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Respecting the Lord's Day, the Lord's Supper, and Christian baptism. In this chapter it is attempted to shew, that these ordinances are to be observed by Christian believers, as seals of the same covenant, of which the Jewish Sabbath, the Passover, and Circumcision, were seals.
THAT what is called the Christian Church is the continuity of Israel, as an indissolvable society; and that this society, from its commencement to its completion, is founded upon the covenant of circumcision, as its constitutional basis, has been evinced. That the Sinai covenant was essentially distinct from this covenant, and added, as a temporary institution, and for temporary purposes, has also been proved. That this covenant, so far as it was of a peculiar character, as a shadow of good things to come, was to wax old, and vanish away, at the appearing of Christ; and did, in fact, become entirely obsolete, by the accomplishment of its typical design in his death, is made evident, by several passages which have been already introduced into this work, and is not controverted by any denomination of Christians. We are therefore to consider that covenant, viewed as a separate and distinct institution, as though it never had been. I say, as a distinct institution. For there were some precepts wrought into it, which were not peculiar to it; which are essential to every institution of God, and of eternal obligation. These precepts are not improperly called moral; in distinction from positive. Such, for example, is the precept, which requires us, to love the Lord our God with all our heart; and our neighbour as ourselves. Such is the precept, which requires justice
in all our dealings. These precepts are not appropriate to the Sinai covenant. They extend to all beings; to all dispensations; to all times; and can never cease to be obligatory. These precepts were not properly added. They were previously in force.
We are then to consider the Church of God, after the resurrection of Christ, as holding the same moral position, that it held, anterior to the Sinai covenant. Now, to the Church, in this state, there were appended three ordinances;* the sabbath, the passover, and circumcision. We will begin with the sabbath.
It is a matter of debate among divines, whether the Sabbath was observed during the period which preceded the exodus. Those who wish to examine this subject minutely, will find assistance, in President Edwards's Discourses, upon the Change, and Perpetuity of the Sabbath; in that part of Dr. Paley's Moral Philosophy, which treats upon this subject; and in Witsius, and Baxter. The limits we have prescrib ed to ourselves will not admit of this investigation. Perhaps the observations which will be introduced, will convince the reader, that, as the Church did certainly exist, there is great reason to presume it never was without the enjoyment of the Sabbath; that it is as old as creation; or, at least, as the introduction of the new covenant; and that the observation of it cannot cease to be obligatory so long as the world endures.
It is a certain fact, that the Sabbath was appointed to Israel before the introduction of the Sinai covenant. See Exodus, xvi. 23. "And he said unto them. This is that which the Lord hath said. Tomorrow is the rest of the Holy Sabbath, unto the Lord." In the foregoing verse it is said "And it came to pass, that on the sixth day, they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one man." How came this
* Some perhaps will be offended that the term ordinance should be applied to the sabbath; as we have been accustomed to speak of the ordinances of the Christian Church as two only, baptism and the Lord's supper. They will allow it to be an institution. But the words are so nearly synonymous, that the au thor hopes he shall be indulged the liberty he takes, in applying the term ordinance, to the sabbath also.
ceding day to be counted the sixth day; unless the practice of counting by weeks had been in use? And how came the congregation, of their own accord, to gather twice as much on the sixth day, that they had gathered on any preceding day, but in respect to the sabbath of rest, which they knew was to follow ? And how did they so generally know this, unless they had been in the habit of observing it? These circumstances do not look altogether like an original appointment; but as the recognition of an institution; which, though it had gone into some neglect, under the bondage of Egypt, was of primitive standing.
At any rate, the sabbath was here established. It was established anterior to the introduction of the Sinai covenant. Hence, in distinction from all the ritual precepts of that covenant, it was incorporated into the decalogue. This institution therefore did not expire with that covenant. It still continues, and is of permanent obligation even to the end of the world, unless there be a particular revocation of it.
This idea of the permanency of the sabbath will be confirmed, by considering its design, its use, and the character which the scriptures give to it. These things however we must run over with as much brevity as possible.
The design of the Sabbath is, that it should be a day of holy rest, to return at regular periods, for the refreshment of man, and the irrational animals under his care, and subject to his use; and that opportunity might be had for those spiritual employments, in which the glory, and felicity, and beauty of the Church consist and appear. Rest is the proper meaning of the term sabbath. And that rest is the thing in which it appropriately consists, is agreeable to the account giv en of it in every place in which it is mentioned. The people were to rest from gathering manna. Rest is mentioned in the fourth commandment as the thing in which the sabbath is to be sanctified. "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy," to sanctify it. How? The commandment proceeds to explain. "Six days
shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man servant, nor thy maid servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy 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 thy God, blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it." Rest, in such regular returns, securing refreshment to man and beast, and giving opportunity for the pleasing and edifying employments of public, and private devotion, is, to the people of God, an inestimable favor. Accordingly the sabbath is spoken of as given, in testimony of paternal love, by God, to his Church. Ezek. xx. 12. " Moreover also I gave them my Sabbaths." The Sabbath, as a rest, is a relief from the curse which followed the apostacy; and grateful, in this view, to the benevolent man, not only with respect to himself, and his brethren, but the brutes, who seem in some measure to partake of the curse.
Besides being a day of rest, the sabbath was commemorative of the great work of creation; which, in the divine plan, was subordinate to the greater work of redemption. It was commemorative of the work of redemption itself, of which the Church is the subject. Hence the deliverance from Egypt, as an important part of this work, is particularly mentioned, as a reason why the Church was required to keep the sabbath. Deut. v. 14. "And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt; and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence, through a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm; therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee, to keep the sabbath day." This was a reason of the injunction, as appropriate to the Church, in distinction from the heathen world.
The sabbath is also a type of heaven; and as such, presents an assurance to the believer of a speedy close of all the labors, and sorrows of the present world.
In the 31st chapter of Exodus, the sabbath is spoken of in another view; as a sign of God's gracious
relation to Israel, as their sanctifier, and the observance of it, on that account, is enjoined, not as a temporary institution, but as a perpetual covenant. "And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, Verily, my sabbath ye shall keep, for it is a sign between me and you, throughout your generations, that ye may know, that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you. Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore, for it is holy unto you. Every one that defileth it shall be surely put to death; for whosoever doth any work thereon, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Wherefore, the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel forever." Here the sabbath is placed on an exact parallel with circumcision, as a sign. It is another public standing token of the gracious covenant which God established with Israel. It is hence, by a metonymy, called the covenant, as circumcision is. On all these accounts, it is an endowment of infinite value. It cannot be too highly appreciated. The moral language of it, is that of holy affinity; of covenant love. It testifies, in the most impressive and endearing manner, the blessed, and indissoluble union which subsists between God and his people. Hence it is spoken of, Isaiah lviii. 13, as claiming to be reputed, and treated, “ a delight, the holy of the Lord, and honorable." The Church cannot then be divested of the sabbath. It is an irre
vocable grant. "The gifts and callings of God are without repentance." His judgments he may withdraw but his absolute, gracious bequests, he can never annul.
Let us now see what evidences there are in the New Testament, of the actual continuance of the sabbath, in the Gospel day. We are to remember, that the enquiry is as much, whether the sabbath be withdrawn as a blessing, as whether it hath ceased to be obligatory as a duty.