« PreviousContinue »
PUBLISHED EVERY THURSDAY,
MODERN EMINENT DIVINES.
No. I. Contains Sermons by the Rev. Baptiste Noel, at St. John's Chapel, Bedford Row, August 15, 1830;—J. Fletcher, Stepney Chapel, August 15, 1830;—C. Benson, the Temple Church, Easter Sunday, 1829.
No. II.—By the Rev. H. Melvill, Camden Chapel, Camberwell, August 22, 1830 ;—J. Stratten, Paddington Chapel, August 15, 1830.
No. III.—By the Rev. T.dale, St. Brides' Church, August 29, 1830;— J. H. Evans, John Street Chapel, King's Road, August 29, 1830; —C. Benson, Temple Church, May 23, 1830.
No. IV.—By the Rev. B. Leach, Robert Street Chapel, Grosvenor Square, September 5,1830;—B. Noel, St. John'sChapel, Bedford Row, September 5, 1830.
No. V.—By the Rev. J. Burnett (from Cork), Camberwell Chapel, September 12, 1830;—E. Irving, Caledonian Church, Cross Street, Hatton Garden, June 27, 1824, the Sunday previous to laying the Foundation Stone of the National Scottish Church.
No. VI.—By the Rev. J. Blackburn, Claremont Chapel, September 19, 1830 ;—W. Dodsworth, Margaret Chapel, September 19, 1830; —The Bishop Of Lonnon, Marylebone Church, January 17,1830.
Part I. contains the First Four Numbers, price One Shilling.
PUBLISHED BY T. GRIFFITHS, WELLINGTON STREET, STRAND;
SERMON BY THE REV. BAPTISTE NOEL.
DELIVERED BY THE^REV. BAPTISTE NOEL,
AT ST. JOHN'S CHAPEL, BEDFORD ROW, AUG. 15, 1830.
Genesis, ii. 3.—" And the Lord blened the serentk day."
When the Almighty rested after creation, he instituted the Sabbath to be a perpetual good to mankind; and, for this purpose, he ordained that men should spend it in a religious manner. On that day, therefore. Christians are allowed, and all others are commanded, to leave their ordinary business, to change their common pleasures into religious ones, and to substitute for worldly compensation that which may cherish piety. Whatever work is required for our spiritual welfare or God's glory—whatever exertion is necessary to prevent afflicting loss, or relieve bodily pain—whatever relaxation or repose is rendered needful by our bodily or mental weakness, is part of the duty of this day ; but the whole day may, in most cases, with a little previous arrangement and preparation, be spent without fatigue of mind or body in the various public, social, and private duties of religion.
This is felt by Christians to be their privilege, and should be known by all to be their duty; yet not their duty only, for" although such strict observance of the Sabbath must be disagreeable to the world, yet, like other salutary regulations, it compensates for its additional bitterness by the abundant benefits which follow from the blessings which God has attached to the observance of it. To keep this day holy more unequivocally marks our respect for God than the discharge even of social duties. Many lower
motives may make us, for instance, upright sincere, and charitable; for even where God is unknown these virtues would be popular. But are there no other reasons in ordinary cases why the Sabbath should be strictly observed, except those connected with obedience to God? Those that honour him he will honour ; and, therefore, we may believe that he will give especial blessings to those who do strictly keep this day. But, whatever be the cause, it is implied in our text that especial blessings are attached to its observance; and, on the contrary, evil attends its violation; so that a nation, a place, or a person, may expect to be blessed, or otherwise, according to their observance of this day. Hence it is fit that we should glance at the way in which it is observed in this city, that we may see how far we may expect God's blessing on that account.
Our text leads to three points of examination.
First, The nature of the blessing which is attached to the devout observance of the Sabbath; and the nature of the evil that results from its neglect.
Secondly, How far the Sabbath is violated or observed in this city.
Thirdly, How far we are to expect the displeasure or blessing of Grid on that account.
We begin with examining The NaTure OF THE BLESSING WHICH GOD HAS ATTACHED TO THIS DAY. "And
God blessed the seventh day." If there were no blessing expressly promised to the Sabbath observer, and displeasure directly testified against the Sabbathbreaker, we might infer both, from what we know of the mind of God towards those whoobeyordisobey his commands in general; but, in this case, there are express declarations by which the Sabbath-breaker may learn God's displeasure against him, and by which those who keep the Sabbath day may be assured of his favourable regard. The Sabbath-breaker is taught God's sense of his profaneness by reading in the 20th chapter of Ezekiel, that one reason why God did not bring the elder Israelites into the land of Canaan, which they greatly longed for, was, because they polluted his Sabbaths. He may learn it by reading, in the 17th chapter of Jeremiah, God's threats to the Jews of that day, that if they would not observe the Sabbath he would cause Jerusalem to be burnt. He may read it in the 13th chapter of Nehemiah, where the Prophet declares the fulfilment of Jeremiah's prophecies, by ascribing the evils of the captivity to the profanation of the Sabbath, and asserting that continuing in the profanation would perpetuate God's wrath on them.
/ao . 9^? (?i*-.
On the other hand, that God blesses the observance of it, is sufficiently attested by our text—" And God blessed the seventh day."
