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VI.
THE SUNDAY AT HOME.

HERE IS not a gift of God to man which has been so universally misunderstood and abused as the gift of the Sabbath day, - misunderstood and abused quite as much by the religious as by the irreligious. Handed from generation to generation, — always found in our homes and accepted there, — we have grown up thinking that woe remained for those who should depart by one jot or one tittle from the accustomed method of keeping it. The sanction of years has had with us the weight of authority, and wherever the New-Englander has gone, has gone with him, as a peculiar institution, the New England Sunday. I would not speak lightly of a day about which clusters so much that is sacred. I would not deny influences of good that have gone out from it. Stern, harsh, repulsive, exacting, we owe to it much of that which distinguishes New England character, and wins for it confidence and respect. I honor the day. I

believe in its capacity for good. I respect the memory of those grim old men who fashioned and transmitted it to us, while I long to see a more thoroughly Christian spirit pervading it. Ours has been too long rather the Jew’s Sabbath than the Christian’s Sunday. I would still wish to remember the Sabbath to keep it holy; but it should be with the holiness of the spirit of the religion of Jesus, not with that of the letter of Moses. Nothing can be clearer than the abrogation of the Jewish Sabbath. The Saviour more than once showed that its ceremonies and forms, and its idea of rest, had no place under his religion. He said that “the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” Man was not to conform to it, but it was to conform to man, changing its methods and modes as the changing circumstances of man required. He was not to be the slave, but the lord of the Sabbath. It may have all been very well that the Jew should keep the day as he did. It was, perhaps, the best way for him. It may be that the Puritan kept it in the best way for himself and his age ; but that Puritan strictness and narrowness are desirable, or can be efficacious, in our day, were it not for the power of education and prejudice, no one would allow, and the persistent attempts to force an observance upon a generation every way unlike those going before, is producing pernicious and lasting, if not fatal, results. Many, both of the older and younger, are repelled from the day, or observe it only in form, to whom it would be holiest and welcomest if it came in the broad and liberal spirit of the Gospel; while others, frowned upon by those who take to themselves the exclusive spirit of sanctity, are using it to truest advantage. Another generation will not pass without a radical change in the keeping of holy time. There are signs which make that sure. How shall I best spend the Sunday is the anxious question of many, and the patent answer less and less suffices. Not the indifferent and the scoffer, but the man of serious faith and devout life, begins to doubt of so much church-going, of such exclusive religious and public use of the day. I am free to confess that I believe the Sunday will only be safely and sacredly used when it shall be made to minister to a man’s domestic and social needs quite as much as his religious. One of the gravest objections to the popular method of keeping Sunday — I mean the popular religious method —is that it leaves nothing to the home, or, more truly, requires nothing of the home. Before the domestic duties of the day have fairly subsided, the bell proclaims that the hour of morning service has come. An early dinner hardly gives time for a prompt appearance at the Sunday school, and the close of the afternoon service finds old and young pretty thoroughly weary, and longing for some little relaxing. If now the Sunday-school lesson for the next Sunday is to be learned, and after tea the evening meeting of some sort attended, where is the room for the home 2 And what has the home to do with and what does the home for hundreds and thousands of families in our land, with whom God's blessed day of peace and joy and rest is a series of public exhortations, to the excitements or instructions of which the whole Sunday duty is narrowed 2 We have no warrant for such a state of things in revelation or reason or common sense; and yet thousands of reasonable and common-sense people “drag this dead weight of the Sunday” with them through life, supposing that so they do God service. Do we not do a better service when we keep a proper equilibrium among our duties and employments, – when we let the overgrowth of no one overshadow or destroy any other ? If the Sabbath was made for man, it was made for man in the home, just as surely as for man in the church, and he who, through devotedness to his church, leaves the home to itself, does not remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. The Jewish day was reckoned from sunset to sunset. The Jewish Sabbath, consequently, began with the setting sun of the day previous, – if such an

expression be allowable. The Puritans, who were rather Jewish than Christian in their faith and their forms, imitated this custom, and, as it was called, “kept." Saturday night as a sort of preparation. There was an element of truth and value in that, though carried by them to an extreme. It chanced that a part of my boyhood was passed upon the Connecticut River, where then lingered, in all its force, the old Puritan rigor of faith and conduct and form. The sinking of the Saturday's sun was a thing of dread to us children, for it ushered in the long, weary, monotonous Sabbath, born, as we thought, out of due time. In the short winter days, how soon that setting came, and then woe to that luckless youngster whom the desire for one coast more, or one more skate over the pond, prevented from reaching home before the stars came out. My own was a harder case than most, — for those under whose charge I was had brought with them from their homes the habit of observing the Sunday evening, while the community in which they resided demanded as scrupulous observance of Saturday evening; so that I, instead of escaping both, as I ought, was compelled to keep both. I can see now those Sunday suns sinking in the west. Anxious eyes, through the village and at the farmhouse windows, wait for the last ray, and then, as the cautious father decides that Sunday is really past, the doors fly open, boys and girls rush out to play, and

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