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Ten Reasons Demonstrating the Commandment of the Sabbath to be Moral. Lewis Bayly (d. 1631).




First Reason


Because all the reasons of this Commandment, are moral and perpetual: And God has bound us to the obedience of this Commandment, with more forcible reasons than to any of the rest. First, because he did foresee, that irreligious men would either more carelessly neglect, or more boldly break this Commandment, than any other (see Jer. 15. 22, Ezek. 20. 19, 20, 21, 24, Ezek. 23. 38, & Neh. 9 4.). Secondly, because that in the practice of this Commandment, the keeping of all the other consists: which makes God so often complain, that all his worship is neglected, or overthrown, when the Sabbath is either neglected or transgressed. It would make a man amazed (saith Mr. Calvin) to consider how oft, and with what zeal and protestation, God requires all (that will be his people) to sanctify the seventh day; yea, how the God of Mercy, mercilessly punishes the breach of this Commandment with cruel death? as though it were the sum of his whole honour and service.


And it is certain, that he who makes no conscience to break the Sabbath, will not (to serve his turn) make any conscience to break any of the other Commandments, so he may do it without discredit of his reputation, or danger of Man's law. Therefore God placed this Commandment, in the midst of the Two Tables; because the keeping of it, is the best help to the keeping of all the rest. The conscionable keeping of the Sabbath, is the Mother of all religion, and good discipline in the Church. Take away the Sabbath, and let every man serve God when he pleases; and what will shortly become of Religion, and that peace and order, which God will have to be kept in his Church? The Sabbath day is God's market-day, for the week's provision; wherein he will have us to come unto him, and buy of him without silver or money, the Bread of Angels, and Water of Life, the Wine of the Sacrament, and Milk of the Word to feed our souls; tried gold, to enrich our faith; precious Eye-salve, to heal our spiritual blindness; and the white raiment of Christ's righteousness, to cover our nakedness. He is not far from true piety, who makes conscience to keep the Sabbath day: but he who can dispense with his conscience to break the Sabbath for his own profit or pleasure, his heart never yet felt, either the fear of God, or true piety. For of this speech of St. James whosoever fails in one, is guilty of all, seeing therefore that God has fenced this commandment with so many moral reasons, it is evident that the Commandment it self is moral.


Second Reason


Because it was commanded of God to Adam in his innocency: whilst (holding his happiness not by faith in Christ's merits, but by obedience to God's Law) he needed no ceremony, shadowing the redemption of Christ. A Sabbath therefore of a seventh day cannot be simply a ceremony, but an essential part of God's worship, enjoined unto man, when there was but one condition of all men. And if it was necessary for our first parents to have a Sabbath day (Gen 2. 3), to serve God in their perfection; much more need their posterity to keep the Sabbath in the state of their corruption. And seeing God himself kept this day holy, how can that man be holy, that doth wilfully profane it?

Third Reason


Because it is one of the Commandments which God spake with his own mouth, and twice wrote with his own fingers in tables of stone, to signify their authority and perpetuity. All that God wrote, were moral and perpetual Commandments (Deut. 4. 13) and those are reckoned ten in number. If this were now but an abrogated ceremony, then there were but nine Commandments; the ceremonial that were to be abrogated by Christ, were written all by Moses. But this of the Sabbath, with the other nine, written by God himself (Deut. 4. 2) were put into the Ark, where no Ceremonial Law was put (1 King. 8. 9) to show, that they should be the perpetual Rules of the Church (Heb 9. 4) yet such as none could perfectly fulfil and keep, but only Christ.


Fourth Reason


Because Christ professes (Matt 5. 17, 19), that he came not to destroy the moral law: and that the least of them should not be abrogated in his kingdom of the New Testament. Insomuch that whosoever breaketh one of the least of these Ten Commandments, and teaches men so, he should be called the least in the Kingdom of heaven; that is, he should have no place in his Church. Now the Moral Law commands one day of seven to be perpetually kept a holy Sabbath. And Christ himself expressly mentions the keeping of a Sabbath among his Christians, at the destruction of Jerusalem, about 42 years after his resurrection. By which time, all the Mosaical ceremonies (except eating of blood, and things strangled) were by a public decree of all the Apostles quite abolished, and abrogated in Christian Churches. And therefore Christ admonished his Disciples (Matt 24. 20), to pray that their flight be not in the winter, nor on the Sabbath day. Not in the winter; for that (by reason of the foulness of the ways and weather) their flight should be more painful and troublesome unto them: not upon the Sabbath, because it would be more grievous to their hearts, to spend that day in toiling to save their lives, which the Lord had commanded to be spent in holy exercises, to comfort their souls.


