If Sabbatarians are right on the Sabbath question, then the whole Christian church has broken the Sabbath for the last 1,800 years, and has kept Sunday, "a popish institution," "the mark of the beast," in its stead. During these long ages all the holy men, martyrs, reformers, commentators, historians and Christian scholars, with all their seeking of God, searching the Bible, and studying history, never discovered this great mistake! Is it reasonable to believe that the entire church, during all its history, has been trampling upon one of God's most holy commandments? Can it be that the wrath of God is now to be poured out upon the church for keeping the same day that all others have kept for 1,800 years? Would God have blessed the reformers and his church as he has, if Sunday-keeping is such a fearful crime against God as is now claimed?
Now, just to think that the whole church of Christ, immediately after the death of the apostles, should fall into this fearful sin and error, and practice this crime without rebuke during the entire history of the church, till just a few days before Jesus comes, and then only a few find it out and change. According to the Seventh-Day Adventists, Luther, Calvin, Knox, Wesley, with all the church of Christ for hundreds of years, committed two fearful sins each week of their lives; they broke the holy Sabbath, the most important commandment in the decalogue, and kept Sunday, the mark of the beast! Yet God has let the whole thing go on without any protest, till the last minute of time, and now everybody who does not accept this "new light," is to be hopelessly damned for doing what Christians generally have always done! In all candor, this is a pretty big pill to swallow.
But Sabbatarians say that this has nothing to do with the case. "Our appeal is to the Bible alone. The Bible plainly teaches it, and we will go by that." So they say, and so they believe; but the fact is, it is only their interpretation, their explanation, of the Bible which makes it say so. Did you ever know a sect under heaven, even the wildest and most fanatical, who were not always on hand ready to "prove it all by the Bible"? Yes; they know that they are right beyond a doubt, "because the Bible just says so." They will argue you blind, and grow more confident every day, and always end by saying, "It is true, not because I say so, but because the Bible says so." Meet a Mormon, and he has the Bible at his tongue's end. He "proves it all by the Bible." So the Shaker, and the Swedenborgian, and the Universalist, and the rest of them, "prove it all by the Bible." How many persons and sects have arisen at different times with a perfect furor of enthusiasm over some new idea besides "the old, old story of Jesus and his love." No matter what harm it does to other Christians and to the gospel, "the Bible teaches it, and that is enough. When we give this up we will give up the Bible too." So they go on till time alone demolishes their theory, and then they do indeed give up the Bible and all, while precious souls are lost.
Sabbatarians began in England in the time of the Reformation, over three hundred years ago. They had many able men, ministers and writers. They published many books, discussed the subject widely, and made many converts. Here they had a fine field and a fair start. How did Sabbath-keeping succeed? What have they accomplished in England? Three hundred years ought to be long enough to tell whether it is a success or not. Let Elder Andrews tell the sad story: "In the seventeenth century eleven churches of Sabbatarians flourished in England, while many scattered Sabbath-keepers were to be found in various parts of the kingdom. Now but three of these churches are in existence! And only remnants, even of these, remain!" Hist. Sabbath, p. 491. Since he wrote the above, two more out of the three, I believe, have expired, and only one little company of less than ten members survives! Elder A. sorrowfully asks, "To what cause shall we assign this painful fact?" The cause is evident; God is not in it. It comes to naught every time it is tried. Three hundred years hence the same mournful requiem will be chanted over the grave of Seventh-Day Adventism.
In 1664, over 200 years ago, the Seventh-Day Baptists began teaching that doctrine in America at Newport, R. I. The first church was organized Dec. 23, 1671. See "Manual of the Seventh-Day Baptists," pages 39, 40. From that time on they industriously taught the observance of the seventh day, both in America and other lands, even as far as China, by preaching, by tracts, books and periodicals, till the religious world is familiar with their views. They were numerous enough to organize a general conference as early is 1802. See Hist. S. D. Bap. Gen. Conf., pages 15, 238, or any cyclopedia. They have had academies, colleges, and universities; learned men, able writers, and zealous workers. What have they accomplished? Almost nothing. They now number only about 8,000, and are not holding their own, but are losing ground every decade. They can not even hold the increase of their children. Largely their youth abandon Saturday for Sunday. For convenience they mostly colonize together, and so have little influence on the world. To their praise be it said that they are an excellent people, and free from any fanatical or other heretical notions. Here again the seventh day has had the fairest possible chance of success. Its advocates are intelligent, highly educated, respected, and live in this free land and age of investigation. Why has it not succeeded? That it has not they themselves must admit. These sober, stubborn facts should have weight with us. Sabbatarian brethren, stop and weigh these things fairly. What is the use of wasting life contending for what is a practical failure?
In 1846, nearly seventy years ago, Seventh-Day Adventists began teaching the Sabbath. They have practiced it zealously, devoted everything to it, poured out treasures by the million, and filled the land with their literature. What have they accomplished? They number only about 100,000 now. Have 4,000 workers in the field and spend $2,000,000 yearly yet again only about 4,000 yearly, or one to each worker! Half of these are from other churches. The system lacks vitality and gospel power.
