« AnteriorContinua »
and as I apprehend, with a propriety, intentionally instructive to us. God did not bless the seventh day, nor hallow it as the seventh day; but only as being the day on which the Sabbath, or the holy rest, was to be kept. Were the Sabbath, then, warrantably to be kept, at different periods, on each of the days of the week; the blessing would follow it, on whatever day it was holden.
It was plain then, that the Sabbath, being a thing entirely distinct from the day on which it is kept, may be a perpetual institution; and yet be kept, if God should so order it, on any, or successively on all, the days of the week. If, then, the day, on which the Sabbath was to be holden, should by divine appointment be a dif ferent one from that, which was originally established; the Sabbath itself, the substance of the Institution, might still remain the same. All, that would be changed, would plainly be a given day of the week; a thing perfectly circumstantial; and of no other importance than that, which circumstances gave it.
The day, I say, might be altered without altering at all the substance of the Institution. Still it could be altered only by divine appointment. The same authority, which instituted the Sabbath, appointed also the day, on which it was to be holden and no other authority is competent to change either in any degree. If, then, we cannot find in the Scriptures plain and ample proofs of an abrogation of the original day; or the substitution of a new one; the day undoubtedly remains in full force and obligation, and is now religiously to be celebrated by all the race of Adam. It shall be the business of this discourse to collect to a point the light, which the Scriptures afford us concerning this important subject.
1. The nature of the subject furnishes room to suppose, that the day, on which the Sabbath was to be celebrated under the Christian dispensation, might be a different one from that, which was origin ally appointed.
The End of the Institution, mentioned in the text, is the Commemoration of the glory of God in the Creation of the world. The reason, why God chose, that the manifestation of himself in that wonderful work should be commemorated, rather than that which was made in the Deluge, or the deliverance of the Israelites from the bondage of Egypt, was, it is presumed, the peculiar greatness of the work itself, and of the display, which it furnished of his per fections. If this be admitted, as it probably will be by every sober man; it must also be admitted, that we ought, according to this scheme, to expect any other work of God, of still greater importance, and more glorious to the divine character, than the Creation itself to be commemorated with equal or greater solemnity. But the Work of Redemption, or, as it is sometimes styled in the Scriptures, the New Creation, is a more glorious work, than that of creating the heavens and the earth. This doctrine may be elucidated by the following considerations.
In the first place, The agent in both these works is the same. Paul expressly declares, That Christ in the beginning laid the foundations of the earth; that the heavens are the work of his hands; Heb. i. 10; and that all things, visible and invisible, were created by him, and for him. Col. i. 16. St. John, also, teaches us, that all things were made by him; and that without him there was no! one thing made, which has existed. John i. 3. The same Person. therefore, is honoured in a commemoration of both these wonderful works.
Secondly; The End of a work, that is, the reason for which it is done, is of more importance, than the work itself. This truth will be admitted on all hands. No Intelligent being, who claims the character of wisdom, ever undertakes a work without an end sufficiently important to justify the means, adopted for its accomplishment. Much less will this be supposed of God. But the End of Creation is Providence; and of all the works of Providence, the work of Redemption, or the New Creation, is incalculably the most important; the hinge, on which all the rest turn; the work, towards the completion of which all the rest are directed: in a word, the End of them all. Accordingly, St. Paul says, Who created all things by Jesus Christ, to the intent, that now unto Principalities, and powers, in heavenly places, might be known, by the Church, the manifold wisdom of God. The display of the Wisdom of God, by the Church, in the work of Redemption, was therefore, the intent, or End, for which all things were created by Jesus Christ, Without the work of Redemption, then, the purpose of God in creating all things, and the real use of the things themselves, would have been prevented.
Thirdly; The superior importance of the New Creation is evident in this fact; that the old creation, by its unceasing changes, continually decays and degenerates, while the New Creation becomes by its own changes unceasingly brighter and better.
Fourthly; The old creation is a transitory work, made for consumption by fire: whereas the New is intended for eternal duration.
Thus from the Nature of the case there is ample room to suppose, that the work of Redemption might, by divine appointment, be commemorated preferably to the work of creation.
2. It is expressly foretold by the Prophet Isaiah, that the Work of Redemption shall be commemorated in preference to the work of Creation. Is. lxv. 17, 18.
For behold, saith God, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered, neither shall it come into mind. But be ye glad, and rejoice for ever, in that which I create: for behold I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and my people a joy. In this passage of Scripture we are informed, that God designed to create what in the first of these verses is called new heavens and a new earth. This, in the second verse, is explained in simple language; and is said to be creating the people of God a joy and a re
joicing. In other words, it is no other than redeeming, and sanctifying, the souls of men; by means of which they become a rejoicing to God, and to each other.
In this declaration of the Prophet there are two things, particularly claiming our attention. The first is, that the New Creation, or the Work of Redemption, is of far greater importance in the eye of God, than the former creation. The second is an express prediction, that the former creation shall not be remembered by the Church, nor come into mind; or, in other words, shall not be commemorated. This I understand, as almost all similar Jewish phrases are to be understood, in a comparative sense; and suppose the Prophet to intend, that it shall be far less remembered, and commemorated; as being of far less importance.
That this passage refers to the times of the Evangelical dispensation is certain from the prediction itself: since the new Creation is the very subject of it, and the commencement of that dispensation. It is equally evident, also, from the whole strain of the chapter.
