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if there be any commandment still in force by which a particular day, whether the Sabbath or any other, is to be observed ?
It remains to be seen on what they ground their opinion, who maintain that the Lord's day is to be observed as set apart for public worship by divine institution, in the nature of a new sabbath. It is urged, first, that God rested on the seventh day. This is true; and with reason, inasmuch as he had finished a great work, the creation of heaven and earth ; if then we are bound to imitate him in his rest, without any command to that effect, (and none has yet been produced, we are equally bound to imitate his work, according to the fable of Prometheus of old ;* for rest implies previous labour. They rejoin, that God hallowed that day. Doubtless he hallowed it, as touching himself, for on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed,' Exod. xxxi. 17. but not as touching us, unless he had added an express commandment to that effect; for it is by the precepts, not by the example, even of God himself, that we are bound.t. They affirm again, that the Sabbath was observed previously to the Mosaic law. This is asserted with more confidence than probability ; even if it were so, however, (a point as to which we are altogether ignorant) it is equally certain that sacrificial rites, and distinctions between things clean and unclean, and other similar observances, were in force during the same period, which nevertheless are not classed among moral duties.
eats not, regards a day, or regards it not, may do either to the Lord.' Speech for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing. Prose Works, I. 327.
* It would be helpful to us if we might borrow such authority as the rhetoricians by patent may give us, with a kind of Promethean skill to shape and fashion this outward man into the similitude of a body.' Reason of Church Government urged against Prelaty. Prose Works, I. 133. • Malui abs te decerpta transcribere, quæ tu Aristoteli, ut ignem Jovi Prometheus, ad eversionem monarcharum, et perniciem ipsius tuam, surripuisti.' Pro Populo Anglicano Defensio, V. 115.
t They ought to know, or to remember, that not examples, but express commands oblige our obedience to God or man.' The likeliest Means to remove Hirelings, &c. III. 357.
They urge, however, that the celebration of the Sabbath was subsequently ordained by the fourth commandment. This is true, as regards the seventh day ; but how does this apply to the first day ? If, on the plea of a divine command, they impose upon us the observance of a particular day, how do they presume, without the authority of a divine command, to substitute another day in its place ? or in other words to pronounce, that not merely the seventh day, which was appointed for the observation of the Israelites alone, but any one of the seven may, even on the authority of the fourth commandment itself, be kept holy; and that this is to be accounted an article of moral duty among all nations.
In the first place, I do not see how this assertion can be established, for it is impossible to extort such a sense from the words of the commandment; seeing that the reason for which the command itself was originally given, namely, as a memorial of God's having rested from the creation of the world, cannot be transferred from the seventh day to the first ; nor can any new motive be substituted in its place, whether the resurrection of our Lord, or any other, without the sanction of a divine commandment. Since then it is evident from more than one passage of Scripture, that the original Sabbath is abrogated, and since we
are no where told that it has been transferred from one day to another, nor is any reason given why it should be so transferred, the church, when she sanctioned a change in this matter, evinced, not her obedience to God's command (inasmuch as the command existed no longer) but her own rightful liberty; for in any other view it can only be termed folly. To make any change whatever in a commandment of God, whether we believe that commandment to be still in force or not, is equally dangerous, and equally reprehensible ; inasmuch as in so doing we are either annulling what is not yet repealed, or re-enacting what is obsolete. It ought also to be shown what essential principle of morality is involved in the number seven; and why, when released from the obligation of the Sabbath, we should still be bound to respect a particular number, possessing no inherent virtue or efficacy. The only moral sabbatical rest which remains for us under the gospel, is spiritual and eternal, pertaining to another life rather than in the present. Heb. iv. 9–11. there remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God; for he that hath entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his : let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.' . If then the commandment of the Sabbath was given to those alone whom God had brought out of the land of Egypt, and out of the house of bondage, it is evidently inapplicable to us as Christians; or if, as is contended, it is applicable to us inasmuch as we have been brought out of the slavery of a spiritual Egypt, the Sabbath ought to be such as the deliverance, spiritual and evangelical, not bodily
and legal ; above all, it ought to be a voluntary, not a constrained observance,* lest we should be merely substituting one Egyptian bondage for another it for the Spirit cannot be forced. To contend therefore that what, under the new dispensation, ought to be our daily employment, has been enjoined as the business of the Sabbath exclusively, is to disparage the gospel worship, and to frustrate rather than enforce the commandments of God.
It is urged, however, that it is on the fourth commandment that the church relies as its perpetual authority for the observance of public worship. That public worship is commended, and inculcated as a voluntary duty, even under the gospel, I allow; but that it is a matter of compulsory enactment, binding on believers from the authority of this commandment, or of any Sinaitical precept whatever, I deny. With regard to the doctrine of those who consider the decalogue as a code of universal morality, I am at a loss to understand how such an opinion should ever have prevailed; these commandments being evidently nothing more than a summary of the whole Mosaic law, as the fourth in particular is of the whole ceremonial law; which therefore can contain nothing applicable to the gospel worship.
Whether the festival of the Lord's day (an expression which occurs only once in Scripture, Rev. i. 10.) was weekly or annual, cannot be pronounced with
* "God delights not to make a drudge of virtue, whose actions must be all elective and unconstrained. Doctrine and Discipline of Dirorce. Prose Works, II. 51.
+ •What would ye say now, grave fathers, if you should wake and see unworthy bishops, or rather, no bishops, but Egyptian task-masters of ceremonies, thrust purposely upon the groaning church, to the affliction and vexation of God's people ?" Of Reformation in England, I. 13.
certainty, inasmuch as there is not (as in the case of the Lord's Supper) any account of its institution, or command for its celebration, to be found in scripture. If it was the day of his resurrection, why, we may ask, should this be considered as the Lord's day in any higher sense than that of his birth, or death, or ascension ? why should it be held in higher consideration than the day of the descent of the Holy Spirit ? and why should the celebration of the one recur weekly, whereas the commemoration of the others is not necessarily even annual, but remains at the discretion of each believer ?
Neither can the circumstance of Christ's having appeared twice to his disciples on this day (if indeed the words after eight days, John xx. 26. are rightly interpreted the eighth day after) be safely adduced in proof of the divine institution of a new sabbath ; inasmuch as there can be no doubt that he appeared on other days also, Luke xxiv. 36. and John xxi. 3, 4. • Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing,' which was not lawful on the Sabbath ; so that the day following, on the morning of which Christ appeared, could not have been the first day of the week. Even supposing, however, that it had been so, still the assigning this as a reason for the institution of a new sabbath is matter solely of human inference; since no commandment on this subject, nor any reason for such institution, is found in all Scripture. .
From commandments, of which we have proved the non-existence, we pass to examples; although no · example can weaken the force of a contrary precept. We shall proceed, however, to prove, that what are adduced as examples are not such in reality. First