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Sabbatarians

Summary

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.

 

English Sabbatarianism is generally associated with two individuals: John Traske (1585-1636); and, Theophilus Brabourne (1590-1662). Dorothy Traske (1585?-1645) was also a major figure in keeping the early Traskite congregations growing in numbers.

John Traske / Traskite Sabbatarians

Traskites were an English sect of the followers of John Traske (1585-1636), and his second wife Dorothy Traske (1585?-1645). Traske preached a form of Sabbatarianism which embraced some of the Mosaic Laws. Traskite Sabbatarians were generally considered more radical in their Jewish practices. The sect probably continued in England until the early part of the 18th Century.

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 wife Dorothy Traske (neé Coome)(1585?-1645). Traskite congregations started to appear throughout England but exact numbers are are uncertain.

 

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 Richard Strode of Cattistock (Dorset). Before returning to London during 1628-30, there are some indications that Traske seems to had attempted to be a obedient churchman.

 

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 Dorothy Traske (1585?-1645). She did not renounced her own Sabbatarian views, and seems to have been quite active in the movement's administration. Refusing to recant her views the State had her confined in the Gatehouse Prison (Parliament) until her death in 1645. She may have been converted to Socinianism by Paul Best (1590?-1657), an English Socinian, her fellow prisoner at the Gatehouse from 1645-1647 before her death.

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.

Theophilus Brabourne

Theophilus Brabourne (1590-1662) was always an Anglican priest ca. 1621-42. Unlike John Traske, Brabourne attempted to incorporate the Jewish Sabbath observances into the general practices of the Church of England. There is little indication of any attempts by Brabourne in starting any Sabbatarian congregations.

Theophilus Brabourne (1590-1662) came from Norwich. He entered into the family hosiery business there ca. 1605. He later earned an M.A., and was ordained in 1621. From 1633-30 Brabourne was active in the Dioceses of Norwich.

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.

A SELECT SABBATARIAN BIBLIOGRAPHY

Primary Sources:

[Anon.] The Moralitie of the Fourth Commandment (1652)

[Anon.] An earnest address to the profaners of God's sabbath [1708] [18th Century; reel 6899, no. 02] [ESTCT200921]

[Anon.] A discourse of the sabbath: or, the controversies about the sabbath stated and examined, with reference to the law of nature, the law of Moses, and the law of Christ (1683)

Abbott, George, 1603-49 and Broad, Thomas, 1577-1635. Vindiciae Sabbathi, or, An ansvver to two treatises of Master Broads. The one, concerning the Sabbath or seaventh day. The other, concerning the Lords-day or first of the weeke with a survey of all the rest which of late have written upon that subject (1641) [EEb, 1641-1700; 883:3] [Wing (2nd ed.) A66] [ESTCR3974]

Bernard, Richard, 1568-1641. A threefold treatise of the Sabbath; distinctly divided into the patriarchall Mosaicall, Christian Sabbath: for the better clearing and manifestation of the truth in this controversie concerning the weekly Sabbath (1641) [EEb, 1641-1700; 1056:16] [Wing B2037] [ESTCR34406]

Brabourne, Theophilius, 1590-1662. A Discourse upon the Sabbath Day (1628)

______. A Defence of that most Ancient, and Sacred ordinance of the Sabbath Day ... (1632)

______. Of the Seventh Day (1660)

Brerewood, Edward, 1565?-1613. A learned treatise of the Sabaoth (1630) [STC 3622]

______. [Another ed.] (1631)[STC 3623]

______. A second treatise of the Sabbath, or, A explortion of the fourth commandement (1632) [STC 3624]

Broad, Thomas, 1577-1635. Three questions ansvvered. ... (1621) [EEb, 1475-1640; 579:02] [STC (2nded.) 3606] [ESTCS106710]

______. Three Sabbath Questions (1621)

______. Tractatus de sabbato, in quo doctina Eccesiae declaratur ac defenditur [1627] [EEb, 1475-1640; 1164:21] [STC (2nd ed.) 3808] [ESTCS121948]

Burton, William, d. 1616. An abstract of the doctrine of the sabbaoth. (1606) [ESTCS124659]

Byfield, Richard, 1598?-1664. Doctrine of the Sabbath vindicated [1632]

Chamberlayne, Edward. Angliae Notitia (1702)

Chamberlen, Peter, 1601-83. Englands Choice (1682)

Collinges, John, 1623-90. A modest plea for the Lords Day: or rather the summe of the plea made by divines for the Lords Day, as the Christian Sabbath: against those who contend for the old Sabbath of the seventh day in order from the creation (1669) [ESTCR43109]

