« AnteriorContinuar »
frequently punished this sin, by inflicting very awful judgment both upon societies and particular persons. There was an express statute in the Jewish law, appointing the Sabbath-breaker to be put to death, (Exo. dus xxxi. 12, 16.); and this punishment was actually inflicted upon one who was found gathering sticks on that holy day: “ All the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned bim with stones, and he died, as the Lord commanded Moses.” Num. xv. 32, 37. How alarming is that threatening, (Jerem. xvii. 27.) “ If ye will not hearken unto me to ballow the Sabbath. day, and not to hear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath-day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it sball devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched." Accordingly, Nebemiah imputes all the calamities which befel the Jewish nation to this, as one of the principal causes of God's anger against that people. “ Then, (saith he) I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the Sabbath-day? Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city; yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the Sabbath." And I am verily persuaded, that many of the national calamities with wbich we have been visited, may justly be attributed to the same cause. Nor is it greatly to be wondered at, when we consider, that this sin is not only an act of rebellion against the authority of God, but also a bold and sacrilegious invasion of bis property, in applying to common use that proportion of time which he hath reserved for himself, and set apart for the immediate exercises of bis worship.
But besides this, the abuse or neglect of the Sabbath must be attended with pernicious consequences on seve
ral other aecounts. To this gracious institution it is in a great measure owing that any sense of God, and of di. vine things, is preserved in the world. Were this day rendered common, the bulk of mankind would soon sink into Atheism or atter profaneness. What would become of the lower ranks in society, whose servitude and bodily necessities oblige them to work hard for dai. ly bread, were it not for this separated day, on which they are invited and commanded to care for their souls? I am even afraid, that the tyranny and covetousness of many masters would incline them to deny their servants any leisure whatsoever, either for the rest of their bodies, or the improvement of their minds, had not God, in mercy, made a law for one day of rest and liberty in the week. In proportion as this law is despised and neglected, in the same proportion will religion fall into de. cay, the impressions of God become feeble and languid; while ignorance, brutality, oppression, and all the evils which unrestrained corruption can produce, will prevail, and render this earth the very suburbs of hell.
These are all the arguments which I shall at present use with you, for enforcing the observance of the Christian Sabbath. The proportion of time is so moderate, that even upon the supposition that the duties required were painful, there could be no just cause of complaint. Yet so far is this supposition from being true, that, on the coutrary, the work assigned us on this holy day is most pleasant and delightful; insomuch that were our minds in a right temper, we would count it our happi. ness to spend our whole time, nay, a whole eternity, in such heavenly employment. Besides, the religious observance of this holy day is accompanied with many sig. pal advantages, and is a mean of deriving the blessing of God, both upon individuals and communities; where.
as the profanation or neglect of it is in every respect pernicious, both to particular persons and to societies.
And if these things are so, how many who now hear me ought to blush, and be ashamed to lift up their faces either before God or man? But as reformation is the great object which I have in view, I shall spare the reproof which I once intended to give; and instead of upbraiding you for the time past, I shall rather entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, to behave more dutifully for the time to come. And my exhortation shall be chiefly directed to parents and masters of families, to whom the commandment seems to be principally addressed. It is true, the expression “ within thy gates," may relate to the gates of a city as well as of a particular house; and then it would intimate to us this truth, that it is the duty of magistrates to secure the observance of this day, by the exercise of that power and authority with which their public station invests them. But as there would be less occasion for the interposition of civil authority, if parents and heads of families would mind their proper work, to these I shall more directly address what I have to say. And I must tell you in the name of God, that you are strictly accountable, not only for your own conduct, but likewise for the conduct of all within your houses on this holy day. Hear how the commandment runs: “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy; six days shalt thou labour and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor the stranger that is within thy gates." You see that you are charged with the immediate inspection, not only of your children and servants, but likewise of the stranger who sojourns with you, over
whom you have no jurisdiction or authority through the rest of the week.
I should be glad to know what those who keep houses of public entertainment think of this doctrine. A re. spectful complaisance and readiness to serve are the general duties of your station. But there is one day of the week on which God permits, nay commands you, to take rest to yourselves, and to keep your doors shut against idle and profane of what rank soever, and to restrain such as necessity brings to your houses from every thing that is profane, either in speech or behaviour. If any shall question your authority, this precept is your charter, vesting you with the same power over the stranger that is within your gates, as over your own children and servants; and even charging you to exercise that power, as you would not incur the wrath of Almighty God. Did you know that you possessed so high a privilege? I hope, for your own sakes, that you did not; and now that I have told you the secret, I pray that God may give you wisdom and courage to improve it.
To conclude: Let all of us be persuaded to pay a proper regard to this divine precept. If we have any concern for the glory of God, for the honour of our Redeemer, for the welfare of our country, or for our own comfort and happiness, either in this world or the world to come, let us make conscience of the important duties of the Lord's day, that after having finished our course on earth, we may be fixed as pillars in the temple above, and may spend an eternal Sabbath in the presence of God and of the Lamb. Amen.
2 SAMUEL vi. 20.
Then David returned to bless his Household.
FROM the example of this great and good man, I propose to recommend to you the important, but much ne. glected duty of family-worship. And I have chosen the example of a king for two reasons.
1st. Because the actions of one in that elevated sta. tion are commonly more regarded than those of a mean. er person. “ The poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard;" but if one arrayed in royal apparel make an oration from a throne, the people sball give a shout, saying, “ It is the voice of a god, and not of a man." This partial regard is indeed a sore evil under the sun; but in the present case, it is possible to bring good out of it, by making that pomp or splendour, which so often covers the deformity of vice, a mean of throwing a lustre upon religion, and of rendering a thing so truly excellent in itself more respectable in our eyes.
2dly. It is but too obvious, that the neglect of family. worship prevails chiefly among those who either are, or imagine themselves to be, of a better rank than others; nay, some who were punctual in the performance of this duty while their station and circumstances were low, have been observed to lay it aside, when, by the bounty of Providence, their state became more prosperous. This presents us with a very melancholy prospect, and threatens nothing less than the utter extinction of family.