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The New Zealand Evangelist

Working Men's Sabbath Essays

Working Men's Sabbath Essays.

On Wednesday, Dec. 27, a meeting very numerously attenched, was held in the large rooms, Exeter Hall, for the announcement of the adjudication and distribution of prizes to the successful competitors for the best essays, by working men, on the temporal advantages of the Sabbath to the labouring classes. Lord Ashley presided. The Report stated that there were three prizes of £26, £15, and £10, the gift of John Henderson of Glasgow; and about seventy-seven prizes of £6. For these 1015 competitors appeared, and, amongst them, a labourer's daughter, who wrote the “Pearl of Days,” of which 16,000 copies have been sold. By the terms of the preliminary announcement, however, she could not receive a prize. The Report stated, that the essays generally displayed much theological knowledge, elevated moral sentiment, and considerable scientific attainments.

The Rev. E. Bickersteth moved the first resolution:—

“That the Report of the adjudicators, affords a very gratifying view of the results of the attempt which had been made to call forth the energies and exertions of the labouring classes in defence of their Sabbath rights and privileges; and that these results are evidences the most hopeful for promoting the better observance of the Lord's day than have yet been made.”

In the course of his remarks, the Rev. gentleman said, that he attributed the freedom from anarchy which this country enjoyed, as compared with the nations of the Continent, to the better observance on the part of the people of the Lord's day. The Government were now the only licensed traders in the country on the Lord's day. It was true that the money order business of the Post Office had been given up, but they wanted a Post Office Sabbath throughout the whole world.

The Rev. A. Thomson, B.A., of Edinburgh, on seconding the Resolution, said, I learn from my excellent friend, who has read the Report, that among the competitors for prizes, no fewer than 800 out of the total number of 1045, who have competed, have been Englishmen; and thus from England, and from workingmen of English birth, has started forth an eloquent claim for the observance of the Sabbath day as at once Heaven's gift and Englishmen's right. The Scottish Sabbath! You might as well call the Bible the Scottish Bible, or the Sun the Scottish Sun, as the Sabbath the Scottish Sabbath. The Sabbath is of all times and of all climes; it is a thing for all ages and conditions of men; it is like page 64 the blue firmament above us, encircling all and embracing all, and pouring down refreshing showers and noiseless dews upon every land. It is not the antiquated custom of some particular nation; but it is God's holy charter to the whole earth.

Dr. Cunningham, of Edinburgh, in a long and eloquent speech moved the second resolution.

The Rev. J. A. James seconded the resolution, which was carried unanimously. He believed that the Sabbath was the main prop of Christianity in every country. He believed that no other country in the world could have produced the same amount of religious mind. This was the result of their Sunday-school teaching, of their Tract and Bible Societies. Those were the true friends of the working classes, who endeavoured to preserve the Sabbath for them, and they were their traitors and destroyers who would take away from them, under any pretext whatever, the Lord's day.

Whatever may be the views or fears of some, there is certainly more intelligence, more education, and more piety among the working classes, than we had been accustomed to suppose. There is another fact, that neither intellect nor religion are sectarian, that both the intellect and piety refuse denominational distinctions, refuse to be called church of England, Methodist or Dissenting. In these papers there are writers of all denominations. As twenty of them belong to Birmingham, I know something of their circumstances also. Only think of a lad crying “Hot rolls,” before breakfast, and earning a few shillings a week in that occupation, then laying down, his basket, eating one of his unsold wares for his breakfast, and then sitting down to write an Essay on the Sabbath, a delightful novelty indeed!

A prayer was then offered up by the Rev. Dr. Steane, after which the Rev. J. Jordan announced that the first prize of £25 was awarded to John Allan Quinton, compositor, of Ipswich; the second to John Younge, shoemaker, of St. Boswell's, Roxburgshire; the third to David Farquhar, mechanic, of Dundee. Amongst the successful £5 prizemen were two or three labourers and an old sailor, who was at present in the Union Work House, Cambridge.

In delivering Prince Albert's ten prizes, the chairman said, he was directed by His Royal Highness Prince Albert to deliver his ten prizes, and at the same time to express the deep satisfaction he felt, and he (Lord Ashley) might add the extreme satisfaction of Her Most Gracious Majesty, on witnessing this movement which had taken place amongst the working classes. He was also commanded to express the deep interest they felt in the temporal and religious welfare of these worthy men.

His Lordship said that this was essentially a movement for limiting the hours of labour. He had heard doubts thrown out whether these essays were the productions of the working classes. He had now, for the last eighteen years, been brought into such close contact—he might say in such close intimacy—with many page 65 of the working classes, that his experience enabled him to establish this, that many of the working men were intellectually, morally, and spiritually capable of producing those admirable—he would not hesitate to say, marvellous—productions. Whilst in other countries thrones and aristocracies were crumbling, and the foundations of society itself were shaken, this was a most happy circumstance in the history of this country, and it led him to believe that this Protestant country was yet reserved by God for higher purposes of mercy in the history of mankind. It filled him with consolation, and gave him comfort in many dark moments of life, when he saw so many of the working classes of this country who represent still larger masses, coming forward with zeal, love, knowledge, and fervour, in the assertion of this high and holy purpose.