« PreviousContinue »
are not to make any distinction of one day from another, but are to keep all time holy, doing every thing in a spiritual manner.
But this is an absurd way of interpreting the command, as it refers to Christians. For, if the command be so far abolished, it is entirely abolished. For it is the very design of the command, to fix the time of worship. The first command fixes the object, the second the means, the third the manner, the fourth the time. And, if it stands in force now only as signifying a spiritual, Christian rest, and holy behaviour at all times, it doth not remain as one of the ten commands, but as a summary of all the commands.
The main objection against the perpetuity of this command, is, that the duty required is not moral. Those laws whose obligation arises from the nature of things, and from the general state and nature of mankind, as well as from God's positive revealed will, are called moral laws. Others, whose obligation depends merely upon God's positive and arbitrary institution, are not moral; such as the ceremonial laws, and the precepts of the gospel, about the two sacraments. Now the objectors say, they will allow all that is moral in the decalogue to be of perpetual obligation; but this command, they say, is not moral.
But this objection is weak and insufficient for the purpose for which it is brought, or to prove that the fourth command, as to the substance of it, is not of perpetual obligation. For,
(1.) If it should be allowed that there is no morality belonging to the command, and that the duty required is founded merely on arbitrary institution; it cannot, therefore, be certainly concluded, that the command is not perpetual. We know that there may be commands in force under the gospel, and to the end of the world, which are not moral : such are the institutions of the two sacraments. And why may there not be positive commands in force in all ages of the church? If positive arbitrary institutions are in force in gospel-times, what is there which concludes that no positive precept given before the times of the gospel can yet continue in force? But,
(2.) As we have observed already, the thing in general, that there should be certain fixed parts of time set apart to be devoted to religious exercises, is founded in the fitness of the thing, arising from the nature of things, and the nature and universal state of mankind. Therefore, there is as much reason that there should be a command of perpetual and universal obligation about this, as about any other duty whatso
For if the thing in general, that there be a time fixed, be founded in the nature of things, there is consequent upon it à necessity, that the time be limited by a command; for there Vol. VI.
must be a proportion of time fixed, or else the general moral duty cannot be observed.
(3.) The particular determination of the proportion of time in the fourth commandment, is also founded in the nature of things; only our understandings are not sufficient absolutely to determine it of themselves. We have observed already, that without doubt one proportion of time is in itself fitter than another, and a certain continuance of time fitter than any other, considering the universal state and nature of mankind, which God may see, though our understandings are not perfect enough absolutely to determine it. So that the difference between this command and others, doth not lie in this, that other commands are founded in the fitness of the things themselves, arising from the universal state and nature of mankind, and this not : but only, that the fitness of other commands is more obvious to the understandings of men, and they might have seen it of themselves; but this could not be precisely discovered and positively determined without the assistance of revelation.
So that the command of God, that every seventh day should be devoted to religious exercises, is founded in the universal state and nature of mankind, as well as other commands ; only man's reason is not sufficient, without divine direction, so exactly to determine it: Though perhaps man's reason is sufficient to determine, that it ought not to be much seldomer, nor much oftener than once in seven days.
5. God appears in his word laying abundantly more weight on this precept concerning the sabbath, than on any precept of the ceremonial law. It is in the decalogue, one of the ten commands, which were delivered by God with an audible voice. · It was written with his own finger on the tables of stone in the mount, and was appointed afterwards to be written on the tables which Moses made. The keeping of the weekly sabbath is spoken of by the prophets, as that wherein consists a great part of holiness of life; and is inserted among moral duties, Isaiah lviii. 13, 14. “If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day, and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable, and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words : then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord, and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father ; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it."
6. It is foretold that this command should be observed in gospel-times; as Isaiah lvi. at the beginning, where the due observance of the sabbath is spoken of as a great part of holiness of life, and is placed among moral duties. It is also mentioned as a duty that should be most acceptable to God from
his people, even where the prophet is speaking of gospel-times; as in the foregoing chapter, and in the first verse of this chapter. And, in the third and fourth verses, the prophet is speaking of the abolition of the ceremonial law in gospel-times, and particularly of that law, which forbids eunuchs to come into the congregation of the Lord. Yet, here the man is pronounced blessed, who keeps the sabbath from polluting it, ver. 2. And even in the very sentence where the eunuchs are spoken of as being free from the ceremonial law, they are spoken of as being yet under obligation to keep the sabbath, and actually keeping it, as that which God lays great weight upon : " For thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant: Even unto them will I give in mine house, and within my walls, a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters : I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.”
