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indifference to religion, than under the plea of any plausible argument, however fallacious. There are not, however, other palliatives wanting on this question. Persons, for instance, whose time is of acknowledged importance to themselves or to society, often allege their engagements as a very reasonable, and they trust sufficient, excuse for the violation of the duties of the Sunday. But is the time of the poor, who live by their daily labour, of no importance to them also? If a lawyer may have his consultation levées, or a philosopher his scientific conversations, why may not a labourer earn an additional day's wages, or a farmer get in his precarious harvest? And, indeed, no persons more need a day of periodical relaxation than many of those who are least willing to avail themselves of the proffered blessing; and who suffer in mind and body, as well as in soul, by the violation of a command as wise and merciful as it is religious. Many men of high name have fallen premature victims to that inordinate worldly anxiety, and incessant application to temporal affairs, which the observance of the Sabbath-day-to say nothing of its Divine obligation, or the spiritual advantages afforded by it has such a powerful tendency to check. A farmer, manufacturer, or tradesman, who pays
his workmen or labourers either on the Sunday morning, or at such an hour on the Saturday as to oblige them to make their purchases on the Sunday, is very justly and generally censured; but the offence of persons in higher stations and of liberal education, who retain a circle of dependants in secular employments during that sacred day, is still more aggravated, both because their knowledge is greater and their temptation less.
But even where the obligation to observe the Sabbath is fully admitted, there often exists such a deficiency of taste for its appropriate pleasures and pursuits, that, far from calling it “ a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable," persons are driven to extraneous occupations in order to beguile its wearisome hours. It was remarked with regret, a few years since, by a well-disposed New-Zealand Chief, who passed some time in England, and had an opportunity of witnessing the blessings of the Christian Sabbath, that his unhappy countrymen “ did not know how to make a Sunday:" and a British senator seems to have thought some of our own compatriots in a similar predicament, when he remarked, that “ to many persons even business itself is recreation compared with religion; and from the drudgery of this day of sacred rest, they fly for relief to their ordinary occu
pations*.” But that to a devout mind there is no deficiency of suitable employments for those hallowed hours, the following passage from the same pen will abundantly prove. “ Let us appeal,” remarks Mr. Wilberforce, “ to that day which is especially devoted to the offices of religion. Do persons joyfully avail themselves of this blessed opportunity of withdrawing from the business and cares of life; when, without being disquieted by any doubt whether they are neglecting the duties of their proper callings, they may be allowed to detach their minds from earthly things, that by a fuller knowledge of heavenly objects, and a more habitual acquaintance with them, their hope may grow more full of immortality?' Is the day cheerfully devoted to those holy exercises for which it was appointed ? Do they indeed - come into the courts of God with gladness?' And how are they employed when not engaged in the public services of the day? Are they busied in studying the word of God, in meditating on his perfections, in tracing his providential dispensations, in admiring his works, in revolving his mercies, (above all, the transcendent mercies of redeeming love), in singing his praises, and speaking good of his name?' Do their secret retirements witness the earnestness of their prayers * Wilberforce's “ Practical View," p. 170.
and the warmth of their thanksgivings; their diligence and impartiality in the necessary work of self-examination; their mindfulness of the benevolent duty of intercession? Is the kind purpose of the institution of a Sabbath answered by them, in its being made to their servants and dependents a season of rest and comfort ? Does the instruction of their fami lies, or of the poor and ignorant of their neighbours, possess its due share of their time? : If blessed with talents or with affluence, are they sedulously employing a part of their interval of leisure in relieving the indigent, and visiting the sick, and comforting the sorrowful; in forming plans for the good of their fellow-creatures ; in considering how they may promote both the temporal and spiritual benefit of their friends and acquaintance; or, if theirs be a larger sphere, in devising measures whereby, through the Divine blessing, they may become the honoured instruments of the more extended diffusion of religious truth? In the hours of domestic or social intercourse, does their conversation manifest the subject of which their hearts are full? Do their language and demeanour shew them to be more than commonly gentle, kind, and friendly, free from rough and irritating passions ?
Surely," continues Mr. Wilberforce, “an entire day should not seem long amidst these
various employments. It might well be deemed a privilege thus to spend it in the more immediate presence of our Heavenly Father ; in the exercises of humble admiration and grateful homage, of the benevolent and domestic and social feelings, and of all the best affections of our nature, prompted by their true motives, conversant about their proper objects, and directed to their noblest end; all sorrows mitigated, all cares suspended, all fears repressed, every angry emotion softened, every envious or revengeful or malignant passion expelled, and the bosom, thus quieted, purified, enlarged, ennobled, partaking almost of a measure of the heavenly happiness, and become for a while the seat of love, and joy, and confidence, and harmony *.”
But to those who, in addition to their more private duties, frequent Divine Service twice, and devote the evening of the day to the religious instruction of their families, there will assuredly appear no cause for complaint that the hours are too long for their employments. And perhaps there are few things which would tend more to increase and perpetuate a devotional spirit throughout the country, than a more general revival of both these practices. It is lament
Wilberforce's “ Practical View," pp 66-68.