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A SABBATH IN LONDON.
"In the Metropolis, instead of that solemn stillness of the vacant streets in the hours of the public service which might suit, as in former days, with the sanctity of the day, and be a reproof to every one who should stir abroad but upon the business of devotion, the mingled racket of worldly business and pleasure is going on with little abatement; and in the churches and chapels which adjoin the public streets, the sharp rattle of the whirling phaton, and the graver rumble of the loaded waggon, mixed with the oaths and imprecations of the brawling drivers, disturb the congregation, and stun the voice of the preacher." Bishop Horsley.
THE institution of the Christian ministry is one of the most salutary provisions that was ever made to promote the improvement and happiness of man. If we suppose, with the enemies of Christianity, that it is of human origin, and that its functions are discharged by human agents, who are actuated and governed by the selfish or ambitious passions of our nature, still it will occupy, in the estimation of every wise man, a high station, as a powerful ally to the cause of patriotism and of virtue. It enjoins on the various ranks and orders of society submission to Cæsar, and reverence for God, and lays down, with the utmost degree of precision, the relative duties which we are to discharge towards each other; while the veneration in which it is generally held in this kingdom is favourable to its influence. To say that every one is strictly virtuous who listens to its maxims of wisdom, would be to advance an assertion which facts would contradict; but if we judge from the present state of society, we shall be compelled to admit that there is a larger portion of virtue amongst those who attend it, than amongst those who treat it with neglect and scorn. Hence its abolition would be a national evil, as disastrous to its moral improvement and felicity, as the triumphs of political anarchy would be to the well balanced constitution of the British empire.
But even this institution, which is so calculated to promote the moral improvement and happiness of man,
would prove comparatively useless, if it were not for the appointment of the Sabbath; for such is the ascendancy which the cares the pleasures-the fascinations-and the duties of this world have acquired over the public mind, that very few would have an opportunity to attend it, if some specific portion of time were not set apart for this express purpose. If the husbandman were compelled to toil in the field, and the mechanic to labour in the shop; if the tradesman, the merchant, and the other members of the community had to attend to their respective duties without any intermission, except what caprice or indolence dictated, the minister of mercy might go into the temple, and proclaim all the words which relate to the life to come; but would he be surrounded by a large and an attentive audience? Oh
The temple would be forsaken, as though it were the mausoleum of death, unless, as when our Lord was on earth, it should be converted into a house of merchandize; and the powers of this world would so engross the attention of men, that those of the next, would be generally, if not universally disregarded. To prevent this fatal evil, one day in seven is set apart, by the immediate authority of God, which we are commanded to devote to the exercises of private and public worship; but alas! how many treat this sacred injunction with contempt.* Some in the higher ranks of life, who dis
* The author cannot but deplore the custom which prevails amongst some of our nobility, and of our statesmen, who have their routes and parties on the sabbath day; and though he is not vain enough to suppose that they will condescend to perusc the humble productions of his pen, yet he is anxious to guard his readers against the contaminating influence of their pernicious example. No one feels more respect for rank, than he' does, but then he wishes to see rank act with dignity; he wishes to see those who are exalted above others, taking the lead, in the path of virtue and religion; but if they dare treat with contempt the authority of God, by devoting His sabbaths for purposes of amusement, or convivial feasting; and by their habits of dissipation, corrupt and demoralize the inferior classes of society, he does not hesitate to say, that they are a moral curse to the country; and though their elevation raises them above the reach of human censure, yet they stand responsible to God, for all the injury which they do to the principles and the tastes of others. But as we are prone to imitate the conduct of our superiors, it behoves us to be on our guard, lest we imitate that part of their conduct, which our judgment con
dain to be thought religious, employ it as a day for travelling, or for feasting; and multitudes of the inferior classes regard it as a day either of convenience, of pleasure, or of dissipation
As I was walking down Bridge Street, on my way to Surrey Chapel, I saw a party of young people on before me, whose volatile manners ill accorded with the sanotity of the day; and just as I was passing them I heard one say, "Indeed I think we shall do do wrong-my conscience condemns me I must return." There can be no harm,” replied another, “in taking an excursion on the water; especially as we have resolved to go to chapel in the evening." "I must return," rejoined a female voice, "my conscience e condemns me. What will father say if he hear of it?" By this time they had reached the bridge; and one of the party was busily engaged with a waterman, while the rest stood in close debate for the space of five minutes, when they all moved forward towards the water.
