The Founder on Sabbath-Keeping
Our founder, William Booth, emphasized the importance of the fourth commandment (“Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.” Exodus 20:8, NIV) in a November 1901 article in The Field Officer periodical. He highlighted our need for this discipline by using the word “duty” to underscore adherence and remind his readers that this, “commandment has never been repealed, and is therefore binding on us today.”
Booth contended that the non-adherence to this discipline of Sabbath keeping is in large part due to the fact that ignorance and misunderstanding drive this lack of observance. The article goes on to underscore the point that keeping the Sabbath holy is not a choice, but command and is a misconception if believed that it is a law for the Jew alone.
Booth outlines the following:
- There is nothing particularly sacred about a certain day of the week to observe the Sabbath.
- It is the doing or the leaving undone of certain things which makes the day set apart as a holy day. While every day belongs to God, there is a difference in the character, opportunities and activities of the Sabbath Day.
- It should be a day of rest from all unnecessary labor, both for ourselves and for others.
- “It should be a day of extra effort, by works of love and mercy, for the well-being of the bodies and souls of men.” In other words we should take extra care in the care and refreshment of our souls. This observance should be out of a winsome desire to serve God.
The General goes as far as to spell out his message in practical terms: “Let there be as little cooking…as possible. It grieves me often to know what an immense amount of roasting, boiling, table-spreading, washing-up and other similar work, is done on the Sabbath in many of the homes of my dear Soldiers, that could, I am sure, be done without. Oh, let the day, as far as possible, be a day of rest.” It might be concluded that Booth is also stressing the discipline of Simplicity here.
The founder speaks specifically about “A Salvationist’s Sunday” and what should and should not be contained in it:
- “A Salvationist’s Sunday ought to be a Day of Rest from unnecessary travelling.”
- “The Salvationist’s Sunday should be a Day of Rest from unnecessary labor in cleaning up and in dressing.”
- “The Salvationist finds in the Sabbath an extra opportunity for the worship and service of God.” This “extra opportunity for service” is not what we typically think of as active, physical service, encompasses concerted time for self-examination and reconsecration of self to the Lord’s service. “He thinks about the love of Christ, and so learns to love Him more, and drinks of His Spirit to help him in the toil of conflicts of the week.” Sabbath affords more time for reflection.
- “A good Salvationist keeps the Sabbath by availing himself of the extra opportunities it offers for spreading Salvation.” This speaks to the more relaxed atmosphere and natural environment for giving and receiving the Gospel. There is no sense of evangelism being contrived, but is presented in the unrushed, natural scheme of things.
- “The Salvationists who are Parents should make the Sunday at home as happy and useful as they possibly can to every member of the household.” Booth highlights the fact that Sabbath is not necessarily to be done in solitude, but in community to build up relationships, especially with family members.
- “Salvationists should not only keep the Sabbath after the fashion I (William Booth) have described . . ., but they must see that all under their influence or authority are given proper opportunities of doing so.” He stresses that Salvationist leaders should not heap activity or responsibility on those in the home, work or corps. We must model for those under our influence the need for the rhythm of worship, rest and delight.
Written by Major Lauren Hodgson, Spiritual Life Development Department