6. But for the apostle now to give with this a particular command to the churches to sanctify that day as holy unto the Lord, had been utterly superfluous; for that they already, and that by the countenance of their Lord, and his church at Jerusalem, had done.
Before now, I say, it was become a custom, as by what hath been said already is manifest: wherefore what need that their so solemn a practice be imposed again upon the brethren? An intimation now of a continued respect thereto, by the very naming of the day, is enough to keep the sanctity thereof on foot in the churches. How much more then, when the Lord is still adding holy duty to holy duty, to be performed upon that day. So then, in that the apostle writes to the churches to do this holy duty on the first day of the week, he puts them in mind of the sanction of the day, and insinuates, that he would still have them have a due respect thereto.
Quest. But is there yet another reason why this holy duty should, in special as it is, be commanded to be performed on the first day of the week?
Ans. 1. Yes: for that now the churches were come together in their respective places, the better to agree about collections, and to gather them. You know church worship is a duty, so long as we are in the world, and so long also is this of making collections for the saints. And for as much as the apostle speaks here, as I have hinted afore, of a church collection, when is it more fit to be done, than when the church is come together upon the first day of the week to worship God?
2. This part of worship is most comely to be done upon the first day of the week, and that at the close of that day's work. For thereby the church shows, not only her thankfulness to God for a sabbath day's mercy, but also returneth him, by giving to the poor, that sacrifice for their benefit that is most behoveful to make manifest their professed subjection to Christ (Prov 19:17; 2 Cor 9:12-15). It is therefore necessary, that this work be done on the first day of the week, for a comely close of the worship that we perform to the Lord our God on that day.
3. On the first day of the week, when the church is performing of holy worship unto God, then that of collection for the saints is most meet to be performed; because then, in all likelihood, our hearts will be most warm with the divine presence; consequently most open and free to contribute to the necessity of the saints. You know, that a man when his heart is open, is taken with some excellent thing; then, if at all, it is most free to do something for the promoting thereof.
Why, waiting upon God in the way of his appointments, opens, and makes free, the heart to the poor: and because the first day of the week was it in which now such solemn service to him was done, therefore also the apostle commanded, that upon the same day also, as on a day most fit, this duty of collecting for the poor should be done. 'For God loveth a cheerful giver' (2 Cor 9:6,7).
Wherefore the apostle by this, takes the churches as it were at the advantage, and as we say, [strikes] while the iron is hot, to the intent he might, what in him lay, make their collections, not sparing nor of a grudging mind, but to flow from cheerfulness. And the first day of the week, though its institution be set aside, doth most naturally tend to this; because it is the day, the only day, on which we received such blessings from God (Acts 3:26).
This is the day on which, at first, it rained manna all day long from heaven upon the new testament church, and so continues to do this day.
Oh! the resurrection of Christ, which was on this day, and the riches that we receive thereby. Though it should be, and is, I hope thought on every day; yet when the first of the week is fully come! Then to-day! This day! This is the day to be warmed; this day he was begotten from the dead.
The thought of this, will do much with an honest mind: this is the day, I say, that the first saints did find, and that after saints do find the blessings of God come down upon them; and therefore this is the day here commanded to be set apart for holy duties.
And although what I have said may be but little set by of some, yet, for a closing word as to this, I do think, could but half so much be produced from the day Christ rose from the dead quite down [to the end of revelation], for the sanction of a seventh day sabbath in the churches of the Gentiles, it would much sway with me. But the truth is, neither doth the apostle Paul, nor any of his fellows, so much as once speak one word to the churches that shows the least regard, as to conscience to God, of a seventh day sabbath more. No, the first day, the first day, the first day, is now all the cry in the churches by the apostles, for the performing church worship in to God. Christ began it on THAT day: then the Holy Ghost seconded it on that day: then the churches practised it on that day. And to conclude; the apostle by the command now under consideration, continues the sanction of that day to the churches to the end of the world.
But as to the old seventh day sabbath, as hath been said afore in this treatise, Paul, who is the apostle of the Gentiles, has so taken away that whole ministration in the bowels of which it is; yea, and has so stript it of its old testament grandeur, both by terms and arguments, that it is strange to me it should by any be still kept up in the churches; specially, since the same apostle, and that at the same time, has put a better ministration in its place (2 Cor 3).
But when the consciences of good men are captivated with an error, none can stop them from a prosecution thereof, as if were itself of the best of truths.
Obj. But Paul preached frequently on the old sabbath, and that after the resurrection of Christ.
Ans. To the unbelieving Jews and their proselytes, I grant he did. But we read not that he did it to any new testament church on that day: nor did he celebrate the instituted worship of Christ in the churches on that day. For Paul, who had before cast out the ministration of death, as that which had no glory, would not now take thereof any part for new testament instituted worship; for he knew that that would veil the heart, and blind the mind from that, which yet instituted worship was ordained to discover.
He preached then on the seventh day sabbath, of a divine and crafty love to the salvation of the unbelieving Jews.
I say, he preached now on that day to them and their proselytes, because that day was theirs by their estimation. He did it, I say, of great love to their souls, that if possible, he might save some of them.
Wherefore, if you observe, you shall still find, that where it is said that he preached on that day, it was to that people, not to the churches of Christ. See Acts 9:20, 13:14-16, 16:13, 17:1-3, 18:4.
Thus, though he had put away the sanction of that day as to himself, and had left the Christians that were weak to their liberty as to conscience to it, yet he takes occasion upon it to preach to the Jews that still were wedded to it, the faith, that they might be saved by grace.
Paul did also many other things that were Jewish and ceremonial, for which he had, as then, no conscience at all, as to any sanction that he believed was in them.
As his circumcising of Timothy (Acts 16:1-3).
His shaving of his head (Acts 18:18).
