Last Monday evening I came across The Prayer Book of 1789, which was the first for the U. S. Episcopal Church and served the Church for over 100 years, until the revision of 1892. This book owed much to its predecessor, the English 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and, at least for the major services, is very similar to it. Besides that, I enjoyed reading several of the hymns of theology in the later section. I came across one written by Christopher Wordsworth in 1862 on the topic of the Lord’s Day. May you enjoy this as much as I did in preparation for today’s Lord’s day.
O day of rest and gladness, O day of joy and light, O balm of care and sadness, most beautiful, most bright; on thee the high and lowly, before the eternal throne, sing, “Holy, holy, holy,” to the great Three in One.
On thee, at the creation, the light first had its birth; on thee for our salvation Christ rose from depths of earth; On thee our Lord victorious the Spirit sent from heaven, and thus on thee most glorious a triple light was given.
Thou art a port protected from storms that round us rise; a garden intersected with streams of paradise; thou art a cooling fountain in life’s dry dreary sand; from thee, like Pisgah’s mountain, we view our promised land.
Today on weary nations the heavenly manna falls; to holy convocations the silver trumpet calls, where Gospel light is glowing with pure and radiant beams, and living water flowing, with soul refreshing streams.
May we, new graces gaining from this our day of rest, attain the rest remaining to spirits of the blessed. And their our voices raising, to Father, Spirit, Son, for evermore be praising the blessèd Three in One
Here are a few Lord’s Day quote I found interesting while reading today.
Sir James Crichton-Browne, A British physician once said,
We doctors, in the treatment of nervous disease, are now constantly compelled to prescribe periods of rest. Some periods are, I think, only Sundays in arrears.
Samuel Wilberforce, son of William Wilberforce, and Anglican bishop,
O what a blessing is Sunday, interposed between the waves of worldly business like the divine path of the Israelites through the sea.
John McLean, U.S. Supreme Court justice and dissenter in Dred Scott decision,
Where there is no Christian Sabbath, there is no Christian morality, and without these our free institutions cannot long be sustained.
Henry Doddridge Ganse, American Dutch Reformed pastor,
It would be as difficult to take an inventory of the benefits the world receives from the sunshine as to enumerate the blessings we derive from the Christian Sabbath.–
1. The light of nature shews that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all; is just, good and doth good unto all; and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart and all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God, is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imagination and devices of men, nor the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures. ( Jeremiah 10:7; Mark 12:33; Deuteronomy 12:32; Exodus 20:4-6 )
2. Religious worship is to be given to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and to him alone; not to angels, saints, or any other creatures; and since the fall, not without a mediator, nor in the mediation of any other but Christ alone. ( Matthew 4:9, 10; John 6:23; Matthew 28:19; Romans 1:25; Colossians 2:18; Revelation 19:10; John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5 )
3. Prayer, with thanksgiving, being one part of natural worship, is by God required of all men. But that it may be accepted, it is to be made in the name of the Son, by the help of the Spirit, according to his will; with understanding, reverence, humility, fervency, faith, love, and perseverance; and when with others, in a known tongue. ( Psalms 95:1-7; Psalms 65:2; John 14:13, 14; Romans 8:26; 1 John 5:14; 1 Corinthians 14:16, 17 )
4. Prayer is to be made for things lawful, and for all sorts of men living, or that shall live hereafter; but not for the dead, nor for those of whom it may be known that they have sinned the sin unto death.
( 1 Timothy 2:1, 2; 2 Samuel 7:29; 2 Samuel 12:21-23; 1 John 5:16 )
5. The reading of the Scriptures, preaching, and hearing the Word of God, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in our hearts to the Lord; as also the administration of baptism, and the Lord’s supper, are all parts of religious worship of God, to be performed in obedience to him, with understanding, faith, reverence, and godly fear; moreover, solemn humiliation, with fastings, and thanksgivings, upon special occasions, ought to be used in an holy and religious manner. ( 1 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 4:2; Luke 8:18; Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 5:19; Matthew 28:19, 20; 1 Corinthians 11:26; Esther 4:16; Joel 2:12; Exodus 15:1-19, Psalms 107 )
6. Neither prayer nor any other part of religious worship, is now under the gospel, tied unto, or made more acceptable by any place in which it is performed, or towards which it is directed; but God is to be worshipped everywhere in spirit and in truth; as in private families daily, and in secret each one by himself; so more solemnly in the public assemblies, which are not carelessly nor wilfully to be neglected or forsaken, when God by his word or providence calleth thereunto. ( John 4:21; Malachi 1:11; 1 Timothy 2:8; Acts 10:2; Matthew 6:11; Psalms 55:17; Matthew 6:6; Hebrews 10:25; Acts 2:42 )
7. As it is the law of nature, that in general a proportion of time, by God’s appointment, be set apart for the worship of God, so by his Word, in a positive moral, and perpetual commandment, binding all men, in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven for a sabbath to be kept holy unto him, which from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ was the last day of the week, and from the resurrection of Christ was changed into the first day of the week, which is called the Lord’s day: and is to be continued to the end of the world as the Christian Sabbath, the observation of the last day of the week being abolished. ( Exodus 20:8; 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2; Acts 20:7; Revelation 1:10 )
8. The sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering their common affairs aforehand, do not only observe an holy rest all day, from their own works, words and thoughts, about their worldly employment and recreations, but are also taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy. ( Isaiah 58:13; Nehemiah 13:15-22; Matthew 12:1-13 )
Robert Lewis Dabney, “The Christian Sabbath: Its Nature, Design, and Proper Observance” in Dabney’s Discussions, Volume I (Sprinkle reprint, 1982): pp. 496-550.
