From the book
THE ENGLISH SUNDAY (1901)
WORK AND RECREATION
YOU will perhaps remember that I said that the Sunday of the working classes must be considered separately. What we have to do is (1) to form a clear conception of what the Sunday should be for ourselves, and then (2) how far this standard is desirable, or even possible in their case.
And I am now considering those portions of our working classes who are in some real measure Christian with whatever inconsistencies, and not those who are merely Christian in name, if indeed they are so much as that. Nor am I taking into account those true, simple devout people in that class whom we might well take as our example.
The difference between us and the working classes which has to be considered in regard to the Sunday, does not relate to the standard of piety which they are to aim at, or their place in God's kingdom. There their place is specially assured by the words of the Lord Himself and the whole character of His ministry. The disadvantage according to Him is not on the side of poverty, but on the side of wealth.
However in the particular matter which we are considering there are important differences.
First there is the impossibility of the working classes getting relaxation on any other day, while we can get it on other days. And they need relaxation and recreation as well as mere physical rest. Try to put yourself in the position of a man who has no daylight hours which he can call his own on any day except Sunday, and you will see that Sunday must be a very different thing to him from what it is to you.
Secondly, the quiet, seclusion, home interests, enjoyment of nature which are so freely at our command, and are possible even in the country labourer's cottage home, are impossible or nearly so to the dwellers in the crowded alleys and courts of London and other great cities. I do not see how we can press on them as a general rule that the day is to be made exclusively a religious day, on which ordinary recreations should be laid aside, although I believe this is the right aim for ourselves.
If the observance rested on a positive universal command, no differences of condition could be taken into account, but it does not so rest.
[OH HOW CORRECT—— THERE IS NO COMMAND FROM THE LORD REGARDING SUNDAY OBSERVANCE IN A THEOLOGICAL VIEW; INDEED HOW MANY TIMES HAS THE AUTHOR RELATED THAT, A NUMBER OF TIMES. SO IT ALL BOILS DOWN TO THE THIS OR THAT OF HUMAN SPECULATIONS AS TO HOW SUNDAY SHOULD BE OBSERVED - Keith Hunt]
For them I cannot think that it is right to exclude from Sunday moderate forms of recreation, such as the use of picture galleries, museums and libraries, cycling excursions, social meetings of various kinds and the like. I hardly think that it is the part of the clergy to promote and arrange such recreations—they have other work on Sundays which demands their whole attention, and their taking part in such things is not only bad for themselves, but also creates misapprehension as to their personal estimate of the Sunday. But they should show no impatience at others taking the lead in things which are not expedient for them to do.
I can quite well imagine a London working man's Sunday which should include a good deal that we think unadvisable for ourselves, and yet should be a real refreshment to him and his family, not only in body and mind but also in spirit—a Sunday which should be welcomed by him as it returns with true thankfulness, and felt by him as a lift out of the groove of work into a freer life, a life nearer to God. The fact that this is seldom realized, and that in reality Sunday recreations engross and draw away from public worship many of our steady working people, does not weaken the argument. What we are concerned with is to establish a true ideal and then to work up to it.
But let me point out what appears to me to be a serious danger in the future.
Here is this free day of millions of working people. If you legitimize first by general opinion, and subsequently by law, the provision of amusements of all kinds, then an immense field of pecuniary profit will be open to enterprise. Attractions of every kind will be provided by companies and individuals whose only object is to make money, and the whole face of the English Sunday may be changed in a few months. That is why it seems to me we ought to move with great caution. Our attitude should be, sympathy with those who have no holidays and next to no home; and a sense that they need a different Sunday from ours in many respects. But it cannot be both a day of rest and a day of amusement when you come to deal with the mass of the people, and you have only to cross the Channel to satisfy yourself of this. If they do not see this, we can; and we are bound to act on our knowledge of what is for their temporal good, as well as on higher grounds.
