The Observation of the Lord’s Day, or the Christian Sabbath, William Thomas.
July 21, 2018
The Christian Sabbath (as our Church calls it,) that is, the Lord’s day, being a matter of so great importance, both in respect of Christians and of Christianity, as that the name of the Lord of glory is imprinted upon it. And the primitive Christians accounted it their glorious character. And the Catholic Church has still owned it, and in the best of times most acknowledged it to be a day wholly dedicated to the remembrance and service of God our Saviour, I shall therefore, endeavour (according to my ability) to add something briefly and summarily concerning this great day, and the duties thereof; and that so, as to stir up Christians to the due observation of that day, and performance of those duties.
For this purpose I shall make choice of a portion of Scripture that fully declares the danger of profaning the Lord’s holy day; It is that which is written
Neh. 13.17, 18.
Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the Sabbath day? Did not your fathers do thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this City? Yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the Sabbath.
It is easy here (before I go any further) to foresee this objection, that a text in the Old Testament, speaking of the Jews Sabbath, is improper for the establishing of the observation of the New Testament Sabbath. Unto which I answer:
1. More general, that whatsoever things were written aforetime, they were written for our learning; and examples of divine justice (such as this Scripture declares to be inflicted for profaning that which was God’s holy day then) are written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the world are come, to terrify all men from offending in the like kind; as here, from abusing and applying to common use his consecrated time, and solemn day.
2. More particularly, the Fourth Commandment being (as a remarkable part of the moral and eternal law of God) still in force, for the holy observation of a Sabbath every week, of God’s appointment unto the end of the world; it will from thence follow, that any thing spoken in the Old Testament concerning the weekly Sabbath in use then, if it be not proper to the Jewish people, nor to the Jews Sabbath day, but be prescribed in the Fourth Commandment, as common to each weekly Sabbath of God’s institution, does still remain in its full strength to bind the people of God in all ages; briefly, What belonged to the Jews Sabbath, as [a] Sabbath, and not as [that] Sabbath, is still in force for every Sabbath, I mean, for any weekly day which God appoints for his day of rest and holiness. Hence it follows also, that what we find in the Old Testament, about the Sabbath, approved, that's for our imitation; what we find reproved and punished, that's for our restraint and warning.
This morality of the Fourth Commandment, and its common aspect, both on the Old and New Testaments weekly day, being purposely and strongly proved by others, I shall not (here) speak further of it, but hasten to a brief opening of the Scripture before recited; wherein it appears, that amongst other gross abuses, (mentioned in the former and latter part of this Chapter) the Sabbath also was very provokingly profaned, and that in Jerusalem itself; (the Lord’s city); wherein the Temple was, (the Lord’s house); and wherein God himself so resided, that they hid their eyes from the Sabbath, in his eyesight, and by the profanation thereof he was profaned among them, Ezek. 22.26.
If any ask, how all this came to pass? Nehemiah himself gives an account of it, when he saith, All this while was not I at Jerusalem, v. 6. The presence of a good Governor prevents impiety? And Nehemiah being once come; Sabbath profanation is non-plussed, and overcome, They came no more on the Sabbath, v. 21. But, as when Moses was absent, the Calf was made; so Nehemiah going (after his first coming to Jerusalem, and the building of the walls thereof) into Persia again, there were, in that his absence from Jerusalem, many profanations crept in, which he, when he returns, most zealously reforms. In particular; when he saw in Judah the violation of the Sabbath, and that it was made a very market-day, v. 15, his eyes affected his heart, and his zeal discovers itself.
1. In vehement speaking; for he testified, and contended against the profaners of that day, v. 15. and with the nobles that should have prevented and obviated such profanation, v. 17, 18.
2. In resolute acting; taking order,
(a) For the shutting and guarding of the gates of Jerusalem, against buyers and sellers within the City, v. 19.
(b) For restraining them that lodged about the wall, who might continue buying and selling in the suburbs, v. 20.21.
(c) He gave charge to the Levites also to keep the gates, to wit, of the Temple (Nehemiah's own servants being appointed to keep the City-gates), that so nothing might be wanting, on their part, to keep the day and house of God from profanation, v. 22.
The result and conclusion of all which, is, an humble applying of himself to the mercy of God for the remembering of him, as he, by the grace of God, was zealous in remembering the Lord’s holy day; where his confidence is also implied, and this contained, that, The Lord will mercifully remember them, who remember dutifully the Lord’s day.
In the two verses before cited, (v. 17, 18) is contained Nehemiah's contending (or arguing the case by strong and solid reasons, with the nobles, who either had a hand in this evil, as being actors in it themselves (Ezra 9. 2), or at least, were under the guilt of it for want of being the restrainers of it (1 Sam. 2. 29 & 3. 13), being (it's like) entrusted with the care of such things in Nehemiah's absence.
This contention is made good, by the great evil that there is in profaning the Sabbath day, which is twofold.
1. The evil of sin, v. 17, What evil thing is this that ye do?
2. The evil of punishment, Did not your fathers do thus, and did not God bring all this evil upon us, v. 18.
The former of these shows, that, it is an evil thing to profane the Sabbath day. I use the word Sabbath, not as intending to speak of, or to give any countenance to the observation of the Jews Sabbath (now); but as purposing to speak of the Christian Sabbath, and to take in that only of the Jews day, which sometime belonged to it in the general nature and notion of a Sabbath, and with respect to that observation of a Sabbath, which (being prescribed in the Fourth Commandment) belongs to every Sabbath of God’s appointment.
Nor do I (while I make use of the name [Sabbath]) deny the Lord’s day to be the more evangelical name; but I call it a Sabbath, because it will never be the Lord’s day, unless it be a Sabbath day, that is, it will never be a day of holy rest, unless it be a day of rest, which the word Sabbath signifies.
Concerning which, I shall mention these three particulars:
I. The rest enjoined.
II. The thing intended in that rest, to wit, holiness.
III. The extent both of the rest and the holiness; it is for the whole day.
I. The rest enjoined
First, in a Sabbath, rest is required, and that so as to do no manner of work; the meaning is not, that we are to abstain from sinful works only, which though they be eminently unlawful on that day, yet are truly unlawful any day, and are forbidden in all the other Commandments, Nor is it the meaning, that we should abstain from servile work only, that is, worldly works painful and gainful, (which are allowed on other days); for howsoever such works be in special manner forbidden, as being named in the Fourth Commandment, yet that's but by a synecdoche, or a figure, whereby more is meant: for if they only were forbidden, then the Sabbath might be spent in things easy, liberal, and ingenuous without blame; and then God should have the day no more, or little more, then if it were spent in servile works, when yet it must be a Sabbath of, or to the Lord; The thing therefore required, is, that all manner of work be forborne, (by what name or title soever it be called) that is ours, and not God’s; that deprives God of his day, or is an hinderance of that holiness which is intended in the Sabbath or day of rest.
Of this rest there are divers reasons. As:
1. The solemnity of the day (for it's one of God’s solemn days, Psalm 81. 5) that the celebration thereof may be more fair and full by laying aside all work, and the whole creation (as it were) to wait on the Creator, Lev. 23. 3.
2. As in point of solemnity, so, in point of mercy, for the relief, refreshing and taking breath of the toiled creature after six days labour; which is said of God himself, after his work, but it is spoken after the manner of men, Exod. 31.17. On the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.
3. And especially, in point of piety, for the sanctification of the day, in the holy services thereof; and that not without need: For, if we look to innocent Adam, albeit some question, whether the law of the Sabbath were given to him before the fall; yet there's no cause to question, but that it would have been useful to him, though he had not fallen: because he could not, at once, dress and keep the Garden, and have that complete and undistracted communion with God, which it was easy for him to enjoy, in a time of rest and separation from all such earthly and varied employment.
But now, man being fallen, this rest is of more absolute necessity, because both human infirmity and corruption so compass and cleave to us, that we cannot with full intention of mind be in heaven and earth both at once; that is, we cannot, at the same time, apply ourselves entirely to matters of so different a nature and operation as heavenly and earthly things are, which apparently carry our hearts contrary ways: whereof there needs not further proof than the daily experience we have of the dividing of our hearts, and the withdrawing of them from things spiritual, or, at least, the eclipsing of them, by the interposition of earthly things; which, if they be earthly thoughts, hinder spiritual thoughts, and disturb heavenly meditations; if they be earthly words, they cool spiritual communications (a man cannot speak two different languages both at once); and if they be earthly actions, they weaken spiritual exercises, and thrust aside heavenly transactions.
For this reason, play also and sports are forbidden: for God forbids not work for the thing, (He likes work better then play), but for the end; to wit, because it hinders the entire employing of the day in holy things, which play does much more, because of a greater delight in it, and for that the heart is more taken up with it, and stolen (as the hearts of the men of Israel were by Absalom’s kisses, 2 Sam. 15.5, 6.) from the son of David, the Lord of the Sabbath, by it.
