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valuable privilege to the community, and one which claims to be enforced by the civil power : the other is, that the whole Christian world have laboured under a delusion in supposing that any argument in favour of this inestimable Institution can be derived from the word of God. In a person holding the latter opinion, it would obviously be wrong and dishonest, to advance or to countenance any argument drawn from religious considerations, and which he must deem fallacious, in favour of the former position, that the Sabbath is nevertheless worthy to be observed. Yet, one might naturally have expected that such a Writer's main anxiety would be, to establish, on what he deems the true grounds, a principle of so much practical importance, and, if possible, to place the advantages of the Sabbath in so strong a light, that its observance should not require to be enforced by any unsound or fallacious arguments. While scrupulously abstaining from employing error as an auxiliary, the Writer was bound to shew himself chiefly bent upon establishing what he admits as truth by a train of independent argument. I am unable, for such and such ‘ reasons ', it might have been said, 'to concur with those worthy 'theologians who contend for the Divine authority of the Lord's • Day; but, being as deeply convinced as they are, of the expe
diency of such an Institution, I have composed the ensuing treatise in order to illustrate the political wisdom of enforcing a day of rest. By a volume written with this object and in this spirit, the Author might have laid the public under no small obligation; and widely as we should still have differed from him, we should have hailed him as an auxiliary. Why did not his work assume this shape ? Why has he given us only two meagre paragraphs in support of the Institution he approves, and written nearly 300 pages to disprove its religious obligation? Why so much more zeal to demolish a fallacious argument in favour of a good conclusion, than to establish that conclusion on better premises ? How comes a religious Inquirer to be so acute and energetic in exposing the delusions of the pious, and so lukewarm in advocating the interests of public morality? The book is, on the Author's own principles, a moral absurdity : for the whole tenor of it is at direct war with the only practical conclusion which is distinctly announced; namely, that the Sabbath ought to be observed. In this, he agrees with those who maintain the religious obligation, although he arrives at the conclusion by quite another process; but in the Treatise itself, the point of agreement is scarcely adverted to, and the points of difference are exclusively dwelt upon. Had the Spirit of Truth guided the Author's inquiry, would not the case have been reversed ?
In expressing ourselves thus strongly as to the radical defect of the work, we must beg not to be misunderstood as insinuating an impeachment of the motives and intentions of the Writer. We
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believe him to be in error, and that error has blinded his eyes to the nature of the course he was pursuing. We shall endeavour presently to trace that error to its first principle ; but we have deemed it important to shew, that we are justified in demanding of a writer who steps forward to assail established and cherished principles, what he has to offer us in compensation,—what benefit he proposes to confer. If this be called prejudice, it is a salutary and conservative prejudice, injurious only when it leads us to resist the clear light of evidence. But Truth always bears credentials. Miraculous credentials were necessary to render those inexcusable who rejected the Divine Teacher *; and the credentials of beneficent practical tendency are still required to authenticate dogmatic instruction. It seems to us that the purest love of truth, the soundest philosophy, warrants the precaution of entering upon a proposed inquiry, under the proffered guidance of a stranger, with a very distinct appreciation of the consequences to which his reasonings are intended to conduct us, or would infallibly lead. Now the plain consequences of what this volume holds up as truth, are,—that sabbath-breaking cannot be regarded as among our national sins which call for repentance ;that the breach of the Fourth Commandment is no offence against either God or man, not involving the disregard of any moral or religious obligation ;—that what may more truly be regarded as a national sin, is, the teaching the people to repeat the Ten Commandments under the erroneous notion that they are binding upon Christians, whereas they are' wholly inconsistent with the nature • of Christian liberty ;' – that the doctrine of a Christian Sabbath ranks in fact among pious frauds,' which, with other errors of Romanism, are at all hazards to be discountenanced ;- and that the Decalogue ought therefore to be erased from the walls of every Christian church. The Writer cannot accuse us of over-stating the plain consequences of the opinions he has so zealously advocated; and he is too honest and ingenuous to wish us to conceal them. Nay, we give him this advantage in stating the true nature of the paradox he undertakes to prove, before we enter upon the examination of his arguments; that a presumption is afforded, by the very startling nature of these consequences, in favour of the irresistible force of the evidence which has led the Writer to embrace them. How strong must be the reasons, how worthy of being attentively listened to and seriously weighed, which he has to bring forward in support of such unpromising truths!
But what if those reasons are nothing better than pure negations,—nothing more than the alleged insufficiency of proof in favour of the Divine authority of the day,-nothing more than
* John xv. 24.
the Writer's mere opinion, that the evidence usually relied upon is unsatisfactory! That this is the fact, will be seen from a brief analysis of his argument.
