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FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK.
243 Howbeit, when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth.” Thus favoured, the apostles asserted their divine commission. “ Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God."g
That the Scriptures lead us to believe that the Lord Jesus Christ, or his divinely inspired apostles, did make such alteration. The first day of the week was the day on which the Lord Jesus, after his resurrection, repeatedly appeared to his disciples."
The first day of the week was the day on which the gospel was first preached, with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, and on which several thousands were converted, and a wide foundation laid for the Christian church. “ And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance."i And the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. This fact is peculiarly remarkable. If the Most High had designed the seventh day to be continued as the day for public worship, can it with any reason be supposed, that the abundant effusion of the Holy Spirit, which qualifi the apostles to preach for the FIRST time what is strictly the gospel, should have been made on the first day! and that the first day of the week should have been the day honoured by the first preaching of the gospel, and by the conversion of thousands ? Did not this procedure of the Lord God mark out the first day of the week, as the day on which he designed the gospel of Jesus to be most extensively and successfully preached ?
The first day of the week was the day on which the disciples united in that most solemn act of worship, the supper of the Lord. “ And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we abode seven days. And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow, and continued his speech until midnight.”k The argument for the first day being the Lord's day, which is furnished in this verse, is peculiarly forcible, in consequence of its being
(f) John xvi. 12–14. (2) John xx. 19, 26.
(9) 1 Cor. iv, 1, 2. 2 Pet. iii. 2. (2) Acts ii. 1, 4. (k) Acts xx. 6, 7
244 expressly stated that the apostle and his companions abode seven days, or one week, at Troas. If the seventh day of the week, in which the apostle arrived at Troas, had been the day devoted to public worship, he was there to engage in its sacred exercises; but instead of the account stating that any thing of this kind took place on that day, it passes that day over in silence, and records, that on the first day of the following week the disciples met for that solemn act of worship, the Lord's supper, and that then the apostle preached unto them.
The first day of the week was the day on which the disciples were directed to make their charitable contributions for their suffering friends.1
There cannot be a reasonable doubt that the first day is the dạy distinguished by the appellation of the Lord's day, by the apostle John in the Revelations. “I was in the spirit on the Lord's day." The name applied to the day expresses its peculiar design. It is the Lord's day. Other days are allotted to mau for attention to the needful concerns of this transitory world; but this day is peculiarly the Lord's, a day to be devoted to his worship and glory. It may be said, indeed, that all days are his. They are in one sense; but so is all creation. The cattle on a thousand hills are his ; yet the Jewish husbandman was allowed to esteem his cattle his own; but if a part of his herd were presented as a sacrifice to God, that part, though in one sense the Lord's before, was now esteemed as set apart in a peculiar way for God. So with the Christian every day should be the Lord's; but while he claims one day as more peculiarly his own, it suggests that that day is to be set apart from common for sacred purposes, as the beast presented for sacrifice was no longer its former owner's, but the Lord's.
Though to look to ancient Christian writers, for arguments in support of institutions which the Scriptures do not mention, is to dishonour the word of God, and to open a wide door to superstition; yet it is not unpleasant to trace in the writings of the very early Christians, further accounts of institutions which the Scriptures do record. Justin Martyr, who wrote his Apology at hardly the distance of fifty years from the time of the apostle John, observes, “ And in every eucharis(1) 1 Cor. xvi. 2
(m) Rev. i. 10.
TO THE LORD'S DAY.
245 tical sacrifice we bless the Maker of all things, through his Son Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Spirit; and upon the day called Sunday, * all that live either in city or country meet together at the same place, where the writings of the apostles and prophets are read, as much as time will give leave; when the reader has done, the bishop makes a sermon, wherein he instructs the people, and animates them to the practice of such lovely precepts; at the conclusion of this discourse, we all rise up together and pray: and prayers being over, as I now said, there is bread, and wine, and water offered, and the bishop, as before, sends up prayers, and thanksgivings, with all the fervency he is able, and the people conclude all with the joyful acclamation of Amen : then the consecrated elements are distributed to, and partaken of, by all that are present, and sent to the absent by the hands of the deacons.
“ But the wealthy and the willing, for every one is at liberty, contribute as they think fitting; and this collection is deposited with the bishop, and out of this he relieves the orphan and the widow, and such as are reduced to want by sickness or any other cause, and such as are in bonds, and strangers that come from far ; and in a word, he is the guardian and almoner to all the indigent.
