The Protestant Reformation on Sabbath-Keeping

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REV. PROF. DR. MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546):

"If Adam had stood in his innocency, yet he would have kept the seventh day holy. That is, on that day he would have taught his children and children's children what was the will of God, and wherein His worship did consist. He would have praised God, given thanks, and offered [or brought gifts to the Lord]. On the other days, he would have tilled his ground and looked after his cattle….

"Adam was to gather with his descendants on the Sabbath at the tree of life…and, when they had together eaten of the tree of life, to preach (i.e. to proclaim God and His praises and the glory of creation)…, and to exhort them to a holy and sinless life and to a faithful tilling and keeping of the garden…. Therefore the Sabbath was, from the beginning of the world, appointed to the worship of God."1

"The Scriptures mention the Sabbath much sooner than Adam fell into sin. Was it not appointed at that time that he should work six days and rest on the seventh? … Nature teaches that the working classes…who have spent the whole week in their work…absolutely require a day in which they can…rest and refresh themselves and…attend to the worship of God."2

"One also celebrates the Sabbath or Sunday not [just] from necessity nor for the sake of Moses’ command…. Also nature gives and teaches it. One should indeed rest for a while on one day. Man and beast should refresh themselves. It is this natural reason which also Moses places in his Sabbath. Christ too, in Matthew 12 and in Mark [2:27f], places the Sabbath among men."3

"It is still good and even necessary that men should for the sake of the Word of God keep a particular day of the week — on which they are to meditate, hear, and learn…. Nature requires that one day in the week should be kept…without labour either for man or beast."4 

REV. PROF. DR. MARTIN BUCER (1491-1551):

"Since our God with singular goodness towards us has sanctified one day out of seven…and blessed that day, so that the sacred exercises of religion performed on it might be effectual to the promoting of our salvation — he verily shows himself to be a wretched despiser…who does not study to sanctify that day to the glorifying of his God…. Since God has granted six days for our works and employments….

"Who, therefore, does not see how advantageous it is to the people of Christ — that one day in seven should be so consecrated to the exercises of religion, that it is not lawful (fas) to do any

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other kind of work than assemble in the sacred meeting and there hear the Word of God, pour out prayers before God, make profession of faith and give thanks to God, present sacred offerings and receive divine sacraments; and so, with undivided application, glorify God and make increase in faith? For these are the true works of religious holy-days!"5

Bucer goes on to mention with satisfaction the laws made by Constantine and other emperors, to prohibit by penalties the transaction of ordinary business, the exhibition of spectacles and such things on the Lord's Day. By spectacles, Bucer here means the circusses and theatres etc. in the Roman Empire. For, he explains: "The early Church consecrated the first day instead of the seventh in memory of the resurrection. It shall not be allowable to do anything else on that day, except assembly in the congregation of worship."6 

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