Page images
PDF
EPUB

had twice as much. His general order was, in business, but to carry business into the sab'Let no man leave of it till the morning;' bath is positively forbidden, and certainly incurs and if any transgressed, and kept part of it, it the divine displeasure. This is probably one became quite putrid. On the sixth day, how- reason why some do not thrive. And this is ever, God's order was, “That which remaineth plainly the reason why some have no solid pleaover lay up for you to be kept until the sure, and are strangers to the peace of God. He morning;' and when they did so, they found it grants them, it may be, their worldly desire, but next morning quite fresh and good. How can sends leanness into their souls. Let us also mark we but see very strikingly in all this the example and act up to the spirit of the injunction, ver. 29, of Jehovah himself, and the peculiar interest he 'Abide ye every man in his place; let no man go displays in the sanctification of the sabbath by out of his place on the seventh day. This teaches working at least three miracles in honour of it? us not to leave our home on the sabbath for Let us devoutly observe this; and let us in this secular business, or pleasure, or travelling. A respect, in so far as his ways are imitable by us, sabbath day's journey to Christians is just the be followers of God as dear children.'

distance they have to go from their own houses III. In this part of the sacred history we have to the house of God. several points of instruction with regard to our Finally, while the directions about the manna own duty of sanctifying the sabbath.

furnish us with much instruction relating to the 1. This passage teaches us a lesson of diligence sabbath, let us also notice and improve the typion the other days of the week, in order that we cal meaning of that miraculous food. We need may bave it in our power to rest on the sacred support for our bodies, but we also need spiritual day. Even when it was miraculously given, God nourishment for our souls. God fed the Israelites would not dispense with their gathering of it with manna, that he might make them and us diligently. In like manner are we all called on know that ‘man doth not live by bread only, but to use diligence during the working days, that by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth we may be able to afford, or may be able to com- of the Lord. Jesus said, “ Moses gave you not mand leisure if we are in easy circumstances, to that bread from heaven;

but
my

Father giveth rest on the sabbath.

you the true bread from heaven. I am the bread 2. We are taught, in one part of this history, of life; he that cometh to me shall never hunger; to make special preparation for the sabbath on and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.' the day immediately preceding it. “To-morrow Let us seek this nourishment every day, and is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the Lord : especially on the sabbath day. Let us earnestly bake that which ye will bake to-day, and seethe seek an interest in all the benefits of the Saviour's that which ye will seethe.' We read also, in the purchase, and an abundant supply of the grace New Testament, of the day of preparation when of the Holy Spirit, that we may be nourished ihe sabbath drew on' While, therefore, it is up into eternal life. "Lord, evermore give us well to have the privileges of the sabbath in view this bread!' So shall we have strength to pass throughout the week, we are particularly called on through this earthly wilderness, and arrive at on to think of them, and to make preparatory last in safety and comfort at the Canaan which is arrangements for them, on the day before. It is above. clear that as little work as possible should be left to be done on the sabbath, even though it may relate to food, or the most necessary affairs of life. Thus, though the table may not be fur

THIRD Day.-EVENING. nished with such variety, the fare will be sweet and good; for it will be partaken of with a good And upon the first day of the week, when the conscience; and 'sanctified by the word of God

