The Time of Divine Worship

Time of Divine Worship

William Ames
Marrow of Sacred Divinity,
Book 2, ch. 15.

Of the Time of Worship.

1. The most solemn time of worship is now the first day of every week which is called the Lord’s Day (Rev. 1:10; 1 Cor. 16:2).

2. And it is called the Lord’s Day by the same reason that the holy Supper of the Eucharist is called the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:20). Namely because it was instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ, and it must be referred to the same Lord in the end and use of it.

3. It is necessary that some time be given for the worship of God, by the dictate of natural reason. For man must needs have time for all, especially his outward actions; neither can he conveniently attend divine worship, unless for that time he cease from other works.

4. Thus far therefore the time of worship falls upon the same precept with the worship itself. For as when God created the whole world, he is said also to have created time together with it, so also when he commanded and ordained religious actions, he did also withal command and ordain some time or necessary circumstance.

5. That some certain day is to be ordained for the more solemn worship of God, this is also of moral natural right, not unknown to the very heathen, who had always through all ages their set and solemn feast days.

6. That this solemn day ought to be one at least in a week or in the compass of seven—this belongs to positive law, but yet it is altogether of unchangeable institution. So that in respect of our duty and obligation it hath the very same force and reason with those that are of moral and natural right, and so it is rightly said of the Schoolmen to belong to moral right, not of nature, but of discipline.

7. That this institution was not ceremonial and temporal, it appears sufficiently by this—that it hath nothing proper to the Jews, or to the time of the ceremonial law. For none can or dare deny, but that such determination might be made, at least for a moral reason and benefit. Because although natural reason doth not dictate the very same determination as necessary, yet it dictates it as convenient, as it doth apprehend it to be fit that the worship of God be frequently exercised, and it cannot but acknowledge this determination in respect of the frequency of the days to be in this respect convenient.

8. The same also is manifest by this—that from the beginning of the Creation, when there was no place for ceremonies that had respect to Christ the Redeemer, the seventh day, or one of seven, was set apart for the worship of God (Gen. 2:3).

Objections to the Sabbath being of Natural Right.

9. For whereas some do contend that this was spoken by a prolepsis or anticipation; or that the seventh day was at that time sanctified in the mind and purpose of God, not in execution; or that then there was a foundation laid of that sanctification to come, and not the obligation or Law itself. This may be refuted by diverse arguments:

1. This anticipation never came into any man’s mind who was not before anticipated with prejudice about the observation of the Lord’s Day. The Jews of old did never dream of it, whose received opinion was that this feast was “πάνδημον όνομάζειν καί τοΰ κόσμου γενέθλιον” among all nations from the beginning of the World (Philo, On the Creation). [1] In the new Testament there is no such thing taught or declared. The authors themselves of this opinion do grant it to be probable that some observation of the seventh day did begin from the beginning of the Creation (Suarez, De Diebus Fest). The best interpreters (Luther, Calvin, etc.) whom none will affirm to have offended on that side in giving too much to the Lord’s Day, do simply and candidly acknowledge that the seventh day was sanctified from the beginning of the World.

2. There can be no example given of such like anticipation in all the Scripture. For although the name of certain places are sometimes used proleptically, especially in the book of Genesis, yet there is no mention at all of such a proleptic institution, either in that book, or in any other of the whole sacred Scripture.

3. The words and phrases of the very place evince the contrary (Gen. 2:2-3). For the perfection of the Creation is twice joined together with the sanctification of the seventh day in the very same manner and phrase as the creation both of other creatures and of man himself is joined with their blessing (Genesis 1:21-22, 27-28).

4. Neither the purpose of God, nor a naked foundation of the thing itself sufficeth to ground and uphold such a phrase of sanctification and benediction. For by this reason it might be said that God sanctified water, bread, and wine for the Sacraments of the New Covenant, from the time that he gave the promise of breaking the serpent’s head by the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15). For then God did purpose to seal that covenant of grace by such seals, some foundation of which seals also was laid partly in the promise itself, and partly in the creation of those things which might actually be used to such sealing.

5. From such a foundation laid in the first Creation, the prophet gathers a perpetual rule and Law. Did he not make one? And why one? To seek a godly seed (Mal. 2:15). So in like manner may we: Did not God rest the seventh day? And why the seventh day? To sanctify the seventh day to God.

6. Upon this very thing the arguing of the Apostle seems to be grounded (Hebrews 4:3-9). Which is thus: There was a double rest mentioned in the Old Testament, whereof the godly were made partakers in this life. One was of the Sabbath, and the other was of the Land of Canaan. But David promising rest (Psalm 95), speaketh not of the rest of the Sabbath, because that was from the beginning of the World, nor of the rest in the Land of Canaan, because that was past, not to be expected. To day therefore he understands a certain third rest, that is, eternal in Heaven.

Ancient History of Sabbath Keeping.

10. Neither doth it anything hinder this truth, that it is not recorded in the history of Genesis, that the observation of the seventh day was solemnly kept by the first Patriarchs.

1. All and everything which was observed by them for a thousand and five hundred years, neither could nor ought to be particularly declared in so short a history as is that of Genesis. Also after the law of the Sabbath delivered by Moses, there is no mention in the book of Judges and some other histories, of the observation of it.

2. If this very thing be granted that the observation of this day was for the most part neglected, yet this ought no more to make the first institution doubtful than polygamy of the same times can shew that the sacred laws of wedlock were not equal in time with the very first marriage.

3. Before the promulgation of the Law in Mount Sinai, the observation of the Law is propounded and urged, not as a new thing, but ordained of old (Exodus 16:24-30). Which although it may be affirmed of sacrifices and some other ceremonial observations, yet in the Sabbath, there seems to be for the reasons before put, a certain respect had unto the first institution, which was equal in time with man’s creation, which is also declared in the 29th verse in that word of the time past, “hath given you, etc.

4. Among the very Heathens there were always those footsteps of the observation of the seventh day, that it is more than probable that the observation of the seventh day was delivered them from those Patriarchs whose posterity they were. Josephus in his last book against Apion [§ 40], denies, “That there can be found a nicety either of the Greeks or Barbarians, which had not taken the resting from labour on the seventh day into their own manners.” Clement of Alexandria doth demonstrate the same thing also: That not only the Hebrews, but the Greeks also observe the seventh day. [2] Eusebeus affirmeth that not only the Hebrews, but almost all, as well Philosophers as Poets, did know that the seventh day was more holy. [3] Lampridius in Alexandro Severo, tells that on the seventh day, when he was in the city, he went up to the Capitol and frequented the Temples. Neither is it far from this purpose that holy days were wont to be granted to children in schools on the seventh day. [4] And some heathen doctors were wont to dispute only upon the Sabbaths, as Suetonius relates of one Diogenes. [5]

5. The former forgetfulness or carelessness, and neglect of this day, is easily seen to be reproved by that same hortatory word, which is used in the beginning of the fourth commandment: “Remember.”

The Sabbath is a Moral Law.

11. But the right and moral perpetual authority of this institution is most of all declared from this, that it is expressly commanded in the Decalogue. For this is a most certain rule, and received among all the best divines, That moral precepts were thus differenced from ceremonials and judicials, that all and only morals were publicly proclaimed before all the people of Israel from Mount Sinai by the voice of God himself, and afterward also written, and written again, as it were, by the finger of God himself, and that in Tables of stone, to declare their perpetual and unchangeable continuance. Christ also doth expressly testify that not one jot or tittle of this Law should perish (Mat. 5:18).

12. That which is commanded in the fourth commandment is not indeed of a moral nature in the same degree and manner altogether with those things that are commanded, for the most part, in all the other commandments, because it belongs to positive right. Whence also it is that whereas the three former commandments were propounded negatively, by forbidding those vices unto which we are prone by the pravity of our nature, this fourth commandment is first propounded affirmatively in declaring and commanding that which in this part pertains unto our duty, and afterward negatively, by forbidding those things which are repugnant to this duty. Which also is in part the reason of that admonition which is especially prefixed before this precept, “Remember the Sabbath day,” that is, remember to keep this day, as it is explained in Deuteronomy 5:12. Because it may more easily be forgotten, seeing it belongs to positive right, than many other things which are more natural. Yet this positive right upon which this ordinance is grounded is Divine right, and in respect of man altogether unchangeable.

