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If, then, wisdom, and power, and wealth, are not able, and the Gospel is able, to secure abiding national prosperity, why should we, with pertinacious obstinacy, rely upon causes whose impotency to preserve has been demonstrated by the experience of ages
? And why that slowness of heart to rely on a cause, whose efficacy has been most happy every where, and uniformly, just in proportion as it has been fairly and faithfully tried ? Whence that idolatry of patriotism, and talent, and forms of government, and that continual jealousy of the Gospel and its institutions and ministers, . when it brings to the disordered state the only remedy which can prevent dissolution ? And why should we tremble with forebodings of evil to our beloved country, when we possess the infallible means of rendering her prosperity durable as the luminaries of heaven, and abundant as the waves of the sea ? And why should our time be spent, and our efforts comparatively wasted, in a partial and dilatory application of these means, instead of an immediate and universal effort ? The Bible and the sacred Sabbath in every family of the land, would be the salt of the nation and the light of the world. The experiment is eminently practicable, and the result is certain ; and why should tho work of self-preserving mercy linger? Why should not the whole nation awake to its real danger, and make full proof of the power of the Gospel to save not by governmental aid-but by the voluntary etforts of philosophers, and statesmen, and patriots, and Christians ? Why trini the poisonous upas, when the axe may be laid at its root, and its circumference of desolation be filled with trees of righteousness? Why tamper with diseases of which so many nations have died, when the mercy of Heaven has provided One Tree, whose leaves are for the healing of the nations ?
PRE-EMINENT IMPORTANCE OF THE CHRISTIAN SABBATH.
JEREMIAH, ix. 23, 24.
FROM the efficacy of the Gospel to perpetuate national prosperity, as illustrated in the foregoing discourses, we learn,
The PRE-EMINENT IMPORTANCE OF THE CHRISTIAN SABBATH.
The moral Government of God has no influence upon communities, except as its precepts and sanctions are clearly and habitually presented to the mind. But to this the Sabbath is indispensable. No efficacious mode of general religious instruction was ever devised, but that which by divine appointment is associated with the Sabbath. Throughout the world, where no Sabbath convenes the population to receive instruction, the character and government of God and the retributions of eternity fade from the mind, and cease to operate as principles of action. Blot out the Sabbath, and in half a century, the intelligent worship of God would be nearly obliterated, and the land covered with every form of superstition and crime. The Sabbath is the great organ of the divine administration.
It is the sun of the moral world. The mainspring of moral action. Where the Sabbath does not give presence and energy to the divine government, the moral law
is without effect; parents are without natural affection; children are disobedient and dissolute ; and the family a scene of turmoil and wretchedness.
In those countries where Christianity is but a name, and the Sabbath a holiday, assassination and murder are committed with terrific frequency. And in our own land, these crimes are most frequent where the sacredness of the Sabbath is most violated, and where intemperance and profaneness legislate, instead of a public sentiment, formed by the benevolence of the Gospel. Even that command of the decalogue which organizes the family, and watches over domestic purity, and perpetuates all the sweet charities which render life a blessing, maintains its powers only by the energy of the fourth command. And the security of property and the efficacy of oaths correspond entirely with the universal dominion, or partial efficacy, which the Sabbath gives to the moral government of God.
These are the considerations which have awakened the solicitude of the nation, and called forth petitions to the government from all parts of the Union for a repeal of all legislative requirement or sanction of the violation of this Holy Day. For, however seemingly great the convenience or profit of a a Sabbath mail may be, it is purchased at the expense of moral principlethe life-blood of the nation.
The importunity is now the greater, because it is fully evident, that no successful effort can be made to resist the floods of worldliness and pleasure which are rolling over the Sabbath, while they are sustained and led on by the omnipresent example of government under the high sanction and command of national law. The numbers whom the carrying and opening of the mail diverts directly from the influence of the Sanctuary, and the greater numbers of those who accompany them, or minister to their necessities, together with the innumerable multitudes, especially in large towns, whose worldly interests and cares and labors are continued by the news and letters poured in upon the Sabbath, must, when reckoned up, be seen to subtract, in an alarming degree, from those energies of the divine government which de. pend on the weekly ministrations of truth. But if to these we add all who are, perhaps, first tempted to travel in steam-boats and stages, by the national example ; and all who, when the flood-gates are thus open, pour out for busi. ness or pleasure, on foot, on horseback, in chaises, coaches, waggons and canal-boats; who that reflects, can but tremble for the consequences ? Who does not see that the numbers employed in undermining our holiest institutions, are becoming greater than those employed for their defence ?
