7. Observance by other States
Antiquities of the Christian Church
XXII. Sacred Seasons of the Puritans
7. Observance by other States
We have now reached the point, where notice should be taken of fasts and thanksgivings in other parts of the United States. It is well known, that, in such portions, as were under Episcopal discipline, these days were kept there, for a long period, according to the prescribed form of the English established church. The Lent and Christmas of those parts of our country were to them, as the periodical fasts and thanksgivings of the Puritans. Their other similar seasons were to them, in some respects, like the additional ones of Congregationalists. As a matter of general concernment to all the British American colonies, they were, as previously expressed, required by the law of England, passed 1606, to keep an annual thanksgiving on the fifth of November to commemorate the discovery of the gunpowder plot. It was subsequently enacted by the parliament, that there should be a fast for the death of Charles I, and, also, a thanksgiving for the birth and accession of Charles 11 to the throne, every successive year. While these laws were complied with in our Episcopal colonies, they seem to have been neglected, as to their religious observance, by the nonconformists of New England. In the year 1661, the legislature of Virginia incorporated the two last enactments with their laws. Besides, when any great victory was obtained by England, or any joyful event transpired in her favor, orders were received thence by the colonists of our country, till the revolution of our independence, to keep thanksgivings, which was accordingly and punctually done.
In addition, fasts and thanksgivings, ordered by provincial and national Congresses, have been observed throughout the Union.
Having thus cleared our way of these more general particulars, we will now look at individual sections of our republic. In none of these have the periodical fasts of New England ever been appointed by public authorities. Such occasions have been observed by various denominations of dissenters therein, whenever the exigencies of tHe temporal and spiritual condition of themselves, or neighhorhood, or country seemed to require. Other denominations, who conform with the rituals of their respective churches, have had their holy days in the spring and winter and other established seasons.
As to annual thanksgivings, like those of New England, the only States, which are known by the writer to have had them appointed by their chief magistrates, are New Jersey, New York, Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. They have been observed in New Jersey for not less than a half century. They began to be appointed by De Witt Clinton of New York in 1819, and have been so continued till the present year. For ten years they have been kept in Michigan; for six years in Ohio, and for three or four in Indiana. In these Stales, we are credibly informed, that thanksgiving is less and Christmas more observed, in proportion to the population, than in New England. As a substitute for thanksgiving in the States, which do not keep it, are Christmas and other similar seasons. The manner of observing these, as described by Lucian Minor, Esq. relative to Virginia, has a particular application to nearly all such Slates. His language is: "Christmas, a four days' holiday, maintains here its old English character of festivity, being the nearest resemblance to your November thanksgiving. Those four days and one day each at Easter and Whitsuntide, are the only stated holidays amongst us, and these are enjoyed by all colors and conditions, who choose, but mostly by all of the slaves."
Having thus travelled over the diversified course of our inquiry, we are reminded of the long continued customs, which originated in religious opinions of various shades and tendencies. Whatever be the forms or times of worship associated with these customs, so sacred a service – if dutifully performed – is alike beneficial in promoting humility for our sinful deficiencies, and gratitude for our numerous mercies; in exalting the mind to God while an inhabitant of earth, and the soul to heaven, when disenthralled from its clayey tenement. Blessed indeed are they, who so commune with Him in public, as to be partakers of his sanctifying presence in private, and, hereafter, to be filled with His fullness forever.
Since the above was written, the Executive of New York State has designated a general Fast for the present month of April, 1841.
Letter from Rev. Dr. Hillyer, 1840.
Letter from J. C. Spencer, Esq. Secretary of the State of N. Y., 1840.
Letter from Rev. I. M. Wead, 1840.
Letter from Rev. J. H. Perkins, 1840.