In the paper General Distribution of the
Sabbath-keeping Churches (No. 122) it was demonstrated
that there was a continuous chain of Sabbath-keeping churches throughout
history that was in more or less continuous opposition to, and persecuted by,
the mainstream church system. It is conveniently assumed by the Sabbath-keeping
churches of the last two centuries that the central theme and identifying mark
of this system was the Sabbath and that the churches were persecuted for their
adherence to the Sabbath. This position is at best only partly true and at
worst hides the true fundamental aspects of the faith for which the Church of
God was persecuted and which aspects form the other signs of the elect. It will
be seen from this paper that there are in fact a series of signs identifying
the elect and which were used to isolate them and to extract them from society
over the periods of persecution generally referred to as the Inquisitions. The
mainstream orthodox system used many of the identifying marks of the faith to
gather information and evidence against the elect in order to destroy them.
The twentieth century Churches
of God made the fundamental error of assuming that what they understood was
better or more complete than the understanding of the churches of previous
eras. That, in fact, proved to be the undoing of the latter day churches and
stemmed from their ignorance of the doctrines of the earlier churches and the
application of the doctrine of their faith. It is in fact true that the latter
eras displayed all of the characteristics of both the Sardis and the Laodicean
systems (Rev. 3:1-6,14-22). Out of this ignorance there will emerge a true
Philadelphian system (Rev. 3:7-13) which has little strength but which is
faithful to the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ (Rev.
Exactly what does the Bible say
are the signs of the elect and what role does the Sabbath play in that process
The Sabbath as one of the signs of the Church
The Sabbath is the fourth
commandment. It is examined at length in the paper Law and the Fourth
Commandment (No. 256); see also The Sabbath (No.
31). It is
found at Exodus 20:8,10,11; and Deuteronomy 5:12.
The Sabbath is listed as a sign
of God’s people. It is a sign between us and God who makes us holy.
Exodus 31:12-14 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 13 Speak thou
also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for
it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know
that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you. 14 Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore;
for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to
death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from
among his people. (KJV)
It is often and incorrectly
assumed that the Sabbaths referred to here are merely the plural of the
singular weekly Sabbath. That is incorrect. The Sabbaths are extended to the
entire range of worship over the Holy Days listed as God’s Sabbaths. Being put
to death is spiritual.
Sabbath is not exclusively a sign of the Church. It is also a sign of the
covenant people not yet called into the Church. If it were the sign of the elect, then Judaism would be part of the first
resurrection, which it is not.
The other signs of the elect
second sign is the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Exodus 13:9-16 And it shall be for a sign unto thee upon thine
hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, that the LORD'S law may be in thy
mouth: for with a strong hand hath the LORD brought thee out of Egypt. 10 Thou shalt therefore
keep this ordinance in his season from year to year. 11 And it shall
be when the LORD shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites, as he sware
unto thee and to thy fathers, and shall give it thee, 12 That thou
shalt set apart unto the LORD all that openeth the matrix, and every firstling
that cometh of a beast which thou hast; the males shall be the LORD'S. 13 And every firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a
lamb; and if thou wilt not redeem it, then thou shalt break his neck: and all
the firstborn of man among thy children shalt thou redeem. 14 And it shall
be when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What is this? that thou shalt say unto him, By strength of hand the LORD
brought us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage: 15 And it came
to pass, when Pharaoh would hardly let us go, that the LORD slew all the
firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man, and the firstborn of
beast: therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all that openeth the matrix, being
males; but all the firstborn of my children I redeem. 16 And it shall
be for a token upon thine hand, and for frontlets between thine eyes: for by
strength of hand the LORD brought us forth out of Egypt. (KJV)
The Passover and Unleavened
Bread are the second sign of the covenant people. This extension of the fourth
commandment (as we saw above) is to mark the laws of God in our actions (hands)
and in our minds (foreheads, between the eyes). It is the sign of the law of
the Lord (Deut. 6:8) and of His redemption of Israel (Deut. 6:10). From the New
Testament, this status extends to the Gentiles that are in Christ (Rom. 9:6;
11:25-26). The understanding of the Passover in the Churches of God in the
twentieth century has been seriously in error. It is assumed quite incorrectly
that the Jews had it wrong and that the Passover was on the night of the
fourteenth of Nisan and the Night to Be Much Remembered was on the fifteenth
and that this night was wrongly termed the Passover by the Jews. This has been
examined in detail and the entire structure of false premises on which it rests
is examined in the Annex to the paper The Passover (No. 98).
These signs of the law, the
Sabbath, and the Passover are specifically designed to defend against idolatry
(Deut. 11:6). These two signs are the seal on the hand and the forehead of the
Lord’s elect. With the Holy Spirit they form the basis of the sealing in
Revelation 7:3 of the last days. The sign of the elect is thus centred on the first
commandment. Christ said: You shall
worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you worship (or serve) (Mat. 4:10; Lk. 4:8). Service is
worship in biblical terms.
Atonement is another sign of the
covenant people. Failing to keep Atonement is punished by removal from one’s
people; in other words, from the covenant body of Israel which is the church
The initial and primary sign of
the covenant people was circumcision (Gen 17:14). This was removed to the state
of baptism (see the paper The Covenant of God (No. 152)).
Baptism in the Holy Spirit,
then, is the primary sign of the elect through the blood of Jesus Christ into
the one body (Mat. 28:19; Acts 1:5; 11:16; Rom. 6:3; 1Cor. 12:13; Heb.
The common doctrinal position of the Church
The common doctrine of the elect
can be seen from the earliest times. The nearest we can get to the apostle John
is through the writings of the disciples Polycarp and Irenaeus. The earliest
view is that the Bible and the New Testament church had a distinctive view of
the Godhead that has been consistent for some two thousand years.
The centrality of their faith
was their doctrine of God. The Sabbath, the New Moons and the Feasts were
distinctive aspects of the worship of that God. This was also accompanied by
the adherence to the food laws on a fairly widespread or general basis (see
also the paper The Food Laws (No.
15)). Thus the Sabbath and all that flowed from it was a
sign of worship of the one true God (Jn. 17:3). This God, Eloah, was exactly
the same as that worshipped by Judah and revealed in the Old Testament. To the
early church, the Bible was the Old Testament which was interpreted and
explained by the New Testament (see the paper The Bible (No. 164)). The early church doctrines of God have
been examined in the papers Early
Theology of the Godhead (No. 127), On Immortality (No. 165),
The Deity of Christ (No. 147), The First Commandment: the Sin
of Satan (No. 153) and Consubstantial with the Father
Biblical basis of the common doctrine
The biblical basis of the common
doctrine is centred on the first and great commandment (cf. the paper The First Great Commandment (No.
252). In this way we see that the fourth commandment is merely a fourth
facet of a greater structure. The Sabbaths and Holy Days in turn are
substructures of the fourth commandment and interrelate to the other
commandments. This is examined in Statement of Beliefs of the
Christian Faith (No. A1).
The Church is committed to the keeping of the Ten Commandments
as found in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21.
The first commandment is:
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land
of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me.
God the Father is the one true God (Jn. 17:3) and there is no
elohim that is before or equal with Him. It is impermissible to worship or to
pray to any other entity including Jesus Christ.
The second commandment is:
You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any
likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath,
or that is in the water under the earth; You shall not bow down to them or
serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of
the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those
who hate me, but showing steadfast love to those who love me and keep my
It is thus impermissible to make figures or likenesses of any
description for use in religious worship or symbolism. The crucifix is thus
forbidden to the Church as a symbol. The commandments themselves form part of
the identification of the religious system and are thus all entrenched.
The third commandment is:
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in
vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
The name of the Lord God confers authority and hence this law
deals not only with simple profanity but extends to the misuse of the authority
of the Church and all those who purport to act at the direction of God through
The fourth commandment is:
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you
shall labour, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the
Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your
daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the
sojourner who is within your gates; for in six days the Lord made heaven and
earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore
the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
The seventh day Sabbath is thus mandatory to the faith. No
Christian can serve God and fail to honour the Sabbath, known in the current
calendar as Saturday. The establishment of another day of worship other than
the seventh day not only breaches this commandment it becomes itself a symbol
of idolatry being external to the express will of God. It is an act of
rebellion and hence the equivalent of witchcraft (1Sam. 15:23). Linked with the
second commandment, which entrenches the fourth, it becomes idolatry. The
establishment of a calendar, which adjusts the week on a rotational basis, has
the same effect.
These first four commandments determine the relationship of man
to God and are identified under the first and major head of the law, namely:
you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
and with all your soul, and with all your mind, (and
with all your strength; Mark 12:30).
This is the great and first
commandment (Mat. 22:37-38).
The absolute identification with God stems from the faithful
adherence to these commandments and the avoidance of any action, which would
fourth commandment is thus one of a series of four, which are integral to the
first great commandment. Thus, from the mouth of Jesus Christ, God the Father
is central to, and the primary point and end object of, the faith (Mat.
22:37-38; Mk. 12:30; Rev. 1:8). The knowledge of the One True God and His son
Jesus Christ, whom He sent, is central to the receipt of eternal life (Jn.
17:3; 1Jn. 5:20). The fourth commandment is thus not an end in itself but
merely a primary indicator of the elect and the fact of their obedience to God.
The Fourth Commandment, extends
to embrace the entire system of biblical worship of the New Moons, Feasts and
Holy Days and also of tithing (see the paper Tithing (No. 161))
which relates to the system of firstfruits and the Covenant Harvest (see also
the paper The Covenant of God
We have seen the effects of the
New Moons on God’s calendar (see the paper God’s Calendar (No. 156)).
The New Moons and the Feasts combine to make up the structure of the Government
of God. The Sanhedrin, in the same way as the physical Temple and its
priesthood, were the reflection of the celestial system (Heb. 8:5). However, we
have an altar from which those who serve the tent (or physical structure) have no right to eat (Heb. 13:10).
Thus, we have no lasting physical city but seek the city, which is to come. In
the same way that the sacrifices are burned outside the city, so too was Christ
sacrificed outside of the city and so we go forth outside the camp to bear
similar abuse to that which he endured (Heb. 13:12-13).
So then we look to the example
of our brethren of the past to see what they endured and for what they were
punished. The early church doctrines are seen to be reasonably consistent if we
can isolate fact from the propaganda of the mainstream system.
Application of these distinctive elements in the
doctrines of the early Churches
The early church was exclusively
Unitarian. The Gnostics and Modalists are not considered to be part of the
Church. There is no evidence whatsoever that Christ or the apostles or their
disciples were ever Binitarian or Trinitarian. Indeed, there is clear evidence
that the doctrine of the Trinity was developed from the derived Binitarianism
of the fourth century so-called Christians. The Trinitarian position, and also
its incoherent predecessor, Binitarianism, was never held by the
Sabbath-keeping church up until that time or indeed up until the Reformation
some eleven centuries later. Binitarianism, in fact, came from the Modalism
which is the doctrine of the worshippers of the god Attis in Rome (see the
paper The Origins of
Christmas and Easter (No. 235)).
Evidence from the History and the Persecution of the
The early Church
We know from the writings of
Irenaeus (and from his predecessor Polycarp) that he and the Church were
centrally Unitarian and that they believed that Christ was appointed an elohim
and that the elect were to become elohim as Christ was with God. They believed
that only God existed eternally and that he had nothing coeval with Himself.
This is derived from Zechariah 12:8 and is found in Against Heresies.
Irenaeus says of God (Against Heresies, III, viii, 3):
For He commanded, and they were created; He spake and they were
made. Whom therefore did He command? The Word, no doubt, by whom, He says, the
heavens were established and all their power by the breath of His mouth [Ps.
Irenaeus held that:
it is clearly proved that neither the prophets nor the apostles
did ever name another God, or call [him] Lord, except the true and only
God....But the things established are distinct from Him who has established
them, and what have been made from Him who made them. For He is Himself
uncreated, both without beginning and end, and lacking nothing. He is Himself
sufficient for Himself; and still further, He grants to all others this very
thing, existence; but the things which have been made by Him (ibid.).
Irenaeus extended the capacity
to become God (theos or elohim) to the Logos here as distinct
from the other things established (ibid.). He had already established the
position of God and the Son and those of the adoption as theoi or elohim and all
sons of God from Book III, Chapter vi.
Therefore neither would the Lord, nor the Holy Spirit, nor the
apostles, have ever named as God, definitely and absolutely, him who was not
God, unless he were truly God; nor would they have named any one in his own
person Lord, except God the Father ruling over all, and His Son who has
received dominion from His Father over all creation, as this passage has it: The Lord says unto my Lord, Sit Thou at my
right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool [Ps. 110:1]. Here the [Scripture] represents the
Father addressing the Son; He who gave Him the inheritance of the heathen, and
subjected to Him all His enemies...
Irenaeus went on to state that
the Holy Spirit termed both Father and Son here as Lord. He held that it was
Christ who spoke with Abraham prior to the destruction of the Sodomites and had
received power [from God] to judge the Sodomites for their wickedness. And this
does declare the same truth: “‘Thy throne, O God’ is for ever
and ever; the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre. Thou hast loved
righteousness and hated iniquity: therefore God, Thy God hath anointed Thee”
[Ps. 45:6] For the Spirit designates both [of them] by the name of God [theos
or elohim] - both Him who is anointed as Son and Him who does anoint, that is
the Father. And again: “God stood in the congregation of the gods, he judges
among the gods” [Ps. 82:1]. He [here] refers to the Father and the Son and
those who have received the adoption; but these are the Church for she is the
synagogue of God, which God - that is the Son Himself - has gathered by Himself
of whom He again speaks: “The God of gods, the Lord hath spoken, and hath
called the earth.” [Ps. 50:1]. Who is meant by God? He of whom He has said,
“God shall come openly, our God, and shall not keep silence;” [Ps. 50:3] that
is, the Son who came manifested to men, who said, “I have openly appeared to
those who seek Me not” [Isa. 65:1]. But of what gods [does he speak]? [Of
those] to whom He says, “I have said, Ye are gods, and all sons of the Most
High” [Ps. 82:6]. To those, no doubt, who have received the grace of the
“adoption, by which we cry Abba Father” [Rom. 8:15] (Against Heresies, Bk. III, Ch. vi, ANF, Vol. I, pp. 418-419).
There is no doubt that Irenaeus had a
subordinationist view of the Godhead and extended the term God (as theoi or elohim) to include the Son and those also of the adoption. This is
probably derived at least from Zechariah 12:8. He seems to indicate here that
Christ gathered the elect, whereas we know from Scripture that it is God who
gives the elect to Christ in order that they be gathered (Jn. 17:11-12; Heb.
2:13; 9:15). The exclusive use of the term to the physical elect may be
incorrect given Irenaeus’ application here. The loyal Host are also included in
the council from the understanding in Revelation 4 & 5. Thus the loyal Host
are also the Ecclesia of God.
These positions are examined in
the papers Early Theology of
the Godhead (No. 127) and also On Immortality (No. 165). It is also important to understand
that the doctrine of the Immortality of the Soul was considered to be a Godless
and a blasphemous doctrine. This view was held to the point, that even when
Sunday worship began to intrude on the church, as it did as early as 150 CE,
from the evidence of Justin Martyr, we could still see that the doctrines of
the Godhead and the resurrection were central and undisturbed. Thus, the
Sabbath was denied before the Godhead and the resurrection in the earliest
stages. This was to be reversed to the later position of the Godhead being
impeached before the positions of the Sabbath and the Soul Doctrine.
Anders Nygren (Agape and Eros, Tr. by Philip S Watson, Harper Torchbooks, New
York, 1969) understood the concept of eternal life in the church when he said:
The ancient Church differs most of all from Hellenism in its
belief in the Resurrection. Christian tradition affirmed the 'Resurrection of
the flesh,' which the Apologists opposed to the Hellenistic doctrine of the
'Immortality of the soul.' The antithesis was conscious and intentional, for at
no point so much as this was their opposition to the Hellenistic spirit felt by
the early Christians. The Platonic, Hellenistic doctrine of the Immortality of
the soul seemed to the Apologists a godless and blasphemous doctrine, which
above all they must attack and destroy (Justin Dial. lxxx. 3-4)
Their motto in this regard might well be Tatian's word: 'Not
Immortal, O Greeks, is the soul in itself, but mortal. Yet it is possible for
it not to die' (Tatian Oratio ad Graecos,
The difference between Christian and non-Christian in this
matter was so great that belief in the 'Resurrection of the flesh' could become
a shibboleth. One who believes in the 'Immortality of the soul' shows thereby
that he is not a Christian. As Justin
says: 'If you have fallen in with some who are called Christians... and who say
that there is no resurrection of the dead, but that their souls, when they die,
are taken to heaven; do not imagine that they are Christians.' (Dial. lxxx. 4) (ibid., pp. 280-281)
Thus the Church denied the
Immortality of the Soul – they were absolutely Unitarian subordinationist. They
not only would have rejected the Trinity had it been advanced then, they
perhaps would have also excommunicated anyone espousing that doctrine or any
Ditheism evident from Gnostic circles. The Church was very tolerant, however,
being of the view that heresies were allowed in order to show who in the Church
had the approval of God (1Cor. 11:19). This they did through study (2Tim. 2:15,
see KJV; RSV says do your best).
They also held the Old Testament
to be Scripture and the New Testament to be interpretative of that Scripture. They
kept the New Moons and the Feasts and we see that the Passover came into
dispute in the second century, when the Easter system was introduced and began
to displace Passover in what became known as the Quarto-deciman controversy
(see the papers The Passover (No. 98) and
The Quartodeciman Disputes (No.
The Church began to be
persecuted and it came to be largely outside of the Roman Empire. Hence, it was
outside the reach of the Orthodox church until the progressive conversion of
the Arians, which lasted up until the eighth century and also from the
establishment of the Holy Roman Empire in 590. The persecutions of the faith
lasted over a period of time which encompassed the power and rule of the Holy
Roman Empire from 590 to 1850 (see the paper General Distribution of the
Sabbath-keeping Churches (No. 122)).
American Adventism and the
Churches of God in the USA over the last two centuries misapplied the dates of
the Holy Roman Empire and the prophecy of the time, times and half a time or
the 1,260 days. This misconstruction was largely through ignorance of European
history and self-fulfilling false prophecy. This serious error had a
significant effect on the false prophecy of the 1842-44 advent movement. This
then resulted in another false doctrine called the pre-Advent Judgment (see the
paper The Pre-Advent
Judgment (No. 176)).
We know from the evidence of the
Inquisitions what the doctrines of the Church were at the various stages of its
We can tell with certainty that
the church was called, by the Catholic system, by various names in its
different locations to disguise the widespread and uniform structure of its
doctrines. However, the Church of God organisations had differing opinions as
to its government and its emphasis (e.g. Presbyterian and Episcopalian in the
Western Waldenses). We know that it was called Cathar or Cathari and
hence Puritan in the English. It was also called Bulgar, Khazzar, Vallenses, Albigensian, Waldensian, Sabbatharier,
Sabbatati, Insabbatati, Passaginians, among others. The term Sabbatharier seems to be a construction
meaning Arian Sabbath-keepers.
We know that the commonality of
views was generally understood and reflected itself in the vernacular language.
For example, the term poor bugger in
English is a common expression to convey sympathy for an unfortunate person
undergoing some trial or torment. This is often confusing to modern Americans
and even to Australians, as bugger
and buggery have specific legal
meanings relating to sodomy. The term, however, has another meaning which shows
the application to the elect during the Inquisitions. The Oxford Universal Dictionary holds the term to be derived in the
Middle English from the French bougre
and the Latin Bulgarus or Bulgarian,
or a heretic (or also usurer). It was held to be in reference to heretics to be
used especially of the Albigenses.
This was its first meaning. The second and pejorative meaning in relation to
sodomy was a later term from 1555 and seemingly to denigrate the sect who had
been persecuted for some three centuries. The term pauvre bougre or poor bulgar
as applied to the Albigensians came to be in the English poor booger. The use as bogle
or boggle in North English around
1505 is of uncertain derivation but came to be associated with phantoms and
thence a quasi-proper name for the devil (hence, bogieman etc.). Certainly the
term poor bugger had its origin in
the Albigensian Crusades. However, one may be forgiven for asking what did the
Bulgars have to do with the Albigensians? The answer is simple. The Churches of
God, from its branches in what is known as the Pergamum era (Rev. 2:12ff.)
called the Paulicians, came into
Europe from the relocations under Constantine Capronymous and John Tsimiskes
(see the paper General Distribution of the
Sabbath-keeping Churches (No. 122)). These relocations in
Thrace spread into the Bulgars, the Southern Slavs especially in Bosnia and
also into Hungary and Romania. They spread west and, from the fifteenth
century, linked up with the remnants of the Sabbatati in the west called
Vallenses or Waldensians. We can tell with relative certainty the extent of
their doctrines from the thirteenth century and with absolute certainty what
the eastern branches, especially in Hungary and Romania, were from the
fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries.
The Albigensian Crusades
The conduct of the Albigensian
Crusades of the thirteenth century is outlined in the paper General Distribution of the
Sabbath-keeping Churches (No. 122). The groups were without doubt
Sabbath-keepers. The desire of the Roman Catholic Church to disguise this fact
has led to some extraordinary claims regarding the linguistic derivation of the
name Sabbatati. However, we also know
that they were Unitarians. They are recorded as being extant before the year
934, when they were complained of by Atto bishop of Vireulli as had others
They were first called Vallenses
in 1179 in the condemnation of them by Raymond of Daventry. The elders, or barbes (uncles), Bernard of Raymond and
Raymond of Baimiac were condemned as heretics by Raymond of Daventry in 1179
before the Lateran Council, not for their Sabbath-keeping but for their
Unitarianism. The treatise written against them in 1180 by Bernard of Fontcaude
then took up the name Vallenses in
the title which is Adversus Vallenses et
Arianos. They were thus subordinationist non-Trinitarians. This work of
1180 seems to have disappeared this century, but the work Liber Contra Vallenses written in 1190 by Bernard of Fontcaude
still exists. The Vallenses of that time appear to be Unitarians and seen as
distinct from Arians. This is a correct view and one upon which the Church of
God would insist. Arianism, which according to the Catholics allegedly sees the
Holy Spirit as a creation of the son, is distinct from biblical Unitarianism.
They are both viewed as the same, or similar heresy by the Catholics, who may
also have invented the doctrine of the creation of the Spirit by the son, as
there is no actual record of this view in the texts attributed to Arius (see
also the papers Arianism
and Semi-Arianism (No. 167) and Sociniansim, Arianism and
Unitarianism (No. 185)).
The Albigensians were not simply
a branch of the Vallenses. The Albigensians were in two divisions, the
Vallenses or Waldensians and the local Cathari or Puritans. The Cathari held
quite distinctive and heretical views of good and evil based on a form of
Gnosticism and Manichean Dualism. The distinction, among others, is made by Ray
Roennfeldt in his thesis (An Historical Study of Christian Cosmic
Dualism, Andrews University) (cf. the paper Vegetarianism and the Bible
(No. 183)). The
faith was often attacked by this dualist tendency. Where the Church was
established, many so-called converts among the monastic orders often developed
bizarre views. The Bogomils are an example. In the Bogomils and among the
Bosnians, monastic asceticism accompanied an heretical dualism and attempted to
undermine the general body of the faith. Errors also appear in earlier branches
of the Paulicians. One error was that of the Melchisedekians who created
another structured order developed from the Unitarian view. Melchisedek was
held to be the angelic mediator and Christ the human mediator, below him. The
Catholic writings seize on these contemporary heretical groups and link them to
the Church at the time. They attribute these erroneous views to the Church,
thus obscuring the true doctrines.
The entire Albigensian crusade
was levelled against both elements by Rome in the thirteenth century. The
Albigensians had protection in the south of France under Raymond Count of
Toulouse. The Vallenses or Sabbatati were the greater and more widespread, and
extended into Spain. We can reconstruct the doctrines of the Vallenses from the
Spanish branch of the Sabbatati because of the intense persecution they
The Spanish Inquisition
The Spanish Inquisition was
directed at ridding the country of the so-called Judaising Christians. These
were termed Marranos (or pigs). From
the terms of the Inquisition and the comments we know that they not only kept
the Sabbath but that they denied the Trinity, kept the Holy Days including
Atonement and also kept the food laws. The Edict
of the Faith shows the means by
which the heretics could be identified. Jews and Muslims were also caught up in
this persecution but the persecution was not directed at them but at the Church
of God which they also called Sabbatati, Insabbatati or Insabathi. The edict of
Alphonse king of Aragon etc., expelling the Waldensians or Insabbatati from
Spain is given at page 20 of the paper General Distribution of the
Sabbath-keeping Churches (No. 122).
Cecil Roth in his work The Spanish Inquisition, Robert Hale
Ltd, London, 1937, issued a warning in the Preface that history repeats itself
and the book was not intended as a satire on what was then happening in Europe.
The Jewish scholars sought to develop the Spanish Inquisition as a form of
Jewish persecution. Perhaps the worst of these distortions, despite its
complete thoroughness, is the recent work by B. Netanyahu (The Origins of the Spanish Inquisition in Fifteenth Century Spain,
Random House, New York, 1995). Netanyahu attempts to persuade the reader that
the object of the Inquisitions was the Jewish community when that is manifestly
untrue and the scholars have publicly attacked his position. The Rabbis of the
time stated unequivocally that they were not Jews but Christians. They were not
Jews masquerading as Christians. They were in fact the Church of God.
The number of Tribunals of the
Holy Office in Spain ultimately numbered fifteen. They existed with full
complements of officials and equipment at Barcelona, Cordova, Cuenca, Granada,
Llerana, Logrono, Madrid, Murcia, Santiago, Seville, Toledo, Valencia,
Valladolid and Sargossa. Another for the Balearic Islands was situated at
The more horrific and active
areas were Madrid, Seville and Toledo because of the larger numbers of New Christians (as Roth refers to
them), with activity greatest in Old Castille and Andalusia, and diminished
after the first frenzied outburst to least in Catalonia (Roth, ibid., Ch. The Unholy Office, p. 73). It was
finally co-ordinated at the close of the fifteenth century under the authority
of the central council El Consejo de la
Suprema y General Inquisición referred to as La Suprema, which was initially confined to Castille. With the four
great Councils of State under Ferdinand and Isabella, namely the Councils of
State, of Finance, of Castille and of Aragon, the Council of the Inquisition
took its place as the not most insignificant exercise of royal power (Roth,
ibid., p. 74). In 1647 it was ordered that all the sentences of all tribunals
be submitted to it for control. This appears to have been ultimately to curb
the indescribable severity of the local persecutions. The severity stemmed from
a basic error of understanding. Netanyahu refers to the error (The Origins of the Spanish Inquisition in
Fifteenth Century Spain, pp. 440-459) where all errors of the mind were
judged as heresy contrary to Augustine’s statement I can err but I am not a heretic (De Trinitate, c, 3, n. 5-6). Juan de Torquemada, the Inquisitor,
attacked the Toledan trials because of their manifest irregularity and
deliberate non-biblical anti-Semitism. He viewed the matter as being on the
same level as that of Haman against Mordecai and the Jews (ibid., p. 449). He
was then faced with the problem of the nature of God as viewed by the
Vallenses. The Toledans had stated, as was evident elsewhere, as a matter of
public knowledge (publica fama) (and
also in Valencia as we shall see) that the heretics, practice circumcision, deny the true divinity of Christ, deny, in
addition, the presence of his body in the Eucharist, etc. (ibid., p. 444).
The Toledans had not shown, according to Torquemada, that the converts could not be shown either by his own
voluntary confession or by statements of innocent witnesses, ever to have said,
after receiving baptism, that he believed in anything except what is believed
by the Mother Church herself (cf. Netanyahu, p. 444). Torquemada branded
this accusation false mendacious and malicious and demonstrated by itself the
nullity of the whole trial (ibid., p. 445). Why should this be so? We know
beyond doubt that the Vallenses practised Unitarianism for centuries. The
distinction lay in the subordinate divinity of Christ. Thus the divinity of
Christ was not denied. But there was something more at stake here. Torquemada
saw that the Toledan trials were simply anti-Semitic and that there was no
biblical basis for this racism. He, thus, had to denounce this error in the
strongest possible terms. The problem also lay in the fact that the suspicion
and the interrogation extended to the fourth generation of the conversions. He
attacked this premise from the point of view, of the conversions of the other
elements of the anti-Trinitarians, from what he described as Manichean errors
among the Bosnians. He was faced with the problem of the conversion of royalty
within the Holy Roman Empire. Torquemada says:
In our own time there were converted from paganism to
Christianity the illustrious king of Poland, the father of the present king,
with a large number of nobles and a countless multitude [Wladislaw II, formerly
Jagiello, Grand Duke of Lithuania, converted when made king in 1386. He was
father of Casimir IV who ascended the throne in 1447]. Later, in the days of
Pope Eugene IV, the king of Bosnia, his Queen, and many other nobles were
converted to Christianity from the Manichean errors [king Stephanus Thomas was
converted to Catholicism in 1445]. In addition, almost daily many of the
Mahommedans are being convinced [of the Christian truth]. It would be a major
scandal and intolerable sacrilege to say that all these people would have to be
suspected, at least until the fourth generation, of idolatry and the errors
which they and their fathers had upheld at some time (Tractatus, pp. 54-55; cf.
Netanyahu, p. 452).
Torquemada had written a tract
against Bosnian Bogomilism (Symbolum pro
imformatione Manichaeorum, ed. N Lopez Martinez and V Proano Gil,
1958, p. 23, n. 68 and Netanyahu, n. 119). Here we see the effects of the
intermix of the Manichean dualism where the Paulicians had established the
Unitarian faith. The Church at this time was forced into Herzegovina and on
into the north (see also the paper General Distribution of the
Sabbath-keeping Churches (No. 122)). The problem is obvious, but not to Netanyahu. By the fifteenth
century the Vallenses had been driven so far underground that it was all but
visibly exterminated by the persecution. The Toledans among others had become
so excessive and tyrannical that they were using the Inquisition for systematic
Semitic extermination. This would undermine the position of the activities of
the church in consolidating the empire. Torquemada was faced with limiting
those excesses so that some stable interaction within the empire could be
effected, and conversion could be seen to be some benefit to those that were
targeted for conversion. The racism and avarice of the Inquisition were placing
this carrot and, hence, the expansion
in jeopardy. Torquemada was shrewd enough to know what the judgment of history
would be. He thus had to curb the Inquisition. In the event, the church allowed
it to continue for another three centuries against the very processes and
doctrines whose existence was being denied, ultimately destroying its own power
(see Malachi Martin, Decline and Fall of
the Roman Church, Secker and Warburg, London, pp. 254ff.).
