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THE SABBATH EXAMINED

(NEVER BEFORE PUBLISHED.)

I HAVE never been able to find out on what part of the globe the Garden of Eden was planted. Geography gives no account of a spot whence four rivers take their rise. It is, therefore, most likely that the flood so changed the bed of rivers, that no such place exists. If it was at or near one of the poles, one entire day was as long as three hundred and sixty-five days are in the middle regions: of course God was six of our years in creating and forming the heavens and earth, and all things therein, and then ceased from his work the following year.

Solar years – lunar months – day and night are measured and established by monuments in the laws of nature. Weeks watches – hours and moments have no fixed barriers in nature, but arose and exist, either by a revelation from God or the children of men Years, months, and days are frequently found in the writings of Moses: week only in the affair of Laban and Jacob; and in that place of uncertain meaning. In Daniel, the seventy weeks are supposed to include four hundred and ninety years, taking a day for a year; but whether a week in either of those places intends seven days, I cannot tell. In any case, the week belonged to the calendar of men. God rested on the seventh day of time; no account of a week.

Though God rested on the seventh day, I have not yet found that he ever enjoined a rest from labor on men for more than two thousand years after creation; nor any account that men ever observed a sevendayrian rest, during that length of time, taking Enoch, Noah and Abraham among the rest.

The solemn feast-day of the new moon was ordained by a statute of the Goal of Jacob, in the days of Joseph in Egypt, (Psalms, lxxxi., 3, 4, 5,) before the Sabbath was appointed, (Exodus, xvi., 25,) and is placed on a level with the Sabbath, (Isaiah, i., 13: Coll. ii., 16,) etc.

The strict observance of the seventh day, as a Sabbath of rest, was enjoined on the children of Israel, with a penalty so severe that the transgressor was not to be fined, whipped or put out of the synagogue, but surely put to death.* The Passover, as well an the new moon, was appointed by an express precept, before the Sabbath, (Ex. xii., 24.

Very soon after the appointment of the Sabbath, it was incorporated into the laws of Moses, and became an integral part of the ten commandments, which were written by the finger of God, on tables of stone.

The law of Moses contains three parts. First. The ten commandments engraven on stone. Second. The sixty precepts written in a book and sprinkled with blood, designed for the government of their commonwealth. Third. Their religious usages, containing bleeding victims, smoking altars, divers washings, and carnal ordinances; to be continued until what they prefigured should take place. Sometimes the whole of Moses' writings, without distinction, are called Moses, or the law.

When it first took rise, to call the ten commandments moral, distinct from the other parts of the law, or why it is continued, I cannot tell.

The word moral is not in the Bible, but it is a word of general use, in these days, and of a variety of meanings. In the religious department, it is used by many divines, to express the eternal rule of right which proceed from the relation that exists between God and men, and between man and man, and that will continue as long as the perfections of God and the faculties of men exist, without change, amendment or repeal. In this point of light I receive and use the word in my research.

Why men should pay more deference to the decalogue than to the other parts of the law, I cannot ascertain. True, the ten commandments were spoken aloud by God, amidst awful emblems of his power; so also the sixty precepts were written in a book, by a holy man of God, inspired by the Holy Ghost, and sprinkled with blood. When our Lord was asked by a lawyer, which was the first and great commandment, our Lord did not answer him from any of the ten commandments, but from Deut. vi., 5, and Levit., xix., 18, where Moses was not treating of the decalogue.

The law of eternal right and equity is seen running through the Bible like a golden cord, and is binding on all the progeny of Adam, whether they are favored with the oracles of God or not: but it never enjoins on man to do that which the laws of nature render impossible, nor does it ever give way to absolute precepts.

Many difficulties arise against the conclusion, that the fourth commandment, in the decalogue, was of moral obligation.

1. Moral obligations never intermit, but are every day, and all the time binding.

2. In the case of circumcision and the annual atonement, works were commended, contrary to the prohibition of the fourth commandment. Would God, by an absolute precept defeat the principles of eternal right?

3. In Deuteronomy, v., 3, Moses says, “The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are ail of us here alive this day.” What words could be plainer, and what sense of them more judicious, than to believe that none of the fathers before Moses were under the obligations to keep the fourth commandment, (which was a part of the covenant that Moses was speaking of,) which would have been the case if it had been moral in its nature?

4. None of the laws of Moses were written and engraven in stones but the ten commandments; and yet it is expressly said, (2 Cor., iii., 7, 11, 13,) that the ministration of what was there written, is done away and abolished, which will never be the case with moral law.

