Page images

selves, then ; if we love our families ; if we love our country; if We love mankind; we shall exert ourselves, to the utmost, to uphold the Sabbath in its purity, in our hearts, in our conversation, and in our conduct. We shall keep the Sabbath from polluting it; shall observe it with the most faithful exactness; and by precept,

; and example, solemnly recommend it to the exact observance of others.



Exodus 21. 11.-Wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day.

In the four preceding discourses, I have considered the Perpetual Establishment of the Sabbath, and the Manner in which it is to be observed; and have endeavoured to answer such Objections, as occurred to me against the doctrines, which I have felt myself bound to maintain, concerning these subjects. I shall now close my observations on the Sabbath, with some of those Reflections, which this very solemn and interesting subject naturally suggests to a serious mind.

The First Consideration which strikes such a mind, when contemplating the Sabbath, is the pre-eminent Wisdom of this divine Institution.

Wisdom, as applied to conduct, denotes the choice of desirable ends, and the selection of happy means for their accomplishment. The ends, aimed at, in the institution of the Sabbath, are numerous, and all of them eminently desirable. The means, by which they are accomplished, are, at the same time, eminently happy. The Sabbath, and the things immediately connected with it, are the amount of them all.

Among these ends let me remark; since God himself has been pleased to mention it, and to mention it in the fourth command of the decalogue; the provision, which this holy day furnishes, of a season of rest to labouring Animals.

A righteous man regards the life of his beast, says the wisest of all men : Prov. x. 12. In this fact we behold a strong resemblance of a righteous man to his Creator. The goodness of this glorious Being is forcibly displayed in the provision, which he has made, for the rest and comfort of labouring animals, in the Moral Law. In the hands even of prudent and humane masters, it is clearly seen, that such animals are sufficiently employed when they labour six days of the week, and are released to rest and refreshment on the seventh. God, who perfectly knew what their strength was able to bear, and who perfectly foresaw how greatly they would be oppressed by avarice and cruelty, was pleased, in this solemn manner, and at this early period, to provide for their relief, by securing to them the quiet and restoration of one day in seven. In this merciful provision, the divine tenderness is displayed in a most amiable and edifying manner.

The humble character of even these beings did not place them below the compassionate care of Vol. III.


God. Elsewhere, he has commanded us to supply them with food. Here, he has commanded us to furnish them with rest. In both cases, he has taught us, that the Lord is good and kind to all, and that his tender mercies are over all the works of his hands. This indulgence to animals is enjoined with infinite authority; and secured by the same sanction, which enforces justice and beneficence towards mankind. By bringing up this subject, also, in form, thus solemnly, regularly, and often, he has formed our regard towards these creatures into a habit; and prevented us from the possibility of being inattentive to this duty.

In the same manner are Rest and Refreshment secured to mankind. Children and servants, particularly, are by this institution preserved from the oppression of severe masters, and the unfeeling demands of unnatural parents. Every industrious man will tell you from his own experience, that the season of labour is sufficiently long, and this return of rest absolutely necessary for the preservation of health, and strength, and life; that greater toil would fatigue the bodily powers into decay; and that the weekly cessation from business is not more frequent than our worldly interests clearly demand. Hence, unless when under the dominion of avarice, he will consider the Sabbath as a benevolent provision for his true worldly interest. What will thus be approved by the man, who labours voluntarily, and for himself, cannot fail to be cordially welcomed by him, who is compelled, through indigence, to toil for others : the servant drudging for a hard master, and the child trembling under the rod of an unfeeling parent.

Nor is the usefulness of the Sabbath less visible in the promotion of Neatness and Cleanliness; especially among the inferior classes of mankind. No person is willing to appear in a religious assembly, unless cleanly and decently dressed. So true is this, that probably in all countries, where the Sabbath is observed, every one, not prevented by absolute poverty, has what is proverbially called a sunday suit of clothes. The spirit of cleanliness and decency, awakened by the return of this holy day, is always thus awakened. Excited every week, it is of course excited through the week ; becomes an immoveable habit; extends its influence through all the concerns of human life; and, in the end, constitutes the standing character. Individuals are thus prevented from becoming brutes in their appearance; and a nation is fashioned into an entire and delightful contrast to the native dirt and slovenliness of man, always exhibited, in so humiliating a manner by Savages. The influence of this single fact on the comfort of human life, cannot be calculated.

