Page images

ciples from the accusation brought against them, of doing that on the Sabbath which was not lawful, he shews, in the words of our text, for what purpose the Sabbath was originally instituted— The Sabbath was made for man; that is, in order to promote the great end and design for which man was created. What I therefore propose, in the further prosecution of the subject, is, to make some observations,

I. On the original institution of the Sabbath.

II. On the change of the Sabbath, under the Christian dispensation, from the seventh to the first day of the week.--And,

III. On the manner in which the Christian Sabbath, or, more properly speaking, the Lord's Day, should be kept, in order to promote the great end and design for which it was made for man.

I. I am to make some observations on the original institution of the Sabbath.

The word Sabbath signifies rest; and the seventh day was so denominated, because on that day God rested from all his work which he had made. And God, it is said, blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; or set it apart from other days for a holy and religious purpose. This day of sacred rest appears from this, and other passages of scripture, to have been originally intended to commemorate the creation of the world. And as Moses mentions the institution of the Sabbath as a day of rest, immediately after his account of the creation, the law relating to the observance of it seems to have been of a prior date to the giving of the law from mount Sinai. And indeed the terms in which the fourth commandment is expressed, plainly describe it as an institution of an earlier age. The word Remember, with which it is introduced, affords sufficient evidence that no new duty is thereby imposed. And in further confirmation of this opinion, we meet with several allusions to the Sabbath in the short history which Moses gives of the patriarchal age. Thus it is said, (Genesis, iv. 3, 4.) that in process of time, or, as it is rendered in the margin, at the end of days, that is, at the end of that periodical revolution of days which we denominate a week, or on the seventh day, it came to pass that Cain brought an offering unto the Lord. On that day, Adam and his family seem to have offered oblations to God, and to have worshipped him not merely in their individual, but in their family and social capacity. Their mode of worship appears, by comparing Genesis, iv. 3, 4. with Hebrews, xi. 4. to have consisted of two parts :- 1. Thanksgiving to God, as the Author and Dispenser of all the bounties of nature, and oblations indicative of their gratitude to him as such. 2. Piacular sacrifices, or sacrifices of atonement to his justice and holiness, implying a conviction of their own sinfulness, confession of their transgression, and faith in the promised Deliverer.

Another fact which deserves our notice is, that Moses, after mentioning the birth of Enos, informs us, that it was then that men began to call upon the name of the Lord. This new era in the history of religion has been generally understood to refer to the institution of assemblies for public worship: the sons of God, the truly pious and devout, finding it necessary, even at that early period of the world, to separate themselves from the wicked and irreligious, and to make a public profession of their attachment to his worship and service.

Thus, though the brevity which Moses observes in giving an account of the patriarchal dispeńsåtion, does not permit him to enlarge on the actual observance of the Sabbath, there are even in that short history evident allusions to it. Sacrifices are said to have been offered, and other religious services to have been performed : certain stated times must, therefore, have been appointed for the performance of these religious duties. And this is rendered the more probable, from Noah's sending out a dove from the ark, once and again, at the close of the seventh day; which would seem to intimate this much at least, that the Sabbath was not forgotten by him and his family in the ark. Nor can we in any other way account for the division of time by weeks, which seems to have obtained not only among the Israelites, but among the Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, Arabians, and indeed over all the Eastern world, but by regarding it as the remains of an original tradition retained among the descendants of Noah, as separated into different regions before the days of Abraham. And that the Israelites were accustomed to distinguish the Sabbath from other days of the week, before the moral law was promulgated from Sinai, is evident from

what Moses relates concerning the manna on which they subsisted in the wilderness. Every sixth day there fell a double quantity, as their provision for that and the following day, or Sabbath. The reason of which is explained by Moses, in these memorable words: This is that which the Lord hath said, Tomorrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord: bake that which ye will bake to-day, and seethe that ye will seethe ; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning. And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, (manna), and they found none. And the Lord said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws ? See, for that the Lord hath given you the Sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days : abide ye every man in his place: let no man go out of his place on the seventh day. So the people rested on the seventh day.And the more to impress their minds with a proper sense of the solemnity of the Sabbath, and to cut off every excuse for violating its sacred rest, the manna which was laid by for the Sabbath remained fresh, salutary, and nutritive: whereas that which was kept on any other day beyond that on which it was given them for their sustenance, became putrid, nauseous, and altogether unfit for use.

It would seem, then, that the law of the Sabbath, contained in the fourth commandment, does not enjoin a new duty, but is merely a re-enactment of a statute, or command, given to man immediately after his creation, and handed down by tradition from one generation to another, till the giving of the law from Sinai. It would be absurd, therefore, to suppose, that a precept which was given to man in his state of innocence, which was observed in the patriarchal worship, and which is placed in the decalogue among the first duties of natural religion, was cancelled by the abrogation of the law of Moses. As well might we suppose that the abebe gation of the ceremonial law has cancelled the obligations of filial piety, or the prohibition of perjury, murder, adultery, and theft, as suppose that the fourth commandment is no longer obligatory under the Christian dispensation. The place which it holds in the decalogue shews that it is a moral duty, and seems to point it out as intended by Providence to be the guardian of both the tables of the law—that holy and righteous law, which Christ himself assures us that he came not to destroy but to fulfil

. Its morality, however, does not depend upon the particular day which we are to devote to the more immediate worship and service of God. The exact proportion of our time, as well as the particular day, may be considered as a positive, rather than a moral, precept. The difference between moral and positive duties consists in this that moral duties are founded on the very nature of God himself. They are transcripts of his moral perfections, and must, therefore, be of universal extent, and unchangeable obligation. Whereas positive duties are founded entirely on the will of God made known to man for some particular end and temporary purpose. The positive laws of God have

« PreviousContinue »