The August issue of this magazine reported on the situation in Aberdeen where the Argos store had decided to sack workers who refused to work on Sabbaths. Towards the end of last year, the Secretary of State for Scotland, Mrs Helen Liddell intervened in the situation. Following her meeting with the company, Argos announced that they would no longer compel staff to work on Sabbaths if they had religious reasons for their objections.
A local MP, Malcolm Savidge, secured a debate on the subject in the House of Commons. There he explained that in all parts of the United Kingdom, except Scotland, shop workers are protected against being forced to do Sabbath work. “The anomaly in the law”, he stated, “probably goes back to the time of Stanley Baldwin and the Shops Act 1936, which extended only to England and Wales, probably because Sabbatarianism was so strong in Scotland at the time that it was not felt that protection was needed there.” This “anomaly” was continued in subsequent legislation on the subject.
Mr Savidge hopes to bring forward a Private Members Bill which would give Scottish workers the same protection in law as their English counterparts. Such protection is long overdue – and should indeed apply in other fields of employment – in an age when those who respect the Fourth Commandment are finding their employment opportunities increasingly restricted.
The Free Church and the Rule of Scripture
A very important principle of the Reformed Church is to hold to the Word of God as “the only rule to direct us” in glorifying God. Therefore the doctrine, worship and practice of the Church must be only what is prescribed by the Word of God. This is why we and some other branches of the Church of Christ do not observe, for example, Easter and Christmas. Referring to these Romish festivals, John Knox and his fellow Reformers said, “We dare not religiously celebrate any other feast day than what the divine oracles have prescribed.”
At the present time the regulative principle is being further undermined in the Free Church of Scotland. In the December issue of the Free Church Monthly Record, the leading article deals with what it calls “the Christmas story” – with not the least hint of the fact that Christmas, being a human invention, without any support from Scripture, should not be observed. We say “further undermined” because Bon Accord Free Church, Aberdeen, for example, has held carol services in the past. And Dingwall Free Church announced last December, under Church Notices in the local press, a “Christmas Family Service”. How grieving that such an invitation should go out from the very church of the renowned John Kennedy, who contended so zealously and graciously for the Regulative Principle.
Such developments in the Free Church are not surprising when the Principal of its College recently wrote that developing better relations between the Free Church and the Church of Scotland “would clearly involve concession and compromise on the part of both churches”. He continues, “The one thing the Free Church should insist on is that if it hands its people over to the care of a Church of Scotland minister they must have an absolute guarantee that he holds to, and preaches, the core doctrines of historic Christianity. There must be an unambiguous commitment to a clear doctrinal standard, whether the Apostles’ Creed, the Westminster Confession or something in between.”
He then asks, “What might the Church of Scotland require in return? One thing, certainly: that the Free Church cease to insist on exclusive psalmody and restore to congregations their New Testament liberty to sing ‘psalms, hymns and spiritual songs’. Subsidiarity (devolving as many decisions as possible to local congregations) is the key to unity. The other problem is the ordination of women. The issue would certainly have to be addressed. Either the Church of Scotland must relax its insistence on this or the Free Church must agree to tolerate it. No congregation should be forced to have women elders. But neither should women elders be forbidden to those who want them” (West Highland Free Press, 27/12/02).
Here we see at least a questioning, not only of the subordinate standard of the Free Church, but also of the Scripture requirement of exclusive Psalmody, the Presbyterian form of church government, and the principle that only men, and not women, can be ordained as presbyters. When the regulative principle is eroded in this way, we should be all the more resolute in holding fast our spiritual inheritance, and in seeking that others also would benefit from it. “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do? The Lord is in His holy temple, the Lord’s throne is in heaven: His eyes behold, His eyelids try, the children of men” (Ps 11:3,4).