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THE SABBATH AND THE CRYSTAL
PALACE***


Transcribed from the [1860s] J. F. Shaw edition by David Price, email
[email protected]

[Picture: Tract cover]





THE SABBATH AND THE CRYSTAL PALACE.


THE question of Sabbath observance is again brought before the public,
and subjected to a new discussion. Points which we had considered as
settled, and settled beyond the reach of doubt, are disputed. A change
of circumstances is stated as requiring and involving a change of views;
and the character which society is assuming in the present day, is said
to justify a revision and reconsideration of the principles by which it
has been previously regulated. A fresh attack in consequence is made on
an ordinance which, having been accustomed to regard as the security of
our national religion, the source of those streams of life which sanctify
and refresh the souls of our people, we had hoped was secured from
encroachment and curtailment by the law of the land, as well as by the
authority of the word of God. The attack in this case, as might have
been expected, comes from a different quarter, and is carried on in a
different manner. It is not with open and avowed enemies that we have to
contest the point, but with professed friends. Much for which we have
contended on former occasions is conceded now. In many respects, the
tone, the language, the object of those opposed to us are modified. The
divine institution of a day of rest is admitted; the beneficent character
of the appointment, its salutary influences, are acknowledged; its
peculiar adaptation to the condition of man is recognised: and the only
subject of dispute would seem to be, the form in which those influences
should be exercised, and the general application of the blessing intended
should be accomplished.

The good of man, the improvement of the labouring classes, the softening
of their character, the refinement of their tastes, the development of
intellect, and the correction of what is low and sensual in their
enjoyments, are named as the objects of pursuit: and no one can hesitate
as to the importance of these points, nor as to the value which all
things lovely and of good report possess in christian estimation. With a
view to the promotion of these objects, the advantages of a day of rest;
its beneficent influence on the mind as well as the body; its increasing
importance in a state of society like the present; its absolute necessity
when man is exposed to the exhausting circumstances of manufacturing or
commercial life, are admitted,—and not only admitted, but urged with as
much zeal as was ever shown by those who contended for the strictest
observance of the Sabbath in the days of religious controversy. Surprise
and regret are therefore mixed together, when we find that those who see
the importance of the institution in one sense so clearly, and can
advocate its claims with so much power, should disappoint the
expectations that had been indulged of their co-operation, and should
finally become the assailants instead of the supporters of the principle
we feel bound to maintain. They see so much in the institution of the
Sabbath that is adapted to the weaknesses and wants of our nature, that
they cannot help acknowledging its necessity. Under that conviction,
forced upon them by the outcry of the whole creation, groaning and
travailing together in pain, by the testimony of exhausted bodies and
paralyzed intellect, they admit, they assert, as a fact that can no
longer be denied, that the Sabbath was made for man, and accept it as a
merciful provision made by God for the relief and consolation of his
creatures; but as to the specific purpose which it is to serve in respect
of man, as to the way in which the balm is to be used and applied, they
have their own views, and those views they are determined to carry out in
opposition to all that has been established and believed on the subject.
It is clear, then, that we have not gained much by the concessions made
by those who have been induced, under these representations, and with
these views of the ordinance, to admit the divine authority of the
Sabbath. They have attempted to disarm our opposition by professing to
receive the same truth, while they were introducing views which
superseded its application; and the controversy must now be transferred
from the religious authority of the Sabbath, as a day of rest, to the
form and manner of its observance by those who, on these grounds,
acknowledge its obligation.

The point at issue with our present opponents consists chiefly as to the
manner in which the Sabbath is to be applied. Its value they admit; its
beneficent effects are acknowledged to be such that its divine authority
can hardly be disputed: but while they argue with us in considering that
the Sabbath was made for man, they differ widely from us as to the way
and manner in which it is to be used, and as to the benefits to be
expected or derived from its observance. We are compelled, from the
language made use of, to say, that they regard the Sabbath as having been
made for man, much as we believe that it was made for the animals that
are placed under man’s government, and are thus made partakers of his
life of labour. In consequence, the sort of rest that they anticipate in
the Sabbath for man, differs only from that which is ordained for them,
as the constitution of man differs from that of the brute creation, and
requires a different species of rest, in reference to a different form of
toil. The rest of the animal is provided for when the exaction of labour
ceases, and natural wants are supplied. The rest for man, according to
their view, is equally provided for, when liberty is given to body and
mind, and the refreshment that is required by each, in order to supply
the exhaustion that has taken place, is put within its reach. The
wearied limbs require sleep, the wearied senses quiet; and the first
object is to ensure the repose which the physical frame requires after
its six days’ labour. In the case of man, however, when repose and quiet
have produced this effect on the body, and the mind, regaining its
activity, looks round for relaxation, there then ensues another
necessity, for there is another want to be provided for; and something
more must be done for the refreshment of the human system than had been
found necessary before. An effort, therefore, is to be made to supply to
all what seems the universal want of those who labour; and the wearied
mind must have its food and rest, just as the wearied body has had
before, in order to perfect the object for which the Sabbath is
appointed.

