« PreviousContinue »
inmost desires and pleasures of those who are the most spiritual worshippers of God under the gospel? What, that is not exactly suited to prepare the soul for "that keeping of a sabbath "reserved for the people of God." What, that is not an anticipation of that sacred and delightful rest? And can we suppose such language to be used concerning that "which was decaying, waxing old, and ready to vanish away?" In this view, it may be worth the reader's while to compare the language of Jeremiah also, when speaking of legal observances, 2 with that which he uses, even to the same people, in respect of the weekly sabbath.3
But I must hasten to the New Testament. And here let it be first and most attentively considered, with what exactness our Lord repeatedly distinguished between that which was lawful, or not lawful to be done on the sabbath day. Works of real necessity, of mercy to man, or even to beasts, and works of piety are stated to be lawful: all other labour, unlawful. 4 Now, if the sabbath was about to cease, as a part of the divine law, being merely ceremonial, and not of moral obligation, why should our Lord enter so explicitly on these exact distinctions, which would be of no use beyond the present time? Why are they so particularly recorded in the evangelists, for future generations, if they form no part of our rule of conduct under the New Testament? But, if he, "the Lord of the sabbath day," while he changed
'Heb. iv. 9. Gr. 2 Jer. vii. 21-23. Matt. xii. 1-14; Mark iii. 3-5; 10-17; John viii. 22, 23
3 Jer. xvii. 21-27. Luke vi. 1-11; xiii.
the day from the seventh to the first of the week, intended the moral obligation to continue substantially the same in his kingdom to the end of time, then all this was obviously needful, and most highly important.
The seventh day of the week was appointed as the season of sacred rest, as a memorial of the Lord's resting on the seventh day, after having finished the creation. This continued also under the Mosaic dispensation, there having been no peculiar reason, why any change should be made. But, when the Divine Saviour, having finished on earth his work of man's redemption, arose from the dead on the "first day of the week," it was peculiarly proper that a memorial should be appointed of this grand and interesting event, on which every human hope depends. To fallen man, redemption is a far greater benefit than creation. 'We bless thee for our creation, preservation, and 'all the blessings of this life; but, above all, for 'thine inestimable love, in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ.' Here, then, is a sufficient and satisfactory reason, why "the Lord of the sabbath-day" should substitute the first day of the week instead of the seventh, as the memorial of a far more exalted blessing to his church, and to the world of fallen man at large, than even creation itself.
While men were few, and lived nearly in the same part of the globe: and while the worshippers of the true God were few, and generally inhabited the same part of the country, it would be easy to know which was the seventh day, or the sabbath; but, when the world became inhabited in every
part, and the worshippers of God, were found in all the four quarters of the globe, it could not be so easy to determine with certainty the appointed season. Of two navigators sailing round the world in opposite directions, one would lose, and the other gain a day in his computation: there would be two days' variation in their calculation of time. Now, which would be the seventh day of the week to each of these navigators? This may shew that the precise day, or hour, is not essential to the moral obligation; and that the substitution of the first day instead of the seventh, was only a circumstantial and not an essential alteration. And, if in each country on the globe that day, which according to general computation is the first day of the week, be observed as a memorial of our Redeemer's resurrection, the commandment is obeyed, though the day be not exactly the same in Britain as at Calcutta.
The very day when our Lord arose, "the first "day of the week," is especially noted by the evangelist. "The same day at evening, being the "first day of the week, when the doors were shut "where the disciples were assembled for fear of "the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, "and saith unto them, Peace be unto you." On the first day of the week, as it is generally admitted, he met them again with the same gracious salutation. 2 As Jesus arose on the first day of 'the week, so the Holy Spirit descended on the 'same, seven weeks, or the fiftieth day after'wards; which tended to honour that day, that was
John xx. 19.
2 Verse 26.
'soon to be set apart as the Christian Sab'bath.'1 66 Upon the first day of the week, when "the disciples were come together to break "bread, Paul preached to them." It is not said, that the disciples were called together as 'on a special occasion, but that they came together, according to general practice. Hence it is evident, that Christians were accustomed to 'assemble for religious worship on the first day ' of the week; but the change from the seventh 'to the first seems to have been gradually and silently introduced, by example rather than by express precept.' The Jewish converts still observed the seventh-day sabbath: and the apostles took the opportunity which the sabbath gave them, for meeting the Jews and preaching to them in their synagogues; but it does not appear, from the history, that Christians in any other way observed it: so that all the authority and obligation of the original institution was thus virtually given by "the Lord of the sabbath day," to the sacred rest of the first day of the week.
Upon the first day of the week, let every one "of you lay by him in store, as God hath pros"pered him."3 The argument from this passage 'for the observance of the Lord's day as a Chris'tian sabbath, is very conclusive; for, unless this 'were a custom in the apostolical churches, why "should" the first day of the week" be mentioned ' in this connection ? ' 4
But it will be inquired, Did the primitive
'Scott on Acts ii. 1.
Idem, Acts xx. 7—12. 'Scott on 1 Cor. xvi. 1, 2.
Christians regard the whole first day of the week as sacred time? Is it not said, that they held their assemblies in the evening? Could servants and slaves, or even the relations of idolaters or Jews, keep holy the Lord's day, as the fourth commandment required the Israelites to hallow the sabbath? To this I would answer, If the words of the fourth commandment itself be carefully examined, it will be seen that a large proportion of the responsibility, as to hallowing the sabbath, belonged to the heads of families; to whom especially the command is addressed. Many things, even in the families of Israelites, would be necessary to servants, and others in inferior stations, which were not necessary in their superiors; and the crime of rendering them necessary rested on the latter, especially in the case of slaves.
Thus it is in the West Indies: the slaves who embrace Christianity, I apprehend, all acknowledge the obligation of the Lord's day, and count themselves criminal if they willingly violate it; yet they are often compelled, by strong necessity, to do many things on that day which are inconsistent with the entire rest which it requires. One of them, being commanded by his owner to go and take him some fish on the Lord's day, and being told that he should be paid for it, answered Nay, if you force me to labour on the Lord's day, I will not take any thing for what I do.'
But this partial violation must have been far more generally the case in countries where no sabbath was at all acknowledged; except the seventh day sabbath among small numbers. It appears to me, that to observe the sacred day as