13. Those who turn this fourth commandment into allegories of a cessation from sins, and from the troubles of this life, and such like, and thence do feign a fourfold, or a fivefold Sabbath, according to their manner, who play with Allegories, they attribute nothing at all to this member of the Decalogue, which doth not as well, and much more properly agree to many Jewish ceremonies, which are now wholly abrogated.

The Sabbath is not Ceremonial.

14. But those that would have this precept ceremonial (as they would have the second to be also), besides that they are sufficiently refuted by those things which have been spoken before, they contradict the express testimony of Scripture, which affirms that Ten Words, or moral precepts are contained in the Decalogue (Ex. 34:18; Deut. 4:13; 10:4). Where they leave only nine, or rather eight.

15. They who would have that only to be moral in this precept, that some time, or some certain days, should be assigned to divine worship, do no more make this ordinance to be moral than was the building of the Tabernacle and Temple among the Jews. For by that very thing this was declared to all to be the perpetual will of God, that some fit place is always to be appointed for Church meetings, and public exercises of divine worship. So that by this reason there is no more a moral precept given touching some time of worship, than there is given touching the place, and so neither that indeed (which only they leave in the fourth precept) “Thou shalt observe Feast days,” ought any more to be put in the Decalogue than this, “Thou shalt frequent the Temples.”

16. Moreover, the yearly Feasts, New Moons, and the like ordinances, which were merely ceremonial, do contain that general equity also in them, and do still teach us that some certain and fit days ought to be appointed for public worship. Finally, by this reason God should by this commandment command several men nothing at all. For seeing the institution of days by this opinion is only commanded immediately, and it is not in the power of private men to ordain these or those days for public worship, by this, means nothing at all should be commanded but at their will who are in public office. Neither should anything be commanded them in special, but only in general, that they do according to their wisdom in setting apart days to public worship, so that if it seem good to them to appoint one day of twenty or thirty to this use, they cannot be reproved of any sin in this respect, as if they broke this commandment.

17. If there were ever anything ceremonial in the Sabbath in respect of the very observation of the day, that is to be accounted for a thing added to it, or a constitution coming extrinsically, beyond the nature of the Sabbath, and the first institution of it. And so it nothing hinders but the institution of the seventh day was simply moral. For so there was a ceremonial respect of some type added to some other commandments, as in the authority of fathers, and the firstborn of families, which pertain to the first commandment, there was a certain adumbration of Christ, who is the first begotten among the sons of God.

The Sabbath is not a Type of Future Grace.

18. Neither yet doth it certainly appear in the Scriptures, that there was any ceremony properly so called, or type, in the observation of the seventh day. For whereas in Hebrews 4:9 there is mention made of a spiritual Sabbatism, prefigured before by a type, it is under the respect of a type referred only to the rest promised in the Land of Canaan, and by comparison of things like to the rest of God. But in no sort, or in the least signification is it referred to the rest commanded in the fourth commandment, as unto a type or shadow.

19. But whereas in Exodus 31:13 & 17 and Ezekiel 20:20 the Sabbath is called a sign between God and his people, it cannot thence be made a type or representation of any future grace, because:

1. A sign doth often note the same as an argument or instruction, as also the most learned interpreters do note upon Exodus 31, “It is a sign between me, etc.” that is, an instruction. So our mutual love is a sign that we are the disciples of Christ (John 13:35), but it is not a type.

2. The Sabbath in those places is not said to be a sign of some thing to come, but present, as every visible concomitant adjunct is a sign of the subject being present. For in the observation of the Sabbath there is a common and public profession of that communion which is between God and us. As therefore all solemn profession is a sign of that thing whereof it is a profession, so also the Sabbath is in that common respect called a sign.

20. And this is the most proper reason why the observation of the Sabbath is so much urged, and the breaking of it so severely punished in the Old Testament—namely because there was in the Sabbath a common and public profession of all religion. For this commandment as it is a close of the First Table of the Law, doth thus summarily contain the whole worship of God, whilst it commands a certain day for all the exercises thereof (Isa. 56:2).

21. There were many ceremonies ordained about the observation of the Sabbath, but the observation of the Sabbath was no more made ceremonial by them, than it was judicial or political, because of those judicial laws whereby it was then provided that it should be celebrated most religiously (Ex. 31:14).

