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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism
of the Westminster Assembly
Explained and Proved
from Scripture

by
Thomas Vincent


LX. Ques. How is the Sabbath to be sanctified?
Ans.
The Sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days; and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God's worship, except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercv.

Q. 1. What is it to sanctify the Sabbath?
A. The Sabbath is sanctified by God, in his appointing it to be holy; and the Sabbath is sanctified by man, in his observing and keeping it as holy: "Remember the Sabbath-day, to keep it holy."

Q. 2. How are we to observe and keep the Sabbath as holy?
A. We are to observe and keep the Sabbath as holy, partly by a holy resting, partly in holy exercises on that day.

Q. 3. What are we to rest from on the Sabbath-day?
A. We are on the Sabbath-day to rest, not only from those things which are in themselves sinful, which we are bound to rest from on every day of the week; but also we are to rest from those worldly employments and recreations which on the other six days of the week are lawful, and our duty: "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," &c.

Q. 4. May not such works be done in our particular callings on the Sabbath-day as cannot so seasonably and advantageously be done on the other days of the week?
A. There are some works in our particular callings which may seem to be most seasonable and advantageous on the Sabbath-day, and yet it is our duty to rest from them, and wholly to forbear them; such as— 1. Killing of beasts on the Sabbath, to prepare for the Monday market. 2. Ploughing, sowing, gathering in of corn, making hay while the sun shines and the weather best serveth, on the Sabbath-day. 3. Selling of fruit, or any other wares, on the Sabbath-day, when there may be most custom for them. 4. Selling or buying of fish on the Sabbath, which in hot weather might stink if kept until the Monday. These, and the like worldly employments, we are to forbear, by virtue of this commandment, they being our own works; and whatever loss we may seem to sustain by such forbearance, be sure it is not comparable to the loss of God's favour, and the wounding of our conscience, and the loss of our souls for ever, which will be the fruit of living in the breach of God's law. And if such works as these must be forborne on the Sabbath, much more such works of our calling as may be done on the week.day, as well as on the Sabbath. "In those days saw I in Judah some treading wine-presses on the Sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on theSabbath.day: and I testified against them in the day wherein they sold victuals. There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the Sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem. Then I contended with the nobles of Jndah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the Sabbath.day? Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the Sabbath."— Neh. 13:15-18.

Q. 5. May we not lawfully recreate ourselves upon the Sabbath-day, especially since the day is appointed to be a day of rest from our toiling labour in the week?
A. We may and ought to recreate our minds on the Sabbath.day in the worship of God, we being bound to call and make in this respect the Sabbath our delight. But we ought to forbear recreating our minds with carnal delight, either by words or deeds, which we may do oa other days; and much more we ought to forbear recreating our bodies by sports and pastimes, though after the public exercise of God's worship be over. "If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it."— Isa. 58:13, 14.

Q. 6. Though masters and governors of families are bound themselves to rest upon the Sabbath-day, yet may they not command their children and servants to work, or permit them to play and take their recreation?
A. Indeed the commandment is principally directed to masters and governors of families, but withal so as it doth enjoin them to do what in them lieth to hinder their children and servants from the profanation of the day by servile working, or bodily recreations, and to put them upon the observation of this day of rest: "In it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant," &c.

Q. 7. May not children or servants lawfully work or play upon the Sabbath-day, if they be commanded here-unto by their parents or masters?
A. Though it be the sin of the parents or masters to command their children or servants to work, or any other way to break the Sabbath, yet it is the duty of children and servants to disobey them, whatever temporal loss they sustain by it; they being bound to obey the God of heaven rather than any man upon earth.

Q. 8. Is it lawful to dress meat on the Sabbath-day?
A. Although it was the will of the Lord that the children of Israel should neither gather nor dress the manna that fell from heaven on the Sabbath-day, there being so much servile work to be done about it before it was fit to be eaten, namely, the grinding of it in mills, or beating it in mortars, and then breaking it, which servile work is still unlawful, unless in cases of necessity; and although fires were forbidden to be kindled in all their habitations, (Exod. 35:3), that is, to forbear worldly employments, (as the works forbidden in the former verse were, and this instance isa special of the general); yet the Scnpture doth nowhere forbid the dressing meat at all, for ordinary food, nor the kindling of fires for such use; but the lawfulness of meat may be collected from the Scripture, inasmuch as our Saviour himself was present at a feast on the Sabbath-day (Luke 14:1), where no doubt meat was dressed for so many guests as were there bidden. And when we are allowed to provide food for our cattle on the Sabbath, surely we may lawfully dress meat for ourselves.

