Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)
Let us be thankful for the institution of the Christian Sabbath.
It is a thing wherein God hath shown His mercy to us and His care for our souls. He shows that He by His infinite wisdom is contriving for our good. Christ teaches us that the Sabbath was made for man: “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath” (Mar. 2:27). It was made for the profit and for the comfort of our souls.
The Lord’s Day is a day of rest: God hath appointed that every seventh day we should rest from our worldly labors. Instead of that, He might have appointed the hardest labors for us to go through, some severe hardships for us to endure. It is a day of outward, but especially of spiritual, rest. It is a day appointed of God that His people thereon may find rest unto their souls; that the souls of believers may rest and be refreshed in their Savior. It is a day of rejoicing: God made it to be a joyful day to the Church…They that receive and improve the Sabbath aright, call it a delight and honorable (Isa. 58:13-14). It is a pleasant and joyful day to them; it is an image of the future heavenly rest of the Church: “There remaineth therefore a rest” (or Isabbatism, as it is in the original) “to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest” (Heb. 4:9-11).
The Christian Sabbath is one of the most precious enjoyments of the visible Church. Christ showed His love to His Church in instituting it; and it; [is appropriate for] the Christian Church to be thankful to her Lord for it. The very name of this day-the Lord’s Day or Jesus’ day-should endear it to Christians, as it intimates the special relation it has to Christ and the design of it, which is the commemoration of our dear Savior and His love to His Church in redeeming it.
Be exhorted to keep this day holy. God hath given such evidences that this is His mind, that He will surely require it of you, if you do not strictly and conscientiously observe it. And if you do thus observe it, you may have this comfort in the reflection upon your conduct: (1) that you have not been superstitions in it, but have done as God hath revealed it to be His mind and will in His Word that you should do; and (2) that in so doing you are in the way of God’s acceptance and reward.
Here let me lay before you the following motives to excite you to this duty:
- By strict observation of the Lord’s Day, the name of God is honored, and that in such a way as is very acceptable to Him. “If thou…call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him” (Isa. 58:13). God is honored by it, as it is a visible manifestation of respect to God’s holy Law and a reverencing of that which has a peculiar relation to God Himself…If a person, with evident strictness and care, observe the Sabbath, it is a visible manifestation of a conscientious regard to God’s declaration of His mind, and [this is] a visible honor done to His authority.
By a strict observance of the Sabbath, the face of religion is kept up in the world. If it were not for the Sabbath, there would be but little public and visible appearance of serving, worshipping, and reverencing the supreme and invisible Being. The Sabbath seems to have been appointed very much for this end, to up hold the visibility of [Christianity] in public…By how much greater the strictness is with which the Sabbath is observed and with how much more solemnity the duties of it are observed among a people, by so much the greater is the manifestation among them of respect to the Divine Being.
This should be a powerful motive with us to the observation of the Sabbath. It should be our study above all things to honor and glorify God. It should be the great thing with all that bear the name of Christian to honor their great God and King…
- That which is the business of the Lord’s Day is the greatest business of our lives, that of religion. To serve and worship God is that for which we were made and for which we had our being given us. Other business, which is of a secular nature and on which we are wont to attend on week days, is but subordinate and ought to be subservient to the higher purposes and ends of religion. Therefore, surely we should not think much of devoting one-seventh part of our time to be wholly spent in the business and to be set apart to exercise ourselves in the immediate duties of religion.
- Let it be considered that all our time is God’s. Therefore, when He challenges of us one day in seven, He challenges His own. He doth not exceed His right: He would not have exceeded it if He had challenged a far greater proportion of our time to be spent in His immediate service. But He hath mercifully considered our state and our necessities here; and, as He hath consulted the good of our souls in appointing a seventh day for the immediate duties of religion, so He hath considered our outward necessities and hath allowed us six days for attendance on our outward affairs. What unworthy treatment therefore will it be of God, if we refuse to allow Him even the seventh day!
- As the Lord’s Day is a day that is especially set apart for religious exercises, so it is a day wherein God especially confers His grace and blessing. As God hath commanded us to set it apart to have converse with Him, so hath He set it apart for Himself to have converse with us. As God hath commanded us to observe the Sabbath, so God observes the Sabbath too….His eyes are open upon it. He stands ready then especially to hear prayers, to accept of religious services, to meet His people, to manifest Himself to them, to give His Holy Spirit and blessing to those who diligently and conscientiously sanctify it.
That we should sanctify the Lord’s Day, as we have observed, is according to God’s institution. God in a sense observes His own institutions, i.e., [He] is wont to cause them to be attended with a blessing. The institutions of God are His appointed means of grace; and with His institutions, He hath promised His blessing: “In all places where I record my name, I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee” (Exo. 20:24). For the same reason, we may conclude that God will meet His people and bless them, waiting upon Him not only in appointed places, but at appointed times and in all appointed ways….God hath made it our duty, by His institution, to set apart this day for a special seeking of His grace and blessing. [Therefore,] we may argue that He will be especially ready to confer His grace on those who thus seek it. If it is the day on which God requires us especially to seek Him, we may argue that it is a day on which especially He will be found. That God is ready on this day especially to bestow His blessing on them that keep it aright is implied in that expression of God’s blessing the Sabbath day (Gen. 2:3)….So here is great encouragement for us to keep holy the Sabbath, as we would seek God’s grace and our spiritual good. The Sabbath day is an accepted time, a day of salvation, a time wherein God especially loves to be sought and loves to be found. The Lord Jesus Christ takes delight in His own day: He delights to honor it. He delights to meet with and manifest Himself to His disciples on it, as He showed before His ascension by appearing to them from time to time on this day. He delights to give His Holy Spirit on this day, as He intimated by choosing it as the day on which to pour out the Spirit in so remarkable a manner on the primitive church (Acts 2:1-4), and on which to give His Spirit to the apostle John (Rev. 1:10).
Of old, God blessed the seventh day or appointed it to be a day whereon especially He would bestow blessings on His people, as an expression of His own joyful remembrance of that day and of the rest and refreshment that He had in it: “Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath…for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed” (Ex. 31:16-17).
But how much more has Christ to bless the day of His resurrection, to delight to honor it, and to confer His grace and blessed gifts on His people on this day. It was a day whereon Christ rested and was refreshed in a literal sense. It was a day of deliverance from the chains of death, the day of His finishing that great and difficult work of redemption, which had been upon His heart from all eternity; the day of His [vindication] by the Father; the day of the beginning of His exaltation, and the fulfillment of the promises of the Father; the day when He had eternal life, which He had purchased, put into His hands. On this day, Christ doth indeed delight to distribute gifts, blessings, joy, and happiness, and will delight to do the same to the end of the world.
O therefore, how well is it worth our while to improve this day, to call upon God and seek Jesus Christ! Let awakened sinners be stirred up by these things to improve the Lord’s Day, as they would lay themselves most in the way of the Spirit of God. Improve this day to call upon God, for then He is near. Improve it for reading the Holy Scriptures and diligently attending His Word preached; for then is the likeliest time to have the Sprit accompanying it. Let the saints who are desirous of growing in grace and enjoying communion with Christ improve the Lord’s Day in order to it.
From: “The Perpetuity and Change of the Sabbath” in the Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 2, in the public domain