Selected Short Religious Writings: Divine Mercy, the Observance of the Sabbath, Subscription the Disgrace of the English Church
Library of Alexandria
Before entering on the question that we intend more particularly to discuss, there are some remarks that we deem it necessary to make on the tone and general character of Dr. Vaughan’s pamphlet. And in the first place, we were struck with the entire absence of scripture proof in support of the views propounded. Assertions are made of the most sweeping character, and inferences are thence drawn, involving matters of the highest moment; and yet no passage of scripture is adduced in support of these assertions. Thus we are told “that not only the fourth commandment, but the whole decalogue has ceased to be, as such, the rule of our life.” But the authority for this declaration is no-where given. If this doctrine be plainly taught in the New Testament, surely we should be informed where it is to be found. Another thing that we could not help remarking, was the manner in which the authority of the Old Testament is repudiated. “With reference to the observance of the Sabbath, and to every point of moral duty, the appeal now lies primarily to the scriptures of the New Testament, and secondarily to any other records which we may possess of the practice of the apostolical age.” How different is the mind of Dr. Vaughan from that of the Apostle Paul on this important point. The Apostle tells us (alluding more especially to the writings of the Old Testament), that all scripture is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” Dr. Vaughan tells us in effect, that our rule of practice is the New Testament and tradition! Again Dr. V. condemns what he designates “a low and slavish spirit,” in those who wish “to have an express law to shew for our Christian Sunday.” But we would ask, whether an express law makes the obedience of love less sincere, less warm, less free and spontaneous? St. John tells us, “this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not grievous.” In a matter of such moment we feel bound to follow the opinion of the inspired Apostle. Dr. Vaughan is of opinion, that “if we found even a human institution, which testified throughout Christendom, by a speaking sign, by an act at once self-denying and beneficent, our faith in realities unseen and future; even this would bind us to its observance.” And yet when we find in the word of God, a plain command to keep holy the Sabbath-day, we are told that we are not legally bound to observe it, and that a wish to have a law to that effect, bespeaks “a low and slavish spirit.” If, however, the express will of God does not lead men to keep the Sabbath, we cannot conceive of any other motive, by which (on Christian principles) they will be induced to observe it. In man’s present condition, liberty without law soon degenerates into licentiousness; and no law but that of God, can so restrain and regulate men, as to preserve real religious freedom. Repeal the laws by which life and property are protected, and try to persuade men to be good and virtuous, from a love of virtue, or from a sense of gratitude for the kindness and beneficence of their rulers; and we should soon see the necessity and benefit of our laws. And so it will be found, that the religious observance of the Sabbath, will soon give place to a general neglect of God’s house, and to practical atheism, if once the people are persuaded, that there is no divine command to keep holy the Sabbath-day.