Edward Evanson.

Arguments against and for the sabbatical observance of Sunday, by a cessation from all labour : contained in the letters of sundry writers in the theological repository : with an additional letter to the Reverend Dr. Priestly, in continuation of the same subject online

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Online LibraryEdward EvansonArguments against and for the sabbatical observance of Sunday, by a cessation from all labour : contained in the letters of sundry writers in the theological repository : with an additional letter to the Reverend Dr. Priestly, in continuation of the same subject → online text (page 1 of 11)
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&V-±±Q—rtt) 17 9 2
Evanson, Edward, 1731-1805
Arguments against and for
the sabbatical observance
i i






bV a cessation from all labour,








By E 4 V E V A N S O N, M. A.




tfohmeri, Dijf. 1. Sett, xvi,


Printed by George Jer?nyn^ Boolifeller,



To the Reader.

JILL the controverfal letters Jo ere collectively
publijhed, except that to Dr. Prieftley appeared
in thejix loft numbers of the Theological Re-
pofitory, which Publication was formally con-
cluded in July, 1788. By that conclufon,
the prefent Editor, who had written on one fde
of the controver/y under the fignature Eubulus,
was prevented replying, through the fame channel,
to the letter figned Hermas, which the Rev.
Dr. Prieftley informed the Public was one of his
own fignatures . And as he was very far from
being fatisfed with the Doctor's mode of arguing,
he wrote to him to inform him of his diJfatisjaSlion
and to ajk whether he had any objection to his
republijhing the whole controver/y as it flood in
the Repofitory, together with a reply to his
letter -, and received from him a very obliging

[ 4 ]

anfwer, with full permiffion to ??iake what ufe
he thought proper of any part of his Repofitory,

In confequence of this permifiion it was his in-
tention topublijh this collection with a reply to the
Doctor's letter immediately. But fome domefiic
circumfiances obliging him to defer it for a con-
fiderable time, he began to grow indifferent to the
fubjeB ; and to refieB that iffuch a man as Dr.
Prieflley could be induced by habitual prejudice
to argue in defence of a religious infiitution,
notorioufly ordained by the founders of the anti-
Chriftian Church, and, to fay the leaf of it,
certainly not commanded in the Go/pel of fefus
Chrifi, other perfons could be lefs expected to
fur mount their prejudices. So that the time feme d
not yet arrived for reafoning upon it to be of any
fervice. Whilfl unbelievers might perhaps be
more confirmed in their rejection of a religion
profejjing to proceed from the great fountain
of light and to be the dictates ofperfeel wifdom,
yet fo obfeure and unintelligible in its pojitive
mfiitutions, as well as doclrines, that two men
educated for the clerical profefion who have both
avowedly turned their fludies to the invefligation
of the true religion of the Go/pel and of thefub-
fequent corruptions of Chriftanity by human folly
andfuperftition, could not agree whether an in-

[ i l

Jlitution of fo much confequence to mankind as
the fabbatical obfervance of Sunday undoubtedly
is, in whatfoever light it be confidered, is or is
not anprdina?ice of the genuine religion ofChrifl.
For thefe reafons, and becaufe two or three
friends, of whofe judgement he has an high opini-
on, afjured him they thought the force of the
arguments already urged ^jyEubulus had 7iot been
invalidated by Dr. PrieflleyV letter, and that
therefore a reply was unnecefjary ; he determined
to drop the controverfy and leave it as it food
at the conclufwji of the Theological Repoiitory.

From this tacit fate of indolent indifference,
however, he has been lately roufed by the innate
principal of felf defence, in reading Afr.Chriftie\f
Letters upon the French Revolution. Where in a
note upon the hour ojthe national 'affembly 's meeting
on Sunday he was much Jur prized to find himfelf
as author of the objections fated in the Theological
Repofitory againfl the modern f abb at h, accufed
exprefly of rafhnefs and though tlelTnefs and
implicitly of being a Foe to Piety and even to
Humanity. The Note is this, " The urgent
" nature of their ft nation and bufnefs jufified the
61 French Legifators, in fufpending the obfer-
" vance of Sunday as a day of rejl frojn ordinary
" labours* But fuch a praclice will not pro-

[ « ]

<f bably be continued. The enfuing Legijlaturt
" will renew the refpefl fo jujily due to one of
M the moji ancient andmofl venerable injiitutions
" that exijl in civilized fociety. The excellence
(C of Sunday as a political injlitutton hadfcarcely
" been queflioned by thofe who paid no regard to
" it in a religious lights till lately that fome
" raj/j and t bought left writers attacked it in the
" Theological Repofitory. Dr. Prieftley
* c fummed up all their arguments, and replied
{< to them with fuch ability as entitles hi?n to
wt the thanks of every man of piety and Jl ill more
■' of every man ^humanity."

From Mr. Chriftie' 's fpeaking of t bis attack
upon the Sunday fabbath as made by more than
one writer, he appears not to have razd'Eubulus'j
letters himfclf and to know nothing of the con-
trover fty, but what he learnt from Dr. Prieftley y s
letter figned Hermas. Iff, Eubulus has reafon
to complain of his fever e cenfure, as being the

fentence of an unequitable, partial judge, pajjed
upon hearing the arguments of one party only.
And whether that be fo or not, confcious that
his objections againjl that infitution, were very

far from being urged 'rafhly or for want of mature
thought and confideration, but with the fincerefi
and mofl deliberate intention to promote the know-

[ 7 ]

ledge of true y unadulterated chrijlianity, andths
moral virtue and welfare of his fellow creatures,
he knows the accujation to be groundlefs and

Whether his opinion of the point in debate ', or
that of Mr. Chriftie and his friend Dr. Prieft-
ley be mojl reafonable, the Editor willingly
fubmits to the decifwn of thofe readers who can
fufficiently divejl themfehes of habitual prejudices
to become impartial judges of the quejiion. He
is not fo arrogant as to pretend to vie with Dr.
Prieftley for extraordinary talen ts and ability ;
but he will yield to no man in the fervor or fin-
cerity of his zeal for the caufes of rational piety
and human happinefs.

He cannot however forbear remarking, that
Mr. Chriftie in this cenforial note upon the
impiety and inhumanity c/'Eubulus advances
the very fame plea in behalf of the objeSl of bis
own prejudice, a Sunday fabbath, which he wild
not allow Mr. Burke, in favour of the Monaf-
teries and other Ecclefajiical injlitutions abolijhed
by the National Affembly of France, viz. their
being ancient and venerable and of excellent
political ufes-, yet, if antiquity alone can fancJify
any religious error or fuperjiitious inftitution, it

[ 3 ]

is certain that thefyjlem of the Divine Humani-
ty, as Mr. Burke with much grave folemnity
defiominated it in thefirfi edition of bis celebrated
letter ; upon which, before the late revolution,
the religion of France was founded and eflablified
to the political exclufion of every other perfuafon,
and which if the Editor is not mifmformed, Mr.
Chriftie as well as every other rational chriflian,
regards as abfurd, incongruous, and even blaf
phemous, and alfo the injlitution of the order of
Monks, are both prior in date to the obfer-
vance of Sunday as a day of reft from ordinary

As to the political ufe of any ordinance c<m~
heBed with religion, after the numberlefs evils,
with which the natural rights and feelings and
even the confciences of the inhabitants ofChrijl-
endom have been violated and outraged for above
fourteen centuries by blending politics and religion
together, it is furely high time to feparate them
and to " render untoCaefar the things that are
Casfar's and untoGodthe things that are God 's . "
At leaf before fuch arguments are urged, men
jhoiddfirjl determine whether the Gofpel of Jefus
Chrijl be true and of the celeflial origin it pre-
tends to, or whether it be like the Koran of
Mahomet or the Revelations ofNuma Pompilius

[ 9 ]

political ficlion and mere human device. On the
latterfuppofition indeed \ and on no other can flat efi
men have a right to interpret its doclrines and
ordain its pofitive inftitutions. But if it really
be a religion revealed from heaven, like the reve-
lation by Mofes and every other work of God it
mujl have come forth compleat and perfect from
its divine author, and though it ought undoubtedly
to regulate the con duel of Rulers and Politicians
as well as of private Individuals ', fince even the
Pagan maxim allowed the authority of heaven
to be para??iount to that of all earthly fovereigns,
in reges ipfos Jovis eft imperium, human
Legifatures can have no more right to controul
or regulate or to add to or diminifJj its doclrines,
precepts, or inflitutions, than private citizens
have to controul or regulate or add to or diminifh
the laws of the fate.

In every religious inftitution therefore afmcet-e
and ratio7ial difciple of fefus Chrifl will con-
fder not what political ufe it may be of but by
what authority it is ordained. But to talk of
the political benefit to mankind of an inftitution
which abfolutely annihilates the feventh part of
all human induftry, is fo glaring an abfurdity

C >° ]

that I am confident nothing but a groundlefs per-
fuafion through the mifreprefentation of the
clergy, that the fpirit, though not the letter, of
the fourth commandment of the Jewifh law was
binding upon Chrifiians, could have induced
fatejmen to ejlablifh it.

In France fuperjlition had immured pre haps
100,000 healthy citizens, (IJpeak at random)
and thereby deprived thejiateoj theindujlryojthe
two hundred and fiftieth part of its inhabitants ;
but in the fame country the inter miffion of all kinds
of labour every Sunday is as great a diminution of
the national indajlry as if the cloiflers of their
monajleries fill imprifoned three millions and a
half or one-feventh part of all their citizens.

The fefuits have long proved to the world
how ufeful monaftic infiitutions may be as repofi-
tories of learning and feminaries of education ;
and, as Mr. Burke fuggejis, an able flat ef man
might without doubt convert them to other pur-
pofes beneficial to the community, though not in
fuch a degree as to compenfatefor the evils arifing
to fociety from the celibacy as well as indolence
of the cloifier. But to what political ufe and
benefit, can the univerfal idlenefs of funday be
applied? when experience Jhews us that the

C « 3

utmofl efforts of the legijlature and the magijlrates
are infufifcient to prevent the moft pernicious
abufes of it.

The inflitution offundayfchoolsforthe children
of the labouring people, provided as foon as the
children have learnt to read they are injlruc~led
alfo in writing and arithmetic, is the only in-
fiance of the application of funday leifure to any
temporal benefit, and even that is obtained by
the breach and not by the obfervance ofafabbath.
For both the maflers and the pupils of fuchfchools
mujl be as laborioujly and attentively employed
in them during the intervening hours of funday,
as if they were occupied in any other bufinefs.
The univerfal inter mifjion of the labour of giving
and receiving infiruclion in temporal learning
everyfunday in our univerfities, and in all the
public and private fchools of the kingdom proves
this to be the general opinion*

If then the children of labouring people may
be not only innocently but ufefully occupied, dur-
ing the leifure hours of Sunday in attending to
the bufinejs of thofe fchools. What rational
liberal mind canfuppofe that the funday attend-
ance of their parents at our religious afjemblies,
could be lefs pleafing to heaven or lefs edifying

[ » j

to them/elves; that they would become worfe
chrijlians or worfe citizens , if they alfo employed
the leifure intervals of the day in fome honefl
ufeful occupation, rather than in tippling at public
houfes y fauntering in the highways and fields,
Jetting at home with their hands before them or
yawning over, what are called, Books of
Piety and Devotion ?


[ i3 ]

' ,REC, NOV 1880





T3ERMIT me, through the channel of
■*" your very ufeful publication, to endeav-
our to excite an attention to the grounds of a
religious obfervance, which prevails amongfl
all profefled chriftians, and which is held fo
facred, and of fuch high importance by even
the moft ferious, beft intentioned perfons, of
all theological opinions, that, I am aware rea-
fon has but a fmall chance of fuccefs in a con-
flict with fuch an inveterate,univerfal prejudice.
However, as fuperftition is ftill fuperftition,
by how many foever it may have been adopted ;
and as its effects in this, as well as in every
other inftance, are pernicious to the moral
virtue, and, of courfe, to the happinefs of man-
kind , whatever others may think of my at-
tempting to tear of the mafk from an inftitution
fo long and generally revered, I myfelf am
convinced that I only difcharge the duty of a
faithful difciple of Jefus Chrift, and of a real
friend to the welfare of my fellow creatures.

[ «4 ]

The religious obfervance, I mean, is the
keeping the firft day of the week as a Jewifh
fabbath, or day of cerTation from all wordly
bufinefs. An inftitution which cannot be
productive of any valuable ends, but fuch as
are eafily to be attained without it ; and which
not only occafions a lofs to individuals, and
to the community at large, of one-feventh part
of the induftry of manufacturers and labourers
of every kind; but, what is infinitely more
important, induces a very large majority of
that moft ufeful and moil numerous part of
the people, to mifpend that feventh of their
time in diffipation and intemperance, which
too naturally, and too certainly, lead them to
vicious immoralities and crimes of every degree.

In the inveftigation of right and wrong re-
fpecting the inftitution of any religious obfer-
vance under the revelation of the gofpel, the
firft and grand point tobeconfideredis, whether
it owes its origin to the politive injunctions of
the authorifed publifhers of that revelation to
the world. For if that can be proved to be the
cafe, all argument is at an end,and whoever re-
ceives the revelation muft neceflarily feel him-
felf bound to comply with the inftitution ;
but, if it cannot, the inftitution is certainly
of no religious obligation -, and the zealous,
ftrict obfervance of it is merely fuperftition.
Should it be innocent, it is, at leaft, unnecefTary:
and if it tend, in any degree, to corrupt the
morals of the lower ranks of people, the com-

C '5 ]

pelling them to obferve it is not impolitic only,
but criminal.

