Monday, April 25, 2011

An appeal to Baptists, 1843

In 1843 the Seventh Day Baptist General Conference appealed to the greater Baptist community to consider the validity of observing the Sabbath on the seventh day of the week. The pamphlet that was published, An Address to the Baptist Denomination of the United States on the Observance of the Sabbath from the Seventh-Day Baptist General Conference, is available online as a pdf. From early in the invitation to consider the question:
..... In urging it upon your attention, we think you will not charge us with wishing to raise disturbance in Zion. We indulge the hope that you will impute to us the same disinterestedness of motive by which you yourselves are actuated, when you boldly proclaim your denominational sentiments upon every high place, and scatter your publications in every direction. Your course springs not from any wish to foment disturbance, but from the pain which your hearts feel to see the institutions of Christ made void by the traditions of men. Our action in this matter springs from the same principle. We feel in regard to the Sabbath just as you do with regard to baptism. We declare before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, that we are governed by a desire for your good and God's glory.

When we look over your large and influential denomination, we find, that, in reference to the subject upon which we now address you, you are divided into about three classes. I. Those who, acknowledging the perpetuity of the Sabbath-law, enforce the observance of the Sabbath by the fourth commandment, but change the day of its celebration from the seventh to the first day of the week. II. Those who see the impossibility of proving a change of the day, and, therefore, regard the commandment as abolished by the death of Christ. But, at the same time, they consider the first day of the week as an institution entirely new, to be regulated as to its observance wholly by the New Testament. III. Those who consider neither the Old nor the New Testament to impose any obligation upon them to observe a day of rest, and advocate one merely on the ground of expediency. ....
The authors then proceed to provide arguments against each of these positions — proving that many of the arguments on this subject are perennial. The penultimate paragraph of the pamplet:
Brethren, can we hope that the subject on which we have addressed you, will receive your prayerful attention? Almost your entire denomination has slumbered over it; but may we not hope, that you will now awake? May we not hope, that it will be discussed in your private circles, and in your public assemblies; in your Bible classes, and in your Sunday schools:—that it will be studied by your ministers, and by the people in general; and that every one will, in the deep desire of his soul, pray, "Lord, open thou mine eyes, that I may discern wondrous things out of thy Law." ....
The final paragraph was rather harsh in its judgment on those who declined the invitation—much more so than Seventh Day Baptists would be today—but theological dispute was more unrestained in those days:
But if, on the other hand, we see a disposition to pass it by with cold neglect—an unwillingness to look the question in the face—an attempt, on the part of your teachers and leaders, to hush it up as a matter of no importance—a studied effort to lead the people away  from it, when they are disposed to examine—or teaching them that it is the spirit, rather than the letter of the law that God requires—we shall be constrained to apply the language of him, who spake as never man spake—" EVERY ONE THAT DOETH EVIL HATETH THE LIGHT, NEITHER COMETH TO THE LIGHT, LEST HIS DEEDS SHOULD BE REPROVED."—John III. [the document]
Seventh Day Baptist Address to Baptists in America, 1843