By Richard Watson
THE DUTIES WE OWE TO GOD-THE LORD's DAY.
As we have just been treating of the public worship of Almighty God, so we may fitly add some remarks upon the consecration of one day in seven for that service, that it may be longer continued than on days in which the business of life calls for our exertions, and our minds be kept free from its distractions.
The obligation of a Sabbatical institution upon Christians, as well as the extent of it, have been the subjects of much controversy. Christiøn Churches themselves have differed; and the theologians of the same Church. Much has been written upon the subject on each side, and much research and learning employed, sometimes to darken a very plain subject.
The circumstance, that the observance of a Sabbath is nowhere, in so many words, enjoined upon Christians, by our Lord and his apostles, has been assumed as the reason for so great a license of criticism and argument as that which has been often indulged in to unsettle the strict ness of the obligation of this duty. Its obligation has been represented as, standing upon the ground of inference only, and therefore of human opinion; and thus the opinion against Sabbatical institutions has been held up as equally weighty with (lie opinion in their favour; and the liberty which has been claimed, has been too often hastily concluded to be Christian liberty. This, however, is travelling much too fast; for if the case were as much a matter of inference, as such persons would have it, it does not follow that every inference is alike good; or that the opposing inferences have an equal force of truth, any more than of piety.
The question respects the will of God as to this particular point, whether one day in seven is to be wholly devoted to religion, exclusive of worldly business and worldly pleasures? Now, there are but two ways in which the will of God can l)e collected from his word; either by some explicit injunction upon all, or by incidental circumstances. Let us then allow for a moment, that we have no such explicit injunction; yet we have certainly none to the contrary: let us allow that we have only for our guidance in inferring the will of God in this particular, certain circumstances declarative of his will; yet this important conclusion is inevitable, that all such indicative circumstances are in favour of a Sabbatical institution, and that there is not one which exhibits any thing contrary to it. The seventh day was hallowed at the close of the creation; its sanctity was afterward marked by the withholding of the manna on that day, and the Provision of a double supply on the sixth, and that previous to the giving of the law from Sinai: it was then made a part of that great epitome of religious and moral duty, which God wrote with his own finger on tables of stone; it was a part of the public political law of the only people to whom Almighty God ever made himself a political head and ruler; its observance is connected throughout the prophetic age with the highest promises, its violations with the severest maledictions; it was' among the Jews in our Lord's time a day of solemn religious assembling, and was so observed by him; when changed to the first day of the week, it was the day on which the first Christians assembled; it was called, by way of eminence, "the Lord's day ;" and we have inspired authority to say, that, both under the Old and New Testament dispensations, it is used as an expressive type of the heavenly and eternal rest. Now, against all these circumstances so strongly declarative of the will of God, as to the observance of a Sabbatical institution, what circumstance or passage of Scripture can be opposed, as bearing upon it a contrary indication? Truly not one; except those passages in St. Paul in which he speaks of Jewish Sabbaths, with their Levitical rites, and of a distinction of days, both of which marked a weak or a criminal adherence to the abolished ceremonial dispensation; but which touch not the Sabbath as a branch of the moral law, or as it was changed, by the authority of the apostles, to tine first day of the week.
If, then, we were left to determine the point by inference merely, how powerful is the inference as to what is the will of God with respect to the keeping of the Sabbath on the one hand, and how totally unsupported is the opposite inference on the other!
It may also be observed, that those who will so strenuously insist upon the absence of an express command as to the Sabbath in the writings of the evangelists and apostles, as explicit as that of the decalogue, assume, that the will of God is only obligatory when manifested in some one mode, which they judge to be most fit, But this is a monstrous hypothesis; for however the will of God may be manifested, if it is with such clearness as to exclude all reasonable doubt, it is equally obligatory as when it assumes the formality of legal promulgation. Thus the Bible is not all in the form of express and authoritative command; it teaches by examples, by proverbs, by songs, by incidental allusions and occurrences; and yet is, throughout, a manifestation of the will of God as to morals and religion in their various branches, and if disregarded, it will be so at every man's peril.
But 'strong as this ground is, we quit it for a still stronger. It is Wholly a mistake that the Sabbath, because not re-enacted with the formality of the decalogue, is not explicitly enjoined upon Christians, and that the testimony of Scripture to such an injunction is not unequivocal and irrefragable. We shall soon prove that the Sabbath was appointed at the creation of the world, and consequently for all men, and therefore for Christians; since there was never any repeal of the original institution. To this we add, that if the moral law be the law of Christians, then is the Sabbath as explicitly enjoined upon them as upon the Jews. But that the moral law is our law, as well as the law of the Jews, all but Antinomians must acknowledge; and few, we suppose, will be inclined to run into the fearful mazes of that error, in order to support lax notions as to the obligation of the Sabbath, into which, however, they must be plunged, if they deny the law of the decalogue to be binding upon us. That it is so bound upon us, a few passages of Scripture will prove as well as many.
