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The Scots Week-End
The Sabbath Day

The Sabbath, whether we advert to its origin, its ultimate end, or its immediate effects, is calculated to excite admiration and gratitude in the bosoms of all who are susceptible of religious feelings or moral perception.


O quanta, qualia sunt ista Sabbata!



O BLEST Creator of the Light,
Who bringing forth the Light of Days
With the first work of Splendor bright
The World didst to Beginning raise;

Who Morn with Evening joyn'd in one,
Commandest should be call'd the Day;
The foul Confusion now is gone,
O hear us when with Tears we Pray;

Lest that the Mind with Fears full fraught,
Should lose best Life's Eternal Gains,
While it hath no Immortal Thought,
But is inwrapt in sinful Chains,

O may it beat the inmost Sky,
And the Reward of Life possess;
May we from hurtful Actions fly,
And purge away all wickedness.

Dear Father, grant what we intreat,
And only Son who like Power host,
Together with the Paraclete,
Reigning whilst Time and Ages last.

Drummond of Hawthornden (?)


Another preaching against drunkenness, told the hearers:
There were four sorts of drunkenness.

1. To be drunk like a sow, tumbling in the mire like many of this parish.
2. There is to be drunk like a dog. The dog fills the stomach of him and spues all out again, and thou, John Jamison, wast this way drunk the other day.
3. There is to be drunk like a goose. Of all drunkenness, Sirs, beware of the drunkenness of the goose, for it never rests, but constantly dips the gob (beak) of it in the water: You are all drunk this way, Sirs, I need name none of you.
4. There is to be drunk like a sheep. The sheep seldom or never drinks, but sometimes wets the mouth of it in the water, and rises up as well as ever; and I myself used to be drunk thus, Sirs.

But now, I see, said he, two gentlemen in the kirk; and, gentlemen, you are both strangers to me; but I must vindicate myself at your hands. I have here the cursedest parish that ever God put breath into; for all my preaching they will go into a change-house after sermon, and the first thing they'll get is a mickle capful of hot ale, and they will say, I wish we had the minister in the midst of it: Now, gentlemen, judge ye how I am rewarded for my good preaching. - Robert Calder, Scots Presbyterian Eloquence Displayed.


Open profaning the Sabbath is such a Sin, that sometimes hath been punished, by letting them fall into Crimes, that have brought them to a dismal End, as I have heard many of our Malefactors confess. One instance among many, that might be given, I cannot pass here, of the Lords very remarkably punishing the open Breach of the Sabbath, which I had from Mrs Hamilton that singular Christian in Donochadee in Ireland, when I was there, since gone to her Rest: When her Father, Mr Andrew Stewart, was Minister in that Place, he discharged all Boats or Barks to loose on the Sabbath; one Sabbath-morning, six brisk Gentlemen with fine Horses and Servants, they threatned the Seamen to take them in, and go off; they acquainted their Minister: He came to the Shore in his Nightgown, and spoke to them; one of them put his Hand to his Sword, and threatned him, giving him ill Names; he walked a little upon the Shore, and then said, Go ye off, but if God do not remarkably punish you for Contempt of his Day, and threatning me, He never spake by me. He advised the Seamen quietly, to take Ten Days Provision with them, for they would need it, and not let the Gentlemen know of it, otherways they would take it from them, when they came to a Strait; being a fair Gale, and q4 or 5 Hours sailing to Portpatrick, they took no Provision, neither for themselves nor Horses: They went off, and were not out of Sight, when the Wind turned, and rose to a very great Height, and drove them up to the North-Seas of Scotland, where they were in great Danger and Distress, more than eight Days; their Horses died for Hunger, and some of themselves; and the rest liv'd not long thereafter: Let our many Takers and Travellers of Journies, Foot and Horse, upon the Lord's Day (never so much Practised in Scotland, as at this Day, tho' common in England) take a Look of this frightful Beacon.-Patrick Walker.


