The Sabbath, or Shabot in Hebrew literally means "to rest". The early Christians observed the Jewish Sabbath until the Council of Laodicea (A.D. 364) which banned the practice on pain of excommunication. Sunday worship was established as the norm.
Sabbatarianism is a specific Christian belief in the nature of and the observance of the Jewish Sabbath as the the Day of Rest. Sabbatarians have observed various Jewish traditions related to the Jewish Sabbath on Saturday rather than the Christian Sunday. Sabbatarianism developed out of the Radical Reformation, and was most popular in Europe during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
An early center of Sabbatarianism were the Socinianism (Unitarian) congregations of Hungary during the late 16th century. An early effort was made to stamp out the practice, while it spread into the Reformed Church.
The practice spread westward finding converts in many denominations including the Roman Church. Some Sabbatarians practiced in the public, while others practiced in private. Large numbers of congregations were converted in some regions which caused great concerns at the State level.
Sabbatarianism was not an organized sect, but rather a general belief in maintaining many of the traditional Jewish laws and observances associated with the early Church. Some argued on a scriptural basis that Sunday worship had been imposed by the Roman Church, and not by the Scriptures.
The level of observance varied from group to group. Some groups were accused of reverting to an early form of Judaism. Some members only observed the traditional Jewish Sabbath rather than Sunday, and some included the Jewish dietary rules. Some Sabbatarians also practiced "believers' baptism".
By the early seventeenth century, Sabbatarianism had spread throughout most of Europe to some degree. Sabbatarians of various persuasions were showing up within many Protestant denominations, and sects.
English Sabbatarians / Seventh-Day Men
Sabbatarians were known in England from the time of Elizabeth 1 (1558-1601). Some Dutch Anabaptists embraced Sabbatarianism, and may have helped to introduce these practices into England. Socinians and Reformed Church members were also know to hold Sabbatarian beliefs.
Sabbatarian practitioner were also to be found within the Church of England in one form or another. Even the puritans were known to harbor Sabbatarian views. Now with access to an English Bible this allowed scriptural study and questioning of Church doctrines including the Christian Sunday to anyone that could read.
Sabbatarianism is generally associated with two individuals:
John Traske / Traskite Sabbatarians
Traskites were an
English sect of the followers of
John Traske (or Trask) was born in East Coker, Somerset. He had been a schoolteacher by profession until his ordination about 1611 in Salisbury. He may have held Sabbatarian views before his ordination. He was active as an itinerant preacher spreading the virtues of Calvinism and his Sabbatarians views in and around Devonshire. He preached in Axminster, Devon before leaving for London about 1615.
Traske was known for his preaching abilities and was successful in winning converts. A strong dose of Calvinism with his emphasis on the Jewish Sabbath prompted a contemporary to describe Traske as "a puritan minister lately grown half a Jew".
Traske moved to London in 1615, and seems to have received some assistance from the King in securing a church position. His congregation became very independent, and held many Old Testaments tenets. Traske became so busy that he ordained four men to assist him in his ministry.
He published: A Pearle for a Prince, or a Princely Pearl (1615) on baptism. He was sent to Newgate Prison for his writing.
In 1617, Traske
established a Traskite Sabbatarian congregation in London.
1617 was an important year for Traske, in February he married his second
Traskite Sabbatarians generally held the the following tenets: 1) a literal Fourth Commandment; 2) Christ did not change the Sabbath; 3) God had created the Seventh day to rest. They also observed many of the Mosaic Laws especially in regards to dietary laws. Traske may have initially observed Sunday worship, and than changed about 1617.
In 1618, the Court of High Commission had Traske arrested and imprisoned. He than appeared before the Star Chamber, and was given a severe sentence including imprisonment for life and a fine of £1000. He seems to have escaped the full impact of his sentence when he finally recanted his views in 1620. He issued his recant in: A Treatise of Libertie from Judaisme (1620) to that end. Interesting enough his second wife was also arrested and questioned at the same time, but she refused to recant and was kept in prison.
The period from
1620-23 is a little vague. By 1623, Traske was preaching at Tillingham, Essex. He also spent part of this period as the
private chaplain to the household of Sir
By 1630 if not earlier, John Traske had returned to London and joined the Independent Jacob-Lathrop Congregation until his death in 1636. He would seem to had renounced his Sabbatarian views. Henry Jessey a future pastor would hold private Sabbatarian views.
Trask was arrested by the High Court of Commission in 1636 regarding Sabbatarian organizations in England but renounced any dealings with them. After a short period in Poultry Counter (Prison) in London, Traske became ill and died a short time later from poor health.
Of major concern to
the High Court of Commission in 1636 was John Traske's second wife
Traskite Sabbatarians may well have vanished in the late 1620's to 1645 if not for the efforts of Dorothy Traske to keep the movement alive. She may have been more important to the development of the movement than her husband in the long run. Traskite congregations may have continued into the early 18th century.
