AS we intimated in our last number, we now resume our remarks concerning Sabbath Days. “To the law and to the testimony,” and what saith the law upon this subject? This shall be our first inquiry. The zealous Sabbatarians of our day urge the fourth commandment of the decalogue as the law on which they base their arguments for the religious observance of the first day of the every week, as a Sabbath day, to be observed by the Gentiles, after the manner in which the Jews were required to keep holy the seventh day. The law contained on the first and second tables, they content, was moral, and consequently binding alike on all intelligent beings, whether Jews or Gentiles; and as the second table was given after the first was broken, and as the tables were of stone, the perpetuity and interminable obligation of that law was thus signified; and as the children of Israel to whom that law was first given were required to see that it was duly observed, they infer that the rulers of the Gentiles should enforce the religious observance of a first day Sabbath in like manner.
We will examine these three leading arguments; and first, the law of the fourth commandment does not enjoy a first day Sabbath upon either Jew or Gentile. The words of the law are: “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work; thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man servant, nor thy maid servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day; wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” Now if the ancient scribes and Pharisees were charged with making void the law of God by their own traditions, how shall modern Sabbatarians, who teach and practice the substitution of the first for the seventh day, escape the same reproof, seeing they have no higher authority than tradition?
There cannot be found in any part of the sacred volume of divine revelation, one word to authorize or sanction any change of the day. If, as the Sabbatarians argue, 1. God made this law, 2. that he has never repealed or abrogated it, then it must follow, 3. that the law, as he originally gave it, is still in force, according to the fourth commandment; unless it can be proved that he has amended, altered, or changed it; and if this can be proved, then the morality of the institution cannot be sustained, as that which is in its nature moral, is always the same, under all circumstances, and throughout all time. The fourth precept of the decalogue says expressly, the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; but where, in what part of the Bible, Old or New Testament is it written, the first day is the Sabbath? That passage is among those which cannot be found. Tradition has spoken it. Men have used their own mouths and said, “The Lord saith,” albeit, the Lord hath not spoken on that wise.
Again, in the fourth commandment, a Sabbath was not instituted. The word “remember” implies that the institution was prior to the giving of the ten commandments; and in remembering the seventh day, they were to remember it as God’s sign and covenant between him and them, which was to endure throughout their generations, or until the body or substance, (which Paul says is Christ – Col. ii. 4,) should come. The peculiar fitness of the seventh day for such a typical purpose, is further expressed, as it was analogous with the rest, after the work of creation was finished, when God rested from all the works which he had made, on the seventh day, thus signifying that in the new or spiritual creation, Christ should finish the work of redemption, make an end of sin, and rest from his work, as God did from his. Labor or weariness must necessarily precede rest. “Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work,” but on the seventh day no labor should be performed. It would be strange to say, On the first day thou shalt rest, and on the six next succeeding days thou shalt labor. God rested from all the work which he had made, not from all the works he was going to make; and thus taught in the sign that Christ should rest from the work of redemption after the work should be accomplished, but not before. But there is also another view in which the sign is to be considered, in relation to the church. God’s people under the law were in a state of toil and labor, under a yoke which they were not able to bear; but the gospel is rest to the weary, the heavy laden, toil-worn soul who comes to Christ for rest: for such are called of him. “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” A first day Sabbath would transpose and confuse the order, and represent the people of God as first experiencing the delightful rest of the gospel, and then endure the toil and thunder of the law afterwards.
But why should we labor and reason upon the suitableness of the time which God appointed, and the impropriety of the time which men would substitute in its place? Is it not enough for us that God has commanded the seventh day, and dare we question his wisdom, or venture to attempt an improvement on his legislation? They that fear the Lord will tremble at his word.
God has not only commanded Israel to remember the Sabbath, not a Sabbath, but he has added, “to keep it holy,” &c. How is the day to be kept holy? Has God commanded, or is it left to man to dictate? The manner in which God commanded it to be kept holy by the nation of Israel, may be inferred from the following passages, and the Sabgath Convention at Baltimore may read them, and inform us whether they are still in force?
“Ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations on the Sabbath day.” – Exodus xxxv. 3. “Abide ye every man in his place; let no man go out of his place on the Sabbath day.” – Exodus xvi. 29. “He giveth you the sixth day the bread of two days. Bake that which ye will bake this day, and seethe that ye will weeth, and that which remaineth over, lay up for you to be kept until the morning.” – Exodus xvi. 23,29. “Bear no burden on the Sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem, neither carry forth a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath day.” – Jeremiah xvii. 21,22. “Not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words.” – Isa. lii. 13. “Whosoever deoth any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death; every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death.” – Exodus xxx. 14,15. “And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. And they that found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation. And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done unto him. And the Lord said unto Moses, The man shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp. And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died, as the Lord commanded Moses.” – Numbers xv. 32-36. The advocates of a legal first day Sabbath, warmly urge that the fourth commandment is not repealed, that the law to keep the day holy is still in full force; will they also contend that the preceding rules are still in full force, or may they be disregarded with impunity? Can any of the modern sticklers for a legal Sabbath, be found conforming, in all respects, to these rules? If the children of Israel had observed all these rules with the single exception of changing the seventh day for some other day of the week, would that have answered the demands of the law? Or, we will suppose a case. The Rev. Mr. Aaron arose on the morning of the Sabbath, and called Jack, his man servant, and Martha his maid servant, and his sons and his daughters, and bade them hasten and gather some sticks and kindle a fire, and make ready some breakfast, and make ready a chariot and horses, that he might be able to reach the Sabbath School, and officiate in his bible class, in season to preach a missionary sermon, and collect funds for benevolent purposes, and get through in time to attend the grand dedication of the Calif, in the valley of Mount Sinai, which he had made unto the Lord, of the golden jewels which were brought up with Israel from Egypt. How would such obedience have suited Moses? Would the piety and benevolence of his intentions have screened him from the law which forbid his leaving his house or tent on pain of death? How strange that men who boast of their superior light and erudition, at this day should be lauded as immaculate saints, by doing the very things, which, by the law which they profess to adhere to as the rule of their lives, would require them to be stoned to death.
