Billeder på siden

1. On the very day of the resurrection of Christ, the disciples aere assembled, probably for worship, with the doors shut for fear of the Jews: This was the first day of the week, and Jesus came and stood in the midst of them; John xx. 19. and he propounced his peace uponi them, convinced them of his resurrection, repeated bis commission to them, breathed on them, and said, receive ye the Holy Ghost; and as he took all occasions to instruct them, so no doubt he gave them larger instructions and exhortations about the things which concerned his kingdom and gospel on this first christian sabbath, than the short history of the evangelists could well repeat; Jolin xx. 10——23. As soon as the Lord rose from the dearl, le became their preacher on this glorious day, and blessed the whole assembly.

2. The very next first day of tire week, that is, after eight days inclusively, the disciples were met together again and Thomas was with them, when Jesus appeared to them, gave them farther proofs of his resurrection, with suitable remarks on the unbelief of Thomas. And doubtless, he spake many other words to them, as well as wrought many other signs in their presence, after his resurrection, as in John XX. 30.

3. The apostles and other brethren were met together on the day of Pentecost in one place, when they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with longues as the Spirit ĝare them utterance; Acts ii. 1-4, Now by an easy computation of Pentecost, which is seven weeks, or fifty days from the passover, it is justly supposed by learned men, that this also was the first day of the week, wlien the Spirit fell on the disciples, and the gospel was preached to great multitudes, and three thousand souls were converted to the faith, as it is recorded in Acts ii. 14, 41. Blessed success of the word preached on that same first day of the week when the Spirit was given ! These actions and blessings seem to prepare the way for the apostolic appointment of the first day of the week, though it was not then publicly appointed.

4. We are informed also, that St. Paul observed this day; Acts xx. 7. Upon the first day of the week, when the disciples rame together at Troas to break bread, Paul preached to them. This coming together on the first day must probably be an apostolic appointment, and is recorded as a customary practice. It is granted indeed, that the apostle went often to the synagogues and places of Worship on the Jewish sabbatli, to teach the people the gospel, because that was the chief opportunity that he could have of addressing a great many persons at once, and of giving particular instructions to the Jews, his kinsmen after the flesh; but wlien christians who were not Jews, nor judaizing, came to gether to worship, it was usnally, if not always on the first day of the week, so far as appears in scripture. In this and the following particular we justly suppose the Greek words us% twy OubCatwy to signity the first day of the week. But if it should signify what some would have it, the first of the two sabbaths, thence it is evident that there were two days accounted sabbaths; the seventh day by the Jews and judaizing christians, and the first by the pure and more complete christians : And as the Jewish converts were very hardly brought off from every judaical rite and cereinony, there was a connivance or permission during the standing of the temple and Jewish polity, to indulge many Mosaical rites as part of their civil or political law : so that the Jewish chris. tians might bave two sabbaths, viz. the seventh day and the first; though the first only for the pure christians.

5. St. Paul gives order concerning a collection for the saints, upon the first day of the week ; at least, that every one should lay by him in store according as God had prospered him; and this same order he gave to the churches of Galatia ; 1 Cor. xvi. 1, 2. Now their public meetings on this day gave them more conveniency of gathering their charity, than on any other. Besides, the word Cheraugu w may intimate a weekly collection ; for it was designed to prevent collections when Paal came. And it was on the old sabbath or seventh day on which collections were made in the Jewish synagogues; for the giving of alms was ever reckoned a proper daty for the sabbath; and the apostle seemeth hereby to transfer the duties of the Jewish sabbath to the first day of the wcek.

6. Tlie religious observation of the first day of the week among christians was so general and well known, that so early as in the days of the apostle John it acquired a honourable title, and was called the Lord's-day. This name of honour was given in scripture to nothing else, but the Loril's supper, and Lord's duy. Then it was also that John was favoured with the prophetic spirit; Rev. i. 10. I was in the Spirit on the Lord's-day, and he had the visions of Cbrist in his glory, and the discovery of things to come. This is called the Lord's-day, as relating to the honour of Christ, and to his appointment, as the Lord'ssupper, obtained that name, froin its reference to the appointinent. and honour of onr blessed Saviour; 1 Cor. x. 21, 22. and xi. 20. Here it may be proper to enquire, what good reason can be giveti, wliy in all these appearances of Christ, and meetings and transactions hefore-mentioned, there should be such particular notice taken by the holy writers, on what day of the week they were done, if it were not to point out a christian sabbath to us? We do not find the third or fourth, fifth or sixth day of the week mentioned for worship, or any other transactions in the New Testament, as I remember; nothing but the Lord's-day, or the Jewish sabbath are specified; one when the Jews worshipped, and the other when the christians met for worship.

7. The primitive writers give us a clear account of the usual observation of this first day of the week by those who professed the christian religion; and they were known and distinguished from the heathens as wells as from the Jews, by this particular character of observing the Lord's-day. It would be too tedious in this place to cite all the testimonies of Iguatius, Justin, Martyr, Theophilus of Antioch, Clemens of Alexandria, Tertullian, and others*, which give us an account of this matter of fact in the second and third ages of christianity; and they speak of it as a very early custom or practice, if not from the beginning of the christian church, as planted by the apostles, even while they expressly renounced the Jewish sabbatizing. Now from all these matters of fact put together, we may derive two good remarks toward the support of the observation of the Lord's-day as a christian duty

Remark I. Apostolical practice, and the custom of the primitive churches, when joined together, are in themselves a good direction to the conscience of christians under any difficulty. When the apostle Paul seems to find it difficult to give sufficient evidence of the duty of a woman's wearing long hair, and a man wearing of shorter, so as to satisfy the scruples and consciences of christians, observe what he says, “ if any man seem to be contentious, let this determine these lesser disputable points, that we the apostles of Christ, have no such custom for men to wear long hair, nor the churches of God in the world: 1 Cor. xi. 16. And why should not apostolical and primitive custom be a sufficient direction for our practice in regard to a sabbath, where clearer discoveries of duty are wanting.

