- TABLE OF CONTENTS
- When was the Sabbath Instituted?
- What day of the week do the Scriptures designate as the Sabbath?
- Has the Sabbath been changed from the Seventh to the First day of the Week?
- The Sabbath: Authority for the Change of the Day
- What day of the week was observed by the Apostles and Primitive Christians?
- What was the Practice of Christians after the Apostles?
- History of the Sabbath. The Sabbath from the Time of Constantine to the Reformation
- The Sabbath Since the Reformation.
- The True Issue
- A Christian Caveat
- Misuse of the Term “Sabbath.”
- The Fourth Commandment
- The Royal Law Contended For
- Weighted Relevancy
- Content Sequence
- Earliest First
- Latest First
Has the Sabbath been changed from the Seventh to the First day of the Week?
This question involves matters of such importance that it should not be answered without a candid and thorough examination. If the Sabbath has been transferred from the seventh to the first day of the week, it must be great impiety to neglect that day or to appropriate any part of it to secular purposes. If, on the other hand, the law requiring the sanctification of the seventh day of the week remains in force, then to neglect that day is an act of equal impiety, and exposes the offender to the most awful consequences. The Scriptures should contain the account of it, if the Sabbath has been changed by divine authority. And as the precept requiring the observance of the seventh day is plain and positive, nothing less than this should satisfy an inquirer in regard to the claims of the first day.BISA 5.1
The method commonly pursued by the advocates for a change of the Sabbath, is to impress their readers, 1. That the Jewish prophets predicted such a change; 2. That there was a necessity for the change in order to commemorate the completion of the work of redemption, which was finished by the resurrection of Christ; . . . 4. That on this day of the week Christ frequently met with his disciples after his resurrection; 5. That from that time the Apostles and primitive Christians religiously observed the first day in memory of this event, and as a substitute for the Sabbath; 6. That the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended, was the first day of the week; 7. That by “Lord’s day,” (,) the first day of the week was intended.BISA 6.1
As these are the chief arguments advanced in support of the change, they should be fairly considered, and compared with the Word of God. “To the law and the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Let us examine them separately.BISA 6.2
1. Did the prophets predict a change of the Sabbath? — The first and principal text cited in proof of this is “The stone which the builders refused is become the headstone of the corner. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” In order to make any use of this text, the main points in the argument are assumed. First, it is assumed, that Christ’s becoming the head of the corner refers to the day of his resurrection; whereas there is no conclusive evidence that it refers to this rather than to the day of his birth, or of his entrance on his public ministry, or of his final ascension into heaven. Next, it is assumed, that the day spoken of is a natural day of twenty-four hours; whereas this word is often used to designate an indefinite period of time — particularly the gospel era ( ) — and is very probably so used here. Again, it is assumed, that the day mentioned is the first day of the week; whereas there is nothing which designates this rather than any other, allowing that a natural day is referred to. Of course no confidence ought to be placed in conclusions drawn from such premises.BISA 6.3
Reference is sometimes made to . “In that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek; and his rest shall be glorious.” This “rest” is referred to the Sabbath, and the expression “in that day” is supposed to show that it was to be changed by Christ. But whoever reads the following verses will see that the rest here spoken of is not the Sabbath, but that season when the Lord shall have “set up an ensign for the nations, and assembled the outcasts of Israel, and gathered together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” Such a rest may well be called “glorious.”BISA 6.4
There is one prophetic allusion, however, which some have, not without reason, referred to the change of the Sabbath. This is found in , where in describing the papal anti-christ, the prophet says, “he shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand, until a time and times and the dividing of time.” The “times and laws” here referred to cannot be those of the Mosaic ritual, since they were abolished at the death of Christ, and it could be no sin to suppress them. But if we allow that the decalogue, with its laws and time of rest, was to continue by divine authority, we are compelled to consider this as an allusion to the Sabbath and the moral code with which it is connected. And the history of the change of the Sabbath together with the idolatries and sins of the papal church, show how literally this prophecy has been fulfilled.BISA 7.1
