Calvin: ‘Bring the experiences of the Lord’s Day to the weekdays, not vice versa’

When it is said, Thou shalt labor six days, our Lord would hereby signify unto us, that we ought not to complain of yielding unto Him one certain day, when He leaves unto us six for one. As if He did say, “Shall the cost and charge be great unto you, to choose one day which may be wholly given to My service? that you do no other thing in it, but read and exercise yourselves in My law, or hear My doctrine which shall be preached unto you; a day to come to the temple to the end you may there be confirmed by the sacrifices which are there made; a day to call upon My name, to declare and protest that you are of the number and company of My people. Ought this to be grievous and troublesome unto you, seeing you have six days free to traffic and to do your business in? When I use such gentleness towards you, that I demand but one day of seven, is not this an over great unthankfulness on your part, if you complain of this time as being evil employed? if you be such covetous and niggardly wretches, as not to spare Me one seventh part of the time? I have given you your whole life, wheresoever the sun shines upon you; you ought to acknowledge My goodness, and how that I am a liberal Father towards you. For this sun which I make to shine is to give you a means to go and walk by, to the end that every one may do his business. And yet for all this, why is it that I shall not have one day among seven in which every one should withdraw himself from his travail and labor? that you be not wrapped in the care of the world, and so have no care to think on Me?” Now then we see that this sentence of travailing the six days is not placed as a commandment, but is rather a permission which God gives, and that to reproach the unthankfulness of men, if they observe not the Sabbath day, and sanctify it in such sort as we have spoken…. So then when men shall have well considered of this thing, they shall be convinced that God bears with them as a Father, which should show himself pitiful to His children. And therefore let us take diligent heed that we be not ungrateful, but be provoked and allured to serve our God so much the more, seeing He commands us not those things which might seem over bitter and painful unto us, but has a due regard to our power and ability. Therefore when He bears with us after this manner, and leaves unto us our profits and commodities, so much more dissolute, wicked, and inexcusable are we, if we are not inflamed to yield ourselves wholly unto Him. (Calvin, Deut. 5, Sermon 35. [Ten Commandments, 39r–39v, 40r. Sermons upon Deuteronomie, 206, 207]).

Let us know that it is not sufficient that we come to the sermon on the Sunday to receive some good doctrine, and to call upon the name of God; but we must digest those things, and that by this means we are so formed and fashioned to the thing, that all the rest of the week cost us nothing to aspire to our God, and that we need but to call to our mind, that which we shall have learned before, at good leisure, when our minds were (as it were) unwrapped from all those things which hinder us to recount the word, and works of God. (Calvin, Deut. 5, Sermon 34. [“…fashioned to this thing, that the Monday, and all the rest of the week beside, cost us….” Ten Commandments, 36v–37r. Cf. Sermons on Deuteronomie,204]).

Although God nourishes us every day, yet notwithstanding we meditate not sufficiently on His goodness, to magnify Him for it. True it is that this should be but a poor thing, if we should consider of the benefits of God, but on the Sunday; but on the other days, because we are occupied overmuch about our worldly affairs, we are not so given to God, as on that day, which is altogether dedicated unto this. The Sunday therefore ought to serve us for a tower to mount on high to view the works of God from afar, when we are neither hindered nor occupied with anything, but that we may apply all our senses and our whole understanding to reknowledge [acknowledge] the gracious gifts and benefits which He has bestowed on us. And when we shall have practiced this on the Sunday, namely, shall have deeply considered of the works of God, it is certain that all the rest of our time should be given hereunto, and that this meditation shall so fashion and polish us, that all the rest of the week we shall be led to thank our God, when so beforehand we shall have premeditated on His works to make our profit therein. (ibid.).

When the Sunday is spent, not only in games and pastimes full of vanity, but in things which are altogether contrary unto God, that men think they have not celebrated Sunday, except God therein be by many and sundry ways offended; when men, I say, unhallow in such sort this holy day, which God has instituted to lead us unto Himself, is it any marvel if we become brutish, and beastly in our doings all the rest of the week? (Ibid., 36v, 204).

Who glut themselves by rioting, and are shut up in their houses, because they dare not show a manifest contempt of their duty in the open streets; so that the Sunday is to them a retreat, to withdraw themselves from the congregation of God; whereby one may see what affection they have to all Christianity and the service of God, when by this, which was given us for an aid and help to draw nearer unto God, they take occasion to withdraw themselves the further from Him. (Ibid., 36v, 204).

For if we employ the Sunday to make good cheer, to sport ourselves, to go to games and pastimes, shall God in this be honored? Is not this a mockery? Is not this an unhallowing of His name? (Ibid., 36r, 204).


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