The Truth About Seventh-day Adventists


by William H. Branson  


THERE are set forth in the Bible two very distinct and separate codes of laws. One of these was given by God directly to His people as He spoke it from Sinai and as He wrote it upon tables of stone with His own finger. The other was given through Moses. The first constituted the standard of morals, while the second dealt primarily with ceremonies connected with the service of God. The transgression of the moral law, or Ten Commandments, was sin. The second law, dealing with ceremonies, was given only because of the transgression of the first. The first was eternal, while the second was temporary in its application, extending only to the cross.

This great fundamental truth of the gospel which has 'been almost universally accepted by the Protestant world, is fiercely attacked by Mr. Canright, as will be seen from the following quotations from his book written when 'be became a Baptist:

There was no such thing as two separate laws given to the Jews. Seventh-day Adventism Renounced, p. 308.

`Moral law,' 'ceremonial law.' Adventists use these two terms as freely as though the Bible was full of them.... If there were two distinct laws given to Israel, so opposite in their nature, it is strange that there is no record of it, no reference to it in the Bible. Ibid., p. 309.

If the reader will bear in mind once for all that 'the law' is the whole Mosaic code, he will easily dispose of all their proof texts. Ibid., p. 372.

The law was given, only to the Jews. Ibid., p. 320.

The whole Mosaic system ended at the cross. Surely this is so plainly taught all through the New Testament that no one should deny it. But we have clearly proved that 'the law' included the whole code of laws given to Israel at Sinai, moral, civil, and ceremonial precepts, Ten Commandments and all.... That ends the Ten Commandments. -Ibid., p. 334.


Now we will again permit Mr. Canright to reply to his own arguments. While he was still an advocate of the binding claims of the Ten Commandments, he wrote an excellent treatise on this subject, from which we take the following paragraphs:

The agitation of the Sabbath question is perceptibly changing the position of ministers and churches touching the Ten Commandments. Till this question came to be urged upon their attention, the so-called orthodox churches were almost unanimously agreed in teaching the binding force of all the Ten Commandments in the New Testament. They solemnly affirmed this in their creeds, disciplines, and confessions of faith; they strongly defended it in their sermons and writings; and their children were taught it in their catechisms and Sunday schools.

But if the Ten Commandments are unrepealed, then the seventh day is the Sabbath and should be observed. Hence, wherever the Sabbath question is agitated we find representatives of the same orthodox churches, in order to avoid that conclusion, quite largely giving up the old positions upon the perpetuity of the Ten Commandments, and advocating the abrogation of all the Ten Commandments!

The entire strength of the opposition consists in jumbling together the ceremonial and moral laws, and then affirming that they are all abolished altogether. Plainly settle the distinction between the two laws, and the controversy is ended. The author confidently believes that this is done in the following pages. The Two Laws (1886, three years before he printed Seventh-day Adventism Renounced), Preface. Now let us read on. Mr. Canright is still speaking:

Do we, then, make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.' Rom. 3:31. Having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances.' Eph. 2:15.

Both these texts are in the New Testament, and both were written by the same apostle; yet one asserts that the law has not been abolished by Christ, and the other declares as positively that the law has been abolished. How is this seeming contradiction to be reconciled? By the simple fact that Paul is speaking of two entirely different laws. The first text relates to the Ten Commandments; the second, to the typical law....

We will now show that there were two systems of law running parallel from the fall of Adam to the death of Christ; and that then one expired, while the other was confirmed and established.  

In the beginning, man was placed upon probation under such conditions that he could have secured eternal life by simple obedience to God. Adam was placed in Eden and given free access to the tree of life and all the trees, except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Gen. 2:8-17. As long as he could continue to eat of the tree of life, just so long he would live. Gen. 3:22. To Adam the Lord said, 'Of every tree of the garden thou may freely cat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shall not eat of it; for in the day that thou eats thereof thou shall surely die.' Gen. 2:16,17. Then the day of his death would not come till the day when he disobeyed God and ate of the forbidden fruit. Had he never disobeyed God, he never would have died. But death came in consequence of sin, as Paul says, 'Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin.' Rom. 5:12....

