THE Cincinnati Weekly Enquirer, of January 2, quotes the Rev. Mr. Dabb, a Protestant clergyman of New York City, as affirming in a recent discourse that the Sabbath institution is not Christian, but only a part of the ancient “Mosaic code,” with which it passed away at the death of Christ. “The Jewish law,” he said, “was given to the Jewish people and never to any other people. It was binding upon them, but never on Christians, or any other race.”
The assertion would not be worth noticing did it not express an idea quite generally entertained by professors of Christianity. There is nothing which casts more confusion over the Sabbath question than this. Were it not for the idea that the Sabbath originated as a “Jewish” institution, and that what was Jewish is necessarily separate and distinct from what is Christian, the Sabbath question would not be to-day the difficult and perplexing one that it is to the people generally.
We desire, then, to call the attention of as many as possible to two important facts, implied in the foregoing statements; viz., (1) The Sabbath—the seventh-day rest—is not and never was “Jewish,” and (2) Whatever was given by God to his people of old, pertained to Christianity as truly as do any of the ordinances enjoined upon the Church by Christ and his apostles.
The idea has in some way taken possession of the mind of Christendom that there is an antagonism between the “old dispensation” of “the law and the prophets,” and the “new dispensation” of the preaching of Christ and his kingdom; that the “new dispensation” with its ordinances and precepts, necessarily superseded and abrogated that which pertained to the former times. This idea is as far from the truth as anything could be.
God did not have one plan and purpose for the world in Old Testament times and another plan and purpose for the world in this dispensation. He has had but one purpose, and that is the “eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord;” 496 namely, “that in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are in earth.” 497 This one great purpose he has steadily carried forward since the fall of man. Salvation through Christ was the theme of “the law and the prophets.” The Old Testament is as truly the word of Christ as is the New Testament; for Peter tells us that it was the Spirit of Christ that testified through the prophets.” 498 “Unto us,” writes Paul, “was the gospel preached as well as unto them;” 499 that is, to the ancient Israelites who went out from Egypt with Moses.
The gospel, we are told by the same writer, “is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” 500 And in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews we are pointed to the ancient worthies who through faith “subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire,” etc. People in their day had faith in Christ, as truly as people have faith in him to-day. The power of God unto salvation, through that faith,—in other words, the gospel,—was preached to them as truly as it is to us. The gospel ordinances and ceremonies of their day, very largely, pointed forward to Christ, and as such necessarily passed away when Christ’s death upon the cross became an accomplished fact. Since that time the Christian Church has had ordinances and ceremonies pointing back to that event. But whether before or after Christ’s death, they pointed to him as the sacrifice for the salvation of mankind, and as such were the means of expressing faith in him.
The seventh-day Sabbath is never in the Scriptures called “Jewish,” but is termed “the Sabbath of the Lord.” And it is to-day, as it was then, the Sabbath of Jehovah,—the memorial of his creative power, which is also the power by which he redeems the sinner.
Abraham is called in Scripture the father of the faithful. “To Abraham and his seed were the promises made.” 501 And we read, “If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” 502 Abraham was as truly a Christian as was Peter or Paul. And all those in every age who have believed on Christ for salvation, have been Christians in fact, whether known by that name or not.
Because the law of God was spoken to the Israelites from Sinai, it does not follow that that law was not for Christians. For, as we have seen, a very large number of those to whom it was spoken were Christians. As Christians, they observed God’s Sabbath,—the seventh day; and that day was, and still is, the Sabbath for all Christians.
Jesus Christ himself was a Jew, and his apostles were Jews. And we also, if we are Christ’s, are Abraham’s seed, and therefore Jews in the true spiritual sense of the word; “for,” we read, “he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of man, but of God.” 503
To say, therefore, that the law of God spoken from Sinai “was given to the Jewish people and never to any other people,” and was never binding “on Christians,” simply betrays a fundamental misconception of the purpose and scope of the gospel. If Christendom would shake off this misconception, the whole question of the nature and obligation of the Sabbath, the foundation upon which it rests, and the proper means for securing its observance, would be wonderfully simplified. Seen in the light of the plain statements of Holy Writ, we find no difficulty in knowing what is our own proper attidude [sic.] toward the Sabbath, and what course we should pursue toward others with respect to its observance. But without that light, men can but fall deeper and deeper into error, both of belief and practice.