The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 26
What the Fourth Cammandment Is, and What it is Not
What the Fourth Cammandment Is, and What it is Not.
To all whom it may concern. We are on the eve of a general Election of Legislators; and it behooves the Working-classes especially, to elect such Members of Parliament as may faithfully represent their interests in the Councils of the Colony; pleading for the enactment of New laws, and urging the abrogation of Old ones, as circumstances may demand.
One of the many subjects expected to engage the attention of the New parliament, is the consideration of the so-called Sabbath-question, in which the masses of the people are particularly interested; as they have already been defrauded of their rights as men, and robbed of their privileges as citizens, by the interference of an influential but lamentably uninformed clique of Sabbatarian Idolaters; who, blinded by prejudice and stimulated by fanaticism, have most unhappily succeeded in effecting the spread of immorality in our midst, to a deplorable extent; and who, through the agency of an intolerant "Sunday Observance Society," operating on the mental weaknesses of the populace, are now plotting (either in ignorance or in wickedness) to render the poor man's Sunday the most insufferable day of the week, instead of its being the happiest and least immoral day of all the seven—such as Moses designed it, and such as Jesus taught it should be; a day of rest and recreation, set apart for man's rational enjoyment, whereon he may lawfully indulge in whatever innocent amusements fall in his way. And as all the fanaticism of Pulpits, and all the mistaken Legislation upon the Sabbath-question are chiefly attributable to ignorance—to misconceptions of its nature and import—now is a fitting time to place this important subject in its proper light before Victorians of every grade.
The Sabbath-question is environed with a diversity of opinions; most of which have arisen from the Prejudices of Education; for, generally speaking, we are what our nurses, our parents, and our friends have made us; we having passively adopted the notions of those with whom we happened to be associated; many of us not yet having arrived at that state of manhood which prompts us to think and judge for ourselves—in feet, we are little else than Copies of those by whom we have been casually surrounded. We are romanists or protostants, calvinists or arminians, trinitarians or unitarians (or anything else) from no other cause, and for no better reason, than that we were accidentally brought up in the belief of such sentiments; for, but very few of us are what me are from conviction; thinking (alas) being the least exerted privilege page 3 of even cultivated humanity! Had we been born in India, Turkey, or China, in all probability we should not now be ranked among Christians; and those of us who are today essentially different from what we once were, owe that difference to our having taken the liberty of thinking for ourselves.
I certainly ought to take shame to myself, if, at 75 years of age, and after all the peculiar advantages which have fallen to my lot, had I not now an opinion of my own; and I should assuredly be a moral coward, were I afraid of expressing my convictions, because of the currency or multitude of other men's sentiments. I have read scores and hundreds of theological treatises holding forth, as veritable doctrines, a vast variety of conflicting and for ever irreconcilable dogmas; most of which I now consider as not only demonstrably erroneous, but exceedingly uncharitable—inasmuch as they unceremoniously condemn me for not believing each and all of the diametrically opposite tenets: and as I cannot any longer pin my faith on anyone's sleeve, I plead in extenuation of what some may deem an unauthorized liberty (the liberty of thinking for myself) the fundamental principle of Protestantism, expressed in these memorable words Each man's own judgement is to Himself, though to nobody else, the Standard of Truth!"
I was brought up a pretty stanch Sabbatist; but, on mixing with men of other nations, many of whom entertained views widely different from mine, Light gradually dawned on my benighted mind, and much of what I had been taught to accept, as Christianity, I discovered to be little else than Judaism or Paganism. I have undergone many conversions; among others I long since renounced my early cherished Sabbatism, and conscientiously became a Sabbath breaker—that is, a Sabbath breaker in the eyes of those who esteemed one day above another; and I occasionally broke the sabbath of set purpose, in imitation of Jesus, who, as everyone knows, was a notorious Sabbath breaker, and who had the boldness to maintain in the very face of the Pharisees, that he had a right to break it; asserting, that the Sabbath was made for Man, not Man for the Sabbath! In short, when I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child; but, when I became a man, I put away childish things; and not being any longer partial to what Paul terms "the weak and beggarly elements," observing "days, and months, and times, and years," I got rid of the Sabbath-incubus despite the powerful prejudices of my education, and was thoroughly persuaded in my own mind, that Every man shall give an account of himself to God. I then cast all denominational creeds and liturgies and dogmas to the moles and the bats, in the fullest assurance that He who feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted of Him, no matter by what name he may he called, Jew, Turk, Infidel, or Christian; all of whom are the Children of one God—our Father who is in heaven.
To all who quote scripture in support of a sanctimonious Sunday, I may safely say what Jesus said to those who sought to perplex Him with quotations from Moses, Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures" (that is, while acquainted with the words, they did not apprehend their import) for, neither the Old nor the New covenant countenances our keeping such puritanical Sundays as Sabbatists would tyrannically impose upon us; and I hesitate not to declare (in biblical phrase) that page 4 our rigid Melbourne Sabbatists are "Drunk! though not drunken with wine"—but, drunk with bigotry and superstition, and some of them even Mad with fanaticism and intolerance—as manifested in their over-righteousness and unchristianlike persecutions.
I must not, however, deal too harshly with our Sabbatarian Opponents, as many of them may have been educated (as I was) in sabbatical notions, and drilled from infancy in puritanical absurdities; many (like myself) erroneously taught to "keep holy the Sabbath day"—that is, trained to believe that holy in the 4th Commandment means holily in English; whereas, there is not an iota of holiness in it or about it—there is no more holiness connected with the Sabbath than with the holy flesh, the holy linnen, the holy oil, the holy place, the holy water, and other holy things mentioned in the Bible.*
For, it is not the words of Scripture, but the sense which is the rule; and so far as that is not understood, so far the Scriptures are not our rule, whatever we pretend, but the sense men have put upon them—men fallible as ourselves, and who were by no means so well furnished as the learned at present are, with the proper helps to find out the true meaning of Scripture."
To make this matter plain—my having believed for 25 or for 50 years, that holiness was inseparably associated with the keeping of the Sabbath, did not make holiness a constituent part of the Sabbath—the belief of my parents and predecessors for the long space of 500 or 5,000 years, neither the accumulated beliefs of all Christendom, can invest the 4th Commandment with a particle of holiness, if there was not any holiness connected with it at the time Moses delivered it at Mount Sinai—neither time nor numbers, neither belief nor disbelief, can change the 4th Commandment from what it originally was, nor can an Error be changed into a Truth by the unanimous belief of all the inhabitants of the earth—In short, what the Commandment was, it now is, and ever must be!
* One of the nicest and most agreeable money-making holies I know of, is the holy ground which Priestcraft can manufacture out of any sort of rock, clay, or soil, immaterial in what country or clime it may be. Holiness of character in the Priest, however, has not any effect upon the ground : as the most upright and godly man in the church, if below the dignity of a" Bishop, might repeat the magical words till he became black in the face, without the earth's feeling any holy influence; but, let any graceless Bishop only mumble the words of conversion, and straightway certain previously measured-off grounds belonging to churches, chapels, cemeteries, etc. become holy unto the Lord, and bring pounds, shillings, and pence into the Priest's pocket-if the ground happen to have been twice consecrated, double fees are exacted for anyone's being buried in a doubly-safe and doubly-comfortable spot! This solemn mockery of dedicating tit bits of land, and making them holy unto the Lord is carried on in open day even in Victoria, as if we knew not that "The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof "!