Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

A day lost.

No sunset for months.

Sabbaths in Greenland.

ending days in different parts of the earth is so great, that a ship sailing round the globe, loses a whole day in her reckoning, or gains a whole day, according to the direction in which she sails. If she sets out from Boston, and passes round Cape Horn, and across the Pacific Ocean, to China, thence through the Indian and Atlantic Oceans home, she will find on her arrival, that it is Tuesday with her crew, when it is Wednesday on shore. Each of her days will have been a little longer than a day is in any fixed place, and of course she will have had fewer of them. So that if the passengers were Christians, and have endeavored to keep the Sabbath, they will not and can not have corresponded with any Christian nation whatever in the times of their observance of it. I suppose my readers will believe these facts on my testimony; but they will have a far more vivid idea of the truth in this case, if they will ask some sea captain, who has sailed round or half round the globe, if it is not so, and converse with him on some of the interesting questions and difficulties which arise from this peculiarity in the nature of the computation of time.

But beside this difficulty arising from the variation in the time at different longitudes, there are also other causes which will produce greater difficulty still in the way of marking out a precise moment at which the boundary between sacred and common time is to be marked. As we go north or south from the equator, the lengths of the days increase in the summer season, until at last, as I have already intimated, in a certain latitude the sun ceases altogether to set for a period equal to many weeks of our reckoning. Now what will a man who supposes that our Maker meant to command all mankind to keep the Sabbath exactly from sunset to sunset, or from midnight to midnight-what will such a man say to a Christian in Greenland, where the sun does not set for months together?

Change to the first day.

Is the moral law limited to latitude in its application, or did the great Framer of it not know, or did he forget that the motions of the sun which he himself ordained, would give to some of the people to whom the command was addressed, no sunset or midnight for months at a time? No; it is absurd to press a written command to any greater strictness, in regard to the form and manner of its observance, than the letter expresses. God says to us simply, "Keep holy one day in seven." We may reckon that day in any of the common methods of computing time. If it was customary in old times to reckon the day from sundown to sundown, the servants of God would probably reckon their Sabbaths so too. If it is customary now to reckon from midnight to midnight, we may reckon our Sabbath so. We must keep the command in its spirit, but we need not press the form any farther than the letter of the command itself presses it.

The same principles apply to the change from the seventh day to the first. This is not an alteration of the command, but only of practice under the command, in a point which the letter of the law does not fix. Christians labor six days and rest the seventh now. By our artificial nomenclature we call it the first; but that does not alter the real nature of the command, which is simply, that after every six days of labor there shall be regularly one of rest. This requirement has never been changed or touched; it stands among the ten commands, unaltered and unalterable, like all the rest. The practice, in a point not fixed by the phraseology of the command, is indeed altered; but that no more affects obedience to the law than a change from parchment to paper, in the drawing up of a legal instrument, would violate a law which did not prescribe the material. Who would think of saying in such a case, "The law has been altered ;—when the statute was enacted, the universal practice was to write

No change in the command.

The creation.

upon parchment, and now men universally use paper ;—we can find no authority for the change, and consequently the law is broken?" The law would not be broken unless it unequivocally mentioned parchment in contra-distinction from all other materials. The day then in present use is to be continued as the holy time until it is changed by proper authority, and the change made known in a proper manner. But that authority and that manner need not be by any means so formal as was the original command, because it does not alter that command at all; it only alters practice arising under the command, and that in a point which the law itself does not specify.

Some one may perhaps, however, say that the Sabbath was established in commemoration of the rest of Jehovah after the creation, and that this object is lost by the change of day. But a moment's reflection will remove this difficulty. After seven weeks had passed, the Sabbath would come on the forty-ninth day after the creation. Now suppose it had then been changed, by being moved one day forward, so as to come on the fiftieth; who can give any good reason why the fiftieth day may not as well be celebrated in commemoration of the creation as the forty-ninth. Besides, if the precise time of God's resting is to be reckoned at all, it is to be reckoned according to the culmination of the sun at Eden, and the day there is many hours in advance of us here; so that strict, precise accuracy, in regard to hours and minutes, is, in every view of the case, entirely out of the question; and the fact that the command does not attempt to secure it, gives evidence that it was intended for general circulation among mankind. To a person standing still in one place, and looking no farther than to his own limited horizon, the word day seems definite enough; but when a voice from Mount Sinai speaks to the whole world, commanding all men, at sea and on land, in the Arctic regions, and under

Principle important.

an equinoctial sun, under every meridian and at every parallel, to remember one day in seven and keep it holy, there must be great diversity in the form and moment of obedience. We can not, looking over the whole field, find a precise and universal limit. The command, if we consider it as addressed to the world, is entirely indefinite in regard to the precise period of the commencement and close of sacred time; but the great principle of it is clear:-Keep one day in seven, according to some common mode of computation, holy to the Lord.

I should not have spent so much time in endeavoring to prove that minnte accuracy in regard to the form and manner of obeying this command is unattainable, were it not that this discussion involves a principle which applies to many other cases; so that if you are induced to see its reasonableness, and to admit its force fully and cordially in this case, you will be saved from a great deal of useless perplexity about the minutiae of form in a great many other cases. Remember then this principle, that commands are to be obeyed in their spirit, except when the precise form is a matter of positive and distinct specification.

I have one or two practical remarks to make in reference to this part of my subject.

1. In respect to those points of duty on which the Scriptures give no direct instructions, you will do well to conform to the customs of Christians around you. If you live in a community where the Sabbath is generally commenced on Saturday evening, begin yours at that time: conform not only to this, but in all other unimportant points; kneel, or stand, or sit at prayers, as other people do around you. I have known persons so controlled by the determination to have their own way in little things, and to consider all other ways wrong, that they could not sit at table while a blessing

Non-essentials.

Liability to evasion.

was asked, as is the common custom in many places, without being very much shocked at the imaginary irreverence. Some men will be pained if a minister say we in the pulpit, and others will quarrel with him if he says I; and a grave discussion is sometimes carried on, on such points as these, in religious journals. One Christian can not endure a written prayer; another can not bear an extempore one. A is troubled if there is an organ in the church, and B thinks that music at church is nothing without one. C will almost leave the meeting-house if he should see the minister come in wearing a silk gown; and D would be equally shocked at seeing him in the ordinary dress of a layman. Now all this is wrong. These points are not determined by any express command in the Bible, and consequently they are left to the varying taste and convenience of mankind. Every person may perhaps have a slight preference, but this preference he ought at all times to be willing to give up, in consideration of the wishes and feelings of his Christian brother. He who intends to do good in this world, must go about among mankind with a spirit which will lead him to conform, easily and pleasantly, with the customs of men, except in those cases where the letter or the spirit of the Bible forbids it.

This discussion brings to our notice what may be considered a striking characteristic of the requirements of the law of God, namely that they are peculiarly liable to evasion. Their peculiarity in this respect, is, in fact, one great source of their power as a means of moral discipline. Human laws are very different from the divine laws in this respect, because the object which they aim at is different. of human laws is simply to prevent outward acts of crime on account of the injury which they do; that of the divine law, on the other hand, is to improve and perfect the inward charThe difference of design leads to great dissimilarity in the forms of the enactments, by which the respective codes

acter.

The design

« AnteriorContinuar »