« السابقةمتابعة »
have been no longer subject, than whilst they were fed with manna from heaven. It will be readily conceded, for so the gospel teaches, that they were under a yoke of bondage, from which christians are happily exempt. Our blessed master, as in other respects, so in regard to the sabbath, has taught us, both by word and deed, the extent of that “liberty wherewith he hath made us free. It is lawful to do good on the sabbath day.” Acts of necessary beneficence to ourselves, to our fellow beings, and even to the brute creation, may, and ought to be performed. This is evident from the case, with which our text is connected, and from numerous other passages of evangelical history. It is, nevertheless, the indisputable pleasure of our head and king, that, excepting these special exigencies, the common employments of life should be entirely suspended. Such is the language of his invariable practice. Never did he interrupt the rest of the sabbath, but by deeds of mercy and compassion, the immediate performance of which was apparently expedient and proper. No kind of labour, therefore, if we are to “ follow his steps,” is to be undertaken or accomplished, on this day, which present ne
N.Q. 3. 1
cessity does not require; and to defer till then, what might and ought to be achieved during the week, is to “ rob God” of the time and service, which he challenges to himself.
The benefits of this sacred rest are gra. ciously extended to the beasts of the field : It is consequently an additional infringement of its sanctity to commence and prosecute needless journies, either of business or pleasure. Is this an unseasonable remark? Are there none, in our times, who, because the law of the land prohibits their ordinary pursuits, as if no higher duties were incumbent upon them, employ the sabbath in making excur. sive visits ; not always as a mere pastime, but, in many cases, for the sake of transacting worldly concerns ? What mean the “ rumbling of wheels,” and the “ trampling of horses,” which so often disturb our publick solemnities? Do they not, in a voice, like thunder, proclaim the licentiousness of the age in which we live? Do they not disclose the reason, why so “ few come to the feasts of Zion ?”
Every species of dissipation, on the sabbath, is unfriendly to the temporal as well as to the spiritual interests of mankind. Those, who, not content with the rest which reason
and religion prescribe, must be surrounded by heedless companions, and fare more sumptuously than at other times, not unfrequently fall, by swift degrees, into intemperance and ex: cess ; contract an invincible aversion to industrious occupation during the rest of the week ; become habitually profligate and unprincipled in their manners; and beguile themselves at once of the possession and prospect of all rational enjoyment. I doubt not but many, perhaps most of those licentious, useless mortals, who have learnt to “ glory in their shame," and dare to deride every thing serious and sacred, can trace their degradation and wretchedness to this fruitful source of mischief. Nor let it be imagined that any one class of society is exclusively exposed to this danger. Generally speaking, every person, who wantonly violates the sabloath, may, from that moment, date his decline in virtue and reputation, if not in fortune. Should he escape the grosser enormities of vice, it must be the effect, not of principle, but of education. This is a righteous retribution of divine providence : For as the day was designed, as well to promote our bodily comfort, as to aid our progress in piety and good morals, its profanation naturally and justly tends to the destruc
tion of both. Avoid, therefore, and discountenance this growing evil. Accustom yourselves to a state of readiness for the return of holy time; and free as possible from the distractions of the world, devote the day to God. Remember, that abstinence from labour and diversion is required, not only to recruit your strength and spirits for subsequent exertion ; but to give you opportunity to commune with your own hearts, and raise your unincumbered affections and desires from earth to heaven, Waste not the morning in idle slumbers; but hail its approach with pious alacrity, and improve its hours in those personal and domestick offices of devotion, and in that serious attention to the works and word of God, which shall prepare you, in due time, for an accepta. ble appearance before him, with the congregation of his people. For we are to recollect, - 3. That publick, no less than private exercises of religion are comprised in the acceptable observance of the sabbath. · Man is a social being. Each individual of the species is intimately connected with sur rounding brethren ; subject to similar wants, and favoured with similar mercies. This bond of union proves the propriety of joint acknowledgments and supplications to the common fan
ther of all. Pursuant to this dictate of reason, “ Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reve. rence my sanctuary,” are the combined in. junctions of inspiration. The one is exhibited as the obvious result of the other : and so, indeed, it is; for they are naturally associated together in every mind, acquainted with the gospel of Christ. Such has been the prevailing sentiment of christians in all ages of the church. “By this means it comes to pass that many millions of people, in almost every region of the earth, are at the same time engaged in prostrating themselves before the throne of grace, and offering up their sacrifice of prayer, praise, and thanksgiving to the com, mon Lord of all, in whom they live, and move, and have their being. .
“ There is, in this view of the Lord's day, something so wonderfully awful and magnifi. cent, that one would think it almost impossi. ble for any man to resist the inclination he must find in himself to join in this general as. sembly of the human race ; " to go with the multitude,” as the psalmist expresses it, “ into the house of God;" and to take part in a solemnity so striking to the imagination, so suitable to the majesty of heaven, so adapted