The Presbyterian stalwart doggedly defends the classical Reformed position by exhaustively reviewing the Biblical texts to defend the fourth commandment as “moral and perpetual.” Of note is his exegetical review of “objection passages” like Romans 14:5-6; Galatians 4:9-11; and Colossians 2:16-17 (see pp. 521-530). Dabney does not suffer lightly those with mushy and inconsistent thinking on this issue.
(HT: Jeffrey T. Riddle)
An excerpt from the practical puritan, Thomas Watson from his title Heaven Taken by Storm: Part 6, by sanctifying the Lord’s Day and holy conversation.
The sixth duty wherein we must offer violence to ourselves, is the religious sanctifying of the Lord’s day. That there should be a day of holy rest dedicated to God appears from its institution. ‘Remember to keep holy the Sabbath.’ Our Christian Sabbath comes in the room of the Jewish Sabbath: it is called the Lord’s day, Rev. i.10. from Christ the author of it. Our Sabbath is altered by Christ’s own appointment. He arose this day out of the grave, and appeared on it often to His disciples, 1 Cor. xvi. 1: to intimate to them (saith Athanasius) that he transferred the Sabbath to the Lord’s day. And St. Austin saith that by Christ’s rising on the first day of the week, it was consecrated to be the Christian Sabbath, in remembrance of his resurrection. This day was anciently called dies lucis, the day of light, as Junius observes. The other days of the week would be dark, were it not for the shining of the sun of righteousness on this day. This day hath been called by the ancients, regina dierum, the queen of days. And St. Hierom prefers this day above all solemn festivals. The primitive church had this day in high veneration: it was a great badge of their religion: for when the question was asked, servasti dominicum?, keepest thou the Sabbath?; the answer was, Christianus sum, I am a Christian; I dare not omit the celebration of the Lord’s day! What great cause do we have to thankfully remember this day! As the benefit of Israel’s deliverance from the Babylonish captivity was so great that it drowned the remembrance of their deliverance from Egypt, Jer. xvi. 14: so the benefit of our deliverance from Satan’s captivity and the rising of Christ after finishing the glorious work of our redemption are so famous, that in respect of his other benefits, receive as it were in diminution. Great was the work of creation; but greater the work of redemption. It cost more to redeem us than to make us. In the one, there was only the speaking a word, Psalm cxlviii. 5: in the other, the shedding of blood, Heb. ix. 22. The creation was the work of God’s fingers, Psalm viii. 3: the redemption, the work of his arm, Luke i. 5. In creation God gave us ourselves; in redemption he gives us himself. So that the Sabbath, putting us in mind of our redemption, ought to be observed with the highest devotion. — Herein we must offer holy violence to ourselves.
When this blessed day approacheth, we should labour, that as the day is sanctified, so may our hearts be sanctified.
We must on this day rest from all the works of our calling. As Abraham, when he went to sacrifice, left his servant and ass at the bottom of the hill, Gen. xxii. 5: so when we are to worship God this day, we must leave all secular business behind. — And as Joseph, when he would speak with his brethren, thrust out the Egyptians: so when we would have converse with God this day, we must thrust out all earthly employments. Though works of necessity may be done and works of charity, (for God will have mercy, and not sacrifice) yet in other cases we must cease from all worldly negotiations. It is observable concerning Mary Magdalene, that she refused to anoint Christ’s dead body on the Sabbath day, Luke xxiii. 56. She had before prepared her ointment, but came not come to the sepulcher till the Sabbath was past. She rested that day from all work, though it were a commendable and glorius work; the anointing of Christ’s dead body.
When this blessed day approacheth, we must lift up our heart in thankfulness to God, that he has put another price into our hands for gaining heavenly wisdom. These are our spiritual-harvest days; now the wind of God’s Spirit blows upon the sails of our affections, and we may be much further on in our heavenly voyage. Christian, lift up thy heart to God in thankfulness, that he hath given thee another golden season, and be sure you improve it; it may be the last. Seasons of grace are not like the tide; if a man misseth one tide, he may have another.
This day approaching, we must in the morning dress and fit our souls for the receiving of the Word. The people of Israel must wash their garments before the law was delivered to them.Our hearts must be washed by prayer and repentance, the oracles of God being to be delivered to us.
And being met together, we must set ourselves, as in the presence of God, with seriousness and delight to hear God’s sacred Word. Take heed of distractions which fly-blow our duties.
We must labor to be bettered by every Sabbath: where the Lord lays out cost, he looks for fruit. Fresh anointings of God are to be thirsted after; and new cubits are to be added to our spiritual stature. We must not be like the Salamander, which lives in the fire but never becomes hotter. Christians should on these days aspire after communion with God, and endeavor to have the illapses of his Spirit, and clearer discoveries of his love in Christ. In short, we should do on a Sabbath as Moses: he ascended the Mount that he might have a sight of God.
We must dedicate the whole day to God. Under the law a single sacrifice was appointed for other days of the week; but two lambs were to be offered upon the Sabbath. All this day must be spent with God: he must be worshipped in public; and when we come home, we must have family worship. Many leave all their religion at church, as I have seen some do their bibles; not hallowing God’s name in their own houses, Mal. iii. 8. ‘Will a man rob God?’ When men pretend to worship God in the temple but cut him short from family and closet duties on a Sabbath; this is to rob God, and steal part of his day from him.
Good reason we should consecrate the whole Sabbath to God and give him double devotion is that God doubles his blessings upon us this day. As the Manna rained twice as much on the sixth day, as any of. the other days: so the Manna of spiritual blessings falls twice as much on the Sabbath day as any other.
We must rejoice in this day, as being a day wherein we enjoy much of God’s presence, John viii. 56. ‘Abraham saw my day and rejoiced. So when we see a Sabbath day coming, we should rejoice. The Protestants in France called their church Paradise, be cause there they met with God. The Jews called the Sabbath desiderium dierum, the desire of days, Isaiah lviii. 13. ‘Thou shalt call the Sabbath a delight.’ This we should look upon as the best
day, as the queen of days, crowned with a blessing, Psalm cxviii. 24. ‘This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.’ — He has made all the days, but hath sanctified this. We should look upon this day as a spiritual market for our souls, wherein we have holy commerce and traffic with God. This day of rest is the beginning of an eternal rest. This day God sets open the pool of Bethesda, in which those waters flow that refresh the broken in heart. And shall not we call this day a delight? The Jews on the Sabbath laid aside their sackcloth and mourning.
This is in a right manner to sanctify a duty; and it is a duty wherein Christians must excite and offer violence to themselves.
Above all others, how well doth it become those into whose hands God hath put the power of magistracy to show forth holy violence in causing the Lord’s day to be strictly observed? What a rare pattern has Nehemiah set for all good magistrates, Neh. xiii. 15. ‘In those days saw I in Judah some treading wine-presses on the Sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, and I testified against them in the day wherein they sold victuals,’ verse 17. ‘Then I contended with the nobles of Judea, and said unto them, what evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the Sabbath day?” How dare ye infringe the command, and make a false entry upon God’s freehold? My lord, your proclamation for the pious observation of the Sabbath and your punitive acts upon some offenders have given a public testimony of your zeal for this day. The keeping of the honour of the Sabbath, which will keep up your magisterial honour.
The seventh duty wherein we must offer violence to ourselves, is holy converse: and indeed we are backward enough to it, therefore had need to provoke ourselves, Mal. iii. 17. ‘They that feared the Lord spake often one to another.’ A gracious person hath not only religion only in his heart, but also in his tongue, Psalm xxxvii. 30. ‘The law of God is in his heart, and his tongue talketh of judgment:’ he drops holy words as pearls. ‘Tis the fault of Christians, that they do not in company provoke themselves to sey good discourse on foot: it is a sinful modesty; there is much visiting, but they do not give one another’s souls a visit. In worldly things their tongue is as the pen of a ready writer, but in matters of religion, it is as if their tongue did cleave to the roof of their mouth. As we must answer to God for idle words: so also for sinful silence.
Oh let us offer violence to ourselves on this, in setting abroach good discourse! — What should our words dilate and expiate upon but Heaven? The world is a great Inn; we are guests in this Inn. Travellers, when they are met in their Inn, do not spend all their time in speaking about their Inn; they are to lodge there but a few hours, and are gone; but they are speaking of their home, and the country wither they are travelling. So when we meet together, we should not be talking only about the world; we are to leave this presently; but we should talk of our heavenly country, Heb. xi. 16.
