4th edition




In this chapter

(577)....... The Roman Church at the height of its power
(578)....... Scholasticism
(578)....... The influence of Aristotle
(578)....... Thomas Aquinas the Light of the Roman Church
(579)....... Scholastic Sophistry Concerning the New Law and the Sabbath Commandment
(582)....... Sunday-Keeping Grow out of the Decision of the Church and the Custom of Christians
(582)....... The Steady Stream of Sunday Legislation Still Goes on
(583)....... “By Virture of Canonical obedience”
(584)....... Pharisaical Sabbatarianism Repeated
(585)....... Too Many Festivals
(586)....... Dr. Eck on the Authority of the Church
(588)....... Augsburg Confession
(588)....... The Decisive Speech of Cardinal Del Fossa
(589)....... “Almost Divine Wisdom
(589)....... Catechism of the Council of Trent
(592)....... Bellarmine’s Catechism
(593)....... “Keep Holy the Festivals
(593)....... The Catholic Sunday Position Reviewed


Aided by the ever-growing monasticism, and ably defended by the philosophical arguments of the schoolmen, the Papacy had reached the zenith of its power by the Middle Ages. The Roman Church now controlled all departments of life from the cradle to the grave, monopolized all the learning, stirred up the crusades, made and unmade kings, dispensed blessings and cursings to whole nations, and hushed every opponent by the Inquisition.

The medieval hierarchy centering in Rome revived the Jewish theocracy on a more comprehensive scale. It abounded in “the tradition of elders;” viz., the worship of saints and relics, transubstantiation, the daily sacrifice of the mass, prayers and masses for the dead, works of supererogation, purgatory, indulgences, vows of monasticism, and last but not least, the observance of Sunday and a large number of holidays.


The organism of the papal church was fully developed, its legality promulgated and enforced; but now scholasticism, i.e., the scientific theology of the eleventh to the sixteenth century, set itself the task of proving that what existed ought to exist. The schoolmen of the mendicant orders vindicated theologically the whole existing structure of ecclesiasticism, declared its newest as well as it oldest parts to be attested by science, and boldly defended the highest claims of the Papacy to universal power, by means of an ingenious theory of the state and the miraculous efficacy of the sacrament in the hands of its priesthood.


The works of Aristotle, at first feared, soon became the chief textbooks of Rome’s theologians and his philosophy was hailed by them as a forerunner of the gospel, of just as much import as was the work of John the Baptist to Christ. Scripture and tradition and the writings of church Fathers and philosophers were skilfully blended to rear up entire doctrinal systems, justifying the weak historical foundation of papal claims.


In view of this, the Roman Church could well afford to bestow titles and honors upon the schoolmen. Among these none stands higher than Thomas Aquinas, called the “Angelic Doctor”. An ancient painting in the Paris Art Gallery very aptly represents his eminent position in the church and his intimate relation to philosophy. Above there is the Trinity: in the middle, between Aristotle and Plato, sits Thomas Aquinas, with the rays of the sun emanating from him; while below are pictured the Pope and his clergy looking up to him for light, as “teacher of the church,” His historical position is attested by the following inscription: “Truly he is the light of the church; he finds all the way of doctrine.”


Canons of councils, imperial and royal decrees, ecclesiastical and civil ordinances without number (and often most sever), spurious epistles from heaven, and pretended miracles and apparitions had been arduously combined to clothe Sunday, as well as the other festivals, with some air of holiness.

