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Exodus xx. 11.--Wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day.
IN the four preceding discourses, I have considered the Perpetual Establishment of the Sabbath, and the Manner in which it is to be observed; and have endeavoured to answer such Objections, as occurred to me against the doctrines, which I have felt myself bound to maintain, concerning these subjects. I shall now close my observations on the Sabbath, with some of those Reflections, which this very solemn and interesting subject naturally suggests to a serious mind. The First Consideration which strikes such a mind, when contemplating the Sabbath, is the pre-eminent Wisdom of this divine Institution. Wisdom, as applied to conduct, denotes the choice of desirable ends, and the o of happy means for their accomplishment. The ends, aimed at, in the institution of the Sabbath, are numerous, and all of them eminently desirable. The means, by which they are accomplished, are, at the same time, eminently happy. The Sabbath, and the things immediately connected with it, are the amount of them all. Among these ends let me remark; since God himself has been pleased to mention it, and to mention it in the fourth command of the decalogue; the provision, which this holy day furnishes, of a season of rest to labouring Animals. A righteous man regards the life of his beast, says the wisest of all men: Prov. x. 12. In this fact we behold a strong resemblance of a righteous man to his Creator. The goodness of this glorious Being is forcibly displayed in the provision, which he has made, for the rest and comfort of labouring animals, in the Moral Law. In the hands even of prudent and humane masters, it is clearly seen, that such animals are sufficiently employed when they labour six days of the week, and are released to rest and refreshment on the seventh. God, who perfectly knew what their strength was able to bear, and who perfectly foresaw how greatly they would be oppressed by avarice and cruelty, was pleased, in this solemn manner, and at this early period, to provide for their relief, by securing to them the quiet and restoration of one day in seven. In this merciful provision, the divine tenderness is displayed in a most amiable and edifying manner. The humble character of even these beings did not place them below the compassionate care of Vol. III.
erson, better dressed than in the ordinary manner, will, regularly, É. with more than ordinary decency, unless habitually thus dressed. The association in our thoughts, between the dress and the manners, (both of which are intended to make us appear with advantage) is instinctive, and inseparable. Every thing connected with the Sabbath, also, inspires such views and affections, as contribute to the manners in question. We are, of course united to a respectable assembly; on a sacred day; in a sacred place ; upon a most affecting occasion; and for ends the most solemn and important in the universe. We are immediately before God, and are employed in his worship; in confessing our sins, in seeking the forgiveness of them, and in labouring to obtain an interest in his favour. We cannot, here, fail to feel our needy, frail, guilty, dependent, character; to see how little and o: We are; how unbecoming are pride, unkindness, and insolence; how becoming humility, modesty, condescension, and gentleness; how amiable, in the sight of God, is the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit; and how necessary for every purpose for which we §. assembled, the establishment of these things in our hearts. From these considerations must spring, of course, in every man, who is not void of all propensity to that which is good, both gentleness of mind, and sweetness of manners.
I have already glanced at the tendency of the Sabbath to abase our pride, and to remove our native ruggedness of disposition. This part of the subject deserves a further consideration. One of the chief deformities of character in the rich, the learned, and the great, is that haughtiness of mind, which, on account of their peculiar advantages, they are ever ready to feel; and one of the chief causes of suffering to the poor, the ignorant, and the powerless, is that insolence of behaviour, which from this haughtiness they are compelled to endure. But when the superior classes of mankind assemble in the house of God, they sink, at once, even in their own eyes, if they open them, down to the same level with their fellowworms. In the presence of Him, before whom all nations are as nothing, the glare of splendour, the pride of wealth, the self-sufficiency of learning, and the loftiness of power, are annihilated in a moment. Those, who, a little while before, felt themselves to be rich, and wise, and great, find that they are poor, ignorant, little, guilty, odious to God, exposed to his wrath, and hopeless, except in the mere character of suppliants for mercy.
