Book II: Chapter 7
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ON THE TIME FOR DIVINE WORSHIP; WHEREIN ARE CONSIDERED THE SABBATH, LORD'S DAY, AND FESTIVALS.
THUS far of the parts of divine worship. We are now to consider its circumstances.
The circumstances of worship are the same as of all things natural, place and time.
Public worship, previously to the law of Moses, was not confined to any definite place; under the law it took place partly in the synagogues and partly in the temple; under the gospel any convenient place is proper. John iv. 21, 23. "ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father; but the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth;" as Malachi had also prophesied, i. 11 . "in every place incense shall be offered unto my name."<327>
With regard to the time of public worship, what this was before the law, does not appear. Under the law it was the Sabbath, that is, the seventh day, which was consecrated to God from the beginning of the world, Gen. ii. 2, 3. but which (as stated above, Book I. chap, x.) was not, so far as we can learn, observed, or commanded to be observed, till the second month of the departure of the Israelites from Egypt, Exod. xvi. 1, 23, 25, 29. when it was enforced with severe prohibitions: v. 23. "to-morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto Jehovah; bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that which ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over, lay up for you to be kept until the morning." xx. 8, &c. "remember the sabbath-day, to keep it holy;" that is, remember it according to the previous commandment in the sixteenth chapter, referred to above; or it may be an emphatic manner of admonition. xxxi. 14. "ye shall keep the sabbath-day therefore, for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death." xxxiv. 21. "in earing time, and in harvest thou shalt rest." xxxv. 2, 3. "a sabbath of rest to Jehovah... ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations on the sabbath-day." Lev. xxiii. 3. "six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation." Num. xv. 32, &c. "they found a man that gathered sticks on the sabbath-day." 2 Chron. xxxvi. 20, 21. "them that had escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon... until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths." Jer. xvii. 21, 22. "bear no burthen on the sabbath-day." Neh. x. 31. "if the people of the land bring ware or any victuals on the sabbathday to sell, that we would not buy it of them —." xiii. 15, &c. "in those days saw I in Judah some treading wine presses on the sabbath."
The command to observe the Sabbath was given to the Israelites for a variety of reasons, mostly peculiar to themselves, and which are recorded in different parts of the Mosaic law. First, as a memorial of God's having completed the work of creation on the seventh day. Exod. xx. 11. xxxi. 15-17. "wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant... for in six days Jehovah made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed." Here although the reason given for the celebration of the Sabbath applies equally to all other nations, the Israelites alone are enjoined to observe it; as is also the case with the command to abstain from creeping things, Lev. xi. 44. "ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy, for I am holy; neither shall ye defile your selves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth;" with the law against disfiguring the body, and other similar commands, Deut. xiv. 1, &c. "ye are the children of God;" for the reasons on which these precepts are founded apply equally to believers in general, and to all ages, although the precepts themselves are no longer obligatory. This has been remarked by our countryman Ames. "Non estcatholicæ veritatis illa regula interpretandi scripturas quæ tradi solet a quibusdam, officia illa omnia esse moralia et immutabilia quæ rationes morales et immutabiles habent sibi annexas; nisi sic intelligatur ut illa officia sequantur ex illis rationibus, nullo singulari Dei præcepto intercedente." Ames, Medull. Theol. lib. ii. c. 13. This however cannot be said either of the precepts above-mentioned, or of the Sabbath.
Secondly, because God was pleased by this distinguishing mark to separate the Israelites from other nations. Exod. xxxi. 13, &c. "it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that ye may know that I am Jehovah that doth sanctify you; ye shall keep the sabbath therefore, for it is holy unto you." Ezek. xx. 12. "to be a sign between me andthem, that they might, know that I am Jehovah that sanctity them." See also v. 20.