Papal decrials styling the first day of the week the “Lord’s day,” now carefully defined its holiness, and disposed of it as the creature o the will of the Papacy. There was a superabundance of human legislation in favor of it, but no system of theology had as yet devised divine authority for it. A few isolated references had been made to associate it with the Sabbath of the Decalogue. But at what time and by whom the first systematic effort in this direction was made, Bishop Grimelund thus rightly informs us:--

“Not the apostles, not the first Christians nor the councils of the ancient church, have stamped Sunday with the name and seal of the Sabbath, but the church of the Middle Ages, and the schoolmen.” 1

Mr. Baden Powell attest the same, in more explicit language:--

“The strange and inconsistent notion of a transference of the obligations of the Judaical religion and its institution to those of Christianity, more especially of a change in the day of the Sabbath, had been partially adopted by some writers of early times, though not acknowledged by the church. But the notion of Christian ordinances succeeding in the place of those of Judaism first began to be systematically upheld, among other refinements and corruptions, by the schoolmen, especially by Thomas Aquinas,” 2

The substance of the sophistry whereby this was accomplished, is as follows: The basis of all laws forms an eternal, spiritual law, which is not bound to certain literal precepts. God himself acts according to this law, termed the “new law,” which is so comprehensive that the natural laws of the pagans, the Decalogue, and the evangelical counsels and precepts of the New Testament are but rays emanating from it. The natural law written in the heart and the Decalogue written on tables of stone are identical save in one point,-- the keeping of a special day in memory of the creation, which is ceremonial and passing.

As men fix a certain time for everything, it accords with natural law to set aside a time for divine service. But as the kernel of the Sabbath command is the rest of God, signified by the rest in paradise and realized in the eternal Sabbath, the spiritual rest, and especially the rest from sin, is really a fulfilment of the Sabbath law. Bodily rest in the Old Testament on the seventh day was in reality only a shadow of this essential and spiritual rest. The church, understanding this, has, by virtue of her own full and perfect power and on the strength of a custom which time had made law, created the Sunday festival, as well as many others of like nature, that I all these she might bring this spiritual rest to a formal expressing. Though this rest is not identical with the letter of the written law, yet because it is in accordance with the higher new law, the church has acted under the divine approbation.

As Thomas Aquinas’s exposition of the Sabbath commandment shaped the theology of the Reformers on this point, we shall quote it in full:--

“The precept about hallowing the Sabbath, understood literally, is partly moral and partly ceremonial. It is a moral precept in as much as men are to devote a certain time to an attention to divine things. For there is in man a natural inclination to set aside a certain time for each necessary thing, such as refreshment of the body, sleep, and other things of a similar kind. Hence in compliance to the dictates of natural reason, man sets aside a certain fixed time for spiritual refreshment, by which man's mind is refreshed in God. And thus to have a certain time set aside for occupying oneself with Divine things is the matter of a moral precept. But, in so far as this commandment specializes the time as a sign representing the Creation of the world, it is a ceremonial precept. Again, it is a ceremonial precept in its allegorical signification, as representative of Christ's rest in the tomb on the seventh day: also in its moral signification, as representing cessation from all sinful acts, and the mind's rest in God, in which sense, too, it is a general command. Again, it is a ceremonial precept in its analogical signification, as foreshadowing the enjoyment of God in heaven. Hence the precept about hallowing the Sabbath is placed among the precepts of the Decalogue, as a moral, but not as a ceremonial precept.

