Project Canterbury
Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology

John Cosin, Works, Sermons, Volume One
pp 177-189


Transcribed by Dr. Marianne Dorman
AD 2003

Exodus xx. 10.

But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt do no manner of work, thou and thy son, and thy daughter, thy man servant and thy maid servant, thy cattle, and the stranger that is within thy gates, &c.

You had the precept before that God's day was to be kept holy; and the reasons of the precept, wily and for what cause it was so to be kept. In these words you have the illustration of it, how and after what manner it is to be kept; wherein what I promised before, I come now to set forth; and I shall shew you, as a true pattern for you to follow, what the laws and customs of the old Christians, our forefathers in the faith, have been concerning the religious observance of this day, and other such like, in the Church of God.

Of which divers things are recorded, not only by the ancient Fathers in their own writings, but by synods and councils likewise in the writings and laws of the whole Church; which being at the first but merely ecclesiastical, saving the foundation they head in season and Scripture, were afterwards confirmed and strengthened by the imperial and secular haws of the state; that so, one way or other, or by all ways together, all men might be brought to the due observance, and holy keeping, of these days of God.

I reduce all to two heads; those things which upon such days are commanded, and those things which upon such days are forbidden to be done; by which, as by a corollary, we shall also see what is permitted to be done, and not so strictly prohibited as some surmise.

[177/178] The things commanded I distribute into four heads, and they are the four properties of all solemn festivals whatsoever, sanctity, rest, joyfulness, and liberality; and the things forbidden into as many as be opposite to these, that is to say, profaneness, unnecessary labour, fasting and other signs of sorrow, sordid sparing, and other enemies of bounty and charity. Out of all which, the things that are permitted will result of themselves.

Now of these that we may, &c.


Pater Noster, &c

There is a certain observation of days and times which is impious, and therefore unlawful and forbidden; another there is which is natural and useful, and therefore permitted; a third which is religious and solemn, and therefore commanded. Of these three we are to set forth the last.

The impious nine unlawful observing of days, is that which the laws of God and man have condemned, in wizards, and soothsayers, and in other superstitious and fond people, that have their good days and their evil days to observe by themselves; that tell us such a day is dismal, and such a time unlucky, I know not upon what fables and signs winch conceit and folly hath taught then; attributing those things to fate, and fortune, and to the signs of heaven, with other such vanities, winch belong properly to the wisdom and providence of God. And this is the observance of clays and times, which St. Paul reprehended in the Galatians.

The lawful observance of days is that which neither regards the signs of heaven, to divine by them, nor the vain superstitions and fond conceits of men, to be ruled or awed by them; but observeth only the natural course and change of this inferior air, whereby the days and times and seasons vary so often, that of necessity regard must be had, and observance must be made, of some days more than others, of all in their divers seasons, for the despatch of common and daily affairs.

The last, which is enjoined and commanded, as it condemns the first, so it pertains not to the second, and indeed [178/179] is not so much an observance o£ the days themselves, as of sonic memorable thing that fell out and was done upon those days; the memory of any work, by the return and observance of that day whereon it was wrought, being always best and most securely preserved.

So the Jews were commanded to observe the feast of the Passover, the fourteenth day of the first month, let the position of the stars, or the face of the sky, or other observances be that day what they would; because that very day God smote the Egyptians, and passed over the houses of the ver. 13. Israelites; and again, enjoined to keep every seventh day of the week a Sabbath, as by this commandment; not that the Sabbath flay differed any whit in nature from another day, but for that upon it God rested from His creation of the universe. As they the seventh, so we that are Christians the first, in memory of Christ's resurrection, and many other glorious and great works that were wrought by Him upon it; which therefore, by way of a singular pre-rogative given to it above all others, we style, and usually call the Lord's day.

And this is that which St. Austin says, we hallow the memory of God's benefits to his Church, with solemn feasts and set days; lest otherwise, through negligence and ingrati-tude we should wholly forget what great things lie hath at those tines done for us.