2. Is it necessary to change the Sabbath in order to commemorate the completion of the work of redemption? It is said the work of redemption is greater than that of creation; hence the necessity for a change of the day of the Sabbath. In reply to this we remark, the Scriptures are entirely silent respecting the comparative greatness of these two works; and while they give us no information on this point, we are not warranted in making our own suppositions the ground of practice, to the neglect of a positive injunction. But supposing the work of redemption to be greater than that of creation, is it therefore necessary to celebrate it on a different day? Both these works were conceived by the same mind and wrought out by the same hand. And since God has seen fit to make the seventh day a time to commemorate the completion of his creative work, why not gather together all his merciful works for us, and celebrate them on one and the same day? The greatness of redemption, therefore, instead of being a reason for a change, is a reason why the Sabbath as originally given should be doubly dear to us.BISA 7.2
Again, supposing that a change of the day is required in order to celebrate the completion of the work of redemption, what day shall be chosen as most appropriate? Shall it be the day of the crucifixion, or of the resurrection, or of the ascension? If the time of Christ’s greatest display of love for mankind and his greatest labor for them should be selected, then we should celebrate the day of his crucifixion. This is the day on which, (if on any particular day,) the work of redemption may properly be said to have been completed, according to the testimony of the Savior himself, who said on the cross, “It is finished.” This is the day and the event in which the Apostle Paul eminently gloried; and it was to the passion of Christ that he constantly directed the minds of his brethren as the ground of hope and source of encouragement. But if we would have the day of Christ’s highest exaltation to be the day for celebrating the completion of his work, then certainly we must fix upon the day of his ascension, rather than of his resurrection. The Scriptures say it was “when he ascended on high” that “he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.” Then it was that “all power” was given to him “in heaven and in earth.” Then it was that God “highly exalted him, and gave him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow.” If then, a day were to be selected as a weekly Sabbath, which was “validly the day of redemption,” it seems most proper to select the day of Christ’s death, which was the end of his temptation and conflict with the powers of darkness, and the severest test of his obedience; or the day of his final ascension. These things are not said to prove that any sanction is given to those days above others, since only a divine institution will weigh with us; but to show the absurdities into which they are led who pretend to honor the resurrection while neglecting the law of God.BISA 7.3
It is evident from such considerations as these, that the argument for a change of the Sabbath from its necessity to commemorate the work of redemption, is not supported by reason or Scripture. It rests alone upon man’s authority, and acknowledges a principle which would justify all the innovations and extravagances of Popery.BISA 8.1
4. Christ’s meeting with the disciples after the resurrection. It is common for the advocates of a change of the Sabbath to lay great stress upon Christ’s meeting with his disciples, after his resurrection, on the first day of the week. We will examine these different appearances, and see if they afford any proof of the change they are brought to show.BISA 8.2
On the day he was first seen after the resurrection, Christ appeared three times to different persons and at different places. His first appearance was to Mary, while she was alone at the sepulchre, . There is nothing, however, in the circumstances connected with this meeting which indicate that the least sacredness is to be attached to the time when it occurred.BISA 8.3
His second appearance was to two of his disciples as they journeyed to Emmaus, . He accompanied them to that place, and both they and he returned to Jerusalem the same day, making a distance of about fifteen miles. There is no indication that this journey was undertaken for religious purposes; and as our Lord did not rebuke the disciples, or instruct them to do differently in future, it is reasonable to suppose he approved of their traveling on that day. Of course, then, this circumstance, instead of indicating a regard for the first day, gives us the example of Christ and the Apostles for traveling upon it. His third appearance was in the evening of the same day, when the disciples were together, probably at their own house; for we find the eleven not long after this occupying a chamber in Jerusalem. (Compare with .) There is not the least intimation here that the disciples have been during the day, or were now, together for worship. On the contrary, the absence of Thomas affords presumptive evidence that this was not a meeting generally agreed upon. And the fact that most of them were not satisfied that Jesus had risen, shows the impropriety of representing this meeting as proof of a regard for the day on account of the resurrection. It was important that the earliest information of the resurrection should be afforded for the consolation of the desponding disciples, and for a testimony to the truth of the Saviour’s prediction, that he would rise after three days; and there is nothing in these several appearances which seems intended for any other purpose.BISA 9.1
