Distinction Between Moral and Ceremonial?
How can the Fourth
Commandment be ceremonial for specifying the seventh day but moral for
enjoining humans to set apart a day of rest for worship? Basically because
for Aquinas the moral aspect of the Sabbath is grounded on Natural
Law-that is to say, the principle of a regularly stated time for worship
and rest is in accordance with natural reason.27
The ceremonial aspect of the Sabbath, on the other hand, is determined by
the symbolism of the seventh-day commemoration of "Creation" and
prefiguration of the "repose of the mind in God, either in the present
life, by grace, or, in the future life, by glory."28
One may ask, How can the Sabbath be ceremonial (transitory) for
symbolizing God's perfect creation and the rest to be found in Him both in
the present and future life? Is it not this reassurance that provides the
basis for setting aside any time to worship God? To reject as ceremonial
the original message of the seventh-day Sabbath, namely that God is the
perfect Creator who offers rest, peace, and fellowship to His creatures,
means to destroy also the very moral basis for devoting any time to the
worshipping of God.
Apparently Aquinas himself recognized the inadequacy of his reasoning
since he makes a distinction between the Sabbath and other symbolic Old
Testament festivals such as Passover, "a sign of the future Passion of
Christ." The latter, Aquinas explains, were "temporal and transitory . . .
consequently, the Sabbath alone, and none of the other solemnities and
sacrifices, is mentioned in the precepts of the Decalogue."29
Aquinas' uncertainty as to the ceremonial aspect of the Sabbath is also
reflected in his comment that Christ annulled not the precept of the
Sabbath, but "the superstitious interpretation of the Pharisees, who
thought that man ought to abstain from doing even works of kindness on the
Sabbath; which was contrary to the intention of the Law."30
Aquinas' uncertainty, however, was largely forgotten and his
moral/ceremonial distinction of the Sabbath became the standard rationale
for defending the Church's right to introduce and regulate the observance
of Sunday and holy days. This resulted in an elaborate legalistic system
of Sunday keeping akin to that of the rabbinical Sabbath.31
The sixteenth-century reformers reproposed with
new qualifications Aquinas' distinctions between the moral (creational)
and ceremonial (Mosaic) aspects of the Sabbath. Their position was
influenced by their understanding of the relationship between the Old and
New Testaments as well as by their reaction against the legalistic and
superstitious observance of Sunday and a host of holy days as well.
Luther and some radicals, in their concern to combat legalistic
Sabbatarianism promoted not only by the Catholic Church but also by
left-wing reformers such as Andreas Karlstadt,32
attacked the Sabbath as a Mosaic institution "specifically given to the
Sunday was retained by Luther, not as the Christian Sabbath, but as a
convenient day "ordained by the Church for the sake of the imperfect laity
and the working class,"34
who need "at least one day in the week to rest . . . and attend divine
This position was largely determined by a radical distinction between the
Old and New Testaments.
In the Large Catechism (1529), Luther explains that the Sabbath "is
altogether an external matter, like other ordinances of the Old Testament,
which were attached to particular customs, persons, and places, and now
have been made free through Christ."36
This view is stated even more emphatically in Article 28 of the Augsburg
Confession (1530): "Scripture has abrogated the Sabbath-day; for it
teaches that, since the Gospel has been revealed, all the ceremonies of
Moses can be omitted."37
Luther's radical distinction between the Old and New Testaments and
between Law and Gospel was adopted and developed to extremes by radicals
such as Anabaptists, leftist Puritans, Quakers, Mennonites, Hutterites,
and modern antinomian denominations.38
These have generally claimed that the Sabbath is not a creation ordinance
but a Mosaic institution which Christ fulfilled and abolished.
Consequently, "New Covenant" Christians are free from the observance of
any special day.
