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THE PREFACE TO “HOLINESS OF TIMES, PLACES, AND PEOPLE;" &c.
W HEN I tell the world the various occasions of writing these papers which are here collected, my design is rather to gratify the curiosity of my readers, than to add any particular illustrations to the subjects here treated of.,
The first of these essays, viz. « On the Perpetuity of the Sabbath, and the Observation of the Lord's-day,” owes its rise to a practical discourse on that subject, which is printed among the sermons preached at Berry-street, in the year 1733. While I was composing it, my thoughts were drawn out too largely in the argumentative part, which I therefore cut off and laid aside, reserving it for some other opportunity of publication. Since that time I had occasion to review this discourse, and though I think the scheme there proposed to be just and right, yet if there be any weakness in any of the distinct parts of it, I pointed them out in the second appendix ; and if they should upon the strictest examination prove insufficient to support my conclusions, I there take the freedom to inform the world, what would be my succedaneous sentiments on this theme. But still I cannot but conclude that the great expediency of a sabbath through all the ages of mankind, comos very near to a necessity : And if the observation of a Lord's-day be not directly an institution of Christ, yet it comes as near as possible, that is, the direction and example of the apostles.
“The Second Essay on the Hour of the Day for the Administration of the Lord's-supper,” arose from the scruples of a pious soul now with God, who found some uneasiness of conscience about receiving the holy communion at noon, according to the custom of many churches. This was written about the year 1710. The third discourse was a sermon preached on Thursday the 20th of October, 1737, at the opening of a new meetinghouse, built near Wapping, by the congregation under the pastoral care of my worthy and esteemed friend Mr. David Jennings ;” and when I transa cribed it in order to be published at the earnest request of many of my friends, it received a considerable enlargement both in the doctrinal and the practical part. The fourth arose from my own meditations and anxious enquiries, " Why the forms and rites of all the Jewish worship were much more exactly prescribed by Moses to the Jews, than the forins of worshipping in christian assemblies seem to be prescribed by Christ, or his apostles ? This bas lain by me near tbirty years, according to my best remembrance.
The last dissertation, viz. “On the Difference between the Visible and Invisible Church, and the distinct Holiness of the Jewish Church and the christian, written in the year 1732," took its rise from a growing opinion which I found in the world, viz. that the language of the prophets, both in divine threatenings and promises, addressed to Israel and Sion, must be extended no further than the Jewish church ; and that the discourses of the apostles to the converted gentile churches concerning their former state, refer only to the idolatrous heathens ; and that some of the duties prescribed to thern with such earnestness, particularly that of faith in Christ, must almost entirely be constructed to the use of those primitive converts troin superstition
and idolatry. Now if these opinions prevail, the writings of the proplets and apostles will seem to me to be 100 much impoverished and curtailed, and a great part of the advantage of these writings, both of the propbets and the apostles, will be cut off from christians in the present age, because they never were of the seed of Israel, nor have ever been idolatrous heathens, or utterly ignorant of the true God, and Christ Jesus bis Son.
The consideration of the holiness of places of worship in my late sermon being urged to the press, inclined me to review many of my manuscripts, and to take these papers out of them which bad any cogpation or affinity to the same subject, viz. “ The Holiness of Times, Places, or People, and to publish them together under this title. If my meditations on any of tbese arguments shall so far find acceptance with my readers, as to lead them into any clearer ideas of some part of our common christianity, let every degree of knowledge awaken some thankfulness to God, and some happy improvement in the christian life. Newington, May 4, 1738,
The Perpetuity of a
Sabbath, and the Observation of the
It is an unhappy thing indeed, that that very day, which God originally designed for a sacred rest here on earth, and appointed it to be a pledge and emblem of eternal rest in heaven, should become a matter of noisy dispute and contention in his church; but God hath seen fit to exercise our faith and patience with some darknesses and difficulties even in his own worship in this world, that we may breathe and long after the light and glory of the future state, with that more perfect rest, and more exalted worship, which is enjoyed and practised in the world above.
Several of the controversies which have risen, with regard to the sabbath, whether Jewisb or christian, and the holiness of it, though they are not of the highest importance among the doctrines and duties of christianity, yet neither are they mean and trilling; for as we ought not to release the souls and consciences of men from any of the obligations wbich God and Christ bave laid on them; so neither should we lay any yokes on the necks of disciples, from which Christ hath released them. However, since there seems to have been one day in seven appointed for rest from labour, or separated for divine worship, from the beginning of the world, through every dispensation of God to men, I cannot but think there is something of a moral nature in it; and on this account, I suppose God was pleased to begin a sabbath, as soon as he had made a creature who could observe it, and that he designed there should be a sabbath as long as the creature continued on earth; Gen. ii. 2. God rested on the seventh day from all his work, which he had made, and God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it, or pronounced it holy.
But that we may go on in a regular train of argument, and yet be as brief as possible, I shall sum up my best thoughts on this subject, in the following propositions :
I.“ Though man be placed on the earth for labour, or business