William Bradford Institute
for Study of the
Early Settlement of America

The 4th Commandment

The Scholastic Reformer explains what our commitment to the 4th
commandment should be.


Whether the first institution of the Sabbath was in the fourth
commandment; and whether the commandment is partly moral, partly
ceremonial. The former we deny; the latter we affirm.
I. For the easier understanding of the most vexed question
concerning the Sabbath, some things must be premised-both concerning
the etymology of the word and concerning its various significations.
The true derivation of the word (for there is no necessity for
mentioning the worthless and absurd conjectures of many) is from the
verb shbhth (i.e., "to cease" or "to rest"), which relates either to
the existence of a thing, when it ceases to be and fails (as is said
of the manna [Jos. 5:121 and of joy [Is. 24:81) or to the operation
of an agent when he ceases to work and is put for "he rested" and
"stopped working." This is the proper signification in Gen. 2:3 when
God is said to have blessed the seventh day because "in it" (bhv
shbhth) "he had rested.' Therefore that day is called shbhth and yvm
shbhth. The Greeks render it by pauein, anapauein and katapauein;
the noun shbhth by anapausin (as Josephus, Against Apion 2.27 [Loeb,
1:302-31, and the Septuagint frequently do also). Otherwise they
retain the Hebrew word, as also the New Testament writers, who
abstained from a translation of it as a word well known and so
distinguish it from a profane and common rest (as was the case with
many other Hebrew words, "Hosanna," "Pascha," "Immanuel," etc.).

II. The use and the meaning of the word is manifold. The peculiar
and primary (upon which all the others depend and which is
understood here) is that by which it is put for each seventh day of
the week and that too from the event-God after finishing the
creation of things ceased from the creation of new species and
determined that this should be set apart for the rest of man after,
wards in memory of the thing; so that not only in imitation of God
should they rest on it from bodily and secular works, but also
employ it for divine worship. Accordingly for the same reason all
the solemn feasts of the Jews were designated by the name "Sabbath,'
although they did not fall upon the seventh day (Lev. 23:32 and
elsewhere), because they were kept almost in the same manner as the
weekly Sabbath. Third, the first and last day of each festival
(which lasted many days) is called a Sabbath because both were
equally solemn. Here belongs the .second Sabbath after the first
(deuteroprton)" (mentioned in Lk. 6:1), so called either because it
followed next after the feast of the Passover (which is the first
from the second [apo tes deuteras proton] in the computation of
Pentecost, as the great Scaliger holds); or because it was the last
day of the feast (which as it was in order the posterior and second
Sabbath, so in dignity it was equally the first or great Sabbath as
the first day of the feast, which was solemn on account of the
public assembly congregated on it; as if you should call it the
first secondarily repeated). The latter is more agreeable to Beza
and others. Fourth, the Sabbath is also taken synecdochically for
the week itself, which the seventh day concluded: "I fast twice
(nisteua dis tou sabbatou) in the week" (Lk. 18:12); also mia
sabbatn (1 Cor. 16:2) is put for the first day of the week.

III. Again a threefold Sabbath is mentioned in the Scriptures:
temporal, spiritual and eternal or heavenly. The temporal is that
which God prescribed to the Old Testament believers, which again
was either annual (viz., each seventh year) in which he ordered the
Israelites to leave the land uncultivated that it might have its own
rest also (Lev. 25:2) and the forty-ninth year, which was the year
of Jubilee (which was a Sabbath of seventh years, Lev. 25:8); or
monthly, of the new moon; or of each first day; or weekly, of which
we speak here. (2) The spiritual consists in that peace of
conscience enjoyed by believers and cessation from sinful works
which they ought to seek after through the whole course of their
lives (which is referred to in Heb. 4:1, 3). (3) The eternal and
heavenly is that by which, being received into heaven most perfectly
freed both from sin and from the labors and troubles of this life,
we rest eternally in God: "There remaineth a rest for the people of
God" (Heb. 4:9, viz., a heavenly rest under which eternal happiness
is usually shadowed forth).

IV. Two things particularly are sought concerning the Sabbath which
are embraced under this question: (1) concerning its first origin or
institution; (2) concerning its nature and use, or what is the
nature of its obligation, moral or ceremonial? Both these are the
subjects of controversy among divines and they dispute with great
zeal even in our day. We will set forth our own opinion here in
accordance with the judgment of the more learned.

V. As to the former, the question does not concern the author of
the Sabbath, for all agree in referring its institution to God
alone; rather it concerns the first beginning and origin of this
institution-whether we must trace it back to the very cradle of the
world or refer it to the promulgation of the law on Mount Sinai.
Most of the Reformed embrace the former opinion (see a list of them
in Walaeus and Rivet); some others follow the latter opinion. Now
although each is supported by its own reasons (not to be despised)
and the dissent is not fundamental, still we judge the first to be
the truer and more suitable to the words of Scripture and to it we
adhere, relying principally upon the following argument.

