The Sabbath and First-Day During the First Five Centuries
Origin of the Sabbath and of the festival of the sun contrasted - Entrance of that festival into the church - The Moderns with the Ancients - The Sabbath observed by the early Christians - Testimony of Morer - Of Twisse - Of Giesler - Of Mosheim - Of Coleman - Of Bishop Tayler - The Sabbath loses ground before the Sunday festival - Several bodies of decided Sabbatarians - Testimony of Brerewood - Constantine''s Sunday law - Sunday a day of labor with the primitive church - Constantine''s edict a heathen law, and himself at that time a heathen - The bishop of Rome authoritatively confers the name of Lord''s day upon Sunday - Heylyn narrates the steps by which Sunday arose to power - A marked change in the history of that institution - Paganism brought into the church - The Sabbath weakened by Constantine''s influence - Remarkable facts concerning Eusebius - The Sabbath recovers strength again - The council of Laodicea pronounces a curse upon the Sabbath-keepers - The progress of apostasy marked - Authority of church councils considered - Chrysostom - Jerome - Augustine - Sunday edicts - Testimony of Socrates relative to the Sabbath about the middle of the fifth century - Of Sozomen - Effectual suppression of the Sabbath at the close of the fifth century.
The origin of the Sabbath and of the festival of Sunday is now distinctly understood. When God made the world, he gave to man the Sabbath that he might not forget the Creator of all things. When men apostatized from God, Satan tued them to the worship of the sun, and, as a standing memorial of their veneration for that luminary, caused them to dedicate to his honor the first day of the week. When the elements of apostasy had sufficiently matured in the Christian church, this ancient festival stood forth as a rival to the Sabbath of the Lord. The manner in which it obtained a foothold in the Christian church has been already shown; and many facts which have an important bearing upon the struggle between these rival institutions have also been given. We have, in the preceding chapters, given the statements of the most ancient Christian writers respecting the Sabbath and first-day in the early church. As we now trace the history of these two days during the first five centuries of the Christian era, we shall give the statements of modern church historians, covering the same ground with the early fathers, and shall also quote in continuation of the ancient writers the testimonies of the earliest church historians. The reader can thus discover how nearly the ancients and moderns agree. Of the observance of the Sabbath in the early church, Morer speaks thus:
"The primitive Christians had a great veneration for the Sabbath, and spent the day in devotion and sermons. And it is not to be doubted but they derived this practice from the apostles themselves, as appears by several scriptures to that purpose; who, keeping both that day and the first of the week, gave occasion to the succeeding ages to join them together, and make it one festival, though there was not the same reason for the continuance of the custom as there was to begin it."1
A learned English first-day writer of the seventeenth century, William Twisse, D. D., thus states the early history of these two days:
"Yet for some hundred years in the primitive church, not the Lord''s day only, but the seventh day also, was religiously observed, not by Ebion and Cerinthus only, but by pious Christians also, as Baronius writeth, and Gomarus confesseth, and Rivet also, that we are bound in conscience under the gospel, to allow for God''s service a better proportion of time, than the Jews did under the law, rather than a worse."2
That the observance of the Sabbath was not confined to Jewish converts, the learned Giesler explicitly testifies:
"While the Jewish Christians of Palestine retained the entire Mosaic law, and consequently the Jewish festivals, the Gentile Christians observed also the Sabbath and the passover,3 with reference to the last scenes of Jesus'' life, but without Jewish superstition. In addition to these, Sunday, as the day of Christ''s resurrection, was devoted to religious services."4
The statement of Mosheim may be thought to contradict that of Giesler. Thus he says:
"The seventh day of the week was also observed as a festival, not by the Christians in general, but by such churches only as were principally composed of Jewish converts, nor did the other Christians censure this custom as criminal and unlawful."5
It will be observed that Mosheim does not deny that the Jewish converts observed the Sabbath. He denies that this was done by the Gentile Christians. The proof on which he rests this denial is thus stated by him:
"The churches of Bithynia, of which Pliny speaks, in his letter to Trajan, had only one stated day for the celebration of public worship; and that was undoubtedly the first day of the week, or what we call the Lord''s day."6
The proposition tobe proved is this: The Gentile Christians did not observe the Sabbath. The proof is found in the following fact: The churches of Bithynia assembled on a stated day for the celebration of divine worship. It is seen therefore that the conclusion is gratuitous, and wholly unauthorized by the testimony.7 But this instance shows the dexterity of Mosheim in drawing inferences, and gives us some insight into the kind of evidence which supports some of these sweeping statements in behalf of Sunday. Who can say that this "stated day" was not the very day enjoined in the fourth commandment? Of the Sabbath and first day in the early ages of the church, Coleman speaks as follows:
"The last day of the week was strictly kept in connection with that of the first day, for a long time after the overthrow of the temple and its worship. Down even to the fifth century the observance of the Jewish Sabbath was continued in the Christian church, but with a rigor and solemnity gradually diminishing until it was wholly discontinued."8
This is a most explicit acknowledgment that the Bible Sabbath was long observed by the body of the Christian church. Coleman is a first-day writer, and therefore not likely to state the case too strongly in behalf of the seventh day. He is a modern writer, but we have already proved his statements true out of the ancients. It is true that Coleman speaks also of the first day of the week, yet his subsequent language shows that it was a long while before this became a sacred day. Thus he says:
"During the early ages of the church it was never entitled `the Sabbath,'' this word being confined to the seventh day of the week, the Jewish Sabbath, which, as we have already said, continued to be observed for several centuries by the converts to Christianity."9
This fact is made still clearer by the following language, in which this historian admits Sunday to be nothing but a human ordinance:
"No law or precept appears to have been given by Christ or the apostles, either for the abrogation of the Jewish Sabbath, or the institution of the Lord''s day, or the substitution of the first for the seventh day of the week."10
Coleman does not seem to realize that in making this truthful statement he has directly acknowledged that the ancient Sabbath is still in full force as a divine institution, and that first-day observance is only authorized by the traditions of men. He next relates the manner in which this Sunday festival which had been nourished in the bosom of the church usurped the place of the Lord''s Sabbath; a warning to all Christians of the tendency of human institutions, if cherished by the people of God, to destroy those which are divine. Let this important language be carefully pondered. He speaks thus:
"The observance of the Lord''s day was ordered while yet the Sabbath of the Jews was continued; nor was the latter superseded until the former had acquired the same solemnity and importance, which belonged, at first, to that great day which God originally ordained and blessed. . . . But in time, after the Lord''s day was fully established, the observance of the Sabbath of the Jews was gradually discontinued, and was finally denounced as heretical."11
Thus is seen the result of cherishing this harmless Sunday festival in the church. It only asked toleration at first; but gaining strength by degrees, it gradually undermined the Sabbath of the Lord, and finally denounced its observance as heretical.
