« PreviousContinue »
the Old and New Testament, “ are read.” For this he assigns the reasons of the Christians; viz. “ that it was the day on which the Creation of the world began, and on which Christ arose from the dead.”
Irenæus, a disciple of Polycarp, the disciple of St. John himself, who lived in the second century, says, “On the Lord's day every one of us, Christians, keeps the Sabbath ; meditating in the law,” or Scriptures, “and rejoicing in the works of God."
Dyonysius, Bishop of Corinth, who lived in the time of Irenæus, that is, in the second century, says in his letter to the Church at Rome, “ To-day we celebrate the Lord's day, when we read your Epistle to us."
Tertullian, who also lived in the second century, speaks of the Lord's day as a Christian solemnity.
Pelavius declares, that“ but one Lord's day was observed in the earliest times of the Church."
It is indeed true, that in that miserable forgery, which professes itself to have been written by the Apostles, and is styled, The Apostolical Constitutions ; but which was plainly the work of some impostor, living in the latter end of the fourth, or the beginning of the fifth, century, certainly not earlier, it is directed, that Christians should keep both the Jewish Sabbath and the Lord's day, as religious festivals; and that every Sabbath, but one, in the year, and every Lord's day, should be observed in this manner. It is also true, that, in the fifth century, both these days were kept in this manner by Christians generally, except the Churches of Rome, and Alexandria ; who did not observe the Jewish Sabbath as a religious day. This appears by the testimony of both Socrates and Sozomen. Concerning this subject Petarius declares, that “the most holy fathers agreed, that the Apostles never ordained any thing of this nature. He also remarks, that the council of Laodicea, which probably sat about the year 363, forbade in their 29th canon, that Christians should rest from labour on the Sabbath or Seventh day. For they say, “Christians ought not to Judaize, nor to rest on the Sabbath, that is, the seventh day; but preferring the Lord's day, to rest, if indeed it should be in their power, as Christians."*
From these observations it is plain, that, although in the fifth century many Christians had reverted to the observation of the Jewish Sabbath, while yet they universally celebrated the Lord's day; yet the practice, even in this period of miserable declension, was by no means universal. The Churches of Rome and Alexandria never adopted it at all; and others plainly adopted it, as they did a great multitude of other corruptions at the same time, merely from their own construction of the Scriptures. We can
not wonder at those, especially when we find among them celebrated ministers of religion, who admitted the protection and invocation of Saints and Martyrs, should admit any other corruption; and that they should construe those passages of Scripture, which speak of the Sabbath, as erroneously as they construed others. 7. The same truth appears in this great fact; that God has
perpetually and gloriously annexed his blessing to the Christian Sabbath.
If this day be not divinely instituted; then God has suffered his Church to disuse, and annihilate, his own Institution, and substitute one, of mere human device, in its stead. Will this be believed ? But this is not all: he has annexed the blessing, which he originally united to the Sabbath, instituted by himself, to that, which was the means of destroying it, and which was established by human authority merely. After requiring, that men should add nothing to his words, and forbidding them to diminish ought from them; after threatening the plagues, denounced in the Scriptures, to him, who should add unto the words which they contain ; and declaring, that he would take away out of the book of life the part of him, who should take away from the words written in the Scriptures : can any man believe, that he would forsake, that he has forsaken, his own Institution ; an Institution of this magnitude; an Institution, on which have depended, in all lands and ages, the observation, influence, and existence, of his holy Law? Can any man believe, that He who so dreadfully punished Nadab and Abihu for forsaking his own Institution, in a case of far inferior magnitude, and setting up one of their own in its stead, would not only not punish, bul abundantly and unceasingly bless, the Christian Church, while perpetrating, and persisting in, iniquity, of exactly the same nature, and far greater in degree? The Christian, who can believe this, must be prepared to believe any thing.
Had men known nothing concerning the Institution of God; the charity of their fellow-men might be naturally enough extended to them, while employed in religiously commemorating Christ's resurrection. The appearance of piety in such a commemoration, and their freedom from the impiety of intruding upon a divine Institution, might induce others to think favourably of their conduct. But in the case in hand, the Institution was begun by the Apostles; men inspired; chosen followers of Christ, and the erectors of his kingdom in the world. If they sinned, they sinned wilfully, and in defiance of their inspiration. With them, however, the blessing began to be annexed to this day in a most wonderful and glorious manner. From them it has been uninterruptedly continued to the present time. To this day, under God, as a primary mean, mankind are indebted for all the Religion, which has been in the world from the days of the Apostles. If, then, the Christian Sabbath is not a divine Institution ; God has made a device of man
a more powerful support to his spiritual kingdom, a more efficacious instrument of diffusing truth and righteousness, than most, perhaps than all, others: while, at the same time, he has, so far as I am able to discern, wholly neglected, and forgotten, a most solemn Institution of his own. Thus a human device has been a peculiar, if not a singular, means of accomplishing the greatest glory to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost: and men, it would seem, will, in the end, have whereof to glory before God.
This blessing has been too evident, too uniform, and too long continued, to admit of a doubt; too great, and too wonderful, to be passed over in silence. On this day, the perfections of God, manifested in the amazing works of Creation and of Redemption, have, more than on all others, been solemnly, gratefully, and joyfully, remembered and celebrated. On this day, millions of the human race have been born unto God. On this day, Christians have ever found their prime blessings. From the Word and Ordinances of God, from the influences of the Holy Spirit, from the presence of Christ in his Church, Christians have derived, on this day, more than on all others, the most delightful views of the divine character, clear apprehensions of their own duty, lively devotion to the service of God, strength to overcome temptations, and glorious anticipations of immortality. Take this day from the Calendar of the Christian, and all that remains will be cloudy and cheerless. Religion will instantly decay. Ignorance, error, and vice, will immediately triumph; the sense of duty vanish ; morals fade away; the acknowledgment, and even the remembrance, of God be far removed from mankind; the glad tidings of salvation cease to sound; and the communication between earth and heaven be cut off for ever.
FOURTH COMMANDMENT.-OBJECTIONS ANSWERED.
HEBREWS iv. 9.—There remaineth, therefore, Resl to the people of God.
In the two preceding discourses, I have, according to the scheme originally proposed, endeavoured to prove the Perpetual Establishment of the Sabbath, as a divine Institution ; and to show, that the day, on which it is by divine appointment to be holden by the Christian Church, is the day of Christ's Resurrection,
In the following discourse, I shall proceed to consider the Objections, which have been made to this doctrine. As all the important objections, within my knowledge, are adduced by the late Archdeacon Paley, it is my design to reply to this respectable writer in form: such a reply being, in my own apprehension, all that is necessary with respect to the subject at large.
The text I consider as a direct assertion, that there is a Sabbath in the Christian Church, explained by the verse following to be founded on the fact, that Christ rested from his labours in the work of Redemption ; as the seventh day Sabbath was founded on the fact, that God rested on that day from his labours in the work of Creation. For he, that hath entered into his rest, even he hath rested from his works, as God did from his own. The word, translated Rest, in the text, is Sabbatiquos. Ainsworth, a man eminently qualified to judge of this subject, translates Ex. xvi. 23, thus : This is that, which Jehovah hath spoken : To-morrow is the Sabbatism, the Sabbath of holiness, to Jehovah. In the same manner he translates Ex. xxxi. 15, Lev. xxiii. 3, and xxv. 4. In commenting on Ex. xvi. 23, he says, “Sabbatism, Resl : that, is, Rest, or cessation. But as the Hebrew Sabbath is retained by the Holy Ghost, in the Greek Ea6fatov, so the Hebrew Shabbathon, here used, is by the Apostle Lafariquos, in Heb. iv. 9.” The verse ought therefore to be rendered, There remaineth, therefore, a Sabbatism, or Holy Sabbath to the people of God: and this day the following verse proves to be the day, on which Christ rose from the dead.
The reason, why I have not adduced this passage of Scripture, together with those immediately connected with it, in proof of the doctrine under debate, is, that a comment on a paragraph, so obscurely written, and demanding so particular an explanation, must be very long; and would probably be very tedious to many of my audience.
1. The first and great objection of Dr. Paley to the Perpetuity of the Sabbath is, that the account of its original Institution is
found in the following passage : Ex. xvi. 22—30. And it came to pass, that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one man; and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Noses. And he said unto them, This is that which the Lord hath said, To-morrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord : Bake that which ye will bake to-day, and seethe that ye will seethe ; and that which remaineth over, lay up for you, to be kept until the morning. And they laid it up till the morning as Moses bade. And Moses said, Eat that to-day, for to-day is a Sabbath unto the Lord : to-day ye shall not find it in the field. Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day which is the Sabbath, in it ihere shall be none. And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none. And the Lord said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my statutes and my laws ? See, for that the Lord hath giden you the Sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days : abide ye every man in his place ; let no mun go out of his place on the seventh day. So the people rested on the seventh day.
The argument, here, is wholly derived from this phraseology: To-morrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord. To-day is a Sabbath unto the Lord: and, The Lord hath given you the Sabbath. In these expressions Dr. Paley thinks he finds the first Institution of the Sahbath. In my view, however, after examining long, and often, the arguments of this respectable Writer, they appear to lead to the contrary conclusion. It is to be observed, that the whole argument depends on the first of these passages; because, that being once introduced, the rest would, in the case supposed, follow it of course; and because they refer directly to it, and are grounded upon it.
As a preface to the answer, which I intend to make to this argument, I remark, that the words of Moses are addressed to the Elders of Israel, who had complained to him of the improper conduct of their countrymen, for gathering twice as much bread on the sixth day, as they customarily gathered on other days. As Moses had forbidden them to leave of it till morning; and undoubtedly by divine Inspiration ; the Elders supposed their countrymen to have trespassed, in collecting this double quantity upon the sixth day. Upon this part of the story I observe,
1. That the division of time into Weeks was perfectly known to the Israelites. This is proved by the phrases, the sixth day, and the seventh day; obviously referring to the days of the week, and not to the days of the month. Now I ask, Whence had these people this scheme in dividing time, unless from the history of the Creation, traditionarily conveyed down to them? This tradition, it will be observed, could come to them from Adam, through six persons : Methuselah, Shem, Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, and Amram.
2. Although in the fifth verse God informed Moses, that the Congregation should gather twice as much on the sixth day; it seems