QUESTIONS ABOUT THE NATURE
AND PERPETUITY OF THE SEVENTH-DAY SABBATH
THAT THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK IS THE TRUE CHRISTIAN SABBATH
BY JOHN BUNYAN.
London: Printed for Nath, Ponder, at the Peacock in the Poultry, 1685.
'The Son of man is lord also of the Sabbath day.'
All our inquiries into divine commands are required to be made personally, solemnly, prayerful. To 'prove all things,' and 'hold fast' and obey 'that which is good,' is a precept, equally binding upon the clown, as it is upon the philosopher. Satisfied from our observations of nature, that there is a God; our next inquiry is into the revelation of his will: which, when understood, must be implicitly obeyed, in defiance of any usages of society, and of every erroneous pre-conceived opinion. In this important investigation, we shall find, that the commands of God revealed to man, fall under two classes.
First, Moral and Eternal, being essential to the happiness of all created intelligences, whether pure or sinful. As, the fear and love of the Creator, who preserves and bountifully blesses his creatures; and flowing from this is love to all his creation. He who wantonly destroys life in order that he may glut a demoniac propensity with the agonizing death struggle, is a practical atheist. The Christian will cherish and promote the happiness of all; he dares only to take away life to preserve life.
Second, Ceremonial or Temporal. Those which have been commanded by God, for local, family or national observances, and which, when they have fulfilled their intended object, are removed or suffered gradually to die away.
The well-being of society requires that a portion of time be set apart for divine worship. Individuals are commanded to pray without ceasing. An invaluable custom leads families to unite in morning and evening prayer; and it is an important question whether the Creator having sanctified, and rested on, the seventh day, intended that rest as a pattern to all his rational creatures. If so, the seventh day must depend upon our being able to fix upon which day of the week the creation commenced. Again our inquiries will extend to those injunctions, given to the Jews in the wilderness, to sanctify certain days to public worship; and whether that law was intended for all mankind. In either case it is essential that we ascertain whether those various Sabbaths of weeks-of months or of years-with the ceremonies to be performed on them, were to continue to the end of time or for a limited period.
In all these inquiries we are strictly confined to revelation, for there is no indication in nature, or in any of its laws, of a day of rest; but on the contrary a state of progression marks every day alike. Our Lord has taught us that 'the Sabbath was made for man,' and therefore did not exist among the angels, prior to the creation of man, as all moral or universal obligations must have existed; for they are the same from eternity to eternity; and over this, like other ceremonial or local commands, the Creator claims dominion. 'The Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath.'
Researches into these questions were made in earlier times, and some curious calculations have appeared to prove, that the work of creation commenced on the day called Monday, so that what is now termed the first day of the week, was originally the rest of God from creation; as it was his rest from the work of redemption, by rising from the tomb. But the extent of that period called a day, in creation, has never been defined: and the terms 'work' or 'rest,' as applied to the Deity, are used in condescension to our finite powers. The controversy upon this subject assumed a more public and definite form at the Reformation. Sir Thomas More asserted that the seventh day was superseded by the first, in obedience to tradition: it forms the first of the five commandments of Holy Church-'The Sundays hear thou mass.' William Tyndale, in reply, contends that 'we be lords over the Sabbath'; we may change it for Monday, or any other day, as we see need, or have two every week, if one is not enough to teach the people. Calvin preferred a daily assembling of the church, but if that was impossible, then at stated intervals: his words are-'Since the Sabbath is abrogate, I do not so rest upon the number of seven, that I would bind the church to the bondage thereof; neither will I condemn those churches that have other solemn days for their meetings.' Luther considers the observance of the Jewish Sabbath one of the 'weak and beggarly rudiments.'
The controversy became still more popular in this country, when James the First and Charles the First put forth the book of sports to be allowed and encouraged on Sundays. The Puritans called Sunday 'The Sabbath,' and a voluminous contest was carried on as to whether it ought not rather to be called 'The Lord's day.' In 1628, Mr. Brabourne, a clergyman of note, kept the Jewish Sabbath, and in a short time several churches, in England, assembled on that day, and were called 'seventh day, or Sabbath keepers'-many of them were Baptists. This led to the controversy in which Bunyan took his part, in this very conclusive and admirable treatise.
The work was first published in the year 1685, and was not reprinted until the year 1806, when it appeared in the third volume of select works by John Bunyan; since then it has been reprinted in two American editions of his works. The reason why it was not republished, probably was, that the churches of the Sabbath keepers died away. At this time only three are known in England; one of these is at Millyard, London, where my talented antiquarian friend, W. H. Black, is elder and pastor. These places of worship are supported by an endowment. Bunyan's book does not appear to have been answered; indeed, it would require genius of no ordinary kind to controvert such conclusive evidence.
His arguments are, that the appearances of nature shew no difference of days-that no Sabbath or other day was set apart for worship before the giving of the Law at Sinai. 'Thou camest down also upon Mount Sinai, and madest KNOWN unto them thy holy Sabbaths, by the hand of Moses' (Neh 9:13,14). 'The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work-and remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm, THEREFORE the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the Sabbath day' (Deut 5:14,15). While many crimes are mentioned in patriarchal times, there is no complaint of Sabbath-breaking. We read of fratricide, drunkenness, lying, unbelief, theft, idolatry, slave-dealing, and other crimes, but no hint as to sanctifying or desecrating the Sabbath. At length, a few days before the giving of the law, a natural phenomenon announced to the Jews the great change that was at hand-the manna fell in double quantity on Friday, and was not found on Saturday. So new was this that, contrary to the command, the people went out on the seventh day as on other days, and were rebuked but not punished for it. But no sooner is the Sabbath instituted by Moses, than it is broken, and the Sabbath-breaker is punished with a cruel death. It was instituted as a peculiar observance to distinguish the Jews from all other nations-'The Lord hath given YOU the Sabbath' (Exo 16:39). 'The children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath' (Exo 31:16,17). 'I gave them [the Israelites who were delivered from Egypt] my Sabbaths to be a sign between me and them' (Eze 20:12). Ceremonies were commanded to be performed as the Sabbath worship, which cannot now be observed (see Lev 24; Numb 28: Neh 13:22; Eze 46:4). The Jewish Sabbath was 'a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ' (Col 2:16,17). The shadows have fled away; we possess the substance. The covenant of Moses was written on stone-the new covenant is written on our hearts (Heb 8:9,10). Bunyan admits no uncertainty as to a fixed day for christian worship: the law of nature requires it; the God of nature fixes the day, without borrowing it from the ministration of death. The Jewish passover and Sabbaths are superseded; Christ our passover is slain, and we have not an annual but a perpetual feast. We have an infinitely greater deliverance to commemorate than that of the Jews from Egypt. Released from the dominion and punishment of sin, we have entered into a rest boundless as eternity. Manna, which never fell on the Jewish Sabbath, falls in peculiar and rich abundance on the first day of the week, when it first began to fall. The first day is peculiarly sanctified and honoured of God. On this day the Son rested from His work of redemption (Heb 4:10). He is Lord of the Sabbath, and hath peculiarly blessed his own day. On this day some of the saints that slept arose (Matt 27:52,53). On this day Christ was made the head of the corner, and we will rejoice and be glad in it. On the first day God begat his beloved Son from the dead (Acts 13:33). Let all the angels of God worship him (Heb 1:6). Hence it is called the Lord's day (Rev 1:10). This day is the only one named upon which Christ appeared to his disciples after his resurrection: it was on the evening of the first day of the week, and on the evening of the following eighth day, that they assembled and Christ appeared in the midst of them. On this day he walked with his disciples to Emmaus, and made their hearts to burn within them with holy joy and wonder. The marvels of the day of Pentecost honoured the first day of the week. On this day the first great conversion of 'about three thousand souls' took place. On this day the disciples at Jerusalem came together to break bread (Acts 20:7). Upon THE, not A, first day they broke bread; and upon THE first day, the collections were made for the poor saints (1 Cor 16:1,2). With such concurrent and ample testimony we must conclude that the seventh day Sabbath, with its Jewish ritual, is dissolved, and the first day has taken its place.The Saviour said, 'It is finished'; and from that moment to the end of the inspired volume, the seventh day is swallowed up in the glories of the first day of the week. Let Jews commemorate their temporal deliverance from Pharaoh and Egypt with their divers ceremonies; but Christians, blessed with a foretaste of eternal glory, will commemorate the resurrection of their Lord, as the first fruits of an unspeakable rest from the dominion of sin, of Satan, and of hell. Our glorified Redeemer sanctioned and blessed the first day, with his personal appearance in the assemblies of his saints. His inspired apostles kept it, as it is recorded, and thus it is sanctioned by the Holy Ghost; and their descendants are bound to keep it to the end of the world. Go, little treatise, and carry conviction with thee. Emancipate the christian mind from all the beggarly rudiments of Jewish rites and ceremonies. Add to the holy enjoyments of God's saints in public worship, on the day when their eternal redemption is commemorated by the triumphant resurrection of their Lord.-GEO. OFFOR.
TO THE READER
Some may think it strange, since God's church has already been so well furnished with sound grounds and reasons by so many wise and godly men, for proof that the first day of the week is our true Christian sabbath, that I should now offer this small treatise upon the same account. But when the scales are even by what already is put in, a little more, you know, makes the weight the better.
Or grant we had down weight before, yet something over and above may make his work the harder, that shall by hanging fictions on the other end, endeavour to make things seem too light.
Besides, this book being little, may best suit such as have but shallow purses, short memories, and but little time to spare, which usually is the lot of the mean and poorer sort of men.
I have also written upon this subject, for that I would, as in other gospel truths, be a fellow witness with good men that the day in which our Lord rose from the dead should be much set by of Christians.
I have observed that some, otherwise sound in faith, are apt to be entangled with a Jewish sabbath, &c., and that some also that are afar off from the observation of that, have but little to say for their own practice, though good; and might I help them I should be glad.
A Jewish seventh-day sabbath has no promise of grace belonging to it, if that be true, as to be sure it is, where Paul says, The command to honour parents is the first commandment with promise (Eph 6:1-3).
Also it follows from hence, that the sabbath that has a promise annexed to the keeping of it, is rather that which the Lord Jesus shall give to the churches of the Gentiles (Isa 56).
Perhaps my method here may not in all things keep the common path of argumentation with them that have gone before me: but I trust [that] the godly wise will find a taste of scripture truth in what I present them with as to the sanction of our Christian sabbath.
I have here, by handling four questions, proved, that the seventh day sabbath was not moral. For that must of necessity be done, before it can be made appear that the first day of the week is that which is the sabbath day for Christians. But withal it follows, that if the seventh day sabbath was not moral, the first day is not so. What is it then? Why, a sabbath for holy worship is moral; but this or that day appointed for such service, is sanctified by precept or by approved example. The timing then of a sabbath for us lies in God, not man; in grace, not nature; nor in the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones: God always reserving to himself a power to alter and change both time and modes of worship according to his own will.
A sabbath then, or day of rest from worldly affairs to solemnize worship to God in, all good men do by nature conclude is meet; yea, necessary: yet that, not nature, but God reveals.
Nor is that day or time by God so fixed on, in its own nature, better than any other: the holiness then of a sabbath lies, not in the nature or place of a day, but in the ordinance of God.
Nor doth our sanctifying of it, to the ends for which it is ordained, lie in a bare confession that it is such; but in a holy performance of the duty of the day to God by Christ, according to his word.
But I will not enlarge to detain the reader longer from the following sheets; but shall commit both him and them to the wise dispose of God, and rest,
Thine to serve thee,
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE NATURE AND PERPETUITY OF THE SEVENTH-DAY SABBATH.
Whether the seventh day sabbath is of, or made known to, man by the law and light of nature?
Something must be here premised before I show the grounds of this question. First then, by the law or light of nature, I mean that law which was concreate with man; that which is natural to him, being original with, and essential to, himself; consequently, that which is invariable and unalterable, as is that nature. Secondly, I grant that by this law of nature, man understands that there is one eternal God; that this God is to be worshiped according to his own will; consequently, that time must be allowed to do it in: but whether the law or light of nature teacheth, and that of itself, without the help of revelation, that the seventh day of the week is that time sanctified of God, and set apart for his worship, that is the question; and the grounds of it are these:
First, Because the law of nature is antecedent to this day, yea completed as a law before it was known or revealed to man, that God either did or would sanctify the seventh day of the week at all.
Now this law, as was said, being natural to a man, for man is a law unto himself (Rom 2), could only teach the things of a man, and there the Apostle stints it (1 Cor 2:11). But to be able to determine, and that about things that were yet without being, either in nature or by revelation, is that which belongs not to a man as a man; and the seventh day sabbath, as yet, was such. For Adam was completely made the day before; and God did not sanctify the seventh day before it was, none otherwise than by his secret decree. Therefore, by the law of nature, Adam understood it not, it was not made known to him thereby.
Second, To affirm the contrary, is to make the law of nature supernatural, which is an impossibility. Yea, they that do so make it a predictor, a prophet; a prophet about divine things to come; yea, a prophet able to foretell what shall be, and that without a revelation; which is a strain that never yet prophet pretended to.
