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The Sabbath a Shadow? A defence by George Abbot.

In this third and final instalment on the Christian Sabbath we return to George Abbot's Vindiciae Sabbathi and in particular his response to Master Broad's claim of substantiating the abrogation of the Fourth Commandment by appealing to Colossians 2:16,17.

Note: The writer has updated the spelling, grammar and language of the original work and it is sincerely hoped that such revisions have not detracted from the intent or meaning of Masters Abbot and Broad.


The Objection: The Sabbath was a shadow and has now passed away.

Saint Paul in his second Chapter of the Epistle to the Colossians has these words, “Let no man judge you in meat, or drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ.” Here by Sabbath the weekly Sabbaths are meant as I gather.

1. Because St. Paul uses another word which doth most properly signify the festival days, (ἑορτή).

2. Unless by Sabbaths in this place the weekly Sabbaths be meant, we have not the least warrant in God's word for working on the Jew’s Sabbath.

3. Taking it for granted that we do not keep the Jew’s Sabbath, how it is credible that St. Paul being Christ’s only Doctor about days, and handling this matter purposely in three Epistles, should not give us to understand as much in one of them, and if in any in this.

4. Thus it is taken by very many great Divines St. Augustine: terms the Sabbath - Sacramentum ambratile spir: & lit: cap: 14. Calvin speaking of the Fourth Commandment saith “umbratile veteres nuncupare solent”, so that it seems the Fathers generally for Sabbaths here understood the weekly Sabbaths, and therefore termed the Fourth Commandment shadowy.

5. I know no more but two or three in print who take it otherwise, and all that they can say, is that it is Sabbaths in the plural number, but Sabbaths imports the weekly Sabbath in many places. Again that with Sabbaths are adjoined meats and drinks, and therefore that St. Paul speaks of such Sabbaths as are in rank with them, which manner of arguing is termed Petitio principles [begging the question]: This is all that ever I knew alleged by any, which is so little, that it only argues a will to say something, it is not so much as a shadow of sound proof.

Besides this text in the second chapter of Colossians there are other pregnant enough to prove, that the Sabbath was a shadow, type or ceremony, as that Exod: 31. 13. and and the like may be gathered by Heb: 4. but of these texts more shall bee said hereafter.

Master Abbot now addresses the objections raised by Master Broad:

1. However there may be another word used to signify festival days, yet you cannot deny, but it is frequent to name their festivals, Sabbaths: because of the rest and analogy which they had common with the weekly Sabbath. And such is the sense of this text, as may probably appear by these following reasons which you so slightly evade.

A. Because it is Sabbaths in the plural number, for the Greek word where it signifieth the weekly Sabbath, and not the week itself, is for most part either expressed in the singular number, or if in the plural, then it is joined with a word singular, and after this manner it is also every where translated both in English and Latin, but in this Col 2:16. there are none of all these.

B. Because Sabbaths are adjoined with such things (in this place of Col) which are indisputably abrogative and merely Jewish, and therefore are these the likelier to be such. For as Dr. Andrews saith of the Sabbath, how that it had been folly to have put a ceremonial law amongst the moral; so say I in this case, that it were strange if God, who is the God of order and not of confusion, should by his Apostle in this place mix one of the ten moral commandments with the hand writing of ordinances, things merely ceremonial and abrogated.

To which two reasons I add these which follow.

(i) The Apostle himself did condescend to keep the weekly Sabbath with the Jews (not only for a time, as he did some of the Jewish holy-days as also their other rites, but at all times and in all places as occasion offered) as being a thing of a different nature from their Sabbaths which he taught.

(ii) These three Holy-days, New-moons and Sabbaths are but (as I may so say) synonyms in sense signifying as it were one and the same thing, in the intention of the Apostle by divers expressions: for were not new moons holy-days, and holy-days Sabbaths, so that if you dispose from a seeming tautology you may as well argue against new-moons as Sabbaths. And I would know why holy-days and sabbaths may not be as well one and the same in this place of Colossians as in Isa 58: 13 ("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" ), of them in the one place signifying the weekly Sabbath, and in the other place the Jewish Sabbaths. Which synonym does rather appear from that Gal 4:10 (which is the same in effect with this of the Col 2:16:) where the Apostle by days, months, times and years, means things of the same nature and ordination, to wit, the Jewish abrogated Types and Ceremonies such as begun with Man’s Fall (or rather with Moses) and ended with Christ’s Resurrection (unto which the converted Gentiles did too much adhere) not such as began in Paradise, and shall end in Heaven.

