of our population ever heard of any objections. Creation the fourth commandment-the exhortation of the prophets―the conduct and doctrine of our Saviour and his apostles-the practice of the whole Christian church -a sense of gratitude for the spiritual blessings conveyed by it-the obvious state and wants of man-the pledge and hope of an eternal Sabbath in heaven,-are plain, common-sense arguments to every pious mind, involving MATTERS OF FACT, which no plausible theories can overthrow.

But on further reflection, I conceived that a discussion of the main objections might not be unimportant in a day like the present. We live in a reading age. The temper of the times inclines rather to intellectual pride, than to the sober exercise of the understanding in the obedience of faith. Men catch at any thing, to escape from the sacred obligations of a day devoted to spiritual religion, and the care of the soul. The name of Paley, and his just reputation in matters of his own province, is seized with avidity. Some late publications have detailed his statements with unwonted levity, and yet confidence of manner. The deplorable ignorance of theology manifest in these publications, to all who are versed in the inspired Scriptures, and who submit really to their authority, forms no hindrance to the diffusion of the poison amongst the young and uninformed. Open infidelity, semi-scepticism, profaneness, worldly-mindedness, unconcern for the soul, and a readiness to follow what is new and daring, all lean the same way. It seemed to me, therefore, to be the duty of those who adhered to the doctrine of the Bible, and the universal faith of the church, to come forward and enter their protest against the gigantic evil. This I have endeavoured to do. I have inter

woven, however, with the argumentative sermons, practical exhortations; and have treated, in the last three discourses, the specific duties of the Christian Sabbath at length.

With regard to the authors to whom I have been indebted for aid, most of them are referred to, as I have had occasion to cite their authority. But the fact is, that the whole church of Christ, in the proper sense of that term, has maintained this fundamental point, in every age. Subordinate matters have, indeed, been disputed : but the great truth that a day of religious exercise and holy rest, after six days' work, is of divine authority and perpetual obligation upon man, has been acknowledged through all the periods of the Christian church, and in all the subdivisions of it.

The best single sermons I have met with, in a practical point of view, are those of Dean Milner, Archdeacon Pott, and Dr. Chalmers-the last is in the most powerful and awakening manner of its author, and of itself settles the question. Some essays of the late Mr. Hey of Leeds seem to me the clearest upon the controversy-he confutes Paley in a masterly and conclusive style. The most elaborate work on the whole argument, as handled in his day, is perhaps, the Exercitations of Dr. John Owen. The change from the last to the first day of the week is thoroughly defended, in his lucid and convincing way, by J. Edwards-to whom J. Mede's sermon should, by all means, be adjoined. Bishop Andrews on the Fourth Commandment, is an admirable work-full of learning, the soundest judgment, and rich knowledge of the materials of his argument. Mr. Holden has, in his recent volume, arranged most of the reasonings and conclusions of preceding writers: he gives a list of nearly one hundred and fifty, and has furnished a valuable compendium. The chief authors

of any popularity, that have fallen in my way, who impugn the divine authority of the Lord's day, are Bishop J.Taylor —whose mistakes are not confined to this topic, mighty and various as were his powers, and sound in many views his theology-Dr. Ogden and Dr. Paley, whose names will not weigh greatly with those who are acquainted with many other of their opinions. The primary error of supposing the narrative in Genesis to be by prolepsis or anticipation, is maintained by Archbishop Bramhall-who, in part, redeems the fault, by a bold and masterly defence of the divine authority of the Christian Sabbath. Baxter confines himself to the argument from the example of our Lord and the inspired authority of the apostles, which he enforces in one of his very best treatises-omitting, but in no way questioning, the proofs from the Old Testament. The judicious Hooker, Bishop Hall, Archbishops Usher and Sharpe, Bishops Stillingfleet and Pearson, Archbishop Secker and others, defend the generally received doctrine, in their own profound and impressive manner, though some of them treat it only incidentally. The learned Bishop Horsley has three noble sermons on the subject, in which he powerfully maintains the same doctrine. I think he errs in considering the Sabbath an appointment more of a positive than moral character. Indeed, if I am not deceived in my judgment, this error our writers, to the treatises of J. They too much concede, that the fourth commandment is of a positive nature-not resting on the moral nature of man and the fitness of things, but reposing merely, as other external or ceremonial observances, on the will of God. That there is, as I have said, something positive in it, may be granted-from the nature of the case it could

pervades almost all Edwards and Hey.

not well be otherwise; but the positive part is as little as possible-so little, that the grand duty of devoting some portion of time to the immediate service of God is its main purport-the commandment is moral per se— arises from the fitness of things, and rests, like the other precepts, on the primary relation in which man stands to his Creator. The opinion of the reformers is uniformly in favour of the divine obligation of the Lord's dayCranmer, Latimer, Luther, Melancthon, Calvin, Beza, maintain it with one voice, though sometimes, especially at the early period of the reformation, they support certain festival days in common with it.

To refer to the authors where references to the question, or brief discussions occur, would be endless. Lightfoot, Watts, Doddridge, Walker of Truro, Scott, and most practical writers, have something valuable. I have found interesting papers in the 8th volume of the British Review, in the Encyclopædia Britannica, and the Eclectic Review of the last year. The Bishop of Down and Connor, Dr. Mant, has also recently published an excellent pamphlet on the subject, chiefly in refutation of the idea of an anticipated narrative, which he has treated with more force of argument than Hey or Dr. Dwight. This last name deserves especial notice-Dr. Dwight, as well as his illustrious countryman, Edwards, has honoured the American School of Theology-rapidly increasing in importance with a most convincing and able discussion of the question in all its branches, both theoretical and practical: this perhaps forms the best of our modern treatises; though it would be unjust to Dr. Humphrey of Amherst College, to withhold a tribute of applause from his excellent Essays. But I will not proceed. I have said so much, to show that I have not been inat

tentive to the opinions of others—and likewise to suggest a course of reading to any who may have time for such an inquiry.

The points upon which I hope I may have cast some new light, are-The reasons for believing the Mosaic narrative of the institution of the Sabbath in Paradise, to be real-The direct moral character of the fourth commandment-The importance and dignity given to the Sabbath even during the vigour of the Mosaic economy-The real bearing of our Lord's conduct and doctrine-And the way in which the change of the day was introduced by Christ and his apostles.

And this leads me to notice THE AUTHORITY OF REVEALED TRUTH as connected with this subject, and forming its only true support. For it is on this footing I place the doctrine of the Lord's day-it is a part of God's merciful revelation of his will to man. I make no compromise in the course of these sermons. I trust I am cautious on topics not essential to the great truth itself: but on the main duty I dare not, cannot, do not hesitate to speak my mind. I know it is the opinion of many excellent persons, that whilst we yield not the question of the divine obligation in point of argument, we may yet better urge its practical duties on the ground of expediency. My own opinion is, that we can have no hope of success, unless we place the duty on its only firm footing, the EXPRESS COMMAND OF ALMIGHTY GOD. Expediency may obtain a decent compliance with custom, but will never warm the heart. Expediency may carry a man once to church, but it will not carry him there twice; it will not regulate his family duties; it will not suppress the Sunday recreations, the

« VorigeDoorgaan »