VI. First, God is said immediately after the end of creation to
have blessed and sanctified the seventh day: 'And God blessed the
seventh day, and sanctified it; because that in it he had rested
from all his work which God created and made" (Gen. 2:3). These
words are too clear to be turned by any distinction to the support
of the contrary opinion. For God cannot be said to have blessed the
seventh day and sanctified it unless by the institution of the
Sabbath. That day was blessed for no other end than that it might
be consecrated to the worship of God in memory of the divine rest
from the works of creation. Therefore God is said to have blessed
and sanctified it because by sanctifying he blessed it, separating
it from secular and common use and dedicating it to divine worship;
so that afterwards it might be sanctified by men in the public
exercises of piety and the solemn worship of God.

VII. Of no force are the following objections. (1) This is said
proleptically by Moses to show the equity, not the beginning of the
command; so that God may be said to have sanctified this day, not
when he ceased from his works, but when he gave the manna or when he
delivered the law by Moses. We answer that although the Scriptures
sometimes use a prolepsis, we are never to have recourse to it
unless driven by necessity. But here there is no necessity for a
prolepsis and many reasons stand in the way of its adoption. First,
as God is said to have rested from his works on this seventh day
properly and historically (not proleptically), so also to have
blessed and sanctified it. These things are proposed in the same
connection and ought to be understood concerning the same seventh
day of creation; not of another similar day (which also the thrice
repeated demonstrative article h indicates). Second, on the
supposition of a prolepsis, the sense of the words of Moses will be:
God, after the six days' work was finished, rested on the seventh
day; therefore after the lapse of two thousand four hundred and
fifty-three years, he blessed a similar day and sanctified it to
sacred uses. Everyone sees this to be harsh and forced. Third, no
solid reason can be adduced why Moses in a simple narration of
history or of events (two thousand years before they occurred)
determined to insert something which took place only in his own
time. It would plainly tend to obscure rather than explain the
history he was composing, not even the slightest intimation of such
a prolepsis being introduced.

VIII. Objection two: that sanctification and blessing are to be
understood with regard to the intention and destination, not with
regard to the execution. We answer that he is said to have blessed
the day in the same way that he rested upon it. Now he did not rest
only in intention because he intended to do it, but really because
he ceased from his works. (2) The destination was not then at length
made on this day, but from eternity. Thus God might be said to have
sanctified the day of the Passover and Pentecost because he then
intended to sanctify them. Objection three: "Although God then
blessed the seventh day, it does not follow that he then enjoined
the observance of it upon Adam" for God does not forthwith command
us to keep those things which he blesses. To bless and to sanctify
are the acts of God, not ours; while a precept pertains to the
actions of men. We answer that since blessing and sanctification
are not done with respect to God, but to man, it is hence plain that
God for no other end sanctified that day (i.e., separated it from a
common and dedicated it to sacred use) than that it might be
religiously observed by man.

IX. Second, in Ex. 16:23 mention is made of the Sabbath as already
known and observed among the Israelites in the giving of the manna
before the promulgation of the law. They are ordered to gather a
double quantity on the sixth day, to support them on the sixth and
on the seventh days, which day was the Sabbath of the Lord. "This
is that which the Lord bath said, Tomorrow is the rest of the holy
sabbath unto the Lord: bake that which ye will bake today"; and "six
days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the
sabbath, in it there shall be none" (v. 26); and "See, for that the
Lord bath given you the sabbath, abide ye every man in his place,
let no man go out of his place" (viz., to gather manna) "on the
sabbath. So the people rested on the seventh day" (v. 29, 30*).
This could not have been said unless the Sabbath had already been
instituted and commanded by God. Nor ought it to be objected that
it was not instituted until just when the Lord said "tomorrow is the
Sabbath." In whatever way it is read, whether tomorrow "is" (as most
of the interpreters have it) or tomorrow will be" (in the future),
neither of which occurs in the Hebrew, this does not denote the
first institution of the Sabbath, but only its confirmation and an
exhortation to observe it properly. Nor ought the institution of so
solemn a day to have been so obscurely made, but ought to have had
also a solemn and clear declaration of the divine command.

X. Third, the words of the fourth commandment ("Remember the sabbath
day, to keep it holy") plainly imply that this law was not then
given for the first time, but only renewed after it had fallen as
it were into desuetude, that they should exercise particular care in
this matter and not afterwards be unmindful of this command (as they
had been before). The following words confirm this view where he
repeats the reason for its institution adduced in Gen. 2:2, 3
concerning the rest of God and the blessing and sanctification of
the seventh day (which sufficiently indicates that the Sabbath was
then instituted when that reason applied). Hence Calvin says, "From
this passage it is elicited by probable conjecture that the
sanctification of the Sabbath was prior to the law. Certainly what
Moses had narrated before (that they were forbidden to gather manna
on the seventh day) seems to have been taken from a received
knowledge and use. And since God gave to the saints the rite of
sacrifice, it is not credible that the observance of the Sabbath was
omitted" (Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses [1853],
2:439-40 on Ex. 20:11).

