The Fourth Commandment

From my earliest memories I knew about the Sabbath. Both of my parents came from generations of ancestors who kept the Sabbath, Seventh Day Baptists. When I grew up I was puzzled by the seeming lack of honor for the 7th day Sabbath (or the “Lord’s Day” Sabbath as well) in other Christian communities. As time went on, and I did not normally live where I had access to Seventh Day Baptist churches, I grew accustomed to worshiping in church for an hour or so on Sunday, and nodding to Sabbath by trying not to shop or clean my house on that day. I wouldn’t say, now, that I kept the Sabbath holy.

This week I was surprised to hear Alistair Begg, who is not a Sabbatarian, preach passionately on the Sabbath and the fourth commandment. From the sermon:

Now, there are two things that mitigate against any good understanding of this commandment, and they are these: on the one hand, an almost complete lack of conviction about any notion of the abiding significance of the fourth commandment—and we’ll address that in a moment—and on the other hand, almost total confusion concerning the nature not only of all the Ten Commandments but peculiarly of this one day.

Now, we can highlight this in a number of ways. Let me do so by quoting from the Civil War. I think it’s the Civil War, isn’t it? Stonewall Jackson? General Jackson is a legend in American history. Any of you who have read of Jackson will know that he was a man of extreme principle and character. At the very heart of this was his conviction of faith in Jesus Christ. And his extreme rigorous character attached itself also to the observance of the Sabbath. And writing in his biography, his widow says,

Certainly he was not less scrupulous in obeying the divine command to “remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy” than he was in any other rule of his life. Since the Creator had set apart this day for his own, and commanded it to be kept holy, he believed that it was … wrong for him to desecrate it by worldly pleasure, idleness, or secular employment, as to break any other commandment of the decalogue. Sunday was his busiest day of the week, as he always attended church twice a day and taught in two Sabbath schools! He refrained as much as possible from all worldly conversation, and in his family, if secular topics were introduced, he would say, with a kindly smile, “We will talk about that to-morrow.”

He never travelled on Sunday, never took his mail from the post-office, nor permitted a letter of his own to travel on that day, always before posting it calculating the time it required to reach its destination ….

One so strict in his own Sabbath observance naturally believed that it was wrong for the government to carry the [mail] on Sunday. Any organization which exacted secular labor of its employees on the Lord’s day was, in his opinion, a violator of God’s law.[2]

And so his life was marked by a rigorous obedience to the law of God.

Now, loved ones, here’s the question: Is this quote from Jackson an anachronism? In other words, if Jackson was right, where does that leave us? ’Cause if we’re right, most of us, he was wrong. But one thing is for sure: we’re not both right. So we need to go to our Bibles, then, and determine who approximates to the instruction of God’s Word closely. Is it us, in our libertine rejection of the Lord’s Day, or is it Jackson, in his rigorous obedience of it?

You can read the transcript, or listen (which I suggest) here:

https://www.truthforlife.org/resources/sermon/holy-day-or-holiday-pt1/https://www.truthforlife.org/resources/sermon/holy-day-or-holiday-pt2/

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