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OBJECTIONS OF SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISTS
The following claims made by Seventh-day Adventists we consider worthy of notice and reply:--
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(1). The Sabbath-day was observed before the Law was given at Sinai.--Exod. 16:23-30.
Answer. Yes; but the Law Covenant was really in force from the time Israel left Egypt. The Passover was a prominent feature of the Law, and it was instituted the night before their exodus began. Moses had already been appointed of God, and, as we have seen, God's dealings were only with him, as the typical father or representative of that nation. In accepting and obeying Moses, Israel had already made the covenant to obey the laws he would give. The demonstration at Sinai was a formal ratification and acknowledgment of their covenant.
The Sabbath-day was instituted about two weeks before the formal giving of the Law on tables of stone at Sinai; viz., at the giving of the manna in the wilderness--a most favorable opportunity for giving them an object lesson in the double supply of manna on the sixth day, and none on the seventh. (Exod. 16:22-30.) It was inaugurated as a memorial of their deliverance from Egyptian bondage, in which they had no rest from their task-masters. This is clearly stated in Deut. 5:15--"Remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and a stretched-out arm; therefore, the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the Sabbath day." The Law Covenant is continually referred to as dating from that time --"When I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt."--Heb. 8:9; Jer. 31:32; Ezek. 20:5,6,12,20.
(2). God ordained the Sabbath at creation (Gen. 2:2,3; Exod. 20:11), and evidently it was observed all along, and was merely repeated and enforced in the Law given by Moses.
Answer. This is a mistake. The account does say that God rested upon the seventh creative day, but not one word is said about the seventh day having been commanded or ordained, until it was given to Israel. On the contrary, there is no mention made of the Sabbath during the entire period of two thousand years preceding Israel's exodus from Egypt, and then we are told, as above quoted, that it was ordained for that nation and as a memorial of their deliverance.
From the entire account it is evident that it was something new to the Israelites. Its explanation to them (Exod. 16:20-30), as well as Moses' uncertainty in the case of the first transgression of this law (Num. 15:32-36), proves that it was new, that it had not been previously known among them or their fathers.
We should remember, too, that the account in Genesis was written by Moses, and that he very appropriately called attention to the fact that the seventh-day Sabbath commanded in his law was not without a precedent.
But while God's resting on the seventh day of his week was properly noticed as a precedent for Israel's observance of a seventh-day Sabbath, it does not at all follow that God's rest-day was a twenty-four hour day; nor that God rested in the same manner that the Israelites were commanded to rest.
The Apostle (Heb. 4:3,4,9-11) explains that Israel did not enter into the real rest or Sabbath,--although they zealously observed the seventh day. He says that the reason was, that they did not exercise the faith by which alone the real rest can be enjoyed. "We that believe do enter into rest [and thus have a perpetual Sabbath]." "For he that is entered into his rest [the rest of heart, in faith, given by Christ], he also hath ceased from his own works [from attempting self-justifying works], as God did from his [works--i.e., as God left the work of redemption and recovery for Christ to do, so we also accept Christ's finished work, and rest in faith therein, with all the obedience possible]." Those who trust in the Law Covenant or who blend its requirements with those of the New Covenant cannot fully enjoy this rest, which is for the New Covenant keepers only.
God's rest day, instead of being a twenty-four-hour day, is a day seven thousand years long. It began as soon as sin brought God's curse upon Adam. Instead of undertaking Adam's recovery out of sin and death, God rested from any further works on behalf of man and earth, and let things take their natural course, purposing in himself that Christ should have full charge of man's redemption and restitution. God gave promises and types and shadows in the Law, but he did not work toward [R1731 : page 358] man's recovery. The first work for man's recovery was the ransom paid by our Lord Jesus for Adam and his race.
The Heavenly Father has therefore already rested six thousand years; and he will similarly rest during the Millennium of Christ's reign,-- until its very close, when Christ shall deliver up the Kingdom to God, even the Father.*
*Thus we find the key to the period of creation; for if the seventh day be a period of seven thousand years, as we think we have proved, then each of the preceding days were doubtless of similar length. This period agrees well with the results of scientific research, and gives ample time for the gradual development of vegetable and animal life up to the time of man's creation; and at some other time we purpose showing the full agreement of the account of creation given in Genesiswith the record of the rocks,--Geology.
Thus considered, the period from the beginning of the ordering of creation on the Earth down to the surrender of it perfect to the Father, at the close of the Millennium, is a period of seven times seven thousand years, or a total of forty-nine thousand years; and the grand epoch then to begin will be the fiftieth thousand, or a great Jubilee, on a grand scale,--not the Jubilee of Israel, nor the Jubilee of general restitution, but the Jubilee of Earth.
(3). The Command to keep the Sabbath is associated with nine moral precepts which are binding upon all men for all time.
Answer. We have already shown that God had a law before the giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses and Israel; that it was graven in man's nature in Adam; and that it was a perfect expression of the mind of God on all questions of obligation to God and to man, --much more so than that written upon the tables of stone. Hence, the moral precepts of the Decalogue, a secondary statement of the divine law, are not to be ranked as the only moral standard, nor the superior one, when we know that a new standard was chosen for the New Covenant and remember that the original standard is promised for the future.--Jer. 31:31.
The fourth of the Ten Commandments is not at first seen to have any parallel in the law of Love, the law or standard of the New Covenant. It enjoins a rest every seventh day. However, its parallel in the law of the New Covenant is brought to our attention by the Apostle's words in Hebrews 4:1-11. The word Sabbath signifies rest; and the Apostle here teaches that our rest by faith in Christ, our realization that we are "accepted in the Beloved," is the refreshing antitype of the literal rest-day commanded to Israel under their Law Covenant. Seven is the symbol for completeness, and hence the seventh day foreshadowed the more desirable and complete rest of the true Israel of God. And only those who thus rest by faith in Christ can continue under the blessed provisions of the New Covenant; for it is specially a covenant based upon faith, and "without faith it is impossible to please God;" and the true faith cannot be exercised without rest of heart, the true Sabbath-keeping.
The poor Jew never could experience such a rest, but on the contrary had such experiences as the Apostle describes when personating them, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver [R1732 : page 358] me?" The nearest approach to the real rest of heart was the typical one given them in the Fourth Commandment of their Law Covenant.
(4). There were two laws given to Israel, a ceremonial and a moral law; and it was the former only that was done away by Christ, while the moral law remains.
Answer. There is no Scriptural authority for such a division. On the contrary, there was but one law,--its ceremonial features providing typically for the cleansing away of sins resulting from the violation of its moral precepts. If it could be seen as the Covenant mediated by Moses, it would be evident that all of its parts must stand or fall together. But after comparing Exod. 34:28; Deut. 4:13,14; and Heb. 8:6-8, there should be no question on the part of any one that the Ten Commandments were a part of the Covenant which was supplanted by the New Covenant sealed with the blood [death] of Christ, its mediator.
When the Apostles wrote to the new Gentile converts respecting the Law--determined not to put upon them the yoke of the Law which they as Jews had been unable to keep--and contradicting certain teachers who had said that they "must be circumcised and keep the Law," James remarked incidentally that the law of Moses to which they referred was that "read in the synagogue every Sabbath day."-- Acts 15:9-11,24,28,29,19-21.
(5). We Seventh-day keepers claim that God's commands are, that we labor six days and rest on the seventh; and many of us have gone to prison because of our conviction that it is our duty to labor on the first day and on all days except the seventh. And we believe that the time [R1732 : page 359] is coming when the keeping of Sunday will be a yet more severe test, and bring further suffering upon us.
Answer. We have nothing to do with the making of the social laws which prohibit labor on the first day of the week; but we obey them as civil laws, as commanded in the Scriptures (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13); and we find it to be to our profit as well as to our pleasure. We sincerely sympathize with the poor people who are deluded by such an argument, and suffer therefor; and we admire their willingness to suffer for what they consider to be the truth. But they are mistaken. The laws of this land do not compel any man to violate his conscience by working on the seventh day or any other day.
And it is not sound reasoning to claim that a man must labor during the other six days. If so, are those days of twenty-four hours, or of how many hours? In such a case, for a man to be sick, or to go on a journey or on a visit, would be to violate the Law, and fall under its curse. What nonsense! False reasoning has surely blinded whoever cannot see that the Fourth Commandment of Moses' Law means, "[Within] six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work!"
As for future persecution on these lines, it is probable; not because of any opposition to Seventh-day-keeping but because, according to the Scriptures, there will ere long be a federation or union of religious systems which, giving increased prestige and honor, will make the demands of popular religionists more arrogant --supposedly in the interest of peace and the cause of Christ.
