An Embarrassed Captain
“That makes me think,” said Harold as the captain passed on. “I remember that he told me they had put aboard a supply of reading matter. I wonder if there is anything about Sunday. I will ask Mr. Anderson about it.”He found him aft.
“Mr. Anderson, do you suppose your people have placed aboard this vessel, with other literature, anything about Sunday?”
“Why, yes, Harold, I presume they have. But what causes you to be interested about Sunday? You keep Sunday, do you not?”
“Oh yes; but you see, Captain Mann is afraid that I will not keep on in that way, and to-night he is going to show me that the Bible says Sunday is the right day. He said you would soon be telling me that Sunday is not mentioned in the Bible, and he wants to prove that it is. Of course, I think I should find out all I can for myself before I meet him this evening. What should I look for?”
“Well, there are several little leaflets you may well read, such as ‘Which Day Do You Keep, and Why?’ and “Sunday in the New Testament.’ I think you will find them in that supply. However, if you do not, come to me, and I will try to assist you.”
Even Cruden Did Not List Them
While Harold was searching for these leaflets, Captain Mann had found a bit of leisure time for putting into shape the thoughts he would present to Harold. He thought he knew in general what would aid the young man, so he set about to find the specific texts he would use.
It had been several years since the question of the Sabbath had agitated him; and never, in fact, had he attempted to locate the passages in which the word “Sunday” occurred. He felt quite certain, though, that they were in the Gospels, and in the story of the resurrection. But after much careful searching, he did not find what he was after.
“I have probably forgotten the connections,” he said to himself, as he turned to his concordance.
But even Cruden, for some reason, had overlooked the Sunday passages. To be sure, Cruden did not profess to give every word in the Bible.
“Sunday, S-u-n-d-a-y — where did I see it?” he said. “The young man will think it very strange in me to call him in here to do something I cannot do.”
Then a happy thought occurred to him. “There is Mr. Mitchell, an old orthodox minister. I will ask him, and also get other helpful information.”
The good Mr. Mitchell welcomed the captain to his stateroom, pleased to be honored by a call from the now famous captain.
“Pardon me, Mr. Mitchell,” the captain said, “but I am here to ask a personal favor. As you know, we have on board, as a member of my crew, a young man who has just experienced a very remarkable conversion. You may have heard him mentioned as ‘the man with the marked Bible.’ He has an interesting history. We also have aboard, as a passenger, a certain Rev. Mr. Anderson, of the seventh-day people, who seem to have this young man under his influence, and who, I am sure, will sooner or later seek to trouble him over the Sabbath matter. So I am taking an interest in the case. I have asked the young man to call on me this evening, and I have promised to show him that Sunday is the true day of worship. Now what I wish you to do is put me in touch with all the texts in which Sunday is mentioned.”
Had the Captain Been Deceived?
Was it a smile, a frown, or a look of disappointment and chagrin that stole over Mr. Mitchell’s face as he heard the captain’s request? Whatever it was, it did not express pleasure.
“Captain,” said he, “there are no such texts. You will have to acknowledge that the word ‘Sunday’ is not between the two lids of the Book of God.”
“But, Mr. Mitchell, I could almost take an oath that I have seen it and read it.”
“Not in the Bible, captain. You will find mention, a few times, of the first day of the week, but not of Sunday; and even the first day of the week is not spoken of as being sacred. You have undertaken a difficult task in attempting to show reasons for Sunday keeping from the Scriptures.”
Though he had lived sixty years, Captain Mann had never heard even a hint of this which Mr. Mitchell had now so boldly asserted. He was shocked, if not almost stunned. It could not be true, he reasoned. Was he himself the deluded one? He hesitated.
Mr. Mitchell was a man of brilliant intellect. For more than thirty years, he had stood before the public, and he was known in both Occident and Orient as a fearless defender of the church and its work. With infidel, with atheist, with foe within and without the church, he had never feared to battle, and he had not failed to win laurels. However, he had always and consistently refused to enter into argument with the Sabbatarians, for he knew the impossibility of making good his case. It was only logical, therefore, that he addressed the captain as he did, and bluntly stated the truth he knew.
Seeing that the captain had been greatly perturbed by his plain, matter-of-fact statement, he proceeded to explain why, without a “Thus saith the Lord,” he still observed the first day of the week.
Custom the Only Basis
“Captain,” he continued, “any reliable student of church history will tell you that there is only one foundation for our practice of Sunday worship, and that is the custom of the early church. Both Christ and His apostles, and those immediately associated with them, believed in and practiced the observance of the seventh day of the week, the Sabbath of the fourth commandment; and not for several hundred years after Christ, was there any such thing known as a sacred regard for Sunday as we know it to-day. The change was brought about gradually, through the influence of churchmen; but we must not suppose that they had divine sanction for it. It was simply the outgrowth of a change in the spirit of the times.
“Over and over again I have had to tell my friends in private what I have said to you. And I have said to them what I must now say to you also, — that though the change came about in a way with which we might not really agree, yet it came, and the only reasonable course for us to take is to indorse it as go ahead with God’s great church to evangelize the world. It is too late now to attempt a reformation.
“And now a bit of advice: Give the matter a wide berth. The agitation of the question only creates many embarrassing situations, and gives the few who still believe in the absolute requirements of the moral law an opportunity to advance their arguments, which are practically unanswerable. I think you will readily see my point. Deftly turn the young man aside with the thought that God is love, that He has led His church throughout the ages, and still leads it, and that while we may not be able to explain all, we may safely go ahead with the great work of preaching Christ, and wait another time to have some of our queries removed. This usually satisfies, and undoubtedly will in this case.”
