This father became bishop of Antioch in A. D. 168, and died A. D. 181. First-day writers represent him as saying, “Both custom and reason challenge from us that we should honor the Lord's day, seeing on that day it was that our Lord Jesus completed his resurrection from the dead.” These writers, however, give no reference to the particular place in the works of Theophilus where this is to be found. I have carefully examined every paragraph of all the remaining writings of this father, and that several times over, without discovering any such statement. I am constrained, therefore, to state that nothing of the kind above quoted is to be found in Theophlus! And further than this, the term Lord's day does not occur in this writer, nor does he even refer to the first day of the week except in quoting Genesis 1, in a single instance! But though he makes no mention of the Sunday festival, he makes the following reference to the Sabbath in his remarks concerning the creation of the world:
“Moreover [they spoke], concerning the seventh day, which all men acknowledge; but the most know not that what among the Hebrews is called the `Sabbath,' is translated into Greek the `seventh' (hebdonos), a name which is adopted by every nation, although they know not the reason of the appellation.” - Theophilus to Autolycus, b. ii. chap. xii.
Theophilus is in error in saying that the Hebrew word Sabbath is translated into Greek seventh, his statement indicates that he held the origin of the Sabbath to be when God sanctified the seventh day. These are the words of Scripture, as given by him, on which he wrote the above:
“And on the sixth day God finished his works which he made, and rested on the seventh day from all his works which he made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; because in it he rested from all his works which God began to create.” Book ii. chap. xi.
In the fifteenth chapter of this book, he compares those who “keep the law and commandments of God” to the fixed stars, while the “wandering stars” are “a type of the men who have who wandered from God, abandoning his law and commandments.” Of the law itself, he speaks thus:
“We have learned a holy law; but we have as law-giver him who is really God, who teaches us to act righteously, and to be pious, and to do good.” After quoting all but the third and fourth commandments, he says: “Of this great and wonderful law which tends to all righteousness, the TEN HEADS are such as we have already rehearsed.” Book iii. chap. ix.
He makes the keeping of the law and commandments the condition of a part in the resurrection to eternal life:
“For God has given us a law and holy commandments; and every one who keeps these can be saved, and, obtaining the resurrection, can inherit incorruption.” Book ii. chap. xxvii.
And yet this man who bears such a noble testimony to the commandments and the law, and who says not one word concerning the festival of Sunday, is made to speak explicitly on behalf of this so-called Christian Sabbath!
This father was born about A. D. 160, and died about A. D. 220. He wrote about A. D. 194, and is the first of the fathers who uses the term Lord's day in such a manner as to identify it with the first day of the week. And yet he expressly speaks of the Sabbath as a day of rest, and of the first day of the week as a day for labor! The change of the Sabbath and the institution of the so-called Christian Sabbath were alike unknown to him. Of the ten commandments, he speaks thus:
“We have the decalogue given by Moses, which, indicating by an elementary principle, simple and of one kind, defines the designation of sins in a way conducive to salvation,” etc. - The Instructor, b. iii. chap. xii.
He thus alludes to the Sabbath:
“Thus the Lord did not hinder from doing good while keeping the Sabbath; but allowed us to communicate of those divine mysteries, and of that holy light, to those who are able to receive them.” - The Miscellanies, b. i. chap. i.
“To restrain one's self from doing good is the work of vice; but to keep from wrong is the beginning of salvation. So the Sabbath, by abstinence from evils, seems to indicate self-restraint.” Book iv. chap. iii.
He calls love the Lord of the Sabbath:
“He convicted the man, who boasted that he had fulfilled the injunctions of the law, of not loving his neighbor; and it is by beneficence that the love which, according to the Gnostic ascending scale, is Lord of the Sabbath, proclaims itself.” Book iv. chap. vi.
Referring to the case of the priests in Eze.44:27, he says:
“And they purify themselves seven days, the period in which creation was consummated. For on the seventh day the rest is celebrated; and on the eighth, he brings a propitiation, as it is written in Ezekiel, according to which propitiation the promise is to be received.” Book iv. chap. xxv.
We come now to the first instance in the fathers in which the term Lord's day is expressly applied to Sunday. Clement is the father who does this, and very properly substantiates it with evidence. He does not say that Saint John thus applied this name, but he finds authority for this in the writings of the heathen philosopher Plato, who, he thinks, spoke of it prophetically!
And the Lord's day Plato prophetically speaks of in the tenth book of the Republic, in these words:
“And when seven days have passed to each of them in the meadow, on the eighth day they are to set out and arrive in four days,' By the meadow is to be understood the fixed sphere, as being a mild and genial spot, and the locality of the pious; and by the seven days each motion of the seven planets, and the whole practical art which speeds to the end of the rest. But after the wandering orbs the journey leads to Heaven, that is, to the eighth motion and day. And he says that souls are gone on the fourth day, pointing out the passage through the four elements.” Book v. chap. xiv.
By the eighth day to which Clement here applies the name of the Lord's day is no doubt intended the first day of the week, it being the next day after the Sabbath or seventh day. But having said thus much in behalf of the eighth day, he in the very next sentence commences to establish from the Greek writers the sacredness of that seventh day which the Hebrews hallowed. This shows that whatever regard he might have for the eighth day, he certainly cherished the seventh day as sacred. Thus he continues:
“But the seventh day is recognized as sacred, not by the Hebrews only, but also by the Greeks; according to which the whole world of all animals and plants revolves. Hesiod says of it:
“`The first, and fourth, and seventh days were held sacred.'
“And again: `And on the seventh the sun's resplendent orb.'
“And Homer: `And on the seventh then came the sacred day.'
“And: `The seventh was sacred.'
“And again: `It was the seventh day, and all things were accomplished.'
“And again: `And on the seventh morn we leave the stream of Acheron.'
“Callimachus the poet also writes: `It was the seventh morn, and they had all things done.'
“And again: `Among good days is the seventh day, and the seventh race.'
“And: `The seventh is among the prime, and the seventh is perfect.'
“And: `Now all the seven were made in starry heaven, In circles shining as the years appear.'
“The Elegies of Solon, too, intensely deify the seventh day.” Book v. chap. xiv.
Some of these quotations are not now found in the writings which Clement cites. And whether or not he rightly applies them to the seventh-day Sabbath, the fact that he does so apply them, is incontestable proof that he honored that day as sacred, whatever might also be his regard for that day which he distinguishes as the eighth.
In book vi., chapter v., he alludes to the celebration of some of the annual sabbaths. And in chapter sixteen, he thus speaks of the fourth commandment:
“And the fourth word is that which intimates that the world was created by God, and that he gave us the seventh day as a rest, on account of the trouble that there is in life. For God is incapable of weariness, and suffering and want. But we who bear flesh need rest. The seventh day, therefore, is proclaimed a rest - abstraction from ills - preparing for the primal day, our true rest; which, in truth, is the first creation of light, in which all things are viewed and possessed. From this day the first wisdom and knowledge illuminate us.”
This certainly teaches that the Sabbath was made for man, and that he now needs it as a day of rest. It also indicates that Clement recognized the authority of the fourth commandment, for he treats of the ten commandments in order, and comments on what each enjoins or forbids. In the next paragraph, however, he makes some remarkable suggestions. Thus he says:
“Having reached this point, we must mention these things by the way; since the discourse has turned on the seventh and eighth. For the eighth may possibly turn out to be properly the seventh, and the seventh, manifestly the sixth, and the latter,1 properly the Sabbath, and the seventh, a day of work. For the creation of the world was concluded in six days.” Book vi. chap. xvi.
Clement thinks it possible that the eighth day (Sunday), may really be the seventh day, and that the seventh day (Saturday) may in fact be the true sixth day. But let not our Sunday friends exult at this, for Clement by no means helps their case. Having said that Sunday may be properly the seventh day, and Saturday manifestly the sixth day, he calls “the LATTER properly the Sabbath, and the seventh a day of work”! By “the latter,” of necessity must be understood the day last mentioned, which he says should be called, not the seventh, but the sixth; and by “the seventh,” must certainly be intended that day which he says is not the eighth, but the seventh, that is to say, Sunday. It follows therefore in the estimation of Clement that Sunday was a day of ordinary labor, and Saturday, the day of rest. He had an excellent opportunity to say that the eighth day or Sunday was not only the seventh day, but also the true Sabbath, but instead of doing this he gives this honor to the day which he says is not the seventh but the sixth, and declares that the real seventh day or Sunday is “a day of work.” And he proceeds at length to show the sacredness and importance of the number six. His opinion of the numbering of the days is unimportant; but the fact that this father who is the first writer that connects the term Lord's day with the eighth day or Sunday, does expressly represent that day as one of ordinary labor, and does also give to the previous day the honors of the Sabbath is something that should shut the mouths of those who claim him as a believer in the so-called Christian Sabbath.
In the same chapter, this writer alludes to the Sabbath vaguely, apparently understanding it to prefigure the rest that remains to the people of God:
“Rightly, then, they reckon the number seven motherless and childless, interpreting the Sabbath, and figuratively expressing the nature of the rest, in which `they neither marry nor are given in marriage any more.'”
The following quotation completes the testimony of Clement. He speaks of the precept concerning fasting, that it is fulfilled by abstinence from sinful pleasure. And thus he says:
“He fasts, then, according to the law, abstaining from bad deeds, and, according to the perfection of the gospel, from evil thoughts. Temptations are applied to him, not for his purification, but, as we have said, for the good of his neighbors, if, making trial of toils and pains, he has despised and passed them by. The same holds of pleasure. For it is the highest achievement for one who has had trial of it, afterwards to abstain. For what great thing is it, if a man restrains himself in what he knows not? He, in fulfillment of the precept, according to the gospel, keeps the Lord's day, when he abandons an evil disposition, and assumes that of the Gnostic, glorifying the Lord's resurrection in himself.” Book vii. chap. xii.
Clement asserts that one fasts according to the law when he abstains from evil deeds, and, according to the gospel, when he abstains from evil thoughts. He shows how the precept respecting fasting is fulfilled when he speaks of one who “in fulfillment of the precept, according to the gospel, keeps the Lord's day when he abandons an evil disposition.” This abandonment of an evil disposition, according to Clement, keeps the Lord's day, and glorifies the Lord's resurrection. But this duty pertains to no one day of the week, but to all alike, so that he seems evidently to inculcate a perpetual Lord's day, even as Justin Martyr enjoins the observance of a “perpetual Sabbath,” to be acceptably sanctified by those who maintain true repentance. Though these writers are not always consistent with themselves, yet two facts go to show that Clementin this book means just what his words literally import, viz., that the keeping of the Lord's day and the glorifying of the resurrection is not the observance of a certain day of the week, but the performance of a work which embraces every day of one's whole life.
The first of these facts in his express statement of this doctrine in the first paragraph of the seventh chapter of this book. Thus he says:
“Now, we are commanded to reverence and to honor the same one, being persuaded that he is Word, Saviour, and Leader, and by him, the Father, NOT ON SPECIAL DAYS, AS SOME OTHERS, but doing this continually in our whole life, and in every way. Certainly the elect race, justified by the precept, says, `seven times a day have I praised thee.' Whence not in a specified place, or selected temple, or at certain festivals, and on appointed days, but during his whole life, the Gnostic in every place, even if he be alone by himself, and wherever he has any of those who have exercised the like faith, honors God; that is, acknowledges his gratitude for the knowledge of the way to live.” Book vii. chap.vii.
The second of these facts is that in book vi., chapter xvi., as already quoted, he expressly represents Sunday as “a day of work.”
Certainly Clement of Alexandria should not be cited as teaching the change of the Sabbath, or advocating the so-called “Christian Sabbath.”
1 We notice that one first-day writer is so determined that Clement shall testify in behalf of Sunday, that he deliberately changes his words. Instead of giving his words as they are, thus: “The latter, properly the Sabbath,” in which case, as the connection shows, Saturday is the day intended, he gives them thus: “the eighth, properly the Sabbath,” thereby making him call Sunday the Sabbath. This is a remarkable fraud, but it shows that the words as written by Clement could not be made to uphold Sunday. See “The Lord's Day,” by Rev. G. H. Jenks, p. 50.