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Chapter 94

The Sabbath in History

When and by what acts was the Sabbath made?
"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." Gen. 2:2, 3.

What important division of time is marked off by the Sabbath?
The week.
NOTE: "One of the most striking collateral confirmations of the Mosaic history of the creation, is the general adoption of the division of time into weeks, which extends from the Christian states of Europe to the remote shores of Hindostan, and has equally prevailed among the Hebrews, the Egyptians, Chinese, Greeks, Romans, and Northern barbarians, --nations, some of whom had little or no intercourse with others, and were not even known by name to the Hebrews. It is to be observed, that there is a great difference between the concurrence of nations in the division of time into weeks, and their concurrence in the other periodical divisions into years, months, and days. These divisions arise from such natural causes as are everywhere obvious; viz., the annual and diurnal revolutions of the sun, and the revolution of the moon. The divisions into weeks, on the contrary, seems perfectly arbitrary; consequently, its prevailing in distant countries, and among nations which had no communication with one another, affords a strong preseumption that it must have been derived from some remote tradition (as that of the creation), which was never totally obliterated from the memory of the Gentiles, and which tradition has been older than the dispersion of mankind into different regions." --Horne's Introduction, vol. 1, page 69.

Two thousand five hundred years after creation, the Sabbath was proclaimed, with the other moral commands, from Mount Sinai. Why did God say He had put His blessing upon that day?
"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." Ex. 20:11.

What befell the city of Jerusalem when it was captured by the king of Babylon?
"And all the vessels of the house of God... he brought to Babylon. And they burnt the house of God, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces thereof with fire." 2 Chron. 36:18, 19.

Of what prophecy was this a fulfillment?
"But if ye will not hearken unto Me to hallow the Sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day; then I will kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched." Jer. 17:27.

After the restoration of Israel from the Babylonian captivity, what was said to have been the reason of their punishment?
"Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the Sabbath day? Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the Sabbath." Neh. 13:17, 18.

How did Christ regard the Sabbath during His earthly ministry?
"And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and, as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read." Luke 4:16.

How did He wish to have it regarded by His disciples at the siege of Jerusalem, nearly forty years after His death?
"But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day." Matt. 24:20.

What was the first effort of the Roman Church in behalf of the recognition of Sunday?
"In A.D. 196, Victor, Bishop of Rome, attempted to impose on all the churches the Roman custom of having Easter fall every year on Sunday." Bower's History of the Popes, vol.2, page 18.

What was one of the principal reasons for convoking the Council of Nice?
"The question relating to the observance of Easter, which was agitated in the time of Anicetus and Polycarp, and afterward in that of Victor, was still undecided. It was one of the principal reasons for convoking the Council of Nice, being the most important subject to be considered after the Arian Controversy." Boyle's Historical View of the Council of Nice, page 22, ed. of 1839.

How was the matter finally decided?
"Easter day was fixed on the Sunday immediately following the new moon which was nearest after the vernal equinox." Idem. page 23.

In urging the observance of this decree on the churches, what reason did Constantine assign for it?
"Let us then have nothing in common with the most hostile rabble of the Jews." Idem, page 52.

What had Constantine already done, in A.D. 321, to help forward Sunday to a place of prominence?
He issued an edict forcing "the judges and town people and the occupation of all trades" to rest on the "venerable day of the sun." See Encyclopedia Britannica, art. Sunday.

Eusebius was bishop of Caesarea, and one of Constantine's most trusty supporters. Who did he say had changed the obligations of the Sabbath to Sunday?
"All things whatsoever that it was duty to do on the Sabbath, these WE have transferred to the Lord's day." Eusebius's Commentary on the Psalms, quoted in Cox's "Sabbath Literature," Vol. 1, page 361.

What did the Council of Laodicea decree in A.D. 364?
"The Council of Laodicea... first settled the observation of the Lord's day, and prohibited the keeping of the Jewish Sabbath under an anathema." Dissertation on the Lord's Day Sabbath, pages 33, 34, 44.

