Constantine and the Pagan Sun-Day

Constantine and the Pagan Sun-Day

Constantine’s Sunday law, issued A. D. 321, goes as follows:— “Let all the judges and town people, and the occupation of all trades rest on the venerable day of the sun; but let those who are situated in the country, freely and at full liberty attend to the business of agriculture; because it often happens that no other day is so fit for sowing corn and planting vines; lest, the critical moment being let slip, men should lose the commodities granted by Heaven.”

Of this law, so high an authority as the “Encyclopedia Brittannica” plainly says: ” It was Constantine the Great who first made a law for the proper observance of Sunday; and who, according to Eussbius, appointed, that it should be regularly celebrated throughout the Roman Empire. Before him, and even in his time, they observed the Jewish Sabbath, as well as Sunday.”

As to the degree of reverence with which Sunday was regarded, and the manner of its observance, Mosheim says that in consequence of the law enacted by Constantine, the first day of the week was ” observed ivith greater solemnity than it had formerly been.” (Eccl. Hist., cent. 4, part 2, chap. 4, sec. 5.)

Yet Constantine permitted all kinds of agricultural labor to be performed on Sunday! Bishop Taylor declares that “the primitive Christians did all manner of works upon the Lord’s day.”‘ (Duct. Dubitant., part 1, book 2, chap. 2, rule 6, sec. 59.)

The same statement is made by Morer: “The day [Sunday] was not wholly kept in abstaining from common business; nor did they [Christians] any longer rest from their ordinary affairs (such was the necessity of those times) than during the divine service.” (Dialogues on the Lord’s Day, p. 233.)

Says Cox: “There is evidence that either at this [the time of Constantine], or at a period much later, the observance was viewed as deriving any obligation from the fourth commandment; it seems to have been regarded as an institution corresponding in nature with Christmas, Good Friday, and other festivals of the church ” (Cox’s Sabbath Laws, p. 281.)


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