4th edition




In this chapter

(380).......... A new era in Sunday Observance
(381-382)... Division in Church and Empire
(382-383)... Constantine Favors Christianity
(383-384)... Sole Ruler of the Western Empire
(384).......... He Desires Consolidation
(384-385)... Half Pagan and Half Christian
(385-387)... The First Sunday Law and Its Associate
(387-388)... Schaff’s Comment Upon it
(388).......... Sunday Markets Ordained
(389).......... Military Sunday Law
(389-391)...Sunday the Mark of Friendly Union
(391-392)... The First General Council
(392).......... Its Decrees Claimed as Divine Commands
(393).......... The Easter Controversy Settled
(393-394)... The Ruling Motive, Hatred of Jews
(394-395)...The First Sunday Canon
(395)..........The Spiritual Sabbath of Eusebius
(396-397)... Constantine the Second Moses
(397-399)...The Transference of the Spiritual Sabbath
(399-400)...The New Spiritual Law of Eusebius
(400)..........Its Carnal Nature
(400-401)... The Catholic Theocracy
(401-403)...The Levitical Priesthood Revived in Catholicism
(403-404)...The Crimes of Constantine
(404-405)...Constantine’s Duplicity Until Death


The fourth century marks the victory of Christianity over paganism, its deadly rival, and with it began a new era in the history of Sunday observance. This final victory was not won, however, without a desperate struggle. Christianity, enjoying a long season of tranquillity, had meanwhile become a factor in the Roman empire, which was weakened by inner dissensions and by the increasing inroads of the barbarians.

At the beginning of the fourth century the empire had not less than four sovereigns--the two Augusti, Diocletian and Maximian, and their subordinate Caesars, Constantius, and Galerius. Galerius, being a deadly enemy to Christianity, and striving to become the sole Augustus, influenced Diocletian to issue an edict against the Christians. This brought about the terrible persecution know a s the Diocletian persecution, which lasted from A.D. 303 to 313.


How far the church and its bishops had at this time departed from God is seen by the following picture drawn by Eusebius:--

“When by reason of excessive liberty, we sunk into negligence and sloth, one envying and reviling another in different ways, and we were almost, as it were, on the point of taking up arms against each other, and were assailing each other with words as with darts and spears, prelates inveighing against prelates, and people rising up against people, and hypocrisy and dissimulation had arisen to the greatest height o f malignity, then the divine judgment, which usually precedes with a lenient hand, whilst the multitudes were yet crowding into the church, with gentle and mild visitations began to afflict its episcopacy:…and, as if destitute of all sensibility, we were not prompt in measures to appease and propitiate the Deity: some indeed, like atheists, regarding our situation as unheeded and unobserved by Providence, added one wickedness and misery to another.” 1

The apostasy thus described had created sects and factions, such as Montanists, the Novatians, the Donatists, and others. All these vied with the Church of Rome in their efforts to gain the ascendancy. While there were divisions both in the empire and in the church, and in each, ambitious men were striving to become the sole leader, it was but natural that the strongest, or Romish faction, should make overtures to the most powerful and favourable ruler, and offer him her support in his ambitions to be universal Augustus, if he in turn would make her the state church.

Constantius, Caesar of the western provinces (Gaul and Britain), while nominally carrying out the decrees of his superiors and tearing down a few church buildings, spared the life and property of his Christian subjects.

Galerius, succeeding Diocletian A.D. 305, the latter having resigned, as the Augustus of the East, promoted Constantius, who was frail in health, to be the Augustus of the West. In order to tie the new rulers to himself, he caused them to divorce their wives, and marry into his family. Thus Constantius had to divorce his first wife, Helena, the daughter of an inn-keeper, and at the same time he excluded her son, Constantine, who was distinguished for his military ability, from the Caesarship. Constantine, fearing the foul designs of Galerius, suddenly left is court, and joined his father in Britain, at whose death (A.D. 306) he was proclaimed Augustus by the soldiers, much to the chagrin of Galerius.

Constantine, as well as his father, was greatly influenced in his religious sentiments by the new Platonic philosophy. He acknowledged on supreme God, who had revealed himself in many was among men, and honoured Apollo in particular as the revealer of this being. Like some of the Roman rulers before him, he hoped to strengthen the Roman empire by creating a monotheistic state religion, which Christianity should become a part. As late as 308 he presented munificent gifts to Apollo, the god of the sun.


The tragic end of his pagan rivals and persecutors of Christianity, Galerius dying from a dreadful disease, Maxentius perishing in the Tiber, and Diocletian committing suicide, -- as well as political wisdom, taught Constantine to lean upon Christianity for the moral support he needed to become sole ruler of a united empire, able to withstand the inroads of the barbarians. That such utilitarian motives prompted his choice, he himself thus states:--

“My father revered the Christian God, and uniformly prospered, while the emperors who worshiped the heathen gods, died a miserable death; therefore, that I may enjoy a happy life and reign, I will imitate the example of my father, and join myself to the cause of the Christians, who are growing daily, while the heathen are diminishing.” 2


As sole Augustus of the West, Constantine made, in A.D. 312, his triumphal entry into Rome, and assumed the title of “pontifex maximus,” He associated Licinius with him as Augustus of the East, giving him his sister in marriage. In March, 313, both rulers issued the edict of Milan, granting religious liberty to all subjects, and restoring to the Christians their church buildings or adequate compensation. As his monarchical politics accorded on the point of the external Catholic unity with the hierarchical spirit of the Roman Church, he favored its sole claims to the benefits of the edict, deprived the dissenting sects of it, and styled it the “legitimate and most holy Catholic religion,” He also exempted its clergy from all public offices and obligations as early as A.D. 316. Still his coins bore the pagan symbols.


As the Roman emperors were also, by the virtue of their office, supreme pontiffs of the heathen religion, so “he desired,” as Schaff put it, “to be looked upon as a sort of bishop, as universal bishop of the external affairs of the church. All this by no means from mere self-interest, but for the good of the empire, which now shaken to its foundation and threatened by barbarians on every side, could only by some new bond of unity be consolidated and upheld.” 3


But to bring about such a union was no easy task. “He had to deal with an empire in which there was a great mixture of religions.” “He was more than half convinced of the insufficiency of paganism, and nearly half convinced of the truth of Christianity. He dared not, however, offend the pagans, mush a he wished to encourage the Christians.” “Was there any way in which he might advantage both, and yet confer a special, though not obtrusive, boon upon the latter? All his subjects,, it is probable, felt the condition of the calendar to be a crying and practical inconvenience.” 4
The “old Roman laws exempted the festivals of the heathen from all juridical business, and suspended all processes and pleadings” except in cases of great necessity or charity. 5
Agricultural labours were, on the other hand, allowed. 6
Among the Catholics Sunday had gradually become their regular assembly day, honoured also by high annual festivals. Many of his pagan subjects reverenced the same day as a day of prayer in honor of the sun. Here was the point of friendly union; here his legislation might be for common profit.


In order that the syncretic motive of Constantine--pagan and Catholic, religious and secular -- may be more apparent, we not only quote his Sunday edict of March 7, but with it another edict on March 8, 321, regarding the auspices, or pagan soothsayers, who foretold future events by examining the entrails of beasts slaughtered in sacrifice to the gods. Thus we read:--

“Let all the judges and town people, and the occupation of all trades rest on the venerable day of the sun; but let those who are situated in the country, freely and at full liberty attend to the business of agriculture; because it often happens that no other day is so fit for sowing corn and planting vines; lest, the critical moment being let slip, men should lose the commodities granted by Heaven. Given the seventh day of March, Crispus and Constantine being consuls, each of them for the second time,” 7

“That whenever lightning should strike the imperial palace or any other public building, the auspices, according to ancient usage, should be consulted as to what it might signify, and a careful report of the answer should be drawn up for his use.” 8

The edicts of Trajan and Marcus Antoninus had permitted cases of necessity and charity to be acted upon on these heathen festivals. 9 In accordance with them Constantine, in June 321, qualified this general prohibition by permitting acts of conferring liberty to the slave, and feeing the son from paternal power:--

“As it seems very unfit to occupy the day of the sun, noted for its veneration, with irritating discussion and obnoxious contentions, it would be therefore agreeable to fulfil on that day what we most principally vowed. Therefore they should have liberty for ever act of emancipation and manumission on this feast-day, and actions in these matter are not to be prohibited. 10

How well fitted such enactments were to the general demand, Hessey thus attests:--

“The Christians would accept it gladly. It was an evidence to them that the kingdoms of this world were becoming visibly, though the world knew it not, subservient to the Lord of the Day. The pagans could not object to it. It produced uniformity in their festivals, and remedied various inconveniences which met them at every turn. As for the rural districts, where paganism especially prevailed, these had an exception made in their favor, which obviated every pretense of hardship. Both Christians and pagans. . .had been accustomed to festival rests; Constantine made these rests to synchronize.” 11

The pagan and Christian sentiments found expression in this law, Stanley thus states:--

“The same tenacious adherence to the ancient god of light has left its trace, even to our time.” “The retention of the old pagan name of ‘Dies solis,’ or Sunday,. . .is in great measure, owing to the union of pagan and Christian sentiment, with which the first day of the week was recommended by Constantine to his subjects, pagan and Christian alike, as the ‘venerable day of the sun,”’ 12

How the bishops looked upon it, we can learn from the following language of Eusebius:--

”He [Constantine] ordained, too, that one day should be regarded as a special occasion for prayer: I mean that which is truly the first and chief of all, the day of our Lord and Savior.” 13

Again he eulogizes Constantine for commanding that “all should assemble together every week, and keep that day which is called the Lord’s day as a festival, to refresh even their bodies, and to stir up their minds by divine precepts and instruction.” 14

Eusebius goes still further. While Justinian and Theodosian codes are silent on supplementary ordinances, Eusebius, as well as Sozomen, claims that Constantine did the same in honor of Friday. 15 Eusebius even mentions that he enjoined all his soldiers, both Christian and pagan, to worship on Sunday. 16


As Schaff has some striking comments on Constantine’s Sunday legislation, we will listen to him: --

“So long as Christianity was not recognized and protected by the state, the observance of Sunday was purely religious, a strictly voluntary service, but exposed to continual interruption from the bustle of the world and a hostile community…

Constantine marks the beginning of a new era, and did good service to the church and to the cause of public order and morality. Constantine is the founder, in part at least, of the civil observance of Sunday, by which alone the religious observance of it in the church could be made universal and could be properly secured. In the year 321 he issued a law prohibiting manual labor in the cities and all judicial transactions, at a later period …But the Sunday law of Constantine must not be overrated. He enjoined the observance, or rather forbade the public desecration of Sunday, not under the name of Sabbatum or Dies Domini, but under its old astrological and heathen title, Dies Solis, familiar to all his subjects, so that the law was as applicable to the worshippers of Hercules, Apollo, and Mithras, as to the Christians. There is no reference whatever in his law either to the fourth commandment or to the resurrection of Christ. Besides he expressly exempted the country districts, where paganism still prevailed, from the prohibition of labor, and thus avoided every appearance of injustice. Christians and pagans had been accustomed to festival rests. Constantine made these rests to synchronize, and gave the preference to Sunday, on which day Christians from the beginning celebrated the resurrection of their Lord and Saviour. This and no more was implied in the famous enactment of 321. It was only a step in the right direction, but probably the only one which Constantine could prudently or safely take at that period of transition from the rule of paganism to that of Christianity. 17

That the religious observance of Sunday was dependent upon the legislation of the pontifex maximus of the pagan world, is an incontrovertible testimony to the human origin of Sunday and its observance until that time. As to any reference to the fourth commandment, Constantine would never have found any mention of the day of the sun in it. How far he was from its spirit and letter, however, is easily seen from the fact, but little known, that it was Constantine who first decreed that markets should be held on Sunday, as Cox thus affirms:--


“It is a curious and little-known fact that markets were expressly appointed by Constantine to be held on Sunday. This we learn from an inscription on a Slavonian bath rebuilt by him, published in Gruter’s ‘Inscriptiones Antique totius Orbis Romani’ 164,2. It is there recorded of the emperor that, ‘by a pious provision, he appointed markets to be held on Sunday throughout the year,’ His pious object was doubtless to promote the attendance of the country people at churches in towns. ‘Thus,’ says Chas, J. Hare, ‘Constantine was the author of the practise of holding markets on Sunday, which in many parts of Europe prevailed above a thousand years after, though Charlemagne issued a special law (cap. 140) against it,’” 18

In Russia and in other places markets are still held on Sunday.


We next listen to Schaff’s comment on Constantine’s Sunday ordinance for his army:--

For the army, however, he went beyond the limits of negative and protective legislation, to which the state ought to confine itself in matters of religion, and enjoined a certain positive observance of Sunday, in requiring the Christian soldiers to attend Christian worship, and the heathen soldiers, in the open field, at a given signal, with eyes and hands raised towards heaven, to recite the following, certainly very indefinite, form of prayer: "Thee alone we acknowledge as God, thee we reverence as king, to thee we call as our helper. To thee we owe our victories, by thee have we obtained the mastery of our enemies. To thee we give thanks for benefits already received, from thee we hope for benefits to come. We all fall at thy feet, and fervently beg that thou wouldest preserve to us our emperor Constantine and his divinely beloved sons in long life healthful and victorious."19

This is surely a remarkable admission, that Constantine commanded the heathen soldiers to worship the sun-god in the open field at the same time that the Christian soldiers were worshiping Christ as the Sun of Righteousness.


In the beginning of our investigation, we found that the Gnostics were those Christians who set aside the Old Testament, and with it the Sabbath of the Decalogue, in order to facilitate the conclusion of a covenant between Christianity and Hellenic culture -- the outward sign of this covenant being the mystic eighth day. Now that Gnosticism had become a part of the church, and philosophy ruled both Christianity and paganism, and thus the very union intended was effected, this mystic eighth day must become the manifest legal seal of this union accomplished. That Constantine by issuing this law had such an intent, is stated by Gieseler:--

“His first religious sentiments, like those of his father, were essentially the new Platonic. He acknowledged on supreme God who had revealed himself in many ways among men, and honoured Apollo, in particular, as the revealer of this being. As this idea of Apollo and the Christian idea of Christ were obviously similar, so Constantine may have thought that he found in it very soon a point of union between Christianity and heathenism,”

“As Christ was often compared with Sol, or Apollo9, so Constantine believed, perhaps, that in the festival of Dies Solis, as a festival of Christ and the sun at the same time, he found a point of friendly union between both religions, directly opposed though they were to each other,” 20

Dr. Zahn still more definitely witnesses to this:--

“Ere Constantine decided to elevate Christianity to the position of the ruling church in the empire, the thought soared before his vision of a monotheistic state religion, of which Christianity should become a part. The introduction of Sunday as a general day of rest, appeared to him the significant and effective expression of this union.” 21

Thus we have valid testimonies that Constantine’s Sunday is the significant and effective seal of the accomplished union between pagan philosophy and fallen Christianity, between state and church, between emperor and Roman bishop. The twofold character of Constantine’s motives, and to what extent he was still governed by pagan superstition, appears from another law issued in A.D. 321, which Neander thus mentions:--

“By a law of the same year he declares also the employment of heathen magic, for good ends, as for the prevention or healing of diseases, for the protection of harvests, for the prevention of rain and of hail, to be permitted, and in such expressions, too, as certainly betrays a faith in the efficacy of these pretended supernatural means, unless the whole is to be ascribed simply to the legal forms of paganism,” 22

Constantine’s Sunday law made the day of the sun, as Sozomen intimates, an “authorized holiday” for all subjects. To the pagan it was not only a civil law, but, as Constantine was the supreme pontiff of his religion, also an ecclesiastical law.


But only a short time elapsed until the general council of the church passed its first decree concerning the observance of Sunday.

The Easter question, sprung by Victor, bishop of Rome (A.D. 196), was still pending. The Arian controversy was causing great trouble. To settle questions disagreed upon in Christianity, and to form a compact imperial church, Constantine, “in pursuance of divine inspiration,” as he thought, summoned a general council of the bishops at Nice in the spring of A.D. 325. Although he was unbaptized, and in reality no church-member as yet, still not only did he control and maintain the council, but he presided over it as “the bishop of the bishops.” 23 He is also the author of another innovation: to make the decrees of this council unanimous, he had an ancient creed produced, which he, as the “beloved of heaven”, had approved, and whoever refused to sing it became liable to civil penalties. The following form Schaff states the facts in the case:--

“The books of Arius were burned and his followers branded as enemies of Christianity. This is the first example of the civil punishment of heresy; and it is the beginning of a long succession of civil persecutions for all departures from the Catholic faith. Before the union of church and state ecclesiastical excommunication was the extreme penalty. Now banishment and afterwards even death were added, because all offences against the church were regarded as at the same time crimes against the state and civil society.” 24


How the decisions of this and of similar later councils were regarded, is seen from the following:--

“The authority of these councils in the decision of all points of controversy was supreme and final. Their doctrinal decisions were early invested with infallibility.” “After the example of the apostolic council, the usual formula for a decree was: Visum est Sprirtui Sancto et nobis (It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.) Constantine the Great, in a circular letter to the churches, styles the decrees of the Nicene council a divine command; Athanasius says, with reference to the doctrine of the divinity of Christ: "What God has spoken by the council of Nice, abides forever." The council of Chalcedon pronounced the decrees of the Nicene fathers unalterable statutes, since God himself had spoken through them.”

“. Pope Gregory the Great even placed the first four councils, ….on a level with the four canonical Gospels. In like manner Justinian puts the dogmas of the first four councils on the same footing with the Holy Scriptures, and their canons by the side of laws of the realm.” 25


At Nicaea three hundred eighteen bishops, the significant number of Barnabas and Clement, are said to have assembled, as well as the emperor and his court. The first important question considered was the Eastern controversy, Stanley thus states it:--

“On the one side were the old, historical, apostolically traditions’; on the other side, the new, Christian, Catholic spirit, striving to part company with its ancient Jewish birthplace. The Eastern Church, at least I part, as was natural, took the former, the Western the latter view. . .The church appeared (this was the expression of the time) ‘to go halting on one leg,’ ‘The sight of some churches fasting on the same day when others were rejoicing, and of two Passovers in one year, was against the very idea of Christian unity,’ ;The celebration of it on the same day as was kept by the wicked race that put the Savior to death was an impious absurdity,’ the first of these reasons determined that uniformity was to be enforced. The second determined that the older, or Jewish, practise must give way to the Christian innovation.” 26


Schaff presents the leading motive in this decision as follows:

“The feast of the resurrection was thenceforth required to be celebrated everywhere on a Sunday, and never on the day of the Jewish passover, but always after the fourteenth of Nisan, on the Sunday after the first vernal full moon. The leading motive for this regulation was opposition to Judaism, which had dishonored the passover by the crucifixion of the Lord." We would," says the circular letter of Constantine in reference to the council of Nice, "we would have nothing in common with that most hostile people, the Jews; for we have received from the Redeemer another way of honoring God [the order of the days of the week], and harmoniously adopting this method, we would withdraw ourselves from the evil fellowship of the Jews. For what they pompously assert, is really utterly absurd: that we cannot keep this feast at all without their instruction .... It is our duty to have nothing in common with the murderers of our Lord." This bitter tone against Judaism runs through the whole letter.” 27


The twentieth canon of the council records another important decision I favor of Sunday:--

“As some kneel on the Lord’s days and on the days of Pentecost, the holy synod has decided that, for the observance of a general rue, all shall offer their prayers to God standing,” 28

Sunday was honoured by the Catholic church as an assembly day, and it was acknowledged by the state as a legal holiday. But there was a disagreement in reference to the attitude of the worshipper,-- some prayed kneeling, and some standing, upon that day. This canon decreed that there should be uniformity. By this canon the council set its seal upon the Sunday law passed by the state, Henceforth Sunday was not only the legal holiday of the state, but its observance was acknowledged and regulated by the action of the first general council of the church. To stand while praying is still the universal practise of the Eastern Church, while in the West, kneeling has gradually taken its place.

Hatred toward the Jews, the powerful motive in Gnosticism for setting aside the Old Testament the Decalogue, and the Sabbath, appears in the Catholic state church as the ruling motive in setting aside the Sabbath of the Lord. The Gnostic theory finds a ratified form of expression in the decrees of the council. Both Gnosticism and the council set aside the Sabbath of Jehovah; but, while the former introduced the no-law and the no-day doctrine, the latter sanctions the venerable day of the sun as the weekly festival of the catholic Church under Constantine.

But while the emperor and the council showed such aversion to the Sabbath of the Lord, which was made for man several thousand years before a Jew existed, the inconsistency of their course appears in glaring colors as we read Eusebius’s “Life of Constantine”, and view their general attitude in the light of the facts presented there. This pliant church theologian, basking in the sunshine of imperial favor, compares Constantine to Moses of old.


Before entering upon a consideration of this comparison, we will have to give some attention to the views of Eusebius about the Sabbath. They need to be studied to be understood. The Sabbath of the Decalogue was to him a “part of the legislation of Moses,” the “Jewish Sabbath,” Of the patriarchs he says, “They did not , therefore, regard circumcision, nor observe the Sabbath, nor do we; neither do we abstain from certain foods, nor regard other injunctions, which Moses subsequently delivered to be observed in types and symbols, because such things as these do not belong to Christians.” 29

In his commentary on Psalm 92, “a song for the Sabbath day,” Eusebius, while stating that the patriarchs had not the legal Jewish Sabbath, yet he claims that “they spent holy Sabbaths which were acceptable to God.” 30 In other words, he makes a clear distinction between the Sabbath of the Decalogue and the spiritual Sabbaths observed by the patriarchs.


Yet while Eusebius sets aside the Sabbath of the Lord as a “part of the legislation of Moses,” and as the “Jewish Sabbath,” he uses this very Moses, as well as the types and symbols of the ceremonial law, to establish an analogy between him and Constantine. Constantine as the “New Moses”, grew up at the court of the pagan, antichristian emperors; he, like Moses, was appointed by the Lord to “be prince and sovereign.” He likewise put Maxentius to flight, who, with his host, sank “to the bottom as a stone,” 31

How pleased Constantine himself was to accept the role of the second Moses, is evidenced by the fact that he is the founder of the Catholic theocracy, in imitation of the Mosaic, as is thus attested:

“Constantine, the first Christian Caesar…. was the first representative of the imposing idea of a Christian theocracy, or of that system of policy which assumes all subjects to be Christians, connects civil and religious rights, and regards church and state as the two arms of one and the same divine government on earth. This idea was more fully developed by his successors, it animated the whole middle age. 32

He [Constantine] went so far in this imitation of Moses that ’he pitched the tabernacle without the camp,’ ’thus following his ancient prophet,” “He was always honoured with a manifestation of his [God’] presence. And then, as if moved by a divine impulse, he would rush from the tabernacle, and suddenly give orders to his army” 33

Thus Constantine, who “would have nothing in common with the Jews,” professed to be a second Moses, to dwell in a tabernacle as he did, and to be guided even in warfare by oracles direct from God.


To complete Constantine’s analogy to Moses, Eusebius needed as “headstone” only to stamp Constantine a divine legislator, who, instead of the Sabbath of the Lord, branded as “Jewish,” legalized a universal, holy, “spiritual” Sabbath for pagan and Christian alike. The incontrovertible proof of this is furnished by Eusebius in his comments on Psalm 92. After stating the precept respecting the Sabbath, as addressed originally to the Jews, and mentioning the fact that they often violated it, he proceeds:--

“Wherefore as they [the Jews] rejected it [the Sabbatical command], the Word [Christ], by the new covenant, TRANSLATED and TRANSFERRED the feasts of the Sabbath to the morning light, and gave us the symbol of true rest; viz., the saving Lord’s day, the first [day] of the light, in which the Savior of the world, after all his labours among men, obtained the victory over death, and passed the portals of heaven, having achieved a work superior to the six days’ creation.”
“On this day, which is the first [day] of light and of the true sun, we assemble, after an interval of six days, and celebrate holy and spiritual Sabbaths, even all nations redeemed by him throughout the world, and do those things according to the spiritual law, which were decreed for the priests to do on the Sabbath, for we make spiritual offerings and sacrifices, which are called sacrifices of praise and rejoicing; we make incense of good odour to ascend. . . Yea, we also present the showbread, reviving the remembrance of our salvation, the blood of sprinkling, which is the Lamb of God. . . In the morning, also, with the first rising of our light, we proclaim the mercy of God toward us; also his truth by night, exhibiting a sober and chaste demeanor; and al things whatsoever that it was duty to do on the Sabbath, THESE WE HAVE TRANSFERRED TO THE LORD’S DAY, as more appropriately belonging to it, because it has a precedence and is first in rank, and more honourable than the Jewish Sabbath. For on that day, in making the world, God said, Let there be light, and there was light; and on the same day, the Sun of Righteousness arose upon our souls, Wherefore it is delivered to us [handed down by tradition] that we should meet together on this day; and it is ordered that we should do those things announced in this psalm,” 34

At this very juncture, when the first Sunday law-- pagan-Catholic, civil-religious-- is promulgated, there appears also for the first time the doctrine of the translation and of the transference of the “feast of the Sabbath to the morning light,” It is not the transference of the Sabbath based on the fourth commandment, for both the Sabbath and the Decalogue are “Jewish” in his mind; but it is the translation of the spiritual Sabbath already observed by the patriarchs, to the “day of light and of the true sun,” to be kept “according to the spiritual law,” which is the essence of the Levitical law, as set forth in the ninety-second psalm. While, in the first part of his comment, this transference is ascribed to the Word, that is, to Christ, he in the latter part ascribes it to the proper person by saying “we, Wherefore as the wicked Jews have rejected the Sabbath commandment, we that is, the Catholic bishops, with the help of Constantine’s Sunday law, have transferred the spiritual duties of the Sabbath day to the day of the sun, and made it “more honourable” than the Sabbath of the Lord, in strange contrast to Isa. 58: 13.


Though the title of the ninety-second psalm most evidently applies to the Sabbath of the fourth commandment, given to Israel, yet Eusebius assumes that it does not so much respect the Jewish Sabbath; for “it signifies the Lord’s day and the resurrection day, as we have proved in other places,” These other places are Ps. 22:29;46:5; 59:16. The first of these scriptures he applies to the celebration of the Lord’s supper every Sunday. On Ps. 46:5 he comments; “I think that the psalmist descries the morning assemblies in which we are accustomed to convene throughout the world.” Concerning Ps. 59:16 he declares: “By this is prophetically signified the service which is performed very early and every morning of the resurrection day throughout the whole world,” 35

While any one reading the book of Psalms will certainly find neither prophecy nor allusion in it to any weekly assembly at sunrise on the day of the sun in honor of the resurrection, he will find, on the other hand, in this effort of Eusebius a labored attempt to manufacture for this pagan day of the sun some fanciful theory from the Scripture, but which this new legal holiday would seem “venerable” to the Catholic as well as the pagan. It is well to remember that Eusebius is the man who put the words Lord’s day in the mouth of Irenaeus.


Gnosticism, out of hatred to the Jews, set aside the whole of the Old Testament, and brought forward the no-day and no-law theory. The church in Constantine’s day, blinded by the same hatred, modifies this by a theory of a spiritual Sabbath according to a spiritual law, but at the same time enjoins this so-called “holy and spiritual Sabbath: as the venerable day of the sun by carnal, civil, and ecclesiastical laws. And these “spiritual laws” are yet so carnal that they may be fulfilled by pagan soldiers directing a prescribed prayer to the sun-god; that markets may be held on the day thus ordained and that the country people may follow their accustomed agricultural pursuits.


Step by step we have traced the establishment of a new theocracy under Constantine in imitation of the Mosaic, and we have found in the setting apart of Sunday the final seal of this unbiblical union between church and state. To appreciate fully the inconsistency of the course pursued by the Catholic Church when it cast aside the perpetual Sabbath of Jehovah as “Jewish,” we must understand its attitude toward the Mosaic theocracy.

In his wisdom, God established for Israel, when they were coming up out of Egyptian bondage, a visible theocracy, as they were slow of faith in comprehending things unseen. This visible theocracy had a typical mediatorial service, performed in the tabernacle or temple by the Levitical priesthood, the head of which was the high priest, who offered up continual sacrifice. Moses, the prophets, and later, the kings were the visible leaders of this theocracy, the true head being God himself. All this was but a type and shadow, and as such, was to cease when Christ, the substance, had become the true Lamb of God and ascended on high, to officiate as the true high priest after the order of Melchisedec (and no longer of Levi_ in the heavenly sanctuary, there to atone, through the merits of an ever-valid sacrifice, made once for all.


Any human effort to establish again such an outward mediatorial service on earth, is a denial of the true service of Christ on high, a “recasting of the Christian spirit in the Old Testament form,” a return indeed to Judaism and to type truly Jewish; for these services have lost not only their typical significance, but their very performance is a denial of the appearance of the Messiah.

However, how early this effort appeared, is seen from the epistle of Clement of Rome, when the Christian ministry is significantly compared to Aaronic priesthood. By the close of the second century all the bishops and presbyters were called priests, the bishop sometimes being styled high priest. Cyprian becomes the champion of priestly office. Eusebius bases his spiritual Sabbath on the Levitical law, and uses the Mosaic theocracy as the pattern for the theocracy of Constantine, which finally results in the Papacy, where the hierarchical and priestly system attains its full development.

The church buildings also began to show the Mosaic type, contain an outer court, the holy, and the most holy places. 36 Furthermore, the Lord’s supper was gradually changed into an atoning sacrifice, offered continually by an earthly priest in the mass, and claiming mediatorial virtue for both the living and the dead. The pleasing motive for this tendency is thus stated to us by Neander:--

“While the great principle of the New Testament is the unfolding of the kingdom of God from within. . .the readmission of the Old Testament position, I making the kingdom of God outward, went on the assumption that an outward mediation was necessary in order for the spread of this kingdom in the world . Such a mediation was to form for the Christian church a priesthood fashioned after the model of that of the Old Testament.” 37

And how far this theocratical theory had developed in the days of Constantine, the historian thus sets before us:--

“There had in fact arisen in the church. . .a false, theocratical theory, originating, not in the essence of the gospel, but in the confusion of the religious constitutions of the Old and New Testaments, which, grounding itself on the idea of a visible priesthood belonging to the essence of the church and governing the church, brought along with it an unchristian opposition of the spiritual to the secular power, and which might easily result in the formation of a sacerdotal state, subordinating the secular to itself in a false and outward way. . .This theocratical theory was already the prevailing one in the time of Constantine.38

The Catholic Church, again establishing a visible priesthood, tabernacles made by hand, and a mediatorial service fashioned after the levitical, paved the way for the setting up of a complete, man-made theocracy. On the other hand, the paganism of Rome was none the less prepared for such a theocracy, as church and state were combined in it, and the emperor was ever the pontifex maximus. The golden moment to perfect such a theocracy had arrived when Constantine professed Christianity.

That Constantine aimed fully to establish a theocracy in Christianity similar to the Mosaic, is thus attested by Eusebius:--

“Lastly, invested as he is with a semblance of heavenly sovereignty, he directs his gaze above, and frames his earthly government to the pattern of that divine original, feeling strength in its conformity to the monarchy of God.” 39

And how carnal the perception of the kingdom of god had already become, is well illustrated by the fact that, when the bishops were seated as honoured guest around the sumptuous banquet table with the emperor, Eusebius wrote: “One might have thought that a picture of Christ’s kingdom was thus shadowed forth,” 40

Further, when Constantine appointed his sons and nephews as Caesars, this was said to be a fulfilment of Dan. 7:18: “The saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom.”


However, Schaff thus shows how far Constantine was from the kingdom, even after he had presided at the council of Nicaea:--

“The very brightest period of his reign is stained with gross crimes, which even the spirit of the age and the policy of an absolute monarch cannot excuse. After having reached, upon the bloody path of war, the goal of his ambition, the sole possession of the empire, yea, in the very year in which he summoned the great council of Nicaea, he ordered the execution of his conquered rival and brother-in-law, Licinius, in breach of a solemn promise of mercy (324). Not satisfied with this, he caused soon afterwards, from political suspicion, the death of the young Licinius, his nephew, a boy of hardly eleven years. But the worst of all is the murder of his eldest son, Crispus, in (326), who had incurred suspicion of political conspiracy, and of adulterous and incestuous purposes towards his step-mother Fausta, but is generally regarded as innocent.
…At all events Christianity did not produce in Constantine a thorough moral transformation.” 41


The duplicity of Constantine’s religious views continued until his death. He retained his office as the supreme pontiff of paganism, In A.D. 330, when he laid the foundation to a new capital, which was named Constantinople, in his honor, the city was dedicated by heathen ceremonies in honor of the goddess of Fortune. He also had a marble statue erected in the forum, which is thus referred to by Stanley: It was “in the image of his ancient patron deity Apollo; but the glory of the sunbeams was composed of the emblems of the crucifixion, and underneath its feet were buried, in strange juxtaposition, a fragment of the ‘true cross’ and the ancient Palladium of Rome. On one side his coins bore the letters of the name of Christ; on the other, the figure of the sun-god and the inscription, ‘Sol invictus 42

Milman fitly asks: “Is this paganism approximating to Christianity, or Christianity degenerating into paganism? 43

That this duplicity of Constantine continued until his death is thus testified by his own words, as quoted by Schaff:

When at last on his deathbed he submitted to baptism, with the remark, ‘Now let us cast away all duplicity‘ he honestly admitted the conflict of two antagonistic principles which swayed his private character and public life.: 44

Stanley thus fittingly reviews his course:--

“So passed away the first Christian emperor, the first defender of the faith, -- the first imperial patron of the Papal see, and of the whole Eastern Church, -- the first founder of the holy paces, --pagan and Christian, orthodox and heretical, liberal and fanatical, not to be imitated or admired, but much to be remembered, and deeply to be studied.” 45

As “significant and effective expression of the union” between paganism and Christianity, and as the fitting seal of the false theocracy, we have, in lasting memory of Constantine’s duplicity, the first imperial law and the first canon of a general council in favor of the venerable day of the sun as “the spiritual Sabbath” of the new covenant.

1.“Ecclesiastical History” b. 8, chap. 1 Return>

2.Schaff, third period, vol. I, sec. 2, pp. 19,20 Return>

3.Schaff, third period, vol. I sec. 2, p.13. Return>

4.Hessey, lect. 3 p. 63 Return>

5.Bingham, vol. 2, b. 20, chp, 2 p. 287 Return>

6.Gieseler, “Compendium of Ecclesiastical History,” vol. I p. 202 Return>

7. Corpus Juris Civilis Cod., lib. 3, ti, 12, 3. Return>

8.Cod. Theod., I, 10, ti. 10, c. I Return>

9. Bingham, vol, 2, b. 20, chap. 2, p. 287. Return>

10.Cod. Theod., 2,8,I. Return>

11. Hessey, lect. 3. 64 Return>

12.“Eastern Churchm” London, 1864 Return>

13. De Vita Const., 4,18 Return>

14.De Laudibus Constantini, c. 17 Return>

15.De Vita Const., 4,18; Sozomen Hist. Eccl. I,8. Return>

16.De Vita Const., 4, 19, 20 Return>

17.“Church History,” Third period, par. 75, p. 379 Return>

18.Cox. I, 359 Return>

19.“Church History,” third period, sec. 75, pp 389,381 Return>

20.Church History, N.Y. 1868, vol. I par. 56, pp. 183,185 Return>

21.Geschichte des Sonntags, p. 40 Return>

22.Neander, vol. 3, p. 28, ed. 1848 Return>

23.Schaff, third period. Vol. 2, sec. 120, pp 623-632, vol.. I sec. 2, pp. 32-36 Return>

24.Schaff, third period. Vol. 2 sec. 120 p. 630 Return>

25.Schaff third period, Vol, I chap. 5, sec. 65, pp. 341, 342 Return>

26.Stanley “Eastern Church,” lect. 5. P. 54 Return>

27.Schaff, third period, vol. I sec. 79, p. 405 Return>

28.Hefele’s “Councils,” vol. I sec. 42, p. 434 Return>

29.“Ecclesiastical History,” b. I chp. 4 Return>

30.“Commentary on the Psalms,” quoted by Cox, vol. I, 361 Return>

31.“Life of Constantine,” b. I, chap. 38 Return>

32.Schaff, third period, par. 2 vol. I p. 12 Return>

33.”Life of Constantine” b. 2, chap. 12 Return>

34.Commentary on the Psalms quoted by Cox. Vol. I, 361 Return>

35. Quoted by Cox. Vol, I . 360 Return>

36.Bingham, vol. I, b. 8, chp. 6 p. 297 ff Return>

37.Neander, “Church History” vol. I p.265. Return>

38.Id. Vol. 3, p. 177 Return>

39.“Oration in Praise of Constantine,.” chp. 3 Return>

40.“Life of Constantine,” b. 3, chp. 15 Return>

41.“Schaff” History of Christian Church” third period, par. 2 pp. 16,17 Return>

42.“Eastern Church,” lect. 6. P. 184 Return>

43.“History of Christianity” b. 3, chp, 3, p.341 Return>

44.“History of the Christian Church,” third period, vol. I, par. 2. P. 18 Return>

45.“Eastern Church,” lect. 6, p. 210 Return>

History of the Sabbath, Table of Contents