Immagini della pagina

than when sinners argue that he will not fulfil his threatenings, because they venture to assert, that it would be contrary to his justice and goodness so to do! and when, encouraged by this groundless hope of impunity, they continue to neglect his great salvation, and to add to the number of their crimes! “Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou “find out the Almighty to perfection? It is higher “ than heaven, what canst thou do? It is deeper than “hell, what canst thou know!” “But to man he sith, “ behold, the fear of the Lor D, that is wisdom; and “to depart from evil is understanding.”* V. The Lord hath a right to appoint the ordinances of his own worship, and all things relative to the pray. ers, praises, and thanksgivings of his rational creatures. This implies, that he hath a right to the adorations of all those whom he hath formed capable of this reasonable service, and that they rob him of his due who do not worship him; whether they give his glory to those, “who by nature are no gods;” or whether they be wholly irreligious. But he alone can persectly know in what manner it best becomes his creatures to worship him. " Every thing, therefore, essentially connected with our religious worship, should be regulated according to the revealed will of God: who no doubt has a right to the use of all our time, abilities and possessions, which should, in one way or other, be employed in his service and devoted to his glory; and, consequent

* Job xi. 7, 8. xxviii. 28.

c us to appropriate to religious duties -' tliem he pleases.

•on of the sabbath, or of one clay in -pt wholly to the Lord, may be adduced , on this part of our subject. The menlay of sacred rest immediately after the man's creation; the attention to it, which .d of Israel, previous to the giving of the 1 the form of the fourth commandment, »iber that thou keep holy the seventh day," in proving the appointment to have been coeh the human race; and this is further confirmed .- general custom, in many parts of the world, i the beginning, of computing time by weeks, ich cannot be so well accounted for in any oiher '\.y, as by concluding that it was the effect of tradition, derived from Adam and Noah, and retained when the reason of it was forgotten.

The circumstances of mankind have been greatly altered, since our first parents were created very good; and the Lord hath dealt with his church according to different dispensations: yet the same proportion of oonsecrated time hath invariably been adhered to. For, Jesus Christ, "the Lord of the sabbath day," hath manifestly established its obligation on his discipies: as his allowance of works of piety, mercy, and real necessity, implies a full confirmation of the prohibitions contained in the law, of all other kinds of labour. But the example and writings of his apostles prove, that, by his authority, the first day of the week,

» Ex. xyi. 5, 22, 30.

(on which he arose from the dead,) was set apart instead of the seventh; though the change was silently and gradually made, that the prejudices of the Jews might not be needlessly excited. On this day “the “Lord of the sabbath,” after his resurrection, repeatedly met his disciples, and spake peace to them: on this day the Holy Spirit was poured out upon them, subsequent to his ascension: they were afterwards accustomed on it, to meet together to break bread, to preach and hear the gospel, to collect or dispense their alms, and for other religious purposes: and the custom of the christian church from the primitive times suf. ficiently proves the observance of it to be an essential part of our holy religion. It is also emphatically called “the Lord's Day,”* or the day of Christ, the Lord of the sabbath, which he claims as his own, and requires his disciples to dedicate to religious services, as far as they have the opportunity and power so to do. The strict observance of his holy day, by suspending all kinds of labour (except such as have been mentioned;) by avoiding all worldly pleasures and avocations; by employing it in the devotions of the closet, the family, and the publick congregation; in the pious instruction of children and servants, and in religious meditation and conversation; forms a badge of distinction, a bond of union, and a means of communion with each other, among true christians; it tends greatly to promote the glory of God, and it provides in the most important manner for the propagation of real Christianity, and the edification of the church. Indeed such an institution seems to be indispensably necessary to the maintenance of pure religion among men; the strictest regard to it does hot in the least interfere with the advantageous management of agriculture, manufactures, or commerce; whilst it exceedingly subserves the interests of civilization, morality, and genuine liberty, political and personal. Whereas the profanation of this returning season of sacred rest, proportionably tends to the increase of impiety, profligacy, and every kind of vice.

* Rev. i. 10.

It would probably be found, upon a careful scrutiny, that the progress of irreligion and wickedness, in this land, hath kept pace with the neglect and contempt with which the Lord's day hath more and more been treated: and that no great regard is paid to equity, truth, or good morals, (except as reputation, interest, or fashion are concerned,) by those numbers of every rank, who, in different ways, profane this consecrated time, by spending it in business, journeying, feasting, polite dissipation, or gross excesses, as their habits and inclinations lead them.

Some indeed argue, that as we ought to keep every day holy, so we need not distinguish the Lord's day from the rest of the week: but what is this more than a mere play of words, employed to justify disobedience to God, and dislike to religious duties? Six days e wyeek may be spent in a holy manner; by a contentious attention to the employments of our several stations in the community; by regulating all our undertakings and enjoyments in justice, temperance, truth, and love; and being careful that they be sancti

Vol. III. Kk

fied by the word of God, aYid prayer. But obedience to one divine command cannot authorize disobedience to another. The Lord's day is set apart and consecrated by his authority to the great concerns of religious worship: it is therefore profaned by those actions, which on other days are a part of a man's duty: because being done at an improper season, they rob God of his due, and violate his command. Through the imperfection of language, the same word often conveys different ideas according to its connexion: and thus the term holy signifies consecration to God, and his immediate worship, when used concerning the sabbath; but it signifies conformity to any of his precepts, or to his image in justice, purity, truth, and goodness, when used in respect of our general conduct. Indeed they, who argue in this manner, may deal honestly, and be decent in their lives, from inferior motives: but they keep none of their days holy, that is, in obedience to God, from a regard to his authority, love to his name, delight in his service, and zeal for his glory; and they only want a pretence for neglecting religion and following their beloved worldly pursuits, as entirely on the Lord's day, as they do on / other days, but in rather a different manner.

Whilst a remnant continue to hallow the day of God, "not doing their own works, nor seeking their "own pleasure," during that sacred time, but counting it honourable and delightful thus to anticipate the worship and rest of heaven; it will constitute such a testimony for God and religion in the midst of the land, as may encourage a hope, that our iniquity is not yet full. But when there shall be only a few ex

« IndietroContinua »