The “Abiding Sabbath” and the “Lord’s Day”



As a basis for the further notice of “The Abiding Sabbath,” we shall here give some extracts from the author’s discussion of the fourth commandment, showing the universal and everlasting obligation of the seventh day as the Sabbath of the Lord. He says:— ASLD 16.1

“The giving of the law at Sinai is the loftiest landmark in the history of Israel. It is the beginning of their civil and religious polity. From that moment Israel became the nation of Jehovah, the nation of the law, the leader among the nations of the earth in the search after a positive righteousness. That the Sabbath is a part of that code, has therefore a meaning not for the Hebrew alone, but for the whole race of mankind. ASLD 16.2

“Everywhere in the sacred writings of the Hebrews they are reminded that they are the people peculiarly guided by Providence. Historian, psalmist, and prophet never tire in recounting the marvelous interpositions of Jehovah in behalf of his chosen people. And this thought is the key-note to the decalogue, ‘I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage’ ASLD 16.3

(Exodus 20:2), is the introduction to the law. When therefore the Sabbath is introduced into the decalogue, while its old significance as a testimony of creation is not lost, but especially recalled, it becomes, beside, a monument of the divine Providence whose particular manifestations Israel, among the nations, has most largely experienced. The Sabbath of the law is the Sabbath of Providence. ASLD 17.1

“The declaration on Sinai is perhaps the strongest attestation which the Sabbatic ordinance has received. It is henceforth based upon an express command of God himself, is given in circumstances of the most impressive solemnity, and has received the awful sanction of embodiment in the moral law, against which ‘the soul that sinneth, it shall die.’ Ezekiel 18:4. God has spoken, and his creatures must obey or perish. ASLD 17.2

“We commonly speak of the decalogue as the ‘ten commandments.’ A more precise rendering of the Hebrew terms would be the ‘ten words’ (Exodus 34:28, margin; Deuteronomy 4:13; 10:2, 4, margin), an exact equivalent of which we have taken from the Greek, in the word ‘decalogue.’ These statutes are therefore not simply commands or precepts of God, for God may give commandments which have only a transient and local effect; they are in a distinctive sense the word of God, an essential part of that word which ‘abideth.’ In the decalogue we get a glimpse of that inner movement of the divine will which is the permanent foundation for all temporary ordinances. It is not contended that this use of language is rigidly uniform, but only that by the phrase, ‘the ten words,’ as well as in the general scope of Hebrew legislation, the moral law is fully distinguished from the civil and ceremonial law. The first is an abiding statement of the divine will; the last consists of transient ordinances having but a temporary and local meaning and force. The decalogue is also called the ‘testimony’ (Exodus 25:16 and in many other places), that is, the witness of the divine will; also the words of the ‘covenant’ (34:28), and ‘his (i. e., Jehovah’s) covenant’ (Deuteronomy 4:13), upon obedience to which his favor was in a special manner conditioned. The names given to this code declare its unchanging moral authority. ASLD 17.3

“The manner in which this law was given attests its special sanctity and high authority. Before its announcement, the people of Israel, by solemn rites, sanctified themselves, while the holy mountain was girded with the death-line which no mortal could pass and live. When the appointed day came, to the sublime accompaniment of pealing thunders and flashing lightnings, the loud shrilling of angel-blown trumpets, the smoking mountain, and the quaking earth, from the lips of Jehovah himself sounded forth ‘with a great voice’ the awful sentences of this divine law, to which in the same way ‘he added no more.’ Deuteronomy 5:22. Not by the mouth of an angel or prophet came this sublimest code of morals, but the words were formed in air by the power of the Eternal himself. And when it was to be recorded, no human scribe took down the sacred utterances; they were engraved by no angel hand; but with his own finger he inscribed on tables of stone, whose preparation, in the first instance, was ‘the work of God,’ the words of his will. Exodus 31:18; 32:16; 34:1, 4, 28. ASLD 18.1

“The law declared by his own mouth and indited by his own hand was finally placed in the ark of the covenant, underneath the mercy-seat, where sprinkled blood might atone for its violation; .. and beneath the flaming manifestation of the very presence of the Almighty, the glory of the shekinah; circumstances signifying forever the divine source of this law and the divine solicitude that it should be obeyed. This superior solemnity and majesty of announcement and conservation distinguish the decalogue above all other laws given to man, and separate it widely from the civil polity and ritual afterwards given by the hand of Moses. These latter are written by no almighty finger and spoken to the people by no divine voice; for these it is sufficient that Moses hear and record them. ASLD 19.1

“Of the law thus impressively given, the fourth commandment forms a part. Amid the same cloud of glory, the same thunders and lightnings, uttered by the same dread voice of the Infinite One, and graven by his finger, came forth these words as well: ‘Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.’ It is impossible, in view of these facts, to class the Sabbath with the ceremonial institutions of Israel. By the sacred seal of the divine lip and finger, it has been raised far above those perishing rites. In other words, it belongs to that moral law which Paul calls ‘holy, and just, and good’ (Romans 7:12), and not that ritual law of which Peter declares, ‘Neither our fathers nor we were able to bear’ it. Acts 15:10. ASLD 19.2