Should we go about here to give you an Account of the Religion of the People in this Country [Lochaber, it would be an unpleasant Work, and perhaps scarce seem to deserve credit; you would scarcely believe that in a Christian Island, as this is said to be there should be People found who know so little of Religion, or of the Custom of Christians as not to know a Sunday, or Sabbath from a Working Day, or the Worship of God from an ordinary Meeting, or Conversation: I do not affirm that it is so, and I shall say no more of it here, because I would not publish what it is to be hoped may in time find Redress; but I cannot but say that his Majesty's Gift of £1000 annually to the Assembly of Scotland for sending Ministers or Missionaries for the propagating Christian Knowledge in the Highlands, is certainly one of the most needful Charities that could have been thought of worthy of a King, and well suited to that occasion; and if prudently apply'd, as there is Reason to believe it will be, may in time break in upon this horrible Ignorance, that has so far spread over this unhappy Part of the Country.

On the other hand, What shall we say to the Neglect, which for so many Years past has been the Occasion of this surprizing Darkness among the People, when the poor abandon'd Creatures have not so much as had the common Instruction of Christianity, so much as to know whether there was any such thing as a God or no, much less how to worship him Defoe.


Sleeping or drowsiness, in time of divine service, is a profanation of the Lord's Day, and hinders our profiting by the ordinances. Therefore guard against it. Many are watchful enough about the devil's service; they can spend whole nights in drinking, gaming, etc., without sleep; but cannot hold up their eyes half an hour in hearing a sermon. Consider what an evil custom it is, you who are chargeable with it, and reform it. How ridiculous were it for a man that came to the market to buy provision for himself and his family, to fall asleep in the market-place and so miss his errand! Do you not come on the Sabbath, which is heaven's market day, to the ordinances to get provision for your souls; and will you fall asleep in the meantime of the market, and so go home empty? What do you know but, while you slept, that truth was delivered that might have saved your souls? ... Remember it will not always last with you, the Sabbath and sermon will quickly come that will be your last; and who knows but this or the next may be it? ... God will ask, Where are the fruits of so many sermons? It will be a fearful item in your accounts: "So many sermons slipt away". How will you answer for it?

Again, Consider how provoking this practice is to God. Would not a prince be displeased with a subject, if he should fall asleep when he is speaking to him? would not a judge be angry with a criminal, if he should sleep when he were about to pronounce his sentence? And have you not to do with the King of Kings, and Judge of the world, when you are hearing the word? ... Remember what befell Eutychus when he slept in time of sermon, Acts xx., it almost cost him his life. God made him a monument of displeasure, for a warning to all sleepers: He got a sad fall, but you may get a worse; he fell to the ground, but you may fall to the lowest hell, and there you will not get a Paul to take you up as he got. Your sin is more aggravated than his; it was midnight when he slept, but you sleep at midday; Paul had preached several hours, but half an hour and less puts you asleep. - The Rev. John Willison.


The Lord knows the carnality and weariness that our hearts are naturally prone to in the work of the Sabbath; Wherefore, for remedy thereof, He hath graciously appointed variety of exercises on the Sabbath-day, that, when we weary of one, another may be our recreation. Are you weary of hearing? then recreate yourselves with prayer: If of that, then recreate yourselves with singing of God's praises: If of that, then recreate yourselves in reading of God's Word, and other good books: If of that, then recreate yourselves with meditation: If you weary of that, then recreate yourselves with Christian conference, repeating the sermons, instructing your families, etc. If you are weary of public duties, then go to private: If of these, go to secret duties. Is there not here a delightful variety of pleasant spiritual employments, sufficient to recreate ourselves with for one day? How think you to spend a whole eternity in spiritual exercises, when you weary so much of one day? - Idem.



He did not waste his lungs in froath and foam,
With heart and brains he press'd the conscience home.
No trifling tales with cant dropt from his mouth,
In manly words he stated solemn truth,
Was well acquaint with books and mankind too,
Of learning had an universal view,
Knew all the senseless jargon of the schools,
And by his life and sermons prov'd them fools,
For he joined truth with peace, and walk'd by gospel rules,
His reasoning was deep, yet very clear,
Gave knowledge to the soul, and charm'd the ear.
A pleasant temper 'mongst his gifts took place,
And shew'd good nature was ally'd to grace.
He liv'd in peace, and hated broils and din,
He never had a quarrel save with sin;
But when the wicked pled for what will damn us,
Oh then he was an unbelieving Thomas.

Alexander Pennecuik, the younger


Being Sunday, we saw many women in and near town, walking to church in their best apparel, and really very neatly dressed. White gowns, shawl, black velvet bonnet, gloves, and an umbrella, absolutely walking barefooted in the mud, very composedly, with their shoes and stockings in their hands. This custom is defended as clean, for they must wash their feet,-as wholesome, for they are sure of having dry shoes and stockings,-and it is certainly saving. - Louis Simond (1810) .


In Edinburgh two men have just been taken up for whistling in the street on Sunday, and in Glasgow a barber has been sent to jail for having dared to shave three men on that same day! Owing to the zeal with which these pious regulations are enforced you see the populace, driven from home by sheer boredom, thronging the pavements like citizens forced from their firesides by some public calamity. Their spiritual guides forbid not merely work for gain, but anything whatsoever in the nature of amusement. In other countries on holy days, the crowds in public places are out for recreation; but in Scotland all you see is a lot of people, religiously unemployed, wandering aimlessly about the town, and going home after a long "day of rest" thanking heaven that they will be back at work again on the morrow. Relaxation has been made so painful that fatigue comes as a blessed relief. - The Marquis de Custine (1822).

I shall say nothing of the terrible Scotch Sunday, beside which London's is a positive jollification. This day, consecrated to the honour of heaven, is the nearest thing to hell that I have ever seen on earth. Said a Scotchman to a French friend as they were returning from church: "Not quite so fast, or people will think we are taking a walk!" - Stendhal.


To make the best of a bad job and without thinking I started to amuse myself by humming and whistling. Suddenly in comes my old landlady with a sacred countenance. "Fie for shame," she said, "you're singing!"

Remembering Sosie in Moliere's Amphitryon, I said to myself "Cette femme assurément n'aime pas la musique".

Then after a pause, for I was rather taken aback, "Why," I said, "what's the harm in singing?" "Sir," she answered, as she shut the window, "God forbid that anybody should sing on the Sabbath." Having a very modest opinion of my vocal powers, and being ignorant of the customs of the country, I supposed she had simply taken a polite way of telling me that I was a bad singer and was annoying her, which might very well have been the case, and that what her words really meant was "God forbid that anybody should sing so badly". I desisted accordingly, fearing there might be sick folk in the house.

I learned afterwards that on Sunday in Scotland one must not sing, whistle, dance or play, but one may drink, yawn and sleep, since when I have done my best to conform to the custom of the country. Presently I asked my worthy landlady to lend me a book, and she let me have a volume of the Lives of the Presbyterian Saints, which were not of much use to me, as they rival our own Lives of the Saints in soporific quality. To show her that I knew as well as she did that it was Sunday, I asked her if there was a Catholic chapel in the town. "Catholic!" she repeated, "Catholic!"-making such a face that you would think she had seen the Devil-"Catholic!" and left my room without another word. That made me want more than ever to find out if there was really a chapel in the town, and accordingly I went out and without much trouble was directed to one, where I had the pleasure of hearing an eloquent sermon in Gaelic, of which unfortunately I didn't understand a word but "the Virgin Mary". - The Chevalier de Latocnaye.

Sunday is indeed (in Scotland) a dies non. I have just seen my landlady, who has informed me that a very fine young man was drowned this morning, which, she added, "served him right for bathing on the Sabbath day!" I asked her if she thought it would serve me right to cut my throat for being shaved on a Sunday; she replied with an angry countenance, "I dinna ken, sir," indeed she looks upon me as lost mutton for singing on the Sabbath, and I have got warning to quit, for a musical transgression, by playing on the flute. - Felix MacDonogh.

We arrived at Edinburgh on a Sunday, that is to say, on one of those days of strict observance, when every house is closed, every shop is impenetrable, and everybody is at prayers. The solitude was immense, absolute, and the first feeling we had of Edinburgh was, that this prodigious city had been anciently built by a race of giants who had long since vanished from the earth. - Charles Nodier.

M. C. Nodier and his friends, said the consul, arrived here one Sunday morning. They had the misfortune to lose almost all their hats on the way; they had only one remaining among four. The observation of the Sabbath is so strict in Edinburgh that they could not get any hatter to open shop till late in the day; and in order to lose no time, each of the party in his turn wore the preserved hat, and took a solitary walk through the town! - Amedée Pichot (1822).


The other fault [of Glasgow Cathedral] belongs to the unclean part of the national character; for the seats are so closely packed that any person who could remain there during time of service, must have an invincible nose. I doubt even whether any incense could overcome so strong and concentrated an odour of humanity. - Southey (1819).


On Sunday I went to Kirk to hear the great luminary of this county, Dr. Chalmers, Professor of Huma-nity at Glasgow, and an author upon many subjects. He dined here on Saturday, and was treated as a regular Jeroboam. His appearance on that day was that of a very quiet, good kind of man, with very dirty hands and nails; but on Sunday I never beheld a fitter subject for Bedlam than he was.... The stuff the fellow preached could only be surpassed by his manner of roaring it out. I expected he would have carried the poor Kirkaldy pulpit clean away. Then his Scotch too! His sermon was to prove that the manner of doing a kindness was more valuable than the matter, in support of which I remember two notable illustrations.-"If," said he, "you suppose a fa-mily to be suddenly veesited with the ca-la-mity of po-verty, the tear of a menial-the fallen countenance of a domestick - in such cases will afford greater relief to the fa-mily than a speceefick sum of money without a corresponding sympathy." A pretty good start, was it not-for Scotland, too, of all places in the world! but it was followed by a higher flight.-"Why," said he, or rather shouted he, "Why is it that an epple presented by an infant to its parent produces a greater pleesure than an epple found by the raud-side? Why, because it is the moral influence of the geft, and not the speceefick quality of the epple that in this case constitutes the pleesure of the parent." Now what think you of the tip-top showman of all Scotland? Thomas Creevey. [Creevey was not only malicious, but ignorant. Dr. Chalmers was never a professor of Humanity and never a professor at Glasgow. At the date of this extract (1825) he was professor of Moral Philosophy at St. Andrews. - Edd.]


August 2.-Remained at Golspie, and, as it happened to be Sunday, we had an opportunity of observing, with a mingled feeling of respect and admiration, the deep devotional character of the Highland peasantry, who, however they may spend the other six days of the week, never fail to remember that the seventh day is the Sabbath, as the decency of their apparel, the staid and reverential expression of their countenances, and their constant observance of the sacred ordinances, abundantly testify. We also saw how much true piety may be generated in the bosoms of men whose avocations as shepherds lead them more particularly, in the awful solitudes of the hills, "to look through Nature up to Nature's God", or, as fishermen, teach them continual dependence upon His providence; and how naturally habits of reflection lead even untutored minds to seek with gladness the truths of the Gospel, and to embrace with thankfulness the blessings of religion. - Beriah Botfield (1829).


Then forth they go, for now before the door
The short'ning shadow marks the hour of nine;
And by the broomy hill are coming o'er
Their village neighbours, glittering, clean and fine.
Upon the road, with neighbours, neighbours join,
And converse sweet beguiles the tedious way,
Some trace, in Nature's works, the hand Divine;
Some through the flowery fields of Scripture stray,
And some, alas! retail the nonsense of the day.

John Struthers (1776-1853)

Some goes to church just for a walk,
Some go there to laugh and talk;
Some go there the time to spend,
Some go there to meet a friend;
Some go there for speculation,
Some go there for observation;
Some go there to doze and nod,
It's few goes there to worship God.

Sir James Cameron Lees, D.D.


How still the morning of the hallowed day!
Mute is the voice of rural labour, hush'd
The ploughboy's whistle, and the milkmaid's song.

. . . . . . . . . . .

Hail, Sabbath! thee I hail, the poor man's day:
The pale mechanic now has leave to breathe
The morning air pure from the city's smoke,
While wandering slowly up the river side,
He meditates on Him whose power he marks
In each green tree that proudly spreads the bough,
As in the tiny dew-bent flowers that bloom
Around the roots, and while he thus surveys
With elevated joy each rural charm,
He hopes (yet fears presumption in the hope)
To reach those realms where Sabbath never ends.

James Grahame

Hail! holy day, of heav'n the certain pledge
And pleasing prelibation here below;
'Tis thine, Creation's groaning to assuage
And bind with balmy hand her wounds of woe.
Rejoicing in the mornings ruddy glow,
The labouring Ox, all wet with pearly dew,
The clover'd vale at will traverses slow
While idly gleams upon the distant view,
Far o'er the fallow field, the glittering soil-worn plough.

Yea, e'en the simple Ass, the daily drudge
Of yonder wandering ignominious train,
The thistle champs along the common's edge,
And lightsome ease obliterates all his pain.
But chief, in freedom from the weary wain
Exulting, roams at large the bounding Steed;
Light floats upon the breeze his flowing mane,
He snorts, he paws, he skims the flow'ry mead,
The Sabbath day to him a day of joy indeed.

John Struthers

With silent awe I hail the sacred morn,
That scarcely wakes while all the fields are still;
A soothing calm on every breeze is borne,
A graver murmur echoes from the hill,
And softer sings the linnet from the thorn;
The skylark warbles in a tone less shrill.
Hail, light serene! hail, sacred Sabbath morn!
The sky a placid yellow lustre throws;
The gales that lately sighed along the grove
Have hushed their drowsy wings in dead repose:
So soft the day when the first morn arose.

John Leyden


The Free Kirk,
The wee kirk,
he Kirk without the steeple;
The Auld Kirk,
The cauld Kirk,
The Kirk without the people.



There sometimes appears to have been in our countrymen an undue preponderance of zeal for Sabbath observance as compared with the importance attached to other religious duties, and especially as compared with the virtue of sobriety. The following dialogue between Mr M. of Glasgow, the celebrated artist, and an old Highland acquaintance whom he had met with unexpectedly, will illustrate the contrast between the severity of judgment passed upon treating the Sabbath with levity and the lighter censure attached to indulgence in whiskey. Mr M. begins: "Donald, what brought you here?" "Ou, weel, sir, it was a baad place yon; they were baad folk-but they're a God-fearin' set o' folk here!" "Well, Donald," said Mr M., "I'm glad to hear it." "Ou ay, sir, 'deed are they; an' I'll gie ye an instance o't. Last Sabbath, just as the kirk was skailin', there was a drover chield frae Dumfries comin' along the road whustlin', an' lookin' as happy as if it was ta muddle o' the week; weel, sir, oor laads is a Godfearin' set o' laads, an' they were just comin' oot o' the kirk-'od they yokit upon him, an' a'most killed him!" Mr M., to whom their zeal seemed scarcely sufficiently well directed to merit his approbation, then asked Donald whether it had been drunkenness that induced the depravity of his former neighbours? "Weel, weel, sir," said Donald, with some hesitation, "maybe; I'll no say bit it micht." "Depend upon it," said Mr M., "it's a bad thing whiskey." "Weel, weel, sir," replied Donald, "I'll no say but it may"; adding in a very decided tone-"speeciallie baad whusky!" - Dean Ramsay.