Radical reformers promoted two opposing views
regarding the Sabbath. One group, mentioned earlier, pressed to its
logical conclusion the extreme Lutheran distinction between the Old and
New Testaments, rejecting the observance of the Sabbath or of any day, as
part of the Mosaic dispensation which Christ had fulfilled and replaced
with the dispensation of grace. Another group, however, pursued the
logical implications of the Calvinistic unity between the two Testaments,
accepting and promoting the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath as a
creation ordinance meant for all time and people. We shall call the latter
"Sabbatarians," a name frequently given to them by their opponents.39
Recent studies have shown that Sabbatarians constituted a respectable
group at the time of the Reformation, especially in such places as
Moravia, Bohemia, Austria, and Silesia.40
In fact, in some Catholic catalogues of sects, they are listed immediately
after the Lutherans and Calvinists.41
Erasmus (1466-1536) mentions the existence of Sabbatarians in Bohemia:
"Now I hear that among the Bohemians a new kind of Jews are springing up,
whom they call Sabbatarii, who serve the Sabbath with great
Similarly, Luther reports on the existence of Sabbatarian groups in
Moravia and Austria.43
In fact, in 1538 Luther wrote a Letter Against the Sabbatarians (Brief
wider die Sabbathers), arguing from the Bible against their observance of
the seventh-day Sabbath.44
Oswald Glait, a former Catholic priest who first became a Lutheran and
then an Anabaptist minister, began in 1527 or 1528 successfully to
propagate his Sabbatarian views among Anabaptists in Moravia, Silesia, and
He was supported by the learned Andreas Fisher, also a former priest and
Glait wrote a Booklet on the Sabbath (Buchlenn vom Sabbath-about 1530)
which is not extant. From a refutation of Glait's book by Caspar
we learn that Glait maintained the unity of the Old and New Testaments,
accepting the validity and relevance of the Decalogue for the Christian
Glait rejected the contention of his critics that the Sabbath
commandment is a ceremonial law like circumcision. Instead, he held that
the "Sabbath is commanded and kept from the beginning of creation."48
God enjoined "Adam in paradise to celebrate the Sabbath."49
Therefore "the Sabbath . . . is an eternal sign of hope and a memorial of
creation, . . . an eternal covenant to be kept as long as the world
On account of this teaching, Glait faced expulsions, persecutions, and,
finally, death by drowning in the Danube (1546).51
The death of Glait, perhaps the most prominent leader of Sabbatarian
Anabaptists, did not stop the propagation of the Sabbath doctrine. This is
indicated by the existence of seventh-day Sabbathkeepers at the time of
the Reformation in several European countries such as Poland, Holland,
Germany, France, Hungary, Russia, Turkey, Finland, and Sweden.52
In the seventeenth century, the presence of Sabbatarians became
particularly felt in England. This is indicated by the fact that, as noted
by R. J. Bauckham, "An impressive succession of Puritan and Anglican
spokesmen addressed themselves to combating the seventh-day error:
Lancelot Andrews, Bishop Francis White, Richard Baxter, John Bunyan,
Edward Stillingfleet, John Owen, Nathanael Homes, John Wallis. Their
efforts are a tacit admission of the attraction that the doctrine
exercised in the seventeenth century, and seventh-day observers (who then
usually also advocated Sunday work) were harshly treated by Puritan and
Anglican authorities alike."53
The Seventh Day Baptists became the leading Sabbatarian church in
Their first church in America was founded at Newport, Rhode Island, in
Seventh-day Adventists gratefully acknowledge their indebtedness to
Seventh Day Baptists for bringing to them the knowledge of the Sabbath in
Later on, the Sabbath was accepted as a creation ordinance by the Church
of God Seventh Day, the Worldwide Church of God, and a score of smaller
some of whom have recently rejected the Sabbath.
Churches in the Reformed tradition, such
as English Puritans, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Methodists, and
Baptists, adopted what might be called a "compromise position," on one
hand, acknowledging the Sabbath as a creation ordinance while, on the
other hand, defending Sunday as a legitimate substitution of the Sabbath
accomplished by the Church.
