Page images

is extinguished, and you can no more trace his passage through the world, unless by the remembrance of his crimes, than you can'the pathway of a keel in the waves.'

One philosopher, observing the insignificance and folly of all we do, laughed at every thing, as vanity. Another observing the miseries that attend the follies and vices of mankind, wept at every thing, as vexation of spirit. Solomon, taking both together, saith, I have seen all the works that are done under the sun, and behold! all is both vanity and vexation of spirit.'

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

'Let us hear

What then shall we do in such a world? the conclusion of the whole matter,' as it is drawn by the Wise Man himself. Let us fear God, and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty,' and we may add, it is therefore the whole wisdom and interest, of man.' Let us lift up our eyes from the empty shadows of this life, important only in their power to deceive and grieve us; and let us fix them and our affections on the great and solid things above. This world was made for man, and therefore man was not made for this world. It was made, however, only for his temporary subsistence, and as a nursery to breed up children to God, and heirs of a better world. Here therefore every thing is fitted for children, and not for men, who cannot possibly rest in such things as are uncertain, and by no means of equal extent with their desires. Since every thing here is uncertain and unsatisfactory, let us consult our faith, and let us seek for a better and more permanent inheritance hereafter, such as may fill our utmost desires, and gratify to the full, without fear of change or disappointments, of disgust or remorse. Since every thing here is vexation, let us seek for happiness in true religion, in a clear conscience, and in hopes of peace at the last. We must look above the sun for a place, where there is no vanity, no vexation of spirit. To lay the foundation of our happiness in this world, is to build on the sand and the waves. Let us therefore endeavour to raise a building, eternal in the heavens,' that when we fail here, and become bankrupts of earthly possessions, we may be received into everlasting habitations.'


God give us a gracious admittance there, and let his holy and glorious name be magnified and praised for everAmen.




EXOD. XX. 8.

Remember the sabbath-day, to keep it holy.

LEST in the extreme eagerness and hurry of our six days pursuit after worldly things, we should forget that the seventh was reserved from the beginning and consecrated to God and religion; this commandment sets out with a divine admonition, to recollect the approach of that solemnity, and to cease entirely from that pursuit, at the commencement of a day, so equally appropriated to the honour of God, and the happiness of mankind.

We should therefore hear the call of God, expressed in this word, ' remember,' just in the same manner as we should do, did he on the evening of every sixth day, cry out in a voice, audible to all mankind; Give ear, O my people, to the notification of my sabbath, on which you are to enter in a few hours, and so dispose yourselves, as to cease, the moment it begins, from all those labours, to which you were doomed for original transgression; your labours, even for the necessaries of life, but more especially those, wherein you are occupied by your vanity, your voluptuousness, your avarice, your ambition, labours fit only to desecrate my day, which cannot be kept holy, if it is not offered up to me by the very contrary dispositions of mind, by an entire cessation from worldly business, and by a truly religious service.'

Thus Almighty God addresses us in the first words of this commandment; wherein it is farther to be observed, that, whereas, in every other commandment he only enjoins, or prohibits, somewhat to be done; in this, as of more general consequence, than any of the rest, he both commands, remember my sabbath-day, to keep it holy,' and forbids, in it thou shalt do no manner of work;' and that we may consider it as wholly appropriated to himself, and not be invaded by this world without impiety and sacrilege, he far

ther tells us, that it is the sabbath of the Lord our God,' his peculiar enclosure of time, whereon he ceased even from his own work, as if not sufficiently sacred for so high a solemnity. He ceased, and so should we, to give time for the contemplation of his works. When the all-operating mind thinks fit to make vacation, we his rational creatures, ought to be no otherwise employed, than in the review of ourselves, and all he hath created for us, that together with his other works, we may again be, what he, at first, pronounced us, and gratefully declare with him, 'behold all is very good.'

