CHAPTER VI C
THE NEW COVENANTAL SABBATH
C. THE SABBATH IN CHURCH HISTORY
In the light of all the above Old Testament rituals relating to the eighth day and prophecies relating to the coming of the Day of the Lord, of Godís Son and of Godís Spirit in the light of the New Testament records as to the demise of the old Saturday sabbath and the Churchís steady celebration of the Sunday successors of Resurrection Sunday and Pentecost Sunday; in the light of the doctrine of the Second Adamís fulfilment of the Adamic covenant and His entry into His rest on Resurrection Sunday morning with the principial advent of God's Eighth Day ó it is rather strange that, over against the vast Sunday-keeping Christian majority, a tiny minority of Christians, including the Seventh-day Adventists, maintain that Saturday has always been and still is the only true sabbath and that Christian Sunday worship is of Imperial, Mithraic, Manicheistic, Astrological and/or Papal origin723.
These Christians willingly admit that Christ indeed rose on the first day of the week, but they explain that He only did this in order to emphasise His deliberate sanctification of the previous day (the Saturday sabbath, when He "rested" in the grave) as Godís unchanging weekly sabbath day for the Church of all ages. Many years after Christís resurrection, they say, Paul constantly preached the Gospel on the Saturday sabbath (e.g., Acts 17:2), for there remains the keeping of a (Saturday!) sabbath for the people of God (Heb. 4:9), even though the annual ceremonial sabbaths have been nailed to the cross (Col. 2:16); for the Saturday sabbath or "Lordís day" has been kept right down from Eden and will even be kept unchanged each week on the new earth724. Hence, the "Lordís day" which John observed according to Rev. 1:10, can only refer to the Saturday sabbath as this expression "Lordís day" was in fact never used to describe Sunday "in any authentic, uninterpolated, reliable Christian document for another hundred years after John725, by which time the heathen Sunday or day of the (worship of the) sun was making its influence felt even in Christian circles.
However, after demonstrating the origin of Sunday worship from the Scriptures alone, as has been sought to be done in the previous pages, Sunday-keeping Christians cannot even allow the immediately above-mentioned assertions of the Saturday-keeping Christians to go unchallenged. Sunday-keeping Christians do not, of course, dispute the historical facts that the old (Saturday) sabbath was observed for several centuries after Christís resurrection by certain groups of Judaistic Christians such as the Ebionites726, nor even by some misguided Gentile Christians under Judaistic influence; but Sunday-keeping Christians do most definitely dispute that God's Word actually enjoined any such observance of the old Saturday sabbath after Christís resurrection on Easter Sunday, and they insist that that Easter Sundayís weekly successor, namely the first day of each week and not Saturday the seventh, was observed as the day of weekly religious assembly by all Gentile Christians (and by all enlightened non-Judaistic Hebrew Christians too) in Apostolic times and also for ever since727.
To the assertion that the Pope changed the sabbath day from Saturday to Sunday, we demand in reply: Which Pope? And the Seventh-day Adventist answer to the question is always still forthcoming. In reply to the Seventh-day Adventist accusation that Christian Sunday worship originated in heathen astrology, it must be pointed out that the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary itself 728 places Saturn and not the Sun in the first day of the weekly sequence, and it must also be pointed out that the Biblical729 "first day of the week" precedes and is devoid of all possible astrological "Sun-day" prognostications such as may have manifested themselves later in an apostate "Church".
As regards possible (post-Nicene!) Manichean influence on the Churchís Sunday, even Seventh-day Adventists must admit that Christian Sunday worship was already centuries old by then723. Again, the charge of Mithraic Sun-worship is equally baseless, as it presupposes the planetary week which the Seventh-day Adventists Andrews and Conradi themselves inform us730 was only clearly in evidence in the Roman world at the end of the first century A.D. "from the time of Trajan and Hadrian", whereas Christian Sunday worship was already strongly established by that time.
In connection with Roman Imperial Edicts, it must be remembered that Emperor Constantineís statute of 321 A.D. did not inaugurate Sunday worship at all, but was merely a civil enactment to guarantee Sunday as a public day of rest to his subjects who had been observing Sunday for countless years beforehand731. And as regards the earlier emperors, it is strange that they should have resorted to persecuting732 the "Sunday-keeping" Christians if Christian Sunday-keeping was in any way connected with heathen sun-worship, particularly when Seventh-day Adventists themselves733 quote the admittedly Sunday-keeping Tertullian734 to illustrate the early Churchís repugnance for the worship of the sun.
Incontrovertibly, the indisputable Scriptural references to religious meetings on Sunday the first day of the week735 far antedate any of the above-mentioned post-Scriptural arguments of the Seventh-day Adventists.
However, having traced the origin of Christian Sunday worship from the Old Testament prophecies and its development in New Testament practice, it only remains to underline this by indicating the further development of the Christian Sunday in the Patristic period or first few centuries of the Christian era after the death of the Apostle John, the author of the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation.
For the Apostle Johnís mention in the book of Revelation of "the Lordís day" ("he kuriake hemera" ó Rev. 1:10), in about A.D. 96, is indeed the bridge between the Apostolic and the Post-Apostolic practices of Sunday observance. But whereas Seventh-day Adventists cannot point to a single Early Church Father in support of their view that this "Lordís day" of Rev. 1:10 is indeed the old Saturday sabbath, all extant records dating from the time of the above expressionís use by John onwards clearly indicate that "he kuriake hemera" is in fact none other than the first day of the week. It is to these extant records, then, that attention must now be drawn.
The First Epistle to the Corinthians, written by Bishop Clement of Rome [whom Calvin736 regarded as the probable author of the canonical Epistle to the Hebrews, and who is probably the same person as Clement the companion of the Sunday-keeping Apostle Paul737], appeared at approximately the same time as Johnís Revelation, i.e., in about 96 A.D.738.
Although the Epistle does not specify the precise day of the week on which early Christian worship took place, it does specify that "we ought to do all things which the Master commanded us to perform at appointed times", as "He commanded us to celebrate . . . services . . . at fixed times and hours", so that "those who offer their oblations at the appointed seasons are acceptable and blessed, for they follow the laws of the Master" in walking "in the Commandments of God . . . the Commandments and ordinances of the Lord (which) were written upon the tablets of your hearts739. From all of which it may be seen that the early Christians were to observe "the Commandments", which included regular worship on what was probably Sunday, particularly in the light of the strong Pauline influence in the Epistle (cf. Philipp. 4:3 with Acts 20:6-7; 1 Cor. 11:20f and 16:1 & 2; II Cor. 3:3-18 and Col. 2:16), and particularly on account of the knowledge of the ecclesiastical Sunday previously possessed bv Clementís Corinthian addresses (cf. I Cor. 1:1 and 16:1 & 2).
The Didache or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, probably written [and possibly by Barnabas740] in about 100 A.D.741 or only about five years after John observed the "Lordís day" as recorded in the book of Revelation, enjoins its Christian addressees: "Thou shalt not forsake the Commandments of the Lord . . . neither adding to and nor taking away therefrom"742, and: "On the Lordís day of the Lord ("kata kuriaken de Kuriou") come together, break bread and hold Eucharist743. When compared with Acts 20:6 & 7 and I Cor. 11:20 & 16:1 & 2744, the "Lordís Day" of the Didache ó and thus that of Rev. 1:10 too ó is clearly identified as the first day of the week so frequently mentioned in the New Testament.
Another early documentary testimonial is the Epistle of Barnabas745, probably written about 70-100 A.D.746 In chapter fifteen, after mentioning the sabbath at the time of creation (vv. 3-5) and its injunction to Moses at Sinai (vv. 1-2), the writer goes on to describe how Godís Eighth Day has now succeeded the Seventh Day of His creation week747, the sabbaths of which latter He can no longer accept748 and which no longer please Him749, except that (other) sabbath which He has made on which He shall bring all things to rest and on which He "shall make the beginning of the Eighth Day which is the beginning of another world".
Immediately thereafter, the Epistle continues750: "For this reason we keep the eighth day with joy, the day on which Jesus also rose from the dead. And when He had manifested Himself, He ascended into the heavens"751.
Apart from the rest of this Epistle, ch. 15 is striking evidence that "the eighth day" (i.e. Sunday ó cf. John 20:1,19 & 26 (was already being "kept" ("agomen"), that the day already had strong soteriological and eschatological significance, and that it was even then regarded as a memorial of the Lordís resurrection (cf. John 20:1), and possibly of His post-resurrectional Sunday appearances too752. Also, there are suggestions that Christís covenantal work by His positive obedience not merely restores fallen man to the unfallen Adamís partial rest on the first day of his weeks at the beginning of Godís Seventh Day, but in addition by His active obedience conducts restored man further, in principle even unto the full rest which the unfallen Adam would ultimately have attained to if obedient to the covenant at the advent of Godís Eighth Day753.
The Epistle to the Magnesians was written by Bishop Ignatius of Antioch754 some time before his martyrdom in about 107 AD.755 only eleven years after his friend756 the Apostle John had written of "the Lord's day" ("he kuriake hemera") in about A.D. 96757.
Writing to the Magnesians, Gentile converts to Christianity living in Asia Minor near the Colossians758 [whom Paul had previously warned against forced Saturday sabbath observance], Ignatius declared of the Jewish converts to Christianity that "those who walked in the ancient practices have (now) attained unto newness of hope, no longer observing sabbaths ("meketi sabbatizontes"), but living according to the Lordís day ("alla kata kuriaken zontesĒ), on which (day) our life also rose through Him (". . . en hej kai he zoe hemon aneteile diíAutou"). And Ignatius is also believed to have stated: "Let every one that loveth Christ observe the first day of the week, the Lordís day, the queen of days"759.
The testimony of Ignatius is clear. If even "those" Jewish converts to Christianity, who were previously "observing sabbaths" on Saturday, were now "living according to the Lordís day", how much the more should Gentile converts to Christianity not start "observing sabbaths" on Saturday, but rather continue "living according to the Lordís day, (the day) on which our life also rose through Him"760.
About three years after761 the death of Ignatius in 107, an important official communication was sent from one Pliny to Trajan the Roman emperor. Pliny, the Roman govern or of Bithynia762, wrote of the Christians who had been congregating there probably from at least A.D. 62 onwards763, that "they were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath not to (do) any wicked deeds, never to commit any fraud, theft, or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of good food ó but food of an ordinary and innocent kind"764.
In this remarkable passage it is explicitly stated that these early Christians observed the substance of most of the Ten Commandments, and it is implied that they observed all ten as far as they were able to do so. As far as they were able, for as most of the early Christians were of slave stock or from other lower classes765, and those who had heathen masters or employers ó the vast majority ó would be forced to work on their day of rest, which was unfortunately an official working day throughout the empire766 until Constantineís "sabbath" Edict in 321 A.D. gave them some measure of public protection. Hence one reads that after meeting "on a certain fixed day before it was light", the first century Bithynian Christians had "to separate" ó many of them having to labour for their masters and/or employers from dawn to dusk ó "and then reassemble to partake of . . . food".
The "certain fixed day" [stato die767] on which the Christians met, is regarded by Seventh-day Adventists as Saturday768. Certainly the expression would seem to indicate a regular day of meeting, probably each week. But Sunday is far more likely to have been the "certain fixed day" than Saturday. For if Pliny had been referring to the old Saturday sabbath, as a Roman379 he would doubtless have referred to the "later" meeting first and only then to the morning meeting on the day alter the "certain fixed day", seeing that the old Saturday sabbath was demarcated from the evening of one day to the evening of the following day.
