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as, on the contrary, in those places where the whole Sabbath is closely observed, and recreations discouraged, there we see Christian knowledge, morality, the fear of God, and family godliness, do flourish and prosper? Occular experience shews us, that the fourth command is a hedge about all the rest; and the religious observation of the whole Sabbath day, is the most effectual method for promoting Christian knowledge and universal piety. People may hear a sermon or two on a Sabbath, and yet lie still in their ignorance, if they spend the rest of the day in idleness and recreations, and neglect the private means of reading, praying, catechising, conference, repetition of sermons, &c. I never expect to see knowledge or piety flourish in congregations or families, till these means be used, and pains taken, after public worship is over, to instruct children and servants. O! doth not the lamentable ignorance of many poor souls plead aloud for the strict and diligent observation of the whole Lord's day? Had ministers and others a due sense of the misery and perishing state of ignorant souls, I am sure they would press it more, and never set up to teach them carnal recreations on this day.
O poor men, servants and labourers, in the name of God Texhort you to spend more of God's day in heaven's work. You have little time through the week for it; therefore God, in pity to your souls, looses you this day from your weekly work, and cries to you from on high, "come up hither;" lay aside the thoughts of things below, and "set your affections on things above." As your bodies rest this day from labour, let your souls think on eternal rest in heaven, and use all the appointed means for attending to it.
IV. A fourth argument I make use of is this:
If God prohibits worldly employments on the Sabbath, then certainly he discharges carnal recreations:
But the former is true, therefore, &c.
The minor proposition is undeniable: so that all I have to prove is the connexion of the major proposition, which may be easily done thus: The great reason of prohibiting worldly employments on the Sabbath is, because they hinder the holy employment of the soul, and would interrupt the duties of the Sabbath. But if carnal recreations do hinder the duties of the Sabbath, and spiritual employment of the soul, as much as servile labour; then by parity of
reason they are forbidden also: but so it is, that they do hinder as much, yea, more than servile labour would do. Nay, I may be bold to say, that a man may be more serious, and have his mind more exercised with heavenly meditations, when plowing, sowing, or threshing, than when he is about carnal entertainments, recreations, or pastimes; or when he is in vain promiscuous company, jesting, sporting, and telling stories, or walking and talking idly in the streets or fields. These do far more distract the heart from God's service, than servile labour doth. A man will find himself more indisposed for prayer and holy duties after them, than after the works of his calling. It was the sense of this that made Augustine say, "That it were better for maids to spin, or for men to plow, than for them to dance and sport on the Sabbath day. Quanto melieus est arare quam saltare in Sabbato." Aug. in titulum Psal. xcii. He very well knew, that carnal pleasures are inconsistent with devotion, and wholly unfit the soul for communion with God, which is the work of the Sabbath. Hence we see, lovers of pleasure, and lovers of God, are set in opposition, 2 Tim. iii. 4.
I might go on to multiply arguments to this purpose; but this truth is so clear from sound reason and the word of God, and particularly from Isa. Iviii, 15. to such as believe the scriptures, that I think it almost needless to say any
But, in regard this truth hath many adversaries, (and no wonder though Satan muster up all his forces against it, since it levels so directly against his kingdom,) I shall endeavour to answer the chief objections brought against it.
Particularly, there is one J. S. who calls himself a Presbyter of the Episcopal church of Scotland, that in his pamphlets upon the Sabbath, lately published, pleads for the Sabbath day's recreations, both as lawful and dutiful, after the public worship is over; providing, (as he qualifies them,) there be nothing immodest or indecent therein, nor too much time spent thereby though he neither tells how much time he allows for them, nor what are the immodest or indecent things which he disallows in them; but leaves every man to his own construction and choice therein.
I shall consider the strength of the arguments adduced by him and others, for these recreations; and I shall begin with the chief one.
To hinder these recreations after sermon, were to tie us, who are the disciples of Christ, to as strict a rest, and as burthensome an observation of the Sabbath, as the Jews were obliged to under the law, which were to judaize, and build that again which Christ hath destroyed."
Ans. 1. The fourth command being moral and perpetual, as hath been proven. doth oblige us to as strict a rest and cessation from worldly actions, as it did the Jews. I grant indeed, the Pharisees invented a great many superstitious additions to the rest of the Sabbath, which were not of divine appointment, and would have had all to conform thereto, as if they had been divine laws. They assigned such a precise space for a Sabbath-day's journey; they frequently would not allow the relieving of men's bodies and beasts in distress this day. Some came this length, that though they allowed beasts to be fed or watered, yet, if any of them fell into a ditch, they must not draw him out on this day, but feed him where he was till the Sabbath was over. Nay, I have read of Jews so ridiculously superstitious, that they would not allow themselves to be drawn out of pits or dangerous places into which they had fallen on the Sabbath, and therefore have smarted with death for their folly. Some held that it was unlawful to kill a flea, take the skin off an apple, or do any thing of that kind on the Sabbath day. Nay, farther, they taught, that it was unlawful to defend themselves against their enemies this day; by which means they sometimes became a prey to their enemies: till Mattathias the priest better instructed them, as we are told by Josephus, and the author of the first book of the Maccabees.
