Sermons on the Sabbath and the Law




“Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” Hebrews 11:3. SOSL 5.1

THE eleventh chapter of Hebrews is a record of the mighty deeds of faith. At the very head of the list, the apostle places the act of grasping a certain great truth. That truth is the declaration that God framed the worlds out of material that did not previously exist. The creative act is the highest display of omnipotent power of which we can conceive. We cannot elevate our minds to see how such a work is possible, even for infinite power. SOSL 5.2

The grandest sight in nature is a view of the starry heavens in a clear night. At one glance the eye takes in the host of heaven, or rather what is visible of this host to a spectator standing upon our earth. These are the worlds that God has made. But if we could be placed back some six thousand years in the past, and from that point survey the vast abyss of space now studded with the stars of heaven, what should we behold? Blank nothing. The host of heaven did not then exist. Our earth itself had not arisen into being. The vast infinity of space was literally, as Job expresses it, “the empty place,” and that which filled it was “nothing.” Job 26:7. Utter and profound darkness rested upon the great void. Even the materials which subsequently formed the worlds, had no existence. SOSL 5.3

But the moment at last arrived, which, in the counsels of infinite Wisdom, had been fixed for the great creative act. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” Genesis 1:1. “He spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.” “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.” Psalm 33:6, 9. When the Creator had thus spoken, every element came into being which he purposed to use in framing the worlds. But chaos now existed as the first result of the Creator’s work. The condition of our world at the moment of its creation may doubtless be safely accepted as the real condition of all the worlds that sprang into existence at the same instant, and in obedience to the same mandate. And thus we read of our globe: “And the earth was without form and void.” Its materials now existed, but they had no order. They were without form, a strong indication that even gravitation was not in existence at the moment of their creation; else it would at once have given the earth a globular form. And the earth was void, i.e., destitute of living creatures and even of living plants. Darkness reigned supreme. Not one ray of light mingled with its utter blackness. SOSL 6.1

“The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” Genesis 1:2. And now the earth, yielding to the law of gravitation, becomes a sphere, or globe, and, as a consequence of this, its whole surface is covered with water, a condition which remained unchanged till the third day. “And God said, Let there be light; and there was light.” This is the next step in the Creator’s work. How God gave existence to light is above our comprehension. But he did it, and it has never ceased to exist. And now he separates the light from the darkness. He calls the one day and the other night. This is why in the divine order the night makes the first division of the twenty-four hours. And Moses tells us that the evening and the morning, i.e., the night and the day, were the first day. This is a decisive proof that the days of the Mosaic record were such days as an evening and morning constitute, i.e., days of twenty-four hours. Otherwise the record is utterly unreliable, and calculated to mislead. If it be objected that a day of twenty-four hours is inadequate to the work of the first day of time, the answer is that this is all true, if the work of creation be considered the work of nature; for if nature had to create itself, all eternity would be insufficient for the work. But if an infinite Creator called the worlds into existence out of nothing, and framed them out of materials that before had no existence, then the period of twenty-four hours was quite adequate for the work of the first day of time. SOSL 6.2

The next thing in order in the work of creation was the act of giving existence to our atmosphere. The firmament, or heaven, which divides the waters from the waters, is the air. It is this in which the fowls fly above the earth. Genesis 1:20. The waters above the firmament are the clouds. The waters under the firmament are those upon our earth. At the time our atmosphere was created, the whole face of the earth was water, for it was not till the next day that the dry land appeared. The atmosphere being denser than the mists and fogs and vapors that form the clouds, they are borne aloft by it. God called this firmament, or atmosphere, heaven. It is the first, or atmospheric, heaven that was thus created. And now the second day being ended, Moses tells what kind of a day it was: “The evening and the morning were the second day.” It was therefore such a day as night and day constitute, i.e., it was a day of twenty-four hours. SOSL 7.1

The atmosphere being created, and the fog and vapor being lifted from the face of the waters, the Creator next causes the dry land to appear. “And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear; and it was so. And God called the dry land earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he seas; and God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:9, 10. The surface of the earth was now changed by the immediate power of the Creator. One portion was depressed to receive the waters that covered the earth, and another and larger portion was elevated above the waters to constitute the dry land. Probably a very large portion of the water was stored within the earth itself, whence at the time of the flood it came forth, when the fountains of the great deep were broken up. SOSL 7.2

