« AnteriorContinuar »
ceding day to be counted the sixth day; unless the practice of counting by weeks had been in use? And how came the congregation, of their own accord, to gather twice as much on the sixth day, that they had gathered on any preceding day, but in respect to the sabbath of rest, which they knew was to follow? And how did they so generally know this, unless they had been in the habit of observing it? These circumstances do not look altogether like an original appointment; but as the recognition of an institution ; which, though it had gone into some neglect, under the bondage of Egypt, was of primitive standing.
At any rate, the sabbath was here established. It was established anterior to the introduction of the Sinai covenant. Hence, in distinction from all the ritual precepts of that covenant, it was incorporated into the decalogue. This institution therefore did not expire with that covenant. It still continues, and is of permanent obligation even to the end of the world, unless there be a particular revocation of it.
This idea of the permanency of the sabbath will be Confirmed, by considering its design, its use, and the character which the scriptures give to it. These things however we must run over with as much brevity as possible.
The design of the Sabbath is, that it should be a day of holy rest, to return at regular periods, for the refreshment of man, and the irrational animals under his care, and subject to his use; and that opportunity might be had for those spiritual employments, in which the glory, and felicity, and beauty of the Church consist and appear. Rest is the proper meaning of the term sabbath. And that rest is the thing in which it appropriately consists, is agreeable to the account given of it in every place in which it is mentioned. The people were to rest from gathering manna. Rest is mentioned in the fourth commandment as the thing in which the sabbath is to be sanctified. "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy," to sanctify it. How? The commandment proceeds to explain. "Six days shaft thou labor, 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, nor thy man servant, nor thy maid servant, nor thy cattle, rior thy stranger that is within thy gates. For, in six days, the Lord made heaven and earth; the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day; wherefore the Lord thy God, blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it." Rest, in such regular returns, securing refreshment to man and beast, and giving opportunity for the pleasing and edifying employments of public, and private devotion, is, to the people of God, an inestimable favor. Accordingly the sabbath is spoken of as given, in testimony of paternal love, by God, to his Church. Ezek. xx. 12. "Moreover also I gave them my Sabbaths." The Sabbath, as a rest, is a relief from the curse which followed the apostacy; and grateful, in this view, to the benevolent man, not only with respect to himself, and his brethren, but the brutes, who seem in some measure to partake of the curse.
Besides being a day of rest, the sabbath was commemorative of the great "work of creation ;. which, in the divine plan, was subordinate to the greater work of redemption. It was commemorative of the work of redemption itself, of which the Church is the subject. Hence the deliverance from Egypt, as an important part of this work, is particularly mentioned, as a reason why the Church was required to keep the sabbath. Deut. v. 14. "And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt; and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence, through a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm; therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee, to keep the sabbath day." This was a reason of the injunction, as appropriate to the Church, in distinction from the heathen world.
The sabbath is also a type of heaven; and as su ch, presents an assurance to the believer of a speedy close of all the labors, and sorrows of the present world.
In the 31st chapter of Exodus, the sab bath is .spoken of in another view; as a sign of God's gracious relation to Israel, as their sanctifier, and the observance of it, on that account, is enjoined, not as a temporary institution, but as a perpetual covenant. "And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, Verily, my sabbath ye shall keep, for it is a sign between me and you, throughout your generations, that ye may know, that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you. Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore, for it is holy unto you. Every one thatdefileth it shall be surely put to death; for whosoever doth any work thereon, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Wherefore, the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel forever." Here the sabbath is placed on an exact parallel with circumcision, as a sign. It is another public standing token of the gracious covenant which God established with Israel. It is hence, by a metonymy, called the covenant, as circumcision is. On all these accounts, it is an endowment of infinite value. It cannot be too highly appreciated. The moral language of it, is that of holy affinity ; of covenant love. It testifies, in the most impressive and endearing manner, the blessed, and indissoluble union which subsists between God and his people. Hence it is spoken of, Isaiah lviii. 13, as claiming to be reputed, and treated, " a delight^ the holy of the Lord, and honorable?'' The Church cannot then be divested of the sabbath. It is an irrevocable grant. "The gifts and callings of God are without repentance." His judgments he may withdraw; but his absolute, gracious bequests, he can never annul.
Let us now see what evidences there are in the New Testament, of the actual continuance of the sabbath, in the Gospel day. We are to remember, that the enquiry is as much* whether the sabbath be withdrawn as a blessing, as whether it hath ceased to be obligatory as a duty.
1, If the sabbath be revoked in the New Testa, ment, the revocation is expressed, and can be found. But a revocation of it cannot be found. The sabbath therefore remains.
The change of the sabbath, in regard to the day in which it is observed, and which, more generally in the Christian Church, out of respect to Christ, and as commemorative of his resurrection, is called the Lord's day; allowing it to have taken place, as it is almost universally conceded that it has, under the authority of God, is not a revocation of it. The phrase change of the sabbath, supposes that the sabbath itself is continued. For to change and annul an institution, are different things. For a distinct elucidation of this matter, the reader is referred to President Edward's Discourses, above mentioned, on the change and perpetuity of the sabbath. Let it be only observed here, that the stress of the law respecting the sabbath, lies upon the nature of the day, as a day of holy rest, a sign of the covenant, a gift, a blessing, a type of heaven, a memorial, and upon its returning periodically after six days of labor. Whether it shall be this day or the other, is not indeed left to our discretion; but still, is a circumstance, a mere modal affair. This change therefore does not, cannot alter, or affect the thing itself. Suppose God had instituted a fast day, to be observed on that day which we now call Tuesday; and had afterwards ordered, that it should he observed on Wednesdays; this alteration, being circumstantial, it is evident, would not determine that it is no longer the fast day, which God originally appointed. The change, in this case, would certainly prove the opposite; that the fast day is continued. For it must be understood to continue, in order to be a subject of this new modification.
2. If Israel, as an indissolvable society, is the olive tree, introduced by Paul, in the 11th chapter of his Epistle to the Romans; and if the broken off branches are to be grafted into it again, certainly the unbelieving Jews, when the vail shall be taken from their heart, and they shall turn unto the Lord, will be restored to the enjoyment of their sabbath. For they will partake with the adopted Gentiles, of the root and fatness of the olive tree. To this period, the prophet Isaiah at the close of his prophecy, has evident respect; and his words, therefore prove, that the restored Jews, with the Gentiles, will enjoy their sabbath. "For as the new heavens, and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord; so shall your seed, and your name remain. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord."
3. The declaration of Christ, Matthew xii. 8. "For the son of man is Lord, even of the sabbath day," clearly implies, that the sabbath belongs perpetually to the kingdom, of which he is the visible head. The declaration which precedes this, in Mark ii. 27, is also corroborative of the same thing. *' The sabbath was made for man." It is a blessing of the covenant of which Christ is the mediator, and designed altogether for the benefit of those who are the subjects of that covenant. It is then as certainly perpetual, as the covenant itself is perpetual.
4, The actual continuance of the sabbath under the Gospel dispensation, and after the Sinai covenant was abolished, is evident, from Mat. xxiv. 20. This passage it will be remembered, respected' an event which ,took place about forty years after Christ's ascension. "And pray ye, that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day."* If Christ had foreknown that the seasons were to be immediately discontinued, the direction to his hearers, to pray that their flight might not be in the winter, would have been impertinent; and would, as he must have known, have exposed him to the imputation of having given a direc^ tion altogether futile, and even ridiculous. If he had foreknown that the sabbath was to be discontinued; and he must have foreknown it, if it were to be the case; for he was Lord of the sabbath day; hjs direc>