Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Whole Day

Westminster Confession of Faith, Chap. 21:

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

John Willison, A Treatise Concerning the Sanctification of the Lord's Day, p. 77-79:

Quest. VI. What is that proportion of time which is to be sequestrated and allowed for the Sabbath day? and when doth it begin and end.

Ans. The fourth command requires one day in every seven; by which we are not to understand only the artificial day from sun-rising to sun-setting, or from the break of day until the darkness of the night comes on, and think then the Sabbath is over, and that we are no longer bound to abstain from our own works; and far less are we to think that the Sabbath is no longer than the time of public worship doth last, and that we are at freedom from the work and duties of the Sabbath when that is over. This some say in words, and many more in their practice.

But, consider what absurdities would follow hereupon: For, if no more time be allowed for the Sabbath, but the time of public worship; then it would follow, that God requires no private or secret duties from us on that day, since these will need some more time: but that cannot be; for, if private and secret duties be required of us on week days, then much more on the Sabbath day.

Again, it would follow, that some must keep longer Sabbaths, and others shorter; nay, the Sabbath or many shall not be above an hour or two of the day; for there are ministers and people who are scarce so long at public worship. But the whole day is the Lord's, and not a part only. You will have your servants to work the whole six week days, for you, from morning to night, and not be contented with their working an hour or two only of these days: so neither should you yield less to God than you require for yourselves. Nay, if attendance on public worship were all that is requisite this day, by virtue of the command, it would follow, that a man would be loosed from the obligation of the command, if he were in a place of the world where God is not publicly worshipped.

But all these things being absurd, I do, upon solid ground assert, that the whole natural day, consisting of twenty-four hours, is to be set apart for the Sabbath day; and that we ought to measure this day, and begin and end it, as we do other days, that is, from midnight to midnight; during which time we are to abstain from our own works, and sanctify the Lord's Sabbath. For the fourth command binds us to consecrate the seventh part of every week to 'the Lord, who challengeth a special property in one day of seven, and asserts his just title thereto, saying, "the seventh day is the Lord's: and also Isa. lviii.13. he expressly calls it, " My holy day." It is all holy; and therefore no part must be profaned or applied to common uses. It is all the Lord's; and so it is unlawful for us to rob him of any part of it, and alienate it to our private use.

Object. But who is able to spend the whole twenty-four hours in religious duties ?

Ans. I do not say that this is to be done without any intermission; for we do not this in following our employments on other days: a due proportion of every day is to be reserved for the natural support of our bodies, and particularly for moderate eating and sleeping, which are works of necessity, and must be allowed on the Sabbath, as well as other days; with this difference only, that whereas they are done on other days to enable us for labour, they are to be done on the Sabbath to strengthen us for holy duties; and so cannot properly be called our own works. Neither can the doing thereof be called a taking of God's time to our own use, since this contributes to our better spending of God's time, and is truly necessary for God's service on the Sabbath. But, besides the time requisite for the works of necessity and mercy, the whole natural day as above described, is holy unto the Lord, and ought to be employed in religious duties; and not a part of the day only. Both Sabbath morning and Sabbath night, should be spent in prayer and praises, as is plain from the 92d Psalm, which is entitled, " A psalm or song for the Sabbath day," ver. 1.; and ver. 2. we are told, that "It is good to give thanks unto the Lord, and shew forth his loving kindness in the morning, and his faithfulness every night." But more of this afterwards, when I come directly to treat of the sanctification of the Sabbath. And, before I do this, I judge it necessary to answer some objections brought, against the morality of the Sabbath, and the change of the day.

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