Imágenes de páginas

Human and divine laws.

are promulgated. How much pains do men take, when making laws, to cut off every possible chance of escape, by specifying with minute accuracy all the details of transgression! Hence the enactments of men are very voluminous. The laws of a state on the subject of theft will fill a volume; but God disposes of the whole subject in four words, “THOU SHALT NOT STEAL." The HUMAN lawgiver studies to cut off, by the fullness and legal accuracy of his language, every opportunity for quibbling or evasion; but if any man wishes to escape from the laws of God by quibbling and evasion, he may; the door is wide open; and that is what gives the law of God its admirable adaptedness to be the means of moral discipline to the human soul.

The reason why it produces this effect is this: The more strict and minute are the details of a command, the less room is there for the exercise of fidelity and voluntary obedience. The command in regard to the Sabbath for example, might have been so precise and specific, that the whole world should know exactly the moment when the sacred time is to begin, and exactly the manner in which its hours are to be spent ; nay more, God might have so interrupted the course of nature, that all the business of life must necessarily have ceased, and men have thus been compelled to rest on the Sabbath. But this would have been no moral trial; it would have afforded no moral discipline. God does not accordingly adopt such a course. He expresses his command in general and simple language. They who wish to obey, can easily ascertain what they ought to do; and they who do not, will easily find excuses.

There are some, and perhaps many, who make the question whether Saturday or Sunday evening is to be kept, an excuse for keeping neither. But those who wish to obey God's commands will keep one or the other faithfully; and one great design in having uncertainty in such

Spirit of the law.

James's way of reading the Bible.

cases as this is unquestionably to try us-to prove who does and who does not wish, on vain pretexts, to evade God's commands.

I proceed to consider the spirit and manner in which the Sabbath should be kept.

The object of the Sabbath is to interpose an effectual interruption to all worldly business, and to promote as highly as possible the improvement of the character. Do then these two things: 1st, suspend all worldly pursuits; and 2d, spend the day in such a manner as will best promote your spiritual improvement. The first point is easy; I shall therefore pass it by, and direct my attention immediately to the last.

There are wise and there are unwise ways of keeping the Sabbath holy. James is a boy who has set his heart upon reading the Bible through in as short a time as possible, and he thinks that there is no other way of spending the Sabbath so properly as by carrying forward this good work with all his strength. He carries his Bible to bed with him at night, and places it under his pillow, that he may read in it as soon as it is light in the morning. You may see him at breakfast-time counting up the chapters that he has read, and calculating how long it will take him at that rate to get through a certain book. He can hardly wait for family prayers to be over, he is so eager to press forward his work. He reads a great many chapters in the course of the day, and lies down at night congratulating himself on his progress; but, alas! he has made no progress in piety. His perusal of sundry chapters in the Bible, as if he were reading for a wager, is not progress in piety. He has spent the day without examining his heart. He has not made resolutions for future duty. He has not learned to be a more dutiful son, a more affectionate brother, or a more humble and devoted

A boy studying the Bible.

The boat.

Christian. No, he has read twenty chapters in the Bible! That is all. He has been making no new discoveries of his secret sins, has obtained no new views of his duty, has not drawn nigh to God and found peace and happiness in communion with him; no, he has had no time for that; he has been busy all day running over his twenty chapters in the Bible! It were well if James were aware that his real motive for this work is the pride of thinking and perhaps of telling others how much he has read, and that the cultivation of such a spirit is a bad way of spending God's holy day. I would not say a word against reading the Bible, but it must be read in a proper manner. A person may waste every hour of the Sabbath, and yet do nothing but read the Bible from morning to night.

Many young persons think there is no way to break the Sabbath but by work or play. But the spirit and meaning of the fourth commandment undoubtedly is, that the Sabbath should be devoted to the real improvement of the Christian character. And if this is neglected, the Sabbath is broken, no matter in what way its hours have been spent.

Yes, if this is neglected, the command is disobeyed; no formal attention to any external duty whatever can be made a substitute for it. A boy sits at his window studying his Sabbath-school lesson; his object, I will suppose, is not to learn his duty and to do it, but he wishes to surpass some companion at the recitation, or is actuated it may be by a mere selfish desire to obtain a reward which has been perhaps injudiciously offered him; he looks out of the window across the valley which extends before his father's house, and sees upon a beautiful pond there, a boatful of his playmates, pushing off from the shore. They are going out on an excursion of pleasure.

"Ah!" says he, "those wicked boys! they are breaking the Sabbath!"

[merged small][merged small][graphic][merged small]

Yes, they are breaking the Sabbath; and so is he; both they and he are perverting the holy day. God looks at the heart, and requires that all should spend the Sabbath in honest efforts to discover, and confess, and abandon sin, and to become pure and holy and devoted to him. Now, both the boys in the boat and the one at the window are neglecting this. They are doing it for the pleasure of a sail; he is doing it for the honor of superiority in his class. The day is misspent and perverted in both cases.

Mrs. X. is the mother of several children, and she is exceedingly desirous that all her family should faithfully keep the Sabbath. She can not bear the thought that it should be profaned by any under her roof. Before sacred time comes, therefore, the whole house is put in order, all worldly business is brought to a close, so that the minds of her family

The careful mother.

may be free. All this is excellent; but how does she actually spend the sacred hours? Why, her whole attention is devoted to enforcing the mere external duties of religion in her household. She is careful to banish every secular book; she requires one child to sit still and read the Bible; another she confines to a prayer-book, or to some good book of religious exhortation; a third is kept studying a Sabbath-school lesson. All however must be still; it is her great desire and aim to banish every thing like worldly work or play. There must be no light conversation, and even the little infant, creeping upon the floor, has to relinquish her playthings, and spend the day in inaction.

Now, when night comes, this mother thinks that she has kept the Sabbath, and induced her household to keep it too; and perhaps she has done so. But all that I have described does not prove that she has kept it according to God's original design. God did not institute the Sabbath in order merely that children might be kept from play, or that they might be forced to read, mechanically, good books; but that they might improve their characters, and make real preparation for another world. Now, unless a mother adopts such methods as shall most effectually promote the improvement of her children, and unless she succeeds in interesting them in it, she does not attain the object in view. If your children are spending the day in a cold and heartless manner, complying with your rules from mere fear of your authority, they are not, properly speaking, keeping the Sabbath. The end in view, improvement of character, is not attained.

But many a mother who reads this will ask, "How can I interest my children in such efforts for improvement?" You will find a hundred ways, if you will set your heart upon it. The only danger is, that you will not fully feel the necessity of it. You are satisfied, or there is great danger that you will be satisfied, with the mere formality of external decorum

« AnteriorContinuar »