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on this day for public worship may be supposed to flow from a religious principle; yet in our present situation, it is easy to conceive, that something else than a sense of duty may occasion our meeting together in this man. ner. The laws of our country not only permit, but require, the observance of the Christian Sabbath : so that human authority, the manner of our education, a regard to decency, or even motives inferior to any of these, may bring people to church who have never seen themselves to be bound by any divine law to keep holy the Sabbathday. And I am sorry to add, that there is too great cause to suspect this to be the case with many who frequent our religious assemblies, from their defective and
partial observance of this holy day. I therefore judge it to be of the highest importance, to set the authority of this precept in a clear and striking light. For until we view the Sabbath as a divine institution, we shall never either pay to it that regard which it deserves, nor reap any spiritual advantage from the most exact outward obser. vance of it. I suppose it will not be denied, in the
1st place, That some part of our time should be employed in the immediate worship of God. Reason must necessarily teach us, that such homage is due to that Almighty Being on whom we depend for life, and breath, and all things. In order to secure the regular perform. ance of this worship, the same principle of reason will naturally suggest the propriety of allotting certain stated seasons for that purpose. If any shall dispute the necessity of this, they will at least allow us to aflirm the expediency of it: for it is a common and true observation, that what is left to be done at any time is in great dan. ger of being done at no time. I may likewise take it for granted, in the
2d place, That the right of determining what propor
tion of time, or what stated seasons should be employed in divine worship, will be readily admitted to belong to God. This is so evident, that it scarcely needs an illustration. If we can live one moment independent of God, we may call that moment our own, and claim the disposal of it: But if we cannot draw one breath without his aid ; if his constant visitation is necessary to preserve us ; the consequence is unavoidable, that the whole of our time is due to God, and that his right is absolute to reserve any part of it which he pleaseth for his own worship. And this leads me to observe, in the
3d place, That God hath actually interposed his authority in this matter: and by a clear and positive law, part of which I have now read to you, hath reserved for himself one day in seven; that he bath consecrated or set apart this portion of our time, by his precept, example, and blessing, for a holy rest or cessation from secular employments, and for such acts of religious worship and adoration as creatures owe to their great Creator.
It is confessed by all wbo admit the inspiration of the Old Testament, that this law was strictly binding upon the Jews, to whom it was delivered by the ministry of Moses. But some have made it a question, whether it continues to be binding under the Christian dispensation. We maintain that it is still in force, in as much as it contains a declaration of the will of God, that one day in seven, or the seventh part of our time, should be separated from common use, and dedicated to religious purposes. With regard to the particular day to be observed, all days being alike in themselves, the appointment of it must be of a positive natore, and may therefore be varied at the pleasure of the Lawgiver. Accordingly we find, that in this circumstance the law hath received an alteration. The seventh, or last day of the
week, is now become common; and in commemoration of our Saviour's resurrection from the dead, the holy rest is transferred to the first day of the week; which hath ever since been called, by way of eminence, The Lord's Day. Whether this remarkable change is sufficiently supported by divine authority, admits of farther inquiry. What I have hitherto said, is only intended to prove our obligation to keep one day in seven holy to the Lord; and for this, I think, I have given you very satisfying evidence. It is a natural principle, that God ought to be worshipped; and as it is highly necessary to secure the performance of such an important duty, reason farther teacheth us, that some stated times ought to be set apart for that end. The right of determining these doth certainly belong to God himself; and he hath actually been pleased to give a plain intimation of his will in this matter, claiming, by a distinct and peremptory statute, one whole day in seven, for the peculiar exercises of religious worship. Thus far, then, the commandment is strictly moral; and therefore still binding upon us, in as much as it only enjoins a natural duty, and prescribes the most effectual meatis for securing the performance of it.
Having established this point, the way lies more open to the other subject of inquiry; and I expect to find less difficulty in satisfying you about the alteration of the day. Some Christians, indeed, have maintained, that both days ought to be kept; but I reckon there will be no need to guard you against a mistake of this kind. You will easily convince yourselves that there is bụt one Sabbath in the week,
As to our practice in observing the first, instead of the last day of the week, which was the Jewish Sabbath, the reasons of it may be reduced under these following heads.
1st. We learn from Scripture, that this was the day on which the apostles and primitive Christians held their solemn assemblies for the public exercises of reli. gious worship. Thus we read, (Acts xx. 7.) that “upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread," i, e. to celebrate the sacrament of our Lord's Supper, “ Paul preached unto them, and continued his speech until midnight;" where it is observable, that their meeting together on that precise day is not spoken of as a thing extraordinary, or merely occasional, but as a stated and ordinary practice. It was their custom so to do; and Paul being on the spot, met with them, and presided in their assembly. It farther appears, that this was the day on which they laid up their public charity, and contributed for the relief of their needy brethren; and this by an express apostolical injunction. For thus Paul writes to the Corinthians, (1 Cor. xvi. 1, 2.) “ Now 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 one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gathering when I come.” In this passage, there is not only a practice of the church de. scribed, but likewise the appointment of an inspired apostle ratifying and confirming it. For if the words extend to the religious observance of that particular day, then we have a plain scriptural command for our warrant: or if they refer only to the collecting alms on that day, which is the lowest sense that they will bear, they necessarily imply, that this was a weekly holy day then in use, on which Christians ceased from their worldly business, and met together for the social worship of God; that the Apostle justified and approved of this practice,
and thereby testified his opinion that it was perfectly agreeable to the will of Christ.
Besides, we find that this day was, in the earliest times, distinguished by the title of The Lord's Day; for this appears from Rev. i. 10. where John informs the churches, that be “was in the Spirit on the Lord's day;": that well known day, sacred to the memory of the Lord Redeemer; the day on which he triumphed over death, and which he dignitied, by bis resurrection, above all other days. From these circumstances taken together, it appears, that this change took place in the apostolic age; and that the first day of the week was then esteemed holy to the Lord, and separated from the rest for religious purposes; so that though we cannot find any ex. press command, appointing the alteration in so many words; yet we have the most convincing evidence, that it was either part of the instruction which Christ gave to bis disciples before his ascension, when he was seen of them forty days, as the sacred history informs us, and spake of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God; or else that it was afterwards enacted by the apostles, in virtue of their authority derived from Christ, and under the infallible direction of his blessed Spirit.
2dly. There appear to be many great and weighty reasons for such a change. Under the Old Testament, the seventh day was kept boly in memory of the creation, because on that day God rested from all bis works; and is it not equally reasonable and fit, that the first day should be sanctified under the gospel dispensation, seeing on that day the great God and our Saviour rested from all the labours of his suffering state, and rose from the dead, in testimony tbat man's redemption was fully accomplished ? Surely the renovation of the world, after sin had in a manner broken it in pieces, is a work as