Catholics and the Change of the Sabbath Part I


Written by: D. M. Canright

Adventists repeat this assertion, in various ways, so constantly that their people believe it to be absolutely true.  Their children are taught this as thoroughly as they are the Bible.  Any one at all familiar with their teachings needs no proof that they make the above claim.  Mrs.  White says:

“The Pope had changed it [the Sabbath] from the seventh to the first day of the week.” (Early Writings, p.  65)

The following is from the Signs of Times Magazine, October, 1914:

“Sunday is the first day of the week and its observance belongs to the Catholic Church.”

“Every one who accepts the Sunday institution as a Sabbath thereby accepts an institution of the Catholic Church.”

“The Catholic Church says: ‘By my divine power I have abolished the Sabbath day and command you to keep the first day of the week!  And lo, the entire civilized world bows down in reverent obedience to the command of the Holy Catholic Church.'”

But there are two damaging objections to this theory:

First: Adventists assume and argue on the assumption that the “Catholic Church” began to be formed about three hundred years after Christ.  Hence, if the Catholic Church did change the Sabbath, the change could not have been made before that late date.  Then they easily find, and gladly quote, a large number of Catholic catechisms, Catholic priests, and Catholic challenges to Protestants, all boasting that the Holy Catholic Church changed the Sabbath.  Adventists say that this settles the question.

Second: But in this they ignore, fail to state, another claim which all these same Catholic authorities always make just as strongly, namely, that their Holy Catholic Church extends back to, and began with, the apostles, and that the change was made by them.  If Adventists accept one claim of the Catholics, then, to be fair, they should accept both.  But this would overthrow their argument.

Now the simple fact is, the original “Catholic” Church, which did actually begin with the apostles where the day was changed, is not the same Church as the Roman Catholic Church, or the Papacy, of a much later date.  The ground on which the Roman Catholic Church makes the false claim that she changed the Sabbath is by making the further false claim that the present Roman Church extends back to, and includes the apostles, who, they readily agree, made the change.  Both these facts are abundantly proved by the testimony of Catholics themselves.  It is by ignoring these fundamental facts that Adventists can use quotations from Catholics as they do.  Their lay members and the common people do not know this, and hence are easily deceived.

No class of people denounces the Roman Church more strongly than Adventists do.  They pronounce them deceivers, false teachers, perverters of history, and their boastful claims they repudiate as worthless, all except on the change of the Sabbath.  Here they hold up, and publish to the world, her mere assertion as settling the question beyond dispute.  The Catholics offer no proof of their claim that they changed the day.  They assert that they did and leave it there.

Adventists gladly accept this without any proof.  Consider now: The Roman Catholic Church makes all the following boastful claims:

1.  The Roman Catholic Church is the only true Church.

2.  St.  Peter was the first Pope of the Holy Catholic Church.

3.  The present Pope of Rome is the lineal divinely appointed successor of St.  Peter.

4.  The Pope of Rome is the Vicar of Jesus Christ upon earth.

5.  The Pope is infallible.

6.  The Pope holds the keys to heaven.

7.  All, including Adventists, outside of the Catholic Church are heretics.

8.  Protestants are indebted to Catholics for the Holy Scriptures as it is given to them.

9.  Catholic priests have authority to forgive sins.

10.  The Roman Catholic Church changed the Sabbath from the seventh day to Sunday, the first day.

The Catholic Church strongly claims all these ten items.  What do Seventh-Day Adventists say to these assertions?  They quickly deny all the first nine, say they are all lies, without any foundation in fact.  But when you come to the tenth one, the change of the Sabbath, then Adventists fall over each other to accept every word of this as the infallible truth.  It settles the question beyond dispute.  “The Catholic Church just owns it right up” that it did really do the job!!

To illustrate: Adventists bring their chief witness into court.  But when he is sworn they acknowledge that nine-tenths of his testimony is a lie, is perjury, but one-tenth of what he swears to is true.  On this they claim they have won their case!  Selah!

Any judge would quickly throw out of court such testimony as worthless, yet this is the witness, and the only witness, Adventists can produce saying that the Roman Church changed the Sabbath.  See any of their publications on this point.

