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Inquiry whether the Sabbatical Institution was to survive,
or to be abrogated with, Judaism.
HAVING now investigated the peculiarities of the Jewish sabbath, our attention must now be directed to the important question, whether it was to be abolished along with the peculiar rites of Judaism. It is often argued that the sabbath, having been incorporated by divine command among the laws of Moses, necessarily ceased with the extinction of that polity. The argument is specious, and is, in fact, the palladium of the anti-sabbatarian cause. A strong impression was once made by it upon the author of these pages, at an earlier period of his life; and, as it is calculated to have a similar influence upon the minds of others, it deserves a serious consideration.
That the Hebrew ritual, with its typical rites and emblematical ordinances, was superseded by the introduction of Christianity, is a truth which no believer in the divine mission of our Lord will dispute; and the obligation of the sabbath so far as it was peculiar to that ritual, must have ceased. It was declared in the law, that “ the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath THROUGHOUT THEIR GENERATIONS, for a perpetual covenant;" that is, I conceive, so long as their state and constitution should endure “; and St. Paul pronounced it to be abolished among the other ceremonial institutions of the Mosaic economy". The cessation of the Jewish sabbath is unequivocally allowed; but it does not follow from this admission, that Christians are released from the duty of keeping the sabbatical ordinance according to its original appointment. Though its peculiar observance expired with the peculiar polity to which it belonged, in its essential nature and spirit it may still be binding upon all mankind. The repeal of the Levitical rites accompanying the sabbath does not necessarily involve the sanctity of the seventh day; since that which is essential to an institution may remain, while adventitious appendages may be abrogated. Whether this is the case with the sabbath must finally be determined by the Christian Scriptures; yet some considerations, independently of their infallible authority, and derived solely from the Jewish Scriptures evince, that it was not to be annulled along with the Levitical ordinances.
• Exod. xxxi. 16.
c“Mullus Apostoli sermo est vel per epistolam, vel presentis, in quo non laboret docere antiquæ legis onera deposita, et omnia illa quæ in typis et imaginibus præcesserunt, i. e. otium Sabbati, &c. gratia Evangelii subrepente, cessasse.” Jerome, Præfat. in Ep. ad Galat. Vol. iv. p. 222.
The appointment of the sabbath has been shown before, to be coeval with the world, addressed to all mankind, and consequently obligatory upon the whole human race.
It was received into the Levitical code with certain modifications, a circumstance by no means converting it into a mere Jewish festival, binding only upon the Hebrew nation. The relation in which it stood to all mankind from its aboriginal institution cannot be altered by its adoption into the religious polity of a particular people; for, though it was adopted by the direction of the Deity, it does not thereby lose the character of universality which he had antecedently given to it. Deriving no part of its sanctity from the Mosaic Law, it is no more cancelled by the abrogation of that polity, than the injunction to practise the moral duties. The obligation of the sabbath, as the prohibition to abstain from adultery, murder, theft, and other crimes, is independent of the Jewish dispensation, with the dissolution of which it cannot therefore be affected. It is an institution of divine origin, of an earlier age, of universal interest, and, while the peculiar observance of it established by the law of Moses has expired, will remain in force to the latest generations.
If the sabbatical command was given at the creation, it would not be disobeyed, it may be presumed, in the antediluvian ages by the pious Sethites, nor subsequently by the faithful line of Abraham ; it, therefore, formed a part of the ritual religion of the patriarchs. Now “ the worship of the Christian church is properly to be considered as a restoration of the patriarchal, in its primitive simplicity and purity ;-and of the patriarchal worship, the sabbath was the noblest and perhaps the simplest rited." If it be objected to this argument, that it would equally go to prove the obligation of sacrifices in the Christian church, the answer is, that the ancient sacrifices were typical, as the holy Eucharist is commemorative of the great mediatorial sacrifice of Christ. They had respect to one and the same object. An emblematical repres is of no further use, when that which it prefigured has actually come to pass. As Christ has once offered himself for all, the rites typical of that event must needs give place to those which are
Bishop Horsley, Sermon, xxii. vol. ii. p. 201.
commemorative. But the sabbath cannot be proved to be a type of any gospel blessing on earth, and must therefore continue under the covenant of grace, as must the memorial of that which the sacrifices represented.
The patriarchal, Jewish, and Christian dispensations have each something peculiar, something which distinguishes it from the rest, while at the same time they have a mutual relationship. With many distinctive features they have many things in common. They are all founded in the same system of divine grace, which, commencing with the fall, was successively developed, till it shone with its most resplendent lustre at the advent of our Redeemer. They promulgate the same truth, though with different degrees of clearness; and they conspire with wonderfnl harmony and accordance in announcing to man the grand scheme of redemption through a Mediator. Christ is the mighty Deliverer promised to the Patriarchs, typified in the law, and described in the gospel; he, like the sun in the solar system, is the orb about which they revolve, and for the manifestation of whom they were designed in the deep counsels of omnipotence. From first to last the incarnate God is the subject of their proclamation; and under every' religious institution the Almighty has been progressively carrying on a stupendous plan of grace and