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The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. (Westminster Confession of Faith 1.6)
In an anonymously-published article in the January 1849 Methodist Quarterly Review, Thomas Verner Moore addresses the question of by what authority was the Sabbath day changed from the last day of the week to the first? In his discussion of this important question, still as relevant to our church and society today as it was in 1849, he first raises a point that must be considered when answering such. That is the question of whether doctrine may rightly be deduced from Scripture as well as set forth expressly. Let us see how Moore handles this.
We also concede that no merely human power can alter the law of the Sabbath in any particular; and that, if altered at all, it must be by the same authority on which it was originally instituted. The only question then that remains is, Has God made a transfer of the Sabbath from the seventh to the first day of the week?
The evidence on which we are warranted to receive this transfer must be similar to that on which we receive other articles of our faith. God has declared his will by various modes of manifestation. Sometimes he has announced it in the most explicit terms; at other times he has left it to be gathered by inference from several particulars. Thus, before the utterance of the fourth commandment, the Sabbath was binding on the patriarchs; but this obligation was with many of them not a matter of direct revelation, but an inference that such was the primitive revelation.
There are many things likewise in New Testament times, concerning which we are left to infer the will of God from differ[ing] facts, rather than informed of it by a formal statement. Thus, we infer the passing away of many Jewish rites and ceremonies; the right of women to the Lord's Supper; the duty of social and family prayer; and the discipline and worship of the house of God. It is thus, also, with the canonical authority of much of the Scriptures. Let the man who demands the will of God, in ipsissimus verbis, that the Sabbath shall be transferred from the seventh to the first day of the week, furnish similar proof of the canonical authority of the Epistle of James, the Epistle of Jude, or the Revelation, and we will comply with his demand. If, however, he receives these books as canonical, mainly, if not exclusively, because they were so received by the primitive Church during the continuance of inspired men, he could not fairly object if we furnished him with no other evidence than this in regard to the Lord's day. If, however, we can furnish him not only the same kind of proof in a stronger degree, but also independent evidence of this transfer, he surely cannot demur to the Divine authority of the Lord's day as the Christian Sabbath. Such evidence we think will be afforded by establishing a few propositions.
He goes to discuss how it is possible to distinguish between the observance of the Sabbath rest and the day upon which it is observed, which indicates that they are not inextricably linked. This distinction leads to an inference that such a transfer of the day is at least conceivable.
The same principle is recognized by men in similar observances. When our national Independence is celebrated on the third or fifth of July, in consequence of the fourth falling on the Sabbath, no one dreams that the celebration is vitiated, for the observance is distinct from the day.
An examination of the fourth commandment more narrowly will confirm this view. What is its main object? Plainly not to render sacred any particular day, because of its position in a numerical series, but to sanctify the Sabbath, and to state that one-seventh of our time shall constitute that Sabbath. It does not determine any order of enumeration, but commands simply that after labouring six days we shall rest on the seventh. Hence those who keep the Lord's day, obey the letter of the command; for they labour six days and rest on the seventh, in precise obedience to the law. It may be said, however, that we know that this enumeration began on a certain day. We grant it; but the fixing of this enumeration is something extraneous to the commandment itself, which does not contain within itself any particular series, but is adapted to whatever date it may please God to affix as the period of the weekly Sabbath.
Further discussion of this distinction — which is crucial to a right understanding of the distinction between that which is moral and enduring versus that which is ceremonial and temporary in regards to the Fourth Commandment — continues in Moore’s article, and is especially fascinating to read from the perspective of a Christian Sabbatarian which predates the institution of world-wide time zones, but as it goes beyond the focus of this brief post, the reader is invited to read T.V. Moore further on the transfer of the Sabbath day from last day of the week to the first here. Meanwhile, consider, dear reader, what Moore has said here about the value of good and necessary consequence in understanding Biblical doctrine.