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Responding To Excuses For Not Keeping The Seventh-Day Sabbath



Lt 35, 1877

Oakland, California

November 6, 1877

Portions of this letter are published in TDG.

Dear Sister [Caroline Clough]:

I have decided that it would not be profitable for you or for me for us to have conversation together on any points of differences. You make your statements so recklessly and so sweeping that it is hopeless to attempt in conversation to say things which will give the right impression, and will be repeated to have the correct meaning. {Lt35-1877} 

My words to you at the commencement of the Sabbath, I fear, have not been repeated in a way to give the impression I gave you. You drew your conclusions from my words and repeated them as my words. I should not feel justified in saying in just these words that my sister—or any other one—would not be saved if she did not keep the Sabbath. And yet the import would be this in conversation, but with conditions and many things connected that would modify this statement in every way. {Lt35-1877} 


 I felt badly that you, my sister, and Mary felt so little conscience upon the observance of the Sabbath which reads so definitely and so explicitly. The answer came, “O, you are so narrow, contracted, so small in your views of things. I am satisfied with my Sabbath and do not expect to change my views.” {Lt35-1877} 

I said, “I thought you acknowledge the Sabbath of the fourth commandment, the seventh day, to be binding.” {Lt35-1877} 

You said, “Yes, I suppose it is, but there are only a few weak people who keep it. Do you suppose that those who keep the Sabbath are the only ones to be saved, and all the rest of the world will be lost? Our great men and our good men of our church, if it were essential to salvation that we should keep the Sabbath, I guess would see it and keep it. I guess I will be safe if I keep the day all the world keeps. I will risk it any way. I have got a very merciful God who is not as narrow and rigid as you folks are. I am glad of this.”{Lt35-1877} 

You May As Well Break The Commandments Now And Then—Said I, “This is the will of God that ye keep His commandments. These very words you use sinners, backsliders, and infidels have repeated before you to justify their course of sin and transgression of God’s law. The mercy of God does not excuse one transgression of the moral law. The fourth commandment is placed in the very bosom of the decalogue, and you may just as well say, ‘I will steal a little now and then, and murder a man occasionally, and God is too merciful and too gracious to suffer me to be lost. All the world do these things, professed Christians do these things. If I come out as well as they, I will risk it.’” {Lt35-1877}

“That,” said you, “is a very different thing, altogether a different thing. But still you did not make me see the difference—why one precept of the decalogue was not to be as sacredly regarded as another.” The answer was, “Oh, you are so rigid, so narrow, contracted, believing nobody will be saved only you who keep the Sabbath. You are a little, few, weak people, and yet you think you are the only ones right and all the world will be lost because they keep Sunday. I am happy. I have liberty in prayer and have good meetings with my people. Great men and good men of our church have studied the Bible as much as you folks, and they would know if such great importance is attached to the keeping of the very day. If I keep one day in seven, I shall come out right enough, if it is not the exact seventh day you lay such stress upon.” {Lt35-1877} 

I stated the words of Christ: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:17-19. {Lt35-1877}

You again repeated that great and good men did not keep Saturday and you would risk it; if you did as the rest did you would come out all right, for you had a very merciful Father. I answered, “And because God is merciful, will you continue in sin that grace may abound? Paul answers: ‘God forbid. I had not known sin but by the law.’” I said, “Light is given and if those who see the light acknowledge the validity of the fourth commandment and would do as you claimed to be doing—risk the transgression of God’s law because the world did not keep it—I could not see how God could save them in their transgression of the fourth commandment, while they were trampling upon the Sabbath He sanctified and blessed and set apart for man to observe, any sooner than He could save a man who should steal or murder or commit adultery.” {Lt35-1877} 

“Oh,” said you, “that is entirely another matter, for that would concern our fellow men. The keeping of the seventh day or not keeping it does not harm my fellow men. It is between me and God alone.” {Lt35-1877} 

And yet you rob God of the only day He has set apart for Him. I referred to the words of Christ. Those who should break one of these least commandments and teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. Your influence, your example is saying to others, “The fourth commandment says the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord, but it is of no manner of consequence whether you attach any sacredness to this fourth commandment or not if you keep the other nine. I will risk it. I shall be saved if I do not believe as you do.” {Lt35-1877} 

“But,” said I, “can you be saved as a transgressor of God’s law? If the light has come and you will not see it because your good men and your great men will not see the plain light of truth and close their eyes to evidence, you take the very position the Jews took in reference to Christ. He said of them, ‘Ye will not come to Me that ye might have life.’ John 5:40. ‘Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.’ John 3:19. ‘If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin.’” John 15:22. {Lt35-1877} 

It is the indifference and neglect of light that have held men captives to the power of unbelief and Satan. It is never safe to set aside one ray of light from heaven because professedly good men and great men venture the consequence. Christ did not have the multitude to believe on Him, notwithstanding the convincing evidences which attended His teachings. {Lt35-1877} 

Paul declares, “Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in His presence.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-29. {Lt35-1877} 

In (Luke 12:42) we read: “Nevertheless, among the chief rulers also many believed on Him: but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” {Lt35-1877} 

The question was asked of the Pharisees concerning Christ, “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on Him?” The same spirit which actuated the Jews against Christ will actuate professed Christians who refuse to accept the truth, against those who do and who keep the commandments of God. It is dangerous business even to be indifferent to the light of truth, and to reject it and close the eyes to the light is rejecting that which heaven has sent to man just as really as God sent His Son into the world. The Jews rejected Christ: the professed Christian world reject the law of God. {Lt35-1877} 

The history of the Reformation teaches us that the light of truth is not accepted and cherished by the majority. Those who have advanced in reform, obeying the voice of God, Go forward, have met with opposition. Men have sacrificed their lives for the truth. What if they had taken the position you take? I am a Methodist. I am satisfied with my faith. I shall always be a Methodist. I will go with the crowd. What advancement would the Reformation have made? We are accountable for the light that shines in our day. We must walk in that light or the words of Christ are applicable to us: “This is your condemnation, that light has come into the world and men chose darkness rather than light.” {Lt35-1877} 


I have been reported as saying you could not be saved unless you kept the Sabbath. Does it indeed seem meaningless, the requirement of the fourth commandment? Does not the habitual subjection to our heavenly Master’s will lead the obedient to ask constantly and earnestly, not, What is pleasing? not, What is most convenient or agreeable to self or those around us? but, What does my Lord require? What is the will of God concerning me? Is it anything strange that one should do this or that under the conviction of the Spirit of God, under a sense of the fact that a refusal or neglect to do so would endanger his soul’s salvation? Is this a matter hard to be comprehended, that obedience on our part to all God’s law is absolutely essential to eternal life? Is this an unfathomable mystery to the Christian, to secure the soul’s salvation at any cost to self or selfish interest? Does the Word of God give us any assurance that we can get to heaven just as well transgressing the law as obeying it? If so, the whole requirements of God as a condition of salvation is an entire mistake. {Lt35-1877} 

The inhabitants of the old world who perished in the flood—were they punished for their disobedience of God’s requirements? Or were they washed by the waters of the deluge straight into glory because our merciful God is too good to execute the final penalty of transgressing His law? Were the Sodomites punished for their disobedience and just Lot saved? Or were the inhabitants of Sodom winged by the fire that fell from heaven straight into glory? {Lt35-1877} 

Has God commanded? Then we must obey, without hesitating and seeking to find out some way to be saved without obedience. This would be climbing up some other way. “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” “I have kept My Father’s commandments,” says the Majesty of heaven. {Lt35-1877} 

Our salvation depends upon our keeping all of God’s commandments. Perfect obedience without hesitancy or doubt is all that God will accept. We should not even obey the commandments merely to secure heaven, but by obedience to please Him who died to save sinners from the penalty of the transgression of the Father’s law. The sinner’s salvation depends upon his ceasing to transgress and obedience to that law he has transgressed. No one should venture or presume upon the mercy of God, feeling at liberty to sin as much as he dares, and not abandon the hope that God will finally pardon and save. It is a sad resolve to follow Christ as far off as possible, venturing as near the verge of perdition as possible without falling in. {Lt35-1877} 

It was a great sacrifice Christ made for man in dying for him upon the cross. What are we willing to sacrifice for His love? Jesus says, “If ye love Me, keep My commandments”—not to select out one or two or nine, but the whole ten—all His commandments must be kept. John tells us of those who pretend to love, but do not obey God’s requirements. “He who saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not grievous.” {Lt35-1877} 

You may say, So you believe all the learned world are wrong and a poor company, greatly in the minority, looked upon as ignorant, common people, are all that will be saved? I answer, Jesus was among the lowly of the earth. He did not take His position by the side of the learned rabbis or the rulers. He was not found among the potentates of earth, but among the lowly ones. The truth was never found among the majority. It was ever found among the minority. The angels from heaven did not come to the school of the prophets and sing their anthems over the temple or synagogues, but they went to the men who were humble enough to receive the message. They sang the glad tidings of a Saviour over Bethlehem’s plains while the great men, the rulers, and honorable men were left in darkness because they were perfectly satisfied with their position and felt no need of a piety greater than that which they possessed. Teachers in the schools of the prophets, the scribes and priests and rulers, were the worst persecutors of Christ. Those who made the highest pretensions to spiritual light were the very ones who slighted and rejected and crucified Christ.{Lt35-1877} 

Great men and professedly very good men may do terrible deeds, in their bigotry and self-exalted position, and flatter themselves that they are doing God service. It will not do to rely upon them. Truth, Bible truth, you and I want at any cost. Like the noble Bereans, we want to search the Scriptures daily, with earnest prayer, to know what is truth, and then obey the truth at any cost to ourselves, without reference to the great men or good men. If truth is in the Bible we can find it there as well as the good and great men. God help us to be wise unto salvation, is my prayer. {Lt35-1877}


Thoughts From Additional Letters Sent To Caroline Clough


You claimed to have liberty in prayer and in meetings. Is this the criterion of Christian character? Dare you trust to feelings as an evidence of fellowship with God? “To the law and to the testimony: If they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Isaiah 8:20. The mild beloved disciple has said, “He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” 1 John 2:4. The Word of God is very plain and pointed. It is dangerous business to profess to be a follower of Jesus and in works deny Him by indifference even to one of His requirements. {Lt35a-1877} 

The history of the Reformation teaches us that the church of Christ is never to come to a standstill and cease reforming. God stands at the head, saying to them as He did to Moses, “Go forward.” Cf. Exodus 14:15. “Bid the children of Israel, Go forward.” God’s work is onward, step by step His people advance onward, through conflict and trial, to final victory. The history of the church teaches us that God’s people are not to be stereotyped in their theories of faith, but to be prepared for new light, for opening truth revealed in His Word. {Lt35a-1877} 

The past history of the advancement of truth amid error and darkness shows us that sacred truth is not cherished and sought after by the majority. Those who have advanced in reform, obeying the voice of God—“Go forward”—have been subject to opposition, torture, and death; and in the face of gaping prisons and threatened torture and death, they deemed the truth for their time of sufficient importance to hold tenaciously, yielding their life rather than to sacrifice their faith. They counted not their life dear unto them if sacrificed for the truth of God. The truth in our day is as important as it was in the days of the martyrs. We should cherish the principles of truth just as sacredly as they cherished the truth in their day, in face of the world and every specie of opposition. {Lt35a-1877} 

What if in Luther’s day men had taken the position you take, covering their disobedience to God’s requirement with: “God is too merciful to condemn me for not taking unpopular truth. Our great men and our good men do not accept it. I will run the risk of transgressing God’s law because the world rejects it. I am a Methodist. I am satisfied with my religion. I shall always be a Methodist. I will risk going with the crowd.” {Lt35a-1877} 

If I go with the crowd the Bible tells me I am in the broad road to death. Said the Majesty of heaven, “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Matthew 7:14. We are accountable for the light which shines in our day. Christ wept in agony over Jerusalem because they knew not the time of their visitation. It was their day of trust, their day of opportunity and privilege. Jerusalem’s sin was her abuse of past privileges. The record of hundreds of years of privileges and blessings enjoyed by the Jewish nation was unfolded to the eye of Christ. The foul ingratitude, the hollow formalism, the hypocritical insincerity of hundreds of years called these tears of irrepressible anguish from His eyes. {Lt35a-1877}


How many are not only transgressing the law of God themselves, but are teaching others to do so by their indifference and their disrespectful speeches in regard to those who do keep the law of God. All this direct and indirect influence will be met in the judgment. The ten commandments are the requirements of God for all time and are binding upon every man, woman, and child, laying them under perpetual obligation. They can never be repealed or their binding force lessened while the human family continues and while men have property, life, and character to be protected. While good and evil results are the effect of man’s conduct, just so long will the law of God control us. When God consents that man need not love Him, reverence His name, or keep His Sabbath holy, then will the law lose its force. Obedience is required not only to one precept, but to all. He that offendeth in one point is guilty of all. The ten precepts of Jehovah are like ten links of a single chain; the violation of one breaks a link, and the chain is severed. {Lt35a-1877}


Professed Christians of today who reject light will be no more favorable to those who receive and rejoice in the light of truth than the Jews in the days of Christ. If they had known that He was the Prince of Life, they would not have crucified Him. Why did they not know? Because they refused every evidence given them that Christ was the Messiah. God gives light today upon truth, but men, without searching with humble heart to compare Scripture with Scripture, take the course the Jews took. They will look upon the believers as a little, weak people, a few fanatics, and will speak derisively of them. They will belittle their faith. They will love and cherish the lies some have made up in regard to them. They will repeat the foolish stories that have come to their ears and belittle the faith of a God-fearing, conscientious people who would sacrifice their life rather than one principle of truth. They are God’s faithful noblemen in the world, and yet are jeered at and ridiculed and laughed at for their peculiar faith. {Lt35a-1877}


The Sabbath is of divine appointment. It stands in the center of a list of divine requirements. What right has man to drop out one of these rules of life? Who has authorized the blotting out of the fourth any more than the second or the eighth? If the fourth commandment is not binding upon man, how then can the law of murder be binding? The moral law is not exclusively Jewish. The ceremonial, the social, and the political laws delivered to Moses when he was in secret council with God on the mount were for Israel; but the moral law, spoken in awful grandeur from the smoking mount, in the hearing of all the people, and written on the tables of stone, was for all men who should live upon the earth till the close of time. {Lt35a-1877} 

The Sabbath is mentioned among things which are to be remembered, and not to pass out of our minds. It is endeared to God as a memorial of His creative works. It is the prince of days, bearing the holy signet of Jehovah. He sanctified and blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart for man to keep holy in respect to Himself. God has declared that He will certainly punish a violation of His day, and He will bless those who observe it according to the commandment. Very great and professedly very good men may show no regard for this sacred institution, but this will be no excuse for me. We have God’s word against theirs. Which shall we heed? They may, by their practice, show contempt of that which God has sanctified. God has, on the other hand, rested upon that day and blessed it. Whose example is it safest to follow?—the practice of man or the example of God Himself who made and sanctified the day of His rest? {Lt35a-1877} 

“Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it.” Isaiah 56:2. “If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on My holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour Him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” Isaiah 58:13, 14. {Lt35a-1877} 

Christ, the Saviour of the world, did not have the multitude believe on Him, notwithstanding the miracles which He wrought. {Lt35a-1877}