The Modern Sabbath Examined. 1 vol. Sto Ithittaker and Co.
The Robber. By the Author of" Chartley." 3 vols. Bull.
The Pestilential Cholera ; its Nature, Prevention, and Curative Treatment. By
James Copland, 161.D Longman and Co.
THE MODERN SABBATH.
A BOOK of more good sense and clearer views than the Modern Sabbath Examined, it has not been our lot often to report upon. We can say, with a perfect conviction of its truth, that when the opinions of enlightened persons, like the writer, prevail generally in this country, there may be expected private happiness and public prosperity. At this present moment, the ordinances of the Divine Will, and the interested regulations of political bodies, whether calling themselves religious or not, are so entangled and ravelled, that it requires a man of more than ordinary perspicacity to see his way clearly between them. The question of the propriety of a State Religion, is one that needs not be agitated just now : it is sufficient to enun- ciate the simple truth, that as Christianity is not concerned with political matters, so human governments, on the other hand, are not concerned with men's religious opinions, but simply with their external conduct. When the Legislature is less under the influence of the persons who have a private as well as a corporate interest in warpine-b its decisions, some changes may be expected, which will be as conducive to the purity and diffusion of genuine Christianity, as they will contribute to the civil and poli- tical happiness of the country. One obstacle on the threshold of a free inquiry, is the institution of the modern Sabbath, as enforced by the State on religious grounds. If the seventh day's rest be expedient as a due and useful intermission from labour, it may be wise in a state to direct that business and work should cease on that day, and to announce that the law will not respect acts which take place on it. But if the modern Sabbath be an ordinance of the Gospel, it should be left, with all other matters of worship and faith, to the consciences of believers, as a matter lying between the Almighty and themselves alone. In order, however, to strengthen its union with the State, of which the Church feels all the advantages, it has seized upon a wise political regulation, and, presenting it to the State under its re- ligious aspect, has managed to confound the two sanctions, in a manner calculated to puzzle the ordinary inquirer.
The separation of these two views of the institution of a Sabbath, is a very important point, and greatly contributes to clear up the controversies which have been maintained on the subject.
As the government of God and the government of man rest upon different grounds, so have they distinct provinces of' legislation; and though the laws of each may agree sometimes in their letter, they differ materially both in their spirit and in the nature of the sanctions by which they are respectively forced. The Divine go- vernment respects the human conscience : it recognizes no obedi- ence which is not voluntarily offered, and its laws are sanctioned not by pains and penalties, but by the promise of future rewards and the threatening of future punishments. As it is utterly im- possible to compel the compliance of the heart, man, as the subject of the Divine government, can be acted upon only through the medium of his reason and conscience : the infliction of human pe- nalties may secure an outwazd conformity with the letter of a law, but it cannot, in the nature of things, procure that willing com- pliance with the spirit of its precepts which the government of God requires. What can be the value of outward show to the Deity? The government of man respects overt acts : its design is to lay those restraints on the conduct of individuals which are considered necessary for the protection of the rights of the community and it makes no laws to which it cannot, by physical coercion, infallibly secure an outward obedience.
When the teachers of the Divine law forsake the arts of per- suasion, and call upon the depositaries of civil force for aid, they either confess the weakness of their cause, or their own unfitness for the proper discharge of their duty. The position of the different sanctions which regulate the observ- ance of the Sabbath being perspicuously laid down and thoroughly understood by our author, he proceeds to his examination. In the course of it, he principally dwells on the following points. 1st. On the supposed transference of the weekly Sabbath from the Jewish to the Christian economy, at the introduction of the Gospel; when he shows that no such transference took place as has been alleged. 2nd He enters into a detailed view of the notions entertained of the first day of the week during the earliest ages of the Christian Church, and on the causes which led to the general adoption of the modern Sabbatarian doctrine. He shows that the view taken of the Sabbath in the early ages was simply that of a commemorative festival, and wholly differed from the idea of it at present enter- tained in the Church; and traces very 'clearly the modern Sab- bath in England to the doctrines of the Puritans.- is not even so'Old as the Reformation -and indeed differs frm the practice and theory of it as maintained by all other Protestants. For the Sabbath, it is well known, is differently observed in this country from all others: the doctrine which establishes such observance 13 called by the Calvinistic divines of the United Provinces, Fig,men- tum Anglieanum. Besides these great branches of the subject, the author has a luminous chapter on the practice of using the Judaical .Decalogue as the rule of Christian duty, which we wouldstrongly recommend to the attention of readers with whom this class of inquiries is con- sidered in its true light. • The style of the author is perspicuous, copious, and, in many in- stances, elegant. His method is logical ; and no inquirer can fail to master the argument, who applies even ordinary attention.
