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The concerns of life might make a shorter period inconvenient; à longer period might be incompatible with the concerns of eternity.
To secure the observance of this all-important command, on which the knowledge of the true God, his worship, and the sanctification of man, the life of true and pure religion, and the health of human society, so mainly depend, he founded the observance on his own example, he connected the command in indissoluble association with the most
nagnificent objects of creation, so that the “heavens, which declare the glory of God, and the firmament which sheweth his handy work,” shall, with the voice which is heard throughout the world, and in that universal language which is understood in all nations, proclaim the sabbath, as the tabernacle and sanctuary, in which the ark and the mercy-seat, the divine presence and the glory of God, are present. This, being the foundation and the safeguard of all the other commandments, is repeated oftener than any other, and its beneficial and spiritual effects insisted on, lest any
mistaken man should suppose it to be a mere temporary command.
In Exodus xxi., xxii., and part of xxiii., an amplified comment is given on the ten commandments, and they are accommodated to particular cases; and in this accommodation the attentive reader will perceive that the particular circumstances of the nation of the Israelites are chiefly kept in view; which, in my mind, is a strong proof that the commandments were not formed for them alone, since a supplementary law or comment was necessary to fit these commandments, intended for universal observance, to the peculiar local and national manners and customs of the Israelites. And this necessity for accommodating those universal commands to that peculiar nation is a strong proof that the original law, as delivered on Sinai, was not intended for them alone, but for all mankind.
While Moses remained in the Mount on the occasion of receiving this commentary, the subject of the fourth commandment is repeated, Ex. xxiii. 12; and to show the tendency and object of the sabbath, the following is immediately added : “ In all things that I have said unto ye, be ye circumspect, and make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of your mouth.” This shows also that the 4th commandment was to be the safeguard of the second, and of all the others, of all the things he had said unto them.
And in xxxi., immediately after giving directions about making the ark and mercy-seat and tabernacle; and immediately before delivering the two renewed tables of the commandments, the only commandment he specifies is the fourth, verse 13-17: “Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, verily, my sabbaths. ye shall keep, for it (the keeping of them) is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you." Here the blessed effects of keeping it are mentioned, and in the next verse, the 14th, “ Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore, for it is holy unto you.” And again, 15, “ Six days may work be done, but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord;" and again, 16, “Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations for a perpetual covenant." And also, 17, “ 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.”
In all these passages, although the commandments were about to be delivered engraven on stone, yet one of them,
and one only, is enforced, and that five times. And let it be remembered, that this message enforcing that commandment alone was brought down by Moses, at the very time he brought down the commandments. In this chapter (xxxi. 14) the attentive reader will perceive the new and severe sanction added to the 4th commandment, in pursuance of the altered plans of God in governing the Israelites after their rebellion and idolatry and forfeiture of the original coyenant of grace. No other commandment has been so frequently enforced in the Scripture as the fourth Nor is this the case in the Old Testament alone, but also in the New, as we shall see below. We may therefore conclude, that it is the foundation of all the others, as I will show more at large in another place.
It is again mentioned when the covenant was renewed after the transgression touching the golden calf at Horeb. Ex. xxxiv. 21. And again, xxxv. 2, by Moses, when addressing the congregation; and here we find the observance made much more strict than before, as was also the sanction in xxxi. 14; and here also : “ Whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death. Ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the sabbath day.” This is part of the law which was added because of transgression. The Archbishop of Dublin, in the hurry with which he wrote his ill-digested little pamphlet, did not take time to consider this distinction, for he says, that if we are bound to keep the sabbath, we are equally bound not to kindle a fire on the sabbath day! He might have added, that we ought to be hanged or stoned if we did.
In Lev. xix. 3, after an exhortation to holiness in imitation of God, the 4th commandment is mentioned in connexion with the 5th: “ Ye shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy:, ye shall fear every man his father and his mother, and keep iny sabbaths. I am the Lord your God.” And mn immediate comnexion with the observance of the sabbath, and the same awful sanction of the divine authority, the 2nd commandment is enforced, (ver. 4,)." Turn ye not to idols, nor make to yourselves molten images. I am the Lord your God.” Such an intimate connexion do we everywhere find between the sabbath and the knowledge of the true God, and avoiding of idolatry. In the remainder of this chapter we find all the commandments of the second table, severally enforced and summed up into the golden rules “ Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.”. But as if something were still wanting, which is necessary for the observance of all and of every commandmentafter the exhortation to obedience and the enumeration of the particulars of the second table, the whole concludes: with, “ Ye shall keep my sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary.. I am the Lord.” So that in this one chapter we find the sabbath in connexion with the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd commandment of the first table, and with the 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th, of the second. The 10th is not mentioned, being itself only a guard or fence round the other commandments of the second table.
After the settlement of the Israelites in Canaan the sabbath is not mentioned except three times, and then only, incidentally (viz. first, 2 Kings iv. 23; second, 1 Chron. ix. 32; third, 2 Kings xi. 5, 7, 9; or 2 Chron. xxii. 4, &c.) until the time of Isaiah, the evangelical prophet, and not by him until towards the conclusion of his prophecies, in which his inspired mind burst forth into the full effulgenceof anticipated gospel light. He then mentions the sabbáth, on such occasions and in such terms, as afford' convincing proof that the sabbath was to continue under the Christian dispensation.
Amidst his several denunciations against the Jews, and his earnest exhortations to them, the sabbath is not men
tioned; but when he comes to deseribe the Messiah's person, and sufferings, and atonement; and kingdom, then the sabbath rises to his view, and becomes the theme of his inspired eulogy.
In chapters xlix. l. and li. he foretells the kingdom of Christ and the calling of the Gentiles; and in liii. he delivers his well-known description, more like history than prophecy, of the Messiah's character, vicarious atonement and sufferings; and in the liv. and lv., a further prophecy of the Christian dispensation ; and with his mind glowing with evangelical visions he proceeds thus, in chap. lvi. :
Keep ye judgment, and do justice; for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed. Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his band from doing any evil.” Here, polluting the sabbath is considered synonymous with doing evil, or rather as the head and fountain of all other evil actions. And ver. 6, “ 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; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices* shall be accepted upon mine altar, for my
* It may be said that the mention of sacrifices in this quotation shows that it refers to the Jews. But the careful reader of the Epistles knows that sacrifices of a different description were to continue under the Christian dispensation. Thus, Rom. xii. 1, “present your bodies a living sacrifice,” &c. i Peter ii. 5, An holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” Heb. xiii. 15, 16, “Let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually,” &c. “To do good and to communicate, forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.". Phil. iv