But whereas it may be objected: that doubtless had not the Apostle intended all Sabbaths in the word plural, he would have made some particular exception of the weekly Sabbath, considering how considerable it was so to do, if he would have had the weekly Sabbath to be understood to be still of force.

To this I answer that the first day of the week or Lord’s Day having taken footing among the convert Gentiles to whom the Apostle wrote, he might with less scruple use the word Sabbaths absolutely without exception; considering that all Sabbaths (eo nominee [by that name]) were outlawed. Though now as the case stands we in these times are forced to re-assume the name Sabbath, not thereby to shoulder out the more worthy name of Lords Day, but to vindicate the authority of the Fourth Commandment, and to testify our judgements touching the new Sabbath; like as the primitive times are reported to take up the wearing of the Cross to testify their profession and confession of a crucified Christ against their opposers.

2. To your second reason I answer that our warrant to work on the Jews seventh day is the Fourth Commandment, which proportions us out six days for our worldly affairs, and the seventh for an holy rest, which is the total and moral sense and sum of that Commandment, and which we still observe, the order being occasional and temporary, but the number moral and perpetual, as I have proved before. And therefore the Apostles did imply a nullity of the one by the bringing in of the other, according to the nature of the Commandment and the Prophecy of Isaiah 65. 17 (For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.) So that if you think it meet to retain the Lord’s Day in our Church (as you do in your premonition) then must you grant the order to be changed. For it was never the Apostle’s meaning nor in their power, when God by a perpetual law from the beginning had given us six days for labour and destined the seventh to an holy rest, to have turned it into five days labour and two days rest. For amongst the Jews, when Holy-days were so frequent, there was never any weekly Holy-day ordained, to go cheek by jowl with the Sabbath, but either monthly or yearly. So that as Moses's serpent ate up the Sorcerers' serpent, so hath our seventh day eaten up theirs. Generatio unius est corrupt alters [Let the corruption of one be the generation of another]. Our new Heaven and new Earth have given us a new Sabbath and new rest. For old things are passed away, and all things are become new.

3. To your third reason I answer that Paul in like case speaks in divers places of ministers maintenance, and yet saith never a word to clear the controversy of tithes, whether they be or be not Iure divine [God's law], but he preaches the substance, to wit, a meet maintenance to be necessary. So in Paul’s discourse of times and day (as also of other things) although he satisfy not our fancies, who cannot see afar of, yet doth he answer the will of the Holy Ghost, who for reasons whereof we are incapable spares to do what we expect. And indeed the reason of Paul’s not preaching the Sabbath's alteration might be because it was neither safe nor convenient. For it must needs have given great offence to the Jews, (seeing it had a place amongst the moral Commandments) who were so precise in the punctilious of times, as that they would have been of your opinion, that either their seventh day or none was moral: and so would have taken advantage to vilify his doctrine, as if he had gone about to overthrow the Moral as well as the Ceremonial Law; the sun shine of the Gospel being too bright for their weak eyes to behold all at once. And therefore the Apostle, condescending to their infirmities, chose rather to insinuate the Lord's Day tacitly by his practice, than by his doctrine. For so I behoved him in those times, wherein he became all to all that he might win some. And therefore did he take occasion on the Jewish Sabbaths to preach the Gospel in their Synagogues, when yet we see how that privately he sanctified the Lord's Day with Chistians.

Therefore I conclude that this Scripture is nothing concerning the weekly Sabbath (whereof he writes nothing at all directly for the reasons aforesaid) but of the Jewish Ceremonial Sabbaths which he must needs cry down, if he set up Christ. The shadow must vanish, when the substance comes in place. And of this the converted Jews were mostly as well persuaded without offence as the converted Gentiles. But of this sort was not the weekly Sabbath, as I have proved elsewhere, and as further is evident from the 92nd Psalm: which is dedicated to the Sabbath Day, but none of the rest of the Psalms to any of the legal ceremonies, from which I may thus reason.That seeing the Book of the Psalms, was ordained for the consolation of the militant Church unto the World's end, (as may appear by the Apostle's exhoration) it seems not consonant to reason, that a part of Gods perpetual worship should be dedicated to a temporary ceremony.

To your fourth and fifth I answer, that how the Sabbath is said to be shadowy, we have shown before, and shall have more occasion hereafter to enlarge it.

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