We don't define the 4th commandment's requirements of us by our inability to keep it

Discussion in 'The Lord's Day or Christian Sabbath' started by NaphtaliPress, May 26, 2019.

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  1. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    We don't define the fourth commandment's requirements of us by our inability to keep it any more than any of the other commandments. The Lord required the best of the animals for sacrifice; so we should easily see what He thinks when He commands a day and we give Him an hour. He requires perfection; and thankfully we have an advocate with the Father for our constant sinning; but don't presume and sin any way. The Lord may well simply take away our freedom to give even that hour to Him for despising Him so and for so long now in the church in this land.

    "And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the LORD of hosts." Malachi 1:8.

    David Dickson, Scottish theologian and coauthor of the Sum of Saving Knowledge long bound and considered an unofficial part of the Westminster Standards, made this application from the text of Lamentations 1:10

    "Entered into her sanctuary” [Lam. 1:10]. ... But when they defiled the house of the Lord, these wild savage pagans are let in to defile, break down and demolish all that was in it. We see how grievous a change it is for professors [of religion] to abuse and profane the means of God’s worship, for it makes those who are without religion also to be masters of them and their religion also.

    Application. Will thou then expose God’s people and His glory to shame? He shall expose both thee and it to shame, for there is nothing so dear to God but He will put it in the hand of enemies when His people pollute it. He will pull away the hedge from about His worship when His worship is defiled." From Dickson's manuscript sermons on the whole book of Lamentations.

    "Lastly, though no man can perfectly keep this [fourth] commandment, either in thought, word or deed, no more than he can any other; yet this is that perfection that we must aim at; and wherein, if we fail, we must repent us, and crave pardon for Christ’s sake. For as the whole law is our schoolmaster to lead us to Christ (Gal. 3:24); so is every particular commandment, and namely this of the Sabbath. And therefore we are not to measure the length and breadth of it by the over-scant rule of our own inability, but by the perfect reed of the Temple (Ezek. 40:3); that is, by the absolute righteousness of God himself, which only can give us the full measure of it." [Nicholas Bownd, Sabbathum Veteris Et Novi Testamenti: or, The True Doctrine of the Sabbath (1606; Naphtali Press and Reformation Heritage Books, 2015), 8-9.

    The ancient church of St. Andrew, Norton, Suffolk, where Nicholas Bownd was pastor. Copyright © Dr. Andrew Mason.
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  2. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Nowhere is the Arminian tendency to measure God's law by our ability (indeed, it is more than Arminian, it is also antinomian) so rampantly evident than in the West's current abuse of the Sabbath commandment.
  3. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    I recall being at a friend's place for dinner a few years ago (he was a Californian, so cut him some slack), and he said to me, "Sure, why worry about being strict about the Sabbath! We all break it in thought, word, and deed!" He was sitting at one end of the table, his wife at the other, and I was in the middle. I responded, "So, do you take the same approach to the seventh commandment?" He took one glance at the look on his wife's face and quickly dropped that line of argument.
    Last edited: May 27, 2019
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  4. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    It was while editing or shortly after Bownd was published that I ran into the sort of objection to the puritan sabbatarianism of the Westminster Standards, "do you keep it perfectly?" as if that was of some sort of weight, when as you point out they really know better. It is sort of a suspension of what they believe about the other nine when it comes to the fourth. Why do you think that is; and I mean, with supposedly reformed folks that make this objection?
  5. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Chris, I have asked myself that question many times, and the only answer I ever come up with is the simple fear of man, and influence of culture. We want to appear relevant to culture, and so we ignore God's claims on us. Amazingly, some make no bones about the fact that they are treating the fourth commandment differently from all the other nine (with the possible exception of the second!). I think that Reformed folk are also leery of the label of legalism. Lloyd-Jones's dictum about being called an antinomian rings in our ears, and we don't ever want to be called a legalist. That is tantamount to heresy. But that is the simple fear of man compromising the fear of God. So, in the desire to avoid legalism, we veer into antinomianism, and we forget the lessons of the Marrow Controversy, among other things. The solution to either problem is the full gospel, and a remembrance of all three uses of the law.
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  6. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    I think that Lane's argument is accurate.
  7. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    I think Lane has hit on the most important points.

    Also, our culture has changed so it is easier to ignore the commandment. Frankly, when gas stations and grocery stores were closed on the Lord's Day, and the only places open were bars and the occasional drug store, everyone paid at least some attention to planning their weeks.

    Throw in the feel-good antinomianism of the popular evangelists, and pressure is strong not only from the worldly, but from those professing faith.

