Reformed Covenanter blog posts on the Sabbath

This week's post comes once again from J. G. Vos's exposition of the Larger Catechism; with the focus being on the change to the Sabbath to the first day of the week owing to Christ's resurrection:

... 9. Why was the Old Testament Sabbath the seventh day of the week? The Old Testament Sabbath was the seventh (last) day of the week because of God’s example and ordinance at the time of the creation (Gen. 2:1-3). Apart from providing an appointed day for rest and worship, the Sabbath served as a reminder of God’s work of creation. This truth of creation, of course, implies that all things, including human beings, are absolutely dependent on God for their very existence. It also implies that human beings are morally responsible to God for their lives. Thus the weekly Sabbath, commemorating the creation, was calculated to serve as a continually repeated reminder of man’s dependence on God and his moral accountability to God - which is to say that the Sabbath was calculated to serve as a constant reminder of the very foundations of religion and morality.

10. Why is the Christian Sabbath on the first day of the week? The Christian Sabbath, or the Lord’s Day is on the first day of the week in remembrance of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Thus it may he said that the Old Testament Sabbath commemorated God’s original creation, while the Christian Sabbath in addition calls attention to God’s new creation, his great work of redemption in Jesus Christ.

11. Who changed the day of the Sabbath from the seventh to the first day of the week? Our Lord Jesus Christ, by the accomplishment of his great redemptive work, brought about the close of the Old Testament dispensation and the opening of the New Testament dispensation of the covenant of grace. The change from the seventh to the first day of the week is a part of this change of dispensation. It has been observed that our Saviour was crucified on the sixth day of the week, and buried on the evening of the sixth day, and remained in the tomb the whole of the seventh day, and arose from the dead on the first day of the week. Thus Christ buried the Old Testament seventh day Sabbath in the tomb with himself; and left it there, and when he arose he brought with him the New Testament Sabbath, which is to he observed on the first day of the week. ...

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Today's post is from John Holmes Agnew:

There is in Isaiah 58:13, a passage which embraces in a few words, a summary exposition of that part of the law, which requires abstinence from the ordinary employments of the week. It consists in “not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words.” Six days are ours in distinction from the seventh, which God calls his own, because on those days we are permitted to give our attention to what is necessary for our temporal well-being and comfort. Our “own ways,” therefore, are not those which are at all times sinful, but those lawful ways which we pursue by God’s authority six days of the week. These are to be suspended on the Sabbath, that we may devote ourselves to those ways which are God’s distinctively from our own.

For the reference, see:

This week's extract comes from Dudley Fenner:

Now followeth that duty which one day in seven must be given unto the Lord, in the sanctification of his Sabbath. Remember, So he seemeth to speak, because when as this commandment was before given, they had neglected the same. The Sabbath day to sanctify, that is, to separate it from a common use, and dedicate it to a peculiar and holy use unto the Lord. So the gold, the vessels, &c. were said to be holy and dedicated for the holy use of the Temple, and might not be given or put to any other use: To sanctify a Sabbath therefore, is to call our selves, not from our own sinful ways, which we must do every day, but from out honest and lawful callings, that giving our selves to godly and Christianly exercises of our faith, we may be strengthened in the ways of God, and so in thought, word, and deed consecrate a glorious Sabbath unto the Lord.

Therefore it is called the Sabbath of God, Exod. 20. 10. and Levi. 23. 3. He calleth it a holy convocation, that is, dedicated to holy meetings. So Esai 58. 13. Hereby is confuted their opinion that take it a Sabbath kept, if their rest from their labours, so in the mean time they labour in plays, dancings, vain songs and interludes, &c. as though the Lord had called us from our profitable labour commanded, to displease him in these vanities. Again others also who if they be better then the former, abstaining from those things, have notwithstanding their heads, hearts, and mouths, so full of worldly things, as they do not indeed perform the truth of the Sabbath, when as it should be kept as the rest of the Law, not only in action, but also in the thoughts of the heart and words of the mouth. Esa. 58. Amos. 8. 5.

