W. W. Prescott
Christ and the Sabbath
Key Thought: "The Seventh-day Sabbath is a sign to every Christian of the creative power of God in his deliverance from the power of sin. It is a sign to him of the blessing of God in turning him away from his iniquities. It is a sign to him of the presence of Christ to make him holy. It is a sign to him of the presence of Christ in him to sanctify him. That is to say, it is a measure of the working of that creative power in his individual experience."
Christ and the Sabbath
There is at present a widespread agitation over the Sabbath question. For nearly half a century the attention of the public has been called to this subject anew; but a growing tendency to religious legislation in recent years, and the misguided efforts to enforce “Sabbath-keeping” by pains and penalties, have done more than anything else to make this topic a living issue of the day. It is therefore important to understand the real nature of the institution in behalf of which the State is so strongly urged to legislate. When its real character is understood, it will be apparent that it is a purely spiritual thing, with which civil government can properly have nothing whatever to do. The State cannot recognize any distinction in days without committing itself to a course of action whose logical result is persecution. This is the danger of the present hour, and every one ought to know it. The purpose of this contribution to the literature already existing on this subject is to emphasize the spiritual nature of the Sabbath, and as a consequence, the impossibility of enforcing it, or even protecting it, by civil law.
The seeker after truth will always find it in Him who said, “I am ... the truth;” and every ray of spiritual light when traced to its source, leads to “the true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” No dogma is of any value merely as an abstract proposition. Every Christian doctrine must be an expression of the life of Christ in the soul of the believer or it will contribute nothing toward that experience in which we “are changed into the same image from glory to glory” and “grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.” The test of every doctrine should therefore be, Does it lead to a better knowledge of Christ as the revelation of God to us, and to a growing experience in Christ as a living, personal Saviour? It must be borne in mind, however, that it is “in obeying the truth through the Spirit” that it becomes life in us, and that therefore the judgment of the unrenewed mind is not a safe guide in pronouncing upon spiritual truth. The true Christ is not always recognized by those who make the most ostentatious profession of their acquaintance with him. Thus it was that “he came unto his own, and his own received him not.” But when Christ dwells in the heart by faith, then the Bible becomes the voice of God to the soul, and Christ in the word and Christ in the heart are in sweet accord.
It is the purpose of this pamphlet to set forth Christ in the Sabbath and the Sabbath in Christ, and to call attention to the spiritual nature of the institution as being the one way, above all others, by which God in Christ makes himself known to man.
ONE PLAN OF SALVATION
God has always had only one plan of salvation, and that is through faith in the merits of Jesus Christ. “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 3:11. “For there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Acts 4:12. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and to-day, yea and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 (R. V.). From the very beginning every one who has obtained salvation has done so through faith in Jesus Christ. We have the record in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews how that by faith Abel, by faith Noah, by faith Abraham, by faith the worthies—that company which makes so great a cloud of witnesses—accomplished all. And we learn from the twelfth chapter and the second verse that this faith was in Jesus Christ, for it speaks of him as the Author and the Finisher of our faith. So from the first it has been faith in Jesus Christ that has saved all who have been saved.
It makes no difference in the general plan of salvation at what particular point of time Jesus Christ was manifested in the flesh. If he had been manifested in the first generation, it would have been the same. If he were not manifested until the last generation, it would be the same. From the time when that promise was made, the record of which we have in Genesis 3:15 (“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it [or he] shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel”), there has always been salvation in Jesus Christ. So that before Christ was literally lifted up on the cross, before the time of his manifestation at the first advent, there was the same power in him to save; and his general relation to the plan of salvation was the same then as now. Before his first advent there were certain ordinances introduced which were to occupy the same place and serve the same purpose as the ordinances of the church at the present time. With reference to these ordinances it is declared: “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come.” 1 Corinthians 11:26. And as often as they offered the sacrifices provided, as often as they performed any of those ceremonies in that time, it was always to show the Lord’s death, because that was the central point.
“God’s work is the same in all time, although there are different degrees of development, and different manifestations of his power, to meet the wants of men in the different ages. Beginning with the first gospel promise, and coming down through the patriarchal and Jewish ages, and even to the present time, there has been a gradual unfolding of the purposes of God in the plan of redemption. The Saviour typified in the rites and ceremonies of the Jewish law, is the very same that is revealed in the gospel.” But it has always been faith in Jesus Christ, faith in “the blood of the everlasting covenant”—that covenant which was made with Adam (Genesis 3:15), renewed to Abraham (Genesis 17:7), and ratified by Christ—which has availed for salvation from sin.
CHRIST BEFORE THE FIRST ADVENT
Before he was made flesh and dwelt among us, Jesus Christ was manifested upon the earth. One instance is recorded in Exodus 3:2-4: “And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him [Moses] in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush; and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.”
Two or three scriptures read in this connection will show that the one who appeared in that burning bush was Jesus Christ. The first scripture is in Acts 7:35: “This Moses whom they refused, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge? the same did God send to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in the bush.” Who was it that from first to last was with the children of Israel as their guide, their strength, their helper? “And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them [or, margin, “went with them”] and that Rock was Christ.” 1 Corinthians 10:4. In the ninth verse of this same chapter: “Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.” Then who was it by whose hand the Lord delivered the children of Israel? It was our Lord Jesus Christ. Then it was Jesus Christ in his divinity who appeared to Moses in the burning bush. The fire was simply a manifestation of his glory: “And the sight of the glory of the Lord was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel.” Exodus 24:17. So when Jesus Christ was manifested in his divinity at the burning bush, he was manifested in flaming fire.
Again, Christ was manifested at Mount Sinai. The record of this is in the nineteenth and twentieth chapters of the book of Exodus, and is very familiar: “And Mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire.” Jesus Christ in his divinity came down on Mount Sinai, and by his voice the ten commandments were proclaimed anew to the people. This statement is susceptible of the clearest proof: “This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear. This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the Mount Sinai, and with our fathers.” Acts 7:37, 38.
In Isaiah, the sixty-third chapter and the ninth verse, we have these words: “In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the Angel of his presence saved them.” Read in connection with that Exodus 23:20, 21: “Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him, and obey his voice, ... for my name is in him.” Put this with Jeremiah 23:6: “And this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness.” These texts of Scripture brought together show of themselves, without any particular interpretation or explanation, that the Angel of God’s presence who went with them, who spoke to Moses in Sinai, was our Lord Jesus Christ, and when God spoke “all these words,” it was the voice of Christ that was heard.
After the death of Moses, Joshua was appointed to lead the children of Israel. They have crossed over Jordan, and Jericho, the walled city, is before them. “And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? And he said, Nay; but as Captain of the host of the Lord am I now come.” Joshua 5:13, 14. The Captain of the host of the Lord was the one who appeared to Joshua, and who is this? “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.” Revelation 19:11-14. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.... And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” John 1:1-14. Who was it that led the armies of heaven, the Captain of the Lord’s host?—It was he whose name is called The Word of God, that is, it was Jesus Christ.
Since the entrance of sin into the world, God has never manifested himself to this world in his own person, but always in the person of his Son. This was a part of the plan of salvation. Christ “emptied himself” that the Father might appear, and so “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself.” 2 Corinthians 5:19. Jesus Christ is the manifestation of God to the world. All that we know of God we learn of him in Jesus Christ. Christ is spoken of as the Word of God; that is, he is the expression to the world of the thought of God.