II. The custom of primitive churches supported by the apostles' practice, makes it appear probable, that the observation of the Lord's-day was a divine institution, and that it was the will of our Lord Jesus Christ himself, manifested to his apostles, who were the prime ministers of his kingdom. Is it not highly probable, that this early and general practice was derived from the authority of Christ, who after his resurrection, continued forty days on earth, and was often assembled with the apostles, speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God; Acts i. 3. Was not the observation of such a day necessary to his kingdom, that is, to the institution and support of his visible church Is it not also unreasonable so suppose, that the apostles, who received their commission from Christ, to teach the nations to observe whatsoever he commanded them; Mat. xxviii. 20. should 80 zealously pronounce all the Jewish sabbaths abolished, in so many places, and such express language as St. Paul does; and that they should so frequently practise and encourage the assembling together on the first day of the week, as a day of christian

* See the Appendix to this first Discourse.

worship, if they had received no hint of any order, or particular commission, or so much as a direction from Christ Jesus, their Lord, for both these things? In the Lord's-supper St Paul tells the Corinthians, that he received from the Lord what he delivered to them; I Cor. xi. 23. And why should we not believe also concerning the Lord's-day, that lie received of the Lord the appointment of this first day for christian worship, which he seems to have delivered to the churches where he preached ? It is granted that none of these considerations before inentioned, if taken separately, will prove the duty of observing the Lord'sday, yet all joined together, are sufficient to direct our practice, where we have not clearer light. I grant also, that all these considerations here proposed, do not amount to a direct and plain institution of the Lord's-day; but the united force of them all goeth so far toward the proof of such an institution, that renders it highly probable : And where inferences and probabilities are so many and weighty, they must determine our conduct in a thousand affairs of human life, if we would act like reasonable creatures.

IX. “ If one day in seven be appointed in the New Testament for christian assemblies, and religious worship, it is most highly expedient, if not necessary, that it should be a day of rest from the common labours of this life.” It is certain, the very hours, or minutes, spent in the outward exercises of christian worship, must necessarily be free from earthly business; we cannot in this respect actually serve God and this world at once, nor mingle our solemnities of worship with carthly cares and labours. This is grauted on all hands.

Yet some think the sabbath itself begins and ends with the public worship: whereas it is sufficiently evident, that unless the whole day be separated from earthly affairs, and labours, and pleasures, the hours and minutes of worship will be for the most part,

but poorly improved, and will become much less profitable to our spiritual interest. It is hardly possible to attain the highest and best ends of christian worship, of preaching and hearing, of praying and praising, and celebrating of the Lord's-supper, if we come into the sanctuary with our heads and hearts full of the affairs of this life, and with all our earthly cares buzzing about our minds. How much less good will a sermon do us, if when the hour of worship is ended, we run immediately from God into worldly business, without giving our thoughts leisure and leave to reflect on what we have heard? What pour proficients shall we be in the school of Christ, if we plunge ourselves all over into the cares and businesses of this world, as soon as ever we have heard the blessing pronounced, and the assembly is separated? And much worse would it be, if we spent the rest of the day in recreations and sports ; for these carnalize the spirit, and estrange it from God and things heavenly, more than the common labours of life.

Again, let it be considered, what multitudes there are among mankind, who liave very litile relish for religion, and have as little opportunity of retirement from the world, and meditating on the things of God and eternity. On the six days of the week, they are ever labouring. How very necessary then is the cessation from earthly affairs, to allow them due leisure to mind the important concerns of religion? Cut off the sabbath's-hours of rest and leisure from them, and you cut off both opportunity and encouragement from godliness : And under such disadvantages, it must be some very extraordinary influences from God, that must change such poor, earthly and sensual creatures to a spiriļual and heavenly temper of soul, must bring them to the saving knowledge of God, and Jesus Christ his Son, and make them his disciples. As bad as the world is now, it would be much worse, if there were no observation of a sabbath-day, or weekly rest, no Lord's day among us, even though there were a weekly sermon or two preached in public assemblies.

I might even venture to leave the decision of this controversy to the consciences of all that are truly religious in our nation: Blessed be God! there is a day separated by the ruling powers of this kingdom from the businesses of this life, and that earthly labours are not suffered to intermingle themselves with the work of religion, so as to prevent or destroy the chief design for which that day is appointed. Tell me, ye devout souls, even ye best of christians, tell me, how difficult a matter do you find it to cast off all the cares and concerns of this world entirely, when you come into the presence of God, to celebrate his public worship? Though the whole day be appointed for God and religion, yet how hard is it to shake off all the dust of this earth, and to disengage yourselves from the bonds and burdens of it, when you would ascend to heaven in devotion? Though you have bid farewel to your secular concerns the night before, and have had a long interval of sleep to divide your thoughts from this vain and busy life, yet how do the crowding cares of it press in upop you, and bang continually upon your spirits, or the trifles and amusements of it hover and play about your souls, and how wretchedly do they divert your hearts from the excrcises of godliness, and sadly interrupt those very acts of worship in which you are engaged? Though you have a day allotted for this very purpose, and time to compose your thoughts before-hand, yet how very difficult a thing has it been to secure to your souls one hour together of complete absence and abstinence from all that is carnal and earthly?

But how much harder would it be to fulfil the duties of the sanctuary with any good success, to improve public worship to

« ForrigeFortsæt »