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No. 28 Ann-street.
THIS discourse is dedicated by her son, as a feeble tribute of veneration for that LOVE OF COUNTRY which led her to encourage and cheer onward her relatives and friends to the great and successful struggle of the American Revolution; and which, for fifty-four years since, has continued to diffuse through her domestic circle, the sentiments of ardent and pious patriotism.
SERMON. MY SABBATHS THEY GREATLY POLLUTED: THEN I SAID, I WILL POUR OUT MY FURY UPON THEM. Ezekiel xx. 13.
I. ONE of the best evidences of the truth of our religion is the existence and effect of the holy sabbath.
All the pretended concern for the people which modern infidelity affects, has never produced results to compare with this provision for the happiness of the people, which God himself made six thousand years ago.
It was a divine command, that one day in every seven should be a day of rest: and to laborers what so sweet as rest?
The command, it is true, was addressed to fathers, to masters, and to magistrates; but did it stop there? Certainly not. "Thou shalt not do any work, (thou the master,) neither shalt thou compel or permit thy son, or thy daughter, thy man-servant, or thy maidservant, thy cattle, or the stranger which is within thy gates," to do any kind of work.
It is not only one of the best evidences of the truth of our religion, but it is one of the best weapons with which to assail infidelity. Infidelity, by abolishing the sabbath, would rob the people of one day in seven: leave every mercenary man at liberty to compel his laborers or his children to pursue a life of unbroken toil, without either the enjoyment or the hope of a [3/4] continually returning day of rest. Men might promise certain days of relaxation to those under their control; but it is easy to perceive that an increase of business would furnish an excuse to break the promise, and in time the day be entirely lost. The different branches of industry are so linked together, that one cannot stop unless others do; and as the head of one branch cannot compel the head of another to suspend its operations, confusion or continual labor would ensue. Man is a social being: much of the satisfaction of a day of rest consists in having others rest in company with us. How could the laborer collect around him his relatives? how could he cultivate social affection with his kindred, unless one great law compelled all labor to cease, and gave to every man a privilege so grateful and pleasant? No such law can be framed by infidelity, or by man--the thing is impossible. GOD only can; and GOD, the blessed GOD, has made that law: Remember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy.
II. Of all the ten commandments this may be considered a national one: the others begin and end with individuals; this is addressed to, and to be impressed upon, society in general; and cannot be perfectly kept, unless society unites in its observance. It is so understood and practised upon throughout the Christian world in Europe, Asia, and America. In the United States, the sabbath has been observed from the foundation of our republic. The doors of Congress are closed during the hours of the sabbath, or opened only for some purpose connected with the religious observance of the day: and this is the case with all [4/5] inferior tribunals of justice, down to the lowest. Throughout. the land, business or labor is supposed to be suspended. This is the simple or universal provision; further than this the command is not enforced. In what manner men shall spend their time, is left to conscience, and to the provisions of religion. This simplicity is observed in framing the divine law, "Thou shalt do no manner of work;" this is the law: this is for universal and perpetual observance. But when the prophet of God sits down to unfold the spirituality of the law, we find such an interpretation as this: "If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honorable; and shalt honor him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD bath spoken it." Isaiah lviii. 13, 14.
III. The sabbath is to be valued on account of the safety which it affords to the government.
"There can be no government without law, no law without religion, and no religion without the sabbath." General Washington, in his Farewell Address to this nation, says, "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. The mere politician, equally with the pious. man, ought to respect and cherish them."
