Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/265

This page has been validated.
253
THE SABBATH.

as a substitute for Saturday, and that its observance is as binding upon Christians as their Sabbath was upon the Jews, I can only say that those which I have seen are of the flimsiest and vaguest character. "If," says Milton, "on the plea of a divine command, they impose upon us the observances of a particular day, how do they presume, without the authority of a divine command, to substitute another day in its place?" Outside the bounds of theology no one would think of applying the term "proofs" to the evidence adduced for the change; and yet on this pivot, it has been alleged, turns the eternal fate of human souls.[1] Were such a doctrine not actual it would be incredible. It has been truly said that the man who accepts it sinks, in doing so, to the lowest depth of atheism. It is perfectly reasonable for a religious community to set apart one day in seven for rest and devotion. Most of those who object to the Judaic observance of the Sabbath recognize not only the wisdom but the necessity of some such institution, not on the ground of a divine edict, but of common sense.[2] They contend, however, that it ought to be as far as possible a day of cheerful renovation both of body and spirit, and not a day of penal gloom. There is nothing that I should withstand more strenuously than the conversion of the first day of the week into a common working day. Quite as strenuously, however, should I oppose its being employed as a day for the exercise of sacerdotal rigor.

The early reformers emphatically asserted the freedom of Christians from Sabbatical bonds; indeed, Puritan writers have reproached them with dimness of vision regarding the observance of the Lord's day. "The fourth commandment," says Luther, "literally understood, does not apply to us Christians; for it is entirely outward, like other ordinances of the Old Testament, all of which are now left free by Christ. If a preacher," he continues, "wishes to force you back to Moses, ask him whether you were brought by Moses out of Egypt? If he says no, then say. How, then, does Moses concern me, since he speaks to the people that have been brought out of Egypt? In the New Testament Moses comes to an end, and his laws lose their force. He must bow in the presence of Christ." "The Scripture," says Melanchthon, "allows that we are not bound to keep the Sabbath; for it teaches that the ceremonies of the law of Moses are not neces-

  1. In 1785 the first mail-coach reached Edinburgh from London, and in 1788 it was continued to Glasgow. The innovation was denounced by a minister of the Secession Church of Scotland as "contrary to the laws both of Church and state; contrary to the laws of God; contrary to the most conclusive and constraining reasons assigned by God; and calculated not only to promote the hurt and ruin of the nation, but also the eternal damnation of multitudes."—(Cox, vol. ii, p. 248.) Even in our own day there are clergymen foolish enough to indulge in this dealing out of damnation.
  2. "That public worship," says Milton, "is commended and inculcated as a voluntary duty, even under the Gospel, I allow; but that it is a matter of compulsory enactment, binding on believers from the authority of this commandment, or of any Sinaitical precept whatever, I deny."