Besides, to grant this, is to run into a grievous error; for this doth not only make the law of nature the first of prophets, contrary to Genesis 3:10 compared with John 1:1 but it seems to make the will of God, made known by revelation, a needless thing. For if the law of nature, as such, can predict, or foretell God's secrets, and that before he reveals them, and this law of nature is universal in every individual man in the world, what need is there of particular prophets, or of their holy writings? And indeed here the Quakers and others split themselves. For if the law of nature can of itself reveal unto me one thing pertaining to instituted worship, for that we are treating of now, and the exact time which God has not yet sanctified and set apart for the performance thereof, why may it not reveal unto me more, and so still more; and at last all that is requisite for me to know, both as to my salvation, and how God is to be worshiped in the church on earth.
Third, If it be of the law of nature, then all men by nature are convinced of the necessity of keeping it, and that though they never read or heard of the revealed will of God about it; but this we find not in the world.
For though it is true that the law of nature is common to all, and that all men are to this day under the power and command thereof; yet we find not that they are by nature under the conviction of the necessity of keeping of a seventh day sabbath. Yea, the Gentiles, though we read not that they ever despised the law of nature, yet never had, as such, a reverence of a seventh day sabbath, but rather the contrary.
Fourth, If therefore the seventh day sabbath is not of the law of nature, then it should seem not to be obligatory to all. For instituted worship, and the necessary circumstances thereunto belonging, is obligatory but to some. The tree that Adam was forbid to eat of, we read not but that his children might have eat the fruit thereof: and circumcision, the passover, and other parts of instituted worship was enjoined but to some.
Fifth, I doubt the seventh day sabbath is not of the law of nature, and so not moral; because though we read that the law of nature, and that before Moses, was charged upon the world, yet I find not till then, that the profanation of a seventh day sabbath was charged upon the world: and indeed to me this very thing makes a great scruple in the case.
A law, as I said, we read of, and that from Adam to Moses (Rom 5:13,14). The transgressions also of that law, we read of them, and that particularly, as in Genesis 4:8, 6:5, 9:21, 22, 12:13, 13:13, 18:12-15, 19:5; (Eze 16:49,50); Genesis 31:30, 35:2, 40:15, 44:8-10; Deuteronomy 8:19, 20, 12:2; Psalm 106:35-37 and Romans the first and second chapters.
But in all the scriptures we do not read, that the breach of a seventh day sabbath was charged upon men as men all that time. Whence I gather, that either a seventh day sabbath was not discerned by the light of nature, and so not by that law imposed; or else, that men by the help and assistance of that, for we speak of men as men, in old time kept it better, than in after ages did the church of God with better assistance by far. For they are there yet found fault with as breakers of the sabbath (Eze 20:13).
It follows therefore, that if the law of nature doth not of itself reveal to us, as men, that the seventh day is the holy sabbath of God. That that day, as to the sanction of it, is not moral, but rather arbitrary, to wit, imposed by the will of God upon his people, until the time he thought fit to change it for another day.
And if so, it is hence to be concluded, that though by the light of nature men might see that time must be allowed and set apart for the performance of that worship that God would set up in his house, yet, as such, it could not see what time the Lord would to that end choose. Nature therefore saw that, by a positive precept, or a word revealing it, and by no other means.
Nor doth this at all take away a whit of that sanction which God once put upon the seventh day sabbath; unless any will say, and by sufficient argument prove, that an ordinance for divine worship receiveth greater sanction from the law of nature than from a divine precept: or standeth stronger when it is established by a law humane, for such is the law of nature, than when imposed by revelation of God.
But the text will put this controversy to an end. The sanction of the seventh day sabbath, even as it was the rest of God, was not till after the law of nature was completed; God rested the seventh day and sanctified it (Gen 2:3). Sanctified it; that is, set it apart to the end there mentioned, to wit, to rest thereon.
Other grounds of this question I might produce, but at present I will stop here, and conclude, That if a seventh day sabbath was an essential necessary to the instituted worship of God, then itself also as to its sanction for that work, was not founded but by a positive precept; consequently not known of man at first, but by revelation of God.
Whether the seventh day sabbath, as to man's keeping of it holy, was ever made known to, or imposed by, a positive precept upon him until the time of Moses? which from Adam was about two thousand years.
Something must also be here premised, in order to my propounding of my grounds for this question; and that is, That the seventh day was sanctified so soon as it had being in the world, unto the rest of God, as it is Genesis 2:2, 3 and he did rest, from all his works which he had made therein. But the question is, Whether when God did thus sanctify this day to his own rest, he did also by the space of time above-mentioned, impose it as an holy sabbath of rest upon men; to the end they might solemnize worship to him in special manner thereon? And I question this,
First, Because we read not that it was. And reading, I mean, of the divine testimony, is ordained of God, for us to find out the mind of God, both as to faith and our performance of acceptable service to him.
In reading also, we are to have regard to two things.
I. To see if we can find a precept: or,
II. A countenanced practice for what we do. For both these ways we are to search, that we may find out what is that good, that acceptable will of God.
For the first of these we have Genesis 2:16, 17 and for the second, Genesis 8:20, 21 [as to public worship but not on a stated day].
Now as to the imposing of a seventh day sabbath upon men from Adam to Moses,of that we find nothing in holy writ either from precept or example. True, we find that solemn worship was performed by the saints that then lived: for both Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, sacrificed unto God (Gen 4:4, 8:20,21, 12:7, 13:4, 35:1), but we read not that the seventh day was the time prefixed of God for their so worshipping, or that they took any notice of it. Some say, that Adam in eating the forbidden fruit, brake also the seventh day sabbath, because he fell on that day; but we read not that the breach of a sabbath was charged upon him. That which we read is this; 'Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?' (Gen 3:11). Some say also that Cain killed Abel on a sabbath day; but we read not that, in his charge, God laid any such thing at his door. This was it of which he stood guilty before God; namely, That his brother's blood cried unto God against him from the ground (Gen 4:10).
I therefore take little notice of what a man saith, though he flourisheth his matter with many brave words, if he bring not with him, 'Thus saith the Lord.' For that, and that only, ought to be my ground of faith as to how my God would be worshiped by me. For in the matters material to the worship of God, it is safest that thus I be guided in my judgment: for here only I perceive 'the footsteps of the flock' (Cant 1:8; Eze 3:11). They say further, that for God to sanctify a thing, is to set it apart. This being true; then it follows, that the seventh day sabbath was sanctified, that is, set apart for Adam in paradise; and so, that it was ordained a sabbath of rest to the saints from the beginning.
But I answer, as I hinted before, that God did sanctify it to his own rest. 'The LORD [also] hath set apart him that is godly for himself.' But again, it is one thing for God to sanctify this or that thing to an use, and another thing to command that that thing be forthwith in being to us. As for instance: the land of Canaan was set apart many years for the children of Israel before they possessed that land. Christ Jesus was long sanctified; that is, set apart to be our redeemer before he sent him into the world (Deut 32:8; John 10:36).
If then, by God's sanctifying of the seventh day for a sabbath, you understand it for a sabbath for man, (but the text saith not so) yet it might be so set apart for man, long before it should be, as such, made known unto him. And that the seventh day sabbath was not as yet made known to men.
Second, Consider secondly, Moses himself seems to have the knowledge of it at first, not by tradition, but by revelation; as it is Exodus 16:23, 'This is that [saith he] which the Lord hath said, [namely to me; for we read not, as yet, that he said it to any body else]. To morrow is the sabbath of the holy rest unto the Lord.'
Also holy Nehemiah suggesteth this, when he saith of Israel to God, Thou 'madest known unto them thy holy sabbath [by the hand of Moses thy servant]' (Neh 9:14). The first of these texts shews us, that tidings of a seventh day sabbath for men, came first to Moses from heaven: and the second, that it was to Israel before unknown.
But how could be either the one or the other, if the seventh day sabbath was taught to men by the light of nature, which is the moral law? Or if from the beginning it was given to men by a positive precept for to be kept.
This therefore strengtheneth my doubt about the affirmative of the first question, and also prepareth an argument for what I plead as to this we have now under consideration.
Third, This yet seems to me more scrupulous, because that the punishment due to the breach of the seventh day sabbath was hid from men to the time of Moses; as is clear, for that it is said of the breaker of the sabbath, 'They put him in ward, because it was not [as yet] declared what should be done to him' (Num 15:32-36).
But methinks, had this seventh day sabbath been imposed upon men from the beginning, the penalty or punishment due to the breach thereof had certainly been known before now.
When Adam was forbidden to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the penalty was then, if he disobeyed, annexed to the prohibition. So also it was as to circumcision, the passover, and other ordinances for worship. How then can it be thought, that the seventh day sabbath should be imposed upon men from the beginning; and that the punishment for the breach thereof, should be hid with God for the space of two thousand years! (Gen 2:16,17, 17:13,14; Exo 12:43-48) and the same chapter (v 19).
Fourth, God's giving of the seventh day sabbath was with respect to stated and stinted worship in his church; the which, until the time of Moses, was not set up among his people. Things till then were adding or growing: now a sacrifice, then circumcision, then again long after that the passover, &c.
But when Israel was come into the wilderness, there to receive as God's congregation, a stated, stinted, limited way of worship, then he appoints them a time, and times, to perform this worship in; but as I said afore, before that it was not so, as the whole five books of Moses plainly shew: wherefore the seventh day sabbath, as such a limited day cannot be moral, or of the law of nature, nor imposed till then.
And methinks Christ Jesus and his apostles do plainly enough declare this very thing. For that when they repeat unto the people, or expound before them the moral law, they quite exclude the seventh day sabbath. Yea, Paul makes that law to us complete without it.
We will first touch upon what Christ doth in this case.
As in his sermon upon the mount (Matt 5-7). In all that large and heavenly discourse upon this law, you have not one syllable about the seventh day sabbath.
So when the young man came running, and kneeling, and asking what good thing he should do to inherit eternal life, Christ bids him keep the commandments; but when the young man asked which; Christ quite leaves out the seventh day, and puts him upon the other. As in Matthew 19:16-19. As in Mark 10:17-20. As in Luke 18:18-20.
You will say, he left out the first, and second, and third likewise. To which I say, that was because the young man by his question did presuppose that he had been a doer of them: for he professed in his supplication, that he was a lover of that which is naturally good, which is God, in that his petition was so universal for every thing which he had commanded.
Paul also when he makes mention of the moral law, quite leaves out of that the very name of the seventh day sabbath, and professeth, that to us Christians the law of nature is complete without it. As in Romans 3:7-19. As in Romans 13:7-10. As in 1 Timothy 1:8-11.
'He that loveth another, saith he, hath fulfiled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.'
I make not an argument of this, but take an occasion to mention it as I go. But certainly, had the seventh day sabbath been moral, or of the law of nature, as some would fain persuade themselves, it would not so slenderly have been passed over in all these repetitions of this law, but would by Christ or his apostles have been pressed upon the people, when so fair an opportunity as at these times offered itself unto them. But they knew what they did, and wherefore they were so silent as to the mention of a seventh day sabbath when they so well talked of the law as moral.
Fifth, Moses and the prophet Ezekiel both, do fully confirm what has been insinuated by us; to wit, that the seventh day, as a sabbath, was not imposed upon men until Israel was brought into the wilderness.
1. Moses saith to Israel, 'Remember that thou wast a servant int he land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: THEREFORE the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.' Yea, he tells us, that the covenant which God made with them in Horeb, that written in stones, was not made with their forefathers, to wit, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but with them (Deut 5:1-15).
2. Ezekiel also is punctual as to this: I caused them, saith God by that prophet, 'to go forth out of the land of Egypt, and brought them into the wilderness. And I gave them my statutes, and shewed them my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them. Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them' (Eze 20:10-12; Exo 20:8, 31:13, 35:2).
What can be more plain? And these to be sure, are two notable witnesses of God, who, as you see, do jointly concur in this; to wit, That it was not from paradise, nor from the fathers, but from the wilderness, and from Sinai, that men received the seventh day sabbath to keep it holy.
True, it was God's sabbath before: for on the first seventh day we read, that God rested thereon, and sanctified it. Hence he calls it in the first place, MY sabbath. I gave them my sabbath: But it seems it was not given to the church till he had brought them into the wilderness.
But I say, if it had been moral, it had been natural to man; and by the light of nature men would have understood it, even both before it was, and otherwise. But of this you see we read nothing, either by positive law, or countenanced example, or any other way, but rather the flat contrary; to wit, that Moses had the knowledge of it first from heaven, not by tradition. That Israel had it, not of, or from their fathers, but in the wilderness, from him, to wit, Moses, after he had brought them out of the land of Egypt. And that that whole law in which this seventh day sabbath is placed, was given for the bounding and better ordering of them in their church state for their time, till the Messias should come and put, by a better ministration, this out of his church, as we shall further shew anon.
The seventh day sabbath therefore was not from paradise, nor from nature, nor from the fathers, but from t he wilderness, and from Sinai.
Whether when the seventh day sabbath was given to Israel in the wilderness the Gentiles, as such, was concerned therein.
Before I shew my ground for this question, I must also first premise, That the Gentiles, as such, were then without the church of God, and pale thereof; consequently had nothing to do with the essentials or necessary circumstances of that worship which God had set up for himself now among the children of Israel.
Now then for the ground of the question.
First, we read not that God gave it to any but to the seed of Jacob. Hence it is said to Israel, and to Israel only, 'The Lord hath given YOU the sabbath' (Exo 16:29). And again, 'also I gave THEM my sabbath' (Eze 20:5,12).
Now, if the gift of the seventh day sabbath was only to Israel, as these texts do more than seem to say; then to the Gentiles, as such, it was not given. Unless any shall conclude, that God by thus doing preferred the Jew to a state of gentileism; or that he bestowed on them, by thus doing, some high Gentile privilege. But this would be very fictious. For, to lay aside reason, the text always, as to preference, did set the Jew in the first of places (Rom 2:10). Nor was his giving the seventh day sabbath to them but a sign and token thereof.
But the great objection is, because the seventh day sabbath is found amongst the rest of those precepts which is so commonly called the moral law; for thence it is concluded to be of a perpetual duration.
But I answer: That neither that as given on Sinai is moral; I mean, as to the manner and ends of its ministration, of which, God permitting, we shall say more in our answer to the fourth question, whither I direct you for satisfaction. But,
Second, The Gentiles could not be concerned, as such, with God's giving of a seventh day sabbath to Israel, because, as I have shewed before, it was given to Israel, considered as a church of God (Acts 7:32). Nor was it given to them, as such, but with rites and ceremonies thereto belonging, so Leviticus 24:5-9; Numbers 28:9, 10; Nehemiah 13:22; Ezekiel 46:4.
Now, I say, if this sabbath hath ceremonies thereto belonging, and if these ceremonies were essential to the right keeping of the sabbath: and again, if these ceremonies were given to Israel only, excluding all but such as were their proselytes, then this sabbath was given to them as excluding the Gentiles as such. But if it had been moral, the Gentiles could as soon have been deprived of their nature as of a seventh day sabbath, though the Jews should have appropriated it unto themselves only.
Again, to say that God gave this seventh day sabbath to the Gentiles, as such, (and yet so he must, if it be of the moral law) is as much as to say, that God hath ordained that that sabbath should be kept by the Gentiles without; but by the Jews, not without her ceremonies. And what conclusion will follow from hence, but that God did at one and the same time set up two sorts of acceptable worships in the world: one among the Jews, another among the Gentiles! But how ridiculous such a thought would be, and how repugnant to the wisdom of God, you may easily perceive.
Yea, what a diminution would this be to God's church that then was, for one to say, the Gentiles were to serve God with more liberty than the Jew! For the law was a yoke, and yet the Gentile is called the dog, and said to be without God in the world (Deut 7:7; Psa 147:19,20; Matt 15:26; Eph 2:11,12).
Third, When the Gentiles, at the Jews' return from Babylon, came and offered their wares to sell to the children of Israel at Jerusalem on this sabbath; yea, and sold them to them too: yet not they, but the Jews were rebuked as the only breakers of that sabbath. Nay, there dwelt then at Jerusalem men of Tyre, that on this sabbath sold their commodities to the Jews, and men of Judah: yet not they, but the men of Judah, were contended with, as the breakers of this sabbath.
True, good Nehemiah did threaten the Gentiles that were merchants, for lying then about the walls of the city, for that by that means they were a temptation to the Jews to break their sabbaths; but still he charged the breach thereof only upon his own people (Neh 13:15-20).
But can it be imagined, had the Gentiles now been concerned with this sabbath by law divine, that so holy a man as Nehemiah would have let them escape without a rebuke for so notorious a transgression thereof; especially considering, that now also they were upon God's ground, to wit, within and without the walls of Jerusalem.
Fourth, Wherefore he saith to Israel again, 'Verily my sabbaths YE shall keep.' And again, 'YE shall keep the sabbath.' And again, 'The children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout THEIR generations' (Exo 31:14-16, 16:29).
What can be more plain, these things thus standing int he testament of God, than that the seventh day sabbath, as such, was given to Israel, to Israel ONLY; and that the Gentiles, as such, were not concerned therein!
Fifth, The very reason also of God's giving of the seventh day sabbath to the Jews, doth exclude the Gentiles, as such, from having any concern therein. For it was given to the Jews, as was said before, as they were considered God's church, and for a sign and token by which they should know that he had chosen and sanctified them to himself for a peculiar people (Exo 31:13-17; Eze 20:12,13).
And a great token and sign it was that he had so chosen them: for in that he had given to them this sabbath, he had given to them (his own rest) a figure and pledge of his sending his Son into the world to redeem them from the bondage and slavery of the devil: of which indeed this sabbath was a shadow or type (Col 2:16,17).
Thus have I concluded my ground for this third question. I shall therefore now propound another.
Whether the seventh day sabbath did not fall, as such, with the rest of the Jewish rites and ceremonies? Or whether that day, as a sabbath, was afterwards by the apostles imposed upon the churches of the Gentiles?
I would now also, before I shew the grounds of my proposing this question, premise what is necessary thereunto; to wit, That time and day were both fixed upon by law, for the solemn performance of divine worship among the Jews; and that time and day is also by law fixed, for the solemnizing of divine worship to God in the churches of the Gentiles. But that the seventh day sabbath, as such, is that time, that day, that still I question.
Now before I shew the grounds of my questioning of it, I shall enquire into the nature of that ministration in the bowels of which this seventh day sabbath is placed. And,
First, I say, as to that, the nature of that law is moral, but the ministration, and circumstances thereunto belonging, are shadowish and figurative.
By the nature of it, I mean the matter thereof: by the ministration and circumstances thereto belonging, I do mean the giving of it by such hands, at such a place and time, in such a mode, as when it was given to Israel in the wilderness.
The matter therefore, to wit, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength': and 'thy neighbour as thyself,' is everlasting (Mark 12:29-31), and is not from Sinai, nor from the two tables of stone, but in nature; for this law commenced and took being and place that day in which man was created. Yea, it was concreate with him, and without it he cannot be a rational creature, as he was in the day in which God created him. But for the ministration of it from Sinai, with the circumstances belonging to that ministration,
they are not moral, nor everlasting, but shadowish and figurative only.
That ministration cannot be moral for three reasons. 1. It commenced not when morality commenced, but two thousand years after. 2. It was not universal as the law, as moral, is; it was given only to the church of the Jews in those tables. 3. Its end is past as such a ministration, though the same law as to the morality thereof abides. Where are the tables of stone and this law as therein contained? We only, as to that, have the notice of such a ministration, and a rehearsal of the law, with that mode of giving of it, in the testament of God.
But to come to particulars.
1. The very preface to that ministration carrieth in it a type of our deliverance from the bondage of sin, the devil, and hell. Pharaoh, and Egypt; and Israel's bondage there, being a type of these.
2. The very stones in which this law was engraven, was a figure of the tables of the heart. The first two were a figure of the heart carnal, by which the law was broken: the last two, of the heart spiritual, in which the new law, the law of grace is written and preserved (Exo 34:1; 2 Cor 3:3).
3. The very mount on which this ministration was given, was typical of Mount Zion. See Hebrews 12 where they are compared (vv 18-22).
4. Yea, the very church to whom that ministration was given, was a figure of the church of the gospel that is on Mount Zion. See the same scripture, and compare it with Acts 7:38; Revelation 14:1-5.
5. That ministration was given in the hand and by the disposition of angels, to prefigure how the new law or ministration of the Spirit was to be given afterwards to the churches under the New Testament by the hands of the angel of God's everlasting covenant of grace, who is his only begotten Son (Isa 63:9; Mal 3:1; Acts 3:22,23).
6. It was given to Israel also in the hand of Moses, as mediator, to shew, or typify out, that the law of grace was in after times to come to the church of Christ by the hand and mediation of Jesus our Lord (Gal 3:19; Deut 5:5; Heb 8:6; 1 Tim 2:5; Heb 9:15, 12:24).
7. As to this ministration, it was to continue but 'till the seed should come'; and then must, as such, give place to a better ministration (Gal 3:19). 'A better covenant, established upon better promises' (Heb 8:6).
From all this therefore I conclude, that there is a difference to be put between the morality of the law, and the ministration of it upon Sinai. The law, as to its morality was before; but as to this ministration, it was not till the church was with Moses, and he with the angels on Mount Sinai in the wilderness.
Now in the law, as moral, we conclude a time propounded, but no seventh day sabbath enjoined. But in that law, as thus ministered, which ministration is already out of doors; we find a seventh day; that seventh day on which God rested, on which God rested from all his works, enjoined. What is it then? Why the whole ministration as written and engraven in stones being removed, the seventh day sabbath must also be removed; for that the time nor yet the day, was as to our holy sabbath, or rest, moral; but imposed with that whole ministration, as such, upon the church, until the time of reformation: which time being come, this ministration, as I said, as such, ceaseth; and the whole law, as to the morality of it, is delivered into the hand of Christ, who imposes it now also; but not as a law of works, nor as that ministration written and engrave in stones, but as a rule of life to those that have believed in him (1 Cor 9:21).
So then, that law is still moral, and still supposes, since it teaches that there is a God, that time must be set apart for his church to worship him in, according to that will of his that he had revealed in his word. But though by that law time is required; yet by that, as moral, the time never was prefixed.
The time then of old was appointed by such a ministration of that law as we have been now discoursing of; and when that ministration ceaseth, that time did also vanish with it. And now by our new law-giver, the Son of God, he being 'lord also of the sabbath day,' we have a time prefixed, as the law of nature requireth, a new day, by him who is the lord of it; I say, appointed, wherein we may worship, not in the oldness of that letter written and engraven in stones, but according to, and most agreeing with, his new and holy testament. And this I confirm further by those reasons that now shall follow.
First, Because we find not from the resurrection of Christ to the end of the Bible, anything written by which is imposed that seventh day sabbath upon the churches. Time, as I said, the law as moral requires; but that time we find no longer imposed. And in all duties pertaining to God and his true worship in his churches, we must be guided by his laws and testaments. By his old laws, when his old worship was in force; and by his new laws, when his new worship is in force. And he hath verily now said, 'Behold, I make all things new' (Rev 21:5).
Second, I find, as I have shewed, that this seventh day sabbath is confined, not to the law of nature as such, but to that ministration of it which was given on Sinai: which ministration as it is come to an end as such, so it is rejected by Paul as a ministration no ways capable of abiding in the church now, since the ministration of the Spirit also hath taken its place (2 Cor 3). Wherefore instead of propounding it to the churches with arguments tending to its reception, he seeks by degrading it of its old lustre and glory, to wean the churches from any likement thereof:
1. By calling of it the ministration of death, of the letter, and of condemnation, a term most frightful, but no ways alluring to the godly.
2. By calling it a ministration that now has no glory, by reason of the exceeding glory of that ministration under which by the Holy Spirit the New Testament churches are. And these are weaning considerations (2 Cor 3).
3. By telling of them it is a ministration that tendeth to blind the mind, and to veil the heart as to the knowledge of their Christ: so that they cannot, while under that, behold his beauteous face, but as their heart shall turn from it to him (2 Cor 3).
4. And that they might not be left in the dark, but perfectly know what ministration it is that he means, he saith expressly, it is that 'written and engraven in stones.' See again 2 Corinthians 3. And in that ministration it is that this seventh day sabbath is found.
But shall we think that the apostle speaks any thing of all here said, to wean saints off from the law of nature, as such! No verily, that he retains in the church, as being managed there by Christ: but THIS ministration is dangerous now, because it cannot be maintained in the church, but in a way of contempt to the ministration of the Spirit, and is derogatory to the glory of that.
Now these, as I said, are weaning considerations. No man, I do think, that knows himself, or the glory of a gospel ministration, can, if he understands what Paul says here, desire that such a ministration should be retained in the churches.
Third. This seventh day sabbath has lost its ceremonies (those unto which before you are cited by the texts) which was with it imposed upon the old church for her due performance of worship to God thereon. How then can this sabbath now be kept? Kept, I say, according to law. For if the church on which it was first imposed, was not to keep it, yea, could not keep it legally without the practising of those ceremonies: and if those ceremonies are long ago dead and gone, how will those that pretend to a belief of a continuation of the sanction thereof, keep it, I say, according as it is written?
If they say, they retain the day, but change their manner of observation thereof; I ask, who has commanded them so to do? This is one of the laws of this sabbath. 'Thou shalt take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes thereof: two tenth deals shall be in one cake. And thou shalt set them in two rows, six on a row, upon the pure table before the Lord. And thou shalt put pure frankincense upon each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, even an offering made by fire unto the Lord. Every sabbath he shall set it in order before the Lord continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant' (Lev 24:5-8). You may see also other places, as Numbers 28:9, 10; Nehemiah 13:22 and Ezekiel 46:4.
Now if these be the laws of the sabbath, this seventh day sabbath; and if God did never command that this sabbath should by his church be sanctified without them: and, as was said before, if these ceremonies have been long since dead and buried, how must this sabbath be kept?
Let men take heed, lest while they plead for law, and pretend themselves to be the only doers of God's will, they be not found the biggest transgressors thereof. And why can they not as well keep the other sabbaths? As the sabbath of months, of years, and the jubilee? For this, as I have shewed, is no moral precept, it is only a branch of the ministration of death and condemnation.
Fourth, The seventh day sabbath, as such, was a sign and shadow of things to come; and a sign cannot be the thing signified and substance too. Wherefore when the thing signified or substance, is come, the sign or thing shadowing ceaseth. And, I say, the seventh day sabbath being so, as a seventh day sabbath it ceaseth also. See again Exodus 31:13, 14; Ezekiel 20:12, 21; Colossians 2:14.
Nor do I find that our Protestant writers, notwithstanding their reverence of the sabbath, do conclude otherwise; but that though time as to worshipping God, must needs be contained in the bowels of the moral law, as moral; yet they for good reasons forbear to affix the seventh day as that time there too.
They do it, I say, for good reasons; reason drawn from the scripture; or rather, for that the scripture draws them so to conclude: yet they cast not away the morality of a sabbath of rest to the church. It is to be granted them, that time for God's worship abideth for ever, but the seventh day vanishes as a shadow and sign; because such indeed it was, as the scripture above cited declares as to the sanction thereof as a sabbath.
The law of nature then calls for time; but the God of nature assigns it, and has given power to his Son to continue SUCH time as himself shall by his eternal wisdom judge most meet for the churches of the Gentiles to solemnize worship to God by him in. Hence he is said to be 'Lord even of the sabbath day' (Matt 12:8).
Fifth, I find by reading God's word, that Paul by authority apostolical, takes away the sanctions of all the Jews' festivals and sabbaths.
This is manifest, for that he leaves the observation or non-observation of them, as things indifferent, to the mind and discretion of the believers. 'One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind' (Rev 14:5).
By this last clause of the verse, 'Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind,' he doth plainly declare, that such days are now stript of their sanction. For none of God's laws, while they retain their sanction, are left to the will and mind of the believers, as to whether they will observe them or no. Men, I say, are not left to their liberty in such a case; for when a stamp of divine authority is upon a law, and abides, so long we are bound, not to our mind, but to that law: but when a thing, once sacred, has lost its sanction, then it falls, as to faith and conscience, among other common or indifferent things. And so the seventh day sabbath did. Again,
Sixth, Thus Paul writes to the church of Colosse. 'Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ' (Col 2:16,17). Here also, as he serveth other holy days, he serveth the sabbath. He gives a liberty to believers to refuse the observation of it, and commands that no man should judge against them for their so doing. And as you read, the reason of his so doing is, because the body, the substance is come. Christ saith he, is the body, or that which these things were a shadow or figure of. 'The body is of Christ.'
Nor hath the apostle, since he saith 'or of the sabbath' one would think, left any hole, out at which men's inventions could get: but man has sought out many; and, so, many he will use.
But again, That the apostle by this word 'sabbath' intends the seventh day sabbath, is clear; for that it is by Moses himself counted for a sign, as we have shewed: and for that none of the other sabbaths were a more clear shadow of the Lord Jesus Christ than this. For that, and that alone, is called 'the rest of God': in it God rested from all his works. Hence he calls it by way of eminency, 'MY sabbath, and MY holy day' (Isa 56:4, 58:13).
Yet could that rest be nothing else but typical; for God, never since the world began, really rested, but in his Son. 'This is he,' saith God, 'in whom I am well pleased.' This sabbath then, was God's rest typically, and was given to Israel as a sign of his grace towards them in Christ. Wherefore when Christ was risen, it ceased, and was no longer of obligation to bind the conscience to the observation thereof. [Or of the sabbath.] He distinctly singleth out this seventh day, as that which was a most noble shadow, a most exact shadow. And then puts that with the other together; saying, they are a shadow of things to come; and that Christ has answered them all. 'The body is of Christ.'
Seventh, No man will, I think, deny but that Hebrews 4:45 intends the seventh day sabbath, on which God rested from all his works; for the text doth plainly say so: yet may the observing reader easily perceive that both it, and the rest of Canaan also, made mention of verse 5 were typical, as to a day made mention of verses 7 and 8 which day he calls another. He would not afterwards have made mention of another day. If Joshua had given them rest, he would not. Now if they had not that rest in Joshua's days, be sure they had it not by Moses; for he was still before.
All the rests therefore that Moses gave them, and that Joshua gave them too, were but typical of another day, in which God would give them rest (Heb 4:9,10). And whether the day to come, was Christ, or Heaven, it makes no matter: it is enough that they before did fail, as always shadows do, and that therefore mention by David is, and that afterward, made of another day. 'There remains therefore a rest to the people of God.' A rest to come, of which the seventh day in which God rested, and the land of Canaan, was a type; which rest begins in Christ now, and shall be consummated in glory.
And in that he saith 'There remains a rest,' referring to that of David, what is it, if it signifies not, that the other rests remain not? There remains therefore a rest, a rest prefigured by the seventh day, and by the rest of Canaan, though they are fled and gone.
'There remains a rest'; a rest which stands not now in signs and shadows, in the seventh day, or Canaan, but in the Son of God, and his kingdom, to whom, and to which the weary are invited to come for rest (Isa 28:12; Matt 11:20; Heb 4:11).
Yet this casts not out the Christians holiday or sabbath: for that was not ordained to be a type or shadow of things to come, but to sanctify the name of their God in, and to perform that worship to him which was also in a shadow signified by the ceremonies of the law, as the epistle to the Hebrews doth plentifully declare.
And I say again, the seventh day sabbath cannot be it, for the reasons shewed afore.
Eighth, Especially if you add to all this, that nothing of the ministration of death written and engraven in stones, is brought by Jesus, or by his apostles, into the kingdom of Christ, as a part of his instituted worship. Hence it is said of that ministration in the bowels of which this seventh day sabbath is found, that it has now NO glory; that its glory is done away, in or by Christ, and so is laid aside, the ministration of the Spirit that excels in glory, being come in the room thereof.
I will read the text to you. 'But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: [It was given at first with this proviso, that it should not always retain its glory, that sanction, as a ministration]. How shall not the ministration of the Spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. For if that which was done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious' (2 Cor 3:7-11).
What can be more plain? The text says expressly, that this ministration doth NOT remain; yea, and insinuates, that in its first institution it was ordained with this proviso, 'It was to be done away.' Now if in its first institution upon Sinai it was thus ordained; and if by the coming in of the ministration of the spirit, this ordination is now executed; that is, if by it, and the apostle saith it, it is done away by a ministration that remains: then where is that seventh day sabbath?
Thus therefore I have discoursed upon this fourth question: And having shewed by this discourse that the old seventh day sabbath is abolished and done away, and that it has nothing to do with the churches of the Gentiles; I am next to shew what day it is that must abide as holy to the Christians, and for them to perform their New Testament church service in.
Take the question thus.
Since it is denied that the seventh day sabbath is moral, and it is found that it is not to abide as a sabbath for ever in the church, What time is to be fixed on for New Testament saints to perform together, divine worship to God by Christ in?
Upon this question hangs the stress of all, as to the subject now under consideration: but before I can speak distinctly to it, I must premise, as I have in order to my speaking to the questions before, something for the better clearing of our way-
[Therefore I remark, that] we are not now speaking of all manner of worshipping God, nor of all times in which all manner of worship is to be performed; but of that worship, which is church worship, or worship that is to be performed by the assembly of saints, when by the will of God they in all parts of his dominion assemble together to worship him; which worship hath a prefixed time allotted to, or for its performance, and without which it cannot, according to the mind of God, be done. This is the time, I say, that we are to discourse of, and not of ALL time appointed for all manner of worship.
I do not question but that worship by the godly is performed to God every day of the week; yea, and every night too, and that time is appointed or allowed of God for the performance of such worship. But this time is not fixed to the same moment or hour universally, but is left to the discretion of the believers, as their frame of spirit, or occasions, or exigencies, or temptations, or duty shall require.
We meddle then only with that time that the worship aforesaid is to be performed in; which time the law of nature as such supposes, but the God of nature chooses. And this time as to the churches of the Gentiles, we have proved is not that time which was assigned to the Jews, to wit, THAT seventh day which was imposed upon them by the ministration of death; for, as we have shewed already, that ministration indeed is done away by a better and more glorious ministration, the ministration of the spirit; which ministration surely would be much more inferior than that which has now no glory, was it defective as to this. That is, if it imposed a gospel service, but appointed not time to perform that worship in: or if notwithstanding all its commendation, it should be forced to borrow of a ministration inferior to itself; that, to wit, the time without which by no means its most solemn worship can be performed.
This then is the conclusion, that TIME to worship God in, is required by the law of nature; but that the law of nature doth, as such, fix it on the seventh day from the creation of the world, that I utterly deny, by what I have said already, and have yet to say on that behalf. Yea, I hope to make it manifest, as I have, that this seventh day is removed; that God, by the ministration of the spirit, has changed the time to another day, to wit, The first day of the week. Therefore we conclude the time is fixed for the worship of the New Testament Christians, or churches of the Gentiles, unto that day.
Now in my discourse upon this subject, I shall,
I. Touch upon those texts that are more close, yet have a divine intimation of this thing in them.
II. And then I shall come to texts more express.
FIRST, for those texts that are more close, yet have a divine intimation of this thing in them.
First, The comparison that the Holy Ghost makes between the rest of God from his works, and the rest of Christ from his, doth intimate such a thing. 'He that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his' (Heb 4:10).
Now God rested from his works, and sanctified a day of rest to himself, as a signal of that rest, which day he also gave to his church as a day of holy rest likewise. And if Christ thus rested from his own works, and the Holy Ghost says he did thus rest, he also hath sanctified a day to himself, as that in which he hath finished his work, and given it (that day) also to his church to be an everlasting memento of his so doing, and that they should keep it holy for his sake.
And see, as the Father's work was first, so his day went before; and as the Son's work came after, so his day accordingly succeeded. The Father's day was on the seventh day from the creation, the Son's the first day following.
Nor may this be slighted, because the text says, as God finished his work, so Christ finished his; He also hath ceased from his own works as God did from his. He rested, I say, as God did; but God rested on his resting day, and therefore so did Christ. Not that he rested on the Father's resting day; for it is evident, that then he had great part of his work to do; for he had not as then got his conquest over death, but the next day he also entered into his rest, having by his rising again, finished his work, viz., made a conquest over the powers of darkness, and brought life and immortality to light through his so doing.
So then, that being the day of the rest of the Son of God, it must needs be the day of the rest of his churches also. For God gave his resting day to his church to be a sabbath; and Christ rested from his own works as God did from his, therefore he also gave the day in which he rested from his works, a sabbath to the churches, as did the Father. Not that there are TWO sabbaths at once: the Father's was imposed for a time, even until the Son's should come; yea, as I have shewed you, even in the very time of its imposing it was also ordained to be done away. Hence he saith, that ministration 'was to be done away' (2 Cor 3:7). Therefore we plead not for two sabbaths to be at one time, but that a succession of time was ordained to the New Testament saints, or churches of the Gentiles, to worship God in; which time is that in which the Son rested from his own works as God did from his.
Second, Hence he calls himself, The 'Lord even of the sabbath day,' as Luke 5; Matthew 12:8 shews. Now to be a LORD, is to have dominion, dominion over a thing, and so power to alter or change it according to that power; and where is he that dares say Christ has not this absolutely! We will therefore conclude that it is granted on all hands he hath. The question then is, Whether he hath exercised that power to the demolishing or removing of the Jews' seventh day, and establishing another in its room? The which I think is easily answered, in that he did not rest from his own works therein, but chose, for his own rest, to himself another day.
Surely, had the Lord Jesus intended to have established the seventh day to the churches of the Gentiles, he would himself in the first place have rested from his own works therein; but since he passed by that day, and took no notice of it, as to the finishing of his own works, as God took notice of it when he had finished his; it remains that he fixed upon another day, even the first of the week; on which, by his rising again, and shewing himself to his disciples before his passion, he made it manifest that he had chosen, 'as Lord of the sabbath,' that day for his own rest: consequently, and for the rest of his churches, and for his worship to be solemnized in.
Third, And on THIS day some of the saints that slept arose, and began their eternal sabbath (Matt 27:52,53). See how the Lord Jesus hath glorified this day! Never was such a stamp of divine honour put upon any other day, no not since the world began. 'And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection,' &c. That is, they arose as soon as he was risen. But why was not all this done on the seventh day? No, that day was set apart that saints might adore God for the works of creation, and that saints through that might look for redemption by Christ. But now a work more glorious than that is to be done, and therefore another day is assigned for the doing of it in. A work, I say, of redemption completed, a day therefore by itself must be assigned for this; and some of the saints to begin their eternal sabbath with God in heaven, therefore a day by itself must be appointed for this. Yea, and that this day might not want that glory that might attract the most dim-sighted Christian to a desire after the sanction of it, the resurrection of Christ, and also of those saints met together on it: yea, they both did begin their eternal rest thereon.
Fourth, The psalmist speaks of a day that the Lord Jehovah, the Son of God, has made; and saith, 'we will rejoice and be glad in it.' But what day is this? Why the day in which Christ was made the 'head of the corner,' which must be applied to the day in which he was raised from the dead, which is the first of the week.
Hence Peter saith to the Jews, when he treateth of Christ before them, and particularly of his resurrection. 'This is the stone which WAS set at nought of you builders, which IS become the head of the croner.' He was set at nought by them, the whole course of his ministry unto his death, and was made the head of the corner by God, on that day he rose from the dead. This day therefore is the day that the Lord Jehovah has made a day of rejoicing to the church of Christ, and we will rejoice and be glad in it (Psa 118:24).
For can it be imagined, that the Spirit by the prophet should thus signalise this day for nothing; saying, 'This is the day which the Lord hath made'; to no purpose? Yes, you may say, for the resurrection of his son.
But I add, that that is not all, it is a day that the Lord has both made for that, and that we might 'rejoice and be glad in it.' Rejoice, that is before the Lord while solemn divine worship is performed on it, by all the people that shall partake of the redemption accomplished then.