22. That accommodation of the fourth commandment unto the special state of the Jews, which was in the observation of the seventh day from the beginning of the Creation, doth no more make the precept itself ceremonial than the promise of the Land of Canaan made to the people of Israel, “that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (Ex. 20:12), makes the fifth commandment ceremonial. Or more than that Preface, “I am the Lord thy God which have brought thee out of the Land of Egypt” (Ex. 20:2), makes all the commandments ceremonial.

The Rigor of Sabbath Keeping.

23. It may indeed be granted that a more strict observation of the Sabbath was commanded in those days, applied to the time of Pedagogy and bondage, which is not of force in all ages; yet this hinders not, but the observation itself is plainly moral and common to all ages.

24. Yet there can be nothing brought out of the Scriptures, which was at any time commanded about the strict observation of the Sabbath to the Jews, which by the same reason doth not pertain to all Christians, except the kindling of fires, and preparing their ordinary food (Ex. 35:3; 16:14). And those precepts seem to have been special, and given upon particular occasion. For there is nothing said about the kindling of fire, but in the building of the Tabernacle, which God would declare was not so holy a work, but it might and ought to be intermitted on the Sabbath day. Neither is there any mention of the preparing of victuals, but when manna was by a miracle sent from Heaven, which was also by a miracle preserved on the Sabbath day. And by the history of Christ it appears very likely that he did approve of preparing victuals, done by kindling of a fire, upon the Sabbath day. For being invited by the Jews to a feast which was had on the Sabbath day, he refused not to be present (Luke 14:1, etc.)

25. Whereas the reason of the Sabbath doth sometime seem to be referred to the delivering of the people of Israel out of the captivity of Egypt, it doth not turn the Sabbath into a ceremony. For 1. All the commandments are in some sort referred to the same deliverance, as appears by the Preface of the Decalogue. 2. It doth not appear that the Sabbath itself had any singular relation to this deliverance, but that there is mention made of the deliverance out of Egypt for that reason only, that seeing the Israelites had been servants before in Egypt, they ought the more readily and willingly grant this time of rest to their servants (Deut. 5:15).

26. Whereas the last day of the week was of old observed, this was anciently ordained by God from the time of the first Creation, because God did that day cease from the works of Creation.

The Change of the Sabbath Day.

27. Whereas the last day of the week is now changed into the first day, this was not done by human, but Divine authority. For he only can change the day of the Sabbath, who is Lord of the Sabbath, that is, Christ (Mark 12:8). Whence also that first day which succeeded is properly called the Lord’s Day.

28. If this Lord’s Day be granted to have been of Apostolic institution, yet that authority which it is built upon is nevertheless divine. Because the Apostles were no less guided by the Spirit in holy institutions than in propounding the doctrine of the Gospel, either in word or writings.

29. Also seeing this institution was grounded upon no special occasion that was to continue for a time only, whereby it might be made temporary, it doth necessarily follow that the mind of the ordainers was that the observation of this day should be of perpetual and unchangeable right.

Christ Himself is the Author of the Lord’s Day.

30. Yet it is more likely that Christ himself was the author of this institution in his own person.

1. Because Christ was no less faithful in ordering his whole house, or the Church of God, as touching all things that are generally necessary and useful than was Moses, (Heb. 3:2-6). But no Christian can with any reason deny that the observation of this day is generally profitable and in some sort necessary for the Churches of Christ.

2. Because Christ himself did often appear upon this very day to his disciples gathered together in one place after the resurrection (John 20:19-26).

3. Because he poured out the Holy Spirit upon them this very day (Acts 2).

4. In the practice of the churches in the time of the Apostles when there is mention made of this observation of the first day (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2), it is not remembered as some late ordinance, but as a thing a good while received among all the disciples of Christ.

5. The Apostles did in all things deliver those things to the Churches which they had received of Christ (1 Cor. 11:23).

6. This institution could not be deferred not one week after the death of Christ, and that law of one day in every week to be sanctified according to the determination of God himself remain firm—which law hath been demonstrated before to be of perpetual right. For the Jewish Sabbath was, in respect of the determination which it had to the seventh day, abrogated in the death of Christ. For whereas it is read that the Apostles sometime after were present in the assemblies of the Jews that day of the Sabbath (Acts 13:14; 16:13; 17:2; 18:4), they did that chiefly in that respect because then was the fittest occasion to preach the Gospel to the Jews. As also afterward the Apostle did greatly desire to be at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (Acts 20:16) because at that time there was the greatest concourse of the Jews to be in that place.

