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THOUGHTS ON THE SABBATH,
DURING THE JEWISH DISPENSATION.
The sanctification of the seventh day, which was appointed in the time of man's primeval innocence, must have continued to be an institution of constant obligation through the succeeding ages, which intervened between the fall of man and the publication of the moral law at Mount Sinai; since we find no repeal of the original command in the books of Moses.
When a summary of the moral law was promulgated to the Israelites at the Holy Mount, and inscribed by the finger of God on tables of stone, we find this original command
of a Sabbath bearing a conspicuous part in the sacred code. The Fourth Commandment explains and enforces this first institution of God to man. “ Remember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy:" or, as it is expressed by Moses, when recapitulating the commands in the Book of Deuteronomy, “ Keep the Sabbath-day, to sanctify it.” Deuteronomy v. 12. Let us then inquire what are the duties of day, and what the limitations of those duties, as they are to be found in Scripture during the Jewish dispensation.
The Fourth Commandment shows that we are to abstain from our ordinary worldly calling and employments, which it is our duty to pursue, on the other six days, with diligence. “ 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.” Exodus xx. 9, 10.
We are commanded also to use our endeavours, that this day be sanctified by all over whom we have any authority or influence : “ Thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy
If any reader should think that the use of this pronoun, on this occasion, is begging the question, he may confine it to those who were immediately addressed at that period.
cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates;” ib. 10. We are not, therefore, to permit the works of our ordinary worldly occupation to be carried on by others on our behalf; but we ought to put the same restraints upon those who are under our controul, which our duty requires us to put upon ourselves.
The Supreme Legislator has given us, by the Prophet Isaiah, a still more ample account of the duties implied in the sanctification of the Sabbath. “ If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable, and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words; then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord,” &c. lviii. 13.
This passage of Scripture deserves to be studied with peculiar attention, as it not only describes the duties of the day, but also the temper of mind with which they are to be performed.
The Prophet arranges the command under three heads. The first is, that we are not to do our own ways, which relates chiefly, I apprehend, to our worldly business, as is largely set forth in the Fourth Commandment.
The second, that we are not to find our own
pleasure on the Sabbath. It is not to be a day of merriment, of sports, and pastimes, or of mere amusement. All those ways of spending the Sabbath, which are contrived for the purpose of sensual pleasure, are to be avoided; though the teinperate refreshment of the body is not forbidden. It is to be a day of rest from bodily labour ; but not a season of mere animal recreation. It is unnecessary, and indeed impossible, to enumerate the various species of pleasure which are forbidden on this day; but as every one knows what is meant by a day of sensual pleasure, so every one may judge what is forbidden under this head.
Thirdly, we are forbidden to speak our own words. The conversation ought to be suited to the sacred offices of the day. For as we are prohibited from pursuing our ordinary labours on the Sabbath, so are we also prohibited from making them the subjects of our discourse. We cease from our own words, when we confine our conversation to subjects of a religious or moral nature ; when we employ our time in instructing our dependants, our children, and servants, or in edifying communication with our equals.
Though these three injunctions are pressed in the negative form, yet (according to a well-known rule of interpreting Scripture,
a rule derived from the Scriptures themselves) we must understand them as enjoining the opposite conduct.
This beautiful passage of the Prophet teaches us also, what ought to be the temper of our minds in these holy exercises. Far from being weary of the spiritual employments of the Sabbath, we ought to account them our pleasure, " and call the Sabbath a delight," as well as “ holy of the Lord.” This day we are to esteem “ honourable” above all others. We are then peculiarly to “ honour Him,” whose bounty created us, whose long-suffering hath preserved us, and whose unsearchable goodness has provided a way for our eternal redemption. Thus is the nature of the duty of sanctifying the Sabbath pointed out with the utmost clearness.
A limitation, however, is sometimes put, by the infirmities of our fallen nature, to some of the exercises which ought, when we are unrestrained, to occupy us on this sacred day. Sickness may confine us to our beds, when we should otherwise be engaged in public worship; and, in such occasional interruptions, we may require the attention and assistance of others. The Lord, by declaring that he prefers mercy to sacrifice, has pointed out our duty on these occasions Whatever