Imágenes de páginas

On the Christian Sabbath.

“And he said unto them, The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”—Mark ii. 27.

THE first recommendation of the Sabbath is the place which it occupies in the decalogue. There was much of Jewish observancy swept away with the ruin of the national institutions. There was much of it designed for a temporary purpose, and which fell into disuse among the worshippers of God after that purpose was accomplished. A Christian of the present day, looks upon many of the most solemn services of Judaism in no other light than as fragments of a perishable ritual—nor does he ever think, that upon himself they have any weight of personal obligation. But this does not hold true of all the duties and all the services of Judaism. There is a broad line of distinction between that part of it which is now broken up, and that part of it which still retains all the authority of a perpetual and immutable law. Point us out a single religious observance of the Hebrews that is now done away, and we are able to say of it, and of all the others which have experienced a similar termination, that they, every one of them, lie without the compass of the ten commandments. They have no place whatever in that great record of duty which was graven on tables of stone, and placed within the holy of holies, under the mercy-seat. Now, how does the law of the Sabbath stand as to this particular 2 Does it lie within or without a limit so tangible, and forming so distinct and so noticeable a line of demarcation? We see it then standing within this record, of which all the other duties are of such general and such imperishable obligation. We meet with it in the interior of that hallowed ground, of which every other part is so sacred and so inviolable. We perceive it occupying its own conspicuous place in that register of duties, all of which have the substance and the irrevocable permanency of moral principle. On reading over the other articles of this memorable code, we see all of them stamped with such enduring characters of obligation, as no time can wear away; and the law of the Sabbath taking its station in the midst of them, and enshrined on each side of it among the immutabilities of truth, and justice, and piety. It is true, that much of Judaism has now fallen into desuetude, and that many of its dearest and most distinguished solemnities are now regarded in no other light than as the obsolete and repealed observances of an antiquated ritual. But it is worthy of being well observed that the whole of this work of demolition took place

around and without the line of demarcation. We see no attempt whatever to violate the sanctity of the ground which this line encloses. We no where see any express or recorded incursion upon any one of the observances of the decalogue. We perceive an Apostle in the New Testament making his allusion to the fifth of these observances, and calling it the first commandment with promise; and by the very notice he bestows on the arrangement of the duties, are we given to understand, that no attempt had been made to disturb their order, or to depose any one of them from the place which had been assigned to it. We should count it an experiment of the most fearful audacity, without the intimation of any act of repeal passed in the high legislature of heaven, to fly in the face of that Sabbath law, which stands enrolled among the items of so notable and so illustrious a document; and nothing short of a formal and absolute recallment can ever tempt us to think, that the new dispensation of the Gospel has created so much as one vacancy in that register of duties, which bears upon the aspect of its whole history the impress of a revealed standard that is unalienable and everlasting. We cannot give up one article in that series of enactments which, in every one age of the Christian world, has been revealed as a code, not of ceremonial but of moral law. We cannot consent, but on the ground of some resistless and overbearing argument, to the mutilation of the integrity of this venerable record. We see throughout the whole line of the Jewish history, that it stood separate and alone; and that free from all the marks of national or local peculiarity, it bore upon it none of the frailty of the other institutions, but has been preserved and handed down to us an unchanged standard of duty, for all generations. We see, at the very commencement of the Mosaic dispensation how God himself thought fit to signalize it; for, from the place where he stood, did he proclaim the ten commandments of the law, in the hearing of the assembled multitude; while every other enactment, whether moral or ceremonial, was conveyed to the knowledge of the people, through the medium of a human legislator. And we should feel that, in dethroning any one of the perceptive impositions of the decalogue from its authority over our practice, we were bidding defiance to the declared will of the Eternal; and resisting a voice which sounds as loudly and as impressively to our conscience, as the one that issued in thunder from the flaming top of Sinai, and scattered dismay among the thousands of Israel. But, secondly, in the practice of the Christian world, the Sabbath has been moved forward by one day; and the remembrance to which it is now consecrated, is a different one from that of the creation of the world. For this change we can find no positive enactment; but we can quote the uncontrolled observation of it down from the period of the apostolic age. We are sure that a practice so early and so universal, could not have been introduced without the sanction of Heaven's inspired messengers. And, mark the limit of that liberty which has been taken with the fourth commandment. It amounts to nothing more than the circumstantial change of a day. Had the early Christians felt themselves warranted to take more liberty, they would have taken it; for then was the time when Christianity took its determinate movement away from the practices of the old dispensation, and established all its distinctions as a religion of principle, and a religion of spiritual character. But widely as the one religion departed from the other, there never, in any one age of the church, has been a departure from the observance of a Sabbath, appropriated to the more solemn and peculiar exercises of piety. The change in the day goes to prove that Christianity is not a religion of mere days. But while it has abandoned one particular day, you find it transferring itself to another; and in the choice of that other it is guided by the affecting remembrance of an event, the contemplation of which is fitted to strengthen the faith, and to refresh the piety, and to waken the best and most religious feelings of those who are spiritually engaged in it. It commemorates the rise of the crucified Saviour from the grave—of him who is the first fruits of them who slept— of him who by that Spirit which is committed to him, raises all those who are dead in tresspasses and sins, to newness of life— of him who is the great agent of Heaven for repairing all the disorders and all the deformities of the moral world—of him by whom, as the word of God, the universe was at first created, but who has since earned a more enduring title to the memory of Christians, by taking upon him that great scheme, in virtue of which, there are to emerge out of this ruined and rebellious province, a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. At the first creation of the world, the Spirit moved over the turbulence of its confused and jarring elements, and awoke them all to order and to harmony. When Adam sell, we know not what precise mischief it inflicted on the material world; but we know

