Reformed Covenanter blog posts on the Sabbath

RWD

Puritan Board Sophomore
I intentionally make an effort to publish one blog post each Lord's Day on the Sabbath. Today's offering comes from J. C. Ryle on over-busyness, personal religion, and the Sabbath.

These posts are collected together into a category on the Sabbath, though I need to update the earlier posts (Wordpress now allows you to justify the margins, which makes for ease of reading).

That’s a great service you’re providing.

This quote from Rice is a gem:

The fact that God made it a civil institution, indicates clearly the duty of all civil legislators, unless it can be shown that the reasons why the Jewish nation should have a Sabbath, do not apply to other nations. But as individuals and families have their respective accountability to God, so do nations. And as the civil ruler is “a minister of God,” he must make his legislation conform to God’s legislation. …
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
... It is altogether erroneous to ascribe to the Sabbath of the Fourth Commandment a character of gloom and harshness and severity, utterly uncongenial to the free and joyous spirit of Christianity, and to suppose that we cannot submit to its authority or attempt to obey it without involving ourselves in degrading bondage. Such seems to be the notion entertained by many, and which lies at the root of their ill-disguised or undisguised aversion to this precept of the Decalogue. It is taken for granted that if we consider ourselves bound by the Fourth Commandment, to be consistent, we must be out-and-out Pharisees. ...

For more, see William Symington II: Against Pharisaic Sabbath observance.
 

G

Puritan Board Senior
... It is altogether erroneous to ascribe to the Sabbath of the Fourth Commandment a character of gloom and harshness and severity, utterly uncongenial to the free and joyous spirit of Christianity, and to suppose that we cannot submit to its authority or attempt to obey it without involving ourselves in degrading bondage. Such seems to be the notion entertained by many, and which lies at the root of their ill-disguised or undisguised aversion to this precept of the Decalogue. It is taken for granted that if we consider ourselves bound by the Fourth Commandment, to be consistent, we must be out-and-out Pharisees. ...

For more, see William Symington II: Against Pharisaic Sabbath observance.
Daniel, the fuller excerpt from your link in this quote only adds to the edification of the above few lines. I hear this objection raised often in my circles. Have you read much of Symington? I only ask because ironically I was looking at an RHB deal for his full works 2 days ago, but I have not read much of him personally.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
... It is altogether erroneous to ascribe to the Sabbath of the Fourth Commandment a character of gloom and harshness and severity, utterly uncongenial to the free and joyous spirit of Christianity, and to suppose that we cannot submit to its authority or attempt to obey it without involving ourselves in degrading bondage. Such seems to be the notion entertained by many, and which lies at the root of their ill-disguised or undisguised aversion to this precept of the Decalogue. It is taken for granted that if we consider ourselves bound by the Fourth Commandment, to be consistent, we must be out-and-out Pharisees. ...

For more, see William Symington II: Against Pharisaic Sabbath observance.
Stealing this for a NP meme. As bad as this objection is, far worse to give any reason to any to think it.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
Daniel, the fuller excerpt from your link in this quote only adds to the edification of the above few lines. I hear this objection raised often in my circles. Have you read much of Symington? I only ask because ironically I was looking at an RHB deal for his full works 2 days ago, but I have not read much of him personally.

Grant, this William Symington is actually the son of the author of Messiah the Prince and The Atonement and Intercession of Christ. His chapter on the Sabbath in the collection from which this source is cited is the only thing that I have read by the younger Symington.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
Stealing this for a NP meme. As bad as this objection is, far worse to give any reason to any to think it.

