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towards the first day of the week”—This text seems to intimate that the end of the Jewish Sabbath, and therefore the beginning, was not in the evening ; but towards the dawn.
That the christian Sabbath ought to begin in the morning rather than the evening, may be argued from the following considerations.
1. It appears that the first day of the week at the time of our Saviour's resurrection, began in the morning. This appears from the passage just quoted. Mat. xxviii. 1. - In the end of the Sabbath as it began to dawn towards the first day of the week.” And also John xx. 19. “ the same day (that is the day on which Christ arose) at evening being the first day of the week.” From this text it appears that the evening after and not the evening before belonged to the first day.
2. Christ arose early in the morning, and not in the evening, and therefore as we keep the first day of the week, in commemoration of his resurrection, there is a propriety in beginning the Sabbath in the morning.
3. There appears to be a peculiar fitness in beginning the Sabbath in the morning; for by beginning it in the evening, we should either be obliged to lose the afternoon from worldly business, to prepare our minds; or else rush at once from the world to the devotions of the Sabbath. And our devotions would soon be interrupted by the night. And the following evening it would be lawful to engage in worldly avocations, which seems improper immediately after the holy exercises of the day. And especially as but little business can be attended to, in the evening after the Sabbath ; many temptations are held out to visiting, and worldly conversation and amusements, which have a great tendency to destroy the seriousness, which may have been produced through the day. For these reasons the morning is preferable to the evening as the time to commence the Sabbath.
And perhaps we may say that in keeping the Sabbath, it is proper to begin and end it at the same time that we begin and end the other days of the week. We ought to keep one whole day in seven, and this ought to be the first day in the reckoning.
THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT.
EXODUS XX. 8, 9, 10, 11.
“ Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour 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 thy stranger that is within thy gates : For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day : wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”
In the last discourse it was shown that the Sabbath was instituted at the creation, that it is of moral and perpetual obligation, and that it has been changed from the seventh to the first day of the week ; some observations were made on the time when it begins. We proceed now to consider the duties required, and the sins forbidden in the fourth commandment.
I. The duties required.
“ Questson 58. What is required in the fourth commandment?
The fourth commandment requireth the keeping holy to God such set times as he hath appointed in his word, expressly one whole day in seven to be a holy Sabbath to himself.”
The inquiry arises here, whether under the New-Testament dispensation, we are required to keep any set time as holy besides the Sabbath ? I answer No. Because God alone has the right of instituting holy time. Under the Old Testament dispensation he did institute a number of holy days, which made a part of the ceremonial law, which was abrogated by the coming of Christ. But we read of no new days appointed in the New Testament; and therefore we are not bound to observe any.
As to days of fasting and thanksgiving, they are sionally proper. But no stated seasons or days a '
observed for these purposes ; because none are appointed in the Scriptures. The Scriptures warrant us to set apart a season for special thanksgiving, when we have received special mercies, and a season for special fasting and humiliation when visited with special calamities.We are therefore to judge when we are called to observe such days, by the aspects of divine providence. But except these occasional days which are to be pointed out by the aspects of divine providence, we are bound to keep no time as holy except one whole day in seven, which is the first day of the week, or the christian Sabbath. This includes not merely an artificial day, extending from the rising to the setting of the sun; but a natural day of twenty four hours, or the one seventh part of a week.
The manner in which this day is to be kept, we have stated in our Catechism in answer to the 60th question.
“ How is the Sabbath to be sanctified ?
The Sabbath is to be sanctified by an holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days, and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God's worship ; except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy.
It is scarcely necessary to mention that the due sanctification of the Sabbath requires us to abstain from things at all times sinful. Breaking of God's commandments is at all times forbidden; but more especially on the Sabbath day. Sin, always wrong, becomes aggravated by being committed on this day. But we are required on this day to abstain, not only from those things which are at all times sinful ; but also from those worldly employments and recreations, which are on other days lawful.
