Page images

tention. You have not a moment to lose. Death is at hand. Your all is at stake. Wo be to the individual who persists in rejecting the one and only Mediator between God and men! He may be spared for a little while, but his term of impunity will assuredly come to an end. The divine forbearance has its limit. To-day is the accepted time, and the day of salvation.

[ocr errors]


EXODUS XX. 8, 9, 10, 11.

"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; in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it."

We shall attempt this evening, first, to show that the Sabbath is a divine institution of perpetual obligation, and secondly, to illustrate the importance of this institution to the temporal and eternal interests of man.—An extensive field is before us; but we shall endeavour to be as brief as may be consistent with a satisfactory discussion of the subject.

It is well known, that the perpetuity of the Sabbath has been denied by many. Several Christian sects have assumed this ground as one of their peculiarities. And Dr. Paley-distinguished for his popular manner of treating every subject which he has discussed-devotes a whole chapter of his work on Moral and Political Philosophy, to an endeavour to make it appear, that the command by which the observance of a Sabbath was enjoined on the ancient Jews, is not obligatory on Christians. That this opinion is erroneous will be evident, we think, from a few considerations which we shall now proceed to state.

[ocr errors]

And first, we refer to the fact, that the precept which enjoins the observance of the Sabbath, forms a part of the Decalogue. It is incorporated in the great code of moral duties, and must, therefore, be presumed to be of perpetual obligation. If the fourth commandment has become obsolete, what ground have we for supposing, that a similar fate may not have befallen the other commandments?

Again, that the precept which enjoins the observance of the Sabbath, was not designed for the Israelites alone, appears from the very terms in which it was promulgated; for it was expressly extended to "the stranger that was within their gates," that is, to the heathen who was deemed an alien from the covenant of God, and was, therefore, debarred from the privileges of any ceremonial institution.

Further, we contend that the Sabbath was instituted by God, and observed by men, long before the Jewish nation had an existence. Does not Moses, in the beginning of the second chapter of Genesis, tell us, that the almighty Architect, after finishing the stupendous work of creation in six days, rested on the seventh day, and blessed and sanctified it? Now, we would ask, what can such language mean, if it does not imply, that a certain day of the week was then set apart for sabbatical observance? But we are told, that the sacred historian has related no instance, in which the Sabbath was observed, till the arrival of the emancipated Israelites at the wilderness of Sin. We might answer, that this is a mere omission from which no inference can be fairly drawn. We think, however, that the Scriptures do not exhibit that total silence on this point which some have attributed to them. In the fourth chapter of Genesis is the following passage: "In process of time, it came to pass that

Cain brought an offering to the Lord." That this offering was an act of divine worship, will be admitted. Now, we are informed, that the offering was presented "in process of time." To this phrase thus rendered, no determinate meaning can be attached. But if we adopt the marginal reading, which is doubtless the true one, the words become intelligible, and would seem to refer to the observance of the Sabbath. "AT THE END OF DAYS it came to pass, that Cain brought an offering unto the Lord." We understand the expression "end of days," as denoting the termination of the week, and consequently as implying, that the offering of Cain was presented on the Sabbath.

It is alleged, that the change which the Sabbath has undergone from the seventh to the first day of the week, is incompatible with the idea of its perpetuity. As much stress has been laid upon this circumstance, we shall examine it somewhat in detail.

None, we presume, will deny, that it was competent for Him who instituted the Sabbath in the first instance, to introduce the change in question. We admit, indeed, that there is no positive command for this change in the New Testament. But in the absence of such command, we have, what is scarcely less satisfactory, the example of our Lord, and that of his apostles and disciples, in connexion with the general practice of Christians in all subsequent periods.

First, we have the example of our Lord himself. In the nineteenth verse of the twentieth chapter of John, we read, "Then the same day at evening, being THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you." And from the twenty-sixth verse of the

same chapter, we learn that on the first day of the week immediately following, Jesus paid a similar visit to his assembled friends.

Again, we have the example of the apostles and first disciples. We have just seen two instances in which they convened on the first day of the week. Others may also be adduced. Thus the day of Pentecost, so glorious in the annals of the church, was the first day of the week. We likewise read of the disciples coming together on the first day of the week to break bread, when Paul, who intended to leave them on the morrow, continued his discourse till midnight. Nor must we omit to refer to a passage of the first Epistle to the Corinthians, where the apostle directs that collections for the saints be taken up on the first day of every week, stating that he had issued a similar order to the churches of Galatia.

Such, then, was the practice of the apostles. And that their example was followed by the whole Christian community, is a fact, respecting which there can be no dispute. Now, we may readily conceive, that the prejudices of the Jewish converts in favour of the Sabbath to which they had been accustomed from their infancy, were so inveterate that nothing could have induced them to observe the first day of the week as the season of holy rest, but a well-founded conviction that there was sufficient authority for the change. Indeed, the more rigid of them continued, for many years, to honour both the old and the new Sabbath, thinking that thus they could not possibly err.

Brethren, we would next inquire, whether it was not proper, that the new dispensation introduced by our divine Lord, should be distinguished by a change of the Sabbath? And was it not fit that his resurrection from the dead, which took place on the first day of the week, should become the era of such change? Surely an event

« PreviousContinue »