And now the dry land having been formed, and the atmosphere and the light having been already created, God fills the earth with vegetable life. And God caused the earth to bring forth grass, and herbs, and trees. And at the close of the third day we are again certified that the day was composed of an evening and a morning, i.e., that it was a twenty-four-hour day. vs.13. SOSL 8.1

On the fourth day God caused the sun and moon and stars to appear as light-bearers in the heavens. By this we are not to understand that these heavenly bodies were this day created; for they were doubtless included in the work of the creation of “the heaven” on the first day. As the earth during the first three days underwent a great transformation, we may reasonably conclude that a like work was carried forward in the heavenly bodies during that time. And thus, when the fourth day arrived, they were ready to be made light-bearers to the earth. And at that point God gave them the office of giving light to the earth, and of measuring time for its inhabitants. And now, for the fourth time, Moses assures us that these days of creation were composed of day and night; in other words, they were such days as those we now have. And this is confirmed most strikingly in the fact that such days as Genesis 1 brings to view, it informs us were subjected to the rule of the sun — a sufficient proof that the days of that chapter are the natural divisions of time, and not vast, indefinite periods, of whose duration we can have no conception. Verses 14-19. SOSL 8.2

On the fifth day God peopled the waters with every variety of fish, and caused abundance of fowls to fly in the open firmament of heaven. And God was pleased with the work his hands had wrought. And, for the fifth time, we are told that the day was composed of evening and morning, or night and day, an expression which cannot be explained otherwise than according to its simple and obvious import, that a day of twenty-four hours was intended. Verses 20-23, SOSL 8.3

The work of the sixth day was to create the beasts of the field, and every kind of animal that moves upon the face of the earth. And when this great work was thus perfected, last of all, he created man in his own image, and made him ruler over all his works. The earth was full of God’s blessing. And the Creator surveyed everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And again the Holy Spirit gives the kind of time used in this record; “The evening and the morning were the sixth day;” that is to say, the sixth day was a day composed of day and night, like the days we now have. “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.” Genesis 2:1. How vast the work of this six days! Before it began, the infinity of space was simply an abyss of darkness, having nothing in it out of which to form the works of creation. When the six days were ended, an infinite number of worlds had arisen into existence. God had framed them out of things which before did not exist. To grasp this great truth in an act of faith which Paul places with strict propriety at the head of his list of the mighty deeds of faith. SOSL 9.1

The psalmist tell us that “the works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein.” And he adds: “He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered.” Psalm 111:2, 4. Certainly, the greatest of all his works, and that which surpasses every other in its manifestation of infinite power, is the creation of the heavens and the earth. This is the most wonderful of all the works of his hands. This great work is worthy of being sought out of all them that have pleasure therein. God wrought this wonderful work to be remembered; that is to say, he designed that men who owe their existence to the creation of the heavens and the earth, and or mankind upon the earth, should never forget that he had wrought this work, and that he was their Creator. Indeed, it is this great fact that he appeals to as distinguishing himself from all false gods. And thus he speaks by Jeremiah: “Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have NOT MADE THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens.” Jeremiah 10:11. But he speaks thus of himself: “The Lord is the true God; he is the living God, and an everlasting king.... HE HATH MADE THE EARTH by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion.” Jeremiah 10:10, 12. SOSL 9.2

One of the highest acts of faith is to grasp the existence of an uncreated Being who has called into existence, out of nothing, an infinite host of worlds. To believe this great truth, which Paul makes so prominent an act of faith, we must credit the testimony of the Scriptures; for he tells us that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17. But faith without works is dead, being alone. No human being can have so perfect a theoretical faith in this great truth as has Satan. But his faith in it is of no benefit to himself. If our faith in this cardinal truth of revelation is of greater value to us than Satan’s faith to himself, it must produce certain acts of obedience by which our love for the truth we believe, is made manifest. And thus the apostle James states the case: “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? James 2:19, 20. SOSL 10.1

“Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God.” But by what act of obedience do we manifest our love for this great truth? And by what good work do we show that our faith in the creation of the heavens and the earth is not a dead faith? If God made his wonderful works to be remembered, how are we to remember our Creator? If the creation of the heavens and the earth distinguishes the true God from all false gods, by what acts are we to preserve in our minds the memory of this work of infinite power? SOSL 10.2

To answer these questions, we have only to return to the record of the creation in Genesis 1 and 2. The close of the sixth day witnessed the perfection of the Creator’s work. He surveyed all the works of his hands, and behold they were all very good. With the beginning of the seventh day, God’s work of creation ceased. And thus we read: “And on the seventh day, God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.” Genesis 2:2, 3. SOSL 11.1

