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It was intended to be a commemoration of the wisdom, power, and goodness of God in the creation of the universe.
It was intended to furnish an opportunity of increasing holiness in man, while in a state of innocence.
It was intended to furnish an opportunity to fallen man of acquiring holiness, and of obtaining salvation.
In every one of these respects the Sabbath is equally useful, important, and necessary to every child of Adam. It was no more necessary to a Jew to rest after the labour of six days was ended, than to any other man. It was no more necessary to a Jew to commemorate the perfections of God displayed in the work of creation; it was no more necessary to a Jew to gain holiness, or to increase it; it is no more necessary to a Jew to seek or to obtain salvation. Whatever makes either of these things interesting to a Jew, in any degree, makes them in the same degree interesting to every other man. The nature of the command therefore teaches, as plainly as the nature of a command can teach, that it is of universal application to mankind. It has then this great criterion of a moral precept; viz. universality of application.
That it is the duty of all men to commemorate the perfections of God displayed in the work of creation, cannot be questioned. Every living man is bound to contemplate, understand, and adore these perfections. But we cannot know them in the abstract, or as they exist merely in him. We learn them only as displayed in his works, and in bis word. We are bound therefore to learn them as thus displayed, and that in proportion to the clearness and glory of the display. The clearness and glory with which these perfections are manifested in the work of creation are transcendantly great, and demand from all creatures a contemplation proportionally attentive, and an adoration proportionally exalted. To commemorate this glorious work therefore is a plain and important duty of all men; this being the peculiar service demanded of them by his character, and his relation to them as their Creator. But this commemoration was the original and supreme object of the command. It cannot be denied that this is a moral service, nor that the precept requiring it is a moral precept.
To perform this service in the best manner is also as much a moral duty, as to perform it at all. If any duty be not per
formed in the best manner, it is only performed in part; the remainder being of course omitted : but no words can be necessary to prove, that we are equally obliged to perform one part of a duty as another.
If we know not, and cannot know, the best manner, we are invariably bound to choose the best which we do know. If, however, the best manner be made known to us, we are invariably obliged to adopt it, to the exclusion of all others.
The best manner in the present case is made known to us in this command. We are assured that it is the best manner, by the fact, that God has chosen it. No man can doubt whether God's manner is the best ; nor whether it is his own duty to adopt it rather than any other. This manner is a commemoration of the perfections of God, thus disclosed, on one day in seven.
That a particular day, or set time, should be devoted to this important purpose, is indispensable. The duty is a social one, in which the rational creatures of God in this world are universally to unite. But, unless a particular day were set apart for this duty, the union intended would be impossible.
It is of the last importance, that the day should be appointed by God. Men would not agree on any particular day. If they should agree, it would always be doubtful whether the time chosen by them was the best; and the day appointed by men would have neither authority, sacredness, nor sanction. In a matter merely of human institution, all who pleased would dissent, and in such a world as ours, most or all would choose to dissent. The whole duty therefore, would be left updone, and the glorious perfections of God, unfolded in the work of Creation, would be wholly forgotten. This precept is also entirely of a moral nature, as to the whole end at which it aims, so far as man is concerned. This end is, the attainment and the increase of boliness. Of every man living, and of every man alike, this is the highest interest, and the highest duty. To this end, as to the former, which is indeed inseparably united with this, the Sabbath is indispensable.
The Sabbath is eminently moral, also, as the indispensable means of preserving in the world a real and voluntary obedience of all the other commands in the Decalogue. Wherever the Sabbath is not, religion dies of course, and morality of
every kind, except so far as convenience and selfishness may keep the forms of it alive, is forgotten. But all those means which are indispensable to the existence of morality, or, in better language, religion, are themselves of a moral nature, and of universal obligation ; since, without them, uothing moral could exist.
It makes no difference here, whether we could have known without information from God, that one day in seven would be the best time, and furnish the best manner of performing these things, or not. It is sufficient that we know it now.
Thus the fourth command is of a really moral nature, no less than the others, and as truly of incalculable importance, and indispensable obligation, to all the children of Adam. Its place in the Decalogue, therefore, was given it with consummate propriety; and what God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.'
