Page images
PDF
EPUB

ed, and has been productive of the greatest temporal and spiritual blessings in all ages. It has been the principal source of virtue and piety in individuals, in families, and in all civil societies, whether smaller or larger. God promised to smile upon his chosen people, so long as they esteemed and observed the sabbath. "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 shalt 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." This promise to Israel was fulfilled so long as they performed the conditions of it, and sanctified the sabbath. Our fathers were extremely strict in keeping the sabbath, for more than a hundred years after God planted them in this land, which was undoubtedly the happy occasion of drawing down a rich profusion of both temporal and spiritual blessings. And though the sabbath has, of late years, been greatly neglected, despised, and profaned; yet it is the richest source of every blessing we enjoy. We have abundant reasons to be thankful, that God still continues this forfeited favour to us, and inspires so many to support, esteem and improve his holy day. It is the grand palladium and bulwark of every thing we hold most precious and valuable. It behoves those who have experienced saving benefit from the sabbath and its sacred ordinances, to make it appear to the world, that they hold these religious privileges in the highest estimation; and are determined to transmit them, so far as lies in their power, to all future ages. God has deposited these invaluable and sacred privileges in their hands, and they stand responsible, if they suffer them to be wrested from them. If the world despise them, they may not despise them. If the world neglect them, they may not neglect them. If the world profane them, they may not profane them. If the world oppose them, they are

bound to protect and preserve them, for the benefit of themselves and all who are coming after them.

2. If the sabbath be such a great and extensive blessing to mankind; then the neglect, the abuse and profanation of this holy day must be exceedingly sinful and displeasing to God. To abuse the sabbath is virtually to abuse every other temporal and spiritual blessing, and to provoke God to inflict every temporal and spiritual evil upon individuals and whole nations. The profanation of the sabbath was the national sin of Israel, and the principal procuring cause of all their national calamities. God told them by the mouth of Moses, "ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary," and subjoined a promise of every publick and personal blessing. But at the same time he said, if they should not keep his sabbaths, but despise his statutes, he would make their land desolate, and cause it to enjoy its sabbaths, which they did not suffer it to enjoy. But neither the threatening, nor the inflicting of national judgments, were sufficient to cure them of their national sin of sabbath-breaking. For after they had returned from their long captivity in Babylon, they still persisted in profaning the sabbath, for which Nehemiah upbraids and condemns them. He says, "Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, what evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day? Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? Yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath." They were weary of the sabbath," saying, when will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat?" God employed various means to allure them to observe his sabbath. He appointed the best of teachers to enlighten their understandings; he built the most beautiful and magnificent temple to gratify their eyes; and appointed the best of musicians to please their ears; but nevertheless they were bent to forsaking his house, and to profaning his holy day. And the same spirit has reigned in the hearts of the great majority

[ocr errors]

who have been favoured with the sabbath and its sacred ordinances. This is now the crying sin of every christian nation. The sabbath was kept, and the sanctuary was reverenced, through this country, until about fifty years past. But since then, "how is the gold become dim! how is the most fine gold changed!" The ways of Zion mourn; the houses of God are forsaken; and the sabbath despised, neglected, and openly profaned. This is a sin of the first magnitude, and the source of every other abounding iniquity. It takes off all civil and religious, publick and private restraints, and opens the door to every species of vice and immorality and irreligion. It has always been found, that those who profane the sabbath, are incurably vicious. They are out of the reach of the means of instruction and restraint. This ought to make sab

bath-breakers tremble!

3. If the sabbath be designed and calculated to promote the temporal and spiritual interests of all mankind; then it is extremely unwise and impolitick for civil rulers to do any thing, which tends to lead their subjects to disregard and abuse such a holy and benevolent institution. It is weakening their own power and influence, and strengthening the hands and hearts of the lawless and disobedient. This impolicy it is well known, civil rulers have practised. King Charles II. appointed certain recreations and amusements for the express purpose of leading his subjects to disregard and profane the sabbath, which spread moral corruption through the nation. The rulers of the most refined and polished nation in the world, a few years since, totally set aside the sabbath and all religious ordinances; but they have had, and still have reasons to regret their folly and guilt. Any rulers will find that they injure themselves as well as their subjects, by banishing the fear of God from their minds. And nothing can have a greater tendency to banish the fear of God from their minds, than allowing them to profane the sabbath. Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, made Israel to sin, by setting aside religious ordinances of divine

appointment, and substituting his own in the room of them; and his successors on the throne pursued the same sinful policy, until the ten tribes were completely corrupted and destroyed. When religious restraints are taken off from the people, civil restraints will become very weak and feeble. This was the case in Israel, and this always will be the case in any civil community. It is extremely unwise and impolitick, to say nothing more, in those who govern, to do any thing which tends to take away the fear of God from before the eyes of their subjects. And when divine ordinances are treated with neglect and contempt, the fear of God will no longer restrain the corruptions of the human heart, which will produce every natural and moral evil.

4. If the sabbath tends to promote the temporal as well as spirtual good of all mankind, then none can be good members of civil society, who neglect, abuse, and profane this divine and benevolent institution. Though they may possess many amiable qualities and talents, and though they may conduct with propriety in their general intercourse with their fellow men; yet their neglect and profanation of the sabbath will more than counterbalance all their other good deeds. Their example strikes at the root of all civil and religious obligations, and prepares the way to general ignorance, irreligion, profanity, disorder, and confusion. It will not, it cannot be denied, that the people in this country have greatly degenerated from the virtue and piety, the peace and harmony of our fathers; and to what has this been principally owing? Has it not been principally owing to the abuse and profanation of the sabbath? Has not religious declension constantly kept way with the neglect and profanation of the sabbath? Look into any place, at this day, and will you not find the people degenerate, in proportion to their neglect, contempt, and profanation of the sabbath? And if you find one people more regular, more virtuous, or more religious, than another, do you not find that they more generally and more constantly observe the sab

bath and reverence God's sanctuary? Facts speak louder than words, and irresistibly prove that the profanation of the sabbath, is the primary and principal source of the great degeneracy of the present day. And to whose door must this evil be laid? It must be laid at the door of the sabbath-breakers. And can such persons be deemed good members of civil society?

5. If the sabbath be so greatly and universally beneficial to mankind in all respects; then it highly becomes all professors of religion, to make it appear that the sabbath is their delight, and the holy of the Lord, honourable, by strictly and constantly performing the peculiar duties of it. They have received saving benefit from the sabbath, and can appreciate its value and importance, by their own happy experience. There are secret, private, and publick duties peculiar to the sabbath; and which all professors of religion are under special and solemn obligations to perform. The secret duties are serious reflection, meditation and prayer. While they rest from the common cares and concerns of life, it becomes them seriously to meditate and reflect upon what is past, present and to come, in respect to their spiritual interests, and to pour out their hearts with peculiar freedom, solemnity, and enlargement before God. Serious meditation and reflection prepare the mind to take clear and extensive views of themselves, of God, and the great interests of his kingdom, which are objects they are too apt to overlook and forget amidst the busy scenes of life. The serious and sincere performance of these secret duties, can scarcely escape the notice of others, for they require time, which cannot be spent without being observed. Those who seriously and habitually discharge the duties of devotion, whether on the sabbath or other days, exhibit an example full of admonition and instruction.

Secret reflection, meditation, and prayer, prepare christians for the private duties of the sabbath, which are reading the bible, social prayer, and private instruction. Religious parents and heads of families are

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »