THE SABBATH.

BROTHER BEEBE: - Though an abiding inhabitant of the Valley of Trouble, which the Lord I trust, has given me for a door of hope, I nevertheless feel considerable anxiety about what is passing on the hills of worldly and religious establishments, believing that numbers of my Father’s children are wandering there. I am therefore induced to trouble you occasionally with my views on such subjects, as I feel particularly interested in; hoping that they may prove beneficial to others. For instance, I wish to bear my testimony against anything which is calculated to make those hills more troublesome to the children of God.

Finding from a quotation in the first number of the SIGNS, from the BAPTIST REPOSITORY, that the cry of infidelity is still kept up against Col. R.M. Johnson, on account of his Report on the Sunday Mail Question; the object of which is evidently, to prejudice the minds of the public against the principles of that Report, and to prepare the way for establishing the opposite principles; I wish therefore to bear my feeble testimony against those charges.

Let us examine the ground upon which Col. Johnson is charged with infidelity. First, he denies the necessity and the right of Congress to legislate upon matters of religion, or to establish by law the creed of one party, and thus to infringe upon the equal rights of others. It is then in the estimation of those persons, unbelief, or infidelity, to believe that the Kingdom of Christ is not of this world; and that Christ is able to do it and will sustain his own religion, alone by the word of his power, and will by the power of Divine love shed abroad in their hearts, constrain his people to receive his doctrine, and to observe his institutions, and that independent of any coercive aid of human laws? If this is Deism, what is Christianity? What is it to believe the opposite of this kind of Deism, but to deny Christ? And what is this, but Anti-christ?

But again Col. Johnson evidently favors the opinion of those Christians who observe the first day of the week, not as a requirement of the law, but as a Gospel Institution; these observe it not as Disciples of Moses, but as Disciples of Christ. This was enough to draw upon him the charge of Deism from all the Legalists in the Country. Such charges, however contain no other proof, than that of a want of argument with those who make them. The important inquiry is, Do the Scriptures support the views of these Christians relative to the first day of the week? If the word of God was allowed to contain a perfect revelation of the will of God upon this question, the question would at once be decided, for it contains no direct authority for observing this day peculiarly as a day of worship, but that of Apostolic example. If any deny this assertion, we challenge proof, Scripture proof, to the contrary.

It cannot require any argument to show that whatever is practiced on the ground of Apostolic authority, is practiced as a Gospel Institution, and not as a legal requirement. I know that many inferences are drawn, and positions are assumed to establish, if possible, the fact that the Apostles only changed the day of the Sabbath from the seventh to the first, still observing it in obedience to the fourth Command; it is also assumed as a granted point, that the fourth Command in the letter of it, is a moral precept, equally with the other Commands of the Decalogue. But perhaps we may be allowed to draw a few inferences on the other side of the question, and to test the correctness by the word of God.

If so, we infer, first, that neither Christ or his Apostles ever instituted meeting together of the Disciples on the first day of the week, as an observance of the Sabbath of the Decalogue. We draw this inference from the fact, that although Christ sanctioned this practice by once and again meeting with his Disciples on the first day of the week, and the Apostles as in Acts 20:7 & I Cor.16:1,2; yet this is never in the New Testament denominated the Sabbath; that term being still used to designate the seventh day. This could not have been the case, if the first day had become the proper Sabbath of the law, unless we were to admit that the Apostolic history was designed to mislead us upon this point.

Second: We infer that the Command to observe the seventh day as a Sabbath, was not in the letter of it, a moral precept, like the other Commands of the Decalogue. By a moral precept we mean that which enjoins the observance of such things as were morally obligatory upon man as the creature of God, and which do not depend on any express Command for their fitness and obligation; and which of course can never cease to be obligatory and fit, so long as man stands in the relation of a creature to God, such are the other nine Commands of the Decalogue. We infer that the Command to keep the seventh day holy, as a Sabbath is not in this sense a moral precept, from the following Scriptural facts: First, had it been thus moral, as delivered from Sinai, it would have remained obligatory upon man, under the Gospel as under the former dispensation, the Gospel not altering, but establishing the law, Rom.3:31. We should also in this case find the New Testament sanctioning the observance of this Command, and the Churches cautioning against the sin of transgressing it, as is the case in reference to each of the other of the Ten Commands. Instead of this we do not find the observance of this Command once enjoined upon the Disciples, either by the Lord or his Apostles; nor Sabbath breaking once noticed in the New Testament, excepting as it was charged upon Christ and his Disciples by the Jews. When therefore we look into the New Testament we readily discover to whose company those belong who are so zealous about the Sabbath.

Second, the law, in reference to its moral precepts, we are informed is spiritual {Rom.7:14,} but the separating a specified portion of time to be holy to the worship of God, is as much a thing of sense, as the setting a part a particular place to be holy to his worship. But the Master informed the Woman of Samaria, that the Spiritual worship required under the Gospel was opposed to such local holiness. John 4:21-24. It is equally opposed to such periodical holiness, for we are authorized to worship at all times, as well as in all places, and therefore have one High Priest, who ever liveth to make intercession.

Third, the Institution of the Sabbath is spoken of in the Old Testament as a positive Institution, given to the House of Israel for a sign. “Moreover also I gave them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them.” Ezek.20:12 & 20. See also Exod.31:12 & Neh.9:14. In conformity with this idea the Lord Jesus told those who accused him of Sabbath breaking, that “the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath,” Mark 2:27; and in the following verse, we are told that, “the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath.” This can mean nothing less than that he has authority to dispense with the observance of the Sabbath. Were we to admit, that as God, it is consistent with his nature to dispense with any moral obligation, of the law, which however we do not, yet when we consider that as the Son of man, he was made under the law, and came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many; that he came not to destroy the law or the Prophets, but to fulfill {Matt.5:17, 20:28 & Gal.4:4,} it certainly cannot be supposed that as such he had authority to dispense with any moral precept of the law. The conclusion is therefore irresistible that the Jewish Sabbath was a positive and not a moral Institution.

But fourth, whilst the Sabbath was given to National Israel, as a positive Institution, it was designed in reference to Spiritual Israel, to be a shadow of another rest, see Heb.4:4-10. Hence the Apostle connects Sabbath-days with New-moons, and with meats and drinks and other shadows, whose body was of Christ; see Col.2:16,17. Again, the Apostles speaking of Jewish days in which the Sabbath of course, must have been included, considers the observance of one day above another as a thing indifferent; his expression is, “One man esteemeth one day above another; another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” Rom.4:5. The Body – Christ, having come, the shadow is of course done away.

We therefore think our inference, that the fourth Command in the letter of it, was not given as a moral precept is amply sustained by the Scriptures of truth; that instead thereof it was in reference to the Gospel dispensation, only a shadow. Hence, our other inference that the meeting together of the Disciples on the first day of the week for worship, was not an observance of the Sabbath of the Decalogue, stands also well sustained by the Scripture view of the subject.

Still however, the question may be urged with some plausibility, Why is the Command to Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, placed among the moral precepts of the Decalogue?

Many suppose it is because its literal requirements are equally moral with the other precepts. Of this class among the professors of Christianity, the seventh day Baptists are alone consistent in practice with their belief. To believe that the requisitions of this Command are morally obligatory, and to believe that, “one jot, or one title {the smallest letter or even point,} shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled,” and at the same time to believe that in this Command, one word or day, may be substituted for another, involves a complete absurdity. In addition to this absurdity, by this alteration, the reason assigned for the Command; namely, that the Lord rested the seventh-day, is completely made void. Others suppose that this Command was included in the Decalogue, because that, although the requisition to observe the seventh day was positive, yet the obligation to observe one day in seven was moral. This explanation refutes itself. If man is under moral obligation to devote one day in seven to the service of God; why not the seventh day agreeable to the reason given for the Command. This explanation, however is very convenient for those religionists, who think the seventh part of their time is enough to devote to the service of God, or to be religious in. The spiritual Christian can never adapt such an idea to his feelings. He wishes all his time to be holy to God, and to be spent in his service. Such will consider the following explanation of the subject, as more accordant with the spirit of the law as written upon their hearts; namely, that as the term seven and seventh are repeatedly used in the Scriptures to denote a full amount or a completeness; so this Command, while in the letter of it, was a positive Institution to the Jews, and a shadow of good things to come to the Gospel Church, had a spirituality in it, like the other parts of the Decalogue, figuratively set forth by the letter, which included a moral obligation, to wit, that the fulness of our time, or in other words all our time, as well as all our faculties, should be holy to the service of God, as the Apostle explains it, “Whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do,” “do all to the glory of God.” I Cor.10:31. Hence we see a propriety in its being placed in the Decalogue, as it is like the other Commands Spiritual, and as such moral, though the letter of it being adapted to the external religion of National Israel, was not moral, but positive. Had the letter of this Command as delivered to National Israel, been commensurate with its Spiritual requisition, considering the nature of their service being external, it would have allowed them no time to till their land.

When therefore the Christian, taking the New Testament for his guide, devotes the first day of the week to the exercises of public worship; he does it in commemoration of the Resurrection of Christ, in obedience to Apostolic example, upon Gospel principles. He will not on this account be disposed to neglect this any more, than any other Gospel Institution. Yea, he feels it to be a privilege to assemble himself with the people of God. As he does not need, so neither can he approve of the compulsion of human laws to enforce the observance of this day, more than in the case of Baptism or other New Testament ordinances.

There is at this day, as there was in the Apostle’s days, much Judaism prevalent among Christians. Those who are under the influence of this, will still be disposed to look at the day with Moses’ veil on. The Apostle’s direction is, Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. I wish not to offend the conscience of a Brother, whose mind is thus shackled; but I wish each one to examine the subject for himself, in the light of the New Testament. If after such examination, any should not be satisfied, relative to the day, to leave Moses the servant, and follow Christ the Son; still I think they will not be disposed to denounce as Deists, all who differ from them relative to the obligation to observe the day; especially if they attentively consider Rom.14:1-10; not the gloss that may be put upon it, but the passage itself.

THE WALDENSIS.
Valley of Achor, Feb.20th, 1833.

Elder Samuel Trott