BY HENRY GREW
When sentiments are advanced, which, in connection with the truth of the gospel, imply that the Lord of the sabbath, and his apostles have blotted out “the moral sun of the universe,”and severed “the link which unites earth to heaven,”it is time to enter our protest against them, notwithstanding the confidence of our brethren that they are doing God service.
The duty of assembling for divine worship on the first day of the week is fully established by the approved example of the Christian church, recorded in the New Testament, Ac 20:7. But “to keep persons ignorant of the true grounds of duty, is not the way to enforce the practice of it; nor is it the way to secure or obtain for the first day of the week its just right, to demand for it more than it has a right to.”We are not to “walk in craftiness,”or to “handle the word of God deceitfully;”but, “by manifestation of the truth,”to commend ourselves “to every man’s conscience as in the sight of God.”
“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.” Ge 2:2, 3.
Here is the first fact relative to the seventh, afterwards called the sabbath day. What is it? Simply that God, in some manner, blessed and sanctified it, “because that in it he had rested from all his work.”
This is all that is recorded in the holy oracles of truth respecting the seventh day, until God separated the posterity of Israel from the other nations of the earth.
The question then is, what does Ge 2:2, 3, express or necessarily imply, independently of all other testimony and facts respecting the subject? What did it express to the antediluvians, supposing them to have had the knowledge of it? Read and consider. Does it contain any law to man to keep holy the seventh day? Was it possible for any man to know, from these words, what he was to do, or what he was not to do, on the seventh day, in order to keep it acceptably to God? Is a man’s duty, respecting a positive institution, to be learned from words, which neither require him to do, or to refrain from doing anything at all? Such is the fact with respect to Ge 2:2, 3. The law, subsequently given to the Israelites, was indeed plain; but we have no proof that the antediluvians had any such law. The Bible contains evidence to the contrary, as we shall see. With the knowledge of the Mosaic law, many in reading Ge 2:2, 3, suppose that God required all men, from the creation, to sanctify the seventh day. The illusion is the effect of not considering the import of the passage independently of subsequent revelation.
The Bible contains no law to man to keep the Sabbath day, before the time of Moses.
The Bible contains no example of any man keeping a Sabbath day before the time of Moses.
If we could find a law given to man before that period, we must conclude that they who feared the Lord, obeyed it, although such obedience is not recorded. Or, if we find examples of holy men, in general, keeping the day, we might conclude that they did so in virtue of a divine command, although we do not find the statue. But in the entire absence of both precept and practice, what basis have we, for the declaration that the antediluvians kept the sabbath day? To rest this declaration on the simple fact, that God blessed and hallowed the seventh day, is inadmissible, because the manner of blessing and sanctifying it depends wholly on his sovereign will. Whether he chose to sanctify it, by imparting to man on that day peculiar favors, or by requiring of man peculiar duties: whether he sanctified it so as to require all men, in all ages of the world, to observe it as a holy day: whether it was to be a permanent ordinance or a temporary one, as “a shadow of things to come;”we are to learn, not from our own imagination of what is proper for the Almighty to do, but from his own testimony of what he has done. We must appeal to the facts of the Bible, if we would know and teach the truth.
What then is the Bible fact? Not that God gave a law to all men to observe the seventh, or any day of the week as a sabbath, from creation to any particular period, or to the dissolution of the world; for there is no such law: not that God required of all men a seventh part of time, for there is no such requirement. These are the traditions of men. No man can open the book of God, and find them there. The manner in which God blessed and sanctified the seventh day of the week, so far as the duty of man is concerned in the matter, is to be found in the following facts recorded by the inspired prophet.
FIRST COMMAND GIVEN TO MAN TO KEEP THE SABBATH DAY.
“And he (Moses) said unto them, This is that which the Lord hath said, To-morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the Lord.”Ex. xvi. 23. “See, for that the Lord hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days: abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day. So the people rested on the seventh day.”This is the first record of God giving the Sabbath unto man.
“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily, my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is A SIGN BETWEEN ME AND YOU throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you.”Ex. xxi. 12, 13. “I gave them my sabbaths to be a sign between me and them,”etc. Eze 20:12,20???. “And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: Therefore, the Lord they God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.”Deut. v. 15. God gave the sabbath as
A DISTINCTIVE SIGN TO THE ISRAELITES:
A sign, that, for purposes of infinite wisdom, he had chosen them as a peculiar people; and separated them from the nations of the earth. How could the sabbath have been such a distinctive sign, if it had been given to all the nations? In the fifth chapter of Deuteronomy, where Moses rehearses the commandments, (the fourth among the rest,) he says, THE LORD MADE NOT THIS COVENANT WITH OUR FATHERS, BUT WITH US, even us, who are all of us here alive this day.”“The prophets, who reproved other nations for their sins, never mention sabbath breaking.” Nor does Paul ever place the profanation of the sabbath in the “list of Gentile crimes.”
To say that the other sabbath days were such a distinctive sign, but that the seventh day sabbath was not, is untrue, for in Ex 31:17, this very sabbath is expressly declared to be such a sign.
If the sabbath had been given to all nations, the children of Israel must have had it before they left Egypt. If so, why did Moses afterwards say,
Ex 16:23, “SEE, for that the Lord hath GIVEN YOU the sabbath,”&c?
It has been remarked that the command “Remember the sabbath day, “&c., implies that it had been previously enjoined. It was so. The sabbath was first given them in “the second month after the departing out of the land of Egypt,”when they were in “the wilderness of Sin.” Ex 16:1, 29. The command to “Remember,”&c., was given “in the third month,”in the wilderness of Sinai. Ex 16:1; 20:8.
If it was consistent with the fact of God’s hallowing the seventh day, Ge 2:2, 3, for him to abrogate the observance of that day, after the dissolution of the Jewish polity, (which most christians believe he did,) was it not consistent with the fact, for him to postpone the observance of that day before the commencement of that polity? Does not the fact of such postponement until the commencement of the Jewish state, harmonize better with the fact of its abrogation at the end of that state, than the opinion of its original universal obligation?
The import of the term sabbath is REST, not worship. The most prominent characteristic of the seventh day sabbath was, that it was a day of REST. “In it thou shalt not do any work.” Why did God hallow the seventh day? BECAUSE, that in it he had RESTED from all his work. Gen. ii. 2, 3. What did he specially require the Israelites, in respect to the seventh day, when he first gave it to them as a sabbath? Just what the term imports-REST. “To-morrow is the REST of the holy sabbath unto the Lord-abide ye, every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day. So the people RESTED on the seventh day” Ex 16:23-30. This is the whole of the requirement in the fourth commandment. It is true that an holy convocation, some extra sacrifices, and the reading of the Law and the prophets were connected with this day; and other sabbaths also, but this is no proof that the peculiar and most prominent characteristic of the seventh day sabbath was not, as the term imports, REST. It has ever been, and ever will be, the duty of man to worship his Maker every day. It is his duty to worship him in a particular manner, at particular times, as infinite wisdom and benevolence shall determine. With the Israelites, every day was a day of sacrifice, offering, and worship, Ac 3:1; but the SABBATHS only were days of rest. The glory of this truth is fully developed to the spiritual mind by the light of the new covenant. These sabbaths were all “a shadow of things to come,” Col 2:16; even of that glorious REST which remained for the true children of God. Heb 4:9.
The opinion that the portion of time which God requires of man for his worship is a seventh part, is not only unsupported by any scriptural declaration, but is contrary to fact.
By what prophet or apostle has our Father in heaven given us such a revelation? It is an inference from premises which are untrue. “God appointed the seventh part of time to be sabbath, or rest, days: therefore he appointed a seventh part of his worship.”This is the argument. But God appointed MORE than a seventh part of time to be sabbath, or rest, days. The fact, (which is a complete subversion of the common opinion) is, that there were NINE OTHER DAYS, on each of which, as on the seventh day, they were required to rest from all servile labor, to have a holy convocation, and to offer extra sacrifices! These were all days of REST. Some were expressly called SABBATHS. The extra sacrifices of several of them exceeded those of the seventh day sabbath. The violation of the sabbath of atonement, like that of the seventh day, was punishable with death. Le 23:30. 1. The first day of the Passover. 2. The seventh day of the same, Ex 7:16. 3. The “sabbath of atonement on the tenth day of the seventh month. Le 16:20-31. 4. The first day of the feast of unleavened bread, on the fifteenth day of the first month. Le 23:8. 6. The day of the wave offering. Le 23:9-21. 7. The first day of the seventh month-“sabbath,” Le 23:23-25. 8. The first day of the feast of tabernacles. Le 23:33-35. 9. The eighth day of the same. Le 23:36. Both these were called sabbaths. Le 23:30.
There was also the daily sacrifice, meat, and drink offering, Nu 28:3-7. There were the sacrifices of the new moons, 1Ch 23:31. Besides all these, all the males were required to go up to Jerusalem to worship three times a year. De 16:16.
In consideration of these facts, the notion that the portion of time which God required for his worship, is a seventh part, fleets away like the baseless fabric of a vision.
There were some things common to all the rest, or sabbath, days, and some things peculiar.
They were all positive institutions appointed by God.
He claimed them all as his own. Le 26:2.
They were all holy. On all, holy convocations were required. Le 23$.
On all, servile labor was forbidden. Le 23$: On all, extra sacrifices were enjoined. Nu 28$, 29$.
They were all “a shadow of things to come.” Col 2:17.
The rest day that was first enjoined was the first day of the feat of the Passover. Ex 12:16.
The extra sacrifices of the seventh day sabbath were “two lambs, two-tenth deals of flour mingled with oil, and the drink offering thereof, Nu 28:9.
The extra sacrifices of the first day of the seventh month (expressly called “a sabbath,” Le 23:24,) were “one young bullock, one ram, and seven lambs;”“one kid:”&c. Nu 29:1-6.
The extra sacrifices of the fifteenth day of the seventh month (“a sabbath, Le 23:39,) were thirteen young bullocks, two rams, and fourteen lambs;”“one kid,”&c. Nu 29:12-16.
