Thomas Watson
The Ten Commandments
File 11
(... continued from file 10)

2.4 The Fourth Commandment 
    'Remember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou 
labour, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of 
the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy 
son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy 
cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days 
the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, 
and rested the seventh day; wherefore the Lord blessed the 
Sabbath-day and hallowed it. Exod 20: 8 - 11. 
    This commandment was engraven in stone by God's own finger, and 
it will be our comfort to have it engraven in our hearts. 
    The Sabbath-day is set apart for God's solemn worship; it is 
his own enclosure, and must not be alienated to common uses. As a 
preface to this commandment, he has put a memento to it, 'Remember 
to keep the Sabbath day holy.' This word, 'remember,' shows that we 
are apt to forget Sabbath holiness; therefore we need a memorandum 
to put us in mind of sanctifying the day. 
    I. There is in these words a solemn command. 'Remember the 
Sabbath-day to keep it holy.' 
    [1] The matter of it. The sanctifying the Sabbath, which 
Sabbath sanctification consists in two things, in resting from our 
own works, and in a conscientious discharge of our religious duty. 
    [2] The persons to whom the command of sanctifying the Sabbath 
is given. Either superiors, and they are, more private, as parents 
and masters; or more public, as magistrates; or inferiors, as 
natives, children, and servants, 'Thy son, and thy daughter, thy 
man-servant, and thy maidservant;' or foreigners, 'thy stranger that 
is within thy gates.' 
    II. The arguments to obey this commandment of keeping holy the 
Sabbath are, 
    [1] From the rationality of it. 'Six days shalt thou labour and 
do all thy work;' as if God had said, I am not a hard master, I do 
not grudge thee time to look after thy calling, and to get an 
estate. I have given thee six days, to do all thy work in, and have 
taken but one day for myself. I might have reserved six days for 
myself, and allowed thee but one; but I have given thee six days for 
the works of thy calling, and have taken but one day for my own 
service. It is just and rational, therefore, that thou shouldest set 
this day in a special manner apart for my worship. 
    [2] The second argument for sanctifying the Sabbath, is taken 
from the justice of it. 'The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord 
thy God;' as if God had said, The Sabbath-day is my due, I challenge 
a special right in it, and no other has any claim to it. He who robs 
me of this day, and puts it to common uses, is a sacrilegious 
person, he steals from the crown of heaven, and I will in nowise 
hold him guiltless. 
    [3] The third argument for sanctifying the Sabbath, is taken 
from God's own observance of it. He 'rested the seventh day;' as if 
the Lord should say, Will you not follow me as a pattern? Having 
finished all my works of creation, I rested the seventh day; so 
having done all your secular work on the six days, you should now 
cease from the labour of your calling, and dedicate the seventh day 
to me, as a day of holy rest. 
    [4] The fourth argument for Sabbath-sanctification, is taken ab 
utili, from the benefit which redounds from a religious observation 
of the Sabbath. 'The Lord blessed the seventh day and hallowed it.' 
God not only appointed the seventh day, but he blessed it. It is not 
only a day of honour to God, but a day of blessing to us; it is not 
only a day wherein we give God worship, but a day wherein he gives 
us grace. On this day a blessing drops down from heaven. God himself 
is not benefited by it, we cannot add one cubit to his essential 
glory; but we ourselves are benefited. This day, religiously 
observed, entails a blessing upon our souls, our estate, and our 
posterity. Not keeping it, brings a curse. Jer 17: 27. God curses a 
man's blessings. Mal 2: 2. The bread which he eats is poisoned with 
a curse; so the conscientious observation of the Sabbath, brings all 
manner of blessings with it. These are the arguments to induce 
    The thing I would have you now observe is, that the commandment 
of keeping the Sabbath was not abrogated with the ceremonial law, 
but is purely moral, and the observation of it is to be continued to 
the end of the world. Where can it be shown that God has given us a 
discharge from keeping one day in seven? 
    Why has God appointed a Sabbath? 
    (1) With respect to himself. It is requisite that God should 
reserve one day in seven for his own immediate service, that thereby 
he might be acknowledged to be the great Plenipotentiary, or 
sovereign Lord, who has power over us both to command worship, and 
appoint the time when he will be worshipped. 
    (2) With respect to us. The Sabbath-day is for our interest; it 
promotes holiness in us. The business of week-days makes us 
forgetful of God and our souls: the Sabbath brings him back to our 
remembrance. When the falling dust of the world has clogged the 
wheels of our affections, that they can scarce move towards God, the 
Sabbath comes, and oils the wheels of our affections, and they move 
swiftly on. God has appointed the Sabbath for this end. On this day 
the thoughts rise to heaven, the tongue speaks of God, and is as the 
pen of a ready writer, the eyes drop tears, and the soul burns in 
love. The heart, which all the week was frozen, on the Sabbath melts 
with the word. The Sabbath is a friend to religion; it files off the 
rust of our graces; it is a spiritual jubilee, wherein the soul is 
set to converse with its Maker. 
    I should next show you the modes, or manner, how we should keep 
the Sabbath day holy; but before I come to that, we have a great 
question to consider. 