We will now examine this witness.  The Roman Catholic Church claims to extend back to the apostles and include them.  This is so well known that no proof need be offered.  Yet I will give a few quotations.  Cardinal Gibbons is the highest Catholic authority in America.  His work of 480 pages, “The Faith of Our Fathers,” is written expressly to prove that the modern Roman Catholic Church dates back to Christ and the apostles and has continued in an unbroken succession down to the present time.  He claims that St.  Peter was the first Pope and that his office and authority have descended unbroken through all the Popes to the present one.  On page 58 he says: “The true Church must be Apostolical.  Her ministers must derive their power from the apostles by an unbroken succession.”

On page 67 he gives a table of the true Church, the Catholic, thus:

Name of Sect Place of Origin Founder Year Authority Catholic Church Jerusalem Jesus Christ 33 New Testament On pages 68 and 69 he says all the Protestant sects “came fifteen hundred years too late to have any pretensions to be called the Apostolic Church.” “The Catholic Church, on the contrary, can easily vindicate the title of Apostolic, because she derives her origin from the Apostles.” “Thus we go back from century to century till we come to Peter, the first Bishop of Rome, Prince of the Apostles, and Vicar of Christ.” On page 81 he says: “She is the only Church which is acknowledged to have existed from the beginning.” Again, page 161, “St.  Peter, the first Pope in the long, unbroken line of Sovereign Pontiffs.”

The “Catholic Dictionary,” Article “Catholic Church,” says: “General or universal.  It was applied to the true Church spread throughout the world.” “The present Catholic Roman Church is the Church founded by Christ.”

I have just examined a large number of Catholic works from the smallest catechism up to their great “Encyclopedia,” and all agree in contending that the Catholic Church goes back to the apostles and includes them with Peter as the first Pope.  On this assumption they found the claim that whatever was done by the apostles was done by the Roman Catholic Church.  Mark this act well, for on this claim rests the assertion of Catholics that their Church changed the Sabbath.

The Pope.  The name, “Pope,” simply means father.  For centuries after Christ that was the common name for all priests, both in the Roman and Greek Church.  It meant then the same as “pastor ” now means with us.  Later, in the West, it was gradually restricted to bishops only.  In

1073, Gregory VII, in a council, prohibited the use of the title by anyone except the Bishop of Rome.  So, then, the ” Pope,” as that term is now used, did not exist till hundreds of years after the time fixed by Adventists for the change of the Sabbath.  So it could not have been changed by the “Pope.”

The term, “The Catholic Church,” is now commonly used to mean the Church of Rome only, with the Pope at its head, and it is now claimed by that Church as belonging exclusively to itself, excluding all others from that name.  The Roman Church also claims this title exclusively clear back to the apostles, including them as the founders of their “Catholic Church” with Peter as their first Pope.  But this claim is wholly unfounded and contrary to the plainest facts of history.  The “Catholic Church” is one thing, the “Roman Church” another thing, and the “Papacy” is still another thing, each differing from the other.

“Catholic” means general, or universal.  Beginning with the apostles, or soon after, this was used by Christians the world over to distinguish the Christian Church from the Jewish Church, which was national and local.  Later, when heresies came up, “Catholic” meant all orthodox believers everywhere, but excluded the heretics.  This continued for over 1,000 years till the final split between the Eastern and Western Churches, A.D.  1052.  Then the Eastern Church assumed the title of “The Greek Oriental Orthodox Catholic Church,” while the Western Church still continued to use the common name “Catholic.” The” New International Dictionary” says:

“Catholic: 1.  Universal or general; of, or pertaining to the Church universal, designating or pertaining to, the ancient, undivided Church, or a Church or Churches historically continuous with and claiming to be a true representation of it, hence, of the true Apostolic Church; orthodox.  The term Catholic originally designated the whole body of Christian believers, was officially appropriated as a title by the Western Church at the time of its separation from the Eastern Church [1052], which assumed the title of Orthodox.  After the Reformation, the Church of Rome, or Roman Catholic Church, asserted its exclusive right to the title and although this right has not been recognized by the Reformed Churches, specially that of the Anglican communion, in practice the title is often so restricted.”