5. The prophets of the Lord faithfully and abundantly reproved the Jews for Sabbath breaking; but while they point out the many crimes of the Egyptians, Moabites, Edomites, Assyrians, Ninevites, Chaldeans, Tyrians, and others, they never mention Sabbath breaking. The apostle of the Gentiles, also draws a black picture of them. In Rom. i., 29, 30, 31, he lays to their charge twenty-two sins, but Sabbath breaking is not among the number. The like is true of Gal. v., 19, 20, 21, where seventeen sins are mentioned.**

6. The Sabbaths appointed by Moses were limited by evening. Whether the evening began at mid-day, at the setting of the sun, when the stars appeared, or at any other season, is immaterial: the Israelites, no doubt understood the expression used by their law-giver, from evening to evening. That it intends a whole day is evident. There has never been a minute since the fourth day of the creation, but what the sun has been rising – at his zeneth, and setting on the different parts of the globe. In a line of longitude, therefore, although the people round the globe might keep a day, the day would not be the same time to all. If the subject is viewed in a line of latitude, at or near the poles, there would be but one day in our year: of course the frigid nations would have but one Sabbath, while those of the middle regions would have three hundred and sixty five.*** Let a Mahometan, a Jew, and a Christian stand at any spot, and dispute about the holy day: the Mahometan says Friday – the Jew is for Saturday – the Christian pleads for Sunday: not agreeing in opinion, they part at variance. The Christian takes his course eastward and travels round the world, scrupulously keeping every Sunday for holy time. The Mahometan takes a western course, and, like the Christian, circumambulates the earth, rigidly observing every Friday. The Jew remains stationary, keeping every Saturday in Mosaic style. In a lapse of time the travellers return to the spot where the Jew was residing, and to their astonishment find the holy day of all was the same day. The Christian by travelling east had gained a day, and the Mahometan by going west had lost a day: every nine hundred miles gaining or losing an hour.

7. There is nothing in the starry heavens – in the atmosphere, or the productions of the earth, that marks one day in seven to be more holy than another. Should a man, in derangement of mind, lose time, (which often is the case,) when he returns to his reason he could never find the sanctified day by any fixed monument. This is the case universally, except in the double portion of manna given on the sixth day, and none on the seventh; which lasted but forty years.

8. The law of the Sabbath, when given by Moses, could be kept by all Israel. The tribes, in their encampment, did not cover a district, it is presumed, more than ten miles square; and after they took Possession of Ca naan, their whole country was but a very small part of the habitable world; of course they could all rest a specific day with ease, which would be impossible for all the nations of the earth to do.

9. The precepts of Moses were divinely binding on those for whom they were intended, for the length of time designed; and all of them that are evangelized in the New Testament are binding on Christians: the rest of them belong to the Jews, and other nations, and individuals to whom they were addressed, or have ceased by their limitation. ****

10. All the ten commandments, except the fourth, are brought forward and enjoined in the New Testament. That there is one God to be worshipped – that idolatry must be forsaken – that the name of God must not be taken in vain, or blasphemed – that father and mother must be honored – that murderers have not eternal life – that stealing is criminal – that adultery is heinous – that covetousness and love of the world is abhorrent, are interwoven in that book *****. But where shall we find a precept given by him who was greater than Moses – who was faithful in all his house, that his followers should abstain from labor and keep holy the seventh day of every week? or that the first day of every week should supersede the seventh, to be kept in remembrance of his resurrection? He appointed one meeting for his disciples on a mountain in Gallilee: and he appeared to above five hundred brethren at once; but on what day of the week I know not.

11. A day, limited by the unchangeable monuments of nature, could be observed by the nation of Israel in their section of country; but as the gospel was for all the world, no one day could be observed by the inhabitants at large. Would the blessed Jesus enjoin an impossibility upon his followers?

12. If the fourth commandment is moral, (still binding, without change or decay,) servants, cattle, and gates must exist forever, as long as the perfections of God and the faculties of men endure.


13. The essential prerequisites of salvation are not hereditary, nor do they depend upon social union, but are affairs that lie between God and individuals ; hence, a person in lonely solitude may possess those views and exercises of mind, and perform those works that are acceptable to God: yet God (who saw it was not good that man should be alone) has ordained the assembling of saints for religious worship, and marked out the rules of their devotion.

14. Men began to call upon the name of the Lord, (by publicly assembling, it is presumed,) A. M., 235. Some think that Abraham's three hundred and eighteen trained servants, were such as he had disciplined in the knowledge of God, who assembled with him at his altar. Jacob, in obedience to God, took his household, and all that were with him, and went to Bethel and worshiped God. But whatever may be said of the patriarchal age, the institutes of Moses appoint three solemn assemblies for every year, each to last seven or eight days, in which all the males of Israel were to be present; and many solemn assemblies beside. The seventh day Sabbath was appointed, with the awful penalty of death to the transgressor, to be observed as a day of rest, more than a day of worship.

15. That Christ was crucified on our Friday is generally understood. That he rose early on the first day of the week, our Sunday, is believed. Afterwards he was seen forty days, and then ascended, which was Thursday. Penticost being fifty days after the Passover, was on Saturday. It is difficult to see any partiality shown to days in the great events of eternal redemption.


17. There is a scattering class all over Christendom, and in some parts they are numerous, who strictly regard the first day of every week, in obedience to the fourth commandment. They have changed the seventh day for first, placed the resurrection of Christ for the object instead of God's rest and the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, altered the penalty from death to a small fine, changed a rest within their gates for a go-abroad to perform Christian worship, and added to the commandment “Except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy.” But they have not told us who is to be the judge, to decide whether the works done on the first day are works of necessity and mercy, or not. Is the parent to be judge for the child? the church for its members? and the magistrate for the populace? – why a weekly day should be appointed to cerebrate one event in the scheme of redemption and no day to commemorate other events, equally important, seems strange. If, however, there is a divine precept for it, our reasoning must be quiet: but where do we find the command, that the disciples of Christ should keep the first day of every week in remembrance of the resurrection of Christ? The class of Christians that I am now treating of, wherever they are numerous enough, make the observance of their first day an article of jurisprudence. The day is legalized, and the offender punished; regardless of the good maxim “That neither legislators, judges, nor jurors, in their official capacity, have any thing to do with souls and eternity; for where conscience begins, empire ends.”

18. Another respectable sect is ever found in Christendom who keep every seventh day of the week as holy time; believing that the fourth commandment is unalterable in its nature, and binding on all nations. Their motto is, “Do we then through faith make void the law? God forbid: yea we establish the law.” They are as firm believers in the resurrection of Christ as those who keep the first day for a holy Sabbath, and acknowledge him as the only Saviour of men, but punish those who disregard their holy day with nothing but non-fellowship. They also appeal to the first centuries of Christianity for precedent as much as their first day brethren.

19. Among the rest there has been, and still is, a goodly number who believe the divinity of the fourth commandment, and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and worship him in private and in public, in spirit anti in truth, who, nevertheless, believe that there is no sanctity in one day more than in another; they see that God blesses the assembled saints on one day of the week, as well as another, and that individuals have access to God, and receive the joy of believing, without a diary reckoning.

20. That many churches were formed in Judea, Samaria, and among the Gentiles, in the days of the apostles, is abundantly proved. In what manner they were separated from the world, and whether they had any budge that distinguished one church from another, except local situation, and unity of sentiment, is hard to ascertain. As we read of the whole church, the presumption is that each church knew her own members. The inspired apostles, by word and epistles, gave much instruction to those churches – to the ministers raised up among them, and to all the scattered saints who were so located that they could not assemble with others.

21. As individuals, their right temper of mind and private devotion is described, their relative and civil behaviour is enforced, and their various duties, as members of churches, are imperiously enjoined.

22. There are duties enjoined on the disciples, when assembled together, that required fixed days for their performance. These days must be fixed by divine appointment, by legal authority, or by mutual agreement. When Christ and the apostles were on earth, the power of making laws was in the hands of the heathen, who were enemies of Christ, and opposed so his cause; and in their hands it continued until the fourth century. Of course, during that length of time, there could be no laws made to regulate Christianity, either in times or proceedings.

23. That Christ gave any command to his disciples to assemble every first day of the week in commemoration of his resurrection, is not to be found – but he had many things to say unto them which they were not able to bear, which he assured them, should be revealed to them by the spirit of truth, after his ascension. To the inspired writings of the Acts and Epistles of the apostles we therefore apply for aid, as our last and sure guide.

24. Acts xxi., 20. – Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe, and they are all zealous of the law. Acts xv., 21. – For Moses, of old time, bath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogue every Sabbath day. Galatians iv., 10. – Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. From these texts, without any comment, it appears highly probable – almost certain, that the Jews, who embraced Christianity, assembled on the Sabbath, and not on the first day of the week. If our translation of the New Testament is correct, there is a marked difference between the Sabbath and the first day of the week.

25. The order which Paul gave to the churches of Galatia, reads thus: “Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teaches in all good things. As we have, therefore, opportunity, let us do good unto all mom; especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” Gal. vi., 6, 10.

