28 JANUARY 1832, Page 14


MR. PERCEVAL has moved an address to the King praying his Majesty to appoint a General Fast. On this occasion, though the motion was met by the "previous question," as it is called, Minis- ters promised that a general !list should be appointed in the ordi- nary way. Captain GORDON, the Earl of RODEN'S nominee for Dundalk, seemed to think that the time of the House could not be more worthily employed than in such edifying debates as a mo- tion for a fast is apt to occasion. Many will hold, that so long as a large portion of the produce of the land of England is devoted to the payment of an established band of religious expositors—to say nothing of the ten thousand besides, who are supported by private contribution—it is not quite necessary to convert St. Ste- phen's into a conventicle for lay sermon-mongers. We could wish, however, inconvenient and unsuitable as a religious controversy there might be deemed, that there had been one member present sufficiently acquainted with the formal parts of religion to show that the theology of Mr. PERCEVAL was quite as open to objection as his politics. National fasts may be considered in three points of view,—in their religious, their moral, and their political aspects. On the score of religion, we are sure it would puzzle both Mr. PERCEVAL and Captain GORDON to demonstrate whence their assumed sanc- tion is derived. The Jews had indeed their occasions of public fasting, some of an ordinary, some of an extraordinary kind; but the practice is not only unsanctioned by the New Testament, it is expressly condemned by the founder of the Christian faith. " Moreover, when ye fast," says Christ to his disciples, " be not as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance; for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast." He adds—" But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head and wash thy face, that thou mayest not appear unto men to fast." We are not indeed aware, that any thing like sanction or approbation, much less commandment of a general fast, is to be found in the whole of the Christian canon. To those who would regulate a Christian com- munity by Mosaic observances, let this argument be addressed,— if they will seek again to put on the necks of those who have been made free by the Gospel, that yoke which even the Jews were not able to bear, let them not presume to pick out this or that portion of it. either the whole ceremonial law is obligatory—and in that ease he that offendeth in the least part offendeth in all—or none of it is. If, under the mixed monarchy of England, we are to be go- verned by the political maxims of the Jewish theocracy, there are many other ceremonies which we are as imperatively called on to perform as the ceremony of fasting until sunset. General fasts are most objectionable in a moral point of view. How are they kept? We might appeal to the recollection of those persons who are old enough to recollect the annual fasts during the war, whether these occasions were not regularly set apart by all men, the more rigidly righteous of the Established Church ex- cepted, for journeying, for visiting, for idling, or for wanton dissi- pation. Nor will we permit Mr. PERCEVAL to tell us that they were men of Belial who made the King's fast a day of mere re- creation. That young gentleman is grossly ignorant if he does not know, that there are numerous denominations of religionists in the island, with whom it is a matter of conscience to resist the power of the civil magistrate to appoint any day of religious ob- servance; and that these are among the most strict in their de- portment of the many sects into which England is divided. Even tlavd. who recollect nothing of the. King's fasts, may yet call to mind the scene which London and its vicinity exhibited some eighteen months ago, on the day of the late King's funeral; and we beseech adl suchof they be truly religious men, to ask themselves seri- cushy, whether it be proper or becoming to ordain, by royal autho- any, such another high day ofdrunkenness and debauchery. • Politically considered, a national fast has no higher claims to aipirobatien. For-what does it my? We find no-fault with one more interval of rest, however gained, for those who have so few; but the rest of a fast is not to the poor •.Man like the rest of the Sabbath. The -wages of his six-days' toil calculate:II on the principle that food must be provided for hint for'severi:ys; but by Mr. PERCEVAL'S fast the labourer must be content for bite week. with food for six days. What, then, is the miserable artisan; with his unfed sides and looped and windowed raggedness, to do? The King commands him to fold his hands and sit idle; his necessities, more potent than the voice of the King, call on him to be up and doing. He must either work, and disobey the law of the land, or sit idle, and disobey the law of Nature,—and of Christianity, which says that he who provides not for his own flesh is worse than an infidel. Such is the alternative in which it is the earnest en- deavour of Mr.. PERCEVAL to place nine out of every ten men in the great community of England. There is another question that has to be answered before any proposal for a national fast can be, legitimately entertained, sup- posing its religious propriety, its morality, and its political expe- diency established,—namely, is there at the present moment any great and extraordinary cause to justify such a solemn call? We speak not of ordinary mercies or ordinary judgments; we question not the duty of all Christians to " serve God with fear "—to mix trembling even with their mirth. Neither do we dispute the pro- priety, if it be a matter of conscience with them, of Mr. PERCEVAL'S or Captain GORDON'S fasting any day, or every day of the year. But what is the general,. pressing, and extraordinary cause, why those who think as they do and those who do not should yet be called by law to imitate their example ? Mr. PERCEVAL spoke)? the Cholera : the introduction into Gs.eat Britain of a disease of doubtful origin, which in its utmost ravages since the 26th of Oc tuber last—three months—has cut off somewhat less than 90t persons, and those for the most part of decayed constitutions,— that is, somewhere about the 160th part* or those who have during the same period died in England, from the numerous old and well- known evils to which mortal man is obnoxious ! The great flood- gates of humanity are ever open—node dieque patet atra janua- Some are hurried through by one disease, some by another:_ Measles, Scarlet Fever, Typhus, Consumption, slay every one its thousands, as well as Cholera. But can any argument be less con- clusive than his, who would infer, that these diseases, or any of them, were peculiar and extraordinary marks of the Divine indig- nation, and called for peculiar and extraordinary forms of expia- tion ? " By one man," it has been said, "came sin into the world, and death by sin; and death has passed upon all men because all have sinned." But though this be indubitable as a general truth in Christianity, nothing can be more dangerous than the attribution of peculiar forms of calamity to peculiar degrees of backsliding, either national or personal. " The men on whom the tower of Siloam fell were not sinners above all Israel ;" neither was he who was born blind -so visited for his own or his parents' culpability,—although the ignorant and unthinking among the Jews, and the Christians also, as Mr. PERCEVAL would have us believe of the Cholera, attributed those accidents to the particular interposition of Heaven.

We are unwilling to mix up with this argument any thing per- sonal, but the peculiar circumstances of Mr. PERCEVAL compel one word of advice. If that gentleman be really as anxious for the welfare of the nation as he professes to be, we counsel him to de- part from a House where, as a religious man and bound to give implicit obedience to the laws for good or for evil, he has no right to sit; we counsel him to give up that sinecure whose payment is extracted in part from the sweat and toil of the poor, before he speaks of relieving them by less direct methods. These are in his own power, and require no vote of the Lower House or the Upper. Cholera may slay its thousands or its ten thousands; but a wicked and wasteful Government, of which he and his kinsfolk are an example and a proof, inflict more real misery on the poor of the land in one year than Cholera and Plague inflict in ten.

* Taking the population of the Empire at twe.lity-four millions, and the deaths at 1 in 40 per annum, the deaths in any three mouths will be 150,000,