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constantly found that the most religious nation is the happiest nation; that the society which is formed upon Christian principles is the best and most orderly society; and the individual who conforms with most exactness to the precepts of the Gospel, is the most useful in his station and the most bappy in himself.
The utility of the Sabbath depends upon its being a religious institution. A mere cessation from labour may be an indulgence; and, as I have stated, was intended to be such by its Author; but the peculiar distinction of the Sabbath is its religious character. Now whatever benefit arises from religion may be said to arise from the Sabbath; for without the Sabbath religion could scarcely exist. The Sabbath is the pillar which supports the temple of piety. It is the Sabbath which affords the opportunity of implanting right principles, of correcting errors, of shewing the nature of sin, of explaining the duties we owe to God and the grounds and reasons of them, of enlightening conscience and stimulating it to the performance of its functions. Were it not for the appointment of the Sabbath, and the ministry connected with it, how many are there who would have no means of knowing even the immediate and necessary duties which belong to their station in civil society! But they repair to the house of God. There, neglected children are taught the duty they owe even to their negligent parents. There the wife learns the duty of obedience; the husband of affection and tenderness. There, the duty of submission to government is enforced, and at the same time the duty of rulers is pointed out. There, the necessity of mutual forbearance and forgiveness is inculcated; and the duty of every man to renounce selfishness, and to seek the welfare of his brother rather than his own, is enjoined. There we are instructed in the reverence due to the aged; and in the kindness and compassion which ought to be shewn to the distressed and miserable. And there, above all, are inculcated those evangelical principles, and those pure and Chris
tian motives, which only can be efficacious to produce holiness of life. Thus, as far as instruction will avail, are formed obedient subjects, dutiful children, prudent and tender parents, kind and faithful husbands, discreet and loving wives, mild masters and faithtul servants, affectionate friends and kind neighbours. In a word, what is the obvious tendency of the Sabbath, but to promote the good of society; to persuade men to love without dissimulation to be kindly affectionate one towards another, with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another—110t to be slothsul in business, but fervent in spirit, serving the Lord—to distribute to the necessity of saints—to be given to hospitality—to rejoice with them that do rejoice, and to weep with them that weep—not to mind high things, but to condescend to men of low estate—to recompense to no man evil for evil—to provide things honest in the sight of all men-if it be possible to live peaceably with all men—not to avenge themselves, but rather to give place to wrath-to be subject to the higher powers, knowing that the powers that be are ordained of God; to be subject, not only for wrath, but for conscience sake-to render to all their due; tribute to whom tribute, custom to whom custom, fear to whom fear, honour to whom honour—to owe no man any thing, but to love one another? Behold here the excellent tendenсу of the Sabbath! How, were it duly observed, would it banish discord, and tumult, and envy, and pride, from the world, and render society a resemblance of the blessed state of felicity above!
But the Sabbath was appointed also for the peculiar benefit of the afflicted. To the assembly in the house of God repair the mourner and the distressed; those who are sinking under the burden of poverty, of oppression, of despondency, or disease; the destitute and the friendless. There they are exhorted to bear their sufferings with patience, and to look to the Hand which corrects them, and the end for which they are chastened. The balm of Christian consolation is poured into their wounds; their sorrows are soothed, and turned into a proper channel; and their hopes directed towards that better country, where "the inhabitant shall no more say, I am sick," and where “sorrow and sighing will for ever flee away.”.
Such are the beneficial effects upon civil society which the Sabbath is intended to produce. Within those hallowed walls a bond of sacred union is formed. Here meet together in Christian harmony those who else could have no intercourse with each other. Here they learn to consider themselves as forming one body. Here they partake of the same table, and kneel down in holy worship to one common Lord. Here they look up alike to one Father, unite in one common bope, and learn to love as brethren. And are not these designs great and important, and sufficient to recommend the Sabbath to every friend of mankind?
III. But these benefits, great as they are, are inferior to those which may be derived from it as a religious ordinance, calculated for the improvement of the soul; which I now proceed to consider.