Now, albeit there might be some rest (out of the Fourth Commandment) appendant to the Jews day, and proper to them, as appertaining to their education, (which, I conceive, it will be hard to find; that which is produced for it, being as probably answered as urged:) yet all that rest which is enjoined in the Commandment, and is necessary for Sabbath-sanctification, belongs to us as well as to them: for, as the observation of the Sabbath (prescribed in the Fourth Commandment) being spiritual, argues the law that requires it to be both moral and eternal; so, with respect thereto, the bodily rest also becomes moral, and therefore a common and continuing thing to us as well as to the Jews.
Nor need this rest seem tedious, if we consider what works God requires and allows on the Sabbath-day; As:
1. Works of religion. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all [thy] work, saith the Commandment, but on the Sabbath-day, we may and must do God’s work. Hence, it's said, The Priests profane the Sabbath, that is, materially, by doing those works that would profane it, if God had not commanded them for his service: but being that he has so done, those Priests are blameless, because those works, though servile in their nature, yet were sacred in their end and application. Such a work was the infirm man’s carrying his bed on the Sabbath when Christ had healed him. The bearing of burthens, on that day, for worldly lucre, is one of the things that Nehemiah here contends against; but that man’s carrying his bed became a religious action, by being an appurtenance of the miracle, and an open declaration to all men (who on that day did more flock together), of the grace and power of God by which he was cured; under this head may be comprehended those bodily provisions that are truly needful and helpful for our more able and vigorous performance of religious duties, or for the glory of God some other way.
2. Works of necessity, to wit, real, not feigned; and present and apparent, not possible only, and which may be or not be: To this we may refer the Disciples plucking and eating the ears of corn, whom Christ excuses, because, at that time, they (as David) needed sustenance. And add thereto the other plain instance of a sheep falling into a pit, Matt. 12. 11, which they that so quarrelled with our Saviour, made no scruple to pull out on the Sabbath day.
3. Works of mercy, as the healing of the woman bound by Satan, Lo eighteen years, Luke 13. 15, 16. A Saviour so merciful would not stand upon healing on the Sabbath day in a case so pitiful; for, the Sabbath is made for man, Mark 2. 27, that is, the rest of the Sabbath is to give place to man’s relief; And though God propound to us his example of rest on the seventh day for our resting, yet we have his example of working also for mans benefit; for (saith Christ) my Father worketh hitherto, (no Sabbath day excepted) to wit, in the preservation, government, and for the good of his creatures.
Thus of the first thing belonging to a Sabbath, to wit, rest.
II. Holiness of the Sabbath
Secondly, the thing further and chiefly required, and which is intended in this rest, is holiness, Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy; wherein is contained:
1. A reverent opinion of it, to wit, as the Lord’s holy and honourable day, there will never be a good observation of it in our practise, without an estimation of it in our judgement. Men will not leave the world (with which nature closes) nor close with God in those holy things which nature is opposite to, and in the best, too averse from; I say, they will not do this on a day (and that every week) which they care not for; on which they see no divine character; and in the service whereof they expect no divine blessing.
2. A dear affection to it, calling it a delight, and loving to be in the spirit on that day, Rev. 1. 10. [No delight] is the companion of contempt, but delight is so far from despising service, that it doubles it.
3. An holy employing of the rest and bestowing of ourselves in the duties belonging to such a day. This is well expressed, in those considerable Articles of Ireland, thus, The first day of the week, which is the Lord’s day, is wholly to be dedicated to the service of God; and therefore we are bound therein to rest from our common and daily business, and (mark what follows) to bestow that leisure upon holy exercises both public and private.
Public exercises are the principal; in reference to which public worship especially, the Sabbath is (as I conceive), said to be a sign, that is, an open declaration, Whose we are, and whom we serve, Jonah 1. 9 & Act. 27. 23. For it does not follow from the word [Sign] that the weekly Sabbath is a typical ceremony: If it were so, then it should be a sin to observe a Sabbath now, since all ceremonies end in Christ, in whom (notwithstanding) the Christian Sabbath begins (as to the day) and by whom it is confirmed as it is a weekly day, (which the Fourth Commandment requires) because he declares that he came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it. It is not therefore a ceremonial sign (any more than the signs in the Sacraments are ceremonial) but rather a moral and real sign and demonstration how things stand between God and his people, which will further appear by looking more narrowly into that place of Ezekiel, where it is called a sign, for thus the prophet expresses it, I gave them my Sabbaths to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them (Ezek. 20. 12), which words are also mentioned and applied to the weekly Sabbath, Exod. 31. 13. 15, 16, 17. When the Sabbath is said to be a sign, the mean∣ing is (as some do most probably expound it) that it is a document or an instructing sign, and that between God and his people [me and you], saith the Lord; it teaches and shows that which is common to us both, to wit, on my part, that I am your Creator and Sanctifier; on your part, that you are a people, by me created and sanctified; And that it is thus an instructing sign, appears by the words following, that ye may know; as if the Lord had said, Look on the Sabbath as a monument of the relation between me and you; I would have you know and observe it so to be. Upon a nearer view of the words, it will be found a teaching sign of these three lessons:
(a) That God is the Lord (Lev. 19. 30 Ye shall keep my Sabbath, I am the Lord), that is, that Lord who is the only true God, (Jer. 10. 10) and that, because he has made the Heaven and the Earth, v. 11, 12. Which the observation of a Sabbath, that is, resting a seventh day every week in relation to six days work, clearly holds forth; for it is in imitation of that God, who in six days made Heaven and Earth, and rested the seventh, who can be no other then the true God, and Lord of all.
(b) The second lesson is, that this great Lord, is the God of his Church, or a God in covenant with them: for thus the Lord speaks (Ezek. 20.19, 20); I am the Lord [your God] —Hallow my Sabbaths, and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know (and learn this lesson) that I am your God; for, Why do they wait upon him a whole day, every week, but to show that they own him as their God, and that they believe he owns them as his people? Hence the Scripture saith, They sit before thee [as my people] and hear thy words (Ezek. 33. 31).
(c) The thirdlesson is, that he is the Lord that sanctifies them; which may be understood two ways:
1. Of a sanctification to himself by a separation from the world (Heb. 10. 29), so as to enjoy the privilege of his Covenant; and so the Scripture speaks, Ye shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy, and have severed you from other people that ye should be mine, Lev. 20. 26 & Exod. 33. 16.
2. And also of an internal renovation, and sanctification in spirit, and soul, and body, 1 Thess. 5, 23 by the word preached on that day through the operation of the Spirit, 1 Pet. 1.2, Act. 20.32. & 26.18. So that God has not only made the Sabbath an holy day, but also makes men holy by his ordinances, on that day (principally) dispensed.
I have been the longer in this, because hereby it appears what a necessity there is of a weekly Sabbath, as being a most signal declaration and representation of what God is in himself, that is, the maker of Heaven and Earth (his distinguishing character, and what he is to his Church, that is, a God in covenant with them, and every way, a sanctifier of them, and that's their distinguishing character, Ex. 33. 16 & Isa. 63. 19. Now (to return to the thing in hand) since the Sabbath becomes of this use, especially by the general and solemn meeting of God’s people together to public service, (as prayer, reading the Scripture, preaching, administration of the sacraments, &c.) therefore the rest and leisure we have on that day, is principally to be bestowed in, and sanctified by, such duties; And therefore, the sacrifices appointed for the Sabbath day were full double to those appointed for every day (Num. 28. 9), for the Sabbath being a sign of more than ordinary favour from the Lord, he required greater testimonies of their thankfulness and sanctification; And the prophet Ezekiel, speaking of the state of the Church in the time of the Messiah, under the figure of legal ordinances, mentions a yet greater oblation, to be offered on the Sabbath day (Ezek. 46.4, 5) signifying that in the time of the Gospel, the spiritual service should exceed the legal, the grace of the New Testament being greater than that of the Old: Now if we bring this greater service to the great day of service, that is, the Lord’s day, it will fairly follow, that the rest of that day should be filled up with holy duties, especially in public; for in those duties the Sabbath is most a (sign) of the relations between God and us.
Private duties also are necessary, because the whole day cannot be spent in public service conveniently, and yet it is to be spent holily; Before we come to the Congregation therefore, (considering how holy a God that is before whom we come, and how serious a service that is about which we come) there is great need to spend some time in repentance, especially of the sins committed the week before, for how can we stand before God in our sin? Ezra 9.15. And since God requires the heart, how much need is there to purge it? for he endures not a filthy heart, but cries out upon it Mat. 23.25; nor will the seed of the word prosper in it: How much need also to adorn it with humility, faith, fear of God, holy desires and affections? for God likes not an empty heart, but requires to be greatly feared in the Assembly of his Saints (Psalm 89. 7), to come with hungering, thirsting, and the desire of new born babes, and especially with faith, without which neither God’s Word to us, nor our words (in prayer) to him, can ever profit, Heb. 4. 2 & James 1. 6, 7. O how empty do we go away from ordinances, either because full of that which we ought to lay aside? or void of that which we ought to provide when we come into God’s presence! what need therefore of preparation?