His submitting to Jewish purifications (Acts 21:24-26).
His acknowledging of himself a Pharisee (chap. 23:6).
His implicitly owning of Ananias for high priest after Christ was risen from the dead (Acts 23:1-5).
He tells us also that, 'unto the Jews he became as a Jew' that he might save the Jew. And 'without law,' to them that were without law, that also he might gain them. Yea, he became, as he saith, 'all things to all men,' that he might gain the more, as it is 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.
But these things, as I said, he did not of conscience to the things; for he knew that their sanction was gone. Nor would he suffer them to be imposed upon the churches directly or indirectly; no, not by Peter himself (Gal 2:11).
Were I in Turkey with a church of Jesus Christ, I would keep the first day of the week to God, and for the edification of his people: and would also preach the word to the infidels on their sabbath day, which is our Friday; and be glad too, if I might have such opportunity to try to persuade them to a love of their own salvation.
Obj. But if the seventh day sabbath is, as you say, to be laid aside by the churches of the Gentiles, why doth Christ say to his, 'Pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day?' For, say some, by this saying it appears, that the old seventh day sabbath, as you have called it, will as to the sanction of it, abide in force after Christ is ascended into heaven.
Ans. I say first, these words were spoken to the Jewish Christians, not to the Gentile churches. And the reason of this first hint, you will see clearer afterwards.
The Jews had several sabbaths; as, their seventh day sabbath, their monthly sabbaths, their sabbath of years, and their jubilee (Lev 25).
Now if he means their ordinary sabbaths, or that called the seventh day sabbath, why doth he join the winter thereto? for in that he joineth the winter with that sabbath that he exhorteth them to pray their flight might not be in, it should seem that he meaneth rather their sabbath of years, or their jubilee, which did better answer one to another than one day and a winter could.
And I say again, that Christ should suppose that their flight should, or might last some considerable part of a winter, and yet that then they should have their rest on those seventh day sabbaths, is a little beside my reason, if it be considered again, that the Gentiles before whom they were then to fly, were enemies to their sabbath, and consequently would take opportunity at their sabbaths to afflict them so much the more. Wherefore, I would that they who plead for a continuation of the seventh day sabbath from this text, would both better consider it, and the incoherence that seems to be betwixt such a sabbath and a winter.
But again, were it granted that it is the seventh day sabbath that Christ here intendeth; yet, since as we have proved, the sanction before this was taken away; I mean before this flight should be, he did not press them to pray thus because by any law of heaven they should then be commanded to keep it holy; but because some would, through their weakness, have conscience of it till then. And such would, if their flight should happen thereon, be as much grieved and perplexed, as if it yet stood obligatory to them by a law.
This seems to have some truth in it, because among the Jews that believed, there continued a long time many that were wedded yet to the law, to the ceremonial part thereof, and were not so clearly evangelized as the churches of the Gentiles were. 'Thou seest brother,' said James to Paul, 'how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law' (Acts 21:20, 15:5).
Of these, and such weak unbelieving Jews, perhaps Christ speaks, when he gives this exhortation to them to pray thus; whose consciences he knew would be weak, and being so, would bind when they were entangled with an error, as fast as if it bound by a law indeed.
Again, though the seventh day sabbath and ceremonies lost their sanction at the resurrection of Christ, yet they retained some kind of being in the church of the Jews, until the desolation spoken of by Daniel should be.
Hence it is said, that then the oblation and sacrifices shall cease (Dan 9:27). And hence it is, that Jerusalem and the temple are still called the holy place, even until this flight should be (Matt 24:15).
Now if Jerusalem and the temple are still called holy, even after the body and substance, of which they were shadows, were come; then no marvel though some to that day that believed were entangled therewith, &c. For it may very well be supposed that all conscience of them would not be quite taken away, until all reason for that conscience should be taken away also. But when Jerusalem, and the temple, and the Jews' worship, by the Gentiles was quite extinct by ruins, then in reason that conscience did cease. And it seems by some texts, that all conscience to them was not taken away till then.
Quest. But what kind of being had the seventh day sabbath, and other Jewish rites and ceremonies, that by Christ's resurrection were taken away?
Ans. These things had a virtual and a nominal being. As to their virtual being, that died that day Christ did rise from the dead, they being crucified with him on the cross (Col 2).
But now, when the virtual being was gone, they still with the weak retained their name, among many of the Jews that believed, until the abomination that maketh desolate stood in the holy place: for in Paul's time they were, as to that, but ready to vanish away.
Now, I say, they still retaining their nominal grandeur, though not by virtue of a law, they could not, till time and dispensation came, be swept out of the way. We will make what hath been said, as to this, out by a familiar similitude.
There is a lord or great man dies; now being dead, he has lost his virtual life. He has now no relation to a wife, to children, virtually; yet his name still abides, and that in that family, to which otherwise he is dead. Wherefore they embalm him, and also keep him above ground for many days. Yea, he is still reverenced by those of the family, and that in several respects. Nor doth any thing but time and dispensation wear this name away.
Thus then the Old Testament signs and shadows went off the stage in the church of Christ among the Jews. They lost their virtue and signification when Christ nailed them to his cross (Col 2). But as to their name, and the grandeur that attended that, it continued with many that were weak, and vanished not, but when the abomination that made them desolate came.
The sum then and conclusion of the matter is this; the seventh day sabbath lost its glory when that ministration in which it was, lost its: But yet the name thereof might abide a long time with the Jewish legal Christians, and so might become obligatory still, though not by the law, to their conscience, even as circumcision and other ceremonies did: and to them it would be as grievous to fly on that day, as if by law it was still in force.
For, I say, to a weak conscience, that law which has lost its life, may yet through their ignorance, be as binding as if it stood still upon the authority of God.