Now if the sanctifying of the Sabbath on this day had been but ceremonial, it had been no grief to have fled on this day, any more than on any other day of the week. But in that Christ does tender so much this fear and grief of being driven to fly on the Sabbath day, and therefore wishes his, to pray unto God to prevent such an occasion: he plainly demonstrates, that the observation of the Sabbath is no abrogated ceremony, but a Moral Commandment, confirmed and established by Christ among Christians. If you would know the day whereupon Christ appointed Christians to keep the Sabbath St. John will tell you, that is was on the Lord's day, Rev. 1. 10. If you will know on what day of the week that was, St. Paul will tell you, that it was on every first day of the week, 1 Cor. 16. 1.


If then a Christian should not without grief of heart, fly for the safety of his life on the Lord's day, with what joy or comfort can a true Christian neglect the holy exercises of God's worship in the Church, to spend the greatest part of the Lord's day in profane and carnal sports, or servile labour? And seeing the destruction of Jerusalem, was a sign and an assurance of the destruction of the World, who sees not, but that the holy Sabbath must continue till the very end of the world?


Fifth Reason


Because that all the ceremonial law was enjoined to the Jews only, and not to the Gentiles; but this Commandment of the holy Sabbath, (as Matrimony) was instituted of God in the state of innocency, when there was but one state of all men: and therefore enjoined to the Gentiles, as well as to the Jews: So that all Magistrates and Householders were commanded (Isa. 56, 6), to constrain all strangers (as well as their own subjects, and family) to observe the holy Sabbath, as appears by the fourth Commandment, and practice of Nehemiah (Neh 13, 15&c), All the ceremonies were a partition wall to separate Jews and Gentiles (Eph 2. 14): But seeing the Gentiles are bound to keep this Commandment as well as the Jews; it is evident that it is no Jewish ceremony. And seeing the same authority is for the Sabbath that is for marriage: a man may as well say, that marriage is but a ceremonial law, as the Sabbath. And remember, that whereas marriage is termed but once the covenant of God (Proverbs 2. 17), because instituted by God in the beginning (Mat. 19. 6, 8.): the Sabbath is every where called the Sabbath of the Lord thy God, because ordained by God in the same beginning, both of time, state and perpetuity: therefore not ceremonial.

Sixth Reason

The corruption of our nature found in the manifest opposition of wicked men, and in the secret unwillingness of good men to sanctify sincerely the Sabbath, sufficiently demonstrates, that the Commandment of the Sabbath is spiritual and moral.


Seventh Reason

Because that as God by a perpetual decree, made the Sun, the Moon, and other lights in the firmament of heaven, not only to divided the day from the night, but also to be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and for years: so he ordained in the Church on Earth, the holy Sabbath to be not only the appointed season, for his solemn worship, but also the perpetual rule and measure of time. So that as seven days make a week, four weeks a month, 12 months a year: so seven years make a Sabbath of years: seven Sabbaths of years, a Jubilee; 80 Jubilees, or 4000 years, or after Ezekiel, 4000 cubits, the whole time of the Old Testament, till Christ by his Baptism and Preaching, began the state of the New Testament.


Neither can I here pass over without admiration, how the Sacrament of Circumcision continued in the Church 39 Jubilees from Abraham, to whom it was first given, unto the Baptism of Christ in Jordan: which was just so many Jubilees as the world had continued before from Adam, to the birth of Abraham. Moses began his Ministry in the 80th year of his age. Christ enters upon his Office in the 80th Jubilee of the World's Age; Joseph was thirty years old, when he began to rule over Egypt, (Gen. 41. 46), and the Levites began to serve in the Tabernacle at thirty years old: so Christ likewise to answer these figures, began his ministry in the 30th Jubilee of Moses; and when he began to be thirty years of age, Luke 3. 23, in the midst of Daniel's last week; and so (continuing his ministry on Earth three years and a half) finished our redemption, and Daniel's period, by his innocent death upon the Cross.


And indeed the whole life of a man is measured by the Sabbath: for, how many years soever man liveth here; yet his life is but a life of seven days, multiplied: so that in the number of 7 there is a mystical perfection, which our understanding cannot attain unto.


All which divine disposition of admirable things, so oft by sevens, calls upon us to a continual meditation of the blessed seventh-day Sabbath, in knowing and worshipping God in this life: that so from Sabbath to Sabbath, we may be translated to the eternal glorious Sabbath of rest and bliss, in the life to come.

By the consideration whereof, any man that looketh into the holy history, may easily perceive, that the whole course of the World is drawn, and guided by a certain chain of God's providence,a disposing all things in number, measure, and weight. All times are therefore measured by the Sabbath: so that time and the Sabbath can never be separated. And the Angel swears, that this measuring of time shall continue, till that time shall be no more. And as the Sabbath had its first institu∣tion in the first Book of the Scriptures, so has it its confirmation in the last: and as this Book does authorize this day; so this day graceth the Book; in that the matter thereof was revealed upon so holy a day; the Lord's revelation upon the Lord's Day. As well therefore may they pull the Sun, Moon, and Stars out of the Hea∣vens, as abolish the Holy Sabbath (times meet-rod) out of the Church: seeing the Sabbath is ordained in the Church (as well as the Sun and Moon in the Firmament) for the distinction of times.

Eighth Reason


Because that the whole Church, by an universal consent, ever since the Apostles time, have still held the Commandment of the Sabbath, to be the moral and perpetual law of God; and the keeping of the Sabbath on the first day of the week, to be the institution of Christ and his Apostles.


The Synod, called Synodus Coloniensis, saith, that the Lord's-day hath been famous in the Church ever since the Apostles time.


Ignatius Bishop of Antioch living in St. John's time, saith, Let every one that loveth Christ, keep holy the Lord's-day, renowned by his resurrection; which is the Queen of days, in which death is overcome, and life is sprung up in Christ.


Justin Martyr, who lived not long after him, shows how the Christians kept their Sabbath on the Lord's-day, as we do.


Origen, who lived about 150 years after Christ, shows the reason why the Sabbath is translated to the Lord’s-day.


Augustine saith, That the Lord's-day was declared unto the Church by the resurrection of the Lord upon that day. And by Christ it was first ordained to be kept holy. And in another place, That the Apostles appointed the Lord's-day to be kept with all religious solemnity, because that upon that day our Redeemer rose from the dead, which also is therefore called the Lord’s-day. As therefore David said of the City of God, so may I say of the Lord’s-day, glorious things are spoken of the day of the Lord: for it was the birth-day of the World, the first day wherein all creatures began to have being. In it light was drawn out of darkness. In it the Law was given on Mount Sinai. In it the Lord rose from death to life. In it the Saints came out of their graves, assuring that on it Christians should rise to newness of life. In it the Holy Ghost descended upon the Apostles. And it is very probable, that on the seventh day, when the seven Trumpets have blown, the cursed Jericho of this World shall fall, and our true Jesus shall give us the promised possession of the heavenly Canaan.


Any that would see the uniform consent of Antiquity, and practice of the Primitive Church in this point, let him read Eusebius' s Ecclesiastical History, Book. 4 Ch 23, Tertullian's On Idolatry, Ch. 14, Chrysostom Sermon 5. On the Resurrection, and Cyril on John l. 12. c. 8.


Wherefore seeing the Lord's day is both the fast of Christ (viz. his resurrection, and often appearing to his Disciples upon that day) by the example and institution of the Apostles, and by the continual practice of the ancient Church, and by the testimony of the Scripture, observed and substituted into the place of the Jewish Sabbath: they do foolishly, who say, that the observation of the Lord's day is of tradition, and not from the Scripture, that by this means they might establish the traditions of men. And again, the cause of this change is the resurrection of Christ, and the benefit of the restoring of the Church by Christ, the remembrance of which benefit did succeed into the place of the memory of the creation. Non humanâ traditione, sed Christi ipsius observatione & instituto; Not by the tradition of Man, but by the observation and appointment of Christ, who both on the day of his resurrection and on every eighth day after, unto his ascension into heaven, did appear unto his Disciples, and came into their assemblies.


