The Synod of Dort on the Lord’s Day

Posted by on Jan 30, 2018 in Uncategorized

The following is a translation of the statements the Great Synod of Dort (1618-19) made on the Lord’s Day.  The original article can be accessed here.  I conclude with some reflections.

In the fourth Commandment of the divine law, part is ceremonial, part is moral.

The rest of the seventh day after creation was ceremonial and its rigid observation peculiarly prescribed to the Jewish people.

Moral in fact, because the fixed and enduring day of the worship of God is appointed, for as much rest as is necessary for the worship of God and holy meditation of him.

With the Sabbath of the Jews having been abrogated, the Lord’s Day is solemnly sanctified by Christians.

From the time of the Apostles this day was always observed in the ancient Catholic Church.

This same day is thus consecrated for divine worship, so that in it one might rest from all servile works (with these excepted, which are works of charity and pressing necessity) and from those recreations which impede the worship of God.

A few reflections on what the aforementioned points teach:

  • Our forefathers did not view the 4th commandment as entirely moral.  It also contained ceremonial aspects, which were abrogated with the old covenant.
    • Ceremonial aspects that have expired pertain to the rigidity of Jewish observance and to the particular day they observed, i.e., the seventh.
    • There is a perpetual moral requirement that time be set aside for worship and holy meditation.
  • The new covenant People do not sanctify the Sabbath of the Jews but the Lord’s Day.  It has been observed since the Apostles.
  • Christians sanctify the Lord’s Day by abstaining from servile (‘enslaving’) labors.  We can infer that this refers to our earthly vocations that regularly occupy us.  Not all labors are enslaving, or the Synod would not have qualified the sort of labors.
  • The Christian also sanctifies the Lord’s Day by abstaining from recreations that impede worship.  Notice that this does not forbid all recreation, but only those impeding the worship of God.  We can infer that “the worship of God” refers to corporate, public worship.  If it refers also to holy meditations throughout the day, then all recreation would be forbidden.  But article VI only forbids “those recreations which impede the worship of God.”
    • These statements are not as strict as the Westminster Confession of Faith art. 21.8, which forbids all recreation and requires that the entire day be taken up with worship and holy meditation.  Otherwise, there is overlap.
  • How should the Christian sanctify the Lord’s Day?
    • Required
      • Corporate Worship
      • Holy meditations at home
      • Works of charity and necessity
    • Optional
      • Labors that are not enslaving
      • Recreation that does not impede worship

The URCNA has not adopted these statements from Dort, but we should certainly esteem them as wisdom from our heritage.