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about to dawn? and so make it sure that the first natural day, and of course the first Sabbath, commenced with night. But it will not be an evening that you have obtained after all. An evening is the beginning of the night, but this is the end of a night, and will by no means answer for the term evening. But if this retrograde measurement is allowed in order to get a whole night, and that not such as to answer the scripture expression, there can be no possible objection to our going about six hours back to get all that portion of a night intervening between midnight and the dawn of day, which would accommodate our scheme entirely. Why would not this be as fair a construction of the text as the other? The same objection could not be against it, as it would be morning in the common acceptation of that term, if it must necessarily include twelve hours of the twenty-four. So that the principles upon which that scheme is founded, if properly applied, would rather favour our scheme than the other.
2. But we must observe next, we think nothing can be collected from this expression to favour either scheme. For if we allow this darkness spoken of, to constitute a part of the first natural day, a little after we learn that when God had created the light, he divided the light from the darkness, one he called day, the other night. Here then is another night, which was certainly included in the first natural day, a night which existed after the light had been created; and if the other darkness spoken of belonged to the first day, then there were two nights to the first day, an absurdity too glaring to bear inspection a moment. This darkness constituting really the first night was occasioned of course, as darkness is still, by the shade of the earth while light shined on one side of it only. And the division between light and darkness spoken of, must have been that which takes place still at the horizon. If this view of the subject is correct, there will be no necessity of reckoning back into eternity to get either the whole or a part of the first night.
For eternity it must have been. Time is measured duration, and there could, therefore, have been no time before there was either light or darkness, or any thing else to measure it by. The truth of the matter then seems to be, as far as we can discover it on this abstruse subject, that time commenced at the moment when God said, Let there be light, and there was light. Light is that by which time is measured; now, then, time commenced; all before was eternity or unmeasured duration; now the first natural day commenced. Of course in one part of the earth it commenced in the full blaze of noon; at another precisely at midnight; at one place at 6 P. M.; at another at 6 A. M. All this we know from the spherical form of the earth; and from the nature of the case, no argument can be derived from VOL. II.- Presb. Mag.
this view of the subject, to favour one or the other particular time for beginning the Sabbath or any other day. And nothing but the circumstance that our venerable Puritan ancestors adopted this theory, and that this with many of their peculiar excellencies has descended from father to son, consecrated by time and rendered venerable by prescription, and that the sons have received this with the valuable blessings which constitute the legacy of such fathers, could account for the use of such an argument as this to defend their cause. For, so far as this argument is concerned, it seems to be equally proper to begin the day at midnight, at noon, at 6 A. M., or 6 P. M., or any other time.
The second proposition upon which this practice depends for its support, is that the Jews commenced their Sabbath in the evening preceding the day. The proof of this is sought for in the following passages of scripture: Lev. xxiii. 32;“ From even unto even shall ye celebrate your Sabbath:” Neh. xiii. 19; “ And it came to pass when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the Sabbath, I commanded that the gates should be shut, and that they should not be opened till after the Sabbath:” Mark i. 32; “ And at even, fon the Sabbath] when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils, and the city was gathered together at the door.” We know, it has been commonly taken for granted, that the Jews began their Sabbaths at evening, although I never have seen any very strong testimony of the fact. The first passage refers to the great day of atonement, and not to the ordinary weekly Sabbath, as is evident from the context. On the passage in Nehemiah the Doctor acknowledges there is evidence in the expression itself, that the Sabbath had not commenced when it began to be dark at the gates of Jerusalem. As to the expression, before the Sabbath, we see in it no other evidence that the Sabbath commenced that evening than the precaution of closing the gates then, which would have been a proper and prudent measure, on supposition that the Sabbath did not commence till midnight. The expression, before the Sabbath, would rather favour this last construction than the other. The passage from Mark, if it has a bearing on the subject, affords only a negative argument, viz. that the sick were brought to our Saviour on Sabbath evening, and there is no mention of any murmuring among the Jews on that account, though they were afterward sufficiently fond of finding fault with our Saviour for what he did on the Sabbath. But this passage is very far from affording evidence that the evening before Sabbath was considered by the Jews as holy time, which was the thing to be proved. Nor do we find any evidence of this in either of the passages referred to, though we could not assert the contrary to be the fact.
But, granting that the Jews kept their Sabbath from sunsetting to sunsetting, or from evening to evening, what bearing has it upon our question ? which is, at what hour in the twenty-four is our Christian Sabbath to begin? The Jews, if they began the Sabbath at sunsetting, did so for reasons peculiar to themselves, And we maintain, that we should begin the Sabbath just as we do other days, only beirg sure, at whatever hour we begin it, to reckon twenty-four complete hours to its close. If the scriptures no where determine at what hour we are to begin to reckon our natural day, and we know of no passage which determines it, nor that this is pretended by any, we are left to begin our Sabbath as we do other days. Now all modern nations except, perhaps, the Turks, Austrians, and Italians, begin their civil day at midnight. We know of nothing either in scripture or the nature of the case, that opposes the practice, nor any reason why we should not begin our Sabbath as we do other days.
