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§ 1. Of the observance of the Sabbath.
E are expressly told, in the books of Moses,
that the observance of the Sabbath, or of rest from labour every seventh day, was appointed in commemoration of the day on which God refted from the creation of the heavens, and the earth, which was completed in six days. This injunction being laid upon Adam, necessarily affects all his posterity. Gen. ii. 2. 66 And on the seventh 6 day God ended his work which he had made : " and he rested on the seventh day from all his " work which he had made. And God blessed “ the seventh day, and sanctified it : because that " in it he had rested from all his work which God 66 created and made." But we have a more particular account of the rest to be observed on this day, in the fourth commandment, Ex. xx. 8. « Remember the fabbath-day, to keep it holy. “ Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy “ work. But the seventh day is the fabbath of the “ Lord thy God: in it thou falt not do any “ work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy “ man-servant, nor thy maid-fervant, nor thy " cattle, nor the stranger that is within thy gates. “ For, in six days the Lord made heaven and earth,
" the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the " seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the “ fabbath-day, and hallowed it."
Besides this reafon for keeping the fabbath, which equally affects all mankind, we sometimes find other arguments insisted upon, which respect the Jews only, as Deut. v. 15. " Remember " that thou wast a fervant in the land of Egypt, " and that the Lord thy God brought thee out " thence through a mighty hand, and by a stretch" ed out arm : therefore the Lord thy God com“ manded thee to keep the fabbath-day.” It appears from these passages, that the proper purpose of the fabbath is reft from bodily labour. But, on this account, it is also peculiarly seasonable for serious reflection of mind, and devout meditation on the works of God; and by this means it is exceedingly useful for correcting the unfavourable influence, which a close and uninterrupted attention to the business of this life naturally has upon our minds; impressing us with just sentiments, and thereby preparing us for good conduct in life. Accordingly, we find in the Old, but more especially in the New Testament, that this use was made of the fabbath both by the Jews and christians, there being stated assemblies on this day for reading the scriptures and public prayer.
The fabbath was also distinguished under the law of Moses by an additional facrifice of two
lambs, besides the daily burnt offering, Numb. xxviii. 9.
And the ninety-second Psalm being intituled, “ a psalm or song for the fabbath-day,” was probably composed, in order to be sung in the temple-service of that day.
As we find, 2 Kings iv. 23, that it was custom. ary with the Jews of old to resort to their prophets on the fabbath-day, and also on the new moons, it is not improbable but that the prophets, and other persons learned in their law, were used to explain it on those days to the people. Where no such persons were at hand, it is probable that masters of private families read the scriptures in their own houses; or several families might join, and assemble together for the purpose, and this might give occafion to the institution of synagogues, which answered the same end. These assemblies were in universal use in our Saviour's time, and had been so, as is generally agreed, from the time of Ezra, if they were not as old
as the time of king David, who is thought to allude to them in some of his Psalms.
Christ having risen from the dead on the first day of the week, which is distinguished by the appellation of the Lord's day, and having afterwards appeared to his disciples on that day, in preference to any other, it seems from thence to have grown into a custom, with the apostles and primitive christians,
to assemble for public worship on that day, rather than on the seventh; and though the christian Jews probably continued for some time to meet on the seventh day also, yet, by degrees, the observance of that day for the purpose of public worlip grew out of ufe.
Our present practice was certainly that of the earliest christians, whose customs we are able to trace, and there having never been any controversy upon the subject, we may fafely conclude, that they derived it from the apostles; and their authority is sufficient for us. Nor does it make any material difference whether we be certified of their practice by their own writings, or any other sufficient evidence. In fact, it does not seem to be very material, what particular day of the week we set apart for rest and public worship, provided we conscientiously appropriate the same portion of our time to that use.
That some portion of time should be set apart for the purpose of public worship, seems to be, highly reasonable of itself, exclusive of all express authority ; fince societies, as such, depend upon God, as well as the individuals that compose them; and therefore they owe him the fame homage; and it is most natural, that public thanksgivings, confessions, and petitions, should be made by as many of the society as can conveniently assemble for that purpose. Every person, therefore, who considers him-VOL. II.
self as a member of society, and having a common interest with it, should, on this account, attend the public worship of God; and what time is so convenient for this purpose, as the day of rest from labour and worldly business. The mind will naturally be most composed, and, on every account, the fittest for religious exercises on that day; and the devotion of individuals is greatly strengthened by the example of others joining with them.
It is an additional argument in favour of public worship, that the custom promotes society, and friendship, by affording frequent opportunities for the people of a neighbourhood meeting and seeing one another, especially as the business of the day tends to promote mutual love, and all the social virtues,
The fabbath, among the Jews (and for the same reason, it should apply to the Lord's day among the christians) is expressly ordered to be a day of rest for the cattle, as well as for man.
It must be exceedingly wrong, therefore, to make the labour. ing cattle work on that day ; and in this view it is a most reasonable and merciful institution.
As the most important use of a weekly day of reft (on which the attention of the mind is withdrawn from the usual cares of life) is serious and useful reflection, in order to the moral culture of the mind, it must be wrong, as evidently interfering with this end of the institution, to give way to ex