A historical note on Christian observation of the Saturday Sabbath around 1800 A.D.


John Evans, 1804: The Sabbatarians are a body of Christians who keep the seventh day as the Sabbath, and are to be found principally, if not wholly, among the Baptists.

The common reasons why Christians observe the first day of the week as the Sabbath are, that on this day Christ rose from the dead [but see 3 days and 3 nights]; that the apostles assembled, preached [but see Pope's reasons for observing Sunday] and administered the Lord's Supper [but see When participate in the Lord's Supper?], and it has been kept by the church for several ages, if not from the time when Christianity was originally promulgated.

The Sabbatarians, however; think these reasons unsatisfactory, and assert that the change of the Sabbath from the seventh to the first day of the week was effected [enforced] by Constantine, upon his conversion to the Christian religion [325 A.D.]. The three following propositions contain a summary of their principles as to this article of the Sabbath, by which they stand distinguished.

1st, That God hath required the observation of the seventh, or last day of every week, to be observed by mankind universally for the weekly Sabbath.

2ndly, That this command of God is perpetually binding on man till time shall be no more;

and 3rdly, That this sacred rest of the seventh day sabbath is not (by divine authority) changed from the seventh and last to the first day of the week, or that the scripture doth no where require the observation of any other day of the week for the weekly sabbath, but the seventh day only.

There are two congregations of the Sabbatarians in London, one among the General Baptists meeting in Mill-yard, Goodman's Fields, the other among the Particular Baptists meeting in Red Cross street, Cripplegate. There are also a few to be found in different parts of the kingdom [Britain].

Mr. Morse informs us that there are many Sabbatarians in America. "Some (says he) in Rhode Island observe the Jewish or Saturday sabbath, from a persuasion that it was one of the ten commandments, which they plead are all in their nature moral, and were never abrogated in the New Testament. Though, on the contrary, others of them believe it originated at the time of creation, in the command given to Adam, by the Creator himself." See Genesis, Chap. ii.3 "At New Jersey also, are three congregations of the Seventh Day Baptists; and at Ephrata, in Pennsylvania, there is one congregation of them, called Tunkers. There are likewise a few Baptists who keep the seventh day as holy time, who are the remains of the Keithian or Quaker Baptists."

This tenet has given rise to various controversies, and writers of considerable ability have appeared on both sides of the question. Mr. Cornthwaite, a respectable minister among them, about the year 1740, published several tracts in support of it, which ought to be consulted by those who wish to obtain satisfaction on the subject. The reader should also have recourse to Dr. Chandler's two discourses on the Sabbath, Mr. Amner's Dissertation on the Weekly Festival of the Christian Church, and Dr. Kennicott's Sermon and Dialogue on the Sabbath, the Rev. S. Palmer's publication on the Nature and Obligation of the Christian Sabbath, and Estlin's Apology for the Sabbath - all of which are worthy of attention.

But whatever controversy may have been agitated on this subject, certain it is, that there were no particular day set apart for the purpose of devotion (for which some in the present day contend) our knowledge of human nature authorizes us to say, that virtue and religion would be either greatly debilitated or finally lost from among mankind.

The Sabbatarians hold in common with other Christians, the distinguishing doctrines of Christianity, and though much reduced in number, deserve a distinct mention in this miscellany, on account of their integrity and respectability.

(Most of the above particulars respecting the Sabbatarians, were communicated to the author by some worthy individuals of that persuasion.)

From John Evans, "Sketch of the Denominations of the Christian World", Ninth edn., Wilmington, Delaware and London. 1804. p. 202-204.

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