The seventh day sabbath, which was one of most frequent occurrence, is called, “THE sabbath day; the sabbath of the Lord thy God.” Ex 20:10.
The command to keep it holy is in the decalogue.
This was the day God blessed, and hallowed, because that in it he had rested from all his work.
Special promises were given in relation to its observance.
It is evident, therefore, that with the Israelites, this sabbath had the pre-eminence.
Appealing “to the law and to the testimony”of the living oracles, instead of regarding the opinion of those who speak not according thereto, we have seen that the sabbath day was given to the Israelites ONLY; and not to them; until after their separation from the nations: that it was given them as a distinctive sign of that separation, and of their peculiar relation to God as a typical people.
Let us proceed to the examination of this interesting subject, as it is unfolded to us by the Son of God and his apostles; to whom, “through the Holy Ghost,”he gave commandment respecting all things pertaining to the law and everlasting covenant. Ac 1:2.
The first instruction of the great Teacher, relative to the sabbath day, is found in Mt 12$. chap. in his rebuke to the Pharisees for accusing his disciples with violating it. Our Lord declared them to be “guiltless,”on account of the necessitous circumstances of the case. It is important to observe, however, that he does not rest their vindication simply on this necessity. He adds, FOR THE SON OF MAN IS LORD EVEN OF THE SABBATH DAY.”
He had authority to dispose of it as his divine wisdom chose: to continue, or to annul it. On the same occasion he said, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.” Mr 2:27 .
The Lord of the sabbath commanded that to be done on the sabbath day which was positively forbidden by the law of Moses.
He commanded the impotent man, on that day, to take up his bed and walk. Joh 5:8. What was the Mosaic law? “Thus saith the Lord, Take heed to yourselves and bear no burden on the sabbath day.” Jer 17:21. It was not a matter of necessity that the man should bear the burden of his bed. The reality of the miracle could have been otherwise manifested. The command to do it, teaches us in what sense Jesus Christ was “Lord of the Sabbath day.”If it had been made for man always to observe, we are not to suppose that the holy Son of God would have commanded him to violate it.
As the great prophet improved all occasions to impart instruction to perishing men, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, when the people assembled, and read the law and the prophets, expounding them concerning himself, and proclaiming the glad tidings of salvation. Lu 4:16.
He never commanded any one to keep holy the sabbath day, or rebuked any one for BREAKING IT.
As the commission given to the apostles limits them to teach those things Jesus had commanded them, their inspired instructions are of equal authority with his own. Among all their recorded discourses and epistles, there is not a single requirement to keep, or rebuke for violating, any sabbath day.
It is affirmed that the sabbath was changed from the seventh day of the week to the first. I ask, When? Where? By whom? Where is the chapter and verse? Such a change respecting a positive institution, is not to be established by doubtful inference, but by plain and positive testimony only. “What saith the Scriptures?”
The first day of the week is never in the New Testament called the sabbath day. In every instance, where the term sabbath day occurs in the New Testament, it refers to the Jewish seventh day sabbath.
If the day was changed, or if the seventh day sabbath is of perpetual obligation, why was its observance never enforced, and its violation never rebuked by Jesus Christ or his apostles? Is it replied, that the duty is sufficiently plain in the Old Testament? If this is an adequate reason for subsequent silence on the subject, it was equally so for the silence of all the prophets after Moses. Did the prophets of the Lord cease to exhort men to keep holy the sabbath day, and to reprove them for violating it, because the duty had been previously revealed? Do believers in the sanctity of a sabbath day now seal their lips in eternal silence on the subject because it is plainly revealed? The apostles taught the positive institutions enjoined by Jesus Christ, but no sabbath day. They reproved men for various kinds of sin, but never for sabbath breaking. In their catalogues of sins this is never found. If the sabbatical law had not been abrogated, as “a shadow of things to come,” Col 2:16, 17, the violation of it must have been a prevalent sin in the days of the apostles, and christians must have been in danger of desecrating it; consequently, the same faithful exhortation and denunciations respecting it would have been found in the writings of the apostles as in those of the prophets.
The evidence is not of a mere negative character. We proceed to that which is positive.
Why did the “Lord of the sabbath,”thus disregard that very day which God blessed and hallowed, “because that in it he had rested from all his work?”That day which he established in such imperative precepts and such a fearful penalty?
“He that hath ears to hear let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”
And you, being dead in your sins, and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; BLOTTING OUT THE HANDWRITING OF ORDINANCES that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; LET NO MAN THEREFORE JUDGE YOU in meant or in drink, or IN RESPECT OF A HOLY DAY, OR OF THE SABBATH DAYS; which are A SHADOW of things to come; but the BODY is of Christ. Col 2:13-16.
“Having ABOLISHED in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances,”&c. Eph 2:15.
“For there is verily a DISANNULLING of the commandment going before, for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.” Heb 7:18, 19. This law included the seventh day, and all the sabbath days.
ALL SABBATH DAYS ARE ANNULLED.
The reason given is worthy of the divine wisdom and benevolence. God blessed and hallowed the seventh day, not as A SUBSTANCE, but as “A SHADOW.”“A shadow”of a day, not to be measured by hours, but by the plenitude of eternal love. That day which Abraham saw with the eye of faith. That day of which Isaiah wrote, “the angels desire to look.”
“The BODY,”saith the voice of eternal truth, “is OF CHRIST.”He is our REST. Glory be to God in the highest! When the substance was come, the shadow passed away. The sabbath day was abrogated by its Lord.
JESUS CHRIST IS THE SUBSTANCE OF ALL SABBATH DAYS.
The REST of the soul. Simple, precious truth! More easily learned by the little child than by some learned Doctors; who, in the very face of apostolic command, continue, like the Pharisees of old, to “judge”and condemn, “in respect of a holy day.”
We have now crossed the threshold of the spiritual temple. Let us enter in and “behold the glory of the Lord.”“If the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.”“The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came in Jesus Christ.”“The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, but after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. Gal 3:19. “Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, TILL THE SEED SHOULD COME, TO whom the promise was made.” The seed was CHRIST. Gal 3:16. When HE came, the old covenant of Horeb, which included the decalogue, was “ready to vanish away.”See De 5$ and Heb 8:13. It was superseded by the more perfect covenant of Him who was “greater than Moses.”Not only the laws of sacrifice and offerings, but the entire Sinai covenant was “done away.” This is the plain doctrine of St. Paul. “But if the ministration of death, written and engraved in 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?” 2Co 3:7, 8. It was certainly the law of the ten commandments that was “written and engraved in stones,”and which, as connected with the first covenant, together with all laws pertaining thereunto, was “done away.”“ Now, said the apostle, we are delivered from the law, ( not merely from its condemnation,) that being DEAD wherein we were held:”&c. “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.”Here is conclusive proof that it is not the ceremonial law merely, that is “dead;”for it is that law which says, “Thou shalt not covet.”“What shall we say then?”May we covet? “God forbid.”Although we are delivered from the law written and engraven in stones; we are “not without law to God, but under the law to Christ. Did the inspired apostle consider the interests of morality jeopardized by this doctrine, or did he consider this very doctrine essential to those interests? Hear him. “Now we are delivered from the law, that being dead, wherein we were held, that we should serve in newness of spirit.” Ro 7:6. “Sin shall not have dominion over you, (why not?) for ye are not under the law but under grace.” Again. “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 that is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.” Ro 7:4.
The morality of the law of Christ is of the purest and strictest character. The disposition of hatred is murder. The lustful desire is adultery. If the morality of that covenant which is done away was glorious, much more is the morality of that which remaineth glorious; “for the fruit of the Spirit is all goodness and righteousness, and truth.” Eph 5:9.
Some suppose, that the apostle intends to teach that Christians are not under the condemnation of the law; but to be under a law, and under the condemnation of that law, are very different conditions. By becoming a citizen of the United States I was entirely delivered from the dominion of British law. Yet an I not without law, but under American law.
No law of Moses, not found in the statutes of Zion’s King, is obligatory on his subjects. If this principle is not admitted, we all stand condemned as transgressors of various statues in the Old Testament.
No sabbatical law is found in the new covenant. Therefore, no sabbatical law is now obligatory. The sabbath days, without exception, were “a shadow of things to come.”“The body (or substance) is of Christ.”All these rests were typical of the spiritual rest, into which we enter when we believe the truth of the Son of God. In the epistle to the Hebrews (the key which opens to us the spiritual import of the dispensation of shadows) the inspired apostle unfolds, to the spiritual mind, the glorious truth respecting this subject. In the fourth chapter he teaches that the spiritual rest of the gospel day, is the rest which remained to the people of God, after the seventh day rest and the rest of Canaan. “For we which have believed do (now) enter into rest, as he said, (by David, Ps 95:11.) As it have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest (referring to Nu 14:22, 23, where God declared that they should not enter Canaan; which reference is proved by Ps 95:10,) although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise. And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. And in this place again ( Ps 95:11, referring to Nu 14:22, 23,) If they shall enter into my rest;”showing that the rest from which they were excluded by “the provocation-in the wilderness”was a distinct rest from the seventh day sabbath, or rest. “Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To-day, after so long a time; as it is said, To-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. For If Jesus (Joshua who led them into Canaan) had given them rest (the spiritual rest) then would he (“in David”) not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore (besides the seventh day sabbath and Canaan) a REST (sabbatismos, sabbatism) to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he hath also ceased from his own works (i.e., to justify himself: see Ro 4:5) as God did from his.” Heb 4$. In Ps 118:22-24, David prophesied of another day, “the day which the Lord hath made.”The day of Christ on earth. “The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.’ The object of the apostle, evidently, is to prove that thee was another and better rest promised to the people of God besides the seventh day sabbath and Canaan: and that this rest is the spiritual rest of the gospel day, into which believers NOW enter. Into this he exhorts all to labor to enter by faith. The apostle, in the ninth verse, does not refer exclusively or primarily to the future perfect state. This is proved by the third verse. The future glory is indeed inseparably connected with the spiritual rest into which faith on the Son of God immediately introduces us. He gives his sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish. The future glory is the perfect consummation of the spiritual rest now enjoyed. This rest being of the same nature, is called “the earnest. This rest is enjoyed according to our faith. Is our faith limited to one day of the week? Not if it is the faith of God’s elect.
This REST is the grand antitype of all sabbath days. It is the glorious era of the manifestation of infinite wisdom, love, and power, in Christ Jesus the Son of God, by whom SALVATION cometh. Well was it ushered in by the harmonious hallelujahs of celestial choirs. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”Well did the prophet of the Lord animate the ancient believers in the Promised Seed, with the announcement, “HIS REST SHALL BE GLORIOUS.”Glorious indeed! Glorious in wisdom. The question, “How shall men (rebellious and condemned by righteous law) be just with God?”the wisdom of men and angels failed to answer. Justice cried, destroy him. Mercy cried, spare. Both are satisfied. Be astonished, ye earth and heavens! O ye ransomed ones, behold and adore! God’s own Son dies and man lives! God is “just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”He has magnified the law and made it honorable.
Glorious in love! “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God-and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which, according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time.”
“O LOVE DIVINE ALL LOVE EXCELLING.”
Now is heard the song of holy triumph. “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither dead, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”Behold the glory of the REST of the cross! There, the spirit of the penitent loses the burden of his sins, receives holy strength, and beats high with the hope of immortality.
Glorious in duration! The beatific vision knows no end. “There shall be no more death.”Increasing in the knowledge and enjoyment of the Infinite, the perfected multitude shall pass on from “glory to glory”
As the Jewish sabbaths were typical of this spiritual rest, the violation of them was a great sin. As unbelief is the barrier to entering into this rest, and the violation of it, it occupies the place in the New Covenant which sabbath-breaking did in the Old. It is its corresponding sin. Accordingly, Jesus Christ and his apostles constantly exhorted perishing men to believe the truth of the gospel; but never to keep holy an sabbath day. Is it possible, that Jesus Christ, or his apostles, could have considered a sabbath day, “the moral sun of the universe,”or “the connecting link between heaven and earth;”and yet in all their discourses and twenty-one epistles to the Christian churches and individuals, respecting all duties, never, in a single instance, exhort them to keep the day holy? If the general assembly of the Presbyterian church should appoint a committee to write only one such epistle to the churches, and that committee should omit all exhortations to keep holy the sabbath day, would they not be quickly summoned to the bar of the assembly, to receive forty ecclesiastical censures not even saving one?
Some Christians lingered for a time among the shades of Judaism. “Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you,”said St. Paul. Ga 4:10, 11. He indeed inculcated mutual forbearance. Ro 14:1, 5. “One man esteemeth one day above another: another every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.”What! Will you allow us, Paul, to blot out “the moral sun of the universe,”if we are only persuaded in our own minds, to do so? Art thou so reckless of the well being of earth’s inhabitants, as to allow presumptuous mortals to sever the link which connects us with heaven to let us down into the bottomless pit?
A respected writer remarks, “What if they (the anti-sabbatists) can show us that the ceremonial law has been expressly annulled? It is nothing to the purpose; for the weekly sabbath existed independently of that law. The chapter and verse must be distinctly pointed out in which the original sabbatical law is expressly repealed.”When that writer produces “chapter and verse,”to which the original sabbatical law was expressly enacted, before the Passover and all other Jewish ceremonies; it shall be admitted that the abrogation of the sabbatical law must be sustained by other proof than the annulling of subsequent ceremonies. Some proof, however, is found in the New Testament. It deserves the serious consideration of the author, whether or not he has condemned himself, and all excepting those who still observe the seventh day, by his own positions. He justly remarks, “Wherever the weekly sabbath is mentioned in the Old Testament the SEVENTH day is intended.”He solemnly declares “no human authority may expunge a SINGLE WORD from the statutes of Jehovah. It were infinitely less daring, for the meanest subject of the mightiest earthly potentate, to declare the fundamental laws of the empire null and void, than for man, who is a worm, to set aside the institutions of his Maker.”Of the law to keep holy the SEVENTH day, he observes that it “has no limitations;”“can never expire;”“has never been repealed,”and “never will be.” He declares that “it is therefore binding upon us at this moment.”Why then has he been so “daring”as to expunge the “single word”seventh from “the statutes of Jehovah,”and substitute the word first! Is it possible for language to express the perpetuity of the seventh day more positively than that which this writer has employed? Yet, what is the seventh day to him more than the sixth? Suppose that there is a law to keep holy the first day of the week, how can that law abrogate the law to keep holy the seventh day, if that law, as he declares, “has never been repealed”and “never will be?”Did the enactment of the atonement sabbatical law, or that of the other sabbath days annul that of the seventh day?
Is it said that thee is a new law which establishes the sanctity of the first day of the week instead of the seventh? Then is the law of the seventh day sabbath repealed and binding upon no man. What then becomes of all the declarations we hear of its perpetuity? And why do our brethren call upon their opponents for “chapter and verse”for the nullification of “the original sabbatical law,”while they themselves are in the dilemma of being obliged to produce such “chapter and verse,”or of confessing themselves sabbath-breakers?