Things then become obligatory these two ways. (1.) By an institution of God. (2.) By the over-ruling power of a man's misinformed conscience. And although by virtue of an institution divine worship is acceptable to God by Christ, yet conscience will make that a man shall have but little ease if such rules and dictates as it imposes be not observed by him.
This is my answer, upon a supposition that the seventh day sabbath is in this text intended: and the answer, I think, stands firm and good.
Also, there remains, notwithstanding this objection, no divine sanction in or upon the old seventh day sabbath.
Some indeed will urge, that Christ here meant the first day of the week, which here he puts under the term of sabbath. But this is foreign to me, so I waive it till I receive more satisfaction in the thing.
Quest. But if indeed the first day of the week be the new christian sabbath, why is there no more spoken of its institution in the testament of Christ?
Ans. No more! What need is there of more than enough! Yea, there is a great deal found in the testament of the Lord Jesus to prove its authority divine.
(1.) For we have shewed from sundry scriptures, that from the very day our Lord did rise from the dead, the church at Jerusalem, in which the twelve apostles were, did meet together on that day, and had the Lord himself for their preacher, while they were auditors; and thus the day began.
(2.) We have shewed that the Holy Ghost, the third person in the Trinity, did second this of Christ, in coming down from heaven upon this day to manage the apostles in their preaching; and in that very day so managed them in that work, that by his help they then did bring three thousand souls to God.
(3.) We have shewed also, that after this the gentile churches did solemnize this day for holy worship, and that they had from Paul both countenance and order so to do.
And now I will add, that more need not be spoken: for the practice of the first church, with their Lord in the head of them to manage them in that practice, is as good as many commands. What then shall we say, when we see a first practice turned into holy custom?
I say, moreover, that though a seventh day sabbath is not natural to man as man, yet our christian holy day is natural to us as saints, if our consciences are not clogged before with some old fables, or Jewish customs.
But if an old religion shall get footing and rooting in us, though the grounds thereof be vanished away, yet the man concerned will be hard put to it, should he be saved, to get clear of his clouds, and devote himself to that service of God which is of his own prescribing.
Luther himself, though he saw many things were without ground which he had received for truth, had yet work hard enough, as himself intimates, to get his conscience clear from all those roots and strings of inbred error.
But, I say, to an untainted and well bred Christian, we have good measure, shaken together, and running over, for our christian Lord's day. And I say again, that the first day of the week, and the spirit of such a Christian, suit one another as nature suiteth nature; for there is as it were a natural instinct in Christians, as such, when they understand what in a first day was brought forth, to fall in therewith to keep it holy to their Lord.
1. The first day of the week! Why it was the day of our life. 'After two days he will revive us,' and in the third day 'we shall live in his sight.' 'After two days' there is the Jews' preparation, and seventh day sabbath, quite passed over; and in the third day, that is the first day of the week, which is the day our Lord did rise from the dead, we began to live by him in the sight of God (Hosea 6:2; John 20:1; 1 Cor 15:4).
2. The first day of the week! That is the day in which, as I hinted before, our Lord was wont to preach to his disciples after he rose form the dead; in which also he did use to shew them his hands and his feet (Luke 24:38,39; John 20:25). To the end they might be confirmed in the truth of his victory over death and the grave for them. The day in which he made himself known to them in breaking bread. The day in which he so plentifully poured out the Holy Ghost upon them. The day in which the church, both at Jerusalem and those of the Gentiles, did use to perform to God divine worship: all which has before been sufficiently proved. And shall we not imitate our Lord, nor the church that was immediately acted by him in this, and the churches their fellows? Shall, I say, the Lord Jesus do all this in his church, and they together with him! Shall the churches of the Gentiles also fall in with their Lord and with their mother at Jerusalem herein! And again, shall all this be so punctually committed to sacred story, with the day in which these things were done, under denomination, over and over, saying, These things were done on the first day, on the first day, on the first day of the week, while all other days are, as to name, buried in everlasting oblivion! And shall we not take that notice thereof as to follow the Lord Jesus and the churches herein? Oh stupidity!
3. This day of the week! They that make but observation of what the Lord did of old, to as many sinners, and with his churches on this day, must needs conclude, that in this day the treasures of heaven were broken up, and the richest things therein communicated to his church. Shall the children of this world be, as to this also, wiser in their generations than the children of light, and former saints, upon whose shoulders we pretend to stand, go beyond us here also.
Jacob could by observation gather that the place where he lay down to sleep was no other but the house of God, and the very gate of heaven (Gen 28:17).
Laban could gather by observation, that the Lord blessed him for Jacob's sake (Gen 30:27).
David could gather by what he met with upon Mount Moriah, that that was the place where God would have the temple builded, therefore he sacrificed there (1 Chron 21:26-28, 22:1,2; 2 Chron 3:1).
Ruth was to mark the place where Boaz lay down to sleep, and shall not Christians also mark the day in which our Lord rose from the dead (Ruth 3:4).
I say, shall we not mark it, when so many memorable things were done on it, for, and to and in the churches of God! Let saints be ashamed to think that such a day should be looked over, or counted common, when tempted to it by Satan, when [it was] kept to religious service of old, and when beautified with so many divine characters of sanctity as we have proved, by Christ, his church, the Holy Ghost, and the command of apostolical authority it was.
But why, I say, is this day, on which our Lord rose from the dead, nominated as it is? why was it not sufficient to say 'he rose again,' or, he rose again the third day? without a specification of the very name of the day. For, as was said afore, Christ appeared to his disciples, after his resurrection, on other days also, yea, and thereon did miracles to. Why then did not these days live? Why was their name, for all that, blotted out, and this day only kept alive in the churches?
