The Sabbath.—The antiquity and perpetual obligation of the fourth commandment and the Sabbath are most emphatically taught by the Dutch Reformed Church. Here are typical examples:
"We have many institutions in connection with religion, and we reverence them for their antiquity, but more ancient than all these, is the Sabbath. The Lord's supper, baptism, public worship, and calling on the name of the Lord, yes, even the holy Scriptures come to us from the very distant past, but further back than all these we can trace the Sabbath. It is something that has remained of paradise and where it is properly observed, it always helps us once more to taste the joys of paradise."—Die Voorligter, (The Guide), October, 1940, editorial, (N. G. of H. Kerk, Johannesburg, 1940.)
"Here we read how God regards the Sabbath day and how He expects that His people should regard the day. The Sabbath is called a sign between the Lord and His people. This expression shows the importance of this day. The Sabbath day was a sign of God's special favour to His people. His separation of this people from other nations, a sign of the separation of this people unto the service of God, a sign of their duty to obey the Lord. . . . This was a regular, unchangeable institution and was to continue from generation to generation. Is this rest day also a sign between the Lord and us?"—A. J. VAR WYK, Uit die Beek, (Out of the Brook) (1935), pp. 68, 69, comment on Ex. 31 :17.
The brother of the late Dr. Andrew Murray likewise testified about God's Sabbath:
"The Lord promised to make this a day of great blessing to His true worshippers. Yes, he calls the Sabbath a sign or pledge of the relation between God and His people. (Eze. 20:12, 20) Happy is the person who appreciates and highly regards this pledge of God's love; God will bless him. Unfortunate is the man who would tread under-foot this pledge. He despises the love of God."—John Murray, Katkisasiebock (Catechism), 131, 15.
"The fourth commandment is an institution of God's love: thereby one day each week is especially set apart for His own service, and when God commands us to sanctify the Sabbath to His services, it is because of our own need. God is not in need of our poor services. The Sabbath was made for man because man had to earn his bread in the sweat of his brow and needed a rest day; and certainly this institution was not only for the people of Israel, but it is just as much for us."—Ibid., p, 137.
In commenting on Exodus 16 in the annual daily devotional help, the moderator wrote:
"There was a Sabbath day in the desert. The rest day is one of the oldest institutions. God rested on the seventh day and sanctified it. Before the law was given to Israel on Mt. Sinai, the Lord had ordained the Sabbath to be kept and had given it to the people.
Evidently, the Israelites must have been acquainted with this injunction of God, otherwise they would not have understood it."—A. J. VAN WYK, [lit die Beek (1945), p. 24.
A former professor in their theological seminary made these excellent remarks:
"'Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.' This is the commandment of God. Suppose I give £6 to a poor man, and I keep back £1 for myself, but he then returns and steals the £1 which I reserved for myself, would I not have the right to say, he was ungrateful, impudent, and dishonest? Now, if God gives us six days for all our work, business and pleasure, and then we still take the seventh day for these things, do we not then rob the Lord ? Are we not ungrateful?... This is the day of the Lord, designed for His service and to His honor."—G. B. A. GERDENER, Handboek by die Katkisasie (Handbook for Catechism) P. 357. (S. A. Bybelvereniging,- Cape Town, 1931.)
Can anyone write more emphatically about the Sabbath than the editor of a Sunday school magazine in the following remarks?
"Consider the word 'remember.' One could only remember something that already exists, is it not so? Yes, such was the case, when the law was given at Sinai. The Sabbath was already an institution of God. At creation the Lord God instituted the Sabbath. There were six days for the different acts of creation, and the seventh day was made a rest day. Of those seven days God takes one day and He requires that we should remember that day.
"You know the heart of a kind parent is always tender towards a child that is sickly and weak, or towards a child that may not be able to get along through life because others might rob him of his rights. It is this child which the parent especially requests the other members of the household to look after and protect. The parent, on his deathbed, feels especially concerned about the sickly, crippled child and he desires to commit him to the care of others, as if he would say: 'If it goes well with you in life, then do not forget your weak, sickly brother. Remember him.'
"To put it reverently, our Heavenly Father is especially concerned about the Sabbath. The rights of the other commandments will not be tampered with, but the rights of the Sabbath will be tampered with ! 0, the fierce struggle in life to keep its rights! 0, the great injustice on the part of the world! 0, the general attitude even on the part of God's people to make the Sabbath a common day, a day of pleasure and recreation. Therefore, young people, you should remember the Sabbath day. Come, stand in the breach for the Sabbath, and take the cause or interest of the rest day under your protection and allow no one to rob this day of its rights."—A. C. STEGMANN, Die Kindervriend (The Children's Friend), March, 1942.
