THE CHRISTIAN SABBATH
by Jeffrey E. Sloan
Next to the church and the Bible, the Lord's day must be considered as the chief means of grace for any Christian society. It supplies a wholesome safeguard against public immorality, assists with a bulwark against the inroads of infidelity, and is of immeasurable service to a state, when imposed as-a civil institution. The following article is an attempt to examine the Lord's day in the light of revelation, reason, and its history, with literature from illuminating sources. Some will no doubt feel the article is underlined with the spirit of dogmatism. Let it be remembered that all the satisfaction or dissatisfaction, pain or pleasure, that we feel in view of this subject, depends entirely upon the state of our affections in relation to this subject, as it would to any other subject. Let anyone earnestly contend for the purity of the church or the inspiration of the Bible and the same response will be given by some. This is unavoidable.
The word "sabbath" means to rest
or have an intermission. God created the heavens and the earth in six days.
On the seventh day he rested from all his work which he had made. Therefore,
God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, commanding mankind to keep
this day holy as a sabbath unto the Lord, in commemoration of the work
Gen. 2:2, 3. "And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made."
That the sabbath was observed
by mankind before the giving of the Law to Moses appears evident for the
(a) God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, setting it apart as holy unto himself. This he did during the first week of creation, not some time afterward.
(b) The keeping of time was divided into weeks before the giving of the Law at Sinai:
Gen. 8:10-12. "And he stayed yet another seven days; and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark; and the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluck off: so Noah knew that the waters
were abated from off the earth. And he stayed yet other seven days; and sent forth the dove; which returned not again unto him any more."
Gen. 29:27, 28. "Fulfil her week, and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years. And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week: and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also."
(c) It was designed to benefit mankind as a race. Mark 2:27. "And he said unto them, the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath." And if it was sanctified from the creation of the world, and made for the benefit of man, it would be a most palpable contradiction to say that mankind had no knowledge of it, and did not keep it before the Exodus.
(d) The Israelites actually observed the sabbath before the ten commandments were given:
Exod. 16:23. "And he said unto
them, This is that which the Lord hath said, To morrow is the rest of the
holy sabbath unto the Lord: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe
that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be
kept until morning."
(e) The sabbath is spoken of in the decalogue as an institution already existing. Exod. 20:8. "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy."
God commanded that all unnecessary labor be laid aside upon this day. This also included buying and selling.
Exod. 20:8-10. "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates."
Num. 15:32-36. "And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day. And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation. And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him. And the Lord said unto Moses, the man shall surely be put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp. And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the Lord commanded Moses."
Neh. 13:15-18. "In those days saw I in Judah some treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day: and I testified against them in the day wherein they sold victuals. There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem.
Then I contended with the nobles
of Judah, and said unto them, 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."
It was common for the Jews to assemble for religious worship upon this day.
Lev. 23:3. "Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings."
Luke 4:16. "And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read."
Luke 6:6. "And it came to pass also on another sabbath, that he entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man whose right hand was withered."
Acts 15:21. "For Moses of old time hadi in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day."
The Pharisees understood the commandment to forbid not only works of unnecessary labor, but also works of mercy and love. Jesus taught against this notion of the Pharisees.
Matt. 12:10-12. "And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him. And he said unto them, what man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days."
Luke 13:14, 15. "And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day. The Lord then answered him and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering?"
The incorporation of the sabbath
commandment in the decalogue placed it at the very heart of the whole Mosaic
Law. Only the ten commandments were spoken by God from heaven with an audible
voice and written by his finger, and only these were placed in the ark
of the covenant, set within the holy of holies at the center of Israel's
worship. If we are to consider any part of the Mosaic Law as containing
moral statutes or precepts of a perpetual nature, we would naturally expect
the ten commandments to be those commands. 'Mat the sabbath day was a moral
instead of merely a ceremonial or temporary command is unmistakably clear-so
much so, that I have often doubted the
sincerity of those who cavil against the evidence, despite reason, conscience, and the Scripture. If the following points be considered, I think it will appear beyond all contradiction that the sabbath is part of the moral law of God.
(a) The institution, like all moral laws, dates back to the creation of man.
(b) It constitutes one of the ten commandments.
(c) It was made for man, which means the circumstances of mankind demand it.
(d) Man needs rest and religious instruction, and God would be unwise to let these needs go unfurnished.
(e) The experience of mankind has proven it to be highly beneficial.
(f) Wherever the sabbath is not honored, you find little conviction of sin and very little, if any, true religion.
(g) There is ample evidence from the New Testament that Christians kept one day in seven as a sabbath unto the Lord.
(h) A study of Revivals will show that the most conspicuous and lasting results were experienced by preachers who strongly contended for the Christian sabbath.
This is all the proof one could
reasonably desire. If some continue to disparage and discredit the evidence,
I must simply leave them with the Lord, knowing their problem is not that
of the head but of the heart.
Deut. 8:11-14. "Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day: lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; and when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the Lord thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage."
The Henry and Scott Commentary has the following comment concerning the fourth commandment of the decalogue.
The observance of the sabbath
is of moral obligation, and doubtless is founded on the nature of God and
man. Circumstanced as we are in this world, the separation of a portion
of our time from worldly concerns, and the consecration of it to his immediate
service, are indispensably requisite for our good. One day in seven appears
to have been appointed for this purpose from the beginning, and evidence
evinces it to be salutary and beneficial. All works of avarice, luxury,
vanity, or self-indulgence in any form are forbidden. We should continue
all our affairs that there may be as little as possible to interrupt the
sacred duties of the Lord's day. Trading, paying wages, settling accounts,
writing letters of business, worldly studies, trifling visits, journeys,
or light conversation, consist not with keeping a day holy to the Lord.
