Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

2d place, Realize this awful and important truth, that our life is but “ a vapour, which appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” Die we must, and we know not how soon. Our worldly enjoyments must be relinquished, our worldly plans and projects must perish. “ The wind shall pass over us, and we shall be gone, and our place shall know us no more.” Nature will look as gay on the day of our decease as it ever did; the business of the world will go on as briskly as before; our habitations will make our successors as welcome as they made us; and even our names, in a few years, shall perish as if we had never been. What wise man then would build his house on such unstable sand ? How wretched must that man be, whose inheritance lies wholly upon earth ? What pangs must he feel at the parting hour? with what horror must he hear the summons of dissolution ?

Let us then be persuaded to raise our affections above the things of the earth, to those things which are above. Let us plan for eternity, and let us choose the unchangeable God for our portion. Knowing that we have here no continuing city, let us seek one to come; a city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God. Let the Lord Jesus be our leader and guardian ; under his conduct let us presently set out for the heavenly Jerusa, lem ; and in due time he will bring us safe to the city of the great and universal King, where we shall continue, not for a year only, but for ever, and where we shall get possession of substantial gain, even that glorious inheritance of the saints in light, which is incorruptible, and undefiled, and which fadeth not away. Amen.

SERMON VIII.

Exodus xx. 8.

Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.

Tuz too general and growing abyse of the Christian Sabbath must render a discourse on this subject both seasonable and necessary; and I propose therefore, in dependence on divine aid,

1st, To inquire how far the precept in this text is binding on us.

2dly, To shew how this commandment ought to be kept or observed. And,

3dly, To enforce the observance of it by some motives and arguments.

First, I begin with inquiring how far this precept of keeping holy the Sabbath day is binding on us.

Although your stated attendance on this day, for the worship of God, may be interpreted as a public declaration'on your part, that you reckon this commandment binding on you, yet the inquiry I have proposed is by no means superfluous. We are exhorted in Scripture, not only “ to sanctify the Lord God in our hearts,” but likewise " to be always ready to give an answer to erery man who asketh us a reason of the hope that is in us.” And if we should at all times be ready to declare the grounds of our hope, we should certainly be at least equally ready to explain and to justify the reasons of our practice. Be.

sides, although in the judgment of charity," which thinketh no evil,” your weekly attendance on this day for public worship may be supposed to flow from a religious principle, yet in our present situation, it is easy to conceive, that something else than a sense of duty may occasion our meeting together in this manner. The laws of our country not only permit, but require the observance of the Christian Sabbath ; so that human authority, the manner of our education, a regard to decency, or even motives inferior to any of these, may bring people to church who have never seen themselves to be bound by any divine law, to keep holy the Sabbath day. And I am sorry to add, that there is too great cause to suspect this to be the case with many who frequent our religious assemblies, from their defective and partial observance of this holy day. I therefore judge it to be of the highest importance, to set the authority of this precept in a clear and striking light. For until we view the Sabbath as a divine institution, we shall never either pay to it that regard which it deserves, nor reap any spiritual advantage from the most exact outward observance of it.— I suppose it will not be denied, in the

1st place, That some part of our time should be employed in the immediate worship of God. Reason must necessarily teach us, that such homage is due to that Almighty Being on whom we depend for life, and breath, and all things. In order to secure the regular performance of this worship, the same principle of reason will naturally suggest the propriety of allotting certain stated seasons for that purpose. If any shall dispute the necessity of this, they will at least allow us to affirm the expediency of it; for it is a common and true observation, that what is left to be done at any time, is in great danger of being done at no time.--I may likewise take it for granted, in the

2d place, That the right of determining what proportion of time, or what stated seasons should be employed in divine worship, will be readily admitted to belong to God. This is so evident, that it scarcely needs an illustration. If we can live one moment independent of God, we may call that moment our own, and claim the disposal of it. But if we cannot draw one breath without his aid ; if his constant visitation is necessary to preserve us; the consequence is unavoidable, that the whole of our time is due to God, and that his right is absolute to reserve any part of it which he pleaseth, for his own worship. And this leads me to observe, in the

3d place, That God hath actually interposed his anthority in this matter, and by a clear and positive law, part of which I have now read to you, hath reserved for himself one day in seven ; that he hath consecrated or set apart this portion of our time, by his precept, example, and blessing, for a holy rest or cessation from secular em. ployments, and for such acts of religious worship and adoration, as creatures owe to their great Creator.

It is confessed by all who admit the inspiration of the Old Testament, that this law was strictly binding upon the Jews, to whom it was delivered by the ministry of Moses. But some have made it a question, whether it continues to be binding under the Christian dispensation. We maintain that it is still in force, in as much as it con, tains a declaration of the will of God, that one day in seven, or the seventh part of our time, should be separated from common use, and dedicated to religious purposes. With regard to the particular day to be observed, all days being alike in themselves, the appointment of it must be of a positive nature, and may therefore be varied at the pleasure of the Lawgiver. ; Accordingly we find, that in this circumstance the law hath received an alteration. The seventh, or last day of the week, is now become common, and in commemoration of our Saviour's resurrection from the dead, the holy rest is transferred to the first day of the week, which hath ever since been call. ed, by way of eminence, The Lord's Day. Whether this remarkable change is sufficiently supported by divine authority, admits of farther inquiry. What I have hitherto said, is only intended to prove our obligation to keep one day in seven holy to the Lord; and for this, I think, I bave given you very satisfying evidence. It is a natural principle, that God ought to be worshipped ; and as it is highly necessary to secure the performance of such an important duty, reason farther teacheth us, that some stated times ought to be set apart for that end. The right of determining these, doth certainly belong to God himself; and he hath actually been pleased to give a plain intimation of his will in this matter, claiming, by a distinct and peremptory statute, one whole day in seven, for the peculiar exercises of religious worship. Thus far then the commandment is strictly moral, and therefore still binding upon us, in as much as it only enjoins & natural duty, and prescribes the most effectual means for securing the performance of it.

Having established this point, the way lies more open to the other subject of inquiry; and I expect to find less difficulty in satisfying you about the alteration of the day. Some Christians indeed have maintained, that both days ought to be kept; but I reckon there will be no need to guard you against a mistake of this kind. You will easily convince yourselves that there is but one Sabbath in the week.

As to our practice in observing the first, instead of the last day of the week, which was the Jewish Sabbath, the reasons of it may be reduced under these following heads.

1st, We learn from Scripture, that this was the day on which the Apostles and primitive Christians held their solemn assemblies for the public exercises of religious worship. Thus we read, Acts xx. 7. that “ upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread," i. e. to celebrate the sacrament of our Lord's supper, “ Paul preached unto them, and continued his

« IndietroContinua »