3. Sunday and Holiday Work
We cannot be too thankful that the law of the land and the customs of the countries in which we live give us the Lord's Day free from the ordinary business of the week. While not under the law of the Sabbath (if we were, we should have most rigidly to observe the seventh day, Saturday, not the first), there is an evident necessity for a period of rest, one day out of the seven, needed by all alike, and doubly prized by the child of God as affording a cessation from that constant strain of business which is racking to nerves, mind, and heart alike.
"The Lord's Day," what hallowed associations, what precious privileges, what memories of happy enjoyment cluster about it! Although it has been greatly misunderstood by our fathers, and something of the rigor of the Jewish Sabbath imposed upon it, yet even so we are sure it was far better than the lawlessness which is now coming in like a flood and wiping away every vestige of reverence. Thank God for the day set apart to His worship. Even broad-minded statesmen cannot fail to see the menace there lies in turning this day into one of mere recreation and amusement. The loss of the fear of God is felt by the State, sooner or later; and it is to the best interests of government, looked at in purely this secular way, when by the individual, the family and the community, there is a wholesome regard for the proprieties and responsibilities of the first day of the week.
But our concern is not directly with all this: only let us see to it that we do not use our liberty and freedom from the law as an occasion to the flesh, and spend this precious day in idleness or worse, and set such an example that the world thinks of us as careless as themselves.
The Lord's Day, then, will be one of special enjoyment. The careful housekeeper will begin to provide for it in advance, by seeing that all possible work is got out of the way, while the members of the family endeavor to clear up as much as possible all necessary duties, so that they can rise fresh and bright and ready for the joys of the Day. Saturday night will not be made a time for all sorts of things that rob of necessary sleep, so that there is an excuse for sleeping late on Lord's Day morning. We may be pardoned for speaking in this plain way, but are persuaded that most of our readers will see the cause. With all of us, perhaps, there is a tendency to rob the Lord of His due by treating His day as one of mere family repose. We do not of course speak of the necessity perhaps for a little season of rest for those who have to rise up early and sit up late all through the week: but let it not be overdone and large numbers, without doubt, can rise as early on this day as throughout the week.
Two questions confront us. We have our private and public privileges on the Lord's Day. The one must not conflict with the other, and we cannot therefore lay down rules. For instance, those who have Sunday-school classes, and in addition possibly some extra gospel work, will find that if they attend the regular meetings for worship and ministry, together with these others, the day will be so fully occupied that there will perhaps be but little more time to devote to study than on any day in the week. We must not attempt to lay any burden upon these, only suggesting that they keep up, if possible, the brief period which they have allowed for study during the week. Of course, if one is spending from one to two hours daily, he will scarcely have that much time on the Lord's Day, and would not need it; but for those who have the fifteen minute or half hour schedule, we would suggest, if possible, that they continue to use that time.
But instead of going on with fresh work, we would suggest that these spend the time in a review of what has been gone over in the past week. The portion which has been memorized might be all reviewed and it would be very interesting at some time during the day, when the whole family can be together, for all to recite the verses which they have been learning.
The note-book for the previous week could be read over, and the questions which have been asked in it or put upon the margin of the Bible could be looked at to see if we have yet reached any definite answer as to some things. In this way, there would be no constraint felt to force work; and the very cessation from the usual routine will leave one with further hunger for the next morning.
We speak separately of those who have more leisure on the Lord's Day. Perhaps these have only a morning Sunday-school, which, with the meeting, and the gospel at night, is all of their public activity, with possibly a visit or two sometime during the afternoon. These might very profitably spend an hour in the afternoon in some general reading which bears particularly upon their study during the week, and in the review which we have above indicated. Sometimes one who has held quite rigidly to the fifteen minutes of the daily study will rejoice to devote an hour or two in the afternoon to more careful and prolonged work than he has been able to give during the week. So we feel that for all, the Lord's Day, so far from interfering with the regular routine of work, will serve to impress its results upon our memory and interest, and thus in liberty and joy we can take up on the following day what is never a burden, but a delight.
There are a number of holidays, too, during the year — single days such as New Year and others, and the longer holiday during the summer which many enjoy. We would suggest that the Lord's interests be not left out in the increasing leisure that we have. In the day of Israel's joy, and at the time of their feasts, there was ever to be remembered the Lord's share in the way of tithes and the care for His poor. Conscience will be kept clear, and the recreation sweetened, if the Lord is thus given His place in it all.
We might add a word, perhaps not greatly needed, for any over-conscientious persons who unduly burden themselves with routine and other work, and turn all into a semi-legal bondage. These should see to it that they do not misrepresent the grace of our Lord by making Him a hard master in the slightest degree. There is no service like the service of love; no devotion like that which comes from the heart set free by His grace. Let us see to it that we are living in the joy of that grace which makes duty joy, and labor rest.