You are seizing the memes of production. :)

Seriously, though, those of us who wish to uphold the fourth commandment do need to be careful that we are not lending weight to this objection. While Judaical Sabbatarianism is not the biggest problem today, it still raises its head from time to time.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
You are seizing the memes of production. :)

Seriously, though, those of us who wish to uphold the fourth commandment do need to be careful that we are not lending weight to this objection. While Judaical Sabbatarianism is not the biggest problem today, it still raises its head from time to time.
I'll give you credit and share the royalties 50/50. ;) Agreed that it is a minority problem, even among the defenders where I think because we have lost any cultural remembrance of the observance the violations may be downplayed and activities broadened to be anything that can be remotely classed as 'Sunday activity' albeit it may amount to something like changing the names of the squares in Monopoly to bible locations, etc. But the other extreme will be among the defenders of it, maybe who have held on to it faithfully through the long decline from any cultural deference, who object to such and such thing, and neglecting that it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.
 

W.C. Dean

Puritan Board Sophomore
Grant, this William Symington is actually the son of the author of Messiah the Prince and The Atonement and Intercession of Christ. His chapter on the Sabbath in the collection from which this source is cited is the only thing that I have read by the younger Symington.

Daniel, where can I find this work from William Symington the younger, and other works of his? I really enjoyed the portion and would love to have more of it.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
Daniel, where can I find this work from William Symington the younger, and other works of his? I really enjoyed the portion and would love to have more of it.

It is available on archive.org. I am not sure about other works of the younger William Symington, as this lecture is all that I have read by him. I will have a look and see what is available.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
Q. 37. Why is mention here made of all within our gates?

A. To show that this commandment is not only directed to private persons, but to magistrates, and masters of families as such, who, though they cannot compel men to believe, they may restrain them from violating the rest of the sabbath, and compel them to such external worship of God as all men are immediately obliged to; even all within the gates of their cities or houses.

For the reference, see Richard Baxter on the Sabbath command directed to magistrates and heads of families.
 

G

Puritan Board Senior
Q. 37. Why is mention here made of all within our gates?

A. To show that this commandment is not only directed to private persons, but to magistrates, and masters of families as such, who, though they cannot compel men to believe, they may restrain them from violating the rest of the sabbath, and compel them to such external worship of God as all men are immediately obliged to; even all within the gates of their cities or houses.

For the reference, see Richard Baxter on the Sabbath command directed to magistrates and heads of families.
Excellent! I have never thought about that phrase in Exodus in great detail. The phrase being included would seem to serve as a refutation of those who claim the magistrate has no duty to see the 4th commandment upheld within their gate.

If a Mayor, Governor, or President is bound to the moral law of God, then what does “within their gate” entail? (rhetorical):detective:
 
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Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
This week's post for the Lord's Day is a little different than usual. I found this letter from Patrick Fairbairn to Amos A. Phelps in a manuscript collection housed in the Boston Public Library:

I take the opportunity of Dr. [William] Cunningham’s going to America, to send to your care, and for your distribution, a few copies of a pamphlet I published last-year on a particular branch of the Sabbath controversy. I meant to have requested your acceptance of them, when you were here, but I did not see you again, as I expected, at the Assembly of the Free Church.

If you think the argument maintained in it sound (as I of course do) and conceive it would be of importance to have the whole or any party of it re-published in any of your periodicals, or publications connected with the Sabbath, or religion generally, you will only promote the object I had in view, by your sending a copy of it, with my respects, to the Editor of the Biblical Repository [John Holmes Agnew], which I have for some years been in the habit of reading.

It would give me a great pleasure to hear from you personally at any time, or from any member of your Society, regarding the state and progress of the Sabbath cause in the States.

For the reference, see Patrick Fairbairn’s letter on the progress of the Sabbath cause in the United States.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
... The Law is threefold; Ceremonial, Judicial, and Moral, as hath been said: now that place is principally to be understood of the Ceremonial law, which indeed is abrogated, in regard of the observation of it in God’s worship; but in the scope and substance of it, which is Christ crucified, with his benefits, whom it shadowed out, it remaineth still, and is now more plain then ever it was.

