An Excerpt from the Duty of Magistrates For the Suppressing of Profaneness - by Rev. Samuel Slater A.M.The Lord's Day and Christian Sabbath - God Requires You to Keep the 4th Commandment as Well as the Other 9
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Tenthly, and lastly. In order to the effectual suppression of profaneness, I would and do heartily commend to all those that are in authority over us, diligent, yea, and utmost, care for the strict observation of the first day of the week, which is, in Rev. 1:10, called “the Lord’s day;” and ought to be kept as the Christian sabbath to the end of time: a day sanctified and set apart for the solemn public and private worship of God both in churches, families, and retirements, and for a sweet, close, and intimate communion with him, while we are delivered and taken off from those secular ears that, upon the other days of the week, do necessarily engage us, and cannot but divert us: a day not to be spent in anything, no, not any, the most minute part of it, but the duties of religion and works of godliness; except those works of necessity and mercy which God, out of his goodness and pity to man, doth allow; for he “will have mercy rather than sacrifice,” so that when acts of mercy are of absolute necessity, sacrifice shall give place to it. This is a day which God hath seen fit to usher in with a memento in the fourth commandment: “Remember that thou keep holy the sabbath day.” (Exod. xx. 8.) As if the Lord should have said: “I know your frailty, that you have slippery and treacherous memories, and possibly may, yea, certainly will, forget some, nay, many other things in which you are concerned; but let this be fastened as a nail in a sure place, be sure to think of this, to be mindful of this, I charge and command you to remember it: remember the sabbath-day before it comes, so as to rejoice in the thoughts of it, to long for it, and to prepare for it, that upon the day of praise you may have-on your I garments of praise,’ so be in a right frame ; and remember to sanctify and keep it holy when it is come.” We find the Sabbath was given unto Israel for a sign between God and them. So you have it in Ezek. xx. 12: 11 I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them.” By this they were distinguished from all other nations. These were a plain and evident proof that they were the Lord’s people, and that Jehovah was their God. This did loudly proclaim God’s choosing and calling them out from the rest of the world, and gracious setting them apart for himself, as his peculiar portion and inheritance. And indeed, where there is no care of sanctifying the sabbath by nations, families, or persons, it is a plain case, it amounts to a demonstration, that they are unsanctified nations, families, and persons. It is an evident sign of a people estranged and alienated from the life of God; of a wicked people, that savour not the things of God, but only those things that be of men ; of a people that have not the fear of God before their eyes; that are not carried out in desires of honoring him and lifting up his name, or of enjoying communion with him in the world. To profane sabbaths is a very great and notorious piece of profaneness. Sins willfully and out of choice committed upon a sabbath are sins in grain, scarlet and crimson sins. To mind worldly affairs, to sit brooding upon worldly thoughts, to follow the trades and callings of the world, to open shops, and buy and sell, upon a sabbath-day, are God-provoking sins, acts of profanenes,3. These are lawful upon other days, in which God hath given you leave ‘ nay, more, he hath made it your duty, to labour and do all that you have to do of this nature; but they are very sinful upon the Sabbath.
Let me propound Nehemiah to the consideration of magistrates and inferior officers, and his care and activity in this point, as an example richly worth their imitation, take the account of him as it is drawn up by himself, in Neh. xiii. 15-22: He saw some treading wine-presses upon the sabbath-day, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem upon the sabbath-day; the men of Tyre also dwelt there, who brought fish and all manner of wares, and ;old on the Sabbath to the children of Judah and in Jerusalem.” This was exceeding evil, and one would wonder it should be found among a people but a little before come back to their own country out of a sore and tedious captivity. Yet thus it was. But let us see what good Nehemiah, that excellent governor, did hereupon, and how he bestirred himself. He testified against them in the day whereon they sold victuals, “and he” contended with the elders of Judah, and said unto them, “What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath-day? Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? And yet ye bring more evil upon Israel by profaning the Sabbath.” And after this, he shut the gates, and set his servants to watch, and would not suffer the merchants and sellers of wares to lodge about the walls, but threatened to lay hold upon them, and did not desist nor give over till he had prevented their coming any more upon the sabbath day. 0 that there were many such Nehemiahs in the world among Christian nations! Shall I gather up what this scripture affords, and show you what is to be learned from it? Briefly thus: 1. Trading upon the sabbath-day is a violation and profaning of it. 2. It is such a profaning of it as is highly displeasing unto God, and will bring down his writhe upon a people that are guilty. 3. It is the proper work of the civil magistrate, not unbecoming the supreme, to punish and prevent it. 4. In order thereunto, he will find it necessary to be very vigilant and active. 5. It is not enough to begin well and do something, but there must be a going on till there be a thorough reformation. And let not any say, “Such care as this would be Judaizing, and the gospel brings along with it a greater liberty;” for though we have a blessed liberty, yet not a sinful one. We are delivered from the ceremonial law, which was a heavy and oppressing yoke, but not from the observation and obedience to the moral law as it is; and still it is, and to the end of the world it will be, a rule of life. And God’s abounding in his goodness to us, whose lines are cast in New Testament times, is a very bad argument for an abating in our care of sanctifying his name and his day.
In Puritan Sermons, Volume 4, Pages 481ff