WHY has God appointed a Sabbath?

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Blueridge Believer

Puritan Board Professor
(1) With respect to HIMSELF. It is requisite that God should reserve one day in seven for his own immediate service, that thereby he might be acknowledged to be the great Plenipotentiary, or sovereign Lord—who has power over us both to command worship, and appoint the time when he will be worshiped.

(2) With respect to US. The Sabbath-day is for our interest; it promotes holiness in us. The business of week-days makes us forgetful of God and our souls: the Sabbath brings him back to our remembrance. When the dust of the world has clogged the wheels of our affections, that they can scarce move towards God—the Sabbath comes, and oils the wheels of our affections, and they move swiftly on! God has appointed the Sabbath for this end. On this day the thoughts rise to heaven, the tongue speaks of God, and is as the pen of a ready writer, the eyes drop tears, and the soul burns in love! The heart, which all the week was frozen, on the Sabbath melts with the Word. The Sabbath is a friend to true religion; it files off the rust of our graces; it is a spiritual jubilee, wherein the soul is set to converse with its Maker.

I should next show you the modes, or manner, how we should keep the Sabbath day holy; but before I come to that, we have a great question to consider.

Why is it, that we do not keep the seventh-day Sabbath, (Saturday) as it was in the primitive institution—but have changed it to another day (Sunday)?

The old seventh-day Sabbath, which was the Jewish Sabbath, is abrogated, and in the place of it the first day of the week, which is the Christian Sabbath, succeeds. The morality or substance of the fourth commandment does not lie in keeping the seventh day precisely—but keeping one day in seven is what God has appointed.

Why is it, that the first day in the week to be substituted in the room of the seventh day?

Not by ecclesiastic authority. "The church," says Mr Perkins, "has no power to ordain a Sabbath."

(1) The change of the Sabbath from the last day of the week to the first, was by Christ's own appointment. He is "Lord of the Sabbath." Mark 2:28. And who shall appoint a day but he who is Lord of it? He made this day. "This is the day which the Lord has made." Psalm 118:24. Arnobius and most expositors understand it of the Christian Sabbath, which is called the "Lord's day." Rev 1:10. As it is called the "Lord's Supper," because of the Lord's instituting the bread and wine and setting it apart from a common to a special and sacred use; so it is called the Lord's-day, because of the Lord's instituting it, and setting it apart from common days, to his special worship and service. Christ rose on the first day of the week, out of the grave, and appeared twice on that day to his disciples, John 20:19, 26, which was to intimate to them, as Augustine and Athanasius say, that he transferred the Jewish Sabbath to the Lord's day.

(2) The keeping of the first day was the practice of the apostles. "Upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them." Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 16:2. Here was both preaching and breaking of bread on this day. Augustine and Innocentius, and Isidore, make the keeping of our gospel Sabbath to be of apostolic sanction, and affirm, that by virtue of the apostles' practice, this day is to be set apart for divine worship. What the apostles did, they did by divine authority; for they were inspired by the Holy Spirit.

(3) The primitive church had the Lord's-day, which we now celebrate, in high estimation. It was a great badge of their religion to observe this day. Ignatius, the most ancient father, who lived in the time of John the apostle, has these words, "Let everyone who loves Christ keep holy the first day of the week, the Lord's-day." This day has been observed by the church of Christ for over sixteen hundred years, as the learned Bucer notes. Thus you see how the seventh-day Sabbath came to be changed to the first-day Sabbath.

The grand reason for changing the Jewish Sabbath to the Lord's-day, is that it puts us in mind of the "Mystery of our redemption by Christ." The reason why God instituted the old Sabbath was to be a memorial of the creation; but he has now brought the first day of the week in its room in memory of a more glorious work than creation, which is redemption. Great was the work of creation—but greater was the work of redemption. As it was said, "The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former." Hag 2:9. So the glory of the redemption was greater than the glory of the creation. Great wisdom was seen in making us—but more miraculous wisdom in saving us. Great power was seen in bringing us out of nothing—but greater power in helping us when we were worse than nothing. It cost more to redeem than to create us. In creation it was but speaking a word (Psalm 148:5); in redeeming there was shedding of blood. 1 Pet 1:19. Creation was the work of God's fingers, Psalm 8:3, redemption was the work of his arm. Luke 1:51. In creation, God gave us ourselves; in the redemption, he gave us himself. By creation, we have life in Adam; by redemption, we have life in Christ. Col 3:3. By creation, we had a right to an earthly paradise: by redemption, we have a title to a heavenly kingdom. Christ might well change the seventh day of the week into the first, as it puts us in mind of our redemption, which is a more glorious work than creation

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