The Confession of Faith: A commentary on The Westminster Confession of Faith

by A. A. Hodge

A. A. Hodge

Chapter 21

Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day

SECTION I:The light of nature showeth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all, is 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 with all the soul, and with all the might.[1] But the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture.[2]

1. Rom. 1:20; Psa. 19:1-4a; 50:6; 86:8-10; 89:5-7; 95:1-6; 97:6; 104:1-35; 145:9-12; Acts 14:17; Deut. 6:4-5 2. Deut. 4:15-20; 12:32; Matt. 4:9-10; 15:9; Acts 17:23-25; Exod. 20:4-6, John 4:23-24; Col. 2:18-23

Section II. Religious worship is to be given to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and to him alone; [3] not to angels, saints, or any other creature:[4] and, since the fall, not without a Mediator; nor in the mediation of any other but of Christ alone.[5]

3. John 5:23; Matt. 28:19; II Cor. 13:14; Eph. 3:14; Rev. 5:11-14; Acts 10:25-26 4. Col. 2:18; Rev. 19:10; Rom. 1:25 5. John 14:6; I Tim. 2:5; Eph. 2:18; Col. 3:17

THESE sections teach: --
1. That the obligation to render supreme worship and devoted service to God is a dictate of nature as well as a doctrine of revelation.

2. That God in his Word has prescribed for us how we may worship him acceptably; and that it is an offence to him and a sin in us either to neglect to worship and serve him in the way prescribed, or to attempt to serve him in any way not prescribed.

3. That the only proper objects of worship are the Father, Son, and holy Ghost; and that, since the fall, these are to be approached only through a Mediator, and through the mediation of none other than Christ alone.

4. That religious worship is upon no pretence to be rendered to angels, or to saints, nor to any other creature.

1. That it is a dictate of natural reason and conscience that a Being of infinite and absolute perfection, the Creator, Possessor and sovereign Lord, the Preserver and bountiful Benefactor of all creatures, and the absolute moral Governor of all moral agents, should be adored, praised, thanked, supplicated, obeyed, and served, is self-evident, and is witnessed to by the common consent of all nations of all ages. The reasons for this are -- (1.) His absolute perfection in himself. (2.) His infinite superiority to us. (3.) His relation to us as Creator, Preserver, and moral Governor. (4.) Our absolute dependence upon him for every good, and our obligations for his infinite goodness to us. (5.) His commands requiring this at our hands. (6.) The impulse of our nature as religious beings and morally responsible agents. (7.) The fact that our faculties find their highest exercise, and our whole being its highest development and blessedness, in this worship and service.

2. We have already seen, under chapter i., that God has given us in the Holy Scriptures an infallible, authoritative, complete, and perspicuous rule of faith and practice. That "the whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory and man's salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture." It hence necessarily follows that since God has prescribed the mode in which we are acceptably to worship and serve him, it must be an offence to him and a sin in us for us either to neglect his way, or in preference to practice our own. It may well have been that in the natural state of man, and in the moral relations to God in which he stood before the fall, his natural reason, conscience, and religious instincts might have sufficed to direct him in his worship and. service. But since man's moral nature is depraved, and his religious instincts perverted, and his relations to God reversed by sin, it is self-evident that an explicit, positive revelation is necessary, not only to tell man that God will admit his worship at all, but also to prescribe 'the principles upon which, and the methods in which, that worship and service may be rendered. As before shown from Scripture, not only all teaching for doctrine the commandments of men, but all manner of will-worship, of self-chosen acts and forms of worship, are an abomination to God. At the same time, of course, there are, as, the Confession admits, chapter i., section 6, "some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and the government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word." These relate obviously to the application of the principles and "general rules" laid down in Scripture, for our guidance in worship and ecclesiastical government, to the varying times and circumstances of the case in hand. But we have in no case any right, upon the ground of taste, fashion, or expediency, to go beyond the clear warrant of Scripture.

