4th edition



Chapter XIX

In this chapter:

(436-437)... The Sabbath in its Very Nature Spiritual and Moral
(438).......... Its New Luster in the Gospel Dispensation
(438)..........Written in the Heart of the True Israel
(438-439)...The Disciples’ Prayer in Behalf of the Sabbath
(439-440)...Dr. Zahn’s Testimony
(441-442)...Paul a Nazarene and Heretic, --the Leader of True Israel?
(442-446)...The Real Issue at the Council at Jerusalem
(446)..........Flight to Pella
(446-449)...The Nazarenes
(446-449)...Statements of Harnack, Gieseler, Guericke, Neander
(449-450)...Not Heretic, but the True Israel
(450-453)...Reasons for decline
(453-455)...Gnostic Sabbath Fasting to Spite the God of the Jews
(455-456)...Reason for Intensified Feeling Against the Jews in General
(456-457)...Justin Martyr’s Weak-minded Christians
(457-460)...Christian Sabbath-keepers Branded Heretics
(461-462)...Sabbath a General Observance and Weekly Festival
(462)..........Augustine‘s Confirmation of Sabbath Observance
(463-465)...Catholic Solution to Gnostic weakness
(465-468)...Gregory of Nyssa, Apostolic constitutions as Proofs
.......................Chrysostom, Ambrose, Basil, Asterius

(468-469)...The Sabbath in Egypt and Ethiopia
(470-471)...“False Sabbaths”
(471).........Standing in Prayer on the Sabbath
(472).........Communion on the Sabbath
(472-474)...The Bishop of Rome introduces Sabbath Fasting
(475-476)...Augustine’s Refutation of Fasting
(476-477)...Sabbath Rest from Work is considered a “Superstition”
(477-478)...The Reproach of Christ for Genuine Sabbath Observance.


Holy Writ records in the most definite language that when God had finished his six days’ work of creation, He rested on the seventh day “from all his work which he had made.” 1 As God is spirit,-- a spiritual Being in the highest sense of the word,-- His Sabbath rest on the first seventh day of time was indeed a spiritual act; yes, the Scripture states that God was “refreshed,” 2

Engraved at first on the heart and mind of man by God’s own instruction, this weekly, definite, divine Sabbath was written by God’s own finger on the tables of stone as one of the ten words of the great moral standard of right, -- binding on all men and at all times. The Decalogue being spiritual (Rom. 7:14), the Sabbath command, as a part of that law, is likewise spiritual; and as god gave the definite seventh day to man as the weekly rest day for his own welfare and the honor of God, its observance forms a necessary part of the spiritual worship and of the high moral obligation that every creature owes to its Creator. As the Sabbath was made before sin ever came into the world, and will continue when sin is no more, the prime object of Sabbath observance is not that we should cease from sin; but that man cease from his own work, and refrain from his own pleasure and ways.3

As man directs his whole mind to the contemplation of the works of God in his behalf, the Sabbath will indeed prove a spiritual delight to him, just as the first Sabbath was a delight to the great Jehovah, when he beheld the words he had wrought in man’s behalf.

When the Son of man came in the fullness of time, to free man from sin, instead of abolishing the seventh-day Sabbath, which served as the great and divinely appointed memorial of the time when God had created man a sinless being, he rather freed the Sabbath from the yoke that sinful man had placed upon it by his bigotry and traditions; and as Lord of the Sabbath-- as its real maker -- he set forth his divine purpose for the good of man even in paradise. He showed the spiritual, moral, and eternal nature of the Sabbath institution, and, accordingly, affirmed that every jot and tittle of the ten commandments should stand forever -- even when this present heaven and earth pass away.


The light of the seventh day as the Sabbath did not fade away when He who instituted it in Eden became flesh, nor did its brilliancy diminish; but, by his own rest and by His works of mercy and His mighty miracles upon that day, He gave to it a new luster. It was hereafter to shine forth in the full glory of the light of the gospel, as the definite weekly Sabbath of an Israel already free from sin, resting from the six days’ work and toil and from their own pleasures, and delighting in the spiritual worship of that god who in Christ Jesus had cleansed, sanctified, and re-created an Israel indeed.

The Sabbath would now, as never before, become a sign between God and his true Israel forever, whereby Israel should know that it was the Lord that did sanctify them, and that it was not possible for this sanctification to come through man as man, or by man as priest.


The weekly observance of the seventh-day rest of Jehovah would not simply stand on the tables of stone in the ark of the testament in the heavenly sanctuary, where Christ officiates as the true High Priest, but it should be engraved by the Spirit of god upon the hearts of the true Israel, according to the promise of the new Testament, so that there would be no need of human laws and prescriptions to perpetuate this observance.


In full harmony with this divine purpose, Christ left this charge to the new-testament Israel: “Pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day,” 4

Remembering their Master’s charge, the true Israel prayed, for forty years after his death, that his wish might be granted them, and that they might not be obliged to leave doom stricken Jerusalem in the depths of winter, nor on the day of God’s rest. And while, according to Josephus, the carnal, unbelieving Israel of his time began the siege of the castle of Antonia on the Sabbath, and set fire to the palace of the Herods on the Sabbath, and also committed treacherous attacks upon the Roman troops who had found refuge behind strong towers, the real Israel of God, in striking contrast with this, and in remembrance of the bequest of their Master, still regarded the Sabbath of Jehovah, as did also the holy women and the disciples while Christ was resting in the grave. 5


“They kept up the observance of the early Jewish festivals. . .There can be no doubt, although it is not just explicitly stated, that they observed the Sabbath in the most conscientious manner: otherwise, they would have been stoned. Instead of this, we learn from the book of the Acts that at times they were highly respected even by that part of their own nation that remained in unbelief.. . .
That the observance of Sunday commenced among them would be a supposition which would have no seeming grounds for it, and all probability against it. It is possible that they eye-witnesses of the crucifixion of Christ and of the appearance of the resurrected ones, did not let any Friday pass without thinking of his death, and no Sunday without thinking of his resurrection, more vividly than upon other days of the week. But the only thing that we can learn of the assemblies of the early Christians for divine worship is that they came together in the temple daily, and that they celebrated the Lord’s supper in their houses. Thus it was in the weeks and months of the first excitement; but after this had given way to the more quiet routine of life, then the Sabbath inherited of their fathers, as well as the other holy days in Israel, would have been sufficient to answer to the requirements for festivals among the Jewish Christians. Besides, the Sabbath was a strong tie which united them with the life of the whole people, and in keeping the Sabbath holy, they followed not only the example, but also the command of Jesus.” 6

As the records of early Christianity are very meager; as the apostasy made sad havoc in the true church even in the time of the apostles; and as the scanty statements concerning the genuine Israel of God can be gathered only from the distorted records of their bitter enemies, we would do well first to find our bearings from the Sacred Scriptures.

The prime efforts of Christ and his apostles during the first seven years of their ministry, were directed to gathering in the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 God had not cast away his people whom he foreknew, 8 Christ selected from among them the twelve apostles, the seventy, and Paul, the great apostle to the Gentiles. The three thousand converted on the day of Pentecost, and the five thousand, “men of Israel,” And as the gospel spread to the regions beyond the narrow confines of Palestine, Paul always found his first entrance among the elect of Israel, who were “sojourners of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,” as well as at Thessalonica, Corinth, Rome, etc. All these were observers of the Sabbath of Jehovah, and continued to adhere to it after acknowledging Jesus of Nazareth as the promised Messiah.


As they were gradually collecting into a growing church of believers, the high priest of the Jews and his orator Tertullus raised the following accusation against Paul”--

“For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes: who also have gone about to profane the temple.” 9

Paul’s answer is very suggestive:--

“but this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and the prophets.” 10

The apostate Jewish church, by rejecting Jesus as the Messiah, rejected the unanimous testimony of the law and the prophets. In their blindness, they styled the Israel of God, that is, the true church, a sect their belief in Christ a heresy and Paul a pestilent fellow, the ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. Here we must seek our bearings for the future: the sect of the Nazarenes is none other than the genuine Israel of God, who were thus styled by apostate Israel because they accepted Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah.

The charge against Paul was that he had profaned the temple by bringing a Greek into it; but this, however, was false. Had Paul forsaken the Sabbath, or instructed his followers to do so, this charge would surely have been made; and that he in no way neglected the Sabbath of the Lord is proved by his own words to the chief of the Jews at Rome:--

“Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. 11

Very suggestive again is the reply of the Jews: “As concerning this sect, we know that everywhere it is spoken against.” We know now under what name the real Israel of God was to be found, “the sect of the Nazarenes,” and we also know that it was said to be “everywhere spoken against,” and its adherents were styled “heretics.”


But there were not only struggles from without; difficulties also arose from within. In the beginning, the apostolic church was composed of “men of Israel,” and they were “of one heart and of one soul,” The first difficulty was a national one, between the “Grecians” and the “Hebrews” about the care of the poor. But as the seventy weeks were accomplished, and the apostles, urged by special visions, preached the gospel to the Gentiles, a more serious difficulty arose, -- whether the Gentiles should also be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.

The apostles, seeing in Christ the divine offering provided by God as “the lamb slain from the foundation of the world,” no longer slew sacrifices, but they broke bread from house to house in remembrance of the offering accomplished once for all. And, as the Gentiles turned to god, the Holy Sprit in a special manner testifying of their acceptance, the apostles did not demand of them circumcision in the flesh, but required them to be baptized as an acknowledgment of Christ’s death and resurrection, and of their own change from pagans without God, into fellow citizens of the commonwealth of Israel.

However, some of the believing Pharisees declared “that it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.” 12 This led to the calling of the council at Jerusalem, where Peter stated that God, by giving the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles, made no difference between the Gentiles and the Jews; that the Gentile believers, having their hearts purified by faith, had no need of a yoke “which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear,” and that as the Jewish Christians themselves believed that their salvation was through the grace of the Lord Jesus, so likewise must the Gentiles obtain salvation.

James called attention to the fact that this very calling of the Gentiles was purposed of God, that they might be the building material to restore the tabernacle of David, which, by the apostasy of unbelieving Israel, had fallen into ruins: (comp Amos 9:11,12 and Acts 15:16,17). The only requirement was that the Gentiles should abstain from blood, from things strangled, from meats offered to idols, and from fornication, which played such an important part in the pagan worship.

Just as the shadowy ceremonial law of Moses (including circumcision) met its fulfilment I Christ, its substance, so likewise national Israel, whose separate existence had been safeguarded by this law, was now to meet its antitype in the true Israel of God, born of the Spirit, -- not of one nation, but of many.

The new ministration was no longer that of the letter, consisting in many outward ceremonies and sacrifices, but it was to be of the spirit-- a ministration of the real atonement of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary, and human lips were to proclaim that gospel which imparts life indeed to every one who will really believe in Christ. However, the glorious promises of this new covenant were not to abolish the ten words of the spiritual holy commandments on the hearts and minds of the true Israel of God.

While the fruit of faith in Christ, the test of the love wrought in his heart by the Spirit, and the seal of his acceptance into the commonwealth of Israel would be manifested by the Gentile’s keeping the Decalogue and resting on the seventh day, the observance of the ceremonial law and of circumcision would be a turning aside to another gospel, a sign of Judaizing indeed. That the true import of the question was not properly understood by the church Father, and that it is misunderstood by many even today, is evident from the fact that the observance of the ten commandments, and especially of the Sabbath of the fourth commandment, has been made a part of the question at issue.

A church was to develop where there would be neither Jew nor Gentile, neither bond nor free, but one true Israel, baptized by one Spirit into one body. 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:28. The terms, Jewish Christians, and Gentile Christians, as designating two distinct parties in the same church, are not justifiable in the light of these scriptures; and if such a separation did occur at an early date, it is an evident sign of an early apostasy.

On the one hand, the epistles to the Galatians and to the Colossian satisfactorily prove that some of the believers gathered out from among the lost sheep of the house of Israel did not abide by the decision taken at the council in Jerusalem, so that the future history of the church has to take into account not only the Judaizing of the unbelieving Jews, but also that of some who professed to believe in Christ.

On the other hand, we have also found abundant proof that at a very early date there was a movement on the part of the Gentiles to reject the whole of the Old Testament, and that, while this was so modified by the early church Fathers as to allow the retention of the Old Testament, still they cast aside the observance of the Sabbath of the fourth commandment, the very sign of the true Israel of God.

Our task shall be to furnish historical evidences showing that the true Israel did continue to keep “the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.“


According to the Scriptures, this church retained its headquarters at Jerusalem until apostate Israel was about to meet its doom in the destruction of its city and temple. Then the spiritual seed of Abraham heeded the prophetic warning of Daniel, which had been confirmed by Jesus, and fled to Pella, on the other side of Jordan, where they found a safe place of refuge, and could serve their Master and keep his Sabbath, endeared to them the more by their wonderful preservation in answer to their prayers. 13

Pella, at this time, was one of the famous ten cities of the Decapolis. Arriving in this region of culture the fleeing Jewish Christians, stirred by having recently seen the fulfillment of one of Christ’s prophecies, could hardly have failed to exercise an irresistible influence upon their new neighbours. The exiles who settled here multiplied in numbers throughout the following years. Their converts and their descendants formed large and learned Christian communities.

In the first century, the majority of Christians were Jews. This was especially true of the Syrian area, from Decapolis to the region about Antioch. That this true Israel preserved the observance the Sabbath, and that even believers from among the Gentiles joined them at first, is thus attested by a church historian:--

“While the Jewish Christians of Palestine retained the entire Mosaic law, and consequently the Jewish festivals, the Gentile Christians observed also the Sabbath and the Passover (1 Cor. 5:5-8) with reference to the last scenes of Jesus’ life, but without Jewish superstition. Gal. 4:10, Col. 2:16.” 14


Another, Guericke, styling them Nazarenes, thus clearly testifies that they remained true to the arrangement made at the council of Jerusalem:--

“The Nazarenes (a name originally applied, according to Acts 24:5, to all Christians among the Jews, and which is first found in Jerome, Comm, in Jesai., in this narrower application) did not assert the necessity of an observance of the ceremonial law by the Gentile Christians, recognized Paul as the teacher of revealed truth for the heathen, and departed from the doctrine of the general church in no essential point. 15

However, Jerome uses also the term “Ebionites,” which is derived from the Hebrew word “ebion,” “poor,” Neander fittingly remarks:--

“We know in fact, what reproach was cast upon the Christina faith by the hierarchical party among the Jews, because none but those belonging to the ignorant and poorer class of the people would openly profess it (John 7:49); and the like objection was made to Christianity by the pagans. Thus it may be explained how the Christians among the Jews came to be designated as the poor; and this name, which was employed by them to designate the Christians generally, would afterwards naturally be employed by the pagan Christians, without any knowledge of the meaning of the name, to designate that portion of believers who were distinguished from the rest by their observance of the Mosaic law.” 16

Harnack, on the strength of different statements from the church Fathers, shows that the terms “Nazarenes” and “Ebionites” were used interchangeably; and he also positively points out the guilty party who broke the agreement made at the council of Jerusalem, and trampled the true apostolic church underfoot. He writes:--

“In the first century these Jewish Christians formed the majority in Palestine, and perhaps also in some neighboring provinces. But they were also found here and there in the West.
Apart from syncretistic or Gnostic Jewish Christianity, there is but one group of Jewish Christians holding various shades of opinion, and these from the beginning called themselves Nazarenes as well as Ebionites. From the beginning, likewise, one portion of them was influenced by the existence of a great Gentile church which did not observe the law. They acknowledged the work of Paul,and experienced in a slight degree influences emanating from the great church. But the gulf which separated them from that church did not thereby become narrower. That gulf was caused by the social and political separation of these Jewish Christians, whatever mental attitude, hostile or friendly, they might take up to the great church.

This church stalked over them with iron feet, as over a structure which in her opinion was full of contradictions throughout (Semi-christiani), and was disconcerted neither by the gospel of these Jewish Christians nor by anything else about them. But as the synagogue also vigorously condemned them, their position up to their extinction was a most tragic one. These Jewish Christians, more than any other Christian party, bore the reproach of Christ.”17

How this change of sentiment on the part of the so-called Catholic Church against the true Israel of God gradually came about is set forth by Gieseler:--

“Still, however, the different parties of the Jewish Christians continued down to the fourth century, and even later. In what way the Nazarenes and the Gentile Christians still looked upon one another as orthodox, is evident from the explanations of Hegesippus on his journey to Rome, whither he arrived under Bishop Anicetus (157-161). But since the Gentile Christians looked upon the Nazarenes as weak Christians on account of their adherence to the Mosaic law, connection between them became less and less intimate, the knowledge of their creed more indistinct; but at the same time, since they did not keep pace with the progressive development of doctrine in the Catholic Church, the actual difference between the two parties was greater, until at length Epiphanies (about 400) went so far as to include the Nazarenes in his list of heretics (Haer, xxix). 18


The historical outlines of the process are before us. The chosen Israel of God not only became the sect of the Nazarenes in the eyes of the unbelieving Jews, but by the fourth century it was classed among the heretics by the so-called Catholic Church, which, true to its Roman origin, stalked over them with “iron feet,” 19

The Nazarenes surely bore the reproach of Christ more than any other Christian party, and those who with them follow in the humble footprints of their blessed Master are bearing this reproach to this day, and will continue to bear it until the very end of time.

However, not all First-day writers agree in reckoning the despised Nazarenes, or Ebionites, among the heretics’ for Walch, in his history of heresies, gives a long list of authorities who believe the contrary -- that the Nazarenes should not only be excluded from the list of heretics, but that they were in reality the orthodox Christians, who remained true to the genuine doctrine of Christ. Among these authorities are Toland, Bolingbroke, Crell, Rhenferd, Huetius, Voss, Basnage, and Lequien. 20

Walch also admits that, as far as the chronological order is concerned, the first question of controversy was the observance of the Sabbath. 21

To sum up this matter: The noted authors just quoted, whose statements we shall substantiate from the historical evidences of the church Gathers, plainly show that during the first century of the Christian era there existed as a united body the church of Christ, and that, too, at its very fountainhead, which, while setting aside the binding claims of circumcision and of the ceremonial law, yet still observed, as the chosen Israel of God, the seventh-day Sabbath as a part of the ten commandments. In perfect harmony with this was the result of our investigation concerning the origin of Sunday-- that it was not introduced into the Christian church until the beginning of the second century.


We will next inquire what special reasons can be adduced as to why the true Israel, and with it the Sabbath as the real rest day from labour, should have been forced into the background by the so-called Catholic Church.

There are several main causes which might be mentioned . Neander refers to the fist cause, when he says the “opposition to Judaism early led to the special observance of Sunday in the place of the Sabbath.” 22 In Acts 18:2 we read that the emperor Claudius (41-54 A.D.) commanded all Jews to depart from Rome. The obstinate resistance of the Jews during the siege of Jerusalem, and their treason, only intensified the popular hatred felt against them. As to subsequent times, the Jewish Encyclopaedia makes the following statement:--

“In the meantime the attitude of the Roman authorities had become intermittently hostile to the Jews; and after the rebellion under Hadrian it became a matter of vital importance for such who were not Jews to avoid exposing themselves to suspicion. The observance of the Sabbath was one of the most noticeable indications of Judaism. Hence, while during the first Christian century more or less regard and tolerance for the Jewish day were shown in Rome, even b non-Jewish Christians, in the second century the contrary became the rule. In the East, however, less opposition was shown to Jewish institutions. Saturday and Sunday were both celebrated by ‘abstaining from fasting, and by standing while praying. (Rheinwald Archaeologie, sec. 620 In the West, especially where Roman influence dominated, Saturday was turned into a fast-day.” 23

The hatred of the pagan authorities toward the Jews was in a certain sense warranted by their rebellious spirit, their bigotry, and their obstinate resistance. The apostolic church would innocently suffer under the same stigma, and especially because it continued to observe the Sabbath. But the second cause is a most vital one -- the rise of gnosticism. What charges the Gnostics preferred even against the apostles, is best seen from the following words of Irenaeus:--

“For all those who are of a perverse mind, having been set against the Mosaic legislation, judging it to be dissimilar and contrary to the doctrine of the Gospel, have not applied themselves to investigate the causes of the difference of each covenant. Since, therefore, they have been deserted by the paternal love, and puffed up by Satan, being brought over to the doctrine of Simon Magus, they have apostatized in their opinions from Him who is God, and imagined that they have themselves discovered more than the apostles, by finding out another god; and [maintained] that the apostles preached the Gospel still somewhat under the influence of Jewish opinions, but that they themselves are purer [in doctrine], and more intelligent, than the apostles. Wherefore also Marcion and his followers have betaken themselves to mutilating the Scriptures, not acknowledging some books at all; and, curtailing the Gospel according to Luke and the Epistles of Paul, they assert that these are alone authentic, which they have themselves thus shortened.” 24

Gnosticism, or Oriental pagan mysticism, is the secret source form which the antinomian spirit-- the spirit of lawlessness, of spite against everything Jewish-- emanated and flowed into the general church until her doctrines became completely permeated with it. The Gnostics professed to teach a purer doctrine even than the apostles, to have such a correct understanding of the true teachings of Christ and of Paul as would warrant them in dropping out or mutilating such texts of the Bible as contradicted their interpretations.

The God of the Jews, who created the world, gave the law, and rested upon the Sabbath, the Gnostics called Demiugus or the Evil God, and placed him over against Christ, the Good God of the Christians, who redeemed the world, gave a new law, and introduced a spiritual, continual rest. Creator and Redeemer, Father and Son, Old and New Testament, law and gospel, obedience and grace, the old and the new Israel, the literal and the spiritual Sabbath, were entirely opposite conceptions to them. They maintained “that the apostles intermingled the things of the law with the words of the Saviour.” 25 Not only did they charge that the apostles had fallen back into Judaism, but they even accused the Creator of the world of having violated his own law by killing the righteous Christ, and claimed that he was therefore deprived of all his power by Christ. 26 Consequently, Christ had overturned the law and the Sabbath of the Creator. 27


To spite the Creator, the God of the Jews, Marcion made the Sabbath a fast, as is expressly stated by Epiphanius: --

“Marcion for this reason fasted on the Sabbath. For, said he, since the day is the rest of the God of the Jews, who made the world and rested on the Sabbath day, we therefore institute fasting on that day, that we may not seem to do anything in compliance with the rites of the God of the Jews.” 28

For a full exposition of this matter, we refer the reader to Bingham, who further names the Eustathians, the Massalians or Euchites, the Marcianists, the Sabbatians, the Lampetians, the Choreutae, the Adelphians, and last but not least, the Roman Catholics, as having followed the practise of the Gnostics. 29 These Gnostic charges and theories are an all-important factor in the abrogation of the Sabbath, because the complete reproduction of them is to be found in the Roman Catholic Church, and later on, in Protestantism; only Gnosticism was more consistent; it acted out its no-law and no-day theory by declaring all days alike, and misquoting Paul as its authority.

Gnosticism is thus the great second cause; in view of its popularity and vast influence as a spiritual factor, it was able to instil far and wide a hatred against Israel and Israel’s God, against the Decalogue and the Sabbath; and that, too, under the deceptive mask of honouring Christ all the more, and of teaching the pure Pauline doctrine, and of accelerating the victorious and onward march of the gospel among the learned and educated heathen.

Gnosticism originated the doctrine that ceasing from sin is the true, continual Sabbath of the new law of the loving Christ. It first instituted fasting on the Sabbath to spite the God of the Jews, as well as to do despite to the true Israel of God, which still held fast to its observance. It was Gnosticism which placed on the Sabbath and on the true successors of the apostolic church the stigmatizing epithet Jewish. And what this all meant is evident from the following statement of Harnack, in his Dogmas (I, 177, 178):--

“A certain antipathy of the Greeks and Romans toward Judaism co-operated here with a law of self-preservation. On all hands, therefore, Judaism a it then existed was abandoned as a sect judged and rejected by God, as a society of hypocrites, as a synagogue of Satan, as a people seduced by an evil angel, and the Jews were declared to have no farther right to the possession of the Old Testament.”

Having thus found our bearings from Scripture and history, our future investigation will only serve to trace the effects of the Gnostic influence upon the church at large, which, while repudiating gnosticism as “heresy,” was yet guilty of gradually introducing and modifying the Gnostic doctrines to its wants” these theories were brought into the church one by one, as fast as it suited her purposes. Accordingly, not only the Gnostics, but also the Fathers and the church declared that resting from works on any day was “Judaizing.” Further, influenced by Gnosticism, the church stalked over the steadfast, believing Israel of God “with iron feet,” and finally condemned the successors of the apostolic church as “Judaizing heretics,” yea, as the “very spirit of Antichirst.”

That this was the result we have only to look at the “Epistles of Pope Gregory the Great, book. 13 epistle 1, who in 603 wrote:--

It has come to my ears that certain men of perverse spirit have sown among you some things that are wrong and opposed to the holy faith, so as to forbid any work being done on the Sabbath day. What else can I call these but preachers of Antichrist, who, when he comes, will cause the Sabbath day as well as the Lord's day to be kept free from all work.”


While there was but one united body of believers in the first century, the second century witnessed quite a marked, although gradual change. A gulf was created between the Christians from among Israel and those who had come in from the Gentiles, the latter pushing the former more and more into the background as their numbers preponderated and their views differed. One reason for this change is given by Neander, on the strength of Eusebius and Sulpicius. 30

Emperor Hadrian was induced “by the insurrection of the Jews under Barkochba (132-135) to exclude them entirely from the city of Jerusalem and its circumjacent territory.” As believing Israel, after the destruction of Jerusalem, would naturally again settle around that city, this prohibition would also force them either to relinquish the Sabbath as the most notable indication of Judaism (in the eyes of the pagan) or to return to Pella, “where a strictly Jewish Christian church maintained its existence down to the fifth century.”

Jerusalem, now called Aelia, was peopled by strangers, and “when the church of the Gentiles was collected there, the first bishop after those of the circumcision was Marcus; 31 (the 15 previous bishops had been fully Jewish).

Sulpicius Severus (363-410), after citing Hadrain’s prohibition, makes the following remarkable statement:--

“This surely profited the Christian faith, because, until then, nearly all believed in Christ as God while observing the law. Without doubt this took place, God ordaining it so, in order that the servitude of the law might be removed by the liberty of faith and of the church.” 32

Both the statement of Eusebius and that of Sulpicius indicated a change by which the true Israel was forced out of Jerusalem, and that in its stead a Gentile church arose which, because of some influence, was not under the stigma of being “Jewish”. How much this profited the Christian faith needs to be seen.


Justin Martyr (A.D. 147) makes a still more evident change. He remarks, in his dialogue with Trypho, the Jew:--

"There are such people, Trypho," I answered; "and these do not venture to have any intercourse with or to extend hospitality to such persons; but I do not agree with them. But if some, through weak-mindedness, wish to observe such institutions as were given by Moses, from which they expect some virtue, but which we believe were appointed by reason of the hardness of the people's hearts, along with their hope in this Christ, and [wish to perform] the eternal and natural acts of righteousness and piety, yet choose to live with the Christians and the faithful, as I said before, not inducing them either to be circumcised like themselves, or to keep the Sabbath, or to observe any other such ceremonies, then I hold that we ought to join ourselves to such, and associate with them in all things as kinsmen and brethren.
But if, Trypho," I continued, "some of your race, who say they believe in this Christ, compel those Gentiles who believe in this Christ to live in all respects according to the law given by Moses, or choose not to associate so intimately with them, I in like manner do not approve of them. But I believe that even those, who have been persuaded by them to observe the legal dispensation along with their confession of God in Christ, shall probably be saved.33

In the eyes of the philosopher Justin Martyr, even the genuine apostolic Christians had become “weak minded because they still wished to perform “the eternal and natural acts of righteousness and piety.” Yet he was at least so condescending to these poor, despised followers of Christ that he would “associate with them ain all things, as kinsmen and brethren.” He conceded a probability of salvation to those who had been induced by them to observe the law along with their confession of God in Christ.


Justin Martyr applied no name to either of the two parties mentioned. However, from weak-mindedness to heresy, there is but one step. Irenaeus, who first uses the term “Ebionites,” already places them among the heretical schools.34

Concerning this, Harnack remarks:

“The less was known of the Ebioites from personal observation, the more confidently they were made out to be heretics who denied the divinity of Christ and rejected the canon. The denial of the divinity of Christ and the birth from the Virgin was, from the end of the second century, regarded as the Ebionite heresy par excellence 35

Hegesippus, on the other hand, who according to Eusebius was a convert from the Hebrews, although he enumerates the sects among both the Gentiles and the Jews, does not mention the Ebionites. 36 His explanations of the manner in which he was everywhere received on his journey to Rome clearly show that the Nazarenes and the Gentile Christians considered each other as orthodox.

With every new writer on heresies, the confusion of terms and alleged heresies only increase. Tertullian and others even claim that there was heretic named Ebion, from whom the term Ebionites is derived; but this is evidently a fiction. Some distinguish between the Nazarenes and the Ebionites; others again, like Origen, classify even the Ebionites, while others confound them all. Theodoret condemns the Ebionites for enjoining the observance of the Sabbath after the law of the Jews, with that of the Lord’s day after the manner of Christians.

As Epiphanies (A.D. 400), the patriarch of orthodoxy an of heresy hunters, gives quite a lengthy description of the Nazarenes, we quote fom him, although he is noted for his boundless credulity and his many contradictions:--

“But we shall now especially consider heretics, who, having set aside the name of Jesus, call themselves neither as those of Jesse, nor do they retain the name of Jews, nor do they go by the name of Christians, but, taking their name from that place, they call themselves Nazarenes; they are mainly Jews and nothing else. They make use not only of the New Testament, but they also use in a way the Old Testament of the Jews; for they do not forbid the books of the law, the prophets, and the Hagiographa, which the Jews term the Bible, so that they are approved of by the Jews, from whom the Nazarenes do not differ in anything, and they profess all the dogmas pertaining to the prescriptions of the law and to the customs of the Jews, except that they believe in Christ.

Farther, they believe that the dead are to be rased, and that all things were created by God. They preach that there is but one God, and his Son Jesus Christ. But they are very learned in the Hebrew language; for they, like the Jews, read the whole law, then the prophets and the Hagiographa. ..

However….they differ from the Jews because they believe in Christ, and from the Christians in that they are to this day bound to the Jewish rites, such as circumcision, the Sabbath and other ceremonies.

Otherwise, this sect of the Nazarenes thrives most vigorously in the state of Berea, in Coele-Syria, also in Decapolis, around Pella, and in Bashan, which is called Cocabe by the people, but is Chochabe in the Hebrew. For, after they departed from Jerusalem, they made their start from here, as all the disciples dwelt in Pella, having been admonished by Christ to leave Jerusalem and emigrate because of imminent danger. Because of this it happened that they left for Perea, in the regions above named.” 37

Though we can gather the history of the Nazarenes, or Ebionites, only from books written against the heretics, yet the historical evidence has been fully supplied to establish their identification with the apostolic church, the circumstances and the location testifying to it. We have traced the Sabbath-keeping remnant of the apostolic church down to the fifth century. In conclusion, we shall now hear from the mouth of a church Father at the clos of the fourth century exactly the same charge preferred against them as was brough forward against the apostles by the Gnostics of the second century:--

“The Ebionites believing in Christ have been anathematized by the church Fathers for this only, because they have intermingled the ceremonies of the law with the gospel of Christ, and so whilst they confess the new, they have not omitted the old.” 38

Does not this prove that by this time the Catholic church had gradually accepted a modified form of Gnosticism, while the Nazarenes had remained true to their apostolic origin? Where was, therefore, the apostasy? And who were the real heretics, -- those who, as the true Sabbath-keeping followers of the Lord, were called upon to bear the reproach of Christ to a greater extent than any other Christina party, or those who stalked over these humble disciples with iron feet because of their simple faithfulness to their Master?

To the Bible testimony that the apostolic church observed the seventh-day Sabbath “according to the commandment,” we have added ample historical proof taken from the writings of bitter opponents to show that for five centuries the successors of the apostolic church earnestly contended for the faith once delivered to the saints, in the face of fiercest opposition from all parties. We have a solid foundation indeed; Christ, who instituted the Sabbath and magnified its sanctity by his own example while on earth, is the chief corner-stone; the apostles and prophets, whose Sabbath observance rests on inspired evidence, are the sure foundation; and the descendants of the apostolic church for centuries after ward form the superstructure.


But the Christian observance of the seventh day is by no means confined to a remnant of the stock of Israel in Syria. This would make its observance national, while in the very nature of things, the service of the true Israel must be universal. Thus far we have used only the distorted statements culled from the history of heresies in our efforts to follow the trail of the real Israel of God, and to demonstrate that the heretics were in reality the true church, and that their opponents were the apostates. But that there was a more general observance of the Sabbath on the part of Christians of Gentile origin, is fully proved by the fact that general councils, and, later on, the popes, hurled their anathemas against them; indeed, the historical evidences of their existence are so plentiful that Sunday historians are utterly confound by them.

Dr. Th. Zahn states the point in his history of Sunday:--

“From the middle of the fourth century onward, testimonies are forthcoming for the Christian observance of the Sabbath, and, moreover, at once in great abundance (cf.Zacagni, coll, monum, veterum praef.78 sqq. Bingham, orig, eccl, I, 13, 9,3:20,3)” “This seemingly sudden appearance of the Christian Sabbath observance remains a riddle.” 39

In looking up Bingham’s “Antiquities,” to which Zahn refers, we find a number of large folio pages covered with reliable testimonies to this effect.
Chapter 3, of book 20, bears this significant heading:

“Of the observance of the Sabbath, or Saturday, as a weekly festival” by the Christian church.


The entire chapter is devoted to this subject, and he adduces as unquestionable testimony a letter from Augustine to Jerome, from which

“it is plain that all the Oriental churches and the greatest part of the world observed the Sabbath as a festival. The Greek writers are unanimous in their testimony.” 40

In section 2, Bingham lets Cave answer the puzzling question, “Why the ancient church continued the observance of the Jewish Sabbath, when they took it to be only a temporary institution given to the Jews only:” Cave’s answer is of interest. Its substance is: “The Jews being generally the first converts to the Christian faith,” and having a great reverence for the Sabbath as divine and celebrated by their ancestors for so many ages, it was an act of prudence “to indulge the humor of that people, and to keep the Sabbath as a day for religious offices; viz., public prayers, reading of the Scriptures, preaching, celebration of the sacraments, and such like duties.” 41

Bingham, feeling a lack in this answer, tries to supply it by continuing in substance:--

“But when any one pretended to carry the observation of it farther, either by introducing a doctrinal necessity, or pressing the observation of it precisely after the Jewish manner, they resolutely opposed it, as introducing Judaism in the Christian religion. For this reason the Ebionites were condemned; against such the council of Laodicea pronounces anathema: and in this sense we are to understand what Gregory the Great says, that Antichrist will renew the observation of the Sabbath. He must needs mean the observation of it after the Jewish manner: only with this difference, that the Latins kept it a fast, and the Greeks a festival.” 42


Gnosticism had left only the mere Sabbath idea, -- the whole life being a Sabbath according to the new law, -- while it entirely destroyed the Sabbath institution, and to this end ordained fasting on the Sabbath of the Jews. But its misinterpretation of Paul’s writings in reality did away with any definite day sanctioned by either divine or ecclesiastical law. Its popularity lay in the seeming liberty it granted to the masses to work on all days and to rest on any day, and it thereby became a mighty instrument in tearing down the literal rest of the seventh day. But in the course of time its strong point appeared as a weakness; for, by depriving man of the blessings of a definite rest day, it prevented the introduction of others to satisfy the human cravings for stated festivals.

This need was foreseen by the penetrating eye of the coming Catholic Church. The hatred of anything seemingly Jewish was its legacy from Gnosticism, and, guided by expedience, its policy was to accomplish in the course of time what Gnosticism could not bring about -- to abrogate the Sabbath, and to satisfy the desires of the natural heart by the gradual introduction of its own church festivals. It met the Sabbath-keeping element for a time by forbidding the Gnostic fast on the Sabbath, as well as on Sunday. It even regulated Sabbath worship; but all the while it was using the strong arm of the state, and, as soon as Sunday (along with a multitude of other holidays) became established, the church carefully adopted the Gnostic tactic of Sabbath fasting in its efforts to obliterate the Sabbath. But in this the church of the West was foiled by the resistance of the church of the East, where the Sabbath is still nominally regarded as the memorial of the creation.

As long as the general church was itself persecuted by paganism, it of necessity had to tolerate distasteful practises. But as soon as it secured the power, it used the civil arm of the state to elevate the definite day of its own production, and, soon afterward, it brought in the aid of its ecclesiastical arm to strike the first blow at Sabbath-keeping, by pronouncing its anathema at the council of Laodicea.

That a general council should fell called upon to enact this canon against Judaizing on the Sabbath, is ample proof that the masses regarded it as a festival, and that many still considered it as the rest day “according to the command.” Bishop Hefele confirms this by adding: “It was also the custom in many provinces of the ancient church to observe Saturday as the feast of creation”. 43

Such a general observance of the Sabbath at a time when the civil law had already declared in favor of Sunday, can only be understood as definitely pointing back to the example of the apostolic church; and the fact that it was necessary to pronounce anathema to do away with this resting from work, proves the inherent strength in the Divine commandment forbidding such work.

The great hold the Sabbath still had on the popular mind, and even on the church in general, is best seen by the three canons issued by the council of Laodicea to regulate its observance as a festival in the future. In these, the Sabbath appears on an equal footing with Sunday. There is no lack of testimony on this point.


As disturbances had occurred in a certain church on the Sabbath, Gregory of Nyssa (A.D. 372) thus censures them;--

“With what eyes can you behold Sunday, if you desecrated the Sabbath? Don’t you know that these days are brethren? He who little esteems the one, disregards also the other.” 44

ASTERIUS, bishop of Amasa, in the beginning of the fifth century calls Sabbath and Sunday “the mothers and nurses of the church,” “a beautiful span. 45

That Sabbath services were customary in Augustine’s day in the West, appears from the fact that he preached on the Sabbath, and in one of his sermons made this remark:--

“On this day, which is the Sabbath, mostly those are accustomed to meet who are desirous of the Word of God.” 46

BASIL, of Caesarea, made it one of his communion days:--

“I indeed communicate four times a week, on the Lord’s day, on Wednesday, on Friday, and on the Sabbath,” 47

AMBROSE certifies that “besides Sunday every Sabbath, except the great Sabbath before Easter, was observed as a festival and a day of relaxation.” 48

CHRYSOSTOM testified in various places that “on Friday, Sabbath, Sunday, and on the day of holy martyrs always the same sacrifice is offered;” viz, the communion. 49

Augustine states the matter in its true light in his epistle to Januarius, chap. 2: “In some places the communion takes place daily, in some only on the Sabbath, and in some only on Sunday,”

The APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTIONS, purporting to be a collection of church laws and usages in vogue during the second and third centuries, contain the following passages:--

“Consider the manifold workmanship of God, which received its beginning through Christ. Thou shalt observe the Sabbath, on account of Him who ceased from His work of creation, but ceased not from His work of providence: it is a rest for meditation of the law, not for idleness of the hands. 50

“Assemble yourselves together…principally on the Sabbath-day. And on the day of our Lord's resurrection, which is the Lord's day, meet more diligently, sending praise to God that made the universe by Jesus…to hear …the reading of the prophets, the preaching of the Gospel, and to partake of the holy supper.51

“Every Sabbath-day excepting one, [the great Sabbath during which the Lord lay in the grave] and every Lord's day, hold your solemn assemblies, and rejoice.” 52

“But keep the Sabbath, and the Lord's day festival; because the former is the memorial of the creation, and the latter of the resurrection. 53

“O Lord Almighty Thou hast created the world by Christ, and hast appointed the Sabbath in memory thereof, because that on that day Thou hast made us rest from our works, for the meditation upon Thy laws.…. For the Sabbath is the ceasing of the creation, the completion of the world, the inquiry after laws, and the grateful praise to God for the blessings He has bestowed upon men. All which the Lord's day excels, and shows the Mediator Himself, the Provider, the Lawgiver, the Cause of the resurrection, the First-born of the whole creation. 54

“I Peter and Paul do make the following constitutions. Let the slaves work five days; but on the Sabbath-day and the Lord's day let them have leisure to go to church for instruction in piety. We have said that the Sabbath is on account of the creation, and the Lord's day of the resurrection. 55

While the Apostolic Constitutions are by no means what they purport to be, yet they are valuable in as much as they clearly show that in the centuries following the apostolic age (during which age the Sabbath alone was observed), Sunday observance was gradually connected with, and finally excelled, Sabbath observance. And this observance of Sabbath and Sunday is perpetuated to this day by the Abyssinians, who embraced Christianity in the fourth century.


The Egyptian monks who went there during the fifth and sixth centuries, also celebrated both Sabbath and Sunday as is thus attested by Cassian:--

“These offices which we are taught to render to the Lord at separate hours and at intervals of time, with a reminder from the convener, are celebrated continuously throughout the whole day…incessantly practised by them in their cells…Wherefore, except Vespers and Nocturns, there are no public services among them in the day except on Saturday and Sunday, when they meet together at the third hour [nine o’clock in the morning] for the purpose of Holy Communion.” 56 That there were religious services in the churches of Egypt on the Sabbath, Cassian thus affirms:-- “But on the day of the Sabbath and on the Lord’s Day they read both lessons from the New Testament.” 57 That the Sabbath was kept by some Christians in Alexandria at the time of Origen, seems evident from the following record of one of the discourse attributed to him:--

“But what is the feast of the Sabbath except that of which the apostle speaks, ‘There remained therefore a Sabbatism,’ that is, the observance of the Sabbath, by the people of God? Leaving the Jewish observances of the Sabbath, let us see how the Sabbath ought to be observed b a Christian. On the Sabbath day all worldly labours ought to be abstained from. If, therefore, you cease from all secular works, and execute nothing worldly, but give yourselves up to spiritual exercises, repairing to church, attending to sacred reading and instruction, thinking of celestial things, solicitous for the future, placing the Judgment to come before your eyes, not looking to things present and visible, but to those which are future and invisible, this is the observance of the Christian Sabbath.” 58

Origen knew that all about him the Sabbath, as well as Sunday, was kept as a Christian festival; and that he was also well aware that Christians still observed it “according to the commandment” he thus admits in his writings against Celsus:--

“Let it be admitted, moreover, that there are some who accept Jesus, and who boast on that account of being Christians, and yet would regulate their lives, like the Jewish multitude, in accordance with the Jewish law,-and these are the twofold sect of Ebionites, who either acknowledge with us that Jesus was born of a virgin, or deny this,” 59

To this period belongs also the longer epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians, the statements of which closely coincide with those of the Apostolic Constitutions:-- “Let us therefore no longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner, and rejoice in days of idleness; for "he that does not work, let him not eat." For say the [holy] oracles, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat thy bread." But let every one of you keep the Sabbath after a spiritual manner, rejoicing in meditation on the law, not in relaxation of the body, admiring the workmanship of God, and not eating things prepared the day before, nor using lukewarm drinks, and walking within a prescribed space, nor finding delight in dancing and plaudits which have no sense in them. And after the observance of the Sabbath, let every friend of Christ keep the Lord's Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days [of the week].” 60


The following statement from one of the writings attributed to Athanasius, likewise belongs here:--

“We are assembled on the day of the Sabbath, not because we are infected with Judaism, for we have never appropriated to ourselves false Sabbaths’ but we approach the Sabbath to adore Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath.” 61

What is meant by the expression “false Sabbaths,” is explained by the use Cyril and Theodoret make of it. The Jews of this period had become so wanton in their Sabbath observance that Cyril and Theoldoret apply the words of Amos 6:3-6 to them. Augustine uses their desecration of the Sabbath as a proof that the real intent of Sabbath observance for the Christian is not literal, but spiritual:--

“A Jew would do better to work in his field at some useful labour than to spend his time at the theater in a seditious manner; and their women had much better spin on the Sabbath than spend the whole day on their new moons in immodest dancing. Therefore God commands thee to observe the Sabbath spiritually-- not as the Jews do, in carnal rest to satisfy their vanity and luxury.” 62

All these quotations invariably agree that while the Sabbath ought to be regarded as holy, and as a weekly festival, yet it must not be observed in the “Jewish manner,” in “carnal rest,” but spiritually. And as Sabbath and Sunday were regarded as “brethren“, “Augustine’s saying in connection with his treatment of the desecration of the Sabbath by the Jews, that “it is better to plow than to dance,” 63 was, in his mind, just as significant for the observance of Sunday.


The only outward difference between the observance of Sabbath and Sunday was that prayer was performed in a standing posture on Sunday, “as Christ, by his resurrection, had raised up fallen man again to heaven.” But even this mere traditional honor was also accorded to the Sabbath, as appears from the following censure of Tertullian’s:--

In the matter of kneeling also, prayer is subject to diversity of observance, through the act of some few who abstain from kneeling on the Sabbath; and since this dissension is particularly on its trial before the churches, the Lord will give his grace that the dissentients may either yield or else indulge their opinion without offense to others.” 64

These “few” in north Africa who stood in prayer on the Sabbath, were Christian observers of the Sabbath. As Neander clearly states, it was through the influence of the Christian Sabbath-keepers “that the custom became general in the Eastern Church of distinguishing this day, as well as Sunday, by the exclusion of fasts, and by the standing position in prayer.” 65

Accordingly, we read in “Johann, Monach, Canonarium:” “On all Sabbaths, Lord’s days and festivals of the Lord, not to kneel in prayer.” 66


Not only was there a difference between the East and Rome in the manner of prayer on the Sabbath, but they also differed in the matter of celebrating the communion, as we find from Socrates, a church historian of the fifth century:--

“For although almost all of the churches throughout the world celebrate the sacred mysteries on the Sabbath of every week, yet the Christians of Alexandria and at Rome, on account of some ancient tradition, refuse to do this,” 67

Sozomen, his contemporary, extends this even to the matter of assembling:--

“The people of Constantinople, and several other cities, assemble together on the Sabbath, as well as on the next day; which custom is never observed at Rome, or at Alexandria.” 68


Not only was Rome the very place where the Sabbath day first ceased to be honoured; it was the Roman Church, which, following in the wake of Gnosticism, first dishonoured the Sabbath of the Lord by fasting upon it.

Albaspinaeus (Observ, I, 13) quotes Tertullian to prove that the church at Rome did not as yet fast regularly each Sabbath in his time. Tertullian, as a Montanist, fasted in the two weeks of the xylophages in the year, Sabbaths, and Sundays excepted. Therefore the Roman bishop charged him with “Galaticizing,” being an “observer of seasons.” Tertullian retaliates by censuring them for at times depriving the Sabbath of its due honor, by continuing their fast “even over the Sabbath,--a day never to be kept as a fast except at the Passover season, according to a reason elsewhere given,” 69

Neander ascribes the exclusion of fasting on the Sabbath in the East to the strong influence of those who observed it. The so-called Apostolic Canons, an ancient collection of church ordinances, declares (canon 66):--

“If any clergyman be found to fast on the Lord’s day or on the Sabbath, let him be deposed; if a layman, let him be excommunicated.”

To introduce fasting on the Sabbath would prove hostile to the Sabbath observers. The real motive actuating the introduction of Sabbath fasting by the Catholic Church is given vent to in the following expression of Bishop Victorinus at the close of the third century:-

“Let the fasting on Friday be extended, lest we should appear to observe any Sabbath with the Jews, which Christ, himself the Lord of the Sabbath, says by his prophets that ‘his soul hateth:’ which Sabbath he in his body abolished.” 70

Thus by the end of the third century we find the very same words in the mouth of a Catholic bishop that we found in the mouth of the Gnostic Marcion at the beginning of the second century; the same hatred produced kindred action. Neander thus states where this was first manifested:--

“White in the Western, and especially in the Romish Church, where the opposition against Judaism predominated, the custom, on the other hand, grew out of this opposition, of observing the Sabbath also as a fast-day. As early as the beginning of the third century the learned Hippolytus was led to write on this controversy between the Eastern and the Western Church.” 71

Hippolytus was a decided antagonist of the aspiring claims of the Roman bishops. According to Jerome, he wrote a treatise against fasting on the Sabbath as it was practised by the Roman Church. 72

According to Cardinal Damian, Pope Sylvester, of Rome (314-335), first publicly sanctioned fasting on Sabbath in the Roma Church by the following sentence:--

“If every Lord’s day, on account of the resurrection of the Lord, is to be kept and honoured, it is but equitable that every Sabbath day, on account of the burial, now be given to fasting; so that we, bewailing with the apostles the death of Christ, rejoice with them over the resurrection. If every Lord’s day be adorned with the glory of the resurrection, so every Sabbath day, which anteceds it, is to be a fast in mourning over the burial.” 73

This same Sylvester is also said legally to have sanctioned the term feriae as the proper term for the week-days. The Roman Breviary (lect. 6 in festis S.Sylvestri) remarks, under Pope Sylvester:

“Retaining the names Sabbath and the Lord’s day, and distinguishing the remaining days of the week by the term feriae, he wished them to be called what the church had already previously commenced to name them, whereby was signified that the clergy should daily call upon the on God, after having set apart the worship of other things,”

Although this treatise of Hippolytus is not extant, still we have Augustine’s treatment of the whole issue and its true status at that time(354-430). An anonymous person living in Rome had sent Cassulanus a treaties urging all to fast on the Sabbath. We give the following epitome of Augustine’s refutation of this doctrine in his epistle to Cassulanus:--

“It is not without reason that the church takes no small offense at whoever singles out this as a special fast-day; for in such things as scriptures have ordained nothing definite, the custom of the people of God and the usages of their forefathers should be regarded as law.” “To be sure ‘the life of the sheep depends on the judgment of the shepherd,’ But if a Roman speaks thus, then the people at Rome, depending on the judgment of their shepherd, fast on the Sabbath with their bishop. He ought not to urge you to praise Christians Rome for fasting on the Sabbath, for this would force you, on the other hand to condemn the whole Christian world , which dines on the Sabbath.” “If he claims that ‘Peter as the chief of the apostles had thus taught them’ have the other apostles in opposition to Peter instructed the whole world to dine on the Sabbath? The opinion that before his dispute with Simon Magus, Peter first fasted with the church on the Sabbath, is quite extensively circulated, and yet even most of the Romans consider it a fiction,” “If he farther claims that ‘all old things have passed away, and in Christ all things have become new,’ this is true. Therefore, we do not abstain from work on the Sabbath as do the Jews; never the less, in commemoration of this rest that is prefigured by that day, we lessen the rigor of the fast, and yet adhere to Christian sobriety and temperance. The correct understanding of this is that the carnal Sabbath has given way to the spiritual, whatever the manner be-- whether some dine or some fast on that weekly recurring Sabbath. Longing after the eternal and true rest on that spiritual Sabbath, the temporal abstinence from work on that is already considered superstitious.

We all fast on the sixth day, because Christ then suffered; but concerning the Sabbath, during which Christ lay in the grave, just as God rested from all his works in the beginning of the world, it is here that the different colors of the garments of the king’s daughter apply, as some fast, and others do not.

We all fast on Easter Sabbath-- even those who otherwise dine; fasting on this Sabbath commemorates the mourning of the disciples; partaking of food on all other Sabbaths shows forth the joy of the acquired rest.”

“When I was a candidate for baptism at Milan, my mother, who then visited me, was in serious doubts as to whether she should fast on the Sabbath according to their usual custom at home, or dine in harmony with the usage at Milan. I therefore consulted Ambrose, bishop of Milan. He referred to his own experience: ‘When I am here, I fast not on the Sabbath; when I am at Rome, I fast on the Sabbath: and to whatever church I may come, and to whatever church you may come, observe the custom of the place, if you would neither give offense to others, or take offense from them,’”74


This epistle throws considerable light on the whole controversy. It shows that as late as the end of the fourth century the bishop of Rome and some of the churches in the west, differed from all the rest of the world in the matter of Sabbath fasting. While Rome urged its universal obligation, Ambrose and Augustine regarded it as a matter of minor importance, believing that the church, the true King’s daughter, might, as such, wear a garment of different colors, and yet be on in all important matters. And in this question they were united on the main issue-- that the carnal Sabbath of the Jews had given way to the spiritual Sabbath of the Christians, and that it was superstitious to abstain from temporal works on that day. What they believed about abstaining from work on the Sabbath, they also held with reference to abstaining from work on Sunday. Abstaining from work came into consideration only so far as upon it depended attendance at the services on Sabbath or on Sunday.


This chapter has fully substantiated the fact that the example of the apostolic church in the observance of the Sabbath in honor of Christ as Creator and Redeemer, was faithfully followed by the true Israel of God even into the fifth century, whence we shall trace its observance in the following chapters. Seeing the need of grace to enable them to keep the commandments of God, they were willing to have the Holy Spirit write his law in their minds and hearts, although for this faithfulness they had to bear the reproach of Christ more than any other Christian party.

While mystic Gnosticism swayed the general body of the church from one extreme to the other, they, the true Israel, guided by the Holy Spirit, kept to the golden mean. And while the tradition-laden Sabbath of the Jew was mystified into the spiritual Sabbath of the Gnostic, the faithful Israelite kept the Sabbath in the spirit of his Master, true to its benevolent and Edenic design.

Though the Gnostic degraded the Sabbath of Jehovah into a fast-day to spite the God of the Jews; though the Roman bishop followed in his wake; though church councils anathematized genuine Sabbath observance as Judaizing; though the unbelieving Jew desecrated the Sabbath of his forefathers by his wantonness; though the large body of the church gradually preferred the popular day of the heathen world, and made both days merely festivals (to which were added almost an innumerable number of others), and called abstinence from work merely a superstition, still the seventh-day Sabbath, blessed of the Creator in the beginning, remained the only delight of the true Israel of God. Persecuted as Nazarenes by the unbelieving Jew, despised as Jewish by the idolatrous pagan and the mystic Gnostic, anathematized as heretics by the general church, discriminated against as lawless by the civil and ecclesiastical authorities, yet they kept the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus,-- “heretics,” and yet the true church; “Jewish” and still the genuine Christians; persecuted, and yet victorious.

In closing this chapter, we know of no more fitting words than the following form Pollock’s “Course of Time”--

“Sure sign, whenever seen,
That holiness is dying in the land:
The Sabbath was profaned and set at naught“

1. Gen. 2:1-3 Return>

2. Ex 31:17 Return>

3. Isa. 58:13,14 Return>

4. Matt. 24:20 Return>

5. Josephus, “Jewish Wars, “ b. 2 chap. 19, Dachsel, “Bibelwerk,” vol. 6, p. 162 Return>

6. Zahn “Geshichte des Sonntags” pp. 13,14 Return>

7. Matt. 10:6; 15:24; Acts 13:46 Return>

8. Romans 11:1 Return>

9. Acts 24:5,6 Return>

10. Acts 24:14 Return>

11. See Acts 28:17-22 Return>

12. See Acts 15:5 Return>

13. Eusebius’s Ecclesiastical History, b. 2 chap. 5 Return>

14. Gieseler’s Church History, vol. I, chap. 2, par. 30, p. 93 (New York, 1857). Return>

15. “Manual of Church History,” translated by Shedd, Andover, 1869. Par. 43, under Nazarenes. Return>

16. Church History, vol. 2, pp. 15 Return>

17. “History of Dogma” vol. I chap. 6, pp. 290, 301, 302 Return>

18. Gieseler, “Church History“, vol. I, chap,. 2, par. 43, pp. 128, 129 Return>

19. Daniel 7:7, Dan. 2:40,41 Return>

20. Entwurf einer vollst. Historie der Ketzereien, etc. Leipzig, 1762,I,103,104 Return>

21. Walch, I. P. 96 Return>

22. General Chruch History, I. 402 Return>

23. The Jewish Encyclopedia, New York and London, 1905, vol. 10, “Sabbath and Sunday.” pp. 603, 604 Return>

24. “Against Heresies,” b. 3 12. P. 309 Return>

25. “Against Heresies,” b.3, 2, 2 Return>

26. Harnack’s Dogma, I, 5, p. 274, note 2 Return>

27. Against Heresies,” 4, 13, I Return>

28. Haer.,I, 3, sec. 42 Return>

29. “Antiquities,” b. 20, 3, sec. 5, p. 300 Return>

30. Neander, Church History, 2, sec. 4, p. 12 Return>

31. Eusebius’s “Ecclesiastical History,” 4,6. Return>

32. History, sacr. 2, 31 Return>

33. Justin, Dialogue, Chap. 47, p. 147 Return>

34. Irenaeus, “Against Heresies,” I, 26, 2; also books 3-5 Return>

35. Harnack, Dogmas, I, chap, 6, p. 299, note 3 Return>

36. Eusebius, “Ecclesiastical History,” 4, 22 Return>

37. Adv. Haeres, lib I, tom, 2; Hares 29, sec. 7 Return>

38. Jerome Ad August., 122, chap. 13. Return>

39. Zahn, Geshichte des Sonntags, pp. 72,75 Return>

40. Bingham, “iAntiquities,” vol. 2, b. 20, 3, p. 298 Return>

41. Primitive Christian., I. 7, p. 174 Return>

42. “Antiquities,” vol. 2. P. 300 Return>

43. Councils, 2,6, 93 Return>

44. De Castig., tom., 2, 744, Paris, 1615 Return>

45. Asterii Amas homil. Ed.. Rubenius Antw., 1615. P. 61 Return>

46. Sermon 128. To,. 7, 629 Return>

47. Epistle 93, ad Bened.,3,186 Return>

48. Ambros. De Elia et Jejunio, cap. 10 Return>

49. Hom. 5.3, on 1 Tim.: hom.II and 25, on John Return>

50. Apostolic Constitutions, book 2, chap. 36 Return>

51. Id., chap, 59 Return>

52. Apostolic constitutions, book 5, chap. 20 Return>

53. Apostolic Constitutions, book 7, chap. 23 Return>

54. Id., chap. 36 Return>

55. Apostolic Constitutions, book 8, chap. 33 Return>

56. Cassian, Instit., 3,2 Return>

57. Id. 2,6 Return>

58. Origen’s Opera, tom 2, p. 358, Paris 1733 Return>

59. Origin’s “Agaisnst Celsus” B.5, 61 Return>

60. Ignatius “Epistle to the Magnesia’s (longer form) chap. 9 Return>

61. Pseudoathan, de semente, tom, I, p. 885 Return>

62. De decem Chordis, cap. 3, tom. 9. P. 269 Return>

63. On Psalm 91, tom.6 col. 235. Return>

64. On Prayer, chap. 23 Return>

65. Church History, I, sec. 3, p. 404 Return>

66. Ap. Morinus de Poenit., p. 616 sz.Venice, 1702 Return>

67. B. 5.22 Return>

68. B. 7,19 Return>

69. On Fasting, chap. 14 Return>

70. Ante-Nicene Library, vol. 18, p390, “On the Creation of the World“ Return>

71. Church History 1, 404,405 Return>

72. Jerome, epist. 71,6 Return>

73. Migne 145, 803; Damiani Opera, Paris, 1743, 3 chap. 3 Return>

74. August., epist. 86, ad Casul, See also epist. 118 ad Januarius Return>

History of the Sabbath, Table of Contents