THE

SHORTER CATECHISM

EXPLAINED


QUESTION 57. Which is the Fourth Commandment?

ANSWER: The Fourth Commandment is, Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour and do all thy work. But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates. For, in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day; wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.


QUESTION 58. What is required in the Fourth Commandment?

ANSWER: The Fourth Commandment requireth the keeping holy to God such set times as he hath appointed in his word; expressly one whole day in seven, to be a holy Sabbath unto himself.


Q. 1. To what about the Worship of God has this command a reference?

A. It refers to the special TIME of God's worship.

Q. 2. Is the TIME of God's worship left arbitrary to the will of man?

A. No; we are to keep holy to God such set times as he hath appointed in his word.

Q. 3. Why should such set times be kept holy, and no other?

A. Because God is the sovereign Lord of our time, and has the sole power and authority to direct how it should be improved.

Q. 4. What is meant by the set times mentioned in the answer?

A. The stated feasts, and holy convocations for religious worship, instituted under the ceremonial law, which the church of the Jews was obliged to observe during that dispensation, Lev. 23.

Q. 5. Is there any warrant for anniversary, or stated holidays, now, under the New Testament?

A. No; these under the Old, being abrogated by the death and resurrection of Christ, there is neither precept nor example in scripture, for any of the yearly holidays observed by Papists, and others: on the contrary, all such days are condemned, Gal. 4:10; Col. 2:16, 17.

Q. 6. What crimes does the observance of them import?

A. The observance of them imports no less than an impeachment of the institutions of God, concerning his worship, as if they were imperfect; and an encroachment upon the liberty wherewith Christ has made his church and people free, Col. 2:20.

Q. 7. What is the special and stated time, which God has expressly, appointed in his word, to be kept holy?

A. One whole day in seven, to be a holy Sabbath to himself.

Q. 8. What is meant by a whole day?

A. A whole natural day, consisting of twenty-four hours.

Q. 9 What do you understand by one whole day in seven?

A. A seventh part of our weekly time; or one complete day, either, after or before six days' labour.

Q. 10. When should we begin and end this day?

A. We should measure it just as we do other days, from midnight to midnight, without alienating any part of it to our own works.

Q. 11. Are not sleeping and eating on the Sabbath day our own works?

A. If these refreshments of nature are in moderation, and to the glory of God on the Sabbath, they are not properly our own works, because they are necessary to strengthen our bodies for religious exercises.

Q. 12. What is the significance of the word Sabbath?

A. It is a Hebrew word, signifying REST; as it is interpreted, Heb. 4:9 -- "There remaineth therefore a REST ," (margin, keeping of a Sabbath) "to the people of God."

Q. 13. Is Sunday a proper or fit name for this day?

A. Although it cannot charitably be supposed that many who use this term have any knowledge of, or pay the smallest regard to the idolatrous rise of this name, or the names, assigned to the other days of the week; yet it were to be wished, that all Christians would call this holy day by one or other of its scripture designations.

Q. 14. May it not continue to be called Sabbath NOW, as well as under the Old Testament?

A. Yes; in regard our Lord himself calls it by this name, Matt 24:20 -- "Pray ye that your flight be not in the winter neither on the Sabbath day."

Q. 15. But is not our Lord speaking there of the Jewish, not of the Christian Sabbath?

A. He evidently means the Christian Sabbath only; for he is speaking of the flight which should happen at the destruction of Jerusalem; which did not take place till about forty years after the Jewish Sabbath was abolished, and the Christian Sabbath had come in its room.

Q. 16. Why is it called a holy Sabbath?

A. Because it was consecrated and set apart by God himself, for his own worship and service.

Q. 17. Is there any other day holy beside the Sabbath?

A. Other days may be occasionally employed in the worship of God, according to providential calls to it; yet there is no other day, except the Sabbath, morally and perpetually holy.

Q. 18. Is the Sabbath instrumentally holy, or is the time itself of the Sabbath an instrument and means (as the word and sacraments are) of conveying spiritual grace?