The next and only other meeting of Christ with his disciples, which is held to have been on the first day of the week, is mentioned in — “And after eight days again his disciples were within and Thomas with them.” Now had this interview been on the following first day it could afford no strength to its claim for religious regard, since it is not noticed as a meeting designed for worship. Mark, ( ,) in noticing one appearance of Christ, says “He appeared unto the eleven as they were at meat,” i.e. eating a common meal. There is nothing which gives to the meeting a religious character, or indicates regard for the day. But it is by no means certain that the expression “after eight days” means just a week: Who can say that it was not on the ninth day after his first appearance?BISA 9.2
Other appearances of the Saviour are recorded, which no one will claim as having occurred on the first day. He appeared to the disciples when they were fishing at the sea of Tiberius, (,) and was seen of them forty days before his ascension,BISA 9.3
(.) Now, if the appearance of Christ on the first day proves it to be the Sabbath, then his appearances on other days prove them to be Sabbaths, since as important business was transacted, and as much mention made of the Sabbath, in one case as in the others. And if this be allowed, then we have the example of Christ and the Apostles for traveling, fishing, or doing any other business on the Sabbath. To such results would consistency drive us in applying the principle that example, without precept, is to regulate our practice. But the claims of the seventh day rest upon no such authority. God enjoined it, and then added to the precept his own example of resting upon it. No argument, therefore, drawn from example without precept can justly weigh against it.BISA 10.1
5. Regard of the Apostles for the first day. Another argument for the change of the Sabbath, is the supposed apostolic practice of meeting on the first day of the week for public worship and the breaking of bread. It is often confidently affirmed that the keeping of the first day instead of the seventh is sanctioned by apostolic usage. The proof of this position rests mainly on two passages. Let us examine them.BISA 10.2
The first is . “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.” But is there any thing in this transaction, or the attendant circumstances, which clearly and undeniably proves an apostolic example in favor of a new Sabbath, or of keeping the first day of the week, in any manner, as a substitute for the former institution? Surely there is not. The passage does not so much as prove that the practice of meeting for worship on the first day of the week was then common and general. But if it did, it would not determine the change contended for. There is nothing said in the narrative which characterizes the day of this meeting as a Sabbath. Assembling for public worship is proper on any day of the week, and so is the breaking of bread. The supper was first administered on one of the six working days; and there is nothing in the Scriptures which restricts its subsequent administration to a particular day — not even to the authorized Sabbath. Besides, in this case, the breaking of bread was deferred until after midnight. Of course, according to Jewish reckoning of time, it was attended actually on the second day; and this must have been the case, also, according to the prevailing custom among observers of the first day, commencing the day at midnight. It seems, therefore that the Apostle and his brethren were not very precise in regard to its being done on the first day. Let the most be made of this passage, and it lacks a divine designation of the first day as the Christian Sabbath; and hence it is entirely wanting as to the requisite evidence of a change in the sabbatic law. Surely, if there had been such a change, and this, with one more instance of meeting on the first day of the week, were to contain the evidence for all after generations, we should have been informed of the fact. Something would have been said to determine that the first day of the week was regarded as a Sabbath, and that it had taken the place of the seventh. But there is nothing of this. The record is perfectly silent in regard to either point. Besides, it is evident that the original Sabbath continued to be observed throughout the entire period of New Testament history. This is so plain a fact, that no one who gives the subject a candid examination will deny it. This shows the opinion of a new Sabbath — observed, as it must have been, in connection with the Sabbath of the fourth commandment, and without a word being said on the subject, or the least objection, stir, query, or excitement whatever being raised — to be perfectly preposterous. Such is the result of this reasoning from a supposed apostolic example, giving the passage its widest possible scope, as implying a common practice of meeting for public worship on the first day of the week. But in reality there is nothing in this text which proves or implies that such a practice was common at that period. For aught appears, it might have been an occasional meeting, appointed merely in consequence of Paul’s being about to depart on the morrow. Therefore, to adopt a practice so important as the one in question, upon such vague, uncertain, and inadequate testimony — especially when, in order thereto, we must dispose of a plain and positive command of God respecting the observance of the seventh day, and of a usage as old as the completion of the creation — is unreasonable in the extreme.BISA 10.3
