The Puritan Sabbath

Chris Coldwell:

The Puritan Sabbath

The refinement of English Sabbatarianism in the latter decades of the sixteenth century produced one of the key defining features of Puritan piety, which would later be systematized in Presbyterian and Nonconformist doctrine via The Westminster Standards (1647), The Savoy Declaration (1658) and the Baptist Confession of Faith (1677).While it is true that a generation earlier in England, the Elizabethan Puritans worked to refine and systematize a sounder doctrinal footing for Sabbatarianism, they were nevertheless building upon a conservative practical Sabbatarianism that stretched back to the middle ages, which even under the darkness and superstition of Roman Catholicism had laws against labor and pastimes on Sundays.4 The “evidence from the period establishes that late Elizabethan sabbatarians were not innovators, but were elaborating a doctrinal tradition which had medieval origins and was part of the authorized teaching of the English church.”5 The theological concept “of a morally binding sabbath … was defined first by thirteenth-century scholastics and used by such pillars of the English Reformation as Heinrick Bullinger, John Hooper, Thomas Becon, and others” (Parker, “Rogers,” 334).

Without question, the doctrinal statements of the Westminster Assembly present a Puritan or English Sabbatarian understanding of the fourth commandment. Some have noted that English Sabbatarianism consists of three major points, 1. that the fourth commandment is moral, not partly ceremonial, 2. that the day of worship was moved to the first day of the week because of the resurrection of Christ, and 3. that the day should be observed in a strict manner in putting aside our regular weekday labors and recreations.6 Patrick Collinson defined English Sabbatarianism as,

… the doctrinal assertion that the fourth commandment is not an obsolete ceremonial law of the Jews but a perpetual, moral law, binding on Christians; in other words, that the Christian observance of Sunday has its basis not in ecclesiastical tradition but in the Decalogue. The more important propositions of the Sabbatarians are that the Sabbath derives from the creation and so antedates both man’s fall and the Mosaic law, although its use was defined in the Decalogue; that the hallowing of the Lord’s day in place of the Sabbath was of apostolic or even divine appointment, and more than an ecclesiastical convention; so that the Sabbath is still in force in this altered form, commemorating the second creation in Christ’s resurrection, and robbed only of some of its ceremonial detail; that the whole day should be kept holy and devoted to the public and private exercise of religion; and that this precludes all otherwise lawful recreations and pastimes as well as the work of one’s calling, unlawful games and mere idleness.… The first extensively argued, dogmatic assertion that the fourth commandment is morally and perpetually binding was published in 1595, The doctrine of the Sabbath by the Suffolk Puritan divine, sometime fellow of Peterhouse and rector of Norton, Dr Nicholas Bownd.7​

The ministry of Nicholas Bownd (1551?–1613) exhibited the practical divinity taught by his stepfather, Richard Greenham (1543?–1594), which focused on the means of grace (Word, Sacraments, prayer, etc.). The crucial ‘mean of the means’ whereby all these means of grace were made available to the people of God was the weekly gathering on the Christian Sabbath or Lord’s Day. The Lord’s Day is a blessing that the Lord has given to His people. “God prohibits certain activities on the Sabbath day in order to free us for communion and fellowship with Him and with one another.”8

Bownd’s 1595 book was based on lectures given circa 1585/86 at the Monday combination lecture in Bury St. Edmunds. The book was extensively augmented in a second edition in 1606, due in no small part to the criticisms and trouble caused the Norton parson by his severe conformist neighbor Thomas Rogers.9 In his 1606 dedication to Bishop John Jegon, Bownd outlines the Puritan Sabbatarian position as follows:

1. First of all, that the observations [sic] of the Sabbath is not a bare ordinance of man, or a mere civil or ecclesiastical constitution, appointed only for polity; but an immortal commandment of almighty God, and therefore binds men’s consciences.

2. The same was given to our first parents, Adam and Eve; and so after carefully observed, both [by] them and their posterity, the holy patriarchs and Church of God, before and under the law, until the coming of Christ.

3. And it was revived in Mount Sinai, by God’s own voice to the Israelites, after they came out of Egypt, with a special note of remembrance above all the rest; and fortified with more reasons than they, and particularly applied unto all sorts of men by name; all which shows how careful the Lord was that everyone should straightly keep it.

