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Introduction to Alethea In Heart Ministries

The Pentatuech - Chapter V
Commentaries on the Entire Bible

By Rev. Henry Cowles
Professor of Church History and Prophesy at Oberlin College, and Main Editor of
The Oberlin Evangelist (responsible for giving us most of Finney's sermons).





IT has been already suggested that the division of the creative work into six days rather than into five or ten or any other number, contemplated the weekly Sabbath and was designed to connect this Sabbath for man with God's rest from this creative work so that the Sabbath should be at once a memorial of the creation and should bear in itself the force of God's example in his relative periods of labor and of rest. God created this beautiful earth for man's abode, and man to dwell upon it; therefore let man remember his Great Creator and Father, thoughtfully contemplating his works, admiring and adoring, worshiping and serving the Glorious Author of both his being and his blessings. God wrought six days and rested one; so let man throughout all the ages of earthly time. Such is the relation of the Sabbath to God and to man.--Note therefore

1. God ordained and enjoined it. It is precisely a divine institution--not man-made but heaven-born; an outgrowth of God's wisdom and love for his offspring man--for that one of all his creatures whom only God "made in his own image." "God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it; because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made" (Gen. 2: 3). "Blessed and sanctified"--not as to himself but as to man; i. e. not to make the day a blessing to himself but a blessing to man; not to make the day holy to himself but holy as to man. It was a day for man to keep holy and a day laden with blessings for man on condition of his sacredly observing it in its true spirit and intent.--In accord with this view are our Savior's words (Mk. 2 : 27), "The Sabbath was made for man"--to become a blessing for man, one of the great and sure channels of mercy from the Great Father to his obedient children. Thus the Sabbath was instituted for man when the race existed in Adam and Eve alone--one of the institutions revealed from God and enjoined in Eden--good for man before his fall, and surely not less needful to the race fallen than to the race sinless. Let it be distinctly considered that this Sabbath was instituted with no limitations of time or race or nation--not for Eden alone; not for the race before their fall only--to become defunct when man began to sin; not for the Jews alone to be only a Jewish national observance and to become obsolete when the ceremonials of Judaism "waxed old and vanished away." It was indeed prescribed anew to the Hebrew nation and enforced with new sanctions, especially by his obligations to his covenant-keeping God for national deliverance from Egyptian bondage; but this weighs not a feather against the doctrine that the Sabbath was made for man. While the Sabbath obligation, thus heightened by new mercies, might be said to become more sacred and obligatory upon the Jewish nation, this fact could by no means make the day less sacred to the Gentiles of every land and of all time.

2. As sustaining scripturally this argument for the divine appointment of the Sabbath for the race of mankind, let it be noted that the seven-day division of time is unquestionably traceable to this primeval institution. It did not originate in the revolution of the earth on its axis which makes the common day, nor in its revolution in its orbit round the sun which makes the year, nor in the changes of the moon which mark off lunar months. It is an abnormal--we might say unnatural division of time--one which comes not of nature but from a source above nature--from God directly and from God alone.

Historically we find this seventh-day period in existence during the flood. Noah observed it and sent out the raven and the dove after seven-day intervals of time. It becomes most distinctly apparent in the recorded history of the manna (Ex. 16: 22-30). By the natural law of the manna, each next day's supply was distilled each night upon the adjacent grounds, ready for the labor of gathering it in the early morning. This would normally make labor a necessity for their subsistence every day, leaving them no Sabbath. Therefore God arrested the normal law at the Sabbath point and provided a double supply on the morning next preceding, giving none on the morning of the Sabbath. Moreover by another special provision, this double supply was kept two days from putrefaction--in this case only, so that it sufficed perfectly for their wants till the Sabbath was past. Some of the people, oblivious of the Sabbath, "went out on the seventh day to gather, and found none. And the Lord said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws? See, for that the Lord hath given you the Sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day" (Ex. 16: 27-30). Most decisively therefore does this narrative assume that the Sabbath was not then a new institution but an old one. This scene and these words, be it remembered, were before (not after) the giving of the ten commandments from Sinai.

To the same purport is the form of the fourth commandment; "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy." The Lord does not say--I now introduce a new and special precept. His words, "Remember" etc. do not imply this but imply the very opposite of this. So also do the reasons assigned; viz. God's creative work finished in six days with rest on the seventh. If this were a reason for the Sabbath, it was certainly good for Adam in Eden and for all of Adam's children to the end of the world. Corresponding to this we may note that in this fourth command God does not say--I appoint each seventh day for a sign between me and thee and a memorial of your national deliverance from Egyptian bondage (as many have maintained--to make out that the Sabbath was nothing but a Jewish institution) but this is not the form in which the Sabbath stands in the immortal decalogue. These points--a "sign" between the Lord and Israel and a memorial of deliverance from Egypt, came in fitly afterwards as a supplement--an appendix to this fourth command in its special relations to the children of Israel. See Ex. 31 : 12-17 and Ezek. 20: 12, 20, with my Notes on the passage in Ezekiel. But these special and superadded relations of the Sabbath to the Hebrews can not possibly in reason diminish the obligation of the original Sabbath ordained for man as a race in Eden.

4. To complete the argument for a perpetual Sabbath, it is only needful to add that our Lord re-endorsed it and gave it the whole weight of his sanction for all future time; and in these several ways: (a.) By re-endorsing the entire decalogue--"I am not come to destroy the law but to fulfill" (Mat. 5 : 17). The scope of the sermon on the mount--(of which these words are a part) proves that his eye was on the great moral law of ten commandments. Plainly he could not have spoken of the Mosaic ceremonial law, and therefore must have spoken of that special code of precepts of which the Sabbath was the fourth.--(b.) He endorsed the Sabbath as perpetual and universal by solemnly declaring--"The Sabbath was made for man" (Mk. 2: 27).--(c.) Also by affirming it to be his own prergative to enforce the Sabbath and to set forth its spirit and expound its obligations. "Therefore," because the Sabbath was made for man, for all men of all time, "therefore, the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath" (Mk. 2: 28). It was in order to relieve the law of the Sabbath (as then currently expounded) from burdensome, excessive and injurious constructions which human nature could not bear and which were alien from its true spirit, that our Lord confronted the traditions of the Scribes and Pharisees and sought to place this great institution upon its true and eternal basis.--(d.) Finally as showing historically that our Lord had never a thought of terminating the obligation of the Sabbath at his death but designed its obligation to be perpetual, we have this very incidental word--"Pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day" (Mat. 24: 20). When the Roman armies should bring down the judgments of the Almighty upon the doomed city of the murderers of Jesus, his followers must flee to the mountains across the Jordan; yet let it be their prayer that they might not be compelled to flee either in the severity of winter's cold, nor on the holy Sabbath. Flight for life might be morally admissible even on this sacred day; yet it would be most appropriate to pray that God would spare them this moral trial and not subject them to the necessity of labor on this holy day. In these various ways our Lord most fully and undeniably re-endorsed the Sabbath as for all time.

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