In determining the origin of the seventh day Sabbath, we must of necessity refer to that source of all religious ordinances, the ancient astrolatry, the founders of which, having taught that God Sol was engaged in the reorganization of Chaos during the first six periods of the twelve thousand year cycle, corresponding to the months of Spring and Summer, they conceived the idea that he ceased to exert his energies, or rested from his labors on the seventh period, corresponding to the first of the Autumn months. Hence, deriving the suggestion from the apparent septenary rest in nature, they taught that God ordained the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath or rest day for man.
In conformity to this ordinance the founders of ancient Judaism enforced the observance of the seventh day Sabbath in the fourth commandment of the Decalogue, which, found in Gen. xx. 8-11, reads as follows, viz: “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 man servant, nor thy maid servant, 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.” Thus was the seventh day of the week made the Sabbath of the Old Testament; but the authors of the Jewish or ancient Christianity, looking for the immediate fulfillment of the prophecies relative to the second judgment, ignored its observance, as may be seen by reference to Mark ii. 23, 27; John v. 2-18; Romans xiv. 5; and Col. ii. 16; and the founders of modern Christianity, perpetuating the belief in the speedy fulfillment of those prophecies, made no change relative to the Sabbath in their version of the New Testament.
After Constantine’s pretended conversion to Christianity, and the time for the fulfillment of the prophecies had been put off to the year 10000, as previously stated, the hierarchy of the church appealed to the Emperor to give them a Sabbath, and although they knew that the seventh day of the week was the Sabbath of the Old Testament, and that Sunday was the first of the six working days, according to the fourth commandment, their hatred to the Jews for refusing to accept their Christ as the Saviour induced them to have it placed on the first day of the week. Hence that obliging potentate, in the year 321, promulgated the memorable edict, which, found in that Digest of Roman law known as the Justinian Code, Book III., Title 12, Sec. 2 and 3, reads as follows, viz.: “Let all judges and all people of the towns rest and all the various trades be suspended on the venerable day of the Sun. Those who live in the country, however, may freely and without fault attend to the cultivation of their fields lest, with the loss of favorable opportunity, the commodities offered by Divine Providence shall be destroyed.” Thus we see that the primary movement towards enforcing the observance of Sunday, or Lord’s Day, as the Sabbath, did not originate in a Divine command, but in the edict of an earthly potentate.
This edict was ratified at the third council of Orleans, in the year 538; and in order, “that the people might not be prevented from attending church, and saying their prayers,” a resolution was adopted at the same time recommending the observance of the day by all classes. From merely “recommending,” the Church of Rome soon began to enforce the observance of the day; but, in spite of all her efforts, it was not until the 12th century that its observance had become so universal as to receive the designation of “The Christian Sabbath.”
Cognizant of the manner in which Sunday was made the Sabbath, Luther issued for the government of the Protestant communion the following mandate: “As for the Sabbath, or Sunday, there is no necessity for keeping it;” see Michelet’s Life of Luther, Book IV., chapter 2. Luther also said, as recorded in Table Talk, “If anywhere the day (Sunday) is made holy for the mere day’s sake; if anywhere anyone sets up its observance upon a Jewish foundation, then I order you to work on it, to dance on it, to ride on it, to feast on it, and to do anything that shall reprove this encroachment on the Christian spirit of liberty.” Melancthon, Luther’s chief coadjutor in the work of Reformation, denied, in the most emphatic language, that Sunday was made the Sabbath by Divine ordainment; and in reference thereto John Milton, in reply to the Sunday Sabbatarians, makes the pertinent inquiry: “If, on a plea of Divine command, you impose upon us the observance of a particular day, how do you presume, without the authority of a Divine command, to substitute another in its place?”
During the reign of Elizabeth, Queen of England, a sect of fanatics, known as Dissenters or Nonconformists, basing their action upon the fallacious arguments derived from the fourth commandment, and upon the plea that the Saviour was raised from the dead on the first day of the week, inaugurated what is known as the Puritan Sabbath, which having been transferred to our shores by the voyagers in the Mayflower, and enforced by those statutory enactments known as Blue Laws, caused the people of New England to have a blue time of it while the delusion lasted; and now a large body of Protestant clergy perverting the teachings of scripture, and, ignoring the authority of the Reformers, are disturbing the peace of society by their efforts to enforce the code of sundry laws, which were enacted through their connivance. Thus have we shown that, originating with the Catholics and adopted by the Protestants, the Sunday Sabbath is purely and entirely a human institution, and, being such, we must recognize all Sunday laws as grave encroachments upon constitutional liberty; and it behooves the advocates of individual rights to demand their immediate repeal; for unless a vigilant watch is kept upon the conspirators who secured their enactment, our fair land will soon be cursed by a union of church and State, the tendency in that direction having been indicated by the unprecedented opinion recently handed down by one of the Justices of the United States Supreme Court that this is a Christian Government.