The MANNER of sanctifying the Sabbath.

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Blueridge Believer

Puritan Board Professor
[1] Negatively. We must do no work on it. This is the commandment. "On it you shall not do any work." God has set apart this day for himself; therefore we are not to use it for common things, such as by doing any civil work. As when Abraham went to sacrifice, he left his servants and the donkey at the bottom of the hill; so, when we are to worship God on this day, we must leave all worldly business behind, leave the donkey at the bottom of the hill. Gen 22:5. As Joseph, when he would speak with his brethren, thrust out the Egyptians, so, when we would converse with God on this day, we must thrust out all earthly employments.

The Lord's day is a day of holy rest. All secular work must be forborne and suspended, as it is a profanation of the day. "One Sabbath day I saw some men of Judah treading their winepresses. They were also bringing in bundles of grain and loading them on their donkeys. And on that day they were bringing their wine, grapes, figs, and all sorts of produce to Jerusalem to sell. So I rebuked them for selling their produce on the Sabbath. So I confronted the leaders of Judah—Why are you profaning the Sabbath in this evil way?" Neh 13:15, 17. It is sacrilege to rob for civil work—the time which God has set apart for his worship. He who devotes any time of the Sabbath to worldly business, is a worse thief than he who robs on the highway; for the one does but rob man—but the other robs God.

The Lord forbade manna to be gathered on the Sabbath. Exod 16:26. One might think it would have been allowed, as manna was the "staff of their life," and the time when it fell was between five and six in the morning, so that they might have gathered it early, and all the rest of the Sabbath might have been employed in God's worship; and besides, they needed not to have taken any great journey for it, for it was but stepping out of their doors, and it fell about their tents. And yet they might not gather it on the Sabbath. And for purposing only to do it—God was very angry. "Some of the people went out anyway to gather food, even though it was the Sabbath day. But there was none to be found. "How long will these people refuse to obey my commands and instructions?" the Lord asked Moses" Exod 16:27, 28.

Surely, the anointing of Christ's body, when he was dead was a commendable work; but, though the women had prepared sweet ointments to anoint the dead body of Christ, they did not go to the sepulcher to embalm him, until the Sabbath was past. "They rested the Sabbath-day, according to the commandment." Luke 23:56. The hand cannot be busied on the Lord's-day, but the heart will be defiled. The very heathen, by the light of nature, would not do any secular work in the time which they had set apart for the worship of their false gods. Clemens Alexandrinus reports of one of the emperors of Rome, who, on the day of set worship for his gods, put aside warlike affairs and spent the time in devotion.

To do servile work on the Sabbath shows an impious heart, and greatly offends God. To do secular work on this day is to follow the devil's plough; it is to debase the soul. God made this day on purpose to raise the heart to heaven, to converse with him, to do angels' work; and to be employed in earthly work is to degrade the soul of its honor. God will not have his day entrenched upon, or defiled in the least thing. The man who gathered sticks on the Sabbath he commanded to be stoned! Numb. 15:35. It would seem a small thing to pick up a few sticks to make a fire; but God would not have this day violated in the smallest matters. Nay, even the work which had reference to a religious use might not be done on the Sabbath, as the hewing of stones for the building of the sanctuary. Bezaleel, who was to cut the stones, and cut the timber for the sanctuary, must forbear to do it on the Sabbath. Exod 31:15. A temple is a place of God's worship—but it was a sin to build a temple on the Lord's-day. This is keeping the Sabbath-day holy negatively—in doing no manual work.

Works of necessity and charity however may be done on this day. In these cases God will have mercy, and not sacrifice.

(1) It is lawful to take the necessary supplies of nature. Food is to the body as oil to the lamp.

(2) It is lawful to do works of mercy, as helping a neighbor when either life or estate are in danger. Herein the Jews were too precise, who would not allow works of charity to be done on the Sabbath. If a man was sick, they would not on this day, use means for his recovery. They were angry because Christ had wrought a cure on the Sabbath. John 7:23. If a house were on fire, the Jews thought they might not bring water to quench it; if a vessel leaked on this day, they thought they might not stop it. They were "righteous overmuch;" it was seeming zeal—but lacked discretion to guide it.

Except in these two cases, of necessity and charity—all secular work is to be suspended and laid aside on the Lord's-day. "On it you shall not do any work." This arraigns and condemns many among us who foul their fingers with work on that day; some in preparing great meals, others in opening their shop-doors, and selling food on the Sabbath. The mariner who sails on the Sabbath, runs full sail into the violation of this command. Others work on this day privately, and follow their trade within doors; but though they think to hide their sin under a canopy, God sees it. "Where shall I flee from your presence?" "The darkness does not hide from you." Psalm 139:7, 12. Such as profane the day, and God will have an action of trespass against them.

