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often, have lamented the perverseness of our tempers, that will not only reject the proper use of opportunity, but indulge even a painful idleness in the place of it. There is hardly a man, among the generality of those we converse with, who does not complain of this returning day, as the most tedious and irksome of the seven; who does not quarrel with his eyes that they will not close upon a day, in which there is neither amusement nor business stirring! alas, that the sole intent of this commanded remis sion, should be evaded! an intent that could not but be answered, if we did not reject or pervert the means of it.
We have been told of a youth who had his fortune left him, on the condition of his spending certain portions of time alone in the dark; the first question he naturally asked himself was, to what end did my father order this? and the immediate answer, "That I might think." He thought in consequence, and he thought properly. The parent who laid the injunction knew he had a good understanding; and the event proved that he was right, when he supposed it needed only be employed to make the possessor of it happy.
I have often pleased myself with looking on
this story as a fable, the moral of which tends to inculcate an observation of the Sabbath. Our general parent, he who created us, and who intended we should be happy, threw us into a world, where we had means of good and ill before us; he gave us all the requisites for purchasing happiness; he gave us understandings, that would never fail to distinguish good from ill; and, lest we should forget, amidst the employments and diversions of a life of business and pleasure, to employ those understandings in this their principal and most important office, he enjoined us, on one day in seven, to omit both our pursuits of fortune and of pleasure, to be retired as it were from the bustle and avocations of the world; and to what end? To what, but that we might be at leisure to think, that we might have an undisturbed opportunity of recollecting what had been well, what ill done in the preceding week, and what might be amended in that which was to follow.
The wise enjoyment of the good he hath bequeathed us, was the great end to be attained by this institution; and reason, under this free occasion of exerting it, was expected to tell us, that the present week, the present year, the present age, indeed, was not the whole period
through which we had to live; but that, as we employed this, we were to be happy or wretched to eternity.
The sense of the existence of a God, and of his greatness and his beneficence to us, are the first sources of our good resolutions: happily, therefore, has that benign parent affixed to the very observance of this day, a commemoration of these his attributes. The observation of a Sabbath was, from earliest time, an establishment of immediate command: the having a day of intermission from all worldly pursuits, was coeval with man, and that he might never want the instigation to employ it as he ought, its very institution informed him, that it was observed in commemoration of the finishing of the creation of the universe. What an idea of the appointer of this festival must he therefore naturally set out with! What could he less than burst out into an exclamation on his waking to its returning light! "Thou, Lord, hast made the earth, and the heavens are the work of thy hands! Thou hast formed this wonderful structure of my body; and the organs of voice which thou hast made, while they have breath, shall praise thee: the soul thou hast thrown into existence, while it liveth, shall be mindful of thee!"
In the number of ages through which the institution of a Sabbath has travelled down to us, every proof of its divine authority, that could be given, has appeared for it; it was from the beginning of time; and, with every new æra of religion, it has been honoured with new establishments. It was, before the fatal crime of our first parents, ordained and sanctified in a solemn manner by the Almighty himself; his immediate word blessed it and exalted it above the rest of the days; God, in those early times, consecrated it in a peculiar manner to his worship, and annexed a blessing to the observance of it. It is an error to suppose the establishment of this day of rest, and of communion with our Creator, was at the time of giving the law in Sinai; it was reinforced, indeed, at that remarkable period, but we find it existing from the beginning; and, after the errors of our first parents, and their fatal conse quences, we read of man's calling on the name of the Lord in public assemblies, and on this appointed day, in the time of their grandson Enos.
Adam himself, and Seth his son, had kept this before these, and the patriarchs continued to do so after them. Miracles are recorded, as speaking the sacred nature of its institution;
while the descendants of these first observers of it travelled through the desert, the food that fell from heaven on all other days descended not on this; and, that a second miracle might countenance the first, this food altered its very properties, and, though subject to immediate decay at other times, remained unaltered on the day of rest.
After a regular and strict observation of the Sabbath among the patriarchal families, we find the institution reinforced in the most solemn manner from the Divine presence on Mount Sinai. We find it made one of the great institutions of that eminent dispensation, and introduced with a more solemn preface, and supported by more reasons for the observance, than any one of the other commandments: nor is the cause of this pre-eminence obscure, since, on the regard that was paid to this, depended, in a great measure, even the acquaintance with the rest.
When we look back into the early institution of this day of rest and worship, and attend to the solemn regard that was at all times paid to it; when we see it delivered from the immediate mouth of God to man, in his earliest period, supported by subsequent ordinations, and proved of divine origin by repeated miracles; when,