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he had rested from all his work which God created and made.” The sabbath is only one day younger than the creation of the world ; and was hallowed from the remainder of the week; -not only to commemorate the accomplished work of Jehovah in forming this world, with all its fair variety,—but to give mankind, in every period of time, the means of entering into that rest that remaineth for the people of God. It was observed through the whole course of the patriarchal dispensation, by all who feared the Lord, and thought upon his name. It seems to have been known to the Israelites, during their sojourn and bondage in Egypt. When the manna fell in the wilderness, the sanctity of the sabbath was attested by a succession of miracles. It was solemnly bound upon the reverence of the chosen people, in those commandments, which were written with the finger of God, and delivered to Moses upon the top of Sinai. The most severe punishment was denounced against its violation : and guilty as the tribes of Israel were in so many other instances of rebellion, they appear to have observed the sabbath with a peculiar and conscientious solemnity.
One of their number however, presumed to
See Dr. Owen's learned Exercitations on the Sabbath, prefixed to his Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
violate it by going forth from the camp to gather sticks; and being detected in the offence, was punished with death, in order to vindicate the divine law, and to save others from similar guilt and visitation.
The mild and easy yoke of Jesus Christ has made our sabbath duties more delightful, and our sabbath restrictions less irksome, than those to which the Jews were subjected: but on that very account we incur the more guilt in neglecting them.
And surely, observation, inquiry, conscience, will unite to testify, that the wisdom of a sabbath institution, with all the mercy of its purposes, are too generally disregarded. By countless thousands in this Christian land, it is spent in pursuits, which equally defy the wrath, and despise the goodness of God. And who of us my brethren, shall pronounce his soul free from the guilt of dishonouring its extensive and spiritual requirements, as a divine command, a mean of grace, an opportunity of delightful and endearing communion with God in Christ Jesus ? Common violations of this holy day call therefore upon every one of us for deep humiliation, for an earnest appeal to the great atonement of the cross, and for grace to go and sin no more. To such feelings, and such resource, does the text also invite us. “ He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”
I. The first subject of inquiry and self-application, is obviously THE GUILT OF THE TRANSGRESSOR.
“When the children of Israel were in the wilderness they found a man that gathered sticks on the sabbath day.” Such an employment was a palpable violation of the divine command. God had enjoined the observance of his own day with peculiar solemnity. No work was to be done, save that of the first necessity, -no fire to be kindled throughout all the tents of Israel. Yet did this man, heedless of the divine prohibition, and unwarned by former visitations of judgment on the people, prophane the sabbath by a secular and forbidden labour. It
may be asked, “Did his offence deserve so stern a rebuke, as that by which it was visited ?' It may be inquired concerning this sin,“ Was it not a little one?” The right of God to demand a day of exclusive devotion to himself by the creatures whom his hand formed, his providence supplies, and the blood of his Son redeemed, may be disputed and practically denied, by such as listen to the suggestions of pride and unbelief, rather than to the meek and lowly instructions of the Spirit of truth and life. Was the guilt of Adam then small, when, the whole range of Paradise being freely given to him, he plucked and ate the fruit of the only
tree which God had forbidden him to touch ? Of like character was the sin against the sabbath, which God claimed to himself, leaving all the other days of the week for the temporal claims, wants, duties, and recreations of his creatures? And is he not walking in the path of a like disobedience, and fearfully exposed to its consequences, who instead of joining his brethren of the congregation, in the gracious employments befitting the sacred day, his own character as a sinner, his obligations, as one of the ransomed of the cross of Christ, his hope as a candidate for that eternal sabbath which shall be spent by the people of God around the throne, is immersed in some sordid employment, going to his house, his farm, his merchandize? That man surely imagines gold to be the only worthy object of pursuit; and the solemnities of the Lord's day only seasonable opportunities of maturing plans for the increase of wealth, because they might be interrupted amidst the bustle of every day life and occupation. Wherein consists the difference between him who can turn his back unmoved upon all the blessings of sabbath appointments, and all the promises of sabbath mercies, to absorb his time, and his cares, and his soul, in heaping up riches, and him whom the watchmen of the congregation detected gathering sticks in the wilderness, on the day of God?
Wealth may come by the unhallowed effort; but it will not come alone. Such dishonour poured upon a divine command, such a cowardly distrust of God, as cannot rest upon his vidence and his promise for a sufficient increase to the six days of permitted labour,--such a guilty avarice of time, as plunders from the Almighty those hours which he had separated for himself, will have its reward. The gold thus gotten may sparkle, the luxuries thus obtained may delight and exhilarate : but the one shall ere long eat into the offender's peace like fire; and the other shall nourish up his soul for the day of slaughter. No imaginary necessity-a necessity conjured up by an inordinate love of this present world, and a criminally blind indifference to the one thing needful, should induce you to dishonour the sabbath by unhallowed labour. Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness-seek it in conscientious obedience to sabbath duties, and all other things shall be added unto you.
This Israelite sinned against his mercies, and his soul, by absenting himself from public worship, in order to provide for some bodily want, or to obtain some sensual gratification. On the Lord's day the unsearchable riches of Christ, the pardon of sin, the peace of God the sanctification of the Holy Ghost, and all the unmea