How To Cultivate Sabbath Keeping (Beeke)

Joel Beeke on Isaiah 58:13-14:

How to Cultivate Sabbath Keeping

My notes:

  • Keeping the Sabbath = great way to cultivate holiness
  • Once a major part of Western culture but no longer
  • Sabbath = a foretaste of heaven

Four things:

  1. Doctrine
    • Day is not ours; it is the Lord’s
    • Must call it a delight to honor Him
    • Whole day is sacred time devoted to worship
    • If go own way, God says will come under His curse and disfavor
    • Not honoring will desensitize the conscience to all of God’s commandments
    • Isaiah 58 and Genesis 2 are not ceremonial law; Exodus 20 commands to remember it
    • Commandment 4 never taken away
  2. Discipline
    • Self-control needed to not do own pleasure
    • North American Christianity is primarily antinomian – people just want to go to church and be made to feel good and then do what they want the rest of the day
    • Discipline ought to be our delight
    • Don’t indulge your pleasure or preference apart from God’s will
    • We must turn our feet toward God and engage in careful, thoughtful, God-honoring, God-worshiping living
    • Must be disciplined before the day – do work on Saturday so free on Sunday
    • On Sunday, resist the temptation to do other things
    • Ryan McGraw: “Worldy recreations on the Sabbath are no more appropriate than if a groom paused in the middle of his wedding ceremony to check the scores of a football game.”
    • Repent of sinful desires and practices (cf. Amos 8:5)
    • A day to examine ourselves and the direction of our life
  3. Delight
    • Use to glorify and enjoy God
    • A day of exquisite delight, sweet joy
    • A day of blessing to us; a day when God gives us grace as we give Him worship
    • A day free of worldly responsibilities
    • A day to:
      1. Examine ourselves, confess sins, give thanks for our graces
      2. Pray for ourselves and others
      3. Read Scriptures and other sound books
      4. Meditate on God’s truth
      5. Engage in holy conversation with others
      6. Meditate and converse about God’s works in creation and Providence
      7. Sing psalms
      8. Serve people in mercy and love – poor, sick, widows, fatherless, foreigner; make peace with those with whom we have a quarrel, speak gospel
    • Not a day to be idle, but take a nap if necessary
    • Time to feed soul
    • Blessings – spiritual riches, inheritance in eternal kingdom of God
  4. Desire
    • Hopeful anticipation of the eternal Sabbath to come



The Sabbath Will Be Observed In All Lands

Albert Barnes, Reflections on Isa 66:23:

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. And from one Sabbath to another. . . . {Compare the notes at Isa 58:13,14}

There can be no permanent worship of God, and no permanent religion on earth, without a Sabbath; and hence it was, that while the observance of the feasts of tabernacles, and of the Passover, and of the new moons, made a part of the ceremonial law, the law respecting the sabbaths was incorporated with the ten commandments as of moral and perpetual obligation; and it will be literally true that all the race shall yet be brought to worship God on the return of that holy day. It was instituted in paradise; and as one design of the plan of redemption is to bring man back to the state in which he was in paradise, so one effect of the true religion everywhere will be, and is, to make people reverence the Sabbath of the Lord. No man becomes truly pious who does not love the holy Sabbath. No nation ever has been, or ever can be converted which will not, and which does not, love and observe that day. Every successful effort to propagate the true religion is a successful effort to extend the practice of observing it; and just as certain as it is that Christianity will be spread around the world, so certain will it be that the Sabbath will be observed in all lands. The period is, therefore, yet to arrive when the delightful spectacle will be presented of all the nations of the earth bowing on the return of that day before the living God. The plans of this life will be suspended; toil and care will be laid aside; and the sun, as he rolls around the world, will rouse nation after nation to the worship of the true God; and the peace and order and loveliness of the Christian Sabbath will spread over all the hills and vales of the world. Who that loves the race will not desire that such a period may soon come? Who can wonder that Isaiah should have fixed his eye in the close of his prophetic labors on a scene so full of loveliness, and so replete with honor to God, and with goodwill to people?


We Rob God

“This portion of time is sacred to Jehovah: He has appropriated it to his service. As time is wholly his, he might have claimed a much greater proportion. He has a right to fix what work shall be done in it. He has done so. “Keep the Sabbath-day to sanctify it, as the Lord thy God commanded thee—The Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the Sabbath-day.” Deut. 5.10,15. The sum of the command is, “Keep it holy.” The will of God is our law. This ought to be our choice and delight. When we resist his command we dispute his right to legislate to us. We presume to dictate to him, and to alter what he has enacted. Jehovah hath said, “Verily my Sabbaths ye shall keep.” [Exod. 31.13.] Our practical language is, Verily thy Sabbaths we will not keep. The formal nature of sin lies wholly here. We refuse to comply with the divine will. While we either omit holy duties, or employ the Sabbath in unnecessary secular pursuits, we rob God: we claim that time as our own. We do not consider what God requires, or what is his pleasure; but we please ourselves. To do God’s pleasure is to do what he requires: to do our own pleasure, is to resist his will, and rob him of his right. {21} When he enjoins the sanctification of the Sabbath, he gives this as the reason of it, “I am Jehovah.” Lev. 19.30. Thus he asserts his exclusive title to it, and to our sanctification of it. On the same account, he often calls it, “My Sabbath.” This robbery of God is most unreasonable. He has allowed us a large portion of time for ourselves, in proportion to what he claims to himself. Besides, he allows us, on the Sabbath, all that necessity or mercy can require. Nay more, though the Sabbath is to be appropriated to his service, it is no less conducive to our spiritual interest. If it be criminal to rob men, much more God. That he needs not our service can be no apology to us. It is enough that he requires it, and that we owe it. Besides, did he need our service, the sin of robbing him would not be so heinous, as it would be robbing a creature only, because the creature only can be in need.”


Subject To Assault Even From The Professing Church

David Chanski:

There is one commandment that has been subject to assault even from the professing church of Christ itself. That is the Fourth Commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” The Puritan pastors who wrote the Westminster Larger Catechism were right when they said about the Lord’s Day, the Christian Sabbath, that “Satan with his instruments much labor to blot out the glory, and even the memory of it, to bring in all irreligion and impiety.” We have seen the evil one make such progress in this battle in our generation that we have to wonder if he is declaring, “Mission accomplished!”…

The church historian Philip Schaff wrote that observance of the Lord’s Day “is a wholesome school of discipline, a means of grace for the people, a safeguard of public morality and religion, a bulwark against infidelity, and a source of immeasurable blessing to the church, the state, and the family. Next to the Church and the Bible, the Lord’s Day is the chief pillar of Christian society.”

Many Christians today are calling for a return to the faith of our nation’s founding fathers. The Lord’s Day was a pillar of their religious worship. The godly Jonathan Edwards wrote, “Those who have a sincere desire to obey God in all things, will keep the sabbath more carefully and more cheerfully, if they have seen and been convinced that therein they do what is according to the will and command of God, and what is acceptable to him; and will also have a great deal more comfort in the reflection upon their having carefully and painstakingly kept the sabbath.” As Edwards points out, we should observe God’s day because the Bible tells us, not just because our forefathers did it. But we fool ourselves if we think we will see the blessings they experienced if we are unwilling to imitate their devotion to God…

Read more:

Unless They Do See Thus For Themselves

Jonathan Edwards on the need for Christians to be convinced of the continuing obligation of the Sabbath:

If men take it only upon trust, and keep the first day of the week because their parents taught them so, or because they see others do it, they will never be likely to keep it so conscientiously and strictly, as if they had been convinced by seeing for themselves that there are good grounds in the Word of God for their practice. Unless they do see thus for themselves, whenever they are negligent in sanctifying the Sabbath or are guilty of profaning it, their consciences will not have that advantage to smite them for it, as otherwise they would. — And those who have a sincere desire to obey God in all things, will keep the Sabbath more carefully and more cheerfully, if they have seen and been convinced that therein they do what is according to the will and command of God, and what is acceptable to him. [They] will also have a great deal more comfort in the reflection upon their having carefully and painfully kept the Sabbath.

Source and read more:

This Is That Perfection We Must Aim At

“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.”

~Nicholas Bownd, Sabbathum Veteris Et Novi Testamenti: or, The True Doctrine of the Sabbath (1606; Naphtali Press and Reformation Heritage Books, 2015), 8-9.

Source:, Comment 1

Let This Be The Model

“When you inquire into how one should keep the Sabbath, consider this: it is a day that represents heaven. Do you think you will be pursuing your own goals in heaven, working as you have done throughout your entire life, or do you think you will be resting in the Lord, basking in His glory, delighting in His presence, worshiping Him with all your heart, soul, and mind? Let this be the model that is set before you as you strive to keep the Sabbath.”

~Ligonier Ministries,

The Sabbath Eve

(c) Leeds Museums and Galleries (book); Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
(c) Leeds Museums and Galleries (book); Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

~The Sabbath Eve by Alexander Johnston (1815–1891)


There is no Place for the Do-Nots

“In other words, if we do the dos there is no place for the do-nots. If the Sabbath really is a delight as a day of rest from worldly employments then there will be no place for worldly recreations. The choice of recreations will be spiritual and holy because the spiritual and holy has taken hold of the soul and possessed it with delight.”

~Rev. Matthew Winzer

Source:, Comment 3

Can this be Savory in the ears of a Christian?

Exerpts from The Morality of the Fourth Commandment, as Still in Force to Bind Christians (London: 1641). By William Twisse D. D. From An Anthology of Presbyterian & Reformed Literature 1.3 (1988) 79:

Short quote:

“But it may be said, that men’s minds being burdened, and oppressed with the former service of the day, therefore some relaxation is to be granted for the refreshing of our spirits; as much as to say, a part of the Lord’s Day is to be allowed for profane sports and pastimes, to refresh us after we have been tired out with serving God. Can this be savory in the ears of a Christian?”

