by Daniel Cawdrey and Herbert Palmer
Interaction with the Text
For completion of Old Testament Theology (BS411),
Master of Divinity Program
The North American Reformed Seminary
November 23rd in the Year of Our Lord 2012
Sabbatum Redivivum1 is an in depth treatment of the Fourth Commandment by two Westminster Divines, Daniel Cawdrey and Herbert Palmer. This work is divided into three books, covering topics as broad-ranging as the morality of the Sabbath, whether we can refer to the Lord’s Day as the Christian Sabbath, the regulations made concerning the Lord’s Day by ecclesiastical councils and imperial edicts, what sort of recreations are lawful on the Sabbath and more. Due to the overwhelming number of quotations mined from this excellent treatment of the Christian Sabbath, I will concentrate my efforts on the top eight types of quotations (by percentage of the total quotations gathered). These will include the morality of the Sabbath (24.4%), Patristic treatment of this topic (11.1%), the Lord’s Day (7.2%), the sanctity of the Sabbath (7.2%), recreations (5%), imperial edicts, frequency of the Sabbath, and number versus order in the Fourth Commandment (each 4.4%).
First, Sabbatum spends a great deal of energy treating the topic of the morality of the Sabbath, or whether the Sabbath is a commandment that binds all men everywhere, at all times, in every spiritual condition. This question is handled from various angles, including the festival days of the Gentiles, the placement of the Sabbath in the Decalogue, the institution of a day of rest prior to Adam’s fall, etc. Concerning its placement among the Decalogue Sabbatum says:
It is a commandment of the Decalogue, partaking of all the privileges with the rest; viz. 1. the admirable majestical delivery; 2. the writing it with his own finger, in Tables of stone; 3. the reserving and keeping it in the Ark (of all which we spake at large in the first part of our discourse) ‘to signify’ (as one of them says) ‘the dignity of it above others, and to note the perpetuity of observance which was due unto it,’ as well as to the rest.2
Thus, by God’s special method of delivering and keeping this precept among the other nine, God wished to distinguish it from other merely ceremonial or positive laws given to Israel.
Concerning the festivals of the heathens, as recorded by Macrobius and Scaevola,3Sabbatum demonstrates that those unenlightened by Scripture yet knew that regularly recurring days were to be totally devoted to divine worship.4 In rebuking the lax, Sabbatum sums up:
Mark it, not only a time, but a day, a whole day was consecrated and observed in honor of their gods. Therefore for Christians to give less than a day, three or four hours, is to fall short of heathens.5
Men professing a better God should definitely devote as much zeal to the worship of the True God as heathens devoted to their false.
Concerning a day of rest instituted from the beginning, Sabbatum says:
It is moral natural that God must have a Sabbath of his own appointment, even from the beginning to the end of the world. Therefore, it’s more than probable that if God would make his own rest the reason or occasion of sanctifying a day, and in the Decalogue propound that rest as an example for man’s imitation, he did it then, when he first rested; but that was at the beginning.6
Thus, not only does the Decalogue contain the Sabbath, and the heathen observe days dedicated to their gods, but God instituted such set days of rest from the beginning.
Sabbatum also mentions this same Decalogue and Fourth Commandment as given to all mankind in our first father, Adam:
That Law which was given to Adam, as the root of all mankind, was given to all, and equally concerned all, both Jews and Gentiles; But the Decalogue, and in it the Fourth Commandment, was given to Adam; Ergo.7
This argument strongly argues the applicability of the Fourth Commandment to all men everywhere at all times.
Additionally, in order to establish the perpetuity of the Sabbath in the age of the Gospel, and its authority over Christians, Sabbatum demonstrates the harmony of the Decalogue with the Gospel, and the specific prophesy Christ made concerning a Christian Sabbath. Concerning the harmony of the Sabbath and the Gospel:
It is not only not repealed, but ratified in the Gospel; and that many ways. 1. In general, together with the Decalogue by our Savior, ‘Whosoever shall break one of the least of these Commandments, and teach men so, shall be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven,’ et contra (Mt. 5). But the Fourth Commandment is (to some at least) the least of those Commandments; so little that it is esteemed a merely ceremonial Commandment, and so no longer in force.8
Concerning the prophesy Christ made concerning a Christian Sabbath, Sabbatum cites Matthew 24:20:
Another argument is grounded upon Matthew 24:20, ‘Pray that your flight be not in the winter, nor on the Sabbath day,’ which text, if thoroughly searched, and rightly understood, will afford a strong argument for the morality of the Fourth Commandment for a weekly Sabbath. Thus we would proceed. If the Fourth Commandment had not been moral, but ceremonial, there can no sufficient reason be given why our Savior should teach and advise his Disciples to pray that their flight might not be on the Sabbath day. But it is blasphemous to say, that our Savior would teach or advise them to pray without a sufficient reason.9
On a more general basis, Sabbatum demonstrates that when one examines merely natural reason, it would stand to reason that God could require all seven days a week for His worship, rather than merely one. Or at the very least, over half of the days of the week:
We conclude then, If it be more just to employ more, yea all our days in God’s service, then certainly less than one in seven cannot be sufficient, by the law and light of nature; and consequently this is moral natural, in the fourth Commandment, initially that one day in seven at least must be observed.10
Thus, even without Scripture, natural reason would teach us that at least one day in seven (demanded by a positive revelation from God) is binding on all men everywhere, in all places, at all times. Thus by many and varied reasons, the Fourth Commandment is demonstrated as a rule binding all men, everywhere, in all times and spiritual conditions.