The author shall have an opportunity af speaking for himself, in one paragraph at least ; which, while it affords a specimen of the writer, will occupy a portion of our space with excellent opinions on the great subject of education in connexion with the Esta- blished Church.
It will be well if the,danger with which the country has been threatened from this quarter (the ignorance of the poor), become the means of effectually arous- ing public attention to the consideration of the deeply important subject of the public instruction of the people. It is manifest, that whatever services of a pri- vate religious nature the endowed teachers of religion may have rendered to that . comparatively .small section of society whose religious opinions have allowed them to make use of these stipendiary spiritual ministrations, the present cm- pirate body employed by the State, viewed as a public means of spreading useful ' knowledge, has proved an entire failure. "The authority of a church establish- ment," says one of the most enlightpned among- the modern advocates of such in- stitutions, "is founded on its utility :" it is "a scheme of instruction," the single end of which is. "the preservation and communication of religious know- - ledge." Weighed in the balance of general utility, we apprehend the costly Church establishment of ngland, considered simply as a means of coimnunicat- ing instructibn,will be found greatly wanting. What great services to the body of the people, it may with propriety be asked, have been secured by the immense portion of the public industry that has been expended on this overgrown corpo- ration? We certainly look in vain for any important civil ben(zfits which it has conferred on the community ; and it is to be remembered, that it is in men's civil character, and not at all in their religions opinions, that the commonwealth is interested. In as far as the advancement of society in the arts of civil life, and the :promotion of that knowledge which qualifies men for the proper dis-
• charge of their duties as citizens, is concerned, it will be difficult, we think, to show that the expensive "scheme of instruction" at present employed by the State, has not been as valueless in its operation as it is glaringly unjust in the means by which it seeks and obtains public support. We assuredly envy not those who are in duty bound to prove that the State possesses a right to compel men, as free citizens, to contribute to the propagation of religious opinions, to which, as individuals, they are conscientiously opposed. Neither should we be in any wise anxious to have the somewhat onerous task imposed
• on us, of proving the equity of appropriating a considerable portion of the nation's industry to a religious object in which only an inconsiderable section of the community are interested. It is high time that the State s!.ould confine it- self to its proper province, in providing for the temporal wellbeing of the peo- • pie, and leave- men to worship their Maker according to their own sense of religious duty. It is plainly the dictate alike of common sense and common equity, that those individuals who choose to employ religious teachers ought to pay them themselves, as they pay their own lawyers and physicians. It will be difficult to silo*, that the State possesses any better right to allocate a por-
• tion of the public revenue to such a private purpose as the remuneration of the teachers of a particular religious sect, than it would have to apply a por- tion of it to the support of certain physicians who, it might be, were in va- rious places exclusively employed by the higher classes of society.
It has not been one of the least of the disadvantages that have attended the employment of thepresent religious establishment, as "a scheme of instruction," that, confiding too implicitly to its operation, the public have been led to neglect the proper means of diffusing instruction altogether. It is every day, however, becoming more and more apparent, that the wellbeing of the common- wealth can have no other basis than the general education of the people ; and we trust the day is not distant, when efficient means for securing; this object will he put into operation throughout the whole of the British Em- pire. It can scarcely be requisite to remark, that it is alike the interest and the duty of the State, to make a due provision for insuring a proper civil character among the whole body of the people. In free governments, where the people possess the liberty of practically expressing their political opinions., there can be no other security for the stability of the commonwealth than the consent of the governed ; and the procuring of this can be looked for, only from the diffusion of the knowledge, that all the members of the community are alike impartial enforcement in the adoption of equitable laws, and in the strict and enforcement of them. There is no instrument now to be confided in, for se- curing the obedience of the people, save that of the diffusion of political knowledge. Men, indeed, cannot possibly be good citizens, in the correct sense of the expression, until they are made acquainted with the foundation and objects of civil government ; for without the possession of this knowledge, they can neither be expected to yield to the laws a steady obedience, nor to exercise, with requisite judgment, those political rights with which they may be intrusted. So long as the object pursued by any government, is the correct one of the good of the public at large, there need be little apprehension enter- tained of the effects of popular influence, provided only the population be duly qualified for the prudent exercise of the power they possess. That the people should be qualified for the appreciation and judicious exercise of their pri- vileges, is manifestly an object in which the whole community are interested. As men rise in the scale et civilization, they feel a growing sense of liberty of thought and independence of character, which not only makes them more resolute and self-denying in resisting the enticements of corrupt influence, bu also more acute in detecting the covered designs of the selfish and sophistical demagogue, as well as more temperate and impartial in the formation of their own political opinions.