So many out-works, placed round the duty here inculcated, may possibly be regarded by the unthinking as disproportionate to the importance of that duty, compared with the duties enjoined, at least in some of the other commandments. What, (may such a one say) is more care taken to prevent sabbath-breaking, than idolatry and murder? By no means. This hasty querist should know, that every guard against the violation of this commandment, is as much a guard against the transgression of the rest. This is the only positive commandment of the decalogue, the observation whereof is made subservient and necessary to that of the other nine, wherein no other duties are enjoined, than such as result from the relation we are placed in to God, and our brethren. Well as that relation is generally deemed to be known, and clearly as those duties may seem to spring from it; were no particular time set apart for an inquiry after either, nor for the practical enforcement of them on our affections, no time at all would be given to those purposes by the generality of mankind; the stream of business or pleasure would perpetually carry our thoughts downward to this world; God, and our relation to him, would be unknown, or forgotten; and men, becoming ignorant, that he is the guarantee of social duties, would be little better than wild beasts to one another. All history, sacred and profane, is a verification chiefly of this assertion. He knows little of the world, as little indeed of himself, who hath not observed an almost universal disinclination in human nature to religious inquiries and duties; to those inquiries, as they lead to these duties; and to these duties again, as they lead to compunction and dread of future retribution.

Without a sabbath, that is, without a proper proportion

of our time, appointed by divine authority, for the instruction of the common people in, religious knowledge, and for the habitual exercise of devotion in those of higher rank, no knowledge of that sort is rationally to be expected among the former; but little of it among the latter; no spirit of piety and devotion among either. But in proportion as we give God his day, so, proportionably shall the knowledge, the fear, the love of God prevail; and with them the practice of every virtue; for the religion, to be acquired by a due observance of that day, is the only efficacious principle of real virtue, as that is, of real happiness.

Taking it for granted, that all who hear me are Christians, I must farther take it for granted, that they agree with me in this account of Christianity, as in a fundamental truth, and therefore consider the sabbath as an institution of divine authority, and of infinite utility.

Since then this solemnity furnishes an opportunity for all other religious inquiries, let us now lay hold of it to inquire, In the first place, into the nature and end of the institution itself; that,

In the second, understanding clearly what it is, and why it was appointed, we may be the better prepared to make a right application of it, I mean to remember and keep it holy.'

[ocr errors]

In the first place, as to the nature of this institution, it consists in an exemption, by divine appointment, of one day in seven from all unnecessary labour and business, relating to our worldly callings and affairs. This appears from the meaning of the word sabbath, which signifies, rest; from the express terms of the commandment; which forbid us to do any manner of work thereon;' and from so many other passages of the law and the prophets, as leave no room for a doubt on this head, either among Jews or Christians. The Jews, particularly in latter times, so overstrained the prohibition of works on the sabbath, as to abstain from works of necessity, and even of charity, deeming it unlawful on that day to defend themselves and their capital against the public enemy, and to heal the sick. Christ and all his followers, throughout every age of the church, understood the prohibition as levelled against all worldly work on this day, and kept the day accordingly.


As little doubt can be made, I conceive, among the rational and pious part of mankind, whether infinite wisdom and goodness could have intended the sabbath for a day of mere rest to the body, whereon absolutely nothing was to be done, either by that or the mind, which would reduce it to a day of idleness, that is, of vice; for that idleness is a vice, productive of innumerable other vices, cannot be soberly questioned. If however a cessation from bodily labour is admitted, which it must be, as the matter of the institution, and the recovery of strength and spirits, as its immediate end; we must at least expect to find another, more useful still, and better fitted to justify the wisdom of its author, for men may rest at any time, when they find themselves fatigued, without the solemnity of a law.

The nature of the institution will best appear from the consideration of its ends, which were, first, the refreshment of the body, exhausted and enfeebled by the labours of the preceding work days, which makes the bare resting on this day in some measure useful, and distinguishes it from mere idleness; and secondly, the commemoration of God's resting on the seventh day from his work of creation, which, we shall presently perceive, is an end of infinite use and dignity.

Such, with an eye to all mankind, and throughout all ages, were the purposes of Almighty God in appointing this solemnity from the beginning. But in regard to the church of Christ, a greater still was added at the change of the day from the last to the first of the Jewish week, namely, the commemoration of our Saviour's resurrection on our present sabbath, when he rested from the work of his new creation.

The sabbath, we ought now to observe, considered in these ends of its institution, is a most instructive memorial, a festival greatly exceeding all others, in the joy and gratitude it calls us to, for the being we have received from the hands of God; for the dignity of that being, which is ranked but a little lower than that of angels;' for a whole world, created in order to our comfortable accommodation; for the conquest of sin by the sufferings, and of death, by the resurrection, of our blessed Saviour, who was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification,' who

[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »