Letter From Rome
- Supplement to Lesson 22
I am going to propose a very plain and serious question, to those
who follow "the Bible and the Bible only" to give their most earnest attention.
It is this: Why do you not keep holy the Sabbath Day?
The command of Almighty God stands clearly written in the Bible in
these words: "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" (Exodus 20:8, 9). And again, "Six days shall work be
done; but on the Seventh day there shall be unto you an holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the
Lord; whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death" (Exodus 35:2, 3). How
strict and precise is God's commandment upon this head! [In this matter!] No work whatever
was to be done on the day which He had chosen to set apart for Himself and to make holy.
And, accordingly, when the children of Israel "found a man that gathered sticks upon
the Sabbath day," "the Lord said unto Moses, The man shall surely be put to
death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp" (Numbers
15:35). Such being God's command then, I ask again, Why do you not obey it? Why do you not
keep holy the Sabbath day?
You will answer me, perhaps, that you do keep holy the Sabbath day;
for that you abstain from all worldly business and diligently go to church, and say your
prayers, and read your Bible at home, every Sunday of your lives.
But Sunday is not the Sabbath day. Sunday is the first day of the
week; the Sabbath day is the seventh day of the week. Almighty God did not give a
commandment that men should keep holy one day in seven; but He named His own day, and said
distinctly: "Thou shalt keep holy the seventh day;" and He assigned a reason for
choosing this day rather than any other--a reason which belongs only to the seventh day of
the week, and cannot be applied to the rest. He says, "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" [Genesis 2:1-3]. Almighty God
ordered that all men should rest from their labor on the seventh day, because He too had
rested on that day: He did not rest on Sunday, but on Saturday. On Sunday, which is the
first day of the week, He began the work of creation, He did not finish it; it was on
Saturday that He "ended His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day
from all His work which He had made; and God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it,
because that in it He had rested from all His work which God created and made"
(Genesis 2:2,3). Nothing can be more plain and easy to understand than all this; and there
is nobody who attempts to deny it; it is acknowledged by everybody that the day which
Almighty God appointed to be kept holy was Saturday, not Sunday. Why do you then keep holy
the Sunday, and not Saturday?
You will tell me that Saturday was the Jewish Sabbath, but that the
Christian Sabbath has been changed to Sunday; changed! but by whom? Who has authority to
change an express commandment of Almighty God? When God has spoken and said, Thou shalt
keep holy the seventh day, who shall dare to say, Nay, thou mayest work and do all manner
of worldly business on the seventh day; but thou shalt keep holy the first day in its
stead? This is a most important question, which I know not how you can answer.
You are a Protestant, and you profess to go by the Bible and the
Bible only; and yet in so important a matter as the observance of one day in seven as a
holy day, you go against the plain letter of the Bible, and put another day in the place
of that day which the Bible has commanded. The command to keep holy the seventh day is one
of the Ten Commandments; you believe that the other nine are still binding; who gave you
authority to tamper with the fourth? If you are consistent with your own principles, if
you really follow the Bible and the Bible only, you ought to be able to produce some
portion of the New Testament in which this fourth commandment is expressly altered. Let us
see whether any such passages can be found. I will look for them in the writings of your
own champions, who have attempted to defend your practice in this matter.
1. The first text which I find quoted upon the subject is this:
"Let no man judge you in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the
sabbath days" (Colossians 2:16) [the ceremonial--sacrificial--yearly sabbaths of
Leviticus 23, which were done away at the Cross]. I could understand a Bible Christian
arguing from this passage, that we ought to make no difference between Saturday, Sunday,
and every other day of the week; that under the Christian dispensation all such
distinctions of days were done away with; one day was as good and as holy as another;
there were to be no Sabbaths, no holy days at all. But not one syllable does it say about
the obligation of the Sabbath being transferred from one day to another.
2. Secondly, the words of St. John are quoted, "I was in the
Spirit on Lord's day (Apocalypse [Revelation] 1:10). Is it possible that anybody can for a
moment imagine that here is a safe and clear rule for changing the weekly feast from the
seventh to the first day? This passage is utterly silent upon such a subject; it does not
but [only] give us Scriptural authority for calling some one day in particular (it does
not even say which day) "the Lord's day."