A. Not at all: for the time of the Sabbath is only a holy SEASON in which God is pleased to bless his people, more ordinarily than at other times, John 20:19-24; still reserving to himself the prerogative of communicating his grace at other times likewise, as he shall see meet, chap. 21:15-18.

Q. 19. Is the Fourth Commandment founded on the light of nature, or upon positive institution?

A. It is founded partly on both.

Q. 20. What part of this commandment is it, that is founded entirely on nature's light; or is what they call moral-natural?

A. The substance of it; namely, that as God is to be worshipped, so some stated time should be set apart for that end.

Q. 21. What part of it is founded on positive institution: or is what they call moral-positive?

A. That one proportion of time should be observed for God's worship and service rather than another; namely, that it should be a seventh, rather than a third, fourth, fifth, or sixth part of our weekly time.

Q. 22. Why do you call this a POSITIVE institution?

A. Because the observance of one day in seven, for a Sabbath, flows from the sovereign will of God in appointing it; and could never have been observed, more than any other part of time, merely by the force of nature's light.

Q. 23. Why do you call it MORAL-positive?

A. Because, though the law appointing the precise time of the Sabbath be positive, yet the reason of the law (plainly implied in the law itself, namely, that divine wisdom saw it most equal and meet, that man having six, God should have a seventh day to himself) is MORAL.

Q. 24. In what, then, consists the morality of the Fourth Commandment?

A. In keeping holy to God any seventh day he shall be pleased to appoint.

Q. 25. What is meant by the SEVENTH day mentioned in the commandment?

A. Not only the seventh in order from the creation, but any other seventh part of our weekly time, as God shall determine.

Q. 26. How does this appear from the words of the command itself?

A. In the beginning of the commandment, it is not said, Remember the seventh day, (namely, in order from the creation,) but "Remember the Sabbath-day, to keep it holy."Just so, in the end of this command, the, words are not, The Lord blessed the seventh day; but, "the Lord blessed the Sabbath-day, and hallowed it."

Q. 27. How do you prove the observance of one whole day in seven for a holy Sabbath to the Lord, to be of moral and perpetual obligation?

A. From the time of the first institution of the Sabbath; from its being placed in the DECALOGUE, or summary of moral precepts; and from there being nothing originally ceremonial, or typical, in the scope or substance of it.

Q. 28. When was the Sabbath, first instituted?

A. The will of God, that some stated time should be set apart for his worship was written with the rest of the commandments, upon man's heart at his first creation; and God's resting from all his works on the first seventh day; his blessing and sanctifying it, Gen. 2:1-3, were sufficient evidences of his will to mankind, that they should observe every seventh day thereafter, till God should be pleased to alter it.

Q. 29. How is the morality of the Sabbath evinced from the FIRST INSTITUTION of it?

A. Being instituted while Adam was in innocency, and consequently before all types and ceremonies respecting an atonement for sin, and being appointed him upon a moral ground, without any particular reference to an innocent state more than any other, it must therefore be of perpetual obligation.

Q. 30. What was the moral, ground upon which the Sabbath was appointed to Adam?

A. It was this, that infinite wisdom saw it meet, for God's glory, and needful for man's good, that man have one day in the week for more immediate and special converse with God.

Q. 31. What need was there for Adam in innocence, being perfectly holy, to have one day set apart from the others, for more immediate converse with God?

A. That in this respect he might be like God, who set him an example of holy working six days, and of a holy resting on the seventh.

Q. 82. Could Adam's mind be equally intent upon the immediate worship of God, when about his ordinary employment in dressing the garden, as on a day set apart for that purpose?

A. No; for though there could be no interruption of his happiness and fellowship with God, when dressing the garden, as he was a perfect creature; yet being at the same time a finite creature, his mind, while he was about that employment, could not he so intent upon the immediate worship of God, as it would be on a day set apart for that purpose; therefore it was fit he should have such a day, that he might thus have an uninterrupted freedom in the immediate contemplation and enjoyment of his Maker, without any avocation from worldly things.

