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ceived from our heavenly Benefactor. But besides this, public worship is of all other things the best calculated both to cherish in ourselves, and by the powerful force of sympathy and example to excite in others, the warmest sentiments of piety and virtue. Indeed without it (as both reason and experience prove) mankind would gradually lose all sense of religion; and without that the lower part of them would quickly sink into the grossest depravity of mind, and profligacy of manners.
Joining in family devotions might indeed in some degree guard against these mischiefs and answer the other good ends above mentioned: and large families may be considered almost in the same light with small parishes. But family devotions are shamefully neglected and were they universally kept up, they could seldom be expected to convey so much knowledge, and would scarce ever produce in the mind so strong a feeling that whole neighbourhoods and nations are members of one body, as the offices performed in more numerous assemblies do.
Since therefore on these accounts there must be public worship and instruction: it is not only useful, but necessary, that there should be also fixed times, appointed for it by sufficient authority: for were it left at large to be performed at any time, there is but too much reason to fear that it would be frequently delayed, or neglected, and at last perhaps wholly thrown aside. But how much and what time should be devoted to this employment, if God hath given no intimation of his will, every society must have determined for themselves: and in all likelihood would have determined very differently. For the imagined mysteries and excellencies of the number seven would probably have been no more regarded,
than those of other numbers, which have as good a claim at least they would never have influenced even the speculative part, much less the bulk of mankind, to any such purpose as this. And even supposing they could have known farther, (which without revelation they could not) that God had ceased on the seventh day from his work of creation, that alone had been no evidence, that man ought to cease every seventh day from his ordinary labour, and spend it in religious exercises. A divine direction therefore must be extremely serviceable: both to prevent all doubts how much time would be enough; and to secure a general agreement in the particular time. For if several sorts of persons observed perhaps all the several days of the week, this diversity, were it to obtain only in different nations, would be inconvenient; but in the same, would obstruct business to a degree almost insupportable.
Now such a direction from above seems to have been vouchsafed in the very beginning of the world. For when we read in the text, and the verse preceding it, that on the seventh day God ended his work, and therefore blessed the day and sanctified it; that is, assigned to it the honourable distinction of preserving the memory of his having created all things: the obvious interpretation is, that this appointment took place from the time that the reason for it took place, from the time at which it is introduced in the sacred history; and not from that of the Jewish deliverance from Egypt, two thousand five hundred years after. For it is quite improbable, that Moses would both mention the institution of the sabbath so very long before he needed, and mention it in terms, that naturally imply its being instituted at the creation, if it was not. Nor is the contrary opinion of some an
cient fathers of any weight in this case; and much less that of modern rabbins. For neither of them had better opportunities of knowing the truth, than we have now. And both of them had prejudices to bias their judgment. The former, in disputing against the Jews of that time, were tempted to defend their own practice of not observing the Jewish sabbath, by alleging, that the patriarchs before the law did not observe it. Yet some of them appear to have been of a different opinion. As to the rabbins, (though Philo the Jew †, far ancienter than any of them, and some of their own number ‡, thought the observance of the sabbath as old as the world, yet in general) they magnified themselves in after ages, by pretending that this excellent ordinance was first established in the Hebrew nation. And it is very true, we find no instance of keeping the sabbath before the days of Moses. But then, on the other hand, we find not even the name of the sabbath for almost five hundred years after Moses, that is till David's reign; and then only once§; and but once again || for above one hundred years more. Yet no one doubts of its being appointed, and in the main observed through that time: and therefore why not in the preceding times also; since there is the same reason to be given for omitting the mention of it in both cases; that the history is short, and comprehends no particulars, that made speaking of it necessary?
But still, between the creation and Moses, we find
* Novatian de Cibis Judaicis, c. 3. saith, Decem Sermones illi in Tabulis nihil novum docent, sed quod obliteratum fuerat admo
+ De vit. Mos. 1. 3. P. 175. § 1 Chron. xxiii. 31.
Seld. de In. et G. 1. 3. c. 13. || 2 Kings iv. 23.
not only seven-fold vengeance threatened in the case of Cain, and Noah taking seven pairs of every clean beast into the ark †, and Jacob bowing before Esau seven times, but both years § and days counted by sevens; and a very particular notice taken of the interval of seven days in the history of the deluge ¶. Nay, we find the very name of weeks used**: which could not well have any other original, than from the institution of keeping the seventh day holy. For there is no obvious foundation in nature for dividing time into weeks, as there is into months and years from the course of the sun and moon: nor any manner of probability, than in those early ages the period of seven days was introduced from regard to the seven planets; a number which doth not appear to have been known then. For the patriarch Joseph reckons eleven principal stars ++; and seven are not once. named throughout the Old Testament. Indeed the prophet Amos in our translation speaks of the seven stars ; but the Hebrew word expresses no number, and certainly doth not mean the planets, and what it doth mean is doubtful; and besides, Amos lived seven hundred years after Moses. Now supposing the appointment of observing this day to be made at the creation, it would bind all men, to whose knowledge it came, till it was either in form repealed, or tacitly superseded by substituting another in its room. Accordingly we find Job, who is plainly not represented as a Jew, and is by many thought as early as Moses, offering sacrifices constantly at
* Gen. iv. 15. Gen. xxxiii. 3.
Gen. 1. 10.
Gen. xxix. 27, 28.
Gen. vii. 2, 3.
Gen. xxix. 18. 27. xli. 27.29.
I Gen. vii. 4. 10. viii. 10. 12. ++ Gen. xxxvii. 9.
‡‡ Amos v. 8.
the end of every seven days*. And perhaps the seventh was that day, on which the sons of God (who, we read, sang together and shouted for joy at the foundation of the earth †) are said in his history to present themselves before the Lordt. For it seems plainly to have been a stated day, and we know of no other. Farther still, we find Balaam appointing seven altars to be built, and offering on them seven bullocks and seven rams §, three times over : which looks like a memorial of the original seventh day. Very probably indeed the generality of mankind in process of time forgot the celebration of the sabbath, as they did the rest of their duty: yet not so entirely, but that a few scattered and obscure footsteps of this, as well as other articles of the primitive religion, remained long afterwards amongst the Heathen. For though a considerable part of the notice, which they took of the seventh day, and the period of seven days, might proceed from other causes, one cannot so well think the whole did, as it began so early, and extended so wide ||.
Possibly the Jews too had in a great measure lost the remembrance of the institution, during their bondage in Egypt at least: where indeed their attempting to observe it, by not working upon it, would only have exposed them to a larger share of ill treatment on which account Providence might rather permit it to fall for a time into oblivion. Yet when God is said, in Nehemiah, to have made known
+ Job xxxviii. 7.
§ Numb. xxiii. 1. 14. 29.
* Job i. 2. 4, 5. ↑ Job i. 6. ii. 1. || Yet the seventh day, regarded by many of the Heathen, and which Philo mentions as being so universally regarded by them, was the seventh day of the month. Vid. Carpzovii Philoniana. The observation of the seventh day of the week perhaps degenerated into this.