"Six days shall work be done; but the seventh day is the
Sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; you shall do no work therein; it is
the Sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings." Lev. 23:3.
Leviticus enacts a train of rites. But their immediate
purpose is brief and transient. Their life is short. They find an early
grave. And now they teach, as records of a by-gone time—as text-books of the
There is, however, a grand exception. In this code the
Sabbath holds conspicuous place. But Gospel-beams have not obscured its
light. It is no star, which waned before the orb of day. Far otherwise. It
arose not as a ceremony among ceremonies. Sinai was not its birth-place. The
wilderness was not its cradle. Therefore Calvary is not its tomb.
Reader, write this among undoubted truths. The Sabbath is
as old as man. Adam's first day was hallowed rest.
The thought may here occur, why was Creation a six-days'
work? Omnipotence requires no time. To will—to do—are one with God. Why was
a gradual progress used? The reply is, God is wise love. Step succeeds step
in forming worlds to sanctify our patient toil. God then announces, that He
rests, to sanctify required rest.
Thus with high sanction, and benevolent intent, the
Sabbath entered Eden by man's side. In its origin, it stands the firstborn
of all ordinances. It is a portion of primary law. Its date precedes the
date of sin. Away with the vain thought, that it is a short-lived flower of
Reader, next mark how it endured. It flowed a blessing
through the patriarchal age. That period was a foul hot-bed of iniquity.
Rebellious hands were raised against God's will. Incessant blows were aimed
at righteous law. But all this darkness failed to put out the Sabbath-light.
Survey the chain from Adam until Noah. Adam received it. Intimations tell
us, that Noah knew it. Therefore the intermediate links must have
transmitted it. Eden received the seed. The ark upon the waters held the
plant. Noah sends out the dove at intervals of seven days. Hence the
conclusion is most sound, that antediluvian times observed the Sabbath-day.
It lived, then, a long life before Judaic rites came in.
After the flood, there was extensive space before
peculiar ordinances separated Israel's race. Noah and Moses are the extreme
points of this line. The first, before the ark is left, recognizes, as has
been seen, a weekly period. The latter taught, why manna fell not on the
seventh day. Hear his clear testimony, "Tomorrow is the rest of the holy
Sabbath unto the Lord." Ex. 16:23. This interval then dawns and closes with
recognition of this day. The truth is thus confirmed. The Sabbath ever kept
its unimpaired existence. Its stream rolled onward from the ark to Sinai's
base. Again observe, its life is long, before Judaic rites come in.
Reader, advance to Sinai. A scene of more tremendous awe
cannot be found. The thunder roars. The lightning glares. The mountain
totters to its base. Appalling sights—appalling sounds—announce the present
majesty of God. He comes to speak, as moral ruler of the world. The law,
originally written on man's heart, is re-enacted amid prodigies of terrible
display. Now mark what occupies the tables' central spot. It is the
Sabbath-day. Thus God's own finger writes it, a portion of His unalterable
As such the golden ark within the veil received it. As
such a curse attends its least infringement. Who now can turn from Sinai's
fiery height, to pluck the Sabbath from its glorious place? It is no passing
rite. It is the transcript of Jehovah's mind. It shines a jewel in the high
crown of moral law.
When Prophets subsequently taught, did they remit its
claims? Their lips denounce each violation, as a heinous sin. Their fervent
eloquence repels intruders from the holy ground. They pull not down what God
had raised so high. They cannot desecrate what God has permanently hallowed.
Next Jesus comes Himself. The mighty God instructs in
human form. Are now the land-marks of this day removed? Is it laid open for
promiscuous use. He has authority to bind or loose. As "Lord of the
Sabbath," He is supreme. But He puts forth no abrogating power, when He
states its purport to be the good of man. "The Sabbath was made for man."
Mark 2:27. This is a mighty word. It looks backward, and forward. It seems
to say, It always has been, for man always had need. It always shall be, for
man will always need. Thus Jesus decks the Sabbath with undying freshness.
He finishes His work, and rises victor from the dead.
Prefiguring ceremonies vanish. If the Sabbath's mission be fulfilled, it now
will disappear. Is such the case? Far otherwise. A change indeed is made,
but only to set the edifice on firmer base, and to bind it more closely to
our living Head. The resurrection-day becomes the Christian rest. The same
memorial records creation ended, and redemption finished. The same repose
reminds of two completed works. The Lord's day tells of rest, when worlds
were made—of rest, when souls were saved.
Next call Apostles to bear witness. They were most
jealous of the Gospel-truth. With open mouth they warn, that the Judaic
forms had fallen, as autumnal leaves. But no word from their lips—no thought
in their pages—chases the Sabbath from our sight. Oh! no. They keep—they
reverence—they commend it. As soon would they deny the Lord, as undervalue
the Lord's day.
Reader, review now its position. It is God's first
command. The Patriarchs kept it. Sinai preached it. The holy tables gave it
central place. The holy Ark encased it. The Jewish church revered it.
Prophets enforced it. Jesus upheld it. The Apostles sanctioned it. The
Christian church throughout all time has prized it. The prophetic finger
still points to it as a last-day blessing. Is. 66:23. Eternity waits to be
an eternity of Sabbath.
What, if profane indifference would tread it down? Vain
is the effort. It still must live. It has an innate life. The will, which
made it, is divine. As in the ark, it rode triumphant over ungodly graves,
so now it strides above ungodly foes. It must march on, until time is lost
in one Sabbatic rest.
