Girolamo Zanchi on the Lord's Day as a tradition

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Reformed Covenanter

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How do we make sense of Girolamo Zanchi's comments about the observance of the Lord's Day? Previous to the statement below, he argued that the word of God was the church's only rule in religious matters. In light of that point, I presume that when he refers to a tradition below, he is referring to an apostolically approved tradition, which has the same authority as an express command?

XII. Traditions truely apostolicall and catholicke are to be retained in the church.

And the traditions in meane while, which it is manifestlie knowne have come from the apostles, to have beene ever observed in all churches as that of hallowing the Lords daie in place of the sabaoth and such like; and allthough there be no expresse commandement in the scriptures for the observing of them, yet wee iudge that they are to be retained in the church.

Girolamo Zanchi, De religione christiana fides – Confession of Christian Religion, ed. Luca Baschera and Christian Moser (1585; 2 vols, Leiden: Brill, 2007), I.XII, 1: 125-27.


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Zanchius believed the church could appoint feast days and was fond of them but acknowledged "Indeed the first, namely, ‘that it is more agreeable with the first institution, and with the Apostolic writings, that only one day in seven be sanctified entire and solemnly, than if many be thus sanctified: yet at the same time to sanctify many does not quarrel with the scriptures.’" Cited in Gillespie, English Popish Ceremonies (NP: 2013), 66 n1. So there is some error in mixing types of church power (apostolical and otherwise) here some way that is not clear in the extracts I've seen translated. But Zanchius did believe the Sabbath was of God's institution and these quotations note the apostles had good reason to change the day (Nicholas Bownd cites Zanchius close to sixty times in his revised edition 1606 edition of True Doctrine of the Sabbath.):

And that we might not doubt that the sanctifying of this day was so ancient, one of purpose moving this question, Quando etc., “When did God sanctify it?” answers: “… not only by His decree and will” (as purposing to do hereafter):
… but in very deed from the beginning, because (as a great number do think, and as it is very probable) He commanded the first man (Adam and Eve) to sanctify it; and therefore in the sixteenth of Exodus, Moses repeats this most ancient sanctification of the Sabbath, saying, Today is the Sabbath of the Lord (Exod. 16:25).​
Where though he speaks doubtfully of it, saying, “it is very probable,” yet he grants that a great number do steadfastly hold it; and himself in another place shows that he was fully persuaded of it. Nicholas Bownd, TDotS (RHB and Naphtali Press, 2016), 42.

… not without just cause the Church of God has always had and kept her holy days, even from the beginning of |32| the world; on which all of them did come together, religiously to celebrate the worship of God, and all days have not been alike unto them. Thus still to observe some days, and to keep them holy is not Jewish, but Christian; for those places (Gal. 4:10, Ye observe days, and Col. 2:16, Let no man condemn you in respect of a holy day, or of the Sabbath days) do condemn none, but those that by the law of Moses were imposed upon the Jews; but that there should be some days appointed and kept for God’s worship, is nowhere forbidden. Nay, it appears that they did appoint, and use the first day of the week; therefore unless we will make the apostle contrary to himself, we must confess, that in those places his meaning is not to teach, that the Church should have no days holy at all different from the rest.54. Page 63.​

God which did prescribe unto His people with what kind of worship He would be served, did appoint also a time in which He would be openly served of the whole Church gathered together; for He would that all things should be done not after the will of the people, but His own will. Page 94.
Now if God did not permit them in former times to choose the day, why should we have this |73| liberty more than they? especially seeing that if we be left to ourselves, we are as prone to err in days as they, as appears by the heathen who had other days, and not the seventh; and by the papists also, who did magnify many other days above the seventh.
The fourth command includes the Jewish Sabbath and ours
And a little after, he adds:
Notandum in mandato ipso, etc. It is to be observed that, not without just cause, it is not said, Remember thou keep holy the seventh day, but the Sabbath day, that is, the day of rest. As concerning therefore the substance of the law, as it is moral, and appertains to all, he did not sanctify the seventh day precisely, in which Himself rested from the works of creation; but the day consecrated unto rest: consecrated, I say, by God Himself; and that either immediately by Himself, or mediately by the Church ruled therein by the Spirit of God. But God would that unto the coming of Christ, the Sabbath or day of rest by His own example should be the seventh, beginning at that which in the scripture called the first day. But after the coming of Christ He would not have us tied to sanctify this day, as appears in the New Testament; but only that we should keep that day which by the apostles was dedicated unto holy rest, and was allowed of all the churches; and this is the Lord’s Day. And for this cause the Lord in the substance of the commandment, did not put the seventh day, but the Sabbath day. And so always in the prophets He condemns Sabbathorum suorum, non autem diei septima transgressores: Those that do break His Sabbaths, not the seventh day. Page 99-100.​

Hic est primus et præcipuus dies festus, etc. Therefore this day is the first and chief holy day, which the Church of Christ has always kept, and which has testimony and witness not only of the later fathers, but of the first and most ancient, even from the writings of the apostles. Page 110.
And Zanchius also rendering a reason of the change of the day, says:
Sicut initio mundi, etc. As in the beginning of the world God had sanctified the seventh day, because in it all His works were finished and made perfect; so also it is to be thought, that the Lord did sanctify this day, because on that day He renewed the world. Page 111.

Si in memoriam, etc. If for the memory of our redemption one day in the week is to be celebrated, and our redemption was perfected on the day that followed the Jews’ Sabbath, which is called the Lord’s, then upon just consideration was the sanctification of the Sabbath removed unto the Lord’s Day.​
Where he presumes this as a thing undoubted, and not to be gainsaid, that one day in seven must always remain, and therefore the change of necessity be made to this day, and to none other, upon which Christ did rise again. And a little after he adds:
Upon what day the Church should meet for the public worship of God, is set down by the tradition of the apostles, and that is out of controversy among all the learned. For although we have no express commandment from the apostles in plain words for the keeping holy of the Lord’s Day, yet we doubt not but |95| that it is their tradition, because St. John makes mention of it [Rev. 1:10]. And why does he call it the Lord’s Day? Even because of that custom that was already received among the Christians, because that our Lord Jesus by rising again upon that day, did finish our salvation; for He rose again for our justification, as the apostle says [Rom. 4:25], and did as it were make a new world, when He renewed all things. Page 122.
Zanchius, having shown that the change of the Sabbath into this day that we now keep, was of the apostles, he adds:
Ac meritô ita factum est, etc. And it was so done for good cause; for if the Sabbath of the seventh day was appointed, that the benefit of the creation of the world might be celebrated, and the memory of it preserved in the minds of the faithful; but the benefit that Christ has brought by His resurrection is far greater. Debuit igitur: therefore the |106| sanctification of the seventh day ought to have been translated unto the Lord’s Day. Page 132.

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