A Written Discussion ... Upon the Sabbath



It is with pleasure that I enter upon the work now before me and attempt to throw some light on this and kindred questions. I am quite as busy as Elder Waggoner with other duties, and am in addition under the following disadvantage: With him the questions to be discussed are daily themes and daily studies, and have been so for years, while with me this is not the case. Having once fully settled in my mind on which side the truth lies, I have dismissed the subject, to be recalled only on occasions like this, or once in a long while as a brief pulpit topic. Should Elder Waggoner’s argument prove inconclusive, it will most likely be, not for the want of careful preparation, but for the lack of Scriptural basis. Having an abiding faith that truth will triumph, I welcome this opportunity to give it expression. WDUS 6.6

So far as our readers are concerned, I expect a careful weighing of the evidence in order to an enlightened conclusion. I cannot ask you to lay aside prejudice save in that mean sense which closes one’s eyes against the admission of light; but in that noble sense of having already judged the case, so far as investigated, you cannot but cling to present convictions, unless a fuller and juster view of truth should compel a change. No one can set aside his convictions at will, but only upon evidence preponderatingly to the contrary. Remember, however, that willful ignorance is sin. “He that knew not (his lord’s will), and did commit things worthy of stripes shall be beaten.” WDUS 7.1

For the sake of future reference as helps to investigation, and in order to prevent tedious repetitions, I will proceed to lay down some rules on which, I think, we will not disagree. These I denominate WDUS 7.2


Evidence may be of five different kinds; that is, Bible truths may be taught or made known to us in five different ways. WDUS 7.3

1. By express command or statement. WDUS 7.4

2. By necessary implication or inference. WDUS 7.5

3. By probable implication or inference. WDUS 7.6

4. By inference less than probable. WDUS 7.7

5. By approved precedent or example. WDUS 7.8

(1). An express command or statement is one where the command, fact, or truth involved is fully, clearly, and unmistakably expressed; as, “Thou shalt not kill.”—Deuteronomy 5:17. WDUS 7.9

So clear and express is this language that by no possible construction could a Jew make it lawful to kill. WDUS 7.10

(2). A necessary inference or implication is one where the doctrine taught, or the truth or fact communicated, is not expressly stated, but necessarily implied; as, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers,” etc.—2 Corinthians 6:14-18. WDUS 7.11

Marriage with infidels is here not named as forbidden, yet who can escape the conclusion that it is unlawful to marry an unbeliever? WDUS 7.12

(3). A probable inference or implication is one where the matter involved is neither expressly stated nor yet necessarily implied, but quite likely meant; as, among the works of the flesh Paul names “revelings,” Galatians 5:21. The revel (koomos) was “a festive procession in honor of Bacchus, (which was led through the villages, koomoi, with songs, games, etc.) In N. T. a nocturnal revel, lascivious feasting and revelings with songs and music, Romans 13:13, Galatians 5:21, 1 Peter 4:3.—Greenfield. WDUS 7.13

This is a darker picture than the modern dance presents, yet has so many features like it as to be probably included in this prohibition. WDUS 7.14

(4). An inference less than probable is one where the evidence is not definitely in favor of a given position, and yet there is nothing against it; or, where facts seem to point both ways, but with unequal force, and the preponderance is feeble. WDUS 7.15

Thus, the Jewish Christians were in doubt respecting meats and days. The fact that God had formerly forbidden them to eat certain meats, and had enjoined certain days as holy, led them to think that these observances may yet be acceptable to Him; while the fact that they were now under a new dispensation seemed to indicate that they could now only in such ways please Him as were enjoined or divinely recognized under this new dispensation. This is the field of “doubtful disputation,” and here all are free to do as they think best.—See Romans 14:1-6. WDUS 7.16

(5). An approved precedent or example is such practice of the Apostles or apostolic churches as met apostolic approval and was not in its nature temporary or local. Thus WDUS 7.17

a. It is right to follow the approved practice of Apostles and apostolic churches. See Philippians 3:17. 1 Thessalonians 1:7; 2:14. WDUS 7.18

b. Some practices were not approved; these we are not to follow. See Acts 15:37-37. Titus 3:9. WDUS 7.19

c. Some practices were temporary and local in their nature; such as WDUS 7.20

(a). The Nazaritic vow with its attendant sin-offerings. Acts 21:23-86; 18:18. Comp. Numbers 6:1-21. This was local, being practiced only by Jewish Christians; and temporary, having met its antitype in Christ, and the temple being now destroyed no such sin-offerings can be made. It took some time to fully understand the fact that Christ was the end of these things. WDUS 7.21

(b). Circumcision. This was local, being practiced by converts from the Jews (Acts 16:3; 21:21. 1 Corinthians 7:18-19), but not by the Gentile Christians (Galatians 2:3; 5:2. Acts 21:21-25); and temporary, having an antitype, Colossians 2:11. WDUS 7.22

(c). Paul kept Jewish sabbaths. We read, Acts 18:21, that he bade the Ephesians farewell, saying, “I must by all means keep this feast which cometh at Jerusalem.” This feast I think was Pentecost, which was a yearly sabbath. I am aware that some commentators think it was the Passover; if so, there were two yearly sabbaths to be observed in keeping this feast, since it began and ended with a sabbath. See also Acts 20:16. The sacrifices which were included in keeping such feasts we have already seen to be local and temporary, and so were the feasts and sabbaths which Paul kept. Colossians 2:16-17. WDUS 8.1

The reason why Paul and other enlightened teachers observed all these things and allowed others to regard them is found in 1 Corinthians 9:20, and is declared to be one of expediency. “Unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under (the) law, as under (the) law, that I might gain them that are under (the) law.” WDUS 8.2

When summed up we have the following as WDUS 8.3


I. An inference which is less than probable has only speculative value; that is, it may be a basis for an opinion, but not a basis for faith, being too far removed from certainty. WDUS 8.4

II. A probable inference partakes more or less of certainty, and is a sufficient basis for moral action. Where nothing better can be had it is decisive, but can never outweigh or stand against an approved precedent, a necessary inference, or an express command or statement. WDUS 8.5

III. A necessary inference is as conclusive as an express command or statement, since it admits no other conclusion. WDUS 8.6

IV. An approved precedent is an authoritative example and remains in force till authoritatively set aside. WDUS 8.7

V. An express command or statement is an end to all controversy. WDUS 8.8

With these preliminaries I proceed to review Elder Waggoner’s first letter. Let it, however, be well understood that I am strictly on the negative, that I have nothing to establish, but that it is my duty to examine the Scriptures relied on by Bro. W. and show that they are inconclusive as respects his affirmation. This may be done in two ways: (1) by showing that they are irrelevant, or (2) by showing that they are fully accounted for on the supposition that the sabbath was not enjoined on man for sacred observance till after the Exodus out of Egyptian bondage. WDUS 8.9

I agree with Elder W. that the design of Genesis was not to furnish a rule of life for the Patriarchs, but to give the Israelites and posterity a bare outline of the history of that period which it covers. That Moses wrote it is conceded by all Christians; and that he did this after he had written Exodus and Leviticus can be clearly established by such considerations as these: (1) There can be nothing but unsupported conjecture urged in favor of an earlier date. (2) He could not have written it before he came to deliver the Israelites from bondage, for in Genesis 17. circumcision is so impressed on his mind as to render such neglect as is recorded in Exodus 4:24-26 improbable. (3) From the exode till Exodus and Leviticus were written, or at least the history therein contained had transpired, we find Moses so busy as to have no time for such a work. WDUS 8.10

That the Patriarchs, especially the antediluvians, had rules of life traditionally preserved and enlarged by their prophets, which are very meagerly reproduced in Genesis, is unquestionably true. But in speaking of these things Eld. W. makes an unwarranted assertion. “‘Sin is the transgression of the law,’ 1 John 3:4.... Therefore they had the law given to them.” The expression “the law,” when “the” is not the result of renewed mention, has a definite meaning and refers to the whole Mosaic code, as I shall show under the third proposition. But with Elder W. it means only the ten commandments, and all of them. This is a convenient way he has of begging the question by assuming that the sabbath then existed. The Patriarchs had indeed a law, for “where no law is there is no transgression,” but they had not the law. McKnight justly renders 1 John 3:4 thus: “Every one who worketh sin, worketh also the transgression of law; for sin is the transgression of law.” WDUS 8.11

Exodus 16.,” Bro. W. says, “does prove that the seventh-day sabbath existed before it was proclaimed on Sinai; and it does prove that the obligation to keep it holy existed before its proclamation on Sinai.” Granted; but this is no proof that man was under obligation from creation to keep it. What he says respecting its not having its origin there and then will be remembered and refuted when I take the affirmative of the next proposition. WDUS 8.12

