The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland seeks to uphold the Christian Sabbath as it was observed in the historic Church of Scotland. Fisher’s Catechism (found in its complete form at http://www.reformed.org/documents/index.html ), the great Scottish commentary on the Westminster Shorter Catechism, helpfully explains the nature of this observance:
QUESTION 60. How is the Sabbath to be sanctified?
ANSWER: The Sabbath is to be sanctified, by a holy resting on that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days; and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God's worship, except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy.
Q. 1. In what sense is the Sabbath to be sanctified?
A. As it is dedicated by God, for man's sake and use that he may keep it holy to God.
Q. 2. In what manner should he keep it holy to God?
A. By a holy resting, and by holy exercises.
Q. 3. What should we rest from on the Sabbath?
A. Even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days; or, which is the same thing, from all servile work, Neh. 13:15-23.
Q. 4. What is it that makes a work servile?
A. If it is done for our worldly gain, profit, and livelihood; or if, by prudent management, it might have been done the week before; or, if it be of such a kind as may be delayed till after the Sabbath, Ex. 34:21 -- "Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh thou shalt rest: in shearing time, and in harvest thou shalt rest."
Q. 5. Why does God enjoin rest on the Sabbath so peremptorily and particularly, in the time of ploughing and harvest?
A. Because in these seasons men are most keenly set upon their labour; and may be in the greatest hazard of grudging the time of the Sabbath for rest.
Q. 6. If the weather is unseasonable through the week, do not reaping and ingathering, in that case become works of necessity on the Sabbath?
A. By no means; because any unseasonableness of the weather that may happen, being common and general, proceeds only from the course of God's ordinary providence, which we ought not to distrust, in regard of his promise, that, "While the earth remaineth, seed-time and harvest -- shall not cease," Gen. 8:22.
Q. 7. If a field of corn is in hazard of being carried away by the unexpected inundation of a river, is it lawful to endeavour the preservation of them upon the Sabbath?
A. Yes; because the dispensation is extraordinary; the case not common nor general; and the damage likewise in an ordinary way, irrecoverable.
Q. 8. Are Christians, under the New Testament, obliged to as strict an abstinence from worldly labour, as the Jews were under the Old?
A. Yes, surely; for moral duties being of unchangeable obligation, Christians must be bound to as strict a performance of them now, as the Jews were then, Psalm 19:9.
Q. 9. Were not the Jews prohibited to dress meat on the Sabbath? Ex. 16:23.
A. They were prohibited such servile work as was requisite in preparing manna for food: such as the grinding of it in mills, beating it in mortars, and baking it in pans, Num. 11:8; but not all dressing of meat, for the comfortable nourishment of their bodies, any more than we.
Q. 10. How does it appear that they were allowed to dress meat on the Sabbath, for the comfortable nourishment of their bodies?
A. From our Lord's being present at a meal on the Sabbath day, to which there were several guests bidden, and consequently meat behoved to be prepared and dressed for their entertainment, Luke 14:1, 7.
Q. 11. Were not the Jews forbidden to kindle fire in their habitations upon the Sabbath day? Ex. 35:3.
A. Yes, for any servile work, though it were even making materials for the tabernacle, (which is the work spoken of through the following part of that chapter;) but they were not forbidden to kindle fires for works of necessity or mercy, any more than Christians are.
Q. 12. Were they not ordered to abide every man in his place, and not to go out of his place on the seventh day? Ex. 16:29.
A. The prohibition only respects their going abroad about the unnecessary and servile work of gathering manna upon the Sabbath; otherwise, they were allowed to go out about works of necessity and mercy: and it appears from Acts 1:12, that they were allowed to travel a Sabbath-day's journey.
Q. 13. What was a Sabbath-day's journey?
A. Whatever was the tradition of the Pharisees about it, it appears to have been the distance of their respective dwellings, from the place where they ordinarily attended public ordinances, 2 Kings 4:23.
Q. 14. Are we not to rest on the Lord's day from lawful recreations, as well as from lawful worldly employments?
A. Yes; because we are expressly required, on this holy day, to abstain from doing our own ways, finding our own pleasure, and speaking our own words, Isa. 58:13.
Q. 15. What are these recreations that are lawful on other days?
A. Innocent pastimes, visiting friends, walking in the fields talking of the news or common affairs, and the like.
Q. 16. Why are these recreations unlawful on the Lord's day?
A. Because they tend to divert the mind from the duties of the Sabbath, as much as, if not more than, worldly employments.
Q. 17. Is not the Sabbath a festival, or feast day; and consequently may not our conversation on it be cheerful and diverting?
A. It is, indeed, properly a feast day, but of a spiritual, not of a carnal nature: we may refresh our bodies moderately, but not sumptuously; and our conversation ought to turn wholly upon spiritual and heavenly subjects, or such as have that tendency, after the example of our Lord, Luke 14:1-25.
Q. 18. What should be the principal end of our six days' labour?
A. That it be so managed as in no way to discompose or unfit us for a holy resting on the Sabbath, or meeting with God on his own day.
Q. 19. What is a holy resting?
A. Not only an abstaining from our own work, or labour, but an entering by faith (in the use of appointed means,) into the presence and enjoyment of God in Christ, as the only rest of our souls, Heb. 4:3; that having no work of our own to mind or do, we may be wholly taken up with the works of God.
Q. 20. Why called a holy resting?
A. Because we should rest from worldly labour, in order to be employed in the holy exercises, which the Lord requires on this day; otherwise, as to bare cessation, our cattle rest from outward labour as well as we.
Q. 21. What are the holy EXERCISES in which we ought to be employed on the Lord's day?
A. In the public and private exercises of God's worship.
Q. 22. What are the public exercises of God's worship in which we should be employed?
A. Hearing the word preached, Rom. 10:17; joining in public prayers and praises, Luke 24:53; and partaking of the sacraments, Acts 20:7.
Q. 23. What is included under the private exercises of God's worship?
A. Family and secret duties.
Q. 24. What are the duties incumbent on us in a family capacity on the Lord's day?
A. Family worship, and family catechising, together with Christian conference, as there is occasion, Lev. 23:3. It is the Sabbath of the Lord in all your DWELLINGS, or private families; and therefore God is to he worshipped in them on that day.
Q. 25. What is family worship?
A. It is the daily joining of all that are united in a domestic relation, or who are dwelling together in the same house and family, in singing God's praises, Acts 2:47 reading his word, Deut. 6:7, and praying to him, Jer. 10:25.
Q. 26. How do you prove family worship to be a duty daily incumbent upon those who have families?
A. From scripture precept, and from scripture example.
Q. 27. How is family worship evinced from scripture precept?
A. Besides that this commandment enjoins every master of a family to sanctify the Sabbath within his gates, that is, to worship God in his family; there are also other scriptures, inculcating the same thing, by necessary consequence; such as, Eph. 6:18 -- "Praying always, with ALL prayer and supplication;" 1 Tim. 2:8 -- "I will therefore that men pray EVERY WHERE. "If with all prayer, then surely with family prayer; if EVERY WHERE, then certainly in our families.
Q. 28. What are the examples of family worship recorded in scripture for our imitation?
A. Among others, there are the examples of Abraham, Gen. 18:19; of Joshua, chap. 24:15 -- "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord;" of David, 2 Sam. 6:20; or Cornelius, Acts 10:2; and especially the example of our blessed Lord, whom we find singing psalms, Matt. 26:30, and praying with his disciples, who were his family, Luke 9:18.
Q. 29. What should be the subject matter of family catechising?
A. What they have been hearing through the day, together with the principles of our religion, as laid out in the Shorter Catechism, with the helps that are published upon the same, which masters of families ought to use for their assistance in this work.
Q. 30. What are the proper seasons of Christian conference on the Sabbath?
A. At meals, and in the interval of duties: our speech should he always, but especially on the Lord's day, "seasoned with salt," Col. 4:6.
Q. 31. What are the secret duties in which we ought to he exercised on the Lord's day?
A. Secret prayer, reading the scriptures, and other soul-edifying books, meditation upon divine subjects, and self-examination.
Q. 32. With what frame and disposition of soul should we engage in the public and private exercises of God's worship?
A. With a spiritual frame and disposition, Rev. 1:10 -- "I was IN THE SPIRIT on the Lord's day."
Q. 33. What is it to be in the Spirit on the Lord's day?
A. It is not only to have the actual inhabitation of the Spirit, which is the privilege of believers "every day," Ezek. 36:27; but to have the influences and operations of the Spirit "more liberally let out," Luke 4:31, 32, and his graces in "more lively exercise," than at other times, Acts 2:41.
Q. 34. What moral argument have we from the ceremonial law, for offering a greater plenty of spiritual sacrifices to God on the Sabbath, than upon other days?
A. The daily sacrifice, or continual burnt offering, was to be doubled on the Sabbath, Num. 28:9; intimating, that they were bound to double their devotions on that day, which was consecrated to God to be spent in his service.
Q. 35. How much of the Sabbath is to be spent in the public and private exercises of God's worship?
A. The WHOLE of it, from the ordinary time of rising on other days, to the ordinary time of going to rest; "except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy."
Q. 36. What is to be understood by works of necessity?
A. Such as could not be foreseen, nor provided against the day before, nor delayed till the day after the Sabbath.
Q. 37. What instances may be given of such works of necessity on the Lord's day?
A. Flying from, and defending ourselves against an enemy; quenching of fire, accidentally or wilfully kindled; standing by the helm, or working a ship at sea, (provided they do not weigh anchor, nor hoist sail from harbours or firths, on the Lord's day,) and the like.
Q. 38. What are the works of mercy which may be done on the Sabbath?
A. The moderate refreshment of our bodies, Luke 6:1; visiting the sick, preparing and administering remedies to them, Luke 13:16; feeding our cattle, ver. 15; and preserving their lives, if in danger, chap, 14:5; and making collections for the poor, 1 Cor. 16:2.
Q. 39. What cautions are requisite about works of necessity and mercy?
A. That these works be real, and not pretended; that we spend as little time about them as possible; and that we endeavour to attain a holy frame of spirit while about them.
Q. 40. How does it appear that works of necessity and mercy are lawful on the Lord's day?
A. Because, though God rested from his work of creation on the seventh day, yet he did not rest on it from preserving what he had made.
Q. 41. "Why is the charge of keeping the Sabbath more especially directed to governors of families, and other superiors?"
A. "Because they are bound not only to keep it themselves, but to see that it be observed by all those that are under their charge: and because they are prone oftentimes to hinder them by employments of their own." Q. 42. Ought not magistrates to punish those who are guilty of the open and presumptuous breach of the Sabbath?
A. Undoubtedly they should; and they have the example of Nehemiah for a precedent, worthy of their imitation in this matter, chap. 13:21.
Q. 43. What is the most effectual way for the civil magistrate to suppress Sabbath profanation?
A. To be impartial in the execution of the laws against Sabbath breaking, especially upon those who are of a more eminent rank and station, because they ought to be exemplary to others, Neh. 13:17 -- "Then I contended with the NOBLES of Judah; and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the Sabbath day?"
Q. 44. "Why is the word REMEMBER set in the beginning of the Fourth Commandment?"
A. "Partly, because we are very ready to forget it; and partly, because in keeping it, we are helped better to keep all the rest of the commandments."