Calvin on Keeping the Lord’s Day


Order of Contents

On Calvin  2
By Calvin  5



On Calvin


Lauer, Stewart – John Calvin the Nascent Sabbatarian: a Reconsideration of Calvin’s View of Two Key Sabbath-Issues  Buy  from the Confessional Presbyterian #3 (2007), p. 3-14

Coldwell, Chris – ‘Did Calvin Bowl on the Sabbath?  or Calvin in the Hands of the Philistines’  1998  72 paragraphs

Some have claimed that Calvin went lawn bowling on the Sabbath.  However, this claim did not appear until 1824, and that only in an anti-Calvin and anti-Sabbatarian work.  Needless to say there is no historical documentation for such a claim and it goes against the direct words of Calvin.



By Calvin

Institutes of the Christian Religion

bk. 2, ch. 8, 4th Commandment



Sermons 5 & 6 on the Ten Commandments, about the 4th Commandment, from Sermons on Deuteronomy

Sermon 34 on Deuteronomy, 2nd Half  at Purely Presbyterian



Commentary on Gen. 2:3

“First, therefore, God rested; then He blessed this rest, that in all ages it might be held sacred among men: or He dedicated every seventh day to rest, that his own example might be a perpetual rule.  The design of the institution must be always kept in memory: for God did not command men simply to keep holiday every seventh day, as if he delighted in their indolence; but rather that they, being released from all other business, might the more readily apply their minds to the Creator of the world.

Lastly, that is a sacred rest, which withdraws men from the impediments of the world, that it may dedicate them entirely to God.  But now, since men are so backward to celebrate the justice, wisdom, and power of God, and to consider his benefits, that even when they are most faithfully admonished they still remain torpid, no slight stimulus is given by God’s own example, and the very precept itself is thereby rendered amiable.  For God cannot either more gently allure, or more effectually incite us to obedience, than by inviting and exhorting us to the imitation of Himself.  Besides, we must know, that this is to be the common employment not of one age or people only, but of the whole human race.

Afterwards, in the Law, a new precept concerning the Sabbath was given, which should be peculiar to the Jews, and but for a season; because it was a legal ceremony shadowing forth a spiritual rest, the truth of which was manifested in Christ.  Therefore the Lord the more frequently testifies that He had given, in the Sabbath, a symbol of sanctification to his ancient people.

Therefore when we hear that the Sabbath was abrogated by the coming of Christ, we must distinguish between what belongs to the perpetual government of human life, and what properly belongs to ancient figures, the use of which was abolished when the truth was fulfilled.  Spiritual rest is the mortification of the flesh; so that the sons of God should no longer live unto themselves, or indulge their own inclination.  So far as the Sabbath was a figure of this rest, I say, it was but for a season; but inasmuch as it was commanded to men from the beginning that they might employ themselves in the worship of God, it is right that it should continue to the end of the world.”


On the Genevan Consistory, of which Calvin was a senior minister, Calvin’s Company of Pastors, pp. 131-32

“Between 1542 and 1609, the Consistory frequently interviewed and sometimes reprimanded people for working on Sunday, whether for pruning trees, making lace, selling tripe, unloading boats, hunting birds, or moving furniture.  The Consistory also disciplined people for engaging in recreational activities on Sunday that were deemed inappropriate for spiritual refreshment, such as hunting, dancing, banqueting, playing tennis or billiards, or bowling skittles.

When Sunday labor was born out of service to the community rather than avarice, the ministers normally showed leniency.  For example, in 1561 they dismissed with only a gentle admonition two cobblers who spent a Sunday afternoon repairing a leather oxen yoke for a traveler passing through the city.

The ministers and elders took stronger measures against people who frequently neglected Sunday worship services out of indifference, greed, or desire for pleasure.  Hence, Pernette Dupré was suspended for missing three months of sermons without excuse.  Louis Curlet was barred from the Table for averring that sermon attendance was for wealthy people, “not for poor workers like himself.”  Antoine Decroux was suspended from the Lord’s Supper for transporting nuts to the countryside instead of attending the Sunday sermon.  Hubert Le Sec and Guillaume Morand were suspended and sentenced by the magistrates to three days in prison on bread and water for gambling with keys (joue aux defs) at Plainpalais during the Sunday morning sermon.  As each example illustrates, the Consistory’s campaign to protect Sunday observance was particularly focused on enforcing attendance at worship services.  Between 1542 and 1609, only a handful of Genevans were actually suspended from the Lord’s Supper for working on Sunday; many more were excommunicated for regular absence from or misbehavior during Sunday sermons.

Faithfulness to the fourth commandment required not simply that Christians abstain from physical labor and recreation, but that they perform their holy service to God by hearing the Word preached, participating in the Lord’s Supper, and singing psalms of praise and thanksgiving to God.  The ministers made this point abundantly clear to Pierre Quemoz, after he missed the Sunday sermons to transport animal hides to Annemasse in the spring of 1571: Christians should “work during the week and serve God on Sunday,” they stated.”




Related Pages

On ‘The Continental View of the Sabbath’

The Lord’s Day

The Whole Day is Sanctified

When Does the Lord’s Day Begin?

What Does Keeping the Lord’s Day Entail?

Recreations on the Lord’s Day?