Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

solemn feasts into mourning, if we celebrated them, when it was in our power, with a grateful temper? Whence come those lamentations heard in one part of the church for forty years, and which awful melody has latterly been renewed, if we sung our sacred hymns with the devotion that the praises of the Creator require of the creature ? O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces. The Lord is righteous, though we have rebelled against him. Dan. ix. 7. 9. Happy those who groan under the strokes for the sins they have committed, provided the school of adversity make them wise. Happy those of you, my brethren, who are simply the spectators of those calamities, provided you abstain from the sins which have occasioned them, and become wise at the expense of others.

This is the design of my discourse, in which I must address you on the respect due to the solemn feasts, and to the Sabbath-day in particular, leaving conscience to decide whether it be caprice, or necessity, which prompts us to the choice ; whether it be inconsideration, or mere incident; or whether it has been compulsion, through the dreadful enormities into which we are plunged, in regard of the profanation of religious festivals, and of the Sabbath-day in particular, that people have for so long a time justly branded us with reproach : profaneness alone, unless we make efforts to reform it, is sufficient to bring down the wrath of God on these provinces. May Heaven deign to avert those awful presages ! May he engrave on our hearts the divine precept inculcated to-day, that we may happily inherit the favours he

has promised! May he enable us so to make the Sabbaths our delight, that we may be made partakers of the heritage of Jacob; I would say, that of the finisher of our faith. Amen.

If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable, and shalt honour him, not doing thy ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words ; then, thou shalt delight thyself in the Lord, and I will cause thee to ride on the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. This is our text, and here is our design. We shall consider the words,

I. With regard to the Jewish church ;

II. With regard to the Christian church; or, to be more explicit, God has made two very different worlds, the world of nature, and the world of grace. Both these are the heritage of the faithful, but in a different way. The Jews, contemplating the world of

grace as a distant object, had their imagination principally impressed with the kingdom of nature. Hence, in their form of thanksgiving, they said, « Blessed be God who hath created the wheat ; blessed be God who hath created the fruit of the vine." Christians, on the contrary, accounting themselves but strangers in this world, place all their glory in seeing the marvels of the world of grace. Hence it is so often their theme of gratitude to say, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who,

, according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten us again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. 1 Pet. i. 3, 4. Thus it was in point of order that the difference of dispensations was apparent in the two churches. The Jew, in his Sabbath, celebrated the marvels of nature ; but the Christian, exalted to sublimer views, celebrated the marvels of grace; and this memorable day of the Saviour's resurrection, the day in which he saw the work of redemption finished, and the hopes of the church crowned ; these are the two objects to which we shall call your attention.

I. We shall consider the words of the text with regard to the Jews. With that view we shall state, 1. The reasons of the institution of the Sabbath ; 2. The manner in which the prophet required it to be celebrated; 3. The promises made to those who worthily hallow the Sabbath-day.

Four considerations gave occasion for the institution of the Sabbath-day. God was wishful to perpetuate two original truths.on which the whole evidence of religion devolves ; the first is, that the world had a beginning ; the second is, that God is its author. You feel the force of both these points, without the aid of illustration, because, if the world be eternal, there is some being coeval with the Godhead; and if there be any being coeval with the Godhead, there is a being which is independent of it, and which is not indebted to God for its existence : and if there be any being which is not dependant on God, I no longer see in him all the perfection which constitutes his essence : our devotion is unfairly addressed ; it ought to be divided between all the beings which participate of his perfections.

2. But if the world has not God for its author, it is requisite to establish the one or the other of these suppositions, either that the world itself has a superintending intelligence, or that it was formed by chance. If you suppose the world to have been governed by an intelligence peculiar to itself, you fall into the difficulty you wish to avoid. You associate with God a being, that, participating of his perfections, must participate also of his worship. On the contrary, if you suppose, it was made by chance, you not only renounce all the light of reason, but you sap the whole foundation of faith : for, if chance has derived us from nothing, it may reduce us to nothing again ; and if our existence depend on the capricious fortune, the immortality of soul is destitute of proof, infidelity obtains a triumph, religion becomes a pun, and the hopes of a life to come are a chimera.-It was therefore requisite, that there should remain in the church this monument of the creation of the uni

Verse.

The second reason was to prevent idolatry. This remark claims peculiar attention, many of the Mosaic precepts being founded on the situation in which the Jews were placed. Let this general remark be applied to the subject in hand. The people, on leaving Egypt, were separated from a nation that worshipped the sun, the moon, and the stars. I might prove it by various documents of antiquity. A passage

of Diodorus of Sicily, shall suffice: “The ancient Egyptians, (he says,) struck with the beauty of the universe, thought it owed its origin to two eternal divinities, that presided over all the others : the one

was the sun, to whom they gave the name of Osiris ; the other was the moon, to whom they gave the name of Isis.” God, to preserve his people from these errors, instituted a festival which sapped the whole system, and which avowedly contemplated every creature of the universe, as the production of the Supreme Being. And this

may

be the reason, why Moses remarked to the Jews on leaving Egypt, that God renewed the institution of the Sabbath. The passage I have in view is in the fifth chapter of Deuteronomy. Remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and the Lord thy God brought thee out, therefore he commandeth thee to keep his Sabbath.

We must consequently regard the Sabbath-day as a high avowal of the Jews of their detestation of idolatry, and of their ascribing to God alone the origin of the universe. An expression of Ezekiel is to the same effect : he calls the Sabbath a sign between God, and his people : I gave them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them. Ezek. xx. 12. It is for this very reason, that the prophets declaim so strongly against the violation of the Sabbath : it is for the same reason that God commanded it to be observed with so high a sanction : it is for the same reason that the Sabbath-breakers were so rigorously punished, even that one for gathering a bundle of sticks, was stoned by the people. The law expressly enjoins that those who profane the festival shall be awfully anathematized.

The passage is very remarkable. Ye shall therefore keep the Sabbath ; for

21

VOL. VIII.

« AnteriorContinuar »