Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

highly probable, if not absolutely certain, that Moses did not inform Them: for, we find, that the Elders, who would, I think, certainly have received this information first, were plainly ignorant of it. The people, therefore, seem to have supposed the ensuing day to be the Sabbath, of their own accord; and for this reason to have ventured to gather a double quantity of manna, from an apprehension, that the labour would be improper, and unlawful, on that day. Some of them, indeed, went out, from a spirit of rebellion and unbelief, and probably under the influence of an idle curiosity, to learn whether the manna would descend on that day, contrary to the prediction of Moses, or not. But this fact affects not the argument in hand.

Let me now ask, whether the first of these declarations of Moses, This is that, which the Lord hath said, To-morrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord, is the language of a man, speaking of a thing altogether new, and unheard of; of a thing, totally different from all other things, hitherto known in the world; or the language of a man referring to something already known, and speaking to persons, who, although acquainted with the Institution itself, had an imperfect knowledge of the proper day, on which it was to be holden; and were, therefore, uncertain with respect to this point ? Were two of us to appoint a future day of the month, (say the second of December) for the transaction of certain business ; a third, who was present, would naturally observe, if such was the fact, that the second of December will be the Sabbath. Or were we conversing upon the same subject, on the first of December, the same person would naturally say, 66 To-morrow is the Sabbath." These, you will observe, are the very words of Moses. Here we are unmindful, and through forgetfulness ignorant, that the Sabbath is to take place on that day. Yet we are perfectly acquainted with the Institution, generally; and that we are acquainted with it, this phraseology is direct proof : because it springs from these very circumstances; and would, in the case stated, be used by all , men.

But if the Institution was wholly unknown, would not the reply be made in terms equivalent to the following: “We cannot meet

morrow, or the second of December, for this business: because the Legislature has by law forbidden all the inhabitants to do business on that day; and has required them to assemble for the worship of God, and to abstain from every secular pursuit.” To this answer would naturally succeed inquiries concerning the fact; the time, and the end, of passing the law; the motives, which led to it; the terms, in which it was couched; its requisitions, and its penalties. No instance, it is presumed, can be found, in which the conversation concerning a new subject of this nature would be such, as is here recorded by Moses ; or in which it would not be substantially such, as I have recited. On the contrary, the

on the

now

conversation, in the case which I have supposed to be that of the Israelites, is always exactly that of Moses.

In this opinion I am established by the remarkable fact, that the Israelites make no inquiry concerning this supposed, novel Institution ; although so eminently important, and so plain an object of rational curiosity. The Elders themselves, notwithstanding their zeal against the supposed transgression of the people, ask no questions, and make no reply. If the Institution was new, and first made known to them; this conduct is unaccountable. But if they were acquainted with the Institution, and doubtful concerning the day, it was perfectly natural.

The reckoning of time, at this, as well as many preceding and succeeding periods, it is well known, was extremely lame and confused. The Israelites, with respect to this subject, laboured under peculiar disadvantages. They had been long in a state of servitude; and were of course ignorant, distressed, and naturally inattentive to this and other subjects of a similar nature. A reckoning would, indeed, be kept among them, however ignorant. But it must almost necessarily be imperfect, doubtful, and disputed. Different opinions concerning time would of course prevail.

Should it be said, that the causes which I have specified, would make them forget the Institution itself: I answer, that other nations, as will be seen hereafter, did not forget it ; but consecrated the seventh day to religious worship; although many, perhaps all, became ignorant of the day itself. We ourselves often forget the day of the month, and week ; while yet we are possessed of the most exact reckoning of time, and a perfect calendar; and are reminded of our time by so many books, papers, and other means.

Dr. Paley lays much stress on the words, contained in the third declaration of Moses, which I have specified: The Lord hath given you the Sabbath. In the 23d verse, when the Elders had reported to him the supposed transgression of their countrymen, in gathering a double portion of manna on the sixth day of the week, he answers : This is that which the Lord hath said ; To-morrow is the Rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord : that is, God declares to you, that the holy rest unto himself is to be holden on the morrow.

