Public Officials and the Sabbath

Status
Not open for further replies.

Ryan J. Ross

Puritan Board Freshman
I've been thinking about this subject for a few days. I'm familiar with all of the ins and outs of mercy and necessity as well as the language of the WCF, WLC, and the WSC.

Is it appropriate for government officials to work on the Lord's day? Perhaps they attend service and then handle public affairs and policies affecting the health and welfare of their districts.

What about campaigning after services? Is it good for them to speak of the benefits of the law and public good on Sunday? How far should they go, if it all?


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 
Last edited:

TheOldCourse

Puritan Board Sophomore
The work of Republicans is a necessity and a mercy so yes. The work of Democrats is an abomination so no. (Tongue firmly in cheek)

I would think that the magisterial office is one of necessity but not all duties attendant to it are necessary, so they need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. That which could be accomplished on a later common day without any significant material harm to another probably isn't a necessity. Looking at it from the outside, it's hard for me to see "campaigning" as a mercy in the confessional sense as its primary focus is the promotion of oneself (even, laudably, for the benefit of the electorate in the case of a good politician) rather than a concrete act of merciful service. It's a vocation where there may be a lot of "gray area," however, and in cases where arguments could be made either way, then WCF XX and your conscience need to be considered as well.
 

Ryan J. Ross

Puritan Board Freshman
The work of Republicans is a necessity and a mercy so yes. The work of Democrats is an abomination so no. (Tongue firmly in cheek)

I would think that the magisterial office is one of necessity but not all duties attendant to it are necessary, so they need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. That which could be accomplished on a later common day without any significant material harm to another probably isn't a necessity. Looking at it from the outside, it's hard for me to see "campaigning" as a mercy in the confessional sense as its primary focus is the promotion of oneself (even, laudably, for the benefit of the electorate in the case of a good politician) rather than a concrete act of merciful service. It's a vocation where there may be a lot of "gray area," however, and in cases where arguments could be made either way, then WCF XX and your conscience need to be considered as well.

Yeah, I find most things would not be permissible. But I wonder about speaking about government in a general sense, which seems to be allowed on the Lord's Day.

Specifically, consider the parts from WCF 23.1–4:

1. God, the supreme Lord and King of all the world, hath ordained civil magistrates, to be, under him, over the people, for his own glory, and the public good: and, to this end, hath armed them with the power of the sword, for the defense and encouragement of them that are good, and for the punishment of evildoers.

2. It is lawful for Christians to accept and execute the office of a magistrate, when called thereunto: in the managing whereof, as they ought especially to maintain piety, justice, and peace, according to the wholesome laws of each commonwealth; so, for that end, they may lawfully, now under the new testament, wage war, upon just and necessary occasion.

3. Civil magistrates may not assume to themselves the administration of the Word and sacraments; or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven; or, in the least, interfere in matters of faith. Yet, as nursing fathers, it is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the church of our common Lord, without giving the preference to any denomination of Christians above the rest, in such a manner that all ecclesiastical persons whatever shall enjoy the full, free, and unquestioned liberty of discharging every part of their sacred functions, without violence or danger. And, as Jesus Christ hath appointed a regular government and discipline in his church, no law of any commonwealth should interfere with, let, or hinder, the due exercise thereof, among the voluntary members of any denomination of Christians, according to their own profession and belief. It is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the person and good name of all their people, in such an effectual manner as that no person be suffered, either upon pretense of religion or of infidelity, to offer any indignity, violence, abuse, or injury to any other person whatsoever: and to take order, that all religious and ecclesiastical assemblies be held without molestation or disturbance.

4. It is the duty of people to pray for magistrates, to honor their persons, to pay them tribute or other dues, to obey their lawful commands, and to be subject to their authority, for conscience' sake. Infidelity, or difference in religion, doth not make void the magistrates' just and legal authority, nor free the people from their due obedience to them: from which ecclesiastical persons are not exempted, much less hath the pope any power and jurisdiction over them in their dominions, or over any of their people; and, least of all, to deprive them of their dominions, or lives, if he shall judge them to be heretics, or upon any other pretense whatsoever.

It seems like there is good in being called to the magistrate, but calling likely includes some level of campaigning/awareness of the need to vote—like calling an elder or a bishop.


