Who Changed the Sabbath?
Who Changed the Sabbath?
TIME was when the first day of the week was not observed as a Christian institution. Allowing it the utmost antiquity which its most fervent friends will claim, we cannot go back beyond the resurrection of our Saviour, not eighteen hundred and fifty years ago. Previous to that time, another day, the seventh day of the week, was observed as the Sabbath by that people whom God had set apart to preserve a knowledge of himself and of his truth in the earth. WCS 1.1
While some confusion of ideas prevails in regard to what effect the change from the Jewish to the gospel dispensation has had upon the Sabbath, some believing it to be unaffected, and others supposing it to have been abolished, the majority believe that it has been changed. And so we find in all Catholic and Protestant countries, that all who keep any Sabbath at all, excepting a few who keep the seventh day, observe the first day of the week. And most of them do it on the ground that this day occupies in this dispensation the same position that the seventh day occupied in the old, and that its observance rests upon the same authority. WCS 1.2
This is certainly a very remarkable change. And the bare suggestion that this change is not in accordance with the will of God, nor in harmony with his word, is enough to raise the query in very many minds, How, then, has it come about? Who has thus changed the Sabbath? By what means has this revolution been accomplished? And not a few attempt to forestall all inquiry on this point by claiming that the fact that such a change has been made, is itself sufficient evidence that God has wrought it. But this is altogether too hasty a conclusion; for Satan has not been asleep these eighteen hundred years; and it has been only by the most diligent care that anything has been preserved to the Christian church free from the taint of fatal corruption. It is not the object of this tract to enter into an examination of any of the Scripture evidences for or against the change; for this would involve an extended discussion of the Sabbath question from a Bible point of view; nor is it designed to show the particular steps by which the change has been brought about; for this would involve an examination of the history of the Sabbath from apostolic times. We only inquire here respecting the agent or power which has been employed in this work. Most Protestants claim that this change was made by Christ and his apostles. But a rival claim to the honor of this work here comes in from the man of sin, the papacy; hence the issue; and it becomes a very important point, and one which has quite a bearing on the character of the institution, to determine whose work it is - that of Christ or Antichrist. It will be conceded on all hands that a change of the Sabbath involves a change of what is usually regarded as the moral law, that is, the ten commandments, or decalogue. The law which required of Israel the observance of the seventh day of the week, as the fourth commandment certainly did under that dispensation, could not at the same time enjoin upon them the keeping of the first day of the week. Nor can it enjoin this observance upon us, unless it has been so changed as to demand such a service. If there has been no change, it demands of us exactly what it did of Israel. But if the first day is the divinely appointed Sabbath of the fourth commandment for this dispensation, then the new and unwritten version of the ten commandments for this dispensation so reads as to require the observance of that day. The question then resolves itself simply into this: Who has changed the law of God? Who was competent to do it? No one except the Father, or his Son, who was associated with him in the creation and the government of the world. Respecting the attitude which Christ should bear toward the law of God, the prophet Isaiah says: “He will magnify the law, and make it honorable.” Isaiah 42:21. To abolish it, as though it was no longer worthy of existence, or to change it, as if it had previously been imperfect, would not magnify it or make it honorable. Christ did neither of these things. Speaking himself of the law of the law of God through the psalmist, he says: “I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.” Psalm 40:8. These expressions denote no hostility on the part of Christ against his Father’s law. We are therefore prepared to hear him declare in his very first sermon that he came not to destroy the law, and that not a jot or tittle should pass from it till heaven and earth should pass, not the smallest fragment should perish, nor the least item be changed, through any work of his. There is a power, however, brought to view in prophecy, which was to hold a very different relation to God and his law. This power was to speak great and blasphemous words against the Most High, wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change times and laws. It is symbolized by the little horn of the fourth beast of Daniel 7; and that symbol all Protestants agree in applying to the papacy. That power which would blaspheme God, and wear out his saints, would be just the power to undertake to change his law. So the prophet expressly specifies on this point: “He shall think to change times and laws.” These laws must certainly be the laws of the Most High. To apply it to human laws, and make the prophecy read, “And he shall