Keeping the Sabbath on a Round Earth, An Impossibility That Armstrong's 6 Months of "Intensive Study" Should Have Uncovered
(The following article was taken from the book "The Sabbath and the Lord's Day" by H.M. Riggle, pages 26 31, and was written back in the 1920's. He selected much of this material from "Seventh-day Adventism Renounced," by Canright. This is an excellent article and brings out points that are extremely hard to refute. This book was available back in those years when Herbert Armstrong is supposed to have done all of his day-and-night intensive study at the local library. How did he miss this book? And if he read it, how was he able to refute its facts or did he even want to?)
In their very nature all purely moral laws are universal and eternal in their application, are binding in heaven, in Eden, on Jews or Gentiles, saints or sinners, now or hereafter. Test the particular seventh day, Saturday, by that rule, and it fails everywhere. All the universe might keep a seventh part of time, but not the same seventh part. Not knowing this, see what blunder Mrs. Ellen G. White made. She says: "I saw that the Sabbath would never be done away, but the redeemed saints, and all the angelic host, will observe it in honor of the great Creator, to all eternity."--Spiritual Gifts, vol 1., p. 113.
Uriah Smith, a leading Adventist, says: "We infer that the higher orders of his intelligences keep the Sabbath also. . . The Sabbath of each of his creatures will be the Sabbath of all the rest, so that all will observe the same period together for the same purpose." --Biblical Institute, page 145. In a discussion held at Oakland, Pa., I publicly asked leading ministers of the Adventist movement whether it is their teaching that God and the angels of heaven keep the seventh day with them. I asked in particular: "Do you believe that when the sun sets on Friday evening and you begin keeping Sabbath, that God and the angels begin also to keep the same time, and thus the heavenly hosts and you folks on earth keep the same identical time together?" They both replied: "This is our teaching."
Look at the utter absurdity and impossibility of the theory. All intelligent beings in heaven and earth and on all the planets, keep "the same period together." Adventists, like the Jews, keep Sabbath from sunset to sunset (Lev. 23:32). Now I shall prove by stubborn facts that they cannot all "observe the same period together."
Everybody knows that it is Saturday in India some twelve hours sooner than it is here, and that it is Saturday here twelve hours after it has ceased to be Saturday there. In Australia the day begins eighteen hours sooner than it does in California. So the seventh-day brethren in California are working nearly the whole time that their brethren in Australia are keeping Sabbath! Come even nearer home than that. The sun sets about three hours later in California than it does in Maine. So when the Seventh-day Adventists in Maine begin to keep the Sabbath at sunset Friday evening their own brethren in California, where the sun is yet three hours high, will still be at work for three hours! So very few of them on this earth "observe the same period together." While some of them are keeping Sabbath on one part of the earth, others of them are at work on another part of the earth. How much less, then, do all the heavenly host keep the same period with men on earth.
Now, if, as Mrs. White and Uriah Smith say, the angels keep our Sabbath, the question is, With which party do they keep it? With those in Australia, or those in America? If the angels keep the Sabbath at the same time the Sabbatarians keep it in Australia, then the Sabbatarians in America are working while the angels keep Sabbath, and so, of course, the angels work while those here rest. So we see how absolutely false and absurd is the theory that all can keep the Sabbath at the same time.
Adventists at Washington, D. C., really suppose that when the sun sets Friday evening and they begin keeping Sabbath, the Lord and the angels begin keeping it, too. Oh, what blindness! If the Lord keeps the Sabbath with them at Washington, then he does not keep it with their brethren on the other side of the globe, because they begin the Sabbath at least twelve hours earlier than we do here. In fact, it takes just forty-eight hours, or the time of two whole days, from the time any one day begins in the extreme east till it ends at the farthest place in the west. Will the reader stop and think carefully, sharply, on this point, for it is an important one? It takes twenty-four hours for the first end of a day to go clear around the earth. Then, as the last end of the day is twenty-four hours behind the first end, it must also have twenty-four more to go clear around the earth, and that makes forty-eight hours in all that each day is on the earth somewhere.
So for the Lord and the heavenly host to keep Sabbath with all the Adventists on earth, they would have to keep the time of two whole days each week. And in that case, those on this side of the earth would be working while the Lord was keeping the Sabbath with those on the other side of the earth; and those on the opposite side of the earth would be working while the Lord was keeping Sabbath with those on this side. Thus, none of them would keep Sabbath with the Lord, after all! In fact, there is not a single hour in the week when there is not some Sabbatarian at work on some part of the earth!
What, then, becomes of Mrs. White's statement that "all the angelic hosts" keep our Sabbath? or Uriah Smith's hypothesis that all the universe "will observe the same period together"? Both are utterly absurd. The same definite seventh day cannot be kept by all the universe; even on this earth alone it cannot be kept by all at the same time. This adds another proof that the seventh day Sabbath with its rigorous limitations and exactions, as enjoined in the law, was only a Jewish institution, to be carried out by a small people, in a limited territory--the land of Canaan. Under the new dispensation, the gospel was to go to all nations, to all climates, around the earth. Hence the keeping of a definite Sabbath Day is left out of the gospel system, the rest now enjoyed by Christians being a spiritual rest of the soul, every day of the week.
Test the seventh-day theory in the frozen regions of the north. The law declared that the day must be kept from sunset to sunset (see Lev. 23:32). In the extreme north in the winter there are months when the sun is not seen there at all, so they have no sunset. And again, in summer there are months when the sun is above the horizon all the time, when there is no sunrise. This difficulty confronts the Adventists of northern Sweden and Norway. Here their theory breaks down again. They have to reckon the day by artificial means. This again proves that that law was for the Jews. What endless and needless difficulties people get themselves into trying to keep a law that was designed only for the Jews in a limited locality! How contrary to the freedom and simplicity of the gospel!
Another great difficulty that stands in the way of Sabbatarianism is, Where shall we begin the day? If a man's salvation depends upon keeping the same day to the hour that God kept it at creation, then it is infinitely important that we know exactly where his day began, so as to begin ours there too. But the Lord has not said a word about it, nor given the least clue respecting where to begin the day. The day is now generally reckoned to begin at a certain line 180 degrees west from Greenwich, England. It runs north and south through the Pacific Ocean about 4,000 miles west of America.
Prof. E. S. Holden of Lick Observatory says: "There is no one date when the day-line was established there; but it was during the last hundred years. It was established there for convenience. Besides Greenwich, it has been reckoned from Canary Islands, Tenereffe, Ferro, Paris, Berlin, Jerusalem, Washington, etc." So we see:
1. It is only within the last hundred years that the day-line has been fixed where it now is.
2. This was done merely for convenience, not because there was anything in nature requiring it.
3. At different times the day-line has been counted from at least seven different places, from Jerusalem in the east to Washington in the west, about 8,000 miles difference, or one-third the way around the earth. Hence the beginning of the seventh day has varied this much at different times.
4. In another century it may be changed again.
5. There is just as much authority for one place as the other, and no divine authority for either, as it is all man's work and done at haphazard.
6. Hence, so far as duty to God is concerned, any nation, church or society is at liberty to begin the day wherever they please. One place will be just as apt to be in harmony with God's day-line as another.
Sabbatarians in America can fix their day-line in the Atlantic instead of in the Pacific, and then our Sunday will be Saturday, and they will be all right and convert a nation in a day! Indeed, this is exactly parallel to what Seventh-day Adventists have done in the case of a colony in the Pacific Ocean. Pitcairn Island, in the Pacific, was settled one hundred years ago by persons who brought their reckoning eastward from Asia. But it happens to be on the American side of the present day-line; hence their Sunday was our Saturday, and they all kept it one hundred years as Sunday.
According to Adventists, this was an awful thing, for Sunday is the Pope's Sabbath, the mark of the beast! So the Adventists went there and persuaded them all to keep Saturday. How? They simply induced them to change their reckoning of the day-line a few miles, and lo! their Sunday was Saturday! Now they are all pious Sabbath-keepers, while before they were keeping Sunday, the mark of the beast! And yet they are keeping exactly the same day they kept before. If this is not hair-splitting, tell me what is. It illustrates the childishness of the whole Sabbatarian business. Now let the Adventists just shift their day-line a little farther east to include America, and they can keep Sunday with the other people. Does the salvation of a man's soul depend upon such mathematical uncertainties as these? If it does, we may well despair of heaven.
The law said keep the seventh day from sunset to sunset (Exod. 20:8-11; Lev. 23:32). Now let two Adventists start from Chicago, one going east, the other west, around the earth. Each keeps carefully the seventh day as the sun sets. When they meet again at Chicago they will be two days apart! One will be keeping Sunday and the other Friday. How will they now manage it? Each gives up his seventh day, and both take that of the world. So they have only a worldly day, after all.
Look, also, at the difficulty in crossing this supposed day-line in the Pacific Ocean. Going west, a day is dropped going east it is added, and this is done at noon of the day which finds them nearest the supposed line. On the vessel, a man going west sits down to dinner 11:50 a. m. Friday. While he is eating the time is changed, and he rises from dinner Saturday noon! Then he has only six hours of Sabbath till sunset. But coming east, he sits down to dinner Saturday noon and rises from dinner Friday noon! He has kept eighteen hours Sabbath; then it is gone in a second at high noon, and he has six hours to work till sunset. Now he must begin Sabbath once more and keep it over again--twenty-four hours. In one case he keeps only six hours of Sabbath, and in the other case he keeps forty-two hours!
These stubborn facts demonstrate the utter absurdity of the Sabbatarian view. It proves that the strict keeping of days was confined to the Jews of Palestine.
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