[2] Positively. We keep the Sabbath-day holy, by "consecrating and dedicating" this day to the "service of the high God." It is good to rest on the Sabbath-day from the works of our vocation; but if we rest from labor and do no more—the ox and the donkey keep the Sabbath as well as we; for they rest from labor. We must dedicate the day to God; we must not only "keep a Sabbath," but "sanctify" a Sabbath. Sabbath-sanctification consists in two things:

(1) Solemn preparation for it. If a prince were to come to your house, what preparation would you make for his entertainment! You would sweep the house, wash the floor, adorn the room with the richest tapestry and hangings, that there might be something suitable to the state and dignity of so great a person. On the blessed Sabbath, God intends to have sweet communion with you; he seems to say to you, as Christ to Zacchaeus, "Make haste and come down, for this day I must abide at your house." Luke 19:5. Now, what preparation should you make for entertaining this King of glory? When Saturday evening approaches, sound a retreat; call your minds off from the world and summon your thoughts together, to think of the great work of the approaching day. Purge out all unclean affections, which may indispose you for the work of the Sabbath. Evening preparation will be like the tuning of an instrument, it will fit the heart better for the duties of the ensuing Sabbath.

(2) The sacred observation of it. Rejoice at the approach of the day, as a day wherein we have a prize for our souls, and may enjoy much of God's presence. John 8:56. "Abraham rejoiced to see my day." So, when we see the light of a Sabbath shine, we should rejoice, and "call the Sabbath a delight"—this is the queen of days, which God has crowned with a blessing. Isa 58:13. As there was one day in the week on which God rained manna twice as much as upon any other day, so he rains down the manna of heavenly blessings twice as much on the Sabbath as on any other. This is the day wherein Christ carries the soul into the house of wine, and displays the banner of love over it. The dew of the Spirit now falls on the soul, whereby it is revived and comforted. How many may write the Lord's day, the day of their new birth! This day of rest is a pledge of the eternal rest in heaven. Shall we not then rejoice at its approach? The day on which the Sun of Righteousness shines, should be a day of gladness.

Get up early on the Sabbath morning. Christ rose early on this day, before the sun was up. John 20:1. Did he rise early to save us, and shall not we rise early to worship and glorify him? "Early will I seek you." Psalm 63:1. Can we be up early on other days? The farmer is early at his plough, the traveler rises early to go his journey—and shall not we, who on this day are traveling to heaven? Certainly, if we loved God as we should, we would rise on this day early, that we may meet with him whom our souls love. Such as sit up late at work on the night before, are so buried in sleep, that they will hardly be up early on a Sabbath morning.

Having dressed your bodies, you must dress your souls for hearing the Word. As the people of Israel were to wash themselves before the law was delivered to them, so we must wash and cleanse our souls; and that is done by reading, meditation, and prayer. Exod 19:10.

[1] By reading the WORD. The Word is a great means to sanctify the heart, and bring it into a Sabbath-frame. "Sanctify them through your truth," etc. John 17:17. Do not read the Word carelessly—but with seriousness and affection; as the oracle of heaven, the well of salvation, the book of life. David, for its preciousness, esteemed it above gold; and for its sweetness, above honey. Psalm 19:10. By reading the Word aright, our hearts, when dull—are quickened; when hard—are mollified; when cold and frozen—are inflamed; and we can say as the disciples, "Did not our heart burn within us?" Some step out of their bed—and go immediately to the church. The reason why many get no more good on a Sabbath by the Word preached, is because they did not breakfast with God in the morning by reading his Word.

[2] MEDITATION. Get upon the mount of meditation, and there converse with God. Meditation is the soul's retiring within itself, that, by a serious and solemn thinking upon God, the heart may be raised up to divine affections. It is a work fit for the morning of a Sabbath. Meditate on four things.

(1) On the works of creation. This is expressed in the commandment. "The Lord made heaven and earth, the sea," etc. Creation is a looking-glass, in which we see the wisdom and power of God gloriously represented. God produced this beautiful world without any pre-existent matter, and with a word. "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made." Psalm 33:6. On the Sabbath let us meditate on the infiniteness of the Creator. The disciples were astonished that Christ could, with a word, calm the sea—but it was far more astounding with a word to make the sea! Matt 8:26. "They saw the Lord's works, His wonderful works in the deep." Psalm 107:24. Look into the earth, where we may behold the nature of minerals, the power of the loadstone, the virtue of herbs, and the beauty of flowers. By meditating on these works of creation, so curiously embroidered, we shall learn to admire God and praise him. "O Lord, how manifold are your works, in wisdom have you made them all." Psalm 104:24. By meditating on the works of creation, we shall learn to confide in God. He who can create—can provide; he who could make us when we were nothing, can raise us when we are low. "Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth." Psalm 124:8.