Were it not for this example of the government, a public sentiment might be formed, which would silently and powerfully correct the evil, and preserve to the nation the benign influence of the Sabbath. But with the strong tide of governmental influence setting down upon us, it will be certainly difficult
, if not impossible, to prevent a general prostration of the Sacred Day : at least as to any efficacious purposes of national instruction and morality. For its influence upon public morals can be salutary, only so far as it acts through the medium of evangelical instruction.
The question, therefore, whether the government will or will not continue to require its eight thousand Post-Masters, and several thousand other agents to violate the Lord's Day, is perhaps the most important that ever was, or ever will be submitted for national consideration. Prospectively, it is the question of the preservation or abolition of the Sabbath, and every petitioner, and legislator, and remonstrant, should make up his mind on the simple question, SHALL WE ABOLISH, OR NOT ABOLISH, THE CHRISTIAN SABBATHI
With but twelve millions of people, and no hindrance on the part of govern. ment, it might perhaps be practicable to form a public sentiment that would set bounds to the encroachments on the Sabbath, but every year and hour the breach becomes wider, and should the flood roll on, encouraged by gov. ernment, till, within the present century, our numbers shall amount to EIGHTY MILLIONS--more and more tempted, and more and more by habit and the course of business necessitated, as they will feel, to violate the Sabbathwhose voice will then be able to electrify the nation ? whose hand can stop the rolling of such a flood ? or whose wisdom can counteract its awful desolations ?
A spectacle, then, we now witness, such as the sun never before shone upon. A Christian people petitioning their government to repeal a statute which enjoins upon many thousands of our citizens a direct violation of the Holy Sabbath, and which, by the high authority of its example, encourages many thousands more to similar violations; and that government hesitating, whether to grant or reject these petitions !
It does not belong to the ministry, as such, to legislate. But it does be.ong to our profession, as a class of men appointed of Heaven for that very purpose, to lift up our voice, in respectful but earnest expostulation and argument, against every form of national transgression. And could I approach the representatives of the freest nation upon earth, and possessing ample means of becoming the greatest and the happiest, I would beseech them to consider, whether it was ever possible for a people to delegate to its representatives the power to appropriate the Sabbath to a secular use ? Has an indi. vidual a right to secularize the Sabbath for his own convenience or profit ? The laws of God and man forbid him. How then can the people delegate to Congress a right which no one possesses in his own person ?
The Sabbath was indeed made for man; but not to add to the curse which doomed him, six days in seven, to eat bread in the sweat of his face ; but to alleviate its pressure, and to bring around him the means by which God in his mercy may allay the curse, and bring him out of bondage into glorious liberty.
But were it possible for a people to delegate to their government the right to secularize the Sabbath, I would still ask, whether the generation wha fought the battles of our Independence and framed our Constitution, did ir. fact delegate the power to appropriate the Sabbath to purposes of national gain? They who recognised the over-ruling providence of God, and na. tional accountability, and beyond any other people on earth, venerated the holy Sabbath-they who, in their distress, so often cried unto the God of armies, and for victory sent up such heart-felt thanksgivings,they, surely, while the tears of distress and of joy were yet wet upon their cheeks, could not, did not, in their national compact, authorize the violation of the Sabbath. A clause authorising what is now done, couid not have passed the Convention : and if it had, would, at that day, have been rejected unanimously by the States. Besides, rights not expressly delegated to Congress are reserved to the States. But the Constitution not only gives to Congress no power to divert the Sabbath to secular uses, but the laws of nearly every State in the Union expressly prohibit to its citizens any such appropriation of the Sabbath. How then can Congress authorise by law encroachments on the Sabbath, without inva. ding directly the reserved rights of the States ? Cases of national, as of in
dividual necessity, may occur, but they are plain and exempt cases when taey exist, and can never justify laws requiring a habitual violation of the Sabbath.
But were it a question not of morality, or of national right, but of expe. diency-the impolicy of encroaching upon the religious veneration and careful observance of the Sabbath, would be a decisive reason for regarding the cry of patriots and Christians, resounding in the ear of government. aware that the convenience and gain are by some supposed to be so great as to make the transportation and opening of the mail on the Sabbath a work of necessity. But how can that be a work of necessity, which in London, the commercial emporium of the world, is not done? In that great city, the postoffice is not opened on the Sabbath, and no mail leaves it.- Are our citizens in such straitened circumstances as to make necessary to attend to business here one day in seven more than in London ? .
There are multitudes in our cities, God grant their number may increase, who do not call for their letters on the Sabbath. Do they fail in business? or do they fall behind their commercial competitors who include the Sabbath in their day of secular care? The plea of necessity is utterly unfounded ;the result of that impatient worldliness which needs to be checked ;-which it was the merciful design of the Sabbath to suspend ; and which, if it be not suspended, will drown the nation in perdition.
