Page images

and ninety-seven years after these events. Can it, then, be surprising, when we know from these very passages, that the Israelites merited not a little censure for their profanations of the Sabbath; and when we yet find these to be the first censures, cast upon them in the Scriptures; that Noah, his family, and the Antediluvians, should not be censured?

The third of these reasons cannot, after what has been said in the former part of this discourse, need any answer. I shall, therefore, direct the following observations to the two remaining reasons; perhaps with more propriety considered as one; viz. the silence of the Scriptures concerning the observation of the Sabbath by those, who lived before the call of Abraham, and by the three first patriarchs. Concerning this subject I observe,

In the first place, If all these persons did in fact neglect, or forget, the Institution, it would not alter the case at all. The Institu tion of booths is declared, in Nehemiah viii. 17, to have been neglected, and forgotten, from the time of Joshua, the son of Nun, until after Nehemiah and his companions returned from the captivity: a period of nine hundred and eighty years. Neither Samuel, David, Solomon, Hezekiah, nor Josiah, observed it: and let it be remembered, that no censure is cast upon them for their neglect; nor any hint given, that they were guilty of such neglect, until the close of this long period, nor even then was any other notice taken of this subject but what is contained in this declaration of Nehemiah. Yet Nehemiah revived this solemnity; and has declared it to be obligatory upon that generation, and upon those of succeeding ages, in the same manner as if it had never been disused.

2. There is no reason to suppose, that this fact would have been mentioned, if the Sabbath had been exactly observed by the Patri archs, and by all who preceded them. If Sabbaths, in the plural, be supposed to denote the Sabbath; then the first mention of this subject, made after the time of Moses, occurs in 1 Chron. xxiii. 31, in the instructions of David to Solomon concerning building the temple, at the distance of near five hundred years. The same word occurs thrice in the same book: viz. in the 8th and 31st chapters in the two former of these instances, as a repetition, or allusion to, the words of David; and both in the history of SoloThe latter instance is in the history of Hezekiah, seven hundred and sixty-five years after the period above-mentioned. The same word occurs in Isaiah; about seven hundred and thirty years from that period. The word Sabbath, is mentioned five times in the history of the Jewish Church before the Captivity. The first of them is a mere note concerning the business of the Kohathites; which was to prepare the shew bread every Sabbath. The time, when it was written, was that of David; near five hundred years after this period. See 1 Chron. ix. 32. The second is the speech of the Shunamite's husband: It is neither new moon, nor Sabbath not referring, in my opinion, to the Sabbath at all: al

most six hundred years from the above period. The third is in 2 Kings xi. ; a part of the speech of Jehoiada to the rulers of Judah. A third part of you, that enter in on the Sabbath, shall even be keepers of the King's house; and two parts of all you, that go forth on the Sabbath, even they shall be keepers of the watch of the house of the Lord. Immediately after this speech it is also subjoined, that the rulers took every man his men, that were to come in on the Sabbath, with them, that should go out on the Sabbath, and they came to Jehoiada the priest. These it will be remembered constitute but a single instance of mentioning the Sabbath; an instance occurring at the distance of more than six hundred years. Another instance occurs in the history of Ahaz; and is the following: The covert for the Sabbath turned he from the house of the Lord, for the king of Assyria: seven hundred and fifty-two years. The word is also mentioned in Isaiah lvi. lviii. and lxv. about seven hundred

and eighty years. These are all the instances, in which the word occurs either in Prophecy, or History, from the time of Moses till after the return of the captivity: a period of one thousand years.

Of this account it is to be observed,

First; That the word, sabbaths, in the plural, is mentioned four times in the history of the Jewish Church, and twice in the proph ecy of Isaiah, within a period of seven hundred and eighty years. The first, second, and third, occurring, incidentally, in the mention of the duty of the priests in the orders of David: the second, a repetition of them by Solomon: the third, in an account of their execution. These, together, really constitute but one instance. The fourth occurs, incidentally also, in a sentence, giving in almost the same words, an account of the same duty of the priests in the time of Hezekiah. The fifth is a censure of the Jews for the pollution of the new moons and sabbaths, uttered by the prophet Isaiah. The three first of these instances occur at the distance of about five hundred years, the others between seven and eight hundred from the time of the supposed institution. In but one of these, and that the last, is there any thing like an account of the manner, in which the Sabbath was kept, or neglected. All the rest are merely incidental; and teach us nothing more, than that sabbaths were in existence, and were involved in the Jewish ritual.

Secondly; As the Sabbath appears to be regularly distinguished from sabbaths; and as Sabbaths are regularly joined with the new moons, and other holidays of the Jews, which the Sabbath never is; it is clear to me, that the Sabbath is not alluded to in any of these instances.

Thirdly; The phrase, The Sabbath, occurs in three instances, (calling those in the account of Jehoiada one) in the history of the Jewish Church, before the captivity: all of them, however, entirely incidental; and containing no account of the Sabbath as an Institution; nor of the observance of it; nor of the neglect. This is

all, which is said of it before the return from the Babylonish Captivity, except what is said by the Prophet Isaiah: and there is but a single passage in this Prophet, in which this phrase is used with reference to the times of the Jewish dispensation.

We are thus come to this conclusion, that there are but five passages, in which the Sabbath is mentioned in the Jewish writings, from the time of Moses to the return of the captivity: one thousand years. Two of them are found in prophecy, and three of them in their history. The first of these is mentioned about five hundred years, the second six hundred, and the third seven hundred and fifty-two; and the two remaining ones, which are found in prophecy, near eight hundred; from the time of the supposed Institution.

