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Back to Table of Contents, A Declaration of Universal Rights

Article 5 — Civil Government

Section 10: Sabbath

The people are free to designate one day of the week for a Sabbath rest when no commercial or civil governmental undertakings shall be permitted, vital functions excepted.

This section permits people to establish a day of rest, leaving to their discretion the particular day and the articulation of the vital exceptions. This understanding of the Sabbath principle may be termed "sabbatical" rather than "sabbatarian." The "sabbatarian" position holds that sabbath keeping is still man's duty, whether the Sabbath still be Saturday, the seventh-day of the week, or be divinely changed to Sunday, the first day of the week. The "sabbatical" position, espoused in the text of this section, holds that while Sunday is not the Sabbath (Colossians 2:16, Galatians 4:10), it does fulfil the sabbatical principle, that is the weekly principle, of one day per week (one day in seven) being devoted to rest. This is based upon the Creation Week (Genesis 2:1-3), the preredemptive divine pattern for all men of all time. This law of nature in the Covenant of Creation (cf. Jeremiah 33:20, 25) is restated in Israel's law in the Covenant of Redemption (cf. Ephesians 2:12), the sab­batical principle having both creational-universal significance (Exodus 20:11) and redemptive-ecclesiastical significance (Deuteronomy 5:15). This hebdomadal (one-in-seven) or sabbatical principle is restated for the New Testament redemptive community by the apostle Paul when he instructs the church to take up their col­lections (when they gather for their weekly worship services, Acts 20:7) on "the first day of every week" (1 Corinthians 16:2). The liberty of the people, as the text of this section says, "to designate one day of the week for a Sabbath rest when no commercial or civil government undertakings shall be permitted," is their lib­erty to model their civil government after the wise and righteous decrees God gave Israel as their wisdom to the nations (Deuteronomy 4:6-8). Such a civil liberty does not compel belief (Romans 14:5), require atten­dance at worship (2 Kings 4:23), regulate leisure (Isaiah 58:13-14) nor infringe on ecclesiastical jurisdicition (Hebrews 10:25). Christian societies will probably choose the Lord's Day, Sunday, as their day of civil rest (e.g. see the "Sundays excepted" phrase of the Constitution of the United States, Article 1, Section 7).

Another view holds the opposite perspective. It reflects the idea that no law shall require or prohibit obser­vance of a sabbath or other day of rest. This latter view is established on the principle that the civil magistrate has no competent jurisdiction over sabbath observance. Such observances are considered an aspect of wor­ship and are therefore beyond the civil magistrate to compel. Likewise, the magistrate lacks jurisdiction to prohibit one from engaging in non-worship, leisure or business activities because it is not competent to judge the manner by which a sabbath may be observed. This latter view also effectively bans blue laws or Sunday closing laws. It does not impair the ability of any commercial establishment to voluntarily close. See also Arti­cle 2, Sec. 7 and 9, and Article 4, Sec. 5 for additional parallel applications. Though sabbath observance is a law of nature or creation, its enforcement has not been extended by God to any ecclesiastical or civil jurisdic­tion outside of Old Testament Israel, but lies solely between a man and his Maker. Parents, of course, are not to be impaired in the discharge of their obligation with respect to their children. A child has no legal remedy if he does not desire to observe the sabbath as his parents so designate.

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