And, After we have been before God in public exercises, we are not left at liberty to do and speak as we please, for it is the Sabbath of the Lord our God still; and therefore must have continued in it that rest, which is the body of it; and that holiness, which is the soul of it; As therefore, before the public service, we are to get a stomach, and then feed on the heavenly manna at it; so we are to ruminate and chew the cud after it, that is, we are to consider what God has said to us, meditate and ponder upon it. We should be in the spirit on the Lord’s day, that is, taken up with spiritual meditations, Rev. 1.10 or spiritual conference, such as our Saviour used with the men of Emmaus on the day of his resurrection, suitable to what he did before on the Jews Sabbath, when going into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread, he teaches one good lesson to the guests that were bidden, another to him that bade him; them he teaches humility, and him, charity; And a third that sat at meat with him (and in him all other men), piety; and providence that no worldly encumbrances hinder from spiritual ordinances. It's true, that Christ spake of good things every day, but we (being taken up with other things on our ordinary days) have the more need to follow his holy example in speaking of things godly on the Sabbath day wherein we are not so free to talk of what we wish, as some may imagine: for if there be a liberty for working-day words, and any every-day discourse, how will the rest of that day be holy? If two or three hours be spent in worldly talk or tales, and not in Christian colloquies, and communications (such as Paul so persisted in on the Lord’s day - Acts 20.12) where will the holiness of those hours be found, and, what distinction will there be (for that time) between that and the working days?
Unto these godly meditations and conferences, are to be added holy actions. As,
1. Works of Piety; reading, praying, admonishing, singing Psalms, catechising children; and (in special) repeating the sermons preached for the good of the family, or of other Christians; who finding how frail their memories are, will be glad of such an assistance.
2. Works of Charity, as laying up, or laying out, for the use of the poor, as God prospers us, visiting and helping the sick, spiritually and outwardly, as our Saviour used to heal on the Sabbath day; yet not so as to make more work than we need, but doing any good to poor creatures, which will not be so much for God's glory, and the winning of others to religion (who are at leisure to look out that day) or for their comfort that are in distress, if it be not on the Lord’s day, done and dispatched.
Hitherto of the rest and holiness of the Sabbath.
III. The extent of the rest and holiness that is for the whole day
Thirdly, there remains to be considered the extent of this rest and holiness, which is, for a whole day; for the Commandment saith, Remember the [day] of rest, to keep it holy. There is some question when the Christian Sabbath begins; some will have it to begin in the evening, and so the night shall be first, and the day after; Others (I conceive) more probably hold that it begins in the morn∣ing, because then, and that very early, when it was yet dark, John 20.1 our Saviour was risen, and in his resurrection, that work which gave occasion of the institution of the day was finished; and so the Lord’s day is reckoned from morning to morning, or (as some account it) from midnight to midnight, conceiving that the morning begins at midnight, and that Christ rose not much after midnight. Referring this to the Authors (mentioned in the margin) that are large in it, I shall only speak to the thing in hand, which is, that whensoever it begins, it must be a day, and such a day as our six days are; for God’s dividing of the week into six days of labour, and one entire day of rest must ever stand: As therefore we may take the whole six for our labour, so we must give the whole seventh to God. There are still seven days in the week, of which God never allows us more then six for our ordinary and earthly occasions.
Question: May not a man read a letter, or answer a question, or a messenger on that day; or do something in an earthly business falling in occasionally?
1. I shall not say that's unlawful; for sometimes such a necessity may arise about these earthly things, or such a work of mercy may fall in to be performed on that day, as may not be deferred; in which regard there may be cause to speak and do such things as (in themselves) are not proper on that day (out of such cases) not permitted. It's one thing to yield to an extraordinary occasion; another, to make a common practice of turning aside securely from holy to common things upon the Lord’s day.
2. Yet it belongs to our piety, on that day, to sabbatize, as much as we may, those things which are, in their nature, earthly; and to get and use an holy art and skill to turn them heaven-ward, which we still find in our Saviour, who therefore saith of himself, that he spake earthly things, John 3.12. Not that he did use to talk of the world, but he set forth heavenly things under earthly similitudes, and did weave spiritual instructions within worldly resemblances; What our Saviour did every day, and every way he went, that we should endeavour to do on the Lord’s day. In which diversion and coming off from earthly things to heavenly, and setting off heavenly with earthly, though some be more happy, yet all, whose hearts are holy, may (if they mind it, and will make a business of religion) speak one good word or another, to let those know that interrupt them by some earthly occasion, that even in the managing of such a business, they put a difference between God’s day, and their own days. And so they that come with a worldly message to them, may go away with a more heavenly mind from them; and an heart better affected to the Lord’s day, than they brought with them.
And lest any should think that this is a preciseness which an understanding man would not own, I shall relate here the words of a foreign and very learned Divine, on the text we have in hand, which are these; The foolish wisdom of mortal men, thinks it a small matter, if some work (especially some lighter work) be done on the Sabbath, (better do so, than worse); but God’s will is, that men’s minds should be taken up on the Sabbath day with other (I doubt not, but he understands, holy and heavenly) cares: which cares, (saith he), if thou do never so little a thing of another kind, are interrupted, and by this very thing all use of religion would be exploded, and thrust out of doors; unto which he further adds, that those things are to be done on the Sabbath which are suitable to the Sabbath, and (on the other side) things vile and evil, are to be taken heed of at all times (Wolph. Comment. in Neh. 13. 15, 16).
Question: But if the Sabbath must continue for a natural day of 24 hours, what is to be done in the night of that day? How shall that be sanctified, or what can be done to distinguish it from other nights belonging to our common days?
1. I doubt not, but that they that are conscientiously careful to observe our Gospel-Sabbath all the day, will find out ways to resolve themselves as concerning the night: And all Christians would be advised, if they propound such a question as this is, to see they do it out of conscience, and as seeking resolution, not out of curiosity, and as glad of an objection to make an opposition.
2. Let the question be turned from the Sabbath to the working days, thus; Since I ought to labour in my ordinary calling on the six days, what shall I do in the night? Here this answer may be returned; I may, and should, when the days are shorter, work part of the night; and if there be extraordinary occasion, I may work all the night, but if I should do so ordinarily, I should quickly be unable to do any thing in the day: God therefore so requires labour six days, as to give us leave (yea, to imply it is our duty) to rest in the night, because he has given the night for that end. Now, if this answer will hold, then may the like be said concerning the Sabbath day, that is, that the Sabbath night as well as other nights, is appointed of God for rest; but yet, if it so fall out, that we do not rest that night, or in any part of it wherein we do not rest, we are to remember, that it is a part of time belonging not to a working day, but to the Lord’s day, and therefore that it is to be used accordingly, that is, in one thing or other suitable to a Sabbath; and so, as that what we do in the light and in the night of such a day, may agree together: which shall be further opened in the ensuing answers.
3. It is well expressed, that the time of observing the Sabbath is our waking time; for, though we say, that the whole 24 hours of that day be taken in of God; and set a part for his use, yet he may give us again what he pleases, and he gives us the night to rest in, which may be reckoned among the works of necessity and mercy allowed on that day; and that both in regard of the holy labours of that day (for it is not an idle day) which require rest the night before, that we may serve God with more strength and vigour, and the night after, because of the expense of strength in such service; and withal, because of the labour of our ordinary callings the next day, which necessarily requires the rest of the Sabbath night, that for want thereof we may not be weakened in our worldly work; for as God would not have us to trench on his day of rest, so it is not his mind that we should return faint and feeble to our day of labour.
4. I add besides, that, though we are not to prevent rest and sleep that night, by setting our hearts (when we lie down) upon serious and retentive thoughts; yet if we cannot sleep (God holding our eyes waking) it appertains to the holiness of that time, to resume (and call to mind,) some godly meditations: which is more easily done that night, because of the help we have had for better thoughts the day before. Yea, I shall not fear to say further, that in them that have observed the day as they ought, there will be such an holy habit and frame of heart left behind as that, (though they sleep and take their rest, yet) even the dreams of that night (I do not say always will, but divers times) will be like to relish of the holiness of the day; which though some are willing to make sport with, and to count worthy of derision; yet herein they call in question, not only their piety, but their reason; for, nature it self, and common experience teaches, that things acted and most affected in the day, leave such impressions, as that they are ordinarily represented by the phantasy in the dreams of the night.
I have thus far enlarged in describing the Sabbath, out of a desire to establish the holy observation of the Lord’s day, which will best be discerned by that respect, reverence and observance that is due to the weekly Sabbath according to the Fourth Commandment.
Now, when we know what is meant by [Sabbath], and by the observation of it; it's easy to know what is meant by the profanation thereof (mentioned before); which is, the applying of it to common use as we do the other six days, when God has set it a part for holy and heavenly employments: see Act. 10.15.
This profanation must needs be (as I have said) an evil thing, because it is a transgression of the moral Law of God, which law, though it be short, yet the precept concerning the Sabbath is full and large. If that law be holy, and just, and good, then the profanation opposite to it must needs be evil: Hence the Lord himself said of old, when that which was commanded on the Sabbath was not obeyed, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws? Exod. 16. 28 & Ezek. 22.18. Thou hast profaned my Sabbath, is in the catalogue of their sins.
