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Review of a report of the committee, to whom was referred the several petitions on the subject on mails on the Sabbath : presented to the Senate of the United States, January 16, 1829 (Volume 6) online

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Senate of tije 2lnltet( States,

JANUARY 16, 18189,






Br the title and design of our work ; by the memory of those
who fled from Holland to Plymouth, because in that land of mer-
chandise they could not enjoy a quiet Sabbadi, or accustom dieir
children to keep it holy ; by all the blessings, civil and religious,
w^hich exist in close alliance with that day, whicli have been our
birthright, and are die just inheritance of the future generations of
our children ; and by all our obligations, as patriots to our country,
and as Christians to our God, we consider ourselves called upon
to animadvert upon the facts, principles and reasonings contained in
this Report.

We cherish an ardent attachment to the principles of our repub-
lican institutions, and believe that, in alliance with the Gospel, they
are destined to emancipate the world ; and, without permitting our-
selves to participate in the collisions incident to popular elections,
we hold ourselves bound, and declare ourselves disposed, to render
to the constituted authorities of our nation, from time to time, our
prayers, and our cheerful co-operation, in all diings which are lawful
and right. It is the happiness of our nation, diat so extensively the
people read and think for themselves ; and the glory of our govern-
ment, that it is so accessible to the people, and feels with such ease,
superceding the necessity of revolution, the slightest movement of the
public will. The press, which in Europe is struggling on to liberty
amid brisding bayonets, is with us free ; and those accommodations
to public sentiment, which there can be secured only by innovation
upon ancient usages, are obtained here with all the safety which
appertains to public discussion, and a judicious and peaceful legis-
lation. The people have only to ascertain what will be for their
good, and they are blessed with a government whose honor and
happiness it is to bestow it.

It is both admitted, and by us maintained, diat animadversions
upon public men and measures, legislative or judicial, should be
conducted with candor and respect. But the maxim diat no wrong
can be done by men in authority, belongs to the monarchy from
which our fathers fled, and not to the republic which they institut-
ed. In our animadversions, therefore, upon die Report of this
Committee, we both exercise a right, and perform a duty, which
belongs to us as cidzens and as Chi'isdans.

We enter upon diis duty without delay, because the principles of


the Report are fraught with too much evil, and the reasonings which
recommend them are too specious and coincident with popular
inclination, to permit the bane to circulate long without the anti-
dote ; it being much easier to prevent the introduction of poison
into the body politic, than to expel it when it shall once have ob-
tained a brisk circulation. We are the more constrained to speak,
because in our view, the Sabbath is the mainspring of our repub-
lican institutions, every one of which, without its moral power,
will most assuredly run down ; and because, if the tide of pro-
fanation, set in motion by governmental example, continues to roll
on for fourteen years to come, as it has done for the fourteen
which are past, it may be impossible to preserve to the nation the
moral blessings of that day. If, with twelve millions of people, the
breaking forth, which at first was but a drop, and then a puny
stream, has become a flood, sweeping all mounds and landmarks
before it, what power shall stay it, when urged on, as in the course
of the present century it will be, by a population of thirty, sixty,
or even eighty millions. We are sure that the people of this
nation would not, by any public act, abolish the Sabbath ; and
we are equally confident that to all purposes of national morality
it will be done, unless a more efficient public sentiment can be
arrayed in favor of its preservation. To our apprehension, the
question now before Congress and the nation is. Abolish, or not
abolish, the Christian Sabbath. Of such a decision we dare not,
in time or in eternity, meet the result, without having done all which
heaven has enabled us to do, to produce a correct decision. Be-
tween the cradle and the grave of liberty we take our stand ; and
to the nation, and to heaven, we here pledge ourselves, never to
abandon our post, or to keep silence, till the Sabbath, the palla-
dium of our hopes, is rescued, or the grave has closed upon our
country's glory. And these, we have cause to know, are the views
and feelings which have waked up the nation, and called forth the
united, spontaneous burst of importunity which has flowed in upon

The question, however, is not to be settled by mere feeling ;
much less by the argumentum ad invidiam, on either side. It is
manifest that the people, as yet, do not thoroughly understand the
subject, and when they do, we have great confidence that, under
God, they will decide right. Before we proceed, therefore, to a
particular consideration of the Report, we shall endeavor to afford
to our readers the means of forming a correct judgement, in re-
spect to the real and indispensable efficacy of the Sabbath to the
maintenance of our civil and religious institutions.

