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The True Doctrine of the Sabbath: or, Sabbathum Veteris et Novi Testamenti (Bownd)

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Reformation Heritage Books

No book had more influence in confirming a Sabbatarian “heart” to Puritanism than that of the parson of St. Andrews, Norton, Suffolk, Nicholas Bownd. The True Doctrine of the Sabbath was the first scholarly treatment defending the concept of the Christian Sabbath or Lord’s Day, later embodied in the Westminster Standards. Not reprinted since 1606, this influential work is presented afresh in a new critical edition.


Table of Contents:

Book One: The Ancient Institution and Continuance of the Sabbath

  1. The Difference of the Fourth Commandment
  2. The Sabbath Ought to Be Continued
  3. Sundry Objections against the Sabbath Propounded and Answered
  4. The Day to Be Kept as the Sabbath
  5. The Change of the Day from the Seventh to the First
  6. The Name of the Day Changed
  7. The First Part of the Commandment Is Resting
  8. The Reasons for Resting on the Sabbath Day
  9. All Degrees of Men are Commanded to Rest
  10. Six Days Work Sufficient & The Sabbath Day’s Journey
  11. All Bodily Labor Is not Forbidden
  12. Works of Necessity and Mercy on the Sabbath
  13. Christians as Strictly Bound by This Law as Were Jews
  14. Resting from Lawful Recreations 

Book Two: The Sanctification of the Sabbath

  1. The Second Part of the Command: Sanctifying the Day
  2. There Is to Be a Precise Keeping of the Sabbath
  3. Public Worship on the Sabbath
  4. Public Worship: The Ordinances Thereof
  5. Public Worship: From the Heart for Our Salvation
  6. Public Worship: Collections for the Poor
  7. The Sabbath Is a Whole Day
  8. Private Worship: Preparing for Public Worship
  9. Private Worship: Meditating & Conferring on God’s Word
  10. Private Worship: Meditating on God’s Works
  11. Private Worship: Singing of Psalms
  12. Works of Mercy
  13. The Keeping of the Sabbath to Be Urged by Superiors
  14. Conclusion



Nicholas Bownd (1551?–1613) was the pastor of a country parish in rural England. Judging from the sermons he published, his ministry exhibited the practical divinity taught by his stepfather, Richard Greenham, which focused on the means of grace. The crucial ‘mean of the means’ whereby all these means of grace were made available to the people of God was the weekly gatherings on the Christian Sabbath or Lord’s Day.

In 1595, Bownd published True Doctrine of the Sabbath, which derived from sermons preached about 1586. This book embroiled him in a singular controversy with a troublesome neighbor, which resulted in the first Sabbatarian controversy in England, and also led to a vindicating expanded edition in 1606. For the last two years of his life he ministered at St. Andrew in Norwich, the highest call a man of his Puritan convictions could have attained in those days.



“After four centuries of rest, Nicholas Bownd’s famous book on the Sabbath has re-Bownded. Attractively printed, this work is a critical edition of the 1595 version and the expanded 1606 edition. Coldwell has painstakingly collated and meticulously annotated the two so as to allow Bownd’s classic Puritan doctrine of the Lord’s Day Sabbath to be published afresh. Lovers of the Scriptures as interpreted by the Westminster Standards will rejoice. May all glory redound to the Eschatological Lord of Sabbath rest, as it did four centuries ago.”  — James T. Dennison, Jr., author of The Market Day of the Soul: The Puritan Doctrine of the Sabbath in England, 1532–1700; and Academic Dean and Professor of Church History and Biblical Theology, Northwest Theological Seminary, Lynnwood, Washington

“Those with an interest in developments leading up to the formulation of the Sabbath doctrine taught in the Westminster standards will  benefit from this careful documentation and analysis of the views of Nicholas Bownd.” — Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., author of Calvin and the Sabbath; Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology, Emeritus, Westminster Theological Seminary

"Nicholas Bownd’s work, The True Doctrine of the Sabbath, occupies a hugely significant place among Puritan works on polemical and practical divinity. For its scope, detail, and erudition, this work on the Sabbath is unparalleled in the Puritan tradition—indeed, perhaps even in the Christian tradition. Particularly illuminating are Bownd’s “spiritual exercises,” which clearly had an influence upon the later Puritan attitudes regarding the practical implications of Sabbath-keeping and worship. As an added bonus to the content of this book, the editorial work on this book is first-class, and makes for far more enjoyable and easier reading than a simple re-print.” — Mark Jones, coauthor of A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life and Minister at Faith Vancouver Presbyterian Church (PCA)

“It is astonishing that the Puritan Nicholas Bownd’s famous work on the Sabbath, which greatly influenced later Puritanism and the Westminster Assembly, and by extension, Western Christendom for centuries, has not been printed in a critical edition with modern typeface long ago. Not reprinted since 1606, this classic work emphasizes the fourth commandment’s morally binding character, the divine institution of the entire Sabbath as the Lord’s Day set apart to worship God, and the cessation of non-religious activities that distract from worship and acts of mercy. I am so grateful that it is back in print, and pray that it will do much good to restore the value and enhance the joy of the Lord’s Day for many believers around the world.” — Joel R. Beeke, co-author of Meet the Puritans and A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life, and president of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan