Skeletons of a Course of
By Charles G. Finney
Moral Government.--No. 7.
Exodus 20:9 11. 'Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man servant, nor thy maid servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath-day and hallowed it.'
As several questions of importance upon which there has been much discussion, are connected with this commandment, I shall go a little more at length into its examination, embracing the question of its change from the seventh to the first day of the week.
First. When the Sabbath was instituted.
1. At the close of the six days' work of creation; or the first day after the work was done.
Genesis 2:2,3. 'And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; because that in it he had rested from all his work which God had created and made.'
That the Sabbath here mentioned was observed by mankind, at least some of them, before the law was given at Mount Sinai, I argue,
1. From the fact that time was divided into weeks before the giving of the law at Sinai.
Genesis 8:10 12. 'And he stayed yet another SEVEN DAYS, and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark: and the dove came in to him in the evening, and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off. So Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth. And he stayed yet another SEVEN DAYS, and sent forth the dove, which returned not again unto him any more.'
2. The Sabbath was actually observed by the Israelites before the giving of the law at Sinai, and before we have any account of their having received any commandment concerning it.
Exodus 16:22 26. 'And it came to pass, that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one man: and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. And he said unto them, This is that which the Lord hath said, To-morrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord: bake that which ye will bake to-day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth ever lay up for you, to be kept until the morning. And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade; and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein. And Moses said, Eat that to-day; for to-day is a Sabbath unto the Lord: to-day ye shall not find it in the field. Six days shalt thou gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the Sabbath, in it there shall be none.'
Genesis 29:27,28. 'Fulfill her WEEK, and we will give thee this also' 'And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her WEEK.'
All this took place before the law was given at Sinai.
3. The Sabbath is spoken of in the decalogue as an institution already existing. "Remember the Sabbath," etc.
Obj. If the Sabbath existed from the creation of the world, why is it not mentioned for so long a time after what is said of its first institution.
Ans. 1. Because the history of those times is so very brief.
2. It might as well be asked why the Sabbath is not mentioned from Joshua to the reign of David.
3. Or why is not circumcision mentioned from Joshua to Jeremiah? Can it be that the Prophets and pious Judges and Jews did not observe the Sabbath or circumcision during those periods? and yet they are not once named.
4. Many ancient writers bear testimony to the existence and observance of the Sabbath in various nations. A few only are subjoined from Humphrey on the Sabbath.
a. Homer and Hesiod both speak of the seventh day as holy.
b. Porphyry says: "The Phnicians consecrated one day in seven as holy."
c. Philo says: "The Sabbath is not a festival peculiar to any one people or country, but is common to all the world, and that it may be named the general and public feast, or the feast of the nativity of the world." That is, a celebration of the world's birthday.
d. Josephus affirms: "That there is no city either of Greeks or barbarians, or any other nation, where the religion of the Sabbath is not known."
e. Lampidius tells us that Alexander Severus, the Roman Emperor, usually went on the seventh day into the temple of the Gods, there to offer sacrifice to the Gods.
f. Grotius says: "That the memory of the creation being performed in seven days, was preserved not only among the Greeks and Italians, but among the Celts and Indians, all of whom divided their time into weeks."
Humphrey adds: "The same is affirmed of the Assyrians, Egyptians, Romans, Gauls, Britons, and Germans.
5. These facts show that the Sabbath was not a Jewish institution, but was known and acknowledged by various nations.
Second. Its design.
1. To commemorate the work of creation.
Genesis 2:2,3. 'And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.'
Exodus 20:11. 'For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.'
Exodus 31:17. 'It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.'
2. It was designed as a day of rest from ordinary employments or labors.
Genesis 2:2,3. (As above quoted.)
Exodus 20:10,11. 'But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man servant, nor thy maid servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath-day, and hallowed it.'
Exodus 31:13,17. 'Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my Sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you.' 'It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.'
Deuteronomy 5:13,14. 'Six days thou shalt labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man servant, nor thy maid servant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy man servant and thy maid servant may rest as well as thou.'