But did the Christians of the early church keep the Sabbath?
"Down even to the fifth century, the observances of the Jewish Sabbath was continued in the Christian church." Coleman's Ancient Christianity Exemplified, chap. 26, sec. 2.

What day was observed in the Dark Ages by some of the Waldenses?
"They kept the Sabbath day, observed the ordinance of baptism according to the primitive church, instructed their children in the articles of the Christian faith and the commandments of God." Jones's Church History, vol. 2, chap. 5, sec. 4.

We have seen that paganism brought Sunday to the forefront as a venerable" day, and popery gave it the title of "Lord's day." What claim is now made by the Roman Church concerning the change of the Sabbath to Sunday?
"Question. - Have you any other way of proving that the church has power to institute festivals of precept?
"Answer. - Had she not such power, she could not have done that in which all modern religionists agree with her, she could not have substituted the observance of Sunday, the first day of the week, for the observance of Saturday, the seventh day, a change for which there is no scriptural authority." Doctrinal Catechism. This is also taught in nearly all Catholic books of instruction.

Among the early Reformers, were there any who observed the seventh day?
"Carlstadt held to the divine authority of the Sabbath from the Old Testament." Life of Luther, page 402,

What did Luther say of Carlstadt's Sabbath views?
"Indeed, if Carlstadt were to write further about the Sabbath, Sunday would have to give way, and the Sabbath that is to say, Saturday must be kept holy." Luther, against the Celestial Prophets, quoted in The Life of Martin Luther in Pictures, page 147.
NOTE: Through the efforts of those who opposed the Sabbath during the Reformation, Sunday was brought from Catholicism into the Protestant church, and is now cherished as an institution of the Lord. It is clear, however, that it is none of His planting, but rather that of His enemies. The Lord sowed different seeds in the field; but "an enemy hath done this," to lead God's people away from the truth. A proclamation is now going forth, however, to revive the truth on this point. Some will heed the call, and when the message closes, God will have a people who are willing to recognize Him fully by keeping His down trodden Sabbath. To these He will say, "Well done."


"There is scarcely anything which strikes the mind of the careful student of ancient ecclesiastical history with greater surprise than the comparatively early period at which many of the corruptions of Christianity, which are embodied in the Roman system, took their rise; yet it is not to be supposed that when the first originators of many of these unscriptural notions and practices planted those germs of corruption, they anticipated or even imagined they would ever grow into such a vast and hideous system of superstition and error as is that of popery." John Dowling, History of Romanism, 13th Edition, p. 65.

"It would be an error to attribute ['the sanctification of Sunday'] to a definite decision of the Apostles. There is no such decision mentioned in the Apostolic documents [that is, the New Testament]." Antoine Villien, A History of the Commandments of the Church, 1915, p. 23.

"It must be confessed that there is no law in the New Testament concerning the first day." McClintock and Strong, Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature, Vol. 9, p. 196.

"Until well into the second century [a hundred years after Christ] we do not find the slightest indication in our sources that Christians marked Sunday by any kind of abstention from work." W. Rordorf, Sunday, p. 157.

"The ancient Sabbath did remain and was observed. . . by the Christians of the Eastern Church [in the area near Palestine] above three hundred years after our Saviour's death." A Learned Treatise of the Sabbath, p. 77.

"Modern Christians who talk of keeping Sunday as a 'holy' day, as in the still extant 'Blue Laws,' of colonial America, should know that as a 'holy' day of rest and cessation from labor and amusements Sunday was unknown to Jesus... It formed no tenet [teaching] of the primitive Church and became 'sacred' only in the course of time. Outside the Church its observance was legalized for the Roman Empire through a series of decrees starting with the famous one of Constantine in 321, an edict due to his political and social ideas." W. W. Hyde, Paganism to Christianity in the Roman Empire, 1946, p. 257.

"The festival of Sunday, like all other festivals, was always only a human ordinance, and it was far from the intentions of the apostles to establish a Divine command in this respect, far from them, and from the early apostolic Church, to transfer the laws of the Sabbath to Sunday." Augustus Neander, The History of the Christian Religion and Church, 1843, p. 186.

The [Catholic] Church took the pagan buckler of faith against the heathen. She took the pagan Roman Pantheon, [the Roman] temple to all the gods, and made it sacred to all the martyrs; so it stands to this day. She took the pagan Sunday and made it the Christian Sunday . . . The Sun was a foremost god with heathendom. Balder the beautiful: the White God, the old Scandinavians called him. The sun has worshipers at this very hour in Persia and other lands. . . . Hence the Church would seem to have said, 'Keep that old, pagan name. It shall remain consecrated, sanctified.' And thus the pagan Sunday, dedicated to Balder, became the Christian Sunday, sacred to Jesus. The sun is a fitting emplem of Jesus. The Fathers often compared Jesus to the sun; as they compared Mary to the moon." --William L. Gildea, "Paschale Gaudium," in The Catholic World, 58, March, 1894.

"The Church made a sacred day of Sunday... largely because it was the weekly festival of the sun; for it was a definite Christian policy to take over the pagan festivals endeared to the people by tradition, and to give them a Christian significance." Arthur Weigall, The Paganism in Our Christianity, 1928, p. 145.

"Remains of the struggle [between the religion of Christianity and the religion of Mithraism] are found in two institutions adopted from its rival by Christianity in the fourth century, the two Mithraic sacred days: December 25, 'dies natalis solis' [birthday of the sun], as the birthday of Jesus, --and Sunday, 'the vererable day of the Sun,' as Constantine called it in his edict of 321." --Walter Woodburn Hyde, "Paganism to Christianity in the Roman Empire," p. 60.

"Is it not strange that Sunday is almost universally observed when the Sacred Writings do not endorse it? Satan, the great counterfeiter, worked through the 'mystery of iniquity' to introduce a counterfeit Sabbath to take the place of the true Sabbath of God. Sunday stands side by side with Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Holy (or Maundy) Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Corpus Christi, Assumption Day, All Soul's Day, Christmas Day, and a host of other ecclesiastical feast days too numerous to mention. This array of Roman Catholic feasts and fast days are all man made. None of them bears the divine credentials of the Author of the Inspired Word." M. E. Walsh.

"Sun worship was the earliest idolatry." A. R. Fausset, Bible Dictionary, p. 666.

Sun worship was "one of the oldest components of the Roman religion." Gaston H. Halsberghe, The Cult of Sol Invictus, 1972, p.26.

"'Babylon, the mother of harlots,' derived much of her teaching from pagan Rome and thence from Babylon. Sun worship that led her to Sunday keeping, was one of those choice bits of paganism that sprang originally from the heathen lore of ancient Babylon: 'The solar theology of the "Chaldeans" had a decisive effect upon the final development of Semitic paganism... [It led to their seeing the sun the directing power of the cosmic system. All the Baals were thence forward turned into suns; the sun itself being the mover of the other stars, like it eternal and 'unconquerable.' ...Such was the final form reached by the religion of the pagan Semites, and, following them, by that of the Romans... when they raised 'Sol Invictus' [the Invincible Sun] to the rank of supreme divinity in the Empire." Franz V. M. Cumont, The Frontier Provinces of the East, in 'The Cambridge Ancient History, Vol. 11, pp. 643, 646-647.

"With [Constantine's father] Constantius Cholorus (A.D. 305) there ascented the throne [of the Roman Empire] a solar dynasty which . . . professed to have 'Sol Invictus' as its special protector and ancestor. Even the Christina emperors, Constantine and Constantius, did not altogether forget the pretensions which they could dereve from so illustrious a descent." --Franz F.V.M. Cumont, Astrology and Religion Among the Greeks and Romans, p. 55.

When Christianity conquered Rome, the ecclesiastical structure of the pagan church, the title and the vestments of the 'pontifex maximus,' the worship of the 'Great Mother' goddess and a multitude of comforting divinities, . . . the joy or solemnity of old festivals, and the pageantry of immemorial ceremony, passed like material blood into the new religion, -- and captive Rome conquered here conqueror. The reins and skills of government wer handed down by a dying empire to a virile papacy." --Will Durant, Caesar and Christ, p. 672.