They generally distinguished between the temporal and the spiritual
observance of Sunday. Calvin can rightly be regarded as the pioneer and
promoter of this view which exerted far-reaching influence, especially in
Anglo-American Puritan Sabbatarianism. The basis of Calvin's teaching
regarding the Sabbath is to be found in his rejection of Luther's
antithesis between Law and Gospel. In his effort to maintain the basic
unity of the Old and New Testaments, Calvin christianized the Law,
spiritualizing, at least in part, the Sabbath commandment.58
Calvin tried to reconcile his acceptance of the Sabbath as a creation
ordinance for humanity with his view that "on the advent of our Lord Jesus
Christ, the ceremonial part of the commandment was abolished" by
reproposing a new version of Aquinas' distinction between the moral and
ceremonial aspects of the Sabbath. He argues that at creation the Sabbath
was given as a perpetual ordinance but "afterwards in the law a new
precept concerning the Sabbath was given, which should be peculiar to the
Jews, and but for a season."59
What is the difference between the "Jewish" (ceremonial) seventh-day
Sabbath and the "Christian" (moral) first-day Sabbath? The difference is
not easy to detect, especially for someone not trained to distinguish
theological nuances. Calvin describes the Jewish Sabbath as being
"typical" (symbolic), that is, "a legal ceremony shadowing forth a
spiritual rest, the truth of which was manifested in Christ."60
The Christian Sabbath [Sunday], on the other hand, is "without figure."61
By this he apparently means that it is more a pragmatic institution
designed to accomplish three basic objectives: first, to allow God to work
in us; second, to provide time for meditation and church services; and
third, to protect dependent workers.62
An Unresolved Contradiction.
Calvin's attempt to resolve the
tension between the Sunday-Sabbath as a perpetual creation ordinance and
the Saturday-Sabbath as a temporary ceremonial law, cannot be considered
successful. Do not both fulfill the same pragmatic functions? Moreover, by
teaching that for Christians the Sunday-Sabbath represents
"self-renunciation" and the "true rest" of the Gospel,63
did not Calvin also attribute to the day a "typological-symbolic"
significance, much like the type he assigned to the Jewish
This unresolved tension can be followed in the teaching of Calvin's
successors and has been the cause of endless controversies. For example,
Zacharias Ursinus, compiler of that important Reformed confession known as
Heidelberg Catechism (1563), teaches that "the Sabbath of the seventh day
was appointed of God from the very beginning of the world, to declare that
men, after His example, should rest from their labours," and "although the
ceremonial Sabbath has been abolished in the New Testament, yet the moral
still continues and pertains to us as well as to others."64
This position was later defended tenaciously in the monumental work, The
Doctrine of the Sabbath, written in 1595 by the famous English Puritan
as well as in other confessional documents such as the Synod of Dort of
and the Westminster Confession of Faith of 1647.67
These and similar documents fail to offer a rational explanation for
the artificial and arbitrary distinction between the so-called
moral/creational (one-day-in-seven) aspect of the Sunday-Sabbath and the
ceremonial/Mosaic (specification of the seventh day) aspect of the
Saturday-Sabbath, supposedly annulled by Christ.
There is no trace of such an artificial distinction in Scripture. If
such a distinction existed in the Old Testament, we would expect the
alleged moral aspect of the Sabbath commandment-that is, the principle of
one-day-in-seven-to be applied to such people as the priests (who had to
work on the Sabbath) by granting them a day off at another time during the
week. The absence of such a provision constitutes a most direct challenge
to those who uphold the one-day-in-seven principle.
Donald Carson acknowledges: "If the Old Testament principle were really
'one-day-in-seven for worship and rest' instead of 'the seventh day for
worship and rest,' we might have expected Old Testament legislation to
prescribe some other day off for the priests. The lack of such confirms
the importance in Old Testament thought of the seventh day, as opposed to
the one-in-seven principle so greatly relied upon by those who wish to see
in Sunday the precise New Testament equivalent of the Old Testament
To contend that the specification of the seventh day is a
Mosaic-ceremonial element of the Sabbath because it was designed to aid
the Jews in commemorating creation and in experiencing spiritual rest is
to be blind to the fact that Christians need such an aid just as much as
the Jews. It also means leaving Christians confused as to the reasons for
devoting one day to the worship of God. R. J. Bauckham acknowledges the
existence of such a confusion when he notes that most "Protestants in the
mid-sixteenth century had as imprecise ideas about the basis of Sunday
observance as most Christians at most times have had."69
Two Conflicting Positions.
