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TO CORRECT CERTAIN SUPERSTITIOUS AND VULGAR ERRORS
BY GODFREY HIGGINS, Esq.
OF SKELLOW GRANGE, NEAR DONCASTER.
In the following Treatise some persons perhaps may think, that too much trouble is taken to refute trifling objections: but the Author's object has been if possible to prevent reply. And he has not attempted to refute any objection, which has not at one time or other, been advanced by persons with whom he has argued on the subject.
He flatters himself that not one word will be found in the whole, which can give just offence to the orthodox or reasoning Christian, or even to the sincere follower of Wesley; though no doubt offence enough will be given to members of societies which suppress vice in rags, and cherish it in purple and fine raiment,-itinerant attendants at missionary meetings-such as practise standing in the synagogues, and in the corners of the streets sounding their trumpet, and making long prayers. (Matt. vi. 2—5. xxiii. 14, 15.) Persons well described in the following epigram, written by a much esteemed friend of the Author:
How well the character agrees
20, Keppel Street, Russell Square,
1. Of the various rites which have been established by the founders of the different religions of the world, perhaps there is no one which is so intimately connected with the temporal happiness and comfort of mankind, as that of the observance of one day in every seven as a day of rest. The appropriation of certain days, at short periods of time, to the purposes of devotion, of recreation, and of relaxation from worldly cares, seems to be an institution peculiarly adapted to the improvement of the mind, and to the advancement of civilisation. And yet the example of the Turks, the strictest of all the observers of a Sabbath in modern times, proves that excellent as the institution is, human perverseness may prevail, to render it useless, to defeat the ends for which it was probably originally intended, and to destroy the good effects which it was so well calculated to produce.
2. The state of ignorance and barbarism, into which the inhabitants of the countries have fallen, which were formerly possessed by the elegant and enlightened caliphs, makes it evident that this institution is not necessarily accompanied with improvement and civilisation; and after its first institution amongst Christians, it was equally unavailable, to prevent the well-known ignorance and barbarism of the middle ages; but in each case this effect has arisen by the abuse of it, or in opposition to it, not by its means. Its tendency was evidently to produce a contrary effect; and it can only be regretted that its power was not greater and more efficacious.
3. But it is not fair to reason against the use, from the abuse of a thing; and there is nothing in this world which may not be converted to an evil purpose, and the good effects of which may not be destroyed by artful and designing men. A proof of this may be found in the way in which attempts are now making in this country, to convert the institution of which I am treating to purposes pernicious in the highest degree to society-to make use of it to create
or encourage a morose and gloomy superstition, the effect of which will be to debase, not to exalt or improve the human mind.
4. The Puritans, Evangelical Christians as they call themselves, the modern Pharisees in reality, a sect answering exactly to the Pharisees of old, finding that the restoration of the Jewish Sabbath, which was peculiarly ordained in the Old Testament for the use of the Jews, is well calculated to serve their purpose, and being precluded by various circumstances of their situation from having recourse to the expedients of the Catholic priests, to gain possession of the minds of their votaries, have exerted all their power by its means to attain this object.' These are the reasons why we hear more of the heinous crime of Sabbath-breaking, than of all other vices together. And hence every nerve has been strained to the utmost, to extract from passages both in the Old and New Testament, meanings favorable to this design, which the words will not justify. But the fair unsophisticated doctrines on this subject, as taught in these works, are what it is intended here to inquire into and discuss.
5. In the whole of the New Testament, a single passage cannot be discovered clearly directing the observance of a Sabbath. If this institution be of the importance which some persons attach to it in a religious point of view, it seems very extraordinary that not one of the Evangelists should have stated any thing clearly upon the subject:-very strange that we do not fied the mode described in which it was kept by the first disciples, or the apostles, in plain, clear, and unequivocal language.
6. It seems reasonable to expect, that if the earliest Christians, the apostles or disciples, had considered that the observance of the Sunday was actually an exchange of the Sabbath from the Saturday, by divine appointment, we should find in the Acts of the Apostles all our doubts removed; and removed, not by implication or forced construction, but by a clear and unequivocal
7. By the early Christians at first the Jewish Sabbath was strictly kept, but after some time it seems to have been considered by their immediate followers, along with all other Jewish ceremonies, to have been abolished; but they appear very wisely to have thought, that it would be useful and proper to select one day in the week, which, without neglecting the ordinary duties of life arising out of their respective situations, should be appropriated to the observance of religious duties, of rest and recreation. This
No doubt, amongst the Pharisees of old, as amongst our Evangelical Christians, there were many good, well-disposed persons, the dupes of the knaves.