THERE were many Sabbath-keepers
in Norway even in the days of Catholicism. The Sabbath seems to have
been brought to the Scandinavian countries partly by the Waldenses, and
partly as a direct work of the Spirit of God. But Rome was no more
favorable towards the Sabbath there than in other parts of the world.
When the Inquisition of the twelfth century scattered the Waldenses,
they were forced to flee to more obscure places and to countries lying
on the outskirts of civilization, and as the persecution continued, they
gradually drifted into Scandinavia. Then, too, in the "Catechism"
that was used during the fourteenth century, the Sabbath commandment
read thus' "Thou shalt not forget to keep the seventh day." *20
We are told by Swedish historians
that the Sabbath-keeping public claimed that angels had appeared to
them, instructing them to keep the Sabbath on Saturday. Of the church
council held at Bergen, Norway, August 22, 1435, we read:
"The first matter concerned
a superstitious keeping holy of Saturday. It had come to the ear of
the archbishop that people in different places of the kingdom, 'partly
from the weakness of nature, partly by the deceptions and promptings
of the devil,' had ventured to adopt and keep holydays, which neither
God nor the holy Church had ordained or sanctioned, but on the
contrary is against the commands of both, 'namely the keeping holy of
Saturday, which Jews and heathen used to keep, but not Christians.' It
is strictly forbidden–it is stated–in the Church-Law, for any one
to keep or to adopt holydays, outside of those which the pope,
archbishop, or bishops appoint."–"The History of the
Norwegian Church under Catholicism," R. Keyser, Vol. II, p. 488.
At another church conference,
held at Oslo, the next year, the same archbishop commanded:
"It is forbidden under the
same penalty to keep Saturday holy by refraining from
labor"–Id., p. 491.
In another old publication from
nearly the same period we find this accusation against the priests:
"Also the priests have
caused the people to keep Saturdays as Sundays"–
"Theological Periodicals for the Evangelical 'Lutheran Church in
Norway," Vol. I, p. 184. Oslo:P. T. Mailings, 1871.
Sabbath-keepers continued to keep
the Bible Sabbath in Norway, in spite of persecution, for we read of new
laws made against them in 1544:
"I, Christoffer Whitefeldt,
[governor] over Bergenhus, Stavanger, and Vaardoem, greet all you
peasants kindly and with good wishes, who live in the district of
Bergen. Dear friends: Mr. Gieble Pederson, superintendent of the
district of Bergen, related to me that some of you have kept Saturday
holy, especially at Arendal in Sogen, contrary to the ordinance given
you last year by Peter Ottesen, my brother, and Niels Bernsen, who had
charge of the palace by my authority, in my absence, in which you have
done very wrong, and would receive great damage if I would punish you.
But, however, because of the solicitation of Mr. Gieble, the
superintendent, I will still forbear with you. But now it has been
determined at the public Parliament for these two districts, Bergen
and Stavanger, that whoever is found keeping Saturday holy shall be
fined ten mark in money. So now ye know what ye have to go by.
"In the next place you are
rebellious and disobedient in the Holydays you keep, and are not
willing to be satisfied with those which the priest announces which
are contained in the ordinance. We now command you in the name of His
Majesty, the King, that you solemnly obey the ordinance of His Grace.
And whoever disobeys, he shall by my sheriff be punished for his
rebellion as a rebellious and disobedient citizen, and be fined ten
mark."–"History of King Christian the Third," Niels
Kraq and S. Stephanius, Vol. II, "Statutes and Ordinances,"
p. 379. Copenhagen:1778.
In Sweden' And Finland
Sabbath-keepers were also
scattered over Sweden and Finland. Bishop L. A. Anjou says that there
was a peaceful but continued movement on foot in these two countries for
the keeping of the seventh-day Sabbath,
"one that required the
sanctification of Saturday as Sabbath day. The first known origin of
this goes back to the middle of the preceding century, when King
Gustav I, in the year 1554, wrote a letter of warning to Finland
against those who alleged that they through visions and dreams had
come to the conviction that famine, etc., were God's punishments
because people did not keep Saturday holy. In the beginning of the
seventeenth century the same faith was found in Sweden, and even there
it was founded on alleged revelations. It was zealously opposed in
1602 by Charles IX."–" Swedish Church History from the
Meeting at Upsala, Year 1593," p. 353. Stockholm:1866.
