Page images
PDF
EPUB

fluences of the sun, moon, and stars; the peopling of sea, air, and land with fish, fowl, and beast -- all this was but the orderly fitting up and furnishing of earth for the habitation of man. But when we go back to his origin, we arrive at the true source of his dignity. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. ..... So God created man in his own image; in the image of God created he him.” Now, God is a Spirit; and hence man, who is created in his image, is a spirit, having the faculties of understanding, will, and power; capable of penetrating into the nature and design of all things around him, of comprehending his own being and powers, and of apprehending and revering the eternal Author of his existence. When we contemplate, therefore, the grandeur and glory of man's original nature, we do not wonder that the earth and all its inhabitants were formed to be the sphere of his dominion, and that the sabbath itself, the weekly commemoration of the six days' creation, was also made for man.

16. The next point that comes out in the consideration of this passage is the perpetuity of the sabbath. The sabbath was made for man by him who made man, and knew his inmost nature and real wants. While, therefore, man exists as he is, the sabbath must coexist with him. It was not an expedient, adopted for a particular phase of his being, or called into existence by a special emergency, or framed to be part of a peculiar economy designed for a chosen race. It was an institution made for man at the origin of his being, antecedent to the fall, the propagation of his race, the dispersion of his posterity throughout the earth, and the formation of the nations and polities of after times. Hence it is manifest that the sabbath is to last as long as man. He who inade man knew his whole nature, the whole course of his development, the laws by which it was regulated, and the results to which it tended ; and he made the sabbath for man. Hence the sabbath is simply as perpetual as the race. Hence it finds its place in the ten commandments, which are a compend of the moral law adapted in its present form

to man so long as he is in the flesh. And the nature of the sabbath we have found to be adapted, not to the physical wants of the inferior animals, but to the rational and religious nature of man. As long, therefore, as man remains in the conditions of his earthly existence, so long, at least, must the sabbath continue to be a law of his life. Nothing could more plainly demonstrate the perpetuity of the sabbath.

And we are not to overlook the negative statement, “ And not man for the sabbath.” If this had been the case, the sabbath might have been a rigid, unbending rule, to which the free-agency of rational man should have been forcibly or mechanically conformed. This would have been a preposterous arrangement, utterly opposed to reason and propriety, subjecting the moral to the plıysical, and ushering in that bondage of the will to the outward form in which the Pharisees were held captive, and leaving no scope for the free play of the moral and susceptible nature of man in the works of necessity and mercy. Such an order of things could not come from the fountain of reason and freedom. This negative form of the relation of man to the sabbath is added for the sake of contrast, clearness, and emphasis.

17. The inference which the Lord draws from the principle is this: “ Therefore the Son of Man is Lord also of the sabbath.”. If the sabbath is made for man, then is he to some extent lord also over the sabbath. As the dominion over the fish of the sea, the fowl of the air, and the beast of the land has been committed to him, so also has the due control of the sabbath been assigned to him as the possessor of reason. But, as he cannot change the nature of the ferior animals, so neither can he alter the principle of the sabbath. He is not at liberty to neglect or profane the day of rest by any worldly employment or recreation. But, as the sabbath was made for his good, he is free to do a work of necessity or mercy on this day of rest. The moral law of mercy, in case of necessity, prevails, for the occasion, over the positive law of restraint from all the business of this life.

But it is to be observed that it is not “ therefore man,'