If it were intended to abolish a command given so plainly, and with circumstances of such amazing solemnity, the abrogation would, undoubtedly, have been communicated in a manner equally clear with that in which the command itself was originally given. But the Scriptures contain nothing which resembles an abrogation of it, communicated either clearly, or obscurely. When Christ abolished the ceremonial and civil laws of the Jews, so far as they might be thought to extend to the Gentiles, and taught the true moral system of the Old Testament, and when the Apostles afterwards completed the evangelical account of this subject, it is I think incredible, that, if this precept were to be abolished at all, neither he nor they should give a single hint concerning the abolition. As both have left it just where they found it, without even intimating that it was at all to be annulled, we may reasonably conclude that its obligation has never been lessened.
In the mean time, it ought to be observed, that many other precepts comprised in the mosaic law, which are universally acknowledged to be of a moral nature, were nevertheless not introduced into the Decalogue, were not spoken by the voice of God, nor written with his finger, nor placed on the tables of stone fashioned by himself. Why was this supreme distinction made in favour of the precept now under discussion
This question I may perhaps answer more particularly hereafter. It is sufficient to observe at present, that it arose solely from the superior importance of the precept itself.
2. The perpetual establishment of the Sabbath is evident froin its original institution.
of this we have the following account in Genesis ii. 1—3: • Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it ; because that in it he had rested from all his work, which God created and made. The proofs which this passage affords for the perpetuity of the Sabbath, respect the time, and the end, of the institution.
The time of the institution was the seventh day after the creation was begun, and the first day after it was ended. At this time none of the human race were in being, but our first parents. For them the Sabbath was instituted ; and clearly, therefore, for all their posterity also. If it was not instituted for all their posterity, it was not instituted for any of them; for, certainly, there can be no reason given why it was instituted for one more than another. The Jews, particularly, were no more nearly connected with Adam than we are; and no more interested in any thing commanded to him than are the Gentiles. Accordingly, it is, so far as I know, universally conceded, that, if the Sabbath was instituted at this time, it is obligatory on all men to the end of the world.
The resting of God on this day, alleged in the text as a primary and authoritative reason why the Sabbath should be kept holy, is a reason extending to all men alike. In my own view it is incredible that God should rest on this day to furnish an example to the Jewish nation merely of observing the Sabbath; or that so solemn a transaction as this, in its own nature affecting the whole human race alike, should be intentionally confined in its influence to a ten thousandth part of mankind. The example of God, so far as it is imitable, is in its very nature authoritative and obligatory on every intelligent creature, and in the present case plainly on the whole
For man to limit it, where God himself has not been pleased to limit it, is evidently unwarrantable, and indefensible.
The end of the institution plainly holds out the same uni
versality of obligation. I have already observed, that this is two-fold ; viz. to commemorate the glory of God displayed in the creation ; and to attain and increase holiness in the soul
I have also observed, that all men are alike interested in both these objects. Nor can there be a single pretence, that any nation, or any person, is more interested in either, than any other person, or nation. Every individual stands in exactly the same relations to God, is under exactly the same obligations, and is bound in this case to duties exactly the same.
3. The perpetuity of the Sabbath is clearly taught in Isaiah lvi. 6-8. Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the Lord, to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be his servants ; every one, that keepeth the Sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant ; even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer ; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be acceptable on my altar: for my house shall be called, An house of prayer for all people. The Lord God, who gathereth the outcasts of Israel, saith, Yet will I gather others to him, besides those that are gathered unto him,'
From this passage it is evident, that when the house of God shall become a house of prayer for all people, and when the outcasts of Israel, and others beside them, shall be gathered unto him, that is, Christ; then the Sabbath shall continue a divine institution; that it shall be a duty to keep it from polluting it; and that those who keep it, particularly the sons of the stranger, or the Gentile nations, shall be accepted and blessed in thus keeping it, and shall be made joyful in God's house of prayer.
But the house of God was never, in any sense, called · An house of prayer for all people, until after the dispensation of the Gospel began : viz. until the house of God was found · wherever two or three met together in the name of Christ;' until the period, when mankind were to worship God, neither in Jerusalem, nor in the mountain of Samaria, but wherever they worshipped in spirit and in truth. Under this dispensation, therefore, the Sabbath was still to continue a divine institution ; was to be kept free, from pollution ; and the keeping of it was to be blessed, according to the declarations of the unerring Spirit of prophecy.