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As the law of the sabbath is a beneficent arrangement for the physical and moral good of man, occasional works of necessity and mercy are not to be regarded as breaches of it. Hence the preparing of food and drink for man and for domestic cattle, and of comforts and medicines for the sick, as far as it cannot be conveniently done on the day before, and the relief from distress or danger, as far as it cannot be safely deferred till the following day, are all allowable, as works of necessity and mercy, on this day. There is a special injunction regarding the observance of the sabbath in Ex. xxxi. 12–17; xxxv. 2, 3, immediately before the construction of the tabernacle was commenced, which appears designed to warn the people against the presumption that a work so holy as the making of the tabernacle might be prosecuted on the sabbath. In the latter passage occurs the prohibition: "Ye shall kindle no fire throughout your dwellings upon the sabbath-day." This appears to be a special order adapted to the occasion. In the wilderness, where they had little or no store of fuel, the kindling of a fire involved the gathering of sticks and the performance of other operations unsuitable to the day of rest. Moreover, domestic fires were scarcely necessary or little used in those days in tent life. When necessary, they could be kept in from the previous day, so that kindling would not be required. But, considering the occasion on which the prohibition was introduced, we may presume it had some reference to the forging of such metal work as was necessary for the tent of meeting. All such operations were to be suspended on the day of rest.
5. The third and leading characteristic of the sabbath is contained in the clause: "It is the sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings." This is the highest aspect of the day. The first sabbath was the fitting sequel of the six days of creation. It was blessed and hallowed by the Creator (Gen. ii. 3). The seventh day was henceforth dedicated to the Lord, devoted to solemn worship and holy fellowship with the Lord. The due celebration of it brought man into intelligent and cordial intercourse with his Maker. This
VOL. XXIX. No. 113.
essential character of the sabbath will shine forth in all the peculiarities of its observance.
A very important circumstance that distinguishes the observance of the sabbath is expressed in the words: "in all your dwellings." This indicates that it is to be not central, but local; not confined to the capital, but pervading the country; not peculiar to Shiloh or Zion, but common to every village and home of the people. This is a singularly interesting clause in the institution of the sabbath. It plants the holy leisure in our homes, and brings to our hearts the intimate relationship of grace and adoption, in which we and our sons and daughters, our men-servants and maidservants, and the stranger that is within our gates stand to our Heavenly Father. The august celebration of anniversary festivals, the observance of the sublime solemnities of pure and undefiled religion in the capital of the nation, has its importance and effect. But its sweet and sanctifying influences do not penetrate into the sequestered nooks and corners of the land, nor stir the depths of stagnant life in our hamlets and households, nor entwine themselves with the very habits, memories, and affections of every inmate of our homes. The sabbath, with its hallowed rest and freedom and peace and memory and hope and present gospel, gliding softly into all our dwellings, is alone fitted to quench the strange fire of our passions, awaken the cry of faith and penitence, and call forth the melody of praise from the breast of each individual of the community. Hence the inestimable value of "the sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings."
It is not difficult to understand the duties and pleasures of the home on such a day as this. They will rise with the rising light and life of the soul. But they must be always of the same tendency. The private and family devotions. of the day will be more calm and leisurely than those of the busy working-days. The private meditation, the social converse, the studies and teachings and readings, the very fare and fashion and recreation, will be in keeping with the
solemnity of this primeval and heaven-born festival. Liberty, variety, spontaneity in the employments and recreations suitable to this festal day will prevent the listlessness or weariness which uniformly results from a forced sameness of occupation or protracted strain of attention. Especially must the innocent tendencies and propensities of the youthful heart towards variety, novelty, lightness, and brevity be indulged to the utmost bounds of propriety.