The day on which Christ was born of a virgin; the day of his circumcision, the day of his baptism, and of his transfiguration, are not by their names committed by the Holy Ghost to holy writ to be kept alive in the world, nor yet such days in which he did many great and wonderful things. But THIS day, this day is still nominated; the first day of the week is the day. I say, why are things thus left with us? But because we, as saints of old, should gather, and separate, what is of divine authority from the rest. For in that this day is so often nominated while all other days lie dead in their graves, it is as much as if God should say, Remember the first day of the week to keep it holy to the Lord your God.
And set this aside, and I know not what reason can be rendered, or what prophecy should be fulfilled by the bare naming of the day.
When God, of old, did sanctify for the use of his church a day, as he did many, he always called them either by the name of the day of the month, or of the week, or by some other signal by which they might be certainly known, why should it not then be concluded, that for this very reason the first day of the week is thus often nominated by the Holy Ghost in the testament of Christ?
Moreover, he that takes away the first day, as to this service, leaves us now no day, as sanctified of God, for his solemn worship to be by his churches performed in. As for the seventh day sabbath, that, as we have seen, is gone to its grave with the signs and shadows of the Old Testament. Yea, and has such a dash left upon it by apostolical authority, that it is enough to make a Christian fly from it for ever (2 Cor 3).
Now, I say, since that is removed by God: if we should suffer the first day also to be taken away by man, what day that has a divine stamp upon it, would be left for us to worship God in?
Alas! the first day of the week is the Christian's market day, that which they so solemnly trade in for sole provision for all the week following. This is the day that they gather manna in. To be sure the seventh day sabbath is not that. For of old the people of God could never find manna on that day. 'On the seventh day [said Moses] which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none' (Exo 16:26).
Any day of the week manna could be found, but on that day it was not to be found upon the face of the ground. But now our first day is the manna day; the only day that the churches of the New Testament, even of old, did gather manna in. But more of this anon.
Nor will it out of my mind but that it is a very high piece of ingratitude, and of uncomely behaviour, to deny the Son of God his day, the Lord's day, the day that he has made. And as we have shewed already, this first day of the week is it; yea, and a great piece of unmannerliness is it too, for any, notwithstanding the old seventh day is so degraded as it is, to attempt to impose it on the Son of God. To impose a day upon him which yet Paul denies to be a branch of the ministration of the Spirit, and of righteousness. Yea, to impose a part of that ministration which he says plainly 'which was done away,' for that a better ministration stript it of its glory, is a high attempt indeed (2 Cor 3).
Yet again, the apostle smites the teachers of the law upon the mouth, saying, 'understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm' (1 Tim 1:7).
The seventh day sabbath, was indeed God's rest from the works of creation; but yet the rest that he found in what the first day of the week did produce, for Christ was born from the dead on it, more pleased him than did all the seventh days that ever the world brought forth: wherefore, as I said before, it cannot be but that the well-bred Christian must set apart this day for solemn worship to God, and to sanctify his name therein.
Must the church of old be bound to remember that night in which they did come out of Egypt! must Jephtha's daughter have four days for the virgins of Israel yearly to lament her hard case in! Yea, must two days be kept by the church of old, yearly, for their being delivered from Haman's fury! And must not one to the world's end be kept by the saints for the Son of God their Redeemer, for all he has delivered them from a worse than Pharaoh or Haman, even from the devil, and death, and sin, and hell! Oh stupidity! (Exo 12:24; Judg 11:39,40; Esth 9:26-32).
A day! say some, God forbid but he should have a day. But what day? Oh! The old day comprised within the bounds and bowels of the ministration of death.
And is this the love that thou hast to thy Redeemer, to keep that day to him for all the service that he hath done for thee, which has a natural tendency in it to draw thee off from the consideration of the works of thy redemption, to the creation of the world! Oh stupidity!
But why must he be imposed upon? Has he chosen that day? Did he finish his work thereon? Is there in all the New Testament of our Lord, from the day he rose from the dead, to the end of his holy book, one syllable that signifies in the least the tenth part of such a thing? where is the scripture that saith that this Lord of the sabbath commanded his church, from that time, to do any part of church service thereon? Where do we find the churches to gather together thereon?
But why the seventh day? What is it? Take but the shadow thereof away. Or what shadow now is left in it since its institution as to divine service is taken long since from it?
Is there any thing in the works that was done in that day, more than shadow, or that in the least tends otherwise to put us in mind of Christ; and he being come, what need have we of that shadow? And I say again, since that day was to be observed by a ceremonial method, and no way else, as we find; and since ceremonies have ceased, what way of divine appointment is there left to keep that old sabbath by Christians in?
If they say, ceremonies have ceased. By the same argument, so is the sanction of the day in which they were to be performed. I would gladly see the place, if it is to be found, where it is said, That day retains its sanction, which yet has lost that method of service which was of God appointed for the performance of worship to him thereon.
When Canaan worship fell, the sanction of Canaan fell. When temple worship, and altar worship, and the sacrifices of the Levitical priesthood fell, down also came the things themselves. Likewise so, when the service, or shadow and ceremonies of the seventh day sabbath fell, the seventh day sabbath fell likewise.
On the seventh day sabbath, as I told you, manna was not to be found. But why? For that that day was of Moses and of the ministration of death. But manna was not of him. Moses, saith Christ, 'gave you not that bread of heaven' (John 6:31,32). Moses, as was said, gave that sabbath in tables of stone, and God gave that manna from heaven. Christ, nor his Father, gives grace by the law; no not by that law in which is contained the old seventh day sabbath itself.
