« הקודםהמשך »
Sabbath on his mind, man everywhere feels himself accountable to his Maker; and in darkness and solitude, in the secrecy of thought, as well as in the conduct inspected by the public eye, realizes that the all-searching God is a constant witness of whatever he thinks, speaks, or does. From this consideration, more than from the dread of the dungeon and the halter, most men are inclined to restrain their hands from injustice and violence, from tumult and confusion. In the mean time, the peace and good order of religious assemblies on the Sabbath furnish the highest specimen of this happy conduct, that was ever seen in the present world. Fifty-two Sabbaths every year is this conduct repeated. Hence, it becomes a powerful as well as desirable babit; and clings to him, who steadily visits the house of God, through the remainder of every week. In this manner, it is diffused through the life; and influences the thoughts, words, and actions towards men of every class and character. The magistrate and the subject, the parent and the child, the master and the servant, the friend and the neighbour, are benefited by it alike. All of them acquire more peaceful dispositions, exhibit a more amiable deportment, pursue a more orderly conduct, and fill their respective stations with greater propriety than either would do under the influence of every other cause, except the immediate agency of God.
It will not be denied, that each of the things which I have specified is an important benefit to mankind, nor that all of them united are of advantage inestimable. But the Sabbath has blessings to give of a still higher nature. Among them this is one, of supreme moment; that the Sabbath is the great mean of preserving in the world the knowledge and the worship of the one living and true God. Wherever the Sabbath is not, there is no worship, no religion. Man forgets God, and God forsakes man. The moral world becomes a desert, where life never springs, and beauty never smiles. The beams of the Sun of Righteousness never dawn upon the miserable waste; the rains of heaven never descend. Putrid with sin, and shrunk with ignorance, the soul of man loses its rational character; and prostrates itself before devils, men, beasts, and reptiles, insects, stocks, and stones. To these man offers his prayers, his praises, and his victims; to these he sacrifices his children, and to these he immolates the purity and honour
of his wife. A brutal worshipper of a brutal god, he hopes for protection and blessing from the assumption of every folly, and the perpetration of every crime.
If his mind becomes enlightened by science, and these absurdities, as they sometimes may, become too gross and too naked to be received by him, he becomes an infidel, a sceptic, an atheist. The absurdity here is not indeed less, but greater. The only material difference is, that it is less palpable, less exposed to vulgar eyes, less susceptible of ridicule. The former is the madness of a blockhead, the latter, of a man of learning : that the folly of the clown, this of the man of fashion. In this case, the votary wanders through all the labyrinths of subtle disquisition; proves right to be wrong, and wrong to be right; and demonstrates that there is nothing either right or wrong. Freed from these incumbrances, men of this character cast their eyes towards the enjoyments of this world, and covet their neighbour's house, and their neighbour's wife, bis man servant, and his maid servant; his ox, and his ass; and every thing that is their neighbour's.” Nothing, now, intervenes between themselves and the objects coveted, but the apprehension of resistance, and the dread of punishment. Elevate, them to power, and the Sabbath is changed into the decade, and the house of God into a stable; the Bible is paraded through the streets on an ass, and consumed upon a bonfire ; immortal existence is blotted out of the divine kingdom ; the Redeemer is pastponed to a murderer : and the Creator to a prostitute, styled the Goddess of Reason. The end of this progress might be easily foreseen. Legalized plunder, legislative butchery, the prostitution of a kingdom, fields drenched in human blood, and cities burnt by human incendiaries, fill up the tremendous measure of iniquity, bewilder the gazing 'world with astonishment, awaken the shouts of fiends, and eover heaven itself with a robe of sackclotb.
But for the Sabbath, this assembly had now been prostrate before the stock of a tree, or sitting round the circle of a pawwaw; or, frantic with rage or frenzy, had been roaming the mountains in honour of Bacchus; or drowning with shouts and screams the cries of a human victim, offered up to appease the wrath of an imaginary Deity.
But thanks be to God for this unspeakable gift!' The
Sabbath, according to his abundant mercy,' returns at the close of every week to shine upon us with its peaceful and benevolent beams. At the close of every week, with a still, small voice,' it summons us to the house of God. Here, we meet, and find, and know, and serve our glorious and blessed Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. Here, on the mercy-seat, , he sits enthroned, to hear our complaints and petitions, to receive our praises, to accept our repentance, and to forgive our sins for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ. Here he makes known his pleasure and our duty. Here he promises to those who obey, divine and eternal rewards; and threatens those who disobey with terrible and never-ending punishments. Seen every week in these awful and amiable characters, God cannot be unknown nor forgotten. Accordingly, throughout the ages of Christianity, his presence and agency are understood everywhere, and by every person who frequents the house of God. The little child is as familiarly acquainted with them as the man of grey hairs ; the peasant, as the monarch. * All,' in this sense, ‘ know God, from the least to the greatest;' and there is ‘no occasion for a man to say to his neighbour, Know the Lord.'
