Sayfadaki görseller

still remain in force, for Deity alone can abrogate the laws of Deity. It has been proved that, although incorporated into the Levitical code; it was even then remarkably distinguished from all the transitory ordinances of Judaism ; that it is shewn, as well by express declarations of the Hebrew writers as by other circumstances, to have been intended to survive the extinction of the Mosaic polity; and that there is no direct or indirect abrogation of it in the Christian records, as might reasonably be expected, had its abolition been the original design. The moral law, from its eternal and immutable nature, must for ever demand obedience; and the sabbatical law, if not wholly moral, has in it so much of morality, and is so clearly founded on a natural dictate, that it must remain for ever binding upon responsible beings. If an abstract argument of this kind fail of effect, yet the prominent rank it holds in the Decalogue, which has been demonstrated to continue in force upon all who reverence the authority of Christ, is enough to stamp it with the character of sacredness. Our blessed Saviour, in his discourses with the Jews on the subject of the sabbath, is so far from giving any intimation of its repeal, that he reasons in such a manner as necessarily supposes its permanency; and by explaining its real end and object, virtually sanctions its continuance. The apostles, in conformity with the principles of their revered master, separated one day in the week to holy purposes; and, as in all that regarded the government of the church, they were under the guidance of the Spirit, their practice must be allowed to be the best comment upon the sabbatical duties under the Christian covenant. Not only did they and their immediate followers uniformly observe a septenary festival, but they, in different parts of their writings, let fall some expressions which infer its perpetual obligation. It has been further evinced that the scriptural requirements in relation to the sabbath, only go so far as to demand A SEVENTH PORTION OF OUR TIME for the service of God; but that, for several reasons, there is a PECULIAR FITNESS AND PROPRIETY in celebrating the Christian sabbath on the first day of the week, consisting of an intire natural day; not necessarily to be counted in regular succession from the actual time of our Lord's resurrection, for in that case it could not be observed in some parts of the globe; but to be reckoned according to the customary mode of counting the division of time in every church.

These testimonies, viewed in their combination, constitute an accumulated, and, it may be fearlessly avowed, an irrefragable bulwark, in support of the universal and permanent obligation of a weekly festival. But satisfactory as this evidence

must be deemed, it is not the whole which may be brought forward. It is corroborated by the attestation of the ancient Christian church, an attestation of vast importance, inasmuch as it confirms our interpretation of the sacred Scriptures in reference to the sabbatical institution, and as it shews the general belief of the faithful in the purest ages of the church on a subject on which believers could scarcely be mistaken, and during a period while inspired teachers, and those who had been taught by them, guided and directed the principles and practice of such as had been converted from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God. This, therefore, shall be the next object of inquiry.


The Testimony of the Primitive Christian Church to the

Sabbatical Institution.

WHILE prosecuting the inquiry which forms the subject of this chapter, I have often been compelled to lament the want of a more extensive library. Many are the valuable works which I wished, but in vain, to examine; some I have been able to consult only casually or in haste; and of others I could only obtain imperfect and inferior editions. Under these circumstances, the following investigation is not so complete as it might have been, if I had been so fortunately situated as to have access to the splendid academical or metropolitan repositories of ancient and modern literature. Grateful, however, for the literary steres, though limited, in my own possession, I have carefully ransacked the treasures they contain ; and, without further apology, sub: mit the result to the reader's consideration, conscious of its manifold defects, yet, at the same


time, assured that, under existing circumstances, I had not the power to accomplish more.

Common as it is, in the superficial, though wide-spread learning of the age, to despise the authority of the primitive Christian church, those who think more, and have drank more deeply of the wells of literature, regard her decisions as of great weight on all points connected with our religion. The Anglican church does not, like that of Rome, receive them with a blind veneration; but she ever pays a respectful deference to the voice of Christian antiquity. The ancient fathers were not always accurate in reasoning, nor invariably sober in judgment, and, generally speaking, were but little skilled in critical and philological researches'; but they were eminently pious, unquestionably men of integrity; a character which renders them' unexceptionable witnesses to the primitive faith. Those who flourished in the earlier ages, when the stream of traditionary faith was still flowing pure and undefiled, must have known what were the doctrine and practice of the apostles; and, as they appear to have been actuated by a sacred attachment to their religion, and a conscientious regard to truth and virtue, they must be considered as faithful interpreters of the general belief; a belief which could scarcely have been corrupted so near its source. On the subject under investiga

« ÖncekiDevam »