3. It was designed as a means of spiritual knowledge. This is implied in its being both blessed and sanctified; that is, set apart to the service God.
Genesis 2:3. (as quoted above.)
4. It was designed as a means of increasing holiness in holy beings. N. B. It was instituted before the fall.
5. It was designed to afford the means of grace for sinners. It must have had respect to the foreseen fall of man.
Third. Its necessity.
1. It is a well established fact that man and all laboring animals need to rest, at least one day in seven, from their ordinary employments.
2. That they will not only live longer, but actually perform more labor in a given time, by resting one day in seven.
3. That this is true, whether the labor be intellectual or corporeal.
4. Its necessity may be inferred from its existence.
5. Both the physical and moral wants of mankind demand it.
6. Mankind, as an ignorant fallen race, cannot possibly be sanctified and saved without it.
7. Men must have religious instruction.
8. This instruction must be public, as it cannot be given in private, inasmuch as it would require too great a number of religious teachers.
9. If the instruction be public, it must be upon a day when there is a general agreement among mankind to attend to it.
10. Upon such a day men would never agree among themselves, therefore it was necessary that God should authoritatively appoint such a day.
11. No government can be permanent without it.
Fourth. Its universal and perpetual obligation.
I. It is universally obligatory.
1. It was made for man as a race.
Mark 2:27. 'And he said unto them, The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.'
2. If Adam needed it when holy, how much more do all men now need its moral influence.
3. All men need both its moral and physical influence.
4. It is like marriage founded in the moral and physical necessities of our race.
5. It is a command of the decalogue, and therefore a moral, and not a ceremonial or civil institution.
Obj. I. A moral precept is one of universal obligation wherever moral beings exist; but the law of the Sabbath will not be binding in heaven, therefore it is not a moral but a civil precept.
Ans. 1. The true idea of a moral precept, is that it is universally binding on moral beings whose circumstances are similar.
2. Men are universally in similar circumstances in this world, in respect to the design and necessity of the Sabbath. To them it is a moral precept and universally obligatory.
6. All the reasons for its existence hold equally in favour of its universal obligation.
II. It is perpetually obligatory.
1. All the reasons for its institution are reasons for its perpetual observance.
2. All the reasons for its universal obligation are equally good reasons for its perpetual obligation.
3. True religion would soon cease from the earth, but for the Sabbath.
4. Its perpetuity as a matter of fact is taught in the Bible.
Isaiah 56:6 8. 'Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the Lord to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the Sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people. The Lord God, which gathereth the outcasts of Israel, saith, Yet will I gather others to him, besides those that are gathered unto him.'
This passage refers to the gospel day, and to the time of Zion's great prosperity. Then there will be a Sabbath.
5. As the law of the Sabbath is founded in the nature and relations of moral beings, as they exist in this world, it is common law, and of course universally and perpetually obligatory.
Fifth. The manner in which it is to be observed.
I. Every law has its letter and its spirit.
1. To the letter of a moral law there may be exceptions. To its spirit never.
2. The spirit of a law is its real meaning, or the real intention of the law-giver, as applicable to any and every set of circumstances.
For example: "The Priests," says Christ, "profane the Sabbath, and are blameless." That is, their labor in the Temple service, under the circumstances, is not a breach of the spirit, although it is of the letter of the law.
So David ate of the shew bread, which was lawful only for the Priests, and was yet blameless, because under his circumstances of necessity his eating of that bread was not a violation of the spirit, although it was of the letter of the law.
The disciples rubbing the ears of corn, and Christ healing the sick are examples of the same kind.
II. The Sabbath is to be sanctified, or kept holy.
The inquiry is, what is implied in this?
1. It does not imply that works strictly of necessity and mercy are unlawful upon the Sabbath.
2. It does not imply the unlawfulness of sleep and any needed degree of physical and mental repose on the Sabbath.
3. It does not imply that the necessary labors of ministers or other religious teachers are unlawful upon the Sabbath.
4. It does not imply the necessity of very early rising, and of incessant and intense excitement, and running from one meeting to another all day on the Sabbath, regardless of health.