A particularly delightful topic in Sabbatum was that treating the church Fathers’ explanation of the Lord’s Day, or Christian Sabbath. Sabbatum cites Fathers as varied as Athanasius, Chrysostom, Ignatius, Eusebius, Augustine, Isidore of Seville, Clement of Rome, Jerome, Gregory the Great, Ephrem of Syria, the Venerable Bede, and even Gregory of Nyssa. Citations cover topics as broad as the morality of the Fourth Commandment, the expiration of the Jewish Sabbath and the translation to the Lord’s Day, the manner of observing the Fourth Commandment, and more.
Of particular interest is the work of Athanasius, including a powerful work entitled On Sabbath and Circumcision. Athanasius grapples with covenant theology, and the continuity between the Old and New Testaments with respect to the Fourth Commandment. Concerning the morality of the Fourth Commandment, Athanasius says:
‘The Lord transferred the Sabbath to the Lord’s day.’11
Thus the honor and laws of the Sabbath are transferred by the Lord Himself from the Jewish Sabbath to the Lord’s Day.
In On Sabbath and Circumcision, Athanasius discusses how the Sabbath is not for idleness, but for the knowledge of God:
‘God did not primarily give the Sabbath that man should idly rest upon it; for if he had so intended it, he would never have commanded the Levites to kill and offer sacrifices. For if rest or idleness do sanctify it, manifests that work defiles.’ And again, ‘The Sabbath doth not signify rest, but the knowledge of the Creator; Therefore the Sabbath was given for knowledge sake, not for idleness, so that knowledge was more necessary than rest.’12
Ephrem the Syrian admonished his hearers similarly:
‘Strive to honor the Lord’s Days studiously, celebrating them, not with vain shows, but divinely; not worldly, but spiritually; not like heathens, but like Christians.’13
Thus, according to these Fathers, the Sabbath of the Jews was transferred to our Christian Sabbath, which is to be observed with the same sacred solemnity of rest and holiness. In particular, the Lord’s Day is not a day for idleness or worldly pleasures, but one for learning about our Savior, and meditating on His Word.
‘God from the beginning insinuates to us this instruction, To set apart and separate m…an ¹mšran ¤pasan one whole day in the circle of the week is to be separated and set apart for spiritual exercises’ Then again in his fifth Homily upon Saint Matthew, to the same purpose, ‘Let us prescribe this as an immovable law to ourselves, to our wives, and children, to set aside one day of the week, and that wholly, to hearing and laying up of things heard.’14
For the Fathers, then, the Lord’s Day was the counterpart of the Jewish Sabbath, a day of rest and holiness. A day, not for worldly works, idleness or seeking our own pleasures, but a day for the “knowledge of the Creator,” to be spent “studiously,” in “spiritual exercises,” “hearing and laying up of things heard” by an immovable law for us and our households.
