We have been strongly urged by some two or three of our readers to give our views on the Sabbaths which were enjoined on the people of Israel “throughout their generations.” One of the number has desired us to give a reason why it was changed from the seventh to the first day of the week. We have frequently expressed our understanding on the subject in the past volumes of the “Signs,” and still retain only such views as we have frequently given on the subject. Other brethren have also from time to time written and published in our columns their understanding in perfect harmony with our own. Having no new light to give, we would decline writing further upon the subject, were it not that those who now urge us have not the files of our former volumes to refer to. Feeling bound to give such views as we have on all scriptural subjects when called to do so, we will briefly repeat that we have no reasons to give for changing the Sabbath from the seventh to the first day of the week. We search the scriptures in vain to find any such change made by divine authority. Human laws are liable to change; they may require to be modified, amended, or abolished altogether; but it is not so with the law of God. Heaven and earth may pass away, but no jot or tittle of God’s law can change until all is fulfilled.
Those who profess at the present day to regard the Sabbatical law as binding on the Gentiles are responsible for changing the day specified in the law. We may address to them the interrogatory of the apostle: “Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye hear the law?” If the Sabbatical law is binding on us at all, we are bound to observe it as it came from the mouth of God, lest we may be charged with the hypocritical Pharisees of making void the law of God by our traditions. But the law commanding the observance of a legal Sabbath was never given to the Gentiles at all. For about twenty-three hundred years from the creation of the world, not a word is recorded to indicate the existence of a Sabbath day; nor in all the record of crime which provoked the deluge which destroyed the old world is the violation of a Sabbath mentioned. Nor from the beginning of the world to the present day is there a charge recorded in the scriptures against any but the descendants of Jacob for transgressing the law of the Sabbath day. The first mention of a Sabbath is found in Exodus 16:23, in which the institution was so new to the children of Israel that they went out to look for manna on that as on other days.
In Exodus 20:8-11, the institution is embraced in the ten commandments given to a people whom the Lord God said he had brought out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, etc. In Exodus 31:12-17, Moses was commanded by the Lord to speak to the children of Israel saying, “Verily my Sabbaths ye shall keep; for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you. Ye shall keep the Sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you. Every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord; whosoever doeth any work in the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel forever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.”
This Sabbath was a sign and a covenant between God and the children of Israel wherein they were sanctified or set apart from all the families of mankind forever, throughout their generations, extending from the date of the giving them this law in the wilderness until the time of the summing up of their generations, as in Matthew 1 and Luke 3. Where can we find this or any similar sign given to the Gentiles? As a covenant, Moses declares that it was not only not given to the Gentiles, but that it had not been given to the patriarchs, their fathers. Hear him! “And Moses called all Israel, and said unto them, Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and keep and do them. The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day.”
If this law had been given also to the Gentiles, in what respect could it have sanctified, or distinguished Israel from the rest of mankind? If it were also a sign to the Gentiles, what did it signify, as God had not brought the Gentiles out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; nor consecrated them for the Sabbath of rest. If it were given to the Gentiles for a covenant, what were its stipulations? What promises did it record for, or guarantee to them? None whatever.
Israel in and throughout their generations were the type of the spiritual Israel, or the church and kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ in its gospel organization. The laws, ordinances, and ceremonies enjoined on the carnal, or fleshly, Israelites including meats, drinks, holy days, new moons and Sabbaths were a shadow of things to come. As saith the apostle, “Let no man therefore judge you in meats, or in drink, or in respect of a 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 (Colossians 2:16,17).”
All these institutions, in their legal observance by that fleshly but typical people, but cast the shadow before of the body of Christ, which body is his church (Ephesians 1:23). Hence as signs they signified those things which were to come, and as a covenant, they described that Christ whom God has given for a Covenant unto his spiritual people.
The Sabbath of the law, as a sign to Israel, signified a coming rest. As the Israelites rested from manual labor on the seventh day, were forbidden to gather manna, or to kindle fire, or to think their own thoughts, or to speak their own words; they nor their sons, or daughters, nor their man-servants, nor maid-servants, nor the stranger within their gates, on pain of death, so it signified a day of spiritual rest unto the people of God under the gospel dispensation. Then the carnal Israelites should have fulfilled their typical record, and the gathering of the people should be to Shiloh, not to Moses, and when he should no longer be a Jew who was one outwardly in the flesh; but he should be a Jew who was one inwardly, and circumcision that of the heart, in the spirit, not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God.
