Page images

is ours.

The Duties which we are to perform, are, generally, all the darious offices of Religion. Good men, in ancient times, entered, on the Sabbath day, into the house of the Lord with praise and prayer. The Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets, were read in the Synagogues every Sabbath day. They feared God in the assembly of his saints : they praised him for his mighty acts; ultered abundantly the memory of his great goodness ; and sung of his righteousness. They went on from strength to strength; every one of them in Zion appearing before God. They esteemed a day in his courts as better than a thousand. Their souls longed, yea, even fainted, for the courts of the Lord; their heart and their flesh cried out for the liding God. Accordingly, the Lord God was to them a sun, and shield. He gave them grace and glory; and withheld from them no good thing. In the same manner the early Christians esteemed the Sabbath a delight, and the holy of the Lord honourable. In the times of the Apostles, they continued in fellowship, in prayer, and in breaking of bread. They sung psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs. They prophesied ; taught the doctrines of the Scriptures; uttered, and interpreted, Revelation ; and collected alms for such saints as were in peculiar circumstances of distress. All these examples abundantly show us, that good men, during the ages of Inspiration, steadily accorded, and thought it their duty to accord, with the requisitions, contained in the text. What was their duty

All these solemn services, therefore, and others connected with them, it is incumbent on us to perform in spirit, and in truth. We are to join ourselves to the Lord, to serve him, according to the prediction of Isaiah concerning us, and the other Gentiles; to love the name of the Lord; to keep the Sabbath from polluting it; and to take hold of his covenant. Particularly,

1. We are to perform all the duties of Public Worship.

The Sabbath, as has been observed, was originally appointed for the commemoration of the divine glory, manifested in creating the world; and for the attainment, and improvement, of holiness in man. The manner, in which we should commemorate the glory of God in the work of Creation, on this day, is sufficiently taught us hy the manner, in which the first Sabbath was celebrated. Then, we are informed, the Morning Siars sang together, and all the Sons of God shouted for joy. In the same manner was the work of the New Creation, and the divine glory displayed in it, celebrated by the same illustrious beings, according to the prophetical account, given in the sixty-eighth Psalm, of this wonderful event: an account, expressly applied to it by the Apostle Paul in the third chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians. The Chariots of God are twenty thousand ; even thousands of Angels. The Lord is among them, as in Sinai; as in the holy place. The very hymn, which they sung, seems to be trans.nitted to us in the following words: Thou hast ascended on high; thou hast led captivity captide; thou

Vol. III.


hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also; that the Lord God might dwell among them.

The manner, in which holiness and salvation are to be obtained, is every where taught in the Gospel. The truth of God, in the hands of the divine Spirit, is the great instrument, by which we are made free from the bondage of corruption. Faith, we know, cometh by hearing; and hearing, by the Word of God. This Word is, therefore, to be faithfully explained, and enforced, by the Preacher; and faithfully received by those who hear him. The prayers, and the praises, of every religious assembly, are to spring from the heart; and are to ascend up before the throne of infinite mercy, with dependence, with confidence, with love, with reverence, with gratitude, with hope, and with joy. Our prayers, and our praises, are also to be presented in the name of Christ, as the great and glorious Propitiation for the sins of men, and the true and living way of access to God. They are to be presented with faith in his name; that faith which occupies the whole heart, and alone interests us in the blessings of Redemption.

Christians, at the same time, are to unite in the administration, and celebration, of the Evangelical ordinances; Baptism and the Lord's Supper: and are thus in a peculiar and most affecting manner to commemorate the glory of Christ, manifested in the wonderful work of the new Creation.

