Brother Beebe: - In attending further to the enquiries of Brother Moore, the perpetuity of the Sabbath comes next in order. This subject has been already two or three times discussed in the Signs. Brother Beebe has once given his views thereon, and I have once, if not twice, given mine. But Brother Moore and perhaps other readers of the Signs, may have seen neither of the communications heretofore published on this subject. I will therefore again give my opinion concerning the Sabbath, in as brief a manner as I can, consistently with the nature of the subject.
Admit the correctness of the position I took on the subject of the washing of feet, namely: that the Apostles, being seated on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel, are to determine (that is, by their writings), all things pertaining to the kingdom of God, or the gospel dispensation, and this subject is decided at once. For neither the Apostles, nor their Lord, have anywhere enjoined the observance of a seventh-day Sabbath on the disciples under the gospel. Neither have we any instance in the New Testament of Sabbath breaking that is, in a literal sense, being reproved as a sin, excepting by the Scribes and Pharisees. When, in addition to these facts, we recollect that the Apostles when sitting in council on the case of the Gentile disciples concerning their keeping the law of Moses, decided, and that by the guidance of the Holy Ghost, that no greater burden should be laid upon them than these necessary things; that they abstain from meats offered unto idols," &c. (Acts 15:28,29), we certainly must conclude that the Gentile churches are loosed from the observance of the Sabbath in its typical and ceremonial relation. But it is said by those who hold to the perpetuity of the obligation to observe one day in seven as the Sabbath, that the law requiring the observance of this day was included in the Ten Commandments, written on tables of stone, and therefore, like the rest of the decalogue, it must be perpetual in its obligation. But it should be remembered that the law is spiritual, also that under the gospel, God is peculiarly revealed as a Spirit, and as requiring them that worship Him, to worship Him in spirit and in truth John 4:23,24. I cannot conceive of any good reason that can be given why the observance of one day in seven as holy time, in distinction from the other six, is not as much external and carnal as is the holding of one place, such as Jerusalem, to be more holy than another as a place of worship. But further we find all the other commands of the decalogue, in the spirit and substance of them, recognized by Christ and His Apostles, and the observance of them enforced upon the churches, whilst the observance of the Sabbath, in the letter of it, is no where, as has been before noticed, in the New Testament required.
My understanding of the fourth command of the decalogue is that it is ceremonial and typical in the letter of it, and moral, or perpetually obligatory, in the spirit of it. That it is ceremonial is shown from Ezek. 20:12, if not by its being so completely connected with the other ceremonies of the law. In the text just referred to, God says of Israel, "I gave them my sabbaths to be a sign between me and them," &c. And it is evidently shown in Heb.4:3-11, that the seventh-day Sabbath was typical of that rest which Christ gives to His people when they come to Him or believe in Him, because He hath ceased from His own work - the work of redemption - as God did from His. Why then, it may be enquired, was this command inserted in the decalogue? Because there is a spirituality in it which is morally obligatory. The number seven and seventh is used typically to denote completion or fullness; hence Israel's being required nationally to observe the seventh day as holy time taught the obligation of man, and his sinfulness for not complying therewith, to consider his whole existence as holy to the Lord, and not therefore to have served self by doing his own acts, or thinking his own thoughts. In this sense the obligation of this command is recognized by the Apostles in the New Testament. The strictness also of the Levitical law in enforcing the observance of the typical Sabbath upon Israel, and upon Israel alone, teaching the awful penalty which stands against those who, professing to rest by faith in Christ, are doing their own works for acceptance with God, and thus polluting the gospel Sabbath.
There are others who hold to the perpetuity of the command to observe the seventh-day Sabbath, who yet observe the first day instead of the seventh, pretending that the day has been changed by divine appointment. This they infer from the fact of the disciples meeting together on the first day of the week to break bread, &c. But this is altogether human assumption; for the Scriptures nowhere declare God's having authorized the change of the first day for the seventh, in the keeping of the fourth command. So long, therefore, as we walk in obedience to the Scriptures as our only rule of faith and practice in religion, and reject the traditions of men as a rule, we must reject this idea of the first day's being the legal Sabbath. But we have also very pointed proof to show that the writers of the New Testament did not understand this more modern doctrine of the substitution of the first day, for the seventh, as the Sabbath of the law; for they uniformly, not only before the resurrection of Christ, but throughout the New Testament, make use of the term Sabbath to denote the seventh-day, the day which the Jews observed as such. Thus; Matt.28:1, "In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn towards the first of the week," or first day of the week, "came Mary, &c." See also Luke 23:56; 24:1, in connection as being more full. We read also throughout the Acts of the Apostles, of Paul's going into the Jewish Synagogues on the Sabbath days. These were the days on which the Jews were assembled therein, and, of course, their Sabbaths. On the other hand, whenever the day is named on which the disciples met together, it is always said to be, not on the Sabbath, but on the first day of the week. See John 20:19; Acts 20:7; I Corinthians. 16:2. Is there not then a manifest line of distinction kept up throughout the entire New Testament between the first day of the week, that on which the disciples met together to break bread, and the Sabbath of the Scriptures? Who then, since the Apostles had sealed up their decisions, has had any authority to take away this line of demarkation, or "remove this ancient landmark"?
