Seven years ago the United States Supreme Court handed down landmark decisions on four cases dealing with the legal regulation of Sunday. At issue was whether Sunday closing laws violated the United States Constitution. In the opinion of the court, the Sunday laws no longer had a religious significance. In fact, the only concern of the justices in this regard was whether the Sunday laws violated religious liberty. The majority view as expressed by Chief Justice Warren was that the present purpose and effect of the various Sunday laws was “to provide a uniform day of rest for all citizens”:
This statement points up the difference between present and past practices. The Puritan heritage of many of the early colonists included a strong conviction about observance of the Lord’s Day. In 1595, the doctrine of Sabbatarianism was outlined by Nicholas Bownd in a work called The True Doctrine of the Sabbath. Although he recognized the distinction between the Jewish Sabbath and the Christian Lord’s Day, Bownd affirmed that the commandment to sanctify every seventh day was moral and perpetual in its significance. His work apparently had a great influence upon the Puritans of his time.
Another evidence of Puritan thought is seen in an action of the Synod of Dort, which in 1619 agreed upon the following:
A similar conviction was expressed in the Westminster Confession, drawn up in 1643 by a group of clergymen and laymen, the majority of whom were Presbyterian Puritans, and approved in 1647 by the general assembly of the Church of Scotland. Since the confession became the creed of Scottish and American Presbyterianism, this statement from it is significant:
This Sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their ...1
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