The Sabbath: its Divine Origin and Perpetual Obligation.
In my Book—entitled 'Firebrands'—I published the Christian theory of the Sabbath. In that book I endeavoured to brush away the captious cobwebs that had been woven around the question by an ignorant Press, and an abandoned class of immoral characters in our midst. My views were regarded as extreme, and my language deemed much too severe. I have not met with any adequate expression of the question in dispute, since the publication of that work. But, I rejoice to find that, on the 8th of September last, in the capital of New South Wales, there was delivered a remarkable Lecture "by the Rev. J. B. Laughton, B.A., in connection with the Association for the Promotion of Morality." That Lecture, both in respect of scholarship and of argument, so entirely coincides with my own printed views on the Sabbath, that I have resolved to publish it for the benefit of the citizens of Dunedin and the colonists of New Zealand. After an elegant exordium, the Lecturer proceeds to prove the eternal obligation of the Sabbath, by means of four well-reasoned propositions. Having successively disposed of these propositions under the first division of his Lecture, the Rev. Gentleman goes on to demonstrate, under the second branch of his discourse, the inseparable "connection between Sabbath Observance and Public Morality;" and this he effectually does by appealing to Reason, Revelation, and World-wide Testimony and Experience.
As a scholarly and consistent Divine, the Lecturer is "unwilling to plead for the observance of the Sabbath on the low grounds of expediency, or even of outward morality." He takes far higher ground, and stands upon a more adamantine platform. His contention is that "the Sabbath is neither of Jewish nor of Christian origin," but that it is coeval with the Creation, and like Marriage, was instituted in Paradise. What the one ordinance is in the social, that precisely the other is in the spiritual sphere. Both ordinances had been "instituted before man fell from that holy and happy state in which God created him." The Sabbath and Marriage, as Divine ordinances, remain still in force and are essential to the very existence of society. Without them, man would relapse into barbarism, immorality, and atheism. Virtue, as ashamed, would hide her sacred head, and Vice would reign triumphant, and finally decimate her devotees.page 2
Albeit Dunedin has not, like Sydney, an Association for the Promotion of Morality, yet it boasts of its possession of a Society for the Investigation of Spiritualism, or, more correctly speaking, for the promotion of Immorality, and the propagation of obscene notions respecting all forms of Religion, natural or revealed. Under the cloak of zeal for the testing of Spiritualistic phenomena, this association pursues its base and covert machinations against everything, civil as well as sacred, that good men love and revere. It is a sort of seriocomic Tammany Ring, based upon, and upheld by the vilest and most atheistic principles and practices. The Being of God, the Immortality of the Soul, Human Responsibility, a Final Judgment, Eternal Rewards and Punishments—these are, par excellence, the standing jokes of the professed investigators of spirit-rapping. Zeal for the discovery of truth is, indeed, laudable; but any man who goes to a Seance chamber to obtain any manifestations of anything but folly, credulity and imposture, has actually bidden adieu to his reason and common-sense—let alone Religion. Pretended mediums I regard as either fanatics or impostors. Who but a madman would pass a Sabbath evening in a partially darkened seance chamber, in the impious expectation of getting a message from the world of spirits? Is this the outcome of our spurious system of modern materialism? Is this the result of the teaching of modern Epicureanism, after the low type of Darwin, Huxley, Spencer, Bain, &c.? What is Spiritualism, but a tertium quid between Atheism and Epicureanism? Is it not Necromancy revived? Are we to fling Christianity overboard to make room for this loathsome and old superstition? Froude well and truly describes Spiritualism thus :—"Necromancy has been revived in spirit-rapping. Latterly the spirits, or whatever they are, have shown a special fancy for three-legged tables. They make them run rouud the room, pirouette on a single claw, hop, skip, dance to airs produced by invisible musicians. Finally, they use them as the channel through which they communicate the secrets of the other world. Probably the entire history of mankind contains no record of a more hopelessly base and contemptible superstition. Mumbo-jumbo and the African rain-makers appear to me to be respectable in comparison. Yet every one of us must have heard circumstantial accounts of such performances, time and place minutely given, a cloud of witnesses, and the utmost precaution said to have been taken to make deception impossible. It is the story of the witch processes over again. Once possess people with a belief, and never fear that they will find facts enough to confirm it. Never fear that they will so tell their stories that the commonest thing shall be made to appear marvellous; that unusual features shall be preserved and exaggerated, and everything which would suggest a rational explanation shall be dropped out of sight and hearing. The spirits do not like sceptics, and object to showing off before them. Mr Hume cannot float in the air when there is light enough to see what is going on. All precautions are taken, we page 3 are assured, by the initiated to expose fraud or prevent illusion—all but one—the presence of cool-healed, scientifically-trained observers."