It may then be asked, Do you esteem every day alike? In point of holiness I do. I do not conceive that we have a right to sin against God one day or hour, more than another, but that we should at all times: "Glorify God with our bodies and our spirits which are His." As the Apostles appear to have established among the churches the practice of meeting together on the first day of the week for worship, I esteem it an apostolic pattern set for the churches in all after ages. And I care not how particular any are, in setting apart this day as a day of worship, when circumstances will so admit, providing they do it on gospel principles; that is as a voluntary setting it apart for the observance of the institutions of the gospel, such as the church's meeting together for worship, and in grateful remembrance of the resurrection of Christ as the Head and Representative of His people, having finished the work of redemption in their behalf, from under the law. But the observance of this day as the Sabbath, and in obedience to the law, savors too much of legality for such as have become "Dead to the law by the body of Christ." I know that judaizing teachers may bewitch the children of God into legal observances, as they did the Galatians; but, as said the Apostle on that occasion, so I would say to these: "Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?" &c. Gal.4:21-31; see also Col.2:16-23.
The next subject of enquiry is Acts 15:29. "That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well," &c. Here we have the decision direct of the Lord's enthroned judges, on these points, binding the observance of these several prohibitions upon the disciples from among the Gentiles. It must extend, therefore, to us.
I would here remark that the obligation to abstain from the fourth item in this catalogue, namely: fornication, is so generally admitted and so fully enforced by the Apostles in their epistles that I need not say any more. And in reference to the first item, the abstaining from meats offered unto idols, the Apostle, in writing unto the churches, owing to their being so much intermixed among idolaters, had occasion to enlarge so much on this prohibition that I might, with propriety, pass it by were it not that it gives me occasion to remark that the anti-christian idolatry of our day may well be considered as embraced, in substance, in the same prohibition. Hence, those brethren who, trusting to their knowledge, think they can stay with safety in connection with churches where the worship of mammon, or the potency of moneyed institutions to further religion, is maintained, and thinking that they can take the good and leave the bad, or join in the worship of God without participating in the moneyed plans, may with propriety consider the Apostle as addressing them when he says, "If any see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols?" Or, in other words, to participate in the idolatrous schemes there practiced? "And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died." That is, dwindle away and become useless to the body, the church, or be cast away from it. "But when ye sin so against the brethren and wound their weak consciences, ye sin against Christ" I Cor. 8:10-12.
The parts of this verse which Brother Moore, I presume, had more immediately in view, are, the abstaining from blood and from things strangled. These two points amount to nearly the same. One refers to eating the blood drawn from animals killed, the other to eating animals killed without being bled, which is mostly done by strangling. There are, I am inclined to think, many who profess to receive the Scriptures as their guide, who yet pay no kind regard to this apostolic prohibition. They probably have adopted the idea that the obligation to abstain from blood was imposed only by the Levitical law, was on a footing with the prohibition to eat swine's flesh, and like that abrogated under the gospel, or rather, never binding upon the Gentiles.
But it is not so. If it had been, I cannot think it would have seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to the Apostles to have decreed this restraint to be put upon the disciples at Antioch. The fact is, the eating of the blood of animals was prohibited to Noah, when the license was first given to man to eat animal food. Gen. 9:3-6. The license and prohibition thus go together. "Every moving thing shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. But the flesh with the life thereof which is the blood thereof shall ye not eat. And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it." &c.
As this restriction was laid upon Noah as the Progenitor of the postdeluvian world, it must be binding upon the whole human family, Gentiles as well as Jews; all being his posterity. Hence the original and universality of this prohibition of the eating of blood shows the propriety of the Apostles' thus establishing its force upon the Gentile disciples. It is an acknowledgment which God thus early required man, in allowing him the use of meats, to make, that He alone was the giver of life and Creator of all things; and that man in taking it, is taking what God alone can give. And I see no good reason why, under the full light and liberty of the gospel, whilst still enjoying the privilege of the use of animal food, we should not be under as strong obligation to acknowledge God as the giver thereof and the alone Author of all life, as were those in the earlier ages of the world.
As for myself, although I frequently see the blood of animals designed for food, shed without being duly impressed with the idea that the act of pouring out the blood thus upon the ground was designed of God as an expression of returning the life of the animal to Him as the alone giver of it, and as an acknowledgment of Him as the Creator of all things, and Author of all our mercies; yet I have for years been so convinced of the divine authority of the apostolic restriction in this case, that I object in my family to the life even of fowls designed for food being taken without its being done by the shedding of their blood; and also to the practice of snaring game designed for food, it being a species of strangling.
As the apostolic injunction requiring the abstaining from things strangled and from blood was intimately connected with that requiring the abstaining from meats offered to idols, the direction which Paul gives in reference to eating at another's table; to whatsoever is purchased in market; concerning meat offered to idols will, I presume, hold equally good in this other case, namely: "Whatsoever is sold in the shambles (or butcher's stall), that eat, asking no question for conscience sake: For the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof. If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake, &c." I Cor. 10:25-34.
The other subjects embraced in Brother Moore's enquiries I will leave for another communication. I remain as hitherto, Yours to serve in the gospel.
Centreville, Fairfax County, Virginia,
Jan. 6, 1840
From: SIGNS of the TIMES: Vol.8 (1840)
Select Works of Elder Samuel Trott