« ПредишнаНапред »
eminently happy. The Sabbath, and the things immediately connected with it, are the amount of them all.
Among these ends let me remark, since God himself bas been pleased to mention it, and to mention it in the fourth command of the Decalogue; the provision which this holy day furnishes of a season of rest to labouring animals.
A righteous man regards the life of his beast,' says the wisest of all men, Prov. x. 12. In this fact we behold a strong resemblance of a righteous man to his Creator. The goodness of this glorious Being is forcibly displayed in the provision which he has made for the rest and comfort of labouring animals in the moral law. In the hands even of prudent and humane masters, it is clearly seen, that such animals are sufficiently employed when they labour six days of the week, and are released to rest and refreshment on the seventh. God, who perfectly knew what their strength was able to bear, and who perfectly foresaw how greatly they would be oppressed by avarice and cruelty, was pleased, in this solemn manner, and at this early period, to provide for their relief, by securing to them the quiet and restoration of one day in seven. In this merciful provision the divine tenderness is displayed in a most amiable and edifying manner. The bumble character of even these beings did not place them below the compassionate care of God. Elsewhere he has commanded us to supply them with food : here he has commanded us to furnish them with rest. In both cases he has taught us, that the Lord is good' and kind to all ;' and that his tender mercies are over all the works of his hands. This indulgence to animals is enjoined with infinite authority; and secured by the same sanction which enforces justice and beneficence towards mankind. By bringing up this subject also in form, thus solemnly, regularly, and often, he has formed our regard towards these oreatures into a habit ; and prevented us from the possibility of being inattentive to this duty.
In the same manner are rest and refreshment secured to mankind. Children and servants particularly are by this institution preserved from the oppression of severe masters, and the unfeeling demands of unnatural parents. Every industrio'is man will tell
you, from his own experience, that the season of labour is sufficiently long, and this return of rest absolutely necessary for the preservation of health, and strength, and life; that greater toil would fatigue the bodily powers into decay; and that the weekly cessation from business is not more frequent than our worldly interests clearly demand. Hence, unless when under the dominion of avarice, he will consider the Sabbath as a benevolent provision for his true worldly interest. What will thus be approved by the man who labours voluntarily and for himself, cannot fail to be cordially welcomed by him who is compelled, through indigence, to toil for others; the servant drudging for a hard master, and the child trembling under the rod of an unfeeling parent.
Nor is the usefulness of the Sabbath less visible in the promotion of neatness and cleanliness, especially among the inferior classes of mankind. No person is willing to appear
in a religious assembly, unless cleanly and decently dressed; so true is this, that probably in all countries where the Sabbath is observed every one, not prevented by absolute poverty, has what is proverbially called a Sunday suit of clothes. The spirit of cleanliness and decency awakened by the return of this holy day, is always thus awakened. Excited every week, it is of course excited through the week, becomes an immoveable habit, extends its influence through all the concerns of buman life, and in the end constitutes the standing character. Individuals are thus prevented from becoming brutes in their appearance; and a nation is fashioned into an entire and delightful contrast to the native dirt and slovenliness of man, always exbibited in so bumiliating a manner by savages. The influence of this single fact on the comfort of human life cannot be calculated.
Inseparably connected with this article, is the softness and civility of manners to which the Sabbath, more than any thing else, allures mankind. Every thing pertaining to the Sabbath generates, of course, this desirable conduct. Tha neatness of dress and the decency of appearance, just mentioned, strongly persuade to it. A person better dressed than in the ordinary manner, will regularly behave with more than ordinary decency, unless habitually thus dressed. The association in our thoughts between the dress and the manners (both of which are intended to make us appear with advantage) is instinctive, and inseparable. Every thing connected with the Sabbath also inspires such views and affections as contribute to the manners in question. We are, of course, united to a respectable assembly; on a sacred day, in a sacred place, upon a most affecting occasion, and for ends the most solemn and important in the universe. We are immediately before God, and are employed in his worship; in confessing our sins, in seeking the forgiveness of them, and in labouring to obtain an interest in his favour. We cannot here fail to feel oựr needy, frail, guilty, dependent character; to see how little and insiguificant we are; how unbecoming are pride, unkindness, and insolence; how becoming humility, modesty, condescension, and gentleness; how amiable, in the sight of God, is 'the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit;' and how necessary, for every purpose for which we have assembled, the establishment of these things in our hearts. From these considerations must spring of course, in every man who is not void of all propensity to that which is good, both gentleness of mind, and sweetness of manners.
I have already glanced at the tendency of the Sabbath to abase our pride, and to remove our native ruggedness of disposition. This part of the subject deserves a farther consideration. One of the chief deformities of character in the rich, the learned, and the great, is that haughtiness of miud wbich, on account of their peculiar advantages, they are ever ready to feel; and one of the chief causes of suffering to the poor, the ignorant, and the powerless, is that insolence of behaviour, which from this haughtiness they are compelled to endure. But when the superior classes of mankind assemble in the house of God, they sink at once, even in their own eyes,
if they open them, down to the same level with their fellow
In the presence of him, before whom all nations are as nothing,' the glare of splendour, the pride of wealth, the self-sufficiency of learning, and the loftiness of power, are annihilated in a moment. Those who a little while before felt themselves to be rich, and wise, and great, find that they are poor, ignorant, little, guilty, odious to God, exposed to his wrath, and hopeless, except in the mere character of suppliants for mercy.
When a great man in the sanctuary looks around him on a mixed assembly of bis equals and inferiors, he will be compelled often to feel, and secretly to confess, that his poor neighbour, whom perhaps he would have disdained,' on other
occasions,' to set with the dogs of his flock,' is, in all probability, more excellent, more wise, more lovely, and in overy sense greater, in the sight of the Highest,' than himself. Nothing can humble pride more than the elevation above itself of those whom it despises. This elevation of the humble, this useful depression of the haughty, is nowhere more perfect than in the house of God.
Here, as will be realized from what has been already said, the poor and lowly rise of course above their usual level. • The rich and the poor,' says Solomon, ' meet together; the Lord is the maker of them all. In the house of God they
meet together' in a manner wholly peculiar, are placed exactly on the same level, and are more strongly than anywhere else reminded that the Lord is the maker of them all.' Here they assemble as creatures of the same God merely. Here all their earthly distinctions vanish ; and a new distinction, formed only of sin and holiness, commences; which, unless terminated in the present world, will endure and widen for ever. Here then the poor man rises to his proper independence and distinction ; forgets the depression of his circumstances; and, without the aid of pride, assumes an elevation of character not less necessary to him for the faithful discharge of his duty, than the humility of the Gospel to the lofty minded. Thus the Sabbath, like its Author, ‘putteth down the mighty from their seats,' and ' exalteth them of low degree.' How perfect in this important particular is an institution, which produces these opposite and indispensable beDefits in those whose situation so plainly and loudly demands them!
Another immense benefit of the Sabbath is the instruction which it furnishes in morals and religion.
The value of knowledge is admitted by all civilized men. It will usually, and ought ever to be admitted also, that moral and religious knowledge is of far more value than any other. It is more necessary, more practical, more useful, more enlarging to the mind, more refined, and more exalted. The least acquaintance with the subject will place this assertion beyond a doubt.
As the knowledge itself is more valuable, so the Sabbath furnishes means for obtaining it, which are far eheaper, and far more efficacious, than were ever furnished by any other
institution. Here, on a day devoted to no employment but the gaining of this knowledge, and the performance of those religious duties which unite with it in perfect harmony; in a place convenient and sacred; on an occasion infinitely important; and with the strong power of sympathy to aid and impress ; a thousand persons are taught the best of all knowledge; the most useful to themselves, and the most beneficial to mankind; for a less sum than must be expended by a twentieth part of their number, in order to obtain the same instruction in any other science. No device of the heathen philosophers, or of modern infidels, greatly as they have boasted of their wisdom, can be compared, as to its usefulness, with this. The Sabbath particularly is the only mean ever devised of communicating important instruction to the great mass of mankind.
Here all may assemble, all may learn, from the prince to the beggar, from the man of grey hairs to the infant of days. Had the Sabbath been a device of man, men would be able to boast of immensely greater ingenuity and wisdom than they have hitherto displayed; and would be justly pronounced to have formed a more successful and more patriotic institution for the benefit of mankind, than any which is found on the page of history. Here a real and glorious equality of privileges is established, not only without confusion and discord, but with strong enforcements of peace and good order. In these great blessings all are here alike interested, and all partake alike.
To the blessings of peace and good order universally the Sabbath contributes also in a pre-eminent degree. Moral and religious knowledge is the knowledge of our duty, and of the rewards which God will give to such as perform it. To this knowledge, the Sabbath adds the highest motives to the performance which are found in the universe. All good, internal and external, in time and eternity, allures to it, as a direct and certain reward. All evil compels to it as a threatening, and deters from the omission as a punishment inevitable and endless. This knowledge, and these motives, the Sabbath furnishes, with a solemnity and force altogether unrivalled. From the house of God they are carried with us into every concern of life, where duty is to be performed ; and duty is to be performed in every concern. With the influence of the