The unresolved contradiction
between the creational/moral and Mosaic/ceremonial aspects of the Fourth
Commandment has aroused recurrent controversies over the relationship
between Sunday and the Sabbath commandment. Truly the Sabbath has had no
rest. The creational/moral versus the Mosaic/ceremonial distinctions
regarding the Sabbath have led to two main opposing views of Sunday. In
the Netherlands, for example, the two views were hotly debated during more
than a decade after the Synod of Dort (1619).
On one side, Dutch theologians such as Willem Teellinck, William Ames,
and Antonius Walaeus wrote major treatises defending the creation origin
of the Sabbath and thus the legitimate application of the Fourth
Commandment to the observance of Sunday.70
On the other side, a leading professor, Franciscus Gomarus, produced a
major response entitled Enquiry into the Meaning and Origin of the Sabbath
and Consideration of the Institution of the Lord's Day (1628), in which he
argues for a Mosaic origin of the Sabbath and, consequently, for an
independent ecclesiastical origin of Sunday.71
The debate over these two conflicting positions has flared up time and
again in different countries, and no reconciliation appears yet to be in
A fitting example is provided by some of the recent publications. On one
side is the symposium edited by Donald Carson, From Sabbath to Lord's Day
(1982) and by Willy Rordorf, Sunday: The History of the Day of Rest and
Worship in the Earliest Centuries of the Christian Church (1968). Both
studies espouse the thesis that seventh-day Sabbathkeeping is not a
creation ordinance binding upon Christians but a Mosaic institution
annulled by Christ.73
Consequently, Sunday is not the Christian Sabbath, but an exclusive
Christian creation introduced to commemorate Christ's resurrection through
the Lord's Supper celebration.74
By severing all ties with the Sabbath commandment, Rordorf follows the
Lutheran tradition in reducing Sunday to an hour of worship which could be
scheduled in accordance with the demand of modern life. The practical
implications of this position are obvious. If fully carried out, it could
prove to be "the death certificate of Sunday,"75
since in time, even the hour of worship could readily be squeezed out of
the hectic schedule of modern life.
On the other side is the study of Roger T. Beckwith and William Stott,
This Is the Day: The Biblical Doctrine of the Christian Sunday (1978),
which follows the Reformed tradition by defending the Sabbath as a
creation ordinance accepted and clarified by Christ. The Apostles
allegedly used the Sabbath to frame Sunday as their new day of rest and
Consequently, they conclude that "in the light of the New Testament as a
whole, the Lord's Day can be clearly seen to be a Christian Sabbath-a New
Testament fulfillment to which the Old Testament Sabbath points
The practical implication of their conclusions is that Sunday should be
observed, not merely as an hour of worship, but as "a whole day, set apart
to be a holy festival . . . for worship, rest and works of mercy."78
Notes to Chapter 2, Part 1b
Domini: Pope John Paul II's Pastoral Letter regarding the
27. Aquinas subdivided the Mosaic law into
moral, ceremonial, and judicial precepts. The moral precepts of the
decalogue are viewed as precepts also of the Natural Law; that is to say,
they are precepts binding upon all people because they are discoverable by
all through human reason without the aid of special revelation. Cf.
Aquinas (note 26), Part I-II, Q. 100, 1 and Q. 100, 3, pp. 1037, 1039.
28. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Part I-II, Q.
100, 5, p. 1042.
29. See note 28. Note also that
Aquinas attributes a similar symbolic function to Sunday: "As to the
Sabbath, which was a sign recalling the first creation, its place is taken
by the Lord's Day, which recalls the beginning of the new creature in the
Resurrection of Christ" (note 26, Part I-II, Q. 103, 3, p. 1085).
30. Thomas Aquinas (note 26), Part I-II, Q. 107, 3, p. 1111.
31. See L. L. McReavy, "'Servile Work': The Evolution
of the Present Sunday Law, Clergy Review 9 (1935), pp. 279f. A brief
survey of the development of Sunday laws and casuistry is provided by Paul
K. Jewett, The Lord's Day (Grand Rapids, MI, 1972), pp. 128-169. A good
example of the adoption of Aquinas' moral-ceremonial distinction can be
found in the Catechism of the Council of Trent.
