The Lord's Day

Articles on the Fourth Commandment, Christian Sabbath and Lord's Day

The Fourth Commandment by Charles Hodge

From, Hodge, Charles; Systematic Theology, In Three Volumes. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Reprinted, May 1997), Vol. III, pp. 321-348



§8. The Fourth Commandment.
Its Design.

The design of the fourth commandment was, (1.) To commemorate the work of creation. The people were commanded to remember the Sabbath-day and to keep it holy, because in six days God had made the heavens and the earth. (2.) To pre-
serve alive the knowledge of the only living and true God. If heaven and earth, that is, the universe, were created, they must have had a creator; and that creator must be extramundane, existing before, out of, and independently of the world. He must be almighty, and infinite in knowledge, wisdom, and goodness; for all these attributes are necessary to account for the wonders of the heavens and the earth. So long, therefore, as men believe in creation, they must believe in God. This accounts for the fact that so much stress is laid upon the right observance of the Sabbath. Far more importance is attributed to that observance than to any merely ceremonial institution. (3.) This command was designed to arrest the current of the outward life of the people and to turn their thoughts to the unseen and spiritual. Men are so prone to be engrossed by the things of this world that it was, and is, of the highest importance that there should be one day of frequent recurrence on which they were forbidden to think of the things of the world, and forced to think of the things unseen and eternal. (4.) It was intended to afford time for the instruction of the people, and for the public and special worship of God. (5.) By the prohibition of all servile labour, whether of man or beast, it was designed to secure recuperative rest for those on whom the primeval curse had fallen: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.” (6.) As a day of rest and as set apart for intercourse with God, it was designed to be a type of that rest which remains for the people of God, as we learn from Psalms 95:11, as expounded by the Apostle in Hebrews 4:1-10. (7.) As the observance of the Sabbath had died out among the nations, it was solemnly reënacted under the Mosaic dispensation to be a sign of the covenant between God and the children of Israel. They were to be distinguished as the Sabbath-keeping people among all the nations of the earth, and as such were to be the recipients of God’s special blessings. Exodus 31:13, “Verily my Sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you.” And in verses 16, 17, “Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel forever.” And in Ezekiel 20:12, it is said, “Moreover, also, I gave them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD that sanctify them.”

The Sabbath was instituted from the Beginning and is of Perpetual Obligation.

1. This may be inferred from the nature and design of the institution. It is a generally recognized principle, that those commands of the Old Testament which were addressed to the Jews as Jews and were rounded on their peculiar circumstances and relations, passed away when the Mosaic economy was abolished; but those rounded on the immutable nature of God, or upon the permanent relations of men, are of permanent obligation. There are many such commands which bind men as men; fathers as fathers; children as children; and neighbours as neighbours. It is perfectly apparent that the fourth commandment belongs to this latter class. It is important for all men to know that God created the world, and therefore is an extramundane personal being, infinite in all his perfections. All men need to be arrested in their worldly career, and called upon to pause and to turn their thoughts Godward. It is of incalculable importance that men should have time and opportunity for religious instruction and worship. It is necessary for all men and servile animals to have time to rest and recuperate their strength. The daily nocturnal rest is not sufficient for that purpose, as physiologists assure us, and as experience has demonstrated. Such is obviously the judgment of God.
It appears, therefore, from the nature of this commandment as moral, and not positive or ceremonial, that it is original and universal in its obligation. No man assumes that the commands, “Thou shalt not kill,” and “Thou shalt not steal,” were first announced by Moses, and ceased to be obligatory when the old economy passed away. A moral law is one that binds from its own nature. It expresses an obligation arising either out of our relations to God or out of our permanent relations to our fellow-men. It binds whether formally enacted or not. There are no doubt positive elements in the fourth commandment as it stands in the Bible. It is positive that a seventh, and not a sixth or eighth part of our time should be consecrated to the public service of God. It is positive that the seventh rather than any other day of the week should be thus set apart. But it is moral that there should be a day of rest and cessation from worldly avocations. It is of moral obligation that God and his great works should be statedly remembered. It is a moral duty that the people should assemble for religious instruction and for the
united worship of God. All this was obligatory before the time of Moses, and would have been binding had he never existed. All that the fourth commandment did was to put this natural and universal obligation into a definite form.
2. The original and universal obligation of the law of the Sabbath may be inferred from its having found a place in the decalogue. As all the other commandments in that fundamental revelation of the duties of men to God and to their neighbour, are moral and permanent in their obligation, it would be incongruous and unnatural if the fourth should be a solitary exception. This argument is surely not met by the answer given to it by the advocates of the opposite doctrine. The argument they say is valid only on the assumption “that the Mosaic law, because of its divine origin, is of universal and permanent authority.” May it not be as well said, If the command, “Thou shalt not steal,” be still in force, the whole code of the Mosaic law must be binding? The fourth commandment is read in all Christian churches, whenever the decalogue is read, and the people are taught to say, “Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.”
3. Another argument is derived from the penalty attached to the violation of this commandment. “Ye shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death.” (Ex. 31:14.) The violation of no merely ceremonial or positive law was visited with this penalty. Even the neglect of circumcision, although it involved the rejection of both the Abrahamic and the Mosaic covenant, and necessarily worked the forfeiture of all the benefits of the theocracy, was not made a capital offence. The law of the Sabbath by being thus distinguished was raised far above the level of mere positive enactments. A character was given to it, not only of primary importance, but also of special sanctity.
4. We accordingly find that in the prophets as well as in the Pentateuch, and the historical books of the Old Testament, the Sabbath is not only spoken of as “a delight,” but also its faithful observance is predicted as one of the characteristics of the Messianic period. Thus Isaiah says, “If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a Delight, the Holy of the LORD, Honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: then
shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father; for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.” (Is. 58:13, 14.) Gesenius is very much puzzled at this. The prophets predicted that under the Messiah the true religion was t,o be extended to the ends of the earth. But the public worship of God was by the Jewish law tied to Jerusalem. That law was neither designed nor adapted for a universal religion. To those, therefore, who believe that the Sabbath was a temporary Mosaic institution to pass away when the old economy was abolished, it is altogether incongruous that a prophet should represent the faithful observance of the Sabbath as one of the chief blessings and glories of the Messiab’s reign.
These considerations, apart from historical evidence or the direct assertion of the Scriptures, are enough to create a strong, if not an invincible presumption, that the Sabbath was instituted from the beginning, and was designed to be of universal and permanent obligation. Whatever law had a temporary ground or reason for its enactment, was temporary in its obligation. Where the reason of the law is permanent the law itself is permanent.
The greater number of Christian theologians who deny all this, still admit the Sabbath to be a most wise and beneficent institution. Nay, many of them go so far as to represent its violation, as a day of religious rest, as a sin. This, however, is a concession that the reason for the command is permanent, and that if God has not required its observance, the Church or State is bound to do so.

