You shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.
I. WHAT WERE THE REASONS UPON WHICH GOD MIGHT BE SUPPOSED, UNDER THE LAW, TO HAVE INSTITUTED MORE SOLEMN AND SET TIMES OF WORSHIP.
1. As to the reasonableness of the institution in general, it was highly agreeable to the natural light of mankind upon these following accounts.
(1) All external worship is designed to give us impressions of greater reverence for the Divine Majesty. Now, such is the temper of human nature, that men have much less regard for those things that are common than for those which have some peculiar mark of distinction set upon them.
(2) It being one of the first principles of natural religion that God is to be publicly worshipped, order requires that there should be some determinate and public times set apart for His worship and piety, that such times should be vacations from the common affairs of human life.
(3) It being a further end of religious worship to advance the spiritual life and bring us nearer unto God, it is not only agreeable to piety, but to all the maxims of religious prudence, that the times appropriated to the more solemn worship of God should be distinguished by a cessation from the common business of life, that by this means, our minds being wholly taken off from earthly things, they may be more open to the heavenly impressions of grace and truth.
2. These are some of the natural reasons upon which we may account for God's commanding His people to keep His Sabbath, that is, all the stated and solemn times of His public worship; but what I have here principally an eye to is the institution of the Sabbath, which the Jews were so forcibly enjoined to keep holy in the Fourth Commandment. Now, the two principal reasons of this institution seem to have been —
(1) That hereby they acknowledged God to be the Lord, the Creator and Governor of the world; and —
(2) That they acknowledged Him to be in a more eminent and peculiar manner their God by delivering them out of the hand of Egypt.
II. HOW FAR THOSE REASONS, IN EITHER RESPECT, HOLD GOOD UNDER THE CHRISTIAN DISPENSATION.
1. The general reasons I laid down for setting apart some solemn time for the worship of God certainly extend to us Christians, and to all the nations under heaven, as well as to the Jews. Indeed, when we consider that to everything under the sun there is a time, and that the natural order of things requires there should be so, it seems highly reasonable that some stated seasons should be appropriated to His service, to whom we owe all the moments of our time and the capacity of all other enjoyments. Jesus Christ did not come to destroy any one duty arising from the law of nature or the common principles of natural religion, but to give all such duties their utmost force.
2. The great difficulty to be considered is how far those reasons, upon which the Jewish Sabbath in particular was instituted, may be supposed to affect us Christians.
(1) It appears matter of moral obligation that there should be some day set apart more peculiarly devoted to the honour and worship of Almighty God.
(2) It appears no less reasonable that the returns of such a day should be so frequent as to keep up a constant sense of religion, and their duty to God, in the minds of men, without interfering with the necessary affairs of human life.
(3) It must be granted somewhat difficult to determine this matter exactly from any principle of natural reason, it not clearly discovering what proportion of our time we are to set apart for the more solemn worship of God, or why one day in seven, rather than six or eight, should be observed to this end.
III. HOW AND IN WHAT MANNER THE LORD'S DAY OUGHT TO BE OBSERVED.
1. We are to consider the Lord's Day is a time set apart for the more public worship and service of God, wherein we are to do Him honour and praise Him according to His excellent greatness.
2. We ought also on the Lord's Day to employ ourselves constantly in the private exercises of religion.
3. As the Lord's Day is a day of thanksgiving for the public or private mercies we have received from God, it is a proper exercise of it to perform acts of mercy and charity to others, and both with respect to their souls and bodies.
4. As the Lord's Day is a day devoted to the service of God and religion, let us take care to sanctify it by religious conversation.
5. That we may better attend these duties, we must not only intermit our ordinary labours and employments, but take off our thoughts, as much as possible, from the business of them.
(R. Fiddes, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.