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in the consideration of this subject, “ Why is it, that you and other Christians, instead of observing the Sabbath originally instituted, keep another day as the Sabbath; a day, of which no mention was made in the institution, and for the religious observation of which we find no express command either in the Old or New Testament?”
This question is certainly asked with unobjectionable propriety; and certainly demands a candid and satisfactory answer. Such an answer I will now endeavour to give.
It is unquestionably true, that the institution, whatever it is, is to be taken as we find it in the Scriptures; and that men are in no respect to change it. He who made it, is the only being in the universe who has the right to abrogate or to alter that which he has made. As we find it then in the Scriptures, we are bound to take it, whether agreeable to our own ideas of wisdom and propriety, or not.
In order to explain my own views of this subject it will be useful to observe, that this institution obviously consists of two parts; the Sabbath, or holy rest ; and the day, on which it is holden. These are plainly alluded to, as distinct from each other, in the text; where it is said, “The Lord rested the seventh day, and blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.' This language is chosen of design; and, as I apprehend, with a propriety, intentionally instructive to us. God did not bless the seventh day, nor hallow it as the seventh day; but only as being the day on which the Sabbath, or the holy rest, was to be kept. Were the Sabbath then warrantably to be kept, at different periods, on each of the days of the week, the blessing would follow it, on whatever day it was holden.
It was plain, then, that the Sabbath, being a thing entirely distinct from the day on which it is kept, may be a perpetual institution; and yet be kept, if God should so order it, on any, or successively on all, the days of the week. If theu the day on which the Sabbath was to be holden, should by divine appointment be a different one from that which was originally established, the Sabbath itself, the substance of the institution, might still remain the same. All that would be changed, would plainly be a given day of the week; a thing perfectly circumstantial ; and of no other importance than that which circumstances gave it.
The day, I say, might be altered without altering at all the substance of the Institution. Still it could be altered only by divine appointment. The same authority which instituted the Sabbath, appointed also the day on which it was to be holden: and no other authority is competent to change either in any degree. If then we cannot find in the Scriptures plain and ample proofs of an abrogation of the original day, or the substitution of a new one, the day undoubtedly remains in full force and obligation, and is now religiously to be celebrated by all the race of Adam. It shall be the business of this Discourse to collect to a point the light which the Scriptures afford us concerning this important subject.
1. The nature of the subject furnishes room to suppose, that the day on which the Sabbath was to be celebrated under the Christian dispensation, might be a different one from that which was originally appointed.
The end of the institution mentioned in the text, is the commemoration of the glory of God in the creation of the world. The reason why God chose that the manifestation of himself in that wonderful work should be commemorated, rather than that which was made in the deluge, or the deli. verance of the Israelites from the bondage of Egypt, was, it is presumed, the peculiar greatness of the work itself, and of the display which it furnished of his perfections. If this be admitted, as it probably will be by every sober man, it must also be admitted, that we ought, according to this scheme, to expect any other work of God, of still greater importance, and more glorious to the divine character than the creation itself, to be commemorated with equal or greater solemnity. But the work of redemption, or, as it is sometimes styled in the Scriptures, the new creation, is a more glorious work than that of creating the heavens and the earth. This doctrine may be elucidated by the following considerations :
1. The agent in both these works is the same. St. Paul expressly declares, That Christ in the beginning laid the foundations of the earth; that the heavens are the work of his hands ; Heb. i. 10; and that all things visible and invisible were created by him, and for him,' Col. i. 16. St. John also teaches us, that all things were made by him ; and that without him there was not one thing made which has existed,
John i. 3. The same person, therefore, is honoured in a commemoration of both these wonderful works.
(2.) The end of a work, that is, the reason for which it is done, is of more importance than the work itself. This truth will be admitted on all hands. No intelligent being, who claims the character of wisdom, ever undertakes a work, without an end sufficiently important to justify the means adopted for its accomplishment. Much less will this be supposed of God. But the end of creation is providence ; and, of all the works of providence, the work of redemption, or the new creation, is incalculably the most important; the binge on which all the rest turn; the work, towards the completion of which all the rest are directed ; in a word, the end of them all. Accordingly, St. Paul says, 'Who created all things by Jesus Christ, to the intent, that now unto principalities and powers, in heavenly places, might be known, by the church, the manifold wisdom of God.' The display of the wisdom of God, by the church, in the work of redemption, was therefore the intent, or end, for which all things were created by Jesus Christ. Without the work of redemption, then, the purpose of God in creating all things, and the real use of the things themselves, would have been prevented.
(3.) The superior importance of the new creation is evident in this fact; that the old creation, by its unceasing changes, continually decays and degenerates, while the new creation becomes by its own changes, unceasingly brighter and better.
(4.) The old creation is a transitory work, made for consumption by fire ; whereas, the new is intended for eternal duration.
Thus from the nature of the case there is ample room to suppose that the work of redemption might, by divine appointment, be commemorated preferably to the work of creation.
2. It is expressly foretold by the Prophet Isaiah, that the work of redemption shall be commemorated in preference to the work of creation.
Isaiah lxv. 17, 18. For bebold,' saith God, I create new heavens and a new earth ; and the former shall not be remembered, neither shall it come into mind. But be ye glad, and rejoice for ever, in that which I create : for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and my people a joy. In this passage of Scripture we are informed, that God designed to create what in the first of these verses is called, 'new heavens and a new earth.' This, in the second verse, is explained in simple language; and is said to be creating the people of God a joy and a rejoicing. In other words, it is no other than redeeming and sanctifying the souls of men; by means of which, they become a rejoiciug to God, and to each other.
In this declaration of the prophet there are two things particularly claiming our attention. The first is, that the new creation, or the work of redemption, is of far greater importance in the eye of God than the former creation. The second is an express prediction, that the former creation shall not be remembered by the church, nor come into mind; or, in other words, shall not be commemorated. This. I understand, as almost all similar Jewish phrases are to be understood, in a comparative sense; and suppose the prophet to intend, that it shall be far less reinembered, and commemorated, as being of far less importance.
That this passage refers to the times of the evangelical dispensation is certain from the prediction itself: since the new creation is the very subject of it, and the commencement of that dispensation. It is equally evident also from the whole strain of the chapter.
This passage appears to me to place the fact in the clearest light, that a particular, superior, and extraordinary commemoration of the work of redemption by the Christian church, in all its various ages, was a part of the good pleasure of God, and was designed by him to be accomplished in the course of his providence. But there neither is, nor ever was, any public, solemn commemoration of this work by the Christian church, except that which is holden on the first day of the week, or the day in which Christ completed this great work by bis resurrection from the dead. This prophecy has therefore been unfulfilled, so far as I see, unless it bas been fulfilled in this very manner. But if it has been fulfilled in this manner, then this manner of fulfilling it has been agreeable to the true intention of the prophecy, and to the good pleasure of God ex. pressed in it ; and is therefore that very part of the system of. his providence which is here unfolded to mankind.
At the same time, it is to be remembered, that the former institution is still substantially preserved. The Sabbath still returns upon one day in seven. The great facts, that` in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day,' are still presented to the mind in their full force. The work of creating the heavens and the earth is therefore regularly commemorated, according to the original institution of God; while the new creation, as its importance demands, and as this prophecy directly foretels, takes its own superior place in the commemoration. Thus the institution, instead of being abrogated in every respect, is only changed in such a manner as to enlarge its usefulness and importance to mankind, and to become a solemn memorial of two wonderful works of God, instead of one. The Sabbath itself is unchanged. It still returns at the end of seven days. It is still a memorial of the creation. But the institution is enlarged in such a manner, as to commemorate also the work of redemption. With this prophecy facts have corresponded in a wonderful
All Christians commemorate the work of creation in their prayers and praises, their religious meditations and discourses, from Sabbath to Sabbath. But every Christian perfectly well knows, that the work of redemption holds a far higher place in every private, and in every public religious service; and that, according to the declaration of God in this passage, the former is,' comparatively, 'not remembered, neither does it come into mind.' At the same time, the work of redemption is not merely the chief, but the only means of originating holiness in the soul, and altogether the principal means of advancing it towards perfection. In every respect, therefore, the Christian Sabbath is now better suited to the great ends of the institution, than the original day. Until the time of Christ's resurrection, the seventh day commemorated the most glorious work which God had ever accomplished, and the most wonderful display of the divine perfections. But by the resurrection of Christ, a new and far more glorious work was finished. While the Sabbath therefore was by divine appointment kept on the seventh day, it was exactly suited to the purpose of commemorating the most glorious work of God which had ever taken place. But after the resurrection of Christ, the first day of the week was plainly better fitted than any other day to become a religious memorial of both these wonderful works, by being the day on which Christ arose from