I watched them going down the stairs, and thought I perceived an air of peculiar melancholy in the countenance of the female who had objected to the excursion, but whose firmness gave way to the ardour of importunity. Two of the gentlemen stepped into the boats two more stood at the water's edge, and the females were handed in one after another; but still I could perceive great reluctance on the part of the one who had previously objected; till at length, being surrounded by all the gentlemen of the party, she yielded, and the boat was pushed off. It was a fine morning, though rather cold; the tide was running in at its usual rate; many were gazing on them, like myself, when a naval officer standing near me called to them through the ballustrades, and said, “A pleasant voyage to you." One of the gentlemen suddenly arose to return the compliment; but from some ca cause he wa which I could not perceive, he unfortunately fell over into the water. This disaster threw
demns; as we shall not be permitted to adduce, at the day of judgment, the sinful practices of others, as an excuse for our own crimes. If we are then found guilty, and have not Jesus Christy the righteous, to plead our cause with the Father, we shall be condemned, though we may be able to trace up our ruin, to the examples which have been set us.
the whole party into the utmost consternation; and each one, instead of retaining his seat, rushed to the side of the boat over which their companion had fallen, which upset it, and all were instantaneously plunged into the deep. The shriek which the multitude of spectators gave, when they beheld this calamity, exceeded any noise I had ever heard; several females fainted; boats immediately put off; and in a few minutes I had the gratification of seeing the watermen rescuing one-and another—and another from a premature grave. Having picked up all that they could find, the different boats were rowed to shore, where some medical gentlemen were in waiting; but when the party met together, no language can describe the horror which was depicted on every countenance when they found that two were still missing. "Where's my sister?" said the voice which had said, only a few minutes before, "There can be no harm in taking an excursion on the water; especially as we have resolved to go to chapel in the evening." "Where's my Charles?" said a female, who had appeared the most gay and sprightly when I first saw them.
At length two boats, which had gone a considerable distance up the river, were seen returning; and on being asked if they had picked up any one, they replied, "Yes-two." This reply electrified the whole party; they embraced each other with the tenderest emotions ; they wept for joy, and so did many others who stood around them. "Here's a gentleman," said the waterman, as he was coming up to the foot of the stairs, "but I believe he's dead." "Where's the lady?" said her brother, "Is she safe?" "She is in the other boat, Sir!" "Is she alive?-Has she spoken?" "No, Sir, she has not spoken, I believe." "Is she dead? Oh tell me!" "I fear she is, Sir."
The bodies were immediately removed from the boats to a house in the vicinity, and every effort was employed to restore animation, and some faint hopes were entertained by the medical gentlemen that they should succeed. In the space of little more than ten minutes they announced the joyful news that the gentleman began to breathe, but they made no allusion to the lady. Her brother sat motionless, absorbed in the deepest melan
choly, till the actual decease of his sister was announced when he started up, and became almost frantic with grief; and though his companions tried to comfort him, yet he refused to hear the words of consolation. 6. Oh my sister! my sister! would to God I had died for thee !? They were all overwhelmed in trouble and knew not what to do. "Who will bear the heavy tidings to our father?" said the brother, who paced backwards and forwards the room, like a maniac broke loose from the cell of misery," Oh who will bear the heavy tidings to our father?" He paused-a death-like silence pervaded the whole apartment-he again burst forth in the agonies of despair,-"I forced her to go, against the dictates of her conscience-I am her murderer-I ought to have perished, and not my sister. Who will bear the heavy tidings to our father?" "I will," said a gentleman who had been unremitting in his attentions to the sufferers. "Do you know him, Sir?" "Yes, I' know him." "Oh, how can I ever appear in his presence? I enticed the best of children to an act of disobedience, which has destroyed her!"
How the old man received the intelligence, or what moral effect resulted from the disaster, I never heard; but it may furnish me with a few reflections, which I wish to press upon the attention of my readers. As the Sabbath is instituted for the purpose of promoting your moral improvement and felicity, never devote its sacred hours to the recreations of pleasure. He who has commanded you to keep it holy, will not suffer you to profane it with impunity. He may not bring down upon you the awful expressions of his displeasure while you are in the act of setting at open defiance his authority, but there is a day approaching when you must stand before him. And can you anticipate the solemnities of that day, while going on in a course of sin, but with the most fearful apprehensions? You may, like many others, suppose that, that day is very far off; but you may be undeceived by a sudden visitation of providence, and in a moment be removed from amongst your gay companions to appear in his presence. If you should, with what terror-struck amazement will you look on the awful scene around you!-with what agonizing despair will you listen to the final sentence,-Depart.