We zealots, made up of stiff clay,
The sour-looking children of sorrow,
While not over jolly to-day,
Resolve to be wretched tomorrow.
We can't for a certainty tell
What mirth may molest us on Monday;
But, at least, to begin the week well,
Let us all be unhappy on Sunday.

What though a good precept we strain
Till hateful and hurtful we make it!
While though, in thus pulling the rein,
We may draw it so tight as to break it!
Abroad we forbid folks to roam,
For fear they get social or frisky;
But of course they can sit still at home,
And get dismally drunk upon whisky.

Lord Neaves


I. The Congregation

It turned out all as he pictured-the crush at the narrow door,
The screaming and fainting of women-but nobody cursed or swore -
The squeeze in the strait high pews, the crowd packed close in the aisles,
The blaze of peony faces, and glimmer of ghastly smiles,
The reeking and mopping of bald heads, the coughing and taking of snuff:
Yet they were grave too, and patient. It was God's house: that was enough.

2. The Sermon

... Mainly it was but a weft of Paley and woof of Paul
Calico-printed with anecdotes, wholly apocryphal,
On Shelley and Hume and Voltaire, set forth with manifest trick,
Clever enough in its way, of artfulest rhetoric.
Not that there were not at times touches of some thing higher,
When the man's own soul broke out, with gleams of a central fire,
Through the crust of his pulpiteering; also there were some strokes
Of a grim satirical humour-they were not exactly jokes,
More like Elijah's burning scorn of the Prophets of Baal,
Or the ring of the spear of Ithuriel, smiting the steel-clasped mail
Of Satan. They were the bits of the sermon that I liked best:
I seemed to look on the devil discomfited then with a jest
Wholly sincere and natural. But that only came now and then;
And after a while I was wishing me home at mine inn again,
With that latest volume of Spencer's....

Walter Chalmers Smith, D.D.


Hanging over the low garden wall outside, his lower man clad in light trousers, and his upper part in a white shirt, across which a pair of braces are lightly stretched, is John M'Farlane, apparently having thrown himself across the parapet to dry. A flick of Bobtail's towel where the trousers are tightest awakens Mr M'Farlane to consciousness with a loud interjection. "Och, is it you, shentlemen; and are you really going to bathe the day? Don't you know this is the Sabbath? We are very strict in these parts. There was a shentleman from Manchester here last year, and he was taking a walk on Sabbath evening down the road yonder, and he met Lachlan M'Pherson (that's the elder that lives up there on the hull where the smoke is rising), and Lachlan rebuked him terrible heavy. "Why!" says the shentleman (a fine quiet man he was), "did not Jesus Christ walk in the fields on the Sabbath day?" "Oh, yes", says Lachlan, "but I never thought the petter of Him for it." You see, shentlemen, we are very strict in these parts; not like the South where I'm told people even play the piano on the Sabbath. So, if you please, just wash at home this day, and go to the kirk at the back of twelve. There's Free Church and Parish Church here. I goes to the Parish myself-Mr M'Rory, a very fine man: but wife goes to Free-it suits the women better, but it comes to the same on the other side of Jordan." - Sir James Cameron Lees, D.D.


The Chapel glories in its oak -
In part demolished
Which Covenantry vandals broke,
Then praised and polished,
They hew and hack,
And then hark back.

For many years the student went
In meagre numbers.
His Sunday morn was gladly spent
In happy slumbers.
He did not hear
The pulpiteer.

They scroll the wall with blazoned creeds.
A "Box of whistles"
Peals forth: a sort of curate reads
The great Epistles.
O, Master Knox,
These be your flocks!

John Malcolm Bulloch

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