4th edition




In this chapter

(685-687)... Light rejected results in retrogression
(687-688)...Episcopalians and Puritans
(688-689)...Festivals, or Sunday alone
(689-693)...The Puritan Sabbath
(693-697)...Bownd’s sophistry
(697-698)...Secret of its Success
(698-699)...The Protestant Thomas Aquinas, and intolerance.
(699-702)...Papal Sunday canons revived in the kirk
(702-704)...“Book of Sports”
(704-705)...The Grievances at Dort
(705-707)...Articles of Peace Gender Strife
(707-709)...The Puritan Theocracy in New England
(709-711)...Erring Reformers and Wise Puritan
(711-713)...Westminster Confession
(713-715)...Sunday Controversy Renewed
(715-716)...The Barabbas of the Fourth Commandment


The light of the Reformation necessarily dissipated into thin air many of the most substantial arguments by which the Sunday festival had been built up during the Dark Ages. Before the rays of the divine Word, tradition, church Fathers, scholasticism, the power of the church, and the supremacy of the Pope had to yield; the enchantments of rolls from heaven, pretended apparitions and miracles were spoiled when compared to the truths of scripture. Sunday stood naked and bare, stripped of all its false ornaments-- a mere human ordinance. Unsupported, it floated in the air.

Faithful witnesses everywhere arose to erect the down-trodden Sabbath of the Most High God. But human ordinances still had such a hold upon the great mass of those who professed Christianity that these loyal believers were reproached and persecuted as pernicious heretics. More light had been offered, -- a church composed of believers; a faith strengthened through grace to keep God’s commandments; a Sabbath divine, and yet for man; a holy love so firm in truth that it taught freedom of conscience to all; a Christianity leaning so heavily upon divine strength that it kept aloof from the arm of flesh. But as this increased light was rejected, the inevitable followed, -- decline instead of progress, a stagnant reformation paralysed by a papal counter-reformation.

In describing the conditions after the reformation, a noted writer confirms this sad fact:

“The Lutherans of Germany had gone asleep on the spoils of a great man, and for this they were visited by terrible scourge of the Thirty Years’ War.” “In France the Calvinists and the Catholics ceased their religious strife, and united in seeking earthly treasures. In England and Scotland the tyranny of kings and bishops forced the nation to continue the Reformation; but Calvinism proved insufficient of working a thorough change.,” “while the Reformation had awakened the nations from their grovelling earthly endeavours to a high appreciation of spiritual things, the tide now again recedes, and men’s minds again turn back into the ruts they had been accustomed to before the time of the Reformation,.” 1

Mosheim tells us what influence scholasticism had attained in Protestant theological schools by the seventeenth century:--

“during the greatest part of the century no other rule of philosophizing flourished in the schools except the Aristotelicao-Scholastic; and for a long time those who thought Aristotle should either be given up or amended, were considered as threatening as much danger to the church as if they had undertaken to falsify some portion of the Bible.” “Most of the doctors in the universities were more occupied in defending with subtlety the dogmas and tenets of the church than in expounding that Volume whence all solid knowledge of them must be derived. 2

But did Protestantism, to substantiate Sunday, turn back to the tactics of the Middle Ages, and to scholasticism? Dr. Zahn thus replies:--

“But already when the century of the Reformation ended, ’the sophistry of the false prophets,’ which the Protestant churches had refused with an unanimity rarely seen and with a full consciousness of the results of their decision, entered again into the same churches. Here, also, extremes met. It was in the Reformed Church, that church which seemed to exhibit the greatest contrast to the Christianity of the Middle Ages, that the doctrine of Sunday as it had existed during these dark days was first revived.” 3

The cause of this backward movement was an incomplete reformation. Calvin’s criticism on the Reformation in England under Henry VIII is of a much broader application:--

“The king is only half wise. . .He has a mutilated and torn gospel, anda church stuffed full as yet with many toys and trifles,” 4


The Reformed Church on the Continent and in Scotland introduced the rule of the elders, or Presbyterian church government; England retained the Episcopal. The Presbyterians dropped the Catholic vesture, their ceremonies and holidays; the Episcopalians retained them. Sincere men in England, seeing the lack of church discipline as well as these differences, began to clamour for a further purifying, whence their name, Puritans. The vesture of the Episcopal clergy, decried by the Puritans as the “badges of Antichrist,” furnished the desired occasion for the beginning of a controversy, into which soon the question of the festivals entered.

True it was that when the Middle Age structure supporting Sunday was swept away there remained to sustain the festival of Sunday, the canons of councils, the edicts of kings and emperors, the decrees of the holy doctors of the church, and, greatest of all, the imperious mandates of the Roman pontiff. Yet these could be adduced also in behalf of the innumerable festivals ordained by the same great apostate church. Such authority would answer for the Episcopalian, who devoutly accepts of all these festivals, because commanded so to do by the church; but for those who acknowledge the Bible as the only rule of faith, the case was different. In the latter part of the sixteenth century, the Presbyterians and Episcopalians of England were involved in such a controversy as brought this matter to an issue. The Episcopalians required men to observe all the festivals of the church; the Presbyterians observed Sunday, and rejected all the rest. The Episcopalians showed the inconsistency of this discrimination, inasmuch as the same church authority had ordained them all. As the Presbyterians rejected the authority of the church, they would not keep Sunday upon that ground. They had to choose therefore between the giving up of Sunday entirely, and the defence of its observance by the Bible. There was indeed another and a nobler choice that they might have made, viz., to adopt the Sabbath of the Lord, but it was too humiliating for them to unite with those who retained that ancient and sacred institution.