So far from finding any statue in the new covenant commanding the observance of the first day of the week, as a sabbath day, instead of the seventh, the first day of the week is never denominated a sabbath day.
To sustain the position that the “disannulling”of the ceremonial law, which certainly included the sabbatical law, “ is nothing to the purpose,”in respect to the annulling of the latter; “the chapter and verse must be distinctly pointed out, in which the original sabbatical law is expressly”enacted, previous to the Jewish ceremonial law. No man can do this, for no command to man to keep the sabbath day is found in the Bible anterior to the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. Ge 2:2, 3, contains no such law. Admitting, however, that such a law can be found, still the position is not sustained, that the annulling of the Sinai law (in which the sabbatical law was incorporated) does not annul it, unless some special exemption is made in its favor, or an incorporation of it is found among the christian statutes. What is demanded has been given. “Chapter and verse”has been “distinctly pointed out, in which the original sabbatical law is expressly repealed.”If “nothing else will satisfy a candid inquirer,”may we not hope that this will? “Let no man therefore judge you-in respect of an holy day, or of the sabbath days; which are a shadow of things to come: but the body is of Christ.” Col 2:16. Here is no exception. ALL holy days, ALL sabbath days are here abrogated; and a reason therefore assigned, , worthy of divine wisdom. The same truth is implied in Heb 7:18, 19. “For there is verily a DISANNULLING of the commandment going before, &c. For the law made nothing perfect,”&c.; “the law”and “commandment”included the fourth of the decalogue. The nine others are now in force, not as a part of the first covenant, which is entirely done away, 2Co 3:7, 11, but because they are of a moral nature, and existed before, and independently of that “first covenant;”and because they are incorporated in “the second.”Neither these things can, with truth, be affirmed of the fourth commandment. If that commandment is of a moral nature, then all who do not observe the seventh day are guilty of immorality. The observance of one particular day rather than another, is a positive institute, not a moral precept. The ten commandments are never, in the Bible, denominated the moral law. The first of the “two covenants”was made with the Israelites “when (God) took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt.” Heb 8:9. The “allegory”of St. Paul needs to be better studied, that we may learn, brethren, that we are not children of the bond woman, but of the free. Gal 4:20-31. What a contrast is presented by the views of our author and those of the inspired apostle! The latter declares the sabbath to be “a shadow,” Col 2:16, 17, “ready to vanish away;”hailing its departure as the dawn of a refulgent-a radiant and shinning spiritual day. Alas, for the former, “A SHADOW IS HIS ORB OF DAY!!”Alarmed, he cries out, “Give up the sabbath-blot out that orb of day-suspend its blessed attractions-and the reign of chaos and old night would return.”May he however feel the more “blessed attraction”of the true “moral Sun,”that “Sun of righteousness,”who is the light and the glory of the new and heavenly Jerusalem. This must surely compensate the loss of all shadows. We must bear him record that he has “a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.”
The recorded “Acts of the Apostles,”and their epistles, clearly show that believers in the truth of the gospel did not all emerge at once from the shades of Judaism. “There rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees, which believed, saying, that, it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.” Ac 15:5. It appears that they supposed that this law had “never been repealed.” Some of the Galatian brethren had a “desire to be under the law,”of whom Paul wrote, “I stand in doubt of you.” Ga 4:20, 21. The fact of any Christians, whether Jews or Gentiles, observing the seventh day sabbath, is no more proof of the perpetuity of its obligations than their observance of circumcision is proof of the permanency of that institution. The fact of the apostles going into the synagogues on the seventh day, to improve the opportunity of proclaiming, to the assembled multitude, the glad tidings of salvation, is no proof of their regarding the day as it formerly was, a holy sabbath day.
Some difficulty may attend a superficial view of Mt 5:17-20. To reconcile this passage with the positive declarations of the inspired apostles, that Christians “are not under the law,”that it is “dead,”“that we are delivered from the law,”&c., we have to consider in what sense Christ did “not come to destroy, but to fulfill”the law. If we say that he came to fulfill the law by perpetuating the obligation of all its requisitions, then is circumcision, and the offering “of bulls and of goats,”our duty: then must we observe, not only the seventh day sabbath, but all the others, with all the routine of the Jewish ceremonies, which the law enjoined. This possibly may be proving rather too much, even for sabbatarians. If we say, our Lord intends the law of the ten commandments, how can we prove it? Our Lord does not say so. He does not say, “Whosoever therefore shall break one of”the ten commandments, &c. We are neither to add to, or “expunge a single word from, the statutes of Jehovah.”Do we say that the context proves it? I affirm that the context only proves the perpetual obligation of those laws which are essential to “righteousness,”and which immutably, unchangeably exist, independently of the law given to the seed of Abraham. The perpetuity of the sabbatical law is not essential to righteousness; nor is the peculiar observance of any one day rather than another essential to righteousness. If it could be proved that our Lord, in this passage, did establish the perpetuity of the fourth commandment, then are all, but the seventh day sabbatarians, unrighteous transgressors. It would be preposterous to pretend that our Lord, in this passage, changed the sabbath day, or that “the law”to which he referred, required the sanctification of the first day of the week.
