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III. That this standing ordinance is designed and calculated to be of universal benefit to mankind. This. Christ plainly suggests in the text. "The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath." Here our Saviour, the Lord of the sabbath, sets it in a much more favourable and important light, than the other inspired writers set the rites and ceremonies of the Mosaick dispensation. Those they call a yoke of bondage, and weak and beggarly elements. In themselves considered they had no intrinsick value, but were rather a burden than benefit, to those upon whom they were imposed. But the sabbath is a peculiar privilege and benefit to all mankind. It is adapted to promote, and not to abridge their present and future happiness. Its nature, design and tendency is to recommend it to the esteem and approbation of the whole human race. For,
1. It gives them a precious opportunity of resting from all their worldly cares, labours, and employments. They were originally formed for labour; and labour is the indispensable duty of every individual, who enjoys mental and bodily strength. It is true, indeed, that all men are not called to the same kinds of labour, but all are bound to be active and diligent in some employ ment or other; either publick or private, either mental or corporeal, which requires rest. This God knew, who formed men for the labours and fatigues of the present life. And where is the person, who has not found the sabbath desirable as a day of rest from the concerns or labours of the week? There is, perhaps, no lawful calling, which can be pursued with proper activity and diligence, that does not render rest desirable and necessary one day in seven. It has been found by the experience of multitudes, who have been denied the benefit of the sabbath as a day of rest, that both their bodies and minds have been greatly injured. If health and strength and even life itself be highly valuable, then it is a precious privilege to be allowed to lay aside all secular cares and burdens one day in seven.
2. The sabbath gives men a happy season for serious reflections and meditations. The common concerns of life generally absorb too much of their attention, to leave them leisure for thinking about more serious and important objects. It is a great benefit, therefore, to the more laborious and busy part of mankind in particular, to be allowed and even required, to turn their attention from things temporal to things spiritual, and carry their thoughts forward into that future and eternal state, to which they are constantly approaching, and in which they are to find their long home. All men are capable of reflecting upon things past, of meditating upon things present, and of anticipating things future: And it highly concerns all persons of every age, character, profession, and condition of life, to pause, ponder, consider and reflect, while they are passing through the busy, noisy and tumultuous scenes of this distracting world. The things of this present life appear very different to all persons, in their leisure, retired, serious, and reflecting moments, from what they do while they are eagerly engaged in worldly pursuits. How many, every sabbath day, view the world very differently from what they habitually view it every other day in the week; and how many serious reflections and resolutions do they form on that holy day, which have a salutary influence upon their thoughts, words and actions in their common intercourse with the world? This is certainly true, with respect to those who remember the sabbath and keep it holy from beginning to end; and who seriously and sincerely discharge the appropriate duties of it. And it has a condemning, if not a restraining influence upon all, who are not totally abandoned to wickedness and stupidity. The sabbath is a most precious and important season for the most pleasant, and most profitable reflections and meditations, whether men improve it for these pious purposes, or neglect and profane it.
3. The sabbath affords men a happy opportunity for that religious society and intercourse, which directly tends to promote their mutual, temporal and
spiritual benefit. Mankind are formed for society with each other, and cannot be happy in a solitary state. Mutual intercourse serves to harmonize and civilize them, and to render them more amiable and virtuous, as well as religious. This happy effect the sabbath has never failed to produce wherever it has been observed. How differently do those feel and conduct towards each other, who usually meet together every sabbath, and apparently unite in the service of the sanctuary, from those who neglect the duties of the sabbath, and only see one another occasionally, as business, inclination, or necessity may require. Both observation and experience prove the civilizing and harmonizing tendency of observing a day of rest and devotion. Those who have observed it, have found sensible advantage from it; and those who have despised and neglected it, have suffered temporal inconveniency and injury from their ungrateful and criminal conduct. The happy influence of the christian sabbath upon the christian world has been incalculably great. It has formed the christian nations for the enjoyment of that civil order, peace, and harmony, which no unchristian nation ever realized. And there can be no doubt but the God of order ordained the sabbath for the great benefit of mankind in their civil, as well as in their religious connections.
4. The sabbath is highly beneficial, as it affords the most favourable opportunity for training up children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Parents and heads of families ought to impart religious instruction to those under their care, and to do all they can to promote their spiritual and eternal good. But amidst the labours of the week, they can find but few good opportunities to pour instruction into the minds of children and youth. And if they could find time, children and youth would not be so ready to hear instructions, while they are eagerly pursuing more pleasing objects. But when they know that God requires them to remember the sabbath day and keep it holy; and when they are actually restrained from speaking
their own words and finding their own pleasure on that day, their minds are better prepared to hear and feel the force of religious instructions. Religious parents and heads of families do esteem the sabbath as a precious season for discharging their duty to those, whose temporal and eternal interests God has, for a time, lodged in their hands. And the effects of such private instructions have often been great, salutary and lasting, upon the minds of children and youth. Indeed, we generally observe a sensible and striking contrast between those families where private instructions are given sabbath after sabbath, and those who are allowed to grow up in ignorance of religion, and in the neglect of all the duties of the sabbath.
5. The sabbath affords a precious opportunity of attending the publick worship of God, and of hearing the publick, as well as private instructions of religion. It is one of the principal purposes of the sabbath, to give mankind an opportunity of hearing the great truths and duties of the gospel explained and inculcated. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." And the sabbath is the day, which God has appointed to hear his word. And to render this appointment more sacred and important, he has raised up and authorized an order of men to deliver his messages, and inculcate the everlasting gospel upon the minds of sinful and perishing creatures. This he did, under the law, and this he does, under the gospel. The sabbath with these appendages is an unspeakable gift to those in a state of probation, whose eternal interests are suspended upon their hearing, understanding, believing and accepting the terms of salvation, which he has provided for them, and offered to them, through the atoning blood of his dear Son. In this respect, the sabbath is of all other days the most beneficial and important. For without it, all other days may be infinitely worse than nothing. Thousands and millions of our fellow men are now destitute of the sabbath and all the means of salvation, which are connected with it. and of consequence, are perishing for the lack of vis
ion. Though those, who enjoy the sabbath, often depreciate and despise it, and consider it a burden, rather than a benefit; yet it is of all temporal blessings the greatest, that God has bestowed upon this guilty and perishing world. I may add,
6. The sabbath is a peculiar and distinguishing benefit to the cordial friends of Christ; as it affords them a precious opportunity of attending the special ordinances, which he has appointed for their spiritual comfort and growth in grace; I mean baptism and the Lord's supper. Though these ordinances may be occasionally attended on other days, yet the sabbath is the only stated season of celebrating them. Where the sabbath is unknown, these ordinances are unknown. Where the sabbath is neglected, these ordinances are neglected. And where these ordinances are neglected, christians are declining, and religion becoming extinct. There are too many melancholy instances of this kind, to be found in this best part of our country. The sabbath lies at the foundation of all our religious privileges and enjoyments, if not at the foundation of our civil peace and prosperity. How much would religion decay, and the professors of it decline, if the sabbath were to be totally neglected in this place, and the sacred ordinances of baptism and the Lord's supper to be entirely laid aside? The bare supposition must be extremely painful to those, who esteem a day in God's courts better than a thousand, and the communion with Christ and his friends, the highest enjoyment this side of heaven. To the godly, then, if not to others, the sabbath must appear ex trémely precious and beneficial.
1. If the sabbath was made for man, and designed to promote the benefit of the whole human race in all ages; then they ought to be very thankful for its appointment, perpetuity and obligation. It is the most useful and important ordinance that God ever appoint