But suppose we try to consider that the tables of stone were also there, in him, nailed to the cross; in what respect was he the antitype of them? In what respect were they the shadows and he the substance? Could men look upon him and say, Now, to-night I will plunge a dagger into the heart of my enemy; for the law, “Thou shalt not kill,” is there in Christ nailed to the cross, and is no longer binding?
But, says the objector, if the book of the law was nailed to the cross, then the ten commandments were nailed to the cross; for they were all in that book, word for word; and the doing away of the book did them away also. Whoever makes such an assertion, has certainly been very heedless in his reading of the book. It is not true. The ten commandments nowhere appear in the books of Moses in legislative form; that is, in a form to drive their authority in any degree from the book. They are but once recorded in set form, as God spoke them, and that is in Ex.20:3-17. And this is historical and not legislative; it is simply a narrative that God did come down and give that law from Sinai with his own voice; but the law derived no authority from this narrative. Its authority rested upon the fact that it had been spoken by God, and written with his finger upon the tables of stone, and deposited in the holiest spot of the most holy place of the sanctuary. And though every copy of the book containing this narrative had been destroyed and put out of existence, it would not have affected in the least the fact of the promulgation of that law, nor have touched the tables containing the legislative transcript of the same. What is here stated will apply also to Moses’ rehearsal and paraphrase of the law forty years later, as recorded in Deut.5:6-21.
With the law of Moses it was not so. That was promulgated through the book, and its authority was derived from that record. It had no position elsewhere, and when that handwriting was nailed to the cross, nothing of it longer remained.
Having thus noticed some of the general principles involved in the question treated of in Col.2:14-17, we come now to be “against” us, “contrary to” us, “blotted out,” and “nailed to the cross.” These are meats, drinks, holy-days, new moons, and sabbath days, or sabbaths; for in consequence of the “blotting out” previously mentioned, no one is to judge us with reference to these things.
Respecting the meats, drinks, holy-days (feast-days,) and new moons, there is no difference of opinion – all agree that they belonged to the Jewish system, and with that passed away. The sabbaths there mentioned is the point around which the opposing forces rally, and on which the controversy centers. The object of the no-Sabbath and Sunday people being to include the weekly Sabbath in the catalogue of the things done away, various claims are at once set up. One says that “there was but one system before Christ; it was an inseparable whole; it was all Jewish, and therefore all done away.” Another says, “No, this does not embrace all that existed before Christ; there were some things which did not belong to the ‘handwriting of ordinances,’ and which are not therefore done away; and the Jews had yearly sabbaths distinct from the weekly Sabbath; but then, the term sabbaths must include all sabbaths, of whatever kind; hence the weekly Sabbath is embraced in the term, and has been done away with the others.” Another asserts that “the term cannot refer to any ceremonial sabbaths of the Jews, because they had no annual festivals which could properly be called ‘sabbaths;’ that the word sabbaton used in Col.2:16, is the one always used to designate the weekly Sabbath; and therefore the word there must refer to the weekly Sabbath, and that alone, all the Jewish festivals being included in the word holy-day (or feast-day) used just before.”
Thus the fourth commandment seems to be a source of perplexity to many people. It is so, however, only to those who wish to avoid its obligations. Such, we are happy to say, will always find it a thorn in their side and a prick in their eyes. To all others, it is a “delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable.”
This latter class, with whom we rejoice to stand, have no annual festivals, connected with which there were seven annual sabbaths. These sabbaths owed their existence to that system, and were an inseparable part of the same. They were properly included in the “handwriting of ordinances;” and no sabbaths except those of this nature could be included in this term. There is therefore no necessity of going outside of the limits prescribed by the apostle’s language, and invading the realm of the moral law, and bringing in the weekly Sabbath of the Lord, which is just as distinct from these other sabbaths in its origin, nature, office, and destiny, as can possibly be.
Moreover, Paul is careful to guard still further against any misunderstanding in this matter, by immediately adding (verse 17) this restrictive clause: “Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” Thus he points out in just as plain language as could be used, just what sabbaths he refers to; it is only to those which belong to the system of types and shadows, and which are a part and parcel of that system. But this was never true of the weekly Sabbath, which originated, as the record in Genesis shows, before any type or shadow had, or could have had, a place in the economy of God’s grace in behalf of men.
But some at this point seem to have committed the singular blunder of supposing that this sentence – “which are a shadow of things to come” – is a declarative instead of a restrictive one, not limiting the idea to certain sabbaths which are shadows, but asserting that all sabbaths are shadows, the weekly Sabbath as well as others. So we have the assertion, “The seventh-day Sabbath is a shadow, say what they will;”l for Paul says so in Col.2:17. Very profound! Let us illustrate: Farmer A has a piece of land in which he pastures horses, sheep, and cows. His cows are of two kinds – a very poor, ordinary kind, which he calls the “common” kind, and others which are of a very rare and valuable breed. For several days he has his hired man, B, drive them all up to the barn at night, for safe keeping. But at length he determines to sell off his horses, sheep and all his cows except the rare and valuable ones. So he says to his hired man, “Go down to the pasture and drive up the horses, the sheep, and the cows which are common; for I have decided to sell them.” B goes down and drives them all up, good, bad, and indifferent. A says, “Why do you drive them all up? I told you to drive up only the cows which are common.” “But, replies B, “you said they were all common. Didn’t you say ‘the cows which are common’? and that means all cows; and they are all common; for you said so.” Then says A to B, “I have no use for a man who don’t know enough to drive cattle! You may go” And he sends his fine breeds back to the pasture by the hand of a better man, and sells the remainder.