A sticking point for many ignorant Presbyterians is the so-called “recreation clause” of the Westminster Confession of Faith, often taken as an exception to this Confession. However, for the church Fathers, this clause was perfectly in accord with Scripture and plain reason. In addition to the mild hints above, Augustine goes so far as to refer to hunting on the Lord’s Day as “devilish.” Augustine likewise says:
‘This day is called the Lord’s Day, that in it, abstaining from earthly works, and worldly pleasures, we should only give ourselves to the service of God. Let us therefore, brethren, observe the Lord’s Day, and sanctify it, as it was commanded them of old concerning the Sabbath by the word of the Lawgiver, ‘From evening to evening ye shall celebrate your Sabbath.’ Let us see that our resting be not vain, but that from the evening of the Sabbath, to the evening of the Lord’s Day, we being sequestered from rural work, and all kinds of business, may be wholly taken up in the service of God. For so we rightly sanctify the Lord’s Sabbath, as the Lord has said, ‘In it thou shalt do no manner of work.’15
Clement of Rome admonishes Christians to abstain from “vain words and filthiness, pleasant jests, drunkenness, wantonness, broken and effeminate motions, intemperate dancings, with scurrilous discourses.”16
Ignatius exhorts us to abstain from “the Jewish Sabbath in sloth and idleness,” and likewise to:
‘keep the Sabbath spiritually, not in bodily ease, but in the study of the law; not eating meat dressed yesterday or drinking luke-warm drinks, or walking out a limited space, nor in dancing and senseless sporting, but in the admiration of the works of God’17
To borrow a thought from Sabbatum, “we cannot think what can be added more to the solemn and honorable observation of the Lord’s Day by the veriest Puritan that is (if he be not turned Jew).”18
Another major emphasis of the Fathers is on the resurrection of Christ as the occasion for the institution of the Lord’s Day, or Christian Sabbath. That it is a Christian Sabbath, Gregory of Nyssa makes abundantly clear:
‘From that Sabbath acknowledge thou this present Sabbath (the Lord’s Day) this day of rest, which God hath blessed above other days. For in this the only begotten Son of God did truly rest from all his works.’19
The Fathers, as orthodox Christians, acknowledged the authority of the Ten Commandments over their lives, including the Fourth.
The occasion of the change in days being the resurrection of Christ, the Lord’s Day is inherently superior to the old Sabbath:
‘The Apostle therefore ordained the Lord’s Day to be kept with religious solemnity, because in it our Redeemer rose from the dead, which was therefore called the Lord’s Day, that resting in the same from all earthly acts, and the temptations of the world, we might intend God’s holy worship, giving this day due honor, for the hope of the resurrection we have therein.’20
The Lord’s Day is a day of rest and holiness, dedicated to the Lord, and dedicated by the Lord’s sacred rest from His work of redemption for us.
Ignatius propounded this thought hundreds of years before:
‘And setting aside the Sabbath, let every one that loveth Christ, keep the Lord’s Day holy, the Queen and Empress of all days, the Resurrection Day, in which our life was raised again, and death was overcome by our Lord and Savior.’21
Chrysostom confirms this opinion, stating that ‘On this day death was destroyed, the curse was dissolved, sin vanished, the gates of hell were broken in pieces.’22
Chrysostom likewise demonstrates the morality of the Sabbath, as one whole day in seven, whereas God could have taken the majority of the seven for Himself:
‘The week contains seven days, these seven days God has divided to us. And he did not give himself the greatest part, and us the least; or rather, he did not take half, and give half. He took not three, and gave three, but he has given you six, and left but one for himself. And you cannot forbear your worldly business ™n taÚtV tÍÓlV, this whole day, but as they do, who steal holy goods (sacrilegious persons) that you dare do with this day, being holy, and separated fro the hearing of spiritual words, viz. violently take it, and use it to worldly cares.’23
Note how reasonable the demand for one day in seven is portrayed, and how, once given, that day is separate, special, and dedicated to God; no portion of which is to be stolen away with sacrilegious boldness. Again, what more could “the veriest Puritan” ask for?
In summary, Sabbatum’s delightful treatment of the Patristic authors demonstrates the Fathers’ firm dedication to God’s moral Law in the light of the Gospel of Christ. The Fathers considered the Jewish Sabbath to be abrogated, but its observance and honor transferred to the Lord’s Day. They considered the glorious resurrection of our Savior, Christ to be the occasion of our resting (as he rested). They recognized that any day devoted to God must be completely so dedicated, without reservation for our own pleasures or works. In this, as in much else, the Puritans and Covenanters were merely the heirs of the best of the church Fathers.
The next topic I will discuss is Sabbatum’s discourse on the Lord’s Day. In proof of the first day of the week as the Lord’s Day, the morality of the Fourth Commandment is joined with the abrogation of the Jewish Sabbath, and specific passages from the New Testament are considered. The superiority of the Lord’s Day over the Jewish Sabbath is also considered.
First, then, we will consider Sabbatum’s proof of the first day of the week as the Christian man’s holy day. Having demonstrated the morality of the Fourth Commandment in the preceding pages, Sabbatum then takes up the thesis that the first day of the week is the specific, divinely sanctioned day to celebrate this commandment under the New Covenant:
When we say, we rest the first day of the week because of our Savior’s resurrection, we bring that as a reason, not of the number of the day, but the order–so that still we rest one in seven, because of God’s Commandment and example and the first of seven because of Christ’s resurrection.24
The cause of one day in seven is the Fourth Commandment, and the occasion of the particular day is the resurrection of Christ.