~William Twisse, Morality of the Fourth Commandment, 164

Long quote:

[pp. 242-244] As for recreations, which are here said to serve lawfully to the refreshing of our spirits; this appellation is very ambiguous, neither do I know any difference between the recreating of our spirits, and the refreshing of our spirits. Yet here the refreshing of our spirits is made the end of recreation. Again it were good to distinguish between recreation of the body, and recreation of the mind. I think the refreshing of spirits pertains to the recreation of the body. Men’s spirits are natural and material things, and they are apt to be wasted (1) naturally; for as life consists in calido, in hot matter, so heat is apt to spend and waste the matter wherein it is; and spirits thus wasted are recreated, that is, repaired by eating and drinking. And thus provisions of victuals are commonly called recreates.

(2.) They are wasted also by labor voluntarily undertaken, and these are repaired, as by the former way, so by rest also. And each way we are allowed to recreate our spirits on the Lord’s Day; and as to allow such rest to our servants as a work of mercy, so to our own bodies also. But now a-days many courses are called recreations, wherein there is found little rest; and the natural spirits of man are rather wasted, and his nature tired; far more than the one is repaired, or the other eased. And when all comes to all, I doubt the issue will be, to style the pleasures of our senses by the cleanly name of recreations.

Now the Jews were expressly forbidden to find their own pleasures on the Lord´s holy day (Is. 58:13); yet were they not forbidden all pleasure, that belonged only to such a Sabbath as was a fast; and therein indeed hypocrites are taxed for finding pleasure on that day (Is. 58:3). But the weekly Sabbath was for pleasure and delight, but not for man’s own pleasure, nor for the doing of their own ways. But to delight in the Lord, which is spiritual pleasure, and the recreating of our souls in the Lord. This is blessed rest, thus to rest unto him; and the Word of God is the best food of the soul. No recreations like unto God’s holy ordinances. Of wisdom it is said, that her ways are the ways of pleasantness (Pro. 3:17). I willing confess, that to the natural man, as the things of God are foolishness, so the word of God is a reproach unto him. He hath no delight in it (1 Cor. 2:14; Jer. 6:10. He delights rather in carnal pleasures; and is it fit to humor him in such courses, and that on the Lord’s day? Our Savior expressly tells us, that The pleasures life choke the word, and make it become unfruitful (Luke 8:14). Therefore it no way fits a man to God’s service; and if way is opened to such courses, though not till after evening prayer, as many as are taken with them, will have their minds running upon them, so as to say, when will the Sabbath be gone, and the time of divine service over? That so they may come to their sports, as well as covetous persons longed after the like, that they may return to their trading.

A natural man, before his calling is described unto us in Scripture, to be such a one as served lusts and diverse pleasures (Titus 3:3), and the wicked are said to to spend their days in pleasure (Job 36:11); and such are they whom the Prophet describes after this manner, Hear now thou that art given to pleasure (Is. 47:8). As for the children of God, as they are renewed in their affections generally, so the matter of their delight is much altered. His delight is in the law of the Lord (Psa. 1:2); as Christ says, I delight to do thy will (Psa. 40:1), and I delight myself in thy statutes; thy testimonies are my delight; and I will delight myself in thy commandments (Psa. 119:16, 24, 47), and Thy comforts delight my soul (Psa. 94:19). On the other side, the character of the fool is this, He hath no delight m understanding (Ps. 18.2). As for the reformation of such fools, let every wise and sober Christian consider, whether it is a fit course to let the reigns loose upon their neck, and give them liberty to take their courses, and not rather to endeavor to wean them therefrom by representing the vanity of them, witnessed by the experience of King Solomon, who was acquainted with the delights of the sons of men (Ecc. 2:8) as much as any, and tells us what fruit and profit he reaped by them, saying vanity of vanities, all is but vanity; and that the end of that discourse of his, is to promote this exhortation, Fear God, and keep his commandments, For this is the whole man. Then on the other side, the blessed, the comfortable and only profitable condition of delighting in the Lord, in the judgment of David, the father of King Solomon, Delight thou in the Lord, and he shall give thee thy heart’s desire (Ps. 37:4); to meet with the contrary judgment of carnal men, who say, It profitteth not a man, that he should delight himself with God (Job 34:9). If it is said that such sports are tolerated to fit a man for his calling the day following; it is very strange that works of our calling should not be permitted on any part of the Sabbath day, and sports and pastimes should. And shall not the spending of our time in God’s service, not public only, but private also, far better fit us to serve God in the works of our calling, and make us more capable of his blessing upon our labors, than the exercising of ourselves in sports and pastimes.

[pp. 184] Lastly, all recreations are to this end, even to fit us to the works of our calling; either for the works of our particular callings, or the works of our callings, as we are Christians. Such sports, if they fit us for the service of God, were more seasonable in the morning than in the evening. If for the works of our particular calling, then are they inferior works to the works of our calling, the furthering whereof is their end; and the means are always inferior in dignity to the end. Now if the more noble works are forbidden on that day, how much more such as are inferior are forbidden? But it may be said, that men’s minds being burdened, and oppressed with the former service of the day, therefore some relaxation is to be granted for the refreshing of our spirits; as much as to say, a part of the Lord’s Day is to be allowed for profane sports and pastimes, to refresh us after we have been tired out with serving God. Can this be savory in the ears of a Christian?

Source:, Comment 1