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
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
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
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