disciples came together to break bread, Paul and prayer

preached unto them,' Acts xx. 7. 3. We are here taught the sin and folly of The scriptural authority for Christians observing prosecuting worldly business with the view of the first, and not the seventh day of the week, getting worldly gain on the day of sacred rest. as a sabbath, or day of holy rest and religious In defiance of the divine command, “Some of the exercises, though not in the form of express prepeople went out on the seventh day to gather cept, is yet direct, plain, and satisfactory, and manna, and they found none. And the Lord consists chiefly in the example of the apostles, said, How long refuse ye to keep my command and other inspired teachers, and of the private ments and my laws?' It is right to be diligent members of the church, as described in the sacred books which refer to the period subsequent to The leading reason for the change plainly was, our Lord’s resurrection. Let us remember, first that while the first day was to be, in room of the of all, that Christ rose from the dead on the first seventh, a memorial of the work of creation, it day of the week. Next, let us reflect on the should also serve as a memorial of the Redeemer's great importance of that event in itself, and in resurrection, and the finished work of redemption. its bearing on the gospel in general, as the lead- This work is sometimes represented in scripture ing proof of its divinity and of all its doctrines, as a new creation; and it is of still more imporparticularly that of the acceptance of the atone- tance to us than the first creation. That it inent, as the ground of the justification of sinners. should be so celebrated is foretold in Isaiah Let us remember, too, that on the same day, even Ixv. 17. Now, it was by the resurrection of the first day of the week, he met his assembled our blessed Saviour, that this new and most disciples; and that eight days after that, which was glorious work was completed; and what day of also the first day of the week, he again appeared in the week could answer for its commemoration so the midst of them. The feast of Pentecost, described well as that on which he arose ? Who is not in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, sensible, that while on this day the work of the took place on the first day of the week, and on first creation is not overlooked, that of redempthat day the miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost tion occupies a larger and more interesting place were poured out on the preachers of the gospel, in the contemplation of Christians? especially on Peter, and the converting influ- From this it follows that there can be no proences of divine grace were given in such abun- per and acceptable observance of the sabbath, dance, that on the same day there were added except on Christian principles. It will not do unto the church about three thousand souls. On for any to pretend that they desire to honour the the first day of the week, too, as appears from the Deity on that day, irrespectively of his manifespassage at the head of this exercise, the disciples tation through his Son; for, thus to dishonour usually assembled for the preaching and hearing of the Son, is to dishonour the Father also. the word, and for holding communion in the Lord's ever would observe the day aright must connect Supper; see also 1 Cor. xvi. 1. This clear example with it the believing and grateful commemoration of the early churches, guided by inspired men, has of the great deliverance, wrought out for transall the force of precept. The words of John, in the gressors, by him who died for their sins, and rose Revelation, i. 10, are also very decisive, 'I was again for their justification. in the Spirit on the Lord's day.'

There is another passage in the Old Testament We see, then, that there is clear scriptural confirming this view of the subject, as well as authority for our now observing the first day of being very interesting in a general way, namely, the week. And though we do not rest the proof that in the cxviii. Psalm from the 19th verse. of any doctrine on any uninspired authority, it is Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will satisfactory to find distinct proof from the early go in to them, and I will praise the Lord. The Christian writers, that there is no mistake, in stone which the builders refused, is become the point of fact, as to the meaning all attach to the headstone of the corner. This is the day which term “the Lord's day,' or as to their actually the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad observing it. Ignatius, who was a cotemporary in it. Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the apostles, and who was torn to pieces by of the Lord: we have blessed you out of the house lions at Rome by command of the emperor of the Lord. It must be recollected that the Trajan, in the year of our Lord 107, says, “Let apostle Peter applies that passage to Jesus Christ, us no more sabbatize,' that is, keep the Jewish the true head-stone of the corner, though disallowed sabbath, but let us keep the Lord's day, on by the Jewish builders; and therefore, that the which our life arose.' Justin Martyr, who was whole passage refers to gospel times. But it beheaded for the Christian religion in the year speaks, in reference to these times, of a day which 167, says, 'On the day called Sunday, there is an the Lord “made,' that is, which, as distinguished assembly of all who live in the city, or country; from other days, he had appointed and set apart and the memoirs of the apostles, and the writings for himself,- day on which the gates of righteof the prophets, are read.' Irenæus, who suffered ousness were to be opened, the gates of the martyrdom in the year 203, says, “On the Lord's sanctuary for the people to enter, and on which day, every one of us Christians keeps the sabbath, the people were to be blessed from the house of meditating in the law, and rejoicing in the works the Lord. Does not all this obviously imply of God. It is unnecessary to trace the custom that, after the coming of the Messiah, those who lower down.

believed in him were to continue to observe 3

[ocr errors]

ance.

