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days, immersed in the cares and troubles of temporal pursuits, are to enjoy a return of tranquillity, favourable to recollection, to wisdom, and to virtue. Even the beast of the field, exhausted in the service of his cruel or inconsiderate master, is to enjoy this common and salutary repose, and the oppressed is to benefit by the sabbath of the oppressor. But the rest which is thus enjoined, is not to be merely a rest from the ordinary business and toils of our lives. If it be criminal to devote the sabbath to works which, on every other day, may be necessary or lawful, it will be yet more so to profane it by the vain and wanton engagements of secular pleasure. The sabbath was made for man, not for his corruption, but relief; not for idle and degrading indulgence, but for wholesome retreat from the turmoils of life. The libertine and the sensualist, who desecrate it to the gratification of their passions, counteract, as far as they can, the whole design of the institution; and that day visits them but for profanation and crime, which is to become to every good man a period of holy quiet, of salutary retirement, and of profitable recollection.
By the practice and precept of the Apostles and their successors, the Lord's day was to be also set apart for the public assemblies of the faithful. The congregation of Christians were then to be called together to offer up their praises and thanksgivings to their common Father, in the name and through the merits of their common Redeemer. A kindred spirit of devotion was to assemble, in associated worship, the humble disciples of the gospel of peace; and on the same day, and, perhaps, on the same hour, the united voice of the followers of Christ was every where to acknowledge the mercies, or to sup
plicate the protection, of the Father, the Sanctifier, and the Saviour of the world. Then, too, the benevolence of evangelical charity was to be exercised, and provision made for the relief of the poor. The Jew had regarded the healing of the sick on the sabbath day as a crime. But under the new dispensation, no observance, however explicitly and strictly enjoined, was in any wise to supersede the higher claims of social and moral obligation. In conformity with this principle was the injunction of the Apostle, “ Let every man, on the first day of the week, lay by “ for him in store according as God has prospered : him.” Worship was, therefore, accompanied by charity. The prayer and the alms went up together as memorials before God; and the humble homage of adoration was blended with, and rendered more precious by, the acceptable incense of deeds of mercy*.
The same wisdom which directed the Sabbath day to be thus consecrated to God and to the poor, required that a portion of it should be also devoted to the instruction of the ignorant, and the diffusion of evangelical truth. The people, humbled and purified by the exercise of devotion, or raised above the vanities of the world by high and holy contemplations, were better prepared for the reception of sound doctrine and useful precept. Then it was that they were to hear the voice of the Pastor, and to receive the illumination of wisdom. The writings of Prophets and of Apostles were read to them. The
* Pliny, lib. 10. Epist. 97. Orig. lib. iii. contra Cels. Justin Mart. Apol. ii. First Ep. Corinth. xvi. 2. Justin Martyr says, that those who were mercifully disposed gave such alms as their circumstances permitted; and what was then collected, was deposited in the hands of the president, and distributed to the orphans and widows, as occasion required. Apolog. ii. p. 96, 99.
words of sanctifying truth descended upon their hearts. Doubt was satisfied, hesitation confirmed, infidelity enlightened and convinced, belief itself instructed, elevated, inspired; and this practice of periodical exhortation, adopted in reverence of apostolic example, or in obedience to apostolic precept, was to distinguish the return of the Lord's day, and to minister, through all future times, to the edification of the congregated people, and the justification and diffusion of the gospel *. : Of an institution consecrated to such purposes, the importance has been admitted by the whole civilized world. It has descended from age to age, and spread from realm to realm; it continues periodically to collect the population of different nations in the temples of the Almighty; it is reverenced and observed wherever the light of the gospel has been diffused; and kings, and legislators, and conquerors, and people, have alike embraced a solemnity, so affecting in the objects to which it refers, and so salutary in the offices which it claims and promotes.
In the general temper of mankind we discover a strong and debasing gravitation to the vanities of the world ; and the multitude of secular engagements
• “ Paul, when the disciples came together on the first day of the week, to break bread, preached unto them ;” and we have instances, in the Acts of the Apostles, of the mode and topics of his preaching. Justin Martyr states, what other Christian fathers confirm, the nature of the public instruction of the people on the sabbath. “ The Christians having assembled on the day of our Lord's resurrection, we read the writings of the Prophets and Apostles, and the president then addresses them, and exhorts them to believe and to practise what they have heard. Then all join in celebrating the sacrament." Justin Mart. Apol ii. 96, 99. Ignat. Epist. ad Magar. $9. Clemens Alexandrin. Strom. vii. p. 744. Orig. Contr. Cels. lib. viii. p. 392.
and avocations by which so many are occupied, contribute perpetually to weaken in the mind all the sober and solemn impressions of religion. The sabbath counteracts this low attachment to things of the earth, by associating men in the performance of the most indispensable of all duties, and in the contemplation of the most sublime and interesting of all objects. Without such an institution, how are the ignorant to be reminded of the duties which they owe to themselves and to God? By what means shall the mass of mankind, so incessantly engaged in the toils of life, be impressed with spiritual ideas sufficiently forcible to check the general current of their thoughts and their propensities? From whence shall the uneducated poor hear of God, of judgment, of redemption, of immortality, of heaven, of hell? What shall kindle those aspiring hopes by which virtue is nourished and elevated, or excite those salutary fears by which vice is intimidated or restrained ? How shall the children of this world be reminded with effect of the high vocation to which they are born, and of the moral and religious responsibility to which they are subject? Or by what means would be prevented the rapid progress of that ignorance and degeneracy, which render men unfit for social intercourse, and
for every crime by which social intercourse is disgraced, degraded, or dissolved.
Even to the manners and decencies of life, the Sabbath extends its benignant influence. By associating the people of the same neighbourhood in the most sacred of all offices, and by suspending the cares and labours which so often harden as well as corrupt the heart, it tends to humanize the passions and to strengthen the bonds of social connexion,
and friendly intercourse. On other occasions, the poor are to consider themselves as the children of necessity and of toil, and can scarcely look forward into the world, without painfully contrasting the abundance enjoyed by others, with the sadness and misery of their own dependence. But, in the house of God, and in the occupations of the Lord's day, they are taught to entertain sentiments of a different nature. They learn how little are the petty and momentary distinctions of rank and power, compared with the high and eternal privileges of religion. Joining with their superiors in one common worship, recognising one common Lord, and heirs, as they are taught, of one common hope, they may justly regard the most elevated of those around them as beings of the same family and accountability with themselves; and, while, in this manner, the idea of kindred and connexion is awakened and vindicated, the pride of the great is checked, the spirit of the poor is cheered; subordination, introduced by the diversity of ranks, becomes less likely to impair the moral and social intercourse of man with man; and the high and the low, instead of beholding in each other but lords to rule, and vassals to obey, are led to consider themselves as brethren, bound to reciprocal humanity by equal obligation, and under equal responsibility.
Look to the assembled village on the Sabbath day. The toil which had laboured through the week has ceased. Decency, order, and cheerfulness, succeed to the cares, the degradations, and the anxieties of earthly pursuits. The friendly affections of the heart, which the occupations of the world had contributed to suspend, are awakened and indulged. The tranquillity and innocence of religious repose rest upon