DURING the past eighty years, and it little more, articles on this subject have from time to time appeared in the columns of the SIGNS, so that, at first thought, it might be supposed the matter had been thoroughly covered, but it may not be amiss for us to add our little mite, with the hope of presenting to our readers a few points which they per haps have not before thought of along this line. No single text or subject involved in the Bible can ever be exhausted by mortal man, no matter how much he may preach and write about it. A single individual may very easily say all he has to say upon any one subject, but even then there remain vast unsounded depths he has not touched nor dreamed of. Around this matter of the Sabbath have clung from ancient times many conflicting and peculiar notions, customs and authorities. Some of these let us glance at. It cannot be wrong to call attention to error when the motive is to contrast it with the truth. Christ often did so in his discourses, and the apostles after him in their preaching and writing. After dwelling upon what we believe to be the false side of the matter, we shall hope to bring all to the touchstone of truth, that we may put it all to proof, holding fast the good. After all, it is not what we say or believe upon this or any other subject, but what the Bible says, that stands. Any man’s unsupported opinions amount to very little. What God Almighty through the operation of his Holy Spirit in the writing of the Scriptures, and in the experience of his children, has left on record must be the man of our counsel. “Let God be true, but every man a liar.” “If they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” “If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” We find it generally regarded among men that the sabbath is one of the days of the week, a day of twenty-four hours, as any other literal day, a day wherein as much labor as possible must be restricted and the time devoted to church-going, teaching and reading the Bible, and the like. The great mass of humanity, to all appearances, actually believes that Sunday, or the Sabbath, is really better than any other day of the week, and that God is really better worshipped and served then than at any other time. Any higher, holier, more spiritual concept of the sabbath than this seems not to ever have entered the consciousness of the vast majority of men, notwithstanding what Christ and the prophets and the apostles say about it in words of easy reading. Man is naturally a worshipping creature; all the nations of the world, civilized and uncivilized, are instinctively religious. This religion, inherent in all men by nature, is as much carnal, sensual and devilish as any other principle of his fallen nature. The so-called christians of the world are not alone in their worship of a god; they do not in this respect outrun the most degraded races of men, and, furthermore, the god which most people talk about and worship, a god that cannot get along without the help of man, who cannot save them without their consent, and who, in all his acts, must have the cooperation of humanity to carry out his purpose, has no more real existence than the veriest pagan deity that the imaginations of men have conjured up, and those who worship such a god are as much sunk in heathenism as the rankest cannibal that bows to a stick or a stone. There is not the slightest difference, in fact, between an imagined god and one carved from marble or hewn from a tree. It is not to be wondered at, then, that in the worship of this imaginary god, who needs the help of man, many practices have arisen having no other authority for their observance than what is imagined or handed down as tradition from one generation to another. Such customs must not be confounded with the teachings of the Scriptures and the order of the gospel church of the Lord Jesus Christ, both of which are chaste, pure and unadulterated with the teachings and ideas of men, as is clearly seen by the elect when the Comforter takes of the things of Jesus and shows them unto them. The observance of a sabbath, or rest-day, is not confined to what is called the christian world. Mohammedans observe Friday, Jews Saturday, and many others Sunday, as a sabbath or day of rest. Apart from all religions sanction, the physical and mental needs of men require certain periods of rest in which to recuperate, thus, among all the various races of men, ancient and modern, days have been set aside for this purpose. It is but natural, too, that most races of men should claim what they consider divine authority for its observance. That portion of mankind that professes to be christian claims as authority for observing a sabbath day the commandment in the Mosaic law which reads, “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.” But if this be our authority for keeping the sabbath, why not keep the seventh instead of the first day of the week, as is now generally done? Has any one right to thus modify the law which God gave to Israel by the hand of Moses? In so doing, is not that one as truly a transgressor as if he had broken every commandment of it? “Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” The law knows no mercy, revision or amendment at the hands of men. It is inexorable in all its demands, and will compromise its justice to suit none. It is no respecter of persons. We mean the law of God, not that of men. Well, if it be conceded that Saturday should be kept, and not Sunday, are we sure that our present Saturday is the old seventh day of the law? Does anybody know? Can anybody tell? Do we know, can we prove that our present seven-day week begins and ends as did the week of the old covenant? The Jewish year had 354 days, ours has 365. The calendar we use is of ancient Roman, not Jewish origin. The Romans originally counted 304 days, divided into ten months, as a year. In this way they got so far behind the sun and moon that Julius Caesar decreed the year 46 B. C. should have 445 days in order to catch up. Again, in 1582, ten days were dropped from the year to make it come out right, and again, in 1752, the same thing was done. Now, with all this juggling of the calendar, who knows but what the weeks have gotten mixed as well? Strong is the probability that they have. Confronted with this obstacle, the learned Doctor C. I. Scofield gets around it by saying that it does not make any difference what day of the week we observe as the sabbath, just so we devote one-seventh of our time to the Lord. Just here the learned man runs against the first and greatest commandment of the whole law, which says, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” To do this would require all the time, not one-seventh of it. But, turning from this for the moment, Arminians claim that the seventh day sabbath of the Jews is not exacted of christians now, but that we must keep the first day of the week, or Sunday, as the sabbath. To prove this they take refuge in inferences drawn from the New Testament, but are not able to cite any definite command from the teachings of Christ and the apostles to the effect; that the first day should he thus kept. The sabbath of the old covenant was enjoined by strict and positive command, it was not left to be inferred. if Jesus had intended his disciples in this new day to observe the first day of the week particularly, would he have left it to be inferred? would he not have definitely enjoined it as he did the communion and baptism? It is true the Head of the church rose from the tomb the first day of the week, but he never spoke of it as an example for any one else to follow, nor as a matter to be celebrated every Sunday simply. True, that same evening of that same first day he appeared in assembly with his disciples, Thomas being absent, but, again, he spoke nothing to signify that his appearance would be confined to first days. On the other hand, after eight days had past he appeared again, Thomas being then with them. This was not the first day of’ the week, since it was eight days after the first appearance in the first assembly. The descent of the “Holy Ghost at the day of Pentecost was on the first day of the week, since Pentecost always came on the first day of the week after seven sabbaths from the time of the passover. But in nothing that was preached or said on that day by any one of which we have any record was there given command to the church of Jesus to remember Sunday, the first day, to keep it holy. In Acts xx. 7, we read that on one occasion on the first day of the week the disciples came together to break bread and Paul preached. This has given rise in the minds of some to the thought that the apostles usually held their meetings on the first day of the week, but such was not the case. It was a daily matter with them, not a one-seventh-of-the-time matter. Acts ii. 46, tells us that “they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.” Members were added to the church every day, not simply one day. Acts v. 42, assures us that “daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.” Acts xvi. 5, declares churches were established in the faith, and increased in numbers daily. “It is said of Paul in Acts xvii. 17, that he disputed in the synagogues with the Jews, and with devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him. He did not have to have a fine church-building to do his preaching in, nor confine his ministry to one day of the week. Also, in the school of Tyrannus, at Ephesus, Paul spoke daily. Surely we have deduced enough evidence to prove that the gospel church of the Lord Jesus does not confine its worship and the exercise of its gifts to any one day of the week, and it has always been significant of Old School Baptists and their preachers that they have always been, and still are, as ready to get together for a meeting any day of the week as well as Sunday. We have known our brethren often to lay aside all business and labor to assemble for a meeting: on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, or any other day, just as well as on a Sunday.
