Posted by: rcottrill | December 13, 2013

Safely Through Another Week

Words: John Newton (b. July 24, 1725; d. Dec. 21, 1807)
Music: Sabbath, by Lowell Mason (b. Jan. 8, 1792; d. Aug. 11, 1872)

Wordwise Hymns (John Newton born)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: This hymn first appeared in Psalms and Hymns, in 1774. Then, in 1779, it was published in Olney Hymns, the famous book by John Newton and William Cowper. In the latter, stanza CH-4 was omitted. Today, CH-1, 3, 4 and 6 are commonly used.

As Newton designed the hymn to be sung on Saturday evening, several word changes were later made in an attempt to fit it for Sunday worship. (More of that in a moment.) For example, in CH-1, “Let us now a blessing seek, on th’approaching Sabbath day,” was changed to, “Let us now a blessing seek, waiting in His courts today.”

This is not a hymn that I would use, personally. I believe it’s based on a false assumption, that Sunday is the Christian’s Sabbath Day. There is not a shred of scriptural evidence for the claim that the Jewish Sabbath laws have somehow been transferred to Sunday. In fact, Sabbath keeping is the only one of the Ten Commandments not repeated in the New Testament.

The notion of a “Christian Sabbath” is based, in part, on amillennialism’s failure to distinguish between Israel and the church, seeing the nation of Israel merely as the Old Testament church. When this position is taken, all kinds of mischief results. Israel is a nation, with an earthly origin (Abraham) and an earthly land given them by the Lord (Canaan) (Gen. 12:1, 7). The church is not a nation, but a spiritual body–of those born of the Spirit–made up of all nations (I Cor. 12:12-13). Our citizenship is not on earth, but in heaven (Phil. 3:20).

The Sabbath of Israel was imposed as a complete day of rest, in the Law God gave to them through Moses (Exod. 20:8-10). The New Testament Lord’s Day is not prescribed by any divine law. It seems to have been arrived at as a day for God’s people to meet by the consensus of early Christians. Appropriate, since it was the day of Christ’s resurrection (Matt. 28:1), and of the birthday of the church. But Sunday is nowhere in God’s Word called the “emblem of eternal rest” (CH-1). It’s an emblem not of rest, but of resurrection.

Even the placement of the two days seems significant. The Jewish Sabbath falls on Saturday, the last day of the week. The Christian Lord’s Day falls on Sunday, the first day of the week. The Sabbath thus illustrates the law principle–works first, then an enjoyment of resulting blessings afterward. The Lord’s Day illustrates the grace principle–a celebration of God’s blessings first (freely given), then going forth to serve Him as a loving response to grace.

The laws regarding Sabbath keeping were strict, and the death penalty was imposed for breaking them. One man was executed for gathering sticks to build a fire on the Sabbath (Num. 15:32-36). In contrast, there are no laws regarding how we are to keep the Christian Lord’s Day. That being said, it is important for Christians to have times when they meet together (Heb. 10:23-25), and we all need regular rest and recreation as part of our busy weeks. Whether these things fall on Sunday or some other day is a matter of choice or tradition.

Christians are not now under the Law of Israel. It was in force from Mount Sinai to Mount Calvary, where it was fulfilled in Christ. To call Sunday the Christian Sabbath is to confuse Israel and the church, and to confuse Law and Grace. For a fuller discussion of this, see the article entitled Sunday Sabbath.

CH-1) Safely through another week God has brought us on our way;
Let us now a blessing seek, on th’approaching Sabbath day;
Day of all the week the best, emblem of eternal rest,
Day of all the week the best, emblem of eternal rest.

CH-6) May Thy gospel’s joyful sound conquer sinners, comfort saints;
Make the fruits of grace abound, bring relief for all complaints;
Thus may all our Sabbaths prove till we join the church above,
Thus may all our Sabbaths prove till we join the church above!

1) What are the similarities and the differences between the Jewish Sabbath and the Christian Lord’s Day?

2) What traditional activities or restrictions of activity do you customarily follow on the Lord’s Day?

Wordwise Hymns (John Newton born)
The Cyber Hymnal


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