Reformed Covenanter blog posts on the Sabbath

Reformed Covenanter

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This week's post for the Lord's Day is a follow-up to the one posted last Sabbath from James Seaton Reid. It is important for understanding how the decline in Sabbath observance and the decline in religion go hand in hand:

If these be the invariable fruits of a well-directed Sabbath observance, is not this institute inseparably bound up with the general well-being and prosperity of nations? Can any community undervalue and neglect it with impunity? Must not its desecration, especially that systematic desecration which is enforced by the authority of a nation, in the shape of Sabbath mails, and Sabbath travelling, and Sabbath recreations, and, in some kingdoms, of national assemblages, processions, and ceremonials on this day — must not such authoritative desecration, sooner or later, by disparaging divine authority, perverting individual conscience, and diminishing facilities for religious instruction, deteriorate the moral feelings and principles of a people, weaken their convictions of duty, and thus directly injure the character and happiness of a nation?

Can the good of a people be promoted by rendering them less intelligent, less religious, and less moral, than they might otherwise have been? Can that kingdom enjoy substantial prosperity, the mass of whose population are retained within the bounds of an outward decency and morality, merely by the conventional restraints of society, and not by deep and honest convictions of duty? And how are these salutary convictions to exist apart from a well-grounded knowledge of God, and an intelligent acquaintance with the principles of Christian doctrine and morals? How are the mass of a community to acquire this religious knowledge, which is the only stable foundation of a holy life, if there be no Sabbath cessation from daily toil, no Sabbath assemblies, no Sabbath instruction in and out of the church; and if there be, for the rising generation, no Sabbath training at home, and no early familiarity with the soul-stirring and life-giving themes of religion? ...

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Reformed Covenanter

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Our post for the Lord's Day this Sabbath comes from the main author of the Heidelberg Catechism, Zacharias Ursinus. In this extract, he distinguishes between the moral and ceremonial elements of the Sabbath commandment. Note that this post is only a summary of his thought; he speaks more at greater length about the issue later in the same work:

Here are two parts of this law, the commandment, & the reason of the same. And again, there are two parts of the commandment, of the which the one is moral or everlasting, namely, that the Sabbath be hallowed, that is to say, that some certain time be appointed for the ministry of the Church, or public worship of God. The other is ceremonial, and for a time, namely, that this time should be the seventh day, and that in it should be observed and kept the ceremonies of the Levitical law. And that this part is for a time, and the other everlasting, we do understand by the end of the commandment, and causes of both these parts.

The end of the commandment is the public praising of God in the congregation, or the conservation or maintenance and use of the ministry of the Church, which is an office ordained by God, to teach the Church concerning God and his will out of the word of God delivered by the Prophets and Apostles, and to minister the sacraments according to the ordinance of God. And God would have at all times of the world that there should be public assemblies of the Church, in the which should sound true doctrine concerning God, for these causes especially.

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Reformed Covenanter

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This week's post for the Sabbath comes from William Ames. In it, he usefully explains what it is to cease from our own works on the Lord's Day:

... The reason of this rest is, that we may be at convenient leisure for divine worship: For worldly businesses do in divers ways withstand this more solemn worship of God.

Reas. 1. Because the very external acts of both are for the most part such, as that they cannot consist or stand together at one time.

Reas. 2. Because the mind being distracted with such worldly business, cannot compose or settle it self in good order to perform solemn worship to God, as it ought.

Reas. 3. Because the taste, and savour, and power of holy exercises is impaired, and dulled at least, or blunted by mixture of such things with them, which in comparison should be but vile to them.

Use Is of Reproof, of such as easily break the rest of this day, either by their ordinary and vulgar occupations; or with merchandizes, or with sports or plays, or with troublesome and long feastings on it, &c. ...