It has been said often by the advocates of a liberal exposition
of the fourth command, that ' the Sabbath was made for man.'
This is true, but in a sense directly the opposite of that which is
intended. The Sabbath was made (i. e. it was instituted and set

apart by heaven) for the spiritual use and benefit of man. To be
made for man, denotes its universal necessity and universal and
perpetual oblio;ation : for the term man is generic, and includes
the race, of all ages and nations. The declaration ' the Sabbath
was made for man,' implies also that it was bestowed as a blessing,
and not imposed as a penance — a mitigation, and not an augmen-
tation of the curse, ' In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread
till thou return to the earth.' The six days were made for man
as really as the seventh ; but they are appropriated to labor, while
the seventh is given as a season in which to suspend his toils and
cares, and furnishes to the laboring classes of the world almost
their only opportunity for intellectual and moral cultivation. Thus,
it is said, at the close of creation, that God blessed and sanctified
the Sabbath. But to sanctify times, places, and things, is, according
to scriptural usage, to set them apart from a secular to a religious
use ; as the sons of Levi were sanctified to the priesthood, and
the tabernacle and temple to the worship of God, and all their
utensils to religious uses.

The necessity of some respite from the ordinary vocations of
life the Report admits to be the " voice of universal nature ;" and
the wisdom and benevolence of consecrating a seventh part of time
to this rest, appear in its experimental adaptation to the physical,
intellectual and moral necessities of man. Experience has ascer-
tained that the frames of men and animals are incapable of unin-
termitted action. Beside the repose of the night, a periodical rest
of the Sabbath is demanded. Those who labor through die sum-
mer, without intermission, accomplish less, with much greater ex-
haustion, than those who observe the Sabbath. Extended journies
are performed with more expedition, and less fatigue, by man and
beast, with, than without, the rest of the Sabbath. It was ascer-
tained in France, by experiment, that the labor of nine days, instead
of six, increased the exhaustion of man, and diminished the aggre-
gate amount of labor. The reason is obvious. No device of man
can make a pound weigh more than a pound, or limited strength
endure but a hmited degree of action ; and he who made the frame
of man prepared it to sustain healthful action six days in the week,
and no more.

It is manifest, that the mind has its limits of vigorous and health-
ful application to study, or to business, and that all taxation beyond
the exigencies of six days reacts, in nervous prostration, mental
aberration, or mortality. God has set the bounds to muscular and
mental effort which they cannot pass ; and though man, impatient
of constraint, has rushed upon them, and sought to pass, Hke the
waves dashing upon the iron-bound shore, he alone has been bro-
ken, while the ordinances of heaven have ' maintained their place'.

It is chiefly, however, in a moral respect that the Sabbath was

made for man. For all experience has shown that cessation from
labor, without religious and moral instruction, results in dissipation
and excess, more injurious to mind and body, than uninteiinitted
toil. The Sabbath, as a mere holiday, has always exerted a most
terrific demoralizing influence ; and there is no alternative for man,
but to keep it holy, or waste away by the toil or the dissipation of
its violation.

That man is a free agent, to be governed by law, and not
by force, is a matter of universal consciousness. That the moral
law contained in the decalogue is the rule of duty, and would,
if obeyed, constitute perfect society, is admitted by Christians.
The entire influence of this law depends however on its being
known, explained, and pressed earnestly and often upon the at-
tention of men. It is the design of the Sabbath to give omni-
presence and energy to the moral law, by convening, one day in
seven, the population of the world to hear the expositions of its
precepts and sanctions. It is not to be denied, also, that man is a
sinner, and must be reclaimed and pardoned, to fit him for heaven;
and the Sabbath is given to him as a day of rest, in which he may
attend to such instructions as God has provided to make him wise
unto salvation. But the influence of both law and Gospel to ben-
efit man for time or for eternity is impaired, just in proportion as
the Sabbath is diverted from sacred, and is devoted to secular
uses. To establish this position, nothing is necessary, but a con-
cise consideration of the state of human society in respect to each
command of the decalogue, where the Sabbath does not give pre-
sence and influence to the law of God and the precepts of the
Gospel. We will name the commands in order, and illustrate, by
an appeal to facts, the state of society in respect to each, where
the Sabbath does not impart its energy to tlie moral law.