Now why God should choose this first day of the week, which we call the Lord's day, rather than another, wherein to drew forth such manifest signs of' His power and goodness to us, it were a question vain and infinite; vain, for that no other reason can be given but His will and pleasure only, whereinto we are not to search; infinite, for that the self-same question would still remain, if God for that purpose had chosen any other day besides.

But this is the day which the Lord hath made, and made it so glorious and so venerable that thereupon the Church hath transferred all the glory of the other day, which was the old Sabbath of the Jews. The Sabbath then is gone, and the Lord's day is come in place of it, to be received obedi-ently as the other, and to be observed too, religiously as the [179/180] other, though not with the same ceremonies, yet with the same substance that the other was.

And all this, by virtue not of any human constitution, but of the very moral law of God, whereunto we stand all bound; for suppose this Sabbath of the Jews gone, as it must be supposed, yet I trove that this will be granted me, that Christ hath left a power to His Church, the same that God left with Moses in the mount, for the tabernacle, to make and appoint another day according to the pattern of the first.

That pattern was the life of this commandment; and the life and moral vigour of this commandment is, to have some days set apart for holy uses, and for the outward and public service of God. This is in nature, and in the moral law; which, if it were not written here, is written in every man's heart.

That such days then there must be is moral. And this is moral, that all things in the service of God must be done in order, not that every body should appoint a day by himself; and this is moral too, that obedience must be given to superiors in those things wherein they are superiors. And therefore this also must needs be moral, that the observing of the seventh day then determined by God before for the Jews was moral to them, and that likewise the observing of the first day now, determined, if not by Christ and His Apostles, yet by our superiors, we are sure our lawful superiors in the universal Church of Christ, to whom we owe obedience, must be moral to us.

Therefore it was to the Jews as well moral to observe other certain days, which God and their superiors had determined, as to observe the seventh, or any day at all; for they were all called Sabbaths, though the seventh was more eminently styled so than the rest. And it is as well moral to us, to observe other days, which the Church and our superiors have commanded to be kept holy, as to observe this first; for they be all called holy days, though this Lord's day, by a special prerogative that it hath in Christ's resurrection, be more eminently styled so than the rest. And the reason is unanswerable, because by this or that limitation of a day, there is no morality infused or brought upon the day itself; but a former morality only awakened and revived, which consisteth [180/181] in a due obedience to God, and to the order of His Church, which is our superior in these cases.

This obedience we are sure is moral, and this order perpetual; the order that is now, and ever hath been established since Christ's time, for the observance of this day; neither can we sec any reason why it should, or why it call be possible ever to alter it again, unless men can bring Christ out of heaven into His grave again, and prevail with Him to rise from it upon some other day, since the day itself is founded, and, as St. Austin speaks, hallowed and made sacred, by the day of Christ's resurrection, which was the first day of the week, the day that we now observe.

Wherefore we must needs depart from that error, which some heretics of old began, and some of late have endeavoured to revive, that because the old Sabbath is called pactum sempiternum, therefore we are bound to keep it still, the Saturday for the Sunday, or the Sunday for it, or the one at least as well as the other. For to that objection of pactum sempiternum, any of St. Austin's answers will serve, either that it is called everlasting because it signified au everlasting rest, or else because it bound the Jews everlastingly, that is, as long as their religion stood, and might not be intermitted, as sonic other ceremonies of theirs were.

But their Sabbaths bind not us, neither once nor other, we depart from them that think so. And so we do from them who think we are bound to no festival days at all, or at least to none but one, which they call the Sabbath, and we, more properly, the Lord's day; seeing the command of our lawful superiors is upon us far more, to which we owe obedience, as we have said, even by the moral law.

And now I come from keeping these days, to the manner and due order of keeping then aright, according to the laws of God and Hiss Church. Wherein, though I would have my discourse chiefly and primarily refined to the Lord's day, yet I would not have other holy days excluded, that are appointed by the Church, and by the laws of the kingdom besides.

11. Among the things commanded, sanctity is the first, that they be kept holy.

(1.) Which will then be done, if both ill public and private we perform those holy duties that belong unto them.

