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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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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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/
 

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Today's post for the Sabbath comes from Lewis Bayly. I will try and add more fresh authors to this category in the near future, God-willing, but in the meantime, enjoy Bayly's observations on the divine authority of the Lord's Day:

According to their Lord’s mind and commandment, and the direction of the Holy Ghost, which always assisted them in their ministerial office, the apostles, in all the Christian churches which they planted, ordained that the Christians should keep the holy Sabbath upon that seventh day, which is the first day of the week: “Concerning the gathering for the saints, as I have ordained in the churches of Galatia, so do ye also. Every first day of the week,” &c. (1 Cor. xvi. 1, 2.) “When ye come together in the church (being the Lord’s day) to eat the Lord’s Supper, to remember and shew the Lord’s death till he come,” &c. (1 Cor. xi. 20, 25, 26.) In which words note—

(1.) That the apostle ordained this day to be kept holy: therefore a divine institution.

(2.) That the day is named the first day of the week: therefore not the Jewish seventh, or any other.

(3.) Every first day of the week, which shews a perpetuity.

(4.) That it was ordained in the churches of Galatia, as well as of Corinth, and he settled one uniform order in all the churches of the saints: therefore it was universal. ...

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This week's post for the Lord's Day comes from Zacharias Ursinus:

For as concerning binding and constraint, the strangers which dwelled among the Jews were not constrained either unto all ceremonies, or religion, but unto the outward discipline, the which was necessary for the avoiding of offences of the Church, in which they lived: for the magistrate ought to be the keeper of discipline, according unto both tables of the Decalogue, or ten commandments, amongst his subjects, both to forbid manifest idolatry and blasphemies: and also concerning foreigners & strangers, so far as he may, to take heed that open offences be not given unto his subjects.

Furthermore, as touching binding there was an especial consideration of the Sabbath, the which was not at length by Moses, but even from the beginning of the world, commanded unto all men by God, and therefore bound all men unto the coming of the Messias, albeit that this commandment was so far grown out of use among them, that it was reckoned among the chief reproaches, wherewithal they mocked and taunted the Jews. ...

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Today's post is from John Holmes Agnew on the Sabbath and family religion:

The Sabbath certainly operates most beneficially in presenting a suitable occasion to parents, for training up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. During the days of business, they are not so much at leisure to assemble their families around them; nor are children generally so much disposed to attend to pious instruction on any other day. Their minds are then preoccupied with their plays and objects of pleasure.

But on the holy day which they have been taught to remember, on which they see all work suspended, and the Bible and religious books placed on the table, they are prepared to hear and to feel. And as parents value their children’s souls, and their country’s prosperity, let them not neglect on the Sabbath day, to gather their family about them, and in the use of some familiar and approved catechism, or from the fountain itself, infuse into their tender minds, the great facts and principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Today's post from Thomas Mocket focuses on how the divinely-appointed Lord's Day makes the pretended holy days of men an irrelevance:

Q. But is it not meet, that a day should be set a part in hand of Christ our Blessed Saviour?

A. Yes, very fit, but it must be only that day which himself hath appointed and sanctified to that end, and therefore called it by his own name, to appropriate it to himself, viz: The Lord’s day, Revel. 1. 10. and hath commanded us to remember to keep it holy, Exod 20. 8, 9, 10. Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy, (is the day of rest,) the Sabbath of the Lord thy God, we may not set days a part of our own head and without his mind, Neither may any impose the observation of any day for this end, lest they be found to be Intruders of human inventions, instead of God’s Commandments on the consciences of God’s people, whereof Christ only is King.

Ob. But many have religiously observed these days in preaching, hearing, praying, singing, holy conference, &c. And have gotten much good thereby,

A. True, but ten to one have got more hurt and done more evil in these days, than on any other time, contracted more guilt, and done Christ more dishonour than on all other days. Besides, the observation of days and times, without God’s warrant, and grievously abused to superstition and profaneness, is not lawful for Christians on pretence of some good gotten by duties of God’s worship on those days, which may as well be on any other days.

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Today's post from Thomas Mocket focuses on how the divinely-appointed Lord's Day makes the pretended holy days of men an irrelevance:

Q. But is it not meet, that a day should be set a part in hand of Christ our Blessed Saviour?

A. Yes, very fit, but it must be only that day which himself hath appointed and sanctified to that end, and therefore called it by his own name, to appropriate it to himself, viz: The Lord’s day, Revel. 1. 10. and hath commanded us to remember to keep it holy, Exod 20. 8, 9, 10. Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy, (is the day of rest,) the Sabbath of the Lord thy God, we may not set days a part of our own head and without his mind, Neither may any impose the observation of any day for this end, lest they be found to be Intruders of human inventions, instead of God’s Commandments on the consciences of God’s people, whereof Christ only is King.