CHRIST THE REVELATION OF GOD’S CHARACTER
This statement was made by Christ when he was here upon the earth: “All things are delivered unto me of my Father; and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.” Matthew 11:27. “No man knoweth the Son, but the Father,” and Christ laid aside self that there might be in and through him a revelation of the character of God to the world.
“No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” John 1:18. Not simply that he has talked about him, or spoken of him, but in his life he has declared to the world what God really is. So completely was this done that on one occasion “Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?” John 14:8, 9. God was manifested to the world in Jesus Christ. And it is true that from the beginning every manifestation of God to this world has been through Jesus Christ. “But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.” 1 Corinthians 8:6. The Revised Version reads: “One Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we through him.”
This thought is represented to us in the dream of Jacob: “And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending upon it.” Genesis 28:12. This dream was a representation to Jacob, and the record of it is designed to teach us that Jesus Christ connects earth with heaven; that Jesus Christ, reaching down to this earth, encircling us with his human arm, reaches up and with his divine arm grasps the throne of God, so that man is once more, through Jesus Christ, connected with God.
CHRIST THE AGENT IN CREATION
It was through Christ as the agent that God created all things. “All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.” John 1:3. And that is not true of material things alone, for we read again: “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by him, and for him.” Colossians 1:16. That is, Jesus Christ was the agent through whom the power of God was manifested in creating the world. “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.... For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.” Psalm 33:6-9. It was God speaking through his Son Jesus Christ, and it was the voice of Christ which was heard. When we read in the first chapter of Genesis, “And God said,” “And God said,” it is clear that the speaking was through Jesus Christ.
So when God said, “Let there be light,” it was Christ, who is himself “the light of the world,” who spoke that word. It was through Christ that God has spoken in every place in the Scripture where we have the record “God said,” or “Jehovah said,” or “the Lord spake and said.” It was Christ who indited all the writings of the Scripture. For we read in 1 Peter 1:11, speaking of the prophets: “Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow.” It was the Spirit of Christ speaking through the prophets. So all the way through the prophetic record which gave to the world history in advance, it was Christ who told the world what was to come. It was his Spirit that inspired the prophets. So it is Christ, it is Christ all the way through, Christ the agent in creation, Christ the spokesman for God, Christ whose Spirit inspired the prophets.
Having learned that it was Christ through whom all things were created, we are prepared to understand the lesson which these things are intended to teach. “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in [margin “to”] them; for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead.” Romans 1:19, 20. All created things, when rightly interpreted, speak of the eternal power and divinity of God. But Christ is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:24), and in Christ dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9); therefore it follows that all created things serve to show forth, to give abundant proof of the divinity of Jesus Christ.
CHRIST THE REDEEMER
Furthermore as Christ was the agent through whom God created the heaven and the earth, so he is the agent through whom God redeems. The Creator is the Redeemer. It hardly seems necessary to refer to any scripture in proof of this point. Everywhere Christ is spoken of as the Redeemer. “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.” Galatians 3:13. And it is true that that statement is made not only in the New Testament as though it were a truth after the first advent of Christ, but it is stated to us just as clearly in the Old Testament scriptures. “But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee.” Isaiah 43:1. The Creator and the Redeemer are the same. “Remember these, O Jacob and Israel: for thou art my servant: I have formed thee; thou art my servant; O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of me. I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud; thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee.” Isaiah 44:21, 22.
REDEMPTION IS CREATION
It follows very naturally that the one through whom the power of God was manifested in the creation of the heaven and the earth, should be the one through whom he should manifest his power in the salvation of man; for redemption is simply creation! Redemptive power is necessarily creative power, and the redemption of man is simply carrying out God’s original purpose concerning creation. For God’s purpose in the creation of this world was that it should be inhabited by righteous beings. This is still his purpose, and so “we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” So the scripture says: “Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land forever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified.” Isaiah 60:21. When sin came into the world, it seemed for a time to turn aside, as it were, God’s plan concerning this work of creation.
But God’s plan is not thwarted, and his purpose still is that this earth shall be inhabited by righteous beings, and not until it is so inhabited will God’s original purpose in the creation of the world and in the creation of man be fully carried out. So it is true that the plan of salvation is but the carrying forward of God’s original purpose in creation, and for this reason it is that conversion or redemption is spoken of as creation. Thus we read: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” Ephesians 2:10. So it was that David prayed, “Create in me a clean heart.” Redemption is creation. Converting power is creative power, and unless creative power be displayed, there can be no genuine conversion, and hence no salvation.
The true God is distinguished from false gods by two special characteristics: he can create and he can save. The false gods can do neither. Attention is called to this in the following scriptures. In the ninety-sixth psalm we read: “Sing unto the Lord, bless his name; show forth his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the heathen, his wonders among all people. For the Lord is great, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols; but the Lord made the heavens.” So we read again in Jeremiah 10:10-12: “But the Lord is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king.... The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens. He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, he hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion.” He who can create can redeem. He who can redeem can create. But the one who cannot create cannot redeem. This is, in fact, the very point that the Lord makes against all false gods in his challenge in Isaiah 45:20-22: “Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, ye that are escaped of the nations; they have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save. Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together; who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the Lord? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else.” Creative power is a mark of divinity; wherever you find divinity, there you find creative power, and that is redeeming power.
Again we read: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” Galatians 6:15. The Revised Version, margin, suggests the reading, “a new creation,” and that is true. No form, no ceremony, can save one. There must be a new creation. A new heart must be created. So again we read: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17. And the same reading is again suggested here: “If any man be in Christ, there is a new creation,” and that is the very idea of conversion, that it is a creative work.
CREATION THE EVIDENCE OF CHRIST’S DIVINITY
The things that are created, are evidences to us of the power of God manifested in Jesus Christ in creation. They are evidences to us of the divinity of Jesus Christ; for it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell, even the fullness of the Godhead bodily. But do we have anything which calls our attention to the things that are created, that thus we might be reminded of the power and divinity of Jesus Christ? Let the word of God answer.
THE MEMORIAL OF CREATION
“The works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein. His work is honorable and glorious: and his righteousness endureth forever. He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered.” Psalm 111:2-4. In the Jewish translation the last clause reads in this way: “He hath made a memorial of his wonderful works.” What then is the memorial? “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any Work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.” Exodus 20:8-11. What is the reason given for the institution of the Sabbath?—Because in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Sabbath is designed to call our attention to the Creator. It is his memorial. But we have already learned that it was Jesus Christ through whom God created the heaven and the earth; therefore it was Jesus Christ who rested on the seventh day. It was Jesus Christ who blessed the seventh day; it was Jesus Christ who hallowed the seventh day; it was Jesus Christ who sanctified the seventh day; and the purpose of this day thus blessed, thus hallowed, thus sanctified, is to call the attention of men everywhere to the Creator. But the Creator is Jesus Christ. The purpose, therefore, of all created things to which our attention is thus called by the Sabbath, is that we may understand the power and the divinity of Jesus Christ. This is made clear by another scripture: “And hallow my Sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the Lord your God.” Ezekiel 20:20. But all we can know about God and his character, is as it is revealed to us in Jesus Christ. So the force of the scripture is this: That ye may know Jesus Christ, that thus knowing him ye may know the Father.
