Imágenes de páginas

he made a record of them; you will find them in nearly all the chapters of Leviticus and Deuteronomy. All the regulations relating to sacrifices are of this character. The moral laws were, however, given in the most solemn manner from Mount Sinai. They are the ten commandments, and they were written by the direct power of God himself upon tablets of stone, which were carefully preserved.

Now, as if to remove all possible ground of doubt in regard to his design, the observance of the Sabbath was made the subject of one of these ten commandments, and it has been observed from that day to this by a vast majority of all those who have wished to obey their Maker's commands.

These facts are abundantly sufficient to convince those who are willing to keep the Sabbath that God intended that all men should keep it. They who are not convinced, reveal by their doubts their unwillingness to obey. I would advise, therefore, any one who has doubts about the divine authority of the Sabbath, not to spend his time in looking for the arguments pro and con in this controversy, but to come at once to his heart. Ask yourself this question; "Do I fully understand what it is to remember the Sabbath-day and keep it holy, and am I cordially and sincerely willing to do it?" In the affirmative answer to this question you will find the solution to all your doubts.

The Sabbath was observed from its establishment down to the coming of Christ, on the seventh day of the week, that is our Saturday. Our Saviour rose from the dead on the day after the Sabbath, and we find soon after his resurrection, that the early Christians observed that day instead of the former one as sacred time. There is no direct command to do this, and no indication that there was any controversy about it at the time. They all at once simultaneously change. They keep one day in seven as before, but it is a different day. We infer that they had some authority for so doing, though it is not at all necessary that that authority should be specified. It is the custom in most of the schools in New England to consider the afternoon of Saturday a half-holiday. Now suppose a boy should leave this country to go on a foreign voyage, and after being absent many months, should return and find when Saturday afternoon comes that all the boys in his native town go to school as usual, but that on Monday afternoon the schools

are all suspended. He sees that this is the universal custom, and it continues so permanently. Now, it is not, under these circumstances, at all necessary that the original vote of the school-committee, by which the change was made, should come before him. The universality of the practice is the best of evidence in such a case. No boy would wish for more. Now, it is just so with the evidence we have that the Sabbath was changed. Suddenly all Christians changed their practice. They changed together, and without any evidence of a controversy, and the new arrange→ ment has been adopted from that day to this.

But yet all persons are not quite satisfied about it, and there are various other questions connected with the time of the Sabbath, which have occasioned, in the minds of many Christians, serious doubts and perplexities. Some imagine that they ought to have more evidence of the change from the seventh to the first day of the week; they think, too, that the Sabbath is intended to be commemorative of God's rest after finishing the creation, and that this object is lost by altering the day; and some lose themselves in endless arguments on the question, whether sunset, midnight or morning marks the beginning of the sacred day. The difference of views on this subject produces some difference of practice. There are denominations of Christians who prefer to keep Saturday as holy time, and not Sunday, regarding the former as the seventh day meant by the commandment. There is a difference of practice, too, in regard to the time of commencing the holy day. In some portions of our land the Sabbath is understood to begin on the evening of Saturday, so that when the sun goes down on Sunday evening, they return to their usual duties and cares. In other places, midnight is considered as the limit which marks the beginning and the end of sacred time.

The actual inconvenience arising from this diversity is comparatively slight. The great evil which these differences of opinion produce, is the interminable disputes which arise from them. Perhaps some of my readers, when they saw the subject of the Sabbath announced, may have been curious to know which side I was going to take in regard to some of these points; for example, on the question whether it is proper to commence holy time on Saturday evening or on Sabbath morning. Now, in fact, I am going to take both

sides. I am going to try to persuade you that it is entirely immaterial which is adopted, and that the whole subject is completely unworthy of being made a matter of controversy among Christian brethren.

When God gives us a command, I am aware that we must obey it exactly. But a command is obeyed exactly, if it is obeyed in all the particulars expressed in the words of it. I think the following principle may be laid down as fundamental in regard to all laws partaking of a ceremonial character, human and divine. So far as the ceremonial part is essential, it will be distinctly described in the command. The fourth command partakes of the ceremonial character. It is for the observance of a particular day. It specifies what day, but it does not specify at what hour it is to begin, and therefore we are left at liberty to begin it, so as to correspond with any common mode of computing time.

But to illustrate the above-mentioned principle-for it seems to me that if it were cordially and fully admitted, it would save a vast number of disputes on many other subjects-let us suppose that a father, about to be absent from his home, leaves his two boys with the command that they should work every day a little while in the garden. Now, in such a case as this, the boys ought not to consider themselves as limited to any particular time for doing it. They must consider their father's design in the command, and act in such a manner as to comply with the spirit of it. But they may do as they please about the time of beginning. They may work in the morning, or in the evening, or at mid day, according to their own convenience.

Suppose, however, he had been a little more definite, and had said, "I wish you, my boys, while I am absent, to work a few hours every forenoon in the garden." This would have been a little more definite. And just so far as it is definite in regard to the time, just so far it would be binding in that respect. They would not now be at liberty to choose whether they would work forenoon or afternoon, but still they would be at liberty in regard to the precise time of beginning. If one of the boys should attempt to prove that they ought to begin exactly at half-past eight, because the father had usually begun at that hour, or because the neighbours did, the other might reply that the time of beginning was not spe

cified in the command, and they might, if they chose, begin at an earlier or later hour, if they only honestly fulfilled the command by working faithfully as much as they supposed their father meant by the expression "a few hours." Let us, however, make the command more definite still. Imagine the father to have said, "I wish you, my sons, to spend from 9 to 12 o'clock every day in the garden, working for me." This leaves them much less discretionary power. The time for beginning and ending is distinctly specified, and the command is binding in regard to these points of form and manner, just so far as they are distinctly specified. Still there is room for a dispute. The spirit which makes so much of a controversy on the question whether holy time begins at sundown or at midnight, would have easily made a controversy here. For we will suppose that there had been a clock in the hall of the house, and a dial in the garden. All my readers are aware, I presume, that a clock, if it is a good one, keeps regular, equal time, but that there is some irregularity in the motions of the heavenly bodies, which prevents the dial from always corresponding with it exactly. Sometimes the dial which marks apparent time, that is what appears to be the time by the sun, is before and sometimes behind the clocks, for they mark the real or true time, as it is called. Now, how easily might these boys get into a dispute on the question whether their father meant them to keep true or apparent time, that is, whether he meant them to begin by the clock or by the dial. Sometimes the difference is fifteen minutes. They might say that they must obey their father's command exactly, and each might undertake to show, from arguments drawn from the nature of time, which perhaps neither of them understood, or from the father's practice, or the practice of other workmen in the vicinity, that one method of computation or the other was the proper one. How unwise would this be. The proper ground, unquestionably, for boys in such a case to take would be, " It is no matter which mode of reckoning we adopt; it was not father's object for us to begin at any precise moment." "If you prefer the clock," one might say, "I have no objection to it. I think we have a right to take which we please, for father did not specify any thing in regard to it. and if he had any preference he would have stated it.”

[ocr errors]

Just so in regard to the Sabbath. God says in substance, "Keep holy one day in seven." - There is no minute specification in regard to the moment of commencing. We are at liberty, therefore, to commence according to any established and common method of computing time.

The following, it seems to me, is an universal principle in regard to obedience to all laws of a ceremonial nature. So far as the form and manner are deemed essential, they are always distinctly expressed in the law. Look at the laws in these States for the solemnization of marriages. All that is essential is strictly expressed. So with the laws in regard to the transfer of property. Every form that is intended to be required is detailed in the statute. So with the purely ceremonial laws of the Jews. If a command required the sacrifice of two doves, the Jew would plainly not feel at liberty to bring one or three, nor to offer, instead of the bird prescribed, vultures or sparrows. But he just as plainly would be at liberty to offer doves of any colour. He might choose black or white, or any other hue: and if his neigh bour should say to him, "your doves are not of the right kind, nobody offers such doves as those," his proper reply would be, "I obey the command; the colour is not specified." So with Christians in keeping the Sabbath. No matter whether you begin at sundown or at midnight; if you keep the Sabbath faithfully according to one method or the other, you obey the command; the moment for beginning is not specified.

It seems to me that any person who endeavours to obtain a philosophical idea of the nature of our mode of computing time by days, must see the impossibility of marking any precise limit for the commencement and the close of sacred time. Nothing is so indefinite, if we take an enlarged and philosophical view of the subject, as the term day. Astronomers commence it at twelve o'clock at noon. Some nations begin it at midnight. On shore it is reckoned as commencing at one hour, and at sea as at another. The day, too, begins at a different timè in every different place, so that a ship at sea, beginning a day in one place and ending it in another, sometimes will have 23 and sometimes 24 hours in her day, and no clock or time-piece whatever can keep her time. An officer of the ship is obliged to determine the beginning of their day every noon by astronomi

« AnteriorContinuar »