"Segregated from any
movements opposed to the church, we must consider those who kept
Saturday holy, and on this day abstained from labor, but otherwise did
not separate themselves from the church. We do not find that those who
held this view · . . observed any other Jewish habits or customs ....
Had this movement been connected with anything that could be
considered apostasy from Christianity, then without doubt the
accusations against it would have been stronger and the laws more
stringent. "Independent of older influences, the inculcation of
Sabbath-keeping could easily bring up the question of keeping Saturday
holy, by questioning whether the Sabbath law had any validity if it
was not applied to the Sabbath day previously appointed in the Old
Testament .... The customary reading of the Bible, and the appeal to
the law of God . . . could attract the attention to the commandment
which required Saturday to be kept holy"–Id, p. 355.
"This keeping of Saturday
holy did not stand alone, at least in most cases, but was part of the
Pietism [pious worship] of that age, and was connected with sermons on
repentance and warnings against prevailing sins and vices"–Id.,
Theodore Norlin, another
important Swedish Church historian, says of these Sabbath-keepers:
"We can trace these opinions over almost the whole extent of Sweden
of that day–from Finland and northern Sweden, Dalarne, Westmanland,
Nerike, down to West-Gotland and Smaland.
"In the district of Upsala
the farmers kept Saturday in place of Sunday .... At several places they
pressed their requests so vehemently upon the priests, that they yielded
to their wishes to the extent of beginning to hold services on Saturday.
At the time of Gustaf Adolphus we see this peculiar faith arising at
different places in the country.
"About the year 1625 . . .
in West-Gotland, Smaland, and Nerike, revelations and visions of
angels were related in which the necessity of keeping Saturday holy
was strictly commanded, and in which warnings were given against the
sins that were secretly practiced. This religious tendency became so
pronounced in these countries, that not only large numbers of the
common people began to keep Saturday as the rest day, but even many
priests did the same, which gave occasion for no small schism"–
"History of the Swedish Church," Vol. I, part 2, chap. 3, p.
But the enemy of souls could not
endure this revival of primitive Christianity, and Sabbath-keeping in
Sweden and Finland was finally suppressed. But when the work of the Holy
Spirit was suppressed in these Scandinavian churches, the same dire
fruit of spiritual declension was seen, as formerly in the apostolic
church. Whenever the warning voices are hushed up, spiritual darkness
sets in. Dr. Scharling, Lutheran Professor of Theology, says:
"Luther's great work of
Reformation was still far from having been accomplished, it was
followed by a continual retrogression, a deeper sinking of the
religious consciousness, until it at last reached its zero point in
Ritualism .... Little by little the Evangelical church becomes
chilled, . . . and it takes on an unpleasant similarity to the Romish
church."– "Menneskehad og Kristendom," Vol. 2, p.
A church in a lukewarm condition
does not usually concern itself with spiritual reforms. But in the early
part of the nineteenth century, when the great spiritual revival passed
over almost every country, and affected nearly all denominations,
Sabbath reform came to the front again, and deeply impressed the honest
in heart. We find leading men in different denominations reaching out to
find Bible proof for the change of the Sabbath, and when this could not
be found, they either accepted the Bible Sabbath, or gave up their
former faith in the immutability of the Ten Commandments.
The Lutheran Church In America
Pastor A. C. Preus, in an article
in Kirkelig Maanedstidende [Monthly Church Tidings], of August, 1855,
endeavored to quiet an agitation on the Sabbath question that had arisen
in Wisconsin, by claiming that the Sabbath commandment simply required
the keeping of one day in seven. He wrote:
"It is a moral law, founded
on a moral necessity, that a rest day must be appointed; . . . but it
is ceremony, resting on outward occasion of circumstances, whether one
day or another is established.
"We know that 'the law is a
lamp and the commandment a light,' and woe be to us if we would
'abolish' even one of the least commandments and 'teach men so.' But
the law, the unchangeable moral law, which proceeds from the nature of
God, says nothing about which day. The third [fourth] commandment
simply reads thus' 'Remember that thou keep holy the rest day,' it
does not say the seventh day!" *21–Kirkelig
Maanedstidende, August, 1855, pp. 94-97. Inmansville, Wis.