But because there are two things about the Christian Sabbath much disputed; one, the divine institution and appointment of a Sabbath day in every week, for all ages, by virtue of the Fourth Commandment; the other, the divine constitution, or God’s ordaining of that weekly day for a Sabbath which we now observe, that is, the first day of the week, commonly called the Lord’s day: I shall therefore endeavour (as I am able) to speak something, in way of resolution, to these two proposals, that so, Sabbath-doubts may not hinder Sabbath-duties. For the former of these I propound this question.
Question: How does it appear that the law of the Sabbath, contained in the Fourth Commandment, continues, and is in force in Gospel times, for the observing of one day in seven as a Sabbath, or day of holy rest?
If it be not of any force, then we have not now a Decalogue, that is, there are not now in the time of the Gospel, Ten Commandments, but nine only. If it be said, That does not follow, because something of that Commandment remains, and is in force for ever, to wit, that some time should be set a part for the public worship of God.
To this I answer, that it is manifest to him that reads the Fourth Commandment, that the thing required in it, is not a time at large (which the Second Commandment, that prescribes the worship of God, supposes; because nothing can be done, unless there be a time set apart for the doing of it) but that which is enjoined, is a day; Nor is it a day at large, but a day in every week, for it is opposed to six working days; Nor is it a day in a week at large, but such a day as may challenge this title, The Sabbath of the Lord thy God, that is, it must be a day of God’s appointment, When a Master saith to his servant, wait on me every week in the day I appoint you, and lay before him great reason for it; If the servant should say, my Master looks for no more but that I should wait on him one time or other, it would be but a poor account.
2. If any of the Ten Commandments be taken away, it must be taken away by Christ, that is, by his order, or by some declaration from him; But, he saith, he came not to take away, but to fulfil the law. And to prove that, he instances in divers precepts of the Moral Law, which he presses in the greatest height of spiritual observation. Why should the Fourth Commandment be taken away any more than the Fifth? Which yet the Apostle urges strongly upon children, and that from the moral and perpetual reason thereof, which though it be delivered in a Jewish phrase relating to the land of Canaan, yet for the substance of it, it concerns all men that live on the Earth, Eph. 6. 1, 2, 3.
Objection: There is this difference between the Fourth and Fifth Commandment: That nature teaches men to obey their parents; but to observe a Sabbath one day in seven, it teaches not.
1. In regard of a day of holy rest in general, nature is not silent; for it grants a God; and that that God is to be worshipped; and therefore that a time must of necessity be set a part for it; and that, a convenient time, and in such a distance, that we may neither neglect our God, nor our affairs; And, taking it for granted, that the Creation is known, that is, that God did make the world in six days, and rest the seventh; Nature has a fair copy to write by, and a glorious example before it to work upon, and to take a light from, to work and to rest in such a proportion of time; I say, to rest, for nature speaks out this fully, that the time consecrated to God must be a time of rest; because, we cannot serve God in holiness, and be about profane and common employment, both at once.
2. If we take in, to the light and principles of nature, the assistance of divine revelation, then nature will say all that needs to be said for a Sabbath, to wit, that it is fit God should appoint his own time for his own service, and therefore he in his word having appointed a weekly time, such a time ought to be observed.
3. Setting aside all the natural morality that may be pleaded for a weekly Sabbath, it suffices that the spend∣ing of one day in seven in holy rest, is enjoined by the positive law of God; for, why shall not the law of the God of nature (revealed from God’s mouth, or) written in the Word, bind as well, and as much as the law of nature written in the heart? especially considering that what is spoken or written by God (especially by his own finger, as the Ten Commandments were), is pure and incorrupt, as that is not which is written in man’s heart, though it were so when it was first written. Yea, why may we not say (in some respect) that it is worse to disobey a positive law, than a law of nature? and that because, where nature saith nothing, but God saith all; there's a greater trial whether God’s Word, his naked will, and prerogative royal, is of any weight with us or no; and in the despising of such a command, a greater indignity is offered to the supreme Law-giver; as if a law of his mouth were not worth the marking, unless nature and reason open their mouths also; unto which we may add, that he who disobeys a positive law, always disobeys a natural, to wit, this, that it is meet and necessary, that God should have his will, and retain his sovereignty, which by transgressing a plain precept, wherein nature can say nothing, is more violated. Hence, that first sin, in eating the forbidden fruit, for the forbearing whereof (being considered in itself) nature had not what to say, did undo us all, there being thereupon, this charge drawn up against all mankind, in the first man, Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? (The like whereof we find in the business of the Sabbath (Exod. 16. 28), but) I instance in the former, because of the weight that lay upon it, and because of the resemblance there is between forbidden work, and forbidden fruit, by which the disobedience receives a great aggravation, namely thus; Was there liberty for all the trees of the garden, and couldst thou not forbear one upon my precise command? so, have I given thee six days to work for thyself, and canst thou not rest with me one day?
Objection: But if the fourth precept stand still established, yet all it commands, is, the observing of the seventh day from the Creation?
1. If it be supposed, that the Fourth Commandment enjoins the seventh day from the Creation (which I grant not, save only in that sense which I shall afterward express) yet, that hinders not, but that it remains also firm, and in force for one day in seven, as well as the reason of the Fifth Commandment is a moral and perpetual reason, though it be delivered in a Jewish phrase, and concern, in the first place and in the form of words, the Jewish people, and therefore the Apostle (to extend the force of the reason to all places and persons thus explained it, That it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest live long on the Earth, (as was touched before).
2. I answer, that the Fourth Commandment lays down and prescribes how God would have his Sabbath observed, but it does not command or institute any particular or individual day, save only in the generality, that is, as it falls under the general notion of being a day of God’s appointment; which day of God’s appointment was well known to the Jews, otherwhere, and before the Fourth Commandment was delivered; and therefore it is spoken of in the sixteenth of Exodus as a known law, and the people on the sixth day gathered twice so much bread, two omers for one man; when on other days they gathered but one, as being accustomed to observe the Sabbath, at least, as knowing that God required it should be observed, that day being set a part for a Sabbath ever since, and by reason of the Creation of the world, Gen. 2.3 & Heb. 4.3. And as the day the Jews observed and spent in holy rest, was known otherwise, and needed not to be expressed in the Fourth Commandment; so also, the day that we Christians observe, though it be not mentioned in that Commandment, yet is otherwise sufficiently made known to be the day that God has ordained for his weekly Sabbath in Gospel-times, as shall appear hereafter.
3. This being premised, I shall grant (as others do, who have with much diligence and satisfaction, searched into this argument), that the seventh day Sabbath was to be observed by virtue of the Fourth Commandement, yet not as instituted there directly, but as belonging to it reductively; that is, by way of argument and consequent, namely, thus: One day in seven, of God’s appointment is directly and for ever required to be observed as a Sabbath by the Fourth Commandment; Now, the seventh-day-Sabbath, (that is, the seventh from the Creation) is, that one of seven that God appointed from the foundation of the world till our Saviour’s coming, suffering, and rising again; It therefore follows, that that seventh was for all that time, to be observed as the Lord’s Sabbath, and that by necessary collection from the Fourth Commandment. As, in like manner our first-day-Sabbath is grounded on the Fourth Commandment, because it is that one of seven which God has appointed to be observed since Christ’s resurrection. The sum is; the genus, or general name of Sabbath is common to each Sabbath day of God’s institution, and so comprehends both the Jews Sabbath and ours.
4. I answer, (as before), that, otherwise than thus, the Fourth Commandment requires not any particular day; but that which it commands, is, (to come more closely to the question) one day in seven in relation to six working days, as the Commandment itself expresses, saying, Six days shalt thou labour,—but the seventh is the Sabbath;—as if it had been said, divide the week, and there being seven days in it, take thou the sixth, and give me the seventh, and namely, that seventh, which I appoint and give order for. And that the Commandment is thus to be interpreted, may appear both by the first words thereof, Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy; (he saith not, the seventh day, but the Sabbath day): as also, by the last words, wherein it is said, the Lord blessed, and hallowed, (not the seventh day, but) the Sabbath day, which shows, that the main drift and intent of the Commandment, was not the institution of the Jews seventh, or any other particular day, but of a weekly Sabbath, or of one day in every week: such as then was, or afterward was to be, specified, and declared of God to be his day of rest; yet such as may be called the seventh day, because it must be the seventh part of the weekly time.
Objection: But it is said in the latter part of the Commandment, and brought in also as a reason to observe it, that God rested the seventh day, whence it is thus argued: That day is meant, in the body of the Commandment, as the day enjoined to be the Sabbath or day of rest, wherein God himself rested; But that was the seventh in order from the Creation; Therefore that's meant by [seventh day] in the body of the Commandment, yea, in the whole Commandment, for God blessed and sanctified that day for the Sabbath whereon himself rested.
Answer: I grant that God rested that seventh day; and that he blessed and sanctified it, but how? Not merely as that particular seventh, but as a Sabbath, for so (as it was but now said) the Commandment expresses it; only the blessing and sanctification was, at first, fixed on the seventh from the Creation, because that was the day set a part to be the Lord’s Sabbath for that first age of the world.
I grant also, that God’s resting is brought in as a reason of the Commandment. But then, the question is, wherein the force of that reason lies? To which I say, that it is not brought in as a reason of resting on that individual and precise day, wherein God rested, (save only under this notion and consideration, that it was the day at that time, and for that first world, appointed of God to be his Sabbath) For, it is not a cogent, or enforcing argument, we must rest one day in every week, and never work more than six, because God rested the last day of the week: but this is a strong and convincing reasoning, we must rest one day in seven perpetually, and work but six, because God, our great Lord and Maker, did only work six days, and make the remaining day (which was then the seventh in order) a Sabbath, holding forth that his example for our imitation.
I shall say this over again in some other words, more fully to open my mind, and the matter in hand, and therefore express it thus, the argument drawn from God’s example, is not for the same day, that is, for that very seventh (wherein he rested) determinately, as if it reached and extended itself to no other day in the week; but it is for [a] seventh, or for the day wherein God rested, as a seventh comparatively, that is, in relation to his six working days, and therefore they are compared together both in the body of the Commandment, where it is said, Six days shalt thou labour, but the seventh, is the Sabbath and, in the conclusion, wherein it is not barely said, God rested the seventh day, but it is brought in with this, in six days the Lord made Heaven and Earth, that is, ended his work (Gen 2. 2, 3), and rested the seventh; sanctifying that day as his Sabbath for those times, and therein, any other seventh which himself should appoint for his Sabbath in after-times; for any other day of the week may be called the seventh day, as it is set against six working days.
To conclude, the reason is not for that peculiar portion of time wherein God rested, as if God meant no more but to reason men into the observation of that seventh day (for then the Fourth Commandment is gone, or else the Saturday-Sabbath is to be observed still): but it is for the proportion of time, that is, for a weekly day, or one day in a week; and for the portion and particular day, only accord∣ing to God’s appointment: which appointed time, to the Jews was Saturday; to us now, it is the Lord’s day.
Of the Christian Sabbath-day, or the Lord's-day.
Having spoken thus far of the Sabbath in general, and in its common nature, or of the Christian Sabbath [as a Sabbath]: I come now to speak of that particular day, which we call the Christian Sabbath, that is, the first day of the week, about which this great question arises:
Why should this day be so much stood upon, when we find not in Scripture, when we find not in all the New Testament, any divine Institution of it?
In answer unto this I shall be brief, both because I have been so large already, and because others have written so largely and so convincingly concerning the Lord’s day, and the divine institution thereof, with a full answer to the objections made to the contrary: yet it being needful to say something, and other Books not coming to the hands of all; I shall endeavour to give some satisfaction to Christians (as to the former proposal) in the ensuing particulars.
1. It has been declared before, that the proportion of time, that is, the observing of a Sabbath weekly, or one day in seven, is required of God in the Fourth Commandment, wherein also has been showed the manner how it is to be observed, and that we are not to spend it as we do the six working-days, in our ordinary, and earthly employments, but in religious exercises, as a day of holy rest to the Lord. I mention this, though it be not so proper to the question, yet as pertinent to it; for, if it be once granted, that by the Commandment of God himself, one day in a week must be kept as a Sabbath, it will quickly be found that the (Lord’s day) will make the best plea for that privilege—. But I go on.
2. As to the portion of time, and the particular day, about which the question is moved, to that I answer, that a thing may be said to be commanded of God, two ways:
(a) In express words, as if it should be said, I require all men to observe, in the time of the New Testament, the first day of the week for my Sabbath. We do not say, that the Lord’s day is thus commanded to be observed as a Sabbath.
(b) By necessary collection, or collation, and comparing one Scripture with another; and so a divine command and institution is divers ways gathered, and by strong arguments and consequences concluded; as our Saviour proves the resurrection (Mat. 22. 29, 31) and as it is proved that there was a precept for sacrifices before the Law, and before any such precept is found, because God accepted the sacrifice offered by Abel, which shows it was not will-worship, but word-worship, that is, guided by a word known to them, though not revealed to us.
After this manner, and by sound reasoning from things revealed in Scripture, the divine institution of the first day of the week for the Christian Sabbath, sundry ways appear, namely by these ensuing evidences.
1. A divine ground and foundation of setting apart that day in special, and above all other days, for that use; and that is, the divine work of raising up the Lord Jesus from the dead. As the first Sabbath had its rise from the work of Creation, and God’s resting on that day (as the Fourth Commandment declares); so has the New Testament Sabbath its rise from the work of redemption, and our Saviour’s rising and resting when that work was finished, wherein we may be the more confirmed, because the Scripture so highly extolls our Saviour’s resurrection, that being the great thing which the Apostles, in their preaching were to stand upon, (Acts 1. 22) and did stand upon, and stand for, (Acts 3. 4) as that without which all preaching and faith is vain, and the Apostles would be found false witnesses, who made it their business to publish and testify it; Declaring the promise to the fathers to be fulfilled in raising up Jesus again, as it is written in the Second Psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee, that is, that was the great day (like the day when the crown was set on David's head) wherein (notwithstanding all his humiliation in his life and death) He that was made of the seed of David before, was declared to be the Son of God with power, and so, that person in and by whom that which God had promised before in the holy Scripture was fulfilled, and that's it which makes the mercies of David, sure mercies. We find also a [yea rather] put upon the resurrection, Christ being thereby a conqueror, and our justifier (Rom. 4.25.) when as, if Christ were not risen, we were yet in our sins, 1 Cor. 15.17. All this may show, of how great weight the resurrection is in the work of our redemption, and therefore how worthy it is to have a day set a part for the remembrance of it, and therein for the remembrance of the redemption itself, and of our glorious Redeemer. And that it was, for that reason, so set apart, the testimony of St. Augustine is clear, who thus witnesses, The Lord’s day was declared to Christians (or declared to be the Christians day) by the resurrection of our Lord, and from that time it began to have its festivity, or to be the Christians festival.
2. We find, A divine name or denomination; The first day of the week being generally agreed upon to be that day which is called, the Lord’s day, Rev. 1.10. If we would know why it is called the Lord’s day, the like name given to the Sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, may inform us. Its true, it may be said to be the Lord’s day, because our Lord rose on it; and so the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, because our Lord is remembered in it: But besides this, as we know the Sacrament to be the Lord’s Supper, because he instituted it for the remembrance of his passion; So we have great cause to think, that the first day of the week is called the Lord’s day, because our Lord appointed and took order to have it set apart for the remembrance of his resurrection and our redemption; for the Lord’s day does not only imply an acting on it, but an owning of it for his use: even as the old Sabbath day, being said to be the Sabbath day of the Lord, Exod. 20. 8, 10. was so called, because God did appropriate it to himself as the special time of his service: And this is the more confirmed, because the service of God was already used among the Christians on that day instead of the Sabbath, as all the ancient Doctors witness, and is to be gathered besides from Acts 20. 7 & 1 Cor. 16. 2, in which places we find Christians assembling together, and provision made for collections for the poor, as on the day already known to be consecrated to God for such uses; yea, it is very probably conceived, that since John could not be (in his banishment) present in body in the public congregation, he therefore set himself to holy meditations, that he might be present with them in spirit, and whilst he was thus intent on soliloquies with God, as he was most fit for, so he was suddenly taken with that divine rapture, wherein those heavenly revelations that the Scripture records, were communicated to him. In brief, nothing has this title (Dominical) in Scripture, but either Christ’s day or Supper, to show that is taken alike in both (saith a Bishop of great note); Now we know that being applied to the Supper, it implies an institution, and why it should not do so also (being applied to the day) we know not.
3. We find (as has been touched in that next before) a divine practice and observation: for it was observed, as the noted day for Christian Assemblies and Exercises, by the Apostolical Churches, (Act. 20.7 & 1 Cor. 16.2) and therefore it was ordained to be so by the Apostles: for who else guided those churches? I have given order (saith the Apostles, for those collections, that were on that day, because their meetings were on that day for public works of piety and charity: Now, if it were ordained by the Apostles, then was it ordained by the infallible Spirit of Christ; for what else guided the Apostles in their Church-constitutions? I add lastly, that if the Apostles directed the churches to this day, as being guided by that extraordinary and un-erring Spirit that they had, then it was ordained and appointed by Christ himself; for of that guiding Spirit it is, that our Saviour saith, He shall not speak of himself, (that is, not of himself only without the Father and the Son) but, whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak; And again, He shall receive of mine, — take of mine, and show it unto you, John 16. 13, 14, 15. So that Athanasius, (that excellent light in the Church of God) is like to be found as right as resolute in pronouncing roundly and plainly, that the Lord translated the Sabbath into the Lord’s day.
