Dr. Joel Beeke:
“Central to the concern fostered by Reformed Christianity to apply the moral law to Christian living has been the sanctification of the first day of the week as the Christian Sabbath. If there was any degree of ambiguity among the Reformers of the sixteenth century, it had utterly vanished when, in the midst of the seventeenth century, the Westminster divines assembled to write their Confession of Faith (Chapter 21) … . This high view of the Sabbath won the day in Britain, North America, throughout the British Empire, and also in the Netherlands. Though it was a key concern of the Reformed Christians, Sabbath observance was embraced as a rule by Christians of nearly every denomination. In the wake of the powerful revivals of the mid-eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Sabbath-keeping was embraced by the general population as well.
This happy state of affairs prevailed throughout the nineteenth century and into the twentieth. Large urban centers such as Philadelphia and Toronto were known for the care with which the Sabbath was observed by their inhabitants. Until the end of the nineteenth century, some major railroads ceased operations on Sundays. Seaside resorts took such measures as banning all motor traffic from the streets on Sundays (Ocean Grove, N.J.) and the use of movie houses for public worship on Sunday evenings (Ocean City, N.J.).
Today’s scene presents a vastly altered aspect. The forces of secularization and the rise of leisure culture, obsessed with pursuing recreations of all kinds, have extinguished concern for Sabbath observance in the general population. Even more tragic is the steady erosion of conviction on the part of Christians. The greatest damage was done by modernism’s attack on the authority of Scripture, thus undermining and overthrowing all biblical norms for living. However, Fundamentalism must also bear its share of the blame. Under the influence of Dispensationalism, a growing antinomianism developed in the most conservative circles of American Christians. The Old Testament in general, and the moral law in particular, came to be regarded as monuments of a bygone era. The result has been the wholesale destruction of conviction regarding the Sabbath, even among Presbyterians who subscribe to the Westminster Standards – notwithstanding the jarring inconsistency involved!
Surely the time is ripe for Christians to look once more to God’s Word for instruction regarding the fourth commandment and its claims upon us. If for no other reason, the study should be undertaken in view of the mounting evidence of the high degree of destructive stress lurking behind the appealing facade of the so-called “culture of leisure.” Men are destroying themselves because they cannot say no, whether at work or at play. Great spiritual blessings are promised to those who subject themselves to the self-denying discipline of Sabbath observance.”
~Puritan Reformed Spirituality, pp. 111-112