Three Messages of Rev. 14
7 Reasons for Sunday…Refuted
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History of Sabbath Part 2
Testimony of the Fathers
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History Of The Sabbath

and the

First Day Of The Week

by J. N. Andrews

Part II: Secular History

(4th edition)

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J N Andrews



Part I: Bible History

Chapter 1: Creation Of The Sabbath
Chapter 2: The Institution Of The Sabbath
Chapter 3: The Sabbath Committed To The Hebrews
Chapter 4: The Fourth Commandment
Chapter 5: The Sabbath Written By The Finger Of God
Chapter 6: The Sabbath During The Day Of Temptation (Israel’s Time in the Wilderness)
Chapter 7: The Feasts, New Moons, And Sabbaths, Of The Hebrews
Chapter 8: The Sabbath From David To Nehemiah
Chapter 9: The Sabbath From Nehemiah To Christ
Chapter 10: The Sabbath During The Last Of The Seventy Weeks (Jesus and the Sabbath)
Chapter 11: The Sabbath During The Ministry Of The Apostles

Part II: Secular History (4th edition)

Chapter 12: Early Apostasy In The Church
Chapter 13: The First Witnesses For Sunday
Chapter 13a: The Sunday-Lord’s Day Not Traceable To The Apostles
Chapter 14: Examination Of A Famous Falsehood: Forged Chain of Sunday Evidence
Chapter 15: Origin Of First-Day Observance
Chapter 16: The Lord’s Day Of The Early Fathers
Chapter 17: The Civil Ecclesiastical Sunday
Chapter 18: The Legal Lord’s Day
Chapter 29: The Sabbath During The First Centuries
Chapter 20: Sunday Holiness During The Middle Ages
Chapter 21-1: Part One: Traces Of The Sabbath During The Dark Ages
Chapter 21-2: Part Two: The Church In The Wilderness
Chapter 22: Sunday The Distinctive Mark Of Papal Power
Chapter 23: The ‘Incomplete’ Sunday Of The Reformers
Chapter 24: Reformers And The Sabbath Command
Chapter 25: Sabbath-Keepers In The Fifteenth To Sixteenth Century
Chapter 26: Protestant Misappropriation Of The Fourth Commandment
Chapter 27: Sabbath From Sixteenth To Nineteenth Century
Chapter 28: God’s Holy Sabbath World-Wide
Chapter 29: International Sunday
Chapter 30: The Eternal Sabbath Rest

Chapter 12: Early Apostasy In The Christian Church


General purity of the apostolic churches
The Bible their only standard
Paul’s prophecy of the mystery of lawlessness
By letter, by spirit, by word
False teachers arose in the church—Gnosticism one of the factors
Greek philosophy another source of false teachings
Greater apostasy after the death of the apostles
The Influence of philosophy
Gnosticism becomes a doctrine of the church
A striking prophetic prophecy fulfilled
The doubtful character of the early writings of the church Fathers
Introducation of evil practises under pleasing pretenses
Age cannot change the fables of men into the truth of God
Nature of tradition illustrated
The two rules of faith which divide Christendom
The first-day Sabbath can only be sustained by adopting the rule of the Romanists.
The Bible as a sufficient Guide
The Open Book with the Lamb of God

The book of Acts and the apostolic epistles present to us the only inspired history of the early church. From their pages we learn that the apostles and their fellow laborers raised up church after church, in many regions, by simple preaching, “not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” 1

After the example of their divine Teacher, they persuaded people concerning Jesus, from “the law and the prophets.” 2

The gospel was unto them “the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” 3

Faith was the great requirement, which imparted cleansing power from every sin through the blood of Christ, and the power to righteous living by the Holy Spirit. Abraham, the “father of all them that believe,” saw the day of Christ, and believing, was made righteous and obeyed God’s requirements and law. 4

In him, as the “father of many nations,” “a great nation” was chosen, born not of the flesh, but of the Spirit; not of Hagar, but of Sarah. 5

In fulfilment of this promise, Paul could say of his kinsmen:

“Who are Israelites; to whom pertained the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came.” 6

Whatever blessings should come in Abraham to the Gentiles, were to come through Israel; both the old and the new covenant pertain unto them; and in order to be partakers of these blessings the Gentiles must be grafted into this olive tree. And though Israel as a nation rejected the promised Messiah, yet their unbelief did not make the faith of God without effect. God did not cast away his people, whom he foreknew. To this fact the very apostles, being of Israel and carrying the gospel to all the world, were the living witnesses. 7

Thus the intimate historical connections existing between the old and the new Israel were plainly set forth; both were one, built on the same “foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone.” 8

The canon of the Israel of God was fixed; the writings of the prophets and the apostles their all-sufficient guide, to the full knowledge of which the Holy Sprit would lead them. Their power of salvation was also defined to be the blessed gospel. The rule of life in this new covenant written in the heart was to be the same law that God inscribed in the heart of man in the beginning, which later was engraved on tables of stone, and which finally Christ set forth as the law of love and righteousness in his life and teachings. As a rest day they had the Sabbath, set apart as God’s own rest day in the beginning, blessed and sanctified for the good of man, kept by Christ, the apostles, and the prophets, and pointing forward to that eternal rest when the heavens and the earth are made new. As a fitting memorial of the death of chrism, they had the Lord’s supper; as a reminder of hi humiliation in behalf of man, the ordinance of feet washing and as a significant sign of his resurrection, the burial in the water grave, and the rising up to a new life.

Jew and Gentile, hearing these blessed truths, turned alike unto God, uniting as the true Israel all their efforts in giving this gospel inits purity and simplicity to a dying world, cheered by the bright hope that Jesus would soon come again, to give life everlasting to every believer on the bright morning of the resurrection. Yet as the apostles went forth, they met bitter opposition not only from the blindness of the Jews, but also from the wisdom of the Greeks. 9

The dangers threatening the little flock were not unknown to the apostles.

Prophets of old, like Daniel, had spoken of them, and the minds of the apostles themselves were enlightened by the spirit of prophecy. They accordingly felt it their duty to point out these dangers to their converts from the very beginning, as will be seen from the following:

Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and [by] our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for [that day shall not come], except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth [will let], until he be taken out of the way. 10

“To wait for his Son from heaven,” was the blessed hope taught by Paul to the Thessalonians. But in 2 Thess. 2:3 we find that he plainly told them:

  1. That this event would not take place until “there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed;”
  2. That this man of sin could not be revealed until the hindering power that was restraining his manifestation should “be taken out of the way.”

But in spite of the apostle’s clear teachings as to just when, and when not, to expect the second advent, there were some who were trying to deceive the Thessalonians by teaching them that the day was at hand.

The methods of deception employed were, “by spirit” “by word,” and “by letter as from us.”

Some of these deceivers professed to have the sprit of prophecy, and to make their false statements under divine inspiration (by spirit). Others based their assertions on some “word” or saying alleged to have been orally communicated to them by the apostle Paul. A third class even went so far as to forge letters purporting to have been written by the hand of Paul himself—“by letter as from us.”

The deceptions already then in vogue foreshadowed the future great deception; and these false teachers, by declaring that Christ’s advent was at hand, set aside the coming of the mystery of iniquity, although they themselves were the very first evidences of its development. Paul declares that “the mystery of iniquity,” or, as it is in the Revised Version, “the mystery of lawlessness,” “doth already work.” Thus the lawless methods employed to counteract the influence of his inspired utterances and sayings, and the forged statements alleged to have been written by one of the apostles, were really laying the foundation upon which the man of sin established himself. We should therefore consider each of these topics more closely.

  1. “By spirit” To this same church Paul wrote as follows: “Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesying. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” 11

While it was the special privilege of the New Testament church to be filled with the Spirit, and the spiritual gifts were for its unity and perfection, 12

Yet those manifestations should be carefully tested by the Word of God, and the church should hold fast only to that which is in accordance with the Scriptures. On this basis the inspired Word of God still remains the infallible rule—and not any person who claims to be led of the Spirit, but who sets himself above that authority.

  1. “By word.” When Paul raised up the Thessalonian church, the New Testament was yet to be written, and the very epistles to the believers in Thessalonica were to form a part of the canon. As he was both apostle and prophet, the words of his mouth ought to have had special weight with the churches for whom he labored so untiringly. Having so carefully instructed them in all lines while he was presenting the gospel to them, he charges them: “Therefore brethren stand fast, and hold the traditions which you have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” 13

This text, instead of proving the reliability of tradition, shows how liable oral traditions were to perversion, even in apostolic days; and if the spirit of lawlessness used that method to practise deceit at the very time when the apostles were still living, how much more successfully it must have practised and prospered after the apostles passed off the stage of action, and the man of sin was fully revealed.

  1. “By letter as from us.” One would scarcely think it possible that, at the very time when the apostles were still alive, men would arise who would dare to produce writings and claim for them apostolic authorship, although they knew them to be only a forgery: but how much more possible has it been since then! In order to protect himself, Paul gives this as a test by which his genuine letters are to be known: “The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write. 14

But this mystery of lawlessness, which was finally developed into the man of sin, was directly pointed out in the following admonition of Paul to Timothy: “O Timothy, keep that which is committed to they trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called,” 15

A more literal rendering of the Greek is: “Avoid the antitheses of gnosis, falsely so called.”

The American Standard edition renders the Greek term gnosis by “knowledge,” There is a true and false gnosis, or knowledge of divine things. The true “knowledge” is a special gift of the Spirit. False teachers soon counterfeited this gift, claiming to be the sole possessors of it. True knowledge of divine things is the result of a full surrender to God, receiving the revealed Word of God in childlike faith, conscious that we of ourselves know nothing, and taking the Word as it is written. But if any one thinks himself wise and tries to put into the simple divine Word a higher spiritual meaning of his own, a flase gnosis will be the inevitable result. A humble, simple person becomes wise through the true gnosis, while the false gnosis makes the puffed-up wise man a fool. 16

The true nature of this false gnosis and its strong influence on the early church is best seen from the additional counsel of Paul to Timothy:

But shun profane [and] vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some. 17

The Bible teaches, in simple, plain words, that the resurrection of the body is future event, which takes place in close connection with the second coming of Christ. But some members, prominent among whom were Hymenaeus and Philetus, taught that the resurrection was then past. This could be only on the supposition that the resurrection was merely a spiritual process, which occurs at regeneration, and thus had already taken place. The “Portable Commentary” comments on this passage thus:

The beginnings of the subsequent Gnostic heresy already existed. They ‘wrested’ (2 Peter 3:16) Paul’s own words (Rom. 6:4; Eph. 2:6; Col. 2:12) ‘to their own destruction,’ as though the resurrection was merely the spiritual raising of souls from the death of sin.” 18

The beginning of the Gnostic heresy being thus clearly pointed out in the Scriptures, we will consider its nature, and see if it meets the specifications given by Paul. Gnosticism, being in substance chiefly of heathen descent, rooted in Orientalism, antedated Christianity, took shape and form with it, and matured into a complete system at the beginning of the second century. Gnosticism overvalued knowledge to the depreciation of faith, its chief adherents constituting the intellectual aristocracy of the ancient church. From Philip Schaff we quote the following:

“Gnosticism is, therefore, the grandest and most comprehensive form of speculative religious syncretism know to history. It consists of Oriental mysticism, Greek philosophy, Alexandrian, Philonic, and cabalistic Judaism, and Christian ideas of salvation, not merely mechanically compiled, but , as it were, chemically combined.” “The flourishing period of the Gnostic schools was the second century.” “It deals with the great antitheses of God and the world, spirit and matter, idea and phenomenon; and endeavours to unlock the mystery of creation; the question of the rise, development, and end of the world; and of the origin of evil,” “The highest source of knowledge, with these heretics, was a secret tradition,” “In interpretation they adopted, even with far less moderation than Philo, the most arbitrary and extravagant allegorical principles; despising the letter as sensuous, and the laws of language and exegesis as fetters of the mind. 19

The church historian Milman adds:

“The later Gnostics were bolder, but more consistent innovators on the simple scheme of Christianity….In all the great cities of the East in which Christianity had established its most flourishing communities, sprang up this rival, which aspired to a still higher degree of knowledge than was revealed in the gospel, and boasted that it soared also met as much above the vulgar Christianity as the vulgar paganism….Gnosticism….was of a sublime and imposing character as an imaginative creed….It was pollution, it was degradation to the pure and elementary spirit to mingle with, to approximate, to exercise even the remotest influence over the material world…The whole of the Old Testament was abandoned to the inspiration of an inferior and evil demon; the Jews were left in exclusive possession of their national Deity, whom the Gnostic Christians disdained to acknowledge as bearing any resemblance to the abstract, remote, and impassive Spirit. To them the mission of Christ revealed a Deity altogether unknown in the dark ages of a world which was the creation and the domain of an inferior being.” 20

Now it is among the Gnostics that we find the false prophecies, secret oral traditions and epistles forged in the name of the apostles. The striking fulfilment of the three specifications given in 2 Thess. 2, is seen from the fact that Harnnack gives just these three characteristics of the Gnostics.

  1. By faith in the continuance of prophecy, in which new things are always revealed by the Holy Spirit (the Basilidian and Marcionite prophets);
  2. By the assumption of an esoteric secret tradition of the apostles (see Clem. Strom vii, 17,106, 108; Hipp,. Philos., vii, 20; Iren, I, 25,5; iii2,1; Tertull. De Praescr.25.Cf. the Gnostic book, which in great part is based on doctrines said to be imparted by Jesus to his disciples after his resurrection)
  3. By the inability to oppose the continuous production of evangelic writings; in other words, by the continuance of this kind of literature and the addition of Acts of the Apostles (Gospel of the Egyptians (?), other gospels, Acts of John, Thomas, Philip, etc. ) 21

On this basis of apostolic tradition manufactured by themselves, the Gnostics built up their faith, rejecting the Old Testament, and consequently the Decalogue and the Sabbath, and declaring that ancient Israel and all its institutions were of the devil. The utterly destroyed the historical connections between the Old and the New Testament, and linked the new faith with Oriental mysticism and Greek philosophy. A new faith without historic connections with the Old Testament demanded a new spiritual law, and a spiritual Sabbath.

Paul, who had to meet the wisdom of the Greek philosophers (Acts 17:18), even in learned Athens itself, gives this definite warning, in Col. 2:8:

“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”

What influence Greek philosophy had already on the Jewish scribes is thus set forth by Harnack:

“This spiritualising was the result of a philosophic view of religion, and this philosophic view was the outcome of a lasting influence of Greek philosophy and of the Greek spirit generally on Judaism. In consequence of this view, all facts and sayings of the Old Testament in which one could not find his way were allegorized. ‘Nothing was what it seemed, but was only the symbol of something invisible.” 22

That Greek philosophy had the same influence on the early Christian interpretation, is thus plainly attested by the same writer:

“Greek philosophy exercised the greatest influence not only on the Christian mode of thought, but also through that, on the institutions of the church. The church never indeed became a philosophic school: but yet in her was realized, in a peculiar way, that which the Stoics and Cynics had aimed at.” 23

We have now before us the dangers which beset the tender plant of Christianity, as it emerged from the overthrow of Jewish tradition, legalism, and spiritual interpretation: on the one hand, Gnosticism, with its forged secret tradition, oral or written; on the other hand, philosophy, with its vain deceit after the traditions of men, and after the rudiments of the world. Thus the spirit of iniquity was already on the stage of action, but as yet held in check by the presence of the apostles.

And if some of these dangerous influences made themselves felt “as doth a canker,” while the apostles themselves were yet alive, we need not wonder at Paul’s statement of what should take place after their death:

“For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 24

To Timothy, in like manner, it is said:

“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” 25

As soon as we leave the period embraced in this inspired history, which bears in itself the divine imprint, when the churches which were founded and governed by inspired men, we find ourselves in a mire that becomes more and more bottomless, and surrounded by ever-increasing darkness. There is, unfortunately, great truth in the severe language of Gibbon:

“The theologian may indulge the pleasing task of describing religion as she descended from Heaven, arrayed in her native purity. A more melancholy duty is imposed on the historian. He must discover the inevitable mixture of error and corruption, which she contracted in a long residence upon earth, among a weak and degenerate race of beings.” 26

In the earliest church history extant, though by no means altogether reliable, the realization of Paul’s fears are thus attested:

“But when the sacred college of the apostles had suffered death in various forms, and the generation of those that had been deemed worthy to hear the inspired wisdom with their own ears, had passed away, then the league of godless error took its rise as a result of the folly of heretical teachers, who, because none of the apostles was still living, attempted henceforth, with a bold face, to proclaim, in opposition to the preaching of the truth, the knowledge (gnosis) which is falsely so called.” 27

The earliest Protestant church history, “The Magdeburg Centuries,” corroborates this statement;

“The apostles had hardly died ere the spirit of deception thought it could easily break into the churches as into an empty house left without a guard, as Hegesippus fitly states it.” “It may be conceived that in this second century originated nearly all the heresies which afterward raged in the church,” 28

Robinson, author of the “History of Baptism”, speaks as follows:

“Toward the latter end of the second century most of the churches assumed a new form, the first simplicity disappeared; and insensibly, as the old disciples retired to their graves, their children along with new converts, both Jews and Gentiles, came forward and new modeled the cause.” 29

As the heathen maxim, “A lie is better than a hurtful truth,” so soon found entrance through Greek philosophy into the Christian teachings, it can easily be explained on what basis this new modeling was done. Speaking of the second century, Killen says:

“The code of heathen morality supplied a ready apology for falsehood, and its accommodating principle soon found too much encouragement within the pale of the church. Hence the pious frauds which were now perpetrated. Various works made their appearance, with some apostolic name appended to them, their fabricators thus hoping to give currency to opinions or to practises which might otherwise have encountered much opposition. At the same time many evinced a disposition to supplement the silence of the written word by the aid of tradition….During this period the uncertainty of any other guide than the inspired Record was repeatedly demonstrated; for, though Christians were removed at so short a distance from apostolic times, the traditions of one church sometimes diametrically contradicted those of another.” 30

Gnosticism and philosophy being the influences already at work in Paul’s days, when admitted into the church and fostered by it, developed fully the mystery of iniquity within the church. But Paul, after naming the very elements producing it, thus specified the exact time when this mystery would become fully manifest, and take form in the church. In our quotation from 2 Thess. 2, we found that this revelation would not occur until the restraining power be removed. Further, he states that the Thessalonians well knew what restrained it. In confirmation of the apostle’s statement that the early Christians knew what this hindrance was, we have the consenting testimony of the early church Fathers, from Irenaeus down to Chrysostom, that it was the persecuting imperial pagan power ruling and residing at Rome. Tertullian Comments on this passage: “Who else but the Roman state can be meant—after the partition of which among the ten kings we are brought to the Antichrist?” 31

And when this very partition had taken place, and the barbarians were overrunning the Roman empire, Jerome wrote (A.D. 409): “The hindrance is being removed (i.e. the Roman empire is being dissolved), and should we not recognize in this the approach of the Antichrist?” 32

The prophet Daniel foretold that out of the ten horns of the divided fourth, or Roman, empire, a little horn would arise, waxing great above all the ten others. Paul saw the beginnings of this mystery of lawlessness in his day, although apparently hidden; and in perfect harmony with Daniel’s prophecy, he was fully aware that it would not be manifest ere the hindering persecuting power—pagan imperial Rome—was removed. John the revelatory foresees the seat and power of pagan Rome, then existing, transferred to this second power, so much worse in its persecuting nature. The early Christian believers and commentators were all persuaded that, after the dissolution of the Roman empire, there would arise an even worse power, with its seat in Rome.

And how Rome, with the aid of Greek philosophy, conquered the Christian world, and set itself up in the church of god, is thus set forth by Harnack:

“We have to show how, by the power of her constitution and the earnestness and consistency of her policy, Rome, a second time, step by step, conquered the world, but this time the Christian world.” “That the old bearers of the Spirit—apostles, prophets, teachers—have been changed into a class of professional moralists and preachers, who bridle the people by counsel and reproof, that this class considers itself and desires to be considered as a mediating kingly divine class, that its representatives became “lords” and let themselves be called “lords”, all this was prefigured in the Stoic wise man and in the Cynic missionary. But so far as these several “kings and lords” are united in the idea and reality of the church, and are subject to it, the Platonic idea of the republic goes beyond the Stoic and Cynic ideals, and subordinates them to it. But this Platonic ideal has again obtained its political realization in the church through the very concrete laws of the Roman empire, which were more and more adopted, or taken possession of. Consequently, in the completed church we find again the philosophic schools and the Roman empire.” 33

The next factor is Gnosticism, which one writer fitly calls a strange imager “generated by the rising sun of Christianity in the fogs of declining paganism” In the vain hope of fortifying the tender organism against this infection, unsanctified teachers inoculated the church with this very poison, with this result; “the old Catholic Church plainly shows in her belief, customs, and rites, the influence which conquered paganism had over the lucky victor.” 34

The proof is thus set forth by Harnack:

“The assumption of a secret apostolic tradition…first appeared among the Gnostics, i.e. among the first theologians, who had to legitimatize as apostolic a world of notions alien to primitive Christianity. It then was found quite logically among the Alexandrians, and from them passed to Eusebius, who not only accepted it (H.E.ii,1..4) but also vindicated it against Marcellus (lib. I.c.1).” 35

“The Catholic Church afterward claimed as her own those writers of the first century (60-160) who were content with turning speculation to account only as means of spiritualising the Old Testament, without, however, attempting a systematic reconstruction of tradition…The great distinction here consists essentially in the fact that the Gnostic systems represent the acute secularizing of Hellenising of Christianity, with the rejection of the Old Testament; while the Catholic system, on the other hand, represents a gradual process of the same kind with the conservation of the Old Testament…It is therefore no paradox to say that Gnosticism, which is just Hellenism, has in Catholicism obtained half a victory.” 36

“’Gnosticism’, which the church had repudiated in the second century, became part of her own system in the third.” 37

According to Daniel and Paul this hierarchy would not arise in Rome and within the church until the Roman empire had been divided into ten parts. The striking fulfilment of this third part of our evidence, we will let the great Catholic historian tell:

“There it (at Rome) silently grew in secret as a tree in course of time; and in the oldest time it only showed itself forth on peculiar occasions; but the outlines of the power and the ecclesiastical authority of the Roman bishops were ever consistently becoming more evident, and more prominent… Out of the chaos of the great Northern migrations, and the ruins of the Roman empire, there gradually arose a new order of states, whose central point was the Papal See. There from inevitably resulted a position not only new, but very different from the former. The new Christian empire of the West was created and upheld by the Pope. The Pope became constantly more and more (by the state of affairs, with the will of the princes and of the people, and through the power of public opinion) the chief moderator at the head of the European commonwealth—and as such, he had to proclaim and defend the Christian law of nations, to settle international disputes, to mediate between princes’ and people, and to make peace between belligerent states. The curia became a great spiritual and temporal tribunal. In short, the whole of Western Christendom formed, in a certain sense, a kingdom, at whose head stood the Pope and the emperor—former, however, with continually increasing and far preponderating authority.,” 38

When the prophecy and the recorded facts of human history so closely agree in every particular, we can plant our feet firmly on the more sure world of prophecy. This perfect harmony of historical testimony to its very fulfilment leaves no doubt as to the correctness of the position taken. We now know positively where this mystery of lawlessness is to develop—first in secret, then openly—and where it is to take form and be fully revealed. We must and shall find it in the Roma Church. Bearing this information in mind, we must turn our attention to the writers of the early church—not to establish any Bible truths, for the Bible suffices for this, but to show by their testimony that such an apostasy has taken place in the exact manner described. But that we may understand the uncertainty of these early writings, and what has been done through the apostasy to corrupt the, we quote the following lengthy statements from Harnack:

“As they did not hold themselves bound to stick to the truth in dealing with an opponent, and thus had forgotten the command of the gospel, so they went on in theology to impute untruthfulness to the apostles, citing the dispute between Paul and Peter, and to Christ (he concealed his omniscience, etc.) . They even charged God with falsehood in dealing with his enemy, the devil, as is proved by the views held by Origen, Gregory of Nyss, and most of the later Fathers, of redemption from the power of the devil. But if God himself deceived his enemy by stratagem (pia faus), then so also might men. Under such circumstances it can not be wondered at that forgeries were the order of the day. And this was the case. We read, even in the second century, of numerous falsifications and interpolations made under their very eyes on the works of still living authors. Think of the grievances of the church Fathers against the Gnostics, and the complaints of Dionysius of Corinth and Irenaeus. But what did these often naive and subjective innocent falsifications signify compared with that spirit of lying which was powerfully at work even in official compositions in the third and fourth centuries? Red Rufinus’s ‘De adulterat. Libr.Origenis,’ and weigh Rufinus’s principles in translating the works of Origen. And the same spirit prevailed in the church in the fifth and sixth centuries; see a collection of the means employed to deceive in my ‘Altchrit.Litt.-Gesch.’ I.p.42 ff.

In these centuries no one continued to put any trust in a documentary authority, a record of proceedings, or protocol. The letters by bishops of this period throng with complaints of forgeries; the defeated party at a synod almost regularly raises the charge that the acts of synod are falsified; Cyril and the great letter writers complain that their letters are circulated in a corrupt form; the epistles of dead Fathers—e.g., that of Athanasius to Epictetus were falsified, and foreign matter was inserted into them; the followers of Apollinaris and Monophysites, e.g. systematically corrupted the tradition. See the investigations of Caspari and Draseke. Conversely, the simplest method of defending an ancient church Father who was cited by the opposition or on whose orthodoxy suspicion was cast, was to say that the heretics had corrected his work to suit themselves, and had sown weeds among his wheat. The official literature of the Nestorian and Monophysite controversy is a swamp of mendacity and knavery, above which only a few spots rise on which it is possible to find a firm footing. 39

We shall first consider the so-called Apostolic Fathers, a careful reading of which suffices to convince any Bible student that the name is unsuited. “This class consists of Barnabas, Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, and, in a broader sense, Hermas, Papias, and the unknown authors of the Epistle to Diognetus, and of the Didache.” All their writings combined form but a small volume, and much of that little is spurious. There is a “a sudden spring” between the writings of the apostles and theirs. “Their very mistakes enable us to attach a higher value to the superiority of inspired writers. They were to wiser than the naturalists of their day who taught them the history of the Phenix and other fables,” Neander remarks:

“The writings of the so-called Apostolic Fathers are, alas! Come down to us, for the most part, in a very uncertain condition; partly because I early times writings were counterfeited under the name of those venerable men of the church, in order to propagate certain opinions of principles; partly because those writings which they had really published were adulterated.” 40

After the Apostolic Fathers and before the council of Nicaea A.d. 325, we have the ante-Nicene Fathers—Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, Cyprain, etc. How much all the Fathers were influenced in their writings by philosophy and Gnosticism, Mosheim testifies:

“They all believed the language of Scripture to contain two meanings, the one obvious and corresponding with the direct import of the words, the other recondite and concealed under the words, like a nut by the shell; and neglecting the former as being of little value, they bestowed their chief attention on the latter; that is, they were more intent on throwing obscurity over the Sacred Writings by the fictions of their own imaginations than on searching out their true meaning.” 41

As to their contents Archdeacon Farrar says:

“There are but few of them whose pages are not ripe with errors—errors of method, errors of fact, errors of history, of grammar, and even of doctrine.” “Their acquaintance with the Old Testament is incorrect, popular, and full of mistakes; their Scriptural arguments are often baseless; their exegesis—novel in application only—is a chaos of elements unconsciously borrowed on the one hand from Philo, and on the other from rabbis and cabalists. They claim a ‘grace’ of exposition, which is not justified by the results they offer and they suppose themselves to be in possession of a Christian gnosis, of which the specimens offered are for the most part untenable.” 42

As to their teachings and how even the Catholic Church regards some, Philip Schaff makes the following statement:

“There dogmatic conceptions were often very indefinite and uncertain. In fact, the Roman Church excludes a Terrullian for his Montanism, an Origen for his Platonic and idealistic views, and Eusebius for his semi-Arianism, also Clement of Alexandria, Lactantius., Theodoret, and other distinguished divines, from the list of Fathers, and designates them merely ecclesiastical writers….We seek in vain among them for the evangelical doctrines of the exclusive authority of the Scriptures, justification by faith alone, the universal priesthood of the laity; and we find instead as early as the second century a high estimate al ecclesiastical traditions, meritorious and over meritorious works, and stron sacerdotal, sacrament Arian, ritualistic, and ascetic tendencies, which gradually matured in the Greek and Roman types of Catholicity.” 43

After these critical statements, we can the better indorse the following from Martin Luther:

“When God’s Word is expounded, construed, and glossed by the Fathers, the, in my judgement, it is even like unto one that strained milk through a coal-sack; which must needs spoil the milk and make it black; even so likewise, God’s Word, of itself is sufficiently pure, clean, bright, and clear, but through the doctrines, books and writings of the Fathers it is very surely darkened, falsified, and spoiled.” 44

Also the sever words of Dr. Adam Clarke:

“But of these we may safely state that there is not a truth in the most orthodox creed that cannot be proved by their authority; nor a heresy that has disgraced the Romish church, that may not challenge them as its abettors. In points of doctrine, their authority is, with me, nothing. The word of God alone contains my creed. On a number of points I can go to the Greek and Latin fathers of the church to know what they believed; and what the people of their respective communions believed; but after all this, I must return to God’s word to know what he would have me to believe”. 45

In his autobiography, he uses the following strong language:

“We should take heed how we quote the fathers in proof of the doctrines of the gospel; because he who knows them best, knows that on many of those subjects they blow hot and cold.” 46

After such testimonies concerning the writings of the so-called Fathers, we are better prepared to understand how, at so early a date, the mystery of iniquity could sow seeds of error of almost every variety. Within fifty years of the apostolic age Justin Marty bears witness that they cup was mixed with water, and that a portion of the elements was sent to the absent. 47

Within a century Tertullian writes about works of penance, such as fasting, and that thereby one could atone for his transgressions, give satisfaction to God, and merit forgiveness yea, even offer a sacrifice of atonement. 48 He sets forth the efficacy of prayer for the dead, to relieve their sufferings. He advocates the sign of the cross “at every forward step and movement”. 49

By the end of the third century we find all the material to erect a complete hierarchy; also the invocation of the saints, the superstitious use of images and relics and pretended miracles were confidently adduced in proof of their supposed efficacy.

The leading motives prompting the early introduction of these errors are thus enumerated by Mosheim:

  1. There is good reason to suppose that the Christian bishops purposely multiplied sacred rites for the sake of rendering the Jews and the pagans more friendly to them. For both had been accustomed to numerous and splendid ceremonies from their infancy.
  2. The Christians were pronounced Atheists because they were destitute of temples, altars, victims, priests, and all that pomp in which the vulgar suppose the esence of religion to consist.
  3. In the books of the New Testament, various parts of the Christian religion are expressed in terms borrowed forom the Jewish laws, or are in some measure compared with the Mosaic rites. In time, either from inconsideration, or from ignorance, or from policy, the greater part maintained that such phraseology was not figurative, but proper, and according with the nature of the htings. The bishops were at first innocently called high priests, and the presbyters, priests and the deacons, Levites.. In like manner, the comparison of the Christian oblations with the Jewish victims and sacrifices, produced many unnecessary rites, an by degrees corrupted the very doctrine of the holy supper, which was converted, sooner, in fact, than one ould think, into a sacrifice.
  4. Among the Greeks and the people of the East, nothing was held more sacred than what were called the mysteries This circumstance led the Christians, in order to impart dignity to their religion, to say that they also had similar mysteries,, or certain holy rites concealed from the vulgar; and they not only applied the terms used in the pagan mysteries to Christian institutions, particularly baptism and the Lord’s supper, but they gradually introduced also the rites which were designed by those terms. A large part, therefore, of the Christian observances and institutions, even in this (second) century, had the aspect of the pagan mysteries.
  5. Many ceremonies took their rise from the custom of the Egyptians, and of almost all the Eastern nations, of conveying instruction by images, actions, and sensible signs. The Christian doctors, therefore, thought it likely to help their cause, if things which men must know in order to salvation, were placed, as it were, before the eyes of the unreflecting multitude, who with difficulty contemplate abstract truths. The new converts were to be taught that those are born again who are initiated by baptism into the Christian worship, and that they ought to exhibit in their conduct the innocence of infants; therefore milk and honey were given to them. 50

This statement concerning the second century, taken from Mosheim, contains the explanation of the fact that in this same period annual festivals and a weekly holy day were introduced, for which we find no Bible evidence. Both Jews and pagans had their memorial festivals, be they annual or weekly, in superabundance; why should not the very same motives as stated above prompt the introduction of such mingling of Jewish and pagan festivals, converting their former meaning and changing them into memorials of important events of the gospel, such as the resurrection, the crucifixion, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the birth of Christ, etc.

When once the flood-gates were opened, memorial days of saints and of the Virgin Mary rushed I after them, completely covering the weekly memorial of God’s rest, given to man for his welfare at the beginning.

Under what inocent garb the mystery of iniquity hid itself while these very errors were introduced, Dowling, in his “History of Romanism,” tells us:

“There is scarcely anything which strikes the mind of the careful student of ancient ecclesiastical history with greater surprise than the comparatively early period at which many of the corruptions of Christianity, which are embodied in the Romish system, took their rise; yet it is not to be supposed that when the first originators of many of these unscriptural notions and practices planted those germs of corruption, they anticipated or even imagined they would ever grow into such a vast and hideous system of superstition and error, as is that of popery… Each of the great corruptions of the latter ages took its rise in a manner which it would be harsh to say was deserving of strong reprehension… The worship of images, the invocation of saints, and the superstition of relics, were but expansions of the natural feelings of veneration and affection cherished toward the memory of those who had suffered and died for the truth.” 51

The early introduction of a certain practise into the Christian church is often adduced as an argument in favor of its genuineness. But every such argument is simply another prop for every sort of error. The Catholic Church prides itself upon its origin in apostolic time, but while the prophecy of 2 Thessalonians 2 fully bears them out in their claim as far as the genesis of the Romish Church is concerned, yet it most emphatically denies the apostolic character. To those who, forgetting that custom without truth is only time-honoured error, love to worship at the shrine of venerable error, we commend the following saying of Luther:

“He who has been wrong for one hundred years was not right for one hour. If the years should make wrong right, the devil would well deserve to be the most just one on earth, for he is now over five thousand years old.” 52

For the benefit of some who regard the tradition of the early church quite as reliable as the Bible itself, we quote the following from Archibald Bower, the learned historian of the popes:

“To avoid being imposed upon, we ought to treat tradition as we do a notorious and known liar, to whom we give no credit, unless what he says is confirmed to us by some person of undoubted veracity… False and lying traditions are of an early date, and the greatest men have, out of a pious credulity, suffered themselves to be imposed upon by them.” 53

The following instance, taken from the Bible, will also show how unreliable tradition is:

“Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved, following (which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?); Peter seeing him, saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou me. Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die; yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?” 54

Here is the account of a tradition which actually originated in the very bosom of the apostolic church, which nevertheless handed down to the following generations an entire mistake. Observe how carefully the word of God corrects this error.

Two rules of faith really embrace the whole Christian world. One of these is the word of God alone; the other is the word of God and the traditions of the church. Here they are:

  1. The rule of the man of god, the bible alone. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” 55
  2. The rule of the romanist, the bible and tradition. “The sacred and holy, ecumenical, and general synod at Trent… Following the examples of the orthodox Fathers, receives and venerates with equal affection of piety and reverence, all the books both of the Old and the New Testament—seeing that one God is the author of both—as also the said traditions, as well those appertaining to faith as to morals, as having been dictated either by Christ’s own word of mouth or by the Holy Ghost, and preserved by a continuous succession in the Catholic Church. 56

Also noted in the Douay Bible:

“If we would have the whole rule of Christian faith and practice, we must not be content with those scriptures which Timothy knew from his infancy, that is, with the Old Testament alone; nor yet with the New Testament, without taking along with it the traditions of the apostles and the interpretation of the church, to which the apostles delivered both the book and the true meaning of it.” 57

It is certain that the first-day Sabbath cannot be sustained by the first of these rules; for the word of God says nothing respecting such an institution. The second of these rules is necessarily adopted by all those who advocate the sacredness of the first day of the week. For the writings of the fathers and the traditions of the church furnish all the testimony which can be adduced in support of that day.

One of the strongest arguments of Catholicism, that the Bible alone does not suffice as the Christian rule of faith, is deduced from the fact that Christendom in general observes a day which is not commanded by the Bible, but rests solely on tradition. This is verified by the following statement from the pen of Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore:

“A rule of faith, or a competent guide to heaven, must be able to instruct in all the truths necessary for salvation. Now the Scriptures alone do not contain all the truths which a Christian is bound to believe, nor do they explicitly enjoin all the duties which he is obliged to practise. Not to mention other examples, is not every Christian obliged to sanctify Sunday, and to abstain on that day from u necessary servile work? Is not the observance of this law among the most prominent of our sacred duties? But you may read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday. The Scriptures enforce the religious observance of Saturday, a day which we never sanctified.” 58

To adopt the first rule is to condemn the first-day Sabbath as a human institution. To adopt the second is virtually to acknowledge that the Romanists are right; for it is by this rule that they are able to sustain their unscriptural dogmas. Mr. W. B. Taylor, an able anti-Sabbatarian writer, states this point with great clearness:

“The triumph of the consistent Roman Catholic over all observers of Sunday, calling themselves Protestants, is indeed complete and unanswerable… It should present a subject of very grave reflection to Christians of the reformed and evangelical denominations, to find that no single argument or suggestion can be offered in favor of Sunday observance that will not apply with equal force and to its fullest extent in sustaining the various other ‘holy days’ appointed by ‘the church.’ 59

Listen to the argument of a Roman Catholic:

“The word of God commandeth the seventh day to be the Sabbath of our Lord, and to be kept holy: you [Protestants] without any precept of Scripture, change it to the first day of the week, only authorized by our traditions. Divers English Puritans oppose against this point, that the observation of the first day is proved out of Scripture, where it is said `that the first day of the week. 60

Have they not spun a fair thread in quoting these places? If we should produce no better for purgatory and prayers for the dead, invocation of the saints, and the like, they might have good cause indeed to laugh us to scorn; for where is it written that these were Sabbath days in which those meetings were kept? Or where is it ordained they should be always observed? Or which is the sum of all, where is it decreed that the observation of the first day should abrogate or abolish the sanctifying of the seventh day, which God commanded everlastingly to be kept holy? Not one of those is expressed in the written word of God." 61

In this controversy before us, the honor of God’s Word is at stake, and its ample sufficiency is questioned. As children of the Most High, we must hold aloft his standard of truth at any cost; as true Protestants, the Bible alone must be our constant watchword; as true followers of the lowly Christ, we must walk in his footsteps as marked in his writing Word. Should we accept a single doctrine upon the mere authority of tradition, we would leave the narrow path, step down from the platform of Protestantism, and increase the doubt concerning the all-sufficiency of the Book of books, but disregarding its heavenly light.

After the careful investigation of the history of the early church, guided by prophecy, we have only been led to plant our feet the firmer upon the more sure Word. In its marvellous light we behold the Lamb of God open a sealed book; a rider on a white horse goes forth to conquer; but, alas! The vision changes, the white horse, the symbol of purity, is followed by a red one, the symbol of strife, and then by a black one, the symbol of darkness and spiritual famine., And true to the letter, the mystery of lawlessness finds its way into the fold of the apostolic church, genders strife, and darkens the light of the gospel; while the man of sin, professing to shield the church against error, takes away the Word of life, replacing it by showy ceremonies; substitutes tradition for the Holy Spirit, man’s ordinances for God’s commands, and then, when all this has been accomplished, it questions the all-sufficiency of God’s Word, and challenges Christendom for its inconsistency!

As we behold the Lamb of God opening the book, and see the marvellous light streaming from its sacred page, even piercing the darkness of the mystery of lawlessness, we trust the final outcome of this controversy to the Lord, and join the heavenly chorus: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing.” 62

Chapter 13: First Witnesses For Sunday


Strange contrast between Sabbath and Sunday
Admissions of Protestant and Catholic authors concerning Sunday
Sunday observance a subject upon which church historians disagree
Neander’s statement
An unsound basis for Mosheim’s statement
Mosheim’s own witnesses testify against him
Still worse, Mosheim against Mosheim
Mosheim’s new Sunday theory exploded
Epistle of Barnabas a Gnostic production
The Letter of Pliny determines nothing in the case
Testimony of Ignatius misquoted
“The Teachings of the Twelve Apostles”
The definition and application of the Greek word kuriakos often translated “Lord’s Day” investigated
Questionable to base truth on writings of “Church Fathers”
The Bible and the Bible only, the Protestant Rule

Strange Contrasts Between Sabbath And Sunday

Prophets and apostles, the foundation of the Christian church, yea, even Jesus Christ Himself, its chief corner-stone, rested, as far as the inspired record shows, on no other day than the Sabbath, in harmony with the divine commandment. In strange contrast with this divine institution and these inspired examples, the observance of Sunday has for many centuries found general acceptance throughout Christendom, although Catholic and Protestant church historians and theologians freely admit that this custom rests only upon a human ordinance.

Admissions Of Protestant And Catholic Authors Concerning Sunday

Dr. J. Eck, the great Catholic champion in the controversy with Luther, makes the following admission:

“The church has changed the observance of the Sabbath to Sunday on its own authority, without Scripture, doubtless under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.” 1

One of the foremost Catholic historians, J.J. Dollinger, writes:

“The church established her own weekly festival…Nor is it true to say that the apostles changed the Sabbath into Sunday, the observance of the seventh day to the observance of the first. For, on the one hand, there is no trace of such a transference taking place, and, on the other, the Christian Sunday differs widely from the Sabbath of the law.” 2

A very high Protestant authority, the Augsburg Confession, makes, in its twenty-eighth article, entitled “Power of the Bishops,” the following admission:

“What then is to be thought of the Lord’s day and the like formalities of the public worship? To this it is replied, that bishops or ministers have liberty to appoint forms of proceeding, that everything may go on regularly in the church.

…Of this nature is the observation of the Lord’s day, of Easter, Whitsuntide, and the like holy days and ceremonies.

…And yet because it was requisite to appoint a certain day, that the people might know when to assemble together, it appears that the church appointed for this purpose the Lord’s day.” 3

Another standard work, “Apology of the Augsburg Confession,” makes, in its fifteenth article, “Concerning Human Ordinances in the Churches,” the following positive statement:

“Furthermore, the three oldest ordinances in the churches, i.e., the three high feast-days, etc., Sunday observance and the like, which have been invented for the sake of good order, unity, and peace, etc., such we observe gladly.” 4

Sunday Observance A Subject Upon Which Church Historians Disagree

While eminent Protestant and Catholic authorities admit in the plainest terms that Sunday is only a church ordinance of human origin, we meet in some church histories, and still more in theological literature, positive statements that Sunday was instituted in the apostolic age as the Lord’s day of the New Testament, and that the observance of the Sabbath as belonging to the ceremonies of the Old Testament was simply dropped. The important historical fact that the Sabbath was extensively observed in Christendom for centuries afterward, is passed by in silence, and the universal, eternal claims of the divine law are ignored. Therefore, it is of considerable interest to see how church historians arrive at so widely differing statements. Neander and Mosheim will serve us well by way of illustration.

Neander’s Statement

Neander, “father of modern church history,” in perfect keeping with the above statements, says:

“Sunday was distinguished as a day of joy by the circumstances that men did not fast upon it, and that they prayed standing up and not kneeling, as Christ had raised through his resurrection. The festival of Sunday, like all other festivals, was always only a human ordinance, and it was far from the intentions of the apostles to establish a divine command in this respect, far from them, and from the early apostolic church, to transfer the laws of the Sabbath, to Sunday. Perhaps at the end of the second century a false application of this kind had begun to take place; for men appear by that time to have considered labouring on Sunday as a sin” (Tertullian de Orat., c. 23) 5

On the other hand, Mosheim makes the following quite different statement:

“The Christians in this century, assembled for the worship of God, and for their advancement in piety, on the first day of the week, the day on which Christ reassumed his life for that this day was set apart for religious worship by the apostles themselves, and that, after the example of the church of Jerusalem, it was generally observed, we have unexceptionable testimony” (Ph. J. Hartmann, de Rebus gestis Christianor. Sub Apostolis, cap. 15, p. 387. J. Hen. Boehmer, Diss. I juris eccles., antiqui. De stato die Christianor., p. 20, etc)6

Neander, as a careful writer, readily perceived that the leading motive for the very early 7 introduction of the Sunday festival among the Gentile Christians was opposition to Judaism, rather than a divine command. But after reviewing Acts 20:7; Rev. 1:10; Ignatius to Magnes., sec. 9, and in a foot-note, also 1 Cor. 16:1,2, he arrives at the above conclusion that Sunday, “like all other festivals, was always only a human ordinance.”

An Unsound Basis For Mosheim’s Statement

Mosheim, on the other hand, bases his statement that the apostles themselves set apart Sunday, on the unexceptionable testimony of two other authors. Mosheim wrote his history in Latin (1726-1739). His German translator, J.R. Schlegel, added (1780) to the foot-note in brackets; See also Acts 20:7; 2:1; 1 Cor. 16:1,2; Rev. 1:10 Phiny, epist. Lib. 10, epist. 97,n.7.

Mosheim’s Own Witnesses Testify Against Him

All depends now on the two authors Hartmann and Boehmer, both of whom wrote in Latin. The passage referred to in Hartmann’s book reads thus:

“The first church being composed of Jews, the established Sabbath observance remained with them for a time, and the apostles observed the Sabbath alone, visiting the synagogues on the Sabbath day, to explain the gospel. To the Gentiles they spoke concerning sacred things every other day. However, we do not deny that Sunday was introduced in the middle of the apostolic age; the Revelation mentions it plainly. The schools of the apostles and the older apologists mention it as having been introduced and kept for a long time, although its observance did not commence as long as Jerusalem stood.

Then in note 7 he remarks:

“No statement can be produced concerning the weekly observance of Sunday excepting Rev. 1:10; for Acts 20:7 and 1 Cor. 16:2, on which Lightfoot bases his assertions, do not at all apply to Sunday. Lightfoot dares to assert, of 1 Cor. 16:2, that the apostles and disciples converted to the faith in Judea had not only observed Sunday, but had also kept it holy, it being a divine institution. In no law is the observance of any new day prescribed, either by the Savior or by the apostles.” 8

Hartman’s “unexceptionable testimony,” instead of supporting Mosheim’s statement, on the contrary, brands any such declaration as that the apostles ever observed Sunday, it being a divine institution, as a daring assertion. Hartmann and Neander fully coincide. We now proceed to the next testimony of Boehmer. In his “Dissertation on the Ancient Canon Law About the Stated Day,” he referred to the letter of Pliny, the Roman governor of Bythinia, written to the emperor Trajan. It was written about A.D. 104. Pliny says of the Christians of his province:

“They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of food—but ordinary and innocent food.” (Early Christian Writings)

We read Boehmer‘s testimony on this passage, page 20

“It remains to be investigated whether the day of Sunday was also a definite day to the Christians in Bithymia, on which they were accustomed to assemble, which seemingly, is the more definitely asserted because this was already a Christian holy day in the time of the apostles” 9

How positively Dr. Boehmer protests against the idea of any apostolic appointment, is seen from the following paragraphs. After considering 1 Cor. 16:2 and Acts 20:7, and the statements in Justin Martyr, he concludes:

In the original mother church (as Tertullian calls it), the early Christians in Jerusalem gathered together every day, pouring forth their united prayers, and thus by no means preferring any certain definite day to any other. It is well to observe that there is nowhere a statement that the apostles ever held any consultation or gave any command concerning the appointment of a definite day; should this have happened, Luke surely would not have omitted mentioning it. As he does not pass by institutions of minor importance. In fact, the very Acts of the Apostles most decidedly show that the Jewish believers had not departed from their custom, but most tenaciously adhered to the customs of their fathers. We must therefore conclude that they assembled on the Sabbath according to their wonted custom. The apostles desired no difference of days, decidedly insisting upon liberty, and would never prescribe any laws or holy days… How can one therefore believe that they charged all the churches to keep the first day holy? From all this, therefore, how easily one can guess that it can not be ascribed either to the law or to apostolic command, but to mere custom that Christians had held holy assemblies on that day.” 10

Still worse, Mosheim Against Mosheim

Mosheim must have been surely hard pressed for proof, if it was necessary to refer to positive statements against his theories as “unexceptionable testimony” for them. However, we not only find the witnesses brought forward by Mosheim, against him, but we shall see that Mosheim may be quoted against himself. While in his Church History he based his assertion concerning Sunday on the testimony of others, he, in a large work on Christian Ethics, wrote quite a dissertation on the Sunday question. That his inconsistency may stand out clearer, we shall place his two statements side by side:

“That this day (Sunday) was set apart for religious worship by the apostles themselves, and that, after the example of the church at Jerusalem, it was generally observed, we have unexceptionable testimony.”
“The books of the New Testament do not state that the apostles appointed a certain day on which Christians should assemble for the worship of God.” 11

Mosheim’s New Sunday Theory Exploded

The fact of the matter is that men may be ever so eminent, but if they deviated from the plain Word of truth and from historical facts, their wisdom will always turn into folly. Lacking Scriptural proof, Mosheim in his learned dissertation tries to argue upon the nature of the case. The following, from a review of his lengthy argument by Dr. Henke, a Lutheran college president, will best show how well he succeeded:

Mosheim tried to discover a middle course between the old and the new doctrine. He says, ‘The obligation of the Christian Sabbath can not be proved from the Old Testament and from the Sabbath laws given to the Jews (p. 448) Furthermore, Paul teaches that the Sabbath was done away. But that Sunday has taken the place of the Sabbath, and thus the Sabbath has been introduced in another way, this is taught neither by Paul nor by any other apostle’ (p.449) Should the opponents claim that God gave the Sabbath as an eternal law immediately after creation, then they should be asked to retain the seventh day of the week as rest day. However, should they say that the apostles had power to change the Sabbath into Sunday, then they must first produce the proof, and this can not be furnished; for Mosheim truthfully and fittingly remarks: ‘Things that occurred can be proved only by witnesses’ (p. 454). However, in the scriptures, we read nothing of such an appointment on the part of these men. Mosheim’s opinion is this: The apostles had authority to found and to organize churches; therefore their appointments and institutions must be looked upon as coming from the Lord (p, 461). The laws of the apostles are either laws for a definite time only, or they are commandments that are binding forever (p. 463). Now, the question is, Did the apostles set apart a certain time to the service of God forever? The books of the New Testament contain no testimony concerning this. Mosheim continues: ‘The nature of the thing stands for the lack of testimonies.’ Right here we appeal to Mosheim’s words against Mosheim: ‘Things that occurred can be proved only by witnesses.’ From the nature of the thing; we might perhaps admit that something not testified to might have happened; but that may be granted only for such periods concerning which the historical testimonies are altogether too incomplete—and never regarding a time so rich in literature as the New Testament age. The attempt to construct from a supposition a certainty on which we afterward build a doctrine binding our conscience, is not at all admissible.

The question as to whether the apostles appointed Sunday as a day of worship, Mosheim also answers in the affirmative. But we know from history that for nearly two hundred years after the apostolic age, the Sabbath enjoyed the same right and the same honor in Christendom as did Sunday. Mosheim declares Sunday to be an ‘eternal institution, because the resurrection is of eternal significance’ (pp 484,485). However, in the life of Christ everything has, finally, an eternal signification. Yet dare we, without any special Scriptural authority, which, according to Mosheim’s own statements, is lacking in the case of Sunday, tie ceremonies to all the great events in the life of Christ, and declare them to be of the same eternal significance as those events? By no means. Such would be only human ordinances, against which Christ himself protested: [Matthew 15] 12

With what feelings Mosheim undertook to write his treatise, is seen from his own confession, which is as follows.

“I must openly confess that for some time I questioned whether or not I should treat the doctrine concerning the Sabbath, or Sunday, as it is usually called. As often as I considered the intimate connection of this matter with the doctrine of public worship, so often did I decide that I could not leave it untouched. But as often as the multitude of treatises came to my mind, and the different ways in which it had been discussed, I was ready to change this conclusion.” 13

This confession fully explains the situation. When Mosheim wrote his church history, he got over the difficulty by simple assertions, referring to two other authorities. But when he was to substantiate his own statements, he searched in vain for any divine command or for an “express appointment of the apostles.” Instead of the “united testimony of the most credible writers,” as Maclaine’s translation twists Mosheim’s words, he perceived that there was already a babel of theories, and deferred the task. Finally, he took courage and contrived a new course of reasoning. But, lo, he simply added another to the multitude of Sunday theories, to be exploded by the next writer. And Professor Henke, although himself writing in favour of Sunday, has done this successfully. Our investigation has clearly demonstrated that the historians, as well as the rest of fallible men, are at times biased in their statements, and that such are of weight only when backed up by reliable evidences.

Mosheim wrote in the eighteenth century, Neander in the nineteenth. Thus both writers lived far removed from the apostolic age, and have to depend upon the writings of that and later periods. Mosheim himself is forced to admit that the New Testament contains no apostolic appointment for Sunday. It is equally true that no record exists in the new Testament of any example of the church at Jerusalem, on which to found Sunday observance; but on the contrary, that they continued the observance of the Sabbath.

We have quoted statements from eminent Protestant and Catholic authorities, that Sunday is only an ordinance of the church, invented at an early date, and of human origin. When and how this happened in the post apostolic age, now needs to be set forth from the historical material of that period. But before we undertake this, the following testimony of the Lutheran bishop Grimelund, of Norway, concerning the fixed time, is to the point.

“The Christians in the ancient church very soon distinguished the first day of the week, Sunday; however, not as a Sabbath, but as an assembly day of the church, to study the Word of God together and to celebrate the ordinances one with another: without a shadow of doubt this took place as early as the first part of the second century.” 14

After all that has been said concerning the second century, it is not to be wondered at if we should find in the meager, unreliable historical material of that century the first traces of the Sunday festival. Aside from the letter of Phiny, there has come down to us, from the second century, unreliable as much of it is, a small volume of the so-called Apostolic Fathers. The Fathers being the chief material in question, we by no means produce their testimonies to determine our faith—for this purpose the Bible is all sufficient—but rather to set forth how early the church deviated from the simple doctrines of the Bible, and how strikingly the apostolic predictions concerning the apostasy were fulfilled.

Epistle of Barnabas a Gnostic Production

Dr. G.C. Mayer, the learned Catholic translator of the Apostolic Fathers into German, states that the “oldest express witness for the Christian Sunday observance is found in the epistle of Barnabas.” 15

As this pretends to be an apostolic epistle, and yet is lacking in the New Testament canon, we must closely scrutinize it.

As to its authorship, neither the name nor the residence of the writer is mentioned. As the epistle of Barnabas it is, however, first cited by Clement of Alexandria, also by Origen, who even calls it a “Catholic” epistle. Under this name we find it in the Sinaitic Bible of the fourth century, immediately after the Apocalypse. Eusebius and Jerome likewise ascribe it to Barnabas, but number it among the “spurious,” or “apocryphal,” writings. 16

So while one Father cites it as Catholic, another rejects it as spurious—a striking illustration of the “unanimous consent of the Fathers,” so often alluded to by the Roman Church.

The quickest solution, however, of its authorship is found in its own contents. A standard Catholic Church encyclopedia is forced to make the following admission:

“By far the greater number of theologians deny that it was written by Barnabas; and really its contents are of such a nature that it would be very hard to reconcile them to his authorship. The author takes such a hostile position toward the Old Testament as could scarcely be conceived of by an apostle. He teaches that the Old Testament has never been of any force.” 17

Schaff remarks:

“The Old Testament is, with him, rather a veiled Christianity, which he puts into it by a mystical allegorical interpretation, as Philo, by the same method, smuggled into it the Platonic philosophy. In this allegorical conception he goes so far that he actually seems to deny the literal historical sense. He asserts, for example, that God never willed the sacrifice and fasting, the Sabbath observance and temple worship of the Jews, but a purely spiritual worship.” “He has some profound glances and inklings of a Christian philosophy. He may be called an orthodox Gnostic“. 18

In the Ante-Nicene Christian Library the following statement is found:

“On perusing the epistle, the reader will be in circumstances to judge of this matter for himself. He will be led to consider whether the spirit and tone of the writing, as so decidedly opposed to all respect for Judaism—the numerous inaccuracies which it contains with respect to Mosaic enactments and observances, the absurd and trifling interpretations of Scripture which it suggests, and the many silly vaunts of superior knowledge in which its writer indulges—can possibly comport with its ascription to the fellow laborer of St. Paul.” “The general opinion is that its date is not later than the middle of the second century, and that it cannot be placed earlier than some twenty or thirty years before. In point of style, both as respects thought and expression, a very low place must be assigned to it.” 19

As a specimen of the unreasonable and absurd things contained in this epistle, the following passage is quoted:

“Neither shalt thou eat of the hyena: that is, again, be not an adulterer; nor a corrupter of others; neither be like to such. And wherefore so? Because that creature every year changes its kind, and is sometimes male, and sometimes female.” 20

How far-reaching in its influence was this mystical allegorical interpretation of the Old Testament, and, as a logical result, of the New Testament, is best seen from the comment which Professor Seeberg, in his “History of Dogma,” makes on the passage quoted:

“This method of exegesis, which soon became the dominant one, has cut off a historical understanding of the Old Testament for more than fifteen hundred years.” 21

This Gnostic method of exegesis furnishes us the very key, not to a higher knowledge of Bible truths, but to unlock the mystery of lawlessness. It reveals to us by what subtle means it early gained a foothold in the church of God, was able to darken some of the plainest truths, and could set aside some of the most definite requirements of the gospel, as well as of the law of God itself: yea, how it became dominant there. And that the author of this document was a Gnostic, is evident from the very contents. Neander calls him “a moderate Gnostic,” 22 while Harnack testifies as follows:

“Moreover, comparison is possible between writers such as Barnabas and Ignatius, and the so-called Gnostics, to the effect of making the latter appear in possession of a completed theory, to which fragmentary ideas in the former exhibit a striking affinity.” 23

From another source we read:

“The author wants to give to his readers the perfect gnosis that the Christians are really the only people of the covenant, and that the Jewish people never stood in covenant relationship with God.” “The consequent development of the thought that the Jewish use of the Old Testament was only a misuse of it, inspire by the devil, is peculiar to the author. Circumcision and the Old Testament rites and ceremonies are to him the work of the devil.” 24

We are now prepared to listen to his gnosis, especially with reference to Sabbath and Sunday. He first starts out to show that Christianity is the all sufficient, divine institution for salvation, and an abrogation of Judaism, with all its laws and ceremonies. Christ has indeed given us a law; he maintains, but it is a new law, without the yoke of constraint. Then he continues in chapter 15:

“Consider, my children, what that signifies—he finished them in six days. The meaning of it is this, that in six thousand years the Lord will bring all things to an end, for with him one day is a thousand years, as himself testifieth, saying, Behold this day shall be as a thousand years. Therefore, children, in six days—that is, in six thousand years—shall all things be accomplished. And what is it, that he saith, and he rested the seventh day? He meaneth this, that when his Son shall come and abolish the season of the wicked one, and judge the ungodly, and shall change the sun, and the moon , and the stars, then he shall gloriously rest in that seventh day. Moreover, he says ‘Thou shalt sanctify it with pure hands and a pure heart, If, therefore, any one can now sanctify the day which God hath sanctified, except he is pure in heart in all things, we are deceived. Behold, therefore: certainly one properly resting sanctifies it. When we ourselves, having received the promise, wickedness no longer existing, and all things having been made new by the Lord, shall be able to work righteousness. Then we shall be able to sanctify it, having first sanctified ourselves. Lastly he saith unto them: Your new moons and your Sabbaths I cannot bear them, Consider what he means by it. The Sabbaths, says he, which ye now keep are not acceptable unto me, but those which I have made when resting from all things, I shall begin the eighth day,—that is the beginning of the other world; for which cause we observe the eighth day with gladness, on which also Jesus rose from the dead, and having been manifested openly, he ascended into heaven.” (Barnabas 15:8,9) 24a

The essence of this argument is: Answering to the six days of creation, God will finish the course of this world in six thousand years; answering to the Sabbath, a seventh thousand follows, when Jesus comes. Then the saints, being sanctified, will be able truly to rest on the seventh day, which they can not, while being unsanctified in this present wicked world. After thus giving rest to all things, the eighth day breaks on with the eighth thousand year, the beginning of a new creation. This is typified by keeping with joyfulness the eighth day, whereon Christ arose and ascended on high. 25 The conclusion is that the eighth day, which God never sanctified, is exactly suitable for observance in the present world.

The following comment from Cox, including also that of Domville, is to the point:

“Very strong evidence would be required to convince any reasonable man that such fanciful matter as this proceeded from the associate of St. Paul. The passage, however, as Domville allows, ‘certainly is admissible evidence to show that in this time of the writer of the epistle the first day of the week was by some Christians—somewhere or other, and after some fashion or other—observed and distinguished from the other days of the week.’ (Vol 1, page 218) He adds: ‘Let those who, after reading the foregoing extracts from the epistle, still cling to the belief that Barnabas was the writer of it, read in the epistle itself what almost immediately follows upon the passage just quoted. I can not copy it, its absurdity is so far exceeded by its grossness.’ (Page 228) The epistle, then, he holds, ‘was not written by Barnabas; it is not merely unworthy of it,—it would be a disgrace to him, and, what is of much more consequence, a disgrace to the Christian religion, as being he production of one of the authorized teachers of that religion, in the time of the apostles, which circumstance would seriously damage the evidence of its divine origin.;” (Page 223) 26

That this epistle was directed against those who still thought it possible even in this wicked world to keep the true Sabbath according to the commandment appears from chapter 3:

The long-suffering One, foreseeing, that in simplicity the people would believe that which he in his beloved had prepared, therefore instructed us beforehand concerning everything, in order that we as proselytes might not become subject to their law.

The Catholic translator, Dr. Mayer, thus states the true standing of this anonymous epistle:

“Though this Catholic epistle has gained access under the name of the apostle Barnabas among the books to be read by the church, outside, however, of the canon, yet the church has never guaranteed with this its genuineness, but rather left room to well-grounded doubts.”

Then he puts this pointed question:

“But how was it possible that it found respect, circulation, and reception as epistola catholica among the books to be read by the church?” “It took into consideration and satisfied a need of the church, existing at that time.”27

As this anonymous epistle, according to Schaff, “actually seems to deny the literal historical sense” of the Old Testament, asserting, for example, that God never willed the sacrifice and fasting, the Sabbath observance and temple worship of the Jews,” and “proclaims thus an absolute separation of Christianity from Judaism,” 28 This must have been the need of some party in the church at that time. But what party, and for what purpose, A Harnack informs us:

“The Gnostics” “are therefore those Christians who, in a swift advance, attempted to capture Christianity for Hellenic culture, and Hellenic culture for Christianity and who gave up the Old Testament in order to facilitate the conclusion of the covenant between the two powers, and make it possible to assert the absoluteness of Christianity.” 29

The sum total of our investigation is: The so called epistle of Barnabas is spurious, put out by some anonymous Gnostic writer sometime in the second century, in all probability at Alexandria, and under an apostolic flag, it gained access even among the books to be read in the church. It utterly disregards the literal historical sense of the Bible, it denies the covenant relation of ancient Israel with God, it ascribes its divine institutions to an evil source, and it contains such absurdities as a hyena changing its sex annually, etc. In the midst of this mystical, allegorical Gnostic exegesis, it brings forth for the first time, worthy of its surroundings, the eighth day as a visionary type of future eternity, said to commemorate both resurrection and ascension, just good enough to be regarded as a day of jubilee in this wicked world. No allusion whatever is made to the institution of this eighth day by Christ or his apostles, or to any obligation to observe the divine law; on the contrary, a new law is mentioned, and no sacred title is given to the day.

Being Gnostic in its tendency, it can only be regarded as voicing the sentiment of a certain faction of post apostolic Christianity. But when this Gnostic exegesis became dominant in the church, and “Gnosticism, which the church had repudiated in the second century, became part of her own system in the third,” the natural result was that this alliance between Christianity and Hellenistic pagan culture became an accomplished fact, and the establishment of this visionary eighth-day jubilee, under the disguise of the Lord’s day, became the pronounced seal of this unholy union.

Letter of Pliny

The next document that claims our attention is the letter of Pliny, the Roman governor of Bithynia, to the emperor Trajan. It was written about A.D. 109. He says of the Christians of his province:

“They affirmed that the whole of their guilt or error was that they met on a certain stated day, before it was light, and addressed themselves in a form of prayer to Christ, as to some god, binding themselves by a solemn oath, not for the purposes of any wicked design, but never to commit any fraud, theft, or adultery; never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and they reassembled to eat in common a harmless meal.” 30

As the epistle does not tell what day the stated day was, it can not be adduced as evidence for early Sunday observance. W.B. Taylor remarks:

“As the Sabbath day appears to have been quite as commonly observed at this date as the sun’s day (if not even more so), it is just as probably that their ‘stated day’ referred to by Pliny was the seventh day as that it was the first day; though the latter is generally taken for granted. 31

Taking for granted the very point that should be proved, is no new feature in the evidence thus far examined in support of first-day observance. Tertullian, who wrote in A.D. 200, alludes in his Apology, sec. 2, to this very statement, but makes no reference whatever to Sunday.

“He found in their religious services nothing but meetings at early morning for singing hymns to Christ and God, and sealing home their way of life by a united pledge to be faithful to their religion, forbidding murder, adultery, dishonesty, and other crimes.” 32

But the singular fact is that while Mosheim relies on this statement of Pliny as a chief support for Sunday observance, the very witness to whom he appeals, adduces the following argument:

“Pliny reports that he had learned from the admission of apostates from the faith of Christ, that the Christians were accustomed to meet on a stated day ere it was light; but what that stated day was, he by no means decides. From this, most commentators incline to the supposition that Phiny meant the day of the sun, or dominicus. This they do from the conviction, which has taken hold of so many, that the Christians, after abandoning or changing the customs of the Jews, did not abrogate the solemn feast of the Sabbath (for they are fully persuaded that this neither has happened nor can happen); but that they transferred it to the day of the sun; in other words, that from the early commencement of Christianity, the so-called day of the sun was kept instead of the Sabbath. But innumerable circumstances found in the records of ancient antiquities concerning the condition of the churches as they existed in the time of Trajan and Pliny, cast serious doubt upon this matter indeed, so that they even differ as far as possible from the general conception of Pliny. One thing is a fact, that Pliny the Younger did not mean any other stated day than the one which was observed among the Christians; and therefore, in order to throw light on what Pliny says, we must look elsewhere to see what stated day they kept at that time.

“The stated day of the Jews was the Sabbath. As the Christians originate from the Jews and are their rightful successors, it is not probable that they at once forsook the laws of their fathers; but there is more reason to believe that the Christians followed the Jews in this respect—a fact which Origen in his second book against Celsus by no means conceals. I therefore judge that I shall do nothing inadmissible by asserting that the Jewish believers who confessed Christ had, up to the time of Trajan, not rejected the whole observance of the Jewish law, but had retained the observance of the Sabbath, and then added to this the Sunday festival, by the liberty accorded them. As nearly all the churches which traced their origin from the Jews had thus far kept the Sabbath holy, we can certainly conclude that the churches in Pontus and Bithynia had also retained this custom up to that time, as they consisted almost wholly of Jewish Christians. This I conclude from 1 Peter 1:1, which epistle he wrote to the strangers scattered among the Gentiles throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. The apostles had divided among themselves the care for the spread of the gospel in such a manner that Peter proclaimed the grace of God to the Jews, and Paul and his companions, to the Gentiles. Gal. 2:8,9. From the fact that Peter wrote to the above-mentioned churches, I judge that they must have been founded by him and were chiefly composed of Jews; for the scattered strangers throughout the Gentile countries refer only to believing Jews, although I do not deny that, later, Gentiles joined these churches.” 33

This testimony of Pliny was written a few years subsequent to the time of the apostles. It relates to a church which probably had been founded by the apostle Peter. 34 It is certainly far more probable that this church, only forty years after the death of Peter, was keeping the fourth commandment than that it was observing a day never enjoined by divine authority. It must be conceded that this testimony from Pliny proves nothing in support of Sunday observance; for it does not designate what day of the week was thus observed.

Ignatius Misquoted

The epistles of Ignatius, so often quoted in behalf of first-day observance, next claim our attention. Concerning Ignatius and his epistles Neander writes:

“Ignatius, bishop of the church at Antioch, is said, in the reign of Trajan, to have been conveyed as a prisoner to Rome, where he was expecting to be thrown to the wild beasts. On the way, he is said to have written seven epistles.” 35

Eusebius and Jerome enumerate seven Ignatian epistles, but in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries this number was swelled to fifteen, among them two letters to the apostle John and one to the Virgin Mary. Although these epistles “swarm with offences against history and chronology,” yet the Catholics at first accepted them all as genuine. Calvin condemned the whole lot as “abominable trash” 36

The later Catholics surrendered at least eight as utterly untenable. But of the remaining seven, a shorter Greek recension was discovered in a Latin version by Archbishop Usher, 1644, and in Greek by Isaak Vossius, from a Medicean Codex in 1646. Henceforth the longer recension, which had thus far been about the only one known, was generally set aside even by Catholic scholars, as interpolated. But when in 1839 and 1843 a Syriac version was found, containing only the epistles to Polycarp, to the Ephesians, and to the Romans, and even these in a much reduced form, a number of scholars insisted that, if any, they only were genuine.

As to the character of their contents, the Magdeburg centuriators protested that “there were such terrible things intermingled with the text as to horrify the reader.” 37 Mosheim remarks as follows:

“A regard for truth requires it to be acknowledged that so considerable a degree of obscurity hangs over the question respecting the authenticity of not only a part, but the whole, of the epistles ascribed to Ignatius, as to render it altogether a case of much intricacy and doubt.” 38

Neander says of the shorter edition:

“Even the briefer revision, which is the one most entitled to confidence, has been very much interpolated.” 39

Schaff makes the following explicit statement concerning the contents and genuineness of the Ignatian epistles:

“In the ‘catholic church’—an expression introduced by him—that is, the Episcopal orthodox organization of his day, the author sees, as it were, the continuation of the mystery of the incarnation, on the reality of which he laid great emphasis against the Docetists; and in every bishop, a visible representative of Christ, and a personal center of ecclesiastical unity, which he presses home upon his readers with the greatest solicitude and almost passionate zeal,” “. Here lies the chief importance of these epistles; and the cause of their high repute with catholics and prelatists, and their unpopularity with anti-episcopalians, and modern critics of the more radical school…”

“It is remarkable that the idea of the Episcopal hierarchy…should be first clearly and boldly brought out, not by the contemporary Roman bishop Clement, but by a bishop of the Eastern Church; though it was transplanted by him to the soil of Rome. And there sealed with his martyr blood. Equally noticeable is the circumstance that these oldest, documents of the hierarchy soon became so interpolated, curtailed, and mutilated by pious fraud that it is today almost impossible to discover with certainty the genuine Ignatius of history under the hyper- and pseudo- Ignatius of tradition.” 40

Doubtful as the seven Ignatian epistles, even in their shorter version, may seem, for they stand side by side on the same manuscripts with decidedly spurious epistles, yet as one of them is often adduced in favor of Sunday, we will consider it. The passage often used occurs in the epistle to the Magnesians, chapters 8 and 9: To guard against the charge of a wrong rendering, we quote the text as it is given in the noted Bampton lectures by J.A. Hessey:

“Be not deceived with heterodox opinions, nor old, unprofitable fables. For if we still live according to Judaism, we confess that we have not received grace. For even the most holy prophets lived according to Jesus Christ…

If they then who were concerned in old things, arrived at a newness of hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living according to the Lord’s life, by which our life sprang up by him and by his death,…how can we live with out him, whose disciples even the prophets were, and in spirit waited for him as their teacher? Wherefore, he whom they justly waited for, when he came, raised them up from the dead.” 41

Now as to the originals, on which the above rendering is based, we would say that Usher, the very one who found the shorter version, using the Latin Codexes Montacutianus and Caiensis, renders this: “non amplius Sabbatum colentes, sed juxta Domincam vitam agentes”42

Voss, the discoverer of the Greek version in the Codex Mediceus, gives the Greek—…Kuriakos zoe43 the text as it stands in the Greek and Latin Codexes and the above English translation is in perfect harmony with its context and with similar contrasts made in later writings. No mention whatever is made here of Sunday, nor is it called here the Lord’s day. Should on this account any one question even the originals of this shorter version, then let him be consistent enough to drop the whole passage and not to bring it forward as any kind of proof. As the attempt to smuggle into this passage the term “Lord’s day” is but a link in a whole chain of similar attempts, we will consider them as a whole in the next chapter.

The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles

In our investigation thus far we have considered an anonymous epistle, falsely ascribed to the apostle Barnabas, and have set forth its spurious character; then fifteen Ignatian epistles claimed our attention, which none less than Calvin, in Inst., book I, chap. 13, sec. 29, terms “abominable trash;” we fitly close this dark age with another anonymous document bearing the most high-sounding title, even a twofold one: “Teaching of the Twelve Apostles; the Teaching of the Lord by the Twelve Apostles to the Gentiles.” The document names no author, nor gives the place or the date of its composition, nor are there any hints in its contents whereby they might be inferred with the least certainty. Thus every period between the first and fifth centuries has been guessed, and almost every country between Egypt and Rome by way of land.

This document was found in 1873, in a monastery in Constantinople, bound together in one volume with the epistle of Barnabas, two Clementine epistles, the spurious epistle of Mary of Cassoboli to Ignatius, and twelve pseudo-Ignatian epistles, all written by the same copyist, who signs himself “Leon, notary and sinner,” June 11, 1056. If its character is to be decided by the company it keeps, it is decidedly bad.

Eusebius is the first who mentions among the “spurious” books the “so-called Teachings of the Apostles,” Athanasius classifies “Teaching so called of the Apostles” with the apocryphal books, like Sirach, Tobias, etc. In the apostolically Constitutions of pseudo-Clement of Rome, compiled in the first half of the fourth century, and condemned by the Trullan council for its heretical interpolations, we find it somewhat enlarged and changed as “book seven.” As to the merit of its contents we let one of its ablest admires, Schaff, testify:

“The truths it contains and the duties it enjoins are independently known to us from the Scriptures” “It is not free from superstitious notions and mechanical practises which are foreign to apostolic wisdom and freedom.” 44

An investigation of its contents more than substantiates the testimony of Schaff. Thus we read in chapter 4: If thou hast, thou shalt give with thy hands a ransom for thy sins,—Catholic meritorious giving with atoning efficacy. In chapter 6: If indeed thou art able to bear the whole yoke of the Lord, thou shalt be perfect; but if thou art not able do what thou canst,—a strange standard of apostolic teaching. In chapter 7: If thou canst find no living water, pour thrice upon the head—the beginning of the Catholic mode of sprinkling. In chapters 7 and 8: Before baptism let both minister and catechumen fast. Do not fast like the hypocrites on the second and fifth days, but on the fourth, and the preparation day—the beginning of stated weekly fast-days, after the manner of pharisaic fasting only the days are changed. In chapter 11: If an apostle remains longer than two days, or asks for money, he is a “false prophet.”


It would be quite in keeping, if in connection with such “moralism, pettiness, and superstition,” Sunday observance should be mentioned. There is a text in chapter 14:1 adduced in favor of Sunday, and we quote it, giving the questionable part in the original:

“But coming together kara kuriakos of the Lord, break bread and give thanks, having before confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. Let no one who has a dispute with his fellow come together with you until they are reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be defiled.”

These words evidently refer to the Lord’s supper but the Greek text is incomplete. The preposition kara with the accusative may denote: “down along passing over, through, or unto, pertaining to, according to: (a) of place: (b) of time; (c ) of other relations; and (d) in distributive expressions.” 45

As to the term kuriakos we give Schaff’s own notes: The first use of kuriakos as a noun, but with the pleonastic addition of rov kuriakos. Then under “Words Used for the First Time in the Didache,” he says: “kuriakos , 14:1, the Lord’s day. Occurs as a noun in Ignatius, Gregory Nazianzen, etc., and in Apost. Const. often.” Then, after referring to Apost. Cont. 7:30, he continues: “The New Testament has the adjective, in 1 Cor. 11:20, of the Lord’s supper, and in Rev. 1:10, of the Lord’s day.”

As this term first occurs as an adjective in the writings of Paul, and as a noun in the Didache (its use in both forms being purely Christian), its correct definition must be settled, not from any dictionary or by any theologian, but from the very passages in which it is to be found. All any dictionary can do is what Schaff does—quote the instances of its occurrence. Schaff and others assert that kuriakos means the Lord’s day, and that it is applied in that sense in subsequent Christian literature. We challenge them to prove this from the literature of that period. We could not accept evidence adduced from the literature centuries later; for theological terms, more than any other class of words, have changed their original meanings in the process of time. The only fair way is to produce all the passages where this term occurs until the end of the second century, and see if this rendering and application can be justified:

In all the Gospels we see Sunday referred to simply as the “first day of the week.”

We are now brought down to the close of the second century, and what is the result?—According to its first use, the term applied to the Lord’s supper. John uses the same adjective in speaking of the Lord’s day (kuriakos hemera). The conclusion from its use in the New Testament is, the word means the Lord’s, or belonging to the Lord, whatever may be referred to. Ignatius uses the very same preposition, the same case, the same gender, as is found in the Didache, to be rendered, “according to the Lord’s life.” This fully sustains the first conclusion reached from the New Testament—it may be the Lord’s supper, the Lord’s day, or the Lord’s life.

But we have another chain of proof. All the Gospels give to Sunday its regular Bible name “first day of the week.” If the Didache is said to be the first evidence that henceforth this Bible term was changed into kuriakos , then Justin Martyr, writing soon afterward, ought to have used it. But lo and behold, he uses interchangeable the Bible term “first day of the week,” and the heathen designation “day of the sun”.

The next witness brought forward by Scaff is Gregory Nazianzen, a writer of the latter part of the fourth century. But the authority on which Schaff rests his rendering is, according to his own quotation, the Apostolic Constitutions, dating from the end of the fourth century, The merits of this composition we will consider in later chapters.

The word kuriakos was, as a rule, associated with hemera even into the fourth century; so in Clement, in Eusebius, and on the tombstones. What the “Lord’s day” meant to Clement and Origen, we shall find out in due time. In Origen we find the first trace of the use of the term kuriakos (A.D. 231)

The names of the days of the week under went a wonderful change through the influence of the church, we shall show as we proceed. To sum up: No writier until a century later uses kuriakos as a noun. A writer of the same period as the Didache applies it to the Lord’s life, and another uses interchangeably the Bible or the heathen designation for the first day of the week.

Last, but not least: The text in the Didache is the only place known in all literature where the term “the Lord’s of the Lord” occurs. Prof. J.R. Harris and Dr. Taylor, perceiving this, try to show from the tenor of the epistle and from the context, that it must have reference to some great annual festival, answering to the day of atonement. They quote as evidence, from the Mishna, Yoma 8:9: “Transgression between man and his fellow the day of atonement did not expiate, until his fellow be reconciled.” 46

Questionable To Base Truth On Writings Of “Church Fathers”

Be that as it may, the statement is open to various interpretations, like others in the same epistle. The Catholic finds here allusions to the mass, stated fast-days, meritorious alms, purgatory. Why, therefore, should not the Protestant be expected to find in all this an allusion to the missing link for a post-apostolic Sunday-Lord’s-day; or to sprinkling? It may be a comfort to one hard pressed for Bible proof to sustain early Sunday observance to quote from the Apostolic Fathers, yea, even from the “Teachings of the Twelve Apostles,” Some who do this may not know that the Apostolic Fathers are a pseudo-Barnabas, a pseudo-Ignatius, a pseudo-Clement, and that the “Teaching of the Apostles” is the spurious work of an unknown author of an unknown period, and that even these spurious works must be taken in their interpolated versions of late centuries, to furnish any seeming evidences, as we shall see in the next chapter. We have seen that the Greek text of this epistle does not contain the phrase kuriakos hemera , , Lord’s day, as found in Rev. 1:10, and that , even if it did, there would be lacking in the context every specification as to which day is meant, and why it is thus styled—the very proof necessary to make the occurrence of such a term of any value.

One thing only is certain, that, as this epistle is “not free from superstitious notions and mechanical practises which are foreign to apostolic wisdom and freedom,” the title of it is a universally admitted forgery, and its contents are a compilation of some unknown author writing centuries later. The following statement from R. Cox about the Christian Fathers, based on his own experience in compiling his “Literature of the Sabbath Question,” is directly to the point:

Bible And The Bible Only, The Protestant Rule

It is a received maxim that the Bible, the Bible only, is the religion of Protestants. According to the sixth article of the Church of England, “Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation,” And in the Westminster Confession it is in like manner declared that “the whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his won glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down I Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture; unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.

“It is therefore somewhat surprising that theologians who accept and are constantly proclaiming this principle, should lay so much stress, as they evidently do, upon what the early post apostolic writers say, or are supposed to say, about the Sabbath and the Lord’s day. For if it can be proved from Scripture that the Lord’s day is a divinely appointed Christian institution, there is no need for further evidence of the fact, … While if the alleged fact can not be proved from Scripture, the opinions and practise of the Fathers would be of no avail, even if these were always rational, and if we could rely on the genuineness of all the writings which have come down to us as theirs.

“But no such reliance is due to the works in question. ‘Of all the chasms in the records of history‘, says Dr. Arnold, ‘none is so much to be regretted as that wide one of more than a century, in which all full and distinct knowledge of the early state of Christianity after the date of the apostolically epistles has been irretrievably buried. In the apostolically epistles themselves we have a picture clear and lively, from which we can gain a very considerable knowledge what the Christian church then was. But from these epistles, which merely as historical monuments are so invaluable; from these records, undoubtedly genuine, uncorrupted, uninterpolated, and in which everything is drawn with touches equally faithful, bold, and distance, we pass at once into a chaos. We come to works of disputed genuineness, with a corrupted text, full of interpolations, and which, after all, are so different from the apostolically epistles in their distinctness and power of touch, that even if we could rely on their authenticity, the knowledge to be derived from them is exceedingly vague and scanty…We stop then at the last epistle of St. Paul to Timothy, with something of the same interest with which one pauses at the last hamlet of the cultivated valley, when there is nothing but moor beyond. It is the end, or all but the end, of our real knowledge of primitive Christianity; there we take our last distance look around; further the mist hangs thick, and few and distorted are the objects that we discern in the midst of it.” 47

We have followed our opponents into the chaos of tradition’ we have found the forbidden byways of false gnosis in a “new law;” we have seen the heavy mists of declining paganism trying to obscure the bright rays of the gospel, and as a strange mirage of the sunlight of the gospel there looms up before us the phantom of an “eighth-day” rest—visionary type of eternity. Tracing our steps back to the good old Book, and resting on the Bible only, we are constrained to exclaim with the psalmist: “The Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul, the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” Ps. 19:7

Chapter 13A: The Sunday-Lord’s Day Not Traceable To The Apostles


General statement respecting the Ante-Nicene fathers
The change of the Sabbath never mentioned by one of these fathers
Examination of the historical argument for Sunday as the Lord’s day
This argument compared with the like argument for the Catholic festival of the Passover.

1 The Ante-Nicene fathers are those Christian writers who flourished after the time of the apostles, and before the Council of Nice, A.D. 325. Those who govern their lives by the volume of Inspiration do not recognize any authority in these fathers to change any precept of that book, nor any authority in them to add any new precepts to it. But those whose rule of life is the Bible as modified by tradition, regard the early fathers of the church as nearly or quite equal in authority with the inspired writers. They declare that the fathers conversed with the apostles; or if they did not do this, they conversed with some who had seen some of the apostles; or at least they lived within a few generations of the apostles, and so learned by tradition, which involved only a few transitions from father to son, what was the true doctrine of the apostles.

Thus with perfect assurance they supply the lack of inspired testimony in behalf of the so-called Christian Sabbath by plentiful quotations from the early fathers. What if there be no mention of the change of the Sabbath in the New Testament? And what if there be no commandment for resting from labor on the first day of the week? Or, what if there be no method revealed in the Bible by which the first day of the week can be enforced by the fourth commandment? They supply these serious omissions in the Scriptures by testimonies which they say were written by men who lived during the first three hundred years after the apostles.

On such authority as this the multitude dare to change the Sabbath of the fourth commandment. But next to the deception under which men fall when they are made to believe that the Bible may be corrected by the fathers, is the deception practiced upon them as to what the fathers actually teach. It is asserted that the fathers bear explicit testimony to the change of the Sabbath by Christ as a historical fact, and that they knew that this was so because they had conversed with the apostles, or with some who had conversed with them. It is also asserted that the fathers called the first day of the week the Christian Sabbath, and that they refrained from labor on that day as an act of obedience to the fourth commandment.

Now it is a most remarkable fact that every one of these assertions is false. The people who trust in the fathers as their authority for departing from God’s commandment are miserably deceived as to what the fathers teach.

  1. The fathers are so far from testifying that the apostles told them Christ changed the Sabbath, that not even one of them ever alludes to the idea of such a change.
  2. No one of them ever calls the first day the Christian Sabbath, nor indeed ever calls it a Sabbath of any kind.
  3. They never represent it as a day on which ordinary labor was sinful; nor do they represent the observance of Sunday as a act of obedience to the fourth commandment.
  4. The modern doctrine of the change of the Sabbath was therefore absolutely unknown in the first centuries of the Christian church.2

But though no statement asserting the change of the Sabbath can be produced from the writings of the fathers of the first three hundred years, it is claimed that their testimony furnishes decisive proof that the first day of the week is the Lord’s day of Rev.1:10. The biblical argument that the Lord’s day is the seventh day and no other, because that day alone is in the Holy Scriptures claimed by the Father and the Son as belonging in a peculiar sense to each, is given in chapter eleven, and is absolutely decisive. But this is set aside without answer, and the claim of the first day to this honorable distinction is substantiated out of the fathers as follows:

The term Lord’s day as a name for the first day of the week can be traced back through the first three centuries, from the fathers who lived toward their close, to the ones next preceding who mention the first day, and so backward by successive steps till we come to one who lived in John’s time, and was his disciple; and this disciple of John calls the first day of the week the Lord’s day. It follows therefore that John must have intended the first day of the week by the term Lord’s day, but did not define his meaning because it was familiarly known by that name in his time. Thus by history we prove the first day of the week to be the Lord’s day of Rev.1:10; and then by Rev.1:10, we prove the first day of the week to be the sacred day of this dispensation; for the spirit of inspiration by which John wrote would not have called the first day by this name if it were only a human institution, and if the seventh day was still by divine appointment the Lord’s holy day.

This is a concise statement of the strongest argument for first-day sacredness which can be drawn from ecclesiastical history. It is the argument by which first-day writers prove Sunday to be the day called by John the Lord’s day. This argument rests upon the statement that Lord’s day as a name for Sunday can be traced back to the disciples of John, and that it is the name by which that day was familiarly known in John’s time.

But this entire statement is false. The truth is, no writer of the first century, and no one of the second, prior to A.D. 194, who is known to speak of the first day of the week, ever calls it the Lord’s day! Yet the first day is seven times mentioned by the sacred writers before John’s vision upon Patmos on the Lord’s day, and is twice mentioned by John in his gospel which he wrote after his return from that island, and is mentioned some sixteen times by ecclesiastical writers of the second century prior to A.D. 194, and never in a single instance is it called the Lord’s day! We give all the instances of its mention in the Bible. Moses, in the beginning, by divine inspiration, gave to the day its name, and though the resurrection of Christ is said to have made it the Lord’s day, yet every sacred writer who mentions the day after that event still adheres to the plain name of first day of the week. Here are all the instances in which the inspired writers mention the day:

Moses, B.C. 1490. “The evening and the morning were the first day.” Gen.1:5.

Matthew, A.D. 41. “In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week.” Matt.28:1.

Paul, A.D. 57. “Upon the first day of the week.” 1Cor.16:2.

Luke, A.D. 60. “Now upon the first day of the week.” Luke 24:1.

Luke, A.D. 63. “And upon the first day of the week.” Acts 20:7.

Mark, A.D. 64. “And very early in the morning, the first day of the week.” Mark 16:2.

“Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week.” Verse 9.

After the resurrection of Christ, and before John’s vision, A.D. 96, the day is six times mentioned by inspired men, and every time as plain first day of the week. It certainly was not familiarly known as Lord’s day before the time of John’s vision. To speak the exact truth, it was not called by that name at all, nor by any other name equivalent to that, nor is there any record of its being set apart by divine authority as such.

But in the year 96, John says, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.” Rev.1:10. Now it is evident that this must be a day which the Lord had set apart for himself, and which he claimed as his. This was all true in the case of the seventh day, but was not in any respect true in that of the first day. He could not therefore call the first day by this name, for it was not such. But if the Spirit of God designed at this point to create a new institution and to call a certain day the Lord’s day which before had never been claimed by him as such, it was necessary that he should specify that new day. He did not define the term, which proves that he was not giving a sacred name to some new institution, but was speaking of a well-known, divinely appointed day. But after John’s return from Patmos, he wrote his gospel,3 and in that gospel he twice had occasion to mention the first day of the week. Let us see whether he adheres to the manner of the other sacred writers, or whether, when we know he means the first day, he gives to it a sacred name.

John, A.D. 97. “The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early.” John 20:1.

“Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week.” Verse 19.

These texts complete the Bible record of the first day of the week. They furnish conclusive evidence that John did not receive new light in vision at Patmos, bidding him call the first day of the week the Lord’s day, and when taken with all the instances preceding, they constitute a complete demonstration that the first day was not familiarly known as the Lord’s day in John’s time, nor indeed known at all by that name then.

Let us now see whether Lord’s day as a title for the first day can be traced back to John by means of the writings of the fathers.

The following is a concise statement of the testimony by which the fathers are made to prove that John used the term Lord’s day as a name for the first day of the week. A chain of seven successive witnesses, commencing with one who was the disciple of John, and extending forward through several generations, is made to connect and identify the Lord’s day of John with the Sunday-Lord’s day of a later age. Thus, Ignatius, the disciple of John, is made to speak familiarly of the first day as the Lord’s day. This is directly connecting the fathers and the apostles. Then the epistle of Pliny, A.D. 104, in connection with the Acts of the Martyrs, is adduced to prove that the martyrs in his time and forward were tested as to their observance of Sunday, the question being, “Have you kept the Lord’s day?” Next, Justin Martyr, A.D. 140, is made to speak of Sunday as the Lord’s day. After this, Theophilus of Antioch, A.D. 168, is brought forward to bear a powerful testimony to the Sunday-Lord’s day. Then Dionysius of Corinth, A.D. 170, is made to speak to the same effect. Next Melito of Sardis, A.D. 177, is produced to confirm what the others have said. And finally, Irenaeus, A.D. 178, who had been the disciple of Polycarp, who had been the disciple of John the apostle, is brought forward to bear a decisive testimony in behalf of Sunday as the Lord’s day and the Christian Sabbath.

These are the first seven witnesses who are cited to prove Sunday the Lord’s day. They bring us nearly to the close of the second century. They constitute the chain of testimony by which the Lord’s day of the apostle John is identified with the Sunday-Lord’s day of later times.

First-day writers present these witnesses as proving positively that Sunday is the Lord’s day of the Scriptures, and the Christian church accepts this testimony in the absence of that of the inspired writers. But the folly of the people, and the wickedness of those who lead them, may be set forth in one sentence—the first, second, third, fourth, and seventh, of these testimonies are inexcusable frauds, while the fifth and sixth have no decisive bearing upon the case.

1. Ignatius, the first of these witnesses, it is said, must have known Sunday to be the Lord’s day, for he calls it such, and he had conversed with the apostle John. But in the entire writings of this father the term Lord’s day does not once occur, nor is there in them all a single mention of the first day of the week! The reader will find a critical examination of the epistles of Ignatius in chapter fourteen of this history.

2. It is a pure fabrication that the martyrs in Pliny’s time, about A.D. 104, and thence onward, were tested by the question whether they had kept the Sunday-Lord’s day. No question at all resembling this is to be found in the words of the martyrs till we come to the fourth century, and then the reference is not at all to the first day of the week. This is fully shown in chapter fifteen.

3. the Bible Dictionary of the American Tract Society, page 379, brings forward the third of these Sunday-Lord’s day witnesses in the person of Justin Martyr, A.D. 140. It makes him call Sunday the Lord’s day by quoting him as follows:

“Justin Martyr observes that ‘on the Lord’s day all Christians in the city or country meet together, because that is the day of our Lord’s resurrection.’”

But Justin never gave to Sunday the title of Lord’s day, nor indeed any other sacred title. Here are his words correctly quoted:

“And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles, or the writings of the prophets, are read, as long as time permits,” etc.4

Justin speaks of the day called Sunday. But that he may be made to help establish its title to the name of Lord’s day, his words are deliberately changed. Thus the third witness to Sunday as the Lord’s day, like the first and the second, is made such by fraud. But the fourth fraud is even worse than the three which precede.

4. The fourth testimony to the Sunday-Lord’s day is furnished in Dr. Justin Edwards’ Sabbath Manual, p.114:

“Theophilus, bishop of Antioch, about A.D. 162, says: ‘Both custom and reason challenge from us that we should honor the Lord’s day, seeing on that day it was that our Lord Jesus completed his resurrection from the dead.’”

Dr. Edwards does not pretend to give the place in Theophilus where these words are to be found.

Having carefully and minutely examined every paragraph of the writings of Theophilus several times over, I state emphatically that nothing of the kind is to be found in that writer. He never uses the term Lord’s day, and he does not even speak of the first day of the week. These words which are so well adapted to create the impression that the Sunday-Lord’s day is of apostolic institution, are put into his mouth by the falsehood of some one.

Here are four frauds, constituting the first four instances of the alleged use of Lord’s day as a name for Sunday. Yet it is by means of these very frauds that the Sunday-Lord’s day of later ages is identified with the Lord’s day of the Bible. Somebody invented these frauds. The use to which they are put plainly indicates the purpose for which they were framed. The title of Lord’s day must be proved to pertain to Sunday by apostolic authority. For this purpose these frauds were a necessity. The case of the Sunday-Lord’s day may be fitly illustrated by that of the long line of popes. Their apostolic authority as head of the Catholic church depends on their being able to identify the apostle Peter as the first of their line, and to prove that his authority was transmitted to them. There is no difficulty in tracing back their line to the early ages, though the earliest Roman bishops were modest, unassuming men, wholly unlike the popes of after times. But when they come to make Peter the head of their line, and to identify his authority and theirs, they can do it only by fraudulent testimonials. And such is the case with first-day observance. It may be traced back as a festival to the time of Justin Martyr, A.D. 140, but the day had then no sacred name, and at that time claimed no apostolic authority. But these must be secured at any cost, and so its title of Lord’s day is by a series of fraudulent testimonials traced to the apostle John, as in like manner the authority of the popes is traced to the apostle Peter.

5. The fifth witness of this series is Dionysius of Corinth, A.D. 170. Unlike the four which have been already examined, Dionysius actually uses the term Lord’s day, though he says nothing identifying it with the first day of the week. His words are these:

“To-day we have passed the Lord’s holy day, in which we have read your epistle; in reading which we shall always have our minds stored with admonition, as we shall, also, from that written to us before by Clement.”5

The epistle of Dionysus to Soter, bishop of Rome, from which this sentence is taken, has perished. Eusebius, who wrote in the fourth century, has preserved to us this sentence, but we have no knowledge of its connection. First-day writers quote Dionysus as the fifth of their witnesses that Sunday is the Lord’s day. They say that Sunday was so familiarly known as Lord’s day in the time of Dionysius, that he calls it by that name without even stopping to tell what day he meant.

But it is not honest to present Dionysius as a witness to the Sunday-Lord’s day, for he makes no application of the term. But it is said he certainly meant Sunday because that was the familiar name of the day in his time, even as is indicated by the fact that he did not define the term. And how is it known that Lord’s day was the familiar name of Sunday in the time of Dionysius? The four witnesses already examined furnish all the evidence in proof of this, for there is no writer this side of Dionysius who calls Sunday the Lord’s day until almost the entire period of a generation has elapsed. So Dionysius constitutes the fifth witness of the series by virtue of the fact that the first four witnesses prove that in his time, Lord’s day was the common name for first day of the week. But the first four testify to nothing of the kind until the words are by fraud put into their mouths! Dionysius is a witness for the Sunday-Lord’s day because that four fraudulent testimonials from the generations preceding him fix this as the meaning of his words!

And the name Lord’s day must have been a very common one for first day of the week because Dionysius does not define the term! And yet those who say this know that this one sentence of his epistle remains, while the connection, which doubtless fixed his meaning, has perished.

But Dionysius does not merely use the term Lord’s day. He uses a stronger term than this: “the Lord’s holy day.” Even for a long period after Dionysius, no writer gives to Sunday so sacred a title as “the Lord’s holy day.” Yet this is the very title given to the Sabbath in the Holy Scriptures, and it is a well-ascertained fact that at this very time it was extensively observed, especially in Greece, the country of Dionysius, and that, too, as an act of obedience to the fourth commandment.6

6. The sixth witness in this remarkable series is Melito of Sardis, A.D. 177. The first four, who never use the term Lord’s day, are by direct fraud made to call Sunday by that name; the fifth, who speaks of the Lord’s holy day, is claimed on the strength of these frauds to have meant by it Sunday; while the sixth is not certainly proved to have spoken of any day! Melito wrote several books now lost, the titles of which have been preserved to us by Eusebius.7 One of these, as given in the English version of Eusebius, is "On the Lord’s Day." Of course, first-day writers claim that this was a treatise concerning Sunday, though down to this point no writer calls Sunday by this name. But it is an important fact that the word day formed no part of the title of Melito’s book. It was a discourse on something pertaining to the Lord—d peri tes kuriakes logos—but the essential word emeras, day, is wanting. It may have been a treatise on the life of Christ, for Ignatius thus uses these words in connection: kuriaken xoen, Lord’s life. Like the sentence from Dionysius, it would not even seem to help the claim of Sunday to the title of Lord’s day were it not for the series of frauds in which it stands.

7. The seventh witness summoned to prove that Lord’s day was the apostolic title of Sunday, is Irenaeus. Dr. Justin Edwards professes to quote him as follows:8

“Hence Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons, a disciple of Polycarp, who had been the companion of the apostles, A.D. 167 (it should be A.D. 178), says that the Lord’s day was the Christian Sabbath. His words are, ‘On the Lord’s day every one of us Christians keeps the Sabbath, meditating on the law, and rejoicing in the works of God.’”

This witness is brought forward in a manner to give the utmost weight and authority to his words. He was the disciple of that eminent Christian martyr, Polycarp, and Polycarp was the companion of the apostles. What Irenaeus says is therefore in the estimation of many as worthy of our confidence as though we could read it in the writings of the apostles. Does not Irenaeus call Sunday the Christian Sabbath and the Lord’s day? Did he not learn these things from Polycarp? And did not Polycarp get them from the fountain head? What need have we of further witness that Lord’s day is the apostolic name for Sunday? What if the six earlier witnesses have failed us? Here is one that says all that can be asked, and he had his doctrine from a man who had his from the apostles!

Why then does not this establish the authority of Sunday as the Lord’s day? The first reason is that neither Irenaeus nor any other man can add to or change one precept of the word of God, on any pretense whatever. We are never authorized to depart from the words of the inspired writers on the testimony of men who conversed with the apostles, or rather who conversed with some who had conversed with them. But the second reason is that every word of this pretended testimony of Irenaeus is a fraud! Nor is there a single instance in which the term Lord’s day is to be found in any of his works, nor in any fragment of his works preserved in other authors!9 And this completes the seven witnesses by whom the Lord’s day of the Catholic church is traced back to and identified with the Lord’s day of the Bible! It is not till A.D. 194, sixteen years after the latest of these witnesses, that we meet the first instance in which Sunday is called the Lord’s day. In other words, Sunday is not called the Lord’s day till ninety-eight years after John was upon Patmos, and one hundred and sixty-three years after the resurrection of Christ!

But is not this owing to the fact that the records of that period have perished? By no means; for the day is six times mentioned by the inspired writers between the resurrection of Christ, A.D. 31, and John’s vision upon Patmos, A.D. 96; namely, by Matthew, A.D. 41; by Paul, A.D. 57; by Luke, A.D. 60, and A.D. 63; and by Mark, A.D. 64; and always as first day of the week. John, after his return from Patmos, A.D. 97, twice mentions the day, still calling it first day of the week.

After John’s time, the day is next mentioned in the so-called epistle of Barnabas, written probably as early as A.D. 140, and is there called “the eighth day.” Next it is mentioned by Justin Martyr in his Apology, A.D. 140, once as “the day on which we all hold our common assembly;” once as “the first day on which God … made the world;” once as “the same day (on which Christ) rose from the dead;” once as “the day after that of Saturn;” and three times as “Sunday,” or “the day of the sun.” Next the day is mentioned by Justin Martyr in his Dialogue with Trypho, A.D. 155, in which he twice calls it the “eighth day;” once “the first of all the days;” once as “the first” “of all the days of the (weekly) cycle;” and twice as “the first day after the Sabbath.” Next it is once mentioned by Irenaeus, A.D. 178, who calls it simply “the first day of the week.” And next it is mentioned once by Bardesanes, who calls it simply “the first of the week.” The variety of names by which the day is mentioned during this time is remarkable; but it is never called Lord’s day, nor ever called by any sacred name.

Though Sunday is mentioned in so many different ways during the second century, it is not till we come almost to the close of that century that we find the first instance in which it is called Lord’s day. Clement, of Alexandria, A.D. 194, uses this title with reference to “the eighth day.” If he speaks of a natural day, he no doubt means Sunday. It is not certain, however, that he speaks of a natural day, for his explanation gives to the term an entirely different sense. Here are his words:

“And the Lord’s day Plato prophetically speaks of in the tenth book of the Republic, in these words: ‘And when seven days have passed to each of them in the meadow, on the eighth they are to set out and arrive in four days.’ By the meadow is to be understood the fixed sphere, as being a mild and genial spot, and the locality of the pious; and by the seven days, each motion of the seven planets, and the whole practical art which speeds to the end of rest. But after the wandering orbs, the journey leads to Heaven, that is, to the eighth motion and day. And he says that souls are gone on the fourth day, pointing out the passage through the four elements. But the seventh day is recognized as sacred, not by the Hebrews only, but also by the Greeks; according to which the whole world of all animals and plants revolve.”10

Clement was originally a heathen philosopher, and these strange mysticisms which he here puts forth upon the words of Plato are only modifications of his former heathen notions. Though Clement says that Plato speaks of the Lord’s day, it is certain that he does not understand him to speak of literal days nor of a literal meadow. On the contrary, he interprets the meadow to represent “the fixed sphere, as being a mild and genial spot, and the locality of the pious;” which must refer to their future inheritance. The seven days are not so many literal days, but they represent “each motion of the seven planets, and the whole practical art which speeds to the end of rest.” This seems to represent the present period of labor which is to end in the rest of the saints. For he adds: “But after the wandering orbs (represented by Plato’s seven days) the journey leads to Heaven, that is, to the eighth motion and day.” The seven days, therefore, do here represent the period of the Christian’s pilgrimage, and the eighth day of which Clement here speaks is not Sunday, but Heaven itself! Here is the first instance of Lord’s day as a name for the eighth day, but this eighth day is a mystical one, and means Heaven!

But Clement uses the term Lord’s day once more, and this time clearly, as representing, not a literal day, but the whole period of our regenerate life. For he speaks of it in treating of fasting, and he sets forth fasting as consisting in abstinence from sinful pleasures, not only in deeds, to use his distinction, as forbidden by the law, but in thoughts, as forbidden by the gospel. Such fasting pertains to the entire life of the Christian. And thus Clement sets forth what is involved in observing this duty in the gospel sense:

“He, in fulfillment of the precept, according to the gospel, keeps the Lord’s day, when he abandons an evil disposition, and assumes that of the Gnostic, glorifying the Lord’s resurrection in himself.”11

From this statement we learn, not merely his idea of fasting, but also that of celebrating the Lord’s day, and glorifying the resurrection of Christ. This, according to Clement, does not consist in paying special honors to Sunday, but in abandoning an evil disposition, and in assuming that of the Gnostic, a Christian sect to which he belonged. Now it is plain that this kind of Lord’s-day observance pertains to no one day of the week, but embraces the entire life of the Christian. Clement’s Lord’s day was not a literal, but a mystical, day, embracing, according to this, his second use of the term, the entire regenerate life of the Christian; and according to his first use of the term, embracing also the future life in Heaven. And this view is confirmed by Clement’s statement of the contrast between the Gnostic sect to which he belonged and other Christians. He says of their worship that it was “NOT ON SPECIAL DAYS, as some others, but doing this continually in our whole life.” And he speaks further of the worship of the Gnostic that it was “not in a specified place, or selected temple, or at certain festivals, and on appointed days, but during his whole life.”12

It is certainly a very remarkable fact that the first writer who speaks of the Lord’s day as the eighth day uses the term, not with reference to a literal, but a mystical, day. It is not Sunday, but the Christian’s life, or Heaven itself! This doctrine of a perpetual Lord’s day, we shall find alluded to in Tertullian, and expressly stated in Origen, who are the next two writers that use the term Lord’s day. But Clement’s mystical or perpetual Lord’s day shows that he had no idea that John, by Lord’s day, meant Sunday; for in that case, he must have recognized that as the true Lord’s day, and the Gnostics’ special day of worship.

Tertullian, A.D. 200, is the next writer who uses the term Lord’s day. He defines his meaning, and fixes the name upon the day of Christ’s resurrection. Kitto13 says this is “the earliest authentic instance” in which the name is thus applied, and we have proved this true by actual examination of every writer, unless the reader can discover some reference to Sunday in Clement’s mystical eighth day. Tertullian’s words are these:

“We, however (just as we have received), only on the Lord’s day of the resurrection (solo die dominico resurrexionis) ought to guard, not only against kneeling, but every posture and office of solicitude; deferring even our business, lest we give any place to the devil. Similarly, too, in the period of Pentecost; which period we distinguish by the same solemnity of exultation.”14

Twice more does Tertullian use the term Lord’s day, and once more does he define it, this time calling it the “eighth day.” And in each of these two cases does he place the day which he calls Lord’s day in the same rank with the Catholic festival of Pentecost, even as he does in the instance already quoted. As the second instance of Tertullian’s use of Lord’s day, we quote a portion of the rebuke which he addressed to his brethren for mingling with the heathen in their festivals. He says:

“Oh! better fidelity of the nations to their own sects, which claims no solemnity of the Christians for itself! Not the Lord’s day, not Pentecost, even if they had known them, would they have shared with us; for they would fear lest they should seem to be Christians. We are not apprehensive lest we seem to be heathens! If any indulgence is to be granted to the flesh, you have it. I will not say your own days, but more too; for to the heathens each festive day occurs but once annually; you have a festive day every eighth day.”15

The festival which Tertullian here represents as coming every eighth day was no doubt the one which he has just called the Lord’s day. Though he elsewhere16 speaks of the Sunday festival as observed at least by some portion of the heathen, he here speaks of the Lord’s day as unknown to those heathen of whom he now writes. This strongly indicates that the Sunday festival had but recently begun to be called by the name of Lord’s day. But he once more speaks of the Lord’s day:

“As often as the anniversary comes round, we make offerings for the dead as birth-day honors. We count fasting or kneeling in worship on the Lord’s day to be unlawful. We rejoice in the same privilege also from Easter to Whitsunday (the Pentecost). We feel pained should any wine or bread, even though our own, be cast upon the ground. At every forward step and movement, at every going in and out, when we put on our clothes and shoes, when we bathe, when we sit at table, when we light the lamps, on couch, on seat, in all the ordinary actions of daily life, we trace upon the forehead the sign [of the cross].”

“If, for these and other such rules, you insist upon having positive Scripture injunction, you will find none. Tradition will be held forth to you as the originator of them, custom as their strengthener, and faith as their observer. That reason will support tradition, and custom, and faith, you will either yourself perceive, or learn from some one who has.”17

This completes the instances in which Tertullian uses the term Lord’s day, except a mere allusion to it in his discourse on Fasting. It is very remarkable that in each of the three cases, he puts it on a level with the festival of Whitsunday, or Pentecost. He also associates it directly with “offerings for the dead” and with the use of “the sign of the cross.” When asked for authority from the Bible for these things, he does not answer, “We have the authority of John for the Lord’s day, though we have nothing but tradition for the sign of the cross and offerings for the dead.” On the contrary, he said there was no Scripture injunction for any of them. If it be asked, How could the title of Lord’s day be given to Sunday except by tradition derived from the apostles? the answer will be properly returned, What was the origin of offerings for the dead? And how did the sign of the cross come into use among Christians? The title of Lord’s day as a name for Sunday is no nearer apostolic than is the sign of the cross, and offerings for the dead; for it can be traced no nearer to apostolic times than can these most palpable errors of the great apostasy.

Clement taught a perpetual Lord’s day; Tertullian held a similar view, asserting that Christians should celebrate a perpetual Sabbath, not by abstinence from labor, but from sin.18 Tertullian’s method of Sunday observance will be noticed hereafter.

Origen, A.D. 231, is the third of the ancient writers who call “the eighth day” the Lord’s day. He was the disciple of Clement, the first writer who makes this application. It is not strange, therefore, that he should teach Clement’s doctrine of a perpetual Lord’s day, nor that he should state it even more distinctly than did Clement himself. Origen, having represented Paul as teaching that all days are alike, continues thus:

“If it be objected to us on this subject that we ourselves are accustomed to observe certain days, as for example the Lord’s day, the Preparation, the Passover, or Pentecost, I have to answer, that to the perfect Christian, who is ever in his thoughts, words, and deeds, serving his natural Lord, God the Word, all his days are the Lord’s, and he is always keeping the Lord’s day.”19

This was written some forty years after Clement had propounded his doctrine of the Lord’s day. The imperfect Christian might honor a Lord’s day which stood in the same rank with the Preparation, the Passover, and the Pentecost. But the perfect Christian observed the true Lord’s day, which embraced all the days of his regenerate life. Origen uses the term Lord’s day for two different days. 1. For a natural day, which in his judgment stood in the same rank with the Preparation day, the Passover, and the Pentecost. 2. For a mystical day, as did Clement, which is the entire period of the Christian’s life. The mystical day, in his estimation, was the true Lord’s day. It therefore follows that he did not believe Sunday to be the Lord’s day by apostolic appointment. But, after Origen’s time, Lord’s day becomes a common name for the so-called eighth day. Yet these three men, Clement, Tertullian, and Origen, who first make this application, not only do not claim that this name was given to the day by the apostles, but do plainly indicate that they had no such idea. Offerings for the dead and the use of the sign of the cross are found as near to apostolic times as is the use of Lord’s day as a name for Sunday. The three have a common origin, as shown by Tertullian’s own words. Origen’s views of the Sabbath, and of the Sunday festival, will be noticed hereafter.

Such is the case with the claim of Sunday to the title of Lord’s day. The first instance of its use, if Clement be supposed to refer to Sunday, is not till almost one century after John was in vision upon Patmos. Those who first call it by that name had no idea that it was such by divine or apostolic appointment, as they plainly show. In marked contrast with this is the Catholic festival of the Passover. Though never commanded in the New Testament, it can be traced back to men who say that they had it from the apostles!

Thus the churches of Asia Minor had the festival from Polycarp who, as Eusebius states the claim of Polycarp, had “observed it with John the disciple of our Lord, and the rest of the apostles with whom he associated.”20 Socrates says of them that they maintain that this observance “was delivered to them by the apostle John.”21 Anatolius says of these Asiatic Christians that they received “the rule from an unimpeachable authority, to wit, the evangelist John.”22

Nor was this all. The western churches also, with the church of Rome at their head, were strenuous observers of the Passover festival. They also traced the festival to the apostles. Thus Socrates says of them: “The Romans and those in the western parts assure us that their usage originated with the apostles Peter and Paul.”23 But he says these parties cannot prove this by written testimony. Sozomen says of the Romans, with respect to the Passover festival, that they “have never deviated from their original usage in this particular; the custom having been handed down to them by the holy apostles Peter and Paul.”24

If the Sunday-Lord’s day could be traced to a man who claimed to have celebrated it with John and other of the apostles, how confidently would this be cited as proving positively that it is an apostolic institution! And yet this can be done in the case of the Passover festival! Nevertheless, a single fact in the case of this very festival is sufficient to teach us the folly of trusting in tradition. Polycarp claimed that John and other of the apostles taught him to observe the festival on the fourteenth day of the first month, whatever day of the week it might be; while the elders of the Roman church asserted that Peter and Paul taught them that it must be observed on the Sunday following Good Friday!25

The Lord’s day of the Catholic church can be traced no nearer to John than A.D. 194, or perhaps in strict truth to A.D. 200, and those who then use the name show plainly that they did not believe it to be the Lord’s day by apostolic appointment. To hide these fatal facts by seeming to trace the title back to Ignatius the disciple of John, and thus to identify Sunday with the Lord’s day of that apostle, a series of remarkable frauds has been committed which we have had occasion to examine. But even could the Sunday-Lord’s day be traced to Ignatius, the disciple of John, it would then come no nearer being an apostolic institution than does the Catholic festival of the Passover, which can be traced to Polycarp, another of John’s disciples, who claimed to have received it from John himself!

Chapter 14: A Forged Chain Of Sunday Evidences

Seeking the missing link
Were martyrs of Pliny’s time tested whether they kept the Lord’s day,
Domville’s telling refutation
The correct time and question
Ignatius’s spurious epistles still more interpolated
Justin Martyr’s designation of the first day changed
Theophilus of Antioch, or of Alexandria?
Pseudo-Ignatius remodelled for a testimony of Irenaeus
The unqualified statement of Dionysius
The indefinite title of Melito’s treatise
The first day of the week in the Bible in post apostolic age
“Almost immediately” means at least a century
“Probable insinuations in Scripture”
A forged chain of tradition

The meager writings of the “obscure and mysterious transition period between the end of the first century and the middle of the second,” 1 fail to furnish in their originals, questionable though they even appear, the missing evidences whereby Sunday observance could be traced to apostolic time. They likewise utterly fail to supply reliable testimony that soon after the apostolic time Sunday was observed under the significant title “the Lord’s day.”

Seeking The Missing Link

Feeling his lack keenly, certain doctors of divinity and first-day writers of less renown, try to supply the lack by fabrications. Intermingling statements of a much later date with the vague inferences of these few earlier documents, or interpreting their sayings in the language or light of later interpolations, they make these fabrications seem quite plausible, apt to deceive even the wary.

Pliny’s epistle mentions a stated day of worship, but does not in any way specify the day. Being a historical document of the immediate post apostolic age, its testimony would carry some weight. How this lack has been supplied, Justin Edwards, D.D.. demonstrates. After raising the question, “Which was this stated day?” he, without giving any reference whatever, incorporates the following into his answer:

“Hence the fact that their persecutors, when they wished to know whether men were Christians, were accustomed to put to them this question, viz., ‘Dominicum servasti?’ -‘Hast thou kept the Lord’s day?’ If they had they were Christians. This was the badge of their Christianity, in distinction from Jews and pagans. And if they said they had, and would not recant, they must be put to death. And what, when they continued steadfast, was their answer? ‘Christianus sum; intermittere non possum;’-‘ I am a Christian; I cannot omit it.’ It is a badge of my religion, and the man who assumes it must of course keep the Lord’s day, because it is the will of his Lord; and should he abandon it, he would be an apostate from his religion.” 2

Were Martyrs Of Pliny’s Time Tested Whether They Kept The Lord’s Day, As Edwards Affirmed

J.J. Gurney, who published his history of Sunday fourteen years before Edwards’ “Sabbath Manual” was issued, uses the same argument, giving as reference, “Acts of the Martyrs“, in Bishop Andrew’s “On the Ten Commandments” page 264. 3

Bishop Andrews first brought this forward in his speech in the Court of Star Chamber against Thraske (1618). The latter, who observed the seventh day as the Sabbath of the Lord, was accused, before that arbitrary tribunal, of maintaining the heretical opinion that Christians were still bound to observe the seventh day. The Bishop died in 1626. His speech against Thraske was not published until 1629; it was, therefore, as well as his “Catechism on the Ten Commandments,” from which Gurney must have quoted, a posthumous publication. The following is his own statement (page 264)

“A thing so notorious, so well known even to the heathen themselves, as it was (in ‘The Acts of the Martyrs’) ever a usual question of theirs (even of course) in their examining, What? “dominium servasti?’ (Hold you to Sunday?), and their answer known; they all aver it, ‘Christianus sum, intermittere non possum’ (I am a Christian, I can not intermit it); not the Lord’s day, in any wise. These are examples enough,”

The story was first produced, therefore, for the purpose of confounding an observer of the Sabbath when on trial by his enemies for keeping that day.

Sir Wm. Domville, a very able anti-Sabbatarian writer, took pains carefully to trace the matter, making use of the Acta primo rum Maryrum sincera et selecta, by Ruinart, who lived 1657-1709.

Domville’s Telling Refutation

Sir Wm. Domville thus traces out the matter:

“The bishop, as we have seen, refers to the Acta of the martyrs as justifying his assertion respecting the question, Dominicum servasti? but he does not cite a single instance from them in which that question was put. We are left therefore to hunt out the instances for ourselves, wherever, if anywhere, they are to be found. The most complete collection of the memoirs and legends still extant, relative to the lives and sufferings of the Christian martyrs, is that by Ruinart, entitled, ‘Acta primorum Martyrum sincera et selecta.’ I have carefully consulted that work, and I take upon myself to affirm that among the questions there stated to have been put to the martyrs in and before the time of Pliny, and for nearly two hundred years afterwards, the question, Dominicum servasti? does not once occur; nor any equivalent question.” 4

Domville found that neither the question, “dominium servasti? nor anything similar to it, was mentioned until two hundred years after the time of Pliny.

The martyrdom referred to is that of Saturninus, Dativ, and others of Abitina, in Africa, which is said to have occurred at the time of the Diocletian persecution. Ruinart designates 304 A.D. as the proper date. Here the expressions celebrare Dominicum and agere Dominicum. frequently occur, but in no instance is the verb servare used in reference to Dominicum. From this “it is very clear” Bishop Andrews had not “his author at hand, and that, in trusting to his memory, he coined a phrase of his own.”

The Correct Time And Question

Not only was the time of this martydom two hundred years after the age of Pliny, but even two hundred years later the question was not concerning the Lord’s day, but with reference to the Lord’s supper. Domville also proves this from Ruinart’s own statement, and from the Benedictine editions of St. Augustine’s works, and from Gesner’s Latin Thesaurus, published in 1749. These, in quoting Tertullian, Cyprain, Augustine, and Hilary, refer to the Lord’s supper.

Domville himself says, concerning the meaning of Dominicum:

“The narrative of the martyrdom of Saturninus being the only one which has the appearance of supporting the assertion of Bishop Andrews that, ‘Hold you the Lord’s day?’ was the usual question to the martyrs, what if I should prove that even this narrative affords no support to that assertion? Yet nothing is more easy than this proof; for Bishop Andrews has quite mistaken the meaning of the word Dominicum in translating it ‘the Lord’s day.’ It had no such meaning. It was a barbarous word in use among some of the ecclesiastical writers in, and subsequent to, the fourth century, to express sometimes a church, and at other times the Lord’s supper, but NEVER the Lord’s day. 5

Then, after having reproved Mr. Gurney for his unfounded assertion, he stigmatizes this deceptive and favorite first-day argument as:

“One of those daring misstatements of facts so frequent in theological writings, and which, from the confident tone so generally assumed by the writers on such occasions, are usually received without examination, and allowed, in consequence, to pass current for truth.” 6

That this did not stop the fraudulent and deceptive use of this statement is seen from the following note by Cox, some sixteen years later:

“As Bishop Andrews’ argument from ‘Dominicum servasti?’ continues to be frequently reproduced by writers on the Sabbath, I have copied this searching exposure of it [by Domville], in the hope of fostering a more conscientious and scholar like mode of conducting the controversy than that which unhappily prevails.” 7

After Domville had thus exposed the character of these fraudulent quotations, James Gilfillan published an exhaustive volume about Sunday in 1861, which was extensively circulated. Although it appears from his own quotations on pages 10, 142, and 143, that the author had read Domville’s exposures, yet he makes the following statement:

“From the days of the apostles downwards for many years, the followers of Christ had no enemies more fierce and unrelenting than that people [the Jews], who cursed them in the synagogue, sent out emissaries into all countries to calumniate their Master and them, and were abettors wherever they could, of the martyrdom of men, such as Polycarp, of whom the world was not worthy. Among the reasons of this deadly enmity was the change of the Sabbatic day. The Romans, though they had no objection on this score, punished the Christians for the faithful observance of their day of rest, one of the testing questions put to the martyrs being, Dominicum servasti?- Have you kept the Lord’s day? —Baron. An. Eccles., A.D. 303, Num.35, etc.8

Gilfillan, having reproduced the question about “Dominicum sevasti?” assigns as his authority the annalist Baronius. Other first-day writers repeated the story with the revised date. We find, for example, this assertion in the published sermons of Bishop Daniel Wilson, of Calcutta. 9 And the same was transferred from the bishop’s sermons into a French work. 10

But that Domville was correct when he originally referred to Ruinart, is demonstrated by the fact that a noted German Catholic writer quotes this very account in Ruinart not only to prove early Sunday observance, but also in behalf of a Sunday law, and even of the mass. This author, A.G. Binterim, D.D., a knight of the papal order of the Golden Spur, in his elaborate work on the Antiquities of the Christian Catholic Church (a standard authority among Catholics), makes the following statement:

“The writings of these two ancient Fathers [Ignatius and Justin] plainly show that they looked upon the observance of Sunday, not as something arbitrary, but as something commanded by a law which the martyrs Saturinus, Dativ, etc., still more plainly state. They refer to an old law which commands the observance of Sunday. (Securi Dominicum celebravimus, quia non potest intermitti Dominicum…..Saturninus ait: intermitti Dominicum non potest. Lex sic jubet.—Asta de Saturnini, etc. Ruinart N Tertullian, Libr, de Fuga Cap, ultim,’)

“To attend the holy mass was a principal duty and the main part of Sunday observance from the earliest times, as we have shown from the testimonies of Justin and the above mentioned acts of the martyrs Saturninus, Dativ, etc., and of the bishop of Herecleae.” 11

The full array of facts is before us, and they conclusively show that the martyrdom in question is that of Saturninus, Dativ, and their fellow sufferers in Northern Africa. We find these things recorded in the most noted “Acta sanctorum” of J. Bollandus; 12 In Baronius: 13 and in Ruinart. 14 Bollandus places the martyrdom about A.D. 200. The context is everywhere the same—they were arrested while celebrating the Lord’s sacrament according to custom. 15 The charge was that they had celebrated the Lord’s supper and the collecta. 16

The following are some of the most important questions put to them by the proconsul:

Dativ was asked whether he had celebrated the collectam; and he replied that he was a Christian, and had done this. 17

Victoria said, “I have not only been in the collecta, but I have celebrated the Dominicum with the brethren, because I am a Christian,” 18

Saturninus answered, “We have celebrated the Dominicum, because the Dominicum can not be neglected,” 19 Upon being questioned again, he replied, “The Dominicum can not be disregarded; the law so commands.” 20

To Felix the proconsul said that he did not wish to know whether he was Christian, but whether he participated in the collecta. His answer was: “As if one could be a Christian without the Dominicum (or as if the Dominicum can be celebrated without the Christian)” 21

“We have observed the collecta most sacredly; we have always convened in the Dominicum for reading the Lord’s Word.” 22 After him, the younger Felix declared the Dominicum to be the hope and safety of the Christians and when tortured as the others, he exclaimed, “I have celebrated the Dominicum with a devoted heart, and with my brethren I have made the collecta because I am a Christian,: 23

When the proconsul asked the younger Saturninus whether he had conducted the Dominicum, he replied that he had, because Christ was his Savior. 24

This is the substance of this famous examination, and it can be easily seen what use is made of the words Dominicum and collecta. The important question is, Do Bollandus, Ruinart, and Baronius ever translate these words Lord’s day?

Never. On the contrary, all three carefully show the right sense of these words by plain definitions. In his notes, Bollandus says, “Surius renders, ‘The sacraments of the Lord, the sacrifice of the mass.’” 25

He also adduces a passage from the works of Cyprain in confirmation of this. In another note (nota a) he remarks, “Collecta or collectio is the assembly and meeting of the Christians for prayer.” Ruinnart observes that “Dominicum signifies the holy mysteries.” 26 In confirmation of this, he appeals to Tertullian and Cyprain. Baronius explains this term seven times, expressly stating that Dominicum could only refer to that divine service which the Catholics call the mass. 27

We might add that the German translator of Ruinart translates Dominicum as Lord’s supper, and collecta, as assembly. 28

Of course at that early age, the divine service of the martyrs, and their celebration of the Lord’s supper, were far different from that pompous ceremony now known as the mass in the Catholic Church.

Gilfillan had read these explanations of Baronius, still he dares to quote him as saying that these martyrs were tested by the question, “Have you kept the Lord’s day?” (Dominicum servasti?) He should have known that he was writing a direct falsehood and all who knowingly repeat this fraud, are without excuse.

The correctness of Sir Domvilles’ refutation and the error of Binterim is thus ably set forth by Prof. Th. Zahn, D.D., in his “History of the Sunday”.

“The Acta Saturnini, Dativi, etc., from the time of Diocletian are a touching testimony (Ruinart, pp. 409-419, ed. 1) It is perhaps not superfluous to correct incidentally a misunderstanding of Interim (Denkw. V. I, 127, not) He fancied a reference to an old ecclesiastical law concerning Sunday observance in the exclamation of the old presbyter Saturnin: Intermitti Dominicum non potest, lex sic jubet; and afterward once more: Lex sic docet (p. 414 Ruinart). The neuter dominium never signifies Sunday, but the Lord’s supper. (Convivium dominium, Tertull. Ad uxor. 11,4) Thus all the way through these acts, for example, chapter 7 p. 412; et in collecta fui et dominium cum fratribus celebravi; compare this with Tertull. De Fuga 14 or August, collat, c. Donat, coll, teretii diei sec. 32. In the acta Saturn, chap. 2, p. 410, we find in addition to dominium the synonymous cariant, dominica sacramenta. Thus the word is undoubtedly also to be understood in Cypr. de opere et elemis., chap. 15; epist. 63, 16; Pseudocypr. De spectat, 5. Whether dominium ever, except in translations from the Greek donates the church building, I cannot tell.

“But the law, to which these martyrs appealed when they were tortured, is no particular precept, be it of God and Christ, or be it of the church, but as the one giving the account once himself express (chap. 11. P. 415), the law written in the heart by the Spirit of the living God. The Lector Emeritus (chap. 11, p. 414) replies to the question of the proconsul, why he had allowed other Christians to assemble in his house: ‘Because they were my brethren and I could not keep them away,’ But you must keep them away,’ “I could not, because we can not be without the Lord’s supper’ When tortured, he repeats his sentence, ‘I could not but receive my brethren,’’ 29

We have clearly traced and exposed the efforts of first-day authors to produce some evidence to prove that the term Lord’s day was used soon after the apostle John used it in Revelation, as well as their attempts to demonstrate from questionable tradition that the Lord’s day of the Bible was the first day of the week. The Protestant authors simply are following in the wake of Catholicism, which not only attempts thus to establish Sunday observance from tradition, but also tries to substantiate the doctrine by a traditional law, and in connection with it, the claim that the major part of the celebration of Sunday was the celebration of the mass. Domville, Cox, and others deserve credit in the eyes of every honest seeker after truth for having traced out and exposed these wily efforts to make Pliny’s “stated day” the first link in a chain of evidence to identify the Lord’s day of the Bible with that of later tradition, and with the day erroneously designated by that term in our own times.

Ignatius’s Spurious Epistles Still More Interpolated

Justin Edwards demonstrates how the second link of this chain has been forged. After assuming that when John the revelatory spoke of the Lord’s day, all Christians knew that it was the day of the resurrection, on which they were to meet, he continues:

Hence Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, A.D. 101 only about half a dozen years after the death of the apostle, speaks of the Lord’s day familiarly and without explanation, as if everybody understood it. And he gives this title to the first day of the week exactly after the manner of the apostle himself. ‘Let us (Christians) no more Sabbatize,’ he says,—that is, keep the seventh day, as the Jews did—’but let us keep the Lord’s day,’ ‘Let everyone that loves Christ keep holy the Lord’s Day, the queen of days, the resurrection day, the highest of all days.’” 30

As usual, Justin Edwards saves himself the trouble of giving the reference. Had he done so, his deception would have been evident, viz., that the above statements which, seemingly, fit together so nicely, are fabricated in this manner: First, he suppresses the phrase in the shorter version of the epistle to the Magnesians, “living according to the Lord’s life;” secondly, he substitutes for it, from the enlarged and still worse interpolated version manufactured probably in the fourth century, the term, “celebrate the Lord’s day;” and, finally to strengthen it, he joins the rest of the statement from the enlarged version to his own interpolated shorter version.

Dr. Edwards, we are sorry to say, is not the only one who has done this kind of work. A number of writers are guilty of this sort of deception, and among them must be included Archbishop Wake, in his translation of the Fathers, which is thus ably reviewed by Cox:

“There is, however, in the original no word or phrase which corresponds to the phrase ‘the Lord’s day,’ or to the word ‘ keeping:’ the literal translation is, ‘No longer observing Sabbaths, but living according to the Lord’s life, [Greek phrase] in which also our life is sprung up’. Indeed, the archbishop admits, in a note, that this translation would be correct; while his own is by many thought inconsistent, not only with the expressions in the original, but with the whole scope of the passage. (See Domville, I, 241-251; and Powell in Kitto’s Cyclop,II, 270, first edition.)

To such an extent have the epistles of Ignatius been corrupted by interpolation (see Chevallier, Introd. 43-54). That even those considered genuine (among which is the one above quoted) were suspected by Lardner and Beausobre to have been tampered with (Domville, vol. I, 241), and have recently been pronounced by Mr. Cureton (with whom Lipsius agrees) to have been copiously interpolated for the same dogmatically purposes which prompted to the forgery of four of the seven, and by the same forging hand. (Cureton’s Corpus Ignatianum, London, 1849; and Lipsius in Jour, of the Historico-Theological Society of Germany for 1856). But not to insist upon this, it is more important to mention that a passage still frequently quoted in popular treatises from one of the epistles as genuine, has for two centuries past been rejected by every scholar as spurious. The words are:

Let us therefore no longer observe Sabbaths after the manner of the Jews: and rejoice in days of idleness; for “he that does not work, let him not eat.” For say the [holy] oracles, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat thy bread.” But let every one of you keep the Sabbath after a spiritual manner, rejoicing in meditation on the law, not in relaxation of the body, admiring the workmanship of God, and not eating things prepared the day before, nor using lukewarm drinks, and walking within a prescribed space, nor finding delight in dancing and plaudits which have no sense in them. And after the observance of the Sabbath, let every lover of Christ keep the Lord’s Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days [of the week].
[See Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesia’s] 31

It is sad enough that writings of such men as Ignatius, and others of the post apostolic period, have been thus shamefully interpolated for “dogmatically purposes,”—in this instance manifestly to smuggle in Sunday as the Lord’s day. But is it not still more wicked to interpolate, and to misquote their compositions, with the avowed purpose of making null and void the direct commands of the divine Word of God? That there was not only one instance of this, and that interpolation has been frequently perpetrated, Cox plainly shows, giving instances such as that of the above-mentioned Bishop Wilson, and others. How long this has been going on, and how early it was reproved, is seen fro the correspondence between Dr. Priestley and E. Evanson, near the end of the eighteenth century. Dr. Priestley had, in his Theological Repository, published at Birmingham in 1786 and 1788, given this very quotation from Ignatius, as “keeping the Lord’s day”. In consequence of this, Mr. Evanson wrote to him as follows:

But pray, good sir, by what rules of construction do you translate [the Greek phrase] as ‘keeping’. The only meaning of those two Greek words that I am acquainted with is ‘living according to’. And if the word [Greek word] be allowed to be part of the original sentence, the phrase ‘living according to the Lord’s life,’ viz., the spiritual life he now lives in heaven, is perfectly intelligible, and much of the same kind with what we meet with in several places of the canonical epistles, particularly in that to the Colossians, chapter 3. But if the phrase ‘living according to the Lord’s day’ has any meaning at all, it is entirely beyond my comprehension.” 32 Much more might be said to show up the improper use of the writings of Ignatius; but the reader will readily concede that enough has been brought forward to show that this second link in the chain to connect the Lord’s day of John with the Sunday Lord’s day of tradition, will not hold.

Justin Martyr’s Designation Of The First Day Changed

The third link of this chain is supplied in the Dictionary of the Holy Bible (published by the American Tract Society in 1886, and compiled by W.W. Rand) by a quotation from Justin Martyrs A.D. 140. On page 489 it makes him call Sunday the Lord’s day by quoting him as follows:

“Justin Martyr, in the second century, observes that ‘on the Lord’s day all Christians in the city or country meet together, because that is the day of our Lord’s resurrection.”’ Here are his actual words correctly quoted: “And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles, or the writings of the prophets, are read, as long as time permits,….” 33 (see Justin Martyr)

Justin speaks of the day called Sunday. But that he may be made to help establish its title to the name of LORD’s DAY, his words are deliberately changed.

Justin (whom we shall consider later on) uses, in addition to the word Sunday, the term eighth day. He employs throughout, as J.A, Hessey correctly remarks, “the heathen designations for the seventh and the first days of the week” 34

As the heathen designation of the first day of the week has been fraudulently transformed into the significant title of Lord’s day, is it not just as probable that the day itself to which these terms are applied, has been changed in like manner? So turns out that this third link is simply another fraud.

Theophilus Of Antioch, Or Of Alexandria?

The fourth link of this chain is thus set forth by Justin Edwards:

Theophilus, bishop ofAntioch, about A.D. 162, says ‘Both custom and reason challenge from us that we should honor the Lord’s day, seeing on that day it was that our Lord Jesus completed his resurrection from the dead.’” 35

Dr. Edwards shrewdly neglects to tell us where this passage is to be found in the works of Bishop Theophilus of Antioch; and the same is true of Gilfillan, who makes use of the same quotation. 36 But no such statement as the above occurs anywhere in the writings of that church Father. The same passage is adduced by W. Cave in his “Primitive Christianity,” in favor of Sunday observance, but he attributes it correctly to Theophilus, Bishop of Alexandria, A.D. 385-412. In order that we may get the import of this garbled statement, we will give it in full, As the church festival of Theophany was to fall on a Sunday, Theophilus issued the following decree:

“Both custom and reason challenge from us that we honor and keep holy the Lord’s day, seeing on that day it was that our Lord Jesus completed his resurrection from the dead. Therefore, in the Holy Scriptures It is called a s well the first (day), because it is the beginning of our life, as also the eighth (day), because it has excelled the Sabbath observance of the Jews. But as it happens that this Sunday would be a fast-day, on account of the holy Theophany, we decree that we eat a few dates, to thus avoid following the heretics, who do not honor the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and at the same time we give the fast-day its due by waiting until the evening meeting, which, God willing, shall take place. We assemble ourselves therefore at the ninth hour.” 37

If the quotation is given entire, what a different face it puts upon the whole matter! We can see from it that in the latter part of the fourth century (the decree was issued in 398 A.D.) Sunday and the movable festivals clash. But the eating of a few dates recommended by the decree of the bishop, solves the difficulty! But even at that late date, the best authority that could be adduced in favor of the celebration of the Lord’s day was “custom and reason.”

Pseudo-Ignatius Remodelled For A Testimony Of Irenaeus

The fifth link of the chain is introduced by Dr. Edwards’s Sabbath Manual” (page 114) in these words:

“Hence Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons, a disciple of Polycarp, who had been the companion of the apostles, A.D. 167 [it should be A.D. 178], says that the Lord’s day was the Christian Sabbath. His words are, ’On the Lord’s day every one of us Christians keeps the Sabbath, meditating on the law, and rejoicing in the works of God.’”

Dr. Edwards introduces this witness in a manner to give the utmost weight of authority to his words, by connecting Irenaeus, through Polycarp, with the apostles; but, as seems customary to him, Dr. Edwards gives no reference. Mr. Gurney makes exactly the same statemnt, and has as his authority in a note, “quoted by Dwight, Theology, vol. 4, p. 26.” Dr. Dwight was president of Yale College, and had the misfortune to be afflicted with a disorder in his eyes from the early age of twenty-three, “a calamity,” says his biographer, “by which he was deprived of the capacity for reading and study.” 38

He wrote his Theology in 1818, and there were no less than six reprints of it in London. He gives no reference whatever as to where this passage occurs.

Cox says that innumerable writers, Bishop Wilson among them, have borrowed this statement from him. Sir Wm., Domville, after having carefully searched all the extant works of Ireaeus (another statement ascribed to him we shall consider in chapter 15), said that he could find no such passage, nor anything resembling it. As to where he did find it, Cox states thus:

“But he discovered, in the writings falsely ascribed to Ignatius, expressions so closely resembling those given by Dr. Dwight, as to leave no doubt of the source from which the quotation was erroneously made. Paley also (Mor. Philos, book 5, chap. 8) cites, as from Irenaeus, a similar passage which Sir William shows to be evidently derived from the pseudo-Ignatius (Domville, vol. I 127-132) 39

Dr. Dwight:
“On the Lord’s day everyone of us Christians keeps the Sabbath, … meditating in the law (or Scriptures), and rejoicing in the works of God.” 40
But let every one of … keep the Sabbath after a spiritual manner, rejoicing in meditation of the law, and admiring the works of God.” 41

That we may get the full intent of this quotation, we will let the pseudo-Ignatius finish the passage: “After the observance of the Sabbath, let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s day as a festival.”

In the above passage, pseudo-Ignatius speaks of the spiritual observance of the seventh-day Sabbath; but Dwight, Edwards, and all their followers, distort pseudo-Ignatius by applying this to their Lord’s day. Every scholar, according to Cox, has, for centuries, rejected this passage from pseudo-Ignatius as interpolated for dogmatically purposes. And what shall we say of men who, knowing all this, have, for dogmatically purposes, wrested the interpolated passage from its real meaning, and then presented it to the world a s a quotation from the church Father Irenaeus? We can but declare it to be an inexcusable fraud. Does this not equal any interpolation that was ever committed upon the writings fo the so-called church Fathers? Does it not show to us the utter unreliability of human tradition, although it may be manufactured by doctors of divinity living in the nineteenth century, and appear as genuine even in standard religious works?

The Unqualified Statement Of Dionysius

As the sixth link in this famous chain, we quote the following from Schaff’s Church History:

“The Didache calls the first day ‘the Lord’s day of the Lord’ (chapter 14. [greek phrase], pleonastic. The adjective in Rev. 1:10.) 42

As to the claim put forth above and based on chapter 14 of the Didache concerning the “first day“, we would say that the only reference made to any week-day whatever, is to be found in chapter 8, verse 1:

“Let not your fasts be with the hypocrites, for they fast on the second and fifth day of the week, but ye shall fast on the fourth day, and the preparation day,” 43

This is the regular Bible method of naming the days of the week, and the Greek term translated “preparation day” here, is the word used for Friday in the Gospels (see Luke 23:54, etc.) The resurrection of Christ is not so much as mentioned in chapter 14. Instead of finding the two Greek words translated “Lord’s day” in Rev. 1:10, we find here the expression, “according to the Lord’s of the Lord.” In commenting on the Didache, chapter 14, Schaff says, “This chapter interrupts the connection, and should precede chapter 9.” 44 Why did he say so? His reason is easily found, because it is so in the enlarged version, forming the seventh book of the Apostolic Constitutions. Here we find all that is said in chapter 8:1 on fasting, in chapter 23. But we here have some additional facts, viz., to either fast the entire five days or on the fourth day and the day of the preparation. On the fourth day they should fast as t he day of Christ’s betrayal; on the sixth day, because of Christ’s crucifixion. Then it continues:

“But keep the Sabbath, the Lord’s day festival; because the former is the memorial of the creation, and the latter of the resurrection,” 45 The passage on which Schaff bases his rendering is, according to his note on page 108, The Apost. Const. Vii:30, where we have the very thing lacking in the Didache, 14:1

“On the day of the resurrection of the Lord, that is, the Lord’s day, assemble yourselves together, without fail giving thanks to God.”

We will let Schaff himself tell us something about these Apostolic Constitutions:

“It is, in form, a literary fiction, professing to be a bequest of all the apostles, handed down through the Roman Bishop Clement, or dictated to him.” “It contains, in eight books, a collection of moral exhortations, church laws and usages, and liturgical formularies, which had gradually arisen in the various churches….These were first orally transmitted; then committed to writing in different versions, like the creeds; and finally brought, by some unknown hand, into their present form. The first six books which have a strongly Jewish-Christian tone, were composed, with the exception of some later interpolations, at the end of the third century, in Syria. The seventh book is an expansion of the Didache…The second Trullan council of 692 rejected it for its heretical interpolations.” 46

Let the reader judge how fair it is to complete an unfinished phrase of the second century from a questionable document of the fourth century, and then purport this to be a doctrine of the second century. There is, however, a statement in the Did ache (chap. 4:13) to which we wish to refer in closing, because it furnishes a correct standard by which to test its own statements, and the teachings of those who may quote it. It is based on Matt. 5:17-19, and reads:

“Thou shalt not forsake the commandments of the Lord, but thou shalt keep what thou hast received, neither adding to nor taking away therefrom.”

If these instructions were followed concerning the ten commandments, it would obviate all these fraudulent efforts, restore the true Sabbath, and supply the missing link—a plain “Thus saith the Lord,”

Ere we close this investigation, we may be allowed to dispose of two other church Fathers quoted by Dr. Edwards or his associates in their efforts to erect this first-day structure. The first witness adduced is Dionysius, bishop of Corinth (A.D. 170), whose original letter to Soter, bishop of Rome, has perished, and all that remains of it is a short extract preserved in Eusebius, who renders it thusly:

“Today we have passed the Lord’s holy day, in which we have read your epistle; in reading which we shall always have our minds stored with admonition, as we shall, also from that written to us before by Clement” 47

Instead of having Dionysius’s own words, we have this expression as it was quoted by a church historian of the fourth century; and even at that, there is nothing in his statement which would identify the Lord’s day with the first day of the week. He in no wise connects it with, nor does he even mention, the resurrection. He does not say “the Lord’s day,” but “the Lord’s holy day.” Nor is it proper to translate the word “kept,” as Hessey renders it, but it should be “passed,” as given above. And Edwards’s statement in his “Sabbath Manual” (page 114) that this epistle of the bishop of Rome should be read in the church at Corinth, “while they kept holy the Lord’s day”, is a direct interpolation and addition, not to be found in the original at all.

While the first part of the statement has been quoted in support of the Sunday Lord’s day, although it in no wise specifies the day, we will now give the remainder of the passage in question, for the benefit of those attempting to bring forward such perverted evidence.

“As the brethren,” says, he, “desired me to write epistles, I wrote them, and these the apostles of the devil have filled with tares, exchanging some things, and adding others, for whom there is a woe reserved. It is not, therefore, matter of wonder, if some have also attempted to adulterate the sacred writings of the Lord, since they have attempted the same in other works that are not to be compared with these.” 48

The Indefinite Title Of Melito’s Treatise

Gilfillan names the second of these two church Fathers:

“In A.D. 170, the Lord’s day is known at Sardis, for Melito, bishop of the church there, writes a book on the subject, and Eusebius, who supplies the information, and who attests the character of the weekly holy day in his own time, must be considered as intimating the identity of the sacred season in Sardis and Caesarea.” 49

But the sum total is, Eusebius simply gives the titles of various works written by Melito, among which are two works on the Passover, [Greek phrase] “and the Discourse about something belonging to the Lord,” 50

This is all we know about it. Cox remarks that it is “a treatise ‘on the Lord’s day,’ if this be the meaning” of the title. So, we have nothing of the book but the title, and even that is indefinite. But there is one thing that we do know about this bishop—that he was among the chief supporters of celebrating Easter according to the Jewish practise, which, as Schaff says, “was afterward condemned as schismatic and heretical. This may be a reason why his writings fell into oblivion.” 51 This gives us positive evidence that he did not believe in celebrating Easter on Sunday, and was therefore declared a heretic by those who wanted to enforce this change.

The First Day Of The Week In The Bible In The Post Apostolic Age

The epistles of the so-called Apostolic Fathers and the letter of Pliny are the only sources yielding us historical material for the doctrinal knowledge of the immediate post apostolic age. It is the link that connects the latter part of the first century with the middle of the second. In the Bible there is no record whatever of the institution of another day in the place of the seventh-day Sabbath by either Christ or his apostles. Could this be found, it is self-evident that all such arguments as we have just been considering would not be advanced. The Bible makes clear and definite statements about the first day of the week. Here are all the instances in which the inspired writers mention the day:

  1. Moses, B.C. 1490: “The evening and the morning were the first day.” Gen. 1:5
  2. Matthew, A.D. 41: “In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the seek.” Matt. 28:1<</li>
  3. Paul, A.D. 57 “Upon the first day of the week let everyone lay in store, as God has prospered him, that there be no collections when I come.” 1 Cor. 16:2<</li>
  4. Luke, A.D. 60: “Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the sepulcher” Luke 24:1
  5. Luke, A.D. 63 “And upon the first day of the week when the disciples came together to break bread” Acts 20:7
  6. Mark, A.D. 64: “And very early in the morning of the first day of the week” Mark 16:2. “Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week: vs. 9.
  7. After the resurrection of Christ, and before John’s vision, A.D. 96, the day is six times mentioned by inspired men, and every time as plain “first day of the week”. That was, up to this time, its familiar and only name: inspiration knows no other.
  8. But in the year 96, John says, “I was in the spirit on the Lord’s day. Rev. 1:10. Now it is evident that this must be a day which the Lord had set apart for himself, and which he claimed as his. This was all true of the seventh day, but was it in any respect true of the first day. He could not, therefore, call the first day by this name, for it was not such.
  9. But if the Spirit of God designed at this point to create a new institution, and to call a certain day the Lord’s which before had never been claimed by him, it was necessary that he should specify that new day. He did not define the term which proves that he was not giving a scared name to some new institution, but was speaking of a well known, divinely appointed day.
  10. After John’s return from Patmos, he wrote his Gospel, and in that gospel he twice had occasion to mention the first day of the week. Let us see whether he adheres to the manner of the other sacred writers, or whether, when we know he means the first day, he give to it a sacred name.
  11. John, A.D. 97: “The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early,” John 29:1.
  12. “Then that same day at evening, being the first day of the week.” John 29:19

These texts complete the Bible record of the first day of the week. They furnish conclusive evidence that John did not receive new light in vision at Patmos, bidding him call the first day of the week the Lord’s day; and when taken with all the instances preceding, they constitute a complete demonstration that the first day was not familiarly known as the Lord’s day in John’s time, nor indeed known at all by that name.

That the Bible texts quoted in favor of Sunday (such as Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1, 2; Rev. 1:10, etc.) are not adequate proof, and that, therefore, the evidence must be sought in the records of tradition, is thus set forth by J.A.Hessey in Smith’s Bible Dictionary:

“Probable Insinuations In Scripture”

“Taken separately, perhaps, and even all together, these passages seem scarcely adequate to prove that the dedication of the first day of the week to the purposes above mentioned was a matter of apostolic institution, or even of apostolic practise. But it may be observed that it is at any rate an extraordinary coincidence that almost immediately we emerge from Scripture, we find the same day (Lord’s day) mentioned in a similar manner, and directly associated with the Lord’s resurrection; that it is an extraordinary fact that we never find its dedication questioned or agued about, but accepted as something equally apostolic with confirmation, with infant baptism, with ordination, or at least spoken of in the same way. And a s to direct support from Holy Scripture, it is noticeable that those other ordinances which are usually considered Scriptural, and in support of which Scripture is usually cited, are dependent, so far as mere quotation is concern, upon fewer texts than the Lord’s day is. Stating the case at the very lowest, the Lord’s day has at least ‘probable insinuations in Scripture,’* and so is superior to any other holy day, whether of hebdomadal celebration, as Friday in memory of the crucifixion, or of annual celebration of Easter day in memory of the resurrection itself.”
*This phrase is employed by Bishop Sanderson. 52

“Almost Immediately” Means At Least A Century

As we emerged from Scripture, have we found “almost immediately” the first day of the week “mentioned in a similar manner [that is, under the title, Lord’s day], and directly associated with the Lord’s resurrection”? There is not a single instance where we have found the first day under the title “Lord’s day” “directly associated with the Lord’s resurrection” in all the church Father’ until near the close of the second century.

But what have we found?

After John’s time the day is next mentioned in the so-called epistle of Barnabas, written probably as early as A.D. 140 and is there called “the eighth day,” Then it is spoken of by Justin Martyr in his Apology, A.D. 140, once as “the day on which we all hold our common assembly;” once as “the first day on which God…made the world;” once as “the same day [on which Christ] rose from the dead, once as “the day after that of Saturn;” and three times as “Sunday,” or “the day of the sun.” Again he refers to it in his dialogue with Trypho, A.D. 155, in which he twice calls it the “eighth day;” once “the first of all the days;” once as “the first” “of all the days of the [weekly] cycle;” and twice “the first day after the Sabbath.”

These are all the passages in which the first day of the week is mentioned until near the close of the second century. The variety of names by which the day is referred to during this time is remarkable, but it is NEVER called the Lord’s day, nor is it ever designated by ANY SACRED NAME.

A Forged Chain Of Tradition

On the other hand, what efforts have been made by noted first-day writers to manufacture evidence for the use of the term Lord’s day almost immediately after John’s time? In the case of Pliny, they pervert the question put to the martyrs at the beginning of the fourth century, and assign it to the second.

As to Ignatius, they have interpolated his statement of the second century with a quotation taken from the pseudo-Ignatius of the fourth century. The heathen designations of the first day of the week occurring in Justin Martyr, they have fraudulently changed into the significant title of the Lord’s day. Into the mouth of Theophilus of Antioch they have placed the opening words of an Episcopal decree of an Alexandrian bishop of the fourth century. They have honoured Irenaeus with this same statement of the pseudo-Ignatius of the fourth century—remodelled in order to hide its identity.

The obscure phrase “Lord’s of the Lord,” found in the Didache, and in no way associated with the first day of the week, or with the resurrection, they have interpreted in the light of a spurious compilation of the fourth century.

From Eusebius’s church history (written in the fourth century), they have quoted the doubtful title of a treatise by Melito, and the isolated phrase “Lord’s holy day” occurring in Dionysius, to prove that the term Lord’s day was employed by them to designate the first day of the week. These fraudulent productions cover the entire interim between John’s use of the Lord’s day in A.D. 96, and the time of Irenaeus A.D. 178.

In view of these perversions, we would inquire, What remains now of J.A. Hessey’s “extraordinary coincidence” of the use of the words Lord’s day for the first day of the week, “almost immediately after we emerged from Scripture”?

Here we desire to state an “extraordinary fact:” While the most able first-day writers have to admit that the Scriptures contain only “probable insinuations” as to the dedication of Sunday to its new office, with its accompanying title of Lord’s day, they are unable to produce a single treatise, or even as much a phrase, from the early church Fathers proving that Christ or the apostles instituted Sunday in honor of the resurrection and conferred upon it the name of Lord’s day, and thus make good their insinuations from scripture by the testimony of early tradition. They have to fabricate a chain of evidence to create even plausible proofs to substantiate their assertion.

That Sunday is “equally apostolic” with such church practises as infant baptism, confirmation etc., we are ready to admit; but to make the list complete, he should have added the sign of the cross, fast-days, meritorious works, and the claims of the papal hierarchy.

All that first-day authors have been able to bring forward up to A.D. 178 in support of their claim that Sunday is a divine institution, and, as such, entitled to the honoured title of Lord’s day, are the “probable insinuations in Scripture,” and the forged chain of evidence from apostolic tradition. The Missing chain that they so earnestly seek for, by which they would connect the human Sunday institution with the Biblical record, has proved to be a chain of sand. Sunday still stands forth in its true character as a man-made festival, like all other popular holidays, and its origin must be accounted for solely on this basis.

Chapter 15: Origin Of Sunday Observance

Worship of the heavenly bodies the oldest form of idolatry
Names of the days of the week
Prominence of Sunday
Condition of Pagan Rome
Rome’s Form of Worship
Reaction of Paganism and Christianity on Each Other
Pagan Influences on the Christian Forms of Worship
Patriotism and Expediency as Factors for the Change of the Day
The Greek apologists
Justin Martyr
A “new law,” and a Perpetual Sabbath
Reasons for the Sunday Festival
Irenaeus’ View of the Decalogue—and the Easter controversy
Eusebius’s record of Irenaeus’ Sunday Position
The First Instance of Papal Assumption
Rome again Conquers the Christian World

Worship Of The Heavenly Bodies The Oldest Form Of Idolatry

The worship of the sun is one of the oldest forms of idolatry, and it is found among all the leading heathen nations of antiquity. But the adoration of the heavenly bodies did not originate as the result of any divine command, or from a sense of true piety’ it was rather a perversion of the truth that God alone is the Creator of all things and that He only is to be worshiped. In adoring the heavenly bodies, the heathen worshiped the creature rather than the Creator. 1

From the earliest times, God warned his people against this sort of idolatry. 2 The following quotation from the book of Job clearly shows that the worship of the heavenly bodies was known already in his day:

“If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness; And my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand: This also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge: for I should have denied the God that is above.” 3

From the Portable Comments we take the following explanation of this passage:

“If I beheld the sun[as an object of worship] when [ because] it shined, or the moon [because she is] walking in brightness; etc. Sabaism (from tsaba, the heavenly hosts) was the earliest form of false worship. God is hence called in contradistinction “Lord of Sabaoth,”. the sun, moon, and stars, the brightest objects in nature, and seen everywhere, were supposed to be visible representatives of the invisible God. They had no temples, but were worshiped on high places and roofs of houses. Exe. 8:16; Deut. 4:19; 2 Kings 23:5, 11.

The Hebrew here for ‘sun’ is light. Probably light was worshiped as the emanation from God, before its embodiments, the sun, etc. This worship prevailed in Chaldea; wherefore job’s exemption from the idolatry of his neighbours was the more exemplary. Our “Sun-day, Monday, or Moon-day, bear traces of Sabaism.”

The early sun-worship mentioned in the Divine Record is attested by innumerable representations in the temples and on the monuments of Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, Phoenicia, Greece, and Rome. Indeed, “Pharaoh,” the title of all Egyptian rulers, means nothing less than the “sun,” it being in reality “Phra,” from Ra., the Egyptian sun-god; and the winged disk seen over the heads of many of the ancient monarchs of that country, was a symbol of the sun. Ra, Isis, Osiris, Baal, Mithras, Hercules, Apollo, and Jupiter are all heathen deities of the sun and light.

Names Of The Days Of The Week

As the heavenly bodies were held in such high regard, it was but natural that this esteem should find expression in naming the days of the week after these deities, the gods most highly honoured occupying the first place. As the sun, from which light and heat emanated, was the most prominent and powerful object in the kingdom of nature, it was accorded the first rank: “Sunday was the first day of the week in the East from all antiquity.” 4

The Sun, Moon, mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn were the seven deities to whom the Chaldeans dedicated the days of the week. God distinguished the common days of the week by simply giving their numerical order; but upon the seventh day, on which He had rested and which He had blessed and sanctified, He bestowed the title,”the Sabbath of the Lord thy God,” thus setting apart the seventh day of the week, hallowed and honoured of Him, and distinguishing it as the Lord’s day.

The heathen, on the other hand, who had gods many and lords many, bestowed upon each day of the week the name of one of their gods, dedicating the first day to the sun, as the source of light and life. The Anglo-Saxons dedicated Tuesday to Tuisco, Wednesday to Wodon, Thursday to Thor, and Friday to Frea or Frigga. Thus they partially broke the link with planetary “gods“, however, the “day of the sun” was retained.

Prominence Of Sunday

Verstegan speaks thus of the Germans:

“The most ancient Germans being pagans, and having appropriated their first day of the week to the peculiar adoration of the sun, whereof that day doth yet in our English tongue retain the name of Sunday.” 5

And then, of the Saxon ancestors, he remarks:

“Unto the day dedicated unto the special adoration of the idol of the sun, they gave the name of Sunday, as much as to say the sun’s day, or the day of the sun. This idol was placed in a temple, and there adored and sacrificed unto, for that they believed that the sun in the firmament did with or in this idol correspond and co-operate.” 6 Sunday was, indeed, “the wild solar holiday of all pagan times,” as the North British Review 7 fitly styles it in a labored attempt to justify the observance of Sunday by the Christian church.

Condition Of Pagan Rome

Having thus shown the prominent position that sun-worship and the sun-day occupied in heathenism, we will next turn our eyes to the condition of paganism in the Roman empire, and in Rome itself, as well as to the religious attitude of her many philosophers at the very time when Christianity came “forth conquering, and to conquer.”

Gibbon gives us the desired information:

“The various modes of worship, which prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered by the people as equally true; by the philosopher as equally false; and by the magistrate as equally useful,” “The deities of a thousand groves and a thousand streams possessed, in peace, their local and respective influence.” “The visible powers of nature, the planets, and the elements, were the same throughout the universe.” “The Greek, the Roman, and the barbarian, as they met before their respective altars, easily persuaded themselves that, under various names and with various ceremonies, they adored the same deities.” “Rome gradually became the common temple of her subjects; and the freedom of the city was bestowed on all the gods of mankind. 8

How ready the heathen were to deify man is best seen from Acts 14:11-12.

“And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men. And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius.“

But the change wrought in the pagan world by the progress of Christianity, Harnack thus sets forth:

“After the national religion and the religious sense generally in cultured circles had been all but lost in the age of Cicero and Augustus, there is noticeable in the Graeco-Roman world from the beginning of the second century a revival of religious feeling which embraced all classes of society and appears, especially from the middle of that century to have increased from decennium to decennium…The ideas of repentance and of expiation and healing of the soul became of special importance, and consequently such Oriental cults came to the front as required the former and guaranteed the latter… Apotheosis came into currency. The old state religion first attained its highest and most powerful expression in the worship of the emperor (the emperor glorified as ’Lord and our God,’ as ’present and corporeal God,’ the Antinous cult, etc.) …That was the import of the message preached by the Cynics and the Stoics, that the truly wise man is Lord, Messenger of God and God upon the earth.” 9

Rome’s Form Of Worship

This explains why during this very time the Oriental cults, consisting chiefly in sun-worship, were introduced among, and mingled with, the sun-worship of the Roman Jupiter. In course of time the worship of Isis, Osiris, Mithra, and Apollo outshone the Roman Jupiter, and became, by the beginning of the third century, the favorite deities of the Roman emperors, some of whom even claimed to be the incarnation of the sun-god.

Paganism had its pontifex maximus, which was applied to the deified Roman emperors from the days of Caligual, who, according to Seneca, 10 had his toe kissed. Its fine temples, though in ruins are still objects of admiration; and Grecian art, in its golden age, adorned them with innumerable statues of the various deities. In honor o f the gods, smaller sanctuaries were also created in grottoes, on the hilltops, or in prominent thoroughfares.

From the days of Jeremiah, paganism had its “queen of heaven,” unto whom were offered cakes of wheat and incense. 11

Each country, each province, each town, yea, even each family, had its images of tutelary deities. Bloody and bloodless sacrifices were offered by priests in showy attire, to appease for sin. Ascetic tendencies and stoicism manifested themselves in the heathen world, and virgins were chosen to keep the sacred fire ever burning.

We find lavers of holy water at the entrances of the heathen temples, and offerings were sprinkled therewith. Incense was burned to the gods, and votary gifts were deposited at their altars, for supposed healing. Mysteries of all sorts were invented to captivate the senses of the worshipers, and showy processions were held. Innumerable holidays, commemorating certain events, and honouring certain deities, were introduced. Midsummer and midwinter day, when the sun is at its zenith and at its nadir, were in especial esteem. Human reason and philosophy did their utmost to produce a system of religion which would satisfy the cravings of the masses.

As Justin Martyr refers 12 to the Mithraic sun worship, we shall give a brief description of it. Mithra was the Persian embodiment of light, and the god of truth. Its worship spread from Persia to Babylon, where it absorbed Chaldaic elements. At an early date soldiers and slaves brought it to Rome. Some Mithra inscriptions date from the time of Trajan and Hadrian. First favored by the lower classes, Mithraism spread upward with great rapidity. Grottoes, natural or artificial, were its sanctuaries. The grotto at Spoleto has three niches for Mithra and his two torch bearers, and in front of them there is an altar with the significant inscription, “Soli invicto Mitra sacrum” (sacred to the invincible sun Mithra) It had, in common with Christianity, its belief in a mediator, in the resurrection, the lustrations, the sacred meal of bread and water. On the day of the sun the hymn, or iescht, of Mithra was recited, and prayers were addressed to him and to his assistant genii. 13

Reaction Of Paganism And Christianity On Each Other

But while paganism did everything in its power to stop the victorious advance of the Christian religion by the creation of a counterpart to it, were there not at work similar tendencies in the church to supplant the more easily conquered paganism? We have already found in the struggle with Gnosticism that while the church repudiated it, it soon afterward became a part of her own system.

The same holds true in the controversy between the early church and philosophy. Scarcely a century after Paul condemned philosophy, philosophers were the teachers of the church, and defended the church on philosophical principles, as Schaff thus states:

“From the time of Justin Martyr, the Platonic philosophy continued to exercise a direct and indirect influence upon Christian theology, though not so unrestrainedly and naively as in his case. We can trace it especially in Clement of Alexandria and Origen, and even in St. Augustine, who confessed that it kindled in him an incredible fire. In the scholastic period it gave way to the Aristotelian philosophy, which was better adapted to clear, logical statements. But Platonism maintained its influence over Maximus, John of Damascus, Thomas Aquinas, and other schoolmen…The Platonic philosophy offered many points of resemblance to Christianity.” 14

But while Gnosticism and pagan philosophy had their respective influence on Christianity, we find that the rites and ceremonies of paganism exercised none the less influence upon it, as Mosheim thus concludes in the testimony from which we have already quoted:

“Lastly, not to be tedious; whoever considers that the Christians were collected from among the Jews and from the pagan nations, who were accustomed, from their earliest years, to various ceremonies and superstitious rites; and that the habits of early life are very hard to be laid aside, will perceive that it would have been little short of a miracle if nothing corrupting and debasing had found its way into the Christian church. For example, nearly all the people of the East, before the Christian era, were accustomed to worship with their faces directed toward the sun rising. For they all believed that God, whom they supposed to resemble light, or rather to be light, and whom they included within certain bounds, had his residence in that part of the heavens where the sun rises. Those of them, indeed, who became Christians rejected this error, but the custom that originated from it, which was very ancient and universally prevalent, they retained. Nor even to this age has its abrogation been found practicable.”

“A large part, therefore, of the Christian observances and institutions, even in this century [the second], had the aspect of the pagan mysteries.” 15

Pagan Infuences On The Christian Forms Of Worship

As already in the second century “a large part of the Christian observances and institutions had the aspect of the pagan mysteries,” the mighty counter-influence of paganism on Christianity at an early date is here admitted without question. And not only did the Christian observances and institutions have the aspect of the pagan mysteries of sun worship, but the very attitude of sun-worshipers toward the rising sun, was retained in worshiping the true God.

How extensive and comprehensive the Christian worship toward the east was, Dr. Dodgson shows in a note to Tertullian’s Apology, chapter 16:

“Christians prayed to the east, as the type of Christ the Sun of Righteousness (Clem, Al, Strom, vii, 7, p, 856, Damasciv, 12), whence also in baptism they turned to the east to confess Christ (S.Jer, in Am. vi,14. Ambros. De iis qui initiantur c. 2) And their churches were toward the east (Tert,c.Valent.c.3. Const. .Ap.ii,57), so that other positions were rare exceptions.” “It is instanced as an apostolic tradition by S. Basil, I,c.,and so called in the Quaestt. Ad Orthod.I,c. Origen (Hom,5, in Num) instances it as a rite in universal practise.” 16

Still more, the day annually celebrated in commemoration of the resurrection bears, in its very name, the evience of pagan influence. That this is so, and how naturally this transformation from the pagan to the Christian celebration came about, is thus set forth by Schaff:

“The English Easter (…German Ostern) is connected with east and sunrise, and is akin to {Greek word] oriens, aurora.…The comparison of sunrise and the natural spring with the new moral creation in the resurrection of Christ, and the transfer of the celebration of Ostara, the old German divinity of the rising, health-bringing light, to the Christian Easter festival, was easy and natural, because all nature is a symbol of spirit, and the heathen myths are dim presentiments and carnal anticipations of Christian truths.” 17

Does not this statement, setting forth the ease with which the transfer was made from the pagan Ostra, the annual festival of sunrise and natural spring, to the Christian Easter in commemoration of the beginning of the new life through Christ’s resurrection, clearly demonstrate how easy and natural it was to change the pagan holiday dedicated to the sun into the so-called Christian holy day of the Sun of Righteousness? Were not the heathen myths also applicable in this case as “dim presentiments and carnal anticipations of Christian truths”?

Patriotism And Expediency As Factors For The Change Of The Day

That this transformation was made on this basis is thus admitted in a statement found in the North British Review, already referred to:

That very day was the Sunday of their heathen neighbours and respective countrymen; and patriotism gladly united with expediency in making it at once their Lord’s day and their Sabbath… If the authority of the church is to be ignored altogether by Protestants, there is no matter; because opportunity and common expediency are surely argument enough for so ceremonial a change as the mere day of the week for the observance of the rest and holy convocation of the Jewish Sabbath. That primitive church, in fact, was shut up to the adoption of the Sunday, until it became established and supreme, when it was too late to make another alteration; and it was no irreverent nor undelightful thing to adopt it, inasmuch as the first day of the week was their own high day at any rate; so that their compliance and civility were rewarded by the redoubled sanctity of their quiet festival.” 18

D.B.Byers, in the “Christian Sabbath,” attests the same fact, as follows:

“When the gospel came to our ancestors in Europe, it found them paying their devout homage to the sun on the day on which the Christians worshiped most devoutly the God of heaven. The day was all right, and when the Sun of Righteousness displaced the solar sun, the idolater became a Christian and worshiped God in the beauty of holiness. 19

Even church historians, writing in favor of Sunday, have to admit the possibility of this being the case, as the following quotation will show:

“Sunday was celebrated as the weekly festival of the resurrection. But perhaps the Roman sun-day (dies solis) has aided in bringing this about on the basis of Christ himself being the light of the world. It was celebrated as a day of joy, without any regard whatever to the Sabbath rest of the Jews.” 20

The very motives prompting such a change are thus clearly set forth by a London Anglican rector, T.H. Morer, in his “Discourses on the Lord’s Day,” as early as 1701:

“It is not to be denied but we borrow the name of this day from the ancient Greeks and Romans, and we allow that the old Egyptians worshiped the sun, and as a standing memorial of their veneration, dedicated this day to him. And we find by the influence of their examples, other nations, and among them the Jews themselves, doing him homage; yet these abuses did not hinder the Fathers of the Christian church simply to repeal, or altogether lay by, the day or its name. But only to sanctify and improve both, as they did also the pagan temples polluted before with idolatrous services, and other instances wherein those good men were always tender to work any other change than what was evidently necessary, and in such things as were plainly inconsistent with the Christian religion; so that Sunday being the day on which the Gentiles solemnly adored the planet, and called it Sunday, partly from its influence on that day especially, and partly in respect to its divine body (as they conceived it), the Christians thought fit to keep the same day and the same name of it, that they might no appear causelessly peevish, and by that means hinder the conversion of the Gentiles, and bring a greater prejudice than might be otherwise taken against the gospel. 21

The Greek Apologists

As our investigation thus far has not furnished any clear and reliable testimony from the Fathers as to the origin of Sunday, except that it is merely of human origin, the evidences for this gradual transformation in the manner already described, must be produced from the writings of the ante Nicene church Fathers, covering the period from A.D. 150 to 311.

Schaff thus introduces this period:

“After the intense commotion of the apostolic age, there was a breathing spell.” “Then came the great literary conflict of the apologists and doctrinal polemics in the second half of the same century; and toward the middle of the third the theological schools of Alexandria, and northern Africa laying the foundation the one for the theology o the Greek, the other for that of the Latin Church”.

“The ante-Nicene age …is the natural transition from the apostolic age to the Nicene age, yet leaving behind many important truths of the former (especially the Pauline doctrine) which were to be derived and explored in future ages. We can trace in it the elementary forms of the Catholic creed, organization, and worship, and also the germs of nearly all the corruptions of Greek and Roman Christianity.” 22

This introduction corroborates what we have already inferred, that “leaving behind many important truths of the apostolic age,” these church Fathers laid the foundation of the future church containing “the germs of nearly all the corruptions of Greek and Roman Christianity.”

Justin Martyr

Most noted among the Greek apologists of this period, was Justin Martyr, who addressed his first apology to Emperor Antoninus Pius about A.D. 147. Eusebius calls him a “genuine lover of the true philosophy,” who “in the garb of a philosopher proclaimed the divine Word and defended the faith by his writings” 23

As the theology of this philosopher mostly concerns us, we will let Schaff give us the necessary information: “As to the sources of his religious knowledge, Justin derived it partly from the Holy Scriptures, partly from the living church tradition. He cites most frequently and generally from memory, hence often inaccurately, the Old Testament prophets (in the Septuagint), and the ‘Memoirs’ of Christ, or ‘Memoirs by the Apostles,’ as he calls the canonical Gospels, without naming the authors…

“Justin’s exegesis of the Old Testament is apologetic, typological, and allegorical throughout…He had no knowledge of Hebrew, and freely copied the blunders and interpolations of the Septuagint. He had no idea of grammatical or historical interpretation. He used also two or three times the Sibylline Oracles and Hystaspes for genuine prophecies, and appeals to the Apocryphal Acts of Pilate as an authority. We should remember, however, that he is no more credulous, inaccurate, and uncritical than his contemporaries and the majority of the Fathers.

“Like all the ante-Nicene writers, he had no clear insight into the distinction between the Old Testament and the New, between the law and the gospel, nor any proper conception of the depth of sin and redeeming grace, and the justifying power of faith. His theology is legalistic and ascetic rather than evangelical and free. He retained some heathen notions from his former studies… Christianity was to Justin, theoretically, the true philosophy, and, practically a new law of holy living and dying… He may be called, in a loose sense, a Christian Platonist. He was also influenced by Stoicism. He thought that the philosophers of Greece had borrowed their light from Moses and the prophets.

“Socrates was a Christian, as well as Abraham, though he did not know it. None of the Fathers or schoolmen has so widely thrown open the gates of salvation. He was the broadest of broad churchmen.” 24

This statement from Schaff shows several striking resemblances between the theology of the Gnostic Barnabas and Justin, the philosopher. Both have the allegorical interpretation of the Scriptures in common, both have no clear insight into the relations existing between the old and the new covenant, both refer to the new law, and therefore both must bring forth a new day.

A “New Law” And A Perpetual Sabbath

Trypho advised Justin, in chapter 8, to observe the Sabbath and “do all things commanded in the law;” in chapter 10 he adds, “You observe no festivals Sabbaths,” This was the golden moment for Justin to bring forth the Lord’s day of the new covenant and to produce the command of Christ or the apostles, if not from Scripture, then from unwritten tradition, of which the Gnostics had provided such and abundant supply, But let us observe Justin’s reply, in chapter 12:

“The new law requires you to keep a perpetual Sabbath, and you, because you are idle for one day, suppose you are pious, not discerning why this has been commanded you and if you eat unleavened bread, you say the will of God has been fulfilled. The Lord our God does not take pleasure in such observances: if there is any perjured person or a thief among, let him cease to be so; if any adulterer, let him repent; then he has kept the sweet and true Sabbaths of God.”

Instead of a Sunday command of Christ and the apostles, there is a reference made to “the new law,” first brought forward by pseudo-Barnabus. This new law demands a perpetual Sabbath, kept by not sinning, and on this Sabbath one should not be idle. As no such law can be found in all the Bible, it must come from without. And in this inference we do not go amiss, as the following extract from Harnack will show:

“Tatian preached this renunciation in a specially powerful manner. There is no need to prove that no remains of Judeo-Christianity are to be recognized in these ideas about the new law. It is not Judeo -Christianity that lies behind the Christianity and doctrines of the apologists, but Greek philosophy (Platonic metaphysics, Logos doctrine of the Stoics, Platonic and Stoic ethics), the Alexandrine-Jewish apologetics, the maxims of Jesus, and the religious speech of the Christian churches.” 25

But how about the seventh-day Sabbath enjoined in the fourth commandment? Justin replies in chapter 18,22:

“For we, too, would observe the fleshly circumcision and the Sabbaths, and in short all the feasts, if we did not know for what reason they were enjoined you; namely, on account of your transgressions and the hardness of your hearts. You see that the heavens are not idle, nor do they observe the Sabbath. Continue as you were born. For if before Abraham there was no need o circumcision, nor of the Sabbaths, nor of feasts, nor of offerings before Moses; so now in like manner there is no need of them, since Jesus Christ, the Son of God was by the determinate counsel of God, born of a virgin of the seed of Abraham without sin.”

We can see from the preceding what estimate Justin placed on the Sabbath, which he identified with the ceremonial law. In his mind there was no Sabbath observance before Moses; consequently there is none since Christ. Harnack give the following three estimates which Justin placed on the ceremonial law:

  1. “That the ceremonial law was a pedagogic measure of God with reference to a stiff-necked people prone to idolatry.
  2. That it—like circumcision—was to make the people conspicuous for the execution of judgment, according to the divine appointment.
  3. That in the ceremonial legal worship of the Jews is exhibited the special depravity and bigotry of the nation.” 26

He inadvertently alludes to the keeping of the ten commandments as the performance of “the eternal and natural acts of righteousness.” We see in this acknowledgment, as Harnack fitly remarks, “the beginning of a compromise, in so far as a distinction was made between the moral law of nature continued in the Old Testament—the Decalogue—and the ceremonial law,”

On the other hand, the philosophy adduced, “that the heavens are not idles,” not only an argument against the Jews, but against the creator himself, who rested on the Sabbath in the beginning, and enjoined the Sabbath observance upon man in a perpetual and universal command. But we can see a slight change indicated. First the new law is not defined. Then, there is a suggested reference later to the ten commandments being the moral law, but without the observance of the Sabbath. Having thus cleared up the position of Justin, and finding that he believed in a spiritual, perpetual Sabbath, we are now ready to question from his “First Apology” his full statement about Sunday:

Reasons For The Sunday Festival

“And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the writings of the apostles or the prophets are read, as much as time will give leave; then, when the reader has ceased, the bishop makes a sermon, verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the bishop in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution of the consecrated elements, and partaken of by all that are present, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the bishop, who relieves the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. Upon Sunday we all assemble, that being the first day in which God set himself to work upon the dark void in order to make the world, and in which Jesus Christ our Savior rose again form the dead: For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration.” 27

This is the first instance in which the day of the sun is plainly mentioned as a day of Christian worship, as far as Rome is concerned. Something over a century has passed since the day of Christ; the apology itself bears no date, but it is generally placed at about 147 A.D. In this Apology, and in fact throughout all his writings, Justin uses everywhere the heathen designations for the day. Thus this new day of Christian worship appears as the day of the sun, a very significant fact. The reasons for this assembly are, “being the first day in which God set himself to work upon the dark void in order to make the world, and in which Jesus Christ our Saviour rose again from the dead,” Thus the day of the sun is set forth as the first day of light and of life, but these old heathen motives for distinguishing the first day of the week as the day of the sun and life-giving power, appear in the Christian setting—this life through the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Saviour. Nothing whatever is here said of any divine commandment to observe this day. Even the idea of a memorial would include a twofold memorial, of the creation of light in the beginning and of the resurrection of Christ four thousand years later. Bishop J Taylor fittingly replies to this:

“The first of these looks more like an excuse than a just reason; for if anything of the creation were made the cause of a Sabbath, it ought to be the end, not the beginning; it ought to be the rest, not the first part of the work; it ought to be that which God assigned, not that which man should take by way of after-justification.” 28

The Hauck-Herzog Cyclopedia thus lays stress on the two reasons given here for the observance of the first day of the week:

Justin is the first one who designates this day as Sunday, and justifies this designation ’day of Helios with the twofold reference to the breaking forth of light on the first day of creation (Genesis 1), and to the going forth of Christ (Sun of Righteousness cf. Mal, 3:20 with Luke 1:78) from the dark night of the grave.” 29

But in chapter 24 Justin sets forth a new reason for the superiority of the holy day of the new law over the rest day of the old, strange as it may seem:

“It is possible for us to show how the eighth day possessed a certain mysterious import, which the seventh day did not possess, and which was promulgated by God through these rites… The command of circumcision, again, bidding [them] always circumcise the children on the eighth day, was a type of true circumcision, by which we are circumcised from deceit and iniquity through him who rose from the dead on the first day after the Sabbath [namely, through] our Lord Jesus Christ. For the first day after the Sabbath, remaining the first of all the days, is called, however, the eighth, according to the number of all the days of the cycle, and [yet] remains the first.”

The philosopher seems entirely to overlook the fact that the command of circumcision reads: “In the eight day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised,” 30 It does not read, each eighth day of the week, but the eighth day after the birth of the male child, which might be on any day of the week; so that this rite was performed even on the Sabbath day. 31

In summing up Justin Martyr, we find attested what even Schaff himself had to admit: “He had no clear insight into the distinction between the Old Testament and the New, between the law and the gospel.” For him, consequently, the law and the Sabbath were both abolished. The day of the sun came in as a voluntary assembly day for prayer and worship. He accounts for its superiority by stating that it is the first day of light, the day on which Christ arose form the dead, and that it possesses, as eighth day, mysterious import, and that this mysterious import of this eighth day of the week is derived from the fact that the children of Israel were commanded, “on account of the wickedness of their hearts,” to circumcise their children on the eighth day after their birth.

Pseudo-Barnabas, Gnostic, and Justin Martyr, philosopher, thus have in common the new law, and the eighth day and with it the mysteries which only a philosopher or a Gnostic could fathom. To this may be added the facts that he everywhere tries to find the sign of the cross, and wants to have it made on every occasion; that , in chapter 61, he calls baptism “illumination,” and the baptized, “illuminated,” terms never applied in this way in the Bible, but occurring in the initiatory ceremonies of the pagan mysteries. He also mentions the bread and the wine mixed with water, and the elements of the Lord’s supper being carried to absent persons. While Barnabas introduces this eighth day by rejecting the historical connection between ancient Israel and the people of God, Justin slightly weakens the charge, spiritualises away the Sabbath, and introduces the sun’s day as a voluntary ordinance on its own independent grounds, good or bad as they may be.

Irenaeus’ View Of The Decalogue And The Easter Controversy

Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons, 178 A.D. and, in connection with him, the Easter controversy next claim our attention. In his own writings no mention is made of the first day of the week, but such mention is found in two statements concerning him. His position on the law and the Sabbath he defines in his books against heresies, in which he chiefly refutes the Gnostics, and demonstrates the oneness between the two covenants. He teaches that God gave to Israel in the Decalogue the natural precepts which he implanted in the heart of Adam and the righteous patriarchs from the beginning:

“For God at the first, indeed, warning them by means of natural precepts, which from the beginning he had implanted in mankind, that is, by means of the Decalogue (which, if anyone does not observe, he has no salvation), did then demand nothing more of them.” 32

When Israel made a golden calf, God added to this the ceremonial law,

“…calling them to the things of primary importance by means of those which were secondary; that is, to things that are real, by means of those that are typical; and by things temporal, to eternal; and by the carnal to the spiritual; and by the earthly to the heavenly.” 33

Christ’s advent, while removing the ceremonial law, only extends the Decalogue:

“Preparing man for this life, the Lord himself did speak in his own person to all alike the words of the Decalogue: and therefore, in like manner, do they remain permanently with us, receiving, by means of his advent in the flesh, extension and increase, but not abrogation.” 34

The Sabbath, on the other hand, he spiritualizes and sees in it simply as a sign of the future kingdom of God:

“For in as many days as this world was made, in so many thousand years shall it be concluded.” “This is an account of the things formerly created, as also it is a prophecy of what is to come,” 35

“Moreover, the Sabbath of God (requitio Dei), that is, the kingdom, was as it were, indicated by created things; in which (kingdom) the man who shall have persevered in serving God (Deo assistere)M shall, in a state of rest, partake of God’s table. And that man was not justified by these things, but that they were given as a sign to the people, this fact shows,—that Abraham himself, without circumcision and without observance of Sabbaths, ‘believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness; and he was called the friend of God.’” “But the Sabbaths taught that we should continue day by day in God’s service,” 36

Although Irenaeus writes five books against the heresies, it is rather strange that he himself nowhere alludes to Sunday. But in a fragment ascribed to him, we find the following:

“This (custom), of not bending the knee upon Sunday, is a symbol of the resurrection, through which we have been set free, by the grace of Christ, from sins, and from death, which has been put to death under him. Now this custom took its rise from apostolic times, as the blessed Irenaeus, the martyr and bishop of Lyons, declares in his treatise on Easter, in which he makes mention of Pentecost also; upon which (feast) we do not bend the knee, because it is of equal significance with the Lord’s day, for the reason already alleged concerning it.” 37

The Ante-Nicene Library makes the following important note on this:

“Taken from a work (Quaes, et. Resp, ad Othod,) ascribed to Justin Martyr, but certainly written after Nicene council. It is evident that this is not an exact quotation from Irenaeus, but the summary of his words. The ‘Sunday’ here referred to must be Easter Sunday.”

Some unknown writer “after the Nicene council” says that Irenaeus declared that the custom of not kneeling on Sunday “took its rise from apostolic times,” It is the unknown writer who applies the term Lord’s day to Sunday, and not Irenaeus himself, and at the sem time this writer declares that Pentecost is of equal significance with Sunday.

Eusebius’s Record Of Irenaeus’ Sunday And Easter Position

The next statement we find in Eusebius, in connection with the great controversy as to the day on which Easter should be observed. Passover and Pentecost were important annual festival in ancient Israel as significant types of the great future events of redemption. As type met antitype, early Christianity, composed at first chiefly of Israelites, would voluntarily continue these festival, but in commemoration of facts accomplished, as the death of the Lord, his resurrection, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. They would therein naturally follow the Jewish method of computation. The Passover lamb was to be eaten on the fourteenth of Nisan, without reference to the day of the week on which it fell; then followed the seven days of unleavened bread. 38

Now, it is a singular fact that “neither the Apostolic Fathers, nor Justin, nor the Didache mention any annual feast.” 39 These, as well as the so-called vigils (dies stationum) are supposed to have existed on the strength of later statements. As the events commemorated by Easter extended over several days, there was room for play—whether the fourteenth should be chosen, when the Passover was eaten, or the first day, as the day of the resurrection. Again, whether they should partake of the Lord’s supper on the fourteenth after having fasted previously, or whether they should fast until the first day, and then take the Lord’s supper, was the question.

A number of the churches in the East, appealing to apostolic example, fasted until the close of the fourteenth, and celebrated the Passover at the beginning of the fifteenth, by having the communion and the love feast; but in some parts of the West, especially in the Roman Church, likewise appealing to an ancient custom, celebrated the death of Jesus on a Friday, and his resurrection always on a Sunday after the March full moon, fasting till Sunday and celebrating the communion on that day. Thus it happened that one part of Christianity was fasting and mourning over the death of Christ, while the other part was already rejoicing over his accomplished resurrection. This difference had already been discussed when the martyr bishop Polycarp of Smyrna visited Ancietus, bishop of Rome, between 150 and 133 A.D. But although they could not agree, they parted in peace, as far as Eusebiuss’ statement goes.

The First Instance Of Papal Assumption And The Easter Question

But some forty years later the Roman bishop Victor, thinking that he, being bishop of the capital of the Roman empire, had therefore the right to dictate to the other bishops, in an imperious tone required the churches in the East to abandon their practise, and follow the example of Rome. An Eastern synod considered his letter, and Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus, in his answer to Victor, appealing to the example of Philip, of John, of Polycarp, and of other ancient bishops, winds up: “All these observed the fourteenth day of the Passover according to the gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith”. 40

Victor turned a deaf ear to this remonstrance,—though it surely had apostolic tradition in its favor, if there be such a thing—branded the Eastern churches as heretical, and threatened to excommunicate them. Thus the first instance on record in which the bishop of Rome attempted to be the Pope over all the churches, was by an edict in behalf of Sunday. Bower calls this “the first essay of papal usurpation;” 41 And Dowling, “the earliest instance of papal assumption.” 42

This caused Irenaeus, as well as other bishops, though they agreed with min on the disputed point to reprove him for his unchristian conduct. In a letter to victor, he, after quoting Col. 2:16, says:

“We keep the feasts, but in the leaven of malice, by tearing the church of God and observing what is outward in order to reject what is better, faith and charity. That such feasts are displeasing to the Lord, we have heard from the prophets.” 43

Now referring to this very controversy, Eusebius first states, in chapter 23, that all the bishops unanimously agreed “that the mystery of our Lord’s resurrection should be celebrated on no other day than the Lord’s day; and that on this day alone we should observe the close of the paschal fasts.” In the next chapter Eusebius represents Irenaeus as writing a letter to the same effect to the bishop of Rome. 44

Thus we have not the words of Irenaeus, A.D. 178, but the result of the synod held in his day, stated in the language of a church historian of the fourth cenury, and he uses at that time, for Sunday the title Lord’s day.

This whole controversy, which was one of the chief questions of the council of Nicaea, and really laid the foundation for the later division between the East and the West, contains some valuable lessons. First, that the so-called apostolic tradition is so uncertain a matter that as early as A.D. 150, differences of opinon arose about it; second, that some forty years later, Victor, the bishop of Rome, assumed to settle thses differences of tradition by the supposed exalted position of his office over the other bishops, and threatened to excommunicate the so-called heretics, though they could appeal to John and Philip as their authorities, while the others appeal to Peter and Paul.

While we have seen from the Fathers how Sunday was introduced as a voluntary human insitiution, we have here a plain indication of how the Sabbath of the Decalogue was forced out.


The first clear evidence that the first day of the week was used as an assembly day by the Christians we have found in the middle of the second century, where it appears under the heathen designation of “day of the sun,” or where it is called, as in the Bible, “the first day of the week,” The only new thing about it is the mixed use of the pagan and Bible terms. Its being employed as an assembly day is justified by the breaking forth of light on the first day of creation week and also on the resurrection morn,—reasons agreeable to both pagan and proselyte. The other argument adduced in its favor is the mysterious import of circumcision on the eighth day, the fallacy of which we have shown. It appears as a part of the “the new law,” or revision of the Decalogue, demanding a perpetual Sabbath, not of rest or of idleness, but of continual activity—a very soothing doctrine to the Roman slave, to the mechanic, to the farmer, or to the official, if compared to the rest demanded in the law as it stands. There is not a word anywhere intimating that Christ or the apostles instituted the day, or that it is to be observed as the Sabbath. On the contrary, it appears as an independent, voluntary institution, closely associated with the pagan day of the sun.

Toward the close of the second century we find a controversy springing up between the East the West, as to whether Easter should always be celebrated on the first day of the week, or on the fixed day of the month (the fourteenth o Nisan), and whether the fasting should stop at the beginning of the seventh-day Sabbath, or at the commencement of Sunday. The Roman bishop appears as champion of the venerable day of the sun, and his chief instrument of warfare is excommunication, but he is thwarted in his efforts to force the East to conform to the usage of the West, and in the course of time this dispute ripens into open rupture between Constantinople and Rome.

Gnosticism, as a sect, is subdued; but its principles of a new and spiritual law and a new and spiritual Sabbath become the principles of the coming Catholic Church; it is on this very basis that the day of the sun creeps into the church as an honored day of worship. The strength of Judaism is also broken; its laws are no longer asserted to be of the devil; but the Catholic church assimilates from it all that she can to assist her in building up her claims to power, and to increase her pomp.

Rome Again Conquers The Christian World

While paganism is putting forth every effort to revive, and especially to increase, the mysteries of the sun, and to press sun-worship to the front, Catholicism makes all these movements serve her cause. Indeed, the second century is the genesis of the Catholic church. Rome again conquers the world step by step—but this time it is the Christian world45—until we have a full reproduction of paganism in Christian garb, with the Gnostic system of interpretation, and a decrepit Jewish ritual, but with this one exception; that on her victorious banners we see emblazoned as the sign of her triumph over her opponents, and as he mark of her high authority, the significant sign of Sunday, the day of the origin of light.

Chapter 16: The Lord’s Day of the Fathers

State of Christianity at the beginning of the third century
The Roman Bishop sacrastically called “pontifex maximus”
Eastern Sun-worship at its height in Rome
Why Sunday is called the Lord’s day.
The Lord of Bishops and the Lord of Days
The day of the birth of Light
Clement of Alexandria
Clement’s Mystical Numbers
The Prophetic Day of Plato
The mystic (Gnostic) Lord’s Day
Tertullian the Lawyer
Tertullian’s Contradictions
Tertullian’s Position on the Sabbath
Pagans’ and Christians’ Affiliated Worship (worship toward the east
Distancing Themselves from Jews, joining Pagans
Christians Mingle with the Heathen in their Festivities
Ancient Custom and Unwritten Tradition
Origen’s Spiritual Lord’s Day and Festivals
Commodian’s Lord’s Day
Victorin’s Assumptions
Peter of Alexandria
Position of the Fathers reviewed
Conclusion Drawn

State Of Christianity At The Beginning Of The Third Century

Christianity, at the very threshold of the third century, found itself in a mighty ferment of transition. As to its growth, one of its apologists could say:

“We are a people of yesterday and yet we have filled every place belong to you—cities, islands, castles, towns, assemblies, your very camp, your tribes, companies, palace, senate, forum. We leave you your temples only. We can count your armies; our numbers in a single province will be greater.” 1

Though there was some rhetorical exaggeration in this, yet by the end of the century, one tenth of the population of the Roman empire professed Christianity. Although rapidly growing in numbers, yet more rapidly it lost in spiritual power. The Catholic Church was forming with definite creed, and although the leading bishops had preserved their independence, still the primacy of the bishop of Rome was coming more and more to the front. No great men ruled in “the chair of Peter,” the eminent leaders of thought resided in Alexandria and northern Africa, and yet the mystic power of the capital of the Caesars supplied all lack.

Strange to say, the very men who developed the fundamental principles on which the Catholic Church was built, strenuously opposed the encroachments of the Roman bishop, and even broke with the Church of Rome.

Tertullian established the principle of tradition, compared the church to the ark of Noah, and—ended in Montanism.

Clement and Origen laid down the philosophical principles of Bible interpretation, declared that there was no salvation outside of the church, and—were excommunicated.

Cyprian, assuming the superiority of Peter over the other apostles as the one upon whom the church should rest and who should feed the flock, transferred this superiority to the bishop of Rome as the successor of Peter, and called the Roman Church the chair of Peter, the fountainhead of priestly unity, and the root and mother of the Catholic Church; and yet it was only his martyrdom that saved him from being denounced as a heretic.

The Catholic Church became a great political commonwealth in which the gospel and the Bible merely had a place, besides other things. The true principle that “out of Christ there is no salvation,” Cypian had restricted to “out of the church there is no salvation,” and it was fast becoming, “out of the Roman church there is no salvation.”

Tertullian Sarcastically Calls The Pope “Pontifex Maximus”

This transition was not without opposition. Montanists, claiming to have the Comforter and the gifts of the Spirit, and the Novatianists, asserting that they were the Cathari (the Puritans), are eloquent witnesses as to the apostasy of the church. The arrogance of the Roman bishop had already become so apparent that Tertullian calls him, in irony, “pontifex maximus” and “bishop of the bishops.”

“In opposition to this (modesty), could I not have acted the dissembler? I hear that there has even been an edict set forth, and a peremptory one too. The Pontifex Maximus -that is, the bishop of bishops -issues an edict: “I remit, to such as have discharged (the requirements of) repentance, the sins both of adultery and of fornication.”…Why, then, do they withal grant indulgence, under the name of repentance, to crimes for which they furnish remedies by their law of multinuptialism?” (On Modesty).

Eastern Sun-Worship At Its Height In Rome

Another matter needs to be taken into consideration. At the beginning of the third century, sun-worship had risen already to such a height in the Roman empire hat the name of its emperor, Elagabalus (A.D. 218-222), meant really god of the sun. He elevated his sun-god Emesa over all Roman deities, of which Gibbon gives a minute description:

“The Sun was worshipped Emesa, under the name of Elagabalus, and under the form of a black conical stone, which, as it was universally believed, had fallen from heaven on that sacred place. To this protecting deity, Antoninus, not without some reason, ascribed his elevation to the throne. The display of superstitious gratitude was the only serious business of his reign. The triumph of the god of Emesa over all the religions of the earth was the great object of his zeal and vanity; and the appellation of Elagabalus (for he presumed as pontiff and favourite to adopt that sacred name) was dearer to him than all the title of Imperial greatness. In a solemn procession through the streets of Rome the way was strewed with gold-dust; the black stone, set in precious gems, was placed on a chariot drawn by six milk-white horses richly caparisoned. The pious emperor held the reins, and, supported by his ministers moved slowly backwards, that he might perpetually enjoy the felicity of the divine presence. In a magnificent temple raised on the Palatine Mount, the sacrifices of the god Elagabalus were celebrated with every circumstance of cost and solemnity. The richest wines, the most extra-ordinary victims, and the rarest aromatics, were profusely consumed on his altar. Around the altar a chorus of Syrian damsels performed their lascivious dances to the sound of barbarian music, whilst the gravest personages of the state and army, clothed in long Phoenician tunics, officiated in the meanest functions with affected zeal and secret indignation.” 2

How far this was carried by the end of this century, and what effect it had on Christinity Milman thus sets forth:

“From Christianity, the new paganism had adopted the unity of the Deity, and scrupled not to degrade all the gods of the older world into subordinate demons or ministers. The Christians had incautiously held the same language: both concurred in the name of the demons; but the pagans used the term in the Platonic sense, as good but subordinate spirits, while the same term spoke to the Christian ear as expressive of malignant and diabolic agency. But the Jupiter Optimus Maximus was not the great supreme of the new system. The universal deity of the East, the sun, to the philosophic was the emblem or representative; to the vulgar, the Deity. [Emperor] Diocletian himself…appealed in the face of the army to the all-seeing deity of the sun. It is the oracle of Apollo of Miletus, consulted by the hesitating emperor, which is to decide the fate of Christianity. The metaphorical language of Christianity had unconsciously lent strength to this new adversary; and in adoring the visible orb, some, no doubt, supposed that they were not departing far from the worship of the ‘sun of Righteousness.’” 3

Why Sunday Is Called The Lord’s Day

As the sun thus became at the same time so eminently the lord over all other Roman deities, it was but policy to give this child of syncretism the attractive title Lord’s day. This phase of the question is very candidly set forth by H. Gunke, Dr., Th., in the following manner:

“How has it happened that the day of the resurrection was celebrated just weekly? How is it to be explained that this day was named the Lord’s day? All of these difficulties are cleared up as soon as we attempt to investigate the matter on a religio-historical basis. If, in another Oriental religion, we should hear about the celebration of Sunday, and then should raise the question, ‘What kind of a Lord is it after whom Sunday was called the Lord’s day?’ we would at once find the answer: This lord is a god, the sun-god. The idea that effeminate days appertain to definite gods, manifestly lies very near to the naive religious manner of thinking, and at that time it was everywhere prevalent in the Orient. According to one of the Babylonian calendars, Sunday, as its name still indicates, was regarded as essentially the day of the sun-god. If the ancient church celebrated Sunday, it indirectly took over with it the celebration of the old day in honor of the gods.” “But a very important evidence that the observance of the first day of the week is of foreign origin (in particular a religion of the sun) is its analogy to the Mithraic mysteries, in which also this same day was celebrated,” “The taking over of Sunday by the early Christians is, to my mind, an exceedingly important symptom that the early church was directly influenced by a spirit which does not originate in the gospel, nor in the Old Testament, but in a religious system foreign to it.” 4

The Lord Of Bishops And The Lord Of Days

In such a favourable period, Sunday, the child of Christian tradition, and in its claims closely related to those of the Roman bishop, its earliest champion, and the pagan sun-day, came rapidly to the front. The Papacy and the Sunday are both strange seeds transplanted from pagan into Christian soil; both were not only Christianized, but became the ruling factors of Christianity.

While Cyprian attempted to trace the line of Roman bishops back to the days of Peter, Justin could bring forward no such claim for the day of the sun; but it did not need such claim, being the wild solar day of all pagan times. Popular as it was in the world, it arose on the very principles laid down by men of thought for the up building of the Catholic Church; and when the Roman bishop became the lord of bishops, and the sun became the ruling deity in the Roman pagan world, Sunday became the lord of the days—the Lord’s day.

The memorial days in vogue both in Israel and among the pagans—natural products of human admiration—supplied the motive; the Gnostic “new law,” the theory; Greek learning, the philosophy, the Roman bishop, the ecclesiastical authority; and the wild solar day of all pagan times, the popularity of the new institution: while on the other hand, the bigotry and the downfall of the Jewish nation made the Sabbath of the Lord unpopular. The civil authority of the imperial pontifex maximus was the only thing yet lacking to make it universal. But that Sunday is indeed the child of an amalgamation between Christianity and paganism brought about by the philosophers, the consideration of this period will fully establish.

The Day Of The Birth Of Light

By this time Christian philosophers had become the luminaries of the world, because, in their estimation, Greek philosophers had been Christian philosophers before Christianity. Especially in Alexandria the highest philosophy of the Greeks was placed under the protection and guaranty of the church, and we must expect, therefore, clear indications of this amalgamation. Accordingly we read:

“They therefore are ministers and worshipers of the Divinity who offer the freest and most royal worship, viz., that which is rendered by devoutness both of purpose and of knowledge (gnosis). Every place, then, every time at which we entertain the thought of God is truly hallowed.” “And since the east symbolizes the day of birth, and it is from thence that the light spreads, after it has first shone forth out of darkness (2 Cor. 4:6), aye, and from thence that the day of the knowledge of the truth dawned like the SUN upon those who were lying in ignorance (Matt. 4:16), therefore our prayers are directed toward the rise of dawn. It was for this reason that the most ancient temples looked toward the west in order that they who stood facing the images might be taught to turn eastward.” 5

Clement Of Alexandria

These are the words of Clement (A.D. 194), the leader of the Alexandrian school of theology. What a contrast to Eze. 8:15-18! Greek philosophy and perverted Scriptural teaching combine to popularize Christianity by setting forth its affinity with paganism, and sun-worship affiliated with the light of the gospel to form the basis of union.

Mosheim, in commenting on the writings of Clement, sets this forth in these words:

“He may even be placed at the head of those who devoted themselves to the cultivation of philosophy with an ardour that knew no bounds, and were so blind and misguided as to engage in the hopeless attempt of producing and accommodation between the principles of philosophical science and those of the Christian religion. He himself expressly tells us in his ‘Stromata,’ that he would not hand down Christian truth pure and unmixed, but ‘associated with, or rather veiled by, and shrouded under, the precepts of philosophy. For, according to him, the rudiments, or seeds, of celestial wisdom communicated by Christ to the world, lay hid in the philosophy of the Greeks, after the same manner as the esculent part of a nut lies concealed within a shell.” 6

From Schaff we quote the following concerning Clement’s theology:

“His theology, however, is not a unit, but a confused eclectic mixture of true Christian elements with many Stoic, Platonic, and Philonic ingredients,” “He shows here an affinity with the heathen mystery cultus, and the Gnostic arcane.” 7

Clement attributes the Book of Wisdom to Solomon, and Baruch, to Jeremiah. He calls Plato “all but an evangelical prophet,” and last, but not least, he is the first to quote the Didache and Barnabas as having Scriptural authority. If the apostle Barnabas could be made accountable for producing such a writing as the epistle put forth under his name, wherein we found the first witness for Sunday, then Clement of Alexandria, a century later, was surely justified in enlarging upon the mystic eighth day, and turning it into a mystic Lord’s day. The very title of Clement’s book in which this wonderful change is set forth is suggestive in itself, “Stromata,” “gay-colored tapestry.” It is indeed a gaudy patchwork of quotations from history, poetry, philosophy, Christian truths, and heretical error, and is fitly translated by the word miscellanies. In these books he professes to set forth a guide to the deeper gnosis of Christianity, and he claims that this knowledge is the “true tradition of the blessed doctrine which has been received immediately from Peter, James, John, and Paul, and has been transmitted to him.”

Clement’s Mystical Numbers

One of his efforts is to find a mystical sense in all sorts of figures. There are mysteries in the number ten. There is a “ten” in heaven, in the earth, and in man. There are mysteries in the ark, as it contained the ten commandments; there are also mysteries in the two tables of stone, for they had engraved upon them the ten commandments. Six, seven, and eith are mysterious numbers. The fact that the letters of the Greek alphabet were also equivalent to numbers, he uses as a part of his argument. These mystic notions concerning numbers, which Philo carries to still more extravagant lengthes, can be traced not only to Plato and his followers, but to the true source of all mysticism—the Orient.

Barnabas gives a fair sample of the mysticism; for he finds the cross and the word Jesus in the three hundred and eighteen servants of Abraham, The first two letter of the Greek word Jesus I and H, the first of which was used for 10, the second for 8, making 18; but the remaining 300 is represented by T, in the shape of which Barnabas pretends to see a resemblance to the cross. Clement, who considers Barnabas as apostolic authority quotes this absurd mysticism.

The Prophetic Day Of Plato

In a similar manner cement fancies that he finds the Lord’s day in an utterance of the pagan philosopher Plato, as is seen from the following:

“And the Lord’s day Plato prophetically speaks of in the tenth book of the Republic, in these words: ‘And when seven days have passed to each of them in the meadow, on the eighth they are to set out and arrive in four days.’ By the meadow is to be understood the fixed sphere, as being a mild and genial spot, and the locality of the pious; and by the seven days each motion of the seven planets, and the whole practical art which speeds to the end of rest. But after the wandering orbs the journey leads to heaven, that is, to the eighth motion and day. And he says that souls are gone on the fourth day, pointing out the passage through the four elements. But the seventh day is recognised as sacred, not by the Hebrews only, but also by the Greeks; according to which the whole world of all animals and plants revolve.” 8

All the numbers employed here possess a mysterious meaning, according to the Gnostic theology. Plato, in his “Republic,” speaks of seven days, and an eighth day. Here is Clements’ golden moment to turn this utterance into a prophecy, and to transform the eighth day into the Lord’s day. To bring this about, the mystic meaning of “meadow” is said to be the “fixed sphere,” that is, the heavens, the future abode of the pious. The seven days are to be understood as the motions of the seven planets, and as such, represent this earthly pilgrimage of toil. The ancients recognized only seven planets, so that after these seven wandering orbs had been passed, the journey would naturally lead “to heaven, that is, to the eighth motion and day,” to the fixed sphere,—the locality of the pious and their eternal home. The great period of eternity spent on this mild and genial spot is the Lord’s day, thus foretold by Plato. One is struck with the similarity of this to Barnabas’s seven thousand years, and the eighth day afterward. Thus the Lord’s day in reality represents, according to Clement, the future day of the Lord—eternity.

But immediately after making this statement, Clement quotes a number of Greek philosophers to prove that the number seven was sacred not only to the Hebrews, but also to the Greeks; some of these testimonies, however, cannot be found in the writings quoted.

But Clement uses the term Lord’s day once more; and as he represents Christian gnosticism, as well as the theological school in Alexandria, of which he was the head, his position with regard to the observance of fasts and holidays is not simply personal, but represents the leading Alexandrian thought. Clement indorsed the Didache as a part of Scripture. As this enjoins fasting on the fourth and sixth days of the week, he had to interpret it, which he does in this manner:

The Gnostic understands also the enigmas of the fasts of those days—I mean the Fourth and the Preparation day. For the one has its name from Hermes (Mercury), and the other from Aphrodite (Venus). He fasts in his life, in respect of covetousness and from lust, the sources from which all the vices grow. 9

As, in heathen mythology, Mercury is the god of commerce and Venus the god of beauty and love, playing on this, Clement justifies the position of the Gnostic, who repudiates literal fasting and, instead, abstains “from covetousness and from lust.” After dwelling a little longer on the subject of fasting, he thus connects with it his position with reference observing a day in honor of the resurrection;”—He, [the Gnostic] in fulfilment of the precept, according to the Gospel, [by abstaining from evil instead of fasting outwardly] keeps the Lord’s day, when he abandons an evil disposition, and assumes that of the Gnostic, glorifying the Lord’s resurrection in himself. 10

There were Christians in Alexandria at that time who did literally fast on the fourth and sixth day of the week, and who celebrated the first day of the week in commemoration of the resurrectio; but the head of the theological school taught, in clear oposition to this, that true fasting consisted in abstaining from bad deeds, and that the true commemoration of the resurrection was to experience the power of the resurrection in our daily life.

That we have given the true meaning of his words is clearly shown by another statement of his, where he contrasts the Gnostics with other Christians. Of the Gnostic he says that it was “not on special days, as some others, but doing this continually in our whole life,” and “no in a specified place, or selected temple, or at certain festivals, and on appointed days, but during his whole life. 11

The Mystic (Gnostic) Lord’s Day

With this in mind, we are no prepared to listen to an explanation which he gives concerning the fourth commandment, in his “Gnostic Exposition of the Decalogue:”

And the fourth commandment is that which intimates that the world was created by God, and that He gave us the seventh day as a rest, on account of the trouble that there is in life. For God is incapable of weariness, and suffering, and want. But we who bear flesh need rest. The seventh day, therefore, is proclaimed a rest—the cessation of evil—preparing for the Primal Day of new beginning; our true rest; which, in truth, is the first creation of real light, in which all things are seen, and all things received as our inheritance. From this day the first wisdom and knowledge illuminate us. For the light of truth—a light true, casting no shadow, is the Spirit of God indivisibly divided to all, are sanctified by faith, holding the place of a luminary, for the knowledge of real existences. By following Him, therefore, through our whole life, we are set free from affliction; and this is to rest.

“Having reached this point, we must mention these things by the way; since the discourse has turned on the seventh and the eighth. For the eighth may possibly turn out to be properly the seventh, and the seventh manifestly the sixth, and the latter properly the Sabbath, and the seventh a day of work.”12

The true object of the seventh day in the beginning was to insure rest, because we meet in this life so much suffering and affliction. But true Sabbath rest is to cease from evil. Anyone doing this prepares for the gospel day of light. This gospel day, typified by the fact that God created light on the first day, is the new life of the Christian when he, enlightened by the Spirit, becomes sanctified through it. This frees his whole life from affliction, and brings the true rest in Christ.

After giving this epitome, Clement, patchwork as his Miscellanies are, joins to it a play on numbers, which he afterward makes intelligible by using the Greek alphabet as a key. The first five letters of the Greek alphabet represent the numbers one to five; but with the number six, there is a break (six being represented by the letter sigma), but the regular order is taken up again from seven onward: thus, following the regular alphabetical order six drops out entirely; seven (zeta) becomes six, and eight (eta), seven. While this is the case, seven as Clement has shown all through his book, signifies, as the perfect number, rest, even though by following the order of the Greek alphabet, it maybe six., On the other hand, eight, although it may in this manner become seven, means working. So the mysterious eight in not a day of rest but a day of work to him who, as a Gnostic, experiences the power of the resurrection every day, and lives continually the Lord’s life.

Biased by an unscriptural theory some First-day writers pervert this Gnostic philosopher of Alexandria into a champion of their case. Gilfillan, for example makes Clement say, “’The eight day appears rightly to be named the seventh, and to be the true Sabbath, but the seventh to be a working day,’”13

Rev. A.A. Phelps, in “An Argument for the Perpetuity of the Sabbath,” p. 159, finds in Clement the lacking gospel command for the Lord’s day, 14

It is a very striking coincidence that the first mention of Sunday as a mystic eighth day should be found in the Gnostic pseudo-Barnabas, and that the first mention of the term Lord’s day as a mystic day typifying the renewed life should be made by the Gnostic philosopher Clement of Alexandria, the very one who first indorsed this pseudo-epistle. With all the mysticism found in Clement, there is some irony in it, that this mystic Lord’s day adduced from an utterance of a pagan writer should, soon after, become the prominent title of the wild solar day of all pagan times.

Tertullian The Lawyer

From Alexandria, we turn our eyes to Carthage, which vies with its ancient rival, Rome, for the horn of supplying, in Tertulllian, a very gifted lawyer, the father of Latin Christianity and church language. Schaff gives the following description of his character and strange contrarieties:

“Tertullian was a rare genius, perfectly original and fresh, but angular, boisterous, and eccentric…Like almost all great men, he combines strange contrarieties of character.” “He did not shrink from insulting the greatest natural gift of God to man by his 'I believe because it is absurd'. And yet reason does him invaluable service against his antagonists. He vindicates the principle of church authority and tradition with great force and ingenuity against all heresy; yet, when a Montanist, he claims for himself with equal energy the right of private judgment and of individual protest. He has vivid sense of the corruption of human nature and the absolute need of moral regeneration; yet he declares the soul to be born Christian, and unable to find rest except in Christ….he adopts the strictest supernatural principles; and yet he is a most decided realist.” 15

He embraced Christianity in middle life, but soon afterward, between 199 and 203 A.D., became a Montanist. Schaff gives the following reasons for this:

“But Tertullian was inclined to extremes from the first especially to moral austerity. He was no doubt attracted by the radical contempt for the world, the strict asceticism, the severe discipline, the martyr enthusiasm, and the chiliasm of the Montanists, and was repelled by the growing conformity to the world in the Roman Church.” 16

Tertullian’s Contradictions

That Tertullian blew hot and cold, A. Harnack thus testifies:

“In the questions as to the relationship of the Old Testament to the New, of Christ to the apostles, of the apostles to each other, of the Paraclete to Christ and the apostles, he was also of necessity involved in the greatest contradictions. This was the case not only because he went more into details than Irenaeus; but, above all, because the chains into which he had thrown his Christianity were felt to be such by himself. This theologian had no greater opponent than himself, and nowhere perhaps is this so plain as in his attitude to the two Testaments. Here, in every question or detail, Tertullian really repudiated the proposition from which he starts,” “Tertullian strove to reconcile the principles of early Christianity with the authority of ecclesiastical tradition and philosophical apologetics. Separated from the general body of the church, and making ever increasing sacrifices for the early Christian enthusiasm, as he understood it, he wasted himself in the solution of this insoluble problem.” 17

[Note Tertullian’s contradictory position on the Decalogue law, in his "On Modesty" chapter 5, with concepts we will later see in his other works:

Of how deep guilt, then, adultery-which is likewise a matter of fornication, in accordance with its criminal function-is to be accounted, the Law of God first comes to hand to show us; if it is true, (as it is), that after interdicting the superstitious service of alien gods, and the making of idols themselves, after commending (to religious observance) the veneration of the Sabbath, after commanding a religious regard toward parents second (only to that) toward God, (that Law) laid, as the next substratum in strengthening and fortifying such counts, no other precept than "Thou shall not commit adultery." For after spiritual chastity and sanctity followed corporeal integrity. And this (the Law) accordingly fortified, by immediately prohibiting its foe, adultery. Understand, consequently, what kind of sin (that must be), the repression of which (the Law) ordained next to (that of) idolatry… the very fore-front of the most holy law, among the primary counts of the celestial edict, marking it with the inscription of the very principal sins.]

Tertullian’s Position On The Sabbath

Occupying such a contradictory position on the covenants, it is but natural that he contradicts himself also on the question of the law and the Sabbath. Two quotations will prove this:

“Thus Christ did not at all rescind the Sabbath; for even in the case before us (Matt. 12:10), he fulfilled the law, while interpreting its condition; moreover, he exhibits in a clear light the different kinds of work, while doing what the law excepts from the sacredness of the Sabbath, and while imparting to the Sabbath day itself, which from the beginning had been consecrated by the benediction of the Father, an additional sanctity by his own beneficent action. For he furnished to this day divine safeguards…Since, in like manner, the prophet Elisha on this day restored to life the dead son of the Shunammite woman, 18 You see, O Pharisee, and you too, O Marcion, how that it was proper employment for the Creator’s Sabbaths of old to do good, to save life, not to destroy it; how that Christ introduced nothing new, which was not after the example, the gentleness, the mercy, and the prediction also of the Creator.” 19

But to the Jews he writes:

“For the Jews say that from the beginning God sanctified the seventh day by resting on it from all his works which he made; and that thence it was, likewise, that Moses said to the people: ‘Remember the day of the Sabbaths, to sanctify it; every servile work ye shall not do therein, except what pertained unto life.’ Whence we [Christians] understand that we still more ought to observe a Sabbath from all ‘servile work’ always and not only every seventh day, but through all time. And through this arises the question for us, what Sabbath God willed us to keep. For the Scriptures point to a Sabbath eternal and a Sabbath temporal. For Isaiah…says, Your Sabbaths ye have profaned’. Whence we discern that the temporal Sabbath is human and the eternal Sabbath is accounted divine, concerning which he predicts through Isaiah: ‘And there shall be….month after month, and day after day, and Sabbath after Sabbath; and all flesh shall come to adore in Jerusalem, saith the lord:’ which we understand to have been fulfilled in the times of Christ, when ‘all flesh’—that is every nation—‘came to adore in Jerusalem’ God the Father, through Jesus Christ his Son, as was predicted through the prophet: ‘Behold proselytes through me shall go unto thee.’ Thus, therefore, before this temporal Sabbath, there was withal an eternal Sabbath foreshown and foretold; just as before the carnal circumcision there was withal a spiritual circumcision foreshown. In short, let them teach us…that Adam observed the Sabbath, or that Abel, when offering to God a holy victim, pleased him by a religious reverence for the Sabbath.” “Whence it is manifest that the force of such precepts was temporary, and respected the necessity of present circumstances; and that it was not with a view to its observance I perpetuity that God formerly gave them such a law.” 20

Answering Marcion, the Gnostic, Tertullian shows how the Sabbath was consecrated by the Father at the beginning for the good of man, and how Christ only added addition sanctity and divine safeguards to the day. But in answering the Jews, he takes the Gnostic position—a perpetual spiritual Sabbath, not “exemption from work on a specific weekly Sabbath,” But as to the difference between temporal and eternal Sabbaths, this is in no wise between the Sabbath of the Decalogue and some perpetual Sabbath, beginning with the advent of Christ—a conclusion which Tertullian only reaches by misapplying Isa, 66:23. This text, as is seen from verse 22, applies not to the time of Christ, but to the new earth. There were temporal Sabbaths—those of the ceremonial law.

After having thus rationalized away the observance of a literal Sabbath, and after considering some prophecies concerning the true spiritual sacrifice, in chapter 6 Tertullian proceeds in his demonstrate to rationalize the abolition of the old law. In like manner, as there was a Sabbath temporal and a Sabbath eternal, there is also a law temporal and law eternal, and there was time to come “whereat the precepts of the ancient law and of the old ceremonies would cease, and the sending forth {promissio} of the new law, and the recognition of spiritual sacrifices, and the promise of the New Testament, supervene,” Then he goes into the details about this new law, as follows:

“And indeed, first we must inquire whether there be expected a giver of the new law, and an heir of the new testament, and a priest of the new sacrifices, and a purger of the new circumcision, and an observer of the eternal Sabbath, to suppress the old law, and institute the new testament, and offer the new sacrifices, and repress the ancient ceremonies, and suppress the old circumcision together with its own Sabbath, and announce the new kingdom which is not corruptible. Inquire, I say, we must, whether this giver of the new law, observer of the spiritual Sabbath, priest of the eternal sacrifices, eternal ruler of the eternal kingdom, be come or no: that, if he already com…it be manifest that the old law’s precepts are suppressed, and that the beginnings of the new law ought to arise.”

We now have clearly before us Tertullian’s outline of a spiritual, eternal Sabbath of a spiritual, eternal law, both commencing with the new covenant. This law supposedly commands a perpetual spiritual Sabbath, but, according to Tertullian, this in no wise teaches, like the old law, a specific weekly Sabbath, demanding exemption from work. With this in mind, we are ready to proceed further.

Pagan’s And Christian’s Affiliated Worship—Worshiping Toward The East

While considering the origin of Sunday, we found that this day had been devoted to the worship of the sun in all pagan times. When, in the course of time, Christians began to have their worship on the same day, at the same time, and in the same position, it was but natural that they should be confounded with the worshipers of the Persian sun-god, Mithra. To meet this, Tertullian makes the following statement in his Apology, chap. 16, which is one of his oldest works:

“Others, again, certainly with more information and greater verisimilitude, believe that the sun is our god. We shall be counted Persians, perhaps, though we do not worship the orb of day painted on a piece of linen cloth, having himself everywhere in his own disk. The idea no doubt has originated from our being known to turn to the east in prayer. But you, many of you, also under pretence sometimes worshiping the heavenly bodies, move your lips in the direction of the sunrise. In the same way, if we devote Sunday to rejoice, from a far different reason than sun-worship we have some resemblance to those of you who devote the day of Saturn to ease and luxury, though they too go far away from Jewish ways, of which indeed they are ignorant.”

This conformity in worship both as to the day and the attitude, Tertullian thus sets forth still more clearly in another book:

“Others, with greater regard to good manners, it must be confessed, suppose that the sun is the God of the Christians, because it is a well-known fact that we pray toward the east, or because we make Sunday a day of festivity. What then? Do you do less than this? Do not many among you, with an affectation of sometimes worshiping the heavenly bodies likewise, move your lips in the direction of the sunrise? It is you, at all events, who have even admitted the sun into the calendar of the week; and you have selected its day [Sunday] in preference to the preceding day, as the most suitable in the week for either an entire abstinence from the bath, or for its postponement until the evening, or for taking rest, and for banqueting. By resorting to these customs, you deliberately deviate from your own religious rites to those of strangers.”21

Tertullian addresses this book to those nations that are still in idolatry. His only defense for making Sunday a day of festivity, and praying toward the east, was “Do you do less than this?” It was the pagans who admitted the sun into the calendar of the week. They selected Sunday in preference to the preceding day, the Sabbath, and made it a day of festivity. How could they, then, chide the Christians for doing likewise, especially as these customs really came from the Orient? This proves beyond question what we presented in the previous chapter regarding the origin of Sunday.

Distancing Themselves From Jews, Joining Pagans

As many Christians still observed the Sabbath, and all Christians used the Old Testament, it was very natural for them to be confounded with the Jews. Tertullian is exceedingly careful to clear this matter up in the twenty-first chapter of his Apology:

“We neither accord with the Jews in their peculiarities with regard to food, nor in their sacred days.”

But what effect it had when Christians no longer observed the Sabbath of the Lord, but joined with pagans in devoting Sunday to a sacred purpose, though from far different reasons, Tertullian sets forth in his book on Idolatry, chapter 14:

The Holy Spirit upbraids the Jews with their holy-days. “Your Sabbaths, and new moons, and ceremonies,” says He, “My soul hateth.” By us, to whom Sabbaths are strange, and the new moons and festivals formerly beloved by God, the Saturnalia and New-year’s and Midwinter’s festivals and Matronalia are frequented—presents come and go—New-year’s gifts—games join their noise—banquets join their din! Oh better fidelity of the nations to their own sect, which claims no solemnity of the Christians for itself! Not the Lord’s day, not Pentecost, even it they had known them, would they have shared with us; for they would fear lest they should seem to be Christians. We are not apprehensive lest we seem to be heathens! If any indulgence is to be granted to the flesh, you have it. I will not say your own days, but more too; for to the heathens each festive day occurs but once annually: you have a festive day every eighth day.”

Christians Mingle With The Heathen In Their Festivities

The heathen would not join the Christians in any way, lest they should seem to be Christians, but the so-called Christians had already so far apostatized that they frequented with the heathen the Saturnalia, New-year’s and midwinter festivals, and Matronalia, annual festivals to the sun and to other deities, shared in the banqueting, and imitated their customs of exchanging gifts. So the very effect of joining the pagans in their devotions on Sunday was to let down the bars which God had put up, and to lead them to join the heathen in their anniversaries held in honor of the sun. Surely Tertullian had every reason to cry out, “O, better fidelity of the heathen to their own sect!”

But strange to say, it is in the midst of all this apostasy that we find the term Lord’s day first clearly applied to Sunday. Though this was done for some reason, one thing is certain, that it was to because it was sacredly regarded. Even Tertullian had to admit that the heathen were more true to their sect than were the Christians to their faith. And we notice that the Lord’s day appears on an equal footing with Pentecost, as a festive day, a season of rejoicing.

Ancient Custom And Unwritten Tradition

But we have a still more striking instance in which Tertullian is forced to reveal to us the foundation on which Sunday observance rests, in his book on The Soldier’s Crown. It was customary then, as it is now, on special occasions, for the soldiers to adorn their heads with laurel, myrtle, olive, with flowers, or with gems. During a review of the camp by the emperor, one Christian soldier had the courage to hold this crown simply in his hand, instead of placing it on the head. This led to his discharge. As there were many Christian soldiers who conformed to the custom, discontentment arose about this soldier’s refusal, and he was charged with having created trouble and brought reproach upon the Christian cause. No Bible text could be adduced to prohibit this standing custom. Tertullian, in reply, says, “If no scripture has determined this, assuredly custom has confirmed it, which, doubtless, has been derived from tradition.” “But,” says the objector, ‘even where tradition is pleaded, written authority ought to be required.”

This leads Tertullian to inquire “whether none, save a written tradition, ought to be received?” Then he continues:

Certainly we shall deny that it ought to be received if there be no precedents to determine the contrary in their observances, which, without any Scripture document, we defend on the ground of tradition alone, and by the supports of consequent custom. In fact, to begin with baptism, when we are about to come to the water, in the same place, but at somewhat earlier time, we do in the church testify, under the hand of a chief minister, that we renounce the devil and his pomp and his angels. Then are we thrice dipped, pledging ourselves to something more than the Lord has prescribed in the gospel: then, some undertaking the charge of us, we first taste a mixture of honey and milk and from that day we abstain for a whole week from our daily washing. The sacrament of the Eucharist, commanded by the Lord at the time of supper, and to all, we receive even at our meetings before daybreak, and from the hands of no others than the heads of the church. We offer, on one day every year, oblations for the dead as birthday honors. On the Lord’s day we account it unlawful to fast or to worship upon the knees. We enjoy the same freedom from Easter day even unto Pentecost. We feel pained if any of the wine, or even of our bread, be spilled upon the ground. In all our travels and movements, in all our coming in and going out, in putting on our shoes, at the bath, at the table, in lighting our candles, in lying down, in sitting down, whatever employment occupies us, we mark our forehead with the sign of the cross.

For these and such like rules if you require a law in the Scriptures, you shall find none. Tradition will be pleaded to you as originating them, custom as confirming them, and faith as observing them.”

Then Tertullian proceeds to add as another example, the fact that the ancient Jewish women had a veil upon their head, though there was no written law for it, and that Paul even sanctioned this custom. Then he concludes:

By these examples therefore it will be declared that even an unwritten tradition may be maintained in its observance, being confirmed by custom, a sufficient witness of a tradition at the time approved by the continuance of the observance. But even in civil matters, custom is taken for law where there is no law: nor is there any difference whether it be founded in any writing or on reason, since it is reason which commands even written authority. Moreover, if law be founded in reason, then will all that is founded in reason, by whomsoever first brought forward, be law. Do you not think that any believer may have the power to conceive and to establish a thing, so it be agreeable to God, conducive to true religion, profitable to salvation, when the Lord says And why even of yourselves judge you not what is right? and this not as touching judgment only, but every opinion also on things coming under examination. So also says the apostle: If in anything you be ignorant, God shall reveal it unto you; he himself having been accustomed to supply counsel, when he had no commandment of the Lord, and to ordain certain things of himself, yet himself also having the Spirit of God, that guides into all truth. Wherefore his counsel and his ordinance have now obtained the likeness of a divine command, because supported by the reason which comes of God. Question now this reason, saving however you respect for tradition, form whomsoever dated as having delivered it: and regard not the author, but the authority and chiefly that of custom itself, which ought for this cause to be respected, because it may be the witness of reason: so that if it be God, who has given reason also, you may learn, not, whether the custom ought to be observed by you, but why the reason of Christian observances becomes greater than that of others, seeing that even nature, which is the first rule of all, defends them.”

We have here the very principles of tradition by which every custom of the Catholic Church came in, and the very principle on which the Reformers rested Sunday, as we shall see later. But to show the power which even the heathen sun-worship had upon its votaries, we will consider Tertullian’s words about the Mithra service and its adherents. He could use for the completion of his argument no better evidence than to appeal to the constancy of its adherents:

“Blush you, his fellow soldiers, who shall now stand condemned, not by him, but even by any soldier of Mithra, who, when he is enrolled in the cavern, the camp, in very truth, of darkness, when the crown is offered him (on a sword) and then fitted upon his head, is taught to put it aside from his head, meeting it with his hand, and to remove it, it may be, to his shoulder, saying that Mithra is his crown. And thence forth he never wears a crown, and he has this as a sign whereby he is approved, if at any time he is tried touching his military oath: and he is forthwith believed to be a soldier of Mithra, if he throws down his crown, if he declares that he has it in his God. See we the wiles of the devil, who pretends to some of the ways of God for this cause, that, through the faithfulness of his own servants, he may put us to shame and condemn us.” 22

We are now ready to listen to Tertullian’s statement about Sunday observance:

“We, however, (just as we have received) only on the Lord’s day of the resurrection [sol die dominico resurrexionis] ought to guard not only against kneeling, but every posture and office of solicitude; deferring even our business, lest we give any place to the devil. Similarly, too, in the period of Pentecost; which period we distinguish by the same solemnity of exultation.” 23

We have now carefully investigated the writings of Tertullian. He has nothing but tradition to offer for Sunday. And more than this, as he was strong beleiver in the constant guidance of the Holy Spirit, and considers all reasonable actions formed under its influence as equal with the Scripture, his principle of continual tradition was wide enough to take in anything that might come along and suggest itself to be reasonable. What he says above about deferring our business we must understand in the light of his previous statement, that we ought to observe a spiritual Sabbath every day.


Turning again to Alexandria, Origen (A.D. 231), a disciple of Clement, next claims our attention. On account of Clement’s flight and in view of his great ability, at the early age of nineteen he was placed at the head of that school. He was a very industrious student, never drinking wine, seldom eating meat, sleeping on the bare floor; and by his studious, ascetic life he became the greatest scholar of his age. He remained the exegetical oracle until Chrysostom surpassed him. Schaff thus points out the weakness of his exegesis:

“His great defect is the neglect of the grammatical and historical sense, and his constant desire to find a hidden mystic meaning. He even goes further in this direction than the Gnostics, who everywhere saw transcendental, unfathomable mysteries. His hermeneutical principle assumes a threefold sense, …literal, moral and spiritual. His allegorical interpretation is ingenious, but often runs far away from the text and degenerates into the merest caprice, while at time it gives way to the opposite extreme of a carnal literalism, by which he justifies his ascetic extravagance.” 24

Professor Harnack says of him:

“He proclaimed the reconciliation of science with the Christian faith and the compatibility of the highest culture with the gospel within the bosom of the church, thus contributing more than any other to convert the ancient world to Christianity.” 25

As to his theology, Killen writes:

“In his attempt to reconcile the gospel and his philosophy he miserably compromises some of the most important truths of Scripture.” “He maintained the pre-existence of human souls, he held that the stars are animated beings; he taught that all men shall ultimately attain happiness; and he believed that the devils themselves shall eventually be saved.” 26

Origen’s Spiritual Lord’s Day And Festivals

From the testimonies adduced, no one must wonder at the following statement concerning his view of the Sabbath:

There are countless multitudes of believers who…are most firmly persuaded that neither ought circumcision to be understood literally, nor the rest of the Sabbth, nor the pouring out of the blood of an animal, nor that answers were given by God to Moses on these points.” 27

And in his book against Celsus, he thus writes of the Sabbath rest:

“For he [Celsus] knows nothing of the day of the Sabbath, and rest of God, which follows the completion of the world’s creation, and which lasts during the duration of the world, and in which all those will keep festival with God who have done all their works in their six days, and who, because they have omitted none of their duties, will ascend to the contemplation of celestial things, and to the assembly of righteous and blessed beings.” 28

In book 5, chap, 59, he says:

“With respect, however, to the creation of the world, and the rest which is reserved after it for the people of God, the subject is extensive, and mystical, and profound, and difficult of explanation.”

We now come to the one reference in which Origen makes allusions to a Lord’s day. Some one is supposed to charge him with inconsistency because, though Origen, in harmony with his understanding of Gal. 4:10, did not believe in the observance of any days, he paid some respect to the Lord’s day and other festivals. As Bishop Cox says:

“This charge he evades rather than encounters in his reply, which, with the objection prefixed to it, is as follows: ‘But if any one should object against this what takes place among ourselves on the Lord’s days, or on preparation days, or on the days of the Passover or of Pentecost, the answer is, That the perfect Christian, who continually lives in the words, and works, and thoughts of the Word of God, his natural Lord, continually lives in his days, daily keeps a Lord’s day,” 29

In like manner he shows that the perfect Christian keeps the preparation day by preparing his self daily; also the Passover day by eating constantly the flesh of the Word’ and the day of Pentecost by praying daily for the outpouring of the Spirit. This distinction between a perfect and an imperfect Christian sheds much light on his position. An imperfect Christian keeps Sunday literally; a perfect Christian, by living a constant holy life, pays no respect to weekly or to annual festivals. The preference of such a Lord’s day over a literal Sabbath, Origen sets forth in his seventh homily on Exodus, par. 5:

“It is plain from Holy Writ that manna was first given on earth on the Lord’s day…But if it be clear from the Holy Scriptures that God rained manna from heaven on the Lord’s day, and rained none on the Sabbath day, let the Jews understand that from that time our Lord’s day was set above the true Sabbath…For on our Lord’s day God always rains down manna from heaven…for the discourses which are delivered to us are from heaven; and the words which are preached to us have come down from God’ and hence we are blessed in receiving manna.”


Turning back to Carthage again, the next Father offering an argument for Sunday is Cyprian, A.D. 253. His tract on the “Unity of the Church” is the Magna Charta of the Roman primacy. But as he contended with the same zeal for an independent episcopate, and differed on the subject of heretical baptism, he brought homes into conflict with the See of Rome. He thus brings forward Justin’s old argument:

“For in respect to the observance of the eighth day in the Jewish circumcision of the flesh, a sacrament was given beforehand in shadow and in usage; but when Christ came, it was fulfilled in truth. For because the eighth day, that is , the first day after the Sabbath, was to be that on which the Lord should rise again, and should quicken us, and give us circumcision of the Spirit, the eight day, that is, the first day after the Sabbath, and the Lord’s day, went before in the figure; which figure ceased when by and by the truth came, and spiritual circumcision was given to us.”30

His own maxim fits his case: “Custom without truth is the antiquity of error.”

Commodian’s Lord’s Day

Commodian, A.D. 270 is quoted by Hessey and Gilliland as using the term Lord’s day. So he does. He admonishes the rich to remember the poor brother, and I that connection he says, “What sayest thou of the Lord’s day?! 31

As he treats of the judgment in previous chapters, it is evident from the context that he refers t that. But First day writers are often very hard pressed for seeming proofs of their theories. He once speaks of Easter as the “day of ours most blessed,”

Victorin’s Assumptions?

Bishop Victorin of Petau (A.D. 290) is so anxious not to appear to observe any Sabbath with the Jews that, while apparently quoting Scripture, he makes a number of unfounded statements about it.

“Thus Moses, foreseeing the hardness of the people, on the Sabbath raised up his hands, and thus fastened himself to the cross:”

Further, that Jesus (Joshua) “himself broke the Sabbath day” at the siege of Jericho: and that Matthias “broke the Sabbath when he slew the prefect of Antiochus, king of Syria upon that day;” and finally he states that “in Matthew we read that it is written, Isaiah also and the rest of his colleagues broke the Sabbath—that that true and just Sabbath should be observed in the seventh millenary of years.” For his statement about Matthew’s words, he refers to Matt. 12:3. But no such text can be found there. His fitting preparation for the Lord’s day was a rigorous fast on the Sabbath, as will be seen from the following:

“On the former day [that is, Sabbath] we are accustomed to fast rigorously, that on the Lord’s day we may go forth to our bread with giving of thanks.” 32

This same bsihop wrote a commentary on Revelation , bt he has no comment whatever about the Lord’s day of Rev. 1:10.

Peter Bishop Of Alexandria

Peter, bishop of Alexandria, A.D. 300, closes the list of witnesses by saying, “We keep the Lord’s day as a day of joy because of Him who rose thereon.” 33

Position Of The Father’s Reveiwed

We have now followed the history of Sunday from the time it was first mentioned by the Gnostic pseudo-Barnabas as the mysterious eighth day, until it stands out clearly and definitely as the first day of the week, called the Lord’s day. Not one of these Fathers has referred to Acts 20:7, to 1 Corinthians 16, or to Rev. 1:10 as the reason for its observance, nor has any allusion been made to any command of Christ or of the apostles for its observance. Not one of the Fathers base its observance on the Sabbath commandment, nor hint at the transference of the Sabbath from the seventh to the first day of the week. On the contrary, some have taken the strongest grounds against the law or the Sabbath commandment or the literal observance of that commandment. None of the church Fathers, yea, no writer of the first five centuries, ever called Sunday the Sabbath. This name was only applied to the preceding or seventh day.

For the observance of Sunday they give, as Cox correctly says, “sundry other reasons of their own—fanciful in most cases, and ridiculous in some.” These reasons are:

Therefore Cox draws the following conclusion about Sunday:

“From which the inevitable inference is that they neither had found in Scripture any commandment—primeval, Mosaic, or Christian—appointing the Lord’s day to be honoured or observed, nor knew from tradition any such command delivered by Jesus or his apostles.” 34

As to the nature of its observance, we have found that the church Fathers lay special stress on the fact that the Sabbath commandment did not demand a cessation from labour, but rather a perpetual cessation from sin and spiritual rest in Christ and, consequently, Sunday was not to be a day of rest from work so much as it was to be a day of joy, marked by the celebration of the Lord’s supper by prayer, and by the absence of fasting. Easter and Pentecost were held in equal esteem with Sunday, or even in greater esteem.

If we note the names applied to the day, we find it fist introduced under the name of eight day then sun-day, and first day of the week; from the beginning of the third century the term Lord’s day is used interchangeably for the first day of the week and for the perpetual day of the gospel dispensations. From these evidences and from the fact that the Sabbath was still observed by a part of the Christian community, it is clear that Sunday came in on independent grounds; that it was a human institution resting on tradition; that its observance was but voluntary; and that it was an assembly day rather than a rest day.

That First-day writers who claim Sunday to be a divine institution based on the fourth commandment are not satisfied with the way the church Fathers have treated Sunday, is very apparent from their own admissions. For example: Hengstenberg says, “The idea of a transference of Sabbath into Sunday is unknown to all Christian antiquity.” Dr. Schaff says that the ante-Nicene church “did not fully appreciated the perpetual obligation of the fourth commandment in its substance as a weekly day of rest;” and that “there was disposition to disparage the Jewish law in the zeal to prove the independent originality of Christian institutions,” 35

Again, that “the ancient church viewed the Sunday mainly…one-sidedly and exclusively, from its Christian aspect as a new institution.”36

Liebetrut, in his prize essay on Sunday, admits:

“All church Fathers are unanimous in repudiating the direct reference of Sunday observance to the Sabbath commandment. They declare that the Sabbath commandment is not binding on the church, and assert a peculiar position of Sunday as the day of Christ. Instead of finding reasons for Sunday observance in the law of the Old Testament, they are everywhere far from it, and even so regardless oppose this view that they are in danger of looking altogether away from the foundation principles on which any Christian festival could rest.” 37

These admissions of leading Sunday advocates—a few samples of the many that might be adduced—reveal the striking fact that their position concerning the Sunday institution differs very materially from that of the Fathers. While the Fathers, in order to introduce this new weekly memorial, had to set aside the only commandment on which any weekly rest can be maintained b a church accepting the Bible alone, and to engraft a scion from a strange religious cult in commemoration of important Christian events, the Protestant church of today, though attempting to substantiate the introduction of Sunday by the testimony of the Fathers, and thus by tradition, has, in order to maintain Sunday as a rest day, to adopt as the basis of its observance the very commandment thus rejected by the Fathers. A strange medley indeed.

But while the originators of Sunday and its present advocates differ so widely from one another that the latter reject the very basis on which it was introduced by the former, we, for our part, would point to the material difference existing between these two parties as an evident proof for the correctness of our position concerning the introduction of Sunday. As God’s law is eternal and of universal application, and as the Sabbath institution is fixed by it on a definite day of the week for the benefit of man, regardless of nationality, time, or place, no new weekly memorial could be introduced to supplant the one already existing, without the rejection of the very basis on which the new institution could be maintained. To this the church fathers assent by rejecting the Sabbath command as the basis of this new institution, and to this the present champions of Sunday assent, by appealing to the fourth commandment to maintain Sunday. Thus, while the Sunday of the Fathers differs from that of the Protestant church in its very basis, yet the testimony of the Fathers furnishes the following striking similarities between their Sunday and the pagans sun-day:

Conclusions Drawn

No less remarkable is the fact that, while the Gnostic and the philosopher engrafted this pagan day onto Christianity to commemorate an important event, without reference to any definite law and enjoining nothing but a spiritual rest, the bishop of Rome, seemingly the materialization of legality, became the outspoken sponsor of this illegal child, and effected the union, making the Gnostic and the philosopher subservient to its cause. Furthermore, this new institution comes into prominence and assumes a new title at the very time when the sun eminently worshiped in the Oriental cults, becomes, as such, the leading deity of the pagans in the Roman empire, and Christ, as the Sun of righteousness, is the leading object of worship in the Roman Christian world, and the bishop of Rome, its champion in the church, is the leading ruler as lord of the bishops; and thus the day, as the common object of veneration by all as the lord of the days, is fitly styled by its syncretical name, the Lord’s day.

We will let Cyprian, the great champion of Roman primacy, tell us how far the apostasy advanced in the church at this time:

“Forgetful of what believers had either don before in the times of the apostles, or always ought to do, they, with the insatiable ardour of covetousness, devoted themselves to the increase of their property.” “Among the ministers there was no sound faith: in their works there was no mercy: in their manners there was no disciple.” “Crafty frauds were used to deceive the hearts of the simple, subtle meanings for circumventing the brethren. They united in the bond of marriage with unbelievers; they prostituted the members of Christ to Gentiles. They would swear not only rashly, but even more, would swear falsely;…would speak evil of one another with envenomed tongue, would speak evil of one another with envenomed tongue, would quarrel with one another with obstinate hatred. Very many bishops who ought to furnish both exhortation and example to others despising their divine charge, became agents in secular business, forsook their throne, deserted their people, wandered about over foreign provinces, hunted the markets for gainful merchandise, while brethren were starving in the church.” 38

The Catholic Church, adopting the tradition as its chief r8ule, and following the sayings of men rather than the commands of god, and no longer dependent upon the divine arm, longed for the arm of flesh to uphold its authority and to secure its unity against rending schisms, and the Sunday institution, as it possessed no just basis for its observance, needed the authority of civil and ecclesiastical legislation to assure its maintenance. Paganism and philosophized Christianity became so closely affiliated that believers in both systems could freely intermarry, and, naturally enough, it would be but the ultimate result that there should grow up a union between the state of Rome and the church of Rome; and whenever the restraining power would be far enough removed to admit of such a union, then the mystery of lawlessness would manifest. That this mystery of lawlessness was the natural outgrowth of spiritualising away the law of God and the rest day by the Gnositc, philosopher, and Roman bishop in succession, an anonymous author of that time thus attests:

“As Christ is the end of the law, those who are without law are without Christ; therefore the people who are without the law are without Christ.” 39

Sunday appears in the writings of all the Fathers without law—yea, it is in opposition to it; therefore, it is without Christ, and as Sunday is without Christ, it is not the Christian Lord’s day; but, as the day of the sun, it is the pagan Lord’s day of the Christianized “Lord of the bishops.”

Chapter 17: The Civil-Ecclesiastical Sunday


A new era in Sunday Observance
Division in Church and Empire
Constantine Favors Christianity
Sole Ruler of the Western Empire
He Desires Consolidation
Half Pagan and Half Christian
The First Sunday Law and Its Associate
Schaff’s Comment Upon it
Sunday Markets Ordained
Military Sunday Law
Sunday the Mark of Friendly Union
The First General Council
Its Decrees Claimed as Divine Commands
The Easter Controversy Settled
The Ruling Motive, Hatred of Jews
The First Sunday Canon
The Spiritual Sabbath of Eusebius
Constantine the Second Moses
The Transference of the Spiritual Sabbath
The New Spiritual Law of Eusebius
Its Carnal Nature
The Catholic Theocracy
The Levitical Priesthood Revived in Catholicism
The Crimes of Constantine
Constantine’s Duplicity Until Death

The New Era In Sunday Observance

The fourth century marks the victory of Christianity over paganism, its deadly rival, and with it began a new era in the history of Sunday observance. This final victory was not won, however, without a desperate struggle. Christianity, enjoying a long season of tranquillity, had meanwhile become a factor in the Roman empire, which was weakened by inner dissensions and by the increasing inroads of the barbarians.

At the beginning of the fourth century the empire had not less than four sovereigns—the two Augusti, Diocletian and Maximian, and their subordinate Caesars, Constantius, and Galerius. Galerius, being a deadly enemy to Christianity, and striving to become the sole Augustus, influenced Diocletian to issue an edict against the Christians. This brought about the terrible persecution know a s the Diocletian persecution, which lasted from A.D. 303 to 313.

Division In Church And Empire

How far the church and its bishops had at this time departed from God is seen by the following picture drawn by Eusebius:

“When by reason of excessive liberty, we sunk into negligence and sloth, one envying and reviling another in different ways, and we were almost, as it were, on the point of taking up arms against each other, and were assailing each other with words as with darts and spears, prelates inveighing against prelates, and people rising up against people, and hypocrisy and dissimulation had arisen to the greatest height o f malignity, then the divine judgment, which usually precedes with a lenient hand, whilst the multitudes were yet crowding into the church, with gentle and mild visitations began to afflict its episcopacy:…and, as if destitute of all sensibility, we were not prompt in measures to appease and propitiate the Deity: some indeed, like atheists, regarding our situation as unheeded and unobserved by Providence, added one wickedness and misery to another.” 1

The apostasy thus described had created sects and factions, such as Montanists, the Novatians, the Donatists, and others. All these vied with the Church of Rome in their efforts to gain the ascendancy. While there were divisions both in the empire and in the church, and in each, ambitious men were striving to become the sole leader, it was but natural that the strongest, or Romish faction, should make overtures to the most powerful and favourable ruler, and offer him her support in his ambitions to be universal Augustus, if he in turn would make her the state church.

Constantius, Caesar of the western provinces (Gaul and Britain), while nominally carrying out the decrees of his superiors and tearing down a few church buildings, spared the life and property of his Christian subjects.

Galerius, succeeding Diocletian A.D. 305, the latter having resigned, as the Augustus of the East, promoted Constantius, who was frail in health, to be the Augustus of the West. In order to tie the new rulers to himself, he caused them to divorce their wives, and marry into his family. Thus Constantius had to divorce his first wife, Helena, the daughter of an inn-keeper, and at the same time he excluded her son, Constantine, who was distinguished for his military ability, from the Caesarship. Constantine, fearing the foul designs of Galerius, suddenly left is court, and joined his father in Britain, at whose death (A.D. 306) he was proclaimed Augustus by the soldiers, much to the chagrin of Galerius.

Constantine, as well as his father, was greatly influenced in his religious sentiments by the new Platonic philosophy. He acknowledged on supreme God, who had revealed himself in many was among men, and honoured Apollo in particular as the revealer of this being. Like some of the Roman rulers before him, he hoped to strengthen the Roman empire by creating a monotheistic state religion, which Christianity should become a part. As late as 308 he presented munificent gifts to Apollo, the god of the sun.

Constantine Favors Christianity

The tragic end of his pagan rivals and persecutors of Christianity, Galerius dying from a dreadful disease, Maxentius perishing in the Tiber, and Diocletian committing suicide—as well as political wisdom, taught Constantine to lean upon Christianity for the moral support he needed to become sole ruler of a united empire, able to withstand the inroads of the barbarians. That such utilitarian motives prompted his choice, he himself thus states:

“My father revered the Christian God, and uniformly prospered, while the emperors who worshiped the heathen gods, died a miserable death; therefore, that I may enjoy a happy life and reign, I will imitate the example of my father, and join myself to the cause of the Christians, who are growing daily, while the heathen are diminishing.” 2

Sole Ruler Of Western Empire

As sole Augustus of the West, Constantine made, in A.D. 312, his triumphal entry into Rome, and assumed the title of “pontifex maximus,” He associated Licinius with him as Augustus of the East, giving him his sister in marriage. In March, 313, both rulers issued the edict of Milan, granting religious liberty to all subjects, and restoring to the Christians their church buildings or adequate compensation. As his monarchical politics accorded on the point of the external Catholic unity with the hierarchical spirit of the Roman Church, he favored its sole claims to the benefits of the edict, deprived the dissenting sects of it, and styled it the “legitimate and most holy Catholic religion,” He also exempted its clergy from all public offices and obligations as early as A.D. 316. Still his coins bore the pagan symbols.

Constantine Desires Consolidation

As the Roman emperors were also, by the virtue of their office, supreme pontiffs of the heathen religion, so “he desired,” as Schaff put it, “to be looked upon as a sort of bishop, as universal bishop of the external affairs of the church. All this by no means from mere self-interest, but for the good of the empire, which now shaken to its foundation and threatened by barbarians on every side, could only by some new bond of unity be consolidated and upheld.” 3

Half Pagan And Half Christain

But to bring about such a union was no easy task. “He had to deal with an empire in which there was a great mixture of religions.” “He was more than half convinced of the insufficiency of paganism, and nearly half convinced of the truth of Christianity. He dared not, however, offend the pagans, mush a he wished to encourage the Christians.” “Was there any way in which he might advantage both, and yet confer a special, though not obtrusive, boon upon the latter? All his subjects,, it is probable, felt the condition of the calendar to be a crying and practical inconvenience.” 4

The “old Roman laws exempted the festivals of the heathen from all juridical business, and suspended all processes and pleadings” except in cases of great necessity or charity. 5

Agricultural labours were, on the other hand, allowed. 6

Among the Catholics Sunday had gradually become their regular assembly day, honoured also by high annual festivals. Many of his pagan subjects reverenced the same day as a day of prayer in honor of the sun. Here was the point of friendly union; here his legislation might be for common profit.

The First Sunday Law And Its Associate

In order that the syncretic motive of Constantine—pagan and Catholic, religious and secular—may be more apparent, we not only quote his Sunday edict of March 7, but with it another edict on March 8, 321, regarding the auspices, or pagan soothsayers, who foretold future events by examining the entrails of beasts slaughtered in sacrifice to the gods. Thus we read:

“Let all the judges and town people, and the occupation of all trades rest on the venerable day of the sun; but let those who are situated in the country, freely and at full liberty attend to the business of agriculture; because it often happens that no other day is so fit for sowing corn and planting vines; lest, the critical moment being let slip, men should lose the commodities granted by Heaven. Given the seventh day of March, Crispus and Constantine being consuls, each of them for the second time,” 7

“That whenever lightning should strike the imperial palace or any other public building, the auspices, according to ancient usage, should be consulted as to what it might signify, and a careful report of the answer should be drawn up for his use.” 8

The edicts of Trajan and Marcus Antoninus had permitted cases of necessity and charity to be acted upon on these heathen festivals. 9 In accordance with them Constantine, in June 321, qualified this general prohibition by permitting acts of conferring liberty to the slave, and feeing the son from paternal power:

“As it seems very unfit to occupy the day of the sun, noted for its veneration, with irritating discussion and obnoxious contentions, it would be therefore agreeable to fulfil on that day what we most principally vowed. Therefore they should have liberty for ever act of emancipation and manumission on this feast-day, and actions in these matter are not to be prohibited. 10

How well fitted such enactments were to the general demand, Hessey thus attests:

“The Christians would accept it gladly. It was an evidence to them that the kingdoms of this world were becoming visibly, though the world knew it not, subservient to the Lord of the Day. The pagans could not object to it. It produced uniformity in their festivals, and remedied various inconveniences which met them at every turn. As for the rural districts, where paganism especially prevailed, these had an exception made in their favor, which obviated every pretense of hardship. Both Christians and pagans…had been accustomed to festival rests; Constantine made these rests to synchronize.” 11

The pagan and Christian sentiments found expression in this law, Stanley thus states:

“The same tenacious adherence to the ancient god of light has left its trace, even to our time.” “The retention of the old pagan name of ‘Dies solis,’ or Sunday,…is in great measure, owing to the union of pagan and Christian sentiment, with which the first day of the week was recommended by Constantine to his subjects, pagan and Christian alike, as the ‘venerable day of the sun,”’ 12

How the bishops looked upon it, we can learn from the following language of Eusebius:

”He [Constantine] ordained, too, that one day should be regarded as a special occasion for prayer: I mean that which is truly the first and chief of all, the day of our Lord and Savior.” 13

Again he eulogizes Constantine for commanding that “all should assemble together every week, and keep that day which is called the Lord’s day as a festival, to refresh even their bodies, and to stir up their minds by divine precepts and instruction.” 14

Eusebius goes still further. While Justinian and Theodosian codes are silent on supplementary ordinances, Eusebius, as well as Sozomen, claims that Constantine did the same in honor of Friday. 15 Eusebius even mentions that he enjoined all his soldiers, both Christian and pagan, to worship on Sunday. 16

Schaff Comments On Constantine’s Sunay Legislation

As Schaff has some striking comments on Constantine’s Sunday legislation, we will listen to him:

“So long as Christianity was not recognized and protected by the state, the observance of Sunday was purely religious, a strictly voluntary service, but exposed to continual interruption from the bustle of the world and a hostile community…

Constantine marks the beginning of a new era, and did good service to the church and to the cause of public order and morality. Constantine is the founder, in part at least, of the civil observance of Sunday, by which alone the religious observance of it in the church could be made universal and could be properly secured. In the year 321 he issued a law prohibiting manual labor in the cities and all judicial transactions, at a later period …But the Sunday law of Constantine must not be overrated. He enjoined the observance, or rather forbade the public desecration of Sunday, not under the name of Sabbatum or Dies Domini, but under its old astrological and heathen title, Dies Solis, familiar to all his subjects, so that the law was as applicable to the worshippers of Hercules, Apollo, and Mithras, as to the Christians. There is no reference whatever in his law either to the fourth commandment or to the resurrection of Christ. Besides he expressly exempted the country districts, where paganism still prevailed, from the prohibition of labor, and thus avoided every appearance of injustice. Christians and pagans had been accustomed to festival rests. Constantine made these rests to synchronize, and gave the preference to Sunday, on which day Christians from the beginning celebrated the resurrection of their Lord and Saviour. This and no more was implied in the famous enactment of 321. It was only a step in the right direction, but probably the only one which Constantine could prudently or safely take at that period of transition from the rule of paganism to that of Christianity. 17

That the religious observance of Sunday was dependent upon the legislation of the pontifex maximus of the pagan world, is an incontrovertible testimony to the human origin of Sunday and its observance until that time. As to any reference to the fourth commandment, Constantine would never have found any mention of the day of the sun in it. How far he was from its spirit and letter, however, is easily seen from the fact, but little known, that it was Constantine who first decreed that markets should be held on Sunday, as Cox thus affirms:

Sunday Markets Ordained

“It is a curious and little-known fact that markets were expressly appointed by Constantine to be held on Sunday. This we learn from an inscription on a Slavonian bath rebuilt by him, published in Gruter’s ‘Inscriptiones Antique totius Orbis Romani’ 164,2. It is there recorded of the emperor that, ‘by a pious provision, he appointed markets to be held on Sunday throughout the year,’ His pious object was doubtless to promote the attendance of the country people at churches in towns. ‘Thus,’ says Chas, J. Hare, ‘Constantine was the author of the practise of holding markets on Sunday, which in many parts of Europe prevailed above a thousand years after, though Charlemagne issued a special law (cap. 140) against it.’” 18

In Russia and in other places markets are still held on Sunday.

Military Sunday Law

We next listen to Schaff’s comment on Constantine’s Sunday ordinance for his army:

For the army, however, he went beyond the limits of negative and protective legislation, to which the state ought to confine itself in matters of religion, and enjoined a certain positive observance of Sunday, in requiring the Christian soldiers to attend Christian worship, and the heathen soldiers, in the open field, at a given signal, with eyes and hands raised towards heaven, to recite the following, certainly very indefinite, form of prayer: “Thee alone we acknowledge as God, thee we reverence as king, to thee we call as our helper. To thee we owe our victories, by thee have we obtained the mastery of our enemies. To thee we give thanks for benefits already received, from thee we hope for benefits to come. We all fall at thy feet, and fervently beg that thou wouldest preserve to us our emperor Constantine and his divinely beloved sons in long life healthful and victorious.”19

This is surely a remarkable admission, that Constantine commanded the heathen soldiers to worship the sun-god in the open field at the same time that the Christian soldiers were worshiping Christ as the Sun of Righteousness.

Sunday The Mark Of Friendly Union

In the beginning of our investigation, we found that the Gnostics were those Christians who set aside the Old Testament, and with it the Sabbath of the Decalogue, in order to facilitate the conclusion of a covenant between Christianity and Hellenic culture—the outward sign of this covenant being the mystic eighth day. Now that Gnosticism had become a part of the church, and philosophy ruled both Christianity and paganism, and thus the very union intended was effected, this mystic eighth day must become the manifest legal seal of this union accomplished. That Constantine by issuing this law had such an intent, is stated by Gieseler:

“His first religious sentiments, like those of his father, were essentially the new Platonic. He acknowledged on supreme God who had revealed himself in many ways among men, and honoured Apollo, in particular, as the revealer of this being. As this idea of Apollo and the Christian idea of Christ were obviously similar, so Constantine may have thought that he found in it very soon a point of union between Christianity and heathenism.”

“As Christ was often compared with Sol, or Apollo9, so Constantine believed, perhaps, that in the festival of Dies Solis, as a festival of Christ and the sun at the same time, he found a point of friendly union between both religions, directly opposed though they were to each other.” 20

Dr. Zahn still more definitely witnesses to this:

“Ere Constantine decided to elevate Christianity to the position of the ruling church in the empire, the thought soared before his vision of a monotheistic state religion, of which Christianity should become a part. The introduction of Sunday as a general day of rest, appeared to him the significant and effective expression of this union.” 21

Thus we have valid testimonies that Constantine’s Sunday is the significant and effective seal of the accomplished union between pagan philosophy and fallen Christianity, between state and church, between emperor and Roman bishop. The twofold character of Constantine’s motives, and to what extent he was still governed by pagan superstition, appears from another law issued in A.D. 321, which Neander thus mentions:

“By a law of the same year he declares also the employment of heathen magic, for good ends, as for the prevention or healing of diseases, for the protection of harvests, for the prevention of rain and of hail, to be permitted, and in such expressions, too, as certainly betrays a faith in the efficacy of these pretended supernatural means, unless the whole is to be ascribed simply to the legal forms of paganism.” 22

Constantine’s Sunday law made the day of the sun, as Sozomen intimates, an “authorized holiday” for all subjects. To the pagan it was not only a civil law, but, as Constantine was the supreme pontiff of his religion, also an ecclesiastical law.

First General Council

But only a short time elapsed until the general council of the church passed its first decree concerning the observance of Sunday.

The Easter question, sprung by Victor, bishop of Rome (A.D. 196), was still pending. The Arian controversy was causing great trouble. To settle questions disagreed upon in Christianity, and to form a compact imperial church, Constantine, “in pursuance of divine inspiration,” as he thought, summoned a general council of the bishops at Nice in the spring of A.D. 325. Although he was unbaptized, and in reality no church-member as yet, still not only did he control and maintain the council, but he presided over it as “the bishop of the bishops.” 23 He is also the author of another innovation: to make the decrees of this council unanimous, he had an ancient creed produced, which he, as the “beloved of heaven”, had approved, and whoever refused to sing it became liable to civil penalties. The following form Schaff states the facts in the case:

“The books of Arius were burned and his followers branded as enemies of Christianity. This is the first example of the civil punishment of heresy; and it is the beginning of a long succession of civil persecutions for all departures from the Catholic faith. Before the union of church and state ecclesiastical excommunication was the extreme penalty. Now banishment and afterwards even death were added, because all offences against the church were regarded as at the same time crimes against the state and civil society.” 24

Decrees Viewed As Divine Commands

How the decisions of this and of similar later councils were regarded, is seen from the following:

“The authority of these councils in the decision of all points of controversy was supreme and final. Their doctrinal decisions were early invested with infallibility.” “After the example of the apostolic council, the usual formula for a decree was: Visum est Sprirtui Sancto et nobis (It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.) Constantine the Great, in a circular letter to the churches, styles the decrees of the Nicene council a divine command; Athanasius says, with reference to the doctrine of the divinity of Christ: “What God has spoken by the council of Nice, abides forever.” The council of Chalcedon pronounced the decrees of the Nicene fathers unalterable statutes, since God himself had spoken through them.”

“Pope Gregory the Great even placed the first four councils, ….on a level with the four canonical Gospels. In like manner Justinian puts the dogmas of the first four councils on the same footing with the Holy Scriptures, and their canons by the side of laws of the realm.” 25

The Easter Controversy Settled

At Nicaea three hundred eighteen bishops, the significant number of Barnabas and Clement, are said to have assembled, as well as the emperor and his court. The first important question considered was the Eastern controversy, Stanley thus states it:

“On the one side were the old, historical, apostolically traditions’; on the other side, the new, Christian, Catholic spirit, striving to part company with its ancient Jewish birthplace. The Eastern Church, at least I part, as was natural, took the former, the Western the latter view…The church appeared (this was the expression of the time) ‘to go halting on one leg,’ ‘The sight of some churches fasting on the same day when others were rejoicing, and of two Passovers in one year, was against the very idea of Christian unity,’ ;The celebration of it on the same day as was kept by the wicked race that put the Savior to death was an impious absurdity,’ the first of these reasons determined that uniformity was to be enforced. The second determined that the older, or Jewish, practise must give way to the Christian innovation.” 26

The Ruling Motive For Setting Aside The Sabbath—Hatred Toward Jews

Schaff presents the leading motive in this decision as follows:

The feast of the resurrection was thenceforth required to be celebrated everywhere on a Sunday, and never on the day of the Jewish passover, but always after the fourteenth of Nisan, on the Sunday after the first vernal full moon. The leading motive for this regulation was opposition to Judaism, which had dishonored the passover by the crucifixion of the Lord. “We would,” says the circular letter of Constantine in reference to the council of Nice, “we would have nothing in common with that most hostile people, the Jews; for we have received from the Redeemer another way of honoring God [the order of the days of the week], and harmoniously adopting this method, we would withdraw ourselves from the evil fellowship of the Jews. For what they pompously assert, is really utterly absurd: that we cannot keep this feast at all without their instruction… It is our duty to have nothing in common with the murderers of our Lord.” This bitter tone against Judaism runs through the whole letter. 27

The First Sunday Canon

The twentieth canon of the council records another important decision I favor of Sunday:

“As some kneel on the Lord’s days and on the days of Pentecost, the holy synod has decided that, for the observance of a general rue, all shall offer their prayers to God standing,” 28

Sunday was honoured by the Catholic church as an assembly day, and it was acknowledged by the state as a legal holiday. But there was a disagreement in reference to the attitude of the worshipper,—some prayed kneeling, and some standing, upon that day. This canon decreed that there should be uniformity. By this canon the council set its seal upon the Sunday law passed by the state, Henceforth Sunday was not only the legal holiday of the state, but its observance was acknowledged and regulated by the action of the first general council of the church. To stand while praying is still the universal practise of the Eastern Church, while in the West, kneeling has gradually taken its place.

Hatred toward the Jews, the powerful motive in Gnosticism for setting aside the Old Testament the Decalogue, and the Sabbath, appears in the Catholic state church as the ruling motive in setting aside the Sabbath of the Lord. The Gnostic theory finds a ratified form of expression in the decrees of the council. Both Gnosticism and the council set aside the Sabbath of Jehovah; but, while the former introduced the no-law and the no-day doctrine, the latter sanctions the venerable day of the sun as the weekly festival of the catholic Church under Constantine.

But while the emperor and the council showed such aversion to the Sabbath of the Lord, which was made for man several thousand years before a Jew existed, the inconsistency of their course appears in glaring colors as we read Eusebius’s “Life of Constantine”, and view their general attitude in the light of the facts presented there. This pliant church theologian, basking in the sunshine of imperial favor, compares Constantine to Moses of old.

Eusebius Spiritual Sabbath

Before entering upon a consideration of this comparison, we will have to give some attention to the views of Eusebius about the Sabbath. They need to be studied to be understood. The Sabbath of the Decalogue was to him a “part of the legislation of Moses,” the “Jewish Sabbath,” Of the patriarchs he says, “They did not , therefore, regard circumcision, nor observe the Sabbath, nor do we; neither do we abstain from certain foods, nor regard other injunctions, which Moses subsequently delivered to be observed in types and symbols, because such things as these do not belong to Christians.” 29

In his commentary on Psalm 92, “a song for the Sabbath day,” Eusebius, while stating that the patriarchs had not the legal Jewish Sabbath, yet he claims that “they spent holy Sabbaths which were acceptable to God.” 30 In other words, he makes a clear distinction between the Sabbath of the Decalogue and the spiritual Sabbaths observed by the patriarchs.

Constantine The Second Moses

Yet while Eusebius sets aside the Sabbath of the Lord as a “part of the legislation of Moses,” and as the “Jewish Sabbath,” he uses this very Moses, as well as the types and symbols of the ceremonial law, to establish an analogy between him and Constantine. Constantine as the “New Moses”, grew up at the court of the pagan, antichristian emperors; he, like Moses, was appointed by the Lord to “be prince and sovereign.” He likewise put Maxentius to flight, who, with his host, sank “to the bottom as a stone,” 31

How pleased Constantine himself was to accept the role of the second Moses, is evidenced by the fact that he is the founder of the Catholic theocracy, in imitation of the Mosaic, as is thus attested:

“Constantine, the first Christian Caesar…. was the first representative of the imposing idea of a Christian theocracy, or of that system of policy which assumes all subjects to be Christians, connects civil and religious rights, and regards church and state as the two arms of one and the same divine government on earth. This idea was more fully developed by his successors, it animated the whole middle age.32

He [Constantine] went so far in this imitation of Moses that ’he pitched the tabernacle without the camp,’ ’thus following his ancient prophet,” “He was always honoured with a manifestation of his [God’] presence. And then, as if moved by a divine impulse, he would rush from the tabernacle, and suddenly give orders to his army.” 33

Thus Constantine, who “would have nothing in common with the Jews,” professed to be a second Moses, to dwell in a tabernacle as he did, and to be guided even in warfare by oracles direct from God.

Transference Of Spiritual Sabbath

To complete Constantine’s analogy to Moses, Eusebius needed as “headstone” only to stamp Constantine a divine legislator, who, instead of the Sabbath of the Lord, branded as “Jewish,” legalized a universal, holy, “spiritual” Sabbath for pagan and Christian alike. The incontrovertible proof of this is furnished by Eusebius in his comments on Psalm 92. After stating the precept respecting the Sabbath, as addressed originally to the Jews, and mentioning the fact that they often violated it, he proceeds:

“Wherefore as they [the Jews] rejected it [the Sabbatical command], the Word [Christ], by the new covenant, TRANSLATED and TRANSFERRED the feasts of the Sabbath to the morning light, and gave us the symbol of true rest; viz., the saving Lord’s day, the first [day] of the light, in which the Savior of the world, after all his labours among men, obtained the victory over death, and passed the portals of heaven, having achieved a work superior to the six days’ creation.”

“On this day, which is the first [day] of light and of the true sun, we assemble, after an interval of six days, and celebrate holy and spiritual Sabbaths, even all nations redeemed by him throughout the world, and do those things according to the spiritual law, which were decreed for the priests to do on the Sabbath, for we make spiritual offerings and sacrifices, which are called sacrifices of praise and rejoicing; we make incense of good odour to ascend… Yea, we also present the showbread, reviving the remembrance of our salvation, the blood of sprinkling, which is the Lamb of God… In the morning, also, with the first rising of our light, we proclaim the mercy of God toward us; also his truth by night, exhibiting a sober and chaste demeanor; and al things whatsoever that it was duty to do on the Sabbath, THESE WE HAVE TRANSFERRED TO THE LORD’s DAY, as more appropriately belonging to it, because it has a precedence and is first in rank, and more honourable than the Jewish Sabbath. For on that day, in making the world, God said, Let there be light, and there was light; and on the same day, the Sun of Righteousness arose upon our souls, Wherefore it is delivered to us [handed down by tradition] that we should meet together on this day; and it is ordered that we should do those things announced in this psalm.” 34

At this very juncture, when the first Sunday law—pagan-Catholic, civil-religious—is promulgated, there appears also for the first time the doctrine of the translation and of the transference of the “feast of the Sabbath to the morning light,” It is not the transference of the Sabbath based on the fourth commandment, for both the Sabbath and the Decalogue are “Jewish” in his mind; but it is the translation of the spiritual Sabbath already observed by the patriarchs, to the “day of light and of the true sun,” to be kept “according to the spiritual law,” which is the essence of the Levitical law, as set forth in the ninety-second psalm. While, in the first part of his comment, this transference is ascribed to the Word, that is, to Christ, he in the latter part ascribes it to the proper person by saying “we, Wherefore as the wicked Jews have rejected the Sabbath commandment, we that is, the Catholic bishops, with the help of Constantine’s Sunday law, have transferred the spiritual duties of the Sabbath day to the day of the sun, and made it “more honourable” than the Sabbath of the Lord, in strange contrast to Isa. 58: 13.

The New Spiritual Law Of Eusebius

Though the title of the ninety-second psalm most evidently applies to the Sabbath of the fourth commandment, given to Israel, yet Eusebius assumes that it does not so much respect the Jewish Sabbath; for “it signifies the Lord’s day and the resurrection day, as we have proved in other places,” These other places are Ps. 22:29;46:5; 59:16. The first of these scriptures he applies to the celebration of the Lord’s supper every Sunday. On Ps. 46:5 he comments; “I think that the psalmist descries the morning assemblies in which we are accustomed to convene throughout the world.” Concerning Ps. 59:16 he declares: “By this is prophetically signified the service which is performed very early and every morning of the resurrection day throughout the whole world,” 35

While any one reading the book of Psalms will certainly find neither prophecy nor allusion in it to any weekly assembly at sunrise on the day of the sun in honor of the resurrection, he will find, on the other hand, in this effort of Eusebius a labored attempt to manufacture for this pagan day of the sun some fanciful theory from the Scripture, but which this new legal holiday would seem “venerable” to the Catholic as well as the pagan. It is well to remember that Eusebius is the man who put the words Lord’s day in the mouth of Irenaeus.

Carnal Nature Of Law

Gnosticism, out of hatred to the Jews, set aside the whole of the Old Testament, and brought forward the no-day and no-law theory. The church in Constantine’s day, blinded by the same hatred, modifies this by a theory of a spiritual Sabbath according to a spiritual law, but at the same time enjoins this so-called “holy and spiritual Sabbath: as the venerable day of the sun by carnal, civil, and ecclesiastical laws. And these “spiritual laws” are yet so carnal that they may be fulfilled by pagan soldiers directing a prescribed prayer to the sun-god; that markets may be held on the day thus ordained and that the country people may follow their accustomed agricultural pursuits.

Catholic Church Estabishes New Theocracy

Step by step we have traced the establishment of a new theocracy under Constantine in imitation of the Mosaic, and we have found in the setting apart of Sunday the final seal of this unbiblical union between church and state. To appreciate fully the inconsistency of the course pursued by the Catholic Church when it cast aside the perpetual Sabbath of Jehovah as “Jewish,” we must understand its attitude toward the Mosaic theocracy.

In his wisdom, God established for Israel, when they were coming up out of Egyptian bondage, a visible theocracy, as they were slow of faith in comprehending things unseen. This visible theocracy had a typical mediatorial service, performed in the tabernacle or temple by the Levitical priesthood, the head of which was the high priest, who offered up continual sacrifice. Moses, the prophets, and later, the kings were the visible leaders of this theocracy, the true head being God himself. All this was but a type and shadow, and as such, was to cease when Christ, the substance, had become the true Lamb of God and ascended on high, to officiate as the true high priest after the order of Melchisedec (and no longer of Levi_ in the heavenly sanctuary, there to atone, through the merits of an ever-valid sacrifice, made once for all.

Establishment Of Levitical Preisthood In Catholic Church

Any human effort to establish again such an outward mediatorial service on earth, is a denial of the true service of Christ on high, a “recasting of the Christian spirit in the Old Testament form,” a return indeed to Judaism and to type truly Jewish; for these services have lost not only their typical significance, but their very performance is a denial of the appearance of the Messiah.

However, how early this effort appeared, is seen from the epistle of Clement of Rome, when the Christian ministry is significantly compared to Aaronic priesthood. By the close of the second century all the bishops and presbyters were called priests, the bishop sometimes being styled high priest. Cyprian becomes the champion of priestly office. Eusebius bases his spiritual Sabbath on the Levitical law, and uses the Mosaic theocracy as the pattern for the theocracy of Constantine, which finally results in the Papacy, where the hierarchical and priestly system attains its full development.

The church buildings also began to show the Mosaic type, contain an outer court, the holy, and the most holy places. 36 Furthermore, the Lord’s supper was gradually changed into an atoning sacrifice, offered continually by an earthly priest in the mass, and claiming mediatorial virtue for both the living and the dead. The pleasing motive for this tendency is thus stated to us by Neander:

“While the great principle of the New Testament is the unfolding of the kingdom of God from within…the readmission of the Old Testament position, I making the kingdom of God outward, went on the assumption that an outward mediation was necessary in order for the spread of this kingdom in the world . Such a mediation was to form for the Christian church a priesthood fashioned after the model of that of the Old Testament.” 37

And how far this theocratical theory had developed in the days of Constantine, the historian thus sets before us:

“There had in fact arisen in the church…a false, theocratical theory, originating, not in the essence of the gospel, but in the confusion of the religious constitutions of the Old and New Testaments, which, grounding itself on the idea of a visible priesthood belonging to the essence of the church and governing the church, brought along with it an unchristian opposition of the spiritual to the secular power, and which might easily result in the formation of a sacerdotal state, subordinating the secular to itself in a false and outward way…This theocratical theory was already the prevailing one in the time of Constantine.38

The Catholic Church, again establishing a visible priesthood, tabernacles made by hand, and a mediatorial service fashioned after the levitical, paved the way for the setting up of a complete, man-made theocracy. On the other hand, the paganism of Rome was none the less prepared for such a theocracy, as church and state were combined in it, and the emperor was ever the pontifex maximus. The golden moment to perfect such a theocracy had arrived when Constantine professed Christianity.

That Constantine aimed fully to establish a theocracy in Christianity similar to the Mosaic, is thus attested by Eusebius:

“Lastly, invested as he is with a semblance of heavenly sovereignty, he directs his gaze above, and frames his earthly government to the pattern of that divine original, feeling strength in its conformity to the monarchy of God.” 39

And how carnal the perception of the kingdom of god had already become, is well illustrated by the fact that, when the bishops were seated as honoured guest around the sumptuous banquet table with the emperor, Eusebius wrote: “One might have thought that a picture of Christ’s kingdom was thus shadowed forth,” 40

Further, when Constantine appointed his sons and nephews as Caesars, this was said to be a fulfilment of Dan. 7:18: “The saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom.”

Constantine’s Crimes

However, Schaff thus shows how far Constantine was from the kingdom, even after he had presided at the council of Nicaea:

“The very brightest period of his reign is stained with gross crimes, which even the spirit of the age and the policy of an absolute monarch cannot excuse. After having reached, upon the bloody path of war, the goal of his ambition, the sole possession of the empire, yea, in the very year in which he summoned the great council of Nicaea, he ordered the execution of his conquered rival and brother-in-law, Licinius, in breach of a solemn promise of mercy (324). Not satisfied with this, he caused soon afterwards, from political suspicion, the death of the young Licinius, his nephew, a boy of hardly eleven years. But the worst of all is the murder of his eldest son, Crispus, in (326), who had incurred suspicion of political conspiracy, and of adulterous and incestuous purposes towards his step-mother Fausta, but is generally regarded as innocent.

…At all events Christianity did not produce in Constantine a thorough moral transformation.” 41

Duplicity Of Contsantine Continue Till His Death

The duplicity of Constantine’s religious views continued until his death. He retained his office as the supreme pontiff of paganism, In A.D. 330, when he laid the foundation to a new capital, which was named Constantinople, in his honor, the city was dedicated by heathen ceremonies in honor of the goddess of Fortune. He also had a marble statue erected in the forum, which is thus referred to by Stanley: It was “in the image of his ancient patron deity Apollo; but the glory of the sunbeams was composed of the emblems of the crucifixion, and underneath its feet were buried, in strange juxtaposition, a fragment of the ‘true cross’ and the ancient Palladium of Rome. On one side his coins bore the letters of the name of Christ; on the other, the figure of the sun-god and the inscription, ‘Sol invictus 42

Milman fitly asks: “Is this paganism approximating to Christianity, or Christianity degenerating into paganism? 43

That this duplicity of Constantine continued until his death is thus testified by his own words, as quoted by Schaff:

When at last on his deathbed he submitted to baptism, with the remark, ‘Now let us cast away all duplicity‘ he honestly admitted the conflict of two antagonistic principles which swayed his private character and public life.44

Stanley thus fittingly reviews his course:

“So passed away the first Christian emperor, the first defender of the faith—the first imperial patron of the Papal see, and of the whole Eastern Church—the first founder of the holy paces,—pagan and Christian, orthodox and heretical, liberal and fanatical, not to be imitated or admired, but much to be remembered, and deeply to be studied.” 45

As “significant and effective expression of the union” between paganism and Christianity, and as the fitting seal of the false theocracy, we have, in lasting memory of Constantine’s duplicity, the first imperial law and the first canon of a general council in favor of the venerable day of the sun as “the spiritual Sabbath” of the new covenant.

Chapter 18: The Legal Lord’s Days


Sunday the Universal, Legal Weekly Holiday
Canons of the council of Laodicea
Sunday Fasting Anathematized
Civil Legislation—Laws of Valentinian, Valaens, Theodosius (Sen.)
Councils troublesome occasions
Agitation for the Change of the Heathen Name
Church Attendance and Communion Service Enforced on Sunday
Attendance at Shows Forbidden
Macarius, Hilary, Epiphanius, Basil and Gregory of Nyassa
Ambrose and Nazianzen
Apostolic Constitutions
Paganized Christian Worship
Wilberforce on Sunday Evolution
Court sessions of the “Rightly” Called Lord’s Day Sacrilegious

Sunday The Universal, Legal, Weekly Holiday

By the almost simultaneous enactments of state and church, Sunday, hitherto voluntarily observed in honor of the rising sun and as a memorial of the resurrection, was transformed into a weekly legal holiday, and a binding religious ordinance, in which the rests of pagan and Catholic were made to synchronize. In the eyes of the pagan the day of the sun, in its weekly recurrence, was henceforth venerable unto him by his highest civil and ecclesiastical authority. In the eyes of the Catholic it was the weekly holiday enjoined by the imperial law, and sanctioned by an ordinance of the general council. Thus the highest civil and ecclesiastical authorities enforced Sunday as the universal legal weekly holiday for all the subjects of the vast empire. But these legal holidays were only regarded as rest days from the common vocations of life in so far as the enacted laws demanded.

Influenced by Gnostic theology, which had spiritualized the law and the Sabbath into a no-law and no-day theory, the church Fathers had hitherto “usually explained the Sabbath of the commandment as meaning the new era, which had been introduced by the advent of Christ, and interpreted the rest enjoined as cessation from sin.”1

Accordingly, the members of their flock, after having attended the early morning assembly, would follow their occupation. Constantine’s Sunday laws only paved the way for services during the day, and yet he ordained markets, let the country people work, and put no restraint on the pursuit of pleasure. Furthermore, as the church Fathers had spiritualized the “rest” into ceasing from sin, the Catholic could be urged to rest on Sunday only to that degree prescribed by the civil and ecclesiastical laws.

As to the manner in which the pagans spent their holidays, we had occasion to note the complaints of Tertullian as to the excesses committed by them on their feast-days, and how the Christians were influenced by them to join them in their pleasures. With the declining empire, and the increasing apostasy of the church, the succeeding church Fathers were caused to lament this pleasure-seeking tendency more and more. As there was no divine command advanced demanding rest, the only seeming remedy was to be sought in the increase of state and church Sunday legislation.

Again, asceticism had steadily increased, and with it, fasting had become a standing custom with some. This was especially true of sects of Gnostic tendency, such as the Cerdonians, Marcionites, Priscillianists, Manicheans, etc. As Sunday had become a church ordinance of a joyous nature, upon which fasting was forbidden, this tendency to observe no day, and to fast upon any day, had to be restrained by church councils pronouncing anathemas against Sunday fasting.

Further, since the day of the sun was the heathen designation of the first day of the week, used also by the pagan state in its civil laws, there would naturally accompany the increasing sanctity of the day and the change into a “Christian” empire, an agitation in favor of conferring some legal Christian title upon it.

Finally, the believers I the binding claims of the true Sabbath would, constrained by God’s law and Sprit, continue to rest upon it according to the commandment, unless they were restrained from doing so by civil and ecclesiastical laws of human origin. The matter relating to the Sabbath, we shall set forth in the next chapter, and ample evidence will be forthcoming establishing what we have just asserted about Sunday.

That the sanctification of Sunday was not commanded by the church before the fourth century, is thus attested by a standard Catholic Church lexicon: “The sanctification of Sunday appears as a commandment of the church in the beginning of the fourth century.” 2

Canons Of The Council Of Laodicea

The first general council legislating on Sunday was that of Nicaea, held only four years after the enactment of the first Sunday law. The next authentic council is that of Laodicea, held between 343 and 381 A.D. The following canons of this council touch both Sabbath and Sunday:

The following comment of Hefele is helpful to a full understanding of canon 16: “It was also the custom in many provinces of the ancient church to observe Saturday as the feast of creation,” 4

A careful reading of the four canons reveals that stress is laid upon “especially” honouring Sunday (canon 29), and, “as being Christians,” they “shall, if possible, do no work on that day.” An anathema is placed upon him who strictly rests on the Sabbath—he is to be excommunicated. On the other hand, to make the transition somewhat easier to those who feared this excommunication, Saturday is to enjoy the same privileges as Sunday, even during Lent, bread can be offered upon it, and the memorial services of the saints may be held. Yea, being as yet observed by many as the “feast of creation,” the Holy Scriptures are still to be read upon it. The Sabbath is tolerated as a holy day on an equal footing with Sunday, but it dare not be kept as a rest day.. Thus Sunday is elevated, and the Sabbath degraded. This furnishes another positive proof that Sunday was not regarded as the Sabbath.

Dr. Heurtley, in commenting on the words ‘if possible,’ observes that probably the early Christians were not masters of their own time,” 5 This tells the whole tale: a holy day in memory of the resurrection worked no hardship, since imperial law had sanctioned it as such, and it was popular even among the pagans; but a rest day at that time would have worked hardship, since the civil law had not as yet made provision for it.

This same council forbade participation in the festivities of the Jews and the pagans.

Sunday Fasting Anathematized

About this time the council of Gangra was held. It pronounced the anathema of the church against those who, on account of their pretended asceticism, made Sunday a day of fasting (for they were not Catholics at all, but savoured of the Manichean heresy), as well as against those who despised the house of God, and frequented schismatically assemblies. 6

The great effort the Catholic Church had to put forth to stop fasting on Sunday is best seen from Bingham’s long list of councils, church Fathers, and popes who condemned the practise, beginning with Tertullian (A.D. 200) and extending down to the Trullan council in A.D. 692. 7

The reason for not fasting appears form the Constitutions:

“Every Sabbath save one, viz., the great Sabbath before Easter, and every Lord’s day, you shall keep as a festival. For whoever fasts on the Lord’s day (the day of his resurrection), or whoever makes Pentecost or the Lord’s day a day of sorrow, is guilty of sin; for upon those days we ought to rejoice, and not to mourn.” 8

Cassian (360-435) gives the same reason for this, and adds that “our forefathers, out of respect to the resurrection of the Lord, have handed down the custom not to fast or to bend the knee on the Lord’s day.” 9

A few more samples of the work of these councils wills suffice. The fourth council of Carthage (A.D. 398) declares in canon 64: “He who fasts on Sunday is not accounted a catholic.” And in canon 65: “Easter must be celebrated everywhere at the same time.” 10

The council of Braga (about 411 A.D.) canon 4, “anathematizes the Cerdonians, Marcionites, Priscillianists, and Manicheans for their perverseness in this particular.” 11 To these, the Eustathians are to be added.

While the Catholic Church spared no effort to anathematize those who, true to their spiritualising Gnostic idea, esteemed no day in particular, and refused to honor the Catholic memorial of the resurrection by not fasting, yet, as we shall see in the next chapter this same Catholic Church turned about and degraded the Sabbath by converting it into a fast-day—a day of mourning—instead of joy in the Lord. It was then and there that the Trullan council (A.D. 692, in Canon 55 or 56) reminded the Roman Church that it should revive that ancient canon which says: “If any clergy man be found to fast on the Lord’s day or on the Sabbath, one only excepted, let him be deposed; if a layman, let him be excommunicated,: 12

Civil Legislation—Laws Of Valentinian Valaens, Theodosius (Sen.)

The civil laws, however, furnish the true keynote to the changed tone in Sunday legislation. Over forty years elapse before emperors Valentinian and Valens issue the following law. (A.D. 368):

“On the day of the sun, which for some time has been considered as a good omen, we do not wish any Christian to be summoned by the exactors; this our statute forbids, under penalty of law, to those who dare to do it.” 13

In A.D. 386 these two laws were issued by Gratian, Valentinian, and Theodosius, Sen,:

“On the day of the sun, let none of the judges permit public shows to the people, and let him not confound the divine veneration by arranging entertainments.” 14

“On the day of the sun, which our forefathers rightly called the Lord’s day, let all prosecutions of causes, controversial business, and disputes be wholly laid aside: let no one demand either a public or a private debt: let there be no hearing of causes either before arbitrators appointed y law, or voluntarily chosen, And let him be accounted not only infamous, but sacrilegious also, whosoever departs from the rule and custom of our holy religion.” 15

In A.D. 389 another law, given by Valentinian, Theodosius, and Arcadius, confirmed all this, but its prohibition reckons as judicial holidays, exempt from business, four weeks of harvesting and four weeks of vintage, the calends of January, and the days on which Rome and Constantinople were founded; then the seven days before and after Easter, the weekly recurring day of the sun, the feast of the Nativity and of Epiphany, and the birthday of the emperor, and the anniversary of the beginning of the empire—in all, there were one hundred twenty-four judicial holidays. 16

These three laws serve as an excellent comment on the gradual change in Sunday legislation. They become more stringent, and the transgressor is already “accounted not only infamous, but sacrilegious also,” departing “from the rule and custom of our holy religion.”

Councils Troublesome Occasions

Theodosius (380-395) labored for the supremacy of the Catholic religion. He issued a series of laws against all heretics, and prohibited the visiting of heathen temples, under heavy fines. 17

It was at this time that Gregory Nazianzen, then bishop of Constantinople, resigned (A.D. 381) the presidency of the council held there, saying: “Must we always be only derided as infallible, and be animated only by one thing—the spirit of strife? 18 “I never saw a council of bishops come to a good end,” “I salute them afar off, since I know how troublesome they are.” “I nevermore will sit in those assemblies of cranes and geese.” 19

Agitation For The Change Of The Heathen Name

Until A.D. 386 all the legal documents used the heathen designation “day of the sun”. Now that paganism has become the forbidden religion, and Catholicism has been established by the state, we find the adage, “which our fathers rightly called the Lord’s day.” Philastrius of Brescia, at the end of the fourth century, censures the heathen names of the week-days as heretical. 20

By the middle of the fifth century, Bishop Maximus, of Turin, writes: “The Lord’s day, called the day of the sun by the people of the world.” 21 In consequence of this agitation, the Romanic races, where the Latin Church was predominant, adopted for Sunday the term Dominicum, which is Domienica in the Italian, Domingo in the Spanish and Portuguese, and Dimanche in the French; while the Teutonic races have retained the ancient name, Sunday, Sonntag, etc; and in the Slavonic, it is called Voskresinje, “resurrection day,”

By the end of the fourth century, church and state combined had succeeded in elevating Sunday to the only legal weekly holiday, and placing it on a level with the annual holidays, such as Easter, Pentecost, etc. But human laws can not create a divine sanctity.

Church Attendance And Communion Service Enforced On Sunday

The Apostolic Canons threaten excommunication to any one celebrating Easter with the Jews, or attending divine service without partaking of the Lord’s supper; the synods of Antioch (A.D. 341), Toledo (A.D. 400), and the fourth synod of Carthage (A.D. 436) do the same, while, in canon 24, the last mentioned synod adds, :Whoever leaves the church during the sermon of the priest, shall be excommunicated.”

In A.D. the council of Sardica directly specifies that if any one neglects divine service for three Lord’s days in succession, he is to be excommunicated. 22

Schaff’s comments are to the point:

“Many a council here confounded the legal and the evangelical principles, thinking themselves able to enforce by threatening penalties what has moral value only as a voluntary act.” 23

Attendence At Shows And Heathen Amusements Forbidden

We have found that Tertullian already complained that the Christians would attend the heathen amusements. This had increased to such and extent by the fourth century that Chrysostom (347-395) threatened excommunication to those who would attend public games, which he styles “the conventions of Satan” 24

The fourth council of Carthage (canon 88) decreed:

“He who neglects divine service on the festivals, and goes instead to the theater, shall be excommunicated.” 25

The fifth Carthaginian council (A.D. 401) decreed (canon 5): “On Sundays and feast-days, no plays maybe performed,” 26

And because “the people congregate to the circus rather than to the church,” the same council petitioned Emperor Honorius “that the public shows might be transferred from the Christian Sunday and from feast-days to some other days of the week,” 27

However, Honorius did not grant this petition, but he did issue (A.D. 409) a very humanitarian Sunday law, which ordained that the judges, under the penalty of a heavy fine for disobedience, should visit the prisons to see whether the jailers had denied the prisoners any office of humanity, and to give the jailer sufficient means to provide food for the poor. The inmates of the prison should enjoy the privilege of a bath or a wash outside the prison, on Sunday. The bishops were to remind the judges of their duty. 28

But the request of the fifth council of Carthage was granted by the successor of Honorius, in the law passed by Theodosius, Jun., and Valentinian, A.D. 425:

“On the Lord’s day (which is the first day of the whole seven), also on the feast of the Nativity, the Epiphany of Christ, and the days of Pentecost, let the people throughout all the towns be refused all the pleasure of the theaters and of the circus, and let all the minds of the Christian believers be occupied with the worship of God. And if some, through inconsiderateness of Jewish impiety or through the error of stolid paganism, are captivated by senseless entertainments, let them know that there is a time for prayer and a time for pleasure.” 29

The following comment from Neander is significant:

“First, in the year 425, the exhibition of spectacles on Sunday, and on the principal feast-days of the Christians, was forbidden, in order that the devotion of the faithful might be free from all disturbance. In this way, the church received help from the state for the furtherance of her ends, which could not be obtained in the preceding period. But had it not been for that confusion of spiritual and secular interests, had it not been for the vast number of mere outward conversions thus brought about, she would have needed no such help. The spirit of church fellowship could effect more in those ancient times than all which the outward force of political law and a stricter church discipline could now do, towards restraining or expelling such a had never been brought to feel the inward power of that spirit; and the church of those times could well dispense, therefore, with the outward support.” 30

As a fitting conclusion to this part of the subject, we quote the law of emperor Leo, A.D.469:

“We do not wish that the festival days dedicated to the highest Majesty, be occupied with pleasure, nor profaned by any vexations caused by judicial exactions. Likewise do we decree that the Lord’s day be ever revered as so honourable that it should be exempted from all compulsory processes: let no summon urge any man; let no one be required to give security for the payment of a fund held by him in trust; let the sergeants of the court be silent; let the pleader cease his labours; let that day be a stranger to trials; let the harsh voice of the crier be unheard; let the litigants have breathing time and an interval of truce; let the rival disputants have an opportunity of meeting without fear—of comparing the arrangement made in their name, and arranging the terms of compromise.

“However, that the rest of this religious day be not relaxed, we suffer not that it be filled with obscene pleasures. Let nothing vindicated stage plays on that day, or games of the circus, or the lamentable hunting down of wild beasts. And if it happens that nay of our birthdays fall upon Sunday, let it be changed. The loss of military rank and the forfeiting of patrimony are the penalties if any one attends these games on this feast-day, or if any officer of the judicial court, under the pretense of public or private business, dares to despise these enactments.” 31

The following from a church historian on all the post-Constantine Sunday laws is to the point:

“Hereafter, this outward rest from all occupation on the said day was ever confirmed by emperors and other Christian princes, and it has continued until our day—partially with increased rigor, and partially amidst many abuses—without having anywhere attained its main object, except with a few Christians.” 32

Church Fathers

After having so fully discussed the imperial laws and the ecclesiastical canons of the fourth and fifth centuries in favor of Sunday, the statements of the church Fathers of that period remain to be considered. Following the spiritualising method of the early Fathers, the later ones spare no effort in manufacturing new, fanciful rhetorical phrases to surround Sunday with greater luster, and to cause the Sabbath to fade out of sight.

Athanasius Of Alexandria

Athanasius, of Alexandria (A.D. 326), gives us a fair sample. The sixth psalm is said to be upon the Sheminith (the eighth), an instrument for the eighth key. This is seized upon by Athanasius as a proof for Sunday: “What else could this octave be, but the resurrection day of Christ?” Then again, speaking of Ps. 118:24: “This is the day which the Lord has made“. “What day can this be but the resurrection day of the Lord. ..which has received its name from him, to wit, the Lord’s day? 33

A treatise ascribed to him says that the Sabbath, the end of the old creation, has deceased, and that the Lord’s day, the commencement of the new creation, has set in. “The Sabbath” instead of being instituted for the sake of mere inactivity, “is the gnosis of the Creator and rest from the form of this creation,” ie, rest from sin. 34

A passage from another work attributed to him is sometimes quoted: “The Lord has transferred the day of the Sabbath to the Lord’s day,”

Hessey remarks:

“Even admitting, which we can not, the treatise to be genuine, the words need mean, when taken with the context, no more than this: “The Sabbath… is no more. The truth, and the Lord of truth, have been manifested, and are commemorated in the lord’s day.’” 35

Cox says that “undue importance” has often been attributed to this statement, which means to say only that Christ, by rising on the first day of the week, gave occasion to such a transfer being made later.

“The early Fathers give no support, direct or indirect, to the notion that the Sabbath had been transferred at all; but it is not surprising that those who wrote after the enactment by Constantine that Sunday should be kept as a Sabbath were more apt to discover reasons for such and observance of it than their predecessors had been while the imperila edict had no existence.” 36

Macarius, Hilary, Epiphanius, Basil, And, Gregory Of Nyssa

MACARIUS, AN Egyptian presbyter, A.D. 350, spiritualizes the Sabbath almost in the words of Justin Martyr: “It was a type and shadow of the true Sabbath given by the Lord to the soul,” “The Lord, when he came, gave man the true and eternal Sabbath, and this is freedom form sin,” “they who rest from sin, keep a true, delightsome, and holy Sabbath.” 37

HILARY, of Poitiers (A.D. 350) commenting on Psalm 92, makes the whole of this life a preparation for the eternal Sabbath of the next, just as Friday was the preparartion day for the Sabbath. In his preface to the Psalms he remarks: “As there is constituted in the seventh day both the name and the observance of the Sabbath, yet we rejoice in the festivity of a perfect Sabbath on the eighth day, which is also the first..” 38

EPIPHANIUS, of Cyprus, I A.D. 368, claims that the apostles instituted Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday as festivals. The Sabbath he terms the “one in the law, the small Sabbath,” in contrast with the “great Sabbath,” which is Christ himself. The Sabbath was allegorical of rest form sin. 39

BASIL, of Caesarea, in Cappadocia (A.D. 370), also claims to find Sunday, that is, the first day, yet mentioned as the eighth day, in the titles of the Psalms. The Lord’s day sets forth the condition of things after this life is ended, “the day never to cease.” “The church prays on it standing,” and also “toward the east, in recollection of Eden, as a very ancient tradition.” As he dwells considerably “on the unwritten mysteries of the church,” this very likely is one of them. 40

GREGORY of Nyssa (A.D. 372), caps the climax in allegorical phrases, when, in his first Easter sermon, he thus speaks of the resurrection day and the Sabbath preceding it:

“Behold in this the blessed Sabbath of the first creation! Recognize in that Sabbath this Sabbath. Upon this the only begotten God rested indeed, when he in the gospel plan of death observed the Sabbath after the flesh, and when returning to what he was before, he raised with him everything that was lying down, and became to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, life, resurrection, dawn, and day.” “This is the day which God mad; it differs from the days which God made at the creation to measure time. It marks the beginning of a new creation. Then on this day God created a new heaven and a new earth—the firmament of faith in Christ, and the good soil of the heart.” “Sabbath-keeping implies inactivity with reference to evil. 41

Ambrose And Nazianzen

AMBROSE, of Milan (A.D. 374) in his funeral oration in honor of Theodosius, makes death “the great Sabbath rest, in which the saints are lifted above earthly feeling and knowing, and wholly absorbed in the knowledge of the heavenly secrets, belonging only to God. This is the rest of that Sabbath, where God really rests from all works of the world,” He frequently speaks of Sunday as a festival—those who fast upon it are heretical, as the Manichean. In contrasting the Lord’s day with the Sabbath, he gives the prerogative to the former. 42

GREGORY NAZIANZEN (A.D. 372) “has a curious discussion on the qualities of the number seven,” as revealed in oration 41, “On Pentecost,” in Select Library 7, 378:

“Let us reason a little about the festival, that we may keep it spiritually. Thus the veneration paid ot the number seven gave use also to the veneration of Pentecost. For seven being multiplied by seven generates fifty all but one day, which we borrow from the world to come, at once the eighth and the first, or rather one and indestructible. For the present sabbatism of our souls can find its cessation there, that a portion may be given to seven and also to eight.”


JEROME (A.D. 3920 wants to have the law understood spiritually. We are not to be of the six days, ie, we are not to be men of this world. We are to keep the Sabbath in its true sense by abstaining from sin. 43

On Galatians 4, he remarks:

“Lest the congregations of the people without good order should diminish the faith in Christ, therefore certain days were appointed, wherein we should come together: not that this day is holier than the others in which we come together, but that whatsoever day we assemble in, there might arise greater joy by the sight of one of us to another.” 44

That he thus regarded Sunday himself, appears from the way he describes his Sunday recreations, when he, as a youth, penetrated the catacombs. 45 And that Sunday was thus regarded even by pious Catholics of his time, is seen from his statement about the abbess Paula:

“Only on the Lord’s day they went to church, lying near their dwelling. Every company followed their own matron, and, returning in like manner, they zealously continued the work apportioned to them, and made clothes either for themselves or for others.” 46


AUGUSTINE (A.D. 395) wrote a mine of information in his numerous writings as to the current theology of the age, including the law, the Sabbath, and Sunday. We select but a few of the most striking passages on these topics.

Concerning the Sabbath Commandment:

“Therefore, among all the ten commandments this only that is spoken of the Sabbath is to be observed figuratively. It devolves upon us to understand the figure, but not to accustom ourselves to bodily idleness. For the Sabbath signifies spiritual rest. But we must observe all the other commandments literally, as they are commanded, without any figure of speech…The observance of the Sabbath is no commanded to us in a literal sense as abstinence from bodily labour, as the Jews understand it; and the very manner in which they observe the commandment according to the letter would be ridiculous, if it did signify another rest—the spiritual.” 47

Concerning Sunday:

“That day which we now call Sunday is the first day of the week, as is clearly seen from the Gospels. The first day of the week is thus named as the day of the resurrection of the Lord, by all the four evangelists, and it is known that this is the day which was later called the Lord’s day. 48

“Sunday was not appointed for the Jews, but through the resurrection of the Lord, for Christians, and thence it began to have its festivity,” “The power of the resurrection symbolizes the eighth day, which is the same as the first because it does not do away with the rest, but glorifies it. While this spiritual signification was not as yet revealed—but was veiled—there was the Sabbath observance, the significance of which was foreseen by the Fathers who were filled with the spirit of prophecy: one psalm is entitled, ‘For the Octave’. Children are circumcised on the eighth day. And in Eccl. 11:2 the old and new covenants are distinguished in the words “Give a portion to seven, and also to eight.” 49

“We celebrate the Lord’s day and Easter, and other Christian festivities; but because we know to what they appertain, we observe not the times, but what is signified by the times,” “The difference of the two covenants we judge: in one are the burdens of slaves; in the other the glory of the free.” 50

On the rule of Faith, Augustine writes:

“All such things that are not founded in the Scriptures, nor ordained in the council of the bishops, nor have attained force from the custom of the whole church, … Can, according to my opinion, be set aside without question, as far as ever possible,” 51

On Sunday Fasting, Augustine writes:

“To fast on the Lord’s day is a great scandal, especially since resembling that detestable heresy, Manicheanism, which is decidedly opposed to the Catholic faith and the divine Scriptures.” “Its professors have in a way appointed it to their disciples as the regular day for fasting, and this fact makes it the more horrible to fast on that day,” 52

On the Eternal Sabbath, Augustine writes:

“But in that Sabbath, in which it is said that God rested from all His works, in the Rest of God our rest was signified; because the Sabbath of this world shall be, when the six ages shall have passed away. The six days as it were of the world are passing away. One day hath passed away, from Adam unto Noe; another from the deluge unto Abraham; the third from Abraham unto David; the fourth from David unto the carrying away into Babylon; the fifth from the carrying away into Babylon unto the advent of our Lord Jesus Christ. Now the sixth day is in passing. We are in the sixth age, in the sixth day. Let us then be reformed after the image of God, because that on the sixth day man was made after the image of God. What formation did then, let reformation of the inner man now effect in us, and what creation did there, let the second creation restore in us. After this day in which we now are, after this age, the rest which is promised to the saints and prefigured by the rest of God, shall come.” 53

A passage taken from a treatise entitled De Tempore, which is attributed to Augustine, and is often quoted in favor of the transference of the day, is now “universally admitted by scholars to be of doubtful, and probably of later authorship.” Dr. Pusey justly remarks that it is “later than the eighth century, since it incorporates a passage of Alcuin,” 54 Dr. Th. Zahn verifies this by saying that chapter 27 of the pseudo-Alcuin book De Divinis Officiis (Migne, ser. 2, tom, 101, p. 1226 sq.) seems to be quoted here word for word. 55 However, we shall quote it in substance, as then the forgery appears all the more glaring:

It appears from the Sacred Scriptures that this day was a solemn one; it was the first day of the age, that is, of the existence of our world; in it the elements of the world were formed; on it the angels were created; on it Christ rose also from the dead; on it the Holy Spirit descended from heaven upon the apostles, as manna had done in the wilderness. For these and other such circumstances the Lord’s day is distinguished; and therefore the holy doctors of the church have decreed that lal the glory of the Jewish Sabbath is transferred to it. Let us therefore keep the Lord’s day as the ancients were commanded to do the Sabbath.”

Further, he admonishes them:

“From the evening of the Sabbath to that of the Lord’s day they should abstain from their usual pursuits,—that they should not spend the day in hunting, that they should not engage even in rural occupations—but that they should attend the public worship of God,” 56

Such a supposed transference of the Sabbath to Sunday, and such requirements concerning its observance, do not fit Augustine’s time nay better than a law ascribed by a number of writers to Emperor Leo (A.D. 469): “that all, husbandmen as well as others, should forbear work on this day of our restoration,” Both of these breathe the spirit of the Middle Ages, and just as Cox and Hessey rightly assign this law to Emperor Leo the Philosopher (A.D. 910), so this passage from De Tempore belongs to pseudo Alcuin of the same period. 57

How anxiously Augustine sought for supposed reasons to make Sunday honourable, is seen from the fact that he supplied a number of new reasons, “very questionable” indeed: On the first day of the week, Israel was delivered from Egypt. On it Christ was born, circumcised, worshiped by the Gentiles, baptized, performed his first miracle, and manifested his glory; and on that day “we look for his appearance again when he shall come to judgement.” 58

But how little he satisfies Sunday Sabbatarians is indicated by the following words of Schaff: “Augustine likewise directly derives Sunday from the resurrection, and not from the fourth commandment”. 59

Chrysostrom And Theophilus

CHRYSOSTOM, of Constantinople, A.D. 398, completes the list.

Concerning the Sabbath Commandment:

“When God formed man, he implanted within him from the beginning a natural law. And what then was this natural law? He gave utterance to conscience within us, and made the knowledge of good things, and of those which are the contrary, to be self-taught.” “For what purpose, then, I ask, did he add a reason respecting the Sabbath, but did no such thing in regard to murder?—Because this commandment was not one of the leading ones. It was not one of those which were accurately defined of our conscience, but a kind of partial and temporary one; and for this reason it was abolished afterwards.” 60

“The Jews think that the Sabbath was given them for ease and rest: its true purpose, however, is not the, but that they may withdraw themselves from worldly affairs, and bestow all their study and labour upon spiritual things.” 61

The Sabbath is a Type of the Lord’s day, writes Chrysostrom

“Now already from the beginning God offered us instruction typically, teaching us to dedicate and separate the one day in the circle of the week wholly to employment in things spiritual,: 62

Commenting on I Cor. 16:2 Chrysostrom writes

“Paul said not, ‘Let him bring it into the church,’ lest they might feel ashamed of the smallness of the sum; but ‘having by gradual addition swelled his contribution, let him then produce it when I am come; but for the present lay it up,’ said he, ‘at home, and make thine house a church, thy little box a treasury. Become a guardian of sacred wealth, a self-ordained steward of the poor.” 63

Chrysostrom on Sunday Observance:

“You ought not, when you have retired from the church assembly, to involve yourselves in engagements contrary to the exercises with which you have been occupied, but immediately on coming home read the Sacred Scriptures and call together the family, wife and children, to confer about the things that have been spoken, and after they have been more deeply and thoroughly impressed upon the mind, then proceed to attend to such matters as are necessary for this life.” 64

THEOPHILUS, bishop of Alexandria, in the same year (398) issued his edict about the festival of Theophany, the beginning words of which we may quote here once more: “Both custom and reason challenge from us that we honor and keep holy the Lord’s day, seeing on that day it was that our Lord Jesus completed his resurrection form the dead. Therefore, in the Holy Scriptures, it is called as well the first, because it is the beginning of our life, as also the eighth day, because it has excelled the Sabbath observance of the Jews.” 65

Apostolic Constitutions

To this age belong also the so-called Apostolical Constitutions. They enjoin assembling for worship every day, “but principally on the Sabbath day. And on the day of our Lord’s resurrection, which is the Lord’s day, meet more diligently, sending praise to God, etc. The object of assembling was “to hear the saving word concerning the resurrection,” to “pray thrice standing,” to have the prophets read, to have preaching, and also the supper. 66

Then in book 8, of the Apostolic Constitutions P. 33:

I Peter and Paul do make the following constitutions. Let the slaves work five days; but on the Sabbath-day and the Lord’s day let them have leisure to go to church for instruction in piety. We have said that the Sabbath is on account of the creation, and the Lord’s day of the resurrection.”

They also give an idea of Sunday as a day of festivity:

“Now we exhort you, brethren and fellow-servants, to avoid vain talk and obscene discourses, and jestings, drunkenness, lasciviousness, luxury, unbounded passions, with foolish discourses, since we do not permit you so much as on the Lord’s days, which are days of joy, to speak or act anything unseemly.” 67 The passage from chapter 9, of the longer form of Ignatius’s epistle to the Magnesians, also belongs to this age:“After the observance of the Sabbath, let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s day as a festival, the resurrection day, the queen and chief of all the days.” 68

Lastly, we quote the author of the Syriac Documents concerning Edessa:

“On the first (day) of the week, let there be service, and the reading of the Holy Scriptures, and the oblation,” 69

Paganized Christian Worship

Our investigation has brought us to the fifth century. The Christian religion is not only the favored religion, but the exclusive religion of the empire. The theocracy of Constantine, as Eusebius himself had to admit, resulted in indescribable hypocrisy, many giving themselves out as Christians only for temporal advantage.

As the Christian religion became, under Constantine, the favored one, the gradual change which had thus far been going on in an unobserved manner now became fully manifest, in its paganized cult. What mighty effect the change in the legal and social position of Christianity had on its forms of worship, is thus attested by Schaff:

In the Nicene age the church laid aside her lowly servant-form, and put on a splendid imperial garb. She exchanged the primitive simplicity of her cultus for a richly colored multiplicity. She drew all the fine arts into the service of the sanctuary, and began her sublime creations of Christian architecture, sculpture, painting, poetry, and music. In place of the pagan temple and altar arose everywhere the stately church and the chapel in honor of Christ, of the Virgin Mary, of martyrs and saints. The kindred ideas of priesthood, sacrifice, and altar became more fully developed and more firmly fixed, as the outward hierarchy grew. The mass, or daily repetition of the atoning sacrifice of Christ by the hand of the priest, became the mysterious centre of the whole system of worship. The number of church festivals was increased; processions, and pilgrimages, and a multitude of significant and superstitious customs and ceremonies were introduced.

The public worship of God assumed, if we may so speak, a dramatic, theatrical character, which made it attractive and imposing to the mass of the people, who were as yet incapable, for the most part, of worshipping God in spirit and in truth. It was addressed rather to the eye and the ear, to feeling and imagination, than to intelligence and will. In short, we already find in the Nicene age almost all the essential features of the sacerdotal, mysterious, ceremonial, symbolical cultus of the Greek and Roman churches of the present day. This enrichment and embellishment of the cultus was, on one hand, a real advance, and unquestionably had a disciplinary and educational power, like the hierarchical organization, for the training of the popular masses. But the gain in outward appearance and splendor was balanced by many a loss in simplicity and spirituality. While the senses and the imagination were entertained and charmed, the heart not rarely returned cold and hungry. Not a few pagan habits and ceremonies, concealed under new names, crept into the church, or were baptized only with water, not with the fire and Spirit of the gospel. It is well known with what peculiar tenacity a people cleave to religious usages; and it could not be expected that they should break off in an instant from the traditions of centuries.

Nor, in fact, are things which may have descended from heathenism, to be by any means sweepingly condemned. Both the Jewish cultus and the heathen are based upon those universal religious wants which Christianity must satisfy, and which Christianity alone can truly meet. Finally, the church has adopted hardly a single existing form or ceremony of religion, without at the same time breathing into it a new spirit, and investing it with a high moral import. But the limit of such appropriation it is very hard to fix, and the old nature of Judaism and heathenism which has its point of attachment in the natural heart of man, continually betrayed its tenacious presence. This is conceded and lamented by the most earnest of the church fathers of the Nicene and post-Nicene age, the very persons who are in other respects most deeply involved in the Catholic ideas of cultus.

In the Christian martyr-worship and saint-worship, which now spread with giant strides over the whole Christian world, we cannot possibly mistake the succession of the pagan worship of gods and heroes, with its noisy popular festivities. Augustine puts into the mouth of a heathen the question: “Wherefore must we forsake gods, which the Christians themselves worship with us?” He deplores the frequent revels and amusements at the tombs of the martyrs; though he thinks that allowance should be made for these weaknesses out of regard to the ancient custom. Leo the Great speaks of Christians in Rome, who first worshipped the rising sun, doing homage to the pagan Apollo, before repairing to the basilica of St. Peter.

Theodoret defends the Christian practices at the graves of the martyrs by pointing to the pagan libations, propitiations, gods, and demigods. Since Hercules, Aesculapitis, Bacchus, the Dioscuri, and many other objects of pagan worship were mere deified men, the Christians, he thinks, cannot be blamed for honoring their martyrs—not making them gods but venerating them as witnesses and servants of the only, true God. Chrysostom mourns over the theatrical customs, such as loud clapping in applause, which the Christians at Antioch and Constantinople brought with them into the church. In the Christmas festival, which from the fourth century spread from Rome over the entire church, the holy commemoration of the birth of the Redeemer is associated—to this day, even in Protestant lands—with the wanton merriments of the pagan Saturnalia. And even in the celebration of Sunday, as it was introduced by Constantine, and still continues on the whole continent of Europe, the cultus of the old sun-god Apollo mingles, with the remembrance of the resurrection of Christ; and the widespread profanation of the Lord’s Day, especially on the continent of Europe, demonstrates the great influence which heathenism still exerts upon Roman and Greek Catholic, and even upon Protestant, Christendom.70

This statement speaks volumes. The evil seed sown bears its harvest of tares. The policy of adapting pagan rites and festivals to Christian usages to gain large accessions, ends in an apostate church, burdened with endless feats and ceremonies. The tendency to seek the favor of the state and to secure its support against heretics, ends in an intolerant false theocracy and Papacy. Sunday legislation only suppresses the voluntary observance of the Sabbath of the fourth commandment, and substitutes for it a forced regard paid to a merry festival based on civil and religious laws. But as even the church writers themselves had to admit, divine punishment followed in the overthrow of the Roman empire, by the inroads of the barbarians in the West, and by the conquests of the Mohammedans in the East.


The introduction of the annual pagan birth-festival of the unconquered sun as the feast of the birth of Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, furnishes a striking evidence of how, in the early days of Christianity, the venerable day of the sun became a weekly commemoration day of the resurrecton. An ample array of facts is furnished us by the sermons preached on Christmas by Augustine, Gregory of Nyssa, Chrysostom, and especially Pope Leo the Great.

Pope Leo even had to warn against this hazardous experiment to win the pagans. But the climax of the proof is reached in the admission by this very Pope, that many of the Christianized pagans, as they ascended the steps of St. Peter’s Church and reached the spacious platform, would, before entering the cathedral to honor Christ as the Sun of Righteousness, first pay obeisance to the rising sun, as they had been accustomed to do from lofty eminences while they were still pagans. 71

Wilberforce On Sunday Evolution

Wilberforce, archdeacon of Westminster, thus testifies to the same evolution:

“The evolution of this Arcadian Sabbath, this Saturn’s unlucky day, through the Jewish Sabbath into the Christian Sunday, was obvious and simple. The early Christian church, whether wisely or unwisely is questionable, in their earnest desire to elevate pagan worship, adopted, as far as possible, the sacred days of the older cults, and grafted on to them Christian commemorations.” 72

Court Sessions Of The “Rightly” Called Lord’s Day Sacrilegious

We have now carefully investigated all the testimonies of the Fathers until the fifth century and we have considered the civil and ecclesiastical legislation until that time. And, with Hessey, we can say that there is in no clearly genuine passage of the church Father, or in any public document, ecclesiastical or civil, a reference to the fourth commandment as a basis for the observance of the first day of the week. There is not a single allusion to Rev. 1:10 as a reason for calling Sunday the “Lord’s day,” The seventh day of the week is everywhere termed “the Sabbath,” as a perfectly distinct day from Sunday. When, at the instigation of the bishops, Constantine declared the venerable day of the sun to be the legal holiday of the empire, then it is only Eusebius who suggests the idea of transference of the day, but of “spiritual Sabbaths according to the spiritual law,” disclaiming in positive terms any relation to the “Jewish Sabbath” or to the Decalogue. It was reserved for the Papacy during the Middle Ages to claim an actual change of the fourth commandment by the power of the church.

As to the observance of Sunday, it was considered to be the observance of a church ordinance, enforcing attendance at the assemblies and communion, and of a legal holiday, forbidding law proceedings, and also amusements unseemly for a Christian on any day. Both placed no restrictions on agricultural work, or on the pursuance of necessary duties. Sabbath rest, in the sense of the fourth commandment, was decried as “Judaizing:” Sunday was only a “spiritual rest,” the chief object of whose observance was cessation from sin.

A bishop’s decree had openly declared that custom and reason challenge us to observe Sunday. Councils and imperial edicts had set their seal to this custom, and stamped tradition as quasi-divine. The edict of Theodosius had definitely sanctioned the use of the term “Dominicum” for Sunday as being “rightly” applied, and the councils had adopted it; so that it thus became the term used by all the Latin races. Yea, this Theodosian decree stamped court proceedings on Sunday not only as infamous, but also as sacrilegious, because the transgressor was departing from the rule and custom of the “holy Catholic religion.”

Chapter 19: The Sabbath During The First Centuries


The Sabbath in its Very Nature Spiritual and Moral
Its New Luster in the Gospel Dispensation
Written in the Heart of the True Israel
The Disciples’ Prayer in Behalf of the Sabbath
Dr. Zahn’s Testimony
Paul a Nazarene and Heretic,—the Leader of True Israel?
The Real Issue at the Council at Jerusalem
Flight to Pella
The Nazarenes
Not Heretic, but the True Israel
Reasons for decline
Gnostic Sabbath Fasting to Spite the God of the Jews
Reason for Intensified Feeling Against the Jews in General
Justin Martyr’s Weak-minded Christians
Christian Sabbath-keepers Branded Heretics
Sabbath a General Observance and Weekly Festival
Augustine‘s Confirmation of Sabbath Observance
Catholic Solution to Gnostic weakness
Gregory of Nyssa, Apostolic constitutions as Proofs; Chrysostom, Ambrose, Basil, Asterius
The Sabbath in Egypt and Ethiopia
“False Sabbaths”
Standing in Prayer on the Sabbath
Communion on the Sabbath
The Bishop of Rome introduces Sabbath Fasting
Augustine’s Refutation of Fasting
Sabbath Rest from Work is considered a “Superstition”
The Reproach of Christ for Genuine Sabbath Observance.

The Sabbath In Its Very Nature Spiritual And Moral

Holy Writ records in the most definite language that when God had finished his six days’ work of creation, He rested on the seventh day “from all his work which he had made.” 1 As God is spirit,—a spiritual Being in the highest sense of the word,—His Sabbath rest on the first seventh day of time was indeed a spiritual act; yes, the Scripture states that God was “refreshed,” 2

Engraved at first on the heart and mind of man by God’s own instruction, this weekly, definite, divine Sabbath was written by God’s own finger on the tables of stone as one of the ten words of the great moral standard of right—binding on all men and at all times. The Decalogue being spiritual (Rom. 7:14), the Sabbath command, as a part of that law, is likewise spiritual; and as god gave the definite seventh day to man as the weekly rest day for his own welfare and the honor of God, its observance forms a necessary part of the spiritual worship and of the high moral obligation that every creature owes to its Creator. As the Sabbath was made before sin ever came into the world, and will continue when sin is no more, the prime object of Sabbath observance is not that we should cease from sin; but that man cease from his own work, and refrain from his own pleasure and ways.3

As man directs his whole mind to the contemplation of the works of God in his behalf, the Sabbath will indeed prove a spiritual delight to him, just as the first Sabbath was a delight to the great Jehovah, when he beheld the words he had wrought in man’s behalf.

When the Son of man came in the fullness of time, to free man from sin, instead of abolishing the seventh-day Sabbath, which served as the great and divinely appointed memorial of the time when God had created man a sinless being, he rather freed the Sabbath from the yoke that sinful man had placed upon it by his bigotry and traditions; and as Lord of the Sabbath—as its real maker—he set forth his divine purpose for the good of man even in paradise. He showed the spiritual, moral, and eternal nature of the Sabbath institution, and, accordingly, affirmed that every jot and tittle of the ten commandments should stand forever—even when this present heaven and earth pass away.

Sabbath Gains New Luster In Gospel Dispensation

The light of the seventh day as the Sabbath did not fade away when He who instituted it in Eden became flesh, nor did its brilliancy diminish; but, by his own rest and by His works of mercy and His mighty miracles upon that day, He gave to it a new luster. It was hereafter to shine forth in the full glory of the light of the gospel, as the definite weekly Sabbath of an Israel already free from sin, resting from the six days’ work and toil and from their own pleasures, and delighting in the spiritual worship of that god who in Christ Jesus had cleansed, sanctified, and re-created an Israel indeed.

The Sabbath would now, as never before, become a sign between God and his true Israel forever, whereby Israel should know that it was the Lord that did sanctify them, and that it was not possible for this sanctification to come through man as man, or by man as priest.

The Sabbath Written In The Heart Of True Israel

The weekly observance of the seventh-day rest of Jehovah would not simply stand on the tables of stone in the ark of the testament in the heavenly sanctuary, where Christ officiates as the true High Priest, but it should be engraved by the Spirit of god upon the hearts of the true Israel, according to the promise of the new Testament, so that there would be no need of human laws and prescriptions to perpetuate this observance.

Prayer In Behalf Of The Sabbath

In full harmony with this divine purpose, Christ left this charge to the new-testament Israel: “Pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day,” 4

Remembering their Master’s charge, the true Israel prayed, for forty years after his death, that his wish might be granted them, and that they might not be obliged to leave doom stricken Jerusalem in the depths of winter, nor on the day of God’s rest. And while, according to Josephus, the carnal, unbelieving Israel of his time began the siege of the castle of Antonia on the Sabbath, and set fire to the palace of the Herods on the Sabbath, and also committed treacherous attacks upon the Roman troops who had found refuge behind strong towers, the real Israel of God, in striking contrast with this, and in remembrance of the bequest of their Master, still regarded the Sabbath of Jehovah, as did also the holy women and the disciples while Christ was resting in the grave. 5

Dr. Zahn’s Testimony

“They kept up the observance of the early Jewish festivals…There can be no doubt, although it is not just explicitly stated, that they observed the Sabbath in the most conscientious manner: otherwise, they would have been stoned. Instead of this, we learn from the book of the Acts that at times they were highly respected even by that part of their own nation that remained in unbelief…

That the observance of Sunday commenced among them would be a supposition which would have no seeming grounds for it, and all probability against it. It is possible that they eye-witnesses of the crucifixion of Christ and of the appearance of the resurrected ones, did not let any Friday pass without thinking of his death, and no Sunday without thinking of his resurrection, more vividly than upon other days of the week. But the only thing that we can learn of the assemblies of the early Christians for divine worship is that they came together in the temple daily, and that they celebrated the Lord’s supper in their houses. Thus it was in the weeks and months of the first excitement; but after this had given way to the more quiet routine of life, then the Sabbath inherited of their fathers, as well as the other holy days in Israel, would have been sufficient to answer to the requirements for festivals among the Jewish Christians. Besides, the Sabbath was a strong tie which united them with the life of the whole people, and in keeping the Sabbath holy, they followed not only the example, but also the command of Jesus.” 6

As the records of early Christianity are very meager; as the apostasy made sad havoc in the true church even in the time of the apostles; and as the scanty statements concerning the genuine Israel of God can be gathered only from the distorted records of their bitter enemies, we would do well first to find our bearings from the Sacred Scriptures.

The prime efforts of Christ and his apostles during the first seven years of their ministry, were directed to gathering in the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 God had not cast away his people whom he foreknew, 8 Christ selected from among them the twelve apostles, the seventy, and Paul, the great apostle to the Gentiles. The three thousand converted on the day of Pentecost, and the five thousand, “men of Israel,” And as the gospel spread to the regions beyond the narrow confines of Palestine, Paul always found his first entrance among the elect of Israel, who were “sojourners of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,” as well as at Thessalonica, Corinth, Rome, etc. All these were observers of the Sabbath of Jehovah, and continued to adhere to it after acknowledging Jesus of Nazareth as the promised Messiah.

Paul Accused Of Being A Nazarene And A Heretic!

As they were gradually collecting into a growing church of believers, the high priest of the Jews and his orator Tertullus raised the following accusation against Paul”

“For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes: who also have gone about to profane the temple.” 9

Paul’s answer is very suggestive:

“but this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and the prophets.” 10

The apostate Jewish church, by rejecting Jesus as the Messiah, rejected the unanimous testimony of the law and the prophets. In their blindness, they styled the Israel of God, that is, the true church, a sect their belief in Christ a heresy and Paul a pestilent fellow, the ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. Here we must seek our bearings for the future: the sect of the Nazarenes is none other than the genuine Israel of God, who were thus styled by apostate Israel because they accepted Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah.

The charge against Paul was that he had profaned the temple by bringing a Greek into it; but this, however, was false. Had Paul forsaken the Sabbath, or instructed his followers to do so, this charge would surely have been made; and that he in no way neglected the Sabbath of the Lord is proved by his own words to the chief of the Jews at Rome:

“Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. 11

Very suggestive again is the reply of the Jews: “As concerning this sect, we know that everywhere it is spoken against.” We know now under what name the real Israel of God was to be found, “the sect of the Nazarenes,” and we also know that it was said to be “everywhere spoken against,” and its adherents were styled “heretics.”

The Real Issue At The Council At Jerusalem

But there were not only struggles from without; difficulties also arose from within. In the beginning, the apostolic church was composed of “men of Israel,” and they were “of one heart and of one soul,” The first difficulty was a national one, between the “Grecians” and the “Hebrews” about the care of the poor. But as the seventy weeks were accomplished, and the apostles, urged by special visions, preached the gospel to the Gentiles, a more serious difficulty arose—whether the Gentiles should also be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.

The apostles, seeing in Christ the divine offering provided by God as “the lamb slain from the foundation of the world,” no longer slew sacrifices, but they broke bread from house to house in remembrance of the offering accomplished once for all. And, as the Gentiles turned to god, the Holy Sprit in a special manner testifying of their acceptance, the apostles did not demand of them circumcision in the flesh, but required them to be baptized as an acknowledgment of Christ’s death and resurrection, and of their own change from pagans without God, into fellow citizens of the commonwealth of Israel.

However, some of the believing Pharisees declared “that it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.” 12 This led to the calling of the council at Jerusalem, where Peter stated that God, by giving the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles, made no difference between the Gentiles and the Jews; that the Gentile believers, having their hearts purified by faith, had no need of a yoke “which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear,” and that as the Jewish Christians themselves believed that their salvation was through the grace of the Lord Jesus, so likewise must the Gentiles obtain salvation.

James called attention to the fact that this very calling of the Gentiles was purposed of God, that they might be the building material to restore the tabernacle of David, which, by the apostasy of unbelieving Israel, had fallen into ruins: (comp Amos 9:11,12 and Acts 15:16,17). The only requirement was that the Gentiles should abstain from blood, from things strangled, from meats offered to idols, and from fornication, which played such an important part in the pagan worship.

Just as the shadowy ceremonial law of Moses (including circumcision) met its fulfilment I Christ, its substance, so likewise national Israel, whose separate existence had been safeguarded by this law, was now to meet its antitype in the true Israel of God, born of the Spirit—not of one nation, but of many.

The new ministration was no longer that of the letter, consisting in many outward ceremonies and sacrifices, but it was to be of the spirit—a ministration of the real atonement of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary, and human lips were to proclaim that gospel which imparts life indeed to every one who will really believe in Christ. However, the glorious promises of this new covenant were not to abolish the ten words of the spiritual holy commandments on the hearts and minds of the true Israel of God.

While the fruit of faith in Christ, the test of the love wrought in his heart by the Spirit, and the seal of his acceptance into the commonwealth of Israel would be manifested by the Gentile’s keeping the Decalogue and resting on the seventh day, the observance of the ceremonial law and of circumcision would be a turning aside to another gospel, a sign of Judaizing indeed. That the true import of the question was not properly understood by the church Father, and that it is misunderstood by many even today, is evident from the fact that the observance of the ten commandments, and especially of the Sabbath of the fourth commandment, has been made a part of the question at issue.

A church was to develop where there would be neither Jew nor Gentile, neither bond nor free, but one true Israel, baptized by one Spirit into one body. 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:28. The terms, Jewish Christians, and Gentile Christians, as designating two distinct parties in the same church, are not justifiable in the light of these scriptures; and if such a separation did occur at an early date, it is an evident sign of an early apostasy.

On the one hand, the epistles to the Galatians and to the Colossian satisfactorily prove that some of the believers gathered out from among the lost sheep of the house of Israel did not abide by the decision taken at the council in Jerusalem, so that the future history of the church has to take into account not only the Judaizing of the unbelieving Jews, but also that of some who professed to believe in Christ.

On the other hand, we have also found abundant proof that at a very early date there was a movement on the part of the Gentiles to reject the whole of the Old Testament, and that, while this was so modified by the early church Fathers as to allow the retention of the Old Testament, still they cast aside the observance of the Sabbath of the fourth commandment, the very sign of the true Israel of God.

Our task shall be to furnish historical evidences showing that the true Israel did continue to keep “the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.“

The Flight To Pella

According to the Scriptures, this church retained its headquarters at Jerusalem until apostate Israel was about to meet its doom in the destruction of its city and temple. Then the spiritual seed of Abraham heeded the prophetic warning of Daniel, which had been confirmed by Jesus, and fled to Pella, on the other side of Jordan, where they found a safe place of refuge, and could serve their Master and keep his Sabbath, endeared to them the more by their wonderful preservation in answer to their prayers. 13

Pella, at this time, was one of the famous ten cities of the Decapolis. Arriving in this region of culture the fleeing Jewish Christians, stirred by having recently seen the fulfillment of one of Christ’s prophecies, could hardly have failed to exercise an irresistible influence upon their new neighbours. The exiles who settled here multiplied in numbers throughout the following years. Their converts and their descendants formed large and learned Christian communities.

In the first century, the majority of Christians were Jews. This was especially true of the Syrian area, from Decapolis to the region about Antioch. That this true Israel preserved the observance the Sabbath, and that even believers from among the Gentiles joined them at first, is thus attested by a church historian:

“While the Jewish Christians of Palestine retained the entire Mosaic law, and consequently the Jewish festivals, the Gentile Christians observed also the Sabbath and the Passover (1 Cor. 5:5-8) with reference to the last scenes of Jesus’ life, but without Jewish superstition. Gal. 4:10, Col. 2:16.” 14

The Nazarenes

Another, Guericke, styling them Nazarenes, thus clearly testifies that they remained true to the arrangement made at the council of Jerusalem:

“The Nazarenes (a name originally applied, according to Acts 24:5, to all Christians among the Jews, and which is first found in Jerome, Comm, in Jesai., in this narrower application) did not assert the necessity of an observance of the ceremonial law by the Gentile Christians, recognized Paul as the teacher of revealed truth for the heathen, and departed from the doctrine of the general church in no essential point. 15

However, Jerome uses also the term “Ebionites,” which is derived from the Hebrew word “ebion,” “poor,” Neander fittingly remarks:

“We know in fact, what reproach was cast upon the Christina faith by the hierarchical party among the Jews, because none but those belonging to the ignorant and poorer class of the people would openly profess it (John 7:49); and the like objection was made to Christianity by the pagans. Thus it may be explained how the Christians among the Jews came to be designated as the poor; and this name, which was employed by them to designate the Christians generally, would afterwards naturally be employed by the pagan Christians, without any knowledge of the meaning of the name, to designate that portion of believers who were distinguished from the rest by their observance of the Mosaic law.” 16

Harnack, on the strength of different statements from the church Fathers, shows that the terms “Nazarenes” and “Ebionites” were used interchangeably; and he also positively points out the guilty party who broke the agreement made at the council of Jerusalem, and trampled the true apostolic church underfoot. He writes:

“In the first century these Jewish Christians formed the majority in Palestine, and perhaps also in some neighboring provinces. But they were also found here and there in the West.

Apart from syncretistic or Gnostic Jewish Christianity, there is but one group of Jewish Christians holding various shades of opinion, and these from the beginning called themselves Nazarenes as well as Ebionites. From the beginning, likewise, one portion of them was influenced by the existence of a great Gentile church which did not observe the law. They acknowledged the work of Paul,and experienced in a slight degree influences emanating from the great church. But the gulf which separated them from that church did not thereby become narrower. That gulf was caused by the social and political separation of these Jewish Christians, whatever mental attitude, hostile or friendly, they might take up to the great church.

This church stalked over them with iron feet, as over a structure which in her opinion was full of contradictions throughout (Semi-christiani), and was disconcerted neither by the gospel of these Jewish Christians nor by anything else about them. But as the synagogue also vigorously condemned them, their position up to their extinction was a most tragic one. These Jewish Christians, more than any other Christian party, bore the reproach of Christ.”17

How this change of sentiment on the part of the so-called Catholic Church against the true Israel of God gradually came about is set forth by Gieseler:

“Still, however, the different parties of the Jewish Christians continued down to the fourth century, and even later. In what way the Nazarenes and the Gentile Christians still looked upon one another as orthodox, is evident from the explanations of Hegesippus on his journey to Rome, whither he arrived under Bishop Anicetus (157-161). But since the Gentile Christians looked upon the Nazarenes as weak Christians on account of their adherence to the Mosaic law, connection between them became less and less intimate, the knowledge of their creed more indistinct; but at the same time, since they did not keep pace with the progressive development of doctrine in the Catholic Church, the actual difference between the two parties was greater, until at length Epiphanies (about 400) went so far as to include the Nazarenes in his list of heretics (Haer, xxix). 18

Nazarenes Not Heretics, But The True Israel

The historical outlines of the process are before us. The chosen Israel of God not only became the sect of the Nazarenes in the eyes of the unbelieving Jews, but by the fourth century it was classed among the heretics by the so-called Catholic Church, which, true to its Roman origin, stalked over them with “iron feet,” 19

The Nazarenes surely bore the reproach of Christ more than any other Christian party, and those who with them follow in the humble footprints of their blessed Master are bearing this reproach to this day, and will continue to bear it until the very end of time.

However, not all First-day writers agree in reckoning the despised Nazarenes, or Ebionites, among the heretics’ for Walch, in his history of heresies, gives a long list of authorities who believe the contrary—that the Nazarenes should not only be excluded from the list of heretics, but that they were in reality the orthodox Christians, who remained true to the genuine doctrine of Christ. Among these authorities are Toland, Bolingbroke, Crell, Rhenferd, Huetius, Voss, Basnage, and Lequien. 20

Walch also admits that, as far as the chronological order is concerned, the first question of controversy was the observance of the Sabbath. 21

To sum up this matter: The noted authors just quoted, whose statements we shall substantiate from the historical evidences of the church Gathers, plainly show that during the first century of the Christian era there existed as a united body the church of Christ, and that, too, at its very fountainhead, which, while setting aside the binding claims of circumcision and of the ceremonial law, yet still observed, as the chosen Israel of God, the seventh-day Sabbath as a part of the ten commandments. In perfect harmony with this was the result of our investigation concerning the origin of Sunday—that it was not introduced into the Christian church until the beginning of the second century.

Reasons For Decline Of Sabbath Keeping Christian Churches

We will next inquire what special reasons can be adduced as to why the true Israel, and with it the Sabbath as the real rest day from labour, should have been forced into the background by the so-called Catholic Church.

There are several main causes which might be mentioned . Neander refers to the fist cause, when he says the “opposition to Judaism early led to the special observance of Sunday in the place of the Sabbath.” 22 In Acts 18:2 we read that the emperor Claudius (41-54 A.D.) commanded all Jews to depart from Rome. The obstinate resistance of the Jews during the siege of Jerusalem, and their treason, only intensified the popular hatred felt against them. As to subsequent times, the Jewish Encyclopaedia makes the following statement:

“In the meantime the attitude of the Roman authorities had become intermittently hostile to the Jews; and after the rebellion under Hadrian it became a matter of vital importance for such who were not Jews to avoid exposing themselves to suspicion. The observance of the Sabbath was one of the most noticeable indications of Judaism. Hence, while during the first Christian century more or less regard and tolerance for the Jewish day were shown in Rome, even b non-Jewish Christians, in the second century the contrary became the rule. In the East, however, less opposition was shown to Jewish institutions. Saturday and Sunday were both celebrated by ‘abstaining from fasting, and by standing while praying. (Rheinwald Archaeologie, sec. 620 In the West, especially where Roman influence dominated, Saturday was turned into a fast-day.” 23

The hatred of the pagan authorities toward the Jews was in a certain sense warranted by their rebellious spirit, their bigotry, and their obstinate resistance. The apostolic church would innocently suffer under the same stigma, and especially because it continued to observe the Sabbath. But the second cause is a most vital one—the rise of gnosticism. What charges the Gnostics preferred even against the apostles, is best seen from the following words of Irenaeus:

“For all those who are of a perverse mind, having been set against the Mosaic legislation, judging it to be dissimilar and contrary to the doctrine of the Gospel, have not applied themselves to investigate the causes of the difference of each covenant. Since, therefore, they have been deserted by the paternal love, and puffed up by Satan, being brought over to the doctrine of Simon Magus, they have apostatized in their opinions from Him who is God, and imagined that they have themselves discovered more than the apostles, by finding out another god; and [maintained] that the apostles preached the Gospel still somewhat under the influence of Jewish opinions, but that they themselves are purer [in doctrine], and more intelligent, than the apostles. Wherefore also Marcion and his followers have betaken themselves to mutilating the Scriptures, not acknowledging some books at all; and, curtailing the Gospel according to Luke and the Epistles of Paul, they assert that these are alone authentic, which they have themselves thus shortened.” 24

Gnosticism, or Oriental pagan mysticism, is the secret source form which the antinomian spirit—the spirit of lawlessness, of spite against everything Jewish—emanated and flowed into the general church until her doctrines became completely permeated with it. The Gnostics professed to teach a purer doctrine even than the apostles, to have such a correct understanding of the true teachings of Christ and of Paul as would warrant them in dropping out or mutilating such texts of the Bible as contradicted their interpretations.

The God of the Jews, who created the world, gave the law, and rested upon the Sabbath, the Gnostics called Demiugus or the Evil God, and placed him over against Christ, the Good God of the Christians, who redeemed the world, gave a new law, and introduced a spiritual, continual rest. Creator and Redeemer, Father and Son, Old and New Testament, law and gospel, obedience and grace, the old and the new Israel, the literal and the spiritual Sabbath, were entirely opposite conceptions to them. They maintained “that the apostles intermingled the things of the law with the words of the Saviour.” 25 Not only did they charge that the apostles had fallen back into Judaism, but they even accused the Creator of the world of having violated his own law by killing the righteous Christ, and claimed that he was therefore deprived of all his power by Christ. 26 Consequently, Christ had overturned the law and the Sabbath of the Creator. 27

Fasting On The Sabbath To Spite The Creator

To spite the Creator, the God of the Jews, Marcion made the Sabbath a fast, as is expressly stated by Epiphanius:

“Marcion for this reason fasted on the Sabbath. For, said he, since the day is the rest of the God of the Jews, who made the world and rested on the Sabbath day, we therefore institute fasting on that day, that we may not seem to do anything in compliance with the rites of the God of the Jews.” 28

For a full exposition of this matter, we refer the reader to Bingham, who further names the Eustathians, the Massalians or Euchites, the Marcianists, the Sabbatians, the Lampetians, the Choreutae, the Adelphians, and last but not least, the Roman Catholics, as having followed the practise of the Gnostics. 29 These Gnostic charges and theories are an all-important factor in the abrogation of the Sabbath, because the complete reproduction of them is to be found in the Roman Catholic Church, and later on, in Protestantism; only Gnosticism was more consistent; it acted out its no-law and no-day theory by declaring all days alike, and misquoting Paul as its authority.

Gnosticism is thus the great second cause; in view of its popularity and vast influence as a spiritual factor, it was able to instil far and wide a hatred against Israel and Israel’s God, against the Decalogue and the Sabbath; and that, too, under the deceptive mask of honouring Christ all the more, and of teaching the pure Pauline doctrine, and of accelerating the victorious and onward march of the gospel among the learned and educated heathen.

Gnosticism originated the doctrine that ceasing from sin is the true, continual Sabbath of the new law of the loving Christ. It first instituted fasting on the Sabbath to spite the God of the Jews, as well as to do despite to the true Israel of God, which still held fast to its observance. It was Gnosticism which placed on the Sabbath and on the true successors of the apostolic church the stigmatizing epithet Jewish. And what this all meant is evident from the following statement of Harnack, in his Dogmas (I, 177, 178):

“A certain antipathy of the Greeks and Romans toward Judaism co-operated here with a law of self-preservation. On all hands, therefore, Judaism a it then existed was abandoned as a sect judged and rejected by God, as a society of hypocrites, as a synagogue of Satan, as a people seduced by an evil angel, and the Jews were declared to have no farther right to the possession of the Old Testament.”

Having thus found our bearings from Scripture and history, our future investigation will only serve to trace the effects of the Gnostic influence upon the church at large, which, while repudiating gnosticism as “heresy,” was yet guilty of gradually introducing and modifying the Gnostic doctrines to its wants” these theories were brought into the church one by one, as fast as it suited her purposes. Accordingly, not only the Gnostics, but also the Fathers and the church declared that resting from works on any day was “Judaizing.” Further, influenced by Gnosticism, the church stalked over the steadfast, believing Israel of God “with iron feet,” and finally condemned the successors of the apostolic church as “Judaizing heretics,” yea, as the “very spirit of Antichirst.”

That this was the result we have only to look at the “Epistles of Pope Gregory the Great, book. 13 epistle 1, who in 603 wrote:

It has come to my ears that certain men of perverse spirit have sown among you some things that are wrong and opposed to the holy faith, so as to forbid any work being done on the Sabbath day. What else can I call these but preachers of Antichrist, who, when he comes, will cause the Sabbath day as well as the Lord’s day to be kept free from all work.”

Reason For Intensified Feeling Against The Jews In General As The Gulf Widens

While there was but one united body of believers in the first century, the second century witnessed quite a marked, although gradual change. A gulf was created between the Christians from among Israel and those who had come in from the Gentiles, the latter pushing the former more and more into the background as their numbers preponderated and their views differed. One reason for this change is given by Neander, on the strength of Eusebius and Sulpicius. 30

Emperor Hadrian was induced “by the insurrection of the Jews under Barkochba (132-135) to exclude them entirely from the city of Jerusalem and its circumjacent territory.” As believing Israel, after the destruction of Jerusalem, would naturally again settle around that city, this prohibition would also force them either to relinquish the Sabbath as the most notable indication of Judaism (in the eyes of the pagan) or to return to Pella, “where a strictly Jewish Christian church maintained its existence down to the fifth century.”

Jerusalem, now called Aelia, was peopled by strangers, and “when the church of the Gentiles was collected there, the first bishop after those of the circumcision was Marcus; 31 (the 15 previous bishops had been fully Jewish).

Sulpicius Severus (363-410), after citing Hadrain’s prohibition, makes the following remarkable statement:

“This surely profited the Christian faith, because, until then, nearly all believed in Christ as God while observing the law. Without doubt this took place, God ordaining it so, in order that the servitude of the law might be removed by the liberty of faith and of the church.” 32

Both the statement of Eusebius and that of Sulpicius indicated a change by which the true Israel was forced out of Jerusalem, and that in its stead a Gentile church arose which, because of some influence, was not under the stigma of being “Jewish”. How much this profited the Christian faith needs to be seen.

Justine Martyr And His Weak Christians

Justin Martyr (A.D. 147) makes a still more evident change. He remarks, in his dialogue with Trypho, the Jew:

“There are such people, Trypho,” I answered; “and these do not venture to have any intercourse with or to extend hospitality to such persons; but I do not agree with them. But if some, through weak-mindedness, wish to observe such institutions as were given by Moses, from which they expect some virtue, but which we believe were appointed by reason of the hardness of the people’s hearts, along with their hope in this Christ, and [wish to perform] the eternal and natural acts of righteousness and piety, yet choose to live with the Christians and the faithful, as I said before, not inducing them either to be circumcised like themselves, or to keep the Sabbath, or to observe any other such ceremonies, then I hold that we ought to join ourselves to such, and associate with them in all things as kinsmen and brethren.”

“But if, Trypho,” I continued, “some of your race, who say they believe in this Christ, compel those Gentiles who believe in this Christ to live in all respects according to the law given by Moses, or choose not to associate so intimately with them, I in like manner do not approve of them. But I believe that even those, who have been persuaded by them to observe the legal dispensation along with their confession of God in Christ, shall probably be saved.”33

In the eyes of the philosopher Justin Martyr, even the genuine apostolic Christians had become “weak minded because they still wished to perform “the eternal and natural acts of righteousness and piety.” Yet he was at least so condescending to these poor, despised followers of Christ that he would “associate with them ain all things, as kinsmen and brethren.” He conceded a probability of salvation to those who had been induced by them to observe the law along with their confession of God in Christ.

Christian Sabbath-Keepers Branded Heretics

Justin Martyr applied no name to either of the two parties mentioned. However, from weak-mindedness to heresy, there is but one step. Irenaeus, who first uses the term “Ebionites,” already places them among the heretical schools.34

Concerning this, Harnack remarks:

“The less was known of the Ebioites from personal observation, the more confidently they were made out to be heretics who denied the divinity of Christ and rejected the canon. The denial of the divinity of Christ and the birth from the Virgin was, from the end of the second century, regarded as the Ebionite heresy par excellence 35

Hegesippus, on the other hand, who according to Eusebius was a convert from the Hebrews, although he enumerates the sects among both the Gentiles and the Jews, does not mention the Ebionites. 36 His explanations of the manner in which he was everywhere received on his journey to Rome clearly show that the Nazarenes and the Gentile Christians considered each other as orthodox.

With every new writer on heresies, the confusion of terms and alleged heresies only increase. Tertullian and others even claim that there was heretic named Ebion, from whom the term Ebionites is derived; but this is evidently a fiction. Some distinguish between the Nazarenes and the Ebionites; others again, like Origen, classify even the Ebionites, while others confound them all. Theodoret condemns the Ebionites for enjoining the observance of the Sabbath after the law of the Jews, with that of the Lord’s day after the manner of Christians.

As Epiphanies (A.D. 400), the patriarch of orthodoxy an of heresy hunters, gives quite a lengthy description of the Nazarenes, we quote fom him, although he is noted for his boundless credulity and his many contradictions:

“But we shall now especially consider heretics, who, having set aside the name of Jesus, call themselves neither as those of Jesse, nor do they retain the name of Jews, nor do they go by the name of Christians, but, taking their name from that place, they call themselves Nazarenes; they are mainly Jews and nothing else. They make use not only of the New Testament, but they also use in a way the Old Testament of the Jews; for they do not forbid the books of the law, the prophets, and the Hagiographa, which the Jews term the Bible, so that they are approved of by the Jews, from whom the Nazarenes do not differ in anything, and they profess all the dogmas pertaining to the prescriptions of the law and to the customs of the Jews, except that they believe in Christ.

Farther, they believe that the dead are to be rased, and that all things were created by God. They preach that there is but one God, and his Son Jesus Christ. But they are very learned in the Hebrew language; for they, like the Jews, read the whole law, then the prophets and the Hagiographa. ..

However….they differ from the Jews because they believe in Christ, and from the Christians in that they are to this day bound to the Jewish rites, such as circumcision, the Sabbath and other ceremonies.

Otherwise, this sect of the Nazarenes thrives most vigorously in the state of Berea, in Coele-Syria, also in Decapolis, around Pella, and in Bashan, which is called Cocabe by the people, but is Chochabe in the Hebrew. For, after they departed from Jerusalem, they made their start from here, as all the disciples dwelt in Pella, having been admonished by Christ to leave Jerusalem and emigrate because of imminent danger. Because of this it happened that they left for Perea, in the regions above named.” 37

Though we can gather the history of the Nazarenes, or Ebionites, only from books written against the heretics, yet the historical evidence has been fully supplied to establish their identification with the apostolic church, the circumstances and the location testifying to it. We have traced the Sabbath-keeping remnant of the apostolic church down to the fifth century. In conclusion, we shall now hear from the mouth of a church Father at the clos of the fourth century exactly the same charge preferred against them as was brough forward against the apostles by the Gnostics of the second century:

“The Ebionites believing in Christ have been anathematized by the church Fathers for this only, because they have intermingled the ceremonies of the law with the gospel of Christ, and so whilst they confess the new, they have not omitted the old.” 38

Does not this prove that by this time the Catholic church had gradually accepted a modified form of Gnosticism, while the Nazarenes had remained true to their apostolic origin? Where was, therefore, the apostasy? And who were the real heretics—those who, as the true Sabbath-keeping followers of the Lord, were called upon to bear the reproach of Christ to a greater extent than any other Christina party, or those who stalked over these humble disciples with iron feet because of their simple faithfulness to their Master?

To the Bible testimony that the apostolic church observed the seventh-day Sabbath “according to the commandment,” we have added ample historical proof taken from the writings of bitter opponents to show that for five centuries the successors of the apostolic church earnestly contended for the faith once delivered to the saints, in the face of fiercest opposition from all parties. We have a solid foundation indeed; Christ, who instituted the Sabbath and magnified its sanctity by his own example while on earth, is the chief corner-stone; the apostles and prophets, whose Sabbath observance rests on inspired evidence, are the sure foundation; and the descendants of the apostolic church for centuries after ward form the superstructure.

Sabbath A General Observance And Weekly Festival

But the Christian observance of the seventh day is by no means confined to a remnant of the stock of Israel in Syria. This would make its observance national, while in the very nature of things, the service of the true Israel must be universal. Thus far we have used only the distorted statements culled from the history of heresies in our efforts to follow the trail of the real Israel of God, and to demonstrate that the heretics were in reality the true church, and that their opponents were the apostates. But that there was a more general observance of the Sabbath on the part of Christians of Gentile origin, is fully proved by the fact that general councils, and, later on, the popes, hurled their anathemas against them; indeed, the historical evidences of their existence are so plentiful that Sunday historians are utterly confound by them.

Dr. Th. Zahn states the point in his history of Sunday:

“From the middle of the fourth century onward, testimonies are forthcoming for the Christian observance of the Sabbath, and, moreover, at once in great abundance (cf.Zacagni, coll, monum, veterum praef.78 sqq. Bingham, orig, eccl, I, 13, 9,3:20,3)” “This seemingly sudden appearance of the Christian Sabbath observance remains a riddle.” 39

In looking up Bingham’s “Antiquities,” to which Zahn refers, we find a number of large folio pages covered with reliable testimonies to this effect.

Chapter 3, of book 20, bears this significant heading: “Of the observance of the Sabbath, or Saturday, as a weekly festival” by the Christian church.

Augustine’s Confirmation Of Sabbath Observance

The entire chapter is devoted to this subject, and he adduces as unquestionable testimony a letter from Augustine to Jerome, from which “it is plain that all the Oriental churches and the greatest part of the world observed the Sabbath as a festival. The Greek writers are unanimous in their testimony.” 40

In section 2, Bingham lets Cave answer the puzzling question, “Why the ancient church continued the observance of the Jewish Sabbath, when they took it to be only a temporary institution given to the Jews only:” Cave’s answer is of interest. Its substance is: “The Jews being generally the first converts to the Christian faith,” and having a great reverence for the Sabbath as divine and celebrated by their ancestors for so many ages, it was an act of prudence “to indulge the humor of that people, and to keep the Sabbath as a day for religious offices; viz., public prayers, reading of the Scriptures, preaching, celebration of the sacraments, and such like duties.” 41

Bingham, feeling a lack in this answer, tries to supply it by continuing in substance:

“But when any one pretended to carry the observation of it farther, either by introducing a doctrinal necessity, or pressing the observation of it precisely after the Jewish manner, they resolutely opposed it, as introducing Judaism in the Christian religion. For this reason the Ebionites were condemned; against such the council of Laodicea pronounces anathema: and in this sense we are to understand what Gregory the Great says, that Antichrist will renew the observation of the Sabbath. He must needs mean the observation of it after the Jewish manner: only with this difference, that the Latins kept it a fast, and the Greeks a festival.” 42

Catholic Solution To Gnostic Weakness

Gnosticism had left only the mere Sabbath idea—the whole life being a Sabbath according to the new law—while it entirely destroyed the Sabbath institution, and to this end ordained fasting on the Sabbath of the Jews. But its misinterpretation of Paul’s writings in reality did away with any definite day sanctioned by either divine or ecclesiastical law. Its popularity lay in the seeming liberty it granted to the masses to work on all days and to rest on any day, and it thereby became a mighty instrument in tearing down the literal rest of the seventh day. But in the course of time its strong point appeared as a weakness; for, by depriving man of the blessings of a definite rest day, it prevented the introduction of others to satisfy the human cravings for stated festivals.

This need was foreseen by the penetrating eye of the coming Catholic Church. The hatred of anything seemingly Jewish was its legacy from Gnosticism, and, guided by expedience, its policy was to accomplish in the course of time what Gnosticism could not bring about—to abrogate the Sabbath, and to satisfy the desires of the natural heart by the gradual introduction of its own church festivals. It met the Sabbath-keeping element for a time by forbidding the Gnostic fast on the Sabbath, as well as on Sunday. It even regulated Sabbath worship; but all the while it was using the strong arm of the state, and, as soon as Sunday (along with a multitude of other holidays) became established, the church carefully adopted the Gnostic tactic of Sabbath fasting in its efforts to obliterate the Sabbath. But in this the church of the West was foiled by the resistance of the church of the East, where the Sabbath is still nominally regarded as the memorial of the creation.

As long as the general church was itself persecuted by paganism, it of necessity had to tolerate distasteful practises. But as soon as it secured the power, it used the civil arm of the state to elevate the definite day of its own production, and, soon afterward, it brought in the aid of its ecclesiastical arm to strike the first blow at Sabbath-keeping, by pronouncing its anathema at the council of Laodicea.

That a general council should fell called upon to enact this canon against Judaizing on the Sabbath, is ample proof that the masses regarded it as a festival, and that many still considered it as the rest day “according to the command.” Bishop Hefele confirms this by adding: “It was also the custom in many provinces of the ancient church to observe Saturday as the feast of creation”. 43

Such a general observance of the Sabbath at a time when the civil law had already declared in favor of Sunday, can only be understood as definitely pointing back to the example of the apostolic church; and the fact that it was necessary to pronounce anathema to do away with this resting from work, proves the inherent strength in the Divine commandment forbidding such work.

The great hold the Sabbath still had on the popular mind, and even on the church in general, is best seen by the three canons issued by the council of Laodicea to regulate its observance as a festival in the future. In these, the Sabbath appears on an equal footing with Sunday. There is no lack of testimony on this point.

Gregory Of Nyssa, Apostolic Constitutions As Proofs Chrysostom, Ambrose. Basil, Asterius

As disturbances had occurred in a certain church on the Sabbath, Gregory of Nyssa (A.D. 372) thus censures them:

“With what eyes can you behold Sunday, if you desecrated the Sabbath? Don’t you know that these days are brethren? He who little esteems the one, disregards also the other.” 44

ASTERIUS, bishop of Amasa, in the beginning of the fifth century calls Sabbath and Sunday “the mothers and nurses of the church,” “a beautiful span. 45

That Sabbath services were customary in Augustine’s day in the West, appears from the fact that he preached on the Sabbath, and in one of his sermons made this remark:

“On this day, which is the Sabbath, mostly those are accustomed to meet who are desirous of the Word of God.” 46

BASIL, of Caesarea, made it one of his communion days:

“I indeed communicate four times a week, on the Lord’s day, on Wednesday, on Friday, and on the Sabbath,” 47

AMBROSE certifies that:

“besides Sunday every Sabbath, except the great Sabbath before Easter, was observed as a festival and a day of relaxation.” 48

CHRYSOSTOM testified in various places that “on Friday, Sabbath, Sunday, and on the day of holy martyrs always the same sacrifice is offered;” viz, the communion. 49

Augustine states the matter in its true light in his epistle to Januarius, chap. 2:

“In some places the communion takes place daily, in some only on the Sabbath, and in some only on Sunday,”

The APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTIONS, purporting to be a collection of church laws and usages in vogue during the second and third centuries, contain the following passages:

“Consider the manifold workmanship of God, which received its beginning through Christ. Thou shalt observe the Sabbath, on account of Him who ceased from His work of creation, but ceased not from His work of providence: it is a rest for meditation of the law, not for idleness of the hands. 50

“Assemble yourselves together…principally on the Sabbath-day. And on the day of our Lord’s resurrection, which is the Lord’s day, meet more diligently, sending praise to God that made the universe by Jesus…to hear …the reading of the prophets, the preaching of the Gospel, and to partake of the holy supper.51

“Every Sabbath-day excepting one, [the great Sabbath during which the Lord lay in the grave] and every Lord’s day, hold your solemn assemblies, and rejoice.” 52

“But keep the Sabbath, and the Lord’s day festival; because the former is the memorial of the creation, and the latter of the resurrection. 53

“O Lord Almighty Thou hast created the world by Christ, and hast appointed the Sabbath in memory thereof, because that on that day Thou hast made us rest from our works, for the meditation upon Thy laws.…. For the Sabbath is the ceasing of the creation, the completion of the world, the inquiry after laws, and the grateful praise to God for the blessings He has bestowed upon men. All which the Lord’s day excels, and shows the Mediator Himself, the Provider, the Lawgiver, the Cause of the resurrection, the First-born of the whole creation. 54

“I Peter and Paul do make the following constitutions. Let the slaves work five days; but on the Sabbath-day and the Lord’s day let them have leisure to go to church for instruction in piety. We have said that the Sabbath is on account of the creation, and the Lord’s day of the resurrection. 55

While the Apostolic Constitutions are by no means what they purport to be, yet they are valuable in as much as they clearly show that in the centuries following the apostolic age (during which age the Sabbath alone was observed), Sunday observance was gradually connected with, and finally excelled, Sabbath observance. And this observance of Sabbath and Sunday is perpetuated to this day by the Abyssinians, who embraced Christianity in the fourth century.

The Sabbath In Egypt And Ethiopia

The Egyptian monks who went there during the fifth and sixth centuries, also celebrated both Sabbath and Sunday as is thus attested by Cassian:

“These offices which we are taught to render to the Lord at separate hours and at intervals of time, with a reminder from the convener, are celebrated continuously throughout the whole day…incessantly practised by them in their cells…Wherefore, except Vespers and Nocturns, there are no public services among them in the day except on Saturday and Sunday, when they meet together at the third hour [nine o’clock in the morning] for the purpose of Holy Communion.” 56

That there were religious services in the churches of Egypt on the Sabbath, Cassian thus affirms:

“But on the day of the Sabbath and on the Lord’s Day they read both lessons from the New Testament.” 57

That the Sabbath was kept by some Christians in Alexandria at the time of Origen, seems evident from the following record of one of the discourse attributed to him:

“But what is the feast of the Sabbath except that of which the apostle speaks, ‘There remained therefore a Sabbatism,’ that is, the observance of the Sabbath, by the people of God? Leaving the Jewish observances of the Sabbath, let us see how the Sabbath ought to be observed b a Christian. On the Sabbath day all worldly labours ought to be abstained from. If, therefore, you cease from all secular works, and execute nothing worldly, but give yourselves up to spiritual exercises, repairing to church, attending to sacred reading and instruction, thinking of celestial things, solicitous for the future, placing the Judgment to come before your eyes, not looking to things present and visible, but to those which are future and invisible, this is the observance of the Christian Sabbath.” 58

Origen knew that all about him the Sabbath, as well as Sunday, was kept as a Christian festival; and that he was also well aware that Christians still observed it “according to the commandment” he thus admits in his writings against Celsus:

“Let it be admitted, moreover, that there are some who accept Jesus, and who boast on that account of being Christians, and yet would regulate their lives, like the Jewish multitude, in accordance with the Jewish law,-and these are the twofold sect of Ebionites, who either acknowledge with us that Jesus was born of a virgin, or deny this,” 59

To this period belongs also the longer epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians, the statements of which closely coincide with those of the Apostolic Constitutions:

“Let us therefore no longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner, and rejoice in days of idleness; for “he that does not work, let him not eat.” For say the [holy] oracles, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat thy bread.” But let every one of you keep the Sabbath after a spiritual manner, rejoicing in meditation on the law, not in relaxation of the body, admiring the workmanship of God, and not eating things prepared the day before, nor using lukewarm drinks, and walking within a prescribed space, nor finding delight in dancing and plaudits which have no sense in them. And after the observance of the Sabbath, let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days [of the week].” 60

“False SabbathS“

The following statement from one of the writings attributed to Athanasius, likewise belongs here:

“We are assembled on the day of the Sabbath, not because we are infected with Judaism, for we have never appropriated to ourselves false Sabbaths’ but we approach the Sabbath to adore Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath.” 61

What is meant by the expression “false Sabbaths,” is explained by the use Cyril and Theodoret make of it. The Jews of this period had become so wanton in their Sabbath observance that Cyril and Theoldoret apply the words of Amos 6:3-6 to them. Augustine uses their desecration of the Sabbath as a proof that the real intent of Sabbath observance for the Christian is not literal, but spiritual:

“A Jew would do better to work in his field at some useful labour than to spend his time at the theater in a seditious manner; and their women had much better spin on the Sabbath than spend the whole day on their new moons in immodest dancing. Therefore God commands thee to observe the Sabbath spiritually—not as the Jews do, in carnal rest to satisfy their vanity and luxury.” 62

All these quotations invariably agree that while the Sabbath ought to be regarded as holy, and as a weekly festival, yet it must not be observed in the “Jewish manner,” in “carnal rest,” but spiritually. And as Sabbath and Sunday were regarded as “brethren“, “Augustine’s saying in connection with his treatment of the desecration of the Sabbath by the Jews, that “it is better to plow than to dance,” 63 was, in his mind, just as significant for the observance of Sunday.

Standing In Prayer On The Sabbath

The only outward difference between the observance of Sabbath and Sunday was that prayer was performed in a standing posture on Sunday, “as Christ, by his resurrection, had raised up fallen man again to heaven.” But even this mere traditional honor was also accorded to the Sabbath, as appears from the following censure of Tertullian’s:

In the matter of kneeling also, prayer is subject to diversity of observance, through the act of some few who abstain from kneeling on the Sabbath; and since this dissension is particularly on its trial before the churches, the Lord will give his grace that the dissentients may either yield or else indulge their opinion without offense to others.” 64

These “few” in north Africa who stood in prayer on the Sabbath, were Christian observers of the Sabbath. As Neander clearly states, it was through the influence of the Christian Sabbath-keepers “that the custom became general in the Eastern Church of distinguishing this day, as well as Sunday, by the exclusion of fasts, and by the standing position in prayer.” 65

Accordingly, we read in “Johann, Monach, Canonarium:” “On all Sabbaths, Lord’s days and festivals of the Lord, not to kneel in prayer.” 66

Communion On The Sabbath

Not only was there a difference between the East and Rome in the manner of prayer on the Sabbath, but they also differed in the matter of celebrating the communion, as we find from Socrates, a church historian of the fifth century:

“For although almost all of the churches throughout the world celebrate the sacred mysteries on the Sabbath of every week, yet the Christians of Alexandria and at Rome, on account of some ancient tradition, refuse to do this,” 67

Sozomen, his contemporary, extends this even to the matter of assembling:

“The people of Constantinople, and several other cities, assemble together on the Sabbath, as well as on the next day; which custom is never observed at Rome, or at Alexandria.” 68

The Bishop Of Rome Introduces Sabbath Fasting

Not only was Rome the very place where the Sabbath day first ceased to be honoured; it was the Roman Church, which, following in the wake of Gnosticism, first dishonoured the Sabbath of the Lord by fasting upon it.

Albaspinaeus (Observ, I, 13) quotes Tertullian to prove that the church at Rome did not as yet fast regularly each Sabbath in his time. Tertullian, as a Montanist, fasted in the two weeks of the xylophages in the year, Sabbaths, and Sundays excepted. Therefore the Roman bishop charged him with “Galaticizing,” being an “observer of seasons.” Tertullian retaliates by censuring them for at times depriving the Sabbath of its due honor, by continuing their fast “even over the Sabbath,—a day never to be kept as a fast except at the Passover season, according to a reason elsewhere given,” 69

Neander ascribes the exclusion of fasting on the Sabbath in the East to the strong influence of those who observed it. The so-called Apostolic Canons, an ancient collection of church ordinances, declares (canon 66):

“If any clergyman be found to fast on the Lord’s day or on the Sabbath, let him be deposed; if a layman, let him be excommunicated.”

To introduce fasting on the Sabbath would prove hostile to the Sabbath observers. The real motive actuating the introduction of Sabbath fasting by the Catholic Church is given vent to in the following expression of Bishop Victorinus at the close of the third century:

“Let the fasting on Friday be extended, lest we should appear to observe any Sabbath with the Jews, which Christ, himself the Lord of the Sabbath, says by his prophets that ‘his soul hateth:’ which Sabbath he in his body abolished.” 70

Thus by the end of the third century we find the very same words in the mouth of a Catholic bishop that we found in the mouth of the Gnostic Marcion at the beginning of the second century; the same hatred produced kindred action. Neander thus states where this was first manifested:

“White in the Western, and especially in the Romish Church, where the opposition against Judaism predominated, the custom, on the other hand, grew out of this opposition, of observing the Sabbath also as a fast-day. As early as the beginning of the third century the learned Hippolytus was led to write on this controversy between the Eastern and the Western Church.” 71

Hippolytus was a decided antagonist of the aspiring claims of the Roman bishops. According to Jerome, he wrote a treatise against fasting on the Sabbath as it was practised by the Roman Church. 72

According to Cardinal Damian, Pope Sylvester, of Rome (314-335), first publicly sanctioned fasting on Sabbath in the Roma Church by the following sentence:

“If every Lord’s day, on account of the resurrection of the Lord, is to be kept and honoured, it is but equitable that every Sabbath day, on account of the burial, now be given to fasting; so that we, bewailing with the apostles the death of Christ, rejoice with them over the resurrection. If every Lord’s day be adorned with the glory of the resurrection, so every Sabbath day, which anteceds it, is to be a fast in mourning over the burial.” 73

This same Sylvester is also said legally to have sanctioned the term feriae as the proper term for the week-days. The Roman Breviary (lect. 6 in festis S.Sylvestri) remarks, under Pope Sylvester:

“Retaining the names Sabbath and the Lord’s day, and distinguishing the remaining days of the week by the term feriae, he wished them to be called what the church had already previously commenced to name them, whereby was signified that the clergy should daily call upon the on God, after having set apart the worship of other things,”


Although this treatise of Hippolytus is not extant, still we have Augustine’s treatment of the whole issue and its true status at that time(354-430). An anonymous person living in Rome had sent Cassulanus a treaties urging all to fast on the Sabbath. We give the following epitome of Augustine’s refutation of this doctrine in his epistle to Cassulanus:

“It is not without reason that the church takes no small offense at whoever singles out this as a special fast-day; for in such things as scriptures have ordained nothing definite, the custom of the people of God and the usages of their forefathers should be regarded as law.” “To be sure ‘the life of the sheep depends on the judgment of the shepherd,’ But if a Roman speaks thus, then the people at Rome, depending on the judgment of their shepherd, fast on the Sabbath with their bishop. He ought not to urge you to praise Christians Rome for fasting on the Sabbath, for this would force you, on the other hand to condemn the whole Christian world , which dines on the Sabbath.” “If he claims that ‘Peter as the chief of the apostles had thus taught them’ have the other apostles in opposition to Peter instructed the whole world to dine on the Sabbath? The opinion that before his dispute with Simon Magus, Peter first fasted with the church on the Sabbath, is quite extensively circulated, and yet even most of the Romans consider it a fiction,” “If he farther claims that ‘all old things have passed away, and in Christ all things have become new,’ this is true. Therefore, we do not abstain from work on the Sabbath as do the Jews; never the less, in commemoration of this rest that is prefigured by that day, we lessen the rigor of the fast, and yet adhere to Christian sobriety and temperance. The correct understanding of this is that the carnal Sabbath has given way to the spiritual, whatever the manner be—whether some dine or some fast on that weekly recurring Sabbath. Longing after the eternal and true rest on that spiritual Sabbath, the temporal abstinence from work on that is already considered superstitious.

We all fast on the sixth day, because Christ then suffered; but concerning the Sabbath, during which Christ lay in the grave, just as God rested from all his works in the beginning of the world, it is here that the different colors of the garments of the king’s daughter apply, as some fast, and others do not.

We all fast on Easter Sabbath—even those who otherwise dine; fasting on this Sabbath commemorates the mourning of the disciples; partaking of food on all other Sabbaths shows forth the joy of the acquired rest.”

“When I was a candidate for baptism at Milan, my mother, who then visited me, was in serious doubts as to whether she should fast on the Sabbath according to their usual custom at home, or dine in harmony with the usage at Milan. I therefore consulted Ambrose, bishop of Milan. He referred to his own experience: ‘When I am here, I fast not on the Sabbath; when I am at Rome, I fast on the Sabbath: and to whatever church I may come, and to whatever church you may come, observe the custom of the place, if you would neither give offense to others, or take offense from them,’”74

Sabbath Rest From Work Is Considered A Superstition”

This epistle throws considerable light on the whole controversy. It shows that as late as the end of the fourth century the bishop of Rome and some of the churches in the west, differed from all the rest of the world in the matter of Sabbath fasting. While Rome urged its universal obligation, Ambrose and Augustine regarded it as a matter of minor importance, believing that the church, the true King’s daughter, might, as such, wear a garment of different colors, and yet be on in all important matters. And in this question they were united on the main issue—that the carnal Sabbath of the Jews had given way to the spiritual Sabbath of the Christians, and that it was superstitious to abstain from temporal works on that day. What they believed about abstaining from work on the Sabbath, they also held with reference to abstaining from work on Sunday. Abstaining from work came into consideration only so far as upon it depended attendance at the services on Sabbath or on Sunday.

The Reproach Of Christ For Genuine Sabbath Observance.

This chapter has fully substantiated the fact that the example of the apostolic church in the observance of the Sabbath in honor of Christ as Creator and Redeemer, was faithfully followed by the true Israel of God even into the fifth century, whence we shall trace its observance in the following chapters. Seeing the need of grace to enable them to keep the commandments of God, they were willing to have the Holy Spirit write his law in their minds and hearts, although for this faithfulness they had to bear the reproach of Christ more than any other Christian party.

While mystic Gnosticism swayed the general body of the church from one extreme to the other, they, the true Israel, guided by the Holy Spirit, kept to the golden mean. And while the tradition-laden Sabbath of the Jew was mystified into the spiritual Sabbath of the Gnostic, the faithful Israelite kept the Sabbath in the spirit of his Master, true to its benevolent and Edenic design.

Though the Gnostic degraded the Sabbath of Jehovah into a fast-day to spite the God of the Jews; though the Roman bishop followed in his wake; though church councils anathematized genuine Sabbath observance as Judaizing; though the unbelieving Jew desecrated the Sabbath of his forefathers by his wantonness; though the large body of the church gradually preferred the popular day of the heathen world, and made both days merely festivals (to which were added almost an innumerable number of others), and called abstinence from work merely a superstition, still the seventh-day Sabbath, blessed of the Creator in the beginning, remained the only delight of the true Israel of God. Persecuted as Nazarenes by the unbelieving Jew, despised as Jewish by the idolatrous pagan and the mystic Gnostic, anathematized as heretics by the general church, discriminated against as lawless by the civil and ecclesiastical authorities, yet they kept the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus,—“heretics,” and yet the true church; “Jewish” and still the genuine Christians; persecuted, and yet victorious.

In closing this chapter, we know of no more fitting words than the following form Pollock’s “Course of Time”

“Sure sign, whenever seen,
That holiness is dying in the land:
The Sabbath was profaned and set at naught”

Chapter 20: Sunday Holiness During The Middle Ages


The Rise of the papal See
The eldest Son of
Character of the Franks
Dr. Zahn on How Sunday Holiness Became Established Among the half heathen tribes
Council of Orleans and Judaizing on Sunday
Stripes for Sunday Desecration
Sunday Penalties fixed under divine inspiration at Macon
The implacable anger of the clergy for Sunday Work
The Statute of Childebert
The Miracles of Gregory of Tours
Divine Judgments upon Sunday Work Fabricated
First Appearance of scrolls from heaven In Favor of Sunday
Perpetual Slavery for continued Sunday Work
The First English Sunday Laws
Canons of English Councils
Marriage Forbidden, under Penance, on the Lord’s Day
Boniface’s Sunday Laws
Loss of Right Hand for Working on Sunday
A Sunday Scroll Condemned by the Pope
Charlemagne the Standard Bearer of St. Peter
Alcuin the First to Bring forth the transfer of the Sabbath to Sunday
Forced Conversions
Carolingian Capitularies Regarding Sunday
Council of Paris Implores the Imperial Arm to Punish Sunday Desecration
Leo the Philosopher’s Criticism on Constantine’s Sunday Law
Stealing on Sunday Worse then on Other Days
Sunday legislation in Hungary
Olaus, King of Norway
Souls Relieved in Purgatory on Sunday
“Truce of God” Encyclical
The Holy Sunday Commandment from Heaven
Chronologists Record its Approval
Innocent III
New Sunday Miracles
Letter from Heaven Still for Sale
Neglect of Church Attendance Fined
Gregory IX’s Decretals on feast-days
Indulgences for Sunday Work Granted
Inconsistencies of Sunday Legislation

The Rise Of The Papal See

By the end of the fifth century, Sunday stood firmly embodied as a weekly holiday, in the Theodosian code of the empire and in the canons of general councils and synods; but it was by no means thereby so indelibly engraved on the depraved hearts of the Romans. The imperial theocracy of the West met its just doom in A.D. 476, when it became an easy prey to the heretical barbarians. The time foreseen by the prophet Daniel had come, “when out of the chaos of the northern migrations and on the ruins of the Roman empire gradually a new order of states should arise, whose central point was the Papal See,” the little horn from among the ten kings; or, as Stanley puts it: “When the barbarians broke upon Italy, the Pope thus became the representative of the ancient republic.” 1 Already when the gates of imperial Rome were opened to the victorious Attila and Genseric, it was Leo, the Roman bishop, who averted the worst. He justly bears the name of “The Great,” if greatness depends upon the conception of the papal idea; for when this was once pronounced, it was only a matter of time until the imperial theocracy, which had hitherto summoned councils, presided over them and given their canons the force of universal law, should be replaced by the papal hierarchy, which would proudly dictate her laws to emperors and kings, and hold the whole world in fear by her anathemas.

But before the Papacy could assume such power there was first to be made room for it amon the kings. Arianism had not only played an important part at the Byzantine court, but the barbarians had become attached to it. The Goths, the Vandals, the Burgundians, the Suevi, etc., were all Arians. When the western empire fell, the bishop of Rome became the political subject of Arianian kings. Odoacer, [chieftain of the Germanic Heruli, who deposed the last Roman emperor, and became the first barbarian ruler over the western empire,] and Theodoric, [the Ostrogoth, who then conquered Odoacer, and took from him the empire,] though both these rulers were heretics in the eyes of the Catholics, yet they decided the heated contest between rivals for the papal chair .

The Eldest Son Of The Church

“In the midst of the greatest distress the church was gladdened by the conversion of the Franks, whose king, Clovis, was baptized after the battle of Zuelpich,”

These are the suggestive words of the Roman Catholic historian. 2

“The Salian Franks were the first among the Teutonic tribes which were converted to Catholic or orthodox Christianity. Hence the sovereign of France is styled by the popes, ‘the oldest son of the church,’ and Rheims, where Clovis was baptized, is the holy city where most of the French kings down to Charles (A.D.1824) were consecrated. The conversion of the Franks prepared the way for the downfall of the Arian heresy among the other Germanic nations, and for the triumph of the Papacy in the German empire under Charlemagne.” 3

As Clovis was going down into the water, the bishop exclaimed, “Behold the new Constantine!” Pope Anastasius, learning that Clovis, with three thousand of his men, had been baptized, sent a message:

“The Chair of St. Peter rejoices that so many people flow unto him; may you be an iron pillar for his church in this present hour of her afflictions!”

As he was the only Roman Catholic king in the world, Clovis was claimed at once as the patron and protector of the Papacy. He should be the “common sun to which all the nations would be attracted; the church would take the deepest interest in his success; if he should go to war, she is victorious.” Legends of miraculous help supplied all that was lacking; for Gregory of Tours reports, in his history of the Franks, that St. Martin sent a hind to show Clovis the passage through the Vienne, that St. Hilary went before him in a cloud of fire.

Ow the Pope could cry out in the words of Baronius: “When the Roman Church seemed about to perish, the kings, not of the East, but from the North, came to the cradle of christ, as in times of old,” And Pope Gregory II could write to the emperor of the East: “All they of the West have their eyes bent on our humility; they regard us as a god on earth.” 4

The following from Bonifacius shows what help the Franks were to the Catholic Church:

“Without the patronage of the Frankish ruler, I can neither govern the people nor defend the presbyters, deacons, monks, or handmaidens of God; nor even could I forbid the pagan rites and sacrilegious idolatries in Germany without his mandate and the fear of his name.”5

Character Of The Franks

But what “sad Christians” the Franks were, and how much the second Constantine was like the first, is thus stated by Montalembert:

“Their incredible perversity was most apparent in the domestic tragedies, the fratricidal executions and assassinations, of which Clovis gave the first example, and which marked the history of the son and grandson with an ineffaceable stain. Polygamy and perjury mingled in their daily life with a semi-pagan superstition, and in reading these bloody biographies, scarcely lightened by some transient gleams of faith or humility, it is difficult to believe that, in embracing Christianity, they gave up a single pagan vice or adopted a single Christina virtue.” 6

It was among such “sad Christians” that Sunday become sanctified by “divine command” and “judgments”. And in what manner, Dr. Th. Zahn describes:

Dr. Zahn On How Sunday Holiness Became Established Among The Half Heathen Tribes

“It was reserved to the lawgivers of the German states to rigorously enforce upon the unmanageable, half-heathen tribes, the celebration of Sunday, the principal object of which was the cessation from labour. Whether the civil authorities offered to see to the enforcement of the laws, or whether it was entrusted to the bishops, if in one instance traveling by water and by land was allowed, while it was most strictly forbidden in another; whether there should be inflicted only a money or property penalty; or whether it might be increased to depriving the free-born of liberty, and to the amputation of the right hand of the slave—the spirit of these laws was ever the same—that of the Old Testament. This legislation is accompanied by a new theological doctrine of Sunday, or it is founded upon such from the beginning. That this Christian celebration of Sunday is identified with the Sabbath observance commanded of God through Moses, was an unheard-of doctrine in the ancient church.

“At first this doctrine seems to have raised its head but timidly; however, it must have been already active, when in A.D. 538, the council of Orleans opposed as a Jewish superstition the idea that it should be unlawful to ride and drive, to prepare food, to clean house, or to bathe on Sunday. At that time there were people in France who began to apply to Sunday the Mosaic ordinances concerning the observance of the Sabbath. Scarce half a century had passed before the synods accepted the very principle they had rejected at Orleans. Henceforth it became the rule to emphasize as the characteristic of Sunday observance the omission of ‘servile labour’ in all the decrees of the synods and in the civil laws, and to appeal to the Mosaic Sabbath law as a command still binding upon the Christian. It was declared that the ancient doctors of the church had transferred all the glory from the Jewish Sabbath to Sunday, and in this manner had made the somewhat moderated Sabbath law the basis for Christian Sunday observance.

Then, too, the people were told dreadful stories of divine judgment against Sunday work. The intention to have a most powerful effect upon the people and princes, had begotten this new Sunday doctrine. It made a much deeper impression upon them if they could be pointed to an express, divine command; and the church was glorified if credence was given to its assertion that it had supplanted the letter of the old law of God by a new and no less divine law, by virtue of its own full and perfect power, through which it also instituted other festivals of greater sanctity and made them binding on the conscience of Christendom,” 7

Canons of councils, statutes of the civil law, and statements from ecclesiastical writers fully bear out this testimony from Dr. Zahn, as we shall see; for beginning with the sixth century, they alter their tone (frequently contradicting one another), but are all the time bent on gradually identifying Sunday with the Sabbath.

Council Of Orleans And Judaizing On Sunday

We shall begin with the Western councils, where the sentiment of the Roman bishop is most plainly voiced. The first national council of Orleans (A.D. 511) decreed:

“Canon 26. On Sundays lay members must attend the whole mass, and are not to leave ere the benediction. If any leaves, he shall be publicly censured by the bishops.”

“Canon 31. A bishop, unless he is ill, must not fail in attendance at divine service on Sunday in the church which lies nearest to him.” 8

Thus even bishops had to be urged to attend the Sunday services. That which at times occupied them is revealed to us by canon 41, of the council of Arragon:

“No bishop or presbyter shall sit in judgment on Sunday. They may, however, settle quarrels on other days, with the exception of criminal cases.” 9

But the real status of Sunday observance at the beginning of the sixth century is set before us by the twenty-eighth canon of the third council of Orleans:

Canon 28. “Because people are persuaded that they ought not to travel on the Lord’s day with horses, oxen, and carriages, nor to prepare anything for food, nor to employ themselves in any way conducing to the cleanliness and adornment of their houses or persons (which is proved to belong rather to Jewish superstition than to Christian observance), we ordain that those things are lawful to be done, as they have heretofore been lawful. Moreover, we decide to abstain from rural work, plowing, pruning of vines, or vintage—frequently at least—that one may be more easily at leisure to attend church on account of the sermon. If any be found engaged in the above-named occupations, which are forbidden to them, they shall be brought to obedience in some way—not through the severity of laymen, but by priestly reproof.” 10

This canon positively declared that up to that time rural work had been allowed, and it did not even prohibit labour then because any divine law would be transgressed, but rather to facilitate church attendance in this way. Rural work was not absolutely forbidden, but it was “frequently at least;” and as yet fines were not imposed—it was only reproof at the hands of the clergy. However, some were already identifying Sunday with the Sabbath, and urged a very strict observance of it; but this council condemns such as “Jewish superstition.”

Stripes For Sunday Desecration

And the civil law quickly followed in the footprints of the ecclesiastical. In A.D. 554 king Childebert issued a law against those who persisted in retaining heathen idols on their estates, and against Sunday desecration. That part of the law referring to the latter subject reads:

“Complaint has reached us that many sacrileges happen among the people, by which God is grieved, and the people become a prey to death on account of their sins. The night vigils are spent in drunkenness, sport, and rioting; and the dancing girls roam about in the villages, even on holy days, like Easter, Christmas, and other festivals, or on the accompanying Lord’s day. All this, whereby God is manifestly offended, we shall henceforth by no means permit. If any one, after the admonition of the priest and of this our command, shall dare to perpetrate the same sacrilege, he shall receive a hundred stripes; if a slave; but if free-born, or perhaps a more honoured person, he shall be condemned to rigid imprisonment. Because such despise wholesome words intended to bring them back from the danger of death, and they should be placed under penance that it may strengthen them, crucified at least in the body, to restore health according to the desire of the spirit.” 11

The council of Auxerre (A.D. 578) decreed:

Canon 16. “It is not allowed to yoke up oxen on the Lord’s day, or to perform other work—except for the reason stated.” 12

Sunday Penalties Fixed Under Divine Inspiration At Macon

The second council of Macon (A.D. 585) went much further, and, as Bishop Grimelund fittingly remarks, “by its severe prohibition and hard punishment,” it “had already stamped the seal of the law upon Sunday, and that, too, by ecclesiastical authority.” To restore the neglected observance of the Lord’s day, the first canon enjoined:

“Notice is taken that Christian people thoughtlessly abandon the Lord’s day to contempt, giving themselves to continuous work, as on other days. Therefore we decree by this our synodal epistle that every one of us admonish the people under his charge in the holy churches. Whoever heeds this admonition will reap the benefits; whoever does not makes himself liable to the penalties fixed upon by us under divine inspiration (divinitus)

Therefore, all ye Christians who do not bear this name in vain, listen to our advice, knowing that we are concerned for your good, and have power to restrain you from evil-doing: Keep the Lord‘s day, the day of our new birth and deliverance from all sin. Upon it let no one be inflamed by lawsuits; let no one collect fines; let no one create such a necessity as would seem to force him to place the yoke upon the necks of his cattle. Let all be occupied, mind and body, in the hymns and praise of God. If there be a church near by, hasten to it, and there on the Lord‘s day place yourself in the proper frame of mind through prayers and tears. If your eyes and hands are extended to God during this whole day, then it is to you a perpetual day of rest; this, prefigured by the shadow of the seventh day, is recognized in the law and the prophets. It is therefore but just for us to unanimously celebrate this day, through which we are made what we were not; for formerly we were the servants of sin, but through it we are made servants of righteousness.

Let us offer a free service unto God, by whom we are renewed through piety and set free from the prison-house of error; not because our Lord desires us to celebrate the Lord‘s day by abstaining from bodily work; but he seeks obedience by which he mercifully lead us to heaven, after we have trampled earthly tendencies under foot.”

The Implacable Anger Of The Clergy For Sunday Work

The second council of Macon continues:

If with some of you this wholesome exhortation weights but little, or is treated contemptuously, be it know unto him that he will be chiefly punished of God according to his just deserts, besides having immediately drawn upon him the implacable anger of the clergy.. If he has a case in court he shall irreparably lose it; if he be a farmer or a slave, he shall be scourged with severer blows of the lash; if he be a clergyman or a monk, he shall be shut out from the society of his brethren for six months. For all this restores unto us the forgiving mind of God, as well as keeps the plagues of sickness and sterility far from us.” 13

These punishments were to be executed by the ecclesiastical authorities; to give the whole matter his royal sanction, King Guntram issued “a most glorious precept to the bishops and judges of his realm,” on Nov. 4, 585. In this lengthy decree, which covers several pages, he solemnly charges the ecclesiastical and civil authorities to enjoin upon the people this very canon of the council concerning Sunday observance; otherwise, they would make themselves guilty of the divine wrath, which would surely fall upon them, Then he continues:

“On the strength of this decree and in the light of this general definition, be it therefore ordained that on all Lord’s days on which honor the mystery of the holy resurrection, or on any of the other festivals when, according to custom, the religious assembly of the whole people is studiously called together to revere the oracles of the temples, all corporeal work be suspended except that necessary in the preparation of food, and that in particular there be no court proceedings, from any cause whatsoever.” 14

Canon 4 of this same council of Macon “enjoins all believers, men and women, to bring an oblation of bread and wine every Sunday.” 15

Canon 4 of the council of Narbonne (A.D. 589) enjoins this abstinence from work upon everybody:

“No man, free-born or slave, Goth, Roman, Syrian, Greek, or Jew, shall do any kind of work on the Lord’s day, nor shall they yoke up cattle excepting in case of necessity. But if any one should presume to do it, the free-born shall pay the magistrate six solidi (a solidus is about twelve shillings, or three dollars in 1910), and the slave shall receive one hundred stripes.” 16

The Statute Of Childebert

A civil statute of King Childebert was issued in the same year, to this effect:

“Likewise we ordain to regard the Lord’s day. If a freeman should presume to do any work save what pertains to cooking or to eating, he shall be fined fifteen solidi if he be a Salian, and seven and half if he be a Roman; but a slave should either give three solidi, or have it taken out of his hide.” 17

What a wonderful change was brought about by this sixth century! At its close, the most cruel ecclesiastical and civil laws enjoin that which was regarded as “Jewish superstition” at its beginning. What wrought such wonderful changes? Dr. Loening furnishes the key to this in his work on ecclesiastical law. At first neither the church in general nor the state dreamed of punishing work done on Sunday and on holidays, but “miraculous stories” were set afloat as an evidence of divine punishment.

The Miracles Of Gregory Of Tours

Dr. Loening describes Gregory’s divine miracles of punishment which would follow immediately and relentlessly on the heels of all work done upon Sunday, even the most necessary, thus:.

“Gregory of Tours is especially productive of this kind of narrations. Hist. X,30: De Miraculis S. Juliani,’ c. 40; ‘De Miraculis S. Martini,’ 3,c.3,7,29,55 (4, c. 45; ‘Vit. Patrum,’ 7,c.5;15, c. 3). At one time it is a peasant who gathers in his hay on Sunday because of the threatening rain; another time it is a peasant on his way to church, who, seeing cattle in his field, hastily repairs the hedge, that his year’s work may not be in vain; then again, it is a girl combing her hair; all have to feel the wrath of the saints, and are punished with some physical ailment in return.” 18

An English preacher, Francis West, gravely adduces one of these miracles in support of Sunday sacredness:

“Gregory of Tours reported that a husbandman, who upon the Lord’s day went to plow his field with an iron, the iron stuck so fast in his hand that for two years he could not be delivered from it, but carried it about continually, to his exceeding great pain and shame.” 19

Gregory of Tours again and again expresses his intense hatred against the Jews, forgetting the admonition of Paul in Rom.11:19,20, as well as the royal law of love toward all. In his history of the Franks, which abounds with all sorts of miracles, he relates the following:

“Near the town of Lemovicinia there were several destroyed by the heavenly fire, because they had worked publicly on the Lord’s day, and thus desecrated it. For this day that first saw the newly created light in the beginning is holy, and it shines forth as a witness of the resurrection; therefore it must be kept by the Christians in all faithfulness, and no public work is to be performed on that day. Also many have been devoured of this fire in Touraine, but not upon a Sunday.” 20

Divine Judgments Upon Sunday Work Fabricated

The story tells its own tale at the end—many others were struck by lightning who had not worked on Sudnay! Even at the present day, how many are the tracts written by religious societies, which, for want of better evidece, produce such tales in behalf of the sacredness of Sunday!

First Appearance Of Scrolls From Heaven In Favor Of Sunday

But about this time yet other means began to be employed by the monks and the clergy, to impress upon the superstitious nations only partly reclaimed from paganism the sanctity of Sunday, and to make them believe that the Decalogue now demanded the keeping of the first day of the week instead f the day which had been observed by the despised Jews. Scrolls said to have fallen from heaven, and attributed to Christ, were produced. And thus the lack of divine precept was to be supplied by human forgeries.

The first recorded instance of such a forgery dates from this very time, and the evidence is to be found in the correspondence between two Spanish bishops, mentioned by Fabricius in his Apocryphal Codex of the New Testament, under “Writings Attributed to Christ.” About A.D. 585, Bishop Vincent, of Yvica, sent to Bishop Lician, of Cartagena, such a scroll, the contents of which are quoted to some extent in the answer of Licinian. The latter answers:

“Your letter has much grieved us, because, according to your statement, you have accepted said epistle, and even proclaimed it from your pulpit to the people.” “I am astonished at your credulity, and hardly know how you, having the predictions of the prophets, the Gospels of Christ, and the epistles of the apostles, can believe the said epistle, fabricated under the name of Christ, although it lacks elegance of speech and sound doctrine. In the begin we read that the Lord’s day is to be kept. What Christian does not keep this day in greater honor, not because of its own merits, but because Christ rose from the dead on it? As far as I am able to discern, the new idea of this preacher is to compel us to Judaize for, according to him, one is not permitted to prepare the necessary food or to take a walk on this day. Your holiness can judge how bad this would be. We would that if the Christian people do not attend church on that day they might do something useful instead of dancing and distorting their well-formed, God given bodies, and singing lewd songs to encourage immorality. Be it far from your holiness to believe that now epistles are sent to us from Christ.” “Has perhaps the new name pleased you so much because, as the impostor claims, this epistle fell from heaven upon the altar of Christ in the church of St. etc.? Know that this is a deception of the devil, and that the divine Scripture, the epistle or epistles, are heavenly, and have not been sent to us from heaven.” 21

This furnishes positive evidence that by the end of the sixth century, such supposed heavenly scrolls began to be circulated, and that even then already some bishops went so far as to read them from their pulpits. But other bishops, true to the decision of the council of Orleans based on the church Fathers, condemned their tendency as “Judaizing.”

Perpetual Slavery For Continued Sunday Work

The eighteenth canon of the council at Chalons (A.D.644) reads:

“It is generally admitted by all Catholics who fear God that it behoves them to observe the Lord’s day (which is the first day of the week), as has been decreed in all former canons: we institute nothing new, but renew the old—that no one conceive of the idea of performing rural work on the Lord’s day, such as plowing, mowing, gathering in the harvest, breaking up new land, or doing anything else pertaining to rural labour. If anyone should be found doing this he shall be straightened out by severe disciple of all sorts.” 22

To this century belongs also the so-called Alemanian law, which has the following Sunday ordinance:

“Let no one perform servile work on Sunday, because this law prohibits it, and the Holy Scripture is altogether contrary to it. If any slave be found guilty, he is to be beaten with rods. The freeman may be arrested until the third offense; if he still continues, he shall lose the third part of his inheritance; if he yet persists, he should be brought and convicted before the diet, and after the duke has ordained it, he shall be made a slave: because he would not have leisure for god, he shall remain in perpetual slavery.” 23

The First English Sunday Laws

The oldest Anglo-Saxon document mentioning Sunday is a Penitential written about A.D. 668 by Theodore, archbishop of Canterbury, the eleventh article of which reads:

“If anyone works on the Lord’s day, the Greeks accuse him the first time, the second time they take something from him, the third time they take the third part of his goods, or scourge him, or make him fast seven days. But if any one fasts from negligence on the Lord’s day, he is to abstain from food the whole week; if again, twenty days; and if afterwards, forty days.” 24

The earliest mention of Sunday in an English law is the following:

“I, Ine (A.D. 688-726), ing of the West Saxons, with the advice of Cenred, my father, and Hedde and Erkenwald, my bishops, with all my aldermen and most distinguished sages, and also with a large assembly of God’s servants, considering of the health of our souls and the stability of our realm,… Made several enactments, of which this is the third: If a bondman work on Sunday by his lord’s command, let him be free; and let the lord pay thirty shillings’ fine (wite); but if the bondman went ot work without his knowledge, let him suffer in his hide, or pay a ransom. But if a freeman work on that day without his lord’s command, let him forfeit his freedom, or sixty shillings; if he be a priest, double.” 25

Canons Of English Councils

King Withred, of Kent, and canons 10-12 of the council of Berk Hampstead (A.D. 697) enjoin”:

“If a bondman do any servile work contrary to his lord” command, from sunset Saturday till sunset Sunday, let him pay a fine of eighty shillings to his lord. But if he does it at his own accord, let him pay six shillings or his hide. But if a freeman at the forbidden time do this, let him be liable in his ‘heals fang’ [a fixed amount of the value placed on a person]; and the man who detects him, let him half the fine and the work.” 26

The law enjoins the later penalty also on the people who still make offerings to devils. These strangely graduated penalties are likewise found in the Constitutions of Egbert, archbishop of York, 749; and the council of Clovishoff (A.D. 747) charges the abbots and presbyters “to remain on this most holy day in their monasteries and churches, read mass, avoid all secular business, and not to travel unless in special need.” 27

Marriage Forbidden, Under Penance, On The Lord’s Day

Pope and archbishop even forbade marrying on Sunday, as Dr. Binterim thus affirms:

“Some may be perhaps surprised to learn that Gregory III (A.D. 731-741) and Egbert of York (A.D. 784) forbade marriage on Sunday, and imposed a penance. Gregory III says, in his Judiciis Poenitent.: ‘Whoever marries on the Lord’s day, shall ask God for mercy and do penance from one to three days.’ Harduin., tom. 3, p. 1877. And Egbert extends the penance to seven days. Id., p. 1970.” 28

Boniface’s Sunday Laws

Some of the collections of canons from synods held on the Continent belong also to this period. In canon 23, enacted under Boniface (A.D. 680-755), an Anglo-Saxon Benedictine monk, who played a major part in the conversion of Germany to Catholism, and is known as “Apostle of Germany”, we read:

“If a freeman yokes up his oxen on Sunday, he shall lose his right ox.” 29

On what basis Boniface enjoined Sunday already in his time, is seen from his fifteenth sermon on the renunciation of the devil in baptism, where he reminds the heathen converts of what they have renounced. After speaking of the commandments they should keep, he continues:

Keep the Sabbath and go to church—to pray, but not to prattle. Give alms according to your power, for alms extinguish sins as water does fire.” 30

Thus the heathen converts were taught that Sunday was the Sabbath required in the commandments, and its observance was enjoined by the most stringent laws.

Loss Of Right Hand For Working On Sunday

The aforementioned canon appears in the so-called Bavarian law, which seems to belong to this period:

“If a freeman has done servile work on the Lord’s day, that is, if he has yoked up oxen, and driven about with a cart, he shall lose the right oxen. But if he makes hedges, mows hay, or cuts or gathers grain, or performs any other servile work on the Lord’s day, he shall b arrested once, and twice. But if he does not reform, his back shall receive fifty stripes. If he persists, he shall lose his liberty, and be sold as a slave, because he would not be free on the Lord’s holy day.

“But the slave shall also be shipped for such a crime and if he persists, he shall lose his right hand. If any one travels by cart or by boat, which is forbidden, he shall rest until the second feria. And if he does not want to regard the precept of the Lord, that he should not perform any servile work on the holy day, neither his servant, etc., then he shall be fined twelve solidi. And if he frequently transgresses, he shall be subject to greater punishment.”31

A Sunday Scroll Condemned By The Pope

During this period we find a further trace of these so-called “heavenly letters,” which were so widely circulated in the Frankish empire that not only general synods, but even a council at Rome, had to take action condemning them as forgeries. As the letter we wish to consider is quite long, we shall content ourselves by simply quoting in part:

“Here begins the epistle of our Lord Jesus Christ, which fell from heaven, Michael himself having carried it. It was found at the gate of Efre by a priest named Eros. He handed it to Leopas, who carried it to Cappadocia, and there its writing was made known unto the priests, and many people who were gathered together to seek God; as follows:

“On the Lord’s day there are to be no court sessions and no chase; the milk is not to be collected from the flocks, except as a gift to the poor; and the cattle are not to be yoked up. In case you do not observe the Lord’s day, the judgments of God will fall upon you. The only work allowed, is to go to church, to hear mass, and to attend to works of charity. Do penance in sackcloth and ashes as the Ninevites, better your lives, ere the wrath of God come upon all the inhabitants of the earth, because you transgress my commandments and dishonor the holy Lord’s day.

If you do not hearken, I will send upon you hot stones of great weight, causing fire and destruction. If you watch and pray, give alms, return not evil for evil, and keep the Lord’s day, then you shall rein with me in eternity. Such as still secretly sacrifice at fountains, tress, rocks, or sepulchres, as well as those who do not observe the Lord’s day, I anathematize. Remember the tables of Moses my servant, and preach the law that the people may fear it.

I admonish you by this epistle, that if any dare to chatter, to prattle, to sit about in church, or to leave the mass ere it is finished, he is anathematized. Wash not your clothes, cut not your hair or your beard upon this day, else I will send upon you locusts and ravenous wolves. If anyone, instead of attending church on the Lord’s day, rather trades, goes to the woods, rests, sits in the streets, or prattles, I will bring upon him the unbelieving heathen. In the beginning, after I had rested on and sanctified the Lord’s day, I gave it to you. If you do not observe it, I will bring fiery serpents among you, O ye women, which shall devour your breasts; yea, I will bring worms, fire flame, etc. and as I shall judge the world, it will be but a great ruin. This epistle is to be announced to all people.” 32

Can we hear in all this anything save what was then everywhere proclaimed from the pulpits? If “saints” pretended miracles to enjoin better Sunday observance, why shouldn’t some “sinner” think it a devout act to give such a document general circulation for the same purpose? A comparison of this text with that quoted in the acts of the council of Rome shows that different letters were in circulation. Adelbert and Clement, two British bishops, are condemned for its circulation, first by Boniface in the council at Liftinae (A.D. 745), and then at Rome under Pope Zacharias, in a council held there the same year. 33 Walch, however, in his “History of Heretics,” questions their guilt, because other epistles of like character are mentioned in the Capitularies of Charlemagne later on, and yet no reference whatever is made to these men.

In the council of Aken (A.D. 789):

CANON 77 False writings, such as the letter which is said to have fallen from heaven last year, shall not be read, but burned.” 34

Thus such letters kept falling from time to time; though their contents might differ in words, their aim was the same—to misapply the fourth commandment in order to clothe Sunday with the lacking sanctity in the eyes of the half-converted heathen whom Boniface reproves for still keeping pagan festivals in honor of their Woden and Thor. 35

Charlemagne The Standard Bearer Of St. Peter

The great protector of Boniface was Pepin, who reigned A.D. 74-768, and it was his donation that laid the foundation for the “patrimony of St. Peter.” His policy was closely followed by Charlemagne (A.D. 768-814), whose chief ambition was to found a Christian theocracy, he to be the temporal, while the Pope should be the spiritual, head of Continental Christendom.


Dante has fitly characterized this in “Paradiso,” 6,94-97:

“And when the tooth of the Lombards had bitten
The holy church, then underneath the wings
Did Charlemagne victorious succor her.”

In the Lateran there is a mosaic picture of the ninth century, which represents Peter in glory bestowing the priestly stole upon the Pope, and the standard of Rome upon Charlemagne, who kneels to the left. As founder of the holy Roman empire, Charlemagne, aided by his learned men, issued the first great law book of the French and Germans, which, from its division into chapters, was called the Capitularia.. Many of the laws are directly mentioned as precepts of the pontifex, while others are ascribed to his admonition. 36

Alcuin The First To Bring Forth The Transfer Of The Sabbath To Sunday

Alcuin, Charlemangne’s prime minister and his great teacher, positively taught that “the observation of the former Sabbath had been transferred very fitly to the Lord’s day, by the custom and consent of Christian people.” 37

On the other hand, he gave this sound advice to the emperor: “A person may be compelled to submit to baptism, but this can be of no use in the work of Faith;” and also, that “after the profession of faith and baptism, respect must be had to the necessities of weak minds, in the exposition of the divine commandments.” 38

Forced Conversions

However, in spite of Alciun’s advice, the emperor Charlemagne drove the Saxons into the Elbe with the carnal sword, that they might be properly immersed, and the most severe ecclesiastical and civil laws were issued to force the half-converted pagans to keep Sunday.

How far this doctrine of the transference of Sabbath to Sunday influenced the wording of imperial Sunday laws, is best seen from the manner in which they are introduced. Not only do they directly mention the Sabbath commandment as applying to Sunday; but the detailed specification of works forbidden on Sunday suggests the forty, less one, Sabbath precepts of the Mishna, which the following demonstrates:

“We do ordain, as it is required in the law of God, that no servile works be performed on the Lord’s days,…that men abstain from works of husbandry, ie working in the vineyards, plowing in their fields, cutting grass or making, fencing or hedging, grubbing or felling trees, digging in the mines, constructing houses, working in the garden, going to law, or hunting. Only in three instances is carting allowed on the Lord’s day, ie in time of war, for provisions, and if it proves very necessary, to carry a corpse to the grave. Farther, women should not weave, dress cloth, do embroidery work, card wool, beat hemp, wash linen publicly, or shear sheep: in order that in all things the honor and the rest of the Lord’s day be served. But the people shall everywhere go to church, to attend the holy mass, and shall praise the Lord for all those good things which he has conferred upon us on this day.”39

Carolingian Capitularies Regarding Sunday

To what extent the regulations concerning Sunday were an imitation of those concerning the Sabbath, is seen from the fact that the Capitularies demand that “the Lord’s day be kept from vesper unto vesper,” that is, from Saturday eve until Sunday eve.” 40 This also finds expression in canon 19, of the synod at Frankfort (A.D. 794). They also forbid the holding of markets and court sessions, which requirements we find embodied in the sixteenth canon of Arles (A.D. 813) and in the thirty-seventh canon of Mayence (A.D. 813).

Although Charlemagne seconded the efforts of the Roman Church by issuing minute Sunday laws, still their enforcement and the infliction of the penalties remained in the hands of the church. That the church tried to influence Charlemagne and his successors to step in with secular penalties, we shall definitely show.

In A.D. 826, the great council held at Rome under Eugene II, decreed in canons 30 and 31:

“No work nor trading is allowed on the Lord’s days. Only the sale of provisions to travelers is permitted. Arrests are also allowed.” 41

The thirty-fifth canon of the same council is significant, as to the conditions that then existed in Rome:

“Certain persons, especially women, come to church on Sunday and holidays, not with the right intention, but in order to dance after the services, and to sing improper songs and chants, after the manner of the pagans. Such return home laden with greater sins than they brought to church with them. If they persist, they shall be excommunicated. The priests ought to admonish the people to come to church only for prayers.” 42

Council Of Paris Implores The Imperial Arm To Punish Sunday Desecration

This was followed by the council at Paris, A.D. 829, where the desire for direct civil legislation in behalf of Sunday observance is most positively expressed.

“That the Christian religion does not with reverence and veneration care for the Lord’s day on which the Author of life arose from the dead, and accept it as a day handed down by the holy Fathers upon the authority of the church, by no means agrees with divine authority. For while it appears that its veneration is guarded by some lords, on the other hand it is found that it is very seldom kept with the honor due to it by the slaves oppressed by their servitude. It was also the custom of the pagans to observe days in memory and reverence of their gods, and farther, it is the custom of the carnal Jews to observe the Sabbath carnally. But the custom arising from Christian devotion (which is believed to have come down from the tradition of the apostles, but is rather by the authority of the church ) has become firmly established, to observe the Lord’s day as venerable and honourable, in memory of the Lord’s resurrection. For on this day God instituted the light of the world, Christ arose from the dead, and sent his Holy spirit, the comforter, to his apostles from heaven; and on this day, as is handed down by certain church Farther, manna fell from heaven: these and similar things clearly demonstrate that this day is more noted and more venerable than the others.

It is therefore evident that, although the Christian religion excels all others, yet, just as the people have been overcome by worldly love and pleasure, and by diversions peculiar to mankind, and by very depraved, yea, by very dangerous usages which are regarded even as law, and thus there has been a declension among them, so also has there been to a great extent a like declension in the veneration accorded so honourable a day by the usages of Christianity. For many of us have seen, and many others heard, that some, following their husbandry on this day, have been killed by lightening; others have been seized of convulsions in their joints; and others have had punishment visited upon them in the form of visible fire, which has devoured their body and bones, and reduced them into ashes. And many other terrible judgments shall fall, and do fall until this time, whereby God declared his displeasure at the desecration of this great day.

There fore it seems good to us all, that first the priests, then the kings and princes and all the faithful, should do their utmost that the observance due this great day (which is now mostly neglected) shall henceforth be exhibited by Christianity in a more marked and devoted manner. If the Jews, who carnally observe the yoke of the law on that day, although no earthly power demands it of them, abstain from rural work until now, how much more fitting is it that those who have been redeemed by the greater grace of Christ should abstain from the aforementioned things, and make reparation by being filled only with spiritual joys, and songs and hymns, and heavenly praises, the whole heart bent upon resting on that day on which the author of life arose and conceded unto them the hope of the resurrection?

Wherefore the imperial priests do specially and humbly urge the higher powers that they use the power ordained unto them of God to instil in all a fear with regard to the reverence and honor of these great day, that upon this holy and venerable day they may no longer presume to hold markets or courts, or to perform any rural work or any cartage, under any condition whatever. For those who do this offend Christina decorum; and while they profess to give a place to the name of Christ, yet they detract much more from it by their blasphemies. It is therefore becoming that the Christian should on this day take time for divine praises, but not for the performance of rural work.” 43

This statement of a general council furnishes unquestionable authority to sustain all we have thus far sought to demonstrate. For centuries the Roman Church had tried, by preaching and teaching, by severe ecclesiastical canons, by recounting all sorts of miracles, to instil into the minds and hearts of its members the observance of a day resting on tradition, yea, on the authority of the church—but all in vain! Even the faithfulness of the despised Jew is held up as a reproach. But instead of turning to the divine Sabbath, they appealed to the civil arm, and the Pope and emperor tried their best to make the people believe that the Sabbath command has something to do with Sunday. But as Dr. Hinschius, an authority on ecclesiastical law, attest, Charlemagne and his successors were not willing to interfere by imposing also civil penalties.” 44

Leo The Philosopher’s Criticism On Constantine’s Sunday Law

The exemption granted by Constantine to agricultural labours in the East, which had been embodied in the code of Justinian, was not repealed until A.D. 910, when Emperor Leo, the philosopher, reversed and censured it in the following manner:

“We ordain, according to the true meaning of the Holy Ghost and of the apostles thereby directed, that on the sacred day, wherein our own integrity was restored, all do rest and surcease labour; that neither husbandman, nor other on that day put their hands to forbidden works. For if the Jews did so much reverence their Sabbath, which was but a shadow of ours, are not we which inhabit the light and truth of grace, bound to honor that day which the Lord himself hath honoured, and hath therein delivered us both from dishonor and form death? Are we not bound to keep it singular and inviolable, well contenting ourselves with so liberal a grant of the rest, and not encroaching upon that one day which God has chosen to his own honor? Were it not wretchless neglect of religion to make that very day common and to think we may do with it as with the rest?” 45

In the West, council after council enjoins additional canons to stop pleadings and markets on Sunday, and every additional canon is simply increased evidence that the former canons were not carried out even by the judges themselves. Canon 18 of the council at Aken (A.D. 835) forbids pleadings, markets and marriages on Sunday. 46 The synod held at Soissons (A.D. 853) forbids “pleadings on the Lord’s days in holy places;” a council held in Rome under Leo IV affirms the former Sunday ordinances; and yet the council at Tribur (A.D. 895) enjoins in canon 35:

“On the Lord’s days and the other festivals no duke of civil magistrate shall conduct pleadings or force the people to attend such; for God’s wrath would be kindled, because the people are asked to desist from their holy service and attend to strife ad contentions. No duke shall hereafter summon any penitent on that day, or be present himself.” 47

Stealing On Sunday Worse Then On Other Days

That stealing on Sunday or on a festival was considered a greater crime than on an ordinary day, is seen from the following law of Alfred the Great:

“He that stealeth on Sunday night, or on Christmas, etc., our will is that he make satisfaction twofold.” 48

In a convention between Edward the Elder and Guthrun the Dane (A.D. 906) there appears the following addition to the law of Ina:

“If any one presumes to trade on the Lord’s day, he forfeits the purchase, besides a fine of twelve oere if a Dane, and thirty solidi if an Englishman.” 49

King Athelstan issued a similar law in A.D. 929 forbidding markets and pleadings; while King Edgar the Peaceable decreed, in A.D. 958: “Keep holy day every Sunday from noontide of Saturday to Monday’s dawn.” 50

The Latin version renders it (Cancian. 4, 272), “the festival of the day of the sun be celebrated,” etc. The laws of the Northumberland presbyters enjoin:

“We prohibit trading everywhere on the day of the sun, and every convention of people, and all wrok, and all travel, be it in carts, on horses, or with burdens.” 51

The seventeenth canon of King Etherlred’s synod, called at Enmha in 1009, reads:

“The festival of the day of the sun is to be kept zealously as is becoming, and they should abstain diligently from trading and from conventions of the people and form hunting and secular works on the holy days.” 52

Canute the Great (A.D. 1017-1035) collected the former laws in chapters 14,15, and 42. The last adds, however:

A criminal guilty of death can be apprehended, never kill him on the festival of the day of the sun, except he flees or resists; but apprehend him and keep him until the festival is past.” 53

Sunday Legislation In Hungary

After Hungary had embraced Christianity, King Stephen issued a Sunday law (A.D/ 1016), which was adopted with a few additions at the national council in Szaboles (A.D. 1092). We append its substance as given by Hefele:

“Whoever neglects to attend his parish church on Sunday or high festivals, shall be scourged. If a lay member hunts on that day, he shall lose a horse, which he may redeem with an ox. If any one of the clergy goes hunting, he shall be deposed until he renders satisfaction. If he neglects to attend church or carries on a trade, he shall lose a horse. If he erects a stall in which to trade, he has either to tear it down or pay fifty-five pounds. If a Jew works on Sunday, he shall lose the tool wherewith he labours.” 54

Olaus, King Of Norway

Nor did the Sunday festival fail to gain a footing in Scandinavia. The following is related of Olaus, king of Norway, A.D. 1028:

“Olaus, while seriously engaged in thoughts on the Lord’s day, whittled with his knife on a small walking stick, which he carried. Having been told by the way of jest, that he had thereby trespassed against the Sabbath, he carefully gathered the chips, put them upon his hand and set fire to the, so that he might revenge that on himself, what unawares he had committed against God’s commandment.” 55

As to Spain, a council held at Coy in 1059 enjoins, in canon 6:

“All believers must go to church on Saturday eve, and on Sunday hear the minutiae the mass and the horaries. No servile work or travel, except in case of necessity, is to be performed on this day..” 56

Souls Relieved In Purgatory On Sunday

The doctors of the church were not wanting in efforts to strengthen the sacredness of this venerable day in the minds of the people. Peter Damianus (A.D. 1007-1072), who systematized and popularized a method of meritorious self flagellation with the recital of psalms, each of which was accompanied by a hundred stokes of a leathern thong, for personal benefit or for the release of souls in purgatory, wrote:

“That every Lord’s day the souls in purgatory were manumitted from their pains, and fluttered up and down the lake Avernus in the shape of birds.” 57

Morer, in his Dialogues, page 68, thus refers to this superstition:

“Yet still the others went on their way; and to induce their proselytes to spend the day with greater exactness and care, they brought in the old argument of compassion and charity to the damned in hell, who during the day have some respite from their torments, and the ease and liberty they have is more or less according to the zeal and degrees of keeping it well.”

“Truce Of God” Encyclical

Characteristic indeed is the great effort of the eleventh century to stop the bloody feuds of those times from Wednesday evening until Monday morning, by the so-called Truce of God.” The terrible famine and the increased crime and untold misery of those days moved the French clergy not only to declare this “truce” in their own territory, but to write (A.D. 1041) an encyclical letter to the Italian clergy, in which these statements occur:

“We believe that this truce has been given to us by divine grace sent from heaven, because everything was in such a terrible condition. Not even Sunday was celebrated, but all kind of servile work was performed. We have now dedicated unto god four days, to observe peace, namely, on Thursday in honor of Christ’s ascension, on Friday on account of his crucifixion, Saturday in memory of his burial, and Sunday in memory of his resurrection, so that on these days no agricultural work is to be performed, and no foe needs to fear the other. All who love this truce of God we bless and absolve; but those who oppose it we anathematize.” 58

That the rolls form heaven again played a part, and that they were even produced by bishops, Schaff attests thus in note 2, on page 340, just referred to:

“Balderich, in his chronicle of the bishops of Cambray, reports that in one of the French synods a bishop showed a letter which fell from heaven and exhorted to peace.”

Another means to increase Sunday holiness in England, was the circulation of this report concerning an apparition which King Henry II (A>D> 1157-1189) is said to have had:

“Of him it is reported that he had an apparition at Cardiff, which from St. Peter charged him that upon Sundays, throughout his dominions, there should be no buying or selling, and no servile work done.” 59

Besides this apparition in behalf of Sunday observance, miracles are brought forward in England, as had been done centuries before in France. Of their effect and the circumstances attending them, we find a very detailed account by the English historian Hoveden, and, as he lived a t the time, we have the words of an eye-witness. He informs us that in A.D. 1200 Eustace, the abbot of Flaye, in Normandy, came to England, and that his preaching was attended by many wonderful miracles. That Sunday observance was the great burden of his teaching, and that he met considerable opposition even from the clergy, is thus attested by Hoveden:

“At London also, and many other places throughout England, he effected by his preaching, that from that time forward people did not dare to hold market of things exposed for sale on the Lord’s day,” “However, the said abbot, on being censured by the ministers of Satan, was unwilling any longer to molest the prelates of England by his preaching, but returned to Normandy” 60

Thus censured and opposed by the English clergy for preaching such a strict Sunday observance, Eustace returns to the Continent to supply the lacking proof for his heavenly commission. One year’s sojourn suffices, as the further account of Hoveden shows:

“In the same year (A.D. 1201_ Eustace, abbot of Flaye, returned to England, and preaching there in the word of the Lord from city to city, and from place to place, forbade any person to hold a market of goods on sale upon the Lord’s day. For he said that the commandment under written, as to the observance of the Lord’s day had come down from heaven!”

The Holy Sunday Commandment As To The Lord‘S Day

“which came from heaven to Jerusalem…The Lord sent down this epistle, which was found upon the altar of S. Simeon, and after looking upon which three days and three nights, some men fell upon the earth, imploring mercy of God. And after the third hour, the patriarch arose, and Acharias, the archbishop, and they opened the scroll, and received the holy epistle from God. And…they found this writing therein;

“’I am the Lord who commanded you to observe the holy day of the Lord, and ye have not kept it, and have not repented of your sins, as I have said in my gospel, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away,”. ..Once more, it is my will that no one, from the ninth hour on Saturday until sunrise on Monday, shall do any work except that which is good.

“And if any person shall do so, he shall with penance make amends for the same. And if you do not pay obedience to this command, verily I say unto you, and I swear unto you, by my seat, and by my throne, and by the cherubim who watch my holy seat, that I will give you my commands by no other epistle, but I will open the heavens, and for rain I will rain upon you stones, and wood, and hot water in the night, that no one may take precautions against the same, and that so I may destroy all wicked men,… I will send unto you beasts that have the heads of lions, the hair of women, the tails of camels, and they shall be so ravenous that they shall devour your flesh, and you shall long to flee away to the tombs of the dead, and to hide yourselves for fear of the beasts; and I will take away the light of the sun from before your eyes, and will send darkness upon you, that not seeing, you may slay one another, and that I may remove from you my face, and may not show mercy upon you. For I will burn the bodies and the hearts of you, and of all those who do not keep as holy the day of the Lord…

Depart from evil, and show repentance for your sins. For, if you do not do so, even as Sodom and Gomorrah shall you perish. Now, know ye, that you are saved by the prayers of my most holy mother, Mary, and o my most holy angels, who pray for you daily…

“I gave unto you a law in Mount Sinai, which you have not kept. I gave you a law with mine own hands, which you have not observed. For you I was born into the world, and my festive day you knew not. Being wicked men, you have not kept the Lord’s day of my resurrection. By my right hand I swear unto you, that if you do not observe the Lord’s day, and the festivals of my saints, I will send unto you the pagan nations, that they may slay you. And still do you attend to the business of others, and take no consideration of this? For this will I send against you still worse beasts, who shall devour the breasts of your women. I will curs those who on the Lord’s day have wrought evil.” 61

The introduction of this roll, which was said to have fallen from heaven, is confirmed by accredited historians. 62 As a historical fact, there, its use cannot be questioned; and we have all the less ground to question it because we have already referred to copies of such rolls, and, beginning with the end of the sixth century, we have adduced the authentic records of synods and even of a council at Rome, mentioning and condemning them as forgeries. That these rolls were edited from century to century appears from the fact that they take into consideration the surrounding circumstances and issues at the time. The roll mentioned in the days of Boniface described the heathen practises as they then existed; in this roll, the Lord’s day is to be kept from “the ninth hour on Saturday until sunrise on Monday,” the very time enjoined in the law of Edgar and Canute.

Chronologists Record Its Approval

However, there is one great difference, if the following account given by Matthew Paris, the most noted English chronologist of the Middle Ages, is to be relied upon. This time the Pope and bishops give their sanction to it. As Matthew Paris was monk and rector of the renowned convent of St. Albans from A.D. 1217 to 1259, he had every opportunity to know the facts, and being a Catholic himself, he had no reason to record a biased story. Quoting the text of this roll, he thus continues:

“But when the patriarch and clergy of all the holy land had diligently examined the contents of this epistle, it was decreed in a general deliberation that the epistle should be sent to the judgment of the Roman pontiff, seeing that whatever he decreed to be done, would please all. And when at length the epistle had come to the knowledge of the lord Pope, immediately he ordained heralds, who, being sent through different parts of the world, preached everywhere the doctrine of this epistle, the Lord working with them and confirming their words by signs following. Among whom the abbot of Flaye, Eustachius by name, a devout and learned man, having entered the kingdom of England, did there shine with many miracles.” 63

Innocent Iii

Pope Innocent III (A.D. 1198-1216) filled the chair of St. Peter at that time, and the following extracts set forth his aims and success:

“Innocent was perfectly well qualified to raise the papal power and authority to the highest pitch, and we shall see him improving, with great address, every opportunity that offered to compass that end.” 64

“The external circumstances of his time also furthered Innocent’s views, and enabled him to make his pontificate the most marked in the annuals of Rome; the culminating point of the temporal as well as the spiritual supremacy of the Roman See.”

“His pontificate may be fairly considered to have been the period of the highest power of the Roman See” 65

The darkness of the Middle Ages covered the earth, and the power of the Pope was then supreme. As Catholic chronologists record that even then Pope Innocent III favored the circulation of this roll, we have good reason to set this down as a further step of papal usurpation in the matter of Sunday observance. P> What success Eustace this time had in his mission, and what further opposition he met as he forbade the further use of the churches for the sale of goods and for sessions of the courts, is recorded by Hoveden. Eustace came to York, in the north of England, and meeting an honourable reception,

“preached the word of the Lord, and on the breaking of the Lord’s day and the other festivals, and imposed upon the people penance, and gave absolution upon condition that in future they would pay due reverence to the Lord’s day and the other festivals of the saints, doing therein no servile work.”

“Upon this, the people who were dutiful to God at his preaching, vowed before God that, for the future, on the Lord’s day they would neither buy nor sell anything, unless, perchance, victuals and drink to wayfarers,”

“Accordingly, through these and other warnings of this holy man, the enemy of mankind being rendered envious, he put it into the heart of the king and of the princes of darkness to command that all who should observe the before stated doctrines, and more especially all those who had discountenanced the markets on the Lord’s day, should be brought before the kings’ court of justice, to make satisfaction as to the observance of the Lord’s day,” 66

New Sunday Miracles

To confirm the authority which forbade work from the ninth hour on Saturday until sunrise of Monday, and to neutralize the opposition of the king, some very extraordinary prodigies were reported, the substance of which we give: “One Sunday a carpenter of Beverly, who after the ninth hour was making a wooden wedge, fell to the earth, struck with paralysis. A woman weaving after three o’clock Saturday afternoon was struck with the dead palsy. A man that baked loaf of bread at the same time, when he came to eat it on Lord’s day morning, blood flowed from it. Corn ground by a miller, also after the ninth hour, was turned into blood, and the mill-wheel stood immovable, against the force of the waters. A Lincolnshire woman put her paste into the heated oven at this time, and although she kept it there until Monday morning, yet she found it raw dough. But another woman, who in harmony with the advice of her husband, kept her paste wrapped up in a linen cloth till Monday morning, then found it already baked without any fire of the material of this world.” 67

The historian laments that the people feared the king more than God, and so they, “like a dog to his vomit, returned to the holding of markets on the Lord’s day.”

Letter From Heaven Still For Sale

That this roll was again brought forward two years later in a council of Scotland, and with better effect, is affirmed by Morer:

“To that end it was again produced and read in a council of Scotland, held under (Pope) Innocent III… A.D. 1203, in the reign of King William, who…passed it into a law that Saturday from twelve at noon ought to be accounted holy, and that no man shall deal in such worldly business as on feast-days were forbidden. As also that at the tolling of a bell, the people were to be employed in holy actions, going to sermons and the like, and to continue thus until Monday morning, a penalty being laid on those who did the contrary. About the year 1214, which was eleven years after, it was again enacted, in a parliament at Scone, by Alexander III, king of the Scots, that none should fish in any waters from Saturday after evening prayer till sunrise on Monday, which was afterward confirmed by King James I.” 68

Starting with the miracles reported by Gregory of Tours as a judgment against Sunday labour, we have traced similar reports down to the thirteenth century; and we can but second the wish expressed by Johnson (Coll.2, 95), who ends his summary of the miracles mentioned by Eustace by concluding:—“I wish no Protestant had vented the like tales” 69

We have traced the pretended heavenly rolls from the end of the sixth to the thirteenth century. That their circulation was still continued in favor of Sunday is seen from the use the Flagellants made of them in Germany and Switzerland during the fourteenth century. Yea, even in Protestant northern Germany such as epistle is in circulation which is said to have fallen from heaven near Magdeburg in 1783. This document threatens the most terrible punishments, such as “war, famine, and many plagues,” upon all those who work on Sunday. As a confirmation of what we have said, and as a proof that such letters are still even sold to pilgrims in Jerusalem at the present day, we quote from Hauck’s Realencyclopedia:

“Like wise the wonderful apocryphal ‘letter of Christ from heaven,’ which, as it seems, first appeared in the Orient in the sixth century, then was circulated by Adalbert in western France (740), condemned as a forged document by a decree of the council at Rome (745), later came to honor again, through the Flagellants in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, yea, even to the present time is still offered for sale to the Catholic pilgrims at Jerusalem as an effective amulet.” 70

The writer himself purchased one of these, but as an “effective amulet” against the observance of a day which, by such means, was ingratiated into the favor of, and enjoined upon our forefathers during the Middle Ages. May all those who believe in the sacredness of the first day of the week because their forefathers believed init, carefully ponder these facts that demonstrate by what means Sunday sacredness was instilled into their minds.

Neglect Of Church Attendance Fined

While this Sunday reform movement was being carried forward by such questionable means in England and Scotland, the council at Paris (A.D. 1212) enjoined in canon 18:)

“We also prohibit the bishops from permitting the dancing of women in cemeteries or in holy places, even where it has been allowed hitherto; farther, they shall see that on the Lord’s days no servile work be performed by the mechanic, or in tilling the soil, or any other work of like character, which we also forbid them to do.” 71

The council at Toulouse (A.D. 1229) decreed:

Canon 25—The parishioners, especially the man and wife of each household, must attend church on the Lord’s days and on holidays, and remain until the close of the services. If, for good reasons, the one cannot be present, the other must. But if one remains away without a good reason, he is to be fined twelve Turin denarii, half of which falls to the manor of the place, the other half to the priest of the church. Canons 26 and 27 enumerate some thirty holidays and enjoin that on these all servile work must likewise cease.” 72

Although such strict Sunday laws were everywhere enforced, yet the general council at Rome (A.D. 1215) clearly reveals the condition of the clergy. In canon 17 we read that the clergy and even the prelates spent half of their nights in feasting and chatting, some reading mass only four times a year, others not at all, and even those who did attend mass paid no regard to the service, but talked with the laymen, and it forbade such conduct thereafter, under pain of suspense from office. 73

Gregory Ix’s Decretals On Feast-Days

What a multitude of canons and ordinances existed at the beginning of the thirteenth century with regard to the proper observance of Sunday! How vastly they differed from one another in defining even the time when Sunday should begin and end, or in specifying what work was to be allowed and what forbidden! To bring order into this chaos of ecclesiastical legislation, Pope Gregory IX (A.D. 1227-1241) created a standard law-book—the Decretals By the papal bull Rex pacificus, he submitted them to the universities at Bologna and Paris; and as neither the universities nor any ruler questioned the authority of the laws decreed by the Pope himself (as he was infallible), they were final, as far as the Roman Church is concerned.

In book 2, tit. 9, c. 1-3, we find under De Feriis (Concerning Festivals) the sum total with reference to Sunday observance:

“Chapter 1—We decree that all Lord’s days be observed from vesper to vesper with all due veneration, and that unlawful work be abstained from, so that on them trading and legal proceedings shall not be carried on, or anyone be condemned to death or punishment, or any oaths be administered, except for peace or other necessary reason.”

“Chapter 2—“whereas in part we wish to control your understanding by a definite decision, and whereas it is written ‘from evening to evening shall ye celebrate your Sabbaths,’ therefore, the beginning and end of feasts, besides their quality and besides the custom of various regions, are to be looked after, and therefore it seems good to us that as the magnitude of the days to be celebrated demands, so, according to just computation, they be commenced earlier and terminated later. And, farther,—

Section 1.— That there be no bending of the knees whatsoever on the Lord’s day and on other principal feast-days (save between Ester and Pentecost) except some one wish to do it secretly, from devotion.”

Section 2— Also, in the consecration of the bishops and of the clergy, the consecrator and the consecrated shall bend their knees only to the extent demanded by the ritual of the consecration.”

Indulgences For Sunday Work Granted

“Chapter 3—While we admit that both the Old and New Testaments have especially set aside the seventh day for human rest, and though the church decreed that it, as well as the other days set aside to the highest majesty (but not the birthdays of the holy martyrs), shall be observed, yet we to whom is committed the government of the church by the provider of all, are bound also to properly provide for the faithful ones of Christ what necessity demands, therefore we will that, in case it should happen that such as are not intent on doing servile work (ie., on act of sin), but who are rather very intent upon seeking necessary food and raiment—that such cases have accorded to them the usual mercy through the providence of the apostolic chair. Hence, if one be in a place such as is your region, not abounding in fruits, and the sea from which the people are accustomed to draw the greater part of their support has been more sterile than usual, from various causes, we, recognizing this by the authority of St., Peter and ours, grant indulgence, so that our parishioners may be permitted on the Lord’s days and on other festivals (excepting the high festivals of the year) , in case the herrings are nearing the shore, to be intent upon their capture from urgent necessity, but they shall do this under the condition that, having made the capture, they shall give the surrounding churches and the poor of Christ their due portion. This rule also holds for those who, living upon other days on bread and water because of a self-imposed penance, and not having the bread whereby they can nourish themselves, but having fishes and other food whereby they can be revived, make use of this food with moderate discretion, because it serves them not as a delicacy, but as necessary sustenance.” 74

Inconsistencies Of Sunday Legislation

Beginning with the law of Constantine and ending with the various statutes of the rulers of the East and West, we now have before us the Sunday legislation from the fourth to the thirteenth centuries. A review of the civil legislation reveals to us that, while Constantine allowed agricultural work and introduced markets on the venerable day of the sun, Emperor Leo the Philosopher charges his “saintly” predecessor with “wretchless neglect of religion to make that very day common.” And we find the differences none the less if we consider the ecclesiastical legislation. That which the council of Laodicea condemns as Judaizing in connection with the Sabbath, and the council of Orleans calls Judaizing in regard to Sunday, is enforced by the councils of the Middle Ages under the most cruel penalties; and the implacable anger of the clergy demands even the loss of the right hand. Yea, miracles are manufactured, and divine judgments are threatened, to impress the sanctity of Sunday upon the ignorant people.

While the church fathers to a man make the Sabbath rest of the New Testament spiritual, the cessation from sin, yet the prelates and the clergy of the thirteenth century feast in sin, and enjoin abstinence from servile work by the most literal and petty canons. Although the Fathers never apply the fourth commandment to Sunday, yet Alcuin introduces this doctrine, and Bernard of Clairvaux bases the observance of the church festivals on this commandment, and the lacking divine evidence is furnished by pretending rolls from heaven. But the climax is reached when Gregory IX not only applies the Sabbath command of the Scriptures to Sunday, but even transfers to it the time of the beginning of God’s holy day, and then, giving the high festivals the preference, by virtue of the authority of St. Peter, he grants indulgences for any servile work performed on Sunday. Consistency, thou art a jewel! But in the crown of sanctity with which human efforts attempted to glorify their Sunday during the Middle ages, thou art sadly lacking.

Chapter 21-1: Part 1: The Sabbath During The Dark Ages


The apostasy Manifest
Gregory’s Epistle to the Romans
Sabbath-Keepers in Rome
The Preachers of Antichrist
The fallible Pope
Traces of the Sabbath in the British Church
Their Suppression by the Papacy
Sabbath -Keepers on the Continent
The Anathema of Laodicea Repeated
The Council of Friul
Italian Peasants Observe the Sabbath
The Questions of the Bulgarians
Sabbath Fasting Causes Final Separation between East and West

The Apostasy Manifest

At the council of Laodicea, the apostate church of the fourth century had already pronounced the anathema against the observance of the true Sabbath of Jehovah; and we shall now prove how, by the end of the fifth century, the bishop of Rome himself declared its further enjoinment the work of Antichrist. The time had indeed come when the apostasy had developed to such a degree that the man of sin might be plainly seen sitting in the temple of God’ for these proud words were now an acknowledged fact; “The Roman bishop is above every human tribunal, and I responsible only to God himself.” 1

After the Papacy had once gained its first royal convert and ardent supporter in Clovis, the promising king of the rising West, the emperor of the East did not delay to acknowledge the Roman bishop as the head of all the churches. This marks the date when the saints, the times, and the laws of the Most High were to be given into the hands of the papal power symbolized by the little horn, for “a time and times and the dividing of time,” or as the revelatory states it, for 1260 days; these, being prophetic, a day for a year, would give us 1260 years during which the papal power should cast down the truth to the ground. 2

The people of God, being persecuted by this power, should retire more and more to places of obscurity and seclusion, or, in the words of the Apocalypse, “The woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God.” 3

The difficulty of tracing the genuine followers of Christ through this dark period is well set forth in the following language of a church historian:

“As scarcely any fragment of their history remains, all we know of them is from accounts of their enemies, which were always uttered in the style of censure and complaint; and without which we should not have know that millions of them ever existed. It was the settled policy of Rome to obliterate every vestige of opposition to her doctrines and decrees, everything heretical, whether persons or writings, by which the faithful would be liable to be contaminated and led astray. In conformity to this, their fixed determination, all books and records of their opposes were hunted up, and committed to the flames. Before the art of printing was discovered in the fifteenth century, all books were made with the pen; the copies, of course, were so few that their concealment was much more difficult than it would be now; and if a few of them escaped the vigilance of the inquisitors, they would soon be worn out and gone. None of them could be admitted and preserved in the public libraries of the Catholics, from the ravages of time, and of the hands of barbarians with which all parts of Europe were at different periods overwhelmed.” 4

The true Israel, keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, has been traced down to the fifth century in chapter 19, in our treatment of the Nazarenes. Their name, places of abode, and Hebrew education are evidences, as Dr. Ritschl demonstrates, “that the Nazarenes are derived from the first generations of the church at Jerusalem” 5

The anathema of the general council at Laodicea reveals that during the fourth century many Christians rested from all their work on the seventh day according to the commandment. The preaching of the Word, and the celebration of the communion services on the Sabbath in the church at large even down to the fifth century, are ample proof that there still lingered in the minds of many a true appreciation of the divine command, “Remember the Sabbath day,” although the evil one had tried his best to pervert the meaning, and to spiritualize away the practise, of this holy precept. But that, in spite of all the efforts of the roman bishop to the contrary, the Sabbath honoured by Peter and by Paul was still observed and preached by faithful Christian men in Rome itself, down to the beginning of the seventh century.

Gregory’s Epistle to the Romans

Pope Gregory I (A.D. 590-604) bears witness in his epistle against such, which he himself addressed to the citizens of Rome, as follows:

“Gregory, servant of the servants of God, to his most beloved sons the Roman citizens. It has come to my ears that certain men of perverse spirit have sown among you some things that are wrong and opposed to the holy faith, so as to forbid any work being done on the Sabbath day. What else can I call these but preachers of Antichrist, who, when he comes, will cause the Sabbath day as well as the Lord’s day to be kept free from all work. For, because he pretends to die and rise again, he wishes the Lord’s day to be had in reverence; and, because he compels the people to Judaize that he may bring back the outward rite of the law, and subject the perfidy of the Jews to himself, he wishes the Sabbath to be observed.

For this which is said by the prophet, Ye shall bring in no burden through your gates on the Sabbath day (Jerem. xvii. 24), could be held to as long as it was lawful for the law to be observed according to the letter. But after that the grace of Almighty God, our Lord Jesus Christ has appeared, the commandments of the law which were spoken figuratively cannot be kept according to the letter. For, if any one says that this about the Sabbath is to be kept, he must needs say that carnal sacrifices are to be offered: he must say too that the commandment about the circumcision of the body is still to be retained. But let him hear the Apostle Paul saying in opposition to him, If ye be circumcised, Christ profiteth you nothing (Galat. v. 2).

We therefore accept spiritually, and hold spiritually, this which is written about the Sabbath. For the Sabbath means rest. But we have the true Sabbath in our Redeemer Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ. And whoso acknowledges the light of faith in Him, if he draws the sins of concupiscence through his eyes into his soul, he introduces burdens through the gates on the Sabbath day. We introduce, then, no burden through the gates on the Sabbath day if we draw no weights of sin through the bodily senses to the soul. For we read that the same our Lord and Redeemer did many works on the Sabbath day, so that he reproved the Jews, saying, Which of you doth not loose his ox or his ass on the Sabbath day, and lead him away to watering (Luke xiii. 15)? If, then, the very Truth in person commanded that the Sabbath should not be kept according to the letter, whoso keeps the rest of the Sabbath according to the letter of the law, whom else does he contradict but the Truth himself?

Another thing also has been brought to my knowledge; namely that it has been preached to you by perverse men that no one ought to wash on the Lord’s day. And indeed if any one craves to wash for luxury and pleasure, neither on any other day do we allow this to be done. But if it is for bodily need, neither on the Lord’s day do we forbid it. For it is written, No man ever hated his own flesh, but nourisheth it and cherisheth it (Ephes. v. 29). And again it is written, Make not provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof (Rom. xiii. 14). He, then, who forbids provision for the flesh in the lusts thereof certainly allows it in the needs thereof. For, if it is sin to wash the body on the Lord’s day, neither ought the face to be washed on that day. But if this is allowed for a part of the body, why is it denied for the whole body when need requires? On the Lord’s day, however, there should be a cessation of earthly labour, and attention given in every way to prayers, so that if anything is done negligently during the six days, it may be expiated by supplications on the day of the Lord’s resurrection.

These things, most dear sons, being endowed with sure constancy and right faith, observe; despise the words of foolish men, and give not easy belief to all that you hear of having been said by them; but weigh it in the scale of reason, so that, while in firm stability you resist the wind of error you may be able to attain to the solid joys of the heavenly kingdom.” 6

Sabbath-Keepers in Rome

A careful perusal of this epistle will furnish positive evidence that, according to the Pope himself, there were at the beginning of the seventh century no less than three distinct parties at Rome:

  1. some who forbade to do any work on the Sabbath day
  2. some who insisted on a strict observance of Sunday as the lord’s day
  3. the Pope and his party, who, in harmony with the theology of the church Fathers, influenced by gnosticism and philosophy, taught that the commandments are not to be according to the letter, that the Sabbath precept is to be understood spiritually, and that its real meaning is, to cease from sin.

The Preachers of Antichrist

Very striking, indeed, is the idea of Pope Gregory about Antichrist: as Antichrist would pretend to die and rise again, he would wish the Lord’s day to be had in reverence; but on the other hand, in order to attract “the perfidious Jews” unto himself, he would wish the Sabbath to be observed. ie., to compel the people to Judaize. The logical conclusion of his theory of Antichrist is, Those who preached the literal observance of the Sabbath were “the preachers of Antichrist.” Indeed, even those who forbade taking a bath on Sunday were “perverse men.” However, there should be cessation from earthly labour on Sunday to give time for prayers, that these Sunday supplication my expiate the sins of the six working days!

But while this Pope makes the true Israel of god to be the preachers of Antichrist for observing the Sabbath of Jehovah, he unwillingly attests that they did not circumcise nor offer sacrifices. By accusing them of inconsistency for teaching the observance of the Sabbath and not the observance of circumcision and sacrifices, her furnishes positive proof that the Christian Sabbath-keepers at Rome did not practise circumcision. Though the Decalogue was written in the human heart at creation; thought the ten commandments were engraved on the tables of stone with God’s own finger; though ministers preach this Decalogue to their youth; and though they even misapply the Sabbath commandment to enjoin Sunday observance without ever dreaming of associating with it the need of circumcision,—none the less, the moment one begins to keep holy the Sabbath day of the Lord our God, they cry out with this Pope: “If any one says that this commandment about the Sabbath is to be kept, he must needs say that carnal sacrifices are to be offered, …that the commandment about the circumcision of the body is still to be retained.”

The fallible Pope

With Paul, with that Israel of God who followed his teachings, with this true church at Rome, yea, with the Christian Sabbath-keepers of all times, we say, “I ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing,” We also say, “circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.” 7 And there is where the Pope erred, in spite of his pretended infallibility, and there is where any one else will err—by an attempt to associate circumcision with the observance of the Sabbath of the fourth commandment.

While the writers on “heretics” generally try to fasten upon the Christian Sabbath-keepers the stigma of “Jewish,” by charging them with circumcision, Pope Gregory most unwittingly testifies to the falsity of such a charge. Andy by this very epistle he reveals the wrong ideas entertained by him and the roman Church until that time, as to the observance of the Decalogue, teaching that its precepts are not to be observed according to the letter, but spiritual, How far he was given to spiritualising is illustrated by his threefold exposition of the book of Job, which Schaff calls “an exegetical curiosity.”

As the Sabbath was honoured in memory of the creation throughout the East and in parts of the West as late as the fifth century, and as we find observers of the Sabbath at Rome even as late as A.D. 600, we would certainly find many traces of its observance among the nations who divided Western Rome among themselves as their spoil, were it not that, as the epistle of Gregory shows, the Roman bishops had done their utmost to stamp out this “antichristian heresy,” and to wipe out ever trace of it. However, a few strong incidental references still survive.

Traces of the Sabbath in the British Church

The gospel must have been proclaimed in England as early as the second century, for at the close of that century Tertullian declared “that places in Britain not yet visited by Romans were subject to Christ.” But through the downfall of the roman empire and the invasion of the Anglo-Saxons, the British Christians were lost sight of until the sixth century, when we find a zealous, active church in Ireland, which set its missionaries (generally in groups of twelve with an additional leader) to Scotland and to the Continent.

This church had no connection with the Papacy; its missionaries were not bound by vows of celibacy, it did not agree with the Roman computation of Easter, and its forms were simpler—more like those of the apostolic church.

One of the earliest companies sent out was that of Columbam, which settled on the wester coast of Scotland and on the small island of Hy, and with the monastery Iona, this body soon became a powerful factor in the conversion of northern Scotland, for Columb and his monks preached by example as well as in word. Schaff thus extols their work:

“By the labors of Columba and his successors, Iona has become one of the most venerable and interesting spots in the history of Christian missions. It was a light-house in the darkness of heathenism. We can form no adequate conception of the self-denying zeal of those heroic missionaries of the extreme North, who, in a forbidding climate and exposed to robbers and wild beasts, devoted their lives to the conversion of savages.” 8

D;Aubigne says that Columba esteemed the cross of Christ higher than the royal blood which flowed in his veins, and that precious manuscripts were brought to Iona, where a theological school was founded and the Word was studied.

“Erelong a missionary spirit breathed over this ocean rock, so justly named ’the light of the western world.’” Iona…had become a missionary college. It has been sometimes called a monastery, but…in nowise resembled the popish convents.” 9 British missionaries carried the light of the gospel to the Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Germany, yea, even into Italy, and did more for the conversion of central Europe than the half-enslaved Roman church.

Their Suppression by the Papacy

Thirty years later forty roman monks, under Augustine’s leadership, landed in southern England, where they labored with success among the Anglo-Saxons. Dr. A. Ebrard says of their mission, which was supported by Pope Gregory I:

“Gregory well knew that there existed in the British isles, yea, in a part of the Roman dominion, a Christian church, and that his Roman messengers would come in contact with them. By sending these messengers, he was not only intent upon the conversion of the heathen but from the very beginning he was also bent upon bringing this Irish-Scotch church, which had hitherto been free from Rome, in subjection to the papal chair.” 10

Augustine left no means untried to subject this church to the papal yoke. But they would not yield.

“For the third time, they said, No—they knew no other master but Christ. Augustine, who expected to see these bishops prostrate their churches at his feet, was surprised and indignant.” “Animated by that insolent spirit which is found too often in the ministers of the Romish church Augustine exclaimed: ‘If you will not receive brethren who bring you peace, you shall receive enemies who will bring you war. If you will not unite with us in showing the Saxons the way of life, you shall receive from them the stroke of death.’ Having thus spoken, the haughty archbishop withdrew and occupied his last days in preparing the accomplishment of his ill-omened prophecy. Argument had failed: now for the sword!” 11

In A.D. 715 the noble monks of Iona were expelled, and more and more oppressed; but that this early Celtic church held fast to the Sabbath of Jehovah until the time of Queen Margaret, in the middle of the eleventh century, is thus attested by Andrew Lang:

“They worked on Sunday, but kept Saturday in a Sabbatical manner.” 12

These Culdees (as they were called later), after an active crusade had been carried on against their institutions, entirely disappear from the records of history, no trace of them being found since A.D. 1332

Yet even the Roman Catholics, who wiped out this noble missionary church of the North, honor Columba as a saint, and Dr. A. Butler thus describes his death:

“Having continued his labours in Scotland thirty-four years, he clearly and openly foretold his death, and on Saturday, the ninth of June, said to his disciple Diermit: ’This day is called the Sabbath, that is, the day of rest, and such will it truly be to me; for it will put an end to my labours.’” 13

These words plainly reveal that Columba believed Saturday to be the Sabbath of the Bible, and, as he made this statement with evident satisfaction in the face of approaching death, it is, of itself, sufficient proof that it had been to him also a day of sacred rest during his life; for a First-day observer on his death-bead would hardly refer with pleasure to the fact that Saturday is the Sabbath of the Scriptures, if he had never observed it.

The following review of the papal charges against the Culdean church, by W.T. Skene, brings out the point at issue:

“It certainly cannot be said to be very consistent with modern theories to find the Roman Church reproving the so-called pure Culdean church fro celebrating the eucharist without communicating, and for desecrating the Sabbath.

“Her next point was that they did not duly reverence the Lord’s day, but in this latter instance they seemed to have followed a custom of which we find traces in the early monastic church of Ireland, by which they held Saturday to be the Sabbath on which they rested from all their labours, and on Sunday on the Lord’s day, they celebrated the resurrection by the service in church. Thus Adamnan tells us that St Columba, on the last Saturday of life, said to his attendant Diermit: ‘This day in the Holy Scriptures is called the Sabbath, which means rest, and this day is indeed a Sabbath to me, for it is the last day of my present laborious life, and on it I rest after the fatigues of my labours; and this night, at midnight, which commenceth the solemn Lord’s day, I shall, according to the sayings of the Scripture go the way of our fathers,”’14

This statement of Skene’s fully substantiates what one would infer from the dying words of Columba. The roman Church charged the Culdean monks with Sunday desecration because they rested on the Sabbath of the Bible from all their labours, and on Sunday held only a service in honor of the resurrection. And, according to Skene, this custom is traceable to the early monastic church of Ireland. The dying words of Columba, the charges of the Roman Church against the Culdeans, and the positive statement of Skene refuting theses charges, form a strong chain of evidence to show that the early church in the British Isles kept the Sabbath of Jehovah.

Gilfillan (page 389) twists this statement of Columba’s to make it apply to Sunday. But the editor of the best biography of Columba, says in a foot-note: “Our Saturday. The custom to call the Lord’s day Sabbath did not commence until a thousand years later.” 15

Sabbath -Keepers on the Continent

We shall find still further evidences of the correctness of our position as we follow the history of these British missionaries who went to the continent. As early as A.D. 612 the first company of twelve, under the leadership of Columbanus, left for the Continent, and a number of other companies followed, the same century, as pioneers of the gospel in Bavaria, Thuringia, Friesland, Switzerland, etc. Boniface, the papal legate, did not receive his commission to Christianize central Europe until A.D. 718, and when he arrived, he found these free missionaries from the North nearly everywhere.

Neander thus states the objects of Boniface’s mission:

“The object for which he was sent was not merely the conversion of the heathen but the recovery of those who had been led astray by heretical teachers, their restoration to orthodoxy, and conformity to the discipline of the Romish Church.” 16

Thus we read in one record adduced by Neander:

“That you proceed across the Alps, and in those parts where the heresy has sprouted up the most, eradicate the same by the root, through wholesome doctrine.”

In his forty-fifth epistle to the German dukes and bishops, Pope Gregory II warns them “against admitting the doctrine of the Britons arriving amongst them, or of false priests and heretics.”

Thus the same conflict was enacted here as in Britain. Those missionaries who labored without papal authority were denounced by Boniface as false prophets, seducers of the people, idolaters, and (because they married) adulterers, and with the aid of the Papacy and princes, several were charged by Boniface, and excommunicated or even imprisoned without a hearing.

The Anathema of Laodicea Against Sabbath observance Repeated

The Roman Church took good care that we possess only “vague and uncertain accounts” of all the points at issue, and yet we do know that these Irish Scotch clergy upheld the supreme authority of the Scriptures, would not submit to the servitude of papal rule, nor to the unscriptural practise of celibacy, auricular confession, or transubstantiation. And while we find it only hinted that these were seventh-day Sabbath observers and one of the charges was thus, that of Judaizing, a papal anathema in connection with their case and the place of their labours, furnishes us, again, the necessary and definite proof. The minutes of the council of Liftinae, Belgium, A.D. 745, give us specific information. Boniface attended this council, and Dr. Hefele states that:

“the third allocution of this council warns against the observance of the Sabbath, referring to the decree of the council of Laodicea.” 17

The proofs adduced against the observance of the Sabbath were:

  1. That the church Fathers command to work on the Sabbath
  2. That the Savior, by healing on the Sabbath, had shown that the Sabbath was not to be observed according to the letter
  3. Therefore, it should only be observed spiritually, by not stealing, murdering, etc. 18

Here we have the final link in the chain of evidences to prove that these faithful missionaries who were the first to carry the gospel truth to the pagans in the far North, as well as on the continent, ceased from their work on the Sabbath of Jehovah, and taught their converts to do so. And the anathema of Laodicea, repeated by this council at the end of the eighth century, shows that the Roman Church even bound itself under oath (as we know positively from Boniface) to stamp out this “antichristian heresy,” and to bring everybody under the subjection of the Papacy.

The Council of Friul

Right here, while we are considering the Sabbath among these northern nations who became heirs to the Roman dominion of the West, the following incidental inference concerning the King Theodoric of the Goths (A.D. 454-526) might be mentioned: Sidonius, in speaking of this king, says:

“It is a fact that it was formerly the custom in the East to keep the Sabbath in the same manner as the Lord’s day, and to hold sacred assemblies: wherefore Asterius calls Sabbath and Sunday a beautiful span, and Gregory of Nyssa calls these days brethren, and therefore censures the luxury and the Sabbatarian pleasures; while on the other hand, the people of the West, contending for the Lord’s day, have neglected the celebration of the Sabbath, as being peculiar to the Jews. So also Tertullian in his apology: ‘We are only next to those who set apart the day of Saturn for rest and luxury.’ It is therefore possible for the Goths to have thought, as the foster-sons of the discipline of the Greeks, that they would keep the Sabbath after the manner of the Greeks.” “I would also not refrain from telling about that Sabbatarian luxury, for how is it possible to conceal that in public characters?” 19

The Goths represent one of the three horns plucked up at the instigation of the little horn, or the Papacy; and we know that the Roman bishop did his utmost to pluck out Arianism by the roots.

