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away the opportunity for these acts, and produces unfitness for engaging in them. But we forbear to tread on ground so sacred. It is sufficiently clear that where there can be little or no reading or meditation, and no intercourse with virtuous friends, there can be but little chance of
improvement in the moral or religious character, while there is every reason to expect rapid deterioration.
There is yet another result produced by the same cause, viz. the misuse of the Sabbath, and the neglect of the public duties of religion.
“ The Sabbath is made for man,” designed to promote his highest welfare, his greatest happiness, by hushing for a while the din of earth, in order that he may listen undisturbed to the “ still voice” from heaven. It is the restingplace set at regular intervals along the path of life, in which the traveller may find refreshment and repose, and obtain increased strength for the pursuit of what is good and holy. Whatever tends to frustrate this design, and to cause a misuse of this sacred day, not only dishonours its Founder, but also inflicts upon man the most grievous wrong; it turns that into a curse which, otherwise, would be the greatest blessing. Late hours of business do this.
It has already been said that it is customary to keep shops open to a later hour on Saturday night than on any other; consequently, the Sabbath morning is used as a period of rest in bed, to a much later hour than any other; and thus its first hours are misemployed, and afford fit preparation for a corresponding mode of spending the remainder.
Late hours during the week prevent taking exercise in the open air, and therefore the young man uses the Sabbath for going into the Parks or suburbs; for skating in the winter, and for bathing or boating in the summer. They prevent reading on other days, and therefore he reads the newspaper or a novel on the Sabbath. They prevent taking rational recreation at proper times, and therefore he takes compensation by visiting the tavern or worse places, on that day which we are commanded to“ keep holy.” And that very day which should bring with it to his spirit only “airs from heaven," does in reality bring only “ blasts from hell.”
True, it is not necessary that they should spend the day in this manner; true, also, that many who are placed in precisely the same circumstances spend it far otherwise. But no credit is due to the system for these exceptions ; they exist only in connexion with strong moral or religious principles. The individuals who compose them are as strong swimmers breasting the rapid tide, whose waters sweep away every thing which offers less opposition.
Of course this desecration of the Sabbath is attended with the almost entire neglect of the public services of religion. The young men say that, after having been so closely confined, and so incessantly engaged, during the week, they need all Sunday for relaxation, and cannot spare any of its hours to being confined in church or chapel. It is lamentable to think how seldom the voice of the preacher can reach these persons, who so much need his counsels, and whom every Christian man must feel most desirous to see brought under the influence of the truth. The writer has known houses of business in which out of forty or fifty young men not more than five or six have attended a place of worship during the Sunday. And it is morally certain that this state of things will not be effectually remedied until the grand parent evil of which we complain is removed.
It is evident, then, that late hours promote vice, hinder the cultivation of what is good, and lead to the violation of the Sabbath, and the neglect of public worship.
Thus we have briefly examined the effects of this system, and have found them to be alike injurious to the physical, intellectual, and moral nature.
We propose now to examine some of the advantages which will accrue to the ASSISTANTS, the MASTERS, and the PUBLIC, from closing the shops at an earlier hour than is customary.
I. The advantages which will result to the ASSISTANTS. It is unnecessary to say much under this head, since the principal advantages of a change will be at once seen from a consideration of the evils which spring from the present system. Of course these will be removed by removing the cause, in precisely that degree in which they are its effect. The young men will therefore enjoy a decided improvement in health and longevity. The tone and vigour of the whole physical system will be increased, and they will be enabled to go through the necessary duties of the day in a more easy and successful manner. Many, of comparatively delicate constitutions, who would be driven by the present system either to their homes or to their graves, might be expected to live as active and useful members of society.
