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stealing of every man, who shall know it. Every Gentile, as well as every Jew, who sinneth under the law, will, according to the spirit of the Apostle's declaration, be judged by the law. Agreeably to this equitable construction, every person, to whom this precept shall come, is bound to remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
But it is acknowledged, that "all the remaining commands are indeed universally obligatory; being in their own nature moral, and having therefore an universal application to mankind. This, however, is plainly a Command merely positive, and therefore destitute of this universality of application. It may, of course, be dispensed with; may be supposed to have been delivered to the Jews only, like their ceremonial and judicial law; may have been destined to continue, so long as their national state continued; and, thus may have been designed to be of neither universal, nor perpetual, obligation."
To this objection, which I have stated at full length, that I might be sure of doing justice to it, I give the following answer.
First; it appears to me evident, that, so far as my information extends, the distinction between moral and positive commands has been less clearly made by moral writers, than most other distinctions. It will be impossible for any man clearly to see, and to limit, exactly, what they intend when they use these terms. To remove this difficulty, so far as my audience are concerned, and to enable them to know what I design, while I am using these words, I will attempt to define them with some particularity.
A moral precept, is one, which regulates the moral conduct of Intelligent creatures, and binds the will and the conscience. It is either limited, or universal: it is universal; or, in other words, is obligatory on the consciences of Intelligent creatures, at all times, and in all circumstances, when their situations and relations are universally such, as to render the conduct required in these precepts their duty invariably, and in the nature of things. Of this kind, the number of precepts is certainly very small. We are bound to love God, and our neighbour, invariably. But the fifth command, in its obvious sense, can have no application, where the relations of parent and child do not exist; the sixth, where rational beings are immortal; the seventh, where the distinction of sex is not found. To these precepts, therefore, the criterion of universality, generally regarded as the principal mark of the moral nature of precepts, is plainly inapplicable; and it is altogether probable, that these precepts will have no existence in any world, but this. Limited moral precepts are those, which require the duties, arising from such relations and circumstances, as exist only for limited periods, or among certain classes or divisions of Rational beings. Thus various moral precepts found in the judicial law of Moses obligated to obedience none but the people of that nation, and strangers dwelling among them. Thus, also, he, who has no parents, is not required to perform the duties, enjoined upon a
child; he, who has no wife, those required of a husband; and he, who has no children, those demanded of a father.
Positive precepts are such, as require conduct of moral beings, which, antecedently to the promulgation of them, was not their duty; and, independently of them, would never have become their duty; but would have remained for ever a matter of indifference. It ought to be observed here, that some precepts are considered as merely positive, because the duties, enjoined by them, were unknown, and would have continued unknown, to those, of whom they are required, independently of the publication of the precepts. These precepts, however, are no less of a moral nature, than if the duties, which they enjoin, and the relations from which those duties spring, had always been perfectly known. A precept of a merely positive nature creates a duty, which, but for the precept, would not exist; which does not depend for its existence on the nature of the relations, sustained by the subject as a Rational being; but is intended to promote some useful, incidental purpose, and is not due, nor demanded from the subject in other cases, although sustaining exactly the same relations. Thus the precept, requiring the building of booths at the passover, may be considered as a positive precept. Thus also many others, enjoining particular parts of the Jewish ritual.
Secondly; The precept contained in the text is according to these definitions a moral, and not a positive, precept. The Sabbath was instituted for the following ends.
It was intended to give the laborious classes of mankind an opportunity of resting from toil.
It was intended to be a commemoration of the wisdom, power, and goodness of God in the Creation of the universe.
It was intended to furnish an opportunity of increasing holiness in man, while in a state of innocence.
It was intended to furnish an opportunity to fallen man of acquiring holiness, and of obtaining salvation.
In every one of these respects, the Sabbath is equally useful. important, and necessary, to every child of Adam. It was no more necessary to a Jew to rest after the labour of six days was ended, than to any other man. It was no more necessary to a Jew to commemorate the perfections of God, displayed in the work of creation; it was no more necessary to a Jew to gain holiness, or to increase it; it is no more necessary to a Jew to seek, or to obtain, salvation. Whatever makes either of these things interesting to a Jew in any degree, makes them in the same degree interesting to every other man. The nature of the command, therefore, teaches, as plainly as the nature of a command can teach, that it is of universal application to mankind. It has then this great criterion of a moral precept: viz. universality of appli
That it is the duty of all men to commemorate the perfections of God, displayed in the work of creation, cannot be questioned. Every living man is bound to contemplate, understand, and adore, these perfections. But we cannot know them in the abstract; or as they exist merely in Him. We learn them, only as displayed in his Works, and in his Word. We are bound, therefore, to learn them, as thus displayed; and that in proportion to the clearness and glory of the display. The clearness and glory, with which these perfections are manifested in the work of creation, are transcendently great; and demand from all creatures a contemplation proportionally attentive, and an adoration proportionally exalted. To commemorate this glorious work, therefore, is a plain and important duty of all men: this being the peculiar service demanded of them by his character, and his relation to them as their Creator. But this commemoration was the original and supreme object of the command. It cannot be denied, that this is a moral service; nor that the precept requiring it, is a moral precept.
To perform this service in the best manner, is also, as much a moral duty, as to perform it at all. If any duty be not performed in the best manner; it is only performed in part: the remainder being of course omitted. But no words can be necessary to prove, that we are equally obliged to perform one part of a duty as another.
If we know not, and cannot know, the best manner; we are invariably bound to choose the best which we do know. If, however, the best manner be made known to us; we are invariably obliged to adopt it, to the exclusion of all others.
The best manner, in the present case, is made known to us in this Command. We are assured, that it is the best manner, by the fact, that God has chosen it. No man can doubt whether God's manner is the best; nor whether it is his own duty to adopt it rather than any other. This manner is a commemoration of the perfections of God, thus disclosed, on one day in
That a particular day, or set time, should be devoted to this important purpose, is indispensable. The duty is a social one; in which theRational creatures of God, in this world, are universally to unite. But unless a particular day were set apart for this duty, the union intended would be impossible.
It is of the last importance, that the day should be appointed by GOD. Men would not agree on any particular day. If they should agree, it would always be doubtful whether the time chosen by them was the best; and the day appointed by men, would have neither authority, sacredness, nor sanction. In a matter, merely of human institution, all, who pleased, would dissent; and in such a world as ours, most, or all, would choose to dissent. The whole duty, therefore, would be left undone; and the glorious perfections of God, unfolded in the work of Creation, would be
wholly forgotten. This precept is, also, entirely of a moral nature, as to the whole End, at which it aims, so far as man is concerned. This End, is the attainment, and the increase, of holiness. Of every man living, and of every man alike, this is the highest interest, and the highest duty. To this end, as to the former, which is indeed inseparably united with this, the Sabbath is indispensable.
The Sabbath is eminently moral, also, as the indispensable means of preserving in the world a real and voluntary obedience of all the other commands in the Decalogue. Wherever the Sabbath is not, Religion dies of course; and Morality of every kind, except so far as convenience and selfishness may keep the forms of it alive, is forgotten. But all those means, which are indispensable to the existence of Morality, or, in better language, Religion, are themselves of a moral nature, and of universal obligation; since without them, nothing moral could exist.
It makes no difference, here, whether we could have known, without information from God; that one day in seven would be the best time; and furnish the best manner of performing these things, or not. It is sufficient, that we know it now.
Thus the fourth Command is of a really moral nature, no less chan the others; and as truly of incalculable importance, and indispensable obligation, to all the children of Adam. Its place in the decalogue, therefore, was given it with consummate propriety and what God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
If it were intended to abolish a command, given so plainly, and with circumstances of such amazing solemnity; the abrogation would, undoubtedly, have been communicated in a manner, equally clear with that, in which the command itself was originally given. But the Scriptures contain nothing, which resembles an abrogation of it, communicated either clearly, or obscurely. When Christ abolished the ceremonial and civil laws of the Jews, so far as they might be thought to extend to the Gentiles; and taught the true moral system of the Old Testament; and when the Apostles afterwards completed the Evangelical account of this subject: it is, I think, incredible, that, if this precept were to be abolished at all, neither he, nor they, should give a single hint concerning the abolition. As both have left it just where they found it, without even intimating, that it was at all to be annulled; we may reasonably conclude, that its obligation has rever been lessened.
In the mean time, it ought to be observed, that many other precepts, comprised in the Mosaic law, which are universally acknowledged to be of a moral nature, were nevertheless not introduced into the Decalogue; were not spoken by the voice of God; nor written with his finger; nor placed on the tables of stone, fashioned by himself. Why was this supreme distinction made in favour of
This question I may perhaps
the precept, now under discussion? answer more particularly hereafter. present, that it arose solely from the superior importance of the precept itself.
2. The Perpetual Establishment of the Sabbath is evident from its Original Institution.
Of this we have the following account in Genesis ii. 1-3. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended 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. The proofs which this passage affords for the perpetuity of the Sabbath, respect the time, and the end, of the Institution.
The time of the Institution was the seventh day, after the creation was begun, and the first day, after it was ended. At this time, none of the human race were in being, but our first parents. For them the Sabbath was instituted; and clearly, therefore, for all their posterity also. If it was not instituted for all their posterity, it was not instituted for any of them: for, certainly, there can be no reason given, why it was instituted for one more than another. The Jews, particularly, were no more nearly connected with Adam, than we are; and no more interested in any thing, commanded to him, than are the Gentiles. Accordingly, it is, so far as I know, universally conceded, that, if the Sabbath was instituted at this time, it is obligatory on all men to the end of the world.
The resting of God on this day, alleged in the text as a primary and authoritative reason, why the Sabbath should be kept holy, is a reason extending to all men alike. In my own view it is incredible, that God should rest on this day, to furnish an example, to the Jewish nation merely, of observing the Sabbath; or that so solemn a transaction, as this, in its own nature affecting the whole human race alike, should be intentionally confined in its influence to a ten thousandth part of mankind. The example of God, so far as it is imitable, is in its very nature authoritative, and obligatory on every Intelligent creature; and in the present case, plainly, on the whole human race. For man to limit it, where God himself has not been pleased to limit it, is evidently unwarrantable, and indefensible.
The End of the institution plainly holds out the same universality of obligation. I have already observed, that this is two-fold; viz. to commemorate the glory of God, displayed in the creation; and to attain, and increase, holiness in the soul of man. I have also observed that all men are alike interested in both these objects. Nor can there be a single pretence, that any nation, or any person, s more interested in either, than any other person or nation. Every .ndividual stands in exactly the same relations to God; is under