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Literary Notices.


Sabbath Tracts, Vol. I, No. 1. An Apology for introducing the Sabbath of the Fourth Commandment to the consideration of the Christian Public. New York, by William Burbeck, 138 Fulton Street.

We mentioned in our fourth number, that we had received a series of tracts, issued by the Sabbath Tract Society of New York, and promised a more extended notice thereof. But our space hitherto has been so much occupied that we could not comply with our original intention. We therefore redeem our promise this month, to give some little account of the first tract of the series, which indeed embraces that part of the subject which interests us most as Israelites. A great deal is always said by Christians about the observance of their day of rest, and still they are able to give but very unsatisfactory reasons for its institution. Many Christians, therefore, who are evidently sincere in their belief, and what is more, ardent trinitarians, have long since felt that with respect to the observance of the Sabbath, their system is very vulnerable, inasmuch as it plainly contradicts the evident meaning of the Ten Commandments. Hence they separated from the great mass of Christians who observe the first day of the week as a day of rest, and adopted the old Jewish Sabbath, or the seventh, day, for their weekly time of devotion. In order, however, to justify their proceedings in their dissent from the immense majority who profess to be governed by the same principles, the seventh day keepers have determined to lay their reasons before the public, "to sustain the claims of the original Sabbath of God's appointment, enlighten the public mind, disarm their neighbours and fellow Christians of their prejudices, and to promote a more thorough and impartial attention to this item of religious practice." It would seem from this, that the publishers of these tracts wish to prove first, the correctness of the day they keep, and secondly, to endeavour to produce a more uniform and sacred observance of the weekly Sabbath. They lay down the following points for consideration:

  1. It is conceded that the weekly Sabbath is a needful, wise, and valuable institution; and as its value will be much heightened by its resting on divine authority, the question is presented whether any other than the seventh day of the week is sustained by this indisputable sanction? and should the answer be in the negative, then the substitution of any other day is a virtual annulment of a divine command.
  2. It is not the province of Rulers, Bishops, or Councils, to legislate for the Church, and to bind the consciences of men in this or any other matter; the decree therefore of the Emperor Constantine commanding the observance of the dominical day, and that of the Pope as late as 603 prohibiting the observance of the Jewish Sabbath, cannot be operative on Protestant Christians of the present day.
  3. The fact that there is a lamentable division among professors of religion in regard to the true notion of the Sabbath, and the proper day to be observed, evinces the great importance of investigation, and of arriving at a correct knowledge. The writer correctly observes that the whole Church cannot well become united in the observance of the first day of the week, if it is not the Sabbath of the Bible; and he asks, "will it ever be the case, that God will have no witnesses in favour of his own unrepealed and unaltered institution" And he answers (for the Christian Sabbatarians): "No, this will never be! Admitting that the Sabbath, of the Fourth Commandment is still binding, there is no doubt that there will ever remain a remnant, at least, who will conscientiously observe it."
  4. In these heads the writer maintains correctly, that with respect to the weekly Sabbath there should be a positive divine injunction for its observance, in case it were necessary, inasmuch as it comes in direct contact with the cupidity of man and his general interest in society. But he asserts that the seventh day was duly instituted by divine legislation as the weekly rest, and its observance was deemed of the utmost importance by the good men throughout the times of the Old Testament.
  5. He maintains that every law, whether human or divine, must remain in force unless repealed or amended by the authority which first enacted it; and as according to the solemn conviction of the Sabbatarians the Sabbath has never been repealed or amended; they contend that the obligation to keep the Sabbath of the Fourth Commandment remains without abatement.
  6. The day mentioned being the seventh in order, not a mere seventh part of every week, proves that the Jewish Sabbath only could be conveyed in the Fourth Commandment.
  7. The above view being correct, the writer imagines that the substitution of the first for the seventh day by a majority of Christians, presents an insurmountable obstacle to the conversion of the Jews, and the introduction of the millennium. He also remarks, "It is true that they (the Jews) are tenacious also of other practices enjoined in the Old Testament, which Christians justly (!) regard as obsolete. But as to these, we can show authority for their abrogation. We can appeal to the New Testament records and evince that this Mosaic Ritual—the law of commandments contained in the ordinances' which constituted the enmity or separation between Jews and Gentiles, was abolished by the death of Christ—that 'he took it out of the way, nailing it to his Cross.' But the same process cannot be successfully pursued with respect to the seventh day Sabbath. The Decalogue in which it is found was not included in the abrogated ritual. It is altogether a distinct subject."
  8. Exhibits the practicability of putting an effectual check to the sin of Sabbath-breaking, only by teaching and practising the subject in such a manner that the sanction of express divine authority can be brought to bear upon it.
  9. The power of custom, though sustained by ecclesiastical and civil enactments, &c., ought not to prevent investigation and discourage reform in this important case. Under this head the author appeals to the rise of Protestantism, to prove that similar reforms from old usages have been carried out in various other matters besides the Sabbath; consequently there can be no reason why it should not be observed again on the seventh day, though the authority of the majority of Christians is against it.
  10. As a consequence of the foregoing principles of faith; the first day Christians are considered as having sadly deviated from the path of obedience, and the Sabbatarians feel themselves bound to admonish and to endeavour to redeem them.

Our limits have compelled us to be very condensed on the subject of the important pamphlet under review; but our readers can judge for themselves of the cogency of the reasoning. Yet we cannot avoid one remark, which is, that it is certainly surprising that Christians should not see that to the Jew all the precepts of the Bible are alike, and that he can never believe that one of them was "nailed to the cross" more than another. The learned Rev. John Oxlee, in his Three Letters to the Archbishop of Canterbury, falls into a similar error, to leave the Jews in the possession of the law, whilst they are to embrace a belief in the Trinity, and accept the Messiah of the Christians as mediator between God and man. So strange it is, that men of sound mind will approach the truth and yet not discover it through some peculiar obliquity of vision.

However, the reader will discover, that there are powerful reasons on Christian grounds for the observance of the seventh day as Sabbath, and that there is scarcely a single feasible reason why the first day should be substituted in its stead. We regret that we are compelled to close, but we by no means dismiss the subject finally, as it affords ample scope for thought and reflection.