The Dunedin Association for the promotion of Immorality always dwells on the analogy between Spiritualistic and Biblical phenomena. Some of their stoutest adherents, or investigators—save the mark—stoutly challenged the clergy to a public discussion on this analogy question. Hut the Rev. Gentleman so pointedly challenged by the Spiritualistic Elisha declined to degrade himself by appearing on the same platform with a man who has been for years investigating the question, and, according to his own confession at a public meeting of the fraternity, convened for the purpose of bidding farewell to the first President of the Association, has not yet arrived at any definite conclusions, He is one of those spoken of by Paul, men who are ever learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. For the benefit of such stout investigators of spirit-rapping, I cm certify that nowhere in "King James' version of the English Bible," can they find a single instance of any sneaking spirit cringing and bullying beneath a table, on a Sabbath evening, in a partially darkened seance chamber.
To the everlasting disgrace of the Dunedin clergy of all denominations, the people are fearfully ignorant of Scripture; and hence the willingness with which they can swallow the coarse ribaldries of Spiritualists, and the wretched parody of Christianity, periodically foisted upon them by the Press, when advocating the secularization of the Sabbath-Day. The Press—as well as the Spirit-rappers—labour to bring Christianity and the Sabbath into utter contempt. Secularists and Spiritualists make use of their respective shibboleths as mouth-pieces of their own crude and ignorant ravings against a Faith which they have not the courage to forsake openly, nor the ability to overthrow in a legitimate way. Flippant, shallow and uncultivated minds that cannot grasp any truth, nor give a reason for their vague opinions, are driven about by every wind of doctrine, deceiving and being deceived. There are illiterate wretches in our community, who labour, night and day, to sap the very foundations of Morality and Religion in our infant colony. Let us strangle such filthy snakes at the very outset of their pernicious and poisonous operations. They are charlatans, professsional, venal and immoral.
The Sabbath is systematically desecrated in Dunedin. On Sabbath evening the streets are literally crowded with the sons and daughters of Belial. The language that strikes the ear is profane and coarse in the extreme. The doors are closed, but the bars of the pot-houses are lighted, and drunkards freely go in and out at back-doors. The Sabbath-breakers parade the streets, smoking and poisoning the air with their noxious vapours—but less noxious than the fumes of blasphemy that issue our of their unhallowed mouths. Even those who go to church manage to combine, page 4 happily, rest, recreation and devotion during the Sabbath. The trains and carriages carry away their loads of pleasure-seekers to the secluded haunts of infamy, during one portion of the day, and some of these resort, either before or after their excursions, to the Sanctuary, under the pretence of worshipping God—who is not in all their evil thoughts. The man who thus combines pleasure and piety on the Sabbath is either a hypocrite, or his intellect is disordered. God will not accept his impious oblation. The Law of the Sabbath was promulgated at the creation. It is the key-stone of the Decalogue. The man who desecrates it is not a Christian. The Bible declares solemnly that whosoever wilfully and habitually offends in any one point is guilty of the breach of the whole law. The desecration of the fourth commandment is chargable with the violation of all the rest. Indeed, the ten commandments are foully violated in these degraded villages, provinces and colonies. Mammon is preferred before God; Bacchus supplants Christ; Venus supersedes Minerva. Idolatry is rampant. Because of profane adjurations in our Courts of Law, the land groaneth. The parental authority is flatly disregarded. Calumny kills its thousands. Moral purity is defiled. Stealing is the order of the day, in various legalised ways. Covetousness, envy and perjury pollute these Southern virgin lands. Colonial muck-worms grudge one day out of seven for the elevation of their souls from the sties of Epicureanism. They experience no pleasure in the contemplation of God, religion and virtue. They seek not an opportunity of soaring aloft, on the wings of meditation, into the Empyrean regions of life, light and immortality. I hold such men, whatever may be their material possessions, to be poor and mean wretches, damnably degraded outcasts from God and happiness.
Is the Sabbath of Divine origin? Every Christian must answer this question affirmatively, along with the Rev. Mr. Laughton, of Sydney. It was promulgated in Paradise, and God wrote the Decalogue on two tables of stone, and handed them to Moses afterwards. If not, Moses was an impostor and the Bible is an impudent fable. The witty, vigorous and eloquent Dr. South asserts that "the Decalogue of Moses was hut a transcript, not an original." Surely, South is a far higher authority than such visionary and hazy writers as the Rev. F. W. Robertson—the great authority of the Dunedin Sabbath-breakers. Abrogate the Law of the Sabbath! As well try to abrogate the existence of God. Christianity cannot subsist without the Sabbath Indeed, they both must stand or fall together. They are now convertible terms. The Sabbath-breaker is a violator of all the moral law. I repeat, he who offendeth in one point is guilty of all. This is not only a Christian, but also a Stoic doctrine. Such is the nature of sin, that it contaminates the whole moral nature, and renders the sinner amenable to the heaviest punishment and retribution.