All these things are to be done decently, and in order. At the same time, they are to be performed with plainness, simplicity, and no unnecessary rites. The Jewish worship was intended by its ceremonious magnificence to strike the imagination during the early and ignorant periods of society. To this end it was perfectly fitted. All its services were calculated to affect the senses in the deepest manner, and to find, through them, access to the heart. The Gospel, on the contrary, is addressed directly to the Understanding; and makes its way to the heart by means of the power of Conscience. Unnecessary rites are, here, both useless and noxious : since they allure the thoughts away from the doctrines and precepts, which are inculcated, to the ceremonies by which they are surrounded. In this manner, the spiritual worship of the Gospel is ever in danger of becoming a mere bodily exercise, unprofitable in itself, and destructive of piety. The ceremonies of the Romish Church exterminated its devotion; and became, extensively, the cause, as well as the effect, of that corruption, which by men of real religion has been justly regarded as a prodigy

2. On this holy day, also, we are bound to perform the various Private duties of Religion.

The worship of the family, and that of the closet, are the duty of all families, and of all individuals, every day they live. Equally is it the duty of all men to spend a part of every day in selfexamination ; in religious meditation ; and in contemplation on the perfections and works of God, on the character of Christ and the wonders of Redemption. The Scriptures especially, and other religious books generally, are to be read, pondered, and cordially received. The amendment of the soul, and victory over sin and temptation, are to be planned, resolved on, and achieved. We are to humble ourselves before God; to devote ourselves anew to his service; to che ish the duties of religion; and universally to cultivate the Christian character.

At the same time, children and servants are to be carefully in structed in the great and plain doctrines and duties of religion ; to be restrained, in the same manner as ourselves, from all worldly pursuits; and to be presented by us with such persuasive examples of piety, as may engage thein to reverence, and embrace, the Gospel.

Universally, our time, our thoughts, our conversation, and our actions, are all to be devoted to God. This, indeed, is, in a sense, true of every day. But on other days it is our duty to labour in our worldly business; and, while our thoughts are engaged by pursuits of this nature, it is impossible that they should be also engaged by religious subjects with sufficient intenseness, and constancy, to fulfil all the demands, either of our interest, or of our duty. On the Sabbath, we are withdrawn from all worldly pursuits. A solemn pause is made in the business of life. A happy season of leisure is furnished to us for obtaining our salvation. Then no worldly business is to intrude ; no worldly pleasure to solicit; no worldly thought to interfere. The holy nature of the day, and the peculiarly solemn nature of its services, conspire, with eminent felicity, to render all the duties, which have been specified, easy, undisturbed, solemn, impressive, and profitable. This, then, is to be carefully seized, and anxiously husbanded, as a golden opportunity for performing them all.

3. The Sabbath is to be employed, so far as circumstances demand, in performing works of Necessity and Mercy.

Our authority for this assertion is complete in the declaration of God: I will have mercy, and not sacrifice. In the illustrations of this precept by our Saviour and in his example, it is equally complete. What these works are, beyond the direct import of this example, we are to judge as carefully and conscientiously as we can. Generally, it is to be observed, that as little of our time, as the nature of the case demands, is to be employed in these works; and the remainder to be devoted to those duties of Religion, which were the original objects of the Sabbath. Wherever the time required is so great, as to be disproportioned to the value of the necessity in question ; it is to be given up. That necessary work, which requires but a moment, may be lawful; when it would be come unlawful

, if it required an hour. All works, both of neces sity and mercy, are to be regarded as Duties, which we are bound

to perform; and never as indulgencies, which we are permitted to take.

The Time, at which the peculiar duties of the Sabbath are to commence is, in my opinion, the time, when darkness commences on the evening of Saturday. For this opinion, the following reasons may be alleged.

First; The natural day commenced with darkness. After God had created the chaos, darkness rested upon it for a certain period. This darkness, and the light which succeeded it, are declared to have constituted the first day. In the same manner, are reckoned the five succeeding days of the Creation.

Secondly; The Sabbath, at its original institution, was a natural day. This is clear, because we are told, that God rested the sedenth day: and from the manner, in which the six preceding days were reckoned, we have the fullest proof, that He, who by his own choice reckoned them in this manner, reckoned the seventh day in the same manner.

