Sunday, November 21, 2010

the blessing of the sabbath...

File:Frederic Dan Huntington c1903.jpg
This on the Sabbath from the "Monthly Religious Magazine" (1844) a Unitarian journal edited by Frederick Dan Huntington, Unitarian minister, editor, and Harvard Professor.  Huntington would later move to the Episcopal Church and, in fact, become the first Episcopal Bishop of Central New York.


"Hail ! holy day, the Lord's day, set apart for rest and for worship—one day in seven, to commune with our hearts, to look within, to gather knowledge of God, of Jesus and ourselves. Gently does its sweet influence come upon us, and gratefully should we receive this day. The busy hum of labor is hushed, and the deserted streets of business tell of the quiet home and day of rest.

Did it never occur to you, reader, that the sunshine is brighter on the Sabbath than on other days ; or is it, that our hearts respond to the brightness and gladsomeness of the day more fully ? In the country, and among the green fields, it appears as though nature's mantle was more gorgeous and brilliant on the sunny summer Sabbath : the fields more verdant, the flowers of brighter hues, the broad river or lake more tranquil, the birds more joyous in their songs, and the fluttering insects more active. Perhaps it is the repose of man, in contrast with his usual habits, which produces this feeling, and we permit our thoughts to dwell on nature, the works of God, in the place of human inventions. From the distance we catch the sound of the solemn toned bell, while the dark woods and silent glens speak to us of peace ; and toil and anguish are alike forgotten in the calmness of the hour. Unnoticed, almost unknown, these sentiments enter our hearts, until we feel that every leaf has a tongue which would say, " Your Father made all, enjoy it, love and thank Him."

But we may not always dwell in the country, with its sweet and simple yet wondrous pleasures; we must return to the precincts of town and city, and there also seek happiness. And it comes to us, whether among bricks and mortar or on the hill side, for our heart is the chalice which is filled with sweet or bitter waters. On the Sabbath our numerous churches are thrown open to the world, and our streets filled with cheerful, quiet crowds hastening to the house of God.

And who can come up to the place " where prayer is wont to be made," with light and careless feelings, or cross its threshold without recognizing the fact that they are entering a holy temple, set apart for the worship of God ? The very appellation, " the house of God," fills our heart with emotion, and reverently do we pass within its consecrated walls. Here, in an edifice dedicated to the Most High, are our spiritual wants ministered unto, and our resolutions perchance confirmed. Week after week do we hear the voice of prayer and praise ascend from the altar, and are led from earth to heaven. O ! that we could more fully carry with us, in the busy World, the thoughts and feelings suggested here. To those who from illness or untoward circumstances have been long absent from the holy fane, how great the pleasure of again treading its sacred courts. With what impatient joy the day is anticipated, when we may hear from revered and loved lips God's most holy word. Not that " our Father " cannot be as ardently and truly worshipped in our own chamber, in the green fields or the dark woods ; for He made the world and therefore we stand equally in his presence everywhere ; but we wish and require some visible and outward form, which makes us feel more vividly that all the human family are his children and our brethren. The temple of the Lord is a holy place. Does not he who is steeped to the lip in crime, look back with tears of remorse and sorrow upon the time, when an innocent child he knelt by his mother's side in the village church, which now he feels himself too wicked to enter ? Surely that which can thus touch his heart is beautiful and holy.

Can we be sufficiently thankful for this day, which snatches us from the busy cares of the world to give us glimpses of the spiritual and unseen ? Thank God for the Sabbath and its attendant pleasures and improvements ! The laborer,

" On this day, embosom'd in his home,
He shares the frugal meal with those he loves;
With those he loves he shares the heartfelt joy
Of giving thanks to God."

Would that all could feel the blessing of the Sabbath, and improve it as they should! Going to church is not the only pleasure of the day. Books, from which many are debarred by the occupations of the Week, should form a gladsome recreation on the Sabbath. Young men and maidens ! spend not the intervals between service in listless silence, and thus throw away the means of spiritual and moral advancement. Welcome the Sabbath with heartfelt joy, and make it a source of true pleasure, knowledge and happiness."


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