The Fourth Commandment consists of two parts a commandment and a reason of the commandment. The commandment is, Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy; in it thou shalt do no manner of work, &c. Of this, again, there are two parts the one moral and perpetual, as that the Sabbath be kept holy; the other ceremonial and temporary, as that the seventh day be kept holy.
That the first part is moral and perpetual, is evident from the end and the causes of the commandment, which are perpetual in their character. The end or design of the commandment is the maintenance of the public worship of God in the church; or the perpetual preservation, and use of the ecclesiastical ministry. God designs that there should at all times be a public ministry of the church, and that there should be assemblies of the faithful to which his doctrine may be preached. The objects which God designs by this means to accomplish, are, 1. That he may be publicly praised and worshipped in the world. 2. That the piety and faith of the elect may be stirred up and confirmed by these public services. 3. That men may by this means mutually strengthen each other in the faith of the gospel, and provoke one another to love and good works. 4. That agreement in the doctrine of the church and in the worship of God may be preserved and perpetuated. 5. That the church may be visible in the world, and be distinguished from the rest of mankind. Inasmuch now as these reasons do not have respect to any particular time, but to all times and conditions of the church and world, it follows that God will always have the ministry of the church preserved and the use thereof respected, so that the moral part of this commandment binds all men from the beginning to the end of the world, to observe some Sabbath, or to devote a certain portion of their time to sermons, public prayers, and the administration of the sacraments.
That the other part of the commandment is ceremonial, and not perpetual, is evident from the fact that the Sabbath of the seventh day was, in the promulgation of the law, instituted of God for the observance of the Mosaic worship, and given to the Jews as a sacrament or a type of the sanctification of the church by the Messiah, who was to come, as it is said, “Verily my Sabbaths ye shall keep, for it is a sign between me and you, throughout your generations, that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you.” “I gave them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify them.” (Ex. 31:13. Ez. 20:12.) Hence the Sabbath, in as far as it has respect to the seventh day, was, together with other ceremonies and types, fulfilled and abolished by the coming of the Messiah. So much briefly concerning the commandment itself.
The reason of the commandment is contained 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; wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. The reason which is here given is drawn from the example of God resting on the seventh day from the work of creation which he had accomplished in six days. It has respect, therefore, properly to the circumstance of the seventh day, or to that part of the commandment which is ceremonial. Yet the imitating of that rest to which God invites us, is not only ceremonial, and so having regard to the Jews, but also moral or spiritual, being signified by the ceremonial, in which respect it belongs to all men. That the commandment itself, together with the reason that is annexed to it, may be better understood, we shall now explain very briefly the words of both; after which we shall explain those subjects which fall naturally under this part of the Catechism.
Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. What and how manifold the Sabbath is will hereafter be explained. The language which is here used is most emphatic. God speaks as if the thing concerning which he gives a command were of the greatest importance. Remember that thou keep holy; as if he would say, thou shalt observe the Sabbath day with great care and conscientiousness. God commands elsewhere that he who would violate the Sabbath should be put to death.
The reasons on account of which God commands such a careful observance of the Sabbath are,
1. Because a violation of the Sabbath is a violation of the whole worship of God. A neglect of the ministry of the church leads most easily and directly to a neglect and corruption of the doctrine and worship of God.
2. God, in exacting such a rigid and careful observance of the Sabbath, which was typical, would indicate thereby the greatness and necessity of the thing signified, which was the spiritual Sabbath.
3. Because God will have the external Sabbath to contribute towards beginning and perfecting in us that rest which is spiritual.
Keep holy. To keep holy the Sabbath, is not to spend the day in slothfulness and idleness; but to avoid sin, and to perform such works as are holy. God is said to sanctify the Sabbath differently from what men do. God is said to sanctify the Sabbath, because he institutes it for divine worship. Men are said to sanctify it, when they devote it to the purpose for which God instituted it.
Six days shalt thou labor. God allots six days for labor, the seventh he claims for divine worship; not that he would teach that the worship of God and meditation upon divine things is to be omitted on all other days beside the Sabbath, but, 1. That there might not only be a private worship of God on the Sabbath as at other times, but that public worship might also be observed in the church. 2. That all those other works which men ordinarily perform on the other days of the week, might on the Sabbath give place to the private and public worship of God.
Thou shalt do no manner of work. When God forbids us to work on the Sabbath day, he does not forbid every kind of work, but only such works as are servile such as hinder the worship of God, and the design and use of the ministry of the church. That this is the true sense of this Command is evident from what is expressly said in other portions of the Scripture. “Ye shall do no servile work therein.” (Lev. 23:25.) It is, therefore, only servile works which are prohibited by this commandment. Hence, Christ in the twelfth chapter of Matthew vindicates his disciples from the charge of breaking the Sabbath day, when they plucked the ears of corn as they passed through the fields and ate, being an hungered; and also himself healed on the Sabbath day the man who had a withered hand; and in another place (Luke 14:5,) says, that if an ox or an ass fall into a pit, there is no sin in drawing them out on the Sabbath day. Maccabeus also carried on war on the Sabbath day. And in the first book of Mac. 2 40, 41, there are reasons given in justification of this and similar works on the Sabbath day. “If we all do as our brethren have done and fight not for our lives and laws against the heathen, they will now quickly root us out of the earth. At that time, therefore, they decreed, saying, whosoever shall come to make battle with us on the Sabbath day, we will fight against him, neither will we die all, as our brethren that were murdered in secret places.” So Christ defended his disciples and himself in the place already referred to, citing a passage out of the book of Hosea: “If ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.” Again: “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” (Matt. 12:7. Mark 2:27.) Christ here teaches that ceremonial works must yield to such as are moral, so that ceremonies should rather be omitted than works of love, which our own necessity or that of our neighbor requires. Hence, he says: “Have ye not read in the law, how that on the Sabbath day the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are blameless; but I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple.” “Ye on the Sabbath day circumcise a man. If a man on the Sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the Sabbath day.” (Matt. 12:5. John 7:22, 23.) These declarations teach, that such works as do not hinder or interfere with the proper use of the Sabbath, but which, on the other hand, rather carry out its true intention and so establish it, as all those works do which so pertain to the worship of God or religious ceremonies, or to the duty of love towards our neighbor, or to the saving of our own. or the life of another, as that necessity will not allow them to be deferred to another time, do not violate the Sabbath, but are especially required in order that we may properly observe it.
Neither thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter. God will have our children and families to cease from labor on the Sabbath, for two reasons: 1. Chiefly, that they may be instructed and trained up by their parents is the worship of God, and may be admitted to the privileges of the church; for God will have them also to be members of his church. 2. Because he designs that love and benevolence towards our neighbor should especially be exercised, and shown on the Sabbath day.
Nor thy stranger that is within thy gates. God commands that even the strangers who might be found among the Israelites should not work on the Sabbath day; and this he does upon the ground, that if they were converted to the true religion, they were members of the church; and if they were unbelievers, he commands it, not on their own account, but on account of the Israelites, lest by their example they should give offence to the church; or lest their liberty might be an occasion to the Jews to accomplish through them the things which they themselves were not permitted to do on the Sabbath day, and in this way practice deception in relation to the law of God.
We may here return an answer to the three following Questions:
1. Were other nations also bound to observe the ceremonies which were instituted particularly for the Jews, if any of them lived amongst the Israelites?
2. Was it possible or proper to constrain those who were aliens from the church to embrace the Jewish religion?
3. Were the sacraments, among which the Sabbath was enumerated, to be given in common to the unbelievers and the church?
To the first and second of these Questions we reply, that the strangers who lived among the Jews were not bound or compelled to conform to all the ceremonies, nor to the Jewish religion itself, but only to such external discipline as was necessary for the purpose of avoiding offence to the church in which they lived. A magistrate ought to be a defender of order and discipline among his subjects, as it respects both tables of the Decalogue, and to guard against and prohibit open idolatry and wickedness; and ought also to avoid, as far as it is possible, all offences and occasions to sin that may be given to his subjects by foreigners and sojourners. Furthermore, there was a peculiar reason calling for a particular observance of the Sabbath, inasmuch as it was not then for the first time given to the Israelites when God gave them the law by Moses, but had been enjoined upon all men from the very beginning of the world by God himself, although this precept had been lost sight of by other nations; so much so, that is was regarded as the greatest reproach which they could cast upon the Jews to term them Sabbatarians, which appellation was given to them on account of the rigid and exact observance which they paid to the Sabbath.
We reply to the third Question proposed, that the Sabbath was no sacrament to unbelievers, although they ceased from labor as well as those who worshipped God according to the Jewish faith; because the promise that Jehovah would be their sanctifier did not pertain to them; nor were they required to abstain from their ordinary labor, for an acknowledgment and confession of this promise, but merely for the sake of avoiding offence, and cutting off all occasion to sin, which might be given to the people of God by their laboring on the Sabbath day.
Nor thy cattle. This furnishes still stronger proof that the Sabbath was no sacrament for such as did not believe; because even the cattle were required to have rest. This rest, however, as far as it has respect to cattle, is neither the worship of God, nor is it a sacrament; but it was commanded in respect to men: 1. That every occasion for working on the Sabbath day might be cut off from men, by forbidding them to have their cattle at work on that day. 2. That in sparing their dumb beasts, they might also learn how God would have them to possess and exercise kindness and equity towards their fellow-men.
For in six days the Lord made. The reason which is added to this commandment is drawn from the example of God’s resting from the work of creation, and has respect to the ceremonial part of the commandment concerning the seventh day, as we have before shown.
And rested on the seventh day. This means that God ceased to create any new works, the world being now perfect, and such as God desired it to be. God set apart this day to divine worship:
1. That the rest of the seventh day might be a monument of the creation which ho had accomplished, and of the constant care, preservation, and government which he has exercised over the works of his hands from that day, for his own glory and for the salvation of his people; and so might excite us to a consideration of these his works, and to praise and glorify his name for his benefits to mankind, on whose account God created and preserves ail things.
2. That by the example of himself resting on the seventh day, he might exhort men, as by a most effectual and constraining argument, to imitate him, and so abstain, on the seventh day, from the labors to which they were accustomed during the other six days of the week. This imitation of God resting on the seventh day is twofold: ceremonial and moral, as has been shown. So our works also, from which we are required to abstain on the Sabbath, are of two kinds. Some are indeed commanded by God, but are, nevertheless, not to be done when their performance would interfere with or hinder the worship of God. The labors and duties which belong to the peculiar callings of men are of this sort. Others, again, are prohibited by God, as sins. These works are all prohibited on the Sabbath; but by a difference which is three-fold:
1. Works are forbidden in respect to something, viz., in as far as they hinder the ministry of the church, or give offence: sins are positively forbidden.
2. Works are required to be omitted only on the Sabbath day: sins at all times.
3. Resting from labor is a type of resting or ceasing from sin, which is the thing signified.
Of the Sabbath
Having now given a brief explanation of the words of the commandment, that the doctrine of the Sabbath and its true sanctification may be the better understood, we must still further consider:
I. What and how manifold is the Sabbath?
II. In what respect does it belong to us?
III. Why was it instituted?
IV. How is it kept holy, and how profaned?
I. What and how manifold is the Sabbath?
The word Sabbath (in the Hebrew schabbat, schebbet, and shabbathon,) means quietness, rest, or ceasing from labor. God so called the day which he set apart to his own public worship:
1. Because he himself rested on this day, or ceased to create any new works, although he did not cease to preserve that which he had created.
2. Because the Sabbath is an image or type of the spiritual rest from sin which the faithful shall enjoy in the life to come.
3. Because we also ought on this day to cease from all servile work, that God may perform in us his works.
4. Because our families and cattle ought also to rest. The Sabbath is, therefore a time appointed for rest from external works, whether morally or ceremonially forbidden: that is, from sins, and from the labors of our callings which have respect to this life; and is also a time set apart for the performance of those things which belong to the worship of God.
The Sabbath may be viewed in a two-fold aspect: either as moral and internal, or as ceremonial and external. The moral and internal, or spiritual Sabbath includes the study of the knowledge of God and of his works, with a careful shunning of sin, and worshipping God by confession and obedience. Or we may define it more briefly as a ceasing from sin, and a giving of ourselves to God to do such works as he requires from us. The Sabbath, although it ought to be perpetual in those who are converted, is nevertheless only begun in this life, and is called the Sabbath both because it is even now a true rest from the labors and miseries of, this life, with a consecration of ourselves to the service of God, and also because it was formerly signified by the ceremonial Sabbath. “I gave them my Sabbaths to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them.” (Ez. 20:12.) But in the life to come this Sabbath will be enjoyed perfectly and forever, and will consist in perpetually praising and glorifying God, being entirely freed and released from the cares and labors with which we are now perplexed and occupied. “And it shall come to pass that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord.” (Is. 66:23.)
The ceremonial or external Sabbath is a certain time set apart in the church for the preaching of the word and for the administration of the sacraments, or for the public worship of God, during which time there is a suspension or abstinence from all other works. This external Sabbath possesses likewise a two-fold character, being immediate and mediate. The former, or immediate Sabbath, was that which was instituted immediately by God himself, and enjoined upon the church under the Old Testament dispensation.
This Sabbath was again viewed in different aspects, as:
1. The Sabbath of days. This was every seventh day of the week, which was more particularly and properly called the Sabbath, on account of God’s resting from the work of the creation of the world, and on ac count of the rest which the people of God were required to observe on that day. Hence, the Hebrews were accustomed to call the whole seven days, or week, the Sabbath, or Sabbaths, by a synecdoche. (Matt. 28:1.) So it was also in regard to other festival days, as the feast of the Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacles, Trumpets and Fasts, &c.; because the Jews upon these days were required to abstain from labor, and rest, as much so as on the seventh day.
2. The Sabbath of months were the new moons.
3. The Sabbath of years was every seventh year, in which the Jews were required to intermit the tillage of their fields, during which time they neither sowed their fields, nor pruned their vineyards. Here also, as in the former instance, the whole seven years were by a synecdoche called Sabbaths. (Lev. 25:4; 26:35; 25:8.)
The mediate external Sabbath is that which God has instituted through the church under the New Testament dispensation, which belongs to the first day of the week, which is called Sunday, or, more properly, the Lordday, which the Christian church has observed in the place of the seventh day from the time of the Apostles, in view of the resurrection of Christ, as appears from what the Apostle John says: “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.” (Rev. 1:10.)
Or, to express it more briefly, we may say that the ceremonial Sabbath is two-fold: the one belonging to the Old, the other to the New Testament. The old was restricted to the seventh day: its observance was necessary, and constituted the worship of God. The new depends upon the decision and appointment of the church, which for certain reasons has made choice of the first day of the week, which is to be observed for the sake of order, and not from any idea of necessity, as if this and no other were to be observed by the church, concerning which we shall presently speak.
A table respecting the distinction of the Sabbath.
II. In how far does the Sabbath belong to us?
The Sabbath of the seventh day was appointed of God from the very beginning of the world, to declare that men, after his example, should rest from their labors, and especially from sin. This commandment was subsequently repeated in the law as given by Moses, at which time the ceremony which had respect to the observance of the seventh day, as a day of rest was made a sacrament of sanctification, by which God declared that he would be the sanctifier of his church; or, that he would pardon the sins of such as would believe, and receive them into favor on account of the Messiah promised to the fathers, and who would at the appointed time make his appearance in the world. The reason why the ceremonial Sabbath of the seventh day is now abolished, is because it was typical, signifying the benefits of the Messiah, and admonishing the people of God of their duty. It was for the same reason that all the other sacraments, sacrifices and ceremonies, instituted before and after the giving of the law, were abolished by the coming of Christ, who fulfilled all that was signified by these things. But although the ceremonial Sabbath has been abolished in the New Testament, yet the moral still continues, and pertains to us as well as to others.; for there is now just as much necessity for a certain time to be set apart in the Christian church for the preaching of God’s word, and for the public administration of the sacraments, as there was formerly in the Jewish church. Yet we must not suppose that we are restricted or tied down either to Saturday, Wednesday, or any other day.
The apostolic church, to distinguish itself from the Jewish synagogue, chose, in the exercise of the liberty conferred upon it by Christ, the first day of the week in the place of the seventh, because on that day the resurrection of Christ took place, by which the internal and spiritual Sabbath is begun in us. In a word, we are bound to the Sabbath, whether considered morally or ceremonially, as it respects that which is general, but not as it respects that which is particular; or, in other words, there is a necessity that we should have a certain day on which the church should be instructed and the sacraments administered; yet we are not bound or tied down to any particular day.
The Jews present the following objections against the abrogation of the ceremonial Sabbath: 1. The Decalogue is a perpetual law. The commandment respecting the Sabbath is a part of the Decalogue. Therefore it is a perpetual law, and should not be abolished. Ans. The Decalogue is a perpetual law in as far as it is moral; but those things which were added to it for the sake of signification, or which may be viewed as limitations of the moral precepts of the Decalogue, were to be preserved merely to the coming of the Messiah.
Obj. 2. The commandments of the Decalogue pertain to all men. This commandment is one of the precepts of the Decalogue. Therefore it pertains to all men, and so ought not to be abolished. Ans. We grant the argument, in as far as it respects that which is moral. But this commandment is in part ceremonial, and in this respect does not pertain to us, although that which is general does. The reasons of this are evident: 1. Paul says, “Let no man judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy-day.” (Col. 2:16.) 2. The Apostles themselves changed the Sabbath of the seventh day. 3. From the design of the law. It was a type of things that were to be fulfilled by Christ, viz., of sanctification, &c. Every type now must give place to its antitype, or to that which is signified by it. Again: the Jewish nation was by this means separated from the other nations of the earth, which separation was removed or taken away by Christ.
Obj. 3. The Lord says of the Sabbath, “It is a sign between me and the children of Israel forever: and an everlasting covenant.” (Ex. 31:16, 17.) Therefore the Sabbath of the seventh day is perpetual, and never to be abolished. Ans. 1. The ceremonial Sabbath was perpetual until the coming of Christ, who put an end to ceremonies by fulfilling them. 2. The Sabbath is to continue forever as it respects the thing which it signified, which is a ceasing from sin and a rest in God. In this sense all the types of the Old Testament are perpetual, even the kingdom of David itself; which was, nevertheless, overthrown before the coming of Christ. We may here refer the reader to what has already been said respecting the abrogation of the law, under the third general division of the Law, particularly the first and second objections.
Obj, 4. The laws which were given before the time of Moses were unchangeable. The precept respecting the setting apart of the seventh day as the Sabbath, was given before the time of Moses. Therefore it is unchangeable, even though we may grant that the Mosaic ceremonies were to be changed. Ans. The major proposition is particular, being true only as it respects those laws which are moral, and not concerning those which are ceremonial. For even the ceremonies which were instituted by God before the time of Moses, which were types of the benefits which the Messiah was to procure, have been abolished by the coming of Christ; as is true of circumcision, given to Abraham, and of the sacrifices which our first parents were commanded to offer.
Obj. 5. The laws which God gave before the fall are binding upon all men, and were not types of the benefits of the Messiah, inasmuch as the promise respecting the Messiah was not then given, and there was one arid the same condition pertaining to the whole human race. But God had already set apart the seventh day as a day of rest, before the fall of our first parents. Therefore this commandment is universal and perpetual. Ans. The major proposition is true as it respects the moral law, some natural conceptions and principles of which were impressed upon the mind of man in his creation; but not as touching the observance of the seventh day, which after the fall was made in the law of Moses a type of the benefits of the Messiah; and was, therefore, as other ceremonies which were then instituted, or instituted at an earlier period, made changeable by the coming of Christ; for God will not permit the types and shadows of certain things to remain any longer in force, when the things which they signify become real. Hence, although we grant that the exercises of divine worship were to have been observed upon the seventh day, according to the command of the Decalogue, as well as if men never had sinned, as now since they have sinned; yet after God had placed the observance of this particular day among those things which were shadows of the benefits of the Messiah which was to come, by the new law which was given to Moses, it became changeable with other ceremonies.
Obj. 6. If the cause of any law be perpetual, the law itself must be perpetual. The remembrance and celebration of the creation of all things, together with meditation upon the works of God, is a perpetual cause, calling for the observance of the seventh day as the Sabbath. Therefore the law respecting the observance of the seventh day as the Sabbath is un changeable, even after the coming of Christ. Ans. We must here again make a distinction in replying to the major proposition: That law is indeed unchangeable by reason of an immutable cause, provided that cause or end necessarily and constantly require this law as an effect or as a means; but not if at other times the same end may be more successfully reached by other means, or incase the law-giver may accomplish it as well by another law. But we may meditate upon the works of God and magnify his power and goodness as they appear in them upon any other day, as well as upon the seventh day. Therefore this cause does not demand a perpetual law respecting the observance of the seventh day as the Sabbath. The Anabaptists bring as an objection against the observance of the first day of the week, or the Lord’s day, those passages of Scripture which for bid any distinction being made between days under the New Testament. “Let no man judge you in respect to an holy-day.” “Ye observe, days and months, and times, and years.” “He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord * and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it,” &c. (Col. 2:16. Gal. 4:10. Rom. 14:6.) Therefore, say they, the observance of the first day is as much condemned as that of the seventh. We reply to the antecedent; that the Scriptures do not simply, or absolutely forbid Christians to make a distinction between days, but only when it is done with an idea of establishing ceremonial worship, or of necessity. But it is not in this way that the church observes the Lord’s day, or the first day of the week. The observance of the first day of the week on the part of Christians differs in two respects from the observance of the Jewish Sabbath. 1. It was not lawful for the Jews, on account of the express command of God, to alter or change the Sabbath of the seventh day, as being a part of the ceremonial worship. But the Christian church, in the exercise of her own liberty, sets apart the first, or any other day to the ministry, without connecting with it any opinion of necessity, or worship. 2. The ancient Sabbath was a type of things in the Old Testament which were to be fulfilled by Christ. But in the New Testament that signification has ceased, whilst respect is had merely to order and propriety, without which the ministry of the church would either be no minis try, or at least not a properly constituted one.
III. For what was the Sabbath instituted?
The ultimate ends for which the Sabbath was instituted are chiefly these:
1. The public worship of God in the church.
2. The preservation of the ecclesiastical ministry, which is an office divinely instituted to give instruction to the church concerning God and his will, out of the holy Scriptures, delivered by the prophets and Apostles, and to administer the sacraments according to divine appointment. This is a most important end, on account of which the Sabbath was instituted, inasmuch as the public and ordinary preaching of the gospel, in connection with the offering up of prayer, thanksgiving and the use of divine rites, are public exercises, exciting and cherishing faith and repentance in the elect.
3. That it might be in the Old Testament a type signifying the spiritual and eternal Sabbath. “I gave them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them.” (Ez. 20:12.)
4. That the circumstance of the seventh day might remind and admonish men of the creation of the world, and of the duty of meditating upon the works which God made in six days.
5. That works of charity, liberality and kindness might especially be performed towards our neighbor on this day.
6. For the sake of bodily rest both to man and beasts: to beasts for the sake of man.
7. That men might by their example provoke one another to piety and the worship of God. “I will declare thy name unto my brethren; in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.” (Ps. 22:22.)
8. That the church might by this means be visible in the world, and be distinguished from idolaters and blasphemers, so that those who are yet out of the church may know to what communion they ought to attach themselves. The Sabbath now was- a mark under the Old Testament by which the people Israel were distinguished and separated from other nations.
IV. How is the Sabbath kept holy and how profaned, or what are the works commanded and forbidden on the Sabbath.
The sanctification of the Sabbath consists in performing such holy works as God has commanded to be done on this day. So on the other hand, the Sabbath is profaned either when holy works are omitted, or when such works are performed as hinder the ministry of the church, and as are contrary to the things which belong to the proper sanctification of the Sabbath.