"The power of the Caesars lived again in the universal dominion of the popes." H. G. Gulness, Romanism and the Reformation.

"From simple beginnings, the church developed a distinct priesthood and an elaborate service. In this way, Christianity and the higher forms of paganism tended to come nearer and nearer to each other as time went on. In one sense, it is true, they met like armies in mortal conflict, but at the same time they tended to merge into one another like streams which had been following converging courses." J. H. Robinson, Introduction to the History of Western Europe, p. 31.

"Like two sacred rivers flowing from paradise, the Bible and divine Tradition contains the Word of God, the precious gems of revealed truth. Though these two divine streams are in themselves, on account of their divine origin, of equal sacredness, and are both full of revealed truths, still, of the two, Tradition [the sayings of popes and councils] is to us more clear and safe." --Di Bruno, Catholic Belief, p. 33.

"Unquestionably the first law. either ecclesiastical or civil. by which the Sabbatical observance of that day is known to have been ordained, is the edict of Constantine, 321 A.D." Chamber's Encyclopedia, article, "Sabbath."

Here is the first Sunday Law in history, a legal enactment by Constantine I (reigned 306-337): "On the Vererable Day of the Sun ["vererabili die Solis" -- the sacred day of the Sun] let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed. In the country, however, persons engaged in agriculture may freely and lawfully continue their pursuits; because it often happens that another day is not so suitable for grain-sowing or for vine-planting; lest by neglecting the proper moment for such operations the bounty of heaven should be lost -- Given the 7th day of March, [A.D. 321], Crispus and Constantine being consuls each of them for the second time." --The First Sunday Law of Constantine I, in Codex Justinianus, lib. 3, tit. 12, 3; trans. in Phillip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 3, p. 380.

"This [Constantine's Sunday decree of March, 321] is the 'parent' Sunday law making it a day of rest and release from labor. For from that time to the resent there have been decrees about the observance of Sunday which have profoundly influenced European and American society. When the Church became apart of State under the Christian emperors, Sunday observance was enforced by civil statutes, and later when the Empire was past, the Church in the hands of the papacy enforced it by ecclesiastical and also by civil enactments." Walter W. Hyde, Paganism to Christianity in the Roman Empire, 1946, p. 267.

"Constantine's decree marked the beginning of a long, though intermittent series of imperial decrees in support of Sunday rest." Vincent J. Kelly, Forbidden Sunday and Feast Day Occupations, 1943, p. 29.

"Constantine labored at this time untiringly to unite the worshipers of the old and the new into one religion. All his laws and contrivances are aimed at promoting this amalgamation of religions. He would by all lawful and peaceable means melt together a purified heathenism and a moderated Christianity... Of all his blending and melting together of Christianity and heathenism, none is more easy to see through than this making of his Sunday law: The Christians worshiped their Christ, the heathen their Sun-god... [so they should now be combined]." H. G. Heggtveit, "Illustreret Kirkehistorie," 1895, p. 202.

"If every Sunday is to be observed joyfully by the Christians on account of the resurrection, then every Sabbath on account of the burial is the be regarded in execration [cursing] of the Jews." --Pope Sylvester, quoted by S.R.E. Humbert, Adversus Graecorum Calumnias, in J.P. Migne, Patrologie, p. 143. [Sylvester (A.D. 314-337) was the pope at the time Constantine I was Emperor.]

"All things whatsoever that were prescribed for the [Bible] Sabbath, we have transferred them to the Lord's day, as being more authoritative and more highly regarded and first in rank, and more honorable than the Jewish Sabbath." --Bishop Eusebius, quoted in J.P. Migne, Patrologie, p. 23, 1169-1172. [Eusebius of Caesarea was a high-ranking Catholic leader during Constantine's lifetime.]

"As we have already noted, excepting for the Roman and Alexandrian Christians, the majority of Christians were observing the seventh-day Sabbath at least as late as the middle of the fifth century [A.D. 450]. The Roman and Alexandrian Christians were among those converted from heathenism. They began observing Sunday as a merry religious festival in honor of the Lord's resurrection, about the latter half of the second century A.D. However, they did not try to teach that the Lord or His apostles commanded it. In fact, no ecclesiastical writer before Eusebius of Caesarea in the fourth century even suggested that either Christ or His apostles instituted the observance of the first day of the week.