4. The ceremonies of the law, which made a difference between Jew and Gentile, though the gospel has taken away, since the partition wall was broken down by Christ (Eph. 2:14); yet this commandment of the Sabbath abides still in its full force, as being moral and perpetual, and so binds for ever all nations and sorts of men, as before.

5. The apostles by the direction of God’s Spirit (leading them into all truth) did change that day (which before was the seventh from creation, and in remembrance of it) into the eighth; even this which we now keep in honor of the Redemption. And therefore the same day ought never to be changed, but still to be kept of all nations unto the world’s end; because we can never have the like cause or direction to change it.

6. So that we are in keeping holy of a day, for the public service of the Lord, precisely bound not only to the number of seven (and it is not in our power to make choice of the sixth or eighth day); but even on this very seventh day, which we now keep, and to none other.

7. On which day we are bound straightly to rest from all the ordinary works of our calling, every man in his several vocation; because six days in the week are appointed for them, and the seventh is sanctified and separated from the others, to another end; even for the public service of God, and that by God Himself.

8. Much more, then, in it ought we to give over [relinquish] all kinds of lawful recreations and pastimes, which are less necessary than the works of our calling, and whatsoever may take up our hearts to draw them from God’s service; because this law is spiritual, and binds the whole man, as well as any other. Most of all ought we to renounce all such things, as are not lawful at any time.

9. Yet in cases of necessity God has given great liberty unto us, to do many things for the preservation and comforts not only of the beasts and dumb creatures, but especially of man. Not only when he is weak and sick, but being healthful and strong, both in the works of our callings, and also of recreations, without which necessity we are persuaded that men ought ordinarily to cease from them.

10. And herein more specially the governors of the Church and Commonwealth have great liberty above all others, who in such cases may upon this day do many things for the good of both, not only for war, but for peace; and may prescribe unto others, and the people ought therein to obey them. And as in other things they ought not busily to inquire a reason of all their commandments; so in this they ought to presume with reverence so much of their good consciences, that they know more cause of the things which they command and do, than themselves do, or is meet for them curiously to inquire.

11. The same day of rest ought ordinarily to be spent altogether in God’s service, especially in frequenting the public assemblies, where the Word of God is plainly read and purely preached, the sacraments rightly administered, and prayer made in a known tongue to the edifying of the people; where also they ought to attend upon these things from the beginning to the ending.

12. The rest of the day ought to be spent by every man himself alone, or with others (as his family or neighbors) in all private exercises of religion, whereby he may be more prepared unto, or reap greater fruit from the public exercises: as in private prayer, reading of the scriptures, singing of psalms, meditating upon, or conferring about, the Word and works of God—and that either in their houses, or abroad in the fields.

13. And as every man particularly is bound to the observation of this commandment, so more specially masters in their families, magistrates in their precincts, and princes in their realms ought to provide for this, as much as in them lies; and hereby to look to all that are committed to their charge, and to compel them at the least to the outward observation of the rest, and the sanctifying of it, as well as of any other commandment, as of not committing murder, adultery, theft, and such like.

14. Lastly, though no man can perfectly keep this commandment, either in thought, word or deed, no more than he can any other; yet this is that perfection that we must aim at; and wherein, if we fail, we must repent us, and crave pardon for Christ’s sake. For as the whole law is our schoolmaster to lead us to Christ (Gal. 3:24); so is every particular commandment, and namely this of the Sabbath. And therefore we are not to measure the length and breadth of it by the over-scant rule of our own inability, but by the perfect reed of the Temple (Ezek. 40:3); that is, by the absolute righteousness of God himself, which only can give us the full measure of it.​

As noted by Collinson, Bownd’s work, while preceded by shorter works touching upon or anticipating Sabbatarian doctrine, was the first large scholarly publication to give the subject a systematic defense. The impact of the work was significant and while Bownd claimed no originality, his work helped to set the standard argumentation. From Bownd’s 1595 edition until the suppression of Sabbatarian works by Laud, many works were published promoting what became an essential characteristic of Puritan piety.10 After the lifting of the press ban that began with the reissue of the Book of Sports, many more works were published just prior to, during and after the Westminster Assembly to the close of the seventeenth century.11

Puritan Sabbatarianism was formally codified into Presbyterian theology by the well-known statements of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms on the doctrine of the Christian Sabbath.12

—————-
4. David N. Laband and Deborah Hendry Heinbuch, Blue Laws: The History, Economics, and Politics of Sunday-Closing Laws (Lexington Books, 1987), 14–16.