I quite agree with the Rev. Gentleman, whose lecture I now recommend to the careful perusal of my readers, that in these colo- page 5 nies there is a sad misconception and misapprehension prevailing "even among those who might be expected to be better informed," in the public mind, respecting the origin and perpetual obligation of the Sabbath. The ancient Jews primarily kept holy the Sabbath in commemoration of the great work of creation. Secondarily, out of gratitude for having been miraculously rescued out of Egyptian bondage. Christians, a fortiori, are bound to hallow it in perpetual remembrance of the Resurrection of their Lord and Redeemer and Advocate, and from gratitude to God for having been delivered out of darkness and bondage of more than Cimmerian gloom and severity. If the Jew, in his quiet pastoral and primitive village life required one day out of seven for refreshment to his soul, how much more need have Christians in this excessively busy and materialistic age, to draw living water out of the wells of Baca on the glorious Sabbath day? The Sabbath question I have compressed into a nutshell. I have nothing to do with secondary considerations involving personal feelings, statements, prejudices and utilitarian principles of the necessity of rest and recreation at stated periods. Such questions I relegate to spiritualists, quasi-freethinkers, materialists and idiotic newspaper editors and parsons of free-and-easy churches. In the absence of a Divine command and eternal obligation, every man is quite capable of judging for himself whether he shall rest and enjoy himself once or twice, or even seven times, a week. The question to be solved is this: Whether the fourth commandment came from God as part of the Decalogue? If so, then it is now morally binding on all Christians. They cannot violate it without imperiling their own salvation. Christians are bound, under peril of eternal damnation, to observe the Sabbath religiously. If God has not spoken on the question at all, then there is an end of the matter. Let every man do as he pleases; let him laugh, dance, trade, eat and drink on every day alike. It is impertinent presumption in any man, or body of men, to say unto him "What doest thou?" Open all places of business and amusement. Follow your callings as well on Sunday as on Monday. Do as you will, and abide the consequences.
Without any further comment, preface, introduction or prologue, I hereby spread before my readers the Rev. Mr. Laughton's admirable lecture on the Sabbath.
12th day of October, 1874.
J. G. S. Grant
Sabbath Observance and its Connection with Morality.
Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,—
The extent to which the holy Day of Rest is desecrated in this and other professedly Christian lands cannot but be a cause of regret to all that reverence the law of God, and believe that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. In endeavouring, therefore, by all lawful means to promote a better observance of the Sabbath as an important part of social ethics, we, as professing Christians, are not only obeying our moral and religious instincts, but are fulfilling a sacred duty. The greatest of all Moral Teachers has declared that "whosoever shall break one of these least commandments (of God), and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." (Matt, v., 19).
There, is, however, considerable difficulty in bringing any influence to bear directly upon the Sabbath-breakers themselves. They are not usually to be found in the house of prayer; and they will not trouble themselves to read what wise and good men have written on the subject. It is chiefly by the consistent example of those who do "remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy," that any permanent impression will be produced, humanly speaking, on the careless sons and daughters of this careless world. I can hardly persuade myself that any habitual Sabbath-breakers are among this assembly. I believe I may take it for granted that you who now hear me not only keep God's Sabbaths yourselves, but are also convinced that the observance of the Day of Rest has an important bearing on the morality of the whole community. It is through you, accordingly, and others like-minded with you, that we hope to reach some of those who have not yet learned to fear God and keep His commandments. And I will venture to say that, if those professing Christians who regard the Sabbath as indeed "holy of the Lord and honourable," were more alive to their responsibilities, and more faithful in the discharge of them, a most beneficial influence would be exerted upon the whole body of the people, which would speedily cause iniquity as ashamed to hide its face among us
Entertaining these views, ladies and gentlemen, I have most willingly complied with the request of the committee of the Association for the Promotion of Morality, under whose auspices we are now assembled; and I shall accordingly do my best to interest you in the important subject which has been entrusted to me, namely, "Sabbath Observance, and its connection with Public Morals."
