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dreadful vengeance, who “will no wise hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.”
REMEMBER THE SABBATH DAY TO KEEP IT HOLY.
The Decalogue is in several places of Scripture, as we before noted, called a covenant with the Jewish people, and the observation of this law is likewise so called in a particular and special manner. It is expressed to have been appointed as a sign or characteristical note, whereby their peculiar relation to God might be discerned, and they distinguished from all other people. As circumcision was a seal of the covenant made with Abraham and his posterity; so keeping the sabbath did obsignate the covenant made with the children of Israel after their delivery out of Egypt: “the children of Israel,” saith the text, “ shall keep the sabbath to observe the sabbath, throughout their generations for a perpetual covenant: it is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever :" and, “I gave them,” saith God in Ezekiel, “my statutes, and showed them my judgments, which if a man do, he shall live in them; moreover I gave them my sabbaths to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord, who sanctifies them :”? and," thou camest down from mount Sinai,” say the Levites in Nehemiah, “and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments, and true laws, good statutes and commandments; and madest known unto them thy holy sabbaths.”
1 Exod. xxxi. 16.
Ezek. xx. 11, 12, 20.
Now although we cannot press the strict observation of this law in all its parts, according to its literal and direct intention, yet we may learn much of our duty, much of God's will from it. All God's laws, spiritually and wisely understood, did tend to the promoting of piety and virtue; and abstracting from the special circumstances of that people, to whom they were consigned, may pass for fit patterns for us to imitate, suggesting proper means of exercising, nourishing, increasing those qualities in us; and so from this law we may learn these duties :
1. That we should frequently call to mind and consider the great and glorious works of God, performed for the general good of his creatures, and specially for mankind,—the creation of the world, the redemption of mankind; the nativity, passion, resurrection, and exaltation of our Lord and Saviour,, and the like, no less now considerable to us, both in respect of glory due to God and of benefit accruing to us, than was the creation formerly to the Jews.
2. That we are bound to restrain ourselves in the prosecution of worldly business; not distracting our minds with care, not exhausting our bodies with toil
i Neh, ix. 13, 14.
about them, but allowing our mind convenient and seasonable freedom, affording our soul leisure with vigour and alacrity to enjoy its nobler entertainments, and to pursue its higher interests.
3. That we are obliged to use the same indulgence toward those whom Divine Providence hath disposed to be under our power, care, or governance: to allow our children, our subjects, our servants a competent measure of rest and refreshment from their ordinary labours, sufficient time and leisure undistractedly to serve God, and quietly to mind their spiritual welfare—we must so charitably tender their good, as to procure, that their life may be easy and comfortable here; and that also they may have opportunity to obtain for themselves a happy immortality hereafter; not being in these respects either harsh to their outward man or uncharitable to their souls.
4. That we must not be unmerciful to any creature; not only abstaining from inflicting, in wantonness of humour, needless vexation upon them, but also from wearying and grieving them too much for our emolument or convenience: the advantage and pre-eminency bestowed upon us by God over them should be managed with moderation and clemency; we should be gentle masters to them, not cruel tyrants over them ; we should consider that God did make them, as to help and serve us, so to enjoy somewhat themselves of delight and satisfaction in their being; which if we go to deprive them of, rendering their condition intolerable and worse than
if they had no being, as we do abuse and injure them, transgressing the bounds of our right over them, so we encroach upon, disappoint, and wrong their Maker, and cannot therein but displease him: doing thus is a point of injustice not enough considered by them who commit it; they consider not how beastly they are themselves when they misuse poor beasts.
5. We may hence further learn that it is fit certain times should be allotted for the public and solemn performance of the fore-named duties. Common reason prompteth that God, upon whose protection and disposal the public good depends, should be publicly honoured, and his benefits frequently acknowledged ; also that care should be taken in every society that all states of men should lead their lives in some competent degree of content. Common sense will inform us that these things cannot effectually be executed, without constituting definite periods of time, and limiting circumstances according to which they shall be practised under public inspection and censure. And these dictates of ordinary prudence the Divine wisdom hath ratified by his exemplary order; the which in cases wherein he hath not interposed his direct authority by way of precept may serve for a good direction to governors what they may with safety, what they should in wisdom establish, what provision they should make for the promotion of piety and virtue.
It is indeed particularly observable, that in this command there is not an express order concerning the natural or moral service of God by prayer or hearing God's law, to be publicly performed on this day. But the Jews were themselves so wise as to understand these duties couched in the sanctification of the day prescribed to them, and they practised accordingly. They in all places of their habitation did settle synagogues and oratories; to them upon this day they resorted; in them they did offer devotions to God; the scribes did read the law, and expound it to the people: “Moses,” saith Josephus,“ did command the people to assemble for hearing of the law, not once or twice, or many times, but every seventh day laying aside their works; whence, added he, “the people became so skilful in the laws, that if one asked any of them concerning them, he would more easily tell them all than his own name;" whence also an admirable concord in mind and uniformity in practice did, as he further observes, arise. In consideration of which practice it was that the Jews so highly valued this precept, that it was a saying among them,” “the sabbath weigheth against all the command- . ments ;" as procuring them all to be known and observed. If that blind people could pick these duties out of this law, much more should we see ourselves obliged, according to analogy thereof, to appoint set times for insuring the practice of them.