of youth; and thus reap the results of an irregular and intemperate life, in a shattered constitution and a depraved character. No wonder if youth, coming forth from the bosom of such families, should be easily deluded by sophistry, and, caught in the snares of scepticism, should step into the ranks of unbelievers, or sink to the fate of the criminal and the vicious.
He who blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, never meant that that day, whose first morning beam fell upon the joyful activity of a new and perfect creation; whose dawning light saw the Son of man arise triumphant over death and the grave, should be spent in listless, motionless silence, or in soulless, meaningless ceremony. No; holy its hours indeed are, sanctified, set apart; not, however, to solemn, gloomy, lifeless inactivity; but hallowed to rest and refreshment, sacred to joy, set apart to active, cheerful, and strenuous exertion for the improvement of ourselves and others in holiness, virtue, and intelligence. Doubtless, thousands who have never felt the power of the truth in an awakened conscience and a renewed heart, are reaping many and important benefits from the Lord's day, in the more general diffusion of knowledge, and the advancement of civilization, besides the comfortable rest and refreshment it affords their bodies. But they can only to a limited extent enjoy the beneficial influence of the weekly rest, whether viewed as increasing their enjoyment in this present life, or as fitting them for happiness hereafter.
While, then, considering it of the utmost importance that this day should be preserved from the encroachments of labor and amusement, that working men should be protected by the law of their country in the observance of it, and regarding it as of paramount importance that it be preserved in its unimpaired sanctity as the birthright of every Briton--I would earnestly, solemnly, and affectionately, urge upon the attention of those who, seeking the improvement of the temporal condition of the laboring population of our country, and aware of the powerful influence which a proper observance of the  Sabbath would have in effecting their elevation, are endeavoring to call the attention of the legislature to the subject--that, here, legal enactments can do but little; they must put down, to some extent, the more public and glaring forms of Sabbath profanation, but this will only increase the amount of secret desecration. Those who have no heart for the proper observance of this day, may be prevented from spending it in certain kinds of labor or amusement, railway traveling, pleasure excursions, and such like; by being prevented from enjoying themselves in such pursuits, however, they will be driven into the secret haunts of dissipation and vice; and thus, although it is no doubt well, that, where wickedness can not be eradicated, it should be made ashamed to show its head, yet comparatively little good can be effected by the civil ruler, in promoting the cause of Sabbath observance. I would entreat them to bear in mind, that it is only the truths of the gospel imparting spiritual life, implanting moral principle, bringing the will of man into subjection to the will of his Creator, and awakening the intellect, that can enable man to reap that full harvest of temporal good from the weekly rest, which it is so well fitted to afford him.
Let, then, all who would see man redeemed from ignorance and slavery, vice and degradation--all who would see the working man refined in manners and elevated in character and condition, exert their utmost energy in the diffusion of knowledge, in the education of youth, but above all, in calling the attention of men to divine truth, to the glad tidings of salvation; and for this purpose let them rejoice in, and employ the Sabbath as connected with religion, as affording time for spreading abroad the knowledge of God; this is the lever which is to lift man from the degradation of the fall, and make him fit to be the inhabitant of a new earth, wherein all the evils which at present surround him shall be unknown.
What varied agencies is not the Sabbath calling into operation, to press forward and give fresh impulse to the onward movement? Not only is the stolid mind of the untaught workman aroused, impelling motive and untiring energy imparted, to carry him on in the upward path of self-improvement; but the sympathies of his nature are also awakened, and, looking on the moral and intellectual degradation and the physical wretchedness around him, his heart is yearning over his fellow-men, and the weekly rest affording him time, he is stretching out the hand of a brother to those who are sunk in ignorance and vice, he is pointing the upward path, and stimulating to the upward movement. See that young man, whose daily earnings, perchance, are needful, not merely for his own support, but it may be, for the support of aged parents, of young and helpless brothers and sisters; the circumstances of whose early years had  prevented his enjoying more than the limited advantages of a common grammar school education, or, perhaps, not even allowed of his receiving so much as a common school education, but whose knowledge has been picked up in Sabbath classes, or at the fireside of hard-working parents, whose straitened circumstances required that even in his boyhood he should strain every nerve to assist them in supplying, by his labor, the wants of a young and numerous family: he is not only walking steadfastly and firmly himself in the path of improvement, but taking the lead, and urging on his fellow-men, devoting his little hour of Sabbath rest and Sabbath leisure, not to mere repose, or sensual indulgence, but gathering his fellow-man around him that he may reason with them of the Scriptures, or calling together, for instruction, a class of ragged, untrained children, or wending his way to yonder wretched garret, or that damp cellar where want, disease, and vice have taken up their abode together, that he may ascertain why that squalid child was absent from the Sabbath-school class, and drop a word of encouragement to the boy, or address a word of warning and entreaty to the parents.