" Thou shalt have no other gods before ?«e." But unblessed by
the Sabbath, there is not a spot on earth, where the understanding
is enlightened by just conceptions of the character of God, or his
worship maintained. Or the hearts and lives of men purified by the
Gospel. Everywhere, as the Sabbath has disappeared, has dark-
ness covered the earth, and gross darkness the people ; and though
we exult in our hberties and superior illumination, in one century,
without the Sabbath, would our sun go down, and all our civil and
religious institutions perish.

" Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven imaged But
where has the Sabbath departed, and idolatry not entered ? The
reluctance of man to retain God in his knowledge is notorious.
It is only by the evidence of miracles, and the energy imparted
by the Sabbath to divine institutions, that the name and worship
of God have been maintained upon the. earth. The Jews, pre-
vious to their captivity at Babylon, were strangely addicted to the
worship of idols ; but after their return, when the synagogue wor-

ship was established, the Sabbath more strictly observed, and the
law of God read and explained every recurring seventh day, they
never again relapsed into idolatry.

The Sabbath is the wall of partition between Christian and
heathen lands ; — the sun which enlightens the one, while all with-
out is the region of the shadow of death. The enemies of reve-
lation revile the Sabbath, as a day subservient to superstition and
the clergy ; but let them turn their backs on its hated light, and go
where its glimmerings do not reach, and everywhere they will wit-
ness the ignorance of the multitude, and the uncontrolcd despotism
of an idol priesthood. Idolatry has retreated before the hated light
of holy time, and now lies in ambush, waiting to return, whenever
it shall be extinguished. The enemies of revelation and the Sab-
bath are in fact the pioneers of idolatry, with all its abominable
superstitions, impurides, and blood.

" Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain,^^
The entire influence of the divine government depends on the
reverence and love for God which prevail among his subjects.
Wherever respect for God declines — wherever his name, attri-
butes, word, and worship, are treated with irreverence and levity,
there the obedience of the heart has no place, and atheism itself
could scarcely be more licentious in its results. Profaneness is
ever associated in some form, and more commonly in many forms,
with immorality ; so that universally, the more profaneness abounds,
the more dissolute is the community in which it prevails. But
among what classes of the community does the profanation of the
name of God most abound ? Never among those, as a class, who
are reverential and strict in their observance of the Sabbath, but
among those, almost exclusively, who lightly esteem and violate
that holy day.

" Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may he long
in the land which the Lord thy God giveth theey But what is
the treatment of parents by their children, where no Sabbath pre-
serves natural affection, corroborates parental by divine authority,
invigorates conscience, and forms a public sentiment which renders
fiHal ingratitude disreputable ^ In lands nominally Christian, chil-
dren who are farthest removed from the influence of the Sabbath,
are most frequently irreligious, self-willed, ' heady, highminded,
disobedient to parents, without natural affection, implacable, un-
merciful;' while often, by their abusive conduct, they destroy
domestic peace, and by their vices and crimes bring themselves
and the grey hairs of their parents with sorrow to the grave.
In pagan lands, the insubordination of children to parents is
notorious, and the affections and comforts of the family state, as
they are enjoyed in Christian lands, are scarcely known. It is a
common event for children, when their parents have become old,
and can be of no further use to them, to carry them forth as a
nuisance, and lay them down under the canopy of heaven, by the


river, or the way side, to die the lingering, intolerable death of

" Thou shalt not kill.'''' But where the Sabbath does not give
presence and energy to the moral law, how cheap and insecure is
the life of man ? Duelling, as a general fact, prevails among Sab-
bath breakers. It is doubtful whether an individual can be found,
of the multitude who have fought, who was accustomed to pay a
strict regard to holy time. And where do those assaults most
abound, which indicate the absence of principle, and the predomi-
nance of intemperance, and rage, and brutal force ? Precisely
where the Sabbath is least revered, and the tavern has supplanted
the sanctuary of God. Where, with horrid frequency, and more
horrid impunity, do those assassinations multiply, which hold life
in jeopardy ? It is where the Sabbath, if known at all, exists in
name only, as a day of superstitious forms, and is, in fact, a holi-
day, more destructive to morals than the other six. In many such
places, the work of assassination has become a profession. For
a small sum, a desperado can be hired to take away life, and can
find a sanctuary from justice in the church ; and, for a small por-
tion of his gain, can be absolved from guilt by the ghostly priest-