(2) Meditate on God's holiness. "Holy and reverend is his name." Psalm 111:9. "You are of purer eyes than to behold evil." Hab 1:13. God is essentially, originally, and immutably holy. All the holiness in men and angels, is but the crystal stream which runs from this glorious fountain. God loves holiness because it is his own image. A king cannot but love to see his own effigies stamped on coin. God counts holiness his glory, and the most sparkling jewel of his crown. "Glorious in holiness." Exod 15:2: Here is meditation fit for the first entrance upon a Sabbath. The contemplation of this would work in us such a frame of heart as is suitable to a holy God; it would make us reverence his name and hallow his day. While musing upon the holiness of God's nature, we shall begin to be transformed into his likeness.

(3) Meditate on Christ's love in redeeming us. Rev 1:5. Redemption exceeds creation; the one is a monument of God's power, the other of his love. Here is fit work for a Sabbath. Oh, the infinite stupendous love of Christ—in raising poor sinful creatures from a state of guilt and damnation! Consider that Christ who was God—should die! that this glorious Sun of Righteousness—should be in an eclipse! We can never enough admire this love, no, not even in heaven. Consider that Christ should die for sinners! not sinful angels—but sinful men. Consider that such clods of earth and sin should be made bright stars of glory! Oh, the amazing love of Christ! Consider that Christ should not only die for sinners—but die as a sinner! "He has made him to be sin for us" 2 Cor 5:21. He who was among the glorious persons of the Trinity, "was numbered with the transgressors." Isa 53:12. Not that he had sin—but he was like a sinner, having our sins imputed to him. Sin did not live in him—but it was laid upon him. Here was a hyperbole of love enough to strike us with astonishment!

Consider that Christ would redeem us, when he could not expect to gain anything, or to be advantaged at all by us! Men will not lay out their money upon a purchase—unless it will turn to their profit; but what benefit could Christ expect in purchasing and redeeming us? We were in such a condition that we could neither deserve nor recompense Christ's love. We could not deserve it; for we were in our blood. Ezek 16:6. We had no spiritual beauty to entice him. Nay, we were not only in our blood—but we were in war against him. "When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son;" Rom 5:10. When he was shedding his blood—we were spitting out poison!

As we could not deserve Christ's love, so neither could we recompense it. After he had died for us, we could not so much as love him—until he made us love him. We could give him nothing in return for his love. "Who has first given to him?" Rom 11:35. We were fallen into poverty. If we have any beauty, it is from him, "It was perfect through my loveliness which I had put upon you." Ezek 16:14. If we bring forth any good fruit, it is not of our own growth, it comes from him, the true vine. "From me is your fruit found." Hos 14:8. It was nothing but pure love, for Christ to lay out his blood to redeem such as he could not expect to be really bettered by!

Consider that Christ should die so willingly! "I lay down my life." John 10:17. The Jews could not have taken it away—if he had not laid it down. He could have called to his Father for legions of angels to be his life-guard; but what need for even that, when his own Godhead could have defended himself from all assaults? He laid down his life. The Jews did not so much thirst for his death—as he thirsted for our redemption. "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how it consumes Me until it is finished!" Luke 12:50. He called his sufferings a baptism; he was to be baptized and sprinkled with his own blood! He thought the time long, before he suffered. To show Christ's willingness to die, his sufferings are called an offering. "Through the offering of the body of Jesus." Heb 10:10. His death was a free-will offering.

Consider that Christ should not grudge, nor think much—of all his sufferings! Though he was scourged and crucified, he was well contented with what he had done, and, if it were needful, he would do it again. "He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied." Isa 53:11. As the mother who has had hard labor, does not repent of her pangs when she sees her child brought forth—but is well contented; so Christ, though he had hard travail upon the cross, does not think much of it; he is not troubled—but thinks his sweat and blood well bestowed, because he sees the child of redemption brought forth into the world.

Consider that Christ should make redemption effectual to some—and not to others! Here is astonishing love. Though there is sufficiency in his merits to save all—yet only some partake of their saving virtue. Christ does not pray for all. John 17:9. All have not the benefit of salvation by him. Herein appears the distinguishing love of Christ—that the virtue of his death should reach some—and not others. "Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called." 1 Cor 1:26. That Christ should pass by many of noble birth and abilities, and that the lot of free grace should fall upon you; that he should sprinkle his blood upon you "Oh, the depth of the love of Christ!"

Consider that Christ should love us with such a transcendent love! The apostle calls it "Love which passes knowledge." Eph 3:19. Consider that he should love us more than the angels. He loves them as his friends—but believers as his spouse! He loves them with such a kind of love—as God the Father bears to him. "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you." John 15:9. Oh, what an hyperbole of love does Christ show in redeeming us!