Contrast with the above the work and success of the First-Day Baptists. What a grand work they have done for Christ and souls in the last two hundred years. Instead numbering 8,000, as the Seventh-Day Baptists do, they number 5,000,000. As a body they are just as pious and devoted as the Seventh-Day Baptists. Then look at the Methodist and other Sunday-keeping churches, and see how God has blessed them all. Experience shows that keeping the Jewish Sabbath dwarfs, cripples, and unfits a church for gospel work.
If, now, keeping Saturday is so highly pleasing to God, why does he not prosper it more? If Sunday observance is such a sin in the sight of God, why does he so remarkably bless those who persist in it?
Even the Adventists acknowledge the greatness of Luther in piety and a deep knowledge of the word of God. Mrs. White says of him: "Zealous, ardent, and devoted, knowing no fear but the fear of God, and acknowledging no foundation for religious faith but the holy scriptures," etc. "Angels of heaven were by his side and rays of light from the throne of God revealed the treasures of truth to his understanding." Great Controversy, pages 94, 97. Good. Now hear Luther. Carlstadt, a zealous and learned Sabbatarian, laid his arguments for the seventh day before Luther, who examined them. Here is Luther's decision in his own words: "Indeed, if Carlstadt were to write further about the Sabbath, Sunday would have to give way, and the Sabbath -that is to say, Saturday- must be kept holy; he would truly make us Jews in all things, and we should come to be circumcised; for that is true and cannot be denied, that he who deems it necessary to keep one law of Moses, and keeps it as the law of Moses, must deem all necessary, and keep them all." Hist. Sabbath, p. 457.
So then, the "light" on the Sabbath question was given to Luther, and he rejected it, just as the great body of Christians do now. The other leaders of the reformation were likewise familiar with the arguments for the seventh day, but, as Elder Andrews confesses, they "as a body were not friendly to such views." Hist. Sabbath, p. 460.
These facts show how untrue it is to say that people have been unacquainted with this Sabbath question before.
So the great John Milton, author of "Paradise Lost," has thoroughly discussed the whole Sabbath question, using the same arguments as we use now to show the abolition of the Jewish Sabbath. I quote a few sentences from his "Treatise on Christian Doctrine," Vol. 1, Book 2, Chap. 7. "It is evident from more than one passage of scripture that the original Sabbath is abrogated." "If, then, the commandment of the Sabbath was given to those alone whom God brought out of the land of Egypt and out of the house of bondage, it is evidently inapplicable to us as Christians." He argues the question this way at considerable length.
This great divine, the author of "Saints' Rest," "Call to the Unconverted," etc., in 1671, wrote his "Divine Appointment of the Lord's Day" against the Seventh-Day advocates of his times. Gilfillan, says: "Baxter (1671) and Bunyan (1685) wrote their interesting defences of the Lord's day for relieving the perplexities with which some good people in their time were distressed in consequence of the proselyting zeal of Saturday Sabbathists." The Sabbath, p. 144. so the Sabbatarians over 200 years ago were giving the same "light" and doing the same proselyting work as now. They were answered by such men as Baxter, Bunyan, Milton, etc.
I give a few words from Baxter: "It is also confessed, that the universal church from the days of the apostles down till now have constantly kept holy the Lord's day in the memory of Christ's resurrection, and that as by the will of Christ delivered to them by or from the apostles; insomuch that I remember not either any orthodox Christian, or heretic, that ever opposed, questioned, or scrupled it, till of late ages." Part 2, Chap. 18. Of him even Mrs. White says: Baxter, a man "of talent, education, and deep Christian experience, stood up in valiant defense of the faith once delivered to the saints." Great Controversy, page 175. Yes: such men as these stood up and opposed the Jewish Sabbath heresy.
Hear Mrs. White on Bunyan: "John Bunyan breathed the very atmosphere of heaven." Great Controversy, page 174. Well, now hear Bunyan: "As for the seventh day Sabbath, that, as we see, is gone to its grave with the signs and shadows of the Old Testament; yea, and it has such a dash left upon it by apostolical authority, that it is enough to make a Christian fly from it for ever. 2 Cor. 3" "Again the apostle smites the teachers of the law upon the mouth, saying, 'they understand neither what they say nor whereof they affirm."' Complete Works, page 915.
If ever a man this side the apostles lived near to God, drank into his spirit, and knew the true intent of the Bible, that man was Bunyan, author of the immortal work, Pilgrim's Progress. He met these Sabbatarians and their work in his day. He studied the subject fully and wrote a book against them from which I have quoted.
He regarded them just as they are regarded now, as legalists, blind zealots, and disturbers of the church.
So all this talk that the church did not have the light on the Sabbath question till Adventists arose to give it is contrary to facts as the above proves. It is simply the old arguments of 200 years ago rehashed.