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ished at their deep declension; and especially in respect to the sanctification of the Sabbath? Though other sins have greatly. prevailed through the land, yet no sin is so generally, so openly, and boldly committed, as the sin of Sabbath breaking, which is forbidden by the laws of God and man, and which might be so easily restrained, did not the people in general love to have it so.
2. It appears from what has been said upon the duration, the nature and duties of the Sabbath, how many ways it may be profaned.
When God appointed the Sabbath, he sanctified it, or made it holy time, in distinction from every other day in the week. To deny, therefore, the sanctity of the Sabbath, and view and treat it as common time, is a plain and avowed profanation of it. This denial of the sanctity of the Sabbath in theory and sentiment, is what many learned and unlearned men are guilty of. Dr. Paley, a very ingenious and learned writer, in his treatise on moral and political subjects, labors to prove that the Sabbath is not of divine institution and obligation under the gospel, and that christians have a right to view it and treat it as common time. And other ministers, of different denominations of christians, maintain the same sentiment, which has been and is now taught in some of our highest seats of learning. And some of our learned rulers and civilians adopt and practice upon this lax opinion of the Sabbath, which has contributed and still contributes to weaken and destroy in the minds of many, their obligation to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. This sentimental denial of the sanctity of the Sabbath is really alarming and dangerous.
To curtail the Sabbath in the beginning and ending of it, is to profane it practically. This profanation has become very common and general. How many consider the Sabbath as the shortest day in the week. They mean to begin it at sun-rise, and to end it at sun-down. They feel themselves completely justified in cutting off from it the evening before and the evening following the Sabbath, and take full liberty to spend either of the two evenings in their own employments or recreations. This is a very gross and criminal profanation of the Sabbath, though the law of the land screens the guilty from human punishment. Others more boldly and daringly profane the Sabbath, by spending the whole day in idleness, or laboring, or travelling, or visiting, or in unlawful amusements and dissipation. These things are more uncommon among us; but there is another way of profaning the Sabbath, which notoriously prevails here, as well as in other places. I mean the neglect of the duties appropriate to God's holy day. They neither read
his word, nor call upon his name, nor pay their vows in public. This is a very plain, open, and criminal transgression of the command in the text. "Ye shall keep my Sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary; I am the Lord." It seems as though many imagine that there is no great harm in merely not attending public worship, if they only lay aside all their worldly concerns, stay at home, and disturb none who are disposed to reverence the sanctuary, and to meet God where he has appointed to meet them. But God views those who unnecessarily absent themselves from his public worship, as extremely criminal. He asked those who despised and neglected his sanctuary, " Will a man rob God? But ye have robbed me, saith the Lord." It is no trivial violation of duty for men to rob God of that public homage and glory which is due to his great and glorious name. In whatever way men profane the Sabbath, they disobey God, and contract aggravated guilt.
3. If the nature, design and tendency of the Sabbath have been properly illustrated, then we may justly conclude that the profanation of it, in any way whatever, is a very heinous sin. It is in its own nature exceedingly sinful, because it flows from direct disaffection and enmity towards God. If men loved God, they would love his Sabbaths and sanctuary, and delight in all the duties appropriated to his day and to his house. Those who profane the Sabbath mean to sin against God, rather than man. They hardly think of breaking any human laws by profaning the Sabbath, but they do very often think of breaking the law of God, which requires them to remember it, and keep it holy. They manifest known disaffection and disrespect to God and to his commands, which is one of the most heinous sins against God, that they can commit. Nor do they manifest less disaffection to all religion; by their profanation of the Sabbath. The man laboring on the Sabbath, or travelling on the Sabbath, or visiting on the Sabbath, tells every one he meets that he disregards all religion, and every body understands the language of his conduct in its true sense, whether he be a neighbor or stranger. The profanation of the Sabbath comprises all irreligion and impiety; for though it does not prove that a man will take the name of God in vain, yet it does prove that he does not refrain from that sin, by any regard to God or religion. The profanation of the Sabbath is connected with a general course of sinning, and naturally leads Sabbath breakers into every species of open and high handed vice and immorality. How many poor, guilty creatures have acknowledged, that the profanation of the Sabbath led them to those enormous crimes, that brought them to an infamous death by the hand of public justice!
