“A Dangerous Parallel” American Sentinel 3, 3, pp. 20, 21.

ALONGSIDE of the statements of the Elgin Sunday-law Convention, given in a foregoing article, we desire to place some facts of history which reveal a threatening danger that the American people do not dream of. By this we intend to show that it was in this same way precisely that the union of Church and State was formed in the fourth century, out of which grew the Papacy in its highest pretensions. There is no need of much argument; all we shall have to do is to quote the history, and the parallel can be so plainly seen that argument is unnecessary.

Neander says of the fourth century:—

“As is evident from the synodal laws of the fourth century, worldly-minded bishops, instead of caring for the salvation of their flocks, were often but too much inclined to travel about, and entangle themselves in worldly concerns.”—Church History, Vol. 2, page 16. Torreys Edition, Boston, 1857.

So it is now with these Sunday-law preachers, in their working up of religio-political conventions, and their lobbying almost every Legislature in the land. But what was the purpose of these worldly-minded bishops in entangling themselves in worldly concerns? Neander tells:—

“This theocratical theory was already the prevailing one in the time of Constantine; and … the bishops voluntarily made themselves dependent on him by their disputes, and by their determination to make use of the power of the State for the furtherance of their own aims.”— Id., p. 132.

What then were their aims? Their first and greatest aim was the exaltation of themselves; and second only to that was the exaltation of Sunday. These two things had been their principal aims, and especially of the bishops of Rome, for more than a hundred years, when Constantine gave them a chance to make their aims effectual by the power of the State. The first assertion of the arrogant pretensions of the bishop of Rome to power over the whole church, was made in behalf of Sunday by Victor, who was bishop of Rome from A. D. 193 to 202.

“He wrote an imperious letter to the Asiatic prelates, commanding them to imitate the example of the western Christians with respect to the time of celebrating Easter [that is commanding them to celebrate it always on Sunday]. The Asiatics answered this lordly requisition … with great spirit and resolution, that they would by no means depart, in this manner, from the custom handed down to them by their ancestors. Upon this the thunder of excommunication began to roar. Victor, exasperated by this resolute answer of the Asiatic bishops, broke communion with them, pronounced them unworthy of the name of his brethren, and excluded them from all fellowship with the Church of Rome.”—Mosheim, Church History, 2nd. Century, part II, chap. V, par. 11.

One of the earliest things in which these church managers secured from Constantine the use of the power of the State, was the famous edict prohibiting certain kinds of work on “the venerable day of the sun.” That edict runs thus:—

“Let all the judges and towns-people and the occupation of all trades rest on the venerable day of the sun; but let those who are situated in the country, freely and at full liberty attend to the business of agriculture; because it often happens that no other day is so fit for sowing corn and planting vines; lest, the critical moment being let slip, men should lose the commodities granted by Heaven.”

This edict was issued March 7, A. D. 321. It will be seen by this edict that only judges and towns-people and mechanics were commanded to rest on Sunday. If mechanics were allowed to work, the spiritual temple could not be built “without the noise of the hammer;” don’t you see? But this did not satisfy the political managers of the churches for any great length of time.

“By a law of the year 386, those older changes effected by the Emperor Constantine were more rigorously enforced, and, in general, civil transactions of every kind on Sunday were strictly forbidden. Whoever transgressed was to be considered, in fact, as guilty of sacrilege.”—Neander, Id., p. 300.

But these laws only prohibited work on Sunday; pleasure-seeking, games, etc., were not even yet prohibited. Consequently a church convention held at Carthage in 401,—

“Resolved to petition the Emperor, that the public shows might be transferred from the Christian Sunday and from feast days to some other days of the week.”—Ib.

But what was the purpose of all these Sunday laws, and petitions for Sunday laws? From the first Sunday law enacted by Constantine, to the last one enacted by any other emperor; from the first petition presented by the political bishops of the fourth century to this last one circulated by the political preachers of Illinois; the sole reason and purpose has always been,—

“So that the day might be devoted with less interruption to the purposes of devotion;” and “in order that the devotion of the faithful might be free from all disturbance.” Id., pp. 297, 301.

But what was it that disturbed the devotion of the faithful on Sundays in the fourth century?