Our Lord declares, that he came not to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfil. Take it, that by the "law," he meant both the moral and the ceremonial; ceremonial law could only be fulfilled in him, by realizing its types; and moral law, by upholding its authority. For" the prophets," they admit of a similar distinction; they either enjoin morality, or utter prophecies of Christ; the latter of which were fulfilled in the sense of accomplishment, the former by being sanctioned and enforced. That the observance of the Sabbath is a part of the moral law, is clear from its being found in the decalogue, the doctrine of which our Lord sums up in the moral duties of loving God and our neighbour; and for this reason the injunctions of the prophets, on the subject of the Sabbath, are to be regarded as a part of their moral teaching. (See this stated more at large, part iii, chap. i.) Some divines have, it is true, called the observance of the Sabbath a positive, and not a moral precept. If it were so, its obligation is precisely the same, in all cases where God himself has not relaxed it; and if a positive precept only, it has surely a special eminence given to it, by being placed in the list of the ten commandments, and being capable, with them, of an epitome which resolves them into the love of God and our neighbour. (See vol. ii, p. 5.) The truth seems to be, that it is a mixed precept, and not wholly positive; but intimately, perhaps essentially, connected with several moral principles, of homage to God, and mercy to men; with the obligation of religious worship, of public religious worship, and of undistracted public worship: and this will account for its collocation in the decalogue with the highest duties of religion, and the leading rules of personal and social morality.
The passage from our Lord's sermon on the mount, with its context, is a sufficiently explicit enforcement of the moral law, generally, upon his followers; but when he says, "The Sabbath was made for man," be clearly refers to its original institution, as a universal law, and not to its obligation upon the Jews only, in consequence of the enactments of the law of Moses. It "was made for man," not as he may be a Jew or a Christian; but as man, a creature bound to love, worship, and obey his God and Maker, and on his trial for eternity.
Another explicit proof that the law of the ten commandments, and, consequently, the law of the Sabbath, is obligatory upon Christians, is found in the answer of the apostle to an objection to the doctrine of justification by faith, Rom. iii, 31, "Do we then make void the law through faith?" which is equivalent to asking, Does Christianity teach, that the law is no longer obligatory on Christians, because it teaches that no man can he justified by it? To this he answers in the most solemn form of expression, "God forbid; yea, we establish the law." Now, the sense in which the apostle uses the term, "the law," in this argument, is indubitably marked in chap. vii, 7, "I had not known sin but by the law; for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet:" which being a plain reference to the tenth command of the decalogue, as plainly shows that the decalogue is "the law" of which he speaks. This, then, in the law which is "established" by the Gospel; and this can mean nothing else than the establishment and confirmation of its authority, as the rule of all inward and outward holiness. Whoever, therefore, denies the obligation of the Sabbath on Christians, denies the obligation of the whole decalogue; and there is no real medium between the acknowledgment of the Divine authority of this sacred institution, as a universal law, and that gross corruption of Christianity, generally designated Antinomianism.
Nor is there any force in the dilemma into which the anti-Sabbatarians would push us, when they argue, that, if the case be so, then are we bound to the same circumstantial exactitude of obedience as to this command, as to the other precepts of the decalogue; and, therefore, that we are bound to observe the seventh day, reckoning from Saturday, as the Sabbath day. But, as the command is partly positive, and partly moral, it may have circumstances which are capable of being altered in perfect accordance with the moral principles on which it rests, and the moral ends which it proposes. Such circumstances are not indeed to be judged of on our own authority. We must either have such general principles for our guidance as have been revealed by God, and cannot therefore be questioned, or some special authority from which there can be no just appeal. Now, though there is not on record any Divine command issued to the apostles, to change the Sabbath from the day on which it was held by the Jews, to the first day of the week; yet, when we see that this was done in the apostolic age, and that St. Paul speaks of the Jewish Sabbaths as not being obligatory upon Christians, while he yet contends that the whole moral law is obligatory upon them; the fair inference is, that this change of the day was made by Divine direction. It is at least more than inference, that the change was made under the sanction of inspired men; and those men, the appointed rulers in the Church of Christ; whose business it was to "set all things in order," which pertained to its worship and moral government. We may rest well enough, therefore, satisfied with this,-that as a Sabbath is obligatory upon us, we act under apostolic authority for observing it on the first day of the week, and thus commemorate at once the creation and the redemption of the world.
