01 October, 2007

The Sanctity of the Lord's Day: John Murray

This is from an article by John Murray published in 1941. The whole article is worth reading.

The Sanctity of the Day

First, and most elementally and centrally, it is that one day in seven is distinguished from the other six. That day is to be sanctified, and at the heart of the word “sanctify is the idea of distinction and separation. This one day is set off, it is placed in a distinct category. This import of the word cannot be evaded and it is to be very carefully marked, for on it depends the whole notion of what we may and must call the “sanctity” of the Sabbath.

It is not, however, the bare notion of distinction or separation that is expressed in the commandment. The command to sanctify occurs in a context. “Six days shall thou labour, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God.” And it is not only in the context of the remainder of the commandment, but also in the context of the other commandments. “Thou shall have no other gods before me.” “I the Lord thy God am a jealous God.” “Thou shall not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” It is separation, therefore, to God, to the specific purpose of contemplation upon Him and specific occupation with His work in contrast with their own work. In this kind of distinction or sanctity the meaning of the fourth commandment resides. Abolish it, and the essence of the commandment is destroyed.

There is no purpose in contending for the moral obligation of the commandment unless this sanctity is recognized and preserved, for it is the core around which all else is formed and without which all else disintegrates. Just as there is an ineradicable distinction between the six days of creation and the day of rest by which they were followed, so it is here. And it is precisely with this reminder that the commandment itself ends, “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.”
Israel truly was a holy people; they were separated unto God Jehovah.

It might, then, be supposed that the sanctification of one day in seven was inconsistent with the totality of their devotion to God. Yet it is an inescapable fact that this kingdom of priests and holy nation was in the most direct way commanded to separate one day from the other six for a specific purpose. And unless our conception of devotion to God, and of time as it is related to Him, can embrace and appreciate this notion, together with the divine wisdom embodied in it, we can have no understanding of the fourth commandment.


Mark said...

Good stuff, Sabbath observance is a terribly important issue. (Not that I claim to keep it perfectly.) The rest of the essay was pretty good, too.

I look forward to seeing the 30+ comments about this one. :)

Andrew Duggan said...

Considering that so many Christians no longer believe that God created the Heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them in six days, it it any any wonder they can find no reason to set the Lord's Day apart? As the WLC and WSC teach that is the reason annexed to the fourth commandment, and if you disbelieve the reason for something, that something doesn't stand much of a chance does it.

The poor framework hypothesis (or day-agers) guys can't seem to be able to extemporaneously defend their position when faced with Ex 20:11. Their position requires that when giving reason why one ordinary 24 hour day should be kept holy, God using the same word "yom" meant something completely different.

It seems to me that framework guys would like the reason annexed to the fourth commandment to read like this:

For in three creational efforts explained in two sets of three general and three more specific creative activities God created the heaven earth, the sea and all that in them is.

The problem is that's not really much a reason now is it? Of course it could be argued that God doesn't need to give a reason (He doesn't in many of the commandments) but one would think that since He bothered to give a reason that it would be true even as He is truth as Jesus said, I am the way the truth and the life...