    But I do think the big thing is the fear of being called a legalist. When I first was convicted by the issue, I found myself avoiding other Christians after a church gathering because I didn't want to get into it with them. I was the new believer and they were the old pros (as in professing). When I would bring up feeling uncomfortable about going out to lunch or going sailing with friends after church, I was often met with something to the effect of "don't go Pharisee on us, Vic."

    But the conviction held. It is too plain to ignore.
  8. RWD

    RWD Puritan Board Freshman

    As long as the church continues to ordain men who hold only to nine commandments, I don’t see things changing.

    Actually, we’re down to about seven commandments. Taking God’s name in vain and images of God have fallen on tough times as well.
  9. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    And they do that because the church does not teach sound doctrine. I have mentioned this several times here I think, but when North Texas Presbytery had a study committee a few years ago to study WCF 21's "recreation clause" and the "continental view" so called, I was told by the chairman that it was with a great deal of difficulty the minority could convince the mostly ruling elder majority that the tenth commandment had ANY abiding moral application to Christians.
  10. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    Chris, I'm having trouble letting that soak in.

    Your words are plain enough; the attitude toward that commandment is what upends me.
  11. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    Poor exegesis of the gospels where Jesus deals with the the sabbath greatly contributes to the problem. Failure to see, particularly in Mark, that the Jewish authorities were using intertestamental fencings of the sabbath laws to entrap Jesus results in assertions that He tossed aside the fourth commandment. Even in reformed circles I've seen whole churches derailed this way. I agree that reducing the Lord's time on Sunday to one hour means we endanger even that tiny fragment of time.
  12. Susan777

    Susan777 Puritan Board Freshman

    But the problem is that the pastor DOES teach sound doctrine but it seems to fall on deaf ears. He preaches on it and brings it forth in our corporate confession yet it is roundly ignored. It seems as though there is this curious gaping hole in our collective obedience despite exhortation and warnings from the pulpit.
  13. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    I was speaking of my denomination, the PCA. I wouldn't think you should be able to get that sort of quota of REs when the TEs are teaching soundly. My presbytery is the one that several years ago overtured the GA to strip out the recreation clause altogether from the Confession of Faith in chapter 21. It didn't pass, not because the PCA believes it, but because the work of amending is unnecessary because it is so routinely allowed exception against.
  14. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    Which brings up the issue of lack of church discipline for Sabbath breaking (I’m assuming this would be true in your congregation, Susan?). Another reason I suppose that the fourth commandment isn’t taken seriously.
  15. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    The Westminster divine, Edmund Calamy expressed the need for mourning about Sabbath profanation when preaching before the English House of Commons in 1641:

    Mourn for the great profanation of our Christian Sabbath-day: how can we expect that God should give us rest in this Land, if we will not give him a Sabbath, a day of rest? Oh, let our eyes gush down with rivers of tears!

    Edmund Calamy, England’s looking-glass presented in a sermon preached before the Honourable House of Commons at their late solemn fast, December 22, 1641 (London: Chr. Meredith, 1642), p. 31.
  16. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    This is the best I've come up against where I am. The exegesis, if it is there at all, is feeble. But what I have encountered most is a frank unwillingness to engage with any Sabbath doctrines at all. The antinomian view is taken for granted. In general it is accompanied by hostility to even the faintest breath of Sabbath-keeping, such that I do not usually make my views known. (My pastor rather indelicately compared my view of the Sabbath to the Galatian heresy.)
  17. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    Breaks my heart, Tom.
  18. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    What is worse is, in so far as I understand, is that if one takes an "exception" one should not be actively teaching that exception.
  19. RWD

    RWD Puritan Board Freshman

    Will he acknowledged that he, not you, is in conflict with LBC 1689, chapter 22? Is the Confession he vowed to uphold heretical?
  20. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    I hope this is not off topic.

    I have trouble understanding this "inability to keep it" concept. Neither am I claiming to have perfectly fulfilled any commandment. I am the chief of unprofitable servants. Nevertheless, I want to share a short testimony about my love for 'The Lord His Day' (as the early New England Puritans called it)

    Over my 46 years as a Christian, God has shown me over an over that a well kept Lord's Day is as easy to keep as it is profitable. I married my godly wife several months after conversion. Even then, while on our honeymoon, we did not travel nor eat out on the first Lord's Day of our marriage, but spent the Day at our motel. Was that day a delight to me? Not yet, but I still believed it to be my duty. But it wasn't many months afterward that fruit began to grow. During those early years, I read more, learned more, and prayed more on the Day than on the other six days combined. It was something I looked forward to and would not miss for the world.

