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    CHAPTER 26. The First-day Sabbath

    THE old attempt to impress the fourth commandment of the decalogue into the service of Sunday-keeping, by arguing a change of the Sabbath from the seventh to the first day of the week, has been almost universally abandoned by those who have any acquaintance with the Sabbath controversy. Yet it may be well to notice it briefly for the sake of those who find it hard to surrender old ideas, and of those who still have the ground to go over.SYNPT 272.1

    The argument may be presented under three heads: I. That Sabbath changed itself; that is, that the events of that time were of such a nature that the Sabbath, as a natural consequence, without any legislation, changed from the seventh to the first day; II. That Christ changed the day; III. That the apostles changed it.SYNPT 272.2

    1. What is the present state of the Sunday-Sabbath controversy?
    2. Under what heads may the argument for the change of the Sabbath be presented?
    3. What is claimed in behalf of the work of redemption?
    4. What contradiction of fact is involved in this argument?

    I. What is meant by events being of such a nature as to change the Sabbath, is this: It is claimed that redemption is greater than creation, and that Christ finished, and rested from, the work of redemption when he arose from the dead on the first day of the week; therefore the seventh day disappears before the first day, as the moon disappears before the rising sun, and the first day is henceforth, from the very nature of the case, the great luminary of the Christian world. It is the easiest matter in the world to show that every proposition in this argument is either a plain contradiction of fact, or a naked assumption; that there is no coherence between the different divisions of the argument; and that not a single conclusion follows from the premises assumed.SYNPT 272.3

    1. Contradiction of fact. - Redemption was not finished when Christ rose from the dead. Redemption includes the resurrection of the dead, the immortality of all the saints, and a world made new. It will not be finished till the end of probation and of sin.SYNPT 273.1

    2. Assumption No. 1 - No man can tell which is the greater, creation or redemption, inasmuch as both are infinitely beyond his comprehension. It is therefore not merely an assumption, but the most reckless presumption, for him to attempt to decide between them.SYNPT 273.2

    5. What assumption?
    6. Give the series of “non sequiturs,”
    7. What is assumption No. 2?

    3. A series of “non sequiturs.” - First, “It does not follow,” even if redemption was finished on the first day of the week, that that day should be observed as a rest-day in consequence thereof. Secondly, “It does not follow,” even if it should be observed as a rest-day, that it should be so observed every week. The proportion suggested would be that between the whole period of Christ’s ministry, which was three years and a half, and the day of his resurrection - one day in every three years and a half! Thirdly, “It does not follow,” even if we should observe that day as a Sabbath, and do it every week, that the observance of the seventh day should be discontinued. The seventh day rests upon its own independent foundation; and if an additional day is given us as a Sabbath, then we have two days to keep instead of the one day which the world had before.SYNPT 273.3

    4. Assumption No. 2 - It is assumed that we have redemption through the resurrection of Christ. But the Scriptures do not so declare. They do, however, twice assert (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14) that “we have redemption through his blood;” from which the inference naturally follows that if a day is to be observed to commemorate it, it should be the day on which his blood was shed, not the first day of the week.SYNPT 274.1

    5. Unnecessary. - Why do we need to observe a day to commemorate the resurrection of Christ, or the work of redemption, so far as it has been carried out? The Scriptures have plainly given us memorials of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, in the ordinances of the Lord’s supper and baptism. 1 Corinthians 11:26; Romans 6:4. And what need we more? Does God ever give two memorials for the same event? Anything more would be redundant, and an unheard-of thing in the whole list of religious institutions.SYNPT 274.2

    8. Is it necessary?
    9. What memorials have the Scriptures provided?
    10. What embarrassing fact appears under the second head?

    As the first proposition thus vanishes from sight as soon as we look at it, we pass to the second.SYNPT 274.3

    II. Christ, it is claimed, changed the day from the seventh to the first day of the week. An embarrassing fact meets the advocates of this proposition at the outset. Christ never uttered one syllable in reference to the first day of the week. How, then, could he have changed the Sabbath to that day, or have legislated in regard to it? The claim is absurd on the very face of it. Do you say the record shows that he did do it? Please show us the record. For thirty years we have searched for it, and cannot find it. The New Testament speaks of the first day of the week only eight times. Six of these instances are found in the four Gospels, and all refer to the day of Christ’s resurrection; and three of them, namely, Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1; and Luke 23:56; 24:1, speak of it, not as the Sabbath, but as the day following the Sabbath. One such instance would be enough to show the distinction between the Sabbath and the first day of the week; we have three. And in the other instances it is simply mentioned as the chronological part of the narrative, not as in any respect honored, elevated, or made Sabbatical in its character.SYNPT 275.1

    11. Where is the record that Christ changed the day?
    12. How many times does the New Testament speak of the first day?
    13. To what do six of these references apply?
    14. How is the first day spoken of in relation to the Sabbath?
    15. What did the disciples understand about the resurrection?

