Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

Zephyr himself, your faithful lover,

How new, how cruel, is his case !
Dares only round your beauties hover,

And fears to meet your fond embrace !"
The poison canght : the Rose consented,

And stripp'd herself of ev'ry thorn ;
But, 0, how soon must be repented

The error of that cruel morn !.
The guardian thorn no sooner gone,

The Snail became, from humble, free;
Easy and impudent came on,

And mounted the defenceless tree.
There, quickly capkering every leaf,

Each flow'r and op'ning bud he ate;
And now the Rose perceiv'd with grief

Her error, but perceiv'd too late !
Her fragrance gone, her beauty blasted,

And fled her young and virgin pride ;
Her life was bitter while it lasted,

But soon she broke ber heart and died.
Ye fair, whom snail-like flatt'rers sue,

Mark what the awful moral shows !
Virtue is beauty's thorn in you-

But, O! be wiser than the Rose.

Mr. Moore on the Divine Origin and Authority of the

Sabbath,
(LETTER III.)

SIR,

The observance of the Sabbath is inculcated more frequently, upon the Israelites, and enforced with greater solemnity, than that of any other institution that has the support of Divine authority. In Exod. xxxv. 2, the punishment of death is again annexed to the slightest breach of the command.

In the recapitulation of the Ten Commandments, in Deut. V., there is some variation in the expressions of the fourth, wbich, howerer, is of no real importance to the question before us. An additional reason is given for the observance of the day, adapted to the peculiar circum

stances of the Israelites, but shewing also the humane and benevolent design of the institution. “ The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt pot do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates ; that thy man-servant, and thy inaid-servant, may rest as well as thou. And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence, through a mighty hand, and by a stretched-out arm; therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the Sabbath-day.” Nothing can be more absurd and unfounded than to take occasion from hence to maintain, that the Sabbath rested on a positive command given exclusively to the Jews, as if their deliverance from Egyptian bondage were the only reason for the institution. They are reminded of their former slavery merely as furnishing an additional motive for permitting their servants to rest one day in seven as well as themselves. Even in this abridged recapitulation of the fourth commandment some reference is made to the reasons already adduced for believing that the Sabbath was intended for universal ob

“Keep the Sabbath-day to sanctify it, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee,” as in Exod. xx. 8, where the religious observance of the day is enjoined, as before appointed, for a memorial of the creation ; which command was engraven upon stone with nine others of universal obligation, detached from the rest of the law, and deposited in the ark: and again, “Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work; but the seventh is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God;" that is, the day on which he ceased from the work of creation, and which, therefore, he blessed and sanctified ; in other words, which he consecrated to rest and to religious purposes from the beginning.

As the punishment of death was annexed, by the Mosaic law, to a breach of the Sabbath, an instance of singular severity in the infliction of this punishment is related in Namb. xv. 32-36. Rigour like this, so revolting to the feelings of persons living under a dispensation of religion, just, humane and liberal as the Christian, might possibly be adapted to the very peculiar circumstances and singular character of the Hebrew nation, and might be necessary as a constant check upon their habitual propensity to the

servance.

worst abominations of idolatry, with which they were on all sides surrounded. Their government was a theocracy, and they were well assured, whatever severity there might seem in this or any other of their institutions, obedience to the laws which Divine Wisdom had appointed, Divine Power would not fail to protect and bless. At any rate, the extreme severity with which the slightest breach of the Sabbath was then punished, originated in the law of Moses, and with this Christians have no concern. Our Lord, though he has not abolished the Sabbath, has entirely done away with Jewish rigour in the observance of it.

It is a mistake to say that the law appointed no additional religious services for the Sabbath. From Leviticus xxiii. 3, we learn, that assemblies for religious purposes were required to be held on this day: “ Six days shall work be done, but the seventh is a Sabbath of rest, a holy convocation," &c. Nor do I know what meaning to affix to this expression, if it do not signify an assembly of the people for divine worship, that is, for public prayers as well as sacrifice, which were commonly united. Such is evidently the sense in which holy convocations are to be understood in the 27th verse of this chapter, and in Numb. xxix. 7 and 12. Such also was the sense in which the Jews always understood this expression, for we learn from other authentic sources, as well as from various parts of the Scriptures, that the purposes to which they devoted the Sabbath, were prayers, sacrifices, the reading of the law and prophets, and expounding them. And in Numbers xxviii. 9, we are informed, that additional sacrifices were appointed for this day, particularly two lambs instead of one, both morning and evening. David, moreover, was the king chosen by God himself, who appointed specific regulations for the additional religious services on these occasions, as well as proper officers from the Levites, consisting chiefly of singers and other musicians to conduct them. He furnished also a variety of highly poetical and devout compositions, still remaining, which were recited in their assemblies on these days by the officiating Levites, and by the people alternately, so as to render the whole services completely social.*

