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have to lead them very far before they found any. He argues from thence very justly, that it was lawful for him on the sabbath-day to deliver those who were possessed by the devil, or oppressed with sickness, or bound by infirmity, or afflicted with blindness.
In truth, his miracles on the sabbath were justifiable on a double ground, as being not only performed for the good of the bodies of the persons healed, but being most efficacious means for the promotion of religion and the establishment of Christianity. It was necessary for this latter purpose that he should work them in the most public manner,—on the sabbath, and in the synagogue, when numbers were collected and the rulers and scribes or lawyers were present,--that they might be generally seen and be more openly canvassed and free from suspicion, and that he might have a better opportunity of preaching to the people, while strongly impressed with a conviction of his divine authority and mission evidenced by the miracle--the powerful effects of which in bringing conviction we know from Nicodemus himself, a ruler of the Jews. “We know that thou art a teacher come from God, for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him."
On several occasions our Lord allowed of work on the sabbath which was necessary for the good of man ; he approved of the carrying of the sick to him on the sabbath, Mark i. 32; Luke iv. 40. He also permitted the man whom he healed at the Pool of Bethesda to carry his bed, although the Jews were forbidden to carry burthens on the sabbath. *
*' The Israelites were not particularly forbidden by the law of Moses to carry burdens on the sabbath, that I am aware of. They were subsequently forbidden by Jeremiah and Nehemiah, because the sabbath had been profaned and given up entirely to labour by that practice. Jeremiah (xvii. 19—27) was ordered to make the fol
That the attention of the Jews to the sabbath was merely outward and not spiritual, we have pretty strong proof; although they were filled with madness at his curing diseases on the sabbath, yet they frequently held councils to put him to death on the sabbath, Matt. xii. 14; Mark iii. 6; Luke vi. 11; John v. 16; and they actually did put
lowing proclamation, standing in all the gates of Jerusalem, because they used to bring the burdens through the gates on the sabbath. “ Bear no burden on the sabbath-day nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem, neither carry forth a burden out of your houses on the sabbath-day, neither do ye any work, but hallow ye the sabbathday as I commanded your fathers. But they obeyed not, neither inclined their ear: but made their necks stiff, that they might not hear nor receive instruction:" upon which he threatens them, “ If ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the sabbath-day, and not to bear 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 shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.” This was just before the Babylonish captivity, and the extent of the profanation both before and after the captivity may be learned from Nehemiah. When he was making various reforms, mentioned xiii. he says, “In those days saw I some treading wine-presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath-day. And I testified against them in the day wherein they sold victuals. There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish and all manner of ware, and sold on the sabbath unto the children of Judah and in Jerusalem. Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbathday? 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.” He here) alludes to the time before the captivity mentioned by Jeremiah, from whence we may conclude that the carrying of burdens in Jeremiah's time was similar to that detailed by Nehemiah. To remedy this abuse, Nehemiah kept the gates shut all the sabbath, and placed his servants as guards at the gates to prevent the profanation, ver. 19, 20, 21.
him to death on a sabbath, on the passover and first day of the feast of unleavened bread, which was always a sabbath. He alludes to this inconsistency, and tells them that, in their pretended zeal for the fourth commandment, they broke the sixth in their hearts, and endeavoured to break it in reality. John vii. 19: “ Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me ?”
He showed, also, that works of necessity, and of providing food on an emergency, were allowable, when he defends his disciples for plucking the ears of corn on the sabbath-day. This action would have been allowable by their law on any other day. Deut. xxiii. 25 : “ When thou comest into the standing corn of thy neighbour, thou mayest pluck the ears with thine hand; but thou shalt not move a sickle unto thy neighbour's corn.” In confirmation of his defence, he instances the case of David, who, when necessity obliged him and his attendants, “ entered the temple, and ate the shewbread, which it was not lawful for him to eat, but only for the priests.”
In this miracle, also, our Lord gives us another clue to direct us to a right understanding of these matters : he directs the Jews to their own Scriptures, and says, that if they had attended to them, they would not have condemned the disciples, but would have pronounced them guiltless. Matt. xii. 7: “ But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless." The quotation is from Hosea vi. 6: “ For I desired mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt-offerings.” According to scripture language, “ mercy and not sacrifice," means mercy rather than sacrifice; and so it is expressed in the second member of the verse, — " the knowledge of God more than burntofferings.” Now, our Lord applies this quotation to the observance of the sabbath. And what is the meaning of Hosea ? that the Lord prefers the mercies and blessings derivable from laws, to their severities; that he prefers such an observance, as will lead to a knowledge of God, to that which consists in outward ceremonies.---Thus are we to regard the law of the sabbath.
We have also further proof, that his miracles of healing on the sabbath were not against the spirit of the law of the Jews. For when he was about to cure the man in the synagogue, (Mark, iii.) he asked them, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath-days, or to do evil, to save life or to kill ?. But they held their peace.” And yet they are condemned for holding their peace, and not giving a ready affirmative answer. “He looked round about upon 'them with anger, being grieved at the hardness of their hearts," the only occasion in all the gospels of anger being attributed to our Saviour,—does not this show, that it was only wilful blindness and perverse hardness of heart, which prevented them confessing that his conduct was lawful by their law?
And again, when he healed the woman with the spirit of infirmity for eighteen years, (Luke xiii.) he calls the ruler of the synagogue a hypocrite for disapproving of the cure. This shows that on the principles of Jewish law he ought to have approved of it,-nay, it proves that he really did approve, for by calling him a hypocrite he accuses him of concealing his real opinion.
He instructs us farther, that it is lawful to do good on the sabbath both by his Father's example and his own, for on the occasion of the miracle at the Pool of Bethesda, and in defence both of the miracle and of the man's carrying his bed, he says, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.”
This is spoken with a reference to the sabbath, and the meaning is, that his Father carried on the course of bis providence, and the growth of everything necessary for the food of man, on the sabbath; and in like manner he also
worked works of mercy for the good of man. The course of Providence, beside being intended for the support of man, is also a demonstration of the existence of a God, and a proof of his continual superintendence; as St. Paul argues, Acts xiv. 17, “ Nevertheless he left himself not without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness." In like manner our Lord's sabbath-works were meant both for the good of man, and for a witness or testimony of the truth of his mission and religion.
On the whole, I think it appears abundantly, that our Lord, so far from abrogating the sabbath, did not even make any alteration in it; that he was competent to alter it, who can doubt, who acknowledges him to be the Creator of the world, “by whom all things were made, and without whom was not anything made that was made—who is God over all blessed for ever;" by whom the commandment was originally given to man in a state of innocence in paradise, by whom it was renewed on Sinai, and by whom the sabbath was, during his ministry, cleansed from the false glosses and corruptions of man, and restored to its spiritual meaning and original purity and intention ?
There is a great similarity between the sabbath, as restored by our Lord to its original beauty, and the description given of its true nature by Isaiah,—that we should not do our own ways or our own pleasure; that is, that we should not spend it in our ordinary and usual manner for our own profit and pleasure, or speaking our own words on earthly and carnal subjects; but that we should delight in its spiritual nature, and spend it in such a way as to make it holy of the Lord, for our own sanctification, and in such a way as may be honourable to God, and lead us to honour him, and finally bring us to delight in him. All this is expressed in that part of Isaiah which I have before quoted