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1. The Sabbath is broken, by omitting to perform the duties required. Wherever a duty is commanded, the omission of it is sin. Hence, they who neglect to attend upon public worship, except when necessarily prevented; and they who omit family and private devotion on this day are transgressors of the law respecting the Sabbath.
2. They who externally engage in the duties of the Sabbath but perform them in a careless manner, without a devotional frame of mind, are also transgressors of the fourth commandment. For, “ God is a Spirit ; and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit andin truth." John iv. 24. And the Jews of old were severely reproyed, and threatened, because they drew near to the Lord with their mouth and honoured him with their lips, while their hearts were removed far from him. Is. xxix. 13.
3. The Sabbath is profaned by spending the day in idleness and sloth. The Sabbath is a day of rest; but it is a holy rest. It is a day of rest from labour ; but at the same time a resting in God, or in the performance of those duties of devotion, which are a delightful rest to the holy soul. The word Sabbath signifies rest. And we are told, " there remaineth a rest (or Sabbath) to the people of God,” Heb. iv. 9. This rest or Sabbath remaineth in heaven, which will be an eternal rest, or continual Sabbath. But the rest of heaven will not be enjoyed in idleness or sloth. On the contrary the saints there will continually be most actively engaged in the service of God; and will not cease day nor night, praising and serving him. The Sabbath here below is a type of the heavenly rest, and therefore is not to be spent in idleness and sloth. But, alas ! it is too often thus spent. Many make it a point to indulge themselves in sleeping much longer on this holy morning, than on any other. This practice is certainly a breach of this commandment, and shows forcibly, where the hearts of such persons are. When they are to engage in the business of the world, they can be up betimes; but when they are called especially to engage in holy exercises, and this too but one day in seven, they will suffer a considerable portion of this small proportion of time to pass away, before they rise from their beds. And
And many of such persons, after they have risen, spend the greater part of the remainder of the day in idleness and sloth ; and the Sabbath is to them a weariness,
saying with some of old, “ what a weariness is it?” Mal. i. 13. “ When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the Sabbath, that we may set forth wheat?" Am. viii. 5. How can such persons reasonably expect to be admitted into the holy and active rest, which remaineth for the people of God in heaven? and how would they be happy there, where the Sabbath will never end ?
4. The Sabbath is broken by an indulgence in worldly thought and worldly conversation on this day. The law of God is spiritual and extends to the thoughts of the heart as well as to the external actions; and what ever would be wrong if it were acted out, is also wrong in thought, and that it is wrong to indulge ourselves in worldly conversation on the Sabbath, is evident from Is. lviii. 13. where speaking our own words on this day is condemned. Alas! how often do even professing christians transgress by indulging themselves in worldly conversation on this day.
5. The Sabbath is grossly violated by following worldly business on this day. Worldly labour is expressly prohibited in the commandment itself. 66 The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God, in it thou shalt not do any work." The same is taught in other passages of Scripture in which the pursuit of worldly business is condemned ; as in Neh. xiii. 15. “ In those days saw I in Judah some treading wine presses on the Sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day: and I testified against them in the day wherein they sold victuals. There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the Sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem. Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, what evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the Mabbath day? Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel luy profaning the Sabbath.” So also Jer xvi. 21, 22 - Thus saith the Lord, take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the Sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem ; neither carry forth a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath day, neither do ye any work ; but hallow ye the Sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers.” Hence it is evident that any kind of worldly employment, except works of necessity and mercy, is a profanation of the Sabbath.
Alas ! in this way, this day is doubtless much profaned. Some on this day especially in a busy season, publicly pursue their worldly occupations ; and others do it more privately. Travelling on business, where necessity does not imperiously compel, sailing of vessels, except over public ferries when cases of necessary travelling occur, and on open seas, the running of stages, driving market wagons, taking droves of cattle to market, working in factories of different kinds, selling and buying fish, meat, vegetables, or any thing else, preparing meat for the Monday market, posting books, writing letters of business, planning and arranging business to be executed on other days of the week-all these practices are flagrant breaches of the fourth commandment. A worldly spirit, disregarding the authority of God, may form excuses to justify these practices; but they are, nevertheless contrary to both the spirit and the letter of the commandment; and are in the sight of God profanations of the Sabbath, and provoke his wrath upon those who are guilty of them.