Who has not felt convinced, on viewing scenes like these, agencies like these called into operation, that it is the weekly rest in the hands of living, active religion, which is destined to reach the very lowest depths of society, to lift humanity from the degrading pollutions of vice, and from the servile dependence and helplessness of ignorance; and that to take from the children of toil the Lord's day, were to take from them at once the means of self-improvement, and also the opportunity of doing any thing towards the improvement of others?
Let those, then, who seek the elevation and refinement of the laboring population, do all that in them lies, to spread among them the knowledge of true religion and the observance of the Sabbath. Science may advance, art and philosophy instruct those who have means and leisure for their study; but of what avail would they ever become to laboring men, did not religion by her Sabbath open up the way for them? Yes, Christianity is the pioneer, and they follow in its footsteps. Besides, what is man, with his moral nature unimproved? His intellect may be powerful and highly cultivated; he may be learned in art and science, acquainted with all the properties of matter, and with every system of philosophy, ancient and modern; he may be capable of bringing creations, animate and inanimate, into subserviency to his pleasure and convenience; the lightnings of heaven may, at his bidding, fly with his message; and the hidden treasures of the earth may come forth to the light of day; at the command of art and science, starting into motion, he may be conveyed almost with the rapidity of thought, to his desired destination; fire, water, and air  may accomplish his labor for him; but, if his religious feelings are dormant or misdirected, or if his moral nature is depraved, he is but the more capacitated to spread destruction and misery around him; to be miserable in himself, and a curse and a scourge to mankind. He can use, with more ability, the subtlety and the arts of the impostor; he can, with more dexterity, forge or use weapons of war, or set armies in battle array; or he may be a more able and dangerous leader in riot and insurrection; a more dexterous highwayman, robber, or assassin; but, without the cultivation of his moral nature by religion, he is neither fitted to receive happiness himself, nor impart it to others.
Religion not only awakens and cultivates man's intellect, it also subdues and governs his animal propensities, exalts and refines his moral feelings, and, by doing so, redeems him from much present suffering, and opens to him inexhaustible treasures of enjoyment in himself and others, impelling him to exert all the energies of his nature, not in seeking merely his own, but in securing the well-being of his fellow-men, making him more willing to impart than co exact, more yielding than commanding, more ready to bear with, than to claim forbearance--in a word, writing upon his heart, in living characters, the truth that it is more blessed to give than to receive, and thus putting an end to all strife, emulation, broils, and discord, and war in every form, with all its attendant miseries.
Yes; let those who long for that blissful period when men shall be united in one universal brotherhood; when peace shall make her dwelling among them, and good-will fill every heart; when the reward of the husbandman's toil--the yellow fields of waving grain--shall no more be trampled beneath the hoof of the war-horse, nor his hardwon earnings wrung from his hand, to keep in repair the machinery of war--men shall no more study the art of destroying each other, but shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; let those who long for, and labor to introduce this happy era, see in the Sabbath the oil which is to still the waves of human strife--in its memorials, its influences, its exercises, the links of that chain of love, which is yet to bind heart to heart, from one end of the earth to the other, and encircle the whole with an unbroken and everlasting bond of union.
