IT was no idle resolution which Captain Mann formed when he determined to go again to Mr. Mitchell in order to get to the bottom of some of the matters that were agitating his mind; and after leaving Honolulu, he found his opportunity.
The “Tenyo Maru” was one of the largest and finest passenger vessels that plied the waters of the Pacific, and the responsibilities of its captain were tremendous in both their number and their weight. There was not an hour of the day or of the night when he was out from under the burden of his vessel’s care. Nevertheless, Captain Mann was able to interest himself in the needs of his kindly presence and unselfish helpfulness.
Never before, however, had he been so stirred by any question, personal or otherwise, as by this which had arisen over the experience of Harold Wilson. At every hour of the day, it pressed in upon his mind; and every day, he sought opportunity to investigate and pray about it. In fact, it had brought a crisis into his life, and he felt that he must meet it.
For many years, he had set apart as sacred a small portion of each day for Bible reading and prayer. One afternoon, the hour for personal devotion having come, he was about to enter his stateroom, when he met Mr. Mitchell. This was the time, he reasoned, to carry out his purpose; and the two were soon seated and engaged in conversation.
Captain Corners the Preacher
“Mr. Mitchell,” said the captain, “do you believe in the binding moral obligations of the Ten Commandments?”
“Yes, captain, I most certainly do.”
“Do you indorse the idea that the Bible as a whole is the authoritative word of God, given by inspiration as our guide?”
“Most assuredly. There is no other safe position to take. No man who allows himself to discount any portion of the good old Book can meet the attacks of the atheist or the infidel.”
“Pardon me, doctor; but may I ask then, pointedly, how you harmonize this view with your statement of yesterday that we would better ignore the question of the Sabbath and go on quietly in the keeping of Sunday, though admitting there is no Bible foundation for doing so? It seems to me you play fast and loose.”
“Well, captain, when I say that I believe in the binding moral obligations of the Ten Commandments, I must except the fourth, for this is not moral in the same sense as are the other nine. The claims of the Sabbath commandment are satisfied just as fully by a setting apart of the first day of the week as of the seventh. The time feature of the fourth commandment is not necessarily moral.”
“Mr. Mitchell,” said the captain very earnestly, “do you mean to tell me that concrete terms, such as ‘The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work,’ are not necessarily moral? Has God no power to incorporate moral principle in the specific and limiting word ‘seventh?’
Minute Will Not Do
“Let me illustrate my point: I have under me a large force of men manning this vessel. For the safety of all aboard, I am required to hold frequent fire drills, and I issue orders to the engineer to blow the fire whistle at twelve o’clock sharp Tuesday noon. Having done this, I arrange all my plans accordingly, making everything fit in to a particular minute. Supremely important is that minute to me, to my crew, to my passengers, and to my company. And that engineer is under solemn contract to carry out my instructions, whether or not my reasons are known or understood. In such case, you are bound to admit that a moral obligation, of which time is almost the entire value, is binding an inferior to obey his superior. And you will not even hint that the engineer or anyone else may reasonably or rightly decide that some other minute will fulfill my purpose.
“The fourth commandment is the commandment of all the ten, it seems to me, most vitally charged with moral principle, because of its specific time element. You see, men may differ over such matters as what constitutes a lie, or what is comprehended in hatred, or what is profanity; but they simply cannot argue over the meaning of such a term as ‘seventh.’
“Why, Mr. Mitchell, I was taught this by my mother; and all my life, I have found in the Sabbath commandment my strong fortress of absolute integrity. It has been righteousness expressed in figures; and figures are not very often found lying.
“Of course, I have always believed that when Jesus came, He changed the day of rest from the seventh day of the week to the first. And this did not trouble me, for I believed that He who set apart the seventh day in olden time as a day of worship and rest, had a right to sanctify and bless the first day of the week in later time, just as I would have a right to change an appointment from noon on Tuesday to noon on Wednesday.
“But you are the first one to tell me that no moral value attaches to the matter of time. You are the first minister to put forth the idea that the fourth commandment is an exception, and that in a sense it is unmoral. The whole Bible is inspired, yet you permit your human reasoning to nullify a portion of the only words directly spoken by God Himself to the human ear.
“Again I beg your pardon; but let me suggest this query: If, as you say, the Bible is the authoritative word of God; if the Ten Commandments are unchangeably binding in their moral claims; if neither Jesus Christ nor His apostles made a change in the day of the Sabbath; if the observance of Sunday rests only on early custom, — if all these things be true, then are you and I not under solemn covenant obligation to keep the fourth commandment?
“Mr. Mitchell, I did not accept your counsel of yesterday; and when I met the young man last evening, I was constrained to acknowledge myself mistaken. No man who recognizes that his soul is at stake in this great life game will ever knowingly do evil that good may come.
“I am still hoping to get hold of my evidence that at the cross, a new era was introduced, and that since that time, the followers of Christ, under the new covenant, are to honor ‘the Lord’s day,’ the day of the resurrection. But mark this: If I find that in this too I have been mistaken, and that the Bible is silent concerning a change of the time of the Sabbath, I shall gladly and with all my heart take up my cross anew and keep the Sabbath, the seventh day.”
Apparently Mr. Mitchell was not disposed to take the captain’s earnest and logical remarks very seriously, and they were not allowed to banish his accustomed smile. When the captain had finished, the minister only said: “Well, you are surely my superior in argument, and I must attempt no reply. You may rest assured, though, that if you stand by your reasoning, you will be obliged to keep the Jewish Sabbath.”
