HL Deb 02 July 1834 vol 24 cc1063-5
The Bishop of London,

in presenting a petition to their Lordships on the Observance of the Sabbath, said, he regretted to observe, as he thought he had, the growing inattention to the subject, and he feared he must add, from what had passed in another place, the growing disinclination to yield even to the increasing importunity of the people any legislative protection for the better observance of the Lord's Day. It was from no motive of affected sanctity, from no spirit of Puritanism, but from a feeling of humanity, of charity, and of the soundest policy, that he made such an observation. He was one of the last persons in the world who was anxious for the mere statutory enforcement of religious duties, being fully convinced, that that was the most unlikely way to obtain the object he had in view, and being well assured, that any such attempt must in the present state of the world be unsuccessful; but the observance of the Lord's Day was placed under different circumstances. There was no Christian country in which that day was not solemnly observed; and it was the duty of a Christian community to afford to all classes of the people the means of observing it, consistently with their own religious tenets. He was not one of those who wished, by the force of an Act of Parliament, to make people go to Church and say their prayers; the Legislature should take care that every person had the opportunity of doing that. Their Lordships were bound to see, that every man had the means of discharging his religious duties, and they ought to protect him against any encroachment upon those means; they should protect from interruption all those who were anxious to observe the Lord's Day by an attention to religion. That day had been wisely instituted as a day of rest; man's body required relaxation from usual labours one day in seven, and on that day his mind might, without injury to his necessary calling, be devoted to religious exercises. At all events, the Legislature should take care that individuals were not compelled to have this day—which not only Divine Law had established as a day of rest, but which medical science had discovered to be absolutely necessary for the preservation of man's health—broken in upon by worldly employment. At present many of the lower classes were compelled to work for the benefit or the pleasure of the higher classes—such as the fishmonger, the baker, the poulterer, and others whom he might mention. He wished to provide against this abuse, and for that reason he was anxious to see the Bill pass which was on their Lordships' Table. He did not wish to restrict, but to benefit the poor; he had just borne testimony against the labour which the higher classes imposed upon some of the lower classes on a Sunday; and he assured the House that his chief object was, to prevent the recurrence of that evil in future. He knew that those who supported the side of the question which he was advocating were often called uncharitable, and were accused of a desire to curtail the amusements of the poor. The accusation was unjust. He desired no such thing, for he knew, that the question of the amusements of the people must be left to the good feeling of the people at large. The petitioners prayed their Lordships to amend in some respects the Bill now upon their Lordships' Table, they approved of some parts of the measure which the noble and learned Lord (Lord Wynford) had introduced, but they objected to some of the details, as those details appeared to give a legal sanction to the continuance of certain trades on the Sunday-a matter which, in the opinion of the petitioners, ought to be avoided, The right reverend Prelate presented Petitions from places in Derbyshire; from Shrewsbury, and Burslem, in favour of a measure for the better observance of the Sabbath.

Lord Wynford

said, that after the difficulties which he had already met with in endeavouring to pass this Bill through their Lordships' House—after the resistance which he saw offered to another measure in the other House of Parliament—and after finding that those who approved of the principle of the Bill objected to some of the details, he almost despaired of being able to pass the Bill he had introduced. Considering all these things, it would be as well for him at once to declare that it was not his intention to go further with the present Bill, but rather to wait for that which was now in its progress through the other House of Parliament.

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