The difference of opinion on the Sabbath

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W.C. Dean

Puritan Board Sophomore
Generally, there has long been a difference of opinion within Christendom as the authority of Christian observance of the Sabbath, or Lord’s Day. The Protestant Reformation did not close this gap, but rather cemented it. The wrong opinion, as we (Confessional Reformed), was held not only by the Roman Catholic Church, but by some of the great Reformers, and through them error was firmly planted within Protestant churches. According to that wrong opinion, the sanctification of one day from seven was a ceremonial and Levitical custom, and it was therefore made void with the institution of the New Covenant. Some of these groups admit that the Lord’s day deserves observance (observance, as in attending church), because it is a weekly memorial of Christ’s resurrection, and because the church has historically observed it as such, but not because it is a commandment of God. Weekly rest from worldly labors is a social and civil blessing, they might say. Public and corporate worship of God is also a scriptural duty of Christians. But, in order to join together, they must agree upon a stated day and place. What day is so suitable as this first day of the week, which is already made a day of leisure by many, a day historically observed by the Church. But this, they say, is all there is to Sunday sanctification. To sanctify the whole day as a religious rest under the supposed authority of a divine command is Judaizing; it is burdening our necks with the bondage of a Levitical ceremony which belonged to Old Testament times.


The second opinion is found in the Westminster Confession; and confessional Presbyterians have been historically the group to advocate this position most passionately and intelligently. These Christians believe that the sanctification of a day, that God selects, to his worship, is a perpetual obligation for all ages, dispensations and nations, and is as truly commanded as the other unchangeable duties of morals and religion. They maintain that the Sabbath command has been to this extent always a moral one, as distinguished from a ceremonial or Levitical one. They believe that God selected one day out of seven at the time at the creation, at Sinai, and again at the resurrection of Christ. When the ceremonial law was for a particular, temporary purpose was added to the Old Testament dispensation, the seventh day became also for a time a Levitical holy day and a shadow. This temporary feature has of course passed away with the Jewish institutions. Upon the resurrection of Christ the original Sabbath obligation was by God fixed upon the first day of the week, because this day completed a second work even more glorious and beneficent than the world’s creation, namely, the rising of Christ from the tomb.

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This is from the Rev. R.L. Dabney, but I updated and edited it. It will appear on my blog this evening.
 
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