    How comes it to pass that we do not keep the seventh-day 
Sabbath as it was in the primitive institution, but have changed it 
to another day? 
    The old seventh-day Sabbath, which was the Jewish Sabbath, is 
abrogated, and in the room of it the first day of the week, which is 
the Christian Sabbath, succeeds. The morality or substance of the 
fourth commandment does not lie in keeping the seventh day 
precisely, but keeping one day in seven is what God has appointed. 
    But how comes the first day in the week to be substituted in 
the room of the seventh day? 
    Not by ecclesiastic authority. 'The church,' says Mr Perkins, 
'has no power to ordain a Sabbath.' 
    (1) The change of the Sabbath from the last day of the week to 
the first was by Christ's own appointment. He is 'Lord of the 
Sabbath.' Mark 2: 28. And who shall appoint a day but he who is Lord 
of it? He made this day. 'This is the day which the Lord has made.' 
Psa 118: 24. Arnobius and most expositors understand it of the 
Christian Sabbath, which is called the 'Lord's-day.' Rev 1: 10. As 
it is called the 'Lord's Supper,' because of the Lord's instituting 
the bread and wine and setting it apart from a common to a special 
and sacred use; so it is called the Lord's-day, because of the 
Lord's instituting it, and setting it apart from common days, to his 
special worship and service. Christ rose on the first day of the 
week, out of the grave, and appeared twice on that day to his 
disciples, John 20: 19, 26, which was to intimate to them, as 
Augustine and Athanasius say, that he transferred the Jewish Sabbath 
to the Lord's day. 
    (2) The keeping of the first day was the practice of the 
apostles. 'Upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came 
together to break bread, Paul preached unto them.' Acts 20: 7; 1 Cor 
16: 2. Here was both preaching and breaking of bread on this day. 
Augustine and Innocentius, and Isidore, make the keeping of our 
gospel Sabbath to be of apostolic sanction, and affirm, that by 
virtue of the apostles' practice, this day is to be set apart for 
divine worship. What the apostles did, they did by divine authority; 
for they were inspired by the Holy Ghost. 
    (3) The primitive church had the Lord's-day, which we now 
celebrate, in high estimation. It was a great badge of their 
religion to observe this day. Ignatius, the most ancient father, who 
lived in the time of John the apostle, has these words, 'Let every 
one that loveth Christ keep holy the first day of the week, the 
Lord's-day.' This day has been observed by the church of Christ 
above sixteen hundred years, as the learned Bucer notes. Thus you 
see how the seventh-day Sabbath came to be changed to the first-day 
    The grand reason for changing the Jewish Sabbath to the 
Lord's-day is that it puts us in mind of the 'Mystery of our 
redemption by Christ.' The reason why God instituted the old Sabbath 
was to be a memorial of the creation; but he has now brought the 
first day of the week in its room in memory of a more glorious work 
than creation, which is redemption. Great was the work of creation, 
but greater was the work of redemption. As it was said, 'The glory 
of this latter house shall be greater than of the former.' Hag 2: 9. 
So the glory of the redemption was greater than the glory of the 
creation. Great wisdom was seen in making us, but more miraculous 
wisdom in saving us. Great power was seen in bringing us out of 
nothing, but greater power in helping us when we were worse than 
nothing. It cost more to redeem than to create us. In creation it 
was but speaking a word (Psa 148: 5); in redeeming there was 
shedding of blood. 1 Pet 1: 19. Creation was the work of God's 
fingers, Psa 8: 3, redemption was the work of his arm. Luke 1: 51. 
In creation, God gave us ourselves; in the redemption, he gave us 
himself. By creation, we have life in Adam; by redemption, we have 
life in Christ. Col 3: 3. By creation, we had a right to an earthly 
paradise: by redemption, we have a title to a heavenly kingdom. 
Christ might well change the seventh day of the week into the first, 
as it puts us in mind of our redemption, which is a more glorious 
work than creation. 
