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regularly attends upon the ordinances of religion. You can scarcely prevent the respectability of that family, which we see, Sabbath after Sabbath, coming up to the courts of the Lord. Let wicked men say what they will, there does come an influence from such scenes, to beget a feeling of selfrespect, and ward off the evils of poverty and depression. This point is susceptible of the clearest demonstration. The house of God, all the country over, is the radiating point of light, and peace, and industry, and contentment, for the whole neighborhood in which it is placed. So true is this, that our poor rates could be lessened in no way more effectually, than by bringing about a universal observance of the Sabbath.
3. The Sabbath, when rightly observed, furnishes the very best school of virtue and good morals.
All the most respectable infidels have been ready to acknowledge, that there is no code of laws for the regulation of human conduct, like that of the Bible. According to the testimony of the eloquent, though depraved and infidel Rosseau, it is madness to compare Socrates with the Son of Mary, in this respect. The precepts of the Bible surpass all other precepts, because they are intended to control the heart as well as the conduct, and to make the tree good, as the first and most effectual step towards the production of good fruit. Only let this blessed book rule in every bosom, and men will do to others just as they wish others to do to them. Injustice, fraud, and oppres sion, all meanness, duplicity, and over-reaching, would be done away at once, and done away for ever.
But when are these laws to be expounded, and applied to the various duties of common life? As it respects the bulk of mankind, the Sabbath is almost the only opportunity they have for any careful and thorough attention to this deeply interesting subject. On this sacred day, however, they are detached from all earthly concerns, and their minds are free to attend to nobler pursuits. From week to week they are collected in a school established for the inculcation of heavenly wisdom, and thus one-seventh part of their whole life is spent in learning their duty to God and man. What an opportunity is this for improvement in all that is excellent, and lovely, and of good report. The man who dies in middle life, is furnished with five full years; and if he lives to old age, with ten full years of instruction, exactly adapted to make him a better husband, a better father, a better neighbor, and a better member of the community. For a class-book the Bible is put into his hands. God himself is the teacher, and every lesson is dictated by that wisdom which cometh from above. Every precept, every promise, every threatening is alike replete with a sound and healthful influence. Here it is that the laws of the Most High are brought home to the bosoms and business of men, and they go away to lead quiet and peaceable lives, in all godliness and honesty.
In accordance with these remarks, you will always find the purest and most elevated morality among those who keep the Sabbath holy. This assertion is made without the least fear of successful contradiction; and you are invited to test its truth as often as you please. Ride through the country, and examine its towns and villages-mingle with the inhabitants of every grade, and become acquainted with their feelings and habits,-then tell me candidly where you find most industry, most love of order, most contentment, most sobriety, most purity, most freedom from low and debasing vices. I anticipate your answer. These are virtues which grow under the genial influences of the Sabbath, and among the people who love the sound of the church-going bell. But can you point me to one disturber of the peace of society, to one idle, dissolute family, to one single vicious neighborhood, that regards the Lord's day? This will not be pretended. Sir Matthew Hale says, "that of all the persons convicted of capital crimes while he was upon the bench, there were a few only who were not ready to confess that they began their career of wickedness in a neglect of the duties of the Sabbath."
It cannot be otherwise than that virtue and good morals must disappear when the Sabbath is forgotten. In every instance where this memorial of
creation and redemption is treated with neglect, a strong and resistless tide of iniquity is seen to set in. Look where you will over the earth; if the Sabbath has become a desolation, there is little of domestic comfort left. Let this day be once made like the rest of the week, in our own country, and all the foundations of social happiness will be broken up. A single half century would suffice to carry us back to the rudeness, and atheism, and vice of the dark ages.
This matter is entitled to the fullest investigation. We will suppose that you are in search for a quiet, contented, and prosperous neighborhood. But you never can find it, if you travel beyond the influence of the Lord's day. You are looking for parental tenderness and filial obedience. But these are seldom met with, where no holy time is recognized. You are inquiring after domestic purity and all the endearments of social life. But they are not to be found where the Sabbath gives no tone to moral sentiment. You wish to reside in a place where life is valued, and property is secure. But no such place exists, where the restraining energy of the fourth commandment is not felt. Make the inquiry as often as you please, and you find that virtue and sound morals decline just in proportion as you recede from the illuminations and restraints of the holy Sabbath. Darkness covers the earth, and gross darkness the people.