Direct Evidence of the ante-Mosaic institution of the Sabbath.

Presumptive evidence may be strong enough to coerce assent. The advocates of the early institution of the Sabbath, however, are not limited to that kind of evidence. There is direct proof of the fact for which they contend,—
1. In Genesis 2:3, it is said, “God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.” It is indeed easy to say that this is a prolepsis; that the passage assigns the reason why in the times of Moses, God selected the seventh, rather than any other day of the week to be the Sabbath. This is indeed possible, but it is not probable. It is an unnatural interpretation which no one would adopt except to suit a purpose. The narrative purports to be an account of what God did at the time of the crea-
tion. When the earth was prepared for his reception, God created man on the sixth day, and rested from the work of creation on the seventh, and set apart that day as a holy day to be a perpetual memorial of the great work which He had accomplished. This is the natural sense of the passage, from which only the strongest reasons would authorize us to depart. All collateral reasons, however, are on its side.
In support of this interpretation the authority of the most impartial, as well as the most competent interpreters might be quoted. Grotius did not believe in the perpetuity of the Sabbath, yet he admits that in Genesis 2:3, it is said that the seventh day was set apart as holy from the creation. He assumes, on the authority, as he says, of many learned Hebrews, that there were two precepts concerning the Sabbath. The one given at the beginning enjoined that every seventh day should be remembered as a memorial of the creation. And in this sense, he says, the Sabbath was doubtless observed by the patriarchs, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, etc. The second precept was given from Mount Sinai when the Sabbath was made a memorial of the deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. This latter law enjoined rest from labour on the Sabbath. The Scriptural argument which he urges in support of this theory, is, that in all the accounts of the journeyings of the patriarchs, we never read of their resting on the seventh day; whereas after the law given from Mount Sinai, this reference to the resting of the people on the Sabbath is of constant occurrence.
Delitzsch says “Hengstenberg understands Genesis 2:3, as though it were written from the stand-point of the Mosaic law, as if it were said, God for this reason in after times blessed the seventh day; which scarcely needs a refutation. God himself, the Creator, celebrated a Sabbath immediately after the six days’ work, and because his  could become the  of his creatures, He made for that purpose the seventh day, by his blessing, to be a perennial fountain of refreshment, and clothed that day by hallowing it with special glory for all time to come.”
Baumgarten in his comment on this verse says the separa-
tion of this day from all others was made so that “the return of this blessed and holy day should be to him a memorial, and participation of the divine rest.” And Knobel, one of the most pronounced of the rationalistic commentators, says, “That the author of Genesis makes the distinction of the seventh day coeval with the creation, although the carrying out of the purpose thus intimated was deferred to the time of Moses. Nothing is known of any ante-Mosaic celebration of the Sabbath.”
2. Apart from the fact that the reason for the Sabbath existed from the beginning, there is direct historical evidence that the hebdomadal division of time prevailed before the deluge. Noah in Genesis 8:10, 12, is said twice to have rested seven days. And again in the time of Jacob, as appears from Genesis 29:27, 28, the division of time into weeks was recognized as an established usage. As seven is not an equal part either of a solar year or of a lunar month, the only satisfactory account of this fact, is to be found in the institution of the Sabbath. This fact moreover proves not only the original institution, but also the continued observance of the seventh day. There must have been something to distinguish that day as the close of one period or the commencement of another. It is altogether unnatural to account for this hebdomadal division by a reference to the worship of the seven planets. There is no evidence that the planets were objects of worship at that early period of the world, or for a long time afterwards, especially among the Shemitic races. Besides, this explanation is inconsistent with the account of the creation. The divine authority of the book of Genesis is here taken for granted. What it asserts, Christians are bound to believe. It is undeniably taught in this book that God created the heavens and the earth in six days and rested on the seventh. It matters not how the word “days” may be explained, we have in the history of the creation this hebdomadal division of time. No earlier cause for the prevalence of that division can be given, and no other is needed, or can reasonably be assumed.
This division of time into weeks, was not confined to the Hebrew race. It was almost universal. This fact proves that it must have had its origin in the very earliest period in the history of the world.