When men meet together on the first day of the week, to break bread, to surround the table of their Lord, to pass from hand to hand the cup of blessing, to hear the words and study the character of Him who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, threatened not, but committed himself to Him who judgeth righteously; when they, as the children of that God who is by his love manifested in the gift of his well-beloved Son, subduing the enmity  of his enemies and reconciling them to himself, meet thus together on the first day of the week, not to hear the voice of a human orator, nor to attend to the words of a fallible instructor, but to gather around the scriptures of truth, the word of the living and true God, to learn his will, that, with willing heart and ready feet, they may run in the way of his commandments; when they study his character, as he there reveals himself, that their moral nature may become assimilated to his, that they may be like their Father in heaven, who maketh his sun to shine upon the evil and the good; what must be the result? Who will hesitate to say, were working men all to meet weekly, thus to keep the Lord's day as appointed by Himself, that soon the oppressor would cease out of the land; that intemperance, ignorance, vice of all kinds, with all the poverty, disease, and wretchedness inseparably connected with them, would be forever banished; and peace, descending from the skies, whither sin had caused her to take her flight, again dwell with redeemed man?
And ever as we approach nearer and nearer to such a use of the weekly rest; and ever as the circle widens, of those who feel it not their duty only, but their dearest, choicest privilege, thus to spend and enjoy this day--do we approach more nearly to the long-predicted age of millennial glory, to the dawn of the great Sabbath of the world, that Sabbath of rest from sin and suffering, strife and oppression, when the Lord himself shall judge the nations in righteousness, when the lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of man shall be brought low, and the Lord alone be exalted.
The Lord's day can never be trifled with but at our peril. Like every appointment of our benevolent Creator, it was instituted for the benefit of his creatures, wisely adapted to fulfill its purpose; and he who sells its privileges for gain, or barters them for pleasure, makes a poor bargain indeed. Selfishness, narrow, ungenerous, short-sighted selfishness--generally outwits itself; and this is especially the case with employers who, regardless of the comfort, health, or morality of the employed, engage them in labor on this day, and thereby deprive them of its benefits. The interests of employers are inseparably connected with the well-being of the employed. The labor of a healthy, steady, honest, intelligent workman is of double value to that of him who can not be depended upon, whose moral principles are unsound, or his habits irregular; whose mind is uncultivated, or his body debilitated by disease. And those who engage men in labor or business upon the first day of the week, may blame themselves, if, in a few years, they find it difficult to have their work well performed, and discover that their property is far from being secure. 
The Sabbath has, with beautiful propriety, been called "the poor man's day;" and it seems, indeed, peculiarly adapted to confer important advantages upon him: not one of these, however, is obtained at the expense of the employers. Its blessings are suited to all classes, but the working classes more especially require its provisions for their happiness. If the servant, after a week of labor, enjoys a day of rest, and appears in the meeting of the disciples of Jesus, clean, comfortably dressed, and respectable as his master, it is, that, fresh and vigorous, he may with hearty good will enter upon the labors of another week. A feeling of self-respect, and a sense of moral obligation, raise him above eye-service, or any thing like slight, sluggish, or improper performance of labor--a, feeling which, though it can not stoop to cringing servility, would sooner brook disrespect than show it to another, whether employer or fellow-servant; and a sense of moral obligation, which makes him faithful in whatever he is entrusted with, enables him to understand and claim his own rights, and induces him, without reserve, to give to all others their due.
The Sabbath interferes with the interests of none but those who live by the ignorance, superstition, vice, and degradation of mankind; those who have their wealth from Babylon the great, who traffic in "slaves and souls of men."
Let all, then, of every class and station, examine this subject; the more it is viewed in the light of truth, the more its importance will appear. He who is desirous of the well-being of his fellow-men, ought not, and can not consistently, pass it lightly by; and even he whose contracted mind looks only at his personal interest, may not safely slight it.
[BARBARA H. FARQUHAR.]
Alexander Campbell. Extract from "The Sanctification of the Lord's Day."
The Millennial Harbinger 21 |
----------. Extract from "The Sanctification of the Lord's Day; or, 'The Pearl of Days.'"
The Millennial |
|3. [Barbara H. Farquhar.] "The Pearl of Days." The Millennial Harbinger 21 (December 1850): 662-681.|
|NOTE: The Pearl of Days, or The Advantages of the Sabbath to the Working Classes, by a Labourer's Daughter; with a Sketch of the Author's Life and a Preface by an American Clergyman. New York: S. Hueston, 1849. Illus. E. Whimper. 133 p., front., plates; 16 cm. Another American edition was issued: New York: M. W. Dodd, 1849. [E. S.]|
[Table of Contents]
|Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)