Page images
PDF
EPUB

not from religious duties. It is a holy day to be spent in holy services. The duty of observing such a day would never have been discovered by the light of nature. Though the light of nature teaches men, that they ought to worship their Creator, Preserver and Benefactor; yet it does not teach them, that they ought to worship him in a social and publick manner, one day in seven. This would not have been their duty, had not God positively appointed the sabbath as a holy ordinance. Accordingly we find that he did not leave this duty to human discovery, but immediately after he had made man, he made also the sabbath for him. 66 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it : because that in it he had rested from all his work." This was a divine and sacred ordinance. It was divine, as instituted by God; and sacred, as it was appointed for a sacred, holy, and religious purpose.

It is true, the peculiar duties of this holy day are not mentioned in this brief account of its institution. But when it was renewed at Mount Sinai, and placed among the ten commands, the special duties of the day were distinctly enjoined. So that the sabbath with all its instituted duties, is a divine ordinance, enjoined upon all mankind, for their benefit. “ The sabbath was made for man.” It was made by a divine appointment a holy and sacred day. But since none, who believe the Bible, pretend to call in question the original institution of the sabbath, it is unnecessary to enlarge upon this head. I proceed therefore to show,

II. That the sabbath is a standing ordinance and of perpetual obligation. Many of the divine ordinances before the gospel dispensation were temporary, and ceased when that dispensation commenced. The passover instituted in Egypt; and the sacrifices, rites, and ceremonies instituted at Mount Sinai, were all abolished by the gospel. They were all temporary ordinances. But the sabbath was designed to be a standing ordin

ance from the beginning to the end of the world. This will appear

from various considerations. In the first place, our Saviour says “it was made for man;" that is, for all men, without exception. The appointment of sacrifices was not made for all men, but only for those men, who lived before the death of Christ. The appointment of the passover was not made for all men, but only for one nation. The rite of circumcision was not appointed for all men, but only for the seed of Abraham, until the promised Messiah appeared. But the sabbath was made for all men in all ages, because they would always need to rest one

, day in seven, and to employ it in the special service of God. The very design of the sabbath argues its perpetuity. There is no reason to be given, why it should be appointed for men in one age or in one part of the world, rather than for all men in all ages and in all places. The sabbath is adapted to the nature and circumstances of all men in their present probationary state, and therefore we may presume it was designed to continue to the end of time.

And this leads me to observe in the second place, that the sabbath was not abolished when other positive institutions were set aside. The apostle expressly informs us, that the rites and ceremonies of the Mosaic dispensation were superceded by the gospel, and became null and void, after the death of Christ: but none of the inspired writers of the New Testament give us the least intimation of the weekly sabbath being abolished. And if it were not abolished in the apostolick days, it could not have been abolished since. It must be, therefore, a divine institution, which is still binding upon all mankind. It was not a typical ordinance, and so could not cease by the appearance of an antitype, as the typical sacrifices, rites and ceremonies under the law ceased, by the appearance of Christ, whom they prefigured. There has been no substitute instituted in the room of the sabbath, to supercede it. word, there is nothing said in the New-Testament, that

.

a.

[ocr errors]

affords the least reason to doubt of the perpetuity of the sabbath.

Besides, thirdly, the practice of christians from the apostles' days to this time, is a plain, positive evidence, that the sabbath is a divine ordinance of perpetual obligation. We have an account of the primitive christians meeting together statedly on the sabbath for social religious worship. And though christians have since been divided into a great variety of denominations; yet they have all agreed to observe a weekly sabbath, with a very few exceptions. Now, it is not easy to account for this general and uninterrupted practice of christians in observing the sabbath for nearly two thousand years, unless it has been founded upon the first and original institution of it, for the purpose which Christ mentions. If it was made for the benefit of man, this is a good reason why it has continued from the beginning, and should still continue to the end of time. There are, moreover, new reasons for its perpetual continuance, which have occurred since its first appointment. It was then designed to be a memorial of the creation of the world; after that it became a memorial of the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt; and since that period, it has become a memorial of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and connected with a sacrament, instituted to commemorate his death, until his second coming. The sabbath is as inseparably connected with the gospel, as it ever was with the law, and must, therefore, continue as long as the gospel itself continues. There is as much ground to believe the perpetuity of the sabbath, as the perpetuity of the Lord's supper. Accordingly we find none have denied the perpetuity of the sabbath, but those who have denied the perpetuity of gospel ordinances. We may be assured, that the sabbath, which was made for man, will continue as long as it can be of any benefit to man, which will be as long as the human race shall continue in their present probationary state. The last thing is to show,

,

III. That this standing ordinance is designed and calculated to be of universal benefit to mankind. This Christ plainly suggests in the text. “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.” Here our Saviour, the Lord of the sabbath, sets it in a much more favourable and important light, than the other inspired writers set the rites and ceremonies of the Mosaick dispensation. Those they call a yoke of bondage, and weak and beggarly elements. In themselves considered they had no intrinsick value, but were rather a burden than benefit, to those upon whom they were imposed. But the sabbath is a peculiar privilege and benefit to all mankind. It is adapted to promote, and not to abridge their present and future happiness. Its nature, design and tendency is to recommend it to the esteem and approbation of the whole human race. For,

1. It gives them a precious opportunity of resting from all their worldly cares, labours, and employments. They were originally formed for labour; and labour is the indispensable duty of every individual, who enjoys mental and bodily strength. It is true, indeed, that all men are not called to the same kinds of labour, but all are bound to be active and diligent in some employment or other; either publick or private, either mental or corporeal, which requires rest.

This God knew, who formed men for the labours and fatigues of the present life. And where is the person, who has not found the sabbath desirable as a day of rest from the concerns or labours of the week? There is, perhaps, no lawful calling, which can be pursued with proper activity and diligence, that does not render rest desirable and necessary one day in seven. It has been found by the experience of multitudes, who have been denied the benefit of the sabbath as a day of rest, that both their bodies and minds have been greatly injured. If health and strength and even life itself be highly valuable, then it is a precious privilege to be allowed to lay aside all secular cares and burdens one day in seven.

2. The sabbath gives men a happy season for serious reflections and meditations. The common concerns of life generally absorb too much of their attention, to leave them leisure for thinking about more serious and important objects. It is a great benefit, therefore, to the more laborious and busy part of mankind in particular, to be allowed and even required, to turn their attention from things temporal to things spiritual, and carry their thoughts forward into that future and eternalstate, to which they are constantly approaching, and in which they are to find their long home. All men are capable of reflecting upon things past, of meditating upon things present, and of anticipating things future. And it highly concerns all persons of every age, character, profession, and condition of life, to pause, ponder, consider and reflect, while they are passing through the busy, noisy and tumultuous scenes of this distracting world. The things of this present life appear very different to all persons, in their leisure, retired, serious, and reflecting moments, from what they do while they are eagerly engaged in worldly pursuits. How many, every sabbath day, view the world very differently from what they habitually view it every other day in the week; and how many serious reflections and resolutions do they form on that holy day, which have a salutary influence upon their thoughts, words and actions in their common intercourse with the world? This is certainly true, with respect to those who remember the sabbath and keep it holy from beginning to end; and who seriously and sincerely discharge the appropriate duties of it. And it has a condemning, if not a restraining influence upon all, who are not totally abandoned to wickedness and stupidity. The sabbath is a most precious and important season for the most pleasant, and most profitable reflections and meditations, whether men improve it for these pious purposes, or neglect and profane it.

3. The sabbath affords men a happy opportunity for that religious society and intercourse, which directly tends to promote their mutual, temporal and

« PreviousContinue »