3. That the law of the Sabbath was not first given on Mount Sinai, may also be inferred from the fact that it was referred to as a known and familiar institution, before that law was promulgated. Thus in the sixteenth chapter of Exodus the people were directed to gather on the sixth day of the week manna sufficient for the seventh, as on that day none would be provided. And more particularly in the twenty-third verse, it is said, “To-morrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the LORD: bake that which ye will bake to-day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you, to be kept until morning.” And in the twenty-sixth verse we read, “Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the Sabbath, in it there shall be none.” There was therefore a Sabbath before the Mosaic law was given. Again, the language used in the fourth commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy,” naturally implies that the Sabbath was not a new institution. It was a law given in the beginning, that had doubtless in a good measure, especially during their bondage in Egypt, become obsolete, which the people were henceforth to remember and faithfully observe.
The objection to the pre-Mosaic institution of the Sabbath founded on the silence of Genesis on the subject in the history of the patriarchs, is of little weight. It is to be remembered that the book of Genesis, comprised in some sixty octavo pages, gives us the history of nearly two thousand years. All details not bearing immediately on the design of the author were of necessity left out. If nothing was done but what is there recorded, the antediluvians and patriarchs lived almost entirely without religious observances.
The Sabbath does not stand alone. It is well known that Moses adopted and incorporated with his extended code many of the ancient usages of the chosen people. This was the case with sacrifices and circumcision, as well as with all the principles of the decalogue. That a particular law, therefore, is found in the Mosaic economy is not sufficient evidence that it had its origin with the Hebrew Lawgiver, or that it ceased to be binding when the old dispensation was abrogated. If the reason for the law remains, the law itself remains; and if given to mankind before the birth of Moses, it binds mankind. On this point even Dr.
Paley says: “If the divine command was actually delivered at the creation, it was addressed, no doubt, to the whole human species alike, and continues, unless repealed by some subsequent revelation, binding upon all who come to the knowledge of it.” That the law of the Sabbath was thus given is, as has been shown, the common opinion even of those who deny its perpetual obligation, and therefore its permanence cannot reasonably be questioned by those who admit the principle that what was given to mankind was meant for mankind.
4. It is a strong argument in favour of this conclusion, that the law of the Sabbath was taken up and incorporated in the new dispensation by the Apostles, the infallible founders of the Christian Church. All the Mosaic laws founded on the permanent relations of men either to God or to their fellows, are in like manner adopted in the Christian Code. They are adopted, however, only as to their essential elements. Every law, ceremonial or typical, or designed only for the Jews, is discarded. Men are still bound to worship God, but this is not now to be done especially at Jerusalem, or by sacrifices, or through the ministration of priests. Marriage is as sacred now as it ever was, but all the special laws regulating its duties, and the penalty for its violation, are abrogated. Homicide is as great a crime now as under the Mosaic economy, but the old laws about the avenger of blood and cities of refuge are no longer in force. The rights of property remain unimpaired under the gospel dispensation, but the Jewish laws regarding its distribution and protection, are no longer binding. The same is true with regard to the Sabbath. We are as much bound to keep one day in seven holy unto the Lord, as were the patriarchs or Israelites. This law binds all men as men, because given to all mankind, and because it is founded upon the nature common to all men, and the relation which all men bear to God. The two essential elements of the command are that the Sabbath should be a day of rest, that is, of cessation from worldly avocations and amusements; and that it should be devoted to the worship of God and the services of religion. All else is circumstantial and variable. It is not necessary that it should be observed with special reference to the deliverance of the Israelites out of Egypt; nor are the details as to the things to be done or avoided, or as to the penalty for transgression obligatory on us. We are not bound to offer the sacrifices required of the Jews, nor are we bound to abstain from lighting a fire on that day. In
like manner the day of the week is not essential. The change from the seventh to the first was circumstantial. If made for sufficient reason and by competent authority, the change is obligatory. The reason for the Change is patent. If the deliverance of the Hebrew from the bondage in Egypt should be commemorated, how much more the redemption of the world by the Son of God. If the creation of the material universe should be kept in perpetual remembrance, how much more the new creation secured by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. If men wish the knowledge of that event to die out, let them neglect to keep holy the first day of the week; if they desire that event to be everywhere known and remembered, let them consecrate that day to the worship of the risen Saviour. This is God’s method for keeping the resurrection of Christ, on which our salvation depends, in perpetual remembrance.
This change of the Sabbath from the seventh to the first day of the week was made not only for a sufficient reason, but also by competent authority. It is a simple historical fact that the Christians of the apostolic age ceased to observe the seventh, and did observe the first day of the week as the day for religious worship. Thus from the creation, in unbroken succession, the people of God have, in obedience to the original command, devoted one day in seven to the worship of the only living and true God. It is hard to conceive of a stronger argument than this for the perpetual obligation of the Sabbath as a divine institution. It is not worth while to stop to answer the objection, that the record of this uninterrupted observance of the Sabbath is incomplete. History does not record everything. We find the fountain of this river of mercy in paradise; we trace its course from age to age; we see its broad and beneficent flow before our eyes. If here and there, in its course through millenniums, it be lost from view in a morass or cavern, its reappearance proves its identity and the divinity of its origin. The Sabbath is to the nations what the Nile is to Egypt, and you might as well call the one a human device as the other. Nothing but divine authority and divine power can account for the continued observance of this sacred institution from the beginning until now.
5. It is fair to argue the divine origin of the Sabbath from its supreme importance. As to the fact of its importance all Christians are agreed. They may differ as to the ground on which the obligation to observe it rests, and as to the strictness with which the day should be observed, but that men are bound to
observe it, and that its due observance is of essential importance, there is no difference of opinion among the churches of Christendom. But if so essential to the interests of religion, is it conceivable that God has not enjoined it? He has given the world the Church, the Bible, the ministry, the sacraments; these are not human devices. And can it be supposed that the Sabbath, without which all these divine institutions would be measurably inefficient, should be left to the will or wisdom of men? This is not to be supposed. That these divinely appointed means for the illumination and sanctification of men, are in a great measure without effect, where the Sabbath is neglected or profaned, is a matter of experience. It is undeniable that the mass of the people are indebted to the services of the sanctuary on the Lord’s Day, for their religious knowledge. Any community or class of men who ignore the Sabbath and absent themselves from the sanctuary, as a general thing, become heathen. They have little more true religious knowledge than pagans. But without such knowledge morality is impossible. Religion is not only the life-blood of morality, so that without the former the latter cannot be; but God has revealed his purpose that it shall not be. If men refuse to retain Him in their knowledge, He declares that He will give them up to a reprobate mind. (Rom. 1:28.) Men do not know what they are doing, when by their teaching or example they encourage the neglect or profanation of the Lord’s Day. We have in the French Communists an illustration and a warning of what a community without a Sabbath, i.e., without religion, must ultimately and inevitably become. Irreligious men of course sneer at religion and deny its importance, but the Bible and experience are against them.


The general objections against the doctrine that the law of the Sabbath is of universal and perpetual obligation, have already been incidentally considered. Those derived from the New Testament are principally the following:—
1. An objection is drawn from the absence of any express command. No such command was needed. The New Testament has no decalogue. That code having been once announced, and never repealed, remains in force. Its injunctions are not so much categorically repeated, as assumed as still obligatory. We find no such words as, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” or “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.” Paul says,
“I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” (Rom. 7:7.) The law which said “Thou shalt not covet,” is in the decalogue. Paul does not reënact the command, he simply takes for granted that the decalogue is now as ever the law of God.
2. It is urged not only that there is no positive command on the subject, but also that there is a total silence in the New Testament respecting any obligation to keep holy one day in seven. Our Lord in his Sermon on the Mount, it is said, while correcting the false interpretations of the Mosaic law given by the Pharisees, and expounding its precepts in their true sense, says nothing of the fourth commandment. The same is true of the council in Jerusalem. That council says nothing about the necessity of the heathen converts observing a Sabbath. But all this may be said of other precepts the obligation of which no man questions. Neither our Lord nor the council say anything about the worshipping of graven images. Besides, our Lord elsewhere does do, with regard to the fourth commandment, precisely what He did in the Sermon on the Mount with regard to other precepts of the decalogue. He reproved the Pharisees for their false interpretation of that commandment, without the slightest intimation that the law itself was not to remain in force.
3. Appeal is made to such passages as Colossians 2:16, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days;” and Romans 14:5, “One man esteemeth one day above another; another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” Every one knows, however, that the apostolic churches were greatly troubled by Judaizers, who insisted that the Mosaic law continued in force, and that Christians were bound to conform to its prescriptions with regard to the distinction between clean and unclean meats, and its numerous feast days, on which all labour was to be intermitted. These were the false teachers and this was the false doctrine against which so much of St. Paul’s epistles was directed. It is in obvious reference to these men and their doctrines that such passages as those cited above were written. They have no reference to the weekly Sabbath, which had been observed from the creation, and which the Apostles themselves introduced and perpetuated in the Christian Church.
4. It also frequently said that a weekly Sabbath is out of keeping with the spirit of the Gospel, which requires the consecration
of the whole life and of all our time to God. With the Christian, it is said, every day is holy, and one day is not more holy than another. It is not true, however, that the New Testament requires greater consecration to God than the Old. The Gospel has many advantages over the Mosaic dispensation, but that is not one of them. It was of old, even from the beginning, required of all men that they should love God with all the heart, with all the mind, and with all the strength; and their neighbour as themselves. More than this the Gospel demands of no man. If it consists with the spirituality of the Church that believers should not neglect the assembling themselves together; and that they should have a stated ministry, sacramental rites, and the power of excommunication, and all this by Divine appointment; then it is hard to see why the consecration of one day in seven to the service of God, should be inconsistent with its spiritual character. So long as we are in the body, religion cannot be exclusively a matter of the heart. It must have its institutions and ordinances; and any attempt to dispense with these would be as unreasonable and as futile as for the soul, in this our present state of existence, to attempt to do without the body.
5. Another ground is often taken on this subject. The importance of the Sabbath is not denied. The obligation to keep it holy is admitted. It is declared to be sinful to engage in worldly avocations or amusements on that day; but it is denied that this obligation to consecrate the day to God rests upon any divine command. It is denied that the original sanctification of the seventh day at the creation binds all men to keep one day in seven holy to the Lord. It is maintained that the fourth commandment, both as to its essence and as to its accidents is abrogated; and, therefore, that there is no express command of God now in force requiring us to keep holy the Sabbath. The obligation is either self-imposed, or it is imposed by the Church. The Church requires its members to observe the Lord’s Day, as it requires them to observe Christmas or Good Friday; and Christians, it is said, are bound to obey the Church, as citizens are bound to obey the state. But Protestants deny that the Church has power to make laws to bind the conscience. That is the prerogative of God. If the Church may do it in one case it may in another; and we should be made the servants of men. It is by this simple principle, that men are bound to obey the Church, that Rome has effectually despoiled all who acknowledge her authority of the liberty wherewith Christ has made his people free.

Most of the modern evangelical theologians in Germany say that the obligation to observe the Sabbath is self-imposed. That is, that every man, and especially every Christian, is bound to do all he can to promote the interests of religion and the good of society. The consecration of the Lord’s Day to the worship of God is eminently conducive to these ends; therefore men are bound to keep it holy. But an obligation self-imposed is limited to self. One man thinks it best to devote Sunday to religion; another that it should be kept as a day of relaxation and amusement. One man’s liberty cannot be judged by another man’s conscience. Expediency can never be the ground of a universal and permanent obligation. The history of the Church proves that no such views of duty are adequate to coerce the conscience and govern the lives of men. The Sabbath is not in fact consecrated to religion, where its divine authority is denied. The churches may be more or less frequented, but the day is principally devoted to amusement. A German theologian says that the doctrine that the religious observance of the Sabbath rests on an express divine command, “prevails throughout the whole English-speaking part of Christendom,” and that in the Evangelical Church in Germany, some either from a too legal view of Christianity, or from servile subjection to the letter of the Bible, or impressed by the solemn stillness of an English Sunday as contrasted with its profanation elsewhere, have ever been inclined to the same views. Although this writer, the representative of a large class, asserts his Christian liberty to observe one day above another, or all days alike, he admits that the religious observance of the Lord’s Day is not a matter of indifference; on the contrary, he says that “its profanation (Verleztung) is a sin.” To make a thing sinful, however, he says it is not necessary that it should be against an express divine command. A Christian’s conscience, “guided by the word, and enlightened by the Spirit of God,” is his rule of conduct. Conscience thus guided and enlightened, may enjoin or forbid much for which no explicit directions can be found in the Scriptures. No man denies all this; but a man’s conscience is a guide for himself, and not for other people. If we hold fast the fundamental principle of our Protestant faith and freedom, “that the Scriptures are the only infallible rule of faith and practice,” we must be able to plead express divine authority for the religious observance of the Lord’s Day, or allow every man so to keep it or not as he sees fit. To
his own master he stands or falls; to Him alone is he accountable for the use which he makes of his Christian liberty. But as no man is at liberty to steal or not to steal as he sees fit, so all “English speaking” Christians with one voice say, he is not at liberty to sanctify or profane the Sabbath, as he sees fit. He is bound by the primal and immutable law given at the creation, to keep one day in seven holy to the Lord.
If it be true that it is peculiar to the Anglo-Saxon race to hold this view of the obligation of the Christian Sabbath, then they have special reason for profound gratitude to God. God of old said to the Israelites, “Hallow my Sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the LORD your God.” That is, it shall be for a sign that you are my people. So long as you keep the Sabbath holy I will bless you; when you neglect and profane it, your blessings shall depart from you. (Jer. 17:20-27.) If it be then the distinction of Anglo-Saxon Christians, that they are a sabbath-keeping people, it is one to be highly prized and sedulously. guarded; and in this country especially, we should be watchful lest the influx of immigrants of other nationalities deprive us of this great distinction and its blessings.
It is a popular objection against the religious observance of the Lord’s Day, that the labouring classes need it as a day of recreation. On this it is obvious to remark, (1.) That there are many grievous evils in our modern civilization, but these are not to be healed by trampling on the laws of God. If men crowd labourers into narrow premises, and overwork them in heated factories six days in the week, they cannot atone for that sin by making the Lord’s Day a day for amusement. (2.) So far from Sunday, as generally spent by the labouring class, being a day of refreshment, it is just the reverse. Monday is commonly with them the worst day in the week for labour; it is needed as a day for recovery from the effects of a misspent Sunday. (3.) If the labouring classes are provided with healthful places of abode and are not overworked, then the best restorative is entire rest from ordinary occupations, and directing their thoughts and feelings into new channels, by the purifying and elevating offices of religion. This is the divinely appointed method of preserving the bodies and souls of men in a healthful state, a method which no human device is likely to improve.

