Dead Men Tell Great Truths

Sabbath Study, Part 2

While studying the topic of the Sabbath, I found that I was not the only fish in this particular ocean. Indeed, a lot of great men from the past—dead fish, if you will—swam this current before me. Their insight and wisdom spurred me on. Below are just a few examples.

Jonathan Edwards believes it is the will of God that Christians set aside the Sabbath for the purpose of religious exercises and duties:

If the Christian Sabbath be of divine institution, it is doubtless of great importance to religion that it be well kept, and therefore, that every Christian be well acquainted with the institution.
A.W. Pink makes a pointed case for Sabbath observance:

It should thus be quite evident that this law for the regulation of man’s time was not a temporary one, designed for any particular dispensation, but is continuous and perpetual in the purpose of God. . . . The more faithfully we keep this Commandment, the better prepared shall we be to obey the other nine.
My favorite Puritan author, Thomas Watson, seeks to instill within his hearers a proper view of the Sabbath:

God not only appointed the seventh day, but he blessed it. It is not only a day of honour to God, but a day of blessing to us; it is not only a day wherein we give God worship, but a day wherein he gives us grace. On this day a blessing drops down from heaven. God himself is not benefited by it, we cannot add one cubit to his essential glory; but we ourselves are benefited. This day, religiously observed, entails a blessing upon our souls, our estate, and our posterity.
Charles Spurgeon uses part of the Westminster Shorter Catechism to prove the permanence of the Sabbath day. When I looked up the catechism myself, I discovered that it spends a good bit of time delving into the meaning and purpose of each of the Ten Commandments. It poses three or four questions in relation to each commandment—the exception being the Sabbath, which gets six questions. Here are the final five (after the question, “Which is the fourth commandment?”):

Question 58
Q: What is required in the fourth commandment?
A: The fourth commandment requireth the keeping holy to God such set times as he hath appointed in his word; expressly one whole day in seven, to be a holy sabbath to himself.

Question 59
Q: Which day of the seven hath God appointed to be the weekly sabbath?
A: From the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, God appointed the seventh day of the week to be the weekly Sabbath; and the first day of the week ever since, to continue to the end of the world, which is the Christian Sabbath.

Question 60
Q: How is the sabbath to be sanctified?
A: The sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days; and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’s worship, except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy.

Question 61
Q: What is forbidden in the fourth commandment?
A: The fourth commandment forbiddeth the omission or careless performance of the duties required, and the profaning the day by idleness, or doing that which is in itself sinful, or by unnecessary thoughts, words, or works, about our worldly employments or recreations.

Question 62
Q: What are the reasons annexed to the fourth commandment?
A: The reasons annexed to the fourth commandment are, God’s allowing us six days of the week for our own employments, his challenging a special propriety in the seventh, his own example, and his blessing the Sabbath-day.
What I learned from these examples—and many more like them—is that our Western non-observance of the Sabbath is far from the historical Protestant tradition. Instead, it seems that only in more recent years has the Christian community (with some rare exceptions) devalued the fourth commandment.

I won’t pretend to know why this is the case, but I’m fairly certain it’s not because ours is a more godly generation. In a time when Western Christianity is suffering more from seduction by the world rather than persecution from it, our neglect of the Sabbath may more likely be a sign of spiritual sickness rather then spiritual health.