The Lord’s Day

“Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy.”

Ex. 20:8

“Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst…”

John 20:19

“And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them”

Acts 20:7

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Subsections

Change to the First Day of the Week

The Whole Day is Sanctified

When Does the Lord’s Day Begin?

What Does Keeping the Lord’s Day Entail?

Works of Necessity & Mercy

Recreations on the Lord’s Day?

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Order of Contents

Articles & Short Books  8
Longer Books  8
Expositions of the 4th Commandment
The Sabbath is a Morally Regulated Circumstance of Worship
The History of the Doctrine & Practice of the Sabbath
.        The Continental View of the Sabbath
.        John Calvin
.        The Puritans
That the Sabbath is Partly Moral & Partly Positive

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Articles & Short Books

1600’s

The Works of the Westminster Divines on the Lord’s Day

Owen, John – Commentary on Heb. 4:9-10  †1683  11 pp.  in his Commentary on Hebrews

“There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.” – Heb. 4:9

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1800’s

Miller, Samuel – ‘An Introductory Essay to: A Manual on the Christian Sabbath’  1834  16 pp.  This is an Introduction to a larger work by John H. Agnew

Miller was the 2nd professor at old Princeton Seminary.

Phelps, Amos – The Sabbath  1842  60 pp.  The American Society for the Promotion of Christian Morals

Introduction:

“The argument differs from ordinary discussions of the subject, in that its strength is mainly expended on two points, which, in the author’s judgment, are usually dispatched too summarily, and therefore not satisfactorily, but which, after all, are the strong points of the case on the part of our opponents.  Those points are,

first, their argument to prove that the Sabbath was originally instituted in the wilderness; and
second, our argument to prove a divine warrant for the change of the day.

To make the truth on these points clear, has been a leading design in the ensuing discussion.

Alexander, Archibald – The Lord’s Day  from his Brief Compend of Bible Truth, 1846, 16 paragraphs

Alexander was the first professor at old Princeton Seminary.

Binnie, William – The Sabbath  1882  6 pp.  from his The Church, p. 106 ff.

Binnie was a professor in the Free Church of Scotland.

Dabney, Robert – The Christian Sabbath: its Nature, Design and Proper Observance  1882  93 pp.  Here is an HTML version.  This book is also in his Discussions, vol. 1, p. 496-550

Kennedy, John – The Lord’s Day  1883  9 pp.

Kennedy was a noted minister of the Free Church of Scotland in the Highlands.

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1900’s

Kayser, Phillip – Sunday as a First-Day Sabbath  1995  51 pp.

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Longer Books

1600’s

Bownd, Nicholas – The True Doctrine of the Sabbath  Buy  1595/1606  592 pp.  Here is the table of contents with significant excerpts from the book.

“No book had more influence in confirming a Sabbatarian heart to Puritanism than that of the parson of St. Andrews, Norton, Suffolk, Nicholas Bownd.  The True Doctrine of the Sabbath was the first scholarly treatment defending the concept of the Christian Sabbath or Lord s Day, later embodied in the Westminster Standards.” – the book-flap

Wedley, G. – The Doctrine of the Sabbath  1604  223 pp.

Wedley was a minister in Portsmouth, England.

Brerewood, Edward

A Learned Treatise of the Sabbath…  To Mr Nicolas Byfield, preacher in Chester. With Mr Byfields answer and Mr Brerewood’s reply 1632

 Brerewood (c.1565-1613) was an English scholar. The dispute hinges on whether a servant is free of his own prerogative from all the directions for work from his master on the Sabbath, or whether that rest is mediated through the administration of the master.

A Second Treatise of the Sabbath, or an Explication of the Fourth Commandment  1632

This work propounds the doctrine of the Sabbath more generally.

Primrose, David – A Treatise of the Sabbath and the Lord’s Day  1636  350 pp.

Primrose (c. 1600-c. 1665) was an Oxford educated, French, reformed minister.  Primrose argues against the position that the Sabbath is moral and of perpetual necessity and instead argues that the stinting of a day for God’s public service (which is morally necessary to uphold) is a point of order and ecclesiastical government, depending wholly on institution; see the preface for the statement of the question.

Burton, Henry

A Brief Answer to a Late Treatise of the Sabbath Day Digested Dialogue-wise between two divines, A. and B.  1635

Burton was a puritan.