Ninth Reason


Because that the Lord himself expounds the end of the Sabbath to be a sign (Exod. 31. 13, 14, &c. Ezek. 20. 12, 20) and document for ever, betwixt him and his people, that he is Jehovah, by whom they are sanctified; and therefore must only of them be worshiped (Ezek, 46. 1. 2, 3, &c.): and upon the pain of death charges his people for ever to keep this memorial unviolated (Exod 35. 2.). But this end is moral and perpetual: Therefore the Sabbath is moral and perpetual. What God has perpetually sanctified, let no man ever presume to make common or profane (Acts 10. 15).


Upon this ground it is, that the Commandment terms this day, the Sabbath of the Lord thy God. And God himself calls it, his holy day (Isa. 58. 13). And upon the same ground likewise, the Old Testament consecrated all their Sabbaths and holy days, to the worship and honour of God alone. To dedicate therefore a Sabbath to the honour of any creature, is gross idolatry. For the first Table makes it a part of God's worship, to have a Sabbath to his honour: so does Lev. 23. 3, 37, 38, &c. and Ezek. 20. 20. And in Neh 9. 14, the Sabbath is put for the whole worship of God. And our Saviour teaches, that we must worship the Lord God only, Mat. 4. 10. and therefore keep a Sabbath to the only honour of God. The Holy Ghost notes it as one of Jeroboam's greatest sins, that he ordained a feast from the device of his own heart, 1 Kings 12. 33. And God threatens to visit Israel for keeping the days of Baalim; That is, of Lords, as Papists do of Saints, Hos. 2. 13, but saith, that such forget him. And so indeed none are less careful, in keeping the Lord's Sabbath, than they, who are most superstitious observers of men’s holy days. The Church of Rome therefore commits gross Idolatry.


First, in taking upon her to ordain Sabbaths, which belongs only unto the Lord of the Sabbath to do.


Secondly, in dedicating those holy days to the honour of creatures, which in effect is to make them sanctifying gods.


Thirdly, in tying to these days, God's worship, prayers, fasting and merit.


Fourthly, In exacting on these days of mens invention, a greater measure of solemnity and sanctification, than upon the Lord's day, which is God's Commandment: which in effect is to prefer Antichrist before Christ.


Tenth Reason


Lastly, the examples of God's Judgments on Sabbath-breakers, may sufficiently seal unto them, whose hearts are not seared, how wrathfully Almighty God is displeased with them, who are wilful profaners of the Lord's day.


The Lord (who is otherwise the God of mercy) commanded Moses to stone to death the man, who (of a presumptuous mind) would openly go to gather sticks on the Sabbath day. The fact was small: true, but his sin was the greater, that (for so small an occasion) would presume to break so great a Commandment.


Nicanor offering to fight against the Jews on the Sabbath day, was slain himself and thirty five thousand of his men.


A Husbandman grinding corn upon the Lord’s-day, had his mill burned to ashes.


Another carrying corn on this day, had his barn, and all his corn therein burnt with fire from Heaven the next night after.


Many other examples of God's judgments might be alleged; but if these are not sufficient to terrify thy heart from the wilful profanation of the Lord's-day, proceed in thy profanation; it may be the Lord will make thee the next example, to teach others to keep his Sabbaths better.


He punisheth some in this life, to signify how he will plague all wilful transgressors of his Sabbaths at the last day.

Annexing of Ceremonies to the Fourth Commandment Particular to the Jews & The Ceasing of those Ceremonial Accessories


Thus we have proved, that the Commandment of the Sabbath is Moral, and that the change of it from the seventh to the first day of the week, was instituted by the authority of Christ, and of his Apostles. But as in promulgating of the Law, divers ceremonies, peculiar to the Jews, were annexed, the rather to bind that people to the more careful performance thereof, as to the first Commandment, their deliverance from Egypt, shadowing their redemption from hell; to the fifth Commandment, length of days in Canaan typifying eternal life in heaven; to the sixth Commandment, abstinence from blood and things strangled, figuring the care to abstain from all kind of murder; and to the whole Law, the Ceremony of parchment lace, putting them in mind to keep within the limits of the Law. So likewise to the fourth Commandment were added some ceremonies, which peculiarly belonged to the Jews, and to no other people;


1. The double sacrifices appointed for them on the Sabbath day, shadowing how God will be served on the Sabbath, with greater obedience, than on the week days. Num. 28. 9, 10.


