« PreviousContinue »
dale—I don't mean the heterodox professor of modern times but the orthodox reformer — suggested keeping one day in every ten. Of course it is desirable, if possible, that the same day should be observed throughout the same district. But there would be nothing to prevent different days being set apart for the purpose in different districts or in different towns, as is the case with the fast-days in Scotland. And sometimes a particular individual will be unable to keep the particular day which is kept by his neighbours and acquaintances. To me, for instance, Sunday is the hardest day of the week, and I am obliged to use my carriage. But I always let the horse and the coachman have Saturday to themselves. I am one of the very few Christians who, in this respect at least, adhere literally to the fourth commandment. Mr Spurgeon is another. He once jocularly remarked that his horse was a Jew. So is mine. I am proud to find myself in such good company. But whatever be our own peculiar circumstances and condition, let us never forget that we are all bound to be thoughtfully considerate for others, especially for our dependants, for the poor, for the overworked. We are so apt to rush into extremes. We are often inclined to say, Sunday has been made into a fetish, a false value has been attached to it, we have outgrown such folly, all days in the week shall be alike for us. But it will always be well that there should be one day in the week, on which we make a special effort to alleviate the toil of the working classes, to lighten the burden of life for those who are less favourably circumstanced than ourselves.
EEMAEKS ON PEEVIOUS SEEMON.
After preaching this sermon I received a great number of expostulatory letters. One was from a brother clergyman, "regretting that a minister, whose duty it was to instruct the children of the Foundling Hospital in the principles of Christianity, should," &c. Now I take this opportunity of saying, once for all, that I have absolutely nothing to do with the Foundling children. I am responsible for the Governors and adult congregation. But the children are more fortunate. They are in the hands of my friend and colleague, the chaplain. In fact at my suggestion the Governors have arranged that the smaller children shall be sent away before the sermon. And I often feel sorry for those who remain. They are obliged to keep perfectly quiet, which is no easy matter for little people at their age. But they manage to do it marvellously. I never hear a sound of any description from the children's gallery. I hope they will believe that I am very grateful to them.
Among the other letters was one which is so suggestive that I give it here in full.
"My Dear Professor,—You will forgive me, I hope, for daring to think what I say, and still more to say what I think about this morning's sermon. I look at the subject more or less from your side, and yet I could not help quarrelling very seriously with you. I went with you thoroughly to a certain point, and enjoyed the logical clearance,—and then you, not disappointed, but hurt me. You did not leave the observers of Sunday one illogical plank to stand upon. But surely you might have substituted a yet stronger, because reasonable, ground for their observance, instead of letting them through into the deep waters of general morality and individual judgment to sink or swim. How many can swim, I wonder 1 Is not any, even an illogical and stupid, motive better left, as long as it has power to prompt in a right direction I (On this I cannot make up my mind.) And could you not have taught people to distinguish between cant and feeling? Granted the expediency of showing up what was unfounded and absurd, which I do grant, was it quite fair to treat this as the whole motive, and ignore all the feelings and emotions and associations which to many are the strongest arguments in favour of Sunday observance? The true meaning of a Sabbath, I take it, is felt by the orthodox, and requires to be brought to light, and then the absurd will disappear. Whereas if the absurd is merely cut up, the heart of the matter has not been reached at all. An undefined feeling remains, that somehow the deed is better than the creed, if one could only see why. And yet the latter having been shattered the former dies; the creed having been destroyed, the deed to which it prompted will by-andby likewise vanish.
"It seems to me that the illogical, slipshod, orthodox reasoning in favour of Sunday observance, is only a weak afterattempt to justify a practice which does really rest upon a logical foundation. The observance itself, I cannot help thinking, has grown out of, and rests upon, something stronger than any arbitrary law, such as the fourth commandment may have been. The observance of Sunday, I cannot help believing, rests upon a deep-rooted, though but half-realised, sense of a great need in the nature of man,—a physical, spiritual and social need.
"I. Physical.—The general lightness of having a day of freedom from labour, which should benefit principally the working classes, was your chief argument, I think, in favour of Sabbath-keeping. This philanthropic scheme, you said, should be the outcome of the golden rule, and its application should be left to the individual judgment. Now I wonder how many shop and factory hands would get a holiday, how many people would have cold suppers anything like as often as once a-week, if individual judgment were not strengthened by general feeling, by custom, by combined action? The application of the golden rule at all in this matter seems to depend upon a recognition of the universal need of rest. Surely if the importance of this were enforced, the foolish obedience to the fourth commandment, to an obsolete and arbitrary law, would give place to a reasonable acquiescence in a custom which was seen to correspond to a universal and perpetual want.
"II. The observance of Sunday corresponds to a spiritual need, the need—viz., of spiritual refreshment and help. You said that the observance of the Sabbath was, according to the orthodox view, in obedience to the fourth commandment, but that this command made no reference to worship, and that therefore worship and the day of rest had no logical connection. That may be; but it surely does not matter whether the two things are logically connected or not. They have been practically associated for generations, and this association appears to me very natural and very sensible. The day of least physical and mental toil is the day best suited for spiritual refreshment, and spiritual refreshment consists essentially in spiritual action. 'Worship the Lord all the days of thy life' is a spiritual rule as grand and sweeping as the golden rule in morality, and as difficult of application. Unless we focus them on the particular, we can never effect anything by them. If we live content with