Life in Zorra
Chapter III. The
Pioneer and the Sabbath
"I am now in my 87th
year, and I ascribe my physical and mental activity largely to my
strict observance of the Sabbath."—HON. W. E. GLADSTONE.
AT the present day it has
become popular in certain quarters to characterize the fathers as narrow and
bigoted, and especially to charge them with Puritanical strictness in their
observance of the Sabbath. Herein we have powerful, though unconscious
testimony to their loyalty to the truth. In a day when avarice combines with
licentiousness and infidelity in trampling under foot the most sacred
truths, and especially the Sabbath law, it is refreshing to call to mind the
integrity, the fearlessness, the adherence to principle exhibited by our
fathers. They felt that there was a vital and eternal difference between
truth and error, and as they believed so they lived.
Some of the fathers may have
erred on the side of literalism, but their error has been greatly magnified
by scoffers. The following beautiful description of a home in Scotland, with
its reverent and happy Sabbath, will call up in the mind of many a Zorra man
and woman to-day equally happy scenes in years gone by:
"We had special Bible
readings on the Lord's day evening, mother and children and visitors reading
in turns, with fresh and interesting question, answer, and explanation, all
tending to impress us with the infinite grace of a God of love and mercy in
the great gift of His dear Son Jesus, our Saviour.
"I can remember those happy
Sabbath evenings; no blinds drawn and shutters up to keep out the sun from
us, as some scandalously affirm, but a holy, happy, entirely human day for a
Christian father, mother, and children to spend. How my father would parade
across and across our flag floor, telling over the substance of the day's
sermons to our dear mother! How he would entice us to help him recall some
idea or other, rewarding us when we got the length of 'taking notes,' and
reading them over on our return ; how he would turn the talk ever so
naturally to some Bible story or some martyr reminiscence, or some happy
allusion to the Pilgrim's Progress!
"And then it was quite a
contest which of us would get reading aloud, while all the rest listened,
and father added here and there a happy thought, or illustration, or
anecdote. There were eleven of us brought up in a home like that; and never
one of the eleven, boy or girl, man or woman, has been heard or ever will be
heard saying that Sabbath was a dull or wearisome one for us, or suggesting
that we have heard or seen any way more likely than that for making the day
of the Lord bright and blessed alike for parents and for children."
Oh, for an honest love of the
truth, and a readiness to contend for it at all hazard! Three distributors
of church charity in Toronto, last winter, fearing that they were imposed
upon by all assisting the same persons, determined to compare notes. One of
these distributors was a Roman Catholic, another a Methodist, and the third
a Presbyterian. They soon found a woman whom they had all been assisting on
the ground that she belonged to each of their churches. This woman had her
babe baptized, (1) by the Priest, (2) by the Methodist minister, and (3) by
the Presbyterian; and she was only waiting till her child got a little
bigger, to show that she had no prejudice whatever against the Baptist
Church. This woman was no bigot, and she is a fair representative of
multitudes who in our day boast of their religious liberality, and whose
godliness is only a matter of gain. Liberality to error is treason to the
truth. Some people are so "charitable" that they have no controversy with
sin or Satan. The pioneers of Oxford were Bible-reading, God- fearing,
Christ-loving men and women, who believed something, and lived as they
believed. To them truth was the Saviour's crown-jewels, and they would as
soon think of loving a king and trampling on his crown, as pretend to love
Christ, and then trample on his law.
Who will deny that the devout
observance of the day of rest developed in the fathers a vigorous and
Christian manhood and womanhood, and made them strong physically, mentally,
morally? France, with her infidelity and her reckless desecration of the
Sabbath, stands to-day face to face with the solemn problem of national
extinction. When the Parisian Sabbath has produced better men and women than
the Puritan Sabbath has done, it will be time enough to sneer at the
fathers. Many of us have heard of the great Breckenridge family of the
United States. There were three brothers of them, and all stood in the very
front rank of able men in the Presbyterian Church of that country. One day,
Dr. John Breckenridge thus accosted his aged mother: "Mother, don't you
think you might have been a little less severe on us boys?" "John," replied
the good woman, "when you have raised three such sons as I have done, you
may undertake to reprove your mother for her methods." The application of
this to the Parisian and Puritan Sabbath needs no comment.
Girard, the infidel
millionaire of Philadelphia, one Saturday ordered all his clerks to come on
the morrow to his wharf and help unload a newly arrived ship. One young man
"Mr. Girard, I can't work on
"You know our rules."
"Yes, I know. I have a mother
to support, but I can't work on Sundays.
"Well, step up to the desk
and the cashier will settle with you."
For three weeks the young man
could find no work; but one day a banker came to Girard to ask if he could
recommend a man for a cashier in a new bank. This discharged young man was
at once named as a suitable person.
"But," said the banker, "you
"Yes, because he would not
work on Sundays. A man who would lose his place for conscience' sake would
make a trustworthy cashier." And he was appointed.
Even if men had no immortal
souls to be cared for, their brains and their bodies require a day of rest.
If we are to make the most of ourselves even in this life, we must take one
day in seven for a quiet rest from physical toil and mental excitement. It
is one of the cunning devices of the devil to destroy men, by tempting them
to turn God's appointed day of rest into a day of work or pleasure. Hon. W.
