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    February 1, 1890

    “Is It a Sin?” Bible Echo and Signs of the Times 5, 3.

    E. J. Waggoner

    It is no an uncommon thing for those who teach that it is a Christian duty to keep the Sabbath, to be met by the inquiry: “Don’t you think you would be doing a great deal more good if you wrote and preached against sin, instead of saying so much about the Sabbath?”BEST February 1, 1890, page 41.1

    In order to ascertain whether Sabbath-breaking is a sin or not, we must first determine definitely what sin is. There are certain things which few would hesitate to call sin, but we want a general rule that will cover all cases; a standard that will enable us to tell at once if a certain action is wrong, so that we may not be left to conjecture. Fortunately, we have just such a rule-one that is given by the pen of inspiration. We find it in 1 John 3:4: “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law; for sin is the transgression of the law.” Paul makes the same statement in another form: “For where no law is, there is no transgression.” Romans 4:15: and, “Sin is not imputed where there is no law.” Romans 5:13. And this fact is universally recognized. You cannot convince any man that he is doing wrong unless you first show him a law that he is violating.BEST February 1, 1890, page 41.2

    Solomon tells us that to fear God and keep his commandments is the whole duty of man. Then it must necessarily follow that the law to which John and Paul refer, the transgression of which is sin, is none other than the law of God-the ten commandments. A few texts will suffice to show the importance of observing that law. As above quoted, it comprises man’s whole duty. Ecclesiastes 12:13. It is “perfect, converting the soul.” Psalm 19:7. The keeping of the law is the test of our love to God. 1 John 5:3. It is only by keeping it, in connection with faith in Christ, that we are to inherit eternal life in the kingdom of God. Matthew 19:17; Revelation 22:14. On the other hand, we are told that “he that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.” Proverbs 28:9. Surely no worse fate could befall any man than that God should turn with loathing from his entreaty. And we learn that a partial obedience to the law will not suffice to bring the promised reward, or avert the penalty, for partial obedience is disobedience. “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” James 2:10. It could not be otherwise; for since God is the author of the whole law, we dishonor him if we do not render obedience to the whole law. If we willfully refuse to keep one of the commandments, we show that we do not keep the other nine out of any special regard to the Lawgiver, but because it is convenient or for our self-interest to do so.BEST February 1, 1890, page 41.3

    Turning to consider this law, upon the observance of which our eternal destiny depends, we find that the Sabbath commandment is the most honored of them all. The fourth commandment is the one chosen to make known to men who the maker of the law is. It is true that three other commandments contain the word “God,” but there is nothing in them to designate who is referred to.BEST February 1, 1890, page 42.1

    “There be gods many and lords many, but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things.” 1 Corinthians 8:5, 6. The fourth commandment expressly declares that this only true God, the Creator of heaven and earth, is its author.BEST February 1, 1890, page 42.2

    This law is almost universally recognized as the embodiment of all morality, the summary of all law; and the open violation of nearly all of them, especially the first three, and the sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth, is considered a flagrant sin. The violation of the fifth and tenth is also theoretically considered a sin, although practically those two commandments are little regarded. But whether men regard the commandments in their lives or not, in theory they are generally ready to admit that they are all binding, with the exception of the fourth. The only reason of which we can think why men should thus lightly regard the fourth commandment, is that its violation is so common. Indeed, the custom of the people is often urged with all seriousness as a sufficient reason for not keeping the Sabbath. The Sabbath commandment is the only one concerning which men argue thus. They do not argue that God will not punish the thief because there are so many who steal; or that false swearing is now pleasing to God because it is so common. But in regard to the fourth commandment, they seem to imagine that they can overawe God with numbers, and convert him to their way of thinking. But sin is sin, whether practiced by few or many. Men become accustomed to sin, so that its heinousness is lessened in their estimation; but it is not so with God.BEST February 1, 1890, page 42.3

    Who can tell which commandment God regards as the most sacred? It is beyond the power of man. When Christ was asked, “Which is the great commandment in the law?” he did not specify any one, but quoted the two great principles which cover the whole law. We have no assurance that God regards Sabbath-breaking as any less a sin than theft or murder. From the place which he has given the fourth commandment in his law, as the one to show the badge of his authority, his creative power, it would seem that if any distinction were made, Sabbath-breaking would be considered as the greatest of sins. But even if we were able to discriminate between the commandments, and say that one is greater than another, it would not release us from keeping the least commandment; for Christ says, “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called least [i.e., of no account] in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:19. Following the verse in which James says that to offend in one point makes a man guilty of all, we read: “For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.” James 2:11. The fourth commandment may be supplied in place of the sixth, and we would then read, For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Remember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou break the Sabbath, thou art become a transgressor of the law. The same may be said of any other precept of the decalogue.BEST February 1, 1890, page 42.4

    Sabbath-breaking, then, is a sin, and those who would be preachers of righteousness must give the Sabbath its proper place in the law of God. We do not teach Sabbath observance to the exclusion of the other commandments, but we exhort men to obey all the law, for that is the standard by which “God shall bring every work into judgment.” “And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before God, as he hath commanded us.” Deuteronomy 6:25.BEST February 1, 1890, page 42.5

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