Thus, even if it were conceded, that the change of the day was made by tine agreement of the apostles, without express directions from Christ, (which is not probable,) it is certain that it was not done without express authority confided to them by Christ; but it would not even follow from this change that they did in reality make any alteration in the law of the Sabbath, either as it stood at the time of its original institution at the close of the creation, or in the decalogue of Moses. The same portion of time which constituted the seventh day from the creation, could not be observed in all parts of the earth; and it is not probable, therefore, that the original law expresses more, than that a seventh day, or one day in seven, the seventh day after six days of labour, should be thus appropriated, from whatever point the enumeration might set out, or the hebdomadal cycle begin. For if more had been intended, then it would have been necessary to establish a rule for the reckoning of days themselves, which has been different in different nations; some reckoning from evening to evening, as the Jews now do; others from midnight to midnight, &c. So that those persons in this country and in America, who hold their Sabbath on Saturday, under the notion of exactly conforming to the Old Testament and yet calculate the days from midnight to midnight, have no assurance at all that they do not desecrate a part of the original Sabbath, which might begin, as the Jewish Sabbath now, on Friday evening; and on the contrary, hallow a portion of a common day, by extending the Sabbath beyond Saturday evening. Even if this were ascertained, the differences of latitude and longitude would throw the whole into disorder; and it is not probable that a universal law should have been fettered with that circumstantial exactness, which would have rendered difficult, and sometimes doubtful, astronomical calculations necessary in order to its being obeyed according to the intention of the Lawgiver. Accordingly we find, says Mr. Holden, that
"In the original institution it is stated in general terms, that God blessed and sanctified the seventh day, which must undoubtedly imply the sanctity of every seventh day; but not that it is to be subsequently reckoned from the first demiurgic day. Had this been included in the command of the Almighty, something, it is probable, would have been added declaratory of the intention; whereas expressions the most undefined are employed; not a syllable is uttered concerning the order and number of the days; and it cannot reasonably be disputed that the command is truly obeyed by the separation of every seventh day, from common to sacred purposes, at whatever given time the cycle may commence. The difference in the mode of expression here from that which the sacred historian has used in the first chapter, is very remarkable. At the conclusion of each division of the work of creation, he says, 'The evening and the morning were the first day,' and so on; but at the termination of the whole, he merely calls it the seventh day; a diversity of phrase, which, as it would be inconsistent with every idea of inspiration to suppose it undesigned, must have been intended to denote a day, leaving it to each people as to what manner it is to be reckoned. The term obviously imports time period of the earth's rotation round its axis, while it is left undetermined, whether it shall be counted from evening or morning, from noon or midnight. The terms of the law are, 'Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God, For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested time seventh day; wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.' With respect to time, it is here mentioned in the same indefinite manner as at its primeval institution, nothing more being expressly required than to observe a day of sacred rest after every six days of labour. The seventh day is to be kept holy; but not a word is said as to what epoch the commencement of the series is to be referred; nor could the Hebrews have determined from the decalogue what day of the week was to be kept as their Sabbath. The precept is not, Remember the seventh day of the week, to keep it holy, but 'Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy;' and in the following explication of these expressions, it is not said that the seventh day of the week is the Sabbath, but without restriction, 'The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God;' not the seventh ac. cording to any particular method of computing the septenary cycle; but, in reference to the six before mentioned, every seventh day in rotation after six of labour." (Holden on the Sabbath.)
Thus that part of the Jewish law, the decalogue, which, on the authority of the New Testament, we have shown to be obligatory upon Christians, leaves the computation of the hebdomadal cycle undetermined; and, after six days of labour, enjoins the seventh as the Sabbath, to which the Christian practice as exactly conforms as the Jewish. It is not, however, left to every individual to determine which day should be his Sabbath, though he should fulfil the law so far as to abstract the Seventh part of his time from labour. It was ordained for worship, for public worship; and it is therefore necessary that the Sabbath should be uniformly observed by a whole community at the same time. The Divine Legislator of the Jews interposed for this end, by special direction, as to his people. The first Sabbath kept in the wilderness was calculated from the first day in which the manna fell; and with no apparent reference to the creation of the world. By apostolic authority, it is now fixed to be held on the first day of the week; and thus one of the great ends for which it was established, that it should be a day of "holy convocation," is secured.
The above observations proceed upon the ground, that the Sabbath, according to the fair interpretation of the words of Moses, was instituted upon the creation of the world. But we have had divines of considerable eminence in the English Church, who have attempted to disprove this. The reason of the zeal displayed by some of them on this question may be easily explained.
