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    May 23, 1895

    “Gladstone on the Lord’s Day” The Signs of the Times, 21, 20.

    E. J. Waggoner

    A Great Perplexity

    One of the most striking features of the Sunday question is the perplexity that exist among men as to why it should be observed. If this perplexity were confined to those who make no profession of religion, there would be nothing wonderful in it; but the fact is that it exists in the minds of those who profess to be perfectly sure that Sunday is the divinely-appointed day of rest. Thus the New York Independent of March 28 begins a review of a recent article by Professor Za... on the Sunday, with these words:—SITI May 23, 1895, page 305.1

    One of the knotty problems which the student of New Testament and early ecclesiastical literature must meet deals with the origin of the Christian Sunday as a day of worship, and the why and wherefore of the change from the seventh to the first day of the week as the day for public worship in the primitive church.SITI May 23, 1895, page 305.2

    In like manner, Mr. Gladstone, in his recent article on the Lord’s day, says that there are two peculiarities in the defense of the Sunday. The first is that—SITI May 23, 1895, page 306.1

    There are important auxiliaries, who put wholly out of view the revealed sanction and the properly Christian motive.SITI May 23, 1895, page 306.2

    The other possibility is said to be that—SITI May 23, 1895, page 306.3

    Very many of these defenders, whose motive and profession are not secular but distinctly religious, are singularly ill-equipped with consistent or perspicuous ideas of the subject.SITI May 23, 1895, page 306.4

    And yet again he says on this latter point:—SITI May 23, 1895, page 306.5

    As to ideas, it can hardly be said that in our own country, of which alone I speak, the general mind is possessed with any conception at once accurate and clear, of the religious ground on which we are to observe the Sunday.SITI May 23, 1895, page 306.6

    What a strange condition of things! Here is the Sunday, which is held to be the very chief of Christian institutions, and the observance of which is supposed to be absolutely necessary to the preservation of religion; yet of its two classes of defenders one is wholly secular, and the religious class do not have any definite idea of the religious grounds for Sunday observance!SITI May 23, 1895, page 306.7

    Let the reader not fail to give particular attention to this significant fact, that in the nineteenth century after Christ there is no uncertainty nor clear idea among professed Christians concerning what is supposed to be one of the most vital points of Christianity. People are everywhere crying out, in substance, “Tell us what we believe, and why we believe it; especially tell us why we keep Sunday.” Could there be any more conclusive evidence that Sunday observance has no real foundation whatever?SITI May 23, 1895, page 306.8

    A Worthy Champion

    But now we have Mr. Gladstone to the rescue. The first part of his article appeared in March, but we delayed commenting upon it until it should be completed. It was the most widely advertised of any article that we have seen for a long time, but no more widely than the reputation of the author warranted. It is safe to say that no man in the United Kingdom is better equipped for the task than Mr. Gladstone. A Churchman born, a thorough scholar, perfectly at home in every branch of learning, knowing classical literature by heart, and nearly as well acquainted with theological literature as with the classics, a trained and experienced controversialist, a master of language, knowing how to marshal arguments and to put them in the most telling manner,—surely if there is anything in a case, Mr. Gladstone is the man to set it forth. If he fails, it is the fault of the case and not of the man.SITI May 23, 1895, page 306.9

    We have no disposition to criticize, and the object of this present article is solely to set before our readers the arguments for Sunday, as produced by Mr. Gladstone. If they are satisfied with them, and believe that the foundation which he lays for Sunday observance is sound, that is their privilege. We are anxious only that when men make the choice between the two days,—the seventh and the first,—they may perfectly understand the reason why they do so, and may know exactly on what foundation each stands.SITI May 23, 1895, page 306.10

    Sunday and the Fourth Commandment

    Having stated that the general mind does not possess any clear and accurate conception of the religious ground on which people observe Sunday, Mr. Gladstone proceeds to say:—SITI May 23, 1895, page 306.11

    There is a hazy, but still practical and by no means superficial, impression that in some way it has to do with the original command delivered through Moses, so often recited in our churches, and backed there by the definite petition that God will incline our hearts “to keep this law.” We do not in due proportion weigh or measure two facts which bear materially on the case. Two changes have been imported into this law: one of them into its form, the other into its spirit. The first has been altered by translation of the commandment from the seventh day of the week to the first; the second, by imparting to it a positive and affirmative, in addition to its originally negative and prohibitory sense.SITI May 23, 1895, page 306.12

    Give good heed to several points admitted in the foregoing statement: First, the observance of Sunday is not in harmony with the fourth commandment. Second, the commandment as given required the observance of the seventh day of the week. Third, this is an acknowledgment of the fact that the day called Sunday is the first day of the week, and is not the day named in the commandment, and that the day commonly called Saturday is the seventh day of the week, and is the day named in the commandment. If these points are well grasped, there is no difficulty in arriving at a perfect understanding of the case.SITI May 23, 1895, page 306.13

    Note further the admission that two changes have been imported into the law of God, namely, in its form and in its spirit. That means a complete change, so that in reality Mr. Gladstone agrees with Prebendary Eyton, that—SITI May 23, 1895, page 306.14

    To discuss, then, any questions about Sunday observance, in connection with the fourth commandment, is obviously to discuss questions which cannot be settled in that fashion. Sunday... has no possible connection with the Jewish Sabbath, either so regards its fundamental idea of observance, or even as regards its divine sanction.SITI May 23, 1895, page 306.15

    It is obvious that a law that has been changed in both form and spirit is essentially another law; therefore, according to Mr. Gladstone, as well as Prebendary Eyton, Sunday keeping has no connection whatever with the fourth commandment.SITI May 23, 1895, page 306.16

    It is worth while, in passing, to call attention to the fact that the commandment is not merely negative and prohibitory, but is positive as well. It starts out with the positive injunction, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy,” and then proceeds to tell what day the Sabbath day is. Therefore it did not stand in need of any change to make it positive.SITI May 23, 1895, page 306.17

    A Foreign Importation

    One other point should be given special attention, and that is that the Bible contains no trace of this amended commandment. The Bible contains only the original commandment as spoken by Jehovah himself from Mt. Sinai, with a voice that shook the earth. The changes in the law have been altogether “imported;” they are entirely foreign to the Bible and its Author.SITI May 23, 1895, page 306.18

    This is admitted by Mr. Gladstone, when, after speaking of the failure to recognize “the ascent that the fourth commandment of the Decalogue has made, and the development and explanation that it has received under the Christian dispensation,” he says—SITI May 23, 1895, page 306.19

    Hence perhaps it is that we have but imperfectly grasped what is implied in what we familiarly call the observance of Sunday. Possibly there may have been a concurring cause for this defect in the indisposition of many minds, after the crisis of the Reformation, to recognize any action of the church apart from the Scriptures.SITI May 23, 1895, page 306.20

    This point thus admitted is directly stated in the following words, that occur later on—SITI May 23, 1895, page 306.21

    The seventh day of the week has been deposed from its title to obligatory religious observance, and its prerogative has been carried over to the first-under no direct precept of Scripture.SITI May 23, 1895, page 306.22

    Now we have the case squarely before us. The fourth commandment requires the observance of the seventh day of the week. That seventh day is the day immediately preceding the day known as Sunday. This commandment has been changed both in form and in spirit. But the change was not authorized by Scripture, and the record of it is not contained in Scripture. It was wholly the action of “the church.” Therefore the change was not in reality ever made in the commandment, which remains exactly the same as it was in the beginning. So that in the Sunday we have an institution of “the church” put forth as a rival to the Sabbath of the Bible. He who observes the seventh day follows the Bible, while he who observes the first day follows “the church.” The issue therefore is plain. It is the Sunday against the Sabbath,—“the church,” against the Bible. Which will you choose?SITI May 23, 1895, page 306.23

    A Bold Assumption

    Again we quote from Mr. Gladstone:—SITI May 23, 1895, page 306.24

    The Christian community took upon itself to alter the form of the Jewish ordinance, but that was with a view to giving larger effect to its spiritual purpose. The seventh day had been ordained as the most appropriate, according to the Decalogue, for commemorating the old creation. The advent of our Lord introduced us to a chain of events by which alone the benefits of the old creation were secured to us, together with the yet higher benefits of the new.SITI May 23, 1895, page 306.25

    Note this well: God himself gave the fourth commandment. “The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” “For we know that the law is spiritual.” Romans 7:12, 14. Yet “the Christian community,” without any Scripture warrant, “took upon itself” to alter the commandment, “with a view to giving larger effect to its spiritual purpose.” That is to say, “the Christian community” presumed to be able to improve God’s work. It claimed to be more spiritual than God himself. Of course there could be no scriptural warrant for such an interference with God’s law, since the Scripture says, “As for God, his way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30), and, “Whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever” (Ecclesiastes 3:14). It remained for a so-called “Christian community” to oppose and exalt itself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped, so that it set itself forth as God. It matters not what that “Christian community” is called, the fact remains that it brought about the change in the observance of the day of rest only by doing what is ascribed to the “man of sin,” “the son of perdition.” 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4.SITI May 23, 1895, page 306.26

    The New Creation

    Let it be noted that the seventh day never commemorated “the old creation.” When the seventh day was sanctified as the Sabbath, the heavens and the earth were new. The seventh day commemorates the creation of the new heavens and the new earth, unsullied by the curse. It commemorates the new creation, when God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good. The Apostle Paul writes, “If any man be in Christ he is a new creation.” It is even this new creation that the Sabbath is designed to commemorate; for the Lord says that he gave the Sabbath to his people, “that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them.” Ezekiel 20:12. And since it is Christ that is made unto us sanctification, the seventh day is the badge and reminder of his sanctifying power. The seventh day commemorates the creation of the new heavens and the new earth, and the power of God to create new men to inhabit them. The first day of the week commemorates nothing but the blasphemous presumption of a so-called “Christian community” that “took upon itself” to give larger effect to the spiritual purpose of the commandment of God. The first day as a rest day is therefore simply the badge of antichrist.SITI May 23, 1895, page 307.1

    The “Record of Facts”

    But some one will ask is Mr. Gladstone does not claim that there is some warrant in Scripture for the change. Yes, he does, and we propose to give every particle of the evidence that he produces, and in his own words. He says that the change has been made “under no direct precept of Scripture”—SITI May 23, 1895, page 307.2

    Yet with a Biblical record of facts, all supplied by St. John, which go far towards showing that among the apostles themselves, and therefore from apostolic times, the practice of divine worship on the Lord’s day has been continuously and firmly established.SITI May 23, 1895, page 307.3

    It will be borne in mind that by the term “Lord’s day” Mr. Gladstone means the Sunday. We shall presently give special attention to this term, but will pass it by for the present, to quote the “record of facts” which the Apostle John is said to give, which “go far” towards establishing the apostolic origin of Sunday keeping. Here is the entire “record of facts,” in Mr. Gladstone’s own words:—SITI May 23, 1895, page 307.4

    On the day of the resurrection itself, in the evening, the disciples were solemnly assembled, with the doors shut “for fear of the Jews” (St. John 20:19), and the Lord, in his risen body, appeared among them, to confer on them their great mission (Verses 21-23). Again on the eighth day, or, as we should term it, seven days after the great day of the resurrection, we have a similar assembly and a like appearance, which records the confirmation of the faith of St. Thomas. Verses 26-28. The same apostle who had linked together thus markedly those three occasions, introduce the Apocalypse to us with a proem that shows a deep sense of its dignity and importance, and next proceeds to localize it, first in place, by describing the isle of Patmos as the scene, and then, in time, by specifying that he was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.” Revelation 1:9, 10.SITI May 23, 1895, page 307.5

    This is the complete “record of facts” which Mr. Gladstone says “go far towards showing” that Sunday was kept from the days of the apostles. Notice that he does not claim that these facts actually show that Sunday was observed by them; he simply cautiously claims that they “go far” towards showing it. We will now examine each statement in detail, and then we shall see just how far they go, and how far they fall short of showing any divine sanction whatever for Sunday keeping.SITI May 23, 1895, page 307.6

    A First-Day Meeting

    First we have John 20:19, where, after speaking of the resurrection of Jesus, the apostle says:—SITI May 23, 1895, page 307.7

    “Then the same day at evening, being the first [day] of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.”SITI May 23, 1895, page 307.8

    Now we submit to every candid person that there is not in that verse the slightest hint of Sunday sacredness. If a man entirely ignorant of the Sunday controversy, and therefore unprejudiced, read it, he could gather from it nothing further than that the disciples were fearful lest the Jews should include them in the condemnation of Jesus, and that they therefore huddled together in a room with closed doors, and that Jesus hastened after his resurrection to calm their fears. Scarcely anything mere is needed to show the unscripturalness of Sunday observance than the fact that this verse is relied on to prove it.SITI May 23, 1895, page 307.9

    “After Eight Days”

    The next fact referred to is given in John 20:26:—SITI May 23, 1895, page 307.10

    “And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them; then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.”SITI May 23, 1895, page 307.11

    Compare this with the words of Mr. Gladstone concerning it:—SITI May 23, 1895, page 307.12

    Again on the eighth day, or, as we should term it, seven days after the great day of the resurrection, we have a similar assembly and a like appearance.SITI May 23, 1895, page 307.13

    But the scripture does not say that the appearance was “on the eighth day,” nor even “eight days after, “but “after eight days.” By no method of “reduction descending” known to mathematics could “after eight days” be made the same as “seven day after.” The first appearance being on Sunday, the second one, “after eight days,” could not by any possibility be earlier than Monday night of the following week. The use of this verse only still further emphasizes the absence of Scripture to sustain Sunday observance.SITI May 23, 1895, page 307.14

    “At Home”

    But it is a matter of the utmost indifference whether that meeting with the disciples was on Sunday night or Tuesday night; for there is not the slightest hint of any sacredness attaching to the time. Note the expression, “His disciples were within.” That is the common form of expression to denote that people are at home. Can it mean that in this instance?—Certainly, and it can mean nothing else. We read that after the disciples had seen Jesus ascend to heaven they returned to Jerusalem, “and when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alpheus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James.” Acts 1:18.SITI May 23, 1895, page 307.15

    So from these two texts we learn that the disciples, fearing lest the sight of them should stir up the passions of the mob, shut themselves closely at home, where Jesus came in to see them on the day of his resurrection, and again some time in the middle of the next week.SITI May 23, 1895, page 307.16

    What have we next?—The next and the last fact cited is the declaration made by John that he was in the Spirit onSITI May 23, 1895, page 307.17

    The Lord’s Day

    Very good; but what has that to do with Sunday? What say the Scriptures?—They tell us in plain terms what day the Lord’s day is. Thus, in Exodus 20:8-10 we read:—SITI May 23, 1895, page 307.18

    “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God.”SITI May 23, 1895, page 307.19

    Again, referring to this same day of the week, the Lord says:—SITI May 23, 1895, page 307.20

    “If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and make the Sabbath a delight, the holy, of the Lord, honorable,” etc.SITI May 23, 1895, page 307.21

    Note the two texts. One tells us that the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord, and the other tells us that the Sabbath is the Lord’s day, and holy. The seventh day, therefore, and none other, is the Lord’s day. And that was of this very day that the Saviour declared himself to be Lord, when he was falsely accused of breaking it. Matthew 12:8. He therefore claimed it as his day. With what fact then, can any one assume that the first day of the week is the Lord’s day?SITI May 23, 1895, page 307.22

    An Invention to Meet a Want

    The answer to that last question is found in the fact that “the Christian community “took upon itself,” without any Scriptural warrant, to change the ordinance of God. Having done that, and wishing afterward to make it appear that the Bible sanctions their wickedness, they simply declared that the term “Lord’s day” meant Sunday. When asked for proof that Revelation 1:10 refers to Sunday, they merely pointed to their own word, that is, they perverted the Bible to make it appear to sanction their deeds, instead of making their actions harmonize with it. The term “Lord’s day,” as applied to Sunday, is pure invention, with no foundation whatever in the Scriptures.SITI May 23, 1895, page 307.23

    Looking at the whole of the so-called evidence for the Sunday, it is evident that it is but an afterthought; that is, there is not anything whatever in the Scriptures from which a person coming to them ignorant of the customs of “the church” could possibly get the idea that the first day of the week is to be, or that is ever was, observed by anybody. Now people find themselves keeping Sunday, without knowing the reason why. They wish to know why, and appeal to those who are supposed to know, who straightway try to find in the Bible an excuse for their custom. No wonder that their efforts bear the stamp of failure. The Christian Commonwealth, which is by no means favorable to the Sabbath of the fourth commandment, says that Mr. Gladstone’s article “may be regarded as timely,” but is nevertheless constrained to add:—SITI May 23, 1895, page 307.24

    However, it must be admitted that Mr. Gladstone is not at his best in the line of argument for himself in the article under consideration. There is too much “glittering generality” and not enough definiteness in order to carry conviction.SITI May 23, 1895, page 308.1

    The fault is not in Mr. Gladstone, but in the case itself. Where Mr. Gladstone has failed, who can hope to succeed? His failure was predicted by a minister of his own church, who said:—SITI May 23, 1895, page 308.2

    This much I may prophesy-that with all his great genius, and all his deep and reverent knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, he will not be able to quote a single passage in the New Testament which states that the Christian Sunday is a substitute for the Jewish Sabbath.SITI May 23, 1895, page 308.3

    The Real Ground

    Another writer, Prebendary Eyton, also of the Church of England, says:—SITI May 23, 1895, page 308.4

    The observance of Sunday in the Christian church comes to us with quite a different sanction, and based on different grounds, from that of the Jewish Sabbath. It rests upon no direct divine command; no word is said about it in the New Testament.SITI May 23, 1895, page 308.5

    If Sunday defenders will all take up this position, and stick to it, there will very soon be an end of all perplexity over the Sunday question. We have no words of condemnation for those who do so. Indeed, our whole effort is to this end, that all may know the exact grounds on which both the seventh day and the first day are observed. When it is seen and acknowledged that while the observance of the seventh day rests on the fourth commandment and the example of Christ, the observance of the first day rests solely on the authority of “the church,” the Sabbath controversy will come to an end. There will then be just two classes,—those who accept the Bible only as the rule of life, and those who take the church as the only infallible guide. Then the man who is now perplexed will simply have to decide whether he will follow the Bible or “the church,” and the Lord himself will judge between the men who make the decision.SITI May 23, 1895, page 308.6

    E. J. W.

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