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It is comfortable, when a controversy is thus brought to a point, of which the determination is admitted to leave no room for further discussion; when the ground is thus narrowed, and the consequence of satisfactory proof acknowledged to be sure. And I have said thus much, to show you, that the point we are about to consider is of essential importance to our coming to a just conclusion on the great general question.
Look again, then, in the first place, to the terms of our text,—the passage which contains the first mention of the Sabbath :-“ Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made ; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it ; because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.”
There is at present no dispute about the meaning of the words used by the historian. It is, on both sides, admitted, that by the seventh day being " sanctified,” is meant its being set apart to religious purposes, as sacred or holy; the same sense in which the word is often used afterwards, in the writings of Moses, in application to things and seasons, as well as to persons. The sole question is, whether the day was thus set apart at that time. I am most thoroughly convinced that it was, and astonished that to any mind it should ever have appeared otherwise ; and I am now to state the grounds of this conviction. Amongst these, I cannot but notice,
1. In the first place, the plain and simple language of the passage itself. I need not read it again. Only bear in
mind, that it is the continuation of a narrative. You have no business with its being the beginning of a chapter. It should be read as if there were no interruption. In the preceding part of the narrative, you find the record of the transactions of each in succession of the six days of creation; and here, in the very same simple historical style, you have the account of the seventh, completing the narrative of the first week :-and, perhaps, the second chapter might have begun, with greater propriety, at the fourth verse, “ These are the generations of the heavens and the earth, in the day when they were created,” &c. What the historian
says of the seventh day, he relates as done at the time, with the same simplicity with which he relates the transactions of each of the preceding days, as done at the. time. So far as the mere terms of the record are concerned, (and it is of these alone we now speak,) there is just as much reason for considering the creation itself, as narrated by anticipation, and as not having taken place till 2,500 years afterwards, as there is for conceiving this to have been the case in regard to the institution of the day for its commemoration, The resting of Jehovah on that day, and the blessing and sanctifying of that day, are alike related as having then taken place : there being no hint, and no change of construction, indicative, in the remotest degree, of its being a mere allusion to what had no existence till five and twenty centuries had passed away, and then only in one nation, and for a limited time, as one of the institutes of a temporary ceremonial. If it be so, I am at a loss to know on what principles historical language is to be interpreted.
2. I would argue, secondly, from the nature of the thing.
It is admitted, that the object of the Sabbath, whensoever instituted, was the commemorating of God's work of creation. If so, is it not reasonable to conclude, that the commemoration commenced from the time that the work to be commemorated was completed ? Is not this of a piece with other recorded instances, such as the Passover, and the Lord's Supper, in which the commemorative ordinance begins to be celebrated from the date of the event, and in this way becomes a proof and a memorial both of fact and of time? If the day was to be sacred to the memory of creation, and to the worship of the almighty, all-wise, and all-bountiful Creator, is it not a strange supposition, that the memorial and the worship should not have been instituted till two millenniums and a half after the event ? And is it not hardly less strange, that an event, (if an event that may
be called which, as far as our own world is concerned, was the origin of all events, being the preparation of their theatre, and the date of their commencement) that an event, which was alike interesting to mankind at large, and bore the same relation to the whole race,
should have been restricted in the commemoration of it to one people, and to one age ? The utmost, surely, that can be said for the supposition is, that it is not impossible. This much we shall grant; but we cannot grant it to be, even in the very lowest degree, either natural or probable.
I cannot but consider my argument here as receiving very decided countenance and support from the words of our Lord, when (in a passage which we shall have occasion to quote more particularly on the subject of the observance of the day) he says to the Jews, “ The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” To me it.
appears indisputable, that “MAN” must here be understood generically,--that is, of the human race. The words, naturally and irresistibly, lead our minds to the time of his being “made,”—the time of creation. The Sabbath was not first created, and man created to observe it: but man was first created, and the Sabbath was instituted for his benefit. Even if the first part of the antithesis had stood alone-" The Sabbath was made for man,” the inference would have been natural, that man did not mean the Jews merely, but mankind; when the other part is added- -“ Not man for the Sabbath,” it becomes unavoidable :—the association is clearly established, by the authority of Christ himself, of the institution of the Sabbath with the creation of man; and the Sabbath itself is thus ascertained to have been an ordinance appointed for the first progenitors of our race, and for all their progeny.
3. I found a third argument on the language of the inspired author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, chap. iv. 3-5, “ For we which have believed do enter into rest : as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest ; although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest.” We shall have occasion to illustrate the whole of this passage at some length in a future discourse. The principle on which it bears upon our present argument is very
obvious. The words which have been quoted, clearly imply that the seventh-day rest had been “entered into" from the beginning. Without this, the continuity and force of the Apostle's reasoning
are gone. The mere finishing of Jehovah's work, and his own resting from it, would have been nothing to his purpose; because it might still have left the rest to be entered into by his people afterwards. Now, when the Apostle quotes the words of God—“I sware in my wrath they shall not enter into my rest,” he does not, in distinguishing this from the sabbatical rest, say—“Although, before this oath of interdiction and exclusion was uttered, the rest of the seventh day had been instituted in the wilderness for the observance of Israel ;" but," although the works were finished from the creation of the world”-intimating most clearly, both in language and argument, that that rest had been “ entered into" from the time of the finishing of creation.
4. I argue the same thing, in the fourth place, from the admitted origin of the division of time into weeks of seven days. It is difficult, if not impossible, to trace this division to any other origin. The phases of the moon, indeed, or her four quarters, as we are accustomed to term them, have been plausibly alleged as affording a sufficiently natural account of it; but a lunar month does not correspond with four times seven days—exceeding the four weeks by a full day and a half. Yet this hebdomadal division of time has existed among all nations, in north, south, east, and west, from the earliest periods to which history and tradition reach; and it is a curious fact, that, amidst all the forgetfulness of God, and the fearful degeneracy and corruption of mankind and of divine institutions, in this our world, hints of the sacredness of the seventh day occur in very ancient heathen poets, and remnants of the practice of its observance are found to have