Now, [our first parents] having disobeyed God and become sinners, it thereby became necessary that Christ should die to save fallen men. Hence the Redeemer was immediately promised, in the declaration that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head. Gen. 3:15. And so it is said that Jesus was a Lamb 'slain from the foundation of the world.' Rev. 13:8. But it was to be many ages before the Savior would come; hence it became necessary to offer sacrifices as types and shadows of the death of Christ, thereby to show their faith in the coming Redeemer; also to confess thereby that they were condemned sinners. To offer a sacrifice, they must have an altar upon which to offer it; they must have a priest properly set apart to officiate at the altar; this priest must be supported; and finally a temple with all its ceremonies became necessary. To regulate all these a law was necessary. Hence the introduction of the law relating to types and shadows, commonly called the ceremonial law.

The least reflection will show that this law never would have existed if man had not previously transgressed the other - the moral law. No precept relating to sacrifices, types, shadows, the priesthood, and the temple, would ever have been given if man had not first broken the moral law, and thus become a condemned sinner, needing a Savior. . . .

Many references to both these laws may be seen in Genesis. In chapter 3:21 we learn that the Lord clothed Adam and Eve with skins. This intimates that beasts had been slain in sacrifice. Abel offered a sacrifice of the firstlings of his flock. Gen. 4:4. He did this by faith, as Paul tells us in Hebrews 11:4. By this he showed his faith in the death of the Lamb of God who was to come. But the infidel Cain, having no faith in the coming of Christ, simply brought of the fruit of the ground a thank offering. Gen. 4:1 This the Lord would not accept, as it showed no faith in the coming Redeemer.

Noah built an altar and offered upon it burnt offerings. Gen. 8:20. So did Abraham. Gen. 12:7, 8. Melchizedek 'was the priest of the most high God' (Gen. 14:18), whom Abraham honored and to whom he paid tithes. Verse 20. This shows that at an early day the Lord had regularly ordained priests, and a law for their proper maintenance. Isaac offered sacrifices (Gen. 26:25); so did Jacob (Gen. 31:54). ibid., pp. 5-11.


After thus showing the distinction between the nature of the moral and ceremonial laws, Mr. Canright proceeds to show how the moral law contained in the Ten Commandments was given at Mount Sinai. He pictures the solemnity and significance of this event in the following words (remember that we are still quoting Mr. Canright the Adventist in reply to himself)

Notice in what a solemn and impressive manner the moral law was given. After the people had for three days made special preparations to meet with the Lord, He came down in great majesty upon Mt. Sinai. 'And it came to pass on the third day in the morning that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. And Mt. Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.' Ex. 19:16-18. Paul says that the Lord's voice then shook the earth. Heb. 12:26. 'Moses says, And the Lord spoke unto you out of the midst the fire; you heard the voice of the words, but saw no similtude, only you heard a voice. And He declared unto you His covenant, which He commanded you to perform, even Ten Commandments; and He wrote them upon two tables of stone.' Deut. 4:12, 13.

Some have denied that the Ten Commandments is ever called a law; but in this they contradict the plainest teachings of the Bible. Thus the Lord said to Moses, 'Come up to Me into the mount, and be there; and I will give thee tables of stone, and law, and commandments which I have written, that thou may teach them.' Ex. 24:12. What did God write? The Ten Commandments; nothing more nor less. That which the 'Lord wrote on tables of stone is here directly declared to be a law. So in Deuteronomy 33:2, speaking of the descent of the Lord upon Mt. Sinai, Moses says, 'From His right hand went a fiery law for them.' What went from God's right hand? The Ten Commandments; and this is here again called a law. Moses is particular to mention the fact that when the Lord had spoken just the Ten Commandments, 'He added no more; and He wrote them in two tables of stone.' Deut. 5:22. This indicates that it was a complete law. And when Moses had broken the first tables, the Lord wrote just the same Ten Commandments the second time. Deut. 10:13. This shows that the Lord had a design in selecting those commandments above any others. All through the Bible the Ten Commandments is referred to and quoted as 'the law.' Ibid., pp. 11-13.


Mr. Canright knew there was a marked distinction between the two laws, as is evidenced by the following statements published by him before he renounced Seventh day Adventism:

Evidently the Lord designed to mark a plain distinction between the two laws in the manner in which He gave them to the people. As we have seen, the Ten Commandments were given in the following manner:

1. God Himself spoke it from heaven with His own voice. Ex. 19:1619; Deut. 4:12, 13.

2. He wrote it twice with His own finger. Ex. 31:18; 32:16; Deut. 10:13.

3. He engraved it upon stone. Ex. 32:16.

4. It was placed in the ark under the cherubim in the most holy place. Ex. 25:16, 22; Deut. 10:1-5.

Now notice how differently the other law was given:

1. Moses went up into the mount alone, where, being instructed by an angel, he wrote it out with his own hand. (See Ex. 24:15-18; Deut. 31:9, 24.) And so Paul says, 'It was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.' Gal. 3:19. Hence also it is called 'the handwriting of ordinances.' Col. 2:14. For the same reason it is often called 'the law of Moses' (Acts 15:5), not because Moses was the author of the law, but because the Lord gave it through Moses. The Lord was the real author of the law, but Moses was the medium through whom it was made known to the people. Hence it is sometimes called 'the law of the Lord,' and sometimes 'the law of Moses.' (See Luke 2:22, 23, where both terms are used.) But mark this fact: The Ten Commandments are never in a single instance called the law of Moses. [Italics his.]

2. Moses wrote the ceremonial law in a book of parchment. Deut. 31:24.

3. Moses spoke this law to the people. Deut. 1:33; 31:1; 32:45, 46. 'And Moses made an end of speaking all these words to all Israel. And he said unto them, Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, which you shall command your children to observe to do, all the words of this law.' Deut. 32:45, 46.

4. This book of the law was then put, not into the ark, but by the side, as Dr. Horne renders it. 'And it came to pass when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished, that Moses commanded the Levites which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord. Saying, Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant.' Deut. 31:24-26.

Thus we see there was one law in the ark, and another outside the ark. One law on the tables of stone, another in the book; one law written by God, another by Moses; one law spoken by God, another by Moses; one law relating to moral duties, and another to ceremonial duties. Who will deny the existence of two laws, when the distinction is so plain? And this distinction is everywhere kept up, both in the Old and in the New Testament. Thus in 2 Kings 21:8, the Lord says, 'Neither will I make the feet of Israel move any more out of the land which I gave their fathers; only if they will observe to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that My servant Moses commanded them.' Here the Lord makes a plain distinction between what He Himself had commanded them and what Moses had commanded them. The same fact is distinctly mentioned in Nehemiah 9:13, 14: 'Thou came down also upon Mt. Sinai and spoke with them from heaven, and gave them right judgments, and true laws good statutes and commandments, and made known unto them Thy holy Sabbath.' We know that this refers to the Ten Commandments, for the Lord did come down upon Sinai and speak them from heaven, while no other law was thus given. Notice the character ascribed to this law. It is called 'right,' 'true,' and 'good.'

After describing this holy law which God gave, the prophet adds, 'And commanded them precepts, statutes, and laws, by the hand of Moses, Thy servant.' Here we have, first, one set of 'judgments,' 'laws,' statutes,' and 'commandments' spoken to them by the voice of God. Then, secondly, another set of 'precepts,' 'statutes,' and 'laws' by the hand of Moses. This makes it certain that there were two laws given to the people. . . .

In the New Testament we find the same distinction recognized. 'But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them and to command them to keep the law of Moses.' Acts 15:5. Circumcision is the question, and the law regulating it is called 'the law of Moses.' But Paul says, 'I had not known sin, except the law had said, Thou shall not covet.' Rom. 7:7. This law he immediately calls 'the law of God.' Verse 22. Why so plain a distinction in the two laws everywhere recognized by all inspired writers? Ibid., pp. 20-24.


We are now prepared to show that the law of Moses, the ceremonial law, relating to the whole typical system of the Old Testament. Such as the priesthood, the sacrifices, circumcision, etc., etc., together with those civil precepts which God granted on account of their blindness and hardness of heart, of which we have spoken before, was abolished at the cross, and that these were the only laws there abrogated. Every passage which speaks of a law being done away refers to these, never to the Ten Commandments or any moral precept or teaching of the Old Testament. The whole typical system pointed directly to Christ. Col. 2:14-17. When He came, in the very nature of things, it must cease. But why should any moral precept be done away there? There is neither reason nor Scripture for such a position. Ibid., pp. 25, 26.

We ask, What is there in the moral law that would indicate that it terminated at the coming of Christ? That law forbids idolatry, profanity, Sabbath breaking, disobedience to parents, murder, theft, etc. Did man's relation to these moral duties change at the coming of Christ? Did the death of Christ alter any of these principles? Most certainly not Ibid., p. 64.


In Mr. Canright's pamphlet on The Two Laws published in 1886, only three years before the publication of his Seventh-day Adventism Renounced, he clearly sets forth in the following table the distinction between the moral law contained in the Ten Commandments and the ceremonial law pertaining to ordinances and ceremonies of the Old Testament sacrificial system. Concerning this table he makes the following explanatory statement by way of preface:

That the reader may appreciate more forcibly the contrast between the two laws, I have drawn up the following table of comparison between what is said of the great moral law of God as summarily contained in the Ten Commandments, but including their various branches, the moral precepts of the Old Testament, as well as of the New, and what is said of the law of types as given through Moses. The moral law we will call Number 1, and the ceremonial law Number 2.

Number 1. Existed in Eden before the fall.

Number 2. Was given after the fall.

No. 1. Was violated in the transgression which caused the fall. Gen. 3:6.

No. 2. Was given in consequence of that transgression of No. 1. Gal. 3:19.

No. 1. Relates only to moral duties. Ex. 20:1-17, etc.

No. 2. Is wholly ceremonial, pointing to the promised Seed. Heb. 9:10.

No. 1. Was spoken by God from heaven. Deut. 4:12.

No. 2. Spoken by Moses. Deut. 14:1-6.

No. 1. Was written by God. Ex. 31:18.

No. 2. Was written by Moses. Deut. 31:9.

No. 1. Was engraved upon stone. Deut. 4:13.

No. 2. Was written in a book. Deut. 31:24.

No. 1. Christ said, 'Whosoever, therefore, who sha11 break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall he called the least in the kingdom of heaven.' Matt. 5:19.

No. 2. The apostles said, 'We gave no such commandment that you should keep the law.' Acts 15:24. . . .

No. 1. Contains the whole duty of man. Eccl. 12:13.

No. 2. 'Stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances.' Heb. 9:10. . . .

No. 1. Was 'the royal law.' James 2:8.

No. 2. Was the law of Moses. Acts 15:5....

This list might be greatly extended, but the above points of contrast are sufficient to show that all inspired writers have recognized and noted the distinction between the two laws, the moral and ceremonial.' Ibid., pp. 97-101.


Now here is a bewildering situation. In 1889 Mr. Canright, in his book in which he renounces Adventism, boldly states that there was no such thing as two separate laws given to the Jews. And he adds, 'There were two distinct laws given to Israel, so opposite in their nature, it is strange that there is no record of it, no reference to it in the Bible. Seventh-day Adventism Renounced, pp. 308, 309. But just three years before, in 1886, he had published the above table, listing many definite points of distinction between these two laws, and citing numerous Scripture references as proof that such distinction exists. He said, This list might be greatly extended, thus recognizing the fact that the Scriptures contain many more such evidences of the existence of two distinct codes of laws, and added that all inspired writers have recognized and noted the distinction between the two laws.

Three years later he declares it impossible to find any such record of the existence of two distinct laws in the Bible! In 1886 he finds many references to it; in 1889 these references have all disappeared. In 1886 he recognizes many definite points of distinction; in 1889 there is no difference. There is only one law. We frankly admit that we cannot understand the process of a man's mind when he can thus turn away from clear Scriptural evidence and renounce what he admittedly knew to be the teaching of the Word of God.