Joined with the mighty resurrection of Christ is the abrogation of Sabbaths of the Jews (Col. 2:16). The uniquely appointed day for the old world had expired, but the Fourth Commandment could not, so another day must assume its prerogatives:
To conclude this point we say: upon the repeal, as some, or the expiration of the old Sabbath, as others, immediately the first day of the week succeeds to be the Sabbath as heir apparent thereof. Or if neither repeal nor expiration could be proved, yet upon the substitution or surrogation of a new day, the first day of the week, by sufficient authority the old Sabbath must necessarily be discharged by virtue of the Fourth Commandment, which requires one, and only one of seven. Upon expiration of the old, the new (like another phoenix) arises and succeeds it. Upon substitution of the new day, the old vanishes.25
Sabbatum also deals with specific texts regarding the Lord’s Day, or the substitution of the first day of the week for the last. Sabbatum discusses the Day of Pentecost shortly after the resurrection of Christ, on which the Holy Ghost came down, Peter preached his first sermon, and 3,000 were baptized. It is then poignantly added:
that upon this day, all the disciples were assembled again together in one place, distinctly from the Jews (viz. the 120 person spoken of in 1:15). And that ÐmoqumadÕn, with one mind. Now why should they assemble themselves together in this manner, and not keep their Pentecost in the Temple with the other Jews?26
What is clear is that the Apostles and early disciples were not clearly separated from the Jews in their festivals, etc. until decades later, but in this instance, they were not joined in the celebration of the Feast of Pentecost on the temple, but were separately observing the Lord’s Day.
After citing the Apostle’s ordination of collections on the first day of the week in Galatia and Corinth (1 Cor. 16:2), Sabbatum observes:
first, Here is a mention of an ordinance (dištaxa) not a bare example or practice. 2. That the collection was to be made upon (or against) the first day of the week, that is (as Beza renders it) ‘Every first day’ of the week, which implies the continuance of that duty. Whence thus we argue: If the Apostle ordained collections to be made upon or against every first day of the week, then he had before ordained the day itself. For it is not probable they would begin such a custom of themselves, the Apostles yet living.27
Thus, not only were the disciples gathered together separately from the divinely ordered Feast of Pentecost, but the Apostles ordained ecclesiastical practices on the first day of the week, necessitating a previous ordinance of the Lord’s Day.
Also of interest is the notion that the old Sabbath was not instituted until Moses (since no practice is mentioned until then), and that the Lord’s Day was not instituted by Christ (since no institution is mentioned in the New Testament). Sabbatum, claiming that those who argue such “deal injuriously with God,” concludes that, “institution in the Old Testament argues the practice. And practice in the New argues the institution.”28
Thus, the moral law, binding all men everywhere, at all times, requires one day in seven for a day of rest and holiness unto the LORD. In the old world, God appointed the last of seven, rooted in God’s work of creation; in new world, God appointed the first of seven, rooted in Christ’s work of redemption. The old Sabbath’s institution is clearly seen from creation, and the new Sabbath’s practice is clearly seen throughout the New Testament.
