Page images

a season of backsliding and anarchy! Against | more publicly. We should do all we can to all the profaners of the sabbath, and particularly expose its enormity, and to check its prevalence. against those who sold victuals, Nehemiah ‘testi- We should complain of it, that if there be a fied.' He came forward boldly, declaring his suitable law, that law may be enforced. And if displeasure, remonstrating with the offenders, the law of the land be not sufficient, such an proving their conduct to be contrary to the enactment should be petitioned for and passed. law of God, and solemnly protesting against Nor should we forget to wield the powerful all such abominations. He explained the evil influence of good example and earnest prayer. of such conduct, and gave good warning, before It is a serious thought that the prevalent he interposed his authority as governor. Find national desecration of the sabbath will expose ing it necessary, however, he had recourse to us to divine wrath, and to national judgments. very decided measures. He began with rebuk- 'Ye bring more wrath upon Israel,' said Neheing, “the nobles,' who were much in fault, and miah, ver. 18, ‘by profaning the sabbath. The whose example was so hurtful. He ordered the following passage in Jeremiah brings before us, gates of Jerusalem to be shut during the sabbath, in very striking terms, both the promise and the and if opened at all, to be opened very cautiously, threatening, as a people should observe, or disreand so that no burdens might be brought through gard, God's holy day: 'It shall come to pass, them. He placed some of his own servants as if ye diligently hearken unto me, saith the Lord, guards at the gates. These measures had great to bring in no burden through the gates of this effect. But as the evil was not entirely cured, city on the sabbath day, but hallow the sabbath some of the dealers still hanging on about the day, to do no work therein; then shall there walls without the city, he told them peremptorily, enter into the gates of this city kings and princes that if they did not desist, he would lay hands' sitting upon the throne of David, riding in on them, cause them to be seized, and imprisoned, chariots, and on horses, they and their princes, er otherwise punished. “From that time forth the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerucame they no more on the sabbath. He then salem, and this city shall remain for ever.' But committed the duty of keeping the gates to some if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the of the Levites, ver. 16–22. Thus the open pro- sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even fanation of the sabbath was put down.

entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the sabThis history is full of instruction to us. The bath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates sin of sabbath profanation is a growing sin in our thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerucountry; it calls for deep humiliation ; and if its salem, and it shall not be quenched!' progress be not met with very resolute, persevering, Would to God that those who are decided and prayerful opposition, it seems as if it would sabbath-breakers would take warning. Reflect, entirely overrun our land. Christian magistrates and blush, and be afraid, and tremble, ye who set are here taught that it is their duty to take pro- this day at nought. No reproof would be too per measures to guard the Lord's day from being sharp for you, no upbraidings too keen, openly profaned by labour, merchandise, or amuse- Let those of us who are on the whole conscienment. Sufficient warning should be given; and tious in this respect, feel admonished and encourif that is not attended to, they should carry the aged to improve, when we think of the advantages law into execution against the offenders. Nor of the due observances of the day, both to individought they to be partial in its application; they uals and communities. Scotland is spoken of by should bring it to bear on the rich and the poor, other nations as peculiarly distinguished for regard the nobles and the commons. Not that the cir- to the sabbath; and it were well that the encomium cumstance of one set of offences being overlooked were more deserved than it is. The Lord grant can justify the perpetration of another ; but im- that a stop may be put to the progress of sabpartiality shows conscience in the administrators bath desecration in the midst of us, and that the of the law, and tends to shut the mouths of gain- dutiful observance of the sacred day may be sayers. As the Levites did of old, so the minis- universally acknowledged again to characterize ters of the gospel now, should lend their aid in the cities and the hamlets of our dear native every way suitable to their office, and the cir- land! May our Scottish sabbaths be Scottish sabstances of the times, to secure the sanctity of the baths indeed. Never may the day come when sabbath. The office-bearers of the church should foreign opinions and foreign manners shall supexercise church discipline on sabbath-breakers. plant the truly scriptural sentiments, and the It is the duty of all classes of persons to testify truly scriptural customs, which, along with the against this sin, some more privately, and others most precious civil and religious privileges, come