The Puritans demanded that the remainder of the festivals be abolished, “because the continuance of them did nourish wicked superstition in the minds of the people; besides, they are all abused by the papists, the enemies of God, yea, certain of them, as Easter or Pentecost, even by the Jews.”5

This opened up the question of the difference between Sunday and the other festivals. The Reformers consistently placed the church ordinances of Sunday and the other festivals upon an equal footing. So likewise the English law of King Edward VI (A.D. 1547-53), which, as Cox remarks, was undoubtedly drawn up with the full concurrence of the principal Reformers, declares, in its preamble, that the observance of all religious festivals is left to the discretion of the church, and therefore it proceeds to order that all Sundays, with many other days named, should be kept holy. 6

Accordingly, the manner of their observance was also on an equal footing. This same statute of Edward VI expressly allows all persons to work, ride, or follow their calling, whatever it may be, in the case of need. And Archbishop Cranmer’s Visitation Articles even “required the clergy to teach the people that they would grievously offend God if they abstained from working on Sundays in harvest time.”7

An official statement made in 1562 in the Homilies appointed to be read in all the churches, reveals how Sunday was observed: “God was more dishonoured and the devil better served on the Sunday than upon all the days in the week beside.” 8

Mosheim, in referring to it, says that Sunday “sank to the same level” as the other holidays still retained. “It became rather a day of amusement than of devotion. The first Reformers paid no marked attention to this abuse. But as Puritanism gained ground, it brought under general notice the propriety of greater strictness in the observation of Sunday.” 9

According to the liturgy introduced in 1552, all the Episcopalians repeated every Sunday the fourth commandment with the others, saying, “Incline our hearts to keep this law.” This plain contradiction between theory and practise was bound to attract the attention of the Puritans. As persecution drove them to the Bible, they found that the prophets of old spoke of the neglect of the Sabbath as a crying sin of Israel, which brought God’s judgment upon them, Sunday, having been retained by the Reformers, was generally observed. Yet the term “Sunday” was not to be found in the Bible; it savored in every way of heathenism. In order to remove this, instead of changing the day, they changed the title of Sunday, calling it the “Sabbath”.


Dr. Pockington calls 1554 “the year of the ‘Sabbath’s nativity,’” but asserts “that it was a full thirty years before the children [of Knox, etc.] could turn their tongues from Sunday to hit upon Sabbath.” 10

The following extract from a Puritan sermon preached at London, Dec. 0, 1576, affords us the best insight into their manner of treating Sunday:--

“Assuredly we come nothing near the Jews in this point, for on our Sabbaths all manner of games and plays, banqueting and surfeiting, are very rife. . . What you get evilly all the week, is worse spent on the Sabbath day. . .Is this the Lord’s day or no?. . .Ours savors so of Venus’s court and Bacchus’s kitchen that it may rightly be entitled an abominable and filthy city; and without doubt London shall justify her elder sister Hierusalem, if in time she turn no to the Lord.” 11

This gives us some idea of how nearly Sunday observance had reverted to its heathen origin.

After a false premise had once been implanted in the public mind by attaching the term “SABBATH” to Sunday, it was but a natural conclusion to see in every Sunday accident an instance of God’s judgment for Sabbath desecration. An occasion of this sort was quickly found, nor was “the Gregory” of the English instead of the “the Franks,” and of the Reformation instead of the Middle Ages, lacking, he was found in the person of John Field, a Puritan minister of London. The title of the book tells the story: “God’s judgment showed at Paris Garden, 13th Jan., 1583, being the Sabbath day, at bear-baiting, at the meeting of above one thousand persons, whereof divers were slain, the most maimed and hurt; set out with an exhortation for the better observation of the Sabbath, London, 1583.” 12

The same year “The Anatomy of Abuses”, by Philip Stubbs, spoke of “devilish pastimes” and “God’s judgments” on the “the profaners of the Sabbath,” About the same time Richard Greenham (who died in 1591), a noted Puritan minister, maintained, in “A Treatise of the Sabbath,” that the fourth commandment is a moral law, binding on Christians; and replied to “the wicked heretics” of his time, who denied its obligation. To the objection that the changing of the day by the apostles proves it not to be moral, he answered:

“It was never commanded nor appointed what one certain day should be kept among seven, but that there should be observed a seventh day, which, being kept, it is sufficient, and the law remained inviolate. And yet we permit not that nay man at his pleasure should now change this day. For that which the apostles did, they did not as private men, but as men guided by the Spirit of God; they did it for the avoiding of superstition, wherewith the Jews had infected it.” 13

Robert Greenham was not the inventor of the seventh-part-of-time theory; but he may be said rather to have gathered up and combined the scattered arguments of his predecessors, and to have added to these something of his own production. Such was the beginning of the origin of the seventh-part-of-time theory, by which the seventh day is dropped out of the fourth commandment, and one day in seven slipped into its place; a doctrine most opportunely framed at the very period when nothing else could save the venerable day of the sun.

How hot the controversy waxed is seen by the “fact that the Episcopalians were already called wicked heretics,” for adhering to the position of the Reformers. Greenham’s work foreshadowed the position the Puritans would be forced to take, to reject the distinction made by the Reformers between a moral and a ceremonial part of the fourth commandment, declaring it all to be moral; to prove the divinity of Sunday from the Bible and to establish a divine warrant to the term “Sunday Sabbath,” and justify the application of the fourth commandment to its observance.

A Protestant Thomas Aquinas was needed. The existence of Sunday was a settled fact among the Puritans of Greenham’s day, as it was to the Catholics in the Dark Ages; but as the authority of the Roman Church and of tradition, whereupon the papists had built up Sunday, had been rejected by the Reformers as well as by the Puritans, the task assigned to Puritan scholasticism was even greater, and its outcome still more questionable; yet if successfully accomplished, it would save Presbyterianism from a defeat by the “wicked heretics”.