As for the Judicial law, though it be abrogated unto us, so far forth as it was peculiar to the Jews; yet, as it agrees with common equity, and serves directly to establish the precepts of the Moral law, it is perpetual. If it be said, that Christ changed the Moral law, in changing the Sabbath day, from the seventh day to the eight: I answer, Christ did so indeed by his Apostles, but that is no change of the substance, but of the ceremony of the Sabbath: for the substance of that law is, the enjoining of a seventh day's rest unto the Lord. Now though the seventh day from the creation be not kept, yet a seventh day is kept still.

For more, see William Perkins on the perpetuity of the moral law and the Sabbath.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
Gardiner Spring makes his blog debut with the following post:

When I consider the original institution of the Sabbath, of which we have so explicit an account at the close of the Mosaic narrative of the creation; when I find the observance of this day enjoined in one of the precepts of the moral law; when I find, throughout the Psalms and the Prophets, this solemn injunction implicitly repeated; when I hear our blessed Lord expressly speaking of the existence of this day after the abolition of the Jewish economy; when I hear the apostle John, long after our Lord’s resurrection and ascension into heaven, speaking with peculiar emphasis, of a particular day as the Lord’s Day; when I find the apostles by their example setting apart one day in seven for religious purposes; when I can trace the existence and observance of Sabbatical Institutions from the creation down to the present hour; and when to these considerations, I add the natural fitness and propriety of such a day, and consider how indispensable it is to the existence of religion among men: I am compelled to believe that the Sabbath is of Divine origin and perpetual obligation. ...

For the reference, see Gardiner Spring on the divine origin and obligation of the Sabbath.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
The post for this Lord's Day again comes from the Disruption Worthy, Robert Gordon:

... It is thus, I conceive, that the ultimate design of the Sabbath was fully explained only by the resurrection of Christ. It was undoubtedly a glorious purpose which it served, even under the old economy, as a permanent commemoration of the power, and wisdom, and beneficence, of God in the creation of the world. But it was destined to commemorate a more glorious creation still, even the accomplishment of that mighty undertaking whereby Christ redeemed his Church.

And if such be the grand subjects which the return of the Lord’s Day is intended to present to our devout meditation; if it represents to us the Redeemer as now entered on his rest, seeing of the travail of his soul, and being therewith satisfied; and if, moreover, it is an emblem, and a pledge, and the means also of giving us a foretaste of that “rest which remaineth for the people of God;” then have we not still more powerful motives than the Old Testament Church had, and are we not under a still stronger obligation than they were, to esteem this day “a delight, holy of the Lord, and honourable,”—devoting it to his honour and service,—seeking to hold closer fellowship with him than it is possible to do amidst the ordinary avocations of life,” — “not doing thereon our own ways, not finding our own pleasure, nor speaking our own words?” ...

For more, see Robert Gordon on the completion of Christ’s redemptive work and the ultimate design of the Sabbath.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
... The duty of setting apart some portion or other of our time to the worship of God, is a duty founded in the relation of a creature to his Creator, as much as the obligation of worship itself, and not to be set aside or changed any more than you could set aside or change that relation. The duty, on the other hand, of setting apart a seventh and not a sixth portion of the week, and fixing its return on the first or last day of the seven, rather than any other, is an appointment of a positive kind, determined by God on good and sufficient principles connected with the circumstances of man, but yet principles which, in so far as we know, might in other circumstances have led to another determination.

In so far as it is a moral duty, founded on the very nature of man as God’s creature, and demanding some proportion of his time to be employed in worship, it could not be altered. In so far as it is a positive duty, founded in the circumstances of man, and demanding the seventh portion of the week, and the first or last day of it to be so employed, it might, in so far as we can understand, have been different from what it is. ...

For more, see James Bannerman on the Sabbath as a natural and positive institution.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
This week's post for the Lord's Day comes from someone whom I have not previously cited on the blog:

... Many and ingenious, but wicked are the pleas urged by men for disregarding the fourth commandment when on a journey; but they are “refuges of lies,” which will be swept away the moment man appears in the presence of God.