So the Sabbath institution is for the purpose of revealing Jesus Christ, of teaching us of his power, of his divinity. And it follows, therefore, that he who observes the seventh day, the day upon which God in Jesus Christ rested, the day upon which God in Jesus Christ let his blessing rest, the day which was thus hallowed and sanctified,—the one who observes the seventh day, thus blessed, hallowed, and sanctified, acknowledges by this act before heaven and earth that he believes in the divinity of Jesus Christ.
THE SIGN OF GOD’S POWER
It is the sign to all the world that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God; that it is through Jesus Christ that the power of God is manifested as it was in creation, when he made the heaven and the earth by the word of his mouth, as it is also in re-creation, or redemption, when we are created anew in Christ Jesus. Because the power that was manifested through Jesus Christ in the creation of the heaven and the earth is the power that is manifested through the same agency that we may be created anew. And so the Sabbath is the sign, not merely of the power of God manifested through Jesus Christ in the creation of the heaven and the earth, but it is also the sign of that power which saves—the sign of that power which redeems. And when we recognize the memorial which God himself has set up as the sign of that power in Jesus Christ, we thereby acknowledge that we believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ, and that we believe in the power of God through Jesus Christ unto salvation; that he who created us is also our Redeemer, and that our confidence and our trust for salvation are in the God of the heavens and the earth; who reveals himself to the world in Jesus Christ only
It should appear very plainly, as it does in the Scriptures, that the Sabbath idea is to reveal Christ to the world, Christ in creation, and so Christ in redemption.
It is important to notice what was done to this day. The record in the second chapter of Genesis, which is the first mention that we have of the Sabbath, says, “He rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.” It is apparent at once that the Creator of the ends of the earth, who never wearies, and who never is faint, did not rest on that first seventh day because he had wearied himself in the work of creation. Said Christ to the woman of Samaria, “God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in Spirit and in truth.” God being spirit, his rest must be spiritual rest. And that is a matter of no small importance, because we overlook the true idea of the Sabbath when we take it to mean merely a day of physical rest. Who rested on that day?—Christ, who was the agent in creation, rested on that day. Because he was tired?—Not in any sense. It was a spiritual rest. He rested and was refreshed. He took delight in viewing the works which he had made. That was the rest. Sabbath means rest, and from the very nature of the institution of the Sabbath, it means spiritual rest. Observe the practical application of that idea. If physical rest is the only idea of the Sabbath, man can rest on one day just as well as another. He can do more; he can divide up his rest during the several days of the week, and he can rest three or four hours each day, as may suit him. He may rest rainy days and work sunshiny days if he pleases, if physical rest is the only idea of the Sabbath.
Let it be understood that merely refraining from work is not God’s idea of Sabbath-keeping. It may be Sunday-keeping; it may be Saturday-keeping; it may be Friday-keeping; it may be Monday-keeping; but it is not Sabbath-keeping. It is not Sabbath-keeping, because the idea of Sabbath is spiritual rest. And in no other way can the Sabbath be kept in the fullness of its meaning than as a spiritual rest. It will therefore be seen at once that all theories of Sabbath-keeping which rest upon the idea of physical recuperation, are good for nothing. Man can enforce abstinence from labor, but he cannot enforce Sabbath-keeping. A man may be forced to refrain from physical work; he may be kept in idleness, but no one can enforce Sabbath-keeping. It is a spiritual thing entirely.
It is true that in genuine Sabbath-keeping there will be an entire cessation from unnecessary physical work; but that is not in itself Sabbath-keeping. The reason why we cease from labor on the seventh day, the Sabbath of our Lord Jesus Christ, is that we may be at liberty to contemplate God as manifested to us in Jesus Christ. And the resting from physical labor is an outward sign of the fact that we have ceased from sin. “For we which have believed do enter into rest,” and “he that hath entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works as God did from his.”
Now our works are always sinful works. The one who is converted, in whom the power of God through Jesus Christ has been manifested to create him anew, to create a new heart in him, stops his own works. His own works are sinful. He ceases from his own works as God did from his. The Sabbath was a memorial of the fact that God in Christ rested from his work. The Sabbath is the sign to the Christian that he has rested from his work, and that the power of God is working in him “both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” When we cease from our works, which are sinful, we are saved from sin. But it is creative power alone which can save from sin, and that creative power is always manifested through Jesus Christ. And this work going on in us is the work of sanctification. Then the blessing of the Sabbath is the blessing of sanctification by the power of God working through Jesus Christ.
THE SABBATH BLESSING
A blessing was placed upon the seventh day. What is the purpose of the blessing of God? “Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.” Acts 3:26. The blessing of God is not put upon a man because he is good, but the blessing of God is put upon him to make him good. It is to turn him away from his iniquities. Now the Sabbath is designed for that very thing, because the Sabbath is the memorial of the power of God in Christ. And it is the power of God in Christ that saves from sin. So the Sabbath blessing is the blessing of being turned away from our iniquities as we are reminded of the great power of God in Jesus Christ to save from sin. That is to say, the Sabbath blessing is the blessing of sanctification. Can any one truly keep the Sabbath of our Lord Jesus Christ unless he is a converted person?—He cannot. It is only a converted person who can keep the Sabbath, because the Sabbath is the blessing of conversion, the blessing of redeeming power, the blessing of sanctification; and only that man can keep the Sabbath of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, in whom creative power has wrought. So that the Sabbath becomes to him a sign, a memorial of the great power of God working in him to turn him away from his iniquities,—the sign of the great power of God working through Jesus Christ to save him from sin. And so it is clear that no unconverted person can keep the Sabbath.
Furthermore, the Lord blessed the seventh day, sanctified the seventh day, hallowed the seventh day. We read in Genesis 12:2 concerning Abram: “And 1 will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing.” The blessing of God put upon any person or any thing is for the purpose of making that person or that thing a blessing to some one else. So when he blessed the seventh day, he designed that the seventh day should be a blessing to others. Wherever Abram went, he was a blessing to the people with whom he was associated. In exactly the same way wherever the Sabbath comes, it is a blessing to those who know the Sabbath. Those who were acquainted with Abram were blessed because of their acquaintance with him, because God had blessed him to make him a blessing to others. Those who are acquainted with the Sabbath which God has blessed, share in a blessing because God made it a blessing by putting his blessing upon it.
The idea of Sabbath is rest. That is the meaning of the term. Turning to the record in Exodus, thirty-third chapter, we find that Moses requested the Lord not to carry him and the people up, unless he went with them. So the Lord says, fourteenth verse, “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.” Who was it that went with the children of Israel?—“And they drank of that spiritual Rock that went with them, and that Rock was Christ.” Whose presence was it, then, that was to give them rest?—It was the presence of Christ. With this agree the words of Christ himself in Matthew 11:28: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” It does not make any difference when it is, whether it be before the first advent of Christ, or since that time, the presence of Christ gives rest, and that constitutes the very idea of Sabbath-keeping. It was the presence of Christ in the day that was the special blessing of the day. It is the presence of Christ in the Sabbath that makes it a Sabbath day, a rest day, that is, spiritual rest.