3. Next we are reminded that St. Paul bade his Corinthian converts,
"upon the first day of the week, lay by them in store, that there might be no
gatherings" when he himself came (1 Corinthians 16:2). How is this supposed to affect
the law of the Jewish Sabbath? It commands a certain act of alms-giving [at home] to be
done on the first day of the week. It says absolutely nothing about not doing certain
other acts of prayer and public worship on the seventh day.
4. But it was "on the first day of the week when the disciples
were assembled with closed doors for fear of the Jews, and Jesus stood in the midst of
them" (John 20:19). What is there in these facts to do away with the obligation of
keeping holy the seventh day? Our Lord rose from the dead on the first day of the week,
and on the same day at evening He appears to many of His disciples. Let Protestants, if
they will, keep holy the first day of the week in grateful commemoration of that
stupendous mystery, the Resurrection of Christ, and of the evidences which He vouchsafed
to give of it to His doubting disciples; but this is no scriptural authority for ceasing
to keep holy another day of the week which God had expressly commanded to be kept holy for
another and altogether different reason.
5. But lastly, we have the example of the Apostles themselves.
"Upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread,
Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until
midnight" (Acts 20:7). Here we have clear proof that the disciples heard a sermon on
a Sunday. But is there not proof they had not done the same on the Saturdays also? [Acts
13:14, 42-44, 16:12-13, 17:1-2, 18:1-4,11]. Is it not expressly written concerning those
early Christians, that they "continued daily with one accord in the temple, breaking
bread from house to house?" (Acts 2:46). As a matter of fact, do we not know from
other sources that, in many parts of the Church, the ancient Christians were in the habit
of meeting together for public worship, to receive Holy Communion, and to perform the
other offices, on Saturdays? Again, then, l say, let Protestants keep holy, if they will
their first day of the week, in order that they may resemble those Christians who were
gathered together on that day in an upper room in Troas; [a Troas meeting on Sunday in
Acts 20:7, just prior to a Miletus meeting on Tuesday in Acts 20:17-38--although no one
today keeps Tuesday sacred because of it] but let them remember that this cannot possibly
release them from the obligation of keeping holy another day which Almighty God has
ordered to be kept holy, because on that day He "rested from all His work."
I do not know of any other passages of holy Scripture which
Protestants are in the habit of quoting to defend their practice of keeping holy the first
day of the week instead of the seventh; yet, surely those which I have quoted are not such
as should satisfy any reasonable man, who looks upon the written word of God as they
profess to look upon it, namely, as the only appointed means of learning God's will, and
who really desires to learn and to obey that will in all things with humbleness and
simplicity of heart. For in spite of all that anyone might say to the contrary, it is
fully and absolutely impossible that a reasonable and thoughtful person should be
satisfied, by the texts that I have quoted, that Almighty God intended the obligation of
Saturday to be transferred to Sunday. And yet Protestants do so transfer it and never seem
to have the slightest misgivings lest, in doing so, they should be guilty of breaking one
of God's commandments. Why is this? Because, although they talk so largely about following
the Bible and the Bible only, they are really guided in this matter by the voice of [Roman
Catholic] tradition. Yes, much as they may hate and denounce the word [tradition], they
have in fact no other authority to allege for this most important change. The present
generation of Protestants keep Sunday holy instead of Saturday, because they received it
as part of the Christian religion from the last generation, and that generation received
it from the generation before, and so on backwards from one generation to another, by a
continual succession, until we come to the time of the (so-called) Reformation, when it so
happened that those who conducted the change of religion [from Catholicism to
Protestantism] left this particular portion of Catholic faith and practice untouched.