The law is not of faith, why then should grace be by Christians expected by observation of the law? The law, even the law written and engraven in stones, enjoins perfect obedience thereto on pain of the curse of God. Nor can that part of it now under consideration, according as is required, be fulfilled by any man, was the ceremony thereto belonging, allowed to be laid aside (Isa 58:13). Never man yet did keep it perfectly, except he whose name is Jesus Christ: in him therefore we have kept it, and by him are set free from that law, and brought under the ministration of the Spirit.
But why should we be bound to seek manna on that day, on which God says, none shall be found.
Perhaps it will be said, that the sanction of that day would not admit that manna should be gathered on it.
But that was not all, for on that day there was none to be found. And might I choose, I had rather sanctify that day to God on which I might gather this bread of God all day long, then set my mind at all upon that in which no such bread was to be had.
The Lord's day, as was said, is to the Christians the principal manna day.
On this day, even on it manna in the morning very early was gathered by the disciples of our Lord, as newly springing out of the ground. The true bread of God: the sheaf of first fruits, which is Christ from the dead, was ordained to be waved before the Lord on the morrow after the sabbath, the day on which our Lord ceased from his own work as God did from his (Lev 23).
Now therefore the disciples found their green ears of corn indeed! Now they read life, both in and out of the sepulchre in which the Lord was laid. Now they could not come together nor speak one to another, but either their Lord was with them, or they had heart enflaming tidings from him. Now cries one and says, The Lord is risen: And then another and says, He hath appeared to such and such.
Now comes tidings to the eleven that their women were early at the sepulchre, where they had a vision of angels that told them their Lord was risen: Then comes another and says, The Lord is risen indeed. Two also came from Emmaus and cried, We have seen the Lord: and by and by, while they yet were speaking, their Lord shows himself in the midst of them.
Now he calls to their mind some of their eminent passages of his life, and eats and drinks in their presence, and opens the scriptures to them: yea, and opens their understanding too, that their hearing might not be unprofitable to them; all which continued from early in the morning till late at night. Oh! what a manna day was this to the church. And more than all this you will find, if you read but the four evangelists upon this subject.
Thus began the day after the sabbath, and thus it has continued through all ages to this very day. Never did the seventh day sabbath yield manna to Christians. A new world was now begun with the poor church of God, for so said the Lord of the sabbath, 'Behold, I make all things new.' A new covenant, and why not then a new resting day to the church? Or why must the old sabbath be joined to this new ministration? let him that can, show a reason for it.
Christians, if I have not been so large upon things as some might expect; know, that my brevity on this subject is, from consideration that must needs not be spoken thereto, and because I may have occasion to write a second part.
Christians, beware of being entangled with old testament ministrations, lest by one you be brought into many inconveniencies.
I have observed, that though the Jewish rites have lost their sanction, yet some that are weak in judgment, do bring themselves into bondage by them. Yea, so high have some been carried as to a pretended conscience to these that they have at last proceeded to circumcision, to many wives, and the observation of many bad things besides.
Yea, I have talked with some pretending to Christianity, who have said, and affirmed, as well as they could, that the Jewish sacrifices must up again.
But do you give no heed to these Jewish fables 'That turn from the truth' (Titus 1:14). Do you, I say, that love the Lord Jesus, keep close to his testament, his word, his gospel, and observe HIS holy day.
And this caution in conclusion I would give, to put stop to this Jewish ceremony, to wit, That a seventh day sabbath pursued according to its imposition by law, (and I know not that it is imposed by the apostles) leads to blood and stoning to death those that do but gather sticks thereon (Num 15:32-36). A thing which no way becomes the gospel, that ministration of the Spirit and of righteousness (2 Cor 3). Nor yet the professors thereof (Luke 9:54-56).
Nor can it with fairness be said, that that sabbath day remains, although the law thereof is repealed. For confident I am, that there is no more ground to make such a conclusion, than there is to say, that circumcision is still of force, though the law for cutting of the uncircumcised is by the gospel made null and void.
I told you also in the epistle, that if the fifth commandment was the first that was with promise; then it follows, that the fourth, or that seventh day sabbath, had no promise entailed to it. Whence it follows, that where you read in the prophet of a promise annexed to a sabbath, it is best to understand it of our gospel sabbath (Isa 56).
Now if it be asked, What promise is entailed to our first day sabbath? I answer, The biggest of promises. For,
First, The resurrection of Christ was tied by promise to this day, and to none other. He rose the third day after his death, and that was the first day of the week, 'according' to what was fore-promised in the scriptures (Hosea 6:1,2; 1 Cor 15:3-6).
Second, That we should live before God by him, is a promise to be fulfilled on this day; 'After two days will he revive us: in the third day—we shall live in his sight' (Hosea 6:2). See also Isaiah 26:19 and compare them again with 1 Corinthians 15:4.
Third, The great promise of the new testament, to wit, the pouring out of the Spirit, fixeth upon these days; and so he began in the most wonderful effusion of it upon Pentecost, which was the first day of the week, that the scriptures might be fulfilled (Acts 2:16-19).
Nor could these three promises be fulfilled upon any other days, for that the scripture had fixed them to the first day of the week.
I am of opinion that these things, though but briefly touched upon, cannot be fairly objected against, however they may be disrelished by some.
Nor can I believe, that any part of our religion, as we are Christians, stand in not kindling of fires, and not seething of victuals, or in binding of men not to stir out of those places on the seventh day, in which at the dawning thereof they were found. And yet these are ordinances belonging to that seventh day sabbath (Exo 16:23-29).
Certainly it must needs be an error to impose these things by divine authority upon new testament believers, our worship standing now in things more weighty, spiritual and heavenly.
Nor can it be proved, as I have hinted before, that this day was, or is to be imposed without those ordinances, with others in other places mentioned and adjoined, for the sanction of that day they being made necessary parts of that worship that was to be performed thereon.
