One cannot click around for more than a few seconds before running across someone slobbering all over the Puritans and talking of their greatness. Everyone wants to be part of Puritanism now and show how Puritanism is Reformation theology down the line. Rather than admitting that Reformed theology has some breadth to it, many desire to simply make everyone into a Puritan. No example is better than the idea of saying there is no difference between the Continental and Puritan view of the Sabbath or 4th Commandment.
The latest example of this is Rev. Daniel Hyde. He is a guest on the Christ the Center Podcast Episode 450 (congrats on that number by the way) and has an article being republished in the Confessional Presbyterian arguing that everything was always Puritan Sabbatarianism. Rev. Hyde and the hosts make this claim at about the 5 minute mark. They go on to talk about how sometimes the application is different, but the principle is the same. And proof is offered in that the URC is very strict on the Sabbath and a lot of Presbyterians are not. And it must be said this is true; however, it is because the URC holds the Puritan view of the Sabbath not because there is no such thing as a Continental view. From this point on in the podcast they talk of the “myth” of the Continental view or the “so-called” Continental view.
Rev. Hyde does attempt to prove this from the Heidelberg Catechism Q.103. At the 18:31 mark and again at the 20:30 mark, Rev. Hyde quotes from the HC and reads the answer as “and that I especially on the Sabbath, that is the day of rest, . . .” He makes a big deal about the inclusion of the word Sabbath. The problem is the word Sabbath is not in the answer. Now it is my understanding that while the URC has adopted the Three Forms they did not adopt specific wording or versions until this past Synod (which I do not have access to), so it might be in whatever version Rev. Hyde is using. However, Ursinus’s commentary on the catechism does not include Sabbath, nor does any RCUS version of it, nor does the Christian Reformed Church, or really any version I can find. The Heidelberg avoids the word Sabbath. Hyde concludes at the 21:20 mark by saying “There is no way around it, The Lord’s Day is the Christian Sabbath.”
I disagree. Rev. Hyde has told us the Dutch are real strict about Sunday’s but he has not shown us that it comes from the Confessions nor has he dealt with the ample proof that the Lord’s Day is not the Christian Sabbath. Remember this quote from the Second Helvetic Confession Chapter 24 “Besides we do celebrate and keep the Lord’s Day, and not the Sabbath, and that with a free observation.” The Second Helvetic makes a distinction between Lord’s Day and Sabbath. Not an equation. And remember the Second Helvetic is the single most widely adopted Confession of the Reformation. Calvin’s 1545 Catechism is similarly focused on saying that “the observance of rest is part of the ceremonies of the ancient law, which was abolished at the coming of Jesus Christ” (Q168). The Lord’s Day is not the Christian Sabbath, and if I read Calvin right, not even required to be Sunday. Add to that Ursinus’s Major and Minor Catechisms, which speak of honoring the ministry and removing hindrances, but fail to call the Lord’s Day the Sabbath and specifically says the time and place is set by the church. Also the Larger Emden Catechism, which gets closer to what Hyde wants, states the external Sabbath is maintained “when the church of God is honored in its office and ministry” (q.41) and goes on to state this time is set by the church (43).
In the end, Hyde’s claim that the Lord’s Day is the Christian Sabbath is the heart of the dispute. That is what makes one a Puritan Sabbatarian. If you believe the Lord’s Day, Sunday, is the Sabbath on a new Christianified day, then you hold to the Puritan view. If you believe the fourth commandment is really about resting from your evil works all the days of your life and a helpful pattern to aid our weakness in calling us together to worship once a week, then you hold to the Continental view. If you believe cessation of labor is the obedient response to a holy day instituted by God then you hold to the Puritan view, if you believe cessation of labor and physical rest is not really the point of the commandment then you hold to the Continental view of the Sabbath. They are different and they have existed since the Reformation. People have to stop denying it. If you think one is right, then argue for it, but don’t pretend everyone has always held to that view. It is okay to say you think Calvin was wrong or that Bullinger was wrong. It is not okay to say that they really meant the same things as the Westminster.
I will deal with Hyde’s discussion of Dort in another post.