OBSERVACE OF THE SABBATH EJOIED.

THE REV. C. SIMEO, M.A.
Isai. Iviii. 13, 14. If thou turn away thy foot fro77i the sabhalh,
from doing thy pleasure on my holy day ; and call the sahbatk
A delight. The hohj of the Lord, Honourable; and shalt
honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own
pleasure, nor speaking thine oiL'U ivords: then shalt thou de-
light thyself in the Lord ; and I will cause thee to ride upon
the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of
Jacob thy father : for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
THAT the observance of the sabbath was intended
to be of universal and perpetual obligation, does not
admit of any reasonable doubt. It was enjoined to
man in Paradise : and the commandment relating to
it, when renewed to man at Mount Sinai, was, like
all
5'31.] OBSERVACE OF THE SABBATH EJOIED. 437
all the other moral commandments, written by God
himself on tables of stone. The Jewish Prophets
spake of it as to be continued under the Gospel dis-
pensation": and the Apostles evidently continued
the observance of it, transferring it only from the
last day of the week to the first, in commemora-
tion of our Lord's resurrection from the dead, and of
the work of redemption which was thereby com-
pleted''. The ceremonial laws relating to it are
abrogated ; but the moral part of it is as much in
force as ever.
In the passage before us we may see,
I. In what light we should view the sabbath —
The estimation in which it should be held is here
variously expressed : we are taught to account that
day,
1. Holy—
[Whatever was consecrated to God under the Law was
accounted holy : it was separated from all profane or common
use, and was employed solely for the ends and purposes for
which it had been thus set apart. Thus die sabbath, being
consecrated to the especial service of God, is called in our text
" God's holy day ;" and, " The holy of the Lord." In the
ew Testament also it is called, " The Lord's day^" Hence
it is obvious, that every part of it is to be regarded as the Lord's
property, and to be improved for him alone. We should feel
a veneration for it, precisely as Ave should for any thing else
that had been dedicated to the Lord : and, as we shudder at
the impiety of Belshazzar in using, at a feast, the sacred ves-
sels which he had taken from Jerusalem, though he himself
was not a worshipper of Jehovah ; much more must we, who
acknowledge the sanctity of the sabbath, shudder at die
thought of 'alienating any ^portion of it from Him, to whom it
exclusively belongs.]
2. Honourable —
[If any man, under the Law, had regarded the Temple,
the sacrifices, and the vessels of the sanctuary, in no other light
than as a common house, or common utensils, or common tood,
he would have been considered as greatly dishonouring trod.
Thus the very sanctity of the sabbath ^^^^i;^^^^"^;)^*^^^^^^^^
"SeeCh.lvi. 1,4, 6. com
"See John XX. 19,26. Acts xx. 7- iCor. xvi.2. Rev. i. 10.
438 ISAIAH, LVIII. 13, 14. [531.
"honourable" in our estimation; and we should labour to
" honour it " by every possible expression of our regard.]
3. Delightful —
[The arrival of that day should be greeted by us with
holy joy: we should say, " This is the day that the Lord has
made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." If we could suppose
an angel sent down to this lower Avorld to labour in some
common occupation, and permitted every seventh day to re-
turn to his heavenly abodes, and spend that day in the em-
ployments suited to his taste, with what delight would he look
forward to the stated returns of that day ! So should it be with
us ; and so it U'ill be, in proportion as we have attained to the
views and dispositions of those blessed spirits. ot that we
should delight in it merely as a day of rest to the body, but as
a day wherein God calls us, like Moses, to come up and com-
mune with him on his Holy Mount : and, instead of abridging
it, or complaining of it as long and wearisome, we should
rather say, with Peter, " It is good for us to be here ;" and
should almost regret the arrival of the period when we must
descend from the Mount, to the less-pleasing occupations of
time and sense.]
