From Here to Forever


Sunday Observance

Sunday observance is a custom which originated with Rome, which she claims as the sign of her authority. The spirit of the papacy—of conformity to worldly customs, the veneration for human traditions above the commandments of God—is permeating the Protestant churches and leading them to the same work of Sunday exaltation which the papacy has done before them. HF 350.2

Royal edicts, general councils and church ordinances sustained by secular power were the steps by which the pagan festival attained its position of honor in the Christian world. The first public measure enforcing Sunday observance was the law enacted by Constantine. Though virtually a heathen statute, it was enforced by the emperor after his nominal acceptance of Christianity. HF 350.3

Eusebius, a bishop who sought the favor of princes, and who was the special friend of Constantine, advanced the claim that Christ had transferred the Sabbath to Sunday. No testimony of Scripture was produced in proof. Eusebius himself unwittingly acknowledges its falsity. “All things,” he says, “whatever that it was duty to do on the Sabbath, these we have transferred to the Lord's Day.”2 HF 350.4

As the papacy became established, Sunday exaltation was continued. For a time the seventh day was still regarded as the Sabbath, but steadily a change was effected. Later the pope gave directions that the parish priest should admonish violators of Sunday lest they bring some great calamity on themselves and neighbors. HF 351.1

The decrees of councils proving insufficient, the secular authorities were besought to issue an edict that would strike terror to the hearts of the people and force them to refrain from labor on Sunday. At a synod held in Rome, all previous decisions were reaffirmed and incorporated into ecclesiastical law and enforced by civil authorities.3 HF 351.2

Still the absence of scriptural authority for Sundaykeeping occasioned embarrassment. The people questioned the right of their teachers to set aside the declaration, “The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God,” in order to honor the day of the sun. To supply the lack of Bible testimony, other expedients were necessary. HF 351.3

A zealous advocate of Sunday, who about the close of the twelfth century visited the churches of England, was resisted by faithful witnesses for the truth; and so fruitless were his efforts that he departed from the country for a season. When he returned, he brought with him a roll purporting to be from God Himself, which contained the needed command for Sunday observance, with awful threats to terrify the disobedient. This precious document was said to have fallen from heaven and to have been found in Jerusalem upon the altar of St. Simeon, in Golgotha. But, in fact, the pontifical palace at Rome was the source. Frauds and forgeries have in all ages been esteemed lawful by the papal hierarchy. (See Appendix, note for page 37) HF 351.4

But notwithstanding all efforts to establish Sunday sacredness, papists themselves publicly confessed the divine authority of the Sabbath. In the sixteenth century a papal council declared: “Let all Christians remember that the seventh day was consecrated by God, and hath been received and observed, not only by the Jews, but by all others who pretend to worship God; though we Christians have changed their Sabbath into the Lord's Day.”4 Those who were tampering with the divine law were not ignorant of the character of their work. HF 352.1