But Pliny makes no such reference. Instead, he mentions that the pre-dawn meeting took place first ó and only afterwards the later meeting; and that both meetings took place on the same "certain fixed day". This rather points to the Roman (and ó more importantly! ó New Testament) midnight to midnight demarcation of modern Sunday-keepers than to the evening to evening demarcation of the Jews and the Seventh-day Adventists. The fact that they assembled "before it was light" certainly reminds one of the first events on that first of all Christian Sundays, the Sunday of our Lordís Resurrection, cf. John 20:1 and Matt. 28:1. And the fact that they had "to separate, and then reassemble to partake of good food ó but food of an ordinary and innocent kind" ["ad capiendum cibum"769], certainly suggests that they were forced to work from daybreak to dusk ó cf. the sabbath-desiring but enslaved folk in Ex. 5:3-14 ó after which the Bithynian Christians probably gathered on Sunday evening to break bread [as at Troas (Acts 20:6-7)], and perhaps also to observe the love meal of the "agape"769 [as at Corinth (I Cor. 11:20f cf. 16:1 & 2)], in which case Plinyís "stato die . . . ad capiendum cibum" would be equivalent to Corinthís "kuriakon deipnon" and "kata mian sabbatou" and therefore probably also to Johnís "en tej kuriakej hemeraj" in Rev. 1:10; for it is noteworthy that all Scripturally-recorded occurences of the Lordís Supper in which a definite time of the day is mentioned took place in the evening or even later770.
From the time of Emperor Trajan onwards, Christianity was intermittently persecuted until 313 when it obtained toleration as a religlo licita or officially permitted religion. Yet Christian Sunday observance nevertheless continued uninterruptedly throughout this period. Thus, some thirty years after Plinyís letter to Trajan, Justin Martyr (d. 164) wrote his Apology and his Dialogue with the Jew Trypho in about 140 A.D.771.
In his Dialogue, Justin relates how the Old Testament has now been replaced by "a final law and a covenant"772, declaring that "it is possible for us to show how the eighth day possessed a certain mysterious import, which the seventh day did not possess, . . . for the first day after the sabbath, remaining the first of all these days, is called, however, the eighth, according to the number of all the days of the cycle, and [yet] remains the first"773. This cycle is clearly seen in that the eight persons in Noahís ark typify the eighth day774 on which Christ arose775 and also that the eighth day of circumcision is the same day as the first day on which Christ arose, "the first of all days"776; and in reply to Trypho the Jewís accusation that "the Christians observe no festivals or sabbaths"777, Justin informed Trypho: "The new law requires you to keep a perpetual sabbath, and you, because you are idle for one day, suppose you are pious, not discerning why this has been commanded you"778, and added that "the first day of the week on which our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead is the chief and most important of all the days"779.
The testimony for Christian Sunday-keeping is even stronger in Justinís First Apology, where he records780 that: "On the day called Sunday ("en tej tou heliou hemeraj")781 all who live in cities or in the country gather together in one place [cf. Acts 2:1 cf. Lev. 23:16!], and the memoirs of the Apostles or the writings of the prophets are read . . ., whereupon (after prayer) bread, wine and water are brought [cf. Acts 20:7!] . . . Then there is a distribution . . . to those absent . . . by the deacons . . . and to those in need . . . [cf. Acts 6:1-4 and I Cor. 16:1-2!]." "Sunday is the day on which we hold our communal gathering, because it is the first day on which God created the world by effecting an alteration in the darkness and matter [cf. Gen. 1:3-5], and because Jesus Christ our Saviour rose from the dead on that same day, . . . and taught these things [cf. Luke 24:1, 27, 44f] on the day after that of Saturn which is called the day of the sun, after He had appeared to His Apostles and disciples"782. Mal. 4:2, John 1:1-5, 20:19 & 26, Acts 20:6-7 and I Cor. 16:1-2, as understood by Sunday-keeping Christians today, are all clearly reflected in this passage of Justinís "only forty-four years after the vision of John on Patmos"783.
"From this time on", admits the Seventh-day Adventist Yost, referring to the time of Justin Martyr784, "we find increasingly numerous the references to the fact that Christians were celebrating the resurrection on the first day of the week". In 170 AD.785, Bishop Dionysius of Corinth wrote to the Church at Rome that the Corinthians had celebrated "the holy Lordís day" ("kuriake hemera")786 [cf. "kuriakon deipnon" in I Cor. 11:20 and "kata mian sabbaton" in 16:1-2!]. Then, five years after that, in about 175 AD.787, Bishop Melito of Sardis (d. 180) wrote "A Book Concerning the Lordís Day"788, which book was in turn followed another five years later in 180 AD.789 by an admission by the Syrian heretic Bardesanes of Edessa that "we ourselves assembled on a day, the first day of the week"; whereas the contemporaneously sritten790 apocryphal Gospel of Peter identified Sunday as "the Lordís day" ("he kuriake").
About this same time [180 AD.791), Bishop lrenaeus of Lyons in France [who had been born between 130 and 140 in Asia Minor and been instructed by Polycarp the friend of St. John792 and who believed both that the pre-Sinaitic "righteous fathers had the law of the Decalogue written in their hearts and souls"793and that even after "the Lord Himself did speak in His Own Person to all alike the words of the Decalogue; . . . they remain permanently with us receiving, by means of His advent in the flesh, extension and increase, but not abrogation" (Ch. 16) ó and indeed, the sabbath was not abrogated at all but extended from the seventh day to the eighth!], is thought by some to have written that "on the Lordís day every one of us Christians keeps the sabbath, meditating on the law, rejoicing in the works of God"794, adding that "the mystery (musterion = sacramentum = sacrament Lordís supper = on Lordís day = cf. Acts 20:6-7) of the Lordís resurrection may not be celebrated on any other day than the Lordís day ("he kuriake hemera"), and on this (day) alone should we observe the breaking of the Paschal Feast"795, and is conceded to have written that "the sabbath and circumcision.., have been fulfilled in the spiritual life of the Christian"796.
The Seventh-day Adventists Andrews and Conradi797 have correctly pointed out that "although Irenaeus writes five books against heresies, . . . it is rather strange that he himself nowhere alludes to Sunday." Strange indeed, unless of course he himself kept Sunday, as opposed to many of the gnostic and Judaistic heretics whom he condemns. Cf. his citation of Col. 2:16 in his letter to Victor!798.
Perhaps fifteen years later, President Clement of Alexandriaís catechetical school (d. 215) wrote in about 194 AD.799 that "the Fourth Commandment tells us that the world was made by God, and that He gave us the seventh day as a rest . . . to prepare for that day that brought a new beginning; that is our real rest, which is also the first origin of the real Light, by Whom all things are seen, and all things received as our inheritance . . . for eight seems.., to be properly a rest, but seven a working (day)"800); whereas "the enlightened Christian, when he has fully observed that which is the Lordís day801 according to the Gospel, keeps the Commandment that day, when he casts away low worldly thought and lays hold of that which is spiritual and enlightening, glorifying in this the resurrection of the Lord"802. As in Irenaeus, so too in Clement: the observance of the Lord's day ó the day of Christís resurrection ó is encountered in connection with the Fourth Commandment.
Thus, although Sunday observance in the first and second centuries was socio-economically difficult and often politically dangerous, nevertheless, within a century after John wrote of "the Lordís day" in the book of Revelation Sunday was consistently being "kept" [Barnabas ó "agomen"803], "lived" [Ignatius ó ďzontesĒ804], "celebrated" or "passed" [Dionysius805] as "the chief and most important of all days" [Justin806], "kept as sabbath" [Irenaeus or PseudoIgnatius807] and "fully observed . . . according to . . . the Commandment", whereas Saturday has become nothing more than a mere "working day" [Clement of Alexandria808].
As the Seventh-day Adventist Yost has correctly remarked in respect of the old Saturday sabbath809: "There are no sub-apostolic writings extant which are from the stylus, quill or reed of Sabbath-keepers" ó by which latter expression Yost means Saturday-keepers. What an admission this is! For if none of the above-mentioned first and second century writings are those of Saturday sabbath-keepers, to what day of the week do they then refer in their injunctions regarding the observance of the "Lordís day"810, the "eighth day"811, the "first day (of the week)"812, "Sunday""í and "the sabbath"813? !
The third century opened with statements in his Apologia ch. 16 made in about814 200 A.D. by Tertullian815 of Carthage (d. 240) that "we solemnize816 the day after Saturday, in contradiction to those who call this day their sabbath, and we dedicate it to rest and food, diverging from the ancient Jewish customs with which they are very unfamiliar at this time"817.
In his treatise on prayer818, Tertullian declares that "we, according to the instruction which we have received, should on the day of the Lordís resurrection. and on that day alone [solo die dominico resurrexionis819], also refrain from all anxiety, putting aside our worldly business in order to give no place to the devil"820 ó which words prove Sunday worship to be very considerably older than about 200 A.D. (when Tertullian wrote these words), or one century after the completion of the New Testament.
And elsewhere Tertullian is said by some to have insisted that "the seventh day sabbath is gone to its grave with the signs and shadows of the Old Testament"821, whereas "every eighth day is the Christianís festival"822, and "we make Sunday [dies solis823] a day of festivity"824.
Approximately twenty-five years later, President Origen of Alexandriaís catechetical school (d. 255) is considered by some to have written from about 225 A.D. onwards825 that after "the end of the Covenant now grown old, which is the end of the sabbath", "it is one of the marks of a perfect Christian to keep the Lordís day"826. And in his contra Celsum VI ch. 61, after stating that the heretic Celsus "knows nothing of the day of the sabbath and the rest of God which follows the completion of the worldís creation and which lasts for the duration of the world, and in which all those will keep festivals with God who have done all their works in their six days . . . will ascend to the contemplation of celestial things and to the assembly of righteous and blessed things", goes on to declare of the Christiansí behaviour in VIII: 22 that ". . . we ourselves are accustomed to celebrate certain days, such for example the ĎLordís dayí etc."827.
To illustrate the excellence of the Lordís day above the old Saturday sabbath, Origen somewhat allegorically yet nevertheless convincingly proves his point in his seventh Homily on Exodus, where he argues that as "it is plain from Holy Writ that manna was first given on earth on the Lordís day . . . , and rained none on the sabbath day, let the Jews understand that from that [?!] time our Lordís day was set above the true sabbath . . . For on our Lordís day, God always rains down manna from heaven . . . for . . , the words which are preached to us have come down from God . . ."828. And Origen is also believed to have written: "Therefore relinquishing judaical observances of the (Saturday) Sabbath, let us see of what sort the observance of the (Sunday) Sabbath ought to be to the Christian. On the day of the Sabbath it behoves that nothing of all worldly works should be done. If therefore you cease from all secular employment and carry on nothing worldly and are at leisure for spiritual occupation and go to church, giving ear to the reading and treating of the Divine Word and think of heavenly things and are solicitous about the future hope and have before your eyes the coming judgment and have not respect to present and visible things, but to the unseen and future, this is the observance of the Christian Sabbath"828.
A few years later, Bishop Fabian of Rome (236-250 AD.) wrote829 of the ecclesiastical maintenance of "seven deacons in the city of Rome . . . who attend to the services enjoined on them week by week, and on the Lordís day and the solemn festivals" (cf. I Cor. 16:1 & 2 with Acts 6:1-3), and further decreed that "on each Lordís day the oblation of altar should be made . . . in bread and wine" (cf. Acts 20:6, 7).