The sabbath of the Lord should be a day of rest from worldly labour, and
a rest in the service of God. It should be a day of serious self-examination,
perusal of the scriptures, communion with God, private social, and public
worship, careful instruction of our families, and attendance upon public
ordinances, interrupted only by works of real necessity, or of Christian
charity. Were our love of God, and value for our souls, what they should
be, such a day would be our delight; we should honour it, and be thankful
for it, as our highest privilege (Isa. 58:13).
All objections and excuses against keeping holy the sabbath day arise from disrelish for spiritual blessings, and undue attachment to things of time and sense. The day is said to be blessed; men are blessed by it, and in it. Whether the seventh day as it then was to the Jews, or the first day as it now is to Christians, God hallowed it---he separated it from the rest of the days, and all common employments-,and consecrated it to his holy service, and to man's holy use.
The great majority of Christians
in all ages of the church have considered the institution of the sabbath
as part of the moral law of God, still binding upon Christians, even in
this present dispensation. At the same time, it is believed that God would
now have us keep the first day of the week, the Lord's day, as the Christian
sabbath, as opposed to the seventh day of the week, being the Jewish sabbath.
This we do in order to commemorate the work of redemption, this being the
resurrection day of our Lord.
Mark 16:9. "Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week.' he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils."
John 20:19. "Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in their midst, and saith unto them, Peace be with YOU. "
Acts 20:7. "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow, and continued his speech until midnight."
I Cor. 16:2. "Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come." Rev. 1:10. "1 was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet."
Concerning the change of the sabbath from the seventh to the first day of the week, I can do no better than submit the following notes from Edwards, Ralston, Dabney, and Finney.
By the institution of the Christian
sabbath, there is no change from the fourth command; but the change is
from another law, which determined the beginning and ending of their working
days. So that those words of the fourth command, "Six days shalt thou labour
and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the sabbath of the lord thy
God;" afford no objection against that which is called the Christian sabbath,
for these words remain in full force. This is the reason still, as much
ever as it was, why we may work but six days at a time. What is the reason
that Christians rest every seventh, and not every eighth, or every ninth,
or tenth day? It is because God worked six days and rested the seventh.
Christ hath evidently. on purpose and design, peculiarly honored the first day of the week. the day on which he rose from the dead, by taking it from time to time to appear to the apostles; and he chose this day to pour out the Holy Ghost on the apostles, which we read of in the second chapter of Acts. For this was on Pentecost, which was on the first day of the week, as you may see by Lev. 23:15, 16. And he honored this day by pouring out his spirit on die apostle John, and giving him his visions (Rev. 1:10). It is evident by the New Testament, that this was especially the day of the public worship of the primitive church, by the direction of the apostles. We are told that this was the day they were wont to come together and break bread: and this they evidently did with the approbation of the apostles, inasmuch as they preached to them on that day; and therefore doubtless they assembled together by the direction of the apostles (Acts 20:7). The Holy Ghost was careful that the public contributions should be on this day, in all the churches, rather than on any other day (I Cor. 16:2).
The first day of the week is
in the New Testament called the Lord's day. Some say, how do we know that
this was the first day of the week? Every day is the Lord's day. But it
is the design of John to tell us when he had those visions. And if by the
Lord's day is meant any day, how doth that inform us when that event took
place? But what is meant by this expression we know, just in the same way
as we know what is the meaning of any word in the original of the New Testament,
or the meaning of any expression in ancient times. This expression, "the
Lord's day," is found by the ancient use of the whole Christian church,
by what appears in all the writings of ancient times, even from the apostles'
days, to signify the first day of the week And the expression implies in
it the holiness of the day. For doubtless the day is called "the Lord's
day," as the sacred supper is called "the Lord's supper," which is so called,
because it is a holy supper, to be celebrated in remembrance of the Lord
Christ, and of his redemption. So this is a holy day, to be kept in remembrance
of the Lord Christ and his redemption.
Ile first day of the week being in Scripture called the Lord's day, sufficiently makes it out to be the day of the week that is to be kept holy unto God; for God hath been pleased to call it by his own name. When any thing is called by the name of God in Scripture, this denotes the appropriation of it to God. The city Jerusalem was called by God's name; Jer. 25:29. 'Me city which is called by my name." This denoted dud it was a holy city, as it is often called the holy city, as in Neh. 11: 1. "to dwell in Jerusalem the holy city;" and in many other places. So the temple is said to be, a house called by God's name; I Kings 9:3. "1 have hallowed this house, to put my name then for ever." That is, it was called God's house, or the Lord's house. This denoted that it was called a holy place, a house devoted to holy uses, above all others. So also we find that the first day of the week is called by God's name, being called in Scripture God's day, or the Lord's day, which denotes that it is a holy day, a day appropriated to holy uses, above all others in the week. _ Edwards
That the apostles and first Christians
observed the first day of the week as a sabbath, assembling regularly on
that day for the public worship of God and for the sacrament of the Lord's
supper, is not only evident from the New Testament. but this fact is confirmed
by an uninterrupted stream of church history, beginning in the apostolic
age and extending to the present period. Upon this question, a few of the
many available testimonies will be sufficient.
Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, A.D. 101, says: "Let every one that loves Christ keep holy the Lord's day--,the queen of days, the resurrection day, the highest of all days."
Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch, who wrote in the second century, says: "Both custom and reason challenge from us that we should honor the Lord's day, seeing on that day it was that our Lord Jesus completed his resurrection from the dead."
Irenaeus Bishop of Lyons, who also lived in the second century, and who was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a companion of St. John, speaks of the Lord's day as the Christian sabbath. "On the Lord's day," said he, "every one of us Christians keep the sabbath."
Clement of Alexandria, of the
same century, testifies: "A Christian, according to the command of the
gospel, observes the Lord's day, thereby glorifying the resurrection of
Tertullian, of the same period, says: "The Lord's day is the holy day of the Christian church."
These testimonies abundantly establish the fact, not only that the first day of the week was styled "the Lord's day," in honor of our Saviour's resurrection, but that the Christian church, even in the apostolic age, observed it as the Christian sabbath. -Ralston
Justin Martyr, who died about A.D. 160, says that the Christians "neither celebrated the Jewish festivals, nor observed their sabbaths, nor practiced circumcision." (Dialogue with Trypho, p. 34). In another place, he says, that "they, both those who lived in the city and those who lived in the country, were all accustomed to meet on the day which is denominated Sunday, for the reading of the Scriptures, prayer, exhortation and communion. Ile assembly met on Sunday, because this is the first day on which God, having changed the darkness and the elements, created the world; and because Jesus our Lord on this day rose from the dead."
But, perhaps the most important, because the most learned, and, at the same time, the most explicit witness, is Eusebius, the celebrated bishop of Caesarea, who was in the literary prime about the era of the council of Nice, A.D. 325. In his commentary on the ninety-second Psalm, which the reader will remember, is entitled "a psalm or song for the sabbath day," he says: "The Word, (Christ), by the new covenant translated and transferred the feast of the sabbath to the morning Light, and gave us the symbol of true rest, the saving Lord's day, the first (day) of light, in which the Savior gained the victory over death. On this day, which is the first of the Light, and the true Sun, we assemble after the interval of six days, and celebrate holy and spiritual sabbath; even all nations redeemed by him throughout the world assemble, and do those things according to the spiritual law, which were decreed for the priest to do on the sabbath. All things which it was duty to do on the sabbath, these we have transferred to the Lord's day as more appropriately belonging to it, because it has the precedence, and is first in rank. and more honourable than the Jewish sabbath. It is delivered to us that we should meet together on this day, and it is evidence that we should do these things announced in the psalm."
The apostle, in Col. 2:16, 17, clearly tells us that the seventh day is no longer our sabbath. What day, then, is it? Some day must have been substituted-, and what one is likely to be the true substitute as the Lord's day? The law is not repealed-, it cannot be. But Paul has shown that it is changed. To what day is the sabbath changed, if not to the first? No other day in the week has a shadow of a claim. It must be this, or none; but it cannot be none: therefore it must be this. - Dabney
It is incredible that Christ should have sanctified a day in commemoration of his work of creation, and neither have changed it nor set apart a new day in commemoration of the infinitely more arduous, painful, and important work of redemption. Several of the most important reasons for its original institution demand a change in die day. The work of redemption should be celebrated in preference to that of creation. The moral influence of observing the first day as commemorative of the work of redemption, is far better and greater than would be the observance of the seventh day, as commemorative of the work of creation. There can be no good reason for again observing the seventh instead of the first day of the week.
As God foresaw the immediate destruction of the Jewish church and polity, he saw that the first day of the week would of course be universally observed by his church without an express command; and as so much present evil might and would result from interposing express authority on the subject at this time, it was like God, and what might
expected of him to bring about the change as he did. -Firm?
How well would it be for the
church, and for the promotion of moral reform, if Christians were not divided
among themselves as to what constitutes the Christian sabbath. There are
three views of this subject which prevail among Christian sects of do present
(1) first-day sabbatarianism
(2) seventh-day sabbatarianism
A sabbatarian is one who believes in sabbath observance, whether he regards Sunday or Saturday as the Christian sabbath. An anti-sabbatarian maintains that the sabbath has been abrogated under the gospel, Christians being under no obligation to observe any day of the week as a sabbath unto the Lord. I have tried to establish, according to reason, the Bible, and the notes of various authors, the truthfulness of the first position. I will now answer the objections against this position. I will begin with those raised by seventh-day sabbatarians.
Objection: There is no clear revelation that God would have us keep the first day of the week in place of the seventh as our weekly sabbath. We should not go upon the tradition of past ages or upon uncertain inferences from some passages in the New Testament. The sabbath of old was appointed by a plain and positive command, and we cannot believe that God would have us keep another day without an express and positive command to do so.
Answer: Mankind is not so imperceptive a creature that he cannot ascertain the will of God without a declarative command. There has been no command of God given for the abrogation of the death penalty for adultery, yet the church is uniformly agreed that God would not have us enforce such a penalty. The church has considered the inferential evidence found in the New Testament to be sufficient for the abrogation of the penalty. The manner in which Christ dealt with the woman taken in adultery (John 8: 1 -11), and his allowing a man to divorce his wife for fornication (Matt. 19:1-12), provides the church with all the evidence it needs in order to ascertain the will of God; but still, let it be remembered, the conclusion is reached by inferential evidence and not by a declarative command.