This passage appears to me to place the fact in the clearest light, that a particular, superior, and extraordinary commemoration of the Work of Redemption by the Christian Church, in all its various ages, was a part of the good pleasure of God; and was designed by him to be accomplished in the course of his providence. But there neither is, nor ever was, any public, solemn commemoration of this work by the Christian Church, except that, which is holden on the first day of the week; or the day, in which Christ completed this great work by his resurrection from the dead. This prophecy has, therefore, been unfulfilled, so far as I see, unless it has been fulfilled in this very manner. But if it has been fulfilled in this manner; then this manner of fulfilling it has been agreeable to the true intention of the Prophecy, and to the good pleasure of God expressed in it; and is, therefore, that very part of the system of his Providence, which is here unfolded to mankind.
At the same time, it is to be remembered, that the former Institution is still substantially_preserved. The Sabbath still returns upon one day in seven. The great facts, that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day, are still presented to the mind in their full force. The work of creating the heavens and the earth is, therefore, regularly commemorated, according to the original institution of God: while the New Creation, as its importance demands, and as this prophecy directly foretels, takes its own superior place in the commemoration. Thus the Institution, instead of being abrogated in every respect, is only changed in such a manner, as to enlarge its usefulness and importance to mankind, and to become a solemn memorial of two wonderful works of God, instead of one. The Sabbath itself is unchanged. It still returns at the end of seven days. It is still a memorial of the Creation. But the Institution is enlarg
ed in such a manner, as to commemorate, also, the work of Redemption.
With this Prophecy facts have corresponded in a wonderful All Christians commemorate the work of Creation in their prayers and praises, their religious meditations and discourses, from Sabbath to Sabbath. But every Christian perfectly well knows, that the work of Redemption holds a far higher place in every private, and in every public, religious service; and that, according to the declaration of God in this passage, the former is comparatively not remembered, neither does it come into mind. At the same time, the Work of Redemption is not merely the chief, but the only, means of originating holiness in the soul, and altogether the principal means of advancing it towards perfection. In every respect, therefore, the Christian Sabbath is now better suited to the great ends of the Institution, than the original day. Until the time of Christ's resurrection, the seventh day commemorated the most glorious work, which God had ever accomplished, and the most wonderful display of the divine perfections. But by the resurrection of Christ, a new, and far more glorious, work was finished. While the Sabbath, therefore, was by divine appointment kept on the seventh day, it was exactly suited to the purpose of commemorating the most glorious work of God, which had ever taken place. But after the resurrection of Christ, the first day of the week was plainly better fitted, than any other day, to become a religious memorial of both these wonderful works, by being the day, on which Christ arose from the dead, and by returning regularly at the end of every six days. Whatever other opinions we adopt concerning this subject, it must, I think, be readily acknowledged, that no other day could possibly combine all these advantages.
This important consideration seems to be plainly intimated in the text. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. The seventh day is the Sabbath. In six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea and all that in them is; wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it. It cannot escape the notice of every reader of this passage, that the duty of remembering the Sabbath, to keep it holy, enjoined at the beginning, and the blessing and consecration mentioned at the end, are applied to the Sabbath, and not to the day; and that the seventh day is declared to be the Sabbath day, or the day on which the Sabbath is to be holden. The meaning of this is obviously, that the seventh day is, or was at that time, the existing day of the Sabbath; without determining how long it should continue to possess this character. God established it indefinitely; and unless he should be pleased to change it, perpetually, as the day of the Sabbath. But on whatever day he should think fit to establish the Sabbath, it was to be remembered, and kept holy. The blessing, also, and the sanctification, were annexed to the Sabbath day, and not to the seventh. In this
manner the Christian Church became informed of their duty, whenever the day should be changed; and, if they performed it faithfully, were assured of this peculiar blessing. Thus, also, they were preserved from the fears, which might otherwise arise, of losing the blessing annexed to the Sabbath, whenever the day, on which it should be holden, should be changed. Had the blessing, in this command, been annexed to the seventh day, it would probably have occasioned an immovable perplexity to the Christian Church, had they found the present account of the Sabbath contained in the New Testament.
3. The hundred and eighteenth Psalm is a direct prediction, that the day of Christ's resurrection was to be the day on which the Sabbath should be holden under the Gospel.
In the 14th verse of this Psalm the divine writer declares, that the Lord is his strength, and his song; and is become his salvation. This fact we know was accomplished, when Christ rose from the dead. In consequence of this great event, he hears the voice of rejoicing, and of salvation, in the tabernacles of the righteous; or in the house of God. In the 19th verse, he says, Open to me the gates of righteousness. I will praise thee; for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation. This event he again describes in a new and under a very different image: The Stone which the builders refused, is become the headstone of the corner. He then subjoined, This is the day which the Lord hath made: that is, the day which Christ consecrated, or made into a holy day, when he became the headstone of the corner: that is, when he arose from the dead. He then adds, We will rejoice and be glad in it: that is, We, the Righteous; the Church of God; (for in their name he speaks throughout all the latter part of this Psalm, whether speaking in the singular, or plural.). In their name he says, in the following verse, Save now, I beseech thee, O Lord! O Lord! I beseech thee, send now prosperi ty. Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. The words of the two last mentioned verses are applied directly to Christ by the multitudes who accompanied him in his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The multitudes, saith St. Matthew, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest! The words of the last verse are also applied by Christ to himself, Matt. xxiv. 39, For I say unto you, ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. The comment of the multitudes is reasonably supposed to be that of the Jewish Church in general. That of Christ, and that of St. Peter, mentioned in the preceding discourse, are the decisive law of interpretation to the Christian Church. We are, therefore, warranted to conclude, that the Psalmist here declares not only the joy and gladness of the Christian Church in the resurrection of Christ, but in the day on which he arose: for he says, This is the day which the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it. This day he also declares