be

day, as a sabbath for praise, and prayer, and from it. The word “foot,' or 'feet,' is sometimez public assemblies ? and does it not also imply used to signify inclinations and actions. “Keep thy that the observance of the sacred day under the foot,' be very careful of thy behaviour, and abstain gospel was to be peculiarly in commemoration of from every thing improper, 'when thou goest to Messiah and his saving work ?

the house of God; and be more ready to hear, Let us, then, welcome and improve the first than to give the sacrifice of fools.' Perhaps the day of the week in this particular view. Let us allusion in the expression, "Turn away thy foot, see to it that we embrace the great salvation is to the care with which a man turns aside his from the guilt and power of sin, which the Lord's steps, when he wishes to avoid treading on any day commemorates. Let us also spend it in a thing; as if it were said, Do not trample on the way calculated to enlarge our knowledge, and sabbath, refrain from profaning it.

Or, the raise our admiration of that most glorious deliver- expression may imply a caution against needless

• Blessed be the God and Father of our travelling on the sabbath. Or, this clause may Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to his abun- be intended to be taken in immediate connecdant

mercy, hath begotten us again to a lively tion with the next, and so we are cautioned to hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from refrain from doing what is mentioned there. the dead!'

We are next prohibited from doing our pleasure on God's holy day. We must not suppose that we are then at liberty to do as we list, to

do whatever may happen to please ourselves, and FOURTH DAY.-MORNING.

suit our own inclinations, whether it fall in with 'If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, cheerfully conform to the rules God has pre-,

the design of the sabbath, or not; but we must from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and scribed, and do the things that please him. call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing the Sabbath. Let us honour God himself by

Again, we are called on to "honour God'on thine own ways , nor finding thine oron plea-honouring his sabbath.

Or, this clause

may sure, nor speaking thine own words: then shalt viewed as leading on to what follows, and then thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will it calls on us to honour God in the ways there cause thee to ride upon the high places of the

specified. earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob

Not doing thine own ways.' Sinners “turn thy father; for the mouth of the Lord hath

every one to his own way. Let us beware of spoken it, Isa. lviii. 13, 14.

this perverseness, and study to follow God's direcLet us consider, first of all, what we are taught, tions. And then, as in close relation to the sabin this beautiful passage, to call, and, of course, bath, are we not here positively forbidden to to esteem the sabbath. We should call it, and follow, on that day, any ordinary calling, or account it, “a delight. God forbid that the day worldly business? itself should seem gloomy to us, or its services *Nor finding thine own pleasure.' Ungodly irksome. May every one of us be able to say men are described as being lovers of pleasures with sincerity and deep feeling, I esteem this day more than lovers of God; and when this spirit the best of all the seven, and I will delight myself is indulged on the sabbath, it becomes peculiarly in this commandment which I have loved. sinful. We are interdicted, too, even from such

We should also call and account the sabbath recreations, or amusements, as may be lawful on 'the holy of the Lord. It does indeed belong other days. Amusements are even more inconto the Lord; it is his own property. It is the sistent with the proper observance of the sabbath time sanctified, and set apart by the Lord, and to than ordinary labour, seeing they more certainly the Lord. Let us regard it, acknowledge it, and and more entirely dissipate the mind, fill it with keep it as such.

frivolity, and disincline and incapacitate it for We are also taught to call the sabbath ‘Hon- serious exercises. How shamefully is this prohiourable. Let us esteem it highly; let us speak bition disregarded by some who seem to consider of it with admiration; let us honour it in our the Lord's day as appointed only for their recreaway of spending it; let us openly profess and tion! Away with the expression, Innocent practically show the respect we bear to it. amusements on the sabbath!' No amusements

Secondly. We are here instructed, in various are then innocent; they are all forbidden. distinct particulars, how we ought to observe “Nor speaking thine own words,'—or, more the sabbath. We should turn away our foot," literally, nor speaking a word. It is necessary to

add something to complete the sense; for, it is

Fourth Day.-EVENING. not to be supposed that absolute silence is enjoined. We are called on, however, to abstain from such

