Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day.
Chapter 22, Paragraph 8.
“…but also are taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.”
Hearing about all the activities to be abstained from on the Sabbath, we might be left asking, “So what do we do on that day?” Images come to mind of sitting around, afraid to twiddle our fingers lest it be constituted as work. Yet there is plenty to be done on Sundays! There are three categories of “works” that we are to engage in on the Lord’s Day: works of piety, works of necessity, and works of mercy.
Since the Sabbath is a day set apart for the worship of God, it is a given that we are to engage in worship on that day. Gathering with our local church body to praise our Savior, to partake in the means of grace, and to encourage one another with edifying speech is proper activity for Sundays. Not only do we attend services, but it is also a time for private devotions as well. Have trouble fitting in private worship during the week? The Lord’s Day is a perfect opportunity to have that quiet time to focus on Him.
Works of necessity are also lawful on the Sabbath. While observing the Lord’s Day does involve a measure of self-denial, it is not meant to be done so ascetically: “…God created the Sabbath to be a blessed day for all men, i.e., a day of refreshment and blessing” (Robert Martin, The Christian Sabbath.) Rather than commanding observance of a day that is austere and harsh, our Lord allows works that are indispensable to our daily living. We do not have to starve ourselves that day, or walk uphill in the snow (both ways!) to service. Doing what is needful is allowed.
Mercy is also a work that is assuredly allowed on the Sabbath. “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Hosea 6:6). To offer prayers and praise unto God, but to disobey His command to love our neighbor is to not honor the Lord of the Sabbath. As those who have been shown mercy by Christ, it is fitting that we perform acts of mercy. Sunday is not an exception in this case. Caring for the sick and poor, healing when we have the ability to do so, sharing the Gospel with those who are perishing – all are acts that are acceptable on that day.
If we strive to keep the Sabbath as a way to honor God, we will find there is much to be done. Rather than being a day of deprivation, it will be a restful realignment with His will. May we pray that through the Spirit we will be enabled to keep the Sabbath holy.
Questions to Consider
- Is there anything you don’t do on Sundays that you could start doing?