- 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
The Sabbath: Authority for the Change of the Day
It being clear from the Scriptures, that the seventh day was instituted by divine authority for a weekly Sabbath, and religiously regarded throughout the times of the Old Testament, those who now relinquish its observance, and keep the first day of the week, take the ground that the Sabbath was either abrogated and a new institution introduced in its room, or that the time of its observance was changed from the seventh to the first day of the week, in commemoration of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. To be consistent with themselves, therefore, they are bound to evince one or the other of these positions. The burden of proof evidently lies on their part. For unless it can be shown, that the fourth commandment, which requires the sanctification of the seventh day, has been abolished, or amended by the substitution of the first for the seventh day of the week, it is clear that the original appointment remains obligatory and is now binding on the entire human family. And to substantiate either of these points, the proof must be clear and decisive. It will not do to rest upon doubtful deductions. We have an unquestionable right to demand that divine warrant, in either case, which pertained to the institution as originally delivered.BISA 14.1
To sustain this position, the broad ground is taken by some, that the Decalogue itself, in which the law of the Sabbath is contained, was abrogated; and that, under the new dispensation, no part of it is binding but what is newly enjoined or expressly recognized, either by Christ or his Apostles.BISA 14.3
The perpetual obligation of the Decalogue implies, of course, the perpetual obligation of the Sabbath as enjoined in the fourth commandment. But if that was abrogated, the Sabbath which it enjoined was also abrogated; and, consequently, it ceases to be binding, unless renewed under the new economy. What, then, is the proof here relied upon? One of the principal passages in which this proof is supposed to be contained is . “But if the ministration of death, written and engraven on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance, which glory was to be done away, how shall not the ministration of the Spirit be rather glorious? ... And not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished.” It is argued from this passage, that the clauses “which glory was to be done away,” and “to the end of that which is abolished,” refer to the whole law, moral as well as ritual, because mention is made of “that which was written and engraven in stones,” which is an evident allusion to the Decalogue. But, on careful examination, it will be found that “that which was to be done away,” was not the Decalogue itself, but “the ministration of it,” which was then appointed — the same being emblematically illustrated by the glory of Moses’ countenance, which was merely temporary. This clause refers expressly to the glory of his countenance, and not to the glory of the law itself. So also the clause “that which is abolished,” does not refer to the Decalogue, but to the ministration of Moses, including the appended rights and usages, the priesthood and its sacrifices, which were useful merely for the time being. It cannot be supposed that the Decalogue was abolished, without expressly contradicting Christ’s testimony, , as well as many other representations of the Scriptures. The abolishment spoken of, therefore, evidently respected no other than what the Apostle calls in another place “the law of commandments contained in ordinances,” inclusive of the entire ministration of Moses. There is unquestionably a reference in this chapter to the Decalogue, but not as abolished. It was merely the ministration of it, or the then instituted manner of teaching, illustrating, and enforcing it, which was abolished, to be succeeded by a new ministration of the same law by the Spirit. For it is written, “I will put my law” — (the very law of the ten commandments) — “in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts.” Again, “We are not without law to God, but under the law of Christ.” What law but the Decalogue is here referred to? Evidently none. For surely we are not under the Mosaic ritual. Again, “Do we make void the law through faith? .. Yea, we establish the law.” The same, no doubt, which was contained in the Decalogue. Hence, the Apostle James says, “If ye fulfil the royal law according to the Scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well.” Here the title “the royal law,” is given by way of eminence to the Decalogue; and its permanent obligation is manifestly recognized; for the precept alluded to is a summary of the last six commandments of this code, and the allusion is so made as to imply the continued obligation of the first four, which are summed up in supreme love to God. Again, the Apostle John testifies, “Hereby do we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.” And again, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” In both these passages reference is evidently had to the precepts of the Decalogue, as the essential and permanent rule of obedience for Christians. The doing away or abolishment, therefore, spoken of in the above passage, cannot refer to the Decalogue or the moral law itself, but to the Mosaic dispensation or ritual.BISA 14.4
Another of the proofs alleged for the abrogation of the Decalogue, and consequently of the Sabbath, is . “Blotting out the hand-writing of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; and, having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. 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, which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.”BISA 16.1
By “the hand-writing of ordinances,” is most evidently meant the ceremonial law — not the Decalogue, or the moral law. This is never characterized as “the hand-writing of ordinances.” Therefore, the “blotting out,” “taking away,” and “nailing to the cross,” spoken of, have no reference to this law, but to the Mosaic ritual. This is particularly distinguished from the Decalogue, and fitly described as “the law of commandments contained in ordinances.” It was this, and this only, which was “blotted out” and “nailed to the cross.” As, therefore, the reference made by the Apostle is expressly to this law, it follows, by a fair inference, that “the sabbath days” alluded to, or, strictly rendered “sabbaths,” are those which were contained in this law, or among these “ordinances,” and do not include the Sabbath of the fourth commandment. There were, besides the weekly Sabbath, various other sabbaths appointed, which belonged to that ritual, and not to the Decalogue. Accordingly, these were expressly included in “the hand-writing of ordinances,” and like the rest were “a shadow of things to come,” and ceased to be obligatory at the death of Christ. There is evidently no authority in this passage for including any sabbaths but what properly belonged to the Mosaic ritual. This view of the matter is corroborated by a more literal rendering of the , viz: “Let no one therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in a part or division of a festival, or of a new moon, or of sabbaths.” The sabbaths alluded to are obviously those which are found in the same place with meats and drinks, festivals and new moons, and which were of the same general character. The weekly Sabbath, therefore, is not affected at all by their abrogation, but remains in full force, as does every other precept of the Decalogue.BISA 16.2
We find the same distinction as to the law which was abolished, in . “For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us, having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances, for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace.” Here the middle wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles, called “the enmity,” is expressly defined, as before, to be “the law of commandments contained in ordinances.” This, and this only, therefore, was abolished, leaving the Decalogue, or the moral law, in its original character and obligation. This is the language of the whole Bible. There is no proof in any of these passages, that the law of the ten commandments was abolished, or that the Sabbath enjoined therein was done away.BISA 17.1
Nor is there such proof in . “One man esteemeth one day above another; another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it to the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks: and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.” This passage is frequently adduced as proof that the obligation to keep the ancient Sabbath has ceased, and that under the Gospel dispensation there is no divinely authorized distinction in the days of the week; that there is no one constituted holy in distinction from the rest; and consequently that every one is left at his own liberty to keep a Sabbath or not. It will be easily perceived, that if this argument has any weight in reference to the seventh day as the Sabbath, it operates equally against the obligation to keep the first day, either as a substitute for the seventh, or as a memorial of the resurrection, seeing it places all distinctions whatever as to days on the same ground with the confessedly obsolete rites of the Mosaic ritual. According to this view of the passage, we have under the Gospel dispensation no Sabbath at all — not so much as an authorized memorial of the resurrection. He who claims the least authority for the observance of the first day of the week for any purpose, takes a course which completely overthrows the argument based upon this passage. But, in reality, this text has nothing more to do with the subject before us, than either of those which have been examined. It respects merely the distinctions which formerly existed in regard to the six working days of the week — some of them being appointed in the Mosaic ritual as sabbaths, others as days of atonement and purification, and others as festivals. Some of the early Christians thought these distinctions still binding, as also the distinctions in regard to meats and drinks; others thought they were not. Hence the exhortation which is subjoined to mutual forbearance. That the distinctions referred to as to days, were those noted in the Mosaic ritual, and did not include the one contained in the fourth commandment, is manifest from the whole scope of the chapter. There is particular reference made to one’s freely eating all things, while another would eat only herbs; and accordingly the following rule, to be respectively observed, is laid down: “Let not him that eateth, despise him that eateth not; and let not him that eateth not, judge him that eateth; for God hath received him.” This quotation clearly evinces that the Apostle was treating of ritual distinctions, and not of that distinction of days which was constituted by the ancient law of the Sabbath.BISA 17.2