    Use one. The use I shall make of this is, that we should have 
the Christian Sabbath, we now celebrate, in high veneration. The 
Jews called the Sabbath, 'The desire of days, and the queen of 
days.' This day we must call a 'delight, the holy of the Lord, 
honourable.' Isa 58: 13. Metal that has the king's stamp upon it is 
honourable, and of great value. God has set his royal stamp upon the 
Sabbath; it is the Sabbath of the Lord, and this makes it 
honourable. We should look upon this day as the best day in the 
week. What the phoenix is among birds, what the sun is among planets 
the Lord's-day is among other days. 'This is the day which the Lord 
has made.' Psa 118: 24. God has made all the days, but he has 
blessed this. As Jacob got the blessing from his brother, so the 
Sabbath got the blessing from all other days in the week. It is a 
day in which we converse in a special manner with God. The Jews 
called the Sabbath 'a day of light;' so on this day the Sun of 
Righteousness shines upon the soul. The Sabbath is the market-day of 
the soul, the cream of time. It is the day of Christ's rising from 
the grave, and the Holy Ghost's descending upon the earth. It is 
perfumed with the sweet odour of prayer, which goes up to heaven as 
incense. On this day the manna falls, that is angels' food. This is 
the soul's festival-day, on which the graces act their part: the 
other days of the week are most employed about earth, this day about 
heaven; then you gather straw, now pearl. Now Christ takes the soul 
up into the mount, and gives it transfiguring sights of glory. Now 
he leads his spouse into the wine-cellar, and displays the banner of 
his love. Now he gives her his spiced wine, and the juice of the 
pomegranate. Cant 2: 4, 8: 2. The Lord usually reveals himself more 
to the soul on this day. The apostle John was in the Spirit on the 
Lord's-day. Rev 1: 10. He was carried up on this day in divine 
raptures towards heaven. This day a Christian is in the altitudes; 
he walks with God, and takes as it were a turn with him in heaven. 1 
John 1: 3. On this day holy affections are quickened; the stock of 
grace is improved; corruptions are weakened; and Satan falls like 
lightning before the majesty of the word. Christ wrought most of his 
miracles upon the Sabbath; so he does still: dead souls are raised 
and hearts of stone are made flesh. How highly should we esteem and 
reverence this day! It is more precious than rubies. God has 
anointed it with the oil of gladness above its fellows. On the 
Sabbath we are doing angels' work, our tongues are tuned to God's 
praises. The Sabbath on earth is a shadow and type of the glorious 
rest and eternal Sabbath we hope for in heaven, when God shall be 
the temple, and the Lamb shall be the light of it. Rev 21: 22, 23. 
    Use two. 'SIX days shalt thou labour.' God would not have any 
live out of a calling: religion gives no warrant for idleness. It is 
a duty to labour six days, as well as keep holy rest on the seventh 
day. 'We hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, 
working not at all. Now, them that are such, we command and exhort 
by our Lord Jesus, that with quietness they work, and eat their own 
bread.' 2 Thess 3: 11. A Christian must not only mind heaven, but 
his calling. While the pilot has his eye to the star, he has his 
hand to the helm. Without labour the pillars of a commonwealth will 
dissolve, and the earth, like the sluggard's field, will be overrun 
with briers. Prov 24: 31. Adam in innocence, though monarch of the 
world, must not be idle, but must dress and till the ground. Gen 2: 
15. Piety does not exclude industry. Standing water putrifies. 
Inanimate creatures are in motion. The sun goes its circuit, the 
fountain runs, and the fire sparkles. Animate creatures work. 
Solomon sends us to the ant and pismire to learn labour. Prov 6: 6; 
30: 25. The bee is the emblem of industry; some of the bees trim the 
honey, others work the wax, others frame the comb, others lie 
sentinel at the door of the hive to keep out the drone. And shall 
not man much more innate himself to labour? That law in paradise was 
never repeated. 'In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.' Gen 
3: 19. Such professors are to be disliked who talk of living by 
faith, but live out of a calling; they are like the lilies which 
'toil not, neither do they spin.' Matt 6: 28. It is a speech of holy 
and learned Mr Perkins, 'Let a man be endowed with excellent gifts, 
and hear the word with reverence, and receive the sacrament, yet if 
he practice not the duties of his calling, all is but hypocrisy.' 
What is an idle person good for? What benefit is a ship that lies 
always on the shore? or armour that hangs up and rusts? To live out 
of a calling exposes a person to temptation. Melanchthon calls 
idleness the Devil's bath, because he bathes himself with delight in 
an idle soul. We do not sow seed in ground when it lies fallow; but 
Satan sows most of his seed of temptation in such persons as lie 
fallow, and are out of a calling. Idleness is the nurse of vice. 
Seneca, an old heathen, could say, Nullus mihi per otium dies exit; 
'No day passes me without some labour.' An idle person stands for a 
cipher in the world, and God writes down no ciphers in the book of 
life. We read in Scripture of eating the 'bread of idleness,' and 
drinking the 'wine of violence.' Prov 31: 27; 4: 17. It is as much a 
sin to eat 'the bread of idleness,' as to 'drink the wine of 
violence.' An idle person can give no account of his time. Time is a 
talent to trade with, both in our particular and general callings. 
The slothful person 'hides his talent in the earth;' he does no 
good; his time is not lived, but lost. An idle person lives 
unprofitably, he cumbers the ground. God calls the slothful servant 
'wicked.' 'Thou wicked and slothful servant.' Matt 25: 26. Draco, 
whose laws were written in blood, deprived those of their life who 
would not work for their living. In Hetruria they caused such 
persons to be banished. Idle persons live in the breach of the 
commandment, 'Six days shalt thou labour.' Let them take heed they 
be not banished from heaven. A man may as well go to hell for not 
working in his calling, as for not believing. 
    Having spoken of the reasons of sanctifying the Sabbath I come 
now to 
    III. The manner of sanctifying the Sabbath. 
    [1] Negatively. We must do no work in it. This is the 
commandment. 'In it thou shall do no manner of work.' God has set 
apart this day for himself; therefore we are not to use it in 
common, by doing any civil work. As when Abraham went to sacrifice 
he left his servants and the ass at the bottom of the hill; so, when 
we are to worship God on this day, we must leave all worldly 
business behind, leave the ass at the bottom of the hill. Gen 22: 5. 