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Today's Sabbath-themed post comes from Silas Milton Andrews on the Sabbath as preparation for heaven:

Would we do good both to ourselves and others? Let us every one remember the Sabbath day at home, to keep it holy. By this we may be aided in judging of our preparation for heaven. The Sabbath on earth is a type of the Sabbath above. If we find no delight in the holy duties of the day, as now enjoyed, and feel the sacrifice of sanctifying it to be too great, how can we hope to enjoy it in the purity and holiness of heaven? But if it is our delight, and its sacred retirement from worldly cares refreshes the soul, we can discern some degree of conformity to the inheritance of the saints in light.

It is our duty and our privilege, then, to comfort ourselves with the expectation of yet enjoying an eternal Sabbath, where there are no temptations to profane it, no despisers of religion to interfere with its quiet sanctification—no ignorance, through which we may fall into sin, and thus impair our enjoyment,—no disinclination of mind to hold communion with God,—where no weariness in duty, or languor in devotion can make the season appear too long.

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This week's post for the Sabbath comes from Samuel Miller on the opposition of the early Christians to recreation on the Lord's Day:

Public and popular amusements were also interdicted, among Christians, on the Lord’s-day, from an early period; and when the empire became Christian, were prohibited by law, and under severe sanctions. No ludicrous sports, games, or recreations, however lawful at other times, were allowed on this day. The theatre, the horse-race, the circus, the diversion of hunting, the amusement of dancing, of luxurious feasting, and every kind of dissipating pleasure, were solemnly forbidden, and in many cases visited with heavy penalties. In short, the law of the Church forbade every occupation or amusement which was adapted in any measure to turn a day of spiritual and sacred rest, into a day of carnal indulgence.

For the reference, see:

This week's post for the Lord's Day again comes from the Lutheran scholastic, Johann Gerhard on the duty of superiors to enforce Sabbath observance:

Because there is explicit mention of children, servants, and sojourners, one gathers from this that parents, heads of households, and magistrates are not only required to hallow the Sabbath themselves but also to see to it that the children, servants, and sojourners entrusted to their hospitality and care hallow it as well. As far as the sharing of religion [religionis communicatio] is concerned, there is no difference between parents and children, masters and servants, rulers and subjects, “for there is one Lord of all, one faith for all, one hope and inheritance for all” (Eph. 4:4–5).

Finally, because foreigners were commanded to rest from working on the seventh day, it is clear that even though they were not forced to assume Israel’s religion, those foreigners were still required to submit themselves to God’s Law in external matters. This has been set before the Christian ruler to be imitated in its own way. Had sojourners been allowed to work on the Sabbath, not only would their example have been a source of offense to the Israelites, but also their own servile tasks could have resulted in a fraudulent evasion of the Law through them.

For the reference, see:

Our post for today comes from the Reformer, Johannes Oecolampadius:

That which pertains to the seventh day is expedient for the human being, tied up with various occupations, that God should choose one day for him in which he should exercise himself more greatly in prayer, and take delight in God more than on other days. We know Sabbath observation is perpetual among Christians, in order that they should abstain from sins and wickedness that offend God. But the time for working is fixed. God blessed the seventh day and without doubt set it apart for us, and he admonished us that if we would sanctify it to the Lord, then we would not be deprived of its blessing. It is true rest from external works, so that we might rejoice and take delight in the Lord. For all things have been made on our account, and, lest anyone should think that we Judaize, even the Sabbath was established for humankind.

We know what liberty of conscience is, but at the same time we should pay attention to the weakness of the people. If only the whole multitude would keep the Sabbath perpetually and no one would refuse. But since of course this is never achieved, we at least request that those whose concern it is would grant a certain day to the weak people, which they might consecrate to God. Not that we would intend other days for foolishness and those things which are opposed to God, but we seek that one day that we might reserve specially for God, and faith requires this. And if we do not do this we show that there is little of faith in us. Do we think that God cannot feed us unless we work every day? Some sin greatly in this matter, for they allow no rest or time off for servants or beasts of burden, as if God were not able to support them unless they work all the time. Paul in Hebrews 3 and 4 sweetly alludes to the Sabbath day and why it ought to be observed with the greatest diligence, and he says that we will be able to enter into that rest, and so on.

