« AnteriorContinuar »
236 A DISCOURSE UPON REPENTANCE.
more he recollects of his former sins, the quicker sense he has of present sinfulness, and the deeper and purer is his repentance. He rejoices in the Lord with penitent joy, and mourns for sin with sweet and joyful mourning. His humility increases his thankfulness, and admiration of the love of Christ, and enhances his consolation: for "it is a pleasant thing to be thankful." But, if the thought that thy sins were pardoned, finished thy repentance, and dried up thy tears, thy repentance needs repenting of, and thou art awfully deceived.
VII. Finally, My fellow Christians, let us frequently renew our recollection of former sins, our self-examination, our meditations on those subjects, which first excited our abhorrence of iniquity: especially our meditations on a bleeding Saviour. Let us daily renew our acceptance of Christ, in all his offices, seeking forgiveness of our daily transgressions through his blood: and exercising ourselves " to have a conscience void of offence "towards God and man." Thus, as true penitents, endeavouring to glorify God, adorn the gospel, and serve our generation, we may hope to live in comfort, die in peace, and have "an en"trance ministered to us abundantly into the "everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour "Jesus Christ."
CONCERNING HALLOWING THE SABBATH.
Throughout this Discourse, it has been supposed that there is in force a divine mandate for hallowing the sabbath, which all are bound to obey, and contract guilt by neglecting. But the change in the dispensation, since the fourth commandment was given; the alteration of the day, from the seventh to the first of the week; and the manner in which that alteration was introduced; have afforded some persons an occasion of arguing against the obligation: the judgments of others seem unsettled, and perplexed about it: and those who profane the sabbath, are by these things furnished with some plausible excuse, and preserved from remorse of conscience on that account. For these reasons, I have judged that it might be useful, to subjoin a few brief hints upon the subject.
I. It should be noticed, that the sabbath was appointed long before the ceremonial law, even from the creation of the world; and therefore cannot, in its own nature, be ceremonial.* That the words of Moses should thus be understood, may be confirmed by the prohibition of gathering manna on. the seventh day,-f- previously to the giving of any part of the law. The very language of the fourth commandment, "Remember the "sabbath-day to keep it holy," as well as the rea son assigned in the close, evinces the same. And this is corroborated and illustrated by the general custom in many nations, through revolving ages, of computing time by weeks, or periodical returns of the seventh day. Of this fact no reason can be assigned so satisfactory, as supposing it to be the effect of an original institution, handed down by tradition, amongst all the descendents of Adam and Noah; which continued even after the appointment that gave rise to it was forgotten.*
'Gen. ii. 1—3. t Exod. xvi. 22—30.
II. The observation of the sabbath, being made a part of the Mosaic dispensation, is interwoven with the whole system. It is enjoined in the moral law of ten commandments, as delivered from Mount Sinai: introduced in the midst of the positive institutions: and enforced by temporal punishments to be executed by civil authority. This shews its importance; and evinces that it partakes of the excellency of the moral law; forms an eminent part, and is fundamental to the maintenance of all instituted worship; is typical of, and preparatory for, the heavenly sabbath; and on every account is proper to be enforced by the authority of the magistrate, who may not draw his sword to propagate systems of doctrine or formulas of worship, but who may and ought to use his authority to repress immorality and profaneness, and to promote the public worship of God in the land.—The .substance of this commandment is of a moral nature. To separate some known, stated, and periodical portion of our time to religious purposes, when, all other engagements being postponed, men may assemble to worship God, and learn his will; is evidently an appointment resulting from the reason and nature of things. The glorious perfections of God; the rational nature of man; our relations and obligations to our Creator, Benefactor, Governor, and Judge; the honour which he requires, and which we owe him; our relations to each other, as social creatures, who can instruct, assist, affect, and animate one another, by joining together in one common exercise; and our situation in such a world as this; all render such an ordinance indispensable. Repeal this commandment, prohibit this practice; you render public religion a matter of indifference, or you destroy it. Such a repeal or prohibition implies an absurdity; which cannot be said of the repeal or prohibition of any ceremonial precept. The honour and worship of God, the interests of religion and morality, and the best happiness of mankind, would be inadequately provided for, without such an observance.
* The pains taken, by express edicts and by a new division of time, in a neighbouring nation, to form an exception to this rule, by men who are avowed enemies to Christianity, may help to shew the force of this argnment.
III. We cannot, indeed, from the reason and nature of things demonstrate that exactly one day in seven, and neither more or less, is required for this moral duty. But the plain matter of fact, that God has under every dispensation allotted that proportion invariably, amounts to the fullest demonstration, that infinite Wisdom judged it the best possible. And experience proves, that the conscientious observance of this proportion does not interfere with the advantageous management of either agriculture, manufactures, or commerce; is exceedingly favourable to the cause of liberty and humanity; tends greatly to civilize mankind as social creatures; and fully suffices for maintaining and advancing religion in the world, as far as it is generally and strictly observed.
IV. But whether the day to be observed be the first, or the last, or any other of the seven, is evidently in itself indifferent. Only some one day must be pitched upon, either by him that gives, or him that receives the law. Nothing can be more reasonable, than that the lawgiver should determine this matter, and all his subjects acquiesce. Nothing more desirable than to be, by his determination, delivered from uncertainty and disputation about it. But if he, who first instituted one day, afterwards changed it for another, his authority demands our submission. He, who from the creation appointed the seventh day, in remembrance of its completion, appears to have changed that day for the first, when an event had taken place of still greater consequence to fallen sinners. We now every week commemorate the triumphant resurrection of our divine Redeemer. To avoid needlessly shocking Jewish prejudices, this, (as some other changes,) in the wisdom of God, was effected silently and gradually, by example, not by express precept. As Christians, all seem to have observed the first day of the week: the Jewish converts were connived at in observing the seventh also, together with circumcision and their other ceremonies. Our risen Lord repeatedly met and spake peace to his disciples, who on the first dav of the week were assembled, if not the first