Welcome to the website for The Confessional Presbyterian, a journal for discussion of Presbyterian doctrine & practice. See our About page for background on the purpose and scope of the journal. Our 12th issue (2016) should be in hand by May 23, 2016. The issue is our first with the full article section on one theme, which is “The Lord’s Day or Christian Sabbath”. The contents are listed below. To subscribe or purchase back issues see the online Store. USA ship to sale ends June 30. To view table of contents for past issues see our articles page or the author index for a listing of published material by author.
The Confessional Presbyterian Volume 12 (2016) 296pp.
Cover: Thomas E. Peck (1822–1893)
Table of Contents
- Pastoral Letters on the Observance of the Sabbath. By Thomas E. Peck, T. V. Moore and Benjamin Morgan Palmer
- Southern Presbyterian Sabbatarianism. By James Henley Thornwell, et al.
- Dropping the Subject, Again? The Decline of Sabbatarianism in the Old Southern Presbyterian Church and in the Presbyterian Church in America. By Chris Coldwell
- The Doctrine of the Sabbath with a Particular look at its Application in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. By Benjamin P. Glaser
- Politics, International Relations, and the Sabbath: The 1915 International Lord’s Day Congress. By Frank J. Smith
- Leviticus 23 and the Christian Sabbath. By Benjamin Shaw
- What Should a Typical Sabbath Look Like and Why? By Ryan M. McGraw
- The Christian Sabbath: Destiny not Drudgery. By Roy Mohon
- John Calvin, the Nascent Sabbatarian: A Reconsideration of Calvin’s View of Two Key Sabbath-Issues. By Stewart E. Lauer
- The Sabbath Day and Recreations on the Sabbath: An Examination of the Sabbath and the Biblical Basis for the “No Recreation” Clause in Westminster Confession of Faith 21.8 and Westminster Larger Catechism 117. By Lane Keister
- Regulae de Observatione Sabbathi: The Synod of Dort’s (1618–19) Deliverance on the Sabbath. By Daniel R. Hyde
- Our Reasonable Service: Sabbath Doctrine of the Nadere Reformatie. By Justin B. Stodghill
- Is the Westminster Confession’s Doctrine of the Sabbath a Judaizing Doctrine? By Geoffrey L. Willour
- The Fourth Commandment: Annulled or Sustained? By Carl E. Erickson
Table of Contents Continued
225 Reviews & Responses: Terry L. Johnson, Worshipping with Calvin: Recovering the Historic Ministry and Worship of Reformed Protestantism and Serving with Calvin: Leading and Planning Services of Worship in the Reformed Church (Barry Waugh) 225 ■ Nicholas P. Lunn, The Original Ending of Mark: A New Case for the Authenticity of Mark 16:9–20 (Benjamin Shaw) 226 ■ John C. Clark and Marcus Peter Johnson, The Incarnation of God: The Mystery of the Gospel as the Foundation of Evangelical Theology (Scott Cook) 229 ■ R. Baines, et al, Confessing the Impassible God: The Biblical, Classical & Confessional Doctrine of Divine Impassibility (Peter Sanlon) 234 ■ Benjamin Morgan Palmer, The Broken Home; or Lessons in Sorrows (C. N. Willborn) 235 ■ Sean Michael Lucas, For a Continuing Church: The Roots of the Presbyterian Church (Lane Keister) 236■
239 Psallo: Psalm 5:1–12
242 In Translatiōne: John Brown of Wamphray: Recreations and the Sabbath
262 Antiquary: A Transcription of James Durham’s Sermon on Ephesians 4:11-12, taught before the Synod of Glasgow, October 5, 1652.
295 The Editors
In Brief: The Lord’s Day is no Human Constitution (134) ■ In Brief: John Owen on Isaiah 58:13 (141) ■ In Brief: Zanchius on “Remember the Sabbath day” (148) ■ In Brief: We must rest also from speaking & hearing of worldly matters (172) ■ In Brief: The Sabbath Day a Creation Ordinance ■
As W. C. Fields was dying in hospital, it is said that one day a visitor found him reading the Bible. Asked why, the alcoholic and atheist Fields replied in his distinctive cadence, “Looking for loopholes.” Whether this account be fact or fiction, the phrase comes to mind regarding the recent failed attempt to move the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) away from an adherence to the longstanding Presbyterian doctrine of the Christian Sabbath or Lord’s Day, as taught in the Westminster Standards. Although in 1976, just several years after its founding, the PCA passed a resolution affirming the sanctity of the Lord’s Day, in 2015 overtures brought by two presbyteries pressed for erecting study committees to facilitate the redaction from the standards of the words “whole day” and “recreations,” due to the majority of elders now routinely taking exception to this teaching, and to the general and widespread practical rejection of Westminster’s Sabbatarianism. The overtures failed, not, sadly, due to an overwhelming support of Sabbatarianism, but in the pragmatic view that the exception is allowed without controversy.
This brings us to the present issue of our journal. The occasion of these overtures raised some questions worth exploring, and originally the intention was to address these in a single article in the previous issue, surveying the origins of the doctrine and the subsequent decline of Sabbatarian views in Southern Presbyterianism. It was also the goal to have the 2015 issue out prior to the summer assemblies of the various Presbyterian denominations, particularly in light of the overtures pending before the PCA General Assembly. These overtures failed decisively, as did our endeavor to get the journal out early, and the article was also put off for another time.
Having missed our aim last year, the editors determined to make a renewed attempt to get the journal onto a summer release schedule, intending to put together an abbreviated 2016 issue solely on the subject of the Christian Sabbath to facilitate this. We solicited articles on topics which originally were briefly addressed in the 2015 draft article, and received a good number of submissions. Those accepted for publication, together with three previously published pieces and with some lengthy contributions to some of our regular features, happily have made for quite a bit more than an ‘abbreviated’ volume for this twelfth issue of The Confessional Presbyterian.
How did Presbyterianism get to the point that the PCA, the largest evangelical body of Presbyterians in the U.S., would entertain overtures to change these centuries-old doctrinal standards’ teaching about the fourth commandment? Is the Puritan understanding that we should devote the whole of the Lord’s Day to worship and put off our normal sports and pastimes biblical? If it does not strike at the vitals, why make a fuss? Would redacting these words be a minor change, not affecting the doctrine of a Christian Sabbath, or does it essentially gut the English Sabbatarian influence in the historic standards of Presbyterianism? Should we not be accommodating to an ecumenical Reformed view, and accepting of those affirming the Three Forms of Unity and a Reformed ‘continental’ view? Continued on Page 293.
Editorial. Continued from Page 2.
What exactly is the ‘continental’ view, and how does one define it? What should be our practice in observing the Lord’s Day?
The writers contributing to this 2016 issue attempt to answer these and other questions relative to the Puritan or Westminster concept of the Christian Sabbath. The articles fall roughly into three sections covering subjects historical, doctrinal, and controversial. The first four articles exhibit the Sabbatarianism of Presbyterians of the past. The first is a pastoral letter approved by the Presbytery of Baltimore in 1855, penned by Southern Presbyterian theologian Thomas E. Peck, our cover subject. This is followed by pastoral letters by T. V. Moore (1849) and Benjamin Morgan Palmer (1851), and by some extracts on the subject of the Lord’s Day entitled “Southern Presbyterian Sabbatarianism.” As to how Presbyterians arrived at the present state of affairs, several pieces explore the background and history of the doctrine of the Sabbath and the decline of Sabbath observance in this country. Frank Smith provides a study of the 1915 International Lord’s Day Conference, held at a time when renewed and broadly ecumenical interest in the Sabbath was at its height yet was headed toward decline, due to the influences of progressivism and a growing rejection of Puritan Sabbatarianism. Chris Coldwell provides general historical background on the origin of the Puritan doctrine of the Christian Sabbath and its spread and decline, largely covering the struggle in the PCUS to retain a sound doctrine and practice, and the decline that continued in the Presbyterian Church in America. Benjamin Glaser concludes this historical section with a piece that surveys the history and current state of the Christian Sabbath in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.
The next section of articles are of a doctrinal or practical nature. Benjamin Shaw explores the Old Testament foundations of the law of the Sabbath in “Leviticus 23 and the Christian Sabbath.” Ryan McGraw addresses how one might be a conscientious observer of the fourth commandment in this modern age in “The Sabbath in Practice,” and Roy Mohon presents us with “The Christian Sabbath: Destiny not Drudgery.”
The last section of articles in one way or another explores some of the controversies of the day. In an update of a previous article, Lane Keister defends the scriptural validity of Westminster’s so-called ‘anti-recreation clause.’ Geoff Willour offers a rebuttal to the views of the 1973 minority report of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church which took an anti-Sabbatarian position. In a somewhat related article, we present a paper by Carl Erickson written a few years prior to that minority report, directed against the anti-Sabbatarian views of Dispensationalism. Daniel R. Hyde explores the Reformed understanding of the Lord’s Day contradistinguished from the modern misnomer of a ‘continental view’ in “Regulæ de Observatione Sabbathi: The Synod of Dort’s (1618–19) Deliverance on the Sabbath,” and in a companion piece, Justin Stodghill explores “Our Reasonable Service: Sabbath Doctrine of the Nadere Reformatie.” In this section we have also reprinted Stewart Lauer’s “John Calvin, the Nascent Sabbatarian: A Reconsideration of Calvin’s View of Two Key Sabbath-Issues,” which first appeared in our third issue (2007).
In our recurring features, Psallo contains a rendering of the fifth Psalm, and in Antiquary we are pleased to present a transcription from manuscript of a sermon by James Durham which is of some historical significance to the history of the Protester-Resolutioner Controversy in the Church of Scotland. Following the general theme of this issue, for In Translatiōne we solicited and obtained a first time translation of two chapters from John Brown of Wamphray’s De Causa Dei contra Antisabbatarios, addressing whether in addition to our daily labors, we should also put aside our lawful recreations and pastimes for the Lord’s Day.
With this 2016 issue we welcome Glen Clary to the editorship of Reviews & Responses. This year there are reviews of Confessing the Impassible God; Terry Johnson’s Worshipping with Calvin: Recovering the Historic Ministry and Worship of Reformed Protestantism and Serving with Calvin: Leading and Planning Services of Worship in the Reformed Church; Sean Michael Lucas’ For a Continuing Church: The Roots of the Presbyterian Church; Clark and Johnson’s Incarnation of God; a reprint of Benjamin Morgan Palmer’s The Broken Home; or Lessons in Sorrows, and Nicholas P. Lunn’s The Original Ending of Mark: A New Case for the Authenticity of Mark 16:9-20.
It is certainly sad to see in our day the near total dismissal of a Bible doctrine which used to be regarded as the hallmark and key characteristic of Presbyterianism, and to see that this rejection extends to the majority of those who claim that association. This denial of the Lord’s propriety in a day for His worship has many dire consequences. As one old Southern Presbyterian report warned, “Let us beware brethren: As goes the Sabbath, so goes the church, as goes the church, so goes the nation.” The great Reformed theologian Franciscus Junius noted, “Good morals cannot exist—not even according to nature itself—among human beings who do not observe and sanctify to the Lord one day out of seven.” We live in a time when, after having long tossed aside one creation ordinance, we have become so base as to find it easy to cast aside another, more basic pre-Fall institution, the corruption of which no nation has survived. Reformation begins with the house of God. May the church recover the true doctrine of the Christian Sabbath, beginning with those churches which have a good inheritance if now only on paper, which are on the verge of casting even this legacy aside.