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Sabbath Rest: Dignity Applied
In one of Nathanael Emmons’s greatest sermons, he outlined the dignity of man. He began by showing how God distinguished men and women among all his creation by giving ...

Sabbath Rest: Dignity Applied

In one of Nathanael Emmons’s greatest sermons, he outlined the dignity of man. He began by showing how God distinguished men and women among all his creation by giving them a soul.

Then he explained the heart of his message. As a result of being created in God’s image, humans were free to pursue knowledge, holiness, and happiness. They also had the capacity to act and do great things.

Then, after identifying and explaining humanity’s dignity, this Massachusetts preacher provided an application. Humanity had a responsibility to respond to the dignity bestowed on them by God. Service through worship was the best place to begin. “Our minds are so framed, that we are capable of knowing, of loving, and of serving our Creator; and this lays us under moral obligation to worship and obey him,” Emmons told the worshippers.

Humanity was free to respond to God, whether they lived during war or peace. Emmons believed that embracing faith and its tenets, such as worshipping God, was the highest response humanity could give the dignified role God had given them. “Happy is the man who findeth religion: For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies… . Let us all then put on this rich and beautiful ornament, and shew ourselves men,” he said, paraphrasing his primary text, 1 Kings 2:2, along with Proverbs 3:14, 15.

Emmons also believed that another response was to pursue knowledge and explore God’s gift of rationality. “What has been said concerning the nature and dignity of man, shows us, that we are under indispensable obligations to cultivate and improve our minds in all the branches of human knowledge,” he said, encouraging his congregation to study all sorts of topics, such as nature, and to read all sorts of books with sound judgment and prayer.

“Liberty, which is the birth-right of man, and congenial with his nature, ennobles and exalts the mind,” he said. “For, in free republics, where liberty is equally enjoyed, every man has weight and influence in proportion to his abilities, and a fair opportunity of rising, by the dint of merit, to the first offices and honours of the state.”

To Nathanael Emmons, pursuing knowledge was a freedom resulting from God’s twin gifts of independence and dignity. “In this respect, how wonderful the smiles of Providence upon you! Whose heart doth not glow with gratitude for the auspicious occasion which hath now brought us together!” he exulted.

Prayer

Your wisdom, your knowledge, is so much more valuable than an earthly treasure chest of a million gold and silver coins! Thank you for the gift of faith.

“How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver!”

(Proverbs 16:16).


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