Again, the abrogation of the Decalogue is supposed to be taught in . “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sin which were by the law, did work in our members, to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” But if the term law here includes the moral as well as the ceremonial law, it is manifest that believers are not said to be delivered from it, considered in any other light than as a covenant of works. Certainly they are not delivered from it as a rule of obedience. To suppose this, is inconsistent with Christ’s sermon on the mount, before alluded to, and many other decisive proofs of the perpetual obligation of the Decalogue. It is probable the Apostle had special reference to the deliverance of believers from the curse of the moral law. This is reasonably inferred from the clause, “that being dead wherein we were held.” If any thing more pertaining to this law be intended, it must be its original character when given to Adam as a covenant of works or of life. For surely we are not and cannot be delivered from it as a rule of obedience, so long as God is what he is, and we are what we are. Seeing that as long as the relation constituted by his character as Supreme Ruler, and by ours as moral subjects, exists, we shall be bound to love him supremely, and our neighbor as ourselves, which is the fulfilling of this law. And to suppose that this law, as a rule of obedience, was actually annulled, and that those precepts only are now to be considered obligatory, which are enacted or published anew under the Gospel, is to suppose that God, at a certain time, actually rescinded the rule requiring supreme love to him, and to our neighbor as ourselves, which is palpably inconsistent, and contrary both to the current of Scripture and the nature of things. It would be maintaining that to be changed which is manifestly unchangeable. It would imply that, for the time being, the obligation recognized by the law did not exist; that the tie by which God and moral beings are united, was sundered, not by rebellion on the part of his subjects, but by his own act of abrogation. Can this be admitted?BISA 18.1
But if it were admissible, and if no part of this law is binding on Christians but what is newly enacted or particularly recognized under the Gospel dispensation, the Sabbath of the fourth commandment could not in this way be set aside; because its continued obligation is plainly taught in the New Testament. It is altogether a mistake, that we have no express recognition of this precept under the Christian dispensation. It is plainly recognized by the Saviour in , where he says, that he “came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill;” that “one jot or tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled;” and that “whosoever shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” If any commandment of this law is binding, the fourth is binding of course, even if it should be called the least. It is also recognized in the following declaration of Christ, — “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” The word man is here obviously used for the entire race — not for a part — not for the Jews in distinction from the Gentiles — not for those who lived under the Old Testament dispensation, or till the time of Christ’s death; but for man in his protracted existence during all future periods of time, i.e. for mankind in general. This is the plain import of the declaration. And if we render the original with the article, it is still more evident that the entire race is included. “The Sabbath was made for the man,” i.e. for Adam, the original parent of man, including, of course, his posterity. But, according to either rendering, the entire human race is manifestly included in the term. The Sabbath, then, was as truly made for the Gentiles as for the Jews; and for those who should live after the crucifixion, as for those who lived before; which is an explicit recognition of its perpetual obligation.BISA 19.1
The same recognition also appears from its continued observance under the ministry of the Apostles, and there being not the least hint or stir in reference to its abrogation, or to the substitution of another day in its room. The weekly Sabbath is frequently mentioned in the Apostolic records, as a part of practical duty, and it was unquestionably the seventh day. Thus we have the continued obligation of the Sabbath sanctioned by Apostolic example. If, therefore, a new edition, or an express recognition of the Sabbath of the fourth commandment be considered necessary, to bind the consciences of men under the new dispensation, the foregoing considerations will show that we have such an edition or recognition, as truly as we have of the other precepts of the Decalogue. So that nothing is gained in regard to setting aside the seventh day of the week, by attempting to show the abrogation of the Decalogue. If those precepts of that law which require that we should have no other gods before the Lord — that we should not kill, nor commit adultery, nor steal — are newly enjoined or expressly recognized under the present dispensation, and, consequently, universally binding; the same is true of the fourth commandment, which requires the keeping of the seventh day.BISA 20.1