"The other thing is cessation from work, and is signified in the words (Ex. 20:11) "On the seventh day . . . thou shalt do no work." The kind of work meant appears from Lev. 23:3, "You shall do no servile work on that day”. Now servile work is so called from servitude: and servitude is threefold.
One, whereby man is the servant of sin, according to Jn. 8:34, "Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin," and in this sense all sinful acts are servile.
Another servitude is whereby one man serves another. Now one man serves another not with his mind but with his body, as stated above. Wherefore in this respect those works are called servile whereby one man serves another.
The third is the servitude of God; and in this way the work of worship, which pertains to the service of God, may be called a servile work. In this sense servile work is not forbidden on the Sabbath day, because that would be contrary to the end of the Sabbath observance: since man abstains from other works on the Sabbath day in order that he may occupy himself with works connected with God's service. For this reason, according to Jn. 7:23, "a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath day, that the law of Moses may not be broken": and for this reason too we read (Matt. 12:5), that "on the Sabbath days the priests in the temple break the Sabbath," i.e. do corporal works on the Sabbath, "and are without blame." Accordingly, the priests in carrying the ark on the Sabbath did not break the precept of the Sabbath observance. In like manner it is not contrary to the observance of the Sabbath to exercise any spiritual act, such as teaching by word or writing. Wherefore a gloss on Num 28 says that "smiths and like craftsmen rest on the Sabbath day, but the reader or teacher of the Divine law does not cease from his work. Yet he profanes not the Sabbath, even as the priests in the temple break the Sabbath, and are without blame." On the other hand, those works that are called servile in the first or second way are contrary to the observance of the Sabbath, in so far as they hinder man from applying himself to Divine things. And since man is hindered from applying himself to Divine things rather by sinful than by lawful albeit corporal works, it follows that to sin on a feast day is more against this precept than to do some other but lawful bodily work. Hence Augustine says (De decem chord. iii): "It would be better if the Jew did some useful work on his farm than spent his time seditiously in the theatre: and their womenfolk would do better to be making linen on the Sabbath than to be dancing lewdly all day in their feasts of the new moon." It is not, however, against this precept to sin venially on the Sabbath, because venial sin does not destroy holiness.

"In the New Law the observance of the Lord's day took the place of the observance of the Sabbath, not by virtue of the precept but by the institution of the Church and the custom of Christian people. For this observance is not figurative, as was the observance of the Sabbath in the Old Law. Hence the prohibition to work on the Lord' day is not so strict as on the Sabbath: and certain works are permitted on the Lord's day which were forbidden on the Sabbath, such as the cooking of food and so forth. And again in the New Law, with regard to things not allowed, dispensation is more easily granted than in the Old, on account of their necessity, because the design of the type must be witness of truth, and must not be departed even in small things; while works, considered in themselves, are changeable in point of place and time.” 3


This is what Aquinas maintained in the above quote:--”In the New Law the observance of the Lord's day took the place of the observance of the Sabbath, not by virtue of the precept but by the institution of the Church and the custom of Christian people.”

Thus by their sophistry Catholic theologians reared up a complete sabbatarian superstructure for Sunday, asserting that its observance rests on a new and no less divine law than the Decalogue. At the same time, by basing it upon an ecclesiastical foundation and upon tradition, and by vindicating its change in virtue of the full and perfect power of the Roman Catholic Church, through which power the church also institutes festivals of greater sanctity, they encircled this church with an increased halo of glory and with greater sovereignty.


However, this in no way restrained the continual stream of human Sunday legislation, and, seemingly, it did not enhance Sunday sacredness in the eyes of the people. Continuing from the year A.D. 1229, and coming down to the time of the Reformation, we single out a few of the most significant canons:--

(London A.D. 1237) “Every clergyman is required to forbid is parishioners the frequenting of markets on the Lord’s day, and leaving the church, where they ought to meet and spend the day in prayer and hearing the word of God. And this on pain of excommunication.”

(Budapesth, A.D. 1279) “CANON 33-- Parishioners must attend mass in their own parish church on all Sundays and festivals. Lay members or clergymen transgressing this ordinance are to be severely punished.”

(Bourges, A.D. 1286) “CANON 32--Priest must, on penalty of suspension, notify their bishop of servile work done on Sundays, so he may inflict adequate punishment.”

(Rouen, A.D. 1299) “CANON 2--Secular judges holding court sessions on Sunday are threatened with excommunication.”

(Beziers, A.D. 1310) “CANON 16 --Shoemakers, joiners, and merchants dealing with provisions are forbidden to offer their goods for sale on Sunday.”

(Trier, A.D. 1310) “CANON 23 -- All parishioners must attend mass on Sundays and festivals, on pain of excommunication.”

“CANON 35 -- Masters must not thereon retain their bondmen for servile work,”

(Ravenna, A.D. 1311) “CANON 9 --Every believer must attend the entire mass on Sunday, and not leave ere the benediction, on pain of excommunication.”

(Valladolid, A.D. 1322) “CANON 4 --Whoever follows agriculture or a trade on Sunday is to be excommunicated.”

(Apt, A.D. 1365) CANON 13 --Markets are forbidden on pain of ecclesiastical censure; the interference of the secular power is also to be invoked.”

(Upsala, A.D. 1448) “CANON 79 -- Whoever slays a person on Sunday, must abstain from meat the rest of his life.”

“CANON 85 -- Markets forbidden on Sunday“

(Cologne, A.D. 1473) “CANON 8-- No markets to be held on Sunday, except in cases of special privileges,”

(Arboga, A.D. 1473) “CANON 39 On Sunday there is to be no public sale of meat, nor should meat or other provisions be carried about for sale.”

(Florence, A.D. 1517) “CANON I -- Servile work on Sunday is to be punished, and only eatables and drinks are to be offered for sale.” 4


Nearly all of western Europe is represented in this list of places. On what basis the Roman Church urged this, is seen from the following edict of Istippe, archbishop of Canterbury, A.D. 1388:--

“Wherefore, by virtue of canonical obedience we strictly charge and command your brotherhood that if you find your people faulty in the premises, you forthwith admonish or cause them to be admonished to refrain going to markets or fairs on the Lord’s day. . . And as for such who are obstinate, and speak or act against you in this particular, you must endeavor to restrain them by ecclesiastical censures, and by all lawful means put a stop to these extravagances,” 5

A further example is the following extract from the exposition of the Decalogue, given by Archbishop Neville at a synod in York, A.D. 1466, which was to guide the clergy:--

“It is said, ‘Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day,’ Bu this the observance of the Christian worship is enjoined, which is of obligation alike on the clergy and laity. But it is to be known here that the obligation to keep holy day on the lega Sabbath, according to the form of the Old Testament, wholly expired with the other ceremonies of the law; and hat under the New Testament it is sufficient to keep holy day for the divine worship on the Lord’s days, and the other solemn days ordained to be kept as holy days by the authority of the church’ wherein the manner of keeping holy day is to be taken, not from the Jewish superstition but from the directions of the canons.” 6


But too what minute details these restrictions were carried, may be illustrated by these few examples:--

“Boaventure, (A.D> 1221-71) enumerates among other works to be omitted on Suday, writing, beating of clothes, washing of the head,” 7

“Pope John XXII complained, I a letter to Philip V of France, that there the custom still prevailed to cut or trim the beard on Sunday,” 8

The most perfect development, equal only to the Talmud, is displayed by Tostatus, bishop of Avila, in the fourteenth century. In his Commentary on Exodus, chapter 12 he says:--

“If a musician wait upon a gentleman to recreate his mind with music, and they are agreed upon certain wages, or he be only hired for a present time, he sins in case he play or sing to him on holy days, (including the Lord’s day) but not if his reward be doubtful or depend only on the bounty of the parties who enjoy his music.”
“A cook that on the holy days is hired to make a feast or to dress a dinner, commits a mortal sin; but not if he be hired by the month or year.”
Meat may be dressed upon the Lord’s day or the other holy days, but to wash dishes on those days is unlawful-- that must be deferred to another day.”
A man that travels on holy days to any special shrine or saint, commits no sin, but he commits sin if he returns home on those days,”
“Artificers which work on these days for their own profit only, are I mortal sin, unless the work be very small, because a small thing dishonoreth not the festival,”

As the Decalogue acquired special importance at this time for confessional purposes, the schoolmen were very prolific in voluminous and minute treatises upon it. Nicolas of Lyra wrote not less than thirty-five books on morals; and Antonius of Florence issued a confessional, in which he not only minutely specifies what is permitted on Sunday, and what is not, but also what may and what my not be done on the festivals of different grades.


As the number of holidays steadily multiplied, prominent ecclesiastics raised their voices in favor of diminishing the number of these holidays, demanding a reform in this as well as in other matter.

Nioclaus Clemanges wrote a tract entitled “No More New Festivals,” in which he shows that the many unnecessary holidays hinder the peasants in their work; that instead of furthering piety, they give occasion only to rude merrymaking; and that the peasants are forgetting the Bible because of the many stories of the saints. 9

Cardinal de Aliaco, in the opening of the council of Constance, A.D. 1416, in his “Exhortations Concerning the Reform of the Church in Its Head and Members,” demanded--

“That not so many new festivals be instituted; also that, excepting on Sundays and the great festivals instituted by the church, work be permitted after hearing the mass; because by these holidays often the sins were the more increased in taverns, -- dancing and other pleasures which idleness teaches, -- while at the same time the work-days scarcely suffice for the poor to secure the necessities of life.” 10

The Roman Church, however, did not diminish the number of holidays until after the Reformation, when synod after synod demanded it.


In the summer of A.D. 1519 the great theological controversy took place at Leipzig, in which Eck, a great champion of the Papacy, who maintained the authority and infallibility of the Roman Church against Luther and Carlstadet. Luther’s closing words are significant:--

“I am sorry that the learned doctor only dips into Scripture as the water-spider into the water, -- nay, that he seems to flee from it as the devil from the cross. I prefer, with all deference to the Fathers, the authority of the Scriptures, which I herewith recommend to the arbiters of our cause.” 11

By what arguments Dr. Eck refuted the Reformers, appears from the following:--

“Concerning the Authority of the Church. The Scripture teaches: Remember that you keep the Saturday; six days shalt thou labour and do all they work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord they God, etc. However, the church has transferred the observance from Saturday to Sunday by virtue of her own power, without Scripture, without doubt under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”

Concerning Holidays and Fast-Days.--the Sabbath is commanded in various places in the Scriptures. But there is no mention of the cessation of the Sabbath and the institution of Sunday in the Gospels, or in Paul’s writings, or in all the Bible’ therefore this has taken place by the apostolic church institution it without Scripture.”

"If, however, the church has had power to change the Sabbath of the Bible into Sunday and to command Sunday keeping why should it not have also this power concerning other days, many of which are based on the Scriptures -- such as Christmas, circumcision of the heart, three kings, etc. If you omit the latter, and turn from the church to the Scriptures alone, then you must keep the Sabbath with the Jews, which has been kept from the beginning of the world.” 12

The real facts in the case could not have been more plainly stated. The Roman Church not only thought to “change times and laws,” by virtue of her power, but her champions brought forward this very change without Scriptural warrant, as the most striking proof of the authority of the church over the Bible. Sunday thereby became the most significant mark of papal authority.


That the Catholic makes his greatest boast over this change of the time and command of the Decalogue, a Protestant historical document of the highest order has to admit:--

“Moreover, it is disputed whether bishops or pastors have the right to introduce ceremonies in the Church, and to make laws concerning meats, holy-days…. They [the Catholics] allege the change of the Sabbath into the Lord’s day, contrary, as it seemeth, to the Decalogue; and they have no example more in their mouths than the change of the Sabbath. They will needs have the church’s power to be very great because it hath dispensed with a precept of the Decalogue.” 13

This settles beyond dispute the extent to which Catholic champions made use of the change of the Sabbath as the mark of the papal authority over the law of God.


There is still another striking instance. Ever since the opening of the council at Trent (A.D. 1545), the Catholics had tried to define the right relation of the authority of the church to tradition and the Bible. Sixteen long session had already been held when Caspar del Fossa, [Gaspare Ricciulli] archbishop of Rheggio, made the following statement in his opening discourse, Jan. 18, 1562:--

“Such is the condition of the heretics today that they appeal to no other matter more than that they, under the pretense of the Word of God, overthrow the church’ as though the church, which is the body of Christ, could be opposed to this Word, or the head to the body. Yea the authority of the church is most gloriously set forth by the Holy Scriptures; for while on the one hand she recommends the same, declares them divine, offers them to us to be read, explains them faithfully in doubtful passages, and condemns whatever is contrary to them, on the other hand, the legal precepts of the Lord contained in them have ceased by virtue of the same authority.

The Sabbath, the most glorious day in the law, has been changed into the Lord’s day. . .This and other similar matters have not ceased by virtue of Christ’s teaching (for he says he came to fulfil the law, not to destroy it) but they have been changed by virtue of the authority of the church. Should this authority cease (which would surely please the heretics), who would then witness for truth, and confound the obstinacy of the heretics?” 14

That this speech was decisive, and that tradition was thereby in reality elevated above the Scriptures, is attested by Dr. J.H. Hotzman in his work, “Canon and Tradition,” page 263

The council agreed fully with Ambrosius Pelargus, that under no condition should the Protestants be allowed to triumph by saying that the council had condemned the doctrine of the ancient church. But this practise caused untold tribulation without serving as a safeguard. For this business, to be sure, ‘almost divine prudence’ was requisited -- which was indeed awarded to the council on the sixteenth of March, 1562, by the Spanish ambassador. Really they could scarcely find their way in the many labyrinthian passages of an older and newer comprehension of tradition, which were constantly crossing and re-crossing each other. But even in this they were destined to succeed.

Finally, at the last opening on the eighteenth of January, 1562, their last scruple was set aside; the archbishop of Rheggio made a speech in which he openly declared that tradition stood above Scripture. The authority of the church could therefore not be bound to the authority of the Scriptures, because the church had changed Sabbath into Sunday, not by the command of Christ, but by its own authority. With this, to be sure, the last illusion was destroyed, and it was declared that tradition does not signify antiquity, but continual inspiration.


“The authority of the church could therefore not be bound to the authority of the Scriptures, because the church had changed Sabbath into Sunday, not by the command of Christ, but by its own authority.“

Tradition, they concluded, was but continuous inspiration. None could continue to fight the acceptance of tradition when the only authority they had for Sunday observance was tradition. All the doctrines against which the Reformers had protested were again formulated and strengthened by Rome. Henceforth, the papacy was to have only one mission, namely to command nations and men everywhere to submit to the Council of Trent.


Five years later the catechism of the council of Trent was published. Part III of this catechism treats “On the Precepts of God Contained in the Decalogue.” In this document the Decalogue is set forth as “an epitome of the entire law,” and “God himself is the author of the law “. “BUT, lest perchance the people, on hearing the abrogation of the Mosaic law may imagine that they are no longer bound by the precepts of the Decalogue, [the priest or pastor] must teach them that , when God delivered the law to Moses, he rather gave increased splendor to this divine light, that was now almost darkened by the depraved morals and inveterate perversity of man, than passed a new law. For it is most certain that the ten commandments are not to be obeyed because given by Moses, but because they are precepts innate in the minds of all, and have been explained and confirmed by Christ our Lord,” Then in question 8, the catechism thus warns against Antinomians:--

“By explaining moreover the necessity of obeying the law, [the pastor] will contribute very much to induce to its observance, particularly as in these days there have not been wanting those who impiously, and to the serious injury of their own souls, have not been afraid to say that the law, whether easy or difficult, is by no means necessary unto salvation.

Chapter IV deals directly with the Sabbath commandment. Its importance is set forth in question 2:--

“The importance of the observance of this commandment is clearly perceived from the consideration that a faithful compliance therewith facilitates the observance of all the other commandments of the law; for as, amongst the other duties which ought to be performed on holy days, the faithful are bound to assemble at church to hear the word of God when they shall have learned the divine precepts of righteousness, they will also naturally be prompted to keep the law of the Lord with their whole hearts. Hence the celebration and sanctification of the Sabbath are very often enjoined in scripture.”

In question 2 the princes and magistrates are to be exhorted to aid with the support of their authority in enforcing this command; then in quest ion 4 the teachings of the schoolmen with regard to the difference between this command and the others becomes the infallible rule of the council:--

“The difference, then, appears evidence, in that the other commandments of the Decalogue are precepts of the natural and perpetual law, under all circumstances unalterable, whence, notwithstanding the abrogation of the law of Moses, all the commandments contained in the two tables are observed by the Christian people, not because Moses so commanded, but because they agree with the law of nature, by the dictates of which men are impelled to their observance; whereas this commandment, touching the sanctification of the Sabbath, if considered as to the time of its observance, is not fixed and unaltered, but susceptible of change, and belongs not to the moral but ceremonial law. Neither is it a natural principle, for we are not taught or formed by nature to give external worship to God on the Sabbath rather than on any other day; but from the time the people of Israel were liberated from the bondage of Pharaoh, they observed the Sabbath day.”

In question 5 it seeks to show that at the death of Christ the Sabbath ceased, with the other Jewish ceremonies. In question 7, on the strength of Rev. 1:10. It is stated that the apostles changed the Sabbath into the Lord’s day. In question 18 the reason for this is stated as follows:

But the Church of God has thought it well to transfer the celebration and observance of the Sabbath to Sunday. For, as on that day light first shone on the world, so by the Resurrection of our Redeemer on the same day, by whom was thrown open to us the gate to eternal life, we were called out of darkness into light; and hence the Apostles would have it called the Lord's day. We also learn from the Sacred Scriptures that the first day of the week was held sacred because on that day the work of creation commenced, and on that day the Holy Ghost was given to the Apostles.

And in question 19 a reason is given for the institution of other festivals:--

From the very infancy of the Church and in the following centuries other days were also appointed by the Apostles and the holy Fathers, in order to commemorate the benefits bestowed by God. Among these days to be kept sacred the most solemn are those which were instituted to honour the mysteries of our redemption. In the next place are the days which are dedicated to the most Blessed Virgin Mother, to the Apostles, Martyrs and other Saints who reign with Christ. In the celebration of their victories the divine power and goodness are praised, due honour is paid to their memories, and the faithful are encouraged to imitate them.

Previously to this, in question 15, we read of the “spiritual Sabbath”. “The spiritual sabbath consists in a holy and mystical rest, wherein the old man being buried with Christ, is renewed to life.” Then in question 16 comes the Sabbath of the blest, which refers to the heavenly Sabbath, the final rest for the people of God. After dealing with what should be done on the feast-days and on Sunday, it concludes, in question 28:--

“In order, therefore, to avoid offending God in this way, we should frequently ponder this word: Remember, and should place before our minds the important advantages and blessings which, as we have already seen, flow from the religious observance of Sunday and holydays. 15


Another catechism, drawn up by Cardinal Bellarmine, sanctioned by bulls of Clement VIII (A.D. 1558) and Benedict XIII (A.D. 1728) still used in Italy, travesties the fourth commandment thus:--

Remember to keep holy the festivals” (Recordati di sanctificare le Feste).

He then explains; “The third commands the observance of festivals; which consists in abstaining from servile works, in order to have time for considering the divine blessings for visiting the churches, etc.” 16


Among “the few commandments which the church has added to the commandments of God,” the catechism enjoins that one should “hear mass every Sunday, and on all other appointed festivals.” The same cardinal maintained that the distinction of days and festivals was not taken away, but changed by the Christian church’ which, as being infallible, doubtless had power to make such a change in divine institutions, though otherwise it manifestly could not. 17


The gradual development of the Sunday institution within the realm of the Roman Church, together with the doctrines, the pretended claims, the many decrees and different practises with regard to Sunday, have been presented to the reader from standard Catholic authorities. Philosophical theologians introduced this institution, and philosophical schoolmen gave to it the finishing touches; and what sophistically schoolmen had devised in its behalf, popes and councils authorized as infallible.

To vindicate this change so unwarranted by Scripture, the theory of the “new law” of the Gnostics was revived by the schoolmen; but to impress Sunday holiness in practise, they adduced the despised Sabbath commandment. While its observance was said to rest on a higher spiritual law, yet carnal human legislation expended all its ingenuity to enforce this observance and still failed. Sunday was stamped with the seal of the Sabbath, but it stood forth as a human ordinance, created by the wisdom and custom of the church. Scholasticism stripped the Sabbath commandment of its import, changed, as it was, from the fourth to the third command of the Decalogue.

According to their sophistry, this institution is authorized only in that it agrees with nature that God should be worshiped. Sabbath observance is made out to be not fixed and constant, but subject to ceremonial and human changes. The Sabbath that was ordained by God’s own rest in the beginning, is said to have begun with the exodus of the Jews from Egypt, and to have passed away as a mere Jewish ceremony at the death of Christ. The explicit and lengthy precept written by the divine Legislator himself dwindles down in the theory and practise of the Catholic Church to the loose and indefinite statement, “Remember to keep holy the festivals,” It thus enjoins the observance of as many days in honor of the saints as fallible man might choose to devise.

Sunday and the many festivals all owe their origin to the wisdom of the church, which, for the eternal and infallible truth of the Bible, has substituted human edicts and fluctuating tradition. As there is no Scriptural warrant for the supposed change, the Roman Church refers to it to prove the superiority of tradition over the authority of the Bible. This pretended change being contrary to the express letter of the law of God and the definite injunctions of Christ, Catholic champions point to it as the most striking example of the wonderful power of the Roman Church, which can dispense with one of God’s own precepts.

To smooth over the unwarranted change, sophistry declares it to be in harmony with a higher “new law,” and thus assures it of divine approbation. That church which debased the Edenic Sabbath institution has also robbed Edenic marriage of its honor.

When it came to actual practise, Roman ecclesiastical Sabbatarianism proved a decided failure; but its sophistically theory assured victory to tradition and Romanism in their contest with an incomplete Protestantism at the most important council of Trent. The human, ecclesiastical Sunday, stamped with the seal of the Sabbath by the schoolmen of the Middle Ages approved by the councils, and adopted world- wide, is the most significant mark of usurped papal authority over the divine law of God.

1. Grimelund, Geshichte des Sonntags, p. 46 Return>

2. Christianty Without Judaism.” p. 163 Return>

3.Aquinus, Summa Theol., “Of the Precepts of Justice” Quest. 122, art. 4 Return>

4. Hegel’s “Councils,” vols. 5,6 Return>

5.Morer’s “Dialogues,” pp. 293, 294 Return>

6. Spelm, Conc. 2, 702 Return>

7.Ant, Novit., pt. I chap. 22 Return>

8.See Raynaldus annal. Eccl, ad, an, 1317, no. 4 Return>

9.Hauck-Herzog, 4, 140, article, “Clemanges” Return>

10.Opera Omnia J. Gersonii, Antwerp, 1706, 2, 911 A Return>

11.Schaff, German Reformation, I, par. 27, p. 181 Return>

12.Dr. Eck’s Enchiridion, 1533, pp. 78,79 Return>

13.Augsburg Confession, Article XXVIII: “Of Ecclesiastical Power“, also in Schaff’s Creeds, 3, p. 63,64 Return>

14.Mansi, Paris, 1902, 33, pp. 526-533 Return>

15.“The Catechism of the Council of Trent,” by T.A. Buckley, London, 1852, pp. 351-403 Return>

16.Ddottrina Cristiana Breve, Rome, 1836; English trans., London, 1839 Return>

17.Disputations, Paris, 1608 p. 883 Return>

Continue to chapter 23

History of the Sabbath, Table of Contents