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detailed account of the divine dealings with one particular nation, in regard to this very matter. So long as the Jews were careful to observe the Sab. bath, they were made-to use the beautiful language of inspiration—to ride upon the high places of the earth, and were fed with the heritage of Jacob their father. But no sooner did they come to set at naught this blessed insti. tution, than their affairs, civil and ecclesiastical, began to verge towards speedy ruin.
At length their city was destroyed, their altars demolished, their temple burnt to the ground, and the whole nation carried into a seventy years' captivity, on purpose, as God informed them, that the land might enjoy her Sabbaths. They lost their liberty by attempting to rob God of time which he had claimed as his own.
Perhaps, however, it is thought that there was something so peculiar in the condition of the Jews, that their history cannot illustrate the duty of na. tions at the present day. This no believer in the Bible will admit, yet our argument is complete without a reference to their case. Pause, then, and inquire, what has been the secret of the immense wealth and gigantic power of the people of Great Britain, now for centuries in succession ? How is it that that little island, surrounded by the mighty ocean, and constituting but a mere speck on the surface of the globe, has been able so to mould the destinies of the world ? That nation is not blessed with a richer soil, or a brighter sky, or a more salubrious clime than their neighbors. This amazing prosperity must be owing to something which enters into the ingredients of the moral character of that people, and places them in so commanding an attitude as it regards the rest of the world. That something, no one acquainted with their history can hesitate to say, is the Christian religion, with its Sabbaths, and its temples, and its ministry of reconciliation. On this point there can be no dispute. Even Hume himself expressly declares that the freedom which the British constitution guarantees to the subject, is to be traced to the noble efforts of the Puritans to be unshackled in serving God.
This case is the more striking from its contrast with that of a naturally gallant and high-minded nation in the very neighborhood. France, during the awful period of her revolution, was led on from one step of impiety to another, until at length she solemnly decreed that there should be no Sab. baths. The temples of religion were deserted, and her altars laid in the dust. But what was the consequence to the character, the morals, and the pros. perity of that people, of thus publicly defying the God of heaven, by abolishing this most important of all his institutions? You may see it in the scenes of distress and wretchedness, carnage and blood, into which the nation was
unged. It would really seem as if God, by this example, intended to let the world know, what communities must expect, when they openly trample on his ordinances.
There is, however, no nation under heaven for which the Sabbath has done more than for ourselves. What was it that brought our pilgrim fathers across the trackless ocean, to these distant and then dreary shores? They came here, as you all know, to enjoy religious liberty, and to make a fair experiment of what the pure simple gospel could do to bless mankind. This it was that nerved their arm to prostrate the mighty forest, and raise up towns and villages amidst hosts of savage foes. What was it also that enabled this infant republic to wage successful war against the mightiest nation on earth ? Ah! none in that tremendous conflict, which tried men's souls, stood firmer at their post than those who had learned their duty at the altar of God. But for such elements of character as had been generated by the commanding influence of the Sabbath, the far famed Declaration of Inde. pendence would have proved a dead letter, and we should have become a prey to all the anarchy and misrule of the South American States. Examine the events of those times : trace these events up to their causes, and then say how much we owe to the fourth commandment. We never should have gained a permanent footing in this land, or become a free and independent nation, had not the men, who have now been long sleeping in our valleys,
possessed a character which had been formed under the influence of the Sabbath.
When shall this point be understood ? You may look the earth over, in its length and breadth, and you will see men understanding and enjoying civil liberty only under the illumination of the holy Sabbath. The fact is, such a people cannot be enslaved. Opinion has a power which even the bayonet has not. These are not the materials out of which some ambitious demagogue can form bands to tread down the liberties of his country. The Sabbath will teach a nation to appreciate its rights, and nerve its arm to defend those rights.
Now, if these things are so, it must be a spirit of hostility to all our dearest interests to oppose, or in any way to abuse the Sabbath.
The sacred observance of this day is intimately connected with every per. sonal, domestic, and social blessing; and not less connected is it with the welfare of our common country. It is then a momentous inquiry-in what colors is the future history of this nation to be written? Is the Sabbath still to maintain its power over the minds of the community? Is the pulpit to send forth its hallowed instructions ? And are the fountains of society to be parified by the spirit of the gospel ? If so, we are safe. Families will be kind and peaceful, neighborhoods moral and orderly, States magnanimous and conciliatory, and this great confederacy present such a spectacle of quietness and prosperity as the world has never yet beheld. But alas! there is much to fear. In less than half a century, according to the present ratio of increase, there will be found forty millions of souls in this land, located in different States, each possessing sovereign power, and under the influence of separate interests and feelings. Now I ask, what is to continue to hold together this immense multitude? We acknowledge no autocracy here to urge the people to obedience at the point of the sword, willing or un. willing. Ours is a self-government, a government resting entirely upon the moral sense, the intelligence, the integrity of the people, and it cannot live a single month in any other way. Destroy individual, household, and neigh. borhood virtue and morality, and the country is ruined at once. tion then recurs, and it is one which must come home to every heart, how shall we do without the soothing influence, the kind feeling, the genuine piety of the Sabbath ? I have no disposition to bring a railing accusation against any one, but surely the men who would drive away the light and lessen the power of this holy day, know not what they do. They may see no evil in turning the full tide of their example against the high command of heaven. They may dream of no disaster to the morals of the community from a dese. cration of these sacred hours. But the fact is, by thus corrupting private virtue they are taking the surest course to overturn the liberties of the coun. try, and leave it a heap of splendid ruins.
It is not always wise to inquire why the former days were better than these, but it may be useful for me to turn parents back to the lessons of their own early years. You well remember what your pious fathers told you of the quiet and undisturbed Sabbaths of former times. During that golden pe. riod, -golden at least so far as this matter is concerned-each town and vil. lage in the land, was as serene and tranquil, as quiet and noiseless, as the summer's evening. It would have shocked the feelings of your venerated ancestors, to see a steam-boat emptying the dregs of one of our large cities, upon the surrounding country, on this holy day. They would have trembled to witness the bustle and movement of our loaded cars and canal boats, as they hasten forward during all the hours of the Sabbath. But these are things with which your eyes and ears have become familiar. And do you never inquire after the result of all this? Have you no fear for the future safety and comfort of the little ones, that are now the joy of your hearts, and the pride of your houses ? Arise then, and do your duty. Command your children, and your household after you, that they keep the way of the Lord.
As patriots too, you have a deep interest in securing the
observance of the Sabbath. It must be admitted on all hands, that we owe more to our religion, than we do to our soil, our climate, our policy, or our courage. We are too apt to glory in our resources, in the immensity of our territory, in the freedom of our civil institutions, and in our multiplying millions. But is there no example of a nation's breaking down merely by its own weight! It was this that brought proud imperial Rome to the dust, after she had long been known as the mistress of the world. The hour too of Israel's pride was the hour of her downfall, the period from which her glory became dim, and she fled before her enemies. Nor can any thing save the land in which we live, but the Sabbath. How eloquently then should every patriot plead for this heaven-born institution! He should always identify the proper observance of the Sabbath with the high interests of his beloved country, and seek her prosperity mainly through this sacred channel.
But philanthropists also are deeply concerned to promote the sanctity of the Sabbath. You wish well to man, and would rejoice to see some kind hand wiping away the tears from the face of this sad and gloomy world. All that can be done, however, is to heal some of the bitter waters. And this you will best accomplish by bringing the influence of the Sabbath to restrain the vices of men, to elevate their character, to inspire them with right sentiments, and to mingle mercies in every cup. Begin then by taking a gauge of the misery which comes upon the community by a profanation of this day. Turn aside a little to some abode of crime and wretchedness, and ask its inmates what it was that first brought a cloud over their prospects. Visit our prisons and penitentiaries, and inquire of their inhabitants how it was that they came to violate the laws of God and man. Then go and do your duty. Encourage the spirit of the gospel. Honor the men who fear God. On all occasions, and in all companies, be the firm and decided advo. cates of the Sabbath.
Finally, if these things are so, all the friends of morality and good order should make an effort to correct public sentiment in regard to the Sabbath. As for legislation, either from the States, or general government, in favor of this day, it is not, in the present condition of things, to be expected. It would be well indeed if the whole weight of governmental influence were not against the Lord's day. But our statute books might be filled with enactments for the better observance of the Sabbath, and they would serve no good purpose whatever, unless energy was imparted to these enactments by the correct moral sense of the community. What then can be done? Appeals to our rulers would probably avail nothing. We must begin by humbling ourselves before God as individuals, and families, and congregations, for our own, and the nation's sin of Sabbath breaking. This step sincerely taken, may propitiate heaven on our behalf. But having thus carried the cause to God, we must go forth, through evil report and good report, and give to the Sabbath all the aid of a correct example, and all the influence of earnest decision. There is, it is hoped, a redeeming spirit in the land, if good men can only be aroused from their slumbers. The enemies of the Sabbath, and of all its salutary appendages, are, it is true, carrying matters with a high hand, and in every part of the land are perverting the bounties of God's providence into occasions for provoking his displeasure. But the land-marks of Christian morality are not yet swept away, and men of virtue may make a stand. Now is the time for a vigorous effort. If the Sabbath ever becomes a by-word and a reproach in the land of our fathers’ sepulchres, what is to become of liberty ? and especially what is to become of the Church of the living God ? Must the ark be removed from the hill of Zion, and look for a resting place in the isles of the sea, or on the shore of some heathen country? Let us indulge in no unfounded dreams of security. The Most High can easily cast us down from our proud eminence, and cause us to perish by the blast of the breath of his nostrils. His decree has gone forth, it will be executed— The nation and kingdom that will not serve me shall perish.
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