But we will proceed to state more particularly,
II. In what manner we should employ it —
In what manner we should not employ it, is here
distinctly told us — •
[Worldly business, and carnal pleasure, and unprofitable
conversation, are all expressly proscribed : " we must not do
our own ways, nor find our own pleasure, nor speak our own
words." On all the other days of the week we may find time
for these things; but on the sabbath- day they are to be ex-
cluded altogether. It is a grievous mistake to imagine, that
after the public services of the day we are at liberty to en->
gage in vain pursuits, invented only to beguile the time,
which otherwise would be a burthen upon our hands : there
are pursuits proper to the day ; and in them exclusively
should our time be occupied. We do not mean to say, that
such things as can neither be anticipated nor postponed may
not be done with innocence: for even under the Law, a latitude
was allowed in relation to *' what every man must eat*^." In
reference to such things as are really necessary, we are autho-
rized to say", that " God will have mercy, and not sacrifice:"
but it becomes all to be on their guard, that they do not de-
ceive their own souls ; for God can easily distinguish the hid-
den motives of the heart; and will surely judge our actions
as
" Exod. xii. 16.
531.] OBSERVACE OF THE SABBATH EJOI*ED. 439
as good or evil, according as their quality shall be found in
his eyes. If the infringement of the sabbath be reluctant, as
in the extinguishing of a fire, or in the exercise of compas-
sion to man or beast, it is well ; but if we be actuated l)y
considerations of ease, or interest, or pleasure, to alienate
from God any of that time which ought to be consecrated to
his service, we may be assured that we must answer for it in
the day of jvidgment.]
Our one aim on that day must be, to " honour
God"—
[The services which we are to render to our God on
that day are various, and all compatible with each other. The
first undoubtedly are private : we should give ourselves in a
more pecuUar manner to reading, to meditation, to prayer.
On every day we should search the Scriptures, but more
especially on that day ; applying them to our own hearts, ex-
amining ourselves by them, and intreating God to make
them effectual for the conversion and salvation of our souls.
From our closets we should go to Avorship God in public, and
to testify before all, our regard for his authority, and our de-
hght in his service. Whilst engaged in the various offices of
prayer, or hearing of the word, or of connmmicating at the
table of the Lord, we should be particularly careful that the
frame of our minds be suited to the employment in which we
are engaged ; lest, whilst we profess to be serving God, we be
found only mocking and insulting him by hypocritical profes-
sions. In the intervals, when we are disengaged from private
or public duties, we may reheve our minds, and improve our
time, in such as are of a social nature. The visiting of the
sick, the comforting of the afflicted, the instructing of the
rising generation, and, above all, the endeavouring to teach
our children and servants, and to " bring them up in the nur-
ture and admonition of the Lord," are services well pleasmg
to God, and admirably suited to the sanctity of that holy day.
It is much to be feared that this latter duty in particular is
sadly neglected, even in religious families; and that the great
predilection that has been manifested by the religious world
for public services, has brought into disuse those more selt-
denyincT offices which formerly occupied a considerable por-
tion of the sabbath-day. But, in whichever of these duties
we are occupied, our great aim must be, to " honour God;
demeaning ourselves as in his more immediate presence, and
endeavouring to approve ourselves to him as taitlitul ser-
vants. ]
And shall the sabbath, in this view of it, be ac-
counted a day of gloom? o; we shall have tar
other sentiments of it, if we consider,
111. Ine
440 rsAiAii, Lviii. 13, 14. [531.
III. The benefits we may expect from a due obser-
vance of it —
Whatever reference there may be in our text to
the return of the Jews from their captivity in Baby-
lon, we cannot doubt but the promises here made
have a higher and more spiritual import. In them
we are assured, that, if we really keep the sabbath
as we ought, we shall be blessed with,
1 . Delight in God —
[Thei'e is not any thing which God more delights to ho-
nour than a due observance of the sabbath. We may perform
the outward duties of that day, and reap no material benefit:
hut if we truly and earnestly endeavour to honour God in the
way before described, God will draw nigh to us, and reveal
himself to us, and fill us with joy and peace in believing.