Jeremy Taylor, a distinguished bishop of the Church of England, and a man of great erudition, but a decided opponent of Sabbatic obligation, confirms the testimony of Coleman. He affirms that the Sabbath was observed by the Christians of the first three hundred years, but denies that they did this out of respect to the authority or the law of God. But we have shown from the fathers that those who hallowed the Sabbath did it as an act of obedience to the fourth commandment, and that the decalogue was acknowledged as of perpetual obligation, and as the perfect rule of right. As Bishop T. denies that this was their ground of observance, he should have shown some other, which he has not done. Thus he says:
"The Lord''s day did not succeed in the place of the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was wholly abrogated, and the Lord''s day was merely an ecclesiastical institution. It was not introduced by virtue of the fourth commandment, because they for almost three hundred years together kept that day which was in that commandment; but they did it also without any opinion of prime obligation, and therefore they did not suppose it moral."12
That such an opinion relative to the obligation of the fourth commandment had gained ground extensively among the leaders of the church, as early at least as the fourth century, and probably in the third, is sufficiently attested by the action of the council of Laodicea, A.D. 364, which anathematized those who should observe the Sabbath, as will be noticed in its place. That this loose view of the morality of the fourth commandment was resisted by many, is shown by the existence of various bodies of steadfast Sabbatarians in that age, whose memory has come down to us; and also by the fact that that council made such a vigorous effort to put down the Sabbath. Coleman has clearly portrayed the gradual depression of the Sabbath, as the first-day festival arose in strength, until Sabbath-keeping became heretical, when, by ecclesiastical authority, the Sabbath was suppressed, and the festival of Sunday became fully established as a new and different institution. The natural consequence of this is seen in the rise of distinct sects, or bodies, who were distinguished for their observance of the seventh day. That they should be denounced as heretical and falsely charged with many errors is not surprising, when we consider that their memory has been handed down to us by their opponents, and that Sabbath-keepers in our own time are not unfrequently treated in this very manner. The first of these ancient Sabbatarian bodies was the Nazarenes. Of these, Morer testifies that,
They "retained the Sabbath; and though they pretended to believe as Christians, yet they practiced as Jews, and so were in reality neither one nor the other."13
And Dr. Frances White, lord bishop of Ely, mentions the Nazarenes as one of the ancient bodies of Sabbath-keepers who were condemned by the church leaders for that heresy; and he classes them with heretics as Morer has done.14 Yet the Nazarenes have a peculiar claim to our regard, as being in reality the apostolic church of Jerusalem, and its direct successors. Thus Gibbon testifies:
"The Jewish converts, or, as they were afterwards called, the Nazarenes, who had laid the foundations of the church, soon found themselves overwhelmed by the increasing multitudes, that from all the various religions of polytheism enlisted under the banner of Christ . . . The Nazarenes retired from the ruins of Jerusalem to the little town of Pella beyond the Jordan, where that ancient church languished above sixty years in solitude and obscurity."15
It is not strange that that church which fled out of Judea at the word of Christ16 should long retain the Sabbath, as it appears that they did, even as late as the fourth century. Morer mentions another class of Sabbath-keepers in the following language:
"About the same time were the Hypsistarii who closed with these as to what concerned the Sabbath, yet would by no means accept circumcision as too plain a testimony of ancient bondage. All these were heretics, and so adjudged to be by the Catholic church. Yet their hypocrisy and industry were such as gained them a considerable footing in the Christian world."17
The bishop of Ely names these also as a body of Sabbath-keepers whose heresy was condemned by the church.18 The learned Joseph Bingham, M. A. gives the following account of them:
"There was another sect which called themselves Hypsistarians, that is, worshipers of the most high God, whom they worshiped as the Jews only in one person. And they observed their Sabbaths and used distinction of meats, clean and unclean, though they did not regard circumcision, as Gregory Nazianzen, whose father was once one of this sect, gives the account of them."19
It must ever be remembered that these people, whom the Catholic church adjudged to be heretics, are not speaking for themselves: their enemies who condemned them have transmitted to posterity all that is known of their history. It would be well if heretics, who meet with little mercy at the hand of ecclesiastical writers, could at least secure the impartial justice of a truthful record.