The social converse should be frank and sober. It is not so much the subject that is to be regulated, as the aspect in which it is to be viewed and the mode in which it is to be discussed. Let it be our aim to regard everything from a lofty, if not from the loftiest, point of view. Holiness, be it remembered, is to be the character of our thoughts, intents, words, and ways on the working-days as well as on the day of rest. This, therefore, does not mark the difference between our sabbaths and our other days. The purposes and orders and operations of business are to be banished from our sabbaths, not because they are unholy in themselves, but because they are unsuitable to the day of rest. But almost any topic of history or science or every-day experience may form the ground of remarks in harmony, or not out of harmony, with the truth of God and the day of his rest. Such conversation, on ordinary topics familiar to the mind and level to the capacity of the social circle, as will awaken attention and give it a good direction and a healthy impulse, is incomparably better than poverty of thought, dearth of ideas, apathy of spirit, blankness of imagination, and consciousness of constraint, all of which are in sheer antagonism with the notion and design of the sabbath. And there is a special advantage in admitting the themes of daily life into the tissue of our sabbath talkings, as they are thereby consecrated in our minds, and set apart, as they ought to be, to a holy use.
To an ardent heart, however, in full harmony with the mind of God and the bents of piety and humanity, more spiritual themes will not be wanting to diversify and elevate
the train of thought. Especially will the book of God, judiciously used, not read merely, but searched; not mechanically perused, but patiently dissected and probed, examined in its several principles and facts, and in their mutual relations and special ends, afford an inexhaustible fund of interesting and edifying meditation and conference. Treating of the ways of God with man, laying down the fundamental principles of human nature, epitomizing the universal history of past generations from the beginning, foreshadowing the history of the latter ages to the end of time, republishing the immutable principles of metaphysical and moral truth that had been forgotten or forsworn by man, and revealing the plan and purpose and work of mercy and salvation for the sinner in harmony with the requirements of holiness and truth, this unique volume affords a noble theme of transcendent interest for the sabbath of rest. Nor let us imagine that our sons and daughters can take little interest in the revelations of the heavenly book. Let us only smooth our brow, or, better still, light it up with the smile of real interest, of genuine joy and hope regarding the ancient, the great, the small, the high, the deep, the secret, the invisible, the visible, the terrible, the wonderful, the glorious, the excellent, the present, the coming, the spiritual things of God; and the response in the youthful heart and eye will not be wanting.
The sacred song, instinct with true poetic fire, will be appreciated, while it is willingly treasured up in the memory. The question and answer of the catechism, clearly explained or simply illustrated and rightly understood, the well-selected proof-text to be committed to memory, the choice chapter or portion of scripture for reading, expounding, and applying the history or destiny or duty of the race as treated in the Bible, the glad tidings of God's pardoning, redeeming, and regenerating love — all these afford a pleasing diversity of occupation and interest for the day of rest. The cultivated talents of pious minds have also yielded a rich harvest of books, combining the instructive with the agreeable, that are
well suited for sabbath reading. Fathers and mothers will find growing upon them the habit of profitable and entertaining conversation of a free, easy, familiar kind, that will gratify the taste, without wearying the attention. And the spontaneous question, indicating thought, is always to be encouraged, and either answered, if possible, or turned to good account.
Attention to tidiness of person and neatness of attire is not an unbefitting mark of outward respect for the sacredness of the day, and by no means devoid of its moral lesson for the youthful mind. Gentleness of manner and of voice, if wisely inculcated, will not be considered a burden on this day, if a reasonable scope be allowed to the exuberance of the spirits in some other direction. The habit of abstaining from songs and tunes and plays that are allowable on other days has not only an intrinsic propriety on this day, but tends to form the valuable habit of self-control.
It is well for parents, also, to drop the reins of conversation, whenever it is becoming tedious to themselves or to their little hearers. In a well-ordered house there is no fear of the prattle of children wandering far from the bounds of propriety without receiving a check from a senior, or even from one of themselves. At all events, in our piety let us be natural, not stiff, constrained, or affected, if we would be at ease ourselves, or put others at their ease. We may be formal, if only we be natural. Only the earnest is fitted to make a salutary impression on the young.
Let us never forget that liberty is one of the characteristics of the sabbath. This will help to endear it to the child. Let it not, therefore, be a day of too many tasks. And, as it is a day of many joys, let not the buoyancy of the youthful mind or body be put under any control but what befits the solemn quiet of the sabbath. Let them feel that it is truly to them a day of rest, freedom, peace, joy, light, hope, and blessed memory. It would be quite incongruous with the freedom of the day to lay down for all parents or families a fixed routine of duties and relaxations for the occupation of