CHRIST’S PRESENCE MAKES HOLY
But go a little further. Not only is it stated that he rested on that day, and blessed that day, and made it a rest day for man, a time for spiritual refreshing, but it is said that he hallowed the day; that is, he made that day holy. The very thing that made it a Sabbath, hallowed it, made it holy. And two or three very familiar scriptures will show this plainly. Refer again to the experience of Moses at the burning bush; when the Lord called to him out of the bush, he said, “Draw not nigh hither; put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” The day before that time the ground around that bush was not particularly holy ground. It is true that God is everywhere; and it is true in that general sense, that everything is holy as belonging to the Lord; but that particular portion of the earth was no more holy the day before that occurrence than any other particular portion; but just as soon as Christ revealed himself there,—as we have already learned that it was Christ at the burning bush,—that place became holy because of his presence. So the other event to which attention has been called, in Joshua, the fifth chapter; when the Prince of the host of the Lord appeared to Joshua, he said: “Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy.” It seems likely that that was a place where Joshua retired for secret prayer. It is more than likely that he had visited this place before, and no such word had come to him; but here was the personal presence of the Prince of the host of the Lord; Christ himself was there. The presence of Christ made that ground holy, and Joshua was commanded to loose the shoe from off his foot, because it was holy or hallowed ground. The mount of transfiguration was called holy because Christ in his divinity was manifested there.
We have a very marked illustration of this at the time when the law was rehearsed by Christ on Mount Sinai. Bounds were placed about the mount, and the people could not pass beyond them. That mount previous to that time was not specially distinguished from other mountains in that neighborhood; but when the Lord himself, Jesus Christ, the agent in creation, the agent in redemption, came down there in person, and proclaimed anew to the world the law of God, by his own voice, his presence there made that mount holy. The mount was bounded off by lines that separated it from the other parts of the surrounding country. There was no particular difference between that portion of the country and other portions surrounding it, except this, that on that particular mount Jesus Christ himself descended in person, and his presence made that mount holy. If any one stepped beyond the boundary, into that mount made holy by the presence of Christ, it was certain death to him. Here was a particular portion of the country entirely separate and distinct from the adjacent country. Men could walk about as usual, but when they came to that boundary, they must stop. That was in a special way God’s land. To step over the line was to step upon holy ground.
Now, just as the presence of Christ at the burning bush made the ground holy, just as the presence of Christ with Joshua made the ground holy, just as the presence of Christ on Mount Sinai made that ground holy, so the presence of Christ, which constitutes the seventh day a rest day, which makes it a Sabbath, a spiritual rest, makes that day holy. And just as there was a particular portion of the ground made holy in all these other cases, just so there was a particular portion of time made holy. The children of Israel could go about their own pursuits; they could walk about as usual outside of that boundary, but the one who treated that mount, thus marked off, the same as he treated other portions of the surrounding country, forfeited his life.
It is none the less true to-day that the presence of Jesus Christ has made holy a particular portion of time, the seventh day, the Sabbath, and so the scripture says: “If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day.” Isaiah 58:13. It is none the less true that man may go about as usual, may attend to his usual avocations on six days of the week, but when he comes to that boundary line which marks off the time that Christ has made holy by his own presence in it, if he knowingly steps over that line, and treats that time just as he treats the other time, he does it at the risk of his own life. It is true that “because sentence against an evil work is not speedily executed, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil,” but this does not lessen the force of the conclusion. The Lord has indicated his mind in this matter, and he will “give every man according to his ways and according to the fruit of his doings.”
It is the presence of Christ that makes holy, and his presence has been put into a particular portion of time in a special manner, and that portion of time has been bounded off, separate and distinct from other portions of time. When the children of Israel came up to the boundary of Sinai, they knew it. God did not leave them in ignorance of the boundary line between the common and the sacred. God has not left us in ignorance. He has appointed means that we may know when we come up to that portion of time which he has made holy by his own presence in it, and by his own blessing upon it. But just as the presence of Christ at Sinai made that mount holy, just as his presence in the Sabbath makes that holy, just so the presence of Christ in the individual makes him holy. The Sabbath was designed as a constant reminder of the work of God through Christ in redemption. Without holiness no man shall see the Lord. We are commanded, “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” But we cannot make ourselves holy. There is one thing that always makes holy, and that is the presence of Jesus Christ. When Christ dwells in our hearts by faith, we are made holy by his presence, and this is the blessing of Sabbath-keeping. That is Christian experience; that is the Christian life. When Christ dwells in the heart by faith, he by his presence makes the believer holy.
DOUBLE BLESSING ON THE SABBATH
But is it not true that we have the blessing of God and the presence of Christ on other days besides the Sabbath day?—Most certainly it is. But there is a difference between the blessing of God upon man and the blessing of God upon the day. In the beginning, speaking of the creation of man, the word says, “And God blessed them.” When it came to the seventh day, and God in Christ rested from his work, he then blessed the seventh day. Now, there is the blessing upon man, and that blessing has continued for every one who will receive it until the present time; there is the blessing upon the day, and that blessing has continued upon that day, and is there now.
But God in Christ never blessed any other day. He blesses man upon every day, but he has blessed only one day, and that is the seventh day. So when man, upon whom the blessing of God already rests, comes to the seventh day, upon which a blessing rests, there are two blessings, and both of them for man; and so it is possible upon the seventh day of the week to enjoy a blessing which cannot be enjoyed upon any other day because it is not there. When the Sabbath goes by us, the Sabbath blessing goes along with it. God’s blessing is still with us upon the first day of the week, his blessing remains upon us wherever we go, his blessing remains upon the Sabbath wherever it goes; and when it comes around to us again, the blessing is still upon it, and it has a blessing in addition to the blessing that God has given us. This is the blessing of the Sabbath; this is the blessing of Sabbath-keeping.
But not only is it said that God in Christ blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it, but he sanctified it. Notice what it is that sanctifies. “And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by my glory.” Exodus 29:43. What is it that sanctifies?—It is the presence, the glory of God in Christ. And just as Christ dwelling in the tabernacle sanctified it, so Christ in the believer sanctifies him.
THE SABBATH A SIGN OF SANCTIFICATION
Now read Ezekiel 20:12: “Moreover also I gave them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them.” Or, as another translation reads, “I am Jehovah, their sanctifier.” And in connection with that read Exodus 31:13: “Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my Sabbaths ye shall keep; for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctifiy you.” Another translation gives that clause in this way: “I, Jehovah, am sanctifying you.” Now, of what is the Sabbath to be a sign to us as it comes week after week?—It is to be a sign that “I, Jehovah, am sanctifying you,” and every succeeding Sabbath marks the progress of that work of sanctification. We receive the blessing of God on one Sabbath; the next one comes, and if we have been growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the blessing of the next Sabbath is an added blessing. It teaches us more and more of the power of God in creation and in redemption. We add to our experience, and it is a sign continually, “I, Jehovah, am sanctifying you,” making you holy. Thus it appears again that the blessing of the Sabbath is the blessing of sanctification.
THE SABBATH NOT A BURDEN
God never intended that the Sabbath should be a burden to any one, but rather a blessing; and he will now make it such to all who honor him in its observance.
We read of the testimony that the Father bore of Christ when he was here upon the earth (Matthew 3:17): “And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Another translation gives this version of this text: “Lo a voice out of the heavens, saying, This is my Son, the beloved, in whom I did delight.” Read, in connection with that, the prophecy of Isaiah 42:1: “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth.” This is a prophecy of Christ. So, when Christ came, the testimony was, “This is my Son, the beloved, in whom I did delight.” Now read that familiar scripture in the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah, the thirteenth verse: “If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; and shalt honor him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words, then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord.”
