16 July 1820
adams-john10 Neal MillikanReligion

16. V:30. Attended Church at Mr M’Cormick’s with Charles. He read prayers for the seventh Sunday after Trinity, and his Sermon was from Isaiah I.VIII:13.14. “If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:—Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.” The Sermon was upon the duties of the Sabbath, which he said were more fully and comprehensively described in this text than in any other of the Scriptures. The composition was of modern date; perhaps Sherlock, or Leed. After some general remarks 392upon the character of the institution of the Sabbath, as a day of religious meditation, and of abstraction from the labours, the cares, and the pleasures of the world, with a note of censure upon the Roman Catholic Church for devoting great part of the day to amusement, and upon a great proportion of other Christians who give it up to worldly concerns, writing Letters, posting books, making useless visits or dissipation, which were indicated in the text by the terms, doing thine own ways, he divided his discourse into three parts—first considering those things from which it is the Christian’s duty to abstain on this day; Secondly, those things which he ought to perform; and thirdly the benefits and advantages of this Institution to mankind. On the first point his doctrine was that we should abstain in thoughts, conversation and conduct from every thing not only sinful, but of a temporal and worldly nature; and he enlarged upon the duty of subjecting our thoughts to discipline and of bringing ourselves to a deep and practical conviction that we are answerable to God not only for our words and actions but even for the conceptions of our hearts— Passing then to the positive duties of the day, he insisted upon that of attending the public ordinances of religion—upon family and closet prayer, upon reading and meditation of the Scriptures upon self-examination; upon due attention to the morals and religion to the members and domestics of our families; and a suitable remembrance to perform acts of brotherly kindness and Charity— The third part of the Discourse was that in which he rose to the highest flights of eloquence— The first great advantage which he pointed out as resulting from the Sabbath was its affording the means of moral and religious Instruction—of enlightening the mind; of purifying the heart; of improving in virtue; and preparing us for a better discharge of all our duties in this world, and for appearance before our judge in the next— The second was its furnishing us with the means of acquiring our eternal salvation, by propitiating the favour of our Creator. He observed that the first Institution of the Sabbath was to commemorate the repose of the Supreme being after the first Creation of the world—when the morning Stars sung together, and the Sons of God shouted for joy— That its observance was enjoined in the Law from Sinai, written with the finger of God, and proclaimed amidst the trembling of the mountain, the swelling sound of the trumpet, the flashes of lightening and the voice of Thunder.— That it was the day of the second Creation, when the Saviour of mankind rose from the dead, and completed the redemption of mankind from the thraldom of sin and death— The day when the gift of the Holy Ghost was poured out upon the apostles with that of tongues, and the power of prophecy— These striking recollections were followed by a rapid view of all the blessings of the Sabbath to man in a style of composition of the highest order, closing in a climax of beauty and sublimity, to which it seemed to me neither the speaker nor his auditory were sufficiently sensible.— The house was fuller than usual, but nobody appeared to be aware that it was other than an ordinary Sermon; and although while it was delivering I fancied I could almost repeat every word of it, yet when I came home it had all vanished from my memory, save what is here noted down— On returning home, I answered a Letter, which I have had five Months upon file from Governor Jennings of Indiana, and read the Letters and newspapers that came by the Mail. Adeline Rowe a young girl who lives with Mr and Mrs Colvin dined with us. I called this Evening with Mrs Adams to see Mr and Mrs Calhoun but they were not at home— Elegant and forcible as the Sermon this day read by Mr M’Cormick was, its doctrine was driven to extremes— The sanctification of the Sabbath is prescribed in the Scriptures; but the real doctrine of the New Testament on this subject is a relaxation from the rigour of the old— Neither works of necessity, nor of benevolence, nor of good neighbourhood, nor even innocent recreation are incompatible with the duties of the day. The general character of its occupations ought to be religious and meditative; but the Sabbath, said Jesus, was made for man and not man for the Sabbath— My practice throughout life has been various, and modified by the usages of the different Countries in which I have resided; it is not upon reflection, entirely satisfactory to myself. It has not been what it ought to have been— It has not been so constantly devoted to my own moral improvement, as it might have been, and has too often been to me a day of mere relaxation and amusement— For I agree in the Sentiment expressed by Mr M’Cormick, that the Sunday is not meant for a day of idleness, but for a day 393of eminent exertion and assiduity. May it hereafter be so to me. The general tenour of the chapter of Isaiah of which these are the concluding verses, is an indignant contrast between the pretended merit of fasting, and the real virtue of relieving the oppressed, and the poor— These are duties inculcated with the greatest earnestness throughout the Bible— It may be termed the great foundation of Bible Morality— These duties are very slightly touched in the ethics of paganism— The sentiment in Terence—Homo sum, nil humani a me alienum puto, electrified a Roman auditory; because it was new— It is the veriest of all commonplaces in the Bible. In the Hebrew system, religion and morals were grappled indissolubly together— Analyze the Decalogue, and you find the first Commandment prescribing the unity of God—the second forbidding the idolatry of graven images—the third, forbidding the light and idle use of God’s name—the fourth enjoins the observance of the Sabbath— These four embrace the duties to God. The fifth sanctifies the special relation between Parent and child— It seems to be a connecting link between the two tables— The rest are all duties of man to his neighbour that is to his fellow creature— They are all negative; prohibiting the violation of the rights of others— The sixth forbids violence to his life—the seventh to his marriage rights, the eighth to his property; the ninth to his reputation; and the tenth goes directly to the heart; stops transgression in its first conception, and spreads a shield over all the possessions of man in Society, by interdicting all unlawful desires. “Thou shalt not covet.”— The commandments of the first table were enjoined with awful solemnity and sanctioned by dreadful penalties; but the burden of all the prophets, and of all the New Testament is the scornful rejection of every pretence that the performance of the duties to God, operates as an exemption from the fulfilment of those to man.