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Today's post for the Sabbath comes from Jonathan Edwards:

There is another thing that confirms that the fourth commandment will reach God’s resting from the new creation as well as the old, because the Scripture does expressly speak of one as parallel with the other; i.e. Christ resting from the work of redemption is expressly spoken of as being parallel with God’s resting from the work of creation; and that, in Hebrews 4:10, “For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.” Now, Christ rested from his works when he rose from the dead on the first day of the week. When he rose from the dead, then he finished his work of redemption; his humiliation was at an end. He rested from his labours and was refreshed.

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https://reformedcovenanter.wordpres...he-fourth-commandment-and-the-rest-of-Christ/
 

Reformed Covenanter

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This week's post for the Lord's Day explains why the Sabbath is the most fitting day for observing the sacraments:

To use the Sacraments according unto the ordinance of God. So God commanded the Passover to be kept in the assembly of the people, and appointed certain sacrifices unto other feast days and Sabbaths. Also Act. 20. The first day of the week, when as the Disciples were come together to break bread, Paul preached, &c. For as God will have true doctrine to be heard, so he will also have the lawful use of the sacraments to be seen in the public assemblies of the Church: because that he will have both these to be a note, whereby the Church may be known and discerned from other nations & sects. The sacraments also, like as the word, are an instrument, or exercise to stir up and maintain faith and godliness in us. They are also a public profession of our faith and thankfulness unto God, and a part of the public worship of God in the church. And therefore the use of them is most especially agreeable unto the Sabbath.

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Reformed Covenanter

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Today's post for the Lord's Day from John Collinges focuses on the reasons for the supposed strictness of the Jewish Sabbath:

That the prohibitions we read of in Scripture, of not kindling a fire on the Sabbath day, Exod. 35. and Exod. 16.29. For not going out of their place on the seventh day, to gather manna: must not be taken in that strictness, in which some would urge them, or at least only concerned the Jews in that time, not afterward. The fire forbidden to be kindled, must necessarily be understood, 1. Either in reference to the making the Tabernacle, of which he there speaks; or 2. more largely of any trade-fire kindled for men to work with, to get a livelihood, not such as is kindled for dressing of meat, refreshing us in cold weather; or when we are sick.

… It is not probable there was no fire in the Jews’ houses that made the feast, at which our Saviour was, Luk. 14. besides we find works parallel to this, justified in Scripture. Though going out of their doors on the Sabbath, must be understood, to gather manna, Exod. 16.29. or upon other ends, than in order to actions of piety, necessity, or preservation and mercy, for that instance, Numb. 15.32, 33. The Scripture so shortly relates that story of the man’s being put to death for gathering sticks on the Sabbath day, as to the cause of it, that it is hard to give a satisfactory answer. ...

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Reformed Covenanter

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The post for the Lord's Day for this week comes from Richard Baxter:

Q. 21. Why doth God mention not only servants but beasts?

A. As he would not have servants enslaved and abused by such labour as should unfit them for sabbath work and comfort, so he would have man exercise the clemency of his nature, even towards the brutes; and beasts cannot labour, but man will be put to some labour or diversion by it: and God would have the whole place where we dwell, and all that we have to do with, to bear an open signification of our obedience to his command, and our reverence to his sanctified day and worship.

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Reformed Covenanter

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Today's post comes from a rather unusual source, the early church father, Origen. I came across part of this extract in Joey Pipa's excellent book, The Lord's Day, and checked it out for myself in a recent translation of Origen's Homilies on Numbers. Obviously, it goes without saying that I do not endorse Origen's heterodoxy on other subjects. Perhaps the quote is open to interpretation, but I still found it very interesting:

... Now the second feast, after the feast of the perpetual sacrifice, is recorded to be the sacrifice of the sabbath, and it is necessary that every saint and just person celebrate the feast of the Sabbath as well Well, what is the feast of the Sabbath, if not that feast of which the apostle says: “So a sabbath,” that is, the observance of the sabbath, “will be left for the people of God” [Hebrews 4:9] Therefore, leaving behind the Judaic observances of the sabbath, let us see what sort of observation of the sabbath there ought to be for the Christian. On the day of the sabbath, no worldly activity is supposed to be carried out. Thus if you cease doing secular works and carry out nothing worldly, but make room for spiritual works, if you come together at church, give ear to the divine readings and discussions, think about heavenly things, show concern for the future hope, keep the coming judgment before your eyes, do not look to present and visible things, but to the invisible and future things, this is how the Christian observes the sabbath. ...

