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The New Zealand Evangelist

The Sabbath A Privilege

The Sabbath A Privilege.

We are much afraid, that by the bulk of professing Christians, as well as by those who make no profession of religion, the Sabbath is looked upon too exclusively in the light of a duty—something obligatory upon them, like a required task; and too little in the light of a privilege—a weekly benefit conferred upon them by God for their advantage. A few Sabbaths ago, when returning home from public worship, we met two or three men coming down from the Town belt, with faggots of wood upon their shoulders. On meeting them we accosted them somewhat as follows:—“What! do your employers oblige you to work seven days in the week? Six days in the week is as much as other men work, and as much as any man ought to work. You must have a very hard master. It is too bad to make you work on Sabbath as well as Saturday.” They seemed evidently taken aback with this view of their position, and stammered out some excuse that their work could not be all done on Saturday. Had we reproved them for Sabbath-breaking, it is very likely they would have turned round and said, they were doing no harm to anybody; or we had nothing to do with them; or have alleged one or other of the ninety and nine excuses for profanation of the Lord's day. But when instead of reproof we expressed page 125 our pity, and sympathised with them in the state of practical slavery to which they were reduced, they seemed to be somewhat awakened to a sense of their degradation, and slunk away as if stung with disgrace.

From a late number of the North British Review, we have extracted the following excellent remarks upon this subject. To those of our readers who have access to that periodical we strongly recommend the perusal of the whole article.

“The Sabbath is God's gracious present to a working world, and for wearied minds and bodies, it is the grand restorative. The Creator has given us a natural restorative,—sleep; and a moral restorative—Sabbath keeping; and it is ruin to dispense with either. Under the pressure of high excitement, individuals have passed weeks together, with little sleep or none; but when the process is long continued, the over-driven powers rebel, and fever, delirium, and death come on; nor can the natural amount be systematically curtailed without corresponding mischief. The Sabbath does not arrive like sleep. The day of rest does not steal over us like the hour of slumber. It does not entrance us almost whether we will or not; but addressing us as intelligent beings, our Crcator assures us, that we need it, and bids us notice its return, and court its renovation. And if, going in the face of the Creator's kindness, we force ourselves to work all days alike; it is not long until we pay the forfeit. The mental worker—the man of business or the man of letters—finds his ideas coming turbid and slow; the equipoise of his faculties is upset; he grows moody, fitful, and capricious, and with his mental elasticity broken, should any disaster occur, he subsides into habitual melancholy, or in self-destruction, speeds his guilty exit from a gloomy world. And the manual worker—the artizan, or the engineer—moiling on from day to day, and week to week; the bright intuition of his eye, gets blunted; and forgetful of their cunning, his fingers no longer perform page 126 their feats of twinkling agility; nor by a plastic and tuneful touch, mould dead matter, or wield mechanic powers; but mingling his life's blood, in his daily drudgery, his locks are prematurely gray, his genial humour sours; and slaving it till he has become a morose or reckless man, for any extra effort, or any blink of balmy feeling, he must stand indebted to opium or alcohol. To an industrious population so essential is the periodic rest, that when the attempt was made in France to abolish the weekly Sabbath, it was found necessary to issue a decree, suspending labour every day in ten. Master manufacturers have stated that they could perceive an evident deterioration in the quality of the goods produced, as the week drew near a close, just because the tact, alertness, and energy of the workers began to experience inevitable exhaustion. When a steamer on the Thames blew up, a few months ago, the firemen and stokers laid the blame on the broken Sabbath. It stupified and embittered them, and made them blunder at their work; and heedless what have these blunders might create. And we have been informed, that when the engines of an extensive Steam Packet Company, in the South of England, were getting constantly damaged, the mischief was instantly repaired by giving the men, what the bounty of the Creator had given them long before, the rest of each seventh day. And what is so essential to the industrial efficiency, is no less indespensible to the labourer's health and longevity. It has often been quoted; but as we have encountered nothing, which in extensive observation, and philophical acumen excels it; we must quote Dr. Farre's evidence again:—

