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God; in this, as in all other things, leaving us an exam. ple that we should follow his steps. Family-religion, therefore, a duty incumbent on us at all times, must be in a very peculiar manner seasonable and necessary on the holy Sabbath. It deserves our notice, too, that this command is particularly addressed to heads of families; and as they are expressly enjoined to suffer nothing to be done by any under their inspection, which is inconsistent with the due observance of the Sabbath, this injunction plainly implies, that, in their station and character, they ought to employ their natural authority, as well as every other means, to promote the great ends of this boly commandment. I added, in the
3d place, That as our hearts are naturally indisposed for spiritual exercises, we ought each of us, by our. selves, to make conscience of the secret duties of the closet. There we ought to meditate on the marvellous works of God; on his glorious perfections, as they are displayed to us, in creation, providence and redemption; above all, on that great “ mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” In this sacred retirement, we ought to revolve in our minds the various steps of our Lord's humiliation, from his birth at Bethlehem to bis burial on Mount Calvary. Thence we should proceed to view the triumphs of bis cross, wbere he bruised the old serpent's head, finished transgression, made reconciliation for iniquity, and brought in everlasting righteousness.” To confirm our faith, and increase our joy, our meditations ought to follow this Mighty Conqueror, and to contemplate bim breaking the bands of death, and rising from the grave on this first day of the week, ascending up to heaven in the sight of his disciples, and sitting on the right hand of
God the Father; from whence he shall come, in power and great glory, to judge the world in righteousness, according to this gospel wbich is now preached in bis name. When, by such meditations as these, our hearts are warmed and enlivened, we should then, with all humility and reverence, approach the throne of grace; imploring those mercies which we need for ourselves, and begging a divine blessing to accompany the outward means of grace, that with our fellow-worshippers, we may be made to taste of the fatness of his house, and may find his ordinances to be indeed the wisdom and the power of God," the saviour of life unto life" to our souls.- The
4th and last particular which I mentioned, is mutual conference upon divine things. This is of great use to make the truths of religion plain and familiar to us. It stirs up our affections, and makes our knowledge more lively and more operative, both on our hearts and lives. It confirms and strengthens our faith, and brings much joy and comfort to our souls, by showing us, that as face answereth to face in water, so doth the heart of one true Christian to that of another. In this exercise holy men of old have employed themselves, and met with singular tokens of divine favour and acceptance. At no time surely can such conference be more seasonable than on the Christian Sabbath: and it is owing probably to the neglect of this, that the preaching of the word, and other parts of public religious service, are so generally fruitless and unsuccessful. I have thus given you a gen. eral account of the manner in which the Sabbath ought to be sanctified. In the next discourse, I shall consider the prohibitory part of the commandment, and endeavour to enforce the observance of it by some motives and arguments. Amen.
Exodus xx. 8.
Remember the Sabbath-day, to keep it Holy.
I HAVĘ already endeavoured to prove that we are strictly bound by this divine precept to keep one day in seven holy to the Lord; and that the change of the Sab. bath, from the seventh to the first day of the week on which our Lord rose from the dead, bears such evident signatures of divine authority, as are sufficient to justify the uniform opinion, and uninterrupted practice of all the Christian churches in this matter. I have also endeavoured to explain the commandment itself, and to give you an account of the manner in which the Sabbath ought to be sanctified. I now proceed to consider the prohibitory part of the commandment, and to enforce the observance of it by some motives and arguments.
The prohibition chiefly respects bodily labour. “ The Sabbath-day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God," saith the Supreme Lawgiver ; “ in it thou shalt not do any work.” It is expressed, you see, in very strong and absolute terms, and was for a long time understood by the Jews in a very rigid sense, in so much that they thought it even unlawful to defend their lives when they were attacked by their enemies on that day. So universally did this opinion prevail among them in the beginning of the wars of the Maccabees, that, in some instances, it proved fatal to many of them. But this was afterward, by the universal consent of the learned in their law, de
clared to be a mistake: and indeed, from the design of the precept, from other passages of Scripture, and especially from our Saviour's instruction and example, it appears, that some kinds of work are perfectly consistent with the rest which is here enjoined. Of this nature are works of necessity, i. e. works which cannot be done the day before, nor delayed till the day following. Thus, for instance, should a fire break out on the Sabbath, we may and ought to use every mean to extinguish it. Should our enemies attack us, it is lawful to resist them : if we are at a distance from church, we may travel as far as is necessary, in order to hear the word of God, and to join with others in public worship. For, as our Saviour tells us, “the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath;" and the means are never to be set above the end ; nor is resting on the Sabbath to be interpreted so as to exclude the religious employment of it.
In like manner, works of charity and compassion are lawful on this day. Our Lord wrought many miracles of mercy on the Sabbath, and vindicated his conduct against those who found fault with him, by such maxims as plainly show, that offices of charity are not only allowable but praise worthy, and are perfectly consistent with the rest which is here enjoined.
But then it is absolutely unlawful to pursue our worldly business on this day; because this thwarts the great end and design of the commandment, which ordains the seventh part of our time to be statedly employed in the immediate service of God, that we may there. by become better acquainted with him, and may become more fit for an eternal communion with him in heaven. The very intention of the law is to set apart a certain proportion of our time for the care of our souls; whichi,
amidst the hurry of our secular affairs, we are too apt to neglect.
To apply ourselves therefore to our ordinary business on the Sabbath, to talk of it, or even to spend our thoughts on it, is doing what we can to frustrate the gracious designs of the Lawgiver, and must necessarily be of infinite hurt and prejudice to our souls. And if our worldly employments, which are not only lawful, but even necessary on other days of the week, are criminal on this day, you will easily perceive, that sports and recreations must certainly be considered as included in the prohibition: for these are still more opposite to the proper business of the Sabbath, and have not the remotest pretence either to necessity or usefulness. To have recourse to amusements on this day, is wantonly to throw away our time without any advantage; and carries in it a plain declaration, that we have no relish for spiritual things; and that, rather than think of God, and the concerns of our souls, we will banish reflection al. together, and study to forget both God and ourselves. It was the judgement of one of the fathers, that it was more lawful to plough than to dance on the Lord's day; and the same thing may be said of all other diversions, which entirely withdraw us from the business of religion, and will not suffer our minds to be serious and composed. If it is criminal to work or to labour on this day, it must evidently be still more so to waste the time in carnal mirth, or in indolence and sloth, or in vain and tri. fling amusements. In a word, whatever is foreign to religion, or has not a direct tendency to glorify God, and advance our own spiritual interest, ought carefully to be avoided on this holy day, as we regard the approbation of God, and our own present and eternal happiness.
Having thus laid your duty in this matter before you, it only remains, in the