Reformed Covenanter blog posts on the Sabbath


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Or to put it in the modern vernacular, "may I safely run around to amusement parks and malls, to dancings and drinkings, to feastings and indulgences, to violent entertainments, with such like wicked prophanations of the Lord’s day?" I wonder what modern equivalents of bear and bull baiting are?

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This post from Nathaniel Homes links the issues of infant baptism and the Sabbath:

Fourthly, (saith Mr. T[ombes].) Circumcision did sign Canaan; Baptism eternal life. This we have answered to afore, That Circumcision did sign Canaan as it was a type of heaven, Heb. 4. As baptism and the holy Supper under material elements signify and give us things spiritual and eternal. All this while I cannot see such a material difference between Circumcision and Baptism in the least to deface the analogy and semblance between the administration of the one and the other, to believers and their Infants, or to interrupt that consequence from the one to the other. What ever may be urged against the incapacity of children to be Baptized, may as well be argued against Circumcision.

By this that hath been answered candid men may see what reason Mr. T. hath to deny major, or consequence, or minor. If this argument be not restrainedly understood an egg is laid, out of which manifest Judaism may be hatched.

No fear, if we argue as the Apostle argues; who Colossians 2, 11. 12. (as we have cleared we hope) puts Baptism in the room of Circumcision. If we do not put those things in the place one of another, which God puts in (though but by practice and example) without looking for a new institution or command, there being a difference only of circumstances, I am bold to say, an egg is laid out of which may be hatched Antisabbatarianism a nulling of the Lords day, (as is frequent upon this very consequence, among the Anabaptists) and Exemption of women from the holy Supper with many the like inconveniencies, which we stay not now to name.

For the reference, see Nathaniel Homes on baptism and the hatching of the anti-Sabbatarian egg.

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This week's post for the Sabbath comes from the Westminster divine, Herbert Palmer. It is also relevant to the issue of man-made holy days:

Q. What is the fourth Commandment?

A. Remember, &c.

Q. What is the general meaning of the 4. Commandment?

2 A. The general meaning of the fourth Commandment, is that solemn times of worship, necessary to Religion at God’s own appointment, and chiefly a standing day in the week, free from worldly business to attend on God.

Is it not the solemn times of worship, necessary to Religion, at God's own appointment, and chiefly, a standing day in the week, of rest from worldly business to attend on God?


Or, May men of themselves appoint any days or times, as necessary to Religion?


Or, May we unnecessarily spend God’s Day upon our selves?


Or, Upon any worldly matters?


For the reference, see Herbert Palmer on the fourth commandment.

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The post for this Lord's Day comes from one of the Disruption Worthies, Robert Gordon. The early theologians of the Free Church of Scotland are, in my estimation, greatly neglected to our incalculable loss. Use these extracts as a means to acquaint yourself with their writings:

... No doubt, the Sabbath cannot be sanctified where worldly employments are not given up, and religious exercises engaged in; but it is also true, that the Sabbath is kept holy only in so far as the great subjects which it is designed to present are entertained, and dwelt upon with satisfaction and delight; and did those subjects occupy the place in our hearts which they ought to occupy—did we feel it to be a delightful exercise to meditate with admiration and gratitude on God’s wonderful work of creation, and his still more wonderful work of redeeming love—did we see it to be a most precious privilege, that we are permitted to hold fellowship with him in his ordinances—and were the hope of at last “entering into his rest” the main source of our consolation and comfort amidst the various ills of our present sinful condition; then we would have in our own minds a rule to guide us in the sanctification of the Sabbath—even the longing desire of engaging in its sacred duties, because it is a delight to us, and because we expect, to find in it a “season of refreshing from the presence of the Lord.” Amen. ...

For more, see Robert Gordon on true Sabbath observance.

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This week's Sabbath-themed post from Richard Baxter addresses a topic that may have confused us in the past:

Q. 34. Seeing the Lord’s day is for the commemoration of Christ’s resurrection, must we cease the commemoration of the works of creation, for which the seventh-day sabbath was appointed?

A. No: the appointing of the Lord’s day is accumulative, and not diminutive, as to what we were to do on the sabbath. God did not cease to be our Creator and the God of nature, by becoming our Redeemer and the God of grace; we owe more praise to our Creator, and not less. The greater and the subsequent and more perfect work comprehendeth the lesser, antecedent, and imperfect. The Lord’s day is to be spent in praising God, both as our Creator and Redeemer; the creation itself being now delivered into the hands of Christ.

For the reference, see Richard Baxter on commemorating redemption and creation on the Lord’s Day.

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Today's post for the Sabbath comes from the younger William Symington:

The Sabbath being thus as old as the creation of man, it does not surprise us to find it recognised by Moses and by the Israelites in the wilderness, at the time of the giving of the manna, as a familiar institution, by their regard to which God would test their obedience — “whether they would walk in His law or no.”

