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Title: A few words on the Crystal Palace Question
Author: Vaughan, Charles John
Language: English
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Transcribed from the 1852 John Murray edition by David Price

                               A FEW WORDS
                       THE CRYSTAL PALACE QUESTION.

                                * * * * *


                        CHARLES JOHN VAUGHAN, D.D.

                      HEAD MASTER OF HARROW SCHOOL.

                                * * * * *


                      JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET;
                      MACMILLAN AND CO., CAMBRIDGE.


                                * * * * *

                   PRINTED BY W. NICOL, 60, PALL MALL.

                                * * * * *


No Clergyman who values his own ease will write on either side of a
question connected however remotely with that of Sunday observance.  If
he takes the one side, the world accuses him of bigotry: if the other,
his brethren stigmatize him as a Latitudinarian.  What is worse, he runs
the risk of either furnishing a handle to the irreligious, or perplexing
and depressing the thoughtful and serious.

Nor is the danger removed by his occupying a position of the utmost
possible moderation, acknowledging the strength of both sides, and
endeavouring to adjust with all evenness their conflicting claims.  The
only result is, that he becomes the prey of both parties: each holds on
its way, and the voice of candour is silenced by the uproar.

Yet the truth must be spoken.  No personal considerations ought to
suppress it.  No anxiety for the cause of good can justify a timid
compromise with error.

It is impossible to reflect without a sense of deep disquiet upon the
present position of the Sunday question in England.  It is a point on
which men’s professions are at war with their conduct.  It is a point on
which traditional ideas are held in forced conjunction with altered
practices.  It is a point on which Christian teachers will not speak out.
It is a point on which popular prepossessions are accepted as a
convenient fact, even where they are felt to rest on insufficient
grounds, and to lead to a most inadequate result.

And what is the consequence?  Men’s consciences are perplexed.  They
ask—and there is no audible answer—Why do I observe the Sunday?  Is it on
the ground of the Mosaic commandment?  If so, who has relaxed the
strictness of its terms?  Where is the permission to do, what we all do,
but what Israel did not, on the Sabbath day?  Who taught us that in this
one instance the Christian rule of keeping the spirit of God’s
commandments implies the licence to break the letter?

Questions such as these are left to answer themselves as they can.  There
remains a large amount of Sabbatical observance: but it is associated
with no little bondage of spirit in what is done, and with no little
embarrassment of conscience in what is left undone.

And where, meanwhile, is the Christian teacher, wise enough and bold
enough to proclaim from his pastoral watch-tower the yoke with which
Christ has bound us, the liberty wherewith He has made us free?

Where is he who can encounter, even as St. Paul encountered it, the
obloquy which assails in every age the exaltation of the everlasting
Gospel, as, not the summary merely, not the expansion merely, not the
interpretation merely, but the END—in every sense of that term—of every
earlier Dispensation? who ventures to declare that not the fourth
Commandment only, but the whole Decalogue, has ceased to be, _as such_,
the rule of our life? that, although Christians commit neither idolatry
nor murder nor perjury, it is not because God forbade these crimes by
Moses, but because they are contrary to the spirit of Christ? that, in
short, their obedience to the unchangeable precepts of God’s moral Law is
a homage rendered not to Sinai but to Calvary; so that, if in any point
they find in their own Gospel a limitation or a modification or an
extension of any earlier enactment, they are conscious of no
embarrassment in the regulation of their allegiance—forasmuch as the
later is _their_ law, even as the earlier was that of others?

And thus with reference to the observance of the Sabbath, and to every
point of moral duty, the appeal lies now, primarily to the Scriptures of
the New Testament, and secondarily to any other records which we may
possess of the practice of the Apostolical age.

Nor can it be pretended, when the question is fairly examined, that the
perpetuation of the Jewish Sabbath is either enjoined, or by implication
encouraged, in the words or the writings of the first disciples and
Apostles of our Lord.