Fifth, God the Father again leaves such another stamp of divine note and honour upon this day as he never before did leave upon any; where he saith to our Lord, 'Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee' (Acts 13:33). Still, I say, having respect to the first day of the week; for that, and no other, is the day here intended by the apostle. This day, saith God, is the day: 'And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give thee the sure mercies of David. Wherefore he saith also in another Psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.' Wherefore the day in which God did this work, is greater than that in which he finished the work of creation; for his making of the creation saved it not from corruption, but now he hath done a work which corruption cannot touch, wherefore the day on which he did this, has this note from his own mouth, THIS day, as a day that doth transcend.
And, as I said, this day is the first of the week; for it was on that day that God begat his beloved Son from the dead. This first day of the week therefore, on it God found that pleasure which he found not in the seventh day from the world's creation, for that in it his Son did live again to him.
Now shall not Christians, when they do read that God saith, 'This day,' and that too with reference to a work done on it by him, so full of delight to him, and so full of life and heaven to them, set also a remark upon it, saying, This was the day of God's pleasure, for that his Son did rise thereon, and shall it not be the day of my delight in him!
This is the day on which his Son was both begotten and born, and became the first fruits to God of them that sleep; yea, and in which also he was made by him the chief, and head of the corner; and shall not we rejoice in it? (Acts 13:33; Heb 1:5; Col 1:18; Rev 1:5).
Shall kings, and princes, and great men set a remark upon the day of their birth and coronation, and expect that both subjects and servants should do them high honour on that day, and shall the day in which Christ was both begotten and born, be a day contemned by Christians! And his name not be but of a common regard on that day?
I say again, shall God, as with his finger, point, and that in the face of the world, at this day, saying, 'Thou art my Son, this day,' &c., and shall not Christians fear, and awake from their employments, to worship the Lord on this day!
If God remembers it, well may I! If God says, and that with all gladness of heart, 'Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee!' may not! ought not I also to set this day apart to sing the songs of my redemption in?
THIS day my redemption was finished.
This day my dear Jesus revived.
This day he was declared to be the Son of God with power.
Yea this is the day in which the Lord Jesus finished a greater work than ever yet was done in the world; yea, a work in which the Father himself was more delighted than he was in making of heaven and earth. And shall darkness and the shadow of death stain this day! Or shall a cloud dwell on this day! Shall God regard this day from above! And shall not his light shine upon this day! What shall be done to them that curse this day, and would not that the stars should give their light thereon. This day! After this day was come, God never, that we read of, made mention with delight, of the old seventh day sabbath more.
Sixth, Nor is that altogether to be slighted, when he saith, 'When he bringeth in the first-begotten into the world, Let all the angels of God worship him.' To wit, at that very time and day (Heb 1:6).
I know not what our expositors say of this text, but to me it seems to be meant of his resurrection from the dead; both because the apostle is speaking of that (v 5), and closes that argument with this text, 'Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? and again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? And again, when he bringeth in the first-begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.'
So then, for God's bringing of his first-begotten now into the world, was by his raising him again from the dead after they by crucifying of him had turned him out of the same.
Thus then God brought him into the world, never by them to be hurried out of it again. For Christ being now raised from the dead, dies no more; death hath no more dominion over him.
Now, saith the text, when he bringeth him thus into the world, he requireth that worship be done unto HIM. When? That very day, and that by all the angels of God. And if by all, then ministers are not excluded; and if not ministers, then not churches; for what is said to the angels, is said to the church itself (Rev 2:1-7,8,11,12,17,18,29, 3:1,6,7,13,14,22).
So then, if the question be asked, when they must worship him: the answer is, when he brought him into the world, which was on the first day of the week; for then he bringeth him again from the dead, and gave the whole world and the government thereof into his holy hand. This text therefore is of weight as to what we have now under consideration, to wit, that the first day of the week, the day in which God brought his first-begotten into the world, should be the day of worshipping him by all the angels of God.
Seventh, Hence this day is called 'the Lord's day,' as John saith, 'I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day,' the day in which Jesus rose from the dead (Rev 1:10).
'The Lord's day.' Every day, say some, is the Lord's day. Indeed this for discourse sake may be granted; but strictly, no day can so properly be called the Lord's day, as this first day of the week; for that no day of the week or of the year has those badges of the Lord's glory upon it, nor such divine grace put upon it as has the first day of the week.
This we have already made appear in part, and shall make appear much more before we have done therewith.
There is nothing, as I know of, that bears this title but the Lord's supper, and this day (1 Cor 11:20; Rev 1:10). And since Christians count it an abuse to allegorize the first, let them also be ashamed to fantasticalize the last. The Lord's day is doubtless the day in which he rose from the dead. To be sure it is not the old seventh day; for from the day that he arose, to the end of the Bible, we find not that he did hang so much as one twist of glory upon that; but this day is beautified with glory upon glory, and that both by the Father and the Son; by the prophets and those that were raised from the dead thereon; therefore this day must be more than the rest.
But we are as yet but upon divine intimations, drawn from such texts which, if candidly considered, do very much smile upon this great truth; namely, that the first day of the week is to be accounted the Christian sabbath, or holy day for divine worship in the churches of the saints. And SECOND, Now I come to the texts that are more express.
Then First, This was the day in the which he did use to shew himself to his people, and to congregate with them after he rose from the dead. On the first first-day, even on the day on which he rose from the dead, he visited his people, both when together and apart, over, and over, and over, as both Luke and John do testify (Luke 24; John 20). And preached such sermons of his resurrection, and gave unto them; yea, and gave them such demonstration of the truth of all, as was never given them from the foundation of the world. Shewing, he shewed them his risen body; opening, he opened their understandings; and dissipating, he so scattered their unbelief on THIS day, as he never had done before. And this continued one way or another even from before day until the evening.
Second, On the next first day following the church was within again; that is, congregated to wait upon their Lord. And John so relates the matter, as to give us to understand that they were not so assembled together again till then. 'After eight days,' saith he, 'again his disciples were within,' clearly concluding, that they were not so on the days that were between, no not on the old seventh day.
Now why should the Holy Ghost thus precisely speak of their assembling together upon the first day, if not to confirm us in this, that the Lord had chosen that day for the new sabbath of his church? Surely the Apostles knew what they did in their meeting together upon that day; yea, and the Lord Jesus also; for that he used so to visit them when so assembled, made his practice a law unto them. For practice is enough for us New Testament saints, especially when the Lord Jesus himself is in the head of that practice, and that after he rose from the dead.
Perhaps some may stumble at the word 'after,' after eight days; but the meaning is, at the conclusion of the eighth day, or when they had spent in a manner the whole of their sabbath in waiting upon their Lord, then in comes their Lord, and finisheth that their day's service to him with confirming of Thomas' faith, and by letting drop other most heavenly treasure among them. Christ said, he must lie three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, yet it is evident, that he rose the third day (1 Cor 15:4).
We must take then a part for the whole, and conclude, that from the time that the Lord Jesus rose from the dead, to the time that he shewed his hands and his side to Thomas, eight days were almost expired; that is, he had sanctified unto them two first days, and had accepted that service they had performed to him therein, as he testified by giving of them so blessed a farewell at the conclusion of both those days.
Hence now we conclude, that this was the custom of the church at this day, to wit, upon the first day of the week to meet together, and to wait upon their Lord therein. For the Holy Ghost counts it needless to make a continued repetition of things; it is enough therefore if we have now and then mention made thereof.
Obj. But Christ shewed himself alive to them at other times also, as in John 21 &c.
Ans. The names of all those days in which he so did are obliterated and blotted out, that they might not be idolized; for Christ did not set them apart for worship, but this day, the first day of the week, by its name is kept alive in the church, the Holy Ghost surely signifying thus much, that how hidden soever other days were, Christ would have his day, the first day had in everlasting remembrance among saints.
Churches also meet together now on the week days, and have the presence of Christ with them too in their employments; but that takes not off from them the sanction of the first day of the week, no more than it would take away the sanction of the old seventh day, had it still continued holy to them: wherefore this is no let or objection to hinder our sanctifying of the first day of the week to our God. But,
Third, Add to this, that upon Pentecost, which was the first day of the week, mention is made of their being together again: for Pentecost was always the morrow after the sabbath, the old seventh day sabbath. Upon this day, I say, the Holy Ghost saith, they were again 'with one accord together in one place.'
But oh! the glory that then attended them, by the presence of the Holy Ghost among them: never was such a thing done as was done on that first day until then. We will read the text, 'And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost' (Acts 2:1-4).
Here is a first day glorified! Here's a countenance given to the day of their Christian assembling. But we will note a few things upon it.
1. The church was now, as on other first days, all with one accord in one place. We read not that they came together by virtue of any precedent revelation, nor by accident, but contrariwise by agreement, they were together 'with one accord,' or by appointment, in pursuance of their duty, setting apart that day, as they had done the first days afore, to the holy service of their blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
2. We read that this meeting of theirs was not begun on the old sabbaths, but when Pentecost was fully come: the Holy Ghost intimating, that they had left now, and began to leave, the seventh day sabbath to the unbelieving Jews.
3. Nor did the Holy Ghost come down upon them till every moment of the old sabbath was past, Pentecost, as was said, was FULLY come first. 'And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.' And then, &c.
And why was not this done on the seventh day sabbath? But, possibly, to shew, that the ministration of death and condemnation was not that, by or through which Christ the Lord would communicate so good a gift unto his churches (Gal 3:1-5).
This gift must be referred to the Lord's day, the first day of the week, to fulfil the scripture, and to sanctify yet farther this holy day unto the use of all New Testament churches of the saints. For since on the first day of the week our Lord did rise from the dead, and by his special presence, I mean his personal, did accompany his church therein, and so preach as he did, his holy truths unto them, it was most meet that they on the same day also should receive the first fruits of their eternal life most gloriously.
And, I say again, since from the resurrection of Christ to this day, the church then did receive upon the first day, but as we read, upon no other, such glorious things as we have mentioned, it is enough to beget in the hearts of them that love the Son of God, a high esteem of the first day of the week. But how much more, when there shall be joined to these, proof that it was the custom of the first gospel church, the church of Christ at Jerusalem, after our Lord was risen, to assemble together to wait upon God on the first day of the week with their Lord as leader.
To say little more to this head, but only to repeat what is written of this day of old, to wit, that it should be proclaimed the selfsame day, to wit, the morrow after the sabbath, which is the first day of the week, 'that it may be an holy convocation unto you; ye shall do no servile work therein: it shall be a statute for ever in all your dwellings' (Lev 23:21).
This ceremony was about the sheaf that was to be waved, and bread of first fruits, which was a type of Christ; for he is unto God 'the first fruits of them that slept' (1 Cor 15:20).
This sheaf, or bread, must not be waved on the old seventh day, but on the morrow after, which is the first day of the week, the day in which Christ rose from the dead, and waved himself as the first fruits of the elect unto God. Now from this day they were to count seven sabbaths complete, and on the morrow after the seventh sabbath, which was the first day of the week again; and this Pentecost upon which we now are, then they were to have a new meat offering, with meat offerings and drink offerings, &c.
And on the selfsame day they were to proclaim that that first day should be a holy convocation unto them. The which the apostles did, and grounded that their proclamation so on the resurrection of Jesus Christ, not on ceremonies, that at the same day they brought three thousand souls to God (Acts 2:41).
Now what another signal [applause] was here put upon the first day of the week! The day in which our Lord rose from the dead, assembled with his disciples, poured out so abundantly of the Spirit, and gathered even by the first draught that his fishermen made by the gospel, such a number of souls to God.
Thus then they proclaimed, and thus they gathered sinners on the first first-day that they preached; for though they had assembled together over and over with their Lord before therein, yet they began not jointly to preach until this first day Pentecost.
Now, after this the apostles to the churches did never make mention of a seventh day sabbath. For as the wave sheaf and the bread of first fruits were a figure of the Lord Jesus, and the waving, of his life from the dead: so that morrow after the sabbath on which the Jews waved their sheaf, was a figure of that on which our Lord did rise; consequently, when their morrow after the sabbath ceased, our morrow after that began, and so has continued a blessed morrow after their sabbath, as a holy sabbath to Christians from that time ever since.
Fourth, We come yet more close to the custom of churches; I mean, to the custom of the churches of the Gentiles; for as yet we have spoken but of the practice of the church of God which was at Jerusalem; only we will add, that the customs that were laudable and binding with the church at Jerusalem, were with reverence to be imitated by the churches of the Gentiles; for there was but one law of Christ for them both to worship by.
Now then, to come to the point, to wit, that it was the custom of the churches of the Gentiles, on the first day of the week, but upon no other that we read of, to come together to perform divine worship to their Lord.
Hence it is said 'And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread,' &c. (Acts 20:7). This is a text, that as to matter of fact cannot be contradicted by any, for the text saith plainly they did so, the disciples then came together to break bread, the disciples among the Gentiles, did so.
Thus you see that the solemnizing of a first day to holy uses was not limited to, though first preached by the church that was at Jerusalem. The church at Jerusalem was the mother church, and not that at Rome, as some falsely imagine; for from this church went out the law and the holy word of God to the Gentiles. Wherefore it must be supposed that this meeting of the Gentiles on the first day of the week to break bread, came to them by holy tradition from the church at Jerusalem, since they were the first that kept the first day as holy unto the Lord their God.
And indeed, they had the best advantage to do it; for they had their Lord in the head of them to back them to it by his presence and preaching thereon.
But we will a little comment upon the text. 'Upon the first day of the week.' Thus you see the day is nominated, and so is kept alive among the churches. For in that the day is nominated on which this religious exercise was performed, it is to be supposed that the Holy Ghost would have it live, and be taken notice of by the churches that succeed.
It also may be nominated to shew, that both the church at Jerusalem, and those of the Gentiles did harmonize in their sabbath, jointly concluding to solemnize worship on a [the same] day. And then again to shew, that they all had left the old sabbath to the unbelievers, and jointly chose to sanctify the day of the rising of their Lord, to this work.
They 'came together to break bread,' to partake of the super of the Lord. And what day so fit as the Lord's day for this? This was to be the work of that day, to wit, to solemnize that ordinance among themselves, adjoining other solemn worship thereto, to fill up the day, as the following part of the verse shews. This day therefore was designed for this work, the whole day, for the text declares it. The first day of the week was set by them apart for this work.
'Upon THE first day'; not upon A first day, or upon one first day, or upon such a first day; for had he said so, we had had from thence not so strong an argument for our purpose: but when he saith, 'upon the first day of the week' they did it, he insinuates, that it was their custom. [It was] also upon one of these, [that] Paul being among them, preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow. Upon the first day: what, or which first day of this, or that, of the third or fourth week of the month? No, but upon the first day, every first day; for so the text admits us to judge.
'Upon the first day of the week, WHEN the disciples came together,' supposes a custom when, or as they were wont to come together to perform such service among themselves to God: then Paul preached unto them, &c.
It is a text also that supposes an agreement among themselves as to this thing. They came together then to break bread; they had appointed to do it then, for that then was the day of their Lord's resurrection, and that in which he himself congregated after he revived, with the first gospel church, the church at Jerusalem.
Thus you see, that breaking of bread, was the work, the work that by general consent was agreed to be by the churches of the Gentiles performed upon the first day of the week. I say, by the churches; for I doubt not but that the practice here, was also the practice of the rest of the Gentile churches, even as it had been before the practice of the church at Jerusalem.
For this practice now did become universal, and so this text implies; for he speaks here universally of the practice of all disciples as such, though he limits Paul preaching to that church with whom he at present personally was. Upon the first day of the week, 'when the disciples came together to break bread,' Paul being at that time at Troas preached to them on that day.
Thus then you see how the Gentile churches did use to break bread, not on the old sabbath, but on the first day of the week. And, I say, they had it from the church at Jerusalem; where the apostles were first seated, and beheld the way of their Lord with their eyes.
Now, I say, since we have so ample an example, not only of the church at Jerusalem, but also of the churches of the Gentiles, for the keeping of the first day to the Lord, and that as countenanced by Christ and his apostles, we should not be afraid to tread in their steps, for their practice is the same with law and commandment. But,
Fifth, We will add to this another text. 'Now [saith Paul] concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. 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' (1 Cor 16:1,2).
This text some have greatly sought to evade, counting the duty here, on this day to be done, a duty too inferior for the sanction of an old seventh day sabbath; when yet to show mercy to an ass on the old sabbath, was a work which our Lord no ways condemns (Luke 13:15, 14:5).
But to pursue our design, we have a duty enjoined, and that of no inferior sort. If charity be indeed as it is, the very bond of perfectness: and if without it all our doings, yea and sufferings too, are not worthy so much as a rush (1 Cor 13; Col 3:14). we have here a duty, I say, that a seventh day sabbath, when in force, was not too big for it to be performed in.
The work now to be done, was, as you see, to bestow their charity upon the poor; yea, to provide for time to come. And I say, it must be collected upon the first day of the week. Upon THE first day; not A first day, as signifying one or two, but upon THE first day, even every first day; for so your ancient Bibles have it; also our later must be so understood, or else Paul had left them to whom he did write, utterly at a loss. For if he intended not every first day, and yet did not specify a particular one, it could hardly even have been understood which first day he meant. But we need not stand upon this. This work was a work for A first-day, for EVERY first day of the week.
Note again that we have this duty here commanded and enforced by an apostolical order: 'I have given order,' saith Paul, for this; and his orders, as he saith in another place, 'are the commandments of the Lord.' You have it in the same epistle (chap. 14:37).
Whence it follows, that there was given even by the apostles themselves, a holy respect to the first day of the week above all the days of the week; yea, or of the year besides.
Further, I find also by this text, that this order is universal. I have, saith he, given this order not only to you, but to the churches of Galatia. Consequently to all other that were concerned in this collection (2 Cor 8, 9, &c.).
Now this, whatever others may think, puts yet more glory upon the first day of the week. For in that all the churches are commanded, as to make their collections, so to make them on this day: what is it, but that this day, by reason of the sanction that Christ put upon it, was of virtue to sanctify the offering through and by Christ Jesus, as the altar and temple afore did sanctify the gift and gold that was, and was offered on them. The proverb is, 'The better day, the better deed.' And I believe, that things done on the Lord's day, are better done, than on other days of the week, in his worship.
Obj. But yet, say some, here are no orders to keep this first day holy to the Lord.
Ans. 1. That is supplied; for that by this very text this day is appointed, above all the days of the week, to do this holy duty in.
2.. You must understand that this order is but additional, and now enjoined to fill up that which was begun as to holy exercise of religious worship by the churches long before.
3. The universality of the duty being enjoined to this day, supposes that this day was universally kept by the churches as holy already.
4. And let him that scrupleth this, shew me, if he can, that God by the mouth of his apostles did ever command that all the churches should be confined to this or that duty on such a day, and yet put no sanction upon that day; or that he has commanded that this work should be done on the first day of the week, and yet has reserved other church ordinances as a public solemnization of worship to him, to be done of another day, as of a day more fit, more holy.
5. If charity, if a general collection for the saints in the churches is commanded on this day, and on no other day but this day; for church collection is commanded on no other, there must be a reason for it: and if that reason had not respect to the sanction of the day, I known to why the duty should be so strictly confined to it.
6. But for the apostle now to give with this a particular command to the churches to sanctify that day as holy unto the Lord, had been utterly superfluous; for that they already, and that by the countenance of their Lord, and his church at Jerusalem, had done.
Before now, I say, it was become a custom, as by what hath been said already is manifest: wherefore what need that their so solemn a practice be imposed again upon the brethren? An intimation now of a continued respect thereto, by the very naming of the day, is enough to keep the sanctity thereof on foot in the churches. How much more then, when the Lord is still adding holy duty to holy duty, to be performed upon that day. So then, in that the apostle writes to the churches to do this holy duty on the first day of the week, he puts them in mind of the sanction of the day, and insinuates, that he would still have them have a due respect thereto.
Quest. But is there yet another reason why this holy duty should, in special as it is, be commanded to be performed on the first day of the week?
Ans. 1. Yes: for that now the churches were come together in their respective places, the better to agree about collections, and to gather them. You know church worship is a duty, so long as we are in the world, and so long also is this of making collections for the saints. And for as much as the apostle speaks here, as I have hinted afore, of a church collection, when is it more fit to be done, than when the church is come together upon the first day of the week to worship God?
2. This part of worship is most comely to be done upon the first day of the week, and that at the close of that day's work. For thereby the church shows, not only her thankfulness to God for a sabbath day's mercy, but also returneth him, by giving to the poor, that sacrifice for their benefit that is most behoveful to make manifest their professed subjection to Christ (Prov 19:17; 2 Cor 9:12-15). It is therefore necessary, that this work be done on the first day of the week, for a comely close of the worship that we perform to the Lord our God on that day.
3. On the first day of the week, when the church is performing of holy worship unto God, then that of collection for the saints is most meet to be performed; because then, in all likelihood, our hearts will be most warm with the divine presence; consequently most open and free to contribute to the necessity of the saints. You know, that a man when his heart is open, is taken with some excellent thing; then, if at all, it is most free to do something for the promoting thereof.
Why, waiting upon God in the way of his appointments, opens, and makes free, the heart to the poor: and because the first day of the week was it in which now such solemn service to him was done, therefore also the apostle commanded, that upon the same day also, as on a day most fit, this duty of collecting for the poor should be done. 'For God loveth a cheerful giver' (2 Cor 9:6,7).
Wherefore the apostle by this, takes the churches as it were at the advantage, and as we say, [strikes] while the iron is hot, to the intent he might, what in him lay, make their collections, not sparing nor of a grudging mind, but to flow from cheerfulness. And the first day of the week, though its institution be set aside, doth most naturally tend to this; because it is the day, the only day, on which we received such blessings from God (Acts 3:26).
This is the day on which, at first, it rained manna all day long from heaven upon the new testament church, and so continues to do this day.
Oh! the resurrection of Christ, which was on this day, and the riches that we receive thereby. Though it should be, and is, I hope thought on every day; yet when the first of the week is fully come! Then to-day! This day! This is the day to be warmed; this day he was begotten from the dead.
The thought of this, will do much with an honest mind: this is the day, I say, that the first saints did find, and that after saints do find the blessings of God come down upon them; and therefore this is the day here commanded to be set apart for holy duties.
And although what I have said may be but little set by of some, yet, for a closing word as to this, I do think, could but half so much be produced from the day Christ rose from the dead quite down [to the end of revelation], for the sanction of a seventh day sabbath in the churches of the Gentiles, it would much sway with me. But the truth is, neither doth the apostle Paul, nor any of his fellows, so much as once speak one word to the churches that shows the least regard, as to conscience to God, of a seventh day sabbath more. No, the first day, the first day, the first day, is now all the cry in the churches by the apostles, for the performing church worship in to God. Christ began it on THAT day: then the Holy Ghost seconded it on that day: then the churches practised it on that day. And to conclude; the apostle by the command now under consideration, continues the sanction of that day to the churches to the end of the world.
But as to the old seventh day sabbath, as hath been said afore in this treatise, Paul, who is the apostle of the Gentiles, has so taken away that whole ministration in the bowels of which it is; yea, and has so stript it of its old testament grandeur, both by terms and arguments, that it is strange to me it should by any be still kept up in the churches; specially, since the same apostle, and that at the same time, has put a better ministration in its place (2 Cor 3).
But when the consciences of good men are captivated with an error, none can stop them from a prosecution thereof, as if were itself of the best of truths.
Obj. But Paul preached frequently on the old sabbath, and that after the resurrection of Christ.
Ans. To the unbelieving Jews and their proselytes, I grant he did. But we read not that he did it to any new testament church on that day: nor did he celebrate the instituted worship of Christ in the churches on that day. For Paul, who had before cast out the ministration of death, as that which had no glory, would not now take thereof any part for new testament instituted worship; for he knew that that would veil the heart, and blind the mind from that, which yet instituted worship was ordained to discover.
He preached then on the seventh day sabbath, of a divine and crafty love to the salvation of the unbelieving Jews.
I say, he preached now on that day to them and their proselytes, because that day was theirs by their estimation. He did it, I say, of great love to their souls, that if possible, he might save some of them.
Wherefore, if you observe, you shall still find, that where it is said that he preached on that day, it was to that people, not to the churches of Christ. See Acts 9:20, 13:14-16, 16:13, 17:1-3, 18:4.
Thus, though he had put away the sanction of that day as to himself, and had left the Christians that were weak to their liberty as to conscience to it, yet he takes occasion upon it to preach to the Jews that still were wedded to it, the faith, that they might be saved by grace.
Paul did also many other things that were Jewish and ceremonial, for which he had, as then, no conscience at all, as to any sanction that he believed was in them.
As his circumcising of Timothy (Acts 16:1-3).
His shaving of his head (Acts 18:18).
His submitting to Jewish purifications (Acts 21:24-26).
His acknowledging of himself a Pharisee (chap. 23:6).
His implicitly owning of Ananias for high priest after Christ was risen from the dead (Acts 23:1-5).
He tells us also that, 'unto the Jews he became as a Jew' that he might save the Jew. And 'without law,' to them that were without law, that also he might gain them. Yea, he became, as he saith, 'all things to all men,' that he might gain the more, as it is 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.
But these things, as I said, he did not of conscience to the things; for he knew that their sanction was gone. Nor would he suffer them to be imposed upon the churches directly or indirectly; no, not by Peter himself (Gal 2:11).
Were I in Turkey with a church of Jesus Christ, I would keep the first day of the week to God, and for the edification of his people: and would also preach the word to the infidels on their sabbath day, which is our Friday; and be glad too, if I might have such opportunity to try to persuade them to a love of their own salvation.
Obj. But if the seventh day sabbath is, as you say, to be laid aside by the churches of the Gentiles, why doth Christ say to his, 'Pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day?' For, say some, by this saying it appears, that the old seventh day sabbath, as you have called it, will as to the sanction of it, abide in force after Christ is ascended into heaven.
Ans. I say first, these words were spoken to the Jewish Christians, not to the Gentile churches. And the reason of this first hint, you will see clearer afterwards.
The Jews had several sabbaths; as, their seventh day sabbath, their monthly sabbaths, their sabbath of years, and their jubilee (Lev 25).
Now if he means their ordinary sabbaths, or that called the seventh day sabbath, why doth he join the winter thereto? for in that he joineth the winter with that sabbath that he exhorteth them to pray their flight might not be in, it should seem that he meaneth rather their sabbath of years, or their jubilee, which did better answer one to another than one day and a winter could.
And I say again, that Christ should suppose that their flight should, or might last some considerable part of a winter, and yet that then they should have their rest on those seventh day sabbaths, is a little beside my reason, if it be considered again, that the Gentiles before whom they were then to fly, were enemies to their sabbath, and consequently would take opportunity at their sabbaths to afflict them so much the more. Wherefore, I would that they who plead for a continuation of the seventh day sabbath from this text, would both better consider it, and the incoherence that seems to be betwixt such a sabbath and a winter.
But again, were it granted that it is the seventh day sabbath that Christ here intendeth; yet, since as we have proved, the sanction before this was taken away; I mean before this flight should be, he did not press them to pray thus because by any law of heaven they should then be commanded to keep it holy; but because some would, through their weakness, have conscience of it till then. And such would, if their flight should happen thereon, be as much grieved and perplexed, as if it yet stood obligatory to them by a law.
This seems to have some truth in it, because among the Jews that believed, there continued a long time many that were wedded yet to the law, to the ceremonial part thereof, and were not so clearly evangelized as the churches of the Gentiles were. 'Thou seest brother,' said James to Paul, 'how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law' (Acts 21:20, 15:5).
Of these, and such weak unbelieving Jews, perhaps Christ speaks, when he gives this exhortation to them to pray thus; whose consciences he knew would be weak, and being so, would bind when they were entangled with an error, as fast as if it bound by a law indeed.
Again, though the seventh day sabbath and ceremonies lost their sanction at the resurrection of Christ, yet they retained some kind of being in the church of the Jews, until the desolation spoken of by Daniel should be.
Hence it is said, that then the oblation and sacrifices shall cease (Dan 9:27). And hence it is, that Jerusalem and the temple are still called the holy place, even until this flight should be (Matt 24:15).
Now if Jerusalem and the temple are still called holy, even after the body and substance, of which they were shadows, were come; then no marvel though some to that day that believed were entangled therewith, &c. For it may very well be supposed that all conscience of them would not be quite taken away, until all reason for that conscience should be taken away also. But when Jerusalem, and the temple, and the Jews' worship, by the Gentiles was quite extinct by ruins, then in reason that conscience did cease. And it seems by some texts, that all conscience to them was not taken away till then.
Quest. But what kind of being had the seventh day sabbath, and other Jewish rites and ceremonies, that by Christ's resurrection were taken away?
Ans. These things had a virtual and a nominal being. As to their virtual being, that died that day Christ did rise from the dead, they being crucified with him on the cross (Col 2).
But now, when the virtual being was gone, they still with the weak retained their name, among many of the Jews that believed, until the abomination that maketh desolate stood in the holy place: for in Paul's time they were, as to that, but ready to vanish away.
Now, I say, they still retaining their nominal grandeur, though not by virtue of a law, they could not, till time and dispensation came, be swept out of the way. We will make what hath been said, as to this, out by a familiar similitude.
There is a lord or great man dies; now being dead, he has lost his virtual life. He has now no relation to a wife, to children, virtually; yet his name still abides, and that in that family, to which otherwise he is dead. Wherefore they embalm him, and also keep him above ground for many days. Yea, he is still reverenced by those of the family, and that in several respects. Nor doth any thing but time and dispensation wear this name away.
Thus then the Old Testament signs and shadows went off the stage in the church of Christ among the Jews. They lost their virtue and signification when Christ nailed them to his cross (Col 2). But as to their name, and the grandeur that attended that, it continued with many that were weak, and vanished not, but when the abomination that made them desolate came.
The sum then and conclusion of the matter is this; the seventh day sabbath lost its glory when that ministration in which it was, lost its: But yet the name thereof might abide a long time with the Jewish legal Christians, and so might become obligatory still, though not by the law, to their conscience, even as circumcision and other ceremonies did: and to them it would be as grievous to fly on that day, as if by law it was still in force.
For, I say, to a weak conscience, that law which has lost its life, may yet through their ignorance, be as binding as if it stood still upon the authority of God.
Things then become obligatory these two ways. (1.) By an institution of God. (2.) By the over-ruling power of a man's misinformed conscience. And although by virtue of an institution divine worship is acceptable to God by Christ, yet conscience will make that a man shall have but little ease if such rules and dictates as it imposes be not observed by him.
This is my answer, upon a supposition that the seventh day sabbath is in this text intended: and the answer, I think, stands firm and good.
Also, there remains, notwithstanding this objection, no divine sanction in or upon the old seventh day sabbath.
Some indeed will urge, that Christ here meant the first day of the week, which here he puts under the term of sabbath. But this is foreign to me, so I waive it till I receive more satisfaction in the thing.
Quest. But if indeed the first day of the week be the new christian sabbath, why is there no more spoken of its institution in the testament of Christ?
Ans. No more! What need is there of more than enough! Yea, there is a great deal found in the testament of the Lord Jesus to prove its authority divine.
(1.) For we have shewed from sundry scriptures, that from the very day our Lord did rise from the dead, the church at Jerusalem, in which the twelve apostles were, did meet together on that day, and had the Lord himself for their preacher, while they were auditors; and thus the day began.
(2.) We have shewed that the Holy Ghost, the third person in the Trinity, did second this of Christ, in coming down from heaven upon this day to manage the apostles in their preaching; and in that very day so managed them in that work, that by his help they then did bring three thousand souls to God.
(3.) We have shewed also, that after this the gentile churches did solemnize this day for holy worship, and that they had from Paul both countenance and order so to do.
And now I will add, that more need not be spoken: for the practice of the first church, with their Lord in the head of them to manage them in that practice, is as good as many commands. What then shall we say, when we see a first practice turned into holy custom?
I say, moreover, that though a seventh day sabbath is not natural to man as man, yet our christian holy day is natural to us as saints, if our consciences are not clogged before with some old fables, or Jewish customs.
But if an old religion shall get footing and rooting in us, though the grounds thereof be vanished away, yet the man concerned will be hard put to it, should he be saved, to get clear of his clouds, and devote himself to that service of God which is of his own prescribing.
Luther himself, though he saw many things were without ground which he had received for truth, had yet work hard enough, as himself intimates, to get his conscience clear from all those roots and strings of inbred error.
But, I say, to an untainted and well bred Christian, we have good measure, shaken together, and running over, for our christian Lord's day. And I say again, that the first day of the week, and the spirit of such a Christian, suit one another as nature suiteth nature; for there is as it were a natural instinct in Christians, as such, when they understand what in a first day was brought forth, to fall in therewith to keep it holy to their Lord.
1. The first day of the week! Why it was the day of our life. 'After two days he will revive us,' and in the third day 'we shall live in his sight.' 'After two days' there is the Jews' preparation, and seventh day sabbath, quite passed over; and in the third day, that is the first day of the week, which is the day our Lord did rise from the dead, we began to live by him in the sight of God (Hosea 6:2; John 20:1; 1 Cor 15:4).
2. The first day of the week! That is the day in which, as I hinted before, our Lord was wont to preach to his disciples after he rose form the dead; in which also he did use to shew them his hands and his feet (Luke 24:38,39; John 20:25). To the end they might be confirmed in the truth of his victory over death and the grave for them. The day in which he made himself known to them in breaking bread. The day in which he so plentifully poured out the Holy Ghost upon them. The day in which the church, both at Jerusalem and those of the Gentiles, did use to perform to God divine worship: all which has before been sufficiently proved. And shall we not imitate our Lord, nor the church that was immediately acted by him in this, and the churches their fellows? Shall, I say, the Lord Jesus do all this in his church, and they together with him! Shall the churches of the Gentiles also fall in with their Lord and with their mother at Jerusalem herein! And again, shall all this be so punctually committed to sacred story, with the day in which these things were done, under denomination, over and over, saying, These things were done on the first day, on the first day, on the first day of the week, while all other days are, as to name, buried in everlasting oblivion! And shall we not take that notice thereof as to follow the Lord Jesus and the churches herein? Oh stupidity!
3. This day of the week! They that make but observation of what the Lord did of old, to as many sinners, and with his churches on this day, must needs conclude, that in this day the treasures of heaven were broken up, and the richest things therein communicated to his church. Shall the children of this world be, as to this also, wiser in their generations than the children of light, and former saints, upon whose shoulders we pretend to stand, go beyond us here also.
Jacob could by observation gather that the place where he lay down to sleep was no other but the house of God, and the very gate of heaven (Gen 28:17).
Laban could gather by observation, that the Lord blessed him for Jacob's sake (Gen 30:27).
David could gather by what he met with upon Mount Moriah, that that was the place where God would have the temple builded, therefore he sacrificed there (1 Chron 21:26-28, 22:1,2; 2 Chron 3:1).
Ruth was to mark the place where Boaz lay down to sleep, and shall not Christians also mark the day in which our Lord rose from the dead (Ruth 3:4).
I say, shall we not mark it, when so many memorable things were done on it, for, and to and in the churches of God! Let saints be ashamed to think that such a day should be looked over, or counted common, when tempted to it by Satan, when [it was] kept to religious service of old, and when beautified with so many divine characters of sanctity as we have proved, by Christ, his church, the Holy Ghost, and the command of apostolical authority it was.
But why, I say, is this day, on which our Lord rose from the dead, nominated as it is? why was it not sufficient to say 'he rose again,' or, he rose again the third day? without a specification of the very name of the day. For, as was said afore, Christ appeared to his disciples, after his resurrection, on other days also, yea, and thereon did miracles to. Why then did not these days live? Why was their name, for all that, blotted out, and this day only kept alive in the churches?
The day on which Christ was born of a virgin; the day of his circumcision, the day of his baptism, and of his transfiguration, are not by their names committed by the Holy Ghost to holy writ to be kept alive in the world, nor yet such days in which he did many great and wonderful things. But THIS day, this day is still nominated; the first day of the week is the day. I say, why are things thus left with us? But because we, as saints of old, should gather, and separate, what is of divine authority from the rest. For in that this day is so often nominated while all other days lie dead in their graves, it is as much as if God should say, Remember the first day of the week to keep it holy to the Lord your God.
And set this aside, and I know not what reason can be rendered, or what prophecy should be fulfilled by the bare naming of the day.
When God, of old, did sanctify for the use of his church a day, as he did many, he always called them either by the name of the day of the month, or of the week, or by some other signal by which they might be certainly known, why should it not then be concluded, that for this very reason the first day of the week is thus often nominated by the Holy Ghost in the testament of Christ?
Moreover, he that takes away the first day, as to this service, leaves us now no day, as sanctified of God, for his solemn worship to be by his churches performed in. As for the seventh day sabbath, that, as we have seen, is gone to its grave with the signs and shadows of the Old Testament. Yea, and has such a dash left upon it by apostolical authority, that it is enough to make a Christian fly from it for ever (2 Cor 3).
Now, I say, since that is removed by God: if we should suffer the first day also to be taken away by man, what day that has a divine stamp upon it, would be left for us to worship God in?
Alas! the first day of the week is the Christian's market day, that which they so solemnly trade in for sole provision for all the week following. This is the day that they gather manna in. To be sure the seventh day sabbath is not that. For of old the people of God could never find manna on that day. 'On the seventh day [said Moses] which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none' (Exo 16:26).
Any day of the week manna could be found, but on that day it was not to be found upon the face of the ground. But now our first day is the manna day; the only day that the churches of the New Testament, even of old, did gather manna in. But more of this anon.
Nor will it out of my mind but that it is a very high piece of ingratitude, and of uncomely behaviour, to deny the Son of God his day, the Lord's day, the day that he has made. And as we have shewed already, this first day of the week is it; yea, and a great piece of unmannerliness is it too, for any, notwithstanding the old seventh day is so degraded as it is, to attempt to impose it on the Son of God. To impose a day upon him which yet Paul denies to be a branch of the ministration of the Spirit, and of righteousness. Yea, to impose a part of that ministration which he says plainly 'which was done away,' for that a better ministration stript it of its glory, is a high attempt indeed (2 Cor 3).
Yet again, the apostle smites the teachers of the law upon the mouth, saying, 'understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm' (1 Tim 1:7).
The seventh day sabbath, was indeed God's rest from the works of creation; but yet the rest that he found in what the first day of the week did produce, for Christ was born from the dead on it, more pleased him than did all the seventh days that ever the world brought forth: wherefore, as I said before, it cannot be but that the well-bred Christian must set apart this day for solemn worship to God, and to sanctify his name therein.
Must the church of old be bound to remember that night in which they did come out of Egypt! must Jephtha's daughter have four days for the virgins of Israel yearly to lament her hard case in! Yea, must two days be kept by the church of old, yearly, for their being delivered from Haman's fury! And must not one to the world's end be kept by the saints for the Son of God their Redeemer, for all he has delivered them from a worse than Pharaoh or Haman, even from the devil, and death, and sin, and hell! Oh stupidity! (Exo 12:24; Judg 11:39,40; Esth 9:26-32).
A day! say some, God forbid but he should have a day. But what day? Oh! The old day comprised within the bounds and bowels of the ministration of death.
And is this the love that thou hast to thy Redeemer, to keep that day to him for all the service that he hath done for thee, which has a natural tendency in it to draw thee off from the consideration of the works of thy redemption, to the creation of the world! Oh stupidity!
But why must he be imposed upon? Has he chosen that day? Did he finish his work thereon? Is there in all the New Testament of our Lord, from the day he rose from the dead, to the end of his holy book, one syllable that signifies in the least the tenth part of such a thing? where is the scripture that saith that this Lord of the sabbath commanded his church, from that time, to do any part of church service thereon? Where do we find the churches to gather together thereon?
