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    CHAPTER 11. Sabbath and Sunday - Secular History

    Thousands upon thousands suppose that history shows a unanimous and uninterrupted observance of Sunday on the part of Christians from the days of Christ, and that just as unanimously and continually, the seventh day which had been the Sabbath to that time, was disregarded by them. Many innocently hold this view in ignorance; others assert it who know better than to believe it.SYNPT 100.1

    The popular Sunday view is well expressed in these words of Mosheim: “All Christians were unanimous in setting apart the first day of the week, on which the triumphant Saviour arose from the dead, for the solemn celebration of public worship. This pious custom which was derived from the church of Jerusalem, was founded upon the express appointment of the apostles, who consecrated that day to the same sacred purposes, and was observed universally throughout the Christian churches, as appears from the the united testimonies of the most credible writers.”SYNPT 100.2

    1. What historian states the Sunday view?
    2. What is his language?
    3. What historian make a counter statement?

    This reads very much to the mind of the Sunday-keeper; but lo! in the following century another historian, equally worthy of credit, arises and says: “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 laboring on Sunday as a sin.” Neander’s Church History, as translated by H. J. Rose, p. 186.SYNPT 100.3

    Mosheim was a writer of the 18th, Neander of the 19th, century. From what source did they obtain the information they give us respecting Sunday? No one lived from apostolic times to their day to tell them how it was and had been. They were dependent on the records which have come down from that time. We have the same, and can thus test the truthfulness of their assertions. Mosheim, indeed, declares that it was founded upon the express appointment of the apostles. Where is that appointment? It is not in the New Testament. Mosheim’s assertion avails nothing, therefore, for Protestants; for it can be used only by departing from the Protestant ground of “the Bible and the Bible alone,” and adopting the Romanist position, “the Bible and tradition.”SYNPT 101.1

    4. What is his language?
    5. When did these historians respectively flourish?
    6. Where are they therefore obliged to go for their authority?
    7. What rule would Mosheim’s statement compels us to adopt?
    8. What proposition is the sum of the whole Sunday question?

    The whole question sums itself up in this one proposition: that Sunday was called the Lord’s day in the days of John, and from that time onward: and that such a title showed that it was the Sabbath of this dispensation. This proposition we deny, and shall now examine.SYNPT 101.2

    John in Revelation 1:10 does not mean the first day of the week by the term Lord’s day; for he twice afterward speaks of that day, but calls it simply first day of the week. John 20:1, 19. John’s gospel was written in A.D. 98, two years after the book of Revelation. He must mean by that term that day which the Lord has claimed as his, which is the seventh day of the week. Exodus 20:10, Isaiah 58:13, and in the New Testament, we have testimony to show that the day which Christ is Lord of is the Sabbath, the seventh day. “The Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath day,” the seventh day. Matthew 12:8; Mark 2:27.SYNPT 102.1

    We notice all the writers who are claimed to have applied the title of Lord’s day to Sunday, down to the close of the second century.SYNPT 102.2

    9. What does John mean by the term “Lord’s day” in Revelation 1:10? References.
    10. What Father is first quoted as calling Sunday the Lord’s day?
    11. In what epistle?
    12. What is the nature of that epistle?
    13. Does that forged epistle say anything about the Lord’s day?
    14. Does the term, Lord’s day, occur in the entire writings of Ignatius?
    15. What writer is referred to as the second authority?

    First. Ignatius is quoted, in his epistle to the Magnesians. But the reader will find history sustaining the following facts in regard to this matter: 1. No epistle was written by Ignatius, the disciple of John, to the Magnesians. That epistle is a forgery. 2. Even that forgery does not say anything about the Lord’s day. That has been added by the additional fraud of some subsequent writer. 3. The term, Lord’s day, does not occur in the entire writings of this Father, either in the spurious, or those which are supposed to be genuine.SYNPT 102.3

    Secondly. Pliny, A.D. 104, is quoted a saying that this question was put to the martyrs” “Have you kept the Lord’s day?” and the answer was, “I am a Christian, I cannot omit it.” What splendid testimony this would be, if it were only true. And how many have been confirmed in their false practice by this quotation. The testimony professes to come from a work entitled Acta Martyrum, or The Acts of the Martyrs. But the testimony of Mosheim on this work, is that it is of no authority whatever; and even if it was, it contains no such expression as is here ascribed to it. Gilfillan, unwilling to lose the testimony, refers for authority to Baronius. But what Baronius speaks of, is the martyrdom of Saturninus and his four sons, in Northern Africa; but this was in A.D. 303, not in the time of Pliny, two hundred years before; and the question put was not “Have you kept the Lord’s day?” but “Have you celebrated the Lord’s supper?” Thus vanishes another famous falsehood put forth in behalf of Sunday.SYNPT 103.1

    16. What is the claim urged from Pliny’s writing?
    17. From what work does this claim to be taken?
    18. What is the nature of the Acta Martyrum?
    19. Does any such expression occur in that work?
    20. What authority does Gilfillan refer to?
    21. When did the event referred to by Baronius take place?
    22. What was the question then put to the martyrs?
    23. Who next is quoted?
    24. Does Justin Martyr ever give the title of Lord’s day, or any other title, to Sunday?

    Thirdly. Justin Martyr, A.D. 140, is quoted as calling Sunday the Lord’s day. But Justin gives no such title to Sunday, nor any other title whatever. He simply says. “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. Justin Martyr’s First Apology, chap. 67. But some one, wishing his testimony, has deliberately put in “the Lord’s day,” instead of Sunday, and added, “because that is the day of our Lord’s resurrection.” Thus Justin is made to testify in behalf of Sunday as the Lord’s day only by fraud. (See Complete Testimony of Fathers.)SYNPT 103.2

    Fourthly. Theophilus, A.D. 162, is introduced as a witness in behalf of Sunday. Justin Edwards’ Sabbath Manual, p. 114, presents this case as follows:-SYNPT 104.1

    “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.’ “SYNPT 104.2

    We have presented the quotation in full because we have the curious fact that nothing of the kind whatever can be found in the writings of Theophilus. He does not once use the term, Lord’s day; he does not even speak of the first day of the week. It is astonishing beyond expression that testimony can be thus manufactured from nothing and be deliberately ascribed to these early Fathers.SYNPT 104.3

    25. Who is the fourth writer quoted?
    26. What is the quotation given from him?
    27. Is anything of this kind to be found in the writings of Theophilus?
    28. Who is the fifth Father quoted?
    29. What term does Dionysius use?

    Fifthly. Dionysius of Corinth, A.D. 170, is quoted. Dionysius does use the term, Lord’s day, or rather, “the Lord’s holy day,” but he makes no application of it to any day of the week. He says nothing to show what day of the week he means. Having found the first four witnesses for Sunday inexcusable frauds, it cannot be claimed that this was the familiar name for Sunday and did not need to be defined. And no writer, for a long time after Dionysius, applies such a title as “Lord’s holy day” to Sunday. But this was the title of the Sabbath of the Lord; and at this very time, in Greece, the country of Dionysius, the Sabbath was extensively observed as an act of obedience to the fourth commandment. All the probabilities in his testimony, therefore, point to the Sabbath instead of Sunday.SYNPT 104.4

    Sixthly. Melito of Sardis, A.D. 177, is brought forward as the sixth witness. His testimony is made to do service on this wise: He wrote several books of which only the titles have been preserved to us. One of these, as given in the English version of Eusebius, is “On the Lord’s Day.” This of course is claimed to be a treatise on Sunday, though it cannot be shown that any writer down to this point calls Sunday by that name. But the most remarkable thing about it is that the essential word “day” is not found in the original. So it was simply a discourse about something pertaining to the Lord; and it may have been, and doubtless was, a treatise on the life of Christ, as Eusebius uses the expression “Lord’s life,” kuriakeen zoeen, in connection.SYNPT 105.1

    30. Does he tell what day of the week he means?
    31. From what country was Dionysius?
    32. How was the Sabbath regarded in that country at that time?
    33. Who is the sixth writer quoted?
    34. What is the testimony drawn from him?
    35. Does the word day occur in the title of his last book?
    36. What was his treatise then probably concerning?
    37. Who is the seventh witness?
    38. What is the objection to this testimony from Irenaeus?

    Seventhly. Irenaeus is quoted by Justin Edwards as follows: “On the Lord’s day every one of us Christians keeps the Sabbath, meditating on the law, and rejoicing in the works of God.” The great reason why this is not good testimony for Sunday is that not a word of the kind can be found in Irenaeus. The term “Lord’s day” is not to be found in any of his writings, nor in any fragments of his writings preserved in other authors.SYNPT 105.2

    These are the seven witness through whom the Romish church, copied by Protestants, trace their Lord’s day back to, and identify it with, the Lord’s day of the Bible. But the first, second, third, fourth, and seventh of these are inexcusable frauds; the fifth speaks of the Lord’s day, but does not tell us what day it is, and the sixth writes something about the Lord, but tells us nothing about the day.SYNPT 106.1

    A little later, Clement of Alexandria, A.D. 194, uses the title with reference to the eighth day; but in his explanation he makes this to signify, not the first day of the week, but Heaven itself.SYNPT 106.2

    The next writer who uses the term is Tertullian, A.D. 200; and he applies it definitely to the day of Christ’s resurrection. This, says Kitto, is the first authentic application of this kind; and this was 104 years after John wrote the book of Revelation, and 169 years after the resurrection of Christ. This sustains the statement of Neander, that perhaps at the end of the second century men had begun to make a false application of the laws of the Sabbath to Sunday: “for men appear,” he says, “by that time to have considered laboring on Sunday a sin.”SYNPT 106.3

    39. How and when does Clement of Alexandria use the term?
    40. Where and when do we find the first authentic application of Lord’s day to the first day of the week?
    41. How long was this after the resurrection of Christ? and how long after John wrote the Revelation?
    42. How and when does Origen use the term?

    Origen, A.D. 231, is the third writer who calls the “eight day” the Lord’s day. But he uses it in two senses: 1. For a natural day, in which sense it ranks with the Preparation day, the Passover, and the Pentecost; and 2. For a mystical day, as did Clement, in which sense it stands for the whole Christian life.SYNPT 106.4

    We have thus traced the Lord’s day as far as it is needful. This Lord’s day as it now exists, first appears in the early apostasy of the church; but between that and the days of the apostles there is a fatal break, which men have endeavored to bridge over by a series of fearful frauds. An honest mind will desert any institution which is obliged to depend on such support.SYNPT 107.1

    Two more quotations only remain to be noticed before we come to the time of Constantine, A.D. 321. The first is the so-called epistle of Barnabas, which says, “We observe the eighth day with gladness, in which Jesus arose from the dead.” This was not an epistle from Barnabas, the companion of Paul. Mosheim, Neander, Stuart, Dr. Killen, Prof. Hackett, Milner, Kitto, Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Eusebius, Domville, and Coleman, all unite in declaring it a forgery, the production of a Jew of mean abilities, who lived at a much later period than that of the true Barnabas. The second is a quotation from Pliny, stating that the Christians were wont to meet together on a “stated day.” It is claimed that this stated day was Sunday. But how do they know? The essential link in the evidence is wanting; for he does not say what day of the week it was.SYNPT 107.2

    43. What is to be said of the Epistle of Barnabas?
    44. Name the authors who condemn it.
    45. What can be said of Pliny’s “stated day”?
    46. What took place in A.D. 321?

    In A.D. 321 a new era dawned upon the Sunday institution. In that year Constantine, on the throne of the Roman empire, enacted a law in behalf of the “venerable day of the sun,” from which it soon came to be the venerable day in the church. Of the effect of this Mosheim thus speaks:-SYNPT 107.3

    “The first day of the week, which was the ordinary and stated time for the public assemblies of the Christians, was in consequence of a peculiar law enacted by Constantine, observed with greater solemnity than it had formerly been.”SYNPT 108.1

    What, then, did Constantine’s law require? It reads as follows:-SYNPT 108.2

    “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.”SYNPT 108.3

    It follows, therefore, according to the testimony of Mosheim, that if this law, restraining only town people and trades, caused Sunday to be observed more strictly than formerly, no restraint had previously been laid upon any class from working on that day.SYNPT 108.4

    47. What did this law of Constantine’s provide?
    48. What does Mosheim say of the effect of this law?
    49. What follows from this statement?
    50. What was the nature of Constantine’s law?

    Constantine’s law, it will be noticed, speaks not of the lord’s day, or the Christian Sabbath, but of “the venerable day of the sun.” This was the heathen, not the Christian, name of the day. And this law was in behalf of Sunday as a heathen, not a Christian, institution. This will appear by comparing dates. The law was dated A.D. 321. Constantine did not experience his so-called conversion to Christianity till A.D. 323, two years afterward. The day following his Sunday law, he enacted another, regulating the work of the soothsayers who foretold future events by examining the entrails of beasts offered in sacrifice to the gods; fitting companion to the preceding.SYNPT 108.5

    But how did this heathen law come to have a bearing upon Sunday as a Christian observance? The pope of Rome cheerfully looked after that matter. When Constantine professed Christianity, his sunday law was left on the statute book unrepealed; and Sylvester, bishop of Rome, since called pope, took advantage of this fact; and giving the day the imposing title of Lord’s day, by his apostolic authority, enforced it upon the church as a Christian institution. Constantine also, then deeming himself as much the head of the church as the pope, took upon himself to elevate it still further, by church authority, as a Christian observance, taking “upon him,” says Heylyn, not only “to command the day, but also to prescribe the service.”SYNPT 109.1

    51. When was it enacted?
    52. When was Constantine nominally converted to Christianity?
    53. What law did he enact the day following his Sunday law?
    54. How did this come to be a Christian law?
    55. What are the parts paganism and the papacy have played in this matter?

    The parts which paganism and the papacy have acted in the elevation of Sunday are now plain to be seen. From the earliest times, the first day of the week, in the religion of idolatry, was dedicated to the worship of the sun; so that when Christianity come into contact with that false system, Sunday was a venerable day throughout all the heathen world.SYNPT 109.2

    In the Christian church, being the day of Christ’s resurrection, it appeared as a festival, observed in the same manner and for the same reason that they observed the day of the crucifixion, the day of the ascension, etc. But as heathenism and Christianity approached each other, and illustrious pagans became half converts to the gospel, seeking to engraft their Gnostic notions upon the Christian scheme, the question of expediency suggested that it would tend to conciliate their heathen neighbors, and also to promote the spread of Christianity among them, for Christians to pay more especial honors to their great festival day. They could do it as Christians, and please them as pagans.SYNPT 110.1

    In the days of Constantine so near had the two systems come together that it was not difficult to transfer institutions from one to the other. Sunday had heretofore run on the pagan track; now it could be switched off upon the Christian. Pope Sylvester turned the switch; and henceforth Sunday is a palace sleeping car upon the Christian track, and not upon the heathen.SYNPT 110.2

    We need not trace it any further. Roman Catholic catechisms tell us the place it occupies in that church, and the claims they base upon it. They hesitate not to acknowledge that the church has changed the Sabbath from the seventh day to the first day of the week, without any sanction from the Scriptures, or any outward command from God. And they boast of this as an evidence of their power to legislate in sacred things. Says the “Abridgment of Christian Doctrine” (Catholic catechism): -SYNPT 110.3

    56. What is the testimony of Roman Catholic catechisms?

    Ques. How prove you that the church hath power to command feasts and holy days?SYNPT 110.4

    Ans. By the very act of changing the Sabbath into Sunday, which Protestants allow of; and therefore they fondly contradict themselves by keeping Sunday strictly, and breaking most other feasts commanded by the same church.”SYNPT 111.1

    In the latter part of the 16th century a controversy broke out between the Presbyterians and the Episcopalians, which brought the Sunday question on Protestant grounds to an issue. The Episcopalians were for retaining all the feasts commanded by the church. The Presbyterians were for rejecting them, as being but popish leaven and superstition; yet they retained Sunday. The Episcopalians retorted that if they gave up the others they must give up the Sunday, or if they kept that they must keep all the others, to be consistent; for they all rested on the same foundation, namely, the authority of the church. Then it was that, driven to find some support form the Scriptures, the “Rev. Nicholas Bound, D.D.,” A.D. 1595, invented the seventh part of time fallacy, which is even to this day, with many theologians, their stock in trade on the Sunday question.SYNPT 111.2

    The limits of this lesson will not permit a further notice of the Sabbath, historically, than merely to say that Sabbath-keepers can be traced in an unbroken succession all through the gospel dispensation, from the church of Jerusalem to the present time.SYNPT 111.3

    57. What controversy arose in the latter part of the 16th century?
    58. What doctrine was then brought out, and by whom?
    59. Where are the historical facts in regard to the Sabbath and Sunday to be found?
    60. What can be said of the Sabbath during the gospel dispensation?
    61. Whose statement, then, is correct, Mosheim’s or Neander’s?

    For the historical facts above stated, we are indebted to “The History of the Sabbath,” by Eld. J. N. Andrews, a work of extensive and exhaustive research on this question, unanswered and unanswerable. To this we refer the reader and all others who desire reliable information on this subject.SYNPT 112.1

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