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state of the world would have been without the sabbath ; without the frequent return of a day separated by a divine law from all earthly business, and set apart expressly for the study and pursuit of spiritual and heavenly concerns.Imagine how it would have fared with the soul, if no time had been specially allotted for the purpose of attending to its welfare. If all days had been alike, all our engagements would have been alike, all of a temporal nature; the world, the body, things present and visible, would have exclusively occupied the minds of almost every individual. Heaven, the soul, things future and invisible, would have engaged no portion of our care or industry; we should have gone on, from day to day, in the same unceasing round of business and pleasure, with nothing to interrupt our progress, nothing to divert our thoughts from the low and grovelling interests of the scenes in which we lived. The mind of man indeed has some natural apprehensions of the existence of a superior power, and some natural anticipations of a life hereafter; and these might have led some few, more wise and thoughtful than the rest, to endeavour to wean themselves from too great anxiety about the trifles of this transitory state, and to worship some deity of their own imagination, with whose unknown will they would bave wished to comply, in the best method that their ignorance would allow; but the same sentiments would have led the bulk of mankind to adopt the grossest superstitions in the place of religion, and would have permitted them to become as worldly, as sensual, and as vicious as if the natural belief of God and futurity were altogether void of truth. And this was the very case with the heathen world; whatever some few wise men may have thought, and however consistently with their opinions they may have lived, yet the great mass, though professed worshippers of some superior powers, and professed believers in a future state of existence, were given up to the most abominable corruptions, as if (as indeed is most true,) there were no goodness in the object of their adoration, and as if their prospects in futurity were in no wise affected by their virtues or vices in this present world. In short, religion (as far as their moral conduct was concerned,) was a mere empty name; it had, it could have no influence over their hearts and lives. What could a few philosophers, now and then appearing and inviting men to embrace a more rational religion, and to adopt a purer practice, --what could they do to produce a general, or even a very partial reform? Nay, what could the bible itself have done, though it contained, not the uncertain opinions of erroneous men, but the sure truth of God's own word, yet what could this very revelation from heaven have effected, if it had been thrown down upon earth a friendless and unassisted stranger, and no measures had been taken to procure for it a favourable countenance and reception.
I have already declared, what, (if we may judge from the character and pursuits of the world in general,) the fate of God's written word would probably have been; scarcely any one would have stooped to pick it up. It would have been trampled under foot, like the seed carelessly scattered by the way-side; few would have turned away from the beaten path of life, to sit down to a careful study of its contents, and a serious enquiry into the intelligence it communicated; still fewer would have thought it their duty, or have felt themselves impelled by a sense of personal interest, to spread the knowledge of it among men, and to endeavour to convert them to the belief of its doctrines, and to the practice of its commandments ;-or if a few faithful -believers should have occasionally arisen, who out of love to God and charity for a perishing world, would have undertaken to distribute, as far as possible, the bread of life which they themselves had happily found, yet what would these have
been among so many ? And how would the spiritual life of the world have been supported by food so irregularly and scantily administered ? I am fully persuaded, my brethren, that God increased the value of his merciful revelation more than two-fold, by having sent the sabbath to be its companion, and appointing an order of ministers as the “stewards of its mysteries ;” annexing also a promise of his perpetual blessing to the right use of these means and instruments of grace.
By such means it is, that he has spread abroad the sacred light, which he sent into the world. It would have been the “true light” equally, though it had been confined to a corner, or hidden as it were “ under a bushel ;” or if the “gross darkness that covered the people” had never “comprehended it;” but he designed it to “shine before men,” and to “lighten every man that cometh into the world;" and he graciously accompanied it with means for its universal diffusion. Take away those means, --blot the sabbath out of the calendar, - dismiss from their sacred functions all that order of men, whose duty and privilege it now is to publish abroad the glad tidings of salvation,-suppress all the ordinances of public worship,- forbid the solemn reading and preaching of the gospel,—and how long would christianity subsist? How much would it be cultivated ? How far would it be extended?“ Verily, verily, I say unto you,”
, (if I may adopt that holy language without irreverence) “ Verily, verily, I say unto you, this generation” would hardly pass away
" before heathen ignorance and irreligion would have returned.
Are men, for the most part, so fond of the light, that of their own accord they will enquire after it? If it be removed from the “candlestick," will they take the trouble to seek for it in secret places? Do they not “ love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil ?” Is it not necessary to bring the light to them? And do they not even now too often turn away their eyes
from it, lest it should give them pain to behold it? Does not the "god of this world”. even now too fatally succeed in “blinding the eyes” of multitudes, and preventing the “ light of the glorious gospel” from shining unto them?"
Abolish, I say, the Lord's day and the holy ordinances which accompany it, and in a very few years, the work of Satan would be almost perfectly accomplished. Christianity would in a short time be hardly known by name.
Men would separate and disperse their several ways, one to his farm,