J. L. Dagg on the Fourth Commandment

Tim Brister —  March 10, 2007 — 1 Comment

I have provided excerpts from Puritans and Edwards, and today I want to provide an excerpt from a leading voice in Southern Baptist life, namely John Dagg in his classic work, Manual of Church Order (Harrisonburg, VA: Gano Books, 1990).  In his chapter on public worship, Dagg argues that “the same relations are in society everywhere; and therefore the same obligations bind everywhere.  This part of the Mosaic code (the Decalogue) possesses universal and perpetual obligation; and this part, God specially distinguished from all the rest” (233).  Approaching the fourth commandment, Dagg argues,

As the whole decalogue binds us, so does this commandment.  No man has a right to separate it from the rest, and claim exemption from its obligation.  Christians, therefore, must observe the sabbath; and, as a day which God has hallowed, it is specially appropriate for the public worship of God (ibid.).

Clearly consonant with Edwards, Dagg states that the fourth commandment “possesses universal and perpetual obligation” and that all Christians must observe the sabbath.  Dagg continues to expound upon “the first day of the week” as the Christian sabbath.

According to the view which we have taken of the fourth commandment, Christians obey it, as literally as the Jews.  The latter derive their series of weeks by tradition from the time of Moses; we derive ours by tradition from the time of Christ.  We see with pleasure, the beginning of our series, in the brief accounts of Scripture, where they day on which Christians met for worship, is specified.  On the first day of the week our Lord rose from the dead.  This day was filled with the tidings and proofs of his resurrection, and with the admiration and joy of the disciples, and was closed with a meeting of the disciples, in which Jesus appeared in person.  In his account of this meeting, the evangelist is careful to repeat that it was on the first day of the week (236).

In conclusion, Dagg explains how the Christian honors the Sabbath and “strictly obeys the Decalogue.”

As the Mosaic revelation displays divine wisdom, in its mode of exhibiting the fourth commandment; so does the Christian revelation, in its mode of recommending the first day of the week to our observance. . . . As the matter has been left, the Decalogue is transmitted to us, requiring the consecration of one day in seven; and the New Testament teaches us, that no times are holy in themselves; and that the regard which the Jews demand, for the day on which they keep their weekly sabbath, and for their other holy days, so far from being obligatory on Christians, is inconsistent with the nature of the Christian economy.  The proportion and succession of time, as prescribed in the fourth commandment, are obligatory; . . . We are bound by the example of the apostles, to observe the first day of the week as the Christian sabbath; . . . The worship, adapted to the day, requires to be social; and each individual Christian may unite with his brethren, in the worship of God, on the day set apart for it, with the full conviction that, in so doing, he is honoring the Author of Christianity, and strictly obeying the Decalogue (237-38).

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  • charles mcpherson

    As a former Baptist and now Adventist this is a great discussion if you read Hebrews 4
    you will find Gods wrath will be poured out on Sabbath breakers. Also several places in the bible mention worshiping God on the sabbath after the resurection. In rev we learn God sends angels to seal those without the mark of the beast. Those who keep the commandments of God and have the faith of Christ. The things I have learned in 2 yrs
    from the bible have astounded me. Many I knew all along but listened to men instead of reading Gods word. Truth leads to salvation Truth is Jesus the word an Gods Law.
    The Bible mentions no man. Everywhere I hear what brother so and so or pastor x says
    about the bible but often it doesn’t say that at all.