The Lord's Day.

J. A. Trench.

Article 27 of 55 from 'Truth for Believers' Volume 2.

It is simple ignorance of the facts to put down the origin of the observance of the Lord's Day to Roman Catholicism. I do not now refer to the Biblical grounds for it, having been asked as to the historical proofs. There was no Council (so-called) of the year A.D. 200; the first of those recognised as Church Councils being that of Nicaea belonging to A.D. 325. In A.D. 321 an edict of the first Emperor embracing Christianity was issued for the general observance of Sunday. Up till then, of course, it was impossible for most Christians to make it a day of rest. But the recognition of it as taking the place of the Jewish Sabbath was universal in the second century, i.e. as far back as writings of those who followed the Apostolic age are extant as witnesses to this. Ignatius, the disciple of the Apostle John, contrasts Judaism and Christianity and "opposed the keeping of the Sabbath to living according to the Lord's life." The epistle of Barnabas, in existence in the early part of that century, says "We celebrate the eighth day with joy on which, too, Jesus rose from the dead." Justin Martyr (A.D. 140) assigns the reason Christians had for meeting on Sunday because it is the first day on which God dispelled the darkness, etc., and because Jesus Christ our Saviour rose from the dead upon it. And he carefully distinguished Saturday from it. Bardesanes in a book addressed to the Emperor M. Aurelius Antoninus (A.D. 121-180), writing of the new race of Christians "wherever we be, called by the one name of the Messiah (as such), says, 'upon one day, the first of the week we assemble ourselves together.'" Dionysius (A.D. 170) in a letter to the church at Rome calls it "the Lord's holy day" in bearing witness to the same assembling of themselves. Irenaeus (A.D. 178) asserts that the Sabbath is abolished, his evidence to the existence of the Lord's Day being clear and distinct. A record of him in the history of Eusebius shows that in his time it was an institution beyond dispute. Clement (A.D. 194) contrasts the seventh day of the law with the eighth day of the Gospel, and so on, proof might be multiplied. But this may suffice. I have many of the authorities myself and have referred to them, but have found it convenient thus to summarise this early testimony from Smith's Dictionary of the Bible Vol. II (1st ed.), under the Lord's Day. It is a great and indisputable fact that four years before the first General Council the Emperor Constantine recognised it as "the venerable day," only now giving it legal sanction, insisting that worldly business should be intermitted during its continuance. The Council of Nicaea, referred to four years later, assumes the obligation of the day as an existing fact only, regulating the posture of worshippers.