All the Churches of the reformation did not indeed agree in their views of the Sabbath; but the reformers of England and Scotland generally adopted the strict amid Scriptural view; and after them the Puritans. The opponents of the Puritans, in their controversies with them, and especially after the restoration, associated a strict observance of the Sabbath with hypocrisy and disaffection; and no small degree of ingenuity and learning was employed to prove, that, in the intervals of public worship, pleasure or business might be lawfully pursued; and that this Christian festival stands on entirely different grounds from that of the Jewish Sabbath. The appointment of a Sabbath for man, at the close of the creation, was unfriendly to this notion; and an effort therefore was made to explain away the testimony of Moses in the book of Genesis, by alleging that the Sabbath is there mentioned by prolepsis or anticipation. Of the arguments of this class of divines, Paley availed himself in his "Moral Philosophy," and has become the most popular authority on this side of the question.
Paley's argument is well summed up, and satisfactorily answered, in the able work which has been above quoted.
"Among those who have held that the Pentateuchal record, above cited, is proleptical, and that the Sabbath is to be considered a part of the peculiar laws of the Jewish polity, no one has displayed more ability than Dr. Paley. Others on the same side have exhibited far more extensive learning, and have exercised much more patient research; but for acuteness of intellect, for coolness of judgment, and a habit of perspicacious reasoning, he has been rarely, if ever, excelled. The arguments which he has approved, must be allowed to be the chief strength of the cause; mind, as he is at once the most judicious and most popular of its advocates, all that he has advanced demands a careful and candid examination. The doctrine which lie maintains is, that the Sabbath was not instituted at the creation; that it was designed fir the Jews only; that the assembling upon the first day of the week for the purpose of public worship, is a law of Christianity, of Divine appointment; but that the resting on it longer than is necessary for attendance on these assemblies, is an ordinance of human institution; binding, nevertheless, upon the conscience of every individual of country in which a weekly Sabbath is established, for the sake of tine beneficial purposes which the public and regular observance of it promotes, and recommended per. haps, in some degree, to the Divine approbation, by the resemblance it bears to what God was pleased to make a solemn part of the law which he delivered to the people of Israel, and by its subserviency to many of the same uses. Such is the doctrine of this very able writer in his Moral and Political Philosophy; a doctrine which places tine Sabbath on the footing of civil laws, recommended by their expediency, and which, being sanctioned by so high an authority, has probably given great encouragement to the lax notions concerning the Sabbath which unhappily prevail.
"Dr. Paley's principal argument is, that the first institution of the Sabbath took place during the sojourning of the Jews in the wilderness. Upon the complaint of the people for want of food, God was pleased to provide for their relief by a miraculous supply of manna, which was found every morning upon the ground about the camp: 'And they gathered it every morning, every man according to his eating; and when the sun waxed hot, it melted. And it came to pass, that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one man; and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. And he said unto them, This is that which the Lord hath said, Tomorrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord: bake that which ye will bake to-day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you, to be kept until the morning. And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade; and it did not stink, (as it had done before, when some of them left it till the morning,) neither was there any worm therein. And Moses said, Eat that to-day; for to-day is a Sabbath unto the Lord; to-day ye shall not find it in the field. Six days ye shall gather it, but on the seventh day, which is the Sabbath, in it there shall be none. And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none. And the Lord said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments, and my laws? See, for that the Lord hath given you lime Sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day. So the people rested on the seventh day.'
"From this passage, Dr. Paley infers that the Sabbath was first instituted in the wilderness; but to preclude the possibility of misrepresenting his argument, I will quote his own words: 'Now, in my opinion, the transaction in the wilderness above recited, was the first actual institution of the Sabbath. For if the Sabbath had been instituted at the time of the creation, as the words in Genesis may seem at first sight to import; and if it bad been observed all along from that time to the departure of the Jews out of Egypt, a period of about two thousand five hundred years; it appears unaccountable that no mention of it, no occasion of even the obscurest allusion to it, should occur, either in the general history of the world before the call of Abraham, which contains, we admit, only a few memoirs of its early ages, and those extremely abridged; or, which is more to be wondered at, in that of the lives of the first three Jewish patriarchs, which, in many parts of the account, is sufficiently circumstantial and domestic. Nor is there, in the passage above quoted from the sixteenth chapter of Exodus, any intimation that the Sabbath, when appointed to be observed, was only the revival of an ancient institution, which bad been neglected, forgotten, or suspended; nor is any such neglect imputed either to the inhabitants of the old world, or to any part of the family of Noah; nor, lastly, is any permission recorded to dispense with the institution during the captivity of the Jews in Egypt, or on any other public emergency.'
