“A Question of Law and Conscience” The American Sentinel 5, 7, p. 54.

ON Fifth Avenue, New York City, a line of stages run instead of street-cars. Col. Elliott F. Shepard is one of the principal stockholders of this stage company, and has been able to control sufficient of the stock to stop the running of the stages on the Avenue on Sunday; but a move has lately been made to have the commissioners of the Sinking Fund to force the company to run its stages on Sunday on the Avenue. Mr. Shepard is also owner of the Mail and Express, a daily evening paper of this city. January 8th, in an editorial, he plead for the Commissioners of the Sinking Fund not to “attempt to force the Fifth Avenue Transportation Company to run their stages on Sunday.” From the editorial it seems that those who are trying to get the stages to run on Sunday are Hebrew stockholders in the company; because the plea is specially directed to Hebrews. One of his arguments, directed to the Hebrew stockholders, is this:—

To compel the working of two hundred or three hundred men would not only be a direct violation of the fourth commandment, which both Hebrews and Christians agree is binding upon human con-science, etc.

When we read this we were led to think thus: Mr. Elliott F. Shepard cites the fourth commandment, and says that it is binding upon the human conscience. When that commandment was given by the Lord on the tables of stone, it was given to the Hebrew people; and the Lord, by three special acts weekly, continued for nearly forty years, kept before the minds of the Hebrew people the day that he would have observed in obedience to that commandment. From that time till this, the Hebrew people have been known as the observers of that day. Now most Christians observe a different day from that named in the commandment: a different day from the one which the Lord himself taught the Hebrew people to observe in obedience to the commandment. These Christians do not pretend that God has changed the commandment; because they print and quote it still as it was written when given to the Hebrew people. Now the question is, Does that commandment, as the Lord gave it, bind the conscience of the Hebrew to one thing and the conscience of the Christian to another thing? Do the same words bind the conscience of the Hebrew to the observance of the seventh day, and the conscience of the Christian to the observance of the first day? Is it a characteristic of law, whether human or divine, in the same words precisely, to bind one person to one thing and another person to a different thing?

Nor did the Hebrews have any choice in the matter. They were shut up under the penalty of death to the observance of the day which they did observe and which they yet observe. The observance of that particular day was made distinctly binding upon the conscience of the Hebrews. Now, as Colonel Shepard admits that that same commandment, in the same words, is binding upon the conscience of the Christians, how is it that it does not bind the conscience of the Christian to the observance of the same day that it bound the conscience of the Hebrew? Is it true that God is a respecter of persons, and is easier upon the conscience of a Christian than he is upon the conscience of a Hebrew? Does that commandment in the same words bind the conscience of the Christian to do on a certain day the very thing which the conscience of the Hebrew was bound not to do? Is the divine law so fast and loose a thing as that? Is the Lord of law and conscience so loose in his requirements as to conscientious obedience, as Mr. Shepard’s view would make him to be?

Another argument that Mr. Shepherd uses is this:—

Hebrews will see that if the company were compelled to run their stages on Sunday then a large force of the drivers and other workmen would lose the rest of one-seventh part of their time; for it would be an impossibility in a community where such a preponderating majority are Christians and the stages to be stopped running on Saturday.

But if the Christians cannot stop the stages running on Saturday why do they insist that the Hebrews shall stop them on Sunday? Is the conscience of the Christian more sacred than the conscience of a Hebrew? And is it true the majority is to rule in matters of conscience? Is the majority not only to do according to the dictates of its conscience, but shall it compel the minority to conform to the dictates of the majority conscience? This is anti-Christian, as all the principles and the work of the American Sabbath Union are.

A. T. J.

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