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attachment to his own interest and profit, is unwilling to take leisure for these purposes, he little understands what his real interest consists in; and should not be suffered, either to keep such, as are under him, from spending this portion of their lives better; or to make advantages to himself by labour, when others, for such good reasons, abstain from it.
The laws of our country therefore are both just and wise, in prohibiting not only work, but (with proper exceptions) buying and selling on the Lord's day. For they fill up the time and thoughts, and detain men from the exercises of religion, as effectually as more fatiguing employments: nor will it be at all difficult, with a little contrivance, to avoid them. And it is both irreligious to do these things needlessly, and cruel also to force others, either to violate their consciences by exercising their callings when they ought not, or to lose their business by refusing to trangress their duty. But if private persons will not attend to such considerations, public magistrates, as guardians of the laws, should carefully support the innocent, by punishing the guilty.
Besides these ways of breaking the holy rest of this day, another is, needless travelling upon it. If people take journies then about their common business, it is as directly following their trade, as keeping open shop. If the journey be the only business, it is trespassing on the quiet, probably too on the worship of the day, in the face of all the world. And this is often done so absolutely without any colour of sufficient reason, that it must be mere affectation: surely not a proper behaviour towards our Maker, nor a reputable one amongst our fellow-creatures. Possibly some of the great originally took it up as a distinction: but whoever will, may very easily distinguish him
self in the same manner. Indeed too many, both of middle and even low condition, have already learnt to do so go out early on parties of diversion and amusement, from which they return late; throw away the most sacred portion of their time, and not a little of their money, on follies, if not vices, of which they thus acquire a destructive relish; leave their families, if they have any, exposed to all manner of temptations; and set both them and their acquaintance an example of disregard to duty, and of madness for pleasure, too likely to ruin them in this life and the next.
But without worldly business, and without stirring far from their own houses, men frequently contrive to give themselves but little rest, and their servants yet less: partly by unnecessary entertainments and company at home, partly by a multitude of unnecessary visits abroad; which between them so employ several of the family, if not the whole, that scarce any day of the week is so void of leisure. Now suppose these occupations were ever so far from being laborious, yet it is by no means fitting, that hours allotted to piety and recollection should be consumed and swallowed up in a hurry of trifles. We ought to allow seasons of quiet to our minds, as well as our bodies, that they may cool into serious thoughtfulness: and when shall that be, if not on this day? We ought likewise to afford every one under us due opportunities for learning, considering, resolving, praying; and give them in this respect, no less than others, what is just and equal; knowing that we also have a Master in heaven. If they desire it, a refusal is gross inhumanity. If they desire it not, they need it but the more. And instead of pleading, that if they had vacant time, they would use it ill; the right way is, to
* Col. iv. 1.
provide it for them, and endeavour that they may use it well. Thus at least we shall have done our duty: which we shall usually find in every sense, but constantly in the best, is consulting our interest.
After all that hath been said, there may sometimes remain doubts concerning the extent of the repose, enjoined by this precept. And then our best rule will be, on the one hand, not to take liberties beyond the permission of the laws, and the practice of the more pious and considerate part of our neighbours; and on the other not to scruple, what propriety and decency and reasonable convenience require.
But farther, as hardly any one is capable of spending the whole, and very few near the whole, of our day of rest in religious exercises, to good purpose; it will be requisite to inquire, in the last place, how we are to employ the intervals and the remainder of it, which we need not or cannot employ thus.
Now there is nothing more fitly joined with acts of piety, than acts of charity: one excellent species of which, instructing and exhorting those, who belong to us, hath been already mentioned: and extending the same good office, in a prudent manner, farther, as occasion serves, is an employment admirably suited to the day. Reconciling ourselves upon it to persons, between whom and us any displeasure hath been, is peculiarly recommended by the reason of the thing, as well as by a canon of our church *. Visiting the poor and sick, not barely in the common meaning of the word visit, but in the scriptural sense, of taking a kind notice of their wants, is not only directed by the same canon, but countenanced by St. Paul who gave an order both to the Galatians and the Corinthians, in a particular exigency (which is
* Can. 13.
equally a good rule in others), that each of them, on the first day of the week, should appropriate something towards the necessities of the saints, as God had prospered him*. And it is one delightful view of the day, to look on it as consecrated, amongst other excellent purposes, to that of forming and executing designs of tenderness and compassion to our distressed brethren.
But even where there is no room for doing what is commonly called charity, mere friendly intercourse and conversation, with our relations, neighbours and acquaintance (if it take not up too much time), is a demonstration of good will which contributes greatly to our mutual happiness. And God's providing the frequent return of a day, when all the world should be released from confinement and toil, and at liberty to shew themselves in the most advantageous and pleasing light to each other, (a liberty which few in proportion would ever enjoy, were it not for this their sabbath,) is an action worthy of our gracious Maker, and of unspeakable moment for promoting courtesy, affability, and kind affections. But it is more especially useful for softening and polishing the rugged tempers and manners of the lower sort of men who ought on many accounts, highly to value their festival days, which one of the principal heathen philosophers, Plato, saith, the Gods appointed in pity to mankind †. It was not therefore intended, that we should pass our Lord's day in sullen retirement, shunning human converse, or infecting each other with melancholy. The Jews were bid to rejoice in their feasts before the Lord their Godt. Christians are bid to rejoice in the Lord always §. And a very
* 1 Cor. xvi. 1, 2.
+ Plat. de Leg. 1. 2.
ancient Father, Tertullian, informs us, that on the Sunday, for so he calls it, they indulged peculiarly to joy*; as well they might, since he who died for our sins, then rose for our justification †. Indeed would we but practise Christianity as we ought, we should find its promises of pardon and strength, its beneficial precepts, and glorious prospects, the assurance of God's love to us, and the exertion of our own love to him and our fellow-creatures, matter of the highest joy, both within ourselves, and amongst each other. And we are much to blame, that we banish religious topics from our discourse; which might be, if properly introduced, the most delightful part of it. Not that lower subjects of agreeable and cheerful conversation need be at all excluded from a share in the day for harmless good humour is an amiable and useful virtue. Only we must take singular care now of what we should remember always: that nothing censorious or uncharitable, nothing profane or indecent, nothing too light and ludicrous, come out of our mouths nothing unworthy of rational and religious persons. By such behaviour and communication, we shall observe the full import of the prophet Isaiah's direction to the Jews; that they should honour the sabbath, not doing their own ways, nor finding their own pleasure, nor speaking their own words. This doth not mean, that whatsoever was pleasing was for that reason to be avoided by them: but that exercises of piety ought then to be their chief pleasure; and nothing unsuitable to them, however pleasing, done or uttered. They were not to say, Our lips are our own: who is lord over us §? but at this time especially to prefer innocence before inclination.
* Apol. c. 16.
t Isa. lviii. 13.
+ Rom. iv. 25.
§ Ps. xii. 4.