Page images
PDF
EPUB

were in the prospect of death, to offer to lengthen | is clear. Except in such a case as the removing out our life, if we would agree to live in acute of corn which would be carried away by a flood, pain every seventh day, and to be comfortable the all work, under whatever pretence, even in the other six; would not the most of us gladly close critical season of harvest, must be discontinued, as with the offer ? But, shall we compare a sab- inconsistent with the general doctrine of the sabbath spent in communion with God, and in pre- bath, and as directly opposed to this injunction. paring for everlasting happiness, to a day spent Christians must learn to prefer communion with in agonizing endurance? Where is he who shall God, even to the business and the joy of harvest. have the audacity to do so, and still speak of his And then, we have here, not only a particular religion? Are not the duties and privileges of precept, but a principle of very general applicathe sabbath very pleasing to the pious mind? and tion. If it is unlawful to work on the sabbath in shall we not gladly devote it to the Lord ? the time of harvest, it is much more evident that it

We are not to forget that on the sabbath there is unlawful in other seasons of the year, and it is are considerable exceptions to the rule of resting very plain that many other pleas for such work from work. Works of necessity and mercy are are altogether vain. not only lawful, but binding on the Lord's day. Such, undeniably, was the nature of the proThese works are such as feeding and watering hibitions under the Old Testament dispensation ; cattle, lifting an animal out of a pit into which it and let us not imagine that Christianity has may have fallen, quenching conflagrations, stop-lessened the strictness of the commandment. ing inundations of water, defending a town that Nothing of this kind is once hinted in the New is besieged, resisting assaults, taking care of chil- Testament. We know that the sabbath was dren, waiting on the sick, relieving the distressed, in full force before the giving of the law by and the like. Our Lord healed the sick, defended Moses, and it is in full force stil. With the his disciples for taking and rubbing out in their single alteration as to the particular day of hands some ears of corn when they were hungry, the week, the New Testament leaves this point on the sabbath day, and taught that God preferred as it found it. It is altogether away from this mercy to sacrifice, Matt. xii. 1—13. It is not point to speak of the liberty of the gospel; enough, then, to say that such things are lawful, for, that is a liberty from condemnation, terror, for, it is our positive duty to attend to them. and legality of spirit, not a licentious dissolution

Let us beware, however, of carrying this prin- of the duties of piety and morality. Nay, so far ciple too far, or rather, of applying it to things to are the obligations to the strict observance of the which it was never intended to be applied. There sabbath, or of any other duty, from being weakis a danger of multiplying exceptions to the rule ened, that they are greatly increased by the of rest, till no sabbath is left at all, or till it is so superior light and privileges of the gospel. As encroached on as hardly to be distinguishable their deliverance from Egyptian bondage was an from the other days of the week. This tendency additional reason for the Israelites to remember was foreseen by the divine Lawgiver, and is pro- to keep holy the sabbath day, so also, though vided against in the words at the head of this still more powerfully, is our deliverance from the meditation. "On the seventh day thou shalt bondage of sin and Satan through the blood and rest: in earing-time and in harvest thou shalt spirit of the Saviour. rest.' Even in the most busy seasons of the year, It becomes us, also, seriously and practically when it is necessary to make great exertions, and to remember, that though the Lord's day is to be when labour is very valuable, as in the time of a day of rest from the business and amusements ploughing and sowing in spring, and in the time of the world, it is not to be a day of idleness. of cutting down and carrying home the corn in There are some who would not be guilty of the harvest, men are expressly commanded to rest, indecency of prosecuting their worldly calling, or not to labour, on the sabbath. Valuable as is of engaging in scenes of amusement, or of openly corn whence is made bread the staff of man's life, outraging in any way the feelings of their pious even such labour is prohibited. Men are not neighbours, or even of casting off all form of reentitled to regard it as a work of necessity. How ligion, who yet spend the greater part of the day know they but that the weather may continue good, in sloth, lounging in their houses, or wandering and so the state of the corn be further improved ? idly about the doors, or streets, or highways; and Is not such labour the result of a distrust of pro- who thus make void the great end for which it vidence? Cases have occurred of corn being car- was set apart. It is a rest, indeed, but it should ried on the sabbath, and afterwards rotting. But be a holy rest. We do not sanctify it, we however this may turn out, the commandment not keep it holy, by inactivity. Spent in sloth,