It is proposed, therefore, to apply the afternoon of the Sabbath to such
recreations as may refine the taste while they amuse the man, and to
effect an improvement in the general character of our population, by
supplying them with the means of intellectual and innocent amusement
during the interval of leisure. Among the means of promoting this end,
and with this as one of its avowed objects, public attention is being
drawn to the Crystal Palace erecting at Sydenham, which is, we hear, to
be opened every Sunday afternoon, as offering in a small compass, a
collection of those objects which are most likely to attract the notice
and elevate the tastes of the people. The energy and talent which are
engaged in carrying out the plan of this magnificent undertaking, leave
no room for doubt as to their success. It is easy to imagine that such
an assemblage of the wonders of nature and art will never have been
presented to the public in modern days, or presented under such
favourable circumstances. The immense size of the building contemplated,
we are told, will admit of the introduction of all the wonders of
tropical vegetation, combined with copies of the finest works of art.
The whole world is to be laid under contribution to complete the interest
of the scene, and things which we have only heard and read of, are to be
offered to the inspection of the multitude. Models of machinery,
specimens of workmanship, the trophies of the skill of our own people,
and of foreign nations, are to be presented for examination and study,
that the exhibition may be made as profitable and instructive, as it must
be interesting and attractive.

It is not easy to state too highly the amount of innocent and elevating
amusement that may be derived from such a combination of objects. The
knowledge slowly gained by books will be here anticipated by what is
seen. A few hours spent in the Palace, with an intelligent guide, may
teach more than had been learnt in months of study; and what is of more
consequence, those who never would have learnt anything from books, may
here gain much from seeing; and a spirit of inquiry may be kindled in
minds which had resisted every other mode of teaching. We are assured,
also, that the exhibition is to be kept as free from the ordinary cause
of evil, as it is unexceptionable in its original design. No liquor of
an intoxicating kind is to be sold there. Order and propriety of
behaviour will be maintained by the officials; and the freedom of access
is to be general, and every indulgence afforded to intelligent curiosity;
no deviation will be permitted from the rules laid down at first.

It is not without a pang that we proceed to disperse this brilliant
vision, and to show the danger that lies concealed under this specious
and captivating project. But let it be at once said, that the objections
about to be urged against this fascinating scheme, are simply and
exclusively directed against its Sunday exhibition. On other days we may
regard it as an instance of the luxurious character of the age, as a
wonderful example of the wealth possessed, and of the homage paid to the
public; and if some fears mix themselves with the admiration that must be
felt for the grandeur of the idea, and the boldness of the speculation,
we may still be thankful for the evidence thus given of an improving
taste in the character of our recreations, and for the care that is taken
by individuals to cultivate and direct the rising intellect of the
people. Our chief, our only real objection to the scheme, consists in
its being opened to the public on Sunday afternoon; and in this we think
the error of its undertakers, the hollowness and unsoundness of the
arguments by which they are recommending it, must be manifest to all who
will deal fairly with the question, and give themselves the trouble of
considering it. The Sabbath was made for man, they say; and they think,
that in providing recreation and innocent amusement, as well as rest from
labour for man, they have answered the purpose of the institution, by the
provision thus made for mind as well as body.