There is a city in our own land, in which, a few years since, an
appalling number of assassinations took place in six months, and
every one of them with entire impunity. But there was no Sab-
bath there, wdiich gave presence and influence to the government of
God, or tone to public sentiment, or energy to the civil law. And
whoever reads the account of assassinations and murders which
are fast becoming a part of our weekly intelligence, and observes
the geographical location of these deeds of blood, will perceive
that they abound chiefly in the twilight of religious knowledge, and
where the Sabbath sheds upon the population but a faint and glim-
mering light. In most unevangelized nations, infanticide is com-
mon, and often prevails to such an extent that one half the chil-
dren born are destroyed, and not unfrequently by the hand of her
who bore them. In nearly all heathen nations have human sacri-
fices been offered, and in many are offered still ; and in all, the
life of man is set at naught with an inhumanity unparalleled even
in the worst papts of nominal Christendom. In India, every year,
multitudes of widow's burn on the funeral pile with their dead hus-
bands. It is said, indeed, to be done voluntarily ; but it is a com-
pulsory choice — the disgrace and persecution for a refusal being
more dreadful than death. In Rome, thousands were sometimes
murdered in a month, in the shows of the gladiators, merely for the
public amusement. But no Sabbath had brought to their ears the
divine prohibition, ' Thou shalt not kill.' Until the light of the
Sabbath arose on that dark empire, a vast proportion of the popu-
lation were slaves, over whom the master held the power of life

and death, and whom, in passion or caprice, he often killed and
cast into fish ponds, to fatten the fish of his table.

Buchanan, in his Christian Researches, writes thus :

" Buddruck, May 30, 1806. We know that we are approach-
ing Juggernaut, (and yet we are more than fifty miles from it) by
the human bones which we have seen for some days strewed by
the way. Near the pilgrim's caravansera, there are more than a
hundred skulls. The dogs, jackalls and vultures seem to live
here on human prey. The vultures exhibit a shocking tameness.
This Buddruck is a horrid place. Wherever I turn my eyes, I
meet death in some shape or other."

"Juggernaut, June 14. I have seen Juggernaut. The scene
at Buddruck is but the vestibule. No record of ancient or modern
history, can give an adequate idea of this valley of death. The
idol of Juggernaut has been considered as the Moloch of the pre-
sent age, and he is justly so named ; for the sacrifices offered up
to him by self-devotement are not less criminal, perhaps not less
numerous, than those recorded of the Moloch of Canaan." " I be-
held another distressing scene this morning. A poor woman lying
dead, or nearly dead, and her two children by her, looking at the
dogs and vultures which were near. The people passed without
noticing the children. I asked them where was their home? They
said, ' they had no home but where their mother was.' O, there
is no pity at Juggernaut, no mercy, no tenderness of heart in Mo-
loch's kingdom ;" — and he mJght have said, because there is no
Sabbath there.

When the Sabbath was abolished in France, the Mighty God,
whose being they had denied, and whose worship they abolished,
stood aloof, and gave them up ; and a scene of proscription, and
assassination, and desolation ensued, unparalleled in the annals of
the civilized world. In the city of Paris, there w^ere in 1803,
eight hundred and seven suicides and murders. Among the crimi-
nals executed, there were seven fathers who had poisoned their
children, ten husbands who had murdered their wives, six wives
who had poisoned their husbands, and fifteen children who had
destroyed their parents.