Concerning the superiority of the Lord’s Day over the Jewish Sabbath, Sabbatum discusses how both are regulated by the Fourth Commandment, for a holy and solemn celebration of one day for seven. Yet:
Our motives are far greater, and more efficacious: Our day has many privileges above theirs, as those honorable titles given to it by the Fathers intimate, of which we heard before; Theirs was celebrated for the memory of the Creation, ours for the great work of Redemption. Theirs for their deliverance out of Egypt; ours from hell.29
With motives far greater and more efficacious, how much more devout and solemn must our observance of the Lord’s Day be? Not with superstition, but with godly fear. Thus, we must not give the Lord an hour or two of that sacred day of rest, but must give the entirety of the day to His worship, public, private and family, except so much as is taken up with works of necessity and mercy. As Sabbatum says it so eloquently, “If but a part, then it is not a day, but part of a day, and we must not call it the Lord’s Day, but the Lord’s part of a Day, or half-holy-day.”30
Not only does Sabbatum deal with the morality of the Sabbath, the Patristic writings on the topic, and the Lord’s Day, but also covers the sanctity of the Sabbath, or the inherent holiness of the Sabbath, and how it is to be sanctified in practice. Sabbatum cites Wolfgang Musculus regarding this sanctity:
‘There is,’ as Musculus observes, ‘a twofold sanctification of the Sabbath: For both God sanctified it, and Israel sanctified it. God sanctified it when presently from the beginning he deputed and consecrated the seventh day unto rest. Israel’s sanctifying was the keeping holy that day, which God had long before deputed to be kept.’31
On the divine side, God made the day holy, “not by any inherent holiness, but by destination of it to holy uses, and that day being so applied by us, to holy works, is to us most holy.”32
Also on God’s part, He placed the Fourth Commandment as the “keeper” of the rest of the Decalogue. Citing Andre Rivet, Sabbatum notes:
‘The sanctification of the Sabbath being placed between the two Tables, and that as the sinew both of the understanding and obedience of the other precepts… so that this precept being neglected, all the rest had also fallen with it.’33
The moral duties whereby the Sabbath was to be sanctified were partly presupposed in the former Three Commandments, and therefore needless it was to repeat them here. This Commandment (to differ from the former) was only some way or other to determine the time of God’s worship to be spent and employed in those duties. ‘Remember to sanctify the Sabbath day.’ How? In such duties of piety as by the Three former Commandments are required; and add to them (as occasion is offered) works of charity, in the Six last Commandments. For this is the very end of the Fourth Commandment.34
This is why, in certain cases, the prophets would sum up the entirety of God’s worship, and love for our neighbor in terms of the Sabbath (Lev. 19:3 and 30, Isa. 56:2, etc.).
For our part, God requires us to sanctify the Sabbath by rest and holiness; that is, as we saw in the treatment of the Patristics, by ceasing from all worldly works and pleasures, and by devoting ourselves to the worship and knowledge of God. More than this, the rest is required for the sake of holiness, not merely in its own right. Thus, idleness is not commanded in the Fourth Commandment, but the knowledge of God, as Athanasius put it.
Sabbatum reasons that since the primal creation is the ground of the old Sabbath, the contemplation of God and His works would naturally shape the activities of the Day.35 The dispersion of the Levites is likewise marshaled as proof of the dispersion of the knowledge of God among the Israelites, especially on the Sabbath:
This might be the cause, or one cause at least, of the dispersion of the Levites into all the tribes; that so they might assist the people in the sanctification of the Day, either by reading, or expounding, or both; however some deny it. The reasons of their dispersion, amongst others, were these: First, to instruct the people, and teach them the difference between the clean and the unclean (Lev. 10:10-11). Secondly, to teach them all the statutes which the Lord had spoken by Moses (Deut. 33:10)… Now if the priests and Levites were to teach the people in the Law, when more probably than on the Sabbath, and holy days?36
Added to this was the duty to constantly train one’s children in the Law of God, and the proposition of a Sabbath of knowledge and worship is easily demonstrated. If every day was to be taken up in teaching the Law, how much more the day of rest from regular works?37
Shall Jews receive clerical instruction and devote themselves to the worship and knowledge of God on their Sabbath, and Christians (with such greater benefits!) be behind them in instruction, worship and knowledge on theirs?! Sabbatum discusses the helps in sanctifying the Christian Sabbath:
But as for us, we have abundance of helps, both for public and private devotions. For public first, we have the Word read, singing of Psalms, preaching, catechizing, etc. For private, we have the Word, Old and New Testament, many expositors upon them, many good books written. We have, or may have, repetition, conference, singing, instructing our families. Variety of actions besides, we have (or a shame for us) more knowledge, more grace afforded us in the gospel, to pray, meditate, etc. Now, it’s but great reason, where more means, more duty should be expected and yielded.38
More grace, more knowledge, and more means bow to this maxim: “unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.”
Also respecting the sanctification of the Day on our part, Sabbatum discusses the vain notion that public worship is all that God requires of us:
Now then, besides the time spent in the public worship, unless some be allotted to the preparation of the heart for it, men will come with their shoes on their feet, their worldly business, barns, bargains, sports in their heads and hearts, and so not worship God at all in spirit and truth, but only outwardly, which is to offer the sacrifice of fools. Again, after the public worship, if suddenly men return to other thoughts, whether business or sports, will not the greatest part, if not all the effect and end of the public service performed, be lost?39
Any profit we would derive from public worship must have preparation preceding and meditation following. Again, God did not call us to sanctify a “half-holy-day,” but an entire day.
But is this not a grievous burden to be born? Is not such “sanctification” a return of the Pharisees’ flaying of consciences? Is not Christ’s yoke easy, and His burden light?
