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Bible Dictionaries

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary

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In the Hebrew language, signifies rest, and is the seventh day of the week: a day appointed for religious duties, and a total cessation from work, in commemoration of God's resting on the seventh day; and likewise in memorial of the redemption of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. Concerning the time whem the sabbath was first instituted there have been different opinions. Some have maintained that the sanctification of the seventh day mentioned in Genesis 2:1-25 : is only there spoken by anticipation; and is to be understood of the sabbath afterwards enjoined in the wilderness; and that the historian, writing after it was instituted, there gives the reason of its institution; and this is supposed to be the case, as it is never mentioned during the patriarchal age. But against this sentiment it is urged,

1. That it cannot be easily supposed that the inspired penman would have mentioned the sanctification of the seventh day among the primaeval transactions, if such sanctification had not taken place until 2500 years afterwards.

2. That considering Adam was restored to favour through a Mediator, and a religious service instituted, which man was required to observe, in testimony not only of his dependence on the Creator, but also of his faith and hope in the promise, it seems reasonable that an institution so grand and solemn, and so necessary to the observance of this service, should be then existent.

3. That it is no proof against its existence because it is not mentioned in the partriarchical age, no more than it is against its existence from Moses to the end of David's reign, which was near 440 years.

4. That the Sabbath was mentioned as a well known solemnity before the promulation of the law, Exodus 16:23 . For the manner in which the Jews kept it, and the awful consequences of neglecting it, we refer the reader to the Old Testament, Leviticus 26:34-35 . Nehemiah 13:16; Nehemiah 13:18 . Jeremiah 17:21 . Ezekiel 20:16-17 . Numb. 15: 23-36. Under the Christian dispensation, the sabbath is altered from the seventh to the first day of the week. The arguments for the change are these:

1. As the seventh day was observed by the Jewish church in memory of the rest of God after the works of the creation, and their deliverance from Pharaoh's tyranny, so the first day of the week has always been observed by the Christian church in memory of Christ's resurrection.

2. Christ made repeated visits to his disciples on that day.

3. It is called the Lord's day, Revelation 1:10 .

4. On this day the apostles were assembled, when the Holy Ghost came down so visibly upon them, to qualify them for the conversion of the world.

5. On this day we find St. Paul preaching at Troas, when the disciples came to break bread.

6. The directions the apostles give to the Christians plainly allude to their religious assemblies on the first day.

7. Pliny bears witness of the first day of the week being kept as a festival, in honour of the resurrection of Christ: and the primitive Christians kept it in the most solemn manner. These arguments, however, are not satisfactory to some, and it must be confessed that there is no law in the New Testament concerning the first day. However, it may be observed that it is not so much the precise time that is universally binding, as that one day out of seven is to be regarded. "

As it is impossible, " says Dr. Doddridge, "certainly to determine which is the seventh day from the creation; and as, in consequence of the spherical form of the earth, and the absurdity of the scheme which supposes it one great plain, the change of place will necessarily occasion some alteration in the time of the beginning and ending of any day in question, it being always at the same time, somewhere or other, sun- rising and sun-setting, noon and midnight, it seems very unreasonable to lay such a stress upon the particular day as some do. It seems abundantly sufficient that there be six days of labour and one of religious rest, which there will be upon the Christian and the Jewish scheme." As the sabbath is of divine institution, so it is to be kept holy unto the Lord. Numerous have been the days appointed by men for religious services; but these are not binding, because of human institution. Not so the sabbath. Hence the fourth commandment is ushered in with a peculiar emphasis

"Remember that thou keep holy the sabbath day." This institution is wise as to its ends: That God may be worshipped; man instructed; nations benefited; and families devoted to the service of God. It is lasting as to its duration. The abolition of it would be unreasonable; unscriptural, Exodus 31:13; and every way disadvantageous to the body, to society, to the soul, and even to the brute creation. It is, however, awfully violated by visiting, feasting, indolence, buying and selling, working, woeldly amusements, and travelling. "Look into the streets, " says bishop Porteus, "on the Lord's day, and see whether they convey the idea of a day of rest. Do not our servants and our cattle seem to be almost as fully occupied on that day as on any other? And, as if this was not a sufficient infringement of their rights, we contrive by needless entertainments at home, and needless journeys abroad, which are often by choice and inclination reserved for this very day, to take up all the little remaining part of their leisure time.

A sabbath day's journey was among the Jews a proverbial expression for a very short one; among us it can have no such meaning affixed to it. That day seems to be considered by too many as set apart, by divine and human authority, for the purpose not for rest, but of its direct opposite, the labour of travelling, thus adding one day more of torment to those generous but wretched animals whose services they hire; and who, being generally strained beyond their strength the other six days of the week, have, of all creatures under heaven, the best and most equitable claim to suspension of labour on the seventh." These are evils greatly to be lamented; they are an insult to God, an injury to ourselves, and an awful example to our servants, our children, and our friends. To sanctify this day, we should consider it,

1. A day of rest; not indeed, to exclude works of mercy and charity, but a cessation from all labour and care.

2. As a day of remembrance; of creation, preservation, redemption.

3. As a day of meditation and prayer in which we should cultivate communion with God, Revelation 1:10 .

4. As a day of public worship, Acts 20:7 . John 20:19 .

5. As a day of joy, Is. 56: 2. Psalms 118:24 .

6. As a day of praise, Psalms 116:12; Psalms 116:14 .

7. As a day of anticipation; looking forward to that holy, happy, and eternal sabbath that remains for the people of God.

See Chandler's two Sermons on the Sabbath; Wright on the Sabbath; Watts's Hol. of Times and Places; Orton's Six Discourses on the Lord's Day; Kennicott's Ser. and Dial. on the Sabbath; Bp. Porteus's Sermons, ser. 9. vol. 1.; Watts's Sermons, ser. 57. vol. 1:; S. Palmer's Apology for the Christian Sabbath; Kennicott on the Oblations of Cain and Abel, p. 184, 185.

Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Sabbath'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​cbd/​s/sabbath.html. 1802.
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