7. If the institution of the Lord’s Day was deferred so long till the Apostles had made a separation from the Jews, and had their meetings apart (Acts 18:6-7; 19:8), as some would have it, then all that space of time which came between the death of Christ and this separation, which was above three years, the fourth commandment had bound none to that observation of any day, because the Jew’s day was already abolished. And by this opinion there was no new brought in the room, and so there were only nine precepts in force all that time.

8. The reason itself of this change confirms the same, which is by the consent of all referred to the resurrection of Christ—namely, because this day the creation of the new world or the world to come (Heb. 2:5), in which all things were made new (2 Cor. 5:17), was perfected. So that God did now, in Christ rising again from the dead, cease or rest from his greatest work. As therefore in the beginning of the creation, when God rested from his works, he then blessed and sanctified that day wherein he did rest—so also it was meet that that very day wherein Christ did rest from his labours, himself also should sanctify the same day. Neither is that easily to be rejected which is urged by some of the Ancients out of Psalm 118:24, “This is the day which the Lord hath made.” For in that very place is treated of Christ’s resurrection, as Christ himself interprets (Mat. 21:42).

9. It was also most meet that the day of worship in the New Testament should be ordained by him, by whom the worship itself was ordained, and from whom all blessing and grace is to be expected in all worship.

The Lord’s Day is not an Ecclesiastical Tradition.

31. They who account the observation of the Lord’s Day for a tradition not written, they are hereby sufficiently refuted.

1. Because there is no one thing which depends upon tradition not written of such moment, as is the observation of the Lord’s Day, by common consent, and the consent of all Christians almost.

2. By this means there is a door opened to bring in diverse superstitions, and human devices into the Church of God, or at least to prop them up when they are brought in.

3. Many among the Papists are ashamed of this invention. For although all the Papists, to cloak their superstitions, are wont to give too much to ecclesiastical traditions, yet in the observation of the Lord’s Day that impression of Divine authority appears that it hath compelled not a few of them to ascribe it not to any human, but to Divine right. [6] Alexander also, the third Pope of Rome, in the very Canon law [7] affirms that the Scripture, as well of the Old as New Testament, hath specially deputed the seventh day for man’s rest, that is (as Suarez interprets [8]) both Testaments have approved the manner of deputing every seventh day of the week for the rest of man. Which is to depute the seventh day formally, although materially the same was not always deputed, and in this manner it is true that that seventh day in the old law was the Sabbath, and in the new is the Lord’s Day.

4. They among themselves who account the Lord’s Day among traditions do account baptizing of children also, and that with greater shew in the same place and number. But all our divines, who have answered the Papists touching those examples of traditions, do always contend that those institutions and all others which are of the same profit and necessity, are to be found in the Scriptures themselves.

Objections to the Sabbath.

32. Those things which are wont to be brought on the contrary out of the Scriptures (Rom. 14:5; Gal. 4:10; Col. 2:16) do nothing at all hinder this truth. [cf. Is the Sabbath Optional? An Evaluation of Romans 14 and Colossians 2]

For first, in all those places the observation of some day to religious use by the ordinance of Christ is no more condemned or denied than the choice of some certain meat to a religious use by the ordinance of the same Christ. But no Christian is so void of all reason that he would conclude out of those places that the choice of bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper for a religious use, is either unlawful, or not ordained by Christ. Neither therefore can any thing be concluded from them against the observation of the Lord’s Day by the use and institution of Christ.

Secondly, the Apostle in Romans 14 doth expressly speak of that estimation of days, which did at that time breed offense among Christians. But the observation of the Lord’s Day which the Apostle himself teacheth, hath at that time taken place in all the churches (1 Cor. 16:1-2) could not give any occasion of offense.

Thirdly, it is most likely that the Apostle in that place doth treat of choosing of days to eat or refuse certain meats. For the question of that dispute is propounded in verse 2 of meats only, in the 5th and 6th verses, the esteem of a duty is joined with it as pertaining to the same thing, and afterward through all the rest of the chapter he treats only of meats, making no mention of days.

