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Now the sanctifying of the Sabbath consists in two things—First, In resting from all servile and common business pertaining to our natural life; Secondly, In consecrating that rest wholly to the service of God, and the use of those holy means which belong to our spiritual life.
For the First.
1. The servile and common works from which we are to cease are, generally, all civil works, from the least to the greatest (Exod. xxxi. 12, 13, 15, &c.) More particularly—
First, From all the works of our calling, though it were reaping in time of harvest (Exod. xxxiv. 21.)
Secondly, From carrying burdens, as carriers do (Neh. xiii. 15; Jer. xvii. 21, 22, 27;) or riding abroad for profit or for pleasure. God hath commanded that the beasts should rest on the Sabbath day, because all occasions of travelling or labouring with them should be cut off from man. God gives them that day a rest (Deut. v. 14;) and he that without necessity deprives them of their rest on the Lord’s day, the groans of the poor tired beasts shall in the day of the Lord rise up in judgment against him (Rom. viii. 22; Deut. xxv. 4; 1 Cor. ix. 9.) Likewise such as spend the greatest part of this day in trimming, painting, and pampering of themselves, like Jezebels, do the devil’s work upon God’s day.
Thirdly, From keeping of fairs or markets (Neh. xiii. 15, 16, 19;) which for the most part God punishes with pestilence, fire, and strange floods.188
Fourthly, From studying any books of science but the holy Scriptures and divinity: for our study must be to be ravished in spirit upon the Lord’s day (Rev. i. 10.) In a word, thou must on that day cease in thy calling- to do thy work, that the Lord by his calling may do his work in thee: for whatsoever is gotten by common working on this day shall never be blessed of the Lord; but it will prove like Achan’s gold, which being got contrary to the Lord’s commandment, brought the fire of God’s curse upon all the rest which he had lawfully gotten. And if Christ scourged them out as thieves who bought and sold in his temple, which was but a ceremony shortly to be abrogated, is it to be thought that he will ever suffer those to escape unpunished who, contrary to his commandment, buy and sell on the Sabbath day, which is his perpetual law? Christ calleth such, sacrilegious thieves; and as well may they steal the communion cup from the Lord’s table, as steal from God the chiefest part of the Lord’s day to consume it in their own lusts. Such shall one day find the judgments of God heavier than the opinions of men.
Fifthly, From, all recreations and sports, which at some other times are lawful: for if lawful works be forbidden on this day, much more lawful sports; which do more steal away our affections from the contemplation of heavenly things (Isa. lix. 13, 14), than any bodily work or labour. Neither can there be to a man that delighteth in the Lord (Psal. xxxvii. 4), any greater delight or recreation than the sanctifying of the Lord’s day. For can there be any greater joy for a person condemned than to come to his prince’s house to have his pardon sealed?—for one that is deadly sick to come to a physician that can cure him?—or for a prodigal child that fed on the husks of swine to be admitted to eat the bread of life at his father’s table?—or for him who fears for sin the tidings of death, to come to hear from God the assurance of eternal life? If thou wilt allow thyself 189or thy servants recreation, allow it in the six days which are thine, not on the Lord’s day, which is neither thine nor theirs. No bodily recreation, therefore, is to be used on this day, but so far as it may help the soul to do more cheerfully the service of God.
Sixthly, From gross feeding, liberal drinking of wine or strong drink (Eph. v. 18, 19), which may make us either drowsy or unapt to serve God with our hearts and minds (Rom. xii. 11; Deut. xxviii. 47.)
Seventhly, From all talking about worldly things, which hindereth the sanctifying of the Sabbath more than working: seeing one may work alone, but cannot talk but with others.
He that keeps the Sabbath only by resting from his ordinary work, keeps it but as a beast. But rest on this day is so far commanded to Christians, as it is an help to sanctification; and labour so far forbidden, as it is an impediment to the outward and inward worship of God.
If, then, those recreations which are lawful at other times, are on the Sabbath not allowed; much more those that are altogether at all times unlawful. Who without mourning can endure to see Christians keep the Lord’s day, as if they celebrated a feast rather to Bacchus, than to the honour of the Lord Jesus, the Saviour and Redeemer of the world? For, having served God but an hour in outward shew, they spend the rest of the Lord’s day in sitting down to eat and drink, and rising up to play; first ballasting their bellies with eating and drinking, and then feeding their lusts with playing and dancing (1 Cor. x. 7; Exod. xxxii. 6, 18, 19.) Against which profanations all holy divines, both old and new, have in their times most bitterly inveighed: insomuch, that Augustine affirms, “that it was better to plough than to dance on the Sabbath day.”
