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an occasion as this, it is well to look back and review the past; but I wish you also to look forward: To-morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the Lord. Let us consider the sabbath as a rest, and see with what dispositions we should think of its approach.
The sabbath is a rest; and it is so even to the brute creation. The mercies of God are over all his works. He takes care for oxen. 0, I love to hear him say, That thine ox and thine ass may rest as well as thou. - If animals were endued with reason, how would they bless God for the kind and tender design of a sabbath !—but, alas ! in how many instances does the wickedness of man counteract and defeat the goodness of God.
The sabbath is a rest for the body. Those who live in ease and idleness feel little importance in this: all days are nearly alike to them. But think of the condition of thousands and millions of your fellow-creatures—think of a man sitting six days at a loom, or standing six days at a forge, and so of others :-how inviting, how soothing, how useful, how necessary is a day of repose! Man is compelled to labour : “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." But is there nothing to soften the rigour of the obligation? Who could bear everlasting drudgery and fatigue ? Behold a refreshing pause ; a day of relaxation. The labourer lays aside the implements of industry, changes his apparel, unbends his wearied limbs, enjoys the fresh air of heaven. The alteration of scene conduces to the preservation of health-enlivens the dull sameness of toil, and renews the waste of spirits.. Who would
be cruel enough and senseless enough to blot out the sabbath from the days of the year ? How heavily and joylessly would time pass away without these precious intervals ! How many pleasing emotions associate themselves with the idea of a sabbath !-our charming poet, therefore, has not forgotten to notice the want of this in the lines supposed to have been written by Alexander Selkirk in his solitary abode :
“But the sound of the church-going bell,
These valleys and rocks never heard;
Nor smiled when a sabbath appeared.” But it is principally designed to be a rest for the mind, a spiritual rest; and thus it is not a day of inactivity, but of reflection and devotion : a day in which, disengaged from the concerns of time and sense, we may attend to the things which belong to our peace, examine our
and our character, inquire where we are going, and whether we are fit for the journey. It is almost the only opportunity some of the labouring poor have to gain religious information. It is the return of this day that reminds them that they are men, that they are heirs of immortality. It is the worship of this day that preserves in them a sense of that dignity and importance which they are so likely to lose while grovelling always in the earth, or toiling among the beasts that perish. A pious mind will overflow with joy to behold them under the sound of the gospel, and to think of the accomplishment of these words : " Though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more; but thine eyes
shall see thy teachers, and thine ears shall hear a voice be
hind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand and when ye turn to the left.” A pious mind will love to enter the cottage and witness the Sunday scene: the Bible is taken down, and while one child is stationed between the knees, and the rest are sitting around, a portion is read of that blessed book which brings glad tidings to the poor, and teaches us in whatever state we are, therewith to be content.
The real Christian, indeed, does not confine his devotion to particular seasons. He will mingle piety with business, and endeavour to acknowledge God in all his ways; but still he finds weekdays to be worldly days. He wants a retreat-he wants a time of refreshing from the presence of the Lord.
When, therefore, he awakes in the morning, he
« Welcome, sweet day of rest,
That saw the Lord arise;
And these rejoicing eyes.” Blessed be his name, he has fed me through the week ; but
“ The king himself comes near,
And feasts his saints to-day ;
And love, and praise, and pray.” Here is such a day as Christians want-a day entirely for their souls and their God. They feel impressed and sacred : everything wears a new appearance.
Where they their Saviour oft have met ;
This leads us, secondly, to inquire with what dispositions we should think of the approaching sabbath.
We should endeavour to finish all our worldly affairs as early as possible on a Saturday evening, that we may feel free and composed. Edgar, one of the Saxon kings of England, passed a law that the Sabbath should be observed from nine o'clock Saturday evening till Monday morning. I wish the custom, if not the law, were revived. How wrong is it for tradesmen, and masters, and mistresses of families to drive things off so as to create hurry and confusion on the very eve of the sabbath, and to retire later and with a mind less fitted for devotion than on any other day of the week! Where something of this is unavoidable, persons are to be pitied. We should expect the return of this season
With thankfulness. Let us bless God for an institution which shows his concern for our present and everlasting welfare, and marks his loving kindness more than his sovereignty : for the sabbath was made for man. Let us bless God that our lives are spared, and that in a few hours we hope to hear the multitude who keep holy-day, saying, Let us go into the house of the Lord. Let us bless him that we are in circumstances which promise us ability to join in the sacred exercises, and that we are not by accidents and diseases doomed to pass a solitary sabbath, and impelled to take up the melancholy complaint: “Lo, the sweet day of sacred rest returns ;
...But not to me returns
To present maladies. Unhappy state !
That sickly flesh and shattered nerves impose.” We should expect the return of the day with holy awe. It is a solemn thought, and we should impress it upon our minds at this season that every sabbath, every sermon, every prayer, and every psalm is a step taken, which brings us nearer heaven or hell; that the means of grace with which · we are so frequently indulged will prove either the savour of life unto life or of death unto death. Yes—these are privileges which will not leave us as they find us: if they are not food, they will prove poison : if they do not cure, they will be sure to kill. They are talents for each of which we shall be called to give the strictest account; and, unimproved, they will sink us deeper in condemnation than heathens or Jews.
We should meet the sabbath with pious resolution. Here is at hand a returning season of mercy ; let me embrace it. By how many will it be profaned—but, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. How many of these invaluable opportunities have I already trifled away! how many have I sinned away ! O let me now awake ! and be serious and diligent: let me not shorten the day by rising late ; let me not lose it by inattention. Let it not be a price in the hand of a fool.
But what is resolution without prayer ! The preparation of the heart and the answer of the tongue in man are from the Lord :—without him we can do nothing.”
Let us, therefore, betake ourselves to him in humble and earnest prayer : let us beseech him to