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upon this day we constantly have sounded in our ears the truths of that religion which Christ and his apostles delivered unto the world, and the excellency of them inculcated upon us. And as the observation of the Sabbath is a great preservative of the truth of Christianity, so it is also to the duties thereof. God hath set this one duty as a hedge or fence for keeping all the rest; for, by keeping the Sabbath conscientiously, the soul is notably disposed and put in frame for serving God in every religious duty. The frequent recurring of this day, and the gospel ordinances therein dispensed, serve to continue the remembrance of Christ and heaven among men, keep sin and vice under constant rebukes, and put atheism and infidelity to the blush. Take away the observation of the Lord's day, then the worship of God would be cast off, and atheism, profaneness, and all disorders, like a flood, would break in upon us.
We may look upon the duty of Sabbath-sanctification to be of no less consequence to the practice of Christianity, than Luther reckoned the article of justification to be to the doctrine of it, when he called it articulus stantis seu cadentis ecclesiæ; for, if once we make a gap in this hedge of piety, serious godliness will run out at it, and a flood of impiety and looseness rush in upon us. It was surely the sense of this that determined the wisest of emperors, kings, parlia ments, and church councils and synods, to frame and publish so many excellent laws and acts for the strict observation of the Lord's day, agreeable to the divine laws thereanent. It would be happy for churches and nations, if these were put in execution, and all sorts of men brought to have a due regard to them.
But notwithstanding of all the laws, divine and human, for the holy observation of the Lord's day, there are many in the age wherein we live, who adventure to pour contempt upon this holy day. Some there are who dispute against the morality of the Sabbath, and disown the standing and perpetual obligation of the fourth command. Others, though they own the obligation of the command, so far as to forbear servile work, and attend public worship on the Sabbath, yet plead for carnal diversions and recreations after public worship is over. Many would incline to the Papists' way of celebrating the Sabbath, who, after mass and even-song (as they call it,) go presently to piping and dancing, and
then to the ale-house; the same way that the Israelites celebrated the feast of the golden calf, Exod. xxxit. 6. "The people ate and drank, and rose up to play." If this profane course were allowed, as of old, in times of antichristian darkness, many would then call the Sabbath a delight, and be, in some measure, reconciled to it; but, when they hear that the whole Sabbath is to be spent in religious duties and exercises, they murmur, and say, as those in Mal. i. 13. "What a weariness is it "
It would be no greivance to many to see that old abomination of the Book of Sports revived and authourised among us: I mean, that infamous declaration for liberty of sports and recreation on the Lord's day, published by authority in the year 1633, and appointed to be read from the pulpits; the prelates consenting to it, and persecuting those ministers who refused to read it. O what heinous God-provoking wickedness was it, for civil and ecclesiastical rulers to unite in promoting the profanation of the Sabbath by such methods! As the heavy judgments of God followed them for such avowed profanation, so those in our age have reason to fear his judgments, who continue to be of the same profane disposition. Oh, is it not evident that sports and pastimes do unfit the mind for spiritual service, and take off men's thoughts from what is serious and solemn? Do they not put the heart out of frame for attending on God, and for holding communion with him in holy duties and ordinances ? This is shewed more fully in the following treatise.
Again, there are others who observe this day no better than the beasts do: they only rest from their ordinary labour, and spend the day in idleness and sloth; which is to keep the Sabbath of an ox or ass, not of a reasonable creature. To sanctify the Sabbath, is not to keep it merely as a rest from our common employments, or to keep it as an idle day but to keep it as a holy day, a day set apart for God's glory, and for promoting our salvation. But, alas! such is the spiritual sloth and idleness of many poor careless souls on this day, they labour as little for their souls on it, as they do for their bodies; they sleep, loiter, lie at home, and seldom go to any worship at all; if they go out of doors, it is for their diversion, to take a walk, to pay a visit, or the like, but not to attend God's worship. Many, alas! will go a <dozen of miles to a market for a little gain, that will not ge
one mile, nor a few steps to the church, to attend the gos pel-market for enriching their souls. If the bell that calls them to the worship of God, did advertise them of a stageplay, or of some idle pastime, perhaps they would be found there among the first; but, for spiritual work, they have an aversion to it.
