The Canons Of Dort On The Sabbath

Session 164, May 17 PM
Trans. R. Scott Clark

Rules on the observation of the Sabbath, or the Lord’s Day, with the agreement of the brothers from Zeeland the following concepts were explained and approved by Doctor Professors of Divinity.

  1. In the fourth Commandment of the divine law, part is ceremonial, part is moral.
  2. The rest of the seventh day after creation was ceremonial and its rigid observation peculiarly prescribed to the Jewish people.
  3. Moral in fact, because the fixed and enduring day of the worship of God is appointed, for as much rest as is necessary for the worship of God and holy meditation of him.
  4. With the Sabbath of the Jews having been abrogated, the Lord’s Day is solemnly sanctified by Christians.
  5. From the time of the Apostles this day was always observed in the ancient Catholic Church.
  6. This same day is thus consecrated for divine worship, so that in it one might rest from all servile works (with these excepted, which are works of charity and pressing necessity) and from those recreations which impede the worship of God.

Source: H.H. Kuyper, De Post-Acta of Nahandelingen van de nationale Synode van Dordrecht in 1618 en 1619 gehouden een Historische Studie (Amsterdam, 1899), 184–86.

100 comments

  1. So this is not “The Decision of the Synod of Dordt on the Five Main Points of Doctrine in Dispute in the Netherlands” that are usually referred to as “The Canons of Dort”? Was this in a different setting?

    Question: What is the Scripture reference for changing the day of the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday?

    and Where is the reference that excludes “works of charity and pressing necessity”?

    • Technically this is not from the Canons themselves, but from a “post-acta” that was I believe also produced and disseminated by the Synod of Dordt along with the Canons.

    • These are canons or rules by the Synod of Dort on the sabbath. The synod issued canons on several questions, the most famous of which were the canons or rulings on the five points proposed by the Remonstrants.

      These are indeed part of the post-acta, i.e., after the foreign delegates had departed but they were properly the work of the Synod and have ecclesiastical sanction.

  2. As a subscriber to the WCF I find this position very unsatisfactory. I am aware that it reflects something of the original Reformed position, but I find it a dangerous one. Dangerous, because once we start saying that the Decalogue is partly ceremonial and partly moral (which is obviously the case if a part of the Decalogue is ceremonial), where can this end? We have homosexuals telling us that the prohibition against sodomy was ceremonial. My own view is that the fourth commandment is wholly moral, but that there were additional sabbath observances apart from the Decalogue that were ceremonial. Sweep away the ceremonial, and the fourth commandment and the Decalogue remains untouched.

    I’m aware, of course, that the fourth commandment talks about the ‘seventh day’, but the context of that (it seems to me) is the pattern of six days labour and a seventh of rest. Reference to the creation is of that pattern, not necessarily of that strict ceremonial point 2 on the list. Whether we can say that ‘the seventh day of the week’ was known and observed in a perfectly regular cycle all the way back to the creation is uncertain, thus Matthew Henry: “They are told what is the day they must religiously observe–a seventh, after six days’ labour; whether this was the seventh by computation from the first seventh, or from the day of their coming out of Egypt, or both, is not certain.” Quite so.

    Likewise, Matthew Poole in 1683 writes, commenting on Exodus 20:11, “It is remarkable, the blessing and sanctification are not appropriated to the seventh day, but to the sabbath day, whether it should be the seventh day, as to the Jews it then was, or the first day, as to us Christians now it is, which change seems hereby to be insinuated.”

    • You say you subscribe to the WCF, and you also have a problem with the 4th commandment being partly ceremonial and partly moral; because you say that it is wholly moral.

      Well, WCF21.7 describes the Sabbath command as having aspects that are both positive and moral (besides perpetuity). “Positive” refers to the fact that the the Lord instituted rules for the observance of the day that are not necessary to the moral observance.

      Both ceremony related to the day and the designation of a particular day are “positive” requirements, which have (in fact) changed by divine ordinance under the variety of covenant administration. This is the doctrine of the WCF.

      Furthermore, the same 21.7 recognizes that the pre-Christian Israelite Sabbath was taught (Gen.2 and Ex.20/Dt.5) explicitly as the seventh day. Which order was changed at the Resurrection of Christ to the first day. The positive aspect is embedded in the 4C, and we are wiser admitting it, and also recognizing that Christ (not the church) as divine law-giver has ordained his own change-of-day.

      As to whether we know if a “perfectly regular cycle” goes all the way back to creation. It most definitely does NOT. And the proof of it is in the Law of Moses itself.

      Twice in the Israelite cultic year, the calendar recognized an “8th day” Sabbath. This was a period of 48hrs, when a double-Sabbath was observed. The following day was not the Second Day (“Monday” as we might call it) with a “short week” of only six days to follow it, but the First Day of a new 7day week.

      What this means is that starting with the Exodus generation, down to the exile, roughly a thousand years passed in which annually a minimum of two solar days were added to the weeks filling every annual period. This also means that it is immaterial whether there was anywhere on earth a perfect computation of 7day cycles going back to the beginning of time.

      We cannot reconstruct a thousand years of the Israelite cultic calendar. Nor should we stipulate on faith that the 7day week used by believers or unbelievers in any age of the world may not have simply been “started” many times over on some convenient day; but must instead be perfectly referenced to the original week. Such would require suspension of rationality. And there’s no evidence that such synchronicity has taken place.

      The Exile and return from exile involved many different sorts of accommodations to new constraints on Mosaic legislation and practices. Since the Jews were constantly a dependency of some empire or another, they did not have the power to re-institute their own calendar entirely; so the annual cultic cycle and the official calendar of state were at variance. The Jews simply bore this burden as part of their continued state of subjection, while they awaited the deliverance they looked for from Messiah.

  3. What did the Sabbathday mean to the Jews when it was given to them in the 10 Commandments?

  4. Bruce

    It’s an interesting subject, but I don’t think I can agree with your interpretation of the word ‘positive’ in Chapter 21. Because the word ‘positive’ is employed in no way implies that there is a ceremonial component. The Puritans held that it was the principle of one day in seven, not a first or a seventh day on a strict calendar cycle, that is of the essence of the commandment. The ‘one in seven’ principle is indeed ‘positive’, but what is more technically known as ‘moral-positive’, not ceremonial.

    Thomas Watson wrote “The thing I would have you now observe is, that the commandment of keeping the Sabbath was not abrogated with the ceremonial law, but is purely moral, and the observation of it is to be continued to the end of the world.”

    Below are some questions and answers on this matter by James Fisher

    Q. 19. Is the Fourth Commandment founded on the light of nature, or upon positive institution?

    A. It is founded partly on both.

    Q. 20. What part of this commandment is it, that is founded entirely on nature’s light; or is what they call moral-natural?

    A. The substance of it; namely, that as God is to be worshipped, so some stated time should be set apart for that end.

    Q. 21. What part of it is founded on positive institution: or is what they call moral-positive?

    A. That one proportion of time should be observed for God’s worship and service rather than another; namely, that it should be a seventh, rather than a third, fourth, fifth, or sixth part of our weekly time.

    Q. 22. Why do you call this a POSITIVE institution?

    A. Because the observance of one day in seven, for a Sabbath, flows from the sovereign will of God in appointing it; and could never have been observed, more than any other part of time, merely by the force of nature’s light.

    Q. 23. Why do you call it MORAL-positive?

    A. Because, though the law appointing the precise time of the Sabbath be positive, yet the reason of the law (plainly implied in the law itself, namely, that divine wisdom saw it most equal and meet, that man having six, God should have a seventh day to himself) is MORAL.

    Q. 24. In what, then, consists the morality of the Fourth Commandment?

    A. In keeping holy to God any seventh day he shall be pleased to appoint.

    Q. 25. What is meant by the SEVENTH day mentioned in the commandment?

    A. Not only the seventh in order from the creation, but any other seventh part of our weekly time, as God shall determine.

    Q. 26. How does this appear from the words of the command itself?

    A. In the beginning of the commandment, it is not said, Remember the seventh day, (namely, in order from the creation,) but “Remember the Sabbath-day, to keep it holy.”Just so, in the end of this command, the, words are not, The Lord blessed the seventh day; but, “the Lord blessed the Sabbath-day, and hallowed it.”

    Q. 27. How do you prove the observance of one whole day in seven for a holy Sabbath to the Lord, to be of moral and perpetual obligation?

    A. From the time of the first institution of the Sabbath; from its being placed in the DECALOGUE, or summary of moral precepts; and from there being nothing originally ceremonial, or typical, in the scope or substance of it.

    • It isn’t *my* interpretation of the word ‘positive’ in this context. It is a philosophical term, with a standard history of definition; having applications in law and religion (and elsewhere).
      “Formally or arbitrarily determined; prescribed.”
      “Concerned with practical rather than theoretical matters.”
      “Of or relating to religion based on revelation rather than on nature or reason alone.”

      The divines plainly distinguish between two aspects of this commandment (perpetuity being a third emphasis). That’s why they are listed separately. Moral law is apprehensible through nature; positive requirements are not, but rely upon revelation.

      My original post originated in response to your calling into question the language of the Dort divines by setting them at variance with the Westminster divines. You used the term “wholly moral” to describe the WCF position, but did not actually quote or reference the Confession.

      Your lengthy quote of Tho.Watson is rather confirmatory of the correction I offered, see for instance #s 21&22 above. The hyphenated term “moral-positive” is simply his acknowledgement that whatever God ordains positively is also moral. He also introduces the term “moral-natural” as an explanatory gloss for the Confessional element “moral.”

      Here is the moral requirement minimally stated, 21.7, “it is the law of nature, that, in general, _a due proportion of time_ be set apart for the worship of God.” This is accessible to the natural man. Perhaps even “one day in seven” could be reasonably accessible, but the divines stop short of saying so. Tho.Watson (#21) frankly states that the proportion is NOT so obvious that positive divine prescription was superfluous. And if the proportion is not obvious, neither could the particular Day be; and so it too is positively determined.

      Clearly your complaint with the Dort divines is semantic. They use the term “ceremonial,” the Westminsterians use “positive.” All divinely instituted ceremony is positive (moral-positive, to use TW’s expansionary term). All positive law may not be strictly “ceremonial,” but in this context the Dort divines appear to use the latter term synonymously.

      I think RSC put the quote up as a demonstration that the mature Continental position on the Sabbath is practically indistinguishable from that of the Isles.

  5. There is no Lord’s day Sabbath. The Sabbath was an old testament institution to commemorate the children of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. The 613 OT commandments were not separated by the Jews into ceremonial and moral laws. They were a complete unit.

    For some reason the reformers decided to change the Lord’s day to Sunday Sabbath. They presumed that the Jewish Sabbath had changed to a new day in the NT. There is no biblical support for this.

    The rest spoken of in Hebrews Chapter 4: 1-10 is Christ’s rest or God’s promised rest. The OT Sabbaths were a shadow of things to come and pointed to Christ’s rest which is faith and trust in Christ. This is the teaching of the gospel. Also read Hebrews Chapter 3.

    In Psalm 95 David tells of the children of Israel who forfeited entrance into the promised land because of rebellion and lack of faith. He says that people in his day forfeited that rest because of unbelief.

    Christians have access to the promised rest ‘today’ through faith in Christ as He is our rest. It is also rest from legalism and striving to please God through the OT law including the 10 commandments. We can never please God this way.

    It’s not Sunday that is consecrated for Divine works but Christians through faith in our Lord.

    • Fran,

      This is historical nonsense. Setting aside the strong NT evidence that Jesus was raised on Sunday, the earliest post-apostolic Christians met on Sunday. There’s no doubt about that, so the debate about a Saturday sabbath is a non-starter here. It’s certainly false that the Reformers moved the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. They inherited that notion from the apostolic and early-post apostolic church.

      Please take a look at the chapter on the Sabbath in Recovering the Reformed Confession.

    • Fran

      The Reformed do not seek to be justified on account of their own keeping of the commandments. You are opposing faith and law for righteousness, which has its place, but that is not the issue here. We know that our works don’t save us. Nevertheless, the NT is replete with exhortations for us to do good works, and they are never truly good unless we are already justified: “That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works”. Titus 3:7,8

      Do you seek to live your life in a way that is pleasing to God? How do you know what is pleasing to him, and what constitutes a good work? A good work is only such as God has commanded in his Word and done from a regenerate heart. Therefore, we who are justified are to be ‘zealous of good works’ (Titus 2:14) in obedience to his revealed moral, perpetual commandments. It is abundantly clear from the NT references to the Decalogue that it has not been done away, and continues to serve as the rule of life for those who have faith in Christ, that we may love God and love our neighbour.

    • R. Scott Clark,

      I realise the early church worshipped on the first day of the week (Sunday) and called it the Lord’s Day because of the Resurrection. This has been documented by Christian and non-Christian sources.

      My point is that there is no Holy Sabbath Sunday in Paul’s writings or Acts of the Apostles. Read Romans Chapter 14 and Galatians.

      There are no rules for Sunday church attendance except not to eat or drink too much at the love-feasts (communion) and to pray and exhort each other. They also collected money for the poor. Also to dress modestly and special instructions for women at the Corinthian church. There is no mention about not working and only doing works of charity. These are legalistic notions by the Puritans. We are to obey the Law of Love not the OT, including the 10 commandments.

      9 of the 10 commandments have been expanded and included in the NT letters of the Apostles in one way or another with the exception of the 4th Commandment. This is because Christ is our Sabbath rest so the 4th commandment has been fulfilled along with all 613 OT laws by Christ on the cross. The Sabbath in Jewish law was always symbolic and not meant to last. It was a shadow of things to come. It led to Christ who is our promised rest.

    • Fran,

      Please take the time to look at the chapter in RRC. The major premise of your argument is false. It assumes that the sabbath was given in the first instance under Moses. It wasn’t. According to Scripture, the sabbath was grounded not upon the Mosaic/old covenant, which was inferior etc (Hebrews), but in creation. Genesis 1 and Exodus 20:8 say this expressly and our Lord Jesus taught the same. He did not overturn the 1/7 pattern but he did liberate it from the Mosaic shadows and from the rabbinic accretions with which it had been burdened.

      Consider this: God called 1 day in seven holy in creation, before the fall. He is said t have rested, in the creation narrative. God does not exert himself. Adam had not yet fallen. Why, in the creation narrative is God said to have rested and why is the sabbath holy before the Mosaic legislation and before the fall? Because it is a creational pattern. There are creational ethics that transcend the Mosaic 613 commandments.

      There are lots of resources on the Sabbath, that explain these arguments are more length here.

      The doctrine of the Christian sabbath was taught long before “the Puritans.” The Fathers set aside Sunday as a day of rest. The Puritans were, for the most part, just the English and Scottish Reformed Christians. There is a strong evidence that the European Reformed taught substantially the same doctrine as the British.

  6. All right! Love me a good Sabbath figh—I mean discussion…

    On pts. 1-2, I was having similar thoughts just last night, as we received a sermon (intern-exhortation actually) on Luk 6 and 1 Sam 21. The decalogue says work six days, then rest; and the logical force is work six days, _therefore_ rest; in this way, Israel prefigures Christ’s work (the work given him by the Father, Jn 17), which therefore earned (merited) rest.

    In the new covenant, that logic is completely reversed: at the beginning of the week, first we rest (in Christ), then (and therefore) we work — not to earn, but out of gratitude, serving our neighbor, etc.

    So the “work, then/therefore rest” logic of the commandment is ceremonial, and the new pattern of “rest, then/therefore work” totally explains the Christian Sunday Lord’s Day.

    desean, from LC 116, the proof-texts are 1 Cor 16:1-2(Christians doing Christian on the 1st day) and Rev 1:10 (“Lord’s Day” is a term that means something to John’s readers).

  7. RubeRad

    I don’t read it like that. The Puritans didn’t read it like that either. There may have been ceremonial aspects to Sabbath observance under Moses, for example not being able to light a fire, but these are ceremonial appendices to the Decalogue, rather than part of the Decalogue itself. Not everything in Exodus after Ch. 20 is purely moral – there are civil and ceremonial laws appended to the Decalogue, which can fall away leaving the Decalogue intact. See above my quote from James Fisher (early eighteenth century). The observation on the seventh day ‘of the week’, was not viewed as part of the moral law, only the seventh in a cycle of seven days, whichever ‘day of the week’ that fell on. As John Weemes wrote in 1632, a moral law cannot be revoked without a stain on God’s holiness yet”this circumscription of the day might be altered to the fourth or fifth day [of the week] without any staine of Gods holiness”. If a particular day ‘of the week’ on a repeating cycle back to creation or whenever is to be specified for a temporary period or for certain persons (i.e. not universally applicable for all time and all persons) then yes, that might be classed as ceremonial, but don’t import that concept into the Decalogue itself, which is moral and perpetual, and ‘does forever bind all’.

  8. Kevin, I don’t see how your position allows us to switch away from Saturday worship. I’m not importing that into the decalogue, it says plain as day that the seventh day is the sabbath; not any one per seven, but the seventh, which is the one that happens after the sixth. And now it is completely unoncontroversial among all orthodox Christians (and almost all unorthodox christians) to worship on the first day instead of the seventh. So either “seventh day” is ceremonial (as asserted by Dordt pt 2 in this post), or we’re all doing it wrong.

  9. RubeRad

    I have already answered this point. Please read the posts, including the quotations, for example Fisher: “In the beginning of the commandment, it is not said, Remember the seventh day, (namely, in order from the creation,) but “Remember the Sabbath-day, to keep it holy.”

    There are seven days in a week. If a man tells you he works six days a week, you have no idea which day of the week he doesn’t work. In relation to those six days, the one remaining day in the set of seven days comprising a week is the seventh day. You still don’t know which ‘day of the week’ that seventh day is in that set of seven days. If he were a Muslim this seventh day might be a Friday, if a Jew a Saturday, and if a Christian a Sunday. In relation to the other six days in which he works, the day he doesn’t work is nothing other than the seventh day in that set of seven days, wherever in the week it falls.

    If I have seven children, then I can say that my seventh child is the youngest when we are talking strict chronology. However, if I tell you I have seven children and have already introduced you to six, the seventh one I introduce to you could be any one from the oldest to the youngest. So seventh can mean the seventh in birth order, or it can mean the remaining child in relation to the other six.

    You won’t find which ‘day of the week’ (in order from creation) this seventh day is in the Decalogue. If you wish to specify it in relation to a numbered ‘day of the week’ in strict chronological order from creation you can call that ceremonial if you like, but you will be going beyond the Decalogue to determine that, whether it be a Saturday or a Sunday, or any other day.

    • Kevin,
      You introduced the term “dangerous” back in your first post to this thread.

      I would like to point out, that far more dangerous to a faithful hermeneutic than simply admitting the 4th Commandment contains aspects that are both positive (appropriate exclusively to the Mosaic administration) and moral, is the hermeneutic of hermetically sealing off the Decalog from its connections; in particular its prior connections.

      The command itself contains an unambiguous reference to Gen.1-2. The “seventh day” being referred to can be none other than the last day of a given week–in this case, it is the creation week. V10, “the seventh day is your Lord’s Sabbath;” v11, “[he] rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day.” We may justly infer a distinction between the seventh day and the Sabbath as such. But we cannot pretend that the 4th Commandment as such doesn’t mean the last day of the week as it pertains to the OT covenant people.

      To put it simply and in flat contradiction to what you’ve said, it IS specified IN the Decalog which day-of-the-week is commanded unto the Israelites.

      Your problem here is that you have an a priori: the 4th Commandment is “wholly moral.” As a consequence, you seemingly cannot allow for the command to contain elements that are specific to the covenant era in which it was given. According to what you seem to be saying, if the words of 4C “seem” to be that specific, then we must be reading it wrong.

      You also seem to be operating on the assumption that: if it be allowed that 4C contains both positive and moral aspects (of which the positive may be changed), then it *must* be the case that the other commands are necessarily subject to a similar parsing.

      But this is obviously a fallacy. To say it must be so is arguing from the particular to the general, an induction.

      The excellent men that you quote are not making your argument, and they don’t support your conclusion.

    • Bruce, bingo.

      Kevin, so are you saying the Israelites could have chosen to remember the Sabbath on Sundays? or Wednesdays?

  10. Kevin McGrane,

    I am not suggesting we go out and break the 10 commandments but that they were a shadow of things to come. The NT commandments (law of love) expand on the OT commandments and we are led by the Holy Spirit and the scriptures. I agree with the Titus passages that we are justified and sanctified by Christ so as to do good works.

    It would be better to study the scriptures without the help of books by Puritan reformers. They have added to scripture by bringing the OT rules into the church age. The OT laws have been abolished. It says so in Hebrews Chapter 8: Verse 13. In that He says,” A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

    Christ fulfilled the Old Covenant laws and regulations on the cross and OT temple worship completely vanished with the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

    • Fran

      The ten commandments were not a shadow of things to come. The ten commandments ARE the law of love: ‘thou shalt love the Lord thy God…and thy neighbour as thyself’. These ‘NT commandments’ that you refer to, how do they differ from the Decalogue? You are confused in your thinking about the law: it is only the ceremonial and civil/judicial laws that are abolished, but the moral law (the Decalogue) is perpetual.

      I agree with you that the ceremonial and typical was done away by the fulfilment of Christ’s work, and the judicial/civil by the destruction in AD70 (if not before), but the MORAL law (the Decalogue) is not limited to certain persons, times, and places, but is perpetual; it is not one of those things ‘ready to vanish away’. It is this that is written on our hearts of those who ‘all know me’. You quote Heb 8:13, but seem to have missed verses 8-12, which do speak of the law, and a law not vanishing away with those things mentioned in v.13.

      I’m afraid I cannot agree with you that we would be better not to read the Puritan reformers. It is a pity that we do not read them more, both for their doctrine and their piety.

  11. Bruce, Rube-

    I think the problem here is in the use of the term ceremonial. That usually means an aspect of the law which was added during the time of Moses and was abrogated with Christ, having a particular application to Israel which was now fulfilled. Whereas the use of the term positive is to denote an aspect of the law which would not be known without special revelation but is an essential part of it nonetheless, thus moral.

    I think Kevin is worried- rightly- that if you ascribe the term ceremonial to the “one day in seven” then you’re saying that principle is no longer a binding principle, or it’s been done away with. And so you’d be left with the Baptist position shown by Fran- where the Sabbath becomes a state of being rather than a physical, real, 24 hour period to be observed on a weekly basis.

    Maybe using the example of Adam’s probation would help. God’s command to Adam not to eat of the tree was positive- Adam would not have known not to eat of the tree without a special command from God. This was to establish God’s sovereignty. The fact Adam failed to obey that command does not abrogate it. It was and still is binding- to submit to God’s sovereignty- even though there was failure to keep it.

    The same here: the “one in seven” principle is still binding. It is a positive aspect- reliant on special revelation; but it is also moral- it’s of the substance of the command. The specific “one in seven” one could say is ceremonial: it’s not necessary to the command that the day be the seventh or the first day (chronologically).

    I think perhaps you would agree with this but maybe using ceremonial to mean positive. You might argue this is semantics but I think there is a distinction to be made.

    However, the fact the particular day of the week is ceremonial- I think we can call it that- doesn’t mean the Israelites were free to choose any day they wanted- or that we are. It is God- through revelation- who establishes this. He commanded the Sabbath to be observed on the seventh day for the old covenant and then He changed the observance to the first day for the new covenant. So it could theoretically have been observed on any day of the week, but that choice is and always has been God’s, not ours.

    • That’s right, Alexander. There are ‘morale positivum’ and ‘positivum divinum’ aspects of law, which should not be confused with ceremonial law (or judicial/civil). Unfortunately, people do not define their terms very well, and their view of the ceremonial bleeds into the positive law aspects. It’s not just semantics, it’s most important to distinguish properly, as you have done.

      Bruce picked me up on the WCF on the grounds that it said the fourth commandment was ‘positive’, as if that meant it had ceremonial aspects. But that is not the case. Neither can we take the expression ‘positive, moral, and perpetual’ to mean it has some things positive (but not others), some things moral (but not others) and some things perpetual (and not others).

  12. Bruce-

    You’re wrong in your reading of Fisher. He specifically says the seventh portion (as opposed to the seventh day chronologically) is contained in the command and he points out that the command is to keep the Sabbath day, not the seventh day.

    Yes it was Saturday that was established as the Sabbath at the time of Creation. But the command in the Decalogue- which is a transcript of God’s holiness- specifically commands the keeping of the Sabbath day. The Sabbath was the Saturday at that time, but it is now the first day of the week.

    • Regardless of what Fisher claims, the Decalogue specifically defines the seventh day as the Sabbath day. Are you claiming that “seventh day” does not mean “seventh day of the week”?

  13. RubeRad “are you saying the Israelites could have chosen to remember the Sabbath on Sundays? or Wednesdays?”. I have already dealt with that point. There are a whole raft of ceremonial and civil/judicial aspects of Sabbath observances in the OT, many of them not even related to the weekly sabbath. However, these are not part of the Decalogue. And thus, as Weemes stated, “this circumscription of the day might be altered to the fourth or fifth day [of the week] without any staine of Gods holinesse”.

  14. Bruce

    You say ‘Your problem here is that you have an a priori’, when you have already spoken about the danger of sealing off the Decalogue from its prior connections. If you are bringing ‘prior connections’ to bear, then that is arguing a priori. That doesn’t mean you are wrong, it simply means you have made a priori assumptions yourself. Other expressions you use, such as ‘an unambiguous reference’, and ‘can be none other than’ betray this. You are making an interpretation based on a priori assumptions.

    “You also seem to be operating on the assumption that…” I don’t know where you get that from, but if that is how it seems to you then you are mistaken, and all talk of fallacies etc is moot.

    Those I quote are not making my argument? Fisher says that there was nothing originally ceremonial, or typical, in the scope or substance of sabbath observance from its institution, and that it was placed as such in the Decalogue, a summary of moral precepts. So, it was from its inception moral in essence, with nothing ceremonial whatsoever in either its scope or substance. And when Fisher speaks of the Decalogue as ‘a summary of moral precepts’ it is obvious, from his argument, that he means exclusively moral.

    Now it seems to me that everyone accepts that all the other commandments other than the fourth are wholly moral. You seem to be asking us to accept that the fourth commandment is an exception in that it does have a ceremonial component, so the Decalogue is not a summary of moral precepts but a conflation of moral and ceremonial precepts. You have by no means proved your point, and I’d be extremely surprised if you can. I will go so far as to accept, with the Puritans, that there were ceremonial and civil/judicial laws annexed to the Decalogue. One of those is the ‘day of the week’ issue. But, it’s not part of the Decalogue.

    You suggested I was wrong with regard to the WCF because it uses the term ‘positive’, as though that suggested something that could change (like the day of the week) so I showed that this was understood to mean moral-positive, not positive law in the sense of United States jurisprudence. There are, in fact, two positive aspects in the fourth commandment: that a certain time (i.e. one day) be set aside exclusively for the worship of God; and that we keep this one day in seven (rather than one day in eight, for instance). These remain exactly the same today as given in the Decalogue, as they are not ceremonial or judicial or civil requirements peculiar to the Mosaic administration.

    • When you say, “One of those is the ‘day of the week’ issue. But, it’s not part of the Decalogue,” how do you explain Exodus 20:10? The seventh day being defined as the Sabbath is explicitly in the Decalogue. I’m not trying to be contentious but I do not understand your reading of it at all. Either:
      A) The Sabbath being the seventh day is part of the moral code;
      B) The Sabbath being the seventh day is a ceremonial (and/or possibly civil?) component to the Fourth Commandment; or
      C) The Decalogue pauses at verse 9 and starts up again at verse 12.
      I don’t see why option B is so bad, nor why somewhat-loaded words like “conflation” and “annexed” are particularly useful here.

    • Now it seems to me that everyone accepts that all the other commandments other than the fourth are wholly moral. You seem to be asking us to accept that the fourth commandment is an exception in that it does have a ceremonial component, so the Decalogue is not a summary of moral precepts but a conflation of moral and ceremonial precepts.

      Yep. And that’s also what Dordt said.

  15. Bruce: “Clearly your complaint with the Dort divines is semantic. They use the term “ceremonial,” the Westminsterians use “positive.” All divinely instituted ceremony is positive (moral-positive, to use TW’s expansionary term). All positive law may not be strictly “ceremonial,” but in this context the Dort divines appear to use the latter term synonymously.”

    Talk about muddying the waters! I don’t know what the original Latin (or Dutch?) said, but if Dr Clark’s translation is accurate then this is no mere semantic complaint. Given that there is only a generation between Dort and Westminster, I consider it most unlikely that Westminster would have used ‘positive’ where Dort used ‘ceremonial’, especially as Westminster used the word ‘ceremonial’!

    “Besides this law [the Decalogue], commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel… ceremonial laws…[a]ll which ceremonial laws are now abrogated, under the New Testament.”

    The ceremonial is ‘besides this law’, i.e. the Decalogue, and NOT a part of it, according to Westminster. But according to Dort, the ceremonial IS a part of it. And you are saying this is just semantics? For that to be more than a mere whim or hypothesis, the burden of proof is with you, and you would need to demonstrate that the word is not being used univocally, or practically univocally, in the original languages and contexts. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, but I’m willing to await the results of your research before saying you are definitely wrong. Please let me know how you get on.

  16. RubeRad “Yep. And that’s also what Dordt said.”

    And that’s why I said what I said – that it differs from the Westminster formulation, of which I an a subscriber.

    Bruce seems to think it is all semantics, but obviously you don’t, and neither do I.

  17. Don

    “When you say, “One of those is the ‘day of the week’ issue. But, it’s not part of the Decalogue,” how do you explain Exodus 20:10? The seventh day being defined as the Sabbath is explicitly in the Decalogue.”

    Have you not read what I have written – I have dealt with this, and the point was reinforced by Alexander. And of course Fisher in the early eighteenth century. The seventh day doesn’t define a day of the week. It is what is left in a set of seven when six have already been accounted for – that is the seventh.

    With regard to your ‘exclusive options’:

    A) The Sabbath being the seventh day is part of the moral code;

    Seventh in terms of proportion. It is denied that it refers to a specific day of the week.

    B) The Sabbath being the seventh day is a ceremonial (and/or possibly civil?) component to the Fourth Commandment;

    Denied that it is ceremonial. Denied that it refers to a day of the week.

    or
    C) The Decalogue pauses at verse 9 and starts up again at verse 12.

    Denied.

    Problem is, you have given three options thinking that they are exhaustive, but none of them states the correct position if you are thinking of ‘seventh’ as a particular day in the week. If that is what you mean then the correct answer is ‘None of the above’.

    ‘Annexed’ is exactly the terms used by the Puritans: the ceremonial aspects of the Mosaic administration were annexed to the Decalogue, but never a part of it. If that is a loaded term then so be it, but I’m expressing how they expressed it four hundred years ago, which is not a bad idea because that’s what this thread is about.

    • I’m open to other options than the three I could come up with. And yes I’ve read what you wrote, but your claim that “The seventh day doesn’t define a day of the week” is really implausible here. Your argument seems to boil down to, “The seventh of seven does not necessarily mean the last of seven.” This can be true in general, as in some of the examples you gave, but the command to rest on the seventh day is clearly based on the pattern God established at creation, and God clearly rested on the last of the seven days of creation. I don’t see how “Any day in seven” is a legitimate interpretation of Ex. 20.

    • One good feature of this (incorrect) “any day in seven” interpretation is that it allows an otherwise strict sabbatarian to affirm that a Christian church in Israel can observe the Lord’s Day on Saturdays, because to worship on Sunday just wouldn’t work in that culture. That would be like us trying to run a church on Mondays.

      However, a not so good feature would be that, if missionaries were to encounter a culture that had structured their days in 6-day or 8-day or 10-day cycles, they would have to declare that to be immoral, and force a 7-day week on them in order to have true worship.

  18. I do agree with Bruce that ‘positive’ is essentially equivalent to ‘arbitrary’. There is nothing in God’s nature that required him to create the world or the week in a seven-fold structure, but that’s what he chose. And since there was no moral reason for God to make the Jewish Sabbath be on the seventh day, that component of the commandment is described as “positive”.

    This is just like the command to Adam in the garden not to eat the fruit, which was also not a moral command, but a positive command, which Vos (BT ch 3) describes explicitly as arbitrary. The only moral component involved is that obedience is moral.

    And yes, there are other parts of the law that expand on the Sabbath ordinance/principle in other ways than the 7th day of each week, but at a minimum the commandment is specifically legislating the last day of the week; the reasoning in the commandment is Jewish sabbath because God’s sabbath; God rested because God worked. God rested at the end of his labors because he first worked. Christ rested at the end of his labors because he first worked. Thus Israel rests at the end of their week of labor, as a remembrance of God’s work that earned rest, and as a sign of Christ’s work that would earn rest. Which is also why in Ex the commandment points to creation, and in Deut it points to redemption.

    That right there is an excellent reason to notice that the 4th commandment is different than the rest — no other commandment is stated differently in deut than ex. It’s not just moral. The sabbath is a sign (Ex 31:13; Ez 20:12) and it is equated with the mosaic covenant (Ex 31:16; Lev 24:8; Is 56:4,6), and even called out as separate/distinct from “commandments, statutes, and law” (Neh 9:14).

  19. Rube- Who said a church could hold its Sabbath on a Saturday in Israel? Not Kevin nor I not died anything we have said allow for that. But what I actually said was that the specific day of the week of the Sabbath is at God’s discretion and always has been. Which I said in the same post I made mention of Adam’s probation. Yes the command not to eat of the tree was arbitrary, but it wasn’t ceremonial. Maybe you could argue the tree itself was ceremonial, but the law contained in the command- obey The Lord your God- is moral.

    • I think some of the rhetoric of the Reformed tradition is misunderstood because we lack a clear sense of the original context in which the arguments were made. Let’s establish some basics.There was widespread consensus before, during, and after the Reformation, including both the European Reformed churches and the British (whether congregational, presbyterian, or episcopal in government) that:

      1. There is a 1 day in 7 pattern grounded in creation.

      2. The creational pattern was reflected in the Israelite saturday Sabbath but that observance of the Sabbath was marked by types and shadows, including the day and the strictness with which it was kept.

      3. Our Lord, in his resurrection, by divine authority moved the day from the Israelite Saturday sabbath to the Christian Sunday sabbath and this exercise of divine authority was recognized by the apostolic church in the NT and by the post-apostolic church in the 2nd century and beyond.

      4. The Christian sabbath is to be observed as a day of rest and worship in observance of the creational pattern, the great act of redemption that inaugurated the Christian sabbath, namely the resurrection, and in anticipation of the eschatological (heavenly) sabbath of which we have a foretaste now.

      5. The Jewish observance of the sabbath was trapped in the typological epoch of revelation.

      6. The Saturday Sabbath Baptists, sometimes described in the 16th century as “sabbatarians,” were just as blind as the Jews regarding the fulfillment of the types and shadows.

      7. The libertines, who sought to abolish any notion of a 1 day in 7 pattern or any notion of a Christian sabbath or Lord’s Day of rest and worship, were categorically wrong. They failed to reckon with both creation and redemption.

      When we read 16th and 17th century writers on these issues, we should be careful to read them in their own context, to understand against whom and what they’re arguing. When we do that I think we’ll see that there was considerable consensus around these main points.

      Was there genuine disagreement? Perhaps. I don’t think it was on the basics but perhaps on the exact nature of Lord’s Day/Sabbath day observance. The Westminster Divines were working and writing in the midst of a civil war that produced, as wars do, a sort of war-time ethos and libertinism and antinomianism. They reacted strongly. They also wrote against the background of royalist attempts to use the sabbath as a sort of wedge issue to break up the Reformed, to set them against each other. The royalists used the sabbath as a way of breaking down Reformed orthodox resistance to the crown and as a way to demand conformity to the established church. There were a number of political and cultural as well as theological issues at play simultaneously.

    • Alexander, (in reverse order)

      “the law contained in the command-obey The Lord your God-is moral”

      Yes, that’s what I meant by “The only moral component involved is that obedience is moral.”

      “Yes the command not to eat of the tree was arbitrary, but it wasn’t ceremonial.”

      Sure, I don’t think it was ceremonial. I just meant to point out another example of an arbitrary/positive/not-grounded-in-morality command.

      “Who said a church could hold its Sabbath on a Saturday in Israel?”

      I don’t know about you, but I interpreted Kevin’s “move” to take specifically which day out of the commandment so that Jewish Saturday Sabbath and Christian Sunday Lord’s Day both fulfill the same commandment with no need to understand differently.

      I know of a congregation in Israel (pastored by a WSCAL grad) that worships on Saturday. Sunday worship would involve an enormously impractical countercultural stand, which it is debatable whether they need to make.

      In any case, I fail to see how Kevin’s position would be able to object to Saturday-Sabbatarian Christians anywhere in the world. Or Wednesday-Sabbatarians for that matter. (I also can’t doctrinally object to Saturday- or Wednesday-Sabbatarians, but only argue based on wisdom and tradition)

  20. RubeRad

    You are representing me as saying things I haven’t said. I never said that any day will do, I simply said that the Decalogue doesn’t specify the ‘day of the week’: you have to find that elsewhere. I agree with commenter Alexander, and the Westminster Confession, and the Puritans that the particular day of the week is somewhere revealed and authorized, but not in the Decalogue.

    To say that this is ‘implausible’ is inappropriate when it has been widely held by some of the best Reformed exegetes, and taught for centuries. This is not ‘Kevin’s “move” ‘. I’m not making this stuff up, or inventing a new position – this was the Puritan position. How many ‘authorities’ do you want me to adduce? Here’s another, Matthew Poole (sevententh century), commenting on Ex. 20:11 : “It is remarkable, the blessing and sanctification are not appropriated to the seventh day [of the week], but to the sabbath day, whether it should be the seventh day [of the week], as to the Jews it then was, or the first day [of the week], as to us Christians now it is”. It is remarkable, Poole says, that the day of the week for the sabbath is not to be found in the Decalogue. There you have it. And so remarkable that Poole draws an importance inference, which I will share below.

    Thus one must look OUTSIDE the Decalogue for God’s revealed will concerning which day of the week is to be observed for which people, at which period. For the Israelites coming out of Egypt we have it specified, as I said, OUTSIDE the Decalogue, in fact before the giving of the Decalogue, in Exodus 16:21: “This is that which the LORD hath said, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the LORD.” God can, and did, subsequently change the day for observance without making any change whatsoever to the Decalogue.

    That is the point. Matthew Poole clearly noticed that, and he notices it to his readers, because he saw that it was remarkable that the Decalogue doesn’t tie the Sabbath to a particular day of the week. So remarkable, in fact, that because it DOESN’T specify the day of the week for the sabbath, an eventual change of the day of the week for observance “seems hereby to be insinuated” in the fourth commandment by this very lack of specificity on the day of the week. This demonstrates beyond all doubt that nothing could be further from Poole’s thinking than that the fourth commandment ITSELF fixes the Sabbath to the seventh day of the week, or to any other day of the week.

    And here I rest my case. If you think this is ‘implausible’ then I’m very happy to be keeping company with the Puritans on this one, and the framers of the Westminster Confession.

    • Fair enough; you see end-of-the-week sabbath specified elsewhere than the commandment itself, and you quote writers who hold that too; whereas I agree with Dordt that end-of-the-week sabbath is specified in the commandment. I don’t have any authors, but I will note that in order to back up LC116 “one whole day in seven; which was the seventh from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ”, the Westminter Divines quoted Gen 2:2-3, and Deut 5:12-14. (Presumably not Ex 20 because that was the immediately previous scripture proof for LC115).

    • But of course I should have gone straight to SC59 which asks specifically “Which day of the seven hath God appointed to be the weekly sabbath?” and answers “From the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, God appointed the seventh day of the week to be the weekly sabbath”, with proof texts Gen 2:2-3 and Ex 20:11, showing that they saw the commandment’s tie to creation to be instituting the seventh day.

  21. Kevin,

    The law is not eternal. Galatians 3:19. The Sabbath ended when Christ came.

    Hebrews 8:8-12 refers to the New Covenant. It is a prophecy about the coming of Christ and the gospel. When Christ came and died on the cross He rendered the old covenant obsolete.

    I have read a lot of books by Puritan Press as I attended a Presbyterian Church for 16 years. I often refer to commentaries by writers like Matthew Henry, Jamieson, Faucett and Brown and John Lightfoot although they may not have been Puritans. Some believed in a Sunday Sabbath but were astute in other issues.

    I left the Presbyterian Church on account of doctrinal issues and was baptised by immersion in a Baptist Church.

    New Covenant Theology is biblical and you will not find any of the pious attitudes and legalistic rules of the Puritans in the scriptures. The Puritans had many good qualities but did not surpass the Apostles in evangelism or faith in God.

    • Fran,

      This post reveals the fundamental flaw of the so-called “New Covenant Theology.” It has a poor account of creation. God gave a law to Adam at creation. That happened before Moses. Paul certainly appealed to creation in his prosecution of sin in Romans 1-2. That’s undeniable but your view does not account for that.

      Certainly there was a sabbath before Moses. God himself is said to have rested on the 7th day! Surely that’s a figure of speech but why do you suppose he is said to have rested, to have sanctified a day before the fall, before Moses? To set an example of course. That’s why our Lord appealed to creation to set right the Jewish abuse of the sabbath.

      You cannot get rid of God’s moral law by getting rid of Moses. By getting rid of Moses, i.e., the inferior, temporary covenant, you get rid of the Mosaic types and shadows.

      The moral law is re-stated in the New Covenant, without the shadows. It’s still against the moral law to commit idolatry, to take God’s name in vain, to break the sabbath, to deny divinely instituted authority, to murder, to steal, to commit sexual immorality, to bear false witness, and to covet. I understand that the 4th is controversial in dispensational, evangelical circles but setting that aside for a moment, you mustn’t say that the law is not eternal. That’s a terrible thing to say. The doctrine that God’s moral law is eternal is not a Reformed distinctive. It is biblical catholic truth. It has been taught by all Christians, in all times and places. To say what you’ve said is not only to reject Reformed theology but universal Christian truth. We’ve all been exposed to poor arguments for the Sabbath that fail to account for the difference between Moses and Christ or between the old covenant (Moses) and the New Covenant (Christ) but NCT is an over-reaction in a Dispensational direction.

      Please take a moment to read these. When you’ve read them, come back and we’ll talk.

      http://heidelblog.net/2013/08/evangelicalism-and-the-reformed-view-of-the-law/

      http://heidelblog.net/2014/07/moses-was-not-abraham/

      http://heidelblog.net/2013/08/the-abiding-validity-of-the-creational-law-in-exhaustive-detail/

      http://rscottclark.org/2011/01/on-the-new-covenant/

    • Fran

      By quoting Galatians 3:19 you reveal that you are confused about what Paul means by the law here.

      I can see you are coming from a Baptist/Anabaptist position, which I do not regard as thoroughly biblical. I wholeheartedly disagree with you in your assertion that ‘New Covenant Theology is biblical’.

      The Decalogue did not pass away when Christ came, which is pretty obvious really when one looks at the teaching of our Lord and his apostles.

      And, if the sabbath ended when Christ ‘came and died on the cross’, how could he exhort those who believed his words to pray that their flight from Jerusalem be ‘not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day’? At the very earliest, that would have been decades after his death when the NT tells us that Christians were observing the first day of the week. The sabbath days would be continual, as winters would be continual.

      If by ‘the sabbath’ you mean all the ceremonial laws that were annexed to the fourth commandment under the ‘old covenant’, then I can agree with you. In the words of John Owen, the ‘old covenant’ community had laws that were “a ceremonial branch under its proper moral head, to which it is annexed.” But lop off the branch, and you don’t destroy the head.

      Observance of the sabbath DAY is not ‘old covenant’. So, just as Paul says in Galatians 3 (which you directed me to), together with Hebrews, when the ‘old covenant’ is dissolved, it doesn’t dissolve with it the things that don’t belong to it. The ceremonial was annexed to the moral, not the moral to the ceremonial.

      Your mistake is confusing a perpetual, moral commandment with a temporary ceremonial one.

  22. RubeRad

    “But of course I should have gone straight to SC59 which asks specifically “Which day of the seven hath God appointed to be the weekly sabbath?” and answers “From the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, God appointed the seventh day of the week to be the weekly sabbath”, with proof texts Gen 2:2-3 and Ex 20:11, showing that they saw the commandment’s tie to creation to be instituting the seventh day [of the week].”

    Not so! Contrary to what you say, Ex. 20:11 is NOT cited as a prooftext for SC59, and thus your argument is based on a false premise. SC59 only cites Gen 2:2-3; 1 Cor 16:1-2; Acts 20:7.

    However, if you like to draw inferences about what was meant from the choice of prooftexts (certainly not recommended, but you seem to think it is valid), then tell us, what does the ABSENCE of a reference to Ex.20 in the answer to a question about which day God has appointed for the sabbath suggest to you? Perhaps that Ex. 20 has nothing to say about the matter in question? If there is any validity in this method at all, it would most certainly rather support my case than yours!

    Let’s be clear: since the Puritans asserted that Ex.20 says NOTHING about the day of the week, then they obviously wouldn’t use Ex.20 as a prooftext for an answer to a question about the day of the week. They were not so daft as to do that. To confirm this, look at the whole Westminster standards. You will note that LC116, which also deals with the ‘day of the week’ issue has no reference to Ex. 20. You will also note that the part of the WCF that mentions the ‘day of the week’ issue does not reference Ex.20 either, but cites exactly the same prooftexts as SC59.

    So, no reference is made to Ex 20 in the whole Westminster standards when dealing with the ‘day of the week’ aspect of sabbath observance. This speaks volumes, and all consistent with the points I have already made: the day of the week isn’t in Exodus 20.

    And by the way, James Fisher, whom I quoted July 28, was commenting on the Shorter Catechism, in confirmation that the fourth commandment does not deal with the ‘day of the week’ issue:

    ‘In the beginning of the commandment, it is NOT said, Remember the seventh day, (namely, in order from the creation,) but “Remember the Sabbath-day, to keep it holy.” Just so, in the end of this command, the words are NOT, The Lord blessed the seventh day; but, “the Lord blessed the Sabbath-day, and hallowed it.’ [emphasis mine]

    • So I have no idea regarding the origination of the proof texts, but in most versions of the WSC that I have consulted, Exodus 20:11 was in fact cited for the first half of question 59. All that I have found cite Genesis 2:2 or 2:2-3, which, of course, refer to the last of a seven-day period. The ones that don’t cite Ex. 20 do cite Luke 23:56, which one might presume is intended to show that the Sabbath (at that time) occurred between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

      It appears that Thomas Vincent disagrees with your Fisher quote, since in his Explanation on Q. 59 he wrote, “God did at first appoint the seventh day in order to be the weekly Sabbath,” and goes on to quote Exodus 20:9-10. So I don’t think the Puritans were as uniform about this as you claim.

  23. Dr. Clark,

    You have said the early fathers held to a view similar to the Divines. While I have seen evidence of a new Lord’s Day observance, I have yet to read anything on how the Lord’s Day is to be observed just like the OT Sabbath, e.g. mandatory period of rest from “all earthly employments.” This is from reading such fathers as Ignatous, Irenaus, and Justin Martyr. Can you send me a few of your examples?

    It seems a lot of quotes focus on the fact that the Lord’s Day is not the sabbath. For example, Tertullian: “We solemnize the day after Saturday in contradiction to those who call this day their Sabbath.”

    Thanks!

  24. Thomas Ridgley, A BODY OF DIVINITY: WHEREIN THE DOCTRINES OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION ARE EXPLAINED AND DEFENDED. BEING THE SUBSTANCE OF SEVERAL LECTURES ON THE ASSEMBLY’S LARGER CATECHISM

    Vol.3, p.478-9

    In considering the subject-matter of this Commandment, we must

    I. Inquire, since it is contained in the decalogue, which is an abstract of the moral law; whether we are obliged to observe the Sabbath by the law of nature, or by some positive law. For the understanding of which, let it be premised, that some laws are moral by way of eminency, or, in the highest sense, as distinguished from all positive law; and others we may call moral-positive, that is, the laws are positiye ; but yet there is some moral reason annexed to enforce our obedience to them. And this moral reason is either what is founded in the sovereignty of God commanding, which takes place in all positive laws, which, in this respect, are moral, though they could not be known without a divine revelation; or else positive laws may have a moral circumstance annexed to them, to engage us to obedience, taken from some glory that redounds to God, or good to ourselves, by the observation thereof; or from some other reason which God annexes to them.

    As for instance, the reason annexed to the fourth Commandment, is taken from God’s resting from the work of creation on the seventh day, and its being sanctified for our performing religious duties therein. Here we shall consider,

    1. In what respects the Sabbath is moral in the highest and
    most proper sense of the word,
    ……….

    2. We shall shew in what respects the Sabbath is positive, and not moral in the highest and most propense sense of the word. Here let it be considered, that it is the result of a positive law, that one proportion of time should be observed for a Sabbath, rather than another; namely, that it should be a seventh, rather than a third, fourth, fifth, or sixth part of our time ; for this could not have been known by the light of nature, any more than the other branches of instituted worship that are to be performed therein. So that, whether it be the seventh day in the week, or the first, which we are to observe, this being founded in the divine will, we conclude it to be a positive law.

    This we are obliged to assert, that we may fence against two extremes, namely, that of those who, on the one hand, deny the Sabbath to have any thing of a moral circumstance contained in it; and that of others, who suppose that there is no idea of a positive law in it.

    p.486
    That the seventh day of the week was observed as a Sabbath, at first, is taken for granted; and we do not find that it was abolished by a positive law, so that there should be no Sabbath; but the day was changed, by substituting another in the room of it.

    ____________

    Ridgley takes care to distinguish between “positive” and “ceremonial,” see for example, Obj.2, p.481. But by his own terms he does not miss the fact that the 4C contains “moral circumstances annexed.”

    In any case, the meaning of the Dort divines, taken on their own terms, has the effect of reducing the “daylight” between themselves and the Westminster divines to nil.

    • Bruce

      “In any case, the meaning of the Dort divines, taken on their own terms, has the effect of reducing the “daylight” between themselves and the Westminster divines to nil.”

      This is an assertion without proof. Have you yet managed to demonstrate that when Dort said ‘ceremonial’ they really meant moral-positive? This is the thing you need to demonstrate, you can’t just say ‘taken on their own terms’ without producing the evidence, otherwise that is just rhetoric.

      Let me be clear: I have no interest in driving a wedge between Dort and Westminster and would be happy to see them reconciled. But since they both used the word ‘ceremonial’ and were within a few decades of one another, and they were careful on their use of words, I will assume that they were using the word univocally, or nearly univocally. If you can demonstrate that by ‘ceremonial’ Dort meant ‘moral-positive’ then I’ll be happy to accept your assertion. But as I said, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

  25. Don

    “It appears that Thomas Vincent disagrees with your Fisher quote, since in his Explanation on Q. 59 he wrote, “God did at first appoint the seventh day in order to be the weekly Sabbath,” and goes on to quote Exodus 20:9-10. So I don’t think the Puritans were as uniform about this as you claim.”

    Your conclusion doesn’t follow at all. He doesn’t disagree with Fisher. We ALL agree that “God did at first appoint the seventh day in order to be the weekly Sabbath”. There is no disagreement there.

    Anyway, I think you must be aware that your case is without merit since it is obvious that Vincent supports the Puritan position because he clearly states it:

    “The seventh day in number is always to be kept as holy, and the weekly Sabbath; the seventh part of our time being God’s due, and, by virtue of this [fourth] commandment, to be separated from common use, and employed in his worship, and more immediate service every week; but the seventh day in order from the creation is not necessary always to be observed as a Sabbath, it being in the power of God, who appointed the seventh in order, to alter that order at his pleasure.”

    “It is one day of seven which God hath appointed to be the Sabbath; and in the [fourth] commandment, the Lord doth bless and hallow, not the seventh day, but the Sabbath-day, which might be on another seventh day in order, if God should so please. ”

    In other words, the standard Puritan position.

    • So if you agree that Saturday (basically) was appointed to be the original Sabbath, then I’m very confused if you are arguing that this appointment is not contained in the Fourth Commandment. You seem to claim that the Fourth Commandment sets aside one day but does not specify which day, and that all the Puritans thought so too. But the relevant part of the Vincent quote makes it clear that he believes Q. 59 refers to Saturday specifically, as the original Sabbath as defined in Exodus 20.

  26. Rube, Don-

    The SC as originally compiled by the Divines and adopted by the C of S did not cite Ex. 20 as a proof text on this particular issue. The OPC, when they adopted the Westminster standards, did so with their own proof texts. I don’t know about reformed.org.

    So the version of the SC used by my church, and I assume the one Kevin is referencing- the original version- does not include the citation of Ex. 20 when talking about the specific day of the week.

    • Thx for the info!

      Do you know for sure it was OPC that added the reference, or was it PCUSA with the adopting act in 1729, when they also rewrote WCF23 and made various other small changes?

  27. Don

    “So I have no idea regarding the origination of the proof texts, but in most versions of the WSC that I have consulted, Exodus 20:11 was in fact cited for the first half of question 59. ”

    Have you consulted the physical seventeenth century editions? Lots of denominations have intruded their own prooftexts over the years, and there are innumerable editions, but we are talking historical theology here, so you need to go back to the seventeenth century prints. You cannot trust online versions, unless they are photographs of seventeenth century documents. There are even websites claiming to be original text, with prooftexts from 1646, but then you see that the spelling and punctuation is not original, then you find the prooftexts are not seventeenth century choices, and then you discover that since the prooftexts were not completed until 1647 for the SC, these claims are a sham.

    The earliest edition of the Westminster standards with Scripture references printed in full is, as far as I’m aware, the second edition of 1658. You could also consult the fourth edition (re-printed 1675), said on the title page to ‘conform to the first original copy diligently compared, all escapes corrected, and more exact and correct then [sic] any that has been printed since.’

    Whichever you consult, there is no reference to Exodus 20 in SC59. Gen 2:2-3; 1 Cor 16:1-2; and Acts 20:7 only are cited, as I said.

  28. RubeRad

    “Hmmm. I got my SC with references from here, which does cite Ex 20:11 for the first half of SC59. Also there’s this from the OPC. What source are you looking at?”

    Waste of time looking at websites like that if you are interested in historical theology. Anyone can bring out their own edition with different prooftexts, and many of denominations have. The OPC had a committee drawing up revised prooftexts in the 1970s. Someone somewhere (maybe long before the OPC) intruded Ex 20:11, perhaps thinking they were being helpful, but it’s very unhelpful as it has turned out.

    Go back to the documents printed in the 1640s and 1650s, either the physical copies or scanned/photographed copies. By 1658 most of the printing errors had been ironed out and you have good copy.

  29. Rube- I don’t know the answer to that one. I only know about the OPC because Dr. Hart mentioned once in a post on his blog that the OPC included their own footnotes when adopting the standards.

    My church- the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland- publishes the Westminster Standards (FP Publications, available from our Bookroom

  30. Anyways Kevin, I get that you are really invested in protecting the decalogue from any abrogation, but if you keep the 4th commandment out of it you can still relate the Jewish Sabbath to “work, then/therefore, rest” as an echo of creation and sign of redemption, and our Lord’s Day to “rest, then/therefore work” as a reflection of our new covenant reality. I hope you appreciate the redemptive historical point.

  31. Alexander

    “So the version of the SC used by my church, and I assume the one Kevin is referencing- the original version- does not include the citation of Ex. 20 when talking about the specific day of the week.”

    “My church- the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland- publishes the Westminster Standards (FP Publications, available from our Bookroom) as originally adopted by the C of S, as that is the version we subscribe.”

    You assumption is correct. I always use the FP edition of the Westminster Standards (bound with Directories etc) as it is most reliable, and the original form adopted by Acts of Assembly and (Scottish) Parliament in the 1640s before denominations started tinkering with the text and the footnotes. And this is the version I subscribed at ordination (some years before the accession of the congregation to the EPCEW).

    Sadly, the EPCEW online versions have been taken from the CRTA, which for the catechisms don’t have a reliable provenance, so are incorrect on the prooftexts.

  32. RubeRad

    Warfield outlines changes to text and prooftexts (mainly done in USA) in all the editions of the Standards, of the various denominations, including SCat, from the Westminster Assembly to the end of the nineteenth century, in his book ‘The Printing of the Westminster Confession’ (1901).

    That is the best place to start.

  33. Don

    “So if you agree that Saturday (basically) was appointed to be the original Sabbath, then I’m very confused if you are arguing that this appointment is not contained in the Fourth Commandment.”

    I have already stated my position very clearly, and very thoroughly, so I am sorry you are still confused.

    What is so difficult to understand that God appoints the day of observation of the sabbath other than in the fourth commandment? This teaching has been stated so many times by so many writers that it is wearisome to keep telling the facts. Let’s try John Willison of Dundee, 1737:

    “Q. How doth it appear that the precise day of the week is separable from the substance of the command?

    A. Because neither the first part of the command which is the mandatory, nor the last part of the command which is the benedictory, do mention the seventh day of the week…He saith not, Remember the seventh day, nor that he blessed the seventh day, but only the sabbath; to teach us, that the seventh day in order from the creation is not of the essence of the command, but only a seventh in number; and that the seventh in order might be altered, without infringing the morality of the command.”

    Or, if you prefer someone more wordy, John Owen:

    “The emphatic expression insisted on; “Remember the Sabbath day,” has respect to the singular necessity, use, and benefit of this holy rest; and also to that neglect of its observance, which (partly through their own sin, partly through the hardships that it met with in the world) the church of former ages had fallen into. And what it had lately received of a new institution, with reference to the Israelites, falls also under this command, as a ceremonial branch under its proper moral head, to which it is annexed.

    That one day in seven only, and not the seventh day precisely, is directly and immediately enjoined in the decalogue; and the seventh only with respect to an antecedent Mosaical institution, together with the nature of that administration of the covenant, which the people of Israel were then taken into, has been shewn in our preceding investigation of the causes and ends of the Sabbath. And it seems evident to impartial consideration: for the observation of one day in seven belongs to every covenant of God with man; and the decalogue is the invariable rule of man’s walking before God; of whatsoever nature the covenant be between them, whether that of works, or that of grace by Jesus Christ…And hence there is in the command itself a difference put between a Sabbath day, and the arbitrary limitation of the seventh day to be that day. For we are commanded to remember the Sabbath day, not the seventh day; and the reason given (as is elsewhere observed) is, because God blessed and sanctified the Sabbath day…

    Further, it is a rule, in judging of the intention of all laws divine and human, that the meaning of the preceptive part of them is to be collected from the reasons annexed or inserted therein: and the reasons for a sacred rest, that are intimated and stated in this command, do no more respect the seventh day, than any other in seven. Six days in the septenary revolution are granted for labor; nor does the command say any thing, whether these six days shall be the first or the last in the order of them; and any day is as fit for the performance of the duties of the Sabbath, as the seventh, if in like manner designed for it: which things are pleaded at large by others. ”

    With regard to your second point:

    “You seem to claim that the Fourth Commandment sets aside one day but does not specify which day, and that all the Puritans thought so too. But the relevant part of the Vincent quote makes it clear that he believes Q. 59 refers to Saturday specifically, as the original Sabbath as defined in Exodus 20.”

    I have already dealt with that and shown you exactly what Vincent thought about the matter. Here it is in part again:

    “It is one day of seven which God hath appointed to be the Sabbath; and in the [fourth] commandment, the Lord doth bless and hallow, not the seventh day, but the Sabbath-day, which might be on another seventh day in order, if God should so please. ”

    Vincent also makes it clear that God didn’t appoint the day at the giving of the decalogue, as he says, “God did appoint the seventh day to be the Sabbath immediately after the first creation”.

    You see, God appointed a day of the week to be the Sabbath (and changed that appointment as he wished) – he didn’t appoint the Sabbath to be a day of the week. That is why the appointment of the particular day is outside the decalogue, and why the decalogue doesn’t reference any particular day.

    This is really so easy to understand. In our church we have the office of the minister. We don’t appoint the office to a man, we appoint a man to the office, and that man can change. At any particular time we can say that this man holds that office, but it would be ridiculous to claim that the office holds the man, that there is some kind of identity between the office and any particular man.

    Likewise, God has instituted the sabbath and he appoints the particular day to be the sabbath for any time at his pleasure. You won’t find that particular day specified in the perpetual moral law, any more than you’d expect to find anyone’s name in the institution of the office of minister.

    You must take Vincent’s clear teaching on the matter in hand and not try to make any invalid inferences (as you are doing by ignoring his clear and unambiguous statements).

    • First of all, please understand that I’m not arguing that God has not or cannot change the weekday on which the Sabbath is observed. I don’t think anyone here is, other than Fran, whose arguments have their own problems.

      So what you are saying is that “the seventh day is a Sabbath” is not a command, but simply a statement of fact? That I might agree with (I’d have to mull it over a while but grammatically it seems plausible). But the claim that Ex. 20:10 does not specifically refer to Saturday is incredible.

    • Yes Don it is rather incredible, but if you read carefully all of Kevin’s posts up to this point, I think you will find he quite clearly and explicitly states and provides quotes to back up his position that the text of the 4th commandment itself is day-agnostic (commanding only some day in seven) and that other OT texts specify the last day of the week.

  34. Don

    “So what you are saying is that “the seventh day is a Sabbath” is not a command, but simply a statement of fact?”

    No, I’m not saying that. Please read what I’ve written, and what those in the Puritan tradition (I have given many quotes) have written. It is not just ‘a statement of fact’ – it is by appointment of God. From the creation God appointed that the seventh day of the week be observed as the sabbath. And from the resurrection God appointed that the first day of the week be observed as the sabbath. But in neither case is the appointment made in the moral law, the decalogue. God can appoint whatever day he wishes without any effect on the institution of the sabbath, which is not of itself tied to any particular day of the week. This is the clear and unambiguous teaching of the Westminster standards, and of those in the Puritan tradition, and those who have (with understanding) taught the doctrine of the Westminster standards to the present day. I have given copious examples from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. So let’s hear from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Hear Robert Shaw in his masterful Exposition of the WCF in 1845:

    “The substance of the institution consists in the separation of a seventh portion of our time to the immediate worship of God, and the particular day is a thing perfectly circumstantial. It is not said, ‘Remember the seventh day’; but ‘Remember the Sabbath-day, to keep it holy’. Neither is it said, God blessed the seventh day’; but ‘God blessed the Sabbath-day, and hallowed it.”

    And here is an excellent exponent in the twentieth century: G.I. Williamson in his well-known ‘The Westminster Confession of Faith for Study Classes’ (P&R, 1964) continues to teach it correctly:

    ‘The Fourth Commandment does not say, Remember the seventh day,” but “remember the sabbath day.” There is a difference. The difference is between proportion and order…it avoids precisely what the Seventh-Day Adventist position requires. It avoids commanding us to remember the seventh day in the order of time, that it might command us to observe the seventh day in proportion of time.” ‘

    I must say, I find it astonishing that you can say “the claim that Ex. 20:10 does not specifically refer to Saturday is incredible.” You have the Westminster standards, the Puritans, and many of the greatest Presbyterian exegetes against you on this, I’m afraid. I hardly think it is ‘incredible’ when it has been plainly seen, and taught for centuries in English-speaking Reformed churches, and is enshrined in one of the most famous of Reformed standards, of one of the greatest assemblies of divines, of which R. L. Dabney stated (Lectures in Systematic Theology):

    “The first great synod which ever propounded, in modern ages, the true doctrine of the Lord’s day, was the Westminster Assembly.”

    Indeed.

    • I must say, I find it astonishing that you can say “the claim that Ex. 20:10 does not specifically refer to Saturday is incredible.”

      Last comment: plain english reading of the text of the 4th commandment establishes a link between God’s 7th day of rest after 6 days of work, and Israel’s commanded 7th day of rest after 6 days of work.

      Buhbye.

    • Perhaps I wasn’t clear, that when I wrote “the seventh day is a Sabbath” I was referencing Ex. 20:10 specifically. Obviously God originally appointed Saturday to be the Sabbath. But do I understand you, that this appointment is not what is going on in Ex. 20:10, i.e., that this portion of the Decalogue is merely reciting an established fact and not stating a moral law?

  35. Don

    “But do I understand you, that this appointment is not what is going on in Ex. 20:10, i.e., that this portion of the Decalogue is merely reciting an established fact and not stating a moral law?”

    Yes, and no. Your ‘id est’ doesn’t follow.

    Yes, this appointment of a day of the week isn’t going on in the Decalogue.

    No, the fourth commandment isn’t reciting an established fact with regard to a day of the week; it is stating a moral law.

    However, if the ‘established fact’ you are referring to is the ‘established fact’ of the institution of the Sabbath day, without reference to a day of the week, then it is in this sense referring to established fact.

    • Your denial that the Fourth Commandment refers to a particular day of the week in any sense, either as law or as statement of fact, leads me to wonder whether your theology is driving your interpretation.

      That is: You believe that the Decalogue is a summary of the Moral Law and that the Moral Law is unchangeable. However, since the day on which the Sabbath is celebrated did change, you apparently have to conclude that the text of Exodus 20 makes no reference to a particular day and are forced to import the idea of “seventh in proportion” as your interpretation. You refuse, or are unable, to connect Ex. 20:10 with verse 11, i.e., that the referenced seventh day is indeed the last day of the week (following the order established by Creation).

      I’d be happy to be shown I am wrong on this, but it is the conclusion that is approaching. If I could ask a specific question that might help, perhaps you could explain how the phrase “the seventh day” refers to “seventh in proportion” in vs. 10 but “seventh in (Creational) order” in vs. 11.

  36. RubeRad

    “plain english reading of the text of the 4th commandment establishes a link between God’s 7th day of rest after 6 days of work, and Israel’s commanded 7th day of rest after 6 days of work.”

    The error that you are making is that of the fallacy of forging an identity between the seventh in order and the seventh in proportion. Under Moses the people observed the seventh (in proportion), i.e. the sabbath day, on the seventh day of the week. Now we STILL observe the seventh in proportion, i.e. the sabbath day, on the first day of the week.

    I will grant you that many of the Israelites would have made the same connection as you because ‘the seventh’ in the commandment happened then to be observed on the seventh day of the week by God’s appointment (apart from the Decalogue). But so what? There is a lot more revelation after Exodus 20, and we have to interpret what God meant as a perpetual statue for all time in the light of the rest of revelation, not ask ourselves what possibly fallacious connection your average Israelite might have made in the second millennium BC. That would be an abuse of the interpretive method, especially since we must do our best to discern what was the intention of the speaker, which is God himself, who was speaking not just to them at that time, but to us all at all times.

    This much is clear: God, in his infinite wisdom, to a people who did not have the full revelation, chose to use the seventh in order to satisfy his law of the seventh in proportion. That seems to me to be a most wise and judicious choice suitable for people under a schoolmaster. But in the light of fuller revelation we see that God, in his infinite wisdom, did not, after all, intend to fix perpetually a particular day of the week to the sabbath. And when we turn back to the perpetual moral law in the Decalogue, behold! we find that there never was fixed a day of the week at all in its wording, when properly interpreted in the light of all revelation. Any supposed identity is illusory and not real.

    We find this sort of thing all the time. What Israelite could see the blazing light of the doctrine of the resurrection in ‘I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’? What about NT use of the OT by the inspired writers? We have to conclude that there is more light and meaning in much of the OT than was perhaps perceived at the time of its original reception.

    So it is with the fourth commandment. If we never had any revelation after Sinai then we might attach more weight to your ‘plain English reading’ argument.

    But since we have had, we can’t, especially as to do so would bring the moral law into contradiction. And because people make this false identity, they have to resolve the contradiction. You can go to Seventh-Day Adventism to resolve it (the seventh day of the week remains the moral requirement), or to New Covenant Theology to resolve it (the sabbath was ceremonial because we no longer observe the seventh of the week; this vitiates the whole Decalogue, so let’s chuck it out), or to Dort to resolve it (the commandment was a mixture of ceremonial and moral). But all of these are resolutions to a problem that does not even exist in the first place, if only one will read the commandment correctly.

    That is why I started this discussion saying that the assertion ‘In the fourth Commandment of the divine law, part is ceremonial, part is moral’ is dangerous, not a mere infelicity. You will not find such a thing, or anything remotely like it, in the Westminster standards. The Westminster Assembly tightened up and corrected this, even down to the detail of avoiding prooftexts from Ex.20 when dealing with the day of the week issue. They, of course, had a generation to reflect on Dort and make any necessary emendations. And they did so.

  37. Some readers might be interested to read what Jonathan Edwards had to say of the matter:

    “The words of the fourth command do not determine which day of the week we should keep as a Sabbath. They merely determine, that we should rest and keep as a Sabbath every seventh day, or one day after every six. It says, “Six days thou shalt labour, and the seventh thou shalt rest;” which implies no more, than that after six days of labour, we shall upon the next to the sixth, rest and keep it holy. And this we are obliged to do forever. But the words no way determine where those six days shall begin, and so where the rest or Sabbath shall fall. There is no direction in the fourth command how to reckon the time, i.e. where to begin and end it. But that is supposed to be determined otherwise.”

    “The Jews did not know, by the fourth command, where to begin their six days, and on which particular day to rest: this was determined by another precept. The fourth command does indeed suppose a particular day appointed; but it does not appoint any. It requires us to rest and keep holy a seventh day, one after every six of labor, which particular day God either had or should appoint. The particular day was determined for that nation in another place, viz. in Exo. 16:23-26, “And he said unto them, this is that which the Lord hath said, Tomorrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the Lord: bake that which ye will bake, today, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over, lay up for you to be kept until the morning. And Moses said, Eat that today; for today is a sabbath unto the Lord: today ye shall not find it in the field. Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none.” This is the first place where we have any mention made of the Sabbath, from the first Sabbath on which God rested.”

    “The precept in the fourth command is to be taken generally of such a seventh day as God should appoint, or had appointed. And because such a particular day had been already appointed for the Jewish church, therefore, as it was spoken to them, it did refer to that particular day. But this does not prove, but the same words refer to another appointed seventh day, now in the Christian church…The Christian Sabbath, in the sense of the fourth command, is as much the seventh day as the Jewish Sabbath, because it is kept after six days of labor as well as that. It is the seventh reckoning from the beginning of our first working-day, as well as that was the seventh from the beginning of their first working day. ”

    Edwards makes the same point as I made above, that the ‘seventh day’ is whatever day of the week God should appoint for it.

    Hear William Ames, Puritan, who died quite some time before the Westminster Assembly, who makes the same point, that the first day of the week is by divine appointment now the seventh day:

    “This fourth command, which is about the time of more solemn worship, is explicated…that this is the seventh, or one of seven, to which is adjoined the duty to keep this day.”

    “Because it is never less necessary that some seventh day be observed, than it was at the first institution…the Lord’s Day, or first of the week, or seventh day is now by Divine authority appointed to us to be kept holy.”

  38. Don

    I have given copious example to demonstrate that this was the Puritan view (from the end of the sixteenth century, at any rate – you will find it appearing in Richard Greenham, and thereafter the explicit denial of any ceremonial component in the fourth commandment, and explicit statements that the day of the week is not found in the commandment, from 1595 onwards) and the view held by the Westminster divines and the Presbyterian tradition therefrom. It emerged particularly in England by way of explicit definition because of the peculiar circumstances of the Puritans and proto-Presbyterians who had a need to counter the anti-Puritan Anglican assertions that the Lord’s Day was changed to a different day, and the way it was to be observed was instituted, by authority of the church. The Anglican church was using the issue of the Lord’s Day as an example of why Puritanism/Presbyterianism and the regulative (rather than normative) principle should not apply, since the power to make certain changes was with the church, of which, they claimed, the Lord’s Day was a good example.

    With respect to your specific question:

    “If I could ask a specific question that might help, perhaps you could explain how the phrase “the seventh day” refers to “seventh in proportion” in vs. 10 but “seventh in (Creational) order” in vs. 11.”

    I have already done that. The seventh day after six days work (whichever day of the week that might fall on) was originally aligned with the seventh in order from creation, but not by way of the fourth commandment. The pattern of six days work and a seventh of rest is exampled to us in the commandment as an institution that goes back to creation, so we see that it perpetual and moral-positive, not merely something ceremonial that was instituted at Sinai. The Lord chose to align the seventh day after six days work (whichever day of the week that might fall on) with the first day of the week since his resurrection.

    • You’re not really answering the question. Let me rephrase: What evidence in the text is there that the phrase “the seventh day” has such different meanings in verse 10 and verse 11?

  39. Questions for others commenting:

    1. Did the Sabbath change to Sunday immediately at the resurrection?

    2. If so, were the ones who did not immediately stop working on Sunday in sin?

    3. Is there evidence that the NT church observed the Lord’s Day as a day of rest?

    4. Or is it better to suggest some Jews continued to observe the Saturday Sabbath as well as gather (in the evening?) on the Lord’s Day?

    • 1. Yes, God started meeting with his gathered people in a special way on that day. And again a week later. The disciples were together quite a bit, but the text tells us when God specially manifested himself.

      A “third time” is mentioned, Jn.21:14, that God met with his gathered disciples, plainly not his third appearance overall, so “third” what?

      God met with the Eleven and a throng (500?) in Galilee, on some special occasion he designated prior to his death, Mt.26:32; 28:7, 10, 16ff. Was a pattern already emerging? Did they meet the Lord on “his” day?

      That is four post-resurrection appearances described, with some reason to think all of them (and definitely some of them) were on the first day. The only day of meeting we know wasn’t a first-day was his Ascension day.

      Then the disciples were meeting round-the-clock for another ten days, and whatever happened on seventh first-day, we know for sure what happened on the eighth. God came again to sanctify the gathering together of his people, pouring out his Spirit with power.

      The apostles’ own example, as seen later in Acts and the Epistles (and Revelation) is the sanctification of the first day. For some reason, they thought that’s when God in Christ wanted to meet with them.

    • 2. The measures God uses to enforce his moral law can differ, from age to age. The circumstances God’s people are in, as Jesus himself taught, may impact the manner of their devotion.

      But let me turn the question around. If God calls a meeting, or charges a special interest in a certain day, and obviously desires his people to gather to him when summoned to bless them; shouldn’t there be only strong, compelling reasons for excusing an invitee from attending, Lk.14:16ff? Obstacles enforced by the unfaithful, for example?

      Naturally, its sinful to spurn the Lord’s call to worship and rest in him, when legitimate opportunity and expectation is present. I propose that this was one lesson learned by the disciples in Jn.21; fishing (and other employments or recreations) really isn’t one of the purposes of the day.

      3. Sunday is the Christian’s rest-day, his sabbatismos (Heb.4:9) that remains (hasn’t gone anywhere), though the OT seventh-day-rest is abrogated. It is “God’s people’s” privilege to partake of their Lord’s rest, the foretaste of heaven. Sunday sabbathing is a way of publicly denying an over-realized eschatology.

      As with the OT people of God, the rest of the day is not *so that* we cease from working, but *so that* we have time for worship-work. Believers should know this well, since this is no longer the age of the church’s instruction, but the age of the church’s majority, Gal.4.

    • 4. It is reasonable to suppose there continued among Jewish Christians a strong incentive to maintain the habits of their nation. The apostles (Paul in particular) found the Jewish gatherings an ideal setting for presenting the crowds with the claims of Christ, although just as clearly Paul did not feel the least bit bound to maintain Jewish custom, including their seventh-day observance.

      Scripture itself gives us no other reason to think the early church encouraged a two-day-a-week devotion, one OT-oriented, the other NT-oriented. The fact that Peter and John went to pray at the Temple, Act.3:1; or that Paul went to the Temple for a purification rite, Act.21:26, does not argue for the practice.

      What does seem to be shown from the NT evidence, and from the existence of the 2nd cent. Ebionites (and by the 300s, the Nazarene sect) is that there was a period of disentanglement between Christianity and 2nd Temple Judaism. Both religions claimed a common root, and the right to the heritage of the past. Both claimed to correctly interpret the OT Scriptures, and denied the other’s interpretation at numerous key points.

      What Paul’s experience–relayed in Act.21–seems to show, is how poorly “appeasement” works as a policy. Time was rapidly approaching when Christians would have to make a choice, which tradition would they follow, to the exclusion of the other. This seems to be a proto-concern in the book of Hebrews.

  40. Well Don it says “six days shalt thou labour and do all thy work”. Now there’s no specification what days those six are, i.e. from when to when. It doesn’t say “the first six days of the week” but merely “six days”. Therefore the seventh day is merely the remaining seventh portion of the seven day week.

    Now granted the 11th verse does contain the order of six days of creation and then the seventh the day of rest, but that’s, if you like, the actual example which establishes the general rule. The rule- one day in seven- was established in the particular event of the creation. But it doesn’t determine which day is the Sabbath in a moral sense, but only in a circumstantial sense for the old covenant people. Thus at the end of verse 11 it says the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, not the seventh. If it had said “blessed the seventh day” instead it could certainly be argued that it was specifically the seventh day in chronological order which was blessed. But it doesn’t say that.

    We assume the six days mentioned are chronologically from the first day of the week to the sixth but it doesn’t actually say that and it hasn’t been read as saying that by all the old divines.

    Does that make sense?

    • Not a ton of sense. I’m sure the divines understood Genesis 1:3-31, the original Six Days, chronologically. So there’s still a disconnect between how “six days…but the seventh day…” is read in Exodus 20:9-10 and “six days…on the seventh day” in verse 11.

      Do I understand you that below, you suggest that the reference to Creation is not part of the moral law but (if I can call it this) historical underpinning of it? If so, then I don’t see the problem with saying that vs. 1o says, “We observe the Sabbath on Saturday” as a statement (rather than as a command).

  41. I should add that I’m not saying when the commandment mentions the creation even that that’s the “ceremonial” aspect of the commandment. Rather it’s the event which established the moral commandment of the Sabbath. I.e. God rested for a seventh portion of the week therefore you shall rest for a seventh portion of the week. It’s not establishing Saturday as the Sabbath but showing why there is a Sabbath. If that makes sense.

  42. Don

    “You’re not really answering the question. Let me rephrase: What evidence in the text is there that the phrase “the seventh day” has such different meanings in verse 10 and verse 11?”

    If you are limiting the scope of comparing Scripture with Scripture to verses 10 and 11 only, then that is not a valid method of interpretation in the Reformed faith. ‘The text’ that you need to consider is the whole Bible, not just two verses. It is a false hermeneutic to expect to find all the clues for understanding the meaning of a word or phrase from the verse itself. This would be like looking at Genesis 1:5 in isolation and asking what evidence is there in the text that the word ‘day’ in ‘the first day’ has such a different meaning from the word ‘day’ in ‘God called the light day’. Or to take another example with consecutive verses, the ‘day’ in Gen. 2:4 and the ‘day’ in 2:3.

    Obviously, then, the concept of ‘day’ using the same word in Hebrew can have different meanings even within the same verse, and in consecutive verses. It is entirely invalid to suggest that one cannot go outside the verse in question and bring all the light of Scripture to bear on the matter.

    • If it is “entirely invalid to suggest that one cannot go outside the verse in question” (which I did not do, by the way), then why would one not start with the context, i.e., the very next verse?

      Anyway, let me give this one more shot. Do you acknowledge that in this interpretation, “six days…but the seventh day…” is interpreted differently in Exodus 20:9-10 than “six days…on the seventh day” in verse 11?

      That is, in the first case it refers to any one day out of seven (for which you’ve provided plenty of Puritan citations) but in the second case, it refers to the last day of the week specifically.

  43. Don

    “I’m sure the divines understood Genesis 1:3-31, the original Six Days, chronologically. So there’s still a disconnect between how “six days…but the seventh day…” is read in Exodus 20:9-10 and “six days…on the seventh day” in verse 11.”

    Nobody is saying that the six days and the seventh day are not chronological. I cannot understand why you are still asking questions that have already been fully answered. Here is Jonathan Edwards again on that point:

    “The words of the fourth command do not determine which day of the week we should keep as a Sabbath. They merely determine, that we should rest and keep as a Sabbath every seventh day, or one day after every six. It says, “Six days thou shalt labour, and the seventh thou shalt rest;” which implies no more, than that after six days of labour, we shall upon the next to the sixth, rest and keep it holy. And this we are obliged to do forever. But the words no way determine where those six days shall begin, and so where the rest or Sabbath shall fall. There is no direction in the fourth command how to reckon the time, i.e. where to begin and end it. But that is supposed to be determined otherwise.”

  44. Don-

    When the fourth commandment mentions the creation event, it is using that as one of the reasons for the command. The first five commandments all have reasons annexed to them- for example, the third command forbids the taking of the Lord’s name in vain, because God will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain. But this does not mean that the mention of the creation event is “outside” the substance of the command or is not moral.

    There is also no difference in the meaning of the word “seventh” between the two verses. Verse 10 says that man shall work six days and then rest on the seventh and verse 11 says that this is because God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. Neither verse identifies the seventh day, i.e. what day of the week it was. Yes the seventh day in terms of creation was Saturday, but the identity of the day (its chronological order) is not specified in the command. What we are given is a pattern which man must adhere to, based on a pattern established by God. That is the actual command, regardless of the chronological facts of the creation event itself. Merely reading the text of the fourth commandment, we are no where told which day of the week (chronologically) is the seventh because the command is interested in establishing a seventh as opposed to a specific seventh as the Sabbath. All that is in view is establishing the six days work one day rest pattern.

    Here is Fisher on the reasons annexed to the command, note especially questions 13, 14 and 15:

    Q. 1. How many reasons are there annexed to this commandment?

    A. F OUR; which are more than to any of the rest.

    Q. 2. Why are more reasons annexed to this command than to any of the rest?

    A. Because of the proneness of men to break it; and likewise that the violation of it may be rendered the more inexcusable.

    Q. 10. Which is the third reason?

    A. It is his own example; in these words, “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day.”

    Q. 11. Could not God have made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, in less time than the space of six days?

    A. No doubt, he could have made all things, in the same beauty and perfection, in which ever they appeared, in an instant of time, if he had pleased.

    Q. 12. Why then did he take six days?

    A. To fix the morality of six days for worldly labour, and of a seventh for holy rest; and both these by his own example.

    Q. 13. But does not the example of God’s resting the seventh day, oblige us still to observe the seventh day, in order from the creation, as a Sabbath?

    A. No; because, though moral examples bind always to the kind of action, yet not always to every particular circumstance of it.

    Q. 14. What is the kind of action to which God’s example binds us?

    A. It is to observe one day in seven as a holy rest, either the last or first, as he shall appoint.

    Q. 15. How can God’s example of resting on the seventh day be an argument for our resting on the first?

    A. Though the observance of a particular day in seven be MUTABLE yet the duty of observing a seventh part of weekly time is MORAL, both by God’s precept and example.

    • “Neither verse identifies the seventh day, i.e. what day of the week it was.”
      This is simply not tenable. There is no way to that anyone with any knowledge of Genesis 1-2 can read Exodus 20:11 and not know that Saturday is being referred to.

      It seems to me this Puritan interpretation is holding the Fourth Commandment up to a standard of explicitness that is not required nor even expected of the others (or of the Fourth itself, in all matters other than which day to observe it). That is, the Fifth Commandment does not need to say “Honor your father and mother and all other authorities” in order for me to know I should honor my uncle, the mayor, etc. I don’t see why one should expect the Fourth to say “the seventh and final day of the week is a Sabbath” before acknowledging that it refers to a specific day of the week.

  45. Don

    “Do you acknowledge that in this interpretation, “six days…but the seventh day…” is interpreted differently in Exodus 20:9-10 than “six days…on the seventh day” in verse 11?

    That is, in the first case it refers to any one day out of seven (for which you’ve provided plenty of Puritan citations) but in the second case, it refers to the last day of the week specifically.”

