The Staunch Calvinist

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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 22: Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day - Commentary

...God commands it. Notice carefully that our claim is that the specific day is a positive command, not the Sabbath as a whole!

A law or a commandment being positive moral law in no way diminishes the fact that it is binding and obligatory. Hopkins writes concerning the specific day that it “is from his positive will and command, and therefore is as binding and forcible as if it were a law of nature engraven on our hearts; unless the same authority alters it that did first enjoin it. For this being a positive law, is therefore good and necessary, because commanded.”[66] Robert Dabney writes that the worship of God should also have a public and corporate aspect of it, which necessitates a specific day:

That it is man’s duty to worship God, none will dispute. Nor will it be denied that this worship should be in part social; because man is a being of social affections, and subject to social obligations; and because one of the great ends of worship is the display of the Divine glory before our fellow creatures. Social worship cannot be conducted without the appointment of a stated day; and what more reasonable than that the Divine authority, who is the object of this worship, should meet this necessity, by Himself fixing the day for all mankind?[67]

There is nothing inherently (in and of itself) moral about the seventh or first days of the week. What makes one day moral and obligatory is the command of God. Now we move to the more controversial part concerning the nature of the Sabbath.

Moral Command

What does it mean that the Sabbath commandment is moral? It basically means that it is eternal and cannot be abrogated. This is the Confessional description: a positive moral, and perpetual commandment. A commandment that will not go away in its essence and is ever-binding. The day is a positive command as we’ve tried to explain, which can be changed if the Lord so pleases. But the essence of the Sabbath, which is rest and worship, is demanded by the law of nature and is binding upon all men. A lot of Christians in the present time, which profane the Sabbath Day, contend that the Sabbath is merely and essentially ceremonial and not moral. In this way, they justify the abrogation or “fulfillment” of the Sabbath under the New Covenant. It is essential to this viewpoint that they understand the Sabbath as merely a positive command given at Sinai, not as we tried to prove, an institution from the seventh day of the world.

Creation Ordinance

That the Sabbath is essentially moral (we don’t deny that there are ceremonial and temporary aspects more on which see below) is seen in the fact that it was instituted even before the Fall on the seventh day. It was “made for man” as our Lord taught us (Mark 2:27, see here). It was a gift from God given to Adam and to all his posterity, even before the Fall. Moreover, the Sabbath was moral in that it was based upon the Creator’s example. The Sabbath was instituted and based on what God did. Six days of work; seventh day of rest. Therefore, man was commanded to keep the Sabbath by following his Creator’s example. This is part of what it means to be in the Imago Dei. The words of Ezekiel Hopkins are very helpful here:

This declaration, if the will of God concerning the sanctification of the Sabbath is attended with a moral reason; and therefore is not merely and barely positive, as ceremonial laws are. The reason is, that God rested on the seventh day; and therefore we ought so to...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 19: Of the Law of God - Commentary

Chapter 19: Of the Law of God

Introduction

What is the relationship of the Christian and the Law? Do we have to obey the Law? What is the threefold division of the law? Are we saved by the Law? What are the threefold uses of the Law? What is the moral law and is it binding on all people? What are the Ten Commandments? Were the Ten Commandments known before Sinai? What is the relationship between the believer and the Ten Commandments? What is the doctrine of the Law and the Gospel?

There is a lot of work to be done in this chapter and I think that this is a crucial chapter, one that I want to study myself. I do believe what is confessed here, but I do also want to be able to make a biblical case for it. The case that I will lay down is obviously convincing to me, I will not be able to address every objection that may come up. What I want to lay down here is the binding authority and nature of the Decalogue on all people, whether saved or unsaved; what the relationship of the Christian is to the Law and such questions.