Shortly after the above, in about 250 A.D.830, Bishop Cyprian of Carthage wrote831 "in respect of the observance of the Jewish circumcision" that it was to be fulfilled with Christís advent in that "the eighth day, that is, the first day after the Sabbath, was to be that on which the Lord should rise again, . . . the Lordís day" (cf. John 20:1, 26 and Col. 2:9-16); and his younger contemporary Bishop Anatolius of Laodicea (230-300 AD.) declared that "the first day of the week is the resurrection day, and the Lordís day. The Sabbath and the Lordís day are clearly designated and distinguished by name in the Easter tables"832.
From about 250-313, Christianity was violently persecuted and absolutely prohibited as a religio illicita or illegal religion. Yet Christian Sunday observance continued nonetheless. For it is not impossible833 that Commodian (c. 250-300 AD.) means Sunday observance in his reference to "the Lordís Day"; and it is certain that Bishop Victorinus of Pettau (250?-303 AD.) wrote in about 290 AD.834: "On the former day [that is, the Saturday Sabbath] we are accustomed to fast rigorously, that on the Lordís day we may go forth to our bread with giving of thanks835 (cf. Acts 20:6-7). Lest we should appear to observe any Sabbath with the Jews, which Christ Himself the Lord of the Sabbath in His body abolished836. Cf. too Pseudo-Ignatius807.
The fourth century was to see Sunday come into its own as the official "sabbath" or day of rest throughout the Roman Empire which was then becoming more and more Christianized, at least in name.
Probably just after Saturninus and Dativ were martyred in the persecutions of about 304 AD. after insisting on celebrating the Lordís [day] [Dominicum celebrare or servare837], Methodius (250?-31 17 A.D.) referred to "the first day of the resurrection" as the day which was to mark the celebration of "the millenium of rest, which is called the seventh day, even the true sabbath"838; and Bishop Peter of Alexandria declared in 306 that "We celebrate the Lordís day as the day of joy, because on it He rose again"839.
If Sunday observance was a joy to the pious, Sunday desecration resulted in anything but joy for the apostate. The strict 36th Council of Elvira [or Eliberis]840 in 306, [which, significantly, prohibited the worship of depictions on Church walls] also provided for "the excommunication of all Christians who, without cause, absented themselves from public worship for three Lordís days"841.
In that same year (306 A.D.), Constantine succeeded his father as the Emperor of the Roman Empire. Perhaps partly for political motives842, he determined to revere the Christian God at a time when, in spite of all their persecutions, the Christians amongst his subjects were growing daily whilst the heathen were diminishing.
Having granted843 Christianity toleration as a religio licita by the Edict of Milan in 313, on the 8th of March 321, Constantine, perhaps at the request of Church authorities844, further enacted his far-reaching "Sunday Edict": ó "Let all the judges and town people, and the occupation of all trades (artium officia cunctarum), rest845 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"846.
Here was the first official legislation to enable Christians in particular and men in general to rest on Sundays. All state departments and official trades were to close down in the urban areas, but works of necessity in the as then still rather imperfectly Christianized847 rural districts were still permitted [although even such rural Sunday work had already ceased in terms of the Fourth Commandment within about fifty years848 by the time of Ephraem the Syrian849]. At last the majority of Christians could rest from their labours and devote the whole Lordís day uninterruptedly to God.
Once the die had now been cast, more Sunday legislation soon followed. On the 18th of April of the same year 321, Constantine wrote to Bishop Hesius of Cordova that the liberation of slaves by Christians would be valid even if not taken cognizance of by the state, provided it occurred before the whole congregation of believers850, and on the 3rd of June he decreed that as it would be very agreeable to fulfil all vows to liberate oneís slaves on Sunday, all should "have liberty for every act of emancipation and manumission on this feast day"851, on this sancta dies Dominica852.
After Constantineís imperial legislation of Sunday as an official day of rest, he proceeded to favour Christian Churches with state aid, to forbid Jews to stone such of their co-religionists as sought to embrace Christianity853, to construct and repair Christian edifices in urban centres such as Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and to prohibit all public religious exercises and practices which were contra bonos mores and morally repulsive854.
The Church was not slow to endorse Constantineís official action with its approval. Recording that only Jewish sects like the Ebionites855 kept the Saturday Sabbath, but not the Christians856, Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea (circa 265-340) declared that Constantine "had enjoined upon all the subjects of the Roman empire to observe the Lordís day, as a day of rest." As regards the army, the emperor had ". . . freely granted to those among them who were partakers of the divine faith, leisure for attendance on the services of the Church of God, in order that they might be able, without impediment, to perform their religious worship"857. For now that Christ, "the Word of the New Covenant, has translated the feast of the Sabbath and transferred it to the light of the morning, and given us the true rest, namely the Lordís day of salvation, the first [day] of the light, in which the Saviour of the world, after all His labours among men, obtained the victory over death, and passed the portals of heaven", therefore "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", for "whatsoever we were obliged to do on the Sabbath, we have transferred to the Lordís day, as being more honourable than the Jewish Sabbath858. For on that day, in making the world, God said, Let there be light, and there was light; and on the same day, the Sun of Righteousness arose upon our souls. Wherefore it is delivered to us that we should meet together on this day", for "Who else [besides Christ] has commanded the nations inhabiting the continents and islands of this mighty globe to assemble weekly on the Lordís day, and to observe it as a festival . . . for the invigoration of the soul by instruction in Divine truth?"859.
After the state decrees of Constantine in connection with official Sunday observance as a day of rest, the Church too further exercised its moral right to enforce obligatory religious Sunday sabbath observance on its own members more and more, accordingly as the increasingly Christianized State introduced more and more Lordís day legislation. Henceforth the Christian Church and the Christian State would work hand in glove in their sanctification of the Lordís holy day.
Four years after Constantineís State edicts, the Churchís Council of Nicea decreed in A.D. 325 that . . . "on the Lordís days . . . all shall offer their prayers to God standing"860, and that Easter was always to be held on a Sunday861.
In a later year, the Council of Laodicea (343-81) decided that "Christians shall not Judaize and be idle on Saturday, but shall work on that day; but the Lordís day they shall especially honour, and, as being Christians, shall, if possible, do no work on that day. If, however, they are found Judaizing, they shall be shut out from Christ"862.
The Council of Gangra863, also 343-81, anathematized those who absented themselves from the house of God and fasted on Sundays, and the Council of Sardica in 347 (following the Council of Eliberis of 306) ordered the excommunication of all Christians who absented themselves from public worship without cause for three successive Sundays864.
In 368, state legislation of the emperors Valentinian and Valens legally freed Christians from Sunday tax collections865, and the emperors Valentinian, Gratian and Theodosius (Sen.) forbad "public shows . . . by arranging entertainments" and law suits on the Lordís day (dies dominicus) in 386 A.D.866. In 389 the state required respect for Sunday (dies solis) or the Lordís day (dies dominicus)867, and forbad Sunday circuses and public spectacles868; whereas in 399 Sunday theatrical shows were forbidden869. Sunday public amusements were legislated against in 409, in which same year legal Sunday privileges were extended to prisoners870.
In agreement with and possibly sometimes antecedent to the Sunday legislation of the increasingly Christianized State, the Christian Church increasingly enjoined the sanctification871 of the Christian Sunday sabbath, and forbad its members to fast or attend spectacles or plays on the Lordís day872. The Fourth Council of Carthage of 398 held873 that "he who neglects divine service and goes instead to the theatre, shall be excommunicated", whereas the Fifth of 401 decided that "on Sundays . . . no plays may be performed", and petitioned the emperor "that the public shows might be transferred from the Christian . . . Sunday to some other days of the week" because "the people congregate to the circus rather than to the church"874.
The great Church Fathers of the fourth century apparently all endorsed the Apostolic practice of keeping holy the Lordís day. The position of Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea (260-340) has been dealt with above (pp. 246f.). However, this section may perhaps be concluded by citing some of the Lordís day teachings of the other great fourth century Fathers.
Archbishop Athanasius of Alexandria (296-373) somewhat allegorically yet nonetheless significantly declared of the musical instrument called the Sheminith (= "the eighth") mentioned in Psalm 6: "What else could this octave be, but the resurrection day of Christ?" And speaking of Psalm 118:24: "What day can this be but the resurrection day of the Lord . . . to wit, the Lordís day?". And elsewhere he is believed to have stated: "We are met on a Sabbath Day, not morbidly affecting Judaism, for we do not touch spurious Sabbaths; but we have come together upon a Sabbath worshipping Jesus the Lord of the Sabbath. For of old there was among the ancients the prized sabbaths, but the Lord changed the day of the Sabbath to the Lordís Day875.
Ephraem the Syrian (306-79) expressed himself even more clearly and forcefully: "Honour belongs to the Lordís day, the firstling of the days, . . . for it has taken away from the Sabbath the (first) birthright . . . Blessed is he who honours it by spotless observance . . . The law ordains that employees and animals be granted rest, so that manservants, maidservants and day-labourers may cease labouring. However, while our bodies rest (and) work is indeed refrained from, we nevertheless (often) sin more on the day of rest than on other days. For when we refrain from labouring in the fields and cease labouring, we run the great risk of being condemned when we enter business houses . . . Not only for the sake of your bodies shall ye honour the day of salvation. (For) the Lordís day is a holy day . . .876.
Again, Bishop Epiphanius of Cyprus (310-403) claimed that the Apostles instituted Sunday, and declared: "This is the day which God blessed and sanctified, because in it He ceased from all His labours which He had perfectly accomplished, the salvation both of those on earth and those under the earth"877. And Bishop Hilary of Poitiers (320-66) exclaimed: ". . . we rejoice in the festivity of a perfect sabbath on the eighth day, which is also the first"878.
The testimony of the three Cappadocians is also illuminating. Archbishop Basil of Caesarea (328-79), while expounding Gen. 1:2-5, claimed that Sunday was "the type of eternity, the first fruit of days, the contemporary of light, the Lordís holy day" and the type of Godís "Eighth Day" or "Day of the Lord" and "Day without evening, without succession, and without end"879; whereas Bishop Gregory Nazianzen of Sasima (329-90) also discussed the meaning of the eighth day880, and Bishop Gregory of Nyssa (331-96) claimed of Easter Sunday: "This is the day which God made . . . It marks the beginning of a new creation"881.
In the Italian Church the position is the same. The great Jerome (331-420) wrote of the Jews: "They did no servile work on the sabbath. We do none on the Lordís day"882. And Bishop Ambrose of Milan (340-97) regularly spoke of Sunday as a festival and contrasted the pre-eminent Lordís day with the old Saturday sabbath, declaring that "the Lordís day was consecrated by the resurrection of Christ"883.
The Greek Church clearly held to the same doctrine. For Patriarch John Chrysostom of Constantinople (347-407) wrote on Gen. 2:3: ". . . what do these words: ĎHe hallowed ití, mean? . . . (God) thereby teaches us that one of the number of the days of the week must be set apart and dedicated to the service of spiritual things"884. Elsewhere he declared that: "The Jews think that the Sabbath was given them for ease and rest: its true purpose, however, is not this, but that they may withdraw themselves from worldly affairs and bestow all their study and labour upon spiritual things"885. And on yet another occasion, he significantly advised: "You ought not, when you have retired from the church assembly, to involve yourselves in engagements contrary to the exercises with which you have been occupied, but immediately on coming home read the Sacred Scriptures, and call together the family, wife and children, to confer about the things that have been spoken, and after they have been more deeply and thoroughly impressed upon the mind, then proceed to attend to such matters as are necessary for this life"886.