In what manner, I ask, did our divine Master fulfill the law? This is the question; and the doctrine and facts of the new covenant answer it. Most fully was the prophetic word fulfilled by our blessed Redeemer. “He will magnify the law, and make it honorable.”He fulfilled it by his own obedience, even unto death. He fulfilled it by becoming himself “the body,”or substance, of all its shadows, the antitype of all its types. He fulfilled it by being “the end of it for righteousness,”or justification, “to every one which believeth.”In verity, not one jot or tittle passed from the law, until all was fulfilled by our gracious and glorious mediator. He passed not into the heavens for us: he bowed not his blessed head to expire for us, ere he said, “It is finished.”
It is asked, Why should the sabbath be opposed, what evil can it do? To this I reply, -
1. Error is always productive of evil results. The steam is of the same nature as the fountain.
2. The popular view of this subject impeaches the wisdom and goodness of Jesus Christ, as it implies that he has neglected to institute that which is essential to the true interests of his church.
3. The maintenance of the shadow and type is a practical denial of the truth, than the substance and antitype has come.
4. False and superstitious views of the first day of the week, prevent Christians occasionally from doing what is their duty to do on that day. They cannot do things which are right, “for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”
5. These false views induce Christians to judge and condemn their brethren, in violation of the divine command not to do it. Co 2:16.
THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK.
Our first inquiry is, what are the facts of the New Testament in relation to this day?
“Then the same day, at evening, being THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled,”&c. Joh 20:19. “And after eight days again his disciples were within, “ &c. Joh 20:26. Comparing the last declaration with the words, after three days, he shall rise again,”there can be no reasonable doubt of its being the next first day of the week. “Upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, &c. Ac 20:7. It appears that Paul tarried at Troas seven days for the purpose of meeting the disciples on “the first day of the week,” being “ready to depart on the morrow.”As the apostle taught the same things “in every church,” 1Co 4:17, it is evident, from the facts stated, that it was the practice of every obedient church to meet on the first day of the week to partake of the supper of the Lord, and observe the ordinances of divine worship.
That it is the duty and privilege of the disciples of Christ to be “followers of the churches of God-in Judea,”so far as they followed Christ “until he come,”is not to be questioned. Although the nature and spirit of the new covenant is incompatible with the holiness of particular days, the command “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together,”is imperative. It is an institute of heavenly wisdom for the edification of the saints, and the conversion of the world. 1Co 14:23, 25. Our prayers, our praises, our communion with God, and our efforts to advance the everlasting kingdom, in the increasing sanctification of believers, and the conversion of ungodly men, are not indeed to be confined to any particular day or time, but social and public worship requires some time; and what time, I ask, is so appropriate as that day on which our blessed Lord, after being delivered for our offenses, was raised again for our justification? Well may the ransomed meet on this memorable day, to celebrate his dying love and glorious triumph over the powers of darkness, uniting in the animating song, the Lord is risen indeed, Hallelujah!
The duty of assembling on this day for social and public worship, necessarily involves the duty of separating ourselves from our secular concerns, so far as such worship requires. The common opinion that it is sinful to attend to such concerns on any part of the first day of the week, is sustained by no precept or example in the New Testament. I write now of positive law. What spiritual worshippers consider to be their privilege, is another question. The common opinion rests on the false principle of the holiness of particular days or times. There is yet a veil on the minds of some Christians in reading both the Old and New Testament, so that they cannot “look to the end of that which is abolished.” 2Co 3:13.
The assembling of the disciples on the day of Pentecost, and on other occasions on the first day of the week, is adduced as evidence of the change of the sabbath day from the seventh to the first. It should be remembered, however, that the more narrations we find in the New Testament of their assembling on that day for worship, the greater is the evidence that they did not regard it as the sabbath day; because, in such narrations, it is not in a single instance so denominated.
In the absence of all real evidence of the continuance or institution of any sabbath day under the new and better covenant, Rev. i. 10 is adduced. “I was in the spirit on the Lord’s day.”What day of the week this was, we are not informed. That it was the first, is highly probable. If so, the question is, Is the first day of the week called the Lord’s day, because the Lord constituted it the sabbath day; or because, on that day he rose from the dead? The latter is a scriptural and glorious fact; the former has not a syllable of inspired truth to maintain it.
In view of the fact, that Jesus Christ has abrogated the seventh day sabbath, and appointed no other sabbath day in its stead; what, I seriously ask, is the true character of the views that are so tenaciously held, and the remarks so confidently made, in respect to the essential importance of a sabbath day to the very existence of the kingdom of God on earth? What, but an impeachment of the divine wisdom and benevolence? What, but ignorantly charging God foolishly?
To suppose that the means which infinite wisdom has appointed for the advancement and perfection of the kingdom of God on earth, are susceptible of improvement by worms of the dust who are of yesterday, and know nothing, will be admitted to be the most impious arrogance.