Intimately connected with this vast and interesting subject, and in an important sense the effect of the Sabbath only, is the attainment of holiness and salvation.
Man, an apostate, guilty and condemned, infinitely needs a renovation of his character, a reversal of his sentence, an escape from his punishment, and a reinstatement in the glorious privileges from which he has fallen. To accomplish these inestimable and benevolent ends, God, according to the language of the text, has hallowed and blessed the Sabbath. Through every age, and through every land, where the Sabbath has been kept holy unto the Lord, this blessing has regularly and uninterruptedly descended. There the glad tidings of salvation have been published and received. There men have sought and found Jehovah, their God, repented of their sins, believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, renewed their allegiance to their rightful Sovereign, obtained the pardon of their sins and the justification of their souls, triumphed over death and the grave, ascended to heaven, and begun the possession of everlasting joy. Wherever even two or three have met together in the name of Christ, there he has been
in the midst of them, and blessed them,' with his peculiar blessing. This holy, heavenly season has regularly opened the correspondence between this miserable world and the world of life and glory, and preserved the connection between God and men. To it earth owes its chief blessings, and heaven no small part of its inhabitants, and of its unfading joys.
But where mankind have forsaken the assembling of themselves together, as the manner of some is,' all these blessings have ceased. The fruitful land has been converted into marshes, and miry places, which could not be healed, and were therefore given to salt. In such places the world, and sin, and Satan take entire possession of the heart, and leave no room for God. All the thoughts and desires are the offspring of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.' Like Abab, men ' sell themselves to work wickedness :' like Jeroboam, they sin, and make all around them to sin. There no prayers ascend to heaven, no voice of mercy is heard from that happy world, inviting sinners to faith and repentance in the Lord Jesus Christ. God is neither sought nor found. None ask for mercy, and mone receive it. None knock at the door of life, and to none is it opened. All enter into the broad and crooked road,' and · go down to the chambers of death;' while God with an awful voice proclaims concerning them, · Ephraim is joined to idols : let him alone.'
Pause now for a moment, and recollect the number, the greatness, the glory, of these ends; and tell me if the institution which unites and accomplishes them all in perfect harmony, is not supremely wise, and worthy of God. How easily does it accomplish them, how perfectly, how wonderfully! How happy is the frequent, convenient, necessary return of this holy day! After how desirable intervals, with what useful regularity, with what sweet serenity! How necessary is it to the sinner, to call him off from the world, from stupidity, froin sottishness! How necessary to awaken bis attention to God, to , holiness, and to heaven; to engage his thoughts on spiritual and divine objects, to begin his repentance, faith, and love, and to place his feet in the path which leads to immortal life! How necessary to the saint, to rouse him from sloth, to recal him from sin; to remind him of his duty, to increase
bis faith and holiness, and to help him forward in his journey lowards heaven! How necessary to Adam in his innocence ; how infinitely necessary to all his ruined offspring! In a word, how plainly has the Sabbath been blessed, as well as hallowed! Blessed from the beginning to the present time, blessed in a multitude of particulars, blessed in every land where it has been known, with the immediate and peculiar favour of God, with the nearest resemblance to the blessings of immortality!
2. The mind of a good man cannot fail also to be deeply affected with the solemnity of this institution.
When God had ended the glorious work of creation, 'he rested the seventh day from all the work which he had made.' The creation was now fresh from the forming hand of Jehovah. The great Architect had builded his stories in the heaven; had numbered the stars, and called them all by their names ; had appointed the moon for seasons, and caused the sun to know his going down. He had filled the world with beauty and fragrance, with glory and grandeur, with life and immortality. In the full view of this transporting, this amazing scene, in the strong apprehension of the infinite perfections which it unfolded, the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy :' while the Author of all things beheld the works which his hands had made, and pronounced them very good. The praise begun by angels, our first parents reiterated on the first morning of their existence, and made their delightful residence vocal with hymns to their Creator. The first employment of Paradise, the first work done by man, was the worship of God. Thus the dawn of human existence was opened by the same divine employment, which will unceasingly occupy the everlasting day of Heaven.
When the command to remember' this day was given, there were in the morning thunders, and lightnings; and a thick cloud,' upon Mount Sinai, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke; because the Lord descended upon it in fire, and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a surpace; and the whole mount quaked greatly. In the midst of this amazing grandeur, in the midst of these awful terrors, God with his own