I propose to speak first, of the Obligation of the Sabbath; and secondly, of the Connection between Sabbath Observance and Public Moralitypage 7
I. First, then, I shall speak of the Obligation of the Sabbath. There is reason to believe that on this question great misapprehension prevails, even among those who might be expected to be better informed. There is an impression among many that the Lord's Day is, in point of obligation, essentially a different thing from the Jewish Sabbath, or the Sabbath of the Decalogue; that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has relaxed the obligation of the fourth commandment; and that the substitution of the first day of the week for the seventh, is itself a proof that the Christian Church accepts the fourth commandment only in a modified sense. If these opinions were correct, the "shreds and patches" of Sabbath that would be left us, would scarcely have any value, and would certainly have no appreciable effect on public morals. In opposition to these views I shall endeavour to show you that the obligation to observe the Sabbath is perpetual; that it is of a moral, and not of a ceremonial character, and consequently that it is universal; that the change of the day has made no change in the nature of the obligation; and that the teaching of Christ has not in any way relaxed the obligation.
1. My first proposition is that the obligation to observe the Sabbath is perpetual.
The Sabbath, as an institution, is neither of Jewish nor of Christian origin. It was instituted before man fell from that holy and happy state in which God created him. Two ordinances of God were instituted before the Fall, and both of them remain to this day—namely, the ordinance of the Sabbath, and the ordinance of Marriage. Man was intended from the begining to be both a religious and a social being. He was accordingly made in the image of God-he was also made male and female. The Fall materially changed man's relations to God, and wholly corrupted him, both morally and physically; but it did not change his constitution. I mean that, notwithstanding the Fall, man remained, as God had made him, both a religious and a social being. The necessities of his intellectual, moral, and physical nature impelled him to seek companionship; and for this social necessity God provided by the institution of marriage, which is the basis of all human society and of all human government. The Creator thus indelibly stamped upon man's constitution the fundamental principle of all social law, that man is dependent on man. Marriage was a provision not only for the continuance of human society, but also for its moral purity, its good government, and its consequent safety and happiness. Precisely as marriage is held sacred, so human society becomes prosperous, elevated, and refined; while, without its benigant, genial, and restraining influences, the higher conditions of civilization are impossible.
But it will not be questioned that man's religious necessities are of infinitely greater importance than his social necessities. If, therefore, the Creator saw fit to provide, by a permanent and irrevocable ordinance, for those necessities of man, which extend not page 8 beyond this life—for in the Resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage—much more was it needful for Him to provide for those higher necessities which relate not only to this life, but also to that which is to come; and accordingly we find that such provision was actually made by the institution of the Sabbath. For it is not a mere arbitary arrangement, but a necessity of man's being, that he must worship somewhat; and, apart altogether from the testimony of Revelation, reason and conscience are sufficient to teach that the worship of the creature ought to be given to the Creator. If then, man is to worship God, he must have time for it. Common sense tells us that if anything is to be done effectually, some specific time must be set apart for doing it. And God himself has indelibly stamped upon the constitution of man the fundamental principle of all religion—namely, that man, whether as an individual or in societies, is dependent on God, and accountable to Him—by making periodical rest necessary to healthful existence. For it is a simple physiological truth, that neither the body of man, nor his intellect, nor his affections, are capable of incessant exertion—they must have intervals of rest. This necessity is to some extent supplied by sleep; but besides the taking of rest in sleep, numerous experiments have demonstrated that some additional period of absolute cessation from labour is essential to the preservation of a sound mind in a sound body. God has accordingly ordained that a certain proportion of time—namely, one-seventh, or one entire day out of seven—shall be devoted to rest. And, inasmuch as the rest of an intelligent moral agent cannot be mere idleness, God has, by interdicting all ordinary labour on every seventh day, restricted man on that day to the duties of piety, necessity, and mercy—a restriction which He has confirmed by many stringent precepts.
The Sabbath is, therefore, an institution of perpetual obligation, equally with marriage. He who saw that it was not good for a man to be alone, and made him a helpmeet for him, saw also that it was not good for him to labour incessantly, even when he had no other labour than the dressing and keeping of the Garden of Eden, and therefore "the Sabbath was made for man." It is a statute and an ordinance unto all generations, so long as sun and moon endure—so long as man's constitution continues what it is—so long as it is necessary to rest from toil and to prepare for a future life. Men have, in the pride of their own hearts, made frequent and violent attempts to change or abolish this law, just as they have attempted to do away with the law of marriage—as, for example, in the days of the old French Revolution; but all such attempts have brought their own punishment, and can never be successful unless the constitution of man be changed. If it be impossible, on the one hand, for human society to continue safe, pure, and happy without marriage, so also, on the other hand, it is impossible for man to discharge the duties of his allotted station vigorously and efficiently, and still more impossible for him to have due regard to his interests as an immortal being, without the rest of the weekly Sabbathpage 9
2. My second proposition is, that the law of the Sabbath is of a moral, and not of a positive or ceremonial character, and, consequently, that it is universal, or obligatory upon all mankind. Many of God's laws are not of this universal character, but have been given to certain classes of mankind, under peculiar circumstances, and for peculiar purposes. The ordinances of the Mosaic ceremonial law were for the children of Israel alone; and were of necessity abrogated when that better thing which they foreshadowed had come. So, the sacraments of the Christian Church are for professing Christians only. And if the law of the Sabbath were found only among the ceremonial laws of the Levitical code, it could have no force beyond the Jewish nation, any more than the law of the Passover, or of the year of Jubilee. But the commandment to rest one day out of seven, though it had always been in force from the creation of man, was declared to be a part of the moral law, and was solemnly re-enacted and proclaimed amidst the thunders and lightnings of Sinai. It was one of those Ten Commandments which God wrote with His own finger on two tables of stone two several times. The two tables of the moral law have respect to the obligations of man as a religious and social being. They teach us our duty to God, and our duty to our neighbour, and they are therefore, for all men, for all lands, and for all time. And it must be evident that one part of the moral law is just as obligatory as any other part. There is no conceivable reason for supposing that the fourth commandment is one whit less binding than the other nine.