How shall we account for the total omission, amidst precepts so
multiplied upon every point of Christian duty, of all reference to the
obligation of the Sabbatical rest?  From whom, if not from the Apostles,
could the Gentile Christians derive their knowledge of its existence?
Yet no direction is anywhere to be found for its observance, nor yet any
reproof for the neglect of it.  In the only passages in which a clear
reference to it occurs in the Epistles, the language employed is that
either of indifference to its retention, or even of rebuke for its

We do indeed find traces in the New Testament of the existence of
_another_ day of weekly observance; a day on which the disciples came
together to break bread; on which it was natural to collect their
offerings; to which (before the last of the Apostles was called to his
rest) was already appropriated the title of the Lord’s Day.

But that this day was neither identical with the Jewish Sabbath, nor
substituted for it by any formal act of transfer, is sufficiently proved
by the remarkable circumstance, that there were in the primitive age
Churches in which _both_ were observed—Saturday in remembrance of the
Mosaic Sabbath, Sunday in commemoration of the Redeemer’s resurrection.
By what right shall we assume that, when the former observance died out,
the latter was invested with its distinctive attributes? or that, in
congregations where the former had never been practised, the latter had
been, all along, synonymous with an institution with which (to judge from
existing records) they had never been made acquainted?

Then, if this be so; if the Sabbath is an ordinance of the past; one of
those “elements or rudiments of the world,” those “shadows of things to
come,” of which “the substance and the reality is Christ;” in what sense
do we still read in our Churches the fourth Commandment, and pray for
grace to incline our hearts to keep it?

How low and slavish a spirit is betrayed in this anxiety to have an
express _law_ to show for our Christian Sunday.  How opposite to that
which is the distinctive feature of the Christian character—an earnest
desire to catch every intimation, every indication, of our Master’s will,
that we may do it not as His slaves but as His children.  Enough if we
found even a _human_ institution, which testified throughout Christendom,
by a speaking sign, by an act at once self-denying and beneficent, our
faith in realities unseen and future.  Even _this_ would bind us to its
observance.  It would be an ordinance of God’s Providence for us.  It
would be our duty to submit to it, if it were but an ordinance of man,
for the Lord’s sake.  And surely it would bear upon its very front the
impress of a will more than human: it would bespeak itself the creation
of a Divine philanthropy.  He who should presume to trifle with it—still
more, he who should seek to abrogate or to nullify it for his neighbours
or his countrymen—would be seen, even if this were all, to be fighting
against God.

But this is _not_ all.  We think that we see indications, from the very
earliest days of which the Scriptures contain the record, of man’s need
of a periodical rest, and of God’s purpose to secure it to him.

We believe that it is essential to the wellbeing of his bodily and mental
structure.  That it is adapted to the preservation of his health, to the
prolongation of his life, to the comfort and efficiency of his work,
whether manual or intellectual.  That the man who regards every day as
equal, who refuses to observe the day of relaxation, will work the worse
while he does work, and decay and die the sooner.  That the man who
rigidly abstains from labour and from excitement during every seventh
day, will be a healthier and a happier man for this intermission, more
serviceable and longer lived.  And all this we believe to have been
foreseen by man’s Creator, and provided for by the Disposer of man’s

Thus far, however, we have stopped short of the highest considerations.
If no other purpose were answered by the institution of the Christian
Sunday, it is undeniable that the _nature_ of the periodical rest might
be left wholly to the individual taste and judgment.  It would be a
matter of indifference—a matter with which conscience would have no right
to intermeddle—whether it were to be spent in seclusion or in society, in
worship, in novel-reading, or in travelling.

But we believe, further, that the periodical rest which is essential to
the health of man’s body and to the vigour of man’s intellect, is yet
more so to the wellbeing of his immortal spirit, to his education for
that state in which earthly life issues.  Surrounded by ten thousand
influences drawing his heart downwards and enchaining his interests upon
earth, he needs the opportunity which God’s Providence has thus afforded
him, of cultivating the thoughts and practising the habits which alone
can survive death and occupy his everlasting energies.  Without the
recurrence, at brief and regular intervals, of his day of spiritual
improvement, his soul would be as incompetent to withstand the
fascinations of earth, as his body to endure perpetual exercise, or his
mind incessant application.