Another passage quoted in proof of an apostolic example of keeping the first day of the week, and, consequently, in support of the opinion that the Sabbath is changed, is . “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.” This passage, like the others, does not imply that the first day was then commonly and generally regarded as a day for public worship. Indeed, it does not necessarily imply a public meeting of any kind. The direction for “every one to lay by him in store,” for the benefit of the poor saints at Jerusalem, “on the first day of the week,” necessarily amounts to no more than an appointment of this day to make up their bounty at home, so that it might be sure to be ready when the Apostle should come. But if it be understood to imply any thing more, it is simply that they should bring their donations together publicly on the first day of the week, so as to be prepared in the fullest manner for the Apostle’s visit. Therefore, according to this view of the case, it proves no more than an occasional meeting on this day for the purpose of a public contribution for an important object of benevolence. But even if it could be so construed as clearly to imply that it was then a common and general practice to meet for public worship and instruction on this day, it would not thereby be pointed out to us as the Christian Sabbath, and a substitute for the seventh day, seeing that it contains no information to that effect, and that no divine warrant appears on any part of the New Testament records for the supposed change. Meetings for public worship, taking up of collections, and even breaking of bread, do not constitute a Sabbath. To sabbatize is to rest from our own secular labors, and keep a season to God. These proofs for a change of the Sabbath, therefore, which are unquestionably the best that can be produced, are utterly deficient, and the argument therefrom, as generally presented, is deceptive, and unworthy of confidence.BISA 11.1
6. Descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. — Much has been said respecting the descent of the Holy Spirit, on the day of Pentecost. It is urged that this was the first day of the week, and that this circumstance was an intimation that God designed to bestow upon the day in its weekly returns a special honor. This opinion, however, is supported only by assumption. The day on which that remarkable event occurred, is known only as the day of Pentecost, an annual feast of the Jews, fifty days from the feast of the Passover, which was held on the fourteenth day of the first month. It might, therefore, occur on the first, or on any other day of the week. This year it probably came on the fifth or seventh day. But the fallacy of the argument we here oppose, is apparent from the fact, that it is founded in the presumption that they began to count the fifty days from the morrow after the weekly Sabbath, whereas they counted from the annual passover Sabbath. See . The descent of the Holy Spirit at this time could not be considered as rendering famous any other day than the Jews’ feast of Pentecost. But we have no evidence that God intended by the event to bestow a special honor upon any day. It was the fulfillment of an important promise that the disciples should be baptized with the Holy Ghost.BISA 12.1
7. “Lord’s Day.” — An argument for the change of the Sabbath is founded on the supposed application of the title “Lord’s day,” to the first day of the week. The only passage referred to for the purpose of sustaining it, is . “I was in the spirit on the Lord’s day.” But that the day here called the Lord’s day, is the first day of the week, is merely assumed, and hence is not to be considered as proved. It is not in fact probable that this is the day referred to. If these words be understood to refer to a natural day, it is more likely to be the seventh day, which God had blessed and sanctified for his special service, than the first day. The seventh day is called by Him “my holy day,” and “the holy of the Lord” — phrases very similar to the one in this passage. This was also the Sabbath which was made for man, and of which Christ says he is Lord. And since it was observed up to the close of the New Testament history, it would be perfectly natural for John to speak of it as “the Lord’s day.” Further, there is no evidence that the first day of the week was denominated the Lord’s day, at so early a period. Only one writer mentions the expression till towards the close of the second century; and the reputed author of this passage, when speaking, in his Gospel, (which was written some years later than the Apocalypse,) of the resurrection of Christ, and the first day of the week, never intimates that the day should be called by any other name. The learned Morer, though an advocate for the first day, in mentioning the different days to which this phrase may be applied, acknowledges the entire uncertainty as to what day is intended, and says, “It is very likely that the more solemn and public use of the words was not observed until about the time of Sylvester II., when, by Constantine’s command, it became an injunction.” It is evident, therefore, that this passage cannot justly be used as proof that the Sabbath was transferred to the first day of the week.BISA 13.1
We have now examined the texts commonly adduced to prove a change of the original Sabbath, and have found them utterly insufficient and deceptive. Hence the claims of the Sabbath of the fourth commandment, without alteration, are fully sustained. The advocates for the first day are aware that if an abrogation or change of the original Sabbath law cannot be made out, the seventh day is still the true Sabbath. Dr. Dwight, for instance, makes the following admission: “If we cannot find in the Scriptures plain and ample proof of the abrogation of the original day, or the substitution of a new one, the seventh day undoubtedly remains in full force and obligation, and is now to be celebrated by all the race of Adam.” [From Sab. Vindicator.]BISA 13.2