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excuse, it reveals a spirit which has none of the religion of humanity in it, for them to use their influence to close public libraries against that other class of which many have only a few hours of Sunday to read at all. It is like a man who takes his private carriage, and drives Sunday afternoon as well as every afternoon, objecting to the cars which take the laboring people out to pleasant and healthful resorts on Sunday, on the only day they can go; or like the man who has his residence by the sea, whither he can repair at the close of every day's work, and not often very laborious, and where he can sit and enjoy the seabreezes every evening and all day on Sunday, objecting to the Sunday trains which bear multitudes of the real laborers away from the close and heated air of the city. This is not the way to promote a truer observance of Sunday. It is not the way to create a greater interest in worship. It tends to irritate instead of to harmonize the conflicting interests which have to be met in a vast social body. There are many in every large city, whose first need on Sunday is to get out of the city; and every means afforded them will only increase the true observance of the day. There are many others whose first need is to have libraries
open where they may find that time to read which they cannot find in the pressure of their week-day life, and where, too, they may find wise direction in the use of books. We believe that in this respect a good librarian falls below no minister, no teacher, no man in any pursuit, in the aid he can give to his fellow-men. And the sooner the Church can show a wise and true leading in regard to the observance of Sunday, keep the just mean between a strict Sabbatarianism and a license which knows no restraint, a narrowness which draws a distinction between reading at home for the rich or reading at a public library for the poor, the sooner will it create a greater interest in its own ministrations and make them a more sanctifying power over all.
We made a comparison above between the value of Sunday papers and the books of public libraries. We have to confess a feeling of disappointment in regard to the general character of our Sunday papers; and it is a real disappointment, which does not come out of any objection to them as Sunday papers. Certainly, so far as the work of preparation is concerned, although
we prefer the old custom of having Saturday evening, as far as possible, free from late hours of work or pleasure, there is nothing to be said ; and, if the matter were of a kind to give any higher literary or moral taste to the readers of Sunday papers, we surely could have nothing to say. We would not be understood as making any objection to the publication of Sunday papers. We do not see why they might not be made of much value in giving a better tone to Sunday observances, of real help in those moral teachings for which the day has been set apart; why they might not in many ways be valuable assistants in the general and recognized work of the churches. It was with this idea that we were not so suspicious as some, nor so opposed, when Sunday papers were first suggested and published. We have been disposed to give them a very fair trial. We have not been so prejudiced against them as to be unwilling to see what they have had to offer their readers. Reading is surely to be commended, and especially reading on Sunday, when large numbers have more time to read than on any other day or all the week together. There is everywhere a thirst for reading. We are a reading nation, and there never was such an abundance of good reading from which to select, or so many good writers ready to furnish matter which shall be instructive, shall give a higher tone to social life and interests, which shall be permeated with a moral and religious flavor. We think the early Sunday papers had some concern for this. Either because it was feared that so great an innovation might provoke much opposition, or from a sincere desire to provide reading which was to some extent in harmony with the subjects to which the day bad usually been devoted, there was, if not a great deal that could be called suitable Sunday reading, not a great deal that was of the very lowest order of secular reading. We think there has been a very rapid change in all this, and a change for the worse. With the publication of Sunday papers as an established custom, with the increasing numbers who fall into the habit of looking them all through to find, whether the search is successful or not, something that is of value, and with the rivalry as to which paper can provide the largest number of columns without any regard to the character of their contents, there has been a corresponding depreciation in their moral tonė. Indeed, this has been so rapid, and we think so unfortunate, that we wonder if any of their readers have given it a thought.
In one of these vast quadruple sheets, with one hundred and twenty-eight columns of closely printed matter, how much might be considered a fair proportion to devote to what, with the most generous interpretation, may be called reading of a Sunday character, reading that parents by no means strict, would be glad to put into their children's hands, and call it reading suitable for the home on Sunday? We would not be understood as drawing any very strict or old time line as to what Sunday reading should be. We by no means desire to confine it to the international Sunday-school topics, nor to sermons, nor to religious stories or experiences. We know of very little in the whole range of historical or biographical or scientific matters to which may not be given a tone suitable for Sunday reading, and made very helpful to most persons, young or old. Letters of travel, many of the better kinds of novels, might come under this head. But, on the other hand, we are very sure that a whole side given up to flaming advertisements of the largest firms, and just such, only more prominent than in the week-day editions, has no moral significance, would hardly be claimed as suitable Sunday reading. Whole columns of miserable, personal gossip from all parts of the land, no matter if it has the excuse of being sought and read, are not Sunday reading that homes of any refinement ought to encourage. Long-spun out conversations about presidential candidates have no special moral bearing. Whole columns devoted to all the news about rowing and yachting, the theatres and amusements, operas and concerts, directions for cooking, or the reports of the financial world, about which men have already been tossed and distressed for six days; full accounts of bicycling and skating,—these have no distinctively Sunday characteristics. No home, no person, is any better off for poring over them by the hour. They show no desire and no effort to give any higher tone to the reading masses, only to come down to and to minister to their very lowest tastes. And yet so easily is the habit formed, and so strong does it become, of looking through a paper which regularly comes into the home, that thousands of homes are doing this, and rarely finding anything which they would be willing to admit was suitable Sunday reading. We looked over two of these mammoth sheets which recently appeared one Sunday morning, to find in all the columns of both of them not quite two which by the heading could be called Sunday reading; and we are by
no means sure that even that article, though theological in its appearance, was of any more moral or religious worth than the rest. It does not save the character of a Sunday paper to put in some brief article by a poor theologian, or even a sermon by a good preacher, as a sop to the religious element of the community; and the most surprising thing is the nature of many articles that even ministers will contribute to a Sunday paper, as if here were an escape for views they would hardly venture to express elsewhere, views falling in with the current liberalism of the day in marked contrast with the sound evangelicalism of their pulpits, views encouraging an observance of the day which is entirely different from that which religious persons
It will be said to all this that multitudes do not frequent the churches, and is it not better to provide them good reading wherever they may be? Of course it is, if it be really good ; but, certainly, even the writers and the publishers of most of the Sunday papers, as they now are, would hardly be so bold as to apply that term to even the smallest proportion of their endless table of contents, or, if so, words seem to have lost their meaning, which is one of the surest evidences of the decline of the moral sense. It will be said that, even of those who do go to church, many are not interested, and is it not a laudable purpose to furnish for them reading in which they can take an interest? This, too, we heartily accept; but will it be argued for a moment that such reading matter as we have referred to can be put in the same class as even the most rigid and outgrown views, that its influence can be comparable to that which even the most tedious services of worship have over a community, that it arouses or ministers to the same elevating sentiments? If Sunday papers did any of these things, to give any even the least help toward a taste for better reading, or any even the least aid 10 the purposes for which Sunday has been set apart out of the crying needs of many generations; if, with the many difticulties which surround them, there seemed any improvement in this direction, we should have for them only a welcome.
The daily newspaper has a definite missioni,-- to furnish news, whether it be good or bad; and this it does with wonderful energy and success. But the Sunday paper has an object of its own creation, for which it is responsible and which is entirely different. It is to furnish suitable reading for Sunday, reading of a character which falls in with and aids the reflections for
which that day has been set apart; and, in this respect, we think each year has shown a great deterioration. Is it for them to furnish merely that which shall make a paper read by large numbers, or to preserve and deepen the idea with which they began, and which in itself is commendable? What possible excuse is there for issuing a Sunday paper, and filling a large portion of it with flaming advertisements of the most secular nature ? It must surely be because the discovery has been made that, in the leisure of Sunday, the eye may fall across these, when other days it would overlook them; and thus the very thing we would escape is thrust upon us, and the wear, the excitement, the perplexity, and the strain of the business world have not even one day's cessation. It is still worse in regard to the large proportion of every issue devoted to news of the sporting world, of amusements, of personal gossip, which surely have no claim to be called Sunday reading.
The whole question is a serious one. We think that, as they are, Sunday papers are perhaps one of the most powerful instruments in breaking down all distinction between Sundays and week-days, in bringing all secular distractions and questions and interests into the quiet hours of Sunday, in nominally providing for those whose needs are not met by going to church, but really offering nothing which is helpful or elevating; in obscuring the two great purposes of Sunday, rest and worship. And we think all thoughtful persons would hesitate a long while before encouraging this. We all need them. None need them more than the very persons who, through mistaken philanthropy, are helping to diminish them; and the more Sunday papers have apparently become a great success by furnishing enough reading matter to occupy the whole day without regard to its character, the more they have departed from their legitimate mission, and the less reason for their appearance. It was the boast of one of these issues that that Sunday there was about the same quantity of reading matter as in the New Testament, — as if forsooth quantity were the only thing to be considered useful in this world! Suppose a farther comparison were attempted,— the unwearied journeyings of St. Paul with the feats of bicyclists and the races of yachtsmen! But we will not carry out a suggestion which savors so of irreverence. A diminishing quantity and a higher quality of the Sunday papers, less zeal to produce each week a marvel of the printing-press and more to minister to the moral sentiment of the community, might justify their publication.