Another class are thus described by Cox in his elaborate work entitled "Sabbath Laws and Sabbath Duties:"
"In this way [that is, by presenting the testimony of the Bible on the subject] arose the ancient Sabbatarians, a body it is well known of very considerable importance in respect both to numbers and influence, during the greater part of the third and the early part of the next century,"20
The close of the third century witnessed the Sabbath much weakened in its hold upon the church in general, and the festival of Sunday, although possessed of no divine authority, steadily gaining in strength and in sacredness. The following historical testimony from a member of the English Church, Edward Brerewood, professor in Gresham College, London, gives a good general view of the matter, though the author''s anti-Sabbatarian views are mixed with it. He says:
"The ancient Sabbath did remain and was observed together with the celebration of the Lord''s day by the Christians of the east church above three hundred years after our Saviour''s death; and besides that, no other day for more hundreds of years than I spake of before, was known in the church by the name of Sabbath but that: let the collection thereof and conclusion of all be this: The Sabbath of the seventh day as touching the alligations of God''s solemn worship to time was ceremonial; that Sabbath was religiously observed in the east church three hundred years and more after our Saviour''s passion. That church being the great part of Christendom, and having the apostles'' doctrine and example to instruct them, would have restrained it if it had been deadly."21
Such was the case in the eastern churches at the end of the third century; but in such of the western churches as sympathized with the church of Rome, the Sabbath had been treated as a fast from the beginning of that century, to express their opposition toward those who observed it according to the commandment.
In the early part of the fourth century occurred an event which could not
have been foreseen, but which threw an immense weight in favor of Sunday into
the balances already trembling between the rival institutions, the Sabbath
of the Lord and the festival of the sun. This was nothing less than an edict
from the throne of the
"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. Given the seventh day of March; Crispus and
Of this law, a high authority thus speaks:
"It was Constantine the Great who first made a law for the proper observance
of Sunday; and who, according to Eusebius, appointed it should be regularly
celebrated throughout the Roman Empire. Before him, and even in his time,
they observed the Jewish Sabbath, as well as Sunday; both to satisfy the law
of Moses, and to imitate the apostles who used to meet together on the first
Another eminent authority thus states the purport of this law:
"Constantine the Great made a law for the whole empire (A.D. 321) that Sunday should be kept as a day of rest in all cities and towns; but he allowed the country people to follow their work on that day."24
Thus the fact is placed beyond all dispute that this decree gave full permission to all kinds of agricultural labor. The following testimony of Mosheim is therefore worthy of strict attention:
"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
What will the advocates of first-day sacredness say to this? They quote
Mosheim respecting Sunday observance in the first century - which testimony
has been carefully examined in this work26 - and they seem to think
that his language in support of first-day sacredness is nearly equal in authority
to the language of the New Testament; in fact, they regard it as supplying
an important omission in that book. Yet Mosheim states respecting
"The primitive Christians did all manner of works upon the Lord''s day, even in the times of persecution, when they are the strictest observers of al the divine commandments; but in this they knew there was none; and therefore when Constantine the emperor had made an edict against working upon the Lord''s day, yet he excepts and still permitted all agriculture or labors of the husbandman whatsoever."27
Morer tells us respecting the first three centuries, that is to say, the
"The Lord''s day had no command that it should be sanctified, but it was left to God''s people to pitch on this or that day for the public worship. And being taken up and made a day of meeting for religious exercises, yet for three hundred years there was no law to bind them to it, and for want of such a law, the day was not wholly kept in abstaining from common business; nor did they any longer rest from their ordinary affairs (such was the necessity of those times) than during the divine service."28
And Sir Wm. Domville says:
"Centuries of the Christian era passed away before the Sunday was observed
by the Christian church as a Sabbath. History does not furnish us with a single
proof or indication that it was at any time so observed previous to the Sabbatical
What these able modern writers set forth as to labor on Sunday before the
"Very shortly after the period when
This extraordinary edict of
"Others have looked at the transaction in a totally different light, and
refused to discover in the document, or to suppose in the mind of the enactor,
any recognition of the Lord''s day as a matter of divine obligation. They
remark, and very truly, that
On this important point, Milman, the learned editor of Gibbon, thus testifies:
"The rescript commanding the celebration of the Christian Sabbath, bears no allusion to its peculiar sanctity as a Christian institution. It is the day of the sun which is to be observed by the general veneration; the courts were to be closed, and the noise and tumult of public business and legal litigation were no longer to violate the repose of the sacred day. But the believer in the new paganism, of which the solar worship was the characteristic, might acquiesce without scruple in the sanctity of the first day of the week."32
And he adds in a subsequent chapter:
"In fact, as we have before observed, the day of the sun would be willingly hallowed by almost all the pagan world, especially that part which had admitted any tendency towards the Oriental theology."33
On the seventh day of March,
"After well considering the subject, I have come to the conclusion, that
subsequently to the death of Licinius in the years 323 when
As a heathen,
"The devotion of
His character as a professor of Christianity is thus described:
"The sincerity of the man, who in a short period effected such amazing changes in the religious world, is best known to Him who searches the heart. Certain it is that his subsequent life furnished no evidence of conversion to God. He waded without remorse through seas of blood, and was a most tyrannical prince."40
A few words relative to his character as a man will complete our view of his fitness to legislate for the church. This man, when elevated to the highest place of earthly power, caused his eldest son, Crispus, to be privately murdered, lest the fame of the son should eclipse that of the father. In the same ruin was involved his nephew Licinius, "whose rank was his only crime," and this was followed by the execution "perhaps of a guilty wife."41
Such was the man who elevated Sunday to the throne of the
"At a LATER PERIOD, carried away by the current of opinion, he declared himself a convert to the church. Christianity, then, or what he was pleased to call by that name, became the law of the land, and the edict of A.D. 321, being unrevoked, was enforced as a Christian ordinance."42
Thus it is seen that a law, enacted in support of a heathen institution, after a few years came to be considered a Christian ordinance; and Constantine himself, four years after his Sunday edict, was able to control the church, as represented in the general council of Nice, so as to cause the members of that council to establish their annual festival of the passover upon Sunday.43 Paganism had prepared the institution from ancient days, and had now elevated it to supreme power; its work was accomplished.
We have proved that the Sunday festival in the Christian church had no Sabbatical
character before the time of
No one of these fathers ever claims for this title any apostolic authority; and it has been already shown that they could not have believed the day to be the Lord''s day by divine appointment. So far, therefore, is the use of this term by these persons as a name for Sunday from conflicting with the statement that Sylvester, by his apostolic authority, established this name as the rightful title of that day, that it shows the act of Sylvester to be exactly suited to the circumstances of the case. Indeed, Nicephorus asserts that Constantine, who considered himself quite as much the head of the church as was the pope, "directed that the day which the Jews considered the first day of the week, and which the Greeks dedicated to the sun, should
196Chapter Nineteen – The Sabbath and First During the First Five Centuries
be called the Lord''s day."45 The circumstances of the case render the statements of Lucius and Nicephorus in the highest degree probable. They certainly do not indicate that the pope would deem such act on his part unnecessary. Take a recent event in papal history as an illustration of this case. Only a few years since, Pius IX. decreed that the virgin Mary was born without sin. This had long been asserted by many distinguished writers in the papal church, but it lacked authority as a dogma of that church until the pope, A.D. 1854, gave it his official sanction.46 It was the work of Constantine and of Sylvester in the early part of the fourth century to establish the festival of the sun, to be a day of rest, by the authority of the empire, and to render it a Christian institution by the authority of St. Peter.
The following from Dr. Heylyn, a distinguished member of the Church of England, is worthy of particular attention. In most forcible language, he traces the steps by which the Sunday festival arose to power, contrasting it in this respect with the ancient Sabbath of the Lord; and then, with equal truth and candor, he acknowledges that, as the festival of Sunday was set up by the emperor and the church, the same power can take it down whenever it sees fit. Thus he says:
"Thus do we see upon what grounds the Lord''s day stands; ON CUSTOM FIRST, and VOLUNTARY consecration of it to religious meetings; that custom countenance by the authority of the church of God, which TACITLY approved the same; and FINALLY CONFIRMED and RATIFIED BY CHRISTIAN PRINCES throughout their empires. And as the day for rest from labors and restraint from business upon that day, [it] received its greatest strength from the supreme magistrate as long as he retained that power which to him belongs; as after from the canons and decree of councils, the decretals of popes and orders of particular prelates, when the sole managing of ecclesiastical affairs was committed to them.
"I hope it was not so with the former Sabbath, which neither took original from custom, that people being not so forward to give God a day; nor required any countenance or authority from the kings of Israel to confirm and ratify it. The Lord had spoke the word, that he would have one day in seven, precisely the seventh day from the world''s creation, to be a day of rest unto all his people; which said, there was no more to do but gladly to submit and obey his pleasure. . . . But thus it was not done in our present business. The Lord''s day had no such command that it should be sanctified, but was left plainly to God''s people to pitch on this, or any other, for the public use. And being taken up amongst them and made a day of meeting in the congregation for religious exercises; yet for three hundred years there was neither law to bind them to it, nor any rest from labor or from worldly business required upon it.
"And when it seemed good unto Christian princes, the nursing fathers of God''s church, to lay restraints upon their people, yet at the first they were not general; but only thus that certain men in certain places should lay aside their ordinary and daily works, to attend God''s service in the church; those whose employments were most toilsome and most repugnant to the true nature of a Sabbath, being allowed to follow and pursue their labors because most necessary to the commonwealth.
"And in the following times, when as the prince and prelate, in their several places endeavored to restrain them from that also, which formerly they had permitted, and interdicted almost all kinds of bodily labor upon that day; it was not brought about without much struggling and an opposition of the people; more than a thousand years being past, after Christ''s ascension, before the Lord''s day had attained that state in which now it standeth. . . . And being brought into that state, wherein now it stands, it doth not stand so firmly and on such sure grounds, but that those powers which raised it up may take it lower if they please, yea take it quite away as unto the time, and settle it on any other day as to them seems best."47
"Hitherto have we spoken of the Lord''s day as taken up by the common consent of the church; not instituted or established by any text of Scripture, or edict of emperor, or decree of council. . . . In that which followeth, we shall find both emperors and councils very frequent in ordering things about this day and the service of it."48
After his professed conversion to Christianity,
"So natural a power it is in a Christian prince to order things about religion, that he not only took upon him to command the day, but also to prescribe the service."49
The influence of
"The most respectable bishops had persuaded themselves that the ignorant
rustics would more cheerfully renounce the superstition of paganism, if they
found some resemblance, some compensation, in the bosom of Christianity. The
The body of nominal Christians, which resulted from this strange union of pagan rites with Christian worship, arrogated to itself the title of catholic church, while the true people of God, who resisted these dangerous innovations, were branded as heretics, and cast out of the church.
It is not strange that the Sabbath should lose ground in such a body, in
its struggle with its rival, the festival of the sun. Indeed, after a brief
period, the history of the Sabbath will be found only in the almost obliterated
records of those whom the Catholic church cast out and stigmatized as heretics.
Of the Sabbath in
"As for the Saturday, that retained its wonted credit in the eastern churches, little inferior to the Lord''s day, if not plainly equal; not as a Sabbath, think not so; but as a day designed unto sacred meetings."51
There is no doubt that, after the great flood of worldliness which entered
the church at the time of Constantine''s pretended conversion, and after all
that was done by himself and by Sylvester in behalf of Sunday, the observance
of the Sabbath became, with many, only a nominal thing. But the action of
the council of
"They [the patriarchs] did not, therefore, regard circumcision, nor observe the Sabbath, nor do we; neither do we abstain from certain foods, nor regard other injunctions, which Moses subsequently delivered to be observed in types and symbols, because such things as these do not belong to Christians."52
This testimony shows precisely the views of Constantine and the imperial
party relative to the Sabbath. But it does not give the views of Christians
as a whole; for we have seen that the Sabbath had been extensively retained
up to this point, and we shall soon have occasion to quote other historians,
the contemporaries and successors of Eusebius, who record its continued observance.
But now we come to a fact of remarkable interest. The way having been prepared,
as we have just seen, for the doctrine of the change of the Sabbath, and the
circumstances of the case demanding its production, it was at this very point
brought forward for the first time. Eusebius, the special friend and flatterer
"Wherefore as they [the Jews] rejected it [the Sabbath law] the Word [Christ], by the new covenant, TRANSLATED and TRANSFERRED the feast of the Sabbath to the morning light, and gave us the symbol of true rest, viz., the saving Lord''s day, the first [day] of the light, in which the Saviour of the world, after all his labors among men, obtained the victory over death, and passed the portals of Heaven, having achieved a work superior to the six-days'' creation."53
"On this day, which is the first [day] of light and of the true Sun, we assemble, after an interval of six days, and celebrate holy and spiritual Sabbaths, even all nations redeemed by him throughout the world, and do those things according to the spiritual law, which were decreed for the priests to do on the Sabbath."54
"And all things whatsoever that it was duty to do on the Sabbath, these we have transferred to the Lord''s day, as more appropriately belonging to it, because it has a precedence and is first in rank, and more honorable than the Jewish Sabbath."55
Eusebius was under the strongest temptation to please and even to flatter
As no writer before Eusebius had ever hinted at the doctrine of the change
of the Sabbath, and as there is the most convincing proof, as we have shown,
that before his time Sunday possessed no Sabbatic character, and as Eusebius
does not claim that this doctrine is asserted in the Scriptures, nor in any
preceding ecclesiastical writer, it is certain that he was the father of the
doctrine. This new doctrine was not put forth without some motive. That motive
could not have been to bring forward some neglected passages of the Scriptures;
for he does not quote a single text in its support. But the circumstances
of the case plainly reveal the motive. The new doctrine was exactly adapted
to the new order of things introduced by
It is remarkable, however, that Eusebius, in the very connection in which he announces this new doctrine, unwittingly exposes its falsity. He first asserts that Christ changed the Sabbath, and then virtually contradicts it by indicating the real authors of the change. Thus he says:
"All things whatsoever that it was duty to do on the Sabbath, these WE have transferred to the Lord''s day."57
The persons here referred to as the authors of this work are the Emperor Constantine, and such bishops as Eusebius, who loved the favor of princes, and Sylvester, the pretended successor of Saint Peter. Two facts refute the assertion of Eusebius that Christ changed the Sabbath: 1. That Eusebius, who lived three hundred years after the alleged change, is the first man who mentions such change; 2. That Eusebius testifies that himself and others made this change, which they could not have done had Christ made it at the beginning. But though the doctrine of the change of the Sabbath was thus announced by Eusebius, it was not seconded by any writer of that age. The doctrine had never been heard of before, and Eusebius had simply his own assertion, but no passage of the Holy Scriptures to offer in its support.