A few Lutheran ministers saw in
this article a direct blow against the sanctity of Sunday, others took
exception to the claim that the Sabbath commandment is binding on us.
The struggle that ensued is spoken of in their book on "The Jubilee
of the Norwegian Synod, 1853-1903," in the following statement:
"The struggle which began
against the sects outside of the Lutheran Church thus soon became a
controversy with those who had false ideas within the Lutheran Church
itself, a controversy which was kept up till well towards the
eighties, when it gradually died away, because other points of dispute
arrested the attention"–"Festskrift," p. 239.
During this long controversy much
was written in their official organ, Kirkelig Maanedstidende [Monthly
Church Tidings], in Emigranten., and in their Synodical Reports,
especially from 1863 to 1866, and discussions continued in their
"Synods." The one side held to the "Explanation of
Luther's Catechism" (Oslo, 1905), which says that the ceremonial
law was abolished at the cross, but that
"the moral law, which is
contained in the Ten Commandments, . . . is still in force, . . .
because, it is founded on God's holy and righteous nature, and hence
is immutable as God Himself"–Pp. 5, 6.
The other party said:
"Either the words in the 3rd
[4th] commandment regarding the seventh day on which God rested are
binding on us, and then we must and shall keep Saturday, or, if these
words are not in force for us, then we have nothing to do with any
definite day, or any day whatever .... We notice that the 3rd [4th]
commandment does not speak of one day in seven, or a seventh day, but
only and solely of the seventh day, that is Saturday. As long as they
will acknowledge this, which every honest Christian with common sound
judgment certainly must, and they also acknowledge that the New
Testament nowhere institutes or commands any other day, or says that
one day in seven shall be taken in its place, then it also must be
acknowledged that there is no word in Scripture to sustain the
assertion that one day in seven is a moral
command"–"Record of the First Extraordinary Synod of the
Norwegian-Evangelical-Lutheran Church in America," held at
Holden, Minnesota, reported in Kirkelig Mannedstidende [Monthly Church
Tidings], Aug. 1, 1862, p. 232.
"To say, that the
commandment regarding outward rest (Exodus 20:10, 11) [refers to one
day in seven] is only arbitrary misrepresentation and falsification of
God's word, for it does not say 'every seventh,' but 'the seventh day,
on which God rested,' and that, every one knows, was Saturday. If
therefore this commandment concerning outward rest for man and beast
is in force as a moral command for us Christians, then we must rest on
Saturday, as that is the only day on which such rest was
commanded"–Id., April 1, 1862, p. 99.
Having called attention to the
fact that the fourth commandment enjoins observance of the definite
seventh day (Saturday) they then referred to Romans 14 and Colossians 2
as proof that the Sabbath was abolished. But those who held that the
moral law is still in force, answered:
"In regard to the places,
Romans 14 and Colossians 2, these refer . . . to the appointed days of
the Old Testament, which the contents in the whole chapter show ....
By 'Sabbaths' is not to be understood the weekly Sabbath, which,
before Moses, yea already at Creation, was instituted [Genesis 2], but
[they refer] to other feasts, which have been types of Christ, and
ceased at Christ's coming."–Id., September, 1863, pp. 271,272.
The other side answered:
"Sunday, no doubt, had
sacred memories, but so had the day of Christ's death and the day of
His ascension, without Friday and Thursday thereby becoming appointed
days for weekly meetings, and even if Sunday had the most glorious
memories, there would not be in that the least obligation to keep it
.... After all, examples prove nothing, they only illustrate what has
already been proved. And here it actually is incumbent on those who
would make Sunday-keeping a divine ordinance to show us a definite
command of God for it"–Id., September, 1863, pp. 261,262.
The former, in their review,
quoted Matthew 5:17-19 and James 2:10, 11, and declared:
"If it is so dangerous to
offend on one commandment, what must it be then to wholly throw away
one commandment? . . . God has distinctly commanded that every tittle
in His law is to be kept. And how it will fare with those who take
away from, or add anything to, God's word we can read in Revelation.
[The writer then referred to the fate of the priests of Baal in 1
Kings 18.]"–Id., April, 1866, p. 103.
