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That this was in fact the day styled by St. John the Lord's day,' is unanswerably evident from the history of the church; and it is equally evident, that the Sabbath, or holy rest, together with all the religious services pertaining to it, were celebrated by the church on this day. Every one who has read with attention the New Testament must have observed that there is no hint, as well as no precept, directing Christians to celebrate the seventh day as holy time. The ancient Christians, particularly the Jewish Christians, when they had occasion to preach to the Jews, or to assemble with them, entered into their synagogues on the seventh day, and undoubtedly worshipped with them in their manner; but there is not the least reason to believe, either from the Acts, or from the Epistles, that they ever assembled of their own accord, on that day for religious services in a regular or customary manner.
Ignatius, a companion of the apostles, says, in so many words, “ Let us no more sabbatize ;” that is, keep the Jewish Sabbath, " but let us keep the Lord's day, on which our Life
Justin Martyr, who lived at the close of the first and the beginning of the second century, says, “ On the day, called Sunday, is an assembly of all who live in the city or country ; and the memoirs of the apostles, and the writings of the prophets,” that is, 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 keep the Sabbath ; meditating in the law,” or Scriptures, “ and rejoicing in the works of God.”
Dionysius, 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.
Petavius 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 bave 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 Petavius 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 capon, that Christians should rest from labour on the Sabbath, or seventh day. For they say,
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 cannot wonder that 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 himsell, 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 aught 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, but 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 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.
THE LAW OF GOD.
THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT.
THERE REMAINETH THEREFORE A REST TO THE PEOPLE OF GOD.
HEBREWS IV, 9.
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 Sab