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the legislature. If the law be salutary, it should be obeyed, and disobedience impartially punished. If it be an impolitic and unnecessary law, let it be at once repealed. The most notorious violation of the laws, prescribing the duties of the Sabbath, is the passing and re-passing of vehicles, by land and water. Steamboats and stage-coaches are commonly more employed upon the Sabbath, than upon any other day of the week. The quiet and decorum of the day of rest are disturbed by the driving of carriages, and the passage of wagons, engaged in the transportation of goods. And in certain villages, near our large cities, the streets exhibit, upon that day, the appearance of a fair or a race-ground, rather than a day of religious rest. The taverns are filled with successive parties of pleasure-hunters, passing from or to the cities; and the very sanctuary of God is frequently disturbed by the noise and tumult of these unseasonable visiters. These are evils which are rapidly eating into the vitals of our moral system.
It has also been to us a subject of surprise, as well as deep regret, to behold in many parts of the country, the labours of agriculture going on, without the least apparent necessity, on the Sabbath. We have seen, in fine clear weather, the harvest cut down, as well as gathered in. Surely, this cannot be justified by good citizens, when it is done in direct violation of the laws of the land. Whatever may be thought of the religious obligation of the Sabbath, all good citizens might be expected to respect the civil authority. Unless energetic measures are used to prevent the growth of these evils, the effects will be deplorable; and magistrates and others will be convinced, that their connivance at the breach of the law, providing for the observance of the Sabbath, was a dangerous dereliction of duty.
There is, indeed, a cure for the political evils of which we are complaining, but it is a slow remedy, and often tremendously severe. Corruption of morals will, at length, throw every thing into confusion; subvert every valuable institution, and spread desolation over the country where it prevails. Let it be remembered, that the overthrow of almost every flourishing nation which has ever perished, has been occasioned by the deterioration of national morals. Under despotic power, a military force is made the instrument of preventing the injury which the prevalence of vice produces; but a free government can rely only upon the knowledge and virtue of
the people. It should be inscribed over every door and gateway, in conspicuous characters, and proclaimed to every assemblage of the people, that VIRTUE IS THE BASIS OF A REPUBLIC.
The events of future times, perhaps, will show, that it is a poor and a vain thing to have connected distant places by canals; to have levelled mountains; to have built railways from city to city; to have defended our coasts by fleets and fortifications; and to have extended our population and improvements from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Ruin threatens us from another quarter. The mine which will probably subvert our noble political fabric, is in the midst of us. Foreign foes can never conquer us. Increase of wealth, and men, and national improvements, can never save us.
There is something still more necessary than arts, and arms, and overflowing treasures, and various modes of internal conveyance. There is still need of something to give stability to all these possessions; and this can be accomplished only by deeply radicated principles of integrity and virtue among the people.
We sound no false alarm. Past events justify these forebodings; and, in such circumstances, it is the duty of every patriot to raise his voice in defence of an institution which is intimately associated with the dearest interests of the community.
9. If the Sabbath is an institution of God; to avoid his displeasure, every government should cause it to be properly respected and observed. This proposition may seem to remove the subject from the ground upon which its discussion was proposed; but a little reflection will show that this consideration ought not to be excluded. It is not, indeed, the object of this article to prove that the Sabbath is a divine institution; but it is impossible to do justice to the subject, without examining it briefly in this point of view. We cannot properly investigate the policy of a government without considering, that there is an over-ruling Providence, which is more manifest in the government of nations, than in the affairs of individuals. Whether any community thinks proper to acknowledge, or refuses to acknowledge the providence of God, it is equally under his control; and its prosperity, or overthrow, will depend, materially, upon the moral character of its members. If, then, we have the slightest ground for believing that God has separated one day of the week for his
own service, in order that men may have an opportunity of contemplating his character, and joining in his worship, it is surely politic (to say the least) to pay regard to such an institution, because no evil, and much good, will arise from its observance. And if it should prove to be established by divine authority, its violation by a people, and a neglect to provide for its sanctification by the government, may provoke the judgments of God against both. The history of the Jews recorded in the Old Testament furnishes a salutary lesson for our instruction and warning in relation to this matter.
But we may, and ought to take higher ground. In a country where a large majority of the people are Christians, it may be taken for granted, that the origin of the Sabbath is divine; for upon this subject there has been among Christians a general agreement The question then is, whether rulers, knowing that God has appointed a certain day for his worship, are not bound to make such arrangements as will render attendance on it easy and convenient. Civil rulers are not to prescribe to men what they shall believe, or how they shall worship; but if there be a day, divinely appointed for public worship, it is their duty to have this day so observed, that all who are disposed may be able to worship without interruption or distraction. The doctrine which we wish to inculcate, with respect to the duty of civil rulers, is this: that they are under obligations to promote truth and piety in the country which they govern. This should be effected by all the means in their power, which are lawful, and which do not interfere with the natural rights of man. And it is their best policy to endeavour to avoid the displeasure of the Most High by discouraging vice in all its forms, and by promoting virtue and religion.