The plea of necessity can never hold, till the nation is threatened with poverty ;-certainly not while it is in a condition of unparalleled affluence It is over-abundance which constitates the temptation to violate the Sabbath -an argument which, if valid, would license every thriving mechanic and farmer to do the same, as a matter of personal convenience, and necessity. But already over.prosperity is our greatest danger, unless we can balance its corrupting tendencies by moral power. To subtract, therefore, from the moral influence of the Sabbath, for the purpose of adding to our abundance, is like subtracting the life-blood from one who is dying of debility, to be forced into the veins of another who is dying of inflammation. Allour Sabbath-day earn. ings, then, were they real, would but increase our malady, and at the same time diminish the force of our only remedy.
But long since has the point been settled that nothing is gained by adding the seventh to the six days of labor. Mind and body have their limits of care and toil; and God, who made them, well knows what degree of relaxa. tion is consistent with their most productive exercise, and has given his de. cision in tiie appropriation of six days to labor and one for rest ; and none have been able with impunity to disregard this appointment. The appointment, in France, of nine, instead of six days for labor, was found to be inju. rious to health and vigorous enterprise. And those best acquainted with the animal powers, admit, that whatever immediate gain may be attained by un. intermitted toil, is cut off, and more than balanced by the wa ning powers and shortened date of animal activity. And the same laws of nature, with irresistible power, will bring the man prematurely to the dust, who disregards Heaven's merciful appointment of a seventh day rest.
So far then as na. tional prosperity depends on mental and muscular vigor in man, and the unwasted powers of animal life, six days produce a greater amount of income than seven,--and this accompanied with cheering rest, higher health, social enjoyment, religious privileges, peace of conscience, and hopes of heaven.
But even were Sabbath day labor as productive as some suppose, it is still far more than balanced by the extra taxation which vice and irreligion never fail to impose. Before we exult, therefore, in our gain, let us estimate the additional expense of sickness and premature mortality, of quarrels and law. suits produced by irreligion, of the idleness, improvidence, and waste. ful prodigality which attend national dissoluteness, and how then will the balance stand ? All these sacrilegious earnings will be consumed, besides double their amount of honest gain. In no way can the nation be impoverished so certainly, as by that extended annihilation of moral princi. ple, which cannot fail to keep pace with the profanation of the Sabbath.
I have heard, in this land of freedom, the movements of the nation to rescue the Sabbath ascribed to priestcraft! But is it such a crime to be a minister of Christ, as creates presumptive evidence of guile, when he performs a professional duty ? Who is bound to watch and sound the alarm, if not the watchmen of Zion? Or is the Sabbath such a remnant of papal superstition, that he must needs be an ambitious hypocrite, who excites his countrymen to care for and preserve it? Is religion high-treason? Are ministers disfranchised? Are we not citizens, and blessed with equal rights ? And have we not families upon whose neck must come the yoke of that des. potism, which vice and irreligion never fail to create ? But it is not minis. ters alone that have awakened the solicitude which pervades the nation, and which extends and deepens, every month, and day, and hour. This is an intelligent nation, and to some extent a religious nation; and thousands of Christian patriots appreciate the civil blessings of the Sabbath, and perceive the certain destruction of our republican institutions which must follow its extended and general profanation. It is the sober, reflecting, judicious, pious part of the nation, that sees and thinks, and feels and petitions.
But it is said, that Congress have no right to legislate for religion. It is true, and let God be praised that there is at length one nation under heaven, one mighty nation, where church and state are not united, and where reason and conscience are free. Bui the petitions are, not that Congress will do any thing for religion, but, simply, that by legislation they will do nothing against religion-simply thal they will not, with the people's money, hire their twenty-six thousand Mail-carriers, Post-masters and assistants, to unite with the wicked in prostrating the holy Sabbath ! We ask for no union of church and state : but, simply, that the moral influence of the Sab. bath may not be thus bartered away for secular gain.
But again, it is said, that no man is obliged to imitate the example of those who violate the Sabbath, and why should not those who choose to keep it mind their own concerns, and let their neighbors alone? We might, if it were benevolent to see our neighbors perish without an effort to save them, and if the conduct of our neighbors affected in no respect our civil and re. ligious rights, by impairing the restraining influence of the government of God. But every Sabbath-breaker, in addition to the ruin he brings on himself, is impairing the moral principle of the community in which I live, and the obligation of an oath ; and of course impairs the security of my life, and property, and character, and multiplies temptation around my family-increasing the difficulties of a virtuous education, and the chances of destruction to my children; and by augmenting the power of licentiousness, and impairing that of moral principle, he is preparing to rob my children of the birth-right of liberty, and to bring upon them the yoke of a grievous bondage ;-and is all this nothing to me?