It is only when they try to oppose the claims of the seventh-day Sabbath that the Dutch Reformed Church ministers become antinomian. Nevertheless, not all of them fall into this error, as the following statement on the binding obligation of the Sabbath commandment illustrates. It is a candid, unbiased admission.
"Those who refer to texts like Col. 2:16, T7; Gal. 4 ,10, I/ and Rom. 14 :5 as proving that the Sabbath was abolished, certainly have misunderstood these texts and the context in which they are used. For they do not refer to the abrogation of the Sabbath. In Rom. 14 :5, there is reference to the Jewish feast days, like the Passover, Pentecost, etc., but not to the Sabbath. No, the Sabbath is not abolished according to these texts as so many sects try to teach these days. On the contrary, the Lord expects us to observe this important commandment."—J. C. BOTHA, in.SPall, April, 1942. (Official organ of Reddingsdaadbond en Federasie van Afrikaans Kultuurvereniging. Johannesburg, 1942.)
Origin of Sunday Observance
So very little has been admitted about Sundaykeeping being without a divine command, or that Sunday observance is of pagan origin, that the following two quotations are specially valuable to us. In writing against the Pentecostal sects, the writer stated: .
"Yet, this sect observe Sunday instead of Saturday, although nowhere in the Bible is found a direct commandment to do so."--J. J. MULLER, Sektes in Suid-Afrika (Sects in South Africa), p. 25. (S. A. Bybelvereniging, Cape Town, 1938.)
"The word 'Sunday' comes to us from our ancestors of the old Germanic tribes of Europe, who were pagans. . . . 'Sunday' was to them a day on which they bowed before the Sun-god. Sunday in its original meaning is the day on which they worshipped the Sun-god."—A. C. STEGIIANN, Die Kindervriend, March, 1942.
State of dead.—In one respect we have discovered a great problem in evangelism, and this is with reference to our doctrine of the state of the dead and the fate of the wicked. The Dutch Reformed Church readily accepts the truth about the law of God and the Sabbath, but they certainly stumble over the state of the dead. In fact, we have come to the conclusion that it is better to present this subject much later in a series than we do for other audiences. These people firmly believe in the immortality of the soul. Although with a funeral the resurrection is mentioned, they believe it is the resurrection of the flesh, that is, the body, according to their Twelve Articles of Faith. But they believe that at death the soul immediately goes either to heaven or to hell. Still they believe in the coming of Christ to gather His own, and in the final judgment. Sometimes some of them seem to realize the confusion of their teaching.
In recent discussions about one of the Twelve Articles of Faith stating their belief that Christ descended to hell, or hades, they admit that some church fathers brought in pagan philosophy instead of Bible truth on the subject of the state of the dead:
"We find that the trend of thought of the church fathers of the first centuries was very strongly influenced by their concept of the world. Before their conversion to Christianity many of them were pagan philosophers or were educated in the pagan science of those days; consequently their exposition of the scriptures have been influenced by pagan ideas."—S. ENGELBRECHT in Hervormde Teologiese Studies (Reformed Theological Studies), November, 1943, PP. 32, 33. (Teologiese Professore van die Ned. Herv. Kerk aan die Universiteit, Pretoria.)
Likewise some expressed themselves about hades as follows:
"This place is literally, the infernal regions, but 'cloderyk' (realm of the dead, or grave), would be a good translation. This is the general name for the abode of all the departed, without any regard of their relationship to God. Faithful father Jacob (Gen. 37:35 ; 42 :38; 44:29, 31) as well as the wicked Korah, Dathan, and Abiram (Num. 16 :30. 33) descended at death to these infernal regions, the realm of the dead, (or the grave), also the saintly Job (Job 7 :9 ; 17:16) and the wicked, (Job 21 :I 3)."-B. GEM-SEE, Hervormde Teologiese Studies. May, 1944, P.
In rewriting the Voice of Prophecy lessons, we decided to present the state of the dead after the subject of the millennium and heaven. We discovered that on the state of the dead we must include Psalms 89:48, and on the subject of hell we definitely must point out the truth of Matthew 10:28. In other words the soul rests in the grave, and in hell both soul and body will be destroyed by fire. Because so many, objections and questions have poured in on our teaching of the state of the dead, we had to prepare a special pamphlet, titled "Difficult Questions Answered," in both Afrikaans and English.