Church of God, New World Ministries

The Catholic Church’s Challenge To The Protestants

Most Christians assume that Sunday is the biblically approved day of worship. The Roman Catholic Church protests that, indeed, it is not. The Roman Catholic Church itself without any scriptural authority from God transferred Christian worship from the Biblical Sabbath (Saturday) to Sunday, and to try to argue that the change was made to the Bible is both dishonest and a denial of Catholic authority. If Protestants want to base their teachings only on the Bible, they should worship on Saturday.

Over one hundred years ago the Catholic Mirror ran a series of articles discussing the right of the Protestant churches to worship on Sunday, exposing their claim that the New Testament taught Sunday keeping to be false. The articles stressed that unless one was willing to accept the authority of the Catholic Church to designate the day of worship, the Christian should observe Saturday, the true Christian Sabbath, as both the Old and New Testament teach.

On February 24, 1893, the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists adopted certain resolutions appealing to the government and people of the United States from the decisions of the Supreme Court declaring this to be a Christian nation, and from the action of Congress in legislating upon the subject of religion, and remonstrating against the principle and all the consequences of the same. In March 1893, the International Religious Liberty Association printed these resolutions in a tract entitled Appeal and Remonstrance. On receipt of one of these, the editor of the Catholic Mirror of Baltimore, Maryland, published a series of four editorials, which appeared in that paper Sept., 2, 9, 16, and 23, 1893. The Catholic Mirror was the official organ of Cardinal Gibbons and the Papacy in America.

These articles, therefore, although not written by the Cardinal’s own hand, appeared under his official sanction and as the expression of the Papacy to Protestantism, and the demand of the Papacy that Protestants shall render to the Papacy an account of why they keep Sunday and also of how they keep it.

The Adventists are the only body of Christians with the Bible as their teacher, who can find no warrant in its pages for the change of the day from the 7th to the 1st. Hence, their appellation, “Seventh-day Adventists.” Their cardinal principle consists in setting apart Saturday for the exclusive worship of God, in conformity with the positive command of God Himself, repeatedly reiterated in the books of the Old and New Testaments, literally obeyed by the children of Israel for thousands of years to this day, and indorsed by the teaching and practice of the Son of God whilst on earth.

Per contra, the Protestants of the world, the Adventists excepted, with the same Bible as their cherished and sole infallible teacher, by their practice, since their appearance in the 16th century, with the time-honored practice of the Jewish people before their eyes, have rejected the day named for His worship by God, and assumed, in apparent contradiction of His command a day for His worship never once referred to for that purpose, in the pages of the Sacred Volume.

Why does the Protestant pulpit not ring every Sunday with loud and impassioned invectives against Sabbath (Catholic Sunday) violation? Who can forget the fanatical clamor of the Protestant ministers throughout the length and breadth of the land against opening the gates of the World’s Fair on Sunday? The thousands of petitions, signed by millions, to save the Lord’s Day from desecration? Surely, such general and widespread excitement and noisy remonstrance could not have existed without the strongest ground for such animated protests.

And when quarters were assigned at the World’s Fair to the various sects of Protestantism for the exhibition of articles, who can forget the emphatic expressions of virtuous and conscientious indignation exhibited by our Presbyterian brethren, as soon as they learned of the decision of the Supreme Court not to interfere in the Sunday opening? The newspapers informed us that they flatly refused to utilize the space accorded them, or open their boxes, demanding the right to withdraw the articles, in rigid adherence to their principles, and thus decline all contact with the sacrilegious and Sabbath-breaking exhibition (meaning Sunday).

Doubtless, our Calvinistic brethren deserved and shared the sympathy of all the other sects, who, however, lost the opportunity of posing as martyrs in vindication of the Sabbath observance. They thus became a “spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men,” although their Protestant brethren, who failed to share the monopoly, were uncharitably and enviously disposed to attribute their steadfast adherence to religious principle, to Pharisaical pride and dogged obstinacy.

The purpose of this article, is to shed light on this all-important question (for were the Sabbath question to be removed from the Protestant pulpit, the sects would feel lost, and the preachers be deprived of their “Cheshire cheese”) that our readers may be able to comprehend the question in all its bearings, and thus reach a clear conviction.

