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The Sabbath was made for man. 

Yet we must remember that it was made for regenerated and sanctified man.

That is true of all God’s works. All things exist for the sake of His people. They are the salt of the earth. Because of their presence upon this earth there is a pleasing savor in it to the Holy God Who upholds it. Were it not for the presence of His Church, which is pleasing in His sight for Christ’s sake, all reason for Him to continue to uphold it would be gone. Were it not for the presence of His Church in this present world He would bring it to its fiery end in terrible and swift judgment. 

For the sake of His Church He brings up the sun in the East each morning and guides it to set in the West at the prescribed moment’ and place each night. For the sake of His Church seed time and harvest come in their due order. Winter and summer, spring and fall appear in the proper relationship to each other. As these seasons change; as month after month rolls by; as the weeks come and go God also brings one day in seven that He has made for His Church. The six days of labor He prepares and sends for His Church, but He also prepares and sends one special day each week for the sake of His Church. 

Others will live while these Sabbaths come and go. Others will make misuse of them, but it is a day made for the people of God. As the ungodly experience the same warmth of the sun, the same refreshing rain, breathe the same air, walk and live upon the same earth, they will also pass through the same Sabbath days, that the children of God do; yet all these things are made for the people of God. The Sabbath was made for regenerated and sanctified man. 

Therefore the Sabbath is a gift of God’s grace. 

Whatever God gives to His Church, whatever He prepares for His Church, it is given and prepared in grace. “For unto you,” Paul writes to the Church at Philippi as being true of all the Church, “it is graced (such is the original) in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake,”Philippians 1:29. Even that suffering is prepared and sent in the grace of God. Why, then, should we hesitate to say that the Sabbath, which He prepares and sends that we may enjoy the work of salvation in a way and to a degree impossible on the other six days of the week, is prepared and sent in His grace as a gift of that grace to His people? 

How little we usually appreciate that fact, the fact that it is a gift of God to us! So much of our activity on that day manifests that we do not appreciate the Sabbath as a special manifestation of His grace to His Church! For, we use it so little for the purpose of being busy with the works of His grace. Instead of using it as a special day, we treat it as some glorified extension of the other six, a sort of period added to the six to give us more leisure time and more time for seeking the things here below. Often it is even presented as some necessary arrangement for man’s physical wellbeing, a day that man needs physically as a rest day so that his daily labor, his seeking of the things of this life, his calling to provide for earthly food, shelter and a little nest-egg for a “rainy day” may be carried on the better. The Sabbath becomes necessary for the six week days that follow. The Sabbath was made for man to enable him to be busy on the six (no the labor unions have improved (?) upon God’s original idea, which He decreed almost six thousand years ago and now it is five days of no more than eight hours each) days of the week for material things. The six days are far more important than the seventh! So, much of our behavior and reasoning declares. But Jesus said: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and its righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you,” Matthew 6:33. The six days of the week, therefore, must serve the Sabbath and not the Sabbath serve the six days. The material may not be put first in its significance. Our Fathers in the Heidelberg Catechism also grasped the truth of this teaching of Christ and put it down in words thus: “That the ministry of the gospel and the schools be maintained; and that I . . . contribute to the relief of the poor as becomes a Christian.” The work of the six days must serve the Sabbath. The ministry of the Gospel and the schools must be maintained. The poor must be cared for by those to whom God has given more abundantly. The six days in this financial support serve the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was not made for man that he might be prepared for financial gain and the accumulation of the material things during the six days of the week.

Considering it a day made by God in His grace for His Church to be able to contemplate His grace, to worship and praise Him for that grace, to seek spiritual strength, knowledge and comfort in the truth of that grace our conduct will be different upon that day. Besides frequenting the house of God—and frequenting means attending both services unless before God’s face we can be convinced that HE prevents us—we will be busy with spiritual exercises on that day, exercises that stand in direct and close connection with the things presented in the Heidelberg Catechism, which we quoted last time, in its answer as to what God requires of us in the fourth commandment. 

We will quote, once again that complete answer: “First, that the ministry of the gospel and the schools be maintained; and that I especially on the Sabbath that is, on the day of rest, diligently frequent the church of God, to hear His word, to use the sacraments, publicly to call upon the Lord, and contribute to the relief of the poor as becomes a Christian. Secondly, that all the days of my life I cease from my evil works, and yield myself to the Lord, to work by His Holy Spirit in me: and thus begin in this life the eternal Sabbath.” 