“Nothing can be found in the form of words in which the fourth commandment is expressed which indicates that it is less universal in its obligation or less absolute in its authority than the other nine with which it is associated.... But it is sometimes claimed that this is simply a Mosaic institute, and therefore of transient force; that this has not, like the others, an inward reason which appeals to the conscience; that it is, in short, not a moral but a positive precept... ASLD 20.1

“The proof which would exclude this commandment from the throne of moral authority on which the others are seated should amount to demonstration.... The distinction cannot be maintained between this commandment and the remainder of the decalogue. The prohibition of image-worship is not deemed essential by either Roman or Greek Christianity; but the more spiritual mind of Protestantism can see that this law is absolutely necessary to guard a truly spiritual conception of Deity. So, many excellent Christians have failed to discern the moral necessity of the Sabbath. Clearer insight will reveal that all the laws of the first table are guarded by this institution, as all in the second table are enforced by the tenth, ‘Thou shalt not covet.’ ... ASLD 20.2

“The moral authority of the decalogue did not begin with its announcement on Sinai. Its precepts had been known and practised through all the patriarchal ages. Murder was condemned in Cain, and dishonor of parents in Ham. To Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had come the knowledge of one God, and the last had exhorted his children against image-worship. Genesis 35:2. Theft, falsehood, and adultery are all denounced by the record of pre-Mosaic times. As a declaration of the eternal and unchanging moral law its binding force did not begin with its announcement at Horeb, but dated from the beginning of things, and for the same reason will endure until the consummation of all things. Nor was it given to Israel alone. The Gentiles ‘show the work of the law written in their hearts.’ Romans 2:14, 15. ASLD 20.3

“Jesus Christ has confirmed its obligation: ‘If thou wilt center into life, keep the commandments.’ Matthew 19:17. His great generalization of the whole into the double duty of love to God and man is a further confirmation of the persistence of its ethical force. James writes: ‘Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.’ James 2:10, 11. It is impossible to suppose that the apostle has not in mind the whole decalogue, and that he does not equally affirm the profaner of the Sabbath to be a violator of the whole law. In a statement of such gravity he must have specified the exception if any existed. It is worthy of our notice that he bases the sanctity of each command on the fact that each was spoken by one God. But the law of the Sabbath was as surely uttered by the voice of Jehovah as any other precept of the ten. If the ‘ten words’ of Sinai live to-day, imposing an unrelaxed obligation upon all mankind, as is testified both by the nature of the legislation and by the authority of Jesus and his apostles, the Sabbath shares their perpetuity, both of existence and obligation.... ASLD 21.1

“In the law spoken by the mouth of God himself and written by his own finger, the transcript of his will, the reasons assigned for the institution of the Sabbath are such as appeal, not to Israel alone, but to man as man. The Sabbath recalls a fact of universal interest, the creation of the world, and is based on a process in the nature of God, who in some ineffable way ‘rested on the seventh day.’ The ideas connected with the Sabbath in the fourth commandment are thus of the most permanent and universal meaning. The institution, in the light of the reasons assigned, is as wide as the creation and as eternal as the Creator. ASLD 22.1

“Instituted at the creation by the example of the Creator, its obligation extends to every creature. It is inconceivable, on any theory of inspiration, that any narrower interpretation is to be given to this command. If language is to have any meaning at all, the Sabbath of the fourth commandment is not simply an Israelitish, but a human institution. As it answers a universal need, so is it enforced by a universal reason, being supported by the only state of facts that could create a perpetual institute,—the law of the beginning.... ASLD 22.2

“These considerations cannot be treated with too much gravity. Long should pause the erring hand of man before it dares to chip away with the chisel of human reasonings one single word graven on the enduring tables by the hand of the infinite God. What is proposed? To make an erasure in a Heaven-born code; to expunge one article from the recorded will of the Eternal! Is the eternal tablet of his law to be defaced by a creature’s hand? He who proposes such an act should fortify himself by reasons as holy as God and as mighty as his power. None but consecrated hands could touch the ark of God; thrice holy should be the hands which would dare alter the testimony which lay within the ark. ASLD 23.1

“By the lasting authority of the whole decalogue, with which the fourth commandment is inseparably connected, which is the embodiment of immutable moral law, and by the very words used in framing the command, the Sabbath is shown to be an institution of absolute, universal, and unchanging obligation. ASLD 23.2

“Here may properly be inserted that prayer which the Anglican Church prescribes as a response to the recitation of each of the ten commandments: ‘Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.’” ASLD 23.3

Amen! and, Amen! say we. ASLD 23.4