THE CHRISTIAN SABBATH.
IN the preceeding number, we offered some remarks upon the preceding verses of the Psalm from which the above text is taken, in which we not only regarded the theme as predictive of the sufferings and triumphs of our Lord Jesus Christ, but also expressive of the experience of all the children of God, who have been delivered from the power of darkness, the bondage and works of the law, and finally brought experimentally into the enjoyment of the christian Sabbath, where they are enabled to rest from their own works, and rely alone upon the finished salvation of our God. That all the sabbatic seasons under the law, and especially the seventh day Sabbath, were typical of the gospel rest, is so fully, clearly, and emphatically settled by the inspired writer of the epistle to the Hebrews, that he must be but a very superficial reader who does not discover the end of the shadow, and the introduction of the substance, gospel rest. In Heb. iv. 4, the apostle speaks of the seventh day, in which God rested from his works, &c., and brings forward that rest, in connection with the oath of God, that the carnal unbelieving Israelites should not enter into it. Now it is very certain that the apostle did not intend to say, that the carnal Israelites were prohibited by the oath of God from observing the seventh day Sabbath as enjoined in the fourth commandment of the 1ecalogtie, as well as in many other special precepts given by Moses; for no such oath as that had been taken; and no penal laws which our legislatures can enact or enforce can mike the citizens of our states keep a seventh (lay, or a first day Sabbath with as much exactness as did the carnal Israelites the seventh day Sabbath which God enjoined upon them. But although the Jews kept the Jewish Sabbath according to law, they did not, nor could they enter into the Lord’s rest, because of unbelief. Unbelief was no impediment to their observing the seventh day as they were commanded; but in a state of unbelief, or in the absence of that faith of which Christ is the author and finisher, no man can enter into his rest. The Sabbath under the law was among the carnal ordinances, and belonged to a worldly sanctuary, [see Heb. iv. 1-11,] and it was therefore adapted to their carnal state. But that rest which remaineth, (after the withdrawing of the carnal ordinances) is spiritual, and no man having not the Spirit can enter into it. There is just as great difference between the Sabbath enjoined by the law on Israel, and the christian Sabbath, as that between a bleeding lamb offered upon the Jewish altars, and the Lamb of God, whom they prefigured; and yet it seems to be one of the most difficult lessons for professing christians to learn, that the gospel Sabbath is a spiritual anti-typical rest: designed not as a rest for the flesh, but for the spiritual creation. The idea of the seventh day Sabbath being continued, with the change only of the day from the seventh to the first, is perfectly preposterous, being sustained by about the same proof as that which can be brought for changing circumcision tor baptism, and baptism for infant or sprinkling, but no more. The same arguments which are brought for a perpetuation of the Sabbath as a legal institution on any day, first or seventh, would go just as far to prove the obligation of circumcision according to Moses’ law, or the continuance of the Jewish priesthood, periodical sacrifices, &c., as they can to establish new moons and Sabbath days. With the same propriety might we urge upon Gentile christians the observance of the feast of the Passover as any other of those abrogated Jewish rites.
But it is argued that the Sabbath day was incorporated with the moral precepts of the law of God, and therefore is, and must of necessity be alike binding on all rational beings, throughout all time. But if this argument proves anything it proves too much for those who use it, for if the law of the Sabbath was a moral law no circumstance nor period can change the manner or time of its observance. If it were binding by a moral precept let it be remembered that moral precepts can admit of no changes, and this argument, if valid, would establish a seventh day, but not a first day Sabbath. But are we not indebted to tradition for the notion that the ten commandments are the moral law of God? That there were precepts of a moral nature written on the tables of stone we have no disposition to deny; but that the circumstance of their being written there constituted them a moral law would imply that man was not, until the giving of the law in that form, under moral obligation to God. But the fact that death reigned from Adam to Moses, and until (or before) the law sin was in the world, fully establishes the doctrine that man was created under the law of God. The law which was given to Israel on tables of stone was given to them as a covenant in which they were distinguished from all other nations under heaven; and although there were embraced in the commandments obligations such as the Gentiles were under, yet in that particular or covenant form the ten commandments had only to do with Israel. Hence the Lord told Moses that it was a covenant which he would make with him and with the house of Israel; and it is referred to in the promise of a new covenant, that the new covenant should not be like that which he made with Israel in the day when he led them out of Egypt, &c.
Now, if there is a place in the bible where the observance of a Sabbath day is enjoined upon the Gentiles, or any Gentile, we have not been able to find it; and we will be greatly obliged to any person who will direct us to the chapter and verse. Or if it can be found we will be equally grateful for information where or when the Gentiles were ever charged with the sin of Sabbath breaking. We may as well look for charges against them for failing to be circumcised. But had the law of the Sabbath been a moral law it would have applied as well to Gentiles as to Jews. If it were moral it could not be typical or figurative. We not only find it given expressly as God’s sign between himself and the nation of Israel, to be observed by them throughout their generations, but by an apostle divinely and infallibly inspired by the Holy Ghost it is classed with holy days, new moons, meats, drinks, hand-writing of ordinances, &c. See Col. ii., where the apostle tells us not only that the Sabbath was a shadow, but that the substance or body of it was Christ. Then the seventh day Sabbath was not the shadow or type of a first day Sabbath., but of a real substance which is Christ. Nor are we left to grope in the dark as to the direct and immediate application, as we have before shown that the rest which heaven born souls find in Jesus Christ is the substance or body which is Christ.
In the application of this figure we see how perfectly it describes the gospel rest.
1. The typical Sabbath was given only to Israel, and to them in covenant form, arid to designate them as his peculiar people; so its anti-type is given exclusively to those who, being Christ’s, are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise; as the exclusive property of those who are the circumcision which worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
2. As the Sabbath was a part of God’s covenant to Israel, so the rest to which it pointed is a new covenant provision for a new covenant people.
3. As none but the legally circumcised tribes of Israel had anything to do with the type, so none but those who are Jews inwardly, whose circumcision is that of the heart, and whose praise is not of men but of God, can enter into this rest or anti-typical Sabbath.
4. As the keeping of the Jewish Sabbath required a strict abstinence from servile labor, so the gospel requires a perfect abstinence from all the works of the law as a ground of our justification before God.
5. As the Jewish Sabbath could not be kept on any other than the seventh day, or until the toil and labor of the six days was ended, so neither is it possible for the heirs of glory to enter into or enjoy the gospel rest until they are released from the bondage and dominion of the legal dispensation.
6. As the gathering of fuel, kindling of fires, thinking of one’s own thoughts or speaking of one’s own words was a desecration of that day, so the christian violates the spirit of the gospel by attempting, by what he may call means, or anything else, to furnish materials for a revival, or to kindle or get one up, or to rely on anything less or more than the gospel itself for light, warmth, comfort or defence; and so also the inventions of our own thoughts, or the utterance of words which God has not spoken, in a gospel sense is a desecration of the sacredness of the gospel Sabbath.
7. As those venders of merchandise who came from Tyre and other places to vend their wares, their victuals, &c., on the Sabbath day, interrupted the observance of the day by the children of Israel in the days of Nehemiah, so those modern venders of foreign merchandise, who come among the saints and lodge around the walls of Zion, professing to supply spiritual food for stipulated salaries, do also interrupt the true Israelites in their attendance on the privileges of the gospel, and break in upon their hours of rest. And as in the days of Nehemiah there were some Jews belonging to his company which were ever ready to encourage these trafficers on the Sabbath days, so there are always some among the members of the gospel church ready to transgress the order of the gospel by encouraging ware speculations in divinity, to break the rest of spiritual Israel by attempting to feed them upon the leeks and onions of Egypt, or the fish and other commodities of Tyre.