· From ecen unto eren shall ye celebrate your sabconversation as is not suitable to the sabbath,

bath,' Lev. xxi. 32. to abstain from speaking unnecessarily on tem- The law of the sabbath is, that one whole day poral and worldly topics, from vain and trilling must be given to religious rest. As less will not discourse. What ground for self-abasement have be accepted, more is not required: the necessary we here! and what a call to keep the door of our proportion of time, therefore, is allowed for sleep lips!

and refreshment on that day, as on every other. Thirdly. Let us consider the encouraging pro- But, as the very essence of the commandment is, mise here held forth to our conscientious obser- that a day, a whole day, shall be set apart, a vance of the sabbath ; we are assured that we very fruitful source of corruption has arisen shall find it delightful, honourable, and profitable. in departing from that principle, by making a

Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord.' distinction between the hours of public worship, In the way of keeping the sabbath, we shall and the other hours of the day, and supposing find much spiritual joy and comfort in our that if part of it be spent in religious exercises, redeeming God.

men are at liberty to employ the remainder of it “And I will cause thee to ride upon the high as they please. • What need is there,' say some, places of the earth. This denotes great security, 'for a whole day? Is not that too much ? Is dignity, and triumph; see Isa. xxxiii. 16; Deut. it not enough if we attend church, and, perhaps, xxxii. 13; xxxii. 29. The Lord will bestow read the Bible, or some religious book, part of honour on public bodies, and on individuals, who the day at home? May we not then give the thus glorify him; while he will, sooner or later, rest of the day to recreation? Or, if we are not bring disgrace on those who in this respect con- at liberty to do so, must not the day become extemn his authority.

tremely irksome ? - In answer to this, it should And I will feed thee with the heritage of be enough for us, that the divine command is exJacob thy father. As applied to the Jews, this plicit. Besides, unless the whole day be sanctified, may refer to peace and plenty in the land of what passes during the space of time occupied in Canaan, the temporal inheritance promised to public worship will make very little impression Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It may also refer on us. If the judicious employment of the whole to the double blessing and the birthright which of the sabbath in the varied public and private came to Jacob, Psal. cv. 9, 10; cxxxvi. 21, 22. exercises of religion, except so much as is to be And so, to the pious observers of the Lord's day, taken up in the works of necessity and mercy, be temporal prosperity is promised, in so far as it indeed irksome to any; then they would do well shall be for God's glory and their own good. But seriously to consider whether that be not a proof of as the covenant made with the patriarchs included their being in a state of general estrangement from a promise of spiritual blessings to the faithful God, in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of and obedient, so this promise also includes all iniquity. Amos represents irreligious persons as needful nourishment for the soul, a rich feast of saying, "When will the new-moon be gone, that evangelical blessings, as a pledge of an eternal we may sell corn, and the sabbath, that we may inheritance.

set forth wheat ? and in Malachi, we find this
How complete, finally, the security given for representation of their feelings towards the service
the fulfilment of this rich and encouraging pro- of God, “ Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness
mise, “For the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it!' is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the Lord
Let us take God's word for it. What his mouth of hosts !' should I accept this of your hand ?
hath spoken, his hand will perform. “Heaven saith the Lord.'
and earth shall pass away, but the Lord's words How is it possible to spend time so wisely,
shall not pass away. May this sure and pre- profitably, and pleasantly, as in the proper duties
cious promise encourage us to be more and more of the Lord's day? The season is indeed very
careful in sanctifying the sabbath ; and, in our precious. Let us improve it to the utmost.
endeavours to do so, may the Lord shed down Besides, unless we feel and act thus in reference
upon us, in abundant measure, the gracious to the sabbath, what meetness have we for heaven,
influences of his Holy Spirit, for his Son's sake. or how could we be happy if we were there?
Amen.

