I come now to consider the reasons annexed to the Fourth Commandment. And these, according to the Catechism, are, ‘God’s allowing us six days of the week for our own employments; his challenging a special propriety in the seventh; his own example; and his blessing the Sabbath day.’
This command God has enforced by four reasons,
1. The first reason is taken from the equity of this command. God has allowed us six days of seven for our own business, and has reserved but one for himself. In dividing our time betwixt himself and us, He has made our share great, six for one. Consider the force of this reason. 1st, We have time enough to serve ourselves in the six days, and shall we not serve God on the seventh? They that will not be satisfied with six, would as little be satisfied with sixteen. But carnal hearts are like a sand bed to devour that which is holy. Nay, 2dly, We have time enough to tire ourselves on the six days in our own employments; it is a kindness that we are obliged to rest on the Lord’s Day. Our interest is our duty, and our duty is our interest. It is a kindness to our bodies and souls too. And shall we not be engaged by it to sanctify the Sabbath? 3dly, There is time enough to raise the appetite for the Sabbath. It comes so seldom, though so sweet to the exercised soul, that we may long for it, and rejoice at the return of it. It is sad if six days’ interval cannot beget in us spiritual appetite. 4thly, God might have allowed us but one day, and taken six to Himself. Who could have quarreled the Lord of time? Has he reserved but one for six, and shall we grudge it him? The sentence of David in the parable against the rich man that took away the poor man’s ewe lamb, is applicable here: ‘The man that hath done this thing shall surely die; and he shall restore the lamb fourfold,’ etc., II Sam. 12.
2. The second reason is taken from God’s challenging a special propriety in the Sabbath day; ‘But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God’. All days are his; but this is his in a peculiar manner, Rev. 1:10. He has set a mark on it for himself, to be reserved for himself to himself. Consider the force of this reason. 1st, If we have a God, it is reasonable that God should have a time set apart for His service, ‘the Sabbath of the Lord thy God’. The heathen had days set apart for the honor of their idols; though the dumb idols could not demand them, yet they gave them. Papists have days set apart for saints, who are to them a sort of gods, though some of them, as Paul, have forbidden it. And will you not keep holy the Sabbath of the Lord thy God? 2dly, It is sacrilege, the worst of theft, to profane the Sabbath day. It is a robbing of God, a stealing from him that is consecrated to him, and that is dangerous, Prov. 20:25. We justly blame the churches of Rome and England, for robbing the people of a great many days which God has given us; but how may we blame ourselves for robbing God of the day he has kept from us, and taken to himself? Alas! our zeal for God is far below our zeal for ourselves. They stick to their saints’ days, but how weary are we of God’s days? Mal. 3:8.
3. The third reason is taken from God’s example, who, though he could have perfected the world in a moment, yet, spent six days in it, and but six days, resting the seventh, taking a complacency in the work of his own hand; and this is an example to be imitated by us. Consider the force of this reason. 1st, God’s example proposed for imitation is a most binding rule, Eph. 5:1. ‘Be ye followers of God.’ What God does is best done, and we must labor to write after his copy. 2dly, The profaning of the Sabbath is most eminent and signal contempt of God and of his works. Did God rest on the Sabbath, taking a complacency in the six days’ works? Our not doing so is an undervaluing of what God so highly esteemed, slighting of what He so much prized, and consequently a contempt of Himself and His works too.
4. The fourth reason is taken from His blessing the Sabbath day. His blessing of that day is His blessing it as a mean of blessing us in the keeping of it. It imports,
1st, The Lord’s putting a peculiar honor on it beyond all other days. It is the ‘holy of the Lord and honorable’. The King of heaven has make it the queen of days. Therefore it should be our question, What shall be done to that day the King delighteth to honor? Let us beware of leveling that with common things which God has advanced so far above them.
2dly, That the Lord has set it apart for a spiritual blessing to his people, so that in the sanctification of that day we may look for a blessing, Isa. 56:6-7; nay, that the Lord will multiply his blessings on that day more on his people than any other days wherein they seek it. So that, as the Lord requires more on that day than on any other days, He also gives more.
