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ADDRESS TO TRAVELLERS ON THE CONTINENT, UPON
THE OBSERVANCE OF THE LORD'S DAY.
To the Editor of the Christian Observer. W HEN the continent of Europe became opened to British travellers
at the conclusion of the late war, and tens of thousands of persons of every age and station-men and women, boys and girls, the grave and the gay, the idle and the busy, the nobility, the gentry, the clergy, the professional man, and the tradesman-were rushing forth, after long abstinence from European intercourse, to inspect Continental scenery and manners, great was the alarm of not a few among us lest the minds and the habits of our countrymen should be deteriorated by injurious communi. cations. This alarm was not confined to religious persons, though by them it was chiefly felt; but it extended to others who by no means practically regarded the word of God as the rule of human life, but who still saw enough in the manners and opinions of some of our Continental neighbours, especially the French, to make them dread the national effects of unreserved intercourse.
But, unhappily, familiarity with danger gradually induces a careless indifference, and at length a total insensibility, to its presence. And thus has it been in the present instance. The press and the pulpit, once so loud in uttering their warnings, have well-nigh ceased to remonstrate : Continental travel, and the imitation and introduction of foreign tastes, habits, and opinions, have now become so familiarised to the public eye and ear, that they are scarcely noticed; and from day to day the subtle poison spreads from vein to vein of the national constitution, while few are even aware that we are under any process of infection.
But if truth be truth to-day as well as yesterday; and if the evils of unguarded Continental intercourse were great fifteen or eighteen years ago, and have not diminished by lapse of time; it is as necessary now as it was then to utter a warning voice; and the more so, as the evils are less generally thought of, and are therefore the more dangerous.
The Conductors of the Christian Observer, I well remember, were not wanting, at the period I refer to, in putting forth their monitory suggestions : I trust, therefore, now that the forebodings then uttered have proved too true, and the baneful effects of continental, especially of French, intercourse have become notoriously apparent, that they will not think a repetition of the cautionary strain superfluous. Never, indeed, was it more needed than at the present moment; and as the season is approaching
migrations; and the Dog-days, and the academical recess, and the breaking up of Parliament, and the slackening of general business, will all conspire to expatriate them to the usual haunts of European travel; a friendly voice will not be untimely, to remind them, that in becoming tourists they must not cease being either Britons or Christians; and that, if they are Christians indeed, they ought to endeavour to let their light so shine before men that they may glorify their Father which is in heaven.
The subject of Continental communication is one of large extent, and might be seasonably dwelt upon in relation to a variety of matters of moral, religious, political, and social import; in none of which, down to our very modes of dress and habits of life, do I think that we have derived any benefit from our recent familiarity with other European nations. But the present paper is intended to be confined to one particular—the observance of the Christian Sabbath-on which some observations at the present moment, as connected with Continental Travelling, will, it is thought, be found peculiarly seasonable and important.
In bringing this vital question before your readers, I gladly avail myself of an address composed by a valued friend of mine, now in a better world, about the period above alluded to. Such has of late been the progress of Scriptural truth in relation to this great duty and privilege, that I would hope there are many, even of those who twelve months since were wholly lax or ignorant upon the subject, who would now feel the force of considerations urged upon Scriptural grounds, and to which the true followers of Christ, wherever situated, must cordially respond.
VIGIL. ADDRESS TO A TRAVELLER PROFESSING TO BE A CHRISTIAN. I will not stop to inquire, with what particular view you are about to avail yourself of the freedom of access to the neighbouring continent. It matters not to me, whether you are led to Switzerland by a love for the picturesque, to Italy by a classical taste, or to Paris, that labyrinth still dangerous, though deprived of its Minotaur, by curiosity. I do not ask whether you have the eye of an artist, of an antiquary, of a political or a general observer. Whithersoever you may be bound, or whatever may be your pursuit, I have a word to say to you; and it will not pass unheeded, if you have any proper respect for yourself, for your country, or for the God of your fathers.
At the same time that I congratulate you on the power of pursuing these, or any other legitimate objects of foreign travel, I would beg leave to remind you, that both the public and private representations of travellers prove a tour on the continent to be a service of some moral danger. In spite of the long course of “political phlebotomy" (to use Skelton's definition of war) its morbid humours are so little abated, as to afford abundant matter for cautionary hints to those who are about to be exposed to their infection. I mean, however, to confine my attention to one important point, which has been brought strongly under my notice by peculiar circumstances. Far as we are in this island, and more especially in its southern division, from any thing like a rigid and austere observance of the Sabbath ; you will visit countries which impute this to us, and go much greater lengths than we do in the disregard of the commandment which enjoins that one day in seven should be kept holy. A strong temptation will therefore be thrown in your way, to shake off in this respect the yoke, light and easy as it is, of what I firmly believe to be true Christian obligation. “L'imagination," as Montesquieu observes, “ se plie d'elle-même aux meurs du pays où l'on est :” and this will more especially apply in a case where self-indulgence draws in the same direction. These, and similar forces, operating on the one hand, will demand no weak counterpoise on the other, and put to proof the strength and soundness of the principle on which you may have hitherto paid some regard to the Sabbath. If you have done it only in compliance with the customs of those around you, the habit of acting from such a motive will but serve to facilitate your adoption of a laxer system. If you have been influenced merely by the wish to maintain a decent character, or, in short, by any principle less uniformly and less universally operative than a regard to the eye and to will of God, the effect will cease with the action of its cause, and your powers of resistance, like those of the fabled Antæus, will diminish in proportion to your removal from the soil which gave you birth.
But lest you should think that I am entering upon an inquiry involving questions too deep and serious for your present haste, and consequently defer the reading of this Address to “a more convenient season," I must lay before you, without delay, a motive for giving immediate attention to its subject; begging you, at the same time, not to forget the entire subserviency of that motive to the higher principle, to which it ought to owe all its influence upon your mind.
I need not expatiate to you upon the point of elevation at which the British character stands. The distinguished part we were permitted to take in bringing about the restoration of liberty and tranquillity to Europe ; the promptness with which we extended the hand, whether of martial prowess or Christian charity, to avert or to heal the wounds inflicted on other lands by a desolating spirit of usurpation; the high privileges which we enjoy, let demagogues say what they will, in the way of lawful liberty, personal security, and the impartial administration of justice; the pure light of religion which is diffused amongst us, and our endeavours to impart that best of blessings to the most distant quarters of the globe; must constrain foreigners, whether they will own it or not, to attach a certain portion of respect to the name of a Briton. To be puffed up, however, with this consideration, and satisfied with this adventitious claim to attention, would not only be a mark of weakness on your part, but a hazardous experiment. For, since this very feeling of respect carries with it a humiliating acknowledgment of superiority, and is a tribute paid, in most instances, rather from necessity than choice, a reasonable excuse for withholding it will be eagerly seized by those from whom it is exacted. A good name, like most other good possessions, is not only acquired, but maintained, at the expense of some exertion, and has duties and responsibilities attached to it, as well as advantages. The same circumstances which command respect, ensure also narrow observation; and the better name we have acquired, the more we have at stake. National celebrity excites expectations of personal worth, which, if not justified, serve, by a natural reaction, to sink the scale of opinion as far below the real standard-weight, as it had been raised above it. Nor will the disgrace attendant upon a line of conduct inconsistent with notions previously formed of you, rest with yourself. It will attach to your country. That men take a far deeper impression from what they see, than from what they hear, is an established axiom: and it may be regarded as certain, that the good opinion formed of our principles from report will not stand long against ocular demonstration of inconsistency in practice. Some of the feelings, too, which accompany this general good opinion, are not of the kindly nature which would be likely to produce a favourable, or at least a candid, judgment of our proceedings, in particular cases. We have seen, in the instance of the slave trade, how readily suspicion can surmise, or selfinterest invent, a motive of insidious policy for our conduct; and we may rest assured that there will always be a large party inclined equally to misjudge all those benevolent exertions which are calculated to raise our national character. But what can tend more directly to strengthen their hands, and give currency and weight to their uncandid statements, than a practical dereliction of those high principles which we profess to hold, on the part of a large majority of those of our countrymen whose conduct comes under the actual inspection of foreigners?
The dereliction to which I allude is, as I have already hinted, that of the principle upon which the Sabbath is distinguished from other days, and kept holy; a principle that rests upon His word who changeth not ;” and consequently a principle that has nothing to do with the variation of climate and manners. Such variation is, however, the plea commonly urged in defence of a transgression of all those rules abroad, by which the sanctity of the Sabbath is guarded in this country: a most convenient system, and one that would be as sound and rational as it is accommodating, were the appointment, that one day in seven should be hallowed, a decree of the British Parliament, or the result of a mere national custom. But inasmuch as we profess to accept it as the law of God, I cannot see by what ingenuity of reasoning such a law can be proved to have lost its force in consequence of our having crossed the Channel or climbed the Alps. And yet, I must suppose that some such reasoning is in fashion at Paris, Brussels, Florence, and other places which might easily be mentioned ; or else that my countrymen think they may dispense with the laws of God without any reason at all, as long as they are resident in a foreign country. Where they find the ground for any such dispensing power, I know not.
I really believe that many of them have acted thus from that fertile source of mischief, a want of consideration; and it is this conviction which induces me to offer these suggestions to your timely notice. The force of example is well known, and the convenient plea of accommodation, to which I have already alluded, smooths the road to practices at which we should otherwise be startled. The hurry and excitement, too, arising from a constant variety of new scenes, unfit the mind for that serious examination of the merits of the question which it well deserves : an additional reason for its being recommended to your previous attention.
I may have seemed, perhaps, to urge a very secondary motive, in pointing out the effect which a neglect of the Fourth Commandment is likely to have on the opinion of foreigners. But this opinion assumes a greater importance than might at first sight be supposed, if we consider the influence it is likely to have upon their own principles. The countries in which you will be most strongly tempted and urged to a violation of the Sabbath, are those where the light of the Reformation has not yet been able to dispel the mists of Popish superstition. Is it not then fair to conjecture, that in all such there are to be found a number of thinking and inquiring persons, sensible in a certain degree of the want of satisfactory solidity in their present system, and anxious to discover this quality elsewhere ? And are not such minds generally of that superior cast, to which it belongs to give the tone to a wide circle of satellites, who live by borrowed light? To convince them, therefore, of the superior strength of our religious principles, would be one of the most effectual steps towards the diffusion of that light which we, by the blessing of God, enjoy. But is this likely to be the result of such flexibility of principle as that to which I have alluded? Will such persons be led to believe that they would find in the Protestant faith that soundness and stability, the want of which they lament in their own, when they see Protestants adopting, in a point where religion is materially concerned, the practice of those whose principles they disavow? Surely the effect of such conduct will rather be to rivet upon them the chains of that thraldom which they were inclined to shake off; and to make them willing bondmen, from the despair of gaining any solid advantage by emancipation. And would it not grieve you to contribute to such a result, and thus to rank yourself amongst those " by reason of whom the truth is evil spoken of ?”
You probably hope, not only to reap immediate gratification from your travels, but to treasure up a store of observations on foreign scenes and manners, which will minister food for interesting recollections to the latest period of your life. And will it not, especially when your near approach to the confines of eternity shews you the real importance of its concernswill it not be the sweetest and most satisfactory amongst such recollections to reflect, that your conduct while abroad was calculated to promote the dissemination of truth, to prove that you came from a land of superior illumination, and consequently to excite a spirit of inquiry after the source of that pure light with which it is blessed ?
Should I seem, in speaking thus of my country, to arrogate too boldly to it a superiority over others in this respect, allow me to plead the very point in discussion as one argument in support of its claim. For, though I have alluded in particular to the practice of Roman Catholics, I cannot praise that of our Protestant brethren on the Continent, who have adopted, but too generally, the lax habits of their neighbours, thus bearing testimony to the risk attending “ evil communications." This, however, is but one amongst many melancholy proofs of the prevalence of those noxious principles, which have poisoned the sources of public opinion and feeling, and lowered the standard of religion and morals, as well as of civil subordination and true patriotism. An intelligent observer warned the world that there is “ a moral plague” in France, in order that precautions may be taken against infection. But it is to be feared that the seeds of the disorder are already scattered far and wide ; and that the measures which were provided for the peace and security of Europe were powerfully countervailed by the pains which were taken to leave French principles in the countries which were under the temporary controul of French usurpation. Not that France has to answer for all the infectious particles which float even in her own atmosphere, the relics of the disease under which she has been labouring. If Austria and Prussia suffered from her delirium, they may thank themselves for having contributed their full quota of ingredients towards the potion of false philosophy by which she was first corrupted and intoxicated : and though the abuses of Popish superstition formed a pretext for the overthrow of all that is sacred, the clergy of a communion from whom better things might have been expected were far from doing all that they might have done towards checking those principles which the German Illuminati were so anxious to disseminate. Too many of them, indeed, were imbued with those principles—a fact which may help to account for the laxity of practice to which I have alluded, and which makes a word of warning necessary for those who may be bound for Holland or Germany, as well as for those who take the more usual route of France and Italy. Your example may be equally useful, whether the practices, which it serves to condemn by contrast, be the result of false or of forsaken principle.
But you are perhaps inclined to plead the insignificance, and the consequent unimportance, of individual examples : and I must therefore beg leave to enter a protest against any such plea. Should this futile argument occur to you, as it frequently does in similar cases, under the specious garb of humility, reject it, as being only the suggestion of self-indulgence, wearing the mask of that virtue, in order to paralyze the efforts which