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hath redeemed, renewed, and brought us into the family of God.
Fixing our eyes attentively on these ends, and clearly understanding what the sabbath is, and why it was appointed, we shall, so far, be prepared, in the second place, to make a right application of it, that is to remember and keep it holy.'
During a total cessation from bodily labours and worldly cares, the vacancy of the mind, together with the recovering spring of the spirits, afford us a most incomparable opportunity of meditating, with more than common feelings, on the goodness of God, who, ere he introduced us to this scene of things, prepared and stored it, not only with necessaries, but with every comfort, every ornament of life. In what abundance hath he poured out the materials of food, raiment, houses ! What a spacious, what'a verdant, what a beautiful carpet hath be spread under our feet! tissued with an inexhaustible variety of flowers, that charm the eye and ravish the smell! refreshed with innumerable springs, rivers, lakes ! diversified with hills, dales, groves ! and those peopled by a choir of musical performers, that leave all the efforts of art far behind! What a carpet! exceeded rather in magnificence, than beauty, by that blue canopy, which he hath stretched over our heads, the aqueduct, below, of all our dews and rains, and enriched above with a profusion of celestial luminaries! What a verdure under us! What an azure over us! How is the eye, at once, fed and entertained by both! How is life refreshed and maintained by the air ! how all its actions and motions directed by the light !
No sooner were all these, and ten thousand other accommodations, prepared in an exact conformity to the wants, the senses, the affections, the wishes, of their intended
possessor, and to the faculties and powers of his understanding, than he was himself-raised out of the earth (from which, but for this act of almighty goodness, he had never differed) and vested, as the favourite of heaven, with the lordship of all. The unthinking hearer will startle, when I tell him, all this is nothing in comparison of the power dispensed to us, by the rational faculty, of knowing our benefactor ; of knowing, and by that knowledge, of enjoying God himself; of knowing and enjoying, by a grateful celebration of this festival, that God, to whom all his works, howsoever beautiful, magnificent, glorious, in themselves, are but a blank, a nothing
Is it possible this day should call us to yet higher knowledge, to the exemplification of divine goodness, in more astonishing, more affecting instances, than these ? Yes, hitherto we have touched only on the bounty of God; his mercy will carry us farther. After we had trampled on his bounty; and ungratefully abused it in all its kindest effects; after we had done every thing to provoke his displeasure, and pulled on our own guilty heads the sentence of everlasting shame and misery; from the throne of heaven (hear it with unutterable wonder and love, O ye sons of the dust) from the throne of heaven, from the hymns and hallelujahs of all its hosts, he flew, on the wings of inconceivable mercy ; took our now wretched nature, and, with it, laid on his own guiltless head the load of all our crimes; suffered the punishment due to them; and as the most hated of all criminals, was scourged, buffeted, spit on, crucified, by our own hands, that he might obtain for us the glorious liberty of the sons of God;' and that we may be justified in our hopes of rising, after death, to eternal life, he rose again from the grave, and, to the end of the world, is present with us, guiding our ignorance by his gospel, and aiding our weakness by his grace. To acquire a competent knowledge, and to impress on our hearts a lively and lasting sense, of these delightful truths; in the performance, the proof, the propagation whereof, as real facts, and as articles of saving faith, unbounded wisdom, and power, and mercy, were all employed, if not exerted; is the proper business of this day; and to adore in transports of joy and love, the exemplification of these attributes in our Father, Saviour, Comforter, is the right method of keeping it holy. What heart of ice can be cool to it? What mind of block or stone can forget it? To forget this solemnity is to forget the creation of a world, formed solely for ourselves, at the very instant that this world employs all our thoughts, and engages all our desires; is to forget our own being, to forget the author of that being, and of every thing that can ensure the happiness of that being, of every thing that can support the body, or save the soul ; and not only to forget, but to forfeit all.
What leisure is there for him who is busied all the week about his worldly affairs, to learn these truths; or for him whose heart is hurried off at all other times, to the pleasures, profits, or vanities of this life, to recall it into the presence of God; but on his day? The sabbath, a time of rest for the body, and of application of the soul to God and his holy religion, should be understood as a remainder of original righteousness and happiness, enjoyed ere the curse of labour and sorrow fell on transgressing mankind, and as a type of the eternal rest promised to our souls in the restitution of all things. It should be considered as a day of grace, whereon the king of heaven and earth lays open the gates of his palace, and invites his subjects to come and apply for his favours, and rejoice before him as on a festival, celebrated alike by himself and his whole kingdom.
Is there then a time when the whole race of mankind are called to hear the voice of God, and to send up theirs in united prayers and praises for all his mercies, wished, or received ? And is there a soul, so lost to gratitude, and itself, so daring a rebel to God, as to be absent from an assembly, where God is present, and where a world is on its knees?
Were we only ordered to rest and rejoice on this festival, the reason and gratitude of a sensible man would point it out to him as a time of rejoicing before God, as a proper season of drawing nigh to him in every act of thankful recollection, as he hath done to us in numberless instances of goodness and mercy. The very nature of the solemnity, as instituted by God for a memorial of his gracious dispensations towards us, sufficiently intimates this application of the day to a thinking and grateful mind. If he hath not told us all he expects of us on this occasion, it is probably because there is no prescribing the degree of gratitude, proper to be shewn by the obliged, in any case; the benefactor is always the last to do it, our own thoughts being here the only decent monitors. What an affront should we suppose,
other benefactors had offered to our sensibility, did they demand our returns in plainer terms, than God hath used in those of his institution ?
These are intelligible enough in my text, where we are
ordered to keep this day holy. Now absolute inaction, both of mind and body, can sanctify nothing. Industry, which in itself is a virtue, and preservative, besides, of all other virtues, had never been suspended, during a seventh part of our time, by a divine law, had it not been the intention of the lawgiver to appropriate that time to the higher virtues of piety and devotion, and to the necessary acquisition of religious knowledge. It follows therefore, that, while the body is at rest, the mind is to be employed in its own proper work of religious cultivation. And by what means can this be better accomplished, than by reflecting, that the sabbath is set for a sign' between God and his people, to remind them of his infinite goodness to them, and of the services they therefore owe him? But why do I talk of services, as if Christ had not, long since, told us, that 'the sabbath was made for man?' It was surely appointed more for our improvement, than for any benefit the all-perfect Being could have expected from the very best we can do. He who keeps it holy, will find in the end, that it hath kept him holy, and made him for ever happy. If this is a day of rejoicing and thanksgiving for all the mercies of God, more especially of creation and redemption, how can it be sanctified by those acts of devotion, if these mercies are not feelingly remembered ? and how can they be thus remembered, if they are not first well understood? And how can they be at all understood, I mean by the bulk of mankind, if this only opportunity for the purpose, at least in regard to the poorer sort; is not laid out on inquiries after God and his religion? Or how shall the poorer sort be won to this, if the richer and higher part of the world appear to pay little or no respect to the sabbath? Will mere sensual and riotous rejoicings sanctify the festival ? . No, they are fitted only to celebrate a day to the devil.
It was for this reason, that God by Isaiah so sharply reproved the sabbaths, as kept by the Israelites in the time of that prophet. “Your sabbaths, and calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. When you make many prayers, I will not hear; your hands are full of blood.' You join iniquity, concupiscence, and oppression to my institution, and think to make it a cloak for your crimes. Wherefore as you apply it to purposes, directly contrary to my intention, mine as it is, you have made it an abomination to me.' But if you would celebrate my sabbaths and other ordinances, in a manner acceptable to me, 'wash you, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do well. Blessed is the man that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and his hand from doing any evil.'
That the sabbath-day was the proper and usual time, both for public prayer, and for religious instruction, is plain from the practice of the Jews, whose form of prayer for the service of the synagogue, and whose custom of repeating that, and of reading and expounding the Scriptures, on this day, to the people are known to every one; as it is, that Christ himself conformed both to that service, and that custom.
And that the inspired apostles, together with the whole Christian church in their time, followed the same method of praying and preaching, to which they added the eucharist, and alms-giving, is equally plain from Acts xvi. 13, where public prayer; from Acts xx. 7, where preaching and breaking of bread; and from 1 Cor. xvi. 2, where contributions for distressed brethren, are all mentioned, as regularly práctised on the first day of the week, or the Christian sabbath.
Having now seen, what the sabbath is, to what necessary ends, and sacred purposes, it is dedicated by the express appointment of God himself, and how, in consequence of his commandment, it was kept holy by those who lived and acted under the immediate direction of his Spirit; what can reason think of such as profane it by worldly business, settling accounts, transacting bargains, taking journeys? Or by idleness, strolling, visiting, sleeping? Or by an affected and supercilious contempt, both public and private, of that instruction, that devotion, that gratitude towards God for all the blessings, which the solemnity of the day so naturally and loudly calls us to ? Or what is left for charity, the most tender, to think of those who, restrained by the laws from labour and business on this day, greedily lay hold of it as an opportunity to indulge themselves in amusements (so they call them), which no rules of virtue, or even decency, can tolerate on any other day? What an additional blackness do the crimes of lewd and libertine discourse, of