In public, to come and meet together at the church, to make an holy convocation to the Lord, as upon such days Himself enjoins, there to celebrate divine service in the public place of God's worship, and to do Him open homage in the sight of all men; in brief, them to do as we tell you and invite you to do here, when first we begin to assemble together; that is, first to acknowledge, and with an humble, lowly, penitent anti obedient heart, to confess our manifold sins and wickedness, without any dissembling or cloaking of them, to the end that we may obtain forgiveness of the same, by God's infinite goodness and mercy. To which end, first you make your confession, and we as God's ministers pro-nounce the absolution;- then, to render thanks for the great benefits which daily we have received at his hands, and to set forth His most worthy praise, for which purpose the Church hath next appointed us our psalms and our hymns, to be said and sung in their order; after this, to hear his most holy word, and to learn your duties from what you hear, not only in the sermon, which is any explanation of His word, but in the lessons and the gospels too, which are God's word itself. And lastly, to ask those things which be requisite and necessary, as well for the body as the soul; and this in the litanies, prayers, collects, and supplications that follow. This to do both morning and evening, as the Church bath enjoined us; and besides this, to give attendance also to all other holy actions that are publicly done and performed iii the church, but especially to the blessed Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, which, for my part, I think the Church's intention is, as well for the honour of our Saviour, as for our own good and benefit, to have celebrated a little oftener titan it is. I say, for the honour of our Saviour,--and we are at a holy work when we are honouring Him--not only because thereby we submit ourselves to His ordinance, that would have the memory of his precious passion daily preserved till His coming again, but because in this service we honour those things in Him, which all the rest of the world besides despise and contemn--I name the humility of his incarnation, the baseness and bitterness of His death, [182/183] the ignominy of His cross, the multitude of his sufferings all which we honour and adore, though other miscreants of the world abhor then, and scorn our Saviour for them--in using and frequenting this holy Sacrament. And it is to be lamented, nay and I trove it is to be amended too, that we honour Christ no oftener this way had St. Chrysostom lived among us, he would have complained most bitterly against us, not only for defrauding ourselves of many graces and helps, that might come to us by the frequent use of it, but also, and that chiefly, for despoiling Christ, as much as in us lies, of His highest and most peculiar honour that He hath reserved to himself, et cum sit panis quotidianus facitis Eum panem annuum, as he said, 'What, come ye once a year to your daily food?' he speaks of the Sacrament, which was then called panis quotidianus, as well as our own that we feed our bodies with daily; but feed our bodies no oftener with the one than usually we do now our souls with the other, and I trove they will quickly famish. Neither do I know any reason why there should not as good care be taken for the soul, and the due honour of Christ, as there is for the body and the daily respect that we give, and look to be given to ourselves. Sure I am this would keep the day more holy than it useth to be kept without it, for it would he sancta sanctis, men would study and give themselves to more holiness upon it; and I would it were so, that the holy Sacrament might always and ever accompany this holy day, and some of you at one time and some at another might assist at that holy, the holiest of all holy services. And this now for our holy duties in public.

Besides which there is somewhat to be done in private, that must tend to holiness also, and to the sanctity of the day; for to be holy in the church, and unholy at home or abroad, is just as much as to say, Ave, Rex, Christe, and then to spit in His face; to cry Hosanna to the Son of David, in [183/184] the temple, and then to crucify Him at Golgotha, as the Jews and miscreant people did; therefore, to keep the day holy in private too.

And that, by instructing both ourselves and our families in the ways of God; by reading, praying, and meditating upon such things as we have learned, for the good of our souls, for the correcting of our former sires, for the amend-ment of our lives, and for the, exercise of all other spiritual virtues, and good deeds whatsoever.

But in the meanwhile ye shall know, that though this private holiness and service be good and godly, yet that ye do not your duties unless ye attend the public besides; for God and His Church will have neither of them to go alone.

