Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

Saturday-sabbath and attend the Jewish places of wor

ship.

To the question, When did Sunday begin to be observed as the weekly festival of Christians?' he answers :-'First, it was kept holy by all Christians throughout the universal church immediately after the age of the apostles; -for which we have almost as many witnesses as there are writers of those times;-whereof some are cotemporaries, some successors of the apostles,-St. Clement, St. Ignatius, Melito, who wrote a book on the Lord's-day, Dionysius of Corinth, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Origen, &c. This truth is undeniable, and so generally confessed, that I forbear to set down any testimonies about it. This was one of the grounds of that great mistake and calumny, which the heathens cast upon the primitive Christians, that they adored the sun, because they prayed towards the east, and kept Sunday as a weekly festival.'

'Secondly, from the practice of the apostles. Acts xx. 6: "And we sailed away from Philippi, after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days, where we abode seven days. And upon the first day of the week, when the apostles came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow, and continued his speech until midnight." And 1 Cor. xvi. 1: "Now, concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week, let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him." So that it appears from the latter, that one branch of the duty of the Lord's-day was performed,-viz. weekly collection for the saints; and by the former, we have religious assemblies, communicating and preaching on the first day. On that day Christ rose from the dead; he twice appeared on that day; and he sent down the Holy Ghost. In all these

places, the first day is emphatically expressed.

He who would persuade us that all this happened by chance, which happened so often, let him show us as much or anything, for the second day, or the third day, or any other day of the week, so emphatically expressed without any apparent reason, or expressed at all.'

This expression, "When the disciples came together to break bread," shows that it was their common custom, and that the ordinary religious assemblies of the primitive Christians were upon the first day of the week. "Breaking of bread," it is true, in the Scriptures, sometimes means temporal refection; but in this place, and in sundry others, it signifieth evidently the distribution of the holy sacrament; and the context will not bear any other sense;―as, 1 Cor. x. 16; "The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ ?" And Acts ii. 42;

* What was the expression? The reader will here please to keep in mind, that in every case in which the first day of the week is mentioned in the Greek, it is called by the name of "Sabbath." This is an important consideration, and shows the facility with which the change could be effected, and the Jewish sabbath incorporated with the Christian, without even a change of name. The expression which, in English, is translated, "The first day of the week," occurs eight times in the New Testament. In Mark xvi. 9, in the Greek, it is πрwτy σaßßára, literally "first of the sabbath." And also Matt. xxviii. 1, Mark xvi. 2, Luke xxiv. 1, John xx. 1 and 19, Acts xx. 7, 1 Cor. xvi. 2,-in all of which, the Greek is a των σαββατων,-literally one of the sabbaths." In the two last quotations, where it really means "the Lord's-day," the word used is still caßßarwv,-literally "sabbaths." It is the word used also in the very cases in which Bramhall states the transfer of the duties and worship of the sabbath to the Lord's-day, as proof that the sabbath was abolished. This shows at least how easy the transfer of the sabbath could be made to the Lord's-day. We do not meet the expression "the Lord's-day," until we come to Rev. i. 10.

[ocr errors]

66

They continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers," where prayer and doctrine are joined with breaking of bread, which can be understood only of the holy eucharist.'

To draw nearer to the spring's head, or the source of the Lord's-day, in Acts ii. the descent of the Holy Ghost is thus described: "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place." That the day of Pentecost fell that year upon a Sunday is undeniable, because the resurrection of Christ was upon a Sunday, and Pentecost was the fiftieth day from the resurrection. The paschal lamb was slain, the passover was celebrated, and fifty days after, the law was given written by the finger of God. The true Paschal Lamb was slain, the true passover was celebrated, and fifty days after, the Holy Ghost was given, which was the "finger of God." "They were all,—what all?—all the apostles?—No; but all the disciples,―all those hundred-and-twenty, whereof we read, Acts i. 15. This appears from the address of Peter, quoting the prophecy of Joel, referring to sons and daughters, servants and handmaids.'

Here we take leave of Bramhall.

Heylyn says that Justin Martyr (anno 166) gives a particular account of the way in which Sunday (τηv tov ýλiov pepav) was observed,-which was very similar to our service. Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth (anno 175) gives a similar account to the Bishop of Rome. And Clemens Alexandrinus, in the same century, (190,) Tertullian, also, in the third century, who calls it dies solis, or Sunday. He and Justin Martyr use this name, because they addressed heathens, and used the name familiar to them, rather than "the Lord's-day." And in their apologies to the heathens, they detailed the particulars of their worship on that day, to show that they were not worshippers of the sun, as

some thought. Tertullian calls it simply the eighth day, but more frequently dies dominicus, or the Lord's-day. On these days, Heylyn says that they always received the sacrament, but that they did not abstain from their labours on that day, except during the time of service, nor until Christianity was established by the emperors, who commanded by their edicts, that men should observe it in that manner. As its observance then became established by law, it is unnecessary to follow it any further. But it may not be amiss to explain why the early Christians did not always rest on that day.

At all times "rest" was only a secondary part of the observance of the sabbath,—only a mean for the real end, which was the worship of God. Constantine was the first Christian emperor who established it by law. Before his time, in the early ages of Christianity, when Christians were liable to bitter persecutions, none adopted its profession except from strong and sincere motives of religion. Such men would devotedly observe the commandment to pay religious worship to the Deity on one day of the seven, without being reminded by a general cessation from labour, which, in this age, when Christianity is established by law, is necessary to remind the thoughtless, and give leisure to over-anxious and worldly persons. Besides, during the reign of the heathen emperors, Christians, by prohibiting work on that day, would have acted in opposition to the laws, and have become obnoxious to the civil authorities. Thus, it was impossible for the Israelites, when slaves in Egypt, to have rested on the sabbath. It is very remarkable that in every command to keep the sabbath, the order to keep it holy stands prominently forward, except on the first mention of it to the Israelites, after leaving Egypt, where it is simply announced that the next day is the sabbath; and the only order given, is to abstain from work,

because they had been disused to that part of the commandment during the period of their rigorous slavery under their task-masters. In the early ages of Christianity, the abstaining from labour by a great number of persons would have materially interfered with the concerns of the temporal governors; and therefore in those ages Christians were left to themselves, to be guided by their own peculiar circumstances.

It is very remarkable that, in the early ages of Christianity, and long before it, the division of time into weeks prevailed among the Romans. We cannot believe that they took this division from the Jews, whom they hated, despised, and ridiculed; and of whom they knew little or nothing when the custom first prevailed, whensoever that was. This division, as I have before remarked, must have been preserved by tradition amongst heathen nations from the earliest times, most probably from the era of the confusion of tongues, and consequent dispersion; and was preserved by Providence, as an instrument for promoting the establishment of Christianity, for which the circumstances of the world in general, at that period, and of the Roman empire in particular, were providentially favourable, viz. one government extending over all the known world, and causing a frequent and uninterrupted communication through the whole; a universal peace, still more facilitating the general intercourse, and allowing the minds of men to be turned, without distraction, to the one important object; one general language pervading all parts of the empire; and the circulation of the sacred Scriptures in that language through all parts of the known world, carried by the Jews through every city and province: and lastly, the division of time into weeks, with names affixed by the Romans to the several days of the seven. As to the last, the early Apologists, in their addresses to the emperors, or provincial

« AnteriorContinua »