Directions for Observance of the Lord's Day

In his Brief Compend of Bible Truth (1846), pp. 191-193, Archibald Alexander gives five directions to guide the Christian in the proper observance of the Lord's Day, or Christian Sabbath, which merit repeating today. 

"1. Let the whole day be consecrated to the service of God, especially in acts of worship, public and private. This weekly recess from worldly cares and avocations, affords a precious opportunity for the study of God's word, and for the examination of our own hearts. Rise early, and let your first thoughts and aspirations be directed to heaven. Meditate much and profoundly on divine things, and endeavour to acquire a degree of spirituality on this day which will abide with you through the whole week.

2. Consider the Lord's day an honour and delight. Let your heart be elevated in holy joy, and your lips be employed in the high praises of God. This day more resembles heaven, than any other portion of our time; and we should endeavour to imitate the worship of heaven, according to that petition of the Lord's prayer — 'Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.' Never permit the idea to enter your mind, that the sabbath is a burden. It is a sad case, when professing Christians are weary of this sacred rest, and say, like some of old,  'When will the sabbath be gone, that we may sell corn, and set forth wheat?' As you improve this day, so probably will you be prospered all the week.

3. Avoid undue rigour, and Pharisaic scrupulosity; for nothing renders the Lord's day more odious. Still keep in view the great end of its institution; and remember that the sabbath was instituted for the benefit of man, and not to be a galling yoke. The cessation from worldly business and labour is not for its own sake, as if there was any thing morally good in inaction, but we are called off from secular pursuits on this day, that we may have a portion of our time to devote uninterruptedly to the worship of God. Let every thing then be so arranged in your household, beforehand, that there may be no interruption to religious duties, and to attendance on the means of grace. There was undoubtedly a rigour in the law of the sabbath, as given to the Jews, which did not exist before; and which does not apply to Christians. They were forbidden to kindle a fire, or to go out of their place on the sabbath; and for gathering a few sticks, a presumptuous transgressor was stoned to death. These regulations are not now in force.

As divine knowledge is the richest acquisition within our reach, and as this knowledge is to be found in the word of God, let us value this day, as affording all persons an opportunity of hearing and reading the word. And as the fourth commandment requires the heads of families to cause the sabbath to be observed by all under their control, or within their gates, it is very important that domestic and culinary arrangements should be so ordered, that servants and domestics should not be deprived of the opportunity of attending on the word and worship of God which this day affords, by being employed in preparing superfluous feasts, as is often the case. The sabbath is more valuable to the poor and unlearned than to others, because it is almost the only leisure which they have, and because means of public instruction are on that day afforded them by the preaching of the gospel. If we possess any measure of the true spirit of devotion, this sacred day will be most welcome to our hearts; and we will rejoice when they say, 'Let us go unto the house of the Lord.' To such a soul, the opportunity of enjoying spiritual communion with God will be valued above all price, and be esteemed as the richest privilege which creatures can enjoy upon earth.

4. Whilst you conscientiously follow your own sense of duty in the observance of the rest of the sabbath, be not ready to censure all who may differ from you in regard to minute particulars, which are not prescribed or commanded in the word of God. The Jews accused our Lord as a sabbath-breaker, on many occasions, and would have put him to death for a supposed violation of this law, had he not escaped out of their hands. Beware of indulging yourself in any practice which may have the effect of leading others to disregard the rest and sanctity of the sabbath. Let not your liberty in regard to what you think may be done, be a stumblingblock to cause weaker brethren to offend, or unnecessarily to give them pain, or to lead them to entertain an unfavourable opinion of your piety.

5. As, undoubtedly, the celebration of public worship and gaining divine instruction from the divine oracles, is the main object of the institution of the Christian sabbath, let all be careful to attend on the services of the sanctuary on this day. And let the heart be prepared by previous prayer and meditation for a participation in public worship, and while in the more immediate presence of the Divine Majesty, let all the people fear before him, and with reverence adore and praise his holy name. Let all vanity, and curious gazing, and slothfulness, be banished from the house of God. Let every heart be lifted up on entering the sanctuary, and let the thoughts be carefully restrained from wandering on foolish or worldly objects, and resolutely recalled when they have begun to go astray. Let brotherly love be cherished, when joining with others in the worship of God."