And in the Church of North Africa, Lordís day observance was also the godly rule. Bishop Augustine of Hippo (354-430) declared that "we celebrate the Lordís day" which "was by the resurrection of Christ declared to Christians; and from that time it began to be celebrated as the Christian festival"887. And Bishop Theophilus of Alexandria (fl. 398) declared: ". . . we honour and keep holy the Lordís day, seeing on that day it was that our Lord Jesus completed His resurrection from the dead . . . it is called as well the first [day], because it is the beginning of our life, as also the eighth day, because it has expelled the Sabbath observance of the Jews"888.
(b) The sabbath
in the Mediaeval Church
The emperor, Honorius, enjoined that Sunday privileges be extended to prisoners in 409 AD.890, and his successors Theodosius (Jun.) and Valentinian provided in 425 for the postponement of the emperorís birthday when it fell on a Sunday891, and decreed that "on the Lordís day (which is the first day of the whole seven) . . . the people throughout all the towns be refused all the pleasures of the theatres and of the circus, and let the minds of the Christian believers be occupied with the worship of God"892.
Together with the sanctification of Sunday, however, the following of other festive days and even days devoted to saints came into vogue. This latter development was ultimately to lead firstly to a rather legalistic observance both of Sunday and these other holy days, and secondly to the eclipse of Sunday sanctity on account of the ever-increasing number of these other festivals.
Nevertheless, measures such as the laws of Emperor Leo in 469893 did to a great extent (at least initially) imbue people with an awe for the holiness of the Lordís day. For Leo stated: "We ordain, according to the true meaning of the Holy Ghost, and of the apostles thereby directed, that on the sacred day wherein our own integrity was restored, all do rest and cease from labour; that neither husbandmen nor others on that day, put their hand to forbidden work. For if the Jews did so much reverence their Sabbaths, which were but a shadow of ours, are not we which inhabit the light and truth of grace, bound to honour that day which the Lord Himself hath honoured, and hath therein delivered us from dishonour and from death? Are we not bound to keep it singular and inviolable, well contenting ourselves with so liberal a grant of the rest, and not encroaching upon that one day which God hath chosen to His own honour? Were it not reckless neglect of religion to make that very day common, and to think we may do with it as with the rest?"
After the overthrowal of the West Roman Empire by Odoacer in 476, Sunday observance entered the early Middle Ages and was entrusted to the Franks, under whose auspices it became more and more strictly ó in fact, too strictly ó enforced. For example, the First Council of Orleans of AD. 511 prescribed that the bishops publicly censure any of the laity who left divine service before the benediction894. A brief respite from legalism, however, was granted by the Third Council of Orleans of 538, which wisely warned against Jewish superstition (ad judaicum . . . observationem pertinens) as regards the Sunday preparation of food and Sunday travel by horse and carriage, while yet advising Sunday abstinence from rural labour to permit of Church attendance. Refractory Christians were to be dealt with not by the "severity of laymen", but by "priestly reproof"; and in a subsequent Council of Orleans in 549, archdeacons were enjoined to visit prisoners every Sunday and to enquire of their needs895.
Physical penalties for Sunday desecration, however, were decreed by King Childebert only five years later in 544 ó "a hundred stripes, if a slave; but if free-born, . . . rigid imprisonment". By the Council of Auxerre in 578 it was not permitted to "yoke up oxen on the Lordís day", and open coercion reached a climax in the Council of Macon in 585 which, although it rightly emphasised the duty of Sunday observance as "a free service unto God", nevertheless decided "under divine inspiration" that "the implacable anger of the clergy" would be meted out to a sabbath desecrator, be he "a farmer or a slave", by severe "blows of the lash"; and which ecclesiastical decision was recommended and enforced by the full power of the state by royal precept of King Guntram in the same year, and ecclesiastically re-inforced five years later by the Council of Narbonne which permitted Sunday works of necessity alone896.
The multiplication of these physical penalties in the seventh century ó such as those prescribed by the Council of Chalons (664) and the Alemanian Law, by Archbishop Theodore of Canterbury (668), by Kings me of Wessex (693) and Withred of Kent, and by the Council of Berkhampstead (697)897 ó was doubtless encouraged by the spread of superstitious myths relating to dire and miraculous punishments incurred by sabbath-breakers, as witnessed by the narratives of Bishop Gregory of Tours (539-94)898. The Eastern Council of Trullo (692), however, more correctly limited the penalties to the ecclesiastical excommunication of all sabbath desecrators899.
In the eighth century, the Byzantine Emperor Leo the Israurian (717-41) enforced strict laws against Sunday labour, and Western penalties were further graduated according to rank and profession by the Constitutions of Archbishop Egbert of York (749), the Council of Clovis (747), and Archbishop Boniface of Mainz (755); Egbert even going so far as to follow his master Pope Gregory III (731-41) in forbidding Sunday marriages and prescribing penance in that event900.
The great protector of the above-mentioned Archbishop Boniface of Mainz, Emperor Pepin the Short, wisely tried to check this legalism in 755 by attempting to restore Sunday observance to what it had been as previously provided by the Third Council of Orleans. On the whole, he and his imperial Frankish successors tried to avoid the two extremes of a secular Sunday on the one hand and a Jewish sabbath on the other. To avoid secularization of Sunday, they enjoined abstinence on that day from all opera servilia, that is, all servile or professional work, and husbandry and commerce in particular. To avoid judaization of the sabbath, they permitted the performance on Sunday of all opera necessitatis et misericordiae, that is, all works of necessity and mercy such as defence against an enemy, the preparation of food and the burial of a corpse901.
Pepin was succeeded by Emperor Charlemagne (768-814), whose mentor the theologian Alcuin had taught him that "the observation of the former Sabbath had been transferred very fitly to the Lordís day (Cujus observationem . . . ad diem Dominicum compentius transtulit)"902. That Charlemagne agreed with the sabbath views of his famous teacher, is evidenced by the fact that a whole series of his strict measures as regards Sunday legislation were all introduced by the formula: "We have determined, according to that which the Lord too commanded in the Law"903. Yet it would appear that Charlemagne inclined rather more towards the Mosaic if not towards the Talmudic sabbath rather than towards the Edenic or even towards the pure Decalogical day of rest, for his laws, while rightly intending "that in all things the honour and the rest of the Lord's day be served", unwisely and legalistically condemn such activities as gardening, weaving and embroidering904 ó unwisely, for although even the private undertaking of these activities should be discouraged on the Sunday Sabbath, they should not be legislated against if only engaged in privately and do not amount to public sabbath desecration (cf. Ex. 16:29; Jer. 17:19-22; Neh. 13:15-19).
The Carolingian laws were fully supported by the ecclesiastical authorities, such as the Council of Frankfurt in 794, and, in the ninth century, by the Council of Aries (can. 16) and the Council of Mayence (can. 37) in 813, all three of which forbade Sunday markets and court sessions; whereas cans. 30 and 31 of the great Council of Rome of 826 and especially the Council of Paris of 829 declared that "first the priests, then the kings and princes and all the faithful, should do their utmost that the observance due this great day (which is now most neglected) shall henceforth be exhibited by Christianity in a more marked and devoted manner . . . Wherefore the imperial priests do specially and humbly urge the higher powers that they use the power ordained unto them by God to instill in all a fear with regard to the reverence and honour of this great day . . ."905
The Council of Paris, while proudly enjoining "the observance due to this great day", had also sadly admitted that Sunday was "now most neglected". For in spite of all the above measures as well as the prohibitions of Sunday pleadings, markets and marriages by the Council of Aken in 835 and the Synod of Soissons in 853, in spite of King Alfred the Greatís twofold penalty for Sunday thefts in 876, Sunday observance was still "most neglected".
To try to cure this neglect, even stricter measures were applied in the tenth century. In 910 in the East, the Byzantine Emperor Leo the Philosopher rejected Constantineís laws as "much too weak", in favour of his own which prohibited rural labour. In England laws were still stricter, which factor conceivably contributed towards the strength of the later Puritan sabbath in that country and its colonies. Forfeiture of Lordís day purchases plus payment of a fine was ordained in 906 in a convention between Edward the Elder and Guthrun thc Dane: King Atheisran forbade markets and pleadings in 929, and King Edgar the Peaceable decreed in 958 that his subjects were to "keep holy day every Sunday from noontide of Saturday to Mondayís dawn" and to refrain from heathenish songs and diabolical sports"906.
Yet, in spite of all these measures, the mediaeval Sunday was still "most neglected". For Sunday services, although well attended, were often poorly led and hardly heeded by the worshippers. This is perhaps not surprising, for the Church had become worldly. It had compromised its position by extending the use of its premises for folk-dancing, games, banquets, sports, buffoonery, festivals, fairs and markets, and consequently even the Christian Sunday had become a day of exuberant revelry for some and remained a day of labour for others, both of which parties thus desecrated the sabbath in their own particular way. Yet, although the believersí consciences were then often controlled by indifference to or fear of the State and of the Church rather than by loving obedience to the Law of God, it is nevertheless indeed encouraging to note that State and Church themselves often appealed to Godís Law as the source of and authority for their Sunday ordinances907.
In the eleventh century, King Ethelredís Synod of Enmha in 1009 provided for Sunday abstinence "from trading and from conventions of the people and from hunting and secular works on the holy days (!)" and King Canute the Great (1017-35) decreed that even murderers should not be killed on Sunday, except in self-defence. Penalties became more severe: King Stephen of Hungary in 1016 and the Hungarian Council of Szaboles in 1092 prescribed that for desecration of "Sunday or high festivals (!)", Christians were to be scourged and Jews to lose their tools of trade; whereas the French clergy in their Encyclical of 1041 anathematized all at war who would not observe a Sunday truce, and the Spanish Council of Coy forbade Sunday travel in 1059. But superstition also increased. Peter Damianus (1007-72) recorded that "every Lord's day the souls in purgatory were manumitted from their pains" when their earthly benefactors inflicted themselves with a hundred strokes of a leathern thong908.
These superstitions continued in the twelfth century, when King Henry II of England (1157-89) is said to have had an apparition in which the Apostle Peter is alleged to have commanded him to prevent all Sunday buying and selling and servile work throughout his dominions909. Yet the century was not entirely corrupt. For the Canon of St. Victor, Peter of Lombardy (Ī 1110-60), differentiated in principle between the observance of the Jewish sabbath and the celebration of Sunday, in his treatise on the Ten Commandments; even though he unfortunately also distinguished between the literal and allegorical meaning of the Sunday Commandment, taking its literal meaning as the observance of the Jewish sabbath on the seventh day, and its allegorical meaning as the rest from sin which awaits the believer in the state of glory910.
The thirteenth century opened with an increasingly severe emphasis on Sunday observance especially in England, where the strict sabbatarian Eusrace of Flaye, armed with the apocryphal "Holy Commandment of the Lordís Day", preached throughout the land. The apocryphal letter demanded that "no one, from the ninth hour on Saturday until sunrise on Monday, shall do any work except that which is good", and threatened the disobedient with the most dire if miraculous punishments. Yet although the letter was backed up by the full power of Pope Innocent III (1198-1216), opposition from king and clergy made its effect short-lived.
