From the book
THE ENGLISH SUNDAY (1901)
METHODS OF OBSERVANCE
LAST time I endeavoured at the close of my lecture to put before you the aims which we may rightly seek in our observance of Sunday, and to-day we may go on to consider the methods by which they are to be attained. For this purpose we may well begin by considering what these methods have been during the last two centuries. Let us remind ourselves of what some have almost forgotten, the character of a strict English Sunday. I am now speaking of the Sunday of the upper and middle classes of society, and not of that of our working classes, which must be considered separately. I am not sure that we who are more or less masters of our time, realize what a different thing Sunday is to those who on that day only, are free from continuous and engrossing toil. It is for us to make that full and complete use of Sunday which our circumstances enable us to do, and then to help others in a different position to observe it in such a way as is right and reasonable for them.
[OF COURSE IF SUNDAY IS A MAN MADE INSTITUTION, AS IT CERTAINLY IS, THEN MANKIND IN DIFFERENT SITUATIONS AND CIRCUMSTANCES, CAN OBSERVE IT DIFFERENTLY, IN “A WAY THAT IS RIGHT AND REASONABLE FOR THEM.” ONCE MORE IT IS MAKING UP YOUR OWN WAY AND RELIGION TOWARDS GOD, AS THE AUTHOR HAS PREVIOUSLY SAID, “THE SABBATH IS FROM GOD GIVING TO MAN, THE LORD’S DAY IS FROM MAN GIVING TO GOD.” SO MAN PICKS AND CHOOSES HOW TO GIVE TO GOD ONE DAY IN SEVEN, AND IN A WAY THAT IS RIGHT AND REASONABLE FOR THEM. I THINK NOT—— IT IS GOD THAT TELLS US HOW AND WHEN TO WORSHIP HIM - Keith Hunt]
If the Sunday were identical with the Sabbath, there would necessarily be one method for all without distinction, but being what it is, distinctions must be allowed from the nature of the case. At the same time I must add that the old Puritan tradition of a strict Sunday has in the past been held and valued by some of the best of our labouring classes quite as fully as by ourselves.
[YES AND AS A KID GROWING UP IN ENGLAND, IN THE 1940s AND 1950s, THE TOWN I LIVED IN CLOSED DOWN, IT WAS LIKE A GHOST TOWN, BUSES DID NOT RUN BUT ONLY NOW AND THEN. NO PRO SPORTS DONE. PEOPLE IN THE SUMMER TIME WENT WITH THEIR FAMILIES TO PICNIC IN THE LOVELY FLOWERED ETC. PARKS. AND I KNOWING WHAT THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT SAID, BELIEVED SUNDAY WAS THE 7TH DAY OF THE WEEK - Keith Hunt]
Let me then return to what I proposed.
I. It was the day for attending the public services of the Church, not once only but twice so far as possible. The greater frequency of public worship, which of course is a matter of thankfulness, has probably made this characteristic of Sunday less marked, and led to some laxity about the double attendance on Sunday even on the part of thoughtful people. Indeed there has been a deliberate attempt to undervalue Morning and Evening Prayer on Sundays in order to exalt attendance at Holy Communion on that day. I might use much stronger language about what has been done in this direction, but I am content to mention it.
[YES INDEED “CHURCH” WAS MORNING AND EVENING BACK WHEN I WAS GROWING UP. I ATTENDED FAITHFULLY, NEVER MISSED (UNLESS ON HOLIDAY) SUNDAY SCHOOL, AND LATER INTO MY MIDDLE TEENS, THE SUNDAY MORNING SERVICE - Keith Hunt]
On the other hand we know how many there are in our own class of life, who neglect public worship on Sunday altogether, or on the very slightest occasion. It is not too much to say that such neglect is practically to deny or renounce Christianity, which is in its very essence a social religion. The history of the beginning of Christianity is the history of men being gathered together.