The straits in which the Puritans found themselves, Hengstenberg thus states: --

"The opinion that the Sabbath was transferred to the Sunday was first broached in its perfect form, and with all its consequences, in the controversy which was carried on in England between the Episcopalians and Presbyterians. The Presbyterians, who carried to extremes the principle, that every institution of the church must have its foundation in the Scripture, and would not allow that God had given, in this respect, greater liberty to the church of the New Testament, which his Spirit had brought to maturity, than to that of the Old, charged the Episcopalians with popish leaven, and superstition, and subjection to the ordinances of men, because they retained the Christian feasts. The Episcopalians, on the other hand, as a proof that greater liberty was granted to the New Testament church in such matters as these, appealed to the fact that even the observance of the Sunday was only an arrangement of the church. The Presbyterians were now in a position which compelled them either to give up the observance of Sunday, or to maintain that a divine appointment from God separated it from the other festivals. The first they could not do, for their Christian experience was too deep for them not to know how greatly the weakness of human nature stands in need of regularly returning periods, devoted to the service of God. They therefore decided upon the latter."14


Their new Tomas Aquinas soon appeared and introduced himself on the title-page of the second edition, of his famous book, entitled, `Sabbathum Veteris et Novi Testamenti,' or the True Doctrine of the Sabbath.(the first appeared in A.D. 1595) as Nicolas Bownd. In this book he maintained `that the seventh part of our time ought to be devoted to God - that Christians are bound to rest on the Lord's day as much as the Jews were on the Mosaic Sabbath, the commandment about rest being moral and perpetual;

Sabbathum Veteris et Novi Testamenti: of, the true doctrine of the Sabbath held and practised of the church of God, both before and under the law, and in the time of the gospel: plainly laid forth and soundly proved by testimonies both of Holy Scripture, and also of old and new ecclesiastical writers, Fathers, and Councils, and laws of all sorts, both civil, canon, and common. Declaring first from what God would have us straitly to rest upon the Lord’s day, and then by what means we ought publicly and privately to sanctify the same. Together with the sundry abuses of men in both these kinds and how they ought to be reformed.
Divided into two book by Nicolas Bownd, D.D.’ and now by him the second time perused, and enlarged with an interpretation of sundry points belonging to the Sabbath, and a more ample proof of such things as have been gainsaid or doubted of by some divines of our time, and a more full answer unto certain objections made against the same: with some other things not impertinent to this argument. London, 1606.” 15

We are now prepared to listen to the profound wisdom of this doctor of divinity, spread over four hundred seventy-nine pages. For the sake of convenience, we shall divide the subject matter under six different headings:--

That the fourth commandment is natural, moral, and perpetual is proved by Bownd, as follows:

“That even the Gentiles, who were ignorant of the law of Moses, of themselves erected other days, which they appointed to a holy and religious us, evidently declared that the law of the Sabbath was so deeply graven in the heart of man at the first by God himself that howsoever the fruit of it was by the fall of Adam, and by sin growing in the posterity, greatly mangled and defaced, so that it could not be read, yet it was not so wholly razed out but that some deformed scratches and scars did appear. . .Herein therefore I agree with the schoolman who saith, ‘That the commandment of sanctifying the Sabbath is partly moral: moral, inasmuch as a man doth appoint a certain time in his life to attend upon heavenly things, etc. Tom Aquin, 2 Quaest. 133, art. 4” pages 22,23
“that which is natural, namely that every seventh day should be kept holy unto the Lord, that still remained; that which is positive, namely, that day which was the seventh day from the creation, should be the Sabbath, or day of rest, that is now changed in the church of God.” Page 51

The meaning of the declaration, “The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God,” is this: “There must be one [day] of seven and not [one] of eight.” Page 66

“So he maketh the seventh day to be genus in this commandment, and to be perpetual; and in it, by virtue of the commandment, to comprehend these two species or kinds: the Sabbath of the Jews and of the Gentiles, of the law and of the gospel; so that both of them were comprehended in the commandment, even as genus comprehended both his species.” Page 71


“So that we have not in the gospel a new commandment for the Sabbath, diverse from that, that was in the law; but there is a diverse time appointed; namely, not the seventh day from the creation, but the day of Christ’s resurrection, and the seventh from that: both of them at several times being comprehended in the fourth commandment.” Page 72
“That where all other things in the Jewish church were so changed that they were clean taken away, as the priesthood, the sacrifices, and the sacraments, this day, the Sabbath, was so changed that it still remained,” Page 91
“That there is great reason why we Christians should take ourselves as straitly bound to rest upon the Lord’s day as the Jews were on their Sabbath; for being one of the moral commandments, it bindeth us well as them, all being of equal authority.” Page 247

“It must be a notable and singular rest, a most careful, exact, and precise rest, after another manner than men were accustomed.” Page 124 For particulars: no buying of victuals, flesh or fish, bread or drink, to be allowed (pave 158); no carriers to travel (page 160); no packmen nor drovers (Page 162); scholars not to study the liberal arts, nor lawyers to consult the case and peruse men’s evidences (page 163); sergeants, apparitors, and sumners to be restrained from executing their offices (page 164); justices not to examine causes for preservation of the peace (page 166); no man to travel (page 192); ringing of more bells than one not to be justified (page 202), no solemn feast to be made (page 206), nor wedding dinners (page 209); all lawful pleasures and honest recreations, as shooting, fencing, bowling, which are permitted on other days, to be forborne (page 202); all works of necessity to be allowed, but necessity not to be imagined (pages 213-225); no man to speak or talk of pleasures (page 272), or any other worldly matter (page 275).
Exception: “Concerning the feasts of noblemen and great personages, or their ordinary diet upon this day (which in comparison may be called feasts), because they represent in some measure the majesty of God on earth, . . .much is to be granted unto them.” Page 211


“Among many instances adduced is a wonderful case of a certain nobleman, who, for hunting upon the holy day, was punished by having a child with a head like a dog’s, that in this lamentable spectacle he might see his grievous sin in preferring his dogs and his delight in them before the service of God.” Pages 253, 254

