HOW AND WHEN SUNDAY APPROPRIATED THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT
The light of the Reformation destroyed many of the best Sunday arguments of the preceding Dark Ages - The controversy between the Presbyterians and Episcopalians of England brings Sunday sacredness to the test - The former discover the means of enforcing the observance of Sunday by the fourth commandment - How this can be done - Effects of this extraordinary discovery - History of the Sunday festival concluded.
The light of the Reformation necessarily dissipated into thin air many of the most substantial arguments by which the Sunday festival had been built up during the Dark Ages. The roll that fell from Heaven - the apparition of St. Peter - the relief of souls in purgatory, and even of the damned in hell - and many prodigies of fearful portent - none of these, nor all of them combined, were likely longer to sustain the sacredness of the venerable day. True it was that when these were swept away there remained to sustain the festival of Sunday, the canons of councils, the edicts of kings and emperors, the decrees of the holy doctors of the church, and, greatest of all, the imperious mandates of the Roman pontiff. Yet these could be adduced also in behalf of the innumerable festivals ordained by the same great apostate church. Such authority would answer for the Episcopalian, who devoutly accepts of all these festivals, because commanded so to do by the church; but for those who acknowledge the Bible as the only rule of faith, the case was different. In the latter part of the sixteenth century, the Presbyterians and Episcopalians of England were involved in such a controversy as brought this matter to an issue. The Episcopalians required men to observe all the festivals of the church; the Presbyterians observed Sunday, and rejected all the rest. The Episcopalians showed the inconsistency of this discrimination, inasmuch as the same church authority had ordained them all. As the Presbyterians rejected the authority of the church, they would not keep Sunday upon that ground, especially as it would involve the observance also of all the other festivals. They had to choose therefore between the giving up of Sunday entirely, and the defense of its observance by the Bible. There was indeed another and a nobler choice that they might have made, viz., to adopt the Sabbath of the Lord, but it was too humiliating for them to unite with those who retained that ancient and sacred institution. The issue of this struggle is thus related by a distinguished German theologian, Hengstenberg:-
Thus much for the occasion of that wonderful discovery by which the Scriptures are made to sustain the divine appointment of Sunday as the Christian Sabbath. The date of the discovery, the name of the discoverer, and the manner in which he contrived to enforce the first day of the week by the authority of the fourth commandment, are thus set forth by a candid first-day historian, Lyman Coleman:
Dr. Bound was not absolutely the inventor of the seventh-part-of-time theory; but he may be said rather to have gathered up and combined the scattered hints of his predecessors, and to have added to these something of his own production. His grounds for asserting Sunday to be the Sabbath of the fourth commandment are these:
He says that the meaning of the declaration, "The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God," is this:
But the special key to the whole theory is in the statement that the seventh day in the commandment was "genus," that is to say, it was a kind of seventh day which comprehended several species of seventh days, at least two. Thus he says:
He enforces the first day by the fourth commandment, as follows:
He means to say that the fourth commandment enforces the seventh day from the creation to the resurrection of Christ, and since that enforces a different seventh day, namely, the seventh from Christ's resurrection. Such is the perverse ingenuity by which men can evade the law of God and yet make it appear that they are faithfully observing it.
Such was the origin of the seventh-part-of-time theory, by which the seventh day is dropped out of the fourth commandment, and one day in seven slipped into its place; a doctrine most opportunely framed at the very period when nothing else could save the venerable day of the sun. With the aid of this theory, the Sunday of "Pope and Pagan" was able coolly to wrap itself in the fourth commandment, and then in the character of a divine institution, to challenge obedience from all Bible Christians. It could now cast away the other frauds on which its very existence had depended, and support its authority by this one alone. In the time of Constantine it ascended the throne of the Roman Empire, and during the whole period of the Dark Ages it maintained its supremacy from the chair of St. Peter; but now it had ascended the throne of the Most High. And thus a day which God "commanded not nor spake it, neither came it into" his "mind," was enjoined upon mankind with all the authority of his holy law. The immediate effect of Dr. Bound's work upon the existing controversy is thus described by an Episcopalian eye-witness, Dr. Heylyn:
In a former chapter, we called attention to the fact that Sunday can be maintained as a divine institution only by adopting the rule of faith acknowledged in the church of Rome, which is, the Bible with the traditions of the church added thereto. We have seen that in the sixteenth century the Presbyterians of England were brought to decide between giving up Sunday as a church festival and maintaining it as a divine institution by the Bible. They chose the latter course. Yet while apparently avoiding the charge of observing a Catholic festival, by claiming to prove the Sunday institution out of the Bible, the utterly unsatisfactory nature of the several inferences adduced from the Scriptures in support of that day, compelled them to resort to the traditions of the church, and to add these to their so-called biblical evidences in its behalf. It would be no worse to keep Sunday while frankly acknowledging it to be a festival of the Catholic church, not commanded in the Bible, than it is to profess that you observe it as a biblical institution, and then prove it to be such by adopting the rule of faith of the Romanists. Joaunes Peronne, an eminent Italian Catholic theologian, in an important doctrinal work, entitled, "Theological Lessons," makes a very impressive statement respecting the acknowledgment of tradition by Protestant Sunday-keepers. In his chapter "Concerning the Necessity and Existence of Tradition," he lays down the proposition that it is necessary to admit doctrines which we can prove only from tradition, and cannot sustain from the Holy Scriptures. Then he says:
Dr. Bound's theory of the seventh part of time has found general acceptance in all those churches which sprung from the church of Rome. Most forcibly did old Cotton Mather observe:
One sacred treasure which they all drew from the venerable mother of harlots is the ancient festival of the sun. She had crushed out of her communion the Sabbath of the lord, and having adopted the venerable day of the sun, had transformed it into the Lord's day of the Christian church. The reformed, flying from her communion, and carrying with them this ancient festival, now found themselves able to justify its observance as being indeed the veritable Sabbath of the Lord! As the seamless coat of Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath, was torn from him before he was nailed to the cross, so has the fourth commandment been torn from the rest-day of the lord, around which it was placed by the great Law-giver, and given to this papal Lord's day; and this Barabbas the robber, thus arrayed in the stolen fourth commandment, has from that time to the present day, and with astonishing success, challenged the obedience of the world as the divinely appointed Sabbath of the most high God. Here we close the history of the Sunday festival, now fully transformed into the Christian Sabbath. A rapid survey of the history of English and American Sabbath-keepers will conclude this work.
8 Praelectiones Theologicae, vol. i. part ii. sect. 2, cap. i. p. 194. Propositio. Praeter sacram Scripturam admitti necessario debent Traditiones divinae dogmaticae ab illa prorsus distincteo." "Non posse praeterea, rejectis ejusmodi traditionibus, plura dogmata, quae nobiscum retinuerunt protestantes cum ab Ecclesia catholica recesserunt, ullo modo adstruis, res est citra comnis dubitationis aleam posita. Etenim ipsi nobiscum rotinuerunt valorem baptismi ab haereticis aut intidelibus administrati, valorem item paedobaptismi, germanam baptismi formam, cessationem legis de abstinentia a sanguine et suffocato, de die dominico Sabbatis suffecto, praeter ea quae superius commemoravimus aliaque haud pauca." <Return>