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The Sabbath - Edited by Rev. David Scott

The Lord's Day - God Requires You to Keep the 4th Commandment as Well as the Other 9

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A study on the importance of the Sabbath.

Taken from the Reformed Presbyterian, circa 1848, Volume 2.

The Sabbath was made for man. It was designed by our beneficent Creator, as a period of rest;—of cessation from secular business and labor: but it was not intended to be spent in idleness, nor its hours employed in mere recreation and pleasure. In its principle, it was designed, as much a period of rest from pleasure and amusement, as from the toil of business.
According to its appointment, the Sabbath is to be employed in the worship of God: it is his will that this portion of our time be especially devoted to religious services; that while we rest from secular business, and from mere pleasure, the time of the Sabbath is to be employed in the holy and active service of God. In one word the Sabbath is to be sanctified. It is lo be kept holy by conscientiously abstaining from all such worldly employments, and recreations as are lawful on other days; and by spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’s worship, except so much as may necessarily be required for works of necessity or mercy.
The Sabbath is moral in its nature; and hence it finds a place in the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments,—a place which it could not occupy were it a merely positive institute. The fact, then that it is one of the recorded precepts of the moral law, determines its nature and character. It does not depend for its obligation upon a mere positive appointment, but upon our relation to God, as reasonable and moral creatures. It is a dictate of unsophisticated reason, that we ought to worship God,—that the rational creature should serve the Creator. This is generally recognized among heathens; for however powerfully blinded they may be, by pagan superstitions and idolatries, still as having some sense of the existence of a supreme being, they have at the same time, some sense of the obligation to worship. The principle is not the least affected by the fact, that their worship of God is corrupt and idolatrous. All we claim is that even heathens have some sense of obligation to worship God. And if so, this shows that the principle is implanted in the moral constitution of man; it may be blurred by ignorance and corruption, but there it is, an evidence of its moral nature. Further, if it is a dictate of reason that God ought to be worshipped, it follows from this admitted moral principle, that some portion of time should be dedicated for this purpose. We thus settle on an indestructible basis the moral obligation of the Sabbath.—That it is part and parcel of the moral law, originally written in the moral constitution of man: arid has therefore a universal obligation, irrespective of age, country, or dispensation of religion. That we have a clearer and fuller revelation of the obligation of the sabbath, in the written or supernatural law, recorded in scripture, feet the morality of one or the other of these precepts. The Decalogue is only the re-promulgation of the law, originally written in the moral nature of man.
The law of the Sabbath is then moral in its nature, and of course universal in its obligation. There are two things here however which we must not overlook. The first is. that though we can ascertain, as we have done, that the Sabbath is moral in its nature, and the amount of time to be devoted to Sabbath purposes, is dependent upon positive appointment. If scripture had been silent, it might nevertheless, have been fairly deduced on principles of sound reason, that some portion of our time should, be specially devoted to the service of God; but, it could not thus have been ascertained, how much. The amount of time is ascertained, by positive institution. But even in this view of the Sabbath there is nothing local, or national; nothing peculiar to one age, or dispensation of religion: if it is so far of a positive character, it is notwithstanding moral in its nature.—A moral positive institute. As such, the law of the Sabbath requires the appropriation of the seventh part of our time, for the especial service of God, interfered with, by secular business or employment, except so much of it as may be required for works of necessity and mercy. The law demands one day in seven; one whole day. We much fear that in many cases, where no attempt would be made to vindicate encroachments upon this portion of time, there is notwithstanding a strong tendency to abridge in practice, the time that is properly the Lord’s. The Sabbath is to be spent in the public and private exercises of God’s worship. Idling, visiting, or worldly conversation, are as truly at variance with Sabbath-keeping as any kind of worldly business, and ought therefore to be carefully avoided. God allows us six days of the week for the concerns of the world,—for its business and its lawful pleasures; but by the institute of the Sabbath he claims the seventh as his; and makes it our duty to appropriate the whole of its time in his worship and service. “God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made” Gen. 2, 3. The strongest of all obligations to sanctify the seventh day, is thus’ given, by the example of God himself, as it appears in this very early notice of the appropriation of the seventh day as a day of rest. It is in relation to man; and as an example to him, beyond doubt that God had rested on the seventh day from all the works that he had made. God was not wearied with the work of creation. But by this solemn example recorded in scripture God would teach man his duty. And when the law of the sabbath is re-promulgated it is given in connection with divine example,—”Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy, six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work. But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God, in it thou shalt not do any work.”