speak great words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change human laws,” would be doing evident violence to the language of the prophet. But to apply it to the laws of God, and let it read, “And he shall speak great words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change the times and laws of the Most High” - then all is consistent and forcible. The Septuagint, the Danish, and the German Bible, read, “the law,” in the singular, which more directly suggests the law of God. So far as human laws are concerned, the papacy has been able to do more than merely “think” to change them. It has been able to change them at pleasure. It has annulled the decrees of kings and emperors, and absolved subjects from allegiance to their rightful sovereigns. It has thrust its long arm into the affairs of the nations, and brought rulers to its feet in the most abject humility. But the prophet beholds greater acts of presumption than these. He sees it endeavor to do what it was not able to do, but could only think to do: he sees it attempt an act which no man nor any combination of men can ever accomplish; and that is, to change the laws of the Most High. Bear this in mind while we look at the testimony of another sacred writer on this very point. Paul speaks of the same power in 2 Thessalonians 2; and he describes it, in the person of the pope, as the man of sin, and as sitting as God in the temple of God (that is, the church), and as exalting himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped. According to this, the pope sets himself up as the one for all the church to look to for authority in the place of God. And now we ask the reader to ponder carefully the question how he could exalt himself above God. Search through the whole range of human devices; go to the extent of human effort; by what plan, by what move, by what claim, could this usurper exalt himself above God? He might institute any number of ceremonies, he might prescribe any form of worship, he might exhibit any degree of power; but so long as God had requirements which the people felt bound to regard in preference to his own, so long he would not be above God. He might enact a law and teach the people that they were under as great obligations to that as to the law of God. Then he would only make himself equal with God. But he is to do more than this; he is to attempt to raise himself above him. Then he must promulgate a law which conflicts with the law of God, and demand obedience to his own in preference to God’s. There is no other possible way in which he could place himself in the position assigned in the prophecy. But this is simply to change the law of God; and if he can cause this change to be adopted by the people in place of the original enactment, then he, the law-changer, is above God, the law-maker. And this is the very work that Daniel said he should think to do. We now inquire what change the papacy has undertaken to make in the law of God. By the law of God we mean, as already stated, the moral law, the only law in the universe of immutable and perpetual obligation, the law of which Webster says, defining the terms according to the sense in which they are almost universally used in Christendom, “The moral law is summarily contained in the decalogue, written by the finger of God on two tables of stone, and delivered to Moses on Mount Sinai.” If, now, the reader will compare the ten commandments as found in Roman Catholic catechisms with those commandments as found in the Bible, he will see in the catechisms that the second commandment is left out, that the tenth is divided into two commandments to make up the lack of leaving out the second, and keep good the number ten, and that the fourth commandment (called the third in their enumeration) is made to enjoin the observance of Sunday as the Sabbath, and prescribe that the day shall be spent in hearing mass devoutly, attending vespers, and reading moral and pious books. Here are several variations from the decalogue as found in the Bible. Which of them constitutes the change of the law intended in the prophecy? or are they all included in that change? Let it be borne in mind that, according to the prophecy, he was to think to change times and laws. This plainly conveys the idea of intention and design, and makes these qualities essential to the change in question. But respecting the omission of the second commandment, Catholics argue that it is included in the first, and, hence, should not be numbered as a separate commandment. And on the tenth, they claim that there is so plain a distinction of ideas as to require two commandments. So they make the coveting of a neighbor’s wife the ninth commandment, and the coveting of his goods the tenth. In all this, they claim that they are giving the commandments exactly as God intended to have them understood. So, while we may regard them as errors in their interpretation of the commandments, we cannot set them down as intentional changes. Not so, however, with the fourth commandment. Respecting this commandment, they do not claim that their version is like that given by God. They expressly claim a change here, and also that the change has been made by the church. A few quotations from standard Catholic works will make this matter plain. The following, from “Butler’s Catechism,” shows how the ten commandments are numbered and taught in that church: - WCS 1.3