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    September 20, 1883

    “The Sabbath-School. Acts 16:35-40; 17:1-20, and 17:20-34” The Signs of the Times, 9, 35.

    E. J. Waggoner

    Lessons for Pacific Coast.-Sept. 22 and 29.
    Acts 16:35-40; 17:1-20, and 17:20-3.
    NOTES ON THE LESSON.

    NOTE.-The Sabbath-school notes this week were written at the camp-meeting, under circumstances not the most favorable, as we did not have the Instructor containing the lesson, and our time was quite fully occupied with other duties. Since there was no paper last week, we thought best to briefly pass over both lessons, as there were points in the lesson that would have been omitted, upon which we wish to comment. Other points would be noticed if we had space.SITI September 20, 1883, page 413.1

    There are those who think more of apostolic example than they do of the commandments of God. We do not believe that they that were sent were greater than He who sent them, therefore we give the commandments of God and Christ (which are always the same) preference. But we believe in following the example of the apostles in the main, because they were usually exactly right. Acts 17:2 presents a practice which we believe in following. When Paul came to Thessalonica he found a congregation of the Jews; “And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the Scriptures.” From this we learn that Paul was in the habit of observing the Sabbath. We are not surprised at this, for he himself said, “I delight in a law of God.” Compare this statement in regard to Paul’s custom with the fact that we have the record of only one sermon preached by Paul upon the first day of the week, and that upon that same first day he traveled twenty miles. Upon which side is the weight of apostolic example? We shall have more on this point hereafter.SITI September 20, 1883, page 413.2

    It is interesting to notice Paul’s method of preaching. He “reasoned with them out of the Scriptures, opening and alleging that Christ must needs have suffered,” etc. He did not use a single text as an excuse for reading a learned essay, or delivering an eloquent oration, but he preached the Bible itself. The Bible was his text-book, and he studied it with his congregation. And he did not present his views in an apologetic manner. He knew what the Bible taught, and believed it; and there was no guess-work about the matter. He presented the truths of God’s word as facts. It is this sort of preaching that wins souls if anything will, and it was so in this case. Many believed; “of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few.”SITI September 20, 1883, page 413.3

    But envy had possession of many of the Jews, so that facts had no weight with them. They attempted to do by force what they were unable to do by legitimate argument. They “took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort” and made an uproar, trying to destroy Paul and Silas. This move was ostensibly in the interest of religion, yet they were willing to accept the assistance of the lowest rabble. No doubt these lewd fellows took great credit to themselves for the zeal which they manifested in the cause of religion. In their minds that act would atone for all the profligacy of which they had been guilty, and that in which they proposed to indulge. When men can be religious by persecuting the righteous, all the wicked suddenly become converted.SITI September 20, 1883, page 413.4

    “And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also.” Well, if that is what they had been doing, ought they not to have been stopped? What business had Paul and Silas to go around stirring up the people? Just this right: The Lord had sent them out with a special message of truth for the people. Their only work was to deliver their message. If people rejected it, and grew angry at them, that was none of their business. Indeed, that is just what they were taught to expect. The Saviour said, “For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against for mother-in-law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” Matthew 10:35, 36. It was not because Christ loved strife, that he said this; but he had come to speak the truth, and he knew that the truth would cause division. Men who reject the truth will ever be opposed to those who, by accepting the truth, condemn them. We hear men deprecating the preaching of Sabbath reform, because it causes divisions. Such ones would have used all their energy to choke down Paul, had they lived in his day, for he stirred up more strife than any other man of whom we have any knowledge. Yet these persons profess to believe in Paul. We are strongly reminded of Matthew 23:29-31.SITI September 20, 1883, page 413.5

    When Paul and Silas were forced to leave Thessalonica, they came to Berea, where also there was a congregation of Jews, of whom Luke says: “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they receive to the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” Here we have true nobility, according to the Bible standard. It is now considered a mark of wisdom and honor to doubt the word of God, and to criticize and try to pick flaws in it; but God decides differently. “Fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The words “more noble” mean literally “of better birth”; so those who with meekness receive the word of God into good and honest hearts are of far higher birth than those who despise it, since they are the sons and daughters of God.SITI September 20, 1883, page 413.6

    They “searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” What Scriptures did a search? The Old Testament-the only Scriptures they had. What things were Paul and Silas preaching? The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth-his life, death, resurrection, ascension, and second advent. Then, since these Bereans searched the Old Testament to find out the truth of the apostle’s preaching, it must be that they referred them to that same book. Then it must be, also, that the gospel is found in the Old Testament as well as in the New. And so it is, for Paul says that the Gospel was preached to Abraham, and he lived many hundred years before any of the New Testament was written. Indeed, although we have the New Testament, we could not be certain that it is true, or that Christ is the Son of God, and the Saviour of the world, if it were not for the Old Testament.SITI September 20, 1883, page 413.7