“It behooveth all kings, princes, and rulers that profess the true religion to enact such laws, and to see them diligently executed, whereby the honor of God in hallowing these days might be maintained. . .And indeed this is the chiefest end of all government, that men might not profess what religion they list, and serve God after what manner it pleaseth them best; but that the parts of God’s true worship might be set up everywhere, and all men compelled to stoop unto it, and make profession of it at least wise in the outward discipline of the church; that so thereby we might live more peaceably ourselves, and do more duties unto men.” Pages 465-468

The “sophistry of false prophets” thus entered Calvin’s own church within forty years of his death. That Dr. Bownd had been imbibing their sophistry is proved by his title-page, as well as by his words, “I agree with the schoolman” --Thomas Aquinas. But the special key to the whole theory is in the statement that the seventh day in the commandment was "genus," that is to say, it was a kind of seventh day which comprehended several species of seventh days, at least two. He means to say that the fourth commandment enforces one seventh day from the creation to the resurrection of Christ, and since then enforces a different seventh day, namely, the seventh from Christ's resurrection. Such is the perverse ingenuity by which men can evade the law of God and yet make it appear that they are faithfully observing it.


But there were weighty reasons to insure the success of this theology. Even grave error becomes bewitching if it be associated with some truth sadly needed at the time. Bishop Hall, eulogizing the small Sabbath treatise of Greenham (six editions of which appeared from A.D. 1599-1612), expresses both the truth and the error in Bownd’s book:--

“The Sun of Righteousness, rising upon that day (called the Lord’s day), drew the strength of that moral precept unto it;”

To which Ley, in his work “Sunday a Sabbath” (A.D. 1641), adds: “For all the virtue and vigor of it is vanished from the Jews’ Sabbath, so that it remains a mere working-day; and if so, the title of rest, surely did not stay behind it, but with the strength was transferred to the day for which it was changed.” 16

As “the strength of God’s moral precept for the weekly rest day” was a sad need of that time, therefore any theory supplying that strength to the man-made Sunday “Sabbath” would be popular with religious people.

Even an Episcopalian defender of holidays, “judicious” Hooker (A.D. 1597), enunciated the oft cited sentence: “We are to account the sanctification of one day in seven a duty which God’s immutable law doth exact forever.” 17

Speaking of the reception of Bownd’s book, Coleman states, “This book spread with wonderful rapidity.” And Fuller says, “It is almost incredible how taking this doctrine was.” In Heylin we read:--

“It carried a fair face and show of piety, at the least in the opinion of the common people,. . .such who did judge thereof, not by the workmanship of the stuff, but the gloss and color. In which it is most strange to se how suddenly men were induced, not only to give way unto it, but without more ado to abet the same; till in the end, and in very little time, it grew the most bewitching error, the most popular deceit, that ever had been set on foot in the Church of England. 18


But there was a more serious point I which Bownd and the Puritans agreed with papal Sunday legislation and the schoolman. Thomas Aquinas taught that the rights of idolaters, Jews, and infidels ought not to be tolerated. “Heretics deserve not only to be separated from the church by excommunication, but also to be excluded from the world by death.” 19

The National Covenant of Scotland, subscribed in A.D. 1580 and renewed in 1639, recites with much satisfaction the Act 24, Parl, II, king James VI, which “ordains all papists and priests to be punished with manifold civil and ecclesiastical pains, as adversaries to God’s true religion, preached, and by law established, within this realm.” Likewise the Presbyterian General Assembly threatens the same against such as “b spreading error or heresy or by fomenting schisms. . .disturb the peace of the kirk.” 20

Dr. Bownd also advocates such intolerance: “The chiefest end of all government” is “that the parts of God’s true worship might be set up everywhere, and all men compelled to stoop unto it;” also that “it behooveth all.. .rulers that profess the true religion to enact such laws, and to see them diligently executed, whereby the honor of God in hallowing these days might be maintained.”


Acting on this very principle, the Puritans repaid intolerance with intolerance, and the triumphant march of the Puritan “Christian Sabbath” (some Episcopalians called it “the new idol of St. Sabbath”) thus gained its greatest support from oppressive civil and ecclesiastical Sunday laws.

How near the Sunday legislation of Scotland, where Knox suppressed all holidays save Sunday, approaches the papal canons, some samples will demonstrate:--

“For good order to be observed in convening to hear the word of God upon the Sabbath day. . .the session has ordained captors (afterwards named searchers) to be chosen to visit the whole town, according to the division of the quarters, and to that effect every Sunday there shall pass a bailie (sheriff) and elder, two deacons, and two officers armed with their halberds, and the rest of the bailies and officers to be I attendance, to assist to apprehend transgressors, to be punished conform to the acts of the kirk.”

“This practise was soon afterwards universally observed throughout all the towns of Scotland, and continued to be observed, I believe, with scarcely any interruption for one hundred fifty years.” 21

In A.D. 1579 the Scotch parliament passed a law that no markets or fairs be held on Sunday, or any merchandise be sold under pain that such be forfeited; that for working on Sunday the fine be ten shillings, for gambling, playing, passing to taverns, selling of meat and drink, and wilfully remaining away from their parish kirk, during the time of sermon or prayer on Sunday, twenty shillings for the relief of the poor. In case of the refusal or inability of any person to pay said fines after a lawful trial, “he or she shall be put and holden in the stocks, or such other engine, devised for public punishment, forr the space of twenty-four hours.” (Italic ours). This law, as well as its successors, was suggested by the Presbyterian clergy. The papal Saturday vigils, introduced by James III, were suppressed in 1592.

In 1590 the kirk session ordained “that the Sabbath should be from sun to sun.” Feb. 6, 1592, the Glasgow presbytery fined Craig ten shillings for absence from church, required him to make confession in the kirk two Sundays, and to furnish surety, under pain of ten pounds’ fine, to be present on Sundays in the future.
In 1595 Dugall, who went to Cramond on Sunday, with shoes, was to be publicly rebuked; if the offense was repeated, he was to be fined twenty and forty shillings, and finally, if he persisted, to be banished from the parish.
Cox records a long list of fines for selling milk, for fishing, for playing bowls, football, and even for scolding on Sunday.