When Christ instituted the Lord's
supper, he said, "this do in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19), but only
males were present when he thus spoke. An admit that females should be
allowed at the Lord's table, yet this is only by inferential testimony.
If the apostles represented the church of God at the time Christ instituted
the Lord's supper, then female communion is confirmed. God does not always
reveal his will with a positive statement, nevertheless he does
reveal it. Should fathers establish a family altar? Can someone produce a thus saith the Lord from the New Testament? No one can do so. We contend for the salvation of infants upon the same premises. But let us hear from the renowned Edwards upon this subject again.
The mind and will of God, concerning any duty to be performed by us, may be sufficiently revealed in his word, without a particular precept in so many express terms, enjoining it. The human understanding is the car to which the word of God is spoken; and if it be so spoken, that that ear may plainly hear it, it is enough.
Who can positively say, that if it had been the mind of God, that we should keep the first day of the week, he would have commanded it in express term, as he did the observation of the seventh day of old. Indeed, if God had so made our faculties, that we were not capable of receiving a revelation of his mind in any other way-, then there would have been some reason to say so. But God hath given us such understandings, that we are capable of receiving a revelation, when made in another manner. And if God deals with us agreeably to our natures, and in a way suitable to our capacities, it is enough. If God discovers his mind in any way whatsoever, provided it be according to our faculties, we are obliged to obedience; and God may expect our notice and observance of his revelation in the same manner as if he had revealed it in express tam. - Edwards
The first day of the week must
have been the day of public worship for the primitive church. The syntax
of Acts 20:7 corroborates this position. They came together by design and
not by chance. Also, Paul ordered that offerings be taken upon this day
throughout all the churches of Galatia, as well as Corinth (I Cor. 16:1-2):
some say the command to "lay by him in store" is not a command to give
an offering, at least not on this particular day. But why would he have
them lay the money aside upon the first day of the week if this was not
the day they assembled together. He said himself he was giving orders "Concerning
the collection for the saints." He gave the same order to all the churches
of Galatia; therefore, the preference for this day must have been for a
religious reason and not a secular one. We cannot suppose they came together
to give offerings upon one day and then gathered for worship upon another.
We read in Scripture of no gathering of Christians for worship upon the
Jewish sabbath after Christ's resurrection. The Jews did meet upon this
day, and the apostles would often take this opportunity to preach and reason
with them whether Christ be the Son of God or not, but when Christians
only are present, the gathering is always upon the first day of the week.
Objection: Throughout the New Testament, in every instance, "the sabbath" refers to the seventh day of the week.
Answer: This is true, and it always has implication to the Jew's religion. Jesus and the apostles honored the seventh day sabbath, for the work of redemption was not yet complete, seeing Jesus had not yet risen from the dead. After his resurrection the old sabbath is never mentioned as the day of worship for the church. The early church did not immediately allude to Sunday as the sabbath, but as the Lord's day. The Jewish economy with all its terminology was still very rife at this time. After the dispersion of the Jews, the church fathers gradually referred to the Lord's day as the Christian sabbath.
Objection: When Christ prophesied of the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world, he recognized the Jewish sabbath to be a perpetual precept. Matt. 24:20. "But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day."
Answer: He only has in mind the rabbinic restrictions on travel, and the lack of service to travellers, which would hinder their Right. Here is therefore no establishment for the old sabbath to be observed after his resurrection, but only the recognition of its observance among the Jews.
Objection: Jesus Christ arose from the dead on the sabbath, not the first day of the week. The women came to the sepulchre late on the sabbath day and found him already gone. Matt. 28: 1. "In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre."
Answer: The gospels uniformly agree that he rose early the first day of the week. To the above I reply:
(a) It was dawning toward the first day of the week; dawn was approaching, being the light of day. Ibis would agree with Mark 16:1-2, Luke 24: 1, and John 20: 1.
(b) "In the end of the sabbath" does not necessarily mean it was the sabbath day. It could mean the sabbath had ended. If I said, "At the end of Monday, as it began to dawn toward the third day of the week," I could be speaking of Tuesday morning.
(c) The women certainly did not come to the tomb till the sabbath day was over, for they prepared spices and ointments, and rested the sabbath according to the commandment Then upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre. There is no escaping this chronology (Luke 23:56).
Those who make this objection believe the women's visit occurred Saturday evening, which would be the last part of the sabbath day, for Jewish time was reckoned from sunset to sunset, not midnight to midnight, as it is now. They claim this was a different visit to the tomb than that of the other gospels, but this seems highly illogical. The narrative of St. Matthew will not allow this interpretation. The Pharisees did not have Pilate set a watch over the tomb until the sabbath day. The day of preparation was Friday, and they did not come to Pilate till the next day (Man. 27:62, Mark 15:42). If Jesus did rise again on the sabbath, he arose from the grave the same day they set the watch and sealed the tomb. This would leave no night between the sealing of the tomb and the resurrection. This could not be, for when Jesus did rise again, the elders gave money unto the soldiers, having them say the body was stolen away during the night by the disciples (Matt.28:13).
Jesus was crucified on Friday according to John 19:31. He said he would be killed, but "rise again the third day" (Matt. 16:21, Mark 10:34); therefore it was impossible for him to rise again until Sunday. It was a common practice of the Jews to reckon any part of a day as a whole day in their conversation. In order to fulfill his own prediction, he must stay in the tomb at least a part of- Friday, Saturday and Sunday. This is all that was needed. Some contend that he must spend a full seventy-two hours in the sepulchre because of Matt. 12-40, "three days and three nights," and Mark 8:31 "after three days." But we cannot press for such a literal fulfillment. Then the resurrection would have been "on the fourth day" instead of "on the third day." We must recognize the Jewish custom just mentioned.
