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be preferred to any other day in the week, or one day in seven to one day in six or eight; but these points, which in their nature are of arbitrary determination, being established to our hands, our obligation applies to the subsisting establishment, so long as we confess that some such institution is necessary, and are neither able, nor attempt to substitute any other in its place.
OF THE SCRIPTURE ACCOUNT OF SABBATICAL
The subject, so far as it makes any part of Christian morality, is contained in two questions:
I. Whether the command by which the Jewish Sabbath was instituted, extends to Christians?
II. Whether any new command was delivered by Christ; or any other day substituted in the place of the Jewish Sabbath by the authority or example of his apostles?
In treating of the first question, it will be necessary to collect the accounts which are preserved of the institution in the Jewish history; for the seeing these accounts together, and in one point of view, will be the best preparation for the discussing or judging of any arguments on one side or the other.
In the second chapter of Genesis, the historian, having concluded his account of the six days' creation, proceeds thus: And on the seventh 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 created and made.' After this, we hear no more of the Sabbath, or of the seventh day, as in any manner distinguished from the other six, until the history brings us down to the sojourning of the Jews in the wilderness, when the following remarkable passage occurs. Upon the complaint of the people for want of food, God was pleased to provide for their relief by a miraculous supply of manna, which was found every morning upon the ground about the camp; And they gathered it every morning, every man according to his eating: and when the sun waxed hot, it melted. And it came to pass, that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one man and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. And he said unto them, This is that which the Lord hath said, To-morrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord: bake that which ye will bake to-day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until
the morning. And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: and it did not stink [as it had done before, when some of them left it till the morning], neither was there any worm therein. And Moses said, Eat that to-day; for to-day is a Sabbath unto the Lord: to-day ye shall not find it in the field. Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the Sabbath, in it there shall be none. And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none. And the Lord said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws? See, for that the Lord hath given you the Sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day. So the people rested on the seventh day;' Exodus, xvi. 21-30.
Not long after this, the Sabbath, as is well known, was established with great solemnity in the fourth commandment.
Now, in my opinion, the transaction in the wilderness above recited was the first actual institution of the Sabbath. For if the Sabbath had been instituted at the time of the creation, as the words in Genesis may seem at first sight to import; and if it had been observed all along from that time to the departure of the Jews out of Egypt, a period of about two thousand five hundred years; it appears unaccountable that no mention of it, no occasion of even the obscurest allusion to it, should occur, either in the general history of the world before the call of Abraham, which contains, we admit, only a few memoirs of its early ages, and those extremely abridged; or, which is more to be wondered at, in that of the lives of the first three Jewish patriarchs, which, in many parts of the account, is sufficiently circumstantial and domestic. Nor is there, in the passage above quoted from the sixteenth chapter of Exodus, any intimation that the Sabbath, when appointed to be observed, was only the revival of an ancient institution, which had been neglected, forgotten, or suspended; nor is any such neglect imputed either to the inhabitants of the old world, or to any part of the family of Noah; nor, lastly, is any permission recorded to dispense with the institution during the captivity of the Jews in Egypt, or on any other public emergency.
The passage in the second chapter of Genesis, which creates the whole controversy upon the subject, is not inconsistent with this opinion; for, as the seventh day was erected into a Sabbath, on account of God's resting upon that day from the work of the creation, it was natural enough in the historian, when he had related the history of the creation, and of God's ceasing from it on the seventh day, to add: 'And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it because that in it he had rested from all his work
which God created and made;' although the blessing and sanctification-i. e., the religious distinction and appropriation of that day -were not actually made till many ages afterwards. The words do not assert, that God then blessed' and sanctified' the seventh day, but that he blessed and sanctified it for that reason; and if any ask, why the Sabbath, or sanctification of the seventh day, was then mentioned, if it was not then appointed, the answer is at hand; the order of connection, and not of time, introduced the mention of the Sabbath, in the history of the subject which it was ordained to commemorate.
This interpretation is strongly supported by a passage in the prophet Ezekiel, where the Sabbath is plainly spoken of as given; and what else can that mean, but as first instituted in the wilderness? 'Wherefore I caused them to go forth out of the land of Egypt, and brought them into the wilderness. And I gave them my statutes, and shewed them my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them. Moreover also I gave them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them;' Ezek. xx. 10–12.
Nehemiah also recounts the promulgation of the sabbatic law amongst the transactions in the wilderness; which supplies another considerable argument in aid of our opinion:-'Moreover thou leddest them in the day by a cloudy pillar; and in the night by a pillar of fire, to give them light in the way wherein they should go. Thou camest down also upon Mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments, and true laws, good statutes and commandments: and madest known unto them thy holy Sabbath, and commandedst them precepts, statutes, and laws, by the hand of Moses thy servant: and gavest them bread from heaven for their hunger, and broughtest forth water for them out of the rock;' Nehem. ix. 12-15.