Another translation brings out the idea in a little plainer way, although not changing the sense at all. It says, “And hast cried to the Sabbath, ‘A delight.’” Our version says, “And hast called the Sabbath a delight;” this translation says, “And hast cried to the Sabbath [called out as the Sabbath came], ‘A delight,’” and to the holy of the Lord cried out also, “Honored.” Put these texts together. The prophecy in Isaiah 42:1, speaks of Christ as God’s delight; and when Christ came, the record is in Matthew 3:17, “This is my Son, the Beloved, in whom I did delight.” When the Sabbath comes, we are instructed to call out to it, to cry to it as it comes, “A delight!” Why?—Because He in whom the Lord did delight, the delight of the Lord, the delight of the soul, is in the Sabbath. Jesus Christ is in the Sabbath, and so when the Sabbath comes, we are to call to the holy of Jehovah, “Honored!” It is the holy of Jehovah. And Christ was the holy child Jesus, and it is the holy day because Christ is there in the day. And the Scripture says that if we do call to the Sabbath, “A delight!” and to the holy of Jehovah, “Honored!” “then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord.” Why?—Because the Lord, who is the delight of the soul, is in the Sabbath.
And so we shall delight ourselves in the Lord on the Lord’s day. That makes the Sabbath a glorious thing. At every step of the way, when it is properly understood, the Sabbath is suggesting Christ and his work for us. At every point it is Christ and his power; it is the creative power pledged for our redemption. It is the sign of Christ to bless, to give rest, to make holy, to sanctify. It is the sign of Christ, the delight of the soul; it is the sign of Christ, the Holy One. It is the sign of Christ, whom we are to honor. As the Sabbath suggests at every point, Christ as Creator, as Redeemer, as Saviour, and as we are to honor the Son even as we honor the Father, therefore it is impossible that one should honor Christ when he knowingly dishonors Christ’s day. For that reason no people can exalt Jesus Christ as the people who honor him in the observance of the day which he has blessed and sanctified. Therefore, there is no way in which we can exalt Jesus Christ from first to last, as Creator, as Redeemer, as Saviour, when we knowingly and willfully trample upon the seventh day, the day which he has blessed and sanctified.
THE SABBATH A SIGN OF GOD’S POWER
Notice what a close connection there is between the power of God as manifested in creation and the Sabbath idea. The ninety-second psalm is a psalm, or song, for the Sabbath day. That is the title of the psalm. “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, O Most High, to show forth thy loving-kindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night, upon an instrument of ten strings, and upon the psaltery; upon the harp with a solemn sound. For thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work; I will triumph in the works of thy hands.” How is it that the Lord makes us glad?-Why, when we behold his works, and behold his power in those works, we remember that that power is pledged to us for salvation. And so we triumph in the works of his hands, and it is indeed a psalm, or song, for the Sabbath day, because that day reminds us of the power of God in Christ manifested in creation, and with that comes the blessed assurance that He who has created has also redeemed. The Creator is the Redeemer. The power in creation is the power in redemption.
The Sabbath always has been, and always will be, a sign of the power of God manifested through Christ. The reason given in the commandment for setting apart the seventh day as the Sabbath, is that “in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, ... and rested the seventh day.” The Sabbath day, therefore, is a sign of creative power. This sign of creative power always calls our attention to the One who made the heaven and the earth; and it is true that if the Sabbath had always been kept, there never would have been any false religion or idolatry; for the minds of men would have been constantly kept upon the true God, the Creator of the heaven and the earth, as revealed in Jesus Christ.
And the Sabbath is the one sign to men of this creative power of God whenever it is manifested. There is a striking example of this in the experience of the children of Israel: “For ask now of the days that are past, which were before thee, since the day that God created man upon the earth, and ask from the one side of heaven unto the other, whether there hath been any such thing as this great thing is, or hath been heard like it? Did ever people hear the voice; of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live? Or hath God assayed to go and take him a nation from the midst of another nation, by temptations, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by a stretched-out arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?” Deuteronomy 4:32-34. Mark the inquiry. You ask from one end of heaven to the other, and you go back to the very day that man was created, the first display of creative power, and inquire whether there has been from that time to this present time such a display of the power of God as was seen in the deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt.
A moment’s thought will show that it was creative power then displayed. This people were delivered by signs and wonders, which were a display of creative power. It took the same power to change Aaron’s rod into a serpent when it was cast down before Pharaoh as it did to create the serpent in the first place. It took the same power to bring darkness over all the face of the land—darkness that could be felt—and yet have light in the dwellings of the children of Israel, as it took in the first place, when God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. It took the same power to divide the waters of the Red Sea, that the children of Israel could go through on dry land, as it did in the first place when the waters were created. That is, there was at that time a display of the creative power of God. So, after the children of Israel had been delivered by such creative power, the Sabbath obligation was repeated, and the Lord said: “And 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 by a stretched-out arm; therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the Sabbath day.” Deuteronomy 5:15. Some make the mistake of thinking that the Sabbath was merely a sign to the children of Israel of their deliverance from Egypt, and has nothing to do with any other people. The fact is simply this: In the first place, the Sabbath was the sign of creative power. When the children of Israel were delivered from Egypt, that same power wrought for their deliverance. When the same God uses the same power, he calls attention again to the same sign as the sign of that power; and so to the children of Israel after their deliverance, the Sabbath was a sign of God’s creative power manifested through Christ in making the heaven and the earth, and it was also a sign of his creative power in delivering them from the land of Egypt.
But the deliverance of the children of Israel from the land of Egypt is but a type of the deliverance of the Christian from the power of sin. The Israelites could not observe the Sabbath while in bondage. God delivered them by his own creative power, and thus opened the way for them to keep his Sabbath. He then called attention anew to the Sabbath as the sign of that power which had delivered them, and upon which they were to depend in all their experiences through to the promised land.
WHAT SABBATH-KEEPING IS
We have already learned that the Sabbath rest is a spiritual rest, and it is therefore impossible for one to keep the Sabbath unless Christ, whose presence gives rest, dwells in his heart by faith. Every case of conversion is a display of the creative power of God in calling out of darkness into light, in delivering from the power of darkness and translating into the kingdom of his dear Son; and the true Sabbath is a sign to every Christian of the creative power that has thus wrought for his deliverance, and which is to uphold him through all his varied experiences, as he journeys toward the eternal kingdom. As the Israelites were enabled to keep the Sabbath after they were brought out of Egypt, so the Christian, who has been delivered from the bondage of sin, can enjoy the spiritual rest, which is the true idea of Sabbath-keeping.
So the Sabbath is a sign to every Christian of the creative power of God in his deliverance from the power of sin. It is a sign to him of the blessing of God in turning him away from his iniquities. It is a sign to him of the presence of Christ to make him holy. It is a sign to him of the presence of Christ in him to sanctify him. That is to say, it is a measure of the working of that creative power in his individual experience.
But the real purpose of God in creation will not be fully carried out, until all who receive Jesus Christ have been created anew, until the body has been fashioned anew, “that it may be conformed to the body of his glory,” until the new heavens and the new earth are made. Then, with the new heavens and the new earth, with the body conformed to his glorious body, and with the character of God in Jesus Christ wrought in them by faith, the earth will be peopled with a righteous people, just as God intended in the first place, and just in pursuance of his original plan of creation. And so in the new earth the Sabbath will remain, the sign of God’s power in a completed creation. And thus we read in Isaiah 66:22, 23: “For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord.” And so onward through all the ages of eternity, the Sabbath will always be the sign of the creative power of God.