In 1644 the “Six Sessions” of Edinburgh ordained that no person should be found vaging, walking, and going upon the streets even after the afternoon sermon. And Aug. 5, 1646, it was ordained that all the gates of Edinburgh be closed, only that the south gate be open for a time morning and evening, to water the stock, where a faithful man was to be placed as guard, “for restraining the people’s forth breaking.” In 1655 and 1656 the Sessions ordained that on Sunday there be no loafing, going about up and down the streets, or going to Castle Hill or Gardens and open places for sport and pastime, else they be censured, committed to prison, and severely punished.

The following ordinance of April 5, 1658 caps the climax:

“The magistrate is to cause some Inglish soldiers to go along the streets, and those out parts above written, both before sermon and after sermon, and lay hold upon both young and old whom they find out of their houses or out of the church.” 22

The Episcopal Church of England, on the other hand, was more intolerant in religious matters. Hundreds of conscientious Puritan ministers had been deprived of their parishes on account of “toys and trifles.” After some delay, attempts were made by Archbishop Whitgift in 1599, and by Chief Justice Popham in 1600, to call in and suppress Bownd’s book; but “it ran the faster from friend to friend in transcribed copies,” and in 1606 the enlarged edition appeared. The successful circulation of Bownd’s book was the signal for such a host of similar books for and against, that, as one said, “the Sabbath itself had no rest.” The Episcopalians issued (1603) “Constitutions and Canons,” omitting the dispensation in favor of work in harvest-time, but ordaining that all within the Church of England “shall keep Sunday and other holy days, according to God’s holy will and the order of the Church of England.”


Next the king spoke in his notorious “Book of Sports,” May 24, 1618. The following extracts give the reason for publishing the book, and its aims:--

“Whereas, upon our return the last year out of Scotland, we did publish our pleasure touching the recreations of our people in those parts. . .
“Whereas, we did justly, I our progress through Lancashire, rebuke some Puritans and precise people, and took order that the like unlawful carriage should not be used by any of them hereafter, in the prohibiting and unlawful punishing of our good people for using their lawful recreations and honest exercises upon Sundays and other holy days, after the afternoon sermon or service. . .We heard the general complaint of our people that they were barred from all lawful recreation and exercise upon the Sunday afternoon. . .which can not but produce two evils; the one, the hindering of the conversion of many whom their (papists) priest will take occasion herby to vex, persuading them that no honest mirth or recreation is lawful or tolerable in our religion. . .The other inconvenience is that this prohibition debars the common and meaner sort of people from using such exercises as may make their bodies more able for war. . .and in place thereof sets up filthy tipplings and drunkenness. . .For when shall the common people have leave to exercise, if not upon the Sundays and holy days?”
“Our pleasure likewise is that the bishop of the diocese take the like straight order with all the Puritans. . .either constraining them to conform themselves or to leave the country. . .And as for our good people’s lawful recreation, our pleasure likewise, is that after the end of the divine service, our good people be not disturbed, letted, or discouraged from any lawful recreation, such as dancing, either men or women, archery for men, leaping, vaulting, etc. . . .But withal we do here account still as prohibited all unlawful games. . .bear and bull baiting, interludes and . . Bowling.”
“And likewise we bar from this benefit and liberty, all such known recusants. . .as will abstain from coming to church. . . Prohibiting I like sort the said recreations to any that, though conform in religion, are not present I the church. . .We likewise straightly command that every person shall resort to his own parish church to hear divine service, and each parish by itself t use the said recreation after divine service.” 23

D’Israeli comments on this book:--

“In Europe, even among the Reformed themselves, the Sabbath, after church service, was a festival-day; and the wise monarch could discover no reason why, in his kingdom, it should prove a day of penance and self-denial.” 24

The historian Hallam wisely remarks:--

“this much at least is certain, that when the Puritan party employed their authority in proscribing all diversions, . . .they rendered their own yoke intolerable to the youthful and gay; nor did any other cause, perhaps, so materially contribute to bring about the restoration. But mankind loves sport as little as prayer by compulsion.” 25

The Puritans refused to read the declaration in the pulpits, and the “Book of Sports” gave only additional grounds for Puritan emigration.


As early as 1607 various Puritans fled to Holland, and transplanted this new Sunday theory to the Continent. It was first published there in two works on ethics, by Udemann of Zurich, in 1612, and Teelling of Holland, in 1617. This caused a similar controversy to spring up in Holland, which was to be settled at the most important Reformed council ever held, at Dort. From Nov. 13,1618, until May 19, 1619, the leading Reformed divines from different parts of Europe wrestled with the knotty question of predestination. But the role the Sunday question played, and the attitude of some English and Continental divines toward it, is very significant:--