it would be a day lost. We must consecrate its in all those inward exercises which tend to humto sacred uses. We must rest in one way, but ble, improve, encourage, and delight the soul. be busy in another. Let the sabbath be with us Indeed, we should guard our thoughts throughout a day of the industrious application of our minds the day, as well as our words and actions. As to spiritual and eternal things, to all the exercises a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.' of religion which tend to glorify God and benefit Secondly, Let us meditate on, and, in our seveour souls. Let it be to us a cessation from the ral spheres, carefully observe the duties incumbent harassing employments of the world, that we may on us on the Lord's day in our families as such. give ourselves without distraction, and with undi- 1. Family worship. Reason and scripture vided intensity, to the service of Christ, and to unite in inculcating the observance of this duty the things which belong to our everlasting peace. on every day of the week, and therefore on the Let us thus carefully avail ourselves of that Lord's day. When we look to scripture, we find solemn pause in earthly pursuits, that favoured the example of Abraham, Gen. xviii. 19; of season of holy leisure ; and, with the help of the Jacob, Gen. xxxv. 2; of Job, i. 5; of David, 2 Holy Spirit, we shall find the serious thoughts, Sam. vi. 20; of Joshua, xxiv. 15. The high the heavenward aspirations, and the sacred obser- priest was directed to make an atonement, not vances of the sabbath, eminently impressive, only for himself, but for his household,' Lev. interesting, edifying, and delightful.

xvi. 17. Jeremiah (x. 25) utters these awakening words, . Pour out thy fury upon the heathen

that know thee not, and upon the families that Fiftu DAY.-EVENING.

call not on thy name.'

But, do all professing Christians faithfully dis'It is the sabbath of the Lord in all your dwell charge this duty? Is it not undeniable that many ings,' Lev. xxiii. 3.

live on from sabbath to sabbath in utter neglect We are now to meditate on the way in which of it? Conscience tells that this ought not so to the sabbath should be kept by us in our own be. Let it now say impressively to the person houses; or, in other words, on our home duties who ought to take a lead in this duty, but on the Lord's day, both as individuals, and as neglects it, “Thou art the guilty man. It is members of families.

nothing to thee whether the blessing or the curse First, Let us, as individuals, be careful to con- rest on thy dwelling, whether those who are dear secrate to the Lord that portion of the sabbath to thee be saved, or perish. It is high time to which we spend at home. Unless we are per

reform.' sonally conscientious in this respect, there cannot 2. Catechising. Religious instruction, in the be any satisfactory or acceptable observance of form of question and answer, should be fully, perthe day in our families as such. Among the severingly, and affectionately given on the sabsabbath duties incumbent on individuals, let us bath, to children and servants. attend to the following. The duty of rising be- 3. Religious conversation. We should not only times : slothful indulgence in this way, is taking refrain from speaking our own words, but also away a considerable and very valuable part of speak God's words, speak on religious subjects, the day, from the edifying exercises in which it on the Lord's day. The conversation should not should be spent. Secret prayer is one of the obvi- be about the weather, or the crops, or the affairs ous duties of the Lord's day; and then, at least, of our neighbours, or our own business, or dress, we cannot plead any excuse, but should engage in or the news, or even about deaths, or accidents this duty in a very calm, solemn, leisurely, sin- as they are called, without giving our observacere, and earnest manner. To this, let us add tions a pious and edifying turn. There is, perreading: the reading especially of the Holy haps, no way in which the sabbath is more proScriptures, in an attentive, pious, regular, and faned, even by persons of some religion than this. persevering way; and also, according to the time Let serious topics be chosen. When a favourwhich attention to other duties permits, the read-able opening is made, let it be well followed up. ing of religious books of human composition, The subjects of discourse in church should be which are calculated to be very useful in so far spoken of in the house at home; not for the sake as they are founded on the word of God. To of commending or censuring the preacher, or of all this, let us add meditation, that we may seri- speculating on what may be curious and dispuously reflect on what we read, so as to digest it, table, but in a way calculated to fix the rememand make it our own; and that we may examine brance and the impression of the most important ourselves as to our state and progress, and indulge topics on the memory and conscience.

