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American Tract Society Bible Dictionary

Sabbath

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Rest. God having created the world in six days, "rested" on the seventh, Genesis 2:2,3 ; that is, he ceased from producing new beings in this creation; and because he had rested on it, he "blessed" or sanctified it, and appointed it in a peculiar manner for his worship.

We here have an account of the ORIGINAL INSTITUTION of the day of rest. Like the institution of marriage, it was given to man for the whole race. Those who worshipped God seem to have kept the Sabbath from the first, and there are tokens of this in the brief sketch the Bible contains of the ages before the giving of the law at Mount Sinai. Noah sent forth the raven from the ark, and the dove thrice, at intervals of seven days, Genesis 8:1-22 . The account of the sending of manna in the desert proves that the Sabbath was already known and observed, Exodus 16:22-30 . The week was an established division of time in Mesopotamia and Arabia, Genesis 29:27 ; and traces of it have been found in many nations of antiquity, so remote from each other and of such diverse origin as to forbid the idea of their having received it from Sinai and the Hebrews.

The REENACTMENT of the Sabbath on Mount Sinai, among the Commandments of the Moral Law, was also designed not for the Jews alone, but for all whom should receive the word of God, and ultimately for all mankind. Christ and his apostles never speak of the decalogue but as of permanent and universal obligation. "The Sabbath was made for man." The fourth commandment is as binding as the third and the fifth. Certain additions to it, with specifications and penalties, were a part of the Mosaic civil law, and are not now in force, Exodus 31:14 Numbers 15:32-36 . On the Sabbath-day, the priests and Levites, ministers of the temple, entered on their week; and those who had attended the foregoing week, went out. They placed on the golden table new loaves of showbread, and took away the old ones, Leviticus 24:8 . Also on this day were offered particular sacrifices of two lambs for a burnt offering, with wine and meal. The Sabbath was celebrated like the other festivals, from evening, Numbers 28:9,10 .

The chief obligation of the Sabbath expressed in the law is to sanctify it, Exodus 20:8 Deuteronomy 5:12 : "Remember the Sabbath-day to sanctify it." It is sanctified by necessary works of charity, by prayers, praises, and thanksgiving, by the public and private worship of God, by the study of his word, by tranquility of mind, and by meditation on moral and religious truth in its bearing on the duties of life and the hope of immorality. The other requirement of the law is rest: "Thou shalt not do any work." The ordinary business of life is to be wholly laid aside, both for the sake of bodily and mental health, and chiefly to secure the quiet and uninterrupted employment of the sacred hours for religious purposes. The spirit of the law clearly forbids all uses of the day which are worldly, such as amusements, journeys, etc., whereby one fails to keep the day holy himself, or hinders others in doing so.

The CHRISTIAN SABBATH is the original day of rest established in the Garden of the Eden and reenacted on Sinai, without those requirements, which were peculiar to Judaism, but with all its original moral force and with the new sanctions of Christianity. It commemorates not only the creation of the world, but a still greater event-the completion of the work of atonement by the resurrection of Christ; and as he rose from the dead on the day after the Jewish Sabbath, that day of his resurrection has been observed by Christians ever since. The change appears to have been made at once and as is generally believed under the direction of the "Lord of the Sabbath." On the same day, the first day of the week, he appeared among his assembled disciples; and on the next recurrence of the day he was again with them, and revealed himself to Thomas. From 1 Corinthians 11:20 14:23,40 , it appears that the disciples in all places were accustomed to meet statedly to worship and to celebrate the Lord's supper; and from 1 Corinthians 16:1,2 , we learn that these meetings were on the first day of the week. Thus in Acts 20:6-11 , we find the Christians at Troas assembled on the first day, to partake of the supper and to receive religious instruction. John observed the day with peculiar solemnity, Revelation 1:10 ; and it had then received the name of "The Lord's day," which it has ever since retained. For a time, such of the disciples as were Jews observed the Jewish Sabbath also; but they did not require this nor the observance of any festival of the Mosaic dispensation, of Gentile converts, nor even of Jews, Colossians 2:16 . The early Christian fathers refer to the first day of the week as the time set apart for worship, and to the transfer of the day on account of the resurrection of the Savior. Pliny the younger, proconsul of Pontus near the close of the first century, in a letter to the emperor Trajan, remarks that the Christians were "accustomed on a stated day to meet together before daylight, and to repeat a hymn to Christ as God, and to bind themselves by a solemn bond not to commit any wickedness," etc. So well known was their custom, that the ordinary test question put by persecutors to those suspected of Christianity was "Hast thou kept the Lord's day?" to which the reply was, "I am a Christian; I cannot omit it." Justin Martyr observes that "on the Lord's day all Christians in the city or country meet together, because that is the day of our Lord's resurrection, and then we read the writings of the apostles and prophets; this being done, the person presiding makes an oration to the assembly, to exhort them to imitate and to practice the things they have heard; then we all join in prayer, and after that we celebrate the sacrament. Then they who are able and willing give what they think proper, and what is collected is laid up in the hands of the chief officer, who distributes it to orphans and widows, and other necessitous Christians, as their wants require." See 1 Corinthians 16:2 . A very honorable conduct and worship. Would that it were more prevalent among us, with the spirit and piety of primitive Christianity!

The commandment to observe the Sabbath is worthy of its place in the decalogue; and its observance is of fundamental importance to society, which without it would fast relapse into ignorance, vice, and ungodliness. Its very existence on earth, by the ordinance of God, proves that there remains an eternal Sabbath in heaven, of which the "blest repose" of the day of God is an earnest to those who rightly observe it, Hebrews 4:9 .

"The second Sabbath after the first," Luke 6:1 , should rather read, "The first Sabbath after the second day of the pass-over." Of the seven days of the pass-over, the first was a Sabbath, and on the second was a festival in which the fruits of the harvest were offered to God, Leviticus 23:5,9 , etc. From this second day the Jews reckoned seven weeks or the first Sabbath which occurred after this second day, was called the first week or Sabbath after the second day.

The "preparation of the Sabbath" was the Friday before; for as it was forbidden to make a fire, to bake bread, or to dress victuals, on the Sabbath-day, they provided on the Friday every thing needful for their sustenance on the Sabbath, Mark 15:42 Matthew 27:62 John 19:14,31,42 .

For "a Sabbath-day's journey," see JOURNEY .


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of the topics are from American Tract Society Bible Dictionary published in 1859.

Bibliography Information
Rand, W. W. Entry for 'Sabbath'. American Tract Society Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/ats/s/sabbath.html. 1859.

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