The Sabbath in
AS WE continue our study of the
Sabbath question, we shall first consult an eyewitness, who had traveled
over the greater part of Christendom: Socrates, the Greek historian, who
was born about 380 A. D. M'Clintock and Strong's Cyclopedia says of him:
"He is generally considered the most exact and judicious of the
three continuators of the history of Eusebius, being less florid in his
style and more careful in his statements than Sozomen, and less
credulous than Theodoret. 'His impartiality is so strikingly displayed,'
says Waddington, 'as to make his orthodoxy questionable to Baronius, the
celebrated Roman Catholic historian; but Valesius, in his life, has
shown that there is no reason for such suspicion.'" Vol. IX,
art. "Socrates," p. 854.
Socrates says of the year 391 A.
"For although almost all
Churches throughout the world celebrate the sacred mysteries [the
Lord's Supper] on the Sabbath of every week, yet the Christians of
Alexandria and at Rome, on account of some ancient tradition, refuse
to do this. The Egyptians in the neighborhood of Alexandria, and the
inhabitants of Thebais, hold their religious meetings on the Sabbath,
but do not participate of the mysteries in the manner usual among
Christians in general:. . . for . . . in the evening . . . they
partake of the mysteries." "Ecclesiastical History,"
Book 5, chap. 22, page 289. London:1853.
The footnote which
accompanies the foregoing quotation explains the use of the word
"Sabbath." It says:
"That is, upon the Saturday.
It should be observed, that Sunday is never called 'the Sabbath' by
the ancient Fathers and historians .... The Latins kept the Sabbath as
a fast, the Greeks as a feast."Id., p. 289.
This shows that all the churches
throughout the world kept Saturday as the Sabbath in 391, but that some
did not have the Lord's Supper till in the evening. There had sprung up
a hot controversy in regard to fasting on the Sabbath. Who was it that
urged this Sabbath fasting against the will of the churches in general?
Pope Sylvester (314-335) was the first to order the churches to fast on
Saturday, and Pope Innocent (402-417) made it a binding law in the
churches that obeyed him.
Dr. Peter Heylyn says:
"Innocentius did ordaine the
Saturday or Sabbath to be always fasted .... It was by him intended
for a binding law. [Most of the churches refused, however, to obey
him.] And in this difference it stood a long time together, till in
the end the Roman Church obtained the cause, and Saturday became a
fast, almost through all the parts of the Western world. I say the
Western world, and of that alone.The Eastern Churches being so farre
from altering their ancient custome, that in the sixth Councell of
Constantinople, Anno 692, they did admonish those of Rome to forbeare
fasting on that day, upon pain of censures. Which I have noted here,
in its proper place, that we might know the better how the matter
stood betweene the Lord's Day, and the Sabbath; how hard a thing it
was for one to get the mastery of the other" "History of
the Sabbath," part 2, chap. 2, PP. 44, 45. London:1636. (The
original spelling is retained.)
This shows how the popes tried to
get rid of the Sabbath. They knew that the churches generally would not
give it up willingly, and as yet the popes did not have the power to
force them to do it. But if the Sabbath was made a day of fasting, the
children would soon tire of it, and after a few generations the majority
would gladly give up the gloomy fast day. This effort continued from
about A. D. 391 to 692, and even then it was hard for the Sunday to get
the mastery over the Sabbath, says Dr. Heylyn. Here we can readily see
that it was not changed at the time of the apostles.
Rev. Joseph Bingham, M. A., says:
"The ancient Christians were
very careful in the observation of Saturday, or the seventh day, which
was the ancient Jewish Sabbath. Some observed it as a fast, others as
a festival; but all unanimously agreed in keeping it as a more solemn
day of religious worship and adoration. In the Eastern church it was
ever observed as a festival, one only Sabbath excepted, which was
called the Great Sabbath, between Good Friday and Easter-day .... From
hence it is plain, that all the Oriental churches, and the greatest
part of the world, observed the Sabbath as a festival .... Athanasius
likewise tells us, that they held religious assemblies on the Sabbath,
not because they were infected with Judaism, but to worship Jesus, the
Lord of the Sabbath, Epiphanius says the
same""Antiquities of the Christian Church," Vol. II,
Book XX, chap. 3, Sec. 1, pp. 1137, 1138. London:1852.