And here we confidently make our appeal to all who have ever
laboured to spend a sabbath to the Lord, whether they have
not found such, a measure of grace and peace flowing into
their souls, as has abundantly recompensed their utmost ex-
ertions ? Who must not acknowledge that one day thus spent
in the courts and in the service of Jehovah, is better than a
thousand passed amongst the vain delights of this world*?
And where the sabbath is thus habitually honoured, we will
ventvu'e to say, that such happiness will at times flow into
the soul, as David experienced, when he said, " My soul
shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, whilst my mouth
praiseth thee with " joyful lips^:" yes, " they shall be satis-
fied with the fatness of God's house; and he will make them
drink of the river of his pleasures ^."]
2. Victory over our spiritual enemies —
[This seems to be the import of that expression, " I will
cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth'':" and
it shall be fulfilled to all who conscientiously improve their
sabbaths to the glory of their God. Too many of those who
profess religion, are, it must be confessed, scarcely, if at all,
advancing in the Divine life: their evil dispositions still retain
such an ascendant over them, as to make them go on heavily
all their days. But, if we were to inquire how they spent
their sabbaths, and what efforts they made to glorify God in
their public, private, and social "duties, we should soon find
the reason of their slow progress. As our liord said of some
particular evil spirits, " These go not out, but by prayer and
fasting," so we may say of the evils which are predominant
in
* Ps. kxxiv. 4, 10, 'Ps. lxiii.5. » Ps. xxkvj, 8.
•"Compare Dent, xxxii. 13. !k xxxiii. 2Q.
531.] OBSERVACE OF THE SABBATH EJOIED. 44 1
in many professors of religion, They do not give way, because
such slight efforts are made upon the sabbath to subdue them.
If that day were truly and entirely devoted to the Lord, Satan
would no longer retain the ungodly as his vassals, nor be able
to exert so much influence over those who have professedly
cast off his yoke.]
3. The full possession of the heavenly Canaan —
[That land which Avas given to Jacob for his inheritance,
was typical of the Canaan that is above, which truly " floweth
with milk and honey." And it may be safely aftirmed, that
no person who conscientiously employed his sabbaths here,
ever did, or ever can, fall short of the lieavenly rest. Thou-
sands who have perished by the hand of the public execu-
tioner, have traced their shame and misery to a neglect of the
sabbath : but never was an instance known of one who duly
improved his sabbaths being left to die vnider the dominion
of his sins. Indeed the services of the sabbath cannot pos-
sibly consist with indulged and wilful sin : on the contrary,
they are both a preparation for heaven, and a foretaste of it:
on earth the saints behold their God by faith, but in heaven
they will behold him face to face : on earth they, as it were,
learn and rehearse their parts: and in heaven they will join
the full chorus of saints and angels in everlasting hallelujahs
to God and to the Lamb.]
See hence,
1 . How reasonable are the requirements of God
in his Gospel !
[Had God required six days out of the seven to be spent
in such exercises, it would have been highly reasonable that
we should oliey him : how much more when he gives us six
for earthly business, and requires only one to be consecrated
entirely unto him ! If the services of that day were ever so
painful, they might well be claimed by Him who has done such
great things for us : and how much more when they are so
delightful and so profitable ! Grudge him not then tliat day,
nor any portion of it; but let it be wholly and unreservedly
devoted to his service.]
2. How just will be the condemnation of those who
disobey them!
[A person who has attained to fifty years of age, has
had above seven years of sabbaths. O what blessings might
not have been secured in that time, if all those sabbaths had
been sanctified to the Lord! and what judgments does not lie
merit, who has wasted all of them in a wilful neglect of
God ! Little as we think of sabbaths now, we shall find ere
long,
442 ISAIAH, Lix. 15. [532.
long, that the profaning of them has greatly increased our
guilt and misery. The Lord grant that this day may not pass
away as so many others have done, unprofitably to our souls ;
but let it be to every one of us a preparation for our eternal
rest !]
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