The second thing requiring particular notice in this connection, is that we must distinguish between the sabbath and the day to be kept for this purpose. The law of the sabbath as a moral positive institute, requires the appropriation of the seventh portion of our time, for sabbath purposes, but does not. specify which day of the seven is lo be so kept. This is very evident, both by the original appointment, as found in the example of God when he had finished the work of Creation, and by the law in its written f<#m given twenty-five hundred years afterwards, at Sinai. The principle in both is, the seventh day is the Sabbath.—”The Lord blessed the seventh day and sanctified it,—six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God.”
As far, as the terms of the law are concerned it is the amount of time only that is thus determined, and not the particular day of the week. Which day of the seven, is to be devoted, as the sabbath is determined by other considerations: hence, the day may be changed without changing the law. This remark must not be understood however as encouraging the notion, that we may appropriate any day of the week we choose as the day of rest. The particular time, as well as the amount of it, is determined by the authority of God, and by him alone; neither by individuals, nor communities can such change be made without infringing upon the authority of God. He l.as changed the day on which the sabbath is kept, but as we have stated, this did not affect any change in the law, which does not specify the day, but only determined the amount of time to be so employed. The change from the seventh, to the first day of the week, is in perfect accordance with not only the spirit, but also the letter of the law. It was primarily the will of God that the Sabbath should follow the days of labor; it is now the will of God that the Sabbath should precede the days of labor. In the primary appointment of the Sabbath, the seventh day was preferred, in honor of God’s work of Creation; subsequently, the first day of the week is preferred in honor of the greater work of redemption, which was legally finished by the resurrection of Christ from the dead.—Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again, for our justification.
But we may not extend these remarks in relation to the institution of the Sabbath; nor, can we at present even enter upon the considerations of the duty of sanctifying it, as we intend having before our renders, in the space to which we must confine this article, another though subordinate view of the subject; namely the physical and external advantages of Sabbath keeping. The reason why we give prominence to this very inferior consideration, is with the design of thereby calling the attention, of some to the institution, and duty of Sabbath sanctification, that otherwise might not be reached. We frankly avow that with this only as his motive, no dependence upon God in the use of it, as a means of glorifying, and of preparation for enjoying him, must be the prevailing slate of mind; otherwise, the spiritual ends of the Sabbath are not attained. Like all the other duties which men owe to God, it must be performed from the principles of love and faith.
At the same time, with all this full in view, it must be admitted, that the outward observance of the Sabbath, is not without great advantages. A man may promote his own health, his own external comfort, and his own worldly gain by Sabbath observance. And were such a state of things universal, or even very general in society, much spiritual good, would accrue to those, whose desire it is to sanctify the Sabbath with their whole heart, but who are often annoyed and painfully interrupted, by the neglect of Sabbath observance, on the part of others around them. Christians have in this latter view of the subject, a very deep interest; their spiritual comfort, is connected with the general prevalence of Sabbath observance. There is reason, strong reason in this, why even outward regard to Sabbath keeping should be perseveringly urged. Its influence may not be felt by an irreligious community; but will at once be recognized by Christians, as bearing intimately on their own right observance, and enjoyment of the Sabbath. The former part of the consideration cannot be overlooked by even irreligious men, with compromising their own worldly principles and interests. Ungodly men stand in the way of their own outward advantage, by disregarding the Sabbath. This class, and we fear it is by far the larger class, in the community, desecrate the Lord’s day, either for the purpose of gain or pleasure; but we have no doubt that eventually they are losers, even in this very view of their conduct. They not only sin against God by Sabbath desecration, but they injure their own outward interests, for securing which, the sin is committed. It is a very limited, and imperfect view of the subject that can lead any one to imagine, that his worldly interests, or his pleasure is ultimately advantaged, by disregard to divine authority. We have not it is true, the means of absolutely verifying the assertion now made, but we have the means of a near approximation. History goes-far to sustain it; and were our historical data sufficiently full, we presume the evidence would be perfect. We are not without reason, for the opinion, that men lose more, even in a worldly point of view than they gain, by Sabbath desecration. Whatever partial exceptions there may be to this judgment, they are neither strong enough, nor numerous enough to invalidate our position. If we can convince irreligious men, that they war against their own temporal interests, by the desecration of the Sabbath, we remove the greatest existing temptation to the commission of the sin. And while in the first instance, they may not have a proper motive, the very fact of externally honoring the Sabbath may become the means of their obtaining spiritual good.—