How diligently and prayerfully should we bring our own views of what is expedient to the test of the infallible word. In the neglect of this important duty, how many are persuading themselves that they are doing God service, which they are following the dictates of that wisdom which is foolishness with God.
It is incompatible with human rights and with the prerogative of Zion’s King, for any civil magistrate or legislature to enact any law respecting the time or manner in which men shall worship God. It is, however, an excellent regulation for men, by mutual voluntary agreement, to suspend the whirling motion of this world’s business, one day in the week; and to do so on that day on which the Son of god rose from the dead, and on which his disciples assembled to commemorate his dying love, and praise the God of their salvation. Still better would it be, if all, instead of seeking their own pleasure, would unite, in spirit and in truth, in celebrating the grace of the glorious gospel of the blessed God. Any civil enactment by any earthly power whatever, which contravenes the law of God respecting his worship, or anything else, is null and void.
The great sin of the land, is not sabbath-breaking (in the popular sense of the term) but UNBELIEF. Consequently, it is the great duty of dying man to labor to enter, and to persuade others to enter, by faith, into THE SPIRITUAL REST, lest any man fall after the former example of unbelief.
No man has any Bible authority for accusing one of sabbath-breaking. The fourth commandment, sanctifying the seventh day, was plain and positive. The Jewish sabbath-breaker was manifestly convicted by its letter. That law is abrogated. If it were not, it affords no justification to those who charge men with sabbath-breaking in reference to the first day of the week. The man who should accuse his neighbor of sabbath-breaking because he attends to his secular business on the second day of the week, may appeal with equal propriety to the fourth commandment to sustain his accusation, as he who makes the same charge in reference to the first: for this commandment is as silent in respect to the first day of the week as it is in respect to the second. If the accusation is to be sustained and the man convicted, it must be by producing the law from the statutes of Zion’s King, recognizing the first day of the week as the sabbath of the Lord our God, and commanding us to keep that particular day holy, as a sabbath day, in distinction from other days. Every man who accuses another of sabbath-breaking ought to be required to produce such a law, or to retract his accusation. Not only does he accuse another of sabbath-breaking without any divine authority, but he does so in violation of that authority, and in opposition to a plain command not to do it. Such accusers are themselves law-breakers. They break the Christian law, “Let no man therefore judge you in respect to a 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.” Col 2:16. He who judges another, and he who allows himself to be judged by another, in respect to any holy or sabbath day, are both manifestly transgressors of this law of the new and spiritual covenant of Jesus Christ.
It is not to be questioned that many who plead for the perpetuity of the sabbatical law, are as deeply impressed as others, with a consciousness of the duty of constant holiness. It is obvious, however, that the views and teachings of some christians on this subject, imply a license, in regard to the other days of the week, incompatible with the spirituality of the new covenant. This indeed, is no argument in respect against the use of anything from the abuse of it. It is important, however, to guard against this evil. In the Bible Dictionary, collated by J. Wood, of England, from Brown, Calmet, &c., under the article of the sabbath page 391, we read, “As the command plainly prohibits all manner of civil business, traveling, useless conversation, &c., it were to be wished multitudes of this generation would consider how they will reconcile their vain recreation, their unnecessary sleeping, their idle chat, &c., on it (i.e., the sabbath day) thereto:”as if these things were not inconsistent with christian law on other days! This is a fair specimen of many remarks relative to the sabbath day, which tend to the subversion of that perpetual holiness without which no man can see the Lord. If christians are determined to remain in the land of shadows, let them, at least, beware, for the truths sake, and for the salvation of the souls of men, of all such views and teaching as imply that the commands of God, to keep the heart with all diligence; to set a watch at the door of our lips; to set the Lord alway before our face, and to do everything to the glory of God, are not binding upon us, at all times and in all places.
How fatal and dreadful is the delusion that we keep God’s sabbath, because we take off our hands from our secular business, and pay a respectful outward attention to the forms of christian worship! Alas! how many have gone down to hell with this lie in their right hand! Without faith it is impossible to please God. No man commences HIS sabbatism, until he believes on his Son, with the heart unto righteousness. Till then, his prayers, his songs of praise, his orthodoxy, his contributions, are all dead sacrifices in the sight of the heart-searching Jehovah, who will not be mocked.
“We which have believed do enter into rest.”When the spirit, polluted and oppressed with sin, ceasing from the vain toil of self justification, penitently casts itself at the foot of the cross, it commences that spiritual sabbatism which is measured, not by days, but by holy faith and love. These graces of the spirit bring him immediately into fellowship with all the heavenly host. Heb 12:22-24. The vital principle, which his union to his holy Savior imparts, influences the true christian most freely and cordially to consecrate ALL his time, his talents, and his affections, to his God and Redeemer. At home and abroad; in the place of worship and of business; whether he eats or drinks, or whatever he does, so far as he acts in character, he will do all to the glory of God. Not only in the hours of the first day of the week, unoccupied in public worship, but continually, as he has opportunity, will he seek communion with his Father in heaven, labor for the salvation of souls, and like his holy Exemplar, go about doing good. May the Father of Mercies grant unto us the enjoyment of this sabbatism, which the revolving ages of Eternity shall never terminate.