5. Kenneth Parker, “Thomas Rogers and the English Sabbath: The Case for a Reappraisal,” Church History 53, no. 3 (September 1984): 332–333.

6. John H. Primus, Holy Time: Moderate Puritanism and the Sabbath (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1989), 11; Richard L. Greaves, “The Origins of English Sabbatarian Thought,” Sixteenth Century Journal XII, No. 3 (1981), 19. Kenneth L. Parker, The English Sabbath: A Study of Doctrine and Discipline from the Reformation to the Civil War (Cambridge University Press, 1988), 6–7.

7. Patrick Collinson, “The Beginnings of English Sabbatarianism,” in Studies in Church History, volume one, Papers read at the first winter and summer meetings of the Ecclesiastical History Society (Thomas Nelson, 1964), 207–209.

8. Pilgrim Covenant Church, Singapore, 16th Annual Conference (9–11 June 2015), The Lord’s Day; Dr. Joseph Pipa, The Lord’s Day: The Market Day of the Soul,

(accessed June 26, 2015).

9. See Chris Coldwell, “Anti-Sabbatarian Scold: Thomas Rogers’ Letter to Nicholas Bownd, April 29, 1598,” The Confessional Presbyterian 10 (2014): 113–170, and, Introduction, Nicholas Bownd, The True Doctrine of the Sabbath (Naphtali Press and Reformation Heritage Books, 2015).

10. George Estey, Certain and learned Expositions upon divers parts of Scripture (London, 1603), which includes the earlier, A Most Sweet and comfortable exposition upon the ten commandments (London, 1602). John Dod and Robert Cleaver, An Exposition of the Ten Commandments (1603, 19th edition, 1635). William Greenham, Treatise of the Sabboth, in Works (London, 1604); George Widley, Doctrine of the Sabbath, handled in Four Severall Bookes or Treatises (London, 1604); John Sprint, Propositions tending to prove the necessary Use of the Christian Sabbath, or Lord’s Day (London, 1607); Andrew Willet, Hexapla in Genesis (1608). Lewes [Lewis] Bayly, The Practice of Piety, third edition (1613). Lewes Thomas, A Short Treatise upon the Commandments, in seven sermons or exercises of seven sabbaths (London, 1615). Edward Elton, An exposition of the ten commandments of God (London, 1623), an update of A plain and easy exposition of six of the commandments (1619). Effigiatio veri Sabbathismi (1605) by Robert Loews may qualify but this Latin work contains criticisms of some points characteristic of what was becoming the Puritan position.

11. See the books listed in Chris Coldwell, “Calvin in the Hands of the Philistines, Or, Did Calvin Bowl on the Sabbath?”, The Confessional Presbyterian 6 (2010): 42, fn 60.

From Chris Coldwell, “Dropping the Subject, Again? The Decline of Sabbatarianism in the Old Southern Presbyterian Church and in the Presbyterian Church in America,” The Confessional Presbyterian 12 (2017), 41–43.

Source: https://puritanboard.com/threads/what-would-you-think-on-my-pastors-view-on-the-sabbath.93089/, Comment 6

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Should Babies Be Baptized?

Loughbrickland Reformed Presbyterian Church:

“Perhaps you were baptised as a believer, but have never considered that this sign of cleansing from sin (Acts 22:16; 1 Pt 3:21) and union with the Lord (Rom 6:1-6; Gal 3:27) should be given to your children. Or perhaps you were baptised as an infant and are considering the significance of your baptism. Or perhaps you are a believer thinking about the baptism of your own child. Surely this Old Testament narrative causes us all to pause and ask – “What does this covenant sign of baptism mean to me and my children?””