In the first place, to illustrate our main point, we remark, that the physical wants of man require such a periodic rest as that furnished by the Sabbath. The physical constitution of man is not capable of enduring unremitting toil for a long time, without being injured by it. The rest of the night is not sufficient to meet the expenditure of strength caused by the labor of the day; and hence the continued toil of the six days of the week requires the rest of the Sabbath as a weekly compensation to the physical system. And this will be found true, as well in the case of severe mental, as of bodily labor; the former perhaps more thoroughly exhausting the energies of the body, than the latter. If such be the law of our physical constitution, it cannot be violated with impunity,—if such be the condition of our bodily organization, that it requires the rest of one day in seven to recruit its energies, continuous toil in disregard to such law must be followed by disease, if not, the abbreviation of life.
This view is fully sustained by the judgment of those most competent, and of course best entitled to be heard on a subject of this kind; it is the deliberate judgment of experienced physicians whose attention has been particularly directed to this point. In the second place, the inferior animals in the service of man, are subjected to a similar physical law. And hence the reason we presume, why man is commanded by the law of the Sabbath to allow the animals in his service physical rest on that day. “Thou shalt not do any work,—nor thy cattle.” These though incapable of sanctifying the Sabbath, i.e. they are not the subjects of moral government, are yet capable, of enjoying it, as a period of cessation from toil. A cessation demanded by the wants of their nature, and which ought not to be denied, except when the higher claims of necessity interfere. And even in such cases, a humane man will furnish if possible, a corresponding relief from labor at a convenient opportunity. “A merciful man regardeth the life of his beast.”
It is thus, a man’s worldly interest to allow the inferior creatures employed in his service the advantage of a weekly rest of one day from labor. A pertinent example of what we mean is found in the case of such animals as are used for tugging canal boats, or similar purposes. A very ordinary degree of attention to this matter, might satisfy every person who makes it, that the forwarding of boats on Sabbath must ultimately prove unprofitable. There is thus occasioned a most unnecessary exhaustion of animal strength, and finally a waste of animal life. Beside the sin of disregarding God’s command, a man injures himself by disregarding the Sabbath, and he wastes his property by denying to the animals in his service the rest which the Sabbath was designed to afford to them, as well as himself.
In the third place, we have no manner of doubt, that there is cases producing direct and immediate loss. To illustrate what we mean, we refer to the canal business as at present conducted. From the opening to the close of the season of navigation, there is nothing like Sabbath rest enjoyed on our canals. The labor is incessant, Sabbath as well as week-day. Now, is this continuous toil, unbroken, by the rest of Sabbath keeping profitable in a pecuniary point of view?—is it even for the immediate advantage of parties concerned? This is the question at issue. We are satisfied, it is not; and in the nature of things cannot be profitable. The physical capacities of men so uninterruptedly employed in hard toil, as also the vigor of the inferior animals in then- service, soon become exhausted, and in the course of the season will not do as much work, as if they had enjoyed the regular rest of the Sabbath. Taking the whole season together we run no risk, when we maintain, that a forwarding line on the canal, that would take the regular rest of the Sabbath, would do more business, all other things being equal, than those that run continuously. It would make more trips, and make them with greater ease. Hero is a gain that might be made by respecting the Sabbath only so far, as regards abstinence from labor. And, a corresponding loss sustained by those who do not regard the Sabbath. And to this we must add the further loss, which these last sustain by unnecessary waste of animal life. Were the Sabbath respected, the teams employed would be in far better condition at the close of navigation than they generally are—would be easier kept during winter,—and in far better condition for resuming the toil of the following spring. In the fourth place, the desecration of the Sabbath, on our canals, railroads, and in the Post Office, and Mail departments, as well as other public employments, is an infringement on the rights of the laboring community, without any corresponding gain or advantage to any one.