    The seventh day in the first week (the creation week) was obviously the last day of that week, but the commandment gives the six days work and a seventh of rest as the moral requirement, with the appointment of which day of the week that is to be determined (by divine appointment) elsewhere. This pattern of six days work and one day of rest goes right back to creation. The quote from creation is not there to establish the day of the week but the principle of six days work, one day rest. The fact that the seventh day after the six days of creation was the seventh day of the week in the first week is incidental to the commandment itself – it is the pattern that is given by way of example to show that this is a perpetual commandment going right back to the very creation, as I said before. The problem is, you seem to trying to force a pattern of a certain day of the week onto v.10 from v.11, rather than reading v.10, as the pattern for all time, which has no reference to any day of the week; and then seeing this pattern exampled in the creation week, with the actual day of the week being not the relevant aspect why it is cited in the commandment. V.11 is cited to example the pattern of six days work and one day of rest, given generally in v.10, rather than to intrude aspects of ‘days of the week’.

    When we consider examples, we should not seek to intrude incidental aspects of the example cited into the general point being made. When Jesus says ‘Remember Lot’s wife’ we are being directed to look at that aspect of Lot’s wife that exemplifies the point ‘let him likewise not return back’,and not, for example, that she bore daughters, which, whilst true in her specific case, is incidental to the point being made.

    Since no ‘day of the week’ is mentioned in v.10, the general case, you shouldn’t go looking for it in v.11, the particular case. But since the general pattern of six days work and one day’s rest is in v.10, you can expect that to be exampled in v.11. And it is.

    • “The seventh day in the first week (the creation week) was obviously the last day of that week”
      OK, Saturday, fine.

      “it is the pattern that is given by way of example to show that this is a perpetual commandment going right back to the very creation, as I said before.”
      This is more or less what I meant when I asked if identifying the Sabbath with Saturday was a statement of fact or the historical underpinning of the command.

  46. Don

    ” “Neither verse identifies the seventh day, i.e. what day of the week it was.”
    This is simply not tenable. There is no way to that anyone with any knowledge of Genesis 1-2 can read Exodus 20:11 and not know that Saturday is being referred to.”

    It clearly is not untenable. I have given you copious examples of divines who are very familiar with these verses who do not agree with your position at all. Below are some again that address your point head on. Of course, if you are saying that John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, the Westminster divines, the Puritans, the Presbyterian tradition etc etc are not included in those ‘with any knowledge of Genesis 1-2’, then you are making a completely different point entirely. You are free to disagree with all these men if you wish, but you cannot say that their position is untenable, or that no-one with a knowledge of Genesis 1-2 could hold their views. That would be a descent into the absurd.

    “There is no direction in the fourth command how to reckon the time, i.e. where to begin and end it. But that is supposed to be determined otherwise.”

    “He saith not, Remember the seventh day, nor that he blessed the seventh day, but only the sabbath; to teach us, that the seventh day in order from the creation is not of the essence of the command, but only a seventh in number; and that the seventh in order might be altered, without infringing the morality of the command.”

    “Further, it is a rule, in judging of the intention of all laws divine and human, that the meaning of the preceptive part of them is to be collected from the reasons annexed or inserted therein: and the reasons for a sacred rest, that are intimated and stated in this command, do no more respect the seventh day [of the week], than any other in seven. Six days in the septenary revolution are granted for labor; nor does the command say any thing, whether these six days shall be the first [of the week] or the last in the order of them”

    Note that these men are talking about the whole fourth commandment, not merely v.10. There is no ‘Saturday’, as you insist, in the fourth commandment.

  47. Don

    “That is, the Fifth Commandment does not need to say “Honor your father and mother and all other authorities” in order for me to know I should honor my uncle, the mayor, etc. I don’t see why one should expect the Fourth to say “the seventh and final day of the week is a Sabbath” before acknowledging that it refers to a specific day of the week.”

    This argument is fallacious. On the one hand you are saying that the fifth commandment has a more general application (i.e. is LESS restricted) than your own mother and father, and on the other hand you are saying that the fourth commandment has a MORE restricted application than the principle of the pattern of six days and a seventh day, i.e. it is restricted to a specific day of the week, when days of the week are not even mentioned in the commandment.

    If you look at the Westminster Larger Catechism you will see that there is a very full exposition of the sins and duties of each commandment. The ten commandments are clearly summaries that need to be unpacked, as it were – the moral law is there ‘summarily comprehended’. But you will never find any unpacking or exposition that suggests that there is a day of the week somewhere lurking in the fourth commandment. LCat states that the reference to creation in the commandment is by way of example, i.e. a particular case of the general principle. You can’t argue from the particular to the general (i.e. v.11 to v.10) – at least not when we are talking about perpetually binding moral commands that bind all men for all time.

  48. Don

    “This is more or less what I meant when I asked if identifying the Sabbath with Saturday was a statement of fact or the historical underpinning of the command.”

    This is a non sequitur. The commandment doesn’t identify the sabbath with Saturday, which has already been said before, and supported with numerous citations. Since the commandment doesn’t identify the sabbath with Saturday the rest of your question is moot. I have already stated that the day of the week in the creation week for the day of rest is incidental to the command. Something that is incidental isn’t what you call ‘identifying’. I have already stated, and the LCat confirms, that the pattern of six days and a seventh of rest is a pattern that is exampled in the creation, but the example should not be forced to wring out of it a Saturday and then read that back into the fourth commandment. It is an example of the six days work plus a following day of rest, not an example of ‘Saturday’ being the sabbath. It might incidentally have been a Saturday, but that is, as stated, incidental and not part of the function of the example being given. As I have stated elsewhere, it is not a valid hermeneutic to read something incidental to the example back into the general case. When we are commanded to work six days and rest on the seventh and then we are given an example of that we shouldn’t go trying to read back a day of the week from the example, which has got nothing to do with the thing being exampled.

  49. Don

    “No one needs to “wring” Saturday out of Genesis 2:1-3.”

    You missed the point again. I’m beginning to wonder whether you are doing so deliberately. You mustn’t wring Saturday out of the example given in Ex 20:11 since Saturday has got nothing to do with the reason v.11 is given as an example corresponding to v.10.

    The aspect in v.11 that examples what is in v.10 is, of course, the sequence of six days followed by a seventh day. It has nothing to do with what day of the week the seventh day falls on, because there is nothing about that in v.10, and to intrude that aspect, which in the example is completely incidental to its usage as an apposite example in the commandment, would be appalling hermeneutics.

    It is abundantly clear that God’s making the world in six days and resting the seventh is an apposite example for the commandment for man to work six days and rest a seventh. The example isn’t being given to deal with days of the week but the pattern of six and a seventh. The commandment doesn’t deal with the day of the week, and to seek to read that aspect into it is EISegesis, not exegesis.

    When an example is given, you must look for what in the example is common with the thing being exampled. v.10 deals with a pattern of six and a seventh, and doesn’t mention anything about days of the week. Therefore you should be looking for that pattern (which is pretty obviously there)in v.11 and should not go looking for something that is not in the general case mentioned in v.10. And it is the pattern of v.10 that is exampled in v.11, not days of the week. As I have said before, to read something from the particular, given as an example, into the general when the correspondence between the general and the particular example is screamingly obvious (i.e. to do with a pattern of six days and a seventh day), is fallacious, and a bad (and non-Reformed) hermeneutic. We would expect that sort of false hermeneutic from a Seventh-Day Adventist or a Seventh-Day Baptist, but I always hope for better things from readers of this blog.

    • Well, I’m deliberately not accepting the idea that vs. 10 refers only to a pattern, just because the Puritans claimed it did. This notion of a pattern is nowhere to be found in the immediate text. It becomes a good and necessary consequence only once: A) the whole of Exodus 20:1-17 is declared to be the Moral Law, with no ceremonial component, and B) an explanation is needed for how the Sabbath could be moved from Saturday to Sunday.

  50. Don

    “Well, I’m deliberately not accepting the idea that vs. 10 refers only to a pattern, just because the Puritans claimed it did. This notion of a pattern is nowhere to be found in the immediate text.”

    This is an astonishing claim. A pattern is “A regular and intelligible form or sequence discernible in the way in which something happens or is done”. You are now claiming that a regular sequence of six days labour and a seventh of rest is not found in the ‘immediate text’ of Exodus 20:10. That a pattern of six days labour and a seventh of rest is merely a ‘notion’ that is ‘nowhere to be found’ in the fourth commandment. We have the idea of patterns at Sinai, e.g. the ‘pattern, which was shewed thee in the mount’ with regard to the tabernacle, but apart from this, the regular cycle of seven days, six of which are for work and one of which is for rest (whether you believe this aligns with a certain day of the week or not) is most certainly a pattern, and most certainly in the text. If we are going to disagree on that, then it is pointless discussing further, because to deny a pattern is a descent into meaninglessness.

    “It becomes a good and necessary consequence only once: A) the whole of Exodus 20:1-17 is declared to be the Moral Law, with no ceremonial component, and B) an explanation is needed for how the Sabbath could be moved from Saturday to Sunday.”

    This is a far better argument, at least superficially, and thus one worthy of engaging with. The Puritans did engage with this, but you seem not to accept their arguments. It would be a mistake to think that there is a two step process of deduction by good and necessary consequence. The deduction by good and necessary consequence that the Decalogue is wholly moral, and no part ceremonial (this, of course, differs from the Dort statement, hence my original comment) is the confessional position of the WCF, which states that the ceremonial is ‘besides this law, commonly called moral’. LCat states “The moral law is the declaration of the will of God to mankind, directing and binding every one to personal, perfect, and perpetual conformity and obedience thereunto, in the frame and disposition of the whole man, soul, and body, and in performance of all those duties of holiness and righteousness which he oweth to God and man” and “The moral law is summarily comprehended in the Ten Commandments, which were delivered by the voice of God upon mount Sinai, and written by him in two tables of stone; and are recorded in the twentieth chapter of Exodus”. This is the confessional and subscribed position to which I am bound, so it would be unreasonable to expect me to argue against the confessional basis. What is your confessional basis, Don?

    It is recognized by all the confessional Reformed (i.e. including and beyond the Presbyterian tradition) that the designation of a certain day of the week for the Sabbath is not essentially moral. Some used the word ‘ceremonial’ in relation to the ‘day of the week’ issue, e.g. Dort as in this post, “The rest of the seventh day after creation was ceremonial”. But sticking with the Westminster tradition, it is not a two stage deduction to say that the fourth commandment doesn’t specify the specific day of the week because the term ceremonial already captures that within it, so saying the Decalogue is not ceremonial rules out the ‘day of the week issue’. So, we have not gone two steps of deduction to get there. Then the Westminster tradition looks for the divine appointment of the specific day of the week that applies to certain people at certain times (i.e. the ceremonial that can be annexed to the moral). Whether there is an element of deduction there is beside the point. To deduce that that the Decalogue doesn’t deal with the ‘day of the week issue’ (i.e. look elsewhere for that) and to deduce from other parts of Scripture entirely what is the day of the week for certain times and certain people is not breaking some single stage deduction for ascertaining the day of the week. Why so? Because we can deduce the day of the week equally well whether we include the Decalogue in our consideration or not. I say (following my confessional tradition) we don’t need to include it (so look elsewhere), but even if we do include it, it doesn’t lead to any different conclusion: the day observed by the Jews was the seventh of the week, and the day observed by Christians was the first of the week, as all the Reformed agree. The day of the week issue is de facto settled from outside the Decalogue in all Reformed streams. That is the Reformed position.

  51. Don

    On July 29 you wrote with reference to the fourth commandment, “the command to rest on the seventh day is clearly based on the pattern God established at creation”.

    On August 6 you wrote with reference to the fourth commandment, “This notion of a pattern is nowhere to be found in the immediate text.”

    You can’t assert one thing when it suits you, and then deny the same when it doesn’t suit you.

    • If you prefer to include the “only” in the sentence preceding the one you quote from August 6, (as in, “notion of only a pattern”) or if you note that on July 29 I am referring to the pattern of resting on Saturday, not the pattern you describe of every seventh day whatever the day may be, then hopefully that clears it up. If this caused you to think I was making some astonishing claim, then I apologize for the confusion.

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