3. That the divine worship is to be addressed equally to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, follows necessarily from what we have proved under chapter ii., section 8 -- that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, being distinct persons, are yet each equally, in the same absolute sense, the one supreme God. That God can now be acceptably approached only through a Mediator is proved by what we have already proved,-- (1,) As to the guilt of man by nature and in consequence of habitual transgression; (2.) As to the justice of God; and (3.) As to the fact that God has from eternity determined to deal with men, as the subjects of redemption, only through a mediator. If Christ as our High Priest truly represents the elect before the Father, in obeying and suffering vicariously in their stead and in making intercession in their behalf; and if he is the medium through which all gracious benefits come to us from God,-- it follows that all our approaches to God should be made through him. That God is the only proper object of worship, and that Christ is the only Mediator through whom we may approach God, will be shown under the next head.

4. Religious worship is upon no pretence to be offered to angels, nor to saints, nor to any other creature, nor to God through any other mediator save Christ alone.

The most authoritative Standards of the Church of Rome teach -- (1.) That the Virgin Mary and saints and angels are to receive true religious worship, in proportion to their respective ranks. (2.) That they are to be invoked to help us in our times of need. (3) That they are to be invoked to intercede with God or with Christ for us. (4.) Some of their most authoritative books of worship teach that God is to be asked to save and help us on the ground of the merits of the saints; (5.) That the pictures, images, and relics of saints and martyrs, are to be retained in churches and worshipped.

To avoid the charge of idolatry made upon them for these practices, they distinguish between (a.) Latria, or the highest religious worship, which is due to God alone, and (b.) Doulia, or that inferior religious worship which is due in various degrees to saints and angels, according to their rank. Sonic also mark a middle degree of worship, which is due to the Virgin Mary alone, by the term Hyperdoulia. They also distinguish between (a.) that direct worship which is due severally to God, to the Virgin, or to the saints and angels, and (b.) that indirect worship which terminates upon the picture or image which represents to the worshipper the direct object of his worship.

The objections to this entire system are -- (1.) That it has neither as a whole nor in any element of it a shadow of support in Scripture. (2.) That the reasons for worshipping God apply to the worship of no other being. That reason and revelation unite in teaching us that a Being of infinite and absolute perfection, our Creator, Preserver, and moral Governor, stands apart from all other objects, and therefore is not to be classed as an object of worship with any other.

(3.) The sin of worshipping other gods and angels is explicitly forbidden. Ex. xx. 3, 5; Col. ii. 18. When the people of Lystra proposed to worship Saint Paul and Saint Barnabas, "they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people," saying, "We also are men,......and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God." Acts xiv. 14, 15.

(4.) The worship of images, or of God, Christ, or saints by images, is forbidden in the Second Commandment. Ex. xx. 4, 5.

(5.) The distinctions they make between the different degrees of worship due to God and to holy creatures, and between the indirect worship which terminates upon the image or picture and the direct worship which terminates upon the person represented by it, are not their peculiar property, but, as every missionary to the heathen knows, are common to them with the educated class among all idolaters. If the Romanists be not idolaters, the sins forbidden in the First and Second Commandments have never been committed.

(6.) The invocation of the saints is a pure absurdity, for unless they are omnipresent and omniscient, they cannot hear us; and in many cases, unless they are omnipotent, they cannot help us. The Romish explanation, that God may perhaps tell the saints what we pray, in order that the saints may in turn tell God, is worthy of the doctrine it explains.

(7.) The saints and angels are not mediators between us and God or us and Christ -- (a.) Because it is explicitly asserted that Christ is the only Mediator between God and man. 1 Tim. ii. 5. (b} Christ has exhaustively discharged every requisite mediatorial function, both on earth and in heaven. Heb. ix. 12, 24; vii. 25; x. 14. (c.) Because we are "complete" in Christ; and we are exhorted to come immediately to God through Christ, and to come with the utmost boldness and sense of liberty. Col. ii. 10; Eph. ii. 18; iii. 12; Heb. iv. 15, 16; x. 19 -- 22. The very suggestion of supplementing the work of Jesus Christ with that of other mediators is infinitely derogatory to him. (d.) There can be no room for intercessors between us and Christ, because Christ is our tender Brother Matt. xi. 28), and because it is the once of the Holy Ghost to draw men to Christ. John vi. 44; xvi.18, 14. (e.) Even if there were need for other mediators, the saints would not be fit for the place. They are absent; they cannot bear when we cry. They are dependent; they cannot help others. As we have seen, they have no supererogatory merits, and therefore cannot lay in our behalf a foundation for our acceptance with God. They are busy worshipping and enjoying Christ in person, and have neither the time, the opportunity, nor the ability to manage the affairs of the world.

SECTION III: Prayer, with thanksgiving, being one special part of religious worship,[6] is by God required of all men:[7] and, that it may be accepted, it is to be made in the name of the Son,[8] by the help of his Spirit,[9] according to his will,[10] with understanding, reverence, humility, fervency, faith, love, and perseverance;[11] and, if vocal, in a known tongue.[12]

6. Phil. 4:6; I Tim. 2:1; Col. 4:2 7. Psa. 65:2; 67:3; 96:7-8; 148:11-13; Isa. 55:6-7 8. John 14:13-14; I Peter 2:5 9. Rom. 8:26; Eph. 6:18 10. I John 5:14 11. Psa. 47:7; Eccl. 5:1-2; Heb. 12:28; Gen. 18:27; James 1:6-7; 5:16; Mark 11:24; Matt. 6:12, 14-15; Col. 4:2; Eph. 6:18 12. I Cor. 14:14

Section IV: Prayer is to be made for things lawful;[13] and for all sorts of men living, or that shall live hereafter:[14] but not for the dead,[15] nor for those of whom it may be known that they have sinned the sin unto death.[16]

13. I John 5:14, 16; John 15:7 14. I Tim. 2:1-2; John 17:20; II Sam. 7:29; II Chr. 6:14-42 15. Luke 16:25-26; Isa. 57:1-2; Psa. 73:24; II Cor. 5:8, 10; Phil 1:21-24; Rev. 14:13 16. I John 5:16

Our Confession having established the general truth as to the object to whom religious worship is to be rendered, and as to the source of our knowledge of its nature and proper methods, now proceeds to state more particularly what the Scriptures teach on this subject.

These sections teach --

1. That prayer is a principal part of religious worship. The word "prayer" is used constantly in a more general and a more specific sense. In its more specific sense it is equivalent to supplication, the act of the soul engaged in presenting its desires to God, and asking God to gratify them and to supply all the necessities of the supplicant. In its general sense, prayer is used to express every act of the soul engaged in spiritual intercourse with God. In this sense the main elements it embraces are -- (1.) Adoration, (2.) Confession, (3.) Supplication, (4.) Intercession, (5,) Thanksgiving. Thus prayer in its wide sense includes all direct acts of worship. And hymns and psalms of praise are in their essence only metrical and musically-uttered prayers.

2. The Confession here asserts that prayer is required of all men. This is absolutely true, even of the heathen who know not God, and of the unregenerate who are morally unable to pray in a manner pleasing to God; because neither our knowledge of moral truths nor our moral ability to do what is right is the measure of our responsibility. The duty of prayer is a natural duty growing out of our natural relations to God, manifested by the natural conscience, and enjoined in the Scriptures upon all men indiscriminately. 1 Thess. v. 17; Acts viii. 22, 23; Luke xi. 9 -- 13. We are told not only to pray after we receive the Holy Spirit, but to pray also that we may receive him.

3. In order that prayer may be acceptable to God and effectual, it is here taught that it is necessary -- (1.) That it should be offered through the mediation. of Christ. It has been shown above, under sections 1 and 2, that all religious worship must be presented through Christ; that is, relying upon his merits, and approaching God through his present personal intercession. Prayer is a kind of religious worship. What, therefore, is true of the class is true of all its elements. Besides, this truth follows from all that is revealed of our redemption through the merits of Christ, and is directly taught in Scripture. John xiv. 13, 14; xvi. 23, 24. (2.) It must be made by the help of the Holy Ghost. The same word paraclete is applied to Christ and to the Holy Ghost: it is translated when applied to Christ advocate (1 John ii. 1), and comforter when applied to the Holy Ghost. John xiv. 16. Thus Christ as our Advocate makes intercession for us in heaven (Rom. viii. 34); the Holy Ghost as our Advocate makes intercession within us, inditing our prayers, kindling our desires for that which is according to the will of God, and thus maintaining harmony in the constant current of petition ascending from Christ the Head in heaven and his members on earth. Rom. viii. 26, 27. (3.) It is essential to acceptable prayer that the heart of the worshipper should. be in the proper state, and that his prayer be offered in reverence for the majesty and moral perfections of God; humility, because of our guilt and pollution; submission to his will; confidence in his ability and willingness to help us, and upon his covenanted grace; intelligent apprehension of the relations we sustain, the nature of the service we are engaged in, and the subject-matter of our prayer and objects of petition; and real earnestness and fervency of heart, corresponding fully to all the words whereby our prayer is expressed; and with importunity and perseverance. Luke xviii. 1 -- 8. And when the prayer is common between two or more persons, it is self-evident that it must be expressed in a language common to all; otherwise, it must cease to be in any sense the prayer of those who fail to understand it. This point is aimed at the Romish custom of uttering many of her public prayers in Latin, which to the vast majority of her worshippers is an unknown tongue. This is explicitly forbidden. 1 Cor. xiv. 1 -- 33.

4. As to the objects of petition, we are here taught that they cover the whole ground of things that are at once desirable and lawful. This is self-evident, because we depend upon God for all things, and therefore should ask him for everything we need; yet, of course, giving a precedence in our desires for the " best things,' " seeking first the kingdom of heaven and God's righteousness." 1 Cor. xii, 31; Matt. vi. 33. Desires for unlawful things are of course unlawful desires, and should be laid aside and repented of. Even concerning those things which it is in general lawful for us to desire, there may be in many instances uncertainty whether it is the will of God that we should have them at the time and in the way we desire. In every such case we should, of course, make our petitions conditional upon God's will, as our blessed Lord did in Gethsemane. Luke xxii. 42; 1 John v. 14.

As to the subjects of intercession, we are taught to pray for all men living or to live. 1 Tim. ii. 1, 2; John xvii. 20. But not for those already dead, nor for those known to have committed the unpardonable sin.

The doctrine of the Romish Church concerning prayers for the dead is a dependent part of their doctrine concerning the state of the souls of men after death. They hold that those who are perfect at the time of death go immediately to heaven; those who are infidels or die in mortal sin go immediately to hell; but the great mass of imperfect Christians go to purgatory, where they must stay until they get fit for heaven. Concerning purgatory, the Council of Trent teaches -- (1.) That there is a purifying fire through which imperfect Christian souls must pass. (2.) That the souls temporarily suffering therein may be materially benefited by the prayers of their fellow-Christians and the masses offered up in their behalf on earth. (Council of Trent, sess. 25.)

But if there is no purgatory, as will be shown under chapter xxxii., there can be no prayers for the dead, since those in heaven need no intercession, and for those in hell none can avail. It is as presumptuous as it is futile to assail the throne of God with supplications "when once the Master of the house has shut to the door." Luke xiii. 25. The Scriptures teach of only two states of existence beyond death, and of a great, impassable gulf fixed between. Luke xvi. 25, 26. Besides, the practice of praying for the dead has no warrant, direct or by remote implication, in Scripture.

