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bodies of men, and by a natural exercise of his malignity makes this the time of his sorest inflictions? Or is the cause to be found in some hidden physical force, some mysterious working of the law of periodicity? If the inquiry is to take this direction, it may well call into exercise the keenest sagacity of the medical faculty. Nor should they overlook the question, to what peculiar atmospheric or other influence it is owing, that a malady neglected during the week, is found to be most advantageously treated on the Sabbath day-that just that day is discovered to be most favorable to the operation of the pills or powders, the tinctures or decoctions which a particular case is judged to require. We cannot but suspect, however, that the cause sought for lies below the sphere of merely physical agencies. Its seat, we fear, is in the province of the spiritual. Yet there are visitations of disease, we know, neither fancied nor welcomed, which must needs keep their subjects from the sanctuary. Some, too, must attend upon the sick, and others must watch over helpless infancy. We utter, in regard to this subject no sweeping condemnation; nay, we are slow to judge of particular cases, we would ever exercise in regard to them that charity which "thinketh no evil," and which "hopeth all things." We would be guilty of no rude or impertinent meddling with men's private affairs; least of all would we trench upon the rights which pertain in this matter to the individual conscience. We speak not of those whose justification is in the limitations of Providence, or in the imperative claims of duty. Let none who on such grounds stand absolved from censure, regard this discourse as intended for them. It touches the case of those only who err in heart, who are defaulters from the lack not of good opportunities, but of right affections. There are few of this class, I am happy to believe, in the congregation before me. Yet even here some possibly may need a word of admonition; and besides, "the prudent man foreseeth the evil." Be the present, as it may, it is well to guard ourselves, to the utmost, against possible lapses and delinquencies in the future. We pass then, to present, in various aspects, the case of him, who both in heart and habit merits the appellation of a half-day hearer.
I. I observe then, first, he himself incurs great loss. A greater, it should be remembered, from the fact, that the course he takes is quite in accordance with his inclinations. He who is reluctantly kept from the house of God, is, indeed, deprived of a most valuable privilege; yet, if his heart be there, He whose service he delights in, will not leave him unblessed. Partial amends, at least, may be made, in the joys and advantages of private devotion, and in his fervent communion with the assembled worshippers. No such compensation has the man who is willingly absent from the ministration of the word. Rather than curtail the means of grace, he should give them enlargement. Instead of half a Sabbath a week, he needs the sunshine
of two Sabbaths, to warm his frozen heart, to tempt upward the drooping pinions of his faith. Little enough for any one, indeed, are all the ordinary services of holy time. It is a long eternity, filled with momentous scenes, for which the Sabbath is a preparation. A fearful host of outward enemies have we to contend with, a still more terrible array of inward foes. Often, then, should we resort to that great spiritual armory, the sanctuary. Often should be heard there
"The clink of hammers closing rivets up."
If the half-day hearer is an unconverted man, our argument assumes a special urgency. In the simple language of one who was always in his place in church, he knows not "when the saving word will be preached." The very sermon he fails to hear, may be just that which was particularly suited to his which would have removed, under God, the only remaining barrier to his conversion. God dispenses his Spirit as a Sovereign, it is true; but not without regard to the relations and fitnesses of things. Much depends, too, in impressing the heart, upon the repetition of influences, upon keeping the truth continuously before the mind. There must be a succession of drops to wear away the rock; there must be precept upon precept to save the soul. Many a man we cannot doubt, to whom the afternoon's discourse would have been as the clinching of the already driven nail, has been kept out of heaven by being kept out of church. The god of this world understands this matter; and has a fiendish delight, unquestionably, in empty seats. The Christian, too, may lose by absence, just what he peculiarly needs. It may be the resolving of some obstinate perplexity; or the removal of some overshadowing doubt; or the soothing of some deep wound of sorrow; or the detecting of some latent sin; or the guarding of the soul against some specious temptation; or the shedding down of light upon some dimly discerned path of duty, or point of doctrine; or the opening up of a broad vista into the glories of heaven. Every wise Pastor has his plans of discourse. He cannot be always preaching on the same theme; and just the service from which you are needlessly absent, may be the predetermined one, and the only one for a long period, in which he may lay himself out to meet exactly your case. There are, besides, connections between different discourses; and that, often, when no formal series is either announced or undertaken. As the absence of a pupil at a single lesson unfits him for those that succeed, so he who loses a single sermon may lack a very desirable preparation, both of mind and heart, for whatever is to follow. For thine own sake, then, my hearer,--to make the most of the priceless privileges of the Sanctuary-to guard against losses for which no earthly gains can be an equivalent, and which the future can never retrieve, give to God not only a
half but a whole day's service. "Be swift to hear," the afternoon's discourse, as well as the morning's.
"Think, when the bells do chime, 'Tis angels' music.
God then deals blessings: if a king did so,
Who would not haste, nay give, to see the show?
For, all the week, thy food so oft he gave thee.
Thy cheer is mended; 'bate not of the food,
II. The man who is willingly a half-day hearer proclaims the Sabbath a weariness. An unequivocal indication of a man's state and prospects, is the estimation in which he holds this day of God. "A day in thy courts," said David-not half a day, observe" is better than a thousand." A like judgment, as we have already intimated, have holy men of all ages pronounced. Differing widely in other points, they have had little difference in this. The feeling of them all is well expressed by quaint old Herbert:
O day most calm, most bright!