“Complaints were made by the English at the fourteenth session, about the profanation of the Lord’s day by gaming, etc. ; and they recommended an application to the civil magistrate to bring the people to the afternoon service, ‘in order to have them keep the whole Sabbath as they ought’. Then ‘they (the synod) prayed the foreign divines to acquaint them with their customs with respect to this matter; whereupon the English bishop [Carlton, of Llandaff] told them first, that in his country the civil magistrate set a fine or pecuniary penalty upon those who forbore coming to divine service, according to their duty; and such a fine wrought much more on the people than any of the most pious exhortations.’” 26
“Those of the Palsgrave’s Country showed that each Sunday they had two sermons, and such as were absent were first admonished by the clergy; and if this sufficed not, they required the help of the civil magistrate.” 27
“At the on hundred forty-eighth session they [the English divines] likewise took notice of the great scandal which the neglect of the Lord’s day at Dort gave them, exhorting the synod to interpose with the magistrates for preventing the openings of shops and the exercise of trade on Sundays. Upon this occasion one of the inland divines brought upon the stage the question about the observation of that day; but this point was reserved among the gravamina [grievances] to be discussed by the Dutch clergy only, after the departure of the foreigners,” 28
After the departure of the foreigners from Dort, the Dutch divines held twenty-six sessions more, in order to finish those matters which they had reserved to themselves, or which were particularly referred them.”
“On the sixteenth of May, 162d session, afternoon, it was resolved that the churches shall solemnize or keep, together with the Lord’s day, likewise Christmas day, Easter, and Whitsunday, and the day immediately following each of the said festivals. And. . .the ministers of all those places where the said days are not as yet observed, shall use their endeavours with the civil powers to bring them all to an exact uniformity,”
“And on the seventh of May, 163d session, morning, it was resolved to apply to their High Mightinesses the States General, to obviate and restrain, by new ordinances and strict placards, the manifold profanations of the Sabbath, which increased more and more, and spread themselves over all these provinces.”
“Upon the occasion of this resolution, there arose some debates in the synod, about the question of the necessity of the observation of the Lord’s day. This question had already been started and canvassed in some of the churches of Zealand. And now the professors of divinity. . .desired. . . .to consider whether there might not be some general regulations thought of, and drawn up by common consent, within the limits of which both parties might rest contented till the new national synod should take further cognizance of the matter.” 29


A commission, consisting of Professors Gomarus, Walacus, Thysius, and Festus Hommius, was chosen, who prepared the following six articles of peace:--

1. In the fourth commandment of the law of God, there is something ceremonial, and something moral.

2. The resting upon the seventh day after the creation, and the strict observation of it, which was particularly part of that law.

3. But the moral part is, that a certain day be fixed and appropriated to the service of god, and as much rest as is necessary to that service and the holy meditation upon him.

4. The Jewish Sabbath being abolished, Christians are obliged solemnly to keep holy the Lord’s day.

5. This day has ever been observed by the ancient Catholic church, from the time of the apostles.

6. This day ought to be appropriated t religion in such a manner as that we should abstain from all servile works at that time, excepting those of charity and necessity; as likewise from all such diversions as are contrary to religion.

Though the Reformed divines at Dort disagreed and were divided on predestination; though the Continental retained the holy days; though there was a disagreement as to the nature of the Sunday institution, and even as to the manner of its observance; yet there was one thing in which they did agree, the necessity of more Sunday legislation to force church attendance.

Not only was the magistrate’s help required to force church attendance on Sunday in the Palgrave’s country but even while the Reformers were alive, the Protestant states meddled with purely religious questions to such and extent that at Stuttgart (1536) any not attending the sermon on Sunday and holidays “were to be fined with money or else imprisonment in the tower.” 30

This synod at Dort accepted the Heidelberg catechism as its standard. Hengstenberg attests that the synod attempted to put an end to the Sunday controversy by stifling the discussion and by suppressing all that had been said about Sunday in the reprint of their minutes. 31 But instead of the articles even giving satisfaction for any length of time, the controversy was renewed with greater warmth than ever. It spread through all the academies of Holland, and especially at Leyden, until the states general issued (Aug. 7, 1659) an edict, prohibiting any further discussion, and referring to the six articles as final.


Here we pause to follow the Pilgrim Fathers on their long voyage to New England . The Puritans, bound to establish their theocracy, and discovering that in Holland they could not be a law unto all other, and thus seeking to escape the intolerance manifested against them, in 1629 departed for the New World, where they realized their ideal, and set up a theocracy in several colonies.

In New Haven, Connecticut, and Massachusetts the Bible was adopted as a code of laws; heresy was punished with fines, banishment, and in “obstinate cases” even with death. The “blue laws”, drawn up in 1656 by Governor Eaton, declared:

28. “Whosoever shall profane the Lord’s day, or any part of it, by work or sport, shall be punished by fine, or corporally. But if the court, by clear evidence, find that the sin was proudly, presumptuously, and even with a high hand committed against the command and authority of the blessed God, such person therein despising and reproaching the Lord shall be put to death. Num. 15:30-36.” 32

Drs. Hessey and Cox mention some other ordinances: “Not to run on the Sabbath day or walk in the garden or elsewhere, except reverently to and from meeting,”-- precisely the same as we found in the Scotch laws.

Some question these laws, and quote one of 1773 instead; but even that law covers nearly four pages of fine type in Dr. W.F.Crafts’s book and a few samples will suffice: For neglect of attending worship, ten shillings’ fine; the same for work, “game, sport, play, or recreation on the Lord’ day or on a day of public fasting or thanksgiving.” For rude behavior, “shouting, hallooing, screaming, running, riding, dancing, jumping, forty shillings,: For traveling on that day, twenty shillings. For leaving home, to go to any other place than to church, five shillings. For meeting in companies on the streets, three shillings or to sit in the stocks not to exceed two hours. That “the grand jurymen and the said tithing-men and constables of each town shall carefully inspect the behavior of all persons on the Sabbath, or Lord’s day. . . To restrain all persons from unnecessarily walking in the streets or fields, swimming in the water, keeping open their shops, or following their secular occasions or recreations in the evening preceding the Lord’s day, or on said day or evening following.” 33


The theocracy of Constantine and of the Papacy found a fair rival in that of the Puritans. The tyranny they feared under the “Book of Sports,” was exercised upon their own members to such an extent that a sturdy Puritan, W. Blackstone, protested: “I came from England because I did not like the lord bishops; and I can not join you, because I would not be under the lord brethren.”

Again reverting our attention to England” Charles I reissued (Oct. 18, 1633) the “Book of Sports.” The Puritans, gaining political ascendancy, soon retaliated. J. Pocklington, D.D., published his sermons, “Sunday No Sabbath” (London, 1636) and it was eagerly bought, especially by students. The long Parliament, beginning Nov. 3, 1640, ordered it “to be publicly burnt by the common executioner in both the universities and in the city of London.” 34 The author lost all his offices, and only his death (1642) prevented their fury.

