« PreviousContinue »
parallel with the liberty taken among us, to take up an apple or two and eat, as we are occasionally passing through a neighbor's orchard; which, as our circumstances are, we may do, and justly presume that we have the owner's consent. This is a liberty that we take, and find no ill consequences. It was very much so with vineyards in the land of Canaan, as it is with orchards among us. Apples in some countries are a rare fruit; and there it would by no means be warrantable for persons to take the same liberty, when occasionally passing by their neighbor's apple tree, which we warrantably take here, when going through a neighbor's orchard.
The consideration of these things will easily show the great abuse that is made of this text, when it is brought to justify such a resorting of children and others to their neighbor's fruit trees, as is sometimes, on purpose to take and eat the fruit. Indeed this practice is not only not justified by the law of Moses, but it is in itself unreasonable, and contrary to the law of nature. The consequences of it are pernicious, so that a man can have no dependence on enjoying the fruit of his labor, or the benefit of his property in those things, which possibly he may very much value. He can have no assurance but that he shall be mainly deprived of what he has, and that others will not have the principal benefit of it; and so that his end in planting and cultivating that from which he expected those fruits of the earth, which God hath given for the use, comfort, and delight of mankind, will not be in the main frustrated.
II. The second use may be of exhortation. Under this use, I shall confine myself to two particulars, many other things having been already spoken to.
1. I shall hence take occasion to exhort parents to restrain their children from stealing, and particularly from being guilty of theft in stealing the fruits of their neighbor's trees or fields. Christian parents are obliged to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. But how much otherwise do they bring up their children, who bring them up in theft! Which cer. tainly those parents are guilty of, not only who directly teach them to steal, set them an example and set them about it, but also those who tolerate them in it.
Parents should take thorough and effectual care, not only to instruct their children better, and to warn them against any such thievish practices, but also thoroughly to restrain them. Children who practise stealing, make themselves vile. Stealing, by the common consent of mankind, is a very vile practice. Therefore those parents that will not take thorough care to restrain their children from such a practice, will be guilty of the saine sin which God so highly resented, and awfully punished in Eli, of which we read, 1 Sam. iii. 13: “For I have told him, that I will judge his house forever, for the iniquity which he knoweth ; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not."
2. I exhort those who are conscious in themselves that they have heretofore wronged their neighbor, to make restitution. This is a duty the obligation to which is exceeding plain. If a person was wronged in taking away any thing that was his, certainly he is wronged also in detaining it, and keeping it away. And all the while a person, who has been guilty of wronging his neighbor, neglects to make restitution, he lives in that wrong. He not only lives impenitent of that first wrong, of which he was guilty, but he continually wrongs his neighbor. A man who hath gutten any thing from another wrongfully, goes on to wrong him every day that he neglects to restore it, when he has opportunity to do it. The person injured did not only suffer wrong from the other when his goods were first taken from him, but he suffers new injustice from himn all the while they are unjustly kept from him.
Therefore I counsel all those of you that are sensible that you have hereto
fore wronged your neighbor, either by fraud, or oppression, or unfaithfulness, or stealing, whether lately or formerly, though it may have been a great while ago, speedily to go and make restitution for all the wrong your neighbor has suffered at your hands. That it was done long ago, doth not quit you from obligation still to restore, as much as if it had been done yesterday. This is a duty with which you must comply; you cannot be acquitted without it. As long as you neglect it, it will be unreasonable in you to expect any forgiveness of God. For what ground can you have to think that God will pardon you, as long as you wilfully still continue in the same wrong, and wrong the same man still every day, by detaining from him that which is his ? You in your prayers ask of God, that he would forgive all your sins; but your very prayers are mockery, if you still wilfully continue in those sins.
Indeed, if you go and confess your faults to your neighbor, and he will freely acquit you from making restitution, you will be acquitted from the obligation; for in so doing, your neighbor gives you what before was his. But otherwise you cannot be acquitted.
Particularly I would leave this advice with all, for their direction in their behavior on their death-beds. Indeed you should not by any means put it off till you come to die; and you will run the most fearful risk in so doing. But if you will not do it now, while you are in health, I will leave it with you to remember, when you shall come to lie on your death-beds. Doubtless, then, if you have the use of your reason, you will be concerned for the salvation of your poor souls. And let this be one thing then remembered, as absolutely necessary in order to your salvation, that before you die, you must make restitution for whatever wrong you shall have done any of your neighbors; or at least leave orders that such restitution be made; otherwise you will, as it were, go out of the world, and go before your Great Judge, with stolen goods in your hands. And certainly it will not be very comfortable or safe, to bring them into his infinitely holy and dreadful presence, when he sits on his throne of judgment, with his eyes as a flame of fire, being more pure than to leok on iniquity; when he is about to sentence you to your everlasting unalterable state.