    But, it is asked, did not the disciples understand the change, and meet together on that first day of the week to celebrate the resurrection of Christ, and inaugurate the Christian Sabbath? and did not Christ meet with them, and sanction what they were doing by saying, Peace be unto you? It would be very nice for this theory if it were so, but unfortunately for it, there is no truth in it. At the close of that day, after the two disciples had returned from Emmaus (and it must have been very nearly if not quite into the beginning of the next day [Luke 24:29, 33] when they reached Jerusalem), they found the eleven gathered together, doubtless at their place of common abode (Acts 1:12, 13); for they were “at meat,” that is, partaking of their evening meal (Mark 16:12-14); and the eleven would not believe the report which these two disciples brought, that the Lord was risen, and had appeared to them on their way to Emmaus. Then the Lord himself appeared in their midst, and they, so far from believing that he was risen, and waiting to see him, were terrified and affrighted at his presence (Luke 24:37); and then he upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they were so stubborn in their unbelief in regard to his resurrection that they would not believe even the members of their own company who declared that they had seen him. Mark 16:14.SYNPT 275.2

    16. What shows this?
    17. What material have we here for a first-day Sabbath?

    Is not this a promising mass of material out of which to erect a first-day Sabbath? A company of timid disciples, their hope crushed out by the recent crucifixion of their Master, and understanding so little about his resurrection, and being so faithless in regard to it that they would not believe those who had seen him, had gathered to their common place of abode, and having made fast their doors against a possible intrusion of the Jews, who they feared might next seek their lives, were partaking in sadness of their evening meal. Christ appeared, and upbraided them because they did not yet believe that he had risen. And now this first-day institution steps up, and with a brazen effrontery characteristic of all usurpers, claims that the disciples were met to celebrate the resurrection, and lay the foundation of the Christian Sabbath! Can any theory stand which is based on such preposterous absurdities?SYNPT 276.1

    Inasmuch as this first interview proves no support to the first-day Sabbath, not much importance could be attached to any subsequent one; yet great stress is laid by some on John 20:26: “And after eight days, again his disciples were within,” etc. This, it is claimed, is a record that Jesus waited till the next Sunday came around, and then met with the disciples again, to confirm the Sabbatic nature of that day. But -SYNPT 277.1

    1. It cannot be shown that “after eight days,” means the next Sunday. If it be said that “after three days” (Mark 8:31) means “on the third day” (Matthew 16:21), and hence “after eight days” would mean “on the eighth day,” and so be Sunday, we reply that that was not a uniform manner of speaking. If it was, the expression, “after six days” (Matthew 17:1), would mean “on the sixth day;” but it did not mean so; for Luke, speaking of the same event, the transfiguration, says that it was about “eight days” after. Luke 9:28.SYNPT 277.2

    18. What use is made of John 20:26?
    19. Where does this claim break down?
    20. What does “after six days” (Matthew 17:1) mean according to Luke 9:28?

    2. If it be granted that “the eighth day,” or just a week is meant, then it should be considered at what point the reckoning must begin. The meeting, which began at the last evening of that first day (John 20:19), must have continued into the second day before the disciples arrived from Emmaus; for “the day was far spent” when Christ made himself known to them there, and after that they returned to Jerusalem, seven miles, on foot. Not till after they had arrived and reported, did Jesus appear. His appearance, then must have been on the second day. But further, Thomas was absent on this occasion, and Christ had completed his interview with them, and disappeared before Thomas returned; yet it was not till after his return, and an interview by the disciples with him (verses 24, 25, that the period of the eight days is introduced. All this goes unmistakably to show that the reckoning should begin from the second day, and that the eighth day thereafter would be the second day of the next week, not the first day.SYNPT 277.3

    21. At what time must the reckoning of the eight days begin?
    22. At what time would they end?
    23. If the honor of the first day was intended, how should the record have read?

    3. If the intention was to honor the first day, why did not the record say, “On the next first-day of the week?” or what would be better still, as the Gospel of John was written after the Revelation, and if, as it is claimed, the first day had then come to be generally called “the Lord’s day,” why did he not say, “on the next Lord’s day?” Would he have omitted so appropriate and opportune a time to mention it? - Impossible. But it was not the object of the meeting to honor the first day. The intention was simply to mark the time when Thomas was with them.SYNPT 278.1

    But Christ met with his disciples on other occasions. Once, the third time, when they were out fishing. John 21:3, 14. Were they celebrating the resurrection then? Was this Sunday? and did the disciples, after Christ had met with them already twice, to honor the first day and establish the “Christian” Sabbath, so far forget themselves as to go off fishing upon that day? Again, a notable meeting with the disciples was on the day of his ascension, which is generally supposed to have been on Thursday. Certainly it was not on Sunday.SYNPT 279.1

    Thus all the evidence vanishes which is produced to show that Christ changed the day. An apology is due to the reader from any one who would set up such a claim in face of Christ’s express declaration that he came not to change it. Matthew 5:17, 18.SYNPT 279.2

    III. But it is still urged by some that the apostles changed the day of the Sabbath from the seventh to the first day of the week. As an insuperable barrier to this view lies the fact that Christ, having himself failed to change it, gave them no instructions to change it; and what he did not do nor instruct them to do, they had no right to do. Yet some seem to think that events in their experience prove the change.SYNPT 279.3

    24. What were the disciples doing at the third meeting?
    25. What questions does this suggest?
    26. On what day was the last meeting, and what notable occurrence then took place?
    27. What argument is drawn from Pentecost?
    28. What was the outpouring of the Spirit designed to honor?

    1. The Pentecost - The outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost was not to honor the first day of the week, as the sunday advocate contends. Had that been the cause of the manifestation, it should, and unquestionably would, have said, When the first day of the week was come. But it simply reads, “When the day of Pentecost was fully come,” without telling us what day of the week it was. Pentecost, being the fiftieth day from the sixteenth of the first month, came on different days of the week in different years. If in A.D. 31 it chanced to fall on Sunday, that signified nothing for that day. But scholars are not agreed as to the day on which it fell. Prof. H.B. Hackett, D.D., in “Commentary on the Original Text of the Acts,” pp. 50,51, says: “It is generally supposed that this Pentecost, signalized by the outpouring of the Spirit, fell on the Jewish Sabbath, our Saturday.” Christ’s crucifixion on the 14th day of the first month was the antitype of the slaying of the Paschal lamb; his resurrection on the 16th of the month was the antitype of the waving of the sheaf of first-fruits: fifty days from this latter point, the feast of Pentecost must meet its antitype; and this was fulfilled in the outpouring of the Spirit on that day; and hence this manifestation of the Spirit was delayed till that day was “fully come.” Ten days had elapsed since the ascension of Christ. One first day had been passed unnoticed and in silence. Why was not the Spirit poured out then? Because it was only the Pentecost which was to be thus marked, on whatever day of the week it might come.SYNPT 279.4

    29. What day does Prof. Hackett think this was?
    30. How many days elapsed between the ascension and the Pentecost?
    31. Why was not the next first-day after the ascension honored?

    2. Acts 20:7. - In this scripture we have the only instance to be found in the New Testament of a religious meeting on the first day of the week. But there is no intimation of any custom, nor any command in reference to it. It was only an incidental meeting. It was an evening meeting; for there were “many lights” in the upper chamber where they were assembled. Verse 8. But according to the Bible method of reckoning time, the dark evening of the first day was the first part of it, beginning with the setting of the sun. This meeting was held, therefore, at a time corresponding with our Saturday evening. Paul preached till midnight, healed Eutychus, broke bread, and continued his discourse till break of day, and then departed early Sunday morning on a twenty-mile journey on foot, across the base of the peninsula from Troas to Assos. (See Conybeare and Howson.) We commend this apostolic example to our Sunday-keeping friends. With every step of that long journey through all the light part of that Syrian Sunday, Paul trampled such a thing as a Sunday Sabbath into the dust, where it belongs.SYNPT 280.1

    32. Where is the only record in the New Testament of a meeting on the first day of the week?
    33. Was this a regular or only an incidental meeting?
    34. On what part of the day was it?
    35. To what time, according to present reckoning, would it correspond?
    36. On what journey did Paul enter Sunday morning?
    37. What did this journey show in reference to Sunday?
    38. What does 1 Corinthians 16:2 show?

    3. 1 Corinthians 16:2. - A careful reading of this instruction will show that the work enjoined was not to be done in the public congregation, but privately at home; it was not proper Sabbath employment, but the secular business of looking over worldly matters, and setting apart a portion for charity. The text shows that the apostle regarded it as a secular day.SYNPT 281.1

    4. Revelation 1:10. - The “Lord’s day” of this text is not the first day of the week; for the Lord has never set apart that day as his. It is the Sabbath; for he claims that day as his. “The Son of man is Lord of the Sabbath-day.”SYNPT 282.1

    We have now noticed every instance in which the first day is mentioned, and every text supposed to refer to it; and there is not found in the record the first trace of any facts out of which a Sabbath could be constructed - no rest of any divine being upon the day, no law for its observance, and not the slightest regard paid to it by either Christ or the apostles.SYNPT 282.2

    To find the change of the day, and the real institution of the Sunday Sabbath, our friends must go a step further. They must come down into that age when the “mystery of iniquity,” working even in Paul’s day, had developed, full fledged, the great apostasy; when men began to heap contempt upon the Sabbath to spite the Jews, and to elevate that Sunday to conciliate their heathen neighbors, and by so doing did despite to the word of God, and introduced those elements of apostasy and corruption which ruined the church, and sent a shout of triumph through all the realms of darkness.SYNPT 282.3

    39. What is the true teaching of Revelation 1:10?
    40. To what conclusions are we thus led?
    41. Where do we find the change of the day and the real institution of the Sunday Sabbath?

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