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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism
of the Westminster Assembly
Explained and Proved
from Scripture

Thomas Vincent

LVIII. Ques. What is required in the fourth commandment?
The fourth commandment requireth the keeping holy to God such set times as he hath appointed in his Word, expressly one whole day in seven, to be a holy Sabbath to himself.

Q. 1. What is the difference between the worship required in this fourth commandment, and the worship required in the first, second, and third?
A. The first commandment hath a respect unto the object of worship; the second commandment hath a respect unto the means of worship; the third commandment hath a respect unto the manner of worship; but this fourth commandment hath a respect unto the time of worship.

Q. 2. What time for worship doth the fourth commandment require?
A. The fourth commandment doth require such set times for worship to be kept holy unto God as he hath appointed in his Word.

Q. 3. May not the Popish holidays be observed?
A. The Popish holidays ought not to be observed, because they are not appointed in the Word: and, by the same reason, no other holidays may be kept, whatsoever pretence there be of devotion towards God, when there is no precept or example for such practice in the Holy Scripture.

Q. 4. What set time hath God appointed in his Word to be kept holy to himself?
A. God hath appointed in his Word one whole day in seven to be kept a holy Sabbath to himself. "Keep the Sabbath-day to sanctify it, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee."— Deut. 5:12.

Q. 5. What are we to understand by one whole day in seven, which is to be kept holy to the Lord?
A. By one whole day in seven we are not to understand only the whole artificial day, from sun rising to sun setting, or from day-break in the morning until the evening or night, but the whole natural day, consisting of twenty-four hours.

Q. 6. When doth this holy day or Sabbath begin, in the evening before, or that morning from midnight?
A. In the evening before, by virtue of that word, "Remember to keep holy the seventh day," we ought to begin to prepare for the Sabbath; but the Sabbath itself doth not begin until the evening is spent, and midnight thereof over, and the morning after twelve of the clock beginneth.

Q. 7. Doth not the Scriptures require us to begin the Sabbath in the evening, when it is said, "The evening and the morning were the first day" (Gen. 1:5); and, "From even unto even shall ye celebrate your Sabbath?"— Lev. 33:32.
A. 1. It doth not follow that the evening of the first day was before the morning, though it be first spoken of; no more than that Shem and Ham were elder than Japheth, because they are reckoned up in order before him. "The sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth (Gen. 10:1); and yet Japheth is called the elder brother. — Verse 21. But Moses, reckoning up the works of God on the first day, retires back from the evening to the morning, and saith, they both make up the first day. Surely in the account of all nations, and in Scripture account too, the morning is before the evening. "The same day at evening, being the first day of the week, came Jesus," &c. (John 20:10), where the evening following this day, and on the evening before the day, is called the evening of the same day. 2. That place in Leviticus, concerning the celebration of the Sabbath from evening to evening, hath a reference only unto a ceremonial Sabbath, or day of atonement, on the tenth day of the seventh month, wherein the Israelites were to afflict their souls; but it hath not a reference unto the weekly Sabbath.

Q. 8. How do you prove by the Scripture that the weekly Sabbath doth begin in the morning?
A. That the weekly Sabbath is to begin in the morning, is evident— 1. by Exod. 16:23: "This is that which the Lord hath said, to-morrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord." If the Sabbath had begun in the evening, Moses would have said, This evening doth begin the rest of the Sabbath; but he saith, To-morrow is the rest of the Sabbath. 2. Most evidently it doth appear that the Sabbath doth begin in the morning, and not in the evening, by Matt. 28:1: "In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn towards the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, to see the sepulchre." If the end of the Jewish Sabbath were not in the evening, when it began to grow dark towards the night, but when it began to dawn towards the first day of the week, which must needs be towards the morning, and in no rational sense can be interpreted of the evening, then the Sabbath did also begin in the morning, and not in the evening, for the beginning and ending must needs be about the same time. But the former is evident from this place, concerning the Jewish Sabbath's ending; and therefore, consequently concerning its beginning. 3. Further, it is also said in this place, that the first day, which is the Christian Sabbath, did begin towards the dawning, as it grew on towards light, and not as it grew on towards darkness; therefore the Christian Sabbath doth begin in the morning. 4. Moreover, the resurrection of Christ, in commemoration of which the Christian Sabbath is observed, was not in the evening, but early in the morning ("Now when Jesus was risen early, the first day of the week "— Mark 16:9); therefore the Sabbath is to begin in the morning. 5. If the Sabbath did begin in the evening before, it would end in the evening after; and it would be lawful for men to work in their callings, or to go to their recreations, on the evening of the Sabbath, which surely would be very unsuitable after the holy employments of that day.

Q. 9. Is this fourth commandment, concerning the keeping of the Sabbath, ceremonial or moral?
A. Though the commandment which the Lord laid upon the Israelites, for the observation of other Sabbaths, was ceremonial, and abrogated, and not to be observed by Christians, yet this fourth commandment, concerning the weekly Sabbath, was moral, and binding upon all nations, and that throughout all generations.

Q. 10. How doth it appear that the fourth commandment was moral, and not ceremonial?
A. The morality of the fourth commandment doth appear— 1. From the time of the Sabbath's first institution, which was in paradise, in the state of innocency, before there was any ceremony. 2. From all the arguments made use of to back it, which are perpetual, and not ceremonial. 3. Because it is placed in the midst of the decalogue, or ten commandments, and all the other nine are moral, and therefore this too; and, with the rest, it was written by God on tables of stone-which showeth the perpetuity of it. 4. Because the Gentiles were required to observe this, the stranger as well as others; but they were not under the ceremonial law. 5. From the testimony of Christ: "Pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath-day."— Matt. 24:20. This flight was to be at the destruction of Jerusalem, in Vespasian's time, when all ceremonies were abolished; and yet then our Saviour speaks of the Sabbath in force, which would aggravate their grief, if they should be forced to break it.

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