If we cannot spend a day comfortably in the
service of God on earth, how could we spend
an eternity in his service on high, where they are

[ocr errors]

before his throne, and serve him day and night in the ordinary business of life, by a great number his temple?

of saints' days, have thrown a great bar in the From all this, we may clearly perceive the way of the due sanctification of the sabbath. To futility of the defence of the lax observance of this must be added the worldly, loose, and accomthe Lord's day (if observance it can be called) modating spirit of the whole system, and its gendrawn from the example of foreigners. It is too eral substitution of pompous observance and imtrue that in some lands which bear the Christian posing spectacle in the room of what is rational, name, the sabbath is wretchedly desecrated by and spiritual, and instructive. the great majority of the population. Many Were the question to rest on human authority, pay no attention to it whatever; and many ex- we should not want either number or weight. hibit only a very partial respect. After some We should appeal from the superstitious and the pompous, it may be, but superstitious and unedi- lax, to the enlightened and the sound. But it is fying public services, on which few attend, except not on such ground that the question should rest. on days distinguished by something more than We appeal to a far higher than any human the ordinary authority of the Sabbath, the theatres, authority, even to a divine,-an authority which and other places of amusement, are thrown open, should settle the judgment, and bind the condancing and diversions of every kind are com- science of all who make any profession of the menced, and the latter part of the day is devoted Christian religion, the authority of the holy scripto gaiety and dissipation. Many in the higher tures: and, holding the perpetual and universal walks of life in this island resort to these countries. obligation of the Sabbath, and, of course, the apThey are generally hurt in their feelings at first, plicability, at the present moment, of the scripby these ungodly customs, so contrary to the prin- tural views of all that is essential to the sabbatlı, ciples which were inculcated in their native land. we must conclude, that, in comparison of this Gradually, however, the offence ceases; they authority, the opinions of different nen, and the become familiarized to what they behold sabbath customs of different countries, must go for nothing; after sabbath; and, alas! too many of them fall and that, whatever may be our deficiency in fact, into these customs themselves; and when they the standard of duty must be held to be the honest, return home, they return habitual and systematic conscientious, and unreserved sanctification of the sabbath-breakers. Many of their inferiors are whole of the Lord's day, in thought, in word, and corrupted by their example. Nor is it uncom- in action. mon to hear them endeavouring to subvert the pious principles of their countrymen, and to defend the customs of the foreigners. mistaken,' they will say, in the rigid notions

FIFTA Day.-MORNING. which you have adopted. You are imposed on by narrow-minded men, who know nothing of "Six days shalt thou work ; but on the serenth day life. Go and see the world. Or, believe what

thou shalt rest: in earing-time and in harvest

thou shalt rest,' Exod. xxxiv. 21. those who have seen it will tell you. Consider the opinions and customs of other nations, even How great a proportion of our time does the Christian nations, and you will be undeceived; Lord appoint for the business of life, and how you will put away your illiberal and sour notions: moderate a requisition does he make expressly and Sunday, instead of being to you a day of for himself and the business of eternity, when he loathing, of moping, and of melancholy, will be, appoints six days for the former purpose, and as it ought to be, a day of enjoyment, and of requires only one for the latter! Should we cheerfulness.'

not be ashamed, were the fixing of the proporOn this style of talk, it may be remarked, first tion referred to ourselves, to propose, for the latter of all, that the profanation, so much lauded, may purpose, so little as he has required ? Instead be easily accounted for, without it at all weakening of one-seventh, we should probably think of onethe grounds on which the proper observance of half at least. Or, suppose we were lying on the sabbath rests. The gross public, national, what, without an extraordinary interposition of and allowed profanation of the Lord's day has providence, would prove our death-bed; how originated and prevailed chiefly in those countries much of our time would we be willing to conwhere the holy scriptures, which are the only secrate to God for the future, if he were to restore rule of judgment, are least known and studied, us to health? Would we not decline to make that is, in popish countries. The unjustifiable any conditions, and cheerfully leave the matter encroachments, too, which popery has made on to his determination? Nay, were God, when we

"You are

« PreviousContinue »