The following letter of protest from the Southern Presbytery was sent to Dr J R Beeke, President of the Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, at the end of March 2018. Although the matters raised are so serious, to date (7 June 2018) no reply has been received, and the brochure advertising the cruise remains unchanged at the link referred to in the letter. It is a telling comment on the low state of affairs in the professedly Reformed world that such abuse of the Sabbath for purposes of recreation could be contemplated. On two consecutive Sabbaths this tour will move accommodation unnecessarily. The first Sabbath, the brochure states, will involve boarding the ship, “to get acquainted with the ship and settle into our cabins” and be followed by “an elegant dinner”. The second Sabbath will involve, not only leaving the ship’s accommodation and travelling to other accommodation, but also a “farewell dinner”. “Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.” (Jer 6:16).
Dear Dr Beeke
I am writing to you as the President of the Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. My reason for writing is to express the profound dismay felt by this Presbytery on learning about your intention to include unnecessary Sabbath travel in the itinerary for the “Rhine River Reformation Cruise”. Our protest is based on the information found at the address http://www.joelbeeke.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Rhine-River-Reformation-Cruise-THEFINAL.pdf, accessed on 26 March 2018.
The PRTS website says that its core confessional principle is the Reformed Faith as embodied in the Three Forms of Unity and the Westminster Standards. The Westminster Standards say that “the Sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days; and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’s worship, except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy” (Shorter Catechism Q 60). The itinerary for the Cruise involves boarding a vessel on the Lord’s Day and disembarking on the Lord’s Day, a week later. How can these activities be described as “a holy resting all that day” or a “work of necessity and mercy”?
How can those who will have responsibility for the day to day organisation and oversight of tour members avoid the “omission or careless performance of the duties required” by the Fourth Commandment, when the itinerary includes boarding one Sabbath and disembarking the next Sabbath? “The Fourth Commandment forbiddeth the omission or careless performance of the duties required, and the profaning the day by idleness, or doing that which is in itself sinful, or by unnecessary thoughts, words, or works, about our worldly employments or recreations” (Shorter Catechism Q 61).
How can deckhands, officers, stewards, cooks, waiters, dockers, drivers and others be “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” when the cruise you have arranged requires them to be engaged in unnecessary Sabbath work? God allows us six days of the week for our own employments, words, works, and recreations. He challenges a special propriety in the Sabbath Day. His resting on the Sabbath is our example. He consecrated the Sabbath Day for His own worship, and blesses it. “The reasons annexed to the Fourth Commandment are, God’s allowing us six days of the week for our own employments, His challenging a special propriety in the seventh, His own example, and His blessing the Sabbath Day” (Shorter Catechism Q 62). Ought we not to have a holy fear of trampling it underfoot?
The commercial provision and the public use of transport run in systematic disregard of the Fourth Commandment ought to be regarded as a desecration of the holy Sabbath, a dishonour to and a provocation of the God who gave it. We are reminded of the words of Nehemiah to the nobles of Judah: “What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the Sabbath day? Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? Yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the Sabbath” (Neh 13:17,18).
Our sincere hope and prayer is that you will do all in your power to exclude unnecessary Sabbath travel from the Rhine River Reformation Cruises itinerary. “If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on My holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour Him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it” (Isa 58:13,14).
In addition to these things, it is with great sadness that we note the PRTS, who are regarded in some circles as the modern-day custodians of “the old paths”, are willing to use the term “Sunday”, in preference to the Scriptural terms for the Lord’s Day, the Christian Sabbath.