I say, these were nothing but human additions; for the same things were lawful to the Jews on the Sabbath, that are allowed to us, viz. the works of piety, necessity and mercy; as manifestly appears by the commentary which Christ gives upon this command, both by his words and actions. Christ defends his practice in healing, and his disciples in plucking the ears of corn on the Sabbath; and shews, that the works of necessity and mercy, the reliev ing of men and beasts in distress, were lawful on the Sabbath. Our blessed Saviour, by his reasoning against the Pharisees on this subject, intends only to reprove their su perstitious additions, and to shew what things were lawful to
the Jews on the Sabbath from the beginning, but not what things are now lawful to us under the gospel; for he gives no more liberty for worldly things this day than what was before; since he "came not to destroy the law."
2. I grant, indeed, that our Saviour hath freed Christians under the gospel, from the Jewish method of celebrating the Sabbath, by a typical service and ceremonial worship, consisting of sacrifices, washings, and manifold rites, which were a burdensome yoke. Now, to reintroduce abrogated ceremonies on the Sabbath, is, I confess, to judaize, and rebuild what Christ hath destroyed; and whoever are chargeable with this in any degree, let them see to it. But what man will call abstaining from carnal recreations on the Sabbath, an abrogated Jewish ceremony ? or compare the strict sanctification of the Lord's day, by the pleasant evangelical sacrifices of prayer and praise, to the burdensome method of observing the Jewish Sabbath? Christ hath told us, that his "yoke is easy, and his burden is light;" and all his experienced disciples will set their seal to the truth of it.
For my part, I do not see how a man can own the morality and unalterable obligation of the fourth command, and not grant that we are as strictly tied to moral duties on the Sabbath as the Jews, and consequently to the same holy rest, and diligence in the service of God upon it; since the change made by Christ's coming is only in circumstantial or ceremonial things, viz. the day of the week, and the nature of the service or sacrifice requisite upon it.
Object. "But, besides the nature of the service and worship, there were several peculiar things required of the Jews upon the Sabbath, not binding upon us; particularly, concerning the not dressing of meat, going out of the place, kindling of fire, bearing of burdens, the nature of the punishment of Sabbath breaking, double sacrifices," &c.
Ans. 1. If any of the foresaid things were typical or ceremonial, then indeed it is abrogated by Christ's coming, and not binding upon us : But this will nowise alter the case with respect to abstaining from carnal recreations on the Sabbath, which can never be reckoned typical or ceremonial; it being what is perpetually moral, and necessary to the suitable sanctification of this holy day, in all ages of
2. Let the foresaid instances be narrowly considered, and it will be found that there is no such peculiar thing therein as is commonly imagined.
I. As to dressing of meat on the Sabbath, the only place whence the prohibition of it is inferred, is Exod. xvi. 23. concerning the preparing of manna. There are several interpreters, who think that the dressing of it on the Sabbath is not here forbid; but that they are there ordered to lay up a part of it undressed for the Sabbath. But granting, as the most part of interpreters do, that the dressing of the manna is there discharged, this will not infer a discharge of dressing any kind of meat on the Sabbath; since there were some things peculiar to the manna, beyond other meat: For,
1. There was a particular promise made concerning it, that was not made concerning other kinds of food, viz. That it should not spoil nor corrupt: for in that hot country, dressed meat could not easily be preserved good and wholesome over night.
2. There was much more servile work requisite in preparing manna than other kinds of food; it behoved to be grinded in mills, beat in mortars, and baken in pans," Num. xi. 8. Now, so much servile labour about preparing of food was not fit upon the Sabbath, since it did not tend to the rest or refreshing of the body, but rather to the toiling of it; and likewise it took up many hands, and would have hindered them from sanctifying of the day. So that there is no peculiarity in this prohibition; for, were we in their case, and had manna to feed on, it were not lawful for us to prepare it on the Sabbath, more than for the Jews: But it is certain that they did dress other meat on the Sabbath, that required not much servile labour. Only we are taught by this prohibition, as well as the Jews, to be careful to prepare that meat, which requires much toil and pains, before the Sabbath come; and so to order matters about our bodily provisions the day before, that servants may be as little hindered from sanctifying the Sabbath, and the work of the day as little interrupted as possible.
II. As to the second instance, the prohibition of "going out of their places on the Sabbath," Exod. xvi. 29. it is plain from the context, that it is to be understood of going ent to seek manna, it being an unnecessary servile work