“Owing to the prevailing passion at that time, especially in the large cities, to run after the various public shows, it so happened that when these spectacles fell on the same days which had been consecrated by the church to some religious festival, they proved a great hindrance to the devotion of Christians, though chiefly, it must be allowed, to those whose Christianity was the least an affair of the life and of the heart.”—Id., p. 300.

But, again, how could a theater or a circus in one part of the city hinder the devotion of the faithful in another, and perhaps distant, part of the city, or even in the country? Thus:—

“Church teachers … were, in truth, often forced to complain, that in such competitions the theater was vastly more frequented than the church.”—lb.

Oh yes! That is the secret of the [21] hindrance to their devotion. If there was a circus or a public show on Sunday, it would get a great many spectators, and “so break up a great many congregations;” the church-members would go to the circus, and “let the hour of worship go by unheeded;” and so their devotion was greatly disturbed and hindered. Don’t you see? Just here, please read again the quotations from Dr. Everts’s speech in the Elgin Convention, where he complains of the Sunday train and the Sunday newspaper. Is not this thing a perfect repetition of that in the fourth century?

But yet those ambitious prelates of the fourth century were not content with stopping all manner of work, and closing public places, on Sunday. They had secured the power of the State so far, and they determined to carry it yet further, and use the power of the State to compel everybody to worship according to the dictates of the church. And one of the greatest Fathers of the church, was father to this theory. That was the great church Father and Catholic saint, Augustine—and by the way, he is grandfather to National Reform too, as we shall prove one of these days. Augustine taught that,—

“It is indeed better that men should be brought to serve God by instruction than by fear of punishment or by pain. But because the former means are better, the latter must not therefore be neglected … Many must often be brought back to their Lord, like wicked servants, by the rod of temporal suffering, before they attain to the highest grade of religious development.”—Schaff, Church History, Vol. II, section 27.

And says Neander:—

“It was by Augustine, then, that a theory was proposed and founded, which … contained the germ of that whole system of spiritual despotism, of intolerance and persecution, which ended in the tribunals of the Inquisition.”—Neander, Id., p. 217.

Of that whole fourth century Sunday-law movement, from beginning to end, Neander, with direct reference to those Sunday laws, says:—

“In this way, the church received help from the State for the furtherance of her ends.”—Id., p. 301.

That is the indisputable truth of the matter. And it is just as indisputably true that this Sunday-law movement in our day in this Nation, is only another attempt of the church to seize upon the power of the State and use it to further her own aims. And just as surely as these political preachers of our day secure the power and the recognition of the State in their first step, they will carry it to the last step, and the logical end to which it was carried in the fourth century, and afterward in the working of the theory of Augustine. The church of our day can no more safely be trusted with political power than could that of the fourth century, or of any other century. The only safety for the people, and the only security for the State, is to make it perfectly certain that the church shall never receive the help of the State for the furtherance of her own ends; and that she shall never obtain any recognition at all by the civil power, beyond that granted to every other person or class in the Nation.

By these evidences from the fourth century, as well as by the evidences from the church conventions of our own day, it is demonstrated again that there is no such thing as a civil Sunday, and that there is no such thing as civil Sunday laws. The first Sunday law that ever was enacted was at the request of the church; it was in behalf of the church; and it was expressly to help the church. The call for Sunday laws now is by the church; and wherever they are enacted or enforced, it is in behalf of the church, and to help the church; and it is so throughout history. The keeping of Sunday is not a civil duty, and cannot of right be made a civil duty. Sunday is wholly an ecclesiastical institution, and the keeping of it can only be enjoined or enforced by ecclesiastical power. And whenever the civil power attempts to enjoin or enforce it, the civil power then in that is made subordinate to the ecclesiastical, and becomes only an instrument of ecclesiastical oppression.

That is the use that was made of Sunday laws in the fourth century; it is the use that has been made of them in the United States within the last three years; and that is the use that will be made of them in days to come as surely as the churches secure this help of the State in the furtherance of their own political and ambitious aims. Through Sunday laws the Papacy was developed in the fourth century; and through Sunday laws there will yet be developed a living image of the Papacy in this country. Therefore we are, and everybody else ought to be, uncompromisingly opposed to the enactment or the enforcement of any manner of Sunday laws.

A. T. J.

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