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ties, incumbent on mankind with respect to this holy day, which is contained in the Scriptures. It is a prediction to the Jews, announcing, that, if they will perform these duties, God will greatly prosper them with spiritual and temporal blessings, in the land of their fathers. In iny own opinion, it especially respects a period, yet to come. lo examining this subject, I shall endeavour,
1. To point out the Nature, and Extent, of these duties; and, II. To show, that they are binding upon us.
1. I shall endeavour to point out the Nature, and Extent, of these duties.
In examining this subject, I shall adopt the scheme of the text; and mention,
1. The things, from which we are to abstain ; and, 2. The things, which we are to perform.
1. We are bound to abstain from sin, in thought, conversation, and conduct.
All, who read the Gospel, know, or may know, perfectly, that sin may be as easily, and as extensively, committed in thought, as in word, or action; and that the real seat of sin is in the heart. With the reformation of our hearts, then, we are always to begin our duty. We may as easily, and grossly, profane the Sabbath, so far as ourselves only are concerned, by thoughts, which are unsuited to its nature, as we can by any actions whatever. If our minds are intent on our business, or our pleasures; if our affections. wander after them; if we are cold, or lukewarm, with respect to our religious duties; if we are negligent of a serious and cordial attention to them; if we regard with impatience the interruption, occasioned to our secular concerns ; if we wish the institution had not been appointed, or the time, in wbich it is to be kept, Jessened; then, plainly, we do not esteem the Sabbath a Delight, nor abstain from finding our own pleasure. So long as this is the state of our thoughts ; all our outward conformity to this precept ; (for such is really the nature of the text;) will be merely hypocritical. Every oblation from such a mind will be vain ; and all its incense an abomination. The sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies, among persons, who act
in this manner, will be such, as God cannot away with ; and their solemn meeting will be iniquity.
The heart gives birth to all the movements of the tongue. We profane the Sabbath, whenever we employ the time in Worldly Conversation. Such conversation is, in the text, denoted by the phrase, speaking thine own words: thine own being supplied by the translators. I think this supplement rational; since in the two preceding clauses we find doing thine own ways, and finding thine own pleasure. Bishop Lowlh, from similar phraseology in the ninth verse, supposes it should be vain words. The meaning, however, will differ immaterially.
Such conversation is, like our thoughts, directed indifferently to subjects of business, and of pleasure ; and in both cases the Sabbath is subverted, and, so far as this conversation extends, is changed from a holy, into a secular, day. God is robbed of his rights, and of his service : and we are prevented from attaining, and from a disposition to attain, the holiness, which is indispensable to salvation.
There is no way, in which the sabbath is more easily, more insensibly, more frequently, and more fatally violated, than this. Temptations to it are always at hand. The transgression always seems a small one ; usually a dubious one at the worst; and, often, no transgression at all. Multitudes of persons, of sober and well-meaning dispositions, nay, multitudes, as there is but too much reason to fear, of professing Christians, beginning with religious subjects, slide imperceptibly towards those, which are considered as moral in such a degree, as scarcely to differ from religious ones; thence to secular themes, bordering upon these; and thence to mere matters of business, or amusement. Such persons, before they are aware, find themselves occupied in conversing about the affairs of the neighbourhood ; the strangers, who are at Church; the new dresses ; fashions; business; diversions ; news, and politics. To these they are led by mere worldly conversation concerning the prayers; the psalmody; or the sermon; as having been well or ill devised, written, spoken, or performed; by a history, merely secular, of the sickness and deaths in the neighbourhood, or elsewhere, or of the dangerous
br fatal accidents, which have lately happened; the state of the weather ; the season ; the crops; the prospects ; the affairs of the family, and by innumerable other things of a similar nature. The next step is, ordinarily, an habitual employment of this holy day in open, cool, and self-satisfied, conversation about business; schemes of worldly pursuits ; bargains ; gains, and losses. It is not to be understood, that Christians go all these lengths. It is my real belief, however, that they go much farther, than they can justify; and fail, in this manner, of their duty; their improvement in the Christian life; their proper exemplariness of character; the evidence of their piety, which would spring from these sources; the hope, which it would inspire ; the peace, which would accompany them; and the joy, in which they would delightfully terminate. Many sober men, however, who but for this very conduct might probably become Christians, go all these lengths ; and thus lose, insensibly, their tenderness of conscience; their soberness of mind; and their desire, as well as their hope, of eternal life. Men less wellprincipled start, originally, at the end of this career; and thus annihilate the Sabbath at once : bidding, without anxiety, a final adieu to the Sabbath itself, and to its rich, exalted, and immortal blessings.