"As to the first part of this reasoning, if it were granted that in the history of the patriarchal ages no mention is made of the Sabbath, nor even the obscurest allusion to it, it would be unfair to conclude that it was not appointed previous to the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt. If instituted at the creation, the memory of it might have been forgotten in the lapse of time and the growing corruption of the world; or, what is more probable, it might have been observed by the patriarchs, though no mention is made of it in the narrative of their lives, which, however circumstantial in some particulars, is, upon the whole, very brief and compendious. The are omissions in the sacred history much more extraordinary. Excepting Jacob's supplication at Bethel, scarcely a single allusion to prayer is to be found in all the Pentateuch; yet considering the eminent piety of the worthies recorded in it, we cannot doubt the frequency of their devotional exercises. Circumcision being the sign of God's covenant with Abraham, was beyond all question punctually observed by the Israelites, yet, from their settlement in Canaan, no particular instance is recorded of it till the circumcision of Christ, comprehending a period of about one thousand five hundred years. No express mention of the Sabbath occurs in the books of Joshua, Judges, Ruth, the first and second of Samuel, or the first of Kings, though it was, doubtless, regularly observed all the time included in these histories. In the second book of Kings, and the first and second of Chronicles, it is mentioned only twelve times, and some of them are merely repetitions of the same instance. If the Sabbath is so seldom spoken of in this long historical series, it can be nothing wonderful if it should not be mentioned in the summary account of the patriarchal ages.
"But though the Sabbath is not expressly mentioned in the history of the antediluvian and patriarchal ages, the observance of it seems to be intimated by the division of time into weeks. In relating the catastrophe of the flood, the historian informs us, that Noah, at the end of forty days opened the window of the ark; 'and he stayed yet other seven days, and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark; and the dove came in to him in the evening, and, ho, in her mouth was an olive leaf, plucked off. So Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth. And he stayed yet other seven days, and sent forth the dove, which returned not again unto him any more.' The term 'week' is used by Laban in reference to the nuptials of Leah, when he says, 'Fulfil her week, and we will give thee this also, for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years.' A week of days is here plainly signified, the same portion of time which, in succeeding ages, was set apart for nuptial festivities, as appears from the book of Esther, where the marriage feast of Vashti lasted seven days, and more particularly from the account of Samson's marriage feast. Joseph and his brethren mourned for their father Jacob seven days.
"That the computation of time by weeks obtained from the most remote antiquity, appears from the traditionary and written records of all nations, the numerous and undeniable testimonies of which have been so often collected and displayed, that it would be worse than useless to repeat them.
"Combining all these testimonies together, they fully establish the primitive custom of measuring time by the division of weeks; and prevailing as it did among nations separated by distance, having no mutual intercourse, and wholly distinct in manners, it must have originated from one common source, which cannot reasonably be supposed any other than the memory of the creation preserved in the Noahic family, and handed down to their posterities. The computation by days, months, and years, arises from obvious causes, the revolution of the moon, and the annual and diurnal revolutions of the sun; but the division of time by periods of seven days, has no foundation in any natural or visible septenary change; it must, therefore, have originated from some positive appointment, or some tradition anterior to the dispersion of mankind, which cannot well be any other than the memory of the creation and primeval blessing of the seventh day.
"Dr. Paley's next argument is, that 'there is not in the sixteenth chapter of Exodus any intimation that the Sabbath, when appointed to be observed, was only the revival of an ancient institution which had been neglected, forgotten, or suspended.' The contrary, however, seems the more natural inference from the narrative. It is mentioned exactly in the way an historian would, who had occasion to speak of a well-known institution. For instance, when the people were astonished at the double supply of manna on the sixth 'day, Moses observes, 'This is that which the Lord hath said, Tomorrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord;' which, as far as we know, was never said previously to this transaction, but at the close of tile creation. This, surely, is the language of a man referring to a matter with which the people were already acquainted, and recalling it to their remembrance. In the fifth verse, God promises on the sixth day twice as much as they gather daily. For this no reason is given, which seems to imply that it was already known to the children of Israel. Such a promise, without some cause being assigned for so extraordinary a circumstance, would have been strange indeed; and if the reason had been, that the seventh day was now for the first time to be appointed a festival, in which no work was to be done, would not the author have stated this circumstance? Again, it is said, 'Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the Sabbath, in it there shall be none;' and 'for that the Lord hath given you the Sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days.' Here the Sabbath is spoken of as an ordinance with which the people were familiar. A double quantity of manna was given on the sixth day, because the following day, as they well knew, was the Sabbath in which God rested from his work, and which was to be kept as a day of rest, and holy to the Lord.' It is likewise mentioned incidentally, as it were, in the recital of the miraculous supply of manna, without any notice of its being enjoined upon that occasion for the first time; which would be a very surprising circumstance, had it been the original establishment of the Sabbath. In short, the entire phraseology in the account of this remarkable transaction accords with the supposition, and with it alone, that the Sabbath had been long established, and was well known to the Israelites.