SECTION V: The reading of the Scriptures with godly fear,[17] the sound preaching [18] and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God, with understanding, faith, and reverence,[19] singing of psalms with grace in the heart;[20] as also, the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ, are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God:[21] beside religious oaths,[22] vows,[23] solemn fastings,[24] and thanksgivings upon special occasions,[25] which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner.[26]

17. Luke 4:16-17; Acts 15:21; Col. 4:16; I Thess. 5:27; Rev. 1:3 18. II Tim. 4:2; Acts 5:42 19. James 1:22; Acts 10:33; Matt. 13:19; Heb. 4:2; Isa. 66:2 20. Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19; James 5:13; I Cor. 14:15 21. Matt. 28:19; I Cor. 11:23-29; Acts 2:42 22. Deut. 6:13; Neh. 10:29; II Cor. 1:23 23. Psa. 116:14; Isa. 19:21; Eccl. 5:4-5 24. Joel 2:12; Est. 4:16; Matt. 9:15; Acts 14:23 25. Exod. 15:1-21; Psa. 107:1-43; Neh. 12:27-43; Est. 9:20-22 26. Heb. 12:28.

SECTION VI: Neither prayer, nor any other part of religious worship, is now, under the gospel, either tied unto, or made more acceptable by any place in which it is performed, or towards which it is directed:[27] but God is to be worshiped everywhere,[28] in spirit and truth;[29] as, in private families [30] daily,[31] and in secret, each one by himself;[32] so, more solemnly in the public assemblies, which are not carelessly or willfully to be neglected, or forsaken, when God, by his Word or providence, calleth thereunto.[33]

27. John 4:21 28. Mal. 1:11; I Tim. 2:8 29. John 4:23-24 30. Jer. 10:25; Deut. 6:6-7; Job 1:5; II Sam. 6:18, 20 31. Matt. 6:11; see Job 1:5 32. Matt. 6:6; 16-18; Neh. 1:4-11; Dan. 9:3-4a 33. Isa. 56:6-7; Heb. 10:25; Psa. 84:1-12; 100:4; 122:1, Luke 4:16; Acts 2:42; 13:42, 44

These sections proceed to particularize the different ways in which God requires us under the present dispensation to worship him. These are the regular and the occasional acts of worship. The regular worship of God is to be conducted in the public assembly, in the private family, and personally in secret. The worship of God in the public assembly is to consist in the reading, preaching, and hearing of the Word; prayer, singing of psalms; and the administration and receiving of the sacraments instituted by him. In the Word, read or properly preached, God speaks to us, and we worship him by hearing with reverence, diligent attention, and self-application and obedience. In prayer and the singing of praise we address to God the holy affections, desires, and thanksgivings inspired in our hearts by his Holy Spirit. In the sacraments God communes with and enters into covenant with our souls, and we commune with and enter into covenant with him. And the acceptability of this worship depends not at all, as Ritualists fondly imagine, upon the sanctity of the place in which it is rendered or the direction in which it is addressed. The dispensation in which worship was limited to holy places, persons, and seasons, has been done away with by our Lord, as we have seen under chapters vii. and xix., and as Christ plainly teaches the woman of Samaria. John iv. 20 -- 24. But its acceptance depends upon -- (1.) Its being accompanied with .and founded upon the pure, unadulterated truth of God's Word; (2.) Its being the fruit of the Holy Ghost, the result of en- lightened, reverent, and fervent love; (3.) Its being offered entirely through the mediation of the Lord Jesus.

"Besides the public worship in congregations, it is the indispensable duty of each person, alone in secret, and of every family by itself in private, to pray to and worship God.

"Secret worship is most plainly enjoined by our Lord. Matt. vi. 6; Eph, vi. 18. In this duty every one, apart by himself, is to spend some time in prayer, reading the Scriptures, holy meditation, and serious self-examination. The many advantages arising from a conscientious discharge of these duties are best known to those who are found in the faithful discharge of them.