As Joseph, when he would speak with his brethren, thrust out the 
Egyptians, so, when we would converse with God on this day, we must 
thrust out all earthly employments. The Lord's day is a day of holy 
rest. All secular work must be forborne and suspended, as it is a 
profanation of the day. 'In those days saw I in Judah some treading 
winepresses on the Sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading 
asses; as also wine, grapes and figs, and all manner of burdens 
which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath-day; and I 
testified against them. Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, 
and said unto them, "What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane 
the Sabbath-day?' " Neh 13: 15, 17. It is sacrilege to rob for civil 
work the time which God has set apart for his worship. He that 
devotes any time of the Sabbath to worldly business, is a worse 
thief than he who robs on the highway; for the one does but rob man, 
but the other robs God. The Lord forbade mamma to be gathered on the 
Sabbath. Exod 16: 26. One might think it would have been allowed, as 
manna was the 'staff of their life,' and the time when it fell was 
between five and six in the morning, so that they might have 
gathered it betimes, and all the rest of the Sabbath might have been 
employed in God's worship; and besides, they needed not to have 
taken any great journey for it, for it was but stepping out of their 
doors, and it fell about their tents: and yet they might not gather 
it on the Sabbath; and for purposing only to do it, God was very 
angry. 'There went out some of the people on the seventh day for to 
gather, and they found none. And the Lord said, How long refuse ye 
to keep my commandments and my laws?' Exod 16: 27, 28. Surely 
anointing Christ when he was dead was a commendable work; but, 
though Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, had prepared 
sweet ointments to anoint the dead body of Christ, they went not to 
the sepulchre to embalm him till the Sabbath was past. 'They rested 
the Sabbath-day, according to the commandment.' Luke 23: 56. The 
hand cannot be busied on the Lord's-day but the heart will be 
defiled. The very heathen, by the light of nature, would not do any 
secular work in the time which they had set apart for the worship of 
their false gods. Clemens Alexandrinus reports of one of the 
emperors of Rome, who, on the day of set worship for his gods, put 
aside warlike affairs and spent the time in devotion. To do servile 
work on the Sabbath shows an irreligious heart, and greatly offends 
God. To do secular work on this day is to follow the devil's slough; 
it is to debase the soul. God made this day on purpose to raise the 
heart to heaven, to converse with him, to do angels' work; and to be 
employed in earthly work is to degrade the soul of its honour. God 
will not have his day entrenched upon, or defiled in the least 
thing. The man that gathered sticks on the Sabbath he commanded to 
be stoned. Numb. 15: 35. It would seem a small thing to pick up a 
few sticks to make a fire; but God would not have this day violated 
in the smallest matters. Nay, the work which had reference to a 
religious use might not be done on the Sabbath, as the hewing of 
stones for the building of the sanctuary. Bezaleel, who was to cut 
the stones, and carve the timber out for the sanctuary, must forbear 
to do it on the Sabbath. Exod 31: 15. A temple is a place of God's 
worship, but it was a sin to build a temple on the Lord's-day. This 
is keeping the Sabbath-day holy negatively, in doing no servile 
    Works of necessity and charity however may be done on this day. 
In these cases God will have mercy and not sacrifice. (1) It is 
lawful to take the necessary supplies of nature. Food is to the body 
as oil to the lamp. (2) It is lawful to do works of mercy, as 
helping a neighbour when either life or estate are in danger. Herein 
the Jews were too nice and precise, who would not suffer works of 
charity to be done on the Sabbath. If a man was sick, they thought 
they might not on this day use means for his recovery. Christ 
charges them with being angry because he had wrought a cure on the 
Sabbath. John 7: 23. If a house were on fire, the Jews thought they 
might not bring water to quench it; if a vessel leaked on this day, 
they thought they might not stop it. They were 'righteous overmuch;' 
it was seeming zeal, but wanted discretion to guide it. Except in 
these two cases, of necessity and charity, all secular work is to be 
suspended and laid aside on the Lord's-day. 'In it thou shalt do no 
manner of work.' This arraigns and condemns many among us who too 
much foul their fingers with work on that day; some in dressing 
great feasts, others in opening their shop-doors, and selling meat 
on the Sabbath. The mariner will not put to sea but on the Sabbath, 
and so runs full sail into the violation of this command. Others 
work on this day privately, put up their shop-windows, and follow 
their trade within doors; but though they think to hide their sin 
under a canopy, God sees it. 'Whither shall I flee from thy 
presence?' 'The darkness hideth not from thee.' Psa 139: 7, 12. Such 
profane the day, and God will have an action of trespass against 
    [2] Positively. We keep the Sabbath-day holy, by 'consecrating 
and dedicating' this day to the 'service of the high God.' It is 
good to rest on the Sabbath-day from the works of our calling; but 
if we rest from labour and do no more, the ox and the ass keep the 
Sabbath as well as we; for they rest from labour. We must dedicate 
the day to God; we must not only 'keep a Sabbath,' but 'sanctify' a 
Sabbath. Sabbath-sanctification consists in two things: (1) Solemn 
preparation for it. If a prince were to come to your house, what 
preparation would you make for his entertainment! You would sweep 
the house, wash the floor, adorn the room with the richest tapestry 
and hangings, that there might be something suitable to the state 
and dignity of so great a person. On the blessed Sabbath, God 
intends to have sweet communion with you; he seems to say to you, as 
Christ to Zacchaeus, 'Make haste and come down, for this day I must 
abide at thy house.' Luke 19: 5. Now, what preparation should you 
make for entertaining this King of glory? When Saturday evening 
approaches, sound a retreat; call your minds off from the world and 
summon your thoughts together, to think of the great work of the 
approaching day. Purge out all unclean affections, which may 
indispose you for the work of the Sabbath. Evening preparation will 
be like the tuning of an instrument, it will fit the heart better 
for the duties of the ensuing Sabbath. 