For the confirming of which, that the translation of the Sabbath from the Jewish day to the first day of the week, was by the Lord himself, or divine authority, I thus argue:
The seventh-day Sabbath (from the Creation) was expressly commanded the people of God in the Old Testament, therefore the people of God, in the New Testament, could not desist from the observation of that day (making it a working day) and take up a new day, and make it, of a working-day, a perpetual holy day, and that in all the churches (as this day has been still continued in the Church Catholic); I say, this could not be done, unless by a new command of like authority either formal, or virtual; that is, either in express words, or collected by necessary and convincing arguments and evidences. And this appears, because every law binds till it be repealed, and repealed it cannot be but by an authority equal to that by which it was first made; especially with taking another day into its place and privilege: Who could so change the Sabbath, but Christ himself the Lord of the Sabbath?
Unto this I add (for further confirmation of the divine authority of the Christian Sabbath) the constant observation of the Lord’s day (unto this day) by the Christian Church, which Christian Church if it have not observed a right day (that is, a day appointed of God for his Sabbath) every week, then has it neglected in all this time, and stands guilty of not observing the Fourth Commandment; for that Commandment requires (as has been proved) a weekly day of God’s appointment to the end of the world.
That which remains for the closing up of this necessary part of Christianity, is, an exhortation to the reverent estimation and observation of the Christian Sabbath; From 1. The necessity. 2. The commodity. 3. The commendation of it. 4. The threats and judgements of God, denounced, and executed on profaners of the Sabbath. 5. The promises, privileges, and blessings assured to the reverent observers thereof.
1. The Necessity of a Sabbath.
Wherein, it might suffice to say, that the only wise God, (who never did any thing whereof there was no need) instituted in the beginning of the world, and afterwards prescribed in the law written with his own finger (in full force to the end of the world) a weekly Sabbath. If any ask, and would know further, what need there is of it? The answer may be:
(i) That the Lord has need of it (Mat. 21. 3), that the work of creation and redemption may be remembered, and our Creator and Redeemer, publicly and solemnly served and glorified.
(ii) That man has need of it: for, the Sabbath was made for man, that is, both for his spiritual, and corporal good. It was not without need, that God made the Sabbath either for himself, or for us.
Indeed, but one thing is needful, and that is, to sit at Christ’s feet, and hear his word, (as it ought to be heard.) Which though it may be done other days, yet not so fully and hopefully, as on that day when all other things are laid aside to apply ourselves wholly to the concernments of our souls: On other days, there is more of Martha, that is, the world is mixed, and is a partner; but on this day, with Mary, we choose (if we have Mary’s grace) the good part, and provide to attend upon the Lord without distraction. On other days, our hearts (like the Jews garments) hang loose; on this day, (if we mind our duty), we gird up the loins of our mind, and so may run (as Elijah, before Ahab, when he had girded up his loins) the way of God’s commandments, 1 King 18. 46 & Psalm 119. 32. On other days, the moon is between us and the sun, I mean, earthly and sublunary things stand between us and the Sun of Righteousness, whereby there is an eclipse, that we can not so fully enjoy him: but now on the Lord’s day, if we be Christians, we should; if wise, we will; if good and faithful, we shall, tread the moon under our feet: and as in Solomon's royal and incomparable throne, the footstool was of gold, so, (being taken up on that Ascension-day, to Mount Tabor) we shall make the most golden world, our foot-stool, and the necessary supports thereof, like Zacchaeus his sycamore tree, helps (being under us) to see Jesus the better; that having a full view of him, and fellowship with him, of his fulness we may receive grace for grace.
Some men talk of an every days Sabbath; but as to make every man a Magistrate, is to take away Magistracy; and to let every man be a Minister, is to take away the Ministry: so to make every day a Sabbath, is to say, no day shall be a Sabbath. They may call every day a Sabbath, because we are to rest and abstain from sin, every day; but herein they deceive themselves in that they do not consider, that on the Sabbath day, we must not only abstain from sinful things (albeit than we should abhor them most); but, from those things that are not sinful on other days, but lawful and needful, and which, it is a sin not to look after, as the works of our ordinary callings; for, look how a subject that is called to wait on his Prince, is not only to leave his good fellows, and that loose and vain company (which he ought always to separate himself from) but also his wife, children, whole family, and all his domestic affairs, which, out of this case, and when there is no such call, it is his sin to be unnecessarily absent from, and his duty to abide with, and take care of; and so when our Lord calls us to wait on him a whole day together, (as he does on the Lord’s day) all other things are, for that time, to be laid aside (save only those which our Lord allows us) though at other times lawful and necessary: When two good things are to be done, and both cannot be done, our reason will tell us, that it is necessary, for that time, to leave the less, and apply our elves to the greater: which being well considered, will amount to this, that it is necessary, that these earthly things should be for a convenient time, withdrawn from; that is, that there should be a weekly Sabbath, (for that's the most convenient time), to give up our selves entirely to those things that ought to be highest in our account; to wit, the honour and service of our God, and the salvation of our souls. It's a poor plea to say, I must needs go see my ground; (when God calls to his Supper) but it's a good pleading of necessity, to say, I must needs go see my God, Psalm 63. 2. Now whereas, on working days, the world does (as it were) cover our faces with a vail, and cast dust on the divine glass; on the Lord’s day, (by laying aside earthly things and thoughts) the covering is put away from our face (as from Moses face, when he left all to appear before the Lord) that we may see the King in his glory, yea, so see him as to become glorious ourselves, with that sight. For we all (to wit, who by admirable grace have received the Spirit of God) with open face, beholding as in a glass, the glory of God are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, 2 Cor. 3. 18.
2. The Commodity of the Christian Sabbath.
What is said of godliness, may be said of the day of God, (which is the nurse of godliness) that it is profitable to all things, I mean, being spiritually observed, for (otherwise) the bodily exercise profiteth little.
The weekly Sabbath (like the vine, whose wine cheereth God and Man, Judges 9. 13) yields much assistance for the performance of the duties of the first and second table.
A. Of the First Table.
Of the First Commandment for therein is an acknowledgement of God our Creator (as the only true God, maker of Heaven and Earth) in the proportion of time, that is, in observing a Sabbath every seventh day after our six days work. And, an acknowledgement also of God our Saviour, in our particular Sabbath-day in these Gospel times. That of the Prophet (Ezek. 22. 26) is very observable, They have hid their eyes from my Sabbaths, that is, they slight them, as Hos. 8.12. And what followeth? And I am profaned among them, that is, dishonoured, accounted as nought among them, as if I were not a God. (Dutch Annot.).
Of the Second Commandment. Because the worship of God, required in that commandment, is on that day, most improved and heightened: As being:
(a) More extended, because all (both superiors, and those under them, and within their gates) are then to wait on God in the way of his worship; Hence it is conceived, that whereas these two, Ye shall fear every man his mother, and his father, and shall keep my Sabbaths, Lev. 19. 3, are joined together, the reason thereof may be this, because fathers and mothers, and governors, to whom the Fourth Commandment is directed (not only, but eminently) are to see that their children and servants keep the Lord’s Sabbaths: and children and servants should so far fear and reverence them, as herein to be ruled by them; and so there will be a general appearing to do homage to God, which is one improvement of worship on that day.
(b)It is more attended, because a Sabbath is a day of rest, and receding from worldly works, that we may better apply ourselves to divine worship. And though there be a necessary use of natural supports, yet the fear of God writes Holiness to the Lord upon them (Zec. 14. 20), and takes care they be so used, that the service of God may be better attended.
(c) It is more intended, or performed with more power and vigour, because our minds are, or should be, discharged of all those creature-cares and cogitations, wherewith on other days (on which, though we leave the world a little, yet we do not so take leave of it as on the Lord’s day) our hearts use to be (and that in the worship of God) encumbered and weakened, yea, (besides this) the private religious exercises of that day, both before and after the public service, (namely, meditation and prayer,) make us come with better affections to it, lay an engagement upon us, to stir up the grace of God in us when we are about it, draw from God virtue in it, and a blessing of heaven upon it.
Of the Third Commandment. Because the Sabbath is a day appointed for the honour of God (Isa. 58. 13.), and the greatening of his name in the public ordinances (Mal 1. 11.), God is greatly to be feared in the Assembly of his Saints, and to be had in reverence of all that are about him. Hence it is, that on the day of public and solemn assemblies, that is on the Sabbath, (now, the Lord’s day), the name of God is most set up, because by most, and among most; In the multitude of people, is the King’s honour, and then the multitude go to the House of God (Psalm 42. 4), to the Temple, to the Congregation, wherein every one speaks of his glory (Psal. 29. 9 & 48. 9.10).
Thus does the Fourth Commandment assist for the performance of the first Table.
B. Of the Second Table.
To speak to every commandment thereof, would be too long. It may suffice, to say, what all men may see and hear, that is, that on the weekly Lord’s day, all sorts of persons are acquainted with their duty towards men, by the instructions then (especially) delivered; and are also, stirred up thereunto by the exhortations added. And are, or may be, much furthered therein by the repetition of, meditation, and prayer for, a blessing upon such instructions and exhortation. The Fourth Commandment stands in the middle (as it were) between the two Tables, to be a bond of perfection, and to link together piety towards God, and charity towards men. What is said of the Magistrate, may be truly also said of the Sabbath; He is, and it is, the Keeper of both the Tables.