Fourthly, in that place to the Galatians, it is expressly treated of that observation of days, months, and years, which pertained to the bondage of weak and beggarly elements (Gal. 4:9), but it was far from the Apostle, and altogether strange to Christian religion, so to account any precept of the Decalogue or any ordinance of Christ.

Fifthly, in Colossians 2 it is specially and expressly treated of those Sabbaths which were of the same kind with New Moons, and were ceremonial shadows of things to come in Christ. But the Sabbath commanded in the Decalogue and our Lord’s Day are altogether of another nature, as hath been before demonstrated.

33. Neither is Christian liberty at all diminished by this opinion (as some without cause do seem to fear), for it is not a liberty, but a licentiousness not Christian, if any think themselves freed from the observation of any precept of the Decalogue, or from the institutions of Christ. And experience also teacheth that licentiousness and neglect of holy things doth more and more prevail, where a due respect is not had of the Lord’s Day.

34. Neither also was Adam subject to any bondage because he was tied to sanctify the seventh day by a special observation.

35. But as the beginning of the old Sabbath was at the evening, because the Creation also began at the evening, because the common mass was created before the light, and the cessation of the day from the work of Creation began also at the evening, so also the beginning of the Lord’s Day doth seem to begin from the morning of that day, because the resurrection of Christ was betimes in the morning (Mark. 16:9; John 20:1).

The Right Observation of the Sabbath.

36. For the right observation of this day two things are necessary, rest, and the sanctification of this rest.

1) Servile Works.

37. The rest which is required is a cessation from every work which might hinder the exercises of Divine worship, we must therefore abstain that day: 1. From all these works which are properly called servile, for seeing such works were of old by name excluded in all other solemn feasts (Lev. 23:7-8, 25, 31, 36; Num. 28:25), much more were they excluded from the Sabbath.

38. But it is ridiculous by servile works to understand sins or mercenary good works, or done (after the manner of servants) for reward (as some do understand them by a certain allegorical sport), for sins are not forbidden and unlawful at some certain times, but always and everywhere. Neither doth it pertain to the fourth commandment to deal with all sins to be forbidden, although this may in some sense be granted that diverse sins do take some aggravation from thence if they be committed upon so holy a day (Isa. 28:4), those evil works also which are done upon fear or hope, that is altogether servile, have in respect of their manner the same nature with other sins.

2) Liberal Works.

39. But servile works are properly those to the performance whereof servants or servile men are wont to be used, such as are mechanic works, and all those to the performance whereof great labour of the body is required, as to plow, to dig, etc. 2. Besides these works there are forbidden also upon that day all works that are ours. As is gathered from the opposite concession which is given in the fourth precept, “Six days shalt thou labour and do all thy work.”

40. Whence we may gather with the words following, on the Sabbath day thou shalt do no work, that all those works are forbidden which are properly called ours, although they be not to speak strictly servile or mechanical.

41. Now those are our works which pertain to the uses of this life, that is, which are exercised in natural and civil things, and do properly pertain to our gain and profit. Of which kind are those which of their own nature are not servile but liberal, as studies, exercises of liberal arts, much more those which are common to free men and servants, as to journey, to handle civil causes, etc.

42. For so this phrase is explained, “ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours” (Isa. 58:3), that is, ye do carefully your own matters, “doing thine own ways” (v. 13). But because Isaiah in that chapter doth also and chiefly treat of wicked actions, and those works which are unlawful at all times, as appeareth verse 6, therefore some godly divines do seem to err, who are wont to gather out of that place that every word or thought that is human, or pertains to men, used on the Lord’s Day, is to be accounted sin. For all human words, deeds, or thoughts upon that day whereof that chapter handleth (whether it be the Sabbath properly called, or a solemn feast), are not there judged to be impertinent, and in that respect simply reprehended, but those only which are wont to concern our gain, either simply unlawful or repugnant to holy exercises, as appears in verses 3 & 6. Concerning such servile and vulgar works there is such a strict law, that upon the Sabbath day men may not go on in their work. No not in time of plowing and harvest simply, that is, at those times which are most opportune and as it were necessary for mans life (Ex. 34:21). Nor in those things which do mediately and remotely pertain to holy things, as was the building of the Tabernacle (Ex. 31:13). Much less is it lawful to enter into any ordinary journey (Ex. 16), or to frequent Marts or Fairs (Neh. 13).