Brabourne's major contribution to English Sabbatarianism was through his scholarly research and writings. Brabourne's writing reflect some of the earlier Puritan Sabbatarian influences. His first work: A Discourse upon the Sabbath Day; ... (1628) argued for the practice of the Saturday Sabbath based on scriptural arguments to the Church of England.
Brabourne's second work: A Defence Of that most Ancint and Sacred ordinance of the Sabbath Day, ... (1632) was basically a revised and expanded second edition of his earlier work: A Discourse upon the Sabbath Day; ... (1628).
In 1634, Brabourne was being held at the Gatehouse (Westminster), a Parliamentary gaol for heretical prisoners. Dorothy Traske, the second wife of John Trask (1585-1636) and Paul Best (1590-1657), a Socinian, were also being held here during this same period.
The Court of High Commission was interested in Brabourne's Sabbatarian writings. From later 1634 to early 1635, Brabourne had a rather extended conversations of his writings with the officials of the Church while in prison over his agreed upon personal recantation. That final public document was a rather carefully worded document acceptable to all parties concerned when signed.
Brabourne soon found himself back in Norwich as a priest in 1635. Brabourne always held that his carefully worded recant was not a negative statement of Sabbatarianism. His recent brush with the authorities resulted in a much lowered public image from 1635-48.
In 1648, Brabourne received an inheritance which allowed him to retire. He left the Church to continue his research and to write. From 1654-60, Brabourne published at least seven religious works. One of his last works: Of the Seventh Day (1660) was a statement of Brabourne's latest scriptural research on the Saturday Sabbath.
Brabourne's writings were a major source of scriptural research for later Sabbatarians. He was not the only author on the subject during this period, but his writings provided the level of scholarly research and documentation that was often lacking in other writers on the subject. His works continued in high regard by many later scholars.
London Sabbatarians to 1660
Other English religious sects that would embraced various levels of Sabbatarianism. Prominent among these were the General Baptists and the Particular Baptists. By 1650 a number of Seventh-Day Baptist congregations were established in London, and throughout England. A number of Independent congregations also embraced the Jewish Sabbath, and the Mosaic traditions to greater or lesser degrees.
Some of the better known Independent congregations with Sabbatarian leanings:
The Mill Yard Church (London) is often considered one of the first established Sabbatarian congregations in London. Its exact beginnings are still unclear. It may have developed from an earlier Seventh-Day Baptist congregation.
Dr. Peter Chamberlen (1601-1683), John More (d. 1702), or William Saller (or Sallows), a London compass maker are often named as the first possible Elders of the congregation. John James (d. 1661) was an Elder. He was arrested, and put on trial for holding Fifth Monarchy views. During the trial he stated that he did not support the Venner Rising (1661)at the time. He stated that he did have later second thoughts that if he could do it over again, he would. This was enough for the Crown and he was found guilty. He would suffer a rather cruel and harsh death at the hands of the Government at Tyburn in 1661. Some have suggested that he became an object lesson of the Governmental anger.
The Lothbury Square (London) Congregation (1652-54) was a short lived endeavor. Peter Chamberlen and John More (or Moore) establish a Sabbatarian congregation with possible connections with the earlier Mill Yard Church (London).
A prominent independent London pastor Henry Jessey (d. 1663), of the Jacob-Lathrop-Jessey Congregation developed Sabbatarian leaning in the mid-1650's. He and his congregation would be linked with Sabbatarianism. Jessey became associated with the Fifth Monarchy Men until the Restoration(1660).
Some of the better known Sabbatarian congregation in London were:
The Bell Lane Church in Spitalfields (London)(ca. 1662- ) membership of Particular/Calvinist Baptists as a Seventh Day Baptist under the pastorship of John Belcher (d. 1695), (or Belchar, Bellchar) from 1664-95. Belcher was a bricklayer by profession and itinerant preacher with Fifth Monarchist leanings. He was arrested with John Canne (1590?-1667) and Wentworth Day (d. 1662) at a conventicle in Swan Alley, Coleman Street (London) on 1 April 1658 with other Fifth Monarchy Men. Belcher was released later that same month. Belcher was a major radical, but he did not support the Venner Rising (1661) due to personal differences of opinions with Venner.
Swan Alley, Coleman Street, (London) Congregation to ca. 1661. The congregation was heavily linked with the Fifth Monarchy Men. Arms and ammunition were found there in 1657. It became a favorite meeting place for Fifth Monarchists activists.
There was a close relationship during the period from 1650-1660 between many Sabbatarians and the general Fifth Monarchists movement. Many of these Sabbatarian congregations survived the Restoration(1660). Sabbatarianism would continue to grow and prosper in England into the eighteenth century.