THEOLOGICAL DISAGREEMENT AND CONFUSION
HUMAN nature enjoys a fray; and as the word was passed around among the passengers that the Rev. Mr. Spaulding intended to take the theological warpath, a buzz of excitement was at once created, and here and there little groups could be seen discussing what might happen the next day.
Captain Mann wore a smiling face and maintained a strictly neutral air, but inwardly he was sharing the spirit of intensity which seemed to have taken possession of the passengers.
Mr. Spaulding, immediately after his conversation with Mr. Anderson, in which he had felt his position rudely shaken, sought out his fellow ministers and invited them to his room for a consultation.
The veil of secrecy must of necessity be thrown around much that took place as the three good clerical brethren met and considered the situation. Suffice it here to say that when the Rev. Mr. Mitchell learned, after his arrival, the purpose of the meeting, he devoutly wished himself elsewhere. He distinctly saw that his brother minister had made a mistake, and that unless much care and wisdom were exercised, great embarrassment was sure to follow.
Couldn’t Agree Among Themselves
That which most distressed them all in their planning was the fact that they seemed utterly unable to agree among themselves. Mr. Spaulding believed that the Sabbath had been abolished at the cross; Mr. Mitchell held that it had bee changed, and rightly, by the early church; while the Rev. Mr. Gregory was bound to teach that the seventh day of the fourth commandment should be observed, but that Sunday was the true seventh day.
Seeing the hopelessness of reconciling these divergent and conflicting views, Mr. Mitchell finally ventured to repeat the advice he had given Captain Mann; namely, that the wise course to take would be to ignore the question, and emphasize such points as God’s love and world evangelism; and thus cause the ordinary inquirer to forget and pass on.
“But, Brother Mitchell, I cannot do that,” interposed Mr. Spaulding. “I have put myself on record, and have openly announced that at two o’clock I will meet all who are interested. I have to do something.”
“Yet you will find, brother, that if you attempt to show that the moral law has been abolished, you have brought the whole question into a tremendous tangle. Why, you can see that as soon as you claim the abolition of the whole law, just to get rid of the Sabbath, you have really taken from us the only standard of righteous living ever given to the world.” Thus spoke the
Rev. Mr. Gregory.
“Oh no, brother! for we now have the new law, and are under its jurisdiction,” said Mr. Spaulding.
Mr. Gregory States a Truth
“Well, I have heard that argument over and over again,” replied Mr. Gregory, “but always to be convinced more fully of its weakness, if not its absurdity. Did not Jesus Christ clearly teach, all through the Sermon on the Mount, the inviolability of the law? Read Matthew 5:17, 18 and onward, and see. And did not Paul, by inspiration, make the decided statement that faith establishes the law? See Romans 3:31. Then listen to James, who actually quotes the sixth and the seventh commandment, thus showing what law he means, and, in close connection, directly calls it ‘the royal law,’ ‘the law of liberty,’ the law by which men are finally to be judged. James 2:8-12.
Brother, the ‘new law’ of which you speak is only the Decalogue made new by the life and power of Jesus Christ. And that old law made new includes the Sabbath, and no one can escape it. Cannot you see that?”
“But, my dear friend,” Mr. Spaulding very earnestly responded, “if you take that position, you will certainly have to surrender our custom of Sunday worship; for there is absolutely no doubt that Saturday is the seventh day of the week, and therefore the day to be kept, according to the commandment. The only way to avoid the seventh day is to be freed from the commandment itself.
“One or two points make clear that the seventh day we have now is the same seventh day known at the beginning: first, the wording of the commandment itself; second, the preservation of the day from Sinai till now.
The commandment is explicit. It says: “the seventh day is the Sabbath. . . . For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth. . . . and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.’ In other words, the seventh day to which the commandment refers is the same day of the week God kept at creation. This is as certain as that English is English.
And you and I and every other intelligent man know that the Jewish nation has most carefully preserved the weekly reckoning from Sinai until now, and to-day is actually keeping the Sinaitic seventh day. There has been no loss in the count.
“And let me call your attention to another fact which cannot be gainsaid. It is this: Jesus Christ kept the seventh day of the week, just as the Jews did, all His earthly life. Read Luke 4:16 and other Scriptures. Therefore, if you are going to have any Sabbath at all, you must, as a Christian, do as He did.”
“You are hitting pretty hard, my brother,” said Mr. Gregory, with some show of warmth, “and I am not sure that you are not doing me a bit of injustice. You forget, I think, that more than once the calendar has been changed, and that days have been added or dropped in order to make proper adjustments.”
“Very true, good friend; but you are surely not so ignorant (pardon my plainness) as to suppose that changes of calendar affected the order of the days of the week. The weekly cycle has never been altered. The Gregorian calendar of A. D. 1582 dropped out ten days; and Thursday, October 4, was followed by Friday, October 15. Russia still followed the old style of reckoning until a few years ago; but her days of the week were the same as ours. Without doubt, our week, with its seventh day, has come to us without change from time immemorial. I was reading only yesterday that of one hundred sixty ancient and modern languages and dialects, one hundred eight actually know the seventh day by the name ‘Sabbath’ or its equivalent; and the writer stated that all of them ‘bear testimony to the identity and order of the days of the ancient and modern week.’ He also added that the testimony adduced ‘is equally positive that the order of the days of the week is the same now as from the beginning of nations.’ To my mind, this is incontrovertible evidence. A Sunday Sabbath is impossible.”
“Brethren,” interrupted Mr. Mitchell, “you will surely agree with me now that my suggestion made at the beginning of our interview has in it at least a measure of good judgment. I repeat that the situation is one which is embarrassing; and I advice that Brother Spaulding make an effort to sidetrack the main question, and introduce some minor feature tomorrow. To carry these controverted points before any intelligent audience, and especially before one that has in it a man of the Rev. Anderson’s abilities, is but to invite a theological catastrophe.”
With this counsel adopted as a basis for the work of the next day, the good brethren separated.
There was no lack in interest or attendance when the hour appointed by Mr. Spaulding came.
It was generally understood that he would attack the Sabbath question “without gloves;” and naturally interest centered on Mr. Anderson, for it seemed inconceivable that he would allow Mr. Spaulding’s statement’s to go unchallenged.
Mr. Anderson, however, sat in a somewhat secluded position, evidently having no purpose to enter into controversy. To him, debate was painful, and he avoided it always if possible.
“My Christian friends,” — thus began Mr. Spaulding, — “I am profoundly convinced that many questions relative to our various beliefs can never be fully and satisfactorily settled. In fact, I believe it is not the plan of God that they should be. No one can know absolutely that he is right. All doctrines are relative. Truth to-day may be error to-morrow.
“The question of the Sabbath is one of the unsettled points of faith. One denomination holds one position, another holds another. The Mohammedan observes Friday; the Jew and the Adventist, Saturday; the Christian world as a whole, Sunday.
“Of course, we are all aware that the question of which day a person keeps is not one of primary importance, but rather the spirit with which he keeps it. Let me remark, therefore —”
The Inconsistency of a Sunday Proponent
“Pardon me, Dr. Spaulding” (the speaker was a plain but scholarly looking man of nearly seventy winters, who sat directly in front of the minister), “but do you really mean to have us believe that you think it matters not whether we keep Friday or Sunday, provided we have the right spirit? Did I not hear you say yesterday that if anyone should keep the seventh day he would become ‘almost a Christ killer?’ You certainly led us to the conclusion that a great deal of importance attached to the matter of which day we keep, and that to-day you would show that the ‘seventh-day business,’ as you termed it, ‘is a pretty small affair.’
“Now, as a matter of absolute fairness to all concerned, will you kindly answer this question: If the particular day is not really important, then shouldn’t we consider Saturday as good as Sunday for our rest day? I am not a Sabbatarian, but I do love the idea of fair play.”
Mr. Spaulding hesitated, and was evidently confused. His well planned diversion was failing. With difficulty, however, he attempted to proceed.
“Before the interruption, I was about to say that —”
“But, doctor, I insist on an answer. I have good reason for so doing, as you ought to know. You surely cannot have forgotten that in Arkansas, a few years ago, you appeared in my court to make complaint against a Sabbatarian for having done ordinary work on Sunday. You pressed the case by every means at your command, and by mere technicalities, succeeded in securing a conviction. You will recall that the poor fellow whom you prosecuted was obliged to lie in prison for many months, and all because you and your fellow clergymen tenaciously insisted upon the sacredness of your particular rest day. Do you now repudiate the doctrine which you at that time indorsed?”
All present now realized the hopelessness of Mr. Spaulding’s position; and while they shared in the judge’s desire for fair play, they inwardly longed for something to happen that would relieve the good brother of his embarrassment. Providentially something did “happen.”
“Dr. Spaulding, allowing the judge’s question to be answered a little later, may I interrupt you to ask if you can give us a little light on the subject of the day line? Captain Mann informs me that we are nearing the day line, and that to-night we must drop a day from our reckoning. To-morrow, therefore, instead of having a Tuesday, we shall have a Wednesday. What effect, as you understand it, does this change have upon the matter of a definite day of the week as Sabbath?”
The questioner was a San Francisco merchant, a man who had often made the transpacific trip, and who therefore was fully informed regarding the problem of the day line.
Mr. Spaulding quickly brightened at the mention of the day line, and smilingly consented to give his opinion. In fact, he was making an effort to reach this particular point when interrogated by the judge.
“I am glad, sir, to have you introduce this question; and with the judge’s permission to pass his question for the present, I will venture a brief statement.
“I suppose all or nearly all are aware that in crossing the Pacific Ocean east or west, a day must be added or dropped. Going west, we are obliged to skip a day; and going east, to repeat a day. For instance, to-night we shall retire during the hours of Monday, and tomorrow morning we shall wake up to find that we are passing through the hours of Wednesday. We shall have no Tuesday at all.
“Now, suppose I am a Sabbatarian, and ardently believe in the absolute sacredness of Saturday. I am going to China. I reach the day line Friday evening, and begin to keep my Sabbath. Then I retire with a worshipful spirit, anticipating the joys of the holy time for the morrow. I sleep. I wake. It is morning. But, lo, instead of its being Saturday, my good captain tells me it is
“Then I become excited and confused. The thing bewilders me. I thought my theory correct, but find it incorrect. The fourth commandment, I discover, doesn’t fit a big, round world. My Sabbath slipped away from me without even so much as a farewell. If I have to keep any day at all, I have to keep Sunday.” (How often do hard facts, disprove senseless theories!)
“I think you will all agree with me that, if I am ordinarily intelligent, I will come to the conclusion that God never meant that seventh day for me, at least while crossing the Pacific; for when I tried to keep it, I couldn’t. But if I cannot keep it while journeying, I ought not to try to keep it at any time. And so, as a sensible man, I will say to myself: ‘Spaulding, don’t be foolish. Don’t burden yourself down with impossible dogmas. Be free. Keep away from Jewish ceremonies.’
“I need say no more. The point is self evident. The day line forbids the keeping of definite days.”
“May I ask a question?” said Mr. Severance, the merchant.
“Certainly, if it is pertinent, and I doubt not it will be,” replied the minister.
“I observe Sunday and live in San Francisco. Do you believe I really can keep Sunday in that city?”
“Yes; because in San Francisco, the days come to you regularly, and you are without question.”
“Would it be possible for me to have my Sunday in Peking?”
“Certainly,” was Mr. Spaulding’s answer, “and for the same reason.”
“Another question: Is Sunday at Peking the same day that is known in San Francisco?”
“Without doubt, for the day travels around the earth.”
“Now, Brother Spaulding, you have said just what I wanted. You say the day travels. It must, then, have some place at which it ends its journey. What place is that? To be sure, you must say, The day line. And all days begin and end at the same place, one day following another in exact order.
In that case, can there be any valid reason for actual confusion, or for supposing that we cannot keep the count of the days? If you are willing to yield the floor for a time, I should like to call for a few words from our captain.”
“Captain Mann! Captain Mann!” came the call from all directions. All eyes were turned to him. Would he agree with Mr. Spaulding?