I now proceed to those objections
of the anti-sabbatarian.
Objection: To propagate and contend for such a doctrine as the Christian sabbath is to put the church back under the law as opposed to grace. This would destroy Christian liberty and engender legalism in the church.
Answer: Even those who make this objection believe it is our duty to establish the moral law of God, that we should not lie, steal, covet, or do anything else that is morally wrong. What they are really saying is that the institution of the sabbath is not a moral precept, but a temporary or ceremonial one, Christians being under no more obligation to observe it than the laws of circumcision and unclean meats. That the sabbath was a moral institution of universal and perpetual obligation has already been proven. But for the sake of perspicuity I will review it.
The moral law of God is founded in the nature and relations of moral beings as they exist in this world. Contained therein are laws protecting the rights of God; "Thou. shalt have no other gods before me" -'Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain." There are laws protecting the rights of mankind- 'Thou shalt not kill" -"Thou. shalt not steal" - "Thou shalt not covet." The institution of the sabbath is of the same nature, protecting or allowing the moral wants of mankind to be met. The church, as a body, needs a day wherein she may come together and worship God, freeing herself from all the concerns of the secular world. Man needs to rest at least one day in seven from his ordinary employments. Not only will he live longer, but he win also accomplish more over an extended period of time. Man's reason may not be sufficient to determine, without divine direction, exactly how often man should rest and how often the church should assemble; but this need is felt, even without a divine command. If left to themselves, Christians would never agree upon which day to set aside for this purpose. God appointed the seventh day from the beginning the work of creation, and there is sufficient evidence in the New Testament that he would have us now keep the first day of the week, commemorating the work of redemption.
Objection: The sabbath will not be observed in heaven, which is contrary to our understanding of a moral law.
Answer: Our environment and circumstances
are certainly different from those of the saints in heaven. For example,
marriage is a divine institution founded in both the physical and moral
wants of mankind, and being a moral institution, God will never abrogate
it before the end of the world. Neither the institution of marriage nor
that of the sabbath will be recognized in heaven, but in this world God
will never nullify either, our circumstances being what they are. The apostle
Paul speaks of marriage as a type of that union which exists between Christ
and the church (Eph. 5:23, 31, 32). In Heb. 4: 1 -11, the sabbath is spoken
of as a type of that rest which believers now experience through faith
in Christ, being finalized by our rest in heaven, which all labor to enter,
lest we fall after the same example of unbelief. We which have believed
do enter into rest, initially having peace with God now, seeking for the
attainment of that final and complete rest of God in heaven, of which we
are careful not to fall short.
Objection: The apostle Paul condemned sabbath observance in his epistle to the Colossians. Col. 2:16. "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days."
Answer: It would be sheer naivety for us to assume Paul made no distinction at all between meats, drinks, or days. The Levitical institutions are here being discussed, and to lose sight of this is to misunderstand the whole passage. The Hebrew for sabbath (shabbath), the equivalent of the Greek (sabbaton), which Paul uses in writing to the Colossians, occurs about one hundred times in the Old Testament and refers without exception to the weekly sabbath. Paul's statement comes as near to a demonstration, as anything could, that the old seventh-day sabbath makes up no part of the Christian system. How seventhday sabbatarians can reconcile this with their own position, I am unable to comprehend. They prevaricate most pitifully right here, but I forbear to discuss it. It should not surprise us to see the sabbath mentioned among the various ceremonial ordinances of meats, drinks, and Jewish holy days. Christ fulfilled all that was typical of the old sabbath, keeping only that which was intrinsically moral and essential to the institution, being transferred to the first day of the week. The New Testament is pretty silent concerning the theology of the Lord's day. Here again is only more evidence that the Lord's day is the Christian sabbath. If the ethical foundation of the Lord's day cannot be traced back to the fourth commandment of the decalogue, I dare not venture the hope of ever discovering it. Only the last six of the ten commandments are repeated in the New Testament (Eph. 6:2, Rom. 13:9), but no one has ever contested for the abrogation of the first four. And these six are not mentioned for the purpose of giving the church new laws or precepts of moral conduct, but the contextual relation clearly indicates that Paul assumed His hearers already understood their obligation.
Another scripture besides that
from Colossians quoted above, and one that many feel is most important
to nurture the anti-sabbatarian superstructure, is that of Rom. 14:5. "One
man esteemed one day above another: another esteemed every day alike. Let
every man be fully persuaded in his own mind." Now let anyone read the
whole chapter and the connection in which this verse is spoken, for Paul's
thesis for the whole chapter is that a Christian's practice should be commensurable
with his faith; that his main concern be not with passing judgment upon
his brother for what he does, for his brother may be weak or a babe in
the knowledge of Christ, but that he has a firm scriptural basis for that
which he himself does practice, being fully persuaded in his own mind,
"for whatsoever is not of faith is sin." The epistles of Romans and Galatians
are alike in many ways. Both churches suffered from certain religious teachers
who would Judaize Christianity. If Paul is condemning the observance of
certain days in his epistle to the church of Rome, he no doubt has the
same days in mind when writing to the Galatians.
Gal. 4: 10, 11. "Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain."
Matthew Poole's commentary makes a very judicious comment upon verse 10.
If we had any evidence that thew Galatians were relapsed to their Gentile superstitions,
Objection: God forbid having a fire, cooking, or traveling over a mile on the sabbath day. Unless first-day sabbatarians are willing to submit to this, then away with all this sanctimonious talk of a Christian sabbath.
Answer: Now this is the favorite cry of all Antinomians (heretics who deny, keeping the moral law is essential to Christianity), but I cannot believe their proof-texts sustain them upon any fair principles of interpretation. Let us examine them. hese terms might be understood of such days as they kept in honour to their idols. But the apostle, throughout the whole epistle, is not reflecting upon them for any gross apostasy (as returning to the vanities of the heathen in which they formerly lived); but only for Judaizing, and using the ceremonies of the Jewish law, as necessary to be observed, besides their believing in Christ, for their justification, it is much more probable that he meant by days, the Jewish festivals, such as their new moons, etc; by months, the first and seventh month, when they religiously fasted; by times, their more solemn times, such as their feasts of first-fruits, tabernacles, etc; and by years, their years of jubilee, the seventh and the fiftieth year. His meaning is, that they took themselves to be under a religious obligation to observe these times as still commanded by God.
The phrase "a sabbath day's journey"
(Acts 1: 12) represented that limited extent which, according to the scribes,
a man might travel without being in violation of the command to rest. Because
the term, and the distance it denoted, was well known among his hearers,
the writer of the book of Acts uses it for convenience sake. Nowhere in
the Old Testament did God place a limit upon the distance traveled upon
this day. Of course, the command to rest should be considered, and while
simply going to church would be consistent with keeping a holy rest, all
journeys of great distance should be avoided. The term "sabbath day's journey"
arose from the Pharisaic restrictions imposed upon the Jewish people. Concerning
that. passage, "abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his
place on the seventh day" (Lev. 16:29); it is admitted on all hands that
the public assembly (Lev. 23:3; Acts 15:21) and the taking care of animals
(Luke 13:15; Matt. 12:11) are not here condemned; but he would have every
man stay in his own place and not go out and gather mama on the seventh
day. If you read the context of verse 29, this will be seen. He is saying,
let no man go out to gather manna on the seventh day.
Exod. 35:3. "Ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the sabbath day."
The sabbath was made for man,
not man for the sabbath; it was designed to benefit the whole human race,
whether the climate be cold or hot. Having a fire is not here condemned,
only God would not have one kindled upon the sabbath. The Jews would bum
their lamps overnight to avoid kindling a fire on the sabbath. They could
not simply light a fire but must kindle one. This exertion of energy was
unnecessary and could easily be avoided.
Exod. 16:23, 24. "And he said unto them, this is that which the Lord hath said, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the Lord: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning. And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein."
At this place I must insert the comment of Matthew Poole, to which I beg the reader's attention.
The word's "to day" do not seem to me, as they do to many others, to prove that they were commanded to bake or seethe on the sixth day all that they were to eat both that day and upon the following sabbath, or that they were forbidden to bake or seethe it upon the sabbath day; for there is not a word here to that purpose; and it is apparent from the whole context, that the rest of the sabbath is not opposed to their baking or seething of it, but to their going out into the field to gather it Nay, the contrary hem is implied, because after they had baken and sodden what they intended to bake or seethe, part of the manna did, as is here expressly added, remain over, and was reserved for the sabbath day's provision, and that unbaked and unsodden, otherwise it would not have been noted as a miraculous thing, that it did not stink nor breed worms. - Poole
It can be seen, that if
the institution of the sabbath is part of the moral law
of God, being the moral standard of conduct to which all Christians should
conform and adhere, then we are dealing with a very serious subject. This
subject should not have to bear some of the flippant objections leveled against
it, such as we can not keep the sabbath unless we keep it from sunset to sunset,
as if this were essential to the institution itself, and there could be no sabbath
without this. Sunday is the Christian sabbath We reckon our time from
midnight to midnight, and therefore this is the twenty-four hour period we are
to keep holy before God. All who embrace Sunday observance accept this. If
they did riot, we would have a real problem. 'Me Jews did keep the sabbath
from sunset to sunset, and were commanded to do so; Lev. 23:32, "from even
to even, ye shall celebrate your sabbath." The question is, were they com-
manded to do so fro m some sacredness of these particular hours, or because
God would have them submit to the Jewish theocracy (government), and its
way of reckoning time? I believe the latter. I believe there are two facts which,
when duly considered, will bear this out.
My first argument is from the
gospel of St. John. This gospel, written in the 80's or 90's, was the only
one written after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. St. John uses
the Roman (modem) method of reckoning time (counting from midnight and
from noon) instead of the Jewish method (counting from sunset and from
dawn). One example is Mark 15:25 and John 19:14. St. Mark, using the Jewish
method, finds the crucifixion at the third hour (9:00 A.M.). St. John puts
Jesus' hearing before Pilate at about the sixth hour (6:00 A.M.). John
1:39 would be 10 A.M.; 4:6, 6 P.M.; 4:52, 7 P.M.; Matt. 27 -45, 12 to 3
P.M.; Mark 15:33,12 to 3 P.M.;and Luke 23:44 would be 12 to 3 P.M. This
is a very strong argument against the perpetual sacredness of the Jewish
method of reckoning firm. That the Holy Spirit would allow John to use
the Roman method, when God intended the Jewish method to continue, seems
incredible. 'Me gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke were an written before
the Jewish system fell into disrepute (70 A.D.). They all used the Jewish
method. But John writes his gospel later, and simply uses the method of
the government under which he lived. This leads to my second argument.
God has established government as a sovereign to be obeyed as unto the
Lord. The method of reckoning time is an ordinance of government, and one
we should obey.
Rom. 13:1, 2. "Let every soul be subject into the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation."
During the last illness of the late General Grant Ex-President of the United States of America, one Saturday night. when he was nervous and weary and restless, his son, hoping to divert his mind, suggested some. amusement. The General brightened at the idea of diversion, but presently, with a grave face, he inquired the hour. It was nearly midnight. "Never mind," he said, with perfect resignation, "it is too close to the sabbath to commerce any diversion." - Hamilton
Oh, how solemn this subject really
is! It has long been the position of all orthodox divines, whatever their
differences on other points may have been, that where the moral law is
not established in one's life, where the law is trodden underfoot, there
you will find no true religion; that those who do not keep the law are
deceived, being stony ground hearers, not having the root of the matter
in them. They are like a man who beholds himself in a glass or mirror seeing
his duty, but yet going his own way and forgetting what he saw therein.
James 1:22-24. "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way and straightway forgetteth what manner of man lie was."
I John 5:2-3. "By this we know that we love the children of God, When we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous."
Who does not know that the modem church, in a large degree, has reduced the moral law to a matter of personal conviction. Those who keep the sabbath, dress modestly, do not marry into adultery-those who actually do put forth an effort to obey God-are merely considered by others as doing nothing more than obeying their own personal convictions. And we are supposed to believe there are Christians who truly love God, who, at the same time, care nothing or very little for these so-called personal convictions. Indeed!
John Welch, born in 1570, was
one of the most noted spiritual men of the Reformation era. The following
excerpt is from the biography of Howie.
John Welch was some time Prisoner at Edinburgh Castle before he went into exile. One night sitting at supper with Lord Ochiltree, he entertained the company with a godly and edifying discourse, as his manner was, which was well received by them all, except a debauched Popish young gentleman, who sometimes laughed, and sometimes mocked and made wry faces. Thereupon Mr. Welch brake out into a sad abrupt charge upon all the company to be silent, and observe the work of the Lord upon that mocker, which they should presently behold, upon which the profane wretch sunk down and died beneath the table, to the great astonishment of all the company.
While Welch was at Ayr, the Lord's day was greatly profaned at a gentleman's house about eight miles distant, by reason of a great confluence of people playing at the football, and other pastimes. After writing several times to him, to suppress the profanation of the Lord's day at his house, which he slighted, not liking to be called a puritan, Welch came. one day to his gate, and, calling him out, told him that he had a message from God to show him; because he had slighted the advice given him from the Lord, and would not restrain the profanation of the Lord's day commited in his bounds, therefore the Lord would cast him out of his house, and none of his posterity should enjoy it. This accordingly came to pass; for although he was in a good external situation at this time, yet
henceforth all things went against him until he was obliged to sell his estate; and when giving the purchaser possession thereof, he told his wife and children that he found Welch a true prophet-Howie
I shall now apply the command of the sabbath to our contemporary society. It should not be difficult to ascertain just what is lawful and what is not upon this day. In light of the fourth commandment and the teaching of Christ, we should find an answer to all our difficulties. All physical sports should be refrained from. Those professional sports which are so popular in our country upon the Lord's day are in direct violation of this command. No work is to be done upon this day except that which is absolutely necessary. Christ said, "the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless." 'Mat is, their activity in the temple, although it violates the letter of the law, does not in fact violate the spirit of the law. The priests engage in only that. which is necessary, and therefore they are blameless. Certain vocations must be occupied or manned even upon the sabbath day. Medical doctors, policemen, firemen, nurses, certain security personnel, and the preacher, are just a few of the many who may find it their duty to work on the sabbath day. All places of business should be closed. All factories should be closed. There should be -no buying or selling upon this day, unless it is found to be absolutely necessary.
Many entertain very loose views
upon this subject. They say, providing for my family is a necessity, therefore
I am justified, even though I work on Sunday. So a man can work in a factory
or at a place of business, he says, not because these jobs cannot be dispensed
with on Sunday, but because by so doing I provide for my family. But this
asinine reasoning will not do. A doctor may have to work on Sunday, not
because he provides for his family, but because the highest well-being
of mankind demands it. Can a man steal to provide for his family and thereby
justify himself, because he considers this a necessity? It is true, providing
for one's family is a necessity, but God states that keeping the sabbath
day is also a necessity, and not stealing is a necessity. We can no more
desecrate the Lord's day and justify ourselves than we can steal and do
so. The command not to work on the sabbath would come to nothing if providing
for one's family, instead of the type of work employed, were the governing
principle, for how few work but to provide for themselves or those they
The electric company and the telephone company must also continue their service upon the Lord's day. The highest well-being of our race demands it. The hospital could not sustain the life of some of its patients for even one day but for electricity. Is not a man more valuable than a sheep? Imagine a police station or a fire department without a telephone on Sunday. A man with a bad heart would dread for Sunday to come, knowing if something happened, he would have no phone. The common man has the benefit of these services only as an indirect result of their necessity. The post office, bus depot, and commercial airline should not function upon the sabbath. One might say, an emergency may arise where the airline would be needed. A doctor may have to go across the country without notice. I answer: that so many people should be employed simply because of this rarity does not seem reasonable. At any rate, a non-commercial plane can be used, and usually is, when such an emergency does present itself. The Lord's day is not a day of travel but a day of worship and rest. Also, all domestic labor should be avoided, as long as decency and cleanliness are maintained. Buying gas is a violation of this command. The Jews considered the day before the sabbath as the day of preparation (Luke 23:54). We should also do this, and if so, we would not have to buy anything upon the sabbath. A newspaper or magazine should neither be sold nor printed upon this day. For a restaurant to open is a violation of this command. This place of business does not meet any necessity we have need of, but can only be considered a luxury. We must eat, but to eat at a restaurant is not essential. "What, have ye not houses to eat and drink in?" The cafeteria of a military installation would be a different situation. The men in the barracks have no kitchen, in fact, this cafeteria is their kitchen; and, in this instance, pecuniary funds could be used without violating the spirit of the sabbath. This is not the case with the restaurant.