Besides, the strangers spoken of in the sixth and seventh verses, are the Gentiles, that should be called in the times of the gospel, as is evident by the last clause in the seventh, and by the eighth verse : "For mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people. The Lord God, which gathereth the outcasts of Israel, saith, Yet will I gather others to him, besides those that are gathered unto him." Yet it is represented here as their duty to keep the sabbath : 66 Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the Lord, to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant: even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer.”
7. A further argument for the perpetuity of the sabbath, we have in Matt. xxiv. 20. “ Pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath-day." Christ is here speaking of the flight of the apostles and other Christians out of Jerusalem and Judea, just before their final destruction, as is manifest by the whole context, and especially by the 16th verse : “Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains.'' But this final destruction of Jerusalem was after the dissolution of the Jewish constitution, and after the Christian dispensation was fully set up. Yet, it is plainly implied in these words of our Lord, that even then Christians were bound to a strict observation of the sabbath.
Thus I have shown, that it is the will of God, that every seventh day be devoted to rest and to religious exer
THE PERPETUITY AND CHANGE OF THE SABBATH.
1 Cor. 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.
The doctrine founded on these words was this, that 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.
I proposed to discourse upon this doctrine under two propositions ; and having already, under the first, endeavoured to prove, That one day of the week is, throughout all ages, to be devoted to religious exercises ; I proceed now to the
II. Prop. That it is the will of God, that under the gospel dispensation, or in the Christian church, this day should be the first day of the week.
In order to the confirmation of this, let the following things be considered.
1. The words of the fourth commandment afford no objection against this being the day that should be the sabbath, any more than against any other day. That this day, which according to the Jewish reckoning, is the first of the week, should be kept as a sabbath, is no more opposite to any sentence or word of the fourth command, than that the seventh of the week should be the day. The words of the fourth com. mand do not determine which day of the week we should keep as a sabbath ; they merely determine, that we should rest and keep as a sabbath every seventh day, or one day after every six. It says, “ Six days thou shalt labour, and the
seventh thou shalt rest;" which implies no more, than that after six days of labour, we shall, upon the next to the sixth, rest and keep it holy. And this we are obliged to do for ever. But the words no way determine where those six days shall begin, and so where the rest or sabbath shall fall. There is no direction in the fourth command how to reckon the time, i. e. where to begin and end it; but that is supposed to be determined otherwise.
The Jews did not know, by the fourth command, where to begin their six days, and on which particular day to rest ; this was determined by another precept. The fourth command does indeed suppose a particular day appointed; but it does not appoint any. It requires us to rest and keep holy a seventh day, one after every six of labour, which particular day God either had or should appoint. The particular day was determined for that nation in another place, viz. in Exod. xvi. 23, 25, 26. “ And he said unto them, This is that which the Lord hath said, To-morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the Lord: bake that which ye will bake, to-day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over, lay up for you to be kept until the morning. And Moses said, Eat that to-day; for to-day is a sabbath unto the Lord: to-day ye shall not find it in the field. Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none." This is the first place where we have any mention made of this sabbath, from the first sabbath on which God rested.
It seems that the Israelites, in the time of their bondage in Egypt, had lost the true reckoning of time by the days of the week, reckoning from the first day of the creation. They were slaves, and in cruel bondage, and had in a great measure forgotten the true religion : for we are told, that they served the gods of Egypt. And it is not to be supposed, that the Egyptians would suffer their slaves to rest from their work every seventh day. Now, they baving remained in bondage for so long a time, had probably lost the weekly reckoning; therefore, when God had brought them out of Egypt into the wilderness, he made known to them the sabbath, on the occasion and in the manner recorded in the text just now quoted. Hence, we read in Nehemiah, that when God had led the children of Israel out of Egypt, &c. he made known unto them his holy sabbath ; Neh. ix. 14. “And madest known unto them thy holy sabbath.” To the same effect, we read in Ezek. XX. 10, 12. “Wherefore I caused them to go forth out of the land of Egypt, and brought them into the wilderness. Moreover also, I gave them my sabbaths.”
But they never would have known where the particular day would have fallen by the fourth command. Indeed, the fourth