4. It appears from what has been said in this discourse, that those who profane the Sabbath, are not only great sinners, but great corrupters. Men may be great sinners while they are not great corrupters. They may have and indulge great disaffection to God, to religion, and even to their fellow men internally, while they externally treat God, and religion, and their fellow men with apparent propriety and respect. Such persons cannot be called corrupters; for they throw the weight of their example into the scale of virtue and religion, and restrain others from the paths of wickedness. But those who profane the Sabbath in any form, set a corrupting example. Those who publish their loose sentiments respecting the Sabbath are great corrupters, and take a direct way to convince all their readers that holy time is not holy, that they may neglect all the peculiar duties of the Sabbath, and spend it in the manner most agreeable to their corrupt hearts. Those who merely abstain from the common concerns of life, without attending either the private or public worship of God on his day, set a loose and dangerous example, which tends to destroy all religion and morality. And those who go into the sanctuary of God without reverence, and without decency, and attempt to excite inattention and levity in the time of divine service, are gross offenders and corrupters. Are not such corrupters to be seen very frequently on the road, in private houses, and in the house of God? What immense evils do such corrupters commit, spread and promote! How many do those who travel from house to house, from town to town, and from state to state, corrupt, from Sabbath to Sabbath! How many will a father who keeps himself and his family from the house of God on the Sabbath, from month to month, and from year to year, corrupt! And how fast will such corrupt families increase in numbers and influence, until they diminish, divide, or destroy a religious society! See the awful wastes that have been made and are making by the profanation of the Sabbath. It is a land-defiling and corrupting iniquity. It begins very gradually and imperceptibly. One in a family begins to stay at home, then another, and another, until the whole family statedly absent themselves from public worship. One family in a neighborhood begins to stay at home upon the Sabbath, then another, and another, and very soon all, or nearly all in the neighborhood follow the corrupt example which has been set them; and one neighborhood can very easily corrupt another. These facts are known to all the people in this place; and will they still imagine, that Sabbath breaking in any form. is a small and excusable fault?
5. In the view of this subject every one may see the great
importance of preventing and restraining the profanation of the Sabbath as much as possible. We know the time has been in this land and in this place, when the sanctification of the Sabbath was maintained, and the profanation of it generally prevented and restrained. Though it may be more difficult now than it was once, to prevent and restrain the profanation of the Sabbath, yet it does not appear to be an insurmountable difficulty. There are means which may be used, and which ought to be used, that if they were used, would produce a most desirable effect. But who shall use these means? I answer,
1. All professors of religion. They have bound themselves, freely and publicly, to keep God's Sabbaths and reverence his sanctuary. Let them fulfil their covenant obligations. Let them constantly attend public worship, and command their children and households to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy, by avoiding all those things which are forbidden on the Sabbath, and by doing the duties appointed to be done on that day. Let all professors of religion constantly and conscientiously do the duties of the Sabbath, and they will do much to promote the sanctification, and to prevent the profanation of the Sabbath. Let men of sobriety, property and influence constantly attend public worship, and oblige all whom they employ in their service, and admit into their hired houses, to attend also, and this will powerfully operate to prevent and restrain the profanation of the Sabbath. It is in vain to say that they have no authority over their hired men and tenants; for they may agree with those whom they hire or admit into their houses, upon the condition that they will engage to attend public worship. Let all informing officers of every grade, do all that the law of the land requires them to do, to prevent and restrain the profanation of the Sabbath, on the road, in taverns, and in the house of God, and I have no doubt but a visible reformation will appear. Let none say these are vain and visionary means of a reformation. They are not vain, nor visionary; but plain, solid, reasonable means, which have been employed and found to be efficient. Why will you not be persuaded to use all the means in your power to promote the temporal and spiritual good of yourselves, and of your fellow men? Why will you not put away the fear of man, which bringeth a snare, and let the love and fear of God govern your views, and feelings, and conduct? There is no danger in doing duty; but there is fearful danger in neglecting it, and becoming partakers in other men's guilt.
The sanctification of the Sabbath is a universal duty. God commands all men every where to keep his Sabbath, and rev
erence his sanctuary. This command binds the rich as well as the poor, the ruler as well as the subject, and the young as well as the old, to remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. None have a right to spend the holy time which God set apart for himself, in idleness, in pursuing their secular concerns, in following their pleasures and amusements, or in absenting themselves from the public worship of God. But is there one day in the week so idly, so unprofitably, and so sinfully spent in this land of gospel light, as the holy Sabbath? How many individual persons, and how many whole families, are Sabbath breakers in this place! How many that might be, and ought to be, in the house of God, are absent from it every Sabbath! How rapidly is this evil of evils increasing! Is not this alarming? does it not presage that the love of many is waxing cold, and that iniquity is abounding, and breaking over all restraints? Is it not time for professors of religion to reform? Is it not time for parents to reform? Is it not time for the young, who have been taught in their childhood by their parents and instructers to remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy, to reform? Is it not time for all Sabbath breakers to reform?
Let it not be said, that we here observe the Sabbath and attend public worship as well, as the parishes and towns around us do. Whether this be true or not I cannot say. But if it be true, it is no excuse for those who neglect the duties of the Sabbath here. None are urged to come to the house of God for the sake of being seen of men, but for the sake of doing honor to God, and securing the salvation of their own souls. Can you believe that those who unnecessarily and habitually neglect the public worship of God, perform any other religious duty? Can you believe that those who neglect all religious duties, are walking in the strait and narrow path to heaven? This subject now admonishes all to review their past feelings and conduct in regard to the Sabbath. It is a very infallible test of religion or irreligion, of piety or impiety. Has the Sabbath been your delight, and the holy of the Lord honorable in your views and feelings? Has it been a pleasure, or a burden? Answer these questions honestly and impartially to yourselves, and you can hardly fail of drawing a just conclusion, whether you are saints or sinners, and whether you are in the path to eternal life, or in the path to eternal death.