This is a great sin in our nation. Its influence is vastly mischievous. The traveller is seen by many, and sins openly. He requires the services of those who conduct the public conveyances; or, if travelling privately, he at least demands the services of keepers of public or private houses. The whole moral law, including the fourth commandment, was given from Sinai to a whole nation on a journey. ...

For more, see William Swan Plumer on the Sabbath and travel.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
The post for this Lord's Day comes from another writer from the era of the Scottish Disruption and who was also a noted missionary:

In these days of ultra-liberalism in religious, as well as in political matters, it is incumbent on everyone to bestir himself. Our fathers respected the Sabbath; and throughout the length and breadth of our beloved land, the poorest man would have shrunk from the idea of breaking the sanctity of the day of rest by engaging in worldly pursuits; and to their perseverance in such a good course we owe the high name which the religious training of their families, and their own high Christian beating in every station of life, earned for our country.

Let not their children forget this; and, above all things, let them remember that these men had a reverence for the Sabbath such as that divine institution should awaken in every Christian heart. Let us be jealous, then, of any encroachment on the sanctity of that day; and if we will not strive to be better men than those who have gone before us, above all things, let us not earn for ourselves the foul imputation of having turned from the good old paths, and brought a stain on the memory of our fathers, who read their Bible with profit, and who would have resisted to the death any encroachment on the momentous duties of the Sabbath, which their heavenly Father himself told them to “keep holy.”

For the reference, see Charles Moir on guarding the Sabbath.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
The post for this Sabbath is a brief one concerning works of mercy:

The rest of the Sabbath (which is as strictly enjoined as abstinence at a fast, yet) might be lawfully broken for the preservation of a man’s life, as we see in Elijah’s travel (1 King. 19. 8.) five or six Sabbaths together; yea for the preservation of the life of a beast, Luke 14. 5. yea for the preservation of the health of a beast, Luke 13. 15. For, God delights more in mercy, than in any external works even of His own service, Mat. 12. 7. ...

For the reference, see Arthur Hildersham on the Sabbath and the preservation of life.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
The post for this Lord's Day, which is very relevant in the current climate, comes from Jonathan Edwards' father:

... I shall now briefly Observe something, and that only in one branch of it, and that is persons commonly & without any just cause Absenting themselves from the Public Worship of God on the Sabbath-Day (I speak not of Quakers & other Sectaries, but of them that make the same Profession that we generally do) I can’t but fear that many in this Government are very guilty of this great Neglect & sinful Omission of their Duty.

And it may truly be said of them that are thus guilty, that they live much in the Violation of the Fourth Commandment, which is, Remember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy; and in the Neglect of a principal means of putting visible Honour upon God, and of doing their part to maintain & keep up Religion in the Places where they dwell, and are guilty of putting an open slight upon Christ, the Offers and Tenders of the Gospel, and all the glorious things contained in it, and of the much in the neglect of the great & principal means of their own Salvation. All these Evils they do at once, and live in them, that commonly neglect the Public Worship of God. Surely this practice in which so many great Evils are contained, can be no little Sin. ...

For more, see Timothy Edwards: neglecting public worship is Sabbath profanation.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
This week's post for the Lord's Day is a particularly interesting one, having been taken from a pamphlet of Hugh Martin's that has not been reprinted in recent years. As with everything that Martin wrote, his manner of making his point is very striking:

The first remark which we would make for these words is, that, while a “Sabbath is made for man,” we nowhere read of a Sabbath made for devils. What would the spirits shut up in darkness and in misery give for a weekly Sabbath – a weekly rest – a weekly cessation of misery – a weakly trust from the attacks of the elements of their agony? Truly they would find it no difficulty to “count their Sabbath their rest – a delight.” (Is. lviii. 13.) We would never hear of them being weary of it, or saying, “Would God it were over!”