    But let's skip ahead some 40 years or so. It was not till then and more so the past several years that early study bore sweet fruit which has turned to pure joy and rich fellowship with our beautiful thrice Holy God in His Trinity of Persons. Here is an example from this past Lord's Day. The relating of my soul's delight will necessarily be grossly understated.

    I began this Day, as I do every weekday, at or before 3:30 a.m. by spending the time with Him in the Word, prayer, study, meditation and singing the next Psalm in order serially through the entire 150. Currently, I am also studying the Psalms with Hengstenberg's three-volume exposition. What a wonderful time I had mourning over my sins and rejoicing over the grace, goodness, patience, and love this God has for me, dare I say it? His friend.

    His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely.
    This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem (Song 5:16)
    I find this morning watch prepares me to glean blessings from the public worship that I am sure I would miss otherwise.

    Much of the rest of the afternoon I spent with Richard Sibbes' A Fountain Sealed (Complete Works, vol. 5, p. 410 ff.). Words escape me to describe the strong crying, the near unbelief for joy, (Luke 24:41) the rich pleasure of God's light in the heart of this dust formed man. I should stop now.

    No experience before or after I was redeemed can compare with the rapture I've know on many a Lord's Day. Not the best times of intimacy with my beautiful bride. Though I suppose that comes the closest. (Eph 5:32) So you see, I don't define the Lord's Day by my inability to keep it. O the loss of the modern Children of God through the neglect of this means of grace. I am beginning to weep over the thought of it.

    Your next Lord's Day may not be at all like my last one, but one day, it could be. I have found that the little effort I have made to have paid me back a hundredfold.

    Ponder anew the precious words of Isaiah 58:13-1

    13 If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day;
    and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him,
    not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:
    14 Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord;
    and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth,
    and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father:
    for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
    Last edited: May 28, 2019
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  21. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    My pastor is not Reformed or Confessional. My church is Presbyterian only in name.
  22. De Jager

    De Jager Puritan Board Freshman

    I have become more and more "strict" (translation: willing to obey) the 4th commandment as the months and years go on.

    In my church, the keeping of the Lord's day has fallen on rough times.

    In my interactions with other Christians, many of baptist (not confessional baptists) and congregationalist extraction, I have found that dispensationalism has essentially made the commandment irrelevant in their circles.

    My father told me a story of how in his church (non-confessional baptist), the minister made a remark about how churchgoers are the worst "tippers" when they go out to eat on Sunday. My dad muttered under his breath (but his row heard him) - "they shouldn't be there anyways", and he said he received several eye rolls.

    This attitude is standard (in many reformed churches too). Not only a blatant disregard for the command, but also an unwillingness to engage in dialogue about it.

    I am not the best sabbath keeper in the world, in fact far from it. But I will say that I at least care about it. The flesh strongly pulls me away from keeping it - but what a loss if I let that happen. It is God's good gift to us.

    "Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings." (Leviticus 23:3)
  23. RWD

    RWD Puritan Board Freshman

    Oh, I must have clicked on someone else’s “information” rather than yours. That person was a member of a church within ARBCA, maybe it was Victor’s I accidentally clicked on.
  24. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    Guilty as charged! ;)
  25. My Pilgrim Way

    My Pilgrim Way Puritan Board Freshman

    I can recall pretty much everything being closed on the Lord's day (except restaurants or gas stations) in my earlier childhood. Even though we went to church, I was never instructed in the "why" and mostly saw it as an inconvenience. I vaguely recall when the blue laws began to change and being able to walk to the store to get candy. I wonder how knowing why they were in place may have shaped my life differently. Sadly, much of what I was taught was in do's and don'ts without biblical instruction.
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2019
  26. My Pilgrim Way

    My Pilgrim Way Puritan Board Freshman

    This was a point I brought up in the NCT post. They say that those who hold to the 4th commandment are not consistent re: membership or church discipline. I asked a faithful man about this, and he said that in some cases, it would be difficult to know how/if someone is breaking the sabbath. There are many ways one can break it in an way not seen except before the Lord.
  27. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    That’s true! but the same would go for any of the other commandments. It’s when sin is providentially exposed that the church is charged with dealing with it. I visited a church service where a man who had been under discipline for egregious sabbath breaking, and had repented, was restored.
  28. My Pilgrim Way

    My Pilgrim Way Puritan Board Freshman

    Exactly, he said the same thing. I think he was mostly responding to the argument those who hold to NCT like to make.
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