The Primitive Christians
Bishop Jeremy Taylor says:
"The primitive Christians
did keep the Sabbath of the Jews; . . . therefore the Christians, for
a long time together, did keep their conventions upon the Sabbath, in
which some portions of the law were read and this continued till the
time of the Laodicean council; which also took care that the reading
of the Gospels should be mingled with their reading of the
law.""The Whole Works" of Jeremy Taylor, Vol. IX, p.
416 (R. Heber's Edition, Vol. XII, p. 416). London: 1822.
The edict here mentioned is
"Canon XVI," which reads:
"Canon XVI.The Gospels
are to be read on the Sabbath Day, with the other
Scriptures""Index Canonum," John Fulton, D. D.,
LL.D., p. 255. New Yo
Dr. T. H. Morer ( a Church of
England divine) says:
"The primitive Christians
had a great veneration for the Sabbath, and spent the day in devotion
and sermons. And it is not to be doubted but they derived this
practice from the apostles themselves, as appears by several
scriptures to that purpose.'""Dialogues on the Lord's
Day," p. 189. London: 1701.
Dr. Theodore Zahn (Lutheran
Professor in Theology at the University of Erlangen) says:
"The Apostles could not have
conceded to any other than one man the right to 'change the customs
Moses had given the Son of Man, who had called Himself Lord also of
the Sabbath day; but of Him they knew that He had neither transgressed
nor abolished the Jewish Sabbath, but truly sanctified it. And they
knew also, how He had threatened any of His disciples who might dare
to abolish even one of the least of the commands of Moses. "But
this has no one dared to do with the Sabbath commandment during the
time of the Apostles. Certainly not within the territory of the Jewish
Christendom; for they continued to keep the actual Sabbath .... Nor
could any one have thought of such a thing within the Gentile
Christian domain as far as Paul's influence reached.""Sondagens
Historic" (History of Sunday), pp. 33, 34. Christiania: P. T.
The Example And Command Of
Dr. Zahn further says in regard
to the early Christians:
"They observed the Sabbath
in the most conscientious manner otherwise, they would have been
stoned. Instead of this, we learn from the book of the Acts that at
times they were highly respected even by that part of their own nation
that remained in unbelief .... That the observance of Sunday commenced
among them would be a supposition which would have no seeming ground
for it, and all probability against it .... The Sabbath was a strong
tie which united them with the life of the whole people, and in
keeping the Sabbath holy, they followed not only the example, but also
the command of Jesus."" Geschichte des Sonntags,"
pp. 13, 14.
Bishop Grimelund of Norway
"The early Christians were
of Jewish descent, and the first Christian church in Jerusalem was a
Jewish-Christian church. It conformed, as could be expected, to the
Jewish law and Sabbath-custom; it had no express instruction from the
Lord to do otherwise""Sondagens Historice,"p. 13.
Christiania, Norway: Den norske Lutherstiftelses Forlag, 1886.
After citing the fact that Christ
arose on the first day, he continues: "But, one could reason, that
for all this it does not follow that one should give up and forsake the
'Sabbath' which God Himself has commanded, . . . nor that we should
transfer this to another day of the week, even if that is such a
memorable day. To do this would require an equally definite command from
God, whereby the former command is abolished, but where can we find such
a command? It is true, such a command is not to be found."Id.,
Dr. John C. L. Gieseler says:
"While the Jewish Christians
of Palestine retained the entire Mosaic law, and consequently the
Jewish festivals, the Gentile Christians observed also the Sabbath and
the passover (1 Corinthians 5:6-8), with reference to the last scenes
of Jesus' life, but without Jewish superstition.""A
Compendium of Ecclesiastical History," Vol. I, chap. 2, sec. 30,
p. 92. Edinburgh:1846. A little later we shall trace Christ's true
followers from the days of the apostles to our own time, and show how
they retained the Bible Sabbath with the other parts of the apostolic
faith. But we will here break off this narrative, and trace step by
step how Sunday-keeping came into the popular church, and the
influences which worked together to accomplish the change from the
seventh to the first day of the week.