Again, inasmuch as the present system is injurious to the intellect, and prevents the acquirement of knowledge, an alteration would produce corresponding advantages. A moderate time would be placed at the disposal of young men after business, and as excessive fatigue would not be incurred, they would be in a fit condition to avail themselves of those things which tend to enlarge and improve the mind. They might join some literary institution in their neighbourhood, occasionally attend evening lectures on interesting and important subjects, and read the books obtained from the institution or those in their own libraries. They might think, or write, or converse, as rational beings. They would thus have at their command the highest and purest enjoyments, while they would, at the same time, be increasing their own self-respect and advancing in the esteem of others. They would cease to be vain and foppish, and grow thoughtful and intelligent. Hence they would become more prudent in the management of their own affairs and the business of their employers. Thus they would be most effectually promoting their own worldly interests, and would at the same time be enlarging their minds and attaining to something like the true dignity of our nature.
So, also, because the present system tends to vice, and hinders the advancement of morality and religion, we may justly expect that a remedial alteration would be highly advantageous to the moral and religious interests of those whom it would affect.
The great majority of the young men who are not thoroughly depraved, but who possess too little strength of principle to resist the influence of unfavourable circum
stances, would find that relaxation in harmless and beneficial pursuits which they now seek in a hasty visit to the tavern. The craving after pernicious stimulants, and the excuse for indulging in them which the present system affords, would be taken away. And thus a gradual but decided improvement would be effected in the moral character. They who desire to become better as well as wiser men would have time for devotion and for reading that Book whose pages reveal the secrets of the human heart, reflect the glories of heaven, and shadow forth the solemn realities of eternity. There are many Christian young men who would gladly hail the opportunity which would then be afforded them of attending some of the evening services which are held in places of worship during the week, and from which they are now completely debarred. Besides, it is to be hoped, that the ministers of religion would have an eye to this class of persons, and would institute lectures to be delivered from time to time, specially adapted to them.
In the same manner the present lamentable desecration of the Sabbath would be greatly lessened, as the reasons which are now alleged for making it a mere holiday and carnival, (insufficient indeed as they are) would no longer exist.
Thus it is manifest that a curtailment of the hours of business would bring into existence a race of healthier, wiser, and better men; it is needless to add that they would be therefore happier. But there is a certain portion (though but a small one) of the assistants, whose happiness would be promoted in a peculiar degree, viz. those who are married.* It is scarcely possible to conceive of a life more unnatural than that which these persons lead. Leaving their families early in the morning and returning to them late at night, unable to enjoy the company of their wives, or to listen to the prattling of their little ones, they are deprived of all the domestic enjoyments which endear his home to the meanest peasant. A change, by which the husband would be enabled to return earlier, would bring gladness to the heart of his wife, smiles to the faces of his children, and real happiness to the whole family circle.
* Doubtless one cause of the existing licentiousness is the difficulty which shopmen find in entering the marriage state. This arises partly from the late hours of business, but yet more from the general unwillingness of the masters to employ married men. It behoves them to consider whether they are not thereby unrighteously interfering with the order of nature, and fostering that vice which
“ Hardens a' within,
Of course all these desirable consequences will depend much on the young men themselves. Doubtless, there are some who will retain their vicious habits however their circumstances may be altered, and who will neglect to make use of the means of improvement which may be placed within their reach. But experience, and reasoning from the nature and tendency of things, leads to the conclusion, that, in general, the effect will be such as we have described. Even in the worst case, the intellect and morals would not be injured, while, in every case, the health would be benefited. Such a change as we seek is, therefore, on every account to be desired for the sake of the assistants.
II. But there is another party whose interests must not be overlooked in this matter, viz, the shopkeepers themselves—the EMPLOYERS of the young men.
It might indeed be argued that since the present system is found to be attended with the worst results to those whom they employ, they ought at once, and apart from every consideration of self-interest, to consent to an alteration. Gladly do we admit that there are many good and generous men among this class who have shewn that with them this consideration is sufficient. But there may be others of whom this cannot be said, and there certainly are many, who, by reason of the difficulties with which they have already to contend, feel that they cannot afford to make
any sacrifice, however much they may approve of the object. Happily they are not required to do so, for it may easily be shewn that the proposed change would be more favourable to their interests than otherwise.
It is hoped that this change will be universal, at least that all the shops of the same trade, in any particular neighbourhood, will be closed at the same hour. It is clear that by such an arrangement, no one could possibly suffer any