Moreover there are many who go to church and attend ordinances this day, rather to please a natural conscience, or support their reputation in the world, than to serve God or save their souls. Or perhaps they go because it is the fashion, or the way in which they have been brought up; but alas! leaving their hearts behind them, they present their bodies to God and no more. And hence it is, that in the time of the most solemn worship, they have their eyes either wandering after vanity, or else shut with drowsiness, and sleep; they find no delight in the Sabbath, taste no sweetness in ordinances, know nothing of communion with God in them they understand not the Psalmists language, "A day in Gods courts is better than a thousand any where else." No, this day is to them the longest and most wearisome day of all the week; the religious exercises of it are irksome and burdensome to them. It may be said of them, as of Doeg the Edomite, 1 Sam. xxi. 7. "He was that day detained before the Lord." They long to be released from the service of that day, and glad when it is over. the minds of many are so set upon the world, that they complain in their hearts of the length of this day, as the Israelites of old, Amos viii. 5. "When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn; and the Sabbath, that we may set forth wheat ?" They count all these days lost days, that bring them in no worldly gain. Hence it was, that the hea thens (as Senaca tells us) counted the Jews a foolish people, because they lost a full seventh part of their lives, to wit, by observing the Sabbath. But, ah! it is to be lamented, that not heathens only, but also many profest Christians, count the Sabbath a lost day: O what base ingratitude is this to God, for the invaluable privilege and blessing of the Sabbath to the souls of men !
Lastly, there are, besides these mentioned, some prodigies of wickedness in the world, persons who prosecute their lewd and profane courses with more vigour on this holy day than upon any other; and so make this day of holy rest the
devil's working day, and consume it wholly upon their lusts! O how daring an affront must this be to a great and holy God, to make that a day to serve the devil, a day to improve in vice and debauchery, which the Lord hath instituted to be a day for his own worship, and for our improvement in piety and devotion !
It is for remedying these woful abuses of the Sabbath that I have written the ensuing treatise; and, to make it more generally useful to the poor, I have shortened this fourth edition of it, by leaving out the Help of Prayer which was subjoined to the former, and possibly may be afterwards published by itself. I have heard of the usefulness of this treatise to some who have read it: O that God would bless it to many more, and make it the means to preserve and promote the love and esteem of the Lord's day in the hearts of many! As serious godliness never did, so it never will thrive nor flourish in the world, when or where the Lord's day is disregarded: long experience confirms it, that the sin of Sabbath-breaking is a woful inlet to impiety and profaneness. They who once begin to make little difference betwixt the Lord's day and other days, will easily be brought to make little difference betwixt the Lord's name and other names, the Lords table and other tables, the Lord's book and other books: whereas a conscientious regard to his holy day is a strong fence to religion, being a mighty aweband to the soul against the commission of sin, and the neglect of duty. The Lord's day is an unspeakable blessing to a lost world, and the sweetest day that ever dawned upon it; it ought to be the delight of our souls, and rejoiceing of our hearts. Every wise man that knows the value of this day. will have a peculiar esteem for it above all the days of the week, and will reckon every minute of it precious, and desire that none of it be mispent. What Christ said to his disciples concerning the loaves and fishes, he says to us concerning his holy day, Gather up the fragments, "Gather up the spare hours and minutes of it, count them as precious as the goldsmith doth the small filings of his gold, let nothing of Sabbath time be lost, improve it wholly for God and your souls."
This treatise I recommend chiefly to families, because the duty of sanctifying the Sabbath doth nearly concern all families as such: for all governors of families are charged,
by the fourth command, to see that it be done in all their dwellings and by the command, they are made responsible for their children, servants, and for all that lodge within their gates, that none of them be allowed to break the Sabbath. If any masters of families be excited by this treatise to mind their proper duty, I have my reward; but let the glorious Author of the Sabbath alone have the praise.
May all of us get grace to keep the Sabbath of our God, and choose the things that please him, and take hold of his covenant, that so we may be numbered among those whom he will bring to his holy mountain, and make joyful in his house of prayer! Amen.
Some Instances of the great regard which our Ancestors and Legislators manifested to the Lord's Day, and of the Laws and Acts made in Ancient Times for the strict Observation of it, with those of this Nation and Church which still stand in force; being so many Testimonies to the Morality of the Sabbath, and the divine Institution of the Lord's Day.
I SHALL not stand here to notice the high regard which kings, prophets, and righteous men among the Jews had for the Sabbath, recorded in the Old Testament; the passages being obvious to those who are versant in the holy scriptures, sundry of which are introduced in the following treatise. Neither shall I stand citing the testimonies of learned and pious divines at hoine or abroad, for confirming the doctrine of this treatise seeing these are so many as would fill a volume by themselves. I shall only mention some of those of more public authority, and which may be of greater weight with the generality of readers.
The ancient Christians, who lived nearest the apostles' times, still spoke of the Lord's day with the highest veneration and respect; such as Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and others; who also give an account of the particular religious services performed by Christians on that day. It is observable, that the Christians then commonly called that day among themselves, the first day of the week, and the Lord's day, as it is denominated in the New Testament