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This week's Sabbath-related post comes from the Westminster divine, Stephen Marshall:

Secondly, let me instance in the Lord’s Day; a day which is a sign betwixt God and his people, that He is their God that sanctifieth them. That as Idol-worshippers are known by keeping holidays to their Gods: So God’s people are known to be his people, by observing of his Holy day.

It is most true, that our ancient Doctrine established is purer in this point than can be found in most of the Churches, and excellent Laws we have for the backing of it: but I believe there hath not been in all the Christian World such high affronts offered to the Lord’s day, as of late hath been in England, and (I am confident) they all lie in the Deck charged, as the sin of the Nation, till by some public Act, the fourth Commandment be restored to its due place and honour.

For the reference, see:

Today's extract is from Thomas Boston on neglect of the Lord's Day being a sign of spiritual sloth:

Many toil their bodies for worldly gain, who will be loath to distress them for the benefit of their souls; by labour, unreasonably hard, they will quite disfit them for the service of God; and, when they have done, will reckon it a very good reason for shifting duty, that they are already tired out with other business: but the day cometh, when they will be made to abide a yet greater stress. They will go several miles for back and belly, who will not go half the way for the good of their immortal souls; they will be sickly and unable on the Lord’s day, who will be tolerably well all the rest of the week.

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I came across an interesting reference in Thomas Aquinas's commentary on Isaiah, relating to the Sabbath's moral and ceremonial aspects:

For the observance of the sabbath belonged to the moral law as to the requirement that rest be placed in God and sometimes freed for divine affairs by abstaining from other things; but it belonged to the ceremonial law as to the determination of the time.

Now, for them, the seventh day was determined because of the work of creation, which had as yet been surpassed by nothing worthier; for us, the first day, or the eighth, is determined because of the mystery of the resurrection, in which created nature was restored to something better: remember that you keep holy the sabbath day (Exod 20:8); take heed to your souls, and carry no burdens on the sabbath day (Jer 17:21). And as to moral precepts, that keeps his hands from doing any evil: I will wash my hands among the innocent (Ps 25[26]:6).

For the reference, see:

I will publish two Sabbath-related posts today. The first one by John Chrysostom, the early church father, is not an explicitly Sabbath-themed extract. (Hence, there will be another post later today). Still, it addresses a subject that is relevant to proper Sabbath observance:

AGAIN THE CHARIOT-RACES ARE ON, and again our congregation has shrunk. However, as long as you are present, our assembly could not shrink. If a farmer should see his crop in full bloom and ready for harvest, he makes little account of the fact that the leaves are falling. Since you are here as my harvest, neither do I now feel such great distress because I see that the fallen leaves are being swept away.

I do grieve for the laxity of those who are not here, but still the earnestness of the loving assembly of you who are present consoles me in the pain I feel for those who are absent. Sometimes those absentees do attend our services. But, even then, they are not really present. Their bodies are here, but their minds are wandering far and wide. In your case, however, even when you are taken away from our assembly, even then you are among us. Your bodies may be elsewhere, but your minds are here in the church.

For the reference, see:

The second post for today comes from Isaac Ambrose on the sins against the fourth commandment:

Or for the sins here forbidden:

Say first, hast thou not sometime spent the Lord’s day in idleness, or in worldly business, in vanities, or in sin? Secondly, hast thou not omitted publique duties, or comest in too late, or wentest out too soon? Thirdly, hast thou not on those days sold wares, carried burthens, brought in sheaves, or wrought in the harvest? Fourthly, hast thou not employed thy cattle, or servants, or children, or any other, though thou workest not thy self?

Fifthly, hast thou not profaned the Lord’s day, by needless works, words, or thoughts, about thy calling, or about thy recreation? Sixthly, have not the strict observance of the duties of that day been tedious unto thee, saying in thine heart, When will the day be gone? If in any of these thou hast transgressed, then hast thou broken this Commandment, Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath day.