that the moral world went back again into a wild chaos of dark and disorderly rebellion ; and the heart of man lost its obedience to the attractive influences of that great principle which can alone subdue it into harmonious accordancy with the law of God; and the resurrection of Christ from the grave was a mighty and essential step in the counsels of heaven for quelling all the violence of this elementary war; “for unless I go away, the comforter cannot come; but if I go to my Father, I shall send him.” And from the place which he now occupies, does the Spirit come down at the commission of the exalted Saviour, and he moves on the face of this spiritual chaos, and is ever and anon reclaiming some portion of a moral and renovated empire from the rugged domain of a world lying in wickedness. And the time is yet to come when this ever-renovating Spirit shall fulfil its conclusive triumph, by spreading an entire aspect of worth, and piety, and moral loveliness over the wide extent of a now sinful creation. And thus it is, that while the day of Sabbath has been changed, there is a most assecting remembrance which gives to the observation of Sabbath the full import and significancy of its original purpose—the remembrance of a new creation emerging from an Qld one—the animating view of life and immortality rising in splendour from the corruption of the grave—the contemplation of an ascended Saviour, who pours the promise of the Father on all his believing disciples—and working in them by the Spirit the graces of the new creature, prepares them for a welcome entrance into those regions, where sin is unknown, and where death is swallowed up in victory. But, thirdly, in addition to the slight circumstantial change which has been made upon the Sabbath, and which we are sure no honest and enlightened Christian can ever construe into an entire and absolute repeal of the whole institution—there is a general change affecting every one of the ten commandments, but which was never so well understood till the new dispensation was fully and fairly ushered into the world. We do not mean to say, that the wor