But before I enter upon this part of my subject, allow me, my brethren, to call upon you to collect your thoughts. We are about to tread upon hallowed ground. Our thoughts should be elevated in proportion to our subject. I address you now as immortal souls, sojourning in this frail tabernacle of the flesh only for a few fleeting years, but destined, through the grace of the Redeemer, if you truly receive his salvation, to dwell with him for ever in glory. I call upon you, then, to consider your high original. You can call God your Father, for he has created you: you were even the chief of his works; you were formed by him in his own image. He gave you the grant of dominion over all his creatures. He placed you in a magnificent habitation. The spacious earth was formed to be your domain. The sun and moon were created to give you light.
The plains around you were furnished with variety of good for your subsistence. The rest of the creatures were given into your hands to be tributary to you. You alone were endued by your Creator with an unlimited capacity for intelligence; with powers to extend your knowledge far beyond the limits of the earth you tread—to penetrate into eternity; to understand the perfections of Him who is the fountain of all good; to pay obedience to his will revealed to you; to render him that tribute of honour and veneration which can be offered only by creatures of an high order. Yes; he forned you for bimself
, to shew forth his praise: he formed you to live for ever and ever in happiness.
True it is that you are fallen from your original state of glory. You have sunk into a state of degradation bordering upon entire ruin. But your heavenly Father, pitying your misery, has designed a plan to raise you from it, and to elevate you to a state of infinite glory, And the Sabbath was appointed both as an evidence of this gracious design, and as a means to promote it.
Consider the employments of man during the six days. In what is he engaged? Merely in things relating to this world, and to this poor perishing body; in ploughing the earth for food, in tending the cattle of the field, in hewing wood or drawing water, in providing raiment to defend these frail bodies from the coldness of the air, or building houses to shelter them from the inclemency of the weather. These employments, though absolutely necessary, must yet be considered as degrading, when we contemptate the immortal nature of man, and his high birthright. But look at man on the Sabbath. There you perceive the child of God, the heir of immortality! You behold him in the temple of his God, employed in a noble work—a work in which there is nothing mean, nothing sordid - a work in which angels themselves are employed. He is worshipping his heavenly Father: he is employing bis faculties in a manner worthy of their original constitution:-his affections are fixed upon things spiritual and eternal;-his soul converses with God;-his thoughts launch out beyond the confined bounds of sense and time, and expatiate in eternity;-his ears are listening to the word of God, and to the discovery of his will;-his tongue is speaking the high praises of God. or addressing him in supplication and prayer;-his eyes are lifted up to Him, who is the Father of lights and the God of the spirits of all flesh. Behold here the proper employment of the Sabbath, and see how it dignifies and exalts man!
During the six days, the object of our labour is to provide for the body--for the body, the interior part of the man, often bis disease and torment, always the vehicle of low and sensual affections, and the clog and incuinbrance of the soul;—the body, that soon is to turn to corruption, and become the food of worms: which, notwithstanding incessant pains, can scarcely be kept in a state of tolerable health even for the few days of our sojourning here. But on the seventh day we direct our attention to the nobler part, the soul: we are engaged in promoting its moral improvement, in cultivating its transcendent powers, in labouring that it may be restored to the image of God.
During the six days, we are engaged in the petty concerns of this transitory life. I call them petty, because the life to which they relate is so very short and uncertain. It is but a span. For what are eighty, or a hundred years, compared with millions of ages. The proper life of man is his eternal life. Here, he is in his infancy, in his cradle.—But on the seventh day we lay aside our trifles: our occupations are those which respect the life to come; which have an influence upon our future, our eternal state. Our occupations on this day tend to prepare us for that state, teach us to value it, induce us to act as those who are in expectation of it. Then we live. Every other employment, however splendid, is but the play of children on the seventh day we become men.
During the six days, what affecting scenes present themselves to us, arising from our occupation and intercourse with our fellow-creatures! To what care