3dly, That the Lord will make it even a spring of temporal blessings. He will not let the day of blessing to be a curse to people in their temporal affairs. They shall be at no loss in their worldly things by the Sabbath rest, Lev. 25:20, 22. Conscientious keepers of the Sabbath will be found to thrive as well otherwise as those who are not. The force of this reason is,
(1.) God’s honor by keeping that day, that we may get his blessings on it showered down upon us. So that the profanation of the Sabbath is like profane Esau’s rejecting the blessing. (2.) Our own interest. Is it a special day for blessing, and shall we not observe it? It is an unworthy mistake to look upon the Sabbath as so much lost time. No time is so gainful as a Sabbath holily observed. And indeed the great reason of the profaning of the Sabbath may be found to lie,
In carnality and worldly mindedness. The Sabbath is no delight to many. Why? Because heaven would be no heaven for them, for they savor not the things of God. The heart that is drowned in the cares or pleasures of the world, all the week over, is as hard to get in a Sabbath frame, as wet wood to take fire.
Insensibleness of their need of spiritual blessings. They are not sensible of their wants, and hence they despise the blessing. He that has nothing to buy or sell can stay at home on the market day, and the full soul cares not for God’s day.
The not believing of the blessing of that day. They that think they may come as good speed any day in the duties of the day as on the Lord’s Day, no wonder that they count God’s day, and the duties of it, as common.
Use. Let me exhort you then to beware of profaning the Sabbath. Learn to keep it holy. And therefore I would call you here to several duties.
1. Remember the Sabbath day, before it come, to prepare for it, and let your eye be on it before the week be done. Timeously [in a timely manner] lay by your worldly employment, and go not near the borders of the Lord’s day, and strive to get your hearts in a frame suitable to the exercises of this holy day.
2. Make conscience of attending the public ordinances, and waiting on God in his own house on his own day. Loiter not away the Lord’s day at home unnecessarily, seeing the Lord trusts to meet his people there. This will bring leanness to your own souls, and grief of heart to him that bears the Lord’s message to you.
3. Before you come to the public, spend the morning in secret and private exercises, particularly in prayer, reading, and meditation; remembering how much your success depends upon suitable preparation. Put off your shoes before ye tread the holy ground.
4. Make not your attendance on the public ordinances a by-hand work, and a mean for carrying on your worldly affairs. If ye come to the church to meet with some body, and to discourse or make appointments about your worldly business, it will be a wonder if ye meet with the Lord. If ye travel on the Lord’s Day, and take a preaching by the way, it may well cheat your blinded consciences; it will not be pleasing to God, for it makes his service to stand but in the second room, while your main end is what concerns your temporal affairs. Among the Jews no man might make the mountain of the house, or a synagogue, a thoroughfare. And beware of common discourse between sermons, which is too much practiced among professors.
5. When ye come home from the public ordinances, let it be your care, both by the way and at home, to meditate or converse about spiritual things, and what ye have heard. Retire and examine yourselves as to what ye have gained, and be not as the unclean beasts, who chew not the cud. Let masters of families take account of their children and servants how they have profited, catechise and instruct them in the principles of religion, and exhort them to piety.
6. When ye are necessarily detained from the public ordinances, let your hearts be there, Ps. 63:1-2; and do not turn that to sin which in itself is not your sin. And strive to spend the Lord’s Day in private and secret worship, looking to the Lord for the upmaking of your wants. As for those that tie themselves to men’s service, without a due regard to their having opportunities to hear the Lord’s word, their wages are dear bought, and they have little respect to God or their own souls; and I think tender Christians will be loath to engage so. But, alas! few masters or servants look further than the work or wages in their engaging together! A sad argument that religion is at a low ebb.
7. Do not cut the Sabbath short. The Church of Rome has half holidays; God never appointed any such; it is one whole day. Alas! it is a sad thing to see how the Lord’s Day is so consumed, as if people would make up the loss of a day out of Saturday’s night and Monday’s morning, which they do by cutting short the Lord’s Day.
8. Lastly, Labour to be in a Sabbath day’s frame. Let the thoughts of worldly business, far more worldly words and works be far from you. To press this, consider,
It is God’s command, whereby he tries your love to him. This day is as the forbidden fruit. Who does not condemn Adam and Eve for eating it? O do not profane it any manner of way!
Heaven will be an everlasting Sabbath, and our conversation should be heaven-like. If we grudge the Lord one day in seven, how will we relish eternity? We are ready to complain that we are toiled with the world: why then do we not enter into his rest?
The great advantage of sanctifying the Lord’s Day. He has made it a day of blessing. It is God’s deal-day; and keeps up the heart of many through the week while they think of its approach.
Lastly, Ye will bring wrath on you if ye do not sanctify the Sabbath. God may plague you with temporal, spiritual, and eternal plagues. Many begin with this sin of profaning the Lord’s Day, and it brings upon them the wrath of God, both in this world and that which is to come.