This order he refers to and enjoins on the church of Corinth, in the following words: “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week, let every one of you lay by him in store, as God bath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.” I. Corinthians xvi., 1, 2. (If any other order was given to the Galatians, it is not recorded.) This order to the Galatians had no respect to the time of doing, but to the work to lie done; but to the Corinthians, the time (first day of the week) is particularly noticed. The work to be done was not reading the scriptures – preaching – exhortation – prophesying – praying nor singing, but laying by in store as God had prospered every one. The articles to be laid in store, were all good things; clothing, food and money, for the poor saints in Judea. Whether this work was to be repeated on the first day of more weeks than one, is not said. The business of the day seems to have been measuring, weighing, deducting, casting, and conveying the proceeds to the depot, that all might be ready for Paul to receive and carry to the poor saints in Judea. If a strained construction of the text can be admitted, it looks as if the Corinthians had voluntarily selected the first day of the week to meet together, to perform those duties which are of a social nature; which agreement Paul was acquainted with, and in order to economise time, he directs them to carry their donations with them to the place of their gathering together. This interpretation of the text, does not correspond with the views, of those who believe in the sanctity of the first day of the week. To see every member of the church repairing to the place appointed for public worship, one carrying a bag of grain, another a luncheon of meat, a third a bundle of clothing, etc., etc., would appear a profanation of holy time to them.

26. Nothing appears more likely to me, than that the several churches appointed their own days to assemble together. The churches in Judea preferred their old Sabbath, the Corinthians the first day of the, week, etc.; contiguous churches taking care to appoint different days, that men of leisure and piety might attend several meetings in a week. By this mode one preacher would do all the essential work that seven do on a different plan. Daily (not weekly) in the temple and in every house, they would not cease to teach and preach Jesus.

27. One man esteemeth one day above another – another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.

The foregoing remarks are now written when I am more than 83 years old; but they contain the exercises, views and conclusions of my mind, when I was in the full vigor of those powers of mind which God was pleased to give me.

August, 1837.

28. The preparation was the day before the Sabbath in the feast of the Passover. The day after the preparation, which was Sabbath, the elders and priests applied to Pilate for authority, and obtained a commission to make sure the sepulchure, seal the door, and set a watch, which they executed. How strange, that the men, who had so often condemned the Saviour for Sabbath breaking, should do it themselves!

29. Considering the laws of the states, and the long usages of this country, it is not probable that the suggestion made in the foregoing, (No. 26) will take effect until some revolution takes place in the religious department. The most that can be expected, is, that legislatures will cease making sabbatical laws, and churches decline making the observance of one day or another, or no day a test of fellowship; leaving individuals to judge and act for themselves.

30. I have only to add that in some of my writings that have been published heretofore, I have given more credit to the arguments in favor of the appointment of the first-day Sabbath, and its general observance that I can now admit of.

June, 1838

Elder John Leland

The Writings of The Late Elder John Leland
Published originally in 1845
Pages 688 – 696


* There were twenty crimes punished by death in the laws of Moses, either by hanging, stoneing, or burning, viz: adultery, beastiality, blasphemy, cursing lather or mother, enticing to idolatry, false prophesying, false swearing, idolatry, incest, kidnapping, murder, presumption, rape, Sabbath breaking, sacrificing to Moloch, smiting father or mother, sodomy, stubborness of a drunken sons, whoredom of a priest's daughter, and witchcraft.

** The character which St. Paul gives of the Gentiles, previous to their receiving the gospel, and the faithfulness of the apostle to testify the whole counsel of God, forbid the conclusion, either that the Gentiles had never broken this law, (if it was binding on them,) or that Paul shunned to reprove them for this sin. The most natural result is, that the precept was not moral, but absolute, obligatory on the Jews, and on them only.”

“As Jesus was made under the law, he submitted to it, and regarded the Sabbath; not in a mode that pleased the Pharisees and Rabbies, for by them he was often accused of Sabbath breaking; but in a mode that was pleasing to God.”

“Let it be carefully noticed that the first day of the week is never called Sabbath in the New Testament.” Remarks on Holy Time, &c.

*** The sun is at all times partially and totally eclipsed in some of the regions of spaced and the same is true of the moon.

**** “What light these men” (the advocates of the first-day Sabbath) “view those nations in, who proceeded from Adam, but were not under the law of Moses, and have never heard of Christ, whether they are under divine obligation to keep the seventh day or the first day, I cannot tell, for they hare never told me.” Remarks, &c.

***** See Romans, xiii., 9, and many other places.