The protection of property, character, and even [5/6] life itself is in the just execution of the laws. The laws are enforced according to human testimony: this testimony--that is, the declaration of two or more witnesses, must, in the present state of our affairs, produce a decision; and the property, character, or life of each member of the community hangs upon the breath of two or more of our fellow men. If they testify upon oath, that the person on trial committed the act, he must suffer, although he should be perfectly innocent. And what is it which creates in men's minds the fear of taking a false oath? Chiefly the judgment of God in a future state. And what preserves in the public mind the fear of God and a future judgment? The institutions of religion. And when only can these be brought before the public mind? On the return of the holy sabbath. Abolish the sabbath, close the doors of the sanctuary, let the rewards and punishments of eternity cease to be heard, and men will no longer fear to take a false oath: the rising generation will become entirely destitute of religious principle: and anarchy, rapine, and bloodshed will be the consequence. Consider that catalogue of crimes which grew up among one of the most civilized nations of antiquity, while destitute of Christianity, and of the holy sabbath. "They were filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of GOD, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful." Rom. i. 29, 30, 31.
 IV. The sabbath is to be kept holy, as upon its observance the favor of God depends.
If we are permitted to judge of the value of a divine law by the manifest and visible rewards and punishments which follow its observance or neglect, a very high regard will be attached to that command of which we speak.
The provision, Thou shalt do no manner of work, may seem at first only to regard man; but obedience to it is productive of glory to God. It is a public acknowledgment of the existence and government of God; it furnishes a simple and universal badge or mark of true godliness; and it involves an act of self-denial--the best evidence of man's regard. Temporal blessings are promised, and do descend upon those people who acknowledge and observe this day as holy. The prophet Isaiah, already quoted, declared that those who made the sabbath a delight should be exalted to the high places of the earth. And as we cast our eyes over the nations, which of all are, at this moment, exalted to the high places of the earth? whose flag--the representative of national power and influence--waves more triumphantly in every wind, than that under which our ancestors crossed the deep, and that under which we so happily dwell? It is hazarding nothing to say, that nowhere on the face of the earth is the task of human labor so universally completed in six days as in England and in the United States. Nowhere are the people so universally set free, one day in seven, as in these two nations; nowhere is there an opportunity so universally offered and embraced to worship GOD, and to be instructed [7/8] in his word, as in these two kindred and Christian nations.
On the contrary, where we have observed and lamented the desecration of this holy day, has not a frowning Providence manifestly visited the spot with judgments? What civilized nation is that which has been agitated and convulsed now for fifty years, while our own happy people have been sitting in peace under their own "vine and fig tree?" What nation is that which has experienced revolution after revolution--has risen from anarchy up to tyranny, and descended from tyranny to anarchy again, passing through every intermediate kind of rule? It has been well said, "Take the Bible away from a nation, and you may expect six revolutions in fifty years:" and what an amount of wretchedness must have been experienced during all these convulsions among thirty millions of people!
If we ascend from modern to ancient times, will not history still bear record to the wrath of God upon the violation of the sabbath? Of no ancient nation have we a fuller history than of the Israelites. It was this nation which first received and enjoyed the blessing of the holy sabbath. To them was committed the law which regulated its observance: and a peculiar exemption from labor for forty years afforded a most favorable opportunity for establishing by their example, as well as precept, the observance of this holy day. But the possession of great privileges proved of little advantage to this people. Amidst all their miraculous blessings they violated the command respecting' the sabbath, and became [8/9] obnoxious to the wrath of God. The Spirit of Gob pronounced sentence upon their rebellion. My Sabbaths they greatly polluted: then I said, I will pour out my fury upon them." The history of this people, from this time to the destruction of their capital city, is a most impressive exhibition of the evil of sin, and will ever remain a warning to the world, that "the way of transgressors is hard."
It is no vain conjecture that one of the flagrant sins of the world before the flood was breaking, and in time obliterating, the sabbath-day; a natural consequence of which was, that the "wickedness of man became great in the earth," and that "every imagination of the thought of his heart was only evil continually." Hence, when GOD was sending out those who should be his peculiar people, he gives them in charge to "remember the sabbath-day," as if by those who had lived before them it had been forgotten.
From what has been said, it is evident that every thing dear to us as a people depends upon the right observance of this holy day. With the rest of the seventh portion of time is connected the happiness of the people, the administration of justice, the safety of life and property, the favor of God, and, as a consequence, the "honor and welfare of this nation." The future existence or destruction of the nation lies before us. The observance or the violation of the sabbath is the road to each. With what earnestness, then, should every citizen regard the observance of the sabbath as the very corner-stone of our existence. I speak to the wisest, not as ignorant of this truth, but as requiring to be reminded of it; and to the rising generation, as those who are to be taught [9/10] and impressed with the importance of it. The happiness and safety of a nation depend upon the proper observance of this holy day.
This is true of every nation, but eminently so of this. We have no political principles, no form of government, which can stand by its own weight. The government of this country is entirely dependent upon public sentiment: as much so as a ship is dependent upon the pressure and support of the element in which it floats. Public sentiment is the element in which we exist as a nation. To this mighty power every member of society contributes. No man is so high as to be alone its controller, and no man is so low as not to be capable of imparting something to this influence. Although the sabbath may be viewed as a national institution, its observance must depend upon individual faith and obedience. Every person--man or woman--is able to contribute to the support or to the destruction of the sabbath, and, therefore, to the support or to the destruction of his country.
Here is a high and solemn duty which is, as it should be, committed into the hands of every man in the land. Religion and morality cannot in this country be reached by the laws: on this business, the whole country must legislate. Every man and woman here has a voice and a vote.
As observers of the sabbath, we have risen to a height of national prosperity, which, considered in all its details, has never been before witnessed on the earth. Sixty years have our national religion and national prosperity existed in connection; and what God has joined together let not man put asunder. That this hallowed union will continue to the close of [10/11] the present century yet remains uncertain. A deep and deadly hatred to all religion and morality now exists, and has taken root in this land. Powerful and systematic plans are at work to destroy every vestige of religion among us; and if this be connected with our prosperity, to destroy every vestige of our national prosperity. "There are among us many to whom from natural unhappiness of mind, or from less venial causes, order will be imprisonment, and peace a torture; many who sicken to see the gallant vessel riding securely at anchor, or flying before the favoring gale, and who long for an adverse blast to dash her on the reef, that while the crew perish in the waters, they may pillage the wreck."
It is in vain to shut our eyes upon the increasing numbers of revolutionists and atheists, and men of all degrees of impatience under the restraints of religion, and even law; and who are now, in the language of Scripture, "laying cocatrice eggs, and weaving the spider's web." When had men combine, good men ought to unite; and in what great and general plan can all so easily unite as in a solemn determination to remember the sabbath-day and keep it holy. To the rich as well as to the poor this subject may be applied. It is a great mistake to suppose that the poor are the only persons who are bound to support. the institutions of religion. Let religion be abolished, and with it law and order, and upon whom will the hands of bloody revolutionists first be laid? Is it upon the poor that such men are now looking with envy and affected disdain? No; upon the rich. Is it a life of labor--the life of the poor--upon which they are now casting a wishful eye? No; it is upon a life of [11/12] indulgence and luxury--the life of the rich. Against whom would they plot; that by a false oath they might rob of their inheritance, the rich or the poor? Whom do they now dread, the learned or the ignorant, the higher or lower divisions of society? Even religion would be beneath their hatred, did it not contribute to the establishment of law and order. What care such men whether the Bible be the word of God, or not? They never open or consult its pages, but to vilify and destroy public reverence. No! if there be a class of the community who are bound by every thing dear to them, most particularly to observe and to promote the observance of the sabbath, it is that which has attained to affluence. Yet is not the fact, that these are among the very persons who most neglect the sabbath? who are among the first to profane it? The poor, who have little comparatively to lose by revolution and anarchy, may support this great pillar of the state, but those most concerned decline the task. Who are they that most regularly attend upon the sanctuary? Who, that by their conduct and conversation would increase the public reverence for religion? Who that are seen to regulate their household affairs, their feasts and festivities, so that this great pillar of the state be not injured, no, not by the removal of a particle of its precious dust? Who marshal their families most regularly, and insist most scrupulously upon the observance of this day?