Now let me ask, Can any person wonder, that in an account so summary, as the history of the three first Jewish patriarchs, there should be no mention of the Sabbath; when, also, during a period of about five hundred years, containing the histories of Joshua, of the Judges, particularly Samuel, and of Saul, it is not once mentioned? The question certainly cannot need an answer. The only wonder is, that so sensible a writer should have thought this an argument.

3. God himself has, I apprehend, declared, that the Sabbath was instituted at this time.

For in the first place, this is the true and only rational interpretation of the second of Genesis. Dr. Paley supposes, that the words of the historian: And God rested on the seventh day from all the work, which he had made; and God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; because that in it he had rested from all his works, which God created and made; declare only the reasons, for which God blessed and sanctified the Sabbath, and not the time, at which this was done; and that it was mentioned at this time, only on account of its connexion with the subject, and not because the blessing and sanctification took place at this period. To this I answer, Moses has written this story exactly in the manner, in which he has written the whole history of the creation, paradisiacal state, and the apostacy: nay, almost the whole of the history, contained in the book of Genesis. There is as much reason to believe, that the Sabbath was blessed and sanctified at this time, from the manner, in which the story is written, as there is to believe, that our first parents were turned out of Paradise before the birth of Cain and Abel. The order of time is, I apprehend, exactly observed in the history, except where the historian has taken up again a particular part of the history, for the purpose of detailing it, and has, for this end, interrupted the general course of his narrative. Of the justice of this observation the bare reading of the story will, I think, convince any person, who has not a pre-conceived opinion to support.

What is thus sufficiently evident from the narrative, God appears to me to have decided in the following words of the text: For

in six days the Lord made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that in them is; and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed, or sanctified, it. Here, God, repeating the very words of the narrative, declares, that he had already blessed and sanctified the Sabbath, at some time preceding that, at which this command was promulgated. The Sabbath, therefore, was blessed and sanctified before this command was given. That this was not done at the time, when Dr. Paley supposes the Sabbath to have been instituted, nor at any period between the first Sabbath, and the giving of the law, seems to me clear from this; that there is not a single hint given of the subject, either at the time of the supposed Institution, or in any other part of the Mosaic dispensation, except that in the second of Genesis. That the blessing was then given must, I think, be concluded, because God himself, relating this great transaction, adopts the same language; and says, Wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it. That the blessing of the Sabbath was a past transaction, is unquestionable. There is no hint concerning the existence of it, but in these two instances: and in both these it is immediately connected with God's finishing the Creation, and resting on the seventh day.

4. That it was instituted at the beginning is evident from the fact, that other nations, who could not have derived it from Moses, regarded the seventh day as holy.


Hesiod says, "Edomov "segov nuag:" "The seventh day is holy." Homer and Callimachus give it the same title."

Theophilus of Antioch, says concerning the seventh day, "The day, which all mankind celebrate."


Porphyry says, " The Phænicians consecrated one day in seven as holy."

Linus says, "A seventh day is observed among saints, or holy people."

Lucian says,

holy day."

"The seventh day is given to school-boys as a

Eusebius says, "Almost all the philosophers, and poets, acknowledge the seventh day as holy."

Clemens Alexandrinus says, "The Greeks, as well as the Hebrews, observe the seventh day as holy."

Josephus says, "No city of Greeks, or barbarians, can be found, which does not acknowledge a seventh-day's rest from labour."

Philo says, "The seventh day, is a festival to every nation." Tibullus says, "The seventh day, which is kept holy by the Jews, is also a festival of the Roman women."

The several nations, here referred to, cannot, it is plain, have fallen upon this practice by chance. It is certain, they did not derive it from the Jews. It follows, therefore, that they received

it by tradition from a common source: and that source must have been Noah and his family.

III. To the argument from the insertion of this command in the decalogue, Dr. Paley answers, that the distinction between positive and moral precepts, or in his language, between positive and natural duties, was unknown to the simplicity of ancient language: meaning, I suppose, that it was unknown to the ancients, and among others, to Moses: otherwise I cannot see how the observation is applicable to the question.

I confess myself surprised at this answer. Did not God understand this distinction, when he wrote the decalogue? Did he not know, that this distinction would afterwards be made, and understood, in all its influence? Was not the decalogue written, for all who should read the Scriptures? Was it not so written, as to be adapted to the use of all, for whom it was written? Did not God discern, that this distinction was founded in the nature of things; and did he not foresee, that although the Israelites should not perceive it during any period of their national existence, yet it still would be perceived by innumerable others of mankind? Did he not provide effectually for this fact, whenever it should happen ; and for all the difficulties, and doubts, which might arise from the want of such a distinction?

From this observation, and several others, Dr. Paley appears to consider the decalogue as written by Moses in the same manner as the other parts of the Pentateuch; and as having no more authority, than the civil and ceremonial law of the Israelites; unless where this authority is discernible in the nature of the commands themselves. As this opinion appears not only erroneous, but dangerous, I shall oppose it with the following reasons.

First; The Law of the Israelites, both Civil and Ceremonial, is distinguished from the Decalogue, in this great particular: that was written by Moses in a book: this was first spoken by the voice of God, and then twice written by his finger on tables of stone, amid all the awful splendours of Mount Sinai.


Secondly; Moses, after reciting the decalogue in Deuteronomy v. immediately subjoins these words: The Lord spake unto all your assembly in the Mount, out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud and the thick darkness, with a great voice: and he added no more. And he wrote them on two tables of stone, and delivered them unto And it came to pass, when ye heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, (for the mountain did burn with fire) that ye came near unto me, even all the heads of your tribes, and your elders: and ye said, Behold, the Lord, our God, hath shewed us his glory, and his greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire. We have seen, this day, that God doth talk with man; and he liveth. Now, therefore, why should we die? for this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the Lord, our God, any more, we shall die. For who is there of all flesh, that hath

« PreviousContinue »