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sabbath-day to satisfy their hunger, and that of our Saviour's restoring the withered hand. It is lawful, in short, as our Saviour expresses it, to do well on the sabbath-day; to preserve ourselves, and to benefit our fellow creatures. Thus far then we may go, but no farther. In other respects, the rest of the Lord's day is to be observed; and those very exceptions · which our Saviour makes are a proof, ihat in
every other case he approves and sanctions the duty of resting on the sabbath-day. It is also remarkable, that our own laws, grounding themselves no doubt on this declaration of Christ, make the same exceptions to the rest of the sabbath that he does; they allow works of necessity and charity, but no others*. To these therefore we ought to confine ourselves as nearly as may be; and with these exceptions, and these only, consecrate the sabbath as a holy rest unto the Lord.
This rest the Almighty enjoined, not, as is sometimes pretended, to the Jews only, but to all mankind. For even immediately after the great work of creation was finished, we are told, “ that God ended his work that he had
* See the Statute of 29 C. 2. c.7 Vol. I.
made, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work which he had made; and God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; because that in it he had rested from all his work, which God created and made *.” It is evident therefore that the seventh day was to be a day of rest to all mankind, in memory of God having on that day finished his great work of creation; and this seventh day, after our Lord's resurrection, was changed by his apostles to the first day of the week, on which our Lord rose from the dead, and rested from his labours; so that the rest of this day is now commemorative of both these important events, the creation and the resurrection.
I now proceed to consider the consequences of this conversation between our Lord and the Pharisees on the subject of the sabbath. One should have expected that so wise and rational an explanation of the law respecting that day, releasing men from the senseless severities imposed upon them by the servile fears of superstition, but at the same time requiring all that respite from labour which is really conducive to the glory of God and happiness of man ; '.
* Gen. ii. 2, 3.
one should have expected, I say, that such wisdom and such benevolence as this would have triumphed over even Pharisaical obstinacy, and extoried the admiration and applause of his hearers. But stubborn prejudices, and deep-rooted malignity, are not so easily subdued. For see what actually followed. “ The Pharisees went out,” says the evangelist, “and held a council how they might destroy him.” Destroy him! for what? Why, for giving ease to timid minds and scrupulous consciences, and for restoring the withered hand of a poor decrepit man. And were these deeds that deserved destruction? Would it not rather have been the just reward of those inhuman wretches who were capable of conceiving so execrable a project: and would not our Saviour have been justified in calling down fire from heaven, as he easily might, to consume them? But his heart abhorred the thought. He pursued a directly opposite conduct; and instead of inflicting upon them a punishment which might have destroyed them, he chose to set them an example that might amend them. He chose to shew them the difference between their temS 2
per and his own, between those malignaut vindictive passions which governed them, and the mild, gentle, conciliating disposition which his religion inspired; between the spirit of the world, in short, and the spirit of the Gospel. He withdrew himself silently and quietly from them; and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them ali; and, to avoid all irritation and all contest, he charged them that they should not make him known. “ Thus was fulfilled, (says the evangelist,) that which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall show judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not strive, nor cry: neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory *.” A most sublime passage! which may thus be paraphrased. Behold iny servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased! I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall teach true reli* Isaiah, xlii. 1--3.
gion, not only to the people of Israel, but to the heathens also; and this he shall do with the utmost tenderness, mildness, and meekness, without contention and noise, without tumult and disturbance. A bruised reed shall he not break; he shall not bear hard upon a wounded and contrite, and truly humble and penitent heart, bowed down with a sense of its infirmities. And smoking flax shall he not quench;. the faintest spark of returning virtue he will not extinguish by severity ; but will cherish and encourage the one, and will raise and animate and enliven the other; till by these gentle conciliating means he shall have triumphed over the wickedness and malevolence of his enemies, and completely established his religion throughout the world. What an amiable picture is here given us of the divine Author of our faith! and how exactly does this prophetic description correspond to the whole tenour of his conduct in the propagation of his religion !
The next remarkable occurrences which present themselves in this chapter are those of our Saviour casting a devil out of a man that was both blind and dumb; the reflections