A Divine Tragedy Lately Acted, or A Collection of sundry memorable examples of Gods judgments upon Sabbath-breakers, and other like libertines, in their unlawful sports, happening within the realm of England, in the compass only of two years last past 1636

Twisse, William – Of the Morality of the Fourth Commandment as still in force to bind Christians delivered by way of answer to the translator of Doctor Prideaux his lecture, concerning the Doctrine of the Sabbath  IA  1641

Gouge, William – The Sabbath’s Sanctification  1641

Bernard, Richard – A Threefold Treatise of the Sabbath  IA  1641  230 pp.

Bernard (bap. 1568-1642) was a reformed puritan.

Abbott, George – Vindiciæ Sabbathi, or, An Answer to Two Treatises of Master Broads, the one concerning the Sabbath or Seventh day, the other, concerning the Lord’s-Day or First of the Week: with a survey of all the rest which of late have written upon that subject  1641

Abbott (1604-1649) was an English, puritan, lay theologian and scholar who sat in the House of Commons. He was a friend of Richard Vines and Richard Baxter called Abbott “a dear friend”.

The Westminster Divines on the Lord’s Day

Shepard, Thomas – Theses Sabbaticae  †1649  245 pp.  in Works, vol. 3, pp. 25-271

Shepard was a New England puritan.  His argumentation and minority view that the Sabbath is from evening to evening is not recommended.  For a correction to this, see When Does the Lord’s Day Begin?

Dell, William – The Doctrine of the Sabbath, as it has been Believed and Taught, by ancient and eminent Christians, collected word for word out of their own writings, and now tendered to the consideration of all the godly, especially to direct them to the Parliament, to direct them in their intended Act, for the due and strict observation of the Lords Day  1650

Dell was a puritan, though seems to argue against a ‘strict’ observation of the Sabbath.  Nonetheless, numerous of his historical quotes are helpful.

Ussher, James – The judgement of the late Arch-Bishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland… 2. Of the Sabbath, and Observation of the Lord’s Day  1658

Hammond, Samuel – God’s Judgments upon Drunkards, Swearers, and Sabbath-Breakers. In a collection of the most remarkable examples of Gods revealed wrath upon these sins with their aggravations, as well from scripture, as reason. And a caution to authority, lest the impunity of these evils bring a scourge upon the whole nation  1659

Hammond (d. 1655) was a puritan.

Lightfoot, John – The Christian Sabbath: a Sermon…    58 pp.

Hughes, George – Aphorisms, or, Select Propositions of the Scripture Shortly Determining the Doctrine of the Sabbath  1670

Hughes was a puritan.

Baxter, Richard – The Divine Appointment of the Lords’ Day Proved, as a separated day for holy worship, especially in the Church assemblies, and consequently the cessation of the Seventh Day Sabbath  IA  1671 

Owen, John – Exercitations Concerning the Day of Sacred Rest, 35-40  †1683  151 pp.  from the preliminary exercitations in his Commentary on Hebrews, vol. 1 (of 4), pp. 599-750.  See also this abridged version, 71 pp..

Bunyan, John – Questions about the Nature and Perpetuity of the Seventh-Day Sabbath and proof that the first day of the week is the True Christian-Sabbath  1685

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1800’s

Gilfillan, James – The Sabbath Viewed in the Light of Reason, Revelation and History, with Sketches of its Literature  1862  650 pp.

Gilfillan was a Scottish minister.  This work is one of the most comprehensive treatments of the doctrine and practice of the Sabbath through history.  He “argued that the Reformers had a more strict practice than was commonly noted.” – Chris Coldwell

Cox, Robert – The Sabbath Question, vol. 1 (up through 1658), 2 (1658-1865)  1865

Cox (1810-72) here comprehensively surveys the literature of Sabbath debates through history, though he was personally an anti-Sabbatarian.   “Gilfillan’s The Sabbath viewed in the light of Reason…  argued that the Reformers had a more strict practice than was commonly noted.  Cox took the opposite view in his The Literature of the Sabbath Question…” – Chris Coldwell

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Expositions of the 4th Commandment

See also treatments of the 4th Commandment in the many works on our page Expositions of the Ten Commandments.

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The Sabbath is a Morally Regulated Circumstance of Worship

Intro

Surely keeping the Sabbath is not an element of worship, as we consider the other elements of worship to be.  So then what is it?  It seems like it may be a circumstances of worship, being the time when a regular public assembly of the Church is to take place, but are not all circumstances of worship wholly indifferent?

As the Bible morally regulates certain circumstances of worship, they being morally necessary adjuncts of worship, so Rutherford rightly expounds below that not all circumstances of worship are wholly indifferent; rather God has appointed some such circumstances to be morally significant.