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Reformed Covenanter

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This week's post comes from a more familiar source than the author cited last Sabbath:

The parts of the sanctifying of this day are two: one, to rest from worldly businesses, and from those works and duties of our calling, which at other times are not only lawful, but expedient and necessary to be done. The particular works that we are thus to abstain from, are of two kinds: First, great as well as small, and small as well as great. A greater and more excellent work can hardly be imagined, then the building of God’s own House, the material and outward Tabernacle, yet even That the Lord by a strict & precise caution doth specially forbid upon this day, Exod. 31. 13. Yet, saith he, ye shall observe my Sabbaths: Not setting your hand in that day unto this work, though it be most holy.

Those holy women that had Odours, Ointments, and all things in a readiness, yet in a religious observation of God’s Ordinance, forbear on the Sabbath to embalm the precious body of our Lord and Saviour Christ, and are commended by the Holy Ghost for it. They rested, saith LUKE, the Sabbath Day, according to the Commandment. Again, how small a thing is it to gather a few sticks! But when one presumed to do this, and with an high hand in profanation of the Sabbath, we know what his doom was from the mouth of God himself, Numb. 15. 32, 33, 34, 35, 36. ...

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Reformed Covenanter

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This week's post on the Lord's Day is worth quoting in full here; Gardiner Spring argued that the Sabbath day ought to be given civil protection:

Does not the importance of the Sabbath, in a civil view, invest it with an undeniable claim to the protection of public law? The laws of all Christian States have, to a greater or less extent, given their authority and protection to the Sabbath. Men of wisdom, honour, and virtue, have ever felt that it ought to be among the earliest objects of their solicitude to perpetuate the blessings of this holy day.

And does not the importance of the Sabbath plead irresistibly for this paternal interposition? Is the Sabbath the great means of perpetuating in the earth the knowledge of the true religion? Is it the great means of intellectual advancement? Does it lie at the foundation of all sound morality? Is it not less a distinguished means of temporal prosperity, than of holiness and eternal life? Then is there no institution around which a more impenetrable barrier of wholesome restrictions ought to be erected.

The Sabbath is the noblest and firmest pillar of a well-regulated society. It is the corner-stone of that noble edifice of morals, liberty, and public weal, which is the pride and exultation of every prosperous community. If our political institutions cannot be preserved unless the laws and usages of the land are formed on the basis of sound morality; if morality cannot be maintained without the active impression of religious principle; and if neither can exist long, where the Sabbath exerts none of its heaven-born influence; then is it not the truest policy of a State to enforce the observance of this day?

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Reformed Covenanter

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Today's post on Christ's delight in the Lord's Day comes from Jonathan Edwards:

... But how much more reason has Christ to bless the day of his resurrection, and to delight to honour it, and to be conferring his graces and blessed gifts on his people on this day. It was a day wherein Christ rested and was refreshed in a literal sense. It was a day of great refreshment and joy to Christ, being the day of his deliverance from the chains of death, the day of his finishing that great and difficult work of redemption that had been upon his heart from all eternity, the day of his justification of the Father, the day of the beginning of his exaltation and the fulfilment of the promises of his Father, the day when he had eternal life, which he had purchased, put into his hands. And Christ does delight to distribute gifts and blessings and joy and happiness on this day, and will to the end of the world.

O, therefore, how well is it worth our while to improve this day, to call upon God and seek Jesus Christ on it!

Let awakened sinners be stirred up by these things to improve the sabbath day, as they would lay themselves most in the way of the Spirit of God. Improve the sabbath day to call upon God, for then he is near. Improve the sabbath day for reading the holy Scriptures and diligently attending his Word preached, for then is the likeliest time to have the Spirit accompanying of it. Let the saints that are desirous of growing in grace and enjoying communion with Christ improve the sabbath in order to it. ...

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