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Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit signified his approval by the communication of his gifts and influences. It was on the first day of the week, the christian Sabbath, that the disciples at Troas came together for to break bread; that is, to eat the Lord's supper: a mode of expression, which shews that it was the established custom of the followers of the Redeemer to observe the Sabbath on the first day of the week.
Upon the first day of the week,” says the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians, “ let every one of you lay by him in store as God hath prospered him.” The obvious reason why this collection was to be made for the poor saints at Jerusalem on the first day of the week, rather than on any other, was, that it was the day on which the disciples of Christ assembled together for divine worship.
Nor should it be forgotten, in a summary of the evidence on this head, that the Apostle John tells us, that he was “in the spirit on the Lord's day*:” a mode of expression which he uses incidentally ; and thus evidently shews, that it was the well-known name of that day on which the disciples assembled for the worship of God, and which was held sacred to the Redeemer.
I shall take no further notice of the testimony of ancient uninspired writers concerning the authority for the change of the Sabbath, than to say, that it is very abundant.
Nor do I think it unnecessary to mention the divine blessing which has been so manifestly annexed to the observance of the christian Sabbath. It has been
. Rev. i. 10.
rendered the effectual means of preserving the power and the practice of true religion in the world; of enlarging the boundaries of the church ; and of ministering to the edification and comfort of the pious and excellent of the human race. So necessary is the sanctification of this day to the interests of morality, that these interests flourish or decline just in propor: tion to the manner in which it is observed.
ON THE MANNER IN WHICH THE SABBATH SHOULD BE
If the Sabbath, as has been proved, is of moral and perpetual obligation, it is clear that all are bound to observe it according to the designs of its institution. It is intended to commemorate the work of creating power, and more especially, the work of redeeming love and mercy; to give to man, and to the inferior animals, in the service of man, a season of repose; and to furnish the opportunity, returning periodically, of preparing for a state of future being and blessedness.
It is needless to remark, that we are bound to abstain from the commission of sin on this, as on other days, whether of thought, of word, or of action.
That we are bound to abstain from all worldly business, is clear, from the express words of the statute; “ Six days shalt thou labour and do all thy work; but the seventh is the Sabbath of the Lord thy
God; in it thou shalt not do any work.” There is here an express prohibition against all secular pursuits. Nor can any part of that seventh portion of our time, which God commands us to devote to him, be given to any mere worldly avocation, without a violation of the sanctity of the Sabbath, and, consequently, without dishonour to the authority of heaven. Though the temporal sanction by which its observance was enforced under the Jewish dispensation does not now remain, the former existence of such a sanction in reference to this commandment, shews the importance which the Supreme Legislator of the universe attached to it. “ Ye shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy:-whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from amongst his people."
When it is so obvious that all worldly employments whatever are prohibited, it is unnecessary to make an enumeration of what comes within the prohibition. Commercial transactions, writing or answering letters on business, travelling, requiring clerks and dependants to give their attention to worldly concerns, may be mentioned as violations of the Sabbath, which, though often practised, are in direct contradiction to the commandment.
Nor does this commandment merely prohibit an outward attention to worldly employments; it is violated by worldly thoughts and conversation. The service which God requires, and which he will accept, is that of the heart. It is clearly impossible for us to observe the day holily and profitably, that is, according to the spiritual designs of its institution, without a framing of the heart to the great duties to be prac
tised. “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*."
Nor is it less manifest, that we are bound to abstain from all secular pleasures on the Sabbath. Those inpocent amusements and indulgences which we may very properly allow ourselves at other times, are not lawful on this day, just because they are inconsistent with the serious and solemn thoughts, the spiritual affections which we ought to cherish, and the religious duties in which we should engage. Whatever has a direct tendency to divert our minds from the holy purposes of the day, and to unfit us for its exercises, such as frivolous conversation, journeying, the perusal of books of a secular nature, the giving or receiving entertainments, we are bound, as we regard the authority of heaven, to shun.
Finally, we are to abstain from wasting the hallowed hours of the Sabbath in idleness. If, on ordinary oc. casions, we are commanded to be, not slothful in business, but fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, it is surely incumbent on us, on that day which God has consecrated to himself, to serve him with a holy activity of mind, and to call upon our souls, and upon all that is within us to be stirred up to bless and mag. nify the name of the Lord.
The duties which we are to perform on the Sabbath are, generally, all such as are of a religious nature. I. Those of public worship. We learn with what
* Isa. lviii. 13, 14.
fervour and delight good men of old engaged in this duty, from the Scriptural record which has been transmitted to us of their pious aspirations. “How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord : my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God. Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee. A day spent in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness *"
That all are bound to assemble together for the worship of God on the Christian Sabbath, is clear, not only from the example of the members of the Jewish, and of the Divine Founder and of the Apostles of the Christian church, but from the language of the New Testament. “ Let us consider one another, to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is f." Nor will they who revere the authority of Christ seek for any other authority for the performance of this duty, than what is implied in his own gracious promise:
" Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them ..
When we consider, in connexion with this direct authority for public worship, the numerous advantages derived from it, which cannot be enjoyed without it, we are surely entitled to affirm, that the person who neglects it is violating a most important and a most manifest obligation.
Psalm, Ixxxiv. op Heb. X. 24, 25. * Matt. xviii. 20.