صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

bleffing to others; and all that can qualify us for the enjoyment of God, and fit us for immortal honour and glory. We cannot keep a due and prevailing fenfe of these things upon our minds, without close and repeated application of thought; and therefore, as the affairs and neceffities of this prefent life make fuch conftant and importunate demands upon us, that our hearts and thoughts would be unavoidably ingroffed by them, it is in the nature of things neceffary, that fome certain time fhould be publickly appropriated to the exercises of religion, inftruction, prayer and praife, to fortify our minds againft temptations, and to feason them with piety and virtue. And doubtlefs, God alone bath wisdom and authority fufficient to affign that portion of time which is proper and generally competent for thofe good purpofes.

The Sabbath is perfectly fuited to our nature and circumftances, and therefore was very properly inftituted at the creation. But fome of the learned pretend, that Mofes here speaks, by anticipation, of the Inftitution of the Sabbath a long time after this, when he was law-giver in Ifrael. This is a fiction without any foundation in the text. The hiftorian exprefsly relates, that God blefled and fanctified that day on which he refted, or ceafed, from creation; which, in all fair conftruction, must be understood of his fanctifying it, at the time when he refted from creation. That we find no other mention of the Sabbath in the fummary and very comprehenfive hiftory of Genefis, is no proof that the Patriarchs did not obferve it; much less that the law thereof was not all that time in force. We find not the leaft mention, or intimation, of the Sabbath in all the book of Joshua, nor in Judges, Ruth, I Samuel, II Samuel, I Kings, till we come to II Kings, iv. 23. a far more particular history than the book of Genefis; and yet it is very certain that the law of the Sabbath was all that time in force, and without doubt I was obferved too. There are very clear intimations of regard to the Sabbath in the book of Genefis, chap. viii. 8-13. Thrice Noah fent the dove out of the ark, after he had every time waited feven days. Jacob (Gen. xxix. 27, 28.) fulfilled Leah's week. This plainly fhews the Patriarchs, long before Mofes was born, reckoned time by feven days. or weeks; which can be referred to no other fuppofable original but the inftitution of the Sabbath, at the creation.

The Ifraelites indeed, during their long continuance and fervitude in Egypt, upwards of 200 years, feem to have loft their reckoning of the Sabbath, when they were constrained by perpetual and moft fervile labour to neglect the obfervance of it. However, it certainly was the appointment of God, that they fhould begin a new reckoning of the feventh day, and form a new epocha, namely, the falling of the manna. Exod. xvi. 5. And it fball come to pass on the fixth day, they shall prepare that manna which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily. And when the people had done fo, the rulers of the congregation came, and told Mofes; probably inquiring into the reason, why God had given fuch an order, ver. 23. And Mofes faid unto them, This is that which the Lord hath faid, or, this is the meaning of the Divine Command;. To-morrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord. Ver. 25, 26. Ye fhall not then find it in the field; fix days fhall ye gather it, but on the Seventh day, which is the Sabbath, there shall be none. And this courfe continued


for forty years, till they came into the land of Canaan. Now this was devised in much wifdom to fettle and determine the day, which, otherwife, having loft their reckoning, during their long fervitude in Egypt, they poffibly would not eafily have been brought to agree upon. For thus, for forty years together, they would be under a neceffity of diftinguishing the Sabbath, and of refting upon it; having little else to do, the greatest part of the time, but to gather and drefs manna; and no manna falling upon that day, they muft of course be affured of the day, and obliged to rest upon it. Note the reftoring and afcertaining the Sabbath, was the firft point of religion that was fettled, after the children of Ifrael came out of Egypt, as being of the greatest moment 3 and this, in relation to the original inftitution; for the law at mount Sinai was not then given.

Afterwards the ordinance of the Sabbath was inferted into the body of the moral law, under a particular emphasis, Remember the SabbathDay to keep it holy. And the Jew is reminded of the antiquity of this inftitution, in the reafon annexed to this commandment, For in fix days the Lord made heaven and earth, &c. And being thus ranked among the other great articles of our duty, which are of moral obligation, and are always referred and appealed to, by our Lord and his Apoftles, as binding to us Chriftians, it muft ftand upon the fame ground, and lay the fame obligations upon our confciences. For the fame truth and authority, which enacted the reft, enacted this precept alfo. He that faid, Thou shalt have no other gods before me-thou shalt not bow down to any graven image-thou shalt not take the name of God in vain-honour thy father-thou shalt do no murder-&c. faid alfo, Remember the SabbathDay to keep it holy.

The Jewith feftivals, new-moons and fabbaths, as they were fhadows and figures of good things to come under the Gofpel, our Lord did abolish. When the fubftance was come, the fhadow vanished. And it is of fabbaths in this fenfe the Apostle fpeaks, Col. ii. 16. Let no man judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holy-day, or of the newmoon, or of the fabbath-days. But the feventh-day Sabbath was no part of the Levitical law; it exifted long before that, and therefore was not abolished with it. On the contrary, our Lord claims dominion over the Sabbath. Luke vi. 5. He faid unto the Pharifees, that the Son of Man is Lord alfo of the Sabbath. Therefore the Sabbath must be an ordinance belonging to our Lord's kingdom, otherwife he could not be Lord of it. He never pretended to be Lord of circumcifion, or of facrifices; these belonged to a difpenfation of which he was not Lord. But he is Lord of the Chriftian Difpenfation, and its ordinances, and among the rest, of the Sabbath. In confequence of which Lordship,

I. He rectified the fuperftitious abuse of the Sabbath, and reduced it to the original standard. He reformed the traditionary corruptions of feveral of the commandments of moral and eternal obligation (c). But of all others, moft fignally, remarkably, and conftantly, by words and by deeds, at the hazard of his life, he reformed the abuse of the fourth commandment;

(c) Mat. v. 21, 27; 33. xv. 4, &c.

commandment (d); which he never would have done, had the Sabbath been an ordinance that was to die in a little time with the Jewish dispenfation. On the contrary, this demonftrates, that he regarded the juft fanctification of the Sabbath as of perpetual obligation, and as of very great importance in religion.

