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THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT.
EXODUS XX. 8, 9, 10, 11.
“Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour and do all thy work ; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any
work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man servant, nor thy maid servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates : For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day : wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”
In the preceding discourse were pointed out, the manner, in which the Sabbath is to be sanctified, and what acts are a breach of the law respecting this institution.It was then shown that it is our duty to rest from all secular business, and worldly recreations; and to spend the whole time in the public and private exercises of God's worship, except so much of it as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy And it was also shown how this commandment is broken ; viz. by the omission or careless performance of the duties required, by spending the day in idleness, by worldly thoughts and conversation, by following our worldly business, whether in public or secret, and by worldly recreations. It remains now to endeavour to enforce the observance of the Sabbath.
The reasons which will be urged are contained in the commandment itself in these words. “ Six days shalt thou labour and do all thy work ; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God-For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day; wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day.” Or as they are stated in our Catechism in answer to the 62d question.
“ What are the reasons annexed to the fourth commandment?
The reasons annexed to the fourth commandment are God's allowing us six days of the week for our own employment, his challenging a special propriety in the seventh, his own example, and his blessing the Sabbath day.
According to this answer, the reasons annexed to the fourth commandment to enforce obedience to it are four viz.
I. God's allowing us six days of the week for our own employments.
I1. His challenging a special propriety in the seventh, as peculiarly his own.
III. His own example.
To these reasons your attention is invited in the ensuing discourse.
1. The first reason why we should observe the Sabbath day is that God has allowed us six days of the week for our own employments. “Six days shalt thou labour and do all thy work.” God has an indubitable right to all our time, and therefore certainly has a right to dispose of it as he pleases. But he has given us a large portion, in which to pursue our worldly business, and has reserved a small portion, only the one seventh part, to be specially and exclusively devoted to his immediate service. He has therefore been very kind to us, and it is highly equitable that we should devote to him that small proportion which he has reserved for himself. And it is certainly very unreasonable, that where God, who has a right to all our time, has given us six days out of seven for our own employments, we should encroach upon the seventh, and take this also.
Il. The second reason given is God's challenging a special propriety in the seventh day as peculiarly his
“ The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God.” In these words God asserts his authority over us, and right to appoint a Sabbath, and lays a peculiar claim to this day as his property; and it is sacrilege or robbery of God, to devote this day to our own worldly purposes, or to spend it in a way different from what God has commanded us to do.
III. The duty of observing the Sabbath is enforced by the example of God. “ In six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea and all that in them is, and rested
the seventh day.” The ways of the Lord are perfect, and therefore his example, as far as it is imitable, ought to be followed by us ; and we ought to be diligent in our respective lawful callings six days of the week, and on the seventh we ought to rest from our worldly employments, and spend it in the duties of devotion.
IV. The last reason given for the observance of the Sabbath day is that God has blessed it. 6 Wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day.” By the Lord's blessing the Sabbath day, we are to understand, that he hath put his blessing upon it, and makes it a blessing especially to those who keep it aright. And if there is a blessing connected with the observance of this day, it is implied that a curse is connected with the breach or neglect of it.
It has been and still is a great blessing both in a temporal and spiritual respect ; and the breach of it has been and still is followed with present loss and eternal ruin.
That the Sabbath is a blessing appears from the declaration of our Saviour, Mark. ii. 27. 66 The Sabbath was made for man”—that is, it was made for the good of man.
The same appears from several texts of Scripture in which promises are made to the observance of this day. In Lev. xxvi. we read that the Lord having commanded the Israelites to keep his Sabbaths, made many precious promises to them in case of their obedience such as rain in due season, plenty in all their borders, victory over their enemies, peace, religious privileges, and the
presence and favour of God. We have also several promises both of a temporal and spiritual nature, made to obedience to this commandment, in the following text.Is. lvi. 4. 7. “ Thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs that keep my Sabbaths. Even unto them will I give in mine house, and within my walls, a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters : I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the Lord, to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the Sabbath from polluting itEven them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar.” Is. lviii. 13. 14. " If thou turn away thy foot from the
Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable ; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord ; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father.” And just before the Babylonish captivity, when the Jews had become exceedingly degenerate, the prophet Jeremiah, while he was denouncing the heavy judgments of God against them, was commissioned to say to them Jer. xvii. 24, 26. “ And it shall come to pass, if ye diligently hearken unto me saith Lord, to bring in no burden through the gates of this city on the Sabbath day, but hallow the Sabbath day, to do no work therein; then shall there enter into the gates of this city kings and princes sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots, and on horses, they and their princes, the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem ; and this city shall remain forever.” All these promises which have been quoted teach us that the Sabbath is a great blessing, and that in observing it, there is great reward.
The same is taught also by the threatenings denounced against the transgressors of this commandment. A. mong the Israelites the Lord directed that the Sabbathbreaker should be put to death. And we have an instance Numb. xv. 32. &c. where this law was by the express direction of God executed. In Lev. xxvi. the Lord threatened the Israelites, if they did not keep his Sabbath, with numerous and terrible judgments, such as sickness, drought, wild beasts, war, pestilence, and famine ; and if they would not reform under all these judgments, that then their cities should be laid wase, their sanctuaries and their land be dessolated, and they be scattered among the Heathen. And Jer. xvii. 27. he threatened them, “ if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the Sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched." These threatenings hold up a warning to Sabbath-breakers, and shew that they not only lose the blessing promised to those who observe this day; but also bring positive misery upon themselves. .
The advantages of the Sabbath, and that therefore it is a blessing may be proved by several other considerations. We shall consider its advantages to individuals, both in a temporal and spiritual respect, and then show that it is also a blessing to the community at large.
1. The institution of the Sabbath is a great blessing to individuals in a temporal respect. The constitution of man is such that a day of rest from bodily labour and employment is necessary to refresh and invigorate it ; and especially have servants who are doomed to constant labour a necessity of such a day of rest. And we find Deut. v. 15. this given as a reason for the observance of the Sabbath, “ that thy man-servant and thy maid-servant may rest as well as thou.” In this way the Sabbath, by that rest which it affords from bodily labour, promotes a man's temporal happiness ; and by guarding his health, and the vigour of his constitution is calculated eventually to advance his estate.
Again, that an observance of the Sabbath is calculated to advance a man's estate is proved from this consideration–Sabbath-breaking greatly tends to harden the heart and lessen and destroy the fear of God, and thus proves an inlet to many other vices which retard the acquisition of property, and oftentimes greatly injure it.Further, where the head of a family by his example, or connivance, or authority, causes those under his care to break the Sabbath, they will be much less likely to be faithful to his interest, than if they paid a conscientious regard to this day, and attended upon its instructions.For its instructions are calculated to repress vicious inclinations, and strengthen virtuous resolutions, and promote a conscientious regard to duty. And the servant who has no fear of God before his eyes, and who can without hesitation rob God, will not be as likely to be faithful to his master's interests as one who is actuated by regard to the authority of God. Thus the observance of the Sabbath will be likely to make those un der our care, or in our employ, more faithful to our interests and thus promote our temporal advantage.
In further confirmation of the position that a man's temporal interest is best promoted by an observance of the Sabbath, let us recur to facts. Go to our jails, and inquire into the history of those there confined for crimes,