"That no neglect of the Sabbath is 'imputed either to the inhabitants of the old world, or to any of the family of Noah,' is very true; but, so far from there being any proof of such negligence, there is, on the contrary, as we have seen, much reason for believing that it was duly observed by the pious Sethites of the old world, and after the deluge, by' the virtuous line of Shem. True, likewise, it is, that there is not 'any permission recorded to dispense with the institution during the captivity of the Jews in Egypt, or on any other public emergency: But where is the evidence that such a permission would be consistent with the Divine wisdom? And if not, none such would either be given or recorded. At any rate, it is difficult to see how the silence of Scripture concerning such a circumstance, can furnish an argument in vindication of the opinion, that tine Sabbath was first appointed in the wilderness.- To allege it for this purpose, is just as inconclusive as it would be to argue that the Sabbath was instituted subsequent to the return of the Jews from Babylunia, because neither the observance of it, nor any permission to dispense with it, during the captivity, is recorded in Scripture.
"The passage in the second chapter of Genesis is next adduced by Dr. Paley, and he pronounces it not inconsistent with his opinion; 'for as the seventh day was erected into a Sabbath, on account of God's resting upon that day from the work of creation, it was natural enough in the historian, when he had related the history of the creation, and of God's ceasing from it on the seventh day, to add, 'and God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it, because that on it he had rested from all his work which God had created and made;' although the blessing and sanctification, that is, the religious distinction and appropriation of that, day, were not actually made till many ages afterward. The words do not assert, that God then 'blessed' and 'sanctified' the seventh day, but that he blessed and sanctified it for that reason; and if any ask, why the Sabbath, or sanctification of the seventh day, was then mentioned, if it were not then appointed, tine answer is at hand, the order of connection, and not of time, introduced the mention of the Sabbath in the history of the subject which it was ordained to commemorate.'
"That the Hebrew historian, in the passage here referred to, uses a prolepsis or anticipation, and alludes to the Mosaical institution of the Sabbath, is maintained by some of the ancient fathers, by Waehner, Heidegger, Beausobre, by Le Clerc, Rosenmuller, Geddes, Dawson, and other commentators, and by the general stream of those writers who regard the Sabbath as peculiar to the Jews. Yet this opinion is built upon the assumption, that the book of Genesis was not written till after the giving of the law, which may be the fact, but of which most unquestionably there is no proof. But waiving this consideration, it is scarcely possible to conceive a greater violence to thee sacred text, than is offered by this interpretation. It attributes to the inspired author the absurd assertion, that God rested on the seventh day from all his works which he had made, and Therefore about two thousand five hundred years after, God blessed and sanctified the seventh day. It may be as well imagined that God had finished his work on the seventh day, but rested on some other seventh day, as that he rested the day following the work of creation, and afterward blessed and sanctified another. Not the slightest evidence appears for believing that Moses followed 'the order of connection, and not of time,' for no reasonable motive can be assigned for then introducing the mention of it, if it was not then appointed. The design of the sacred historian clearly is, to give a faithful account of the origin of the world; and both the resting on the seventh (lay, and the blessing it, have too close a connection to be separated: if the one took place immediately after the work of creation was concluded, so did the other. To the account of the production of the universe, the whole narrative is confined; there is no intimation of subsequent events, nor the most distant allusion to Jewish ceremonies; and it would be most astonishing if the writer deserted his grand object to mention one of the Hebrew ordinances which was not appointed till ages afterward.
"But according to Dr. Geddes, the opinion of a proleimsis derives some confirmation from the original Hebrew, which he renders, 'On the sixth day God completed all the work which he had to do; and on the SEVENTH day, ceased from doing any of his works. God, therefore, blessed the seventh day, and made it holy, because on it be ceased. from all his works, which he had ordained to do.' This version, he says, is 'in the supposition that the writer refers to the Jewish Sabbath:' of course it was designedly adapted to an hypothesis; but, notwithstanding this suspicious circumstance, it is not easy to determine how it differs in sense from the received translation, as it leaves the question entirely undecided when this blessing and sanctification took place.- The proposed version, however, is opposed by those in the Polyglott, awl by the generality of translators, who render the particle vau at the beginning of the third verse, as a copulative, not as an illative; and it is surprising how a sound Hebrew scholar can translate it otherwise. In short, nothing can be more violent and unnatural than the proleptical interpretation; and if we add, that it rests upon the unproved assumption, that the record in question was written after the delivery of the law, it must appear so devoid of critical support, not to require a moment's hesitation in rejecting it." (Holden onSabbath.)