But, had it happened otherwise,--had someone or other of the
"Reformations taken it into his head to denounce the observance of Sunday as a Popish
corruption and superstition, and to insist upon it that Saturday was the day which God had
appointed to be kept holy, and that He had never authorized the observance of any
other,--all Protestants would have been obliged, in obedience to their professed principle
of following the Bible and the Bible only, either to acknowledge this teaching as true,
and to return to the observance of the ancient Jewish Sabbath [the Bible Sabbath given by
God at the Creation, Genesis 2:1-3,--2000 years before there was a Jew], or else to deny
that there is any Sabbath at all. And so, in like manner, anyone at the present day who
should set about, honestly and without prejudice, to draw up for himself a form of
religious belief and practice out of the written Word of God, must needs come to the same
conclusion: he must either believe that the seventh-day Sabbath is still binding upon
men's consciences, because of the Divine command, "Thou shalt keep holy the seventh
day," or he must believe that no Sabbath at all is binding upon them. Either one of
these conclusions he might honestly come to;--but he would know nothing whatever of a
"Christian sabbath" distinct from the Biblical Sabbath, [that is] celebrated on
a different day, and observed in a different manner,--simply because Holy Scripture itself
nowhere speaks of such a thing.
Now, mind, in all this you would greatly misunderstand me if you
supposed I was quarreling with you for acting in this matter on a true and right
principle,--in other words, a Catholic principle (viz., the acceptance, without
hesitation, of that which has been handed down to you by an unbroken tradition). I would
not [then] tear from you a single one of those shreds and fragments of Divine truth
[Catholic truth] which you have retained. God forbid! They are the most precious things
you possess, and by God's blessing may serve as clues to bring you out of that labyrinth
of [Protestant] error in which you find yourselves involved, far more by the fault of your
forefathers three centuries ago [when in the Reformation they left Rome] than by your own.
What I do quarrel with you for, is not your inconsistency in occasionally acting on a true
principle [such as Roman Catholic Sunday keeping], but your adoption, as a general rule of
a false one [your Protestant refusal to accept the rest of Roman traditional teachings].
You keep the Sunday, and not the Saturday; and you do so rightly, for this was the
practice of all Christians when Protestantism began [in the sixteenth century, as
Catholics think]; but you have abandoned other Catholic observances which were equally
universal at that day, preferring the novel ties introduced by the men who invented
Protestantism, to the unvarying tradition of above 1500 years [of Catholic teaching]. We
blame you not for making Sunday your weekly holyday instead of Saturday, but for rejecting
tradition [the sayings of Rome], which is the only safe and clear rule by which this
observance [of Sunday] can be justified. In outward act we do the same as yourselves in
this matter; we too no longer observe the Sabbath, but Sunday in its stead; but then there
is this important difference between us, that we do not pretend--as you do--to derive our
authority for so doing from a book [the Bible], but we [Catholics] derive it from a living
teacher, and that teacher is the [Roman Catholic] church. Moreover, we believe that not
everything which God would have us to know and to do is written in the Bible, but that
there is also an unwritten word of God [the sayings of popes and councils and saints],
which we are bound to believe and to obey . . .
We Catholics, then, have precisely the same authority for
keeping Sunday holy instead of Saturday as we have for every other article of our creed,
namely, the authority of "the Church of the living God, and ground of truth" (1
Timothy 3:15); whereas you who are Protestants have really no authority for it whatever,
for there is no authority for it in the Bible, and you will not allow that there can be
authority for it anywhere else. Both you and we do, in fact follow [Catholic] tradition in
this matter; but we follow it believing it to be a part of God's word, and the [Catholic]
Church to be its divinely appointed guardian and interpreter. You follow it, denouncing it
all the time as a fallible and treacherous guide which often "makes the commandment
of God of none effect" (Matthew 15:6).--
"Why Don't You Keep Holy the Sabbath Day?" pages
3-15, in The Clifton Tracts, Volume 4, published by the Roman
Catholic Church in 1869. Originally released in North America
through the T.W. Strong Publishing Company of New York City, so
that those outside the papal fold might know the pathway back to
the authority of the Mother Church of the Vatican.
Episcopal: "The Bible commandment says on the seventh-day thou
shalt rest. That is Saturday. Nowhere in the Bible is it laid down that worship should be
done on Sunday."--Phillip Carrington, quoted in Toronto Daily Star, October 26,
1949 [Carrington (1892- ?), Anglican archbishop of Quebec, spoke the above in a message on this subject delivered to a packed assembly of
clergymen. It was widely reported at the time in the news media].
