The Scriptural Authority And Obligation Of The Sabbath Examined -- By: W. M. O’Hanlon

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 013:51 (Jul 1856)
Article: The Scriptural Authority And Obligation Of The Sabbath Examined
Author: W. M. O’Hanlon

The Scriptural Authority And Obligation Of The Sabbath

Rev. W. M. O’Hanlon

Nothing can be more obvious than the obligation, resting upon all intelligent and accountable creatures, to devote some portion of their time to the immediate worship of God, to the devout study of his Will, to the contemplation of the spiritual interests of their own being, and to such other exercises as are fitted to elevate the mind to the perfection of which it is morally and religiously capable. Even in the absence of any distinctive and divine revelation, beyond that which the Most High has supplied in the constitution of our nature, it could hardly fail to have been felt, that a solemn responsibility of this order existed. But, how much time ought to be set apart for these specific purposes, whether it should be indeterminate, or fixed and definite in its recurrence and intervals, and in what manner it can be employed, so as best to promote the Divine glory and effectually to secure the benefits desired,—these are questions which reason might be inadequate to solve, and which it might demand a direct communication from Heaven to decide.

But this communication being made, and supposing that the whole duty, both as to essential principles and minutest details, were placed under the guardianship and sanctions of a Divine edict, still, our judgment would readily discriminate, between that part of the obligation which is founded upon immutable, moral relations, and that part which arises out of such positive prescripts of the great Lawgiver as owe their binding authority simply, or chiefly, to his wise but sovereign appointment, as the supreme Ruler of the universe. We can conceive it perfectly possible for God to change the season, or to limit or lengthen it, at his good pleasure; but we cannot conceive it possible even in Him, without an en-

tire and unimaginable inversion of all the conditions of our being, to annul or remit the duties which give to the prescribed period all its peculiar significance and sacredness.

Thus, in the question of Sabbath observance, as usually stated, we readily detect the presence of two elements: the one having reference to what has been styled moral; the other, to what has been styled positive law. While, however, this distinction is well founded, and not unimportant, in the general discussion of the theme, it is needless, at present, to dissociate these elements; still more especially, since there are few institutions of revealed religion, which, if duly analyzed, will not be found to combine both. For, even when the obligation is such as to find its fundamental root and reason in the moral relations subsisting between us and the Most High, it is ...

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