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GODFREY HIGGINS, Esq.
OF SKELLOW GRANGE,
ON THE SUBJECT OF HIS
AN ATTEMPT TO CORRECT CERTAIN
SUPERSTITIONS AND VULGAR ERROR
BY THE REV. T. S. HUGHES, B. D.
LATE FELLOW OF EMMANUEL COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE,
CHRISTIAN ADVOCATE IN THAT UNIVERSITY,
AND EXAMINING CHAPLAIN TO THE LORD BISHOP OF PETERBOROUGH.
HAVING perused your pamphlet, intitled "Hora Sabbaticæ,” soon after its publication, I felt strongly inclined to reply to it; but my immediate attention was at that time engaged on a subject which permitted no delay, and a serious illness subsequently prohibited me from every kind of occupation. I seize, however, the first moments of convalescence, to combat several of the opinions you have therein advanced, and to support, as far as I am able, some of those doctrines which you have denounced as vulgar and superstitious errors.
As in the preface to your treatise you deprecate a reply, and state the means you have taken to prevent it, I beg leave to offer a few reasons in justification of my interference. In the first place, then, I have a public duty to perform, which I think demands such interference. (2.) I cannot allow to any man the faculty, which you have claimed, of knowing and determining all the arguments that can be brought against his own view of a question. (3.) If this faculty were granted him, it would by no means follow that he could satisfactorily refute them. (4.) It is possible that even old arguments may be so disposed as to throw new light on a subject, and produce that conviction which they failed to produce under a different arrangement. (5.) I trust I shall be able, as I am sincerely disposed, to conduct this reply without affording you any reasonable cause for offence; especially as I am willing to give you full credit for your motives, and to make a fair distinction between your views, and those of many, who endeavor to attack religion itself through its forms and ordinances.
I may now perhaps be permitted to say a few words respecting the method which I have pursued in my answer. I at first intended to reply to your several arguments in detail; but I soon discarded that plan, for the purpose of maintaining an opposite opinion which might comprehend a refutation of all those objections which I thought entitled to notice: and I was led to this decision by discovering that in at least two-thirds of your arguments we perfectly agree. To your opinions respecting the abolition of the Jewish ceremonial rites, and amongst them that of the Sabbath, I cordially assent. I admit, with yourself, and Paley, and Beausobre, that no mention is made of a Sabbath before the sojourn of the Israelites in the wilderness. I grant that no passage is to be found in the New Testament directing the observance of a Sabbath; nay more, I allow that our Saviour himself, though no Sabbath-breaker,' as you represent him, did, as Lord of the Sabbath, both by word and deed, give intimation to the Jews of its approaching abolition; and that St. Paul did exhort his converts to omit the observance of this and other ordinances, which Christ had, as it were, blotted out, nailing them to his cross.
Where then, you may say, lies the difference between us? To this I answer-chiefly in a definition, or in the signification of a
I will venture to affirm, that wherever the word Sabbath is used in Scripture, it either signifies that day of rest from every kind of labor, which was so strictly enjoined on the Israelites; or it has metaphorically an allusion to that rest. You, on the contrary, apply it also to the Christian ordinance of the Lord's-day, as well as to the primeval institution given to our first parents, I mean in your arguments concerning that institution, although you deny it existence. Again, you argue on the supposition that our Christian rite is derived from the Jewish Sabbath. I, on the contrary, derive it, not from that abolished ordinance, but from the original decree of God, which was given even before the promise of a Messiah, which was delivered on general and moral grounds, which has never yet been abrogated, but extends to all ages and all nations, wherever the word of God is known.
He particularly wished to make the Jews comprehend the proper distinction between the great moral duties, which are of eternal indispensable obligation, and the overstrained observance of ritual institutions. Jesus therefore took many occasions of performing deeds of mercy, and of exhi biting his miraculous powers, on the Sabbath, that he might shame and silence those hypocrites who carried the observance of its ordinances to excess, whilst they neglected the weightier matters of the law: but you can nowhere show that he was not a strict though rational observer of this sacred institution, or that either his practice or precepts ever led his immediate followers into a contempt or neglect of its duties.