6. The Sabbath is violated by worldly recreations, even those which are lawful on other days. Such are the too common practices of walking and riding out for recreation, giving and receiving visits, and the like. That such practices are contrary to the spirit of the fourth commandment, the sincere, and spiritual christian need scarcely be told. Fashionable and worldly professors of religion, who while they profess to believe the Scriptures, in fact are either strangers to them, or else explain away their strict and spiritual import, and are expecting heaven in some other way than the word of God warrants, may plead for such recreations as innocent; but the word of God condemns them and spiritual christians will disapprove of them. The commandment is, “ remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy." We certainly do not keep the day holy, when we ride or walk for our amusement or recreation; or when we visit and engage in light or worldly conversation. And the following text Is. Lviii. 13. is pointedly against such practices, “ If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasurc 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.” Here finding our own pleasure on the Sabbath day is condemned ; and therefore riding and walking out for pleasure, and paying social visits. And if any plead for these things, they act contrary to the word of God. Some, thoughtless and gay, impatient of the restraints of the Sabbath, and bent on pleasure, may disregard these admonitions, and determine to pursue their worldly pleasures on the Lord's day. To such I would cite the words of the wisest of men, and spoken under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. “ Rejoice O young man in thy youth, and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes; but know thou that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.” Eccl. xi 9. You will feel differently when death, which you now forget, summons you to appear at the bar of God, and when you come to stand before that God on whose authority you now trample, and whose commandments you refuse to obey.
We have now taken a cursory view of the duties required, and the sins forbidden in the fourth commandment. Before we conclude the subject, it will be important to remark, that it is the duty of heads of families, to see that the Sabbath is thus observed, externally, by all under their care. This is clearly evident from the words of the commandment itself, “ thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man servant, nor thy maid servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates.” Hence it is clearly the duty of heads of families to take care that their children and servants, and all under their charge, externally observe the Sabbath day. And they ought to enforce its observance upon them by their precepts, their example, and their authority. This is a duty, which we have reason to fear is frequently neglected, and that much guilt is contracted in this way. Are there not some, who although they do not engage themselves, in secular business on the Sabbath day, yet permit or require those who belong to them, or who are in their employ to labour on this day? The masters or the employers, are in this case chargeable with the sin of Sabbath breaking, as well as those who labour for them. -Yea, while the latter are by no means excusable, the former are the principals in the sin, and have a great weight of guilt resting upon their souls ; for they not only ruin their own souls, but by their advice, or their authoria ty, and the temptation of gain which they hold out, are accessory to the eternal ruin of the souls of others. Againg are their not many, who suffer their children and servants and others under their care, to take their own pleasure on the Sabbath day ? and stroll about the streets, and fields, or go abroad on parties of pleasure, and oftentimes engage in conduct which would be wicked and disgraceful on any day. Such heads of families are partakers in these sins of those under their care ; and are with them chargeable with great guilt in the sight of God.
In the conclusion of this discourse, be exhorted, my hearers, to compare yourselves with the law of God which we have been considering. Doubtless on the comparison, we will all have reason to say, we have come short of our duty, and have transgressed. And perhaps some of you will be compelled to acknowledge, at the bar of your consciences that you have often been guilty of those more flagrant, and gross violations which have been pointed out. By the law is the knowledge of sin. Let us in the glass of the law behold our sins, and be convinced of them ; let a sense of our sins drive us to Christ for pardon; and let us be more careful in future to remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Many and weighty motives urge to a strict observance of this commandment. Such as the goodness of God in allowing us such a large portion of time for our own employments; his claiming the Sabbath as his own, and enforcing our observance of it by his authority ; his own example; the blessing he has put upon it, making it a blessing to nations, and to individuals, both in a temporal and spiritual respect, when it is duly observed ; and the civil consequences, of transgressing this commandment, both to individuals and the community. But these reasons shall be the subject of another discourse.