In Scotland, however, the letter was better received in 1203, when King William legislated that "Saturday from twelve at noon ought to be accounted holy . . . and to continue thus until Monday morning, a penalty being laid on those who did the contrary"; to be followed by an enactment of Alexander III in 1214, that "none should fish in any waters from Saturday after evening prayer till sunrise on Monday911.
In France the Council of Paris in 1212 (can. 18) prohibited all mechanical work on Sundays, and in 1229 the Council of Toulouse (can. 25) demanded that especially husband and wife must refrain from all servile work and attend church on the Lordís day as well as on some thirty holy-days. All this ecclesiastical legislation was codified by Pope Gregory IX (1227-41) in his Decretals, in which he also correctly derived the authority of Lordís day observance from "both the Old and New Testaments"; but in which he incorrectly equated its sanctity with that of "the other days set aside to the highest majesty", while granting "by the authority of St. Peter" that works of necessity "may be permitted on the Lordís days and on the other festivals (excepting the high festivals of the year) . . ."912
It was at this stage that the massive erudition of Thomas Aquinas (1225-74) combined the Greek concept of lex rationis et naturae or the law of reason and of nature with the Biblical concept of lex decalogi or the law of the Ten Commandments. A knowledge of his sabbath doctrine is a most important pre-requisite towards an understanding of the subject under discussion, because his influence on the sabbath doctrine of the Reformers is considerable and also because Pope Leo XIII in his Encyclical of 1879 recommended Thomist theology to all Catholic seminaries and theological faculties throughout the world913.
Thomasí sabbath doctrine, as set out in his Summa Theologiae914, was not without its dangers.
His preference of spiritual work to physical work on the sabbath, and his reason for sabbath-keeping (namely to set aside time for the cultus Externus (!) ["ut homo vacet rebus divinis"]) both bear traces of the Romanist tension between grace and nature. His attempt to establish the authority of Sunday-keeping "not in consequence of a legal precept, but from the decision of the Church and the custom of Christians", verily undermines its authority. His confusion of the Saturday sabbath both with the Mosaic sabbath and with the sabbath as such, leads him to insist that the "sabbath" was "typical" and Sunday is not, and therefore (?!) that "the prohibition of work on Sunday is not so strict as on the sabbath"; whereas in actual fact the Sunday sabbath no less typifies the coming rest of heaven than the old Saturday sabbath typified the then coming rest of Christ in His grave, and both are imbued with the same strictness of observation.
His distinction between moral and ceremonial elements within the Fourth Commandment ("partim morale, partim ceremoniale") is unfortunate: his attempt to ground its morality "in compliance with the dictates of natural reason" overlooks the depravity thereof on account of sin; and his view that the keeping of specifically Ďthe seventh dayí is ceremonial, overlooks the fact that the commandment does not enjoin the remembrance of Saturday or Ďthe seventh day of the weekí, but rather that of Ďthe seventh dayí in relation to Ďsix days shalt thou labourí; for all ten of the Commandments are wholly and essentially moral, even though all ten certainly were attributed with additional external and unessential qualifications between the fall [and, more particularly, after Sinai] and Calvary.
Yet Thomasí sabbath theology has the great merit of stressing the universal moral obligation of the Decalogue and thus of the day of rest ("praecepta Decalogi prima et communia legis principia"). He correctly stressed the relationship of the sabbath to the rests of creation, of Calvary, from sin, and of heaven. He rightly emphasised that Sunday had replaced Saturday as the Christian sabbath, that it was to be kept in terms of the Decalogue, and that opera necessitatis et misericordiae on that day were not prohibited but rather enjoined.
In all of these latter points the Reformers did well to follow him.
Yet in all of these latter points, Thomasí immediate Romanist successors did not so follow him. Bonaventura (1221-71) forbade writing and the washing of the head on Sunday915. The Council of London (1237) provided excommunication for those that left Sunday services early. The Council of Budapest (1279) decided on severe punishment for all who failed to attend mass in their own parish church on all Sundays and festivals (!). Bishops were given the right to "inflict adequate punishment" on Sunday labourers by the Council of Bourges in 1286; and the century closed with the Council of Rouen in 1299 which would excommunicate all judges who held court sessions on Sunday916.
Nor was the fourteenth century any happier. The Council of Trier in 1310 repeated the decision of that of Budapest. The Council of Beziers of the same year forbade poor shoemakers to sell their ware on Sunday. That of Ravenna of 1311 followed that of London, and that of Valladolid of 1322 excommunicated all who traded or worked in the fields on Sunday917.
Pope John XXII (1316-34) complained to the King of France of the French custom to cut or trim the beard on Sunday. Bishop Tostatus of Avila proclaimed with Talmudic precision that "a man that travels on holy days to any special shrine or saint, commits no sin, but he does commit sin if he returns home on those days", and that "meat may be dressed upon the Lordís day or the other holy days, but to wash dishes on those days is unlawful". Whereas in 1365 the Council of Apt not only forbade markets "on pain of ecclesiastical censure", but ominously added that "the interference of the secular power is also to be invoked"; and in 1388 Archbishop Istippe of Canterbury commanded his flock "by virtue of canonical obedience" to "refrain from going to markets or fairs on the Lordís day"918.
In the fifteenth century, Archbishop Antoninus of Florence (1389-1459) issued a "Talmudic" confessional in which he microscopically detailed what may and may not be done on Sunday and on the different festivals of varying importance. Nicolas de Clťmanges (1360-14307), for some time Papal Secretary, urgently requested an end to the endless multiplication of feast-days in his tract "No More New Festivals", on the ground that the holy-days had become holidays which either unnecessarily hindered the peasants in their labours or alternatively drove them to worldly revelry ó a sentiment even more strongly expressed by Cardinal de Aliaco at the Council of Constance in 1416 in his address: "Concerning the Reform of the Church"919.
The mediaeval Church desperately needed reforming! Centuries previously it had inherited the excellent Scriptural doctrine and practice of the Apostolic and Patristic sabbath ó but it had now deformed that blessed institution almost beyond recognition. Only one thing could restore the Lordís day to its rightful place ó viz., the radical reformation of the Christian Church by the Word of God.
(c) The sabbath
in the Reformed Church
The Romanist controversialist John Eck (1486-1543) then demanded of Luther in their Leipzig Disputation in 1519, that if the Reformer "turn from the church to the Scriptures alone", he should then also "keep the sabbath with the Jews", seeing that "the cessation of the sabbath and the institution of Sunday" was, in Eckís opinion, not mentioned in Scripture, but had "taken place by the apostolic Church instituting it without Scripture"921.
The following year Martin Luther (1483-1546) replied to Eck on this point, in his Address to the German Nobility of 1520. "All festivals should be abrogated", wrote Luther, "except Sunday. Should it be desired that the high festivals . . . remain, let them be transferred to Sunday"922.
It was not only the Romanists who attracted the attention of the great Reformer. In his Lectures on Genesis (1523-7), when he had heard "that even now in Austria and Moravia, certain Judaizers urge both the sabbath and circumcision", he also had occasion to refute these small and legalistic Saturday-keeping sects by advising that they be "admonished by the word of God" [cf. Lutherís: "Against the Sabbatarians", (Wittenberg, 1538, 4)]923.
However, it was, of course, the numerous and militant Romanists with their legalistic observance both of the Biblical Lordís day and of the man-made feast days, that Luther was principally called to oppose. Hence he observed in his Larger Catechism of 1529 that worship "with us is not so tied to certain times in the way it was with the Jews, as that this or that day in particular should be ordered or enjoined for it". Yet it is equally important to note that Luther also wrote in that very same document that "seeing that those who preceded us chose Sunday for them, this harmless and admitted custom must not be readily changed"924 adding in the Catechismís article on the Fourth Commandment that "nature teaches that the working classes . . . who have spent the whole week in their work . . . absolutely require a day in which they can . . . rest and refresh themselves; and . . . attend to the worship of God"925.
Luther never held to the abolition of the Decalogue and its sabbath, irrespective of all his criticisms of the Romanist perversions thereof. In his Table Talk, Luther recorded his belief that "the Apostles transferred Sabbath to Sunday, (as) none else would have dared to do it"; and in his tract Against the Antinomians of 1539, he exclaimed: "I wonder exceedingly how it came to be imputed to me that I should reject the law of Ten Commandments". Whereas in 1541 ó only five years before his death ó he emphatically declared: "If heretofore I in my discourses spoke and wrote so harshly against the law, it was because the Christian Church was overwhelmed with superstitions under which Christ was altogether hidden . . .; but as to the law itself, I never rejected it!"926 To the contrary, Luther held that the essential features even of the sabbath were of universal and perpetual obligation (Works, tom, 5, p. 22).
It may be recorded in conclusion for the benefit of modern Antinomians, that Luther not only maintained the Decalogical sabbath but also held to the Edenic sabbath. Not only does Luther rhetorically enquire that since "the Scriptures mention the sabbath much sooner than Adam fell into sin, was it not appointed at that time that he should work six days and rest on the seventh?", but he also held the personal opinion that Adam actually fell on the sabbath day927.
A probably even purer view of the Christian sabbath was taken by Lutherís younger contemporary, the Co-Reformer Philipp Schwarzerd or Melanchthon (1497-1560). In his Loci communes (1st edition in 1521) he affirmed that "the Ten Commandments or the moral law is the eternal, unchangeable wisdom and righteousness of God" which "cannot be blotted out"; and he specifically referred to "the seventh day . . ., which the fathers doubtless observed from the time of Adam". In the Augsburg Confession of 1530, perhaps replying to Eckís taunts made at Leipzig some eleven years earlier, Melanchthon declared that "those who think that the observance of Sunday has been appointed by the authority of the Church, instead of the sabbath, greatly err", adding the following year in his Apology that the idea that "Christ had abrogated the law of Moses" was "a dream" and a "fanatical foolish thought"928.
Already at this time, if not a little earlier, the fanatically unbalanced Anabaptists were declaring it to be "unchristian to celebrate Sunday"929. Sebastian Frank chronicled in 1536 that "they would not rest when others kept Sunday (N.L. ó striking evidence that "others" were then resting on that day!), for they declared it to be "the holiday and law of Antichrist"930. Even the milder Menno Simons (1492-1559) ó who, incidentally, did not leave the Romanist priesthood until 1536, almost twenty years after the beginning of the Reformation ó emphatically declared that the sabbath is no more "literal", but "spiritual".
Huldreich Zwingli of ZŁrich (1484-1531), although claiming that Christians are bound neither to the seventh nor to the first day (of the week), wisely added that love towards God and oneís neighbour demands a fixed day of worship for oneís self and concession of rest and refreshment to oneís employees931.
It was Martin Bucer of Strassburg (1491-1551) who, like Calvin, attempted to bridge the gap between Zwingli and Luther932. In 1548 he went to England, which country had already rejected the papal yoke between 1530 and 1534 and drawn up various articles of faith thereafter933. There Bucer and Bishop Latimer helped Archbishop Thomas Cranmer of Canterbury (1489-1556) ó who elsewhere declared that "we observe Sunday"934 ó to draw up what was destined to become the official standard of the Reformed Church of England, namely the Forty-two Articles of 1553.
Article nineteen of that document declares that "all men are bound to keep the moral commandments of the law"935, and article seven of the final revision of 1571 teaches that "no Christian man whatsoeuer, is free from the obedience of the commaundementes whiche are called morall"936. The English edition of this final revision was drawn up by Bishop Jewel"937 who it is believed also wrote the Reformed Homily on the Place and Time of Prayer, in which it is stated that "God hath given express charge to all men that upon the Sabbath Day, which is now our Sunday, they should cease from all weekly and workday labour", and in which it is warned that "we must be careful to keep the Christian Sabbath Day, which is the Sunday, . . . for that it is Godís express Commandment"938.