That there is not one politive precept in any
of the books of the New Teftament, for keep-
ing a fibbath, is well known to all who are
acquainted with them. Moft certainly, there-
fore, it is not kept in obedience to the divine
authority of the gofpel : neither is it kept in
obedience to the fourth commandment of the
Jewifh law ; for betides that no law of the
Jewifh religion can be binding upon a Chrif-
tian, any farther than as it is repeated and re-
eftablifhed by the gofpel (as are the precepts
againft idolatry and profane fwearing, and thofe
in favour of all the moral, focial duties) profef-
fed chriftians, in general, do not keep their
fabbath on the day commanded by that law j
but upon another day, to which that com-
mandment hath not the moft diftant reference.

It is pretended, however, that though the
fancfifying the firft day of the week, and keep-
ing it as a Jewifh fabbath, is not exprefsly
commanded in the gofpel, it may be inferred
from certain paftages in the holy fcriptures,
and in the works of the earlieft writers of
chriftianity, that it was practifed by the apof-
tles themfelves, and all the primitive chriftians,
who, we are told, ufed to hold their religious
aftemblies on that day ; and who, it may there-
fore be concluded, transferred the fabbatical
ceffation from all other buiinefs from the laft
to the firft day of the week, in honour of our
Lord and Saviour, who rofe from the grave

[ i6 J

on that day of the week, and on the fame day
repeatedly manifefted himfelf to his difciples.

To a clofe-reafoning mind this very ftate of
the queftion mull appear a complete giving
up the point in difpute. For furely, under
any religious law whatfoever, to eftablifh fo
important an inftitution as annihilates, at one
ftroke, the feventh part of all human induftry ,
nothing lefs can be requifite, than the exprefs
command of the lawgiver himfelf. And to
him who recollects that the fatal apoftacy from
true chriftianity, and the entire ftructure of
idolatrous, antichriftian fuperftition, which
hath for fo many ages ufurped its place, were
effected by means of fallacious inferences from
particular paffages of fcripture, and a zeal for
magnifying the honour of the Meffiah, the
very mode of argument ufed in its defence, will
fuggeft ftrong fufpicions of fallacy and error.

With refpect to the holy fcriptures, how-
ever, the truth is, that the apoftles and
firft difciples of Jefus Chrift are no where faid
to have diftinguifhed the firft day of the week
in any manner whatfoever. There are only
two paffages, viz. Johnxx. 10. and Acts xx.
7. which mention their being affembled on
that day. In the firft, from the circumftances
of the cafe, it is manifeft their meeting could
not be for the purpofe of any religious obfer-
vance ; but merely to confer together upon the
teftimony and evidence of their mafter's re-
furrection . And from the latenefs of the hour,
at which the two difciples muft have returned,

[ *7 ]

from Emmaus to Jerusalem, it is certain that
the evening affembly mentioned there, and in
the parallel paiTage of St. Luke, according to
the Jewim computation of time, inileaei of
being on the firfl;, was really on the beginning
of the fecond day. Beildes the apoftjes them-
felves not understanding the religion of the
gofpel till after their forty days instruction.
from our Lord, after his refurrection, and
neither being commiffioned nor qualified to
teach it to others, before the fubfequent feaft
of Pentecoft, nothing previous to that asra can
be of the leaft obligation to us.

The other paiTage, viz. Acts xx. 7. deferves
our particular attention, and is as follows,—
" And upon the firft day of the week, when
" the difciples came together to break bread,
" Paul preached unto them (ready to depart
i: on the morrow) and continued his fpeech
" until midnight." The meeting here fpoken
of was evidently in the very beginning of the
firf\day of the week, that is, in theeveni.
after the bufinefs of the preceding day was over.
And if their coming together to break bread
means their participating of the Lord's fupper,
as from the general term,, the difciples, is highly
probable, it {hews us, that St. Paul thought
it better to ufe the evening for the purpofeqf
celebrating that facred inftitution, as well as
of inftruction, than to break in upon the daily %
occupations of the Gentile converts. Am
the hiftorian allures us, that he both intended
and. did actually fet out on his at

break of day, . this paffage of fcripture affords



[ '3 ]

qs a decifive proof that St. Paul had no idea
of keeping the firir, day of the week as a

The only fubfequent paflage, in which the

firft day of the week is fo much as mentioned,

is that of St. Paul, I Cor. xvi. 2. "Upon

" d)e firft day of the week let every one of you

e lay by him in ftore, as God hath profpered

him, that there be no gatherings when I

come." A very rational provision for re-
gulating and preparing every perfon's quota of
the charitable collections which the perfecuted
Hate of the Jewifh converts made neceffary in
thole early times of chrifrianity ; but which
is Co far from inlmuatingany peculiar fanctity,
afcribed by the apoilles to that day of the week,
that it implies in it a direction to every difciple
of thofe times to fettle his accounts on that
day for the preceding w T eek, that he might
proportion his contribution to the irate of his
circumftances ; a builnefs quite incompatible
with the idea of a Sabbath day.

But though no paiTages of holy fcripture can
be produced which, even by inference, recom-
mend to chriflians the keeping the firft day of
the week facred, as a Sabbath day, there are
others, which expreilly teach us, that the
gofpel does not require of its difciples any
inch obfervance.

How far the Jewifh law, even whilit the
temple and government of the Jews fubiifled,
was binding upon the Gentile converts to chrif-
tianity, was a queflion very early agitated and
referred to the decifion of the apoilles them-

[ '9 ]

felves at Jertifalem ; who, after receiving the
information of thofe that had been particularly
inftrumental in converting the Gentiles, at the
miraculous command of heaven itfelf, and
weighing every circumrtanceof the cafe, form-
ally decreed, that, as chriftians, it was not
neceflary for them to ohferve any injunctions
of the law of Mofes whatfoever, except ** the
** abflaining from meats offered to idols; from
•* blood; from things flrangled, and from for-
M nication." Now, can any candid mind,
endued with common fenfe, fuppofe, if
keeping a Sabbath day had been a chriltian
duty, efpecially a duty (o important, as feems
generally imagined, that the mention of It
could have been omitted on fuch an occaiion f
For, in every language, to fay that only fuch
and fuch particulars of a law are neceflary to
be obferved, is plainly and expreilly to declare,
that every other particular is unneceftary. It
defer ves to be conlidered alio, that the apof-
tles, fubjee~t to theprepofMions ofhabit, likeal!
other men, were fo little inclined in this cafe
to omit any thing that appeared to them in the
fmalleil decree necefi'ary to the chriitian con-
verts, that the very nature of St. Paul's argu-
ments, in his epiftles refpecting meat offered
to idols, clearly mews, that they exceeded the
authority of their commiffion in every article
of their decree, except the lair, the abftaimng
from fornication , which, whether it be under-
stood in a fpiritual or carnal fenfe, is undoubt-
edly a chriftian duty ; not however in com-
pliance with any injunction of the Jewifh law.

[ 20 ]

but in obedience to its repeated prohibition in
the gofpei. But notwithftanding this fummary
decifion of the queftion, by an afTembly of the
apoftles themfelves, we find that the Galatians
fuffered themfelves to be perfuaded by fome
other difciples, zealots to the Mofaic law, to
fuperadd the obfervance of all the precepts of
that law, to the religion of Jefus Chrift. And
the fole fcope of St. Paul's epiftle to that people
is, to reprove them for, and to reclaim them
from fo unreafonable and heterogeneous a prac-
tice ; in that he expreflly blames them for
" obferving clays and months, and times a\ .
iC years ;" by which wo; wording to my

apprehenfion, he could only mean the Sabbath
days, new moons yfeftivalfeafons, anafabbatic
years of the jews.

On this looting ftands the (rate of the quef-
tion, (o far as the books of the New Teftament
are concerned. And fmce the arguments in .
favour of , ice are fo far from find-

ing any fur rom that quarter, a man un-

acquainted with tbofe writings of the christian
of the three firft centuries, which have been
permitted to reach our hands, would naturally
conclude, that they, at leaft, were clear and
full in afcer taming the fact, that the firft day
of the week was, in their times, kept as a fab-

th by all the profefibrs of chriftianity.

Kow then muft fuch an one be aitoniihed,

when he finds, what is ftricHy true, that,

mftead of informing us fuch a fabbath was

t, they expreflly allure us, that, -neither

\ the gofpei enjoined, nor did they practife

£ 2 1 ]

any liich ob - ! Nay, the) ;

and, as St, Pan d againft. the neceffity

of circumcifion . ufe the bleffings of the

christian covenant were promifed to Abr;
and his feed after him, vvhil.it he i
circumcifed, fo they adopt a (imilar argun i

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Online LibraryEdward EvansonArguments against and for the sabbatical observance of Sunday, by a cessation from all labour : contained in the letters of sundry writers in the theological repository : with an additional letter to the Reverend Dr. Priestly, in continuation of the same subject → online text (page 1 of 11)