Consider for a moment the scope and design of the Sabbath. It was intended, first, to be a perpetual commemoration of the completion of the work of creation; secondly, to provide for the constitutional necessity of man, which requires rest, both for the body and the mind; and thirdly, it was intended to afford to man due opportunity for the worship of God, to the end that he might be better fitted to glorify Him here, and to enjoy Him for ever here after. Such objects are of importance to every human being. Best from labour; meditation on God's works of creation and Providence; the direct worship of God; the seeking after fuller knowledge of Him, and closer communion with Him; these are things in which all men, of whatever name or nation, age or race, are always concerned. Therefore the obligation to keep holy the day appointed by God for these purposes is absolute and universal, extending to every land, and claiming the recognition of every human government. Like the other commandments of the moral law, it has in many cases, been forgotten or abused; many nations have been entirely ignorant of it; and even those who profess to acknowledge its obligation have neglected and evaded it; but notwithstanding all this, the law still stands unrepealed, and no man is able to repeal it, for it is the law of God. The moral obligation to remember the Sabbath Day and to keep it holy, is to this hour precisely the same that it has been from the beginning.page 10
3. My third proposition is That the change of the day from the seventh to the first day of the week has in no way changed the nature of the obligation, but has rather strengthened it.
The moral, universal, and perpetual obligation of the law of the Sabbath does not in anywise depend upon the particular day out of the seven that may be set apart for its observance. It was the Sabbath Day, and not necessarily the last day of the week, that the Lord blessed and commanded to be kept holy. So far as the moral principle is concerned, any one of the seven days might be kept holy. It is indeed physically impossible that the same identical period of twenty-four hours can be observed in different longitudes; as, for example, when the Sabbath commences in Sydney, 151° east from Greenwich, it is only two o'clock on Saturday afternoon in London. I am speaking, you will observe, only with reference to the moral principle involved. I do not by any means imagine that men are at liberty to choose a day to suit themselves; for in that case, there would be no uniformity. It was most wise and expedient that the day should be fixed by God himself; and accordingly we find that He did at first appoint for the weekly Sabbath the seventh or last day of the week, because on that clay He rested from His work of creation.
A change in the day, however, became reasonable and necessary when an event had occurred vastly transcending in importance the creation of the world. I mean the completion of that work to which creation itself was only prepatory and introductory—the work of Redemption, which was consummated by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead on the first day of the week. No Christian man can doubt that the work of Redemption infinitely transcends in importance the work of Creation. Redemption is the one grand eternal purpose of God, for the accomplishment of which the world was created. When that glorious purpose shall have been altogether fulfilled, and the time of the end shall have fully come, then the heavens and the earth, as we now see them, shall pass away. But the work of Redemption shall not pass away : "we look for a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness," and for an eternal Sabbath-keeping which remaineth for the people of God. It was therefore highly reasonable that the first day of the week, the day on which the Lord Jesus rose from the dead, and became the first fruits of them that slept, should thenceforward be the weekly day of rest and religious worship for God's people.
