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been commanded to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. You have had the duties of the Sabbath often explained and inculcated. You have, many of you at least, seen it strictly and piously observed. All these things have united to increase your obligations, to observe and improve the Sabbath for the important purposes for which it was appointed, and given you. But how have you treated the Sabbath in your childhood, in your youth, or in your manhood, or in your riper years, or in your private or public stations? Have you rested from your worldly cares and labors? Have you performed the secret duties of the day? Have you discharged the private duties of the day? Have you steadily and statedly reverenced God's sanctuary, and given unto him the glory due to his name, in public? If you have, what mean the prancing of horses, the rattle of carriages, the passing and re-passing of travellers before and after public worship? What mean the circles round the house of God after public services are ended? Can it be denied that the Sabbath is publicly and grossly profaned in this place? And can this profanation be justified by professors, or non-professors, by parents, or by children, by the young or by the old? If it cannot be justified, it ought to be condemned; and if it ought to be condemned, it ought to be restrained and if it ought to be restrained, can it be a doubt who ought to restrain it? The duty of restraining it is too plain to be misunderstood, and too important to be neglected. I ask you, Who ought to be reformers? Will you see the profanation of the Sabbath, and not move a tongue or finger to restrain it? Can you bear to see the virtuous and steady habits of your virtuous and pious parents, violated and treated with contempt? A word to the wise ought to be enough.
The duty of reforming is as plain and imperative as the duty of restraining. On whom does this duty lie? It lies upon those who are conscious of profaning the Sabbath, and opening the flood-gates of iniquity. Ask your own consciences, and they will tell you your first and immediate duty. If you are wise, you will be wise for yourselves; but if you scorn divine reproofs, you alone must bear it.
THE DUTY AND IMPORTANCE OF KEEPING THE SABBATH.
YE shall keep my Sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary; I am the Lord.
GOD distinguished the ten commandments from all his other commands, by writing them with his own hand upon two tables of stone; and some among the ten commandments, by repeating them much oftener than others. The two principal precepts of the decalogue stand distinguished from the rest, in our text and context. "Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it; for I am the Lord your God. Ye shall keep my Sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary; I am the Lord." These are, for substance, the second and fourth commandments. Their being thus singled out and placed together, seems to denote their peculiar importance, and at the same time shows that the Sabbaths mentioned in the text, are the weekly and not the cere monial Sabbaths. Since I have several times, in the course of my ministry, treated professedly and largely upon the divine origin and perpetual obligation of the Sabbath, and very often incidentally and cursorily mentioned the subject, I shall, for the sake of variety, pass over some points which the text naturally suggests, and confine what I have to say in the present discourse to the following heads:
I. The length of the Sabbath;
II. The import of keeping the Sabbath;
I. Let us consider the length of the Sabbath.
This, like many other plain things, has been a matter of doubt. Some who acknowledge the Sabbath to be of divine appointment, yet seem to doubt whether it be of so long duration as many believe and maintain. It may be of service, therefore, to pay particular attention to this point. The Sabbath is often called the Sabbath day, which plainly denotes that it is exactly like other days, in respect to duration. When God first appointed the Sabbath, he fixed the measure of other days, and consequently the measure of the Sabbath day. In the beginning "God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light day, and the darkness he called night; and the evening and the morning were the first day." Each of the four following days comprised an evening and morning in it; and so did the last day of creation. For we are told, "God saw every thing that he had made, and behold it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day." Immediately after this, follows the account of the institution of the Sabbath. "Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the hosts of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on 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 God created and made." If any thing can be determined from the propriety of language and the connection of words, that which is called the seventh day, and the Sabbath day, must be supposed to comprise an evening and morning in it, like the other six days immediately preceding it. The same mode of expression we find in the fourth commandment, when the original precept to keep the Sabbath was renewed. "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God." Here the connection requires us to measure the seventh day by the other six, each of which consisted of twenty-four hours. This agrees with the measure of the ceremonial Sabbath. "From even unto even shall ye celebrate your Sabbath." And Nehemiah, to prevent the profanation of the weekly Sabbath, ordered the gates of Jerusalem to be shut from the evening before, till the evening after the Sabbath. "And it came to pass that when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the Sabbath, I commanded that the gates should be shut, and charged that they should not be opened till after the Sabbath." The Jews in Christ's time, considered the Sabbath as lasting from one setting sun to another. This appears from the fourth chapter of Luke, in which we have an account that Christ went into the
synagogue of Nazareth on the Sabbath day. "And when the sun was setting, all that had any sick with divers diseases, brought them unto him, and he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them." The Sabbath is no where in scripture represented as a part of a day, or a day of different length from other days, but always represented as being of the same duration as other days of the week, and comprising both an evening and morning in it. This puts it beyond any ground of doubt, that the Sabbath is, to be considered and observed as holy time twenty-four hours, and to curtail it to the time of the sun's rising to its setting, is to profane it. I proceed to show, II. What we are to understand by keeping the Sabbath. "Ye shall keep my Sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary." To keep the Sabbath implies,
1. The keeping up a distinction between that and all other days. This idea is plainly suggested in the fourth command: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." All time simply considered is exactly alike. But when the great Proprietor of time has set apart any portion of it, from a common to a sacred use, then the time so consecrated becomes holy, and is to be considered as different from common time. One day in seven God has consecrated to his own use, and distinguished it from the other days in the week. Hence he calls the Sabbath my Sabbath. "Ye shall keep my Sabbaths." As the Sabbath is instituted by God, and for God, so it is emphatically his Sabbath. The Sabbath is all holy time, and he requires us to remember that it is holy time. It is not a matter of indifference, whether men observe the Sabbath as holy time or not. It is taken out of their hands, and they have no right to convert it to their own use. They have no right to add to, or to diminish from, the Lord's day. And though they may, on certain occasions, devote a part or the whole of some other day of the week to religious services, yet the day or part of the day so devoted, does not become a Sabbath or holy time. To keep the Sabbath, therefore, implies the keeping up in remembrance, a distinction between that day and all other days. The sacred authority of God, which is displayed in the appointment of the Sabbath, is to be revered from the beginning to the end of that holy day; for every part of it is equally holy.
2. To keep the Sabbath implies the abstaining from all the common business of other days. This is expressly enjoined in the fourth commandment. "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work. But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man servant, nor thy maid servant, nor thy cattle, nor the
stranger that is within thy gates." Here all common servile labor and secular business is forbidden on the Sabbath. The light of nature, however, as well as the exposition that Christ gave of this prohibition, teaches that works of necessity and mercy may be done on the Sabbath. But, these excepted, no other worldly business may be transacted. The good governor, Nehemiah, understood the keeping of the Sabbath in this strict and proper sense. "In those days, saw I in Judah some treading wine presses on the Sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day; and I testified against them in the day wherein they sold victuals. There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the Sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem. 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?" As the Sabbath is wholly consecrated to God, so every thing is a profanation of it, which belongs not to his service. All worldly business, and diversions, and recreations, are inconsistent with the design and services of the Sabbath, and therefore cannot be pursued on that day, without a profanation of holy time. Indeed, the keeping of the Sabbath extends even to the inward exercises of the mind, and requires an abstinence from worldly thoughts and affections, as well as from worldly actions. God requires men, by his prophet Isaiah, to honor him on the Sabbath," by not doing their own ways, nor finding their own pleasure, nor speaking their own words." It is the will of God, revealed and clothed with all his authority, that men should withdraw their hands and their hearts from the world, and the things of the world, on his day. This is absolutely necessary in order to keep it holy, and to distinguish it from all other days. The mere abstaining from all worldly employments and pursuits, is not a sufficient sanctification of the Sabbath. The time is not to be wasted and lost. And this leads me to observe,
3. To keep the Sabbath implies the performing of those duties which are peculiar to that day. These are principally the duties of devotion, or religious exercises. When all secular business and concerns are laid aside, it is a proper season for religious worship. At such a time, devout meditation is very natural and proper. The mind is always active, and must be employed about something. And on the Sabbath it ought to be attentively and seriously fixed upon God, the proper object of supreme affection and delight. The retirement of the Sabbath calls for such contemplation upon the Fountain of light,