1. It is our duty to rest from worldly labour. This is explicitly enjoined in the fourth commandment “ the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God ; in it thou shalt not do any work.” Every kind of secular business is to be rested from on this day.
To this general rule there are two exceptions, viz. works of necessity, and works of mercy. Works of necessity are such as refreshing ourselves by food, taking care of beasts, defending ourselves against enemies, extinguishing fires, and attendance of the sick by physicians. These and all other works of real necessity, are lawful on
the Sabbath day. For “ the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath." Mark ii. 27. And our Saviour by his example sanctioned the performance of works of necessity on the Sabbath day. But it becomes us to be careful that we do not take imaginary, for real necessities, on this day, and thereby incur the displeasure of God.
Works of mercy are also to be excepted ; such as saving the life of a beast, visiting the sick, administering to the wants of the distressed, relieving the necessities of the poor, and such like works. For in reference to the Sabbath, our Saviour quoted this text, “ I will have merсу
and not sacrifice." Mat. xii. 7. And our Saviour frequently sanctioned the performance of works of mercy, by his own example.
2. It is our duty on this day to rest, not only from worldly labour, but also from those worldly recreations, which may be lawful on other days. It is not a day for worldly pleasures any more than worldly employments. Thus we read Is. lviii. 13. “ If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure.” Here we are required to refrain from doing and finding our own pleasure on the Sabbath day.
3. The rest of the Sabbath is not merely a cessation from worldly labour and recreations; but it is a holy rest, in which we are to be actively engaged in the service of God. The command is,“ remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” And in other places we read; “ the seventh day is the Sabbath of rest, an holy convocation." Lev. xxiii
. 3. “And call the Sabbath a delight the holy of the Lord, honourable, and shalt honour him." Is. Lvii. 13. It is our duty to “ spend the whole time in the public and private exercises of God's worship, exceptso much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy.” Preparation should be made the evening before, by a seasonable dispatch of our worldly business, and by endeavouring to compose our minds for the sacred duties of the day, and to get them into a devotional frame. Of this preparation for the Sabbath we have an example in the pious Nehemiah. .“ 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.”— Preparation for the Sabbath the evening before is practised by the most eminently pious christians; and the benefits they receive from the practice afford an argumenit in favour of the duty. And probably one reason why so many professing christians receive so little benefit from the Sabbath is a neglect, seasonably to dispatch worldly business, and duly to prepare for this holy dayHence instead of entering upon the day with a spiritual and lively frame of mind, they enter upon it with languor, and a worldly spirit.
Through the Sabbath we ought to be in a holy frame of mind. Like John, we ought to be in the Spirit on the Lord's day.” Rev. i. 10. God requires the heart in all our service. We are to keep the Sabbath holy; but external holiness will not be acceptable, without a corresponding holiness of heart. Having a holy frame of mind, the Sabbath is to be spent in the public, and private exercises of God's worship.
It is our duty to attend, when we have opportunity, on the public worship of God's house. Thus the Sabbath is called“ an holy convocation." Lev. xxiii. 3. That is a day of solemn assembling together for the worship of God. Isaiah prophesying of the latter day glory of the church, foretold, “ and it shall come to pass, that, from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord.” Is. lxvi, 23. The example of our Saviour has also taught the duty ; for we read," and he came to Nazareth where he had been brought up; and as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day.” Luk. iv. 16. When we are in public worship, we ought to be engaged in family and private devotions; such as reading the Scriptures, and other books on religious subjects, meditation on divine things, self-examination, prayer in our families and our closets, catechising and instructing those under our care, and the like. We proceed,
II. To take a cursory view of the sins forbidden in the fourth commandment.
Question 61. “ The fourth commandment forbiddeth the omission or careless performance of the duties required, and the profaning the day by idleness, or doing that which is in itself sinful ; or by unnecessary thoughts, words, or works, about worldly employments or recreations."