E. Gladstone is only one of many who ascribe their physical strength and
mental activity in extreme old age to a devout observance of the Sabbath.
The following incident will
illustrate the loyalty of our ancestors to the Sabbath, and the quaint,
original manner in which some of them could enforce their views of the holy
day. A good elder one day came upon a number of young lads who were grossly
profaning the Lord's day. In gentle tones, and without the slightest sign of
anger, the old man said:
"Boys, let me tell you a
story. There was a rich man, and he owned seven fine cows. He had a neighbor
who was very poor, and possessed nothing at all. But the rich man was so
generous that he gave the poor man, free, without any price, six of his fine
cows. And now what think you the poor man did?" "Well," said one of the
boys, "he would be very grateful to the rich man." "I would think," said
another, "he ought to show his gratitude by doing what he could to please
and honor the man who treated him so kindly." "No, my boys," said the old
man, "you will be surprised when I tell you that he was neither grateful nor
respectful to his benefactor; but, on the contrary, he used to come and
steal the milk from the only cow the good man kept for himself."
Is that story true?" said one
boy. Who is that man?" cried another. "Why, that man's too mean to live,"
shouted a third. "Stop, my dear boys, and I will explain. I have told you a
story to teach you a moral. God in His infinite goodness has given us six
days in the week for our own use, but the Sabbath He has retained to
Himself. But, boys, you seem not to be satisfied with six days, for you are
robbing God of His day. Is this right? Is this manly?" "You've got us this
time," said one of the boys. "He gave us a lump of sugar with a pill
inside," said another; but there was no more desecration of the Sabbath for
them that day.
All the pioneer fathers were
not equally successful in their endeavors to preserve the sanctity of the
Sabbath, as the following will show: A good man was one day going through
the woods on his way to the church. Suddenly he espied two young fellows a
short distance off, one with a club holding guard over a hole in the ground,
and the other farther away fishing. Going up to the nearest who, it may, be
explained, was a little dull intellectually, the man remonstrated with him.
"My boy, do you know what you
"Ou, aye, she pe waiting till
the beastie comes out."
"But this is the devil's work
you are doing to-day!"
"Toot, toot, it's na the
deevil; its a groundhog—I saw it going in, wi' my ain eyes!"
"But do you know what day
this is?" queried the good man.
Here followed a long shrill
whistle from the half-witted boy, and a call to his companion, "Come here,
Tam; here's a feller that disna ken what day it is!"
A story is told of a farmer
in the southern part of the township who had a pond on his farm, and who
also owned a ram sheep that was great with his head. On Sabbath afternoon
the boys would occasionally have lots of fun with this pugnacious animal. A
young fellow would take his place close up to the pond, and then keep bowing
his head, as if daring the ram to fight. Instantly the ram, gathering up his
strength, would rush forward to battle; but when he came near enough, the
boy would nimbly leap to one side, and the ram would plunge into the water,
much to the amusement of the juveniles. One Sabbath afternoon the old man
caught the boys at this sport. You may be sure he gave them a sound
lecturing on the sin of Sabbath desecration, and ordered them all home to
study the catechism. The boys soon disappeared; but now the old man began
reflecting on the sport, and the more he reflected the more he felt tempted
to experiment a little himself. So just for once he would try. Taking his
place beside the pond, he made certain movements to attract the attention of
the ram. Nothing daunted by former experiences, the brave animal, with head
and tail erect, came rushing to the encounter. But the old man, not being so
nimble as the boys, failed to get out of the way in time. Result: the wrong
party got into the water. Moral: practice what you preach.
The profound regard of some
of the pioneers for the Sabbath appears in the following amusing incident. A
good elder, one bright Sunday morning, donned his best suit of Sunday black.
He had gone some distance with his wife on the way to the church, when that
lady reminded him that he had forgotten to feed the calf. As it would be
night before they could get back, there was but one course open for him. The
calf must not be left to starve. So at once the elder retraced his steps,
got a pail of milk, and carefully carried it into the field where the calf
was enjoying life, after the manner of its kind. The elder's approach filled
the calf with joy; and as the milk was slowly and carefully poured into a
trough the infant bovine plunged its head, with an emphatic "splash," into
it. Up spurted the milk in a score of streams, and the elder's black coat
was black only in streaks. Then, in this time of trial appeared ample proof
of the elder's respect for the day. Quickly he grasped the calf's head, and
as he spoke the following devout words, at each word he thumped that head
against the trough. And this is what he said: If—it—no—be—the—Sawbath—and—she—no—be—breaking—the—Lord's—day—she—would—punch—her—head—through—this—trough."
"If an aith wad relieve ye, dinna mind my presence," was the counsel given a
Scotch minister by his "man" on a very trying occasion.
But while we may smile at the
foibles of these men, let us not fail to admire their loyalty to conscience.
And though we may not approve their severe literalism in the interpretation
of the fourth commandment, let us freely acknowledge that the fault was
less, infinitely less, than that spirit of to-day, which defiantly tramples
under foot divine authority by turning the Lord's day into a day of
worldliness and rioting.
"O day most calm, most bright,
The fruit of this, the next world's bud,
Th' indorsement of supreme delight;
Writ by a friend, and with his blood;
The couch of time, care's balm and bay;
The week were dark but for thy light
Thy torch does show the way."
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