Cavendish, Idaho, Feb. 21, 1901.
Elder D. Bartley – Dear Friend: – I have been reading your writings in the SIGNS OF THE TIMES the past year with much comfort, also your books, Priesthood and Early Religious’ Life. It is all interesting and instructing.
I was born and raised in Barbour Co., W. Va, My parents were Old School Baptists, strong advocates of the doctrine of election and predestination; and I never knew until lately that any Old Baptist objected to it. At one time I could not believe it, although I never took occasion to oppose it, as my parents were Baptists. But I always thought that the Old Baptists were a good people. My father took the SIGNS a good portion of the time from my earliest recollection, and to say that he enjoyed reading it, does not express it.
After I left West Virginia I never heard but one gospel sermon preached, until a few months ago. Two young preachers moved in near where I live, and we now have meeting every month. And then the old family paper comes twice a month, ladened with the gospel. It is a paper that I love; that is, I love the doctrine that it advocates, and I also love the people that write for it, although they are strangers to me. Many lonesome hours can I pass away by perusing its columns. It does seem to me that it gets better all the time. But if we look over the old papers, we find it just the same. But some will contend that it is not as good as it used to be; but I cannot see it that way. If I have any understanding at all, it is just the same that it was years ago. It always held out a full and complete Savior; salvation by grace alone, leaving man’s ability out entirely, nothing conditional whatever. I do not know how I could content myself without the paper, and I do not calculate to do without it.
I want your views on a certain thing, if you feel like writing to one who is not a brother; if not, all will be right. Is it nothing but tradition to keep Sunday! or should we work on that day, the same as any other day, and sin not by so doing? Some claim that as the old covenant has passed away, and the old Bible is all fulfilled, and the New Testament does not say anything about keeping any day holy, that it is no more harm to work on Sunday than any other day. Now I know that the old covenant is passed away. That is what the apostle called carnal ordinances, and a worldly sanctuary – the priests, and such like. But, is there not a law in the ten commandments that will never pass away while time lasts! And, if it does not say to keep the Sabbath or Lord’s day in the New Testament, is there not something that leads up to it! Now I may be wrong, but I was raised where there were a number of Baptists, and I never know one but what kept Sunday. It is not for argument that I want this answered, but just to satisfy my own mind. I hope that I have the cause at heart.
Very truly yours,
B. B. MATHEW.
OUR dear friend’s interesting letter is sufficient evidence of his honest sincerity, and that he both fears the Lord and loves his people in the truth and for the truth’s sake. His inquiries are comprehensive and important. There is more than tradition for the general observance of Sunday as a day of rest from the business and labors of the week, for it is a legal requirement among civilized nations, and Baptists wish to be a law-abiding people; yet there is no commandment in the New Testament which requires the followers of Christ to observe one day above another; and certainly there is no evidence therein that God changed the weekly Sabbath from the seventh day to the first, or from Saturday to Sunday. “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” The law was given to the Israelites, the people of the old covenant; but grace and truth came to the brotherhood of Christ, the people of the new covenant. The first were under the law, and it was binding upou them, until Christ fulfilled it and redeemed them from it; but the last are under the reign of grace, and are free from the demands of the law, so that sin shall not have dominion over them.
To our friend it is submitted, that if there is a law in the ten commandments that will never pass away in time, and something in the New Testament that leads up to it, and this law is enforced or binding on the redeemed of the Lord, the children of God in Christ Jesus, then they must also be under its penalties if they fail to obey and fulfill it. This would indeed be a yoke which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear, as shown in Acts xv., and in Galatians. The children of Israel, whom God commanded to remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy, never so kept it in the letter and spirit of it. So neither do the Gentiles, who claim to be under it, ever thus keep it. But the man Christ Jesus did fulfill it, and he is its perfection and end, yea, the righteousness and perfect holiness of every believer in him. Laboring and heavy laden they were under the law, but Jesus calls them away from it all unto him, and be gives them rest. “And-of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.” “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” The old things have not passed over into the new, but they have passed away. Christ fulfilled them for his people, nailed them to his cross, and took them out of the way. And now, to his people, he is the way, the truth and the life. They need no other way or truth or life. He is above all and more than all else to them. He is greater than Moses. His life and righteousness and divine nature, which are given to and wrought in his new-born people, are far superior as the law of life, the active motive-power, to the morality and legal force of the ten commandments or the law given by Moses; and by this new law of life and love are the members of Christ quickened and raised up together with him, and made to sit and worship together in heavenly places. Paul has shown that these are infinitely higher and holier and more blessed than all the best moral attainments and excellence in the law and the flesh.
“Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” Paul here shows us that Christ, our new Master and only Lawgiver, has not bound any heavy yoke upon his disciples, to whom he says, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” “My Beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle (dove) is heard in our land: the fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grapes give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.” Thus the beloved Bridegroom calls his redeemed bride away from all that was legal and worldly, fleshly and carnal, which boded only failure and blight, as the chilling winds and rains of winter, into the soul-satisfying garden of his gospel grace, to behold with joy its heavenly beauties, hear with rapture its divine melodies, and feast upon its spiritual fruits. Herein is true rest to the weary soul. The inspired John was in this heavenly place when he said, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.” And Paul said, “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.”
To our dear friend, I would say, history shows that the first law, either ecclesiastical or civil, which ordained Sunday as a sabbath, was the edict of Constantine the Great, A. D. 321. Since then Sunday has been established by emperors and popes; hence it exists as a sabbath day by human authority only. It is true that many articles of faith, adopted by the Baptist churches, speak of “the sanctity of the first day of the week,” but if we were asked to give the reason for so regarding Sunday, we could find no divine authority for it. Yet, since it exists in civil law, and custom has established it as a day of public worship, and since the seventh day sabbath of the law is not binding now upon the Jew or Gentile, it would not be commendable as a rule to work on Sunday, the same as any other day, for the Lord’s people, who are under law to Christ, desire to be subject to the powers that he, and to live peaceably with all men. But there is no sin in the sight of God in doing light and needed work on Sunday, any more than on Saturday, or Monday. To hold that Sunday has taken the place of the weekly sabbath of the law of God, and possesses its sacredness and binding force, is to make all christendom, Catholics, Protestants and Baptists, the worst of sabbath-breakers, and therefore sinners, for none observe and keep it as God commanded of all who were under it.
Dear brother Beebe, I submit the above to you first, and then to our friend, if you publish it in the SIGNS, and to all your dear readers, who have believed in Jesus, ceased from their own works, and entered into rest. Should either you or dear brother Chick feel moved to add some remarks, please do so, for the instruction and edification of us all.
Your brother in affliction and sorrow,
Crawfordsville, Ind., March II, 1901.
Signs Of The Times
Volume 69, No. 7
April 1, 1901