Robert Haldane’s “On the Purposed Desecration of the Sabbath”

**Partly out of historical curiosity, partly because this was so difficult for me to find, I post here Robert Haldane’s “The Purposed Desecration of the Sabbath, and Railway Desecration.”[1] While you may not agree with all of his conclusions, you can’t but be impressed with the man’s desire for consistent and faithful application of biblical truth. For more on Robert Haldane and his doctrine of the Sabbath, see my forthcoming book from Reformation Heritage Books.


“On the Purposed Desecration of the Sabbath”


It cannot be matter of surprise, that the proposal to carry on the traffic of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway on the Sabbath, should have excited so much interest in this country. No question more deeply and practically affecting the religion and morals of the people of Scotland, has occurred since the Reformation. The observance or desecration of the Lord’s day has ever been found a test of the allegiance or rebellion of man in relation to God. No wonder, then, that the purposed violation of that sacred day, by a great and numerous body of men, should have called forth so many solemn remonstrances. The more this matter is considered in all its principles and bearings, the more will its importance be appreciated.

That any set of men calling themselves Christians, professing to believe in a righteous God, and in a judgment to come; that men feeling the smallest concern in the welfare of their country, and the foundations of order in society, should deliberately resolve to trample on the Divine law, and to outrage the long established usages of a nation, is a line of conduct not only to be lamented, but which ought to be regarded with the utmost abhorrence. It is to be hoped that many who have been induced to countenance this proposal, have not well understood its enormity. Deluded by plausible arguments drawn from false notions of expediency, or deceived by the love of money, they have not considered the binding nature of the law of the Sabbath, or the disastrous consequences involved in its violation. It is well, therefore, to place the subject in the light of eternity, and to impress all who fear God with the sense of the enormous wickedness involved in the crime of a deliberate breach of the Sabbath. For this end, the grounds on which the authority and sacredness of the day depend, ought to be carefully examined; and this is the more important, as there are multitudes who have not sufficiently adverted to the Scriptural and lasting obligation to sanctify the Lord’s day, while others have ignorantly viewed it as an ephemeral institution only belonging to the Jewish dispensation.[2]

If it can be clearly proved that the observance of the Sabbath is a divine institution coeval with the creation of man, and intended to subsist while he exists upon earth, in what light ought we to view a deliberate purpose to disregard it! Hitherto there has been a general admission of the obligation to respect the sanctity of this day which God has set apart for himself, and stamped with his own holy name. Hitherto, we may add, its beneficial results, both as it respects individuals and society, have been generally acknowledged in Scotland. But now for the first time a purpose is announced, and appears ready to be carried into execution, which bids defiance to the authority of the Lord of the Sabbath, by employing it, without the shadow of necessity, in the common traffic and money-making business of the world. In the face of the commandment that neither master nor servant shall do any work on that day, the Directors of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway resolve, not indeed to employ the whole of the day in the manner forbidden, but that a portion of it shall be so employed, and this for no other object, but that the hope of their gains during that time may not be disappointed.

At a meeting of the General Board of Directors last November, in consequence of the numerous memorials presented to them from all parts of the country, deprecating their purposed desecration of the Sabbath, a discussion took place, when on a motion being made to abandon the unholy design, it was met by an amendment directly opposed to the whole strain of the memorials under consideration. This amendment was in effect the same as the motion which is to be submitted to a general meeting on the 22d of February next. It is as follows:

“Whereas it is the duty of the Directors of this Company to give implicit obedience to the law of God, and the law of the land, in the management of the affairs of the Company—and whereas it is the duty of the Directors to afford the fullest accommodation to the public in the use of the Railway which the public exigencies require, provided always that they do not violate the law of God, or the law of the land—this meeting resolves, that it is not inconsistent with the duty of the Directors, as aforesaid, and they are hereby enjoined, to provide trains to be run from the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow respectively, in the morning and in the evening of Sunday; but under such rules and regulations as to the times of departure and arrival, as may enable the servants of the Company, and persons travelling along the Railway, to attend divine service.”

This motion commences with an explicit recognition of the obedience due by the meeting to the law of God. What, then, might it be supposed would follow? What but prompt and implicit obedience? But what, in fact, does follow? “This meeting resolves, that it is not inconsistent with the duty of the Directors, as aforesaid, and they are hereby enjoined to provide”—what?—full means for observing the rest of the Sabbath? No- “to provide trains to be run from the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow respectively, in the morning and in the evening of Sunday!” Was there ever an example of grosser inconsistency, or a more daring avowal of determined opposition to the authority of God? Did men ever more plainly declare, by their words and acts, we will not have God to reign over us? Was it the intention of the majority to hold up God’s law, as if out of respect to it, and at the same moment to insult the Lawgiver, by insolently announcing their determination systematically to set it at defiance, and not only to desecrate the Sabbath themselves, but to compel all their subordinates to follow their example, under pain of dismissal from their employment? Did none of that majority shudder at the thought of thus pouring contempt on the Majesty of Heaven? Did none shudder at the idea of coolly holding up the law of God to shame and scorn? Did it not occur to them, in thus bringing the commandment into notice, only that it might be spurned at with contumely, that they were acting over again the part of the monarch of Babylon, who, in the madness of his iniquity, brought the consecrated vessels of the Lord’s holy Temple to be profaned in the house of his idols, as he sat at the banquet with his nobles? That act of wickedness was visited by an immediate and terrible retribution; and the handwriting on the wall shortly changed that scene of revelry and proud defiance of Jehovah, for one of trembling, lamentation, and woe. Such, however, is not the usual course of the providence of God, as may be seen in many instances, and among others in that of the wretched atheist, who, in the frantic violence of revolutionary frenzy, stood up in one of the churches at Paris, and publicly defied the Almighty to strike him dead if he could. The miserable and guilty man stood unhurt. The fire of heaven did not consume him in a moment, but it was not the less true that, by his blasphemy, he was treasuring up for himself wrath against the day of wrath.

