The Sabbath & the Conscience [5-Part Blog Series by Tom Chantry]

Pastor Tom Chantry
Pastor Tom Chantry

Pastor Tom Chantry:

I wrote a post about the Sabbath and the conscience. It was long, so – being “that kind of Puritan” – I made it longer. Then I broke it up into a series. Now we have five small installments, none of which should be too much for a day’s musing on the subject…

My intent this week is not to thoroughly examine the doctrine and practice of Sabbath, nor to defend the same. I have no intention of answering every random question anyone ever wanted to pose to a Sabbatarian. Instead we will be very tightly focused on the questions of conscience: is the Sabbath command “written on the heart” as Paul describes the conscience, and to the degree that it is not, what does that tell us?

Part 1: The Reformed view of the moral law

The confessional position, then, may be summarized in a few points:

  1. There is a universal and moral law, rooted in the character of God Himself, and applicable to all men at all times.
  2. That law was first given to Adam, instilled in him through conscience, and remains on the conscience of every one of his descendants, even if the conscience is muted by sin and may be repressed through consistent transgression.
  3. The same moral principles have been applicable at every point in history, and have been written in the Scriptures at various places. The moral law is summarized briefly in the two “Great Commandments” cited by Christ, and is summarized at greater length in the Ten Commandments.
  4. One evidence of this universal morality is that all men everywhere know the same basic moral code, regardless of whether or not they have even encountered the Bible.


4thcommand sabbathPart 2: The challenge to this theology in the current context

One critique of the Sabbath plays a large role in the thinking of many. It is the argument that Sabbath constitutes an exception to Paul’s conscience proof. “All right,” says the antinomian, “You want to say that the law written on men’s hearts is moral. That is true of the other Commandments, but the Fourth? We have a whole society which does not practice Sabbath, and no one feels pangs of conscience about it! How do you explain this if the moral law is written on everyone’s heart?


Part 3: The initial three steps, having to do with the problem of identifying moral law from general revelation

  1. Understand that the argument is formulated backwards
  2. The question fails to account for the power of depravity
  3. One wonders exactly how many commandments the antinomian is willing to abandon


Part 4: The last three steps, in which we ask whether or not it is even true that the Sabbath is entirely absent from our conscience

  1. If your awareness of Christian practice goes back more than one generation, you’ll have to admit that the Sabbath once pricked the conscience of men
  2. Don’t be so certain that the Sabbath isn’t written on every Christian’s heart – even today
  3. In fact, ours has increasingly become a culture of morally-enforced Sabbaths


rest-work-after-millet-1890.jpg!BlogPart 5: Conclusion

God’s law – properly observed – is always going to be better than the pale imitations our hearts devise when we suppress the conscience and ignore His commandments.


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