Most Christians assume that Sunday is the biblically approved day of worship. The Roman Catholic Church protests that it transferred Christian worship from the biblical Sabbath (Saturday) to Sunday, and that to try to argue that the change was made in the Bible is both dishonest and a denial of Catholic authority. If Protestantism wants to base its teachings only on the Bible, it 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. 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. Those articles are presented here in their entirety.
[From the Catholic Mirror of Sept. 9, 1893]
"But faith, fanatic faith, one wedded fast; To some dear falsehood, hugs it to the last." —Moore.
Conformably to our promise in our last issue, we proceed to unmask one of the most flagrant errors and most unpardonable inconsistencies of the Sola Scriptura rule of faith. Lest, however, we be misunderstood, we deem it necessary to premise that Protestantism recognizes no rule of faith, no teacher, save the "infallible Bible." As the Catholic yields his judgment in spiritual matters 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. The language of Chillingworth, "The Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible, is the religion of Protestants," is only one form of the same idea multifariously convertible into other forms, such as "the Book of God," "the Charter of Our Salvation," "the Oracle of Our Christian Faith," "God's Text-Book to the race of Mankind," etc., etc. It is, then, an incontrovertible fact that the Bible alone is the teacher of Protestant Christianity. Assuming this fact, we will now proceed to discuss the merits of the question involved in our last issue.
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 Sacred Word, is found in Genesis 2:2 "And on 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 Exodus 20, where God commanded the seventh day to be kept, because He had 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 seventh day and sanctified it." Again we read in chapter 31, verse 15: "Six days you shall do work; in the seventh day is the Sabbath, the rest holy to the Lord;" sixteenth verse: "it is an everlasting covenant," "and a perpetual sign," "for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and in the seventh He ceased from work."
In the Old Testament, reference is made one hundred and twenty-six times to the Sabbath, and all these texts conspire harmoniously in voicing the will of God commanding the seventh 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 the Sabbath or seventh day, seeing that the people of Israel have been keeping the Saturday from the giving of the law, A.M. 2514 to A.D. 1893, a period of 3383 years. With the example of the Israelites before our eyes today, there is no historical fact better established than that referred to; viz., 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. We deem it necessary to be perfectly clear on this point, for reasons that will appear more fully hereafter. 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 certainty, 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." Exodus 31:14.
It is impossible to realize a more severe penalty than that so solemnly uttered by God Himself in the above text, on all who violate a command referred to no less than one hundred and twenty-six 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 the day to be kept holy, from His Sacred Word, 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 nineteen centuries of Christianity obeying the written command, we must look to the exponent of the Christian dispensation; viz., the New Testament, for the command of God canceling the old Sabbath, Saturday.
We now approach a period covering little short of nineteen 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 the divinely instituted Sabbath of the old law, viz., Saturday; for, inasmuch as Saturday was the day kept and ordered to be kept by God, divine authority alone, under the form of a canceling decree, could abolish the Saturday covenant, and another divine mandate, appointing by name another day to be kept "holy," other than Saturday, is equally necessary to satisfy the conscience of the Christian believer. The Bible being the only teacher recognized by the Biblical Christian, the Old Testament failing to point out a change of day, and yet another day than Saturday 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 sixty-one 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) fifty-one times.
In one instance the Redeemer refers to Himself as "the Lord of the Sabbath," as mentioned by 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 tomb, Luke 23:56 informs us: "And they returned and prepared spices and ointments, and 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 evening, because "the Sabbath drew near." Verse 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 than 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 thirty years, as narrated by the evangelist, St. 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.
But, alas! we are once more doomed to disappointment. [Eight] 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. Once more, Acts 15:21; again, Acts 16:13; 17:2; 18:4. "And he [Paul] reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and Greeks." thus the Sabbath (Saturday) from Genesis to Revelation!!! Thus, 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; nay a plenary endorsement by Him, whilst living; and an unvaried, active participation in the keeping of that day and not other by the apostles, for thirty years after His death, as the Acts of the Apostles has abundantly testified to us.
Hence the conclusion is inevitable; viz., that of those who follow the Bible as their guide, the Israelites and Seventh-day Adventists have exclusive weight of evidence on their side, whilst the Biblical Protestant has not a word in self-defense for his substitution of Sunday for Saturday. More anon.