Christian Recorder: January 4, 1862
Turner writes about an “ugly habit” that apparently many were guilty of—sleeping in church.
Keywords: Sleeping, Church, Preaching
Mr. Editor:--I think one of the most disgusting, unchristian, and sinful practices in which many of our church members indulge, is that ugly habit of sleeping in church. It is disgusting in the eyes of our sober-minded and intelligent people, whether religious, or non-religious. It is unchristian, because a person who thus indulges in God’s sacred house, bears no mark of a Christian, or even a church member, but has the appearance of a night marauder, or an intoxicationist (sic), more than anything else.
It is sinful, because it is treating God’s holy temple with contempt, not only so, but it is disrespectful to his precious truths, his minister, and all the means of grace. It is also setting a sinful precedent before an irreligious multitude, for if the wicked were to sleep all their church hours away, how many converts would ever be made by the preached gospel? It further contradicts our profession, for we profess to love God supremely to every other thing, and when we dare to sleep away God’s holy message, which we claim to esteem most of all others, it is a demonstrable proof that we are not interested in that which we so loudly proclaim. An old proverb, which is philosophically true, says, “Actions speak louder than words.”
But some people will not only try to justify themselves in this most hateful habit, but will become quite incensed, if told about sleeping in church. I recollect of once reproving a brother relative to this pernicious habit; he challenged me for a fight in the church, he was so exasperated. But I concluded words were as good a missile as I cared for, (as the fisticuffs business did not pay very well.) So for a while we shot at each other by the word of mouth, and I flattered myself as being the victor, as he did not sleep next Sabbath.
Again, I recollect of reproving a certain sister some time since about the same thing. And she had the most reasonable, as well as the most justifiable excuse I have yet heard: She remarked, that when she was a sinner, she had a great fear of hell, and the dread of dying and going to that place very frequently drove sleep from her eyes, so much so that she had spent many sleepless nights in thought over that subject. But, after being thoroughly wrought upon by the word of God, and sin-convicted to the heart, she seldom knew what it was to sleep at all. But, bless God, since she had been born again, the fear of hell was gone, and she had peace with Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, with angels, and all mankind. Therefore, the Bible says, “He giveth his beloved sleep,” and she felt to be one of God’s beloved, and to this end, sleep was sweet to her. And she intended to sleep, till she slept herself over Jordan. Glory and honor to God’s name that she could sleep.
Now, just such ingenious winding out of a thing as this constitutes the justification of a great many who sleep in church. They will present you a kind of pseudonymous logic, and twirl around it some little risible joke, and away go all its grave and fearful results.
Like the man whom Dr. Pearce, of Georgia, asked why he always slept when he was preaching; he said, “Ah, Dr., whenever I hear you announce your text, I am satisfied; I know you know what to do with it, Doctor; you don’t need my assistance at all, so I take a nap.” Great excuse for laziness, indeed; like a great many persons who sleep all day on Sunday, because it is rest day, which is a wicked habit. No, sir; the secret of church sleeping is founded upon a worthless, careless, indifferent, and uninterested disposition.
H. M. Turner
Baltimore, December 20th, 1861