So satisfactorily does it appear that the institution of the Sabbath is historically narrated in Genesis: and it follows from thence, that the law of the Sabbath is universal, and not peculiar to the Jews. God blessed and sanctified it, not certainly for himself, but for his creatures; that it might be a day of special blessing to them, and be set apart, not only from unholy acts, for they are forbidden on every day; but from common uses. It was thus stamped with a hallowed character from the commencement, and in works of a hallowed character ought it therefore to be employed.
The obligation of a Sabbatical observance upon Christians being thus established, the inquiry which naturally follows, is, In what manner is this great festival, at once so ancient and so venerable, and intended to commemorate events so illustrious and so important to mankind, to be celebrated? Many have spoken of the difficulty of settling rules of this kind; but this will ordinarily vanish, if we consent to he guided fully by the principles of Scripture.
We allow that it requires judgment, and prudence, and charity, and, above all, a mind well disposed to the spiritual employment of the Sabbath, to make a right application of the law. But this is the case with other precepts also; such, for instance, as the loving our neighbour as ourselves: with respect to which we seldom hear any complaint of difficulty in the application. But, even if some want of special direction should be felt, this can only affect minor details; and probably the matter has been so left by the Lawgiver, to "try us, and prove us, and to know what is in our heart." Something may have been reserved, in this case, for the exercise of spontaneous obedience; for that generous construction of the precept which will be dictated by devotion and gratitude; and for the operation of a feeling of indignant shame, that the only day which God has reserved to himself, should be grudged to him, and trenched upon by every petty excuse of convenience, interest, or sloth, amid pared down, and negociated for, in the spirit of one who seeks to overreach another. Of this we may be assured, that he who is most anxious to find exceptions to the general rule, will, in most cases, be a defaulter upon even his own estimate of the general duty.
The only real difficulties with which men have entangled themselves, have arisen from the want of clear and decided views of the law of the Sabbath as it is a matter of express revelation. There are two extremes, either of which must be fertile of perplexity. The first is, to regard the Sabbath as a prudential institution, adopted by the primitive Church, and resting upon civil and ecclesiastical authority; a notion which has been above refuted. For if this theory be adopted, it is impossible to find satisfactory rules, either in the Old or New Testament, applicable to the subject; and we may therefore cease to wonder at that variety of opinions, and those vacillations between duty and license, which have been found in different Churches, and among their theological writers. The difficulty of establishing any rule at all, to which conscience is strictly amenable, is then evident, and indeed entirely insuperable; and men in vain attempt to make a partial Sabbath by their own authority, when they reject "the day which the Lord hath made." If, on the other hand, a proper distinction is not preserved between the moral law of the Jews, which re-enacts the still more ancient institution of the Sabbath, (a law we have seen to be obligatory upon all Christians, to the end of time,) and the political and ceremonial law of that people, which contains particular rules as to the observance of the Sabbath; fixing both the day on which it was to be held, viz, the seventh of the week, and issuing certain prohibitions not applicable to all people; which branch of the Mosaic law was brought to an end by Christ,- difficulties will arise from this quarter. One difficulty wall respect the day; another the hour of the diurnal circle from which the Sabbath must commence. Other difficulties will arise from the inconvenience or impossibility of accommodating the Judaical precepts to countries and manners totally dissimilar; and others, from the degree of civil delinquency and punitiveness with which violations of the Sabbath ought to be marked in a Christian state. The kindling of fires, for instance, in their dwellings was forbidden to the Jews; but for extending this to harsher climates there is no authority. This rule would make the Sabbath a day of bodily suffering, and, in some cases, of danger to health, which is inconsistent with that merciful and festival character which the Sabbath was designed every where to bear. The same observation may apply to the cooking of victuals, which was also prohibited to the Jews by express command. To the gathering of sticks on the Sabbath the penalty of death was assigned, on one occasion, for reasons probably arising out of the theocratical government of the Jews; but surely this is no precedent for making the violation of the Sabbath a capital crime in the code of a Christian country.
