« ForrigeFortsæt »
generally allowed to be Sabbath-breaking! If, on the other hand, Sunday is not to be considered as a Sabbath, but that, in conformity to what we suppose to be the will of our Master, we ourselves have set apart a day, analogous to what we presume to have been the intention of the former statute-then are we bound by no letter, but by a reasonable rule of conformity to that presumed intention. Where we err in judgment, we are foolish; but where we would deceive Omniscience by pretended error, we are not only eminently foolish, but grossly criminal. We may use our liberty, but not abuse it, remembering we are accountable for the light which has been given to us. If ours is to be a reasonable service, reason must be our guide in the performance of it but it must be reason with sincerity of heart! We have adopted the latter of these opinions; but to determine how our Sunday should be observed, we must also look back to the only enactment extant upon the subject-the Mosaic commandment. This merely says the Sabbath is to be kept holy, and prohibits, in definite terms,
1 Some have imagined—and I am not prepared to say unreasonably--that the fourth commandment was not the original, but the revival of a former institution. I think, indeed, the wording rather favours the idea. The application, however, must have different, among Nomade tribes, to that enforced in
been very the ritual.
all manner of work by man or his cattle. Some will contend that the prohibitory part is intended by Moses as the explanation of what he means by keeping holy; others, that they are distinct enactments; and each will give his own interpretation of the former term. Probably the truth may be found between the two. The difficulty here lies then in the force to be given to the term holy. The Gospels afford us very little light upon this subject; the only notice I remember, as taken of the Sabbath, being in the reproofs given by Jesus to the affected and inconsistent strictness of the Pharisees, wherein he indicates, that works of necessity and charity were not forbidden by the law of Moses. But though he gives us no comment upon the words "keep holy," we have pretty plainly his opinion of long prayers and formal services, and how desirable he thought them to be, and how applicable to the human constitution. He specially guards us against any thing of this sort, and to be further understood furnishes us himself with a pattern of what our petitions
It is not unworthy of remark, that this very prayer, given, be it remembered, for the express purpose of avoiding repetitions, is with us itself repeated no less than five, often seven times, in the course of one morning's service! Because four or six would not be sufficient, it is repeated again before the commencement of the sermon !
should be, both as to length and matter. tion is indispensable, and if there is a difficulty in keeping it up, the religious exercise whatever it may be, is, to that individual, too long. This caution was, we conceive, given, because our Saviour was well aware of our weakness in this respect. As regards relaxations, we have literally no means of judging from any authority, how far they were or were not considered allowable, we have certainly no reason to conclude them utterly prohibited'. We are left then, as regards the Jewish Sabbath, with the naked commandment of Moses, without other comment, than that “ no manner of work" does not include works of necessity or charity, and strong reason to conclude, that length of time devoted to religious exercises, was not understood by our Saviour to be implied in the words "keep holy." We must remember too, that the law of Moses was definite, and to
1 The only text I have ever heard insisted upon, is where the prophet says, "If thou turn not away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day." To say nothing of the obscurity of this passage, which has evidently puzzled the translators, I will merely remark, that the English words, "doing thy pleasure," signify much more naturally, "doing whatever you please,"—" being under no restraint," than they imply prohibition to do any specific thing which may happen to be agreeable.
be observed to the letter, consequently, we may fairly presume that, had all relaxation been meant to be forbidden by him, it would have been mentioned in the commandment, which by no means lacks minuteness of wording!
We have now to apply the institution to a Christian state. Christianity, we are told, is the reality of those things shadowed forth by the law. We must, therefore, consider what may fairly be supposed to have been the intention of the Sabbatical institution. This we hold to have been,— First, that equal leisure should be thereby afforded to all classes, for attending a public service, and exposition of the laws of God. Secondly, as implied in the command extending to animals; that those who had laboured all the week, should, as well as their cattle, have a day of rest and relaxation. A most merciful, and highly beneficial establishment, well worthy of a prominent place in Christian polity; and, for these purposes, we suppose it to have been established. Consequently we hold that to be, de facto, an infringement of the due observance of the day, whatever tends to impede the objects we presume to have been in view, but nothing else. Infringements, however, even of these, must of necessity exist, and, as in all other things of this nature, there will be much difference of opinion as to what are and what are
not reasonably justifiable in theory. ever, in the practice of a large community, it is utterly in vain to expect that any general theory can be strictly adhered to, as the strict adherence would often be productive of more evil than the infringement. Our Lord seems to allude to this when he says, "The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath." Under cover of the latitude necessarily allowed, abuses will creep in— this is to be lamented, but cannot be remedied. We must then endeavour to abide by the spirit of the general rule, as well as we can; the nearer to it, the better certainly, but, it does not follow, that nearer to the letter will always be nearer to the spirit. We are, as the Apostle said of the Jewish converts to Christianity, by it liberated from the letter of the law; but, we must not use this liberty as a cloak,-that is, our deviations can only be justifiable by purity of intention. We must not think to deceive Omniscience! To resume. The sabbath law was enacted as a boon to the many, not as a day of penance and mortification to the few. The generality are in all communities, those who labour for their subsistence, but there are others who do not, and who, therefore, have no labour to cease from. Some of these have occupations (superintendence), from which, if their labourers cease, they must neces