    (2) The sacred observation of it. Rejoice at the approach of 
the day, as a day wherein we have a prize for our souls, and may 
enjoy much of God's presence. John 8: 56. 'Abraham rejoiced to see 
my day.' So, when we see the light of a Sabbath shine, we should 
rejoice, and 'call the Sabbath a delight:' this is the queen of 
days, which God has crowned with a blessing. Isa 58: 13. As there 
was one day in the week on which God rained manna twice as much as 
upon any other day, so he rains down the manna of heavenly blessings 
twice as much on the Sabbath as on any other. This is the day 
wherein Christ carries the soul into the house of wine, and displays 
the banner of love over it; now the dew of the Spirit falls on the 
soul, whereby it is revived and comforted. How many may write the 
Lord's day, the day of their new birth! This day of rest is a pledge 
and earnest of the eternal rest in heaven. Shall we not then rejoice 
at its approach? The day on which the Sun of Righteousness shines 
should be a day of gladness. 
    Get up betides on the Sabbath morning. Christ rose early on 
this day, before the sun was up. John 20: 1. Did he rise early to 
save us, and shall not we rise early to worship and glorify him? 
'Early will I seek thee.' Psa 63: 1. Can we be up betimes on other 
days? The husband man is early at his slough, the traveller rises 
early to go his journey, and shall not we, who on this day are 
travelling to heaven? Certainly, if we loved God as we should, we 
should rise on this day betimes, that we may meet with him whom our 
souls love. Such as sit up late at work on the night before, are so 
buried in sleep, that they will hardly be up betides on a Sabbath 
    IV. Having dressed your bodies, you must dress your souls for 
hearing the word. As the people of Israel were to wash themselves 
before the law was delivered to them, so we must wash and cleanse 
our souls; and that is done by reading, meditation, and prayer. Exod 
19: 10. 
    [1] By reading the word. The word is a great means to sanctify 
the heart, and bring it into a Sabbath-frame. 'Sanctify them through 
thy truth,' &c. John 17: 17. Read not the word carelessly, but with 
seriousness and affection; as the oracle of heaven, the well of 
salvation, the book of life. David, for its preciousness, esteemed 
it above gold; and for its sweetness, above honey. Psa 19: 10. By 
reading the word aright, our hearts, when dull, are quickened; when 
hard, are mollified; when cold and frozen are inflamed; and we can 
say as the disciples, 'Did not our heart burn within us?' Some step 
out of their bed to hearing. The reason why many get no more good on 
a Sabbath by the word preached, is because they did not breakfast 
with God in the morning by reading his word. 
    [2] Meditation. Get upon the mount of meditation, and there 
converse with God. Meditation is the soul's retiring within itself, 
that, by a serious and solemn thinking upon God, the heart may be 
raised up to divine affections. It is a work fit for the morning of 
a Sabbath. Meditate on four things. 
    (1) On the works of creation. This is expressed in the 
commandment. "The Lord made heaven and earth, the sea,' &c. The 
creation is a looking glass, in which we see the wisdom and power of 
God gloriously represented. God produced this fair structure of the 
world without any pre-existent matter, and with a word. 'By the word 
of the Lord were the heavens made.' Psa 33: 6. The disciples 
wondered that Christ could, with a word, calm the sea, but it was 
far more astounding with a word to make the sea. Matt 8: 26. On the 
Sabbath let us meditate on the infiniteness of the Creator. Look up 
to the firmament and see God's wonders in the deep.' Psa 107: 24. 
Look into the earth, where we may behold the nature of minerals, the 
power of the loadstone, the virtue of herbs, and the beauty of 
flowers. By meditating on these works of creation, so curiously 
embroidered, we shall learn to admire God and praise him. 'O Lord, 
how manifold are thy works, in wisdom hast thou made them all.' Psa 
104: 24. By meditating on the works of creation, we shall learn to 
confide in God. He who can create, can provide; he that could make 
us when we were nothing, can raise us when we are low. 'Our help is 
in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.' Psa 124: 8. 
