19. Admissions of Some Protestants
WE quote a few declarations relative to the change of the Sabbath, from those who are not Catholics—men who are in no wise interested to say anything which would favor the seventh day, but whom love of truth impels to speak as they do.
N. Summerbell, a noted minister and author in the Christian Church, and once president of Antioch (Ohio) College, says in his History of the Christians, page 418:
“It [the Roman Catholic Church] has reversed the fourth commandment, doing away with the Sabbath of God’s word, and instituting Sunday as a holy day!”
Alexander Campbell, in a lecture in Bethany College, 1848, said:
“Was the first day set apart by public authority in the apostolic age? No. By whom was it set apart, and when? By Constantine, who lived about the beginning of the fourth century.”
The Chicago Inter Ocean, answering the questions, “Who changed the Sabbath day, and when?” and, “Is Sunday the first day of the week?” says:
“The change of the day of worship from the Sabbath, or last day of the week, to Sunday, the first day of the week, was done by the early Christians. But the work was so gradual that it is almost impossible to determine when the one left off and the other began.”
“It was not until after the Reformation that the change was confirmed by any legal enactment. In the first ages after Christ it does not appear that the Christians abstained from their regular business upon that day, but they were accustomed to meet early in the day, and indulge in singing and some other religious services. It was not until the beginning of the third century that it became customary for Christians to abstain from their worldly business and occupation on that day.”
The Christian Union of June 11, 1879, answers the following questions concerning the change of the Sabbath:
“When, why, and by whom was the day of rest changed from the seventh to the first? Has the Christian Sabbath been observed since the time of the apostles? Reader.
“Answer—The Sabbath was changed from the seventh to the first day of the week, not by any positive authority, but by a gradual process. Christ was in the tomb during the seventh day. He rose upon the first. The Christians naturally observed the first day as a festal day in the early church, and as gradually the Gentile Christians came to be the vast majority of the church, they cared little or nothing about Jewish observances of any kind, and abandoned the Jewish Sabbath along with temple services and the like, and thus, by a natural process, the first day of the week came to take its place.”
We make these quotations, not for any proof that the seventh day is the Sabbath, but that the reader may see the positions which intelligent persons are taking upon this subject. The high, puritanical claims concerning the change of the Sabbath by Christ and his apostles, basing it upon the fourth commandment, and seeking to sustain it by the authority of the Bible, are being abandoned by many well informed persons. They see it cannot be maintained, for to do so they are compelled to place it upon the Catholic ground of “custom and tradition,” and the “authority of the church.” It will be noticed that the extracts already given in this pamphlet virtually place it there. It was a “gradual process;” it first began as a “festal day;” it grew tip by a “natural process;” the “Gentile Christians” “abandoned the Jewish Sabbath” when they came to be the vast majority of the church;” and so Sunday at last came to be observed as the Sabbath day by the Catholic Church, from whence the whole Protestant world has received it.
Well, this expresses as nearly the truth in the matter as we could reasonably expect from the eminent Protestant journal from which these expressions are quoted. It well knows that Sunday has no divine authority for its sanctity; if it had, it would certainly give it. Our readers who have traced this argument through, have found therein plenty of evidence that this “natural process” of the Christian Union was never secured until emperors, popes, and councils had used their utmost authority to force the Sunday Sabbath upon the people. That men were placed under a curse, and sometimes whipped, fined, and imprisoned, yes, and the inquisition with its tortures was resorted to, and some were burned at the stake, before the “natural process” was fully consummated, and the Sunday of “pope and pagan” fully recognized as a sacred institution.
We have now traced the process of changing the Sabbath from the seventh to the first day of the week, from the apostolic age, when it was ever regarded as merely a secular day; through the second century, when it began to be regarded, with Good Friday and other days, as a “voluntary festival” on which religious meetings were held, and to which some little honor was paid by Christians, seeing that it was generally regarded among their heathen neighbors as a weekly festival day in honor of the sun.
In the third century “custom and tradition,” and the efforts of the bishop of Rome and his sympathizers, exalted Sunday still higher, and lowered the Sabbath in public estimation, by turning the latter into a fast and the former into a joyous festival. They had also by this time begun calling it by the honorable title of “Lord’s Day,” for which there is no warrant in Scripture.
The process went on still more rapidly during the fourth century, inasmuch as heathenism and Christianity at this time espoused each other in unholy wedlock. Then Constantine, a heathen emperor, issued a heathen decree making the “venerable day of the sun” a rest day by imperial power, which Sylvester, bishop of Rome, cunningly sanctioned and enforced as a Christian institution, by the power of the Catholic Church. And after a season the Catholic Council of Laodicea placed the observance of the true Sabbath under a curse.
With the perseverance of a sleuth hound following his game, the Roman Church still pursued its work of suppressing the Sabbath during the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, and following centuries, and elevating the Sunday in its place, by decrees of councils, curses of popes, crusades of extermination, tortures of the inquisition, lying miracles, and rolls said to come from heaven, but really originating in the pope’s palace. Wherever the papacy had the power, Sunday was established, and the Sabbath of the Lord condemned.
When the Reformation arose, its leaders, though men whom God honored by making them a blessing to the world, had through early training so lost the Sabbath from view, and had such a great work of reform on other points to carry through under the greatest difficulties, that many of them did not embrace the Sabbath in their work of reform, though they attributed very little sacredness to Sunday, plainly stating that it stood on a level with such festivals as Easter, Christmas, Good Friday, and other church holidays.
Later, the Presbyterians took the positions held by our Protestant churches generally at the present time, of trying to place the Sunday under the protecting cover of the fourth commandment, and of Christ and the apostles, positions never taught during the previous sixteen hundred years. This late invention to cover a hoary fraud is now very popular with many.
We have seen that various bodies of Christians in different parts of the world not under the domineering influence of the papal see, still continued to keep the ancient Sabbath long after the Catholic Church had changed it. But that church never neglected, in a single instance, to abolish its observance by persecution wherever it had the power to do so.
We have examined many Catholic authors relative to this change, and they always agree that it was their church which changed the Sabbath. They present this fact as one of the greatest claims of this church to popular regard, and as the highest evidence of its ecclesiastical authority over all Protestant bodies. And intelligent Protestant authorities, with every reason for a bias in favor of Sunday, admit that its introduction was a gradual process, first as a festal day, then gradually coming into favor as a rest day, but with no higher authority than the Catholic Church.
With a brief notice of several texts of Scripture speaking prophetically of this very change, and some general observations, we will close this treatise.