[graphic]

For all this, there is a superintending and con- | assemble for religious purposes. I find, then, trolling power, lodged by the Lord of all in an argument for this, arising from reason and the parents and heads of families, which it is their almost universal practice of nations. Notwithduty to exercise. Children should not be per- standing our fall and natural want of spirituality, mitted, and should not seek, to engage in what is reason teaches, and conscience requires, that there contrary to the duties of the sabbath at home, or shall be some acknowledgment of God, not only to play, or wander about the streets, or fields, or by individuals and families, but also by comroads. And, while servants are entitled to enjoy munities. As for scripture, I cannot but perthe Lord's day rest, and share in its means of ceive that it inculcates this duty in a continued religious instruction and impression, they should thread of example and precept interwoven. It not (if they are unhappily so inclined) be allowed was practised before express precept was given. to go whithersoever they please on the sabbath. The Lord separated the family of Abraham from It seems a good rule which some masters and mis- idolaters, to be a peculiar people to himself; and tresses adopt, and inform their domestic servants to them particular directions were given as to the of when they engage them, that they will not be mode of worship. They had first the tabernacle, permitted to leave the house on the Lord's day, and then the temple, where they assembled. except to go to church; but that if they wish to Though sacrifices were confined to these, the go out for some time on any business, or to visit people assembled in every place of any note, in their friends, they have only to apply for leave synagogues, every sabbath; sabbath was to them on any other day of the week.

"a day of holy convocation. When I come to How happy the effects which might be expected New Testament authority, I find both example, to flow from such a way of spending the hours and precept to be express. I find the Saviour of the Lord's day which fall to be spent at home! often in the temple and synagogues, and often How would it keep at a distance from families assembling great multitudes to preach to them. many causes of discord and misery, and unite the In the Acts of the Apostles, the following passages members together in sanctified relative affection! occur, — These all' (the apostles) continued How greatly would it contribute to secure atten- with one accord in prayer and supplication, with dance on the public services of the day, and add the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and to their effect! Let it be seriously considered with his brethren.' · Upon the first day of the whether the little success of the preaching of the week, when the disciples came together to break gospel be not very much owing to neglect in this bread, Paul preached unto them. In writing to way at home.

If public ordinances were pre- the Corinthians, Paul uses these expressions, In pared for, and followed up by the various reli- the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gious exercises of the closet, and of the family gathered together:' If therefore the whole church circle, what might not be expected! Better days be gathered together into one place. I ought would arise on the church. A congregation not, then, to entertain any doubt as to my duty composed of such families, just come from such in this case. I would remember it; I would exercises, and soon to return to them—how would charge my conscience with it, I would studiously they listen to the word of life! how would they comply with it. But I would meditate, pray! and what songs of heartfelt praise would 2. On the way in which I should wait on Go they sing! May such sabbaths be extensively in the assemblies of his people. I would conside realized among us. So shall our families be how I should do this, both as to my inward dis abodes of happiness and peace; and so shall our position, and as to my external manner. country be a delightsome land, whose name shall My conscience tells me, then, that I ought t be, The Lord is there.'

attend regularly. I should never be absent from any of the ordinary diets of public worship, ex cept for such a reason as will be satisfactor

at the bar of an enlightened conscience, an Sixth Day.—MORNING.

before the judgment-seat of Christ. Thos * Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves to-able opportunities, sin against God, and set

who are needlessly absent always lose valu gether, as the manner of some is , but exhort- bad example to others. If my health and other ing one another : and so much the more, as ye circumstances permit, let me be always in m see the day approaching,' Heb. x. 25.

place, lest my minister and the exemplary part I would now meditate,

the congregation be grieved when they see m 1. On the proof that it is a positive duty to seat empty, and lest I be away at the very tim

they may

when the subject is discussed which would be There they often experience a softening, soothing most suitable and useful to me. As for the and reviving influence, which enables them to systematic plan of attending church only once a triumph over melancholy, and turns grief into joy, day, and keeping away from the other diet,-it tears into songs, and sighs into praises. By the is characteristic of men of the world, who wish help of God, then, I will not forsake, I will to pay as much respect to religion as they think always, when it is in my power, frequent the necessary to tolerable decency, but who have not assemblies of his people, relying on his gracious given their hearts to the Lord. How many promise that in all places where he records his opportunities may remain to me God only knows: name, he will come unto them and bless them.

be

very few; therefore, let me not, if The last part of the verse at the head of this I can avoid it, lose one of them.

meditation, reminds us of the duty of caring for Again, I feel that I should attend early, taking each others' souls,—the duty of mutual edificacare to be present before the service begins. The tion. While we thus study the good of others, evils of late attendance are numerous and great. we shall take a most effectual way to promote It is a breach of common propriety; for, those our own. To all this, in relation both to ourselves who are too late in coming to any company feel and to others, let us be powerfully prompted by that an apology is called for. It disturbs those the consideration of the near approach of death who are already in the service. It is also disre- and judgment. The day of decision is at hand. spectful to God, who has invited us to a feast and We have no time to lose. expects us to be present at the beginning of it. When Peter came into the house of Cornelius, he found him waiting for him,' with many that were gathered together; and Cornelius said,

Sixth Day.—EVENING. “Now, therefore, are we all here present before

This people draweth nigh unto me with their God, to hear all things that are commanded thee

mouth, and honoureth me with their lips ; but of God.'

their heart is far from me,' Mat. xv. 8. I should also wait on the assemblies of the church with decency and solemnity. "God is It is unquestionably my duty to draw nigh to greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, God with my mouth, and to honour him with my and to be had in reverence of alł them that are lips; it is incumbent on me to make an open proabout him." "Let all things be done decently and fession of religion, to confess Christ before men, and in order. The following things are contrary to this to observe the divinely-appointed ordinances, both rule, and should be avoided :a light and trifling public and private. Not to make such a profescarriage, betraying an ill regulated mind;—the look sion of religion would prove that I am opposed of displeasure, or of dalness, saying, as it were, I to it, or indifferent to it, or ashamed of it. Hydislike, or care not for what is going on;—the con- pocrites there certainly are; there are who assume tinual wandering of the eye to surrounding objects; the appearance of piety, while they have nothing --an ambitious display of appearance, as if to dis- of its reality. It must not be supposed, however, pute with Jehovah the homage of the worship- that this will be any excuse for the want of a pers;-sleeping, or even seeming to sleep, for we religious profession. Suppose two contagious should “abstain from all appearance of evil.” fruit trees, the one covered with luxuriant foliage

Sincerity, too, a real, heartfelt interest in all and blossom, the other dry and leaffess. Would the exercises, is required of us in the assemblies not men say of them, “The one may produce of the church. Let us ever remember that pre- fruit this season; the other cannot?' Grant that sence and a reverential appearance are not enough the former, though it blossoms in promise of a if the heart be not properly engaged. Let us plentiful crop, produces no fruit; does that in beware of formality and hypocrisy. What avail any way show the superiority of the total barprayer and praise that go out of feigned lips ? renness of the latter? Let the foliage and blossom

How edifying and refreshing to his people the of the former be an emblem of the empty privileges of God's house! How do they ex- profession of the hypocrite, and the deadness tend their knowledge, strengthen their faith, call and leaflessness of the latter an emblem of the forth their love, enliven their devotion, improve want of all appearance of religion in its avowed their character, and comfort them in trouble ! neglecter, and the application is obvious. The There the consoling truths of the gospel are pro- hypocrisy of some can never be any excuse claimed, and the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, is for a real defect in others. The promising apready to apply them to the hearts of his people. I pearance of some will only render the deadness

of others more obvious and more dismal. A man I would especially think of this in reference to may sometimes be heard to speak in this way, drawing near to God in his house, and in religi'It is true that I pay little attention to the out- ous exercises. Then I voluntarily place myself ward ordinances of religion, and that I do not rank in his more immediate presence, and subject my among the godly; but then, I never pretended to inmost soul to the scrutiny of his all-seeing eye. any thing remarkable in that way. Thank God, When I enter his house, I will endeavour to I am no hypocrite. Such a person is indeed no remember that the great Master of assemblies is hypocrite, for, his character is manifest. He is present and observing all; and under the impression no Christian. If he really had any proper religi- of that awakening truth, I will study to receive the ous principle, it would show itself, and he would gospel with all readiness of mind, and to render to not expressly disavow it. In a word, there him the prayers and praises of an unfeigned heart. may be a profession without true religion, but How greatly does it concern all the professing there can be no true religion without a profes- worshippers of the Lord, and followers of Christ, to sion. It is my duty to attend also to external examine themselves with the view of ascertaining bodily worship, to be present in the place, and go whether they have the power as well as the form through the form of worship, to glorify God in my of godliness! Are we Israelites indeed in whom body as well as in my spirit, both of which are his. there is no guile? Let us consider well, and If I neglect this, I am manifestly irreligious. allow our consciences to speak the truth, whether

I must remember, however, that my profession it be favourable, or the reverse. Those who have and attendance on ordinances will be worthless, if reason to fear that they have only the appearance they be not the genuine index of my heart. It and not the reality of religion, should be deeply will avail me nothing to give out that I am a humbled before God, and make determined strugbeliever in Christ, if I do not indeed believe in gles to escape from the snare of the devil, and of him and that in his true character, and so as to be their own delusive hearts, which are deceitful above interested in him for justification. It will avail me all things, and desperately wicked. If we are, on nothing to call him Lord, Lord, if I do not the the whole, sincere and upright, let us be encourthings which he says. I shall not be accepted in aged to hold fast our integrity of purpose, and joining outwardly in public worship, unless I be consistency of conduct. Let us be careful of outsincere in the service. "God is a Spirit, and they ward appearances; but let us be still more careful that worship him must worship him in spirit and in of the state of our hearts. Let us keep our heart truth; such the Father seeketh to worship him.' with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of

The great defect of those who are reproved in life. Let us grieve over the partial insincerity the passage on which I am now meditating is, that still cleaves to us, and aim at greater purity that in the midst of all their religious observances, of motive and simplicity of intention. their heart is far from God. What the Lord And while we lend our best endeavours to chiefly requires, then, is my heart. “My son,' attain this character, let us be mindful of our own says he, 'give me thine heart. May I be enabled insufficiency. Let us often and earnestly pray that to withdraw my heart from every other object, our prayer may be the prayer of the upright, which from all that would keep it from him in point of is God's delight, that our love may be without subjection, love, and dependence. May I make dissimulation, and that in all things we may speak a cordial and entire surrender of myself to him and act with simplicity and godly sincerity. as my redeeming God, according to the gospel · Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for scheme and warrant. I would give my heart, my I wait on thee. “Examine me, O Lord, and prove soul, to him, as dark, to be enlightened; as guilty, me; try my reins and my heart.' to be pardoned; as polluted, hard and rebellious, to be renewed, softened, and ruled; as weak and

SEVENTH DAY.-MORNING. wavering, to be strengthened, kept, and finally In those days saw I in Judah some treading and completely saved. This I would do, because

wine-presses on the sabbath, and bringing in my own happiness requires it; because in claiming my heart, he claims only what is his due; and

sheaves, and lading asses ; as also wine, grapes, because if I withhold my heart, nothing else will

and figs, and all manner of burdens, which be rightly given by me, or accepted of him.

they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath Without this, everything else will be a specious

day: and I testified against them in the day

wherein they sold victuals,' Neh. xiii. 15. insult. It is not the shadow, but the substance of my homage which he requires, “The Lord What a graphic account have we here of scenes requireth truth in the inward parts.'

which would naturally occur in Palestine in such

« PreviousContinue »