How is the Sabbath to be Sanctified?
It may be said in general terms to be the opinion of the whole Jewish and Christian Church, that the sanctification required by God, consists not merely in cessation from worldly avocations, but also in the consecration of the day to the offices of religion. That this is the correct view is proved, (1.) Not only by the general consent of the people of God under both dispensations, but also by the constant use of the words to “hallow,” to “make” or, “keep holy,” and to “sanctify.” The uniform use of such expressions, shows that the day was set apart from a common to a sacred use. (2.) From the command to increase the number of sacrifices in the temple service, which proves that the day was to be religiously observed. (3.) From the design of the institution, which from the beginning was religious; the commemoration of the work of creation, and after the advent, of the resurrection of Christ. (4.) In Leviticus 23., a list is given of those days on which there was to be “a holy convocation” of the people; i.e., on which the people were to be called together for public worship, and the Sabbath is the first given. (5.) The command is constantly repeated that the people should be faithfully instructed out of the law, which was to be read to them on all suitable occasions. To give opportunity for such instruction was evidently one of the principal objects of these “holy convocations.” (Deut. 6:6, 7, 17-19; Josh. 1:8.) This instruction of the people was made the special duty of the Levites (Deut. 33:10); and of the priests. (Lev. 10:11, comp. Mal. 2:7.) The reading of the law was doubtless a regular part of the service on all the days on which the people were solemnly called together for religious worship. Thus in Deuteronomy 31:11, 12, we read, “When all Israel is come to appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Gather the people together, men, and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the LORD your God, and observe to do all the words of this law.” Such was the design of the convocation of the people. We know from the New Testament that the Scriptures were read every Sabbath in the synagogues; and the syn agogues were among the earliest institutions of the chosen people. 2Kings 4:23, at least proves that at that period it was customary for the people to resort on the Sabbath to holy men
for instruction. In Psalm 74:8, it is said of the heathen, “They have burned up all the synagogues of God in the land.” The word here rendered “synagogues,” means “assemblies,” but burning up “assemblies” can only mean places of assembly; as burning up churches, in our mode of expression, can only mean the edifices where churches or congregations are accustomed to assemble. What other places of assembling the Psalmist could refer to, if synagogues did not then exist, it is hard to understand. But admitting that synagogues were not common among the Jews until after the exile, which is a very improbable supposition, the fact that reading the Scriptures on the Sabbath was an established part of the synagogue service, goes far to prove that it was a sabbatical service long before the exile. (6.) The place of the fourth command in the decalogue; the stress laid upon it in the Old Testament; the way in which it is spoken of in the prophets; and the Psalms appointed to be used on that day, as for example the ninety-second, all show that the day was set apart for religious duties from the beginning. (7.) This may also be argued from the whole character of the old dispensation. All its institutions were religious; they were all intended to keep alive the knowledge of the true God, and to prepare the way for the coming of Christ. It would be entirely out of keeping with the spirit of the Mosaic economy to assume that its most important and solemn holy day was purely secular in its design.
It is admitted that the precepts of the decalogue bind the Church in all ages; while the specific details contained in the books of Moses, designed to point out the way in which the duty they enjoined was then to be performed, are no longer in force. The fifth commandment still binds children to obey their parents; but the Jewish law giving fathers the power of life and death ever their children, is no longer in force. The seventh commandment forbids adultery, but the ordeal enjoined for the trial of a woman suspected of that crime, is a thing of the past. The same principle applies to the interpretation of the fourth commandment. The command itself is still in force; the Mosaic
laws respecting the mode of its observance have passed away with the economy to which they belonged. It is unjust therefore to represent the advocates of the continued obligation of the fourth commandment, as Judaizers. They are no more Judaizers than those who hold that the other precepts of the decalogue are still in force.
There are two rules by which we are to be guided in determining how the Sabbath is to be observed, or in deciding what is, and what is not lawful on that holy day. The first is, the design of the commandment. What is consistent with that design is lawful; what is inconsistent with it, is unlawful. The second rule is to be found in the precepts and example of our Lord and of his Apostles. The design of the command is to be learned from the words in which it is conveyed and from other parts of the word of God. From these sources it is plain that the design of the institution, as already remarked, was in the main twofold. First, to secure rest from all worldly cares and avocations; to arrest for a time the current of the worldly life of men, not only lest their minds and bodies should be overworked, but also that opportunity should be afforded for other and higher interests to occupy their thoughts. And secondly, that God should be properly worshipped, his word duly studied and taught, and the soul brought under the influence of the things unseen and eternal. Any man who makes the design of the Sabbath as thus revealed in Scripture his rule of conduct on that day, can hardly fail in its due observance. The day is to be kept holy unto the Lord. In Scriptural usage to hallow or make holy is to set apart to the service of God. Thus the tabernacle, the temple, and all its utensils were made holy. In this sense the Sabbath is holy. It is to be devoted to the duties of religion, and what is inconsistent with such devotion, is contrary to the design of the institution.
It is however to be remembered that the specific object of the Christian Sabbath is the commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. All the exercises of the day, therefore, should have a special reference to Him and to his redeeming work. It is the day in which He is to be worshipped, thanked, and praised; in which men are to be called upon to accept his offers of grace, and to rejoice in the hope of his salvation. It is therefore a day of joy. It is utterly incongruous to make it a day of gloom or fasting. In the early Church men were forbidden to pray on their knees on that day. They were to stand erect, exulting in the accomplishment of the work of God’s redeeming love.