The Christian world is, morally speaking, united on the question and practice of worshipping God on the first day of the week.

The Israelites, scattered all over the earth, keep the last day of the week sacred to the worship of the Deity. In this particular, the Seventh-day Adventists have also selected the same day.

(Note: There has always been seventh day Sabbath-keepers in the world since the First Century A.D. other than the Seventh-Day Adventists). Today, not only do SDA’s number in the millions, but there are thousands of churches, groups and home fellowships that keep a Saturday Sabbath.

Israelites and Adventists both appeal to the Bible for the divine command, persistently obliging the strict observance of Saturday.

The Israelites respect the authority of the Old Testament only, but the Adventist, who is a Christian, accepts the New Testament on the same ground as the Old: viz, an inspired record also. He finds that the Bible, his teacher, is consistent in both parts, that the Redeemer, during His mortal life, never kept any other day than (what we call Saturday) the Sabbath. The gospels plainly evidence to him this fact; whilst, in the pages of the Acts of the Apostles, the Epistles, and the Apocalypse, not the vestige of an act canceling the Saturday arrangement can be found.

Note: Did you miss that? The above paragraph stated that Jesus, the Savior of Mankind, and those He taught (the Apostles) kept a Saturday Sabbath!

The Adventists, therefore, in common with Israelites, derive their belief from the Old Testament, which position is confirmed by the New Testament, indorsed fully by the life and practice of the Redeemer and His apostles’ teaching of the Sacred Word for nearly a century of the Christian era.

Numerically considered, the Seventh-day Adventists form an insignificant portion of the Protestant population of the earth, but, as the question is not one of numbers, but of truth, and right, a strict sense of justice forbids the condemnation of this little sect without a calm and unbiased investigation. We do well to take to heart what was written, it is not how many people believe in something (like Sunday worship), but what is the “TRUTH!”

The Protestant world has been, from its infancy, in the 16thcentury, in thorough accord with the Catholic Church, in keeping “holy,” not Saturday, but Sunday. The discussion of the grounds that led to this unanimity and practice of over 300 years must help toward placing Protestantism on a solid basis in this particular, should the arguments in favor of its position overcome those furnished by the Israelites and Adventists. However, on the other hand, the latter furnish arguments, incontrovertible by the great mass body of Protestants, so far from clamoring, as they do with vigorous pertinacity for the strict keeping of Sunday, have no other (recourse) left than the admission that they have been teaching and practicing what is Scripturally false for over 300 years, by adopting the teaching and practice of what they have always pretended to believe an apostate church, contrary to every warrant and teaching of the Bible. To add to the intensity of this Scriptural and unpardonable blunder, it involves one of the most positive and emphatic commands of God to His servant man: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”

No Protestant living today has ever yet obeyed that command, preferring to follow the apostate church referred to than his teacher the Bible, which, from Genesis to Revelation, teaches no other doctrine, should the Israelites and the Seventh-day Adventists be correct. Both sides appeal to the Bible as their “infallible” teacher. Let the Bible decide whether Saturday or Sunday be the day enjoined by God. One of the two bodies must be wrong, and whereas a false position on this all-important question involves terrible penalties, threatened by God Himself, against the transgressor of this “perpetual covenant,” we shall enter on the discussion of the merits of the arguments wielded by both sides. Neither is the discussion of this paramount subject above the capacity of ordinary minds, nor does it involve extraordinary study. It resolves itself into a few plain questions easy of solution:

  1. Which day of the week does the Bible enjoin to be kept holy?
  2. Has the New Testament modified by precept or practice the original command?
  3. Have Protestants, since the 16th century, obeyed the command of God by keeping “holy” the day enjoined by their infallible guide and teacher, the Bible? And if not, why not?

To the above three questions we pledge ourselves to furnish as many intelligent answers, which cannot fail to vindicate the truth and uphold the deformity of error. (From the Catholic Mirror of Sept. 9, 1893).

