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early Christians esteemed the Sabbath a delight, and the holy of The Lord honourable. In the times of the Apostles, they continued in fellowship, in prayer, and in breaking of bread. They sung psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs. They prophesied ; taught the doctrines of the Scriptures ; uttered, and interpreted, Revelation; and collected alms for such saints, as were in peculiar circumstances of distress. All these examples abundantly show us, that good men, during the ages of Inspiration, steadily accorded, and thought it their duty to accord, with the requisitions, contained in the text. What was their duty is ours. All these solemn services, therefore, and others connected with them, it is incumbent on us to perform in spirit, and in Iruth. We are to join ourselves to the Lord, to serve him, according to the prediction of Isaiah concerning us, and the other Gentiles; to love the name of the Lord; to keep the Sabbath from polluting it; and to take hold of his covenant. Particularly,
1. We are to perform all the duties of Public Worship.
The Sabbath, as has been observed, was originally appointed for the commemoration of the divine glory, manifested in creating the world; and for the attainment, and improvement, of holiness in man. The manner, in which we should commemorate the glory of God in the work of Creation, on this day, is sufficiently taught us by the manner, in which the first Sabbath was celebrated. Then, we are informed, the Morning Stars sang together, and all the Sons of God shouted for joy. In the same manner was the work of the New Creation, and the divine glory displayed in it, celebrated by the same illustrious beings, according to the prophetical account, given in the sixty-eighth Psalm, of this wonderful event: an account, expressly applied to it by the Apostle Paul in the third chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians. The Chariots of God are twenty thousand ; even thousands of Angels. The Lord is among them, as in Sinai; as in the holy place. The very hymn, which they sung, seems to be transmitted to us in the following words ; Thou hast ascended on high; thou hast led captivity captive; thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also; that the Lord God might dwell among them.
The manner, in which holiness and salvation are to be obtained, is every where taught in the Gospel. The truth of God, in the hands of the divine Spirit, is the great instrument, by which we are made free from the bondage of corruption. Faith, we know, cometh by hearing; and hearing, by the Word of God. This Word is, therefore, to be faithfully explained, and enforced, by the Preacher; and faithfully received by those who hear him. The prayers, and the praises, of every religious assembly, are to spring from the heart; and are to ascend up before the throne of infinite mercy, with dependence, with confidence, with love, with reverence, with gratitude, with hope, and with joy. Our prayers, and our praises, are also to be presented in the name of Christ, as the great and glorious Propitiation for the sins of men, and the true and living way of access to God. They are to be presented with faith in his name; that faith, which occupies the whole heart, and alone interests us in the blessings of Redemption.
Christians, at the same time, are to unite in the administration, and celebration, of the Evangelical ordinances ; Baptism and the Lord's Supper: and are thus in a peculiar and most affecting manner to commemorate the glory of Christ, manifested in the wonderful work of the new Creation.
All these things are to be done decently, and in order. At the same time, they are to be performed with plainness, simplicity, and no unnecessary rites. The Jewish worship was intended by its ceremonious magnificence to strike the imagination, during the early and ignorant periods of society. To this end it was perfectly fitted. All its services were calculated to affect the senses in the deepest manner, and to find, through them, access to the heart. The Gospel, on the contrary, is addressed directly to the Understanding; and makes its way to the heart by means of the power of Conscience. Unnecessary rites are, here, both useless and noxious : since they allure the thoughts away from the doctrines and precepts, which are inculcated, to the ceremonies, by which they are surrounded. In this manner, the spiritual worship of the Gospel is ever in danger of becoming a mere bodily exercise, unprofitable in itself, and destructive of piety. The ceremonies of the Romish Church exterminated its devotion; and became, extensively, the cause, as well as the
effect, of that corruption, which by men of real religion has been justly regarded as a prodigy.
2. On this holy day, also, we are bound to perform the various Private duties of Religion.
The worship of the family, and that of the closet, are the duty of all families, and of all individuals, every day they live. Equally is it the duty of all men to spend a part of every day in self-examination ; in religious meditation ; and in contemplation on the perfections and works of God, on the character of Christ and the wonders of Redemption. The Scriptures especially, and other religious books generally, are to be read, pondered, and cordially received. The amendment of the soul, and victory over sin and temptation, are to be planned, resolved on, and achieved. We are to humble ourselves before God; to devote ourselves anew to his service; to cherish the duties of religion; and universally to cultivate the Christian character.
