תמונות בעמוד

stitution interferes with the execution of any charitable or pious design, the former must give place to the latter; as in the present instance, a strict observance of the sabbath must not be suffered to deprive my disciples of that refreshment which is necessary to support them under the fatigue of following me, and dispensing to mankind the blessings of the Gospel. We see then with what superstitious rigour the Jews adhered to the letter of their law respecting the Jewish sabbath; and with what superior wisdom and dignity our Lord endeavoured to raise their minds above such trivial things to the true spirit of it, to the life and soul of religion.

The fault however here reproved and corrected is not one into which we of this country are likely to fall, nor is there any need to warn us against imitating the Jews in this instance. There is no danger that we should carry the observance of our sabbath too far, or that we should be too scrupulously nice in avoiding every the minutest infringement of the rest and sanctity of that holy day. The bent and tendency of the present times is too . evidently to a contrary extreme, to an exces

sive relaxation instead of an excessive strictness in the regard shown to the Lord's day. I am not now speaking of the religious duties appropriated to the Lord's day, for these are not now before us, but solely of the rest, the repose which it requires. This rest is plainly infringed, whenever the lower classes of people continue their ordinary occupations on the sabbath, and whenever the higher employ their servants and their cattle on this dav in needless labour. This, however, we see too frequently done, more particularly by selectingSunday as a day for travelling, for taking long journeys, which might as well be performed at any other time. This is a direct violation of the fourth commandment, which expressly gives the sabbath as a day of rest to our servants and our cattle.

This temporary suspension of labour, this refreshment and relief from incessant toil, is most graciously allowed even to the brute creation, by the great Governor of the universe, whose mercy extends over allhis works. It is the boon of Heaven itself. It is a small drop of comfort thrown into their cup of misery; and to wrest from them this only privilege, lege, this sweetest consolation of their wretched existence, is a degree of inhumanity for which there wants a name; and of which, few people, I am persuaded, if they could be brought to reflect seriously upon it, would ever be guilty. These profanations of the sabbath are however sometimes defended on the ground of the very passage we have been just considering. It is alleged, that as our Lord here reproves the Jews for too rigorous an attention to the rest of the sabbath, it conveys an intimation that we ought not to be too exact and scrupulous in that respect; and that many things may rn tact be allowable which timid minds may consider as unlawful. But it should be observed, that Jesus condemns nothing in the conduct of the Jews but what was plainly absurd and superstitious; and he allows of no exceptions to that rest from labour which thev observed on the sabbath, except simply works of necessity and charity; such for instance as those very cases which gave occasion to the conversation in this chapter between Christ and the Jews, that of the disciples plucking the ears of corn on the 9 sabbathsabbath-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 ffi'e//on.the sabbath-da}-; 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, that 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. S made. 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; be-cause 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.


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