TESTIMONY OF THE APOSTOLICAL CONSTITUTIONS
“Have before thine eyes the fear of God, and always remember the ten commandments of God, - to love the one and only Lord God with all thy strength; to give no heed to idols, or any other beings, as being lifeless gods, or irrational beings or demons. Consider the manifold workmanship of God, which received its beginning through Christ. Thou shalt observe the Sabbath, on account of Him who ceased from his work of creation, but ceased not from his work of providence: it is a rest for meditation of the law, not for idleness of the
hands.” Book ii. sect. 4, par. 36.
By the term Lord's day the first day of the week is here intended. But the writer does not call the first day the Sabbath, that term being applied to the seventh day.
In section 7, paragraph 59, Christians are commanded to assemble for worship “every day, morning and evening, singing psalms and praying in the Lord's house: in the morning saying the sixty-second psalm, and in the evening the hundred and fortieth, but principally on the Sabbath day. And on the day of our Lord's resurrection, which is the Lord's day, meet more diligently, sending praise to God that made the universe by Jesus and sent him to us.” “Otherwise what apology will he make to God who does not assemble on that day to hear the saving word concerning the resurrection, on which we pray thrice standing, in memory of him who arose in three days, in which is performed the reading of the prophets, the preaching of the gospel, the oblation of the sacrifice, the gift of the holy food.”
The writer of these “Constitutions” this time gives the first day great prominence, though still honoring the Sabbath, and by no means giving that title to Sunday. But in book v., section 2, paragraph 10, we have a singular testimony to the manner in which Sunday was spent. Thus the writer says:
From this it appears that the so-called Lord's day was a day of greater mirth than the other days of the week. In book v., section 3, paragraph 14, it is said:
In book v., section 3, paragraph 15, the writer names the days on which Christians should fast:
In paragraph 17, Christians are forbidden to “celebrate the day of the resurrection of our Lord on any other day than a Sunday.” In paragraph 18, they are again charged to fast on that one Sabbath which comes in connection with the anniversary of our Lord's death. In paragraph 19, the first day of the week is four times called the Lord's day. The period of 40 days from his resurrection to his ascension is to be observed. The anniversary of Christ's resurrection is to be celebrated by the supper.
The things here commanded can come only once in a year. These are the anniversary of Christ's resurrection, and of that day on which he appeared to Thomas, and these were to be celebrated by the supper. The people were also to observe the day of the ascension on the fifth day of the week, forty days from his resurrection, on which day he finished his work. In paragraph 20, they are commanded to celebrate the anniversary of the Pentecost.
This was not a weekly but a yearly festival. Fasting is also set forth in this paragraph, but every Sabbath except the one Christ lay in the tomb is exempted from this fast, and every so-called Lord's day:
This writer asserts that it is a sin to fast or mourn on Sunday, but never intimates that it is a sin to labor on that day when not engaged in worship. We shall next learn that the decalogue is in agreement with the law of nature, and that it is of perpetual obligation:
In book vi, section 4, paragraph 19, it is said: “He gave a plain law to assist the law of nature, such an one as is pure, saving, and holy, in which his own name was inscribed, perfect, which is never to fail, being complete in ten commands, unspotted, converting souls.”
In paragraph 20 it is said: “Now the law is the decalogue, which the Lord promulgated to them with an audible voice.”
In paragraph 22 he says: “You therefore are blessed who are delivered from the curse. For Christ, the Son of God, by his coming has confirmed and completed the law, but has taken away the additional precepts, although not all of them, yet at least the more grievous ones; having confirmed the former, and abolished the latter.” And he further testifies as follows: “And besides, before his coming he refused the sacrifices of the people, while they frequently offered them, when they sinned against him, and thought he was to be appeased by sacrifices, but not by repentance.”
For this reason the writer truthfully testifies that God refused to accept their burnt-offerings and sacrifices, their new moons and their Sabbaths.
In book vi., section 23, he says: “He who commanded to honor our parents, was himself subject to them. He who had commanded to keep the Sabbath, by resting thereon for the sake of meditating on the laws, has now commanded us to consider of the law of creation, and of providence every day, and to return thanks to
In book vii., section 2, paragraph 30, he says: “On the day of the resurrection of the Lord, that is, the Lord's day, assemble yourselves together, without fail, giving thanks to God,” etc.
In paragraph 36, the writer brings in the Sabbath again: “O Lord Almighty, thou hast created the world by Christ, and hast appointed the Sabbath in memory thereof, because that on that day thou hast made us rest from our works, for the meditation upon thy laws.”
In the same paragraph, in speaking of the resurrection of Christ, the writer says:
In this paragraph he also states his views of the Sabbath, and of the day which he calls the Lord's day, giving the precedence to the latter: the precedence to the latter:
It is certainly noteworthy that the so-called Lord's day, for which no divine warrant is produced, is here exalted above the Sabbath of the Lord notwithstanding the Sabbath is acknowledged to be the divine memorial of the creation, and to be expressly enjoined in the decalogue, which the writer declares to be of perpetual obligation. Tested by his own principles, he had far advanced in apostasy; for he held a human festival more honorable than one which he acknowledged to be ordained of God; and only a single step remained; viz., to set aside the commandment of God for the ordinance of man.
In book viii, section 2, paragraph 4, it is said, when a bishop has been chosen and is to be ordained, -
To this may be added the 64th Canon of the Apostles, which is appended to the “Constitutions”:
Every mention of the Sabbath and first-day in that ancient book called “Apostolical Constitutions” is now before the reader. This book comes down to us from the third century, and contains what was at that time very generally believed to be the doctrine of the apostles. It is therefore valuable to us, not as authority respecting the teaching of the apostles, but as giving us a knowledge of the views and practices which prevailed in the third century. At the time these “Constitutions” were put in writing the ten commandments were revered as the immutable rule of right, and the Sabbath of the Lord was by many observed as an act of obedience to the fourth commandment, and as the divine memorial of the creation. But the first-day festival had already attained such strength and influence as to clearly indicate that ere long it would claim the entire ground. But observe that the Sabbath and the so-called Lord's day are treated as distinct institutions, and that no hint of the change of the Sabbath to the first day of the week is even once given. The Apostolical Constitutions are cited first, not because written by the apostles, but because of their title. For the same reason the so-called Epistle of Barnabas is quoted next, not because written by that apostle, for the proof is ample that it was not, but because it is often quoted by first-day writers as the words of the apostle Barnabas. It was in existence however as early as the middle of the second century, and, like the “Apostolical Constitutions,” is of value to us in that it gives some clue to the opinions which prevailed in the region where the writer lived, or at least which were held by his party.