The Sabbath, Its Uses, by Rev. Lyman Beecher

In the days of my ministrations on earth, it was pretty generally believed that the Sabbath day was one of peculiar sanctity; and that the Creator, having completed the creation of the earth in six days, had rested upon the seventh from the labor attendant on that work. But science, which is ever at war with the Jewish record, has established the fact that the world was not created in that short space of time.

The multiplicity of worlds created also disprove the idea that the
Creator could have rested during any set period of time.

Some zealous skeptics, to counteract the belief in the sanctity of the Sabbath, have asserted that mind can never rest, and that as God is a spirit, rest to him is impossible.

Even granting this hypothesis, history and research have proven the wisdom and utility of the Jewish Sabbath, as established by the great lawgiver, Moses.

The Jews at that time were an active, restless, laboring people. Their industry had enriched Egypt, and having escaped from her oppressive bondage, they were liable, in their efforts to found a nation of their own, to carry their habits of industry to excess.

Probably they overworked their slaves, their cattle, themselves, and the "stranger within their gates." Their wise lawgiver, under the direct influence of spiritual guides, promulgated this law: "Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work, but the seventh is the Sabbath of the Lord; in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy man-servant, thy maid-servant, thy cattle, nor the stranger within thy gates."

And this commandment has been handed down from the Jewish to the Christian nations. With the early Jews it was a day of recreation, of dancing, and of song. The early Christians employed the day at first in social intercourse, afterwards it became a day of sacred ordinance; and, as copies of the Scriptures were rare, they met on that day to hear them read, and in their simple faith would select passages and apply them to their own necessities.

When the Christian religion invaded Pagan countries and became established, the days which had formerly been appropriated to feasting and sacrificing to the gods and goddesses became the fast-days of the Romish Church.

When Protestantism arose, she swept off from her calendar these fast-days, and returned to the simplicity of the Jewish Sabbath.

Puritanism followed and gave a literal meaning to the text, "Thou shalt do no work." Under her reign, all labor was suspended on the seventh day. A strict watch was set upon the actions of the individual: household duties were neglected: fires were not lighted or food cooked. The great world of activity stood still.

Rest so severe embittered men's judgment, and the Sabbath became a day for prying into the derelictions of each other. A rigid observance was placed upon men's actions, and stringent laws were made to punish the offender against this enforced rest.

So tyrannous and exacting did the Puritan observers of the Sabbath become, that their rigid formulas created a rebellion in the minds of the succeeding generation, and so great has been the reaction, that in our day it has become a common assertion that "all days are alike," and the steam-car and the horse-car, the coach, and the hack, ply their busy wheels through the streets of our large cities, and the church-goers travel thereon to their different sanctuaries.

"All days are alike to God," says the reformer; "why should we observe the Sabbath more than any other day?" I will tell you why: a concentration of the spiritual nature of men throughout Christendom necessarily creates a magnetic atmosphere through which spiritual beings can approach. The sincere and devout worshippers in every land congregating in churches upon one day, send forth waves of magnetic light which extend into the world of spirits. The music and the prayers are borne upward on this current, and great batteries are thereby formed that cannot but affect the souls in Paradise. They respond to the music and the prayers, and worshippers in the churches feel their magnetic influences. Those who are sincere in their religious faith say that they feel "heaven opened to them." Even those who attend church from fashion, or for the purpose of meeting their friends and neighbors, are there brought in contact with spiritual influences which could reach them in no other way.

The experience I have gained since my entrance into my spiritual home has given me more liberal ideas of the uses of the Sabbath, and taught me that to the working man it is a necessary day of recreation. But I lift my voice against its becoming one of beer-drinking and boisterous sports. The workman who is confined to the bench or the workshop, in the midst of a crowded city, for six days of the week, will certainly be benefited by seeking the green fields and healthful influences of the country; but on reaching that desirable Eden, let means be provided for his instruction; so, while sitting under the leafy trees, his mind may be benefited, and his bodily organism rested, rather than injured by feasting and rioting in the public gardens and parks.

Field preaching should become a regular institution of the Sabbath; and discourses instructing the mind in morals and sciences should be given in the tent, or under trees, in parks and woods set apart for that purpose. Then would, the object of the Sabbath be attained. As I have said, the spiritual nature is more open to the reception of truth on that day.

The state of sleepiness, which is a well-known attendant on the Sabbath, is indicative of the magnetic influence; and those who discard the day, and secretly pursue their active employments, would do well to heed the remarks I have made.

Before I close, I wish to make some observations upon the present style of preaching as compared with the sermonizing of my day. When I occupied the pulpit, the doctrines of election and predestination were the principal themes that engaged the attention of ministers.

Free will and coerced will were questions which puzzled the theologian. Looking upon the Bible as an inspired book, the most careless sentence therein expressed became a word of weighty import. We engaged the minds of our hearers with abstract questionings and reasonings. But we never could make the doctrine of predestination accord with that of free will. Nor could we clearly account for the presence of evil, while we believed the Creator to be all wise, all powerful, and cognizant of the end from the beginning. Yet these were the topics which the minister of my day discussed and endeavored to make clear to the comprehension of his hearers. We did not treat of every-day life; the pulpit we considered too sacred for such topics. Religion with the masses became an abstract state of holiness. Men assumed long faces and sober bearings upon the seventh day; but their every-day life was something different, which the minister and his ministering did not reach.

But the pulpits of to-day are platforms of another kind. They have altered, even as their shape has altered. Their outward construction corresponds to their teachings. In my day the pulpit was narrow and straight, and was lifted high above the people. But at the present day a step only separates it from the congregation. It is broad, low, and open. The teachings received from it correspond with its change of form. The ministers of to-day are one with their flock. Their discourses are practical, relating to every-day affairs. They no more discuss the questions of Satan, of angels, and archangels, nor arouse an undefined fear by descanting on the mysterious prophecies of Daniel: they talk to you like human beings.

I remember being somewhat shocked while listening to sermons preached by my son, H.W. Beecher. I recall sitting near his pulpit, and longing to get up and tell the congregation my views of texts and matters of which he was discoursing. I thought then it was because the race was going backward becoming less intellectual that men should be content to listen to sermons that contained so little theology. But experience in spirit life has caused me to change my opinion.

I now see that Beecher, Spurgeon, and a vast host of others, are teaching human souls the great truths which will fit them for life hereafter. I have done now with endeavoring to solve improbable problems, and with simple faith in man's efforts for his own progression, I give my testimony as to the uses of the Sabbath, and the advantages of religion in advancing their progress, and in preparing the spirit for its future home.