Q. 33. What may be inferred from this, in favour of the morality of the Sabbath?

A. That if Adam in innocence needed a Sabbath, for the more immediate service and solemn worship of God, much more do we, who are sinful creatures, and so immersed in worldly cares, need such a day.

Q. 34. Did the religious observance of the Sabbath take place immediately after the creation, or not till the publishing of the law at Mount Sinai?

A. It took place at, and from the first seventh day after the creation for God's blessing and sanctifying of the Sabbath is related as a thing actually done at that time, and not as a thing to be done upwards of two thousand years afterwards, Gen. 2:3.

Q. 35. How can the observance of the Sabbath be said to have taken place immediately after the creation, when the scripture is wholly silent about the observance of it till the time of Moses?

A. It might as well be argued, that the Sabbath was not observed after Moses' time, during the government of the Judges (which, according to Acts 13:20, was "about the space of four hundred and fifty years"), there being no mention of the church observing a Sabbath during the whole of that long period: and yet it cannot be supposed, that such godly men as the Judges were, would suffer the observance of the Sabbath to go into entire disuse.

Q. 36. Is there any evidence from scripture, that the Israelites knew the observance of the Sabbath to be a moral duty, before the publication of the law, from Mount Sinai?

A. Yes; for when the manna was first given them, before they came to Mount Sinai, Moses speaks of the Sabbath, as a day well known to them, Ex. 16:23 -- "Tomorrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord."

Q. 37. How may the morality of the Sabbath be demonstrated from its SITUATION in the decalogue, or Ten Commandments?

A. It is placed in the midst of moral precepts, and must therefore be of the same nature and kind with them. It has the same dignity and honour put upon it, that the other nine commandments have; for it was, with them, proclaimed by the mouth of God, in the hearing of all Israel; twice written upon tables of stone, by the finger of God; and with them lodged within the ark: none of which privileges were conferred upon the ceremonial law: and, consequently, the Fourth Commandment must be of the same perpetual obligation as the other moral precepts, James 2:10.

Q. 38. Was there any thing TYPICAL of Christ in the original institution of the Sabbath?

A. It is impossible there could: for Adam, in innocence, being under a covenant of works, had no need of Christ, or the revelation of him by types; no, not to confirm him in that covenant, Gal. 3:12.

Q. 39. What would have been the consequence, if the Sabbath had been originally and essentially typical.

A. If so, then it would have been abolished, upon the death of Christ, and there would be no more remembrance of it than of the new moons and jubilees: which is, indeed, what they who argue against the morality of the Sabbath seem much to desire.

Q. 40. Were not the Israelites commanded to keep the Sabbath day in memory of their deliverance out of Egypt, which was typical of our redemption by Christ?

A. Yes; their deliverance out of Egypt was annexed, at Mount Sinai, as a superadded ground for the observance of that particular seventh day, which God appointed to be kept immediately after the creation, Deut. 5:15. For which reason, this particular seventh day was abolished at the resurrection of Christ: but still the seventh part of weekly time fixed by God at the beginning, as the substance of this commandment, remained unchangeably moral.

Q. 41. Will it follow that the substance of this commandment is ceremonial, because it is said of Christ, Matt. 12:8, that he is "Lord even of the Sabbath day?"

A. By no means: the very contrary will follow; namely, that such a seventh part of weekly time, as is now observed, is moral, because he who is the Lord of the Sabbath, has appointed it to be so; and, consequently, has power to order the work of it for his own service.

Q. 42. Is it any argument against the morality of the Sabbath, that it "was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath"?

A. No; but rather an argument for it: the meaning doubtless is that resting on the Sabbath was appointed for man's good, that it might be a means to a further and better end, even the true sanctification of it, in the exercise of the duties of piety and mercy required on the day.


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