When a great man, in the Sanctuary, looks around him on a mixed assembly of his equals and inferiors; he will be compelled often to feel, and secretly to confess, that his poor neighbour, whom perhaps he would have disdained, on other occasions, to set with the dogs of his flock, is, in all probability, more excellent, more wise, more lovely, and in every sense greater, in the sight of the Highest, than himself. Nothing can humble pride more than the elevation above itself of those, whom it despises. This elevation
of the humble, this useful depression of the haughty, is no where more perfect than in the house of God. Here, as will be realized from what has been already said, the poor and lowly rise, of course, above their usual level. The rich and the poor, says Solomon, meet together; the Lord is the Maker of them all. In the house of God they meet together in a manner wholly peculiar; are placed exactly on the same level; and are more strongly, than any where else, reminded, that the Lord is the JMaker of them all. Here, they assemble as creatures of the same God merely. Here, all their earthly distinctions vanish; and a new distinction, formed only of sin and holiness, commences; which, unless terminated in the present world, will endure, and widen, for ever. Here, then, the poor man rises to his proper independence and distinction, forgets the depression of his circumstances; and, without the aid of pride, assumes an elevation of character, not less necessary to him for the faithful discharge of his duty, than the humility of the Gospel to the lofty-minded. Thus the Sabbath, like its Author, putteth down the mighly from their seats, and eralteth them of low degree. How perfect, in this important particular, is an institution, which produces these oppo. site and indispensable benefits in those, whose situation so plainly and loudly demands them! Another immense benefit of the Sabbath is the Instruction, which it furnishes in Morals and Religion. The value of knowledge is admitted by all civilized men. It will usually, and ought ever, to be admitted, also, that moral and religious knowledge is of far more value than any other. It is more necessary, more practical, more useful, more enlarging to the mind, more refined, and more exalted. The least acquaintance with the subject will place this assertion beyond a doubt. As the knowledge itself is more valuable; so the Sabbath fur. mishes means for obtaining it, which are far cheaper, and far more efficacious, than were ever furnished by any other institution. Here, on a day devoted to no employment but the gaining of this knowledge, and the performance of those religious duties which unite with it in perfect harmony; in a place convenient and sa. cred; on an occasion infinitely important; and with the strong power of sympathy to aid and impress; a thousand persons are taught the best of all knowledge; the most useful to themselves, and the most beneficial to mankind; for a less sum, than must be expended by a twentieth part of their number, in order to obtain the same instruction in any other science. No device of the heath. en Philosophers, or of modern Infidels, greatly as they have boasted of their wisdom, can be compared, as to its usefulness, with this. The Sabbath, particularly, is the only mean, ever devised of communicating important instruction to the great mass of mankind. Here, all may assemble, all may learn, from the prince to the beg: gar, from the man of grey hairs to the infant of days. Had the Sabbath been a device of man, men would be able to boast of immensely greater ingenuity and wisdom, than they have hitherto displayed; and would be justly pronounced to have formed a more successful and more patriotic institution, for the benefit of mankind, than any which is found on the page of history. Here, a real and glorious equality of privileges is established, not only without confusion and discord, but with strong enforcements of peace and good order. In these great blessings, all are, here, alike interested, and all partake alike. To the blessings of Peace and Good order, universally, the Sabbath contributes, also, in a pre-eminent degree. Moral and religious knowledge is the knowledge of our duty, and of the rewards, which God will give to such as perform it. To this knowledge the Sabbath i. the highest motives to the performance, which are found in the universe. All good, internal, and external, in time and eternity, allures to it, as a direct and certain reward. All evil compels to it as a threatening, and deters from the omission as a punishment inevitable and endless. This knowledge, and these motives, the Sabbath furnishes, with a solemnity and force altogether unrivalled. From the house of God they are carried with us into every concern of life, where duty is to be performed; and duty is to be performed in every concern. With the influence of the Sabbath on his mind, man every where feels himself accountable to his Maker; and in darkness and solitude, in the secrecy of thought, as well as in the conduct inspected by the public eye, realizes, that the all-searching God is a constant witness of whatever he thinks, speaks, or does. From this consideration, more than from the dread of the dungeon and the halter most men are inclined to restrain their hands from injustice and violence, from tumult and confusion. In the mean time, the peace and good order of religious assemblies, on the Sabbath, furnish the highest specimen of this happy conduct, that was ever seen in the present world. Fifty-two Sabbaths, every year, is this conduct repeated. Hence, it becomes a powerful as well as desirable habit; and clings to him, who steadily visits the house of God, through the remainder of every week. In this manner, it is dif: fused through the life; and influences the thoughts, words, and actions, towards men of every class and character. The magistrate and the subject, the parent and the child, the master and the servant, the friend and the neighbour, are benefitted by it alike. All of them acquire more peaceful dispositions; exhibit a more amiable deportment; pursue a more orderly conduct, and fill their respective stations with greater propriety, than either would do under the influence of every other cause, except the immediate agency of God. It will not be denied, that each of the things, which I have specified, is an important benefit to mankind, nor that all of them united are of advantage inestimable. But the Sabbath has bless