II. He removed the Sabbath from the feventh to the first day of the week. For we find in the Apoftolic Hiftory that the Difciples met together on that day, (called the Lord's Day, Rev. i. 10.) to break bread, or to celebrate the Lord's Supper, which is the proper and peculiar worship of Chriftians, Acts xx. 7. Now this could not be done without the express injunction of the Apoftles; nor could the Apostles do this without a commiffion from Chrift. And as our Lord rofe from the dead on the first day, we suppose the Chriftian Sabbath hath relation to his Refurrection; and fo the Lord's Day hath been kept holy by the univerfal Church from the Apoftles days to this time.

Thus there have been three epochas, or dates, from which the Sabbath has been counted, namely, (1.) From the first day of the creation. (2.) From the first day of the falling of the manna. (3.) From the first day of the Gofpel Difpenfation. But ftill it is the feventh day makes the Sabbath, which God bleffed; and the feventh, which we now obferve, is as much, and as truly the Sabbath, which God fanctified, as ever it was from the beginning of the world.

The primary notion of the Sabbath, is a reft or ceffation from the ordinary bufinefs of life. The defign of it is to preferve true religion; which would never have been loft in the world, had the Sabbath been duly obferved from the first inftitution of it. And therefore we find in Scripture, both under the old and new difpenfations, it was applied to the purposes of religion. It is reprefented as a holy convocation, on which the Ifraelites were to affemble for divine worship, Lev. xxiii. 3. David wrote the 92d Pfalm for the Sabbath-Day, and therein gives us juft ideas of the work of it. On this day the Jews met together in their fynagogues for religious exercises; and there our Lord honoured and fanctified the Sabbath by his prefence and inftructions. Mark i. 21, 22. vi. 2. Luke iv. 16, 31. xiii. 10. And all Chriftians, in all times and places, have affembled on the Sabbath to hear the word of God, to offer up prayer and thanksgiving, and to celebrate the Lord's Supper, in order to employ their thoughts in pious meditations, and furnish their minds with the best principles and difpofitions. A work exceeding pleasant and profitable, which demands and deferves, the whole of our thought and attention. Therefore, for this good purpose, we are to reft from ordinary business, and to avoid whatever may diffipate our thoughts, or indifpofe our hearts for the heavenly work of the day.

Our Lord hath taught us fo to underftand this, as not to mix any thing fuperftitious with the obfervation of the Sabbath, nor to conceive of it as fuch a fcrupulous reft, that we may not do any thing fit and reafonable, and which otherwife is a duty; works of neceffity and mercy he expressly allows. Whatever cannot be deferred to another day, without


(d) See Mat. xii. 1-12. Luke vi. 10, 11. xiii, 11—17. xiv. 1—7John v. 9-19. vii, 19-23. ix. 14, 15, 16.

lofs or damage, may be taken care of on the Sabbath. And in general he hath pronounced, That the Sabbath (alluding probably to the first inftitution of it) was made for man, to be fubfervient to his virtue and happiness; not man for the Sabbath. Man was made for duties of moral and eternal obligation, and is bound to obferve them in whatever extremity or neceffity he may be; but man is not made for the rigorous obfervation of the fabbatical reft, or any other positive inftitution, fo as thereby to embarrass or diftress his life, or to neglect any opportunity of doing good.

I conclude with a few reflections upon Ifai. lviii. 13, 14. Having, in the name of God, recommended goodness, charity, and compaffion, in the preceding verfes, and pronounced a fingular bleffing upon thofe who exercise them, the Prophet adds, by the fame authority, If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day. q. d. Ify f you confcientiously fufpend the ordinary bufinefs of life, and forbear to please and gratify your own inclinations, that with a free and com"pofed mind you may attend upon the fervices of religion, for which I "have fanctified the Sabbath; and if thou] call the Sabbath a delight, the 66 holy of the Lord, honourable, and fhalt honour him; if you have fuch a fenfe


of the excellency and benefit of the Sabbath, that you take delight "therein, accounting it a pleasure and happiness, as being confecrated "to the worship of the most high God, and therefore honourable and glo"rious in itself; and honourable alfo to you, as it is a mark of the dig"nity of your nature, a token of your intereft in the divine favour,

(Exod xxxi. 13. Ezek. xx. 12.) and of your being admitted to com"munion with him; if in this perfuafion you fhall fincerely endeavour "to honour God by employing the day in the offices of devotion, not "doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine "own words; not doing the ordinary works of your calling, nor ipend

ing the time in amufements or diverfions, or in impertinent conversa"tion; then shalt thou delight thyfelf in the Lord; then thou shalt become fuch a proficient in piety, and gain fuch a fenfe of God and religion, as will establish in your heart a fund of holy pleafure, comfort, joy, "and good hope towards God." The Prophet, in this chapter, is inculcating real, vital, acceptable religion, goodness and compaffion to our fellow-creatures, and piety towards God in keeping the Sabbath; promifing the like bleffings to both those branches of true religion, namely, the favour of God and the conftant care of his Providence. We may therefore take this from the Spirit of God, as a juft defcription of the right manner of fanctifying the Sabbath, and affure ourfelves, that he who bleffed the Day, will blefs us in keeping it holy.


[ocr errors]
« السابقةمتابعة »