I freely admit (1) that Genesis 2. speaks of the sabbath as hallowed for man; and (2) that Exodus 16:20; and Genesis 2. are identical as to the day of the week. I know well what has been said to the contrary on both of these points, especially on the last by Peter Akers in his Chronology; but all these positions are untenable and untrue, as will abundantly appear, though indirectly, as we proceed. WDUS 9.1

My brother reasons from the fact that the sabbath in the ten commandments is associated with the Lord’s resting at creation that it existed for man’s observance ever since. “Sabbath means rest; the sabbath day is the rest day. Then to ascertain how and when the seventh day was made a sabbath day, we must find the act by which it was constituted a rest day; and that will absolutely decide the question.... As a rest necessarily supposes some work performed, the rest must be his, and his only, who performed the work.” Just so; but as man performed no work in creation he could not rest, could have no sabbath then, since “a rest necessarily supposes some work performed.” There may have been a sabbath then for the Lord to keep, and for Him only; He only worked, and “the rest must be his, and his only, who performed the work.” WDUS 9.2

I would further add, that there is no such moral or necessary connection between God’s resting and man’s, that man must rest simply because God rested; for if man must rest simply because God rested, then man must work six days because God worked six in succession, and he dare not take a holiday at the peril of his salvation! This argument proves too much, and therefore nothing. The fact is, God’s resting on the seventh day had nothing to do with man’s resting till God sanctified or set apart that day by express command, for man’s observance. The connection between God’s resting and man’s having a sabbath to observe is not necessary or moral, but arbitrary and positive. The sabbath, therefore, is a positive institution, founded not in the original constitution of things, but based on the mere will of the Law-giver. Before, then, any one can prove a sabbath for man’s observance to have existed from the beginning, it must be shown that at creation God so sanctified it. This Exodus 20. does not do. It simply tells us that God “blessed” and “hallowed” the seventh day, but not when. For aught that appears in this chapter to the contrary God may have blessed and hallowed it but the day before. Note also, it does not read that “God rested on the seventh day and this hallowed it,” but He “rested the seventh day; wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” Since man’s obligation to observe the sabbath depends solely on the Law-giver’s will, when God saw fit to enjoin on man a Sabbath any day could have been made equally holy. WDUS 9.3

That God had some reason for hallowing the seventh day in preference to any other, and that this reason was commemorative, may be very true. But all commemorative institutions are positive, and dependent as to obligation on the will of the institutor, and hence are not binding on man till formally proclaimed. If there is an exception to this, I hope my brother will produce it. WDUS 9.4

From the preceding it follows, that all that Elder W. has said concerning the nature of the sabbath’s obligation falls to the ground, and needs no detailed reply. I would only add, that the sabbath as obligatory on man is the Lord’s property in no higher sense than any other positive or commemorative institution. WDUS 9.5

My brother talks about “the reason” of the sabbath’s obligation. Had he said reasons (for there are at least two) he would be nearer the truth. The sabbath is an edifice built on two foundation stones; namely, God’s resting from his work, and Israel’s resting from bondange, Deuteronomy 5:15. As a wise Master-builder God would not erect His superstructure till all the corner stones are laid. And the fact that the sabbath is built also on the last-named stone destroys much of the difference which my brother attempts to find between it and the annual sabbaths. WDUS 9.6

He asserts that, “The commandment given on Sinai gives the same reason for the sabbatic institution that is given in Genesis 2. and it gives no other.” Again; “The reason for the institution (of the sabbath) is given in Genesis 2. and in Exodus 20. And there is no act of instituting it connected with, or related to, any other reason than that therein given, or any other work than that of creation.” Can it be possible that my brother never reads Deuteronomy? In Ch 5:16 we read, “And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought the out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm; therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.” Is not this another “reason” than that given in Exodus 20.; and another work than that of creation? And is this found in Genesis 2.? Did not the Lord assign this as a reason on Sinai and Himself write it on the two tables of stone? Moses certainly is competent to testify, and he says: “These words the Lord spake unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice; and he added no more. And he wrote them in two tables of stone, and delivered them unto me.” Deuteronomy 5:22. WDUS 9.7

With my brother’s argument from Genesis 2. I find the same fault as with that from Exodus 20. It does not say when God “blessed” the seventh day and “sanctified it.” That passage was written long after the exodus, after the sabbath had been given. It merely identifies the seventh day of the creation week with that seventh day which was at some time made a sabbath for man’s observance. But of this more fully hereafter. WDUS 10.1