Thus of the commodity of the Christian Sabbath.
3. The Commendation of the Sabbath.
The Sabbath has a preeminence above other days, in regard of God’s institution of it, for each Sabbath is the Sabbath of the Lord our God; and that makes it glorious in itself, and has the blessing of God annexed and assured to the observers of it. And that, as it makes also for the advancement of it in itself, so it gives a reason why it should be precious to us; yea, the very largeness of the law of the Sabbath, and the Lord’s using so many words about it, may show (as our weakness, who need it, so) the weight of that law, and worth of that day, in as much as in a law of ten words, so much is said of this one word and particular precept. It is observed out of the Hebrew Doctors, that the Sabbath, and the precept against idolatry, each of these two, is as weighty as all other the Commandments of the Law: for confirmation whereof they add this, The Sabbath is a sign between God and us for ever; and that other place of Isaiah (Isa. 56. 2), Blessed is the man that keepeth the Sabbath from polluting it. Ainsworth on Exod. 31.13.
And (sure) that weekly day of our solemn appearing before our God, ought to be honourable in our account: That is a sign and assurance that we are God’s covenant-people, and peculiar treasure; for therein lies our safety, our glory, and our felicity. Who is it that desires not to be known by his attendants that he is King’s the servant? Well may we say also, that's a blessed and glorious day, that makes the observers thereof blessed; yea, if by keeping the Sabbath from polluting it be insinuated, or described a respect to all religion, even that also makes greatly for the honour of the Sabbath, that godliness (in the generality) is thereby set forth, because thereby so much set forward. It's very observable, that God’s people, reckoning up in their miseries, God’s mercies, do mention (as the chief thereof) God’s commandments, and among those laws and commandments, single out the Sabbath, speaking thus honourably of it, in reference to their fathers, And madest known unto them thy holy Sabbath (Neh 9.14), as if there were an eminency in that above other laws; as indeed there is, in this regard, because as on fairs and markets men are furnished with commodities of all sorts, so on this day principally, all spiritual good things are offered with an invitation to the buying, and for the enjoying of them (Isa. 55.1, 2. Mat. 22.1, 2, 3. Rev. 3.17, 18), and that good knowledge of God is more abundantly dispensed, whereby all other commandments are better performed. O, how little is God known to them to whom no Sabbath is made known, or that will not be made to know any Sabbath? The reason whereof is, because on that day of rest and religion, there is an opportunity offered of the freest, fullest and highest communion with God, without those interruptions that we have on other days, by the crowding in of our earthly occasions, yea, and that into the inner chamber and closet of our hearts, which is the retiring room, wherein God is pleased to communicate himself abundantly to the faithful soul when all worldly things and thoughts are had out, and dismissed for that day; yea, charged, and (as it were) conjured, not to disturb the intimate society of the Lord Jesus with the soul that has found him, and fastened on him.
Thus of the Sabbath in general.
As to the Christian Sabbath, a great glory is put upon it in the Scripture title, it being called the Lord’s day (Rev 1. 10), and that name and title being continued and applied unto it, to this day, the Lord Jesus has put his own name and stamp upon it. It is the day of that Lord who is the Prince of the Kings of the Earth, Rev. 1. 5. Of the Jews Sabbath, and of our Lord’s day, there is (as St. Austin speaks,) one and the same Lord: but now is the Lord’s day preferred before that Sabbath, (as the same Father speaks) by the faith of the resurrection. Unto this resurrection day is that honour given, to have this said of it, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee, Act. 13.33. For by his resurrection on that day, he was manifestly and mightily declared to be the only begotten Son of God, Rom. 1.3.
Unto this may be added, that this day has been ever of high account in the Christian Church. Let every one (saith Ignatius, that holy martyr), that loveth Christ, keep the Lord’s day holy, the queen and supreme of all days.
Jerome saith, Among all days, this day has the primacy, or holds the preeminence; This is the day (saith he) that the Lord hath made, let us rejoice, and be glad in it.
If we celebrate our birthdays, (saith Chrysostom), How much more is this day to be observed? which if any shall call the birthday of all mankind, he shall not err therein: for we were lost and are found; were dead, and are alive; were enemies, and are reconciled. But it is with spiritual honour that this day is to be honoured, not with feasting, profuse drinking of wine; much less with drunkenness and dancing, &c. Chrysost. Serm. de Eleemosyna.
I shall close up this, with a later witness of the worth of the Sabbath; yet not to be contemned, it being the testimony of a very learned man, and martyr of Jesus Christ: His words are these; The Sabbath is the School-day wherein we are to come to the Lord’s School, to be acquainted with the Lord’s law and will. When therefore the Sabbath is so much commended in the Old Testament, the Lord’s school is especially commended; The university not of Plato, or Aristotle, but of the omnipotent God, is commended; The knowledge of the Law, and the understanding of the Covenant of God with man, is commended.
What was spoken (therefore) of the City of God, we may apply to his Sabbath, Glorious things are spoken of thee O thou day of God (Psalm 87. 3). Nor is there any thing on Earth liker Heaven, than the enjoyment, and (we may say) the beatific vision, of God (Psal. 63. 2.) on that day, in those public ordinances, and private spiritual exercises and addresses, unto which devout Christians devote themselves; which may be confirmed unto us by this, that the heavenly state, and the weekly day of public and private worship, go under one and the same name, that is, both are said to be a keeping of a Sabbath (Heb. 4. 9, 10, 11), Heaven being in this here, as that shall be in Heaven hereafter.
4. The judgements of God, threatened against, and inflicted upon, Sabbath-profaners.
Here I shall make use of the text in hand, and Nehemiah’s relation, v. 18. which shows, that their Sabbath-profanation was not only evil in them, but was, and they might fear it would be, very evil to them. The judgement described in this Scripture, has four sad things in it.
(a) It is hereditary. As when a disease is hereditary, and passes from father to child, the pain of that disease is hereditary also: so is it in this case; Did not your fathers do thus? And where the sin is continued, the judgement is entailed, yea, it is said further, Did not God bring this evil upon us? When there is a generation of Sabbath-breakers, they pay for their fathers sin, and their own both together, as it was in this long captivity; And now they had cause to fear further judgement, they being risen up in their fathers stead, an increase of sinful men, to augment yet the fierce anger of the Lord toward Israel, Numb. 32.14.
(b)It is very harmful. It is not only said, this evil, but [all] this evil for God chastises his people, as their congregation has heard (Hos 7. 12). And they had heard (besides what they heard at other times, (Lev. 26. 34.)) a little before these utmost miseries, that the Lord, for not hallowing the Sabbath, would kindle a fire in the palaces of Jerusalem, which should burn (seventy years together) and not be quenched, (Jer. 17. 27). We find in former times how severe the sentence of God himself was upon him that did but gather sticks on the Sabbath day: And about the same time, when they greatly polluted the Lord’s Sabbaths, he said, He would pour forth his fury upon them, to destroy them in the wilderness; where∣in there were mighty slaughters made of them but all that evil was little to all this evil, Neh. 9. 32, 36, 37 for the punishment of the iniquity of the daughter of my people, (saith the Prophet) is greater than the punishment of the sin of Sodom that was overthrown in a moment (Lam. 4. 6 & 1. 12). And again, Behold and see, if there be any sorrow like my sorrow. Godly Magistrates make laws, for the holy observation of God’s holy day, and ungodly officers leave them unexecuted: but the supreme power will look to it, and the highest God will animate his laws by executions, which should make all of us fear, and tremble, and say, If we rebel today (and Sabbath-breaking is rebellion, Ezek. 20.13. Exod. 16.28.) God will be wroth tomorrow (Josh. 22. 17, 18.) Yea, and that with the whole Congregation: For,
(c) It is diffusive. It spreads far; Here is wrath [upon Israel] woe to him that commits folly in Israel (Judg. 20. 6 & 2 Sam. 13. 13). For, that's a people near to God, and therefore should not be defiled. So woe to him that brings trouble on Israel (which Achan found): for Israel is a people dear to God, and therefore he would not have them to be wasted and consumed by those sins that send for general judgments. An ague is one thing, the pestilence another; he that brings the plague into a City, may be an instrument of much mortality and misery; Now Sabbath-pollutions, are pestilential, that is, they destroy many, and make havoc in Israel. They that set a city on fire, are most mischievous persons (to be an incendiary is a name of infamy) but Sabbath-breakers set the whole nation on fire (Jer. 17. 27), and for their sakes, (amongst other notorious and Israel-ruining sinners) Zion is ploughed as a field, and Jerusalem becomes heaps (Mic. 3.12.): for by reason of this sin, God threatens such fury as shall consume his people, and that he will accomplish his anger against them, Ezek. 20.13, 21.