And when we thus transfer the basis of Sunday observance from the region
of law to that of privilege and blessing; when we accept as God’s gift to
us, for certain high and beneficent purposes, what once perhaps we
regarded as a badge of subjection and servitude; how simple,
comparatively, becomes every question which can affect its observance—how
easy the statement, in words at least, of the principle which should
guide our use of it.

The question now is, not, What is it lawful, what is it wrong, to do on
the Sunday? how can I so employ it as to avoid breaking God’s Law and
incurring God’s displeasure? but rather, How can I derive from it all
possible good? how can I turn to the best account, for myself and others,
in soul and body, the blessing which God has thus conferred upon me?

And shall those who look back through long years upon their frequent
failures to improve this blessing, see no reason for the confession which
bewails their past neglect of it, and the prayer which asks help to
honour it hereafter?

Whatever tends to refresh the mind and body without the stimulus of an
undue excitement, will be, in itself, a desirable occupation for the
Christian Sunday.

But, if this relaxation of the body and mind be attended with no
corresponding benefit to the soul; still more, if it involve an
excitement unfavourable to the remembrance of God, so that, at the end of
the day, Heaven shall be more distant than at its beginning; then that
relaxation has been of a mistaken and injurious kind; the purposes of the
institution have been this day rather defeated than answered; it is not
so much that we have broken a law, as that we have missed a blessing; we
have been unthankful for a great privilege, we have thrown away a great
opportunity of good.

All this is plain enough as respects an individual: few will gainsay its

But we are now concerned rather with the _national_ observance of the
Sunday.  How are we to apply these principles to the case of _others_?
more especially, if the question be one of government, of legislation?

Let us, in the first place, take clearly into view what can, and what
cannot, be done by legislation on such a subject.

It is quite idle to suppose that a Christian use of the Sunday can ever
be secured by authoritative enactment.  We cannot, by all the legislation
in the world, augment by one the number of the worshippers in our
Churches; we cannot open one Bible, we cannot elicit one prayer, we
cannot awaken in one heart the feelings of faith or hope or love.  The
observance of the Sunday, as it rests not on law as its basis, so neither
can it rest on legislation for its enforcement.

What then _can_ be done?

Legislation can _protect_ the observance of the day.  It cannot prevent
him who will from desecrating it, in his heart, in his house, in thought,
word, or act.  But it can limit the operation of this desecration upon
others.  It can refuse to him the absolute command of the services of
others in effecting this desecration.  It can coerce within somewhat
narrow bounds his power to keep others waiting upon his amusements to the
loss of the privileges of the day for themselves.  It can say, Such and
such places shall be inaccessible on that day; such and such means of
conveyance withdrawn; such and such servants of the Public excused from
their attendance.

And, besides its protective power, legislation has also a strong
_negative_ operation.  There are barriers which can only be removed by
its assistance.  At all events, its interposition may at any moment be
invoked to stop such a removal.  It may impede the extension of Sunday
travelling: it may refuse its licence to the multiplication of Sunday
amusement: it may refrain from sanctioning the creation of those haunts
and rendezvous of public attraction which make just the difference
oftentimes between neglect and contempt, between disregard and defiance,
between indifference and desecration.  It is one thing to know that a
multitude of individuals, however numerous, fail to honour the day;
another, to parade before the eyes of the world the legalization of that

In what manner then do these remarks bear upon the particular subject now
before us; the design (as it is commonly understood) of opening to the
Public during certain hours of the Sunday some portions of the Crystal

I have no sympathy with an outcry founded in whole or in part upon what
appears to me to be an untenable notion of the nature of our Christian
Sunday.  And I confess that I could forgive a Statesman who should
receive on the present occasion with deep suspicion the remonstrances of
men who but three years ago fostered and aggravated the same outcry on a
plea which the slightest examination would have shown to be fallacious.
Those who have lent themselves in former instances to swell the chorus of
an ignorant and fanatical clamour, have no claim to attention now but
that with which the actual merits of their case may furnish them.