In the first section, the Writer insists upon the importance of distinguishing the political regulation of a periodical intermission • of public labour, from the Law of the Sabbath viewed as a Di. 'vine Institution. “All matters of a religious nature, whether
of religious belief or of religious duty, belong, as such, to the 'Divine government, and are beyond the cognizance of human · legislation. Men's actions are proper subjects of human legis
lation : their religious belief lies between God and their own 'consciences. These axioms, we need not say, are with us admitted principles; and we fully concur with the Writer, in the position, that' although the observance of a weekly day of public
rest was probably viewed by the civil legislature, at the period * of its enactment, as a religious obligation, it is utterly impos•sible that it can ever be enforced as a religious duty by the
sword of the civil magistracy.' The Writer proceeds to remark, that, ' as every moral law is from its own nature obligatory on the human race, all civil enactments which are founded on the principles of truth and equity, must in one sense be both laws
of God and of man; '-that these principles are with manifest ' propriety recognized by the legislature of every civilized na' tion';--and he further admits, that if the regulation of enforcing the observance of a day of rest be considered as conducive to the well-being of the community, there can be no reasonable ob‘jection advanced against the adoption of such a regulation, or
to its general enforcement by magisterial authority. But the point at which he starts off from us, is this. He thinks that the civil Legislature is warranted in assuming certain moral obligations which are founded upon the will of God, and which are called principles of truth and equity, but that it is not warranted in assuming certain other moral obligations which are distinguishable as religious. The Legislature may assume that perjury is a crime, or, in other words, that every man is morally bound to speak the truth ; but it may not assume that there is a God; that man is religiously bound to worship Him; and that he claims to be protected in the discharge of that obligation. And why may not this be assumed by the civil Legislature ? Not because any rational doubt can exist upon the subject, but because there are some certain truths, it seems, which the civil Legislature is bound not to know ; among which truths are, the being and the revealed will of the Moral Governor of the Universe, and the primary, universal obligations of His creatures ! We must transcribe the reasoning by which it is attempted to shew the illegitimacy of the assumption, on the part of the Legislature, of the religious obligation of keeping a Sabbath.
It is to be observed, that if the assumptions referred to be erpressed in the statute, --if they be assigned as the ground of its enactment, and as the reason for its being enforced, it will be difficult to justify the law on the principles of sound government, or to defend it from the charge of infringing on the rights of private conscience. The introduction of a religious doctrine into a political enactment, and an assumption that all the members of the State recognize the obligation implied in it, seem to be inconsistent alike with the principles of religious freedom, and with all correct views of the nature and objects of civil legislation. .... In every free government, where there are no civil distinctions made on account of men's different religious opinions, it must be alike unjust and inconsistent, to assume the obligation of a controverted religious doctrine as a proper reason for the enactment of a civil statute. It is obvious, that every member of the State, who dissents from the doctrine on which this obligation is founded, has a just reason of complaint, that he is called upon to give his consent to the enactment of a law which implies the existence of a religious doctrine to which he is conscientiously opposed. To ground the law of the sabbath as a political regulation, upon an antecedent religious obligation, would not be felt to be any grievance, so long as all the members of the State admitted the existence of this obligation ; (although even then, the legislature would appear to be transgressing the limits of its legitimate jurisdiction ;) but so soon as any individual member of the State dissented from the doctrine on which this obligation was founded, the ground on which the law rested, would, as regarded him, be wholly subverted, and the enactment would necessarily become an odious interference with the rights of private conscience.' pp. 14–16.
It would lead us too far from our present subject, to enter into an examination of the Writer's political theory, which corresponds to nothing in history, in fact, or in reason. His implied notions of social rights, involve assumptions of the most extravagant description, and which would render every species of government a modification of injustice. Even the American theory of free government does not affect to concede to each social unit this bypothetical share of legislative power, that would entitle him to be called upon to give his consent to the very wording of every enactment. Neither civil nor religious liberty depends for its existence upon such impossible and absurd conditions. The introduction of a religious doctrine into a political enactment may not be, in most cases, expedient; but that it infringes upon religious liberty, the Writer has not even attempted to shew: he seems to have deemed it self-evident, whereas it is not even a plausible fallacy. The existence of Satan may be viewed as a religious doctrine, and it is one which is assumed in certain forms of legal indictment. Whether this be expedient or not, will the Writer pretend to say, that the religious freedom of the subject is trenched upon by this language? The immortality of the soul is a religious doctrine : would an assumption that all the members of the State recognize the obligation implied in it, be at variance with the principles of religious freedom? But the Writer may claim to qualify his position, as referring to a controverted religious doctrine, and to its introduction as a reason for the enactment of a civil statute. We admit that the case is hardly supposable, in which this would be either proper or expedient. But the question is, whether the referring to such a reason for the enactment, the statute being in itself recommended by political wisdom, would be an injustice, an injury to any members of the community, as an infringement upon the principles of religious freedom. What religious doctrine is not controverted ? Christianity itself is controverted by the Turk, the Jew, and the Infidel. To assume the obligations which it involves, would then, it seems, be an odious interference * with the rights of private conscience'! Truly, this style of reasoning can tend only to bring the rights of conscience into question, by making them seem so indefinite, so exorbitant, and so arbitrary as to be incompatible with the conditions of society.
If the Government or Legislature requires me to profess to believe what I do not believe, all persons will admit that it interferes with the right of conscience; but strange and monstrous indeed is the position, that the Government must not profess to believe what I do not believe,-must not take for granted matters of common belief and general recognition, from which I dissent. Yet, the Writer's argument comes to this. He is not quarrelling with the enactment on the ground of its being itself an infringement upon liberty, or of its requiring more than the State has a right to ordain ; for he admits, that to command a cessation from public labour, comes within the province of the civil Legislature, and that' men are unquestionably bound to comply with the ob. servance as the law of the land.' Few persons will agree with him on this last point, who adopt his notions of religious liberty. But the grievance of which he complains, as an infringement of the principles of religious freedom, is simply the expression of any religious opinion on the part of the Legislature, from which an individual member of the State may dissent! That a legislative body should presume to take it for granted, that all the members of the community recognize the religious obligation of keeping the Ten Commandments, is, we learn, utterly incompatible with all correct views of the nature and objects of civil legislation.
The said Legislature may, if it so please, enact the Ten Commandments as a political regulation on the ground of social utility ; but all religious obligations must be carefully kept out of sight in legislative enactments, or there is an end of religious liberty! Even the fact, that the Sabbath has been recognised by the common consent of Christians, is not to be whispered within the walls of parliament, since this would be an infringe