The record tells us what God did on the seventh day as distinctly as it relates what he did on the six days of creation which preceded it. His work was wrought in six days. On the seventh day he rested from that work. He did not rest because of weariness, for the Creator of the heavens and the earth cannot be wearied. Isaiah 40:28. He made the seventh day his rest-day in order that he might set up an everlasting memorial of his creative work. For when he had rested upon the day, he blessed it, and sanctified or hallowed it. He blessed the seventh day because he had rested upon it, which shows that the day of God’s rest was past when he blessed the seventh day. He did not bless the day because he was about to rest upon it, but because he had rested upon it. So it is evident that the blessing was placed upon the seventh day for time to come in honor of what God had done upon that day. And thus also with respect to the sanctification of the seventh day. God sanctified it because he had rested upon it. He did not sanctify the day because he purposed to rest upon it, but because he had rested upon it. The sanctification cannot be placed upon a day after it has ceased to exist. And hence God did not sanctify the first seventh day of time because he had made it his rest-day, for when he had thus rested, the day had expired; but he sanctified the seventh day for time to come, in memory of his own rest on that day from the work of creation. SOSL 11.2

To sanctify is to set apart, or appoint to a holy use. And here we learn at the very beginning of the Bible that God appointed the seventh day to a holy use. He did it because that in it he had rested from all his work. So it is incontestable that the seventh day was appointed to a holy use in order that God’s rest from creation might be remembered. And this appointment must have been made to Adam and Eve, for they were the ones who had the days of the week to use. The fact, therefore, is undeniable that God bade Adam set apart the seventh day for sacred rest in memory of his own rest upon that day. SOSL 12.1

Here, then, we find the memorial of the creation of the heavens and the earth. The seventh day was set apart to a holy use because God had rested upon it from all his work which he created and made. So the creation which called the elements into existence, and the making of the earth out of those elements, are here distinguished from each other, and both are included in the commemorative rest. He rested from the six days of creation. God made his works to be remembered; and no sooner was his work complete than he set up a lasting memorial of that work. He hallowed every seventh day, that man might remember God, his creator. And that man might grasp the great truth that God, in his infinite power, spoke into existence, from nothing, the heaven and the earth, had ordained, at the very beginning, one grand act of obedience by which his faith in that truth should be declared, and his love for it made manifest. The observance of the Creator’s rest-day is that act of obedience by which we declare our faith in God as the creator of the heavens and the earth. SOSL 12.2

To profess faith in God as the creator of all things, and to pay no attention to the memorial which he ordained to keep the work of creation in lasting remembrance, is to have, in this respect, a dead faith. We thus profess to know God; but in works we deny him. We have faith without works. Our faith in the one God, who, by his sovereign power, framed the worlds out of materials which did not before exist, is like the faith of the devils, a dead faith, because that grand act of obedience which was ordained to express that faith, we do not perform. And we are not to think that there is no need of this effort to maintain faith in the one God who in six days created heaven and earth, and rested on the seventh. SOSL 13.1

The world is full of atheism. The Sabbath is the grand bulwark against that fatal error. Its observance by the people of God is a solemn protest against atheism, and a public confession, by works corresponding to their faith, that they believe the record of the creation of the heavens and the earth. The atheist has no faith in the record of the creation. To him the rest-day of the Creator is of no account whatever. But, with men believing the Bible record of the creation, the case is different. They confess their faith in the six days of the Creator’s work, and his rest upon the seventh, and that he set apart the day because he had rested upon it. If their works correspond with their faith, they will regard the rest-day of the Lord. Can the Christian, who believes the record of the creation, and the atheist, who denies the existence of the Creator himself, both act alike in disregarding the rest-day of the Lord? See the believer in the record of the first seven days of time. When the seventh day, which the Creator set apart in memory of his own rest on that day, arrives, he lays aside all labor, and rests from all his work. Every one understands the act. But the atheist continues his labors as on other days. His works are consistent with his unbelief. But what shall be said of those Christians who imitate in their works the conduct of the atheist? Surely, the observance of the Creator’s rest-day is the proper act of obedience by which we manifest our faith in God as the creator. And whatever the intention, the violation of the rest-day of the Lord is practical atheism. SOSL 13.2