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I confess 5&6 are constant reminders that I cannot keep the Law perfectly and am in perpetual need of repentance and grace. 1-4 are "easy" to keep in the sense that what one does outwardly is easier to keep in check knowing others will see and (rightfully, hopefully) condemn. 5&6 are largely known only to God and how quick we often are to act the fool and think He will not notice. This is in many ways the price we pay for fearing for the approval of man over and above that of a most holy and all-seeing God.
Today's Sabbath-themed extract is posted later than usual owing to me being far-behind in sharing posts. It comes from the Free Church of Scotland's Patrick Fairbairn and is the first of two posts on Christ and the Sabbath:

... On a variety of occasions He wrought cures on the Sabbath-day – so often, indeed, that the action must have been taken on purpose to convey what He deemed salutary and needful instruction for the time; and on one occasion He allowed His disciples to satisfy their hunger by plucking the ears of as they passed through a field. His watchful adversaries were not slow in marking this procedure, and charged our Lord with profaning the sacred rest of the Sabbath. How does He meet their reproaches? Not by quarrelling with the Divine command, or seeking to relax its obligation; but by explaining its true purport and design, as never meant to interfere with such actions as He performed or sanctioned.

In proof of this He chiefly appeals to precedents and practices which His adversaries themselves could not but allow, if their minds had been open to conviction – such as David being permitted in a time of extremity to eat the shew-bread, or themselves rescuing a sheep when it had fallen into a pit on the Sabbath – things necessary to the preservation and support of life; or things, again, of a sacred nature, such as circumcising children on the legal day, though it might happen to be a Sabbath, doing the work at the Temple connected with the appointed service, which in some respects was greater on the seventh than the other days of the week, yea, at times involved all the labour connected with the slaying and roasting of the Paschal lamb for tens of thousands of people.

With such things the parties in question were quite familiar; and they should have understood from them, that the prescribed rest of the Sabbath was to be taken, not in an absolute, but in a relative sense – not as simply and in every case cessation from work, irrespective of the ends for which it might be done, but cessation from ordinary or servile work, in order that things of higher moment, things touching on the most important interests of men, might be cared for. Its sacred repose, therefore, must give way to the necessary demands of life, even of irrational life, and to whatever is required to bring relief from actual distress and trouble. It must give way also to that kind of work which is more peculiarly connected with the service of God and with men’s restored fellowship with the life and blessedness of Heaven; for to promote this was the more special design of the Sabbatical appointment. ...

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This week's post for the Lord's Day comes from Samuel Miller regarding the effect of uncommanded holy days upon Sabbath observance:

The observance of uncommanded holy-days is ever found to interfere with the due sanctification of the Lord’s day. Adding to the appointments of God is superstition. And superstition has ever been found unfriendly to genuine obedience. Its votaries, like the Jews of old, have ever been found more tenacious of their own inventions, of traditionary dreams, than of God’s revealed code of duty. Accordingly, there is, perhaps, no fact more universal and unquestionable, than that the zealous observers of stated fasts and festivals are characteristically lax in the observance of that one day which God has eminently set apart for himself, and on the sanctification of which all the vital interests of practical religion are suspended. So it was among the Israelites of old.

As early as the fifth century, Augustine complains that the superstitious observance of uncommanded rites, betrayed many in his time, into a spirit of irreverence and neglect towards those which were divinely appointed. So it is, notoriously, among the Romanists at the present day. And so, without any breach of charity, it maybe said to be in every religious community in which zeal for the observance of uncommanded holy-days prevails. It is true, many in those communities tell us, that the observance of holy-days, devoted to particular persons and events in the history of the Church, has a manifest and strong tendency to increase the spirit of piety. But if this be so, we might expect to find much more scriptural piety in the Romish Church than in any other, since holy-days are ten times more numerous in that denomination than in the system of any Protestant Church. But is it so? Let those who have eyes to see, and ears to hear, decide.

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