Thirdly ; When the Sabbath was renewedly enjoined upon the Is. taelites ; it was required to be kept as a Natural day." This we know, because no alteration of the original Institution is specified in the fourth command; and because, in Lev. xxiii. 32, God says to that people concerning the great day of Atonement, From even unto even shall ye celebrate your

Sabbath. Fourthly; The Jewish Sabbath commenced with the darkness ; or with the time, which we denote by the word, Candle-lighting. This is evident from Nehem. xiii. 19, And it came to pass, that when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the Sabbath, &c. It is here evident, that the Sabbath had not commenced on Friday evening, when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark; or, in our customary language, when the dusk of the evening commenced in that city. The Sabbath also, as a natural day, began originally at the same time: the first day of the Creation having commenced with absolute darkness. The time of darkness, to us, is the time, when we can no longer see, so as to transact business by the light of the sun.

Fifthly; The Christian Sabbath is the first day of the week; and a natural day ; because there is no hint given us, in the New Testa. ment, of any alteration made, or to be made in this respect. Dr. Macknight informs us that the ancient Christians began their Sabbath on the evening of Saturday. Some Christians have supposed, that the time, when our Lord arose from the dead, is that, at which the present Sabbath ought to be begun. This is evidently an error; because that time is not declared in the New Testament, and therefore cannot be known by us. Accordingly these Christians be gin the Sabbath at midnight: a time of human appointment merely. This seems to me unwarrantable.

II. I shall now attempt to show, that the Duties of the Sabbath ans all binding upon us.

On this subject I observe,

1. That the example of God in resting from his work of Creation, and of Christ in resting from the work of Redemption, is authoritatidely binding upon us; and requires us to rest from our own lawful labours in a similar manner.

2. The fourth Command, which has, I trust, been shown to be equally obligatory on all men, requires the same rest from us, which it required from the Israelites.

3. The original Institution, the examples of God, the Father, and the Son, and the injunctions of the fourth Command, require, in substance, all these duties.

The duties, which they expressly require, cannot be performed to any valuable purpose, unless all the duties, specified in this discourse, are also performed. The true meaning, and real extent, of these examples and injunctions, as they respected the Jews, are explained in the comments of the Prophets, particularly of the Prophet Isaiah, concerning this subject. The text is the most copious, and definite, exhibition of this nature, contained in the Scriptures. In chapter lvi. of the same prophet is found, also, a comprehensive account of the duties: and we have several other, less particular, and less impressive, explanations, in other passages of the Scriptures. These injunctions and examples, then, demanded, in the view of the Spirit of Inspiration, all these duties of the Israelites. Of course, this was the true tenour of these examples and injunctions. But, if I mistake not, I have proved both to be no less obligatory on Christians, than on the Israelites. The same examples and injunctions have, therefore, the same tenour with respect to us, and bind us to exactly the same duties.

4. The New Testament has no where dispensed with any part of these duties.

It has been often thought, that Christ has released his followers from some part of the duties of the Sabbath, and in some degree from that strictness of observing it, which were originally required of the Jews. Observations to this amount I have not unfrequently seen, and heard; but exclusively of the things observed by Dr. Paley, and mentioned in the last discourse, I have never been informed of the particulars, from which Christians are thus supposed to have been released ; nor do I know in what passages of the New Testament they are supposed to be contained. Dr. Paley believes that the Sabbath was never at all obligatory on Christians. According to this scheme, therefore, it was impossible for Christ to release them from these duties; because they were never incumbent on them. Where those, who make this supposition, find their warrant for it in the discourses of Christ, or of his Apostles, I confess myself unable to determine. The observations, which our Saviour makes, as an exposition of several parts of the Decalogue, in bis Sermon on the Mount, he prefaces with these reinarkable declarations : Think not that I am coming to destroy the law, or the

« EelmineJätka »