If that “worm which dieth not” were to slumber for one period out of seven – were those “fires which are not quenched” to be extinguished during one part of the time out of seven – were conscience, with its lash of scorpions, driven back and kept at a distance, so that a weekly rest, a strange Sabbath, might be formed for those to whom, as matters are, there belongeth nothing but “a fearful looking for of vengeance and fiery indignation” – we are quite prepared to see that this would be a boon for which they would scrupulously avoid any line of conduct which would cause the removal. ...

For more, see Hugh Martin: The Sabbath was not made for devils.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
The post for this Sabbath comes from another divine of the Free Church of Scotland, Robert Gordon. It helps us to consider the Sabbath's place in the two covenants:

... The sanctification of the Sabbath must have been made known to man—we cannot, in fact, otherwise conceive of its being sanctified at all; and we can as little doubt that he would feel himself bound to sanctify it also, by as strong an obligation as any moral law could law upon him. But, in point of fact, it is clear from the epistle to the Hebrews, that the institution of the Sabbath had an immediate reference to man even from the beginning— that it was to him not only an emblem of God’s rest, even of the infinite satisfaction and complacency with which the Creator contemplated the works of his hands, but a pledge to man also of his entering into and becoming partaker of the same rest.

It is true he forfeited all this by his violation of the covenant which had secured it to him, only on condition of perfect obedience; and had no provision been made for his recovery, the Sabbath had ceased to be to him a token of his participating in the rest of God. But, in the covenant of grace, a Church had been given to Christ to be redeemed. In virtue of the atonement which he had undertaken to make, there remained still a rest for the people of God; the Sabbath continued to be to them an emblem and a pledge of that rest; and the rest itself was still farther illustrated and prefigured under the type of Canaan, which occupied so prominent a place in the Mosaical economy. ...

For more, see Robert Gordon on the Sabbath in creation, the covenant of works, and the covenant of grace.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
Taking a break from Free Church authors, the post for this Lord's Day comes from B. B. Warfield:

You naturally dwell on the joy of the Sabbath. This is the day of gladness and triumph, on which the Lord broke the bonds of the grave, abolishing death and bringing life and immortality to light.

As naturally you dwell on the value of the Sabbath. This is the day on which the tired body rests from its appointed labour; on which the worn spirit finds opportunity for recuperation; an oasis in the desert of earthly cares, when we can escape for a moment from the treadmill toil of daily life and, at leisure from ourselves, refresh our souls in God.

For the reference, see B. B. Warfield on the joy and value of the Sabbath.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
The post for this Lord's Day is a bit different to normal and is aimed directly at the Judaical Sabbatarians who wish to observe the seventh day of the week. John Owen argues that such a Judaical observance is tantamount to returning to the covenant of works. I think I see what Owen is getting at, but I am not 100% sure that I follow his logic. Does the argument suppose that since the resurrection of Christ (signifying the completion of his work), the seventh-day Sabbath has been superseded, all that is left of it pertains to the covenant of works and so those in the new covenant of grace should cease to observe it? Anyway, here is the extract:

But now, to shut up this discourse, whereas the covenant which man originally was taken into was a covenant of works, wherein his obtaining rest with God depended absolutely on his doing all the work he had to do in a way of legal obedience, he was during the dispensation of that covenant tied up precisely to the observation of the seventh day, or that which followed the whole work of creation. And the seventh day, as such, is a pledge and token of the rest promised in the covenant of works, and no other.

And those who would advance that day again into a necessary observation do consequentially introduce the whole covenant of works, and are become debtors unto the whole law; for the works of God which preceded the seventh day precisely were those whereby man was initiated into and instructed in the covenant of works, and the day itself was a token and pledge of the righteousness thereof, or a moral and natural sign of it, and of the rest of God therein, and the rest of man with God thereby. And it is no service to the church of God, nor hath any tendency unto the honour of Christ in the gospel, to endeavour a reduction of us unto the covenant of nature.