Q. 9. What works doth God allow us to do on the Sabbath-day, besides those which he doth principally command us?
A. The works which God doth allow us to do on the Sabbath-day, besides what he doth principally command us, are works of necessity aud mercy; such as eating, drinking, defending ourselves from enemies, quenching the fire of houses, visiting the sick, relieving the poor, feeding cattle, and the like; in all which employments we ought not to have a reference chiefly to ourselves, or any temporal advantage, but to be as spiritual as may be in them. "At that time Jesus went on the Sabbath-day through the corn, and his disciples were an hungered, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the Sabbath-day. But lie said unto them, Have ye not read what David did?" &c. — Matt. 12:1-3 And, verse 8: "If you had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless." And verses 10-12: " They said unto him, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath-day? and he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the Sabbath.day, will he not lay hold on it and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? wherefore it is lawful to do well on the Sabbath-days." " And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the Sabbath-day. The Lord' then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lend him away to watering? And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath-day?"— Luke 13:14-16.

Q. 10. What are the holy exercises, or the works which we are principally commanded to do on the Sabbath-day?
A. The holy exercises which we are to be employed in, or the works which we are principally commanded to do on the Sabbath-day, are the public and private exercises, especially the public exercises of God's worship, such as hearing the word, prayer, receiving the sacrament, singing of psalms, in the public assemblies of God's people. "And it shall come to pass that, from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord."— Isa. 66:23. "And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath.day, and stood up for to read."— Luke 4:16. "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them."— Acts 20:7. " A psalm or song for the Sabbath-day."— Ps. 92 (title).

Q. 11. How are we to perform these public exercises of God's worship on the Sabbath day?
A. We are to perform these public exercises of God's worship on the Sabbath-day— 1. With sincerity, having a single respect unto the honour and glory of God, whose day the Sabbath is. "If thou call the Sabbath the holy of the Lord, honourable, and shalt honour him."— Isa. 58:13. 2. With reverence, and that both of body and mind. " Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of Gcd."— Eccles. 5:1. " To this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word."— Isa. 66:2. 3. With diligence and attention. "Anil on the Sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made. And Lydia, which worshipped God, beard us, whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul."— Acts 16:13, 14. 4. With love and fervour of spirit. "Fervent in spirit, serving the Lord." — Rom. 12:11. 5. With delight and joy. "If thou call the Sabbath a delight."— Isa. 58:13.

Q. 12. What are we to do by way of preparation for the public exercises of God's worship on the Sabbath-day?
A. By way of preparation for the public exercises of God's worship on the Sabbath-day,we are— l. To remember, before the day come, to keep it holy, so as to finish our' worldly business and employments on the week days, and timely to break off from 'them on the Saturday evening, and to take pains to get our hearts in a readiness for the holy duties of the Sabbath. 2. In the morning of the Sabbath, we must begin the day with God, in holy meditation upon the works of God's creation, and especially upon the works of redemption, which were completed by Christ's resurrection upon this day; we must read the Scripture, and some other good books, as we have time, for the better fitting us for our more public and solemn worship; especially we must pray in secret, and in our families, for God's presence in his ordinances, and that God would assist his ministers, who are his mouth to us, and ours to him; and that he would assist us in a sincere and hearty performance of public duties, that we may attain more knowledge, experience, and mortification, further degrees of grace, and more communion with God.

Q. 13. What are we to do on the Sabbath-day, after the public exercises of God's worship are over?
A. After the public exercises of God's worship are over the work of the Sabbath is not over; but we must retire to our families (not seek our pleasure in the fields, or in vain company), and there repeat over what we have heard; catechise and instruct children and servants, sing psalms, pray with our families, and whilst we moderately make use of any creature refreshment, we must discourse of the things of God. We ought also to take time in the evening to retire into secret, and there examine ourselves as to the carriage of our hearts before God in the day; labour in meditation to get the word wrought more thoroughly upon our hearts; we must also endeavour to pour out our hearts before God in secret prayer, humbly confessing sin, earnestly and believingly requesting pardon and further supplies of grace, and thankfully praising God for all his mercies, especially for his Son Jesus Christ, and the Gospel privileges which we have in and by him. In such variety of holy exercises we may spend the whole Sabbath, which we should make as long as we can; and when the day is at an end, we should long for the Sabbath in heaven, which will never have an end.

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