« PreviousContinue »
in times of antichriftian darkness, many would then call the Sabbath a delight, and be, in fome measure, reconciled to it; but, when they hear that the whole Sabbath is to be fpent in religious duties and exercises, they murmur, and fay, as thofe in Mal. i. 13. "What a weariness is it?"
It would be no grievance to many to fee that old abomination of the book of sports revived and authorised among us; I mean, that infamous declaration for liberty of sports and recreation on the Lord's day, published by authority in the year 1633, and appointed to be read from the pulpits; the prelates confenting to it, and perfecuting those minifters who refufed to read it. O what heinous Godprovoking wickedness was it, for civil and ecclefiaftic rulers, to unite in promoting the profanation of the Sabbath by fuch methods! As the heavy judgment of God followed them for fuch avowed profanation, so those in our age have reafon to fear his judgments, who continue to be of the fame profane difpofition, Oh, is it not evident that fports and paftimes do unfit the mind for fpiritual fervice, and take off mens thoughts from what is ferious and folemn? Do they not put the heart out of frame for attending on God, and for holding communion with him in holy duties and ordinances? This is thewed more fully in the following treatife.
Again, there are others who obferve this day no better than the beasts do: They only rest from their ordinary labour, and fpend the day in idlenefs and floth which is to keep the Sabbath of an ox or afs, not of a reasonable creature. To fanctify the Sabbath, it is not to keep it merely as a reft from our common employments, or keep it as an idle day but to keep it as a ho ly day, a day fet apart for God's glory, and for promoting our faivation. But, alas! fuch is the fpiritual floth and idleness of many poor careless fouls on this day, they labour as little for their fouls on it, as they do for their bodies; they fleep, loiter, ly at home, and feldom go to any worship at all; if they go out of doors, it is for their diverfion, to take a walk, to pay a vifit, or the like, but not to attend God's worship. Many, alas! will go a dozen of miles to a market for a little gain, that will not go one mile, nor a few steps to the church, to attend the gofpel-market for enriching their fouls. If the bell that calls them to the worship of God, did advertise them of a ftage play, or of fome idie paftime, perhaps they would VOL. IV.
be found there among the firft; but, for fpiritual work," they have an averfion to it.
Moreover, there are many who go to church and at tend ordinances this day, rather to pleafe a natural confcience, or fupport their reputation in the world, than to ferve God or lave their fouls. Or perhaps they go because it is the fafhion, or the way in which they have been brought up; but alas! leaving their hearts behind them, they prefent their bodies to God. and no more": And hence it is, that in the time of the most folemn worship, they have their eyes either wandering after vanity, or else shut with drowfinefs, and fleep; they find no delight in the Sabbath, taste no sweetness in ordinances, know nothing of communion with God in them: They underftand not the Pfalmift's language, "A day in God's courts is better than a thou fand any where elfe." No, this day is to them the longest and most wearifome day of all the week; the religious exercises of it are irkfome and burdenfome to them. It may be faid of them, as of Doeg the Ed mite, 1 Sam. xxi. 7. "He was that day detained before the Lord " They long to be releasedfrom the fervice of that day. and glad when it is over. Alas! the minds of many are fo fet upon the world, that they complain in their hearts of the length of this day, as the Ifraelitss of old, Amos viii. 5. "When will the new moon be gone, that we may fell corn; and the Sab bath, that we may fet forth wheat?" They count all thefe days loft days, that bring them in no worldly gain. Hence it was, that the Heathens (as Seneca tells us) counted the Jews a foolish people, because they lost a full seventh part of their lives, to wit, by obferving the Sabbath. But, ah! it is to be lamented, that not Heathens only, but also many profeft Chriftians, count the Sabbath a loft day: O what base ingratitude is this to God, for the invaluable privilege and bleffing of the Sabbath to the fouls of men!
Laftly, There are, befides thefe mentioned, fome prodigies of wickednefs in the world, perfons who profecute. their lewd and profane courfes with more vigour on this holy day than upon any other; and fo make this day of holy reft the devil's working day, and confume it wholly upon their lufts! O how daring an affront muft this be to a great a holy God, to make that a day to ferve the devil, a day to improve in vice and debauchery, which the Lord
hath instituted to be a day for his own worship, and for our improvement in piety and devotion!
It is for remedying thefe woeful abufes of the Sabbath that I have written the enfuing treatife; and, to make it more generally useful to the poor. I have fhortened this fourth edition of it. by leaving out the Help of Prayer which was fubjoined to the former, and poffibly may be afterwards published by itfelf. I have hear of the usefulness of this treatife to fome who have read it: O that God would blefs it to many more, and make it the means to preferve and promote the love and efteem of the Lord's day in the hearts of many! As ferious godliness never did, fo it never will thrive nor flourish in the world when or where the Lord's day is difregarded: Long experience confirms it, that the fin of Sabbath breaking is a woeful inlet to impiety and profaneness: They who once begin to make little difference betwixt the Lord's day and other and other days, will eafily be brought to make little dif ference betwixt the Lord's name and other names, the Lord's table and other tables, the Lord's book and other books: Whereas a confcientious regard to his holy day is a strong fence to religion, being a mighty aw-band upon the foul against the commiffion of fin, and the neglect of duty. The Lord's day is an unfpeakable bleffing to a loft world, and the sweetest day that ever dawned upon it; it ought to be the delight of our fouls, and rejoicing of our hearts. Every wife man, that know the value of this day, will have a peculiar efteem for it above all the days of the week, and will reckon every minute of it precious, and defire that none of it be mifpent. What Chrift faid to his difciples concerning the loaves and fifhes, he fays to us concerning his holy day. Gather up the fragments, "Gather up the fpare hours and minutes of it, count them as precious as the goldsmith doth the fmall filings of his gold, let nothing of Sabbatn-time be loft, improve it wholly for God and your fouls.
This treatife I recommend chiefly to families, because the duty of fanctifying the Sabbath doth nearly concern all families as fuch: For all governors of families are charged, by the fourth command, to fee that it be done in all their dwellings; and by the command, they are made refpui fible for their children, fervants, and for all
that lodge within their gates, that none of them be allowed to break the Sabbath. If any mafters of families be excited by this treatife to mind their proper duty, I have my reward; but let the glorious author of the Sabbath alone have the praise.
May all of us get grace to keep the Sabbath of our God, and chufe the things that please him, and take hold of his covenant, that fo we may be numbered among those whom he will bring to his holy mountain, and make joyful in his houfe of prayer!
Some Inftances of the great Regard which our Ancestors and Legiflators manifefted to the Lord's Day, and of the Laws and AƐts made in ancient Time for the ftrict Obfervation of it, with thofe of this Nation and Church which fill fand in Force; being fo many Teftimonies to the Marality of the Sabbath, and the divine Inflitution of the Lord's Day.
I SHALL not ftand here to notice the high regard which kings, prophets, and righteous men among the Jews bad for the Sabbath, recorded in the Old Testament; the paffages being obvious to thofe who are verfant in the holy feriptures, fundry of which are brought in, in the following treatise. Neither shall I ftand citing the teftimonies of learned and pious divines at home or abroad, for confirm. ing the doctrine of this treatife; feeing thefe are fo many as would fill a volume by themselves. I shall only mention fome of these of more public authority, and which may be of greater weight with the generality of readers.
The ancient Chriftians, who lived neareft the apoftles times, ftill spoke of the Lord's day with the highest vene ration and refpect; fuch as Ignatius, Juftin Martyr, Ters tullian, and others; who also give an account of the particular religious fervices performed by Chriftians on that day. It is obfervable, that the Chriftians then commonly called that day among themfelves, the first day of the week, and the Lord's day, as it is denominated in the New Teftament; likewife, they fometimes called it the eighth day, bécaufe it fucceeded the Jewish feventh day, and came to be celebrated it in the room of it, and seems to be pointed at by the eighth day mentioned by Ezek. xliii. 27. I grant that fome of the fathers, fuch as Justin and Ter tullian, in their apologies to the heathen emperors, called this day Sunday; the reafon whereof is plain, they were fpeaking to heathens, who always called this day by that name, and fo would not have known certainly what day they meant, if they had not called it Sunday; which name indeed was given it by the heathens, becaufe of their dedicating this day to the fun, which was the chief of the planetary gods worshipped by them. But now, when that reafon is ceafed, and Christians fpeak of this day among