Imatges de pÓgina
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CHAP. VIII.

BY WHAT ACTS AND OMISSIONS THE DUTY OF

THE CHRISTIAN SABBATH IS VIOLATED.

INCE the obligation upon Chriftians, to a

SINC

comply with the religious obfervance of Sunday, arifes from the public uses of the inftitution, and the authority of the apoftolic practice, the manner of obferving it ought to be that which best fulfils these uses, and conforms the nearest to this practice.

The uses proposed by the institution are— 1. To facilitate attendance upon public worship.

2. To meliorate the condition of the laborious claffes of mankind, by regular and seasonable returns of reft.

3. By a general fufpenfion of business and amusement, to invite and enable perfons of every defcription to apply their time and thoughts to fubjects appertaining to their salvation.

With the primitive Chriftians the peculiar, and probably for fome time the only distinction' of the first day of the week, was the holding of religious affemblies upon that day. We learn, however, from the teftimony of a very early writer amongst them, that they also referved the day for religious meditations-Unufquifque noftrum, faith Irenæus, fabbatizat fpiritualiter, me ditatione legis gaudens, opificium Dei admirans.

WHEREFORE the duty of the day is violated,

ift. By all fuch employments or engagements as (though differing from our ordinary occupation) hinder our attendance upon public worfhip, or take up fo much of our time as not to leave a fufficient part of the day at leisure for religious reflection; as the going of journeys, the paying or receiving of vifits which engage the whole day, or employing the time at home in writing letters, fettling accounts, or in applying ourselves to ftudies, or the reading of books, which bear no relation to the bufinefs of religion.

2dly. By unneceffary encroachments upon the reft and liberty which Sunday ought to bring to the inferior orders of the community; as by keeping fervants on that day confined and bufied

in preparations for the fuperfluous elegancies of our table, or drefs.

3dly. By fuch recreations as are customarily forborne out of refpect to the day; as hunting, fhooting, fishing, public diverfions, frequenting taverns, playing at cards or dice.

If it be afked, as it often has been, wherein onfifts the difference between walking out with your staff, or with your gun? between spending the evening at home, or in a tavern? between paffing the Sunday afternoon at a game of cards, or in converfation not more edifying, nor always fo inoffenfive? To these, and to the fame question under a variety of forms, and in a multitude of fimilar examples, we return the following answer :-That the religious obfervance of Sunday, if it ought to be retained at all, must be upheld by fome public and visible diftinctions-that, draw the line of diftinction where you will, many actions which are fituated on the confines of the line, will differ very little, yet lie on the oppofite fides of it-that every trespass upon that referve which public decency has established, breaks down the fence by which the day is feparated to the fervice of religion-that it is unsafe to trifle with fcruples and

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habits that have a beneficial tendency, although founded merely in custom-that these liberties, however intended, will certainly be confidered by those who obferve them, not only as difrespectful to the day and inftitution, but as proceeding from a fecret contempt of the Chriftian faith that confequently they diminish a reverence for religion in others, fo far as the authority of our opinion, or the efficacy of our example, reaches; or rather, fo far as either will ferve for an excufe of negligence to those who are glad of any-that as to cards and dice, which put in their claim to be confidered amongst the harmlefs occupations of a vacant hour, may be obferved, that few find any difficulty in refraining from play on Sunday, except they who fit down to it with the views and eagernefs of gamefters-that gaming is feldom innocent-that the anxiety and perturbations, however, which it excites, are inconfiftent with the tranquillity and frame of temper in which the duties and thoughts of religion fhould always both find and leave us-and laftly we shall remark, that the example of other countries, where the fame or greater licence is allowed, affords no apology for irregularities in our own;

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because a practice which is tolerated by public ufage neither receives the fame construction, nor gives the fame offence, as where it is cenfured and prohibited.

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