There is first of all, then, the preparation for the divine services of worship. In our circles, where it is a practice and rule that we treat all the doctrines of Scripture according to the system of them arranged in the Heidelberg Catechism, we know in advance what will be treated in Sunday morning’s sermon. We have, therefore, a splendid opportunity to acquaint ourselves with the material and truths to be treated. A reading of the Lord’s Day before we leave for church will serve very nicely as an “introduction” to the sermon, as nicely as the minister’s introduction in his sermon as he brings to your attention the relationship between the truth to be treated that morning and the one considered last Sunday. It will help you to understand him when he introduces the doctrine at the outset of his sermon. It will put you in the right frame of mind for spiritual things. And in conjunction with that Lord’s Day are the Scriptural references upon which that doctrinal truth is based. These also ought to be read. 

Our flesh, of course, would rather sleep long on Sunday so that the very last minute we gulp down a breakfast—often so that our Bible reading at the table has to be dispensed with—hurry to the car while still straightening our tie, race down the highway or streets, squeal our tires to a fast stop and run a weekly sprint with the minister to see if we can get in our seat before he stands up for the beginning of the service! It need hardly be stated that after such a victory and triumph over time and space, one is not in the mood for anything else than either more sleep to relieve the body of that terrific nervous strain that had been put upon it, or else to gloat over such a phenomenal achievement. At any rate, in serious vein, one is not prepared for hearing the Word of God and has already made much misuse of the day. It has been treated as a holiday rather than as a holy day! 

The bulletin will, usually, also indicate what the text is for the afternoon or evening service. Here, surely, the opportunity for getting acquainted with the text and the context is undeniably there! At the dinner table, at the very least, the chapter should be read and the text pointed out and reread after the reading of the chapter that attention may especially be focused on it. 

These things take time, to be sure. They take time away from us which we would rather use for other things Such as sleep, leisure and a host of material things for which we would not take time during the week for a host of carnal reasons. That does not alter the fact that it belongs to the Sabbath in His fear. After all it is not a question as to whether you can satisfy the ideas and standards of a few men; it is not a question as to whether you can find some sect, society or denomination to sanction your Sabbath activity. It is a holy God who still says in His law: “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy . . . . . the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.” It is in His fear that we must decide what our, behavior shall be on the Sabbath. Let us be sure when we raise the argument (?) that all these things take time, that it is not exactly for these things that God has given us that time. The Sabbath was made for man. And the Sabbath is time, a whole day of it. Let us always squarely face the issue: for what reason has God given us this time? Let us be honest enough to admit that in our flesh is that same spirit which is in the world and receives such an awful indictment of Paul that men are lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. And let us fight against that evil in our flesh and reveal by our Sabbaths that we ire lovers of God rather than lovers of pleasure. 

We do not want in any way to be legalists. We shudder even at the thought of being conditionalists to make also our Sabbath worship a condition unto salvation. Obligation and condition are not the same. We have an obligation to love and serve God; but so does the devil! And that obligation is no more a condition unto salvation for us than it is to the devil. The obligation simply underscores the fact that salvation will have to be by promise and not by condition or else we will never obtain it. A serious examination of our Sabbath will clearly show that most of our works on that day say that we do not care to enter into the rest that remaineth for the people of God. We are much too busy with material worldy pleasures and even entertainments! It is so very difficult for us to spend more than an hour or two in the things spiritual and the rest we just have to have for our flesh! If the obligation to serve God on that day is a condition to salvation and the entering into the eternal rest, we only begin to fulfill the condition and then cease; and lose our salvation right then and there! No, we will have to enter into that rest that remaineth by promise, as Israel entered Canaan by promise and not by fulfilling conditions in the wilderness. The whole history there in the wilderness also as explained by Paul in his epistle is by promise; and then by unconditional promise. 

But what we have been stressing is that the regenerated, sanctified child of God who in principle has already entered into that rest will hallow the Sabbath out of gratitude to God. He will look forward to the day and the worship in God’s house on that day. We will be eager to “hear the word of God” and “diligently to frequent the house of God.” That will move him to take the time to prepare himself for the enjoyment of the truth to be considered that particular Sunday. The fear of the Lord is not a fear that makes one rush to try to fulfill conditions that have already been fulfilled by Christ. The fear of the Lord takes hold by faith of His finished work and in reverence and awe before Him; in gratitude and humble appreciation for that salvation gathers to worship Him; in the delight of salvation meets to be instructed further in the mysteries of salvation to obtain a greater joy and richer experience of them. 

Next time, D.V., we like to write a few more things about our activity on that day. 

J.A.H.