In the epistle to the Hebrews we find an exhortation to the New Testament saints to fear, lest any of them should seem to come short of the promised rest, after the example of those who could not enter into rest because of unbelief: “For we which have believed,” says the apostle, “do enter into rest.” And again, “Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.” All christians have to maintain a conflict with doubts and unbelief; and when doubts and unbelief prevail, they cannot enjoy their Sabbatic rest, but seem to come short of it. When, however, these doubts are removed, and their faith is in full exercise, it lays hold. on the promises, and they are brought into the sweet enjoyment of rest to their souls. And all christians have found that in proportion to the power and prevalence of faith in them, their souls have found. rest in Jesus. But alas! how can they rest on him as their sure foundation, when they lack the evidence that they are his or while through unbelief they are led to doubt that he is their foundation, or that they have any special interest in him? Nothing can be a more direct violation of the gospel Sabbath, than the observance of the abrogated ordinances and rites of the old covenant; and Paul had just cause to fear that he had bestowed on his brethren labor in vain, when he saw them observing days and months and times and years, which course had a direct tendency to entangle them in the yoke of bondage. He commanded the Colossian brethren to let no man judge them in relation to holy days, new moons and Sabbaths; and enjoined on them to touch not, taste not and handle not any of these abolished rites; they belonged to the six days of labor, but not to the Sabbath of the Lord. The Jewish Sabbath continued but for a day, and was succeeded by days of labor and toil; but the gospel Sabbath is that in which there remaineth rest for the people of God. The gospel Sabbath dawned upon the church of God more than eighteen hundred years ago – when the Sun of Righteousness arose with healing in his wings, and must endure for ever. It is neither confined to the mountain of Samaria, nor to the ancient city of Jerusalem; nor is it to be observed or enjoyed on any particular days, or times, or seasons, but only as the weary soul shall be made to hear and obey the voice of Jesus, commanding him away from everything else to find rest in wearing his yoke and in bearing his burden.
There is a great stir at this time among the workmongrel tribes of anti-christ, in regard to the sanctification of the first day of the week as a Sabbath; and from the zeal which they manifest they would, if it were in their power, more heaven and earth to bring us into bondage, even upon the subject of rest. But alas for them, they have never known what it is to rest in Jesus, nor can they know it, unless they shall be born of God; for they are like the troubled sea, which cannot rest, which continually casteth up mire and dirt.
Christian brethren, have we not wandered from the place of our rest? Have we not at times been led to cry out, as the spouse, “Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest the flock to rest at noon; for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?” – Cant. i. 7. And when we have heard the sweet response of the Beloved, saying, “Go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds’ tents,” have we not in the language of our hearts ejaculated the words, “Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee?” Then let us “Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not again entangled with the yoke of bondage.” Let no man judge you in meats and drinks, holy days, new moons and Sabbaths. These are matters between us and our God, and for the use or abuse of which we are not amenable to our fellow-man. Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshiping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind; and not holding the head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.
Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why as though living in the world are ye subject to ordinances which all are to perish with the using, after the commandments and doctrines of mens. Touch not; taste not; handle not; is the solemn admonition of the apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ. If when Christ died on the cross, to which he nailed all the hand-writing of legal ordinances, we were represented in his death, died with him, and to the law became dead by his body, if he was delivered up for our transgressions, and raised for our justification, – if he is to us the end of the law for righteousness – why should we belie our faith, and act so inconsistently with our profession, as to go back to the beggarly elements, and thereby betray a desire to be again in that bondage from which Christ has delivered us? Although Paul admits this voluntary humility, which is urged upon us in regard to abrogated rites and ordinances, has a shew of wisdom in will worship, it cannot have that effect in spiritual worship: let the will worshipers, arminians, workmomgers and children of the bond woman monopolize this shew of wisdom, but, my soul, come not into their secret; “ Return unto thy rest, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.”
New Vernon, N.Y.,
August 1, 1845
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 2
Pages 569 – 576