This is the truth exactly as to the historical use of the term “Catholic Church.” It began with the Apostolic Church and was used by the undivided, or whole Church, during all the early centuries for over a thousand years.

I have before me a book entitled, “Catholic Principles,” by Rev.  J.  W.  Westcott, Episcopalian.  In this he gives abundant historical proof showing that the term, “Catholic Church,” began with the apostles, or immediately after, and embraced all true Christians of orthodox faith in all the world.  It continued to be so used till the eleventh century when the Eastern, or Greek Church, separated from the Western, or Roman Church, in A.D.  1052.  Then Rome assumed to itself the term Catholic, contrary to its former use through the first eleven centuries.  Mr.  Westcott says:

“To start with, we must be careful not to be misled by the use of names, phrases, and expressions, which meant one thing in the third and fourth centuries and mean quite a different thing in the mouths of modern Roman Catholics in the present century” (page 206).  “When Protestants use the word Catholic, they generally refer to the Roman Catholic Church; and it is often a matter of great surprise to them to find that a hundred million of men claim to be Catholics, who are not Roman Catholics at all” (page 55).  Again, he says, and correctly too:

“The quotations we have now given from the early Christian writers prove beyond question that both in name and theory the Christian Church was Catholic from the very first Apostolic days (page 65).

Thus Johnson’s “New Universal Cyclopedia,” Article “Catholic Church “: “The phrase, Catholic Church, is equivalent to ‘universal Church,’ and cannot properly be limited to any particular sect or body.  It was once employed to distinguish the Christian Church from the Jewish, the latter being restricted to a single nation, while the former was intended for the world.”

Hence we must remember that the “Catholic Church” for over ten hundred years included all orthodox, or evangelical, Christians the world over.  The great Eastern, or Greek Church, which was founded by the apostles, and was never ruled over by the Roman Church, was the first and by far the largest part of the Catholic, or universal, Church.  It bore that title before the Roman Catholic Papacy existed.  Hence, it is true that the Catholic Church was founded by Christ and the apostles; but this was very different from the Roman Church or Papacy of centuries later.

Hence, when correctly understood, we have no objection to saying that the Sabbath was changed by the “Catholic Church,” for the change was made by the apostles, the founders of the “Catholic,” or universal Church.

Rome is not the “Mother Church.” That title belongs to the great Eastern Greek Catholic Church, founded by the apostles long before the Roman Catholic Church existed.  That Church now numbers one hundred and fifty millions and is the original “Catholic Church.” She was the “Mother Church,” and the Roman Church for three hundred years was only a mission church, founded and supported by the Eastern Greek Church.  This fact is abundantly supported by history.

Thus Right Rev.  Bishop Raphael, of Brooklyn, N.  Y., Bishop of the Eastern Greek Church, writes me, March 30, 1914:

“The official name of our Church is ‘The Holy Orthodox Catholic Apostolic Church.’ It was founded in the time of the apostles and by the twelve apostles, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner-stone.  Beginning on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) our Church has never been subject to the Roman Church, or to the Latin Popes, or to the Papacy.  The Roman Church herself was a Greek Mission for nearly 300 years, and the Greek language was the tongue in which the Liturgy, or Mass, was said in the city of Rome.  The Church of the East has never from the first been known by any other name than Catholic, nor has she set aside this title in any official document.

So, then, the historical facts are these: The original Catholic Church began with the apostles, and included all Orthodox Christians centuries before the corrupt Roman Catholic Church came up.  This later Papal Church had nothing whatever to do with changing the Sabbath.  The false claim that the Roman Church changed the day is based on the further false claim by Romanists that she is the original pure apostolical Catholic Church.  Intelligent Adventist ministers know this very well, and are not guiltless in omitting to state it.  Generally, however, their members are entirely ignorant of these facts.  They ignorantly suppose that the Roman Catholic Church is the only Catholic Church.

 Catholics and the Change of the Sabbath Part II

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