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THE SABBATH OF THE CHRISTIAN GENTLEMAN:
HITHERTO the view taken of the Christian gentleman has related only to his conduct on ordinary days, or the days in which his own work is in progress: there is yet a day not touched upon, in which his own works are to be suspended, in order that the work of grace, or God's peculiar work, may be going forward in his heart. Happy day for the body and soul of man! The world's birthday; sign of an everlasting covenant between God and his faithful worshippers; day of Jehovah and his creation and more honourable still our Christian Sabbath-the birthday of the spiritual world; earnest of perpetual rest; day of the Lord, and the redemption completed. But, happy and honourable as is this hallowed day, man has not been wanting in endeavours to dash the cup of blessedness from his lips. He has been solicitous and ingenious to discover grounds for disputing the import and obligation of one of the plainest passages in the Bible, and to furnish himself with a pretext for renouncing a gift of God so full of grace and mercy, that none, save
the gift of himself in his mysterious work of redemption, may be compared with it. Man has been studious to dissever a ligament designed to hold him in communion with heaven, and to let in the torrents of a polluted world upon that little spot where our Shepherd calls us to lie down in green pastures, and repose beside the still waters.
"On the seventh day God ended his work which he had made, and rested the seventh day from all his work which he had made; and God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; because that in it he had rested from all his work which he had made." Thus the Sabbath was instituted at the close of the creation, and enjoined upon all the families and posterities of the earth in words as plain as language affords. It was blessed, and appointed to be kept holy, or set apart (as the Hebrew may be read;) and is it possible for an unprejudiced understanding to doubt of the perpetuity of the obligation? How can a boon be blessed but by being made a lasting source of good to follow upon the distinction bestowed? and how can it be sanctified or set apart but by a continued observance and separation? and when was an observance to end which equally appertained and appertains to man in every generation? Is it a natural
inference, that a solemnity ordained by God to lead his creatures to consider the excellency of his works, and his goodness towards them, was intended to be less durable than the relation between the creature and his Creator? If the Sabbath was made for man, as Christ himself has declared, for whom, or for what period was it not made?
When we find such a man as Dr. Paley, in his anxiety to avoid the plain and palpable meaning of the second and third verses of the second chapter of Genesis, maintaining that, as the passage does not say that Jehovah then blessed and sanctified the seventh day, but only that he blessed and sanctified it because he rested from all his work, the Hebrew historian alluded by anticipation to the Jewish Sabbath, we can no longer wonder at any triumph of subtlety over sense, or of vanity over judgment.
But the Pentateuch is silent on the subject of the sabbatical observance by the patriarchs; "wherefore," says Dr. Paley, "it is to be inferred that no such observance existed; and we are led to the presumption that, previous to the departure of the Israelites out of Egypt, the Sabbath was not an appointed solemnity." He admits that the institution was in existence before the promulgation of the tables; being expressly
mentioned in the sixteenth chapter of Exodus, in relation to the manna, which was not found on the seventh day: but then he says the, mention of the Sabbath in that place does not imply the revival of an ancient institution. Strange argument! Was it of course to advert, by express mention, to the ancient institution? and does not the manner in which the mention of the Sabbath is there introduced, almost conclusively show that the institution was recognised as previously existing? or would not the words of Moses, instead of being simply "Tomorrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath of the Lord," have been such as to import a new command, accompanied by reasons for the appointment of the solemnity?
In the twenty-eighth and twenty-ninth verses of the sixteenth chapter of Exodus, we also read that the Lord said unto Moses, "How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws? See, for that the Lord hath given you the Sabbath." From which expressions Dr. Paley infers, that the Sabbath was first instituted in the wilderness; and it seems unaccountable to him, that if it had been instituted immediately at the close of the creation, and had been observed from that time to the departure of the Israelites out of Egypt, it should not have been
mentioned or alluded to during the whole biblical account of that period. But could Dr. Paley doubt that circumcision, the sign of God's covenant with Abraham, was in perpetual observance during the patriarchal period? and yet where is there any express mention thereof, from the settlement of the Israelites in the Promised Land to the coming of the Lord Christ? Nor is the Sabbath itself once mentioned in the books of Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, and first of Kings, though its existence as an institution, in full observance, during the period comprised in that portion of sacred story, will, it is presumed, be undisputed.
These few arguments are here noticed, as affording a specimen of the manner in which, by some unaccountable obliquity of the will, even great and estimable persons have been led to bring obvious passages into controversy and doubt, which, in their natural sense, are the vehicles of blessings and privileges, and gracious testimonies of divine favour.
The Sabbath was blessed and set apart, when man, the object of it, was formed; and the ancient decree was repeated and confirmed, when the voice of Jehovah established the polity of his people Israel. The command, coeval with the world's origin, and for the abridgment of