"Family worship, which ought to be performed by every family, ordinarily morning and evening, consists in prayer, reading the Scriptures, and singing praises.

" The head of the family, who is to lead in this service, ought to be careful that all the members of his household duly attend; and that none withdraw themselves unnecessarily from any part of family worship; and that all refrain from their common business while the Scriptures are read, and gravely attend to the same, no less than when prayer and praise are offered up.

"Let the heads of families be careful to instruct their children and servants in the principles of religion. Every proper opportunity ought to be embraced for such instruction. But we are of opinion that the Sabbath evenings, after public worship, shouldst be sacredly preserved for this purpose. Therefore we highly disapprove of paying unnecessary private visits on the Lord's day; admitting strangers into the families, except when necessity or charity requires it; or any other practices, whatever plausible pretences may be offered in their favor, if they interfere with the above important and necessary duty." [American] Directory for Worship, chap. xv.

The occasional modes by which God may be in proper seasons worshipped are such as religious oaths, and vows, and fasting, and special thanksgiving. Of oaths and vows we will treat under chapter xxii. Of the propriety and usefulness of special seasons of fasting and of thanksgiving, the examples of God's Word (Ps. cvii.; Matt. ix. 15) and the experience of the Christian Church in modern times leave no room for doubt.

SECTION: VII. As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in his Word, by 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:[34] which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week,[35] and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which, in Scripture, is called the Lord's day,[36] and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath.[37]

34. Exod. 20:8-11; Isa. 56:2- 7 35. Gen. 2:2-3; I Cor. 16:1-2; Acts 20:7 36. Rev. 1:10 37. Matt. 5:17-18; Mark 2:27-28; Rom. 13:8-10; James 2:8-12

SECTION: VIII. This Sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe an holy rest, all the day, from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations,[38] but also are taken up, the whole time, in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.[39]

38. Exod. 16:23, 25-26, 29-30; 20:8; 31:15-17; Isa. 58:13-14; Neh. 13:15-22 39. Isa. 58:13-14; Luke 4:16; Matt. 12:1-13; Mark 3:1-5

Under chapter xix. we saw that the different laws of God, when classified according to their respective grounds or reasons, might be grouped as follows: (1.) Those having their ground in the divine nature, and therefore universal and immutable. (2.) Those having their ground, as far as known to us, simply and purely in the divine will, hence called positive commandments, and binding only so far and so long as commanded. (3.) Those having their ground and reason in the temporary circumstances to which they were adapted, and to which alone they were intended to apply, so that they cease to be binding as soon as those circumstances cease to exist. (4.) Those which have their ground in the universal and permanent state and relations of men in this world, and hence are intended to be as universal and as permanent as those relations.

It is evident that the Scriptural law as to the Sabbath comes partly under the fourth and partly also under the second of these classes.

1. The law of the Sabbath in part has its ground in the universal and permanent needs of human nature, and especially of men embraced under an economy of redemption. It is designed -- (1.) To keep in remembrance the fact that God created the world and all its inhabitants (Gen ii. 2, 3; Ex. xx. 11), which is the great fundamental fact in all religion, whether natural or revealed. (2.) As changed to the first day of the week it is designed to keep in remembrance the fact of the ascension of the crucified Redeemer and his session at the right hand of power, the great central fact in the religion of Christ. (3.) To be a perpetual type of the eternal Sabbath of the saints which remains. Heb. iv. 3 -- 11. (4.) To afford a suitable time for the public and private worship of God and the religious instruction of the people. (5.) To afford a suitable period of rest from the wear and tear of labor, which is rendered alike physically and morally necessary from the present constitution of human nature and from the condition of man in this world.