For the reference, see John Owen on the Old Testament Sabbath and the covenant of works.
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Freshman
The post for this Lord's Day is a bit different to normal and is aimed directly at the Judaical Sabbatarians who wish to observe the seventh day of the week. John Owen argues that such a Judaical observance is tantamount to returning to the covenant of works. I think I see what Owen is getting at, but I am not 100% sure that I follow his logic. Does the argument suppose that since the resurrection of Christ (signifying the completion of his work), the seventh-day Sabbath has been superseded, all that is left of it pertains to the covenant of works and so those in the new covenant of grace should cease to observe it? Anyway, here is the extract:

But now, to shut up this discourse, whereas the covenant which man originally was taken into was a covenant of works, wherein his obtaining rest with God depended absolutely on his doing all the work he had to do in a way of legal obedience, he was during the dispensation of that covenant tied up precisely to the observation of the seventh day, or that which followed the whole work of creation. And the seventh day, as such, is a pledge and token of the rest promised in the covenant of works, and no other.

And those who would advance that day again into a necessary observation do consequentially introduce the whole covenant of works, and are become debtors unto the whole law; for the works of God which preceded the seventh day precisely were those whereby man was initiated into and instructed in the covenant of works, and the day itself was a token and pledge of the righteousness thereof, or a moral and natural sign of it, and of the rest of God therein, and the rest of man with God thereby. And it is no service to the church of God, nor hath any tendency unto the honour of Christ in the gospel, to endeavour a reduction of us unto the covenant of nature.

For the reference, see John Owen on the Old Testament Sabbath and the covenant of works.
It seems like his argument is dependent somewhat on his belief in the republication of the covenant of works at Sinai.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
It seems like his argument is dependent somewhat on his belief in the republication of the covenant of works at Sinai.

I think that you are correct on that point. John Owen's view of republication goes somewhat beyond mine, as he adhered to John Cameron's three covenant view, but since I agree with a form of republication the argument still makes sense.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
It may also be said that this law is in the middle of a code, all the rest of which is acknowledged to be binding; and why not this? Were the other precepts of this code spoken by God from Sinai, amidst blackness and darkness, and tempest and terrors? So was this. Were the others written by the finger of God, on tables of stone? So was this. Were the others deposited in the ark of the testimony, in the holy of holies, under the wings of the cherubim? So was this.

No ceremonial or repealable law, given to the Jews, had these marks of honor put upon it. Did Christ say, “I came not to destroy, but to fulfil the law?” He said it as much of this as of any other precept. Did Christ’s most devoted followers keep the other commandments? So did they keep this. Luke 23: 56.

For the reference, see William Swan Plumer on the Sabbath’s place in the moral law.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
... It is also the type of heaven. When a believer lays aside his pen or loom, brushes aside his worldly cares, leaving them behind him with his week-day clothes, and comes up to the and comes up to the house of God, it is like the morning of the resurrection, the day when we shall come out of great tribulation into the presence of God and the Lamb. When he sits under the preached word, and hears the voice of the shepherd leading and feeding his soul, it reminds him of the day when the Lamb that is in the midst of the throne shall feed him and lead him to living fountains of waters. When he joins in the psalm of praise, it reminds him of the day when his hands shall strike the harp of God. Where congregations ne’er break up, And Sabbaths have no end. ...

How many may know from this that they will never be in heaven! A straw on the surface can tell which way the stream is flowing. Do you abhor a holy Sabbath? Is it a kind of hell to you to be with those who are strict in keeping the Lord’s day? The writer of these lines once felt as you do. You are restless and uneasy. You say, “Behold what a weariness is it!” “When will the Sabbath be gone, that we may sell corn?” Ah! soon, very soon, and you will be in hell. Hell is the only place for you. Heaven is one long, never-ending, holy Sabbath-day. There are no Sabbaths in hell. ...

For more, see Robert Murray M'Cheyne on the Sabbath as a type of heaven.
 
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Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
For some reason, it is not permitting me to provide a link to the full text of the extract from which I have lifted the above post. It keeps altering M'Cheyne's name to M'Cheyne when you try to post the link.
 
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