It’s true, the yoke of Christ is sweet and easy, but to whom? Not to every swinish drunkard or gotish adulterer, etc. but to those that are born again (1 John 5:3) that have a new heart, and a new nature given them. For to an unregenerate man nothing is more hard or heavy than the yoke of Christ, and no one thing more than the right sanctification of the Lord’s Day.40
The Sabbath day is a delight, the holy day of the LORD, honorable; a day for the worship of the true God, taking His Name reverently, and loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. What more could a Spirit-filled soul desire?
In light of the sanctification of the Day, Sabbatum discusses recreations on the Lord’s Day. To clarify what are being referred to as recreations, Sabbatum distinguishes:
The word recreation therefore is equivocal, and so deludes the reader. There is a recreation which is a mercy, that is, necessary refreshment of the body, as eating, drinking and resting itself, to those that are hard labored; yea, to a sickly body, some ordinary, moderate, inoffensive recreation may be as necessary as food or physic. But of this he does not, or should not mean it. There is a recreation, such as we call sports and pastimes, when there is none of the former necessity, and such he pleads for, but to allow these is no work of mercy, and therefore God will have sacrifice, and not such kind of mercy, and in such a case we must be better friends to sacrifice than to vain and pretended mercy.41
Recreations, then, are not such necessary activities as sustain man’s life, but such as are not necessary, and merely subserve to prepare man’s mind and body for labor.
Such recreations prepare the mind and body for labor, and are therefore impediments to the sanctification of the Lord’s Day of rest:
And then thirdly a minore ad majus, if honest labor be forbidden, much more honest recreations; for recreation is but the means to prepare and fit men for labor. Therefore if labor, which is the end of recreation, be forbidden, much more recreation, which is but the means to labor. And indeed (which may be added) recreation is a weekday’s work, as well as labor; ‘Six days shalt thou labor, and do all that thou hast to do.’ But moderate recreation is a work we have to do on the weekdays, otherwise we are cruel to ourselves and ours.42
The lesser (minore), recreations serve the greater (majus), work. How can the principle be forbidden while the accessory is permitted? If bearing false witness is forbidden (the greater), is lying permitted (the lesser)? Of course not, since lying is a lesser manifestation of the greater, public lying in open court.
Yet some recreations are required by God; namely, such as fit men for communion with the living and true God:
There is indeed, a spiritual recreation, which is an holy joy, rejoicing, delighting in God, in his service, in his ordinances, etc. and this is the recreation not only permitted, but required on the Sabbath (Isaiah 58), and is (as we may so say) the spirituality of the Fourth Commandment.43
Distinguishing what is meant by recreations helps to understand which sort are lawful and which are not. Such as are mere preparations or fittings to labors must be forbidden, since labor itself is forbidden.44
But labor is expressly forbidden, while recreations only by consequence. Certainly we should not be as dogmatic on points not expressly forbidden within the Decalogue; or should we?
the Seventh Commandment expressly and by name forbids adultery; Ergo, much more incest, which yet is not named. Again, the Third Commandment forbids the taking of God’s Name in vain, which is or may be in a slight and careless using of the Name of God without due reverence; Ergo, much more positive and downright blasphemy, which yet is not expressed. So we think it is in this Fourth Commandment: it forbids labor as an impediment of the body, chiefly from the service of God; much more some recreations, which are greater impediments, and that of the mind, which God chiefly requires in his service.45
In addition to more theological concerns, Sabbatum also reviews the Christian Sabbath from a historical perspective, looking into the imperial and regal edicts of pious emperors and kings throughout Christendom. The first large-scale example of such was Constantine the Great, who issued an edict:
‘That every one who lived in the Roman Empire should rest from labor that day, weekly, which was instituted to our Savior. And moreover that all judges, citizens, artificers should rest on the venerable day of Sunday.’46
Constantine, however, made exceptions for farmers, and abuses also began to arise in the following decades.
In response, Gratian, Valentinian, and Theodosius continued reforms in 384 A.D. forbidding all shows on Sundays, arbitration of litigious causes or exacting any public or private debts.47 In 415 A.D. Theodosius the Younger caused all circuses and theaters to be closed on the Lord’s Day that the people’s minds may be taken up with the worship of Almighty God.48 By 469 A.D. Emperor Leo went one step further toward the biblical position, stating that “We will have holy days, dedicated to the supreme Majesty, spent in no kind of pleasures.”49 It is plain, then, that Christian magistrates considered it their duty to sanctify the Lord’s Day with rest from labors, dedication of our minds to God’s worship, and taking part in no earthly pleasures or recreations. As was asked regarding the church Fathers, would the veriest Puritan ask any more?
