Imágenes de páginas

refreshed.”. The truth is, these different reasons were assigned, to account for different circumstances in the command. If a Jew inquired, why the seventh day was sanctified rather than the sixth or eighth? his law told him, because God rested on the seventh day from the creation. If he asked, why was the same rest indulged to slaves? his law bade him remember that he also was a slave in the land of Egypt, and as that the Lord his God brought him out thence.” In this view, the two reasons are perfectly compatible with each other, and with a third end of the institution, its being a sign between God and the people of Israel; but in this view they determine nothing concerning the extent of the obligation. If the reason by its proper energy had constituted a natural obligation, or if it had been mentioned with a view to the extent of the obligation, we should submit to the conclusion that all were comprehended by the command who are concerned in the reason. But the sabbatic rest being a duty which results from the ordination and authority of a positive law, the reason can be alleged no further than as it explains the design of the legislator: and if it appear to be recited with an intentional application to one part of the law, it explains his design upon no other: if it be mentioned merely to account for the choice of the day, it does not explain his design as to the extent of the obligation.

With respect to the second objection, that inasmuch as the other nine commandments are confess.edly of moral and universal obligation, it may reasonably be presumed that this is of the same; we answer, that this argument will have less weight when it is considered, that the distinction between positive and natural duties, like other distinctions of modern ethics, was unknown to the simplicity of ancient language; and that there are various passages in Scripture, in which duties of a political or ceremonial or positive nature, and confessedly of partial obligation, are enumerated, and without any mark of discrimination, along with others which are natural and universal. Of this the following is an incontestable example. “But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right; and hath not eaten upon the mountains, nor hath lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel ; neither hath defiled his neighbour's wife, neither hath come near to a menstruous woman; and hath not oppressed any, but hath restored to the debtor his pledge; hath spoiled none by violence; hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment; he that hath not given upon usury, neither hath taken any increase ; that hath withdrawn his hand from iniquity; hath executed true judgment between man and man; hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept my judgments, to deal truly; he is just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord God.” Ezekiel, xviii. 549. The same thing may be observed of the apostolic decree recorded in the

fifteenth chapter of the Acts :-“ It seemed good to - the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things, that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication : from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well.”

II. If the law by which the sabbath was instituted was a law only to the Jews, it becomes an important question with the Christian inquirer, whether the founder of his religion delivered any new command upon the subject; or, if that should not appear to be the case, whether any day was appropriated to the service of religion by the authority or example of his Apostles...

The practice of holding religious assemblies upon the first day of the week was so early and universal in the Christian church, that it carries with it considerable proof of having originated from some precept of Christ, or of his Apostles, though none such be now extant. It was upon the first day of the week that the disciples were assembled, when Christ appeared to them for the first time after his resurrection: . as then 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 of them.” John, xx. 19. This, for any thing that appears in the account, might, as to the day, have been accidental; but in the 26th verse of the same chapter we read, that “after eight days,” that is, on the first day of the week following, again the disciples were within;" which second meeting upon the same day of the week looks like an appointment and design to meet on that particular day. In the twentieth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, we find the same custom in a Christian church at a great distance from Jerusalem :-“And we came unto them to Troas in five days, where we abode seven days; and upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them.” Acts, xx. 6, 7. The manner in which the historian mentions the disciples coming together to break bread on the first day of the week shows, I think, that the practice by this time was familiar and established. St. Paul to the Corinthians writes thus : “ Concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye; upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store as God hath prospered him, that there be no gathering when I come.” 1 Cor. xvi. 1, 2. Which direction affords a probable proof, that the first day of the week was already, amongst the Christians both of Corinth and Galatia, distinguished from the rest by some religious application or other. At the time that St. John wrote the book of his Revelation, the first day of the week had obtained the name of the Lord's day :-" I was in the spirit;” says he,on the Lord's day.” Rev. i. 10. Which name, and St. John's use of it, sufficiently denote the appropriation of this day to the service of religion, and that this appropriation was perfectly known to the

churches of Asia. I make no doubt that by the Lord's day was meant the first day of the week'; for we find no footsteps of any distinction of days, which could entitle any other to that appellation. The subsequent history of Christianity corresponds with the accounts delivered on this subject in Scripture.

It will be remembered, that we are contending, by these proofs, for no other duty upon the first day of the week, than that of holding and frequenting religious assemblies. A cessation upon that day from labour, beyond the time of attendance upon public worship, is not intimated in any passage of the New Testament; nor did Christ or his Apostles deliver, that we know of, any command to their disciples for a discontinuance, upon that day, of the common offices of their professions : a reserve which none will see reason to wonder at, or to blame as a defect in the institution, who consider that, in the primitive condition of Christianity, the observance of a new sabbath would have been useless or inconvenient or impracticable. During Christ's personal ministry, his religion was preached to the Jews alone. They already had a sabbath, which, as citizens and subjects of that economy, they were obliged to keep; and did keep. It was not therefore probable that Christ would enjoin another day of rest in conjunction with this. When the new religion came forth into the Gentile world, converts to it were, for the most part, made from those classes of society who have not their time and labour at their own disposal; and it was scarcely to be expected, that unbelieving masters and magistrates, and they who directed the employment of others, would permit their slaves and labourers to rest from their work every seventh day;, or that civil government, indeed, would have submitted to the loss of a seventh part of the public industry, and that too in addition to the numerous festivals which the national religions indulged to the people : at least, this would have been an encumberance which might have greatly retarded the reception of Christianity in the world. In reality, the institution of a weekly sabbath is so connected with the functions of civil life, and requires so much of the concurrence of civil law in its regulation and support, that it cannot, perhaps, properly be made the ordinance of any religion, till that religion be received as the religion of the state.

The opinion, that Christ and his Apostles meant to retain the duties of the Jewish sabbath, shifting only the day from the seventh to the first, seems to prevail without sufficient proof; nor does any evidence remain in Scripture (of what, however, is not improbable), that the first day of the week was thus distinguished in commemoration of our Lord's resurrection.

The conclusion from the whole inquiry (for it is our business to follow the arguments, to whatever probability they conduct us) is this : The assembling upon the first day of the week for the purpose of public worship and religious instruction is a law of Christianity, of Divine appointment; the resting on that day from our employments longer than we are detained from them by attendance upon these assemblies is to Christians an ordinance of human institution; binding nevertheless upon the conscience of every individual of a country in which a weekly sabbath is established, for the sake of the beneficial purposes which the public and regular observance of it promotes; and recommended perhaps in some degree to the Divine approbation, by the resemblance it bears to what God was pleased to make a solemn part of the law which he delivered to the people of Israel, and by its subserviency to many of the same uses.


CHRISTIAN SABBATH IS VIOLATED. Since the obligation upon Christians to comply with the religious observance of Sunday arises from the public uses of the institution and the authority of the

« AnteriorContinuar »