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work of creation. Nor is it less clear from the following paragraph in the history of Jacob, that this division of time was viewed as a matter of course, and, consequently, had been fixed previously to the era at which that patriarch lived. “ Fulfil her week, and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years. And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week: and he gave him Rachel, his daughter, to wife also.”
The counting of time by weeks was common among all ancient nations. This, as a fixed division, was known to the Indians, Syrians, Chaldeans, Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Romans, as well as to every other people of whom we have any record. The seventh day is said to be holy by Homer, Hesiod, and Callimachus; and Josephus and Philo affirm, that the seventh day is a festival to every nation; and that no city of Greeks or Barbarians can be found, which does not acknowledge a seventh day's rest from labour. How can this authenticated fact be accounted for, but on the supposition that the Sabbath was instituted at the time referred to in the book of Genesis, namely, 66 When the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them?" It
may, besides, with propriety be maintained, that the institution of the Sabbath at this early period is rendered highly probable by the account given us in the Scriptures of the distinguished piety of the patriarchs. They walked with God; they obtained a good report through faith ; they obeyed the voice of the Lord, and kept his charge, his commandments, his statutes, and his laws. Is it not highly probable that the Sabbath was one of these divine commandments which they observed ; especially as we know, from experience, how necessary the observance of this holy institution is to the maintenance, as well as to the progress, of true religion in the heart of man? If He, who knows how essential the return of the Sabbath is to the recovery and the furtherance of holiness in sinful beings, has commanded them not to forsake the assembling of themselves together, is it likely that he would have left mankind, till the age of Moses, without an institution so necessary to the moral and religious purposes of their being ?
But it is further maintained by Paley in support of the opinion, that the Sabbath was exclusively a Jewish institution, and that it had no existence till the Mosaic economy ; that the passage in the beginning of the second chapter of Genesis is introduced into the narrative by way of anticipation, and that the account of the origin of this institution is to be found in the sixteenth chapter of Exodus, at the twenty-second verse. We there read: “ 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 Moses. And he said unto them, This is that which the Lord hath said, tomorrow 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 unto 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 there 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 given 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 man go out of his place on the seventh day. So the people rested on the seventh day.”
On the reading of this passage, the first thing that occurs to the mind is, not certainly that the Sabbath was a new institution with which the Jews were formerly unacquainted, but that the division of time into weeks was well known to them. Moses and the elders speak of the days of the week, and not of the days of the month ; and they speak of this hebdo
; madal cycle as a thing perfectly familiar to the people, But how could this be, if the Sabbath was only then first instituted ?
The next thing that strikes the unbiassed reader in this passage is, that the people, aware that the seventh day was the Sabbath, gathered of their own accord twice as much of the manna as they were wont to gather, lest, by deferring it till the morrow, they might break the rest of the Sabbath. This impression is strengthened, when we remember that they had been previously commanded to gather daily of the manna only what was sufficient for the daily supply of themselves and families.
In the address of Moses to the elders, he evidently
takes for granted that they were previously acquainted with the institution of the Sabbath. 6. This is that which the Lord hath said, To-morrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord.” The Israelites, during their bondage in Egypt, perhaps, might have been negligent in their observance of the Sabbath ; and perhaps in some cases they might have been incapable of obeying the commandment; and therefore might have had less perfect knowledge of the proper day on which it should be sanctified; but that they were familiar with the institution itself, is abundantly manifest from the very passage which Paley adduces in proof of their ignorance. Do they shew any surprise, or make any inquiry, when Moses reminds them of the sanctity of the Sabbath? They might have been in some doubt as to the proper day, from the imperfect reckoning of time which they had kept in their servile condition ; but their whole conduct is like that of persons who had the most perfect knowledge of the existence of the institution.
The other passages quoted to prove that the Sabbath is of Jewish origin, from Ezekiel and Nehemiah*, in which it is said, “ Moreover, also, I gave them my Sabbaths ;” and, “ Thou madest known unto them thy holy Sabbath,” are perfectly consistent with the views I have already given. The Lord, when he had chosen the posterity of Abraham to be a peculiar people to himself, enjoined them to observe commandments which had been previously enacted, and which were binding on the whole human race as well as upon them. They were, indeed, laid under additional ob
* Ezek, xx, 12. Nehem. ix, 14.
ligations to give a willing obedience to the whole will of God; and these obligations, arising from their redemption from Egyptian bondage, and from the other blessings conferred upon them, might be adduced as so many supplementary motives to their walking in all the ordinances and commandments of God. In the same way we are urged by the love of Christ, by the worth of his precious blood, by the encourage- . ment held out to us from the promised influence of the Spirit, and by all other christian motives, to obey those laws which are binding on us as intelligent and accountable creatures, and which we, and the whole human race, should be bound to obey, though there had been no discovery of the plan of redeeming mercy.
It is in this way we are to understand the passages in which the children of Israel are urged to observe the Sabbath, not merely in consideration of its being intended to commemorate the work of creation, but as it was the instituted sign of their redemption from Egypt, and of their being in a covenant relation with God. All these motives are conjoined in the passages which I am about to quote from the thirty-first chapter of Exodus, at the sixteenth verse; and from the fifth chapter of Deuteronomy, at the twelfth verse. " Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever : for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed. Keep the Sabbath day to sanctify it, as the Lord thy God VOL. II.