Anglican: "And where are we told in the Scriptures that we are
to keep the first day at all? We are commanded to keep the seventh; but we are nowhere
commanded to keep the first day. The reason why we keep the first day of the week holy
instead of the seventh is for the same reason that we observe many other things,--not
because the Bible, but because the church, has enjoined [commanded] it."--Isaac
Williams, Plain Sermons on the Catechism, Vol. 1, pp. 334, 336.
Baptist: "There was and is a command to keep holy the Sabbath
day, but that Sabbath day was not Sunday. It will however be readily said, and with some
show of triumph, that the Sabbath was transferred from the Seventh to the First day of the
week, with all its duties, privileges and sanctions. Earnestly desiring information on
this subject, which I have studied for many years, I ask, where can the record of such a
transaction be found? Not in the New Testament--absolutely not. There is no scriptural
evidence of the change of the Sabbath institution from the Seventh to the First day of the
"I wish to say that this Sabbath question, in this aspect of
it, is the gravest and most perplexing question connected with Christian institutions
which at present claims attention from Christian people; and the only reason that it is
not a more disturbing element in Christian thought and in religious discussion is because
the Christian world has settled down content on the conviction that somehow a transference
has taken place at the beginning of Christian history.
"To me it seems unaccountable that Jesus, during three years'
discussion with His disciples, often conversing with them upon the Sabbath question,
discussing it in some of its various aspects, freeing it from its false glosses [of Jewish
traditions], never alluded to any transference of the day; also, that during forty days of
His resurrection life, no such thing was intimated. Nor, so far as we know, did the
Spirit, which was given to bring to their remembrance all things whatsoever that He had
said unto them, deal with this question. Nor yet did the inspired apostles, in preaching
the gospel, founding churches, counseling and instructing those founded, discuss or
approach the subject.
"Of course, I quite well know that Sunday did come into use in
early Christian history as a religious day, as we learn from the Christian Fathers and
other sources. But what a pity that it comes branded with the mark of Paganism, and
christened with the name of the sun-god, then adopted and sanctified by the Papal
apostasy, and bequeathed as a sacred legacy to
Protestantism."--Dr. F. T. Hiscox, author of the Baptist Manual. From a
photostatic copy of a notarized statement by Dr. Hiscox.
D.L. Moody: "I honestly believe that this commandment [the
Sabbath commandment] is just as binding today as it ever was. I have talked with men who
have said that it has been abrogated [abolished], but they have never been able to point
to any place in the Bible where God repealed it. When Christ was on earth, He did nothing
to set it aside; He freed it from the traces under which the scribes and Pharisees had put
it, and gave it its true place. "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the
Sabbath" [Mark 2:27]. It is just as practicable and as necessary for men today as it
ever was--in fact, more than ever, because we live in such an intense age.
"The [Seventh-day] Sabbath was binding in Eden, and it has been
in force ever since. This fourth commandment [Exodus 20:8-11] begins with the word
'remember' showing that the Sabbath already existed when God wrote this law on the tables
of stone at Sinai. How can men claim that this one commandment has been done away with
when they will admit that the other nine [adultery, murder, lying, theft, etc.] are still
binding?"--D.L. Moody, Weighed and Wanting, 1898, pp.46-47 [D.L. Moody
(1837-1899) was the most famous evangelist of his time, and founder of the Moody Bible
Church of England: "Take which you will, either the 'fathers'
or the moderns, and we shall find no Lord's Day instituted by any apostolic mandate, no
sabbath set on foot by them upon the first day of the week."--Dr. Peter
Heylyn of the Church of England, quoted in History of the Sabbath, Part 2, chapter 1, p.
American Congregationalists: "The current notion that Christ
and His apostles authoritatively substituted the first day for the seventh, is absolutely
without any authority in the New Testament."--Dr. Lyman Abbott, in the
Christian Union, June 26,1890.
Disciples of Christ: "If it [the Ten Commandments] yet exists,
let us observe it . . . And if it does not exist, let us abandon a mock observance of
another day for it. 'But,' say some, 'it was changed from the seventh to the first day.'