Upon Sunday we all assemble, that being the first day in which God set himself to work upon the dark void, in order to make the world, and in which Jesus Christ our Saviour rose again from the dead; for the day before Saturday he was crucified, and the day after, which is Sunday, he appeared to his apostles and disciples, and taught them what I have now proposed to your consideration.”
§ 4. With respect to the way of observing the sabbath, observe-it is to be set apart for God. It is the Lord's day, not yours. The day is the Lord's, not merely the morning, or the afternoon, or the evening, but the day. The command is not, Remember the sabbath morning to keep it holy, or the sabbath afternoon : but the sabbath day. And so we
* On the name Sunday the translator of Justin observes, “ It was called Sunday by Justin and Tertullian, because it happened upon that day of the week, which by the heathens was dedicated to the sun, and therefore as being best known to them by that name, the fathers commonly made use of it in their apologies to the heathen emperors; but the more proper and prevailing, name was Kupiakn, or the Lord's day, as it is called by St. John himself, Rev. i. 10." -Reeve's Apol. vol. i. p, 115, 118.
PROFANATIONS OF THE SABBATH. are informed of the early Christians, that they spent a great part of the day together engaged in those solemn exercises, which were ripening them for a sabbath above. The day should be begun with God, be carried on with God, and be ended with God. Private prayer, family devotion, self-examination, and meditation; reading the Scriptures, visiting the sick, public worship, and the religious instruction of the young, and, if a parent, of your own children, are the engagements that should occupy the sabbath. If at the head of a family, you are commanded by God to let your servants and your cattle rest ; and if you are employing these, you as much profane the sabbath as if employed yourself.
The ways in which this sacred day is profaned are innumerable. Some profane it by buying, selling, travelling, or amusements. To such the words apply,
“What evil thing is this ye do,
" Your souls to sin, the world, and hell." The sabbath is profaned in numberless instances by attending to household business, that should be done on Saturday or left till Monday.
The sabbath is profaned by bakers busy at their ovens, by farmers employing their servants in work not absolutely essential to the well-being
their cattle. The sabbath is profaned by reading improper books, not only books of a profligate tendency, but books not calculated to promote the power of vital piety, as works in science, in history, or on mere speculative subjects in theology.
In this county, and some other parts of England, the sabbath is profaned to a dreadful extent, by the wives, daughters, or servants of farmers, employed in making cheese. This is not a work of mercy, nor of necessity. All the arguments that can be offered for the practice, will resolve themselves into one-gain. And if this reason were sufficient for violating
the sabbath in this case, it would in a thousand others.
The sabbath is profaned in an awful degree by the indulgence of improper thoughts, and by conversation of a description unsuitable to the day. What has the Christian, who should be improving the sabbath, as a means of meetening the soul for heaven, to do on the Lord's day with politics?
PROFANATIONS OF THE SABBATH.
247 with the state of the nation ? with tittle-tattling about the affairs of families ? with the state of trade ? with fashions, with diversions ? Are these subjects for such a day, and for creatures who have a heaven to gain, a hell to escape, a God to glorify, an eternity before them, and but a few sabbaths to improve? Yet what more common! What else do many professors of religion on the Lord's day converse about ? Many hearers of the gospel scarcely leave the house of prayer, before they begin discoursing on these or other mere worldly subjects.
Å short and expressive account of the mode in which the sabbath should be spent, is furnished in the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah ; and an important promise connected with it : “ 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 : for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it."" Nothing merely of a ceremonial nature appears in this description, and though the latter part of the passage contained a promise more immediately applicable to Ísrael, yet the promise, “ Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord,” is so naturally connected with the solemn improvement of the Lord's day, that it may justly be viewed as made to all who pursue the practice previously required.
$ 5. Now allow me affectionately to urge upon you a devout, a strict improvement of this holy day. All that is dear to you as an immortal being, all that you are anxious to promote, if indeed a Christian, enforce such observance. this institution we owe far the greater part of the spiritual blessings which we enjoy; and, in a high sense, we owe them all. But for this day, we should neither have sought, nor secured, eternal life : for where no sabbath is, there is no religion. But for this day, earthly things would have engrossed all our thoughts. But for this day, the world, as a canker, would rust, corrupt, and consume all the disposition to piety, and all the hopes of heaven. The soul would be benumbed. Religion would die. God would be forgotten.
(n) Isa. lviii. 13, 14.