Karlstadt's conception of the Sabbath rest contains a strange combination
of mystical and legalistic elements. Basically he viewed the day as a time
to abstain from work in order to be contrite over one's sins. For a clear
analysis of his views, see Gordon Rupp, Patterns of Reformation, 1969, pp.
123-130; idem, "Andrew Karlstadt and Reformation Puritanism," Journal of
Theological Studies 10 (1959), pp. 308-326; cf. Daniel Augsburger, "Calvin
and the Mosaic Law," Doctoral dissertation, Strasbourg University (1976),
pp. 248-249; J. N. Andrews and L. R. Conradi, History of the Sabbath and
First Day of the Week (Washington, DC, 1912), pp. 652-655.
33. Luther, Against the Heavenly Prophets, Luther's Works (St.
Louis,1958), vol. 40, p. 93. A valuable study of Luther's views regarding
the Sabbath is to be found in Richard Muller,
Adventisten-Sabbat-Reformation, Studia Theologica Lundensia (Lund, 1979),
34. Luther, Treatise on Good Works (1520),
Selected Writings of Martin Luther (Philadelphia, 1957), p. 174.
35. Concordia or Book of Concord, The Symbols of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church (St. Louis, 1957), p. 1974.
37. Augsburg Confession (note
35), p. 25; cf. Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom (New York,1919),
vol. 3, p. 69.
38. Winton V. Solberg, Redeem the Time
(Cambridge, 1977), pp. 15-19; A. G. Dickens, The English Reformation
(London, 1964), p. 34; George H. Williams, The Radical Reformation
(Leiden, 1962), pp. 38-58, 81-84.
39. See below, note
40. A valuable survey of the ideas and influences
of these Sabbatarians is provided by G. F. Hasel, "Sabbatarian
Anabaptists," Andrews University Seminary Studies 5 (1967), pp. 101-121; 6
(1968): 19-28. On the existence of Sabbathkeepers in various countries,
see Andrews and Conradi (note 32), pp. 633-716. Cf. Richard Muller (note
33), pp. 110-129.
41. In a list of eleven sects by
Stredovsky of Bohemia, "Sabbatarians" are listed in the third place after
Lutherans and Calvinists. The list is reprinted by Josef Beck, ed., Die
Geschichts-Bücher der Widertäufer in Österreich-Ungarn ("Fontes Rerum
Austriacarum," Wien, 1883), 43:74. For an analysis of this and three other
lists, see Hasel (note 40), pp. 101-106, who concludes: "These early
enumerations seem to indicate that Sabbatarian Anabaptists were considered
to be an important and strong group" (p. 106). Cf. Henry A. DeWind, "A
Sixteenth Century Description of Religious Sects in Austerlitz, Moravia,"
Mennonite Quarterly Review (1955): 51; George H. Williams (note 38), p.
676, 726, 732, 848, 408-410, 229, 257, 512.
Desiderius Erasmus, "Amabili Ecclesiae Concordia," Opera Omnia V: 505-506;
translation by Hasel (note 40), p. 107.
reports: "In our time there is a foolish group of people who call
themselves Sabbatarians [Sabbather] and say one should keep the Sabbath
according to Jewish manner and custom" (D. Martin Luthers Werke, Weimer
ed. 42:520). In his Lectures on Genesis (4:46), Luther furnishes similar
information: "I hear that even now in Austria and Moravia certain
Judaizers urge both the Sabbath and circumcision; if they should boldly go
on, not being admonished by the work of God, they certainly might do much
harm" (cited in Andrews and Conradi, History of the Sabbath and First Day
of the Week [Washington, DC, 1912], p. 640).
44. J. G.
Walch, ed., Dr. Martin Luther sämmtliche Schriften (Berlin, 1910), vol.
20, p.1828ff. Cf. D. Zscharnack, "Sabbatharier," Die Religion in
Geschichte und Gegenwart (1931), vol. 5, p. 8.
Oswald Glait, see the study of Richard Muller (note 33), pp. 117-125. Cf.
Hasel (note 40), pp. 107-121.