That we may provoke ourselves to good discourse (for it will not be done without some kind of violence) let these considerations be duly weighed.
The discourse demonstrates what the heart is. As the glass shows what the face is, whether it be fair or foul; so the words show what the heart is. Vain speeches discover a light, feathery heart; gracious speeches are the birth of a gracious heart. The water of the conduit shows what the spring is.
Holy conference is very edifying. The apostle bids us ‘edify one another,’ Ephes. iv. 20. And how more than in this way? — Good conference enlightens the mind when it is ignorant; settles it when it is wavering. A good life adorns religion; good discourse propagates it.
Gracious discourse makes us resemble Christ. His words were perfumed with holiness: ‘grace was poured into his lips,’ Psalm xlv. 2. He spake to the admiration of all: his hands worked miracles and his tongue spake oracles, Luke iv. 22. ‘All bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth.’ Christ never came into any company, but he set good discourse on foot. Levi made him a feast, Luke v. 29. and Christ feasted him with holy discourse. When he came to Jacob’s well, he presently speaks of the
‘water of life,’ Jude 4. The more holy our speeches are, the more we are like Christ. Should not the members be like the head?
God takes special notice of every good word we speak when we meet, Mal. iii. 16. ‘They that feared the Lord spake often one to another; and the Lord hearkened and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before him.’ Tamerlain, that Scythian captain, had always a book by him of the names and good deserts of his servants which he bountifully rewarded. As God hath a bottle for the tears of his people: — so he has a book in which he writes down all their good speeches, and will make honorable mention of them at the last day.
Holy discourse will be a means to bring Christ into our company. The two disciples were communing of the death and sufferings of Christ; and while they were speaking, Jesus Christ came among them, Luke xxiv. 15. ‘While they communed together, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.’ — When men entertain bad discourse, Satan draws near, and makes one of the company; but when they have holy and gracious conference, Jesus Christ draws near, and wherever he comes, he brings a blessing along with him. So much for the first, the offering of violence to ourselves.
107AD IGNATIUS: let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days of the week. (Ignatius, Epistle to the Magnesians, chp 9. Ante-Nicene Fathers , vol. 1, pg. 62-63.)
130AD BARNABAS: Moreover God says to the Jews, ‘Your new moons and Sabbaths 1 cannot endure.’ You see how he says, ‘The present Sabbaths are not acceptable to me, but the Sabbath which I have made in which, when I have rested [heaven: Heb 4] from all things, I will make the beginning of the eighth day which is the beginning of another world.’ Wherefore we Christians keep the eighth day for joy, on which also Jesus arose from the dead and when he appeared ascended into heaven. (15:8f, The Epistle of Barnabas, 100 AD, Ante-Nicene Fathers , vol. 1, pg. 147)
150AD JUSTIN: But Sunday is the day on which we hold our common assembly, because it is the first day of the week and Jesus our saviour on the same day rose from the dead. (First apology of Justin, Ch 68)
150AD JUSTIN: And on the day called Sunday there is a gathering together in the same place of all who live in a city or a rural district. … We all make our assembly in common on the day of the Sun, since it is the first day, on which God changed the darkness and matter and made the world, and Jesus Christ our Savior arose from the dead on the same day. For they crucified him on the day before Saturn’s day, and on the day after (which is the day of the Sun the appeared to his apostles and taught his disciples these things. (Apology, 1, 67:1-3, 7; First Apology, 145 AD, Ante-Nicene Fathers , Vol. 1, pg. 186)
190AD CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: He does the commandment according to the Gospel and keeps the Lord’s day, whenever he puts away an evil mind . . . glorifying the Lord’s resurrection in himself. (Vii.xii.76.4)
200AD TERTULLIAN: Others . . . suppose that the sun is the god of the Christians, because it is well-known that we regard Sunday as a day of joy. (To the Nations 1: 133)
225 AD The Didascalia “The apostles further appointed: On the first day of the week let there be service, and the reading of the Holy Scriptures, and the oblation, because on the first day of the week our Lord rose from the place of the dead, and on the first day of the week he arose upon the world, and on the first day of the week he ascended up to heaven, and on the first day of the week he will appear at last with the angels of heaven” (Didascalia 2).
300AD EUSEBIUS: [The Ebionites] were accustomed to observe the Sabbath and other Jewish customs but on the Lord’s days to celebrate the same practices as we in remembrance of the resurrection of the Savior. (Church History Ill.xxvii.5)
300 AD Eusebius of Caesarea “The day of his [Christ’s] light . . . was the day of his resurrection from the dead, which they say, as being the one and only truly holy day and the Lord’s day (Proof of the Gospel 4:16:186).
350 AD APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTIONS: Be not careless of yourselves, neither deprive your Saviour of His own members, neither divide His body nor disperse His members, neither prefer the occasions of this life to the word of God; but assemble yourselves together every day, morning and evening, singing psalms and praying in the Lord’s house: in the morning saying the sixty-second Psalm, and in the evening the hundred and fortieth, but principally on the Sabbath-day. And on the day of our Lord’s resurrection, which is the Lord’s day, meet more diligently, sending praise to God that made the universe by Jesus, and sent Him to us, and condescended to let Him suffer, and raised Him from the dead. Otherwise what apology will he make to God who does not assemble on that day to hear the saving word concerning the resurrection, on which we pray thrice standing in memory of Him who arose in three days, in which is performed the reading of the prophets, the preaching of the Gospel, the oblation of the sacrifice, the gift of the holy food? (Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, book 2)
350 AD APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTIONS: Do you therefore fast, and ask your petitions of God. We enjoin you to fast every fourth day of the week, and every day of the preparation, and the surplusage of your fast bestow upon the needy; every Sabbath-day excepting one, and every Lord’s day, hold your solemn assemblies, and rejoice: for he will be guilty of sin who fasts on the Lord’s day, being the day of the resurrection, or during the time of Pentecost, or, in general, who is sad on a festival day to the Lord For on them we ought to rejoice, and not to mourn. (Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, book 5)
350 AD APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTIONS “Which Days of the Week We are to Fast, and Which Not, and for What Reasons: But let not your fasts be with the hypocrites; for they fast on the second and fifth days of the week. But do you either fast the entire five days, or on the fourth day of the week, and on the day of the Preparation, because on the fourth day the condemnation went out against the Lord, Judas then promising to betray Him for money; and you must fast on the day of the Preparation, because on that day the Lord suffered the death of the cross under Pontius Pilate. But keep the Sabbath, and the Lord’s day festival; because the former is the memorial of the creation, and the latter of the resurrection. But there is one only Sabbath to be observed by you in the whole year, which is that of our Lord’s burial, on which men ought to keep a fast, but not a festival. For inasmuch as the Creator was then under the earth, the sorrow for Him is more forcible than the joy for the creation; for the Creator is more honourable by nature and dignity than His own creatures.” … … “How We Ought to Assemble Together, and to Celebrate the Festival Day of Our Saviour’s Resurrection. On the day of the resurrection of the Lord, that is, the Lord’s day, assemble yourselves together, without fail, giving thanks to God, and praising Him for those mercies God has bestowed upon you through Christ, and has delivered you from ignorance, error, and bondage, that your sacrifice may be unspotted, and acceptable to God, who has said concerning His universal Church: “In every place shall incense and a pure sacrifice be offered unto me; for I am a great King, saith the Lord Almighty, and my name is wonderful among the heathen.” (Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, book 7)
It is well known that most Lutherans have always retained as part of their service to God both the Lord’s day instituted by Christ as well as most of the major “holy days” instituted by the Papists. The practice is inconsistent with the principles laid down in the Formula of Concord which asserts,
We believe, teach, and confess that in time of persecution, when a plain [and steadfast] confession is required of us, we should not yield to the enemies in regard to such adiaphora, as the apostle has written Gal. 5,1: Stand fast, therefore, in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again in the yoke of bondage. Also 2 Cor. 6,14: Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers, etc. For what concord hath light with darkness? Also Gal. 2,5: To whom we gave place, no, not for an hour, that the truth of the Gospel might remain with you. For in such a case it is no longer a question concerning adiaphora, but concerning the truth of the Gospel, concerning [preserving] Christian liberty, and concerning sanctioning open idolatry, as also concerning the prevention of offense to the weak in the faith [how care should be taken lest idolatry be openly sanctioned and the weak in faith be offended]; in which we have nothing to concede, but should plainly confess and suffer on that account what God sends, and what He allows the enemies of His Word to inflict upon us.
Here, in the Epitome’s fourth affirmation in chapter 10, we have a clear affirmation that when the enemy of the Gospel has commanded an observation as moral duty, sinful to neglect, the Christian should STAND FAST in the liberty wherewith Christ has made him free, by defending his Christian Liberty through an open dissent from that practice or profession imposed by the enemies of the Gospel. Certain it is that the entire liturgical year, with Christ-Mass, Ishtar, Good-friday, &c. is all one big idolatrous chain of bondage imposed by no authority but that of Antichrist. It cannot be said that Lutherans keep these days without evidencing a definite respect for the impositions of Antichrist. Were the celebration of Christ’s advent kept in accordance with Christian Liberty, even setting aside Presbyterian principles of worship, that day of celebration would at least be appointed on a day far different from that ordained by Rome. Likewise, what reason can there possibly be for celebrating Christ’s Resurrection on a particular day in the year, let alone the same day as the Pope, when it is certain, as well as taught by all Lutherans, that the Lord’s Day was appointed for the weekly celebration of Christ’s Resurrection. From these observations we may conclude, that even without respect for Presbyterian / Reformed Principles of Worship which deny that such ecclesiastical holydays may be classified as adiaphora, Lutheran principles at least condemn the Pope’s holydays and thus condemn also the celebration of all holydays on those days appointed by the Pope, lest the observance of those days fail to distinctly declare our liberty from the laws of Antichrist and thus become a sinful and shameful failure on our part to stand fast as Christ’s freemen. Sadly however, Lutherans cannot say that they “would not give place, no, not for an hour,” but have for nearly 500 years given place to Rome, and sanctioned her idolatry.