But the two occasions are, as I believe, widely different.  The contrast
is unimportant: I will come at once to the present.

And let me admit, once for all, that it is with things _as they are_ that
we have to do; not with things as they _might_ exist in a totally
opposite condition.  We must take the state of the poor man as it is, and
the state of Sunday observance as it is.  We might _wish_ indeed that
both were widely different.  We might form to ourselves the picture of a
poor man’s Sunday, such as in rare instances we have seen it: the clean
though humble dwelling, the early prayer of the household, the open
Bible, the walk to Church, the one comfortable meal of the week, the holy
and loving converse of the evening, the prayer and the blessing with
which the day ended as it began.  And we might say, and say with truth,
that, for a family thus resting in holy union throughout its weekly
festival of Christian devotion and thankfulness, no change could come
that were not for the worse.  No want is here felt of anything which God
has not given: enough for that happy home is the change which Sunday has
brought with it over the aspect of every familiar object; the rest from
labour, enjoyed with those dearest on earth, in the remembrance of One
loved above all—this is all that they ask—more would destroy it.

But this, alas! is a spectacle as rare as it is beautiful: we may wish
for a theoretical good, but we must choose the practical.  Next below the
case just pictured, stands that of him whose piety perhaps is less
fervent, his desire for relaxation less easily satisfied, and who,
thirsting for one glimpse of nature, one breath of God’s air, one ray of
God’s sunshine, must seek them where they can be found, must travel, in
short, in quest of them.  Shall we pass upon this man a sentence of
harsh, of unqualified, censure?  Shall we say that he who carries with
him on the Sunday his wife and his children to some quiet country spot
where he may shake off the distractions of business, refresh himself with
the sights and sounds of freedom, and pray with his family in a Church
less dark and less dank than he could find in the neighbourhood of his
dwelling—shall we say that this man breaks God’s Law, and does despite to
His holy day?  Let others record this sentence—I dare not.

But this I would say—that a freedom which he takes ought not to be made a
yoke of bondage to another; that this liberty of his, so refreshing (if
it be enjoyed in a Christian spirit) to soul and body, must be purchased
for him at as small a cost as possible of Sunday toil on the part of
others: let not the necessity which he feels, for entire relaxation on
his day of rest, entail upon the servants of the Public a burdensome load
of labour on a day of which they perhaps equally need the enjoyment: let
the protective hand of legislation, if it be necessary, be interposed to
regulate the hours and the method of his coming and going, that others
may rest as well as he.

And, further, I would urge that it is essential to the beneficial effects
of this indulgence, that it should be enjoyed, as far as may be, in
tranquillity and retirement; that it is one thing to travel on the Sunday
to a country village, and another to be immersed in the bustle and
excitement of a crowded fair; that that quietness of mind and feeling,
which is one of the main blessings of a Christian Sunday, is necessarily
impaired if the scene of relaxation be a focus of popular attraction,
involving the visitor, without the possibility of escape, in the noise
and the glare of a tumultuous assembly.

Nor, once more, could I regard as a matter of indifference the
authoritative bisection of the Sunday into a morning of worship and an
afternoon of pleasure.  Whatever be the character of the day, it is one,
not twofold.  It is indeed one of the chief duties—perhaps the chief
ostensible duty—of the day, to attend its public services, but we have no
warrant for representing its character as changed when the first or even
the second of those services is ended: whatever it be—whether a day of
devotion, or a day of inaction, or a day of amusement—that it is
throughout: and, however little it may be designed, the effect of the
proposed distinction would assuredly be, not so much to increase the
sanctity of the morning as to destroy that of the evening.  Henceforth
the claims of _evening_ worship,—and still more the claims of the whole
day upon a thoughtful and serious spirit,—would be materially disparaged:
so far as the effects of this measure extend, they will cause the day to
close at noon: and what will it be thenceforth to those countless
thousands of our countrymen who are debarred by absolute necessity from
attending the service of the morning?

