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chapter of the Acts :- It seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and tu us, to lay upon you no greater burthen than these necessary things, that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication ; from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well.”
II. If the law by which the sabbath was instituted, was a law only to the Jews, it becomes an important question with the Christian inquirer, whether the founder of his religion delivered any new command upon the subject : or, if that should not appear to be the case,
whether any day was appropriated to the service of religion by the authority or example of his apostles.
The practice of holding religious assemblies upon the first day of the week, was early and universal in the Christian church, that it carries with it considerable proof of having originated from some precept of Christ, or of his apostles, though none such be now extant. It was upon the first day of the week that the disciples were assembled, when Christ appeared to them for the first time after his resurrection ; "then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, came Jesus, and stood in the midst of them." John xx. 19. This, for any thing that appears in the account, might, as to the day, have been accidental ; but in the 26th verse of the same chapter we read that “after eight days," that is, on the first day of the week following, “ again the disciples were within ;" which second meeting upon the same day of the week looks like an appointment and design to meet on that particular day. In the twentieth chapter of the Acts of the apostles, we find the same custom in a Christian church at a great distance from Jerusalem : “ And we came unto them at Troas in five days, where we abode seven days : and upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them.” Acts, xx. 6,7. The manner in which the historian mentions the disciples' coming together to break bread on the first day of the week, shows, I think, that the practice by this time was familiar and established. St. Paul to the Corinthians writes thus : « Concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye ; upon the first day of the week let every
you lay by him in store as God hath prospered him, that there be no gathering when I come.” 1 Cor. xvi. 1, 2. Which direction affords a probable proof, that the first day of the week was already, amongst the Christians both of Corinth and Galatia, distin. guished from the rest by some religious application or other. At the time that St. John wrote the book of his Revelation, the first day of the week had obtained the name of the Lord's day ;-"I was in the spirit,” says he, “ on the Lord's day.” Rev. i. 10. Which name, and St. John's use of it, sufficiently denote the appropriation of this day to the service of religion, and that this appro
priation was perfectly known to the churches of Asia. I make no doubt but by the Lord's-day was meant the first day of the week ; for we find no footsteps of any distinction of days which could entitle any other to that appellation. The subsequent history of Christianity corresponds with the accounts delivered on this subject in Scripture.
It will be remembered, that we are contending, by these proofs, for no other duty upon the first day of the week, than that of holding and frequenting religious assemblies. A cessation
that day from labor, beyond the time of attendance upon public worship, is not intimated in any passage of the New Testament; nor did Christ or his apostles deliver, that we know of, any command to their disciples for a discontinuance upon that day, of the common offices of their professions : a reserve which none will find reason to wonder at, or to blame as a defeat in the institution, who consider that, in the primitive condition of Christianity, the observance of a new sabbath would have been useless, or inconvenient, or impracticable. During Christ's personal ministry, his religion was preached to the Jews alone. They already had a sabbath, which, as citizens and subjects of that economy, they were obliged to keep. It was not, therefore, probable that Christ would enjoin another day of rest in conjunction with this. When the new religion came forth into the Gentile world, converts to it were, for the most part, made from those classes of society who have not their time and labor at their own disposal ; and it was scarcely to be expected, that unbelieving masters and magistrates, and they who directed the employment of others, would not permit their slaves and laborers to rest from their work every seventh day: or that civil government, indeed, would have submitted to the loss of a seventh part of the public industry, and that too in addition to the numerous festivals which the national religions indulged to the people ; at least, this would have been an incumbrance, which might have greatly retarded the reception of Christianity in the world. In reality, the institution of a weekly sabbath is so connected with the functions of civil life, and requires so much of the concurrence of civil law in its regulation and support, that it cannot, perhaps, properly be made the ordinance of any religion, till that religion be received religion of the state.
The opinion that Christ and his apostles meant to retain the duties of the Jewish sabbath, shifting only the day from the seventh to the first, seems to prevail without sufficient proof; nor does any evidence remain in Scripture, (of what, however, is not improbable,) that the first day of the week was not distinguished in commemoration of our Lord's resurrection.
The conclusion from the whole inquiry (for it is our business to follow the arguments, to whatever probability they conduct us) is this: The assembling upon the first day of the week for the purpose of public worship and religious instruction, is a law of Christianity
of Divine appointment; the resting on that day from our employments longer than we are detained from them by attendance upon these assemblies, is to Christians an ordinance of human institution; binding nevertheless upon the conscience of every individual of a country in which a weekly sabbath is established, for the sake of the beneficial purposes which the public and regular observance of it promotes, and recommended, perhaps, in some degree to the Divine approbriation, by the resemblance it bears to what God was pleased to make a solemn part of the law which he delivered to the people of Israel, and by its subserviency to many of the same uses.