Consider that Christ's love in our redemption should be everlasting! "Having loved his own—he loved them unto the end." John 13:1. As Christ's love is matchless, so it is endless. The flower of his love is sweet; and that which makes it sweeter is that it never dies! His love is eternal. Jer 31:3. He will never divorce his elect spouse! The failings of his people cannot take off his love; they may eclipse it—but not wholly remove it; their failings may make Christ angry with them—but not hate them. Every failing does not break the marriage bond. Christ's love is not like the saint's love. They sometimes have strong affections towards him, at other times the love-fit is off, and they find little or no love stirring in them; but it is not so with Christ's love to them, it is a love of eternity. When the sunshine of Christ's electing love is once risen upon the soul, it never finally sets. Death may take away our life from us—but not Christ's love. Behold here a rare subject for meditation on a Sabbath morning. The meditation of Christ's wonderful love in redeeming us, would work in us a Sabbath-frame of heart.

It would melt us in tears for our spiritual unkindness, that we should sin against so sweet a Savior; that we should be no more affected with his love—but requite evil for good; that like the Athenians, who, notwithstanding all the good service Aristides had done them, banished him out of their city; we should banish him from our temple; that we should grieve him with our pride, rash anger, unfruitfulness, animosities, and petty factions. Have we none to abuse—but our friend? Have we nothing to kick against—but the heart of our Savior? Did not Christ suffer enough upon the cross—but we must needs make him suffer more? Do we give him more "gall and vinegar to drink?" Oh, if anything can dissolve the heart in sorrow, and melt the eyes to tears—it is unkindness we offer to Christ. When Peter thought of Christ's love to him, how he had made him an apostle, and revealed his bosom-secrets to him, and taken him to the mount of transfiguration, and yet that he should deny him—it broke his heart with sorrow! "He went out and wept bitterly." Matt 26:75. What a blessed thing is it to have the eyes dropping tears, on a Sabbath! Nothing would sooner fetch tears—than to meditate on Christ's love to us—and our unkindness to him.

Meditating on a Lord's-day morning on Christ's love, would kindle love in our hearts to him. How can we look on his bleeding and dying for us—and our hearts not be warmed with love to him? Love is the soul of religion, the purest affection. It is not rivers of oil—but sparks of love—which Christ values. And sure, as David said, "While I was musing the fire burned" (Psalm 39:3), so, while we are musing on Christ's love in redeeming us, the fire of our love will burn towards him; and then the Christian is in a blessed Sabbath-frame, when, like a seraphim, he is burning in love to Christ!

(4) On a Sabbath morning meditate on the glory of heaven. Heaven is the extract and essence of happiness. It is called a kingdom, for its riches and magnificence Matt 25:34. It is set forth by precious stones, and gates of pearl. Rev 21:19, 21. There is all that is truly glorious: transparent light, perfect love, unstained honor, unmixed joy. And that which crowns the joy of the celestial paradise, is that it is eternal. Suppose earthly kingdoms were more glorious than they are, their foundations of gold, their walls of pearl, their windows of sapphire—yet they are corruptible. But the kingdom of heaven is eternal; those rivers of pleasure run "forever." Psalm 16:11. That wherein the essence of glory consists, and makes heaven to be heaven—is the immediate sight and fruition of the blessed God. "I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with your likeness." Psalm 17:15. Oh, think of the Jerusalem above!

This is proper for a Sabbath. The meditation of heaven would raise our hearts above the world. Oh, how would earthly things disappear and shrink into nothing—if our minds were mounted above visible things, and we had a prospect of glory! How would the meditation of heaven make us heavenly in our Sabbath exercises! It would quicken affection, add wings to devotion, and cause us to be "in the Spirit on the Lord's-day." Rev 1:10. How vigorously does he serve God—who has a crown of glory always in his eye!

THOMAS WATSON, "THE TEN COMMANDMENTS"
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
This is a great reflection on the deeper meaning of the Sabbath.

The hard part is taking one's mind off the ordinary things of the week so that thoughts, words, and deeds can be focused on the God the whole day. Preparing in advance is a biblical concept and makes it easier to keep the commandment because there are less distractions.

I often begin the day by reading and meditating on Scripture. This helps steel my mind so my words and deeds will follow. It is sometimes a real battle, revealing my own sin as a real desire to not spend a focused time with my Lord. Once I can get my mind set, great blessing can follow as the time focuses on enjoying God, God's people, God's Word. Instead of dwelling on the ordinary work and recreations of the rest of the week, or the weariness of troubles, there is a true refreshment that helps for the week ahead, come what may.

Glory be to God that He has commanded, provided that for His people.
 
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Blueridge Believer

Puritan Board Professor
I pray God that we all will be spared from distractions today and that we might all attend to the preaching of God's Word and somehow, despite our infirmity of the flesh, lift up Christ in the arms of faith and magnify Him!
 
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