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THE THREE SABBATHS.
It was the universal Sabbath,
. When the prayer
SOMETIME since I was spending a few weeks in an excursive visit among my friends. The family in which I passed my first Sabbath from home, were persons long distinguished in the religious world as servants of God, living in his faith, and devoted to his service. Propriety, charity, and love, were the character of this house at all times. During the week I had seen nothing of which I could have said the practice had an unholy and unchristian tendency; and I had heard no mention of things sacred, but in such terms as Christians love to hear. But the days of course had been occupied with a variety of things. The younger part of the family were engaged every hour about some matter of education, some healthful exercise, or innocent recreation. The father was abroad upon business of various kinds, and the mother engaged with business of as many kinds at home. Of course, they had all their hours of private recollection, perhaps at daybreak or at midnight; but as far as could be perceived, the hours of family prayer were the only periods of cessation from secular affairs. Such just importance was attached to the value of time in this
house, that to have been idle would have been felt a disgrace to the youngest of its members : and it is much to say that every thing I saw them employed about became their age and the several duties of their station.
Saturday passed like other days, and I heard no one remark that to-morrow would be Sunday. Perhaps it was not extraordinary that what happens every week should not be remarked upon : but I am so much in the habit of saying to myself, “ To-morrow will be Sunday,” I seemed to miss the remark; and no moment occurred in all the day, in which to have said it myself would not have seemed foreign to the purpose:
When I awaked on the Sunday morning, though the wonted sounds without the house were hushed, the sounds within were just the same as usualas much brushing, and hanging, and dusting, and all the movements that denote business and activity renewed. The people came down the same, and the breakfast passed the same, and nobody said, “ It is Sunday.” So much like another day did it feel, that to reassure myself of its being really the holy day, I asked at what time the service began. at ten o'clock," said Maria, jumping up hastily; "is it time?” and all were off to prepare themselves. They all went to church, and from their manner there, I believe their hearts went with them. They listened with feeling attention to the sermon, and walked home with an air of serious reflection. I had every reason to suppose some of the servants went to church also : though as the work required of them was plainly as much as on other days, all could not have gone. During the remainder of the morning, I observed the father walking over his grounds, giving orders for to-morrow, and directions
for the weekday's work to such of his servants as could be found. I observed the mother doing the same at home; walking into the nursery, and about the school-room ; noticing things that in the bustle of the last week had escaped attention, and giving orders about things that in the bustle of the next week might escape memory.
The children were not at their usual lessons : I believe they had been learning something sacredof this I am not sure :—most likely they did so every day ; but now the young ones were playing at their usual games ;—the floors were strewed as usual with toys, carts, dolls, and cards, and the usual complement of story-books. The elder daughters were in the garden, tying up the flowers. There was an air of leisure in the house, certainly, but none of enjoy. ment or concern, or any particular engagement of the mind. There was a large dinner, as on other days: the dessert was scarcely on the table when some one said it was church-time; and such as were inclined arose and went to church; the servants certainly could not. On returning, I observed that those who had not gone, were either writing letters, or reading the same books as on Saturday. I do not say they were profane books ;—they were not; but they were those that usually lay on the table: I believe they were Cowper's Task, the History of the Albigenses, and Buchanan's Memoirs. Our return produced conversation : it was sensible, rational, and occasionally serious, as it was on other days; still nobody said " It is Sunday.”
When the younger people had retired, I asked my friend if she allowed her children the same amusements on Sundays as on other days ? She answered me that she did—their amusements were perfectly innocent. I continued, “ And you do not
wish to spare your servants' labour on this day ?” She replied, “ I would not do outrage to their feelings in any thing
I encourage and wish them to go to church ;—and if they chose to do their work on Saturday, they might otherwise I do not think it of any consequence.” -“ Tell me, then," I said, “ what it is you mean? I know you would not act against your conscience for any consideration; and I have always supposed your affections are with God. Tell me why you do not keep the Sabbaths he has appointed ?” She answered, “ If I believed he required it, I should keep them, certainly; and as to outward respect before men, I do in some sort observe them, because it is an ordinance of our country, and tending to public good. It was a part of the moral law, I know, when men had no better rule to live by. But under the influence of spiritual religion, I endeavour to live soberly and righteously before God every day—I teach my children never to forget, and never to offend him :- I think we are now under a different dispensation, and may enjoy the freedom the gospel gives, without shackling ourselves with ordinances that belonged to a darker and a sadder day.”—“ Madam," I said, “ you will excuse my words ;—but yours is a strange language. Of course I am acquainted with all that has been said about the abrogation of the Mosaic law ;-I do not wish to speak of it all;- for if it were possible to prove that the law of the two tables passed away with the dispensation they belonged to, you would not, I think, release yourself from a single obligation that is contained in them. Nay, with the other nine commandments, I am persuaded, you would be very sorry to dispense; and it seems very strange to
should desire to be rid of this, Is it so great a task to set apart a day in seven to the pe
culiar service of God, that I hear you talk of freedom and gospel privileges ? I should have thought the privilege was to keep it."
She answered me—“ We must take things in the spirit, not in the letter. If I did not serve God on the other six days, it might be very delightful to me to be allowed to serve him on this: if I were in the habit of forgetting him, such a memorial would be very necessary ; but I hope this is not the case. I desire that every day with me should be “a Sabbath to the Lord.'". My friend will excuse me,” I replied, "if I say I think she speaks too proudly. An eternal Sabbath is the promise of heaven, but it is not the hope of earth. Do you mean me to understand, that during the activity of secular occupation, in which I have seen your whole house engaged from seven in the morning till ten at night, that your minds have been in no degree pre-occupied and drawn off from God; so as to lose, if not the memory, at least the enjoyment, of his presence? Do you say that your husband in his counting-house, and your
children with their masters, and your servants in the laundry, are as able and as likely to retain a holy and a heavenly spirit as if they had nothing else to occupy their minds? Are you so dispossessed of that spirit of earthliness which once reigned in you, that it never makes an effort to recover its predominance, taking the advantage of your legitimate occupation with the things of time, to displace the preference of eternity ?"
“ These occupations are indispensable,” my friend replied; “they are duties. Whatever their dangers, since God has placed us in them, he can support us through all, and sanctify them to us. He knows the infirmities of his people, and to what they stand exposed."