Again, an attempt is made to prove the abrogation of the original Sabbath, by showing that the entire Decalogue was peculiar to the Jewish nation, constituting a national covenant, which, at the coming of Christ, was annulled, and a new covenant introduced. But admitting that it was delivered immediately to them, in the form of a national covenant, this does not in the least imply that it was not equally binding, as a rule of obedience, upon other portions of the human family. We might as well argue that the New Testament belonged merely to the primitive Christians, because it was delivered directly to them, and constituted the rule of their conduct and the basis of their hopes. Yea, we might as well suppose that no nation except the Jews were bound not to have any other gods before the Lord, not to kill, not to commit adultery, not to steal, not to bear false witness, as to suppose that the Decalogue was purely of a national character, and binding merely on that people during their continuance as a national church. And, as the Decalogue was not merely national as a whole, so there was nothing national in the fourth commandment. It belonged, equally with the other nine, to the entire family of man, inasmuch as the essential reasons of all and of either of the commandments, were of universal obligation.BISA 20.2
Again, that the original Sabbath was peculiar to the Jews, and consequently abrogated by the introduction of the new dispensation, is argued from its being specially urged upon them by the consideration of their deliverance from Egypt. But this argument is of no force, because the same reason is urged in the preface to the entire Decalogue.BISA 20.3
For the same purpose, also, an argument is founded upon the fact that the fourth commandment was enforced with a deadly penalty. But this argument also fails; because a similar penalty was annexed to the breach of the other precepts of this law. The truth of the case is, that these penalties belonged not to the Decalogue itself as first promulgated, any more than they belong to it now under the milder dispensation of the Gospel. They were added in the Mosaic ritual, and constituted a part of the political arrangements for the time being. Their abrogation, therefore, affects not the original law. Though there be no civil power now given to the church to enforce obedience to this precept by temporal punishments, as formerly, the sacredness and obligation of the institution are not thereby at all affected. The sin of disobedience will be visited in God’s own time.BISA 21.1
Again, some have inferred the abrogation of the former Sabbath, or at least its change, from our Lord’s vindication of the act of the disciples, in plucking the ears of corn, and rubbing them in their hands, as they passed through the corn-fields on the Sabbath day, and from his saying, that “the Son of Man is Lord also of the Sabbath day,” . But there is evidently nothing in this narrative, or in this declaration, to justify such an inference. It must be admitted on all hands, that the fourth commandment was obligatory, as originally given, till the death of Christ, if no further; and therefore Christ, who “was made under the law,” was bound to obey it in its original strictness. Admitting that he possessed the right, in a given instance, to intermit its obligation, it is not consistent to maintain that he did it; because he came to render perfect and universal obedience. Hence he affirmed that one jot or one tittle should in no wise pass from the law “till all be fulfilled.” His whole life was a perfect comment on the requirements of the law. Had he failed in the least particular, he would have been inadequate to the great purposes of our salvation. It is obvious, therefore, that the transaction alluded to was not, under the circumstances, a breach of the fourth commandment, but in perfect accordance with its prescriptions — the labor implied by the act of the disciples being a matter of urgent necessity. “It is lawful,” said he, “to do well on the Sabbath day.” Neither does the declaration, that “the Son of Man is Lord also of the Sabbath day,” imply that he abrogated or changed it, but rather that he was bound and engaged to protect it as a divine institution, and to enforce an enlightened and strict obedience to its requirements.BISA 21.2
The foregoing being the principal proofs adduced for the abrogation of the Decalogue, and the original Sabbath, it is evident that this view of the subject cannot be sustained. It is not sanctioned by any plain scriptural evidence. It is, therefore, palpably absurd to rest so important a matter upon so slender a basis. It is laying violent hands on a code of moral and immutable precepts, given by God, and promulgated under peculiar and terrible signs of purity and majesty, to vindicate a practice which was introduced long after the commencement of the Christian era. [From Sabbath Tract No. 3.]BISA 22.1