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heard the voice of the living God, speaking out of the midst of the fire, and hath lived?
To this petition God consented; and promised to deliver his remaining precepts to Moses, and through him to Israel. Why was this distinction made? Why was the Decalogue spoken by the voice, and written by the finger, of God? and why, in the emphatical language of Moses, did he add no more? The only reason which can be alleged, is the transcendent dignity and importance of these commands. The view which Moses himself had of the total distinction between the decalogue, and the rest of the law written by him, is evident from this fact, that he commanded the Israelites to write them plainly, after they had passed over Jordan, upon great stones, plastered with plaster, and set up by the Congregation near the altar, which they were directed to build.* Why were they thus distinguished here?
Thirdly; Christ has distinguished them in a similar manner. When the young Ruler came to Christ, and asked what good thing he should do, that he might have eternal life; Christ said to him, Thou knowest the Commandments. The young man asked which, Christ, in reply, repeated five of the Commands in the second table, and the summary which contains them all. This shows beyond a doubt, that the Commandments was a name appropriated to the Decalogue; and denoted the same superiority to all other commands, as the name, the Bible, or the Book, denotes with respect to all other books.
Again; Christ, in answer to the Scribe, who asked him, Which is the first and great Commandment, recites the two great commands, which Moses had made the sum of the Decalogue; and adds, On these two Commands hang all the law and the Prophets. In other words, On these two Commands is suspended the whole volume of the Old Testament. What can be a stronger testimony of the superiority of the decalogue to every other part of that volume ?
Fourthly; St. Paul, Rom. xiii. 9, says, For this, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not bear false witness, thou shalt not covet, and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying; namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Here, the Apostle, after reciting five of the commands, contained in the second table of the Decalogue, adds, If there be any other commandment. Is not this direct proof, that he regarded the Decalogue as containing all those which were by way of eminence the commandments of God, and as separated by a broad line of distinction from every other precept?
Fifthly; It is well known, that the Jews always considered the Decalogue as entirely separated from every other part of the Old
Testament. The prophets, who succeeded Moses, did nothing, as moral teachers, but explain and enforce it. Christ declared, that sooner shall heaven and earth pass away, than one jot, or one tittle, of this law shall pass, until all be fulfilled. The Apostles have enforced no other precepts, as obligatory upon Christians. The Jews have, at this day, these commands written out in large letters, and hung up in their Synagogues, as solemn monitors to all, who enter them, of their duty. In a manner, correspondent with this, have they ever been regarded by Christians. They are at this day proverbially known by the name of the Ten Commandments, and the Moral Law.
St. Paul, in a passage which ought not to be omitted on this occasion, Eph. vi. 1—3, reciting the fifth command, says, This is the first commandment with promise. But God had given to Noah, to Abraham, to Jacob, to Moses, and to the Israelites, many commands, and annexed to them many promises, before the Law was delivered from Mount Sinai. In what sense, then, was the fifth command the first, to which a promise was annexed? Plainly in this sense only; that it is the first in the Decalogue, which has this mark of distinction. In the eye of St. Paul, therefore, the Decalogue contained all those which he thought proper to call the Commandments; and was, in his view, of a character totally distinct, and totally superior to every other part of the Old Tes
As the Apostle recites this command to the Ephesians, who were Gentiles, as obligatory on them no less than on the Jews; it is clear, that the whole Decalogue, unless some part of it has been plainly disannulled, is entirely obligatory on Christians. Had there been any distinction in this respect between the different precepts of this law; St. Paul must, it would seem, have made it on this occasion. He would, at least, have made it somewhere; and not have left so important a subject without a single note of illustration.
IV. Dr. Paley says, that St. Paul evidently appears to consider the Sabbath as a part of the Jewish ritual, and not binding upon Christians, as such: Let no man, therefore, judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days; which are a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ. Col. ii. 16, 17.
To this observation, I answer, first, that this passage refers not in any sense to the Sabbath; but merely to the ordinary holidays of the Jews. The burden of proving the contrary lies upon the disciples of Dr. Paley.
Secondly; If this be denied; I assert, that it refers to the seventh day only, and not at all to the Christian Sabbath. Until the contrary is proved, I shall consider this answer as sufficient; especially, as the Christian Sabbath is not in the Scriptures, and was
not by the primitive Church, called the Sabbath; but the first day of the week, and the Lord's day.
V. The same writer says, that the observation of the Sabbath was not one of the articles, enjoined by the Apostles, in Acts xv. upon the Christian Gentiles.
I answer; Neither was abstinence from theft, murder, lying, coveting, profaneness, or idolatry.