Where? when? and by whom?--No, it never was changed, nor could it be, unless creation was
to be gone through again: for the reason assigned [in Genesis 2:1-3] must be changed
before the observance or respect to the reason, can be changed. It is all old wives'
fables to talk of the 'change of the sabbath' from the seventh to the first day. If it be
changed, it was that an august personage changed it who changes times and laws ex
officio.--l think his name is 'Doctor Antichrist.' "--Alexander Campbell, The
Christian Baptist, February 2, 1824, Vol. 1, No. 7.
Methodist: "It is true that there is no positive command for
infant baptism. Nor is there any for keeping holy the first day of the week. Many believe
that Christ changed the Sabbath. But, from His own words, we see that He came for no such
purpose. Those who believe that Jesus changed the Sabbath base it only on a
supposition."--Amos Binney, Theological Compendium, 1902 edition, pp.
180-181, 171. [Binney (1802-1878), Methodist minister and presiding elder, whose
Compendium was published for forty years in many languages, also wrote a Methodist New
Lutheran: "They [the Catholics] allege the change of the
Sabbath into the Lord's day, as it seemeth, to the Decalogue [the ten commandments]; and
they have no example more in their mouths than the change of the Sabbath. They will needs
have the Church's power to be very great, because it hath dispensed with a precept of the
Decalogue."--The Augsburg Confession, 1530 AD. (Lutheran), part 2, art.
7, in Phillip Schaff, the Creeds of Christendom, fourth edition, vol. 3, p. 64 [this
important statement was made by the Lutherans and written by Melanchthon, only thirteen
years after Luther nailed his theses to the door and began the Reformation].
Congregationalist: "The 'Christian' Sabbath [Sunday] is not in
the Scripture, and was not by the primitive [early Christian] church called the
Sabbath."--Timothy Dwight, Theology, sermon 107, 1810 ed., Vol. IV, p.49
[Dwight (1752-1817) was president of Yale University from 1795-1817].
Episcopalian: "We have made the change from the seventh day to
the first day, from Saturday to Sunday, on the authority of the one holy, catholic,
apostolic church of Christ."--Episcopalian Bishop Symour, Why We Keep Sunday.
"The Catholic Church . . . by virtue of her divine mission,
changed the day from Saturday to Sunday."--The Catholic Mirror,
September 23, 1893 [The Mirror, a Baltimore-based Catholic weekly, was the official organ
for Cardinal Gibbons].
"If we consulted the Bible only, we should still have to
keep holy the Sabbath Day, that is, Saturday."--John Laux, A
Course in Religion for Catholic High Schools and Academies, 1936 edition, vol. 1, p. 51
[J.J. Laux (1878-1939) was a Catholic priest, teacher, and author of many Catholic
histories as well as biographies of their saints].
"Some of the truths that have been handed down to us by
tradition and are not recorded in the Sacred Scriptures, are the following: that there are
just seven sacraments; that there is a purgatory; that, in the new law [the Catholic law],
Sunday should be kept holy instead of the Sabbath; that infants should be baptized, and
that there are precisely seventy-two books in the Bible [66 which are inspired, plus six
apocryphal books accepted by Rome] "--Francis J. Butler, Holy Family Catechism,
No. 3, p. 63 [Butler (1859- ?) was a Catholic priest of Boston and an author of a series
"Question.--How prove you that the Church hath power to command
feasts and holydays?
"Answer--By the very act of changing the Sabbath into Sunday,
which Protestants allow of [by observing it]; and therefore they fondly contradict
themselves, by keeping Sunday strictly, and breaking most other feasts commanded by the
same church."--Priest Henry Tuberville, An Abridgement of the Christian Doctrine,
p. 58 [In 1833, Tuberville received a papal approbation--a special Vatican approval--on
"Protestants . . . accept Sunday rather than Saturday as the
day for public worship after the Catholic Church made the change . . . But the Protestant
mind does not seem to realize that in accepting the Bible, in observing the Sunday, they
are accepting the authority of the spokesman for the church, the Pope."--Our
Sunday Visitor, February 5, 1950 [One of the largest U. S. Roman Catholic magazines].
