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Of keeping Festivals, and Days holy to the Lord; particularly the Lords Day.

     True natural religion, that which was common to all nations and ages, did principally rely upon four great propositions; 1. That there is one God; 2. That God is nothing of those things which we see; 3. That God takes care of all things below, and governs all the world; 4. That he is the great Creator of all things, without himself: and according to these were framed the four first precepts of the decalogue. In the first, the unity of the Godhead is expressly affirmed; in the second, his invisibility and immateriality; in the third is affirmed God's government and providence, by avenging them that swear falsely by his name, by which also his omniscience is declared; in the fourth commandment, he proclaims himself the maker of heaven and earth; for, in memory of God's rest from the work of six days, the seventh was hallowed into a Sabbath, and the keeping it was confessing God to be the great maker of heaven and earth; and consequently to this, it also was a confession of his goodness, his omnipotence, and his wisdom, all which were written with a sunbeam in the great book of the creature.
     So long as the law of the Sabbath was bound upon God's people, so long God would have that to be the solemn manner of confessing these attributes; but when the priesthood being changed, there was a change also of the law, the great duty remained unalterable in changed circumstances. We are eternally bound to confess God Almighty to be the maker of heaven and earth; but the manner of confessing it is changed from a rest, or a doing nothing, to a speaking something, from a day to a symbol; from a ceremony to a substance; from a Jewish rite to a Christian duty; we profess it in our creed, we confess it in our lives; we describe it by every line of our life, by every action of duty, by faith and trust and obedience: and we do also, upon great reason, comply with the Jewish manner of confessing the creation, so far as it is instrumental to a real duty. We keep one day in seven, and so confess the manner and circumstance of the creation; and we rest also, that we may tend holy duties; so imitating God's rest better than the Jew in Synesius, who lay upon his face from evening to evening, and could not, by stripes or wounds, be raised up to steer the ship in a great storm. God's rest was not a natural cessation; he who could not labour could not be said to rest; but God's rest is to be understood to be a beholding and a rejoicing in his work finished, and therefore we truly represent God's rest when we confess and rejoice in God's works and God's glory.
     This the Christian church does upon every day, but especially upon the Lord's day, which she hath set apart for this and all other offices of religion, being determined to this day by the resurrection of her dearest Lord, it being the first day of joy the church ever had. And now, upon the Lord's day, we are not tied to the rest of the Sabbath, but to all the work of the Sabbath; and we are to abstain from bodily labour, not because it is a direct duty to us, as it was to the Jews; but because it is necessary, in order to our duty, that we attend to the offices of religion.
     The observation of the Lord's day differs nothing from the observation of the Sabbath in the matter of religion, but in the manner. They differ in the ceremony and external rite: rest, with them, was the principal; with us, it is the accessory. They differ in the office or forms of worship; for they were then to worship God as a creator and a gentle father; we are to add to that, our Redeemer, and all his other excellences and mercies. And, though we have more natural and proper reason to keep the Lord's day than the Sabbath, yet the Jews had a divine commandment for their day, which we have not for ours; but we have many commandments to do all that honour to God which was intended in the fourth commandment; and the apostles appointed the first day of the week for doing it in solemn assemblies. And the manner of worshipping God, and doing him solemn honour and service upon this day, we may best observe in the following measures:

Rules for keeping the Lords Day and other Christian Festivals.