Thirdly, that the slaves and cattle might enjoy a respite from labour. Exod. xxiii. 12. "that thine ox and thine ass may rest, and the son of thine handmaid and the stranger may he refreshed." Deut. v. 12, 14. "keep the sabbath-day... that thy man-servant and thy maid-servant may rest as well as thou." This reason applies only where servants are in a state of slavery, and subject to severe labour; the condition of hired servants, who are now generally employed, being much easier than that of purchased slaves in old time.
Fourthly, in remembrance of their liberation from Egypt. Deut. v. 15. "remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that Jehovah thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm; therefore Jehovah thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath-day."
Fifthly, as a shadow or type of things to come. Col. ii. 16, 17. "in respect of an holy-day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath-days; which are a shadow of things to come: but the body is of Christ." Of what things to come the sabbaths are a shadow, we are taught Heb. iv. 9, 10. namely, of that sabbatical rest or eternal peace in heaven, of which all believers are commanded to strive to be partakers through faith and obedience, following the example of Christ.
Works of charity and mercy were not forbidden on the Sabbath, upon the authority of Christ himself. Mark ii. 27. "the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath." iii. 4. "is it lawful to do good on the sabbath-days, or to do evil? to save life, or tokill?" Luke xiii. 15, 16. "doth not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox —?... ought not this woman to be loosed from this bond on the sabbath-day?": xiv. 5. "which of you shall have an ox or an ass fallen into a pit," &c. John vii. 23. "are ye angry at me because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath-day?" Even for a man to take up his bed, v. 11. although consonant to the spirit of the law, was contrary to its letter, Jer. xvii. 21, 22.
Since then the Sabbath was originally an ordinance of the Mosaic law, since it was given to the Israelites alone, and that for the express purpose of distinguishing them from other nations, it follows that, if (as was shown in the former book) those who live under the gospel are emancipated from the ordinances of the law in general, least of all can they be considered as bound by that of the Sabbath, the distinction being abolished which was the special cause of its institution. It was for asserting this in precept, and enforcing it by example, that Christ incurred the heavy censure of the Pharisees, John ix. 16. "this man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath-day." Gal. iv. 9, 10 "how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? ye observe days, and months, and times, and years." Col. ii. 16, 17. "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy-day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath-days." If it becontended, that it is only the septennial, and not the seventh day sabbath which is said by Paul to be abrogated, I reply, first, that no exception is here made; and, secondly, that it may as well be contended that baptism is not meant Heb. vi. 2. on account of the plural noun baptisms. Besides, it is certain that the words sabbath and sabbaths are used indiscriminately of the seventh day; Exod. xxxi. 13, 14. Isai. lvi. 2, 4, 6. Whoever therefore denies that under the words of the apostle, "in respect of an holy-day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath-days," the Sabbath of the fourth commandment is comprehended, may as well deny that it is spoken of 2 Chron. ii. 4. or viii. 13. or xxxi. 3. from which passages the words of Paul seem to be taken.
The law of the Sabbath being thus repealed, that no particular day of worship has been appointed in its place, is evident from the same apostle, Rom. xiv. 5. "one man esteemeth one day above another; another esteemeth every day alike; let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind." For since, as was observed above, no particular place is designated under the gospel for the public worship of God, there seems no reason why time, the other circumstance of worship, should be more defined. If Paul had not intended to intimate the abolition of all sabbaths whatever, and of all sanctification of one day above another, he would not have added in the following verse, "he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it." For how does he not regard the day to the Lord,if there be any commandment still in force by which a particular day, whether the Sabbath or any other, is to be observed?