Reader, thus holy is the tree. Come sit awhile beneath
its shade. Much precious fruit descends. It showers down rest upon a
Man's body is a wondrous fabric. Its various parts are
exquisitely wrought. They are designed for toil. But toil brings strain.
Rest must repair the waste. Rest must renew the vigor. Rest must bring oil
to the wheels. The Sabbath day supplies it. "The seventh-day is the Sabbath
of the Lord your God, in it you shall not do any work." Ex. 20:10.
Would man give this indulgence to himself? The
love of gain—the reckless lust of profit—grudges each moment unemployed. It
counts it to be miserable loss. Man would work self to early wreck, and
drive self an early skeleton to dust.
Would man grant this repose to other men?
Heartless taskmasters would lash their victims to a ceaseless mill. Work!
work! would be the only cry. Work! work! until the enfeebled dying hands
could no more move. If God's most positive command scarcely restrains, what
would earth be, if left unchecked to human mercy? A dwindled race would fall
as blighted buds. Incessant labor would be incessant woe.
Is renewed energy of body the fruit of seasonable
rest? Let every tongue, then, bless the Sabbath's Lord.
But fleshy material is not the whole of man. There is
that wondrous inner gift—the mind. There is the chamber, in which
thought resides—the cradle, in which ideas are nursed. Here is our moving
mainspring. These fibers are fine. Their edge soon loses point. To overwork
them is to destroy. But overworked they will be, unless the Sabbath
interpose its calm. Experience often shows the stream of thought run dry,
because the seventh-day barrier has been broken down. This respite saves our
noblest faculties from pre-mature decay. Let, then, each healthy intellect
sing praises to the Sabbath's Lord.
But this day is more than resting-place for body and for
mind. It brings refreshing nurture to the soul. It makes not a
vacancy to leave it void. It shuts out the world only to make clear room for
God. True it is, that the new-born heart lives habitually above. Its whole
employ flows in a holy course. But when the Sabbath comes, God is not only
mixed in every thought, but God and His work alone are present. The
Scripture is the only Book. Things heavenly are the only converse. God's
service is the one concern. This day, then, is the school of spiritual
well-being. It keeps alive religion in the world. It checks the hand, which
would expel devotion. Now countless multitudes learn the plague of a
sin-fettered heart, and hear of Jesus, and turn from misery to joy—from
Satan's chain to glorious liberty. These are the hours, when crowds rejoice
in views of dying love—in deeper draughts of sanctifying grace—and in larger
visions of the eternal weight of glory. Can there be one, who would divert
these channels of pure joy? Vain man forbear! Earth, spoiled of Sabbaths, is
a rapid road to hell.
The Sabbath serves a higher value yet. It is much more
than outward health. It provides more than leisure to gain grace. Its name
and use are emblems of Christ Jesus. As a mirror it reflects His
work—His truth. It is a scroll, in which faith reads from age to age, the
grandest lessons of redeeming love. What is the Sabbath? It is rest. What is
Jesus? He is rest. God rests in Him. Souls rest in Him. Eternity is rest
God rests in Him. Each attribute here gains repose.
Justice has claims. Each sin is debt, which must be paid. Jesus pays all;
and justice is content. Truth finds in Him complete fulfillment of its every
word—and asks no more. Holiness is more than satisfied; for every sin is
washed from the redeemed, and all shine bright in righteousness divine.
Mercy and love here trace a passage for their fullest exercise. Their arms
embrace a family of ransomed souls. In Christ they sing an endless hymn, and
enjoy an endless joy. No more is sought. God is well pleased. Christ is this
Sabbath throughout heaven.
Souls rest in Him. When once the eyes are open to the
realities of sin, the torpor of indifference ceases. "What must I do to be
saved?" absorbs the man. Duties, and penitence, and ritual strictness,
present no mountains, which the feet refuse to scale. But efforts like these
remove no load of guilt. They guide to no peaceful haven of repose. The
wearied soul becomes more weary. But when the Spirit leads the anxious
trembler to the cross, then all disquietude is gone. Here is the needed
rest. What more can be required? Jesus brings in one flood of peace. The
search is over. All is obtained. Jesus is all for everlasting rest. The
husks are left. Refreshing food is found. Faith ceases from all empty
drudgery, to take up healthy toil for Him.
Heaven is one ocean of repose. No billow heaves. No storm
affrights. No foe can enter. No change can cloud the calm expanse of the
unruffled sky. But what is heaven, but to see Christ, as He is—to gaze
forever on His unveiled beauty—to sit with Him—to realize, that never for
one moment can there be absence from Salvation's home? Heaven is heaven,
because it is an eternal Sabbath by the side of Jesus.
Reader, you see the varied blessings of this day. If
every breath were praise, it could not adequately hymn the love, which gave
it. Be wise; be wise; and let not Satan rob you of your treasure. He hates
the ordinance. He hates its profitable use. He knows, that it stands high, a
barrier to beat him back. By many wiles he strives to disfigure it, as a
dull and gloomy check to joy. Be not deceived. Can it be dull to walk with
God? Can it be gloom to hold communion with the center of delights? Oh! no.
The Sabbath-breaker is the wretched man. His heart condemns him. His
unhallowed merriment is gall. His foreboding mind sees pains and tortures,
which no rest relieves. The holy Sabbath keeper lives with God—for God. Can
happiness be more?