The Truth About Seventh-day Adventists


by William H. Branson  


IN his chapter on this subject Mr. Canright the Baptist contends that the old covenant spoken of by Paul as having passed away, consisted of, or at least included, the Ten Commandment law and the seventh-day Sabbath. We quote his words:

The abolition of the Sinaitic covenant carries with it the abolition of the Jewish Sabbath so completely that no authoritative trace of it can be found this side of the grave of our risen Lord.' Seventh-day Adventism Renounced, p. 350.


Now notice how plainly and how repeatedly the Ten Commandments are called 'the covenant,' which God gave at Sinai to Israel when He brought them out of Egypt. Ibid., p. 353.

And again:

Notice the points in this. Jesus is Mediator of a better covenant than the old. Verse 6. Then we have something better than the Ten Commandments. Ibid., p. 355.

This, of course, is not a new argument. We have often heard it from the no-law advocates. It is a subtle line of reasoning, and to one not familiar with the subject of the two covenants, to say the least, a bit confusing.

But this entire effort to get rid of the law of God via the old covenant argument, is based on an entirely erroneous premise, i.e., that the Ten Commandments was the old covenant. When this premise is removed, as it is not difficult to do, the entire line of argument collapses. In considering this subject, we desire, for the sake of clarity, to divide it into four subdivisions, as follows:

1. What the old covenant was not.

2. What the old covenant was.

3. The new covenant.

4. The new covenant, effective both before and after the cross.


The old covenant was not the Ten Commandments, as Mr. Canright would have us believe. This fact is clearly revealed by many of the conflicting characteristics, attributed to these two instruments. The things said of either one of them could not by any possible means apply to the other. The distinction between them is clear.

For instance, we find the Lord speaking of the new covenant as being a better covenant than the old one. (Hebrews 8:6.) This clearly indicates that the old covenant was not perfect in its provisions. There was weakness in it, and that weakness was to be corrected in the new covenant.

But of the Ten Commandments the Lord declares: The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. Psalms 19:7. Wherefore the law is holy, and. the commandment holy, and just, and good. Romans 7:12. But the old covenant was imperfect and faulty. Therefore it is evident that the old covenant and the Ten Commandments, though related, are certainly not identical. The Ten Commandments cannot be the old covenant.

Of the new covenant God says that it was to be established upon better promises. Hebrews 8:6. This clearly indicates that some of the promises of the old covenant were poor. These poor promises were made, not by God, but by the people when they promised more than they could perform. The fault was with them, the Lord declares in verse 8. Their promises were not reliable. The new covenant had better promises, not made by sinful men, but by the Lord Himself.

The old covenant is declared to have been faulty. If the first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. Hebrews 8:7. But this could not possibly apply to the Ten Commandments, which, as we have seen, are clearly declared to be perfect, holy, and just, and good. A thing cannot be faulty and perfect at the same time.

Paul declared that the old covenant was ready to vanish away. In that He says, A new covenant, He hath made the first old. Now that which decays and waxes old is ready to vanish away. Hebrews 8:13.

But this same apostle states that the law, instead of vanishing away, was definitely established by faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law. Romans 3:31. A thing cannot vanish away and be established at the same time. Jesus also makes this point clear when He declares: It is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail. Luke 16:17. Now, heaven and earth have not passed. Therefore this is positive evidence that not a jot nor tittle of the law has failed. No part of it has vanished away.

And again the apostle Paul, some thirty years after the cross, wrote these words concerning the Ten Commandments: Now we know that what things so ever the law says, it says to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty be fore God. Romans 3:19.

These considerations show conclusively that Mr. Canright is wrong when he declares that the old covenant was the Ten Commandments, and that with its passing both the Ten Commandments and the Sabbath passed away. The old covenant was not the Ten Commandments, and therefore, the passing of this covenant did not in any way affect the moral law.


The old covenant was an agreement between God and the people of Israel concerning the keeping of His law. It did not consist of the law, but it had to do with the law, and so, for that matter, does the new covenant.

When God had brought Israel out of Egypt, He led them by way of Sinai. They reached this place in the third month of their travels. (See Exodus 19:1.) It was here that the Lord called Moses to come up into the mount to commune with Him. There God revealed to His servant that He was about to speak His law to Israel, but that before doing so He wished to make a covenant, or agreement, with them. He therefore instructed Moses to return to the camp and say to Israel: Now therefore, if you will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then you shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people: for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. Exodus 19:5, 6.

When Moses repeated these words to Israel, all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do., And Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord. Verse 8.

Here, then, was a definite agreement, or covenant, between God and His people. God offers to bless Israel if they will obey His voice. They agree to be obedient. Mr. Canright quotes Webster as stating that a covenant is a mutual consent or agreement of two or more persons to do or forbear some act or thing; a contract. Seventh day Adventism Renounced, p. 351.

Here, then, we have found the agreement made at Sinai. It consisted in definite promises made by God to His people, and in promises made by the people to God. God's promises were good, but the people's promises were like ropes of sand. This made the covenant faulty. It was established upon poor promises. Sinful men, with carnal hearts, had made a high agreement to keep a holy and perfect law, whereas the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. Romans 8:7. In their agreement they had not taken the weakness of the flesh into account. The), put no reliance in the power of the Holy Spirit. They felt self-sufficient; and in their self-sufficiency they trusted not in God but in themselves.

Jesus once said to the Jews of His day: You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered Him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how says Thou, You shall be made free? John 8:32, 33. It was this same spirit which led them to speak with such assurance in entering into the old covenant relationship.

It was just after this agreement was made at Sinai that God spoke the law of the Ten Commandments and wrote it upon tables of stone. When this was accomplished, Moses wrote the words of the agreement, or the old covenant, that had been entered into, in a book, and once more read them in the hearing of Israel, and they reiterated their promise, saying: All that the, Lord hath said, will we do, and be obedient. (See Exodus 24:4-7.) Then Moses sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the Lord. And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basins; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the Lord bath said will we do, and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord bath made with you concerning all these words. Verses 5-8.

Thus it is clear that the old covenant made at Sinai was not the commandments, but, on the part of the people, an agreement to keep God's law, and on God's part a promise to give them certain blessings conditional upon obedience. The law was that concerning which the covenant was made, but it was not the covenant itself. The weakness of this covenant was the fact that it was based on the principle, Do and live, whereas the people could not do, because they were carnal and trusted in the flesh, and therefore were unable to fulfill the covenant provisions. God knew that in their mere human strength they would be unable to keep it, and evidently the reason it was given was that it might serve as an everlasting lesson to man regarding his utter helplessness without God.


One fault Mr. Canright finds with the old covenant is that it was made with Israel. But so was the new covenant. The difference between these two covenants lies chiefly in the character of the promises. In the old covenant some of these were made by God and some by the people. In the new covenant they are all made by the Lord. With this thought in mind, let us carefully note the terms of this new covenant.

But now hath He [Christ] obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also He is the Mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, He says, Behold, the days come, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in My covenant, and I regarded them not, says the Lord.

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord; I will put My laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people; and they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know Me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and thir iniquities will I remember no more. In that He says, A 'new covenant, He hath made the first old. Now that which decays and waxes old is ready to vanish away. Hebrews 8:6-13.

Let it be carefully noted that the promises here are all made by Christ the Lord. He declares: This is the covenant that I will make. I will put My laws into their mind.---I will be to them a God.---I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. The old covenant was made between God and sinners; the new covenant is made between God and those who accept Jesus and who own Him as their Lord and Mediator. He can make no promises of obedience for any but those who are fully surrendered to the control of His Spirit; hence no sinner can come under this covenant until He accepts Jesus as his Savior. It is made with Israel; but this time it is spiritual Israel, and not the literal descendants of Abraham.

Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel. Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the, seed. Romans 9:6-8.

He is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. Romans 2:28, 29.

As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you be Christ's, then are you Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:27- 29.

Observe that the new covenant is made concerning the law of God. In this particular it is no different from the old. Its object is to assure the keeping of God's statutes by the covenanters. But in this covenant man is not left to struggle alone, in human weakness, in his efforts to keep the law, but our Lord Himself promises, I will put My laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts. How different this is from having the law written only on stone, and sin still in the heart! When the law is only on stone, it serves as an instrument of condemnation. All the struggles of the human heart to keep it end in failure. But when, by the Spirit of God, this law is written on the heart, then there is victory and power and perfection. Then it is that the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Romans 8:4.

Forasmuch as you are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. And such trust have we through Christ to Godward: not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; who also bath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life. But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: how shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. 2 Corinthians 3:3-9.  

So the ministration (or the manner of administering the law) even under the old covenant, was glorious, in that it revealed God's perfect character and glory; but under the old covenant the law of God served only as a ministration of condemnation, or death. Under the old covenant the people had only the letter of the law written and engraved on stones. They failed to accept either the spirit of the law or the Spirit of God into their hearts. The old covenant therefore had no salvation in it.

Under the new covenant the ministration is changed. Therefore those who were saved in the old dispensation had to be saved under the terms of the new covenant, as we shall show later. It is the ministration of the Spirit. The Spirit takes this same law that was then written upon stone, and now writes it upon the fleshy tables of the heart. Its principles become an integral part of our very nature. Old things- the carnal, fleshly lusts - are passed away; behold, all thing are become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17. Our trust is no longer in the power and strugglings of the flesh to keep the law, but in the indwelling Christ.  

Whereunto I also labor, striving according to His working, which works in me mightily. Colossians 1:29.

Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God. 2 Corinthians 33.

The righteousness of Christ, is ministered to the life of the believer by the Holy Spirit. It is the new covenant relationship, and through this relationship alone is it possible for human beings to obey God's law in an acceptable manner. Therefore if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more does the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.

But this law which is written on the heart by the ministration of the Spirit under the new covenant, is not a new law, but is the same as that which was written on the tables of stone. It is not changed by a single jot or tittle. It therefore still declares to the heart of the believer that the seventh day is the Sabbath.... In it thou shall not do any work. It has no new provisions except the provision made by the indwelling Christ, which makes it possible for us to keep its every precept.


Now, a new covenant is not called new because of its being a more recent provision than the old. In fact, it is much older than the Sinaitic covenant. God's promise was made to Adam and Eve in Eden immediately after the fall, and has been renewed to all succeeding generations thereafter. When the Lord said to the serpent: I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shall bruise His heel (Genesis 3:15), He couched in those few words the first promise of a mighty Deliverer from the power of sin. This was the beginning of the new covenant with man. This promise introduced man to the plan of deliverance through Christ, the Seed. It was his first lesson in the inability of man to deliver himself from sin, or regain the moral perfection demanded by the law which he had broken. It revealed his utter dependence upon Christ, the coming Deliverer. This was the covenant that was made with Abraham. It is said of him that he was justified by faith.

What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, bath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what says the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Romans 4:1-3.

This same covenant was known to Isaac and Jacob, and in fact to all the Old Testament worthies. It is outlined in Jeremiah's prophecies. It was spoken of by David. Thus the new covenant stretches both sides of the cross, and spans the gulf from Eden lost to Eden restored. The only reason it is spoken of as new is the fact that it was ratified at a later date than the Sinaitic covenant. The old covenant was ratified by Moses at Sinai with the blood of beasts; the new covenant was ratified on Calvary by the precious blood of Jesus. In that sense it is new. In every other respect it antedates the old one.

No one was ever saved under the terms of the old covenant. It provided only for righteousness by works, and so held no more hope of salvation for sinners before the cross than after. All who were saved before the cross were saved under the terms of the new covenant. They were saved by faith, and not by the works of the law. Their law keeping grew out of their faith-righteousness, but did not produce it. just so it must be with us, if we would be saved under the terms of the new covenant, which provides a way of life and righteousness.

For those who are led by God's Spirit are, all of them, God's sons. You have not for the second time acquired the consciousness of being slaves-a consciousness which fills you with terror. But you have acquired a deep inward conviction it of having been adopted as sons - a conviction which prompts us to cry aloud, 'Abba! our Father!' Romans 8:12-15, Weymouth's New Testament in Modern Speech.