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such exercises of privacy and devotion, as he conscientiously esteems most conducive to that end, truly fulfils the domestic duties of the sacred
The several obligations imposed by the sabbath, in its twofold character of a day of rest and a day of holiness, have now been investigated. I cannot, however, conclude this part of the enquiry without feeling some anxiety, considering how easily error may arise from too much laxity on the one hand, and over-strained rigour on the other, from an incautious application of Scripture precepts, and from hasty decisions respecting matters which the sacred writers have determined. Under such circumstances, to expect an exemption from all mistake, or to satisfy every reader, were a delusive hope: some points also are of such a nature as to admit a difference of opinion : yet I flatter myself (so strong is my own conviction,) that the conclusions attempted to be established in this chapter will be found substantially accordant with the word of God, and its best interpreter, the Anglican Church,
A FORMAL recapitulation of the arguments advanced in the preceding chapters, would swell this work beyond its just limits; it may, nevertheless, be proper to state briefly the conclusions to which they have led. It has been proved that the sabbatical institution is fraught with moral and political benefits sufficient, if it were only of human appointment, to recommend its adoption to the philanthropist; (chap. i.) that it was first instituted at the creation, by a divine command, addressed to the whole human race, and consequently binding upon all mankind, if not subsequently repealed (chap. ii.); that it was adopted into the Mosaic dispensation, but under circumstances which shewed that it was to survive the extinction of the peculiar polity of the Hebrews, (chap. iii.); that, so far from being abrogated under the Christian dispensation, it is clearly enjoined in the New Testament, (chap. iv.); that, although it is not unalterably fixed to any particular day of the septenary cycle, there is a peculiar propriety in keeping the first day of the week, (chap. iv. sect. 2.); and that the observance of the institution, and on the first day of the week, is sanctioned by the authority and practice of the ancient Christian church, (chap. v.) To these conclusions, established upon grounds which, it is believed, cannot easily be shaken, it has been attempted to add a deduction of those principles by which ecclesiastical governors, and private individuals, ought to be guided in the consecration of the seventh day.
Such is the result of the inquiry, and if it rest, as it assuredly does, upon incontrovertible evidence, let it be duly considered what an obligation it creates to maintain inviolate the sanctity of the sabbath day. Of no light importance can that institution be which is coeval with the world, and which has formed a part of every successive dispensation of religion. The Patriarch, the Jew, the Christian, though with some variety, and some observances peculiar to each, have been commanded to keep A SABBATH; and it cannot be a venal offence to neglect or profane what the Deity has thought fit to enjoin in every revelation of his will. Upon Christian believers it imposes the most solemn and awful obligations ; being ratified by our Saviour, inculcated by express declarations, and sanctioned by the conduct of the Apostles, as well as by the practice of the pure primitive church of Christ, whose authority, though not infallible, must ever demand our reverence and respect. The multiplied advantages, civil and religious, of the weekly festival, must secure to it the favour of every moral, every humane man; while those who open their eyes to the light of celestial truth, must regard its devout observance as the mandate of heaven. Its holy solemnization has accordingly been observed from the apostolic age, wherever genuine faith has been found to flourish, by the saints of ancient days, by the glorious army of martyrs, by all, in short, who, in any period of the church, have been distinguished by the fervour of their piety and virtue.
Surrounded with such a cloud of witnesses to the truth, it would ill become us to infringe the rest and sanctity of this holy day by continuing our ordinary occupations, by secular pursuits, by unnecessary travelling, by splendid entertainments, by the employment of servants or cattle in needless labour, or by any other engagement incompatible with the sacred purposes of the institution. Works of necessity and charity are never inopportune ; such recreations as are required for the refreshment of the spirits, and the renovation of the body, may be innocently enjoyed; in other respects it should be kept “a holy rest unto the Lord.” Who but must wish the universal observance of an ordinance which brings to the industrious and labouring classes a temporary relief from incessant toil ? But for this festival, such of our brethren as earn their daily food by the sweat of their brows, would waste away in cheerless, unmitigated misery. Doomed to perpetual labour, broken in spirit, impaired in bodily vigour, they would wear out the residue of their days in hopeless despondency. The sabbath allows a periodical suspension of labour most refreshing and salutary, a sweet consolation of an existence, which, without the regular recurrence of ease and recreation, would be an existence of wretchedness. Who that has a spark of humanity in his bosom, would wrest from them this small drop of comfort, which a gracious Providence has thrown into their cup of sorrow ?
Of still higher moment is the opportunity thus granted for that holy preparation, which can alone, through the merits of a Redeemer, fit the soul for an inheritance in the regions of light. Those who are engaged in the busy scenes of life have at least one day in the week for attending to the concerns of their immortal spirits. Rob them not of this boon of indulgent heaven, nor lead them, by any unnecessary employment, to disregard, or misuse so valuable, so sacred a privilege. Much will those have to answer for who, for the sake of some trifling gain, some idle