The profanation of the Sabbath by Actions is seen, and acknowledged, by all decent men, who acknowledge it as a day, consecrated by God to himself. Actions are so open to the view of mankind; are so definitive a proof of the disposition ; and, when violations of a known rule of duty, constitute so gross a proof of impiety; that all doubts concerning the true construction, to be given of them, vanish whenever they appear. The common and favourite modes of profaning the Sabbath, in this way, are spending our time in dress; in ministering to a luxurious appetite; in walking, or riding, for amuseinent; in writing letters of friendship; in visiting ; and in reading books, which are not of a religious, but merely of a decent, character, and, ultimately, those which are formed to be the means of amusement and sport. The end of this progress, generally esteemed more gross, though perhaps in many instances not more, and in others less, sinful; is the devotion of this sacred day to down
right business. Persons, who go this length, occupy the time in writing letters of business ; posting their accounts; visiting post-offices; making bargains ; transmitting money to their correspondents ; going or sending to markets ; making journies, at first with, and afterwards without, pretences of necessity; and, ultimately, labouring openly in the ordinary employments of life. This is what is called in the text doing our own ways. A man's way, in scriptural language, is the customary course of his life.
All these things, whether existing in thought, word, or action, are called our own, in contradistinction to those which are God's : that is, to those, which are required of us by God: and every one of them is prohibited in the text.
2. We are required to abstain from Idleness.
Although the Sabbath is never to be spent in secular business, or amusement; it is still to be, invariably, a day of industrious exertion. There are some persons, who feel too much regard to the dictates of their consciences, to public opinion, to the commands of God, or to all of them, to consume the Sabbath in business, or amusement. Still, having no relish for the duties of the day, they spend it in idleness : satisfied with abstaining from those, which they esteem the grosser, and more direct, violations of this divine Institution. Accordingly, they lounge about their houses, gardens, or farms; and waste the season of salvation in sloth, sleep, or such a course of existence as resembles that of the oyster: a state, bordering upon the line, which separates animated beings from those, which are inanimate. This course of conduct is an annihilation of the Sabbath ; the death of the day; and a frustration of all the designs, and blessings, of God, connected with this heavenly Institution. The Sabbath was intended to be the means of honouring God, and of saving the souls of men. But idleness is always dishonourable to God, and hostile to the salvation of the soul. Both of these great objects are accomplished by him only, who is not slothful in business, but fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.
3. We are bound to abstain, with peculiar caution, from acknowledged sins upon this holy day.
The abstinence, which I have hitherto specified, regards business and amusement, ordinarily lawful on other days. From that conduct, and those thoughts, which are universally sinful, we are bound to abstain, with peculiar care, upon the Sabbath ; because, then, they are peculiarly heinous. The sacred nature of this day, and the solemn consecration of it by God to himself, together with all the advantages, which we enjoy for religious instruction, and for all the duties of piety, furnish such a body of motives to our abstinence from sin, as cannot be resisted without peculiar guilt. Every sin, committed upon this day, is aggravated by the fact, that we have resisted these motives. At the same time, we are, by its very nature, so withdrawn from the world, so secured against temptation, and so much at leisure for solemn meditation, and for the establishment of firm resolutions of obedience in our minds, that, if we sin upon this day, we sin with fewer inducements to the iniquity, than upon other occasions. He, who indulges his wickedness on the Sabbath, will be in danger of rioting in it on the other days of the week,
It hardly needs to be remarked, that sinful ways are peculiarly our own, and eminently opposed to those, which are required
In all the above recited particulars, those, who are guilty of them, openly violate the law of God; squander the accepted time; waste, and abuse, the means of grace; and lessen, Sabbath by Sabbath, their hopes of eternal life.
The Duties which we are to perform, are, generally, all the va. rious 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; uttered 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, yeu, even fainted, for the courts of the Lord; their heart and their flesh cried out for the living God. Accordingly, the Lord God was to them a sun, and a shield. He gave them
grace and withheld from them no good thing. In the same manner the