(d) It is cumulative. That is; profaning the Sabbath lays on more weight on those who are heavy laden with the burthen of judgement already: For here it is said (by them that had been very long in a very sad condition) Ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the Sabbath-day. There's never so much affliction, but God can send more; and being further provoked by this sin, he will send more, seven times more. They that be in a prosperous estate, should keep the Sabbath, that they may keep well when it is well (Jer. 17. 24, 25): and they that be in an evil case, should keep it, to prevent their being in a worse. The wrath of the King (of Heaven) is as the roaring of a lion, and more wrath is as a more dreadful roaring, the fore-runner of renting, Judg. 14.5. with Hos. 13.8.
In all this, it is to be remembered, that (the Fourth Commandment still continuing) as there is now also a weekly Sabbath-day, so there is a like Sabbath-danger; we may not therefore shift or shake off the former threats and judgements as not belonging to these times; but rather consider, that, Whatsoever things were written (or acts of divine Justice recorded) aforetime, were written for our learning, and all those things that which befell the transgressors of the law of the Ten Commandments, in former ages of the world, happened to them as types, that is, they are our examples and warnings; and plainly lay before us what we also must expect to suffer if we do as they did, even we upon whom the ends of the world are come, for like sin, like judgement: Nor can any just reason be given why judgements of old for the breach of the Fourth Commandment, should not be our admonitions, as well as those for the breach of the Second Commandment (which Paul mentions), because there is not only much of that which is positive, and not so clearly natural, belonging to the second, as well as to the Fourth Commandment: but also it is evident, that as the second precept for the way of religion; so the fourth for the Day, is written, among the Ten Words of the moral and ever-abiding Law of God, with the finger of God himself, Exod. 31.18.
That which remains to incite to Sabbath-sanctity, is,
5. The blessing and promises of God annexed and assured to that day and the observers thereof.
It is said in the Commandment; The Lord blessed the Sabbath day; It's true, that he blessed that seventh day whereon he rested, but not as a seventh day, but as a Sabbath day, and so the blessing is entailed (as it were) and passes from the Jews Sabbath on the Christian Sabbath. Now what is the meaning of this blessing, but that it was God’s mind, that it should be honourable and glorious amongst, and have singular privilege and pre-eminency above other days? for which end therefore he sanctified it, that is, set it apart to be wholly consecrated to him and to his holy service: In which way, it is not only lift up and honoured above other days, and so, a blessed day; but is a blessed day also to the people of God by the use and benefit of his ordinances, Psalm 65.4. wherein a blessedness is laid up.
In regard of this prerogative of the day of rest and holiness, a Christian seeing that day approach, has great cause to say, with an holy cheerfulness, Come in thou blessed of the Lord. And they that appear before God on that day to receive soul sustenance from him, may say within themselves (as David's servants that sought bodily relief) Let us now find favour in thine eyes, for we are come in a good day: in the Lord’s great Feast-day, wherein they of his family even the whole household of faith are abundantly satisfied with the fatness of his house, and are made to drink of the river of his pleasures. It's a day, wherein we may be spiritually enriched, for it is a blessed day, and the blessing of the Lord maketh rich. It is a day, wherein the people of God meeting, and being united together in his service, God commandeth the blessing, Psal. 133.3. And wherein from our great Lord, and head and glorious High Priest, the oil of grace runs down abundantly (as Aaron’s oil sometimes did) to the very skirts, that is, to the very lowest of his true members, to make them joyful, (for it is the oil of gladness, Psalm 45.7) and as the dew of Hermon to make them fruitful, Psalm 133.1, 2, 3.
Isaiah 58. 13, 14
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:
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.
The precious promises inviting to, and encouraging in, the sanctification of the Sabbath, are presented to us from the mouth of the Lord by the Prophet Isaiah, chap. 58. 13, 14, which text of Scripture is so often made use of in this argument of the Sabbath, that I cannot leave it (though I have spoken much more then I thought to have done already) without looking a little into it. For which purpose I shall 1. Speak something to both the verses in general. 2. And something to that Sabbath-piety described, v. 13. 3. And then come to the Sabbath-promises, v. 14.
A. Of the Text in general.
Wherein two things lie in the way to hinder the use that divers godly and learned writers have made of it for establishing the Lord’s Sabbath-day, (now) the Lord’s day.
1. Some hold that the Sabbath is here named by way of allusion, and by a synecdoche, and that the thing intended and designed in that description, v. 13. and so in the promise, v. 14. is to take men off from their own wits and ways, and to stir them up to obedience and holiness in the whole course of their lives. And the truth is, that in the Sabbath all religion is wrapped up; for God is eminently acknowledged, worshipped, professed and praised (as the first three Commandments require) upon that day; And all other Commandments are better observed by the good knowledge of God dispensed and dispersed than especially in the ministry of the Word, acquainting men with their duties towards God and Man. But we may not mistake here; for albeit it be supposed, that all religion is spoken to, yet it does not follow from thence, that the Sabbath day (in the setting forth whereof the text is so full) is to be excluded; nay rather, it is thereby the better established. As when a father takes order in his last Will, that his son shall go to the University, his meaning is, that his son shall be a Scholar: but (withal) his mind is, that he shall go to the University, because that's the way to make him a Scholar, and therefore he expresses nothing but that, for that contains the other. So it is here.
We may observe, (casting our eye upon this whole chapter) that as in the former part of it, the Prophet showed their religion was not to be placed in fasting; so here he declares that the observation of the Sabbath, is not to be placed in resting (to which the Jews used to ascribe so much) but in the spiritual sanctification of that rest, which (indeed) has and ought to have an influence, and to extend its virtue, into our whole life, to make it the more holy: But now mark, that as the Prophet before, in his doctrine of a fast, and his disciplining of their fast, did not exclude the day of their fast (and the observation thereof); but saith plainly [In the day of your fast, v. 3.] so neither does he here, where he delivers the doctrine of the Sabbath, shut out the day of the Sabbath, but only shows that the rest and leisure of that day, is to be bestowed in spiritual things appertaining to the substance, and tending to the furtherance of true religion.
2. Some others may say, that if the text to be understood of the weekly Sabbath, yet it speaks to the Jews only, not to us; and of their day, not of ours: Unto which, it may suffice to say, that as the Fourth Commandment belongs to us as well as to Jews, and the holy observation required there, belongs to us, in regard of our Sabbath, as well as to them, in regard of theirs; so in this Scripture, and in the whole Scripture of the Old Testament, whatsoever thing is spiritual and of an evangelical nature, it belongs to us as well as to them, and may upon just accounts be more pressed on us than on them, because it is our happiness to have more means for, and therefore our duty to make further progress in, all things appertaining to godliness. It were very strange to say, or think, the Jews were to abstain from their own, self-pleasing thoughts, words, and actions on their Sabbath; and yet that Christians may think, speak, and do as they please on the Christian Sabbath. What, must the Sabbath be the Jews delight, and not ours? There is so much of Gospel in these things, that a learned Divine (Oecolampadius) saith, What can be spoken more like than this is, to the perfect precepts of Christ?
This will further appear by what follows to be spoken.
B. Of the Sabbath-duty, as it is prescribed (in way of supposition) verse 13.
If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, or (as some render it) for, or because of the Sabbath,— that is, If thou keep the Sabbath from polluting it, as it is before, chap. 56. 2, to wit, by doing any act (treading any step) unsuitable to it, and tending to the profanation of it, as we find otherwhere, the lifting up of one’s hand and foot, to be a proverbial expression of enterprising or attempting any thing; Here the foot is named, and in Isa. 56. 2, the hand, and both put together, may show that both hand and foot (the great instruments of action) are to be kept, for the Sabbath sake, from doing any evil. Ask therefore, whatever thou art about, is this a fit walk, or work for the Lord’s Sabbath day? else, turn hand and foot from it.
What follows, will confirm this exposition, which is this, from doing thy pleasure on my holy-day, that is, any thing which pleases thyself, and pleases not God on that day: so that to turn away the foot, is to keep from doing, that is, from doing any thing agreeable to our wills and not to God’s; it's true of things sinful (which on that day are out of measure sinful (sins are worse by holy time and place, 2 King. 21. 4) but there is no cause to restrain it, and apply it only to things sinful in themselves, for the six days work is not so, which yet the Commandment will have us to set aside. There are divers things not evil in their nature, which yet (like the counsel of Ahitophel, 2 Sam. 17. 7) are not good at that time; It is not enough, that things done on that day be good, for their matter, but they must be some way or other for God, whose day it is, it must be [his] work, and not a product of, not a thing arising from, and done for, thine own pleasure; one writing upon this, saith, Whatsoever show of holiness there is in any work, yet if thou aim at thy own commodity in it, it is a servile work, and violates the Sabbath of the Lord (Oecolampadius). Every day, but especially on the Lord’s day, we should be like the Angels, and those Ministers of his that do his pleasure, Psal. 103. 21 for then, we wait on our Lord, at his own appointed time; It cannot be well therefore to do what we please ourselves when we attend our Lord, not on our working-day, but on his holy-day, or the day of his Holiness (as the Hebrew hath it).