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Preparation for the due Observance of the
ST. LUKE xxiii. 54.
And that day was the preparation, and the Sabbath drew on.
every approach which we make to God for the offering of prayer and praise, it is manifestly our duty to bring with us such affections and dispositions as shall be in some degree correspondent to the holiness and majesty of his character, and suitable also to the service which we are to render. In recognition of this duty, the Old Testament records Samuel's exhortation to the house of Israel to prepare their hearts unto the Lord; mentions, to the praise of Jehoshaphat, his having done so; has preserved the very prayer of good king Hezekiah for the people who thus set themselves to propitiate the favour of God; and has declared of Ezra that the good hand of his God was upon him, for he had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord and to do it. A duty so consonant to reason, so frequently acknowledged in Scripture, and withal so evidently proper to be complied with at all times, in order to dispose the affections to the service of God, could scarcely be forgotten by the chosen people, in regard to that more special occasion which he had set apart for his worship, his holy day. Accordingly we find it intimated in the text, that the sacred rest of the Sabbath was not permitted to commence without being preceded by a more than ordinary attention to the duties which it enjoined; that a part of the day on the close of which the Sabbath was ushered in, was habitually employed with reference to the solemnity which was to succeed; and this so uniformly and generally, that it obtained, by universal
usage sent, the name of “ the preparation.”
There is a peculiar phraseology in the commandment which enjoins the rest of the Sabbath day, that seems to have reference to the necessity of some such preparation, if it did not furnish the occasion for this very observance. “Remember “ the Sabbath day to keep it holy.”
The word remember may doubtless have a retrospective signification, and is perhaps intended to allude to the circumstance that the Sabbath had been celebrated, by a standing usage, long before the giving of the law; that it had been instituted of old time, even from the period of the creation; VOL. II.
that it was the very day on which, from the beginning, pious men, the sons of God, were wont to come to present themselves before the Lord. In this view of the word, its meaning may be thus expressed-You have always been taught to observe the seventh day. It is an expression of homage and of allegiance, which is rightly due to the Creator and Ruler of the universe. Cease not to render that homage. Forget not still to sanctify that day. Let it ever be a rest holy to the Lord, for the command respecting it is solemnly renewed. But besides this retrospective sense, the word remember has also a prospective signification; and plainly suggests the propriety of not suffering that sacred day to come upon us by surprise, and without our having made ready for its approach. “ Remember the Sabbath day, “ to keep it holy”—forget not, when it is drawing near, to make such an arrangement of your business, such a previous disposition of those things which are needful for the supply of your wants, and (which is not less important than these,) such an orderly and religious disposal of your thoughts, that when that day arrives you may be enabled, without distraction, to keep it holy. Without this care, the Sabbath will not prove to you a rest; nor will you be likely, in its observance, to honour God as you ought.
Even when the Israelites were in the wilder
ness, and when a departure from the strictness of this preparation might seem to be excusable,* as if to inculcate deeply the necessity of preparation for this day, and to set an example which should powerfully enforce it, God saw fit, on its weekly approach, to perform a twofold miracle, in addition to that by which he gave to the Israelites their daily food. The manna which, on other days, was spoiled if kept till morning, was on the Sabbath day unhurt by keeping; and to prevent the gathering of it on that day, God was pleased to send, on the day preceding, a double supply for the wants of the people; thus himself remembering the Sabbath day as it approached, that he too might rest upon it when it arrived.
The Jews, thus warned by example, and instructed by the positive command of the Most High, were extremely careful to regulate the minutest things for the next day, whenever the Sabbath drew on. Their dress, their food, their table, were all prepared and placed. And lest they should in any way incur the guilt of legal pollution, they were then especially most studious to avoid any thing that might occasion it.
On the sixth day of the week, from the time of the evening sacrifice, or about three o'clock, they began to fit themselves for the Sabbath, and to cease from their works. The whole of that day was distinguished from others; but it was this portion, in particular, which constituted the preparation. The strictness with which they regarded it was exceedingly great, and the instances which are mentioned of their care to suspend every thing which might imply a continuance of labour, are many, and superstitiously minute; and so well known was their respect for this preparation, that an edict of Augustus Cæsar, the Roman
* Bishop Patrick on Numbers xv. 35.
emperor, has been preserved by Josephus, commanding to extend to it the same privileges, and legal exemptions, which were accorded to the Jews on the Sabbath day. To celebrate this preparation, a little before sunset, as the Sabbath approached, they lighted up the Sabbath candle, in token of rejoicing; the doing of which was a part of making the Sabbath a delight. And the ancient wise men, or doctors of the law, were used to gather their scholars together, to anticipate its commencement, saying, “ Come let us go
forth, and meet the Sabbath.” In every house, the table was spread and furnished with provision; and the master of the house, taking a cup of wine, rehearsed the words concerning the institution of the Sabbath, (being the first three verses of the second chapter of Genesis ;) and having blessed God over the wine, pronounced the hallowed blessing of the Sabbath, and then, drinking thereof, in thankful commemoration of its return, passed the cup to all the rest ; and thus, by a