But now we have dwelt so long on the subject of the sabbath from the stand-point of formality and custom, that we desire to come at the real heart of the matter. When the woman at the well in Samaria asked Jesus whether it was better to worship in Jerusalem or in the mountains of Samaria, he told her neither, but that they who worship God must worship him in spirit and in truth. This declaration of Jesus gloriously and triumphantly sounds the death knell of all legalism, of all rituals and religious forms, laying bare the great heart of truth. Not who we are, nor where we are, matters so much as the spirit and the truth in us. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,” liberty from all the things of the law, from its curse and condemnation, death, hell and sin. “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” The truth is Jesus. Those who, through grace, know him are the Lord’s freemen. Their slavery is abolished. There is but one place where the law has ever been kept, and that is in Jesus Christ. He fulfilled the law in every jot and tittle, and no man ever did it but he. The sabbath was a part of the law. He must have kept it. If there is one slightest part of the law which Jesus did not keep, and which it devolves upon man to keep, there can be no hope for any sinner the world over. The obedience of Christ may as well not have covered any of the law as not to have covered it all, for if he left undone one thing we are lost. The whole law pointed to Christ. While the Jews thought they had eternal life in the keeping of it, really all the time it was in effect it was testifying of Jesus, of his sufferings and the glory that should follow. The sabbath in the Mosaic covenant was given to Israel by God as a sign, a figure, not a substance. It was a sign of a finished creation and of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. In Exodus xx. 11, it is given as a sign of the finished creation: “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.” In Deut. v.15, the sabbath is given as a sign of their sanctification, of their deliverance and separateness from Egypt: “Remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence, through a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm: therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.” Now add to this the saying of Jesus himself in Mark ii. 27, 28, and we have the kernel of the whole matter: “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.” Jesus is Lord of the sabbath. In other words, the sabbath is his, it belongs to him, he fulfills its meaning and brings to light its full substance. The sabbath ended the week of labor; came after all, not part, of the work was done. So Jesus is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. Called to him by effectual grace, they, the laboring and heavy laden, come. All their work under the law is done. Their guilty conscience having found no peace in it all, each one sinks helpless, crying, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” To such Jesus is the end, the purpose, the fulfillment of the law. He is their Sabbath-day. Entering into him, they never go back under the law again. All the work is done. They rest from their labors as God did from his. In Jesus the spiritual creation of God is finished, their redemption perfect, their justification complete, their resurrection secured. Jesus is also their sanctification, their separateness from the world and all it contains. In this, too, he fulfills and is the Sabbath. The righteousness of the law is fulfilled in them who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Whatever typical righteousness there was in the old Jewish sabbath day is fulfilled by the Spirit in the Lord’s people, and they do not fulfill it themselves in keeping Sunday as the sabbath. This matter of the sabbath is a very serious, solemn, spiritual, continual matter, not to be confounded with customs and usages of men. Isaiah, by faith, looking upon the gospel church and the finished work of Jesus, said, “From one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord.” Thus we see from abundant Scriptures that the assembling of all flesh, Gentiles as well as Jews, to worship before the Lord is not confined to one day of the week, but is from “one sabbath to another,” all the time, perpetual, everlasting. Jesus’ explanation of the sabbath caused the; flows to regard him as a sabbath-breaker. Old School Baptists’ explanation of it has often caused them to be regarded in the same light by the world. We should rejoice to be found in the same lot with him. He suffered without the gate. “Let us go forth unto him without the camp, outside legalism and all its forms and shadows, bearing his reproach. The church in its gospel character is under grace, not law. We are not by this, saying that our people should not respect the laws of the land which enjoin the observance of Sunday as a day of rest from business and everyday labor. We must respect the powers that he, must live law abiding, respectable lives in the sight of all men, so far as in us lies. But while observing Sunday as a day of rest we do lit as unto men, not as unto God, not recognizing that such observance gives us any favor or merit whatever in the sight of God. Our law in the State of Virginia reads thus: “If any person be found on the sabbath day laboring at his trade, or calling, or employ his servants or apprentices in labor or other business, household or other work of necessity or charity excepted, he is guilty of a misdemeanor, and on conviction he must be fined not less than five dollars for each offense.” We presume other States have much the same law. Old School Baptists, as citizens of their respective common-wealths, are bound by apostolic order to live within the law of the land. However, we emphasize in conclusion, in so keeping the sabbath, or Sunday, we do it. as unto men, not as unto the Lord. L.
Elder H. H. Lefferts
Signs of the Times
Volume 82, No. 19
October 1, 1914