Boston, Fisher and Kennedy
Published by: Reformation Heritage Books
This is a short book/booklet that comprises three different authors views in relation to the Sabbath Day. At the start of the book there is a short historical introduction by the publisher, in which he notes that the last of three authors makes some pointed remarks about events that had happened in this own day. The introduction helpfully provides a reference to an article in the Scottish Church History Society Journal volume 3, where Norman Campbell has done a great job of clearly explaining the causes and the outcomes of the controversy. As Campbell shows, the fish from the islands were being packaged and prepared during the week, but were being swapped onto cargo trains on the Lord’s day so that they could be fresh in London on the Monday morning. A large group of highlanders met to stop this activity on the Lord’s Day and did so. The resulting melee meant that a number were convicted of causing riot and additional Police (and troops) were around to prevent a further occurrence. Kennedy and McColl of Lochalsh were involved in drawing the fine line between the need for Sabbath Observance and avoiding unnecessary confrontation with the civil powers.
I found the book itself to be a most helpful read. I have had the pleasure over recent months of frequently conversing on a Saturday morning with a gentleman from Canberra in Australia (it is Saturday evening for him). Our conversations usually turn around the Bible and spiritual matters and they help me to prepare for the forthcoming Sabbath, yet I am often left feeling that my own practices are not where they should be. This type of book is most helpful for all of us in highlighting the importance of our Sabbaths. James Fisher, in his section, asks in relation to the reasons annexed to the fourth commandment: ‘Why are more reasons annexed to this command that to any of the rest?’ and answers, ‘because of the proneness of men to break it, and likewise that the violation of it may be rendered the more inexcusable.’ Quite so!
The first section is from Thomas Boston’s Body of Divinity where he looks at the fourth commandment. They are beautifully reset and easily readable short chapters. Boston’s focus is on the importance of the Sabbath and its abiding obligations as a creation ordinance. He picks up the issues of careless performance of Sabbath duties and of idleness on the Sabbath. He also identifies the fault of our conversations turning to the news or current events, shortly after the service times rather than mediating on the things of God. Boston asks practical questions like how we prepare for the Lords Day and how we should labour to be in the right frame of mind for what is a foretaste of the eternal Sabbath. The second section is from James Fisher’s catechism – Fisher takes the questions in the Shorter Catechism around the fourth commandment and then subdivides them into a whole array of questions that draw out the meaning of the shorter catechism response. This Work of Fisher’s is rightly viewed as a classic, at the moment I am using Vos with my own children as I go through the catechism, but I often think that they might be better served with the more interactive style of James Fisher who gets right into the nitty gritty of what each question is about. For example, Fisher asks whether we should still refer to it as the Sabbath, which was the practice in the Old Testament. He answers that this is right, as our Lord in Matthew 24:20 refers to it in that way. He then asks the question that many would challenge that with, ie. Is to the Lord speaking about the Jewish Sabbath rather than the Christian one. Fisher then explains that it is speaking in the text about the flight from Jerusalem which happened forty years after the Jewish Sabbath had been abolished by the Christian one. Fisher is also excellent at refuting the modern ideas around not observing a full normal 24 hour day and the strange notion of observing sunset to sunset rather than midnight to midnight. The book ends with a third section from John Kennedy (Dingwall) looking at the perpetual obligation of the Lord’s Day. Many of Kennedy’s practical observations about the decline in Sabbath observance are identifying trends that were common in the 1890s that have only increased and increased in the intervening 130 years.