"These Gentile Christians of Rome and Alexandria began calling the first day of the week 'the Lord's day.' This was not difficult for the pagans of the Roman Empire who were steeped in sun worship to accept, because they [the pagans] referred to the sun-god as the 'Lord.'" --E.M. Chalmers, How Sunday Came Into the Christian Church, p. 3.

The following statement was made 100 years after Constantine's Sunday Law was passed: "Although almost all churches throughout the world celebrate the sacred mysteries on the Sabbath every week, yet the Christians of Alexandria and at Rome, on account of some ancient tradition, have ceased to do this." --Socrates Scholasticus, quoted in Ecclesiastical History, Book 5, chap. 22. [Written shortly after A.D. 439.]

"The people of Constantinople, and almost everywhere, assemble together on the Sabbath, as well as on the first day of the week, which custom is never observed at Rome or at Alexandria." --Hermias Sozomen, quoted in Ecclesiastical History, vii, 19, in A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd Series, Vol. 2, p. 290. [Written soon after A.D. 415.]

"Down even to the fifth century the observance of the Jewish Sabbath was continued in the Christian church, but with a rigor and solemnity gradually diminishing until it was wholly discontinued." Lyman Coleman, Ancient Christianity Exemplified, chap. 26, sec. 2, p. 527.

"Constantine's [five Sunday law] decrees marked the beginning of a long though intermittent series of imperial decrees in support of Sunday rest." A History of the Councils of the Church, Vol. 2, p. 316.

"What began, however, as a pagan ordinance, ended as a Christian regulation; and a long series of imperial decrees, during the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries, enjoined with increasing stringency abstinence from labor on Sunday." --Hutton Webster, Rest Days, pp. 122-123, 270.

Here is the first Sunday Law decree of a Christian council. It was given about 16 years after Constantine's first Sunday Law of A.D. 321: "Christians shall not Judaize and be idle on Saturday [in the original: "sabbato" -- shall not be idle on the Sabbath], but shall work on that day; but on the Lord's day they shall especially honour, as as being Christians, shall, if possible, do no work on that day. If, however, they are found Judaizing, they shall be shut out ["anathema," --excommunicated] from Christ." --Council of Laodicea, C. A.D. 337, Canon 29, quoted in C.J. Hefele, A History of the Councils of the Church, Vol. 2, p. 316.

The keeping of the Sunday rest arose from the custom of the people and the constitution of the [Catholic] Church. . . . Tertullion was probably the first to refer to a cessation of affairs on the Sun day; the Council of Laodicea issued the first conciliar legislation for that day; Constantine 1 issued the first civil legislation." --Priest Vincent J. Kelly, Forbidden Sunday and Feast-Day Occupations, p. 203. [A thesis presented to the Catholic University of America.]

"About 590, Pope Gregory, in a letter to the Roman people, denounced as the prophets of Antichrist those who maintained that work ought not to be done on the seventh day." --James T. Ringgold, The Law of Sunday, p. 267.

In the centuries that followed, persecution against believers in the Bible Sabbath intensified until very few were left alive. When the Reformation began, the true Sabbath was almost unknown.

"Now the [Catholic] Church . . . instituted, by God's authority, Sunday as the day of worship. This same Church, by the same divine authority, taught the doctrine of Purgatory. . . . We have, therefore, the same authority for Purgatory as we have for Sunday." --Martin J. Scott, Things Catholics Are Asked About, 1927, p. 236.

"Of course the Catholic Church claims that the change [of the Sabbath to Sunday] was her act. . . . AND THE ACT IS A MARK of her ecclesiastical power." --from the office of Cardinal Gibbons, through Chancellor H.F. Thomas, November 11, 1895.

Copyright © 1988 Research Institute for Better Reading, Inc., used by permission by Project Restore, Inc. at www.projectrestore.com Created: 07/18/02 Updated: 02/02/05