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business, and to employ it in converse with God, about their souls' state, and in preparation for the Sabbath; which will yield more delight than all sensual pleasures can do. And the General Assembly beseech and exhort all magis'trates of burghs to be assistant to ministers in inquiring into and reforming such abuses.'
Ass. 1705, at Edinburgh, April 10. The General Assembly, taking to their serious consideration the great profanation of the Lord's day, by multitudes of people vaguing idly upon the streets of the city of Edinburgh, pier and shore of Leith, in St. Ann's-yard, and the Queen'spark, and in diverse places about Edinburgh; and considering the profanation of the Lord's day in other places by unnecessary travelling and otherwise; and the General Assembly being deeply sensible of the great dishonour done to the holy God, and of the open contempt of God and man, manifested by such heaven-daring profaneness, to the exposing of the nation to the heaviest judgments; therefore they do, in the fear of God, earnestly exhort all their reverend brethren of the ministry, and other officers. of the church, to contribute their utmost endeavours, in their stations, for suppressing such gross profanation of the Lord's day, by a vigorous and impartial, yet prudent exercise of the discipline of the church, and by holding hand to the execution of the laudable laws of the nation against the guilty, in such a way and manner as is allowed by law. And, because the concurrence and assistance of the civil government will be absolutely necessary for the better curbing and restraining of this crying sin, the General Assembly do hereby appoint their commission to be nominate by them, to address the Right Honourable the Lords of her Majesty's privy council, that their Lordships may be pleased to give such orders, and take such courses, for restraining such abuses, as they in their wisdom shall 'judge most effectual.'
Ass. 1708, at Edinburgh, April 27. Forasmuch as ministers from diverse parts of this national church do repre'sent, that there is a general profanation of the Lord's day by travelling thereupon, carrying goods, driving cattle, and other abuses, to the great scandal of religion, and man'ifest breach of many good laws; therefore the General As• sembly did, and hereby do appoint each presbytery with
in this church, to nominate two or three of their number, to attend the Lords Commissioners of Justiciary at their first circuit that falls to be in their bounds, and to repre⚫ sent to their Lordships the profanation of the Lord's day, by the aforesaid wicked and sinful practices: And the General Assembly do seriously recommend to the said Lords Justiciary, to take such effectual courses as they in their wisdom shall think fit, to restrain and punish the foresaid abuses; which the Assembly will acknowledge as 'a singular service done to God and his church. And they do in the mean time enjoin all the ministers of this church, from their pulpits, to advertise their people among whom such practices are, of the great hazard their immortal souls are in by such courses,' &c.
By all which we may clearly see what a high esteem our zealous and godly ancestors had of the Lord's day, and of what great importance they judged the due observation of this holy day is to the interest of true religion and godliness! And O what a pity is it, that we, who succeed them, should come so far short of them in zeal for sanctifying the Lord's day! O that all magistrates and ministers were animated to shew a due concern for the honour of this holy day, as in former times. A pleasant token would this be of the revi val of decayed religion among us.
GOD, in his infinite goodness to fallen mankind, has been pleased to give us the Holy Bible, or canonical scripture, as a perfect rule of faith and manners; containing at large the great truths, duties, and concerns of the Christian religion. And these we have briefly comprised in three succinct compends, which are owned and received by all Christians; viz. the Apostles' Creed, as it is commonly called; the Lord's Prayer; and the Decalogue: the first being the sum of our credenda, the second of our pe tenda, and the third of our facienda.
The Decalogue, or Ten Commandments, which were solemnly delivered to the people of Israel from mount Sinai, do contain the moral law; being a fixed and perpetual rule of righteousness, which God hath given to be observed by all mankind, in all ages and periods, to the end of the world. This is that law which the royal psalmist so much admires and commends, and makes his chief subject in several psalms, particularly xix. and cxix. which deserves our special notice, and high esteem in that respect.
The moral law differs vastly in its nature from that of a positive law, which commands or prohibits things that before were indifferent, and only become good or evil by the virtue of the command, and not otherwise. Such was that command to our first parents, concerning their eating of the tree of knowledge; such were the ceremonial, and many C
of the judicial laws, given to the Jews: these were binding only upon particular persons, and lasted but for a time. But the moral law, contained in the Decalogue, is of universal and perpetual obligation to every rational creature, and can never be abrogated, nor dispensed with; seeing it is evidently founded upon, and agreeable to the dictates of the light of nature, and the principles of sound reason, naturally engraven on man's heart.
This moral law God hath divided into two tables. Deut. v. 22. In the first table, we have the first four commandments, which immediately belong unto the honour of God, and instruct us in the duties we owe to him. In the second table, we have the last six commandments, which respect the welfare of our neighbours, and teach us our duty towards them.
As all God's works are very beautiful in their order, so are the Ten Commandments, which have their place and rank assigned them, according to the dignity of the duties commanded, and the heinousness of the sins forbidden. As for the first table, the order of its commands is admirable-For the first command determines the right object of our worship; viz. the eternal and only true God. The second directs to the means of worship; viz. that they be only those of God's instituting, and not images, or means of our devising. The third appoints the manner of our worship; that it be with awful fear and reverence; without blaspheming, or profaning of his name. The fourth commandment specifies the right time or season to be employed in his solemn worship; viz. one day in seven, which is the subject of the ensuing treatise, the design whereof is to promote the religious observation of the Christian Sabbath, as the best means to revive religion when it falls under desay, and to maintain it in its life and power where it is.
Time is a jewel of inestimable worth, and upon the management of it depends the salvation of our immortal souls for ever; and therefore it can never be enough valued, nor too carefully improven. Time is a golden stream, continually running down by us out of one eternity into another; and yet its worth is seldom taken notice of until it is quite, past away from us. How sadly do we verify that word of Solomon! Eccl. ix. 12. "Man knoweth not his own time."