[TRUE INDEED, ATTENDING SUNDAY SCHOOL THEN LATER THE MORING SERVICE, WAS A PART OF ME AS WAS MY RIGFHT ARM. I KNEW IT WAS SOMETHING YOU JUST DID AS A CHRISTIAN - Keith Hunt]
It was a day for cessation of all work so far as ordinary needs permitted. Household duties were kept down to what was absolutely necessary, and food as far as possible was prepared on the previous day. Business was not touched on either by conversation or by letter. Correspondence was only of a family character, and did not extend to social or other engagements.
But it was especially in recreation that the standard was different from that which is now common. Every kind of game or sport, in doors or out of doors, was laid aside. Music was strictly limited to sacred music. The books and periodicals read were all more or less of a religious character; all ordinary secular literature was avoided, and especially novels and newspapers.
[YES REMEMBER IT WAS ALL LIKE THAT - Keith Hunt]
Social intercourse was limited to relations and intimate friends, and hospitality was only offered or accepted where there seemed to be some special reason for it. What was aimed at was quiet and retirement, and only such society was welcome as did not interfere with that.
[YES REMEMBER IT WAS ALL LIKE THAT - Keith Hunt]
Lastly travelling was avoided altogether, and the only exceptions were journeys called for by illness or in pursuit of clerical duties.
[YES REMEMBER IT WAS LIKE THAT - Keith Hunt]
It will be observed that this observance of Sunday was in great part, but not altogether, of a negative character, and designed to keep a clear space, and the question naturally arises, how was it filled in? No doubt there was and is considerable difference in this respect. No doubt also the benefit of the day so observed, depended very much on the way in which the space was occupied. It was filled by profitable reading, by conversation suggested and coloured by that reading, by home life and companionship not possible on week days, by the enjoyment of Nature in the spirit of the 104th Psalm, by works of kindness and sympathy, and in some cases by laborious efforts for the instruction of others.
[YES FOR RELIGIOUS PEOPLE IT WAS LIKE THAT - Keith Hunt]
But in whatever way the time was occupied which was not given to public worship, the tendency of the observance was to foster and promote the religious life of most of those whose rule it was. And to the children who were subject to it, it gave a discipline, and a training in self denial; it was a serious solemnizing influence, which made them sensible at an early age of a world of thought and duty, and sometimes of a world of happiness of which otherwise they would have known and felt but little. No doubt there was occasionally an inward impatience and rebellion on their part. If there was, it was more owing to the way in which rules were enforced, than to the rules themselves. It was a rebellion which gentleness and kindness and cheerfulness could generally overcome.
[OH INDEED SO IT WAS. I LOVED THE PUTTING AWAY OF “STUFF” OF A BUSY SCHOOL, SPORTS, THIS AND THAT, OF 6 DAYS. I LOVED THE PEACE AND RELAXATION. I LOVED GOING TO CHURCH; HAVING AN AFTERNOON IN THE BEAUTIFUL FLOWERED PARK IN THE WARMTH OF THE SUMMER. I LOVED THE ONCE A WEEK SPECIAL MEAL MOM WOULD COOK, THE SLOW COOKED ROAST, THE PEAS AND CARROTS, THE YORKSHIRE PUDDING AND THE THICK GRAVY; FOR DESERT AN ENGLISH “TRIFLE”— WOW IT WAS ALL TERRIFIC, AS I OBSERVED WHAT I THOUGHT WAS THE 7TH DAY SABBATH OF THE LORD - Keith Hunt]
I have chosen to put before you an account of what was, and to some extent is, rather than my own suggestions as to what ought to be. At the same time, I do not hesitate to say that I believe the model to be a good one. It is historically as you will have seen the apostolical institution of the Lord's Day, largely influenced by the character and aims of the Jewish Sabbath, taken home by the religious heart of the English nation, and developed in a special way, in which our former national characteristics, love of quiet, seriousness, and domesticity can clearly be traced.