* For further satisfaction on this subject, Dr. Jennings' Jewish Antiquities may be consulted, B. III. Ch. iii. See also my Inquiry into the Scriptural Authority for Social Worship, pages 54, &c.

[ocr errors]

The importance which the Jewish prophets attach to the observance of the Sabbath, and the connexion which they establish between this observance and the moral conduct as well as the prosperity of the people, are well worthy of our attention. They often complain of the neglect and profanation of this sacred day by the people, and administer the severest reproofs on this account; but it is remarkable that at the same time they alsó reprove them with equal severity for the general prevalence of idolatry, of injustice, of oppression, and extreme depravity of manners; insomuch that their prosperity invariably kept pace with their obedience to the will of God, and their obedi. ence to the will of God with their observance of this divine institution.

Isaiah especially often laments in the strongest language the increase of iniquity in his time, and when complaining of their hypocrisy, particularly exhorts them to return without delay to a serious and proper attention to the Sabbath, as that on which their prosperity and the blessing of God most certainly depended. isaiah lviii. 13:

“ If thou wilt turn thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing $ thy pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a de

light, 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; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the inheritance of Jacob, thy father : for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it." The gloomy seer who succeeded the evangelical prophet, appears to have had abundant reason for the stern invectives and highly pathetic lamentations with which he so constantly and forcibly reproves the overwhelming depravity of the times in which he lived; lamentations that form the most beautiful specimens of Hebrew, or indeed of any poetry extant; and from Jeremiah we learn, (xvii. 21, &c.,) that the neglect of the Sabbath was in exact proportion to the general prevalence of irreligion and the most abominable iniquity. The prophet Ezekiel also complains, with even greater energy, if possible, of the neglect of the Sabbath in his days, and attributes to this cause chiefly the severe calamities with which the people were then visited. (Ch. xx. 12, 20.) And in the prophecy of Amos the like subjects of invective and complaint may be found (viii. 4, 5). Thus, then, it is evident, that though the Sabbath was observed by the Jews with great solemnity in the best periods of their history, when their prosperity and obedience to the com, mands of God kept pace with each other, in seasons of depravity and vice they became equally remiss in their attention to it; till at length they were utterly deprived of Divine protection and support, and were driven into captivity, after the most solemn and repeated, but in, effectual, warnings of what would be the inevitable result of their inveterate and obstinate rebellion against the only Power that could save them. “These things were written for our admonition;" and is there in them no lesson of importance, no warning to Christians deserving their seri, ous attention ? The observance of the Sabbath, and the good conduct as well as prosperity of this people, it is evident, were inseparable; and we may be allowed to ask, if this institution were thus, necessary to the Israelites, what good reason can be given why it should be considered as of little importance to us? Men are essentially the same in all ages, and require similar methods of moral cultivation. These considerations, surely, ought at least to make us pause before we attempt to convince mankind that there is now no authority for devoting one day in seven to moral and religious improvement.

During the captivity of the Jews under the Assyrians and Chaldeans, the various rites of their religion were suspended, and the Sabbath, of course, ceased to be observed with the same strictness and solemnity to which they had been accustomed. But on their return to their own country, after considerable obstruction by too many of the nobles of Israel and their merchants, under the influence of habits acquired during their exile, the religious observance of the day was completely restored, (Nehem. x. 30,) and from that time, as the people no more returned to idolatrous practices, this most important and salutary custom seems to have maintained its ground without in. terruption. In the days of our Lord, at least, the observance of it was acco

ccompanied with its ancient rigour and with even additional superstition, for they sought to stone him because he had healed the sick on that day.

Such is the history of the Sabbath from the Hebrew Scriptures, and however tedious these details may have seemed, I am mistaken if the following important propositions have not been established by them ; first, the origi.

« AnteriorContinuar »