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THIRD SUNDAY AFTER EASTER.
THE WAY TO BE WELL.
DEUTERoNoMy v. 29.
O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever /
THIS is God’s own wish for His people Israel—that there were such an heart in them, as would lead them to fear Him, and keep His commandments always, for their own good, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever.
God had done His part that it might be well with them. He had given them rules to go by, the law of His commandments, which if they followed they would surely prosper. God had given them this law, in a very solemn awful manner, speaking to them in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud and of thick darkness with a great voice. He had moreover written that law by Moses’ hand (Exod. xxxiv. 27, 28) on two tables of stone, that the record of it might remain—that they might have it by them for all time, a word of God very nigh unto them, declaring how they ought to walk
and please Him, a light to lighten their path, and to guide their feet into the way of peace.
It was not then for want of knowing what was right and good, that God's people of old fell into trouble.They might have prospered, it might have been well with them, and with their children afterwards, had they observed to do as the Lord commanded them, and had not turned aside to the right hand or to the left.
God, we have said, had marked out their way, and made it plain to them.-If they walked not in that way, if they chose another way of their own, and so fell into all sorts of evil and misery, the fault was with themselves. They knew the right, but they preferred the wrong. They knew what course of life would make them happy, and prolong their days, and ensure the continuance of God's blessings—but they wilfully left that course.— They forgot the covenant of God and would not walk in His ways. They went after other gods—gods of wood and stonegods of lust and evil desire which they set up for themselves, each in his own heart. They served these false gods, and neglected the only true God—and the sure consequence ensued. It ceased to be well with them, and with their children. God withdrew His favours They were left to follow their own fancies——to eat the fruit of their own sowing-to be punished with the scourge of their own evil inventions.
We have in the Bible, in the Scriptures of the Old Testament, the history of this people, for our example.All that happened unto Israel, happened for our warning: Would that we profited more by it! Would that we remembered that God through their sufferings, their sorrows, their sins, their blindness, is teaching us; shewing us in them, that it is indeed an evil and bitter thing to turn away from the holy commandments which He has given us !
I say given us. For those ten commandments are as much God's law to us as they were to the Jews. Not like the ceremonial law, which is no longer obligatory, these commandments of the two tables are binding for ever. No Christian man is free from these precepts. They are the source of all the laws which we make for ourselves. They contain the eternal principles of right and wrong: out of them we deduce the whole duty of man.
We shew our sense of the importance of this holy law, by the care we take to teach it. We write it up in our Churches—we read it aloud every Sunday—we see that our children learn it so soon as they are able to learn anything—together with the Lord's Prayer, and the Apostles Creed, it constitutes the chief sum of what a Christian ought to know and believe to his soul's health. Even when from circumstances, our youths are hindered in obtaining other knowledge, we generally find that they know these Ten Commandments—commandments, which God spake of old for our learning, that it might be well with us, and with our children for ever!
Now of these great commandments the fourth is the one that I wish to speak of more particularly this morning—the last of the first table—the commandment which orders us to keep the Sabbath day to sanctify it.
Would brethren, that what I am about to say, may lead some of you to alter your practice with regard to the Sabbath! Would that you may be induced to look at your conduct on this day not only as it may affect yourselves, but as it bears upon and affects others ! Would that, at least in some of your hearts, a resolution may now be formed, that you will not any more put a stumbling block in your brother's path, by your way of dealing with this holy appointment of God-His command to keep holy the Sabbath day!
Now, I shall not go into a history of the Sabbath ; nor discuss the question of the change of day from the seventh to the first day of the week. I have already done this on a former occasion. Neither shall I think it necessary to deal at any length with the objections sometimes raised, about the Sabbath being a Jewish ordinance
-fitted to the wants of a peculiar people, at a peculiar time, but not fitted to our wants nor needed in our time.
I will assume that we are all here agreed that the commandment appointing the Sabbath is binding upon us—that it is an ordinance of God made for man as he is man—for Gentile as well as for Jew—for European as well as for Asiatic.
For, brethren, we must not pick and choose among God's commandments. If the law is wise and good in one part, so also is it in another. If the precepts—Thou shalt have none other God but Me.- Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image. - Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.—Honour thy father and thy mother—are bowed to, and acknowledged at once, as precepts from God, given us for our good—what right have we to start aside, and be offended, when the same law says in another partRemember thou keep holy the Sabbath day. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all that thou hast to do; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God?
But though we be all agreed about the authority of the Fourth Commandment, when we come to look at our practice, how sadly have we transgressed, and do transgress it !
The neglect of Sunday is, I fear, a growing evil in the land. Amongst ourselves in this parish, it is an evil of long standing, an evil inherited by many from their parents.
In other parts of the country more reverence is as yet paid to this holy day. I talked with a man the other day who was born and bred at a distance. He was an old man; and as often happens with the old, he praised the days gone by as better than the present days. “Every thing seemed changed,” he said, " for the worse. Among the rest, Sunday was different. It was not observed as it used to be. He had seen men digging in their gardens and doing things on the Sabbath down here, which he had never seen done when he was a boy, in his own country.”
I felt his words to be a reproach. Sunday is different to what it used to be. It is much less strictly, much less religiously observed than it was by our forefathers. I greatly fear this change is for the worse. I greatly fear that if we go on, as at present, taking down first one and then another barrier, which used to fence in the Sunday, as sacred and separate, from the other days of the week, we shall end by making it a common day like the rest-a day when not no work, but all work may