Now in the names of Almighty God, who rested, having created heaven and earth, and of his eternal Son Jesus, the Redeemer of his church, who shall shortly 190come, on the dreadful day of doom, to judge all men according to the obedience which they have shewed to his commandments (Acts xvii. 31; Rom. ii. 12, &c.; 2 Thess. ii. 8, &c), I require thee who readest these words, as thou wilt answer before the face of Christ and all his holy angels at that day, that thou better weigh and consider whether dancing, stage-playing, masking, carding, dicing, tabling, chess-playing, bowling, shooting, bear-baiting, carousing, tippling, and such other fooleries of Robin Hood, morrice-dances, wakes, and May-games, be exercises that God will bless and allow on the Sabbath day. And seeing that no action ought to be done that day, but such as whereby we either bless God, or look to receive a blessing from God; how darest thou do those things on that blessed day, on which thou darest not to pray to God to bestow a blessing on it to thy use? Hear this and tremble at this, O profane youth of a profane age!
O heart all frozen and void of the feeling of the grace of God! that having every day in six—every hour in every day—every minute in every hour, so tasted the sweet mercy of thy God in Christ, without which thou hadst perished every moment; yet canst not find in thy corrupt and irreligious heart to spend in thy Master’s service that one day of the week, which he hath reserved for his own praise and worship. Let men in defence of their profaneness object what they will, and answer what the devil puts in their mouths, yet I could wish them to remember, that seeing it is an ancient tradition in the church that the Lord’s second coming shall be upon the Lord’s day,7373Lactan. I. 7, c. l. how little joy they should have to be overtaken in those carnal sports, to please themselves, when their Master should find them in spiritual exercises serving him: the profanest wretch would then wish rather to be taken kneeling at prayers in the church, than skipping like a goat in a dance. If this cannot move, yet I would wish our impure gallants to remember, that 191whilst they thus amuse themselves on the Lord’s day, contrary to the Lord’s commandment, they do but dance about the pit’s brink, and they know not which of them shall first fall therein: into which being once fallen without repentance, no greatness can exempt them from the vengeance of that great God, whose commandment, contrary to their knowledge and conscience, they do thus presumptuously transgress. If, then, God’s commandment cannot deter thee, nor God’s word advise thee, I say no more but what St. John said before me, “He which is filthy let him be filthy still.”7474This was the last and heaviest curse that St. John wished spiritual Babylon.
For the Second.
2. The consecration of the Sabbath’s rest consists in performing three sorts of duties:—First, Before; Secondly, At; Thirdly, After, the public exercises of the church.
The Duties to be performed before the Public Exercises, are—
1. To give over working betimes on the eve, that thy body may be the more refreshed, and thy mind the better fitted to sanctify the Sabbath on the next day. For want of this preparation, thyself and thy servants being tired with labour and watching the night before, are so heavy, that when you should be serving God, and hearing what his Spirit saith unto the church for your souls’ instruction, you cannot hold up your heads for sleeping; to the dishonour of God, the offence of the church, and the shame of yourselves: therefore the Lord commands us not only to keep holy, but also to remember beforehand” the Sabbath day—to keep it holy, by preparing our hearts, and removing all business that might hinder us to consecrate it as a glorious day unto the Lord (Isa. lvi. 2, &c.; lviii. 13, &c.) Therefore whereas the Lord, 192in the other commandments, does but either bid or forbid, he does both in this commandment, and that with a special memorandum: As if a Master should charge his servant to look well unto ten things of great trust, but to have a more special care to remember one of those ten, for divers weighty reasons; should not a faithful servant, that loves his master, shew a more special care unto that thing above all other businesses?
Thus Moses taught the people over night to remember the Sabbath (Exod. xvi. 23, &c.) And it was a holy custom among our forefathers, when, at the ringing to prayer on the eve before, the husbandman would give over his labour in the field, and the tradesman his work in the shop, and go to evening prayer in the church, to prepare their souls; that their minds might more cheerfully attend God’s worship on the Sabbath day.
2. To rise up early in the morning on the Sabbath day. Be careful, therefore, to rise sooner on this day than on other days: by how much the service of God is to be preferred before all earthly business. For there is no master to serve so good as God; and in the end, no work shall be better rewarded than his service.
3. When thou art up, consider with thyself what an impure sinner thou art, and into what an holy place thou goest to appear, before the most holy God, who seeth thy heart, and hateth all impurity and hypocrisy. Examine thyself, therefore, before thou goest to Church, what grievous sins thou hast committed the week past; confess them to God, and earnestly pray for the pardon and forgiveness of them, and so reconcile thyself with God in Christ. Renew thy vows to walk more conscionably, and pray for an increase of those graces which thou hast, and a supply of those which thou wantest. But especially pray that thou mayest have grace to hear the word of God read and preached with profit; and that thou mayest receive the holy sacrament with comfort, if it be communion day; that God by his Holy Spirit would assist the preacher to speak something that may 193kill thy sin, and comfort thy soul;—which thou mayest do in this or the like sort:—
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