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fluence upon our eternal interests, the civil and political benefits of the Sabbath are, indeed, too many and too great to be estimated. It is a far surer guarantee for the perpetuity of our free institutions, than all the physical resources of the country. It is, in short, the true palladium which protects the temple of liberty, as well as the ark of the covenant.
All this is admitted, (with what consistency we do not stop to inquire,) even by the great body of those who are hostile to every proposed measure for rescuing the institution from desecration, and restoring to it the hallowed influence which it has lost. With their full consent, you may speak of its benefits in the most unqualified terms, provided, always, that you do nothing to guard it from violation, or to protect yourself and family from disturbance in your most solemn devotions. The observance of the Sabbath is well, as far as it may happen to suit their inclinations and convenience, but no further. Thus what is acknowledged to be for the general good, is often sacrificed to private cupidity and accommodation.
With the sincere Christian, the case is widely different. Aside from the authority of God, a sober conviction of the public utility of any institution must of course powerfully influence his practice. Nor indeed, can we see how any real patriot can trample upon an institution which he recognizes as a blessing to his country. Still there is a wide and manifest difference between common rules of expediency and the dictates of the Holy Spirit; and our ultimate appeal in behalf of the Sabbath,
must be "to the law and the testimony." If the Scriptures do not require us to keep it holy, who shall presume to bind our consciences? But if, on the other hand, this is a divine precept of universal obligation, then the point is settled. It is as binding upon us as any other law of Heaven, and we violate it at our peril.
Is the sabbath, then, of divine or of human origin, and when was it instituted? Was it intended for all mankind, or only for a part? Which day of the week was originally appointed, and for what reason? Has the day since been changed, and if so, when, and for what reason? And how is the Sabbath to be kept, or sanctified? These are questions which every person has a right to ask, nay, which every one is bound to ask, that his "faith may not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God."
Is the sabbath of divine, or of human origin, and when was it instituted?
That the sabbath is "from Heaven, and not of men," must be conceded by all, who read and believe the Bible. It was one of the earliest and richest gifts of God to man.. The record of the institution is in the second chapter of the inspired volume, and in these words: On the seventh day, God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work, which he had made. And God blessed the
seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work, which God had created and made. This is the first and the only account of the original institution of the Sabbath, which the pen of inspiration has recorded. Wherever it is subsequently mentioned, it is spoken of, not as a new enactment, but as a primary and standing law of the divine administration.
But when did God institute the Holy Sabbath? Those who are in the habit of reading and understanding the Scriptures according to the common rules of interpretation, will doubtless marvel that such a question should ever be asked. "For can any thing," they will demand, "be more explicit, than the passage just quoted? Surely there is nothing ambiguous, either in the words themselves, or in their connexion with the preceding narrative. The plain account is, that when God had finished the great work of creation, he rested from it on the very next, or seventh day; and that then he blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it." Yes, we reply, this, according to common understanding, is just what the sacred penman asserts; nor do we believe that one man in a million, would think of putting any other construction upon the passage. Indeed, no one, so far as we know, ever denied this to be the most natural meaning.
But then, it has been strangely argued, that this cannot be the true meaning; and that the Sabbath would not have been given to our first parents in paradise, because, as the objectors allege, "neither the observance, nor even the existence of the insti
tution, is afterward once mentioned, or so much as hinted at by Moses, till the manna fell in the wilderness; including a period of about 2500 years. Many pious men, it is added, certainly lived within that period, who would have kept the Sabbath, had any such divine institution existed; and the fact would have been somewhere noticed by the sacred historian."
Now, however plausible or ingenious this reasoning may appear, at the first glance, it will not bear examination. For what though we are nowhere told, in so many words, that the patriarchs observed a weekly Sabbath? It is rendered highly probable that they did, independently of considerations hereafter to be mentioned, from the division of time into weeks, which is not obscurely hinted at in the history of that period. Thus, when the waters of the deluge had begun to subside, Noah sent out a dove which soon returned. At the end of seven days, he sent her out again; and at the end of seven days more, he sent her out a third time. Now why this steady preference for the number seven? Why did not the patriarch wait six days, or eight days, or any other number? Can it be supposed that his fixing upon seven, and steadily adhering to it, was purely accidental? How much more natural to conclude, that in obedience to the authority of God, as expressed in the passage already quoted, from the second chapter of Genesis, he observed every seventh day as a Sabbath.
A similar division of time, is incidentally mentioned in the twenty-ninth chapter of Genesis.
"Fulfil her week, and we will give thee this also. And Jacob did so, and fulfilled his week." Now the word week is every where used, except in the prophecy of Daniel, just as we use it. It never means either more, or less, than seven days, and one of the seven was in all other cases the Sabbath. It cannot be admitted, therefore, that the sacred records of 2500 years contain no allusion to this subject. But what if they had been entirely silent? It would not only be extremely illogical, to infer that the Sabbath was unknown and unregarded, considering how very brief the history of that period is; but the argument which is attempted to be drawn from the alleged silence of the sacred writer,, labors under this additional misfortune, that if it proves any thing, it proves too much. It equally proves, that the Sabbath was entirely unknown and unobserved, from the time of Joshua, till the reign of David; as no mention is made of it in the history of that long period. If mere silence is proof in one case, it is equally so in the other. But the truth is, that it proves nothing in either case. It will be admitted, that, beyond all question, the pious judges of Israel remembered the Sabbath day, to keep it holy," though the observance is not once mentioned; and so, beyond all doubt, the patriarchs kept it before them, though the fact is not expressly stated by Moses.
Equally fatal to this favorite argument of Dr. Paley, is the silence of the inspired volume, respecting the rite of circumcision, from the death of Moses, or a little after, till the days of Jeremiah;