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ART. X.— Sunday: its Origin, History, and present Obliga
tion; considered in Eight Lectures, preached before the University of Oxford in the year 1860, on the Foundation of the Rev. John Bampton, M.A., Canon of Salisbury. By JAMES AUGUSTUS HESSEY, D.C.L., Head Master of Merchant Taylors School, Preacher to the Hon. Society of Gray’s Inn,
&c. London: 1860. THERE is something of a happy accident about this book.
For it can seldom occur that a Bampton Lecturer, when appointed, should have by him (as Dr. Hessey tells us was his own case) materials ready collected upon a subject at once definite and extensive; and one moreover which, while possessing wide and popular interest, has not recently attracted the attention it deserves. Many an one, over whose shoulders the same mantle has been thrown, even when the choice is essentially a good one, must have found the call singularly embarrassing. We confess that in Dr. Hessey we do not recognise a man endowed very largely with the higher prophetic gifts; but we find a writer who has much to say on an important subject, and who has said it well. We have read his Lectures with great satisfaction and approval, and under their guidance have made much fuller acquaintance than we could claim before with many of his authorities, returning from such investigations with a deeper impression of his candour and diligence, though with a diminished estimate perhaps of the originality of his researches. The subject was so thoroughly investigated in some of its parts by learned writers, and especially English writers, of the seventeenth century, Selden, Heylin, Bramhall, Jeremy Taylor and others, that on these points little, perhaps, could be done, and little has been done by Dr. Hessey, but to select and arrange materials already accumulated, and to confirm or modify the judgment which his predecessors have pronounced. On all points which he touches he gives us the conclusions of a sensible, well-disciplined, and well-stored mind, though he bas not in some particulars thrown all the light upon the matter which might be drawn from newly opened sources, nor employed all the approved methods of criticism which modern thought has developed.
Dr. Hessey's views are such as in Scotland would be condemned as singularly lax, and would hardly have obtained a hearing before a Presbyterian audience. Even in England it requires some courage in a clergyman to maintain them; and
VOL. CXIV. NO. CCXXXII.
the credit of this courage, at any rate, will not be denied to the Bampton Lecturer. He complains (and we think with justice) that there is too generally a fear, on the part of his order, of treating the subject with fairness and openness, and notices in consequence (what can hardly fail to be the result) the growth of a contemptuous incredulity among the better-informed laity upon a topic thus evaded.
Casting his eye first over the opinions which have prevailed in England since the Reformation, Dr. Hessey divides the theories which he notes into six several varieties. The passage is too long to quote; nor, indeed, do we think that the classification is quite satisfactory, seeing that it is impossible (as he himself admits) to reduce all writers to one or other of these heads; and that variations, which to one mind seem immaterial, will appear to another to involve essential differences. More felicitous is the distribution which he adopts of all the rival theories under the two principal heads of Sabbatarian and Dominical (names which he reasonably begs may be accepted simply as useful technical distinctions, without the implication of any sort of reproach); the Sabbatarian theory being that which traces the origin and obligation of Sunday either to a Jewish or to a primæval Sabbath, whatever modifications may, nevertheless, be admitted in such particulars as its transference to another day of the week, its commemorative import, and the mode of its observance: the Dominical theory being that which, regarding the Sabbath as entirely abolished, accounts the Sunday a purely Christian institution, whether standing on Divine, or on apostolical, or merely ecclesiastical authority; so that the law of its obligation and the prescribed mode of keeping it must be sought wholly in Christian documents. Dr. Hessey advocates the Dominical theory, though taking on that theory (as we shall presently see) the ground which most nearly approaches to the Sabbatarian.
The most valuable portion of the book is that in which the author traces the history of these theories from the earliest ages until now.
As the result of his conclusions respecting the first fifteen centuries of the Church (reserving however for fuller examination the apostolic age, as well as the post-Reformation period), we give, in part, Dr. Hessey's own summary of his longer narrative. He shows by ample proofs, exhibited in detail,
• That the Lord's day . . . was acknowledged and observed by the Apostles and their immediate followers, as distinct from the Sabbath (or Jewish festival on the seventh day in each week); the obligation
to observe which is denied both expressly and by implication in the New Testament.
• That in the two centuries after the death of St. John, the Lord's day was never confounded with the Sabbath, but carefully distinguished from it, as an institution under the law of liberty, as observed on a different day, and with different feelings; and, moreover, that as a matter of fact it was exempt from the severity of the provisions which had been the characteristics of the Sabbath in theory, or in practice, or in both.
“That after the first three centuries a new era in the history of the Lord's day commenced ; tendencies towards Sabbatarianism, or confusion of the Christian with the Jewish institution, beginning to manifest themselves. These, however, were slight until the end of the fifth century, and are traceable chiefly to and in the civil legislation of the period. Afterwards they developed themselves more decidedly. Sabbatarianism became at length systematised, in one of its phases, in the ante-Reformation Church both in England and on the Continent, by the later schoolmen, probably in their desire to lay down exact rules for conscience, and under a fancied necessity of urging the precedent of Jewish enactments in support of Christian holydays.' (Pp. 19, 20.)