The conduct of the Directors is indeed daring, and practically it bids defiance to the Almighty. Though it cannot be denied, that abstinence from labor during the whole of the Sabbath is enjoined, their language is,

“We know it; we admit that God has said it; nevertheless we think it right to assign to it certain limits. This we judge to be reasonable, though no such limits we confess appear in the law itself, neither are we aware that they can elsewhere be discovered. We therefore resolve that in so far as we are concerned, to the middle of this day only shall a religious character belong, and that in its morning and evening our business on the Railway shall proceed as usual, and our servants shall labor just as on other days. This we regard as an improvement on the law, making it in general less irksome, and the day to us less unprofitable.”

On what authority is it that the Directors dare to limit the duty of sanctifying the Lord’s day to a part of that day? There is no such limitation in the first announcement of the law at the creation; none in its promulgation at Sinai; none in its distinguishing and final designation of the Lord’s day. In all these it is the DAY, the whole day, after “the six working days,” Ezek. 46:1, that God has reserved for himself, without the most distant intimation of his requiring only part of it. In those countries which are under the influence of that apostate Church, which by its traditions has made void God’s law, the early or middle part only is regarded as of a religious character, while the rest of the day is devoted to business or recreation. Is it then to the “man of sin,” that the Edinburgh Railway Company are indebted for the example which they are to be the first to exhibit in Scotland, of cutting off from the time of the sanctification of the Sabbath, the morning and the evening of that day?

The reason, however, alleged for this impious limitation of the Sabbath is, the “duty of the Directors to afford the fullest accommodation to the public in the use of the Railway.” The public, then, must believe that for their accommodation, it is the duty of these Directors to bid defiance to the authority of God. The public requires no such sacrifice, and no such accommodation. On the contrary, that part of the public which has expressed an opinion on this measure, “among whose ranks,” as the proposer of the motion observed, “are to be found, men for whose lofty intellect—for whose great learning and piety— and for whose unbounded benevolence in the cause of human welfare, for time and eternity, it is impossible not to entertain feelings of the profoundest reverence,”—that part of the public, as well as the public in general, has loudly reclaimed against its daring criminality. They desire no such accommodation; it has not hitherto been afforded to them, and they have not suffered for the want of it. But even had the public desired it, they would have had no right to such accommodation, because it could not be obtained but by unlawful means. But under this hypocritical mask of deeming it their duty to accommodate the public, the real object which the Directors attempt to conceal is easily discovered. In giving their subscriptions for forming the Railway, and taking all the trouble to manage its concerns, it was not the accommodation of the public, but their own emolument they had in view. They would smile at the simplicity of anyone who should suppose the contrary.

This accommodation of the public, and the unlawful means by which it would be attained, appears to be very similar to the accommodation afforded by those who keep a house for the reception of stolen goods, which no doubt proves, like this Sabbath desecration, a mutual accommodation to all who are connected with it. In the same manner, the purposed employment of the Railway “in the morning and in the evening of Sunday,” will work. Those who travel on it at those times will receive from the Directors this accommodation, and the Directors, on the other hand, who prove that in this matter, they neither fear God nor regard man, will receive from them their hire, thus justly acquiring for themselves the designation of Balaamites, since they “run greedily after the error of Balaam, who loved the wages of unrighteousness.” “Will a man rob God? yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse.” It is not in tithes and offerings that the Directors of this Railway are to be enjoined to rob God, but in what regards the weightier matters of the law—in seizing as their own, and devoting to their own emolument[3], what God has reserved for himself, and what he has forbidden-them to touch. At the creation of man, God in bestowing on him a profusion of blessings, retained the exclusive right to the fruit of one tree, declaring that in the day he eat thereof he should surely die. But man was assured by another, “Thou shalt not surely die,” to whom he listened. No doubt the Directors, if they shall rob God of his right to the Sabbath, will have received from the same quarter a similar assurance.

The Directors, in their presumptuous breach of the fourth commandment, are likewise guilty of breaking the tenth. If the one commandment says: “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy, in it thou shalt not do any work, thou nor thy man servant,” while the Directors say, we and our man servant shall do work on that day; the tenth commandment says, just as explicitly, “Thou shalt not covet.” And what is covetousness? What is it but desiring to possess what does not belong to us, and what God in his providence has withheld? And is it not this unlawful gain which the Directors of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway grasp at by running their trains “in the morning and in the evening of Sunday?” and thus in their eager pursuit of unhallowed profit, regard not the most peremptory prohibitions of the Almighty.

But it is to be enjoined on the Directors, that “their trains shall be run from the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow respectively, in the morning and in the evening of Sunday, but under such rules and regulations as to the times of departure and arrival, as may enable the servants of the Company, and persons travelling along the Railway, to attend Divine service.” Who can deny the piety of this resolution? Who does not admire its marvelous consistency? When Sabbath breakers, nay, wholesale Sabbath breakers, so loudly put forward their claims as the guardians of religion, what may we not expect from other violators of the Divine laws? The same lawgiver who forbids us to rob his service of the hours of his own day, has also commanded that we shall not steal from our neighbors. Henceforth treading in the steps of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway Sabbath breakers,

we may expect that the violators of the eighth comment will cover their guilt with an equal show of godly concern for the religious welfare of their victims. Their leaders may resolve that it is certainly wrong to steal, but they may follow up the resolution with a reservation in favour of those who only increase their own comforts by robbing the rich of their superfluities, and with an exhortation to attend on the ordinances of religion. There have been poets and writers of romance who were delighted to throw an air of generosity and virtue over the depredations of robbers; and on the principles adopted by the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway Directors, there is no single crime forbidden in the Decalogue which may not be dressed out in the meretricious garb of false but ostentatious piety.