At this point, Mr. Mitchell found it necessary to be excused; and with cheerful “So long,” he made his exit. the truth of the matter was, he felt himself distinctly embarrassed, and wished to avoid further probing at the captain’s hands.
Other Preachers Aboard
As the minister withdrew, Harold Wilson called “just a minute,” to inform the captain that since they had talked the day before, he had found “a lot of new things.”
“Have you been talking to the Rev. Mr. Anderson, young man?” the captain inquired.
“No; but I have been reading my Bible and talking to people I have met. And, captain, this Sabbath question is a mighty interesting subject. Everybody wants to know about it. Did you know there are three other preachers aboard?”
The captain well knew this, but his experience with Mr. Mitchell had somewhat discouraged him.
“One of those preachers is a great talker, captain. When he heard me talking to some of the men, he acted as though he had some bad blood. Why, he almost jumped at me, and said that anybody who kept the old Jewish Sabbath was ‘almost a Christ killer,’ if you know what that means.
“Well, I didn’t know at first what to say, so I just let him talk on till I got my breath.
“By and by I asked him what he meant by the ‘Jewish Sabbath.’ I said, ‘Do you mean the Sabbath of the fourth commandment?’
“ ‘Yes, sir,’ he said, ‘that’s exactly what I mean. The Ten Commandments were given to the Jews; and when Christ came and died, they were all nailed to the cross. The Sabbath lived and died with that Christless nation.’
“Just then Mr. Anderson came along, and I just couldn’t help asking him what he thought. You see, I had never heard about a Jewish Sabbath, or in fact, any other particular kind of Sabbath, so I wanted to have the preachers make it clear.
“The first thing Mr. Anderson did was to ask Mr. Spaulding why he called it ‘Jewish.’
“ ‘Because, with all the other commandments of the old law, it was given to the Jews,’ he replied. ‘And that whole code was abolished at the cross.’ “
“That is what I have always understood,” said the captain, interrupting Harold’s narration.
“But you’ll never believe it longer, I think,” said Harold, “after you’ve heard the story.
“Mr. Anderson asked, ‘Do you believe, then, that to-day there is no law against stealing and murdering, and that there is no longer any obligation for children to honor father and mother?’
“Mr. Spaulding then said something that didn’t amount to much, for he seemed unable to explain; and Mr. Anderson inquired: ‘Brother, what do you preach to people when you wish them to accept Christ? Do you not tell them they are sinners? You certainly do; but the moment you say this, you are denying your theory, for men are sinners only when they have transgressed the law. Paul says, you know, that “sin is not imputed when there id no law.” ‘
“A crowd began to gather while Mr. Anderson was speaking, and Mr. Spaulding asked to be excused; but we all insisted he ought to help finish the conversation he had begun, so he stayed.
“ ‘Now, brother,’ Mr. Anderson said, ‘this has always been true. The only reason why Adam was a sinner was that he transgressed law. All through the history of time, there has been sin; and all through the history of time, therefore, there has been law — God’s moral law. Thus all through the history of time, likewise, there has been a Saviour to redeem man from the law’s condemnation. Law, sin, Saviour, — these are the three great outstanding facts in the Bible story.’
“I gave him my Bible to read his proof from, and he surely gave a plenty. He read a text for every statement he made. 1 John 3:4 showed sin to be transgression; Romans 5:13, that there cannot be sin without law; and Romans 5:12, that Adam sinned; and Revelation 13:8, that Christ has been a Saviour from the very first.”
The captain picked up his own Bible, and read Revelation 13:8; for it came to him as a text scarcely known before.
“That does say, young man, that Christ was slain from the foundation of the world, doesn’t it? But I do not exactly understand it.”
“Well, Mr. Anderson explained it by saying that all the time before Christ came, people had the gospel, and were saved by faith in a Redeemer to come. He read Galatians 3:8 and John 8:56 to show that Abraham knew Christ, and Hebrews 11:26 to show that Moses did. A man couldn’t help but see it.
“Then he showed that Christ was the one who gave the Sabbath in the beginning, that it was Christ who spoke the Ten Commandments, and that it was Christ who went with the Israelites through all their journeys. Of course, Mr. Spaulding didn’t enjoy it at all; but he had to acknowledge that what was said was true, for it was all there in the Bible.
“I couldn’t help laughing when, at the last, Mr. Anderson asked: ‘Brother Spaulding, if Christ made the worlds (and you admit that He did), and if it was He who made the Sabbath and gave it to man (and you admit that too), and if He spoke the law on Sinai, and thus gave the Sabbath again, must it not be that the Sabbath known back there was the Sabbath of Christ, and therefore the Christian Sabbath?’ Mr. Spaulding blushed, and moved in a funny, nervous way, and then we all laughed. But he said ‘Yes’ just the same. He couldn’t help it.
“Before we left, Mr. Anderson said this: ‘Friends, I am sure you can all see that the term “Jewish Sabbath” is an expression which Christians should not use any more than they should say “the Jewish law of God.” Both the law, and the Sabbath, which is a part of it, were given at the very beginning, 2,500 years before the Jewish nation existed. The Sabbath was given to the whole human race; or, as Jesus said, it “was made for man.” Mark 2:27.’
“Mr. Spaulding was quite excited when we broke up; and he said to us: ‘This has been a kind of one-sided discussion to-day; but if any of you want to study this further, come here tomorrow at two o’clock, and I will show you a few things. You will then see that this seventh-day business is a pretty small affair.’ “