All of these reasons for the institution of the Sabbath have their ground in human nature, and remain in full force among all men of all nations, in all stages of intellectual and moral development. Hence the Sabbath was introduced as a divine institution at the creation of the race, and was then enjoined upon man as man, and hence upon the race generally and in perpetuity. Gen. ii. 2, 3. Hence we find that the Jews (Gen. vii. 10; viii. 10; xxix. 27, 28; Job ii. 13), and all Gentile nations also, as the Egyptians, Arabians, Indians, etc., divided their time by weeks, or periods of seven days, from the earliest ages. Hence before the giving of the law the Jews were required to observe the Sabbath. Ex. xvi. 23. Hence also the law with respect to the Sabbath has been incorporated into the Decalogue, as one of the ten requirements in which the entire moral law, touching all our relations to God and to our fellow-men, is generalized and condensed. It was written by the finger of God on stone. It is put side by side with the commandments which require us to love God, to honor his name, and which forbid unchastity and murder. It was put, as a part of the "testimonies of God," under the "mercy-seat," at the foundation of his throne. And hence, when the great commandment is uttered, God does not say, "I appoint to you a Sabbath-day," but, "remember the Sabbath-day, to keep it holy," -- evidently implying that he was referring to a well-known and pre-existent institution common to the Jews with the Gentiles. And the reason annexed for the enactment of the law is not a fact peculiar to Jewish history, but a fact underlying all the relations God sustains to the entire race, and, as before shown, the fact out of which the Sabbatic institution had originated thousands of years before --" For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea," etc. Ex. xx. 8 -- ll. So Christ says, "The Sabbath was made for man;" that is, for mankind. Mark ii. 27.

2. The law of the Sabbath, in fact, is also a positive commandment, having its ground in the will of God as supreme Lord. That a certain portion of time should be set apart for the worship of God and the religious instruction of men is a plain dictate of reason. That a certain portion of time should be set apart for rest from labor is by experience found to be, on physiological and moral grounds, highly desirable. That some monument of the creation of the world and of the resurrection of Christ, and that some permanent and frequently-recurring type of the rest of heaven, should be instituted, is eminently desirable for man, considered as a religious being. But that all these ends should be combined and secured by one institution, and that precisely one whole day in seven should be allotted to that purpose, and that this one day in seven should be at one time the seventh and afterward the first day of the week, is evidently a matter of positive enactment, and binds us as long as the indications of the divine will in the matter remain unchanged.

The time of observance was changed from the seventh to the first day of the week in the age of the apostles, and consequently with their sanction; and that day, as "the Lord's day" (Rev. i. 10), has ever since been observed in the stead of the ancient Sabbath, in all portions and ages of the Christian Church. We accept this change as it comes to us, and believe it to be according to the will of God -- (1.) Because of its apostolic origin; (2.) Because of the transcendent importance of the resurrection of Christ, which is thus associated with the creation of the world by God, as the foundation of the Christian religion; and (3.) Because of the universal consent of Christians of all generations and denominations, and the approbation of the Holy Ghost that dwelleth in them that is implied thereby.

As to the observance of the Christian Sabbath, the obvious general rule is, that it is to be observed, (1.) Not in the spirit of the law, which Christ condemns Matt. xii. 1; Luke xiii. 15), but in the holy and free spirit of the gospel, (2.) In accordance with the ends for which it is instituted, and which have been above enumerated.

Since God has appointed the Sabbath to be one day in seven, we should consecrate the whole day, without curtailment or alienation, to the purposes designed; that is, to rest from worldly labor, the worship of God, and the religious instruction of our fellow-men. We should be diligent in using the whole day for these purposes, and to avoid, and, as far as lieth in us, lead our fellow-men to avoid, all that hinders the most profitable application of the day to its proper ends. And nothing is to be allowed to interfere with this consecration of the day except the evident and reasonable demands of necessity as far as our own interests are concerned, and of mercy as far as the necessities of our fellow-men and of dependent animals are concerned.

Text scanned and Edited by Michael Bremmer

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