down to us recommended by the example, and here the frame of mind described which becomes sealed by the martyrdom of our forefathers. At us on the Lord's day. We are here taught that all events, let us resolve, in God's strength, to the law of the sabbath should be not only observed remember the sabbath day to keep it holy. And but loved by us, and that we should keep it josmay our remaining sabbaths on earth prove to fully and gratefully. us days of profit and pleasure, and foretastes of Are we, on this day, to commemorate the the joys of that blessed state whose duration great work of the creation of the world? that calls shall not be measured by days and weeks, but for adoring gratitude and praise. When God in which we shall enter on an eternal sabbath · laid the foundations of the earth,' the morwhere such things shall be seen, and heard, and ning-stars sang together, and all the sons of enjoyed, as will soothe all our old cares into obli- God shouted for joy: and it well becomes us vion, and awaken into transport our songs of end- whom he has called into being, when we think less praise.

of the displays of his wisdom, power, and goodness in his works, to praise him also, and with a solemn yet happy mind, to sing the song of

Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the SEVENTH Day.-EVENING.

Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy

works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are This is the day which the Lord hath made ; we will rejoice and be glad in it,' Psalm cxviii. 24. fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou

thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not We have often heard it said that dedicating the only art holy. Above all, what reason of joy do whole of the sabbath to the public and private we find in the glorious work of redemption, of exercises of religion must render it a day of gloom, the finishing of which our Saviour's resurrection, and excite a dislike to all its duties; and it is too as on this day of the week, was the chief proof! true that there are many who feel a strong aver- · The stone which the builders refused is become sion from such a way of spending the day. But the head-stone of the corner. This is the Lord's then, it becomes us wisely to consider what this doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.' · Blessed proves, and how it can be remedied. It surely is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.' does not prove that such strictness is not binding; To the spiritually-minded, the exercises of the for, the commandment remains in full force, Lord's day are truly refreshing and delightful; whether men approve of it, or not. Nor can this may they prove so to us! We would take dislike ever be remedied by departing from the pleasure in acts of prayer and praise. We would doctrine of the full sanctification of the sabbath; regard God's testimonies as the joy and rejoicing for, that would be not to reconcile careless men of our souls. We would be glad when it is said to the sabbath; but to give up the sabbath to unto us, “ Let us go into the house of the Lord.' careless men. It is true that the employments We would listen with delight to the preaching of ought to be judiciously managed and varied, and the gospel, the glad tidings of great joy; and seek that direct exercises of worship ought not to be un- the blessedness of the people that experimentally reasonably protracted: but to yield up any thing know the joyful sound. How happy when we of the principle of the sabbath, to allow that any personally realize the blessings of a present salvapart of it should be diverted from sacred to com- tion, when the light of divine truth shines into mon purposes, that be far from us; for, that our understanding, when the spirit of grace would be a carnal and unjustifiable policy, which sanctifies and comforts our hearts, when we rejoice could never do any good. The plain truth is, that in the sense of our heavenly Father's love, when the dislike in question is only one of many symp- our affections go forth in tenderness and power toms of a state of alienation from God; and, in on every right object, when our faith is strong order to such persons being brought to relish the and our hope lively, when the peace of God that duties of the Lord's day, something more than an passeth all understanding, keeps our hearts and argument on this one point is necessary, namely, minds through Christ Jesus, and when we hona radical change of state and of heart. Where our, in all his offices, our divine Redeemer, whom that change has taken place, and vital religion having not seen, we love; in whom, though now exists in any considerable degree, God's holy day we see him not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy is a day of much enjoyment.

unspeakable and full of glory! This verse is found in a passage part of which is There is another view of the sabbath which applied to Christ and gospel times by the apostle should make it a day of rejoicing and gladness to Peter, first Epistle ii. 7; and therefore, we have us, and that is as it is a type of heaven. This

[ocr errors]

idea is unfolded in a very full, instructive, and portance of these duties. While young children, comforting way, in the fourth chapter of the and persons in early life, may be considered as Epistle to the Hebrews. The apostle there treats most generally and fully concerned with this of the weekly sabbath, the day of rest to be observed commandment, because, in most instances, their by every human being, and of Cannan, the earthly parents are alive, and they are usually most rest provided for the Israelites as a nation, and of dependent on them; it becomes us all to rememboth these as a figure of the eternal rest of heaven. ber that its duties do not cease at any age. * If Jesus,' that is, Joshua, “had given them rest,' | Though we may be considerably advanced in life perfect and perpetual rest, then would God not ourselves, yet, if we are so happy as to have afterwards have spoken of another day. There both, or either, of our parents spared with us, we remaineth therefore a rest,' a sabbatism, or a are still bound, and should still delight, to cultikeeping of a sabbath, “to the people of God.' vate every filial affection, and to discharge every • They who have believed do enter into rest;'- filial duty, as scripture may direct, and circumbelievers have rest and peace in Christ; they have stances require and permit. The word 'honour' rest even in this life, in comparison of the wicked is very fitly and happily chosen, as it is so definite to whom there is no peace, and who are like the and so strong as to be quite intelligible, and to troubled sea that cannot rest. But still, their command attention, and yet so comprehensive as rest“ remaineth,' perfect rest is in store for them to include all the duties. This commandment is in glory; and of this the sabbath of earth in every justly viewed as intended to regulate the reciprosense, is a type. Heaven is perfect and eternal cal duties of all different classes, in their several rest from labour, sorrow, and sin. Let, then, relations, as superiors, inferiors, or equals. every day of sacred rest here lead forward our shall, however, confine our thoughts, at present, thoughts, our faith, and our hope, to the eternity to the duties of children to their parents. Of of rest hereafter. Let us tremble at the idea these duties the following are some of the chief. of coming short of that rest. Let us fear, I. Reverence, or respect. We have had fathers lest a promise being left of us entering in, of our flesh who corrected us, and we gave them any of us should seem to come short of it.' reverence,' Heb. ix. 9. A son honoureth his · Let us labour to enter into that rest, lest any father, and a servant his master,' Mal. i. 6. Supman fall after the same example of unbelief.' pose parents have weaknesses and faults, their chilLet us comply with the invitation to come to dren should not notice these with pleasure, or with Christ, and he will give us rest even now. Let bitterness. They should never think or speak of, us give all diligence to acquire a meetness for the or treat their parents with contempt. If parents inheritance of the saints in light. In particular, have estimable qualities, filial affection will recoglet us hail the weekly sabbath with gladness; let nise these with delight. us improve it to the utmost, as a preparation II. Obedience. Children, obey your parents in for the rest that still remains for us; and let it the Lord, for this is right,' Eph. vi. 1. “Chil-continually keep us in mind of that blissful and dren, obey your parents in all things: for this is glorious state of which it is so instructive and so well-pleasing unto the Lord, Col. iii. 20. Let pleasing an emblem. Dear to us be its opening, us observe the extent of this duty; it should be its closing, and its every hour: and may the Lord 'in all things,' “in the Lord,' that is, in every bless to us abundantly the meditation of this pre- thing lawful. sent evening

III. Attention to their instruction. Parents are enjoined to “teach the things of God diligently to their children,' and 'to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.'

But, on Eighth Day.-MORNING.

the supposition that parents are qualified and *Honour thy father and thy mother ; that thy days must be a corresponding readiness to receive in

disposed to do this, in order to success there may be long upon the land which the Lord thy struction. My son, hear the instruction of thy God giveth thee,' Exod. xx. 12.

