From the book
THE ENGLISH SUNDAY (1901)
IN the last lecture we traced the history of the Lord's Day down to the decree of Constantine in 321. We may fairly conclude that the decree is evidence that there was already at that time, some intermission on Sunday of the Business and Labour of the week, on the part of the Christian subjects of the Empire. There must have been some strong tendency, if not some definite custom, which the decree supplemented and took under its protection, and with which the Emperor felt some measure of sympathy. We certainly cannot regard Christian abstinence from work on Sunday as traceable to an arbitrary act of Constantine. Even under despotisms a great change in social life cannot be effected unless there is, in some quarter at least, a popular movement in the same direction as the legislation. What the imperial decree did was to legitimate and give effect to a movement which must for some time have been gathering strength.
[YES NO DOUBT SUNDAY HAD BECOME A SABBATH DAY FOR MOST OF THE CHRISTIANS IN THE EMPIRE; BY THE TIME OF CONSTANTINE TRUE CHRISTIANS WERE IN THE MINORITY, AS THEY WERE WITH OBSERVING PASSOVER AND NOT EASTER - Keith Hunt]
A historical survey of the centuries which follow would require us to trace the growing strictness of legislation as to Sunday observance, first on the part of Church Councils, and secondly as put into action by the decrees of Emperors. It was during this period, and especially towards the end of the fourth century, that the theology of a divine or apostolic transference to the Sunday of the obligations of the Sabbath, first began to assert itself.
Thus we pass on to the ginning of the middle ages, a period in which as a recent writer has said, "theology was hardly alive," and growth was all in the sphere of ecclesiastical law. The Sunday fell under the conditions of the time, and its development was in this direction. Some excuse for the Judaic narrowness and severity of the restrictions concerning it, which were continuously being enacted in the West, may be found in the necessity for discipline in dealing with the barbaric nations who were at this time being brought en masse into the Church. But whatever excuse may be found, the result was unfortunate.
In the following centuries the restrictions on things to be done on Sunday, and punishments for transgressions became Judic, and the observance of the day in the Catholic Church was definitely based on the fourth commandment.
Then came the Reformation movement.
I will here quote from a sermon by F.D. Maurice which sums up clearly the way in which the leaders of that movement regarded the Sunday——
“The Reformers appealed to the Bible as an authority which prevailed over all ecclesiastical maxims and decrees. The Bible, they said contained a direct message from God, and emancipation from all human fetters. Festivals and fasts seemed to them a part of these fetters, checking the spirit of man in its ascent to God, substituting outward observances for inward faith. Then the question arose, ‘Is not the Sunday one of these festivals?’ They could not answer 'No,' for they could not find any precept for observing it in the New Testament. The old law which fixed another day (the seventh) had, they thought, clearly been abrogated. Therefore for the most part the foreign reformers saw no principle on which they could enjoin the observance of the Lord's day " ("Maurice on the Sabbath," Serm. ii).
[YEP THEY HAD TO ADMIT THERE WAS NOTHING IN THE NEW TESTAMENT TO ENJOIN OBSERVANCE OF THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK, JUST THAT SIMPLE - Keith Hunt]
To this however I must add that though they did not enjoin the Lord’s Day as obligatory, they did observe it, and recommended its observance in their formal documents.
What they denied was:
(1) the relevancy of the fourth commandment to the observance of Sunday
(2) the fable of a translation of the obligations of the Sabbath to Sunday
(3) the power of the Church to institute an observance which would be sinful to break
THEY WOULD OBSERVE THE DAY VOLUNTARILY, so far as not served the peace and order of the Church, and as an institution which met the needs of human nature and provided opportunity for worship.
[IT IS AGAIN MAKING UP YOUR OWN RELIGION AS TO HOW AND WHEN YOU WORSHIP GOD; IT IS AS THE AUTHOR SAID EARLIER, “MAN GIVING TO GOD”—— THAT WAS NOW THE ATTITUDE OF THE MAJORITY POPULAR CHURCH—— THE CHURCH OF ROME - Keith Hunt]
This is the general purport of the teaching on the subject in Luther's larger Catechism and the Augsburg Confession. Calvin's position was similar, but he seems to have felt more strongly the normative character of the Old Testament Sabbath,1 though he distinctly says that the Christian celebration of Sunday has nothing to do with the fourth commandment.
1. Calvin's comment on the fourth commandment in his Institutio, Bk. II. c. viii. 28-34. is well worth reading. His view of the relation between the Sabbath and the Lord's day is sound and moderate, and his defence of the observance of the day against the extreme Reformers is earnest and conclusive.
It was in spite of Calvin's teaching that Sabbatarian views in the strict sense were developed among his followers.
We can see plainly enough that this low estimate of the value of apostolic example and the custom of the primitive church was sure to lead to a greater relaxation than the Reformers themselves desired. The religious life of Continental Protestantism has undoubtedly suffered in consequence of their attitude towards Sunday and the other festivals of the Church. But we must remember what the ecclesiastical bondage was, which they were endeavouring to break down, with its multitude of holy days, and the legends and ceremonies attached to them.
And we must also remember that they were absolutely right in rejecting the fiction that there had been an authoritative transference of the obligations of the Sabbath to the Lord’s Day.
I am not able to say very distinctly how far the views of Luther and Calvin on this subject prevailed among English reformers; nor whether the lax observance of Sunday in the reign of Elizabeth was attributable to the influence of reformation doctrine, or to the general decline of religious spirit which had prevailed in the mediaeval church before the Reformation began. But at any rate the observance of the day had fallen to a low level at this period. Then came the reaction. Fuller in his "Church History" (Bk. ix. sect. 8) tells us how the Sabbatarian movement which arose, took the whole country by storm. It was indeed an early indication of the Puritanism which was already gathering strength, an early indication of what was to come in the days of Cromwell and the Protectorate.
The first and most effective book on the Puritan side was published by Dr Nicholas Bownd in 1595. Incidentally it discloses a very great want of reverence in England at the time, not only as regards the Sunday, but as regards public worship. Men came into church "with hawkes upon their fists." He speaks of “the practice of a great many who make this day (Sunday) the only day of reckoning with their servants and of accounts with their labourers and chapmen." He is especially moved by the oppressiveness of employers to their servants, and their in-considerateness for their spiritual welfare. He is no fanatic, as has been sometimes represented, but allows necessities of labour on Sunday and only contends against "imagined necessities" for it.
The tone of the book is so simple and genuine in its earnestness, and so edifying to a reader of the present day that one cannot be surprised at the immediate and wide effect which Fuller attributes to it. It would hardly be possible to find anywhere a better passage on the nature and value of religious meditation than that contained in pp. 203-210 (first ed). But the argumentative element of the book is entirely unsound and uncritical. Dr Bownd makes considerable use of Calvin's commentaries on the Old Testament. No doubt Calvin's authority gave weight to the treatise, but Calvin would have been the first to reject the line of argument which is attempted. Henceforth for a hundred years Sabbatarian controversies prevailed, and they are accurately so described, for it was the Sabbatarian character of the day that was argued for.
The obvious contention that as a Jewish ordinance it had been abolished, was now met by the contention that it was prae-Mosaic, dated from the Creation, and therefore was no mere law for the Hebrews, but universally and eternally binding. As has often happened in other cases the instinct and purpose of the Puritans was better than their arguments. That a serious view of Sunday observance came to impress men who were not Puritans is plain from the poems of George Herbert and Henry Vaughan. Herbert's "Sunday" is almost too well known to quote. The first stanza will be enough to show the spirit of the poem:
"O day most calm, most bright
The fruit of this, the next world's bud,
The indorsement of supreme delight,
Writ by a Friend and with His blood;
The couch of Time,
Care's balm and bay;
The week were dark but for thy light;
Thy torch doth show the way."
Vaughan's poem although given in Palgrave's "Treasury of Sacred Song" is less known, and may well be quoted in full.
"Bright shadows of true rest some shoots of bliss;
Heaven once a week;
The next world's gladness prepossest in this;
A day to seek; Eternity in time; the steps by which
We climb above all ages; Lamps that light
Man through his heap of dark days; and the rich
And full redemption of the whole week's flight !
The pulleys unto headlong man; Time's bower;
The narrow way;
Transplanted Paradise; God's walking hour,
The cool o' the day:
The Creature's jubilee; God's parle with dust;
Heaven here; Man on those hills of myrrh and flowers;
Angels descending; the returns of trust;
A gleam of glory after six days' showers."
Even the Jewish mediaeval poets have not gone further in their praises of "the Bride, the Sabbath," than these sober English Churchmen in their train of rich imaginative phrases, each of them full of suggestive beauty, and, one must add, full of implicit admonition to our own time.
Thus on the whole the Puritan view of Sunday won the victory and remained in possession, after Puritanism had been discredited in other respects. It survived the Restoration, was accepted by High Churchmen, and became part and parcel not only of religious life in England but also of national tradition. I will quote some of the concluding words of Abbey and Overton's "The English Church in the Eighteenth Century." The writer is speaking of that century as a whole and of its characteristics. "The strongly marked division of opinion which had prevailed during the reign of Elizabeth and Charles I as to the mode of observing Sunday no longer existed.
Formerly Anglicans and Puritans had taken for the most part thoroughly opposite views, and the question had been controverted with much vehemence and often much bitterness. Happily for England, the Puritan view in all its broader and more general features kept possession of the ground. . . . The Puritan Sunday, in all its principal characteristics remained firmly established, and was as warmly supported by High Churchmen as by any who belonged to an opposite party. It has been aptly observed that several of Robert Nelson's remarks upon the proper observance of Sunday would have been derided eighty or a hundred years previously as Puritanical cant by men whose legitimate successors warmly applauded what he wrote. No one whose opinion had any authority, desired after Charles II’s time to revive the Book of Sports, or regretted the abolition of Sunday wakes. Amid all the laxity of the Restoration period—amid the partial triumph of Laudian ideas which marked the reign of Queen Anne—amid the indifference and sluggishness in religious matters which soon afterwards set in— reverence for the sanctity of the Lord's Day and a fixed purpose that its general character of sedate quietness should not be broken into, grew, though it was but gradually, among almost all classes into a tradition which was respected even by those who had very little care for other ordinances of religion" (op. cit. abridged edition, ch. x. sub, fin)
I have tried to show how we have come by our English Sunday. It has come to us not as a complete final ordinance immediately delivered from God or enjoined by Christ on the Apostles, or explicitly provided by a decree of the primitive Church, but as the result of converging and to some degree opposing tendencies.
In ecclesiastical as in political lite, it is the special happiness of England that opposition of opinion instead of resulting in bitter irreconcilable differences has tended to fusion, and to produce something much better than either of the two extremes. It is this English Sunday which is now in danger, and it is only by such a study of its history as has now been attempted that we can understand the proper line of defence, and deal with the difficulties of such a defence.
[MOST SUNDAY CHURCH GOERS TODAY KNOW SUNDAY WAS NEVER MADE HOLY BY GOD OR CHRIST OR THE APOSTLES - Keith Hunt]
The Puritan ground of defence, that the Sunday is the Sabbath or the immediate heir of the Sabbath is not tenable.
It is a very simple ground, and as such attractive, BUT IT IS FALSE.
FOR IT IS THE APOSTOLICAL LORD’S DAY AND NOT THE SABBATH WHICH WE OBSERVE.
[IT IS NOT APOSTOLIC; NO APOSTLE OF THE FIRST CENTURY EVER MADE SUNDAY A HOLY DAY (ONLY GOD CAN MAKE SOMETHING HOLY) OR SAID ONE WORD ABOUT CONGREGATIONAL MEETING ON THAT DAY, AS REGULAR, FOR OBSERVING THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST. WHAT THE SO-CALLED “CHURCH FATHERS” DID WAS OF THEIR OWN MIND AND NOT OF ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE TRUE GOD OF HEAVEN - Keith Hunt]
And yet it is for us at any rate something more than is implied in the original institution of the Lord's day, something more than a day on which we meet for public worship, and commemoration of the Resurrection.
[THERE IS NOT ONE WORD IN THE NEW TESTAMENT TO SAY WE ARE TO OBSERVE THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS, BY WORSHIPPING ON SUNDAY, OR HOLDING CONGREGATIONAL SERVICES ON THAT DAY, OR TRYING TO KEEP SUNDAY IN ANY WAY AS THE 7TH DAY SABBATH IS TO BE KEPT AND OBSERVED - Keith Hunt]
The fact is this. In England, since the Reformation, the influence of the Old Testament on Christian thought and life has been profoundly great. The constant reading of the Old Testament in our public services contrasts strongly with the treatment accorded to it in the Roman, Lutheran and Reformed Churches. For private devotional reading the Old Testament has never been laid aside, and it has always been recognized that, imperfect and gradually progressive as that revelation is, it is, nevertheless, a revelation of the mind and will of God, full of instruction, comfort and blessing to those who use it rightly. The more we study the relation of the two Testaments, the more plainly we see the continuity of the Jewish and the Christian Church. The Christian Church is the new Israel, the Israel of God, and the history of the Jewish Church is its history in an earlier stage, not the history of something alien and unrelated. And in this history the Institution of the Sabbath stands in the front. Though we do not believe that God imposed this institution on the world, we do believe He meant to teach the world by it, and our heart, conscious, of similar needs, responds to the teaching.
The Sabbath stands before us as a pattern and a guide, though not as an enactment.
[OH YES IT IS AN ENACTMENT BY GOD; IT IS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE TEN COMMANDMENT; WHICH HAVE NEVER BEEN “DONE AWAY WITH” AT ANY TIME. THEY HAVE BEEN FROM THER BEGINNING, AND SHALL STAY TILL THERE IS NO MORE FLESH AND BLOOD ON THIS EARTH. THE SABBATH AND THE OTHER NINE COMMANDMENT TELL US WHAT SIN IS! NONE OF THEM CAN BE ABOLISHED, NO MATTER WHAT THE WORDS OF MEN MAY SAY - Keith Hunt]
It is impossible for us to think of our weekly festival without thinking of, and being affected by, the weekly festival of our spiritual ancestors.