It remains to be seen on what they ground their opinion, who maintain that the Lord's day is to be observed as set apart for public worship by divine institution, in the nature of a new sabbath. It is urged, first, that God rested on the seventh day. This is true; and with reason, inasmuch as he had finished a great work, the creation of heaven and earth; if then we are bound to imitate him in his rest, without any command to that effect, (and none has yet been produced,) we are equally bound to imitate his work, according to the fable of Prometheus of old; for rest implies previous labour. They rejoin, that God hallowed that day. Doubtless he hallowed it, as touching himself, for "on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed," Exod. xxxi. 17. but not as touching us, unless he had added an express commandment to that effect; for it is by the precepts, not by the example, even of God himself, that we are bound. They affirm again, that the Sabbath was observed previously to the Mosaic law. This isasserted with more confidence than probability; even if it were so, however, (a point as to which we are altogether ignorant) it is equally certain that sacrificial rites, and distinctions between things clean and unclean, and other similar observances, were in force during the same period, which nevertheless are not classed among moral duties.
They urge, however, that the celebration of the Sabbath was subsequently ordained by the fourth commandment. This is true, as regards the seventh day; but how does this apply to the first day? If, on the plea of a divine command, they impose upon us the observance of a particular day, how do they presume, without the authority of a divine command, to substitute another day in its place? or in other words to pronounce, that not merely the seventh day, which was appointed for the observation of the Israelites alone, but any one of the seven may, even on the authority of the fourth commandment itself, be kept holy; and that this is to be accounted an article of moral duty among all nations.
In the first place, I do not see how this assertion can be established, for it is impossible to extort such a sense from the words of the commandment; seeing that the reason for which the command itself was originally given, namely, as a memorial of God's having rested from the creation of the world, cannot be transferred from the seventh day to the first; nor can any new motive be substituted in its place, whether the resurrection of our Lord, or any other, without the sanction of a divine commandment. Since then it is evident from more than one passage of Scripture, that the original Sabbath is abrogated, and since weare no where told that it has been transferred from one day to another, nor is any reason given why it should be so transferred, the church, when she sanctioned a change in this matter, evinced, not her obedience to God's command (inasmuch as the command existed no longer) but her own rightful liberty; for in any other view it can only be termed folly. To make any change whatever in a commandment of God, whether we believe that commandment to be still in force or not, is equally dangerous, and equally reprehensible; inasmuch as in so doing we are either annulling what is not yet repealed, or re-enacting what is obsolete. It ought also to be shown what essential principle of morality is involved in the number seven; and why, when released from the obligation of the Sabbath, we should still be bound to respect a particular number, possessing no inherent virtue or efficacy. The only moral sabbatical rest which remains for us under the gospel, is spiritual and eternal, pertaining to another life rather than in the present. Heb. iv. 9-11. "there remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God; for he that hath entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his: let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief." If then the commandment of the Sabbath was given to those alone whom God had brought out of the land of Egypt, and out of the house of bondage, it is evidently inapplicable to us as Christians; or if, as is contended, it is applicable to us inasmuch as we have been brought out of the slavery of a spiritual Egypt, the Sabbath ought to be such as the deliverance, spiritual and evangelical, not bodily and legal; above all, it ought to be a voluntary, not a constrained observance, lest we should be merely substituting one Egyptian bondage for another; for the Spirit cannot be forced. To contend therefore that what, under the new dispensation, ought to be our daily employment, has been enjoined as the business of the Sabbath exclusively, is to disparage the gospel worship, and to frustrate rather than enforce the commandments of God.
It is urged, however, that it is on the fourth commandment that the church relies as its perpetual authority for the observance of public worship. That public worship is commended, and inculcated as a voluntary duty, even under the gospel, I allow; but that it is a matter of compulsory enactment, binding on believers from the authority of this commandment, or of any Sinaitical precept whatever, I deny. With regard to the doctrine of those who consider the decalogue as a code of universal morality, I am at a loss to understand how such an opinion should ever have prevailed; these commandments being evidently nothing more than a summary of the whole Mosaic law, as the fourth in particular is of the whole ceremonial law; which therefore can contain nothing applicable to the gospel worship.
Whether the festival of the Lord's day (an expression which occurs only once in Scripture, Rev. i. 10.) was weekly or annual, cannot be pronounced withcertainty, inasmuch as there is not (as in the case of the Lord's Supper) any account of its institution, or command for its celebration, to be found in scripture. If it was the day of his resurrection, why, we may ask, should this be considered as the Lord's day in any higher sense than that of his birth, or death, or ascension? why should it be held in higher consideration than the day of the descent of the Holy Spirit? and why should the celebration of the one recur weekly, whereas the commemoration of the others is not necessarily even annual, but remains at the discretion of each believer?
Neither can the circumstance of Christ's having appeared twice to his disciples on this day (if indeed the words after eight days, John xx. 26. are rightly interpreted the eighth day after) be safely adduced in proof of the divine institution of a new sabbath; inasmuch as there can be no doubt that he appeared on other days also, Luke xxiv. 36. and John xxi. 3, 4. "Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing," which was not lawful on the Sabbath; so that the day following, on the morning of which Christ appeared, could not have been the first day of the week. Even supposing, however, that it had been so, still the assigning this as a reason for the institution of a new sabbath is matter solely of human inference; since no commandment on this subject, nor any reason for such institution, is found in all Scripture.
From commandments, of which we have proved the non-existence, we pass to examples; although no example can weaken the force of a contrary precept. We shall proceed, however, to prove, that what are adduced as examples are not such in reality. Firstthen, with regard to Acts xx. 7. where it is related that the disciples dwelling at Troas "came together to break bread upon the first day of the week," who shall determine with certainty whether this was a periodical meeting, or only held occasionally, and of their own accord; whether it was a religious festival, or a fraternal meal; whether a special assembly convoked on that particular day, or a daily meeting like those recorded in chap. ii. 42. compared with v. 46; lastly, whether this meeting was held by order of the apostles, or whether it was merely permitted by them in compliance with the popular custom, according to their frequent practice on other occasions?
The inference deduced from 1 Cor. xvi. 2. is equally unsatisfactory; for what the apostle is here enjoining, is not the celebration of the Lord's day, but that on the first day of the week (if this be the true interpretation of κατὰ μίαν σαββάτων, per unam sabbathorum) each should lay by him (that is at home) for the relief of the poor; no mention being made of any public assembly, or of any collection at such assembly, on that day. He was perhaps led to select the first day of the week, from the idea that our alms ought to be set aside as a kind of first-fruits to God, previous to satisfying other demands; or because the first day of the week was most convenient for the arrangement of the family accounts. Granting, however, that the Corinthians were accustomed to assemble on that day for religious purposes, it no more follows that we are bound to keep it holy in conformity with their practice, without a divine command to that effect, than that we are bound to observe the Jewish sabbath in conformity with the practice of thePhilippians, or of Paul himself, Acts xvi. 13." on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made." xvii. 2. "Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath-days reasoned with them out of the scripture." xviii. 3,4. "he abode with them and wrought... and he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath;" following his own occupation at home, as we have reason to believe, during the six remaining days.
Those therefore, who on the authority of an expression occurring only once in Scripture, keep holy a sabbath-day, for the consecration of which no divine command can be alleged, ought to consider the dangerous tendency of such an example, and the consequences with which it is likely to be followed in the interpretation of Scripture.
Hence we arrive at the following conclusions; first, that under the gospel no one day is appointed for divine worship in preference to another, except such as the church may set apart of its own authority for the voluntary assembling of its members, wherein, relinquishing all worldly affairs, we may dedicate ourselves wholly to religious services, so far as is consistent with the duties of charity; and, secondly, that this may conveniently take place once every seven days, and particularly on the first day of the week; provided always that it be observed in compliance with the authority of the church, and not in obedience to the edicts of the magistrate; and likewise that a snare be not laid for the conscience by theallegation of a divine commandment, borrowed from the decalogue; an error against which Paul diligently cautions us, Col. ii. 16. "let no man therefore judge you," &c. For if we under the gospel are to regulate the time of our public worship by the prescriptions of the decalogue, it will surely be far safer to observe the seventh day, according to the express commandment of God, than on the authority of mere human conjecture to adopt the first. I perceive also that several of the best divines as Bucer, Calvin, Peter Martyr, Musculus, Ursinus, Gomarus, and others, concur in the opinions above expressed.
