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Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology

John Cosin, Works, Sermons, Volume One
pp 166-176


Transcribed by Dr. Marianne Dorman
AD 2003

Exodus xx. 9, 10.

Sex dies operabis et facies omnia opera tua.
Septimo autem die Sabbatum Domini Dei tui est; non facies omne opus in eo.
Six days shalt thou labour and do all that thou hast to do. But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt do no manner of work.

In the words before we had the precept itself, where we had three things to consider; the memento, the sabbathum, and the sanctifices; the charge first, in the word 'remember;' then the charge of keeping that day of rest, in the word 'sabbath,' under which were comprehended all other days solemnly set apart and appointed for God's service; and lastly, the charge of keeping both it and then as they should be kept, in the word 'holy.' 'Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath Day.' And so far are we gone.

In these words that follow we have both the illustration of the precept, and the reasons that are given for the due observance of it. The illustration, in non facies omne opus in eo, tu et filius tuus, &c. 'In it thou shalt do no manner of work, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter,' &c. the reasons, in sex diebus operaberis, because you have six days for yourselves; and in septimo die sabbatumDomini, because the seventh is none of yours, but a day hallowed and set apart for the public and solemn service of God; therefore so to be kept by you, and not to be spent upon your own affairs.

More strictly we have in these words a double permission, and a double opposition. The double permission, (1.) 'six [166/167] days shalt thou labour,' (2.) in them thou shalt do all thy work ; and the double opposition, (1.) 'the seventh day is the Lord's,' (2.) 'in it thou shalt do no work.'

Both which how they are to be understood, we shall by and by enquire; if first, I have put you in mind to call with me upon God the Father &c.


Pater Noster, &c.

'Six days shalt thou labour and do all that thou hast to do,' which words are put here permissive, by way of indulgence and permission, to shew the great equity of the precept, that men being so liberally dealt withal, and suffered to have six days at home to themselves, they might have no excuse if they did not willingly and cheerfully come forth to serve God upon the seventh.

For if God would have used his own absolute authority and dominion over us, He might have set us, and justly required it of us, to serve Him all the seven days together, left us never a day for ourselves; or He might have taken to Himself six days of the week, and given us but one. And who could have said Cur ita facis?

This out of His sovereignty and greatness He might have done, and we could have found no fault with it neither; but since that out of His bounty and goodness He would not do it, what excuse can we find, or what strange injustice and wretched unthankfulness will it be in us, if, after so many days afforded us, we grudge to let Him have the seventh, that one day that He hath reserved to Himself!

It is here as it is with your titles; nine parts have to yourselves, the tenth is God's own. Indeed all was His, to have disposed of as He pleased, but this was his bounty to give you nine times as much as Himself; and He is either a wretch, or somewhat worse, that will grudge or defraud God of one in ten, deserves to have the nine taken away, and but the tenth left. Or it is as it was with Adam in Paradise, to which God gave to eat of all the trees in the garden save one, kept but one from him among them all; whereas God might have kept all the rest to Himself, and given him but one, [167/168] but this was His bounty; in that to Adam, in this to us, reserves only one in ten in our tithes, one of seven in our time, to be bestowed upon His service.

Now in either of these if we afford him not his own, it is turned with us from Adam's case to the devil's, who is ever and anon suggesting to us, as he did to him, that we should make no scruple of it, but take all to ourselves, go and eat of the forbidden tree and all; for believe it, God's portion, be it in His tithes, or be it in His times, both being holy to Him, they are as the forbidden tree in God's garden, men are not to meddle with them, nor convert them to their own uses; if they do, though the fruit be never so fair to look on at first, it will either choke them or poison them in the end. And though it be their own wives that came and persuaded them to it, (as such wives there be left still in the world,) yet let them assure themselves, they will find at last, (as Adam did at first,) it was but the very devil himself in their wives' likeness.

Let the tithes go, and apply it to this precept, to these words we have in hand. A man has had six days in the week to himself; for his labour, for his profit, for his pleasure, for any of his own affairs. The seventh comes, the holy day comes, dies quem fecit Dominus, the day that the Lord hath made for Himself, the Lord's day comes; and them comes me the devil in the likeness of a rainy day, or in the shape of cold weather, or in the likeness of same business or other that is to be done, and tells him that God must let him have that day also, as well as the other six, or else all will go wrong with him. And what if it be forbidden by God's law? ye shall have one devil meet with him and say, 'Come, it is for your own advantage, you are a freeborn man, and the law does but scare you. Take time while we have it; you may do what you list.' And what if it be forbidden by the Church? Ye shall have another devil stand by and tell him, 'What need have care for the Church? let the Church care for itself, it will have but one the less for thee; and for this time she shall pardon us.'

Thus we dispossess God of His right, and thrust Him from his freehold, while we have any list to take a freedom to ourselves. But believe it, this day of the Lord's is a day [168/169] hallowed and set apart from the other days; is a day for-bidden us to use, or meddle withal, or spend any otherwise than He hath appointed. Therefore believe it also, that the best advice is, when any such suggestion comes, (come it by whom it will come, by Eve or the devil,) to give it that answer that Joseph gave to Potiphar's wife, 'Behold, all that is within the house, he hath left in my power, only thee excepted, and how then should I injure him in this one?' In like manner six days hath God given us to ourselves, reserved but one for some public and solemn honour and worship to be done him every week, and how then should we deceive Him in this one, seeing by His goodness and liberality all the rest are ours? This were a good answer, and it is but just and meet it should be so; for you see the great equity of the precept, and the great indulgence shewed to us in it, that of seven parts of our time, we have six for our own occasions. We will conclude therefore with one of the Hebrew doctors upon this text, cum omnibus diebus septimanæ homo sese occupet in negotiis suis necessariis, hoc die maxime consentaneum est, ut se segreget ac quiescet propter Dei gloriam, 'It is most fit we should give God this day of the week for his service only, when we have all the rest for our own necessary affairs.'

'Six days shalt thou labour, but the seventh say.' Nay, but now I think on it, before we can come to that day there comes one that bids us make a stay yet at these six, one and a thousand too, nos numeri sumus, a great company of then, as they said of themselves, that put the question home to us and demand of us full stoutly, what authority the Church hath to make any of these six days a holy day, or to restrain men from the liberty which God hath here given them, of bestowing six whole days of the week in labour, if they will?

It is not, they say, in the power of the Church to command any days to he kept holy, wherein men shall be required to cease from their common and daily vocations. And for proof hereof; they desire to take this fourth commandment, and no other interpretation of it them that which we have allowed of ourselves; which is, that God licenseth and leaveth it at the liberty of every man to work six days in the week, so that he rest the seventh. Seeing therefore, that God hath left it to [169/170] all men's liberty, that if they think good they might labour six days, they say that neither the power of the Church, nor any power under heaven, can take away this liberty from them, which nevertheless, by appointing so many holy days to be kept as are among us, is frequently done. Nay, if it be lawful, they say, to abridge men's liberty in this point, and where God says here, 'six days thou mayest labour, if thou wilt,' the Church shall say, 'thou shalt not labour six days,' they see no reason why the Church may not as well command and say, 'thou shalt work upon the seventh day,' though God says upon it thou shalt do no work at all.

But if they can see no reason to the contrary of this, I dare say it is long of their evil eyes; as likewise that which they add, that they see not but if the Church may restrain the liberty which God bath given men, it may as well take away the yoke which God hath put upon them. And their con-clusion is, that there is no power on earth that can take away this liberty.

Which assertion (though here applied no further than to this present case) extended once to many, will not only shake the universal fabric of all government and authority, but instantly open a gap, nay set open the flood-gates to all con-fusion and anarchy. For whereas God Himself hath defined things of greatest weight (such as this seventh day is,) and left all sorts of men in the rest to be guided either by their own discretion, if they be fine from subjection to others, or else to be ordered and commanded by the laws of their superiors, under whom they live; these pleaders for freedom and patrons of liberty, would have it proclaimed to the world, that all such laws and commandments are void, which are made of things neither exacted nor prohibited by the law of God. Whereas indeed the very contrary assertion is certainly true; and we must either maintain that those things which the law of God leaveth at liberty are all subject to the positive laws and precepts of our government, or else we must overthrow the world and make every man his own commander.

Seeing then that labour is left free, and rest is left, free upon any one day of these six by this law of God, how come they, or how call they exempt them from the power of [170/171] human laws, unless the world has no power to make any law at all?

