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The Sabbath considered as a Day of rest and
THE sabbath, according to its original institution, is to be a day separated from all others, and devoted to sacred purposes, which implies a cessation from worldly labours and employments; and this is further confirmed by the express enactment of the fourth Commandment: “Six days shalt thou labour and do all thy work; but the seventh is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor the stranger that is within thy gates.” From the various applications of the Hebrew word here rendered “work,” it. appears evidently to denote, as Taylor in his Concordance explains it,“ any work, business, or affairs done or transacted by God or man;" and of course the prohibition is full, direct, and une; quivocal against secular employment on the Lord's day. The Almighty points out the proportion of time which he allows for the management both of our temporal affairs, and spiritual concerns; and to let the former trench on the time which he demands for his own immediate service, is incompatible with this solemn requirement.
Yet not every kind of work is forbidden, but only that which is the principal occupation of the preceding portion of the week. “Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work;” that is, all the labour required in the station of life in which man is placed : whatever may be his avocation, he is to execute it on six successive days; but “the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work;” that is, as is clear from the parallelism of the expressions, any work which is the proper employment of the six days. Works of every description are not prohibited, for some are absolutely necessary, but that specific work alone which is allowed on the six days before mentioned. Whatever is the general and customary employment of these days, ought to be omitted on the seventh ; for that work which is permitted, or rather enjoined, on the former, is directly forbidden on the latter. Hence the meaning of the precept is, that the seventh day ought to be a cessation from those worldly occupations to the performance of which - the other days are devoted. The sum and substance of the command is thus explained by a
sensible writer on the subject. “ Thou shalt not follow any trade, or worldly employment whatsoever, whether it be the labour of the body, the hands, or the head, which on other days is pursued for the sake of worldly enjoyment, and to provide for this bodily dying life b.”
Agreeably to this interpretation, the statute cannot fairly be charged with being harsh, or impracticably rigid. The Jews were bound, under the penalty of death, to observe a still stricter rest on the sabbath; but theirs was a law of carnal commandments, restraining the people under a severe tutelage, and burthensome by various severe prescriptions, from the obligation of which Christ has set his disciples free. Judaism was a dispensation of rigour and severity; Christianity is a law of mercy, of tenderness, and of liberty. The sabbatical enactments which remain binding upon believers, in the Gospel, are neither unreasonable nor austere, only requiring a septenary rest from the business of our callings, and daily
• Wright, Treatise on the Lord's Day, cap. iii. sect. 1. “Non facies in ea, (scil. septima die) omne opus : quod ? utique tuum. Consequens est, ut ea opera sabbato auferret, quæ sex diebus supra induxerat: tua scilicet, id est, humana, et quotidiana."Tertullian, Advers. Marcion. lib. ii. g 21. p. 392, C. Others of the fathers agree in limiting the prohibition to servile and secular" works; Irenæus, Advers. Hæres. lib. iv. cap. xx.; Jerome, Comment, in Isa. cap. Iviii. ; Augustine, Homil. 151 de Tempore, tom. 10.
occupations. Six days of the week are allowed for the promotion of our temporal interests, and the abstraction of the seventh for concerns of infinitely higher moment, so far from being a rigorous exaction, must be deemed a law at once merciful towards man, and necessary to the purposes of devotion. Were all employed on that day, as they ought to be, in giving attendance to the concerns of an eternal world, they would have no leisure for secular employments. The ordinary labours and occupations of life are, therefore, to be suspended on that day, which is peculiarly the Lord's ; the business of the shop, the counting-house, and the manufactory is to cease; the labouring classes are to rest from their toils, the higher from their professions and pursuits ; and the mind is to be kept as free as possible from the distraction of secular cares and avocations. To forbid absolutely every kind of work, would be rigorous and unreasonable; but to prohibit the exercise of our ordinary callings on the sabbath, is a law of easy comprehension, and not less in accordance with humanity than with religion.
In this view of the sabbatical law, he who sincerely purposes obedience, will rarely, if ever, hesitate concerning the nature of his compliance. The least consideration must shew to every man whether he have abstained from the customary labours of his station. They are as various as
the various ranks of society; but, of whatever description they may consist, the performance of them is a violation of the statute. The sabbath may be equally profaned by the labour of the head as of the hand, by mental no less than bodily exertion, in privacy as well as in the busy hum of men. The desecration of this holy season is not extenuated by veiling it from public view; the retired prosecution of profane literature, the perusing and writing letters on business, the balancing of accounts, the arrangement of worldly concerns, or engaging others in such employments, is as culpable as public commercial transactions, or the cultivation of the ground. To enumerate particulars, however, were a waste of time, as every one is competent to decide, in his own individual case, in what manner the law is to be obeyed. If he do not abstain from those occupations, of whatever kind, which he pursues during the six days, with worldly views, and for worldly ends, he violates the sacred rest. So far from consecrating the season to the offices of religion, he profanes it by secular employments; and let not such a one lay the flattering unction to his soul that he will escape merited punishment for refusing to the Deity the homage which he claims as his unalienable right.
What we are forbid to do ourselves, it is evidently wrong to do by our servants and depend