Read more: http://www.loughbrickland.org/cms/index.php/q-a/30-q-a-should-babies-be-baptised

Plain Singing With No Instruments

Justin Martyr AD 150:

“Plain singing is not childish, but only the singing with lifeless organs, with dancing and cymbals,etc. Whence the use of such instruments and other things for children are lain aside, and plain singing only retained.”

Clemens of Alexandria AD 190:

“We Cristian’s make use only of one organ or instrument, even the peaceful Word, with which we honour God; no longer with the old psaltery, trumpet, drum, cymbal, or pipe.”

Cyprian AD 240″

“Such organs, or instruments were then permitted in the OT church for this cause, even for the sake of their weakness, to stir up their minds to perform their external worship with some delight.”

Chrysostom AD 396:

“Instrumental music was permitted to the Jews, as sacrifice was, for the heaviness and grossness of their souls. God condescended to their weakness, because they were lately drawn off idols; but now instead of instruments we may use our bodies to praise Him withal. Again, let no man deceive you, these instruments appertaining not to Christians; these are alien to the Catholics church; all these things do the nations of the world seek after.”

The Magdeburg Centuriators on AD 666:

“At last in the year 666, when the number of the beast (Rev 13) was now full, the churches received Latin singing with organs from Pope Vitalian, and from thence began to say Latin mass and to set up altars with idolatrous images.”

Thomas Aqinas AD 1225-1274:

“In the old law, God was praised both with musical instruments and human voices. But the church does not use musical instruments lest she should seem to Judaize. Nor ought a pipe ,or harp, or the like be brought into use in the Christian Church, but only those things that make the hearer better men. Under the OT such instruments were used because they were typical of something.”

Erasmus AD 1516:

“We have brought a cumbersome and theatrical music into our churches. Men run to church as to a theatre to have their ears tickled. And for this end organ makers are hired with great salaries.

Cardinal Cajetan Ad 1518:

“The Church did not use organs in Thomas Aquinas’ time, and even to this day the Church of Rome does not use them in the presence of the Pope.”

Calvin 1546:

“Instrumental music is not fitter to be adopted into the the public worship of the Christian Church than the incense, the candlestick,and the shadows of the Mosaic law.”

John Wesley 1703-1791:

“I have no objection to instruments being in our chapels, provided they are neither seen or heard.”

Spurgeon:

“We should like to see all all the pipes and organs in our Nonconformist places of worship either ripped open or compactly filled with concrete. The human voice is so transcendently superior.”

Source: https://puritanboard.com/threads/history-of-instruments.93085/page-3, Comment 68

God Stands Upon Little Things In The Matter Of His Worship

“The second note is this: In the matters of worship, God stands upon little things.

Such things as seem to be very small and little to us, yet God stands much upon them in the matter of worship, for there is nothing wherein the prerogative of God more appears than in worship. Princes stand much upon their prerogatives. Now God has written the law of natural worship in our hearts. But there are other things in the worship of God that are not written in our hearts, that only depend upon the will of God revealed in His Word, which would not be duties except that they are revealed in His Word. And these are of such a nature as we can see no reason for them except this, that God would have them. As now, there are many kinds of ceremonies to manifest honor to princes that have no reason at all, but merely because it is a civil institution so appointed. So God would have some ways of honoring Himself that the creature should not see the reason for, but merely the will of God to have them so.

Now God stands much upon little things, though men would think it a little matter whether this fire or that fire, and will not this burn as well as that? But God stands upon it. And so for the ark. When Uzza did but touch the ark when it was ready to fall, we would think it no great matter, but one touch of the ark cost him his life. There is not any one small thing in the worship of God but God stands mightily upon it.

In the matter of the Sabbath, that’s His worship. For a poor man to gather a few sticks, what great matter is it? But God stands upon it. And so when the men of Beth-shemesh did but look upon the ark, it cost the lives of fifty thousand threescore and ten men. If it is a matter of a holy thing that concerns His worship, He would not have it abused in anything. Let us learn to make conscience of little things in the worship of God and not to think, “Oh, how nice such are, and how precise and nice in such small things!” You do not understand the nature of Divine worship if so be that you are not nice about it. God is nice and stands upon little things in the matter of His worship.”

~Jeremiah Burroughs, Gospel Worship

Source: https://puritanboard.com/threads/history-of-instruments.93085/page-2, Comment 50

Instruments Were Part Of Ceremonial Worship

“I don’t have time to look for Calvin’s view, but Travis has done that work already (see here). The standard position until the mid 19th century for most Presbyterians and nonconformist churches was that the instruments were part of the ceremonial worship and they don’t get a pass by not being specifically stipulated as passing away in the NT, than any other piece of that worship that was not specified. And it is notable that Paul, and he could have easily enough, did not add the instruments specified throughout the psalms to his ‘sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.’ But I have no real zeal to engage the topic again for the umpteenth time; the literature is abundant. See Travis’ general page here on literature. Below Dabney represents the southern Presbyterian view in his review of Girardeau’s book.

Dr. Girardeau has defended the old usage of our church with a moral courage, loyalty to truth, clearness of reasoning and wealth of learning which should make every true Presbyterian proud of him, whether he adopts his conclusions or not. The framework of his arguments is this: it begins with that vital truth which no Presbyterian can discard without a square desertion of our principles. The man who contests this first premise had better set out at once for Rome: God is to be worshipped only in the ways appointed in his word. Every act of public cultus not positively enjoined by him is thereby forbidden. Christ and his apostles ordained the musical worship of the New Dispensation without any sort of musical instrument, enjoining only the singing with the voice of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Hence such instruments are excluded from Christian worship. Such has been the creed of all churches, and in all ages, except of the Popish communion after it had reached the nadir of its corruption at the end of the thirteenth century, and of its prelatic imitators. But the pretext is raised that instrumental music was authorized by Scripture in the Old Testament. This evasion dr. Girardeau ruins by showing that God set up in the Hebrew Church two distinct forms of worship; the one moral, didactic, spiritual and universal, and therefore perpetual in all places and ages that of the synagogues; the other peculiar, local, typical, foreshadowing in outward forms the more spiritual dispensation, and therefore destined to be utterly abrogated by Christ’s coming. Now we find instrumental music, like human priests and their vestments, show-bread, incense, and bloody sacrifice, absolutely limited to this local and temporary worship. But the Christian churches were modeled upon the synagogues and inherited their form of government and worship because it was permanently didactic, moral and spiritual, and included nothing typical. This reply is impregnably fortified by the word of God himself: that when the Antitype has come the types must be abolished. For as the temple-priests and animal sacrifices typified Christ and his sacrifice on Calvary, so the musical instruments of David in the temple-service only typified the joy of the Holy Ghost in his pentecostal effusions. https://www.naphtali.com/articles/worship/dabney-review-of-girardeau-instrumental-music/​”

Source: https://puritanboard.com/threads/history-of-instruments.93085/page-2, Comment 47

There Is No Positive Command To Use Musical Instruments In Worship

“You need to start with God’s command for musical instruments in public worship. Where do you find the command first? It’s only found in the command for the priests to do so in temple (ceremonial) worship. Knowing this is fulfilled and doesn’t continue in Christ. Musical instruments do not continue (this is what Calvin meant) because they were part of the ceremonial law from David to Christ. New Testament worship which follows more closely the synagogue worship it would be wise to look at it. Synagogue worship had no use for musical instruments during the time of the Scriptures, and quite frankly not UNTIL Jews implemented their use in the 1950’s. So then if one is to use musical instruments in public worship today there needs to be something very clear (positively) to do so in Scripture. No one can find such a positive command therefore we may not use instruments in public worship. ”

Source: https://puritanboard.com/threads/history-of-instruments.93085/, Comment 27

Musical Instruments Were Connected To Animal Sacrifice

“The worship we see from the apostles is not modeled after the temple, but upon worship in the synagogue. As corrupt as the Jews were at various times, during the intertestamental period when the synagogue rose to prominence, the Jews had enough understanding not to mimic bloody temple worship outside the temple. The synagogue worship was without animal sacrifice and musical instruments. It included prayers, singing of a cappella psalms, the reading of Scripture, and exposition of the Word. (Seem familiar?) The synagogue was self-consciously detached from the worship of the temple. At minimum, they had the sense to know that erecting mini-temples (high places) as their fathers had done was blasphemous.