I will put one question to them, and it shall be but one the other holy days and feasts of the Jews, besides their Sabbath day, the feast of Tabernacles, of the Dedication, of Lots, were they not all allowed and approved by God? had they not all and every one offended, that had refused to keep and observe them? and yet were they not an abridgment of the people's liberty in using all these six days of the week at their pleasure? There is no question but they were; and there is no answer to be given to these things.

For doth our Church in these things any otherwise than God and his holy saints have done before her? I conclude with the style of the councils, Sequentes igitur et nos per omnia sanctorum vestigia. Herein we do but tread in the steps of our holy fathers, and follow them that were followers therein of God himself. And now I come to that which follows here in the text.

II. 'But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord; in it thou shalt do no manner of work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor the stranger that is within thy gates.'

Where what the seventh day was, and why it was called the Sabbath, I have told you before; shewing you what was moral and for ever to endure, and what; was circumstantial, or alterable, in them both; that sabbaths, or days of rest to be kept holy to God, are of the moral law, and founded in nature; that one of seven is commanded of God in Scripture perpetually to be observed; that this one, as long as the Jews' synagogue lasted, was to be the seventh; that both it, and the manner of keeping it, being figures of things to come, were buried with Christ in His grave. Upon Whose resur-rection, that there arose the beginning of a new day, which now we call the Lord's day, to remain for ever, and not to be altered. Wherein thought Mr. Calvin and some other new writers dissent from us, (who say that neither one day of seven, nor yet that this day of the Lord, is so commanded or established but that it is still alterable by the Church, so that [171/172] any other day may be kept as well as its,) yet I verily believe that both Scripture and Fathers are herein more plain for ours than for theirs, or for any other opinion whatsoever.

But herein we agree, that qua tales, the seventh day and the Sabbath belonged not to the moral law, that therefore both the nature and the name of the Sabbath is gone, and was not so much as used among Christians for 1560 years together, till now of late that some men began to ex-pound this commandment somewhat like Jews, not being content with the substance of it neither, but stretching out the very circumstances also, (many of them,) to a perpetual necessity and duty for ever. Which, why they do, and to what end they do it, (making almost a schism about it too, in many places,) I cannot tell. But this I know, letting them pass, I know what we are to do; that herein, as be-cometh those who follow with all humility the ways of God and of peace, we are to honour, reverence, and obey, in the very next degree unto God, the voice of the Church of God wherein we live.

And according unto the sound of that voice, which I have heard and listened to afore from the first, I shall now speak to you of this commandment like a Christian, and not like a Jew; that is, I shall neglect the Sabbath, with which we have nothing to do now, and set forth the religion of the Lord's day, dies Dominicus, as all our books call it; which all men are bound for ever with all holiness to observe.

Where first, we say that this day, in itself, is no more than any other days of the week be; all the days of the year, qua tales, are alike, and not one better or more holy than another. Whence then is the difference?

Ye are to know that God hath dealt with days as with men. By nature all men whatsoever are alike; so are all days. There be some men separated froth the vulgar sort and exalted above the rest, as magistrates and kings are, as [172/173] priests and ministers of God are; we must not use them at our pleasure, as we would use one of our own servants. It is alike with these days, which above all other days are made holy to God; the rest are like our own servants, we may employ them about our own affairs; but these holy days we may not be so with, they are set apart for holy uses, for God's service, they are none of ours, nor may they be employed about our own business. Take another resemblance, that it may affect you the better. The water in Baptism, the bread and wine in the blessed Sacrament, naturally they are no more than other such elements are; but being consecrate and set apart once to these holy uses, for which Christ hath ordained and appointed them, quis eum non lapidibus obrueret, saith St. Chrysostom, what punishment should not be deserve, that would usurp them to common uses, and profane them at his pleasure? As the water in Baptism, as the bread and wine in the Eucharist, so is this day consecrate and set apart by the Church, for holy and divine uses. And what reasons the Church had so to do, and to honour this day above others, I shall now shew you.

