THE COVENANTAL SABBATH (The Weekly Sabbath Scripturally and Historically Considered), By Dr. Francis Nigel Lee; The Lord’s Day Observance Society, London, United Kingdom (343 pages, 2.00 pounds) [Reviewed by Prof. H. C. Hoeksema]
On the dust jacket of .this book there is an interesting note about the author. However, I prefer to quote the author’s own testimony as found in the Introduction of this book:
This thesis reflects part of the story of my life.
Born a Roman Catholic, for the first eight years of my life I was compelled to go to Church every Sunday, never understanding why. Yet between attending the morning mass and the evening benediction, extremely unfortunately, I then spent the greater part bf Sunday in finding my own pleasure on God’s holy Sabbath. cf.
At the age of eight, I was converted to atheism. This meant a total breach with all Church attendance, and for the next fifteen years Sunday was my weekly vacation. The ecclesiastical holy day had become my personal holiday.
In the extreme mercies of Almighty God, at the age of twenty-one my soul was turned from my sinful ways to serve not the ecclesiastical tradition of fallible man, but to serve the living Lord according to His infallible Word—to serve Him in every sphere, including the sphere of Sabbath observance.
But here my problems began. The Seventh-day Adventists told me that God would have me keep the Sabbath from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday. The Antinomians told me the weekly Sabbath had been abolished in Christ’s death, and that Sunday is not the Sabbath and not to be kept as such, and that mere Church attendance suffices. The Modernists assured me that the whole issue was unimportant. And so I had to determine for myself: What saith the Scriptures?
My searching of the Scriptures against the claims of numerous Churches finally led me to Calvinism. Here my weary soul found rest: rest in the immutable counsel of that glorious covenantal Being, the Triune God, Who made me, preserved me, saved me, is now sanctifying me and shall presently perfect me. Here I could rest in the great Seventh Day creation Sabbath of God the Father, rest in its principal fulfillment in the death and Lord’s day resurrection of God the Son, rest in the assurance of the glorious advent of God’s Eighth Day, the Day of the Lord—an assurance guaranteed me by Him Who came on Pentecost. Sunday to abide with me forever—God the Holy Spirit.
These then are the necessary presuppositions which govern my approach to the subject of this thesis. I would not leave the reader in any doubt as to my point of departure. I consider academic neutrality to be impossible, and, affirm my childlike faith in the plenary verbal inspiration of the Sacred Scriptures as the very Word of God, their exclusive role as the supreme arbiter in all matters of faith and conduct, and their substantially correct reflection in the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Decrees of Dordt, the Thirty-nine Articles and the Westminster Confession of Faith.
The above language comes as a refreshing breeze on a hot and sultry day, and it promises much good in the pages of this book, a promise which is faithfully kept. The book is a slight abridgement of the author’s doctoral thesis, submitted to the University of Stellenbosch, Republic of South Africa. In the nature of the case, this is not an easy book for popular reading; it is a technical, theological, exegetical study, and for that reason chiefly a book in which ministers and theologians would be interested. But in a day when in some Reformed circles the Sabbath has become an issue, this is a good book. It is Reformed. It is Scripturally founded. It is a sound study of the Sabbath. I am afraid that the Sabbath is under discussion in some Reformed circles today simply out of a desire to justify its desecration. This book, however, will furnish a sound and Scriptural antidote to the spirit of Sabbath-desecration. It answers two questions, and answers them both affirmatively: “Is the Sabbath ofperpetual obligation?” and “Was the historical change of the Sabbath-day from Saturday to Sunday scripturalor not?” With the main thrust of this book I am in thorough and warm agreement. On some of the details I find myself in disagreement. And I was disturbed by the author’s surprising failure to insist that the days of creation-week were ordinary 24-hour days. However, the book as a whole is to be recommended. It is too bad, in my opinion, that the publishing of this work could not be more generously and attractively executed. The print is small, and the pages are crowded. The book is deserving of better treatment. Ministers and theological students will do well to add this work to their libraries. Be prepared, however, to put on your thinking-cap! [For those who might wish to order the book, here is the address: The Lord’s Day Observance Society, 55 Fleet Street, London, E.C. 4, United Kingdom.]
