"There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God." - Heb. iv. 9.
We do not wish to anticipate our brethren who are called on to give their views on the subject proposed for consideration by our correspondent; neither will we attempt to give the views of the Old School Baptists on the subject, as they have not authorized us to publish creeds for them; but they; being of age, can speak for themselves, as they may possibly differ in their opinion on this question; but we will give a few thoughts on the subject, and hope they may be blessed to the edification of any who may be troubled, or in the dark.
We frankly acknowledge that we know of no divine law requiring either Jew or Gentile to remember the first day and keep it holy. If there be any such precept in the bible, it has escaped our notice. Nor do we know of ay instance in the Old or New Testament where the Lord has commanded the Gentiles to observe this law which was given to the Jews, as God's sign between himself and national Israel forever - throughout their generations. For about two thousand three hundred years from the creation, we have no account of any Sabbath being observed by the human family, or of their being charged with Sabbath breaking among the long catalogue of crimes charged on them. The first account of the institution of a Sabbath, which we have in the scriptures, is at or about the time the Lord gave manna to the children of Israel in the wilderness; and then they were strictly forbidden to gather manna on the seventh day. After this period the subject is often mentioned, and even in the decalogue is included and engraven by the finger of God on the tables of stone. From the date of this law the children of Israel were frequently charged with the sin of Sabbath breaking.
To arrive at the true meaning of the subject, we must take into consideration, first, the nature of the Jewish Sabbath; second, the limitation of its authority, and third, the design of its institution.
First. Its nature. It was not instituted as a day for worship, or religious service, but of rest; all servile labor was strictly forbidden on that day. To kindle firs, gather sticks, or manna, on that day, would subject the offender to the dreadful penalty of death. Neither the Jew, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, were to labor, without the forfeiture of life. Neither faith nor grace were necessary to qualify an Israelite to keep the day holy, as all the law required of them was a cessation from all manner of exercise.
Second. The limitation of the law is clearly expressed in two very important particulars. First, it was given exclusively to national Israel, and not the Gentiles, and secondly, it was to be observed throughout their generations; and their generations are summed up by Matthew and Luke as beginning with Abraham and extending to the coming of the Messiah. This law came in force from the time of its promulgation in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, and extended of course to all the circumcised Jews, until the days of John the Baptist, (for the law and the prophets were until John,) and then its obligation ceased, according to its own limitation. Hence, from the coming of the Messiah, who is Lord also of the Sabbath, the apostles have preached the "blotting out of the hand-writing of ordinances," and have charged the gospel church to "Let no man judge them in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moons, or of the Sabbath days, which are a shadow of good things to come; but the body is of Christ." - Col. ii. 14.
Third. The object of the institution. It was God's sign with the children of Israel to prove them, as a test of their obedience to him as their God; and if it was God's sign, it must, as a sign, signify something. Paul tells us, in the text quoted above, that it was a shadow, and that the body, or substance, or thing signified, was Christ. In the epistle to the Hebrews, especially the third and fourth chapters, the figurative import of the Jewish Sabbath is clearly illustrated as signifying that rest which we that believe do enter, viz: the gospel rest.
In tracing the analogy which this feature bears to the substance pointed at, we mark, the Jewish Sabbath was to be preceded by six days of labor; men who have not labored, or became fatigued, cannot keep the Sabbath, for they cannot rest, as they are not weary; and Israel was as strictly commanded to labor and do all their work in six days as they were to rest on the seventh. The gospel thus set forth in the figure is, as we conceive, that the legal dispensation, or covenant of works, was ordained to precede the gospel dispensation, or new covenant; and under the former all our legal service was to be performed, as nothing of the legal was to be allowed in the gospel dispensation. Under the law the oxen and fatlings were killed, and all things were made ready; and the supper being prepared, the feast of fat things, full of marrow, is announced in the gospel, and all who who are brought by the King unto this banqueting house find rest to their souls - they enter into rest. Hence we understand the legal Sabbath was typical of the gospel rest, which the six days in which men were commanded to work shows the legal dispensation, which must be done away before we can keep the gospel sabbath. This illustration is not only applicable to the people of God collectively, but it applies to the individual experience of all the sons of God. Christ, you may read it in living characters in your own experience. When you was first quickened, the commandment came, you found yourself engaged under a covenant of works; and you had to do with a law, or yoke, which neither you nor you fathers were able to bear. Here you labored out your six days' work, that is, you worked yourself to death, and sinking in despair, you felt yourself ready to perish forever,
"Without one cheerful ray of hope,
Or spark of glimmering day."
Fatigued and faint, heavy laden and ready to sink under your load, you was sinking down, when Jesus caught you as you fell; a glorious sabbath of rest dawned upon your soul, light peace and comfort broke in upon your mind, when Jesus said to you, "Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you" - what? Work? No, rest. "Take my yoke (or law) upon you, and learn of me, (not of Moses) for I am meek and lowly, &c., and you shall find rest to your soul." The Jews, because of unbelief, could not enter into rest; nor could you until you received faith; but when you was enabled to believe, you entered into that rest which remaineth for the children of God. To the church collectively, the christian or anti-typical Sabbath was ushered in, when the day-spring from on high visited us, when Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, arose with healing in his wings; to the saints individually when brought to believe in Christ.
Now the labors of the six days are not to be brought into the seventh day. "For he that has entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his." - Heb. iv. 10.
By examining what was considered Sabbath breaking under the law, we may form a just idea of what constitutes spiritual sabbath breaking in a gospel sense, and so determine who are the Sabbath breakers of the present day. Israel, under penalty of death, were forbidden to kindle any fires on the Sabbath, or gather sticks. Christians sometimes become very cld, and especially when exposed to the chilling east wind of New England divinity, or the winter fogs of modern doctrine of men and devils; under such circumstances they are apt to feel tempted to kindle a little fire, and compass themselves with the sparks; and for that purpose they often set themselves about gathering sticks, or as they call it, using means. Sometimes the Lord permits them to collect a large heap of combustible matter, hay, wood and stubble, but mostly stubble; such, for instance, as protracted or comp meetings, Arminian preaching, wildfire new light, anxious benches, and all that kind of stuff so common and so popular at this day. Satan stands ready to stick in his match and set all in a blaze, by working up the passions of the flesh and then the poor infatuated creates cry out, "Ah! ah! I am warm! I have seen the fire!" But, dear reader, this is Sabbath breaking, this is spiritual wickedness in high places, and God has promised that from his hand they shall lie down in sorrow.
Another description of Sabbath breakers are mentioned by Nehemiah, when he came to re-establish order in Jerusalem. He found the gates of the city neglected, and aliens, men of Tyre and others, come into the city selling victuals on the Sabbath day, and some he saw lading asses, &c. Is it not a fact that for years past the gates or avenues of the church have been neglected, until these wretched foreign peddlers (men who are not of the household of faith, nor fellow citizens with the saints) have broken in upon our churches like a flood, bringing in their filthy doctrines as victuals for the poor half-starved saints, and even this foul stuff is to be sold; these peddling, dandy priests must have high salaries, for they will not divine without money. And some Nehemiah saw treading wine-presses, bringing in sheaves, and lading asses on the Sabbath day with all kind of burdens, and bringing into Jerusalem all manner of wares. How fitly these things represented what we see going on in the present day. How many poor stupid asses go to the Theological Seminaries to receive their load of foreign merchandize, and all manner of stuff that will bring money. And when the poor animals are laden with Fuller, Gill, Clark, Lightfoot, Chesterfield and Milton, and polished off with a smattering of the dead languages, if they cannot make out a full load of fish, the deficiency can be supplied with tadpoles, and then started off to sell this motley load in Jerusalem, and that on the Sabbath or gospel day.
We might, if we had time and room, extend our remarks, but perhaps sufficient has been said to satisfy our correspondent what our views are in regard to a holy day.
Alexandria, D. C.,
December 28, 1838
by Elder Gilbert Beebe