Imágenes de página

the Deity, under those three successive dispensations, which have been already mentioned.

1. That such an institution was established immediately after the creation, is obvious from the words of our text; in which it is said, that God rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh

* day and sanctified it. By this benediction cannot be meant, that Deity spends the seventh part of the time differently from the rest. To him all times and places are alike. The words must therefore have relation to the conduct and feelings of men.

It is the will of God, that they should separate and devote to religious purposes a seventh part of the time.

It is material to notice, that, though this institution was binding on man previously to the Mosaic revelation, its obligatory power was not confined to that early age, nor to any period of the world. Much less was it confined to any nation in exclusion of others; for, as yet, national divisions, and civil compacts were unknown. If it were possible for Deity to give a command under such circumstances, as to show the universality of its obligation, he seems to have done it in the instance contemplated. It was given at creation. It was given not to a family, a church, or a nation, but to human beings. In addition to this, the reason assigned for the institution has in regard to all men the same applicability. The Lord rested from all the work, which he had made.

If, in opposition to this, it should be objected, that we have no evidence to prove, that the seventh day was religiously observed by the patriarchs, the reply usually made seems altogether pertinent;* namely, that during a period of about twenty centuries, innumerable events of no inconsiderable importance must have occurred, which could not obtain a place in the short account, which is transmitted to us relating to that period.

That the seventh day was divinely designated, as a season for religious worship, we have the express testimony of Moses. If

Argumentum a non dicto nullum est, quum in contrarium est ratio.-Capellus de sabbatho.

the patriarchs were regardless of this designation, it proves only an unaccountable omission of their duty. But that these venerable men were thus guilty, we are without a syllable of positive evidence.*

First to take this for granted, and then on such presumption to build an argument, disproving the existence of the Sabbath in the patriarchal age, in opposition to the declaration of Moses, would be treating his authority and the dictates of common sense with equal disregard.

It may be further objected, that if any divine precept universally binding on men were given at the beginning of the world, that precept must have been moral, and the duty, which it required, a moral duty; but that the Sabbath can be no other than a positive institution. +

I answer that a positive precept becomes binding on all to whom it is made known. The two Christian sacraments are positive institutions, but will remain obligatory unto the end of the world. By the Lord's Supper Christians are to show forth their Master's death till he come. It is perfectly immaterial, whether the will of God is revealed by his works or by his word. When once revealed it is in both cases equally binding.

But the fact is, that the Sabbath is by no means wholly a positive institution. As to the worship of God, in general, no duty is more undeniably moral. The propriety of worshipping God, is as little questionable, as the truth of his being. That this worship should be rendered in public, and at stated periods, is thought likewise to be a moral duty. “The dictate of nature being common to all,” says Bishop Stillingfleet, “nature re

* Capellus exhibits no inconsiderable evidence, that the seventh day was observed by the patriarchs; and Grotius, (de Veritate Religionis Christianae,) quotes many remarkable passages from pagan writers, to show, that peculiar regard was among them paid to the seventh day.

+ I here use the distinction of Bishop Butler : “Moral precepts ar precepts, the reasons of which we see; positive precepts are precepts the reasons of which we do not see. Moral duties arise out of the nature of the case itself, prior to external command; positive duties do not rise out of the nature of the case, but from external command."


quires some kind of mutual society for the just performance of their common duties.” (Irenicum, p. 72). “ And, among all na

., tions, that have had any form of divine worship, particular periods have been established, in which this worship was to be performed.” (Irenicum, p. 96.) Reasons for the public and stated worship of God are numerous and obvious ; and so they appear to have been generally considered by mankind.

As to the particular proportion of time to be assigned to this purpose, it is doubtless the result of a positive precept. Independently of revelation ; we know not why a seventh, rather than a sixth, an eighth or a tenth part, should be thus appropriated. On the other hand, we can see nothing in any of these propositions, rendering it preferable to that, which is actually established. As the appointment was made by a Being of infinite wisdom, we know that nothing pertaining to it, could have been the result of caprice or casualty. There are solid reasons, therefore, for that particular portion of time, which is consecrated, not less than for the consecration itself.

2. After many centuries from the creation, God gave to the descendants of Abraham a national religion. In this religion, the appointment of the Sabbath, far from being abrogated, was expressly recognized : Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God. In it thou shalt not do any work. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth. Here, it will be observed, the same

, reason is assigned, that was given for the original appointment. All this is precisely what we should expect. The primitive institution was made at the commencement of the world, and was evidently represented, as being of universal obligation. Deity having selected the Jewish people as his peculiar treasure, and known them above all the families of the earth, it was to have been presumed, that an establishment, so important as that of the Sabbath, would make part of their national code.

The place which this command holds in the Mosaic law, ought not to escape our notice. It was found in that part which

was undeniably of a moral nature. This circumstance is mentioned as tending to corroborate the opinion already expressed, that the Sabbath is, in substance, a moral institution, and designed to be of universal influence. In proof of which sentiment, however, it will be noticed, that we principally rely on the preceding arguments, drawn from the nature of the institution, and its having been appointed at the beginning of the world.

A late theological writer, deservedly held in high estimation, has labored to show, that the cominand to sanctify the Sabbath, was published for the first time, in the wilderness, and was designed exclusively for the Jewish nation. With his usual frankness, he concedes, however, that, “ if the divine command was actually delivered at the creation, it was addressed, no doubt, to the whole human species alike, and continues, unless repealed by subsequent revelation, binding on all, who come to the knowledge of it.” (Paley's Mor. Phil. B. V. Ch. 7.)

I ask then, why any person, who reads in the second chapter of Genesis, that because God finished the work of creation in six days, he blessed and sanctified the seventh, should doubt that the command implied in these words, was actually given at the creation? Why should it be imagined, that Moses, when confessedly treating of the creation, should immediately, and without giving notice of the transition, inform us of something, which occurred two thousand and five hundred years after, and then resume the former subject? Why should it be imagined, that a writer remarkable for the simplicity of his manner, and directed by divine influence, should so confound the most distant events, as to lead, I might rather say, necessitate even an attentive reader to conclude, that they related to one and the same period ? Why should it be thought credible, that the words of our text relate, not to an appointment, made at the beginning of the world, but to a consecration of the Sabbath, peculiar to the Jews, and first made known to them immediately after they had left Egypt. No one, it is presumed, would consider this, as the most natural meaning of the passage, nor


would any resort to it but from supposed necessity.* This supposed pecessity rests on the two following reasons; first the strictness required in the observance of the Sabbath; and secondly, it is represented, as a sign between God and the Jewish nation.

We are first to consider the strictness required in the observance of the Jewish Sabbath. The day was to be distinguished by holy convocations, extraordinary sacrifices, and a rigid abstinence from all labor. It is even said : Whoever doeth any work on the Sabbath day, shall surely be put to death. From the heavy penalty, by which this command was sanctioned, it is inferred that the command itself must have been peculiar to the Jewish nation, as it so well corresponds with that severe regimen under which they were placed.

Would you inculcate, it may be asked, that manual labor, though performed on the Sabbath, should now be punished with death? Or, is it to be believed, that a command so rigid, is universally binding ?

I answer, that there is an obvious distinction to be made between the command itself, and the penalty, by which it was enforced. The Mosaic religion contained other laws, sanctioned by extraordinary penalties, and yet undeniably obligatory on all mankind. Violations of the seventh commandment, as well as of the fourth, were by the law of Moses punishable with death. (Lev. 20: 10.) Any son, who should curse his father or mother, was to be treated with the same serverity. (Exod. 21: 17.) Under the Christian dispensation, such a punishment would not be inflicted. Does it hence follow, that the commands to preserve chastity, and to honor parents are not of universal obligation ? Again, we should not, under the Christian economy, be justified in putting to death the Persian, for adoring the Sun, nor the Indian for worshipping the Ganges.

* Capellus, though he entertains ideas of the Lord's day, sir to those of Dr. Paley, is for from denying, that the command in our text was given at the beginning. “Et hactenus quidem, donec meliora edoceamur in eorum sumus sententia qui affirmant Adamo fuisse a Deo datum hoc preceptum."-De sabbatho, p. 263.

« AnteriorContinuar »