By enjoining the Directors to provide opportunity for attending Divine service, both for travelers and servants, they even go beyond the “duty” of the Company to “accommodate” the public. Never did men, flying in the face of the Decalogue, exhibit in a more conspicuous light their zeal for the spiritual edification of all who come within the sphere of their operations. But by what steps do they arrive at the accomplishment of their pious intentions? It is, indeed, a most curious exhibition of the art of serving God and Mammon. They begin by holding out a strong temptation for all who fear not God to violate his holy law, whether for business or pleasure. They do not simply allow trains to be run on such extraordinary emergencies as might on some rare occasions arise, but they provide for the regular and systematic accommodation of hundreds of travelers, concerning whom they know full well that not one in a hundred will at any time be acting under the impulse of a call of charity or necessity. Having thus acted the part of the tempter to the public, and declared one of the laws of God too hard to be observed, they are obliged to carry on their temptation by constraining their servants to engage in Sabbath desecration, under pain of certain dismissal. But, in order to soothe their own consciences, or to silence the scruples of more timid shareholders, the Directors are to be enjoined to enable both the Sunday travelers and their own servants, by their “rules and regulations,” to attend Divine service Is it needful to expose this wretched attempt to gild over an act of ungodliness: As to

travelers who show that they esteem every day alike, and have other purposes in view than the service of God in travelling by Railway trains, can the Directors really hope that they will, at the close of their journey, devoutly hasten to the house and worship of God? It might be interesting to learn what “rules and regulations” will be made for the disposal of the passengers’ luggage, for the attendance of omnibuses and other conveyances, so as to accelerate the period when the weary Sabbath breaker will be enabled, through the pious care of his original tempters, to dismiss his anxieties, and hurry from the scenes of bustle and confusion to the quiet and repose of the house of prayer. Even in that solemn place there is too much reason to fear that his attention must, under such circumstances, be distracted, while the provision for his spiritual welfare will also be made at the cost of much toil and trouble on the part of porters, waiters, and others, brought into unwonted occupation on the Lord’s day.

But if the provision made for the spiritual improvement of Railway travelers too grossly savors of hypocrisy to impose upon any but those willingly deceived, the case of the Railway servants is still more hopeless. Their consciousness of having obtained in the morning the wages of unrighteousness by sacrificing their duty towards God to their temporal interests, will not be a very fit preparation for attending Divine service, which is again to be followed in the evening by another act of premeditated sin. Whatever “rules and regulations” may be made on their behalf will, in many ways, be still more signally frustrated than in the case of the travelers. Away with such hypocritical pretenses! They will not impose upon men; and it is a daring thing to attempt to lie unto God. Can the meeting, who are called on to countenance such artifices, imagine that in this manner they will be able to impose on the public: The audacity of open sin ought to call forth abhorrence, but when its audacity is exchanged for cowardice and hypocrisy, it becomesan object, not merely of abhorrence, but of contempt and disgust.

A letter to the proposer of the motion to be submitted to the Railway Company has been published, from which the following is an extract: “I do not know whether this motion has come entirely from your own mind, or whether several have agreed with you in it; but I here freely state my conviction, formed upon the calm and deliberate study of the motion, and without the slightest desire to use a harsh or improper term, that the motion is blasphemous. You hold in your hand, the two tables of stone, written with God’s finger, and you say, we should obey this, and then you dash them on the ground, and say, it is our duty, notwithstanding, to trample on and defy them Ah! sir, you may call this reason and plain sense, but simpler men can see that it is open mockery of God’s holy law, and of him on whose heart it was graven from eternity. Such lip acknowledgment of God and his law, God hates and despises. I solemnly declare, and it is the feeling of many besides me, that I would have been less shocked if you had written down, “It is the duty of the Directors to break God’s law.” That would have been honest and downright, and thousands would have applauded you. But when you set out with the hypocritical declaration that it is your duty to give implicit obedience to the law of God, and then conclude by declaring your resolution to break it, I believe in my heart that not only will God’s children abhor the blasphemy, but honest worldly men will despise your cowardice.”

The Presbytery of Edinburgh have declared that they look forward to the practical adoption of the proposed resolution of the Railway Company as “a vast outlet for the abounding of Sabbath desecration, and consequently of irreligion, and profligacy, and crime.” And can it be otherwise? Will not their example diffuse a baneful influence in every direction among all the different classes of society Will it not attract and carry multitudes out of the great cities to spend their time in drinking and dissipation in country villages where the Sabbath is still spent after the ancient practice of our Scottish reformers? Look at the scenes of vice and debauchery which have been produced in the vicinity of London by steamers running to Gravesend on the Lord’s day, and by railways at the same time conducting thousands of idlers to Greenwich and other places. The Directors of the Greenwich Railway commenced with fair promises, such as those enjoined on their partners in sin of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Company. They even went so far as to take sittings for their servants in one of the churches adjoining the Railway, and made a boast of their zeal for their attendance on Divine worship. They made a break for this purpose in their hours of travelling in the middle of the day, and seemed to have advanced quite as far as their Scottish friends in combining the service of God and Mammon on their Railway. But the mask was soon thrown off; they found that their hypocrisy was unavailing; that it could not impose upon the religious, and was the scorn of the profligate. The result is that the church sittings were thrown up, the pause in the middle of the Sabbath was abandoned, and

the only mark by which God’s holy day is distinguished from the rest of the week is this—that a double service is exacted of their servants, and the trains begin to run earlier, and continue later. Such is the natural course of compliances in favor of religion made without regard to consistency, sincerity, or principle.

Other effects equally pernicious may be expected to follow the proposed doings of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Directors. Will not their example strike the occupiers of land through which the Railway passes, more especially when it is done under the cloak of reverence for the authority of God, and “duty to the public?” Will not the occupiers of the