“‘Although the night apparently equalizes the circulation well, yet it does not sufficiently restore its balance for the attainment of a long life. Hence one day in seven by the bounty of Providence is thrown in as a day of compensation, to perfect by its repose the animal system. You may easily determine this question as a matter of fact, by trying it on beasts of page 127 burden. Take that fine animal the Horse, and work him to the full extent of his powers, everyday of the week, or give him rest one day in seven; and you will soon perceive by the superior vigour, with which he performs his functions on the other six days, that this rest is necessary to his well-being.* Man possessing a superior nature, is borne along by the very vigour of his mind, so that the injury of continued diurnal exertion, and excitement, on his animal system, is not so immediately apparent, as it is on the brute; but in the long run he breaks down more suddenly. It abridges the length of his life, and that vigour of his old age, which (as to mere animal power) ought to be the object of his preservation. This is said simply as a physician, and without reference at all to the theological question. But if you consider further, the proper effect of real Christianity, namely, peace of mind, confiding trust in God, and good will to man, you will perceive in this source of renewed vigour to the mind, and through the mind to the body, an additional spring of life imparted from this higher use of the Sabbath as a holy rest.

“Could we catch the eye of the industrious reader, this is the primary view, which we would seek to impress upon him. That the Sabbath is God's special present to the working man, and that one chief object of it is to prolong his life, and preserve efficient his working time. In the vital system it acts like a compensation pond; it replenishes the spirits, the elasticity and vigour which the last six days have drained page 128 away; and supplies the force which is to fill the six days succeeding. And in the economy of existence it answers the same purpose as in the economy of income is answered by a Savings’ Bank. The frugal man, who puts aside a pound to-day, and another pound next month, and who in a quiet way, is always putting past his stated pound, from time to time; when he grows old and frail, gets, not only the same pounds back again, but a good many pounds besides. And the conscientious man, who husbands one day of existence every week—who instead of allowing the Sabbath to be trampled and torn, in the hurry and scramble of life, treasures it devoutly up. The Lord of the Sabbath keeps it for him, and in length of days and a hale old age, gives it back with usury.

The Savings’ Bank of human existence is the weekly Sabbath day * * * * * * It is not an Act of Parliament—however remotive of hindrances—but it is the law of God, hidden in the hearts of the citizens, which will give us a national Sabbath. And nothing can deposit it there except the gospel. Every thing therefore which tends to make that Gospel more effective— disinterestedness, elevation, and sancity in the pastoral character; freshness and gainliness in pulpit addresses; tracts no longer well meaning truisims, but terse and vigourous appeals to a clever and thinking community; sermons something better than a languid echo, from our earnest sires; own missions and rural itineracies, the mounted and foot patrol of a campagning [sic: campaigning] Churh [sic: Church]; Sabbath schools and Bible classes—all these by promoting vital piety diffuse the Sabbath spirit. And a Lord's day fully furnished; a sanctuary with pleasant psalmody and attractive preaching; a home with kindly intercourse and appropriate exercises; a closet supplied with missionary periodicals and edifying books; a day not dreary with negations and non-performances, but made delightful by abundant occupations, would secure its own observance, and be the Christian Sabbath which page 129 Isaiah prophesied, and the Pentecostal Church enjoyed.

* “Not many years ago, a Contractor went on to the West, with his hired men and teams to make a turnpike road. At first he paid no regard to the sabbath, but continued his work as on other days, He soon found, however, that the ordinances of Nature, no less than the moral law was against him. His labourers became sickly, his teams grew poor and feeble, and he was fully convinced, that more was lost than gained, by working on the Lord's day. So true is it that the Sabbath day labourer, like the glutton and the drunkard, undermines his health, and prematurely hastens the infirmities of age, and his exit from the world.”—Dr. Humphrey, of America, quoted in the Evangelical Magazine, March 1848.