It is evident from the whole passage now referred to (Exod. xvi.) that the Sabbath is not there spoken of as a new and hitherto unknown observance; and though, during their long servitude in Egypt, the discharge of its sacred duties, and the observance of its rest, must have been to a great extent prevented, it had not been altogether forgotten; and it is quite natural to find them, after they have been freed from the yoke of bondage, dutifully returning to the keeping of the Sabbath which the Lord their God had given them.

For the reference, see William Symington II on the Sabbath before Sinai.

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This Sabbath's post comes from Archibald Alexander. If I may say so myself, it is one of the best extracts related to the Sabbath that I have posted of late. I will only post a brief extract here (the post is fairly long), but, if you have time, it is worth reading it in full at the below link:

... As, undoubtedly, the celebration of public worship and gaining divine instruction from the divine oracles, is the main object of the institution of the Christian sabbath, let all be careful to attend on the services of the sanctuary on this day. And let the heart be prepared by previous prayer and meditation for a participation in public worship, and while in the more immediate presence of the Divine Majesty, let all the people fear before him, and with reverence adore and praise his holy name.

Let all vanity, and curious gazing, and slothfulness, be banished from the house of God. Let every heart be lifted up on entering the sanctuary, and let the thoughts be carefully restrained from wandering on foolish or worldly objects, and resolutely recalled when they have begun to go astray. Let brotherly love be cherished, when joining with others in the worship of God. The hearts of all the church should be united in worship, as the heart of one man. Thus, will the worship of the sanctuary below, be a preparation for the purer, sublimer worship in the temple above. ...

For more, see Archibald Alexander on directions for observing the Lord’s Day.

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This week's Sabbath-themed post (give thanks that my internet is running again properly or else we would have missed this week's instalment) comes from Thomas Cartwright. It addresses the subject of the moving of the Sabbath to the first day of the week:

... Q. How came this day to be changed?

A. By Divine Authority.

Q. How doth that appear?

A. First, by the practice of our Saviour Christ, and his Apostles; which should be a sufficient rule unto us, especially the Apostles having added a commandment thereunto. Secondly, there is no reason why it should be called the Lord’s day, but in regard of the special dedication thereof to the Lord’s service. For otherwise all the days of the week are the Lord’s days, and he is to be served and worshipped in them.

Q. What was the cause why the day was changed?

A. Because it might serve for a thankful memorial of Christ’s Resurrection: for as God rested from his labour on the last day of the week; so Christ ceased from his labour and Afflictions on this day: as the one therefore was specially sanctified in regard of the Creation of the world; so was the other, in respect of the restauration and Redemption thereof, which is a greater work then the Creation it self. ...

For more, see Thomas Cartwright on the Lord’s Day.

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This week's Sabbath post comes from A. A. Hodge:

The law of the Sabbath in part has its ground in the universal and permanent needs of human nature, and especially of men embraced under an economy of redemption. It is designed — (1.) To keep in remembrance the fact that God created the world and all its inhabitants (Gen ii. 2, 3; Ex. xx. 11), which is the great fundamental fact in all religion, whether natural or revealed. (2.) As changed to the first day of the week it is designed to keep in remembrance the fact of the ascension of the crucified Redeemer and his session at the right hand of power, the great central fact in the religion of Christ. (3.) To be a perpetual type of the eternal Sabbath of the saints which remains. Heb. iv. 3-11. (4.) To afford a suitable time for the public and private worship of God and the religious instruction of the people. (5.) To afford a suitable period of rest from the wear and tear of labour, which is rendered alike physically and morally necessary from the present constitution of human nature and from the condition of man in this world.

All of these reasons for the institution of the Sabbath have their ground in human nature, and remain in full force among all men of all nations, in all stages of intellectual and moral development. Hence the Sabbath was introduced as a divine institution at the creation of the race, and was then enjoined upon man as man, and hence upon the race generally and in perpetuity. Gen. ii. 2, 3. ...

For more, see A. A. Hodge on the universal law of the Sabbath.

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This week's post comes from John Owen (warning, it requires a bit of thought to understand him):

And thus was the Sabbath, or the observation of one day in seven as a sacred rest, fixed on the same moral grounds with monogamy, or the marriage of one man to one woman only at the same time; which, from the very fact and order of the creation, our Saviour proves to have been an unchangeable part of the law of it. For because God made them two single persons, male and female, fit for individual conjunction, he concludes that this course of life they were everlastingly obliged not to alter nor transgress.

As, therefore, men may dispute that polygamy is not against the law of nature, because it was allowed and practised by many, by most of those who of old observed and improved the light and rule thereof to the uttermost, when yet the very “factum” and order of the creation is sufficient to evince the contrary; so although men should dispute: hat the observation of one days sacred rest in seven is not of the light or law of nature, all whose rules and dictates, they say, are of an easy discovery, and prone to the observation of all men, which this is not, yet the order of the creation, and the rest of God that ensued thereon, are sufficient to evince the contrary. ...

For more, see John Owen on the Sabbath and monogamy as creation ordinances.

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This week's post for the Lord's Day is a more practical one from Thomas Watson. Our esteem or lack thereof for the Sabbath often does tell us something more about our current spiritual condition:

... Many professors have almost lost their acquaintance with God. Time was when they could weep at a sermon, but now these wells are stopped. Time was when they were tender of sin; the least hair makes the eye weep, the least sin would make conscience smite: now they can digest this poison; Time was when they trembled at the threatenings of the word, now with the Leviathan they can laugh at the shaking of a spear; Job. 41.29. Time was when they called the sabbath a delight, the queen of days, how did they wait with joy for the rising of the sun of righteousness on that day! what anhelations and pantings of soul after God! what mounting up of affections! but now the case is altered, what a weariness is it to serve the Lord? Mal. 1.13. ...

For more, see Thomas Watson on backsliding and Sabbath profanation.

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This week's post for the Lord's Day comes from Robert Murray M'Cheyne's lamentation to his congregation concerning the Sabbath desecration that he witnessed in Paris. Sadly, what he says about Paris then could equally be applied to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, or any major town in Scotland now. I am giving you the full post in case the link does not work:

From Boulogne we travelled to Paris, by day and by night, and spent a Sabbath there. Alas! poor Paris knows no Sabbath; all the shops are open, and all the inhabitants are on the wing in search of pleasures,—pleasures that perish in the using. I thought of Babylon and of Sodom as I passed through the crowd. I cannot tell how I longed for the peace of a Scottish Sabbath.

There is a place in Paris called the Champs Elysées, or Plains of Heaven,—a beautiful public walk, with trees and gardens; we had to cross it on passing to the Protestant church. It is the chief scene of their Sabbath desecration, and an awful scene it is. Oh, thought I, if this is the heaven a Parisian loves, he will never enjoy the pure heaven that is above! Try yourselves by that text, Isa. Iviii. 13, 14. I remember of once preaching to you from it. Do you really delight in the Sabbath day? If not, you are no child of God.

I remember with grief that there are many among you that despise the Sabbath,—some who buy and sell on that holy day,—some who spend its blessed hours in worldly pleasures, in folly and sin. Oh, you would make Dundee another Paris if you could! Dear believers, oppose these ungodly practices with all your might. The more others dishonour God’s holy day, the more do you honour it, and show that you love it of all the seven the best. Even in Paris, as in Sardis, we found a little flock of believers. We heard a sweet sermon in English, and another in French. There are only 2000 Protestant hearers out of the half million that inhabit Paris, and there are fourteen faithful sermons preached every Sabbath.

For the reference, see Robert Murray M'Cheyne on Sabbath profanation in Paris.

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This week's post for the Lord's Day comes from the Scottish Seceder, William White:

The silence of scripture about the observance of Sabbath in antediluvian and patriarchal times, conjoined with the expressions God gave Israel His Sabbath, and such like, are not sufficient to set aside a plain assertion of inspired history, although unsupported by other evidence. But in conjoining the institution of Sabbath with the finishing of creation, the inspired penman is borne out by other facts and arguments.

The reason why Sabbath was instituted, is one of these: the inspired penman tells us, that God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because that on it God had rested from all His work which He had created and made. The reason why the Sabbath was appointed, thus existed in full force from the beginning.

Now, is it not most improbable, that an institution should be first appointed to commemorate a fact two thousand years after it had taken place? Is it not more reasonable to suppose, that the fact, and the institution founded upon the fact, were coeval in time, and are conjoined in this narrative, because they were so? This conclusion seems to be established beyond all controversy, by the fact, that time was measured from the beginning, by weeks of seven days, which could only arise from the Sabbath being instituted at the period we have asserted.

For the reference, see William White on the reason for the Sabbath’s appointment in creation.

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I have been running a little behind with blog posts of late. Today's post for the Sabbath comes from Patrick Fairbairn of the Free Church of Scotland:

... This prophecy does not contain such definite marks … by which we might at once determine, to the satisfaction of every reader, its immediate reference to Gospel times. That it does refer, however, if not exclusively to these times, at least not less to them than to other times, or rather to them mainly, will scarcely be doubted by any one who considers the connection in which the prophecy stands, as both preceded and followed by predictions undoubtedly pointing to Gospel times, and who duly weighs also the words themselves, in which the prophet here celebrates the Sabbath.

The observances of the ceremonial worship were, indeed, strictly binding upon the Jewish worshippers, and, therefore, inseparably connected with their interest and God’s favour and blessing, so long as the dispensation stood to which they belonged. But still they were, in themselves, a yoke heavy to be borne, and imposed only till the time of reformation observances not absolutely, but only relatively good, and so inferior to the higher parts of the law, that God declared that even he had no pleasure in them.

But how different is the idea here given us of the Sabbath! All solemnity, honour, and delight to the pious heart, and in itself so precious, that the due observance of it, as required by God, should certainly bring along with it the highest tokens and blessings of his love! This surely does not savour of a ceremonial institute, itself of inferior value, and, like all of its class, soon to pass away into oblivion. ...

For more, see Patrick Fairbairn on Isaiah 58 and the Sabbath.