FEED MY SHEEP (A Manual for Sunday School Teachers, Superintendents, and Leaders), Compiled and Edited by John H. Schaal; Baker Book House, 1972; 162 pp., $1.95 (paper). Reviewed by Prof. H. Hanko.
This book is intended to be of assistance in making the Sunday School a more effective educational force in the Church. I am not very happy with the book for various reasons. One important omission in the book is a discussion of the history of the Sunday School movement, its proper place in the life of the Church—especially in relationship to Catechetical instruction and the specific purpose which it ought to serve. The unexpressed assumption of the book seems to be that all the instruction in the Church must be in the Sunday School, and thus there is an implied denial of the official task of the Church in Catechetical instruction. Another facet of the book which warrants far more study than is given, is the Sunday School as an arm of evangelism A great deal is made of this in the book and several chapters refer to it. But the fact of the matter is that, while certainly the Sunday School is not even a part of the official ministry of the Church, making the Sunday School an evangelistic force in the Church is a denial of the doctrine of the covenant. The idea is, of course, to get children from the community into the Sunday School where, hopefully, they will be saved; and perhaps this will also make it possible to get into the homes of these children. Yet the whole truth of the covenant emphasizes that God saves families; i.e., God saves parents and their children. There is little or no recognition of this important truth. Further, there is too much emphasis placed in the book on “gadgets” and too little on sound instruction.
Nevertheless, there is some profit in reading the book for those who teach in Sunday Schools. There are some good chapters on the nature of a child, effective ways of teaching, various means of making Sunday School more interesting, etc. If our teachers will read the book with spiritual discernment, it will, I am sure, be of some assistance to them in their task.
FAREWELL TO ANGLICANISM, by H. M. Carson; Henry E. Walter Ltd., 26 Grafton Road, Worthing; 1969; 144 pp., 7/6 (paper). Reviewed by Prof. H. Hanko . The author of this very interesting book was ordained in the Anglican Church. He served in the church for a number of years and .was Vicar at St. Paul’s Cambridge. But he had increasing doubts about his place in that Church and finally, in 1965, left to join the nonconformist movement in England. This book, written in 1969, is a description of his spiritual pilgrimage as he struggled with the problems of conscience which finally led him to resign his vicarage and become a minister in a Baptist Church. The book deals primarily with his reasons for leaving.
There were several such reasons. He was convinced of the principal wrong of Establishmentarianism, especially the control of the Church by Parliament. He became increasingly dissatisfied with the prescribed and repetitious rituals of the Prayer Book. He had objections to the whole idea of the episcopate. He was disillusioned with the worldliness and liberalism of the clergy and with the spiritual weakness of the people who only came to Church to have their marriage confirmed and their children baptized, and who were carried into Church to be buried under Anglican rites.
In the vows he had taken at the time of his induction he had pledged to be faithful to the Anglican-system; and this increasingly nagged at his soul and conscience.
But one of his chief reasons for leaving was his increasing conviction that infant baptism was contrary to the requirements of Scripture. This part of the book is most interesting because the author examines closely all the arguments which have been raised over the years in support of infant baptism and finds them wanting. Nevertheless, one becomes increasingly convinced while reading this material that there are other reasons why the author abandoned the doctrine of infant baptism. One such reason is his vehement protest against baptismal regeneration. Another reason is an altogether defective view of the covenant. When he talks about the grounds for infant baptism as being covenantal grounds, it is quite obvious that he does not understand the doctrine of Scripture at this point. One wonders what would have happened had he thoroughly understood this central truth of Scripture.
At any rate, the book is well worth reading. There are various reasons why it is important. One such reason is that it gives insights into the situation in the modern Anglican Church. Another reason is that it is a clear apology for secession. It has thus considerable importance for all those who are in similar situations, whether they are members of an Anglican Church or some other denomination.
The style is clear, lucid, and lively. The book is heartily recommended.