“Thank you, doctor,” was the captain’s response as he politely withdrew and returned to his stateroom.
The Captain Acknowledges His Error
Meanwhile Harold Wilson had been finding some very interesting material regarding the origin of Sunday observance, though it did not mean as much to him at that time as it did later. His spiritual eyes were just beginning to find an opening, and he saw but little. However, he was blessed by what he did see, and had become anxious to meet the captain and hear what he would say.
Mr. Anderson smiled, yet seriously, at what the captain had thought to do. Thousands of equally honest and devoted men had attempted the same thing before, but only to find and obey the truth, or else plunge deeply into willing ignorance and dishonest opposition. He was much interested to hear what Captain Mann would say.
Ill at ease, indeed, was the captain; for not only had he been rudely awakened to the fact that he had long believed what was not true, but he had also been counseled by an ambassador of Christ to practice what seemed to him a kind of dishonesty. He had always prized his own sincerity, and he would continue to do so. This was his decision: He would meet Harold Wilson, and acknowledge that there was no mention of Sunday in the Bible. Further than this he could not see; for he still believed, notwithstanding the minister, that Sunday was sacred.
Harold came, with his Bible in his hand, with leaflets in his pockets, with the beginnings of truth in his soul. He seated himself with an air of expectancy.
“Young man,” — the captain came at once to the point, — “I want to tell you, right at the first, that I have been mistaken in regard to Sunday’s being mentioned in the Bible. It isn’t there. The first day of the week is spoken of a great many times, and it was this I had in mind. So I acknowledge my error. But my mistake does not alter the fact that the Lord Jesus changed the day, and that His apostles afterwards looked upon the first day of the week, the day of the resurrection, as the Lord’s day, and held their meetings on that day.”
“How many times, captain, do you think the first day is mentioned?”
“Oh, a great many times, I should naturally suppose! Of course, I cannot give the exact number.”
Harold pulled from his pocket a small leaflet, and proceeded to read from it.
“This shows that it is mentioned only eight times, and that in not one case is it spoken of as sacred. Maybe this isn’t true; but it gives the references, and asks us to look them up. Here they are: Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2, 9; Luke 24:1; John 20:1, 19; Acts 20:7; and 1 Corinthians 16:2. Suppose we read them, captain.”
The Eight Texts Examined
One by one the eight passages were found and read.
“Now, captain, you are acquainted with the Bible, and I am not. You must therefore let me ask a few questions, in order that I may find out what I want to know. So will you please tell me which of these references show that the first day of the week took the place of the seventh as the Sabbath day?”
Captain Mann pointed to the meeting of the apostles on the resurrection day, and said: “It seems clear that they were holding some kind of service in honor of His resurrection; for it says (Luke 24:36) that Jesus stood in the midst of them, and said, ‘Peace be unto you.’ At this time, He breathed upon them the Holy Ghost, and sent them forth to preach that He was risen. Do you not think this a reasonable explanation?”
“That sounds all right, captain; but here is something you overlooked.”
Again Harold referred to the leaflet. “I see here that when the disciples met that night, they were having their supper (Mark 16:14); and when Jesus came, they gave Him some broiled fish and some honeycomb (Luke 24:42). They had the doors barred for fear of the Jews. (John 20:19. They did not believe He was risen; for when He appeared to them, they were terrified, thinking
they saw a spirit. (Luke 24:37). And then Christ reproved them because they believed not (Mark 16:14, and only said, ‘Peace be unto you,’ to calm their fears. Besides all this, Thomas didn’t believe in the resurrection for a number of days later. John 20:24-27.
Resolves to Go to the Bottom
“Really, captain, they couldn’t have been celebrating the resurrection when they didn’t believe in it, could they?”
“Young man, where did you get all this? I never heard these things before. But I must say you seem to be right. I have to be honest.
“There is another text, though, one that we read, which clearly teaches that the believers in the apostles’ time observed the first day of the week. Look at Acts 20 again. Here it plainly states that they met on the first day of the week to break bread.”
Again the young convert turned to the leaflet in his hand, and then said: “Captain, that meeting must have been on Saturday night, for it was on the dark part of the first day of the week, and the dark part of the day comes first. Genesis 1:5, 8, etc. Paul preached until midnight because he was going to Assos the next morning. Acts 20:7. Then he ate his supper (verse 11), talked on till daylight, and then, during the light part of Sunday, walked nineteen miles across the isthmus to Assos. He surely didn’t keep the day as a sacred day. It rather looks as though it was a special meeting, called at an irregular time in order to accommodate Paul, and the breaking of bread was to satisfy hunger rather than to commemorate the Lord’s death.”
At this point, the gong sounded for change of watch, and Harold hastened away to duty.
Captain Mann seemed almost dazed. The thought of having been wrong in his ideas for so many years, and that a minister of the gospel had advised him to close his eyes to admitted errors, was almost too much for him.
“Can it be,” he said aloud to himself, “that I am wrong also in other things? If I could be so entirely out of line concerning those simple texts regarding the resurrection, then it may be that in other matters not so simple I may be still farther away from the right.
“Very shortly, if God permits it, I shall have another interview with Mr. Mitchell. I intend to get at the bottom of this thing.”