Also as a fair sample of Puritan literature, we refer to the following, which appeared in 1636; “A Divine Tragedy lately Acted: or a Collection of Sundry Memorable Examples of God’s Judgments upon Sabbath-breakers and Other Like Libertines, in Their Unlawful Sports.” The instances quoted compare favourably with some of Gregory of Tours, all things considered. 35

With the reign of the Puritans, the time had now come for Dr. Bownd’s theory to be formulated by the Westminster divines in the statements made in their “Confession of Faith,” and in their “Larger” and “Shorter” catechisms. Two divines, Cawdrey and Palmer, vindicated it in elaborate works published in 1645 and 1652. The animus of that assembly is characterized by the following ordinance, passed April 6, 1644, and entitled “Restraint of Several Evils on the Lord’s Day.”--

“Forasmuch as the Lord’s day, notwithstanding several good laws heretofore made, hath been not only greatly profaned, but divers ungodly books have been published by the prelatical faction against the morality of that day, and to countenance the profanation of the same, to the manifest endangering of souls, prejudice of the true religion, great dishonor of Almighty God, and provocation of his just wrath and indignation against this land; the lords and commons, for remedy thereof, do order and ordain: that merchandise offered for sale on the Lord’s day shall be forfeited, fine of ten shillings for unnecessary traveling, and five shillings for any worldly labor or work, and for all sports.
And it is further ordained. . .that. . .the book intituled ‘The Kings’ Majesty’ Declaration to His Subjects Concerning Lawful Sports to Be Used,’ and all other books and pamphlets that have been or shall be written, printed, or published against the morality of the fourth commandment or of the Lord’s day, or to countenance the profanation thereof, be called in, seized, suppressed, and publicly burned by the justices of peace. . . .Further ordained that this ordinance be printed and published, and read I all parish churches and chapels.” 36
“May 5, 1644, the book tolerating sport upon the Lord’s day was burned by the hand of the common hangman in Cheapside and other usual places.” 37

The following from the “Sabbath These,” by Th, Shepard, a New England pastor, who emigrated about 1634, gives us an insight into the way in which they viewed the attitude of the reformers as compared with their own:

“The Day-star from on high visiting the first Reformers in Germany enabled them to see many things, and to scatter much, yea, most, of the popish and horrible darkness which generally overspread the face of all Europe at that day; but divers of them did not (as well they might not) see all things with the like clearness, whereof this understanding of the Sabbath hath seemed to be one. Their chief difficulty lay here; they saw a moral command for a seventh day, and yet withal a change of that first seventh day, and hence thought that something in it was moral in respect of the command, and yet something ceremonial, because of the change; and therefore they issued their thoughts here, that it was partly moral and partly ceremonial, and hence their observation of the day hath been (answerable to their judgments) more lax and loose;. . .therefore, though posterity hath caused forever to admire God’s goodness for that abundance of light and life poured out by those vessels of glory in the first beginnings of reformation, yet in this narrow view of the Sabbath it is no wonder if they stepped a little beside the truth.. . .But why the Lord Christ should keep his servants in England and Scotland to clear up and vindicate this point of the Sabbath, and welcome it with more love than some precious ones in foreign churches no man can imagine any other cause than God’s own free grace and tender love, whose wind blows where and when it will.” 38


During this time the assembly of divines busied themselves with the formation of the Westminster Confession. A further instance of the intolerant spirit prevailing among these divines is that when they learned of their army’s defeat, one of the causes ascribed for it in their session of Sept. 10, 1644, was their remissness in “suppressing Anabaptists and Antinomians”. And a Scotch divine, Gillespie, argued in his sermon of Aug. 27, 1645, that liberty of conscience never ought to be granted in religious matters. 39

The most noise and disturbance were caused, however, on June 8, 1647, when Christmas, Easter, etc., ceased to be festivals. Instead of them, and on account of their stringent Sabbath laws, every second Tuesday in each month was allotted for scholars, apprentices, and other servants as a time of recreation. 40

There was a long debated as to the title of Sunday. Parliament caused the divines a great deal of trouble by demanding that Bible texts be appended to all their articles. But finally the following article was passed, being chapter 21, section 7:--

“As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God’ so in his Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment, binding all men in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him, (*1) which from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week; and from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, (*2) which in Scripture is called the Lord’s day, (*3) and is to be continued to the end of the world as the Christian Sabbath (*4)”

(*1)-- Ex. 20:8-11; Isa. 56:2,4,6,7; (*2)-- Gen. 2:2-3; I Cor. 16:1,2; Acts 20:7; (*3)-- Rev. 1:10; (*4)-- Ex. 20:8.10 with Matt. 5:17,18

This confession was approved (A.D.1647) by the general assembly of the kirk, and ratified by the Scottish acts of parliament in 1649 and 1690. Yet as late as 1705 this same assembly passed an act against the profanation of the Lord’s day “by multitudes of people walking idly upon the streets of. . . Edinburgh, . . .and because the concurrence and assistance of the civil government will be absolutely necessary for the better curbing and restraining this crying sin.” 41

As the Westminster confession, the Methodists adopted it, as well as some of the Baptists, etc,; but after having seen how the Sunday was not worked into the English speaking flesh and blood, even by all the laws until 1705, we will let Dr. Schaff speak of the extent of this new theory:--

“The anglo American theory of the Lord’s day, which is based on the perpetual essential obligation of the fourth commandment, as a part of the moral law to be observed with Christian freedom in the light of Christ’s resurrection, is of Puritan origin at the close of the sixteenth century and was first symbolically sanctioned by the Westminster standards in 1647, but has worked itself into the flesh and blood of all English-speaking Christendom,” 42


Returning to the Continent, we find that even the edict of 1689 could not prevent a new outbreak of the controversy. This time the professors of Groningen and Utrecht were the chief participators. Finally, by the beginning of the eighteenth century maters ended by nearly all the Reformed bodies on the Continent acquiescing in the purely ecclesiastical view. Gradually this theory also gained ground in Germany, but Fecht, of Rostock (1688), refuted it, and the general superintendent Schwartz denounced it as “false doctrine, and to be fraught with evil consequences to the land.” However, it found able defenders in Stryk and Buddaeus, and also in a certain sense, in Spener, who founded the German pietists (1680).