Hence, for those who seek to worship God in as much religiously significant specificity as the Word directs, as we are bound to do, so we must recognize a category for these morally regulated circumstances.

Rutherford speaks of this category as ‘moral circumstances’, and includes the Sabbath in it.  As keeping such moral circumstances fulfills a religious duty of worship unto God, such an observance is itself a worshipping of God.

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Quotes

1500’s

Philip Melanchthon

As quoted in Paul Barth, ‘Natural Law and Divine Positive Law’

“In this commandment there are properly said to be two parts—the one natural, the other moral [positive]; the one the genus, the other the species. Of the former it is said, that the natural part or genus is perpetual, and cannot be abrogated, as being a command concerning the maintenance of the public ministry, so that on some one day the people should be taught, and divinely appointed ceremonies handled. But the species, which bears respect to the seventh day in particular, is abrogated.”

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1600’s

Samuel Rutherford

Divine Right of Church Government…  (1646), p.

“And here also we consider things circumstantial, as time, place, etc. And circumstances are either merely physical, or 2. merely moral, or 3. mixed, partly moral, partly physical;

[1.] Circumstances merely physical are such adjuncts of divine worship as are common and inseparable concomitants of both civil, natural, and religious or sacred actions performed by men, and as they are such, contribute no moral goodness or badness to the action or agent in the performance thereof…  All these are common concomitants of civil, natural, and religious actions, for all actions performed by man of what kind soever, as natural, to eat, sleep; or civil, to declaim an oration before the people; or religious, to preach or pray, must be done…  in some time, in some place…  for because he preaches in time, or in place simply, the preaching is neither morally good, nor ill, better or worse…

2.  Some circumstances are merely moral, for as divines distinguish time and place; in time as time, and as such a religious time, the Lord’s Sabbath, Tempus, & tempus ut sic [time, and a time so thus], and place as place, or such a religious place, Locus, & locus ut sic. [a place, and a place so thus].  So we may distinguish here between circumstances in common or in gross, and such and such circumstances; As time is a common adjunct of divine worship: But such a time, to wit, the Lord’s Day is both the time of worship, and worship itself [in observing it].  So there is place of worship, and there is such a religious place, [in the Old Testament,] the holy of holiest, the Temple.  A habit [garment] is a mere accident of worship; the person, John or Thomas, is also an accident; but if God command such an ephod as Aaron and the priests were to wear, this is not a mere [physical] circumstance [rather it is a moral circumstance because of its religious appointment]…

And therefore these circumstances, taken in common and their universal nature, are merely physical circumstances; but taken in their particular and determinate restrictions, as such circumstances, they may be merely moral circumstances, such as are the common adjunct of the time of worship, the place, and the Sabbath time and the Temple for Jewish Worship.  The former [two] are circumstances merely physical, the latter [two are] merely moral;”

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Article

Palmer, Herbert & Daniel Cawdrey – ch. 12, ‘The Necessary Sufficient Chief Time for Religion, together with the Particular Day for it, is a Part of Worship, and not a Mere Adjunct or Circumstance Only’  of Part 1 of Sabbathum Redivivum, or the Christian Sabbath Vindicated…  (1645)

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The History of the Doctrine & Practice of the Sabbath

See especially the works of Gilfillan and Cox above.

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The Continental View of the Sabbath

Articles

1800’s

Fairbairn, Patrick – ‘Views of the Reformers Regarding the Sabbath’  being Appendix A to The Typology of Scripture, vol. 2, ed. Paul Barth and entitled, “The Myth of the ‘Continental View’ of the Sabbath”

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Contemporary

Clark, R. Scott – ‘Are There Two Distinct Reformed Views of the Sabbath: Does the Continental View Really Exist?’  2013  11 paragraphs

Barth, Paul – The Myth of the ‘Continental View of the Sabbath’  2016  70 paragraphs

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Quotes

Johannes Althusius

Politica, ch. 21, § 25  (1603/10/14)

“The fourth precept is about sanctifying the sabbath in holy services through hearing, reading, and meditating upon the Word of God, and through use of the sacraments. Negatively, it is about not violating the sabbath through occupational employment, marketing, physical labors, games, jokes, frolics, feasts, or the mere form of piety.”

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The Synod of Dort

As cited in Howard B. Spaan, Christian Reformed Church Government (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1968), 208

“164th Session on May 17, 1619:

1.  There is in the fourth commandment of the divine law a ceremonial and a moral element.

2.  The ceremonial element is the rest of the seventh day after creation, and the strict observance of that day imposed especially on the Jewish people.