Dr. Luther however, was one strongly opposed to the idolatry of Rome, whereby, through so many invented rites, consciences were ensnared and imposed upon by the laws of men. The following quotes taken from his “Treatise on Good Works” and his Letter “to The Christian Nobility of the German Nation,” both written in 1520, evidence his holy hostility to Rome’s holidays.
This first comment is taken from his “Treatise of Good Works” and refers to the duties of the third commandment, or the second commandment as Lutherans and Papists would have it. Here Luther identifies the heinous breach of that commandment, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain,” involved in all holydays put to use for that purpose for which they are almost always used, namely: idleness, amusement, and the sins which Luther himself lists. Is it not ungodly how all of the world makes use of a day supposedly appointed to serve God, that they may serve their bellies and their own amusements, all under the pretense of “keeping holy day” and “remembering Jesus”? Certainly, Christians at least should seek the abolishing of such holydays whereby God’s name is taken to call for a day of amusement.
The first works of this Commandment are plain and outward, which we commonly call worship, such as going to mass, praying, and hearing a sermon on holy days. So understood there are very few works in this Commandment; and these, if they are not done in assurance of and with faith in God’s favor, are nothing, as was said above. Hence it would also be a good thing if there were fewer saint’s days, since in our times the works done on them are for the greater part worse than those of the work days, what with loafing, gluttony, and drunkenness, gambling and other evil deeds; and then, the mass and the sermon are listened to without edification, the prayer is spoken without faith.
Secondly, the following comment, taken from the same source. Here Luther, in discussing the fourth commandment (or third) again complains that ALL HOLYDAYS EXCEPT THE LORD’S DAY must be abolished. Because the institution of holydays merely gives all excuse to neglect their work for a day, thus leaving all to idle their time away, which they abuse through many vices, therefore all should be put to work, to keep them from their sins, to leave them less occasion to sin, and to promote the welfare of society spiritual and temporally.
XVII. Spiritually understood, this Commandment has a yet far higher work, which embraces the whole nature of man. Here it must be known that in Hebrew “Sabbath” means “rest,” because on the seventh day God rested and ceased from all His works, which He had made. Genesis ii. Therefore He commanded also that the seventh day should be kept holy and that we cease from our works which we do the other six days. This Sabbath has now for us been changed into the Lord’s day1, and the other days are called work-days; the Lord’s day is called rest-day or holiday or holy day. And would to God that in Christendom there were no holiday except the Lord’s day; that the festivals of Our Lady and of the Saints were all transferred to the Lord’s day; then would many evil vices be done away with through the labor of the work-days, and lands would not be so drained and impoverished. But now we are plagued with many holidays, to the destruction of souls, bodies and goods; of which matter, much might be said.
In this third comment, Dr. Luther complaining of the degraded government of the Church, asserts that of ecclesiastical order, all that is left is a few fast-days and feast-days, which, according to Luther, “had better be done away with.” So likewise at this day, “Christianity” has for most people become nothing but a toy made up of a few “holydays” used as an opportunity to prostitute the Truth of God to the pleasures of men in order to make them feel religious and spiritual as if they were Christians because they observed a few days of which God has said nothing, by performing rites that God has condemned. In our day as well as in Luther’s, both the spiritual and temporal authority would serve God best by abolishing these so-called holydays and commanding men to concern themselves with the Truth of the Gospel and not the outward show of human ceremonies.
Now with regard to this work, things are almost worse than with regard to the first. The spiritual authority should punish sin with the ban and with laws, and constrain its spiritual children to be good, in order that they might have reason to do this work and to exercise themselves in obeying and honoring it. Such zeal one does not see now; they act toward their subjects like the mothers who forsake their children and run after their lovers, as Hosea ii. says; they do not preach, they do not teach, they do not hinder, they do not punish, and there is no spiritual government at all left in Christendom.