The second rule for our guidance is to be found in the precepts and example of our Lord. In the first place, He lays down the principle, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” It is to be remarked that Christ says, “the Sabbath was made for man,” not for the Jews, not for the people of any one age or nation, but for man; for man as man, and therefore for all men. Moral duties, however, often conflict, and then the lower must yield to the higher. The life, the health, and the well-being of a man are higher ends in a given case, than the punctilious observance of any external service. This is the rule laid down by the prophet (Hosea 6:6): “I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offering.” This passage our Lord quotes twice in application to the law of the Sabbath, and thus establishes the general principle for our guidance, that it is right to do on the Sabbath whatever mercy or a due regard to the Comfort or welfare of ourselves or others requires to be done. Christ, therefore, says expressly, “It is lawful to do well ({gk, }, that is, as the context shows, to confer benefits) on the Sabbath days.” (Matt. 12:12. See also Mark 3:4.)
Again, we are told by the same authority, that “the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are blameless.” (Matt. 12:5.) The services of the temple were complicated and laborious, and yet were lawful on the Sabbath. On another occasion He said to his accusers, “If a man on the Sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whir whole on the Sabbath day? Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” (John 7:23, 24.) From this we learn that whatever is necessary for the due celebration of religious worship, or for attendance thereon, is lawful on the Sabbath.
Again in Luke 14:1-14, we read, “And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees, to eat bread on the Sabbath day, that they watched him. And, behold, there was a certain man before him, which had the dropsy. And Jesus answering, spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath day? And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go. ….. And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them,” etc., etc. This was evidently a large entertainment to which guests were “bidden.” Christ, therefore, thought right, in the
prosecution of his work, to attend on such entertainments on the Sabbath.
The frequency with which our Lord was accused of Sabbath-breaking by the Pharisees, proves that his mode of observing that day was very different from theirs, and the way in which He vindicated himself proves that He regarded the Sabbath as a divine institution of perpetual obligation. It had been easy for Him to say that the law of the Sabbath was no longer in force; that He, as Lord of the Sabbath, erased it from the decalogue. It may indeed be said that as the whole of the Mosaic law was in force until the resurrection of Christ, or until the day of Pentecost, the observance of the Sabbath was as a matter of course then obligatory, and therefore that Christ so regarded it. In answer to this, however, it is obvious to remark, that Christ did not hesitate to abrogate those of the laws of Moses which were in conflict with the spirit of the Gospel. This He did with the laws relating to polygamy and divorce. Under the old dispensation it was lawful for a man to have more than one wife; and also to put away a wife by giving her a bill of divorcement. Both of these things Christ declared should not be allowed under the Gospel. The fact that He dealt with the Sabbath just as He did with the fifth, sixth, and seventh precepts of the decalogue, which the Pharisees had misinterpreted, shows that He regarded the fourth commandment as belonging to the same category as the others. His example affords us a safe guide as to the way in which the day is to be observed.

The Sunday Laws.
It is very common, especially for foreign-born citizens, to object to all laws made by the civil governments in this country to prevent the public violation of the Lord’s Day. It is urged that as there is in the United States an entire separation of the Church and State, it is contrary to the genius of our institutions, that the observance of any religious institution should be enforced by civil laws. It is further objected that as all citizens have equal rights irrespective of their religious opinions, it is an infringement of those rights if one class of the people are required to conform their conduct to the religious opinions of another class. Why should Jews, Mohammedans, or infidels be required to respect the Christian Sabbath? Why should any man, who has no faith in the Sabbath as a divine institution, be prevented from doing on that day whatever is lawful on other days? If the State
may require the people to respect Sunday as a day of rest, why may it not require the people to obey any, or all other precepts of the Bible?