That this day has in fact been so observed from the time of the resurrection of Christ is a simple matter of history. Jesus showed Himself alive to His disciples, after His passion and resurrection, by many infallible proofs, on the first day of the week; and on that day He instructed them in things pertaining to the kingdom of God. The Apostles were wont to meet for religious worship on the first day of the week; and on that day the Apostolic Churches statedly met for prayer and hearing the word, and for the breaking page 11 of bread according to Christ's appointment. From the Apostolic age downwards, the whole visible Church has observed the Lord's Day (so called by St. John), as the Christian Sabbath. But the moral obligation of the Sabbath remains the same, though the day is changed. If there be any difference, the obligation should be greater; for not only are the resurrection of Christ and the doctrines involved in it of infinitely higher moment than the fact of creation, to which the seventh-day Sabbath had respect, but, under a spiritual dispensation, the call to exercises of devotion, and to the exclusion of worldly concerns, should be more imperative than it was in former ages, under a dispensation of types and shadows. It follows, therefore, that whatever it was wrong to do on the Sabbath of the old law, it is equally wrong to do on the Sabbath of the new. And whatever was right then is right now. I repeat, that I speak only with respect to moral obligation. I do not mean that the penalties imposed by the ceremonial law are binding upon Christians. From the yoke of the ceremonial law Christ hath made us free. But the moral law abides. Christ came not to destroy the moral law, but to fulfil it. "It is easier for heaven and earth to pass than one tittle of the law to fail" (Luke xvi. 17).
4. And this brings me to my fourth proposition, namely—That the teaching of Christ has not in any way relaxed the obligation.
It has been asserted, both frequently and loudly, by those who are unfavourable to the keeping holy of the Lord's Day, and who would have our Christian Sabbath made a day for doing their own pleasure, that the Sabbath of the Christian dispensation is altogether a different thing from that of the Jews. And in support of this assertion, they have not scrupled to wrest the words of Our Blessed Lord Himself. They have alleged that the strict sanctification of the Sabbath under the Mosaic law was merely ceremonial, and that the same strictness is not required of Christians; and this they attempt to prove by referring to the teaching and example of Christ. I believe that such an assertion has no foundation in truth.
Let me beg you to bear in mind that the Christian Sabbath, as distinguished from the Jewish, had no existence until after our Lord's Resurrection, it was the Sabbath of the Mosaic law that our Lord kept; and it was to that Sabbath alone that all His teaching referred. And there is not one word in all His discourses, or one action of His whole life on earth, that can be shown to authorize any relaxation of the commandment to keep holy the Sabbath Day. Our Lord did indeed condemn, and that with just indignation and severity, the unwarrantable additions imposed by the Scribes, who, by a variety of childish and superstitious traditions, had made the Sabbath a burden instead of a delight, as though man had been made for the Sabbath, and not the Sabbath for man. The most ordinary and necessary actions of domestic life, and even works of common charity, such as ministering to the page 12 sick, were by those blind guides prohibited as unlawful. Our Lord, as One that had authority, rebuked them for thus making the Commandments of God void by their traditions; and, by performing some of His most notable miracles of healing on the Sabbath, He showed that it was lawful to do good on that day. From the circumstance of the disciples eating the ears of corn, He also took occasion to show that it is lawful to minister to the necessities of the body on the Sabbath, as well as on any other day. In thus teaching our Lord gave no hint whatever of any relaxation of the moral obligation of the Sabbath. He merely declared what was the true intention of the Sabbath from the beginning in opposition to the corruptions of those who so unworthily sate in Moses's seat.
What sanction, then, do our Lord's teaching and example lend to the sort of Sabbath advocated by our modern secularists and others? It is not for works of piety and charity, necessity and mercy, that they plead. These, we cheerfully admit, are as lawful on the Lord's Day as they were on the Jewish Sabbath. But what the secularists clamour for are works of amusement—the opening of public exhibitions, such as the Crystal Palace—public musical performances—many of them would even go so far as to open the theatres, as is done in France—and all contend for excursions by rail or steamboat, for the gratification of the giddy and godless multitude. If this style of Sabbath prevailed, thousands of industrious persons must either consent to deprive themselves of the rest of the weekly Sabbath, and of the benefits of public worship, or else lose their daily bread. Now, the principle for which in the interests of morality, I think, we ought to contend is that, since the Sabbath was made for man, every man has a right to enjoy its rest, and that no man ought to be compelled or induced to forego it, except for such works as are sanctioned by the law of Christ. The Sabbath was made for man, not that he might desecrate it or abuse it for his own gain or glorification, but that, while resting his body, he should care likewise for his immortal soul. The Sabbath was made for man, not that the rich man might enjoy himself by making his servants work, harder perhaps than on other days, but that his manservant and his maidservant, and even his cattle, should rest as well as himself. The Sabbath was specially enjoined upon the children of Israel, in remembrance of their having been bondsmen in the land of Egypt. (Deut. v. 15.) Surely we Christions, who have suffered under the more grievous bondage of sin, and to whom a far greater deliverance has been proclaimed, have still stronger reasons for keeping holy the Sabbath day.