Turn to the third and fourth chapters of the epistle to the Hebrews, and you will find a complete and perfect application of the type to its special anti-type, of the shadow to its appropriate substance. The spiritual Israelite when circumcised in heart and spirit, becomes a believer on the Lord Jesus Christ, and ceaseth from his own works, as God did from his when he had created the world and rested on the seventh day, and blessed and hallowed it. Even so, says the inspired apostle, “We which have believed do enter into rest.” While of them that do not believe, God has sworn that they should not enter into his rest, or his Sabbath, for Sabbath is rest. And God, by the mouth of his prophet, has declared that the wicked are like the troubled sea that cannot rest, which continually casteth up mire and dirt.
Instead of the Sabbath of the law being given to pre-figure another day of the week to be substituted in its place, and used by Gentile “Clergymen” for vending their Babylonish merchandise, its spiritual significance points to the day which was ushered in when Jesus arose from the dead, having finished transgression, and made an end of sin: when he had redeemed his people from the wrath, the toil and labor of a yoke which neither we nor our fathers were able to bear. That is the day which the Lord has made, by the rising of the Sun of Righteousness with healing in his wings. The rising of that Sun that should never again go down, and who should secure to his redeemed, quickened, believing children that rest which remaineth to the people of God; and which was never found anywhere but in our Lord Jesus Christ, whose rest the prophet of the Lord said, “Shall be glorious.” As in the sign or type given to the children of Israel, the six days of labor, in which all their servile works should be done, represents the legal dispensation under which the carnal tribes were held under a covenant of works, an endless routine of rites, and carnal ordinances which could never make the doers of the service perfect. The seventh, or Sabbath, foreshadowed a full and perfect release from the law of commandments, ordinances and unavailing works, and an entrance into that rest which remaineth for the people of God. Weary and heavy laden with their own fruitless works, the imperfection of which continually drew down on them the curses of the law, quickened souls are called by the great law fulfiller to come unto him and are assured that they shall find rest to their souls. Instead of the yoke of Moses, which was a yoke of bondage to them, they are to put on Christ’s yoke, which is easy, and bear his burden, which is light, and learn of him, who is meek and lowly in spirit, and find rest to their souls. They are no more under the law, but under grace: redeemed from the law which was written on tables of stone, and brought under the law of Christ, under the power and dominion of the law of the Spirit of life, which is in Christ Jesus, and free from the law of sin and death. Dead to the law which could not give life, and by the obedience of which no flesh can be justified in the sight of God, they are delivered by the body of Christ, that they might be lawfully married to him who has risen from the dead, that they may bring forth fruit unto God, not to Moses. The hand-writing of ordinances are blotted out, and the law of commandments nailed to the cross, with all its meats, drinks, divers washings, new moons and Sabbaths, and the law of the spirit of immortality written in their hearts, and in their inward parts recorded, as the royal law of liberty. This hallowed rest is God’s holy Sabbath to all who believe and have entered into it, and ceased from their own works as God did from his.
This holy Sabbath of rest to the people of God was not only prefigured under the law by the seventh day Sabbath, but also by all the Sabbatical days and years in which the children of Israel and their lands, their cattle, their servants, their strangers within their gates were to rest. It was also set forth by the land of Canaan, in which Israel rested from the fatigues of the wilderness; and also, as we have seen, it was signified by the day in which God rested from the works of creation.
The law of the legal Sabbath commanded total abstinence from servile labor. No manna was to be gathered on that day, no fires to be kindled, no going out of their tents was allowed, an unbroken rest was commanded, and the penalty for any violation of this law was death. But let the reader observe that none but the Israelites and their households were capable of either keeping or of desecrating the legal Sabbath, or could be subjected to its penalties, so under the gospel dispensation, none but the people of God, who are quickened and have the faith of the Son of God (without which it is impossible to please God) can enter into spiritual rest, to keep or desecrate the spiritual and anti-typical Sabbath of the Lord our God. As the carcasses of the unbelieving Israelites fell in the wilderness, and they could not enter into rest because of unbelief, so falls the carcasses of God’s children in the wilderness because that in their flesh, or carcasses, there dwells no good thing, no faith, for faith and confidence in God are not fruits of the flesh, but of the Spirit. “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption (I Corinthians 15:50).” With the mind of Christ, which is in the Christian, he serves the law of God, enters into rest, and hallows the holy Sabbath of the Lord his God, suppresses his own thoughts, listens not to human reason, but delights in the revelations of the spirit of truth and holiness. To think their own thoughts, or to speak their own words, or to make any provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof is a violation of the law of Christ, and they who are guilty of such desecration of the Sabbath die short of the promised land, for they cannot enter rest because of unbelief. “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace,” or Sabbath, “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God (Romans 8:6,13,14).”