Writ by a friend, and with his blood;
By another class, however, quite an opposite view has been taken. It was boldly uttered by some of old. "When will the New Moon be gone," they said, "that we may sell corn, and the Sabbath that we may set forth wheat?" Few now would speak thus unequivocally, especially under a profession of piety. Yet does not conduct speak? The Sabbath is not a private, but a public affair. Public worship is its chief and most characteristic service. He who is habitually done with that service when the sun has reached the meridian-who ignores whatever may remain of.it-who spends the rest of the day, so far, at least as the ministry of the Word is concerned, as if holy time were ended, looks he not coldly on the whole Sabbatical Ordinance? What can he be understood to mean, but that it is irksome to him-that he would have as little of it as possible-that he is well pleased when it is over? How unlike is he to the man in whose view all its sands are more precious than those of old Pactolus, or the modern land of gold; and its last sands the most precious of all.
In this weariness of the Sabbath, it is worthy of special note, men declare themselves weary of the Gospel message that comes with it. In this direction, the example of the half-day attendant is specially eloquent. All over his vacant seat, as the neglected service opens, is written in most visible characters, "No more of the old pulpit routine-of sin, of ruin, of atone
ment, of faith, of salvation! Enough, for one day, of Gethsemane of Calvary, of 'the Lamb, as it had been slain!' Discourse as the preacher may, of the woes of perdition, of the bliss of heaven, of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, it shall have no attraction for me. Let the task of the morning purchase me a welcome release for the rest of the day." Instead of being "swift to hear," such an one, even when he sits in the sanctuary, is little better than a deaf man.
III. Men of this class declare by their conduct, I remark again, that mere earthly gratifications are superior to heavenly. It is the joy which perishes, that lures them from the joy divine. I will not speak of those who, having done penance by sitting through the morning sermon, dash by us on a ride of pleasure, not only breaking the Sabbath themselves, but disregarding God's benevolent ordinance touching the brute creation-putting themselves on a level with those "fast" men with their fast (6 cattle," who could hardly tell you how the interior of a church is constructed. Some there are, who leave their places in God's house vacant, that they may make pleasant calls of friendship; that they may take their fill, while the pressure of business is intermitted, of multifarious gossip. The ruddy glow of the cheerful anthracite fire, or the gentle summer's warmth of the well attempered furnace, the luxurious lounge, and the pleasant faces and voices of the family group-potent pleas these last, nay, all these, properly considered, for faithful church-goingmay yet, in many cases, be prevalent inducements to an abridgment of that duty. Nor are inferior competitions wanting. The Sabbath, it is averred, is not a fast-day; it is a joyful occasion, it is a high festival. A festival for the soul it truly is; but some, keeping a brute's Sabbath, make it a feast-day for the body. On other days, perhaps, such gratifications are omitted, for all potent business hinders; but less potent religion does not forbid it on this. There might be time for it, indeed, in the interval of worship; but then it must not be crowded. Religion may be crowded, the sermon çan hardly be too laconic ; but, for the spreading of the cloth, and the dispatching of the several courses, there must be ample time. The church-bell, with its distasteful clangor, must not interfere with those gentle tinklings that summon waiting epicureans to their groaning altar. What rivalry have we often here; and how severely does it try some who would not wholly repudiate the Sabbath. The viands are savory; it may not be so with the preaching. The material condiments are good; it may possibly be otherwise with the rhetorical. Of the carnal feast so temptingly spread out, there can be no question; but there is more than a doubt in regard to the Gospel feast. The carnal feast prevails. Or if there be no interference in point of time, but a poor preparation is a surfeit for a sermon. Many a lover of good cheer has been kept from the sanctuary by the post-prandial disabilities which
he has diligently and unscrupulously imposed on himself. It could hardly be expected that swiftness to hear should characterize such a person.
IV. The half-day hearer, I remark further, puts the business of this world above the things of religion. No half-way work is there, commonly, in the prosecution of secular schemes. The service done for mammon, is no easy forenoon's divertisement. It would be a strange thing to see our mechanics leaving their workshops, and our merchants their counting rooms, and our professional men their offices, just as the sun begins his daily declination, saying, "The morning hours must suffice for toil and for gain." Whole-day workers are the great mass of our citizens. It is no marvel if the evening shades find them still at their post. It is no strange thing if business, in some of its forms, makes long strides towards the "noon of night." We say not this in the way of reprehension. There may, it is true, be excess in secular labors; but there must be diligence. In an age, and especially in a city like this, thrift, we are sure, is not for the man of slack hand. We only insist, that the measure of devotedness to religion, shall not fall below the prevailing type and standard of worldly efficiency. We only ask, that if the secular market-day is to be wholly kept, there should be a like keeping of the market-day of the soul. We only aver, that he who improves most faithfully every hour of the former while a moiety of the latter quite satisfies him-a moiety at least of its most important privileges-gives but too clear an indication of his preference for the things of earth, and most sadly underrates the great realities of eternity.
Sickness, as we have said, may cut short Sabbath opportunities. But what if this be the effect of sickness that would not restrain from business? A noble rule is that of some godly men, to be kept from public worship by no ailment which would not keep them from their ordinary employments. There are fierce storms, I know. But what if through them all you make your way to the place of trade, or of amusement, or of social enjoyment? Are storms harder to meet with your faces churchward? Distance may try your fidelity. But does it forbid your stated visits to the scene of worldly occupations? In that regard as prudent men you make calculations beforehand. You tolerate no distance which you may not regularly overcome. If we would not, by our example, disparage divine things, if, in the Scripture sense, we would be "swift to hear," we must put our Sabbath-keeping, in all these relations, on at least as high a platform as the keeping of our week-days.
V. The course of the half-day hearer, I observe again, has a strong tendency to hinder the cause of Christ. He harms not himself alone, but many others. He injures those who copy, as some will, the pattern he holds forth. A chilling and discour