The observance of the Sabbath, therefore, by any people, is important, because, as it is a divine institution, its observance will be pleasing to God, and because it is proper to avoid a course which will bring down upon the people the judgments of Heaven.
We know the contempt with which many modern politicians would dismiss an argument of this kind. It is, indeed, a fact, that a sort of atheism has deeply infected many of our public men. They are loth to acknowledge the hand of God in any thing, and are still more reluctant to submit to his institutions and commandments. It is, probably, the regret of all pious men, that the Constitution of the United
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States never recognises the being or providence of God. How far He will consider this as impious, who can tell? But, surely, it would have been at least prudent to make some acknowledgment of our dependence, and some expression of gratitude for national favours. There is also reason to fear that the members of our government, in the highest stations, do not give the weight of their influence and example to the observance of the Sabbath. This is an evil over which the true patriot, as well as the Christian, should weep. There is one practice sanctioned by the authority of our general government, which is a direct violation of the rest of this sacred day; and which, as it is public and notorious in every part of the country, has a most pernicious effect on the public mind, in the way of example. We have already treated of it at large. It is the carrying of the mail on the Lord's day, in time of peace.
When the owners of vehicles for conveying passengers, see the coach which carries the mail every where travelling without necessity, they are emboldened by the example to set the laws of the State at defiance. And we see no prospect of a reformation in this matter, until this practice is discontinued. The voice of the people should be raised against a practice which not only operates so injuriously by its example, but which is literally A NATIONAL SIN, and will assuredly bring down upon us the judgments of God. It would be easy, if any exigence required the immediate and rapid communication of intelligence, to send an express who might travel without intermission.
If a disregard to sacred things is countenanced by those whom God has ordained to be a terror to evil-doers, and a praise to them that do well,” the divine blessing cannot be expected by the nation which is governed by such men. The conduct of civil rulers, in relation to the Sabbath, is important, not merely on account of the influence of their example, but because experience, as well as the word of God, teaches us, that the sins of rulers are often visited upon the nation over which they preside. This, with other weighty considerations, should lead those who have the privilege of choosing public officers, to elevate to the highest stations none but men of sound principles and good character. For a Christian people to commit the management of their affairs to avowed infidels or open despisers of religious institutions, is an affront to the King of heaven, and, in some sort, a denial of the truth and importance of the religion which they profess to believe.
It is time for Christians to be awake to the importance of this subject, and not to be carried away by the impetuosity of party spirit. The difference between political systems, in this country, is trivial, but the difference between the friends and enemies of religion is immense. Though Christians should not enter into the political contests of the day, they ought to come forward boldly to the discharge of their duty; and not under the pretence of avoiding politics, to neglect the service which God and their country demand of them. They should not leave the choice of rulers to those who are least qualified to judge, but should exercise their right of suffrage impartially, and with a view to the glory of God, and the best interests of their country. They should withhold their vote and support from every man, however able and eloquent, who refuses to acknowledge the truth of religion, and treads under foot the ordinances of God.
We shall, in conclusion, endeavour to describe the manner in which the Sabbath should be observed, in order to render it most interesting and valuable, as a civil institution. At the close of the week, every family should REMEMBER that the Sabbath is approaching, and should make such arrangements as will have a tendency to render the observation of it easy and pleasant. While a superstitious scrupulousness, and a Pharisaic rigour are avoided, let the determination of every one be, to lay aside all secular concerns, all servile labour, all diversions, and all unnecessary journeys. Let the day be considered sacred, and consecrated to religious services, and the acquisition of the knowledge of God and his word. should not, however, be a day of gloom and austerity ; but a season of sacred enjoyment. Every heart should overflow with gratitude; every, voice should be tuned to praise. Every countenance should shine with the expression of joy and hope.
It is wrong to spend the morning of this day in unnecessary sleep. Too much sleep stupifies the mind, and is unfavourable to health. If we rise early, and pursue our business with alacrity, we ought not to be dull and remiss when the time is the Lord's, and when his service calls for our attention. To the devout and pious mind, no day dawns with so sweet a light as the Sabbath. It was originally intended to bring to fresh remembrance the great work of creation, when God first caused light to shine out of darkness, and when the glory of God was made visible in the heavens and