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Now, although this be not sufficient of itself, without a foundation in scripture, yet it may be a confirmation of it, because here is really matter of conviction in it to our reason. Reason may greatly confirm truths revealed in the scriptures. The universality of the custom throughout all Christian countries, in all ages, by what account we have of them, is a good argument, that the church had it from the apostles : and it is difficult to conceive how all should come to agree to set up such a custom through the world, of different sects and opinions, and we have no account of any such thing.
14. It is no way weakening to these arguments, that there is nothing more plainly said about it in the New Testament, till John wrote his Revelation, because there is a sufficient reason to be given for it. In all probability, it was purposely avoided by the Holy Spirit, in the first settling of Christian churches in the world, both among the Heathen and among the Jews, but especially for the sake of the Jews, and out of tenderness to the Jewish Christians. For it is evident, that Christ, and the apostles, declared one thing after another to them gradually as they could bear it.
The Jews had a regard for their sabbath above almost any thing in the laws of Moses ; and there was that in the Old Testament which tended to uphold them in the observance of this, much more strongly than any thing else that was Jewish. God had made so much of it, had so solemnly, frequently, and carefully commanded it, and had often so dreadfully punished the breach of it, that there was more colour for their retaining this custom, than almost any other.
Therefore, Christ dealt very tenderly with them in this point. Other things of this nature, we find very gradually revealed. Christ had many things to say, as we are informed, which yet he said not, because they could not as yet bear them, and gave this reason for it, that it was like putting new wine into old bottles. They were so contrary to their old customs, that Christ was gradual in revealing them. He gave here a little, and there a little, as they could bear; and it was a long time before he told them plainly the principal doctrines of the kingdom of heaven. He took the most favourable opportunities to tell them of his sufferings and death, especially when they were full of admiration at some signal miracle, and were confirmed in it, that he was the Messiah.
He told them many things much more plainly after his resurrection than before. But even then, he did not tell them all, but left more to be revealed by the Holy Ghost at Pentecost. They therefore were much more enlightened after that than before. However, as yet he did not reveal all. The abolition of the ceremonial law about meats and drinks was not fully known till after this.
The apostles were in the same manner careful and tender of those to whom they preached and wrote.
It was very gradually that they ventured to teach them the cessation of the ceremonial laws of circumcision, and abstinence from unclean meats. How tender is the apostle Paul with such as scrupled, in the fourteenth chapter of Romans? He directs those who had knowledge to keep it to themselves, for the sake of their weak brethren. Rom. xiv. 22.-But I need say no more to evince this.
However, I will say this, that it is very possible that the apostles themselves at first might not have this change of the day of the sabbath fully revealed to them. The Holy Ghost, at his descent, revealed much to them, yet after that, they were ignorant of much of gospel-doctrine; yea, they were so a great while after they acted the part of apostles, in preaching, baptizing, and governing the church. Peter was surprised when he was commanded to eat meats legally unclean; and so were the apostles in general, when Peter was commanded to go to the Gentiles, to preach to them.
Thus tender was Christ of the church while an infant. He did not feed them with strong meat, but was careful to bring in the observance of the Lord's day by degrees, and therefore ook all occasions to honour it, by appearing from time to time of choice on that day ; by sending down his Spirit on that day in that remarkable manner at Pentecost; by ordering Christians to meet in order to break bread on that day, and by ordering their contributions and other duties of worship to be holden on it; thus introducing the observance of it by degrees. And though as yet the Holy Ghost did not speak very plainly about it, yet God took special care that there should be sufficient evidences of his will, to be found out by the Christian church, when it should be more established and settled, and should have come to the strength of a man.
Thus I leave it with every one to judge, whether there be not sufficient evidence, that it is the mind and will of God that the first day of the week should be kept by the Christian church as a sabbath.
THE PERPETUITY AND CHANGE OF THE SABBATH.
1 COR. XVI. 1, 2.
Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given
order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week, let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.
It is the mind and will of God, that the first day of the week should be especially set apart among Christians for religious exercises and duties.
On this doctrine I have already discoursed, under two propositions, showing, first, That it is the will of God, that one day of the week be, in all ages, set apart for religious duties; and secondly, That under the gospel, this day ought to be the first day of the week. I now proceed to the
This shall be in an use of exhortation,
1. Let us be thankful for the institution of the Christian sabbath. It is a thing wherein God hath shown his mercy to us, and his care for our souls. He shows, that he, by his infinite wisdom, is contriving for our good, as Christ teaches us that the sabbath was made for man; Mark ii. 27. “ The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.” It was made for the profit and for the comfort of our souls.