The works by which the Sabbath is sanctified, and those which are contrary thereto, being the ones by which it is profaned, are chiefly these:
I. Rightly to teach and instruct the church concerning God and his will. The teaching which is here enjoined is different from that required by the third commandment; for there the propagation of the doctrine of the church is made the duty of every one privately; whilst here the office of teaching is committed to certain persons, who, being divinely furnished with the gifts necessary for this calling, are lawfully called by the church, to act in the capacity of teachers. This commandment now requires all those who are called to teach in the church, faithfully to deliver and expound sound doctrine, both publicly to those who assemble together for the purpose of receiving instruction, and to every one privately as occasion and necessity may admit and require, all of which is done for public edification and for the salvation of each one individually. The following and similar passages of Scripture may here be appropriately cited, Lev. 10:11. Acts 13:15; 17:2. 2 Tim. 4:2, &c.
The opposite of this includes; An omission, or neglect of the duty of teaching, whether privately or publicly, concerning which God complains, through the prophet, when he says: “Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks.” (Is. 56:10 Ez. 34:2.)
II. To administer the sacraments according to divine appointment. This should likewise be performed by the ministers of the church lawfully called for the purpose of attending to this duty. Yet we must not suppose that the administration of the sacraments is any more restricted and tied down, to certain days and times, than the preaching of the word. All that is necessary is that the administration should be public, that it should be done by the ministers of the church who bear a public character, and represent God speaking with men. So circumcision was administered on any day, which might be the eighth day after the birth of the child, whether it was the Sabbath or not. So baptism may be administered at any time; though the administration of the sacraments should take place chiefly on the Sabbath day. “When ye come together in one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper.” “Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat,, tarry one for another.” “And they continued steadfast in the Apostles doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and prayers.” (1 Cor. 11:20, 33. Acts 2:42.)
To the lawful administration of the sacraments is opposed an omission of this duty, or a neglect to exhort the church to a proper use of the sacraments. The same thing is also true in regard to such an administration of the sacraments as is unlawful, which is the case whenever any thing is taken away from, or added to those ordinances, which have been divinely instituted, or when there is any change made in them; or when those are excluded from the sacraments who ought to be admitted, and others are admitted who ought to be excluded; or when the people are not properly instructed in relation to their lawful use.
III. Diligently to learn the doctrine of the church, which is to frequent the public gatherings of the saints for the purpose of hearing and learning the doctrine delivered from heaven, and having heard it, to meditate seriously upon it and enquire into its truth: but more especially to devote those days which have been set apart to the ministry and service of God, in reading, in meditating and discoursing upon divine things. These things are evident and follow naturally from their correlatives; for if God will have those whose duty it shall be diligently to teach on the Sabbath day, he also requires men diligently to hear and learn this doctrine which he reveals unto them through his servants, and to accompany this hearing with private meditation, as in the case of the Bereans of whom it said; “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily whether these things were so.” (Acts 17:11.) Such a study of the doctrine of the church is, however, especially necessary for those who either now, or hereafter may be called to minister to the church in the capacity of teachers. Hence i t is that the Apostle exhorts Timothy to give attendance to reading, to exhortation and doctrine. (1 Tim. 4:13.)
The opposite of such a diligent study of the doctrine of the church, shows itself in its lowest and most common form,
1. In a contempt and neglect of this doctrine, which may be said to take place whenever men absent themselves from the public assemblies of the church without any just hindrance, or excuse, and attend to such things on the Sabbath day as could easily be deferred; or when they appear in the church among the worshippers of God, without giving a proper hearing or attention to the sermons which are delivered; or when they do not meditate upon and enquire into the truth of the doctrine of God’s word.
2. A. neglect to obtain a knowledge of the teachings of the church from those who are called of God to the study of this doctrine, or who may hereafter devote themselves to the work of spreading a knowledge of God and his will, and who may have greater opportunity and ability of imparting a knowledge of this doctrine than others “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required.” (Luke 12:48.)
3. Curiosity, which is a desire to know or hear those things which God has not revealed, which are unnecessary and new. “For men to search their own glory is not glory.” “But foolish and unlearned Questions avoid knowing that they do gender strife.” “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.” (Prov. 25:27. 2 Tim. 2:23; 4:3. See also 1 Tim. 4:7. Tit. 3:9.)
IV. To use the sacraments according to divine appointment. “Upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them,” &c. (Acts 20:7.) So God commanded that the Passover should be observed in a solemn assembly of the people, and assigned certain sacrifices to the Sabbath and other holy days. And as God will have his word publicly preached and heard, so he will also have the true and lawful use of the sacraments observed and seen in the public assemblies of the church, inasmuch as both are marks by which the true church may be known and distinguished from all other religions and people. The sacraments, also, just as the word, constitute a part of the public worship of God in the church, and are means to stir up and cherish faith and godliness in the faithful. Hence the use of the sacraments is most intimately connected with a proper observance and sanctification of the Sabbath.
To such a lawful use of the sacraments there is opposed,
1. A neglect and contempt of the sacraments.
2. A profanation of the sacraments; as when they are observed in a manner different from what God has commanded, or by those for whom they were not instituted.
3. A superstitious use of the sacraments; as when salvation and the grace of God are tied to the observance of the rites, or when they are directed to such ends as God has not appointed. “The uncircumcised man-child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people.” “He that killeth an ox, is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, is as if he cut off a dog’s neck,” &c. (Gen. 17:14. Is. 66:3.)
V. A public calling upon God, in which we unite our own confession, thanksgiving and prayer with the church; for God will not only be invoked by every one privately, but also publicly by the whole church, for his own glory and our comfort. It is for this reason that Christ has added a special promise to such prayers as are offered up publicly. “If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matt. 18:19, 20.) It is not public prayer, but ostentation and hypocrisy, the counterfeit of true piety, that Christ condemns, when he says, “When thou prayest enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” (Matt. 6:6.) That this is the true sense of these words is evident from what immediately precedes, where Christ says, “When thou prayest thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the street,” &c. The difference between the invocation which is here enjoined and that which is enjoined in the third commandment consists in this, that this is public, having respect to the whole church, whilst that is private, having respect to each one individually.
The extremes of this virtue are,
1. A neglect or want of attention to the prayers of the church.
2. A hypocritical offering of prayer with the church, when there is no heart-felt devotion.
3. A mere repetition of prayers, without any edification to the church. “For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.” (1 Cor. 14:17.)
VI. Charity and liberality to the poor, which consists in giving alms, and performing works of love to the needy, to sanctify the Sabbath in this way by shewing our obedience to the doctrine of Christ. We may here appropriately cite the discourse of Christ concerning the Sabbath, in which he asked the Jews, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath day, or to do evil.” (Mark 3:4.) And although God will have us to observe this Sabbath during our whole life, yet he desires that we give an example and evidence of it especially at such times as are allotted for teaching and studying his word. For if any one shows no disposition to obey God when the doctrine of God’s word sounds in his ears, and when, free from other cares, God commands us to give ourselves to the contemplation of godliness and repentance, he declares by such indifference that he will much less do it at other times. Hence it has always been the practice of the church to bestow alms upon the Sabbath day, and to perform acts of charity towards those who need our help and sympathy. “Send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy unto the Lord.” (Neh. 8:10.)
The opposite of this virtue shows itself in a neglect and contempt of the* poor, and in giving our alms for the sake of being seen of men, which Christ condemns.
VII. The honor of the ecclesiastical ministry, which embraces many particulars, among which we may mention,
1. Reverence, which consists in an acknowledgment of the divine order and will in the institution and preservation of the ministry, in gathering the church by means of it, and in the declaration of this our judgment concerning the ministry both in word and deed. “Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.” “We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us.” (1 Cor. 4:1. 2 Cor. 5:20.)
2. Love, by which we willingly frequent the gatherings of the church,, hear and study the doctrine of Christ, and desire and pray for every needful blessing to rest upon the faithful ministers of the church, not merely in view of the duty of love which we owe to them, but also on account of the office which they discharge. “How amiable are thy tabernacles, Lord of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even thirsteth for the courts of the Lord.” “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go unto the house of the Lord.” (Ps. 84:1,2; 122:1.)
3. Obedience in those things which belong to the ministry. “Obey them that have the rule over you.” (Heb. 12:17.) The works of love to God and our neighbor, including the entire life of the Christian, which is the spiritual Sabbath, fall properly under this head; for to observe the spiritual Sabbath is nothing else than to obey the voice of God, speaking to us through the ministry of the church, in regulating and directing the life.
4. Gratitude, which includes such duties as pertain to the preservation of the ministry and of ministers; for if God designs that there should be a ministry, he also designs that it should be perpetuated, and that every one contribute to the extent of his ability to the accomplishment of this object. We may here appropriately cite the laws of Moses respecting the first-born, the first-fruits, tithes and many other offerings which were given to the priests and Levites, by way of compensation, that so they might give themselves wholly to their work without any distraction. And although the circumstances of these laws have been abolished, yet the general principle which lies at the bottom will continue forever; because God will have the ministry of the church maintained to the end of the world. “Take heed to thyself that thou forsake not the Levite as long as thou livest upon the earth.” “Who goeth a warfare at any time at his own charges? Who planteth a vineyard and eateth not of the fruit thereof? Who feedeth a flock and eateth not of the milk of the flock?” &c. (Deut. 12:19. 1 Cor. 9:7. See also Gal. 6:6. 1 Tim. 5:17. Matt. 10:14.) The maintenance of schools may be embraced under this part of the honor which is due to the ministry; for unless the arts and sciences be taught, men can neither become properly qualified to teach, nor can the purity of doctrine be preserved and defended against the assaults of heretics.
5. Moderation and allowance in bearing such infirmities and imperfections of ministers as do not greatly and evidently corrupt and impede the objects of the ministry, and injure the church by giving offence. “Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.” (1 Tim. 5:19.)
The opposite of all this is embraced in a contempt of the ministry of the church, which takes place whenever this ministry is abolished, or is committed to persons unworthy of such a trust, o r when it is not acknowledged as the means which God will employ for gathering the church; the same thing is likewise true when the ministers of the church are treated with contempt and reproach, when their teachings are heard but not practiced in the life, when acts of charity are overlooked, and when it is made ineffectual by things of a trifling and wicked character. So there is a contempt of the ministry of the church when a sufficient and necessary support is withheld, or when it is not protected and defended, and when other duties of gratitude are not performed towards the ministers of Christ, when schools are not maintained and supported, when learning is neglected, and when, instead of making proper allowance for such defects of ministers as result from our natural weakness and imperfection, they are treated with contempt and derision. It is also in opposition to the use of the ministry, and at the same time a contempt thereof, whenever any one by his advice, example, or other means, prevents his own family or others from attending upon the public instructions of the sanctuary.
Concerning the ministry of the church.
Having now seen that this fourth commandment sanctions and authorizes the public worship of God, and so by consequence the ministry of the church, together with the honor and use connected with it, it is necessary that we should here make some remarks in reference to the ministry; and in so doing we shall inquire,
I. What is the ministry of the church?
II. For what end has it been instituted?
III. What are the grades of ministers?
IV. What are the duties devolving upon the ministers of the church?
V. To whom should the ministry be committed?
I. What is the ministry of the church?
The ecclesiastical ministry is that office which God has instituted in his church to which he has committed the preaching of his word, and the administration of the sacraments according to divine appointment. The ministry of the church includes, therefore, these two things the preaching of the word and the administration of the sacraments.
II. For what has the ministry of the church been instituted?
The reasons for which God instituted the ministry of the church are,
1. The glory of God. God will not only be praised and called upon by men privately, but also by the public voice of the whole church. “Bless ye God in the congregations.” (Ps. 68:26.)
2. That it may be a means or instrumentality by which men may be converted to God. “He gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints,” &c.
3. That God might in this way accommodate himself to our weakness and infirmity in teaching men by men.
4. That men might provoke one another by their example to godliness, and to the praise and worship of God.” “I will declare thy name unto my brethren.” (Ps. 22:22.)
5. That God may thus show his mercy, in that he commits to the hands of men that great work, the ministry of reconciliation, which the Son of God himself discharged.
6. That the church may be visible in the world, that so the elect may know to what they ought to attach themselves, and that the reprobate may be rendered perfectly inexcusable in that they despise and endeavor to make ineffectual the voice and call which God addresses in their hearing. “But I say, Have they not heard? Yes, verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.” (Rom. 10:18. See also 2 Cor. 2:14, 15, 16.)
III. What are the grades or degrees of ministers?
Some ministers are called immediately by God, whilst others again are called mediately by the church. Prophets and Apostles have been called in the way first mentioned. Prophets were ministers called immediately by God for the purpose of teaching and expounding the doctrine of Moses, and the promises respecting the Messiah; to reprove and do away with the corruptions and errors in the church and state, and to utter predictions respecting the church and the world, having the testimony and assurance that they could not err in the doctrines which they delivered in the name of God. Apostles were ministers called immediately by Christ to publish the doctrine respecting the Messiah already come in the flesh, and to spread it throughout the whole world, having a similar testimony from God that they could not err in the doctrine.
Ministers called mediately are,
1. Evangelists, who were assistants to the Apostles, and were sent by them to teach and establish various churches.
2. Bishops, or pastors, are ministers called by the church to teach the word of God and to administer the sacraments in particular churches.
3. Doctors, or teachers, are ministers called by the church to teach in certain churches.
4. Governors are ministers chosen by the judgment of the church, for the purpose of exercising discipline, and for managing those things necessary for the order and prosperity of the church.
5. Deacons are ministers chosen by the church to take care of the poor, and to attend to the distribution of the alms of the church.
IV. What are the duties devolving upon the ministers of the church?
The duties of the ministers of the church include in general,
1. A faithful and correct exposition of the true and uncorrupted doctrine of the law and gospel, so that the church may be able to understand it.
2. A lawful administration of the sacraments, according to divine appointment.
3. To give the church a good example of what constitutes a Christian life and godly conversation. “In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works.” (Tit. 2:7.)
4. A diligent attention to their flocks. “Take heed, therefore, unto yourselves, and to all the flock —over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God.” (Acts 20:28.)
5. To give proper respect and submission to the decisions of the church.
6. To see that proper respect and attention be given to the poor.
V. To whom should the ministry be committed?
The Apostle Paul plainly teaches, in his epistles to Timothy and Titus, to whom and to what persons the ministry ought to be committed by the church. To sum up the whole in a few words, we may say that the ministry of the church should be committed,
1. To men, and not to women. “I suffer not a woman to teach.” (1 Tim. 12.)
2. To such as have a good report within and without the church. “A bishop must be blameless, have a good report of them which are without, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” (1 Tim. 3:2, 7.)
3. To such as are able to teach, having a proper understanding of the doctrine, and possessed of such gifts as are necessary for its exposition. “A bishop must be apt to teach.” “A workman that needeth not to be ashamed rightly dividing the word of truth.” “Holding fast the faithful word, as he hath been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.” (1 Tim. 3:2. 2 Tim. 2:15. Tit. 1:9.)