Protestantism recognizes no rule of faith, no teacher, save the “infallible Bible.” As the Catholic yields his judgment in spiritual matter implicitly, and with the unreserved confidence, to the voice of his church, so, too, the Protestant recognizes no teacher but the Bible. All his spirituality is derived from its teachings. It is to him the voice of God addressing him through his sole inspired teacher. It embodies his religion, his faith, and his practice.

Recognizing what is undeniable, the fact of a direct contradiction between the teaching and practice of Protestant Christianity – the Seventh-day Adventists excepted -- on the one hand, and that of the Jewish people on the other, both observing different days of the week for the worship of God, we will proceed to take the testimony of the teacher common to both claimants, the Bible. The first expression with which we come in contact in the Bible is found in Genesis 2:2: “And of the seventh day He (God) rested from all His work which He had made.” The next reference to this matter is to be found in Ex. 20, where God commanded the 7th day to be kept, because He has himself rested from the work of creation on that day; and the sacred text informs us that for that reason He desired it kept, in the following words: “wherefore, the Lord blessed the 7th day and sanctified it.” (1) Again we read in Exodus 31:15: “Six days you shall work; in the 7th day is the Sabbath, the rest holy to the Lord:” verse 16: “It is an everlasting covenant,” and a perpetual sign,” “for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and in the 7th He ceased from work.”

In the Old Testament, reference is made 126 times to the Sabbath, and all these texts conspire harmoniously in voicing the will of God commanding the 7th day to be kept, because God Himself first kept it, making it obligatory on all as “a perpetual covenant.” Nor can we imagine any one foolhardy enough to question the identity of Saturday with Sabbath or 7th day, seeing that the people of Israel have been keeping the Sabbath from the giving of the law.

With the example of the Israelites before our eyes today, there is no historical fact better established than that referred to; that the chosen people of God, the guardians of the Old Testament, the living representatives of the only divine religion hitherto, had for a period of 1490 years anterior to Christianity preserved the weekly practice, the living tradition of the correct interpretation of the special day of the week, Saturday, to be kept “holy to the Lord,” which tradition they have extended by their own practice to an additional period of 1893 years more, thus covering the full extent of the Christian dispensation.

The Bible – the Old Testament confirmed by the living tradition of a weekly practice for 3383 years by the chosen people of God, teaches then, with absolute certainly, that God had, Himself, named the day to be “kept holy to Him,” that the day was Saturday, and that any violation of that command was punishable with death. ”Keep you My Sabbath, for it is holy unto you; he that shall profane it shall be put to death; he that shall do any work in it, his soul shall perish in the midst of his people” (Ex. 31:14).

In other words, the people of Israel (made up of 12 tribes – one of which is Judah, which the term “Jew” comes from) anciently maintained the correct day of the Sabbath, and the Jews (who did not lose their identity) to this day still keep the correct time of God’s Sabbath given to them through Moses. Time has not been lost; we know that Saturday is God’s Sabbath day!

It is impossible to realize a more severe penalty than that so solemnly uttered by God Himself in Ex. 31:14 on all who violate a command referred to no less than 126 times in the old law. The Ten Commandments of the Old Testament are formally impressed on the memory of the child of the Biblical Christian as soon as possible, but there is not one of the ten made more emphatically familiar, both in Sunday School and pulpit, than that of keeping “holy” the Sabbath day.

Having secured the absolute certainty the will of God, as regards to the day to be kept holy, from His Sacred Word (the Bible), because He rested on that day, which day is confirmed to us by the practice of His chosen people for thousands of years, we are naturally induced to inquire when and where God changed the day for His worship; for it is patent to the world that a change of day has taken place, and inasmuch as no indication of such change can be found within the pages of the Old Testament, nor in the practice of the Jewish people, who continue for nearly 19 centuries of Christianity obeying the written command, we must look to the exponent of the Christian dispensation; the New Testament, for the command of God canceling the old Sabbath, Saturday.