Charlemagne more explicitly grounds the observance of the Christian Sabbath in the “Law of God,” and the good things the Lord our God has done for us:
‘We do ordain, according as it is commanded in the Law of God, that no man do any servile work on the Lord’s Day,’ which he explicates by many particulars, ‘husbandry, dressing vines, ploughing, making hay, etc. and almost all kind of manufacturers, hunting, etc. but that they come unto the church, to divine service, and magnify the Lord their God for those good things, which on that day, he has done for them.’50
Both church and state then stood with King Jesus, recognizing the authority of His Law, and rejoicing in the great things He has done for His people.
The penalties inflicted by some of the kings of this time are even more interesting. Around 662 A.D., Clothaire III, King of France ordered that violators of God’s holy Day, if slaves, would be beaten, and, if freemen, after three admonitions, would lose a third of their estate.51 In the seventh century, King In of West Saxony stated that if a servant worked at the behest of his master, he was to gain his freedom, and his master to forfeit 30 shillings; if at his own will, he was to be scourged or fined. Freemen were to either be made bondmen, or to pay 60 shillings.52
Latest in time was Leo Philosophus, Emperor of the East, who, in 886 A.D. countermanded Constantine’s previous liberty granted to farmers:
Taking into consideration the grant of liberty to husbandmen on the Lord’s Day: ‘and seeing that the general ground thereof would not bear so general and large indulgence as had been granted, does by a contrary edict reverse, and severely censures his predecessor’s remissness, saying, We ordain, according to the true meaning of the holy Ghost, and of the holy Apostles, by him directed, that on that sacred day, wherein we were restored to our integrity, all do rest, and surcease from labor; that neither the husbandmen, nor others put their hand to forbidden work. For if the Jews did so much reverence their Sabbath, which was but a shadow of ours, are not we which inhabit the light and truth of grace, bound to honor that day which the Lord himself has honored, and has therein delivered us, both from dishonor and death? Are we not bound to keep it singular and inviolable, sufficiently contented with a liberal grant of all the rest, and not encroaching upon that one which God has chosen to his own honor? Were it not a wretchless neglect of religion, to make that very day common, and think we may do with it as with the rest?’53
What is noteworthy is that Leo used the same foundational arguments as Sabbatum in making the case for the biblical and “Puritan” doctrine of the Sabbath: the sacredness of the Lord’s Day due to Christ’s resurrection, the cessation from all worldly works, the divine institution of the Lord’s Day, its superiority over the Jewish Sabbath, the generous grant of six days for our labor, and the sanctity of that day. The notion that the Sabbath as taught (for instance) in the Westminster Confession of Faith is unique to such a period in history is total nonsense, or perverse blindness.
Concerning the frequency of the Sabbath, Sabbatum does an excellent job of reasoning through the alternatives to one day in seven:
If nature requires most of our time to be dedicated to God, and our soul’s good, then less than one day in seven is not sufficient. But nature requires most of our time to be dedicated to God, etc. Therefore less than one in seven is not sufficient, by the very light and Law of Nature. The sequel is evident by this; because upon that ground, that nature requires most of our time for God and our souls, it may be inferred that more is necessary, and that one day in seven is not strictly sufficient, unless God be pleased so to make it.54
Will the depravity of man know no bounds or reason? If we carp at one whole day in seven, what would we do if God demanded His right to all or the majority of our time for His worship? One in seven is more than reasonable.
In terms of the specific meaning of the Fourth Commandment as delivered in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, the question arises as to whether “the seventh day” has reference to the order or number. Is it the seventh, as in the last day of the week, or the seventh, as in one of seven days (indifferent to order per se). One of the most helpful illustrations used in Sabbatum was that of the tithe, or tenth:
As first, that Leviticus 27:30, ‘All the tithes, or tenths, of the land are the Lord’s, holy to the Lord.’ Where it is not necessary to take it for the tenth in order, but for any part of the ten, the whole being equally divided into ten parts… The like instances are Leviticus 27:31, ‘If any man would redeem his tithe, he must add a fifth,’ that is, any part of the five, not necessarily the last in order.55
Thus, God demands a proportion, and not a specific order.
