Spurgeon on the Sabbath
Charles Spurgeon is a beloved Calvinistic baptist preacher, but he was also very confessional.
Benjamin Keach, minister of Horse-lie-down meeting, London, was among the subscribers in the Preface to the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith. Founded in 1650, that church (the place name is now spelled Horselydown) later became the New Park Street Church, where Spurgeon was called, and then moved to the meeting house of the Metropolitan Tabernacle. Although Dr John Gill later produced a summary Confession to be read at each Lord’s Supper gathering, the congregation continued to regard 1689 as the defining document for ‘Baptists denominated Calvinists’.
When the Metropolitan Tabernacle was built under Spurgeon’s pastorship, the foundation stone was laid on August 16, 1859, beneath it being placed a Bible, the Baptist Confession of Faith, Dr. Rippon’s Hymn Book, and a declaration by the deacons of the church.
With that in mind, here are several statements from Spurgeon’s sermons in regards to the weekly Sabbath. I recommend reading the sermons in full. I am here only excerpting the portions directly relating to the Sabbath as a weekly rest, but we must heed Spurgeon’s emphasis on the true eternal Sabbath rest.
“There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.”—Hebrews 4:9.
HE Apostle proved, in the former part of this and the latter part of the preceding chapter, that there was a rest promised in Scripture called the rest of God. He proved that Israel did not attain that rest for God sware in his wrath, saying, “They shall not enter into my rest.” He proved that this did not merely refer to the rest of the land of Canaan; for he says that after they were in Canaan, David himself speaks again in after ages concerning the rest of God, as a thing which was yet to come. Again he proves, that “seeing those to whom it was promised did not enter in, because of unbelief, and it remaineth that some must enter in, therefore,” saith he, “there remaineth a rest to the people of God.”
“My rest,” says God: the rest of God! Something more wonderful than any other kind of rest. In my text it is (in the original) called the Sabbatism—not the Sabbath, but the rest of the Sabbath—not the outward ritual of the Sabbath, which was binding upon the Jew, but the inward spirit of the sabbath, which is the joy and delight of the Christian. “There remaineth therefore”—because others have not had it, because some are to have it—”There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.”
Now, this rest, I believe, is partly enjoyed on earth. “We that have believed do enter into rest,” for we have ceased from our own works, as God did from his. But the full fruition and rich enjoyment of it remains in the future and eternal state of the beatified on the other side the stream of death. Of that it shall be our delightful work to talk a little this morning. And oh! if God should help me to raise but one of his feeble saints on the wings of love to look within the veil, and see the joys of the future, I shall be well contented to have made the joy-bells ring in one heart at least, to have set one eye flashing with joy, and to have made one spirit light with gladness…
II. And now, yet more briefly, and then we shall have done. I am to endeavor to EXTOL this rest, as I have tried to EXHIBIT it. I would extol this rest for many reasons; and oh! that I were eloquent, that I might extol it as it deserves! Oh! for the lip of angel, and the burning tongue of cherub, to talk now of the bliss of the sanctified and of the rest of God’s people!
It is, first, a perfect rest. They are wholly at rest in heaven. Here rest is but partial. I hope in a little time to cease from every-day labors for a season, but then the head will think, and the mind may be looking forward to prospective labor, and whilst the body is still, the brain will yet be in motion. Here, on Sabbath days a vast multitude of you sit in God’s house, but many of you are obliged to stand, and rest but little except in your mind, and even when the mind is at rest the body is wearied with the toil of standing. You have a weary mile perhaps, many miles, to go to your homes on the Sabbath day. And let the Sabbatarian say what he will, you may work on the Sabbath day, if you work for God; and this Sabbath day’s work of going to the house of God is work for God, and God accepts it. For yourselves you may not labor, God commands you to rest, but if you have to toil these three, these four, these five, these six miles, as many of you have done, I will not and I must not blame you. “The priests in the sanctuary profane the Sabbath, and are blameless.” It is toil and labor, it is true but it is for a good cause—for your Master. But there, my friends, the rest is perfect; the body there rests perpetually, the mind too always rests; though the inhabitants are always busy, always serving God, yet they are never weary, never toil-worn, never fagged; they never fling themselves upon their couches at the end of the day, and cry, “Oh! when shall I be away from this land of oil?” They I never stand up in the burning sunlight, and wipe the hot sweat from their brow; they never rise from their bed in the morning, half refreshed, to go to laborious study. No, they are perfectly at rest, stretched on the couch of eternal joy. They know not the semblance of a tear; they have done with sin, and care, and woe, and, with their Saviour rest.
The Perpetuity of the Law of God
“For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:18)
It has been said that he who understands the two covenants is a theologian, and this is, no doubt, true. I may also say that the man who knows the relative positions of the Law and the Gospel has the keys of the situation in the matter of doctrine. The relationship of the Law to myself, and how it condemns me; the relationship of the Gospel to myself, and how if I be a believer it justifies me–these are two points which every Christian man should clearly understand… We are not under the law as the method of salvation, but we delight to see the law in the hand of Christ, and desire to obey the Lord in all things.
Jesus did not come to change the law, but he came to explain it, and that very fact shows that it remains, for there is no need to explain that which is abrogated. Upon one particular point in which there happened to be a little ceremonialism involved, namely, the keeping of the Sabbath, our Lord enlarged, and showed that the Jewish idea was not the true one. The Pharisees forbade even the doing of works of necessity and mercy, such as rubbing ears of corn to satisfy hunger, and healing the sick. Our Lord Jesus showed that it was not at all according to the mind of God to forbid these things. In straining over the letter, and carrying an outward observance to excess, they had missed the spirit of the Sabbath law, which suggested works of piety such as truly hallow the day. He showed that Sabbatic rest was not mere inaction, and he said, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” He pointed to the priests who labored hard at offering sacrifices, and said of them, “the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless.” They were doing divine service, and were within the law. To meet the popular error he took care to do some of his grandest miracles upon the Sabbath-day; and though this excited great wrath against him, as though he were a law-breaker, yet he did it on purpose that they might see that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath, and that it is meant to be a day for doing that which honors God and blesses men. O that men knew how to keep the spiritual Sabbath by a easing from all servile work, and from all work done for self, The rest of faith is the true Sabbath, and the service of God is the most acceptable hallowing of the day. Oh that the day were wholly spent in serving God and doing good! The sum of our Lord’s teaching was that works of necessity, works of mercy, and works of piety are lawful on the Sabbath. He did explain the law in that point and in others, yet that explanation did not alter the command, but only removed the rust of tradition which had settled upon it. By thus explaining the law he confirmed it; he could not have meant to abolish it or he would not have needed to expound it.
Spurgeon’s Puritan Catechism
48 Q. Which is the fourth commandment?
A. The fourth commandment is, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor they cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”
49 Q. What is required in the fourth commandment?
A. The fourth commandment requires the keeping holy to God such set times as he has appointed in his Word, expressly one whole day in seven, to be a holy Sabbath to himself (Lev. 19:30; Deut. 5:12).
50 Q. How is the Sabbath to be sanctified?
A. The Sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days (Lev. 23:3), and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’s worship (Ps. 92:1-2; Isa. 58:13-14), except so much as is taken up in the works of necessity and mercy (Matt. 12:11-12).
Abram and the Ravenous Birds
In company with these foul vultures, fly those ravenous birds called worldly thoughts, which spring from the force of habit. The wheels have been running the last six days in this direction; it is not quite so easy to reverse the action, and to make them go the other way. We have been sinking, sinking, sinking in the miry clay of daily business; it is not very easy for the soul that lies cleaving to the dust, to rise at once towards Heaven! It is no wonder, when you have so many things to think of in this age of competition, that the ledger should lie there in front of the pew instead of the Bible, and, that at times, the daybook should come in when your hand holds the hymnbook, or that you should be thinking of a bad debt, or of a long account which is rather precarious, instead of meditating upon the faithfulness of God, and of pardons bought with blood. These traffickers molest the very Temple, and we have not always the scourge of small cords to drive them out, nor the commanding Presence of the Savior, to say, “Take these things hence, it is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.” How many a mother comes here with all her tribe of children on her shoulders? How many a father comes here with thoughts of where he shall apprentice his eldest son, or what shall become of his younger daughter? How many a merchant comes in, and every wind that makes the windowpanes rattle reminds him of his ships at sea; how many a farmer is thinking of his land, and the fitful gleams of sunshine and returning showers make him remember his cattle and his crops? Shops and stalls, bushels and
scales, silks and cottons, horses and cows, and even meaner things intrude into your house, O King of kings!
Brothers and Sisters, how often do some of you indulge in them? I hope there are none of you who keep your account books on Sunday, and yet how common is this in London! There are some who shut up their shop in front, and keep it open at the back, as if they would serve the devil and cheat the Lord! If you register your ledgers on Sunday, why not open your shop? You might as well be in the shop as in the country house, for the sin is just the same; only you now add hypocrisy to it, by pretending to serve God when you do not! Yet how many there are, true Believers in Christ, who would scorn to look at the ledger on Sunday, and yet their mind is hampered with accounts, and debtor and creditor will be striking balances continually in their brain! Some professors on the Sabbath afternoon will be talking about the state of the markets, and asking, “What do you think of the rise and fall of Consols?” “When will this terrible American war be over?” “When is it likely the Manchester factories will obtain full employment by the arrival of ship loads of cottons,” or “How will Louis Napoleon pay his debts?” When they come up to the House of God in the evening, they wonder how it is they do not get on with the preacher! The preacher might wonder how he could be of any service to such hearers! They wonder that the Sabbath is not a refreshment to them; but, how is it likely to be when they still continue in their worldly employments, really giving their hearts to the world, though they profess to give their bodily presence to the service of Christ?…
You have heard persons say, “I would sooner wear out than rust out.” There is no occasion for either, if we would but keep this day of rest as a perfect rest to our heart and soul; but, that we can never do unless we love Christ, for a Sabbath is an impossibility to an unconverted man! If we would but, as
Christians resting in Christ, keep this first day of rest, giving our souls thorough ease, there would be no fear of the brain giving way. We would labor on, even to a good old age, and then die in peace, and our works would follow us. I cannot expect you to believe me if I should say, you can carry on your business all the days of the week without care, without diligence, without very earnest thought. We must be “diligent in business,” and you must put both your hands to the wheel if you would make it go! But do leave the wheel alone today. Now, have done with it. You will madden yourself, or, if it comes not to so sad a climax as that, you will destroy your comfort, destroy the acuteness of your mental powers, if you do not give them rest today. I am no preacher of the old legal Sabbath; those who are teachers of the Law insist upon that quite enough. As for me, I am a preacher of the Gospel, and rejoice that Believers are not “under the Law, but under Grace.” A worldling is under the Law, and it is his duty to remember the seventh day, to keep it holy, for so runs the Law which is his taskmaster! But I am not under the Law, and therefore I keep this day—not the seventh, but the first day of the week, on which my Savior rose again from the dead—keep it not of Law, but of Grace—keep it not as a slavish bondage, not as a day on which I am chained and hampered with restraints against my will, but I keep it as a day in which I may take holy pleasure in serving God, and in adoring before His Throne! The Sabbath of the Jew is to him a task; the Lord’s-Day of the Christian, the first day of the week, is to him a joy, a day of rest, of peace and of thanksgiving. And, if you Christians can earnestly drive away all distractions, so that you can really rest today, it will be good for your bodies, good for your souls, good mentally, good spiritually, good temporally and good eternally!…
Time is the ring, and these Sabbaths are the diamonds set in it! The ordinary days are but the walks in the garden, hand trodden and barren; but the Sabbaths are the beds full of rich choice flowers! This day is Care’s balm and cure, the couch of time, the haven of Divine calms. Come, my Soul, throw yourself upon this couch; for now the bed is long enough, and the coverlet is broad enough—rest and take your ease—for you have come unto Jesus, to a finished Sacrifice, to a completed Righteousness, and your soul may be satisfied in the Lord, and your spirit may rejoice in the Lord your God. This is to keep Sabbath!
An unconverted man or woman cannot do this; and there are many of you, I fear, here present who never knew what Sabbath means—never had a Lord’s Day in your lives! In vain do you keep the day, unless, your hearts keep it too. Oh, may your hearts know how to find in Christ a perfect rest! Then shall
the land have rest, and shall keep her Sabbaths. May God give you Divine Grace to know your sin, and enable you to fly to the Savior, and find in Him all your soul needs! May He enable you to rest in Christ today, and then you shall keep Sabbaths on earth till you keep the eternal Sabbath before the Throne, “For thus says the Spirit, ‘They rest from their labors.’” “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ,” and you shall have rest. Trust Him, and so shall you be saved, and your spirit shall be at ease.
Rest in the Lord
Brothers and Sisters, the Lord, as if to show us that He would have us rest, has been pleased to speak of resting, Himself! It is inconceivable that He should be fatigued! It were profanity to suppose that He who faints not, neither is weary, and of whose understanding there is no searching, can ever be in a condition to need rest! And yet He did rest, for when He had finished all the works of His hands in the six days of creation, the Lord, “rested on the seventh day and sanctified it.” When afterwards that rest was broken because His works were marred, we find Him further on smelling a “sweet savor of rest” in the sacrifice which was offered unto Him by Noah, whose very name was rest.
These two facts are highly instructive and teach us that God rests in a perfect work and that when that work is marred the Lord rests in a perfect Sacrifice, even in the Lord Jesus Christ! He has a rest there and He speaks of our “entering His rest” as it is written, “they shall not enter into My rest.” There is a rest of God, then, and there remains a rest unto the people of God. And of that rest, not in its highest development in Heaven, but in its present enjoyment on earth, we are about to speak. “Rest in the Lord.”…
Beloved, may the Lord, by His Holy Spirit, grant you abundantly, from this day forward, to enter into this which is man’s first, man’s last, man’s sweetest, truest rest—the rest of the sinner coming to Christ—the rest of the saint abiding in Heaven! This is the only real rest that can be found on earth or Heaven—rest in the Lord! God grant it to us by faith, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.