     1. When you go about to distinguish festival days from common, do it not by lessening the devotion of ordinary days, that the common devotion may seem bigger upon festivals; but, on every day, keep your ordinary devotions entire, and enlarge upon the holy day.
     2. Upon the Lord's day we must abstain from all servile and laborious works, except such which are matters of necessity, of common life, or of great charity; for these are permitted by that authority which hath separated the day for holy uses. The Sabbath of the Jews, though consisting principally in rest, and established by God, did yield to these. The labour of love and the labours of religion were not against the reason and the spirit of the commandment, for which the letter was decreed, and to which it ought to minister. And, therefore, much more is it so on the Lord's day, where the letter is wholly turned into spirit, and there is no commandment of God but of spiritual and holy actions. The priests might kill their beasts, and dress them for sacrifice; and Christ, though born under the law, might heal a sick man; and the sick man might carry his bed to witness his recovery, and confess the mercy, and leap and dance to God for joy; and an ox might be led to water, and as ass be haled out of a ditch; and a man may take physic, and he may eat meat, and therefore there were of necessity some to prepare and minister it; and the performing these labours did not consist in minutes and just determining stages; but they had, even then, a reasonable latitude; so only as to exclude unnecessary labour, or such as did not minister to charity or religion. And, therefore, this is to be enlarged in the gospel, whose Sabbath or rest is but a circumstance, and accessory to the principal and spiritual duties. Upon the Christian Sabbath necessity is to be served first, then charity, and then religion; for this is to give place to charity, in great instances, and the second to the first, in all, and in all cases God is to be worshipped in spirit and in truth.
     3. The Lord's day, being the remembrance of a great blessing, must be a day of joy, festivity, spiritual rejoicing, and thanksgiving; and therefore it is a proper work of the day to let your devotions spend themselves in singing or reading psalms; in recounting the great works of God; in remembering his mercies; in worshipping his excellences; in celebrating his attributes; in admiring his person; in sending portions of pleasant meat to them for whom nothing is provided; and in all the arts and instruments of advancing God's glory, and the reputation of religion: in which it were a great decency that a memorial of the resurrection should be inserted, that the particular religion of the day be not swallowed up in the general. And of this we may the more easily serve ourselves, by rising seasonably in the morning to private devotion, and by retiring at the leisures and spaces of the day not employed in public offices.
     4.Fail not to be present at the public hours and places of prayer, entering early and cheerfully, attending reverently and devoutly, abiding patiently during the whole office, piously assisting at the prayers, and gladly also hearing the sermon: and at no hand omitting to receive the holy communion when it is offered, (unless some great reason excuse it,) this being the great solemnity of thanksgiving, and a proper work of the day.
     5. After the solemnities are past, and in the intervals between the morning and evening devotion, (as you shall find opportunity,) visit sick persons, reconcile differences, do offices of neighbourhood, inquire into the needs of the poor, especially housekeepers, relieve them, as they shall need, and as you are able; for then we truly rejoice in God, when we make our neighbours, the poor members of Christ, rejoice together with us.
     6. Whatsoever you are to do yourself, as necessary, you are to take care that others also, who are under your charge, do in their station and manner. Let your servants be called to church, and all your family that can be spared from necessary and great household ministries; those that cannot, let them go by turns, and be supplied otherwise, as well as they may; and provide, on these days especially, that they be instructed in the articles of faith and necessary parts of their duty.
     7. Those who labour hard in the week must be eased upon the Lord's day, such ease being a great charity and alms; but at no hand must they be permitted to use any unlawful games, anything forbidden by the laws, anything that is scandalous, or anything that is dangerous and apt to mingle sin with it; no games prompting to wantonness, to drunkenness, to quarrelling, to ridiculous and superstitions customs; but let their refreshments be innocent and charitable and of good report, and not exclusive of the duties of religion.
     8. Beyond these bounds, because neither God nor man hath passed any obligation upon us, we must preserve our Christian liberty, and not suffer ourselves to be entangled with a yoke of bondage; for even a good action may become a snare to us, if we make it an occasion of scruple by a pretence of necessity, binding loads upon the conscience, not with the bands of God, but of men, and of fancy, or of opinion, or of tyranny. Whatsoever is laid upon us by the hands of man must be acted and accounted of by the measures of a man; but our best measure is this: he keeps the Lord's day best, that keeps it with most religion and with most charity.
     9. What the church hath done in the article of the resurrection, she hath in some measure done in the other articles of the nativity, of the ascension, and of the descent of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost - and so great blessings deserve an anniversary solemnity, since he is a very unthankful person that does not often record them in the whole year, and esteem them the ground of his hopes, the object of his faith, the comfort of his troubles, and the great effluxes of the divine mercy, greater than all the victories over our temporal enemies, for which all glad persons usually give thanks. And if, with great reason, the memory of the resurrection does return solemnly every week, it is but reason the other should return once a year. To which I add, that the commemoration of the articles of our Creed, in solemn days and offices, is a very excellent instrument to convey and imprint the sense and memory of it upon the spirits of the most ignorant person. For as a picture may with more fancy convey a story to a man than a plain narrative either in word or writing, so a real reprentment and an office of remembrance, and a day to declare it, is far more impressive than a picture, or any other art of making and fixing imagery.
     10. The memories of the saints are precious to God, and therefore they ought also to be so to us; and such persons who serve God by holy living, industrious preaching, and religious dying, ought to have their names preserved in honour, and God be glorified in them, and their holy doctrines and lives published and imitated; and we, by so doing, give testimony to the article of the communion of saints. But in these cases, as every church is to be sparing in the number of days, so also should she be temperate in her injunctions, not imposing them but upon voluntary and unbusied persons, without snare or burden. But the holy day is best kept by giving God thanks for the excellent persons, apostles, or martyrs, we then remember, and by imitating their lives - this all may do; and they that can also keep the solemnity must do that too, when it is publicly enjoined.
     The mixed Actions of Religion are, 1. Prayer; 2. Alms; 3. Repentance; 4. Receiving the blessed Sacrament.

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This document (last modified May 19, 1997) from Believerscafe.com