It is also reasoned that no greater force of persuasion inheres in the divine concession of “six days” in the Fourth Commandment, unless we take it for number rather than order:
To allow God one for six (whether he requires the last of the first) is more equal and just; but to allow him the first or the last for six before, or six after his Day, carries with it no great equity, or force of reason.56
In summary, Sabbatum embraces a whirlwind tour of the Sabbath question, whether exegetical, theological, historical, or in various other ways. We have interacted with its treatment of the morality of the Sabbath, as binding all men everywhere, at all times and in all conditions, rooted in its role in the Decalogue and the Law of Nature. We have discussed the overwhelming force of the church Fathers’ treatment of the sanctity and significance of the Christian Sabbath. We have discussed the abrogation of the old Sabbath, and its replacement by the Lord’s Day, as the light of the sun overwhelms the light of a candle. We have looked at the divine and human sanctity of the Sabbath. We have considered the question of lawful recreations on the Sabbath, imperial edicts regarding the sanctity of the Lord’s Day, the frequency of the Sabbath, and the question of number versus order in the actual Fourth Commandment itself. Sabbatum’s treatment is thorough, scriptural and edifying, and I would recommend it to any serious student of Scripture.
1 Daniel Cawdrey and Herbert Palmer, Sabbatum Redivivum: or The Christian Sabbath Vindicated, Westminster Assembly Facsimile Series (London: Printed by Thomas Maxey for Samuel Gellibrand and Thomas Underhill in Paul’s Church-yard, 1651/2). This work will be cited as Sabbatum in the text and footnotes. Note: spelling, capitalization, punctuation, formatting and citations have been modernized as deemed necessary.
2Sabbatum, p. 56.
3Microbius Ambrosius Theodosius was a Roman from the early fifth century primarily known for his writings on ancient Roman religious and antiquarian lore; Quintus Mucius Scaevola Pontifex was a Roman politician from the first century B.C. who elected as High Priest, and was primarily known for systematizing the study of law.
4 Cf. Sabbatum, p. 193.
5Sabbatum, p. 193.
6Sabbatum, p. 45.
7Sabbatum, p. 115.
8Sabbatum, p. 55.
9Sabbatum, p. 64.
10Sabbatum, p. 209.
11Athanasius, Homily de Semente, cited in Sabbatum, p. 476.
12Athanasius, On Sabbath and Circumcision, cited in Sabbatum, p. 19.
13 Ephrem the Syrian, cited in Sabbatum, p. 605. No citation given for Ephrem.
14 Chrysostom, Homily 10 in Genesis 2, and Homily 5 upon Saint Matthew, cited in Sabbatum, p. 581.
15Augustine, De Tempore, cited in Sabbatum, p. 579.
16 Clement of Rome, Apostolic Constitutions, cited in Sabbatum, pp. 577-8.
17 Ignatius, Ad Magnes., cited in Sabbatum, pp. 572-3.
18Sabbatum, p. 598.
19 Gregory of Nyssa, Oration on Christ’s Resurrection, cited in Sabbatum, p. 672.
20 Isidore of Seville, De Ecclesiasticis Officiis, lib. 1.29, cited in Sabbatum, p. 588.
21 Ignatius, Ad Magnes., cited in Sabbatum, p. 573.
22 Chrysostom, Homily 2, Perˆ™lehmosÚnhs b., tom. 6, p. 819, cited in Sabbatum, p. 582.
23Chrysostom, Homily E„j ¤gion bapt’ toà swtÁroj, tom. 5, p. 523, Edit. Savil. lib. 29, cited in Sabbatum, p. 582.
24Sabbatum, p. 219.
25Sabbatum, p. 427.
26Sabbatum, p. 490.
27Sabbatum, p. 512.
28Sabbatum, p. 343.
29Sabbatum, p. 563.
30Sabbatum, p. 536.
31Sabbatum, p. 312. No citation given in Musculus.
32Sabbatum, p. 611.
33Andre Rivet, Exodus 20, 257.2, cited in Sabbatum, pp. 8-9.
34Sabbatum, p. 20.
35Cf. Sabbatum, p. 18.
36Sabbatum, p. 25.
37Cf. Sabbatum, p. 26.
38Sabbatum, p. 563-4.
39Sabbatum, p. 195-6.
40Sabbatum, p. 643.
41Sabbatum, p. 650.
43Sabbatum, p. 650.
44 Cf. Sabbatum, p. 541.
45Sabbatum, p. 641-2.
46 Eusebius, De Vita Constantinae, lib. 4, cited in Sabbatum, p. 595.
47 Cf. Sabbatum, p. 595.
48 Cf. Ibid.
49Sabbatum, p. 596.
50 Charlemagne, 789 A.D., cited in Sabbatum, p. 597-8. No citation given for Charlemagne.
51 Cf. Sabbatum, p. 597.
52 Cf. Sabbatum, p. 614.
53 Leo Philosophus, Emperor of the East, cited in Sabbatum, p. 598. No citation given for Leo.
54Sabbatum, p. 209.
55Sabbatum, p. 260.
56Sabbatum, p. 267.