What, then, is the Sabbath?—It is the memorial of the power of God manifested to the world through Jesus Christ, not only in the creation of the heaven and the earth, but in the re-creation of the individual. What, then, is Sabbath-keeping?—It is Christian experience. What, then, is the Sabbath blessing?—It is the blessing of sanctification by the power of God working through Jesus Christ. What, then, is Sabbath-keeping?—It is the sign to the individual Christian of his own Christian experience. It is to him the measure of the working of that creative power of God in Jesus Christ, that he may be renewed in the image of God, that he may be made a perfect man in Christ Jesus. What, then, is Sabbath-keeping?—It is the sign to the Christian that he trusts for salvation in the power that created all things. What, then, is Sabbath-keeping?—It is the sign to the Christian that his hope, his confidence, are entirely in Jesus Christ, who is the Creator and Redeemer. What, then, is Sabbath-keeping?—It is the sign of his growth in Jesus Christ? What, then, is Sabbath-keeping?—It is all and in all to the Christian.
When it is understood what the Sabbath really is and what Sabbath-keeping is, there is not a person who desires Jesus Christ, there is not a person who longs for the blessings and the rest that there are in Jesus Christ, who would hesitate one moment as to what day it is. It is what it is rather than when it is that we must consider, because when we study what it is, we shall at the same time find out in the most emphatic way when it is. One day will do just as well as another in which to rest physically, but there is only one day on which we can keep Sabbath; there is only one day that has the blessing by the presence of Christ in this way. Come to the Sabbath blessing; come to Sabbath-keeping.
THE SABBATH SATAN’S OBJECT OF ATTACK
It being evident that the Sabbath is designed to turn men’s minds toward the true God and Jesus Christ as the agent in creation and in redemption, it follows that if any movement is to be made to defeat the plan of God in the salvation of man, in the re-creation of man, the first thing to be done is to turn men away from the Sabbath, the reminder of Jesus Christ as the only Saviour. If men’s minds can be turned away from Christ, they will fail of salvation. Christ’s power is the only power sufficient to save. If men can be led to trust in any other power, they will be disappointed in all hope of salvation. Therefore the most certain way to defeat the plan of God in Christ for the salvation of men, is to turn men’s minds away from Christ; and the first thing to be done, then, is to turn men’s minds away from that which reminds them of Christ. Therefore, if the Sabbath can be hidden, if men’s minds can be turned from the Sabbath, and the meaning of the Sabbath, a successful move has been made in turning men away from the plan of salvation in Jesus Christ.
There is one being who has made it his purpose for these many years to oppose the work of Jesus Christ for the salvation of the human race. Created an angel of light, made an anointed cherub, standing in the immediate presence of God, one on whom the light of the glory of God shone in a most remarkable and special manner, Lucifer, filled with envy that he was not made equal to Christ, and that the honor which belonged to Christ was not given to him, rebelled against God. His heart was filled with pride and envy, and he turned against the government of God. In spite of every offer of mercy, he persisted in rebellion until his own course cast him out of heaven. Since that time Satan’s purpose has been to defeat the plan of God for the salvation of men. Having lured man into sin that he might involve him in the same penalty with himself, he has sought to keep man away from God’s plan to save him. He has sought to induce the human family to put their trust in him and his power, instead of in Christ and his power.
The root of the trouble which caused Satan to be cast out of heaven, which brought rebellion into the government of God, and which has resulted in this earth being cursed by sin, was simply this: that Satan, given this exalted position in the presence of God, was not yet satisfied, but envied the position occupied by the Son of God, and desired that the honor which was bestowed upon Jesus Christ should be bestowed upon himself. God had given him an exalted position, yet it did not satisfy his ambition, and he sought the place occupied by Jesus Christ. Persisting in this, and refusing to give up his own way and his own selfish ambition, he was necessarily cast out of heaven. From that day he has worked on this same line. He has stirred up just that same feeling of self-exaltation in the hearts of the human family, and all these centuries, he has not given up that one plan and project of his, which is that, if possible, he should occupy the place which belongs to Christ; that, if possible, the homage due to Christ should be paid to himself instead of to Christ. And from that time to this he has tried to put himself in the place of Christ; he has tried to turn men away from God as manifested through Jesus Christ.
SUN-WORSHIP AND SUNDAY
Our worship is due to God as revealed in Jesus Christ, since he is the Creator, and to pay that homage to any other person or thing is idolatry. All idolatry is instigated by Satan in his efforts to turn men from the true God, and is in essence a worship of Satan as opposed to the worship of the true God. The most ancient and widespread form of idolatry was sun-worship. Under one name or another, and represented by different symbols, the sun was worshiped by all the heathen nations of antiquity; and as this worship took the lead, the day devoted to this worship-Sun’s day, or Sunday—was a special day in the heathen calendar; and there is a reason for all this.
It is said of God that he “only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto.” And again: “Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honor and majesty. Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment.” Psalm 104:1-2. Light—an outward representation as it were, of God in Jesus Christ-light was created on the first day of the week. “And God said, Let there be light; and there was light, ... and the evening and the morning were the first day.” Genesis 1:3, 5.
And so men’s minds were turned away from God, who dwells in light and who covers himself with light as with a garment, to the light, and the light bearer, and were led to worship the sun. We have traces of this all through the Scriptures. “If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness; and my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand; this also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge; for I should have denied the God that is above.” Job 31:26-28. The manner of worship was to salute the images of the sun by kissing the hand; and job, as the proof of his loyalty to the true God, appeals to the fact that he never worshiped either the sun or the moon.
When the children of Israel were delivered from Egypt, and were on their way to the promised land, they were instructed, above all things, to have nothing to do with this form of idolatry. “Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee; but ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves; for thou shalt worship no other god; for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” Exodus 34:12-14. The “groves,” or “Asherim,” as they are called in the Revised Version, were sun images, lofty pillars of any material.
So universal was this worship, that when the children of Israel were on their way to Jerusalem, to the annual feasts, as they passed by, they would see upon the hills these groves, indicating sun-worship, and they sang this psalm on the way: “Shall I lift up mine eyes to the hills? whence should my help come?” Then came the answer: “My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1, 2 (margin). How thoroughly this idea of sun-worship was inwrought into everything! And the reason is clear. Shall I lift up my eyes to the hills? that is, shall I engage in idolatry, sun-worship? From whence cometh my help? My help does not come from any such source as that. Those are the false gods. My help cometh from the Lord who made the heaven and the earth, that is, the Creator; and the Sabbath all the time was the sign to them of that Creator and his power to save, as opposed to any power that might be claimed for the false gods which did not make the heaven and the earth.
The sun was worshiped toward the east, and so worshiping toward the east was the greatest abomination. We have reference to this in the eighth chapter of Ezekiel. After showing to the prophet a variety of abominations that had come into the worship, on the part of the children of Israel who had departed from the true God, we read in the fifteenth and sixteenth verses: “Then said he unto me, Hast thou seen this, O Son of man? turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations than these. And he brought me into the inner court of the Lord’s house, and, behold, at the door of the temple of the Lord, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of the Lord, and their faces toward the east; and they worshiped the sun toward the east.” And that was the climax of all the abominations that the prophet was shown.
So particular was God to guard his people against even the semblance of sun worship that he ordered his tabernacle to be pitched with the door toward the east; then, when they came into the temple of God, as the door was open toward the east, they turned their backs on the sun and turned their faces toward the true God.