Ob. But many have religiously observed these days in preaching, hearing, praying, singing, holy conference, &c. And have gotten much good thereby,

A. True, but ten to one have got more hurt and done more evil in these days, than on any other time, contracted more guilt, and done Christ more dishonour than on all other days. Besides, the observation of days and times, without God’s warrant, and grievously abused to superstition and profaneness, is not lawful for Christians on pretence of some good gotten by duties of God’s worship on those days, which may as well be on any other days.

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Wonderful. I’ve been feeling the weight of this recently. It seems as though hardly any of those who claim the name of “Reformed” even countenance this as a possible position.
 

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Today's post for the Sabbath comes from Thomas Boston's Human Nature in its Fourfold State. Boston argues that the weariness of sinners with the Sabbath is evidence of human depravity:

What pain and difficulty do men often find in bringing their hearts to religious duties? And what a task is it to the carnal heart to abide at them? It is a pain to it, to leave the world but a little, to converse with God. It is not easy to borrow time from the many things, to bestow it upon the one thing needful. Men often go to God in duties, with their faces towards the world; and when their bodies are on the mount of ordinances, their hearts will be found at the foot of the hill, going after their covetousness, Ezek. xxxiii. 31. They are soon wearied of well-doing; for holy duties are not agreeable to their corrupt nature. Take notice of them at their worldly business, set them down with their carnal company, or let them be sucking the breasts of a lust; time seems to them to fly, and drive furiously, so that it is gone ere they are aware. But how heavily does it drive, while a prayer, a sermon, or a sabbath lasts?

The Lord’s day is the longest day of all the week with many; and therefore they must sleep longer that morning, and go sooner to bed that night, than ordinarily they do; that the day may be made of a tolerable length: for their hearts say within them, when will the sabbath be gone? Amos viii. 5. The hours of worship are the longest hours of that day: hence when duty is over, they are like men eased of a burden; and when sermon is ended, many have neither the grace nor the good manners to stay till the blessing be pronounced, but like the beasts, their head is away as soon as one puts his hand to loose them; why, but because while they are at ordinances, they are, as Doeg, detained before the Lord, 1 Sam. xxii. 7.

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This week's post for the Lord's Day is from the American Presbyterian, John Holmes Agnew. He argued that the Sabbath was essential to maintaining the influence of true religion in society:

Finally, the utility of the Sabbath is apparent in its moral efficacy in preserving the worship of the true God, and sustaining a sense of accountability. You may walk over the length and breadth of any land, where the Sabbath and all its precious and reforming influences have never been known, and your eye will meet no pure worshipper of the living Jehovah; and you may plant your foot on the portal of no temple dedicated to the service of the Eternal and Holy One. But instead, you will everywhere find the deluded multitude bowing their knees to the workmanship of their own hands, having changed the glory of the incorruptible God, into an image made like unto corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. And if you follow them to their fanes, you witness, most probably, the defiling worship of a prostitute goddess.

Or you may go to those who have lived under the light of Gospel truth, but have no regard for the Sabbath of God, and their conceptions of the Deity are such, (if they are not actual Atheists,) as leave them entirely irresponsible for their conduct, and sweep away from their minds all sense of accountability to God. Look at infidel France, when she Strikes out of her statute-book the weekly Sabbath and substitutes the Decade. She has the countenance and the mien of a maniac, and seems rushing to her own ruin, and looking fury in the face of her best friends. She cries night and day up and down the streets, “There is no God,” and pays her formal devotions to the substituted goddess of Reason. ...

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W. J. Grier, whom most of us know from his book The Momentous Event, supplies us with this week's quote for the Lord's Day:

WAS the sabbath simply a Jewish institution? Was it only temporary in its design? Was it abrogated with other special laws of the Old Testament? Did it leave no divinely appointed substitute? The answer turns largely on this – is the fourth commandment binding upon the Church today?

The text of the commandment itself has some bearing on this issue. The commandment, given at Sinai, was based, not on something done to Israel alone, but on something done in the creation of the world: ‘For in· six days the Lord made heaven and earth: …’ (Ex. xx. 11). The implication is that ‘the sabbath was made for man’, and not for the Jew only.

There are traces of the observance of the sabbath before the giving of the law at Sinai (see Ex . xvi. 23). The reckoning of time by weeks long before Moses (Gen. xxix. 27) may have had for ‘its forgotten background’ the original institution of the sabbath at the creation. A few Old Testament references (Ne. ix. 14; Ez. xx. 12) might indeed seem to imply that the sabbath had its beginning at Sinai, but they mean no more than that in its specific Old Testament form it had its beginning with the legislation under Moses. The very word ‘remember’ in the commandment (‘Remember the sabbath day’) presupposes, as Franz Delitzsch points out, an acquaintance with the sabbath. It would seem as if the sabbath were intended to be a great river of blessing following man throughout his career on earth.

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Today's post for the Sabbath is from Robert Murray M'Cheyne, which focuses on the Sabbath being the day on which spiritual blessings are most often dispensed:

... It was on the Lord’s day also that the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost (Acts ii. 1; compare Lev. xxiii. 15, 16). That beginning of all spiritual blessings, that first revival of the Christian Church, was on the Lord’s day. It was on the same day that the beloved John, an exile on the sea-girt isle of Patmos, far away from the assembly of the saints, was filled with the Holy Spirit, and received his heavenly revelation.

So that in all ages, front the beginning of the world, and in every place where there is a believer, the Sabbath has been a day of double blessing. It is so still, and will be, though all God’s enemies should gnash their teeth at it. True, God is a God of free grace, and confines His working to no time or place; but it is equally true, and all the scoffs of the infidel cannot alter it, that it pleases Him to bless His word most on the Lord’s day. All God’s faithful ministers in every land can bear witness that sinners are converted most frequently on the Lord’s day – that Jesus comes in and shows Himself through the lattice of ordinances oftenest on His own day. Saints, like John, are filled with the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and enjoy their calmest, deepest views into the eternal world.

Unhappy men, who are striving to rob our beloved Scotland of this day of double blessing, “ye know not what you do.” You would wrest from our dear countrymen the day when God opens the windows of heaven and pours down a blessing. You want to make the heavens over Scotland like brass, and the hearts of our people like iron. ...

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https://reformedcovenanter.wordpres...'Cheyne-on-the-sabbath-as-a-day-of-blessings/
 

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This week's post for the Lord's Day comes from Patrick Fairbairn on the Sabbath's place in the Decalogue:

... The command to remember the Sabbath, and keep it entire, as a day of sacred rest to Jehovah, formed one of the ten delivered from Mount Sinai, and along with the other nine possesses three marks or notes of distinction, which entirely separate it from the merely judicial and ceremonial statutes given to the Jewish people.

1. It was spoken immediately by the voice of God, amid the most striking manifestations of the Divine presence, and in the hearing of the people, Exod. xix. All the other laws were revealed only to Moses, and by him communicated to the people. This clearly marked off the Ten Commandments, and among the rest the law of the Sabbath, from the other statutes and ordinances given to Israel, as being in some respects of a more fundamental nature and more essentially connected with God’s character and glory than the rest.

2. It was written, in common, with the other parts of the Decalogue, by the finger of God on one of the two tables of stone, whereas the ceremonial and judicial laws were written by Moses in a book. This difference evidently implied, that the one was much more important and stable than the other—was not, like the latter, to be left to inferior hands or committed to wasting parchments, but deserving to be engraved by God’s own pen as in the rock for ever. ...

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Today's post for the Sabbath is from William Ames on the moral and perpetual duty of observing the Lord's Day:

... Reas. 3. Because it is never less necessary, that some seventh day be observed, than it was at the first institution. And that the Lord’s day, or first of the week, or seventh is now by Divine authority appointed to us, that it be holily kept, appeareth:

1. From the ground and reason of the change, because as God from the beginning, appointed the seventh day of the week, or septenary circuit of days for his rest from Creating of things: So Christ appointed the first of the week, or of the seventh days of ordinary recourse, because on that day he rested from his penal and afflictious labours of his humiliation, or emptying himself, whereby he restored and created the world, as it were new again, unto a better condition than it had lost.

2. By the frequent apparitions of Christ in the convention of his Disciples on this day.

3. From the sending and shedding abroad of the Holy-ghost, on this day.

4. By the practise of the Apostles.

5. By Apostolic constitution, 1 Cor 16.

6 From the very title and name of the Lord’s day, that it hath in the New Testament. ...

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