land begin to think, that in the exercise of the same implicit obedience to the laws of God and their country, they, too, and their servants, may yoke their ploughs, and do all other work “in the morning and in the evening of Sunday?” Will not many of them be delighted to find it laid down by men accounted respectable; by men not calling themselves atheists or unbelievers, that the morning and evening of the Lord’s day, although hitherto said to be long to God, may now be rightfully seized upon by man. In unfavorable seasons, too, the farmer may resort to the plea of necessity, which it is altogether out of the power of the Company to allege. And this plea of the necessity of not losing a favorable day to plough, to sow, or to gather into their barns, would appear very specious to such as do not feel themselves bound by the absolute command of God, to do all their secular business during the six days, and abstain from it on the seventh, Ex. 34:21; and to such also who account as valueless, that gracious promise, to the faithfulness of which four thousand years bear witness, that, while earth remains, seed time and harvest shall not cease. The agriculturist might also plead his “duty to the public,” in thus providing for a daily increasing population, a greater supply of corn by making the mornings and the evenings of the Sabbath eke out the deficiencies of his six days’ labor. And can it be supposed, that this discovery would long be confined to Railway Directors, and those immediately within the sphere of their corrupting influence? Will it not speedily reach the ears of the owners of cotton mills, collieries, and other establishments, who have hitherto suspended their operations on the Lord’s day, owing, it may be said, to superstitious, fanatical, and old-fashioned notions? Will not the factories and steam-engines shortly be set to work on the Sabbath, to the no small emolument of the owners, and the accommodation of the public Nor let it be supposed, that the evil will stop here. Its tendency is ever onwards, and ere long it will extend to every branch of every trade or industry both in town and country. Let it once be established as a principle, that attendance on Divine Worship is the only peculiar duty of the Lord’s Day; let it once be admitted that the morning and evening may be devoted to travelling, and usual secular occupations, and very soon it will be found that in whatever occupations men are engaged, all will be expected to surrender so much of the Sabbath as will suit the convenience or the “accommodation of the public.” Thus, the work and the gains of six days will be spread over seven; and men will sigh too late for the rest which they once obtained when obeying the merciful dispensation of their beneficent Creator, who, in the exercise of his sovereign will, reserved for himself one day out of seven, but orders the course of Providence so as to make its subtraction a blessing and a gain to those by whom this precept is honored. It will be vain to appeal to the law of the country for the protection of the rest of the Sabbath, when it is openly infringed by Railway Directors. The law must be impartial, and if not put forth to arrest the progress of trains on

the “Sunday,” it cannot consistently be applied to prevent any other kind of labor on that day.

Was there ever such a motion as that which is to be pressed on the meeting of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway Company on the 22d of next month? Its object is to enjoin on the Directors the “duty” of doing all manner of work on the Sabbath, for it must be remembered, that much is included in the running of trains. There are not only engineers and conductors, but clerks, book-keepers, porters, drivers with their horses, all employed. This injunction, then, if nakedly proposed, might at first startle some of the meeting, and prove too great a shock to the public, although intended for “their accommodation.” Three covers are accordingly provided to hide its atrocity. First, we have the impiously hypocritical pretext of giving implicit obedience to the law of God. Next it assumes the mask of a desire to accommodate the public. And lastly, it solicits favor under the devout promise of securing, by “rules and regulations,” the attendance on Divine Service of the godly travelers and conscientious servants of the Company, who are to be their coadjutors in desecrating the Sabbath. Must, then, the grossest dissimulation be thus superadded to deliberate defiance of the authority of God? Must it be called in to cloak the enormity of this presumptuous sin?

And, after all, what is it that prompts this Railway Company to incur the guilt of so audacious an infraction of the Divine Commandment? Can any other motive be assigned than that of sordid avarice 2 And whence do they expect their unhallowed gain, beyond the profit they may lawfully obtain by their undertaking? It cannot arise from that class of society who fear God and keep his commandments. None of them will be partakers in their iniquity. Nor can it be expected from the travelling of men of business on the Sabbath, even such of them as regard not the Divine authority. All of these must proceed on their journey, if they cannot be “accommodated” on the Sabbath, as opportunities offer on the other days. It can only accrue, then, from the hire to be obtained from the unprincipled and ungodly, –from those who neither reverence the ordinances of God, nor concern themselves about the welfare of their fellow men. It cannot be disputed, that, to people who have no pleasure but in the things of time and sense, the Sabbath is a heavy and tedious day, a day on which they gladly seize upon any amusement or occupation which may relieve them from their own reflections, and the listlessness produced by a cessation from their usual pursuits. In our time, as in the days of old, there are too many who are practically saying, “What a weariness is it,” and “When will the Sabbath be over, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances of deceit? No doubt such will gladly avail themselves of the “accommodation” offered by the Railway Directors. Many also who have no love to the Sabbath, but still value the holiday it brings, will, like the London passengers to Greenwich, Gravesend, or Richmond, enjoy the amusement of a rapid conveyance to Glasgow or Edinburgh, bypassing from the one city to the other in the morning, spending the interval in mirth and jollity, and finishing the evening by returning to their starting point. To such persons nothing could be a greater “accommodation” than the running of the trains “in the morning and in the evening of Sunday.” These travelers, notwithstanding the “‘rules and regulations” of these Sabbath breaking Directors, and the opportunities provided for uniting the practice of impiety with the due attendance on Divine worship, will find out other methods of passing the intermediate portion of the day far more consistent with their habits, and far more congenial with their tastes and feelings. From characters of this description the Directors may expect a double meed[4] of gratitude for the happy discovery of a new “duty,” which provides for the most unworthy portion of the “public” such facilities for gratifying their most ungodly inclinations. But is it, indeed possible, that for the miserable emolument to arise from such a source, men holding a respectable position in society can be content to lead the way in revolutionizing the moral and religious habits of a nation? Is it for the paltry gains to be derived from such a source that they will be content to dismiss from their employment every sober, honest, and industrious servant, who fears to take “the wages of unrighteousness,” and who cannot regard it as a “duty” to assist in desecrating the Lord’s day, by running trains from Edinburgh to Glasgow, and back again, “in the morning and in the evening of Sunday?”