About the same time (1551), the Polish Reformer John Laski or Š Lasco wrote a Catechism which came into use amongst the Christian Dutch refugees in London939. Laski acknowledged the internal sabbath of Aquinas and his successors, whereby the believer should always rest from sin and contemplate the saintís everlasting rest. Yet Laski also emphasised the external sabbath, whereby the believer "must work zealously for six days a week in a God-honouring occupation"; "must encourage his family" to attend divine worship on the Sunday sabbath "according to the commandment instituted and ordained by Christ"; "must spend the whole (!) day in service of oneís neighbour and other holy works"; and must not "break or desecrate the sabbath by spending the day destined for service of the Church in servile works (in servilibus operibus), in idleness, jest, drunkenness, gambling, play and other works of the flesh".
In the meantime, the Romanists had not been idle. From 1545 to 1564 they were busy formulating their classic reply to the Reformation at the Council of Trent, in Austria. During their deliberations, Archbishop Caspar del Fossa of Rheggio claimed on Jan. 18th 1562 that "the authority of the Church is most gloriously set forth" by the fact that "the sabbath, the most glorious day in the law, has been changed into the Lordís day"940; and when the Catechism of Trent ó Romeís official doctrine even up to the present day ó was published some five years later, similar claims became Church Law. The sabbath was not "a natural principle", claims the Catechism, but had existed only "from the time the people of Israel were liberated from the bondage of Pharaoh"; its obligation was destined "to cease together with the abrogation of other Jewish (!) rites and ceremonies, namely at the death of Christ"; for, "it has pleased the Church (!) that the religious celebration of the sabbath day shall be transferred to the Lordís day", together with the "other (!) days"; which "other days" the Cardinal Archbishop Bellarmine of Capua (1542-1621) extolled in his later treatment of the Fourth Commandment in his Catechism in the words: "Remember the festivals, to keep them holy"941.
Hereby the Lordís day was degraded to the level of the saintsí days; Jesus Christ the divine Son of God was reduced to the standing of people like "St." Bridget!941. This was Romeís answer to the Reformation; this was the reply to the Reformed Church, the reply of the Deformed Church ó that part of the Church that refused to reform. After the light of Luther at the dawn of the sixteenth century, there followed the darkness of Trent ó post lucem, tenebrae. But in the merciful providence of Almighty God, the Lordís day was again destined to be illuminated by the Sun of Righteousness ó post tenebras, lux.
Doubtless it was the light received by John Calvin of Geneva (1509-64) which gave the death-blow to the Romanist feast-days and great impetus to the Decalogue and to Sunday observance. Much use has been made by Anabaptistic Antinomians of Calvinís careful statement in his Institutes of 1536 that "the Jewish holy-day was abolished" ó but little use have they made of his equally careful statement two lines later and in the same sentence, that "another day was appointed for that (!) purpose"942. Antinomians have emphasised Calvinís true statement against the Romanists that harsh Sunday-keepers have been an "insult (to) the Jews by changing the day, and yet mentally attributing to it the same sanctity" ó but they have ignored his equally true statement (apparently against Antinomians!) six lines later, that "we must be careful, however, to observe the general doctrine . . . we must diligently attend on our religious assemblies"943.
Anti-Calvinist lawbreakers have not failed to seize on the Genevanís correct opinion as to the (Saturday!) "sabbath (having) been abrogated" ó but they have failed to seize on his equally correct opinion in the next section that "some restless (!) spirits are now making an outcry about the observance of the Lordís day. They complain that Christian (!) people are trained in Judaism, because some observance of days is retained. My reply is: those days are observed by us (!) without Judaism"944. These "restless spirits" will not shrink from quoting Calvinís weighty statements that "Christ is the true completion of the sabbath" and that He "is not contented with one day, but requires the whole course of our lives" etc. ó but they do shrink from quoting his equally weighty statements that Deut. 5 is "equally applicable to us as to the Jews" and that in Apostolic times "the early Christians substituted (!) what we call the Lordís day for (!) the sabbath"945!
Perhaps even more important than his views in the Institutes of 1536 ó written at the tender age of twenty-six ó however, are Calvinís later statements on the sabbath question, on which the Antinomians are strangely silent. In his Sermon on Deut. 5 he writes of "when our shop windows are shut on the Lordís day, when we travel not after the common order and fashion of men". He asks: "If we employ the Lordís day to make good cheer, to sport ourselves, to go to the games and pastimes, shall God in this be honoured? Is this not a mockery? Is not this an unhallowing of His name?"946.
In 1550, according to his biographer Beza, Calvin determined "that there should be no other feast-days, except one in seven, which we call the Lordís day"947; and in the year 1554, he wrote in his Commentary on Genesis (2:1-3) that God "first rested, then blessed this rest, that in all (!) ages it might be sacred among men". "God", continued Calvin, "consecrated every (!) seventh day to rest (!)", and that inasmuch as it (the sabbath) was commanded to men from the beginning (!), that they might employ themselves in the worship of God, it is right that it should continue to the end of the world (!)". "Moreover", he concluded, "it is to be noted that this institution has been given not to a single century or people, but to the entire human race"948.
One year before his death in 1564, Calvin clearly stated regarding Ex. 20, in his Harmony of the Pentateuch, that "we have an equal necessity for the sabbath with the ancient people"; and he added that "it is not credible that the observance of the sabbath was omitted when God revealed the rite of sacrifice to the holy Fathers, but what in the depravity of human nature was altogether extinct among heathen nations, and almost obsolete with the race of Abraham, God renewed in His law"949.
These views of the great Genevan were propagated and developed by all his followers who proudly called themselves by his name ó the Calvinists. His older friend Heinrich Bullinger of Zurich (1504-75), in referring to "this fourth precept of the first table" (of the Decalogue), stated that "it would be against all godliness and Christian charity if we should deny to sanctify the Sunday"950. His younger biographer and successor Theodore Beza (1519-1605) commented on Rev. 1:10 that "the seventh day, having stood from the creation of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was exchanged by the apostles, doubtless at the dictation of the Holy Spirit, for that which was the first day of the new world"951; adding in his De jure magistratuum of 1574 that "it is the principal duty of a most excellent and pious ruler that he should apply whatever means, authority and power has been granted him by God, to this end that God may truly be recognized among his subjects"952. And his famous pupil John Knox (1515-72), destined to win Scotland for the Reformation and for Sunday observance and to exert wide influence throughout the English-speaking world, stated in his First Book of Discipline that "the sabbath must be kept strictly"953.
In the year before Calvinís death, Zacharias Ursinus and Caspar Olevianus saw the adoption of their Heidelberg Catechism ó one of the first of a series of important Reformed confessions. It has often been pointed out that Question 103 of the Catechism lays its emphasis on the internal sabbath with its ecclesiastical and eschatological significance, rather than on the physical and external sabbath. It must not be forgotten, however, that Sunday is implicitly conjoined to the Fourth Commandment in the words of the questionís answer ó to maintain the Ministry "especially (!) on the sabbath (!), that is, on the Day of rest . . . (I Cor. 16:2; . . . Isa. 66:23)"; which probably reflects the healthy influence of Laski. Important here are Ursinusí remarks on the sabbath (in his "Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism")954, viz.:
As the reasons for sabbath-keeping have respect "to all times and conditions of the church and world, it follows that God will always have the ministry of the church preserved and the use thereof respected, so that the moral part of this commandment binds all men from the beginning to the end of the world, to observe some Sabbath, or to devote a certain portion of their time to sermons, public prayers, and the administration of the sacraments". And "God commands that even the strangers who might be found among the Israelites should not work on the Sabbath day" and that they should nevertheless conform "to such external discipline as was necessary for the purpose of avoiding offence to the church (of the land) in which they lived" for "there was a peculiar reason calling for a particular observance of the Sabbath, inasmuch as it was not then for the first time liven to the Israelites when God gave them the law of Moses, but had been enjoined upon all men from the very beginning of the world by God Himself, although this precept had been lost sight of by other nations". For "the Sabbath of the seven th day was appointed of God from the very beginning of the world, to declare that men, after His example, should rest from their labours", and "although the ceremonial Sabbath has been abolished in the New Testament, yet the moral still continues, and pertains to us as well as to others; for there is now just as much necessity for a certain time to be set apart in the Christian church for the preaching of Godís Word, and for the public administration of the sacraments, as there was formerly in the Jewish church."
Christians should accordingly diligently study Godís Word on the sabbath, and "the opposite of such a diligent study of the doctrine of the church shows itself in its lowest and most common form in a contempt and neglect of this doctrine, which may be said to take place whenever men absent themselves from the public assemblies of the Church without any just hindrance, or excuse, and attend to such things on the Sabbath day as could easily be deferred"; and Christians are "to use the Sacraments according to divine appointment. ĎUpon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto themí (Acts 20:7). . . . Hence the use of the sacraments is most intimately connected with a proper observance and sanctification of the Sabbath."
The sabbath is also to be kept by showing "charity and liberality to the poor, which consists in giving alms, and performing works of love to the needy, to sanctify the Sabbath in this way by shewing our obedience to the doctrine of Christ. We may here appropriately cite the discourse of Christ concerning the Sabbath ó Mark 3. And although God will have us to observe this Sabbath during our whole life, yet He desires that we give an example and evidence of it especially at such times as are allotted for teaching and studying His Word. . . . Hence it has always been the practice of the church to bestow alms upon the Sabbath day, and to perform acts of charity towards those who need our help and sympathy. (Neh. 8:10)", cf. I Cor. 16:1-2.
Cf., similarly, the Second Helvetic Confession of 1566, art. 24, which states "that Sunday has been dedicated as a holy time of rest [Musse] ever since the time of the Apostles and is still kept by our churches for the sake of religion and charity".
Synod after synod of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands ó that of Dordt in 1574, of Middelburg in 1581, of the Hague in 1586 ó demanded that ó on the basis of the Fourth Commandment (!) ó the state authorities should strictly prohibit all public works, all Sunday shopkeeping and all public entertainments. For ó in the words of the Synod of Dordt of 1578 ó "the freedom to work for six days is from God"955.
Meanwhile, Sunday sabbath observance was coming into its own in the British Isles. There had been a progressively increasing movement towards a "purer" form of religion ever since the breach with Rome in 1532. Under King Edward VI (1547-53), "lawful bodily labour" was prohibited on Sundays. At Archbishop Cranmerís invitation, many foreign theologians such as Martin Bucer and the exemplary Sunday-keeper John Laski had come to England and influenced the English, the pious of whom, it will be recalled, had been strict Sunday-keepers (relatively speaking) even before the Reformation. The influence of these theologians, as well as the reaction of the pious against the blatant sabbath-desecration (the Sunday boar-hunting, bull-fighting, drunkenness and horrible immorality) of their religiously indifferent countrymen, tended more and more towards a strict sabbatarianism956.
