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James Waddel Alexander (the father of seven children) was known for the many books for young people which he authored, especially for the American Sunday-School Union. One — part of The Infant’s Library series consisting of 24 small books for the littlest children — was published in 1825 under the title The Sabbath Breaker. This little work is not yet available on Log College Press, but the autobiographical story authored by Alexander can be read in a biography of Edward Norris Kirk (1802-1874) by David Otis Mears. It is about two boys (James and Edward) who learned a lesson about keeping the Lord’s Day holy.
The Sabbath Breaker
Children, I am going to tell you another story. Every word of it is true, and I know it to be so. There were two boys, named James and Edward. They knew what was right, but they did what was wrong. This is very bad. They knew that the Sabbath was God’s day, but still they profaned the Sabbath.
One fine Sabbath afternoon, they had a lesson in the Bible to say to their teacher. But they were wicked and played truant. They did not get their lesson. And they played instead of going to their teacher. You will see what happened to them.
Edward and James used to go to bathe in a brook about two miles from home. Edward asked James if he would go and bathe there. James was at first afraid to go, because it was the Sabbath. But he was ashamed to say so. So they both set off to go to the brook.
As soon as they set off, they saw that some clouds were rising. But they went on.
When they got to the water, it thundered very loud, so that James was afraid to go in, though he was undressed. Edward went in and bathed.
The thunder was so loud, and it rained so hard, that they boys dressed themselves in a great hurry and began to return. The storm increased, it was very dark, and the lightning was dreadful. The boys were frightened. They knew they had done wrong. They knew that God saw them. They heard his thunder in the heavens, and were afraid. One clap of thunder was awful. The lightning struck a house in the town, and threw down a part of the chimney. James trembled, because he was afraid the Lord would strike him dead. But God is merciful, and spared these bad boys. The storm was short, and it was soon clear weather again.
When James and Edward got half-way home, they began to laugh and talk again. James was afraid Edward would think he was frightened. To show how brave he was, James took a penknife and tried to strike it into his coat-sleeve. The knife slipped, and the whole blade went into the back part of his wrist. The blood spouted out, and ran over his white clothes. He was then frightened indeed. He had escaped the storm, but now he saw that God had punished him. He had to send for a doctor. The doctor said it was a wonder he had not cut an artery. This was many years ago, but I saw the scar on his wrist, just before I wrote this. Remember the Sabbath.
The two boys in this story grew up to become devout and serious Christians, as well as friends for life — not unlike David and Jonathan, according to Kirk’s biographer. And the lesson they learned in their youth about keeping the Lord’s Day holy became a story to teach other young children as well.