46. On Andreas Fisher,
see the treatment by Richard Muller (note 33), pp. 125-130; Petr Ratkos,
"Die Anfänge des Wiedertäufertums in der Slowakei," Aus 500 Jahren
deutsch-tschechoslowakischer Geschichte, Karl Obermann, ed. (1958), pp.
41-59. See also the recent study by Daniel Liechty, Andreas Fischer and
the Sabbatarian Anabaptists (Herald Press, Scottdale, PA, 1988).
47. Caspar Schewenckfeld's refutation of Glait's book is found
in S. D. Hartranft and E. E. Johnson, eds., Corpus Schwenckfeldianorum
(1907), vol. 4, pp. 451ff.
48. Ibid., p. 458. The
translation is by Hasel (note 40), p. 119.
50. Ibid., p. 457-458.
An Anabaptist (Hutterian) Chronicle provides this moving account of
Glait's final days: "In 1545 Brother Oswald Glait lay in prison in Vienna
for the sake of his faith. . . . Two brethren also came to him, Antoni
Keim and Hans Standach, who comforted him. To them he commended his wife
and child in Jamnitz. After he had been in prison a year and six weeks,
they took him out of the city at midnight, that the people might not see
or hear him, and drowned him in the Danube" (A. J. F. Zieglschmid, ed.,
Die älteste Chronik der Hutterischen Brüder , pp. 259, 260, 266,
trans. by Hasel [note 40], pp. 114-115).
52. A brief
historical survey of seventh-day Sabbathkeepers from the fifteenth to the
seventeenth century is found in Andrews and Conradi (note 32), pp.
632-759. A more comprehensive and critical study of Sabbathkeeping through
the ages is the symposium Kenneth A. Strand, ed., The Sabbath in
Scriptures and History (Washington, DC, 1982). About 20 scholars have
contributed chapters to this study.
53. R. J. Bauckham,
"Sabbath and Sunday in the Protestant Tradition," From Sabbath to Lord's
Day: A Biblical, Historical and Theological Investigation, ed. D. A.
Carson (Grand Rapids, 1982), p. 333. In 1618, for example, John Traske
began preaching that Christians are bound by the Fourth Commandment to
keep Saturday scrupulously. Under pressure, however, he later recanted in
A Treatise of Liberty from Judaism (1620). Theophilus Brabourne, also an
Anglican minister, published in 1628 A Discourse upon the Sabbath Day
where he defended the observance of Saturday instead of Sunday. The High
Commission induced him to renounce his views and to conform to the
established church. Cf. Robert Cox, The Literature of the Sabbath Question
(London, 1865), vol. 1, pp. 157-158.
54. Cf. W. Y.
Whitley, A History of British Baptists (London,1932), pp. 83-86; A. C.
Underwood, A History of the English Baptists (London,1947), chaps. 2-5.
55. Seventh Day Baptist General Conference, Seventh Day
Baptists in Europe and America (Plainfield, NJ,1910), vol. I, pp. 127,
133, 153. Cf. Winton U. Solberg (note 38), p. 278.
Raymond F. Cottrell notes: "The extent to which pioneer Seventh-day
Adventists were indebted to Seventh Day Baptists for their understanding
of the Sabbath is reflected in the fact that throughout the first volume
[of Advent Review and Sabbath Herald] over half of the material was
reprinted from Seventh Day Baptist publications" ("Seventh Day Baptists
and Adventists: A Common Heritage, Spectrum 9 , p. 4).
57. The Church of God Seventh Day traces their origin back to
the Millerite movement. Mr. Gilbert Cranmer, a follower of Miller's views,
who for a time associated himself with the Seventh-day Adventists, in 1860
was elected as the first president of a group known first as Church of
Christ and later Church of God Seventh Day. Their 1977 report gives an
estimated membership of 25,000 persons ("Synopsis of the History of the
Church of God Seventh Day," compiled in manuscript form by their
headquarters in Denver, Colorado). The 1996 Directory of Sabbath-Observing
Groups, published by The Bible Sabbath Association, lists over 300
different denominations or independent groups observing the seventh-day
58. A comprehensive study of Calvin's
understanding of the Fourth Commandment is provided by Daniel Augsburger
(note 32), pp. 248, 284.