(6). We Seventh Day Adventists claim, that as the Mosaic Covenant had a tabernacle, with a holy place in which the high priest offered for the sins of the people during the entire year, and a Most Holy in which he finished that work on the last day of the year, so there is a Holy and Most Holy in Heaven; and that Christ has officiated for the sins of his people in the Holy during the Gospel age, and will for a short time before its close officiate in the Most Holy. This we understand to be the "cleansing of the Sanctuary." We consequently used to teach that all probation ended about 1845, when Christ (we believe) went from the Holy into the Most Holy. We hold, therefore, that the judgment is all over, and that naught remains except for Christ to come forth and receive us Seventh Day Adventists, and to destroy all the remainder of mankind.
We hold, too, that we Seventh Day Adventists are fulfilling the "Third Angel's Message" of Rev. 14:9-12. In the expression, "Fear God and keep his commandments," we place the stress upon the Fourth Commandment.
Answer. You err respecting the antitypes of the Jewish Atonement Day and Tabernacle. The antitypical Holy and Most Holy are "heavenly," in the sense of being higher (such is the meaning of the word heavenly). In Israel's typical service these were places: in the antitype they are conditions. All of the antitypical or "royal priesthood" have access to the Holy condition as soon as they consecrate themselves or present their bodies living sacrifices to God's service. (Heb. 9:6.) They at once have access to the antitypical "shewbread" (Lev. 24:9), "meat to eat that the world knoweth not of." They at once have the light of divine revelation, represented by the "golden candlestick," which the natural man perceiveth not. (1 Cor. 2:5,7,9-12.) They at once have access to the Incense Altar, and their prayers and services are acceptable to God through Christ as sweet incense. Thus the first apartment of the Tabernacle represents the present condition of the Church while still in the flesh. Thus we are now blest with Christ Jesus "in heavenly places [higher conditions]."--Eph. 1:3.
But the vail (death) still separates between us and the perfect spiritual condition--the divine nature into which Christ has entered, and into which he has promised to conduct all his faithful joint-sacrificers and joint-heirs at the close of the Antitypical Day of Atonement.
You err also in supposing that Israel's typical Day of Atonement was at the end of the year, to atone for past sins. It was, on the contrary, for the nation, and at the beginning of their year, to make atonement for the whole nation and to bring the whole nation into God's favor for the year following it. And the thank-offerings, peace-offerings and trespass-offerings, offered by individuals during the year following, were acceptable upon the basis of that Atonement Day offering. At the close of the year, for which the Atonement Day sacrifices applied, the people were again as defiled as the residue of Adam's race, and required a new Day of Atonement as a basis for another year's acceptance with God as a typically justified nation.
You err also in supposing that the coming out of the Great High Priest at the close of the Day of Atonement will be for the blessing of seventh-day keepers. He comes out to bless, first, the "royal priesthood"--they that have made a covenant with him by sacrifice. (Psa. 50:5.) "They shall be mine, saith the Lord, in that day when I make up my jewels." (Mal. 3:17.) But, as in the type, not priests only were blessed, but "all the people," so in the antitype all the families of the earth shall be blessed at the revelation of Christ Jesus, when he shall come to be "glorified in his saints, and [R1732 : page 360] to be admired in all them that believe in that [Millennial] day" (2 Thes. 1:10.) The sacrifices and offerings subsequent to the typical Day of Atonement will find their antitypes in the Millennial age, when all those who desire fellowship with God will come to him through the Royal Priesthood, who will offer their sacrifices for them.*
*For a fuller treatment of this subject see Tabernacle Shadows of Better Sacrifices--104 pages, leatherette, 10 cents.
You are in serious error, also, respecting the Cleansing of the Sanctuary; but for our view of this subject we must refer you to MILLENNIAL DAWN, Vol. III., Chap. 4.
As to the Third Angel's message: Suppose we were to admit your claim, that you are fulfilling Rev. 14:9-12. That would prove nothing as to the truth or untruth of your message. The Book of Revelation is a symbolic prophecy,-- a history written in advance. What is occurring and what will occur are faithfully related --often without comment;--just as the old Testament prophecies relate evil things as well as good things, and often without comment. For instance, Daniel 7:8tells about the Papal horn "speaking great things," but does not say whether they are great truths or great untruths. So, too, in Revelation, Papacy is described and its language quoted without adverse criticism.
(7). Christ said that he came not to destroy the Law and the prophets, but to fulfil them.-- Matt. 5:17.
Answer. Yes, that is just what we hold: he fulfilled the Law Covenant--met all of its requirements, and obtained its reward, Life. That fulfilled it, for that was the end for which it was intended and given.
(8). Christ said, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath." (Mark 2:27.) We understand this to mean that the Sabbath was made for all mankind.
Answer. Your inference is not reasonable. If the Sabbath were meant for all mankind, the fact should and would have been clearly stated to all mankind. But the facts are that it was commanded only of one nation, and that Christ and the Apostles did not so command. In this text our Lord is showing to the Jews, to whom the command was given, that they were putting an extreme construction upon the command when they refused to do good on that day--to a fellow creature, as well as to an ox or an ass. The Sabbath was intended for the blessing of the men who were commanded to keep it: they were not created nor called as a nation simply to serve the day.
(9). In Isa. 66:23, the Sabbath is mentioned in connection with the new heavens and new earth--which to us means that it will be a perpetual institution--throughout eternity.
Answer. It is possible that in the beginning of the Millennial age the Lord's dealing with the world of mankind, then in process of restitution and trial, will resemble his dealing with the house [R1733 : page 360] of servants--Israel. He may restore laws respecting the Sabbath and various festivals, and even sacrifices, to teach the world by these as object lessons. Some scriptures seem so to hint. (Jer. 33:18; Ezek. 46:19-24; 47:12; 48:10,11.) We must remember that the liberty of sons of God, now granted to us, is in view of our being spirit-begotten, new creatures. However, we may be assured that the Law Covenant will never be placed over the world as it was over typical Israel; for it made nothing perfect; and righteousness could not come by the Law Covenant to others any more than to Israel. The New Covenant will remain open all through the Millennial age, for all who desire to flee from sin and to return to full harmony with God. But by that time, the "seed" of Abraham having been completed, none will then have the privilege to become joint-heirs of that promise, but can come under the blessings which will flow from that Seed.
The expression, from new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, to a Jew would merely mean, from month to month, and from week to week; and would not of necessity relate to any special observance of the days.
The Seventh-day Adventists are surely doing a world-wide work, and, whether right or wrong, might not improperly be mentioned in the prophecy of Revelation. It does seem, however, rather preposterous to claim that their advocacy of the Fourth Commandment of Israel's Decalogue constitutes them alone the champions of God's commandments and the faith of Jesus. God's commandment to the Gospel Church of the New Covenant is, "This is my beloved Son. Hear ye him!" And neither he nor any whom he sent forth as his special ambassadors and representatives ever said one word in favor of the observance of the seventh day.
(10). The Roman Catholic Church claims to have originated Sunday keeping, admits that there is no authority for it in the Scriptures, and claims its right to make the change.
Answer. The Church of Rome is quick to turn any point to her own favor; and this is one which furnishes a specially good opportunity. It is nothing to admit that Sunday is not commanded in the New Testament (but neither is the seventh-day Sabbath), and it furnishes an excellent chance to emphasize Roman Catholic doctrine,--that tradition is equally authoritative with God's Word. [R1733 : page 361]
But this boast that Papacy changed the seventh-day Sabbath to the first-day Sunday amounts to nothing. Where is the proof of it? Nowhere. The facts are that the New Covenant provides no day for rest, but a rest for every day; and the early Church met on either or both days according to convenience or advantage. The custom of meeting on the first day came down and gradually crystallized into a habit, and, later, a supposed duty. But Papacy cannot point back to any date and show by the decisions of any Council that she changed the Jewish Sabbath into the Christian Sunday.
A Catechism, entitled "The Catholic Christian Instructed," in answer to the question, "What are the days which the Church commands to be kept holy?" says, "(I). The Sunday, or our Lord's day, which we observe, by Apostolic tradition, instead of the Sabbath." Thus Romanists do not claim to have changed the day.
(II). The name Sunday is heathenish, and doubtless at one time marked a day on which the Sun was worshiped; consequently the day should not be recognized nor the name used.
Answer. Some great infidel may have been named Robert or Thomas, but this would not make an infidel of you if you had been given his name. So the propriety of worshiping God on the first day of the week or on any other day is not governed by its common or general name. We have no special choice of name-- Lord's-day, Sabbath or Sunday would any of them serve our purpose, and we could worship God in spirit and in truth on that day as well under one name as another. Sabbath is a good name, and reminds us of our rest by faith in Christ's sacrifice and New Covenant. Lord's-day is also good, and reminds us that the first day of the week marks the greatest token of divine favor ever manifested--the resurrection of our Lord. Sunday reminds us of the Sun of Righteousness--our resurrected Lord, and all the blessings present and prospective that we and the whole world may anticipate through him. If the heart be right, any of these names will become fragrant with precious memories of God's grace through Christ.
THE SUM OF THE MATTER.
We group below the foregoing conclusions.
(1). The word Sabbath-day signifies rest-day.
(2). Any rest-day might therefore with propriety be called a Sabbath-day. Indeed, this was a custom with the Jews. All of their feast-days they called rest-days or Sabbaths-- as, for instance, the first and last days of the Passover were called Sabbaths, no matter upon what day of the week they occurred.
(3). The Sabbath-day commanded in the two tables of stone, delivered by God to Israel by the hand of Moses at Mt. Sinai, was the seventh day of the week, not the first day; nor was it merely one day in seven; this was particularly indicated by the extra supply of manna on the sixth day.
(4). While any day of the week would have suited equally well, so far as Israel was concerned, God evidently had a choice. The seventh day, chosen by him, was evidently typical, as were all of God's arrangements for and with that typical people. We understand that it typified the rest experienced by spiritual Israel, and referred to by the Apostle in Hebrews 4:9.
(5). The fourth commandment was as binding as the others of the Decalogue, and hence if the others continue in force against fleshly Israel, to whom they all were given, so does this one. But neither the fourth nor any other of the ten commandments was ever given to, or made a law for, any other nation than Israel. None could come under its provisions except by becoming Israelites, and practicing circumcision.
(6). The Decalogue was the foundation of the covenant between God and Israel, called the Law Covenant.--Deut. 4:13.
(7). Since the death of Christ the arrangement between God and those whom he acknowledges as his children is called the New Covenant--sealed or made of force by Christ's death,--by the precious blood of Christ. Its provisions or benefits are not for one race or family of mankind merely, but are open for all people,--through faith in Christ.
The Jews, and, for that matter, some among the Gentiles also, who sought communion and fellowship with God, were continually striving to do something which would atone for their sins and open communion and harmony with God; but the most earnest were "weary and heavy laden" and almost discouraged with their failure. It is to such that our Lord addressed himself, saying, "Come unto me, and I will give you rest."--Matt. 11:28.
(8). As the Law Covenant had the Ten Commandments for its foundation, so the New Covenant has a new law for its foundation --the law of Love. "A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another." The new command was not one added to the ten of the old Covenant,--not an eleventh,--but was instead of the ten of the Law Covenant, and much more comprehensive. [R1733 : page 362] Love is the only command of the New Covenant, and bears only upon those who have accepted the New Covenant. The world in general has nothing to do with the New Covenant, its privileges, its blessings and its law, even as it had nothing to do with the Law Covenant and its decalogue, etc. Only those under the Law Covenant were bound by it or helped by it; and only those under the New Covenant are recognized by it.
(9). The people of the world in general are not recognized by God; they are called "the children of this world," "children of the devil," "children of wrath," etc.; and we are told that they have not "escaped the condemnation that is upon the world," through "one man's disobedience," that they cannot escape except through the provisions of the New Covenant, and that hence "the whole world [God's covenanted people being exceptions] lieth in that wicked one."
The world once had a law from God, but they have lost it, or most of it, and are now strangers and foreigners unrecognized by God. (Rom. 1:21; Eph. 2:19.) The original law was not written upon tables of stone, but was incorporated in man's very character, so that when perfect in God's image, he knew right and wrong instinctively--his conscience was a safe and accurate guide. But six thousand years of degradation, as slaves of Sin and Death under Satan, have almost effaced that original law from man's heart--have warped his judgment and conscience, and made his will the plaything of his animal propensities and hopes and fears.
Provision was made that these might, if they chose, become Israelites, and by circumcision and the observance of the Law Covenant be joint-heirs with Israel to all the favors and typical privileges granted to that nation. But they were not under either the blessings or the curses of that Covenant unless they voluntarily accepted it. So now, under the New Covenant, arrangement is made for the world to come in under its provisions--under its justification or forgiveness of sins, and under its law of love. But only those who have put themselves under it are sharers of either its blessings or its responsibilities.
