THE SABBATH DURING THE MINISTRY OF THE APOSTLES
The knowledge of God preserved in the family of Abraham - The call of the Gentiles - The new covenant puts the law of God into the heart of each Christian - The new covenant has a temple in Heaven; and an ark containing the great original of that law which was in the ark upon earth - And before that ark a priest whose offering can take away sin - The Old and New Testaments compared - The human family in all ages amenable to the law of God - The good olive tree shows the intimate relation between the church of the New Testament and the Hebrew church - The apostolic church observed the Sabbath - Examination of Acts 13 - The assembly of the apostles at Jerusalem - Sabbatarian origin of the church at Philippi - Of the church of the Thessalonians - Of the church of Corinth - The churches in Judea and in many cases among the Gentiles began with Sabbath-keepers - Examination of 1Cor.16:1,2 - Self-contradiction of Dr. Edwards - Paul at Troas - Examination of Rom.14:1-6 - Flight of the disciples from Judea - The Sabbath of the Bible at the close of the first century.
We have now traced the Sabbath through the period of its especial connection with the family of Abraham. The termination of the seventy weeks brings us to the call of the Gentiles, and to their admission to equal privileges with the Hebrew race. We have seen that with God there was no injustice in conferring especial blessings upon the Hebrews, and at the same time leaving the Gentiles to their own chosen ways.1 Twice had he given the human family, as a while, the most ample means of grace that their age of the world admitted, and each time did it result in the almost total apostasy of mankind. Then God selected as his heritage the family of Abraham, his friend; and by means of that family preserved in the earth the knowledge of his law, his Sabbath, and himself, until the coming of the great Messiah. During his ministry, the Messiah solemnly affirmed the perpetuity of his Father's law, enjoining obedience, even to its least commandment;2 at his death he broke down that middle wall of partition3 by which the Hebrews had so long been preserved a separate people in the earth; and when about to ascend into Heaven commanded his disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature; teaching them to observe all things which he had commanded them.4 With the expiration of the seventieth week, the apostles enter upon the execution of this great commission to the Gentiles.5 Several facts of deep interest should here be noticed:
1. The new covenant or testament dates from the death of the Redeemer. In accordance with the prediction of Jeremiah, it began with the Hebrews alone, and was confined exclusively to them until the expiration of the seventieth week. Then the Gentiles were admitted to a full participation with the Hebrews in its blessings, being no longer aliens and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints.6 God entered into covenant this time with his people as individuals and not as a nation. The promises of this covenant embrace two points of great interest: (1) That God will put his law into the hearts of his people. (2) That he will forgive their sins. These promises being made six hundred years before the birth of Christ, there can be no question relative to what was meant by the law of God. It was the law of God then in existence that should be put into the heart of each new-covenant saint. The new covenant, then, is based upon the perpetuity of the law of God; it does not abrogate that law, but takes away sin, the transgression of the law, from the heart, and puts the law of God in its place.7 The perpetuity of each precept of the moral law lies, therefore, at the very foundation of the new covenant.
2. As the first covenant had a sanctuary, and within that sanctuary an ark containing the law of God in ten commandments,8 and had also a priesthood to minister before that ark, to make atonement for the sins of men,9 even thus is it with the new covenant. Instead of the tabernacle erected by Moses as the pattern of the true, the new covenant has the greater and more perfect tabernacle, which the Lord pitched and not man - the temple of God in Heaven.10 As the great central point in the earthly sanctuary was the ark containing that law which man had broken, even thus it is with the heavenly sanctuary. "The temple of God was opened in Heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament."11 Our Lord Jesus Christ as a great High Priest presents his own blood before the ark of God's testament in the temple in Heaven. Respecting this object before which he ministers, let the following points be noted:
We are thus brought to the conclusion that the law of God contained in the ark in Heaven is identical with that law which was contained in the ark upon the earth; and that both are identical with that law which the new covenant puts in the heart of each believer.19 The Old Testament, therefore, gives us the law of God and pronounces it perfect; it also provides a typical atonement, but pronounces it inadequate to take away sins.20 Hence what was needed was not a new edition of the law of God; for that which was given already was perfect; but a real atonement to take away the guilt of the transgressor. So the New Testament responds precisely to this want, providing a real atonement in the death and intercession of the Redeemer, but giving no new edition of the law of God,21 though it fails not to cite us to the perfect code given long before. But although the New Testament does not give a new edition of the law of God, it does show that the Christian dispensation has the great original of that law in the sanctuary in Heaven.
9. We have seen that the new covenant places the law of God in the heart of each believer, and that the original of that law is preserved in the temple in Heaven. That all mankind are amenable to the law of God, and that they ever have been, is clearly shown by Paul's epistle to the Romans. In the first chapter, he traces the origin of idolatry to the willful apostasy of the Gentiles, which took place soon after the flood. In the second chapter, he shows that although God gave them up to their own ways, and as a consequence left them without his written law, yet they were not left in utter darkness; for they had by nature the work of the law written in their hearts; and dim as was this light, their salvation would be secured by living up to it, or their ruin accomplished by sinning against it. In the third chapter, he shows what advantage the family of Abraham had in being taken as the heritage of God, while all other nations were left to their own ways. It was that the oracles of God, the written law, was given them in addition to that work of the law written in the heart, which they had by nature in common with the Gentiles. He then shows that they were no better than the Gentiles, because that both classes were transgressors of the law. This he proves by quotations from the Old Testament. Then he shows that the law of God has jurisdiction over all mankind:
He then shows that the law cannot save the guilty, but must condemn them, and that justly. Next, he reveals the great fact that redemption through the death of Jesus is the only means by which God can justify those who seek pardon, and at the same time remain just himself. And finally he exclaims:
It follows, herefore, that the law of God is unabolished; that the sentence of condemnation which it pronounces upon the guilty is as extensive as is the offer of pardon through the gospel; that its work exists in the hearts of men by nature; from which we may conclude that man in his uprightness possessed it in perfection, as is further proved by the fact that the new covenant, after delivering men from the condemnation of the law of God, puts that law perfectly into their hearts. From all of which it follows that the law of God is the great standard by which sin is shown,24 and hence the rule of life, by which all mankind, both Jews and Gentiles, should walk.
That the church in the present dispensation is really a continuation of the ancient Hebrew church, is shown by the illustration of the good olive tree. That ancient church was God's olive tree, and that olive tree has never been destroyed.25 Because of unbelief, some of its branches were broken off; but the proclamation of the gospel to the Gentiles does not create a new olive tree; it only grafts into the good olive tree such of the Gentiles as believe; giving them a place among the original branches, that with them they may partake of its root and fatness. This olive tree must date from the call of Abraham after the apostasy of the Gentiles; its trunk representing the patriarchs, beginning with the father of the faithful;26 its branches, the Hebrew people. The ingrafting of the wild olive into the place of those branches which were broken off, represents the admission of the Gentiles to equal privileges with the Hebrews after the expiration of the seventy weeks. The Old-Testament church, the original olive tree, was a kingdom of priests and an holy nation; the New-Testament church, the olive tree after the ingrafting of the Gentiles, is described in the same terms.27
When God gave up the Gentiles to apostasy before the call of Abraham, he confounded their language, that they should not understand one another, and thus scattered them abroad upon the face of the earth. Standing over against this is the gift of tongues on the day of Pentecost, preparatory to the call of the Gentiles, and their ingrafting into the good olive tree.28
We have followed the Sabbath to the call of the Gentiles, and the opening events of the gospel dispensation. We find the law of God, of which the Sabbath is a part, to be that which made our Lord's death as an atoning sacrifice necessary; and that the great original is in the ark above, before which our Lord ministers as high priest; while a copy of that law is by the new covenant written within the heart of each believer. It is seen, therefore, that the law of God is more intimately connected with the people of God since the death of the Redeemer than before that event.
That the apostolic church did sacredly regard the Sabbath, as well as all the other precepts of the moral law, admits of no doubt. The fact is proved, not merely because the early Christians were not accused of its violation by their most inveterate enemies; nor wholly by the fact that they held sin to be the transgression of the law, and that the law was the great standard by which sin is shown, and that by which sin becomes exceeding sinful.29 These points are certainly very decisive evidence that the apostolic church did keep the fourth commandment. The testimony of James relative to the ten commandments, that he who violates one of them becomes guilty of all, is yet another strong evidence that the primitive church did sacredly regard the whole law of God.30 But besides these facts we have a peculiar guaranty that the Sabbath of the Lord was not forgotten by the apostolic church. The prayer which our Lord taught his disciples, that their flight from Judea should not be upon the Sabbath was, as we have seen, designed to impress its sacredness deeply upon their minds, and could not but have secured that result.31 In the history of the primitive church we have several important references to the Sabbath. The first of these is as follows:
By invitation of the rulers of the synagogue, Paul delivered an extended address, proving that Jesus was the Christ. In the course of these remarks he used the following language:
When Paul's discourse was concluded, we read:
These texts show, 1. That by the term Sabbath in the book of Acts is meant that day on which the Jewish people assembled in the synagogue to listen to the voices of the prophets. 2. That as this discourse was fourteen years after the resurrection of Christ, and the record of it by Luke was some thirty years after that event, it follows that the alleged change of the Sabbath at the resurrection of Christ had not, even after many years, come to the knowledge of either Luke or Paul. 3. That here was a remarkable opportunity to mention the change of the Sabbath, had it been true that the Sabbath had been changed in honor of Christ's resurrection. For when Paul was asked to preach the same words the next Sabbath, he might have answered that the following day was now the proper day for divine worship. And Luke, in placing this incident upon record, could not well avoid the mention of this new day, had it been true that another day had become the Sabbath of the Lord. 4. That as this second meeting pertained almost wholly to Gentiles, it cannot be said in this case that Paul preached upon the Sabbath out of regard to the Jews. On the contrary, the narrative strongly indicates Paul's regard for the Sabbath as the proper day for divine worship. 5. Nor can it be denied that the Sabbath was well understood by the Gentiles in this city, and that they had some degree of regard for it, a fact which will be corroborated by other texts.
Several years after these things, the apostles assembled at Jerusalem to consider the question of circumcision."36 "Certain men which came down from Judea," finding the Gentiles uncircumcised, had "taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses ye cannot be saved." Had they found the Gentiles neglecting the Sabbath, unquestionably this would have first called out their rebuke. It is indeed worthy of notice that no dispute at this time existed in the church relative to the observance of the Sabbath; for none was brought before this apostolic assembly. Yet had it been true that the change of the Sabbath was then advocated, or that Paul had taught the Gentiles to neglect the Sabbath, without doubt those who brought up the question of circumcision would have urged that of the Sabbath with even greater earnestness. That the law of Moses, the observance of which was under discussion in this assembly, is not the ten commandments, is evident from several decisive facts. 1. Because that Peter calls the code under consideration a yoke which neither their fathers nor themselves were able to bear. But James expressly calls that royal law, which, on his own showing, embodies the ten commandments, a law of liberty. 2. Because that this assembly did decide against the authority of the law of Moses; and yet James, who was a member of this body, did some years afterward solemnly enjoin obedience to the commandments, affirming that he who violated one was guilty of all.37 3. Because the chief feature in the law of Moses as here presented was circumcision.38 But circumcision was not in the ten commandments; and were it true that the law of Moses includes these commandments, circumcision would not in that case be a chief feature of that law. 4. Finally, because that the precepts still declared obligatory are not properly either of the ten commandments. These were, first, the prohibition of meats offered to idols; second, of blood; third, of things strangled; and fourth, of fornication.39 Each of these precepts may be often found in the books of Moses,40 and the first and last ones come under the second and seventh commandments respectively; but neither of these cover but a part of that which is forbidden in either commandment. It is evident, therefore, that the authority of the ten commandments was not under consideration in this assembly, and that the decision of that assembly had no relation to those precepts. For otherwise the apostles released the Gentiles from all obligation to eight of the ten commandments, and from the greater prohibitions contained in the other two.
It is evident that those greatly err who represent the Gentiles as released from the obligation of the Sabbath by this assembly. The question did not come before the apostles on this occasion; a strong proof that the Gentiles had not been taught to neglect the Sabbath, as they had to omit circumcision, which was the occasion of its being brought before the apostles at Jerusalem. Yet the Sabbath was referred to in this very assembly as an existing institution, and that, too, in connection with the Gentile Christians. Thus when James pronounced sentence upon the question, he used the following language:
This last fact is given by James as a reason for the course proposed toward the brethren among the Gentiles. "For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath day." From this it is apparent that the ancient custom of divine worship upon the Sabbath was not only preserved by the Jewish people and carried with them into every city of the Gentiles, but that the Gentile Christians did attend these meetings. Otherwise the reason assigned by James would lose all its force, as having no application to this case. That they did attend them strongly attests the Sabbath as the day of divine worship with the Gentile churches.
That the ancient Sabbath of the Lord had neither been abrogated nor changed prior to this meeting of the apostles, is strongly attested by the nature of the dispute here adjusted. And the close of their assembly beheld the Bible Sabbath still sacredly enthroned within the citadel of the fourth commandment. After this, in a vision of the night, Paul was called to visit Macedonia. In obedience to this call he came to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia. Thus Luke records the visit:
This does not appear to have been a gathering of Jews, but of Gentiles, who, like Cornelius, were worshipers of the true God. Thus it is seen that the church of the Philippians originated with a pious assembly of Sabbath-keeping Gentiles. And it is likely that Lydia and those employed by her in business, who were evidently observers of the Sabbath, were the means of introducing the gospel into their own city of Thyatira.
Such was the origin of the Thessalonian church. That it was an assembly of Sabbath-keepers at its beginning admits of no doubt. For besides the few Jews who received the gospel through the labors of Paul, there was a great multitude of devout Greeks; that is, of Gentiles who had united themselves with the Jews in the worship of God upon the Sabbath. We have a strong proof of the fact that they continued to observe the Sabbath after their reception of the gospel in the following words of Paul addressed to them as a church of Christ:
The churches in Judea, as we have seen, were observers of the Sabbath of the Lord. The first Thessalonian converts, before they received the gospel, were Sabbath-keepers, and when they became a Christian church they adopted the churches in Judea as their proper examples. And this church was adopted as an example of the churches of Macedonia and Achaia. In this number were included the churches of Philippi and of Corinth. Thus writes Paul:
After these things, Paul came to Corinth. Here, he first found Aquila and Priscilla.
At this place also Paul found Gentiles as well as Jews in attendance upon the worship of God on the Sabbath. The first members of the church at Corinth were therefore observers of the Sabbath at the time when they received the gospel; and, as we have seen, they adopted as their pattern the Sabbath-keeping church of Thessalonica, who in turn patterned after the churches in Judea.
The first churches were founded in the land of Judea. All their members had from childhood been familiar with the law of God, and well understood the precept, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." Besides this precept, all these churches had a peculiar memento of the Sabbath. They knew from our Lord himself that the time was coming when they must all suddenly flee from that land. And in view of this fact, they were to pray that the moment of their sudden flight might not be upon the Sabbath; a prayer which was designed, as we have seen, to preserve the sacredness of the Sabbath. That the churches in Judea were composed of Sabbath-keeping members, admits therefore of no doubt.
Of the churches founded outside the land of Judea, whose origin is given in the book of Acts, nearly all began with Jewish converts. These were Sabbath-keepers when they received the gospel. Among these, the Gentile converts were engrafted. And it is worthy of notice that in a large number of cases, those Gentiles are termed "devout Greeks," "religious proselytes," persons that "worshiped God," that feared God and that "prayed to God alway."48 These Gentiles, at the time of their conversion to the gospel, were, as we have seen, worshipers of God upon the Sabbath with the Jewish people. When James had proposed the kind of letter that should be addressed by the apostles to the Gentile converts, he assigned a reason for its adoption, the force of which can now be appreciated: "For Moses," said he, "of old time hath in EVERY CITY them that preach him, being read in the synagogue every Sabbath day." The Sabbatarian character of the apostolic churches is thus clearly shown.
In a letter addressed to the Corinthians, about five years after they had received the gospel, Paul is supposed to contribute a fifth pillar to the first-day temple. Thus he wrote them:
From this text it is argued in behalf of the first-day Sabbath, 1. That this was a public collection. 2. That hence the first day of the week was the day of public worship in the churches of Corinth and Galatia. 3. And therefore that the Sabbath had been changed to that day. Thus the change of the Sabbath is inferred from the public assemblies for divine worship on the first day at Corinth and Galatia; and the existence of these assemblies on that day is inferred from the words of Paul, "Upon the first day of the week, let every one of you lay by him in store."
What, then, do these words ordain? But one answer can be returned: They ordain precisely the reverse of a public collection. Each one should lay by himself on each first day of the week according as God had prospered him, that when Paul should arrive, they might have their bounty ready. Mr. J. W. Morton, late Presbyterian missionary to Haiti, bears the following testimony:
Dr. Bloomfield thus comments on the original: "par eanto, `by him.' French, chez lui, `at home.' "51
The Douay Bible reads: "Let every one of you put apart with himself." Mr. Sawyer thus translates: "Let each one of you lay aside by himself." Theodore Beza's Latin version has it: "Apud se," i.e., at home. The Syriac reads thus: "Let everyone of you lay aside and preserve at home."
It is true that an eminent first-day writer, Justin Edwards, D.D., in a labored effort to prove the change of the Sabbath, brings forward this text to show that Sunday was the day of religious worship with the early church. Thus he says:
Such is his language as a theologian upon whom has fallen the difficult task of proving the change of the Sabbath by the authority of the Scriptures. But in his Notes on the New Testament, in which he feels at liberty to speak the truth, he thus squarely contradicts his own language already quoted. Thus he comments on this text:
Thus even Dr. Edwards confesses that the idea of a public collection is not found in this scripture. On the contrary, it appears that each individual, in obedience to this precept, would, at the opening of each new week, be found AT HOME laying aside something for the cause of God, according as his worldly affairs would warrant. The change of the Sabbath, as proved by this text, rests wholly upon an idea which Dr. Edwards confesses is not found in it. We have seen that the church at Corinth was a Sabbath-keeping church. It is evident that the change of the Sabbath could never have been suggested to them by this text.
This is the only scripture in which Paul even mentions the first day of the week. It was written nearly thirty years after the alleged change of the Sabbath. Yet Paul omits all titles of sacredness, simply designating it as first day of the week; a name to which it was entitled as one of "the six working days."54 It is also worthy of notice that this is the only precept in the Bible in which the first day is even named; and that this precept says nothing relative to the sacredness of the day to which it pertains; even the duty which it enjoins being more appropriate to a secular than to a sacred day.
Soon after writing his first epistle to the Corinthians, Paul visited Troas. In the record of this visit occurs the last instance in which the first day of the week is mentioned in the New Testament:
This scripture is supposed to furnish a sixth pillar for the first-day temple. The argument may be concisely stated thus: this testimony shows that the first day of the week was appropriated by the apostolic church to meetings for the breaking of bread in honor of Christ's resurrection upon that day; from which it is reasonable to conclude that this day had become the Christian Sabbath.
If this proposition could be established as an undoubted truth, the change of the Sabbath would not follow as a necessary conclusion;it would even then amount only to a plausible conjecture. The following facts will aid us in judging of the truthfulness of this argument for the change of the Sabbath.
1. That this is the only instance of a religious meeting upon the first day of the week recorded in the New Testament.
2. That no stress can be laid upon the expression, "when the disciples came together," as proving that meetings for the purpose of breaking bread were held on each first day of the week; for there is nothing in the original answering to the word "when;" the whole phrase being translated from three words, the perfect passive participle sunegmenon, "being assembled," and ton matheton, "the disciples;" the sacred writer simply stating the gathering of the disciples on this occasion.57
3. That the ordinance of breaking bread was not appointed to commemorate the resurrection of Christ, but to keep in memory his death upon the cross.58 The act of breaking bread therefore upon the first day of the week, is not a commemoration of Christ's resurrection.
4. That as the breaking of bread commemorates our Lord's crucifixion, and was instituted on the evening with which the crucifixion day began, on which occasion Jesus himself and all the apostles were present,59 it is evident that the day of the crucifixion presents greater claims to the celebration of this ordinance than does the day of the resurrection.
5. But as our Lord designated no day for this ordinance, and as the apostolic church at Jerusalem are recorded to have celebrated it daily,60 it is evidently presumption to argue the change of the Sabbath from a single instance of its celebration upon the first day of the week.
6. That this instance of breaking bread upon first-day, was with evident reference to the immediate and final departure of Paul.
7. For it is a remarkable fact that this, the only instance of a religious meeting on the first day recorded in the New Testament, was a night meeting. This is proved by the fact that many lights were burning in that assembly, and that Paul preached till midnight.
8. And from this fact follows the important consequence that this first-day meeting was upon Saturday night.61 For the days of the week being reckoned from evening to evening, and evening being at sunset,62 it is seen that the first day of the week begins Saturday night at sunset, and ends at sunset on Sunday. A night meeting, therefore, upon the first day of the week could be only upon Saturday night.
9. Paul therefore preached until midnight of Saturday night - for the disciples held a night meeting at the close of the Sabbath, because he was to leave in the morning - then being interrupted by the fall of the young man, he went down and healed him, then went up and attended to the breaking of bread; and at break of day, on Sunday morning, he departed.
10. Thus are we furnished with conclusive evidence that Paul and his companions resumed their journey toward Jerusalem on the morning of the first day of the week; they taking ship to Assos, and he being pleased to go on foot. This fact is an incidental proof of Paul's regard for the Sabbath, in that he waited till it was past before resuming his journey; and it is a positive proof that he knew nothing of what in modern times is called the Christian Sabbath.
11. This narrative was written by Luke at least thirty years after the alleged change of the Sabbath. It is worthy of note that Luke omits all titles of sacredness, simply designating the day in question as the first day of the week. This is in admirable keeping with the fact that in his gospel, when recording the very event which is said to have changed the Sabbath, he not only omits the slightest hint of that fact, but designates the day itself by its secular title of first day of the week, and at the same time designates the previous day as the Sabbath according to the commandment.63
The same year that Paul visited Troas, he wrote as follows to the church at Rome:
These words have often been quoted to show that the observance of the fourth commandment is now a matter of indifference; each individual being at liberty to act his pleasure in the matter. So extraordinary a doctrine should be thoroughly tested before being adopted. For as it pleased God to ordain the Sabbath before the fall of man, and to give it a place in his code of ten commandments, thus making it a part of that law to which the great atonement relates; and as the Lord Jesus, during his ministry, spent much time in explaining its merciful design, and took care to provide against its desecration at the flight of his people from the land of Judea, which was ten years in the future when these words were written by Paul; and as the fourth commandment itself is expressly recognized after the crucifixion of Christ; if, under these circumstances, we could suppose it to be consistent with truth that the Most High should abrogate the Sabbath, we certainly should expect that aggregation to be stated in explicit language. Yet neither the Sabbath nor the fourth commandment are here named. That they are not referred to in this language of Paul, the following reasons will show:
1. Such a view would make the observance of one of the ten commandments a matter of indifference; whereas James shows that to violate one of them is to transgress the whole.65
2. It directly contradicts what Paul had previously written in this epistle; for in treating of the law of ten commandments, he styles it holy, spiritual, just, and good; and states that sin-the transgression of the law-by the commandment becomes "EXCEEDING SINFUL."66
3. Because that Paul in the same epistle affirms the perpetuity of that law which caused our Lord to lay down his life for sinful men;67 which we have seen before was the ten commandments.
4. Because that Paul in this case not only did not name the Sabbath and the fourth commandment, but certainly was not treating of the moral law.
5. Because that the topic under consideration which leads him to speak as he does of the days in question was that of eating all kinds of food, or of refraining from certain things.
6. Because that the fourth commandment did not stand associated with precepts of such a kind, but with moral laws exclusively.68
7. Because that in the ceremonial law, associated with the precepts concerning meats, was a large number of festivals, entirely distinct from the sabbath of the Lord.69
8. Because that the church of Rome, which began probably with those Jews that were present from Rome on the day of Pentecost, had many Jewish members in its communion, as may be gathered from the epistle itself;70 and would therefore be deeply interested in the decision of this question relative to the ceremonial law; the Jewish members feeling conscientious in observing its distinctions, the Gentile members feeling no such scruples: hence the admirable counsel of Paul exactly meeting the case of both classes.
9. Nor can the expression, "every day," be claimed as decisive proof that the Sabbath of the Lord is included. At the very time when the Sabbath was formally committed to the Hebrews, just such expressions were used, although only the six working days were intended. Thus it was said: "The people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day;" and the narrative says, "They gathered it every morning." Yet when some of them went out to gather on the Sabbath, God says, "How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws?"71 The Sabbath being a great truth, plainly stated and many times repeated, it is manifest that Paul, in the expression, "every day," speaks of the six working days, among which a distinction had existed precisely coeval with that respecting meats; and that he manifestly excepts that day which from the beginning God had reserved unto himself. Just as when Paul quotes and applies to Jesus the words of David, "All things are put under him," he adds: "It is manifest that he is excepted which did put all things under him."72
10. And lastly, in the words of John, "I was in the Spirit on the Lords day,"73 written many years after this epistle of Paul, we have an absolute proof that in the gospel dispensation one day is still claimed be the Most High as his own.74
About ten years after this epistle was written, occurred the memorable flight of all the people of God that were in the land of Judea. It was not in the winter; for it occurred just after the feast of tabernacles, some time in October. And it was not upon the Sabbath; for Josephus, who speaks of the sudden withdrawal of the Roman army after it had, by encompassing the city, given the very signal for flight which our Lord promised his people, tells us that the Jews rushed out of the city in pursuit of the retreating Romans, which was at the very time when our Lord's injunction of instant flight became imperative upon the disciples. The historian does not intimate that the Jews thus pursued the Romans upon the Sabbath, although he carefully notes the fact that a few days previous to this event they did, in their rage, utterly forget the Sabbath and rush out to fight the Romans upon that day. These providential circumstances in the flight of the disciples being made dependent upon their asking such interposition at the hand of God, it is evident that the disciples did not forget the prayer which the Saviour taught them relative to this event; and that, as a consequence, the Sabbath of the Lord was not forgotten by them. And thus the Lord Jesus in his tender care for his people and in his watchful care in behalf of the Sabbath, showed that he was alike the Lord of his people and the Lord of the Sabbath.75
Twenty-six years after the destruction of Jerusalem, the book of Revelation was committed to the beloved disciple. It bears the following deeply interesting date as to place and time:
This book is dated in the isle of Patmos, and upon the Lord's day. The place, the day, and the individual, have each a real existence, and not merely a symbolical or mystical one. Thus John, almost at the close of the first century, and long after those texts were written which are now adduced to prove that no distinction in days exists, shows that the Lord's day has as real an existence, as has the isle of Patmos, or as had the beloved disciple himself.
What day, then, is intended by this designation?
Several answers have been returned to this question. 1. It is the gospel dispensation. 2. It is the day of Judgment. 3. It is the first day of the week. 4. It is the Sabbath of the Lord. The first answer cannot be the true one; for it not only renders the day a mystical term, but it involves the absurdity of representing John as writing to Christians sixty-five years after the death of Christ, that the vision which he had just had, was seen by him in the gospel dispensation; as though it were possible for them to be ignorant of the fact that if he had a vision at all he must have it in the existing dispensation.
Nor can the second answer be admitted as the truth. For while it is true that John might have a vision CONCERNING the day of Judgment, it is impossible that he should have a vision ON that day when it was yet future. If it be no more than an absurdity to represent John as dating his vision in the isle of Patmos, on the gospel dispensation, it becomes a positive untruth, if he is made to say that he was in vision at Patmos on the day of Judgment.
The third answer, that the Lord's day is the first day of the week, is now almost universally received as the truth. The text under examination is brought forward with an air of triumph as completing the temple of first-day sacredness, and proving beyond all doubt that that day is indeed the Christian Sabbath. Yet as we have examined this temple with peculiar carefulness, we have discovered that the foundation on which it rests is a thing of the imagination only; and that the pillars by which it is supported exist only in the minds of those who worship at its shrine. It remains to be seen whether the dome which is supposed to be furnished by this text is more real than the pillars on which it rests.
That the first day of the week has no claim to the title of Lord's day, the following facts will show:
1. That, as this text does not define the term Lord's day, we must look elsewhere in the Bible for the evidence that shows the first day to be entitled to such a designation.
2. That Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Paul, the other sacred writers who mention the day, use no other designation for it than first day of the week, a name to which it was entitled as one of the six working days. Yet three of these writers mention it at the very time when it is said to have become the Lord's day; and two of them mention it also some thirty years after that event.
3. That while it is claimed that the Spirit of inspiration, by simply leading John to use the term Lord's day, though he did in no wise connect the first day of the week therewith, did design to fix this as the proper title of the first day of the week, it is a remarkable fact that after John returned from the isle of Patmos he wrote his gospel;77 and in that gospel he twice mentioned the first day of the week; yet in each of these instances where it is certain that first-day is intended, no other designation is used than plain first day of the week. This is a most convincing proof that John did not regard the first day of the week as entitled to this name, or any other, expressive of sacredness.
4. What still further decides the point against the first day of the week is the fact that neither the Father nor the Son have ever claimed the first day in any higher sense than they have each of the six days given to man for labor.
5. And what completes the chain of evidence against the claim of first day to this title is the fact that the testimony adduced by first-day advocates to prove that it has been adopted by the Most High in place of that day which he once claimed as his, having been examined, is found to have no such meaning or intent. In setting aside the third answer, also, as not being in accordance with truth, the first day of the week may be properly dismissed with it, as having no claim to our regard as a scriptural institution.78
That the Lord's day is the Bible Sabbath, admits of clear and certain proof. The argument stands thus: When God gave to man six days of the week for labor, he did expressly reserve unto himself the seventh, on which he placed his blessing in memory of his own act of resting upon that day, and thence forward, through the Bible, has ever claimed it as his holy day. As he has never put away this sacred day and chosen another, the Sabbath of the Lord is still his holy day. These facts may be traced in the following scriptures. At the close of the Creator's rest, it is said:
After the children of Israel had reached the wilderness of Sin, Moses said to them on the sixth day:
In giving the ten commandments, the Law-giver thus stated his claim to this day:
He gives to man the six days on which himself had labored; he reserves as his own that day upon which he had rested from all his work. About eight hundred years after this, God spoke by Isaiah as follows:
This testimony is perfectly explicit; the Lord's day is the ancient Sabbath of the Bible. The Lord Jesus puts forth the following claim:
Thus, whether it be the Father or the Son whose title is involved, the only day that can be called "the Lord's day" is the Sabbath of the great Creator.84 And here, at the close of the Bible history of the Sabbath, two facts of deep interest are presented:
1. That John expressly recognizes the existence of the Lord's day at the very close of the first century.
2. That it pleased the Lord of the Sabbath to place a signal honor upon his own day in that he selected it as the one on which to give that revelation to John, which himself alone had been worthy to receive from the Father.
34 Dr. Bloomfield has the following note on this text: "The words, eis to metaxn sabb., are by many commentators supposed to mean `on some intermediate week-day.' But that is refuted by verse 44, and the sense expressed in our common version is, no doubt, the true one. It is adopted by the best recent commentators, and confirmed by the ancient versions." Greek Testament with English notes, vol. i. p. 521. And Prof. Hacket has a similar note. - Commentary on Acts, p. 233. <Return>
55 Prof. Hacket remarks on the length of this voyage: "The passage on the apostle's first journey to Europe occupied two days only; see chapter 16:11. Adverse winds or calms would be liable, at any season of the year, to occasion this variation." - Commentary on Acts, p. 329. This shows how little ground there is to claim that Paul broke the Sabbath on this voyage. There was ample time to reach Troas before the Sabbath when he started from Philippi, had not providential causes hindered. <Return>
61 This fact has been acknowledged by many first-day commentators. Thus Prof. Hacket comments upon this text: "The Jews reckoned the day from evening to morning, and on that principle the evening of the first day of the week would be our Saturday evening. It Luke reckoned so here, as many commentators suppose, the apostle then waited for the expiration of the Jewish Sabbath, and held his last religious service with the brethren at Troas, at the beginning of the Christian Sabbath, i.e., on Saturday evening, and consequently resumed his journey on Sunday morning." - Commentary on Acts, pp.329,330. But he endeavors to shield the first-day Sabbath from this fatal admission by suggesting that Luke probably reckoned time according to the pagan method, rather than by that which is ordained in the Scriptures! Kitto, in noting the fact that this was an evening meeting, speaks thus: "It has from this last circumstance been inferred that the assembly commenced after sunset on the Sabbath, at which hour the first day of the week had commenced, according to the Jewish reckoning [Jahn's Bibl. Antiq., sect. 398], which would hardly agree with the idea of a commemoration of the resurrection." - Clyclopedia of Biblical Literature, article, Lord's day. And Prynne, whose testimony relative to redemption as an argument for the change of the Sabbath has been already quoted, thus states this point: "Because the text saith there were many lights in the upper room where they were gathered together, and that Paul preached from the time of their coming together till midnight, . . . this meeting of the disciples at Troas, and Paul's preaching to them, began at evening. The sole doubt will be what evening this was. . . . For my own part I conceive clearly that it was upon Saturday night, as we falsely call it, and not the coming Sunday night. . . . Because St. Luke records that it was upon the first day of the week when this meeting was . . . therefore it must needs be on the Saturday, not on our Sunday evening, since the Sunday evening in St. Luke's and the Scripture account was no part of the first, but of the second day; the day ever beginning and ending at evening." Prynne notices the objection drawn from the phrase, "ready to depart on the morrow," as indicating that this departure was not on the same day of the week with his night meeting. The substance of his answer is this: If the fact be kept in mind that the days of the week are reckoned from evening to evening, the following texts, in which in the night, the morning is spoken of as the morrow, will show at once that another day of the week is not necessarily intended by the phrase in question. 1Sam.19:11; Esth.2:14;Zeph.3:3; Acts 23:31,32. - Diss. on Lord's Day Sab., pp.36-41, 1633. <Return>
74 To show that Paul regarded Sabbatic observance as dangerous, Gal.4:10, is often quoted; notwithstanding the same individuals claim that Rom.14 proves that it is a matter of perfect indifference; they not seeing that this is to make Paul contradict himself. But if the connection be read from verse 8 to verse 11, it will be seen that the Galatians before their conversion were not Jews, but heathen: and that these days, months, times, and years, were not those of the Levitical law, but those which they had regarded with superstitious reverence while heathen. Observe the stress which Paul lays upon the word "again," in verse 9. And how many that profess the religion of Christ at the present day superstitiously regard certain days as "lucky" or "unlucky days;" though such notions are derived only from heathen distinctions. <Return>
77 Dr. Bloomfield, though himself of a different opinion, speaks thus of the views of others concerning the date of John's gospel: "It has been the general sentiment, both of ancient and modern inquirers, that it was published about the close of the first century." - Greek Testament with English Notes, vol. i. p. 328. Morer says that John "penned his gospel two years later than the Apocalypse, and after his return from Patmos, as St. Augustine, St. Jerome, and Eusebius, affirm." - Dialogues on the Lord's Day, pp. 53, 54. The Paragraph Bible of the London Religious Tract Society, in its preface to the book of John, speaks thus: "According to the general testimony of ancient writers, John wrote his gospel at Ephesus, about the year 97." In support of the same view, see also Religious Encyclopedia, Barnes' Notes (gospel), Bible Dictionary, Cottage Bible, Domestic Bible, Mine Explored, Union Bible Dictionary, Comprehensive Bible, Dr. Hales, Horne, Nevins, Olshausen, &c. <Return>
78 The Encyclopedia Britannica, in its article concerning the Sabbath, undertakes to prove that the "religious observation of the first day of the week is of apostolical appointment." After citing and commenting upon all the passages that could be urged in proof of the point, it makes the following candid acknowledgment: "Still, however, it must be owned that these passages are not sufficient to prove the apostolical institution of the Lord's day, or even the actual observation of it." The absence of all scriptural testimony relative to the change of the Sabbath, is accounted for by certain advocates of that theory, not by the frank admission that it never was changed by the Lord, but by quoting John 21:25, assuming the change of the Sabbath as an undoubted truth, but that it was left out of the Bible lest it should make that book too large! They think, therefore, that we should go the Ecclesiastical history to learn this part of our duty; not seeing that, as the fourth commandment still stands in the Bible unrepealed and unchanged, to acknowledge that that change must be sustained wholly outside of the Bible, is to acknowledge that first-day observance is a tradition which makes void the commandment of God. The following chapters will, however, patiently examine the argument for first-day observance drawn from ecclesiastical history. <Return>
84 An able opponent of Sabbatic observance thus speaks relative to the term Lord's day of Rev.1:10: "If a current day was intended, the only day bearing this definition, in either the Old or New Testament, is Saturday, the seventh day of the week."- W. B. Taylor, in the Obligation of the Sabbath, p. 296. <Return>