II. If I have devoted too large a portion of my lecture to the consideration of the moral obligation of the Sabbath, the importance of the subject must be my apology. It is obvious that the observance of the Sabbath can have no legitimate or beneficial influence on the morals of the community at large, unless that observance be regarded as a matter of moral obligation. That it ought to be so regarded, I have been attempting to prove; and page 13 now it remains for me to consider the connection between Sabbath observance and public morality. I shall endeavour to show, that the Sabbath is a standing witness for God concerning righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come; and that its testimony has a beneficial effect, as may be inferred from the low state of morals in those countries wherein the Sabbath is habitually neglected, and the much higher moral condition of those wherein it is duly observed.
Let us suppose for a moment, that the whole population of a country had their hearts inclined by the Lord of the Sabbath to keep this law, and that they were enabled to experience something of what the beloved disciple felt when he said, "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day." I do not mean that professing Christians should expect extraordinary raptures, visions, or revelations, such as were vouchsafed to the prophets and apostles of old; but let us suppose that there were among the people of this land a general disposition to withdraw themselves on the Lord's Day from all worldly and fleshly cares, and occupations, and to employ the sacred hours in the public and private exercises of religion, in a manner suited to the capacities of individuals of different ages and attainments. Suppose that such a spiritual observance of the Sabbath were actually realized among us, might we not safely affirm that the morality of the whole community on the other six days of the week would be greatly the better for it? It is altogether inconceivable—it would do violence to common sense—to suppose that a community which had with sincerity of heart so occupied itself on the Lord's Day, could on the Monday turn greedily to the sins from which they had prayed to be delivered, or forget the commandment of God to which they had besought Him to dispose their hearts It would assuredly be felt, that, having thus distinctly and publicly borne witness for God's law, every one was bound to walk consistently during the remainder of the week; and that the full benefit of the rest and devotions of the Sabbath would not be reaped, if the worshippers were not thereby better fitted for the active duties of life, and brought more fully under the influence of that Divine love, which is emphatically the fulfilling of the Law.
Unhappily, such an observance of the Sabbath as I have supposed has never yet been perfectly realized, and probably will not be so, until the Kingdom of Christ shall be set up in the earth, for which glorious consummation the people of God pray and wait. There have been times, in various ages and in various parts of the world, when there has been some approximation to it; but I fear that, even in professedly Christian countries, it may be said with truth of too large a proportion of the people, that, so far from being "in the Spirit on the Lord's Day," they are on that day more unequivocally in the body than on any other day. When the sacred day dawns, and they are not summoned, as on other days, to go forth to their accustomed labour; when the beasts of burden are turned page 14 out into the pasture; when the fires are extinguished in the forge; when the hammer and the axe are silent; and the weights and measures, and the pens of the ready writers, are laid aside in the halls of commerce; then, on that very day, which was given to man that he might not forget that he had an immortal soul, too many may begin to remember that they have a body, and make it the business of the day to indulge its appetites, each one in the direction of his own particular taste, so far as his means and opportunities will permit. Even among those who do recognize the Sabbath, and partially and outwardly observe it, there is very generally a more luxurious provision for the body on that day than on other days, which necessitates the employment of the household, and keeps its members, more or less, from the public and private exercises of God's worship. Need I remark upon the inconsistency of those who thus employ their own servants, and yet exclaim against the poor working man, who sends his Sunday dinner to a public oven! "Thou hypocrite! first cast the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye!"
But, notwithstanding these evils, which to a great extent make the Sabbath a mere name and outward form, instead of what it was intended to be, a fountain of both temporal and spiritual blessings; notwithstanding all that the enemy of God and man has done to desecrate and destroy it, the Sabbath is still an estimable benefit, and exerts, wherever it is recognized, a powerful influence for good. I am, indeed, unwilling to plead for the observance of the Sabbath on the low grounds of expediency, or even of outward morality. It would be far more congenial to my feelings to expatiate upon the immense value of the Sabbath as a means of grace; and to show that in the keeping of this, as of all God's commandments, there is great reward. The humble and sincere believer in Jesus needs no argument to induce him to observe the Sabbath : he does it cheerfully, because, to him, it is a delight. His soul longs, yea even faints for the courts of the Lord; and, therefore, he loves the Sabbath, because on that day the tribes of the Lord go up to the gates of the Sanctuary, to give thanks to the name of the Lord, and to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. We love our Sabbaths, and cannot consent to sacrifice them, for none of us have so many years of life before us that we can afford to waste any of our opportunities, or make light of any of our privileges. We love our Sabbaths, because the Sabbath is a type of the Saints' everlasting rest. Heaven itself is a perpetual Sabbath-keeping; and the right employment of our Sabbaths on earth is the best preparation for the eternal Sabbath above.