It was

but “therefore the Son of Man, is Lord also of the sabbath." The Son of Man has a twofold authority over the sabbath. As man he has the discretionary power, already noticed, of performing a deed of mercy or necessity on this day. But the Son of Man is here a phrase of peculiar meaning. It is employed by our Lord, conscious of being the Son of God, to intimate that he has now been born of a woman, and become the Son of Man, for the purpose of recovering the rights that man had lost through the fall, by fulfilling all righteousness, and submitting to the penalty of death. The Son of Man was therefore an emphatic and highly significant phrase by which the Son of God was designated when he became manifest in the flesh. In this higher character he was therefore Lord of the sabbath in a higher sense. therefore competent for him not only to allow works of necessity and mercy, as a legitimate deviation from the strict letter of the sabbatic rule, but to make such alteration regarding the day as the altered state of the human race might require. There was no fundamental change in the nature of man calling for any modification in the law of the day. But an event of transcendent importance was to occur on the seventh day, that would render it unsuitable to be any more the sabbath of rest; and events of corresponding magnitude were to take place on the first day of the week, marking it out as the most suitable day for the sabbath of all subsequent time. It is undeniable that the Son of God, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the ages, and none but he, has authority to make this change of the day.

18. Having laid down these fundamental principles, let us review the history of the first day of the week, as recorded in scripture. The first of all first days of the week was the first of the six days of creation. On this day “God said, Let there be light, and there was light. And God saw the light that it was good ; and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light day, and the darkness he called night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.” This day, then, is illustrious as the first day on which light shone on the world of man. To a spectator who had never witnessed such a sight before, the process must have been inexpressibly grand. In the stately march of twenty-four hours, the midnight darkness, with slow, imperceptible steps, gave way to the dawning light, as it increased more and more to the perfect day; which, after waxing in brightness till the noon, again gradually waned until the evening, when the twilight with the same lingering pace retreated before the returning darkness. From that day to this the same sublime panorama has been passing before our eyes. But the unceasing reiteration prevents it from exciting any feeling of astonishment in our minds.

It will be remembered that Jesus said: “I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John viii. 12). He is also called the Sun of Righteousness, that ariseth with healing in his wings. And the church is summoned to be the light of the world in the significant words : “ Arise, shine ; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee." Christ is the light of truth and life— the moral and quickening light, of which the physical light, called into manifestation on the first day, is the most appropriate emblem.

19. The next first day of the week we have to notice is that mentioned in Lev. xxiii. 11. The children of Israel were directed to bring a sheaf of the first fruits of the harvest unto the priest. Of this it is written: “And he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.” The sabbath here mentioned is the sabbath in the feast of unleavened bread, which lasted seven days, and therefore must have included a sabbath. Now, the morrow after the sabbath is the first day of the week; and, accordingly, on this day the wave-sheaf of barley was offered and accepted for the people.

The sheaf of barley is the symbol of life. It implies, therefore, righteousness, the ground of acceptance, and

And ye

therefore of the right and the enjoyment of life. Under the influence of sun and shower, the seed cast into the ground strikes root, and puts forth the stalk, the ear, and the full corn in the ear. This is a lively emblem of a higher life. Now, John says of the Word: “In bim was life, and the life. was the light of men.” This connects the first day with that of Gen. i. 3. The Lord himself says: “I am the way and the truth and the life.” The wave-sheaf is therefore an emblem of Christ, the righteousness and the life, as well as the light, of men.

20. The next first day of the week is the day which is called the feast of weeks, which is instituted in the following terms:

shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave-offering, seven sabbaths shall be complete; even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat-offering unto the Lord. Ye shall bring out of your habitations two waves loares of two tenth deals; they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven ; they are the first fruits unto the Lord." These wave-loaves are of wheaten flour. They are presented at the end of the grain harvest. The offering is no longer the raw material, but the manufactured product, baken and ready for the table. The one sheaf is now replaced also by the two loaves, indicating a double measure of the same blessing in its full perfection. For the feast of weeks is the consummation of that of unleavened bread, and the two loaves are evidently of like significance with the one sheaf, though in a more advanced stage. These two loaves are presented on the morrow after the seventh sabbath, and therefore on the first day of the week.

Here, again, we have a very striking emblem of life, or that which sustains life. Now, Jesus says expressly of himself: “I am the bread of life,” “the living,” life-giving bread. The two loaves are not unsuitable to denote the twofold life which he bestows — the life of the soul and the life of the body. He raises from bodily death all those

VOL. XXIX. No, 113.

14

« PreviousContinue »