About 1564, these advocates of a "purer" religion came to be known as the "puritans". In 1583, the Puritan John Field of London wrote "An Exhortation for the Better Observance of the Sabbath", in which he condemned Sunday bear-baiting; and Philip Stubbs wrote about the "devilish pastimes" and "Godís judgements" on "the profaners of the sabbath" in his book: "The Anatomy of Abuses". Three years after the miraculous deliverance of the British people from the Spanish Armada in 1588, Richard Greenham in his "Treatise of the Sabbath" ó no doubt disturbed by their public ingratitude towards the Lord ó condemned the "wicked heretics" who denied that the Fourth Commandment was binding on all Christians, and added that the Commandment was never to observe Saturday or the seventh day of the week, but only to observe "a seventh day". And in 1595 there appeared the monumental "Sabbathum Veteris et Novi Testamenti" of Nicolas Bownd, who has sometimes not inappropriately been called the "Puritan Thomas Aquinas"957.
Bownd strictly held that the sabbath originated in Eden: that it was wholly moral; that the Fourth Commandment embraced both the Jewish and the Christian sabbath; that "we Christians should take ourselves as strictly bound to rest upon the Lordís day as the Jews were on their sabbath"; that Sunday buying, carrying, studying, working, travelling, feasting and sport were all forbidden; and that "it behooveth all kings, princes and rulers that profess the true religion to enact such laws, and to see them diligently executed, whereby the honour of God in hallowing these days might be maintained . . ., all men (being) compelled to stoop unto it"958; to which the Episcopalian Hooker added: "We are to account the sanctification of one day in seven a duty which Godís immutable law doth exact forever"959.
At the beginning of the seventeenth century both Archbishop Whitgift and Chief Justice Popham moved against Bowndís book. But it was too late. Coupled with the "strict sabbath" of Knox and his successors in Scotland, Puritanism spread throughout England and thence to the Netherlands and, through the Pilgrim Fathers, to America960.
It was especially the Netherlands which now became the crucible of sabbath conflicts. Willem Teellinck of Middelburg returned from England with the Puritan sabbath, and he and Godefridus Udemans of Zierikzee, together with the English refugee Ames(ius) ó all three of them students of the Puritan divine William Perkins of Cambridge ó soon filled Zealand with their doctrine, until the Churches of that area requested the advice of the international Synod of Dordt of 1619960.
At Dordt, in the fourteenth session, the English delegates related how the magistrates in their country imposed a fine on Sunday service absentees; and at the one hundred and forty-eighth session they complained about the "great scandal" of the Dutch, "exhorting the synod to interpose with the magistrates for preventing the opening of shops and the exercise of trade on Sundays" (which, of course, had been authorized by the Dutch synods for the past forty years, from 1574 onwards). The question being reserved for the Dutch theologians alone, a commission consisting of Gomarus, Walaeus, Thysius and Hommius was convened at the one hundred and sixty-third session after the departure of the foreign delegates, and the commissionís report was speedily adopted by the Synod, namely : ó
In the following year (1620), the English Puritan exiles left the Netherlands for the New World. In spite of the accession of James I to the throne of England in 1603 and his commissioning of the Authorized version of the English Bible of 1611, and in spite of Bishop Lancelot Andrews of Winchesterís (1555-1626) worthy exposition of the Ten Commandments, James 1 made life in England very difficult for the Puritans. His most irritating measure was his "Book of Sports" of 1618, in which he encouraged Sunday sports, dancing, May games, May poles and athletics; adding that it was his wish that "the bishop of that diocese take the like straight order with all the Puritans, . . . either constraining them to conform themselves, or to leave the country"962.
The Puritans would not "conform themselves". They chose rather "to leave the country". A constant stream of Nonconformist refugees left England for the Netherlands from 1607 and thence to New England from 1620 onwards.
While in the Netherlands, the English Baptists drew up a "Declaration of Faith of English People Remaining at Amsterdam Holland" in 1611, which provided for weekly assembly, prophecy, and breaking of bread "vpon everie first day off the weeke, being the Lordís day", upon which day they "ought not to labour in their callings according to the equitie off the moral law, which Christ came not to abolish but to fulfill Ex. 20:8 &c"963. Perhaps a little disappointed at the, for them somewhat milder, Dutch Sunday observance upheld at Dordt in 1618-19, they and the other Puritan Nonconformists left Holland for New England from 1620 onwards, where the Bible was formally adopted as a code of laws in Connecticut and Massachusetts.
These early American laws ó coupled with the strict Decalogical writings of New England men like Thomas Shepard in his "Sabbath Theses" of 1634ó were extremely strict. In 1656 Governor Eaton enacted that "whosoever shall profane the Lordís day, or any part (!) of it, by work or sport (!), shall be punished by fine or corporally. But if the court, by clear evidence, find that the sin was proudly, presumptuously, and even with a high hand, committed against the command and authority of the blessed God, such person therein despising and reproaching the Lord shall be put to death. Num. 15:30-36" ó which measure clearly confused the permanent Decalogical sabbath with the transitory extraDecalogical Mosaic provisions! But even other slightly milder ordinances decreed that the colonists were "not to run on the sabbath day or walk in the garden or elsewhere, except reverently to and from meeting". Not without cause did even the sturdy Puritan W. Blackstone complain: "I came from England because I did not like the lord bishops; and I cannot join you, because I would not be under the lord brethren"964.
Some Puritans had of course, remained behind in England to continue their struggle, where their influence grew year by year. Bishop Joseph Hall of Exeter (1574-1656) "puritanesquely" declared of the Lordís day that "the Sun of Righteousness, rising upon that day, drew the strength of that moral precept unto it"965. Civil war threatened when Charles I reissued the "Book of Sports" even more stringently in 1633, demanding that it be published to the people from all the English pulpits throughout the land that "dancing, archery, harlequinades, theatrical displays and similar recreations belong to true Sunday observance", and also instructing the Anglo-Catholic Archbishop William Laud of Canterbury (1573-1644) to suppress the Puritan sabbath966.
Laud thereupon hired the Anglo-Catholics Peter Heylin and Bishop White of Ely to write a book against strict Sunday observance ó their "Treatise on the Lordís day", which appeared in 1635. This work was followed by that entitled "Sunday No Sabbath" by J. Pocklington in 1636; which, however, was ordered to be burnt in public by the Long Parliament of 1640 ó for political power was now in the hands of the Puritans, and Civil War was very near967.
Pocklingtonís work was refuted by that of Ley in 1641 ó "Sunday a Sabbath", in which he asserted that Saturday was "a mere working-day", its rest having been "transferred to the day for which it was changed"968. Civil War broke out in 1642, and after the victories of the Puritan Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), Laud was beheaded in 1645, and Charles I in 1649.
In 1643 Parliament ó chiefly at the instance of the Scottish Church ó convened the Westminster Assembly (consisting mostly of Puritans, but also of some Episcopalians and Independents) to advise it on religious questions, and then enacted in 1644 its "Restraint of Several Evils on the Lordís Day". Hereby it ordered the public burning of "divers ungodly books . . . published by the prelatical faction against the morality of that day", including the ex-Kingís "Book of Sports", and including "all other books and pamphlets that have been or shall be written, printed or published against the morality of the fourth commandment or of the Lordís day, or to countenance the profanation thereof"969.
In 1646 the Westminster Assembly completed its symbol ó the magnificent Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter XXI sections VII and VIII of which deal with the sabbath question as follows:ó
To the Westminster Confession, the Westminister Assembly added the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, all three of which were formally adopted by the Church of Scotland in 1647 and 1648, subsequently to be used extensively in Presbyterian Churches throughout the world.
The Shorter Catechism (Questions 58-61) is even more specific on the sabbath than is the Confession:
And the Westminster Larger Catechism (Question 117) enjoins:ó
Westminster is an improvement upon Dordt in that it prohibits Sunday recreations, and in that it regards the Fourth Commandment as wholly moral. But it is inferior to Dordt as regards its silence on much needed (Sunday) physical rest, and as regards its insistence that the whole Sunday be devoted specifically to worship. For the danger of thereby converting the day of rest into a religious (!) "working-day", is by no means insignificant.
After the Westminster Assembly and the restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, the High Church Bishop Jeremy Taylor of Down & Connor (1613-67) wrote against the Calvinist and Puritan sabbath; and Archbishop John Bramhall of York (1593-1663), in spite of a masterly defence of the divine authority of the Christian sabbath, denied its pre-Sinaitic antiquity and developed the proleptic theory of Gen. 2:1-3 which was subsequently so catastrophically advocated by Paley972. But the Puritans held their ground. The Westminster decisions were closely incorporated into the Baptistsí Assembly or Second London Confession of 1677 and the Orthodox Creed of 1678973. John Lightfoot (1602-75) stoutly maintained in 1670 that in the Apostolic Church "the first day of the week was everywhere celebrated for the Christian Sabbath"974. John Owen (1616-83) wrote his famous "Exercitations", and declared that "God sanctified this (Sabbath) Day, . . . set it apart to Sacred uses, authoritatively requiring us to sanctify it in that use obediently!", and also stated that the context of Heb. 4:9 makes it "undeniably evident that the apostle asserts an evangelical Sabbath or day of rest to be constantly observed in, and for the worship of God under the Gospel"975 and Richard Baxter (1615-91) upheld the authority of the Christian sabbath in his "Divine Appointment of the Lordís Day" of 1680, and stated that "if men will presume that apostles filled with the Spirit, appointed the Christian Sabbath without the Spirit, they may question any chapter or verse of the New Testament"976.
Returning to the Netherlands, four theories arose after the Synod of Dordt of 1619, all of which in their own way were to lead to a stricter sabbath observance in the Reformed Churches. The "spiritual sabbath" theory of the Anabaptists brought about a strict sabbatarian reaction amongst the Calvinists, as did the Romanistsí theory of the post-Biblical ecclesiastical authority for Sunday-keeping and their elevation of feast-days. The Puritan theory led to a more active, less contemplative type of Sunday observance, and what can only be called the "Erastian-sabbatarian" theory led to a confusion as to whether Church absentees should be disciplined by the Church or by the State977.
The Particular Synod of Rotterdam of 1621 re-endorsed the sabbath regulations of Dordt, but added that "if anyone should insist on too great preciseness ("Precijsheijt") smacking of Jewish superstitions under the pretext of those regulations, . . . that one shall warn such person not only to refrain from implanting such feelings in others, but also to surrender them himself, and that, to prevent further difficulties and unrest in the churches, the district councils ("Classen") as well as the Synodical Deputies shall pay special attention to this matter in the examination of (theological) students and licensees ("proponenten".)978
In 1622, Willem Teellinek advocated a position mid-way between Dordt and Puritanism in his "Rusttijd of Tractaat van díonderhoudinghe des Christelycken Rustdachs, die men gemeynlyck den Sondach noemt" ("Resting-Time, etc."). Probably in reply to this, the Synod of South Holland of 1626 (at Ijsselstein) threatened to censure anyone who taught that corn may not be harvested on Sunday in moist and rainy weather, who taught that all unsinful pleasures and entertainments beneficial to the refreshment of the human spirit or body be prohibited on Sunday, or who taught that no one may speak of anything relating to his daily work or profession throughout the twenty-four hours of Sunday979.
Apparently accused of Judaizing, Teellinek followed up his "Resting Time" with a milder work in 1627 ó his "Nootwendigh Vertoogh" (Necessary Treatise), in which he specifically refuted that accusation and admitted the propriety of Sunday purchases of provisions in the event of the Sunday arrival of an unexpected friend, etc. ó but nevertheless not before Jacob Burs had the same year (1627) written his critique of Teellinekís previous work "Resting Time". Bursí work called "Threnos ofte weeclaghe, aanwysende de oorsaken des jammerlycken stants van het lant, ende de onthevliginghe des Sabbatdaghs" ("Lamentations on the national sabbath desecrations, etc."), accused Teellinek of "complete Judaism", and Burs himself advocated Sunday sowing, ploughing, reaping and travelling in cases of necessity980.
