Moral Briefs – Chapter XLIX – The Day of Rest

cover of the ebook 'Moral Briefs' by Father John Henry StapletonThe third article of the Mosaic Code not only enunciates the law of rest, but says just how much time shall be given to its observance; it prescribes neither a week nor a few hours, but one day in seven. If you have a taste for such things and look well, you will find several reasons put forth as justifying this special designation of one day in seven. The number seven the Jews regarded as a sacred number; the Romans, as the symbol of perfection. Students of antiquity have discovered that among nearly all peoples this number in some way or other refers to the Deity. Science finds that nature prefers this number; light under analysis reveals seven colors, and all colors refer to the seven orders of the solar spectrum; the human voice has seven tones that constitute the scale of sound; the human body is renewed every seven years. Authorities on hygiene and physiology teach that one day in six is too much, one day in eight is too little, but that one day in seven is sufficient and necessary for the physical needs of man.

These considerations may or may not carry conviction to the average mind. On the face of it, they confirm rather than prove. They do not reveal the necessity of a day of rest so much as show its reasonableness and how it harmonizes with nature in its periodicity, its symmetry and its exact proportion to the strength of man. As for real substantial reasons, there is but one, a good and sufficient, and that is the positive will of God. He said: keep this day holy; such is His command; no man should need a better reason.

The God-given law of Moses says Saturday, Christians say Sunday. Protestants and Catholics alike say Sunday, and Sunday it is. But this is not a trifling change; it calls for an explanation. Why was it made? What is there to justify it? On what authority was it done? Can the will of God, unmistakably manifested, be thus disregarded and put aside by His creatures? This is a serious question.

One of the most interesting things in the world would be to hear a Protestant Christian, on Protestant grounds, justify his observance of the Sunday instead of the Sabbath, and give reasons for his conduct. “Search the Scriptures.” Aye, search from Genesis to Revelations, the Mosaic prescriptions will hold good in spite of all your researches. Instead of justification you will find condemnation. “The Bible, the Bible alone” theory hardly fits in here. Are Papists the only ones to add to the holy writings, or to go counter to them? Suppose this change cannot be justified on Scriptural grounds, what then? And the fact is, it cannot.

It is hardly satisfactory to remark that this is a disciplinary injunction, and Christ abrogated the Jewish ceremonial. But if it is nothing more than this, how came it to get on the table of the Law? Its embodiment in the Decalogue makes it somewhat different from all other ceremonial prescriptions; as it stands, it is on a par with the veto to kill or to steal. Christ abolished the purely Jewish law, but he left the Decalogue intact.

Christ rose from the dead on Sunday, ’tis true; but nowhere in writing can it be found that His resurrection on that day meant a change in the Third Commandment. In the nature of the event, there is absolutely no relation between it and the observance of Sunday.

Where will our friend find a loop-hole to escape? Oh! as usual, for the Sunday as for the Bible, he will have to fall back on the old Church. What in the world could he do without her? He will find there an authority, and he is obliged to recognize it, even if he does on ordinary occasions declaim against and condemn it. Incidentally, if his eyes are open, he will discover that his individually interpreted Bible has failed most woefully to do its work; it condemns the Protestant Sunday.

This day was changed on the sole authority of the Holy Roman Catholic Church, as the representative of God on earth, to whose keeping was confided the interpretation of God’s word, and in whose bosom is found that other criterion of truth, called tradition. Tradition it is that justifies the change she made. Deny this, and there is no justification possible, and you must go back to the Mosaic Sabbath. Admit it, and if you are a Protestant you will find yourself in somewhat of a mess.

A logical Protestant must be a very uneasy being. If the Church is right in this, why should she not be right in defining the Immaculate Conception? And if she errs here, what assurance is there that she does not err there? How can he say she is right on one occasion, and wrong on another? What kind of nonsense is it that makes her truthful or erring according to one’s fancy and taste? Truly, the reformer blundered when he did not treat the Sunday as he treated the Pope and all Church authority, for it is papistical to a degree.