But why the seventh day? What is it? Take but the shadow thereof away. Or what shadow now is left in it since its institution as to divine service is taken long since from it?
Is there any thing in the works that was done in that day, more than shadow, or that in the least tends otherwise to put us in mind of Christ; and he being come, what need have we of that shadow? And I say again, since that day was to be observed by a ceremonial method, and no way else, as we find; and since ceremonies have ceased, what way of divine appointment is there left to keep that old sabbath by Christians in?
If they say, ceremonies have ceased. By the same argument, so is the sanction of the day in which they were to be performed. I would gladly see the place, if it is to be found, where it is said, That day retains its sanction, which yet has lost that method of service which was of God appointed for the performance of worship to him thereon.
When Canaan worship fell, the sanction of Canaan fell. When temple worship, and altar worship, and the sacrifices of the Levitical priesthood fell, down also came the things themselves. Likewise so, when the service, or shadow and ceremonies of the seventh day sabbath fell, the seventh day sabbath fell likewise.
On the seventh day sabbath, as I told you, manna was not to be found. But why? For that that day was of Moses and of the ministration of death. But manna was not of him. Moses, saith Christ, 'gave you not that bread of heaven' (John 6:31,32). Moses, as was said, gave that sabbath in tables of stone, and God gave that manna from heaven. Christ, nor his Father, gives grace by the law; no not by that law in which is contained the old seventh day sabbath itself.
The law is not of faith, why then should grace be by Christians expected by observation of the law? The law, even the law written and engraven in stones, enjoins perfect obedience thereto on pain of the curse of God. Nor can that part of it now under consideration, according as is required, be fulfilled by any man, was the ceremony thereto belonging, allowed to be laid aside (Isa 58:13). Never man yet did keep it perfectly, except he whose name is Jesus Christ: in him therefore we have kept it, and by him are set free from that law, and brought under the ministration of the Spirit.
But why should we be bound to seek manna on that day, on which God says, none shall be found.
Perhaps it will be said, that the sanction of that day would not admit that manna should be gathered on it.
But that was not all, for on that day there was none to be found. And might I choose, I had rather sanctify that day to God on which I might gather this bread of God all day long, then set my mind at all upon that in which no such bread was to be had.
The Lord's day, as was said, is to the Christians the principal manna day.
On this day, even on it manna in the morning very early was gathered by the disciples of our Lord, as newly springing out of the ground. The true bread of God: the sheaf of first fruits, which is Christ from the dead, was ordained to be waved before the Lord on the morrow after the sabbath, the day on which our Lord ceased from his own work as God did from his (Lev 23).
Now therefore the disciples found their green ears of corn indeed! Now they read life, both in and out of the sepulchre in which the Lord was laid. Now they could not come together nor speak one to another, but either their Lord was with them, or they had heart enflaming tidings from him. Now cries one and says, The Lord is risen: And then another and says, He hath appeared to such and such.
Now comes tidings to the eleven that their women were early at the sepulchre, where they had a vision of angels that told them their Lord was risen: Then comes another and says, The Lord is risen indeed. Two also came from Emmaus and cried, We have seen the Lord: and by and by, while they yet were speaking, their Lord shows himself in the midst of them.
Now he calls to their mind some of their eminent passages of his life, and eats and drinks in their presence, and opens the scriptures to them: yea, and opens their understanding too, that their hearing might not be unprofitable to them; all which continued from early in the morning till late at night. Oh! what a manna day was this to the church. And more than all this you will find, if you read but the four evangelists upon this subject.
Thus began the day after the sabbath, and thus it has continued through all ages to this very day. Never did the seventh day sabbath yield manna to Christians. A new world was now begun with the poor church of God, for so said the Lord of the sabbath, 'Behold, I make all things new.' A new covenant, and why not then a new resting day to the church? Or why must the old sabbath be joined to this new ministration? let him that can, show a reason for it.
Christians, if I have not been so large upon things as some might expect; know, that my brevity on this subject is, from consideration that must needs not be spoken thereto, and because I may have occasion to write a second part.
Christians, beware of being entangled with old testament ministrations, lest by one you be brought into many inconveniencies.
I have observed, that though the Jewish rites have lost their sanction, yet some that are weak in judgment, do bring themselves into bondage by them. Yea, so high have some been carried as to a pretended conscience to these that they have at last proceeded to circumcision, to many wives, and the observation of many bad things besides.
Yea, I have talked with some pretending to Christianity, who have said, and affirmed, as well as they could, that the Jewish sacrifices must up again.
But do you give no heed to these Jewish fables 'That turn from the truth' (Titus 1:14). Do you, I say, that love the Lord Jesus, keep close to his testament, his word, his gospel, and observe HIS holy day.
And this caution in conclusion I would give, to put stop to this Jewish ceremony, to wit, That a seventh day sabbath pursued according to its imposition by law, (and I know not that it is imposed by the apostles) leads to blood and stoning to death those that do but gather sticks thereon (Num 15:32-36). A thing which no way becomes the gospel, that ministration of the Spirit and of righteousness (2 Cor 3). Nor yet the professors thereof (Luke 9:54-56).
Nor can it with fairness be said, that that sabbath day remains, although the law thereof is repealed. For confident I am, that there is no more ground to make such a conclusion, than there is to say, that circumcision is still of force, though the law for cutting of the uncircumcised is by the gospel made null and void.
I told you also in the epistle, that if the fifth commandment was the first that was with promise; then it follows, that the fourth, or that seventh day sabbath, had no promise entailed to it. Whence it follows, that where you read in the prophet of a promise annexed to a sabbath, it is best to understand it of our gospel sabbath (Isa 56).
Now if it be asked, What promise is entailed to our first day sabbath? I answer, The biggest of promises. For,
First, The resurrection of Christ was tied by promise to this day, and to none other. He rose the third day after his death, and that was the first day of the week, 'according' to what was fore-promised in the scriptures (Hosea 6:1,2; 1 Cor 15:3-6).
Second, That we should live before God by him, is a promise to be fulfilled on this day; 'After two days will he revive us: in the third day - we shall live in his sight' (Hosea 6:2). See also Isaiah 26:19 and compare them again with 1 Corinthians 15:4.
Third, The great promise of the new testament, to wit, the pouring out of the Spirit, fixeth upon these days; and so he began in the most wonderful effusion of it upon Pentecost, which was the first day of the week, that the scriptures might be fulfilled (Acts 2:16-19).
Nor could these three promises be fulfilled upon any other days, for that the scripture had fixed them to the first day of the week.
I am of opinion that these things, though but briefly touched upon, cannot be fairly objected against, however they may be disrelished by some.
Nor can I believe, that any part of our religion, as we are Christians, stand in not kindling of fires, and not seething of victuals, or in binding of men not to stir out of those places on the seventh day, in which at the dawning thereof they were found. And yet these are ordinances belonging to that seventh day sabbath (Exo 16:23-29).
Certainly it must needs be an error to impose these things by divine authority upon new testament believers, our worship standing now in things more weighty, spiritual and heavenly.
Nor can it be proved, as I have hinted before, that this day was, or is to be imposed without those ordinances, with others in other places mentioned and adjoined, for the sanction of that day they being made necessary parts of that worship that was to be performed thereon.
I have charity for those that abuse themselves and their Lord, by their preposterous zeal and affection for the continuing of this day in the churches. For I conclude, that if they did either believe, or think of the incoherence that this day with its rites and ceremonies has with the ministration of the Spirit, our new testament ministration, they would not so stand int heir own light as they do, nor so stiffly plead for a place for it in the churches of the Gentiles. But as Paul insinuates in other cases, there is an aptness in men to be under the law because they do not hear it (Gal 4).
Nor will it out of my mind, but if the seventh day sabbath was by divine authority, and to be kept holy by the churches of the Gentiles, it should not have so remained among the Jews, Christ's deadliest enemies, and have been kept so much hid from the believers, his best friends. For who has retained the pretended sanction of that day from Christ's time, quite down in the world, but the Jews, and a few Jewish Gentiles, I will except some. But, I say, since a sabbath is that without which the great worship of God under the gospel cannot be well performed: how can it be thought, that it should as to the knowledge of it, be confined to so blasphemous a generation of the Jews, with whom that worship is not?
I will rather conclude, that those Gentile professors that adhere thereto are Jewified, legalized, and so far gone back from the authority of God, who from such bondage has set his churches free.
I do at this time but hint upon things, reserving a fuller argument upon them for a time and place more fit; where, and when, I may perhaps also show, some other wild notions of those that so stiffly cleave to this.
Meantime, I entreat those who are captivated with this opinion, not to take it ill at my hand that I thus freely speak my mind. I entreat them also to peruse my book without prejudice to my person. The truth is, one thing that has moved me to this work, is the shame that has covered the face of my soul, when I have thought of the fictions and fancies that are growing among professors. And while I see each fiction turn itself to a faction, to the loss of that good spirit of love, and that oneness that formerly was with good men.
I doubt not but some unto whom this book may come, have had seal from God, that the first day of the week is to be sanctified by the church to Jesus Christ. Not only from his testimony, which is, and should be, the ground of our practice; but also, for that the first conviction that the Holy Ghost made upon their consciences, to make them know that they were sinners, began with them for breaking this sabbath day; which day, by that same spirit was told them, was that now called the first day, and not the day before, and the Holy Ghost doth not use to begin this work with a lie, which first conviction the Spirit has followed so close, with other things tending to complete the same work, that the soul from so good a beginning could not rest until it found rest in Christ. Let this then to such be a second token that the Lord's day is by them to be kept in commemoration of their Lord and his resurrection, and of what he did on this day for their salvation. Amen.
1. Dialogues, 1st chapter, xxv.
2. Answer to More.
3. Institutes, b. ii. ch. 8.
4. Com. on Gal. 4:9.
5. The word 'moral' is here used to mark the difference between obligations binding on all mankind and a positive or limited command: thus, to love God is a moral or universal obligation, but to be baptized is positive and obligatory only on those who believe (Acts 8:37).-Ed.
6. The original edition refers to (Eze 49, 50), but it is evidently a typographical error in omitting the chapter.
7. Man unaided by revelation.
8. Adam is supposed by some rabbins not to have passed one night in a state of perfection, (see Ainsworth on Gen 3:1, 28:11; Psa 49:13), and to have fallen on the Sabbath day.
9. The murder of Abel took place 'at the end of days'; see margin to Genesis 4:3. Properly rendered 'in process of time'; but by some supposed to mean at the end of the week. See Dr. Gill's Commentary.
10. 'The Lord hath given YOU the sabbath.' See also 31:17, 'It [the observance of the sabbath] is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever.'-Ed.
11. This is a striking application of Colossians 2:17. The sabbath 'a shadow of things to come'; to the Jews it was a shadow of the rest that remaineth to the children of God, reflected from the completion of the work of creation. The day of rest and worship to the Christian, is a much stronger type, yet but a shadow of the holy enjoyments of his eternal rest, prefigured from the finishing of the mightier work of redemption.-Ed.
12. In Bunyan's original edition it is 'Matt 3, 1,' but this must be a typographical error.-Ed.
13. 'Out of doors,' no more to be found, quite gone, fairly sent away.-Locke. 'Out of court.'-Law-term.-Ed.
14. 'Any likement,' any fondness or partiality.-Ed.
15. This spirit is not extinct. Mr. Shenston, in his 'Plea for the Seventh-day,' charges those who keep the Lord's day 'that they yield to the tide-keep their friends-riches-comforts; they believe that the seventh-day is the sabbath, and would greatly prefer keeping it, if the rulers of the nation would alter the day; they imagine that their God is some dumb idol!'* Language most unseemly and insulting-charging all who observe the Lord's day with being hypocrites and the worst of fools. Mr. S. forgot the solemn proverb, 'with what judgment ye judge ye shall be judged.'
* Edit. 1826, pp. 41, 42.
16. This was the opinion of those great reformers, Tyndale, Calvin, and Luther; see introduction by the Editor. It was a sentiment which led to no practical evil.-Ed.
17. Psalm 118:24.
18. 'That we read of' in the New Testament; for this is our sole authority in all inquiries as to a Christian's faith and practice.-Ed.
19. 'Tradition' is a communication without writing, and when made orally by some apostle or messenger from the first church at Jerusalem, and the message so obeys as to be left upon record by the Holy Ghost, it has the same authority as if it had been commanded in an epistle. It has nothing to do with the vain traditions of the fathers (so called), which were not heard of until after the inspired volume was completed and closed. Any subsequent commands are censures upon God's omniscience, and are deserving only of contempt.-Ed.
20. The New Testament by Whittinghan, 1557; the Genevan or Puritan Bible by Knox, Coverdale, and others, 1560; and the New Testament revised by Tomson, 1576, very frequently reprinted, and very favourite translations among our puritan and pilgrim forefathers in the faith. The marginal note to the Puritan Bible, in Acts 20:7, 'first day,' is, 'which we call Sunday. Of this place, and also of the 1 Corinthians 16:2, we gather that the Christians used to have their solemn assemblies this day, laying aside the ceremony of the Jewish sabbath.'-Ed.
21. 'Acted by,' a mode of speech now obsolete; it means 'actuated by' or 'influenced by.'-Ed.