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    June 30, 1881

    “When Does the Sabbath Commence?” The Signs of the Times, 7, 25.

    E. J. Waggoner

    This has been a puzzling question to very many. They cannot understand why Sabbath-keepers should commence their rest at the setting of the sun, while other people regard the day as commencing at midnight. Some have thought that it was all arbitrary distinction, more for the purpose of peculiarity than anything else; but a little reference to the Scriptures will suffice to clear the subject of all doubts.SITI June 30, 1881, page 295.1

    In the first place we have evidence that the first day of time began in the evening. That is, the dark portion of the day preceded the light portion. “The evening and the morning were the first day.” Genesis 1:5. That this was necessarily the case, may be seen from the order of events in the creation. Time, as distinguished from eternity, commenced with the first creative act of God. The first act was the bringing of the earth into existence. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Genesis 1:1. That this occupied but a brief space of time, and not a long extended period, is proved by the context, also by Psalm 33:6, 9: “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. For he spake, and it was done, he commanded, and it stood fast.” But at that time there was no light, nothing but intense darkness, for we read that “darkness was upon the face of the deep.” The next act was to create light. “And God said, Let there be light, and there was light” (Genesis 1:3). God then ordained that darkness and light should henceforth succeed each other in continuous round, and a period of darkness and one of light, called respectively night and day, should constitute one entire day. This completed the first day’s work. The first day commenced with darkness, and ended as darkness began once more to overspread the earth. As though to establish beyond question the fact that this was to be the order of all days, it is stated of the first six days that the “evening and the morning” constituted the day. But if the first six days commenced with the evening, and ended with the following evening, it is evident that every succeeding day, the Sabbath with the rest, must begin and end in the same manner. This is further verified by Leviticus 23:32, where the Lord says, “From even to even shall ye celebrate your Sabbath.”SITI June 30, 1881, page 295.2

    Having settled the fact that the day begins and ends at evening, the only thing necessary to an understanding of the main question is to find when the evening commences. This is easily settled by the following passage: “But at the place which the Lord thy God shall choose to place his name in, there thou shalt sacrifice the passover at even at the going down of the sun.” Deuteronomy 16:9. “And the king of Ai he hanged on a tree till eventide; and, as soon as the sun was down, Joshua commanded that they should take his carcass down from the tree.” Joshua 8:20. Also, Joshua 10:26, 27: “Joshua smote them, and slew them, and hanged them on five trees; and they were hanging upon the trees until the evening. And it came to pass at the time of the going down of the sun, that Joshua commanded, and they took them down off the trees.” These texts plainly show that the evening and the setting of the sun are identical. In the New Testament we have additional testimony. In the first chapter of Mark we have an account of the events of one Sabbath in the life of Christ. First he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and taught. Verse 21. Here he found a man with an unclean spirit, whom he healed. Verses 20-31. The rest of the people, however, dared not ask him to heal their sick during the hours of the Sabbath, but waited till its close. We read in verse 31, “And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils.” Thus we see that the people unanimously regarded sunset as the close of the Sabbath, and, of course, of its commencement. This was the divinely appointed order.SITI June 30, 1881, page 295.3

    The question then arises, How does it happen that people nowadays commence and end the day at midnight? The answer is this: When men became idolaters, and did not like to retain God in their knowledge (Romans 1:28), they soon lost all knowledge of the institutions and commandments of God, so that their forms of worship and daily life differed entirely from those of God’s people. Each nation had gods of its own, and customs peculiar to itself. The Persians and Assyrians worshiped the sun, and commenced the day at sunrise. That the Jews, during their captivity, did not lose their reckoning, and conform to that of the Babylonians, is proved by the passage in Mark already quoted. The Romans, for some reason, selected midnight as the time for the beginning and ending of their day. The barbarous tribes that conquered Rome, accepted her customs, and transmitted them to their descendants. Thus the Roman method of commencing the day has become the settled custom in Europe and America. Since it is an established custom, it is necessary, in order to be understood, to conform to the usage in speaking with others, also in business, since the custom is fixed by law. But in the observance of the Sabbath, God’s order is unchangeable. Those who accept the Sunday festival, which is a man-made institution emanating from Rome, may be allowed to keep it in such a manner as man decrees; but those who keep God’s rest-day-the memorial of his creative power-will take the day just as God gave it, and not offer a substitute by patching a portion of two days together.SITI June 30, 1881, page 295.4

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