But it does imply:
1. Holiness of heart and right intentions in all we do on the Sabbath. That love and not legal considerations actuate us.
2. Complete rest from our ordinary labors, whether of body or mind, so far as is consistent with performing labors of strict necessity and mercy.
3. The abstraction of thought from those employments and labors.
4. The abstaining from conversation upon those subjects that constitute our secular employments.
Isaiah 58:13. 'If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; and shalt honor him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words,' etc.
5. That neither ourselves nor our beasts, nor any person under our control be either employed or allowed to engage in such labors.
Exodus 20:10. 'But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man servant, nor thy maid servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates.'
6. It implies the spending of that day in devotional exercises, public, private, and social, as opportunity affords, and health allows.
7. It implies the observance of twenty four hours as a Sabbath, or a seventh part of time.
8. It implies the sacred application of our powers to the acquisition of holiness.
9. Those persons whose weekly labors are bodily, should let their bodies rest and employ their minds in devotional exercises, and in the acquisition of religious knowledge on the Sabbath.
10. Persons whose labors are of the mind, should rest from their mental application on that day.
11. The sanctification of the Sabbath implies that no unnecessary traveling, either by ministers going to preach, or by persons going to hear, shall be done upon that day.
12. It implies that all cooking, sweeping, cleansing dishes, and every kind of domestic labor shall be dispensed with, as far as is consistent with health and decency, upon that day.
13. It implies abstinence from all amusements.
14. It implies abstinence from walking or riding abroad for exercise.
15. It prohibits unnecessary use of working animals.
16. That all this be done in the spirit of love to God, and not in a legal and self righteous temper.
Sixth. Its change to the first day of the week.
1. The change of the Sabbath from the seventh to the first day of the week, is a question entirely distinct from that of the perpetual obligation of the Sabbath.
2. If the evidence for a change in the day to be observed is found to be insufficient to warrant a belief in such a change, it follows that the seventh day is still the Sabbath, and to be universally observed.
3. Those who are opposed to the Sabbath gain nothing by contending against the change of the day; for if they neglect the first they are bound to keep the seventh.
4. The Sabbath was instituted on the seventh day after creation began, or on the first after the work of creation was finished, and was commemorative of that event.
5. There is a plain distinction between the institution of the Sabbath and the particular day on which it is to be celebrated.
. This distinction is plainly recognized by the law, the phraseology of which distinguishes between the Sabbath as an institution and a day of rest, and the seventh day on which it was then celebrated. "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it Holy." The Sabbath then is to be remembered as something already existing. The law then proceeds to say, "Six days shalt thou labor," etc., "but the seventh is the Sabbath." This phraseology plainly intimates that the spirit and meaning of the law was, that a seventh part of the time should be observed as a Sabbath, and that at that time the seventh was the Sabbath. The phraseology seems to lay no stress on the particular day as indispensable to the institution itself.
7. If the particular portion of the seven days was material to the institution, the law would no doubt have specified at what particular hour it should begin and end, whether at sunset, midnight, or sun rising. The custom of the Jews in this particular could be no law to other Nations. Besides, it is naturally impossible that nations inhabiting different latitudes and longitudes should observe the same time as a Sabbath. They may observe the same number of hours but not the same hours. The spirit of the law must be, that after six days' labor, at whatever punctum of time the six days may commence in different latitudes, longitudes, climates, and nations, the Sabbath shall be celebrated. The fact that the law does not settle the hour at which the Sabbath is to commence, renders it certain that nothing more was intended than that a seventh part of time, or every seventh day, was to be observed as a Sabbath. If more than this was intended, it cannot be known whether any part of mankind observe, or ever have, observed the identical hours which really constitute the Sabbath.
8. If the seventh day were essential to the institution, the law would or should have said, Thou shalt remember the seventh day to keep it holy, beginning and ending at a certain hour, and no distinction would have been necessary or proper between the Sabbath and the seventh day.
9. Inasmuch as the necessity for a Sabbath lies in the nature and relations of moral beings as they exist in this world God cannot abrogate the Sabbath as an institution any more than he can set aside the whole moral law.
10. But while he cannot abrogate the institution as such, he can and ought to regulate the observance of it as it respects the particular day and other circumstances, so as to retain the essence and spirit of the institution, and to secure to man, so far as may be, the ends of its institution.
11. Christ claimed to be Lord of the Sabbath, and the connection shows that he claimed the right to regulate its observance.
Mark 2:28. 'Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath.'
12. It was Christ who performed the six days' labor of creation, and of course it was he who rested on the seventh day, and blessed and sanctified it as a Sabbath.
13. Christ originally instituted the Sabbath, among other reasons, to commemorate his own work of creation.
14. If, when he had toiled, and labored, and bled, and died, and risen, and completed the infinitely greater work of man's redemption, he was disposed so to change the day as to commemorate the latter instead of the former event, as being more worthy of commemoration, he had a right to do so.
15. It was highly proper and important that he should do so.
16. In comparing the work of creation with that of redemption, prophecy points out a time when the former shall, as it were, be forgotten, and be no more remembered in comparison with the latter.
Isaiah 65:17,18. 'For, behold, I create new heavens, and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be ye glad and rejoice forever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.'
17. If the former work is to be forgotten, and come no more into remembrance, in comparison with the latter, it is highly reasonable to suppose that the latter, and not the former, will be commemorated by a change in the day on which the Sabbath is to be observed.
18. The example of Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath, and of his inspired Apostles, whom he had solemnly promised to guide into all truth, and whom he commissioned to set all things in order, is as good authority for a change of the day as an express command.
19. The Sabbath was originally instituted on the first day after his labor of creation was done. So it is natural to look for the change of the day to the first after the greater work of redemption was finished.
20. It is of vastly more importance to mankind to celebrate the first day, as commemorative of the work of redemption, than the seventh, as commemorative of the work of creation.
21. It is also more glorious to God to celebrate the former than the latter.
22. After the resurrection, Christ met repeatedly with his disciples on the first day of the week, but not at all on the seventh.
John 20:19. 'Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.'
23. He honored and sanctified the first day of the week by anointing his Apostles for their work, by the Holy Ghost, at Pentecost.
24. The Apostles ever after observed the first day of the week as the Sabbath.
1 Corinthians 16:2. 'Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.'
25. The first day of the week was called the Lord's day.
Revelation 1:10. 'I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet.'
26. There seems to be an intimation of this day in,
Psalms 118:22 24. 'The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the Lord's doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. This IS THE DAY which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.'
This passage is applied to Christ.
Matthew 21:42. 'Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?'
Mark 12:10. 'And have ye not read this scripture, The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner?'
Luke 20:17. 'And he beheld them, and said, What is this then that is written, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner?'
Acts 4:11. 'This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.'
Ephesians 2:20. 'And are built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.'
1 Peter 2:4,7. 'To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious.' 'Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner.'
27. The early Christian fathers bear testimony that the first day was regarded by the Church as the Lord's day, and as the Sabbath.
Ignatius, a contemporary with the Apostle John, says: "Let every man that loves Christ keep holy the Lord's day; the queen of days; the resurrection day; the highest of all days."
Justin Martyr says: "On the day commonly called Sunday, (by the brethren,) all meet together in the city and country for divine worship."
"No sooner," says Dr. Carr, "was Constantine come over to the Church, but his principal care was about the Lord's day: he commanded it to be solemnly observed, and that by all persons whatsoever: he made it a day of rest, that men might have nothing to do but to worship God and be better instructed in the faith."
Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch: "Both custom and reason challenge from us that we should honor the Lord's day; seeing on that day it was that our Lord Jesus Christ completed his resurrection from the dead."
'The Synod of Laodicea adopted this canon: "That Christians should not Judaize and rest from all labor on the Sabbath, (i.e., the seventh day,) but follow their ordinary work: and should not entertain such thoughts of it, but that they should prefer the Lord's day, and on that day rest as Christians." (See Humphrey on the Sabbath.)
28. Christ has greatly blessed the Church in the observance of the first instead of the seventh day.
29. This could not have been if they had, without authority, changed the day, and by so doing set aside what was essential to the institution.
