You shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.
Sabbath is a compound condition of the body and the soul. Misrepresentation of Sabbath, the forfeiture of its vitality, betrays itself in a negative conception of it, as restriction, deprivation, tax, and task. This allusion prevails at large, and prevails in two forms — religious cant and religious laxity, disrelish, or disdain. The latter is engendered in the former. Narrow natures, narrow Sabbath ideals; hard natures make them hard. They localise and dwarf the conception, as a measure of time, and a matter of law. The scope of the Sabbath is the happiness of man, the serenity of the race. It is intended to rescue the world from recklessness and ruin, from riot and from rot, from hardship, hazard, and over-haste. Sabbath is soul-rest. Its purpose is to train us to enjoy this earth in the light of everlasting life, and the glory of the gracious God, and not be slaves of time. The Sabbath is for the sanctity of peace, the satisfaction of the spiritual nature. It therefore takes the spirit away, not only from tasks and toils and trudges of its ordinary earth life, but from the worry and whirl of all the outer world. It persuades the soul to rest in God, as God rests on behalf of man; and to joy in His creation as He joyed, as His creation joys in Him. It begins by saying, You must, in order to say, You may. This silences the plea of lax indulgence which so many put up for spending a godless Sunday as the substitute of Sabbath. An uneasy Sunday is no Sabbath at all. They are restless and restive who press this very argument of recreation and of rest. Come, say they, Sunday is a holy day — a holiday. Now, to get as far from heaven as may be; now, to leave out God; now, let loose to enjoy nature, the fields, the forests, the ocean views. To enjoy the works of nature is the best way to keep the Sabbath holy, if you can call the Sabbath a delight. To take a walk, if you know how to walk with God. To rest, if you know how to rest in Christ. If you cannot read His glory in the page of nature, you are a child rustling a newspaper while yet it cannot read. That is dull enough. If you never get an ocean view, but such as the frolicking crowd get on the beach, or the chattering, giddy throng on the steamer's deck, puffing smoke against the sky and babbling — earth to earth, dust to dust, and ashes to. ashes — to each other, or staring at the sea in sickly sentimentality, then the ocean takes no notice of you, and has not the pleasure of your acquaintance. If that is your fresh-air relaxation, and that your innocent diversion, and that your poetry of nature, and your ocean sublimity, you have never seen an ocean at all,. and know not what it is, not knowing what it means, and nature's poetry to you is no more than minstrelsy, and the landscape yawns, and the skies wax dull, an& instead of having a Sabbath delight, you find a blight, a burden, and a bondage. Sabbath, like music, is a treat to those alone who know how to enjoy it. The day of the Sabbath without the Sabbath of the day is gloomy to the last degree. There are Sabbatic thoughts privileged to take on the complexion of the heavens, as the stilled lake, the azure of the firmament. If you are enjoying a book or a picture, you need to take a time when other things shall not interfere. To intermingle is to mar. There is a beatific converse. If you are communing with a confidential friend, do you like to have anybody else talking in the room at the same time? What the third person says may be all well enough and wise enough, or important. But please do not interrupt, you say; I am very much engaged for this hour. Opportunities of heaven make appointments as reserved and entertain celestial visitants as well. There are rounded Sabbaths, different from Sunday fractions. Many count the day at large as somewhat sacred, but miss the mantling of the hours, the swell and climax. A wholeness is essential to the pleasure. You will not get a schoolboy or schoolgirl who has a half-holiday in the morning to go back to tasks and training in the after hours of the day. They say, Let us finish this. A little longer. And no one who has had a spiritual zest, a melody and beauty of celestial vision for the first portion of the day, will care to spend its latter half in listlessness or lower use. The people who worship by halves, by halves will serve their Maker through the week. If you can introduce upon this land the Continental Sabbath, you can introduce the Continental history upon this land. But the day is complete when the evening and the morning round it. There can be Sunday struggles, Sunday tasks, Sunday burdens, and there can be a Sabbath of the spirit. That is of God, the beauty of the Lord our God upon us.
(H. S. Carpenter.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.