Let us then frankly own that our view of the Lord’s Day is coloured by the Sabbath, that it is from that quarter chiefly that we draw our idea of it as a day to be kept holy.
[NOPE—— YOU CAN NOT KEEP A DAY HOLY IF IT WAS NEVER MADE HOLY. SUNDAY WAS NEVER MADE HOLY BY GOD, AND IT MATTERS NOT THAT MEN MAY SAY THAT IT IS, OR THAT SOMEHOW MANKIND BY MEETING ON THAT DAY, BY MAKING IT THE DAY THAT REPLACES THE 7TH DAY SABBATH, MAKES SUNDAY HOLY—— IT NEVER WAS HOLY AND NEVER WILL BE HOLY, SUCH IS THE PLAIN TRUTH OF THE BIBLE - Keith Hunt]
We are sometimes appealed to, to cast out from the Sunday all Sabbatarian ideas, and to keep it simply as the Christian festival of the Lord's day. The general sense of the nation has thus far refused to do so, and I believe rightly. It is mainly from the influence which the Sabbath has (from the earliest times) exerted on the Lord's day, that the latter has got its character of a Day of Rest from labour. It is mainly from the same source that it has got its character of dedication to God, and of partial withdrawal from the world.
The first of these two characters, that of physical rest, is now supposed to be well assured to the Sunday on other grounds, though, for myself, I doubt its security, if the religious grounds on which it began are entirely abandoned. But the second character, that of dedication to God, is acutely in danger, and it is only the analogy and influence of the Sabbath idea which can preserve it. For there is nothing in the primitive history of the Lord's day which can be appealed to, except the use of the day for worship, and this may be brought down to a minimum. The conception of Sunday as a day for special endeavour after nearness to God, a day of detachment from engrossing worldly interests, a day of recollectedness, and therefore, in some degree, a day of quietness and seclusion, has no meaning or attraction unless for those who have religious needs, and feel them awakened.
Ought we, it will be said, to lay down general principles of Sunday observance for the sake of the minority?
But the business of the Church is and always has been to set forth ideals, to set them forth, but not to impose them.
[YA …. YOU CANNOT IMPOSE SOMETHING THAT GOD HAS NEVER IMPOSED IN THE FIRST PLACE; WHAT GOD HAS SAID NOTHING ON, MAN CANNOT DECREE AS BINDING ON GOD’S CHILDREN - Keith Hunt]
What then is the ideal?
Pardon me if, even in stating it, I fall short of your own desires and your own experienc.
(1) A clear space for recollectedness. No one much engagec in business will contend that every day can be equally a day of recollectedness and conscious nearness to God, though we know and believe that He is with us and we in Him, even in our hours of engrossing secular employment.
(2) A day of uplifted heart—and endeavour to look not at things which are seen, but on things which are not seen, an uplifted heart without which the services of the day are vain.
(3) A day of spiritual as well as physical refreshment, in which we approach and draw from all the sources through which He is wont to refresh us. Not only from worship— but from His Word, from profitable books, from lives of good men, from music, from the company of those who can help us.
(4) A day for home life—not excluding society, but making a difference in the society which we seek.
(5) A day for works of mercy and kindness, however small.
It is such a day as this, the result of a combination of the thoughts of the Sabbath and the Lord's Day under the gradual teaching of Holy Scripture, which we possess in the English Sunday. It is this which is in danger in our generation, chiefly from the claims of pleasure and amusement. How we are to meet these I will endeavour to consider in my next lecture.
NO MATTER THE WORDS OF MEN ON HOW TO OBSERVE SUNDAY, IT IS USELESS FOR GOD NEVER MADE SUNDAY A HOLY DAY; HE NEVER SANCTIFIED SUNDAY; HE NEVER GAVE INSTRUCTIONS ON OBSERVING IT, NOT EVEN FOR THE RESURRECTION OF OUR LORD.
IT IS GOD WHO TELLS US HOW AND WHEN TO WORSHIP HIM; IT IS GOD WHO STATES WHICH DAYS ARE HOLY TO HIM, AND THAT WE ARE TO KEEP HOLY BY OUR CONDUCT IN ACTIONS, WORDS, AND THOUGHTS.
MAN WAS NEVER GIVEN THE AUTHORITY TO MAKE UP OUR OWN FEAST DAYS, AS WE SEE FIT, TO GIVE TO HIM. IT IS GOD WHO HAS HIS FEAST DAYS AND HE GIVES TO US.