We now approach a period covering little short of 19 centuries and proceed to investigate whether the supplemental divine teacher – the New Testament contains a decree canceling the mandate of the old law, and, at the same time, substituting a day for divinely instituted Sabbath of the old law, Saturday. For we see that Saturday was the day kept and ordered to be kept by God. It is by His divine authority alone, under the form of a canceling decree, that could abolish the Saturday covenant, and another divine mandate, appointing by name another day to be kept “holy,” other than Saturday. The Bible is the only teacher recognized by the Biblical Christian. And, from the Bible, the Old Testament fails to point out a change of day, and yet, another day, rather than Saturday, is being kept “holy” by the Biblical world. It is surely incumbent on the reformed Christian to point out in the pages of the New Testament the new divine decree repealing that of Saturday and substituting that of Sunday, kept by the Biblicals since the dawn of the Reformation.

Examining the New Testament from cover to cover, critically, we find the Sabbath referred to 61 times. We find, too, that the Saviour invariably selected the Sabbath (Saturday) to teach in the synagogues and work miracles. The four Gospels refer to the Sabbath (Saturday) 51 times.

In one instance the Redeemer refers to Himself as the “Lord of the Sabbath,” as mentioned in Matthew and Luke, but during the whole record of His life, whilst invariably keeping and utilizing the day (Saturday), He never once hinted at a desire to change it. His apostles and personal friends afford to us a striking instance of their scrupulous observance of it after His death, and, whilst His body was yet in the tomb, Luke (23:56) informs us: ‘And they returned and prepared spices and ointments, had rested on the Sabbath day according to the commandment, but on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came, bringing the spices they had prepared.”

The spices and ointments had been prepared Good Friday (now remember this is the Catholic Church saying this), evening, because the “Sabbath drew near” (v. 54). This action on the part of the personal friends of the Saviour, proves beyond contradiction that after His death they kept holy the Saturday, and regarded the Sunday as any other day of the week. Can anything, therefore, be more conclusive that the apostles and the holy women never knew any Sabbath but Saturday, up to the day of Christ’s death?

We now approach the investigation of this interesting question for the next 30 years, as narrated by Luke, in his Acts of the Apostles. Surely some vestige of the canceling act can be discovered in the practice of the Apostles during that protracted period.

We are once more doomed to disappointment. Nine times do we find the Sabbath referred to in the Acts, but it is the Saturday (the Old Sabbath).Should our readers desire the proof; we refer them to chapter and verse in each instance. Acts 13:14, 27, 42, 44. Acts 15:21, Acts 16:13; 17:2; 18:4 “And he (Paul) reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and Greeks (Gentiles):” thus the Sabbath from Genesis to Revelation. It is impossible to find in the New Testament the slightest interference by the Saviour or his apostles with the original Sabbath, but on the contrary, an entire acquiescence in the original arrangement; a plenary endorsement by His, while living; and an unvaried, active participation in the keeping of that day and no other by the apostles, for 30 years after Christ’s death, as the Acts of the apostles has abundantly testified to us.

Hence the conclusion is inevitable; that of those who follow the Bible as their guide, the Israelites and the Seventh-day Adventists have exclusive weight of evidence on their side, while the Biblical Protestant has not a word in self-defense for his substitution of Sunday for Saturday. Those who follow the Bible as their guide and keep the 7th day Sabbath have the clear weight of Scripture behind them! This is from the Catholic Mirror of Sept. 16, 1893.

Of course, one would expect a Catholic to demonize someone such as Luther, a person who fought for reforms in the church. If Luther had continued his reforms by accepting the Bible’s Sabbath day, papists would not now be taunting “Protestants” with the inconsistency of professing to accept the Bible alone yet following the traditions of the Catholic Church in regards to God’s day of worship.

Studying the Bible leaves no escape for the conscientious Protestant except the abandonment of Sunday worship and the return to Saturday, commanded by their teacher, the Bible, or unwilling to abandon the tradition of the Catholic Church, which enjoins the keeping of Sunday, and which they have accepted in direct opposition to their teacher, the Bible, consistently accept her in all her teachings. Reason and common sense demand the acceptance of one or the other of these alternatives: either Protestantism and the keeping of Saturday, or Catholic and the keeping of Sunday. Compromise is impossible.

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