A.A. Hodge on the essence, duration and change of the Sabbath

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Charles A, Salmond, “the Scottish Princetonian,” recorded the “Table Talks” of Dr. Archibald Alexander Hodge in Princetoniana (1888). Some of his thoughts on the Christian Sabbath from these Table Talks are extracted below for meditation on this Lord’s Day. For a longer read by Hodge on this subject, be sure to read The Day Changed and the Sabbath Preserved (highlighted previously here and available to read here).

The Essence of the Sabbath.

That a regular portion of time, appointed by God, to be observed by all men, should be set apart for rest and the worship of God, — this is the essence of the Sabbath; that one-seventh of time should be so set apart is, relatively to this, the accident. It is, however, the case that one-seventh of time has been positively set apart by God for a Sabbath, and a particular one-seventh of time. The choice has not been left to us.

Duration and Extent of the Sabbath Law.

"Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy," is as much a moral law as "Thou shalt not steal" — the law founded on the relations of property. Its duration and extent are determined by the character of the institution and the abiding reason for it; and also by Scripture, in the New Testament portion of which its permanence is incidentally recognised, though there is no specific re-establishment of it, any more than of infant church membership.

The Lord's Day and the Sabbath the same.

Our "Lord's Day" and the Jewish "Sabbath" are not different in essence. Both are days of rest and festival, not of gloom. The essence of the Sabbath could not be changed without changing the nature of man. But the accidents of it may be changed by competent authority, and were actually changed by the college of Apostles, for a sufficient reason.

The Change of Day.

The stream of Sabbath observance on the seventh day of the week came right down to the time of the Apostles; it took a bend at that point; and it has come right on ever after. Only they could have altered it; the authority of no other would have wrought such an universal change in the Christian world. The adequate reason for the change was, the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ and the new creation it secured. The competent authority was that of the Apostles, and no other. (The trouble with the hierarchical bishops now is, that they are all Apostles, though they have not seen the Lord — not a soul of them!)