We recognize that this was an
argument in which two groups of Sundaykeepers were engaged, and in which
each in his own way was trying to present
reasons for the observance of the first day of the week. But in fact,
the truths brought to light by this close study of the question prove
that the fourth commandment enjoins the careful observance, not of one
day in seven, but of the seventh day of the week in particular, that the
Sabbath was instituted at creation, that while the ceremonial feasts,
which were types of Christ, ceased at the cross, the seventh-day Sabbath
did not pass away at that time, that there is no definite command in
Scripture for Sunday observance, and that those who attempt to remove a
jot or a tittle from the holy law of God by substituting the first day
of the week for the seventh day fall under the curse of Revelation
The controversy in America had
its counterpart in Norway and Denmark. At the "Ecclesiastical
Association in Christiania [Oslo]," February 8-10, 1854, and at the
"Theological Association of the Deans of Drammen," held August
15, 18,54, the Sabbath question was the great subject for discussion. At
first some seemed to think only of the proper observance of Sunday, but
the question soon arose, how the sacredness of the Sabbath could be
transferred from the seventh to the first day of the week. Pastor Kaurin
thought it could, but Pastor W. A. Wexels declared that this could not
be done, for
"God Himself cannot transfer
the reason for sanctifying the seventh day (God's rest at creation) to
another day. Besides this we have no certainty of any transference of
the day."–"Theologisk Tidsskrift for den Norske Kirke,"
Vol. VI, pp. 629, 630. Oslo:P. T. Mailings, 1855.
Some of the speakers felt that
the only way to get around this troublesome question was to teach that
the Sabbath commandment was abolished, but
"Dean Lange found it
incomprehensible that any one who knew the sermon on the mount
[Matthew 5] could urge the abolition of the Sabbath
commandment."–Id., p. 533.
And Wexels pointed out that the
Sabbath commandment forms such an integral part of the moral law that
what was said against one command affected the whole law. But he felt
that as Christ had "finished" His work on the cross Friday
evening, and rested on the Sabbath,
"the Christians have [thus
an appeal] on Saturday to live in . . . the memory of the Lord's own
rest after His work on earth was finished, and of the Sabbath rest
.... If these sacred Sabbath-memories, considered as the common
property of the church, should seek an expression in a united outward
service on Saturday, it would be entirely becoming"–Id., pp.
During these long debates one
cannot but see a carefully worded attempt to return
to the only Bible Sabbath, but who had the courage of a staunch
reformer, daring to stand out alone on Bible truths?
Dean Fr. Schiorn, of Oslo, says:
"It has been claimed, that
the relation of Jesus to the Sabbath commandment was one of protest
against the continued validity of this command in the New Testament.
On the whole it may be safely considered that the effort to remove the
Decalogue as the unchangeable rule of divine authority can be traced
principally to the fact that they want to blot out the Sabbath
commandment. They can, of course, see, that it is impossible to take
this one commandment out of the series of commandments as long as they
acknowledge the other nine binding and obligatory. The TenCommandments
form such a definite circumscribed unity that they must stand or fall
together. So they would sooner let all fall than to let the third
[fourth] commandment remain standing"–"Relation of the New
Testament to the Old Testament Legislation," p. 11. Oslo:1894.
"It is clear also that this
commandment belongs to the divine law for the church.
It has always been a mystery to me, why many have such a living
interest in getting this commandment blotted from the Decalogue. That
the enemies of Christianity want the Sabbath day, or its divine
validity, removed, that I can naturally understand. But why living
Christians, zealous workers in the church, want it removed, that I
cannot understand."–Id., p. 12.
"Has Jesus anywhere
expressed Himself against the Sabbath commandment or the continuance
of its validity? Has He ever violated it, or advised His disciples to
violate it? Never! He has combated the misuse of the Sabbath
commandment by the Pharisees in the same way that He combated their
misuse of prayer, fasting, tithing, almsgiving, etc., that is, all
selfrighteous piety by works, all spiritless use of the Sabbath, but
never the Sabbath commandment itself .... He says (Mark 2:27):'The
Sabbath was made for man.' . . . God gave man –not only the
Jews–the Sabbath . . . and He has protected this His gift by a
definite command, which has its continued validity for the new
covenant people as well as for the people of the old covenant, because
their need and circumstances are essentially the same.
"When it is said that the
third [fourth] commandment does not obligate the church, because Jesus
has not imposed on us any Sabbath commandment, then this is to me very
strange and incomprehensible talk. The commandment was already given
in the law, which Jesus would not abolish, but fulfill. It was
therefore a piece of superfluity for Jesus to give a Sabbath command.
He, as Lord of the Sabbath, has caused His church to retain it, for
which His church owes Him the very greatest thanks"–Id., pp.
On the other hand Pastor L.
"The third [fourth]
commandment is abolished for us Christians, and has no more as a
command any binding claim.
"It is a false imagination,
if any one thinks he obeys the third [fourth] commandment in the law
of Moses by keeping holy the first day (Sunday) instead of the
seventh; for the commandment does not at all speak of one day in
seven, but of the seventh day of the week. If therefore the
commandment continued to be in force, then without doubt, were the
Jews and the Adventists right, when they say that if we will obey
God's command, we must keep Saturday holy. There cannot be the least
doubt about this. Every attempt to explain away this fact will and
"It is therefore only an
imagination that we keep holy our Sunday according to the requirements
of the third [fourth] commandment.
"Consequently it is an
established fact, that if the third [fourth] commandment is still in
force, then we must acknowledge the Adventists to be right, and begin
to keep Saturday holy. If we are unwilling to do this, we must prove
from the word of God that the Sabbath commandment is abolished in the
New Testament and is no more binding on us Christians."– "
The Adventists, Sabbath, and Sunday," pp. 23, 24. Stavanger:1903.
Pastor K. A. Dateless says,
"For this reason many godly
Christians have solemnly upbraided the Christian church for keeping
Sunday instead of Saturday; it [the church] can have no right to
change God's commandment, and if in the catechism the whole
commandment had been embodied verbatim from Exodus 20:8-11, as has
been done in the Heidelberg Catechism, then we should still keep
Saturday holy, and not Sunday"–"Edifying Instruction in
the Catechism," p. 24. Bergen:1887.
Thus we see how the truth was
forced upon the minds of leading churchmen by this prolonged discussion,
and all were given the opportunity to make their choice. But, as is
always the case, no one wishes to step out alone, they wait for all to
step out in a body, a thing which has never occurred during the whole
history of the world. God's work is an individual matter, not a mass
In the discussion carried on in
Denmark, Bishop Skat Rordam and Dr. Fr. Nielson took the same stand as
Pastor L. Dahle in Norway, and "The Norwegian Synod" in
America, that the Sabbath commandment was abolished, but that the church
keeps Sunday as a proper church regulation. (See Bishop Rordam's remarks
on p. 108.) On the other side stood Dean C. O. C. E. Krogh; Pastors John
Clausen, Wilh. Beck, I. Vahl, P. Krag, A. G. Fich, and I. S. D. Branth,
who declared that we have not nine, but ten commandments. "And the
Ten Commandments are God's commandments for all men in all ages. It is
that law which Christ would not destroy, but fulfill, and the Sabbath
commandment is a part of it," declared Dean I. Vahl. Pastor P. Krag
"When Paul in the letter to
the Colossians speaks about the law being abolished by Christ, he
refers to the middle wall that separated Jews and Gentiles, the law of
Moses. The Ten Commandments, in which Moses had no part, were given by
God's own voice, and this God wrote with His own hand as an evidence
that they should be in force for all times"–"Report of the
Second Church Meeting in Copenhagen," Sept. 13-15, 1887, P.
Taaning, pp. 68, 69. Copenhagen:1887.
The reports of these discussions
are very interesting and illuminating, but our limited space does not
permit us to quote further. This, however, is sufficient to show how God
led one by one of the leading denominations to investigate the Sabbath
truth, and offered them the grand privilege of carrying the Reformation
to completion. If they had accepted the Sabbath truth, He would have led
them on step by step till they had reached the divine standard of the
apostolic faith. Many of the truths of God's word, which the Roman
church, during the Dark Ages, had buried beneath the rubbish of human
tradition, still lay untouched, as costly jewels beneath the sand of
centuries. These must be dug up, so that the "remnant" church
could stand forth in its apostolic purity, possessing the complete
"faith which was once delivered to the saints"; for those who
shall meet the Lord in peace, when He comes in glory, must "keep
the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." Jude 3;
Revelation 12:17; 14:12.