The Christian knows from his own experience that all his doubts, fears, carnal reasonings, and unbelief, which hinder him from entering sweetly, calmly, confidently into his Sabbath of spiritual rest arises from his fleshly nature, for with his mind he serves the law of God, but with his flesh, the law of sin. And when the law of his members brings him into captivity to the law of sin, which is in his members, he cannot enter into rest. He breaks his Sabbath, he is pelted with stones, he dies, that is, his carcass falls in the wilderness. But, though his carcass or body is dead because of sin, his spirit, or the new man, is life because of righteousness. To rest in Christ, his faith must triumph over his fears and doubts, his unbeliefs; but when his flesh predominates, he is led by the flesh; he dies and his carcass falls.
There is also a fleshly propensity in the Christian, when dreary and cold and hungry, and starving for spiritual life, joy, comfort and food, to attempt some expedient of human origin for relief; to supply present light and warmth, he would gather sticks, kindle a fire, compass himself with sparks, and attempt to walk in the light of his own fire, and warm himself by its heat, but this is Sabbath breaking, and this shall he have of the Lord’s hand, he shall lie down in sorrow (Exodus 35:3; Numbers 15:32,36; Isaiah 50:11). Or if to satisfy his craving appetite for food, he shall go forth contrary to the word of the Lord to seek supplies of manna, he shall find none (Exodus 11:27).
The gospel Sabbath of rest to the people of God requires that we shall discard all confidence in the flesh and trust alone in God, resting on his oath and promise, confiding in his wisdom, power and grace. Being perfectly satisfied with his dealings with us, casting all our cares upon him, waiting patiently and submissively the openings of his providence, and in whatsoever condition we may be, therewith to be content, knowing that all things are working for our good, and that our light afflictions which are but for a season, do work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we look not on the things that are seen, but on the things which are not seen; for the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are not seen are eternal. Those therefore who have the faith of the Son of God which overcomes the world and which relies unwaveringly on the power and providence and grace of God are Israelites in a spiritual sense, and the gospel Sabbath is to them what the ceremonial Sabbath was in the type to the carnal Israelites: God’s sign and covenant with them. As a sign it signifies to them that God is their Refuge and Strength, a very present help in trouble, that the Lord is their Shepherd, they shall not want; and as a covenant, it secures to them all the promises of God which are in Christ Jesus; yea, and in him Amen to the glory of God by us.
Let then the Scribes and Pharisees of the age quarrel and strive about their days of the week, their new moons, their meat, drink and legal Sabbaths; they have only the shadow, or what once was a shadow of things to come, but as the things to come of which they were the shadow have now come, our faith embraces the substance, and we will not debate with them about the shadow. It is enough for us to know that the inspired apostles have decided that the Jewish Sabbath was only typical of spiritual rest. Those who would perpetuate the observance of the shadow now virtually deny that the substance has come, as do the Jews who continue the other rites and sacrifices of Judaism deny that the true Messiah has come. But when any of God’s quickened children are allured and led astray in these things, we remind them of the apostle’s words in Galatians 4:10,11, “Ye observe days, and months, and times and years; I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain.”
Those who observe a legal Sabbath, whether on the seventh or the first, or any other day of the week, clearly indicate that they are not under grace, but under the law, that they are not come to Mount Zion, but are trying to approach the Mount Sinai, and that they are strangers to that Sabbatical rest which remains for the people of God. But although both parties are manifestly under the curse, being of the works of the law, yet they who observe the seventh day are far more consistent than they who substitute another day. Those who contend for a first day Sabbath tell us that the first day has been substituted for the seventh in honor of the resurrection of Christ, but when, where, or by whom the change has been made, they have never been able to tell.
January 15, 1865.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 6
Pages 136 - 143