The evidence from the Edicts
In the establishment of an area
Inquisition, a procedure of Edicts was followed. After an Edict of Grace had been published encouraging the heretics to come
forward and confess, usually covering some thirty or forty days (Roth, p. 75),
the Inquisition would then purge the area. This set in chain a process of
incrimination. The next phase was the periodic publication of an Edict of the Faith, which helped
identify the types or indicators of the heresies, which had to be denounced.
The Confessional system then enforced this evil.
The Edict of the Faith was issued at Valencia in 1519 by Andres de
Palacio, Inquisitor to Valencia, and has been published by Roth. It can be seen
from that Edict that there were a general series of facts and superstitions
listed which identified three groups of people. The first was the Christians
who held to the so-called Judaising tendencies. The second group was the Jews
themselves and the third group were the Muslims. It is obvious from the Edict
that the heresy had penetrated the church itself as the words spoken over the
Eucharist were specifically identified as an indicator of the heresy in the
Edict. Also the Cross, or the Sign of the Cross, was not used by the Sabbatati.
From an examination of the Edict it seems that the group denied the Soul and
the doctrines of Heaven and Hell. They observed the Sabbath from sunset Friday
to sunset Saturday doing no labour on the Sabbath. They celebrated the feast of
Unleavened Bread and Passover with bitter herbs. They fasted on Atonement
(Roth, pp. 77 ff.).
The general views and observance
of the Jews were included in the list as shown in the Edict so that the systems
were run together making it difficult to identify exactly the distinctions
between them. They kept the food laws and also buried their dead according to the Jewish custom. Much of
the Edict includes superstitions attributed to the sects (e.g. p. 78). They
denied Mariolatry and this was grouped with the Judaic denial of the Messiah.
The doctrine of
Transubstantiation was denied as was the Catholic form of the doctrine of
Omnipresence, which was Platonic Animism (p. 78). The priests seemed to be
involved and were identified from the consecration. The Christians seemed to
dress as Jews adhering to the laws governing fabrics (p. 79). They met in house
churches and read Bibles out of the vernacular. The property of the heretics
was confiscated and this no doubt helped the zeal of the Inquisitors.
Roth records the opening of the
Office in Lisbon before it was made into the Opera House. The accounts from
eyewitnesses (printed in the Annual
Register of 1821) show beyond doubt, that there were human remains found in
the dungeons, which were in use (from an inscription on a dungeon wall) as late
as 1809. These included monks whose garments were found among the human and
other remains lying in the tiers of dungeons and among the evidence of murder
both old and recent, committed there (Roth, pp. 84-85).
Intervals of three to four years
between arrest and sentence were commonplace and in one recorded case fourteen
years elapsed. Pregnant women were dragged to the stake and the abuse of
prisoners, or perhaps interaction with them, prompted Cardinal Ximenes in 1512
to threaten with death any official found carrying on intrigues with their
prisoners. The expense of the imprisonment was borne by the accused no matter
how long. One example of expenses incurred in the four year incarceration of a
nun in Sicily, acquitted and released in 1703, was still being paid off by her
heirs as late as 1872 (Roth, p. 87). Normally, the assets were confiscated at
the time of arrest.
Marranos or New Christians could
not be accepted as witnesses in any proceedings. The withholding of the names of
witnesses was introduced in the thirteenth century ostensibly to protect the
weak against the powerful accused but this became the norm and none could find
out the names of their accusers. (Roth correctly points out that even up to
1836 in England accused felons could not have counsel or see copies of the
depositions made against them.) The times themselves were barbaric and the
Inquisition was the worst of the barbarism.
The European Inquisitions began
in the south of France in the thirteenth century and ended in the Papal States
in 1846. Between 1823 and 1846, 200,000 people in the Papal States alone were
sentenced to death, life imprisonment, exile or the galleys, with another 1.5
million placed under surveillance (see Malachi Martin, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Church, p. 254, and the paper General Distribution of the
Sabbath-keeping Churches (No. 122), p. 29 for quotes). Roth quotes the despair of the individuals
from the outset in the thirteenth century in the south of France.
Hear me, my lords! I am no heretic: for I have a wife and
cohabit with her and have children; and I eat flesh and lie and swear and am a
faithful Christian (Roth, p. 90).
This denial of the elements of
celibacy and vegetarian asceticism was necessary because the Manichaean
dualists known as Cathari or Puritians, who sought purification by asceticism,
were an heretical sect which eventually drew persecution on the Vallenses or
Sabbatati. The Manichaean dualists were distinct from the Vallenses and this is
the Cathar-Vallenses distinction acknowledged but incorrectly identified by
Weber. The biblical laws were continually kept by the Sabbatati. Their worship
was in secret and so it is difficult to identify with precision. However, we
know they kept the Sabbath and the full extent of their worship is identified
from the eastern branches of the Sabbatati.
The Eastern European Sabbatati
We know precisely what the
doctrines of the Hungarian and Transylvanian churches were from the fifteenth
to the nineteenth century. The record was preserved by Dr Samuel Kohn,
Chief Rabbi of Budapest, Hungary in DIE
SABBATHARIER IN SIEBENBURGEN Ihre Geschicte, Literatur, und Dogmatik,
Budapest, Verlag von Singer & Wolfer, 1894, Leipzig, Verlag von Franz
Wagner. These points are listed in the paper General Distribution of the
Sabbath-keeping Churches (No. 122) at pp. 22 ff.). The
entire structure is listed in the book The
Sabbatarians in Transylvania, by Samuel Kohn, trs. T. McElwain and B. Rook,
ed. W. Cox, CCG Publishing, USA 1998.
We know for certain that this
branch of the Vallenses or Sabbatati was Unitarian for Frances David or Davidis
died in prison in 1579. Kohn says they restored the original and true
Christianity (Kohn, p. 8). The Unitarian church split into Sunday and Sabbath
worshippers in 1579. The Sabbath branch under Eossi was the more faithful to
practiced adult baptism.
kept the Sabbaths and Holy Days, including Passover, Unleavened Bread,
Pentecost, Atonement, Tabernacles and the Last Great Day and, most importantly,
the New Moons. Trumpets is not listed separately in the hymnal and appears to
have been celebrated with the hymns of the New Moon.
doctrines encompassed the physical Millennium of 1,000 years at the beginning
of which Christ will return and regather Judah and Israel.
used God’s calendar based on the New Moons.
taught two resurrections, one to eternal life at Christ’s coming and another to
judgment at the end of the Millennium.
taught salvation by grace but that the laws still needed to be kept.
held that God calls people and that the world in general is blinded.
doctrine of Christ was absolutely subordinationist Unitarian.
(See the paper General Distribution of the
Sabbath-keeping Churches (No. 122), p. 22.)
It can thus be seen that the
early Sabbath Church was Unitarian, keeping the Old Testament laws. The Sabbath
was simply a facet of their belief system, which pointed to the worship of the
One True God. They were persecuted in East Europe for their Unitarianism more
than their Sabbath-keeping (Francis Davidis chose to remain in prison, where he
died, rather than compromise the Unitarian faith, even though Socinus, himself
a Unitarian, tried to persuade him to modify his rigid Unitarianism to save his
life). They were denied the status of a church when even the Jews were accorded
that status. They were denied access to the printing press and thus made their
sermons out by hand in chain letter style. The Inquisition was ruthless in its
suppression of this system and in the west Sabbath-keeping alone was enough to
have them executed.
The growth of Unitarianism
With the Reformation,
Unitarianism began to grow and was not confined entirely to Sabbath-keepers. In
other words, not all Unitarians were true members of the Churches of God just
as not all Sabbath-keepers were true members.