The Sabbath was made for man, we say also; but the view we take of man,
lets in a light on wants and necessities in his nature, of which we have,
hitherto, been allowed to hear nothing. The Sabbath was made for man, we
say; and we adore the wisdom as well as the benevolence exhibited in the
ordinance; but it was not made for man merely as an intellectual
creature, an animal gifted with various talents, and subject to various
wants, but, at the same time, possessed of no other capacities than those
of mind and sense, and liable to no other accidents than those which
affect mind or body. According to our view, and we feel that our view
must be that of the whole christian world, it was made for man as a being
born for eternity,—as created in his Maker’s likeness,—as fallen from his
high original, but capable of restoration,—and as born under a system
which unfolds the scheme devised by Infinite Wisdom, for the
accomplishment of this great and glorious purpose. It was made for man,
we say, as a spiritual and eternal existence, for a time clothed with
flesh, subjected to the infirmities of the body, and the perverse
influences of the mind, placed in the world with the view of developing
in a state of trial, the graces and glories that belong to a higher
nature, but destined to be a partaker of the inheritance of everlasting
bliss. It was made for him, for his refreshment and repose under the
burdens of his lot,—for the enlargement and perfection of his
intellectual powers, by directing them to things above the world; and
thus for the purpose of cherishing and strengthening that spiritual
growth, which is the only real end of his being on earth, as it is the
fulfilment of the will of God concerning him.

For this purpose we say the Sabbath was ordained. In this sense we can
say that it was made for man, for we here perceive its merciful
adaptation to the complicated wants of his mixed and mysterious nature.
In the Sabbath, therefore, thus understood, and thus applied, we see the
depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the goodness of God, and we
adore the mercy which provided alleviations for a life doomed to labour,
and cheered the burdened traveller on his way, by the pledge of a rest
eternal in the heavens. With this view of the Sabbath before us,—with
this picture of its purpose and its end,—while we thus gaze on the
glorious destiny unfolded to man in the institutions of the Sabbath, and
see the steps by which he is prepared to inherit it in its sanctifying
influences,—we must feel that all the temporal advantages offered to him
here—the refinement of tastes, the enlargement of knowledge, are but a
mockery of his woe, if they are proposed as the blessings connected with
the ordinance; and we wonder at the audacity that can present such a
petty allurement to the inheritor of the kingdom, as worthy of his
acceptance.

But the real character of the Sabbath may be inferred, with greater
confidence, from considering the character of the Being by whom it was
ordained; for if the Sabbath was made for man, and made for man by Him
who created man, it surely is reasonable that we should collect the
character of the institution from the known will of the Institutor, and
learn the way in which it should be observed from what we know of His
general purpose. If the Sabbath, then, was made for man, let us
remember, that it was made for man by Him who not only formed man from
the dust, and breathed into him the breath of life, so that man became a
living soul, but who likewise opened heaven to his view, raised him above
the earth by the word of promise, and who, finally, sent his own blessed
Son into the world to accomplish his restoration, Luke xix. 10.

Scripture, therefore, directs us to estimate the real value of
attainments by the effect they produce upon the soul, rather than by what
is exhibited,—to dread the knowledge which puffs up,—to shun that
friendship of the world which separates us from God,—to check and to
mortify the love of earthly things,—that the heart may be given, in all
its fulness, to Him who claims it as his own, and the mind may be fixed
on things above, rather than on those below. In a word, we must be
conscious, that the gospel was given to make us good, rather than to make
us great,—to fit us for heaven, rather than for earth; and though the
goodness of God has so wonderfully combined the effects which it
produces, that they are frequently united, the godliness has the promise
of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come; we cannot
have a moment’s doubt as to that which is the higher and the nobler
object, or as to that which must be the will of God concerning ourselves.

If these things, then, be so,—if the will of God is clearly,
unequivocally declared, with regard to these objects of our pursuit at
present, can there be a question as to those which are to be preferred?
What is the knowledge of the world, what is taste, what is civilization
itself, in comparison with the blessings included in his favour? and if
it were possible to obtain them by the sacrifice of religious principle,
what would they be to the possessor, but the colours which deck the
serpent, the sweetness which conceals the poison it conveys.

