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hath commanded thee. Six days shalt thou labour and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God :-and remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched-out arm: therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the Sabbath day."
Upon these passages it is remarked by those who maintain that the Sabbath is exclusively a Jewish institution, that “ it does not seem easy to understand how the Sabbath could be a sign between God and the people of Israel, unless the observance of it was peculiar to that people, and designed to be so." To me, I confess, nothing seems easier to be understood. The Sabbath was a sign between God and his people, inasmuch as it was the token of his special favour to them in making them his people ; and it was a sign, because their observance of this institution, primarily intended to commemorate the creation of the world, distinguished them as the worshippers of the true God. “ I gave them my Sabbaths to be a sign between me and them ; that they may know that I am Jehovah, who sanctify them.” But that this use of the Sabbath did not make it cease to be a memorial of God as the creator of all things, is evident from the reason annexed to the passage in which the Sabbath is characterized as a sign between God and his people: “ In six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.”
Thus the original design of the Sabbath remained. Its being made a sign from God to his chosen people,
no more implies that this institution had no existence before it was thus applied, than it proves that the rainbow had not a being previous to its appropriation as a sign of the covenant made with Noah. If its being fixed on as a sign between God and his people were sufficient evidence to prove that the obligation of the Sabbath was local and temporary, it would follow that the two great commandments of the law, love to God and to our neighbour, were also local and temporary in their obligation ; since in the book of Deuteronomy, the sixth chapter, and eighth verse, Moses says to Israel,
“ Thou shalt bind them for a sign on thiné hand.” The children of Israel were urged to the observance of the Sabbath from the consideration of its being a sign between God and them, and of its being a memorial of their deliverance from Egypt; just as we are urged to the observance of this, and of all other divinely-instituted ordinances, from the consideration, that we have not been redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot : but, as with the Jews, the primary end for which the Sabbath was appointed, remained just as before any supplementary uses had been added to it, so does it continue with us. These uses to which it is applied, and which so happily harmonize with its design, in place of diminishing its obligation, only suggest new and powerful motives to its devout observance.
In proof that the Sabbath was exclusively a Jewish institution, it is further argued, that the apostle Paul considers it as a part of the Jewish ritual, and not binding upon Christians. The passage on which this opinion is founded is in Col. ii. 16, 17. “ Let no man, therefore, judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days; which are a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ.” In reply to this, it is maintained, that this passage refers to the holidays of the Jews, which were styled Sabbaths; or, if this be denied, it may be affirmed that the allusion is to the seventh day, and not to the Christian Sabbath; as this is never in the New Testament called the Sabbath, but the first day of the week, and the Lord's day. The Judaizing teachers insisted on the Gentile converts observing the seventh day as the Sabbath; but its observance on that day was abrogated along with the ceremonial and judicial law of the Jews, which, as ceremonial and typical, was the “ shadow of things to come.” Believers, therefore, who kept holy the first day of the week, in remembrance of Christ's resurrection, were not to be condemned, or to disquiet themselves about the censorious judgments of others, in regard to their conduct in this matter.
It is said, by those who allege that the Sabbath was merely a part of the Jewish ritual, and abrogated with it, that its observance was not one of the articles enjoined by the Apostles upon the Christian Gentiles, in Acts xv.
To this no better answer can be given, than that neither were they commanded to abstain from theft, murder, lying, coveting, impiety, and idolatry.
Finally, it is affirmed in support of the same
opinion, that the Sabbath is not expressly enjoined in the New Testament. It is very explicitly declared in the New Testament, that the Sabbath was instituted at the close of the Creation: “ For he spake, in a certain place, of the seventh day, on this wise; and God did rest on the seventh day from all his works *." The observance of the Lord's Day, in deference to the prepossessions of the Jews, was introduced gradually. In place of announcing, from the beginning of their ministry, the abolition of the seventh day as the Sabbath, the Apostles, while they observed the first day of the week, embraced the opportunity which was afforded them of preaching the gospel on the Jewish Sabbath. The Jewish service was not attacked, neither were the ordinances peculiar to the Christian dispensation neglected.
“ When the Apostles came to declare in form, that the Jewish worship was to cease, the minds of the church were so well prepared to receive this declaration, that it was carried into a general execution. Difficulties and divisions arose, indeed, about this subject, in several churches, particularly about circumcision; and produced a course of serious contention. What would have been the case, had this part of the system been begun at an earlier period? About the Christian Sabbath no dispute appears to have existed during the three first centuries. All the churches appear to have adopted it, and to have neglected the Jewish Sabbath without any difficulty. Was not this method of introducing so important a change dictated by true wisdom ?”
Heb. iv. 4.
Thus have I proved that the Sabbath is not a local and temporary institution ; that it was not peculiar to the Jewish dispensation, but appointed at the close of the Creation, to commemorate the perfections of God as the Creator; and that its obligation, therefore, is perpetual and universal.
II. The perpetuity of the Sabbath is further proved by the place which the fourth commandment holds in the Decalogue, and by the general and comprehensive terms in which this commandment is expressed.
The summary of the moral law, contained in the ten commandments, was proclaimed with awful solemnity on Mount Sinai, by the Sovereign Lord and Ruler of the universe. So majestic was the scene, accompanied by smoke and clouds, and thunder and lightnings, that the Israelites were overwhelmed with terror. The moral law, which on this occasion the Almighty delivered with an audible voice, was written with his own finger on two tables of stone. It was inscribed on such tables, doubtless, to denote its perpetual obligation. Still further to distinguish it from mere national and temporary statutes, it exclusively was put within the ark, under that mercy-seat which was a type of Christ, by whom the law has been magnified and made honourable.
Now, let me ask, what was the design of all these circumstances,-of the splendour and majesty of that scene, at which not only all Israel trembled, but in the view of which even Moses himself exceedingly feared and quaked,- of writing these commandments a second time upon tables of stone by the finger of God; and of afterwards depositing them in the ark,