The term Unitarianism is an English word which stems from the Latin unitarius and it was first used of a
legalised religion in 1600 (Encyclopedia
of Religion and Ethics (ERE),
art. Unitarianism, Vol. 12, p. 519).
It is specifically founded on the conception of the single personality of the
Deity in contrast to the orthodox doctrine of His triune nature. The
corresponding term Trinitarian was
first used in the modern sense by Servetus in 1546 (ibid.). The adjective Unitarian has sometimes been employed
beyond the limits of Christianity (e.g. Islam and Judaism are also Unitarian in
The Greek text of the New
Testament was published by Erasmus (1516).
His omission of the famous Trinitarian verse, [1Jn. 5:7], and
his aversion to the scholastic type of disputations produced a marked affect on
many minds (ERE, ibid.).
The production of the New
Testament by Erasmus prompted people skilled in Greek to commence examining the
premises upon which orthodox Trinitarianism had been established. More
importantly, people in Europe were free to be more open and the Inquisition
limited. Scholars started to see that the Bible was not Trinitarian and indeed
supported Unitarianism. The first step in formal printed anti-Trinitarian works
on the Continent (as opposed to the teachings of the churches prior to the
Reformation and the printing press) was found in the works of Martin Cellarius
(1499-1564), pupil of Reuchlin and first follower and friend of Luther (ERE, ibid., pp. 519-520). In his work de Operibus Dei he uses the term deus of Christ in the same sense in
which Christians also might be called dei
as ‘sons of the Highest’ (ibid.). Reference to the paper Early Theology of the Godhead
(No. 127) will show that this concept is derived directly
from Irenaeus and the early disciples of the apostles and the apostles
themselves. This caused quite a stir and the modern academic community engaged
in the debate following Servitus’ work in 1531. In Naples, a Spaniard John
Valdes started a religious group for the study of the Scriptures until his
death in 1541 (ERE, ibid., p. 520).
Note here the name Valdes. This man appears to have been a Spanish Waldensian
from his name and theology (see also the paper General Distribution of the Sabbath-keeping Churches (No. 122)). In 1539 Melancthon warned the Venetian
Senate of widespread Servetianism in North Italy (ibid.). From this group
Bernard Ochino (1487-1565) of Siena passed slowly through Switzerland to London
and served as one of the Strangers Church (1550-1553) until it was broken up by
Queen Mary in her attempted restoration of Catholicism. Ochino was forced out
to Zurich and migrated to Poland joining the anti-Trinitarians there. Catherine
Vogel, a jeweller’s wife, had been burned at the age of 80 in 1539 at Cracow
for believing in ‘the existence of one God, creator of all the visible and the
invisible world, who could not be conceived by the human intellect’ (ibid.).
This movement is the work in Europe during the times we identify as the
Thyatiran era. An anti-Trinitarian movement shows itself also at the second
synod of the reformed Church in 1556 and, in 1558, the Piedmontese George
Blandrata became its head. The Dutch Anabaptists were also Unitarians under
David Joris of Delft (1501-1556). These Unitarians were also loosely called
Protestants. The ERE says that:
Thousands of Protestants from Germany, Alsace and the Low
Countries, migrated to England in the reign of Henry VIII, and the Strangers
Church under Edward VI contained also Frenchmen, Walloons, Italians, and
Spaniards (ERE, ibid., p. 520).
These people sought refuge in
England with the help of the Unitarian Church there. This was the true Church
of God. England had become more open to public expression from the fifteenth
century through the publications of Richard Peacock, bishop of Chichester. The
Lollards and the Anabaptists diverged at this time.
On 28 December 1548 a priest named John Assheton abjured before
Cranmer the ‘damnable heresies’ that ‘the Holy Ghost is not God, but only a
certain power of the Father,’ and that ‘Jesus Christ that was conceived of the
Virgin Mary was a holy prophet ... but was not the true and living God’. In the
following April a commission was appointed to search out all Anabaptists,
heretics, or contemners of the Common Prayer. A number of London tradesmen were
brought before this body in May (ERE,
They were Unitarians. Neither
Binitarianism nor Ditheism was in evidence during this phase of the Church and
over its persecutions. It was not a doctrine. The surgeon George van Parris of
Mainz was executed in 1551 for saying that God the Father was the only God and
the Christ was not very God (ERE, op.
cit.). The Unitarian movement in Poland when Blandrata reached there in 1558
had already entered the Protestant synod but were excluded seven years later.
They refused to be called by any name other than Christian (ERE, ibid.). Faustus Socinus
(1539-1604), nephew of Lelius Socinus (1525-1562) of Siena who was a friend of
Calvin and Melancthon, visited England and travelled to Poland. He visited
Blandrata in Transylvania in 1578 arguing against Francis David who rejected
all forms of cultus addressed to Christ. He settled in Poland in 1579. The
Socinians are termed from him. However, they long precede him there being part
of the Church we understand as Waldensian. This aspect was covered in the paper
Sociniansim, Arianism and
Unitarianism (No. 185)).
The Polish Unitarian Church was
persecuted into extinction by the Catholic Church (see ERE, op. cit.). Socinus admitted the application of the term God to
Christ in an inferior sense. Indeed, this sense was that used by Irenaeus as we
see in the paper Early Theology of the Godhead
Francis David (or Davidis) of
the Hungarian Churches in Transylvania was imprisoned in the castle of Deva for
refusing prayer, or any cultus, to Christ.
He died there in November 1579. We know from the well documented history of his
successors, from Eossi on, that they were not only Unitarian but they kept the
Sabbath, the New Moons and the Holy Days. The Feast of Trumpets was celebrated
in the hymnal as a New Moon and the hymns for the New Moon prevailed rather
than special hymns for Trumpets as a feast (see the paper General Distribution of the
Sabbath-keeping Churches (No. 122)).
The name Unitarius was first used as a word by Melius and first appeared on
a document in the decree of the Synod of Lecsfalva in 1600. It was formally
adopted by the Church in 1638. The Hungarian Churches were persecuted for two
centuries after this and their property was confiscated. At the beginning of
this century their descendants had 140 churches among the Szeklers of
Transylvania with a few in Hungary. Their hymn book of 1865 made no provision
for the worship of Christ (ERE,
ibid.). The true and faithful remnant of the Church now left is the
Transcarpathians who are still Unitarian Sabbath-keepers.
The growth of Unitarianism in
England stemmed from the desire to restore the correct apostolic faith. It was
obvious to the best English minds that the New Testament was not Trinitarian
but Unitarian and those eminent men set about establishing the original
teachings of the Church. The commencement was perhaps from Richard Hooker
(1553-1600) and John Hales (1584-1656). The confinement of the definition of
the mysteries of the Godhead to Scripture alone became a central issue. The
works of William Chillingworth (1602-1644) are central to this issue.
Chillingworth drew his influence from Lord Falkland, a premier Unitarian. The
works of Grotius are silent about the triune nature and (according to Stephen
Nye in his Brief History of the
Unitarians also called Socinians, London, 1687) says he interpreted his
works on Unitarian lines or according to
the mind of the Socinians (ERE,
(1590-1657) was converted on his trip to Poland. Milton was also influenced by
the Transylvanian Unitarians (see Aereopagitica,
London, 1644 – noted from ERE,
ibid.). The Convocations of Canterbury and York in June 1640 prohibited the
importation of Unitarian (Socinian) books and Parliament made the denial of the
Trinity a capital crime in 1648. However, John Biddle (1616-1662), often termed
the father of English Unitarianism, published A Twofold Scripture Catechism in 1654. Unitarianism became very
general in England in the seventeenth century. Prof Bronowski, in the TV series
The Ascent of Man, goes so far as to
say the Industrial Revolution was a product of Unitarian thinkers. In spite of
imprisonment and exile in the Scilly Islands (1654-1658), Biddle gathered
followers. Biddle’s death in 1662 and the Act of Uniformity checked the
movement as an organisation for worship. However, the demands of the literal
intent of the Scriptures led all of the great thinkers of the day to reject
Trinitarianism. This included Milton. Thomas Firmin (1632-1697) a wealthy
mercer promoted the literature from 1691-1705. Parliament tried to suppress it.