I cannot but feel that to any man who has such views of the Sabbath as these, arguments of morality or expediency are quite unnecessary; but for those who are content to take a lower view I may observe that the return of the weekly day of rest, with the suspension of worldly business, and the Sabbath-bell proclaiming page 15 that the house of prayer is open for all people, is of itself a witness for virtue and a protest against vice which cannot be wholly unheeded. It is no light thing that, once a week at least, there is a lull in the din and bustle of the world, and a solemn call to the toilers and schemers, as well as to the butterflies and butterfly-hunters, of this world, reminding them that there is something more to be desired than gold, and sweeter than the dropping of honeycombs. And I may also remind you that in almost every case where we have been able to trace the career of a prodigal, who has left the house of his godly parents and wasted his substance in riotous living, it has been found that his downward course began with the neglect of the Sabbath. It is a fact, well-known to all that have had any experience in dealing with the consciences of their fellow-men, that Sabbath desecration is a fruitful parent of vice, and not unfrequently leads to crime. It is indeed too true that there are sanctimonious hypocrites, who can assume a long face and for a pretence make long prayers on the Sabbath, whose cup on the other days of the week is full of extortion and excess. I will not venture to say that all that outwardly keep the Sabbath are to be held up as types of a high and pure morality; but this I will say, that I have never known a man who habitually dishonoured the Sabbath and was at the same time scrupulously observant of the other commandments of God. Sure I am that in no community wherein the Sabbath is systematically desecrated do we find a high standard of morality prevail.
In proof of this it is only necessary to refer to the moral condition of the Continental nations of Europe. Among these, and more especially among those which are subject to the ecclesiastical domination of the Papacy, the Sabbath is notoriously a day of pleasure. Theatres and other places of enetrtainment are open, and, instead of the day of rest serving to remind men of their responsibility to the Judge of all the earth, every device of the Devil and his angels seems to be employed to banish all thoughts of death, judgment, and eternity from their breasts. Travellers who have visited that interesting and picturesque part of Europe called Switzerland have observed the remarkable difference between the Protestant cantons, in which the Sabbath is generally well kept, and the Roman Catholic cantons in which it is habitually desecrated. In the former the inhabitants are cleanly, orderly, and happy, and crime is of rare occurrence; in the latter, squalid misery and vice are painfully prominent. I do not say that these evils are to be attributed to Sabbath desecration alone: that is but one development of the gigantic system of iniquity and immorality under which many nations of Europe have long groaned; but the fact admits of no dispute that in those parts of Europe where the Sabbath is neglected, misery, vice, and crime of the lowest and darkest types abound.
Contrast the moral condition of these countries with that of Great Britain, the United States of America, and the other Anglo- page 16 Saxon communities where the Sabbath is more or less reverently observed. I am indeed very far from thinking that the moral condition of these communities is all that can be desired. Not only have we a large vicious and criminal class in our population, presenting a social problem of most formidable difficulty, but we have also to deal with a numerous class of propagandists who, under the specious names of "broad views," "advanced thought," and "liberal principles," busily diffuse sentiments the direct tendency of which is to destroy the foundations of the Christian faith, and to leave us without hope and without God in the world. With such adversaries this platform is not the proper place for controversy; but I may be permitted to remind you that one of the fortresses against which these self-styled Rationalists have directed their most subtle and malignant efforts, is the Sabbath. The enemies of divine truth are not ignorant of the restraining influence exerted by the Lord's Day upon the public morals, and nothing would be more gratifying to them than to see our holy Sabbath turned into a French Sunday. There is profanity enough, drunkenness enough, licentiousness enough among us, and to spare, God knoweth; it is not the language of boasting, but that of shame and confusion of face, that becomes us. But the Sabbath we still have; and let us beware how we surrender it. Let us beware how we permit this great bulwark against the rising flood of infidelity and immorality to be thrown down. Let us not be afraid of being reproached as Puritans, or Sabbatarians, or as "righteous overmuch." That decade of our history when Great Britain was under a Puritan Government, the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell, presents nothing to bring a blush to the cheek of any Christian patriot. With all his faults, Cromwell made the name of our beloved country respected in the world; while the Stuarts, before and after him, made it contemptible. It was that high-souled man, Puritan and Sabbatarian as he was, who laid the foundation of those civil and religious liberties which we now enjoy. And it cannot be doubted, that one great means of producing the high moral tone that pervaded British society during the Protectorate was the strict observance of the Sabbath, which was not only enjoined by statute, but commended by the consistent example of those in the highest places of the land
Let all, then, who desire to see this our adopted country distinguished for that righteousness which exalteth a nation—let all who would see this goodly south land, so highly enriched with physical advantages, still more largely adorned by the virtues of her sons and daughters—"Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.
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