I have charity for those that abuse themselves and their Lord, by their preposterous zeal and affection for the continuing of this day in the churches. For I conclude, that if they did either believe, or think of the incoherence that this day with its rites and ceremonies has with the ministration of the Spirit, our new testament ministration, they would not so stand int heir own light as they do, nor so stiffly plead for a place for it in the churches of the Gentiles. But as Paul insinuates in other cases, there is an aptness in men to be under the law because they do not hear it (Gal 4).
Nor will it out of my mind, but if the seventh day sabbath was by divine authority, and to be kept holy by the churches of the Gentiles, it should not have so remained among the Jews, Christ's deadliest enemies, and have been kept so much hid from the believers, his best friends. For who has retained the pretended sanction of that day from Christ's time, quite down in the world, but the Jews, and a few Jewish Gentiles, I will except some. But, I say, since a sabbath is that without which the great worship of God under the gospel cannot be well performed: how can it be thought, that it should as to the knowledge of it, be confined to so blasphemous a generation of the Jews, with whom that worship is not?
I will rather conclude, that those Gentile professors that adhere thereto are Jewified, legalized, and so far gone back from the authority of God, who from such bondage has set his churches free.
I do at this time but hint upon things, reserving a fuller argument upon them for a time and place more fit; where, and when, I may perhaps also show, some other wild notions of those that so stiffly cleave to this.
Meantime, I entreat those who are captivated with this opinion, not to take it ill at my hand that I thus freely speak my mind. I entreat them also to peruse my book without prejudice to my person. The truth is, one thing that has moved me to this work, is the shame that has covered the face of my soul, when I have thought of the fictions and fancies that are growing among professors. And while I see each fiction turn itself to a faction, to the loss of that good spirit of love, and that oneness that formerly was with good men.
I doubt not but some unto whom this book may come, have had seal from God, that the first day of the week is to be sanctified by the church to Jesus Christ. Not only from his testimony, which is, and should be, the ground of our practice; but also, for that the first conviction that the Holy Ghost made upon their consciences, to make them know that they were sinners, began with them for breaking this sabbath day; which day, by that same spirit was told them, was that now called the first day, and not the day before, and the Holy Ghost doth not use to begin this work with a lie, which first conviction the Spirit has followed so close, with other things tending to complete the same work, that the soul from so good a beginning could not rest until it found rest in Christ. Let this then to such be a second token that the Lord's day is by them to be kept in commemoration of their Lord and his resurrection, and of what he did on this day for their salvation. Amen.
1. Dialogues, 1st chapter, xxv.
2. Answer to More.
3. Institutes, b. ii. ch. 8.
4. Com. on Gal. 4:9.
5. The word 'moral' is here used to mark the difference between obligations binding on all mankind and a positive or limited command: thus, to love God is a moral or universal obligation, but to be baptized is positive and obligatory only on those who believe (Acts 8:37).—Ed.
6. The original edition refers to (Eze 49, 50), but it is evidently a typographical error in omitting the chapter.
7. Man unaided by revelation.
8. Adam is supposed by some rabbins not to have passed one night in a state of perfection, (see Ainsworth on Gen 3:1, 28:11; Psa 49:13), and to have fallen on the Sabbath day.
9. The murder of Abel took place 'at the end of days'; see margin to Genesis 4:3. Properly rendered 'in process of time'; but by some supposed to mean at the end of the week. See Dr. Gill's Commentary.
10. 'The Lord hath given YOU the sabbath.' See also 31:17, 'It [the observance of the sabbath] is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever.'—Ed.
11. This is a striking application of Colossians 2:17. The sabbath 'a shadow of things to come'; to the Jews it was a shadow of the rest that remaineth to the children of God, reflected from the completion of the work of creation. The day of rest and worship to the Christian, is a much stronger type, yet but a shadow of the holy enjoyments of his eternal rest, prefigured from the finishing of the mightier work of redemption.—Ed.
12. In Bunyan's original edition it is 'Matt 3, 1,' but this must be a typographical error.—Ed.
13. 'Out of doors,' no more to be found, quite gone, fairly sent away.—Locke. 'Out of court.'—Law-term.—Ed.
14. 'Any likement,' any fondness or partiality.—Ed.
15. This spirit is not extinct. Mr. Shenston, in his 'Plea for the Seventh-day,' charges those who keep the Lord's day 'that they yield to the tide—keep their friends—riches—comforts; they believe that the seventh-day is the sabbath, and would greatly prefer keeping it, if the rulers of the nation would alter the day; they imagine that their God is some dumb idol!'+ Language most unseemly and insulting—charging all who observe the Lord's day with being hypocrites and the worst of fools. Mr. S. forgot the solemn proverb, 'with what judgment ye judge ye shall be judged.'
+ Edit. 1826, pp. 41, 42.
16. This was the opinion of those great reformers, Tyndale, Calvin, and Luther; see introduction by the Editor. It was a sentiment which led to no practical evil.—Ed.
17. Psalm 118:24.
18. 'That we read of' in the New Testament; for this is our sole authority in all inquiries as to a Christian's faith and practice.—Ed.
19. 'Tradition' is a communication without writing, and when made orally by some apostle or messenger from the first church at Jerusalem, and the message so obeys as to be left upon record by the Holy Ghost, it has the same authority as if it had been commanded in an epistle. It has nothing to do with the vain traditions of the fathers (so called), which were not heard of until after the inspired volume was completed and closed. Any subsequent commands are censures upon God's omniscience, and are deserving only of contempt.—Ed.
20. The New Testament by Whittinghan, 1557; the Genevan or Puritan Bible by Knox, Coverdale, and others, 1560; and the New Testament revised by Tomson, 1576, very frequently reprinted, and very favourite translations among our puritan and pilgrim forefathers in the faith. The marginal note to the Puritan Bible, in Acts 20:7, 'first day,' is, 'which we call Sunday. Of this place, and also of the 1 Corinthians 16:2, we gather that the Christians used to have their solemn assemblies this day, laying aside the ceremony of the Jewish sabbath.'—Ed.
21. 'Acted by,' a mode of speech now obsolete; it means 'actuated by' or 'influenced by.'—Ed.
OF THE TRINITY AND A CHRISTIAN, AND OF THE LAW AND A CHRISTIAN.
These two short treatises were found among Mr. Bunyan's papers after his decease. They probably were intended for publication, like his 'Prison Meditations' and his 'Map of Salvation,' on a single page each, in the form of a broadside, or handbill. This was the popular mode in which tracts were distributed; and when posted against a wall, or framed and hung up in a room, they excited notice, and were extensively read. They might also have afforded some trifling profit to aid this poor but eminent servant of Christ in his very limited income. They form two pages in that exceedingly interesting volume of 'The Works of Mr. John Bunyan,' in small folio, 1692. To which is added 'The Struggler,' containing some most valuable facts, relative to the various works, imprisonment and sufferings of the author. The titles to these treatises were added by Mr. Doe, the personal friend of Bunyan, who edited the works and wrote 'The Struggler,' the author having left them without any heading or title. They are very unfinished, and may have been intended as a syllabus or outline of more extended treatises.—GEO. OFFOR.
OF THE TRINITY AND A CHRISTIAN
How a young, or shaken Christian should demean himself under the weighty thoughts of the doctrine of the Trinity, or plurality of persons in the eternal godhead.
The reason why I say a young, or shaken Christian; it is because some that are not young, but of an ancient standing, may not only be assaulted with violent temptations, concerning gospel principles, but a second time may become a child, a babe, a shallow man, in the things of God; especially, either when by backsliding he hath provoked God to leave him, or when some new, unexpected, and, as to present strength, over-weighty objection doth fall upon the spirit; by means of which, great shakings of mind do commonly attend such a soul, in the most weighty matters of the concerns of faith, which this is one that have supposed in the above-named question. Wherefore passing other things, I will come directly to that, and briefly propose some helps to a soul in such a case.
THE FIRST PREPARATIVE.
First, then, be sure thou keep close to the word of God; for that is the revelation of the mind and will of God, both as to the truth of what is either in himself or ways; and also as to what he requireth and expecteth of thee, either concerning faith in, or obedience to, what he hath so revealed. Now for thy better performing of this I shall give thee in brief these following directions.
1. Suffer thyself, by the authority of the word, to be persuaded that the scripture indeed is the word of God; the scriptures of truth, the words of the holy one; and that they therefore must be every one true, pure, and for ever settled in heaven.
2. Conclude therefore from the former doctrine, that that God whose words they are, is able to make a reconciliation and most sweet and harmonious agreement with all the sayings therein, how obscure, cross, dark, and contradictory soever they seem to thee. To understand all mysteries, to have all knowledge, to be able to comprehend with all saints, is a great work; enough to crush the spirit, and to stretch the strings of the most capacious and widened soul that breatheth on this side glory, be they notwithstanding exceedingly enlarged by revelation. Paul, when he was caught up to heaven, saw that which was unlawful, because impossible for man to utter. And saith Christ to the reasoning Pharisee, 'If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?' (John 3:12). It is great lewdness, and also insufferable arrogancy to come to the word of God, as conceiting already that whatever thou readest, must either by thee be understood, or of itself fall to the ground as a senseless error. But God is wiser than man, wherefore fear thou him, and tremble at his word, saying still, with godly suspicion of thine own infirmity, what I see not, teach thou me, and thou art God only wise; but as for me, 'I was as a beast before thee' (Psa 73:22).
3. Take heed of taking a part of the word only, lest thou thereby go away with the truth as mangled in pieces. For instance, where thou readest, 'The LORD our God is one Lord' (Deut 6:4); there take heed that thou dost not thence conclude, Then there are not three persons in the godhead: Or when thou readest of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, then take heed of concluding, there must therefore either be three Gods, or else that Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are not true God, but the Father only. Wherefore to help thee here, observe,
THE SECOND PREPARATIVE.
1. That Christian religion requireth credit concerning every doctrine contained in the word; credit, I say, according to the true relation of every sentence that the Holy Ghost hath revealed for the asserting, maintaining, or vindicating that same truth.
2. And therefore hence it is that a Christian is not called a doer, a reasoner, an objector, and perverse disputer; but a BELIEVER. Be thou an example to the believer. 'And believers were the more added to the Lord,' &c. (Acts 5:14; 1 Tim 4:12).
3. Therefore know again that the word, if it saith and expresseth that this or that is so and so, as to the matter in hand, thou art bound and obliged both by the name, profession, and the truth, unto which thou hast joined thyself, to assent to, confess and acknowledge the same, even then when thy carnal reason will not stoop thereto. 'Righteous art thou, O Lord,' saith Jeremiah, 'yet let me talk with thee: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper?' (Jer 12:1). Mark, first he acknowledgeth that God's way with the wicked is just and right, even then when yet he could not see the reason of his actings and dispensations towards them. The same reason is good as to our present case. And hence it is that the apostle teacheth, the spiritual armour of Christians should be much exercised against those high-towering and self-exalting imaginations, that within our own bosoms do exalt themselves against the knowledge of God. That every thought, or carnal reasoning, may be not only taken, but brought as captive into obedience to Christ; that is, be made to stoop to the word of God, and to give way and place to the doctrine therein contained, how cross soever our thoughts and the word lie to each other. And it is observable that he here teacheth, They exalt themselves against the knowledge of God, which cannot be understood that our carnal or natural reason doth exalt itself against an eternal deity, simply considered; for that nature itself doth gather from the very things that are made, even his eternal power and godhead; it must be then that they exalt themselves against that God as thus and thus revealed in the word, to wit, against the knowledge of one God consisting of three persons, Father, Son, and Spirit; for this is the doctrine of the scriptures of truth; and therefore it is observable these thoughts must be brought captive, and be made subject in particular to the Lord Jesus Christ, as to the second person in the godhead; for the Father is ever acknowledged by all that profess the least of religion; but the Son is that stubmling-stone, and rock of offence, against which thousands dash themselves in pieces; though in him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and in him dwells the fulness of the godhead bodily.