They turned their backs on the sun and sun worship, and they looked to the Lord. That was his invitation: “Look unto me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth, for I am God, and there is none else.” But when they worshiped toward the east, they turned their backs upon the law of God in his temple, in his tabernacle; they then cast the law of God behind their backs. So, every time we turn away from the true Sabbath, we turn our backs upon the law of God, and our faces toward the false gods.
SATAN’S STRONGEST AGENCY
Now it has been the purpose of Satan all these centuries to put something else in the place of Christ, himself if possible,—at all events, to turn away the minds of men from the worship of God as manifested in Jesus Christ. By reading two prophecies, and putting them together, we shall see the force of this working of Satan, through an agency through which his work has been carried on more successfully and for a longer time than through any other agency in the history of the world.
“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! now art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High.” Isaiah 14:12-14. This scripture evidently speaks of the fall of Satan and the reason for it; for Lucifer, “the light bearer,” by his own course of rebellion became Satan, “the adversary.” “Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4. Every one knows that this prophecy refers to the papacy, and every one who puts those two scriptures together can see that they represent exactly the same spirit,—I will exalt myself above God.
In the papacy we have, in organized form, the greatest manifestation of the working of Satan that this world has ever seen; and the whole principle of the papacy is self-exaltation, the very principle that characterized Satan at the beginning, the very principle which led to his downfall. And this organized power steps forth and claims just what this prophecy says that it should claim,—that it stands in the place of God. The pope, the head of this church, is called the vicar of Christ, or the vicegerent of Christ, that is, he is the one who rules in the place of Christ. Or, in other words, he has put himself in the place of Christ. He poses as the substitute of Christ. That is simply the same old scheme of the devil. He wanted Christ’s place, he wanted the honor and worship that belong to Christ; and this organized manifestation of the spirit and the working of Satan is the same thing over again. It is putting some one else in the place of Christ. And not only that, but the papacy claims to control the saving power of God, that is, his creative power.
THE PAPACY CLAIMS SAVING POWER
The fact that the papacy claims to exercise the saving power of God, is evident from the following extract from De Harbe’s “Full Catechism of the Catholic Religion,” approved by Catholic authorities, and published in New York by the Catholic Publishing Association, in 1883. The extract is from page 145: “Every one is obliged, under pain of eternal damnation, to become a member of the Catholic Church, to believe her doctrine, to use her means of grace, and to submit to her authority. Hence the Catholic Church is justly called the only saving church. To despise her is the same as to despise Christ, namely, his doctrine, his means of grace, and his powers. To separate from her is the same as to separate from Christ, and to forfeit eternal salvation. Therefore St. Augustine and the other bishops of Africa pronounced, a. d. 412, at the council of Zirta, this decision: “Whosoever is separated from the Catholic Church, however commendable, in his opinion, his life may be, he shall, for this very reason, that he has at some time separated from the unity of Christ, not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.”
The Catholic Church, the papacy,—that organization through which this spirit of Satan has been manifested, in opposing itself against God, in exalting itself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped,—that church claims to have the authority to control the saving grace and power of God. But what is the saving power of God?—It is creative power. We have learned that. What is the sign of God’s creative power, that he is the true God, and that our worship belongs to him because he is the Creator?—It is the true Sabbath.
But here comes another power, the papacy, claiming that it controls saving grace, and that there can be no salvation outside of the authority of the Catholic Church. And one of the charges made against Luther was that he had invented a new means of justification, so that the sinner could come to God and receive pardon without the intervention of church or priest. We have found that God, who is the Creator, and who in Jesus Christ dispenses his saving power freely to all who believe, has established the Sabbath as the sign of that power. Since the Catholic Church, the agency of Satan, claims to have saving power, and to dispense that power, the very logic of the situation demands that she should have a rival sign as a sign of her pretended power, and so she has it in the rival Sabbath. And as she claims that “to separate from her is the same as to separate from Christ and to forfeit eternal salvation,” thus putting herself in the place of Christ, so she demands that the sign of her power should be accepted instead of the true Sabbath, and says: “The keeping holy the Sunday is a thing absolutely necessary to salvation.”—“A Sure Way to Find out the True Religion,” by Rev. T. Baddeley, p. 95; published by P. J. Kennedy, Catholic Publisher, etc., New York.
WHO CAN SAVE?
Consider now that we have before us two days; one is the sign of the power of God in creation and salvation; the other has been instituted by Christ’s rival, and has been taken up as a Sabbath, or a pretended Sabbath, by that power (the papacy) through which Satan has wrought for a longer time, and in a more marked manner, than in any other power in the earth’s history. One is a sign, or a mark, of the power of God; the other is a sign, or a mark, of the rival power. The question then comes, In whom shall we trust for salvation—in the power of God in Christ, or in a rival power? In whom shall we place our confidence for forgiveness of sins—in God, the Creator of the heaven and the earth, or in that rival power that would exalt itself against God? Who can save—the one of whose power for the creation anew in Christ Jesus the true Sabbath is the sign, or mark, or the one of whose pretended power the false Sabbath is the sign or mark?
The Lord says: “Moreover also I gave them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them.... And hallow my Sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the Lord your God.” Ezekiel 20:12, 20. But the Catholic Church says: “It is worth while to remember that this observance of the Sabbath, in which, after all, the only Protestant worship consists, not only has no foundation in the Bible, but it is a flagrant contradiction of its letter, which commands rest on the Sabbath, which is Saturday. It was the Catholic Church which, by the authority of Jesus Christ, has transferred this to the Sunday, in remembrance of the resurrection of our Lord. Thus the observance of Sunday by the Protestants is an homage they pay, in spite of themselves, to the authority of the Catholic Church,”—“Plain Talk About the Protestantism of To-day,” p. 213.
What does this mean?—It means this; and the whole question is now clearly before us. The true Sabbath is the sign of the power of God in Jesus Christ, however, wherever, whenever manifested. In the creation of the heaven and the earth, in the deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt, in the re-creation of the individual,—that is, in conversion, which is but the deliverance of the individual from spiritual bondage,—the Sabbath is the sign of the true God, and of his power manifested through Jesus Christ. The Sunday is but a pretended Sabbath, a rival Sabbath, the sign of the rival power.
WHOSE POWER SHALL WE ACKNOWLEDGE?
In the observance of the true Sabbath, we acknowledge the divinity, the authority, the power of God manifested in Jesus Christ,—that is to say, we acknowledge the divinity, the power, the authority of Christ. In the observance of the false Sabbath we acknowledge the pretended claim of the Catholic Church, which is but the agency of Satan in this matter; we acknowledge the pretended claim and authority of the Catholic Church to the same thing. In the observance of the true Sabbath we acknowledge that our confidence for salvation is in the living God and his power manifested through Christ. In observing the false Sabbath we acknowledge that our trust and confidence for salvation are in that rival power, that rival authority. And any rival to God in Jesus Christ is simply a manifestation of the working of this spirit of Satan. It is Satan who instigates all opposition to God; it is Satan who urges every individual to reject Jesus Christ. And, in this matter of the false Sabbath, the sign of the pretended power, we see this working of Satan, who would steal away from the true God, and from Jesus Christ, in whom he is represented to the world, the homage, the worship belonging to him.
No one who observes the true Sabbath in the true meaning of it, can ever turn away from Jesus Christ. It is the constant acknowledgment of his belief in the divinity, the authority, the saving power, and saving grace of Jesus Christ. But any one who turns away from the true Sabbath, the sign of the true God in Jesus Christ, and turns to the false Sabbath, a sign of the rival power, has turned his back upon the law of God, and upon the temple of God, and worships with his face toward the east.