But there was no provision made for any Sabbath-day under the New Covenant--every day was to be a Sabbath or day of faith-rest in Christ, to all under the New Covenant, and to no others. And the Apostle was careful to guard the early Church against the esteem of [R1734 : page 362] one day above another as more holy. (Rom. 14:5-8.) Our Lord's ministry was under the Law Covenant, and hence he observed the seventh-day Sabbath even while he assured the people that he was "Lord also of the Sabbath-day." But neither he nor any of the Apostles ever commanded or even suggested the observance of any special day as a Sabbath. And one of these Apostles declared that he had "not shunned to declare the whole counsel of God;"--thus proving that the observance of a Sabbath day was no part of God's counsel to sons of the New Covenant.
(10). There was no authorization of a change from the seventh day to the first day as a Sabbath or rest day. The early Church was composed chiefly of those who had been God's servants under the typical Law Covenant, and it required time for them to appreciate the fact that the Law Covenant had ended and a New Covenant had been introduced; and they were warned frequently by the Apostles against Judaizing tendencies and teachers, and a tendency to mix the New Covenant and its law of love and liberty with the Law of the old Covenant. Naturally, they still observed the seventh day from custom and convenience, and because in Palestine it was the civil law, and also because on that day they could most successfully reach with the Gospel of Christ the most hopeful class of hearers.
Our Lord's resurrection on the first day of the week, and his subsequent showing of himself to them upon that day, seems to have started in the early Church the custom of meeting together on every first day, and having a simple meal, and recounting with prayer and praise the Lord's mercies, and remembering their risen Redeemer and how his words burned in their hearts when first on that day he had explained to them redemption through his blood, how it was necessary for Christ to die and to rise, etc.
(11). This pleasant custom grew upon the Church, but without any law, for the Apostles assured them that there is no law but love to them that are in Christ Jesus. It was merely a privilege which they prized and used profitably. It was not until centuries had passed, and Papacy had arisen with the false idea that its mission was to convert the world, by force, if necessary, that laws were made respecting the first day of the week as the Lord's day or Sunday. Having gathered into the Church multitudes of "tares," who did not appreciate the liberty or the love of the New Covenant, and who really were as much as ever "children of the devil," some laws or regulations were made for their restraint. [R1734 : page 363]
(12). The New Covenant law controls only "believers"--"the faithful in Christ Jesus"-- and leaves these entirely free to do or observe whatever love might dictate; for it is lawful to do good--to do anything that godly love would dictate or approve--on any day; and it is improper to violate the dictates of love upon any day.
Mankind has laws upon the subject, however, and it is God's command to his people that they be subject to civil rulers in all matters not in violation of their consciences respecting his wishes. On whatever day or however frequently the civil law commands rest from secular labor, it becomes our duty to obey. We can rejoice that we are at liberty to worship how and whom we please, and should gladly use every opportunity wisely, nor forsaking the assembling of ourselves for spiritual refreshment. We are glad, too, and thankful that the day specially set aside as a Sabbath by civil governments is the very one of all others that we prefer, because it memorializes the beginning of the new order of things,-- begun by the resurrection of our dear Redeemer. Hence, in outward conduct we conform to the laws of men on the subject, while in our hearts, having fullest freedom toward God, we delight to use the first day of the week specially to his pleasement and praise, in doing good to others, particularly to the household of faith.
"STAND FAST IN THE LIBERTY."
We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.--Rom. 15:1.
Our liberty in Christ, under the terms of the New Covenant, must take care that others are not injured by our use of liberty; for this would be condemned by our law of Love. The Apostle clearly emphasizes this in his letter to the Romans.--Chap. 14:1 to 15:7.
He there points out that all are not alike strong in the faith. Some, weak in the faith, can see that Christ is our Redeemer, but cannot as yet realize the liberty we have in Christ; for one realizes his liberty to eat whatever agrees with him, while another one, who is weak (in bondage), eats vegetables only, lest he should violate some law under which he thinks himself. Each should learn to grant the other full liberty of conscience: the stronger should not despise the weaker, nor should the weaker judge others by himself. It should be sufficient to know that God accepts even the weakest ones. So it is also with reference to the observance of days: One man esteems one day above another, while another esteems all days alike. Let each carry out fully the conviction of his own mind.
The Apostle does not here teach, as so many suppose from the common translation, that each should make up his mind and stick to it, whether right or wrong; nor does he teach that one is as right as the other. On the contrary, he urges growth into the full liberty of Christ, but counsels patience and consideration on the part of the stronger for the weaker. He approves the stronger, and plainly states that the brother who thinks himself under a bondage regarding meat, or Sabbath days, fast days, etc., is the weak brother. But he urges that if such a weak brother observes such a bondage, not as an attempt to "keep the Law" and to justify himself before God, ignoring Christ's redemption sacrifice, but because he thinks that our Redeemer wishes him to be bound by such ordinances, then the stronger ones should not rail at, or make light of, his conscientious weakness, but rather receive him fully as a brother, trusting that discipline and experience and growth in grace and knowledge will gradually bring him to the liberty which others reach more quickly.
And those strong ones who enter fully into the spirit of the Apostle's remark, "It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak," and deny themselves what their own consciences permit, have the greater blessing. They can realize in an additional degree that they are following in the Master's steps; for "Even Christ pleased not himself."--Rom. 14:21; 15:2,3.
For if the stronger brethren by sarcasm and influence were to force the weaker ones to use a liberty they did not realize, it would be forcing them into sin; for any violation of conscience is sin. (Rom. 14:23.) Therefore the weaker brethren should be left to the liberty of their consciences. They should be received as brethren, the influences of love and truth alone being brought to bear upon them, in the hope of gradually educating them to an appreciation of their full privileges as free men in Christ. Thus the body may be full of charity and unity, each one carrying out the convictions of his own mind as to the Lord's will, and each seeking to grow in grace and knowledge, out of childhood's weakness into manhood's strength, as rapidly as possible; being developed as he feeds upon God's Word.
The Apostle again refers specially to the observance of days as a sign of weakness, childishness and lack of development, saying (Gal. 4:10,11): [R1734 : page 364] "Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am anxious on your behalf, lest my labor for you has been in vain." He here addresses those who had once known the liberty of the sons of God, but who were now getting into bondage through false teaching. He recognized by these weaknesses for the things commanded by the Law Covenant, an evidence that they were not growing into the liberty of sons of God, but going backward toward the servant condition (see verses 6-9; 19-31); and he was even fearful that this weakness and failure to maintain the liberty of sonship, and this subservience to the Law Covenant might lead them to reject the true gospel, that Christ gave himself for our sins, and accept as a gospel a hopeless substitute --that Christ would save them if they kept the Law.--Gal. 1:4-8; 5:2.
In Col. 2:14-17, the Apostle declares the same truth with reference to the liberty of all who are in Christ, in respect to the Law: especially singling out the festivals, new moons and Sabbaths. He pointedly declares (verse 13) that those believers who had been Gentiles were pardoned fully and freely from all condemnation, while concerning those who had been Jews he says (verse 14), Christ blotted out the written Law which was against us [believing Israelites], removed it from our way, nailing it to his cross; having stripped away from the original [law] and its authorities [all obscurities], he made a public illustration of them [in his life of obedience to them], triumphing over them by it [in obedience even unto death, even the death of the cross]. "Therefore," reasons the apostle, because our Lord has made both you Gentiles and us Jews free, "permit no man to judge you in meat or drink, or in respect to a holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbaths, which are shadows of future things, the substance [or antitypes] of which appertain to the Anointed [Head and Body]."
Glorious is the liberty of the sons of God! Let us stand fast in it! And let us enjoy to the full our rest of faith; for we can rest (enjoy Sabbath) whether the world has a Sabbath or not: whether any day or no day is commanded by human law, our rest abides. It lasts seven days in each week and twenty-four hours in each day, and is not broken by physical labor, nor is it dependent [R1735 : page 364] on physical ease. It is a deep and lasting rest, and can be broken only by doubt--by a rejection of the basis on which it must abide, the ransom,--or by living after the flesh, and thus disturbing conscience and our relationship toward God.
How blessed is the state of all in Christ, as mature sons of God under favor, not servants nor infants under Laws! (John 15:15; Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:1-6.) How blessed to us is the true rest of faith in Christ's finished work, which rest neither the world nor the Law could give, and which, from us that are free, they cannot take away. We realize that Israel's Sabbath (not only their weekly Sabbath, but also their yearly Sabbath and their Jubilee*) was as far inferior to the real as was their Passover inferior to our Passover, and their sacrifices to our sacrifices, and their altar and candle-stick and table of shew-bread to ours. The realities, in all these, are a thousand times grander than their shadows.
*See M. DAWN, Vol. II., Chap. 6.