1. The Sabbath: A Living Issue
THE question of the change of the Sabbath from the seventh to the first day of the week, is one that is agitating the public mind throughout Christendom. It is one of the leading questions of the age, and promises to become more and more important. In past centuries it has engaged public attention more or less. Theologians have often wrestled with it, and fondly thought they had settled it; but the revolving years still bring it to the surface; it will not be repressed. Legislatures have considered it, and from time to time have placed the heavy hand of civil power in the scale to make the result decisive. Yet the public mind is not at rest; the interest in the subject revives; and it is safe to say that at the present time there is more real desire to know the whole truth upon this question than there has been at any time for a thousand years past.
The age in which we live is peculiar. There is little reverence in its spirit for the opinions of the hoary past.
Everything is being investigated, and it is not surprising that the Sabbath question should have its share of public attention; the nature of the subject is such that it merits consideration.
An Ancient Institution
The Bible presents the Sabbath as the most ancient institution, excepting marriage, which man was to observe as a moral duty. Genesis 2:1-3. Its existence has run parallel with that of the race. Multitudes of the most intelligent and conscientious believe that its universal observance is necessary if man is to attain to his highest physical, moral, and spiritual development. The most civilized and powerful nations of the earth have even made rigorous laws to enforce a weekly rest-day upon their subjects. It comes to the hundreds of millions of our race every seven days of our mortal life. It furnishes a day of worship and religious instruction to a large portion of the human family. It cannot be denied that it has furnished one of the most powerful impulses that have molded our modern civilization. The importance of the subject, then, cannot be overestimated.
A Religious Day
But the Sabbath, above all else, is a religious day. It called into being the division of time into weeks. No other cause can be found for the week, other than the appointment of a day to be observed in memory of God’s work of creation. All we know of its origin we learn from Moses’ record of creation in the Bible. The Gentile nations have received its benefits since their conversion from heathenism, till now it is known to earth’s remotest bounds. As the Sabbath relates to God, for He appointed its rest and made it a religious day, and as all we know of its institution and moral obligation is derived from his word, the question becomes one of religious duty, a question of conscience, relating primarily to human salvation, and but secondarily to man’s physical and social welfare.
The Day of the Sabbath
There can be no Sabbath institution unless some day is observed as a Sabbath. This is self-evident. Some particular day, recurring every week, must be used as a day of rest and religious observance in order to have such an institution. Since God is the author of the institution, he must have appointed some day for its celebration. To leave any day of the seven to be observed as the Sabbath, at the option of humanity, would have much the same effect as to have no Sabbath at all; the days of the week would stand upon an equality. The essence of the institution requires the appointment of a particular day of the seven as a day of rest and worship. Did God appoint such a day? If so, what day was it? Has the original appointment continued till the present time? Or has God for some important reason, changed it to another day? What day is now obligatory?
These are questions of great moment. In religious truth, upon which our salvation hinges, we want to know God’s will. Human authority is not sufficient. In this age, everything which can be shaken will be shaken. We want to anchor to those things which will stand the test of the closest examination. It is an investigative age. Everything is being criticized. Our souls demand the truth. Truth will bear examination; but it is not so with error.
In the great Sabbath agitation of the present age, every point will receive the closest scrutiny by unbelievers. Christians should therefore know whereof they affirm. We want the divine warrant for religious institutions. Human authority is but as chaff to the wheat. What has the Lord said? should be our inquiry. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God. . . . that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
We therefore propose to investigate the subject of the Sabbath with special reference to the question: What day should we observe as the Sabbath in this age of the world? The public mind is interested in it. Thousands of children, coming to years of understanding, ask their parents why they observe the first day of the week, while the commandment requires the seventh. We want to help these parents to answer that question truly. Multitudes are perplexed upon this point; and we hope to assist somewhat in answering it. We propose to examine the Scriptures; which should ever be of primal authority; also to consider the statements of history bearing upon it, and thus give the ground a brief but faithful examination. If the Bible will thoroughly furnish us “unto all good works,” it will enable us to settle this question correctly. Where shall we look for light upon it, if not to God's revealed truth? “To the law and to the testimony;” if they do not afford us light, it is useless to look to human authority.