The Sabbath: Did The Early Fathers Hold That The Fourth Commandment Is Abolished? -- By: William De Loss Love

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 038:150 (Apr 1881)
Article: The Sabbath: Did The Early Fathers Hold That The Fourth Commandment Is Abolished?
Author: William De Loss Love


The Sabbath: Did The Early Fathers Hold That The Fourth Commandment Is Abolished?

Rev. William De Loss Love

Having shown from the apostolic and succeeding fathers of the primitive era that the Christians of their time kept sacred the first day of the week, and did not regard the seventh day as binding for holy observance, we come to a third and more difficult question: Did the early fathers teach that setting aside the seventh day involved, in form or in substance, the abrogation of the fourth commandment? Two parties in opinion here come distinctly before us. One party is made up of two divisions, of which one says that the fourth commandment is in form abolished; that the Scriptures so teach, and the fathers also. The other division, not going so far, says that the early fathers did not found the observance of the first day on the fourth commandment, and we cannot; and that in substance that command is not in force, except analogically by its principle; — there was a sacred seventh day in the old dispensation, and there is another in the new. The second party holds that we properly can base the observance of the Lord’s day on the fourth commandment; but are disposed to confess that we have to do it despite the views and testimony of the early fathers. They in consequence claim that the patristical writings on this subject are not trustworthy, since they stand adverse, as they think, to the doctrine of the Christian Sabbath as depending on the fourth command. They confess, even many of the most intelligent men on the Sabbath question confess, that in this one respect of patristical evidence, the cause of a sacred Sabbath is weak. The two parties understand the fathers alike in this respect, as wholly rejecting any sacred

day based on the fourth commandment. But, while one party so understands them to the detriment of the command, the other understands them to the detriment of the fathers themselves. We do not fully agree with either party, but believe that the true apprehension of the language of the fathers casts no detriment on either themselves or the command, and is entirely consistent with a Christian Sabbath founded on both the command and the teaching and example of the apostles, which is the teaching of Jesus Christ.

Dr. Hessey says, “The early church never appealed to the fourth commandment as a ground for observing Sunday.”1 Again, he says that none of the “early fathers ““refer to the fourth commandment, or to God’s rest after the creation, for the sanctions of the Lord’s day.”2 Dr. Hopkins, of Auburn Theological Seminary, says, “neither Christ nor his ...

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