But with regard to the particular evening which the Jews kept, it can have no direct bearing on the present question: for those with whom we have to do at present, agree with us, that the day of the Sabbath has been changed from the resurrection of Christ, and as we are not confined to the day, so neither ought we to be to the particular hour when the Jews kept their Sabbath. Both should be peculiarly Christian.
We have now finished what it is thought necessary to say in reply to the arguments offered, to show that the Sabbath commences on Saturday evening, and it has been seen by this time how far these come short of producing conviction or deciding the point in controversy. Stronger arguments than these must be presented to induce us to give up the practice which has obtained in the great mass of our churches. But we offer some considerations from scripture, which have a positive bearing in support of our theory and practice.
1. We, and our brethren, who differ from us in this respect, agree in keeping the first day of the week as holy time, and for the same reason, because on that day our Saviour rose from the dead, and rested from his work. But he did not rise on the evening of Saturday, but continued in the prison of the grave, and under the power of death. His disciples were at that time in mourning and bitterness of spirit. If the first Christian Sabbath began then, the disciples did not and could not keep it. For holy time is a time of rejoicing, and they could not rejoice while their Master was in the grave.
And does it not seem utterly improper for us to be keeping a day of rejoicing at the very hour when the primitive disciples were properly clothed in the deepest mourning? But, on the other hand, our Saviour did rise in the morning of the first
day of the week, very early, which is the precise time when we commence reckoning the Sabbath.
2. Our Saviour did meet with his assembled disciples on the evening of the day of his resurrection, and said, peace be unto you, and blessed them; communicated to them knowledge and grace. And we have good reason to believe and hope, that he has often since acknowledged the sanctity of this season, by conferring similar blessings, and that he continues to do so. Here, it may be observed, that our argument is of the same kind as that by which both we and our opponents prove a substitution of the first instead of the seventh day: viz. The example of our Saviour and his apostles after the resurrection, which, with us, should have all the force of positive precept. Before the resurrection neither precept nor example, if they abounded, could have much influence in deciding a thing wherein it is confessed, on all hands, there was a change at that time; much less if they are extremely equivocal or entirely wanting. But our Saviour and his apostles, as uniformly met on the evening of the Lord's day, and kept it holy as the day time. And those seasons were often much blessed. He improved them in communicating to their understandings a knowledge of the scriptures, and his benediction was, peace be unto you. Now what need we further witness. The scriptures may be searched in vain for such positive evidence, that Saturday evening was ever kept; and if we mistake not, we have produced strong evidence that it was not, and could not, and ought not to have been kept, the day before the resurrection, which was the example for all succeeding Sabbaths.
3. In the course of these hints respecting our Saviour's meeting with his disciples on Sabbath evening, there is something which looks like positive testimony.
John xx. 19: “Then the same day, at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, peace be unto you.” Here are two words which, candidly considered, will do much toward deciding this question. The same day at evening. It seems then, that the evening after the day is, by the Holy Ghost, included in the same natural or civil day with the light which precedes; i.e. numerically the same. If the day is the first day of the week, the evening following is the first day of the week ; and the evening before, the seventh day of the week. If the day be the Lord's day, then the evening following is the Lord's day, and of course the evening before some other day than the Lord's day.
But if the other practice of reckoning time were correct, beginning at sunsetting the evening after this day mentioned, in
stead of being the first day of the week, as is here expressly declared, would be the second day of the week; instead of the Lord's day it would be Monday. Whatever then was the practice under the Old Testament dispensation, this passage seems to be decisive as to the proper mode of reckoning time since the resurrection of Christ.
II. Having now finished what it was designed to say with regard to scripture authority, that may be relied on for one or the other practice, and finding that if it does not lean decisively toward that practice, which the great body of the Presbyterian church have adopted; at least it will not be deemed arrogance to say, that it is far from being decisive to either; we are, therefore, left at liberty to examine the question on the score of expediency. We must say then, we do not think the practice of keeping Saturday evening as a part of the Sabbath, is expedient.
1. Because it is not keeping regularly a whole Sabbath.Adopting the practice of commencing the celebration of the Lord's day at dusk or candlelighting, which is the plan received by the Rev. Dr. Dwight, the variation must be great. For, owing to the state of the atmosphere and various other causes, this time varies in this climate from half an hour to an hour and a half after sunset. Of course here we are exposed to a constant variation to this amount in each of our Sabbaths, which seems unwarrantable. Unless labourers out of doors and in, should make it a rule to begin their Sabbath as soon as they can conveniently get through their work-which would be a deplorable state of things, and easily relapsed into in time of degeneracy
But let us extend our views of this subject, and see its operation in other climates. It is presumed, that every command of the decalogue is equally binding and equally applicable, and in the same sense in every part of the globe. But in very high latitudes there is scarce any real darkness, but a sort of twilight instead of it. When shall the people here commence their Sabbath? Going by the clock, which is our plan, there is no difficulty, for there never could be any hesitation in distinguishing one day from another, and their Sabbath begins as soon as the first day of the week begins. But if you direct them to keep holy time as soon as it is dark, it may not be dark, in any sense of the word, till midnight; perhaps nothing more than twilight then. And, under the most favourable view we can take of the subject, so much must be left to construction, and judgment, and common practice, that the sanctity and peace of the Lord's day, would be very much exposed to encroachment, both at its commencement and at its close.
But what shall we say with regard to still higher latitudes,