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terrors of the judgment, the promises of pardon—amidst the despairing conflicts with Satan, the offers of reconciliation and of peace—that still to the bitten by the fiery flying serpent, there stands out the cross to which whosoever looketh shall live and be'whole— that still there is opened to you the freedom of access to a father of reconciliation, through the infinite merits of Jesus Christ. s
Ended—there will be praise on the Christian's lips, as the sabbath declines that God has been very gracious to him at the voice of his cry— that he has led him once more into the garden of his Zion—into his fruitful vineyard—that he has made for him a feast of fat things full of marrow, of wine on the lees well refined—that he has nourished him with the bread of life, and permitted him to draw water from the wells of salvation, springing up unto everlasting life.
But Secondly, Why Are We To
KEEP TO-DAY AS A SABBATH TO THE
Lord? Why i This is not a vain, not an unimportant question. There are thousands of nominal Christians who can give but a very idle and very unsatisfactory answer; who have no better than this—because it is the custom of the country—because it is the habit of early youth—because it is the example of the family—because it is the badge of respectability—because it is an exaction that is due to decency— because it is the tasked duty of the'.Christian name—because it is incumbent on a man who should support the political rights of the State—these are the common replies; that is to say, if the man speak out, these would be the common replies. But we have more solid grounds to build on than these, and if it be expected, and it ought to be expected, that we be always ready to give an answer to every man who asketh us the reason for the hope that is in us, it surely cannot be less so for
our practice. Why? Because if it be true, as true it is, that religion is a rational service—and it be necessary, and expedient, that a certain time should be appointed for its general rendering— and that the choice of this time cannot reside better than in the will of Him whom the act most immediately affects; and if, moreover, the object himself of our worship has required the observance of a particular day, and the Loud God hath commanded that we keep holy the sabbath-day, I say, it follows as a consequence, that we are bound to do so.
Again, that we should keep this day holy to the Lord, would appear obligatory, because it was a day on which the Apostles and the early Christians, assembled themselves together. The passage in the Acts, independently of others, confirms this, where we read, "Upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread." Because also a distinguishing title hath been given to it, as denoting its institution by Christ. St. John telleth us in the Revelations, " that he was in the Spirit on the Lord's day." Because too, that down from the Apostolical age its observance has been the uniform practice of the church—that however great the divisions, and violent the disputes of that church on other questions, this has ever remained undoubted and undisturbed. Because it is very natural and very consistent that the greatest of all events that could affect the interests of a Christian world—that could fill with the sublimest of its joys—that could awaken the language of its proudest triumphs, should have its own day of commemoration; and that He who ascended up on high, leading captivity captive, bearing on his brow the crown of three victories over sin, over death, and over hell— who thus brought life and immorta
lity to life—who thus consummated his great work for which he travailed through the agonies of the body, and through the agonies of the soul, being delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification—that He should thus have a day dedicated to the honour of his name, to the expression of our holy gratitude for his marvellous love—to the keeping of his ordinances—to the assembling together of his people—and for the more immediate propagation of his cause, and to the spreading of his glories.
Another reason obtains in the fact, that it was a day on which the great promise was fulfilled of the diffusion of the Holy Ghost, when there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind and filled the house, (see Acts, ii. 2)—where the disciples were sitting, so that they received all fulness of consolation—for he was promised to become their Comforter— all fulness of consolation to sustain and gladden their hearts on their toilsome and their persecuted way; and had at once opened to their view the whole compass of the manifold languages by which they were to disseminate the intelligence of the glorious Gospel of Christ to the children of men, by which they were to go forth to emancipate in foreign lands, in idolatrous lands, from the grievous bondage of Satan to the liberty of the sons ofj God. It was upon the first creation of a materiel universe that the old sabbath was ordained, and it was upon the second creation of a spiritual universe, I may say, that we are thus furnished with an additional argument for keeping the new. The blind man could never forget the day on which he received sight —the lame man could never forget the day on which he walked—the leper could never forget the day on which he was cleansed—the captive could never fnrret the rlny when his rhnins
and his fetters were knocked off; Hot more can we of the visible outsheding of that power from on high, of that spirit of our God, by which the dead in trespasses and sins are quickened, by which the dry bones lying at the mouth of the sepulchre became instinct with breath, were clothed again with flesh, started into being, and lived.