Feeling the strength of this position, I will not even descend to what I nevertheless conceive to be very tenable ground, viz. the obligation on all Christians to keep holy a seventh day, from its association with the other commandments in that code of moral laws, which was not abrogated, but rather confirmed by our Saviour.'
Had you confined your discussion to the manner in which the Lord's-day ought to be observed, although I might have differed from you in opinion, I should not have felt myself called on officially to enter into the lists of controversy. But since you endeavor to set aside the primeval sanctification of a seventh day, to propagate erroneous notions of the Sabbath, and to prove that our observance of Sunday, or the Lord's-day, is a mere human ordinance, unsanctioned by divine authority, I should be lamentably deficient in my duty if I did not step forward in vindication of what I conceive to be the truth.
I now then proceed to show, 1. That a seventh day was immediately after the creation sanctified by the Creator, or set apart to be kept holy in eternal remembrance of his having rested from his works. 2. That, after this ordinance had fallen into neglect through the corruption and ignorance of mankind, it was solemnly renewed in the moral law of the Israelites, and added to their ceremonial law, with strict observances and under severe penalties, to be a sign of their deliverance from Egyptian bondage, a covenant between them and their Deliverer, and a type of that rest which should come from the Messiah, by whom their ceremonial law, was to be abolished.
3. When this sign, covenant, and type was actually abolished by the manifestation of Christ in the flesh, the primeval institution still remained in full force, to be observed by Christians in the spirit of the gospel, and adapted to the covenant of grace.
My first proposition, 1 assert, is made out by the testimony of Moses in Genesis ii. 3. To my mind nothing can be more satisfactory than this evidence. The sanctification of the seventh day is here plainly declared to have been instituted, because God rested on that day, or ceased from the works of creation. The declaration is made by the historian exactly in its proper place, immediately after his account of the six days' of labor; whilst no other reason is, or can be assigned for the labor and rest of that Almighty Being, who could in a moment have called the universe
1 See Matt. v. 17. xix. 17, 18, &c.
into existence, but a design of securing the allegiance of his newlycreated subjects, by giving them both a motive and a precedent for resting from their labors, that they might meditate on the works of their Sovereign Benefactor. The peculiar nature therefore of the ordinance, its propriety and adaptation to general usage, naturally lead us to expect its institution immediately after the creation of the world.
You, however, assume that the passage of Genesis, in which this appears to be so stated, is written proleptically, and not in the order of succession: you suppose that God, who rested at the end of six days from the works which he had performed for the benefit of all mankind, did, after the lapse of 2453 years, then bless the seventh day, and sanctify it, to be a sign or covenant between himself and his chosen people.
With reference to such an interpretation, which is by no means a new one, Archbishop Sharp' very pertinently asks, "Whether any man of sense, that should meet with such a passage in any other historian, could possibly so interpret it?" I think not: nay more, I think it was not so interpreted by the most learned and inquisitive of the Jews themselves; certainly not by the philosophic Philo. This eminent writer, in his treatise concerning the creation of the world, declares, "that the Creator, after he had taken six days in forming it, peculiarly honored the seventh day, (where observe he does not style this day a Sabbath,) and deigned to call it holy for it is a festival not of one city or region, but of the whole world.” He also denominates it τοῦ κόσμου γενέσιον, "the birth-day of the world."2
Let us, however, consider the reason which induces you and others to support this negative argument. You think that if a seventh day had been sanctified from the first, the sacred historian would, in narrating the annals of so long a period as that which occurred between the creation of the world and the Exodus, have made some mention of the ordinance itself, or of the guilt of those by whom it was violated: from his not having done this, you argue to the non-existence of the ordinance.
In answer to this reasoning, I would propose to your consideration a few instances of omission, analogous to that of which you complain, in the very brief and summary annals of the patriarchal ages. The first is that of public worship, a custom which I find intimated only in two places: 3 these, however, are quite sufficient to show that it was both ordained and observed: yet when human nature is considered, we can scarcely conceive how an observance
Serm. xii. Vol. IV.
p. 271. 2 De Mundi Opificio, p. 13. ed. Paris.
Gen. xxxv. 2, 3. Job i. 6.