2. The rigid and strict ceasing from making of fire (Exod. 35. 2, 3), dressing of meat (Exod. 16. 23), both remembering them of their full deliverance by Moses's conduct from the fiery furnaces, and slavery of Egypt, upon that day; as also shadowing unto them the eternal redemption of their souls from Hell, by the death of Christ.


3. The keeping of the Sabbath upon the precise seventh day in order of the creation; shadowing to the Jews, that Christ by his death, and resting on their Sabbath, in the grave, should bring them rest and ease, from the burthen and yoke of the legal ceremonies, which neither they, nor their Fathers were able to bear, Act. 15. 10, and Col. 2. 16, 17.


And howsoever in Paradise before Man's fall, the keeping of the Sabbath on the seventh day of the Creation, was not a ceremony, but an argument of perfection: yet after the fall, it became ceremonial, and subject to change in respect of the restoration by Christ. As man's life before the fall being immortal, became afterwards mortal; and nakedness being an ornament before, became afterwards a shame; and Marriage became a type of the mystical union betwixt Christ and his Church, Eph. 5. and to fulfil the ceremonies (added for the Jews sake unto the Sabbath) Christ at his death rested in the grave all the Jewish Sabbath day: and by that rest fulfilled all those ceremonial accessories. Now as the ceasing of the ceremonies annexed to the 1st, 5th, and 6th Commandments, and to Marriage, did not abolish those Commandments and Marriage; nor cause them to cease from being the perpetual Rules of God's worship, and man's righteousness; no more did the abrogating of the ceremonies annexed to the Sabbath, abolish the morality of the Commandment of the Sabbath: so that though the ceremonies be abolished, by the access of the substance; and the shadow over-shadowed by the body, (which is Christ) yet the holy rest (which was commanded and kept, before either the Jews were a people, or those ceremonies annexed to the Sabbath) still continue as God's perpetual law, whereby all the posterity of Adam are bound to rest from their ordinary business, that they may wholly spend every seventh day in the solemn worship, and only service of God their Creator and Redeemer; but in the substance of the fourth Commandment, there is not found one word of any ceremony.

Chief Objections


The chief objections against the morality of the Sabbath are three:


First Objection Stated and Answered


That of Paul to the Galatians, Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years, &c. (Gal. 4. 10). But there the Apostle condemns not the moral Sabbath, (which we call the Lord's day; and which he himself ordained according to Christ's Commandment, in the same churches of Galatia and Corinth, and kept himself in other churches (1 Cor. 16. 1. & 14. 37. and Acts 20. 7)) but he speaks of the Jewish days, and times, and years, and the keeping of the Sabbath on the seventh day from the Creation, which he terms shadows of things to come (Col. 2. 17), abolished now by Christ the body; and in the Law are called Sabbaths (Lev. 23. 37, 38), but distinguished from the moral Sabbaths.


Second Objection Stated and Answered

That of Paul to the Colossians: Let no man therefore condemn you in meat or drink, or in respect of an holy-day, or of the new-moon, or of the Sabbath-days. (Col. 2. 16) But here the Apostle means the Jewish ceremonial Sabbaths (plural), not the Christians Lord's day, as before.

Third Objection Stated and Answered

That of the same Apostle to the Romans, This man esteemeth one day above another day; and another counteth every day alike, &c. (Rom. 14. 5) But St. Paul makes no such account. For the question there is not between Jews and Gentiles, but between the stronger and weaker Christians. The stronger esteemed one day above another (Rom. 15. 1), as appears in that there was a day both commanded and received in the Church every where known and honoured by the name of the Lord's day. And therefore Paul saith here, that he that observes this day, observes it unto the Lord. The observation whereof, because of the change of the Jewish seventh day, some weak Christians, (as many nowadays) thought not so necessary: so that if men (because the Jewish day is abrogated) will not honour and keep holy the Lord's day, but count it like other days; it is an argument (saith the Apostle) of their weakness, whose infirmity must be born, till they have time to be further instructed and persuaded.


Other objections are frivolous, and not worth the answering.

The above article is an an edited and revised excerpt from Bayly's The Practice of Piety Directing a Christian How to Walk, That He May Please God.