Every one here present, who has been guilty of wronging his neighbor, and has not yet made restitution, must die. Let all such therefore remember this counsel now given them, on the day when death shall approach, if they shall be so foolish as to neglect it till that time.
THE PERPETUITY AND CHANGE OF THE SABBATH.
I CORINTHIANS xvi. 1,2.-Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the
churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week, let every one of you lay by him in store as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.
We find in the New Testament often mentioned a certain collection, which was made by the Grecian churches, for the brethren in Judea, who were reduced to pinching want by a dearth which then prevailed, and was the heavier upon them by reason of their circumstances, they having been from the beginning oppressed and persecuted by the unbelieving Jews. We have this collection or contribution twice mentioned in the Acts, as in chapter xi. 28—31, and in chapter xxiv. 17. It is also taken notice of in several of the epistles; as Rom. xv. 26, and Gal. ii. 10. But it is most largely insisted on, in these two epistles to the Corinthians ; in this first epistle, chapter xvi., and in the second epistle, chapters viii. and ix. The apostle begins the directions, which in this place he delivers concerning this matter, with the words of the text—wherein we may observe,
1. What is the thing to be done concerning which the apostle gives them direction, and that is, the making of a collection for the saints; the exercise and manifestation of their charity towards their brethren, by communicating to them, for the supply of their wants; which was by Christ and his apostles often spoken of and insisted on, as one main duty of the Christian religion, and is ex. pressly declared to be so by the Apostle James, chap. i. 27:"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction."
2. We may observe the time on which the apostle directs that this should be done, viz.," on the first day of the week.” By the inspiration of the Holy Ghost he insists upon it, that it be done on such a particular day of the week, as if no other day would do so well as that, or were so proper and fit a time for such a work. Thus, although the inspired apostle was not for making that distinction of days in gospel times, which the Jews made, as appears by Gal. iv. 10, "Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain ;” yet here he gives the preference to one day of the week, before any other, for the performance of a certain great duty of Christianity.
3. It may be observed, that this is the direction which the apostle had giver to other churches that were concerned in the same duty, upon this occasion : he had given direction to them also to do it on the first day of the week : "As I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.” Whence we may learn, that it was nothing peculiar in the circumstances of the Christians at Corinth, which was the reason why the Holy Ghost insisted that they should perform this duty on this day of the week. The apostle had given the like orders to the churches of Galatia.
Now Galatia was far distant from Corinth; the sea parted them; and besides that, there were several other countries between them. Therefore it cannot be thought that the Holy Ghost directs them to this time upon any secular account, having respect to some particular circumstances of the people in that city, but upon a religious account. In giving the preference to this day for
such work, before any other day, he has respect to something which reached all Christians throughout the wide world.
And by other passages of the New Testament, we learn that the case was the same as to other exercises of religion; and that in the age of the apostles, the first day of the week was preferred before any other day, among the primitive Christians, and in churches immediately under the care of the apostles, for an attendance on the exercises of religion in general: Acts xx. 7, “Upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them.” It seems by these things to have been among the primitive Christians in the apostles' days, with respect to the first day of the week, as it was among the Jews with respect to the seventh.
We are taught by Christ, that the doing of alms and showing of mercy are proper works for the Sabbath day. When the Pharisees found fault with Christ for suffering his disciples to pluck the ears of corn and eat on the Sabbath, Christ corrects them with that, “I will have mercy and not sacrifice,” Matt. xii. 7. And Christ teaches that works of mercy are proper to be done on the Sabbath, in Luke xiii. 15, 16, and xiv. 5. These works used to be done on sacred festivals and days of rejoicing, under the Old Testament, as in Nehemiah's and Esther's time; Neh. viii. 10, and Esther ix. 19—22. And Josephus and Philo, two very noted Jews, who wrote not long after Christ's time, give an account that it was the manner among the Jews on the Sabbath, to make collections for sacred and pious uses.
DOCTRINE. It is the mind and will of God, that the first day of the week should be especially set apart among Christians, for religious exercises and duties.