XI. Fourth, from Heb. 4-3, 4 where the apostle, about to prove that
there remains a Sabbatism (i.e., a rest for the people of God into
which believers will enter by faith as unbelievers will be excluded
from it on account of unbelief), shows that the words of Ps. 95:11
(which he quotes: "As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter
into my rest") must necessarily be referred to this. Since the
Scriptures speak of only three Sabbatisms of God-the first, after
the work of creation; the second, after the introduction of his
people into the land of Canaan; the third, as to the spiritual and
eternal rest of believers and the blessed-the words of David cannot
be referred either to the first rest of God (into which he entered
from the beginning and which he prescribed to men by his example) or
to the second (which he procured for them by the introduction of his
people into the land of Canaan under Joshua) because both have long
ago passed by. They must necessarily be understood of that third
rest promised to believers in the gospel through grace and to the
saints in heaven through glory. Thus the sense of the words
(otherwise involved) is plain: "For we who believe," says he, "enter
into the rest of God, as if he had said, and so have I sworn in my
wrath, if they shall enter into my rest" (for although the words of
the psalm are threatening, yet they include a promise by way of
consequent; as in the commands of God, every command includes a
prohibition and every prohibition a command). To prevent anyone
from saying that these words should be referred either to the rest
of God (which he took after the work of creation in Gen. 2:3), he
adds kaitoi ergon ("although the works were finished from the
foundation of the world) to show that this could not be understood
of the rest of which Moses speaks in the same place (because it had
long ago passed by). That it could not be understood of the rest of
Canaan, he subjoins, "For if Joshua had given them rest" (to wit,
that true and saving rest in which happiness consists) "then he
would not afterward have spoken of another day" (v. 8). Hence he
concludes in v. 9, "There remaineth therefore a rest for the people
of ' God" (i.e., a rest differing from the former ones).

XII. It cannot be objected here that the rest of which the
apostle speaks in vv. 3 and 4 has nothing in common with the Sabbath
instituted by God because it must be understood of the rest of God
(i.e., peculiar to him and not of men). The rest of God does not
exclude, but necessarily includes in this passage the rest or
Sabbath of men. For no reason can be assigned why the apostle
should except that rest from the laying of the foundations of the
world, if it pertained in no manner to men and if under the rest of
God he did not understand that which he had by his own example
prescribed to men. (2) If the Sabbath of men is not here included,
it will follow that Paul omitted the Jewish Sabbath (which he could
not do without prejudice to the reasoning he employed) because it
might have been objected to him that there was another Sabbath
besides that on which God rested and that which the Israelites
enjoyed after the possession of Canaan (to wit, the ordinary weekly

XIII. Fifth, the piety and religion of the ancient fathers confirm
this very thing. Since it is of natural and perpetual right that
certain times should be set apart for the solemn worship of God,
Adam and the holy patriarchs must have had some sacred and stated
days in which to worship God and remember his blessings in the
creation of heaven and earth. And if there were then sacred days, it
is right to suppose that this day instituted by God was observed,
rather than some other days of which Scripture says nothing. To no
purpose is the objection that they might have had other days besides
this day. For since this is nowhere said, it is rejected just as
easily as it is asserted. Nor without temerity are other times
imagined which are nowhere mentioned; and that time passed by of
whose sanctification such express mention is made before the law.

XIV. Sixth, not obscure monuments are extant among the heathen, both
of the number seven in general as sacred and of the recurring
seventh day held sacred among them. This seems not so much to have
been drawn from the custom of the Jews (whose religion was despised
by the Gentiles) as received from the tradition handed down from
their fathers (patroparadot6) and conveyed to them by long use.
Hence Clement of Alexandria: "Not only the Hebrews, but also the
Greeks hold each seventh day to be sacred" (alla kai ten hebdomin
hieran, ou monon hoi Hebraioi, alla kai hoi HellEnes isasi,
Stroniata 5.14 [ANF 2:469; PG 9.161-62]). He proves this from
Hesiod, Homer, Linus and Callimachus, by whom the seventh day
(hebdomz) is called the "sacred day" (hieron Ernar). By Philo, it
is called the public feast" (heorte pandilmos) belonging to all the
Gentiles equally (Flaccus 14 [116] [Loeb, 9:366-67]). Josephus says,
"There is no city anywhere of the Greeks nor of the barbarians, to
which the observance of the seventh day, in which we rest, has not
reached" (Against Apion 2.282 [Loeb, 1:404-71). Saturday is called
"the sacred day" by Tibullus (Tibullus 1.3*.18 [Loeb, 206-7]; cf.
more authorities in Eusebius, Preparation for the Gospel 13.13.677c
[ed. E.H. Gifford], 2:732).

XV. Although God is said to have made known the command concerning
the Sabbath through Moses (an emphatic arresting of attention being
premised, Ex. 16:29; 31:13; Ezk. 20:12; Neh. 9:14), it does not
follow that it had not already been instituted from the beginning.
Not only what is at first instituted is said to be given, but also
what is renewed (if perchance it has been obliterated or neglected)
or what is clearly and distinctly promulgated in a new and more
remarkable manner. Thus in Ps. 147:19, God is said to have given
his statues and his judgments unto Israel and not to have dealt so
with any nation; not absolutely and simply because the Gentiles bear
the work of the law written on their hearts (Rom. 2:15), but
relatively and comparatively with respect to the revelation made in
his word. The Sabbath is said to have been made known in the same
way as the law and the precepts and statutes (which are said to have
been commanded by Moses). These are connected together in Neh.
9:14. Yet no one can deny that that law (to wit, the moral law) had
been given before as also the statutes and various ceremonial
precepts in the institution of sacrifices and of circumcision.

XVI. Things given commonly to all may be given specially to certain
ones, with an emphatic distinction (and indeed as a sign of the
sanctification of them). If these had been given at first in common
and by negligence omitted or forgotten, they were afterwards
restored to particular persons and commended for special reasons (as
is the case here). Although therefore the Sabbath in its first
institution had uses common to all and a general design (namely to
celebrate the memory of the creation, contemplating the works of God
and the performance of public worship of God), it nevertheless had
special ends with respect to the Israelites. just as the rainbow
(which was in other respects a natural sign) was made the
sacramental sign of a thing which it had not before indicated
(although it had existed). Thus what had been the sign of one
blessing could (when blessed and instituted anew) be a special sign
to those to whom the blessing had been enlarged. In this sense, the
Sabbath is said to have been given to the Israelites as a special
sign that they might be separated from other nations (Ex. 31:13;
Ezk. 20:12), especially from the Egyptians, by a true worship of God
(which otherwise was a common sign).

XVII. Although upright and holy Adam in his state of innocence ought
every day to have worshipped God and contemplated his works, still
this would not have prevented his having a certain stated time for
the solemn and public worship of God-by ceasing, not indeed from
works of righteousness and praise (which ought to have been
continual), but from his daily labors in cultivating paradise (to
which he was bound also to apply himself according to the command of
God-although without weariness and fatigue, as was afterwards the
case on account of sin).

XVIII. Although in the life of the patriarchs no express mention is
made of a Sabbath kept by them, it does not follow that it was not
at all known or observed by them. Theirs is a compendious narrative
in which it is not necessary that all things pertaining to them
should be found. It was sufficient for the Holy Spirit to touch
upon those things which bore upon his purpose (namely, to confirm
the promises made to them concerning the blessed seed, and to weave
together their genealogy to exhibit the truth of history). So no
mention is made of the Sabbath observed in the time of the judges
and of Samuel. But the inference would be false that it was not
observed. (2) We do not read of the patriarchs observing any stated
times for the public worship of God. Yet their piety forbids our
doubting that they had certain sacred and fixed days consecrated to
the worship of God. Now no other days could have been more fit than
the seventh day of the week, which for a peculiar reason had been
blessed and sanctified by God for the rest of man like the rest of

XIX. The second question treats of the morality of the
Sabbath-whether the fourth commandment, sanctioning the
sanctification of the Sabbath, is moral and perpetual; or only
ceremonial and constituted for a certain time. In reference to
this, there are three principal opinions of theologians-two extreme
and a third between the two. The first is that the command is
simply moral and perpetual (held by the Jews). With them agreed the
old Ebionites, Cerinthians, Apollinarians and others (called by the
common name of Sabbatarians), who maintained that the seventh day
ought to be kept sacred now as well as formerly. Eusebius mentions
that they were condemned for heresy by the ancient church
(Ecclesiastical History 3.27, 28* [FC 19:184,861). They do not
differ from those, who even now in our day hold that this precept is
absolutely moral as the other precepts of the moral law and thus is
of perpetual observance. The second asserts that it is merely
ceremonial and so entirely abrogated by Christ. This was the
opinion of the ancient Manichaeans and of the Anabaptists and
Socinians of the present day (who hold that it was so abrogated as
to pertain in no way to Christians). The Racovian Catechism
answers: "It was taken away under the New Testament as other
ceremonies" (Racovian Gatechism [1818], p. 219). And Volkelius:
"The fourth precept of the decalogue concerning the Sabbath,
formerly given to the Israelites, is ceremonial, not moral, and
moreover has nothing to do with the discipline of Chrise'(De vera
Religione 4.14 [16301, p. 250). Others also are pleased with this
opinion. The third (and mean) holds this precept to be mixed (i.e.,
partly moral, partly ceremonial; moral as to substance [viz., the
necessity of divine worship on a stated and certain time], but
ceremonial as to circumstance [viz., the special determination of
the seventh day]). This is the opinion of the orthodox, and we will
demonstrate its truth by three propositions.