30. It is incredible that Christ should have sanctified a day in commemoration of his work of creation, and neither have changed it nor set apart a new day in commemoration of the infinitely more arduous, painful, and important work of redemption.
31. Several of the most important reasons for its original institution demand a change in the day.
(1.) The work of redemption should be celebrated in preference to that of creation.
(2.) The moral influence of observing the first day as commemorative of the work of redemption, is far better and greater than would be the observance of the seventh day, as commemorative of the work of creation.
32. There can be no good reason for again observing the seventh instead of the first day of the week.
33. The Apostle cautions the Colossians against observing the Jewish Sabbath.
Colossians 2:16: 'Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holy day, or of the new-moon, or of the Sabbath-days.'
34. The example of Christ after his resurrection; his promise to lead his disciples into all truth; their anointing to their work on the first day of the week; their actual inspiration; the fact that they observed the first day of the week as the Sabbath; that this custom was universal with the Churches planted by them; and that God has always owned and blessed the keeping of the first day of the week as his Sabbath; these facts, together with the facts and arguments above mentioned, and the Bible upon the subject, both the Old and New Testaments, make out as clear a case, and are as substantial proof that the change is in accordance with the mind and will of God, as can be reasonably expected or desired.
Obj. I. There is no express command requiring the change.
Ans. 1. No such command was needed, as in other ways God sufficiently indicated his will.
2. No such express command was to be expected.
(1.) Because the Gentile Christians would naturally regard the first, and not the seventh day, as the Sabbath.
(2.) Because the Jewish state and polity were soon to come to an end, and their prejudices were so inveterate as to render it inexpedient to introduce this change among them by authority, considering the short period which the Apostles had to labor for their conversion before their dispersion.
(3.) God had compassion on them, and as the particular day was not essential to the institution, he did not shock their prejudices any further than was necessary, but tried to save as many of them as he could, by suffering them to observe their Sabbath for the time being, while Christians observed the first day of the week.
(4.) In thus leaving this question out of dispute, he no doubt saved many that could not else have been saved.
(5.) He also had compassion on his Apostles, and did not insist upon their immediately and authoritatively abrogating the Jewish Sabbath, as this would have but increased the persecution that raged against them.
(6.) The Apostles could meet with and instruct the Jews on the seventh day, and meet with and instruct the Christians on the first day of the week. Thus having, for the time being, and at this critical and important period, the advantage, as it were, of two Sabbaths in a week for the preaching of the infant kingdom of Christ.
(7.) As God foresaw the immediate destruction of the Jewish Church and polity, he saw that the first day of the week would of course be soon universally observed by his Church without an express command; and as so much present evil might and would result from interposing express authority on the subject at this time, it was like God, and what might have been expected of him, to bring about the change as he did.
(8.) He took the same course, and for the same reasons, in respect to Baptism and Circumcision. The institution of the Sabbath remains in all its force, and is universally and perpetually obligatory; but the first day of the week is now the day on which it is to be celebrated.
Obj. II. The Sabbath was a type of the rest of faith, and not needed by, nor binding upon those who have entered into the rest of faith. Having received the anti type, they no longer need the type.
Ans. 1. The Sabbath was typical of both gospel rest and heavenly rest; they who have entered into the former need it as a type of the latter.
2. There were other and important reasons for the Sabbath, all of which render it still obligatory on all men.
3. They who make this objection overlook every reason and design of the Sabbath but one, while the reasons are many.
4. Those who have entered into the rest of faith need the Sabbath as a means of preserving them in this rest. This they will surely learn sooner or later.
5. They who have entered the rest of faith are bound to preserve its blessings to those who have not, and for this reason, if there were no other, they ought to, and must observe it.
Obj. III. The observance of the Sabbath leads to formality and self righteousness, and therefore had better be laid aside.
Ans. This is an abuse of a good thing, and not a necessary result. This same objection is urged against the ordinances, prayer, public and social worship, etc. I might as reasonably reject my daily food on account of the dietetic abuses of mankind, as to reject the Sabbath, or any of the means of communion with God because they are perverted by so many.