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goes to his labour, or business, the following morning with a willing mind, and his sinews full of strength. That omniscient eye which looks into futurity, and has weighed the hearts of all men in a balance, foresaw that when men multiplied upon the earth, the powerful would oppress the weak, and that the rich would require perpetual labour from the poor; that this fatigue of the body would weigh down the soul, and destroy, or very much diminish the powers of the mind; he therefore, in his own time, commanded the Sabbath to be kept holy also, that man, who is in part an immortal creature, might reverence and worship his Creator, learn the nature and value of his being, and with fear and trembling, but in humble reliance, prepare for that never-ending state of eternity for which he was at first destined.
By the Israelites, under the covenant of works, the seventh day was very strictly kept, and the Sabbath-breaker was commanded to be stoned to death, by a statute of Levitical Law. The ten Commandments have lost none of their force under the covenant of grace, or Christian dispensation, and the Sabbath has been kept strictly and religiously, by most Christians, in all ages of the Church of Christ; yet in the West Indian colonies, planted by Christian nations, and particularly in Jamaica, the largest colony of
highly-favoured and Christian Britain, the Sabbath is worse kept than by Turks themselves; it is not enough that most of the Slaves must work in their grounds a part of that holy day, but to add to the abomination, a market must be kept also on the Sunday, for the sale of provisions, vegetables, fruit, &c. It is the only market-day, fellow-countrymen, and fellow-christians, which the poor Negroes and coloured Slaves have, and instead of worshipping their God, they are either cultivating their portions of land to preserve life, or trudging like mules with heavy loads, five, ten, or even twenty miles to a market, to sell the little surplus of their provision grounds, or to barter it for a little salt fish to season their poor meals; or what is much worse, to spend, very often, the value in new destructive rum, which intoxicates them, and drowns for a short time, the reflection that they are despised and burthened Slaves.
I shall never forget the horror and disgust which I felt on going on shore, for the first time, in Kingston, in the month of August, 1819; it was on a Sunday, and I had to pass by the Negro Market, where several thousands of human beings, of various nations and colours, but principally Negroes, instead of worshipping their Maker on his Holy Day, were busily employed in all kinds of traffick in the open streets.
Here were Jews with shops and standings as at a fair, selling old and new clothes, trinkets and small wares at cent. per cent. to adorn the Negro person; there were low Frenchmen and Spaniards, and people of colour, in petty shops and with stalls; some selling their bad rum, gin, tobacco, &c.; others, salt provisions, and small articles of dress; and many of them bartering with the Slave or purchasing his surplus provisions to retail again; poor free people and servants also, from all parts of the city to purchase vegetables, &c. for the following week. The different noises and barbarous tongues recalled to one's memory the confusion of Babel, but the drunkenness of some with the imprecations and obscenities of others, put one in mind rather of a pandemonium, or residence of devils; surely the gates or entrances to this city, instead of being entrances which lead to solemn temples, or gates of Heaven, as they should be in a Christian country and on a Christian Sabbath, are much more like gates directing to the broadway, that leadeth to destruction, that leadeth to hell itself.
I have resided nearly five years in Jamaica, and have preached two or three sermons almost every Sunday; many other clergymen have also exerted themselves, but to very little purpose, as far as the Slaves are concerned, as those
horrid and legalized scenes are just the same; for this Sunday market is a bait of Satan, to draw away the ignorant Negro: his temporal and pressing natural wants, are set in opposition to his spiritual ones, and the former prevail to that degree, that most of the churches in the island are nearly empty; so that strong language is justifiable, and one is ready to exclaim, with the indignant Prophet; "I have been very jealous for the Lord God of Hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, and thrown down thine altars:"the children of Christian Israel, the white inhabitants, who were baptized in their childhood or youth, and promised obedience to the divine law have forsaken the covenant made with their God in baptism; have broken and despised his Sabbaths; have built other altars than those of prayer and praise, and compel poor, ignorant Negroes, whom it is their duty to instruct and reform, to do the same.
It is chiefly owing to the institution and due observance of the Sabbath, that true religion and morality are kept alive in the world; and I would lay it down therefore as an axiom, that before the great body of Negro and other Slaves can have any proper ideas of the Christian religion, the Sunday markets must be done away with, the labouring in their grounds, on
the Sabbath, must be forbidden; for to pretend to make them moral and religious, and to cause them to break the Sabbath at the same time, is not only highly offensive to Almighty God, but is grossly insulting to the correct feeling and common sense of a truly Christian people.*
After these changes are made or determined upon, the next thing will be to appoint another market-day, and to give the Slaves more time to labour in their grounds; for surely fifteen or sixteen days in the year, with a few extra days after crop, on some plantations, are not enough. The best day for the market would be Saturday for various reasons.
The first reason is, that the Slaves whose turn it would be to go, would leave the properties on Friday evening or Saturday morning early, so as to be at market in good time, and return to their homes again on Saturday evening, to be ready for moral and religious instruction and divine service the next day.
A second reason is, if Monday were appointed for the market, (as recommended by a respectable writer in Jamaica,) the Negroes would be in their grounds, a part of the Sunday, getting up their surplus provisions, and many of them would walk a part of the way towards the market-place, so that the Sabbath would be continually broken.
*Note 7. See Appendix.