Because, again, the Lord God has distinguished this day by a more peculiar manifestation of his divine grace. Now think for a moment of that marvellous energy which went forth on this day to the conversion of three thousand souls at the heart-searching sermon of that minister of God, St. Peter. And think for a moment of that glorious revelation of the heavenly places—of the residence of the mighty angels—of their holy engagements—of the very anthems which they are now singing—of their blessedness—of the great white throne, and of Him who sitteth thereon—and of the glorified body of Christ in the semblance of the Lamb—and of the very atmosphere of Heaven, where there is no need of the sun, neither of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God doth lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof: Think, I say, of the revelation to St. John of these things, and greater things than these, as made on this day to the inspiration of tens of thousands, with comfort and with joy, with bright hopes and happy assurances, and say, if we have not most abundant reason for keeping this day as a sabbath, a solemn sabbath to the Lord.
But I need not have gone beyond the walls of this church, I need not have travelled out of the round of your own personal experience in confirmation of the fact that the Lord honoreth this day above other days. When were you first stricken with a conviction of sin—was it not on the Lord's day? When in the depths of your di«trr=s ia your gloomy doubts and fears were you directed to a Saviour? When were you relieved from the terrors of the law by the grace of the Gospel? When was the first bursting asunder of the chains so that you walked in liberty? When was the oil and the wine of the good Samaritan poured in into your wounds? WasitnotontheLoRd'sday? When did the promises of the Gospel open before you in all their sweetness and power? Was it not at the hand of some Christian minister upon the Lord's day? When was your communion with God the most abstracted from the world, at its greatest and highest? Was it not on the Lord's day? When was it that your blessed Redeemer revealed himself most to you, as not unto the world, and the Holy Ghost seemed to shadow you with his larger influences? Was it not, I will ask you, when you drew near the table and partook, in faith and in penitence and in prayer, of the broken bread and of the sacred wine in remembrance of the death and of the passion of Christ upon the Lord's day. Yes, I am suie, that many here, (Oh, would to God there were many more!) I am sure that many here, will confess, that they have been most elevated in religious exercises—that they have enjoyed their richest of consolations—that they have been less of the earth, earthy, and more of heaven, heavenly, upon the Lord's day. I say, that the testimony, the witness is in your own hearts as to the peculiar manifestation of the grace of God upon this day. I have thus, very feebly touched on some of the more prominent reasons for keeping this day as a sabbath to the Lord, I must leave it to your own meditations to supply others.
Thirdly, And Very Briefly, Where Is This Day Not Kept As A
SABBATH UNTO THE LORD? It is not
kept as a sabbath to the Lord where
it is made a day of bodily labour where the shop is opened—where the ledger is consulted—where the principle of money-getting is employing any of its means for the increase of our worldly state—or where even the sustenance of the body is to be toiled for in those hours which are emphatically the Lord's. There is a striking instance of the strictness of Jewish sabbatical observance in the words about my text, where you will see upon thegatheringofasmallround thing (I quote from Scripture) which lay as small as the hoar frost upon the ground—the bread which the Lord had given Israel to eat—when they swerved from thedirections of Moses, and dressed it on the sabbath, the nutriment was turned, as it were, into poison, bred worms and stank; whereas, when they dressed it on the sixth day it remained over the sabbath fresh and good. So jealous was the Lord of the devotion of the sabbath day then—and can he be less so now? The question addresses your reason.
Again, this day is not kept as a sabbath unto the Lord, where you pursue your own notions of ease and of pleasure instead of yielding yourselves unreservedly to God's service—where the doors of his temple are left standing open, and you are wanderers in the fields or indulging yourselves, perhaps, in the latter part of the day, during the afternoon service, indulging yourselves in the chair of slothful ease at-home, or extending unnecessarily, some of you, the pleasures of the table. And you who absent yourselves from our afternoon service, I have often thought, that if during those sacred hours your houses were unroofed or your apartments made of glass, and you could be seen of man, as you are seen of God, what a melancholy picture would be presented of the inconsistency of your conduct with the prayers that you had prayed, and the vows that you had uttered in the morning service. It is my duty to bring these things home to you; but I must leave them to a more powerful preacher than myself, and that preacher is conscience—how speaks conscience now? But turning from you for a moment to the nation. I have an awful forboding of the divine judgments that follow national sins. I remember the conduct of God of old in this matter, and there can be no doubt but that his moral government is upon one and the same law. I know not of any curse upon the land that seems to me so big and so ready to burst as the curse upon the national neglect of the sabbath. The poor and the rich are alike involved here. It is to me an awful thing as a Christian minister, labouring in the vineyard of Christ, it is an awful thing to reflect that upon this holy day, some forty thousand of newspapers are sending their baleful and their demoralizing principles through the land—and that the vehicles of profit ^and of pleasure, the stages and the steam-boats are increased within a few years an hundred fold—and that shops, particularly in the suburbs of London, are opened with a more shameful effrontery than ever—and that the labouring classes in a great degree waste the day in laziness at-home, or spend their time, in far greater numbers, at the tavern and the tea-gardens—and that many of the rich devote a part of the day to the returning of calls, to the receiving of visits, and to an unnecessary employment of cattle and engagement of servants, to the frivolities of conversationand thevanities of dress, and to the public promenade—closing the evening with wine and music. And that neglected by magistrates and rulers there are meetings held, and places opened for the utterance of the most profane mockeries of the revealed word, of the most awful blasphemies
of God and of his Christ; I say, that these things, among many others that might be mentioned, make me pause with fear and with trembling amid the awful sweep of the retributive justice of God.