father, and forsake not the law of thy mother ; The important place assigned to the command for they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy ment relating to the duties which children owe head, and chains about thy neck.' to their parents, (for it is placed the first in the IV. Love. This is due to all, even to our second table of the moral law, and next to the com- enemies. But the precept of love applies here with mandments which enjoin piety to God himself) singular force. Our hearts must be steeled against is, no doubt, intended to show us the great im- every thing that is good, if they are not deeply impressed with this feeling. There is, indeed, as their own good to those who keep the commandnatural attachment without religion, which is little ment; but, with that explanation, the promise is more than an instinct, but let our filial love be Dot only sure, bat precious; indeed, any thing something more and better than this. Let it consist more than this would not deserve to be called a in rational good-will, an enlightened and earnest promise. desire for the welfare of our parents, both in time i Let disobedient children repent, ask forgiveand in eternity. Let it express itself in affec-ness of God for the Saviour's sake, and griere tionate words; and let it appear in the kindness their parents no more. Let those who are on of our actions, in the readiness and sati-faction' the whole dutiful to their parents feel admonwith which we do all we can to contribute to ished to consider wherein they are deficient, that their external comfort, and their spiritual good. they may supply it; and let them habitually, Let it also vent itself in earnest and persevering cheerfully, and affectionately study to promote, prayers that the Lord would shower down his in every way, the happiness of those from whom, richest blessings on their heads.

under God, they derive their existence, and to These are the strongest reasms why we should whom they are bound by the strongest ties of attend to all these duties to our parents. We nature and of religion. should honour our parents,

1. Because it is the express command of God. Not to advert to other precepts, the fifth com

Eighth Day.-EVENING. mandment is peculiarly positive and solemn. Had we no reason but this, it ought to be enough.

But ye say, Whosoeter shall say to his father, 2. We should honour our parents, because it

or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou

mightest be profited by me, and honour not kis is a debt of gratitude due to them. If we have any ingenuous feeling at all, this motive will be

father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus irresistible. What have they felt, and suffered,

hace ye made the commandment of God of none and done for us! What care and kindness did they

effect by your tralition, Matt. xv. 5, 6. exercise over us in infancy and childhood! How In the extensive range of meaning to be assigned many restless nights have we cost them! As they to the word “honour' in the fifth commandment, sat by our bed-side, or hung over us in our we must remember that it includes the duty of sickness, how did their eyes fill with tears, and contributing to maintain. So the word signifies their hearts with unutterable tenderness! How in other cases; as in the passage, “Honour widows have they denied themselves in many respects, that are widows indeed,' 1 Tim. v. 3, 16. Childthat we might want for nothing! And how did ren may generally be said to have nothing but what they labour and pray for our everlasting welfare! belongs to their parents, having either received Shall we, then, act an ungrateful, cruel, and everything from them, or been greatly indebted to undutiful part to such friends as these! Shall we them for the means of procuring it. Reason and behave so as to grieve those who have so loved the common feelings of nature combine in teachus, and to bring down their gray hairs with ing, that to neglect one's parents when they are sorrow to the grave? God forbid! We can in distress and poverty, is most inhuman. As never altogether repay them; but let us study to for scripture, it enjoins the duty of relieving them do so in as far as we can.

in the strongest terms. What is included in this 3. We should honour our father and mother, respect, in the word “honour,' is plainly and because of the promise annered: 'that thy days fully expressed in 1 Tim. v. 4, 16, if any may be long upon the land which the Lord thy widow have children, or nephews, (grandchildGod giveth thee.' 'Honour thy father and thy ren,) let them learn first to show piety at home, mother, (which is the first commandment with and to requite their parents; for that is good promise), that it may be well with thee, and and acceptable before God.' • If any man or thou mayest live long on the earth,' Eph. vi. 2. woman that believeth have widows (really destiDutiful children, by their very dutifulness, are tute) let them relieve them, and let not the kept out of the way of many evils, have a special church be charged; that it may relieve them promise of God's blessing, and, in so far, are that are widows indeed. If their parents stand in the likely way to prosperity and long life. in need of it, it is the duty of children to minister All temporal promises, indeed, are conditional, to their wants, and afford them pecuniary assisand the particular promise specially annexed to tance, according to their ability. the fifth commandment is to be viewed as made The incumbency of this duty is also insisted

in so far as it shall be for God's glory and I on by our Lord, in the passage before us this