MA, History
PhD, candidate
M.Div, in progress

WCF, WLC, and WSC

OPC, member in good standing
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
It's not a matter of what people are "allowed" to do unless you're really into legalism. We are to give the day to worship. We are given the opportunity to rest in Christ. I don't see much that a public official could do to contribute to these ends.
 

Ryan J. Ross

Puritan Board Freshman
The story of Johoash is an interesting account of electing someone, presumably on the Sabbath, but possibly latter.


MA, History
PhD, candidate
M.Div, in progress

WCF, WLC, and WSC

OPC, member in good standing
 

Ryan J. Ross

Puritan Board Freshman
It's not a matter of what people are "allowed" to do unless you're really into legalism. We are to give the day to worship. We are given the opportunity to rest in Christ. I don't see much that a public official could do to contribute to these ends.

The OPC Confession of Faith has at least two sections on what they could contribute.


MA, History
PhD, candidate
M.Div, in progress

WCF, WLC, and WSC

OPC, member in good standing
 

TheOldCourse

Puritan Board Sophomore
It seems like there is good in being called to the magistrate, but calling likely includes some level of campaigning/awareness of the need to vote—like calling an elder or a bishop.

I'm not quite sure precisely what you're getting at here. Something need not merely be a public good to be permissible on the Lord's Day or else many ordinary labors that tend to promote the public good would be permissible. There's no doubt that there's a special dignity and honor associated with public office as, in some sense, a minister of God's justice. But it is a common ministry, not a sacred one, whose duties ordinarily are not in keeping with a day meant to be kept holy.
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
It seems to me that it depends on what kind of work it is and what the office held is. I don't think there is usually much work (or at least absolutely necessary work) for a small town mayor or county commissioner to do on a Sunday compared to a President. Some local and even state elected positions are not even considered to be full time. With as much time as Presidents find to play golf, one wonders how much time is *really* required in that case also.

To be sure, with foreign policy issues at least, there is a sense in which one never rests. There is perhaps more that is "necessary" in that case in 2017 than there was in 1817. And of course it is not just elected officials but the military and all other sorts of appointed or career government officials. Stonewall Jackson was known to be an ardent Presbyterian and sabbatarian, but I believe he launched a noted attack on the Sabbath.

It says something about the state of Sabbath observance today that the only times I can remember this being raised as an issue in recent years was with Orthodox Jews such as Sen. Joseph Lieberman and Jared Kushner (and wife Ivanka) in the current administration. I recently read an article in which it was surmised that Bannon (I think it was) took some action on Friday night or Saturday morning when he knew that the Kushners would not be there to try to talk the President out of it.

I'm pretty sure that some legislative sessions include work on a Sunday. It would be interesting to see how the modern practice in that case differs from what it was 100 or 200 years ago.
 

VictorBravo

Administrator
Staff member
Is it good for them to speak of the benefits of the law and public good on Sunday

The question is quite general, but I have a sense of what you're asking.

I'm sort of a lesser magistrate (being a court-appointed defense attorney). In my little community I've become somewhat high-profile because reporters like to follow crime stories.

On the Lord's Day, I will often be asked about such and such case, or some particular legal question. I try to demur, treating such conversations similarly to discussions about football games or the latest news.

But, sometimes the discussion relates to something theological. I'm happy to tie my experiences into that. One common observation is the solemnity of pronouncing judgment, how it is a reflection of God's justice, and of the ultimate judgment God renders upon all. Another theme is God's grace upon sinners, how a convicted felon's contrite heart is sometimes expressed in a joyful countenance even at sentencing. Other times it comes up how God is glorified by the simple means of order-keeping, how God-ordained restraints effectively keep society from completely flying to pieces.

There are many other variations. I try to keep the central theme on how God's truth works in our day-to-day lives using occasional examples.

So yes, I believe a public official has things to offer on the Lord's Day in that sense, while in fellowship with others. But so does a plumber, or an accountant, etc.

Otherwise, I agree with Chris's observations above. I really think the daily work of most magistrates (excluding emergency workers or police officers and similar callings) falls into just that: daily labors. It seems strange to me to think they would want to do such things on the Lord's Day just like it would seem strange to me to want to work on a brief or do sentence calculations on the Lord's Day. There are six days for all that.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top