Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

the class to which it belongs, but its nature as discoverable by human reason. And the sabbath is as much a positive law when given by God to Adam and his posterity, as when given by Moses, the messenger of God, to the Israelites and their posterity. To judge otherwise, is reducing all God's commands to one and the same species.'

I refer my reader to what I have already said of submitting the laws of God, their obligation and duration, to the tribunal of human reason, of the laws of nature, of the "wisdom which is not from above." But as our author does not give the above two circumstances as arguments, but merely to clear the ground for the erection of his argument, we may pass them by, and proceed to examine the building itself. He proceeds thus :

:

'Having thus far cleared the way, I proceed to show that the Jewish sabbath is a mere positive institution,—

1. From the account the prophet Ezekiel gives of it. “Moreover also I gave them my sabbath to be a sign between me and them." A sign of what? A sign of a covenant. And so was circumcision called by God himself; “And it shall be a token (or sign) of the covenant between me and you."

This is his foundation: and let us, like wise masterbuilders, first examine the foundation before we proceed to examine the superstructure. There is a great defect in it; and that defect is,-that there is no foundation at all.

Both he, and the Archbishop, quote the book of Ezekiel without reading it. And in quoting it in this passage, they do not seem to be aware that the text in Ezekiel is only repetition of what originally occurs in Exodus. Warburton gives Ezekiel as his authority for calling the sabbath a sign of a covenant, and yet there is not one word of the kind in Ezekiel, nor a word that can be tortured into such a sense; nor is the sabbath any where in the Bible

called a sign of a covenant. It is, indeed, once said in Exodus, that the sabbath shall be itself a perpetual covenant, that is, part of the everlasting covenant. But this I have shown to be an argument against the opponents of the sabbath, and not for them. Nor can this be supposed to mean that it is a sign even of the perpetual covenant, because in the very same passage it is stated what the sabbath is a sign of.

It is, indeed, both in Exodus and Ezekiel, called a sign, but we are expressly told of what it is a sign. It was to be a sign of three things. 1. The institution itself was to be a sign that they worshipped the true God, the Maker of heaven and earth. 2. The keeping of it was to be a sign that God sanctified them;-and 3. The hallowing of it, or keeping it holy, was to be a sign by which they should know and feel that he actually did sanctify them. (See Exod. xxxi. 13, 17. Ezek. xx. 12, 20.)

These things happened for some time to be peculiar to the Jews by the apostasy of the rest of the world; but I have already proved that they were not intended to have been exclusively appropriated to them. I need here only say, that every stranger who joined in the worship of the true God, and wished to become a partaker of the same sanctification, was to adopt the same sign, and observe the sabbath. (Exod. xx. 10. Isa. lvi. 6.) And if a nation of strangers, or ten nations of strangers, had adopted the worship of the true God, they were all to keep the sabbath,all to adopt the same sign, the same colours, the same flag, the same royal standard of the same Almighty King of kings to whom they professed allegiance.

The following is our author's superstructure in his own words; Now, nothing but a rite by institution of a posi tive law could serve for a sign or token of a covenant between God and a particular selected people; for besides its

use for a remembrance of the covenant, it was to serve them for a partition wall to separate them from other nations, and this a rite by positive institution might well do, though used before by some other people. But a natural duty has no capacity of being thus employed, because a practice observed by all nations would obliterate any tract or token of a covenant made with one.'

This argument, as I before said, so far as the sabbath is concerned, is built upon that supposed declaration of Ezekiel, which he never made; and the foundation being taken away, the building falls to the ground. But so far as circumcision is concerned, let us examine the partition wall, which I have shown that the sabbath cannot be. As to circumcision, which he represents as a partition wall, to 'separate the particular selected people,' of the Israelites, from all other nations, he falls into an error, common among authors, in supposing circumcision either to have been, or intended to be, peculiar to the Israelites.

In Gen. xvii., Abraham is told that he shall be a father of many nations: and the right of circumcision is enjoined on all his seed. It was given at the time of God's promising temporal blessings, and it was extended to all his descendants to whom temporal blessings were promised,-to Ishmael and Esau, to whom promises were made. Abraham had also other children, whom he sent towards the east, on whom also the rite was enjoined. So that the Arabians, Edomites, Idumeans, and other neighbouring nations, practised it. And I know what would be said in Ireland of a man who should boast of a partition-wall, which could not separate between his house and his nextdoor neighbour's. Thus the partition-wall is gone, with the rest of the baseless fabric. After the rite of circumcision had been prescribed to all Abraham's descendants, and some years before Isaac was born, he is told that the cove

nant, the everlasting covenant, (Gen. xvii. 19,) should be made with Isaac alone: therefore circumcision could not be the sign or token of that covenant which was made with Isaac; and, consequently, not peculiar to the Israelites.

But we have some more arguments from Warburton, equally powerful with the preceding;-as follows.

[ocr errors]

2. But, secondly, if the Jewish prophet cannot convince our sabbatarians that the Mosaic day of rest was a positive institution, yet methinks the express words of Jesus might, who told the sabbatarians at that time, the Pharisees, that "the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath." Now, were the observation of the sabbath a natural duty, it is certain that man was made for the sabbath, the end of his creation being for the observance of the moral law, the worship of the Deity, temperance, and justice. Nor can we, by natural light, conceive any other end. On the contrary, all positive institutions were made for man, for the better direction of his conduct in certain situations in life, the observance of which is therefore to be regulated on the end for which they were instituted; for, contrary to the nature of moral duties, the observance of them may in some instances become hurtful to man, for whose benefit they were instituted; and whenever this is the case, God and nature grant a dispensation.'

Here he falls into the same kind of error, which he attributes to the sabbatarians of that time. They supposed the sabbath to be the object of primary concern, to which every thing else must give way, as if they were made for it. And yet Warburton supposes that man was made for the moral law.

Our

The following is a brief abstract of this argument. Lord says that " man was not made for the sabbath;" but the light of nature says that he was made for the moral law; therefore the sabbath is no part of the moral law;

therefore it is a positive institution, but a positive institution is only temporary, and may be abrogated.'

The reader will see at once that the maxim given here by our Lord lends no assistance whatever to our author's argument, until he brings in the light of nature to his assistance. And I believe the generality of my readers will be rather startled at the discovery which he makes by that light, viz. that the sole end of man's creation was the observance of the moral law; that man, an immortal soul, was made for no other purpose whatever, than to observe the laws resulting from his bodily state and earthly connexion with his fellow men in this transitory scene and perishable world. And yet this strange assertion is the groundwork of the whole argument. And, after all, it is nothing but assertion. Out of Scripture, he could not attempt to prove it; and he prudently refrains from looking for proof from the light of nature. Indeed, he might much better assert that the sun, moon, planets, and heavenly bodies, are of no use whatever, or intended for any other end than that of observing the laws, by which they are retained in their orbits, and their motions regulated. These bodies are coeval with those laws,-but not so man with the laws prescribed to him in this world. I think that I may with greater appearance of truth assert, that the moral law, which arises out of the nature of man's constitution and social relations, was made for man.

I have, in a former section, considered the moral law, the law of nature, and the light of nature, and need not here repeat what I have there said. The Scripture considers those who are left to that light, as “sitting in darkness, and in the region of the shadow of death." In an argument, however, it has great advantages over revelation; for, little as it knows, it will, like the oracles of old, say anything that it is bid. Nay, it will also make Scripture say anything that is convenient.

« AnteriorContinua »