To stamp out the knowledge of the Sabbath among the nations even the Jews were forbidden to rest on it. The Spanish national council at Toledo, A.D. 681, sanctioned the twenty statutes which Eringius, king of the Western Gods had issued against the Jews. In tit. 12, it decreed:

“that the Jews shall not be permitted to keep the Sabbaths and festivals; but they must so far at least observe the Lord’s day as to do no manner of work on it, whereby they might express their contempt of the Christ or his worship.” 20

But we shall produce definite proof that the Sabbath was kept by Christians as late as A.D. 791, in Italy. We shall also see how Sunday came to be regarded in the West by that time. Canon 13 of the council at Friaul reads as follows:

“We command all Christians to observe the Lord’s day with all reverence and due devotion, commencing Saturday evening at the sounding of a bell, which marks the hour of the vesper service to be held not in honor of the past Sabbath, but on account of that holy night of the first of the week called the Lord’s day. First of all, abstain from all sin and all works of the flesh, and from all cohabitation and all agricultural work, and let nothing else take u your time but to go to church, hear the sermon with the greatest of devotion, ceasing from all clamor of lawsuits, rendering thanks unto god the Father and praising his only begotten Son from the heart, who has sanctified this day by his glorious resurrection, and sing hymns unto the Holy Spirit, which has blessed it by his miraculous descent, when it came down in fiery tongues upon the happy apostles. For it is believed that on this most holy day nearly all the spiritual gifts have been imparted to the world. On this very day after the resurrection, the Lord breathed upon his disciples the Holy Spirit, for the forgiveness of sins. On this day the Lord fed five thousand people with five loaves in the desert. On it manna first rained from heaven in the desert. On other spiritual blessings have been bestowed on this day, which would be too numerous to mention in order. It is therefore that delightful Sabbath of which it is written: Whosoever does any work, ie sin, on it, he shall die.”

Italian Peasants Observe The Sabbath

Further, when speaking of the Sabbath which the Jews observe, the last day of the week, and which also our peasants observe, He said only Sabbath, and never added unto it, ‘delight,’ and ‘my’. But because he wanted to make a difference between that and this, which is the Lord’s a day, he therefore added ‘my’ as to say, my—not your—delight, not polluted by your old observances. Therefore, let us honor and keep it with all reverence.” 21

Bishop Hefele summarizes the essential part of this canon in these words:

“The celebration of Sunday begins with Saturday evening. It is enjoined to keep Sunday and the other church festivals. The peasants kept Saturday in many cases.” 22

This lengthy canon proves positively that the country people in northern Italy, were the district of Friaul is located, kept the Sabbath as late as the beginning of the ninth century. It also further shows what arguments were used to convince people of their duty to observe the first day of the week. The time had come when the texts pertaining to the true Sabbath and setting forth its honourable character were so twisted by the clergy as to make them seemingly apply to Sunday.

The Questions of the Bulgarians

How the Sabbath question stood in the East is clearly seen from the circumstances in connection with the conversion of the Bulgarians. Occupying the plains between the Danube and the Balkan mountains, they came in contact with Eastern Christianity by their invasions of the Byzantine empire. The sister of the ruling prince, Bogaris, embraced Christianity during her captivity in Constantinople. After her return she won her brother who was baptized in A.D. 863, and he immediately entered upon a correspondence with Photius, the patriarch of Constantinople, who wrote him an elaborate letter, expounding to him the essential points of Christian doctrine. But the Greek priests did not make the most favourable impressions. “Teachers of various nations and from distant regions also came to Bulgaria, preaching very different doctrines, so that the people hardly knew what to believe.” 23 In this extremity, Bogaris addressed (A.D. 865) a letter to Pope Nicolas I, in which he propounds one hundred six questions concerning Christian doctrine. Nicolas sent two bishops and an elaborate reply, from which we quote the following answers to the questions asked:

Question #6—Bathing is allowed on Sunday.

Question #10—One is to cease from work on Sunday, but not also on the Sabbath.

Question #63—On the whole of Sunday (day and night) there is to be no cohabitation.” 24

Mansi, ix, 406, thus gives the answer to question 6 in more detail:

You would also like to know whether it be permitted to perform any work on the Sabbath or on the Lord’s day. This Pope Gregory often refers to, when he writes in his epistle to the Romans, etc.

This answer furnishes positive evidence that at that time there were teachers in Bulgaria who taught that, according to the Bible, no work should be performed on the Sabbath of Jehovah. Nicolas, by quoting the epistle of Gregory (A.D. 600) indorses his statement that such persons are indeed the “preachers of Antichrist”. Thus we have produced historical evidence of the existence of Sabbath-keepers, in the West and in the East, until the ninth century.

Sabbath Fasting Causes Final Separation between East and West

For the time being Rome gained the victory, and the Greek priests were sent out of Bulgaria. But this only aggravated the personal controversy already existing between Pope Nicolas and Photius. In A.D. 858, when Ignatius was deposed as patriarch of Constantinople, Photius, an able lay member was elected as his successor. The case had been appealed to Nicolas, and he pronounced sentence against Photius in a council at Rome, A.D. 863. Photius seized upon this interference of Rome in the Bulgarian affairs, and in A.D. 867 called a counter synod, which, in turn, deposed Pope Nicolas. In his encyclical letter to the patriarchs, he thus accused the Papacy:

“Wicked and vile men, having risen out of darkness (the west), came down on Bulgaria like a tempest and an earthquake, destroying the vineyard of the Lord like wild boars enticing the still tender plants away from the true faith and introducing accursed customs, contrary to the law. “Against the canons they induced the Bulgarians to fat on the Sabbath.” 25

These words show that when the Pope persuaded the Bulgarians to submit to him, one of the first things he did was to introduce the Sabbath fast in opposition to the true Sabbath. In a letter to Hincmar, dated Oct. 23, 867, Pope Nicolas tries to justify this measure, by asserting that it “had not been controverter since the days of St. Sylvester”. However, that was a falsehood, for the Trullian council held at Constantinople (A.D. 692) in conformity with the sixty-sixth apostolically canon, condemned the custom of the Roman Church, whereby fasting in Lent was extended also to the Sabbath,” Though Ignatius was for a time reinstated, yet in A.D. 871 the Roman bishops in Bulgaria had to give way to the Greeks. The contention which had been kindled, continued to smoulder.

The patriarch Cerularius, in connection with the Bulgarian metropolis tan Leo of Achrida, in A.D. 1053 addressed a letter to John, bishop of Trani, in southern Italy (which was under Greek jurisdiction), and through him to the Pope, charging that the churches of the West followed the practise of the Jews, and went contrary to the usage of Christ, because in the eucharist they employed unleavened bread; they fasted on Saturday during Lent; that they ate blood, and things strangled, etc. The following year, Nicetas, a learned monk, attacked the Roman Church for fasting on the Sabbath, for celibacy, etc.’ this was refuted by the Pope and by the Cardinal Humbert. Pope Leo IX sent to Constantinople, under the imperious Humbert, three legates with counter-charges; that Cerularius arrogated to himself the title “ecumenical” patriarch; that, like the Nicolaitans, they permitted their priests to live in wedlock; and finally—

“Because you observe the Sabbath with the Jews and the Lord’s day with us, you seem to imitate in such observance the sect of the Nazarenes, who in this manner accept Christianity in order that they be not obliged to leave Judaism.” 26

The end of this controversy was that the Roman legates excommunicated the patriarch and his adherents (July 16, 1054) and the patriarch answered by a synodical counter-anathema against the papal legates, accusing them of fraud. The patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem adhered tot the See of Constantinople, and thus the schism, between the East and the West was completed. The Sabbath observance played an important part indeed in this controversy, which ended in final division. And the words called forth by this controversy are a striking proof that as late as the eleventh century the true Israel was still existing under their old name, keeping the Sabbath of Jehovah; or the cardinal would not have mentioned them as a definite sect, differing from the Jews as well as from the Catholics.

Chapter 21-2: Part Two: The Church in the Wilderness

Jesus asks, “Why do you persecute Me?”

The rise of Sabbath keeping sects
The Pasagini
Papal Bulls against Them
How their Sabbath Arguments were Met
The Papal Anathema and the Imperial Interdict at Verona
Crusade for the extinction of “heretics”
Inquisition Set at Work
Frederic II Interdicts
Still the Truth Spreads
Ethiopia holds to the Sabbath of Jehovah
The Jesuits at Work
Sabbath-Keepers in China
The Nasranei
The Sabbath in the East Indies
The Inquisition Active
The Jacobites
Sabbath Fasting
The Sabbath Dedicated to the Virgin Mary
Wonderful Fulfilment of God’s Prophecies

“And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.

And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared of God, that they should fed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.” (Rev. 12)

The Church in the Wilderness is the connecting link between the apostolic church and the last remnant who keep God’s commandments and have the faith of Jesus.

The Rise Of Sabbath Keeping Sects

We have seen that as late as the eleventh century the true Israel was still existing, keeping the Sabbath of Jehovah.

Still farther to the east there is a body of Christian Sabbath keepers mentioned from the eighth to the twelfth century. They are called Athenians (“touch not”) because they abstained from things unclean and from intoxicating drinks,—the translator of Neander styles them Athinginians—as the following shows:

“This sect, which had its principal seat in the city of Armorion, in upper Phrygia, where many Jews resided sprung out of a mixture of Judaism and Christianity. They united baptism with the observance of all the rites of Judaism, circumcision excepted. We may perhaps recognize a branch of the older Judaizing sects.” 27

Cardinal Hergenrother says that they stood in intimate relation with Emperor Michael II (A.D. 821-829), and testifies that they observed the Sabbath. 28 As late as the eleventh century Cardinal Humbert still referred to the Nazarenes as a Sabbath-keeping Christian body existing at that time. But in the tenth and eleventh centuries, there was a great extension of sects from the East to the West. Neander states that the corruption of the clergy furnished a most important vantage-ground on which to attack the dominant church. The abstemious life of these Christians, the simplicity and earnestness of their preaching and teaching, had their effect. “Thus we find them emerging at once in the eleventh century, in countries the most diverse, and the most remote from each other, in Italy, France, and even in the Harz districts in Germany.” Likewise, also, “traces of Sabbath-keepers are found in the times of Gregory I, Gregory VII, and in the twelfth century in Lombardy.” 29

The Pasagini

During the twelfth century, the Latin records of the Inquisition often mention the name of the Pasaginians. The name is spelled several ways in Latin: Pasagii, Pasagini, Passagerii, Passagii, Passageres, Passagieri. They are first mentioned in the records of the council of Verona (A.D. 1184). In general, the church historians derive their name from the wandering, unsettled life of these people—from passage, “passage,” or, in other words, they were passengers, travelers. Persecuted and hunted down like wild game by the Romish Church, their only half-way safe retreat was in the solitude of the majestic Alps. Jas, on the other hand, derives the word from the Greek Pas-agios, “entirely holy.” Some assert that this last-mentioned term led to another appellation, Circumcisis; while others try to explain this word to mean that they were circumcised. Dr. U. Hahn, who has written an extensive history of the so-called heretics of the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries, claims:

“The name of Pasagini was used in a twofold sense, viz., a definite Jewish-Christina sect was thus named; then it was also the general application for all the heretics, who all moved back and forth more or less, but chiefly the Cathari and Waldensians. This they did partly to spread their doctrines, and partly to escape the snares of their enemies.” 30

As to their origin, most church historians suppose them to have come from the East. Neander expresses himself as follows:

“Among the sects of Oriental origin belongs, perhaps besides those already mentioned, the Pasagii or Pasagini.” “The name of this sect reminds one of the word passagium (passage), which signifies a tour, and was very commonly employed to denote pilgrimages to the East. To the holy sepulcher,—crusades. May not this word, then, be regarded as an index, pointing to the origin of the sect as one that came from the East, intimating that it grew out of the intercourse with Palestine? May we not suppose that from very ancient times a party of Judaizing Christians had survived, of which this sect must be regarded as an offshoot? The way in which they expressed themselves concerning Christ as being the first-born of creation, would point also, more directly, at the connection of their doctrine with some older Jewish theology, than at that later purely Western origin.” 31

What Neander supposes, we have demonstrated by a regular and connected chain of evidence. The mighty crusades brought the West into closer contact with the East there were Sabbath-keepers everywhere in the East; and it would be but natural that the crusaders would come in touch with the Sabbath-keepers of the East: in fact, we have presented definite evidence of that in the case of the Bulgarians. And these so-called “Judaizing Christians” were none other than the Nazarenes mentioned by Cardinal Humbert during this very century—the true Israel of God, who, amid all the persecutions through which they had passed, bore the reproach of Christ more than any other Christian party, wandering about everywhere as “pilgrims and strangers”, to preach the faith of Jesus and the commandments of God.

Papal Bulls Against Them

The papal bulss, especially those of Gregory I, and Gregory VII, and Nicolas I, are our chief source of information concerning the Pasagini. Aside from these, we have but two leading notices in Catholic histories of heretics. One is found in the writings of Bonacursus against the heretics, entitled “Against the Heretics, Who are Called Pasagii.” Its contents are as follows:

“Not a few, but many know what are the errors of those who are called Pasagini, and how nefarious their belief and doctrine are. But because there are some who do not know them, it does not annoy me to write what I think of them, partly from precaution and for their salvation, and partly for their shame and confusion, in order that their foolishness might become more widely known, and that they might be the more condemned and despised of all. As we ought to know the good in order to do it, so likewise should we know the evil that we might shun it.

“Let those who are not yet acquainted with them, please note how perverse their belief and doctrine are. First, they teach that we should obey the law of Moses according to the letter—the Sabbath, and circumcision, and the legal precepts still being in force. The also teach that Christ, the Son of god, is not equal with God, and that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit—these three persons are not one God and on being. Furthermore, to increase their error, they condemn and reject all the church Fathers, and the whole Roman church. But because they seek to base their errors upon the witness of the New Testament and the prophets, let us slay them with their own sword by the aid of the grace of Christ, as David once slew Goliath.” 32

The following report is found in a work written by Gregorius, of Bergamo, about A,.D. 1250, against the Cathari and Pasaginians:

“After what has been said of the Cathari, there still remains the sect of the pasagini. They teach Christ to be the first and pure creature; that the Old Testament festivals are to be observed—circumcision, distinction of foods, and in nearly all other matters, save the sacrifices, the Old Testament is to be observed as literally as the New—circumcision is to be kept according to the letter. They say that no good person before the advent of Christ descended into the lower regions; and that there is no one in the lower regions and in paradise until now, nor will there be until sentence has been rendered on the day of Judgement.” 33

This is all we possess concerning the doctrines taught by the Pasaginians. Their bitter enemies, biased by deep-rooted prejudice, are our only source of information. But let us closely study the brief notices we do have.

At all events, they founded their belief on the Bible, for they proved their teachings from the Old and the New Testaments. On the other hand, they condemned and rejected the writings of the church Fathers and the Roman Church, for which they certainly had excellent reasons, because the latter treated them as heretics for choosing to follow the Bible rather than the teachings of man and tradition. In this, they were centuries in advance of the Reformers. As to their belief in Jesus Christ, they were again on Biblical grounds, for Christ declares, “The Father is greater than I.” While the Word of God teaches unity of purpose in the Godhead, it nowhere states that the Father and the Son are one being; on the contrary, it declares in positive language that the Son is the express image of the Father, and consequently, he must be another being. John 17:20; Heb. 1:2. With regard to the state of the dead, they were likewise on Scriptural ground.

How Their Sabbath Arguments Were Met

Concerning the observance of the Sabbath, they surely had a “Thus saith the Lord” for that, while the Roman Church could meet clear, definite Scripture texts only with the most absurd spiritualising. Dr. Hahn adduces a few examples:

If the Pasaginians referred to Ex. 20:8, the Roman priests answered, “Those were no natural days, but the six working days represented the six thousand years of the world’s duration, and the Sabbath symbolized the eternal rest of the saints.”

As to Jer. 17:21, it was a prophetic mystery—whoever believed not on Christ carried a burden on the Sabbath.

Finally, their explanation of Num. 15: 32 was : The man gathering sticks on the Sabbath represents him who would be found laden with carnal works on the Judgment day and whose lot would be death. 34

As to their practise of the rite of circumcision and keeping the ceremonial law, there exist good reasons to lead us to believe that this was imply ascribed to them by their opponents. The epistle of Gregory furnishes a good illustration: because the Christians believed that the Sabbath and the ten commandments were to be observed, the Poe declared that they ought also to offer sacrifices and practise circumcision.. What one holds to be consistent, he easily imputes to his religious antagonist whether it be so or not. The Sabbath-keepers in the seventh century did not circumcise, nor did they in the ninth, or else Pope Nicolas I would not have quoted the epistle of Gregory unaltered. When we come to consider the Sabbath-keepers during the Reformation, we shall find that even Luther charged them with practising circumcision, while their own words still extant in quotations prove the contrary.

Erbkam, in his criticism of Hahn’s history, thus vindicates the correctness of our position:

“We also believe that the reports about the Pasaginians rest partly upon misunderstanding; as for example, that circumcision is said to have been practised among them, They rightfully belong to those sects who believed the Bible.” 35

And David Benedict adds in his History of the Baptist Denomination:

“The account of their practising circumcision is undoubtedly a slanderous story forged by their enemies, and probably arose in this way: because they observed the seventh day, they were called, by way of derision, Jews, as the Sabbatarians are frequently at this day; and if they were Jews, it followed of course that they either did, or ought to, circumcise their followers. This was probably the reasoning of their enemies; but that they actually practised the bloody rite is altogether improbable.” 36

The Papal Anathema And The Imperial Interdict At Verona

Having fully established the fact that the Pasaginians were indeed the true Israel of God, believing all the Scriptures and exercising faith in Christ, and having the entire law of god written in their hearts by the Holy Spirit according to the fulfilment of the promise, we shall now see how they were treated by the Roman Church and by the Catholic rulers.

Our first clue in this direction is given us by the famous decree against heretics, promulgated by Pope Lucian III, in the presence of, and with the support of, Frederic Barbarossa, at the council of Verona (A.D. 1183). Both the Pasaginians and the Waldensians (here referred to under the name of the “poor of Lyons” are mentioned for the first time, as follows:

“To abolish the malignity of divers heresies which are lately sprung up in most ports of the world, it is but fitting that the power committed to the church should be awakened, that by the concurring assistance of the imperial strength, both the insolence and malapert ness of the heretics in their false designs may be crushed and the truth of Catholic simplicity shining forth in the holy church, may demonstrate her pure and free from the execrableness of their false doctrines..” “More particularly, we declare all Catharists, Paterines, and those who call themselves ‘the poor of Lyons,’ the Passagines, Josephists, Arnaldists, to lie under a perpetual anathema.” 37

Bishop Hefele and Mr. W. Jones give the following detailed account of the contents of this decree, and the manner in which it was promulgated. We quote the substance a given by Hefele:

“For this purpose a solemn assembly of all the eminent men, both ecclesiastical and civil, was called on the fourth of November, in the cathedral at Verona. First the interdict of the emperor was proclaimed, whereupon he himself arose and confirmed it by a symbolical action, pointing with extended arms to the four corners of the earth, and with threatening mien casting his glove to the ground.

Next the imperial law was promulgated against the heretics; here upon the Pope proclaimed the ecclesiastical decree, in which all were placed under anathema—especially those who presumed, under a form of godliness, to preach publicly or privately without the authority of the Apostolic See, as well as those who are not afraid to hold or teach any notions concerning the sacrament of the body and blood of Jesus, baptism, the remission of sins, matrimony, etc., in any way differing from what the holy church of Rome doth preach and observe.

All entertainers and defenders of these heretics are to be liable to the same sentence. If a clergyman or a monk be convicted of these errors, he shall be immediately deprived of all the prerogatives of the church order, divested of all offices and benefices, and delivered to the secular power to be punished according to his demerits.

If a layman be found guilty, unless he makes immediate satisfaction by abjuring this heresy, he shall be left to the sentence of the secular judge. Even those suspected of this heresy shall be liable to the same sentence, if they cannot clear themselves upon their examination before the bishop.

If any one relapses into his abjured heresy, he shall without any further hearing be delivered to the secular power, and his goods shall be confiscated to the use of the church. This excommunication shall be repeated by all the bishops, and renewed on all chief festivals and on any public solemnity, and if anyone be found wanting or slow therein he shall be suspended from his Episcopal dignity and administration for three years

“Furthermore, once or twice a year every bishop shall either personally or through his commissioner visit the parish in which it is reported that heretics dwell, and there cause two or three men, or, if need be, the whole neighborhood to swear what they know about said heretics. Any one thus accused shall be summoned before the bishop or his commissioner, and punished, if he does not clear himself, or has relapsed (commencement of Episcopal inquisition).

All earls, barons, governors, etc., in pursuance of the commonition of the respective bishops, shall promise under oath, that they will in all these particulars powerfully and effectually assist the church against the heretics and their accomplices, and endeavour faithfully to execute the ecclesiastical and imperial statutes. If they refuse, they shall be deprived of their honors and charges and be involved in the sentence of excommunication, and their goods be confiscated to the good of the church. If any city refuses to yield obedience to this decree, or contrary to the Episcopal commonition they shall neglect to punish opposes, we ordain the same to be excluded from all commerce with other cities, and be deprived of the Episcopal seat. All favourers of heretics, as men stigmatized with perpetual infamy, shall be incapable of being attorneys or witnesses, or bearing any public office whatsoever.” 38

This decree speaks volumes for the past, as well as for the time being. Papal anathema and the imperial edict were pronounced against the Pasaginians; and they were not only directed toward the observers of the Sabbath, but also against other companies of believers, as enumerated above. Though differing in name and in their views with reference to the understanding of God’s Word, like the various Protestant denominations of the present time, yet they all had one mutual aim, viz, to teach the gospel and to resist the abomination of the papacy.

They all dated the fall of the Roman church from the days of Constantine and Roman Bishop Sylvester; they thought the pope to be the Antichrist, and the Roman Church to be Babylon the Great. They taught that the true church consisted only of believers, and in that sense it had existed unchangeable. They highly valued the translations of the Bible in their respective languages, so that every on might read “in his own tongue the wonderful doings of the Lord.” They studied god’s Word so diligently that many knew large portions of it by heart. Even their adversaries had to give them credit for their great knowledge of the Bible.

Thus Reiner says that he met a simple, unlearned farmer who could repeat the whole book of Job word for word, and this knowledge of the Scriptures is what gave them the patience of Job in all their terrible persecutions. He found several that knew the entire New Testament by heart. 39 With the sword of the Spirit in their hands, and the love of God in their hearts, it is no wonder that they spread everywhere, in spite of such terrible decrees.

Dr. Hahn, who, to our regret, styles them only heretics says of their propaganda and success:

“The spread of heresy at this time is almost incredible. From Bulgaria to the Ebro, from northern France to the Tiber, everywhere we meet them. Whole countries are infested, like Hungary and southern France; they abound in many other countries. In the rest of France we find them in Armoria, Paris, Orleans, Rheims, Gascogne, etc.; in Germany, in Goslar, Cologne, Treves, Metz, Strassbourg; In Italy, at Verona, Bolgna, Florence, Milan Placentia, Viterbo, Faenza, Treviso, Bergamo, Mantua, Ferrara, etc., yea, even in the papal dominions; in the Netherlands at Arras, Cambray, etc. Edicts are necessary against them in Catalonia and Aragonia, and even in England they put forth their efforts.” 40

Their wide diffusion called for different leaders in various places; this explains the many terms under which the papal and imperial edicts mention them. The following new name, however, is found in the edict of King Alfonso of Aragonia (A.D. 1192):

“Whosoever, therefore, from this day forward, shall presume to receive the said Waldenses and Inzabbati, or any other heretics of whatsoever profession, into their houses, or to be present at their pernicious sermons, or to afford them meat or any other favor, shall thereby incur the indignation of Almighty God, as well as ours, and have his goods confiscated, without the remedy of an appeal, and be punished as if he were actually guilty of high treason.” 41

The term insabbati, or, as in other places less frequent, Sabbati, Sabbatati, Insabbatati, causes considerable trouble to historians. Some derive it from the wooden shoes which they wear, called sabot or Zabot; others again say that they were called Inzabbatati because they kept no festivals and only rested on Sunday; while some think the word comes from Sabbath, and was applied to them because they observed the Seventh day Sabbath.

[“The thesis that they were called Insabbatati because of their footwear is indignantly rejected by the learned Robert Robinson. (Ecclesiastical Researches, page 304) To show how widespread this term, Insabbatati, was applied to the Waldenses, the following oath is quoted which the monks directing the Inquisition would exact from prisoners suspected of holding different religious views form those of the Church

“I, Sancho, swear, by Almighty God and by these holy gospels of God, which I hold in my hand, before you lord Garcia archbishop, and before others your assistants, that I am not, nor ever have been, an Inzabbatate Waldense, or poor person of Lyons or an heretick of any sect of heresy condemned by the church…” Also in Gui, “Manuel d’ Inquisiteur” vol. 1 p. 37 For centuries evangelical bodies, especially the Waldenses, were called Insabbati because of Sabbath-keeping.”]

Thus Goldastus, a learned historian (A.D. 1576-1635), says:

“They were called Insabbatati, not because they were circumcised, but because they kept the Sabbath according to the Jewish law.” 42

Crusade For The Extinction Of Heretics

As various as the explanations of this term may be, we have established the fact that some did keep the Sabbath of Jehovah. Rome spared no efforts to urge the princes to assist in the extinction of the heretics, and to prevent their spreading. When the princes of southern France could not consent to butcher thousands of industrious and orderly people, Pope Innocent III ordered a general crusade against the heretics, and full indulgence for their sins to such as would engage in this “holy” warfare. 43

King Louis VIII of France, and the Pope, exhorted:

“Unite your sword, which you have received of god to punish the evil-doers and for the praise of the just, with ours, that we might take vengeance together on these wicked and inhuman evil-doers. In Moses and peter, the fathers of both Testaments you may see symbol ion of the civil and spiritual power.” 44

In like manner he appealed to the princes, to the clergy, and to the whole French nation. He stirred up the crusaders by these words:

“Go on, ye brave warriors of Christ, resist the predecessors of Antichrist, fight with the servants of the old serpent. Perhaps you have hither fought for corruptible honor; fight now for eternal glory! Fight against the beasts of the desert, who, like locusts, overrun the surface of the earth,” 45

Myriads were killed, sometimes under the greatest cruelties, and the garden of France was changed into a desert.

Inquisition Set At Work

But the army of crusaders was followed by something even worse—the Inquisition. About the year 1200, Pope Innocent III established the Inquisition. Bishops and priests being, in the opinion of the pope, neither fit nor sufficiently diligent for the extirpation of heretics, two new orders, those of St. Dominic and St. Francis were instituted. How many observers of the Sabbath lost their lives under the tortures of the Inquisition, only the day of judgment will reveal. Wherever the popes could do so, they forced promises from princes to aid them in the extinction of the heretics, as, for example, when Emperor Frederic II was crowned by Pope Honorius (A.D.1220). Hefele says.

“But Frederic proclaimed on the day of his coronation, these laws demanded by the pope:…

5. We condemn to perpetual infamy and put under ban the Puritans, Paterines, Speronists, Leoinsts, Arnoldists, Circumcised, and all other heretics, and ordain that their goods be confiscated.

6. All magistrates are bound under oath to drive out the heretics.” 46

The observers of the Sabbath are classified here as the Circumcised. King Louis IX published (A.D. 1229) the statute Cupientes, in which he charges himself with the duty to clear southern France from heretics, and in order to bring this about he offers rewards for their discovery. 47

In the same year the council of Toulouse was held, where a number of canons were passed concerning the extinction of heretics. We quote samples:

“Canon 3,—The lords of the different districts shall have the villas, houses, and woods diligently searched, and the hiding places of the heretics destroyed.

“Canon 4.—If any one allows a heretic to remain in his territory, he loses his possession forever, and his body is in the hands of the magistrates to receive due punishment.

“Canon 5—But also such are liable to the law, whose territory has been made the frequent hiding-place of heretics, not by his knowledge, but by his negligence.

“Canon 6—The house in which a heretic is found, shall be torn down, and the place or land be confiscated.

“Canon 14—Lay members are not allowed to possess the books of either the Old or the New Testaments.” 48

Frederic Ii Interdicts

Again we hear of Frederic II, this time in Germany, of whom Hefele states:

“His second decree against the heretics repeats word by word parts 5 and 6 of the first decree;… in his third he places the Dominicans under his special protection as inquisitors for all Germany against heretical perverseness, recommends them to the faithful, and speaks of the heretics in stronger language than one might expect from Torquemada. He acknowledges it as a holy duty to persecute the children of the serpent of falsehood, and not to let these malicious people live any longer. All condemned by the church and handed over to the civil power shall be punished (be burned); in case they should repent from fear of death, they should be kept in constant imprisonment.” 49

Although the Pope and the emperor were by this time bitter enemies, yet they were agree in persecuting the heretics, as the decree of Pope Gregory IX (A.D. 1236) proves; it begins as follows:

“We excommunicate and anathematize all the heretics, the Puritans, Paterines, the poor of Lyons, Pasagines, what-ever name: their faces might differ, but their tails are entangled in one knot.,” 50

In the year A.D. 1243, Frederic issued another decree, which thus begins:

“We condemn to perpetual infamy the Puritans, Paterines, Speronists, Leonists, Arnaldists, Circumcised, Pasagines, Josephines, Garatensiands, Albanensians, Francisks, Bagnorols, Comists, Waldensians, etc.” 51

Here the Pasaginians and the Circumcised are separately names, and one would be justified in concluding that they were different bodies. But as Dr. Hahn justly remarks, this confusion of names makes it difficult “to classify them and to properly define them in a way that they might be distinguished from each other.” However, the Pasaginians are once more mentioned—in the decree of Innocent IV (A.D. 1253), where he confirms the decree of Gregory IX. 52

Still The Truth Spreads

We have now traced the history of the observers of the Sabbath down to the second half of the thirteenth century, and have found that they trod a path marked with blood. They suffered with many other faithful witnesses, and persevered unto death. They surely must have been of some importance, and scattered over quite a range of territory, or else the popes and mighty rulers of various countries would not have mentioned them with the other.

The different edicts cover a period of nearly a century. Fire, the sword, and torture were employed to wipe these sects out of existence; spies were active in all directions to hunt them down like bloodhounds on a trail; any one sheltering them risked life and property; and even if any of these “heretics” recanted, a lifelong imprisonment awaited them,. And yet the truth survived in the West, as well as in the East, to which we shall now direct our eyes.

It was from the East that the gospel started on its victorious course around the world. At an early date Syria, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Asia Minor were covered with churches; but unfortunate contentions about the nature of Christ and the Holy Spirit took away the mind of Christ a and the life-giving power of his Spirit to such a degree that these churches degenerated into formalism. While the barbarians from the North executed the divine judgments upon the apostate West, in the early part of the seventh century Mohammed arose to punish the East. In order to distinguish his followers from Jews and Christians alike, he selected Friday as the special day of prayer. And thus the “Mohammedans and the Romanists crucified the Sabbath between two thieves, the sixth and the first days of the week;” for Mohammedanism and Romanism each suppressed the Sabbath over a wide extent of territory.

Ethiopia Holds To The Sabbath Of Jehovah

One of the first conversions recorded in the book of the Acts, is that of the Ethiopian eunuch, the treasurer of Queen Candace. Two Alexandrian missionaries are said to have founded the Abyssinian church in the fourth century. Frumentius, one of these, was soon after ordained as bishop, under the title, however, of “Abba Salama,” or “father of peace;” and since that time, “Abuna,” or “our father,” is more customary for the head of the Abyssinian church, who must still come from Egypt and be a Copt.

But the lasting monument of that time is the Ethiopic Bible. It included the book of Enoch. The Apostolic constitutions are also held in high honor. By the sixth century, Abysinia was the principal Christian power in Africa, but it was soon after so completely cut off form intercourse with Europe by the spread of Mohammedanism that gibbon fittingly writes:

“Encompassed on all sides by the enemies of their religion, the Ethiopians slept near a thousand years, forgetful of the world, by whom they were forgotten.” 53

When Europe came anew in contact with the Abyssinians in the sixteenth century, the seventh day was their weekly rest day; Sunday was only an assembly day—exactly as it was in the Eastern Church, when they were cut off from further contact with it by the Mohammedans. In the meantime, Christianity in Europe trampled the Sabbath of Jehovah in the dust. What caused this great contrast? Simply the efforts of the Papacy to suppress the Sabbath of Jehovah in Europe; while Ethiopia, whatever else it may have suffered, was not cursed with the presence or influence of the Roman doctrines and practises. The Mohammedans were not able to conquer this Switzerland of Africa, which was preserved like a lone isle, but they starved out its spirituality, The more their language changed, the more the Ethiopic Bible became a dead book them.

Rumors were afloat about a certain priest-king, John in Ethiopia, from the fourteenth century onward; and European legations sought him. But A.D. 1534, as Abyssinia was sorely pressed by Islam, it sent a legation to the Portuguese (who were then the great naval power of Europe), appealing for help. The Abyssinian legate at the court of Lisbon gave the following reason for their abstaining from work on the Sabbath, as well as for their honoring Sunday;

“Because God, after he had finished the creation of the world, rested thereon; which day, as God would have it called the holy of holies, so the not celebrating thereof with great honour and devotion seems to be plainly contrary to God’s will and precept, who will suffer heaven and earth to pass away sooner than his word; and that, especially, since Christ came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it. It is not, therefore, in imitation of the Jews, but in obedience to Christ and his holy apostles, that we observe that day.: “We do observe the Lord’s day after the manner of all other Christians in memory of Christ’s resurrection.” 54

The Jesuits At Work

In consequence of this request, four hundred Portuguese soldiers were sent, but they were accompanied by a number of Jesuits, who at once tried to induce the Abyssinian church to accept Roman Catholicism. They influenced King Zadenghel to propose to submit to the Papacy (A.D.1604). One of the the first efforts of the Jesuits was to get him to issue a proclamation” prohibiting all his subjects, upon sever penalties, to observe Saturday any longer.” This attempt cost the king “his crown and his life.” 55

His successor, Segued, submitted, saying:

“I confess that the Pope is the vicar of Christ, the successor of St. Peter, and the sovereign of the world. To him I swear true obedience, and at his feet I offer my person and kingdom.” 56

The next steps Windhorn describes:

“The king becoming haughty, decreed that as the observance of the Sabbath was but a ceremony, it should be discontinued, commanded to plow and to do other work on this day, and announced a severe penalty if any disobeyed. But Jonael, the governor of Bagemdra, paid no attention to this, assembled the despisers of the royal decree, and openly rebelled. Though some tried to change the kings’ mind, yet he pretended to be fully convinced that the doctrine concerning the nature of Christ and the abrogation of the Sabbath was exactly as the Jesuits had shown.” 57

Gibbon tersely remarks:

“The Abyssinians were enjoined to work and to play on the Sabbath.”

One of the first things the Jesuits did was to abrogate the observance of the Sabbath, and in order to break the resistance offered, they introduced the Inquisition. However, the Abyssinians arose to defend their religion, and after a bloody war, the king was forced to proclaim liberty of conscience. His son, in answer to the request of his nation, expelled the Jesuits (A.D. 1632), and restored the ancient faith. The harm done to the cause of Christ by the intrigues and carnal warfare of the Jesuits in Abyssinia, is stated by Gibbon:

“Churches resounded with a song of triumph, ‘that the sheep of Ethiopia were now delivered from the hyenas of the West;’ and the gates of that solitary realm were forever shut against the arts, the science, and the fanaticism of Europe.” 58

Sabbath-Keepers In China

But the Abyssinians are not the only Christians of the East among whom this double celebration of the Sabbath has been preserved. It is also still in vogue among the Nestorians, who reject the use of images, Mariolatry, and the Papacy. They begin their feast-days at sunset. Being exiled from the Roman empire, they found an asylum in Persia, whence they spread the gospel with great zeal, to India, Arabia, and even to China and Tartary.

As to Sabbath-keeping in China, quite evident traces have been found. When in A.D. 1665 Chinese workmen dug the foundation for a house outside the walls of the city of Si Gnau-Fou, they found buried in the earth a large monumental stone, covered with inscriptions in strange characters. The characters proved to be those called estrangellos, which were in use among the ancient Syrians, and will be found in some Syriac manuscripts of earlier date than the eighth century.

This monument, erected in the ancient city of Changan, which was then one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, under the imperial Tang Dynasty, shows from this inscription the evidence that the Christian religion was widely diffused in China at the beginning of the seventh century. As to the Sabbath, the following words are significant:

“On the seventh day we offer sacrifice, after having purified our hearts and received absolution for our sins. This religion, so perfect and so excellent, is difficult to name, but it enlightens the darkness by its brilliant precepts.” 59

In connection with this an epoch in modern Chinese history is of special interest. We abbreviate from Dr. A.H. Lewis, Sabbath History.

“The Ti Ping, ie., Universal Peace, Revolution, in China was one of the most wonderful developments of the power of the Bible over heathenism.”

In 1833 a young man, son of a peasant, received a tract composed of extracts from the Bible, from a tract distributor in the streets of Canton. During the war between China and England, deeming it a national disaster on account of the sins of the people, he read his Christian books and was converted. From the Bible he drew his system of theology, accepting God as his father, Christ as his elder brother, and the Decalogue and the teachings of the New Testament as his guide to virtue and righteousness. The entire Bible was printed and circulated, and the Lord’s prayer and the ten commandments were printed on cards and taught in every household. Opium, whisky, tobacco, and vices were prohibited; and as the Bible is silent as to any change of the day, the observance of the Sabbath was accepted as a part of Christianity. From one of their religious publications we quote the following concerning the fourth commandment:

“On the seventh day, the day of worship you should praise the great God for his goodness.

Remark—In the beginning, the great God made heaven and earth, land and sea, men and things, in six days; and having finished his work on the seventh day, he called it the day of rest (or Sabbath); therefore all the men of the world who enjoy the blessings of the great God, should, on every seventh day especially, reverence and worship the great God, and praise him for his goodness.

“The hymn says:
“’All the happiness enjoyed in the world comes from heaven;
It is also reasonable that men give thanks and sing;
At the daily morning and evening meal there should be thanksgiving;
But on the seventh day the worship should be more intense,’” 60

Rev. N. Wardner, who was a missionary in China during this revolution, states that when the Europeans inquired of these Chinese Sabbath-keepers how they came to observe the seventh instead of the first day of the week, as the other Christians, they replied that it was, first, because the Bible taught it, and, second, because their ancestors observed it as a day of worship. 61

The Nasranei

About seventy thousand Nestorians still live in the mountainous border region between Turkey and Persia. They call themselves Nasrani (Christians), Suriani or Syrians, Mesihaye or followers of the Messiah; while the party which united with the Catholics are named Chaldeans.

Hauck-Herzog thus attests to their Sabbath observance:

“Very numerous are their fasts. The use of meat is forbidden during one hundred fifty tow days in the year. They shun pork. The Sabbath is to them a weekly festival, as well as Sunday. They have no auricular confession; they know nothing of a purgatory. Their priests are allowed to marry.” 62

The Sabbath In The East Indies

The Thomas-Christians of the East Indies are a branch of the Nestorians, and, as such, they honor the memory of Nestorious, while they ascribe their conversion directly to the apostolic labours of St. Thomas. In the fifth century the Bible was translated into their language; La Croze calls this the “queen of versions.” It is marvellous how this church, separated from the other parts of the Christian world for about a thousand years, preserved its apostolic simplicity to such an extent that, when the Catholics came in contact with them, Gouvea, one of their authors, dropped the remark that the “Protestants must have imbibed their heresy from the Thomas-Christians. ”

While they had formed an independent state consisting of about thirty thousand Christian families, yet, being hard pressed by the natives, they made the same mistake as the Abyssinians, and appealed to the Portuguese for protection. This protection was granted to them, but with it came also the Jesuits, and things went from bad to worse. The Jesuits began to employ force to compel them to acknowledge the Papacy, and to abrogated their ancient practises. That they kept the Sabbath would be a natural conclusion because of their connection with the Nestorians, but Mr. Yeates affirms it by saying that Saturday “among them is a festival day, agreeable to the ancient practise of the church,”

“The ancient practise of the church,” as we have seen, was to hallow the seventh day in honor of the Creator’s rest.

The Inquisition Active

What “gentle” means the Jesuits employed in their attempt to convert the Thomas-Christians, Mr. Yeates attests:

“The Inquisition was set up at Goa in the Indies, at the instance of Francis Xaverius [a famous roman saint], who signified by letters to pope John III, Nov. 10 1545, ‘that the Jewish wickedness spreads more and more in the parts of the East Indies subject to the kingdom of Portugal, and therefore he earnestly besought the said king, that to cure so great an evil he would take care to send the office of the Inquisition into those countries.’” 63

With the Jesuits, the Inquisition came to India “which soon made itself felt by its terrible and mysterious punishments.” “The Jewish wickedness” was the observance of the Sabbath, as we see from the following canons of the synod at Diamper (A.D. 1599), presided over by the Roman archbishop, Menezes:

Canon 15—To assure conformity of ceremonies, the synod forbids all believers to eat meat on Saturday, or else they make themselves liable to the penalty for mortal sins.

Canon 16—The feast- and fast-days shall commence and cease at midnight, for the eve to eve custom was Jewish.” 64

The Jacobites

But in A.D. 1653, when the Dutch overthrew the Portuguese, these East Indian Christians shook off the hated yoke of the Jesuits and of the Papacy. The Jacobites [a large group of dissenting Easterners who recoiled from Rome’s doctrines] began to labour among them, and about that time (A.D. 1662) and since, they form the most formidable part of the flock presided over by the Jacobite patriarch living in Diabekir.

This experience is another positive evidence that the Papacy everywhere did its utmost to suppress the observance of the true Sabbath, which they had degraded into a fast-day, and since the time of Gregory the Great, had considered the work of Antichrist. In full harmony with this, a traveler, Purchas, who visited them in the beginning of the seventeenth century, writes of the Jacobites:

“They keep Saturday holy, nor esteem the Saturday fast lawful, but on Easter even. They have solemn service on Saturdays, eat flesh, and feast it bravely, like the Jews.” 65

With the following tribute paid to these East Indian Christians by J. w. Massie, we leave them for the present:

“Remote from the busy haunts of commerce, or the populous seats of manufacturing industry, they may be regarded as the Eastern Piedmontese, the Vaudois of Hindustan, the witnesses prophesying in sackcloth through revolving centuries, though indeed their bodies lay as dead in the streets of the city which they had once peopled.” 66

That Sabbath observance also continued among the Jacobites who still live in Mesopotamia would be but a natural conclusion from the fact that the Thomas-Christians are under their patriarchies and still hold to it. And of this we also have definite evidence. In his history of the Jacobites, Abducanus wrote during the eighteenth century, that they assembled ever Sabbath in their temples, with bare feet, to which the later editor, J. Nicolai, adds a footnote:

“Our author states that the Jacobites assembled on the Sabbath day, before the day of the Lord, in the temple, and kept that day, as do also the Abyssinians, as we have seen from the confession of their faith by the Ethiopian king Claudius. From this it appears that the Jacobites have kept the Sabbath as well as the Lord’s day, and still continue therein.”67

Ross also attest that the Maronites likewise retained the observance of the Sabbath for a long time, as well as keeping Sunday. 68

The same is affirmed of the Arminians, by Seb. Frank, who writes, in the seventeenth century, that “instead of fasting on the Sabbath with the Roman Church,” “they lived well on Sunday and Saturday, rejoining in their misfortunes.” “through the whole of Septuagesima they had no mass except on Sabbath and Sunday,” 69

Sabbath Fasting

Various instances have demonstrated that the Papacy, whenever it attained the supremacy and found the observance of the Sabbath, has enjoined Sabbath fasting. Dr. Augusti also attests that some synods in France, Spain, and Germany enjoined fasting on the Sabbath during the Middle Ages. 70 That it was enjoined as late as the eleventh century is proved by canon 7, of the council held at Rome, in November, 1078. 71 But that a gradual change took place, Dr. Augusti, continuing, informs us:

“From the eleventh century the prohibitions (to take a full meal on the Sabbath) became rarer and milder, and they would probably have ceased altogether, had not the roman Church feared she would be accused of the Greek church for her apparent inconsistency. This change was apparently brought about by the influence of a decree enforced since 1056 in Rome, at first in the monasteries, and later also among the lay members—that the Sabbath should be dedicated Mary.”

The Sabbath Dedicated To The Virgin Mary

The cause for this change is related by F.Kloden in detail:

“By the end of the eighth century the idea of the exalted dignity of Mary had reached such a height that it was thought strange to dedicate a day of the week to the honor of the Lord (besides many other feasts), and to dedicate but a few days to his mother,” “In a church in Constantinople there stood a veiled image of the Virgin. After the vespers one Friday, the veil withdrew, seemingly without human aid, and did not hide the face until vespers on Saturday. This was repeated the following Friday. After this miracle no one doubted that the virgin indicated that Saturday should be dedicated to her; It was instituted as a rule, accompanied by the following reasons: On the Sabbath after the death of Christ all faith was centered in Mary. Saturday is, as it were, the door to Sunday, which signifies eternal life. Thus Mary received a day in her honor, as well as God, and the measure rapidly found advocates and extensive circulation.” 72

The noted cardinal, P. Damian, thus vindicates this measure:

“The Sabbath, meaning rest (for on it god indeed rested) is very appropriately dedicated to the most benign Virgin, for, forsooth, wisdom in building herself a house, through the mystery of the assumed humility, rested in her as in a most holy bed.” 73

During the first crusade, pope Urban II decreed at the council of Clermont (A.D. 1095) that the Sabbath be set aside in honor of the virgin Mary by all the clergy. Many lay members followed the example of the clergy, and already the famous council of Toulouse enjoins (canon 25), under a penalty of twelve denare, “that at vespers on Saturday, the people attend church in honor of the holy Virgin Mary,” 74

In our entire investigation of Sabbath observance in the East, we have proved that certain churches, as the Abyssinians, the Nestorians, etc. honor the Sabbath of Jehovah by ceasing from work even to this day, (1910) and that all the East still honors the Sabbath in memory of the creation, by not fasting upon it. This is true even now, as the following extract from the standard catechism of the Russian church, written by the Metropolitan Philaret, proves:

“d. The fourth commandment.

“Question—Why, according to the command, should the seventh, and not another, day be sanctified unto God?

“Answer—Because God created the world in six days, but rested from all the works of creation on the seventh day.

“Question—Is the Sabbath (Saturday) kept in the Christina church?

“Answer—It is not kept entirely as a festival; but still in memory of the creation of the world and in continuation of its original observance, it is distinguished from the other days of the week by a relaxation of the rule for fasting.” 75

On the other hand, in contrast with the East, the Papacy, wherever its influence in the West has been sufficient, has degraded the Sabbath into a fast-day, and it still stands as such in the papal laws (Gregory VII, A.D. 1078, in corpus juris canonici, c. 31. Dist. 5, de consecratione; Benedict XIV, de synodo diocesana, Roma, 1755, p. 396 ff.); but in practise it has (since the eleventh century) dedicated the day to the honor of the Virgin Mary, because Christ “rested in her as in a most holy bed.”

How generally this contrast is admitted, the following from J.W,. Neal shows:

“The observation of Saturday is, as every one knows a subject of bitter dispute between the Greeks and Latins, the former observing it as a festival, the later as a day of abstinence.” 76

Wonderful Fulfilment Of God’s Prophecies

The prophecies of Daniel and Revelation clearly foretell that a power arising in Rome after the division of the Roman empire, shall

Under anathema, the Papacy has enforced work upon God’s rest day; it as turned the day of delight into one of fasting and mourning; it has taken the day set apart to the honor of God, and dedicated it to the honor of his creature; it has substituted another time—the first day of the week—from the seventh day; and it has perverted the law by trying to apply the fourth commandment to Sunday; and it has had indignation against the holy covenant by attempting to erase the day written in the heart and mind of man by God’s own spirit, and seeking to write its day in the minds of men by the most cruel of human laws; and in all this it “practised, and prospered.”

Through his prophets Daniel and John, god further foretells that the saints of the Most High shall be given into the hand of this Roman power for twelve hundred sixty years, during which it shall “make war with the saints, and …overcome them, and the church shall, “flee into the wilderness,” where “they shall fall by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days.” 80

The British church, and the anathematized Sabbath-keepers of the East and of the west, during the dark Middle Ages, furnish a cloud of witnesses as to the literal fulfilment of the Word of God, and the most remote mountain passes testify that they served as hiding-places for the church of God.

But the same prophecies foretelling defeat, also assure final victory, for the “people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits. And they that understand among the people shall instruct many.” 81 “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto death,”82

The great work done by the missionaries of the British church in the far North and on the Continent, the ever-wandering teachers of the Sabbath-keeping believers in the Alps, the zealous missionaries in the East carrying the gospel to India, China, Persia, Africa,—all were strong, did exploits, instructed many, and sacrificed their lives in the service of the Master.

And though it seemed at times that the light of God’s truth would go out, yet his true Israel survived, as the following words of a church historian testify:

“In vain did inquisitor rage, and plot, and torture, and burn. They were neither omniscient nor omnipresent: mighty as they were, they were not omnipotent. If they cursed heresy here, it sprang up there, and when hard pressed, found shelter in many an inaccessible mountain or secluded valley.”

“councils had thundered their curses, popes had issued their bulls, and inquisitors had exhausted their ingenuity—but it was all in vain. The church of God still lived.”83

Chapter 22: Sunday The Distinctive Mark Of Papal Power


The Roman Church at the height of its power
The influence of Aristotle
Thomas Aquinas the Light of the Roman Church
Scholastic Sophistry Concerning the New Law and the Sabbath Commandment
Sunday-Keeping Grow out of the Decision of the Church and the Custom of Christians
The Steady Stream of Sunday Legislation Still Goes on
“By Virture of Canonical obedience”
Pharisaical Sabbatarianism Repeated
Too Many Festivals
Dr. Eck on the Authority of the Church
Augsburg Confession
The Decisive Speech of Cardinal Del Fossa
“Almost Divine Wisdom”
Catechism of the Council of Trent
Bellarmine’s Catechism
“Keep Holy the Festivals”
The Catholic Sunday Position Reviewed

The Roman Church At The Height Of Its Power

Aided by the ever-growing monasticism, and ably defended by the philosophical arguments of the schoolmen, the Papacy had reached the zenith of its power by the Middle Ages. The Roman Church now controlled all departments of life from the cradle to the grave, monopolized all the learning, stirred up the crusades, made and unmade kings, dispensed blessings and cursings to whole nations, and hushed every opponent by the Inquisition.

The medieval hierarchy centering in Rome revived the Jewish theocracy on a more comprehensive scale. It abounded in “the tradition of elders;” viz., the worship of saints and relics, transubstantiation, the daily sacrifice of the mass, prayers and masses for the dead, works of supererogation, purgatory, indulgences, vows of monasticism, and last but not least, the observance of Sunday and a large number of holidays.


The organism of the papal church was fully developed, its legality promulgated and enforced; but now scholasticism, i.e., the scientific theology of the eleventh to the sixteenth century, set itself the task of proving that what existed ought to exist. The schoolmen of the mendicant orders vindicated theologically the whole existing structure of ecclesiasticism, declared its newest as well as it oldest parts to be attested by science, and boldly defended the highest claims of the Papacy to universal power, by means of an ingenious theory of the state and the miraculous efficacy of the sacrament in the hands of its priesthood.

The Influence Of Aristotle

The works of Aristotle, at first feared, soon became the chief textbooks of Rome’s theologians and his philosophy was hailed by them as a forerunner of the gospel, of just as much import as was the work of John the Baptist to Christ. Scripture and tradition and the writings of church Fathers and philosophers were skilfully blended to rear up entire doctrinal systems, justifying the weak historical foundation of papal claims.

Thomas Aquinas The Light Of The Roman Church

In view of this, the Roman Church could well afford to bestow titles and honors upon the schoolmen. Among these none stands higher than Thomas Aquinas, called the “Angelic Doctor”. An ancient painting in the Paris Art Gallery very aptly represents his eminent position in the church and his intimate relation to philosophy. Above there is the Trinity: in the middle, between Aristotle and Plato, sits Thomas Aquinas, with the rays of the sun emanating from him; while below are pictured the Pope and his clergy looking up to him for light, as “teacher of the church,” His historical position is attested by the following inscription: “Truly he is the light of the church; he finds all the way of doctrine.”

Scholastic Sophistry Concerning The New Law And The Sabbath Commandment

Canons of councils, imperial and royal decrees, ecclesiastical and civil ordinances without number (and often most sever), spurious epistles from heaven, and pretended miracles and apparitions had been arduously combined to clothe Sunday, as well as the other festivals, with some air of holiness.

Papal decrials styling the first day of the week the “Lord’s day,” now carefully defined its holiness, and disposed of it as the creature o the will of the Papacy. There was a superabundance of human legislation in favor of it, but no system of theology had as yet devised divine authority for it. A few isolated references had been made to associate it with the Sabbath of the Decalogue. But at what time and by whom the first systematic effort in this direction was made, Bishop Grimelund thus rightly informs us:

“Not the apostles, not the first Christians nor the councils of the ancient church, have stamped Sunday with the name and seal of the Sabbath, but the church of the Middle Ages, and the schoolmen.” 1

Mr. Baden Powell attest the same, in more explicit language:

“The strange and inconsistent notion of a transference of the obligations of the Judaical religion and its institution to those of Christianity, more especially of a change in the day of the Sabbath, had been partially adopted by some writers of early times, though not acknowledged by the church. But the notion of Christian ordinances succeeding in the place of those of Judaism first began to be systematically upheld, among other refinements and corruptions, by the schoolmen, especially by Thomas Aquinas,” 2

The substance of the sophistry whereby this was accomplished, is as follows: The basis of all laws forms an eternal, spiritual law, which is not bound to certain literal precepts. God himself acts according to this law, termed the “new law,” which is so comprehensive that the natural laws of the pagans, the Decalogue, and the evangelical counsels and precepts of the New Testament are but rays emanating from it. The natural law written in the heart and the Decalogue written on tables of stone are identical save in one point,—the keeping of a special day in memory of the creation, which is ceremonial and passing.

As men fix a certain time for everything, it accords with natural law to set aside a time for divine service. But as the kernel of the Sabbath command is the rest of God, signified by the rest in paradise and realized in the eternal Sabbath, the spiritual rest, and especially the rest from sin, is really a fulfilment of the Sabbath law. Bodily rest in the Old Testament on the seventh day was in reality only a shadow of this essential and spiritual rest. The church, understanding this, has, by virtue of her own full and perfect power and on the strength of a custom which time had made law, created the Sunday festival, as well as many others of like nature, that I all these she might bring this spiritual rest to a formal expressing. Though this rest is not identical with the letter of the written law, yet because it is in accordance with the higher new law, the church has acted under the divine approbation.

As Thomas Aquinas’s exposition of the Sabbath commandment shaped the theology of the Reformers on this point, we shall quote it in full:

“The precept about hallowing the Sabbath, understood literally, is partly moral and partly ceremonial. It is a moral precept in as much as men are to devote a certain time to an attention to divine things. For there is in man a natural inclination to set aside a certain time for each necessary thing, such as refreshment of the body, sleep, and other things of a similar kind. Hence in compliance to the dictates of natural reason, man sets aside a certain fixed time for spiritual refreshment, by which man’s mind is refreshed in God. And thus to have a certain time set aside for occupying oneself with Divine things is the matter of a moral precept. But, in so far as this commandment specializes the time as a sign representing the Creation of the world, it is a ceremonial precept. Again, it is a ceremonial precept in its allegorical signification, as representative of Christ’s rest in the tomb on the seventh day: also in its moral signification, as representing cessation from all sinful acts, and the mind’s rest in God, in which sense, too, it is a general command. Again, it is a ceremonial precept in its analogical signification, as foreshadowing the enjoyment of God in heaven. Hence the precept about hallowing the Sabbath is placed among the precepts of the Decalogue, as a moral, but not as a ceremonial precept.

The other thing is cessation from work, and is signified in the words (Ex. 20:11) “On the seventh day … thou shalt do no work.” The kind of work meant appears from Lev. 23:3, “You shall do no servile work on that day.” Now servile work is so called from servitude: and servitude is threefold.

One, whereby man is the servant of sin, according to Jn. 8:34, “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin,” and in this sense all sinful acts are servile.

Another servitude is whereby one man serves another. Now one man serves another not with his mind but with his body, as stated above. Wherefore in this respect those works are called servile whereby one man serves another.

The third is the servitude of God; and in this way the work of worship, which pertains to the service of God, may be called a servile work. In this sense servile work is not forbidden on the Sabbath day, because that would be contrary to the end of the Sabbath observance: since man abstains from other works on the Sabbath day in order that he may occupy himself with works connected with God’s service. For this reason, according to Jn. 7:23, “a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath day, that the law of Moses may not be broken”: and for this reason too we read (Matt. 12:5), that “on the Sabbath days the priests in the temple break the Sabbath,” i.e. do corporal works on the Sabbath, “and are without blame.” Accordingly, the priests in carrying the ark on the Sabbath did not break the precept of the Sabbath observance. In like manner it is not contrary to the observance of the Sabbath to exercise any spiritual act, such as teaching by word or writing. Wherefore a gloss on Num 28 says that “smiths and like craftsmen rest on the Sabbath day, but the reader or teacher of the Divine law does not cease from his work. Yet he profanes not the Sabbath, even as the priests in the temple break the Sabbath, and are without blame.” On the other hand, those works that are called servile in the first or second way are contrary to the observance of the Sabbath, in so far as they hinder man from applying himself to Divine things. And since man is hindered from applying himself to Divine things rather by sinful than by lawful albeit corporal works, it follows that to sin on a feast day is more against this precept than to do some other but lawful bodily work. Hence Augustine says (De decem chord. iii): “It would be better if the Jew did some useful work on his farm than spent his time seditiously in the theatre: and their womenfolk would do better to be making linen on the Sabbath than to be dancing lewdly all day in their feasts of the new moon.” It is not, however, against this precept to sin venially on the Sabbath, because venial sin does not destroy holiness.

In the New Law the observance of the Lord’s day took the place of the observance of the Sabbath, not by virtue of the precept but by the institution of the Church and the custom of Christian people. For this observance is not figurative, as was the observance of the Sabbath in the Old Law. Hence the prohibition to work on the Lord’s day is not so strict as on the Sabbath: and certain works are permitted on the Lord’s day which were forbidden on the Sabbath, such as the cooking of food and so forth. And again in the New Law, with regard to things not allowed, dispensation is more easily granted than in the Old, on account of their necessity, because the design of the type must be witness of truth, and must not be departed even in small things; while works, considered in themselves, are changeable in point of place and time.” 3

Sunday-Keeping Grows Out Of The Decision Of The Church And The Custom Of Christians

This is what Aquinas maintained in the above quote:”In the New Law the observance of the Lord’s day took the place of the observance of the Sabbath, not by virtue of the precept but by the institution of the Church and the custom of Christian people.”

Thus by their sophistry Catholic theologians reared up a complete sabbatarian superstructure for Sunday, asserting that its observance rests on a new and no less divine law than the Decalogue. At the same time, by basing it upon an ecclesiastical foundation and upon tradition, and by vindicating its change in virtue of the full and perfect power of the Roman Catholic Church, through which power the church also institutes festivals of greater sanctity, they encircled this church with an increased halo of glory and with greater sovereignty.

The Steady Stream Of Sunday Legislation Still Goes On

However, this in no way restrained the continual stream of human Sunday legislation, and, seemingly, it did not enhance Sunday sacredness in the eyes of the people. Continuing from the year A.D. 1229, and coming down to the time of the Reformation, we single out a few of the most significant canons:

(London A.D. 1237) “Every clergyman is required to forbid is parishioners the frequenting of markets on the Lord’s day, and leaving the church, where they ought to meet and spend the day in prayer and hearing the word of God. And this on pain of excommunication.”

(Budapesth, A.D. 1279) “CANON 33—Parishioners must attend mass in their own parish church on all Sundays and festivals. Lay members or clergymen transgressing this ordinance are to be severely punished.”

(Bourges, A.D. 1286) “CANON 32—Priest must, on penalty of suspension, notify their bishop of servile work done on Sundays, so he may inflict adequate punishment.”

(Rouen, A.D. 1299) “CANON 2—Secular judges holding court sessions on Sunday are threatened with excommunication.”

(Beziers, A.D. 1310) “CANON 16—Shoemakers, joiners, and merchants dealing with provisions are forbidden to offer their goods for sale on Sunday.”

(Trier, A.D. 1310) “CANON 23—All parishioners must attend mass on Sundays and festivals, on pain of excommunication.”

“CANON 35—Masters must not thereon retain their bondmen for servile work,”

(Ravenna, A.D. 1311) “CANON 9—Every believer must attend the entire mass on Sunday, and not leave ere the benediction, on pain of excommunication.”

(Valladolid, A.D. 1322) “CANON 4—Whoever follows agriculture or a trade on Sunday is to be excommunicated.”

(Apt, A.D. 1365) CANON 13—“Markets are forbidden on pain of ecclesiastical censure; the interference of the secular power is also to be invoked.”

(Upsala, A.D. 1448) “CANON 79—Whoever slays a person on Sunday, must abstain from meat the rest of his life.”

“CANON 85—Markets forbidden on Sunday”

(Cologne, A.D. 1473) “CANON 8—No markets to be held on Sunday, except in cases of special privileges,”

(Arboga, A.D. 1473) “CANON 39 On Sunday there is to be no public sale of meat, nor should meat or other provisions be carried about for sale.”

(Florence, A.D. 1517) “CANON I—Servile work on Sunday is to be punished, and only eatables and drinks are to be offered for sale.” 4

“By Virture Of Canonical Obedience”

Nearly all of western Europe is represented in this list of places. On what basis the Roman Church urged this, is seen from the following edict of Istippe, archbishop of Canterbury, A.D. 1388:

“Wherefore, by virtue of canonical obedience we strictly charge and command your brotherhood that if you find your people faulty in the premises, you forthwith admonish or cause them to be admonished to refrain going to markets or fairs on the Lord’s day… And as for such who are obstinate, and speak or act against you in this particular, you must endeavor to restrain them by ecclesiastical censures, and by all lawful means put a stop to these extravagances,” 5

A further example is the following extract from the exposition of the Decalogue, given by Archbishop Neville at a synod in York, A.D. 1466, which was to guide the clergy:

“It is said, ‘Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day,’ Bu this the observance of the Christian worship is enjoined, which is of obligation alike on the clergy and laity. But it is to be known here that the obligation to keep holy day on the lega Sabbath, according to the form of the Old Testament, wholly expired with the other ceremonies of the law; and hat under the New Testament it is sufficient to keep holy day for the divine worship on the Lord’s days, and the other solemn days ordained to be kept as holy days by the authority of the church’ wherein the manner of keeping holy day is to be taken, not from the Jewish superstition but from the directions of the canons.” 6

Pharisaical Sabbatarianism Repeated

But too what minute details these restrictions were carried, may be illustrated by these few examples:

“Boaventure, (A.D> 1221-71) enumerates among other works to be omitted on Suday, writing, beating of clothes, washing of the head,” 7

“Pope John XXII complained, I a letter to Philip V of France, that there the custom still prevailed to cut or trim the beard on Sunday,” 8

The most perfect development, equal only to the Talmud, is displayed by Tostatus, bishop of Avila, in the fourteenth century. In his Commentary on Exodus, chapter 12 he says:

“If a musician wait upon a gentleman to recreate his mind with music, and they are agreed upon certain wages, or he be only hired for a present time, he sins in case he play or sing to him on holy days, (including the Lord’s day) but not if his reward be doubtful or depend only on the bounty of the parties who enjoy his music.”

“A cook that on the holy days is hired to make a feast or to dress a dinner, commits a mortal sin; but not if he be hired by the month or year.”

Meat may be dressed upon the Lord’s day or the other holy days, but to wash dishes on those days is unlawful—that must be deferred to another day.”

A man that travels on holy days to any special shrine or saint, commits no sin, but he commits sin if he returns home on those days,”

“Artificers which work on these days for their own profit only, are I mortal sin, unless the work be very small, because a small thing dishonoreth not the festival,”

As the Decalogue acquired special importance at this time for confessional purposes, the schoolmen were very prolific in voluminous and minute treatises upon it. Nicolas of Lyra wrote not less than thirty-five books on morals; and Antonius of Florence issued a confessional, in which he not only minutely specifies what is permitted on Sunday, and what is not, but also what may and what my not be done on the festivals of different grades.

Too Many Festivals

As the number of holidays steadily multiplied, prominent ecclesiastics raised their voices in favor of diminishing the number of these holidays, demanding a reform in this as well as in other matter.

Nioclaus Clemanges wrote a tract entitled “No More New Festivals,” in which he shows that the many unnecessary holidays hinder the peasants in their work; that instead of furthering piety, they give occasion only to rude merrymaking; and that the peasants are forgetting the Bible because of the many stories of the saints. 9

Cardinal de Aliaco, in the opening of the council of Constance, A.D. 1416, in his “Exhortations Concerning the Reform of the Church in Its Head and Members,” demanded:

“That not so many new festivals be instituted; also that, excepting on Sundays and the great festivals instituted by the church, work be permitted after hearing the mass; because by these holidays often the sins were the more increased in taverns—dancing and other pleasures which idleness teaches—while at the same time the work-days scarcely suffice for the poor to secure the necessities of life.” 10

The Roman Church, however, did not diminish the number of holidays until after the Reformation, when synod after synod demanded it.

Dr. Eck On The Authority Of The Church

In the summer of A.D. 1519 the great theological controversy took place at Leipzig, in which Eck, a great champion of the Papacy, who maintained the authority and infallibility of the Roman Church against Luther and Carlstadet. Luther’s closing words are significant:

“I am sorry that the learned doctor only dips into Scripture as the water-spider into the water—nay, that he seems to flee from it as the devil from the cross. I prefer, with all deference to the Fathers, the authority of the Scriptures, which I herewith recommend to the arbiters of our cause.” 11

By what arguments Dr. Eck refuted the Reformers, appears from the following:

“Concerning the Authority of the Church. The Scripture teaches: Remember that you keep the Saturday; six days shalt thou labour and do all they work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord they God, etc. However, the church has transferred the observance from Saturday to Sunday by virtue of her own power, without Scripture, without doubt under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”

Concerning Holidays and Fast-Days.—the Sabbath is commanded in various places in the Scriptures. But there is no mention of the cessation of the Sabbath and the institution of Sunday in the Gospels, or in Paul’s writings, or in all the Bible’ therefore this has taken place by the apostolic church institution it without Scripture.”

“If, however, the church has had power to change the Sabbath of the Bible into Sunday and to command Sunday keeping why should it not have also this power concerning other days, many of which are based on the Scriptures—such as Christmas, circumcision of the heart, three kings, etc. If you omit the latter, and turn from the church to the Scriptures alone, then you must keep the Sabbath with the Jews, which has been kept from the beginning of the world.” 12

The real facts in the case could not have been more plainly stated. The Roman Church not only thought to “change times and laws,” by virtue of her power, but her champions brought forward this very change without Scriptural warrant, as the most striking proof of the authority of the church over the Bible. Sunday thereby became the most significant mark of papal authority.

Augsburg Confession

That the Catholic makes his greatest boast over this change of the time and command of the Decalogue, a Protestant historical document of the highest order has to admit:

“Moreover, it is disputed whether bishops or pastors have the right to introduce ceremonies in the Church, and to make laws concerning meats, holy-days…. They [the Catholics] allege the change of the Sabbath into the Lord’s day, contrary, as it seemeth, to the Decalogue; and they have no example more in their mouths than the change of the Sabbath. They will needs have the church’s power to be very great because it hath dispensed with a precept of the Decalogue.” 13

This settles beyond dispute the extent to which Catholic champions made use of the change of the Sabbath as the mark of the papal authority over the law of God.

The Decisive Speech Of Cardinal Del Fossa

There is still another striking instance. Ever since the opening of the council at Trent (A.D. 1545), the Catholics had tried to define the right relation of the authority of the church to tradition and the Bible. Sixteen long session had already been held when Caspar del Fossa, [Gaspare Ricciulli] archbishop of Rheggio, made the following statement in his opening discourse, Jan. 18, 1562:

“Such is the condition of the heretics today that they appeal to no other matter more than that they, under the pretense of the Word of God, overthrow the church’ as though the church, which is the body of Christ, could be opposed to this Word, or the head to the body. Yea the authority of the church is most gloriously set forth by the Holy Scriptures; for while on the one hand she recommends the same, declares them divine, offers them to us to be read, explains them faithfully in doubtful passages, and condemns whatever is contrary to them, on the other hand, the legal precepts of the Lord contained in them have ceased by virtue of the same authority.

The Sabbath, the most glorious day in the law, has been changed into the Lord’s day…This and other similar matters have not ceased by virtue of Christ’s teaching (for he says he came to fulfil the law, not to destroy it) but they have been changed by virtue of the authority of the church. Should this authority cease (which would surely please the heretics), who would then witness for truth, and confound the obstinacy of the heretics?” 14

That this speech was decisive, and that tradition was thereby in reality elevated above the Scriptures, is attested by Dr. J.H. Hotzman in his work, “Canon and Tradition,” page 263:

The council agreed fully with Ambrosius Pelargus, that under no condition should the Protestants be allowed to triumph by saying that the council had condemned the doctrine of the ancient church. But this practise caused untold tribulation without serving as a safeguard. For this business, to be sure, ‘almost divine prudence’ was requisited—which was indeed awarded to the council on the sixteenth of March, 1562, by the Spanish ambassador. Really they could scarcely find their way in the many labyrinthian passages of an older and newer comprehension of tradition, which were constantly crossing and re-crossing each other. But even in this they were destined to succeed.

Finally, at the last opening on the eighteenth of January, 1562, their last scruple was set aside; the archbishop of Rheggio made a speech in which he openly declared that tradition stood above Scripture. The authority of the church could therefore not be bound to the authority of the Scriptures, because the church had changed Sabbath into Sunday, not by the command of Christ, but by its own authority. With this, to be sure, the last illusion was destroyed, and it was declared that tradition does not signify antiquity, but continual inspiration.

“Almost Divine Wisdom”

“The authority of the church could therefore not be bound to the authority of the Scriptures, because the church had changed Sabbath into Sunday, not by the command of Christ, but by its own authority.”

Tradition, they concluded, was but continuous inspiration. None could continue to fight the acceptance of tradition when the only authority they had for Sunday observance was tradition. All the doctrines against which the Reformers had protested were again formulated and strengthened by Rome. Henceforth, the papacy was to have only one mission, namely to command nations and men everywhere to submit to the Council of Trent.

Catechism Of The Council Of Trent

Five years later the catechism of the council of Trent was published. Part III of this catechism treats “On the Precepts of God Contained in the Decalogue.” In this document the Decalogue is set forth as “an epitome of the entire law,” and “God himself is the author of the law “. “BUT, lest perchance the people, on hearing the abrogation of the Mosaic law may imagine that they are no longer bound by the precepts of the Decalogue, [the priest or pastor] must teach them that , when God delivered the law to Moses, he rather gave increased splendor to this divine light, that was now almost darkened by the depraved morals and inveterate perversity of man, than passed a new law. For it is most certain that the ten commandments are not to be obeyed because given by Moses, but because they are precepts innate in the minds of all, and have been explained and confirmed by Christ our Lord,” Then in question 8, the catechism thus warns against Antinomians:

“By explaining moreover the necessity of obeying the law, [the pastor] will contribute very much to induce to its observance, particularly as in these days there have not been wanting those who impiously, and to the serious injury of their own souls, have not been afraid to say that the law, whether easy or difficult, is by no means necessary unto salvation.”

Chapter IV deals directly with the Sabbath commandment. Its importance is set forth in question 2:

“The importance of the observance of this commandment is clearly perceived from the consideration that a faithful compliance therewith facilitates the observance of all the other commandments of the law; for as, amongst the other duties which ought to be performed on holy days, the faithful are bound to assemble at church to hear the word of God when they shall have learned the divine precepts of righteousness, they will also naturally be prompted to keep the law of the Lord with their whole hearts. Hence the celebration and sanctification of the Sabbath are very often enjoined in scripture.”

In question 2 the princes and magistrates are to be exhorted to aid with the support of their authority in enforcing this command; then in quest ion 4 the teachings of the schoolmen with regard to the difference between this command and the others becomes the infallible rule of the council:

“The difference, then, appears evidence, in that the other commandments of the Decalogue are precepts of the natural and perpetual law, under all circumstances unalterable, whence, notwithstanding the abrogation of the law of Moses, all the commandments contained in the two tables are observed by the Christian people, not because Moses so commanded, but because they agree with the law of nature, by the dictates of which men are impelled to their observance; whereas this commandment, touching the sanctification of the Sabbath, if considered as to the time of its observance, is not fixed and unaltered, but susceptible of change, and belongs not to the moral but ceremonial law. Neither is it a natural principle, for we are not taught or formed by nature to give external worship to God on the Sabbath rather than on any other day; but from the time the people of Israel were liberated from the bondage of Pharaoh, they observed the Sabbath day.”

In question 5 it seeks to show that at the death of Christ the Sabbath ceased, with the other Jewish ceremonies. In question 7, on the strength of Rev. 1:10. It is stated that the apostles changed the Sabbath into the Lord’s day. In question 18 the reason for this is stated as follows:

But the Church of God has thought it well to transfer the celebration and observance of the Sabbath to Sunday. For, as on that day light first shone on the world, so by the Resurrection of our Redeemer on the same day, by whom was thrown open to us the gate to eternal life, we were called out of darkness into light; and hence the Apostles would have it called the Lord’s day. We also learn from the Sacred Scriptures that the first day of the week was held sacred because on that day the work of creation commenced, and on that day the Holy Ghost was given to the Apostles.

And in question 19 a reason is given for the institution of other festivals:

From the very infancy of the Church and in the following centuries other days were also appointed by the Apostles and the holy Fathers, in order to commemorate the benefits bestowed by God. Among these days to be kept sacred the most solemn are those which were instituted to honour the mysteries of our redemption. In the next place are the days which are dedicated to the most Blessed Virgin Mother, to the Apostles, Martyrs and other Saints who reign with Christ. In the celebration of their victories the divine power and goodness are praised, due honour is paid to their memories, and the faithful are encouraged to imitate them.

Previously to this, in question 15, we read of the “spiritual Sabbath”. “The spiritual sabbath consists in a holy and mystical rest, wherein the old man being buried with Christ, is renewed to life.” Then in question 16 comes the Sabbath of the blest, which refers to the heavenly Sabbath, the final rest for the people of God. After dealing with what should be done on the feast-days and on Sunday, it concludes, in question 28:

“In order, therefore, to avoid offending God in this way, we should frequently ponder this word: Remember, and should place before our minds the important advantages and blessings which, as we have already seen, flow from the religious observance of Sunday and holydays.” 15

Bellarmine’s Catechism

Another catechism, drawn up by Cardinal Bellarmine, sanctioned by bulls of Clement VIII (A.D. 1558) and Benedict XIII (A.D. 1728) still used in Italy, travesties the fourth commandment thus:

Remember to keep holy the festivals” (Recordati di sanctificare le Feste).

He then explains:

“The third commands the observance of festivals; which consists in abstaining from servile works, in order to have time for considering the divine blessings for visiting the churches, etc.” 16

“Keep Holy The Festivals”

Among “the few commandments which the church has added to the commandments of God,” the catechism enjoins that one should “hear mass every Sunday, and on all other appointed festivals.” The same cardinal maintained that the distinction of days and festivals was not taken away, but changed by the Christian church’ which, as being infallible, doubtless had power to make such a change in divine institutions, though otherwise it manifestly could not. 17

The Catholic Sunday Position Reviewed

The gradual development of the Sunday institution within the realm of the Roman Church, together with the doctrines, the pretended claims, the many decrees and different practises with regard to Sunday, have been presented to the reader from standard Catholic authorities. Philosophical theologians introduced this institution, and philosophical schoolmen gave to it the finishing touches; and what sophistically schoolmen had devised in its behalf, popes and councils authorized as infallible.

To vindicate this change so unwarranted by Scripture, the theory of the “new law” of the Gnostics was revived by the schoolmen; but to impress Sunday holiness in practise, they adduced the despised Sabbath commandment. While its observance was said to rest on a higher spiritual law, yet carnal human legislation expended all its ingenuity to enforce this observance and still failed. Sunday was stamped with the seal of the Sabbath, but it stood forth as a human ordinance, created by the wisdom and custom of the church. Scholasticism stripped the Sabbath commandment of its import, changed, as it was, from the fourth to the third command of the Decalogue.

According to their sophistry, this institution is authorized only in that it agrees with nature that God should be worshiped. Sabbath observance is made out to be not fixed and constant, but subject to ceremonial and human changes. The Sabbath that was ordained by God’s own rest in the beginning, is said to have begun with the exodus of the Jews from Egypt, and to have passed away as a mere Jewish ceremony at the death of Christ. The explicit and lengthy precept written by the divine Legislator himself dwindles down in the theory and practise of the Catholic Church to the loose and indefinite statement, “Remember to keep holy the festivals,” It thus enjoins the observance of as many days in honor of the saints as fallible man might choose to devise.

Sunday and the many festivals all owe their origin to the wisdom of the church, which, for the eternal and infallible truth of the Bible, has substituted human edicts and fluctuating tradition. As there is no Scriptural warrant for the supposed change, the Roman Church refers to it to prove the superiority of tradition over the authority of the Bible. This pretended change being contrary to the express letter of the law of God and the definite injunctions of Christ, Catholic champions point to it as the most striking example of the wonderful power of the Roman Church, which can dispense with one of God’s own precepts.

To smooth over the unwarranted change, sophistry declares it to be in harmony with a higher “new law,” and thus assures it of divine approbation. That church which debased the Edenic Sabbath institution has also robbed Edenic marriage of its honor.

When it came to actual practise, Roman ecclesiastical Sabbatarianism proved a decided failure; but its sophistically theory assured victory to tradition and Romanism in their contest with an incomplete Protestantism at the most important council of Trent. The human, ecclesiastical Sunday, stamped with the seal of the Sabbath by the schoolmen of the Middle Ages approved by the councils, and adopted world- wide, is the most significant mark of usurped papal authority over the divine law of God.

Chapter 23: The Incomplete Sunday Of The Reformers


General conditions at the time of the Reformation
A growing demand for reforms
The Bible in the Language of the people
Luther’s address to the German nobility
The Sunday Sabbath of the Schoolmen controverter in Every Point
Tied to no Day in Particular that Did not Concern the Reformers
Luther Assigns Sunday to the Common People only
Weakness and Inconsistency of the Position held by the Reformers
Review of the Theory
Sunday Left Suspended in the Air
How to View the Reformers and their Work

General Conditions At The Time Of The Reformation

From the bosom of the Roman Church itself arose the great Reformation of the sixteenth century. “Theology was a maze of scholastic subtleties, Aristotelian dialectics and idle speculations, but ignored the great doctrines of the gospel.” The church of the Middle Ages was sunken in the same rigid legalism and formalism as were the Jews at the time of our Savior. The pure teachings of the Word of God had become obscured by tradition and philosophical puerilities. The people knew more of the legends of saints than of the Word of God. Not many could read and write, and copies of the Bible were few and in an unknown tongue. Justification was sought by meritorious works, so that true faith in Christ had declined, and, as an inevitable consequence, God’s holy law was everywhere transgressed. His blessed rest day fared even worse than in the days of the Pharisees.

While the Pharisees loaded down the Sabbath with their endless and petty restrictions, yet they at least preserved the day “according to the commandment.” But after divesting God’s rest day of its honor, the papal church clothed a day of its own appointing with the seal of the Sabbath, and loaded it down with numerous canonical restrictions and civil ordinances, and then boasted of nothing more proudly than of its power in dispensing with one of God’s precepts. It, therefore, in even a much more flagrant manner than the Pharisees, made the commandments of God of none effect by its traditions, and taught the commandments of men in their stead. 1

The observance of Sunday became something meritous, by which the sins of the working-days might be expiated, and even the sufferings of souls in purgatory relieved. A multitude of festivals, instituted in imitation of the Jewish festivals, only greater in number and accompanied by observances more irksome, rested upon the necks of the people like an unbearable yoke. The true sense of the blessedness of a Sabbath rest made for man even in paradise, was entirely lost sight of among the many holidays, with which Sunday stood only on an equal footing. The rigor of many of the provisions had an effect just the opposite of that which was intended: human nature rebelled against such an arduous task, and numerous voices were raised in protest at councils preceding the Reformation.

A Growing Demand For Reforms

This was one of the evils demanding a reform. The tyranny of the hierarchy, rival popes, yea, even rival councils, endless controversies between the secular and the ecclesiastical powers, the corruption of the clergy, the abusers of indulgences and of the mass—all these had increased to such and extent before the time of the Reformation that the words of a noted Catholic express the truth when he said, “We hear from it [from this period] a thousand voices for a reformation in its head and members.”

At the councils of Pisa, Constance, and Basel a reformation of the head and of the members was the great watchword’ but the hierarchy, to its own hurt, stifled this demand for a whole century.

The Bible In The Language Of The People

One of the first aims of the Reformation was to give the Bible to the people in their own tongue, so that they might “search the Scriptures” and find the truth. In a few years the Bible had more readers among the laity than even the Latin Vulgate could boast among the priests. From the very outset, the Reformers maintained the supremacy of the Scriptures over tradition against the Roman co-ordination of the two. The following words of Luther define the correct standard:

“All articles of faith are sufficiently laid down in the Holy Scripture, so that one has no liberty to lay down more.” 2

Luther’s Address To The German Nobility

The true condition of things, and their remedies, are set forth in a masterly manner in Luther’s address to the German nobility, published in July, 1520, one hundred thousand copies of which were circulated during the first month. The government of the Pope “agrees with that of the apostles as well as Lucifer with Christ, hell with heaven, night with day and yet he styles himself Christ’s vicar.” The three walls around the papal Jericho, which have been erected against a reformation, are the three exclusive claims f the Papacy to universal power, to interpret the Scriptures, and to call a council.

In twenty-seven articles Luther urges sweeping reforms:

Article 18 All saints’ days and festivals should be abolish , keeping only Sunday. But if it were desired to keep the high festivals and those that honor Our Lady, they should all be transferred to Sundays, or only in the morning with the mass; the rest of the day being a working day. The holidays cause our present abuses of drinking, gambling, idling, and all manner of sin, and God’s anger is kindled by them. And the matter is just reversed; we have made holy days unholy, and working days holy, and do no service; but great dishonour, to God and His saints with all our holy days. There are some foolish prelates that think they have done a good deed, if they establish a festival to St. Otilia or St. Barbara, and the like, each in his own blind fashion, whilst he would be doing a much better work to turn a saint’s day into a working day in honour of a saint.”

Besides these spiritual evils, these saints’ days inflict bodily injury on the common man in two ways: he loses a day’s work, and he spends more than usual, besides weakening his body and making himself unfit for labour, as we see every day, and yet no one tries to improve it. One should not consider whether the Pope instituted these festivals, or whether we require his dispensation or permission.

Article 23—O Christ my Lord , look down upon this; let Thy great day of judgment come and destroy the devil’s lair at Rome. Behold him of whom St. Paul spoke (2 Thess. ii, 3, 4) that he should exalt himself above Thee and sit in Thy Church, showing himself as God—the man of sin and the son of predition.” What else does the Pope’s power do but teach and strengthen sin and wickedness, leading souls to damnation in Thy name?…

“I hope the day of judgment is even at the door; things cannot and will not become worse than the dealings of the Roman chair. The Pope treads God’s commandments under foot and exalts his own above it; if this is not antichrist, I do not know what is.

Article 25—The universities also require a decided reformation. I must say this, let it vex whom it may….very little is taught of the Holy Scriptures of the Christian faith, and the blind pagan teacher, Aristotle, rules even further than Christ?..

Our worthy theologians have saved themselves much trouble and labour by leaving the Bible alone and only reading the treatises….

Besides this, the Pope orders with many stringent words that his laws be read and used in schools and courts; while the law of the Gospel is but little considered. The result is that in schools and courts the Gospel lies dusty underneath the benches, so that the Pope’s mischievous laws may alone be in force.

Even the Fathers should only be read for a short time as an introduction to the Scriptures. As it is we read nothing else, and never get from them into the Scriptures, as if one should be gazing at the signposts and never follow the road.” 3

The Sunday Sabbath Of The Schoolmen Controverted In Every Point

Under the mighty blows of the Reformers, the whole framework of a Sunday Sabbath and a “new law,” reared up by the schoolmen during the Middle Ages, was levelled to the ground. With one consent they condemn every one of their positions in the strongest terms:

1. THE “NEW LAW” of the schoolmen is denounced by Melanchthon as a fictitious dream:

“The opponents would feign a dream on their part, as though Christ had abrogated the law of Moses, and had introduced after Moses a new good law, whereby one might obtain pardon form sin. By this fanatical, foolish though they suppress Christ and his benefits,” 4

Next we will see John Calvin’s words on the “new law” theory, from his Institutes of the Christian book 2, chap. 8, #7.

In saying that this is the meaning of the Law, we are not introducing a new interpretation of our own; we are following Christ, the best interpreter of the Law (Mt. 5:22, 28, 44). The Pharisees having instilled into the people the erroneous idea that the Law was fulfilled by every one who did not in external act do anything against the Law, he pronounces this a most dangerous delusion, and declares that an immodest look is adultery, and that hatred of a brother is murder. “Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment;” whosoever by whispering or murmuring gives indication of being offended, “shall be in danger of the council;” whosoever by reproaches and evil-speaking gives way to open anger, “shall be in danger of hell-fire.” Those who have not perceived this, have pretended that Christ was only a second Moses, the giver of an evangelical law, to supply the deficiency of the Mosaic Law. Hence the common axiom as to the perfection of the Evangelical Law, and its great superiority to that of Moses. This idea is in many ways most pernicious. For it will appear from Moses himself, when we come to give a summary of his precepts, that great indignity is thus done to the Divine Law. It certainly insinuates, that the holiness of the fathers under the Law was little else than hypocrisy, and leads us away from that one unvarying rule of righteousness. It is very easy, however, to confute this error, which proceeds on the supposition that Christ added to the Law, whereas he only restored it to its integrity by maintaining and purifying it when obscured by the falsehood, and defiled by the leaven of the Pharisees.

2. That one part of the fourth commandment be moral, and the other ceremonial? Calvin condemns this as sophistry of false prophets:

“In this way, we get quit of the trifling [sophistry] of the false prophets, who in later times instilled Jewish ideas into the people, alleging that nothing was abrogated but what was ceremonial in the commandment. (this they term in their language the taxation of the seventh day), while the moral part remains—viz. the observance of one day in seven. But this is nothing else than to insult the Jews, by changing the day, and yet mentally attributing to it the same sanctity; thus retaining the same typical distinction of days as had place among the Jews. And of a truth, we see what profit they have made by such a doctrine. Those who cling to their constitutions go thrice as far as the Jews in the gross and carnal superstition of sabbatism; so that the rebukes which we read in Isaiah (Isa. 1:13; 58:13) apply as much to those of the present day, as to those to whom the Prophet addressed them.” 5

3. SUNDAY TRANSFER, with the theory that the observance of Sunday was appointed instead of the Sabbath is styled a great error by the Augsburg confession:

“For those who judge that by the authority of the Church the observance of the Lord’s Day instead of the Sabbath-day was ordained as a thing necessary, do greatly err. Scripture has abrogated the Sabbath-day; for it teaches that, since the Gospel has been revealed, all the ceremonies of Moses can be omitted.” 6

4. DISPUTES of the schoolmen about the observance of Sunday are denounced by the Reformers as snares to the conscience:

“Many writers, again, pretend that in the New Testament there ought to be a cultus similar to the Levitical…

…Whence have the bishops the right to lay these traditions upon the Church for the ensnaring of consciences,…there are clear testimonies which prohibit the making of such traditions, as though they merited grace or were necessary to salvation.”

“There are monstrous disputations concerning the changing of the law, the ceremonies of the new law, the changing of the Sabbath-day, which all have sprung from the false belief that there must needs be in the Church a “cultus” like to the Levitical, and that Christ had given commission to the Apostles and bishops to devise new ceremonies as necessary to salvation…Some dispute that the keeping of the Lord’s Day is not indeed of divine right juris divini , but quasi juris divini in a manner so. They prescribe concerning holy-days, how far it is lawful to work. What else are such disputations than snares of consciences? 7

5.“The SUPERSTITIOUS opinion that God is served with idleness” Calvin thus censures:

“Beside that, all superstitions must be banished. We see that it is the opinion of the Papacy that God is served by idleness. This is not the way we are to keep the Sabbath Day holy. But, so that it may be applied to a right and lawful purpose, we must consider, as I said before, that the Lord requires that this day be used for nothing else but for hearing his word, for offering common prayer, for confessing our faith, and for the observing of the sacraments. These are the things that they are called to do. Nevertheless, we see that all these things have been corrupted by the Papal system. They have allocated days for honoring their male and female ‘saints’ and have set up images for them. They have come to the conclusion that they are to worship by idleness.

Let us consider the purpose of our Lord’s command to the people of old: that they should have one day of rest in the week. Since we know that the day has been abolished by the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, we should ensure that we apply ourselves to the spiritual rest. That is, we should dedicate ourselves entirely to God, forsaking all our own ideas and desires. But we should retain the outward regulation, as it is useful for putting aside our own affairs and business so that we can apply ourselves entirely to the meditation of God’s works, and occupy ourselves in a consideration of the good things that he has done for us.” 8

The Rationalization That The Sabbath Was Tied To No Day In Particular Did Not Concern The Reformers

But though the Reformers as a whole rejected the application of the Sabbath commandment to Sunday, as a sophistically invention of the Middle Ages, yet when closely pressed by the Romanists with their claims of authority, Archbishop Cranmner (burned at the stake in Oxford A.D. 1333) replied:

“There be two parts of the Sabbath day: one is the outward bodily rest from all manner of labour and work; this is mere ceremonial, and was taken away with other sacrifices and ceremonies by Christ at the preaching of the gospel. The other part of the Sabbath day is the inward rest, or ceasing from sin, form our own wills and lusts, and to do only God’s will and commandments… This spiritual Sabbath, that is to abstain from is, and to do good, are all men bound to keep all the days of their life, and not only on the Sabbath day. And this spiritual Sabbath may no man alter nor change, no, not the whole church,” 9

Thus the Reformers, completely severed every link wherewith the schoolmen had tried to join Sunday to the Sabbath and its commandment, declared definitely that Sunday was but a mere church ordinance, devised by men.

In the Augsburg Confession we read:

“Furthermore, the three oldest ordinances in the church, ie the high fast-days, etc. Sunday observance and the like, which have been invented for the sake of good order, unity, and peace, etc., such we observe gladly,” 10

The Helvetic Confession (A.D.1566) makes the following statement:

“We do not believe either that one day is more sacred than another, or that mere rest is in itself pleasing to God. We keep Sunday,ie the resurrection day of our Lord Jesus, not the Sabbath.” 11

The Bohemian Confession (A.D. 1535) counts Sunday among the human traditions and old customs “which were still retained.” 12

The Rakauer Catechism of the Socinians says:

Question:Has not Christ appointed that we should keep Sunday instead of Sabbath?
Answer:—By no means. But as we see that Sunday has been kept by the Christians from older times, we leave the same liberty to all Christians.” 13

H. Bullinger, an eminent Swiss Reformer, testifies:

“Although we do not in any of the apostles’ writings find any mention made that this Sunday was commanded us to keep holy; yet, because in this fourth precept of the first table we are commanded to have a care of religion and the exercising of outward godliness, it would be against all godliness and Christian charity if we should deny to sanctify the Sunday,” “I suppose also that we ought to think the same of those few feasts and holy days which we keep holy to Christ our Lord.” 14

Martin Chemnitz remarks, in his examination of the decrees of the council of Trent:

“No law, no precepts of the New Testament, oblige us to keep Sunday, yet it would be barbaric wantonness if one should abrogate such and old ecclesiastical custom without sufficient reason.” 15

One of the Reformers, Carlstadt, says:

“Concerning Sunday one feels uneasy because men have instituted it,” 16

As the Reformers all believed in its human origin, they naturally held that men might change the day at will. In article 28 of the Augsburg Confession, we read:

And yet, because it was necessary to appoint a certain day, that the people might know when they ought to come together, it appears that the Church designated the Lord’s Day for this purpose; and this day seems to have been chosen all the more for this additional reason, that men might have an example of Christian liberty, and might know that the keeping neither of the Sabbath nor of any other day is necessary.

Luther declares, in his Larger Catechism:

“It is, however, to be observed that with us this is not so tied to certain times, in the way it was with the Jews, as that this or that day in particular should be ordered or enjoined for it. No day is better or more excellent than another,” “And seeing that those who preceded us chose Sunday for them, this harmless and admitted custom must not be readily changed; our objects in retaining it are the securing of unanimity and consent of arrangement, and the avoidance of the general confusion which would result from individual and unnecessary innovation.”

In his sermon at Torgau, in 1544, Luther expresses this still more forcefully:

“Since our Lord has come, we have the liberty, if Sabbath or Sunday des not please 8us, to take Monday or another day of the week and make a Sunday out of it.” 17

Tyndale claimed the same:

“As for the Sabbath, we be lords over the Sabbath, and may yet change it into Monday, or into any other day as we see need, or may make every tenth day holy day only if we see cause why.” 18

Calvin entertained the same idea:

“Yet I do not lay so much stress on the centenary number that I would oblige the church to an invariable adherence to it.”

The Day serves as a means of calling us together so that we may learn, to the extent we are able, to apply ourselves more fully to serving God. We are to dedicate the day entirely to him, so that we may completely withdraw from the world and that we may have a good start for the remainder of the week.

Also we should consider that it is not enough for us to meditate upon God and his works on the Lord’s Day by ourselves. Rather, we must meet together on a specified day to perform the public confession of our faith. In fact, as I said before, this should be done every day, but because of man’s spiritual immaturity and laziness it is necessary to have a special day dedicated entirely to this purpose. It is true that we are not limited to the seventh day, nor do we, in fact, keep the same day that was appointed for the Jews, since that was Saturday. But, to show the liberty of Christians, the day was changed because the resurrection of Jesus Christ set us free from the bondage to the Law and canceled the obligation to it. That is why the day was changed. Yet, we must observe the same regulation of having a specified day of the week. Whether it be one day or two is left to the free choice of Christians. 19

That they thought freely about working on Sunday is seen from the following words of Zwingli:

“For we are no way bound to time, but time ought to serve us, that it is lawful and permitted to each church, when necessity urges (as it is usual to be done in harvest-time) to transfer the solemnity and rest of Sunday to some other day, or work the whole Sunday, after having heard God’s word.” 20

Concerning the observance of Sunday and holidays, we read in article 28 of the Augsburg Confession:

“The observance of them is not to be taught necessary to salvation, nor the violation of them, if it be done without offense to others, to be regarded as a sin.”

Bucer goes further yet:

“To think that working on the Lord’s day is in itself a sin, is a superstition and a denying of the grace of Christ.” 21

Archbishop Cranmer left the regulation of the observance with the civil authorities, as we see from his catechism, published in A.D. 1548:

“We Christian men in the New Testament are not bound to such commandments of Moses’ law concerning differences of times, days and meats, but have liberty and freedom to use other days for our Sabbath days, therein to hear the word of God, and keep an holy rest, And therefore that this Christian liberty may be kept and maintained, we now keep no more the Sabbath on Saturday as the Jews do; but we observe the Sunday and certain other days, as the magistrates do judge convenient, whom in this thing we ought to obey.” 22

As to Calvin’s practise, Dr. Hessey mentions the following saying:

“At Geneva a tradition exists that when John Knox visited Calvin on a Sunday, he found his austere coadjutor bowling on a green.” 23

Furthermore, it is a historical fact that Calvin had Servetus arrested on a Sunday, as Robinson attests:

“While he [Servetus] waited for a boat to cross the lake on his way to Zurich, by some means Calvin got intelligence of his arrival; and although it was on a Sunday, yet he prevailed upon the chief syndic to arrest and imprison him. So that day, by the laws of Geneva, no person could be arrested except for a capital crime; but this difficulty was easily removed, for John Calvin pretended that Servetus was a heretic, and that heresy was a capital crime.” “The doctor was arrested and imprisoned on Sunday, the thirteenth of August (A.D. 1553). That very day he was brought into court.” 24

[Side note: The Reformers had not learned their lesson concerning religious freedom, Servetus was burned at the stake in Geneva because of his Unitarian beliefs concerning the trinity.

The long list of reformers who discarded the seventh-day Sabbath, worshiped upon the first day of the week, yet felt all days were equally holy, is fittingly closed with the following strong statement by Luther:

“If anywhere the day is made holy for the mere day’s sake, if anywhere anyone sets up its observance on a Jewish foundation, then I order you to work on it, to ride on it, to dance on it, to feast on it, to do anything that shall remove the encroachment on Christian liberty.” 25

The question as the who changed the Sabbath, and why? Concerned the Reformers so little that they were content with incidental allusions to it. Luther, all absorbed in justification by faith remarked:

“I believe the apostles transferred Sabbath to Sunday; none else would have dared to do it. And I believe they principally did this to remove from the hearts fo the people the illusion that they were just and pious because they kept the law, and in order that they might with surety continually hold fast to the opinion that the law was not necessary to salvation.” 26

But how little Luther thought of Rev. 1:10 as an argument in behalf of Sunday, he sets forth when he was pressed to renew the Easter controversy:

“Yes, you say, Sunday had to be honoured on account of the resurrection of Christ, wherefore it is called Dominica dies, and therefore Easter is to be placed upon it, because Christ has risen after the Sabbath (which we call Saturday). This is one of the arguments which influenced the; but because dies Dominica is not called Sunday, but the Lord’s day, why should not all days on which Easter may fall be called the Lord’s day?” 27

Calvin makes the following striking comment:

“Nor am I inclined to admit the view taken by Chrysostom, that the term Sabbath is employed here to mean the Lord’s day (Rev. 1:10); for the probability is that the apostles, at the beginning, retained the day that was already in use, but that afterwards, constrained by the superstition of the Jews, they set aside that day, and substitute another. Now the Lord’s day was made choice of chiefly because our Lord’s resurrection put an end to the shadows of the law. Hence the day itself puts us in mind of our Christian liberty” 28

Dr. Th.Zahn, in summing up the position of the Reformers, says on this point:

“Whether the apostles or any one else had introduced the Sunday or other holidays, the Reformers regarded…as a mere historical question, in no way concerning faith; for they knew, and the Augsburg Confession is a reminder of it, that Christianity disregards apostolically ordinances without the least scruples of conscience, such as that women should cover their heads while paying, or that Christians of gentile origin should abstain from blood and things strangled. Even the authority and example of the apostles cannot elevate an ecclesiastical ordinance to the rank of a rule of salvation, or to a precept of God eternally valid, or to an institution of Christ.” 29

Luther Assigns Sunday To The Common People Only

What stamp the Reformers placed on this human ordinance, and for whom they thought it intended, Luther clearly demonstrates in his introduction to the Sabbath commandment:

“But in order that the simple may grasp and obtain a Christian view of what God requires in this commandment, notice that we keep holy days, not for the sake of intelligent and learned Christians (for they have no need of it [holy days]), but first for the sake of the body and its necessities, which nature teaches and requires; for the common people, man-servants and maid-servants, who have been attending to their work and trade the whole week, that for a day they may retire in order to rest and be refreshed.

Secondly, and most especially, that on such day of rest (since we can get no other opportunity) freedom and time be taken to attend divine service, so that we come together to hear the Word of God and practice it, and to praise God, to sing and pray.” 30

Weakness And Inconsistency Of The Position Held By The Reformers

A Lutheran author, Pastor Rische, thus justly criticizes Luther’s postion:

“Is the threatening of Divine punishment to the transgressor to be based on such reasoning? Will one with such reasoning explain the existence of Sunday for the last thousand years? Furthermore, is it truly evangelical to make such a difference between the learned and the masses of the common people? Is not that right for one, that is just for another? Is that really truth—to make differences based on such accidental conditions, because the learned had perhaps more time in that age during the week, and therefore he had no need of keeping Sunday to all eternity, while on the other hand the common man must rest because he had been labouring on the seek-days? And if the latter, accidentally , should have more free time, what then? Do the Scriptures anywhere make any such differences?” 31

The following apology made by Richard Baxter for the Reformers, is significant:

“For Calvin, and Beza, and most of the great divines of the foreign churches—you must remember that they came newly out of popery, and had seen the Lord’s day and a superabundance of other human holy days imposed on the churches to be ceremoniously observed, and they did not all of them so clearly as they ought discern the difference between the Lord’s day and those holy days, or church festivals, and so did too promiscuously conjoin them in their reproofs of the burdens imposed on the church. And it being the papists’ ceremoniousness and their multitude of festivals that stood altogether in their eye, it tempted them to too undistinguishing and inaccurate a reformation.” 32

The highest Lutheran authority in Prussia stated, in a memorial submitted to the government in 1850, calling for more rigid Sunday laws:

“During the time of the Reformation, the doctrine of the Christian Sunday was left incomplete.” 33

Hessey offers the following criticism

“With one blow as it were, and with one consent, the Continental Reformers rejected the legal or Jewish title which had been set up for it; the more than Jewish ceremonies and restrictions by which, in theory at least, it had been encumbered; the army of holy days of obligation by which it had been surrounded. But they did more. They left standing no sanction for the day itself which could commend itself powerfully to men’s consciences…And when they discovered that men, that human nature in fact, could not do without it, they adopted the day, indeed, but with this reservation expressed or implied: ‘The Lord’s ay is to be placed in the category of ordinances which being matters of indifference, any “particular or national church hath authority to ordain, change, or abolish;” or , which was worse still, they made it a purely civil institution, dependent, if not for its origin at least for its continuance, on the secular power.”34

Review Of The Theory

The sum total of the position of the Reformers is that Sunday was a quasi-imitation of the Sabbath, but not a continuation. It was in no manner commanded of God, but rather an ordinance of the church, as is seen by the silence of the New Testament and the practise of the ancient Christians. The Reformers never claimed that Sabbath observance was inseparably bound to the first day of the week on account of the resurrection or any other event, but, on the contrary, being an ecclesiastical institution invented simply for the good of the people, it might be changed to any day in the week, as circumstances might demand. Nor was it thought to be sinful to do any work on Sunday, after having attended divine service. In fact, the institution existed only for the common working people, that they might have some bodily rest.

Sunday Left Suspended In The Air

The Reformers’ ideas of a rest day were incomplete and unsatisfactory. In tearing down the sophistically theory whereon scholasticism had built up a Sunday Sabbath in the Middle Ages, they swept away all the foundation Sunday had, and left Sunday hanging as it were. This is seen form the words of Mosheim:

“The church we say, has ordained Sunday. We are bound to submit ourselves to her authority. How weak is this prop! Jesus has freed us from the ordinances of men; the church has not right to make laws.” 35

The reformers, while rejecting the scholastic Sunday theory, did not succeed in substituting another doctrine, clear, precise, logical, and practical, because their starting-point and basis were contrary to their own principles. Whenever they made the Bible their guide, every effort of theirs was crowned with success; when they deviated, a failure was sure to follow,—an “incomplete,” “inaccurate,” unsuccessful reformation.

How To View The Reformers And Their Work

The impropriety of making the Reformers the standard of divine truth, and the legacy they left to their successors, are forcibly set forth by Dr. Priestly:

“Luther and Calvin reformed many abuses, especially in the disciple of the church, and also some gross corruptions in doctrine; but they left other things of far greater moment just as they found them…It was great merit in them to go as far as they did, and it is not they, but we, who are to blame if their authority induces us to go no further. We should rather imitate them in the boldness and spirit with which they called in question and rectified so many long- established errors, and availing ourselves of their labours, make further progress than they were able to do. Little reason have we to allege their name, authority, and example, when they did a great deal, and we do nothing at all. In this we are not imitating them, but those who opposed and counteracted them, willing to keep things as they were.” 36

Chapter 24: The Reformers And The Sabbath Commandment


God’s wonderful dealings
Even Great Men Err
Care Necessary in the Beginning of the Reformation
Old Dogmas Retained
Luther’s Preface to Revelation and James
Third of Fourth Commandment?
Commandment Changed—“Thou shalt keep Holy the Festival”
Who Alone Sanctifies the Day?
Theory and Practise Clash
The Threefold Division of the Decalogue
Contradictions of the Reformers
If the Law is Binding the Seventh Day must Be Kept
Both Sabbath Sunday Destroyed

God’s Wonderful Dealings

The Reformation of the sixteenth century was the greatest even since the days of the apostles.. The way in which God constantly deals with his church calls forth the admiration of the heavenly host. In spite of the growing apostasy, the gospel extended. Though chained to the wall, the Bible freed captives everywhere. At the height of the papal assumption , a multitude of martyrs sealed their witness with their own blood. Amid the darkness of the Middle Ages, the light of truth never went out, and Christ ever abode with his flock.

Even Great Men Err

The prominent Reformers had been devoted sons of Rome. In the narrow cell of the monastery, a monk, struggling to obtain righteousness by works, was blessed by obtaining a revelation of the free pardon of boundless grace. Because he loved his church, he published his ninety-five theses against indulgences, declaring, however, in theses 71: “He who speaks against the truth of apostolical pardon, let him be anathema.” Although he himself had seen the corruptions of Rome, yet his confidence in the Pope finds expression in these words in the fiftieth thesis: “Christians should be taught that, if the Pope were acquainted with the exactions of pardon, he would prefer that the Basilica of St. Peter should be burned to ashes, rather that that it should be built up with the skin, flesh, and bones of his sheep.”

This illustrates the mysterious influence which the Roman Church exercises over its subjects, and which divine power alone can break. Papal bulls of excommunication hurled against its own loyal members, served as the final means to open their eyes to the fulfilment of apocalyptic Babylon in the papal Roman system. Divine providence overruled their timidity; the reform refused within the confines of the Roman Church, had to be wrought without her pale.

The power accompanying the Reformation was divine, but the instruments were human. Luther’s faith a Worms and his obstinacy at Marburg; Zwingli conquering with the Bible and falling with the sword; Calvin converting Geneva but burning Servetus; Luther claiming verbal inspiration, and yet denouncing James as an epistle of straw; a Reformer adding the word “alone” to Rom. 3:28, but dropping the fourth commandment; a reformation declining secular aid in its darkest hour, but forming an alliance with it in secure times; a church protesting against being persecuted, while herself a persecutor; a reformation claiming the Bible as the only rule of faith, but at the same time putting the new wine into old bottles,—all this testifies to the truthfulness of Ps. 62:9, which is rendered thus by Luther:

“Yea, men are nothing, even great men err; they weigh less than nothing, though there be many.”

The God of eternity has time; the long-suffering One, bearing with the apostasy for many centuries, could also forbear for a few centuries before he brought about a full reformation.

“That men recently led out of the thickest darkness into light, should not at once discern and distinguish all objects, as they do who have long been in the light, is not at all strange.” 1

Care Necessary In The Beginning Of The Reformation

When the final rupture with Rome came, the commanding position of the papacy made it incumbent on the Reformers to move with great caution. Ranke points out their danger:

“How then would it have been possible to assail it [the Papacy] without a universal shock; to question it without endangering the whole fabric of civilization?” 2

Ranke says of Luther, whom he calls the most conservative Reformer:

“He deviated from tradition only as far as he felt himself constrained to do so by the words of Christ. To go in search of novelties, or to overthrow anything established that was not utterly irreconcilable with Scripture, were thoughts which his soul knew not. He would have maintained the whole structure of the Latin Church, had it no been disfigured by modern additions, foreign to its origin design, and contrary to the genuine sense of the gospel.” “He was so profoundly attached to the traditions of the church that it was not without the most violent inward storms that he emancipated himself from accidental and groundless additions.” 3

Neander’s remarks are full of meaning:

“The spirit of the Reformation…did not attain quite at the beginning to clear self-consciousness. So it happened that in an unobserved way many errors passed over from the old canon law into the new church practise.” 4

Old Dogmas Retained

Dr. Harnack attests:

“And yet the Reformers allowed the old dogma to remain; nay, they did not even submit it to revision.” “Luther never contended against strong theories and doctrines as such, but only against such wrong theories and doctrines as manifestly did serious injury to the purity of the gospel, and to its comforting pwer.”5

A spirit of conservatism was very needful to lay the foundation at such a serious juncture; but in time it would prove an obstacle in the way of perfecting the reform.

Luther’s Preface To Revelation And James

Among the contradictions of the Reformers, we cite as one of the most glaring, Luther’s attitude to the Scriptures. He taught:

“It is the office of a true apostle to preach the passion and resurrection and work of Christ… You shall be my witnesses. All genuinely sacred books are unanimous here, and all preach Christ emphatically. The true touchstone for testing every book is to discover whether it emphasizes the prominence of Christ or not….What does not teach Christ is not apostolic.” (Preface to James and Jude)

On the strength of this touchstone, he, in his preface to the New Testament, discriminates freely between chief and less important books, changes their traditional order, and passes unfavourable judgment on James, Hebrews, and the Revelation. As to the last mentioned book, he writes in this preface (A.D. 1522):

“About this book of the Revelation of John…there is lacking more than one thing in this book, so that I cannot regard it to be neither apostolic nor prophetic…I can in no way detect that the Holy Spirit produced it. Moreover the writer seems to me to be going much too far when he commends his own book so highly-indeed, more than any of the other sacred books do, though they are much more important—and threatens that if anyone takes away anything from it, God will take away from him, etc. Again, they are supposed to be blessed who keep what is written in this book; and yet no one knows what that is, to say nothing of keeping it. This is just the same as if we did not have the book at all. And there are many far better books available for us to keep…My mind cannot reconcile itself to this book. That Christ is neither taught nor known in it, is reason enough not to think highly of it:” (Luther, Preface to the Revelation of St. John, 1522). 6

(Side note: Rev. 14:12 tells us both what is to be kept and how it is to be kept, for indeed Christ is known in that book!)

In his preface, written in A.D. 1532, Luther modifies his unwarranted conclusion, for this book calls Christ the alpha and the omega of all, and shows how in him the mystery of the gospel will be finished. But how even great men can err, is still clearer seen from his preface to James:

Therefore the epistle of James is a real straw epistle in comparison to these (ie the epistles of John and Paul) for there is no evangelical ring in it.”

But his James drives only to the law and its works, and so unnecessarily throws one into the other that I think it must have been some good, pious man who took some passages from the disciples or the apostles, and thus threw them together on paper,” “He calls the law a law of liberty, although Paul calls it a law of bondage, wrath, death and sin.”

To sum up: He desired to check those who rested in faith without works, but was too weak in spirit, understanding and words to handle this matter, and so distorts the Scriptures; and, resisting Paul and all the other scriptures, he tries by driving with the law to thereby accomplish what the apostles accomplished by provoking to love. Therefore I will not have it in my Bible, and will not number it among the authentic chief books….” 7

Even Lutheran theologians have long since seen that Luther, from his “one-sided standpoint, did not know how to appreciate the aim and peculiarity of this epistle,” and they have shown how it agrees with the doctrine of justification found in Paul’s writings. 8 Paul speaks of justification, but James, presupposing this, shows how those who have been justified by faith give evidences of it by their observance of the divine law. Consequently, James was not “too weak in spirit, understanding, and words,” but Luther himself was.

A noted historian thus rightly judges this great man;

“A principle of faith apprehended with passionate one-sidedness led him to contention and rebellion. But when he had drawn form it its conclusions and removed the opposite dogmas and institutions of the church, the power of tradition claimed again her right over the soul of the theologian. Anything that did not openly contradict the plain Word of God, ie his doctrine of justification, might remain.” 9

Luther’s biographer, Dr. Sears, remarks:

“Luther was so zealous to maintain the doctrine of justification by faith that he was prepared even to claim question the authority of some portions of Scripture which seemed to him no to be reconcilable with it. To the epistle of James, especially, his expressions indicated the strongest repugnance.” 10

Third Or Fourth Commandment?

How much Luther was attached to tradition is seen from his enumeration of the ten commandments. Although the primitive church reckons as fourth the Sabbath commandment, Luther adheres to Augustine reckoning and calls it the third commandment.

Pastor J. Geffken comments on the Lutheran enumeration as follows:

“From the foregoing remarks it appears that the Catholic-Lutheran division is rightfully called the Augustinian, because no trace of it can be found in the Christian Church during the four centuries before Augustine. He himself even has, on several occasions, followed the older division. Very properly, therefore, we must regard him as the originator and inventor of the new method,” 11

The Reformed Church, acting with greater freedom in this respect, has reverted to the original division, which is also found in the Oriental church, and in the catechism of the Waldenses.

Commandment Changed To: “Thou Shalt Keep Holy The Festival”

But the strangeness of Luther’s position becomes still more apparent if we consider the Sabbath command itself. Not only did he abbreviate this commandment, but he actually changed it, using the word “Feiertag” instead of “Sabbat”.

(Der gro�e Katechismus,Dresden 1580)

Dr. R. Stier attests in his Lutheran Catechism for Confirmation:

“This is the only command where Luther has directly changed the divine word of the Bible, for in the first he simply omitted something.” 12

Following in the footsteps of the Roman Church, Luther make the commandment read, “Thou shalt keep holy the Festival”. Pastor Rische makes the following just criticism:

“The command concerning ‘ceremonies’ he has stricken out; he has also more than once associated image worship and Sabbath together in one group, and now he strikes out the first, and changes the other: this proves that this command in this form is binding on Christians.” “Why does he not omit it as the other? Why does he not change it into ‘Thou shalt keep holy all days’? No, ‘Thou shalt keep holy the festival! And that is taught in church and school, year in and year out, and all who learn it are to notice by this that God has neither commanded to keep a definite holy day, nor that this alone is to be sanctified. It remains a fact that the Reformers were not in a position to formulate a Sunday conception which would answer alike the substance of the gospel and of the world.” 13

That John Knox also believed that the Sabbath command was striken out is seen from the original confession of faith which he drew up for the Presbyterian Church of Scotland I A.D. 1560.

In that document he states the duties of the first table of the law as follows:

“To have one God, to worship and honor him; to call upon him in all our troubles; to reverence his holy name; to hear his word; to believe the same; to communicate with his holy sacraments, are the works of the first table.” 14

The reformed section on the Continent followed the same course in the Heidelberg catechism, drawn up by Urinus (A.D. 1563). The question, “what does God enjoin in this fourth command?” The answer:

“God desires, first, that the ministry of preaching and of schools be preserved, and that I especially come diligently to the church of God on the holy day, to study the Word of God, to partake of the holy sacrament, to call upon the Lord publicly, and to give Christian alms. Furthermore, that I rest all days of my life from my evil works, let the Lord work in me by his Spirit, and thus commence the eternal Sabbath in this life.” 15

Who Alone Sanctifies The Day?

One more point is worthy of special notice. The Word of God lays great stress on the fact that God, by resting on the seventh day, set apart, or sanctified, this day as a rest day for man. Israel of old understood that bodily rest from their own manual labours was a chief requirement, that they might thus gain time for the spiritual rest of God. The Gnostics and the church Fathers turned the tables by laying great stress on the spiritual, to the neglect of the bodily, rest. The Roman catechism, losing sight of the fact that God, and not man, makes the seventh day holy, declares that the day “is holy because on it, in a special manner, men should practise holiness and religion.” The Reformers followed their example. As Luther simply taught “Thou shalt keep holy the festival,” the very idea of bodily rest because God made a definite day of the week holy by his own rest, was entirely lost sight of.

On the other hand, the idea, already prevalent because of the many man-made holidays, that man’ s worship could make the day holy, only received further confirmation. Starting from this wrong premise, the Reformers openly declared that any day of the week, yea, that any time of the day, devoted to worship answered the requirement, “Thou shalt keep holy the festival.” That Sunday was observed in harmony with this loose idea, Dr. Hessey illustrates from Queen Elizabeth’s injunctions (A.D. 1558-1603). In one of these, Sunday is classed with other holy days, and it is expressly stated that “if for any scrupulosity or grudge of conscience some should superstitiously abstain from working on these days, they shall grievously offend.” Dr Hessey adds” “In fact, labour was almost enjoined after common prayer.” 16

Theory And Practise Clash

That theory and practise soon began to clash, “Hauck-Herzog’s Realencyclopaedia” admits:

“In practise they often dealt rather severely; for example, the superintendent of Stralsund zealously held to it that no marriages be performed, [on Sunday] and in A.D. 1549 ,he attacked his colleague Alexander Dume quite vehemently because he dared to defend Sunday marriage on the ground of freer Sunday observance.” 17

The Threefold Division Of The Decalogue

In view of the fact that the fourth commandment is a part of the Decalogue, the attitude of the Reformers to the ten commandments as a whole is of vital importance. Melanchthon makes the following distinction:

“Concerning the Divine Law”—First I will use the old and common division. The law of Moses has three parts:

  1. The moral law, as concerns virtues—- The eternal law, or the law of God’s judgment against sin:
  2. The ceremonial law, as regards church service and sacrifices, which has all been appointed for a definite time and fell with the Jews
  3. The Judaical laws, as regards civil government.

There exists a very great difference between the first eternal part and the other two transient parts, and all men should know this rule and maintain it. Whoever does not make this distinction between the transient and the eternal laws, falls into divers errors.

Concerning Christina Liberty—The ceremonies and the civil ordinances were transient institutions, appointed for a definte time. But this law, which is called the ten commandments or the moral law, is the eternal, unchangeable wisdom and righteousness of God;…therefore, it can not be blotted out.”18

This “old and common division,” supported by the Word of God, is found in the leading Protestant and catholic confession. 19 Luther confirms this by referring Matt. 5:17-19 only to the Decalogue:

“This is also but a falsehood that they introduce our Jesus as though he had spoken of the law of Moses, when he says the law shall not pass away; for the question with Christ our Lord is not here about circumcision, or Moses’ law or sanctuary, but alone the ten commandment.” 20

Although the Reformers thus acknowledge the ten commandments to be the moral and eternal law of God, and adduce it as such in their catechisms, they declare it to be only profitable as a teacher, and not binding as a law. Luther expresses this very emphatically:

“The words of Scripture prove clearly to us that the ten commandments do not affect us; for God has not brought us out of Egypt; it was only the Jews. We are willing to take Moses as a teacher, but not as our lawgiver, except when he agrees with the laws of nature.”

“We do not read Moses because he concerns us—because we have to obey him—but because he agrees with the laws of nature, and has expressed this law better than the heathen ever could. In this way, then, the ten commandments are a mirror of our life, in which we may see our defects”. 21

Calvin expresses the same thought in more cautious language:

“The law in regard to the faithful has the force of an exhortation, not to bind their conscience with a curse, but by its frequent admonitions to arouse their indolence and improve their imperfections”

“With respect to doctrine, we must not imagine that the coming of Christ has freed us from the authority of the law; for it is the eternal rule of a devout and holy life, and must therefore be as unchangeable as the justice of God, which it embraced, is constant and uniform. With respect of ceremonies, there is some appearance of a change having taken place; but it was only the use of them that was abolished, for their meaning was more fully established.”

“Let us therefore learn to maintain inviolable this sacred tie between the law and the gospel which many improperly attempt to break. For it constitutes not a little to confirm the authorities of the gospel, when we learn that it is nothing else than a ‘fulfilment of the law;’ so that both, with one consent, declare God to be their author.” 22

While they condemned the “new law” of scholasticism, they virtually (by repudiating the Decalogue as a law and only accepting it as a profitable teacher) arrived at the same results, and differed less from the Roman Catholics than from the Puritans of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.


The harsh statements of Luther against the Decalogue are quite largely due to the pressure of the existing circumstances. As Antinominanism arose, rejecting the use of th Decalogue entirely, the Reformers were forced to take a more guarded attitude. When a Mr. Jobst (A.D. 1541 showed Luther some propositions to the effect that, since the law does not justify man, it ought not to be preached, the latter exclaimed:

“What! Shall our own people, while we ourselves are yet alive, propound such things as these? “He who destroys the doctrine of the law, destroys at the same time political and social order. If you eject the law from the church, there will no longer be any sin recognized as such in the world; for the gospel only defines and punishes sin by reference to the law. If heretofore I in my discourses spoke and wrote so harshly against the law, it was because the Christian church was overwhelmed with superstitions under which Christ was altogether hidden and buried; and I am anxious to rescue pious and God-fearing souls from the tyranny of the conscience; but as the law itself, I never rejected it.” 23

In a letter against the Antinomians he wrote:

“I wonder exceedingly how it came to be imputed to me that I should reject the law of tem commandments…Can it be imaginable hta there should be any sin wehre there is no law? Whoever abrogates the law, must o necessity abrogate sin also.” 24

Contradictions Of The Reformers

Some of the contradictory positions of the Reformers in their attitude toward the Decalogue and the Sabbath, will best reveal that they had not fully grasped the true relation between the law and the gospel, and the Decalogue and the Sabbath:

1. They made the clearest distinction between the moral and the ceremonial law, the eternal and the transient, and then by asserting that a part of the moral law was also ceremonial, they themselves tore down this very distinction they had made. This appears most plainly in Luther’s writings “Against the Celestial Prophets”,: in which he contends with Carlstadt and others who took the position that the ten commandments were still wholly in force as a law, containing nothing ceremonial. Luther, closely pressed, thus tears down the distinction:

“I know quite well that there is made a common ancient distinction; but this is because a proper understanding is lacking; for all other precepts in the whole of Moses ensue from and hang on the ten commandment…therefore it is untrue that there be no ceremonies or civil laws in the ten commandment. They are all contained therein, hang on them, and belong to them. And, in order to show this, God himself has placed in them two ceremonies, in the plainest terms, namely the images and the Sabbath.” 25

2. They affirmed that the Sabbath, as far as concerns the time and manner of its observance, was given only to the Jews; but at the same time they admitted that this time and observance had existed in paradise, before the fall of man.

Melanchthon attests this:

“For this purpose the seventh day was appointed in Israel, which the fathers doubtless observed from the time of Adam in this manner, that they on this day ceased form all manual labour and met for public worship.” 26

Likewise Luther’s comments on Gen. 2:3 “But how? Since this is stated ere man sinned, since this was already then ordained, and the Scriptures mention the Sbbath much sooner than Adam fell in sin, was it not appointed at that time that he should work six days and rest on the seventh? This is so without doubt, a we shall hear that he was to work in paradise, and rule over the fishes, birds, and animals on the earth.” 27

Finally Calvin wrote about the Sabbath, commenting on the same text:

“Inasmuch as it was commanded to men from the beginning that they might employ themselves in the worship of God, it is right that it should continue to the end of the world.” 28

Was Adam a Jew? Or was he the head of the whole family? Were there transient outward ceremonies ordained in paradise, from which Christ had to free us? Were there shadows pointing to redemption before the fall of man? The natural conclusions,—

3. The Sabbath rests not on a ceremonial law, but on a natural law. In this, Luther contradicts himself. Against Carlstadt he asserted that the Decalogue binds only as far as it rests on a natural law, but he immediately afterward contradicts himself, as pastor Rische thus points out:

“Hereby the question forces itself upon us: Is not the rest day a natural law as well? And, curious to say, Luther contends against this very distinction between natural and mosaic law immediately, when he continues: ‘But that Sabbath or Sunday be observed is not of necessity, nor on account of the law of Moses; but nature also implies and teaches the necessity of resting now and then a day, that man and beast might be refreshed.’ Therefore, the holy day is based also on natural law, according to Luther.” 29

4. But if the Sabbath commandment is based on natural law, yea, if Sabbath observance originated in paradise before the fall, it certainly enjoys equal rights with all the other precepts; and instead of its being a ceremony or a shadow, it remains forever like the others. To this Luther himself testifies in his comment on Matt. 5:17-19, stating that this passage does not refer to circumcision, to the law of Moses, or to the sanctuary, but to the ten precepts. But then not a jot or tittle of the Decalogue is to pass away, much less would it be possible for a whole precept to be set aside; and Luther contradicts his own exposition when he tries to prove from Colossians 2, Galatians 4, and even from Isaiah 66, that the Sabbath, being a shadow, had ceased.

If it was true that Paul was removing the Sabbath command, then he would have done exactly that which Christ had warned against in Matt. 5:17-19. That Augustine and the church Fathers led Luther astray in this matter, is seen in the free use he makes of them in explaining Galatians 4.

5. Last, but by no means least, the Reformers, while laying stress on justification by faith alone,” did not perceive that the power of God offered in the gospel, and the Holy Sprit in the heart, enable the believer to attain to full sanctification in this life, by keeping god’s commandments through faith.

The following from Heidelberg Catechism, is ample proof:

Question 114:—But can those who are converted to God perfectly keep these commandments?
Answer.—No: for even the holiest men, while in this life, have only a small beginning of this obedience; yet so, that with a sincere resolution they begin to live, not only according to some, but all of the commandments of God.
Question 115:—Why will God then have the ten commandments so strictly preached, since no man in this life can keep them?
Answer.—First, that all our lifetime we may learn more and more to know our sinful nature, and thus become the more earnest in seeking the remission of sin, and righteousness in Christ; likewise, that we constantly endeavor and pray to God for the grace of the Holy Spirit, that we may become more and more conformable to the image of God, till we arrive at the perfection proposed to us, in the future life.

If The Law Is Binding The Seventh Day Must Be Kept

Though the Reformers did not recognize the obligation of the Decalogue and the permanency of the Sabbath commandment, still they saw that if these were yet binding, the seventh day, or Saturday, would still have to be observed. Luther confirms this in the following words:

“But whoever wants to make a necessary command of the Sabbath as a work required of God, must keep Saturday, and not Sunday; for Saturday was enjoined upon the Jews, and not Sunday. But Christian have thus far kept Sunday, and not Saturday, because Christ arose on that day. This is a certain sign that the Sabbath, and the whole of Moses, do not concern us in the least; otherwise we ought to keep Saturday,” 31

So Luther recognizes the Seventh-day Sabbath but appeals to tradition as the certain sign that God’s Sabbath command does not concern us in the least?

Still more positive is the language of John Frith, an English Reformer burned at Smithfield, July 4, 1533:

“The Jews have the word of God for their Saturday, since it is the seventh day, and they were commanded to keep the seventh day solemn. And we have not the word of God for us, but rather against us; for we keep not the seventh day, as the Jews do, but the first, which is not commanded by God’s law.” 32

Both Sabbath And Sunday Destroyed

The result of our investigation is as follows: The Reformers rejected the “new law” of the schoolmen, and the false application of the Sabbath commandment to Sunday. But, biased by Roman legalism, they failed as much in perceiving the right relation of the Decalogue and Sabbath to the gospel, as they did in appreciating the relationship of the epistle of James to the epistle of Romans.

However, they did admit that if the Sabbath precept were still binding , they would be in duty bound to keep Saturday. Sunday was retained by them as a merely human ordinance. Divesting the fourth commandment of its binding claims upon Christians , and stripping Sunday of its false claims to the Sabbath commandment, they left no real or imaginary foundation for either, as Mosheim fittingly acknowledges:

“They [the Reformers] destroyed also the Sunday of the Christians with the Sabbath of the Jews, and left it no more than the name of an ancient and useful human ordinance, which might be retained for the good of ignorant people, as an example of Christian liberty,.” 33

Sad trophies these, which so little satisfy the Protestants that, as Dr. Zahn remarks, “only shame prevents them from declaring the teachings of the Reformers in this respect to be error.” 34 How aptly do the words of Dr. Schaff apply here: “The Reformation of the sixteenth century is not a finale, but a movement still in progress.” 35

Chapter 25: Sabbath Keepers During The Reformation Times
From The Fifteenth To The Seventeenth Century


An unbroken Chain of witnesses
Europe—The Anabaptists And Sabbath Keepers
The Anabaptists
The attitude of the Reformers Towards the Anabaptists
Sabbath Keepers among the Anabaptists
The Sabbatarians In Moravia
Their Belief Concerning Isaiah 58
Schwenkfeld’s Mystic Refutation
Witnesses in Bohemia
Silesia, Poland, Holland
Their View according to Hespinian
Luther And Carlstadt
Carlstadt and the Sabbath
Luther “Against the Sabbatarians”
Transylavania: Eossi And Pechi
Eossi and Pechi
Persecution of the Transylvanian Sabbath Keepers
Their Literature
Russian Sabbatarians
Christian Sabbatarians in Russia before the Reformation
Their Persecution
The “Enlightener”
Northern Europe And Sabbath Keepers
Saturday Keeping Condemned in Norway (A.D. 1435)
Puzzle to Church Historians
Lutheran Edicts Against “Saturday Keeping”
The Epistle of Gustavus I to Finnish Sabbatarians
The Sabbath Movement in Sweden
Its Origin and Association with Revivals
“A Sect everywhere Spoken Against,” and “Yet true”.

An Unbroken Chain Of Witnesses

An unbroken chain of Christian Sabbath-keepers extends from the apostolic church through the Middle Ages. At the height of papal darkness, their light shone high up in their Alpine retreats, and their voice of warning was also heard in eastern Europe, and in spite of advancing Islam, whole bodies of them existed in Ethiopia, India, Syria, Armenia, etc. When the Reformation lifted the veil of darkness covering the nations, not only did traces of these Sabbath-keeping Christians appear afresh all over the Old World, but simultaneously with the new life emanating from this mighty movement, Sabbatarians were found in Moravia, Bohemia, Tranylvania, Germnay, Holaand, England, Finland, Scandinavia; yea, even as early as the fifteenth century they had quite a history in Russia.

When, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, untiring persecutors pressed the true believers far into the Alps, many of them found new retreats in Moravia and Bohemia. Amid the multitudes of a corrupt church, the persecuted few still retained a true idea of the church of Christ, as Mosheim thus confirms:

“Prior to the age of Luther, there lay concealed in almost every country of Europe, but especially in Bohemia, Moravia, Switzerland, and Germany, very any persons in whose minds was deeply rooted that principle which the Waldensians, the Wyclifites, and the Hussites maintained, some more covertly, and others more openly; namely, that the kingdom which Christ set up on the earth, or the visible church, is an assembly of holy persons, and ought therefore to be entirely free, not only from ungodly person and sinners, but from all institutions of human device against ungodliness.” 1

As the Reformation broke forth, this concealed principle sprang up with it everywhere.

The Anabaptists

Living faith in Christ being the test of church admission, it became evident to some that infant sprinkling must be discarded, and in its stead only the believer was to be buried with his Lord by immersion, upon his profession of faith, to rise with him to a new life. Because of this, the proper name of these believers was Baptists, but they were misnamed rebaptists, or Anabaptists, by their opponents. The differences between these and the Reformers are thus set forth by Dr. Ph. Schaff, who also styles them Radicals:

“The Reformers aimed to reform the old Church by the Bible; the Radicals attempted to build a new Church from the Bible. The former maintained the historic continuity; the latter went directly to the apostolic age, and ignored the intervening centuries as an apostasy. The Reformers founded a popular state-church, including all citizens with their families; the Anabaptists organized on the voluntary principle select congregations of baptized believers, separated from the world and from the State.”

“The Radical opinions spread with great rapidity, or rose simultaneously, in Berne, Basle, St. Gall, Appenzell, all along the Upper Rhine, in South Germany, and Austria. The Anabaptists were driven from place to place, and travelled as fugitive evangelists. They preached repentance and faith, baptized converts, organized congregations, and exercised rigid discipline. They called themselves simply "brethren" or "Christians." They were earnest and zealous, self-denying and heroic, but restless and impatient. They accepted the New Testament as their only rule of faith and practice, and so far agreed with the Reformers, but utterly broke with the Catholic tradition, and rejected Luther’s theory of forensic, solifidian justification, and the real presence. They emphasized the necessity of good works, and deemed it possible to keep the law and to reach perfection.” 2

The Attitude Of The Reformers Towards The Anabaptists

How the teachings of the Anabaptists impressed Zwingli, we learn from Ranke:

“Although Zwingli had gone much farther than Luther, he was soon opposed by a still more extreme party; he had to contend with the Anabaptists. He was called upon to form a separate congregation of true believers, since they alone were the subjects of the promises. He replied that it was impossible to bring heaven upon earth; Christ had taught that we were to let the tares grow up together with the wheat.” 3

How the controversy was settled, Dr. Schall informs us:

“Zwingli…had no mercy on the Anabaptists, who threatened to overthrow his work in Z� After trying in vain to convince them by successive disputations, the magistrate under his control resorted to the Cruel irony of drowning their leaders (six in all) in the Limmat near the lake of Z�(between 1527 and 1532).”4

According to Schaff, (p. 59-60) Luther’s attitude against the Anabaptists, at first, was:

“He opposed the doctrine of the Anabaptists with every argument at his command, but disapproved the cruel persecution to which they were subjected in Protestant as well as Catholic countries. It is not right,” he said in a book against them (1528), “and I deeply regret that such wretched people should be so miserably murdered, burned, and cruelly put to death; every one should be allowed to believe what he pleases. If he believes wrongly, he will have punishment enough in the eternal fire of hell. Why should they be tortured in this life also?”

However, no less an authority than Dr. A. Harnack remarks that after Luther had come in contact with them, “he in many respects really hardened himself into an attitude of bold defiance toward reason, and then yielded also to that Catholic spirit which worships in paradox and in contradiction of terms the wisdom of God, and sees in them the stamp of divine truth.”

“Luther himself had to suffer for the obscuration to which he subjected his conception of faith; still greater, however, was the penalty for those who adhered to him, who degraded to a new scholastic wisdom from what he had defiantly proclaimed.”

“The position which the Reformation took up towards the Anabaptists, and towards others who had affinity with them, became most disastrous for itself and for its subsequent history.”

“There are, in fact, also many considerations that make it fully intelligible why the Reformation simply rejected everything that was offered to it by the ‘enthusiasts.’ Yet…the fact remains unaffected thereby, that the unjust course followed by the reformers entailed upon them and their cause the most serious losses. How much they might have learned from those whom they despised!” 5

Dr. Harnack pays the following tribute to the Anabaptists:

“But the spirit of a new age reveals itself among them, not only in their entertainment in many ways of Reformation thoughts, but also in the stress they lay on Christian independence. It is with this in view that their opposition to infant baptism is to be understood.”

“In this vastly great group also, which had its representatives during the sixteenth century in Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Venice, Moravia, Poland, Livonia, and Sweden, and had connection with the Waldensians (and ‘Bohemians’), the modern spirit displayed itself in close association with the medieval,”

“The more closely the history of the Reformation in particular provinces and towns has been studied, the more apparent has it become that these Baptists, entering frequently into alliance with Waldensian and Hussite elements, or falling back, on former medieval movements, formed the soil into which the Reformation was received, and that for many decenniums they continued closely interconnected with it in many regions.” 6

On account of their rapid spread and constant increase, a general persecution against the Baptists arose:

“Papists and Protestants…treated them in the same manner,”

“The Episcopalians and the Presbyterians of England, the Lutherans of Germany, and the Reformed in Switzerland, differing from one another, and refusing inter-communion, agreed in persecuting the Baptists. They were a sect everywhere spoken against.”

“The Baptists traveled too fast, and went too far; if they could not be stopped by other means, the fire must be lighted, or the headman’s axe employed. Thus the men were silenced: the emperor, Charles the Fifth, ordered all the women to be drowned or buried alive, and no judge could mitigate these decrees, unless he was willing to be regarded as a protector of the heretics, and be proceeded against as such.

“Notwithstanding the deadly onset that was made upon them from all quarters, they spread and increased most astonishingly. Leonard Bouwens, an eminent Baptist minister in Holland, who died in 1578, left in writing a list of upwards of ten thousand persons whom he had baptized. Menno Simon and other laborers in the cause introduced ‘great multitudes’ into the churches. The spirit of reform must have taken fast hold of the minds of the people, or they would not have embraced so readily a system, the profession of which was a sure passport to persecution in its most painful and revolting forms. Luther and his coadjutors opened the door of the temple of freedom to others, but remained themselves in the porch. They feared to penetrate into the interior. The Baptists passed by them, entered in, and explored the recesses of the hallowed place. For this they were reviled and oppressed. Thousands of them fell in the fight. But multitudes pressed after them.” 7

How the “patience and faith of the saints” shine forth here, an extract from Dr. Beck’s history demonstrates:

“To the Catholics as heretics, to the evangelicals as dangerous opponent of the new church institution, the Anabaptists were a thorn in the flesh everywhere.” “In Germany the Protestant rulers exceeded even the Catholics in severity. From A.D. 1529 most cruel penal laws were issued, and the Reformer… did not only show their approval, but could witness the execution of these laws unconcerned, and with petty satisfaction. * the messengers daring to venture from Moravia into German territory, when recognized as Baptists, were subjected to such penalties.”

* “Luther, for example, urged that no Baptist be tolerated in the country, and demanded each subject to hand over the ‘hedge preacher’ to the magistrate.” —De Wett, 4, 354: Erlang, Augs., 31, 213-226, “Concerning Sneakers and Hedge Preachers,” October, 1532)

The author of the preface to the “History of the Martyrs of Christ” (A.D. 1610) says of them:

“Some were rent and torn to pieces, some burned to ashes with poweder, some roasted on pillars; others were hanged on trees, killed by the sword, or drowned; many were executed with a gag in their mouth to prevent them from talking.”

“Like sheep and lambs, they were led to slaughter by the score. Bibles were strictly prohibited in many places; in others, even burned. Many were stared, and many were tormented in various ways before they died; others, too young for execution, were lashed; many had to suffer for years in dungeons and towers; others, after having holes burned through their cheeks were dismissed. And those who escaped all this torture, often had to hide in caves and rocks, in the woods, and under the ground, searched by dogs and sergeants.”

“They sang praises to their God while being led to execution; virgins adorned themselves for this occasion as for a feast.”

“Others have smiled at the water destined to be their grave, displaying manly bravery, because they had on the armor of God, or they exhorted the people to repentance, before firmly marching up to the stake.”

“Being assured of the better things they looked upon the things of this world as a shadow… And so they had more patience in their sufferings than did their enemies in torment them.” 8

Erasmus bears the following honourable testimony to them:

“The Anabaptists have nowhere been permitted to use the churches, though they abound everywhere in great numbers. They are to be chiefly recommended for their blameless life, yet they are oppressed by the other sects, as wellas by the orthodox [ie Roman Cahtolics].” 9

The following are a few samples of the terms employed against the Anabaptists by the Reformers:

To point to the excesses committed by the leaders of the Muenster tragedy does not excuse the Reformers for using such language. The majority of the Baptists stood entirely aloof from such excesses, and disapproved of them by their own peaceful life and words even more than did their opponents, who had helped to provoke them by their unjust oppression and cruelty.

Dr Schaff fitly adds: “We must carefully distinguish the better class of Baptists and Mennonites from the restless, revolutionary radicals and fanatics,” 11

Herzog’s Realencylopaedie informs us of the charges which the Baptists preferred against the Reformers:

Sabbath Keepers Among The Anabaptists

[Robert Cox, The Literature of the Sabbath Question, vol.2, pp. 201, 202.

“I find from a passage in Erasmus that at the early period of the Reformantion when he wrote, there were Sabbatarians in Bohemia, who not only kept the seventh day, but were said to be…scrupulous in resting on it.”

“In 1310, two hundred years before Luther’s theses, the Bohemian brethren constituted one-fourth of the population of Bohemia, and were in touch with the Waldenses who abounded in Austria, Lombardy, Bohemia, north Germany, Thuringia, Brandenburg, and Moravia. Erasmus pointed out how strictly Bohemian Waldenses kept the seventh day Sabbath.”

“Erasmus testifies that even as late as about 1500 these Bohemians not only kept the seventh day scrupulously, but were also called Sabbatarians.” R. Cox. op. cit.]

The Baptists were by no means organized into one body; there was no absolute uniformity of opinion, they were shy of creeds; they differed on various points, as is stated by Ranke:

Some regarded infant baptism as useless, others as an abomination: some demanded the strictest community of goods, others went no further than the duty of mutual help. Some segregated themselves as much as possible, and held it to be unchristian to celebrate Sunday; others declared it culpable to follow after singularities.” 13

But they were agreed that the “sole authority” of Scripture in matters of religion should be carried to its legitimate “issues”, and it was the case that a number not only “held it to be unchristian to celebrate Sunday,” but also associated true faith and the right mode of baptism with the proper observance of God’s holy rest day. To this the old chronicle of Sebastina Frank (A.D. 1536) testifies:

“Some have suffered torture and separated themselves simply because they would not rest when others kept Sunday, for they declared it to be the holiday and law of Antichrist, with whom they would have nothing in common, as well as were the other holidays.” 14

Among the churches of the sixteenth century, A. Ross enumerates also:

“8. Sabbatarians, so called because they rejected the observance of the Lord’s day as not commanded in Scripture; they consider the Sabbath alone to be holy, as God rested on that day and commanded to keep it holy and to rest on it.” 15

The Sabbatarians In Moravia

Where and when these Sabbath-keepers appeared, Luther himself furnishes information in his Lectures on genesis, given A.D. 1523-27:

“I hear that even now in Austria and Moravia certain Judaizers urge both the Sabbath and circumcision; if they should boldly go on, not being admonished by the word of God, they certainly might do much harm.” 16

And then, referring to the fact that Joseph did not urge circumcision upon the Egyptians, he says, in commenting on Genesis 41;

“such examples are opposed to the frenzy of the Jews and Sabbatarians, who now exist in Austria, and undertake to drive the people to the law of circumcision as though they could not be saved without it.” 17

Before the time of the Reformation, Bohemia and Moravia had become the asylum of persecuted believers. Especially did Moravia, with its vast forests, enjoy the best reputation for religious freedom. Crowds of religious refugees, of various religious beliefs, flocked there from all parts of Austria, Switzerland, and Germany. As these fugitives were a thrifty and peaceful people, and also enriched the community by their industry, many of the noblemen welcomed them on their estates. At various times the diets had promulgated oppressive decrees against them,, and some of them had even suffered death; but as the king had his hands full with the Turks, and as much power rested with the nobility, which favored them, they prospered in sprit of the intrigues of the Papacy. Indeed, Roman priest of high standing (even the former bishop of Necropolis in part) were united with the Baptists.

One of the chief centers where thousands gathered, was Nikolsburg, belonging to the prices of Lichtenstein. About A.D. 1529 the following division is reported by A. Gindely:

The church at Nikolsburg was also divided. He followers of Phipp Jaeger and Jacob Wideman were call “Kleinhaufler” (the small body) or “Stabler’ (staffmen), and the followers of Hans Spittelmaier received the name of “Schwertler” (sword-bearers) and Sabbatarians. Leonhard Lichtenstein held to the latter party.” 18

Lord Leonhard, of Lichtenstein, asked the Sabbatarians to submit to him a statement of their belief, which they readily did. This was sent to Wolfgang Capito, a leading Strassburg Reformer, and to Caspar Schwenkfeld (then living as an exile at Strassburg), the founder of the mystic sect that is perpetuated among the Schwenkfeldian congregations in eastern Pennsylvania.

Probably the statement of faith drawn up by these Sabbatarians has long since been burned, but there exists in the Hamburg library a copy of the refutation by Schwenkfeld, in which are preserved some of the statements made by the Sabbatarians in their document to him, so that some of their doctrines are thus handed down to us through the writings of their opponents.

The refutation contains one hundred eighty-six pages. The writing of it was finished on New-Year’s day, A.D. 1532; but according to the following title, it was not printed until 1599; “The Christian Sabbath and the difference between the Old and the New Testament. The difference between the Jewish and the Christian Sabbath. What the Christian Sabbath is, an dhow it should be observed. Written to the Lord Leonhard of Lichtenstein at Nikolsburg, etc. 1599.” In its dedication, this declaration is made:

MOST GRACIOUS SIR: You have recently sent E.C. D. Wolfgang Capito and myself a writing, wherein you notify us that several in Moravia have dared (among other things which to their mind had been wrongly dropped and omitted) to re-establish the Sabbath, as the Jews term their holy day, because they think it necessary to their salvation, and want to keep only Saturday holy, and have also offere to prove this to be right, and in accordance with the Holy Scripture. Your honor has sent us a written copy of their reasons and argument, requesting us to carefully study it and render our judgment,”

The reason they observed the Sabbath is given in their own words.

“The Sabbatarians (they will pardon if I term them so on account of their opinion) teach that the outward Sabbath, ie Saturday, still must be observed, for such be God’s word, will, and command. Exodus 20 and 31. Here they way, we read in God’s Word plainly that he wants to have the Sabbath kept as long as the world stands. He who acts contrary to the divine commandment will not remain unpunished.” —Page 10

Schwenkfeld in refuting them says, “Then you must also be circumcised,” to which they give the following clear and Scriptural answer:

“If circumcision were still lawful as it was in time gone by, we would by no means omit it; but we know, whosoever be circumcised, Christ shall profit him nothing. Galatians 5” —Page 13

What Luther had accused [that they drive the people to the law of circumcision] merely from hearsay is here refuted, not only by the very words of the Sabbatarians, but their words are carefully backed up by Scripture.

Although Schwenkfeld, following the illustrious example of Pope Gregory the Great, knew no difference between the Sabbath and circumcision, yet the Sabbatarians of both the seventh and sixteenth centuries, enlightened by God’s own Word, were well aware of the truth on this point. On page 71 we find again:

“The strongest argument of the Sabbatarians is the number of the ten precepts, of which we have also heard before. They tenaciously hold that God has not given eight or nine, but ten commandments, which he wants to have dept by everybody, and which neither Christ nor the apostles have tried to change. On the strength of Jeremiah 31, they claim that, instead of abrogating them, Christ was really the one who established them. With this they wish to say that, in short, either the Sabbath must be observed, or else all the other nine commandments must also be discarded. From which they conclude: If the Sabbath is void, all the other commandments are also.”

As to the origin of the Sabbath, we find their view on page 103:

“They claim: The Sabbath, the Jewish and judicial and other laws did not comence with Moses, but had been given verbally in the beginning, so that Abraham had already observed the Sabbath and sanctied it. This they prove by 2 Esdras 9; Exodus 16, Genesis 26.”

This demonstrates how well the observers of the Sabbath were then armed with the word of God, to give a reason of the hope that was in them. But most remarkable is their belief concerning Isaiah 58 and Nehemiah 13.

Their Belief Concerning Isaiah 58

Concerning their belief on the Sabbath from Isaiah 58 and Nehemiah 13, Schwenkfeld states thus on page 128:

“I think nothing of the Sabbatarians’ belief that such prophecies apply to them. Yet, on the strength of these passages they dar to re-establish the Sabbath. But I believe that they have been influenced to do this by such passages as Isaiah 58 and Nehemiah 13, and others since they according to the Jewish custom have looked only at the letter of them all.”

The underlying motive that actuated the Christian Sabbath-keepers to adhere to the observance of the Sabbath of Jehovah, even under the greatest difficulties at the time of the Reformation, is here revealed: the prophetic word of God was a bright light, shining in a dark place. On the strength of it, they considered themselves called of God to build the old waste places and to repair the breaches in his law, although many had to seal their faith with theiir own blood. Instead of spiritualising everything, as did their opponents, they accepted the Word of God as it was written. This Schwenkfeld calls the Jewish way.

On page 133 their arguments are again quoted:

“Then they say the Sabbath is a shadow and sign of the eternal Sabbath, and whatever it was to the Jews, it is now to us. Whoever wants to enjoy the same heritage with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, must keep the same commandments as they did, ie must rest on Saturday.” Since we have not as yet entered the eternal rest, we must still keep the Sabbath.”

The argument that the Sabbath should be observed only spiritually and not by any outward, literal rest, they answer on page 135:

”The Sabbath is also commanded to oxen and donkeys; they can not keep it spiritually.”

Schwnekfeld charges Christ with breaking the Sabbath by the miracles he performed on that day; but they, on the other hand, according to his statement on page 157, “undertake to excuse Christ our Lord, stating that he had never broken nor abrogated the Jewish Sabbath, but that, on the contrary, he had confirmed and truly established it.”

How they regarded Sunday, and how Schwenkfeld met their ideas, we learn from page 169:

“They say that Sunday is the Pope’s invention and they will not admit that the day of the Lord in Revelation 1:10 should take the place of the Sabbath. They call this, I rather forbear to tell it, dealing in lies. And also, they call the annulling of the Sabbath the devil’s work. This all they do and speak of themselves, not knowing, or perhaps not wishing to know, why Christ came, or why he is called the Lord, nor what they day of the Lord is. For, although Sunday has been commanded by the Papacy under pain of a mortal sin, contrary to Christian liberty, yet it is in itself not a new thing; it was established and it originated very early in the Christian churches—but without force, free as any other church ordinance, as can be easily inferred from Revelation 1, and form many causes and influences, especially from a right understanding of the mystery of the resurrection and the Sabbath of Christ.”

Schwenkfeld’s Mystic Refutation

In this refutation, Schwenkfeld approached th old Gnostic ideas, by claiming: “Resting from sin is the true, spiritual Sabbath; true Sabbath sanctification was not to cease from manual labour and be idle, but to do no evil, and to let the old man rest from all his works,”

Dr. Zoeckler calls his refutation an “extreme mystic holy day’s theory.”

Schwenkfeld fell out with Luther in A.D. 1524, in the controversy about the Lord’s supper. When in 1541, he sent some of his books to Luther, the latter, who nicknamed him “Stinkfield,” returned these books, accompanied by a note in which he called him a “nonsensical fool possessed of the devil,” and stated that his books were “spit out by the devil”.19

Witnesses In Bohemia

That there were some Sabbatarians in Bohemia, Czerwenka’s “History of the Evangelical Church” in Bohemia shows, but the following incident:

“A certain John Balbus was imprisoned in November, 1528, because he had publicly taught some doctrines contrary to Utraquism: he asserted that one ought first to believe and afterwards to be baptized; the extreme unction was to be regarded as an anointing of joy and comfort; the festivals of the saints were not to be observed; and Saturday (Sabbath) was to be kept holy instead of Sunday; meat might be eaten on Friday, for the law made no distinction of days, and people must eat what they have.

Balbus had resigned his priesthood, because he regarded it a popish, and therefore, a human institution, and he had taken a wife. He was called upon to renounce his ‘errors.’ How he was treated may be seen from the statement in the minutes, that time was the best physician, and that what reasonable remonstrance could not do, time would settle; for the bread of sorrow would force him to confess the true faith, and the torture of imprisonment and hunger would bring everything into the proper line. Such are the words of the consistory, preceding the statement of Balbus having recanted, on November 17.” 20

How the Sabbath-keepers in Moravia were protected by Prince Lichtenstein, and what persecutions they, I company with other Baptists, had to undergo, records collected from three different histories 21 inform us.

The Pope assisted King Ferdinand to extirpate heresy and civil liberty under the opprobrious character of sedition. The Jesuits being reinstated, it was thought proper to begin with those Baptists whose principles would not allow them to make any resistance.

“The provost was sent all over Moravia to exterminate the Anabaptists. Those caught in the open field were beheaded; those caught in the villages were hung up against the door-post; whoever could, hid themselves in the forests and upon the mountains. But the lords of the estates were not everywhere agreed to such doings, either from religious feelings, or because of the benefits which they derived from those diligent and obedient people. Prince Leonhard Lichtenstein and his cousin Hans brought the persecution to an end, so far as they were concerned, and proclaimed in all the hiding -places that everyone could return home. Other lords followed their example. When the news spread abroad, many brethren emigrated to the promised land.”

“Many thousands of Baptists emigrated (A.D. 1530) from Switzerland, Tyrol, the Austrian crown lands, Steyermark and Bavaria, under the leadership of Jacob Hutter, and settled in Moravia.” “But in 1535 Ferdinand, king of Bohemia, decreed their expulsion, and sent soldiers to execute it.” “They retired to the forests, where they lived as well as they could, and waiting in patience, held their religious services.”

“Hutter wrote the governor of Moravia, entreating him to revoke the decree. In this lengthy epistle he says: ‘We believe in God Almighty, his Son our Lord Jesus Christ, who is now and forever our protection in every danger, and in whose hands we have committed all we are and owe, to keep his commandments and cease from all unrighteousness and sin. Therefore all the world persecutes and derides us.’ Once more they were granted respite, but in A.D. 1547 their expulsion was carried out with indescribable harshness and cruelty.”

“Ferdinand wrote first to Prince Lichtenstein and to Cardinal Dietrichstein, the first general of the army in Moravia and the last governor of the province, to inform them of his design, and to require their concurrence on pain of his displeasure,” He banished the Anabaptists “from all his hereditary and imperial dominions on pain of death. The Jesuits contrived to publish this edict just before harvest and vintage.” “They allowed them only three weeks and tree days for their departure; it was death to be found even on the borders of the country beyond the expiration of the hour.” “At the border they filed off, some to Hungary, some to Transylvania, some to Wallachia, others to Poland.” 22

For many years, God in his providence made Moravia (where there were Christian Sabbath-keepers) a place of refuge for many thousands of honest believers, assembled there from various parts of Europe, and he brought all these in touch with his truth. Even most prominent men, as the princes of Liechtenstein, held to the observance of the true Sabbath. When persecution finally scattered them, the seeds of truth must have been sown by them in the different portions of the Continent which they visited.

Silesia, Poland, Holland, Germany

That there were also Sabbath-keepers in other countries of Europe, although they were few in number and somewhat secluded because of the severe persecutions against them, proofs are not lacking. We have found them in Bohemia. They were also known in Silesia and Poland. Likewise they were in Holland and in northern Germany. Dr. Cornelius states of east Friesland, that when the Baptists were numerous, “Sunday and holidays were not observed, but later their observance was again established.” 23

Braght’s Martyrology speaks of a certain Barbara of Thiers, wife of Hans Portzen, who was executed on the sixteenth of September, 1529. She rejected the ungodly sacraments, mass, and confession, and concerning Sunday and holidays declared:

“God has commanded us to rest on the seventh day. Beyond this she did not go: but with the help and grace of God she would persevere therein, and in death abide thereby; for it is the true faith, and the right way in Christ.” 24

Another martyr, Christiana Tolingerin, is mentioned thus:

“Concerning holy days and Sundays, she said: ‘In six days the Lord made the world, on the seventh day he rested. The other holy days have been instituted by popes, cardinals, and archbishops.’” 25

England, France

There were at this time Sabbath keepers in France:

“In France also there were Christians of this class, among whom were la Roque, who wrote in defense of the Sabbath against Bossuet, Catholic bishop of Meaux.” 26

That Sabbatarians again appeared in England by the time of the Reformation, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth (A.D. 1533-1603), Dr. Chambers testifies in his Cyclopaedia. 27 How they developed there in the next century, we shall consider in chapter 27.

Their View By Hespinian

The principle reasons on which the Christian Sabbatarians founded the observance of the Sabbath at the time of the Reformation, are given by a noted Swiss writer, R. Hospinian. In his work on the festivals of the Jews and Gentiles, written in A.D. 1592, he enumerates them as follows:

  1. The observance of the Sabbath is a part of the moral law; for the Decalogue wherein the Sabbath is commanded is the most essential part of the moral law. Inasmuch as the other precepts of the Decalogue pertain to us (for the law is written for one and all, as a rule of morality) so likewise does the observance of the Sabbath, being a moral duty, belong to it.
  2. Only the ceremonies instituted by Moses have been abrogated; the Sabbath, however, is not of Moses. It has been kept holy since the beginning of the world, and therefore has not been abrogated.
  3. The benefit of creation is intended for all men, Christians as well as Jews; and consequently, belongs to all ages in which men have existed; but therefore, the symbol that is to keep the remembrance of creation fresh among men, must also be observed by all. Easter, Pentecost, and the feast of tabernacles are based on a different foundation; for they are holidays on which are to be commemorated the benefits God had shown especially to the children of Israel. But the Sabbath does not concern the Israelites alone.
  4. The Sabbath is, according to Ex. 31.:17, in the covenant made by God, called the eternal ie the everlasting covenant.
  5. The spiritual Sabbath rest is the same in the Old as in the New Testament; therefore the Sabbath ought to be the same also. 28

Carlstadt And The Sabbath

Before we follow the persecuted Sabbatarians to Hungary and Transylvania, we shall consider one who, as Luther’s senior colleague, led out in the debate with Dr, Eck at Leipzig, and who afterward occupied himself considerably with the Sabbath question—Professor Andreas Carlstadt.

Ranke describes Carlstadt fittingly as “one of those men, not rare among Germans, who, with an inborn tendency to profundity, unite the courage of rejecting all that is established and defending all that others reject, without ever rising to a clear view and solid conviction,” 29

His view of the Sabbath is expressed in a small pamphlet, styled “About the Sabbath and commanded Holidays,” It was published at Jena, early in A.D. 1524, for already in May of that year a second edition came from the press at Strasburg. This little pamphlet is divided into thirteen chapters. It deals, however, more fully with the observance of the Sabbath than with the question as to which day ought to be kept. The following are some of his views entailed therein, which we take from Haeger’s Biography of Carlstadt, as they are more briefly set forth there:

“All commandments of God demand of us a resemblance of this divinity, and are given us that we may grow into his likeness. Lev. 20:26. Therefore the Sabbath was instituted of God, that we should desire to be holy as he is, and to rest and cease from work as he did. We are to be passive in his hand, that he may work through us without ceasing. That is the spiritual purpose of the Sabbath, commanded for his honor and our benefit”

“If a soul does not conceive this, it is unconscious of the real purpose of the Sabbath institution, and God hates such a Sabbath.”

“Another purpose of the Sabbath is the brotherly love which the head of a household should show his servants; such comes from the love of god. God knows that man would kill himself had he not some rest after labour, and Carlstadt demands this rest also for all working animals.” 30

Having thus explained the nature of the Sabbath, in the third chapter he shows that the Sabbath law is intended for the angels as well as for men; “so it is for the inhabitants of the divine city,” in the fourth chapter he tells “how to keep the Sabbath,” and remarks, “This is more difficult to feel and to examine than to understand, because it is above all our natural powers.” This Sabbath observance is two fold, answering the two “purposes” of the Sabbath. “With God man must be at peace and rest, and from God he must ask and expect all holiness.” According to chapter four, the positive side of Sabbath-keeping is this: “that thou shouldst realize I lovely wisdom the infinite glory of Christ. He is the perfection of the Sabbath; by him all angels and men must be taught to keep the Sabbath, and through him, and accordingly to him, only can they keep it.” He refers to Isa. 58:13, 14, as the basis of this doctrine: “the holy day demands a clear mind enlightened with the light that lightens all men; such a spirit rides above the high places of the earth, and has no pleasure in earthly things.” 31

Then he inveighs against all kind of work on the Sabbath, including that of hired help and of bondmen. In the fifth chapter he enumerates a series of desecrations, from which we may gather some idea as to how Sunday (here styled the Sabbath) was observed at that time. Not only did the people indulge in the most noisy amusements, but that which particularly vexed him was the fact that “the Christians and greedy priests on that day dun their debtors from the pulpit.” Not until we reach the tenth chapter does he consider which day of the week ought to be kept:

“If servants have worked six days, they shall be free of service on the Sabbath. God says, without distinction, Remember that thou keep holy the seventh day. He does not say that we ought to take Sunday or Saturday for the seventh day. Concerning Sunday, one feels uneasy, because men have established it. Concerning Saturday, it is a disputed question. But so much is clear, that thou shalt keep holy the seventh day, and give the servants rest when they have worked six days.” 32

Carlstadt mistrusted Sunday as a human initiation; still he was not clear on the Sabbath; he chiefly considered the way of keeping it, and in this he was in advance of the other Reformers. However, he went no further. In the twelfth chapter, he protests against dedication of days to angels and saints:

“The devil and his first-born son, the Pope, have deceived us into dedicating Sabbaths to angels and saints; this squarely contradicts the Sabbath idea, which is a figure, symbolizes that God alone is holy. The figure would be a lie if the Sabbath be kept in honor of one who cannot make us holy, which always happens if we keep it in honor of some saint. One thereby rejects Christ, and says that he can obtain glory by some other one than Christ…Besides, by such observance, one encroaches upon God’s creation, because he has created all things and all days, while no saint has ever made an hour. Whoever attributes a day to a creature, he robs God of his created work, and attributes it to him who has not created, and who cannot create. This is sinning against God’s might, and Is directed against his almighty power.” 33

Had Carlstadt extended this line of reasoning to Sunday, the disputed concerning the Sabbath would have been quickly settled in his own mind, and he would have become a true Sabbath keeper. Although he only raised the question of Sabbath observance, yet Luther in referring to this very booklet, attacked Carlstadt most furiously (A.D. 1524) on this point, in his pamphlet “Against the Celestial Prophets.” After asserting that Carlstadt’s abomination in dealing with such outward ceremonies is none less than that of the Papacy, and quoting Col. 2:16,17; Gal, 4:10,11; and Isa, 66:23, Luther continues:

“Thanks be unto the pious Paul and Isaiah, that they so long ago freed us from these factious spirits; otherwise we would have to sit on the Sabbath with our head in our hands, and wait for a heavenly voice, as they pretend. Indeed if Carlstadt were to write further about the Sabbath, Sunday would have to give way, and the Sabbath, ie, Saturday, must be kept holy: he would truly make us Jews in all things, and we should have to be circumcised; for that is true, and cannot be denied, that he who deems it necessary to keep the law of Moses, and keeps it as a law of Moses, must deem all necessary and keep them all, as Paul concludes in Gal. 5:2. Therefore whoever breaks images or keeps the Sabbath [that is, who teaches that it should be observed], must also be circumcised and observe all of Moses.” 34

To the charge that he was forgetting the main thing by treating of outward ceremonies, Carlstadt replied:

“Luther does not know that he hit’s the apostles, prophets, and Christ. These all have often dealt with such matter, as, for example, circumcision, the Sabbath, and frequently baptism, the Lord’s supper and the meats offered to idols.” 35

[In two of his major works of 1523, Carlstadt stresses the importance of living in harmony with the commandment of God. Because of Carlstadt’s emphasis on the sanctified life, Luther accused him of legalism and “work-righteousness,” but Carlstadt denies this when he says: “Nothing leads us to eternal life and God’s kingdom except faith alone.” In his early years Carlstadt first thought the Sabbath was part of the ceremonial law. But as his thinking matured, he realized that God had enshrined the Sabbath commandment in the Decalogue deliberately because of its eternal significance, curious enough, though, he does not seem to have regarded the change to Sunday as contrary to the commandment. Though seeing the significance of the weekly Sabbath day, and though feeling uncomfortable with Sunday because of it’s human origin, he did not step out and embrace the Biblical Sabbath. Thus we see that Luther, in opposing Carlstadt was the more perceptive when he said, “Whoever wants to make a necessary command of the Sabbath as required of God must keep Saturday and not Sunday.” ]

Every lover of truth must regret that Carlstadt did not always use good judgment in making his hasty reforms, but he failed more in reference to the proper time than with regard to doctrines. There were points in which he was ahead of the other Reformers. He wrote an able treatise on “The Canon of Scripture,” in which he contended against Luther for the authority of James. He was ahead of Luther in maintaining that all ceremonies not warranted by the Bible were to be rejected; while Luther asserted, “Whatever is not against the Scripture is for the Scriptures, and they for it.” He was far ahead of Luther in his understanding of the Lord’s supper. He opposed not only transubstantiation, but consubstantiation, the real presence, and the elevation and adoration of the host. Luther rejected the first, asserted the second and third, and allowed the other two. In regard to the real presence, Luther says: ‘In the sacrament is the real body of Christ and the real blood of Christ, so that even the unworthy and ungodly partake of it; and "partake of it corporally" too, and not spiritually as Carlstadt will have it.’ Carlstadt, for maintaining the doctrine now held by almost all Protestants, concerning the supper, and for denying Luther’s doctrine that Christ is personally present in the bread, was rendered a homeless wanderer for years.

As long as Carlstadt agreed with Luther, he was a “man of unequalled wisdom,” but when he dissented from Luther’s opinion, the latter called him, in his Table Talk, an “incarnate devil.” 36 Carlstadt had to leave Saxony in A.D. 1524; the following year he was allowed to return, on the condition that he would keep silent; but he had again to flee in 1528. For some time he wandered about in great poverty. He joined the Zwinglians, was on a friendly footing with the Baptists, and was professor of theology at Basel (A.D.1534-41). Had he taken a positive stand on the Sabbath, would he have fared any better than the thousands who were killed or tortured in Moravia, Bohemia, and Germany?

Luther “Against The Sabbatarians”

How the movement to restore the right Sabbath gained in power in spite of the terrible persecution, is evidenced by the fact that as late as A.D. 1538 Luther wrote a letter to a friend of his, “against the Sabbatarians.” 37 In his introduction, he thus states the reasons for writing:

“As you inform me that here and there in different countries the Jews encroach with their heresy and doctrine, and have already seduced some Christians, and as you asked me for counsel as to how you should meet them with the scripture, I will now write you my advice and opinion, in short, expecting to write more later.”

Yet this short letter covers thirty-four pages! In the first part of the letter, Luther sets forth the apostasy of the Jews; in the second part he demonstrates by sound Scripture arguments that the Hebrew word leolam rendered “forever” in English, has a limited and an unlimited sense, according to the context. Then he continues:

“Moses came much too late for one to style the Decalogue Moses’ law, for it was spread all over the world before the time of Abraham and the patriarchs. Moses has set forth how God gave the Decalogue (which he had written in the hearts of all men at creation) to his special people with his own voice. Circumcision was not planted in the hearts of men, but it was instituted for their people by Abraham and Moses.” “the chief point is not the resting, but rather the sanctifying,” “If either of the two be omitted, then let it be the rest, but the Jews esteem the rest more highly…As Moses names the seventh day, that is the temporal declaration with which he enjoins this command upon his people in a special manner, at that time.”

Then applying Isaiah 66 to this present world, Luther ridicules the idea that “all flesh should meet at Jerusalem each week, as the Jews could not get there in a hundred Sabbaths, and have been driven hence for fifteen hundred years.” At the close of the letter, he expresses the hope that “this letter may protect his friend against the Sabbatarians and that he may preserve his Christian faith in purity.”

Eossi And Pechi

At an early date seeds of the Sabbath truth must have been carried to Hungary and Transylvania. In these countries, as in most other lands, the Reformation brought about an age of inquiry. With the Lutherans and the Reformed faith, the Sabbath truth accompanied the refugees, also the Unitarian Baptists. They increased so rapidly in Transylvania that by A.D. 1571 the Unitarian faith was acknowledged as a state religion , along with the catholic, Lutheran and reformed faiths. It is among these Unitarians that we find the first distinct traces of the Sabbath in Transylvania. The chronicle of a contemporary, Franz Nagy Szabo, give this information:

“As far as I can recollect, the Arian religion reformed and divided itself about the year 1588. There lived a lord of the manor at St. Elizabeth [a village in the district of Udvarhely] by the name of Andreas Eossi, who studied his Bible until he at length nicely invented the Sabbatarian religion.” 38

Eossi was a rich Szekler magnate, and one of the first to accept the Unitarian faith. He was in ill health, and when his wife and three sons died, he sought comfort in the Bible. Among other truths, he also found the light on the Sabbath question, and with the Bible in hand, he tried to covert his neighbours. He had several books and dissertations written, and had such old works copied as agreed with his doctrines. He composed several religious poems. He was well versed in the Bible and in church history. His efforts were crowned with success, and his adherents, who were mostly gathered from among the Unitarians, rapidly multiplied. But as they rejected Sunday and rested on the Sabbath, in A.D. 1595 Prince Sigmond Bathory ordered their persecution. But a higher hand interposed: the Turkish pasha Szinian invaded the country, and the Woywode Michael of Moldavia conquered the country in which most of the Sabbatarians were living. In 1599 he instigated an investigation of their faith, but he contented himself with burning their books on a pyre.

Persecution Of The Transylvanian Sabbath Keepers

In 1610 the diet, under the catholic prince Gabriel Bathory decreed:

“A time of grace is to be granted to the Jews and Sabbatarians for conversion, but their preachers are to be locked up I respectable prisons.”

Again Providence interfered, and new troubles arose; in the year 1618 the Reformed prince Gabriel Behtlen, in harmony with his own desires, was authorized to summon before him and to punish all who would not forsake their faith by Christmas time. He called a synod, which is reported in the Unitarian Spiegel as follows (page 15)

As the military assistance plainly indicates, his method of conversion was to use brute force, to take from the Sabbatarians their church buildings, to arrest the ministers, and to place Reformed ministers in their stead. In this manner the Unitarians lost about twenty-two churches in the Szekler district—an evidence of the extent of the Sabbath movement. Finally, even the members of the diet became disgusted with this method of conversion. They therefore resolved in their session at Bistritz (A.D. 1622) that observers of the Sabbath should forfeit their personal property and pay a ransom for their lives, but by due course of law. Yet God cared for his children amid these fiery trials.

Eossi soon found talented co-workers. While he devised the fundamental principles of their belief, including the Sabbath, yet the detailed work and the finishing touches were carried forward by his disciples. Among quite a number of prominent men, Bogathi Fazakas Millos, and Simon Pechi, the scholar and statesman, deserve special mention.

After the death of his sons, Eossi adopted Pechi, but immediately sent him on an extended tour, in which he visited the greater part of Europe, and even Palestine, Egypt, and northern Africa. Thus he formed a thorough acquaintance with Oriental literature. He mastered the Hebrew, Latin, and German. He returned in 1599, and as Eossi died shortly after that, he inherited his large fortune. With his experience, wealth, and learning, a political career awaited him, in which he might easily forget the Sabbath.

Pechi advanced to the position of chancellor of state, and King Ferdinand II, during the negotiations of peace in 1621, gave him even to understand by his legates that in case the sickly Bethlen should die, there were some prospects of his being elevated to the throne of Transylvania. But shortly after this, he lost favor of the prince, and was imprisoned for nine years. Here God’s truth came to him with new force. He studied his Bible, and composed a number of hymns, mostly in honor of the Sabbath.

Their Literature

During a visit of the author to Hungary in May, 1890, Prof. J.Koncz, of the Reformed College at Maros-Vasarhely, showed him a commentary on Genesis, dated 1634, folio size, which Pechi wrote in prison. It bore the seal of the Inquisition, but in some way it escaped the intended burring. At Klausenburg, in the Unitarian library he also found a number of prayer and hymn books. Among them was a work of four hundred pages, written by Jacob Elik; it is a commentary on the Psalms, dated A.D. 1604, and also contains some doctrinal poems, a few of which treat on the death of Christ, on the Lord’s supper, on baptism, faith in God, etc.

As Pechi had studied the Talmud, his writings were influenced by it, while Eossi closely adhered to the Scriptures. When Pechi was again set at liberty, he publicly taught the Sabbath, and his doctrines were embraced by many, not only of the common people, but also of the noblemen. The churches steadily increased.

Influenced by “covetousness,” Prince Rakocski I had confiscated all the estates of Pechi, save that of St,. Ersebeth; and in the diet of 1635 it was decided that “if the Sabbatarians had not joined one of the four acknowledged state religions by next Christmas, they would lose their life and property,” But new political disturbances postponed the execution of this sentence until, in 1638, the agreement of Dees was signed by fifty-six secular and ecclesiastical lords, authorizing the prince to execute the previous decisions. The Sabbataians were summoned to Dees, and sentence was passed upon them in the Reformed Church.

Those who still openly professed the observance of the Sabbath were taken to fortresses, their property was confiscated, and they were left to perish in dungeons: and those who outwardly confessed adherence to one of the four acknowledged religions, but secretly kept up their divine worship, were forced to attend church services. Pechi was also arrested, and according to Benkoe, he died in a decent prison in 1640. Some emigrated as far as Constantinople. Thus by brute force Sabbath observance was suppressed even in a country where the Reformed faith was in power.

In closing this section on Transylvanian Sabbath keepers, we give a translation of one of the Sabbath hymns:

“The Sabbath you must holy keep
As did the ancients now asleep.
And as in far remotest time,
We still observe the Sabbath as divine:
But not the Sunday in it place,
Which cannot sanctify, nor give the grace—
Alone the honourable Sabbath day
Remember, keep holy, and god obey.”

Christian Sabbatarians In Russia Before The Reformation

Yet, a still greater Sabbath movement among Christians appeared in Russia as early as the fifteenth century. In chapter 21 we found that the Sabbath-keepers, generally called Pasaginians, hailed from the East, where the old Nazarene element existed as late as the twelfth century. According to church historians, the great reform movement of the twelfth century extended east into Poland, Lithuania, Slovenia, Livonia, and Samatia. Church historians record a similar reform movement in Russia during the fourteenth century. In view of the fact that the Russian and kindred languages call Saturday Subbota or Sabbath, and seeing that their standard catechism teaches every child that while the Sabbath “is not entirely dept as a festival, still in memory of the creation of the world and in continuation of its original observance, it is distinguished from the other days of the week by a relaxation of the rule of fasting,: one would naturally expect a Sabbath reform the moment the attention of the people was directed to the Word of God.”

The knowledge of this Sabbath movement in Russia is furnished to us through the “History of the Russian church,” by Archbishop Philaret (A.D. 1805-66) 39 Writing in the nineteenth century, he had to collect his facts and data from old chroniclers, who, on account of the relentless persecution waged, and biased by their own religious views, colored their history even to such and extent that Philaret, as a Christian, had to question it.

Since the days of the Laodicean council, “Judaizing” is the official stamp placed upon the cessation from labour on the seventh day. When, in the summer of 1886, the author organized the first church of German Sabbath-keepers in Russia, Protestants at once preferred the charge of “Jewish heresy” against him, and he was arrested by the Russian government. So grave was this charge that no bail was permitted, and no release was granted until the American ambassador gave his word of honor to the Russian minister of the interior, that, form personal knowledge, he knew this to be the work of an evangelical denomination.

Bearing this in mind, we let Archbishop Philaret inform us of the contents of the ancient Russian church records:

“Section 18.— Controversy of the Church of the North with the Jewish sect.

a. History of the heresy until 1490

“All attempts made by the Papacy against the liberty of the orthodox church of the North left no obnoxious results: the Russians regarded them with unconcern, as the plans of long-known ambitions. But the heresy of the Judaizing sectarians did concern the Russian church. This new heresy, which had begun and prospered in secret, though of short duration, was yet not without influence on the hearts of the Russians.”

“A certain Jew, named Zacharias, who came from Kief with Prince Michael in 1470, laid the ground for this heresy, at Novgorod. Zacharias, being well acquainted with the natural sciences, which were at that time known under the seductive form of alchemy, and also being well versed in cabalism, blinded some with the wonders of natural magic, and succeeded in leading them into error. Two priests, Dionysius and Alexis, deceived by Zacharias, and four Jews who had recently come from the South, spread the infection of this false doctrine broad, and arch-priest Gabriel was among the many who were deluded.”

“The grand duke Ivan, not knowing their views, appointed (A.D. 1480) the two principal leaders of the sect, Dionysius and Alexis, as priests of St. Mary’s Cathedral and of the court chapel of St. Michael. Working here under the same veil of mystery as in Novgorod, they soon found adherents, even at the court, most prominent among whom was Theodore Kuritzyn, the state secretary of the grand duke.”

“The archbishop Gennadius, of Novgorod, an active, sharp, and ardent man, first discovered members of this sect after reaching his flock. An investigation began. But four, who had been released on bail, fled to Moscow. Gennadius reported the matter there. In February, 1484, the metropolitan and the grand duke excommunicated three of the fugitives, who were also subject to civil punishment; the fourth was released…All of them were sent back to their shepherd for admonition and further examination.”

“But it was difficult for Gennadius to ascertain the real facts in the case, for the heretics denied under oath what they had previously admitted. But at last, through the assistance of the civil magistrates, statements were obtained which the guilty signed, and witnesses confirmed. Manuscripts of the heretical ritual, and an Easter calendar conforming to the Jewish manner of reckoning were found. Much was disclosed by Naum, a priest who once belonged to the secret faction. The heretics who truly confessed their error were subjected to a church penance by Gennadius, while he handed over the others to the civil court. Then he forwarded a detailed report to the metropolitan, and awaited further orders—that the more, as some of the inhabitants of Moscow were also involved,”

“However, his report did not have the same effect as before. The metropolitan Gerontius had died (May 28, 1489). State Secretary Kuritzyn, who had been ambassador in Hungary, returned and protected the faction.” “Gennadius was no longer even invited to the common church councils. The heretics of Novgorod, learning that the investigation had been stopped and that their companions were left unmolested, fled to Moscow. Here, under the protection of Kuritzyn, the excommunicated priests even conducted divine service—yea, Dionysius went so far as to insult the holy cross of the church.”

“But Gennadius did not remain inactive. He sent a copy of his former report to the bishop of Sarai Prochor, who acted as temporary metropolitan, and by letter he requested two other bishops, Niphont of Susdal and Philotheus of Perm, to employ their care as shepherds against the heretics, describing their former atrocities. After the election of a new metropolitan, although Gennadius was displeased with some of the demands of Sozimus, yet he most earnestly besought him to hand the heretics over to be judged by a council, At the time, Gennadius was unaware that the metropolitan, Sozimus himself, was a secret member, and owed his election to the efforts of his associates! But though he desired to do so, yet Sozimus could not pass by the affair of the heretics unnoticed.”

Their Persecution

“The council opened Oct. 17, 1490. Based upon Gennadius’s report, nine priests were anathematized; the grand duke sent some to Gennadius at Novgorod, while others were exiled. Gennadius exposed the heresy to public contempt; the heretics were led through the streets with caps of birch bark, with bunches of bass, and crowns of straw, bearing the inscription, ‘This is Satan’s host.’”

Paragraph 19 is the history of the “heresy” since 1491; the efforts of Gennadius and Joseph against it, and its condemnation at the council of 1504, are considered. We quote an extract:

“However, on the one side the sentence passed in 1490 did not affect all members of the secret society, and on the other hand, the ideas permeating that century gave new nourishment to their boldness. As the time approached when according to the Greek calendar, the world had existed seven thousand years, the second advent of Christ was expected everywhere in Russia. But the fatal year, 1492, quietly passed by, and the heretics began to not only make fun of the simple, but also of the holy, faith. Sozimus gave free reins to the evil, and even punished those who strove too zealously against his wickedness.

In order to defend the degraded faith, Gennadius appealed to Joseph, abbot of Wolokolamsk, celebrated for his pious works. Gennadius and Joselph did their utmost against the heresy, notwithstanding the influence the heretics had gained at the court. Well versed in the Holy Scripture and in the church fathers, Joseph began by writing a history of this heresy from its commencement until 1490, and from time to time he published refutations of it.” “Sozimus retired from office as metropolitan (May 17, 1494) Only the influential secretary Kuritzyn remained. Under his protection, the heretics found an asylum with the archimandrite Cassian at Dorpat, who had obtained his position through Kuritzyn’s influence. Here the mockery of holy things became loathsome in its shamelessness. The shepherd of Novgorod circulated translations of works against the Jewish sect, made by the translator Demetrius. Joseph himself waited upon the ruler, and besought him to place the heretics under a new trial,” “Yet the matter rested another year, and Joseph asked, by letter, that the confessor of the grand duke would remind him of his promise.”

“In June, 1504, the holy Gennadius was obliged to retire. Finally, in December 1504, a council was called with reference to the heretics, at which the heir to the throne, Basil Iwanositch, was present.” “The decision of the grand duke was: Some are to be burned; others to have their tongue cut out, and to be exiled; however, the major part was to be confined in monasteries… The church commanded during the week of orthodoxy [the first week of fasting] that anathema be pronounced against the Jewish sect. Some who succeeded in escaping this punishment by feigned repentance retained their heretical opinions, while on the other hand, the capital punishment of heretics for a long time remained the object of censure, thou no one any longer dared to spread the heresy openly.”

In paragraph 20 the doctrines of the Jewish sect and their refutation by Abbot Joseph are considered. Archbishop Philaret makes the following significant remarks to begin with:

“The history of the Judaizing heresy is its own proof that the name ‘Jewish sect’ by no means expresses the whole of the doctrine. That for so many years people of the higher rank in church and state should be blinded by only a Jewish superstition, exceeds the limits of all probability. It is also improbable that the grand duke, who was at war with the prince of Lithuania, in order to defend oppressed orthodoxy, should have suffered the Jews to increase and to spread for so long a period in his country, in his capital, yea even in his family. Although Gennadius and Joseph called the heretics ‘Judaizers,’ yet they admitted that their doctrine not only contained Judaism, but also Christian heresies which have great similarity to old and well-known heresies.”

These very admissions of their two most relentless persecutors, that the doctrine of this “Jewish sect” contained “Christian heresies which have great similarity to old and well-know heresies,” is the best evidence that it was not “Judaism”, but ancient, primitive Christianity. Philetus, viewing the old records as an enlightened historian, justly says that the history of this heresy is its own proof that the whole doctrine was by no means expressed by the term “Jewish sect.” That a metropolitan of the Russian church, priests in high standing, an ambassador, courtiers, yea, even the grand duke himself, all professing Christianity, should b influenced—and that for so many years—by common Judaism, which denies the first advent and the death of Chris, is beyond all probability. Being so entirely improbable, this whole story of a Jew using magic and cabalism, appeals to us as a fiction fabricated and circulated by crafty priest, I order to conceal the true fact that sincere men, by searching the Word of God, found that the Orthodox Church had departed from the Scriptures, and that, in trying to restore the church to its ancient purity, thy desired, among other things, to re-establish the Sabbath of the Decalogue, the eternal memorial of creation.

The “Enlightener”

Joseph’s book, called the “Enlightener,” “An Ornament to the Russian Church,” consists of fourteen parts:

1. Trinity; 2. Advent of the Messiah in the Person of Christ; 3. Significance of the Mosaic Law; 4. Causes for the Incarnation of the Son of God; 5,6,7 Reverence to Images: 8,9,10. Second Advent of Christ; 11,12. Monasticism: 13,14. The Way and Manner of Dealing with Heretics.

According to the minutes of the council, some of the other heresies of this sect were, to think more of the Old Testament than of the New; to celebrate Easter in harmony with the Jewish reckoning; to omit fasting on Wednesday and on Friday; to disregard the Lord’s supper as a symbol, and to recognize in the eucharist the body and the blood of Christ.

The admission of the council that they believed the New Testament is another significant proof that this was a Christian sect. “Hauck-Herzog’s Realencyclopoedia,” which questions the sect’s being “Jewish,” gives some addition information:

“Be it as it may, its chief aim was not to pay reverence to the mother of God, to images, to the cross, to the eucharist, to fasting and to holidays. The archbishop Gennadius of Novgorod, an admirer of the Spanish Inquisition, instigated its persecution. The chief leaders, Alexey and Deni, supported by the secretary Kuritzyn, gained quite an influence over Ivan III. The metropolitan Zosimus, who favoured them, was never the less forced to condemn them and to afterwards resign. Joseph Hanin fought them passionately in his book, “Enlightener,’ and enforced the principle of everywhere spying out and executing the heretics.” 40

The following further details show what circles were touched by this Sabbath movement:

“Alexis laboured with great success among all classes, especially among the clergy. They included in their membership—Gabriel, the protopope of St. Sophia, the guardian Gregor, and the son of the respected Bojar Tutschin. The new religious community, whose members distinguished themselves through their humility, piety, and temperance, grew more and more,” “They counted amongst their adherents the archimandrite of the Simonow convent, Sosima, the monk Zacharias, the secretary of the grand duke, T. Kuritzyn, and his brother Ivan , the princess Helena, daughter -in -law of the grand duke, the merchant Klenow, and other distinguished persons. They also had quite a following among the people.” “Under such favourable circumstances, protected by men who held the highest honors in the church and state, almost under the protection of the czar himself, this new religious body prospered.”

However, their opponents did not rest. Archbishop Gennadius, like an enraged tiger, persecuted the converts at Novgorod, and by his plots and intrigues, he so prevailed with Czar Ivan Wasiljewitch that he listened to his suggestions.” 41

As to the council held at Moscow in 1490, he adds”

“Some of the ecclesiastical princes who agreed with Gennadius demanded the rack and death for the accused. But the grand duke objected, and, according to his wish, the council contented themselves with cursing the new doctrine. The accursed ones were sent to Novgorod for conversion.” “Gennadius seized upon this opportunity to quench the thirst for revenge, and most cruelly treated those who were sent back. On the outskirts of Novgorod they were placed on horses with their faces toward the tail, in clothes turne dinside out, in pointed helmets of birch,—just as the devil is represented—and around this helmet was the inscription, “This is Satan’s host.’ And in this array the unfortunate ones were led from street to street, the people spitting in their faces, and crying out, ‘These are the enemies of Christ,’. And finally, they burned the helmets upon their heads.”

With regard to the next council, the date of which he places at 1503, he adds:

“The accused were summoned; they openly acknowledged the new faith, and defended the same. The most eminent of the, the secretary of state, Kuritzyn, Dimitr Konoplew, Ivan Maximow, Nekrass, Rukawow, Kassian, archimandrite of the Jury Monastery of Novgorod, were condemned to death and burned publicly in cages, at Moscow, Dec. 27, 1503. Nekrass, Rukawow, and the brother Kassian were burned at Novgorod. This success gained by the opponents was of but short duration, however. Due to the strong influence of Kuritzyn’s party, they prevailed upon the grand duke to confine Gennadius in a monastery at Moscow.”

In finishing, the account from Russia, we look at Sternberg ‘s remarks: “Nearly every town and every large place in the Russian empire records the name of some one who has died for having taught these doctrines.”

Saturday Keeping Condemned In Norway (A.D. 1435)

But there are still more striking facts when we come to consider the Sabbath movement in Scandinavia and in Finland. This extends from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century, during which Roman Catholicism had to give way to Lutheranism in these parts, so that both churches were affected. The minutes of a Catholic provincial council, held in A.D. 1435 at Bergen, Norway, Archbishop Bolt presiding, contain the following interesting information:

“We are informed that some people in different districts of the kingdom, partly through the deception of the devil, have adopted and observed such holy days as neither God nor his holy church has agreed to or ordained, but such as are directly against God and his saints, especially Saturday—keeping, which the Jews and pagans, nut not Christians, are accustomed to keep. It is severely forbidden—in holy church canon—one and all to observe days or introduce new days excepting those which the holy Pope, archbishop, or the bishops command. Sunday is sacred. God himself has sanctified it in a marvellous manner; when he had by his own painful suffering and death redeemed man kind from the bondage of Satan, he arose form the dead on Sunday; on Sunday, too he sent the Holy Spirit to his apostles so that hey could do their appointed work. The other holy days commanded by the church canon have by good and pious friends of God been placed in the holy church to the honor of God’s sacred name and to the saving of wicked men.

“The clergy from Nidaros, Oslo, Stavanger, Bergen, and Hamar, assembled with us in Bergen at this provincial council, are fully united in deciding in harmony with the laws of the holy church that Saturday-keeping must under no circumstances be permitted hereafter further than the church canon commands. Therefore, we counsel all the friends of God throughout all Norway who want to be obedient towards the holy church, to let this evil of Saturday-keeping alone; and the rest we forbid under penalty of severe church punishment to keep Saturday holy. If, however, there be those who on Saturday rather than on other days desire to do good, then let them fast, or give alms to the poor or contribute to the cathedral church , or cloister, from such honest income as they can gain by fishing or other work on Saturday.” 42

At a provincila council held at Osol (Christiania) in 1436, the same archbishop presiding, it was decreed:

Canon 12— It is forbidden under the same penalty [church] fine to keep Saturday holy and abstain from work in that day after the manner of the Jews,” 43

Puzzle To Church Historians

A century before the Reformation, the observance of the true Sabbath still existed in the most northern portion of the papal dominions. What a testimony for its divine vitality! And the Papacy continued to oppose, fine, and condemn! Scandinavian church historians are puzzled to account for this, and various solutions are proposed.

Prof. L. Daae, Norway’s university historian, deals with the subject in a treatise entitled “Evidence in the Norwegian Church of a Religious Influence From Russian.” 44 His evidence is that the threat King Christian made to the Papal See, that if the latter would not yield to Norway’s wish in supplying a successor to Archbishop Bolt (who died in 1449), Norway would join the Russian church. The existence of the Sabbath movement in Norway, which, in his opinion, had its origin with the Christian sect in Russia at perhaps an earlier date than 1470, would convey to the kings’ threat “an expression of facts of some importance.”

J. Fritzner offers another solution, by considering this statute only “a decree against an over strict observance of Saturday in honor of the Virgin Mary,” 45 His grounds for this supposition are: the decree of pope Urban II (1095); an Icelandic legend (later circulated by crafty priests), that “the Virgin Mary agreed with two women in Iceland, to cure them if they in turn would keep Saturday feasts, and sing a third of the psalter every Saturday;” 46 and finally, that a century later two pretenders, calling themselves St. Olaf and St. Nicolas, tried to influence the Lutherans again to regard Saturday in honor of Mary, for which crime the court condemned them to be burned at the stake. 47

If the Pope’s action in turning the Sabbath into a memorial of Mary led some honest people, after closer investigation, to rest on that day in obedience to the divine law in honour of the creation, then the words of2 Cor. 13:8 also apply in this instance. But as Professor Daae suggest from the wording of the decree itself, so we also would see in these words “a confirmation of the fact that Saturday-keeping in Scandinavia was the result of a certain…movement within the church,” and “the result of a desire to keep holy that definite rest day specified in the law of God.” But instead of its being “a certain Judaizing movement,” it was an eminently Christian movement, based upon God’s Word.

The next edict against Sabbath observance in this same region of Norway isdated 1544, shortly after the Reformation had commenced. It reads:

“I, Christopher Huitfeldt, lord of Bergen, Stavanger and Vardoe, greet kindly and with good intention all the people who dwell in the diocese of Bergen. Master Geble Petersen, bishop over your diocese, has informed me that some of you—especially in Aardal, in Sogn—contrary to the warning given you last year, keep Saturday. In this you have done wickedly. .. You ought to be severely punished, but because of the intercession of your bishop, you are pardoned.”

Now it is decided by the local diet for the diocese of Bergen and Stavanger, that whoever shall be found keeping Saturday, must pay a fine of ten marks; this I want you to give heed to …You are rebellious and disobedient in regard to your holy days, since you are discontented with those which the church ordinance and the priest command you to observe. Now then I bid you on behalf of his majesty, the king, that you earnestly and honestly obey his gracious commands. Whoever shall be found transgressing these will be ny my servants punished as a disobedient and rebellious subject.” 48

Lutheran Edicts Against “Saturday Keeping”

Thus the Reformation only changed the name of the persecutor of the true Sabbath-keepers, from the Catholic to the Lutheran Church. And J. Fritzner properly states the case:

“After the Reformation, no better way of making Saturday-keeping despised was found than to pronounce it a Jewish custom.” 49

The Epistle Of Gustacus I To Finnish Sabbatarians

The next document we shall consider, confirms this idea. It is “an open letter addressed to the common people in Finland on account of their error, that they, because of hard times, turn Jews an keep Saturday holy,” The author is none less than King Gustavus Vasa I, of Sweden (A.D. 1496-1560) who introduced the Reformation there. The letter is dated Dec. 6, 1554, and is, in substance:

Some time ago we heard that some of the simple and common people in Finland, doubtless inspired by Satan had fallen into a great error and false belief. They supposed that the hard times were brought upon them by God, because they no longer observed the seventh day, called Saturday, as did the Jews under Moses’ law and government. Therefore, unwilling to work on the day, they decide to follow the Jewish custom We further hear that some of those who have fallen into this error pretend to have dreams and visions urging them to such vain service. This opinion concerning Saturday-keeping, dreams and visions, is, according to the Holy Scripture, an error which harms soul and body. If you do not forsake such contempt of the Word of God, a much greater punishment awaits you. Truly, God inflicts men with various plagues, hard times famine, pestilence, and war, on account of sin, that they might turn from sin and live according to the divine will, as clearly laid down in the Holy Scripture. Furthermore, it is the plan will and earnest command of God that nothing else is to be regarded as sin, save what he himself has forbidden in his command and Word. For by his grace Almighty God has given us his holy law, that we might not be left in uncertainty as to what is right and wrong But God’s Word very clearly teaches us that in the New Testament we are not obliged to keep the seventh day as the Jews did under Moses. We Christian have nothing more to do with the whole government of Moses, for it, as well as all the ceremonies, should only remain until Christ’ advent and ascension, and then they were to cease. That we no longer have to observe the holy days which the Jews had to keep in the Old Testament, Paul proves in Gal. 4:10,11; Col 2:16. The third commandment, in which God requires us to keep the rest day holy, does not mean that we should prefer Saturday to other days; but this is the right meaning and ground of it: that God enjoins and commands that we set apart one day in the week to hear and read God’s Word diligently, and to cease form work and partake of the Lord’s supper. As the Jews had to assemble on the Sabbath, or Saturday in the Old Testament, and to perform the ceremonies given by Moses, so have we Christians in the New Testament, Sunday. For the Bible, and especially the prophecy of Daniel, plainly proves that Moses’ government and all the ceremonies ceased with the coming of Christ. Immediately after the apostles’ time, the Christian church decided, ordained, and approved of no longer using Saturday as an assembly day, but Sunday, seeing that on that day Christ had risen and had overcome the power of hell.

Therefore Sunday is, for everyone who correctly keeps it, a sure and perfect sign that Christ truly came and fulfilled all the prophecies. Therefore can the opinion of those who desire to keep Saturday be only understood in this way, that they do not fully believe that Christ has come and has gained eternal life for us by shedding his precious blood. Christian liberty has been freely granted us, so that we are no longer under the outward law and precepts. Not to believe in such a great and infinite benefits of Christ, seems to us a terrible sin against God, by which his wrath is not reconciled, but increased. Consequently, to keep Saturday and follow dreams and other errors can only lead to damnation. Therefore we not only exhort, but earnestly command all in whatever condition any of you might be who have fallen into such error, to forsake it at once, and to walk according to god’s Word, and to be instructed thereby. 50

That this theological discussion of the first Lutheran king of Sweden, and his royal command to forsake Saturday rest, were backed up by employing force, if not heeded, is a matter of fact, which will plainly appear as we follow the movement to Sweden.

The Sabbath Movement In Sweden

“The Swedish Church After the Reformation,” by Norlin, thus lengthily treats “Saturday-keeping:”

“We find traces of these Jewish doctrines throughout the entire Swedish kingdom, form Finland, northern Sweden, Dalarne, Westmanland, and Neriko, down to Westergotland and Smaaland. Even King Gustavus I was obliged to issue a special letter of warning against the error so general among the laity of Finland.” “The next case of Judaism we find in Westeraas, in 1597. The cathedral records there contain an acount of several trials that yeark of two Jewish teachers—a rich citizen, Hans Jonsson, of Westeraas, and a peasant called Hofdesta Peter.” 51

These two men were forced into a “sealed agreement,” which was read at the city hall before the Lutheran bishop, priests, mayor, and council, “not only to abstain from keeping the Jewish Sabbath, which was an offense to all believers, but also to keep Sunday as other Christians, or else to leave the country.” Both men, breaking this agreement, were placed on a new trial, during which Jonsson died. His son defended his father’s faith until 1618.

Bishop L.A.Anjou says that all we know further of this sect is that a man from Grytnos suffered death in 1519, “because he always disputed with the schoolmasters and priests, and depised our creed and church.” 52

Then Bishop Anjou continues:

Entirely distinct from this antichurch party of Saturday keepers, were the rest who kept Saturday holy, abstaining form all work on it, but who did not separate themselves from the church.” “Whether it was from their own conviction or from a desire to obey the state and church that they kept Sunday and went to church, we know not. Such was this error in the reign of Gustavus I and Carl IX. Had there been in this movement anything which could be regarded as a falling away from Christianity, we would have heard of severe laws and complaints against it.”

“The belief in the sacredness of a Sabbath day could… Very easily raise the question if it was not Saturday that ought to be observed. The people very naturally began to think that the Sabbath law really had no binding force unless applied to that definite day which the old Testament designates. The great liberty associated with Sunday rest, the close application of the Old Testament which in those days was customary at the divine service, and Bible readings, and especially the common practise of following the law of God even in civil lawsuits—all these things could induce the people to study the commandment which commands Saturday-keeping.”

Its Origin And Association With Revivals

Bishop Anjou continues:

“One thing is certain; this belief in Saturday as the Sabbath did not generally stand alone; it was a part of the revival work of those times and connected with preaching and warning against the common sins and vices or the evils regarded as such, namely pride, luxury, fine clothes, Immorality, and contention. God was to be appeased ad a better spirit secured by the keeping of Saturday. This conviction gained such an influence that many not only of the laity, but also priests who were friendly to this zeal for piety, abstained from work on Saturday, which in several places caused much strife. In Westergotland, Smaaland, and Neriko these contentions were especially common. In the last-named place Saturday-keeping was defended by the daughter of a priest from Kumla. After having received several angel visions, which she fully describes, and after having passed through many severe trials from doubts as to her own acceptance with God, and from opposition of enemies—sufferings which caused her bitter agony and even convulsions—she finally herself preached repentance and conversion. Her experiences attracted wide-spread attention. People from far and near gathered to hear the now-renowned woman who had the gift of prophecy. Bishop Paulinos made this matter the topic of a special lecture, which he delivered in the diocese of Streugnos.” 53

Next he informs us that ten farmers of Viste agreed among themselves to pay a sheep as a fine to the church if they should work on Saturday. As one of these worked and refused to pay, the others took his harrow from him by force. The matter was carried to the supreme court. The bishop, being asked for counsel, declared that the Sabbath commandment was not binding in the ceremonial keeping of a definite day, but its moral power was still in force, although the specific application of it had, in harmony with Christian liberty, been transferred to Sunday. The judges still deemed the matter dubios, and in 1628 they brought the question before a general assembly of Lutheran priest. They agreed with their bishop, and demanded that a church penance be paid equal to a civil fine for a similar offense. The court, still feeling incompetent to decide the matter, referred it to the king (Gustavus Adolphus), who fined each party a pair of oxen, or offered them the alternative of working in the chain gang, besides demanding that they make a public confession and ask the pardon f the church.

Bishop Anjou then continues:

“The zeal for Saturday keeping continued for a long time. But the laws in favor of Sunday sacredness became more strict and sweeping. The belief in Saturday was opposed to the church and even little things which might strengthen the practise of keeping Saturday were punished. A priest in Orsa, Dalarne, went (A.D.1646) to the Skattunge chapel to inspect his servant’s work. Some farmers who were going to their pasture lands asked him to preach and hold communion service. He did so—and that on Saturday. For this he was punished by the church at Westeraas, for ‘by holding this service on a Saturday, he had strengthened those still clinging to a Jewish leaven.’ “

A boy in Agumaryd, Vexio diocese, saw (A.D. 1667), in a vision, an angel who exhorted him to be converted, to forsake pride—the most wide-spread sin,—and who taught him that Saturday should be kept holy, and that it is a sin to work on that day.”

Some Lutheran priests of this diocese preached and endorsed this vision; but that was not the case with their bishop, Baazius. Professor Daae adds, with regard to this whole movement, that these people on many occasions suffered death rather than to deny their faith. It was very common for these itinerant preachers, who proclaimed the sacredness of Saturday, to connect their teachings with visions and revelations, just as they did in Norway.” Quite characteristic in these descriptions is the fact that whenever the Sabbath movement resulted in a separate sect being established as at Westeraas, the Sabbatharians are accused of having left Christianity, and seeking an alliance with the Jews. The Lutheran Church was perfectly willing to retain them as members, and then to exterminate the “heresy” gradually.

“A Sect Everywhere Spoken Against,” And “Yet True”.

While thus the observers of the true Sabbath were persecuted all over Europe, at the same time the Papacy employed crafty Jesuits to suppress sabbatarianism in Africa and in Asia, as we have already seen in chapter 21.

What a cloud of faithful witnesses is revealed to us by the Sabbath movement of the fifteenth to the seventeenth century, even from the meager records that have come down to us! What an array of martyrs from every continent that was then known! The Roman and the Greek churches, Lutheran and Calvinistic countries, popes and Reformers, Catholic and Protestant rulers, ecclesiastical and civil powers, from the arctic north to the tropical south, a mighty host, with all their power, talents, and wealth—united to put a stop to the obnoxious “Saturday-keeping,” to brand the Christian observance of the Sabbath of Jehovah as “Jewish,” and to exterminate this “Jewish heresy” by the sword, by the rack, by the dungeon, by fire and by water. But as it was of God, it lived and thrived.

To set over against the “Thus saith the Lord” of the Sabbatarians, even the Reformers have only a mystic, “spiritual” Sabbath, or a “church ordinance”. Their boast of “Christian liberty” often means no liberty but hard oppression for the faithful observer of the Sabbath, in the same way as did the papal supremacy. But as God’s sure word of prophecy foretold, “They shall be helped with a little help,” 54 Contemporaneous with the Reformation, the repairers of the breach” made in God’s law, appear everywhere, and, moved by his Word and Spirit, they, by turning away their foot from the Sabbath, b calling “the Sabbath a delight, the holy of Jehovah, honourable” “build the old waste places” and “raise up the foundations of many generations.” The Sabbath-keepers of these centuries were indeed “the sect everywhere spoken against,” as “deceivers” “and yet TRUE!” The Reformation had restored their only sword of defense—the Word of God—bringing, as its greatest boon to the people, an open Bible, in which the Sabbath is engraved with the finger of God right in the center of his eternal law.

Chapter 26: Protestant Misappropriation Of The Fourth Commandment


Light rejected results in retrogression
Episcopalians and Puritans
Festivals, or Sunday alone
The Puritan Sabbath
Bownd’s sophistry
Secret of its Success
The Protestant Thomas Aquinas, and intolerance.
Papal Sunday canons revived in the kirk
“Book of Sports”
The Grievances at Dort
Articles of Peace Gender Strife
The Puritan Theocracy in New England
Erring Reformers and Wise Puritan
Westminster Confession
Sunday Controversy Renewed
The Barabbas of the Fourth Commandment

Light Rejected Results In Retrogression

The light of the Reformation necessarily dissipated into thin air many of the most substantial arguments by which the Sunday festival had been built up during the Dark Ages. Before the rays of the divine Word, tradition, church Fathers, scholasticism, the power of the church, and the supremacy of the Pope had to yield; the enchantments of rolls from heaven, pretended apparitions and miracles were spoiled when compared to the truths of scripture. Sunday stood naked and bare, stripped of all its false ornaments—a mere human ordinance. Unsupported, it floated in the air.

Faithful witnesses everywhere arose to erect the down-trodden Sabbath of the Most High God. But human ordinances still had such a hold upon the great mass of those who professed Christianity that these loyal believers were reproached and persecuted as pernicious heretics. More light had been offered—a church composed of believers; a faith strengthened through grace to keep God’s commandments; a Sabbath divine, and yet for man; a holy love so firm in truth that it taught freedom of conscience to all; a Christianity leaning so heavily upon divine strength that it kept aloof from the arm of flesh. But as this increased light was rejected, the inevitable followed—decline instead of progress, a stagnant reformation paralysed by a papal counter-reformation.

In describing the conditions after the reformation, a noted writer confirms this sad fact:

“The Lutherans of Germany had gone asleep on the spoils of a great man, and for this they were visited by terrible scourge of the Thirty Years’ War.” “In France the Calvinists and the Catholics ceased their religious strife, and united in seeking earthly treasures. In England and Scotland the tyranny of kings and bishops forced the nation to continue the Reformation; but Calvinism proved insufficient of working a thorough change.,” “while the Reformation had awakened the nations from their grovelling earthly endeavours to a high appreciation of spiritual things, the tide now again recedes, and men’s minds again turn back into the ruts they had been accustomed to before the time of the Reformation,.” 1

Mosheim tells us what influence scholasticism had attained in Protestant theological schools by the seventeenth century:

“During the greatest part of the century no other rule of philosophizing flourished in the schools except the Aristotelicao-Scholastic; and for a long time those who thought Aristotle should either be given up or amended, were considered as threatening as much danger to the church as if they had undertaken to falsify some portion of the Bible.” “Most of the doctors in the universities were more occupied in defending with subtlety the dogmas and tenets of the church than in expounding that Volume whence all solid knowledge of them must be derived.” 2

But did Protestantism, to substantiate Sunday, turn back to the tactics of the Middle Ages, and to scholasticism? Dr. Zahn thus replies:

“But already when the century of the Reformation ended, ’the sophistry of the false prophets,’ which the Protestant churches had refused with an unanimity rarely seen and with a full consciousness of the results of their decision, entered again into the same churches. Here, also, extremes met. It was in the Reformed Church, that church which seemed to exhibit the greatest contrast to the Christianity of the Middle Ages, that the doctrine of Sunday as it had existed during these dark days was first revived.” 3

The cause of this backward movement was an incomplete reformation. Calvin’s criticism on the Reformation in England under Henry VIII is of a much broader application:

“The king is only half wise…He has a mutilated and torn gospel, anda church stuffed full as yet with many toys and trifles,” 4

Episcopalians And Puritans

The Reformed Church on the Continent and in Scotland introduced the rule of the elders, or Presbyterian church government; England retained the Episcopal. The Presbyterians dropped the Catholic vesture, their ceremonies and holidays; the Episcopalians retained them. Sincere men in England, seeing the lack of church discipline as well as these differences, began to clamour for a further purifying, whence their name, Puritans. The vesture of the Episcopal clergy, decried by the Puritans as the “badges of Antichrist,” furnished the desired occasion for the beginning of a controversy, into which soon the question of the festivals entered.

True it was that when the Middle Age structure supporting Sunday was swept away there remained to sustain the festival of Sunday, the canons of councils, the edicts of kings and emperors, the decrees of the holy doctors of the church, and, greatest of all, the imperious mandates of the Roman pontiff. Yet these could be adduced also in behalf of the innumerable festivals ordained by the same great apostate church. Such authority would answer for the Episcopalian, who devoutly accepts of all these festivals, because commanded so to do by the church; but for those who acknowledge the Bible as the only rule of faith, the case was different. In the latter part of the sixteenth century, the Presbyterians and Episcopalians of England were involved in such a controversy as brought this matter to an issue. The Episcopalians required men to observe all the festivals of the church; the Presbyterians observed Sunday, and rejected all the rest. The Episcopalians showed the inconsistency of this discrimination, inasmuch as the same church authority had ordained them all. As the Presbyterians rejected the authority of the church, they would not keep Sunday upon that ground. They had to choose therefore between the giving up of Sunday entirely, and the defence of its observance by the Bible. There was indeed another and a nobler choice that they might have made, viz., to adopt the Sabbath of the Lord, but it was too humiliating for them to unite with those who retained that ancient and sacred institution.

Festivals, Or Sunday Alone

The Puritans demanded that the remainder of the festivals be abolished, “because the continuance of them did nourish wicked superstition in the minds of the people; besides, they are all abused by the papists, the enemies of God, yea, certain of them, as Easter or Pentecost, even by the Jews.”5

This opened up the question of the difference between Sunday and the other festivals. The Reformers consistently placed the church ordinances of Sunday and the other festivals upon an equal footing. So likewise the English law of King Edward VI (A.D. 1547-53), which, as Cox remarks, was undoubtedly drawn up with the full concurrence of the principal Reformers, declares, in its preamble, that the observance of all religious festivals is left to the discretion of the church, and therefore it proceeds to order that all Sundays, with many other days named, should be kept holy. 6

Accordingly, the manner of their observance was also on an equal footing. This same statute of Edward VI expressly allows all persons to work, ride, or follow their calling, whatever it may be, in the case of need. And Archbishop Cranmer’s Visitation Articles even “required the clergy to teach the people that they would grievously offend God if they abstained from working on Sundays in harvest time.”7

An official statement made in 1562 in the Homilies appointed to be read in all the churches, reveals how Sunday was observed: “God was more dishonoured and the devil better served on the Sunday than upon all the days in the week beside.” 8

Mosheim, in referring to it, says that Sunday “sank to the same level” as the other holidays still retained. “It became rather a day of amusement than of devotion. The first Reformers paid no marked attention to this abuse. But as Puritanism gained ground, it brought under general notice the propriety of greater strictness in the observation of Sunday.” 9

According to the liturgy introduced in 1552, all the Episcopalians repeated every Sunday the fourth commandment with the others, saying, “Incline our hearts to keep this law.” This plain contradiction between theory and practise was bound to attract the attention of the Puritans. As persecution drove them to the Bible, they found that the prophets of old spoke of the neglect of the Sabbath as a crying sin of Israel, which brought God’s judgment upon them, Sunday, having been retained by the Reformers, was generally observed. Yet the term “Sunday” was not to be found in the Bible; it savored in every way of heathenism. In order to remove this, instead of changing the day, they changed the title of Sunday, calling it the “Sabbath”.

The Puritan Sabbath

Dr. Pockington calls 1554 “the year of the ‘Sabbath’s nativity,’” but asserts “that it was a full thirty years before the children [of Knox, etc.] could turn their tongues from Sunday to hit upon Sabbath.” 10

The following extract from a Puritan sermon preached at London, Dec. 0, 1576, affords us the best insight into their manner of treating Sunday:

“Assuredly we come nothing near the Jews in this point, for on our Sabbaths all manner of games and plays, banqueting and surfeiting, are very rife… What you get evilly all the week, is worse spent on the Sabbath day…Is this the Lord’s day or no?…Ours savors so of Venus’s court and Bacchus’s kitchen that it may rightly be entitled an abominable and filthy city; and without doubt London shall justify her elder sister Hierusalem, if in time she turn no to the Lord.” 11

This gives us some idea of how nearly Sunday observance had reverted to its heathen origin.

After a false premise had once been implanted in the public mind by attaching the term “SABBATH” to Sunday, it was but a natural conclusion to see in every Sunday accident an instance of God’s judgment for Sabbath desecration. An occasion of this sort was quickly found, nor was “the Gregory” of the English instead of the “the Franks,” and of the Reformation instead of the Middle Ages, lacking, he was found in the person of John Field, a Puritan minister of London. The title of the book tells the story: “God’s judgment showed at Paris Garden, 13th Jan., 1583, being the Sabbath day, at bear-baiting, at the meeting of above one thousand persons, whereof divers were slain, the most maimed and hurt; set out with an exhortation for the better observation of the Sabbath, London, 1583.” 12

The same year “The Anatomy of Abuses”, by Philip Stubbs, spoke of “devilish pastimes” and “God’s judgments” on the “the profaners of the Sabbath,” About the same time Richard Greenham (who died in 1591), a noted Puritan minister, maintained, in “A Treatise of the Sabbath,” that the fourth commandment is a moral law, binding on Christians; and replied to “the wicked heretics” of his time, who denied its obligation. To the objection that the changing of the day by the apostles proves it not to be moral, he answered:

“It was never commanded nor appointed what one certain day should be kept among seven, but that there should be observed a seventh day, which, being kept, it is sufficient, and the law remained inviolate. And yet we permit not that nay man at his pleasure should now change this day. For that which the apostles did, they did not as private men, but as men guided by the Spirit of God; they did it for the avoiding of superstition, wherewith the Jews had infected it.” 13

Robert Greenham was not the inventor of the seventh-part-of-time theory; but he may be said rather to have gathered up and combined the scattered arguments of his predecessors, and to have added to these something of his own production. Such was the beginning of the origin of the seventh-part-of-time theory, by which the seventh day is dropped out of the fourth commandment, and one day in seven slipped into its place; a doctrine most opportunely framed at the very period when nothing else could save the venerable day of the sun.

How hot the controversy waxed is seen by the “fact that the Episcopalians were already called wicked heretics,” for adhering to the position of the Reformers. Greenham’s work foreshadowed the position the Puritans would be forced to take, to reject the distinction made by the Reformers between a moral and a ceremonial part of the fourth commandment, declaring it all to be moral; to prove the divinity of Sunday from the Bible and to establish a divine warrant to the term “Sunday Sabbath,” and justify the application of the fourth commandment to its observance.

A Protestant Thomas Aquinas was needed. The existence of Sunday was a settled fact among the Puritans of Greenham’s day, as it was to the Catholics in the Dark Ages; but as the authority of the Roman Church and of tradition, whereupon the papists had built up Sunday, had been rejected by the Reformers as well as by the Puritans, the task assigned to Puritan scholasticism was even greater, and its outcome still more questionable; yet if successfully accomplished, it would save Presbyterianism from a defeat by the “wicked heretics”.

The straits in which the Puritans found themselves, Hengstenberg thus states:

“The opinion that the Sabbath was transferred to the Sunday was first broached in its perfect form, and with all its consequences, in the controversy which was carried on in England between the Episcopalians and Presbyterians. The Presbyterians, who carried to extremes the principle, that every institution of the church must have its foundation in the Scripture, and would not allow that God had given, in this respect, greater liberty to the church of the New Testament, which his Spirit had brought to maturity, than to that of the Old, charged the Episcopalians with popish leaven, and superstition, and subjection to the ordinances of men, because they retained the Christian feasts. The Episcopalians, on the other hand, as a proof that greater liberty was granted to the New Testament church in such matters as these, appealed to the fact that even the observance of the Sunday was only an arrangement of the church. The Presbyterians were now in a position which compelled them either to give up the observance of Sunday, or to maintain that a divine appointment from God separated it from the other festivals. The first they could not do, for their Christian experience was too deep for them not to know how greatly the weakness of human nature stands in need of regularly returning periods, devoted to the service of God. They therefore decided upon the latter.”14

Bownd’s Sophistry

Their new Tomas Aquinas soon appeared and introduced himself on the title-page of the second edition, of his famous book, entitled, ‘Sabbathum Veteris et Novi Testamenti,’ or the True Doctrine of the Sabbath.(the first appeared in A.D. 1595) as Nicolas Bownd. In this book he maintained `that the seventh part of our time ought to be devoted to God—that Christians are bound to rest on the Lord’s day as much as the Jews were on the Mosaic Sabbath, the commandment about rest being moral and perpetual;

Sabbathum Veteris et Novi Testamenti: of, the true doctrine of the Sabbath held and practised of the church of God, both before and under the law, and in the time of the gospel: plainly laid forth and soundly proved by testimonies both of Holy Scripture, and also of old and new ecclesiastical writers, Fathers, and Councils, and laws of all sorts, both civil, canon, and common. Declaring first from what God would have us straitly to rest upon the Lord’s day, and then by what means we ought publicly and privately to sanctify the same. Together with the sundry abuses of men in both these kinds and how they ought to be reformed.

Divided into two book by Nicolas Bownd, D.D.’ and now by him the second time perused, and enlarged with an interpretation of sundry points belonging to the Sabbath, and a more ample proof of such things as have been gainsaid or doubted of by some divines of our time, and a more full answer unto certain objections made against the same: with some other things not impertinent to this argument. London, 1606.” 15

We are now prepared to listen to the profound wisdom of this doctor of divinity, spread over four hundred seventy-nine pages. For the sake of convenience, we shall divide the subject matter under six different headings:

  1. Morality Of The Sabbath Commandment
    That the fourth commandment is natural, moral, and perpetual is proved by Bownd, as follows:

    “That even the Gentiles, who were ignorant of the law of Moses, of themselves erected other days, which they appointed to a holy and religious us, evidently declared that the law of the Sabbath was so deeply graven in the heart of man at the first by God himself that howsoever the fruit of it was by the fall of Adam, and by sin growing in the posterity, greatly mangled and defaced, so that it could not be read, yet it was not so wholly razed out but that some deformed scratches and scars did appear…Herein therefore I agree with the schoolman who saith, ‘That the commandment of sanctifying the Sabbath is partly moral: moral, inasmuch as a man doth appoint a certain time in his life to attend upon heavenly things, etc. Tom Aquin, 2 Quaest. 133, art. 4” pages 22,23
    “That which is natural, namely that every seventh day should be kept holy unto the Lord, that still remained; that which is positive, namely, that day which was the seventh day from the creation, should be the Sabbath, or day of rest, that is now changed in the church of God.” Page 51

  2. The Sabbath Of The Decalogue One Of Seven,But Not The Seventh
    The meaning of the declaration, “The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God,” is this: “There must be one [day] of seven and not [one] of eight.” Page 66

    “So he maketh the seventh day to be genus in this commandment, and to be perpetual; and in it, by virtue of the commandment, to comprehend these two species or kinds: the Sabbath of the Jews and of the Gentiles, of the law and of the gospel; so that both of them were comprehended in the commandment, even as genus comprehended both his species.” Page 71

  3. Sunday The Sabbath Of The Fouth Commandment

    “So that we have not in the gospel a new commandment for the Sabbath, diverse from that, that was in the law; but there is a diverse time appointed; namely, not the seventh day from the creation, but the day of Christ’s resurrection, and the seventh from that: both of them at several times being comprehended in the fourth commandment.” Page 72
    “That where all other things in the Jewish church were so changed that they were clean taken away, as the priesthood, the sacrifices, and the sacraments, this day, the Sabbath, was so changed that it still remained,” Page 91
    “That there is great reason why we Christians should take ourselves as straitly bound to rest upon the Lord’s day as the Jews were on their Sabbath; for being one of the moral commandments, it bindeth us well as them, all being of equal authority.” Page 247

  4. The Rules For Sunday Observance

    “It must be a notable and singular rest, a most careful, exact, and precise rest, after another manner than men were accustomed.” Page 124 For particulars: no buying of victuals, flesh or fish, bread or drink, to be allowed (pave 158); no carriers to travel (page 160); no packmen nor drovers (Page 162); scholars not to study the liberal arts, nor lawyers to consult the case and peruse men’s evidences (page 163); sergeants, apparitors, and sumners to be restrained from executing their offices (page 164); justices not to examine causes for preservation of the peace (page 166); no man to travel (page 192); ringing of more bells than one not to be justified (page 202), no solemn feast to be made (page 206), nor wedding dinners (page 209); all lawful pleasures and honest recreations, as shooting, fencing, bowling, which are permitted on other days, to be forborne (page 202); all works of necessity to be allowed, but necessity not to be imagined (pages 213-225); no man to speak or talk of pleasures (page 272), or any other worldly matter (page 275).
    Exception: “Concerning the feasts of noblemen and great personages, or their ordinary diet upon this day (which in comparison may be called feasts), because they represent in some measure the majesty of God on earth, …much is to be granted unto them.” Page 211

  5. God’s Judgment On Sabbath Breakers:

    “Among many instances adduced is a wonderful case of a certain nobleman, who, for hunting upon the holy day, was punished by having a child with a head like a dog’s, that in this lamentable spectacle he might see his grievous sin in preferring his dogs and his delight in them before the service of God.” Pages 253, 254

  6. Sunday And Religion To Be Enforced By Civil Law

    “It behooveth all kings, princes, and rulers that profess the true religion to enact such laws, and to see them diligently executed, whereby the honor of God in hallowing these days might be maintained…And indeed this is the chiefest end of all government, that men might not profess what religion they list, and serve God after what manner it pleaseth them best; but that the parts of God’s true worship might be set up everywhere, and all men compelled to stoop unto it, and make profession of it at least wise in the outward discipline of the church; that so thereby we might live more peaceably ourselves, and do more duties unto men.” Pages 465-468

The “sophistry of false prophets” thus entered Calvin’s own church within forty years of his death. That Dr. Bownd had been imbibing their sophistry is proved by his title-page, as well as by his words, “I agree with the schoolman”—Thomas Aquinas. But the special key to the whole theory is in the statement that the seventh day in the commandment was genus, that is to say, it was a kind of seventh day which comprehended several species of seventh days, at least two. He means to say that the fourth commandment enforces one seventh day from the creation to the resurrection of Christ, and since then enforces a different seventh day, namely, the seventh from Christ’s resurrection. Such is the perverse ingenuity by which men can evade the law of God and yet make it appear that they are faithfully observing it.

Secret Of Its Success

But there were weighty reasons to insure the success of this theology. Even grave error becomes bewitching if it be associated with some truth sadly needed at the time. Bishop Hall, eulogizing the small Sabbath treatise of Greenham (six editions of which appeared from A.D. 1599-1612), expresses both the truth and the error in Bownd’s book:

“The Sun of Righteousness, rising upon that day (called the Lord’s day), drew the strength of that moral precept unto it;”

To which Ley, in his work “Sunday a Sabbath” (A.D. 1641), adds:

“For all the virtue and vigor of it is vanished from the Jews’ Sabbath, so that it remains a mere working-day; and if so, the title of rest, surely did not stay behind it, but with the strength was transferred to the day for which it was changed.” 16

As “the strength of God’s moral precept for the weekly rest day” was a sad need of that time, therefore any theory supplying that strength to the man-made Sunday “Sabbath” would be popular with religious people.

Even an Episcopalian defender of holidays, “judicious” Hooker (A.D. 1597), enunciated the oft cited sentence: “We are to account the sanctification of one day in seven a duty which God’s immutable law doth exact forever.” 17

Speaking of the reception of Bownd’s book, Coleman states, “This book spread with wonderful rapidity.” And Fuller says, “It is almost incredible how taking this doctrine was.” In Heylin we read:

“It carried a fair face and show of piety, at the least in the opinion of the common people,…such who did judge thereof, not by the workmanship of the stuff, but the gloss and color. In which it is most strange to se how suddenly men were induced, not only to give way unto it, but without more ado to abet the same; till in the end, and in very little time, it grew the most bewitching error, the most popular deceit, that ever had been set on foot in the Church of England.” 18

The Protestant Thomas Aquinas And Intolerance

But there was a more serious point I which Bownd and the Puritans agreed with papal Sunday legislation and the schoolman. Thomas Aquinas taught that the rights of idolaters, Jews, and infidels ought not to be tolerated. “Heretics deserve not only to be separated from the church by excommunication, but also to be excluded from the world by death.” 19

The National Covenant of Scotland, subscribed in A.D. 1580 and renewed in 1639, recites with much satisfaction the Act 24, Parl, II, king James VI, which “ordains all papists and priests to be punished with manifold civil and ecclesiastical pains, as adversaries to God’s true religion, preached, and by law established, within this realm.” Likewise the Presbyterian General Assembly threatens the same against such as “b spreading error or heresy or by fomenting schisms…disturb the peace of the kirk.” 20

Dr. Bownd also advocates such intolerance: “The chiefest end of all government” is “that the parts of God’s true worship might be set up everywhere, and all men compelled to stoop unto it;” also that “it behooveth all.. .rulers that profess the true religion to enact such laws, and to see them diligently executed, whereby the honor of God in hallowing these days might be maintained.”

Papal Sunday Canons Revived In The Kirk

Acting on this very principle, the Puritans repaid intolerance with intolerance, and the triumphant march of the Puritan “Christian Sabbath” (some Episcopalians called it “the new idol of St. Sabbath”) thus gained its greatest support from oppressive civil and ecclesiastical Sunday laws.

How near the Sunday legislation of Scotland, where Knox suppressed all holidays save Sunday, approaches the papal canons, some samples will demonstrate:

“For good order to be observed in convening to hear the word of God upon the Sabbath day…the session has ordained captors (afterwards named searchers) to be chosen to visit the whole town, according to the division of the quarters, and to that effect every Sunday there shall pass a bailie (sheriff) and elder, two deacons, and two officers armed with their halberds, and the rest of the bailies and officers to be I attendance, to assist to apprehend transgressors, to be punished conform to the acts of the kirk.”

“This practise was soon afterwards universally observed throughout all the towns of Scotland, and continued to be observed, I believe, with scarcely any interruption for one hundred fifty years.” 21

In A.D. 1579 the Scotch parliament passed a law that no markets or fairs be held on Sunday, or any merchandise be sold under pain that such be forfeited; that for working on Sunday the fine be ten shillings, for gambling, playing, passing to taverns, selling of meat and drink, and wilfully remaining away from their parish kirk, during the time of sermon or prayer on Sunday, twenty shillings for the relief of the poor. In case of the refusal or inability of any person to pay said fines after a lawful trial, “he or she shall be put and holden in the stocks, or such other engine, devised for public punishment, forr the space of twenty-four hours.” (Italic ours). This law, as well as its successors, was suggested by the Presbyterian clergy. The papal Saturday vigils, introduced by James III, were suppressed in 1592.

In 1590 the kirk session ordained “that the Sabbath should be from sun to sun.” Feb. 6, 1592, the Glasgow presbytery fined Craig ten shillings for absence from church, required him to make confession in the kirk two Sundays, and to furnish surety, under pain of ten pounds’ fine, to be present on Sundays in the future.

In 1595 Dugall, who went to Cramond on Sunday, with shoes, was to be publicly rebuked; if the offense was repeated, he was to be fined twenty and forty shillings, and finally, if he persisted, to be banished from the parish.

Cox records a long list of fines for selling milk, for fishing, for playing bowls, football, and even for scolding on Sunday.

In 1644 the “Six Sessions” of Edinburgh ordained that no person should be found vaging, walking, and going upon the streets even after the afternoon sermon. And Aug. 5, 1646, it was ordained that all the gates of Edinburgh be closed, only that the south gate be open for a time morning and evening, to water the stock, where a faithful man was to be placed as guard, “for restraining the people’s forth breaking.” In 1655 and 1656 the Sessions ordained that on Sunday there be no loafing, going about up and down the streets, or going to Castle Hill or Gardens and open places for sport and pastime, else they be censured, committed to prison, and severely punished.

The following ordinance of April 5, 1658 caps the climax:

“The magistrate is to cause some Inglish soldiers to go along the streets, and those out parts above written, both before sermon and after sermon, and lay hold upon both young and old whom they find out of their houses or out of the church.” 22

The Episcopal Church of England, on the other hand, was more intolerant in religious matters. Hundreds of conscientious Puritan ministers had been deprived of their parishes on account of “toys and trifles.” After some delay, attempts were made by Archbishop Whitgift in 1599, and by Chief Justice Popham in 1600, to call in and suppress Bownd’s book; but “it ran the faster from friend to friend in transcribed copies,” and in 1606 the enlarged edition appeared. The successful circulation of Bownd’s book was the signal for such a host of similar books for and against, that, as one said, “the Sabbath itself had no rest.” The Episcopalians issued (1603) “Constitutions and Canons,” omitting the dispensation in favor of work in harvest-time, but ordaining that all within the Church of England “shall keep Sunday and other holy days, according to God’s holy will and the order of the Church of England.”

“Book Of Sports”

Next the king spoke in his notorious “Book of Sports,” May 24, 1618. The following extracts give the reason for publishing the book, and its aims:

“Whereas, upon our return the last year out of Scotland, we did publish our pleasure touching the recreations of our people in those parts…”

“Whereas, we did justly, I our progress through Lancashire, rebuke some Puritans and precise people, and took order that the like unlawful carriage should not be used by any of them hereafter, in the prohibiting and unlawful punishing of our good people for using their lawful recreations and honest exercises upon Sundays and other holy days, after the afternoon sermon or service…We heard the general complaint of our people that they were barred from all lawful recreation and exercise upon the Sunday afternoon…which can not but produce two evils; the one, the hindering of the conversion of many whom their (papists) priest will take occasion herby to vex, persuading them that no honest mirth or recreation is lawful or tolerable in our religion…The other inconvenience is that this prohibition debars the common and meaner sort of people from using such exercises as may make their bodies more able for war…and in place thereof sets up filthy tipplings and drunkenness…For when shall the common people have leave to exercise, if not upon the Sundays and holy days?”

“Our pleasure likewise is that the bishop of the diocese take the like straight order with all the Puritans…either constraining them to conform themselves or to leave the country…And as for our good people’s lawful recreation, our pleasure likewise, is that after the end of the divine service, our good people be not disturbed, letted, or discouraged from any lawful recreation, such as dancing, either men or women, archery for men, leaping, vaulting, etc…But withal we do here account still as prohibited all unlawful games…bear and bull baiting, interludes and . . Bowling.”

“And likewise we bar from this benefit and liberty, all such known recusants…as will abstain from coming to church… Prohibiting I like sort the said recreations to any that, though conform in religion, are not present I the church…We likewise straightly command that every person shall resort to his own parish church to hear divine service, and each parish by itself t use the said recreation after divine service.” 23

D’Israeli comments on this book:

“In Europe, even among the Reformed themselves, the Sabbath, after church service, was a festival-day; and the wise monarch could discover no reason why, in his kingdom, it should prove a day of penance and self-denial.” 24

The historian Hallam wisely remarks:

“This much at least is certain, that when the Puritan party employed their authority in proscribing all diversions, …they rendered their own yoke intolerable to the youthful and gay; nor did any other cause, perhaps, so materially contribute to bring about the restoration. But mankind loves sport as little as prayer by compulsion.” 25

The Puritans refused to read the declaration in the pulpits, and the “Book of Sports” gave only additional grounds for Puritan emigration.

The Grievances At Dort

As early as 1607 various Puritans fled to Holland, and transplanted this new Sunday theory to the Continent. It was first published there in two works on ethics, by Udemann of Zurich, in 1612, and Teelling of Holland, in 1617. This caused a similar controversy to spring up in Holland, which was to be settled at the most important Reformed council ever held, at Dort. From Nov. 13,1618, until May 19, 1619, the leading Reformed divines from different parts of Europe wrestled with the knotty question of predestination. But the role the Sunday question played, and the attitude of some English and Continental divines toward it, is very significant:

“Complaints were made by the English at the fourteenth session, about the profanation of the Lord’s day by gaming, etc. ; and they recommended an application to the civil magistrate to bring the people to the afternoon service, ‘in order to have them keep the whole Sabbath as they ought’. Then ‘they (the synod) prayed the foreign divines to acquaint them with their customs with respect to this matter; whereupon the English bishop [Carlton, of Llandaff] told them first, that in his country the civil magistrate set a fine or pecuniary penalty upon those who forbore coming to divine service, according to their duty; and such a fine wrought much more on the people than any of the most pious exhortations.’ 26

“Those of the Palsgrave’s Country showed that each Sunday they had two sermons, and such as were absent were first admonished by the clergy; and if this sufficed not, they required the help of the civil magistrate. 27

“At the on hundred forty-eighth session they [the English divines] likewise took notice of the great scandal which the neglect of the Lord’s day at Dort gave them, exhorting the synod to interpose with the magistrates for preventing the openings of shops and the exercise of trade on Sundays. Upon this occasion one of the inland divines brought upon the stage the question about the observation of that day; but this point was reserved among the gravamina [grievances] to be discussed by the Dutch clergy only, after the departure of the foreigners, 28

“After the departure of the foreigners from Dort, the Dutch divines held twenty-six sessions more, in order to finish those matters which they had reserved to themselves, or which were particularly referred them.

“On the sixteenth of May, 162d session, afternoon, it was resolved that the churches shall solemnize or keep, together with the Lord’s day, likewise Christmas day, Easter, and Whitsunday, and the day immediately following each of the said festivals. And…the ministers of all those places where the said days are not as yet observed, shall use their endeavours with the civil powers to bring them all to an exact uniformity,

“And on the seventh of May, 163d session, morning, it was resolved to apply to their High Mightinesses the States General, to obviate and restrain, by new ordinances and strict placards, the manifold profanations of the Sabbath, which increased more and more, and spread themselves over all these provinces.

“Upon the occasion of this resolution, there arose some debates in the synod, about the question of the necessity of the observation of the Lord’s day. This question had already been started and canvassed in some of the churches of Zealand. And now the professors of divinity…desired…to consider whether there might not be some general regulations thought of, and drawn up by common consent, within the limits of which both parties might rest contented till the new national synod should take further cognizance of the matter.” 29

Articles Of Peace Gender Strife

A commission, consisting of Professors Gomarus, Walacus, Thysius, and Festus Hommius, was chosen, who prepared the following six articles of peace:

  1. In the fourth commandment of the law of God, there is something ceremonial, and something moral.
  2. The resting upon the seventh day after the creation, and the strict observation of it, which was particularly part of that law.
  3. But the moral part is, that a certain day be fixed and appropriated to the service of god, and as much rest as is necessary to that service and the holy meditation upon him.
  4. The Jewish Sabbath being abolished, Christians are obliged solemnly to keep holy the Lord’s day.
  5. This day has ever been observed by the ancient Catholic church, from the time of the apostles.
  6. This day ought to be appropriated t religion in such a manner as that we should abstain from all servile works at that time, excepting those of charity and necessity; as likewise from all such diversions as are contrary to religion.

Though the Reformed divines at Dort disagreed and were divided on predestination; though the Continental retained the holy days; though there was a disagreement as to the nature of the Sunday institution, and even as to the manner of its observance; yet there was one thing in which they did agree, the necessity of more Sunday legislation to force church attendance.

Not only was the magistrate’s help required to force church attendance on Sunday in the Palgrave’s country but even while the Reformers were alive, the Protestant states meddled with purely religious questions to such and extent that at Stuttgart (1536) any not attending the sermon on Sunday and holidays “were to be fined with money or else imprisonment in the tower.” 30

This synod at Dort accepted the Heidelberg catechism as its standard. Hengstenberg attests that the synod attempted to put an end to the Sunday controversy by stifling the discussion and by suppressing all that had been said about Sunday in the reprint of their minutes. 31 But instead of the articles even giving satisfaction for any length of time, the controversy was renewed with greater warmth than ever. It spread through all the academies of Holland, and especially at Leyden, until the states general issued (Aug. 7, 1659) an edict, prohibiting any further discussion, and referring to the six articles as final.

The Puritan Theocracy In New England

Here we pause to follow the Pilgrim Fathers on their long voyage to New England . The Puritans, bound to establish their theocracy, and discovering that in Holland they could not be a law unto all other, and thus seeking to escape the intolerance manifested against them, in 1629 departed for the New World, where they realized their ideal, and set up a theocracy in several colonies.

In New Haven, Connecticut, and Massachusetts the Bible was adopted as a code of laws; heresy was punished with fines, banishment, and in “obstinate cases” even with death. The “blue laws”, drawn up in 1656 by Governor Eaton, declared:

“Whosoever shall profane the Lord’s day, or any part of it, by work or sport, shall be punished by fine, or corporally. But if the court, by clear evidence, find that the sin was proudly, presumptuously, and even with a high hand committed against the command and authority of the blessed God, such person therein despising and reproaching the Lord shall be put to death. Num. 15:30-36.” 32

Drs. Hessey and Cox mention some other ordinances: “Not to run on the Sabbath day or walk in the garden or elsewhere, except reverently to and from meeting,”—precisely the same as we found in the Scotch laws.

Some question these laws, and quote one of 1773 instead; but even that law covers nearly four pages of fine type in Dr. W.F.Crafts’s book and a few samples will suffice: For neglect of attending worship, ten shillings’ fine; the same for work, “game, sport, play, or recreation on the Lord’ day or on a day of public fasting or thanksgiving.” For rude behavior, “shouting, hallooing, screaming, running, riding, dancing, jumping, forty shillings,: For traveling on that day, twenty shillings. For leaving home, to go to any other place than to church, five shillings. For meeting in companies on the streets, three shillings or to sit in the stocks not to exceed two hours. That “the grand jurymen and the said tithing-men and constables of each town shall carefully inspect the behavior of all persons on the Sabbath, or Lord’s day… To restrain all persons from unnecessarily walking in the streets or fields, swimming in the water, keeping open their shops, or following their secular occasions or recreations in the evening preceding the Lord’s day, or on said day or evening following.” 33

Erring Reformers And Wise Puritan

The theocracy of Constantine and of the Papacy found a fair rival in that of the Puritans. The tyranny they feared under the “Book of Sports,” was exercised upon their own members to such an extent that a sturdy Puritan, W. Blackstone, protested: “I came from England because I did not like the lord bishops; and I can not join you, because I would not be under the lord brethren.”

Again reverting our attention to England” Charles I reissued (Oct. 18, 1633) the “Book of Sports.” The Puritans, gaining political ascendancy, soon retaliated. J. Pocklington, D.D., published his sermons, “Sunday No Sabbath” (London, 1636) and it was eagerly bought, especially by students. The long Parliament, beginning Nov. 3, 1640, ordered it “to be publicly burnt by the common executioner in both the universities and in the city of London.” 34 The author lost all his offices, and only his death (1642) prevented their fury.

Also as a fair sample of Puritan literature, we refer to the following, which appeared in 1636; “A Divine Tragedy lately Acted: or a Collection of Sundry Memorable Examples of God’s Judgments upon Sabbath-breakers and Other Like Libertines, in Their Unlawful Sports.” The instances quoted compare favourably with some of Gregory of Tours, all things considered. 35

With the reign of the Puritans, the time had now come for Dr. Bownd’s theory to be formulated by the Westminster divines in the statements made in their “Confession of Faith,” and in their “Larger” and “Shorter” catechisms. Two divines, Cawdrey and Palmer, vindicated it in elaborate works published in 1645 and 1652. The animus of that assembly is characterized by the following ordinance, passed April 6, 1644, and entitled “Restraint of Several Evils on the Lord’s Day.”

“Forasmuch as the Lord’s day, notwithstanding several good laws heretofore made, hath been not only greatly profaned, but divers ungodly books have been published by the prelatical faction against the morality of that day, and to countenance the profanation of the same, to the manifest endangering of souls, prejudice of the true religion, great dishonor of Almighty God, and provocation of his just wrath and indignation against this land; the lords and commons, for remedy thereof, do order and ordain: that merchandise offered for sale on the Lord’s day shall be forfeited, fine of ten shillings for unnecessary traveling, and five shillings for any worldly labor or work, and for all sports.

And it is further ordained…that…the book intituled ‘The Kings’ Majesty’ Declaration to His Subjects Concerning Lawful Sports to Be Used,’ and all other books and pamphlets that have been or shall be written, printed, or published against the morality of the fourth commandment or of the Lord’s day, or to countenance the profanation thereof, be called in, seized, suppressed, and publicly burned by the justices of peace…Further ordained that this ordinance be printed and published, and read I all parish churches and chapels. 36

“May 5, 1644, the book tolerating sport upon the Lord’s day was burned by the hand of the common hangman in Cheapside and other usual places.” 37

The following from the “Sabbath These,” by Th, Shepard, a New England pastor, who emigrated about 1634, gives us an insight into the way in which they viewed the attitude of the reformers as compared with their own:

“The Day-star from on high visiting the first Reformers in Germany enabled them to see many things, and to scatter much, yea, most, of the popish and horrible darkness which generally overspread the face of all Europe at that day; but divers of them did not (as well they might not) see all things with the like clearness, whereof this understanding of the Sabbath hath seemed to be one. Their chief difficulty lay here; they saw a moral command for a seventh day, and yet withal a change of that first seventh day, and hence thought that something in it was moral in respect of the command, and yet something ceremonial, because of the change; and therefore they issued their thoughts here, that it was partly moral and partly ceremonial, and hence their observation of the day hath been (answerable to their judgments) more lax and loose;…therefore, though posterity hath caused forever to admire God’s goodness for that abundance of light and life poured out by those vessels of glory in the first beginnings of reformation, yet in this narrow view of the Sabbath it is no wonder if they stepped a little beside the truth.…But why the Lord Christ should keep his servants in England and Scotland to clear up and vindicate this point of the Sabbath, and welcome it with more love than some precious ones in foreign churches no man can imagine any other cause than God’s own free grace and tender love, whose wind blows where and when it will.” 38

Westminster Confession

During this time the assembly of divines busied themselves with the formation of the Westminster Confession. A further instance of the intolerant spirit prevailing among these divines is that when they learned of their army’s defeat, one of the causes ascribed for it in their session of Sept. 10, 1644, was their remissness in “suppressing Anabaptists and Antinomians”. And a Scotch divine, Gillespie, argued in his sermon of Aug. 27, 1645, that liberty of conscience never ought to be granted in religious matters. 39

The most noise and disturbance were caused, however, on June 8, 1647, when Christmas, Easter, etc., ceased to be festivals. Instead of them, and on account of their stringent Sabbath laws, every second Tuesday in each month was allotted for scholars, apprentices, and other servants as a time of recreation. 40

There was a long debated as to the title of Sunday. Parliament caused the divines a great deal of trouble by demanding that Bible texts be appended to all their articles. But finally the following article was passed, being chapter 21, section 7:

“As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God’ so in his Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment, binding all men in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him, (*1) which from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week; and from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, (*2) which in Scripture is called the Lord’s day, (*3) and is to be continued to the end of the world as the Christian Sabbath (*4)”

(*1)—Ex. 20:8-11; Isa. 56:2,4,6,7; (*2)—Gen. 2:2-3; I Cor. 16:1,2; Acts 20:7; (*3)—Rev. 1:10; (*4)—Ex. 20:8.10 with Matt. 5:17,18

This confession was approved (A.D.1647) by the general assembly of the kirk, and ratified by the Scottish acts of parliament in 1649 and 1690. Yet as late as 1705 this same assembly passed an act against the profanation of the Lord’s day “by multitudes of people walking idly upon the streets of… Edinburgh, …and because the concurrence and assistance of the civil government will be absolutely necessary for the better curbing and restraining this crying sin.” 41

As the Westminster confession, the Methodists adopted it, as well as some of the Baptists, etc,; but after having seen how the Sunday was not worked into the English speaking flesh and blood, even by all the laws until 1705, we will let Dr. Schaff speak of the extent of this new theory:

“The anglo American theory of the Lord’s day, which is based on the perpetual essential obligation of the fourth commandment, as a part of the moral law to be observed with Christian freedom in the light of Christ’s resurrection, is of Puritan origin at the close of the sixteenth century and was first symbolically sanctioned by the Westminster standards in 1647, but has worked itself into the flesh and blood of all English-speaking Christendom,” 42

Sunday Controversy Renewed

Returning to the Continent, we find that even the edict of 1689 could not prevent a new outbreak of the controversy. This time the professors of Groningen and Utrecht were the chief participators. Finally, by the beginning of the eighteenth century maters ended by nearly all the Reformed bodies on the Continent acquiescing in the purely ecclesiastical view. Gradually this theory also gained ground in Germany, but Fecht, of Rostock (1688), refuted it, and the general superintendent Schwartz denounced it as “false doctrine, and to be fraught with evil consequences to the land.” However, it found able defenders in Stryk and Buddaeus, and also in a certain sense, in Spener, who founded the German pietists (1680).

Spener rested the perpetuity of the Sabbath law on the blessing experienced, which Dr. Chalmers long afterward thus expressed: “That , while a day of unmeaning drudgery to the formalist, it is, to every real Christian, a day of holy and heavenly delight—that he loves the law, and so has it graven on the tablet of his heart, with a power of sovereignty over his actions, which it never had when it was only engraven on a tablet of stone, wherever there is a true principle of religion, felt, not as bondage, but is felt to be the very beatitude of the soul,” 43

In the light of this statement, true Sabbath-keeping is the work of God’s law and Spirit, and not of civil or ecclesiastical legislation. After all this heated controversy, lasting over two centuries, and extending even across the waters, Mosheim, taking neither side, tried to find a golden medium of his own invention, and like hundreds of his predecessors, he failed.

Protestantism at the end of the eighteenth century finds itself divided into three large hostile camps,—the Continental, English American, and the Gnostic,—one advocating the Sunday festival of the Reformers, another the Christian Sabbath of the Puritans, and the third the mystic day of the Gnostics; but all crying for civil aid to stay up the human Sunday ordinance of the papacy.

Most forcibly did old Cotton Mather observe:

“The reforming churches, flying from Rome, carried some of them more, some of them less, all of them something, of Rome with them; especially that spirit of imposition and persecution which has too much cleaved unto them all.” 44

One sacred treasure which they all carried with them as they left their mother church, Babylon the Great, is the ancient festival of the sun. She had crushed the true Sabbath of the Lord from her communion, and having adopted the venerable day of the sun, she had, by virtue of a new law invented by her sophistry, changed this day into the Lord’s day of the Roman Church, as a signal mark of her authority over the Bible. The Reformed churches, flying from her communion, while at first protesting against her sophistry and power, still carried this unscriptural festival with them. However, by employing the same sophistry and by the use of similar pretences later on, they were finally able to justify the observance of this Lord’s day of the Roman Church by virtue of a misappropriation of the Sabbath commandment of the bible, as the veritable Sabbath of the Bible, yea, as “the Christian Sabbath,” and to enforce by the arm of flesh.

The Barabbas Of The Fourth Commandment

As the seamless coat of Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath, was torn from him before he was nailed to the cross, so was the fourth commandment torn from the rest day of the Lord, around which it was placed by the great lawgiver, and given to this papal Lord’s day’ and this Barabbas, the robber, thus arrayed in the stolen fourth command, challenged from that time onward, with astonishing success, the obedience of the world as the divinely appointed Sabbath of the most high God.

Chapter 27: The Sabbath From The Seventeenth To The Nineteenth Century


Sabbath Observance the Logical Result
Spread of Sabbatarians
The Stennet family
John James’ martyrdom
Status of English Seventh-day Baptists
Causes for Decline
Mumford in New England
First Seventh-day Baptists Church at New port
Seventh-day Baptist General Conference
Israelites and Abrahamites
Sabbath Suppressed in Transylvania
Rabinowitch and his Work
Tennhardt’s Writings and Labours
Count Zinzendorf a Sabbath keeper
Blessed Sabbaths at Bethlehem
Konrad Beissel
Harmony Between Law and gospel
A New World Provided for the Sabbath Seed

Sabbath Observance The Logical Result

The Edenic memorial of the creation of all things through Christ has not lacked faithful witnesses even in the darkest days of apostasy. Although the Reformers missed the priceless gem among the rubbish of man-made rest days’ although the Puritans tried even to place a counterfeit Sabbath in the divine setting of ten commandments, yet the true Israel, having the ten words written in their hearts by the Holy Spirit, held forth the true Sabbath to the gaze of honest souls, radiant with the luster of God’s own Word.

Then it was from the beginning, and so it was in England from the sixteenth century onward, as Chambers’s Cyclopedia attests:

“In the reign of Elizabeth, it occurred to many conscientious and independent thinkers (as it had previously done to some Protestants in Bohemia) that the fourth commandment required of them the observance, not of the first, but of the specified seventh day of the week, and a strict bodily rest, as a service then due to God; while others, though convinced that the day had been altered by divine authority took up the same opinion as to the Scriptural obligation to refrain from work. The former class became numerous enough to make a considerable figure for more than a century in England, under the title of ‘Sabbatarians’—a word now exchanged for the less ambiguous appellation of ‘Seventh-day Baptists.’” 1

Papists had boldly challenged the Reformers: “If you turn from the church to the Scriptures, then you must keep the Sabbath with the Jews, which had been kept from the beginning of the world.”

Luther realized that if any one defended the morality and perpetuity of the ten commandments, “Sunday would have to give way, and the Sabbath must be kept holy.”

The learned Bishop Prideaux, in his discourse at the Oxford University (1622), pronounced this decision: “If they [the Puritans] observe it as a Sabbath, they must observe it because God rested on that day; and then they ought to keep that day whereon god rested, and not the first day, a now they do, whereon the Lord began his labours.” 2

And even Charles I queried of the Parliament commissioners (April 23, 1647):

“I desire to be resolved of this question, Why the new reformers discharge the keeping of Easter? My reason for this query is, I conceive the celebration of this feast was instituted by the same authority which changed the Jewish Sabbath into the Lord’s day, or Sunday, for it will not be found in Scripture where Saturday is discharged to be kept, or turned into the Sunday; wherefore it must be the church’s authority that changed the one and instituted the other; therefore my opinion is, that those who will not keep this feast may as well return to the observation of Saturday, and refuse the weekly Sunday. When anybody can show me that herein I am in error, I shall not be ashamed to confess and amend it; till when you know my mind.” 3

Thorndike, in his “Principles of Christian Truth”, thus states the case;

“Surely those simple people who of late times have taken upon them to keep the Saturday (though it were in truth and effect no less than the renouncing of their Christianity), did not more than pursue the grounds which their predecessors had laid, and draw the conclusion which necessarily follows upon the premises, that if the fourth commandment be in force, then either the Saturday is to be kept, or the Jews were never tied to keep it.” 4

And yet when some drew the only logical conclusion from this controversy between the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians, they were regarded as heretics by both parties.

John Traske

John Traske began to speak and write in favor of the seventh day as the Sabbath of the Lord, about the time that King James I., and the archbishop of Canterbury, published the famous “Book of Sports for Sunday,” in 1618. Bishop Cox says of Traske:

“This writer is mentioned by Heylin (part 2, chap. 8, par. 10) as one who, following the Sabbatarian principles of the Puritans to their legitimate consequences, ’endeavored to bring back again the Jewish Sabbath, as that which is expressly mentioned in the fourth commandment, and abrogate the Lord’s day altogether, as having no foundation in it, nor warrant by it…For which his Jewish doctrines having received his censure in the Star Chamber, anno 1618, he was set on the pillory at Westminster, and thence whipped to the Fleet, and there put in prison, and about three years after wrote a recantation of all his former heresies and schismatically opinions.” 5

It was when Traske was before the Star Chamber that Bishop Andrews first brought forward that now famous First-day argument, that the early martyrs were tested by the question, “Hast thou kept the Lord’s day?”

See chapter 14 to understand the true question asked the early martyrs. The neuter dominium never signifies Lord‘s day, but the Lord’s supper.

The cruel treatment and the misery of the prison broke Traske’s spirit, his good wife, who had been a school-teacher of superior excellence, persevered. Pagitt says that she was particularly careful in her dealings with the poor, knowing that she would have to give an acoount for it, and then continues:

“Therefore she [Mrs. Traske] resolved to go by the safest rule, rather against then for her private interest…She was a woman endued with many particular virtues, well worthy the imitation of all Christians, had no error in other things, especially a sprit of strange unparalleled opinionative ness and obstinacy in her private conceits…At last for teaching only five days in the week, and resting upon Saturday, it being known upon what account she did it, she was carried to the new prison in Maiden Lane, a place then appointed for the restraint of several other persons of different opinions from the Church of England…

“Mrs Traske lay fifteen or sixteen years a prisoner for her opinion about the Saturday Sabbath; in all which time she would receive no relief from anybody, notwithstanding she wanted much, alleging that it was written, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ neither would she borrow, because it was written, ‘Thou shalt lend to many nations and shalt not borrow,’ So she deemed it a dishonor to her Head, Christ, either to beg or borrow. Her diet for the most part during her imprisonment, that is, till a little before her death, was bread and water, roots and herbs; no flesh nor wine, nor brewed drink. All her means was an annuity of forty shillings a year; what she lacked more to live upon she had of such prisoners as did employ her sometime to do business for them,” 6

Theophilus Brabourne

But the chain of god’s witnesses is always preserved by the addition of new links, although a voice may be silenced in prison, or some may recant. A more ready pen was that of Theophilus Brabourne, a minister of the established church, at Norfolk. Of his book and person, Bishop Cox gives this full information:

“Brabourne, T …A Discourse Upon the Sabbath Day; wherein are handled these particulars ensuing:

  1. 1. That the Lord’s day is not Sabbath day by divine institution.
  2. 2. An exposition of the fourth commandment, so far forth as may give light unto the ensuing discourse; and particularly here it is shown at what time the Sabbath day would begin and end, for the satisfaction of those who are doubtful on this point.
  3. 3. That the seventh-day Sabbath is not abolished.
  4. 4. That the seventh-day Sabbath is now still in force.
  5. 5. The author’s exhortation and reasons, that nevertheless there be no rent from our church as touching practise (A.D. 1628). Page 238

”Brabourne is a much abler writer than Traske, and may be regarded as the founder in England of the sect at first known as Sabbatarians, but now calling themselves Seventh-day Baptists. This sect arose in Germany in the sixteenth century…

“The argument for the observance of the Lord’s day from the practise of the apostles is thus handled by Brabourne: ‘Now touching the constant practise of the apostles alleged: I deny it;…where can it be shown that Peter ever preached twice in all his life, or Paul, . . On the Lord’s day? Or let them put all the apostles together, and were is it found that amongst them all they ever at any time preached two Lord’s days immediately and successively, one next following the other together?”. .. He even turns the argument against its employers: ‘Whereas they build upon the practise of the apostles; preaching, so as on what day they preached constantly, that day must needs be a Sabbath; why then, if this argument be a good one, Saturday, the Lord’s Sabbath on the seventh day, must needs be our Sabbath; for the apostles after Christ’ resurrection did constantly preach upon the Sabbath day, which was the day before the Lord’s day: see for the truth hereof these texts: Acts 13:14,42,44; 16:13; 17:2; 18:4. Pages 33-36

“’And now let me propound unto your choice these two days: the Sabbath day on Saturday, or the Lords; day on Sunday… If you keep the Lord’s day, but profane the Sabbath day, you walk in great danger and peril (to say the least) of transgressing one of god’s eternal and inviolable laws, the fourth commandment; but on the other side if you keep the Sabbath day, though you profane the Lord’s day, you are out of all gunshot and danger, for so you transgress no law at all, since Christ nor his apostles did ever leave any law for it.’” page 220 7

Cox adds that the book is very poorly printed. Brabourne’s apology is, that by reason of some troubles raised up against himself and his book, he had to leave, and peruse and correct his proofs away from the press. It is noticeable that Bishop Cox recognizes the link between the Sabbatarians springing up on the Continent the previous century and those who arose in England. Soon afterward, Brabourne must have written his Defense, the second edition of which appeared in 1632, according to Cox;

“A Defense of that most ancient and sacred ordinance of God’s, the Sabbath day…Undertaken against all anti-Sabbatarians, both of Protestants, papists, antinomians, and Anabaptists.”. ..Second edition, 1632, page 633

“For maintaining, on the ground of the morality of the Sabbath, and the want of divine authority for transferring it to Sunday, that the seventh day of the week, not the first, ought to be kept holy, and for his boldness in dedicating so heretical a work as this Defense to Charles I, Brabourne was summoned before the high commission, ‘whose well tempered severity,’ says Fuller, ‘herein so prevailed upon him, that, submitting himself to a private conference, and perceiving the unsoundness of his own principles, he became a convert, conforming himself quietly to the Church of England. His followers, however, did not all accompany him back to orthodoxy.”8

In his Defense (page 1), he remarked: “I am tied in conscience, rather to depart with my life than with his truth; so captivated is my conscience and enthralled to the law of my God,”

Davis writes:

“For some reason, it is not possible to ascertain distinctly what, though probably overawed by the character of the assembly, he signed a recantation…Nevertheless, he continued to assert that if the Sabbatic institution be indeed moral and perpetually binding, the seventh day ought to be sacredly kept.” 9

That this is so, we find from the following notice of another book by T. Brabourne, called,

“An Answer to Two Books on the Sabbath: the one by Mr. Ives, entitled, ‘Saturday No Sabbath Day;’ the other by Mr. Warren, ‘The Jews’ Sabbath Antiquated,’. London 1659” 10

That Brabourne, as Gilfillan claims, finally kept no day, proves that although he failed to continue to keep the seventh day amid the trial of persecution, yet he remained firmly settled to the end, that if any day should be kept, it must be the Sabbath of the Commandment, not Sunday. And no other man than the great poet Milton also arrived at that conclusion. He says, in a manuscript which Elzevir, feared to print

“For if we under the gospel are to regulate the time of our public worship by the prescriptions of the Decalogue, it will surely be far safer to observe the seventh day, according to the express commandment of god, than on the authority of mere human conjecture to adopt the first.” 11

Fallible though Brabourne was in putting his trust in princes, and weak when his expectations failed, yet Charles I charged two of his most able men to refute the whole Sabbatarian controversy: Dr. Heylin, of Westminster, and Bishop T. White, of Ely. That Brabourne partly occasioned this action, Bishop White thus attests:

“Now because this Brabourne’s treatise of the Sabbath was dedicated to his Royal Majesty, and the principles upon which he grounded all his arguments (being commonly preached, printed, and believed throughout the kingdom) might have poisoned and infected many people either with this Sabbatarian error or with some other of like quality; it was the king, our gracious master, his will and pleasure, that a treatise would be set forth to prevent further mischief, and to settle his good subjects (who have long time been distracted about Sabbatarian question) in the old and good way of the ancient and orthodoxies Catholic Church. Now that which his sacred Majesty commanded, I have by your Grace’s [Archbishop Laud] direction obediently performed,” 12

Bishop White defends Sunday simply as a church ordinance. To the soundness of Brabourne’s arguments against the Puritans, he pays this compliment:

“Maintaining your own principles, that the fourth commandment is purely and simply moral and of the law of nature, it will be impossible for you, either in English or Latin, to solve Theophilus Brabourne’s objections.” 13 As to the indefinite time theory, his book contains this pithy notice:

“Because an indefinite time must either bind to all moments of time, as a debt, when the day of payment is not expressly dated, is liable to payment every moment, or else it binds to no time at all.” 14

Spread Of Sabbatarians

Utter, in his Manual of Seventh-Day Baptists, mentions a number of other Sabbath-keepers of that time as follows:

“About this time. Philip Tandy began to promulgate in the northern part of England the same doctrine concerning the Sabbath. He was educated in the established church, of which he became a minister. Having changed his views respecting the mode of baptism and the day of the Sabbath, he abandoned that church, and ‘became a mark for many shots.’ He held several public disputes about his peculiar sentiments, and did much to propagate them.” 15

By this time the controversy about calling Sunday, “Sabbath” was at its height. Brabourne had, in his Defense (page 53), rightly complained that “by translating the name Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday, the common people; when they read in the Scriptures anything of note touching the Sabbath day, presently catch that in their mind upon the Lord’s day, thinking it to be meant of that.” Dr. Pocklington’s book, following in the wake of Brabourne’s, was burned in 1640. Archbishop Usher, who assisted J.Ley with his book, “Sunday a Sabbath” (A.D. 1641), charged Brabourne with having given “occasion to the raising up of these unhappy broils.” 16

Then in 1642 the true Sabbath found a new vindication:

“Ockford, James—The Doctrine of the Fourth Commandment. 1642. This book, written by a follower of Brabourne, is said by Cawdrey and Palmer, in their Sabbatum Redivivum, to have been ‘confuted by fire, being adjudged to be burned,’ (Vol. 2, p. 427). He is answered by them in the same volume.” 17

The Puritans, then being in power, burned Ockford’s book. But then a pithy writer, E. Fisher, published his “Christian Caveat” against the Puritans, of whom he affirms that “because they are neither able to produce direct Scripture nor solid reason for what they say, they labour to support their conceits by fallacies, falsities, and wresting of God’s Holy Word.” By 1653 five editions had appeared.

But though the Puritans had no better arguments than to burn the books defending the Word of God and the logical conclusion of their own premises, yet God provided stronger witnesses.

That the Sabbatarians were then a distinct body, and that they had been such for some time previously to 1654, is seen from the fact that there were then about one hundred fifty adherents belonging to several groups in London. The Mill Yard Seventh-day Baptist organization exists in London to this day, and its records go back to 1673, when they had seventy members. Dr. Peter Chamberlain, who came from a long line of French Huguenot physicians, and had been physician in ordinary to three kings and queens of England before he joined the Sabbatarians, preached in Mill Yard Church as early as 1652; John James, about 1653; and William Sellers, 1657. 18

In 1658 Thomas Tillam was minister of the Seventh-day Baptists church at Colchester, and published a book, “The Seventh-day Sabbath Sought Out and Celebrated.” 19

The Stennet Family

The next book published, Cox mentions:

“”Stennet, Edward, an English dissenting minister.

The royal law contended for; or, some brief grounds serving to prove that the ten commandments are yet in full force, and shall so remain till heaven and earth pass away; also, the Seventh-day Sabbath proved from the beginning, from the law, from the prophets, from Christ and his apostles, to be a duty yet incumbent upon saints and sinners. London, 1658” 20

“Stennet, Edward. The Seventh day Is the Sabbath of the Lord. 1664.” 21

The author was born in the beginning of the century. He was an able minister of the established church, but on account of his dissent, he was deprived of his living. He then studied medicine, by the practise of which he could give his sons a liberal education and support himself. He had to suffer for his adherence to the Sabbath, experiencing much from those in power, by whom he was kept in prison for a long time. He wrote other treatises, now extinct, which all breathed the genuine spirit of Christianity. The Stennet family supplied able ministers to the Sabbath cause for four generations.

What strength the Sabbatarians had attained in England, and that their doctrines had already spread to America, proved from Stennet’s letters, dated Abingdon, Berkshire, 1668 and 1670: To “the remnant in Rhode Island who keep the commandments of God and the testimonies of Jesus.” “Here in England are about nine or ten churches that keep the Sabbath, besides many scattered disciples, who have been eminently preserved in this tottering day, when many once eminent churches have been shattered in pieces. The Lord alone be exalted.” 22

In 1671 Wm. Sellers wrote a treatise: “An Examination of a Late Book Published by Dr. Owen, Concerning a Saced Day of Rest.” Cox adds”

“In opposition to the opinion that some one day in seven is all that the fourth commandment requires t be set apart, the writer maintains the obligation of the Saturday Sabbath on the ground that ‘God himself directly in the letter of the text calls the seventh day the Sabbath day, giving both the names to one and the selfsame day, as all men know that ever read the commandments.”’23

The same Sellers, minister at Mill Yard published “An Appeal to the Consciences of the Chief Magistrated Touching the Sabbath Day,” as early as 1657, and a larger edition in 1679.

John James’ Martyrdom

But as the Seventh-day Baptists increased in numbers, the enemy of the thruth increased in fury. Dr. Cramp thus bears testimony:

The execution of John James was a horrible illustration of royal malice. John James was a Sabbatarian Baptist. His meeting-house was in Bulstrake Alley, Whitechapel, London. On the 19th October, 1661, he was dragged from his pulpit and committed to Newgate, on the charge of uttering treasonable words against the King. The principal witness against him was one Tipler, a journeyman pipe-maker, a man whose character was so well known, that the magistrate before whom Mr. James was taken refused to receive his deposition, unless some other witness would corroborate it. Others were found, who confirmed Tipler’s testimony; but one of them afterwards confessed that “he had sworn against Mr. James he knew not what.” In fact, there can be little doubt that the witnesses were suborned, probably bribed, to commit perjury. There is the more reason to believe this, because when the Lieutenant of the Tower read the information laid against Mr. James in the presence of his congregation, and asked them how they could hear such doctrines, they all replied, “that they never heard such words, as they shall answer it before the Lord, and they durst not lie.” But the death of the victim was predetermined. It was no difficult matter to procure a verdict against him. He was tried and convicted on the 19th of November, and sentenced the next day to be hanged, drawn, and quartered.

So flagrant was the injustice, that his wife was advised by her friends to present a petition to the King for his life, setting forth the facts which have been mentioned, and entreating his Majesty’s interposition. But they had miscalculated. Charles treated the heart-broken woman with gross brutality. “With some difficulty she met the King, and presented him with the paper, acquainting him who she was. To whom he held up his finger, and said, ‘Oh! Mr. James—he is a sweet, gentleman;’ but following him for some further answer, the door was shut against her. The next morning she attended again, and an opportunity soon presenting, she implored his Majesty’s answer to her request. Who then replied, ‘That he was a rogue, and should be hanged.’ One of the lords attending him asked him of whom she spake. The King answered, ‘Of John James, that rogue; he shall be hanged; yea, he shall be hanged.’

On the 26th of November, Mr. James was dragged, after the manner of traitors, from Newgate to Tyburn, the place of execution. His behavior under these awful circumstances was dignified and Christian. In his address to the multitude, referring to his denominational sentiments, he said, “I do own the title of a baptized believer. I own the ordinances and appointments of Jesus Christ. I own all the principles in Hebrews 6:1, 2.” He charged his friends to continue their religious assemblies, at all risk. His closing exhortations were remarkably solemn and impressive, reminding the people of the days of the old martyrs. “This is a happy day,” said one of his friends. “I bless the Lord,” he replied, “it is so.” When all was ready, he lifted up his hands; and exclaimed, with a loud voice, “Father, into Thy hands I commit my spirit.” So he died. His quarters were placed over the city gates, and his head was set upon a pole, opposite the meetinghouse in which he had preached the Gospel.24

Utter adds a few more details:

“As he was asked what h had to say, why he ought not to be condemned, he said he would refer them to the following texts for consideration: Jer. 26:14,15; Psalms 116” “He was, however, sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. This awful sentence did not dismay him in the least. E calmly said, ‘Blessed by god; whom man condemneth, God justifieth,.’ While he lay in prison, under sentence of death, many persons of distinction visited him, who were greatly affected by his piety and resignation,: :Having finished his address, and kneeling down, he thanked God for covenant mercies and for conscious innocence; he prayed for the witnesses against him, for the executioner, for the people of God, for the removal of divisions, for the coming of Christ, for the spectators, and for himself, that he might enjoy a sense of God’s favor and presence, and an entrance into glory.” “After he was dead, his heart was taken out and burned, his quarters were were affixed to the gates of the city, and his head was set p in white chapel on a pole opposite to the alley in which his meeting house stood.” 25

Such was the experience of an English Sabbath keeper in the seventeenth century. It cast something to obey the fourth commandment in such times as those.


One of the most eminent Sabbatarian ministers of the last half of the seventeenth century was Francis Bampfield. He was originally a clergy man of the Church of England. The following extracts testify of his sufferings and earnestness:

“But being utterly unsatisfied in his conscience with the conditions of conformity, he took his leave of his sorrowful and weeping congregation in 1662.

“After the act of uniformity, he continued preaching as he had opportunity in private, till he was imprisoned for five days and nights with twenty-five of his hearers, in one room,…where they spent their time in religious exercises; but after some time he was released. Soon after, he was apprehended again, and lay nine years in Dorchester jail, though he was a person of unshaken loyalty to the king.”

“When he resided in London, he formed a church on the principles of the Sabbatharian Baptists, at Pinner’s hall, of which principles he was a zealous asserter. He was a celebrated preacher, and a man of serious piety.” 26

“All that knew him would acknowledge that he was a man of great piety. And he would in all probability have preserved the same character, with respect to his learning and judgment, had it not been for his opinion in two points; viz., that infants ought not to be baptized, and that the Jewish Sabbath ought still to be kept.” 27

On Feb. 17, 1682, he was arrested while preaching, and on March 28 was sentenced to forfeit all his goods and to be imprisoned in Newgate for life. In consequence of the hardships which he suffered in that prison, he died, Feb. 16, 1683. 28

“Bampfield,” says Wood, “dying in said prison of New gate, … Aged seventy years, his body was…followed with a very great company of factious and schismatically people to his grave.” 29

Bampfield published two works in behalf of the seventh day as the Sabbath—one in 1672, the other in 1677. In the first of these he thus sets forth the doctrine of the Sabbath:

“The law of the seventh-day Sabbath was given before the law was proclaimed at Sinai, even from the creation, given to Adam…and in him to all the world…The Lord Christ’s obedience unto this fourth word Is observing in his lifetime the seventh day as a weekly Sabbath day, …and no other day of the week as such, is a part of that perfect righteousness which every sound believer doth apply to himself in order to his being justified in the sight of the God; and every such person is to conform unto Christ in all the acts of his obedience to the ten words.” 30

His brother, Mr. Thomas Bampfield, who had been speaker in one of Cromwell’s parliaments, wrote also in behalf of seventh-day observance, and was imprisoned for his religious principles in Ilchester jail. 31 His “Enquiry Regarding the Fourth Commandment,” was answered by Dr. Wallis, of Oxford; and Bampfield published “A Reply” in 1693.

Status Of English Seventh-Day Baptists

That the Seventh-day Baptists caused quite a stir during the seventeenth century appears from the fact that they are so often referred to in the numerous works written in defense of Sunday. Their pleading for a definite day instead of “one in seven,” developed in response—(in addition to the gnostic no-day theory) a new conjecture—that God’s seventh day was identical with Sunday. Astronomy, geology, the Gnostic play on figures, the round world, the arctic regions, etc., as well as persecution and slander, were brought forward to bolster up this new notion of “one in seven”. That persecution caused the Seventh-day Baptists trouble also from false, back sliding brethren, is seen from J. Cowell’s “The Snare Broken,” 1677; yet in 1702 they could show a list of eighteen churches in England.

In 1691 the Mill Yard Chapel was bought, which, being rebuilt on account of fire (1790) had to give way for railway extension in 1885. But with the eighteenth century their zeal vanished. Carlov (1724) and Cornthwaite, who wrote five treatises from 1733 to 1740, are their only representatives, until Burside arose, in 1825. The watchmen on the walls of Zion fell asleep; making the Sabbath of minor importance, they took charge of first-day churches, and thus lowered the standard of truth.

Causes For Decline

Crosby, a first-day historian, sets this matter in its true light:

“If the seventh day ought to be observed as the Christian Sabbath, then all congregations that observe the first day as such must be Sabbath-breakers…I must leave those gentlemen on th contrary side to their own sentiments; and to vindicate the practise of becoming pastors to a people whom in their conscience they must believe to be breakers of the Sabbath.” 32

The Sabbath was wounded in the house of its own friends. They took upon themselves the responsibility, after a time, of making the Sabbath of no practical importance, and of treating its violation as no very serious transgression of the law of God. Doubtless they hoped to win men to Christ and his truth by this course; but, instead of this, they simply lowered the standard of divine truth into the dust. The Sabbath-keeping ministers assumed the pastoral care of first-day churches, in some cases as their sole charge, in others, they did this in connection with the oversight of Sabbatarian churches. The result need surprise no one; as these Sabbath-keeping ministers and churches said to all men, in thus acting, that the fourth commandment might be broken with impunity, the people took them at their word.