Liberty of Conscience Threatened, Part 5
The Papacy Claims Change of the Sabbath
But notwithstanding all the efforts to establish Sunday sacredness, papists themselves publicly confessed the divine authority of the Sabbath and the human origin of the institution by which it had been supplanted. In the sixteenth century a papal council plainly declared: “Let all Christians remember that the seventh day was consecrated by God, and hath been received and observed, not only by the Jews, but by all others who pretend to worship God; though we Christians have changed their Sabbath into the Lord’s Day.”—Ibid., pages 281, 282. Those who were tampering with the divine law were not ignorant of the character of their work. They were deliberately setting themselves above God.
A striking illustration of Rome’s policy toward those who disagree with her was given in the long and bloody persecution of the Waldenses, some of whom were observers of the Sabbath. Others suffered in a similar manner for their fidelity to the fourth commandment. The history of the churches of Ethiopia and Abyssinia is especially significant. Amid the gloom of the Dark Ages, the Christians of Central Africa were lost sight of and forgotten by the world, and for many centuries they enjoyed freedom in the exercise of their faith. But at last Rome learned of their existence, and the emperor of Abyssinia was soon beguiled into an acknowledgment of the pope as the vicar of Christ. Other concessions followed. An edict was issued forbidding the observance of the Sabbath under the severest penalties. (See Michael Geddes, Church History of Ethiopia, pages 311, 312.) But papal tyranny soon became a yoke so galling that the Abyssinians determined to break it from their necks. After a terrible struggle the Romanists were banished from their dominions, and the ancient faith was restored. The churches rejoiced in their freedom, and they never forgot the lesson they had learned concerning the deception, the fanaticism, and the despotic power of Rome. Within their solitary realm they were content to remain, unknown to the rest of Christendom.
The churches of Africa held the Sabbath as it was held by the papal church before her complete apostasy. While they kept the seventh day in obedience to the commandment of God, they abstained from labor on the Sunday in conformity to the custom of the church. Upon obtaining supreme power, Rome had trampled upon the Sabbath of God to exalt her own; but the churches of Africa, hidden for nearly a thousand years, did not share in this apostasy. When brought under the sway of Rome, they were forced to set aside the true and exalt the false sabbath; but no sooner had they regained their independence than they returned to obedience to the fourth commandment. (See appendix note below.)
These records of the past clearly reveal the enmity of Rome toward the true Sabbath and its defenders, and the means which she employs to honor the institution of her creating. The word of God teaches that these scenes are to be repeated as Roman Catholics and Protestants shall unite for the exaltation of the Sunday.
Protestant America in Bible Prophecy
The prophecy of Revelation 13 declares that the power represented by the beast with lamblike horns shall cause “the earth and those who dwell in it” to worship the papacy—there symbolized by the beast “like a leopard.” The beast with two horns is also to say [to] “those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast;” and, furthermore, it is to command all, “both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave,” to receive the mark of the beast. Revelation 13:11-16. It has been shown [see the chapter in this series entitled "The Second Beast of Revelation 13"] that the United States is the power represented by the beast with lamblike horns, and that this prophecy will be fulfilled when the United States shall enforce Sunday observance, which Rome claims as the special acknowledgment of her supremacy. But in this homage to the papacy the United States will not be alone. The influence of Rome in the countries that once acknowledged her dominion is still far from being destroyed. And prophecy foretells a restoration of her power. “I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast.” Verse 3. The infliction of the deadly wound points to the downfall of the papacy in 1798. After this, says the prophet, “his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast.” Paul states plainly that the “man of sin” will continue until the second advent. 2 Thessalonians 2:3-8. To the very close of time he will carry forward the work of deception. And the revelator declares, also referring to the papacy: “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life.” Revelation 13:8. In both the Old and the New World, the papacy will receive homage in the honor paid to the Sunday institution, that rests solely upon the authority of the Roman Church.
Since the middle of the nineteenth century, students of prophecy in the United States have presented this testimony to the world. In the events now taking place is seen a rapid advance toward the fulfillment of the prediction. With Protestant teachers there is the same claim of divine authority for Sundaykeeping, and the same lack of Scriptural evidence, as with the papal leaders who fabricated miracles to supply the place of a command from God. The assertion that God’s judgments are visited upon men for their violation of the Sunday-sabbath, will be repeated; already it is beginning to be urged. And a movement to enforce Sunday observance is fast gaining ground.
The Great Controversy, pp. 577-580
*Appendix note: The Ethiopian church and the Sabbath.--Until rather recent years the Coptic Church of Ethiopia observed the seventh-day Sabbath. The Ethiopians also kept Sunday, the first day of the week, throughout their history as a Christian people. These days were marked by special services in the churches. the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath has, however, virtually ceased in modern Ethiopia. For eyewitness accounts of religious days in Ethiopia, see Pero Gomes de Teixeira, The Discovery of Abyssinia by the Portuguese in 1520 (translated in English in London: British Museum, 1938), p. 79; Father Francisco Alvarez, Narrative of the Portuguese Embassy to Abyssinia During the Years 1520-1527, in the records of the Hakluyt Society (London, 1881), vol. 64, pp. 22-49; Michael Russell, Nubia and Abyssinia (quoting Father Lobo, Catholic Missionary in Ethiopia in 1622) (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1837), pp. 226-229; S. Giacomo Baratti, Late Travels into the Remote Countries of Abyssinia (London: Benjamin Billingsley, 1670), pp. 134-137; Job Ludolphus, A New History for Ethiopia (London: S. Smith, 1682), pp. 234-357; Samuel Gobat, Journal of Three Years' Residence in Abyssinia (New York: ed. of 1850), pp. 55-58, 83-98. For other works touching upon the question, see Peter Heylyn, History of the Sabbath, 2d ed., 1636, vol. 2, pp. 198-200; Arthur P. Stanley, Lectures on the History of the Eastern Church (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1882), lecture 1, par. 1; C. F. Rey, Romance of the Portuguese in Abyssinia (London: F. H. and G. Witherley, 1929), pp. 59, 253-297. [return]
Next part: Liberty of Conscience Threatened, Part 6: Catholicism Gains Ground
All Scriptures are quoted from the New King James Version, including those originally quoted by Ellen White from the King James Version.—Editors