However, the great philosophers entered the field in the form of John Locke
(1632-1704). Sir Isaac Newton had also followed Milton into Unitarianism from
an examination of the Scriptures. These great thinkers were followed by William
Whiston (1672-1752) who succeeded Newton at Cambridge, as Lucasian professor in
1703 and was deprived of his chair in 1710 because of his Unitarianism. Samuel
Clarke’s (1675-1729) treatise on The
Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity was also important in the exposure of
this problem. The objection to the co-eternality of the son was made here for
the first time, introducing a quasi-Binitarian position. When the Manchester
Academy (later Manchester College Oxford) was opened in 1786, its first
principal was Thomas Barnes who was a Unitarian.
Presbyterian College at Carmarthen was the continuator of a series of
academies, the first of which was founded by Samuel Jones sometime fellow of
Jesus College Oxford and one of the 2,000 ejected ministers of 1662 (ERE, p. 523).
Unitarians were Joseph Priestly (1733-1804). Priestly’s friend Theophilus
Lindsey (1723-1808) vicar of Catterick on the Tees resigned his position after
the failure of a Parliamentary petition and he opened a Unitarian chapel in
Essex Street, Strand in 1774. This was the first open chapel for many years –
perhaps since the suppression of the Strangers Church.
It used the
Anglican liturgy adapted to the worship of the Father only. The appointment of
Thomas Belsham (1750-1829) in 1789 to a theological tutorship to a college in
Hackney advanced the Unitarian cause by simply opening the Scriptures to study.
This was done through The Unitarian
Society for promoting Christian knowledge and the Practice of Virtue by the
Distribution of Books. Lindsey, Priestly and Belsham were its leaders. In
1813 the repeal, through the efforts of William Smith (1756-1835) MP for
Norwich and grandfather of Florence Nightingale, of the clauses of the Toleration
Act which made the profession of Unitarianism illegal saw Unitarianism advance.
The Unitarianism of these people also denied the Soul Doctrine (see ERE, p. 524). Thomas Southwood Smith
(1788-1861) also impressed his Unitarian ideals on Byron, Moore, Wordsworth and
had already found expression from one of Cromwell’s chaplains earlier (ERE, ibid.). The legal battles of the
eighteenth century saw changes in the place in law of the Church trusts which
also had a profound impact on the way the Unitarian churches organised
Unitarianism such as that advanced by James Martineau (1805-1900) and the
modern school undermines the Messianic function of Jesus Christ and is not
entirely based upon Scripture but also on the interpretation of Scripture by
reason. His exposition of the Tübingen reconstruction of the origins of
Christianity published in the Westminster Review and referred to in the ERE (p. 525) is important as is his
philosophical vindication of the communion of the human spirit with the Divine.
Radical Unitarianism wrongly seeks to deny the pre-incarnate existence of
John James Tayler (1797-1869)
produced the first formal discussion of the Johannine question in England in
his Attempt to ascertain the character of
the Fourth Gospel (London, 1867). A long series of scholars had pleaded for
the revision of the text and of the New Testament and George Vance Smith was
invited to join the Bible Revisers (1870). The Unitarian scholar James Drummond
(1835-1918) was a learned theologian who produced significant works on The Jewish Messiah (1877), Philo Judaeus (1888) and Inquiry into the Character and Authorship of
the Fourth Gospel (1903). John Relly Beard (1800-1876) led the way to
modern dictionaries of the Bible with his People’s
Dictionary of the Bible. Other important Unitarians were Edgar Taylor,
Samuel Sharpe, H A Bright, William Rathbone Greg, Francis William
Newman, Frances Power Cobbe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Theodore Parker and Max
Müller. The ERE also gives
information on churches and distribution. Some of the greatest thinkers of
modern times, when examining the Bible for its intent free of the Greek
theology of the Alexandrian and Cappadocian schools, have embraced Unitarianism
as the original Bible system.
The Seventh Day Baptist movement
Sabbatarian Unitarians became
visible in England in the seventeenth century, although some would see
historical continuity from much earlier times. Biblicist theology was at the
foundation of the Traskite movement led by John Traske around 1616 in London.
Hamlet Jackson brought the Sabbath to the group through Bible study. The
literal interpretation of Scripture led this Puritan group to the Levitical
food laws as well. It is thought that his followers formed the nucleus for the
Mill Yard Sabbatarian Baptist church, while others would see its origins in
earlier movements. The church became prominent in 1661 because of the Fifth
Monarchy preaching of John James, who was executed for treason. The church had
been influenced not only by the Jewish synagogue in Amsterdam, but by the
popular messianic movement of Sabbetai Zwi. The church, like many general
Baptists of the time was thoroughly Unitarian as shown by such writers as
Edward Elwall in the early 1700s. The biblical calendar and celebration of
Passover on 14 Nisan continue today, although with the death of Pastor
Albourne Peat the Unitarian witness has begun to fade (from 1992).
Although historical evidence is
lacking, it is likely that most if not all of the other early Seventh Day
Baptist churches in England were Unitarian as well. The first clear exception
was the Pinner’s Hall church founded by Frances Bampfield in 1676. This church
was Calvinistic in outlook, and although Bampfield was not quite Trinitarian in
his views, he was certainly not Unitarian. The amalgamation of the Particular
and General Baptists has clouded the issue of the Unitarian origins of
Sabbatarian Baptists. The Trinitarians have been more forward in producing
statements of belief, so documents do not reflect the tenacity of the Unitarian
position. The Unitarians have tended quietly to ignore statements of belief.
Indeed, Mill Yard to this day accepts none but the Ten Commandments with the
addition of a few supporting New Testament texts (Seventh Day Baptists in Europe and America, Vol. 1, American
Sabbath Tract Society, Plainfield, New Jersey, 1910, pp. 25-113).
This is the major or fundamental
error of the Seventh Day Baptist faith. By failing to produce detailed
statements of belief, they could not adequately publish clear statements. Thus,
detailed widespread statements were not possible. They failed to make the most
of their religious freedom and develop a sound doctrinal teaching on the nature
Unitarianism and Sabbath-keeping
Early Unitarianism had, almost
without exception, been accompanied by Sabbath-keeping as both stemmed from
biblical literalism. Trinitarianism was never accompanied by Sabbath-keeping up
until the Reformation. After the Reformation it became a fact that some
Sabbath-keepers were Trinitarian and that some Unitarians were Sunday-keepers
although not as a rule. Modern Sunday-keeping Unitarianism is as aberrant as
any other Sunday system.
The Sabbath experience in Asia
was predominantly non-Trinitarian until the Jesuits began their missionary
work. The Nestorians, and the African missionaries (see the paper General Distribution of the
Sabbath-keeping Churches (No. 122)) followed the early
church into Persia, India and then into China. Unitarian Sabbath-keeping posed
a serious threat to Buddhism and was outlawed by Buddhism. The Sabbath-keeping
churches in Asia were also, as a rule, non-Trinitarian. They kept the food laws
and also denied confession and purgatory. The divisions of these churches
followed, in the main, from the Councils of Constantinople and Chalcedon.
The Chinese had long experienced
the Christian system and, as elsewhere, the Sabbath was a sign of biblical
literalism. In 781 it was already well established (see the paper General Distribution of the
Sabbath-keeping Churches (No. 122)). Sabbath-keeping was
alive and well in China at the rise of the Taiping Rebellion of 1850 (ibid.).
The USA experience
The Sabbath-keeping Churches of
God in the USA are well documented and will not be treated here. The Churches
of God grew from the English church system, with European influence.