Inseparably connected with this article, is the Softness and Civility of Manners, to which the Sabbath, more than any thing else, allures mankind. Every thing pertaining to the Sabbath generates, of course, this desirable conduct. The neatness of dress, and the decency of appearance, just mentioned, strongly persuade to it. A



better dressed than in the ordinary manner, will, regularly, behave with more than ordinary decency, unless habitually thus dressed. The association in our thoughts between the dress and the manners, (both of which are intended to make us appear with advantage) is instinctive, and inseparable. Every thing connected with the Sabbath, also, inspires such views and affections, as contribute to the manners in question. We are, of course, united to a respectable assembly; on a sacred day; in a sacred place; upon a most affecting occasion ; and for ends the most solemn and important in the universe. We are immediately before God, and are employed in his worship ; in confessing our sins, in seeking the forgiveness of them, and in labouring to obtain an interest in his favour. We cannot, here, fail to feel our needy, frail, guilty, dependent, character; to see how little and insignificant we are; how unbecoming are pride, unkindness, and insolence; how becoming humility, modesty, condescension, and gentleness; how amiable, in the sight of God, is the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit; and how necessary for every purpose for which we have assembled, the establishment of these things in our hearts. From these considerations must spring, of course, in every man, who is not void of all propensity to that which is good, both gentleness of mind, and sweetness of manners.

I have already glanced at the tendency of the Sabbath to abase our pride, and to remove our native ruggedness of disposition. This part of the subject deserves a further consideration. One of the chief deformities of character in the rich, the learned, and the great, is that haughtiness of mind, which, on account of their peculiar advantages, they are ever ready to feel ; and one of the chief causes of suffering to the poor, the ignorant, and the powerless, is that insolence of behaviour, which from this haughtiness they are compelled to endure. But when the superior classes of mankind assemble in the house of God, they sink, at once, even in their own eyes, if they open them, down to the same level with their fellowworms. In the presence of Him, before whom all nations are as nothing, the glare of splendour, the pride of wealth, the self-sufficiency of learning, and the loftiness of power, are annihilated in a moment. Those, who, a little while before, felt themselves to be rich, and wise, and great, find that they are poor, ignorant, little, guilty, odious to God, exposed to his wrath, and hopeless, except in the mere character of suppliants for mercy,

When a great man, in the Sanctuary, looks around him on a mixed assembly of his equals and inferiors; he will be compelled often to feel, and secretly to confess, that his poor neighbour, whom perhaps he would have disdained, on other occasions, to set with the dogs of his flock, is, in all probability, more excellent, more wise, more lovely, and in every sense greater, in the sight of the Highest, than himself. Nothing can humble pride more than the elevation above itself of those, whom it despises. This elevation

of the humble, this useful depression of the haughty, is no where more perfect than in the house of God.

Here, as will be realized from what has been already said, the poor and lowly rise, of course, above their usual level. The rich and the poor, says Solomon, meet together; the Lord is the Maker

: of them all. In the house of God they meet together in a manner wholly peculiar; are placed exactly on the same level; and are more strongly, than any where else, reminded, that the Lord is the Muker of them all. Here, they assemble as creatures of the same God merely. Here, all their earthly distinctions vanish ; and a new distinction, formed only of sin and holiness, commences ; which, unless terminated in the present world, will endure, and widen, for ever. Here, then, the poor man rises to his proper independence and distinction, forgets the depression of his circumstances; and, without the aid of pride, assumes an elevation of character, not less necessary to him for the faithful discharge of his duty, than the humility of the Gospel to the lofty-minded. Thus the Sabbath, like its Author, putteth down the mighty from their seats, and exalteth them of low degree. How perfect, in this important particular, is an institution, which produces these opposite and indispensable benefits in those, whose situation so plainly and loudly demands them!

Another immense benefit of the Sabbath is the Instruction, which it furnishes in Morals and Religion.

The value of knowledge is admitted by all civilized men. It will usually, and ought ever, to be admitted, also, that moral and religious knowledge is of far more value than any other. It is more necessary, more practical, more useful, more enlarging to the mind, more refined, and more exalted. The least acquaintance with the subject will place this assertion beyond a doubt.

As the knowledge itself is more valuable; so the Sabbath furnishes means for obtaining it, which are far cheaper, and far more efficacious, than were ever furnished by any other institution. Here, on a day devoted to no employment but the gaining of this knowledge, and the performance of those religious duties which unite with it in perfect harmony; in a place convenient and sa

r cred; on an occasion infinitely important; and with the strong power of sympathy to aid and impress; a thousand persons are taught the best of all knowledge; the most useful to themselves, and the most beneficial to mankind; for a less sum, than must be expended by a twentieth part of their number, in order to obtain the same instruction in any other science. No device of the heathen Philosophers, or of modern Infidels, greatly as they have boasted of their wisdom, can be compared, as to its usefulness, with this. The Sabbath, particularly, is the only mean, ever devised, of communicating important instruction to the great mass of mankind. Here, all may assemble, all may learn, from the prince to the beggar, from the man of grey hairs to the infant of days. Had the

« PreviousContinue »