.....'the body, with all the circumstances of place and time, were purified by the affections of the regenerate soul.' Of Reformation in England, Prose Works, I. 1. 'Tertius modus est adjunctorum quæ recipiuntur ad subjectum; quæ vulgo circumstantiæ nuncupantur, quia extra subjectum sunt. Hue tempus refertur.' Artis Logicæ plenior Institutio. IV. 224
Dr. William Ames, a Puritan divine in the time of James and Charles the First, and Professor of Divinity in the University of Franeker, a town of the Netherlands, in Friesland. It was partly from the work quoted above, and partly from The Abridgment of Christian Divinitie by Wolebius, that Milton, according to Phillips, compiled for the use of his pupils a system of divinity, which they wrote on Sundays at his dictation. An English translation of Ames's treatise was published by order of the House of Commons in 1642, under the title of The Marrow of Sacred Divinity, drawne out of the Holy Scriptures and the Interpreters thereof, and brought into method. It is divided into two books, of which the first, entitled On Faith in God, contains forty-one chapters, and the second, On Observance toward God, twenty-two. It is quite evident that Milton has frequently availed himself of this volume, both in the distribution of his subject and arrangement of the chapters, which frequently coincides with that of Ames, and in particular passages and applications of Scripture; though their opinions differ materially on several important points. The translation is very badly executed, as the version of the passage quoted in the text will show. "That rule therefore of interpreting the Scriptures which is wont to be delivered by some, is not universally true; that all those duties [are] morall and immutable, which have morall and immutable reasons joyned to them; except it be thus understood, that those duties doe follow upon those reasons, no special command coming betweene." Milton quotes in his Tetrachordon the definition of marriage given by Ames, and passes a just censure on it. See Prose Works, II. 141. The Treatise of Wollebius is also divided into two parts, On the Knowledge and on the Worship of God, the first comprised in thirty-six, and the second in fourteen chapters. The plan of the latter division is very similar to the corresponding portion of Milton's work, and not only the arguments, but even whole sentences are sometimes almost identically the same.
See Book I. Chap, xxvii. and the note in p. 90. To what is there said may be added the following passage from A Brief History of Moscovia. Milton is speaking of the Russian church. 'They hold the ten commandments not to concern them, saying that God gave them under the law, which Christ by his death on the cross had abrogated.' Prose Works, IV, 280.
'What but a vain shadow else is the abolition of those ordinances, that hand-writing nailed to the cross? What great purchase is this Christian liberty which Paul so often boasts of? His doctrine is, that he who eats or eats not, regards a day, or regards it not, may do either to the Lord.' Speech for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing. Prose Works, 1. 327.
'It would be helpful to us if we might borrow such authority as the rhetoricians by patent may give us, with a kind of Promethean skill to shape and fashion this outward man into the similitude of a body.' Reason of Church Government urged against Prelaty. Prose Works, I. 133. 'Malui abs te decerpta transcribere, quæ tu Aristoteli, ut ignem Jovi Prometheus, ad eversionem monarcharum, et perniciem ipsius tuam, surripuisti.' Pro Populo Anglicano Defensio, V. 115.
'They ought to know, or to remember, that not examples, but express commands oblige our obedience to God or man.' The likeliest Means to remove Hirelings, &c. III. 357.
'God delights not to make a drudge of virtue, whose actions must be all elective and unconstrained.' Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce. Prose Works, II. 51.
'What would ye say now, grave fathers, if you should wake and see unworthy bishops, or rather, no bishops, but Egyptian task-masters of ceremonies, thrust purposely upon the groaning church, to the affliction and vexation of God's people?' Of Reformation in England, I. 13.
'As therefore the seventh day is not moral, but a convenient recourse of worship in fit season, whether seventh or other number —.' The Likeliest Means to remove Hirelings out of the Church. Prose Works, III. 367.
Several of these divines are elsewhere mentioned by Milton in terms of commendation. 'Bucer (whom our famous Dr. Rainolds was wont to prefer before Calvin) in his comment on Matthew, and in his second book of the kingdom of Christ... This book he wrote here in England, where he lived the greatest admired man.' Tetrachordon. Prose Works, II. 232. See also the address to the Parliament, prefixed to the Judgment of Martin Bucer concerning Divorce, 68-78. Peter Martyr is twice quoted with reference to the same subjects. Ibid. 67, 233. Musculus is also called 'a divine of no mean fame.' Ibid. 233. In proof of Milton's assertion that these divines agree with him on the subject of the sabbath, the following passages may be cited from their respective works. 'Sic de sabbatho. Quod septimo die, illa quæ a Judæis observatur numeratione, ab omni opere servili vacandum erat, præceptum legis externum fuit, solis Judæis, quibus datum exstitit, observandum, &c..... Hæc ergo ad nos pertinent, illa Judæis recte relinquuntur.' BUCER in sacra quatuor Evangelia Enarrat. Perpet. ad Matt. x. 9. 'Cæterum non dubium quin Domini Christi advento, quod cæremoniale hic [in sabbatho] erat, abolitum fuerit. Ipse enim veritas est, cujus præsentia figuræ omnes evanescunt... Ideo sublatam umbram fuisse rei futuræ alibi scribit apostolus; corpus exstare in Christo, hoc est, solidam veritatis substantiam, quam illo loco bene explicavit. Ea non uno die contenta est, sed toto vitæ nostræ cursu, donec penitus nobis-metipsis mortui, Dei vita impleamur. A Christianis ergo abesse debet superstitiosa dierum observatio,' &c. &c. CALVIN. Instit. Christian, cap. viii. Sect. 31. See also Comment. in quinque libros Mosis, nearly at the end of the preface to the remarks on the Mosaic law. 'Deinde quod locum Pauli Heb. iii. et iv. concernit, notandum est illud hodie non esse alligandum septimo diei, sed exigere a nobis perpetuam obedientiam verbo Dei præstandam. Est enim nobis perpetuus sabbathismus, quo coram Deo in spiritu comparentes, majestatem illius celebramus, cum adoratione invocamus, ac vocem illius audimus; verum hic sensus et modus iste mystici sabbathismi non excludit ecclesiasticorum conventuum usum, sicut hodie fanatici quidam homines somniant, ac seipsos una cum aliis ab ecclesiæ conventibus abducunt.' MUSCULUS, Comment. in Psalm. xcv. 8. 'Cum igitur sabbathum septimani diei typus fuerit, admonens populem et de suo officio, sive de pietate erga Deum, et de beneficio Dei erga populum per Christum præstando, una cum aliis cæremoniis, adventu Christi, per quem est impletum quod illa significabant, abrogatum est. Quod etiam Paulus testatur Col. ii.' 1 &c. &c. URSINUS, Tractat. Theolog. in expositione Quarti Præcepti. 'Christiani respondent Judæis... sabbathum abrogatum ratione cæremoniæ et geminæ circumstantiae, &c... deinde observatione septimi illius diei definiti. Quo modo appendix erat legis moralis, ad populum Judaicum solum pertinens.' GOMARUS, Oper. Theolog. in Explicatione Ep. ad Colossenses , cap. ii. PETER MARTYR, however, seems to hold a different opinion. 'Qui autem robustiori fide erant præditi, illi omnes dies perinde habuerunt. Dominicam tamen diem excipimus; pertinet enim ad decalogum, ut ex hebdomada integra unus dies divino cultui consecretur,' &c. Comment, in Ep. ad Romanos, cap. xiv.