"The Pope is not only the representative of Jesus Christ, but
he is Jesus Christ Himself, hidden under veil of flesh."--The Catholic National
"It was the Catholic Church which, by the authority of Jesus
Christ, has transferred this rest [from the Bible Sabbath] to Sunday . . . Thus the
observance of Sunday by the Protestants is an homage they pay, in spite of themselves, to
the authority of the [Catholic] Church."--Monsignor Louis Segur, Plain Talk About
the Protestantism of Today, 1868, p. 213 [L.G. Segur (1820-1881) was a French Catholic
prelate and apologist, and later a diplomatic and judicial official at Rome].
"If Protestants would follow the Bible, they should worship God
on the Sabbath Day. In keeping the Sunday they are following a law of the Catholic
Church."--Albert Smith, Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Baltimore,
replying for the Cardinal in a letter dated February 10, 1920.
"All of us believe many things in regard to religion that we do
not find in the Bible. For example, nowhere in the Bible do we find that Christ or the
Apostles changed [the day] from Saturday to Sunday. We have the commandment of God given
to Moses to keep holy the Sabbath Day, that is the 7th day of the week, Saturday. Today
most Christians keep Sunday because it has been revealed to us by the Church outside the
Bible."--"To Tell You The Truth," The Catholic Virginian, 22,
October 3, 1947, p. 9.
"We Catholics, then, have precisely the same authority for
keeping Sunday holy instead of Saturday as we have for every other article of our creed;
namely, the authority of the [Catholic] Church . . . whereas you who are Protestants have
really no authority for it whatever; for there is no authority for it in the Bible, and
you will not allow that there can be authority for it anywhere else. Both you and we do,
in fact, follow tradition in this matter; but we follow it, believing it to be a part of
God's word, and the [Catholic] Church to be its divinely appointed guardian and
interpreter; you follow it [the Catholic Church],denouncing it all the time as a fallible
and treacherous guide, which often 'makes the commandments of God of none effect' [quoting
Matthew 15:6]"--The Brotherhood of St. Paul, The Clifton Tracts, Vol. 4, tract 4,
p. 15 [Roman Catholic].
"For ages all Christian nations looked to the Catholic Church,
and, as we have seen, the various states enforced by law her ordinances as to worship and
cessation of labor on Sunday. Protestantism, in discarding the authority of the Church,
has no good reason for its Sunday theory, and ought logically, to keep Saturday as the
Sabbath. The State in passing laws for the due Sanctification of Sunday, is unwittingly
acknowledging the authority of the Catholic Church, and carrying out more or less
faithfully its prescriptions. The Sunday as a day of the week set apart for the obligatory
public worship of Almighty God is purely a creation of the Catholic Church."--John
Gilmary Shea, in The American Catholic Quarterly Review, January, 1883, p. 139 [Shea
(1824-1892) was an important Catholic historian of his time].
"Question--What Bible authority is there for changing the
Sabbath from the seventh to the first day of the week? Who gave the Pope the authority to
change a command of God?
"Answer--lf the Bible is the only guide for the Christian, then
the Seventh-day Adventist is right, in observing the Saturday with the Jew . . . Is it not
strange that those who make the Bible their only teacher, should inconsistently follow in
this matter the tradition of the Catholic Church?"--Bertrand Conway, The
Question Box, 1903 ed., pp. 254-255; 1915 ed. p. 179 [Conway (1872-1959) was a Paulist
father in the Catholic Church].
"Prove to me from the Bible alone that I am bound to keep
Sunday holy. There is no such law in the Bible. It is a law of the holy Catholic Church
alone. The Bible says 'Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.' The Catholic Church
says, No. By my divine power I abolish the Sabbath day and command you to keep holy the
first day of the week. And lo! The entire civilized world bows down in reverent obedience
to the command of the Holy Catholic Church."--Priest Thomas Enright,
CSSR, President of Redemptorist College, Kansas City, Mo., in a lecture at Hartford,
Kansas, February 18, 1884, and the American Sentinel a New York Roman Catholic journal in
June 1893, page 173.
"Of course the Catholic Church claims that the change was her
act . . . AND THE ACT IS A MARK of her ecclesiastical power."--from the
office of Cardinal Gibbons, through Chancellor H. F. Thomas, November 11, 1895.
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