[HE WAS SAYING THAT EVEN IN 1901 THERE WAS QUITE A DIFFERENCE IN OBSERVING SUNDAY IN BRITAIN THAN HOW THEY DID OR DID NOT, OBSERVE IT IN EUROPE - Keith Hunt]
Hitherto I have been thinking principally of the majority of our working classes which is obscurely but yet truly Christian in character and instincts. But there is a large class among them as there is also in the higher ranks of society, which is practically unchristian. It seems to me that their Sunday is quite another matter. How they keep their Sunday comes out of how they order their life. The former is a manifestation of the latter, and a very plain and painful manifestation.
Take the street of a Northumberland pit village on a Sunday, or the smoking-room of a fashionable London club on the same day—I do not think there is much to choose between them. As the Hebrew Sabbath was a sign between God and His people, a sign of their relation to Him, so in quite a converse way these men's Sunday is a sign. What we are concerned with as regards this part of the community, is not so much the way they spend their Sunday, for being spiritually such as they are, they can hardly be expected to spend it otherwise.
Our concern is, not to provide harmless amusements for the pitman's Sunday, but our concern is with the man himself.
I think that in many of our social and religious undertakings, we are too much inclined to occupy ourselves with symptoms rather than with causes. We forget the Lord's words, "Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree corrupt and its fruit corrupt." It was not by approaching men on the secular side that George Whitefield converted thousands.
Besides the question of Sunday recreation, there is another which specially affects the working classes taken widely, and that is the question of Sunday labour.
Some Sunday labour must be granted as necessary. There is the "care of cattle, which our Lord's own words may fairly be held to cover. There is railway labour, which some of the companies honestly do their best to reduce to a minimum, while others do not. There are works of emergency such, for instance, as the rebuilding of a railway bridge, which can only be done on Sunday, or the lading of a vessel which for sufficient reasons must sail at the earliest possible moment. We are not to look askance at the men employed in these things, as at men doing something wrong, martyrs for the good of the community.
[SOME OF THE ABOVE COULD BE PUT TO ONE SIDE IF SOCIETY AS A WHOLE WAS SERVING GOD BY OBSERVING HIS TRUE SABBATH (WHICH THE AUTHOR HERE USES FOR SUNDAY) - Keith Hunt)
On the grounds on which we have put Sunday, a Christian workman can frankly accept his duty in such cases.
[AS I’VE STATED IF SOCIETY WAS OBSERVING THE TRUE AND ONLY WEEKLY SABBATH, VERY VERY FEW WOULD NEED TO BE WORKING; HOSPITALS AND EMERGENCY VEHICLES WOULD NEED TO CONTINUE—— I’VE COVERED A LOT OF THIS IN MY STUDIES ON THE SABBATH QUESTION - Keith Hunt]
There is other work, the necessity of which may be questioned. There is the case of saving a crop from the weather on a Sunday. I do not say it is sinful in itself; to do this. But the character of the day as a day of rest, is in danger the moment you cross the strict line; and it will be difficult to distinguish cases of necessity from cases of worldly prudence and excessive anxiety. In most cases, may I not say in every case, the sacrifice involved in abstaining from; labour is worth making, and ought to be made, for the sake of the community, and for the sake of the secure maintenance of the day.
Again, there is the labour entailed by opening places of recreation. As I have pointed out, that might become an extremely serious matter, if much more was provided in the way of recreation, and especially if there was much more travelling. But while so little labour is asked for, as is the case at present, it may surely be regarded under the class of necessary labour.
Now let me come back to our own case, and our own duty.
I want to add a few words on the prevalent love of amusement, and the extent to which that love of amusement is for many people obscuring and hindering a true conception of life—in other words, I want to speak of the relation between amusement and religion.
There must be some truth at the bottom of all that suspicion of, and aversion to, amusement which has been found in all the more earnest phases of religious life at different times, and in different countries. That aversion has often been morose and even hypocritical, it: has sometimes produced the worst results; but there is reason at the bottom of it, as there always is in strong and abiding movements of the human mind.
The reason lies in the encroaching character of the love of amusement, and this in relation to the claim of religion to be master of the soul. It is not that there is an incompatibility between amusement and religion. A bright, joyful life is the mark of the highest and best Christianity. The Christian has, or ought to have, a high power of enjoyment, and this enjoyment will include all natural and reasonable recreation. But there is a disposition to live for amusement, to make it quite seriously the business of life, the thing that must not be interfered with.
And this tendency carries away with it many who are in themselves better disposed, when it is taken as obvious by some of their acquaintance, that of course all young people must have this or that form of amusement, and incur expense in having it, and put other people to inconvenience that they may have it. They accept this ruling without any hesitation, and they never stop to reflect what it means. Is it likely that the rather indefinite and easily evaded habits of the Christian Sunday will be able to hold out against such a tendency, against the new imperative law to which all submit, "we must be amused."
Where restrictions are strong, they chafe bitterly against them; where they are weak, they have long ago broken them down. How are we to regard those who devote Sunday to amusement, with perhaps just the exception of a single hour in Church? I do not know that it will be of much good to speak of it as a profanation, for until a man has personally realized Sunday as a holy day, and made it such by his own use of it, there is no question of profanation. Again, I do not know that one can make much impression by speaking of it as a waste of precious opportunities, a loss of blessing and help in the spiritual life, in cases where such life and desire of growth in it are not yet really called out.
[SEE HOW HE LEANS TOWARDS PEOPLE HAVING TO “PERSONALLY REALIZE SUNDAY AS A HOLY DAY.” MANKIND CANNOT MAKE A DAY HOLY; GOD IS ONLY HOLY, AND IT IS HE ALONE THAT MAKES A DAY HOLY; WHAT THE HUMAN MIND DESIRES OR THINKS, MAKES NO DIFFERENCE, THE HUMAN MIND THINKING A DAY IS HOLY DOES NOT MAKE IT SO. I CAN THINK THERE IS A MAN IN THE MOON, BUT IT DOES NOT MAKE IT SO. SOME THOUGHT THEY SAW CANALS ON MARS, SO SOME KIND OF HUMAN LIFE; THINKING IT WAS SO DID NOT MAKE IT SO, AS WE HAVE DISCOVERED WITH MODERN SCIENCE - Keith Hunt]
But it can be plainly put to them that it is selfishness. By making the Sunday a day of amusement, you are helping to bring down the day to the level of the rest of the week, your example is telling (along with that of thousands of others exactly like yourself) in the direction of a secular Sunday for England. You may entirely disclaim any wish to influence the way in which others keep it, but you are influencing it. Nothing that you do can altogether escape observation, and what is observed will exercise an influence. While you play tennis within the walls of your garden, or billiards in the privacy of your house, your action is distantly telling on the character of the English Sunday, and its power in the future for temporal and spiritual blessing to the English nation.
Sunday has maintained itself, it will maintain itself, for it is of God,
[NOPE IT IS NOT OF GOD, NEVER WAS AND NEVER WILL BE - Keith Hunt]
and it is dear to His people, but the extent of its blessing to the nation can be grievously marred by the selfishness of the present generation. It is in great part unconscious selfishness, but no moral ignorance is total. There is always an accusing voice. Sunday is best regarded as the outward manifestation of the spiritual life of the individual, the parish, the Church. If that is full and vigorous, the day will be a day of happiness and brightness—of full churches, congregations heartily taking part in the services, sermons full of good tidings, not dry reflections or denunciations, but bread for the hungry, the Lord's Table surrounded by joyful communicants, works of love and mercy, silently and quietly done, happy home life, rest for tired limbs, enjoyment of food and comforts, enjoyment of the beauties and wonders of Nature with their deep incalculable, religious influence on hearts that are open to them.
But you cannot manufacture or impose these effects independently of their cause. They come out of hearts at peace with God, resting on his promises, living in his love. The question of Sunday observance runs back into the primary question of a living soul or a dead one. Where there is life, Sunday will be kept in a way pleasing to God, profitable for the individual, gainful for the Church. One verse deeply understood will give all the guidance that we need. "This is the day which the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it."
NO THIS SUNDAY IS NOT THE DAY THAT THE LORD HAS MADE. HE SAID, JESUS SAID, HE WAS LORD OF THE SABBATH; THAT IS FROM THE WHOLE THEOLOGY OF THE BIBLE, THE 7TH DAY OF THE WEEK, NOT THE 1ST DAY.
THE OVERALL IS THIS. THE WORD OF GOD IS TRUTH, NOT THE IDEAS OF MEN OR THE CUSTOMS THAT MEN BRING INTO THE RELIGION OF THE FATHER AND CHRIST. UNTIL YOU KNOW TRUTH YOU SIMPLY DO NOT KNOW IT, AND YOU CAN BE SINCERE IN YOUR LACK OF KNOWLEDGE ON TRUTH. WITH SUCH PEOPLE GOD CAN ANSWER THEIR PRAYERS, HAVE ANGELS TO WATCH OVER THEM, KEEP THEM SAFE AND A MYRIAD OF OTHER THINGS. I KNEW NOT THE TRUE SABBATH OF GOD GROWING UP; I WAS SINCERE THAT IT WAS SUNDAY; I’M SURE THE LORD WAS WITH ME IN MY SINCERE IGNORANCE; I’M SURE HE HELPED AND KEPT ME SAFE FROM HARM MANY TIMES.
IT WAS NOT TILL I WAS 19 AND IN CANADA, THAT GOD THROUGH MY BAPTIST LANDLORD REVEALED TO ME THAT SUNDAY WAS THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK AND NOT THE 7TH DAY OF THE WEEK.
THEN I HAD TO MAKE SURE WHAT HE WAS TELLING ME WAS CORRECT. AND THEN FURTHER AFTER SOME STUDY, I HAD A DECISION TO MAKE, WAS I GOING TO FOLLOW GOD’S TRUTH, OR CAVE IN TO MY PERSONAL DESIRES IN LIFE, AND FOLLOW THE WAY OF THE CROWD IN THIS THEOLOGICAL STIPULATION.
TODAY THE SABBATH QUESTION IN SUNDAY CHURCHES IS JUST ABOUT NEVER BROUGHT UP.
SOME MINISTERS TODAY DO NOT BELIEVE THE APOSTLE PAUL WROTE 13 (AND FOR ME 14) BOOKS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT. ONE BOOK I HAVE BY A ROMAN CATHOLIC MINISTER CLAIMS A GOOD PORTION OF “CHRISTIAN SCHOLARS” TODAY ONLY ACCEPT PAUL WROTE 7 BOOKS OR EPISTLES, AND SO ONLY USES THEM TO WRITE A WHOLE BOOK CALLED “WHAT PAUL MEANT.”
THEN YOU’VE HAD IN THE PAST, LITTLE “TRACTS” — I SAW AND READ IN THE 1960s, THAT USED ROMANS 14 TO SAY YOU CAN PICK ANY DAY AS THE SABBATH, AND THEN ALSO USED COL. 2:16 TO SAY THE SABBATH WAS ABOLISHED COMPLETELY. THEY DID NOT EVEN SEEM TO REALIZE THEY WERE USING PAUL TO CONTRADICT HIMSELF. HENCE SOME DO NOT PUT MUCH TRUST IN PAUL AND HIS WRITINGS. NOW TODAY THE SUNDAY MINISTERS SEEM TO HAVE SEEN THE FOLLY OF THAT ARGUMENT. SO NOTHING IS SAID ABOUT THERE STILL BEING A WEEKLY SABBATH THAT SHOULD BE OBSERVED AS GIVEN IN EXODUS 20 AND THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT.
SO THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT: PEOPLE MEET ON SUNDAY BECAUSE IT IS TRADITION TO DO SO, AND FOR MOST PEOPLE THE BEST CONVENIENCE STILL; NOTHING IS PREACHED ABOUT THE SABBATH AND CHURCH PEOPLE COULD CARE LESS WHAT OTHERS DO ON THAT DAY, BEFORE AND AFTER “CHURCH SERVICES.”
NOW AS YOU READ THE GOSPELS, PRESUMING YOU DO, OR WILL DO, YOU’LL SEE WHY JESUS WAS SO AGAINST THE SCRIBES AND PHARISEES FOR REPLACING THE COMMANDMENTS OF GOD WITH THEIR TRADITIONS.
YOU ARE NOW IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT; IF YOU’VE READ THIS YOU NOW HAVE A DECISION TO MAKE!