When Christ came, part of his ministry was to fulfill temple worship and put an end to it. This is why the destruction of the temple was such a big deal, and a major part of Christ’s prophetic ministry. However, God had ordained the synagogue to be the precursor of the church. Musical instruments in worship may seem quite innocuous to us at this time, but that’s because we’ve not understood their connection to ritual sacrifice, which would have been very obvious to the Jewish Christians who formed the early church.

After the temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., even the unbelieving Jews ceased using musical instruments, because they recognized their connection with the animal sacrifices.”

Source: https://puritanboard.com/threads/history-of-instruments.93085/, Comment 26

Peculiar to the Infancy of the Church

Calvin on Psalm 149:

“The musical instruments he mentions [in verse 3] were peculiar to this infancy of the Church, nor should we foolishly imitate a practice which was intended only for God’s ancient people.”

Source: https://puritanboard.com/threads/history-of-instruments.93085/, Comment 12

Organs in Presbyterian Churches

First Presbyterian, New York City:

“As early as 1855, the Session at First Church wanted to install a pipe organ to attract younger worshipers, but Elder James Lenox, who controlled the church’s finances, opposed “the sinister influences of such innovations.” After Lenox’s death, however, the way was opened, and in 1887 the first pipe organ was installed.”

http://www.fpcnyc.org/music/organs.html

First Presbyterian, Chattanooga:

“The church’s first organ was also the first organ in Chattanooga. It was built and installed in 1878 by a ruling elder of the church, John Fernquist.”

http://www.agochattanooga.org/regional-organs-database/chattanooga/first-presbyterian-church/

Source: https://puritanboard.com/threads/history-of-instruments.93085/, Comment 5

How Did Instruments Enter Into British And Scottish Worship?

A summary of points made by John Price in Old Light on New Worship:

-Organs rapidly proliferated during the 15th century and by the 1500s “an organ was found in nearly every important church.” In the 16th century there was continued introduction of other instruments and instrumentation became a distinguishing hallmark of the Roman liturgy.

-Many of the proto-Reformers like Wycliffe and Hus decried the use of instruments and encouraged unaccompanied congregational singing. Even Papists who wished for reform within the Roman church like Erasmus complained of the use of instruments

-Luther thought that the reform of worship was of secondary importance and allowed instrumentation. This was not unanimous among the Lutherans as both Melancthon and Carlstadt opposed the use of instruments. Nevertheless, the Lutheran church maintained their use for the most part.

-The Reformed almost universally opposed them. Not just Calvin, but Zwingli (despite being an accomplished musician himself), Bullinger, Beza, Knox, and Pareus too. Even men like Menno Simons (founder of the Mennonites) and prelatists like Robert Horne and John Marbeck opposed the organ and other instruments. In the Church of England, instruments were abolished in the second prayer book (1563)

-The Puritans were uniformly against it. The Westminster standards don’t directly address the issue since the Solemn League and Covenant of Scotland and acts of Parliament in England had already abolished them by law.

-This continues into the 17th century. Even Isaac Watts wrote against the use of instruments. The only dissenting voice appears to be of Richard Baxter who thought them indifferent. On this, as in other important matters, he is a poor guide for Reformed theology and practice, however.

-The uniformity begins to breakdown in the early 18th century. There was still widespread opposition but in some churches smaller orchestral instruments begin to be imported from the schoolhouse to the church. The first organ installed in a church of Puritan heritage was in 1770 in First Congregational Church in Providence, Rhode Island. While present in the Anglican churches too, many continued to voice opposition there as well.

-Scottish Presbyterianism finally succumbs in the late 19th century, seemingly under the influence of revivalists like Dwight Moody. Still, many prominent ministers and theologians continued opposing them on both sides of the Pacific such as Spurgeon, John L. Dagg, Dabney, Thornwell, Giradeau, etc.

– In the 20th century revivalism and the piano (and eventually the guitar) won out, as we all can see.

Source: https://puritanboard.com/threads/history-of-instruments.93085/, Comment 4