    (2) Meditate on God's holiness. 'Holy and reverend is his 
name.' Psa 111: 9. 'Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil.' Hab 
1: 13. God is essentially, originally, and efficiently holy. A11 the 
holiness in men and angels is but a crystal stream that runs from 
this glorious fountain. God loves holiness because it is his own 
image. A king cannot but love to see his own effigies stamped on 
coin. God counts holiness his glory, and the most sparkling jewel of 
his crown. 'Glorious unholiness.' Exod 15: 2: Here is meditation fit 
for the first entrance upon a Sabbath. The contemplation of this 
would work in us such a frame of heart as is suitable to a holy God; 
it would make us reverence his name and hallow his day. While 
musing; upon the holiness of God's nature, we shall begin to be 
transformed into his likeness. 
    (3) Meditate on Christ's love in redeeming us. Rev 1: 5. 
Redemption exceeds creation; the one is a monument of God's power, 
the other of his love. Here is fit work for a Sabbath. Oh, the 
infinite stupendous love of Christ in raising poor lapsed creatures 
from a state of guilt and damnation! That Christ who was God should 
die! that this glorious Sun of Righteousness should be in an 
eclipse! We can never admire enough this love, no, not in heaven. 
That Christ should die for sinners! not sinful angels, but sinful 
men. That such clods of earth and sin should be made bright stars of 
glory! Oh, the amazing love of Christ! This was Illustreamoris 
Christi mnemosynum. Brugensis. That Christ should not only die for 
sinners, but die as a sinner! 'He has made him to be sin for us' 2 
Cor 5: 21. He who was among the glorious persons of the Trinity, 
'was numbered with the transgressors.' Isa 53: 12. Not that he had 
sin, but he was like a sinner, having our sins imputed to him. Sin 
did not live in him, but it was laid upon him. Here was an hyperbole 
of love enough to strike us with astonishment. That Christ should 
redeem us, when he could not expect to gain anything, or to be 
advantaged at all by us! Men will not lay out their money upon 
purchase unless it will turn to their profit; but what benefit could 
Christ expect in purchasing and redeeming us? We were in such a 
condition that we could neither deserve nor recompense Christ's 
love. We could not deserve it; for we were in our blood. Ezek 16: 6. 
We had no spiritual beauty to tempt him. Nay, we were not only in 
our blood, but we were in arms against him. 'When we were enemies, 
we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son;' Rom 5: 10. When 
he was shedding his blood, we were spitting out poison. As we could 
not deserve, so neither could we recompense it. After he had died 
for us, we could not so much as love him, till he made us love him. 
We could give him nothing in lieu of his love. 'Who has first given 
to him?' Rom 11: 35. We were fallen into poverty. If we have any 
beauty, it is from him, 'It was perfect through my comeliness which 
I had put upon thee.' Ezek 16: 14. If we bring forth any good fruit, 
it is not of our own growth, it comes from him, the true vine. 'From 
me is thy fruit found.' Hos 14: 8. It was nothing but pure love for 
Christ to lay out his blood to redeem such as he could not expect to 
be really bettered by. That Christ should die so willingly! 'I lay 
down my life.' John 10: 17. The Jews could not have taken it away if 
he had not laid it down. He could have called to his Father for 
legions of angels to be his life-guard; but what need for even that, 
when his own Godhead could have defended himself from all assaults? 
He laid down his life. The Jews did not so much thirst for his 
death, as he thirsted for our redemption. 'I have a baptism to be 
baptised with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished?' 
Luke 12: 50. He called his sufferings a baptism; he was to be 
baptised and sprinkled with his own blood; and he thought the time 
long before he suffered. To show Christ's willingness to die, his 
sufferings are called an offering. 'Through the offering of the body 
of Jesus.' Heb 10: 10. His death was a free-will offering. That 
Christ should not grudge nor think much of all his sufferings! 
Though he was scourged and crucified, he was well contented with 
what he had done, and, if it were needful, he would do it again. 'He 
shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied.' Isa 
53: 11. As the mother who has had hard labour, does not repent of 
her pangs when she sees a child brought forth, but is well 
contented; so Christ, though he had hard travail upon the cross, 
does not think much of it; he is not troubled, but thinks his sweat 
and blood well bestowed, because he sees the man-child of redemption 
brought forth into the world. That Christ should make redemption 
effectual to some, and not to others! Here is surprising love. 
Though there is sufficiency in his merits to save all, yet some only 
partake of their saving virtue; all do not believe. 'There are some 
of you that believe not.' John 6: 64. Christ does not pray for all. 
John 17: 9. Some refuse him. This is 'the stone which the builders 
refused.' Psa 118: 22. Others deride him. Luke 16: 14. Others throw 
off his yoke. 'We will not have this man to reign over us.' Luke 19: 
14. SO that all have not the benefit of salvation by him. Herein 
appears the distinguishing love of Christ, that the virtue of his 
death should reach some, and not others. 'Not many wise men after 
the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called.' 1 Cor 1: 26. 
That Christ should pass by many of birth and parts, and that the lot 
of free grace should fall upon thee; that he should sprinkle his 
blood upon thee; 'Oh, the depth of the love of Christ!' That Christ 
should love us with such a transcendent love! The apostle calls it 
'Love which passeth knowledge.' Eph 3: 19. That he should love us 
more than the angels. He loves them as his friends, but believers as 
his spouse. He loves them with such a kind of love as God the Father 
bears to him. 'As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.' 
John 15: 9. Oh, what an hyperbole of love does Christ show in 
redeeming us! That Christ's love in our redemption should be 
everlasting! 'Having loved his own, he loved them unto the end.' 
John 13: 1. As Christ's love is matchless, so it is endless. The 
flower of his love is sweet; and that which makes it sweeter is that 
it never dies. His love is eternized. Jer 31: 3. He will never 
divorce his elect spouse. The failings of his people cannot quite 
take off his love; they may eclipse it, but not wholly remove it; 
their failings may make Christ angry with them, but not hate them. 
Every failing does not break the marriagebond. Christ's love is not 
like the saint's love. They sometimes have strong affections towards 
him, at other times the fit is off, and they find little or no love 
stirring in them; but it is not so with Christ's love to them, it is 
a love of eternity. When the sunshine of Christ's electing love is 
once risen upon the soul, it never finally sets. Death may take away 
our life from us, but not Christ's love. Behold here a rare subject 
for meditation on a Sabbath morning. The meditation of Christ's 
wonderful love in redeeming us would work in us a Sabbath-frame of 
    It would melt us in tears for our spiritual unkindness, that we 
should sin against so sweet a Saviour; that we should be no more 
affected with his love, but requite evil for good; that like the 
Athenians, who, notwithstanding all the good service Aristides had 
done them, banished him out of their city, we should banish him from 
our temple; that we should grieve him with our pride, rash anger, 
unfruitfulness, animosities, and strange factions. Have we none to 
abuse but our friend? Have we nothing to kick against but the bowels 
of our Saviour? Did not Christ suffer enough upon the cross, but we 
must needs make him suffer more? Do we give him more 'gall and 
vinegar to drink?' Oh, if anything can dissolve the heart in sorrow, 
and melt the eyes to tears, it is unkindness offered to Christ. When 
Peter thought of Christ's love to him, how he had made him an 
apostle, and revealed his bosom-secrets to him, and taken him to the 
mount of transfiguration, and yet that he should deny him; it broke 
his heart with sorrow; 'he went out and wept bitterly.' Matt 26: 75 
What a blessed thing is it to have the eyes dropping tears on a 
Sabbath! and nothing would sooner fetch tears than to meditate on 
Christ's love to us, and our unkindness to him. 
    Meditating on a Lord's-day morning on Christ's love, would 
kindle love in our hearts to him. How can we look on his bleeding 
and dying for us and our hearts not be warmed with love to him? Love 
is the soul of religion, the purest affection. It is not rivers of 
oil, but sparks of love that Christ values. And sure, as David said, 
'While I was musing the fire burned' (Psa 39: 3), so, while we are 
musing of Christ's love in redeeming us, the fire of our love will 
burn towards him; and then the Christian is in a blessed 
Sabbath-frame, when, like a seraphim, he is burning in love to 
    (4) On a Sabbath morning meditate on the glory of heaven. 
Heaven is the extract and essence of happiness. It is called a 
kingdom. Matt 25: 34. A kingdom for its riches and magnificence. It 
is set forth by precious stones, and gates of pearl. Rev 21: 19, 21. 
There is all that is truly glorious; transparent light, perfect 
love, unstained honour, unmixed joy; and that which crowns the joy 
of the celestial paradise is eternity. Suppose earthly kingdoms were 
more glorious than they are, their foundations of gold, their walls 
of pearl, their windows of sapphire, yet they are corruptible; but 
the kingdom of heaven is eternal; those rivers of pleasure run 'for 
evermore.' Psa 16: 11. That wherein the essence of glory consists, 
and makes heaven to be heaven, is the immediate sight and fruition 
of the blessed God. 'I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy 
likeness.' Psa 17: 15. Oh, think of the Jerusalem above! 
    This is proper for a Sabbath. The meditation of heaven would 
raise our hearts above the world. oh, how would earthly things 
disappear and shrink into nothing, if our minds were mounted above 
visible things, and we had a prospect of glory! How would the 
meditation of heaven make us heavenly in our Sabbath exercises! It 
would quicken affection, would add wings to devotion, and cause us 
to be 'in the Spirit on the Lord's-day.' Rev 1: 10. How vigorously 
does he serve God who has a crown of glory always in his eye! 
    [3] We dress our souls on a Sabbath-morning by prayer; 'When 
thou prayest, enter into thy closet,' &c. Matt 6: 6. Prayer 
sanctifies a Sabbath. 
    (1) The things we should pray for in the morning of the 
Sabbath. Let us beg a blessing upon the word which is to be 
preached; that it may be a savour of life to us; that by it our 
minds may be more illuminated, our corruptions more weakened, and 
our stock of grace more increased. Let us pray that God's special 
presence may be with us, that our hearts may burn within us while 
God speaks, that we may receive the word into meek and humble 
hearts, and that we may submit to it, and bring forth fruits. James 
1: 21. Nor should we only pray for ourselves, but for others. 
    Pray for him who dispenses the word; that his tongue may be 
touched with a coal from God's altar; that God would warm his heart 
who is to help to warm others. Your prayers may be a means to 
quicken the minister. Some complain they find no benefit by the word 
preached; perhaps they did not pray for their minister as they 
should. Prayer is like the whetting and sharpening of an instrument, 
which makes it cut better. Pray with and for your family. Yea, pray 
for all the congregations that meet on this day in the fear of the 
Lord; that the dew of the Spirit may fall with the manna of the 
word; that some souls may be converted, and others strengthened; 
that gospel ordinances may be continued, and have no restraint put 
upon them. These are the things we should pray for. The tree of 
mercy will not drop its fruit, useless it be shaken by the hand of 
    (2) The manner of our prayer. It is not enough to say a prayer; 
to pray in a dull, cold manner, which asks God to deny; but we must 
pray with reverence, humility, fervency, and hope in God's mercy. 
Luke 22: 44. Christ prayed more earnestly. That we may pray with 
more fervency, we must pray with a sense of our wants. He who is 
pinched with wants, will be earnest in craving alms. He prays most 
fervently who prays most feelingly. This is to sanctify the morning 
of a Sabbath; and it is a good preparation for the word preached. 
When the ground is broken up by the slough, it is fit to receive the 
seed; when the heart has been broken by prayer, it is fit to receive 
the seed of the preached word. 
    V. Having thus dressed your souls on a morning, for the further 
sanctification of the Sabbath, address yourself to the hearing of 
the preached word. 
    When you sit down in your seat, lift up your eyes to heaven for 
a blessing upon the word to be dispensed; for you must know that the 
word preached does not work as physic, by its own inherent virtue, 
but by a virtue from heaven, and the co-operation of the Holy Ghost. 
Therefore put up a short ejaculatory prayer for a blessing upon the 
word, that it may be made effectual to you. 
    The word being begun to be preached, hear it with reverence and 
holy attention. 'A certain woman, named Lydia, attended unto the 
things which were spoken of Paul.' Acts 16: 14. Constantine, the 
emperor, was noted for his reverent attention to the word. Christ 
taught daily in the temple: and 'all the people were very attentive 
to hear him.' Luke 19: 48. In the Greek, 'they hung upon his lip.' 
Could we tell men of a rich purchase, they would diligently attend; 
and should they not much more, when the gospel of grace is preached 
unto them? That we may sanctify and hallow the Sabbath by attentive 
hearing, beware of these two things in hearing: distraction and 
    [1] Distraction. 'That ye may attend open the Lord without 
distraction.' 1 Cor 7: 35. It is said of Bernard, that when he came 
to the church-door, he would say, 'Stay here all my earthly 
thoughts.' So should we say to ourselves, when we are at the door of 
God's house, 'Stay here all my worldly cares and wandering 
cogitations; I am now going to hear what the Lord will say to me.' 
Distraction hinders devotion. The mind is tossed with vain thoughts, 
and diverted from the business in hand. It is hard to make a 
quicksilver heart fix. Jerome complains of himself, 'Sometimes when 
I am about God's service, per porticus diambulo, I am walking in the 
galleries, and sometimes casting up accounts.' How often in hearing 
the word, the thoughts dance up and down; and, when the eye is upon 
the minister, the mind is upon other things. Distracted hearing is 
far from sanctifying the Sabbath. It is very sinful to give way to 
vain thoughts at this time; because, when we are hearing the word, 
we are in God's special presence. To do any treasonable action in 
the king's presence is high great impudence. 'Yea, in my house have 
I found their wickedness.' Jer 23: 11. So the Lord may say, 'In my 
house, while they are hearing my word, I have found wickedness; they 
have wanton eyes, and their soul is set on vanity.' 
    Whence do these roving and distracting thoughts in hearing 
    (1) Partly from Satan. The devil is sure to be present in our 
assemblies. If he cannot hinder us from hearing, he will hinder us 
in hearing. 'When the sons of God came to present themselves before 
the Lord, Satan came also among them.' Job 1: 6. The devil sets vain 
objects before the fancy to cause a diversion. His great design is 
to render the word fruitless. As when one is writing, another jogs 
him that he cannot write even, so when we are hearing, the devil 
will be jogging us with a temptation, that we should not attend to 
the word preached. 'He shewed me Joshua the high-priest standing 
before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand 
to resist him.' Zech 3: 1. 
    (2) These wandering thoughts in hearing come partly from 
ourselves. We must not lay all the blame upon Satan. 
    They come from the eye. A wandering eye causes wandering 
thoughts. As a thief may come into the house at a window, so vain 
thoughts may be at the eye. As we are bid to keep our feet when we 
enter into the house of God (Eccl 5: 1), so we had need make a 
covenant with our eyes, that we be not distracted by beholding other 
objects. Job 31: 1. 
    Wandering thoughts in hearing rise out of the heart. These 
sparks come out of our own furnace. Vain thoughts are the mud which 
the heart, as from a troubled sea, casts up. 'For from within, out 
of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts.' Mark 7: 21. As the 
foulness of the stomach sends up fumes into the head, so the 
corruption of the heart sends up evil thoughts into the mind. 

Watson, The Ten Commandments
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