" Thou sliaJt not commit adultery:' But in many nations lying
without the pale of Christendom, prom-iscuous concubinage has pre-
vailed to the annihilation of domestic purity, and all the sweet chari-
ties of the family state. At the Sandwich Islands, licentiousness and
disease w^ere fast exterminating the wretched population, until the
Sabbath and the glad tidings of the Gospel came to their aid.
The impurities of heathenism cannot be named — cannot be even
conceived. Buchanan, \\\\o witnessed the walls and gates of the
temple of Juggernaut " covered with indecent emblems in massive
and durable sculpture," and hstened to the obscene stanzas which
the priest said " are the delight of the god," beheld the " lascivious


gesture," and " Indecent action," and heard from the multitude
" the sensual yell of delight," as they urged the car along, says,
" I was appalled at the magnitude and horror of the spectacle,
and felt a consciousness of doing wrong in witnessing it, and was
about to withdraw ; but a scene of a different kind was now to be
presented. The characteristics of Moloch's worship are lust and
blood. We have seen the former; now comes the blood." "This,
thought I, is the worship of the Bramins of Hindostan, in its sub-
limesi degree ! What then shall we think of their private manners
and their moral principles : for it is equally true of India, as of
Europe, if you would know the state of the people, you must look
at the state of the temple."

Why should we allude here to the temple of Venus, and the
similar abominations which pertained to her worship ; or to the
chastity of nations, a part of whose religion consisted in the most
shameless obscenities ? But there ivas no Sabbath there.

" Thou shalt not steal.^^ It is notorious, however, that the unevan-
gelized population of the world, with little exception, is addicted
to theft. By the law^s of some of the ancient heathen nations,
stealing was encouraged, if not expressly enjoined. And among
modern heathens, as missionaries and other travellers have con-
stantly witnessed, this vice almost universally prevails. And from
what class of society in Christian nations, does the anti-social con-
spiracy of swindlers, thieves^ and robbers usually proceed ? Be-
yond question, they are those whom in childhood no parental in-
struction and example taught to remember the Sabbath day — the
vagrants of our cities and land, to whom the returning Sabbath
brought leisure and opportunity to perfect themselves, by practice,
in all manner of wickedness.

" Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. ^^ But
in Hindostan, Sir William Jones, who adorned alike religion, litera-
ture, and the bench, declares, that he " never knew a Hindoo,
whose testimony under oath could be fully relied on." " They
will swear falsely," says Mr. Ward, " in the most shocking manner,
so that a judge never knows when he may safely believe a Hindoo
witness. Some of the courts of justice are infested by a set of
men who, for a paltry sum, are willing to make oath to any fact,
however false."

The facihty with which forged papers and false testimony can
be obtained in most Catholic countries, is w^ell known to commer-
cial men. And in our own land, as we recede from the sanctuary
and the Sabbath to those classes of society, whose inclination or
employment carry them beyond its illumination and blessed attrac-
tion, we shall find the sanctity of an oath to decline, and life and
property, as protected by law, to be more and more insecure.

" Thou shalt not covet.'' " The Hindoos," says Mr. Ward,
*' are excessively addicted to covetousness, especially in the great


towns, where ihey have been coriTipted by commerce." And
where, except in Christian lands, do governmenis exist, which are
not rapacious ? The rapacity of the Turkish government has well
nigh depopulated some of the fairest portions of the eardi, once
the most populous, where no crime is more dangerous to life than
that of being rich. And where will you look for confirmation of
the inspired declaradon, that ' the w^orld lusteth to envy,' and for
mobs and insurrections, laying rapacious hands on the property of
the rich, but among those whom the Sabbath has not visited, and
whose only restraint is the coercion of law ? IMen of weahh, who
are hasting to be rich by Sabbath day earnings, should understand
that their w^ealth is floating on a popular sea whose waves the laws
cannot chain, when the Sabbath has ceased to legislate in the name
of heaven — that a volcano is beneath them, whose explosion man
cannot prevent or withstand, when the fear of the Lord has ceased,
which is the beginning of wisdom. If our men of w^ealth desire
the scenes of rev'ohuionary France to be acted over, let them ob-
literate die Sabbath, and propagate infidelity, and ' from the vasty

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Online LibraryYale CollegeReview of a report of the committee, to whom was referred the several petitions on the subject on mails on the Sabbath : presented to the Senate of the United States, January 16, 1829 (Volume 6) → online text (page 1 of 4)