3.  The moral element consists in the fact that a certain definite day is set aside for worship and so much rest as is needful for worship and hallowed meditation.

4.  The Sabbath of the Jews having been abolished, the day of the Lord must be solemnly hallowed by Christians.

5.  Since the times of the apostles this day has always been observed by the old catholic church.

6.  This day must be so consecrated to worship that on that day we rest from all servile works, except those which charity and present necessity require; and also from all such recreations as interfere with worship.”

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Gerald Francis De Jong, The Dutch Reformed Church in the American Colonies (Faith Alive Christian Resources, 1978), p. 43 citing The Laws and Ordinances of New Netherland 1638-1674, p. 93

“A decree of October 26th 1656 forbade in New Netherland the following activities on Sunday (the Sabbath): ‘all ordinary labor such as plowing, sowing, mowing,building, woodsawing, hunting and fishing.’  The decree also forbade on the Sabbath ‘All frequenting of taverns, dancing, playing ball, Tricktrack, cricket, tennis or ninepins.’ This was further enlarged on 10, September 1663 to include: ‘Roving in search for nuts and berries, excessive playing and screaming of children in Streets and Highways.'”


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John Calvin on the Sabbath

John Calvin on Keeping the Lord’s Day

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The Puritans

1800’s

Earle, Alice – The Sabbath in Puritan New England  1891  355 pp.

Earle was a lay-cultural historian of New England puritanism.  This often humorous, and sometimes unsympathetic sketch of the Lord’s Day in puritan New-England focuses not theology, but on interesting historical details and is a delight to read.

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1900’s

Dennison, James – The Market Day of the Soul: The Puritan Doctrine of the Sabbath in England  1532-1700   Buy  1983  176 pp.

Highly recommended.

Primus, John – Holy Time: Moderate Puritanism and the Sabbath  Buy  1989  181 pp.

A scholarly work not always sympathetic with the puritans, but contains a wealth of historical information.

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That the Sabbath is Partly Moral & Partly Positive

Quotes

Westminster Confession 21.7

“As it is of the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in his Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment, binding all men in all ages, He hath particularly appointed one day in seven for a sabbath, to be kept holy unto Him…”

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Samuel Rutherford

The Covenant of Life Opened…  (Edinburgh, 1655)

p. 19

“…in the Ten Commandments, in which one of seven is a Sabbath to the Lord, it will be found that many positives Moral are in the Covenant of Works…

But man being considered as endued with the Image of God, so the Holy God made with him a Covenant of life, with Commandments, though positive and moral, yet not deduced from the Law of Nature, in the strictest sense, as to observe such a Sabbath, the seventh from the Creation…”

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p. 214

“Question.  Wherein stands the eternity of the Covenant of Grace?  And what other properties there be of the Covenant?

Answer.  The Law and Covenant of Works is a rule of everlasting righteousness, and so may be called an everlasting righteousness, containing precepts of the Law of nature intrinsically good, such as to know love, fear, trust in Him as the only true God: and in this sense it is an eternal Covenant.

But 1. it is not eternal in the positives of the Second, and Fourth, and Fifth Commands, the way of worship, the means, as ceremonies, Sabbath, magistracy, and such like, which are not to continue in the life to come, and so neither faith nor hope in God through Christ, 1 Cor. 13:13; Rom. 8:24-25; 2 Cor. 5:7, nor a Temple, nor ordinances, nor the Kingdom of Christ as now dispensed are to be the binding rule for eternity to such as are confederates of the Covenant of Grace, Rev. 21:22,23; 1 Cor. 15:24.”

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Francis Turretin

Institutes, vol. 2, 11th Topic, Question 2, section 21, p. 13

“XXI.  The fourth commandment is moral and perpetual as to the substance of the thing commanded (to wit, that some solemn external worship is due to God and that a certain time should be devoted to it; not as to the particular determination of the seventh day [a matter of positive right], which moreover as ceremonial could be changed…).”

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Article

Palmer, Herbert & Daniel Cawdrey – Sabbathum Redivivum, or the Christian Sabbath Vindicated…  Part 1  (1645)

ch. 1, ‘Of the Term of a Moral Law…’, pp. 12-16, ‘On Moral-Positive Laws’

ch. 2, ‘Rules to Know a Law to be Moral, though but Positive’

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“People who cannot abide the Lord’s Day, cannot abide the Lord.”

Thomas Watson

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Related Pages

Topics

Religious Holidays