What can I say of this work? A few fast-days and feast-days are left, and these had better be done away with. But no one gives this a thought, and there is nothing left except the ban for debt, and this should not be. But spiritual authority should look to it, that adultery, unchastity, usury, gluttony, worldly show, excessive adornment, and such like open sin and shame might be most severely punished and corrected; and they should properly manage the endowments, monastic houses, parishes and schools, and earnestly maintain worship in them, provide for the young people, boys and girls, in schools and cloisters, with learned, pious men as teachers, that they might all be well trained, and so the older people give a good example and Christendom be filled and adorned with fine young people. So Paul teaches his disciple Titus, that he should rightly instruct and govern all classes, young and old, men and women. But now he goes to school who wishes; he is taught who governs and teaches himself; nay, it has, alas! come to such a pass that the places where good should be taught have become schools of knavery, and no one at all takes thought for the wild youth.
This fourth comment, the last which I take from his “Treatise of Good Works,” Luther condemns both the hypocrisy and vanity of the religious practices of his day. Much “spiritual finery” is to be found in empty holidays commanded by men, but there is no spiritual value or use in them because they are “not commanded” by God. Likewise, these are mere such things as can be and are performed by some of the most profane men that ever lived. The same place where holidays prevail, so do all of the vices listed by Luther below, yea, with respect to holidays, often they will be found in the same place on the same day by the same people.
II. Behold how this precious, excellent work has been lost among Christians, so that nothing now everywhere prevails except strife, war, quarreling, anger, hatred, envy, back-biting, cursing, slandering, injuring, vengeance, and all manner of angry works and words; and yet, with all this, we have our many holidays, hear masses, say our prayers, establish churches, and more such spiritual finery, which God has not commanded.
Fifthly and lastly, this quote, cited in other reformed works against holydays, I cite in full, lest any accuse me of being dishonest. It is taken from Luther’s letter “To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation,” and again emphasizes the wicked abuses of holydays, which, having no moral obligation behind them, should rather be abolished than allowed to continue as occasions of sin and blind devotion or will-worship, which is condemned by the apostle Paul in his epistle to the Colossians.
18. All festivals should be abolished, and the Lord’s day alone retained. If it were desired, however, to retain the festivals of our Lady and of the major saints, they should be transferred to the Lord’s day, or observed only by a morning mass, after which all the rest of the day should be a working day. Here is the reason: since the feast days are abused by drinking, gambling, loafing, and all manner of sin, we anger God more on holy days than we do on other days. Things are so topsy-turvy that holy days are not holy, but working days are. Nor is any service rendered to God and his saints by so many saints’ days. On the contrary, they are dishonoured; although some foolish prelates think that they have done a good work if each, following the promptings of his own blind devotion, celebrates a festival in honour of St. Otilie or St. Barbara. But they would be doing something far better if they honoured the saint by turning the saint’s day into a working day.
This past week I have seen two things that have disgust me. One being “open letter” blog post, which totally takes away the meaning of a “letter.” Second, a misunderstanding of the Law. May Calvin remind us,
The third use of the Law (being also the principal use, and more closely connected with its proper end) has respect to believers in whose hearts the Spirit of God already flourishes and reigns. For although the Law is written and engraven on their hearts by the finger of God, that is, although they are so influenced and actuated by the Spirit, that they desire to obey God, there are two ways in which they still profit in the Law. For it is the best instrument for enabling them daily to learn with greater truth and certainty what that will of the Lord is which they aspire to follow, and to confirm them in this knowledge; just as a servant who desires with all his soul to approve himself to his master, must still observe, and be careful to ascertain his master’s dispositions, that he may comport himself in accommodation to them. Let none of us deem ourselves exempt from this necessity, for none have as yet attained to such a degree of wisdom, as that they may not, by the daily instruction of the Law, advance to a purer knowledge of the Divine will. Then, because we need not doctrine merely, but exhortation also, the servant of God will derive this further advantage from the Law: by frequently meditating upon it, he will be excited to obedience, and confirmed in it, and so drawn away from the slippery paths of sin. In this way must the saints press onward, since, however great the alacrity with which, under the Spirit, they hasten toward righteousness, they are retarded by the sluggishness of the flesh, and make less progress than they ought. The Law acts like a whip to the flesh, urging it on as men do a lazy sluggish ass. Even in the case of a spiritual man, inasmuch as he is still burdened with the weight of the flesh, the Law is a constant stimulus, pricking him forward when he would indulge in sloth. David had this use in view when he pronounced this high eulogium on the Law, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes,” (Ps. 19:7, 8). Again, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path,” (Ps. 119:105). The whole psalm abounds in passages to the same effect. Such passages are not inconsistent with those of Paul, which show not the utility of the law to the regenerate, but what it is able of itself to bestow. The object of the Psalmist is to celebrate the advantages which the Lord, by means of his law, bestows on those whom he inwardly inspires with a love of obedience. And he adverts not to the mere precepts, but also to the promise annexed to them, which alone makes that sweet which in itself is bitter. For what is less attractive than the law, when, by its demands and threatening, it overawes the soul, and fills it with terror? David specially shows that in the law he saw the Mediator, without whom it gives no pleasure or delight.
