This man was bishop of Rome from A. D. 236 to A. D. 250. The letters ascribed to Fabian were probably written at a considerably later date. We quote them, however, at the very point of time wherein they claim to have been written. Their testimony is of little importance, but they breathe the self-important spirit of a Roman bishop. We quote as follows:
This pope is said to have made the following decree, which contains the only other reference to the so-called Lord's day to be found in the writings attributed to him:
In these quotations we see that the Roman church is made the mother of all churches, and also that the Roman bishop thinks himself the rightful ruler over all Christian people. And it is in fit keeping with these features of the great apostasy that the pope, instead of pointing sinful men to the sacrifice made on Calvary, should "decree that on each Lord's day" every person should offer an "oblation" of "bread and wine" on the altar, "that by means of THESE SACRIFICES they may be released from the burden of their sins"!
Origen was born about A. D. 185, probably at Alexandria in Egypt. He was a man of immense learning, but unfortunately adopted a spiritualizing system in the interpretation of the Scriptures that was the means of flooding the church with many errors. He wrote during the first half of the third century. I have carefully examined all the writings of every Christian writer preceding the council of Nice with the single exception of Origen. Some of his works, as yet, I have not been able to obtain. While, therefore, I give the entire testimony of every other father on the subject of inquiry, in his case I am unable to say this. But I can give it with sufficient fullness to present him in a just light. His first reference to the Sabbath is a denial that it should be literally understood. Thus he says:
Origen asserts that the spiritual interpretation of the Scriptures whereby their literal meaning is set aside is something divinely inspired! But when this is accepted as the truth who can tell what they mean by what they say?
In the next chapter he quotes Isa.1:13,14, but with reference to the subject of the soul and not to that of the Sabbath. In chapter xi., alluding again to the hidden meaning of the things commanded in the Scriptures, he asserts that when the Christian has "returned to Christ" he will, amongst other things enumerated, "see also the reasons for the festival days, and holy days, and for all the sacrifices and purifications." So it seems that Origen thought the spiritual meaning of the Sabbath, which he asserted in the place of the literal, was to be known only in the future state!
In book iv., chapter i., he quotes Col.2:16, but gives no exposition of its meaning. But having asserted that the things commanded in the law were not to be understood literally, and, having intimated that their hidden meaning cannot be known until the saints are with Christ, he proceeds in section 17 of this chapter to prove that the literal sense of the law is impossible. One of the arguments by which he proves the point is, that men were commanded not to go out of their houses on the Sabbath. He thus quotes and comments on Ex.16:29:
This argument is framed for the purpose of proving that the Scriptures cannot be taken in their literal sense. But had he quoted the text correctly there would be no force at all to his argument. They must not go out to gather manna, but were expressly commanded to use the Sabbath for holy convocations, that is, for religious assemblies. Lev.23:3. And as to the burdens mentioned in Jer.17:21-27, they are sufficiently explained by Neh.13:15-22. Such reasons as these for denying the obvious, simple signification of what God has commanded are worthy of no confidence. In his letter to Africanus, Origen thus alludes to the Sabbath, but without further remarking upon it:
Though these allusions of Origen to the Sabbath are not in themselves of much importance, we give them all, that his testimony ma be presented as fully as possible. His next mention of the Sabbath seems from the connection to relate to Paul:
"Was it impious to abstain from corporeal circumcision, and from a literal Sabbath, and literal festivals, and literal new moons, and from clean and unclean meats, and to turn the mind to the good and true and spiritual law of God," etc. - Origen against Celsus, b. ii. chap. vii.
We shall soon get his idea of the true Sabbath as distinguished from the "literal" one. He gives the following reason for the "literal Sabbath" among the Hebrews:
What Origen mentions as the reason for the institution of the Sabbath is in fact only one of its incidental benefits. The real reason for its institution, viz., that the creation of the heavens and the earth should be remembered, he seems to have overlooked because so literally expressed in the commandment. Of God's rest-day he thus speaks:
Origen's next mention of the Sabbath, not only places the institution of the Sabbath at the creation, but gives us some idea of his "mystical" Sabbath as distinguished from "a literal" one. Speaking of the Creator's rest from the six days' work he thus alludes to Celsus:
Here we get an insight into Origen's mystical Sabbath. It began at creation, and will continue while the world endures. To those who follow the letter it is indeed only a weekly rest, but to those who know the truth it is a perpetual Sabbath, enjoyed by God during all the days of time, and entered by believers either at conversion or at death. And this last thought perhaps explains why he said before that the reasons for days observed by the Hebrews would be understood after this life.