"The practice of it [the keeping of the Sabbath] was continued by Christians who were jealous for the honor of the Mosaic law, and finally because, as we have seen, predominant throughout Christendom. It was supposed at length that the fourth commandment did require the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath (not merely a seventh part of time), and reasoning as Christians of the present day are wont to do, viz., that all which belonged to the ten commandments was immutable and perpetual, the churches in general came gradually to regard the seventh-day Sabbath as altogether sacred."58
Prof. Stuart, however, connects with this the statement that Sunday was
honored by all parties. But the council of
"When the practice of keeping Saturday Sabbaths, which had become so general at the close of this century, was evidently gaining ground in the eastern church, a decree was passed in the council held at Laodicea [A.D. 364] `that members of the church should not rest from work on the Sabbath like Jews, but should labor on that day, and preferring in honor the Lord''s day, then if it be in their power should rest from work as Christians.'' "59
This shows conclusively that at that period the observance of the Sabbath according to the commandment was extensive in the eastern churches. But the Laodicean council, not only forbade the observance of the Sabbath, they even pronounced a curse on those who should obey the fourth commandment! Prynne thus testifies:
"It is certain that Christ himself, his apostles, and the primitive Christians
for some good space of time, did constantly observe the seventh-day Sabbath;
. . . the evangelists and St. Luke in the Acts ever styling it the Sabbath
day . . . and making mention of its . . . solemnization by the apostles and
other Christians, . . . it being still solemnized by many Christians after
the apostles'' times, even till the council of Laodicea [A.D. 364], as ecclesiastical
writers and the twenty-ninth canon of that council testify, which runs thus:60
`Because Christians ought not to Judaize, and to rest in the Sabbath,
but to work in that day (which many did refuse at that time to do). But preferring
in honor the Lord''s day (there being then a great controversy among Christians
which of these two days . . . should have precedency) if they desired to rest
they should do this as Christians. Wherefore if they shall be found to Judaize,
let them be accursed from Christ.'' . . . The seventh-day Sabbath was . .
. solemnized by Christ, the apostles and primitive Christians, till the Laodicean
council did in a manner quite abolish the observation of it. . . . The council
The action of this council did not extirpate the Sabbath from the eastern churches, though it did materially weaken its influence, and cause its observance to become with many only a nominal thing, while it did most effectually enhance the sacredness and the authority of the Sunday festival. That it did not wholly extinguish Sabbath-keeping is thus certified by an old English writer, John Ley:
"From the apostles'' time until the council of
And Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa, about A.D. 372, uses this expostulation:
"With what eyes can you behold the Lord''s day, when you despise the Sabbath? Do you not perceive that they are sisters, and that in slighting the one, you affront the other?"63
This testimony is valuable in that it marks the progress of apostasy concerning the Sabbath. The Sunday festival entered the church, not as a divine institution, but as a voluntary observance. Even as late as A.D. 200, Tertullian said that it had only tradition and custom in its support.64
But in A.D. 372, this human festival had become the sister and equal of that day which God hallowed in the beginning and solemnly commanded in the moral law. How worthy to be called the sister of the Sabbath the Sunday festival actually was, may be judged from what followed. When this self-styled sister had gained an acknowledged position in the family, she expelled the other, and trampled her in the dust. In our days, the Sunday festival claims to be the very day intended in the fourth commandment.
The following testimonies exhibit the authority of church councils in its true light. Jortin is quoted by Cox as saying:
"In such assemblies, the best and the most moderate men seldom have the ascendant, and they are often led or driven by others who are far inferior to them in good qualities."65
The same writer gives us Baxter''s opinion of the famous Westminster Assembly. Baxter says:
"I have lived to see an assembly of ministers, where three or four leading men were so prevalent as to form a confession in the name of the whole party, which had that in it which particular members did disown. And when about a controverted article, one man hath charged me deeply with questioning the words of the church, others, who were at the forming of that article have laid it all on that same man, the rest being loath to strive much against him; and so it was he himself was the church whose authority he so much urged."66
Such has been the nature of councils in all ages; yet they have ever claimed infallibility, and have largely used that infallibility in the suppression of the Sabbath and the establishment of the festival of Sunday. Of first-day sacredness prior to, and as late as, the time of Chrysostom, Kitto thus testifies:
"Though in later times we find considerable reference to a sort of consecration of the day, it does not seem at any period of the ancient church to have assumed the form of such an observance as some modern religious communities have contended for. Nor do these writers in any instance pretend to allege any divine command, or even apostolic practice, in support of it . . . Chrysostom (A.D. 360) concludes one of his Homilies by dismissing his audience to their respective ordinary occupations."67
It was reserved for modern theologians to discover the divine or apostolic authority for Sunday observance. The ancient doctors of the church were unaware that any such authority existed; and hence they deemed it lawful and proper to engage in usual worldly business on that day when their religious worship was concluded. Thus, Heylyn bears witness concerning St. Chrysostom that he
"Confessed it to be lawful for a man to look unto his worldly business on the Lord''s day, after the congregation was dismissed."68
"Paula, with the women, as soon as they returned home on the Lord''s day, they sat down severally to their work, and made clothes for themselves and others."69
Morer justifies this Sunday labor in the following terms:
"If we read they did any work on the Lord''s day, it is to be remembered
that this application to their daily tasks was not till their worship was
quite over, when they might with innocency enough resume them, because the
length of time or the number of hours assigned for piety was not then so well
explained as in after ages. The state of the church is vastly different from
what it was in those early days. Christians then for some centuries of years
were under persecution and poverty; and besides their own wants, they had
many of them severe masters who compelled them to work, and made them bestow
less time in spiritual matters than they otherwise would. In
The bishop of Ely thus testifies:
St. Augustine, the contemporary of Jerome, gives a synopsis of the argument in that age for Sunday observance, in the following words:
"It appears from the sacred Scriptures, that this day was a solemn one; it was the first day of the age, that is of the existence of our world; in it the elements of the world were formed; on it the angels were created; on it Christ rose also from the dead; on it the Holy Spirit descended from Heaven upon the apostles as manna had done in the wilderness. For these and other such circumstances the Lord''s day is distinguished; and therefore the holy doctors of the church have decreed that all the glory of the Jewish Sabbath is transferred to it. Let us therefore keep the Lord''s day as the ancients were commanded to do the Sabbath."72
It is to be observed that Augustine does not assign among his reasons for first-day observance, the change of the Sabbath by Christ or his apostles, or that the apostles observed that day, or that John had given it the name of Lord''s day. These modern first-day arguments were unknown to Augustine. He gave the credit of the work, not to Christ or his inspired apostles, but to the holy doctors of the church, who, of their own accord, had transferred the glory of the ancient Sabbath to the venerable day of the sun. The first day of the week was considered in the fifth century the most proper day for giving holy orders, that is, for ordinations, and about the middle of the century, says Heylyn,
"A law [was] made by Leo then Pope of Rome, and generally since taken up in the western church, that they should be conferred upon no day else."73
According to Dr. Justin Edwards, this same pope made also this decree in behalf of Sunday:
"WE ORDAIN, according to the true meaning of the Holy Ghost, and of the apostles as thereby directed, that on the sacred day wherein our own integrity was restored, all do rest and cease from labor."74
Soon after this edict of the pope, the emperor Leo, A.D. 469, put forth the following decree:
"It is our will and pleasure, that the holy days dedicated to the most high God, should not be spent in sensual recreations, or otherwise prophaned by suits of law, especially the Lord''s day, which we decree to be a venerable day, and therefore free it of all citations, executions, pleadings, and the like avocations. Let not the circus or theater be opened, nor combating with wild beasts be seen on it. . . . If any will presume to offend in the premises, if he be a military man, let him lose his commission; or if other, let his estate or goods be confiscated."75
And this emperor determined to mend the breach in
"We command therefore all, as well husbandmen as others, to forbear work on this day of our restoration."76
The holy doctors of the church had by this time very effectually despoiled the Sabbath of its glory, transferring it to the Lord''s day of Pope Sylvester; as Augustine testifies; yet was not Sabbatical observance wholly extinguished even in the Catholic church. The historian Socrates, who wrote about the middle of the fifth century, thus testifies:
"For although almost all churches throughout the world celebrate the sacred
mysteries on the Sabbath of every week, yet the Christians of Alexandria and
at Rome, on account of some ancient tradition, refuse to do this. The Egyptians
in the neighborhood of
As the church of Rome had turned the Sabbath into a fast some two hundred years before this, in order to oppose its observance, it is probable that this was the ancient tradition referred to by Socrates. And Sozomen, the contemporary of Socrates, speaks on the same point as follows:
"The people of
On the statement of these historians, Cox remarks:
"It was their practice to Sabbatize on Saturday, and to celebrate Sunday as a day of rejoicing and festivity. While, however, in some places a respect was thus generally paid to both of these days, the Judaizing practice of observing Saturday was by the leading churches expressly condemned, and all the doctrines connected with it steadfastly resisted." - Sabbath Laws, p. 280.
The time had now come, when, as stated by Coleman, the observance of the Sabbath was deemed heretical; and the close of the fifth century witnessed its effectual suppression in the great body of the Catholic church.
1 Dialogues on the Lord''s Day, p. 189.
2 Morality of the Fourth Commandment, p. 9,
4 Eccl. Hist. vol. i. chap. ii. sect. 30.
5 Eccl. Hist. book i. cent. l. part ii. chap. iv. sect. 4. Dr. Murdock''s translation is more accurate than that above by Maclaine. He gives it thus:- "Moreover, those congregations, which either lived intermingled with Jews, or were composed in great measure of Jews, were accustomed also to observe the seventh day of the week, as a SACRED day: for doing which, the other Christians taxed them with no wrong.
7 See chap. xiv. of this History.
8 Ancient Christianity Exemplified, chap. xxvi. sect. 2.
9 Anc. Christ. Exem. Chap. xxvi. sect. 2.
12 Ductor Dubitantium, part i. book ii. rule 6, sect. 51.
13 Dialogues on the Lord''s day, p. 66.
14 A Treatise of the Sabbath Day, containing a "Defence of the Orthodoxal Doctrine of the Church of England against Sabbatarian Novelty," p. 8. It was written in 1635 at the command of the king in reply to Brabourne, a minister of the established church, whose work, entitled "A Defense of that most Ancient and Sacred Ordinance of God''s, the Sabbath Day," was dedicated to the king with a request that he would restore the Bible Sabbath! See the preface to Dr. White''s Treatise.
15 Dec. and Fall, chap. xv.
16 See chap. x.
17 Dialogues on the Lord''s Day, p. 67.
18 Treatise of the Sabbath Day, p. 8.
19 Antiquities of the Christian Church, book xvi, chap. vi. sect. 2.
20 Page 280. Cox here quotes the work, entitled "The Modern Sabbath Examined.
21 Learned Treatise of the Sabbath, p. 77.
22 This edict is the original fountain of first-day authority, and in many
respects answers to the festival of Sunday, what the fourth commandment is
to the Sabbath of the Lord. The original of this edict may be seen in the
IMP. CONSTANT. A. ELPIDIO.
Omnes Judices, urbanaeque plebes, et cunctarum artium officia venerabili die solis quiscant. Ruri tamen positi agrorum culturae libere licenterque inserviant: quoniam frequenter evenit, ut non aptius alio die frumenta sulcis, aut vineae scrobibus mandentur, ne occasione momenti pereat commoditas coelesti provisione concessa. Dat, Nonis Mart. Crispo.2 & Constantino 2. Coss. 321. Corpus Juris Civilis Condicis lib. iii tit. 12.3.
23 Encyc. Brit. art. Sunday, seventh edition, 1842.
24 Encyc. Am. art. Sabbath.
25 Eccl. Hist. cent. iv. part ii. chap. iv. sect. 5.
26 Chap. xiv.
27 Duct. Dubitant. part i. book ii. chap. ii. rule 6, sect. 59.
28 Dialogues on the Lord''s Day, p. 233.
29 Examination of the Six Texts, p. 291.
30 Cox''s Sabbath Laws, &c. pp. 280, 281. He quotes The Modern Sabbath Examined.
31 Hessey''s Bampton Lectures, p. 60.
32 History of Christianity, book iii. chap. i.
34 These dates are worthy of marked attention. See Blair''s Chronological Tables, p. 193, ed. 1856; Rosse''s Index of Dates, p. 830.
35 Imp. Constantinus A. Ad Maximum. Si quid de Palatio Nostro, aut ceteris
operibus publicis, degustatum fulgore esse conatiterit, retento more veteris
observantiae. Quid portendat, ob Haruspicibus requiratur, et diligentissime
scriptura collecta ad Nostram Scientiam referatur. Ceteris etiam usurpandae
huius consuetudinis licentia tribuenda: dummodo sacrificiis domesticis abstineant,
quae specialiter prohibita sunt. Eam autem denunciationem adque interpretationem,
quae de tactu Amphitheatri scriba est, de qua ad Heraclianum Tribunum, et
Magistrum Officiorum scripseras, ad nos scias esse perlatum. Dat. xvi. Kal.
Jan. Serdicae Acc. viii. Id. Mart. Crispo ii. & Constantino ii. C. C.
Coss. 321. Cod. Theodos. xvi. 10, 1. - Library of
36 See Jortin''s Eccl. Hist. vol. i. sect. 31; Milman''s Hist. Christianity, book iii. chap. i.
37 See Webster; for an ancient record of the act, see Eze. xxi. 19-22.
38 Historical Commentaries, cent. iv. sect. 7.
39 Dec. and Fall of the
40 Marsh''s Eccl. Hist. period iii. chap. v.
41 Dec. and Fall of the
42 Sunday and the Mosaic Sabbath, p. 4, published by R. Groombridge &
43 See chap. xviii.
44 Omnium vero dierum per septimanam appellationes (ut Solis, Lunae, Martis,
etc.), mutasse in ferias: ut Polydorus (li. 6, c. 5) indicat. Mataphrastes
vero, nomina dierum Hebraeis usitata retinuisse eum, tradit; SOLIUS PRIMI
DIEI APPELLATIONE MUTATA, QUEM DOMINICUM DIXIT. Historia Ecclesiastica per
M. Ludovicum Lucuim, cent. iv. cap. x. pp. 739, 740, Ed. Basilea, 1624. Library
45 Quoted in Elliott''s Horae Apocalypticae, fifth edition, vol. iv. p. 603.
46 McClintock and Strong''s Cyclopedia, vol. iv. p. 506.
47 Hist. Sab. part ii. chap. iii. sect. 12.
48 Hist. Sab. part ii. chap. iii. sect. 1.
207History of the Sabbath by J.N Andrews
50 Dec. an Fall, chap. xxviii.
51 Hist. Sab. part ii. chap. iii. sect. 5.
52 Eccl. Hist. book i. chap. iv.
53 Eusebius'' Commentary on the Psalms, quoted in Cox''s Sabbath Literature, vol. i. p. 361; also in Justin Edward''s Sabbath Manual, pp. 125-127.
56 Eusebius'' Life of Constantine, 3, 33, quoted in Elliott''s Horae Apocalypticae, vol. i. p. 256.
57 Cox''s Sabbath Literature, vol. i. p. 361.
58 Appendix to Gurney''s History, &c., of the Sabbath, pp. 115, 116.
59 Sermon''s on the Sacraments and Sabbath, pp. 122, 123.
60 Quod non oportet Christianos Judaizere et otiare in Sabbato, sed operari in eodem die. Preferentes autem in veneratione Dominicum diem si vacare voluerint, ut Christiani hoc faciat; quod si reperti fuerint Judaizere Anathema sint a Christo.
61 Dissertation on the Lord''s-day Sabbath, pp. 33, 34, 41. 1633.
62 Sunday a Sabbath, p. 163. 1640.
63 Dialogues on the Lord''s day, p. 188; Hessey''s Bampton Lectures, pp. 72, 304, 305.
64 Tertullian''s De Corona, sections 3 and 4.
65 Sabbath Laws, &c. p. 138.
66 Sabbath Laws, &c. p. 138.
67 Cyc. Bib. Lit. art. Lord''s Day; Heylyn''s Hist. Sab. part ii. chap. ii. sect 7.
68 Hist. Sab. part ii. chap. iii. sect. 9.
69 Dialogues on the Lord''s Day, p. 234; Hist. Sab. part. ii. chap. iii. sect. 7.
70 Dialogues on the Lord''s Day, pp. 236, 237.
71 Treatise of the Sabbath, p. 219.
72 Sabbath Laws, &c. p. 284.
73 Hist. Sab. part ii. chap. iv. sect. 8.
74 Sabbath Manual, p. 123.
75 Dialogues on the Lord''s day, p. 259.
76 Id p. 260.
77 Socrates, book v. chap. xxii.
78 Sozomen, book vii. chap. 19; Lardner, vol. iv. chap. lxxxv. p. 217.