Defining Our Terms

Natural Law

The Natural Law is the Law of God as revealed in creation and which man knows by virtue of the fact that he’s a creature made in the image of God. Natural Law may be discovered by reason and by innate knowledge. The Reformed Baptist theologian Richard Barcellos writes the following concerning the substance and form of the Moral Law:

Protestant Scholasticism taught that the Decalogue summarily contains the Moral Law and is the inscripturated form of the natural law, as to its substance. A distinction was made between substance and form. Substance is one; form (and function) may vary. For example, when the Westminster Larger Catechism Q. 98 says, “The moral law is summarily comprehended in the ten commandments,” it refers to the fact that the substance (i.e., the underlying essence) of the Moral Law is assumed and articulated in the propositions of the Decalogue as contained in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. The form (and function) fits the redemptive-historical circumstances in which it was given. The substance, or underlying principles, are always relevant and applicable to man because he is created in the image of God. The application may shift based on redemptive-historical changes, such as the inauguration of the New Covenant, but its substance and utility never changes.[1]

Moral Law

The Moral Law on the other hand is the Law which is revealed and summarized by God in the Ten Commandments, the Decalogue, which is the substance of the Natural Law. Richard Muller is quoted in Barcellos on the definition of the Moral Law, saying:

[S]pecifically and predominantly, the Decalogus, or Ten Commandments; also called the lex Mosaica …, as distinct from the lex ceremonialis …and the lex civilis, or civil law. The lex moralis, which is primarily intended to regulate morals, is known to the synderesis [the innate habit of understanding basic principles of moral law] and is the basis of the acts of conscientia [conscience–the application of the innate habit above]. In substance, the lex moralis is identical with the lex naturalis …but, unlike the natural law, it is given by revelation in a form which is clearer and fuller than that otherwise known to the reason.[2]

And then Dr. Barcellos adds:

As noted above, the Moral Law is summarily comprehended in the Decalogue, not exhausted by it. Though the formal promulgation of the Decalogue had a unique redemptive-...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 30: Of the Lord's Supper - Commentary

...asons this manner of receiving communion has been legitimately established as the most common form in the Latin rite. But "the sign of communion is more complete when given under both kinds, since in that form the sign of the Eucharistic meal appears more clearly."225 This is the usual form of receiving communion in the Eastern rites.[10]

In other words, the reason for the denial of the cup is not because it was commanded by Christ, but because the Catholic clergy thinks it appropriate, althought the priests partake of both the bread and wine. Robert Dabney writes:

And our Saviour, as though foreseeing the abuse, in Mark 14:23, and Matt 26:27, has emphatically declared that all who eat are also to drink. This innovation of Rome is comparatively modern; being not more against the Word of God, than against the voice and usage of Christian antiquity. It presents one of the strongest examples of her insolent arrogance both towards her people and God. The true motive, doubtless, is, to exalt the priesthood into a superior caste.[11]

This practice has not a hint in Scripture. Christ says of the bread, "Take, eat; this is my body" and of the cup, "Drink of it, all of you" (Matt 26:26-27). Denial of the cup to the faithful, for whatever reason not found in Holy Writ, is disobedience to Christ's command.

Worshipping The Elements

Worship of the Eucharist. In the liturgy of the Mass we express our faith in the real presence of Christ under the species of bread and wine by, among other ways, genuflecting or bowing deeply as a sign of adoration of the Lord. "The Catholic Church has always offered and still offers to the sacrament of the Eucharist the cult of adoration, not only during Mass, but also outside of it, reserving the consecrated hosts with the utmost care, exposing them to the solemn veneration of the faithful, and carrying them in procession."[12]

The above statement from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, our Confession denies. Since Roman Catholics believe that the host becomes the very body of Christ, they think it proper to render the worship of adoration to it, since they think that the bread becomes Christ's body. But for those, going with Scripture Alone, and free of this superstitious sacramentalism, rendering any kind of worship or reverence to the bread and wine, is idolatry. What Rome does in their worship is idolatry because it is not in accordance with what Scripture teaches, but is built up by the wisdom of men. Christ is not present in the host itself, but is present to the faith of believers. Moreover, this is in direct contradiction and disobedience to the Second Commandment of our God. Oh wait, there is a reason which the Roman Catholic Church has added commandments one (Ex 20:3) and two (Ex 20:4-6) together, and split the tenth commandment (Ex 20:17) in two, to have the number ten. If they would have the second commandment plainly, and follow it, they would stop with their idolatry in worshipping the host, their images and statutes in their churches. But they do not care about the Law of God, rather, they go on with their idolatrous and will-worship. Therefore, the procession of the bread, and laying it at home as a blessing, and other kinds of superstitious acts are contrary to the mind of Christ in giving us this ordinance. It is meant to be an ordinance which is celebrated in the company of the faithful.


§5 No Change In Substance And Nature

  1. The outward elements in this...