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the holy peace, the animating hope, which a sanctified improvement of the Lord's day so abundantly ministers, forsake its assemblies, and lightly esteem its salvation ? If the Sabbath were useful to man, even in the condition of his perfection and bliss in Paradise, how much more necessary to him have its institutions become, as a sinner, in need of pardon,-a bondman, in need of a Redeemer, a perishing creature, in need of the bread of God which he gave for the life of the world. The appointment of this gracious day was not essential to the honour or the happiness of the Almighty. Enthroned in heaven, infinitely blessed in his own perfections, and receiving ceaseless homage and adoration from angels and archangels, in multitude unnumbered, in grandeur of state and character inconceivable, how could God have need of the Sabbath praise and service of such a creature as man? Why then was the Sabbath made ? As a provision of love,—as an act of infinite compassion,-as an opportunity afforded to sinners of attaining that eternal life which consists in
knowing the true God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent.” And yet, there are myriads of the very souls for whom the Sabbath was provided, who deem God a hard master, because he requires them to hallow his day, and improve it to their soul's health with an exclusive devotion.
There are men, there are multitudes of men, who in full, determined, systematic purpose, consume those hours which might minister to their salvation, in acts of flagrant dishonour to the God who gave the Sabbath, and will require it at their hands. And what is this, but to turn the grace of God into lasciviousness ? What is this, but that settled, malignant ingratitude of the unrenewed and rebellious heart, which not only receives the grace of God in vain, but
perverts a gift and a mercy, into an occasion of increased rebellion and indignity ? O that every one of us, in this solemn view of the deep guilt which the sin of Sabbath-breaking involves, and the punishment it provokes, may cry in the salutary anxiety of the Psalmist, Keep thy servant from presumptuous sins ; let them not get the dominion over me. So shall I be undefiled, and I shall be innocent from the great offence.
II. If such be the character of the transgression, we must be prepared secondly to expect THE DECISION OF GOD AGAINST IT. They who found the criminal brought him to Moses and Aaron, and all the congregation. The leaders of Israel put him into ward, as had been already done in the case of the blasphemer (Levit. xxiv. 12.) until the mind of the Lord for his punishment could be expressly obtained. They well knew that he must die, for so God himself had
declared :) but by. what kind of death, and whether by the hand of heaven, or of the people, they knew not, and therefore they kept him in custody until they could inquire. They did their vowed and bounden duty, as the watchmen of Israel: and happy were it for our more favoured portion of the camp of God, if they whose solemn duty it is, “truly and indifferently to minister justice, to the punishinent of wickedness and vice, and to the maintenance of true religion and virtue,” would fearlessly exercise their authority against the crime of Sabbathbreaking, a crime, equally opposed to the law of God, the law of the land, the purity of the national character, the public peace, and the common salvation. O, for the mantle and the Spirit of Nehemiah! That upright, intrepid, conscientious ruler, reproved the Sabbathbreakers of his country, her merchants, her mariners, her tradesmen, her nobles. He said unto them, as he beheld the avidity with which they turned the day of God into a day of merchandize, “What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the Sabbath day? As they persisted in the desecration, he cried, with a holy zeal for the honour of his God, which neither the fear, nor the favour of man could extinguish or re
| Exod xxxi. 14; xxxv. 2.
ye do so again, I will lay hands on
The matter being thus referred to the Most High, he instantly condemned the malefactor to a severe and ignominious fate. “The Lord said unto Moses, The man shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp. And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, that he died; as the Lord commanded Moses.” Will it again be asked, was not the punishment greater than the offence ? Consider the sin itself, the circumstances of defiance by which it was aggravated, the jealous regard of God for the sanctity of his law. Then judge, whether, while the ruler of Israel, enforced his commands by declarations of temporal visitation or prosperity, the sentence did not alike befit the crime, the criminal, and the lawgiver. Do you still hesitate in coming to such a conclusion? Then consider, that a judgment of this decisive character was probably mercy to the people. Had this man been spared, in answer to the inquiry made by Moses, his escape, thus allowed by God himself, would have been a stumbling stone, and a rock of offence to his brethren. Many, instead of being
deterred from polluting the sabbath, would have been emboldened to partake his sin. And that commandment, which in its breach and transgression has been the first awful step in the downward path of temporal and eternal ruin to thoughtless or presumptuous sinners, would have been set atnought, and mocked and broken, under the deluding seduction of present impunity. When justice strikes at the offender's life, it is not only in punishment of his sin, but in mercy to others, that being warned, they may abstain from such transgression and live.
We may safely leave it to the author of this procedure, to justify his own dealing, assured that no injunction was ever given for the punishment of sin, which the disclosures of the eternal day shall not prove to have originated in perfect love and justice. We should rather learn from the lesson of caution thus so solemnly read to ourselves, to avoid an offence, subjecting us not merely to present judgment, but to the wrath of him, who after he hath killed, hath power to destroy both body and soul in hell. It may be, that no immediate woe shall fall upon our heads. It may be, that the arm of human law is too short, or its awards too negligently enforced, to visit us for the violation of the sabbath. But the Lord of the Sabbath will reckon