The voice of joy and thanksgiving is in time dwellings of the righteous, saith king David, when he prophesied in the hundred and eighteenth Psalm of this very day. And truly in the dwellings of the righteous at home, if there it be, it does well, though I am afraid lest in many of our houses there be no such holiness; yet put the ease there be, let us believe men when they say they serve God at home, though they be not here at His church, the prophet will tell us that that home-serving will not serve God's turn; He must have it in atrio sancto too, in His own dwelling, as well as ours. And therefore at the nineteenth verse he goes on and says aperite mihi portal, go and open me the gates of righteousness, that is, the church doors, that he might come and enter into the courts of the Lord; his own house, as holy as it was, might not hold him, but he would go into the tabernacle of God, and fall down low before his foot-stool, even in the midst of the congregation, he calls it the great congregation, in reference to the great solemnity of the day; when indeed he would have it so great that it might constituere diem solennem ita condenses, usque ad cornua Altaris,--they are his own words--fill the Church so full, as that the people might be seen to stand thick in it, from the very entrance of the door to the very edge of the Altar; that is, from the very lowest to the very highest place of the church. And let this be enough for the first rule, that these
days be kept with sanctity and holiness, both public and private.

[184/185] (2.) For the better observance whereof, follows the second thing commanded in the keeping of this day; which is, rest from our servile and unnecessary labours.

Which rest, if we consider it alone by itself, is not properly any part of the sanctification and holiness whereof we speak, but a means and help only to the readier practice and more free performance of it.

And a good means it is; for if we be taken up with other worldly and ordinary employments, how ear we attend the service and holy things of God? Therefore, to rest tins while from them, that we may be the more free both in body and iii mind to be at God's commandment, and wholly to addict ourselves to the knowledge, contemplation, and practice of spiritual and heavenly duties, so to rest that nothing may trouble or hinder us from doing God both tine public and private service that lie and his Church requireth at our hands.

And this is that which the Psalmist speaks, vacate et videte; first vacate, rest from your bodily labour, to distinguish the day; and then videte, come hither to behold God's presence in holiness, to sanctify tine day; so that in keeping of all holy days, there is still a cessate, a rest from bodily and servile labour. For ordinary labours are both in themselves painful, and base also in comparison of festival services done to God; in regard whereof the very natural difference between them must needs enforce that the one should submit and give way to time other, because neither of them can concur and be done together. And besides of rest for this purpose, all that ever made trial what it was to have the soul busied in high matters will certainly say, as the philosopher said truly, postulandis esse secessum ut melius intendamus; we must give over other cares, if we mean to intend these here as we should do.

By all which ye see here that we take not rest for idleness. They are idle, who to avoid painfulness will not use the labour whereunto God and nature hath bound them; they [185/186] rest, which either cease from their work when they have done it and made it perfect, or else give over a meaner labour because a worthier and a better is to be undertaken. And of this latter sort is the rest that we speak of, and is requisite for the better keeping and sanctifying the holy days and festivals of God. So have you the two first, sanctity and rest.

We come to the other two properties, joy and bounty. For the days which are chosen out to serve as public memo-rials of God's mercies to us, ought to be clothed with those outward robes of festivity, whereby their difference from other days may be made sensible.

(3.) And that joy and gladness is one of these, we have express Scripture for it, from the mouth of the prophet David, 'This is the day which the Lord hath made, let us rejoice and be glad in it;' and from the mouth of God Himself, 'In your solemn feasts ye shall take of the goodly fruits, and branches of the trees, and you shall eat your bread with joy, and rejoice before the Lord.'

According to the rule of which general directions taken from the law of God, the practice of the Church hath ever been guided; that is, in regard of the natural fitness and decency of the thing itself, and not with reference to any Jewish ceremonies, such as were properly theirs, and arc not by us expedient to be continued.

But this of joy, is so expedient and natural for a festival solemnity, that without it, it scents no feast at all, seems rather one of those black and dismal days, wherein well may we be humbled with sorrow and fasting, for some punishment that justly befel us upon the day, but acknowledge no benefit or great work of Christ, such as was done for us upon this day.

Fasting then, and sitting all day pensive and still upon Sundays, as the use of some is, is no good Christianity, is unnatural and no way suitable to the honour of the day, nor no way decent in itself, neither; because, while the mind hath just occasion to adorn and deck herself with gladness, [186/187] as upon the apprehension and meditation of Christ's benefits this day it hath, the need of sorrow and pensiveness becometh her not.

(4.) To joy and cheerfulness we add bounty and liberality, which is required in them that abound, partly as a sign of their own joy and thankfulness to God, expressed by any oblation to him, and partly as a means whereby to refresh the poor and needy; who being, especially at these times, made partakers of relaxation and joy with others, do the more religiously bless God with us, and the more contentedly endure the burden of that hard estate wherein they continue. Neither did the old Christians, that were any ways able, think any Lord's day, or other holy day, rightly observed by them, wherein they brought not their offering to the Church in sign of thankfulness to God, and gave not their alms to the poor besides, in sign of amity and love to their brethren. For which we have express Scripture also, both from the mouth of God, 'Ye shall not appear before the Lord empty;' and from the mouth of St. Paul, 'Laying aside every first day of the week (which this day is) for the necessity of the saints.' This was the manner of keeping holy days in old time; and all these things that ye have heard commanded, as properly belonging to them, but especially and above all to the Lord's day.

III. And now by these things that are commanded ye may easily collect both what is forbidden, and what is permitted.

(1.) Forbidden first, profaneness, unholiness, the opposite to sanctity; all sin and wickedness in private, all careless and retchless attendance of God's holy service in public. heedless Not that these are lawful or permitted upon any other day besides, but that upon this day we be more wary and cautelous, when we are to have our special conversation cautious with God and His Church, than we use to be upon other days, when we converse with men and the affairs of the world. And be we all assured, that though sin and profaneness upon any day shall be punished, yet if it be not only done, but done upon this duty too, it shall have a double [187/188] punishment; one for the sin itself, and another for profaning the day.

So that against this commandment, generally, they all offend which will not cease from their own carnal wills and pleasures, but follow them on still upon the Sunday, as they did all the week before.

And they in special, that regarding neither the holiness of this day, nor the holiness of this place, come not at it to do their bounden duty and service to God, but pass their time either in idleness, or riot, or other vain and idle pastimes. St. Austin said well of them, these people keep not Sabbatum Jehovæ, but Sabbatum Satanæ; they keep holy day for the devil and not for God; and should be better employed, says he, labouring and ploughing in their fields, than so to spend the day in idleness and vanity; and women should better bestow their time in spinning of wool (lanam et linam are his words) than upon the Lord's day to lose their time leaping and dancing, and other such wantonness. Therefore qui vacant peccatis, nugis, choreis, spectaculis, in diebus Dominicis are all, in St. Austin's judgment, breakers of this holy commandment of God and profaners of his festival. For following sins and wickedness, the satisfaction of men's own lusts, I told you he called it Sabbatum Satanæ; for following idleness, and sport, and lewd pastimes, he calls it Sabbatum vituli curdi; they that skipped about the golden calf kept as good a holy day as these.

(2.) The next timing forbidden, which I can but name now, is servile and bodily labour; our worldly employments, though other days never so lawful, being the opposite to rest, and the hindrance of all religious exercises and public duties upon this day, as we have before declared.

They, therefore, that have herein contemned the old ordinances of God and his Church, and whereas God hath given them so many days for themselves and their own affairs, must [188/189] needs make bold with this and profane it also, have ever been severely censured. And truly, the voluntary, scandalous contempt, such as otherwhiles we see among some of our people, of the rest from labour, by means whereof God is publicly served upon this day, cannot too severely be corrected and bridled. Nehemiah protested against them, and so do we, and so hath time Church of God, and the Christian superiors and governors of God's people ever done, pleading for the honour of Christ and for this day of his resurrection, in their sermons, in their laws, in their edicts, everywhere most fully and religiously. I thought to have produced them now, but I think I have said enough for once, and the next time by God help I shall end all.

To which God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, ascribe we, &c.

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