[ocr errors]

evening. He had brought forward against the excuses for neglecting one's parents, it may be Scribes and Pharisees the general charge of trans- truly said, that they are not piety, but superstigressing the commandments of God by their tra- tion and injustice, and displeasing to God. 'I ditions; and here he substantiates a particular hate robbery for burnt-offering,' saith the Lord. example. The law of God enjoining filial duty What hypocrisy or delusion must influence those was express, and it was enforced on the Jews by who can hold that it is in their power so to bind the most awful sanctions; but their blind guides themselves by a vow, as that they shall not be found an expedient by which it might be quite able, without great sin, to do what the law of evaded. The Scribes and Pharisees taught, God requires, and that their vow must stand, • Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, though his law should be thereby made void! It is a gift,' (Mark vii. 11, Corban') by what- Let such notions be far from children professing soever thou mightest be profited by me, and godliness. Let them beware, too, of what are honour not his father or his mother, he shall be much more frequent causes of such cruel neglect free;' (in Mark) ` And ye suffer him no more in our day, thoughtless extravagance, and base to do ought for his father or his mother. Some selfishness: for there are too many who will not are of opinion, that this means, that it was taught live frugally, or deny themselves in any respect, that a man by simply having made a vow that but who will have their own desires gratified, he would not give anything to his parents, was though their parents should be pining in neglected thereby religiously released, nay, bound up from age and want. . Instead of this, let us, if our doing so. And, no doubt, this idea is involved. parents are in need of pecuniary aid, cheerfully But on the whole, and especially when it is con- render it, in so far as we have it in our power, sidered that the Hebrew word Corban signified other claims of equal urgency being attended to. any offering, any thing given, devoted, or conse- Let us also remember that there are other ways crated to God by a worshipper in approaching of promoting their comfort which we should carehim ; the meaning of this seems to be, that these fully adopt. One of these is, a discreet, wise, teachers inculcated, that if any man chose to pious, and virtuous conduct. "A wise son makdevote any part of his substance, or what he could eth a glad father,' says Solomon, but a foolish spare, to the sacred treasury, he was free from son is the heaviness of his mother.' · My son, if the duty of assisting his parents, nay, it then thine heart be wise, my heart shall rejoice, even became sin in him to assist them. That was mine. There are various kinds of attention too, entirely reversing the maxim, God will have which the truly filial disposition will suggest, and mercy, and not (or rather than) sacrifice. It the truly parental heart will appreciate. If they was like what became so common under the great do not live in the same family with us, we should, apostacy from pure Christianity, namely, giving if possible, see them frequently, We should or bequeathing property to the church, or to reli- study to promote their bodily comfort. We gious houses; and charitable endowments, under should, with that respect which is due to the relathe influence of superstition, or terror of con- tion they bear to us, affectionately encourage them science, or in the expectation of thereby purchas- to attend to the things which belong to their evering salvation, while the calls of ordinary benevo-lasting peace. We should cheer them with our lence, and the just claims of near relations were company and conversation. We should patiently neglected. In some countries, a great part of and kindly bear with their infirmities. We should the land had in this way fallen into the hands of nurse and comfort them in pain and sickness; and the Romish priests. In the charters making over do all we can to enliven and brighten the cloudy these gifts, this was a common form,—For my evening of their days. own salvation, for the salvation of my predeces- • Me, let the tender office long engage sors, for the salvation of my successors, and for To rock the cradle of reposing age; the salvation of my wife, &c., I give and bequeath

With lenient arts extend a mother's breath,

Make languor smile, and smooth the bed of death. to God and the church,' &c. This was always a complete supplanting of the scriptural doctrines

Ninth Day.-MORNING. of the atonement, faith, and justification, and often a sinful neglect of the claims of relations and The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth friends. Monastic vows fall justly under the

to obey his mother, the ravens of the ralley shall same condemnation, as amounting, in all cases, to

pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it,' a dereliction of the duties owing to the public,

Prov. xxx. 17. and, in many cases, to a cruel disregard and deser- We are here called on to meditate on the chartion of parents and cther relations. Of all such acter and the doom of the undutiful child.

« PreviousContinue »