XX. First, the fourth precept is not in all its parts moral and
perpetual. It is proved both against the Jews and the Christians
who urge its absolute morality still. First, against the Jews,
from the nature of moral things: moral precepts strictly so called
belong to the law of nature conformed to the image of God and to the
notions of good and evil, virtue and vice (which have their origin
in nature itself and by themselves conduce to good morals and so are
of eternal and immutable right). Such, however, is not the
determination of the seventh day, since it (whether considered
simply [hapl5s] in itself) is neither good nor holy; or
comparatively is no better than the determination of another day,
except on account of the authority alone of the one commanding. (2)
From the precept itself (in which is prescribed the determination of
public worship to the seventh day, which being a mere circumstance
of time is for that reason to be considered mutable, and so
ceremonial and positive, not moral). (3) From the design of the
precept, for among other ends it also had the relation of a sign and
type (which therefore ought to be abrogated in their own time). A
sign when it is called a sign of the covenant made between God and
the Israelites (Ex. 31:13; Ezk. 20:12, 20); a sign not indicative
only of present grace, but also sealing future grace; not only that
Jehovah is the God of the Jews, but also the God sanctifying them.
A type because it is called with other ceremonies "a shadow of
things to come" (Col. 2:16, 17) (to wit, shadowing the twofold rest
which believers obtain in Christ). This rest is first spiritual
both in quiet of conscience from the terror of divine wrath and in
cessation from our evil works (referred to in Mt. 11:28; Rom. 5:1;
Heb. 4:3; Is. 58:13,14). Hence the spiritual worship of the New
Testament is wont to be described in the style of the Holy Spirit
(who loves to express as far as possible the mysteries of the gospel
in legal terms) by the celebration of the Sabbath (Is. 56:2; 66:23).
Next this rest is celestial (to wit, a rest not only from all sin,
but also from all the toils and miseries of this life, Ps. 95:11;
Heb. 4:10; Rev. 14:13). (4) Sabbaths are frequently enumerated by
the prophets among the other festival and ceremonies of the Jews
(which, however, were of mere ceremonial an positive right and
observed only from command and on account of it). Therefore the
precept concerning the Sabbath also is related to them as to some
part of it.

XXI. Second, against the Christians: (1) because all ceremonies and
types a such were taken away by Christ; therefore also that which is
ceremonial in the Sabbath. And that there is some such thing in it
Christ testifies when he reckon it in the same class with other
legal ceremonies, such as the institution of the showbread and the
service (leitourgia) of the priests in the temple (Mt. 12:3-5). 1
the same passage, the Sabbath is included by him under the term
"sacrifice" an that too of "sacrifice" as contradistinguished from
"mercy" (Mt. 12:7, 8). (2) Our Lord testifies, "the sabbath was made
for man, and not man for the sabbath, therefore, the son of man is
Lord also of the sabbath" (Mk. 2:27, 28). Thus its sanction is of a
different nature from the other precepts, subject even to the Son of
man who has the power to abrogate it with respect to that which is
merely positive (which cannot be said of the others). (3) The
apostle expressly declares this when he says, "Let no man therefore
judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect to an holyday, or of
the new moon, or of the sabbath days, which are a shadow of things
to come; but the body is of Christ" (Col. 2:16, 17). Here (a) he
connects the observance of Sabbaths with other ceremonials as
something of the same kind with the distinction of food, of holydays
and new moons. (b) He calls all these "a shadow of things to come
(skean ton mellontcon)" where the words ha esti are not so much
diacritical (diakritika) as etiological (aitiologika), giving the
reason why the Sabbaths should no longer be kept, because "they are
a shadow of things to come." (c) He opposes Christ to them as the
body in whom and by whom the thing signified was accomplished. In
vain is the reply that weekly Sabbaths are not meant, but the
various others prevailing among the Jews (which were typical). [1]
What ought to be proved is taken for granted. The words of the
apostle do not admit it because, since they are general and treat of
Sabbaths in the plural without any limitation, they ought also to be
extended to all; nor does it become us to restrict what the apostle
has not restricted. [2] Festivals are here distinguished from
Sabbaths. [3] The Sabbaths are specially meant (which were
sanctioned by the fourth commandment) which frequently recurred and
whose observance the Jews and Sabbatarians among the primitive
Christians insisted upon. Still, however, it would be wrong to
infer that the Sabbath is therefore merely ceremonial, as those who
are of the opposite opinion thence argue (because what is ceremonial
in a certain respect ought not immediately and so mutably to be such
in all its parts, as will hereafter be proved more fully). (4) From
an absurdity: if this precept is in all its parts moral and
perpetual, then we are still at this time (under the New Testament)
bound to the particular observance of the seventh day, nor could a
transference of it have been made to the Lord's day.

XXII. Although the command concerning the Sabbath is contained in
the decalogue, it does not follow that it is in all its parts moral.
The decalogue is not only a compendium of the moral law, but in it
is given the foundation of the whole Mosaic Law (whose parts were
three: moral, ceremonial and forensic). Hence besides the moral law
(which is principally delivered here), there is given also the root
of all the ceremonies (of which the divine worship of that time
consisted) in the first table, as in the second the foundation of
the Jewish polity and its judicial laws. We must therefore
distinguish here between the thing commanded and the circumstance of
the thing: the thing commanded is moral; the circumstance of the
thing, however, is ceremonial (or at least merely positive).