We commonly call it Sunday, the name that our fore-fathers gave it before they heard of Christ. For this cause we keep it not; it was the superstition of the pagans to institute it to the sun, and in that respect to esteem it better than all other days whatsoever. But this is the reason we keep it, amid I will tell it you in St. Austin's words: quia hic dies per multa, eaque insignia et, præstantissima Dei opera declaratus est sanctus et venerabilis, 'because this day hath been made honourable and glorious, by the great and mighty works of God that hath been done upon it;' so that when the day comes, we do not so mach observe the day itself but [173/174] we bring into our minds the mighty works that God hath wrought upon the day; for which works of His we are bound to worship Him as often as we renew the memory of them, and we are bound to renew thee memory of them as often as the time returns; lest otherwise we should wholly forget them.

Therefore hath the Church of God with great veneration always observed this day, and so religiously above others, that to this only it seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to them, to give it the name of dies Domini, 'the Lord's day.'

And what those works now be, wherewith it hath pleased God to magnify this day above the rest, and to set forth both His glory and His goodness to us, ye shall hear from St. Austin, as he had it from Theophilus, the president of a council in Palestine, Venerabilis est hic dies (says he) qui Dominicus appellatur, et dies primus, &c.

'This is a venerable day which we call the Lord's day, and the first day of the week, which indeed was the very first day of the world, and a day exalted by God's goodness, and wonders wrought upon it, far above any other day whatsoever. In it was the light created, which made the evening and the morning the first day; In it were the people of God delivered and set free from the bondage of Pharaoh; in it God rained down manna in the wilderness; in it was Christ born, was circumcised, was worshipped by the Gentiles, was baptized in Jordan; in it He did His first miracle and mani-fested forth His glory; In it He went in triumph towards his passion; and when they had slain Him and laid Him in his grave, upon it He rose again in greater triumph from the dead. Afterwards upon this day He appeared to His disciples, and upon this very day sent his Holy Spirit upon them all. Upon which day also we look for His appearance [174/175] again when He shall come to judgment, and raise us up, all that have served Him truly, to eternal life.'

These are all the words of St. Austin, all which, except that of the day of judgment, (which no man can tell,) are either expressly verified by the history, or generally delivered to be true by the consent of the Church in all ages before him.

But among them all, the chief and most singular is that mighty and glorious work of Christ in His resurrection from the grave, by which, et morts interitum et vita accepit initium, saith Leo; 'both death had an end, and life a new beginning.' And this is it which more solemnly the Church of God observeth every year upon the feast of Easter, the feast of Christ's resurrection; renewing it every week upon this day, if not with so great solemnity, yet with due honour and religion that becometh Christians, who live and die in hope also of a resurrection to a better life.

So have we the reasons of observing this day above all others, and of the Church's transferring the honour of the old Jewish Sabbath upon it; that as the one did continually bring to mind the former world finished by creation, so the other might keep us in perpetual remembrance of a far better world begun by Christ, That came to restore all things, and to make heaven and earth anew again.

To which if ye add the many figures that this day had in the Old Testament, and therefore (as St. Cyprian and St. Austin argue) must of necessity be kept in the New; and then the keeping of it, de facto, by the Apostles themselves, in the twentieth chapter of St. John, in the second chapter of the Acts, in the twentieth chapter of the Acts, in the first Epistle to the Corinthians and the sixteenth chapter, and the first chapter of the Revelations; besides the manifest and express places of Scripture, both in the Old and New Testament, that the Sabbath was to cease; then have ye all the reasons and causes why the Church of God, with great consent in all ages, hath thought itself bound to observe and honour this day and not the day so much, as upon the day [175/176] to serve and honour God Who hath done so great things for us as ye have heard.

III. From the causes then of observing the day I come to the rules and manner how it should be observed; that is, how it hath been heretofore, and how it ought to be kept still; with what religion and strictness, with what devotion and gladness we are to celebrate this day of the Lord. Wherein I shall not meddle, I shall tell you beforehand, with the Jews' observances of their Sabbath, being for the most part shadows of things to come, and no ways pertaining to us further than the general rules of religion and moral duties will carry them. But I shall only show you the laws and customs of our fore-fathers in the faith, by which they kept this day religiously from the beginning of the Church.

And of this there be many things defined in councils with great wisdom and sanctity, set forth in the Fathers and Doctors of the Church with great piety and devotion; all which, notwithstanding, may be reduced to two heads; to those things which are commanded, and to those things which are forbidden to be done upon this day. Of both which because the themes are large, and more to be said of either thou can be said now, I shall, by God's grace, speak the next time. To God, &c.

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