That this is the doctrine which the Holy Ghost intended to teach us, by this and some other passages of the New Testament, I hope will appear plainly by the sequel. This is a doctrine that we have been generally brought up in by the instructions and examples of our ancestors; and it is and has been the general profession of the Christian world, that this day ought to be religiously observed, and distinguished from other days of the week. However, some deny it. Some refuse to take any notice of the day, or any way to difference it from other days. Others own, that it is a laudable custom of the Christian church, into which she fell by agreement, and by appointment of her ordinary rulers, to set apart this day for public worship. But they deny any other original to such an observation of the day, than prudential human appointment. Others religiously observe the Jewish Sabbath, suppose that the institution of that is of perpetual obligation, and that we want foundation for determining that that is abrogated, and another day of the week is appointed in the room of the seventh.
All those classes of men say, that there is no clear revelation that it is the mind and will of God, that the first day of the week should be observed as a day to be set apart for religious exercises, in the room of the ancient Sabbath; which there ought to be in order to the observation of it by the Christian church as a divine institution. They say, that we ought not to go upon the tradition of past ages, or upon uncertain and far-fetched inferences from some passages of the history of the New Testament, or upon some obscure and uncertain hints in the apostles' writings; but that we ought to expect a plain institution; which, they say, we may conclude God would have given us, if he had designed that the whole Christian church, in all ages, should observe another day of the week for a holy Sabbath, than that which was appointed of old by plain and positive institution.
So far is undoubtedly true, that if this be the mind and will of God, he hath not left the matter to human tradition ; but hath so revealed his mind about it, in his word, that there is there to be found good and substantial evidence that it is his mind : and doubtless, the revelation is plain enough for them that have ears to hear; that is, for them that will justly exercise their understandings about what God says to them. No Christian, therefore, should rest till he has satisfactorily discovered the mind of God in this matter. If the Christian Sabbath be of divine institution, it is doubtless of great importance to religion that it be well kept; and therefore, that every Christian be well acquainted with the institution.
If men only take it upon trust, and keep the first day of the week only because their parents taught them so, or because they see others do so, and so they take it for certain that it is right; they will never be likely to keep it so conscientiously and strictly, as if they had seen with their own eyes, and had been convinced by seeing for themselves, good grounds in the word of God for their practice: and unless they do see thus for themselves, whenever they are negligent in sanctifying the Sabbath, or are guilty of profaning it; their consciences will not have that advantage to smite them for it, as otherwise they would. And those who have a sincere desire to obey God in all things, will keep the Sabbath more carefully and more cheerfully, if they have seen and been convinced that therein they do what is according to the will and command of God, and what is acceptable to him; and will also have a great deal more comfort in the reflection upon their having carefully and painfully kept the Sabbath.
Therefore, I design now, by the help of God, to show, that it is sufficiently revealed in the Scriptures, to be the mind and will of God, that the first day of the week should be distinguished in the Christian church from other days of the week, as a Sabbath, to be devoted to religious exercises.
In order to this, I shall here premise, that the mind and will of God, concerning any duty to be performed by us, may be sufficiently revealed in his word, without a particular precept in so many express terms, enjoining it. The human understanding is the ear to which the word of God is spoken; and if it be so spoken, that that ear may plainly hear it, it is enough. God is sovereign as to the manner of speaking his mind, whether he will speak it in express terms, or whether he will speak it by saying several other things which imply it, and from which we may, by comparing them together, plainly perceive it. If the mind of God be but revealed, if there be but sufficient means for the communication of his mind to our minds, that is sufficient; whether we hear so many express words with our ears, or see them in writing with our eyes; or whether we see the thing that he would signify to us, by the eye of reason and understanding:
Who can positively say, that if it had been the mind of God, that we should keep the first day of the week, he would have commanded it in express terms, as he did the observation of the seventh day of old ? Indeed, if God had so made our faculties, that we were not capable of receiving a revelation of his mind in any other way; then there would have been some reason to say so. But God hath given us such understandings, that we are capable of receiving a revelation, when made in another manner. And if God deals with us agreeably to our natures, and in a way suitable to our capacities, it is enough. If God discovers his mind in any way whatsoever, provided it be according to our faculties, we are obliged to obedience; and God may expect our notice
and observance of his revelation, in the same manner as if he had revealed it in express terms. Vol. IV.