But last of all we come to a mention of the so-called Lord's day by Origen. As he has a mystical or perpetual Sabbath like some of the earlier fathers in which, under pretense of keeping every day as a Sabbath, they actually labor on every one, so has he also, like what we have found in some of them, a Lord's day which is not merely one definite day of the week, but which embraces every day, and covers all time. Here are his words:
With respect to what he calls the Lord's day, Origen divides his brethren into two classes, as he had before divided the people of God into two classes with respect to the Sabbath. One class are the imperfect Christians who content themselves with the literal day; the other are the perfect Christians whose Lord's day embraces all the days of life. Undoubtedly Origen reckoned himself one of the perfect Christians. His observance of the Lord's day did not consist in the elevation of one day above another, for he counted them all alike as constituting one perpetual Lord's day, the very doctrine which we found in Clement of Alexandria, who was Origen's teacher in his early life. The keeping of the Lord's day with Origen as with Clement embraced all the days of his life and consisted according to Origen in serving God in thought, word, and deed, continually; or as expressed by Clement, one "keeps the Lord's, when he abandons an evil disposition, and assumes that of the Gnostic."
These things prove that Origen did not count Sunday as the Lord's day to be honored above the other days as a divine memorial of the resurrection, for he kept the Lord's day during every day in the week. Nor did he hold Sunday as the Lord's day to be kept as a day of abstinence from labor, while all the other days were days of business, for whatever was necessary to keeping Lord's day he did on every day of the week.
As to the imperfect Christian who honored a literal day as the Lord's day, Origen shows what rank it stood in by associating it with the Preparation, the Passover, and the Pentecost, all of which in this dispensation are mere church institutions, and none of them days of abstinence from labor. The change of the Sabbath on the seventh day to the first, or the existence of the so-called Christian Sabbath was in Origen's time absolutely unknown.
Hippolytus who was bishop of Portus, near Rome, wrote about A. D. 250. It is evident from his testimony that he believed the Sabbath was made by God's act of sanctifying the seventh day at the beginning. He held that day to be the type of the seventh period of a thousand years. Thus he says:
The churches of Ethiopia have a series of Canons, or church rules, which they attribute to this father. Number thirty-three reads thus:
The church of Alexandria have also a series which they ascribe to him. The thirty-third is thus given:
The thirty-eighth one has these words:
These are the only things in Hippolytus that can be referred to the Sunday festival. Prayers and offerings for the dead, which we find some fifty years earlier in Tertullian, are, according to Hippolytus, lawful on every day but the so-called Lord's day. They grew up with the Sunday festival, and are of equal authority with it. Tertullian, as we have already observed, tells us frankly that there is no Scriptural authority for the one or the other, and that they rest on custom and tradition alone.
Novatian, who wrote about A. D. 250, is accounted the founder of the sect called Cathari, or Puritans. He tried to resist some of the gross corruptions of the church of Rome. He wrote a treatise on the Sabbath, which is not extant. There is no reference to Sunday in any of his writings. In his treatise "On the Jewish Meats," he speaks of the Sabbath thus:
If we contrast the doctrine of the Pharisees concerning the Sabbath with the teaching of the Saviour, or with that of Isaiah in his fifty-eighth chapter, we shall not think Novatian far from the truth in his views of the Jewish people. In his treatise "Concerning the Trinity" is the following allusion to the Sabbath:
These are the only references to the Sabbath in what remains of the writings of Novatian. He makes the following striking remarks concerning the moral law:
It is therefore certain that in the judgment of Novatian, the ten commandments enjoined nothing that was not sacredly regarded by the patriarchs before that Jacob went down into Egypt. It follows, therefore, that in his opinion the Sabbath was made, not at the fall of the manna, but when God sanctified the seventh day, and that holy men from the earliest ages observed it. The Sunday festival with its varied names and titles he never mentions.