At this stage, the great theologian Gijsbertus Voetius of Utrecht (1588-1676) ó himself a warm admirer of the Puritans even if a critic of their ultra-"preciseness", defended Teellinek in his "Lacrymae crocodilli abstersae" ("Crocodile Tears Washed Off"), a satire against Bursí "Lamentations". Unfortunately, the equally great Franciscus Gomarus of Groningen ó the man who had trounced the Arminians at Dordt with his thorough grasp of the doctrine of predestination ó ventured into the new field of the doctrine of the sabbath (on which subject he was very considerably less well informed) with his book "Investigatio sententiae et originis sabbati" in 1628, in which he held to the Sinaitic origin of the sabbath and maintained that Sunday was of ecclesiastical origin alone and derived no authority from the Fourth Commandment981.
The reaction was immediate. Antonius Walaeus of Leiden wrote in his "Dissertatio de quarto praecepro" that the sabbath is of Edenic origin, that the Christian is subject to the Fourth Commandment, and that the first day of the week is an Apostolic institution. Andreas Rivetus of Leiden in his "Commentary on Exodus" insisted that the sabbath dated from creation, but unfortunately maintained with Gomarus that Sunday was purely an ecclesiastical institution and had nothing to do with the Decalogue. The Synopsis purioris Theologiae of Walaeus, Rivetus, Polyander and Thysius insisted that Sunday rest was merely a means to another end ("propter aliud"), the better to be able to attend public worship, and that a mild and godly rest was intended rather than a strict and anxious abstinence from labour. But Guilielmus Ames(ius) of Franeker, a student of the Puritan William Perkins, taught the pure morality of the Fourth Commandment and the institution of Sunday by Jesus Christ Himself (in his "Disquisitio de origine sabbati" of 1633 and also in his "Medulla Theologiae"982.
In 1652 Johan van Riebeeck, with the prayer to Almighty God that "Thy true Reformed Christian Doctrine . . . be propagated and disseminated"983, set foot at the Cape of Good Hope and started a small Dutch colony in South Africa. Already on the 14th of October of that same year (to be followed by others in 1665), the Governor was enacting measures against sabbath desecration, so that Sunday Observance has always been the political policy and social pattern in South Africa ever since the advent of its civilization. Abstentions from Sunday worship were punished by confiscation of six daysí wine ration for the first transgression, by forfeiture of one monthís salary for the second transgression, and by a sentence of one yearís unpaid labour in chains for the third984.
A new sabbath controversy broke out in the Netherlands in 1655 when Johannes Coccejus of Leyden in his "Class Lectures on Hebrews" not only advocated all of Gomarusí points, but also taught that the Fourth Commandment was purely ceremonial, and thus came into conflict with the decisions of Dordt. In these views he was warmly supported by his colleague Heidanus of Leyden, who denied the morality of the Fourth Commandment in his work "De sabbato et die dominica" of 1658. Essenius of Utrecht immediately replied with his "De perpetua moralitate decalogi", to which Coccejus again rejoined with his "lndagatio naturae Sabbati et quietis Novi Testamenti", whereas Hoornbeek of Leyden supported Essenius with three works on the subject of the sabbath.
When Pasehasius accused Coccejus and Heidanus of Socinianism in 1659, they immediately appealed to the Synod of South Holland, and in the same year the States of Holland passed two resolutions commanding that the controversy cease985. But the damage was done: South Holland became plagued with sabbath desecration ó Sunday labour, trading and recreation986.
Understandably, the controversy did not cease. In 1665 Franciscus Burmannius preached Coccejanism from the pulpit and published his "De moralitate sabbati hebdomadalis", which was promptly attacked by Essenius and Jodocus Lodensteijn and the men of Utrecht; whereas the Coccejanist Izak le Maire of Rotterdam was attacked by his colleague in forty successive sermons in 1660.
Then the great Voetius of Utrecht again took up his pen. In his "De sabbato et festis" in his "Disputationes selectae", he sharply distinguished between ecclesiastical feast-days and the Biblical sabbath and then again between interconfessional and intraconfessional sabbath controversies.
As regards the interconfessional controversies (the orthodox Reformed vs. the heterodox non-Reformed), Voetius held: ó
As regards the intraconfessional controversies (Voetius vs. other Reformed theologians with different views on the sabbath question), Voetius held :ó
The above is excellent, except for the point of difference with Amesius, and except for overlooking the facts that the pre-lapsarian Edenic sabbath typified at least eternal rest and that both the post-lapsarian Edenic sabbath and the post-Edenic pre-Sinaitic sabbath in addition also typified Christís human rest after His earthly work.
Hereafter Voetius dealt with a few pertinent problems: ó
According to Voetius, Sunday labour must be avoided not only to prevent giving offence, but especially because the commandment is grounded in Godís moral law and is no matter of indifference. He stoutly denies that it is permissible to purchase, to write business letters, to clean out one s house, to hunt or to study ordinary arts and sciences on Sunday ó as all these activities are a hindrance to the exercise of religion. (Cf. Geesink: "OrdinantiŽn", III, p. 564.)
Petrus ŗ Mastricht of Utrecht insisted that Sunday observance entailed resting "from all such works in general as those whereby the works of God be hindered"; and even the conciliatory Herman Witsius of Franeker, who sought a middle way between the Coccejanists and the Voetians, called the sabbath "the sacrament of the covenant" in Paradise, Hos. 6:7, and remarked that "Godís goodness dismisses us from labour upon this (sabbath) day, so that we can have time for Him". (Other Dutch writings on the sabbath question of the seventeenth century were Koelmanís "De historie van den christelijken sabbath", and cf. too in Van Veenís "Zondagsrust en Zondagsheiliging in de 17e eeuw")988.
In the Netherlands, as elsewhere, the Coccejanists gradually got the upper hand over the Voetians, and true sabbath observance accordingly declined. In Germany too, Stryk, Buddaeus and Spener and his Pietists of 1680 all grounded the authority of Sunday observance in ecclesiastical history or in experience; although Fecht of Rostock (1688) and Schwartz courageously denounced Coccejanism as "false doctrine . . . fraught with evil consequences to the land"989.
A last achievement of seventeen century orthodoxy, however, is to be found in the Helvetic Consensus of 1675, in which the strict Calvinists Heidegger, Turretine and Gernler, in opposition to the heretical school of Amyrault of Saumur, stoutly declared: "We not only hand down sincerely in accordance with the divine Word, the especial necessity of the sanctification of the Lordís day, but also impressively inculcate it and importunately urge its observance." (Art. XXVI.)
The eighteenth century opened with the Englishman T. H. Morerís "Six Dialogues on the Lordís Day", in which he sought to refute its divine origin990. In the Netherlands, Franeken, Tuinman, Van der Kemp, Smijtegelt and W. ŗ Brakel (1635-1711) all held strict views as to the essential morality of the sabbath commandment, the latter maintaining that "to do no work . . . is the manner of divine service". Joannes ŗ Marck of Leiden, on the other hand, held that "rest in itself constitutes no part of divine service, but only as an auxiliary of the same"; whereas Vitringa gives a good analysis of the various views in his "Doctrinae Christianae Religionis"991.
But the eighteenth century was generally one of religious decline. John Wesley (1703-1791) laid great emphasis on the binding power of the Ten Commandments in the life of the Christian, as did the early Methodists992, as too did Thomas Boston in his work on the Westminster Assemblyís Shorter Catechism in 1773 and also Bishop Samuel Horsley of St. Davidís993. Separation between Church and state in sabbath observance was increasingly marked after the coming into being of the United States in 1776. In England and Europe conditions on the whole were dire ó so dire that Robert Raikes established the first "Sunday School" for neglected children in 1780. And Canon William Paley of St. Paulís revival of Bramhall s proleptic theory of the sabbath also bode ill for the future. Europe finally cracked up under the French Revolution of 1789, which abolished the Christian Calendar and day of rest in 1792 and instituted an obligatory official rest-day every tenth day in its place994 so that prior to the restoration of the week by Napoleon in 1805, French "Sundays no longer existed"995.
The nineteenth and twentieth centuries represent a continual secularization of Sunday observance throughout the Christian world, particularly in Europe with its "Continental Sunday", as the anti-Christian principles of the French Revolution (with the sabbath-desecrating Red Revolution of 1917 in its wake) spread across the face of the earth. Yet notwithstanding this great falling away from Christian truth, there have also been hopeful trends in Victorian England, the United States, the Netherlands, and South Africa right up to the present day. If Sunday observance generally declined during this period, Sunday observance literature certainly did not, and amongst the sabbath-keeping men of God who stood unflinchingly for our Lord and His day mention must at least be made of the Britishers Daniel Wilson, John Henderson, John Kelman, J. P. Lilley and H. J. W. Legerton, of the Americans Justin Edwards, A. A. Hodge and George Gray, of the Dutchmen Abraham Kuyper Snr., T. de Vries, W. Geesink and C. Smeenk, and of the South Africans Win. Thompson, P. J. Conradie, J. H. Malherbe, J. C. Botha, E. E. van Rooyen and S. J. Eloff 996.
In 1827, the godly Bp. Wilson997 warned his countrymen of "the unspeakable importance of the right observance of the sabbath with the evils of the opposite abuse" (Isa. 58:1-2, 13-14), and of "the guilt which is contracted by Christian nations in proportion as the Lordís day is openly profaned" (Neh. 13:17-18). In 1870, Kelman taught that works of religion, mercy, necessity and emergency may be rendered on the sabbath day, but that worldly employments such as ordinary work, recreation and amusements should be seduously avoided998. In 1890, Professor Kuyper (who later became the Dutch Prime Minister) insisted that the state should hallow the sabbath in public life by limiting the Sunday employment of its public servants to necessary military activities and upholding legislation to procure silence during public worship and to ensure the cessation of normal worldly business; and he insisted too that private citizens close their businesses and wear becoming clothing on the Lordís day999. In 1925-31, his successor, Professor Geesink, moved against Sunday card-playing, dancing, theatre-going, banquets, receptions, pleasure-trips, sports, recreations, and the unnecessary sending of telegrams and use of public conveyances; while insisting that, in those kinds of industry which cannot cease operations on Sunday, it is the duty: of the employer to limit the Sunday labour of his workers to a minimum, of the public to offer their co-operation, of the workers themselves to make their demands, and of the state to act with legislative measures1000. And in 1947, Professor Van Rooyen declared that although Sunday has now become the day on which idleness, boisterousness and worldliness are indulged in more than on any other day, the preacher who defiles Sunday by falsifying the saving truth or by preaching inferior sermons, is just as much a sabbath desecrator as is he who misuses Sunday for his own idle pleasure and rude enjoyment1001.
And even in 1970 ó four years after the completion of this work in its original form ó even before the September 1970 Synod of the Church of England in South Africa passed a resolution viewing "with concern the increasing abuse of the Lordís Day through extensive working for other than essential services" and resolving "to urge the authorities to take whatever steps they can to increase the honouring of the Lordís Day and to prevent its abuse", and even before the October 1970 National Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa (representing more than a million members) passed official declarations supporting Sunday sabbath observance and condemning Sunday sport, Sunday trading, and Sunday newspapers, the present writer could still in all sincerity say1002 to modern citizens of industrialized society in July 1970:ó