We must feel, then, that when men talk of the beneficent effects to be
produced by a sabbath, while that sabbath refers only to the physical or
intellectual part of man, they greatly and grossly err; and that if,
unhappily, this scheme should be realized, the soul would be sacrificed
to the body, eternity to time, and the real purpose of man’s being to the
indulgence of vain and frivolous imaginations. But while the main
question is met in this way, and the promoters of the scheme are reminded
of its insufficiency for the object which they profess to have at
heart—the improvement of the labouring classes—it is hoped that the
legislature will bear in mind the price at which these refreshments for
those who are inclined to partake of them must be purchased. On the
Sabbath day at present, the parks, the outlets of the metropolis, are
filled with crowds who prefer the amusement they can find there, to the
religious improvement of the day which God has consecrated. We must
regret the breach of the commandment, the offence offered to God, and the
injury done to the sabbath-breakers themselves; but we feel that, in
doing this, they claim no right to dictate to the practice of others, nor
have they the power of compelling others to act against their own
conscientious convictions. They may wish for refreshments, but they
cannot compel the shops to be opened for their supply; and those windows
which were unclosed through the six preceding days, are sealed to them on
this, and offer a shelter against the tyranny of a God-despising world.
Up to this time the laws of the country have endeavoured to prevent the
licence of one man from trespassing on the liberty of another; and if
they have not always succeeded in doing so, they have left no room for
doubt as to their intentions. Up to this time, therefore, those who call
themselves the servants of the public, have been allowed to feel that
there was One greater than the public, who cares for the weak and the
dependent, and who restrains within certain limits the measure of labour
that is exacted from them. The theatres, the places of public amusement,
have, on this account, been closed; the post-office has suspended its
issues; the transactions of business have been stopped; legal acts have
been declared null and void. It has been declared that the command was
general, for that its intention was, “that thy servant may rest as well
as thou;” and it has been the privilege of the Englishman to feel that on
this day the slave of the world was free from his master.

A new era, however, will be commenced with the chartered existence of the
Crystal Palace, should such an outrage be permitted. Hundreds of
officials will be called into stated attendance, and will be compelled to
wait on the fancies of an ungodly multitude. Thousands of the unhappy
and depressed class who are now engaged in furnishing the means of public
conveyance, will be put into requisition, and tens and hundreds of
thousands of the young and thoughtless will be swept away by the stream,
and be made victims to a plan for improving the taste and enlarging the
intellect of the irreligious section of our metropolitan operatives. It
must be added, that the evil will not be confined to this single case.
The precedent established here will be immediately followed in other
places, and in all parts of the kingdom. The British Museum, the
galleries, the exhibitions, will be thrown open in London. The curators
in all these will be crushed with the burden of unsuspended labour, and
the population, maddened by excitement, when excitement is substituted
for the rest they need, will be the ready instruments for executing the
judgments which will infallibly follow on such an act of national
delinquency. Nor let it be forgotten, that this scheme, which, falling
in with the prevailing humours of the day, is hailed by the immoral, or,
at least, by the irreligious part of our people, as an accession to their
resources of amusement, will be to many a bitter aggravation of a life of
toil, by wresting from them that Sabbath which has, hitherto, been their
only season of repose. But what is of more consequence, and which claims
the serious consideration of the legislature, it will be an outrage such
as has not yet been offered to the conscience and religious feelings of
many who specially deserve the protection, if not the favour, of the
legislature. For it must not be assumed because a cry is got up on
behalf of the scheme, that all classes concur in welcoming the change
that is proposed. There are multitudes, no doubt, which will do so.
There are multitudes who find the present opportunities for Sunday
dissipation too limited, and fret and murmur against the restraints which
the law imposes; but there are many who feel that this opening will bring
no blessings to them, and will only multiply or increase the burdens
under which they groan. They see that the enjoyments of a few will be
purchased by the sufferings of many; wives and children will have to
lament a home left without its natural guardian; parents will have to
mourn over children drawn away from domestic control or religious
observances; and the character of the day, as a day of rest, will be lost
to all the inhabitants of that side of the metropolis.

Is this, then, a state of things which the legislature of England can
countenance or permit? and will the sound sense of the British parliament
be dazzled and blinded by the arts which have been employed to cloak the
essential ungodliness of the proposal? We trust that there will be no
hesitation or condescension in the tone of their answer. We trust that
the representatives of the nation, conscious of the account they will
have to give of the way in which they exercise their power, will
seriously and calmly weigh the consequences of the measure brought before
them, and, dismissing the illusions with which their imagination is
assailed, will consider what the effects must be of legalizing a breach
of one of God’s commandments.

* * * * *

J. F. SHAW, BOOKSELLER, SOUTHAMPTON ROW, AND
PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON:
AND W. INNES, BOOKSELLER, SOUTH HANOVER STREET, EDINBURGH.

* * * * *

London: J. & W. RIDER, Printers, 14, Bartholomew Close.

160




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