Bake that, which ye will bake, to-day; and seethe that, which ye will seethe ; and that, which remaineth over, lay up for you, to be kept until the morning. The next day he renewed the same monition; and informed them further, that there would be no manna on that day; nor on the seventh day, at any future period. They were, therefore, to gather it on six days of the week only; and on every sixth day to provide the necessary supply for the seventh.

Some of the people, bowever, went out to gather manna on that very day; but found none. Upon this, God says to Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments? See, for that the Lord

hath given you the Sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days. The words, the Lord hath given you the Sabbath, are perfectly explained by the original declaration of Moses on this subject, made the preceding day. To-morrow is the rest of the Holy Sabbath unto the Lord. This is the giving of the Sabbath, here referred to; and this, I Hatter myself, has been shown to be something, widely different from originally instituting the Sabbath.

The obvious explanation of these words, here given, equally explains a passage in Ezekiel xx. 12, and another in Nehemiah ix. 14, quoted by Dr. Paley for the same purpose. The former of these is, Moreover, also, I gave them my Sabbaths : the latter, Thou madest known unto them thy holy Sabbath. If the passage in Ezekiel refers to the Sabbath at all ; which may be doubted; it is merely a repetition of the words of Moses. If it refers to the various fasts and feasts of the Jews, frequently denominated sabbaths; it has no connexion with the subject. The latter of these passages accords more naturally, and obviously, with the account which has been here given, than with that of Dr. Paley. Neither of them, it is perfectly plain, furnishes the least additional support to his opinion.

Another argument for the same purpose is derived by this respectable writer from the following declaration, Ex. xxxi. 16, 17. It, that is, the Sabbath, is a sign between me and the children of Israel for eder.

The same thing is also mentioned by Ezekiel in nearly the same terms. Upon this Dr. Paley observes, “ Now it does not seem easy to understand how the Sabbath could be a sign between God and the people of Israel, unless the observance. of it was peculiar to that people, and designed to be so."

The only question of importance, here, is, whether the fact, tb.at the Sabbath is made a sign between God and Israel, made it cease to be a memorial of the display of the divine perfections, accomplished in the Creation. If not; then the Sabbath still remained at that time, and remains now, such a memorial. But, I presume, neither Dr. Paley himself, nor any other man, would say, that God, in making the Sabbath a sign between him and Israel, intended to release them from commemorating, on that day, his perfec. tions, thus displayed in the work of creation, and his own solemn commemoration of them, when he rested at the close of this work upon the seventh day. But if the Israelites were not released from this commemoration by the passage in question; the rest of mankind could be affected by it in no manner whatever.

The truth is, that the ordinance which made the Sabbath a sign to the Israelites was subsequent to the promulgation of the Decalogue ; and cannot affect that law, even remotely; as I shall soon demonstrate. In the same manner the Sabbath was made a memorial of the deliverance of the Israelites from the bondage of Egypt, and a type of the promised rest in Canaan. These VOL. III.

32

my

were all merely additional uses of the Sabbath, to which it was happily applied, because they perfectly harmonized with its original design.

In Deuteronomy vi. 8, Moses, after reciting the Decalogue, and the summary of it contained in the two great commands of the Mor. al law, says to Israel, Thou shalt bind them, for a sign, upon thine hand. A sign which the Israelites, by the command of God, were to bind upon their hands, was a sign between God and them in the same manner as was the Sabbath. Now I ask whether it would be proper to say, that“ it does not seem easy to understand how the decalogue, and the two great commands in which it is summed up, could be a sign between God and the people of Israel, unless the observance of them was peculiar to that people, and designed to be so."

