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partake, as often as we have opportunity, of the holy sacrament of the Lord's supper, the memorial of our Saviour's death, and the pledge of his second coming. In such duties as these, did the people of God in former times chiefly employ themselves on the holy Sabbath. Under the old dispensation, sacrifices were offered, and incense burnt in the temple, and the law was publicly read and explained, both at Jerusalem and other cities of Judea, where synagogues were built for that very end. After the resurrection of Christ, the Apostles and primitive Christians met together statedly on the first day of the week, that they might join in celebrating that great and propitious event, and in performing other acts of social religion. And ought not we to sanctify the Lord's day in the same manner ? We are blessed with the ordinances of the gospel regularly, and, I hope, purely dispensed. We have places set apart for publie worship, and are countenanced in the exercise of it by lawful authority; and therefore, it must discover a strange perverseness of temper, and an unpardonable contempt both of God and man, to withdraw from the place of public worship, and, on any pretence whatsoever, to refuse to bear a part in such a becoming and rational service. ---But,
2dly, That the public worship may have a greater efficacy, and that our minds may be better disposed to enter into it, it is the duty of each family apart, to spend some time both before and after the public service, in reading the holy Scriptures, and in joining together in prayer and thanksgiving to God. Were this practised in a serious and devout manner, we might expect to see better days, and more fruitful and joyful Sabbaths than any we have yet seen. A congregation composed of a number of holy families, just come from conversing with God at home, to worship him together in the house of prayer, would be indeed a lovely sight, and could not fuil to be honoured with the special marks of divine favour. We have illustrious examples of family-religion, recorded in the Old Testament; but what chiefly ought to engage the attention of Christians is, that our blessed Lord himself was pleased to become a pattern to us in this matter. In the intervals of his public work, we find him frequently retiring with his little family, praying with them, and teaching them to pray, and instructing them in things pertaining to the kingdom of God; in this, as in all other things, leaving us an example 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 stuffer 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 holy commandment.--I added in the
: 3d place, That as our hearts are naturally indisposed for spiritual exercises, we ought each of us, by ourselves, 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 tlris sacred retirement, we ought to revolve in our minds the various steps of our Lord's humiliation, from his birth at Bethlehem, to his burial on Mount Calvary. Thence we should proceed to view the triumphis of his cross, where 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 him
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, accord, ing to this gospel which is now preached in his 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 ordi. nances to be indeed the wisdom and the power of God, "the savour of life unto life,” to our souls. The
4th and last particular which I mentioned, is mutua! conference upon divine things. This is of great use ta 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 shewing 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 sure. ly 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 general 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 argun ments,
Exodus XX. 8.
Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy,
I wave already endearoured 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 Sabbath, 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. 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, declared 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. 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 shew, 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 ordnins the seventh part of our time to be statedly employed in the immediate service of God, that we may thereby become better acquainted with him, and may become more fit for an eternal communion with him in heaven. The very ințention of the law is to set apart a certain proportion of our time for the care of our souls, which, 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