Tuesday, August 23, 2016

More Hyde on the 4th Commandment


Hyde makes the claim that there is no way around the fact that the Lord’s Day is the Christian Sabbath.  And the article and a good portion of the podcast are discussing the pronouncement of Dort concerning the Sabbath.  Rev. Hyde claims that this shows agreement with the Puritan position, and I disagree.  Now Dort is probably a bit closer than the Heidelberg to the Puritans and closer than the Second Helvetic Confession, and close to in-line with Jan Laski, but not in agreement with the Puritans. 

First let us remember that this is not the Synod of Dort that was all the Reformed from across the Continent.  This was the same synod, but the foreign delegates had left by this point.  It is what is called the ‘post-acta’ portion of the Synod.  So this is only the Netherlands.  A Netherlands that was in the midst of being highly influenced by the Puritans from England.  William Ames was currently ministering in the Netherlands and was serving as a help to the Synod President, and the Dutch had a church in London as well.  Thus the Dutch had internal divisions on this subject.  Gomarus was against the Puritan view and Voetius was for it.  Both at the Synod. 

Dort has six points regarding the 4thCommandment.  The first point speaks of having a ceremonial and moral aspect.  The ceremonial nature of the commandment that includes the “rest on the seventh day” and the “strict” manner of observance according to point 2.  Hyde states the ceremonial aspects as the “day on which the Sabbath fell” and the “strictness” (Regulae. pg.171 see article link above).  But that is not what the text seems to say.  The word “rest” is included.  Hyde’s formulation assumes the Sabbath will continue, but that is actually what is being debated.  The moral portion, according to point 3, is one day a week needs to use for worship and all that gets in the way of that should be rested from or stopped.  So note that there is no equation of the seventh day with the first day.  Just one day a week is required.  The fourth point is the Sabbath of the Jews is abolished, and Sunday is to be hallowed.  This is a follow up on the ceremonial points, this is all abolished.  Strict observance is abolished.  The Sabbath is abolished.  No mention of a new Christian Sabbath.  The word Sabbath is used only here to say it is abolished.  Point 4 does seem to be saying that Sunday is the day appointed to worship, but it is not the same as saying it is the Sabbath.  The fifth point now references the long standing tradition of worshipping on Sunday.   It is saying that it is now a well-established tradition.  That should have weight.  Point 6 then speaks of consecrating the day to worship by resting from servile labor and all recreation that gets in the way of worship.  It is not a call to rest form all work, nor from all recreation.  So this is clearly less than the Westminster.  Still, it does go further than the Heidelberg.

Just in case anyone thinks I am crazy, Douma comments on Dort and the fourth commandment saying “the Synod did not come up with a strictly Puritan pronouncement” (The Ten Commandments pg.144).  He too argues it is a compromise statement. 

It is not a Puritan interpretation because the Puritans make rest on the day as well as worship part of the continuing moral force of the commandment.  The Heidelberg does not.  This pronouncement from Dort does not.  It says you have to rest from stuff in order to worship, but that is not the same as what the Puritans are arguing for.  They want all work on the day to cease (including recreation).  Rest itself is part of the moral force not simply as an aide to worship, but rest for rest’s sake. 

It should be noted that Dort, as well as the Westminster, downplay the everyday portion of the 4th commandment.  The Heidelberg and earlier Reformers emphasized resting from your evil works all the days of your life.  It is not found in this pronouncement by Dort (although perhaps outside of its intention), nor is it mentioned in the Westminster Confession and Catechisms. 

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