thies of the Old Testament were utter

strangers to that doctrine of grace on which the Spirit of God, working in larger measure on the minds of the Apostles, from the day of Pentecost, has poured so clear and so celestial a splendour. We believe that many Jews were, under the shadow of their types and their sacrifices, trained to the faith, and the humility, and the affectionate obedience of creatures who knew themselves to be incapable of perfect conformity to the law of God—and that, in the act of serving him. they stood on essentially the same footing of mercy to pardon and grace to help in the time of need, on which a spiritual Christian of the day now feels himself to be so firmly and so conclusively established. The change we are alluding to, then, did not take place at the first settlement of the new dispensation. It only came out at that time into more distinct exhibition; and it consists in this; that whereas the direct and natural way of taking up the promulgated law of God, is to take it up as a law of works, and to labour at the performance of it on the understood condition of “This do, and ye shall live”—and as this condition has not been fulfilled by a single son or daughter of the species, then, unless some new arrangement of the matter between God and man had been entered into, life was forfeited by every one of us, and we should just have been what the New Testament tells us we actually are, anterior to our reception of the Gospel, the children of wrath, and under the sull operation of the sentence, that “the soul which sinneth it shall die.” Now, it would lead us away from our subject into a most interminable excursion, did we say all that might be pertinently and substantially said on the precise turn which the Gospel has given to the obligation of the law. Eternal life is no longer the wages of perfect obedience. It is the gist of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. The man who has faith to perceive the reality of this gift, lays hold of it, and rejoices in all the enlargement of conscious forgiveness, and in all the cordialities of a secure and confident reconciliation, with the God whom he had offended. But this faith does not set him loose from any one of the duties of obedience. Had no other doctrine been proposed to the believer, than the single one of forgiveness through the redemption that is in the blood of Jesus, then we can conceive how the dawning of the Gospel faith might be a signal for the emancipation of the whole man from the restraints of moral obligation. But other doctrines have been proposed; and faith, which is neither more nor less than a reliance on the divine testimony, gives an equally honest and welcome admission to all the particulars of that testimony. It embraces all the particulars of God's communication; and such is the amplitude of its grasp, that though as a principle, it is single and undivided, and can be defined within the limits of a short sentence; yet grant us the existence of this principle, and then you grant us room enough, and provision enough for giving effect to every one of the lessons of revelation. When faith attaches itself to the doctine of reconciliation through Christ, it will make him who possesses it, to walk before God without fear. When faith attaches itself to the

doctrine, that “without holiness no man can see God,” it makes him who possesses it, to “walk before God without fear, in righteousness and in holiness.” When faith attaches itself to the doctrine that unless ye do such and such commandments, ye shall not inherit the kingdom of God, it makes him who possesses it, feel as constraining an urgency of personal interest in the work of keeping these commandments, as if the old covenant of works had got up again, and he behooved to ply his assiduous task for the rewards of persect obedience. When faith attaches itself to the doctrine of every man receiving his award at the judgment-seat, according to the deeds done in the body, it makes him who possesses it just strive with as much earnestness to multiply good deeds—as if each performance done at the bidding of the Saviour, was a distinct addition to the treasure reserved for him in heaven. But faith does attach itself to every one of these doctrines, or it is no faith at all. It gives the homage of its reliance to each particular of the law and the testimony. It clears its unfettered way from among the perplexities of human arrangement; and disowning every authority but that of the one master, it sits at his feet with the docility of a little child, and appropriates to its right influence every item of his communications. Arid thus it is, that the man who is in simplicity and in good faith a believer, while he rejoices all the day long in the sunshine of a countenance which he knows to be friendly to him, labours all the day long at his faithful and assiduous task of doing every thing to the glory of God. There is room enough in his enlarged heart for knowing, that while the one is his offered privilege, the other is his required duty— and free as he is, srom all the embroilments of a darkening speculation, he does not wait for the adjustment of any human controversy on the subject, but taking himself to his Bible, he both lives in all the security of the offered reconciliation, and without questioning the simple announcement of the Saviour, that “if ye love me, ye will keep my commandments,” he also lives in all the diligence of one who is “steadfast and unmoveable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord.”