But for a moment I would turn to the violations of the sabbath in this district. These are many and they are flagrant. We have more newsvenders than ever—and while I know Do man from the pulpit, but speak generally, I would ask, are there not some here present who give during this day a far greater attention to the records of politics and of accident than they do to their Bibles; who shut their prayer books—who have shut them this morning service—to go home and cut the neswpapers, which are now lying wet upon their tables? Again, it has fallen under my notice, the half closed shops which are so inviting to the young and the thoughtless; in our neighbourhood, and within a quarter of a mile from this church, there has been to-day, and there is every Sunday, there has been a perfect fair held, a thronged fair, all trades being carried on 'with the utmost impunity; and though we bring the matter before the magistrates, yet after crossing us with vexations proceedings, they at last pay the fine and laugh in the magistrate's face. I say, I know this to be a fact, and I have made several humble efforts to remove the evil, but I have hitherto been unable, and I do, therefore, earnestly call upon some of you to come forward and assist me, and I invite such as are able to meet me at the Commissioners' rooms on Tuesday evening next, that we may devise some plan to check the torrent that is flowing in amongst us. Other parishes have been doing much in this way, and it were a shame in me as a Christian minister desiring the spiritual improvement of this neighbourhood, tK»t I should remain idle. 1 trust, therefore
that this appeal to your assistance will be met, and that you will come forward and make my wishes effectual.
I add no more but an earnest call upon you, that each man betake himself to prayer, for a more unreserved dedication of himself to the general and peculiar duties of this day, and
that while God of his infinite grace assists him in keeping it as a sabbath to the Lord, he may use all laudable and Christian means to excite others to its like observance—to the blessing of the community, to the increase of the church of Christ, and to the glory of God.
DELIVERED BY THE REV. J. A. JAMES,
Matt. xxv. 34.—" Then shall the King say unto them on hit right-hand, come ye blessed of my Father inherit the hingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."
In the preceding chapter our Lord had forewarned his disciples of the coming destruction of Jerusalem; then, after the manner of the antient prophets he rises from a subject of a temporal nature, and of passing interest, to one of a more general bearing, and of more transcendent importance, and employs the description, which he gave of the vengeance that was to come upon the devoted city, as a type of the still greater terrors which are to be manifested at the last day.
There can be no doubt that the text and context refer to that day. "God hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained," "and we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive according to the things done in the body, whether they be good or bad." The trumpet shall sound, the dead shall be raised, the living shall be changed. The Son of God will come not as he came at first, the babe of Bethlehem, the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, but he shall appear as the great God and our Saviour, and convene before his
bar all that have ever lived on the face of the earth—a scene of unimagined importance, and most august solemnity! The books shall be opened, the book of God's rememberance, the book of conscience, and the book of Scripture, and we shall be tried out of the books. Witnesses shall be adduced, character shall be substantiated, a separation shall be made between the righteous and the wicked, and the final sentence of all men shall be pronounced. Let me to-night direct your attention to the sentence that shall be pronounced upon the righteous as it stands recorded in the language of the text. In the First place I shall consider the reference which in that day shall be made to the conductof the righteous, and by which they shall then be proved before the universe to have rightly sustained the professions which they made. Secondly, I shall direct your attention to their station, and Thirdly, to the sentence itself.
First, Let us Consider The ReFerence THAT WILL BE MADE TO THE CONDUCT OF THE RIGHTEOUS by which
they shall be proved to have sustained the professions which they have made