What was intended by making the Sabbath a sign between God and Israel is declared by God himself in Ezekiel xx. 12; I gave them sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them; that they may know, that I am Jehovah, who sanctify them. It will not be denied, that the whole human race are equally interested with the Israelites in this knowledge. All that was peculiar to them was this : they alone, for many ages, had, and it was foreseen by God that they would have, the knowledge in question ; and would be the only medium of communicating it to other nations. The Sabbath, therefore, was so far peculiarly a sign to them, but is obviously in its nature, and necessarily, a sign also, in a general sense, of the same knowledge to every nation, afterwards acquainted with the Sabbath. From this very declaration in Ezekiel, in which the object of rendering the Sabbath a sign to the Israelites, is pointed out, it is clear that “the observance of it was not designed to be peculiar to that people,” unless the knowledge of Jehovah was also to be perpetually confined to them.

Dr. Paley further observes, “ If the sabbath be binding upon Christians; it must be binding as to the day, the duties, and the penalty : in none of which it is received."

It will be remembered, that the Sabbath, and the day on which it is kept, are separate parts of the Institution; so separate, that the Sabbath itself may be perpetual, and yet the day be changed, successively, through every part of the week. The Institution of the day I have already acknowledged to be no less obligatory, than that of the Sabbath itself; unless it can be fairly shown to have been changed by the same Authority. Whether this has, in fact, been shown in the preceding discourse, must be left for those who heard it, to determine.

With regard to the duties of the Sabbath, I shall only observe, that this point will be examined in a future discourse.

As to the penalty, it will be remembered, that it is not contained in the Decalogue, but is merely a part of the civil law, and internal police, of the Jewish nation. Still, it may be useful to try this

reasoning with other commands of the Decalogue. In the two first precepts, it is acknowledged, that we, as well as the Israelites, are forbidden to worship idols, or other Gods, beside Jehovah. Now it is well known that the Israelites, who disobeyed these commands, were by the law of Moses to be put to death. It is presumed, that Dr. Paley would not believe this penalty to be binding upon us; and that he would still acknowledge the commands themselves to be no less obligatory upon us, than upon them. It is presumed also, that he would acknowledge the fifth command to be equally binding upon all men. In Deut. xxi. 18–21, and in Prov. xxx. 17, it is required, that children, disobeying this command, shall be put to death. Would Dr. Paley acknowledge this penalty to be binding upon us ? Or would he deny our obligation to obey the command ?

II. It is asserted by this writer, that Genesis ii. 1—3, does not contain an account of the original Institution of the Sabbath.

This assertion he supports by the following reasons : “ that the observation of the Sabbath is not mentioned in the history of the world, before the call of Abraham : that it is not mentioned in the history of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; which, he says, is in many parts sufficiently circumstantial and domestic: that in Exodus xvi. no intimation is given, that the Sabbath, then appointed, was only the revival of an ancient Institution, which had been neglected or forgotten : that no such neglect is imputed to the inhabitants of the old world, or to any part of the family of Noah : and that there is no record of any permission to dispense with the Institution, during the Egyptian bondage, or on any other public emergency."

With regard to the last of these reasons, I answer only, that there is no record of any neglect of the Institution, either during the Egyptian bondage, or during any other public emergency During the Babylonish captivity, we have no record of any such permission, nor of any observance of the Sabbath. Yet, as Nehemiah and his companions plainly observed it after their return from that captivity, it is presumed, Dr. Paley will not deny, that it was observed by the Jewish nation during that whole period.

That no negligence of the Sabbath should be charged to the Antediluvians, to Noah, or to any others, in cases, where the Sabbath is not even mentioned, can occasion no surprise ; and it is presumed, can furnish no argument, relative to this or any other question. It deserves, however, to be remarked as an answer to every observation, which can be made of this nature, that the first censure for any impropriety in the observation of the Sabbath, uttered concerning the Israelites in the Scriptures, is found in the prophet Isaiah : about seven hundred and sixty years before Christ, and seven hundred and thirty-one years after the events recorded in Exodus xvi. The second is found in Ezekiel ; written about five hundred and ninety-three years before Christ, and eight hundred

« FöregåendeFortsätt »