Page images
PDF
EPUB

well as to his Sabbaths ; from which it would follow, contrary to manifest truth, that none of them had, in any way, been “given” before. If an example is desired of the term given being used in application to what had a previous existence, we have a decisive one at hand. It occurs in John vii. 22. “Moses therefore gave unto you circumeision (not that it is of Moses, but of the fathers) and ye on the Sabbath-day circumcise a man.” Here cireumcision is represented as given to the Jews by Moses, while, in the very same sentence, it is mentioned as having been “of the fathers.” What becomes, then, of Paley's question, “ What else can given mean than first instituted ?" Might we not say of the Sabbath, with the same propriety, as of circumcision—"Moses therefore gave unto you the Sabbath-not that it is of Moses, but of the fathers,” and of the fathers even from the beginning? It is clear from this example, that such terms are too strictly interpreted, when they are made with certainty to signify original institution. Previously existing institutes and laws mighty with no violation of propriety, be spoken of as “ made known” and as “ given,” to a particular people, when, with special solemnity, with peculiar sanctions, and in a systematic and imbodied form, they were delivered from heaven to that people, and when the possession of them in this form became the distinction of that people from others.

Lastly, it is argued that in Exod. xxxi. 16, 17, and some other passages, the Sabbath is spoken of as given to be " a sign between Jehovah and the children of Israel :" -on which Dr. Paley observes," it does not seem easy to understand, how the Sabbath could be a sign between

[ocr errors]

God and the people of Israel, unless the observance of it was peculiar to that people, and designed to be so." But in Deut. vi. 8, the same term is applied to the decalogue, and to the laws and words of God given by Moses to Israel ; even to those moral precepts, of which the principle and sum is “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might;" and which they were enjoined to have “ in their heart, and to teach diligently unto their children, talking of them when they sat in the house, and when they walked by the way, when they lay down, and when they rose up." . Of these precepts, meaning especially the summary of moral duty in the ten commandments, it is said “ Thou shalt bind them for a sign-upon thine hand.” Whatever formed a distinction between the Israelites and other nations was a sign. The giving of the law and the possession of it were such a sign. “ He showed his word unto Jacob, his statutes and judgments to Israel ; he hath not dealt so with any nation.” This was their great and divinely conferred distinction. But surely it would sound strangely to say, that the law which is summed up in love to God and love to man, could not be a sign to the people of Israel, “ unless the obligation of it was peculiar to that people, and designed to be so."—All the laws and institutions of God, moreover, and the Sabbath among the rest, were a sign between Jehovah and Israel, as forming, on both sides, a test :-—they were a test of their obedience to him, and of his faithfulness to them. It is somewhat singular, that, even when the Sabbath is spoken of as being a sign between God and Israel, the reason given for its observance is one which contains in it nothing at all peculiar to that people ; nothing respecting their deliverance from Egypt, or any of the other signal interpositions of Jehovah in their favour, although these, as we shall afterwards see, are subsequently superadded as grounds of its celebration, but simply the original reason, assigned in our text': “ The children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generationis, for a perpetual covenant: it is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed." Exod. xxxi. 16, 17.

Here we must close for the present. In next discourse we shall consider the moral nature and the permanent obligation of the Sabbath, as one of the precepts of the Decalogue. I

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

DISCOURSE II.

· Exodus XX. 8-11,

Remember the Sabbath-day, to keep it holy, Six days shalt thou

labour, and do 'all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates : For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all thut in them is, and rested the seventh day : wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath-day, and hallowed it.

In closing the former discourse, we promised to consider in this, the moral nature and permanent obligation of the Sabbath, as one of the precepts of the Decalogue. To this subject we now proceed.

There are some writers, who have attempted to set aside all argument for the permanence of the Sabbath drawn from the fourth commandment, by denying altogether the continued obligation of the law of the two tables, under the Christian economy. The grounds of this denial, then, demand our first and serious attention. The question is important, not only as it relates to the point before us, but more generally. If it be as these writers contend, if the precepts of the Decalogue remain not in force---if, although formerly à law to Israel, they are not now a law to us,there were comparatively little interest in the investigation of their import, and little benefit to be derived from it. Curiosity, in that case, would be the sole principle and motive of our inquiry. It would be a topic of merë antiquarian speculation; or, at the best, it would only yield us a lesson of the wisdom of God, in giving a law adapted to the circumstances and character of a particular people. We shall, however, I trust, find satisfactory evidence on which to rest our conviction, that we have in them a deeper and more direct concern.

The law of the ten commandments, you are all aware, was delivered to Israel at Mount Sinai, soon after their leaving Egypt; and it was given in circumstances, and with accompaniments, of impressive solemnity, and appalling terror. The scene is thus described by the inspired historian-Exod. xix. 16_24. « And it came to pass, on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled. And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly. And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice. And the Lord came down upon mount Sinai, on the top of the mount: and the Lord called Moses up to the top of the mount ; and. Moses went up. And

« PreviousContinue »