- At the same time, children and servants are to be carefully instructed in the great and plain doctrines and duties of religion; to be restrained, in the same manner as ourselves, from all worldly pursuits; and to be presented by us with such persua. sive examples of piety, as may engage them to reverence, and embrace, the Gospel.
Universally, our time, our thoughts, our conversation, and our actions, are all to be devoted to God. This, indeed, is, in a sense, true of every day. But on other days it is our duty to labour in our worldly business; and, while our thoughts are engaged by pursuits of this nature, it is impossible, that they should be also engaged by religious subjects with sufficient intenseness, and constancy, to fulfil all the demands, either of our interest, or of our duty. On the Sabbath, we are withdrawn from all worldly pursuits. A solemn pause is made in the business of life.
A happy season of leisure is furnished to us for obtaining our salvation. Then, no worldly business is to in. trude; no wordly pleasure to solicit ; no worldly thought to interfere. The holy nature of the day, and the peculiarly solemn nature of its services, conspire, with eminent felicity, to render all the duties, which have been specified, easy, undisturbed, solemn, impressive, and profitable. This, then, is to be carefully
seized, and anxiously husbanded, as a golden opportunity for performing them all.
3. The Sabbath is to be employed, so far as circumstances demand, in performing works of Necessity and Mercy.
Our authority for this assertion is complete in the declaration of God; I will have mercy, and not sacrifice. In the illustrations of this precept by our Saviour and in his example, it is equally complete. What these works are, beyond the direct import of this example, we are to judge as carefully, and conscientiously, as we can. Generally, it is to be observed, that as little of our time, as the nature of the case demands, is to be einployed in these works ; and the remainder to be devoted to those duties of Religion, which were the original objects of the Sabbath. Wherever the time required is so great, as to be disproportioned to the value of the necessity in question; it is to be given up. That necessary work, which requires but a moment, may be lawful; when it would become unlawful, if it required an hour. All works, both of necessity and mercy, are to be regarded as Duties, which we are bound to perform ; and never as Indulgences, which we are permitted to take.
The Time, at which the peculiar duties of the Sabbath are to commence is, in my opinion, the time, when darkness commences on the evening of Saturday. For this opinion the following reasons may be alleged.
First; The natural day commenced with darkness. After God had created the chaos, darkness rested upon it for a certain period. This darkness, and the light which succeeded it, are de-. clared to have constituted the first day. In the same manner, are reckoned the five succeeding days of the Creation.
Secondly; The Sabbath, at its original institution, was a natural day. This is clear, because we are told, that God rested the seventh day: and from the manner, in which the six preceding days were reckoned, we have the fullest proof, that He, who by his own choice reckoned them in this manner, reckoned the seventh day in the same manner.
Thirdly; When the Sabbath was renewedly enjoined upon the Israelites ; it was required to be kept as a Natural day. This we know, hecanse no alteration of the original Institution is spe.
cified in the fourth command ; and because, in Lev. xxiii. 32, God says to that people concerning the great day of Atonement, From even unto even shall
Sabbath. Fourthly; The Jewish Sabbath commenced with the darkness ; or with the time, which we denote by the word, Candle-lighting. This is evident from Nehem. xii. 19, And it came to pass, that, when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the Sabbath, &c. It is here evident, that the Sabbath had not commenced on Friday evening, when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark; or, in our customary language, when the dusk of the evening commenced in that city. The Sabbath also, as a natural day, began originally at the same time: the first day of the Creation having commenced with absolute darkness. The time of darkness, to us, is the time, when we can no longer see, so as to transact business by the light of the sun.
Fifthly; The Christian Sabbath is the first day of the week; and a natural day; because there is no hint given us, in the New Testament, of any alteration made, or to be mode, in this respect. Dr. Macknight informs us that the ancient Christians began their Sabbath on the evening of Saturday. Some Christians have supposed, that the time, when our Lord arose from the dead, is that, at which the present Sabbath ought to be begun. This is evi. dently an error; because that time is not declared in the New Testament, and therefore cannot be known by us. Accordingly, these Christians begin the Sabbath at midnight: a time of human appointment merely. This seems to me unwarrantable.
II. I shall now attempt to show, that the Duties of the Sabbath are all binding upon us.
On this subject I observe,
1. That the example of God in resting from his work of Creation, and of Christ in resting from the work of Redemption, is authoritatively binding upon us; and requires us to rest from our own lawful labours in a similar manner.
2. The fourth Command, which has, I trust, been shown to be equally obligatory on all men, requires the same rest from us, which it required from the Israelites.
3. The original Institution, the examples of God, the Father, and The Son, and the injunctions of the fourth Command, require, in