87. The French Decade.


We have nothing to say in defence of the French revolutionists, as far as they are personally concerned in this substitution of every tenth for the seventh day, as a day of rest. It was not only a senseless outrage on an ancient observance, around which a thousand good and gentle feelings had clustered; it not only tended to weaken the bond of brotherhood between France and the other members of Christendom; but it was dishonest, and robbed the labourer of fifteen days of restorative and humanizing repose in every year, and extended the wrong to all the friends and fellow-labourers of man in the brute creation. Yet when we hear protestants, and even those of the Lutheran persuasion, and members of the Church of England, inveigh against 162this change, as a blasphemous contempt of the fourth commandment, we pause: and before we can assent to the verdict of condemnation, we must prepare our minds to include in the same sentence, at least as far as theory goes, the names of several among the most revered reformers of Christianity. Without referring to Luther, we will begin with Master Frith, a founder and martyr of the Church of England, having witnessed his faith amid the flames in the year 1533. This meek and enlightened, no less than zealous and orthodox divine, in his “Declaration of Baptism,” thus expresses himself: “Our forefathers, which were in the beginning of the church, did abrogate the Sabbath, to the intent that men might have an example of christian liberty. Howbeit, because it was necessary that a day should be reserved in which the people should come together to hear the word of God, they ordained instead of the sabbath, which was 163Saturday the next following, which is Sunday, And although they might have kept the Saturday with the Jew, as a thing indifferent, yet they did much better.” Some three years after the martyrdom of Frith, i.e. anno 1536, being the 28th of Henry VIII, suffered Master Tindal, in the same glorious cause: and he likewise, in his answer to Sir T. More, hath similarly resolved this point. “As for the sabbath (writes this illustrious martyr, and translator of The Word of Life)— As for the sabbath, we be lords of the sabbath, and may yet change it into Monday, or any other day, as we see need; or we may make every tenth day Holy Day only, if we see cause why. Neither was there any cause to change it from the Saturday, save only to put a difference between us and the Jews: neither need we any Holy Day at all, if the people might be taught without it.” This great man believed, that if christian nations should ever become christians indeed, there 164would every day be so many hours taken from the labour for the perishable body, to the service of the soul and the understandings of mankind, both masters and servants, as to supersede the necessity of a particular day. At present, our Sunday may be considered as so much Holy Land, rescued from the sea of oppression and vain luxury, and embanked against the fury of its billows.


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