God set apart the seventh day in Paradise. This proves that the observance of the Sabbath is not a carnal ordinance, for it was instituted before sin entered our world. It was not ordained to commemorate the flight of Israel to Egypt, for the children of Israel did not flee out of Egypt till more than two thousand years after this. It was not an institution ordained for the Jews, for it began with the human race, and thus preceded the existence of the Hebrew people for many ages. But the most remarkable fact that appears in this record is, that this memorial was needed even in the garden of God. Though man could converse with God face to face, yet every week, by the most impressive act, Adam was called to remember and acknowledge God as his creator. The rest-day of God was set apart, not as a mere rest from wearisome toil, for Adam had almost as little occasion for rest from weariness in Paradise, as had the Creator from his work of infinite might, but as a day when man should desist from everything else and think of God. SOSL 14.1

And even the very manner of this observance was exactly calculated to bring to remembrance the grand fact that distinguished God from all other beings, viz., the fact that he had created the heavens and the earth. He must rest as God rested, and on the very day that he rested. And thus doing, God, his creator, could never be forgotten, nor the relation which God sustains to all other beings, and to all things, ever pass out of mind. It was a day of worship in the highest sense, in that it reminded man of his relation to God and kept the great facts respecting the origin of all things vividly before the mind. Man must rest on that day, not because he specially needed rest on account of weariness, nor because rest on a certain day of the week is better calculated to give him relief than resting upon some other day would be. But he must rest in memory of what the Creator did, that he might not forget his infinite obligation to that great Being who had given him existence. SOSL 14.2

The record in Genesis 2:1-3, is worthy of our most careful attention for the remarkable distinctness, brevity, and freedom from ambiguity, which characterize it. SOSL 15.1

1. It is certain that God rested upon the first seventh day of time. 2. That he did not bless and sanctify the day because he was about to rest upon it, but because he had rested upon it. 3. And hence it was not the first seventh day of time which he blessed and set apart, for that had expired when he performed these acts. 4. And thus it is evident that the blessing and sanctification related to the seventh day for time to come. 5. This was done because God had rested upon that day, showing that it was in memory of that event. 6. God placed his blessing on the day, thus making it a more precious day than any other. 7. He appointed the day to a holy use, thus making it obligatory upon Adam and his posterity to observe it. 8. And it is also to be observed that he did not bless the institution of the Sabbath, and sanctify that as a movable thing which could be placed upon one day or another, just as it might best suit the circumstances. Nothing is said of a Sabbath institution. God rested the seventh day. God blessed the seventh day. God set apart the seventh day to a holy use. 9. This indeed made the Sabbath. Or, if the reader chooses to use the expression, this was the setting up of the Sabbath institution. But the seventh day was the recipient of all the things which God conferred. The rest, the blessing, and the sanctification, pertained to that alone. When, therefore, some other day is taken, every element that constitutes the Sabbath is left out of the account and lost. When another day is taken, we get that which God never rested upon; and as he blessed the seventh day because he had rested upon it, when we take some other day besides that of God’s rest, we take a day which God has not blessed. As he sanctified the day on which he rested, and which he had for that reason blessed, when we take one of the six days which God employed in the work of creation, we take a day which has not one element of the Sabbath institution pertaining to it. Certainly there are but seven days in the week. The first six days God did not rest. On the seventh day he did rest. These facts can never be changed. We cannot place the blessing and sanctification on any day only the one of God’s rest, for they are conferred upon it because of that rest. And we cannot change the rest from the day on which he rested to one on which he wrought in creation. Not even Omnipotence can do this. And thus the definite seventh day stands out with the utmost distinctness. SOSL 15.2

It cannot, therefore, be denied, except by doing violence to the sacred narrative, that the creation of the heavens and the earth was immediately followed by the establishment of a divine memorial of that grand event. And it is evident that this memorial is to be observed as an act of obedience whereby our faith in the creation of the heavens and the earth is shown to be a living faith. Those who profess faith in this great truth do thereby acknowledge themselves under obligation to manifest that faith by observing the memorial ordained by the Creator for that very purpose. Those who neglect this memorial, render their faith in this fundamental doctrine of the Bible a dead faith. God’s great bulwark against atheism was never so much needed as in the last days of our world’s history. We have come down some six thousand years from Paradise. Darkness now covers the earth, and gross darkness the people. Surely, an institution that was needed in Paradise, when man conversed face to face with God, is needed a thousandfold more in these days of awful apostasy and atheism. We have not yet ceased to be under sacred obligation to the almighty Creator, and it is in the highest degree proper that we, by the observance of that institution which he has ordained for the very purpose, should humbly acknowledge that obligation. SOSL 16.1