If it be inquired what duties were appointed for the Jewish Sabbath, and under what penalties and in what manner it was observed amongst the ancient Jews, we find that by the fourth commandment, a strict cessation from work was enjoined, not only upon Jews by birth, or religious profession, but upon all who resided within the limits of the Jewish state; that the same was to be permitted to their slaves and their cattle; that this rest was
1 From the mention of the Sabbath in so close a connection with the descent of God upon Mount Sinai, and the delivery of the law from thence, one would be inclined to believe, that Nehemiah referred solely to the fourth commandment. But the fourth commandment certainly did not first make known the Sabbath. And it is apparent that Nehemiah observed not the order of events, for he speaks of what passed upon Mount Sinai before he mentions the miraculous supplies of bread and water, though the Jews did not arrive at Mount Sinai till some time after both these miracles were wrought.
not to be violated, under pain of death :-' Whosoever doeth any work in the Sabbath-day, he shall surely be put to death;' Exod. xxxi. 15. Beside which, the seventh day was to be solemnised by double sacrifices in the temple:-' And on the Sabbathday two lambs of the first year without spot, and two tenth deals of flour for a meat-offering, mingled with oil, and the drink-offering thereof: this is the burnt-offering of every Sabbath, beside the continual burnt-offering, and his drink-offering;' Numb. xxviii. 9, 10. Also holy convocations, which mean, we presume, assemblies for the purpose of public worship or religious instruction, were directed to be holden on the Sabbath-day: 'the seventh day is the Sabbath of rest, an holy convocation;' Levit. xxiii. 3.
And accordingly we read, that the Sabbath was, in fact, observed amongst the Jews by a scrupulous abstinence from everything which, by any possible construction, could be deemed labour; as from dressing meat, from travelling beyond a Sabbath-day's journey, or about a single mile. In the Maccabean wars, they suffered a thousand of their number to be slain, rather than do anything in their own defence on the Sabbath-day. In the final siege of Jerusalem, after they had so far overcome their scruples as to defend their persons when attacked, they refused any operation on the Sabbath-day, by which they might have interrupted the enemy in filling up the trench. After the establishment of synagogues (of the origin of which we have no account), it was the custom to assemble in them on the Sabbath-day, for the purpose of hearing the law rehearsed and explained, and for the exercise, it is probable, of public devotion :- For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath-day.' The seventh day is Saturday; and, agreeably to the Jewish way of computing the day, the Sabbath held from six o'clock on the Friday evening, to six o'clock on Saturday evening.—These observations being premised, we approach the main question, Whether the command by which the Jewish Sabbath was instituted, extend to us ?
If the Divine command was actually delivered at the creation, it was addressed, no doubt, to the whole human species alike, and continues, unless repealed by some subsequent revelation, binding upon all who come to the knowledge of it. If the command was published for the first time in the wilderness, then it was immediately directed to the Jewish people alone; and something further, either in the subject, or circumstances of the command, will be necessary to shew that it was designed for any other. It is on this account, that the question concerning the date of the institution was first to be considered. The former opinion precludes all debate about the extent of the obligation; the latter admits, and
primâ facie, induces a belief, that the Sabbath ought to be considered as part of the peculiar law of the Jewish policy.
Which belief receives great confirmation from the following arguments :
The Sabbath is described as a sign between God and the people of Israel: '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 for ever;' Exodus, xxxi. 16, 17. Again: 'And I gave them my statutes, and shewed them my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them. Moreover also I gave them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them;' Ezek. xx. 11, 12. Now, it does not seem easy to understand how the Sabbath could be a sign between God and the people of Israel, unless the observance of it was peculiar to that people, and designed to be so.
The distinction of the Sabbath is, in its nature, as much a positive ceremonial institution, as that of many other seasons which were appointed by the Levitical law to be kept holy, and to be observed by a strict rest-as the first and seventh days of unleavened bread-the feast of Pentecost-the feast of Tabernacles -and in the twenty-third chapter of Exodus, the Sabbath and these are recited together.
If the command by which the Sabbath was instituted be binding upon Christians, it must be binding as to the day, the duties, and the penalty; in none of which it is received.
The observance of the Sabbath was not one of the articles enjoined by the apostles, in the fifteenth chapter of Acts, upon them which, from among the Gentiles, were turned unto God.'
St Paul evidently appears to have considered the Sabbath as part of the Jewish ritual, and not obligatory upon Christians as such-Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbathdays which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ;' Col. ii. 16, 17.
I am aware of only two objections which can be opposed to the force of these arguments: one is, that the reason assigned in the fourth commandment for hallowing the seventh day-namely, 'because God rested on the seventh day from the work of the creation,' is a reason which pertains to all mankind; the other, that the command which enjoins the observance of the Sabbath is inserted in the Decalogue, of which all the other precepts and prohibitions are of moral and universal obligation.
Upon the first objection, it may be remarked, that although in Exodus the commandment is founded upon God's rest from the