59. John Calvin, Commentaries
on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis, trans. John King (Grand Rapids,
1948), p. 106.
Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge
(Grand Rapids, 1972), vol. 1, p. 343.
62. Ibid. Calvin
summarizes the distinction between the ceremonial and moral aspects of the
Sabbath, saying: "The whole may be thus summed up: As the truth was
delivered typically to the Jews, so it is imparted to us without figure;
first, that during our whole lives we may aim at a constant rest from our
own works, in order that the Lord may work in us by his Spirit; secondly,
that every individual, as he has opportunity, may diligently exercise
himself in private, in pious meditation on the works of God, and at the
same time, that all may observe the legitimate order appointed by the
church, for the hearing of the word, the administration of the sacraments,
and public prayer; and, thirdly, that we may avoid oppressing those who
are subject to us" (ibid.).
63. John Calvin,
Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Form of a
Harmony, trans. Charles William Bingham (Grand Rapids, 1950), pp. 435-436.
64. Zacharias Ursinus, The Summe of Christian Religion
(Oxford, 1587), p. 955.
65. On the enormous influence
of Nicolas Bownde's book, The Doctrine of the Sabbath, see Winton U.
Solberg (note 38), pp. 55-58. The book was enlarged and revised in 1606.
Bownde insists that the Sabbath originated in Eden and consequently the
Fourth Commandment is a moral precept binding on both Jews and Christians.
The latter are urged to observe Sunday as carefully as the Jews did their
66. In the 163rd session of the Synod of Dort
(1619), a commission of Dutch theologians approved a six-point document
where the traditional ceremonial/moral distinctions are made. The first
four points read as follows: "1. In the Fourth Commandment of the Law of
God, there is something ceremonial and something moral. 2. The resting
upon the seventh day after the creation, and the strict observance of it,
which was particularly imposed upon the Jewish people, was the ceremonial
part of that law. 3. But the moral part is, that a certain day be fixed
and appropriated to the service of God, and as much rest as is necessary
to that service and the holy meditation upon Him. 4. The Jewish Sabbath
being abolished, Christians are obliged solemnly to keep holy the Lord's
Day" (Gerard Brandt, The History of the Reformation and Other
Ecclesiastical Transactions in and about the Low Countries [London, 1722],
vol. 3, 320; cf. pp. 28-29, 289-290).
Westminster Confession, chapter 21, article 7, reads: "As it is of the law
of nature, that in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the
worship of God; so, in His Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual
commandment, binding all men in all ages, he hath particularly appointed
one day in seven for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him: which, from the
beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of
the week; and, from the resurrection of Christ was changed into the first
day of the week" (Philip Schaff, The Creeds of the Christendom
[London,1919], vol. 3, 648-649).
68. Donald A. Carson,
ed., From Sabbath to Lord's Day: A Biblical, Historical, and Theological
Investigation (Grand Rapids, MI, 1982), pp. 66-67.
R. J. Bauckham, "Sabbath and Sunday in the Protestant Tradition," in From
Sabbath to Lord's Day (note 53), p. 322.
Teellinck, De Rusttijdt: Ofte Tractaet van d'onderhoudinge des
Christenlijken Rust Dachs [The Rest Time: Or a Treatise on the Observance
of the Christian Sabbath] (Rotterdam, 1622). William Ames, Medulla
Theologica (Amsterdam, 1623), trans. John D. Eusden, The Marrow of
Theology (Grand Rapids, 1968), pp. 287-300, provides a theoretical basis
for Sunday observance.
71. An earlier treatise against
Sabbatarianism was produced by Jacobus Burs, Threnos, or Lamentation
Showing the Causes of the Pitiful Condition of the Country and the
Desecration of the Sabbath (Tholen, 1627). Andreas Rivetus refuted
Gomarus' contention that the Sabbath was a Mosaic ceremony abrogated by
Christ in his Praelectiones [Lectures] (1632). Gomarus replies with a
voluminous Defensio Investigationis Originis Sabbati [A Defense of the
Investigation into the Origin of the Sabbath] (Gronigen, 1632). To this
Rivetus countered with Dissertatio de Origine Sabbathi [Dissertation on
the Origin of the Sabbath] (Leyden, 1633).
controversy flared up again in Holland in the 1650s. Gisbertus Voetius and
Johannes Cocceius were the two opposing leaders in the new round. For a
brief account, see Winton U. Solberg (note 38), p. 200. Solberg provides
an excellent survey of the controversy over the Sabbath in
seventeenth-century England (pp. 27-85) and especially in the early
American colonies (pp. 85-282).
73. Willy Rordorf's
book (note 7) was first published in 1962 in German. Since then it has
been translated into French, English and Spanish. Its influence is
evidenced by the many and different responses it has generated.
74. Rordorf's denial of any connection between Sunday and the
Fourth Commandment can be traced historically in the writings of numerous
anti-Sabbatarian theologians, such as Luther (notes 34, 35); William
Tyndale, An Answer to Sir Thomas More's Dialogue (1531), ed. Henry Walter
(Cambridge, 1850), pp. 97-98; the formulary of faith of the Church of
England known as The Institution of A Christian Man (1537); Francis White,
A Treatise of the Sabbath-Day: Concerning a Defence of the Orthodox
Doctrine of the Church of England against Sabbatarian Novelty (London,
1636); James A. Hessey, Sunday: Its Origin, History, and Present
Obligation (London, 1866); Wilhelm Thomas, Der Sonntag im frühen
Mittelalter (Göttingen, 1929); C. S. Mosna, Storia della Domenica dalle
Origini fino agli Inizi del V. Secolo (Rome 1969); D. A. Carson, ed. (note
75. This concern is expressed, for example, by P.
Falsioni, in Rivista Pastorale Liturgica (1967): 311, 229, 97, 98; (1966):
549-551. Similarly, Roger T. Beckwith and William Stott point out:
"Whether the Christian Sunday could have survived to the present day if
this sort of attitude [Rordorf's view] had prevailed among Christians in
the past is extremely doubtful, and whether it will survive for future
generations if this sort of attitude now becomes prevalent is equally
uncertain" (This is the Day: The Biblical Doctrine of the Christian Sunday
[London, 1978], p. ix).
76. Beckwith points out, for
example, that "if Jesus regarded the Sabbath as purely ceremonial and
purely temporary, it is remarkable that he gives so much attention to it
in his teaching, and also that in all he teaches about it he never
mentions its temporary character. This is even more remarkable when one
remembers that he emphasizes the temporary character of other parts of the
Old Testament ceremonial-the laws of purity in Mark 7:14-23 and Luke
11:39-41, and the temple (with its sacrifices) in Mark 13:2 and John 4:21.
By contrast, we have already seen, he seems in Mark 2:27 to speak of the
Sabbath as one of the unchanging ordinances for all mankind" (note 75, p.
26; cf. pp. 2-12).
77. Beckwith (note 75), pp. 45-46.
Beckwith and Stott's view of the Sabbath as an unchanging creation
ordinance upon which the observance of Sunday rests can be traced
historically in the writings of theologians such as Aquinas (partly-note
28); Calvin (partly-notes 59-62); Richard Hooker, Laws of Ecclesiastical
Polity (Cambridge, MA, 1957), vol. 5, p. 70, 3; Nicholas Bownde (note 65);
William Teellinck, William Ames and Antonius Walaeus (note 70);
formularies of faith such as the Westminster Confession (note 67) and the
Synod of Dort (note 66); E. W. Hengstenberg, Über den Tag des Herrn
(1852); recently by J. Francke, Van Sabbat naar Zondag (Amsterdam, 1973);
Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics (Edinburgh, 1956), vol. 3, pp. 47-72; Paul K.
Jewett (partly), The Lord's Day: A Theological Guide to the Day of Worship
(Grand Rapids, 1971); Francis Nigel Lee, The Covenantal Sabbath (London,
1966). Lee's study, though sponsored by the British Lord's Day Observance
Society, can hardly be taken seriously on account of its eccentric nature.
He speculates, for example, on "The Sabbath and the time of the Fall" (pp.
78. Beckwith and Stott (note 75), pp. 141, 143.