XXIII. The Sabbath is called "a perpetual covenant" (bryth 'vlm,
Ex. 31:16, 17), not by reason of absolute perpetuity, but as
comparative and periodic on account of its continual observance
under the Old Testament. The word 'vlm is often used for a
remarkable duration, but limited according to the nature of the
thing. In this sense, it is applied to circumcision (Gen. 17:13),
to the showbread (Lev. 24:8), to the offerings of the first fruits
(Num. 18:19), to the priesthood (Num. 28:23); and everywhere the
word 'vlm is used for the time of the legal economy up to the
Messiah. It is used even for a shorter duration, for instance, for
the time of Jubilee. The servant, it is said, "shall serve forever"
(Ex. 21:6, that is, unto the Jubilee).

XXIV From the fact that the law concerning the Sabbath was given
before the fall (that that day might be sanctified by man after the
example of God), it is well inferred that it is moral as to a
principal part, but it does not immediately follow that it is such
absolutely and simply. Not whatever God commanded or forbade Adam
is of itself and in itself morally good and evil (which is evident
even from the eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil).

XXV. The immutability of God and the constancy of his decrees makes
those things which are of the natural right of God (or were decreed
by him forever) to be also perpetual and unchangeable; but there is
not the same reason for those things which are of positive right and
were instituted only for a certain time (such as was the Mosaic
Sabbath as to the circumstance of time and the mode of observation
prescribed to the Jews).

XXVI. Second proposition- the fourth precept is not in every part
ceremonial. The reasons are: (1) it is a precept of the decalogue,
in which the moral law is contained; therefore no precept of it is
merely ceremonial. (2) Its end is moral, both the first (viz., the
public and stated worship of God consisting in the consideration and
contemplation of his works; also in the public exercises of
religion, which cannot be accomplished without the determination of
a certain stated and fixed day devoted to that worship) and the
subordinate (to wit, the cessation from servile work for the
relaxation of servants and of brutes). (3) The duty prescribed is
moral (to wit, the sanctification of the Sabbath by separating that
day from others, and consecrating it to sacred uses-namely, the
exercises of piety and worship towards God and of love towards our
neighbor). (4) The reason and motive of the precept from the example
of God proposed to us for imitation (to wit, his rest on that day
and sanctifying it is moral; we therefore cannot be conformed to it
except by a performance of the moral duty answering to it).

XXVII. (5) The nature of the precept concerns things which become a
rational nature as such and are agreeable to natural principles and
right reason. For as a rational creature is bound to worship God
(not only with the internal service of the soul, but also external
of the body; not only private, but also public in the communion of
saints), so right reason teaches that nothing is more suitable than
to consecrate some stated and fixed time in a certain convenient
cycle for publicly worshipping and celebrating the praises of God,
who has gratuitously given our being to us, all that we possess and
the whole of time itself. (6) We never read of the abrogation of
this precept in the New Testament. Since Christ confirmed the whole
moral law as pertaining to Christians and binding them at all times,
by this very thing he should be considered to have confirmed this
precept also. And since certain days have always been sanctified
and devoted by the Christian church to public assemblies and the
solemn worship of God, it is abundantly evident from this that the
observance of this precept should be considered as moral and of
perpetual right. Otherwise if the precept were merely moral, it
observers of new moons), but relatively and comparatively, with
reference to the law of food (which prescribed a distinction of
foods, which has now been taken away under the New Testament).

XXXI. Although the institution of the Sabbath as to the
determination of a certain day does not flow from the nature of God
and is not founded absolutely upon the primary natural right of God,
but depends upon his will and so is rather based upon his positive
right, it does not follow that it cannot be moral and perpetual by
reason of the secondary right natural to us. What is positive to
God can be natural to us (as has already been seen).

XXXII. Third proposition: the fourth precept, concerning the
Sabbath, is partly moral and partly ceremonial. Ceremonial can be
viewed in three ways: (1) in the designation of the seventh day,
which, as it was changed under the New Testament, ought to have been
ceremonial. (2) In the sanctification of that day, its strict and
rigid observance from evening to evening, both privative (by the
cessation from all servile work, according to which it was not
lawful either to kindle a fire, prepare and cook food or walk and go
on a journey) and positive (in the performance of various ceremonial
works, partly common to other days-such as the continual sacrifice
and circumcision-partly peculiar to that day -as for instance the
sacrifices of that day for the whole church, the two lambs of the
first year, the two tenth deals of flour mingled with oil [Num.
28:8, 91 and the showbread to be placed in the temple every Sabbath
[Lev. 24:7, 8]). (3) In the typical signification of that day, to
shadow forth the grace of sanctification and from it the spiritual
and heavenly rest in Christ (of which Paul speaks in Col. 2:16, 17).

XXXIII. The moral also consists in three things: (1) in the
appointment of public meetings for the worship of God on a certain
and fixed time and day. (2) In the sanctification of the day itself,
both privative by a cessation from the works of our ordinary calling
so that we may have leisure for sacred meditation and divine worship
(works of charity and necessity, however, being excepted); and
positive, by the solemn and public worship of God in the
congregation of the church. (3) In the relief of servants and
beasts, for whom God had regard (that they might not be broken down
by continued labor), and that servants themselves also might attend
to sacred things.

XXXIV. Here, however, a new question arises about this morality
(also the subject of dispute among the orthodox): whether from the
force and analogy of this precept there belongs to it not only the
determination of a certain time and an indeterminate day for public
worship, but also the designation of one day out of seven in the
weekly cycle, which, recurring in each seven-day period, ought
necessarily to be observed. Concerning this: (1) it is not inquired
about the suitableness of the thing whether it was convenient and
agreeable to reason for it to be so designated (for all agree that
one day out of seven could rightly be instituted for the worship of
God and was not instituted without various weighty reasons); rather
the question concerns the necessity-whether it was absolutely
necessary from the nature of the thing that this should be so
arranged from the force and analogy of the precept. (2) The question
does not concern the moral strictly so called. This is natural to
God, being founded in his nature and holiness and flowing from his
image (the contrary of which he cannot command nor dispense with
without a contradiction). In this sense, all agree that the
designation of such a day is not natural to God and that he was free
to select either one out of seven or out of eight or out of ten days
for his worship; and that he was not bound to the other part of the
contradiction from any necessity of his nature. Rather the question
treats of the moral broadly so called, which, although positive on
the part of God, still is natural to us inasmuch as it suits the
rational nature and the relation of man and his duty to God.

XXXV. Although the dispute is here carried on problematically on
both sides (the bond of faith and love remaining unbroken, nor are
weighty reasons wanting to the distinguished men who support the
negative), still we do not hesitate to say that we incline to the
affirmative with others and that the reasons brought forward for it
seem to us the more convincing.

XXXVI. First, from the nature of the thing. For since it is
natural and moral not only that man should worship God publicly with
some external service (and indeed in the communion of saints and in
a public assembly), but also that some time should be set apart for
this purpose, it ought to be equally natural that there should be
some fixed determination of that time, both as to frequency and as
to duration (which could not be done by any other than the most wise
God, the author of the worship and of time). Since, then, he
determined to define that day in the law which in his wisdom he knew
to be most in accordance with this purpose and most suitable (six
days being left to man and keeping one only for himself in the
weekly cycle), he who would now refix that day and substitute
another in its place would in a measure raise himself above God and
profess to be wiser than he (which would be a proof not only of the
greatest rashness, but also of intolerable pride and profane

XXXVII. Second, if from the force and analogy of the precept, it is
not rightly inferred that one day out of seven should be consecrated
to divine worship, no certain number or circle of days could have
been limited by any divine precept, since mention is made of no
other number anywhere in any other precept (and everyone sees this
is absurd). Nor is the objection of any force that it is enough
that a day sufficient for exhibiting gratitude to God may be
gathered from the force of the precept. The precept does not treat
only of a sufficient day, but of one day out of seven (which is not
ours to change).

XXXVIII. Third, the apostles in the change of the seventh day still
retained the hebdomadal cycle, that they might select for public
worship one out of seven days. However, they would not have done
this unless they had recognized this as invariable and moral. And
no one has ever been found among Christians who dared to attempt any
change here. Nor ought it to be said that this was the result of
Christian liberty and prudence. Although the change of the seventh
day to the first was made from Christian liberty, it does not follow
that the retention of one day out of seven was equally absolutely
free and positive, depending merely upon their will.

XXXIX. The determination of one day out of seven is no more
repugnant to Christian liberty than the designation of a certain and
stated day for divine worship. For whether one out of seven or
eight or ten be selected, always a certain discrimination would be
observed. Therefore, when the apostle teaches that under the New
Testament the difference of days was taken away (Rom. 14:5, 6; Gal.
4:10) and rebukes the Galatians for keeping days and months, this
must be understood of the ceremonial distinction of days (such as
prevailed among the Jews under the Old Testament, when it
constituted a part of divine worship and had to be laboriously and
strictly observed; or such as prevailed among the Gentiles who
thought some days to be more holy and fortunate than other days in
themselves, and which on that account they were accustomed to
distinguish into black and white, lucky and unlucky). Otherwise if
all observation of days is absolutely and simply condemned, it would
not be lawful now to observe any day at all devoted to the worship
of God. Nor could Paul have enjoined it upon Christians to come
together upon the first day of each week and make collections (I
Cor. 16:2).

XL. Although believers are bound to worship God on each day of the
seven (and thus our whole life ought to be a continual Sabbath), it
does not follow that a stated day in the seven should not be
consecrated to God. It is evident that public worship could not be
performed every day, both on account of weakness of the flesh and on
account of the necessity of animal life (which demands the various
works of man for its conservation). Thus the Sabbatism of this life
is distinguished from the heavenly (which will be perpetual and
constant because we will rest from our labors, being then freed from
all the miseries and necessities of this life).