THE SABBATH A QUESTION OF ALLEGIANCE TO THE TRUE GOD
It is not simply an observance of days as such, whether we shall stop work upon Saturday, or stop work upon Sunday, but the question is, What God are we to serve? In what power are we to trust? In whom are we depending for deliverance?
It is a question of allegiance to the true God, or allegiance to some rival or pretended power. That is the thing that is in Sabbath-keeping now; and all the people, everywhere, ought to know it. And they will know it; for we read: “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come; and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.” Revelation 14:6, 7.
The highest form of worship is in obedience. To worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea, and the fountains of waters, is to yield our obedience to him. And this message, given everywhere, calls attention to the worship of the true God, the Creator, and really contains in it the essence of Sabbath reform, in that it calls upon us to worship the true God, the Creator, by obedience to him, and that we observe the day which is a sign, or a mark, of his creative power. So when this scripture began to be proclaimed in a special manner about half a century ago, out of that grew the Sabbath reform, because the message of the Sabbath was in it. That is the sign, or the mark, of the true God, as opposed to any rival of any kind. The observance of the true Sabbath is the sign, or mark, of allegiance to the true God, the Creator of the heaven and the earth.
WHO ARE CHRISTIANS?
Those who knowingly choose the sign of the other power, and who by their lives testify that they accept the mark of the rival power, thereby show that Christ is not dwelling in them, with his sanctifying power, but that they are depending upon some other power for their salvation. It is therefore necessary that the truth in regard to the Sabbath should be proclaimed to all men, that everywhere there might be an understanding choice in this matter; that everywhere men might know what is the sign of the power of God in Christ to save, and might hasten to yield themselves and to put their trust and their confidence in him for salvation, that everywhere it might be proclaimed that a rival power has sought to turn men away from the true God, that a rival power has come in, with the effort to steal away the confidence of men in Jesus ‘Christ as the only Saviour; that they might be shown who the true God is, and what his service really includes.
But the question is asked at once, Are there no Christians except those who keep the seventh day? Have there not been Christians in all ages who never kept the seventh day? Are there not Christians now of every name and denomination who do not keep the seventh day?—Most certainly. Well, then, what difference does it make? and why call attention to this matter now? Notice this; it is the root of the whole matter. He is a true Christian who yields himself to God; he is a true Christian who follows all the light that God causes to shine upon his pathway. We are responsible for the use we make of the light given to us of God. Now when one is a true Christian, he has the desire, he has the disposition, to be conformed to the life of Jesus Christ, and every truth revealed to him concerning the life, the power, the work of Jesus Christ, is what he wants to know. But just as soon as the true Christian receives light which he has not known before, and refuses to obey it, that instant he ceases to be a true Christian. Just as soon as one who is a true Christian, a child of God, receives light, he welcomes that light. The disposition of heart is that he may be perfectly conformed to the image of God in Christ. But when light comes, and he refuses the light, he turns against God, and is no longer a true Christian; and although up to that moment he may have stood a justified child of God, yet when God reveals to him more light, and says to him, “This is the way, walk ye in it,” and he says, “No,” just then he loses his standing as a justified child of God; just then his Christian experience stops, and it does not make any difference whether the invitation of God to him is to observe the true Sabbath in the true meaning, or whether it is some other duty presented.
Furthermore, the people who are to be prepared for the coming of Christ, who are to be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, who are to be translated without seeing death, are to have the character of Christ perfectly wrought in them, so that it shall be said of them, “And in their mouth was found no guile; for they are without fault before the throne of God.” Revelation 14:5. What did Pilate say of Christ?—“I find no fault in him.” What is said of the people who are ready and are translated at the second coming of Christ?—“They are without fault.” That is to say, they are just like Christ; the character of Christ is wrought completely in them. But in order that this should be so, their lives must be in perfect harmony with the character of God, because Christ was a representation to the world of the character of God. He interpreted God to the world. But the law of God is a transcript of the character of God. It is a statement of what God is, and when the life of man is made in harmony with the law of God, it is then that he is without fault; it is then that he is like Christ. It is therefore necessary that the attention of the people who are to be translated should be called to the fact that in disregarding the Sabbath of the Lord they are, in that point, out of harmony with the life of Christ, and so out of harmony with the character of God; and if they are to be translated without seeing death, and if it is to be said of them that they are without fault before the throne of God, that defect in character must1 be remedied.
THE SABBATH CONTROVERSY
And so just before the second coming of Christ, the Sabbath truth must be preached; just before the second coming of Christ, the people must be told what the meaning of Sabbath-keeping really is, and what day is the Lord’s day, and that, in choosing that day, they thereby take upon themselves the mark indicating that they belong to God; that they are trusting in the power of God in Christ for salvation, as against any rival power. So arises the Sabbath controversy, the calling the attention of the nations to the fact that the seventh day is the Lord’s day, the seventh day is Christ’s day, the seventh day is the day that God in Christ blessed and sanctified, that it has been given as a sign of the power of God in Christ.
TO COMPEL IS SATANIC
It is a characteristic of Satan to compel, and every effort to compel in any way the consciences of men is Satanic. Every effort to compel the consciences of men in any way, whether it be the Sabbath or any other matter at issue, is Satanic. God wins by the power of love; God leaves every one free to choose; Satan tries to compel. And every law of any kind or nature tending to control, to bind men’s consciences in their relation to God, is purely Satanic. And every effort to put laws upon the statute books of this country, compelling any religious observance whatsoever, is an effort gotten up by, controlled by, and in the interest of, Satan. Every one who by vote or by voice helps on this work of compelling the consciences of men by law, is being used as an agent of Satan. It is purely Satanic from first to last, and the results will be Satanic. That is, these efforts will end in utter ruin and destruction; they will end in the utter ruin of any church that takes hold of them; they will end in the utter ruin of any State that is controlled by them; they will end in the utter ruin of every individual who yields obedience to them.
In every country Sunday laws are coming to the front. At the present time the agitation is world-wide. Everywhere the enforcement of Sunday-keeping by law is being agitated. It is the manifestation of a rival power against Jesus Christ, and the question is for every one, To whom shall I yield my allegiance? and the mark of whose power shall I receive?
The conception of a “civil Sabbath,” or the “civil side of the Sabbath,” is a recent invention, adopted under the stress of the situation, in order to open the door for Sunday laws.
Every effort to compel the conscience is Satanic, and the results will be Satanic. But while there is this power now being manifested in the earth, attempting to control the consciences of men in this very matter of the observance of Sunday as the Sabbath, there is an increasing power in the love of Jesus Christ, and it is drawing souls to him. It is drawing true Christians of every name and denomination to rally around the standard of Prince Immanuel. It is drawing everywhere those who hear the truth; they gladly turn to Jesus Christ and his power in salvation. “There is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” Our hope can be well founded only when it is founded in Jesus Christ. And the Sabbath of the Lord, the day instituted by Jesus Christ himself, blessed by him, sanctified by him, hallowed by him, is the sign to every Christian of his power to save. It is the measure of his Christian experience, his growth in grace, and his knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Receive Jesus Christ, the only Saviour, and receive his Sabbath, the sign of what he is to every one who believes in him.
Religious Liberty Library, No. 14, 1893.