In regard to this it may be said that those who are employed, act voluntarily; and that if they do not like such employment they may decline it. Abstractly this is true; but a man may voluntarily engage in a business, and there may be many things connected with it, that are far from being agreeable; and which he cannot avoid without losing his employment. We admit that men having a proper sense of Sabbath sanctification would take this alternative. But may not men of laxer principle be tempted to assume the employment with even this grievous encumbrance? Further, is it right on the part of a government to suffer such a state of things to exist, by which men are tempted to violate the law of God, and which has not even a pecuniary advantage to recommend it. Suppose all public as well as private business was suspended every Sabbath, throughout the whole community, what pecuniary loss would thereby be occasioned?—who would be injured by it? No loss would be caused, the interests of no one would be sacrificed same; for all that now passes in the seven days would then pass in six! The same thing is true of those engaged as forwarding merchants; they would have the same amount of business to do, and of course the same amount of freight, and commission, that they now have. And they would have it, be it borne in mind, for the business of six days, instead of seven. The workmen would lose nothing in a pecuniary point of view. For we think it will be found a general fact that in all employments which engross the Sabbath, there is no additional reward for the labors of that day. In all such cases the remuneration is not greater than in other employments that exact only six days labor in the week.
If these views are correct, and we are satisfied that they will bear the most rigid examination,—that they will be fully sustained by experience, then it follows, that the Sabbath is desecrated, without producing any pecuniary advantage to any party so engaged.— Further, that it ensures a certain ultimate loss, of a most wasteful kind, in the unnecessary expenditure of human and animal life.— And finally that thus vast numbers of people, are denied the most important means of moral instruction. Men are very short-sighted indeed, who do not see that irrespective of the spiritual advantages of the Sabbath and its public ordinances, the observance of the day, as a day of rest is productive of moral results, that have an immediate bearing upon the outward prosperity of society. Take the various classes of men who regularly toil throughout the seven days of the week, and to whom the Sabbath is no rest, and how inferior do they seem in character, in comfort and general respectability, to other laboring classes, to whom the Sabbath is a day of rest from secular business however imperfectly they may attend to it as a religious institution? The outward and visible gain is all on the side of the latter. The former taken as a whole, are rapidly in our country, approximating to a state of heathenism, which by and by must tell with fearful affect on the national character and interests. If the government does not feel themselves called upon, to do any thing for the spiritual and eternal interests of the community, they are at least bound by their own admitted principles to promote the outward and temporal interests of the commonwealth and its citizens. It is an immutable principle, in the government of God, which we earnestly wish to have repeated in the ears of men in power, and of the community at large,—that righteousness exalteth a nation but sin is a shame to any people!
The christian part of community have much in their power, if they would but use it with zeal and wisdom; that is by making a strenuous, and a united effort to bring the subject, into public notice, and keep it there till men are convinced by the detail of facts and experience, that they injure their own temporal interests, as well as sin against God, by desecrating the Sabbath. There is one part of the evil which christian families may directly and immediately oppressive to be under the necessity of supplying their customers on the Lord’s day, but this they must do as things now stand or abandon the employment altogether. If public authority is not exercised to stop this kind of traffic on the Lord’s day, and if public opinion is lax enough to encourage it, Christians if they act consistently, may very much abate the evil, by setting their own example against it. We earnestly recommend to Christian families, al once to take strong ground on this subject,—to give such an example as may tell upon society around them, by declining to receive their supplies of milk on Sabbath. Were any inconvenience to follow this course, it would be their duty to submit to it; but we are fully satisfied on grounds, that admit of no contradiction, that little, if any inconvenience would at all be felt, though it were most rigidly adopted. On the other hand we know that there are many dairymen who feel the present practice an oppressive one,—who are groaning under a bondage which they would gladly shake off, were the opportunity afforded them. We would like to see some man of character and reputation, in this business boldly announce to the community that henceforth he would not furnish his supply of milk on Sabbath. Christian families would then know where to find the kind of man they preferred to encourage. And we are very much mistaken indeed if this class of customers and their preferred dairymen did not very soon increase. And equally mistaken would we prove to be, if this did not produce a salutary and decided affect prove to be, if this did not produce a salutary and decided affect.

Bible Verse:

“I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless,” (Gen. 17:1).

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