    It is worth while also to notice how the Bereans studied the Scriptures. They searched them daily. Nothing but daily study of the word will give a person an understanding of its truths. And they studied with an object; they desired to find out if those things were so. And we may well suppose that, since they searched for this purpose, it was their firm intention to accept the teaching of Paul and Silas, if they were found. To be true and this is proved by the next verse: “Therefore, many of them believed.” This would be the case now if men would search the Scriptures; but as it was then so now, the majority prefer to search tradition, for the testimonies of the fathers, or science (falsely so called), or if they do search the Scriptures, they do so with a spirit of caviling and doubt, and do not, like the noble Bereans, receive the word “with all readiness of mind.”SITI September 20, 1883, page 413.8

    When Paul came to Athens, his spirit was stirred, powerfully agitated, because he saw the city wholly given to idolatry, or full of idols. Athens was then the metropolis of the world, the seat of all learning and art. It no doubt had more in it to attract the eye than all the rest of the world. Livy says that it “was full of the images of gods and men, adorned with every variety of material, and with all the skill of art.” Another writer humorously said that “it was easier to find a god than a man there.” Paul was educated and refined; he doubtless had an eye for the beautiful, both in nature and art. But his was the true culture and refinement-the culture that comes from an acquaintance with God. The vanities of Athens had no attraction for him. He could think only of the one thing-that all these were leading from God. How many Christians are there at the present time who, like Paul, are agitated over the wickedness that abounds, rather than attracted by and lost in admiration for the splendor which is often only a covering for vice? In this age of the world especially the Christian has something far greater to attract the attention than mere sight-seeing.SITI September 20, 1883, page 413.9

    “Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoics, encountered him.” The Epicureans derived their name from Epicurus, who lived about 300 years before Christ. “They denied that the world was created by God, and that the gods exercised any care or providence over human affairs, and also the immortality of the soul. [They denied all future existence.] One of the distinguishing doctrines of Epicurus was that pleasure was the summum bonum, or chief good, and that virtue was to be practiced only as it contributed to pleasure.” It is easy to see to what practices such doctrines would lead. The Stoics believed that the universe was created by God, but that all things were fixed by fate; that even God was under the dominion of fate. It will be readily seen that Paul’s teaching would be diametrically opposed to such doctrines as these.SITI September 20, 1883, page 413.10

    We should not fail to notice the adroitness and skill with which Paul introduced his subject. The philosophers had said, “He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods.” Now the Athenians were very jealous of the worship of their gods. Pausanias says that they greatly surpassed all others in their zeal for religion. It was dangerous for anyone to speak against their idol worship. About 400 years before, Socrates, one of their own philosophers, the wisest and most highly esteemed of any among them, had been put to death because they thought he was unsettling the minds of the young, and teaching disrespect for the gods. Now if Paul had introduced this subject bluntly, it is doubtful if he would have allowed to speak at all. Thus he would have defeated his own purpose. So he took them on their own ground. He said, “I perceive that ye are somewhat superstitious.” The word “superstitious,” as used here, means “excessively religious.” He had seen an altar with the inscription, “To an unknown God;” so he said, “Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.” They could find no fault with him for teaching them more perfectly concerning a god whom they professed to worship. But this means he was able to preach to them further, “Jesus and the resurrection.” Paul showed on this occasion the wisdom of the serpent, in winning souls to Christ, as the apostles had been commanded. Those who labor in these days would do well to learn a lesson from this. And yet, how many are there who would not compromise the truth should they be placed in Paul circumstances, and attempt to do this as he did?SITI September 20, 1883, page 413.11

    It was only lately that we noticed a criticism on Paul, because he did not preach Christ, but attempted to convince the Athenians by science. He must be a very careless reader who could make such a criticism. It is not to be supposed, of course, that we have the whole report of Paul’s sermon, for it would not have taken him two minutes to deliver it. This report gives only the heads of his discourse. It is a perfectly legitimate thing to prove the existence of God, from nature, and this is what Paul did. Having proved the existence of God, and his nature, he introduced the gospel in these words: God “now commandeth all men everywhere to respect; because he hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, and that he hath raised him from the dead.” We do not think a more powerful gospel sermon could been preached than Paul preached at Athens. E. J. W.SITI September 20, 1883, page 413.12

    “Review of Sermon on the ‘Christian Sabbath’” The Signs of the Times, 9, 35.

    E. J. Waggoner

    A few weeks since we received a copy of the Stockton (Cal.) Independent, which contained the synopsis of a sermon on “The Christian Sabbath, and the Abrogation of the Jewish Sabbath,” by Rev. W. T. Fleenor, pastor of the First Baptist Church of that city. Having received several requests to review the sermon, we decided to do so, but have been hindered hitherto by press of other matter. We offer no apology for the number of articles that appear in the SIGNS, nor even for repeating arguments again and again; for we believe the Sabbath reform is the message for this time, and we know that “precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here all little and their little.”SITI September 20, 1883, page 415.1

    The most unpleasant part of the work, is that of reviewing articles or sermons in opposition to the truth, because (1) The arguments urged against the Sabbath are so weak and puerile, and so self-contradictory that it seems almost a waste of time to notice them; and (2) We do not like to seem to be finding fault with others, when we have no personal feeling in the matter at all. We do so, however, because arguments that appear very weak to those familiar with Bible truth may seem strong to others, who have heard little or nothing of the evidence in favor of the Sabbath of the Lord. And these arguments, weak though they may be, often afford an excellent opportunity to bring out the strait testimony of the Bible. But that we may save space, in this instance, we will not repeat all the arguments which the speaker brought forward, but will simply present the Bible evidence of the truth that have been assailed.SITI September 20, 1883, page 415.2

    There is no fact more susceptible of proof than that the Sabbath began at the close of the creation week, and that the first Sabbath commandment was spoken at that time. Notice the following points: 1. “Sabbath,” as is generally known, means “rest;” it is nothing more than the Hebrew word for ‘rest.” 2. When God had completed his work in six days, and pronounced everything very good, he rested on the seventh day. Genesis 2:1-3: “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.” If “Sabbath” means “rest,” then this text plainly declares that God made the Sabbath at the close of the first week of time; for he not only rested, but he blessed the day of his rest and sanctified it, or set it apart for a holy use. 3. Our Saviour declared that “the Sabbath was made for man;” it was not given to man centuries after it was made, but it was made for him; it was designed for his especial use.SITI September 20, 1883, page 415.3

    Again, to sanctify is to set apart. God sanctified the seventh day; from what did he set it apart? From the other days of the week. This was a part of the work of making the Sabbath. Now to say that the Lord made the Sabbath for man, and set it apart for his use, and yet told him nothing about it, is to charge God with folly. We do not see how the evidence could be any clearer than it is, that in the beginning, in Eden, God commanded men to keep the Sabbath. The “Speaker’s Commentary” says on Genesis 2:3: “The natural interpretation of these words is that the blessing of the Sabbath was immediately consequent on the first creation of man, for whom the Sabbath was made.”SITI September 20, 1883, page 415.4

    The record says that “God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it.” Our objector says: “The seventh day of what? Not of the week, for the days of creation were long periods of time. No one can keep that day.” We say that God blessed and sanctified the seventh day of the week, and none other. The commandment, Exodus 20:8-11. teaches us that we are to keep holy the Sabbath-day, because God rested upon and hallowed it. We are to rest upon the same day upon which God rested. What day of the week this was may be learned from Luke 23:54-56; 24:1. The women who followed Jesus to the tomb “returned and prepared spices and ointments, and rested the Sabbath-day according to the commandment.” Then whatever day of the week they kept, was the day of the week which the commandment enjoins. That must be admitted by all. The very next day (Matthew 28:1) they came again to the sepulcher. This visit was made on “the first day of the week;” consequently the day previous-the Sabbath according to the commandment-was the seventh day of the week.SITI September 20, 1883, page 415.5

    The days of creation were literal days of twenty-four hours each. 1. They were days composed of an evening and a morning. Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31. 2. There were days over which the sun and moon were made to rule. Genesis 1:16. 3. As above stated, God commanded men to rest upon the day that he did. To claim, then, that that day was a long, indefinite period of time, is to charge God with trifling with man. The theory of an indefinite period of time for creation, is the offering of “science falsely so called” to the cause of infidelity. No proof for such a theory can be brought forward; it rest solely on infidel conjecture.SITI September 20, 1883, page 415.6

    It is urged that we do not find the patriarchs keeping the Sabbath; that for a period of 2500 years no mention is made of the Sabbath. The men who make this objection seem to think that the book of Genesis is a diary kept by the patriarchs, and that Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, each contributed to the complete history of his own time. Nothing could be further from the truth. The book of Genesis contains the history of 2500 years, the events have all taken place. It was written to show God’s plan in regard to mankind, and to trace the genealogy of Christ. The record does not state that Enoch, or Noah, or Abraham refrained from blasphemy and theft, but we do not therefore conclude that these men were thieves and blasphemers; neither have we any reason to conclude that they were Sabbath-breakers, because particular mention is not made concerning each one that he kept the Sabbath. God had given the Sabbath commandment; to say, then, that a certain man was a good man is equivalent to saying that he kept the Sabbath. Of Enoch and Noah is said that they “walked with God,” and of Abraham that he kept God’s commandments, statutes and laws. But even if no one from Adam to Moses had observed the Sabbath, it would not have affected God’s commandment in the least. We close for this week with the following testimony from Dr. Scott, comment on Genesis 2:3:-SITI September 20, 1883, page 415.7

    “The sacred writer here both records the appointment of the Sabbath, and assigns the reason for it: ‘Because that in it the Lord rested from all his work.’ This is evidently historical, and not by anticipation; for the reason subsisted from the beginning, and was more cogent immediately that it could be at a distance of more than two thousand years, when the command was solemnly renewed from Mount Sinai, long after sin had marred the beauty of the great Creator’s work; and it concerns the whole human race, as much as the nation of Israel.... And the silence of Moses concerning the observation of the Sabbath by the patriarchs, so far from proving that they were not commanded to observe it, will not render it so much as probable that they did not actually keep it, to those who attentively consider how much darkness rests upon many similar subjects, in the Scriptural history of the Church. Yet some intimations are given in this book, which show that the patriarchs divided the time into weeks, and observed the seventh day.” E. J. W.SITI September 20, 1883, page 416.1

    (To be Continued.)

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