OF THE LAW AND A CHRISTIAN.
The law was given twice upon mount Sinai, but the appearance of the Lord when he gave it the second time, was wonderfully different from that of his [appearance], when at the first he delivered it to Israel (Exo 19 and 34).
1. When he gave it the first time, he caused his terror and severity to appear before Moses, to the shaking of his soul, and the dismaying of Israel (Exo 19:16; Heb 12:18-20). But when he gave it the second time, he caused all his goodness to pass before Moses, to the comfort of his conscience, and the bowing of his heart (Exo 34:8).
2. When he gave it the first time, it was with thunderings and lightnings, with blackness and darkness, with flame and smoke, and a tearing sound of the trumpet (Exo 19:16-18). But when he gave it the second time, it was with a proclamation of his name to be merciful, gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgressions and sins (Exo 34:6,7).
3. When he gave it the first time, Moses was called to go up to receive it through the fire, which made him exceedingly fear and quake (Exo 19:18; Heb 12:21). But when he went to receive it the second time, he was laid in a clift of the rock (Exo 31:22).
4. From all which I gather, that, though as to the matter of the law, both as to its being given the first time, and the second, it binds the unbeliever under the pains of eternal damnation, if he close not with Christ by faith; yet as to the manner of its giving at these two times, I think the first doth more principally intend its force as a covenant of works, not at all respecting the Lord Jesus; but this second time not, at least in the manner of its being given, respecting such a covenant, but rather as a rule, or directory, to those who already are found in the clift of the rock, Christ: for the saint himself, though he be without law to God, as it is considered the first or old covenant, yet even he is not without law to him as considered under grace, not without law to God, but under the law to Christ (1 Cor 9:21).
5. Though therefore it be sad with the unbeliever, because he only and wholly standeth under the law, as it is given in fire, in smoke, in blackness, and darkness, and thunder; all which threaten him with eternal ruin if he fulfil not the utmost tittle thereof; yet the believer stands to the law under no such consideration, neither is he so at all to hear or regard it, for he is now removed from thence to the blessed mountain of Zion, to grace and forgiveness of sins; he is now, I say, by faith in the Lord Jesus shrouded under so perfect and blessed a righteousness, that this thundering law of mount Sinai cannot find the least fault or diminution therein; but rather approveth and alloweth thereof either when, or wherever it find it (Heb 12). This is called the righteousness of God without the law, and is also said to be witnessed by both the law and the prophets: even the righteousness of God, which is by faith in Jesus Christ 'unto all and upon all them that believe, for there is no difference' (Rom 3:22).
6. Wherefore whenever thou who believest in Jesus, dost hear the law in its thundering and lightning fits, as if it would burn up heaven and earth; then say thou, I am freed from this law, these thunderings have nothing to do with my soul; nay even this law, while it thus thunders and roareth, it doth both allow and approve of my righteousness. I know that Hagar would sometimes be domineering and high, even in Sarah's house and against her; but this she is not to be suffered to do, nay though Sarah herself be barren; wherefore serve IT also as Sarah served her, and expel her out from thy house. My meaning is, when this law with its thundering threatenings doth attempt to lay hold on thy conscience, shut it out with a promise of grace; cry, the inn is took up already, the Lord Jesus is here entertained, and here is no room for the law. Indeed if it will be content with being my informer, and so lovingly leave off to judge me; I will be content, it shall be in my sight, I will also delight therein; but otherwise, I being now made upright without it, and that too with that righteousness, which this law speaks well of and approveth; I am not, will not, cannot, dare not make it my saviour and judge, nor suffer it to set up its government in my conscience; for by so doing I fall from grace, and Christ Jesus doth profit me nothing (Gal 5:1-5).
7. Thus therefore the soul that is married to him that is raised up from the dead, both may and ought to deal with this law of God; yea, it doth greatly dishonour its Lord and refuse its gospel privileges, if it at any time otherwise doth, whatever it seeth or feels. The law hath power over the wife so long as her husband liveth, but if her husband be dead she is freed from that law, so that she is no adulteress though she be married to another man (Rom 7:1-3). Indeed so long as thou art alive to sin, and to thy righteousness which is of the law, so long thou hast them for thy husband and they must reign over thee: But when once they are become dead unto thee, as they then most certainly will, when thou closest with the Lord Jesus Christ; then I say, thy former husbands have no more to meddle with thee, thou art freed from their law. Set a case, a woman be cast into prison for a debt of hundreds of pounds, if after this she marry; yea, though while she is in the gaoler's hand, in the same day that she is joined to her husband, her debt is all become his; yea, and the law also that arrested and imprisoned this woman, as freely tells her, go, she is freed, saith Paul, from that, and so saith the law of this land.
The sum then of what hath been said is this, the Christian hath now nothing to do with the law, as it thundereth and burneth on Sinai, or as it bindeth the conscience to wrath and the displeasure of God for sin; for from its thus appearing, it is freed by faith in Christ. Yet it is to have regard thereto, and is to count it holy, just and good (Rom 7:12); which that it may do, it is always whenever it seeth or regards it, to remember that he who giveth it to us is 'merciful, and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,' &c. (Exo 34:6).