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




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?

Recreations on the Lord’s Day?



Order of Contents

Articles & Short Books  8
Longer Books  8
See Also
The History of
.        John Calvin  2
.        The Puritans



Articles & Short Books


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



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


“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.



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



Longer Books


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

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

G.W. was a minister in Portsmouth, England.

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. 

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

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

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?

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..



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



See Also

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



John Calvin


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.”



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.




The Puritans


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.



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.





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

Thomas Watson




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