After examining the passages contained in the Fathers of the second and third centuries, which bear upon the points in question, Dr. Hessey remarks as follows:
• These writers speak variously of the Sabbath, some insisting on the fact of its abrogation, some bringing out its allegorical and typical character. And they speak variously of the Lord's day ; some referring to the circumcision day as a type of it ; some to the commencement of the manna shower, as an honour conferred by anticipation upon it; some to the primæval creation of light for its sanction; some, in fact the great majority, to the Lord's resurrection as having been its reason. They are not critics, and perhaps we cannot always coincide with their exegesis of Scripture, or sympathise with all their expressions, either in the passages now adduced, or in the rest of their compositions ; but, with every abatement, their negative evidence is most valuable. None of them speak of the Sabbath as binding on Christians, or as connected with the Christian life, except in a typical and instructive sense; none of them identify it with the Lord's day; none of them transfer the spirit of the Sabbath into the Lord s day, or refer either to the fourth commandment or to God's rest after the Creation, for the sanctions of the Lord's day.' (P. 72.)
As they did not dream of saying that the Sabbath still exists, though shifted from the seventh day to the first by Christianity, so they did not dream of asserting that the Lord's day (admitting it to be a distinct institution) is to be observed, as was the Sabbath either of tradition or of Scripture.' (P. 304.)
With the recognition of the Sunday, however, by the civil power, set forth especially by the decrees of Constantine, Valentinian, Theodosius, a different tone of things began. Under the protection of the law which enforced the observance of the Lord's day, the Church soon proceeded to multiply its other days of religious observance ; and, while claiming for these the authority of ecclesiastical obligation, sought for the great weekly Christian festival something more bind
Some sanction which should vividly reach the conscience must be found for days of special obligation. The Old Testament had been already referred to for the analogy of the festivals of the Church. The step from analogy to identification is not a startling or a violent one. Thus a gradual identification of the Lord's day with the Sabbath sets in. This naturally leads to the fourth commandment. The fourth commandment once thought of, vexatious restrictions follow, thwarting men in their necessary employments or enjoyments by an application of its terms either strictly literal or most ingeniously refined. Councils condescend to notice“ whether
oxen may or may not be yoked on the Lord's day," and not unfrequently contradict each other. The Second Council of Macon, A. D. 585, enjoins “that no one should allow himself on the Lord's day to “put a yoke on the necks of his cattle, but all be occupied with mind “and body in the hymns and the praises of God. For this is the “ day of perpetual rest; this is shadowed out to us by the seventh “day in the Law and the Prophets." It then goes on to threaten punishments for the profanation of the holy day, either by pleading causes, or by other works. Offenders will displease God, and, besides, will draw upon themselves “the implacable anger of the “clergy.” Lawyers will lose their privilege of pleading causes ; clerks or monks will be shut out for six months from the society of their brethren; "rusticus aut servus gravioribus fustium ictibus ver“ berabitur."
• At the end of the eighth century we find Alcuin asserting that “the observation of the former Sabbath had “ been transferred very fitly to the Lord's day by the custom and consent of Christian people.”
At length the Church, almost as a rule, though still asserting that the Lord's day and all other holy days were of ecclesiastical institution, had erected a complete Judaic superstructure upon an ecclesiastical foundation. Thomas Aquinas (in the thirteenth century), says Heylin, fits every legal festival with some that were observed in the Christian Church, on the ground that ours are observed in place of theirs. (Pp. 116–20.)
The reaction from these views which set in with the Reformation was intense and even violent, though the traces of it have been almost entirely lost in the traditions of our modern Protestantism. For strangely as it is unknown to the mass of the community, and purposely (as it would almost seem) kept out of sight by the clergy in general of the British churches, it is a fact notorious and indubitable to the ecclesiastical student, that all the great continental reformers, and hardly less those of England and Scotland also, with one voice and consent
repudiated the Sabbatarian theory which is now the prevailing rule amongst us.
Not only Luther and his disciples, not only Zwingli, as well as the intermediate school which laboured fruitlessly on the Continent but with more effect in England to establish a position tolerant and comprehensive of the differences of those two leading reformers, the school of Melancthon, and Bucer, and Peter Martyr, but (what is too remarkable to pass over without emphatic notice) Calvin himself, and the founders of the churches which adopted his doctrine and discipline, expressly based the observance of Sunday on exclusively Christian grounds, disallowing the obligation of the Jewish law in this matter as entirely as in other points of Mosaic ritual. Nay, of all these great Christian worthies, Calvin seeins to have carried his opinions farthest, not unsupported by the lesser luminaries of his school. Were John Knox to return to Scotland now, his views on this point would utterly scandalise the ministers and elders of that Church which regards him as its ecclesiastical ancestor; and even south of the border he would be loudly condemned for lax and licentious principles in this respect by the very persons who regard his name as the badge of the narrowest and most intolerant Puritanism.
The rise and spread of the popular notions of Sunday in these nations is one of the most curious phenomena in the history of opinion. Though it is in Scotland that both theory and practice have been most strongly and universally developed, the origin of the movement was in England. It began among the Puritans in the reign of Elizabeth, arising partly from a laudable revulsion of feeling at the sight of the secularisation of the Lord's day, and the general indifference to holy things,—partly from the natural desire of religious men to find a warrant and guidance in Scripture itself for all particulars of duty and practice. Strong in its reliance on the divine origin of the institution, and appealing for confirmation to the glowing language of the prophets, the idea of the eternal, universal, inviolable sanctity of the Sabbath grew in the minds of earnest and pious men; finding a support, moreover, in the practice of the English Church in publicly reciting the Decalogue, and adopting it in the Catechism as the acknowledged summary of Christian duty, and finding an ally also in the lingering influence of Roman Catholic teaching among the masses of the rural population. It was not, however, till the close of the sixteenth century that the theory was fully developed and consolidated by a Dr. Nicholas Bownde, whose work first appeared in the year 1595. It is strange that an author who has exercised so wide and