Seventh Day Adventism
The Seventh Day Adventist
movement was predominantly and officially Unitarian until 1931 with the death
of Uriah Smith. But the official adoption was some time in coming and stemmed
from the ministry. The Adventist Unitarian thinkers were James White, R. F.
Cottrell Snr and Jnr, D. T. Bordeau until his resignation, D. M. Canright,
J. N. Andrews, Loughborough, John Matteson, A. C. Bordeau,
A. T. Jones, W. W. Prescott and Uriah Smith.
Other Adventist movements were:
All misapprehended the nature of
the resurrection and the judgment. These two were literalist Millennialist
following the biblical texts whereas the SDA’s followed heavenly Millennialism.
Adventism was officially
generally biblical Unitarian until 1931 when Uriah Smith’s influence ceased and
the Trinitarians, long extant within it, started to seize control. Uriah Smith
was labelled an Arian by his successors.
Ellen G White allegedly was
among the first to introduce Trinitarianist concepts to Seventh Day Adventism
in Desire of Ages (1898, p. 530),
seemingly unedited and against the express view of the church (according to M. L. Andreasen,
The Spirit of Prophecy, address of
30 November 1948). There were other Adventist schools of thought.
M L Andreasen (ibid.)
says that they suspected it to be an editing error but he travelled to speak to
her and confirmed that it was so. This was not produced by him until 1948. In
view of the opinions and the doctrines of the elders of the church until 1931,
this text was suspected of being an editing forgery. The Christian Connection,
from which James White came, was Unitarian. They eventually joined with others
to become the United Church of Christ. The doctrines were more biblical than
those of what has become the Unitarian Universalist Church. That church bears
no real relationship to the Unitarian subordinationist doctrines of the
The Adventist Church was
Unitarian, or as the Adventists now say, Arian, until 1931. However, Arianism
as it is defined by Trinitarians proclaims the Spirit as a creation of the son.
This doctrine may well be an invention of the early Trinitarians as what we
have of Arius’ comments bear no record of this doctrine. However, as it is
defined by Trinitarianism, Arianism is not biblical Unitarianism and not the
doctrine held by Smith or by any of the church eras including the Church of God
(Seventh Day) or by the subsequent churches.
It is important to note that the
Seventh Day Adventist denomination did not officially become Trinitarian until
after the publication of Questions on
Doctrine in 1978. Andreasen wrote a series
of letters in protest of this final adoption. So there was a transition period
between 1931 and 1978. The French Adventist
Statement of Beliefs was still Unitarian in 1938, according to a copy of the
Church Manual for that year in the possession of Dr Thomas Mcelwain who studied
in the Adventist seminary in France from 1968 to 1973. He observed in comments
for this work that the seminary was Trinitarian, but the congregations at that
time were still Unitarian.
The Adventist movement of the
early 1800s (1842-1844) saw Trinitarians in rather large numbers drawn into the
Sabbath system. Some never really abandoned the Trinitarian model and this was
to prove fatal to the early pure Adventist system after Smith in 1931 when the
Trinitarians in Adventism gained control, chiefly through the aspirations of
the ministry. The desire to appeal to American Protestantism was a contributing
factor to the problem. It was also to lead to Binitarianism in the Churches of
God in the twentieth century and thus the multiple errors and divisions in the
Adventists in Africa, after the declarations of Trinitarianism in 1978 which
were not announced to them widely, began leaving in large numbers and formed or
joined independent bodies.
began joining CCG in large numbers all over Africa when they learned of the
Biblical Unitarian doctrines. They had refused to accept the WCG and its
Church of God (Seventh
of God (Seventh Day) was a biblical Unitarian Sabbath-keeping system that did
not as a rule keep the Holy Days in the Oregon/Denver
Conferences but has been known to do so in some areas (e.g. Chile) and in the Caldwell Conference
in the US and Nigeria and elsewhere.
Denver Conference has been subverted by Trinitarians among its ministry and
succumbed by the declarations of Binitarianism in 1995-7 and Trinitarian
Protestantism in 1999. The voting power of its members, as opposed to the
ministry, did not save it from the swift capitulation seen in the Worldwide
Church of God.
All COG (SD) joining CCG are Biblical Unitarians and have not accepted the
changes in doctrines since 1995-1999. Almost all those in Africa have joined
Worldwide Church of God (formerly Radio Church of God)
Herbert Armstrong commenced
writing for the Church of God (Seventh Day) magazine Bible Advocate from 1927. He commenced his ministerial work from
the early 1930s but was still on the payroll of Church of God (Seventh Day)
until approximately 1940. This was after the planned
introduction of Trinitarianism in the Adventist movement but not related
The theology of the Worldwide
Church of God was Ditheist and akin to, but not the same as, the heresy of
Marathonius after the deposition and death of Macedonius after the Council of
Constantinople in 381 CE. It differed in the nature of the Holy Spirit, but
still held two Gods. It was very poorly defined and there were many Unitarians
in the ranks of the Worldwide Church of God simply because of the ambiguity of
the Bible Correspondence Course, which derived the structure of God from the
With the break-up of the
Worldwide Church of God there is a series of church groups with poorly defined
doctrines on the Godhead and most other areas. Many are technically Ditheist
believing in two Gods ab orgine. Some
have declared a Binitarian structure, but with very poor theological
exposition. All groups keep the Holy Days. At least two groups keep the New
Christian Churches of
The Christian Churches of God is
a Sabbath-keeping church keeping all aspects of the early church systems,
including the biblical Unitarian Godhead. It has branches in
non-English-speaking nations under names translated from the English name.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses are a
Unitarian Church, which does not keep or understand the Sabbaths, New Moons and
Feasts. Therefore, they lack the critical signs of the elect mentioned in this
The Sabbath is a sign of the Church of God. It is not the sign. The primary sign is the
Godhead. This is the biblical Unitarian structure. Baptism is the second sign
and the receipt of the Holy Spirit is the inner seal. The outward signs are the
Sabbath, and the Lord’s Supper/Passover, which is the sign of the laws of God.
This is followed by the New Moons and Holy Days. The Sabbaths are denied to
humanity because of idolatry.
Ezekiel 20:16-20 Because they despised my judgments, and walked not in my
statutes, but polluted my sabbaths: for their heart went after their idols. 17 Nevertheless
mine eye spared them from destroying them, neither did I make an end of them in
the wilderness. 18
But I said unto their children in the wilderness, Walk ye not in
the statutes of your fathers, neither observe their judgments, nor defile
yourselves with their idols: 19 I am the LORD
your God; walk in my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them; 20 And hallow my
sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the LORD your God. (KJV)
The pollution of the Sabbaths
stems from idolatry. The Sabbaths include all of the days set aside for worship
by God according to His Calendar based upon the correct observance of the New
Moons. God punishes the nation for failing to honour Him and keep His laws.
Ezekiel 20:21-24 Notwithstanding the children rebelled against me: they
walked not in my statutes, neither kept my judgments to do them, which if a man do, he shall even live in them;
they polluted my sabbaths: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them, to
accomplish my anger against them in the wilderness. 22 Nevertheless
I withdrew mine hand, and wrought for my name's sake, that it should not be
polluted in the sight of the heathen, in whose sight I brought them forth. 23 I lifted up
mine hand unto them also in the wilderness, that I would scatter them among the
heathen, and disperse them through the countries; 24 Because they had not executed
my judgments, but had despised my statutes, and had polluted my sabbaths, and
their eyes were after their fathers' idols. (KJV)
The Sabbaths are inseparable
from the first commandment and the law. The nation is punished for failing to
keep all of the aspects of the laws of God. The elect have kept the faith in a
consistent manner until the nineteenth and twentieth centuries when the
centrality of the worship of the One True God, and the understanding of the
Godhead was impugned by Protestantism.