Fifty years ago, a large part of this nation deprived themselves for a time of one of the great luxuries, if not necessaries of life. There are many now living who joined in a resolution of not using a certain article of foreign growth, if to procure it they were [12/13] compelled to submit to tyrannical laws. Anarchy is more intolerable than tyranny; and that which has a tendency to produce it ought to be as resolutely and cheerfully abandoned.
Religion and law are the acknowledged pillars of the state. What would be the apprehensions of the rich, if there should be the same violation of LAW that there is of public religion? What, if the laws of Congress, the statutes of our General Assembly, or the decisions of our common courts, after having been solemnly passed, were disregarded and despised, either in word or deed? Imagine what a sensation there would be among the rich, if it was apparent that public sentiment was fast becoming indifferent to the decisions of law, and that although you might push your claims through the tribunals of justice, there was little prospect of having justice executed. It is easy to conjecture who would then be on the alert; who would seize upon the press; who would entreat the aid of the pulpit; who would rush to the senate; that by their presence they might influence the public mind.
Now, can it be for a moment doubted that the profanation of the sabbath, and a bad example with respect to the public faith, will be as injurious to the community as indifference to the decisions of law? Can we doubt that if any are bound to set a good example, and to see that the commonwealth receives no damage, it is the rich, who now control public opinion?
The dreaded consequences of sabbath-breaking are not left to uncertainty. If we, as a nation, pollute the holy sabbath, God "will pour out his fury" upon us. This may be done by plague, pestilence, or [13/14] famine, as well as by revolution, rapine, and blood. The end will come if we employ the means.
I have only, then, to charge all my hearers, and especially those who have most at stake, to beware how they are found breaking a piece from that column which supports the state. I put it to your understanding and your conscience, are you not bound by every thing sacred to support the observance of the sabbath, if not for your own sake, yet for the sake of your children, who may reap the fruits of that which you now sow? Is not this the case at all times, but especially at this time, and in this country? Is the requirement a hard one? To those who are first to break it, it is most easy. Such may select any day in the week for a social feast, or a cheering ride, or an important journey. They have no masters who confine them for six days, and no necessity to tempt to a breach of the sabbath. Mankind require, and should have, relaxation from severe labor; and such as must not be pursued upon the sabbath. Let the claims of mammon then yield; let them afford to those under their control a portion of the six days for innocent relaxation, and not be "partakers of other men's sins," by tempting the thoughtless to violate the holy sabbath.
Against the performance of this duty let no man plead a humble station, and say it is no consequence whether I observe the sabbath or not--I am too obscure an individual to be noticed; your presence on the road to the sanctuary may cause another to decide in favor of attending divine worship, and your steady attendance may confirm many. My attention has been particularly directed to one class of society, [14/15] but all are called upon to bestow on this subject the most solemn consideration. Should we, as a nation, continue to decline in public respect for religion, and a majority of our people disregard the holy sabbath, judgment will come alike on all. The "fury of the LORD" will sweep off the good as well as the bad. "It is appointed unto all men once to die, but after that the judgment." Then every man will be rewarded or punished according to his works; and he to whom much is given,--much time, much influence, and many talents--and who yet neglects to improve them, will be beaten with many stripes. Then all things secret will be known, and hidden will be revealed. In view of that great day let me exhort you to repent and believe the Gospel.
Who cannot be accused of breaking the sabbath? Well may we pray, after hearing the commandments, "LORD, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law." Oh that reflection on this subject might lead you to consider your sins, not only against the outward observance of this holy day, but against the spiritual meaning of the command, and that you might hasten to avert from your souls, deeply guilty of this sin, that "fury of the LORD," of which the greatest national calamity is but a figure or a type.