It is true, that there is a difference between being under the law, and under grace. But how does this difference affect the morality of a Christian 7 Let us take the deliverance of an Apostle upon the subject. “Shall we sin,” says Paul, “because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.” Quite the contrary, for it is precisely because we are under grace, that sin hath not dominion over us. We must shorten this explanation, and bring it to bear on the observation of the Sabbath. The great interest of practical obedience is upheld under the dispensation of the Gospel, by all the securities of positive and preceptive obligation. But more than this—there is such a cliange wrought by grace in the healt of every believer, that he not only understands the obligation, but is made cordially to acquiescein it. There is such a revolution in his desires, that it is now his meat and drink to do the will of that God, against whom there existed within him the most stubborn and revolting enmity. The man who by faith, now looks on God as his friend, will have no difficulty in understanding this change, for he feels it; and there is not a believer on the face of the earth who does not, from the time of his becoming so, love that law which he aforetime violated. This law was at first graven on tables of stone, and held out for the government of a helpless and guilty race, who were both unable and unwilling to yield to it the loyalty of their obedience; and it therefore served to them for a ministry of condemnation. When the dispensation of grace was brought in, this law was not abrogated. One of the most illustrious exercises of the grace of God, consisted in his putting forth a device for securing the observance of his laws, and this device is neither more nor less than putting the law in our hearts, and writing it in our minds. On the change taking place from our being under the law, to our being under grace, the law, to use the language of the Bible, is taken down from the place it formerly occupied on tablets of stone, and from which it frowns upon us in all the wrath of its violated dignity; and it is graven on the fleshly tablets of the heart—or, in other words, the man is endowed with a liking for that which he formerly rebelled against. And grant him possessed of the genuine principle of faith; and there can be no doubt, that the spirit, true to his office, has been at work within him, and has given a new bent to his affections, and has turned them to the love of those commandments which he aforetime hated and resisted, and has established in his bosom this omnipotent security for obedience, that the taste and the inclinations of the new creature are now upon his side; and as if carried forward by the spontaneous and inborn alacrity of a constitutional impulse, does the man who is thus transformed, and thus acted upon by that Spirit, for which he never ceases to pray, run with delight in the way of all the commandments. Now, we have already attempted to satisfy you, that there is no erasure of the fourth commandment from that lettered record of the law, which is met with in your Bibles, and where the institution of the Sabbath is graven as indelibly as any one of the unchangeable moralities among which it is situated. But by the new dispensation of

the Gospel, this law is made to stand in another place. It is conveyed, as it were, from its old position, on a tablet of stone, and written in the characters of a living epistle on the tablet of a believer's heart. Now the question we have to put is, in this transference of the law from its old to its new repository, does any one of its articles fall away from it, and is lost, as it were, in the passage, by being loosened and detached from the other articles among which it was incorporated 2 We can specify some, at least, of the ten commandments, which have found their way safe and entire to the heart of him who has embraced the Gospel, and lives under the power of its purifying influences. We are sure that such a man will have his supreme affections fastened upon God, and renouncing every idol, whether of wealth, or of ambition, or of vanity, that can dethrone the Father of his spirit from his rightful ascendency, he will prefer no one object of regard, or of reverence before him. We are sure that such a man will be quite in earnest to have a right knowledge and conception of God—that the Being he worships may be the true God—and lest, by directing his homage to some false and distorted picture of his own fancy, he may incur all the guilt, and be carried away by all the delusion of him who falls down to a material image, in lowly and bending adoration. We are sure that such a man will do honour to the hallowed name of his Master, who is in heaven, and be sickened and appalled by that profaneness which is so current in many of our companies. We are sure that such a man will revere his earthly parents, and will stand by them in the midst of their sinking infirmities; and whether in the form of a declining father, or a widowed mother, who has thrown the whole burden of her dependence on the children who remain to her, we are sure that he will never turn a contemptuous ear to the seebleness of their entreating voice— but will bid his proud and aspiring manhood give up to their authority all its waywardness, and all its tumultuous independence. We are quite sure, that in the heart of such a man, there is an aspiration of kindliness towards everything that breathes, and that the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” carries in his bosom the widely extended import of thou shalt not conceive one purpose, nor carry against a single human being, one rankling sentiment of malignity. We are sure that such a man, far removed from all that is licentious in practice, will recoil, even in the unseen solitude of thought, from all that is licentious in conception, and spurning away from the pure sanctuary of his heart every evil and unhallowed visitation, he will present to the approving eye of Heaven, all the adornments of a spiritual temple, all the graces and all the beauties of an unspotted offering. We are sure that such a man, with a hand unsoiled by any one of the gains of injustice, will with all the sensitiveness of high-minded and honourable principle, keep himself as nobly aloof from substantial as from literal dishonesty. He will feel superior to every one of those tolerated artifices, and those practical disguises, which, throughout the great mass of mercantile society, have so hardened and so worn down the consciences of those, who, for years, have been speeding and bustling their way amongst a variety of manifold transactions—and in the high walk of simplicity and godly sincerity, will he carry along with him the impress of one of the peculiar people, amid all the legalized fraudulency of a selfish and unprincipled generation. We are quite sure that such a man, seeing he had put on the deeds of the new creature, would never suffer the burning infamy of a lie to rest T. him. All that was within him, and about him, would be clear as the ethereal firmament. The wiles of a deceitful policy would be utterly unknown to him. The openness and the ingenuousness of truth, would sit upon his forehead, and his every utterance bear upon it as decided a stamp

of authority, as if shielded by a solemn ap

to God and to the judgment-seat. And, y, we are quite sure that such a man could not breathe a single avaricious desire after the substance of another. His heart is set on another treasure. He has entered the service of another master than the mam

mon of unrighteousness. His affections have

settled on a more enduring substance. With the eye of faith, he looks to heaven, and to its unfading and unperishable riches; and all the splendours of this world's vain and empty magnificence, sink into worthlessness before them. He can eye the golden career of his more prosperous neighbours, without one wistsul sentiment either of covetousness or of envy; and feels not the meanness and the hardships of his humbler condition, amid the tranquillities of a heart that is cherishing a better prospect, and reposing on the sure anticipation of a happier and more enduring home. Well, then, in the heart of this man, of whom we suppose nothing more than that he has drunk in the genius of our better dispensation, we find graven in the most legible and distinct characters, nine of the commandments. We meet with all the ten in the letter of the Old Testament, and we find nine out of these ten in a state of most vigorous and entire, operation, under the spirit of the New Testament. What has become of the fourth commandment 2 Has it sunk and disappeared under the storm vicissitudes of that middle passage, o which all the rest have found their way, from the tablets of a o inscription, and * 3

have gotten their secure and inviolable lodgment within the tablet of a Christian heart? If we look into that heart, do we meet with no trace of the commandment we are in quest of? Will you tell us, that the law of the Sabbath is erased, we will not say from the remembrance, but from the affection of any one of the actual Christians by whom you are surrounded? Has it left behind it a vacancy in that spiritual tablet which is graven by the Spirit of God, when he writes the law in the believer's heart, and puts it into his mind? This is a question of observation—and speaking from our own observation, we never, in the whole round of it, met with a man, drawn by the cords of love to the doing of the other commandments, and carrying in his heart either a distaste or an indifference for the fourth of them ż We may have seen men high in honour, and earning by their integrity the rewards of an unsullied reputation amongst their fellow-citizens, carrying a visible contempt for the Sabbath law throughout the whole line of their Sabbath-history—but all the truth and all the justice of these men are such constitutional virtues as may exist in a character which owns not and feels not the power of godliness; and sure we are that wanting this power, several of the other commandments can be specified, to which they are as utter strangers as to the commandment of the seventh day. We repeat it, therefore, that if you grant us a man who bears about with him in his bosom, a warm and conscientious at

tachment to all the articles of the decalogue

but this one, before we look at him, we sa with confidence, that search him, and to. in his heart and in his practice, this one is to be found; and that we shall not sail to meet the Sabbath law as firmly established as any other within the secrecies of his bosom, and standing out as conspicuously on the front of his external observations. . We never, in the whole course of our recollections, met with a Christian friend, who bore upon his character every other evidence of the Spirit's operation, who did not remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. We appeal to the memory of all the worthies who are now lying in their graves, that eminent as they were in every other grace and accomplishment of the new creature, the religiousness of their Sabbath-day shone with an equal lustre amid the fine assemblage of virtues which adorn them. In every Christian household, it will be found, that the discipline of a well-ordered Sabbath is never forgotten amongst the other lessons of a Christian education—and we appeal to every individual who now hears us, and who carries the remembrance in his bosom of a father's worth, and a father's piety, if on the coming round of the seventh day; an air of peculiar sacredness did not spread it

« AnteriorContinuar »