Second. We will notice the morality and perpetuity of the institution. The morality of the Sabbath is insisted on because enjoined by one of the precepts of the decalogue, and the decalogue is supposed to be the moral law. We are aware that the term moral is variously used by theologians; it sometimes is used to mean one thing, and sometimes another, and as it is not a bible term, it is the more difficult to define its precise meaning. If, however, by a moral law is intended the natural obligation man was created under to his Creator, to reverence and obey him; if it embraces all those duties to God and to our fellow men, which would be equally binding if no expression had been made on Sinai, we will freely admit that the Sinai covenant or law embraces the moral standard of right, by which all intelligent beings are judged, and by which every mouth is stopped, and the whole world is convicted of guilt before God; but the morality of that law or rule, does not arise from its having been included in the decalogue to Israel, for it was in force in all its power as well from Adam to Moses, as subsequently. But that the Sabbath institution was thus morally binding upon mankind is not so clear. That man was created under an obligation to “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy,” and that that obligation grows naturally out of the relation that created intelligences stand in to the Creator, is to us incapable of proof. Those on whom God was pleased to impose that ordinance, were bound to observe it simply because God had commanded it. As we have already proved, the Sabbath was enjoined upon Israel before the tables of the law were written, and the fourth commandment required that a law previously given as a type or sign, should be remembered and scrupulously obeyed by those to whom it was previously given. But that this sign was ever given to the Gentiles, either before the tables were given, or since that time, cannot easily be established. Some have attempted to prove that the Sabbath was enjoined on the human family from the seventh day of creation. That God blessed and hallowed the seventh day, is very clear; but there is no record of an injunction on man from that date to keep any Sabbath. Nor is there to be found in all the scriptures, one word of admonition or reproof against or for breaking the Sabbath. The reason is to us very obvious; the rigid observance of a Sabbath could not be the sign of any covenant which God had made with the Gentiles, because God had made no covenant with them; consequently they had no more to do with a legal Sabbath than they had to do with circumcision. That the law being given on tables of stone, was calculated to impress the mind with its perpetuity, we will not dispute; for heaven and earth were not so permanently established as that law; for Christ declared that both heaven and earth should pass away, but not one jot or tittle of the law should pass away until all was fulfilled; but he also declared he came to fulfill the law; not to destroy, but to fulfill. In the accomplishment, therefore, of what he came to fulfill, he “blotted out the hand-writing of ordinances,” (the Jewish Sabbath among others,) “that was against us, nailing it to the cross.” This, as well as other ceremonial or typical ordinances, was against us Gentiles, and contrary to us, as they could signify no covenant in which we had an interest, and only formed a middle wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles. In this connection Paul particularizes circumcision, holy days, meat, drink, new moons, and Sabbath days, and declares them but shadows, signs, or types of things to come, and that the substance or body of which they were the shadow or type, was Christ. Circumcision he shows to have been a figure of regeneration. – Rom. ii. 28,29. Meats, drinks, &c., were to signify that the spiritual Israel were to live by faith upon the Son of God – should eat his flesh and drink his blood, while the divers washings under the old covenant pointed to the cleansing blood of Christ, the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost. The new moons are coupled with the holy days and Sabbath days, and these are so clearly applied to the blessed state of rest into which the gospel church is brought, and each individual member enters when enabled to believe in Christ, as to admit of no controversy. Read the third chapter to the Hebrews; there the testimony is so clear that no one who has ever entered into his rest, can fail to discover that the gospel state of the church is the great inti-type of all the Jewis Sabbaths. Again, in the epistle to the Ephesians, Paul tells the Gentile saints, who had entered into the true anti-typical Sabbath, to remember that they being in time past Gentiles, were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise; having no hope, and without God in the world. “But,” he adds, “now, in Christ Jesus, ye who sometimes were far off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ; for he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished” (this is a strong expression,) “in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments, in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace.” To prove that the law of commandments, which, so far as the Gentile saints are concerned, is abolished, they being redeemed from its power and dominion, by the nailing of Christ to his cross, and are brought under law to Christ, where they can no longer need the thundres of Sinai, we will compare the last quotation with 2 Cor. iii. 7-11. “But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones,” (here he must allude to the decalogue, as no other law was so written,) “was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadily behold the face of Moses, for the glory of his countenance, which glory was to be done away,” &c. “For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth; for if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.” The two tables of the law are expressly called a covenant with Moses and with Israel. – Exodus xxx. 28-29. “And the Lord said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel. And he wrote upon the table the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.” Compare this text with Paul’s allegory:
“Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons; the one by a bond maid, and the other by a free woman. But he was of the bond woman was born after the flesh; but he of the free woman was by promise. Which things are an allegory; for these are the covenants, the one from the Mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is Moun Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to the Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. Nevertheless, what saith the scriptures? Cast out the bond woman,” this Agar, this Mount Sinai in Arabia. – Gal. iv. 21
New Vernon, N.Y.,
December 1, 1844
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 2
Pages 499 – 506