17. Finishing the Reformation
THE Reformers of the sixteenth century had done much to bring people back to the primitive Christianity of apostolic times. While they did not live long enough to see their work fully carried through, they had laid a deep and broad foundation for their children to build upon; namely, faith in “the Bible, and the Bible only.” They expected their followers to carry their work through to a triumphant conclusion. But after the death of the Reformers, the Jesuits nearly wrecked the work of the Reformation, and some of the Protestant countries formed state churches to protect themselves from utter annihilation.
The popes and the Jesuits worked incessantly in conjunction with the bishops and the heads of the larger Catholic states to force the smaller Protestant countries back under the papal rule. This compelled Protestant princes to make common cause and stand together to save the day, as was the case in the Thirty Years’ War.
After the worst storm had blown over,
the Protestant churches found themselves under the protection and control of
the state. They were no longer free to accept more light, and to progress along
the way they originally had started. The state now dictated what they should
believe and teach, who should be taken into church fellowship, and who should
be their leaders. Their growth was stunted, their spiritual life stifled.
Instead of progressing along the line of reform, they retrograded and gave up
several of the points of truth held by the Reformers. This was especially true
during the period of Rationalism in
It is a remarkable and fascinating study to see how God offered one religious denomination after another the privilege of carrying the Reformation to a finish, and how they, one by one, rejected God’s plan.
God is no respecter of persons; He will
use everyone who allows himself to be used by Him. In the seventeenth century
He brought the Church of England face to face with the troublesome Sabbath
question, but they declined the opportunity of becoming His chosen instrument
to complete the Reformation on this and other important points, and many books
were written in
“Upon the publication of the ‘Book of
Sports’ in 1618, a violent controversy arose among English divines on two points:
first, whether the Sabbath of the fourth commandment was in force among
Christians; and, secondly, whether, and on what ground, the first day of the
week was entitled to be distinguished and observed as ‘the Sabbath.” ‘Haydn’s
Dictionary of Dates’, art. “Sabbatarians” p. 602.
Leaders of the church found themselves divided into three camps: One party claimed that Sunday is the “Christian Sabbath” and, from the fourth commandment, urged its observance in a Puritanical manner. Another party claimed that there is no Bible proof for the change of the Sabbath from the seventh day of the week to the first, but that Sunday is merely a church ordinance, the same as Christmas and Page 106 Easter, and that we should obey the ordinances of the church, but without Puritanical rigor. A third, small minority, through this discussion, began to see that the only Sabbath in the New Testament is the one Christ and His apostles kept, and they began to teach and to write in favour of the seventh day (Saturday). Thus the Church of England had its call, and was forced to make its decision.
The English divines who began the
observance of the seventh-day Sabbath in
A series of articles appeared in the
organ of the Swedish Baptist church, Evangelisten (The Evangelist),
“In opposition to this doctrine we will
now endeavour to show that the sanctification of the Sabbath has its foundation
and its origin in a law which God at creation itself established for the whole
world, and as a consequence thereof is binding on all men in all ages.” -
“Thus we find that the Sabbath
commandment is placed side by side with the other eternally binding commands,
which God has given as a rule and guide for the whole human race. Therefore, he
who will maintain that the Sabbath commandment is only a ceremonial command,
and so binding only for a certain time, can with equal right explain all the
other of the ten commandments as ceremonial commands, with which we have
nothing to do in the new covenant.” -
This agitation was not without its effect. Pastor M. A. Sommer began observing the seventh day, and wrote in his church paper, Indovet Kristendom, No. 5, 1875, an impressive article about the true Sabbath. In a letter to Elder John G. Matteson, he says:
“Among the Baptists here in
“The Confession of Faith,” which the
Danish Baptists received from
“‘Art. 12. Concerning the Law. Here is
emphasized the absolute and eternal validity of the Jewish law, especially the Ten
Commandments. And by this is inculcated the sanctification of the Sabbath
(Sunday).’ What the brethren, who wrote the Confession of faith had in mind,
was the violation of the Lord’s day, and they did not realize that they shot
over the mark. But when the Adventists came, they took advantage precisely of
this article; it was namely an easy matter for them to point out, that ‘the
Sabbath day’ was Saturday, and not Sunday. This brought the leading brethren to
a real investigation of this matter, and when they met at the Conference in
1878 it had become clear to them . . . that we Christians have nothing to do
with the Jewish law, and that we should keep Sunday as a day of rest, because
the first Christians did so, and not because of the Sabbath commandment.’ - “History
of the Danish Baptists,” S. Hansen and P. Olsen, pp. 162,163.
In their new “Handbook” by W. J. Anderson (1903) there is no mention of the Ten Commandments, nor of the moral law. Thus they had made their decision.
On the other hand the American “Baptist Church Manual,” by J. Newton Brown, 1853, and the “Star Book” by Dr. Edward Hiscox, both of whom wrote in representatives of Sunday-keeping denominations, have the following statement concerning the moral law, or the Ten Commandments:
“We believe the Scriptures teach that
the Law of God is the eternal and unchangeable rule of His moral government;
that it is holy, just, and good; and that the inability which the Scriptures
ascribe to fallen men to fulfill its precepts, arises entirely from their
sinful nature; to deliver them from which, and to restore them through a
Mediator to unfeigned obedience to the holy law, is one great end of the gospel,
and of the means of grace connected with the establishment of the visible
church.” - “Manual,” p. 15, and “Star Book,” p. 18.
Thus we see that God, who is no respecter of persons, offered to the different denominations the honor and privilege of finishing the work so nobly begun by the great Protestant Reformers, that of digging up the precious truths of God’s Word, which the Papacy had buried beneath it’s traditions for so many centuries. Daniel , . This effort of God to bring His people back to the whole truth of His Word, will be seen more clearly in the next two chapters.