I am confident that this subject has never yet received a due degree of attention from the men of this happy land. Suppose that the Sabbath was abolished, our religious temples burnt to the ground, the public preaching of the gospel interdicted, and all the ministers of the sanctuary driven into exile, what would be the result? Why, you may tell by a visit to those countries where there is no Sabbath, no house of God, no teacher of the way of life. In every such case, without a solitary exception, ignorance, vice, and misery, overspread the entire surface of society, and affect its very vitals.
But will it be deemed unsuitable for me to add, that the Sabbath is the least expensive, as well as the best school? This is especially true in our own country, where the people choose their own pastor, and assign him such support as is deemed by both parties competent. We have no ecclesiastical revenues, no mitred heads, no superb palaces for the clergy, to drain away the scanty earnings of the poor. Here a multitude may receive instruction at a cost which bears hard upon none, and which returns even in kind more than it receives. Many families pay as much for a few lessons given to a single child, in some ornamental branch of education, as they do for the yearly religious advantages of the whole household. It is unpleasant to add that the little which religion costs is not always cheerfully paid. The fact however is obvious, that no instruction whatever can be had at so small an expense, as that which relates to piety and good morals. But the Sabbath school, also, as well as the pulpit, illustrates this idea. What an amount of talent, and energy of character, and real consecration of heart to a good object, is to be found among the tens of thousands of teachers in this blessed institution. They are giving of their time, and often of their money too, most liberally to this hallowed service; and though in most cases they receive but little honor from men, God himself will reward them openly. Such gratui tous efforts for the upbuilding of his kingdom shall not be forgotten.
4. The personal and social character of man is elevated by a proper observance of the Sabbath.
One of the best safeguards to an upright course of conduct is to be found in a deeply rooted, and well regulated self-respect. The man who has a due regard for his character and standing in society, will generally strive to merit and secure the good opinion of those around him. But there is no season when this sentiment is so strengthened, and brought into such wholesome exercise, as on the Sabbath. Every thing connected with this sacred day, the events to which it looks back, the prospect which it opens, and the feelings which it fosters, are all adapted to give dignity and elevation to man's character. He will indeed be sensible of his own littleness, but he cannot
forget his immortal existence and high destiny. Every time he attends upon the services of the sanctuary, there will be sure to be something to expand his mind, and purify his affections, and raise him above ignoble pleasures and pursuits.
It is literally impossible for a person to attend seriously to the duties of the Sabbath and not be benefitted. Those who statedly come up to the house of the God of Jacob, that they may be taught his laws, will never fall into total neglect and obscurity. No individual, or family, or neighborhood, ever pursued this course without securing some degree of respect and consideration by it. They will be improved both in their minds and manners. There will be more of neatness in their apparel, and cleanliness in their manner of living, of order in their habitations, and of decorum in their intercourse with each other. As a mere matter of taste and refinement, what can be so lovely as to see a whole community flocking together Sabbath after Sabbath to the house of God. There is something here on which the eye of philanthropy may look with delight. Met together on a holy day, and in a sacred place, and united with a devout assembly, in worshipping the God of heaven, men must improve in every good feeling and purpose. They may be poor, but there will be a charm of peace and contentment spread over their character, which goes very far to rob poverty itself of its sharpest sting. A sort of sweet serenity will be seen to dwell with such as love the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
Think also how the Sabbath is calculated to check and repress all the unamiable traits of human character. What can the pride of rank or fortune find to feed upon, where men are gathered together in the presence of the infinite Jehovah? How shall the wise man glory in his wisdom, or the rich man in his riches, at the throne of Him before whom all are upon the same level? The glare of fashion and the pomp of wealth are annihilated, when men find themselves mingling with their poorer neighbors in the service of Almighty God. They all sing one song, meet at one sacramental table, and the little differences of external condition are lost sight of. There it is that the loftiness so natural to wealth and honors is bowed down, and all haughtiness laid in the dust, and the Lord alone exalted.
In this view of the subject, the Sabbath seems to be truly republican in its aspect. At any rate, its provisions exactly correspond with the spirit and genius of our free institutions. Never was there a louder cry raised in favor of equal rights and privileges than at the present time; but it may be doubted whether the best method of attaining these important blessings is generally understood. The requisitions of the fourth commandment would blend the different classes of society together in a happier manner than any which mere human wisdom has devised. We do not wish to see such a levelling produced as is witnessed when our great men mingle with the low and worthless in groceries and bar-rooms, for the purpose of influencing the ballot-box. This is a sort of equality to be sure; but it is an equality effected not by raising the inferior classes up, but by sinking the others down. Such an amalgamation is likely to do more harm than good. But the Bible shows us a more excellent way; and happy for us will it be, if our leading political men should come at length to perceive the adaptation of the sanctuary to promote the healthful action of every part of the body politic. There the rich and the poor can be brought together in a way that shall bless both. The high can be taught condescension, and the low self-respect, without the operation of Agrarian laws, or the adoption of any measure to blot out the necessary distinctions and gradations of life.
5. The due observance of the Sabbath is a distinguished blessing to nations.
On this subject the Bible speaks too plainly to be misunderstood. This holy book assures us, that there can be no such thing as permanent success by taking counsel against the Lord; and that no people can abandon his Sabbath without being abandoned by him. We have here, moreover, ♪
detailed account of the divine dealings with one particular nation, in regard to this very matter. So long as the Jews were careful to observe the Sabbath, they were made to use the beautiful language of inspiration-to ride upon the high places of the earth, and were fed with the heritage of Jacob their father. But no sooner did they come to set at naught this blessed insti tution, than their affairs, civil and ecclesiastical, began to verge towards speedy ruin. At length their city was destroyed, their altars demolished, their temple burnt to the ground, and the whole nation carried into a seventy years' captivity, on purpose, as God informed them, that the land might enjoy her Sabbaths. They lost their liberty by attempting to rob God of time which he had claimed as his own.
Perhaps, however, it is thought that there was something so peculiar in the condition of the Jews, that their history cannot illustrate the duty of nations at the present day. This no believer in the Bible will admit, yet our argument is complete without a reference to their case. Pause, then, and inquire, what has been the secret of the immense wealth and gigantic power of the people of Great Britain, now for centuries in succession? How is it that that little island, surrounded by the mighty ocean, and constituting but a mere speck on the surface of the globe, has been able so to mould the destinies of the world? That nation is not blessed with a richer soil, or a brighter sky, or a more salubrious clime than their neighbors. This amazing prosperity must be owing to something which enters into the ingredients of the moral character of that people, and places them in so commanding an attitude as it regards the rest of the world. That something, no one acquainted with their history can hesitate to say, is the Christian religion, with its Sabbaths, and its temples, and its ministry of reconciliation. On this point there can be no dispute. Even Hume himself expressly declares that the freedom which the British constitution guarantees to the subject, is to be traced to the noble efforts of the Puritans to be unshackled in serving God.
This case is the more striking from its contrast with that of a naturally gallant and high-minded nation in the very neighborhood. France, during the awful period of her revolution, was led on from one step of impiety to another, until at length she solemnly decreed that there should be no Sabbaths. The temples of religion were deserted, and her altars laid in the dust. But what was the consequence to the character, the morals, and the prosperity of that people, of thus publicly defying the God of heaven, by abolishing this most important of all his institutions? You may see it in the scenes of distress and wretchedness, carnage and blood, into which the nation was plunged. It would really seem as if God, by this example, intended to let the world know, what communities must expect, when they openly trample on his ordinances.
There is, however, no nation under heaven for which the Sabbath has done more than for ourselves. What was it that brought our pilgrim fathers across the trackless ocean, to these distant and then dreary shores? They came here, as you all know, to enjoy religious liberty, and to make a fair experiment of what the pure simple gospel could do to bless mankind. This it was that nerved their arm to prostrate the mighty forest, and raise up towns and villages amidst hosts of savage foes. What was it also that enabled this infant republic to wage successful war against the mightiest nation on earth? Ah! none in that tremendous conflict, which tried men's souls, stood firmer at their post than those who had learned their duty at the altar of God. But for such elements of character as had been generated by the commanding influence of the Sabbath, the far famed Declaration of Independence would have proved a dead letter, and we should have become a prey to all the anarchy and misrule of the South American States. Examine the events of those times: trace these events up to their causes, and then say how much we owe to the fourth commandment. We never should have gained a permanent footing in this land, or become a free and independent nation, had not the men, who have now been long sleeping in our valleys,
possessed a character which had been formed under the influence of the Sabbath.
When shall this point be understood? You may look the earth over, in its length and breadth, and you will see men understanding and enjoying civil liberty only under the illumination of the holy Sabbath. The fact is, such a people cannot be enslaved. Opinion has a power which even the bayonet has not. These are not the materials out of which some ambitious demagogue can form bands to tread down the liberties of his country. The Sabbath will teach a nation to appreciate its rights, and nerve its arm to defend those rights.
Now, if these things are so, it must be a spirit of hostility to all our dearest interests to oppose, or in any way to abuse the Sabbath.
The sacred observance of this day is intimately connected with every personal, domestic, and social blessing; and not less connected is it with the welfare of our common country. It is then a momentous inquiry-in what colors is the future history of this nation to be written? Is the Sabbath still to maintain its power over the minds of the community? Is the pulpit to send forth its hallowed instructions? And are the fountains of society to be purified by the spirit of the gospel? If so, we are safe. Families will be kind and peaceful, neighborhoods moral and orderly, States magnanimous and conciliatory, and this great confederacy present such a spectacle of quietness and prosperity as the world has never yet beheld. But alas! there is much to fear. In less than half a century, according to the present ratio of increase, there will be found forty millions of souls in this land, located in different States, each possessing sovereign power, and under the influence of separate interests and feelings. Now I ask, what is to continue to hold together this immense multitude? We acknowledge no autocracy here to urge the people to obedience at the point of the sword, willing or unwilling. Ours is a self-government, a government resting entirely upon the moral sense, the intelligence, the integrity of the people, and it cannot live a single month in any other way. Destroy individual, household, and neighborhood virtue and morality, and the country is ruined at once. The question then recurs, and it is one which must come home to every heart, how shall we do without the soothing influence, the kind feeling, the genuine piety of the Sabbath? I have no disposition to bring a railing accusation against any one, but surely the men who would drive away the light and lessen the power of this holy day, know not what they do. They may see no evil in turning the full tide of their example against the high command of heaven. They may dream of no disaster to the morals of the community from a desecration of these sacred hours. But the fact is, by thus corrupting private virtue they are taking the surest course to overturn the liberties of the country, and leave it a heap of splendid ruins.
It is not always wise to inquire why the former days were better than these, but it may be useful for me to turn parents back to the lessons of their own early years. You well remember what your pious fathers told you of the quiet and undisturbed Sabbaths of former times. During that golden period, golden at least so far as this matter is concerned-each town and vil lage in the land, was as serene and tranquil, as quiet and noiseless, as the summer's evening. It would have shocked the feelings of your venerated ancestors, to see a steam-boat emptying the dregs of one of our large cities, upon the surrounding country, on this holy day. They would have trembled to witness the bustle and movement of our loaded cars and canal boats, as they hasten forward during all the hours of the Sabbath. But these are things with which your eyes and ears have become familiar. And do you never inquire after the result of all this? Have you no fear for the future safety and comfort of the little ones, that are now the joy of your hearts, and the pride of your houses? Arise then, and do your duty. Command your children, and your household after you, that they keep the way of the Lord.