State of the Question.
It is conceded, (1.) That in every free country every man has equal rights with his fellow-citizens, and stands on the same ground in the eye of the law. (2.) That in the United States no form of religion can be established; that no religious test for the exercise of the elective franchise or for holding of office can be imposed; and that no preference can be given to the members of one religious denomination above those of another. (3.) That no man can be forced to contribute to the support of any church, or of any religious institution. (4.) That every man is at liberty to regulate his conduct and life according to his convictions or conscience, provided he does not violate the law of the land.
On the other hand it is no less true,—
1. That a nation is not a mere conglomeration of individuals. It is an organized body. It has of necessity its national life, its national organs, national principles of action, national character, and national responsibility.
2. In every free country the government must, in its organization and mode of action, be an expression of the mind and will of the people.
3. As men are rational creatures, the government cannot banish all sense and reason from their action, because there may be idiots among the people.
4. As men are moral beings, it is impossible that the government should act as though there were no distinction between right and wrong. It cannot legalize theft and murder. No matter how much it might enrich itself by rapine or by the extermination of other nations, it would deserve and receive universal condemnation and execration, should it thus set at nought the bonds of moral obligation. This necessity of obedience to the moral law on the part of civil governments, does not arise from the fact that they are instituted for the protection of the lives, rights, and property of the people. Why have our own and other Christian nations pronounced the slave-trade piracy and punishable with death? Not because it interferes with the rights or liberty of their citizens but because it is wicked. Cruelty to animals is visited with civil penalties, not on the principle of profit and loss, but because it is a violation of the moral law. As it is
impossible for the individual man to disregard all moral obligations, it is no less impossible on the part of civil governments.
5. Men moreover are religious beings. They can no more ignore that element of their nature than their reason or their conscience. It is no matter what they may say, or may pretend to think, the law which binds them to allegiance to God, is just as inexorable as the law of gravitation. They can no more emancipate themselves from the one than they can from the other. Morality concerns their duty to their fellow-men; religion concerns their duty to God. The latter binds the conscience as much as the former. It attends the man everywhere. It must influence his conduct as an individual, as the head of a family, as a man of business, as a legislator, and as an executive officer. It is absurd to say that civil governments have nothing to do with religion. That is not true even of a fire company, or of a manufactory, or of a banking-house. The religion embraced by the individuals composing these associations must influence their corporate action, as well as their individual conduct. If a man may not blaspheme, a publishing firm may not print and disseminate a blasphemous book. A civil government cannot ignore religion any more than physiology. It was not constituted to teach either the one or the other, but it must, by a like necessity, conform its action to the laws of both. Indeed it would be far safer for a government to pass an act violating the laws of health, than one violating the religious convictions of its citizens. The one would be unwise, the other would be tyrannical. Men put up with folly, with more patience than they do with injustice. It is vain for the potsherds of the earth to contend with their Maker. They must submit to the laws of their nature not only as sentient, but also as moral and religious beings. And it is time that blatant atheists, whether communists, scientists, or philosophers, should know that they are as much and as justly the objects of pity and contempt, as of indignation to all right-minded men. By right-minded men, is meant men who think, feel, and act according to the laws of their nature. Those laws are ordained, administered, and enforced by God, and there is no escape from their obligation, or from the penalties attached to their violation.
6. The people of this country being rational, moral, and religious beings, the government must be administered on the principles of reason, morality, and religion. By a like necessity of fight, the people being Christians and Protestants, the government
must be administered according to the principles of Protestant Christianity. By this is not meant that the government should teach Christianity, or make the profession of it a condition of citizenship, or a test for office. Nor does it mean that the government is called upon to punish every violation of Christian principle or precept. It is not called upon to punish every violation of the moral law. But as it cannot violate the moral law in its own action, or require the people to violate it, so neither can it ignore Christianity in its official action. It cannot require the people or any of its own officers to do what Christianity forbids, nor forbid their doing anything which Christianity enjoins. It has no more right to forbid that the Bible should be taught in the public schools, than it has to enjoin that the Koran should be taught in them. If Christianity requires that one day in seven should be a day of rest from all worldly avocations, the government of a Christian people cannot require any class of the community or its own officers to labour on that day, except in cases of necessity or mercy. Should it, on the ground that it had nothing to do with religion, disregard that day, and direct that the custom-houses, the courts of law, and the legislative halls should be open on the Lord’s Day, and public business be transacted as on other days, it would be an act of tyranny, which would justify rebellion. It would be tantamount to enacting that no Christian should hold any office under the government, or have any share in making or administering the laws of the country. The nation would be in complete subjection to a handful of imported atheists and infidels.

Proof that this is a Christian and Protestant Nation.
The proposition that the United States of America are a Christian and Protestant nation, is not so much the assertion of a principle as the statement of a fact. That fact is not simply that the great majority of the people are Christians and Protestants, but that the organic life, the institutions, laws, and official action of the government, whether that action be legislative, judicial, or executive, is, and of right should be, and in fact must be, in accordance with the principles of Protestant Christianity.
1. This is a Christian and Protestant nation in the sense stated in virtue of a universal and necessary law. If you plant an acorn, you get an oak. If you plant a cedar, you get a cedar. If a country be settled by Pagans or Mohammedans, it develops into a Pagan or Mohammedan community. By the same law, if a
country be taken possession of and settled by Protestant Christians, the nation which they come to constitute must be Protestat and Christian. This country was settled by Protestants. For the first hundred years of our history they constituted almost the only element of our population. As a matter of coarse they were governed by their religion as individuals, in their families, and in all their associations for business, and for municipal, state, and national government. This was just as much a matter of necessity as that they should act morally in all these different relations.
2. It is a historical fact that Protestant Christianity is the law of the land, and has been from the beginning. As the great majority of the early settlers of the country were from Great Britain, they declared that the common law of England should be the law here. But Christianity is the basis of the common law of England, and is therefore of the law of this country; and so oar courts have repeatedly decided. It is so not merely because of such decisions. Courts cannot reverse facts. Protestant Christianity has been, is, and must be the law of the land, Whatever Protestant Christianity forbids, the law of the land (within its sphere, i.e., within the sphere in which civil authority may appropriately act) forbids. Christianity forbids polygamy and arbitrary divorce, so does the civil law. Romanism forbids divorce even on the ground of adultery; Protestantism admits it on that ground. The laws of all the states conform in this matter to the Protestant rule. Christianity forbids all unnecessary labour, or the transaction of worldly business, on the Lord’s Day; that day accordingly is a dies non, throughout the land. No contract is binding, made on that day. No debt can be collected on the Christian Sabbath. If a man hires himself for any service by the month or year, he cannot be required to labour on that day. All public offices are closed, and all official business is suspended. From Maine to Georgia, from ocean to ocean, one day in the week, by the law of God and by the law of the land, the people rest.

This controlling Influence of Christianity is Reasonable and Right.
It is in accordance with analogy. If a man goes to China, he expects to find the government administered according to the religion of the country. If he goes to Turkey, he expects to find the Koran supreme and regulating all public action. If he goes to a Protestant country, he has no right to complain, should he find the Bible in the ascendancy and exerting its benign influence not only on the people, but also on the government.

