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works are finished. God then blessed and sanctified the seventh day, that it might be a memorial of the being and energetic power of himself in creation, and of the complacency which he felt in his newly-finished world.
Since this appears so plain on the face of the divine word itself, I will not any further consider that strange imagination which some have entertained, that the rest of the Sabbath was only a positive appointment to the Jews, and ceased as such with that dispensation, and is obligatory on us Christians, only from the example of the Apostles, who observed the first day of the week for the purpose of religious worship. I cannot understand the language of the scripture here as indicating any thing but the divine origination of the Sabbath at the time specified; nor is there the smallest reason to suppose, from the terms in which it is recorded, that the account of it is given by anticipation, and that the actual appointment of it did not occur till 2,500 years afterwards. Dismissing, therefore, this opinion, which detracts so dreadfully from the honour of the Sabbath, and from man's
obligation to observe it, I shall proceed to show you first, the further care which God took for preserving the sanctity of the Sabbath, which he here impressed upon it; I will secondly, show you the reasons which justify the change that has been made in the day: and, in conclusion, I will endeavour to enforce on you the manner in which it should be observed.
1. There is no direct account of the observance of the Sabbath during the antediluvian period of the world, nor in the patriarchal ages, nor during the bondage of the Israelites in Egypt. This, however, is no proof that it was not observed. The history is exceedingly brief, and the omission of any observance of the Sabbath may equally well be supposed to arise from this circumstance, namely, that the fact of its observance was so well known as not to need relating. There are intimations, however, of the division of time into weeks of seven days in those early ages, which seems to have arisen solely from the appointment of the Sabbath, and to be decisive of the question, that it was known and kept; and as a
similar omission appears for a space of 400 years after the time when we know that its observance was certainly commanded, there is no force in the argument against it which is drawn from the previous want of notice in those earlier ages.
The first direct account which we have of the observance of the Sabbath, or of any command respecting it, after the flood, is in the sixteenth chapter of Exodus. There we read that God gave the people manna from heaven for their food, which they were directed to gather every morning. They found, to their surprise, that they had gathered twice as much in the morning of the sixth day as on any preceding, and when they informed Moses of this circumstance he explained it to them, and said, “ This is that which the Lord hath said, To-morrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord : bake that which ye will bake to-day, and seethe that which ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over, lay up for you to be kept until the morning.” The whole character of these words of Moses seems to show plainly that
the Sabbath was then well known to the Israelites, and observed by them as a day of rest. Here is nothing like the manner of the first institution of a sacred ordinance. The following narration also speaks of it as one which had already been given to them, and with which they were well acquainted. Here then we see the care which God took for the observance of this sacred day. In the gift of their food from heaven he provided that they should never have occasion to gather it on that day, that they might keep its rest wholly unbroken.
We next find the observance of it inserted in the decalogue; it stands there as the fourth of those commandments which were written by the finger of God himself, on tables of stone, and delivered to his servant Moses. It stands there as a part of the moral law of God, and is as universally binding upon all mankind, in all ages, as any one of the other nine. It derives not its authority from the ceremonial law, which belonged to the Jews only; but from that law which, confessedly by all, is to be observed by all people. Ceremonial
observances, and judicial sanctions, were afterwards added to it, but these did not alter the nature of the original institution; nor, when they were abrogated by the introduction of the Gospel, did the obligation to keep the Sabbath holy lose one tittle of its force. Now mark also the terms of the fourth commandment. It begins thus: “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” The Sabbath is spoken of as being well known and already observed. Mark the reason assigned for its observance, “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day; wherefore the Lord blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it.” Why had the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it? Because that on it he rested from the work of creation. And when had the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it? Unquestionably at the exact time when he ceased from the work, for these are the very words of our text: “God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.” This coincidence of