Spener rested the perpetuity of the Sabbath law on the blessing experienced, which Dr. Chalmers long afterward thus expressed: “That , while a day of unmeaning drudgery to the formalist, it is, to every real Christian, a day of holy and heavenly delight, -- that he loves the law, and so has it graven on the tablet of his heart, with a power of sovereignty over his actions, which it never had when it was only engraven on a tablet of stone, wherever there is a true principle of religion, felt, not as bondage, but is felt to be the very beatitude of the soul,” 43

In the light of this statement, true Sabbath-keeping is the work of God’s law and Spirit, and not of civil or ecclesiastical legislation. After all this heated controversy, lasting over two centuries, and extending even across the waters, Mosheim, taking neither side, tried to find a golden medium of his own invention, and like hundreds of his predecessors, he failed.

Protestantism at the end of the eighteenth century finds itself divided into three large hostile camps,-- the Continental, English American, and the Gnostic,-- one advocating the Sunday festival of the Reformers, another the Christian Sabbath of the Puritans, and the third the mystic day of the Gnostics; but all crying for civil aid to stay up the human Sunday ordinance of the papacy.

Most forcibly did old Cotton Mather observe:--

“The reforming churches, flying from Rome, carried some of them more, some of them less, all of them something, of Rome with them; especially that spirit of imposition and persecution which has too much cleaved unto them all.” 44

One sacred treasure which they all carried with them as they left their mother church, Babylon the Great, is the ancient festival of the sun. She had crushed the true Sabbath of the Lord from her communion, and having adopted the venerable day of the sun, she had, by virtue of a new law invented by her sophistry, changed this day into the Lord’s day of the Roman Church, as a signal mark of her authority over the Bible. The Reformed churches, flying from her communion, while at first protesting against her sophistry and power, still carried this unscriptural festival with them. However, by employing the same sophistry and by the use of similar pretences later on, they were finally able to justify the observance of this Lord’s day of the Roman Church by virtue of a misappropriation of the Sabbath commandment of the bible, as the veritable Sabbath of the Bible, yea, as “the Christian Sabbath,” and to enforce by the arm of flesh.


As the seamless coat of Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath, was torn from him before he was nailed to the cross, so was the fourth commandment torn from the rest day of the Lord, around which it was placed by the great lawgiver, and given to this papal Lord’s day’ and this Barabbas, the robber, thus arrayed in the stolen fourth command, challenged from that time onward, with astonishing success, the obedience of the world as the divinely appointed Sabbath of the most high God.

1.Fortschritt und Ruckschritt, C, Hoffmann, Stuttgart, 1864, I. 63 Return>

2.Eccl; Hist., cent. 17, sec. 2, pt. 2 pars. 10,17 Return>

3.Geshichte des Sonntags, p. 50. Return>

4.Letter to Farel, March 25, 1539 Return>

5. R. Hooker’s Polity, b. 5, 70, 9 Return>

6.Cox, Sabbath Laws, p. 282 Return>

7.Quoted by Hessey, p. 207 Return>

8.Eccl. Hist., chap. 26, sc. 3, pt. 2, chap. 3 par. 12 Return>

9.Eccl. His., chap.16, sec. 3, pt 2, chap. 3, par. 12 Return>

10.Hessey’s Bampton lectures, p. 205 Return>

11.Quoted in Cox’s Sabbath Laws, p. 294 Return>

12.Cox Sabbath Lit. I, 140 Return>

13.Id., pp 140, 141 Return>

14.Hengstenberg’s Lord’s Day. P. 66 Return>

15.Cox, Sab. Lit., I , 145, 146 Return>

16.Cox. Sabbath Lit., I, 196 Return>

17.Works, 1662, p. 289 Return>

18.Hist. Of the Sabbath., part 2, pp. 249-252 Return>

19.Summa Theol. Quest., sec. 10, 11; 11, 3 Return>

20.Cox. Sabbath Laws, 151, 152 Return>

21.Cox Sabbath Laws. 299 Return>

22.Cox Sabbath Laws, 299-315 Return>

23.Cox. Sabbath Lit. I, 444-447 Return>

24.Quoted, Cox, Sabbath Laws, 145 Return>

25.Cons. History of England, I, 476, sixth edition. Return>

26.Brandt’s Hist. Of the Reformation, London, 1722, 3, pp. 28,29 Return>

27.Jno, Hales, “Golden Remains,” London, 1673 p.5 Return>

28.Brandt, 3, 290 Return>

29.Id. 3, 312 Return>

30.Bezold, Geschichte der deutschen Reformation, p. 660 Return>

31.Hengstenberg, Lord’s Day, p. 69 Return>

32.Hessey, Bampton Lectures, pp. 370-372 Return>

33.“Sabbath for Man” pp. 560-563 Return>

34.Cox. Sab. Lit. I, 187 Return>

35.Id., pp. 187,188 Return>

36.Cox. Sab. Lit. I 453, 454 Return>

37.Neal’s Hist. Of the Puritans 1822, 3, 36 Return>

38.Cox, Sab. Lit., I 249, 250 Return>

39.Cox, Sab. Laws. Pp. 150,151 Return>

40.Id., 332 Return>

41.Cox. Sabbath Laws, p. 339 Return>

42.The German reformation, 2, par. 81, pp. 493,494 Return>

43.Hessey, Bampton lectures, p. 179 Return>

44.Backus, Hist. Of New England 1871, I, 49 Return>

History of the Sabbath, Table of Contents