The principle that the religion of a people rightfully controls the action of the government, has of coarse its limitation. If the religion itself be evil and require what is morally wrong, then as men cannot have the right to act wickedly, it is plain that it would be wrong for the government to conform to its requirements. If a religion should enjoin infanticide, or the murder of the aged or infirm, neither the people nor the government should conform their conduct to its laws. But where the religion of a people requires nothing unjust or cruel or in any way immoral, then those who come to live where it prevails are bound to submit quietly to its controlling the laws and institutions of the country.
The principle contended for is recognized in all other departments of life. If a number of Christian men associate themselves as a manufacturing or banking company, it would be competent for them to admit unbelievers in Christianity into their association, and to allow them their full share in its management and control. But it would be utterly unreasonable for such unbelievers to set up a cry of religious persecution, or of infringement of their fights and liberty, because all the business of the company was suspended upon the Lord’s Day. These new members knew the character and principles of those with whom they sought to be associated. They knew that Christians would assert their right to act as Christians. To require them to renounce their religion would be simply preposterous.
When Protestant Christians came to this country they possessed and subdued the land. They worshipped God, and his Son Jesus Christ as the Saviour of the world, and acknowledged the Scriptares to be the rule of their faith and practice. They introduced their religion into their families, their schools, and their colleges. They abstained from all ordinary business on the Lord’s Day, and devoted it to religion. They built churches, erected school-houses, and taught their children to read the Bible and to receive and obey it as the word of God. They formed themselves as Christians into municipal and state organizations. They acknowledged God in their legislative assemblies. They prescribed oaths to be taken in his name. They closed their courts, their places of business, their legislatures, and all places under the public control, on the Lord’s Day. They declared Christianity to be part of the common law of the land. In the process of time thousands have come among us, who are neither Protestants nor Christians. Some are papists, some Jews, some infidels, and some atheists. All are welcomed; all are admitted to equal fights and privileges. All are
allowed to acquire property, and to vote in every election, made eligible to all offices, and invested with equal influence in all public affairs. All are allowed to worship as they please, or not to worship at all, if they see fit. No man is molested for his religion or for his want of religion. No man is required to profess any form of faith, or to join any religious association. More than this cannot reasonably be demanded. More, however, is demanded. The infidel demands that the government should be conducted on the principle that Christianity is false. The atheist demands that it should be conducted on the assumption that there is no God, and the positivist on the principle that men are not free agents. The sufficient answer to all this is, that it cannot possibly be done.

The Demands of Infidels are Unjust.
The demands of those who require that religion, and especially Christianity, should be ignored in our national, state, and municipal laws, are not only unreasonable, but they are in the highest degree unjust and tyrannical. It is a condition of service in connection with any railroad which is operated on Sundays, that the employee be not a Christian. If Christianity is not to control the action of our municipal, state, and general governments, then if elections be ordered to be held on the Lord’s Day, Christians cannot vote. If all the business of the country is to go on, on that as on other days, no Christian can hold office. We should thus have not a religious, but an anti-religious test-act. Such is the free-thinker’s idea of liberty. But still further, if Christianity is not to control the laws of the country, then as monogamy is a purely Christian institution, we can have no laws against polygamy, arbitrary divorce, or “free love.” All this must be yielded to the anti-Christian party; and consistency will demand that we yield to the atheists, the oath and the decalogue; and all the rights of citizenship must be confined to blasphemers. Since the fall of Lucifer, no such tyrant has been made known to men as August Comte, the atheist. If, therefore, any man wishes to antedate perdition, he has nothing to do but to become a free-thinker and join in the shout, “Civil government has nothing to do with religion; and religion has nothing do do with civil government.”

We are bound, therefore, to insist upon the maintenance and faithful execution of the laws enacted for the protection of the Christian Sabbath. Christianity does not teach that men can be made religious by law; nor does it demand that men should be required by the civil authority to profess any particular form of religious doctrine, or to attend upon religious services; but it does enjoin that men should abstain from all unnecessary worldly avocations on the Lord’s Day. This civil Sabbath, this cessation from worldly business, is what the civil government in Christian countries is called upon to enforce. (1.) Because it is the right of Christians to be allowed to rest on that day, which they cannot do, without forfeiting their citizenship, unless all public business be arrested on that day. (2.) Because such rest is the command of God; and this command binds the conscience as much as any other command in the decalogue. So far as the point in hand is concerned, it matters not whether such be the command of God or not; so long as the people believe it, it binds their conscience; and this conscientious belief the government is bound to respect, and must act accordingly. (3.) Because the civil Sabbath is necessary for the preservation of our free institutions, and of the good order of society. The indispensable condition of social order is either despotic power in the magistrate, or good morals among the people. Morality without religion is impossible; religion cannot exist without knowledge; knowledge cannot be disseminated among the people, unless there be a class of teachers, and time allotted for their instruction. Christ has made all his ministers, teachers; He has commanded them to teach all nations; He has appointed one day in seven to be set apart for such instruction. It is a historical fact that since the introduction of Christianity, nine tenths of the people have derived the greater part of their religious knowledge from the services of the sanctuary. If the Sabbath, therefore, be abolished, the fountain of life for the people will be sealed.
Hengstenberg, after referring to the authority of the Church and other grounds, for the observance of the Lord’s Day, closes
his discussion of the subject with these words: “Thank God these are only the outworks; the real fortress is the command that sounded out from Sinai, with the other divine commands therewith connected, as preparatory, confirmatory, or explanatory. The institution was far too important, and the temptations too powerful, that the solid ground of Scriptural command could be dispensed with

It is as plain as day that the obligation of the Old Testament command instead of being lessened is increased. This follows of course from the fact that the redemption through Christ is infinitely more glorious than the deliverance of the Israelites out of Egypt, which in the preface to the Ten Commandments is referred to as a special motive obedience. No ingratitude is blacker than refusing to obey Him who for our sakes gave up his only begotten Son.” He had said before that the Sabbath “rests on the unalterable necessities of our nature, inasmuch as men inevitably become godless if the cares and labours of their earthly life be not regularly interrupted.”

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