STUDIES IN THE WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM
by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn
A. — 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.
Q. 58. — What is required in the fourth commandment?
A. — 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 to himself.
Scripture References: Lev. 19:30; Deut. 5:12; Isa.56:2-7.
1. How does this commandment apply to worship?
This commandment speaks of the time of worship and naturally follows the first three commandments. The first spoke of the object of worship, the second of the means of worship, the third of the manner of worship.
2. How can one decide what times should be kept for public worship?
The only times that are to be kept for public worship are the times appointed in the Word of God. It is not right before God to add other times, or holy days, to the Word.
3. What does the Bible tell us is the time set aside for worship?
The Bible teaches that one whole day (a day of twenty-four hours) is set aside for the worship of the holy God.
4. What is meant by the word “Sabbath”?
The word “Sabbath” is a Hebrew word, signifying “rest”, as is taught in Heb. 4:9.
5. Why does our question call it a “holy Sabbath”?
It is a “holy” Sabbath because it has been consecrated and set apart by God.
6. Is this particular commandment a part of the ceremonial law or the moral law?
This particular commandment is a part of the moral law and is to be kept by all nations and throughout all generations. It has never been annulled. The Lord Jesus Christ gave testimony to it. He is our Lord and He is also “Lord of the Sabbath”. (Luke 6:5)
A COMPROMISE OF THE CHURCH
In the church of today there are many compromises. In many denominations it is becoming evident that the teaching of the Word of God is less and less recognized as the only infallible rule of faith and practice. It is to the shame of the church that this is true. However, there is another dangerous compromise taking place in the church. This is the compromise allowed in the realm of Sabbath observance, a compromise that is allowing secularism to make great inroads in the church.
It would seem that the commandment, in its practical application, has in effect been rewritten by many to read: “Remember one hour on Sunday morning to keep it holy.” In many churches of today it has been rewritten again to read: “Remember one hour early on Sunday morning to keep it holy”, the convenient early morning service enabling a person to get his “keeping of the commandment” out of the way so he can enjoy the rest of the day in recreation and pleasure. To this type of person the Church means very little, and to the church this type of person means very little.
Church history has quite a lesson to teach us in this regard. Church historians have reported many times that there is a connection between the lack of keeping the commandment the Sabbath and the lack of power in the church. It is the right that such a connection should exist. The Christian’s primary reason for observing the Lord’s Day is the spiritual blessings and privileges that flow from it. They flow from it because the Christian is keeping the commandment of his Lord, a commandment that abides to this day.
The prophets of old spoke out against Israel for her sins and included the “profaning of the Sabbath” as one of the sins which was bringing judgment on the nation. Indeed, such prophets are needed today! Christians are looking more and more to the week-end as an invitation to the secular pursuits, rather than an invitation to the spiritual pursuits. Lip service, by attending one service, is not enough. The Christian Sabbath is a spiritual bulwark to the individual and to the nation. It has been so ordained by God.
Published By: The SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Vol. 4 No. 53 (May 1965)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor