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and observed the Sabbath. “If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; and shalt honor him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words; then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father.” This promise to Israel was fulfilled, so long as they performed the conditions of it, and sanctified the Sab. bath. Our fathers were extremely strict in keeping the Sabbath, for more than a hundred years after God planted them in this land; which was undoubtedly the happy occasion of drawing down a rich profusion of both temporal and spiritual blessings. And though the Sabbath has, of late years, been greatly neglected, despised, and profaned, yet it is the richest source of every blessing we enjoy. We have abundant reasons to be thankful that God still continues this forfeited favor to us, and inspires so many to support, esteem, and improve his holy day. It is the grand palladium and bulwark of every thing we hold most precious and valuable. It behooves those who have experienced saving benefit from the Sabbath and its sacred ordinances, to make it appear to the world that they hold these religious privileges in the highest estimation, and are determined to transmit them, so far as lies in their power, to all future ages. God has deposited these invaluable and sacred privileges in their hands, and they stand responsible, if they suffer them to be wrested from them. If the world despise them, they may not despise them. If the world neglect them, they may not neglect them. If the world profane them, they may not profane them. If the world oppose them, they are bound to protect and preserve them, for the benefit of themselves and all who are coming after them.
2. If the Sabbath be such a great and extensive blessing to mankind, then the neglect, the abuse and profanation of this holy day must be exceedingly sinful and displeasing to God.
To abuse the Sabbath is virtually to abuse every other temporal and spiritual blessing, and to provoke God to inflict every temporal and spiritual evil upon individuals and whole nations. The profanation of the Sabbath was the national sin of Israel, and the principal procuring cause of all their national calamities. God told them by the mouth of Moses, “ Ye shall keep my Sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary,” and subjoined a promise of every public and personal blessing. But at the same time he said, if they should not keep his Sabbaths, but despise his statutes, he would make their land desolate, and cause it to enjoy its Sabbaths, which they did not suffer it to enjoy. But
neither the threatening, nor the inflicting of national judgments, were sufficient to cure them of their national sin of Sabbath breaking. For after they had returned from their long captivity in Babylon, they still persisted in profaning the Sabbath, for which Nehemiah upbraids and condemns them. “ 'Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the Sabbath day? 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.” They were weary of the Sabbath,“ saying, When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn ? and the Sabbath, that we may set forth wheat?” God employed various means to allure them to observe his Sabbath. He appointed the best of teachers to enlighten their understandings; he built the most beautiful and magnificent temple to gratify their eyes; and appointed the best of musicians to please their ears; but nevertheless they were bent to forsaking his house, and to profaning his holy day. And the same spirit has reigned in the hearts of the great majority, who have been favored with the Sabbath and its sacred ordinances. This is now the crying sin of every christian nation. The Sabbath was kept, and the sanctuary was reverenced, through this country, until about fisty years past. But since then,“ how is the gold become dim! how is the most fine gold changed!” The ways of Zion mourn, the
" houses of God are forsaken, and the Sabbath despised, neglected and openly profaned. This is a sin of the first magnitude, and the source of every other abounding iniquity. It takes off all civil and religious, public and private restraints, and opens the door to every species of vice, and immorality, and irreligion. It has always been found, that those who profane the Sabbath are incurably vicious. They are out of the reach of the means of instruction and restraint. This ought to make Sabbath breakers tremble.
3. If the Sabbath be designed and calculated to promote the temporal and spiritual interests of all mankind, then it is extremely unwise and impolitic for civil rulers, to do any thing which tends to lead their subjects to disregard and abuse such a holy and benevolent institution. It is weakening their own power and influence, and strengthening the hands and hearts of the lawless and disobedient. This impolicy, it is well known, civil rulers have practiced. King Charles II. appointed certain recreations and amusements, for the express purpose of leading his subjects to disregard and profane the Sabbath; which spread moral corruption through the nation. The rulers of the most refined and polished nation in the world, a few years since,
totally set aside the Sabbath and all religious ordinances; but they have had, and still have, reasons to regret their folly and guilt. Any rulers will find that they injure themselves as well as their subjects, by banishing the fear of God from their minds. And nothing can have a greater tendency to banish the fear of God from their minds, than allowing them to profane the Sabbath. Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, made Israel to sin, by setting aside religious ordinances of divine appointment, and substituting his own in the room of them; and his successors on the throne pursued the same sinful policy, until the ten tribes were completely corrupted and destroyed. When religious restraints are taken off from the people, civil restraints will become very weak and feeble. This was the case in Israel, and this always will be the case in any civil community. It is extremely unwise and impolitic, to say nothing more, in those who govern, to do any thing which tends to take away the fear of God from before the eyes of their subjects. And when divine ordinances are treated with neglect and contempt, the fear of God will no longer restrain the corruptions of the human heart, which will produce every natural and moral evil.
4. If the Sabbath tends to promote the temporal as well as spiritual good of all mankind, ihen none can be good members of civil society, who neglect, abuse and profane this divine and benevolent institution. Though they may possess many amiable qualities and talents, and though they may conduct with propriety in their general intercourse with iheir fellow men, yet their neglect and profanation of the Sabbath will more than counterbalance all their other good deeds. Their example strikes at the root of all civil and religious obligations, and prepares the way to general ignorance, irreligion, profanity, disorder and confusion. It will not, it cannot be denied, that the people in this country have greatly degenerated from the virtue and piety, the peace and harmony of our fathers. And to what has this been principally owing? Has it not been principally owing to the abuse and profanation of the Sabbath ? Has not religious declension constantly kept way with the neglect and profanation of the Sabbath? Look into any place, at this day, and will you not find the people degenerate, in proportion to their neglect, con. tempt and profanation of the Sabbath ? And if you find one people more regular, more virtuous, or more religious than another, do you not find that they more generally and more constantly observe the Sabbath and reverence God's sanctuary? Facts speak louder than words, and irresistibly prove that the profanation of the Sabbath is the primary and principal source of the great degeneracy of the present day. “And at whose door must this evil be laid ? It must be laid at the door of the
Sabbath breakers. And can such persons be deemed good members of civil society?
5. If the Sabbath be so greatly and universally beneficial to mankind in all respects, then it highly becomes all professors of religion, to make it appear that the Sabbath is their delight, and the holy of the Lord, honorable, by strictly and constantly persorming the peculiar duties of it. They have received saving benefit from the Sabbath, and can appreciate its value and importance, by their own happy experience. There are secret, private and public duties peculiar to the Sabbath, and which all professors of religion are under special and solemn obligation to perform. The secret duties are serious reflection, meditation and prayer. While they rest from the common cares and concerns of lise, it becomes them seriously to meditate and reflect upon what is past, present and to come, in respect to their spiritual interests; and to pour out their hearts with peculiar freedom, solemnity and enlargement before God. Serious meditation and reflection prepare the mind to take clear and extensive views of themselves, of God, and the great interests of his kingdom; which are objects they are too apt to overlook and forget amidst the busy scenes of life. The serious and sincere performance of these secret duties, can scarcely escape the notice of others; for they require time, which cannot be spent without being observed. Those who seriously and habitually discharge the duties of devotion, whether on the Sabbath or other days, exhibit an example full of admonition and instruction.
Secret reflection, meditation and prayer, prepare christians for the private duties of the Sabbath, which are reading the Bible, social prayer, and private instruction. Religious parents and heads of families are bound to bring up all under their care in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, both by precept and example. And the Sabbath affords them a precious opportunity for discharging these great and difficult duties. To instruct, to counsel, to warn and admonish children and youth, in a proper manner, requires wisdom, prudence, zeal and firm
For children and youth are extremely impatient of religious instructions and restraints. But the Sabbath is the best, and often the only proper opportunity, which parents and heads of families have, of discharging these necessary and indispensable duties; and if they duly discharge these duties on the Sabbath, children and youth will not commonly need any other restraints. Well instructed and well governed children and youth rarely become notorious Sabbath breakers. These secret and private duties of professors, stand intimately connected with the public duties of the Sabbath. The professors of religion solemnly engage, to attend the public worship of God and his sacred ordinances constantly, without neglect. It is no neglect when sickness, and other extraordinary circumstances forbid their attendance; but when these things do not occur, no professors have any excuse for staying at home, on account of business, company, or indolence. While professors of religion seriously and constantly perform these appropriate duties of the Sabbath, they have a most salutary influence upon the families in which they live, upon the church to which they belong, and upon the people where they reside. Such exemplary professors are the salt of the earth, and the light of the world. These are the men who hold civil and religious society together, suppress vice and immorality, and promote virtue and piety, and draw down the blessing of God upon the degenerate children of men.
6. Since the Sabbath is such a great and extensive benefit to mankind, and the profanation of it is such a great and landdefiling iniquity, it concerns all seriously to inquire, whether they have not been guilty of profaning it, in some way or other. There are a great many ways of profaning the Sabbath, though some are more heinous in the sight of God than others. This question may be put, in the first place, to professing christians. Have you sanctified the Sabbath in secret, in private, and in public? Or have you neglected to improve the precious season, in secret reflection, meditation and prayer? Or have you neg. lected to instruct, warn and admonish those under your care and committed to your trust? Or have you spent the Sabbath in indolence, and the neglect of the worship and ordinances of God in his house? These are questions which you can understand, and answer for yourselves; and perhaps others too can answer for you; for every species of profaning the Sabbath is generally more or less visible. Or if you have not personally profaned the Sabbath, have you not allowed others to profane it? Or if you have not allowed others to profane it, have you not neglected to reprove them for it, and restrain them from it? There is great reason to fear, that some professors of religion do more or less neglect the secret, private, and public duties of the Sabbath, and by their neglect, not only profane the Sabbath themselves, but lead others to profane it. How much in this way is Christ wounded in the house of his friends! You will all allow, my hearers, that it is proper to put these questions to the professors of religion. And can it be improper to put these questions to others also? Though you have not professed to love God and obey his cornmands, yet you are his creatures, and bound to love and obey him with all your hearts. The Sabbath was made for you, and has been given to you, though denied to the many millions in the pagan world. You have