Collier, Thomas, fl. 1691. The Seventh day Sabbath opened and discovered, as it is brought forth, and to be observed now in the days of the gospel: and the first day of the week, the time for publique worship (1658)

Elliott, Edward. Plain scripture-proof, that the Christian Church is under no obligation to keep any of the Jewish sabbaths. (1708)

Falconer, John, 1577-1656. A Briefe refutation of Iohn Traskes iudaical and nouel fancyes. Stiling himselfe Minister of Gods Word, imprisoned for the lawes eternall perfection, or God's lawes perfect eternity [1618] [EEb, 1475-1640; 79:22] [STC (2nd ed.) 10675] [ESTCS114688]

Fisher, Edward, fl. 1627-55. A Christian caveat to the old and new sabbaratians. Or, A vindication of our Gospel-festivals. (4th ed.; 1652) [EEb, 1641-1700; 713:4] [Wing F990] [ESTCR12604]

Fuller, Thomas. The Church-History of Britian, from the Birth of Jesus Christ until the year 1648 (1655)

G[ouge], W[illiam], 1578-1653. The Sabbaths sanctification ... (1641). [EEb, 1641-1700; 1485:4] [Wing G1395] [ESTCR31086]

______. [Another ed.] (1641) [EEb, 1641-1700; 983:12] [Wing G1396] [ESTCR7871]

Harvard, Simon, 1572-1614. Three sermons vpon some portions of the former lessons appointed for certaine Sabbaths. [EEb, 1475-1640; 1989:11] [STC (2nd ed.) 12923.5] [ESTCS124981]

Heylyn, Peter. The History of the Sabbath (2nd ed.; 1636)

Jessey, Henry (d. 1663). A Calculation for this present year, 1645 [1645]

______. Miscellanea Sacra, or a Diverse Necessary Truths (1665)

______. A Scripture Almanack, or, A Calculation for the year 1647 [1647]

Porter, Edmund, 1595-1670. Sabbatum. The mystery of the Sabbath discovered. Wherein the doctrine of the Sabbath, according to the Scriptures, and the pimative church, is declared. (1650). [ESTCR230101]

Roberts, Humphrey, fl. 1572. [An earnest complaint of diuers vain, wicked and abused exercises, practiced on the Saboth day: which tende to the hinderance of the Gospel, and increase of many abhominable vices. Whit a shorte admonishment to all popist priests and negligent ministers] [1572] [STC (2nd ed.) 21090] [ESTCS125948]

Ives, Jeremiah, fl. 1653-74. Saturday No Sabbath, Or, The Seventh-Day Sabbath Proved To be of no force to the Beleeving Gentiles in the times of the Gospel, by the law of nature, Moses, Christ ... (1659) [EEb, 1641-1700; 1231(18)]

Keach, Benjamin, 1640-1704. The Jewish Sabbath abrogated: or, The Saturday Sabbatarians confuted. (1700) [EEb, 1641-1700; 280:6] [Wing K73]

Ley, John. Sunday a Sabbath: or, a Preparative Discourse for Discussion of Sabbatory Doubts (1641)

Marlow, Issac. A Tract on the Sabbath Day (1694)

More, John. A Generall Exhortation to the World (1652)

______. A Trumpet Sounded; or The Great Mystery of the two Little Horns Unfolded (1654)

______. Moses Revived; or a Vindication of an ancient law of God ... (1670)

Norris, Edward, 1584-1659. A Treatise, maintaining that temporall blessing are to be sought and asked with submission to the will of God. (1636) [EEb, 1474-1640; 1212:5] [STC (2nd ed.) 18646] [ESTCS103140]

______. The nevv Gospel, not the true Gospel. (1638) [EEb, 1475-1640; 1212:4] [STC (2nd ed.) 18645] [ESTCS113242]

Ockford, John. The Doctrine of the Fourth Commandment, Deformed by Popery; Reformed & Restored to its Primitive purity. (1650)

Ross, Alexander. A View of all Religions in the World (1653)

______. [Another ed.] (1683)

Russell, William.No Seventh-Day-Sabbath Commanded by Jesus Christ in the New-Testament(1663)

Saller, William, (d. 1680?) and Spittlehouse, John (fl. 1653). An Appeal To the Consciences of the chief Magistrates of this Commonwealth, touching the Sabbath-day (1657)

______. A Preservative against Atheism and Error, Wherein some fundamental points in religion ... Are by way of question and answer, handled ... To which is added, A brief answer to William Russell in a book of his, also entitled, No Seventh-day-Sunday in Christs New Testament (1664)

Shepard, Thomas, 1605-49. Theses Sabbaticae. Or, The doctrine of the Sabbath:...(1649) [EEb, 1641-1700; 2556] [Wing S3147] [ESTCR232939]

Stennett, Edward, d. 1690? Royal law contended for. Or, Some brief grounds serving to prove the the Ten Commandments are yet in full force, and shall remain so, till heaven and earth pass away. (1667) [ESTCR233387]

Thomas, Lewis, d. 1567/8. Seauen sermons, or the exercises of seauen sabbath.(1638) [STC (2nd ed.) 24006.5] [ESTCS95539]

Tillam, Thomas. Seventh-day Sabbath sought out and celebrate, or, The saints last design upon the man of sin with their advance of Gods first institution to its primitive perfection ... (1657) [EEb, 1641-1700; 337.4] [Wing (2nd ed.) T1166] [ESTCR4598]

Traske, John, 1585-1636. Christs kingdom discouered. Or, That true Church of God is in England, clearely made manifest against all sectaries whatsoeuer. (1615) [EEb, 1475-1640; 1245:04] [STC (2nd ed.) 24175.3] [ESTCS107721]

______. A Pearle for a Prince, or a Princely Pearl. As it was deliuered in two sermons, ... (1615) [EEb, 1475-1640; 1119:02] [STC (2nd ed.) 24176] [ESTCS102652]

[____]. Christs kingdome discovered. Or, that the true church of God is in England. (1616) [ESTC (2nd ed.) 24175.7] [ESTCS95559]

[____]. Heauens ioy, or, Heauen begun vpon earch. Wherein there is discouered more plainely than euer formerly. ...(1616) [EEb, 1475-1640; 578:15] [EST (2nd ed.) 13019] [ESTCS118657]

______. A Treatise of Libertie from Iudaisme, or An acknowledgement of thre Christian libertie, indited and published by Iohn Traske: of late stumbling, now happily running againe in the race of Christianitie. (1620) [EEb, 1475-1640; 1011:12] [STC (2nd ed.) 24178] [ESTCS118597]

______. The Povver of Preaching. Or, the powerfull effects of the word truely preached, and rightly applyed, as it was deliuered in one or moe sermons. By Iohn Traske, preacher of Gods word sometimes at Axminster in Deuon: afterwards at the Fleete in London: and now at Tillingham in Dengie hundred in Essex. (1623) [EEb, 1475-1640; 1119:03] [STC (2nd ed.) 24177] [ESTCS102654]

Warren, Edmund. The Jevvs Sabbath antiquated, and the Lords Day instituted by divine authority. Or, The Change of the Sabbath from the last to the first day of the week, asserted and maintained by Scripture-arguments, and testimonies of the best antiquity; with a refutation of sundry objections araised against it. The sum of all comprized in seven positions. (1659) [Thomason Tracts; 147:E.986(26)] [Wing W-955]

White, Francis, 1564?-1638. A Treatise of the Sabbath-Day; containing a Defense of the Orthodoxall Doctrine of the Church of England against Sabbatarian Novelty (1635) [EEb, 1475-1640; 1225:1] [STC (2nd ed.) 25383] [ESTCS119874]

______. [Another ed.] (1635) [EEb, 1475-1640; 1048:2] [STC (2nd ed.)25384] [ESTCS119876]

_______. [Another ed.] ([1635) [STC (2nd ed.) 25384.5] [ESTCS95788]

______. (3rd ed.; 1636) [EEb, 1475-1640; 1469:02] [STC (2nd ed.) 25385] [ESTCS114004]

Secondary Sources:

Ball, B. W., The Seventh-day Men: Sabbatarians and Sabbatarianism in England and Wales, 1600-1800 (1994)

Brinegar, L. B., Puritan social discipline: Sabbatarianism and the ecclestiastical reform movement in England 1603-1624 (1995)

Ferencz, Jozsef, "David Ferencz es a Szombatossag" Kereszteny Magvetö 9, (1874)

Ivimey, J. History of the English Baptists (4 vols; 1811-30)

Katz, D. S., Sabbath and sectarianism in seventeenth-century England (1988)

Kohn, Samuel. A Sombatosok törentenetük, ... (1889)

______. Die Sabbatarier in Siebenbürger (1894)

Kovary, Laszlo, "A Szombatosok irodalmi maradvanyai, etc.", Kereszteny Magvetö 21, (1886)

______. "Pechi Simon Kancellar", Kereszteny Magvetö 6, (1871)

Parker, K. L., The English Sabbath: A Study of Doctrine and Discipline from the Reformation to the Civil War (1988)

Whitely, W. T. Men of the Seventh Day, MS (thesis) (Unpublished)

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