Midnight Sabbath and the Light of Nature

Daniel Cawdrey & Herbert Palmer,
Sabbatum Redivivum: or The Christian Sabbath Vindicated,
Part 1, ch. 9, pp. 209-212.

How far the Law of Nature commands about the quando, or season [of the Lord’s Day].

Proposition: It seems most consonant to the Law and Light of Nature, and Scripture reason, that (unless God otherwise determine it himself) the beginning of the Lord’s Day should be in the morning, that is, after midnight, rather than the evening before.

We put in that parenthesis (unless God otherwise determine it himself), as well that we may never, neither by way of consequence, nor so much as in appearance, dispute against any appointment of God—acknowledging everlastingly, that all His determinations, (what ever we may surmise or argue) are wisest and best, so long, and so much, as He will have them stand. 

As also for that it is commonly taken for an undoubted and undeniable truth, that the old Jewish Sabbath did begin (and so end) at evening. Whether it did so certainly, or no, perhaps we shall consider more particularly hereafter [Part 3, ch. 2, pp. 348-411]. But for the present, we cannot forbear to say that we are in no way convinced that it ended in the evening (though we will not now neither dispute that in point of fact). But all we will do for the present about it is to shew our grounds why (under favour of God’s not determining otherwise, as we said) we conceive it most suitable to religious reason, that the chief solemn time should not end till our waking time ends, or till midnight. And so consequently, if it must be a whole day’s continuance (as we suppose it must), the beginning must be at midnight, and not the evening before.

Our reason is that if we consider the evening before, or the evening after, there will be perpetual danger of encroachment either upon the religious time, or the worldly time, to the prejudice of one of them; but especially of religion in most men.

1. Consider the evening before. In winter time it is evening with us at five o’clock, a good part of the time, and at four, for a week or two, or more. If now as soon as it grows dark the time for religion begins, they must—to observe it aright and have their minds in frame—lay aside their worldly businesses a while at least before. And this will at least seem to encroach too much upon their businesses, and disappoint markets on the day before, and journeys very much sometimes. Or rather the hazard will be that worldly things will stick to men’s fingers, and businesses in their minds, so long that what with supper time and other night businesses before they go to bed—and many hasting to bed, under pretense perhaps of earlier rising in the morning (though likely enough they mean nothing less, nor do they rise the earlier for it)—God and the soul would have very little, even of those hours, after four or five o’clock, (besides what conscientious men use to give Him every night). And so scarce worth the while of reckoning the religious time (or day for it) to begin at evening, especially considering the great loss that would in all likelihood be by the ending of it at even; which is the second consideration.

For supposing the day ended at four, five, or six o’clock: Either men would still continue their religious thoughts, as to close fairly their waking time with them; and this would be again thought too much, because the former evening was challenged as God’s due, (whether He had it or not). Or else, which would be infallibly with the most of men, they would instantly, when it grew dark, or at sunset (which I take it was the Jew’s evening, ending those days that did end at evening, as the Day of Expiation, Lev. 23:23.) throw away all thoughts of religion, and fall to work, or buying and selling in shops, or to sports and play—which cannot possibly but be prejudicial to religion, by weakening the good they had received before in the day. And even making them lose any godly affections they had gotten, by a cold, damp, deadening any spiritual heat that might be put into them by the ordinances and services of God, public or domestic, or solitary, by one, or all.

Hereunto we may add that upon the knowledge of this ending at that hour, there would be beforehand matches made of meeting to make bargains, to game and play, and perhaps to drink and carouse (the day being now over). And then even before it were over, the minds of most worldly people would so run upon those things, even while they were in the exercises of devotion, that they will make very little benefit by them. But they will, as it were, sit upon thorns, in the public ordinances, and rather than fail, go out in the midst of them, if they misdoubt or discern that they are like to trench upon their worldly times.

And for this we would but appeal even to sober consciences, when they sometimes hear a sermon on the weekdays, after which immediately they have worldly businesses (or even but a meeting of pleasure) to attend upon. Whether those things do not much run in their heads, and make them sit in pain and fear, and long that it were done. And even tempt them to go out (unless shame hold them) and leave it before the end, or especially before the end of prayer, Psalm, and blessing.

And then it would be undoubtedly much worse with ordinary people, as appears but too manifestly by their goings out both morning and afternoon, as soon as they think the sermon should end (the glass being run), or that it is ended, and they hasten to their dinner, or to serve their cattle, or the like.

But now by the beginning and ending at midnight (or the morning, which is ordinarily all one), so as one wakes in the religious day, and lies down to sleep in it, all the inconvenience on both sides is prevented. Men may follow their businesses the night before, that they may the less disturb them on the day for religion. And their night devotions may settle their minds against the next day. And then on that day, all the waking time being determined for religion, it will plainly secure very much all the good gotten, and keep out all mischievous disappointments by worldly thoughts and discourses. And to settle a man’s spirit excellently, by lying down with those thoughts of God and religion, and so sleeping as in God’s arms, may make all singularly happy to him. And if this be so, they are surely not so well advised, that have so rigidly urged the beginning of the Lord’s Day to be necessarily at evening (as they suppose it was with the Jewish Sabbath). But we have somewhat further to say to them about that, from our Savior’s resurrection in the morning. Of which we shall discourse hereafter [Part 4].

One thought on “Midnight Sabbath and the Light of Nature

  1. […] Cawdrey and Palmer similarly write, “It seems most consonant to the Law and Light of Nature, and Scripture reason, that (unless God otherwise determine it himself) the beginning of the Lord’s Day should be in the morning, that is, after midnight, rather than the evening before.” They then give five reasons “from the many incongruities and inconveniences of beginning it at evening, and the contrary commodities for the morning.” (cf. Midnight Sabbath and the Light of Nature). […]

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