On this day the laborious servant of God (for the servant of God is always laborious) is permitted to enjoy the holy rest in which his exhausted mind and fatigued body may find refreshment, not only in itself delightful, but invigorating him for renewed exertion through the succeeding week. It is this cessation from toil which has often sent him back again to labour with better spirits; it is this rest which has often succoured and sustained him; while the Sabbath-breaker, if diligent on other days, and laborious on this, has not unfrequently sunk over-worked into premature imbecility or intolerable nervous irritation.
Again, the observance of this day alone keeps up the public worship of God in the world. They who set aside this day, set aside with it all the worship 'of God t they have no other day or time consecrated, nor will they ever
have. On other days no one can stop the vast and complicated machinery of this world's business, or disentangle the millions of workmen from its wheels: its works are beyond the control of human force. The Divine force on the Sabbath has stopped it, and its busy conductors escaped from its din can join together in uninterrupted devotion. Take away the Sabbath, the machine rolls on again, and hurries each to his post. Take away the Sabbath, and no other time will ever come for public worship. If God be not publicly worshipped on the Sabbath he never will be. If God is never publicly worshipped, how will he be publicly honoured ?—for already is the public demonstration of piety almost confined to the Sabbath in the churches. That demonstration taken away, where is God's honour? It is gone from the world. In some obscure retreat, indeed, piety may still linger, precious to the possessor, but of little use to the world. The earth may have its subterranean fires, but if there were no warmth on its surface what would this world become? forsaken, desolate, and dead. So is the world and living men without the public profession of piety.
Again, the consecration of the Sabbath is the great means of Christian instruction to the mass of the community; to a few unoccupied persons perhaps it may not be so; but let any man engaged in useful labour, as all ought to be, through the six days, say how large a proportion of his time for religious inquiries the Sabbath hours form. If the Sabbath were taken away, would not half his devotional life be stolen from him at once? To the poor man the Sabbath forms a still larger proportion of the time devoted to religion. If all the religious knowledge which had been obtained by such a one on the Sabbath were to be taken away, how much would remain? He has learnt something at the school for religious instruction—something at the Church—something in private reading; but all these sources were chiefly, if not exclusively, open to him on the Sabbath. If he had always violated the Sabbath, he feols that he would now know nothing of religion; he feels that those who systematically violate it do, in fact, know nothing. Judging then from circumstances up to the present time, if ever the period shall come when the Sabbath shall be generally consecrated, it will be an era of unequalled religious light; and if ever we sink so low as to be a people who universally profane the Sabbath, we shall become a people destitute of religious knowledge, and all the influences of extended refinement and progressive information.
But, again, religious knowledge is the basis of religion. Where the want of this knowledge is combined with the neglect of all solemn recognition of God, a corresponding deterioration of life must ensue. Ungodliness and immorality will overthrow any Sabbathbreaking community like a flood. The example of a country, in which the Sabbath was formerly abolished, is no exception to this state of things; and wherever the Sabbath has been, though less avowedly, desecrated, the same has been proportionately the result. In this country's past history the public morals and national piety have fluctuated in exact correspondence with the observance of the Sabbath; and it is ever the case where the Sabbath is observed a most material check must be put to national declension, if we were only to mark the religious knowledge, which, through it, will reach the people generally.
In several other ways the strict observance of the Lord's day prevents notional declension. It teaches us to regard the animals, by marking their right to the seventh day, for this very reason, that they may not be overworked. It binds together the various classes of society also, where their interests would compete, and their contrasted conditions lead to mutual heartburnings. But on this day, all meeting together, we pray for each other; and from praying for each other, all learn to love each other too. It recalls the sovereignty of God, the work of Christ, and the rest of Heaven. And all these tend to the arrest of a nation in its declension from virtue and piety.
I must go further still. The observance of the Sabbath-day more than hinders evil—it is one of the greatest means of grace: and we are commanded to keep it holy. Hence every
religious exercise receives additional power. On this day the first convictions of sin have been conveyed to men's minds: many can trace their conversion to it. There are few Christian believers, perhaps, who have not registered in their memory many spiritual blessings that this day has brought to them; and to numbers I am persuaded the blessings it has brought are more than the blessings of all the other days put together. Then the best of the believer's time, his hours of clearest thought, are given to religious inquiry, to meditation and prayer. Then religious thoughts come to him— they come to cool the mind that is fevered by bustling in the world, not like the momentary shadow of a passing cloud, but like the shadow of a great rock under a fiery sun. Then he has all the aid of social sympathy, for he mingles his prayers with the prayers of others as fervent as himself; his prayers ascend with theirs; he listens to the same truths which they contemplate, and meets them at the same table of the Lord.
We need not wonder to find it generally a day to which Christians are wont to look forward with much desire, and to recall with peculiar satisfaction. Is there an hour in the life of any believer when he has enjoyed particular communion with God, or has attained a remarkable triumph over temptation? Is there an hour when he has made the most effective opposition against sin, and the most decided advance in holiness? That hour belongs probably to the Sabbath. Has he ever felt his spirits glow with peculiar benevolence to his race, or melted into unusual contrition, or be lit up with the bright views of Heaven? He felt these most probably on the Sabbath.
If the Sabbath is a day most consecrated to God, it is a time also most blessed for man, " therefore God blessed the seventh day." On the contrary, what must we expect from its violation, and what do we also deserve r Did you ever meet a systematic Sabbath-breaker who was not wholly given to worldliness? And this is the last of the mischievous results, being that which punishes the breach of this day by the decent and well educated. Sloth is never safe, and they spend it sloth