Ps. 119:1-10 – Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord! Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways! You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently. Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes! Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments. I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules. I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me! How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!
Deuteronomy 5:12-14: Keep the day of rest, to hallow it as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy business: but the seventh day is the rest of the Lord thy God, thou shalt not do any work therein.
Now we must come to the second point which emphasizes that the sabbath day was a [type of] civil order for training the faithful in the service of God. For that day was ordained in order that people might assemble themselves to hear the doctrine of the law preached, to participate in the sacrifices, [and] to invoke the name of God. With respect to that, it applies as much to us as to the ancient people. For although the figurative aspect has been surpassed . . . what is said of this order still applies and has its usage. . . . [L]et us acknowledge that this order was not given solely to the Jews in order for them to have a certain day on which they might as- semble themselves, but at the same time it applies to us also.
Nevertheless, we have to note that there is more and that indeed it would be a meagre thing to have a rest regarding physical activity but not involving anything else. What is necessary then? That we should strive toward a higher end than this rest here; that we should desist from our works which are able to impede us from meditating on the works of God, from calling upon his name, and from our exercising his Word. If we turn Sunday into a day for living it up, for our sport and pleasure, indeed how will God be honored in that? Is it not a mockery and even a profanation of his name? But when shops are closed on Sunday, when people do not travel in the usual way, its purpose is to provide more leisure and liberty for attending to what God com- mands us that we might be taught by his Word, that we might convene together in order to con- fess our faith, to invoke his name, [and] to participate in the use of the sacraments. That is the end for which this order must serve us. . . .
Now from the foregoing we see in what attitude we hold all Christianity and the service of God. . . . [T]he majority hardly care about the usage of this day which has been instituted in order that we might withdraw from all earthly anxieties, from all business affairs, to the end that we might surrender everything to God.
Moreover, let us realize that it is not only for coming to the sermon that the day of Sun- day is instituted, but in order that we might devote all the rest of time to praising God. . . . [O]n other days, seeing that we are so occupied with our affairs, we are not as much open to serve God as on a day which is totally dedicated to this. Thus we ought to observe Sunday . . . in a way in which we are neither impeded by nor occupied with anything else, so that we might be able to extend all our senses to recognize the benefits and favors with which he has enlarged us. . . . Thus
* From John Calvin’s Sermons on the Ten Commandments. “The Fifth Sermon . . . Thursday, June 20, 1555, Deuteron- omy 5:12-14.” Edited and translated by Benjamin W. Farley. Forward by Ford Lewis Battles. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1980, pp. 108, 109, 110, 112, 113.when people profane . . . the holy order which God has instituted to lead us to himself, why should they be astonished if all the rest of the week is degraded?
. . . But in order to apply ourselves to its correct and lawful usage, it is necessary to realize (as we have already said) that our Lord only asks that this day be spent in hearing his Word, in offering common prayers, in confessing our faith, and in observing the sacraments. . . . And when we have spent Sunday in praising and glorifying the name of God and in meditating on his works, then, throughout the rest of the week, we should show that we have benefited from it.
“That’s the question the introduction of this Perspectives volume on the Sabbath seeks to answer. In so doing, it sets up the rest of the book, which presents in point-counterpoint form the four most common views of the Sabbath commandment that have arisen throughout church history, representing the major positions held among Christians today (and despite their absence, Catholics and Orthodox can also be found on the continuum this project articulates). The publisher summarizes the book as follows:”
Skip MacCarty (Andrews University, Pioneer Memorial Church) defends the Seventh-day view, which argues the Sabbath commandment is a moral law of God requiring us to keep the seventh day (Saturday) holy. It must therefore remain the day of rest and worship for Christians. Jospeh A. Pipa (Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary) backs the Christian Sabbath view, which reasons that ever since the resurrection of Christ, the one day in seven to be kept holy is the first day of the week. Craig L. Blomberg (Denver Seminary) supports the Fulfillment view, which says that since Christ has brought the true Sabbath rest into the present, the Sabbath commands of the Old Testament are no longer binding on believers. Charles P. Arand (Concordia Seminary) upholds the Lutheran view that the Sabbath commandment was given as Torah to the Israelites alone and does not concern Christians. Rest and worship are still required but not tied to a particular day.
Comes out 2011 and I cannot wait for the read!
“Let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days of the week.” – 107AD IGNATIUS
Taken from Ignatius, Epistle to the Magnesians, chp 9. Ante-Nicene Fathers , vol. 1, pg. 62-63.