Between the decalogue, and the political and ceremonial laws which followed, there is a marked distinction. They were given at two different times, and in a different manner; and, above all, the former is referred to in the New Testament, as of perpetual obligation; the other as peculiar, and as abolished by Christ. It does not follow, however, from this, that those precepts in the Levitical code, which relate to the sabbath, are of no use to us. They show us how the general law was carried into its detail of application by the great Legislator, who condescended to be at once a civil and an ecclesiastical Governor of a chosen people; and though they are not in all respects binding upon us, in their full form, they all embody general interpretations of time fourth command of the decalogue, to which, as far as they are applicable to a people otherwise circumstanced, respect is reverently and devoutly to be had. The prohibition to buy and sell on the Sabbath is as applicable to us as to the Jews; so is that against travelling on the Sabbath, except for purposes of religion, which was allowed to them also. If we may lawfully kindle fires in our dwellings, yet we may learn from the law peculiar to the Jews, to keep domestic services under restraint; if we may cook victuals for necessity and comfort, we are to be restrained from feasting; if violations of the Sabbath are not to be made capital crimes by Christian governors, the enforcement of a decent external observance of the rest of the Sabbath is a lawful use of power, and a part of the duty of a Christian magistrate.
But the rules by which the observance of the Sabbath is clearly explained, will be found in abundant copiousness and evidence in the original command; in the decalogue; in incidental passages of Scripture, which refer not, so much to the political law of the Jews, as to the universal moral code; and in the discourses and acts of Christ, and his apostles: so that, independent of the Levitical code, we have abundant guidance. It is a day of rest from worldly pursuits; a day sanctified, that is, set apart for holy uses, which are the proper and the only lawful occupations of the day; it is a day of public worship, or, as it is ex. pressed in the Mosaic law, "of holy convocation," or assembly ;-a day for the exercise of mercy to man and beast ;-a day for the devout commemoration, by religious acts and meditations, of the creation and redemption of the world; and, consequently, for the cultivation of that spirit which is suitable to such exercises, by laying aside all worldly cares and pleasures; to which holy exercises there is to be a full appropriation of the seventh part of our time; necessary sleep, and engagements of real necessity, as explained by our Saviour, only being excluded.
Works of charity and mercy were not excluded by the rigour of the Mosaic law, much less by the Christian dispensation. Time rule of doing good on the Sabbath day has, however, sometimes been interpreted with too much laxity, without considering that such acts form no part of the reason for which that day was sanctified, and that they are therefore to be grounded upon time necessity of immediate exertion. The secularity connected with certain public charities has often been pushed beyond this rule of necessity, and as such has become unlawful.
The reason generally given for this, is, that men cannot be found to give time on the week day to the management of such charities: and they will never be found, while the rule is brought down to convenience. Men's principles are to be raised, and not the command lowered. And when ministers perseveringly do their duty, and but a few conscientious persons support them, the whole will be found practicable and easy. Charities are pressed either upon our feelings or our interests, and sometimes on both; and when they become really urgent, time will be found for their management, without "robbing God," and laying down that most debasing of all principles, that our sacrifices are to cost us nothing. The teaching of writing in Sunday schools has been pleaded for on the same assumed ground of necessity; but in all well and religiously conducted institutions of this kind it has been found quite practicable to accomplish the object in a lawful manner; and even if it had not, there was no obligation binding as to that practice, equal to that which binds us to obey the law of God. It is a work which comes not under any of our Lord's exceptions: it may be a benevolent thing; but it has in it no character of mercy, either to the bodies or to the souls of men.
As to amusements and recreations, which, when " innocent," that is, we suppose, not "immoral," are sometimes pleaded for, by persons who advocate the serious observance of the Lord's day, but a few words are necessary. If to public worship we are to add a more than ordinary attention to the duties of the family and the closet, which all such per. sons allow, then there is little time for recreation and amusement; and if there were, the heart which is truly impressed with duties so sacred, and has entered into their spirit, can have no relish for them. Against every temptation of this kind, the words of the pious Archbishop Dawes may serve as a salutary admonition.
"Dost thou require of me, 0 Lord, but one day in seven for thy more especial service, when as all my times, all my days, are thy due tribute; and shall I grudge thee that one day? Have I but one day in the week, a peculiar season of nurturing and training up my soul for heavenly happiness, and shall I think the whole of this too much, and judge my duties at an end, when the public offices of the Church are only ended? Ah! where, in such a case, is my zeal, my sincerity, my constancy, and perseverance of holy obedience? Where my love unto, my delight and relish in, pious performances? Would those that are thus but half Christians be content to be half saved? Would those who are thus not far from the kingdom of heaven, be willing to be utterly excluded thence for arriving no nearer to a due observance of the Lord's day? Am I so afraid of sabbatizing with the Jews, that I carelessly omit keeping the day as a good Christian? Where can be the harm of overdoing in God's worship, suppose I could overdo? But when my Saviour has told me, after I have done all, I am still an unprofitable servant, where is the hazard, where the possibility, of doing too much; whereas in doing too little, in falling short of performing a due obedience on the Sabbath, I may also fall short of eternal life?"