XLI. Although from the force of the precept one day out of seven
must necessarily be kept as a moral and perpetual duty, it does not
follow that the observance of the seventh day (sanctioned in this
precept) is equally moral. The precise determination of the seventh
day is merely free and accidental to worship; for whether on the
seventh or the sixth or any other day of the week the worship of God
is attended to, it is all the same provided he is worshipped. But
the determination of one day is necessary and conduces in a high
degree to the worship of God, for we do not think God can be
worshipped conveniently and sufficiently unless one day in seven be
consecrated to him.

XLII. That this was the opinion of Calvin can be clearly gathered
from his discourses on the ten commandments. In discourse five: "If
we would be fervent in the worship of God, as we should be, not one
day in seven would be selected, but every day it would be fitting
without a written law; since then such and so great is our
infirmity, we recognize that polity to have been given not only to
the Jews, that there should be a certain day for assembling
together, but also to us and that this is common to us with them"
("Sermon Five on Deut. 5:12-14" in John Calvin's Sermons on the Ten
Commandments [ed. B.W. Farley, 19801, pp. 108-9). So in the sixth
discourse: "When it is said, six days shalt thou work, the Lord
shows that it ought not to seem grievous to us for him to set apart
some one day, when he grants us six in place of one" ("Sermon Six on
Deut. 5:13-15," ibid., p. 117). Near the end he adds: "God does not
treat with us by his supreme right, but is content if we consecrate
one day to him or if that day should serve us through the whole
seven" (ibid.).

XLIII. This may also be gathered from the Institutes when he says
that "he does not so dwell upon the septenary number of days as to
bind the church to its invariable observance" (ICR 2.8.34, p. 400).
There his design is not so much to condemn the destination of one
day in seven to public worship (which elsewhere with sufficient
explicitness he approves) or to refer it to merely human and free
polity, as to combat here the Jewish superstition of those who
Judaized in its observance. The words which follow have the same
reference: "Thus all the triflings of false prophets vanish, who in
former ages imbued the people with a Jewish notion, affirming that
nothing but the ceremonial part of this command has been abrogated,
which they call the appointment of the seventh day, but that the
moral part of it still remains (to wit, the observance of one day in
seven). And yet this is nothing else than changing the day in
contempt of the Jews, while they retain the same opinion of the
holiness of the day." Here it is certain that he does not attack any
of the Reformed (with whom he never had any controversy on this
point), but certain papists and Scholastics who thought that they
had a sufficient regard for evangelical freedom, if they taught the
appointment of the seventh day as ceremonial to be abolished (and in
the meantime taught that one day out of seven should be kept in the
same way as the Jews kept their Sabbath). Hence he adds, "They, who
adhere to their constitutions, far surpass the Jews in a gross and
camal superstition of Sabbatism."

XLIV Peter Viret, a colleague of Calvin, follows the received
opinion and discusses it fully (Exposition familiere sur les dix
Commandemens [15541, pp. 260-314). Nor did Beza think differently:
"The fourth precept concerning the sanctification of each seventh
day, as to the day of the Sabbath and the legal rites, was
ceremonial; as to the worship of God it belonged to the immutable
moral law and in this life is a perpetual precept" (Annotationes
maiores in Novum ... Testamentum [1594], Pars Altera, p. 634 on Rev.
1:10). Afterwards: "Therefore assemblies on the Lord's day are of
apostolic and truly divine tradition, so however that the Jewish
cessation from all work should by no means be observed, since this
would plainly be not to abolish Judaism, but only to change the day"
(ibid., p. 635). The same is the opinion of Peter Martyr: "We here
omit the mystery of the number seven ... and this only we notice,
that one out of every seven days is to be devoted to God" (Loci
Communis, Cl. 2.7.1 [15 83 1, p. 241). And afterwards: "Just as it
is perpetual and eternal that as long as the church exists on earth,
she is bound to support her ministers ... so, that one day in the
seven should be consecrated to divine worship, is well settled and
firm" (ibid.). Bucer: "This also is certainly our duty publicly to
sanctify one day in the seven to religion. Who, therefore, does not
see how healthful it is to the people of Christ, that there should
be one day in the week so consecrated to sacred religious exercises
that in it no other work is right than to meet in sacred
assemblies?" ("De Regno Christi,' 1.11* in Martini Buceri Opera
Latina [ed. F. Wendel, 19551,15:82). Zanchius- "The precept is
moral inasmuch as it commands us to consecrate one day out of seven
to external divine worship" ("De Quarto Praecepto," in Opera
Theologicorum [16131, 4:650). Of the same opinion were Fayus (cf.
"Theses in quartum legis," 33*.9* in Theses Theologicae in Schola
Genevensi [1586], pp. 65-66 [401); Junius ("De Politiae Mosis
Observatione," 8 in Opera Theologicae [16131, 1:1914); Paraeus
(Miscellanea Catechetica [1600], pp. 175-76); Alsted (Theologia
Catechetica [16221, pp. 568-930, and many others.


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