Lawful Works.

43. Yet here are excepted:

1. All those works which belong to common honesty. For seeing at all other times we ought, so especially upon that day which is specially dedicated to divine worship, to be have and carry ourselves decently, all those things which do simply pertain thereunto are understood to be permitted.

2. Those things which are imposed on us by some singular necessity (Mat. 12:11). In which number notwithstanding those things are not to be accounted which men make or fain to themselves as necessary, but those things which it appears to be necessary and unavoidable by the providence of God, and which we are not aware of, that is, when such a necessity urgeth as the Scripture itself allows as a sufficient cause to do any ordinary thing.

3. All those works which do directly respect the worship and glory of God (Mat. 12:5; John 5:8-9). For in that case those works which are of their own nature servile, do pass into the nature of holy actions, neither are they properly our works, but God’s works.

44. This rest, although in itself absolutely considered, it is not, neither ever was, a part of worship. Yet as it is commanded of God as a certain necessary thing unto his worship, and is referred also to it, so far it is a part of that obedience which pertains to religion and the worship of God.

45. The sanctification of this rest and day is a special applying of ourselves to worship God, upon that day which is intimated in those phrases, “He sanctified that day,” and “it is a Sabbath to the Lord thy God.”

46. Here public worship ought chiefly to be respected, whence also it is that the Sabbath is called an holy convocation (Lev. 23:13; Acts 13:14; 15:23; 16:13). But that that public convocation of the Church ought to be had both before and after noon upon the Lord’s Day, it appears sufficiently by that double burnt offering of the Sabbath, in the morning and the evening (Num. 28:4).

47. But the rest of the day ought to be spent in exercises of piety. For although there was of old an offering peculiar to the Sabbath, yet the continual or daily offering with his drink offering was not to be omitted (Num. 28:10).

48. Also the public worship itself, seeing it is most solemnly to be celebrated, doth necessarily require these exercises of reading the Scripture, meditation, prayer, holy conferences, and contemplation of the works of God. Whereby we may be both more prepared to public worship, and that worship may be made truly effectual to us.

Superstitions Contrary to the Sabbath.

49. Contrary to his ordinance of the Lord’s Day are all feast days ordained by men, they being accounted for holy days, as the Lord’s Day ought to be accounted.

50. For it is most agreeable with the first institution, and with the writings of the Apostles, that one only day in the week be sanctified.

51. The Jews had no feast days rightly sanctified, but by divine institution.

52. Yet any days may be piously turned into occasion of furthering the worship of God.

53. Also when God by his special judgments calls to more solemn fasting, those days are to be accounted as it were for extraordinary Sabbaths.

54. Contrary also to the observation of this day and all transactions of business, exercises, feasts, sports, and such like, whereby the mind of man is this day drawn away from the exercises of religion.

[1] “Now when the whole world had been brought to completion in accordance with the properties of six, a perfect number, the Father invested with dignity the seventh day which comes next, extolling it and pronouncing it holy; for it is the festival, not of a single city or country, but of the universe [του παντός], and it alone strictly deserves to be called ‘public’ as belonging to all people and the birthday of the world [κόσμου γενέθλιον].” (Philo, On the Creation, XXX. (89), trans. Colson & Whitaker).

[2] Stromata, book 5, ch. 14.

[3] Preparation for the Gospel, book 13, ch. 12.

[4] Lucianus in Pseudologista.

Aulus Gellius. Attic Nights, book 13, ch. 2.

[5] Hesiod, Book of Days, line 14, trans. Chapman (1618), “The Seventh day next, being first in sacred worth“.

Suetonius, Lives of the Caesars, book 3, sect. 32, p. 341, trans. Rolfe (1913).

[6] Bannes in 2. 2. q. 44. a. 1. Author supplementi adsummam Pisanam verb. Dominica; Abbas in cap. licet defer. n. 3. Aug. ver. feria. n. 3. Silvester. ver. Dominica q. 1. 7.

[7] deferiis cap. licet.

[8] de dieb. fest. cap. 1.


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