[I WELL REMEMBER AT ABOUT AGE 10 OR 11, ONE SUNDAY SCHOOL TIME. BEFORE IT BEGAN WE KIDS TALKED AS OUR TEACHER WAS SETTLING IN FOR THE CLASS. THIS ONE LAD SAID, “MY FATHER TOLD ME SUNDAY IS NOT THE 7TH DAY OF THE WEEK.” I WAS SHOCKED AT SUCH A SILLY STATEMENT, AND FROM A GROWN MAN. I REPLIED, “THAT JUST CAN’T BE SO, THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT SAYS WE ARE TO KEEP HOLY THE 7TH DAY NOT THE FIRST.” THE OTHER BOY REPLIED, “WELL THE JEWS KEEP SATURDAY.” I THOUGHT TO MYSELF “WHO ARE THE JEWS AND WHY WOULD THEY OBSERVE THE 6TH DAY OF THE WEEK.” THE LAD SAID AGAIN HIS DAD TOLD HIM SUNDAY WAS THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK. I AGAIN REPLIED, “THAT JUST CAN’T BE, WE ARE TO KEEP HOLY THE 7TH DAY ACCORDING TO THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT.” THE TEACHING BY NOW LOOKED NERVOUS, AND QUICKLY GOT THE CLASS GOING ON OUR LESSON FOR THAT SUNDAY. I PUT THE WHOLE THING OUT OF MY MIND, AND WENT MY MERRY WAY KNOWING, AS I THOUGHT, CHRISTIANITY WAS OBSERVING THE 7TH DAY, AND THIS LAD’S DAD WAS OUT TO LUNCH - NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT IT AGAIN, TILL I CAME TO CANADA AT AGE 18 AND MY BAPTIST LANDLORD TOLD ME SUNDAY WAS THE 1ST DAY OF THE WEEK; I JUST ABOUT FELL OVER IN UTTER SHOCK - Keith Hunt]
But in our day this model is being largely set aside. Some people ask no questions as to their duty, have smothered their scruples in this matter as in many others, and treat Sunday exactly as any other day so far as society, amusements, and travelling are concerned. But others do ask questions, not perhaps so much for information, as in defence of their actual practice. Starting from the system of observance described, they endeavour to pull it to pieces in theory as they have already done in practice, and they ask is this wrong, and is that wrong? For instance is there any harm in novel reading on Sundays, is there any harm in making up one's accounts, is there any harm in a boating party? To do these things on Sunday is obviously not morally wrong in the sense in which untruthfulness or cruelty are wrong. If there is harm in them it is not of that sort at all. And again you will have seen from the historical survey which has been attempted, that they cannot be pronounced wrong either on the ground of any Scriptural prohibition, or on the ground of any Church rule, either general or specially Anglican. And when some people have heard that, they want to hear no more. They are gone, and that with an easy conscience. But there is more to be said if they will only listen to it.
Is the result of such a strict Sunday observance as I have described, of serious value for the spiritual life of the individual and the religion of the country at large? Some will answer at once, "we have found it of value in our case." Others feel clear that if it has not been so, it has been their own fault.
If it is of value, it must be taken as a whole. I do not say that no modifications can be made; they will make themselves— the changing circumstances of society will point the thoughtful conscience to greater freedom in one respect, and greater care and circumspection in another. But the system must be adopted as a whole if at all. If you snip off something here, and something there, as you may easily do by very specious arguments, why should other parts of the rule be adhered to? The details are not important in themselves, but rather as the embodiments of a leading idea which I have dwelt on again and again, and which may be variously stated, withdrawal from the world, an endeavour to realize things unseen, a nearer approach to God.
We are invited from time to time to take part in Retreats. They may perhaps be useful to some characters, but they only concentrate and emphasize what every Sunday ought to give us.
But to return—it is in the light of the general idea, that the details of Sunday observance are to be considered and judged, and not in the light of verdicts of conscience, or of Scripture, or of ecclesiastical rule.
[BACKING TO ADMITTING, AS WELL THE AUTHOR MUST, THAT THERE IS NO WRITTEN WORD FROM GOD AS HOW TO OBSERVE SUNDAY; NO SCRIPTURE OR ECCLESIASTICAL RULE—— GUESS NOT FOR SUNDAY OBSERVANCE WAS NOT FROM GOD BUT FROM MAN’S IMAGINATION AND DESIRE TO NOT BE CLASSIFIED WITH THE JEWS, BUT TO BE FAR SEPARATED FROM THEM, AS HISTORY CLEARLY SHOWS - Keith Hunt]
Thus far I have only asked you to defend the English Sunday against questioners on the ground of the value which it is to yourself by your own experience, and in your own practical consistent use of it.
But there is another ground quite as important. Here is an institution which you at any rate feel to be of value to the Church and nation. I say the nation, for it is a matter which concerns those also who are not members of our Church.
It is your business to maintain it. You may feel that a particular journey or a particular amusement will in no degree injure for you the character of the day. But your indulging yourself in these respects will make it difficult for you to maintain among others the general model of observance of it.
If you relax in these respects, they will relax in others. And though you may not be in any conspicuous or influential position, yet remember that the action of any one individual may lead on to consequences which he little expects. If you are interested in the maintenance of the English Sunday you must not only act consistently with your principles in matters which are seen and which are not seen, keeping your Sunday abroad on the same lines as you do at home, but you must also be ready to deny yourself in things which you could do without scruple, and this on account of the influence which they might possibly have on others. There must be some common standard which with due allowances we must all agree to concur in, not formally, but by tacit agreement, as the Spirit of God guides us. And I think we cannot find a better standard in the matter than that of the thoughtful God-fearing English middle class of the last two centuries.
YOU MAY REMEMBER THE MOVIE “CHARIOTS OF FIRE”—— IN PART IT WAS ABOUT A SCOTTISH MINISTER WHO QUALIFIED FOR THE BRITISH OLYMPIC TEAM IN THE 1920s. ONE SCENE, CHURCH IS OVER AND PEOPLE ARE EXITING; A BOY IS KICKING A FOOTBALL (SOCCER BALL TO NORTH AMERICANS), THE MINISTER SAYS, “JOHNNY (FORGET THE NAME USED IN THE MOVIE) YOU KNOW THE SABBATH IS NOT FOR PLAYING FOOTBALL.”
LATER AS THE BRITISH TEAM HEADS OFF BY BOAT TO EUROPE FOR THE OLYMPIC, THIS SCOT MINISTER IS TOLD HIS “HEAT” FOR THE 100 YEARD DASH WILL BE ON SUNDAY. HE REFUSED TO RUN; THE TOP OFFICIALS AND THE PRINCE OF WALES TRY TO PERSUADE HIM TO RUN. HE FRANKLY TELLS THEM HE WILL NOT BREAK THE SABBATH. IN OUR MODERN WORLD THESE SCENES ARE QUITE SOMETHING FOR SHOWING THE CONVICTION OF SUNDAY KEEPERS, EVEN REFERING TO IT AS THE SABBATH. IT IS VERY LIKELY MANY CHRISTIANS AFTER SEEING THIS MOVIE STARTED TO OBSERVE SUNDAY IN A STRICTER WAY.
IN THE WINTER OF 1961/62 AFTER ARRIVING IN CANADA IN MAY 1961, I HEARD A MINISTER ON THE RADIO MENTIONING THE SABBATH AND HOW IT IS HOLY TO GOD AND WE NEED TO KEEP IT HOLY IN OUR OBSERVATION. I HAD NO IDEA HE WAS REFERRING TO SATURDAY, I THOUGHT HE WAS REFERRING TO SUNDAY; I WAS CONVICTED THAT I SHOULD OBSERVE SUNDAY IN A STRICTER WAY, SO I PUT ASIDE MY PLEASURE OF GOING TO THE HORSE RANCH AFTER CHURCH, AND HAVING FUN RIDING AND HELPING AS A GUIDE FOR PEOPLE COMING TO TRAIL RIDE. IT WAS ONLY SOME MONTHS LATER THAT MY BAPTIST LANDLORD TOLD ME SUNDAY WAS NOT THE 7TH DAY OF THE WEEK.
I KNEW IMMEDIATELY IF HE WAS CORRECT, THAT NO MATTER HOW I OBSERVED SUNDAY, IT WAS TO NO AVAIL WHEN I WAS TRAMPLING ALL OVER SATURDAY THE 7TH DAY OF THE WEEK, FOR I CLEARLY KNEW ALL THE WORDS OF THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT.