« PreviousContinue »
ed in such a manner, as to commemorate, also, the work of Redemption.
With this Prophecy facts have corresponded in a wonderful manner. All Christians commemorate the work of Creation in their prayers and praises, their religious meditations and discourses, from Sabbath to Sabbath. But every Christian perfectly well knows, that the work of Redemption holds a far higher place in every private, and in every public, religious service, and that, according to the declaration of God in this passage, the former is comparatively not remembered, neither does it come into mind. At the same time, the Work of Redemption is not merely the chief, but the only, means of originating holiness in the soul, and altogether the principal means of advancing it towards perfection. In every respect, therefore, the Christian Sabbath is now better suited to the great ends of the Institution, than the original day. Until the time of Christ's resurrection, the seventh day commemorated the most glorious work, which God had ever accomplished, and the most wonderful display of the divine perfections. But by the resurrection of Christ, a new, and far more glorious, work was finished. While the Sabbath, therefore, was by divine appointment kept on the seventh day, it was exactly suited to the purpose of commemorating the most glorious work of God, which had ever taken place. But after the resurrection of Christ, the first day of the week was plainly better fitted, than any other day, to become a religious memorial of both these wonderful works, by being the day, on which Christ arose from the dead, and by returning regularly at the end of every six days. Whatever other opinions we adopt concerning this subject, it must, I think, be readily acknowledged, that no other day could possibly combine all these advantages.
This important consideration seems to be plainly intimated in the text. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. The seventh day is the Sabbath. In six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea and all that in them is, wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it. It cannot escape the notice of every reader of this passage, that the duty of remembering the Sabbath, to keep it holy, enjoined at the beginning, and the blessing and consecration mentioned at the end, are applied to the Sabbath, and not to the day; and that the seventh day is declared to be the Sabbath day, or the day on which the Sabbath is to be holden. The meaning of this is obviously, that the seventh day is, or was at that time, the existing day of the Sabbath ; without determining how long it should continue to possess this character. God established it indefinitely; and unless he should be pleased to change it, perpetually, as the day of the Sabbath. But on whatever day he should think fit to establish the Sabbath, it was to be remember. ed, and kept holy. The blessing, also, and the sanctification, were annexed to the Sabbath day, and not to the seventh. In this
manner the Christian Church became informed of their duty, whenever the day should be changed; and, if they performed it faithfully, were assured of this peculiar blessing. Thus, also, they
, were preserved from the fears, which might otherwise arise, of losing the blessing annexed to the Sabbath, whenever the day, on which it should be holden, should be changed. Had the blessing, in this command, been annexed to the seventh day, it would probably have occasioned an immovable perplexity to the Christian Church, had they found the present account of the Sabbath contained in the New Testament.
3. The hundred and eighteenth Psalm is a direct prediction, that the day of Christ's resurrection was to be the day on which the Sabbath should be holden under the Gospel.
In the 14th verse of this Psalm the divine writer declares, that the Lord is his strength, and his song ; and is become his salvation. This fact we know was accomplished, when Christ rose from the dead. In consequence of this great event, he hears the voice of rejoicing, and of salvation, in the tabernacles of the righteous; or in the house of God. In the 19th verse, he says, Open to me the gates of righteousness. I will praise thee; for thou hast heard me, and art become
my salvation. This event he again describes in a new and under a very different image: The Stone which the builders refused, is become the headstone of the corner. He then subjoined, This is the day which the Lord hath made : that is, the day which Christ consecrated, or made into a holy day, when he became the headstone of the corner: that is, when he arose from the dead. He then adds, We will rejoice and be glad in it: that is, We, the Righteous; the Church of God; (for in their name he speaks throughout all the latter part of this Psalm, whether speaking in the singular, or plural.) În their name he saỹs, in the following verse, Save now, I beseech thee, O Lord! O Lord! I beseech thee, send now prosperity. Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. The words of the two last mentioned verses are applied directly to Christ by the multitudes who accompanied him in his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The multitudes, saith St. Matthew, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest! The words of the last verse are also applied by Christ to himself
, Matt. xxiv, 39, For I say unto you, ye shall not see me henceforth, till
say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. The comment of the multitudes is reasonably
supposed to be that of the Jewish Church in general. That of Christ, and that of St. Peter, mentioned in the preceding discourse, are the decisive law of interpretation to the Christian Church. We are, therefore, warranted to conclude, that the Psalmist here declares not only the joy and gladness of the Christian Church in the resurrection of Christ, but in the day on which he arose : for he says, This is the day which the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it. This day he also declares
to be a day of public worship ; a day, on which the gates of righteousness were to be opened, and the Righteous, or the Church as a body, were to enter them, and on which the ministers of the Gospel were to bless them, (in the Jewish language, or language of the Temple service) out of the house of the Lord; or in language adapted to the Christian manner of worship, in the house of the Lord. The substance of this comment is beautifully given by Dr. Watts in the two following stanzas.
4. Christ has indicated, that the Seventh day should cease to be the Sabbath after his resurrection.
In Matthew ix. 14, we are informed, that the disciples of John came to him, and inquired of him why his disciples did not fast, as • well as themselves, and the Pharisees. Christ replied, Can the children of the bride-chamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast. Christ was crucified, and buried, on Friday. At the close, then, of this day he was taken from the children of the bride-chamber; that is, from his disciples. Throughout Saturday he lay in the grave. On the first day of the week, the Christian Sabbath, he was restored to them again. This, then, became to them the proper season of fasting, according to his own declaration. But the Sabbath was a festival from the beginning. Such it continues to be unto the end. That it was to be such to the Christian Church is amply proved by the passage, formerly quoted from Is. lvi. 6, 7, and from the express declarations, just now quoted from the 118th Psalm. Fasting on this day can, therefore, never accord with its original and universal design. But on the seventh day, the day during which he lay in the grave, as he informs us, it was proper that they should fast. In this declaration it is indicated, not obscurely, that the seventh day would soon cease to be a season, fitted for the observance of the Sabbath.
It must be obvious to the least reflection, that this season of Christ's extreme humiliation is the most improper period conceivable for commemorating, with joy and gladness, the wonderful work of Redemption. Every thing, in this season, must appear to a Christian to demand humiliation and mourning, rather than exultation. During this period the enemies of Christ prevailed against him; and the Serpent, according to the first prophecy ever given
concerning him to this world, bruised his heel. To rejoice on this day would be to lay hold on the time of our Saviour's greatest sufferings, and deepest humiliation, as the proper season for our greatest exultation. This, certainly, was not the conduct of the Apostles. They mourned in the most melancholy and distressing manner. Nor do they appear ever to have regarded the Seventh day, afterwards, as the holy, joyful rest of God. On the contrary, they transferred this festival to another day.
5. The Apostles, by their examples, have decisively taught us, that the day of Christ's Resurrection was to be the Christian Sabbath.
On the first day of the week, the day of his resurrection, Christ met his disciples, assembled together. On the first day of the week following, he met them, again assembled together. 'On the first day of the week, at the feast, called Pentecost, the Spirit descended in a miraculous and glorious manner upon the Apostles. On the first day of the week, the disciples assembled together customarily, to break bread, and to make charitable contributions for their suffering brethren. From the three first of these facts, it is plain that Christ thought fit to honour this day with peculiar tokens of his approbation. From the last, that the Apostles thought themselves warranted to devote it to religious purposes.
I have already shown above, and sufficiently, that God has absolutely prohibited all men, under severe denunciations, and with terrible expressions of his anger, either to form Religious Institutions, or to substitute their own Institutions for his. It is clearly impossible, that the Apostles, who have taught us this very doctrine, should, under the influence of Inspiration, disobey him in this interesting particular by forming so remarkable a Religious Institution; abolishing that of God; and substituting their own in its place. Nothing is more evident to me, than that this example has all the weight, which can be attached to any precept whatev-, er. This will especially appear, if we remember, that Peter with the eleven Apostles celebrated the first day of the week, and that Paul and his followers did the same. Paul received his Gospel immediately from Christ; and informs us in Galatians i. 2, that the Apostles at Jerusalem added nothing to him. For three years he never saw one of them; and had not the remotest correspondence with them. All the doctrines therefore, which Paul acknowledged, he received directly from Christ; and was indebted for none of them to his companions in the Apostleship. Yet Peter and his followers observed the first day of the week as the religious day; and Paul and his followers observed the same. This is evident from his direction to the Churches at Galatia and Corinth to lay by them somewhat on the first day of the week, for the poor Saints at Jerusalem. The reason, why the first day of the week is pitched upon for this purpose, is obviously this : that they
assembled customarily on the first day of the week for religious purposes. Accordingly, in Acts xx. 7, we are informed, that the disciples in Troas came together on the first day of the week, to break bread; and that Paul preached unto them, continuing his speech until midnight. But whence did these persons, thus sepa
, rated, derive this agreement in their observance of the first day of the week? The only answer, which can be given to this question, is, From the Inspiration which guided them both. Had they been uninspired; their agreement in a case of this nature, where they acted independently of each other, would have proved, that they derived the doctrine, and the practice grounded on it, from a common source. Their character as inspired men, and Apostles, proves beyond debate, that the common source, from which they ihus harmoniously derived a religious Institution, was God.
6. The same doctrine is proved from the already cited passage, Rev. i. 10; I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day.
From this declaration it is evident, that in, or about the year 96, when the Apocalypse was written and published, there was a day, known, and observed, by Christians, generally, as the Lord's day. This appellation was, I presume, derived from the passage, before quoted from the 118th Psalm. In which it is said concerning the day of Christ's resurrection, This is the day, which the Lord hath made : that is, hath made of a common into a holy day; or, in other words, consecrated to himself. But the day, pointed out in this passage, is the day on which Christ rose from the dead.
That this was in fact, the day, styled by St. John the Lord's Day, is unanswerably evident from the history of the Church: and it is equally evident, that the Sabbath, or holy rest, together with all the religious services pertaining to it, were celebrated by the Church on this day. Every one, who has read with attention the New Testament, must have observed, that there is no hint, as well as no precept, directing Christians to celebrate the seventh day as holy time. The ancient Christians, particularly the Jewish Christians, when they had occasion to preach to the Jews, or to assemble with them, entered into their synagogues on the seventh day, and undoubtedly worshipped with them in their manner ; but there is not the least reason to believe, either from the Acts, or from the Epistles, that they ever assembled of their own accord, on that day, for religious services, in a regular, or customary manner.
Ignatius, a companion of the Apostles, says, in so many words, " Let us no more sabbatize;" that is, keep the Jewish Sabbath, “ but let us keep the Lord's day, on which our Life arose."
Justin Martyr, who lived at the close of the first and the beginning of the second century, says, “On the day, called Sunday, is an assembly of all, who live in the city or country, and the memoirs of the Apostles, and the writings of the Prophets," that is, V. JU.