The sabbath is a day of rest : God hath appointed that we should, every seventh day, rest from all our worldly labours. Instead of that, he might have appointed the hardest labours for us to go through, some severe hardships for us to endure. It is a day of outward, but especially of spiritual rest. It is a day appointed of God, that his people thereon may find rest unto their souls; that the souls of believers may rest and be refreshed in their Saviour. It is a day of rejoicing : God made it to be a joyful day to the church ; Psal. cxviii. 24.-" This is the day which the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.” They that aright receive and improve the sabbath, call it a delight and honourable: it is a pleasant and a joyful day to them; it is an image of the future heavenly rest of the church. Heb. iv. 9, 10, 11. “ There remaineth therefore a rest (or sabbatism, as it is in the original) to the people of God. For he that hath entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest."
The Christian sabbath is one of the most precious enjoyments of the visible church. Christ showed his love to his church in instituting it; and it becomes the Christian church to be thankful to her Lord for it. The very name of this day, the Lord's day, or Jesus's day, should endear it to Christians, as it intimates the special relation it has to Christ, and also the design of it, which is the commemoration of our dear Saviour, and his love to his church in redeeming it.
2. Be exhorted to keep this day holy.-God hath given such evidences that this is his mind, that he will surely require it of you, if you do not strictly and conscientiously observe it. And if you do thus observe it, you may have this comfort in the reflection upon your conduct, that you have not been superstitious in it, but have done as God hath revealed it to be his mind and will in his word, that you should do ; and that in so doing you are in the way of God's acceptance and reward.
Here let me lay before you the following motives to excite you to this duty.
(1.) By a strict observation of the sabbath, the name of God is honoured, and that in such a way as is very acceptable to him. Isa. lvii. 13. “If thou call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, and shalt honour him.” God is honoured by it, as it is a visible manifestation of respect to God's holy law, and a reverencing of that which has a peculiar relation to God himself, and that more in some respects than the observance of many other commands. And man may be just, and generous, and yet not so plainly show respect to the revealed mind and will of God, for many of the Heathen have been so. But if a person with evident strictness and care, observe the sabbath, it is a visible manifestation of a conscientious regard to God's declaration of his mind, and so is a visible honour done to his authority.
By a strict observance of the sabbath, the face of religion is kept up in the world. If it were not for the sabbath, there would be but little public and visible appearance of serving, worshipping, and reverencing the supreme and invisible Being. The sabbath seems to have been appointed very much for this end, viz. to uphold the visibility of religion in public, or among professing societies of men; and by how much greater the strictness is with which the sabbath is observed, and with how much more solemnity the duties of it are observed, among a people; by so much the greater is the manifestation among them of respect to the divine Being.
This should be a powerful motive with us to the observation of the Sabbath. It should be our study above all things to honour and glorify God. It should be the great thing with all that bear the name of Christians, to honour their great God and King, and I hope is a great thing with many that hear me at this time. If it be your inquiry, if it be your desire, to honour God; by this subject you are directed to one way whereby you may do much in that way, viz. by honouring the Sabbath and by showing a careful and strict observance of it.
(2.) That which is the business of the Sabbath, is the greatest business of our lives, viz. that of religion. To serve and worship God, is that for which we were inade, and for which we had our being given us. Other business, wbich is of a secular nature, and on which we are wont to attend on week days, is but subordinate, and ought to be subservient to the higher purposes and ends of religion. Therefore, surely we should not think much of devoting one seventh part of our time, to be wholly spent in this business, and to be set apart to exercise ourselves in the immediate duties of religion.
(3.) Let it be considered, that all our time is God's, and therefore, when he challenges of us one day in seven, he challenges his own. He doth not exceed his right; he would not have exceeded it, if he had challenged a far greater proportion of our time to be spent in his immediate service. But he hath mercifully considered our state, and our necessities here ; and, as he hath consulted the good of our souls in appointing a seventh day, for the immediate duties of religion, so he bath considered our outward necessities, and hath allowed us six days for attendance on our outward affairs. What unworthy treatment, therefore, will it be of God, if we refuse to allow him even the seventh day!
(4.) As the Sabbath is a day which is especially set apart for religious exercises, so it is a day wherein God especially confers his grace and blessing. As God hath commanded us to set it apart to have converse with him, so hath he set it apart for himself to have converse with us.
As God hath commanded us to observe the Sabbath, so God observes the Sabbath too. It is with respect to the Sabbath, as Solomon prayed that it might be with respect to the temple, 2 Chron. vi. 20. His eyes are open upon it: He stands ready then especially