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    May 1, 1884

    “Reasons for Not Observing Saturday” The Signs of the Times, 10, 17.

    E. J. Waggoner

    A member of one of our missionary societies has been in correspondence with his friends in the East concerning the Sabbath question. In reply to one of his letters, he received a long letter from his former pastor, a Disciple minister, in which the latter tried to reclaim the wandering member of his flock, by showing the absurdities of Sabbath observance. From this letter we were allowed to make a few extracts, embodying the principal part of the argument, which we herewith give for the benefit of all inquirers after truth. The letter indicated a sincere desire on the part of the writer to win the brother from supposed error, and we are therefore warranted in supposing that the best argument was given that could be found. We quote:-SITI May 1, 1884, page 265.1

    “‘The Sabbath,’ it is not claimed is a term ever applied in the New Testament, or for many years after [the time when it was written], to the first day of the week. Hence is not claimed by me or my brethren that ‘the Sabbath’ of the Sinaitic law was changed. Talking about changing the Sabbath from the seventh to the first day is very much like the talk about changing circumcision to baptism.”SITI May 1, 1884, page 265.2

    This is not a bad statement to start with. Now knowing that the first day of the week is nowhere in the New Testament called “the Sabbath,” that term being applied exclusively to the seventh day of the week, we call to mind these words of Christ: “But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day.” Matthew 24:20. Christ was speaking of the destruction of Jerusalem, which occurred about forty years later. And what was to be the prayer of the disciples during these years? That they might not be obliged to violate the sanctity of the seventh-day Sabbath, and even to secure their own lives. If now the New Testament writers uniformly call the seventh day the Sabbath, “according to the commandment,” where shall we look for authority for first-day observance? Is not the one teaching such observance going contrary to the New Testament? and will he not thus, under the anathema of Paul in Galatians 1:8? Indeed it is absurd to talk of changing the Sabbath of the Lord’s appointments; but the papacy has thought himself able to do so (Daniel 7:25), and millions cheerfully acknowledge his claim. Again:-SITI May 1, 1884, page 265.3

    “Statute law may and does change, but principles never. The basis of all the law and the prophets is given by our Lord as love to God and man..... Man has no authority to change either, but with the change of dispensation, God has given different commands as expressive of submission to him.”SITI May 1, 1884, page 265.4

    We ask, What is that which contains the record of the change of dispensation? The answer will be, “The New Testament.” But our brother has admitted, as just quoted, that there was no change in “the Sabbath of the Mosaic law,” and that, in the New Testament, the term Sabbath” is not applied to any other day than the seventh. Statute law may change, but we are not absolved from allegiance to it until that change takes place. But the New Testament contains no record of a change; on the contrary, Christ said “It is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.” Luke 16:17. Now since “this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments,” how can we have love to him if we violate one of them? No one can violate any portion of the law, and not violate the principle upon which is based.SITI May 1, 1884, page 265.5

    Again we quote:-SITI May 1, 1884, page 265.6

    “It is very easy to see that there is moral obligation to love, adore, and obey the Lord; and it is easy to understand that man’s physical, intellectual, and moral good calls for a cessation from worldly occupations for a time, that the mind may be given to contemplation and worship; but that the observance of the seventh day of the week is of necessary moral obligation is a different matter. It was made obligatory by appointment. There was, no doubt, good reasons for such command, two at least of which are given in Scripture. 1. The creation. 2. The deliverance from Egypt.”SITI May 1, 1884, page 265.7

    The above seems to us to be an exceedingly cool piece of criticism upon the Creator. Our friend is willing to allow that the Lord had reason for appointing the seventh day as the Sabbath, but does not think we are morally bound to keep it. Let us see. To start with, there are two points upon which we are agreed. 1. That the seventh-day Sabbath is of divine appointment. 2. That the New Testament always recognizes the seventh day, and no other, as the Sabbath. But our friend says that the Sabbath commandment is not of moral obligation. How does he know that? By what standard are we to judge of moral obligation? Is the human mind capable of deciding? Hardly. How does he know that to commit adultery is an immoral act? Not from his own consciousness, for thousands of men, as highly gifted by nature as he, have believed such an act to be consistent with the highest virtue, and even necessary in order to attain the highest good. Indeed it was openly advocated in practice by many of the ancient philosophers. The young were taught to lie if it seemed to be their advantage to do so. The sentiments may be found in the writings of classical authors: “When telling a lie will be profitable, let it be told.” “There is nothing decorous in truth, but when it is profitable.” These are the teachings of those who were esteemed virtuous, and who had no idea but that they were doing all that was required of them.SITI May 1, 1884, page 265.8

    Now how does our brother happen to be so much wiser than those philosophers, and that he knows such things to be sinful? Because the Lord has said, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” and, “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” It is in just the same way that we know that it is a sin to violate the Sabbath. It is based on the unalterable facts of creation; and the commandment is placed with the other moral precepts. It may be said that moral principles are eternal, but that there was a time when even the reason for the Sabbath commandment did not exist. Very well; and there was also a time when no reason for the seventh commandment existed. Before man was created there was no necessity for such a commandment, and yet no one questions the fact that it is of moral obligation. But let it be remembered that the earth was created before man was, and that therefore the reason for the fourth commandment antedates that for the seventh.SITI May 1, 1884, page 265.9

    It is difficult to fitly characterize the idea that the seventh-day Sabbath is not of necessary moral obligation because “it was made obligatory by appointment.” That is, we are under no moral obligation to keep it, because the only authority for its observance is the word of God! But let us imagine a man with this idea brought before the bar of God at the last day. The Judge, who is also the law-maker, asks, “Why did you not keep the Sabbath? Did you not know that I had commanded its observance?” The reply comes, “Yes, Lord, I knew that, and publicly taught it, but I could find no reason for keeping the Sabbath, except the fact that you had made a commandment for its observance. I had no doubt but that you had a good reason for giving such a commandment; but since it rested solely on your authority, I did not feel under any obligation to keep it.” Certainly the best that could be done would be to punish the man for contempt. We have no desire to be harsh; and we do not believe that our brother feels any contempt for God’s authority; yet the above is just what his position amounts to. It is equivalent to saying that God is not the First Cause, but that there is a something called “moral principle” that is superior to him.SITI May 1, 1884, page 265.10

    There is indeed “no doubt” but that God had “good reason” for setting apart the seventh day, as a reading of the fourth commandment will show. Here it is: “Six days shalt thou labor and all thy works; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in yet thou shalt not do any work.... for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day; wherefore [for which reason] the Lord bless the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” Exodus 20:9-11. This is the reason which the Lord gives for appointing the seventh day as the Sabbath. And we ask, Does not the same reason still exist? Is it not still a fact that the Lord created heaven and earth in six days? Is it not as true now as it ever was that he rested upon, blessed, and sanctified [set apart] the seventh day? Certainly. Then if the reason for the observance of the seventh day still exists, is it not claimed that the Lord would be unreasonable, that is, acting contrary to reason, if he did not still require that it should be kept? Who will dare charge the Lord with folly?SITI May 1, 1884, page 265.11

    As to the deliverance from Egypt we will simply state that Moses cites that to remind the Israelites of their special obligation to God. Simple gratitude demanded that they should obey the commandment of God. But the reason for the institution of the Sabbath is given in the fourth commandment, which was spoken many years before. To us this reason seems so cogent that we dare not enter into controversy with the Lord on the subject.SITI May 1, 1884, page 265.12

    Again, our friend says: “The apostles never commanded the observance of the Sabbath.” We agree, and going step farther and say that it would have made no difference if they had. The apostles were not law-givers; they had no authority to issue commands. “There is one Law-giver, who is able to save and to destroy.” James 4:12. And this Law-giver had issued a command for the observance of the Sabbath, thousands of years before the apostles were born, thus making it unnecessary for them to do so, even if they had been inclined to take matters into their own hands. The apostle Paul, speaking in behalf of his brethren in the ministry, said: “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though Christ did beseech you by us; for we pray you in Christ’s stead, be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:20. As Christ’s ambassadors they followed his injunction to teach only what he had commanded them. Matthew 28:20. They, as well as we, owed allegiance to a sovereign power. It was left for the pope of Rome to usurp authority, and to issue laws of his own.SITI May 1, 1884, page 266.1

    The above quotations are the chief reasons given in the letter for not observing the seventh day. It is but fitting that we should hear what the writer has to say for Sunday, which he terms the “Lord’s day.” Unfortunately his time expired before he could give his authority for that. What he says for it is contained in the following paragraph:-SITI May 1, 1884, page 266.2

    “Our reasons for observing the Lord’s day I have not time to give. I suggest, however, that the New Testament is not so much a book of precepts as of general principles. Even in those ordinances that are usually considered positive in their character, there is but little of the legislation or ritualistic.”SITI May 1, 1884, page 266.3

    It is enough. Why should he desire to say more? The New Testament is not a book of precepts, and therefore he keeps Sunday. Briefly summed up, his position is this: We need not keep the seventh day, because it is simply commanded by the Lord; and we ought to keep the first day, because there is no command for it whatever! Further comment is unnecessary. Reader, are you willing to rest your case upon so sandy a foundation as that? “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter. Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14. E. J. W.SITI May 1, 1884, page 266.4

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