I know it may be urged that such arguments presuppose the existence of a
very different state of Sunday observance from the present; that the
question really lies not between the Crystal Palace and the Church, but
between the Crystal Palace and the street or the gin-shop.  I believe,
however, that no gallery of painting or of sculpture will have any
abiding attractions for the class thus described: tastes so brutish will
not be transformed by any such expedient: they will remain what they are,
until a mightier engine shall bear upon them: no display of art will
allure them to civilization.  The class really affected by the change
proposed will be that already described; neither the highest of all, nor
the very lowest.  Those who now travel on the Sunday in a desultory
manner will then be found congregated in large numbers upon a single
point: and the alteration, so far as it extends, will be for the worse.

It remains only to assert with all earnestness the _importance_ of the
contemplated innovation.  It is the first step in a course which lies
already as in a map before us.  The opening of one such building is
virtually the opening of all.  The demand for this extension may be
gradual; but, whenever and wherever made, it must be granted.  At all
events, the principle is gone.  England becomes like other nations.  That
great spectacle of reverence for God which was afforded last year in the
face of assembled Europe can be presented no more.  The very building
which bore so noble a testimony is itself a year later to utter a
different language.  Yet where, practically, is the distinction between
the two cases?  What Sunday was, Sunday is.  If it was an act of becoming
reverence to close the Great Exhibition on that day, how is it that what
was religion then is superstition now?  Assuredly the effects, for good
or evil, of such a proceeding will not be less striking or less extensive
now than then: then too they would have been temporary, now they will be

If there be yet time to pause—and there _is_ time, for Parliament, at all
events, has not yet spoken—may it be seized and used.  It is one thing
for an individual, or a host of individuals, to disregard or to abuse
their day of rest: it is another thing for the _nation_ to interpose to
sanction that neglect, and thus to fling away by her own act a badge
which, once lost, can never be resumed.

         _November_ 2, 1852.

                                * * * * *

The following Address will be found to comprise the main topics above
insisted upon.

                           TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
                              THE EARL OF DERBY,
                                 &c. &c. &c.

    “MY LORD,

    “We the undersigned venture to express to your Lordship with all
    deference the regret with which we have heard of an intention to open
    to the Public on the Sunday (with some limitations) the new Crystal
    Palace at Sydenham.

    “We deem it unnecessary for our present purpose to enter into any
    discussion of the general question of Sunday observance.

    “We are far from desiring to see such an observance of the day as
    would rob it of any portion of its character as a day of refreshment
    and of Christian commemoration.

    “We can sympathize to the full in the hard lot of those whose whole
    week is spent in confinement and toil, and to whom Sunday alone
    brings the opportunity of seeing the light or breathing the air of

    “But we value above all price that national recognition of the
    existence of God, and of the blessings of Christianity, which has
    been made for so many ages by this country in its maintenance of the
    observance of our weekly day of rest.

    “We should lament the sanction, by a Royal Charter, of a departure
    from the principle of this observance.

    “We consider the concentration of Sunday travelling upon a single
    focus of attraction, to be a far greater evil than the more desultory
    pursuit of health and relaxation at present practised by the lower
    orders on that day.

    “And we should feel that the noble example of national regard for the
    Sunday, displayed last year before the eyes of Europe in the closing
    of the Great Exhibition on that day, was ill followed up by giving a
    public sanction to an opposite practice in the case of a building
    which professes to be intended to perpetuate the same magnificent

    “For these reasons, we beg leave most respectfully to express our
    hope that the power now entrusted to the hands of your Lordship may
    not be employed in the accomplishment of a project which we believe
    in our hearts to be unfavourable to the Christian character of the

                         “We have the honour to be,”
                                 &c. &c. &c.

                                * * * * *

                          _By the same Author_.

                               TWO LETTERS
                              1849 AND 1850.

                                * * * * *

                      JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET.

                                * * * * *


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