VI. Dr. Paley asserts that the observation of the Sabbath is not expressly enjoined in the New Testament.
To this I answer, first, that the text is in my own view an explicit injunction of this duty. But as this opinion has been contested; as the paragraph, in which it is contained, is confessedly obscure; it would require one whole discourse of this nature to consider it sufficiently; and as the text was written many years after the Christian Sabbath was effectually established; I ob
Secondly; That the Christian Sabbath was originally introduced into the Church much more successfully, and happily, than it could have been done by an express injunction.
In order to judge of this subject, it is necessary to bring up to our view the situation of those, to whom the Gospel was first preached. These were all Jews; intensely bigoted to every part of their religion, and peculiarly to their Sabbath. The day had been appointed by God himself; and was acknowledged to be divinely appointed, by Christ and his Apostles. The experiment of interfering with the feelings of the Jews concerning the Sabbath, even in the most lawful manner, had been sufficiently tried by Christ to discourage the Apostles from every unnecessary attempt of this nature. Accordingly, the Apostles pursued a peaceful and unobjectionable, method. They celebrated, at times, and probably always, the Jewish Sabbath, when they were among Jews. The Jews at the same time, without any objection, yielded to their example, and authority, in celebrating the Christian worship on the day of Christ's resurrection. They were circumcised; but they were also willingly baptized. They celebrated the Passover; but willingly added to it the Lord's Supper. They prayed in the temple; but they willingly united, also, in the prayers and praises of Christian assemblies, holden in private houses, or in the fields. While the Jewish service was neither attacked, nor neglected, they made not the least objection to that of the Christian Church. In this manner, all these ordinances grew into use, veneration, and habit; and, in the end, gained such a possession of the mind, and such a strength of authority, as could neither be overthrown, nor weakened.
When the Apostles came to declare in form, that the Jewish worship was to cease; the minds of the Church were so well prepared to receive this declaration, that it was carried into a general execution. Difficulties, and divisions, arose, indeed, about
this subject in several Churches; particularly about circumcision: and produced a course of serious contention. What would have been the case, had this part of the system been begun at an earlier period?
About the Christian Sabbath no dispute appears to have existed, during the three first centuries. All the Churches appear to have adopted it, and to have neglected the Jewish Sabbath, without any difficulty. Was not this method of introducing so important a change dictated by true wisdom; and a better method than any other?
The example of the Apostles is an example to all Christians. Were we, then, to give up the point, contested in the objection; we have still such a law in this Example; and so efficacious that probably no doctrine has been more generally received, than that of the Christian Sabbath, and no duty more generally performed, than the observation of it, down to the present time.
The absolute necessity of establishing the doctrines and duties of Christianity among the Jews, in the infancy of the Church, has been shown in a former discourse. I shall only add, that it seems impossible to have introduced among that people the Christian Sabbath in any other manner, than that which was adopted by the Apostles, unless their whole character had been miraculously changed.
FOURTH COMMANDMENT.-THE MANNER IN WHICH THE SABBATH IS TO BE OBSERVED.
ISAIAH Iviii. 13, 14.-If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a Delight, the Holy of the Lord, Honourable; and shall honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words; Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob, thy Father; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
IN the first of the discourses, which I have delivered concerning the fourth Command, I proposed,
1. To consider the Perpetual Establishment of the Sabbath; and, II. The Manner, in which it is to be observed.
The former of these doctrines, together with the objections against it, has been made the subject of the three preceding sermons. The latter shall be the theme of the present discourse.
The text is the most minute, and perfect summary of the duties, incumbent on mankind with respect to this holy day, which is contained in the Scriptures. It is a prediction to the Jews, announcing, that if they will perform these duties, God will greatly prosper them with spiritual and temporal blessings, in the land of their fathers. In my own opinion, it especially respects a period, yet to come. In examining this subject, I shall endeavour,
I. To point out the Nature, and Extent, of these duties; and,
I. I shall endeavour to point out the Nature, and Extent, of these duties.
In examining this subject, I shall adopt the scheme of the text; and mention,
1. The things, from which we are to abstain; and,
2. The things which we are to perform.
1. We are bound to abstain from sin, in thought, conversation, and conduct.
All, who read the Gospel, know, or may know, perfectly, that sin may be as easily, and as extensively, committed in thought, as in word, or action; and that the real seat of sin is in the heart. With the reformation of our hearts, then, we are always to begin our duty. We may as easily, and grossly, profane the Sabbath, so far as ourselves only are concerned, by thoughts, which are unsuited to its nature, as we can by any actions whatever. If our minds are intent on our business, or our pleasures; if our affec