From chapter 4 of Pathway to Freedom – how God’s laws guide our lives, by Alistair Begg, published by Moody Press, 2003.
In 1808 Hugh Wylie was removed from membership in his local Presbyterian Church in Western Pennsylvania. His offence? Opening the post office on Sunday and thus violating the fourth commandment. When the postmaster general ordered Wylie to continue distributing the mail whenever it arrived (including on Sunday) and the Presbyterian General Assembly upheld his exclusion, Wylie was forced to choose between his church and his job.
Those of us who find such circumstances hard to imagine will probably be intrigued to learn that it wasn’t until 1949 that the National Football league officially sanctioned Sunday games. Fifty some years ago those who cared about the secularisation of the country could surely not have envisioned Super Bowl Sunday in the American Church. Buildings that are routinely dark on Sunday evenings (the Lord’s Day having been completed by twelve noon) are opened especially for the Super Bowl and are ablaze with the colour dancing on the large screens which bear the images of the gods of contemporary culture.
The fourth commandment more than any other forces us to wrestle with what we really believe about the abiding place of the Law in Christian living. More alarming than the arguments that may ensue is the fact that for the majority it appears the issue is not debated, it is simply ignored. That the fourth commandment should engender strife is news to many who have never given any serious thought to the matter. They lie with the assumption that such matters have to do with ‘then’ and this is ‘now.’ They have never considered the Lord[‘s day as a different day, one that is delightful by design and which helps to shape and frame our lives. That positive perspective has too often been obscured by the joyless mechanical externalism championed by the Pharisees and fashioned into an art form at times in Scotland!