« AnteriorContinua »
The sabbath is in the middle of the decalogue, like the heart in the human body, circulating the principles of life through every part; and if the heart cease to beat, the body dies: and if the sabbath cease to act, the soul perishes. And is it not, then, a moral commandment?
But supposing it to be (what I strenuously deny) a positive, and not a moral commandment; or, speaking more properly, that it so appeared to us, then comes the question, Are we at liberty to disobey a positive command, or are we at liberty to decide how long a positive command is to be in force? What difference is proved to exist between a moral and a positive law, as to their sanction or obligation? None whatever. The only valid obligation of one or the other, is the will and command of God. God commands, let man obey. The only difference between them is, that we see the reason of one, and not of the other. And are we shortsighted mortals to pretend to know, and to claim to know, the reasons of every command of God, and to penetrate, with our dim eyes, to the end of that vast chain of consequences which may hang upon it?
Take an instance :- We have much better reason to judge (if we have any right to judge at all) that the command in Paradise to abstain from the forbidden fruit was a positive commandment, than we have to come to such a conclusion on the fourth commandment. If the tempter could have made Eve to understand the difference between the two, with what advantage might he not have assailed her with such arguments as these: This is not a moral law-it is a mere positive precept; it is not founded in the law of nature-it is not agreeable to right reason or expediency, or the eternal fitness of things.' O that he had! for she would have thought him mad, and have fled from him. But, alas! he always uses the very best arguments
the case will admit of; he always strikes a string which he knows to be in unison with a sympathetic chord in the heart of his victim. Eve understood but one kind of law, but one kind of sanction. Who can show à priori, from its own nature, that that law was moral and not positive? But who can doubt it à posteriori from a consideration of the consequences?
God made the world in six days, and "saw everything which he had made, and, behold, it was very good." And was not that law moral the infraction of which filled everything that was good with everything that was evil? God made man upright: he breathed into his nostrils the breath of life of eternal life. Man was his last and best work. Was not that law moral the transgression of which stript him of his crown of glory and robe of innocence?—which filled the creation of God with lamentation and mourning and woe?—which changed immortality into death? Consider, also, the difference between the creation of a world, in which everything was very good, and the redemption of a world in which everything was only evil continually. In six days God created the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them. He commanded from the throne of his glory, and it was done; and the sons of God-the hosts of heaven --shouted before his throne for joy. But, to redeem a world fallen and condemned, he must descend from his throne, put off his glory, leave the bright mansions of eternal light, be made in the likeness of sinful man,—take upon him the form of a servant, become a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,—not have a place in his own world where to lay his head,-come unto his own, who received him not,-but be despised and rejected of men,close a life of humiliation and persecution for four-andthirty years by a crucifixion of agony, and torment, and bitter mental suffering, before he could say with his ex
piring breath,—IT IS FINISHED. And shall we say that the law-the breaking of which led to this accumulation of woe of the Son of God, the Creator of the universe—which filled the heavens with astonishment, eclipsed the bright luminaries, threw inanimate nature into convulsions, while man, depraved by that one transgression, looked on with unconcern, or exulted in the horrors of his transcendent guilt,-and shall we deny that law to have been moral?
CHANGE OF THE SABBATH.
AND now, my kind and patient reader,-patient to have borne with me, and accompanied me thus far,—perhaps you are ready to say, 'It is enough; we are satisfied with the proof of the permanence and morality of the law of the sabbath, and of its obligation on the consciences of Christians as a divine command: you may have done.' But not so would his Grace pronounce. He will tell you that I have proved nothing; that all I have said is nothing to the purpose; that his grand argument is not yet touched; his fort and his citadel are still secure. Therefore we are compelled to go forward; but faint not, and be not weary: this dissertation, though long, will be the last.
We come now to his stronghold, of which he confidently speaks as irresistible and impregnable. But let us walk round its walls, bearing the ark with us, and see whether, as Mede says, from Joshua vi. 5, these lofty walls shall not immediately fall down flat' before it. But lest I should seem to misrepresent his argument, I will give it in his own words.
There is no mention of the Lord's-day in the Mosaic law. In saying that there is no mention of the Lord's-day in the Mosaic law, I mean that there is not only no mention of that specific festival which Christians observe on the first day of the week, in memory of our Lord's resurrection on the morning following the Jewish sabbath, but there is not (as has been sometimes incautiously stated) any injunction to sanctify one day in seven. Throughout the whole of the Old Testament, we never hear of keeping some one day in seven, but the seventh day, as the day on which God rested from all his work. The difference, accordingly, between the Jews and the Christians, is not a difference of reckoning, which would be a matter of no importance. Our computation is the same as theirs. They, as well as we, reckon Saturday as the seventh day of the week, and they keep it holy as the seventh day, in memory of God's resting from the work of creation. We keep holy the first day of the week as the first, in memory of our Master's rising from the dead on the day after the sabbath.'
Now, surely it is presumptuous to say that we are at liberty to alter a divine command, whose authority we admit to be binding on us, on the ground that it matters not whether this day or that be set apart as a sabbath, provided we obey the divine injunction to observe a sabbath.'
Before entering upon the discussion of this argument, I must take notice of an assertion in it, viz. that the difference of reckoning would be a matter of no importance.' Now, I consider this to be the only matter of importance in the question. God has thought fit that there should be only six days of interval between our days of worship: this is the true spirit and intent of the ordinance; but whether we call that day the first of the seven, or the last of the seven, or, as it really is, an insulated day between each
period of six days, is a childish distinction fit only for the subtle mind of the casuist or schoolman, and of no importance whatever.
I thus condense the above reasoning of his Grace, and much more to the same purport, into the following nutshell. 'The Jews were ordered to keep the seventh as the sabbath: they did keep the seventh. We keep the Lord'sday on the first. It is, therefore, a totally different festival: therefore we do not keep the sabbath. And it is idle to contend for the sabbath which we do not keep.'
Now, in opposition to this reasoning, I hope to prove that both the letter and the spirit of the law are to keep a seventh, and not the seventh; and therefore that, by keeping the Lord's-day on a seventh, we do on that day keep a sabbath, and comply with the commandment. First, as to its spirit. Our Lord, in all his discourses on the subject, instructs us that we are to endeavour to collect from the Mosaic law the true spirit and intention of the commandment, and thereto to shape our observance. I cannot too often remind my readers that our Lord made no change in the sabbath. He corrected the false opinions of men; he remitted the severe sanctions which had been added subsequently to the giving of the fourth commandment on account of transgression. Some other commandments he spiritualized. He found the sabbath already spiritual; and he merely restored its spirit,-its true end, aim, and object,—and prevented its being crippled and perverted by a preference of the letter of the law to its spirit. Our Maker, who best knows our frame, knows at what recurring period it is necessary to brighten, polish, and revivify our spiritual feelings, after having been blunted, hardened, and deadened, by worldly occupations. And he has determined that period to be one day after six days given to the world and our necessary business of life. It is