This is a part of the subject, which in a peculiar manner comes home not only to the conscience, but to the pockets of the shareholders. Have they well considered the consequences of driving from their employment every honest man who fears God and keeps his commandments Do they imagine that men can be familiarized with the breach of one commandment without endangering their reverence for the rest? Do they suppose that men who are taught to rob God of the morning and evening of his own day, will be slow to learn that it is also allowable to rob their employers? When the Directors lead the way in one species of wickedness, where is the barrier they can erect for the prevention of others? By what holy sanction can they enforce the practice of sobriety, which is a virtue so essential to the safety as well as the accommodation of travelers on a railway? They cannot appeal to the law of God, for they have themselves trampled it under foot. They cannot exhort to the duty of honesty, for he that said, “Thou shalt not steal,” also said “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” In short, the Directors, by their conduct, break down the hedge which God himself has planted to defend from violation every tittle of the moral law, and we know who it is that has written, “Whoso breaks an hedge a serpent shall bite him.”[5]

I have been informed from undoubted authority, that some time ago a most extensive system of fraud was discovered as prevailing among the persons employed in one of the greatest railways in England. There was an extensive conspiracy among the men employed, who judged it to be a “duty” to themselves and families to augment their own wages by taking a portion of the gains of their employers. In order to prevent such acts of dishonesty, it has been found necessary to introduce a system of espionage. It has also been observed, that many of the accidents happen on Monday on those railways where the traffic is greater on the Sabbath than on the other days of the week. Respectable men who have a regard for their own spiritual welfare, and the religious education of their children, shun employment on the railways. An inferior class of servants must necessarily be taken into employment. Besides, everyone knows that a weekly day of rest is most important, if only viewed as a stated pause in the continued bustle and hurry of business. Without this the mind gets harassed, and loses its elasticity and tone. An eminent lawyer in London once expressed his surprise to another equally eminent, that the latter was able to get through so much more business than himself, considering that he always worked on the Sunday, and his friend did not. The reply was, “It is simply because I never look at a law-paper on Sunday, that I am able to do more than you during the other six days. You reserve your most difficult cases for the Sunday, and therefore return on Monday fatigued to your chambers, whereas I return refreshed and invigorated.” In England, I am informed, the Railway Directors have found it was impossible to get on at all, without giving an occasional day of respite from labor; and I have heard of at least one set of Directors who have, after the manner of the French Revolutionists, adopted the system of decades. The effect of this is to render it necessary to employ one man in ten more than would be necessary if they did not work on the Sabbath. Consequently, one-tenth part of the wages paid by the Company must be deducted from their unrighteous gains on that day. If to this we add the losses both of life and property sustained by the want of men of real religious principle, the accidents occasioned by intemperance, carelessness, hurry, and still more by sleep, induced by fatigue, and losses from all these causes, which could be proved to have occurred, —it will be found that the unholy gains derived from Sunday traffic are reduced to a very small affair. I also add, that believing in the providence of God, and in a righteous Judge, who will vindicate his own laws, that even in a pecuniary point of view running trains on the Sunday will prove a bad speculation.

In a late address relative to the Directors of a railway in England, it is said: “Their continuing their six days’ work on God’s holy day can be esteemed no other than an insult offered to the Almighty. And we declare, on the authority of the word of God, which cannot fail (“for heaven and earth shall pass away, but HIs words shall not pass away”), that however they may be deceived by a love of filthy lucre, and however cheered forward by a world which serves God only when it suits its purpose, that they must every one of them give an account to God for this willful, indefensible, and most flagrant breach of one of his most holy and merciful commandments—for all the evil consequences, temporal and eternal, by which their wicked example is accompanied, and for the ruin they are bringing on the principles and prospects of their workmen and dependents. “Throughout all generations it has been one of the most striking features of the conduct of evil and worldly men to serve God up to the point that was consistent with their convenience and interest, and at this point to break off and serve themselves. From the murderous Herod who heard John the Baptist “gladly,” and at his instigation “did many things” (in the style of these performances of the Railway Company), till he fancied it best suited his convenience to murder him—from this murderer, we say, upwards into the antediluvian world, and downwards to the present day, this has been one of the most striking and mournful characteristics of men, who were too timid to cast off God altogether, and yet too much enchained to their lusts, of one kind or other, simply to obey God’s plain commandments.

“And yet it might have been thought, a priori, that whatever commandment was doomed to be trampled underfoot by foolish men, this fourth commandment, standing in one marked, peculiar manner, at the head of all the commandments, and involving in its breach the abandonment equally of the first and second tables of the sacred Decalogue, might have induced at least outward respect and obedience. We allude, of course, to the fact, that, far from this commandment having any Jewish origin, as some ignorant persons imagine, and who accordingly call a Scriptural regard to the Lord’s day a Jewish observance of it, that it is the first and only commandment announced within the first forty verses of the sacred record, and was imposed, in mercy, even upon our first parents in their state of uprightness and innocence. All God’s commandments are commandments of mercy. Why is it that we are not a world of happy creatures Simply because we do not obey them. But this command of resting one day in seven from our usual work, is a commandment of such especial mercy, and is so indispensable for our good, not only religiously, but also morally and physically, and this even before the fall, that we have it recorded that it was annunciated at the period of the creation, which is not the case in respect of any other of the commandments whatever!

“And what are these Railway Directors doing? They are apparently without shame, without excuse, without necessity, merely for filthy lucre’s sake, trampling this blessed command of the Almighty, so given, statedly under their feet; obliging hundreds, nay, thousands, of their engineers, guards, drivers, porters, purveyors, statedly to break the Sabbath; opening up far wider vents than ever, by which the irreligion and profligacy of the cities are poured over the rural districts of the country, and are now, in truth (with the owners of the pleasure steam-vessels), the chief panderers to the drunkenness, the seductions, and all descriptions of immorality, which, through their instrumentality, keep higher holiday on God’s sacred day, than during all the week besides. And these men talk of their chapels, and religious schools, and places for Divine worship, and to have their conduct commended and held up for imitation of the country! It is a smoke in the nose. It is a mean hypocrisy that deserves stripes. It is a thief boasting of his alms-giving. It is Herod doing ‘many things’ at the bidding of John the Baptist, whom he immured in a dungeon.[6]

“We beseech the men of principle still connected with these railways, to be bestirring themselves. Of course, they can only remain members of them in the expectation of doing away with the wickedness. But surely their expectation must be ever operative. It must be practical and effective. Men are not only sinning at the instigation of the Railway, who otherwise would not so sin, but they are being called away to the bar of God to answer for their sin, committed under the command of the Companies, and for which their chairmen and directors and entire members will be called ere long to answer too.

“Laugh at this, ye men of the world, if you choose, or if you dare, But it is TRUTH. We challenge any or all of you, to prove that it is not truth. And if it be TRUTH; and if the commandments of God are not a jest, and if eternity be not a fable, and if God’s existence is not a lie, and if he has annunciated that “he is not mocked, will you calmly consider and answer us, What is your position with reference to this thing?”

The Edinburgh Presbytery published on the 15th of last month a strong remonstrance, which has already been alluded to, against this intended profanation of the Lord’s day. They resolved as follows:

  1. That the Presbytery have heard with regret and alarm, of the determination, to the adoption of which the Directors of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railroad lately came, of running carriages on the Lord’s day.
  2. That the Presbytery had sanguinely hoped, in consequence of private communications with several of the Directors, that the proposal of opening the Railroad for Sabbath travelling was happily to be abandoned; and that, in the cherishing of this Christian hope, they did, at their Meeting in October last, address the Company, by respectful Memorial, for the purpose of strengthening the supposed Resolution against a threatened evil, rather than of deprecating the probable infliction of it.

III. That now, after all the remonstrances and petitions which, on the subject of Sabbath desecration, have issued from Presbyteries, Synods, and Assemblies of the Church; and, after all the demonstrations of sentiment on the subject, that have come forth from other Religious bodies, from Associations formed in protection of the sacred rest of the Lord’s day, from the Pulpit, and from the Press, it is with surprise, as well as with regret and alarm, that the Presbytery view the Resolution which the Directors of the Railroad Company have recently passed; a Resolution subversive of the great principle which the fourth commandment of the Divine Decalogue was intended to conserve and to perpetuate.

  1. That the Presbytery look forward, therefore, to the practical adoption of this Resolution by the Railroad Company as a vast outlet for the abounding of Sabbath desecration, and consequently of irreligion, and profligacy, and crime.
  2. That the Presbytery do most earnestly call upon and beseech all within their bounds, Ministers, Elders, and Church-Members, to take up and cherish an anxious concern on this important and vital subject; to bestir themselves for the warning of all whom they can move and influence, on the sanction and the duty of Sabbath observance; and, likewise, to follow out such steps as are competent and may be useful, through Kirk Sessions, Associations, and other means, for addressing remonstrances, memorials, and petitions to the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railroad Company, previous to the Meeting which is soon to beheld of the shareholders, that the Resolution which has been passed by the Directors may be revised, and, if possible, happily annulled.
  3. That the Presbytery appoint these Resolutions to be published immediately in the newspapers, and commit the care of seeing this done to their Sabbath—Observance Committee.

Every right-minded man in Scotland will fully acquiesce in the appropriateness of these seasonable resolutions, containing, as they do, truths calculated to make a deep impression on all who tremble at the word of God. So far the Presbytery have well discharged their duty, and their watchfulness and fidelity ought to be applauded. But something still remains to be done; something which cannot be law fully neglected, but which, if decisively carried into effect, must produce a solemn and powerful impression in the country. The Presbytery of Edinburgh, and all other Presbyteries in Scotland, as well as Churches of all denominations, are bound to go the full length which the law of God enjoins upon them, and publicly to exclude from their communion those who shall pass, and practically act upon, a resolution, “subversive of the great principle which the fourth commandment of the Divine Decalogue was intended to conserve and to perpetuate, the practical adoption of which will open a vast outlet for the abounding of Sabbath desecration, and consequently of irreligion, and profligacy, and crime.” If ever there was a call for the exercise of church discipline, on account of a flagrant sin, justly held forth as being in itself so insulting to Almighty God, and in its consequences so ruinous to the souls of men, it must surely be listened to and obeyed on this occasion. Its object, and the duty of enforcing it, is well expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith, in the following words:


“Church censures are necessary for the reclaiming and gaining of offending brethren, for deterring of others from the like offences, for purging out of that leaven which might infect the whole lump, for vindicating the honor of Christ and the holy professionof the gospel, and for preventing the wrath of God, which might justly fall upon the church, if they should suffer his covenant, and the seals thereof, to be profaned by notorious and obstinate offenders.

For the better attaining of these ends, the officers of the church are to proceed by admonition, suspension from the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper for a season, and by excommunication from the church, according to the nature of the crime, and demerit of the person.”

If all this be attended to, its salutary effects may confidently be expected. When the Directors of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway discover that by carrying into practical effect the resolution to run their trains upon “Sunday,” they are pointed out as the profane objects of such merited censures; when they find that they are excluded from church privileges, both in public and in private, it is to be hoped that, by the blessing of God, they may be led to repent of the wrong they have done, so that the great crime they have perpetrated may be pardoned and done away. At all events, those by whom this church discipline shall have been administered, will approve themselves to be clear in this matter, and enjoy the consciousness of having done what they could to uphold the honor of God’s law, to vindicate it from a shameful and impious attack, and to avert those fearful consequences which they so justly apprehend from its violation.

Are any disposed to consider the language employed in the preceding pages as too strong Let them remember that the Scripture uses the strongest language in cases of flagrant criminality. In the case before us, the gentlest and most conciliatory methods have been resorted to without success. In order to screen themselves from the odium of their audacious proposal, the Directors of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway are now calling upon the English shareholders to grant them their concurrence. Can any language be too strong to denounce the wicked mess of men, who, in regard to the observance of the Sabbath, seem to exclaim with the proud monarch of Egypt, “Who is the Lord, that we should obey his voice?” Pharaoh himself was willing to obey the command he received in part; but, like these Directors, he was desirous to make a compromise with God, a compromise which might secure his worldly interests, and avert the consequences of his rebellion. But God is not a man, that he should lie, or the son of man, that he should repent; and those who dare to tamper with his laws, shall sooner or later experience the consequences of braving his vengeance. “Who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered?”

In attempting to desecrate the Lord’s day, by introducing a practice hitherto unknown in Scotland, the Directors are doing the work of the prince of darkness; they are, like Ahab, “setting themselves to do evil,” striving to perpetuate and extend the kingdom of Satan, rushing on the thick bosses of Jehovah’s buckler, and bringing down on their own guilty heads the blood of souls taken in their snare, and destroyed by their instrumentality. It is remarkable, that the very times of the Sabbath chosen by the Directors as those which they purpose to unsanctify, are those very seasons which God specially distinguished, as intimating his purpose that the whole of it should be set apart for his peculiar service, by appointing the usual sacrifices to be doubled in the morning and in the evening of that sacred day.

On the subject of the Lord’s day, I quote the following extracts from a work published two hundred years ago, by Dr. Bayley, bishop of Bangor; and I particularly commend it to the attention of the English shareholders, more especially as England has never fully recovered the bitter effects of the encouragement given to Sabbath desecration by “the Book of Sports.”[7] “It is certain, that he who makes no conscience to break the Sabbath, will mot, to serve his turn, make any conscience to break any of the other commandments, so that he may do it without discredit of his reputation, or danger of man’s law.” “He is not far from true piety who makes conscience to keep the Sabbath day; but he who can dispense with his conscience to break the Sabbath for his own profit or pleasure, his heart never yet felt what either the fear of God or true religion means.” “Whatever is gotten by common working on this day shall never be blessed by the Lord; but it will prove like Achan’s gold, which, being got contrary to the Lord’s commandment, brought the fire of God’s curse upon all the rest which he had lawfully gotten. And if Christ scourged them out as thieves who bought and sold in his temple, which was but a ceremony shortly to be abrogated, is it to be thought that he will ever suffer those to escape unpunished, who, contrary to his commandment, buy and sell on the Sabbath day, which is his perpetual law Christ calleth such sacrilegious thieves ; and as well may they steal the communion cup from the Lord’s table, as steal from God the chiefest part of the Lord’s day, to consume it in their own lusts. Such shall one day find the judgments of God heavier than the opinions of men.”

Never was Scotland called to engage in struggle more momentous than the present. This contest is the more dangerous because the attack on the Divine law is made with subtlety, prompted by the natural covetousness of the human heart, seducing men into open rebellion against a standing ordinance of the Most High. Should the impious resolution which has been announced, —publicly, systematically, and extensively, to desecrate the Lord’s day, —be carried into effect, Scotland must resign the honor of having more than any other nation upon earth done reverence to the Sabbath day. Great are the blessings pronounced by God on those who remember it, to keep it holy. Great has been the honor which God has put upon this country, and it cannot be doubted by any Christian that much of its moral character has been due to the observance of the Sabbath. It is an ascertained fact that Sabbath breaking has generally been the first step in the career of those who have suffered for a breach of the laws of their country; and both in the case of individuals and nations, their regard for the sacredness of the Lord’s day may be taken as a good index to their moral character.

It is still earnestly to be hoped, that the Directors of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway Company will become convinced of the crime and aggravation of outraging the laws of God, and of the impolicy of adopting a measure so deeply fraught with evil to their country. At present it is comparatively easy for them to abandon their proposed resolution, before they shall have willfully incurred the awful guilt of mocking the Almighty to his face, and for the sake of the wages of unrighteousness, spreading snares in which to involve with themselves their unhappy victims in final and irretrievable ruin.

The Sabbath is a day which beautifully sets forth the long-suffering, goodness, and enduring mercy of JEHOVAH. Most of the Divine institutions under the law, and some of the ordinances of the gospel, are peculiarly intended to bring to our remembrance the guilt, or the consequences of sin. The Sabbath, on the contrary, traces its origin to a time when man walked in innocence, and to a place which was hallowed by the immediate presence of the Lord. The children of Israel were not commanded to observe a day which neither they nor their fathers had known, but rather to “remember” an institution which they had forgotten in the cruel bondage of Egypt, and to keep holy a day which their God still continued to claim as his inalienable property. Jesus Christ came not to destroy, but to fulfil the law and the prophets; and having himself declared the Sabbath to be his own, so by his inspired apostles he has left the impress of his name upon one day of seven.

Amidst the joys of Eden man delighted to walk with God, and hailed the privilege of communion with his Creator. Amidst the cares and trials of a troubled and sinful world, the Christian too delights to hallow the Lord’s Day, and thus to participate in its present benefits, and its emblematic happiness. He sees in it the loving-kindness of his Lord, at once providing for him a retreat from labor, and a fountain at which to refresh his weary soul. He feels it to be in itself a comfort, and in its enjoyment he descries by faith the rest which remains to the people of God.

But while the Sabbath is rightly prized only by the Christian, it blesses all who in any degree repose beneath its shadow, while those who violate its peace wrong their own bodies, as well as their own souls. It is an institution of mercy, and those who themselves break the Sabbath, or cause it to be broken by others, will assuredly reap the bitter reward which belongs to such as “forsake their own mercies.” Some among the most celebrated of those who have been most occupied with the cares of the world, statesmen and others, have left on record their sense of the importance of the Sabbath. Others there are of great name whose minds have broken down under the pressure of continuous labor, and left behind them an involuntary and lamentable testimony to the consequences of unhallowed Sabbaths, and a violated commandment. It is indeed a day which never can be neglected with impunity, or observed without profit.


APPENDIX to “The Purposed Desecration of the Sabbath, and Railway Desecration”


Since the publication of the first edition of the preceding remarks, a circular has appeared, in which the real object of the desecration of the Sabbath by the Directors of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway is openly avowed. It was time to drop the mask, and cease by dissimulation to shock the common sense of the country. It is now without disguise announced that the hope of gain is the crowning, if not the only motive of the purposed desecration. It is unblushingly proclaimed that the greatest “bigot” will not deny that the shareholders may expect to divide four thousand pounds a-year by running trains on the Sunday. This at least is honest; although it be a species of honesty from which mankind for the most part shrink back with horror. It has been truly said that hypocrisy is the homage which vice pays to virtue, or profanity to religion. And while there is in hypocrisy something that is low and pitiful, there is in the brazen front of avowed wickedness more that is calculated to appeal even the most daring veteran in iniquity. Nor is it in the bold transgression of the moral law that we shall find any of that true courage which adds dignity to its possessor. Still less can we talk of dignity in connection with an appeal to the most sordid passions of fallen humanity, an appeal to the love of “money,” which is “the root of all evil.”

It was the object of the foregoing pages to expose the various ways in which it was attempted to deceive the shareholders, so as to induce them the more readily to overlook the flagrant violation of the law of God, involved in the running of trains on the Lord’s day. It would appear as if all such devices are found fruitless, and that it is necessary at once, and without farther concealment, to appeal to the baser feelings of pure selfishness. It was obviously impossible altogether to hide from the public the shameful and degrading fact, that the really actuating principle of the Railway Sabbath breakers, is nothing short of a desire to grasp by any means, however dishonorable and unlawful, the wages of unrighteousness. Having betrayed the divine commandment with a kiss, it is now their avowed object to possess themselves of the four thousand pounds annually, –the thirty pieces of silver. This is the shameful and degrading fact which all along was transparent through the veil of dissimulation; but it is now publicly announced by those who deem it no disgrace to head an attack upon the law of God. Who can envy the position they have assumed? Who would not shudder at the thought of a victory, whose triumph will be celebrated in the regions of darkness by the enemy of God and man?

In the Scriptures it is solemnly announced, “The soul that doeth ought presumptuously, the same reproacheth the Lord; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people.” When the advocates of Sabbath desecration reflect on their conduct, it behooves them to tremble. As it regards man, let them consider the contempt which pitiful and grasping covetousness never fails to excite, a contempt which is mingled with abhorrence, when it drives men into open rebellion against the divine law, and to the perpetration of an evil which will entail misery and wretchedness on their country. The very contemplation of such a prostitution at the shrine of Mammon ought to overwhelm the Directors with shame and remorse.

To those among the shareholders who may feel some doubts and misgivings, as to the vote, in favor of this outrage, which they are solicited to give, I would recommend for their serious consideration the impressive import of the following words, “Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith; for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” But let them observe that the allusion is here to matters indifferent in themselves, and not to what involves our obligations to God. No man is excusable in committing sin, although ignorant that it is sin. Where knowledge of duty is attainable, ignorance of it is a crime; for even where the sin is “hid from the eyes” of those by whom it is committed, atonement in order to forgiveness is indispensable. —Lev. 4:13. Although, therefore, any of the shareholders of this railway may entertain no doubt or scruple as to the lawfulness of giving their vote for employing it in making gain on the Sabbath, this will not exonerate them if the thing be wrong in itself. It imports them, therefore, to weigh the question in the balances of the sanctuary, and to submit to the decision of the Word of God. In appealing to that unerring standard they cannot fail to discover, that if they consent to the purposed profanation of the Lord’s day, they will be guilty of SACRILEGE. “Sacrilege,” says Dr. Johnson, “is the crime of appropriating to himself what is devoted to religion; the crime of robbing heaven; the crime of violating or profaning things sacred.” If carrying on business on a railway in the Sabbath for the sake of the gain that may accrue from it, does not render a man guilty of this act of wickedness, what is it that can do so: “Thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?” If the god of this world shall succeed in so far blinding the eyes of those concerned in this railway, as to lead them to the perpetration of the sin contemplated, he will gain a double advantage. He will have provoked to the commission of a national sin, which will one day be visited on this country; and he will reap for himself an abundant harvest, to be gathered in in due season, in the final ruin of multitudes by whom it has been committed.

Fatal accidents are continually occurring on the railways. Ought not this to be traced to the displeasure of God in witnessing the unceasing violation, by their means, of his Holy Law? Let it not be said that such accidents might have occurred even had there been no such insult offered to the majesty of Heaven. This is true; but it is no less certain, that were men wise enough to watch the dealings of Providence, it would be found that there is more righteous retribution in God’s government of the world than is commonly supposed. Of this the Old Testament Scriptures furnish the fullest proof. Railway Sabbath business is not an occasional, but an habitual and presumptuous breach of the law of the Sabbath, repeated every week, as often as it interposes its authority, and proclaims by a voice from heaven—Six days shalt thou labor, and do, all thy work: but the seventh is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt do no work. In extenuation of this daring contravention of the Divine authority, it is sometimes said that private carriages are often used, and journeys made on the Sabbath. This may, in various circumstances, take place from necessity, and therefore, though in other cases wrong, for which those who are guilty must be answerable, cannot be altogether prevented. But it is quite different from a regular system of traffic, carrying on the ordinary business of life for gain, and making merchandise of the labor of the seventh day, without the shadow of necessity. Is it possible to conceive a more flagrant infraction of the law of God? Is not the execution of the awful threatening, uttered against the Israelites of old, equally to be dreaded in this instance? “Shall I not visit for these things? Says the Lord: and shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?” “Ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the Sabbath.’”


[1] Robert Haldane, On the Purposed Desecration of the Sabbath by the Directors of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway, with an Appendix Occasioned by a Recent Circular Avowing Their Real Object, 3rd ed. (Edinburgh: William Whyte & Co., 1842).

[2] A full discussion of this subject, by the author, has within these few days been published, entitled, “The permanent obligation to observe the Sabbath or Lord’s day, proved by reference to its original institution in Paradise, its solemn confirmation at Sinai, and its final recognition by our Lord and his Apostles.”

[3] I.e., payment, financial benefit.

[4]I.e., a deserved share or reward.

[5] N. b., Ecclesiastes 10:8.

[6] And is it in this way, may the Directors of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway say—Is it in this way that our “rules and regulations,” to enable our travelers and servants to attend Divine service are to be spoken of. We certainly hoped that our enabling them weekly to attend Divine service, to compensate for our enabling them weekly to break the Divine law, would have been spoken of in terms very different.

[7] N.b., the “Book of Sports” refers to a controversy surrounding an order instituted by King James I of England on the subject of what recreations were acceptable to be done on the Sabbath day. Puritan opposition to the book was fierce.


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