There is only one sabbath
for the church. I have heard some speak as though
we could pick our own day out of the week for the sabbath. That if a preacher
has to exert himself on Sunday, he can keep Monday as his own personal
sabbath. Such senseless speculation is inexcusable, for then the preacher could
arrive home from church and start cutting his grass or performing any other
work without If one has to work on Sunday, he may find it
necessary to rest more than usual on another day, but Sunday is still the
Christian sabbath, and the only one the church has. How justly may God be
angry with America, for her defiling of the Lord's days! She has become weary
of the sabbath, like Israel of old, when they said, "When will the new moon
be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat?"
When Nehemiah saw the children of Israel bearing burdens and selling upon
the sabbath day, he spoke of this sin as one of the reasons for Israel's being
led away into captivity. Neh. 13:18. "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." And how did Israel arrive at this
deplorable condition? We learn that the fault was in the pulpit. The pastors of
Israel led them astray. The analogy of the church of Israel to that of America
is too obvious to need elucidation.
Isa. 3:12. "0 my people, they
which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths."
Jer. 50:6. "My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their resting place."
As for the Sunday closing laws, whether each state should enforce them or not-whether the state has the right or should pass legislation requiring each factory and place of business to close on Sunday-has been the subject of much dispute. Some believe it would violate the Constitution, that the separation of church and state will not allow it. But the sabbath is not merely a church law, but constitutes part of the moral law of God, and is it not the duty of the human government to uphold the moral law of God? I say, is this not one of its duties? In his lecture on human government, Charles Finney states:
Ile right of human government is founded in the intrinsic value of the good of being, and is conditionated upon its necessity. as a means to that end. So far as legislation and control are indispensable to this end, so far and no farther does the right to govern extend. All legislation and all constitutions not founded upon this basis, and not recognizing die moral law as the only law of the universe, we null and void, and all attempts to establish and enforce them are odious tyranny and usurpation. Human beings may form constitutions. establish governments. and enact statutes for the purpose of promoting the highest virtue and happiness of the world, and for the declaration and enforcement of moral law; and just so far human governments are essential to this end, but absolutely no father.
Ile same principles apply to governmental sabbath desecration. The sabbath is plainly a divine institution, founded in the necessities of human beings. The letter of the law of the sabbath forbids all labour of every land, and under all circumstances on that day. But, as has been said in a former lecture, the spirit of the law of the sabbath, being identical with die law of benevolence., sometimes requires the violation of the letter of the law. Both governments and individuals may do, and it is their duty to do, on the sabbath whatever is plainly required by the great law of benevolence. But nothing more, absolutely. No human legislature can nullify the moral law. No human legislation can make it right or lawful to violate any command of God. All human enactments requiring or sanctioning the violation of any command of God, are not only null and void, but they are a blasphemous usurpation and invasion of the prerogative of God. - Finney"
Sunday closing laws are strenuously opposed by many. They include unsaved businessmen, people who are restless and always going here and there to some leisure pastime or recreation, and seventh-day sabbatarians. The benefits of such civil legislation are benign and generous. Especially do we see teenagers trifle with their own destiny and perpetuate their own rain by neglecting the means of grace. Their strong passions and pride need to be checked. They need protection from themselves. The Lord's day is a chief means to this end. It is of the utmost importance that the church be of one mind on this subject, but this is not the case. How can the advancement of social reform be accomplished while part of the professing church of Christ is holding up the seventh day as the Christian sabbath? How can we expect the government to sustain our cause when we are divided amongst ourselves, for how can two walk together except they be agreed? Some seventh-day worshipers seem more opposed to the closing laws than even the ungodly. Satan, having driven them into error, would now have them fight against the truth, and at the same time think they are doing God a service.
Concerning the remedies of sabbath
desecration, we desperately need an all-round ministry; a faithful ministry
that win awaken our moral senses, that everyone may see more and more the
value, obligation, and benefits of this institution. The preaching of the
Word by the appointed servants of Christ is, next to prayer, the most important
remedy for a desecrated sabbath. It is not difficult to trace the connection
between right preaching and a sanctified sabbath. Another mode of diffusing
sacred knowledge is the press, and it is confessedly an organ of great
power in the cause of either truth or error. At the present time there
is a great lack of sound literature on this subject. Last of all, parents
have lodged in their hands the solemn responsibility of their children,
to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Remember what
God said of Abraham. "I know him, that he will command his children and
his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord."