December 11, 1890
WE have stated several times that the Sunday-law movement and, in fact, the whole movement in general for religious legislation, is directly contrary to the gospel of Christ. The theory, the methods, and the purposes of the movement are the opposite of those that pertain to the gospel of Christ. And that this is so we propose to demonstrate by proofs that cannot be questioned. To begin with we quote from Mr. Crafts’s book, “The Sabbath for Man,” a passage from under the heading, “The Improvement of Sabbath Observance.” It is written to show how Sunday observance can be improved; to show how that good for which the Sunday-law advocates are working may be promoted. It is as follows:—
The best way to keep young men in the Sabbath school at the very age when they need it most, is to put a hedge of adult classes, filled with their parents, between them and the door.
Mark, this is given as the best way to keep young men in the Sabbath School. To any one who knows anything about the gospel of Christ, it is easy to see that the method here recommended as the best is directly the opposite of the gospel method. This “best way” proceeds wholly upon the idea of force, it recognizes no other means, whereas the sole theory upon which the gospel of Christ proceeds is that of loving persuasion. The idea of the gospel is by careful, tender instruction to implant in the minds of people such a love for the day, and the place, and the forms of worship, and the service of God, as shall take precedence of everything else, being in itself such a constraint as to utterly dispense with every such machine-made method as is here recommended by the chief factor for promotion of Sunday observance, and a noted Sunday school instructor as well. The word of the gospel of Christ is, “The love of Christ constraineth us.” When such is the case, all the service of God, all the times of worship, are a delight; but by such a method as is here recommended it would be but a very little while indeed until it would be perfectly in order for the author of this “best way” to tell what would be the best way to get the young men into the house at all, as well as to keep them in after they are there.
But this is not all. The writer continues:—
The next best remedy for the truancy of Sabbath school boys is for every superintendent to provide his teachers with blanks by, which the attendance and contributions of each scholar, except adults, may be reported through the mail quarterly or monthly to parents. A third remedy which may be used, with or without the second, is to provide each member of the school quarterly with small numbered envelopes such as are used for weekly collections in churches, in which parents may put the missionary dime or nickel and seal it up, so that it may not get lost on the way to Sabbath school, and so that the treasurer of the Sabbath school can at his home credit each person by their number with what is paid. Where such an envelope system has been adopted collections have been doubled, which means more than the saving of money—it means prevention of Sabbath breaking and conscience breaking by little embezzlers who were not before sufficiently protected against temptation.
The whole quotation proceeds upon the same theory as that above noticed. Parents must first suspect their children of being rascals, and count them as embryo thieves, and are therefore not to trust their children with loose money, but must “seal it up” lest it be embezzled. Instead of teaching what he chooses to call these “little embezzlers” to be honest enough not to embezzle the missionary money, Mr.  Crafts teaches the parents that the money must be sent by the children to the Sunday school, carefully sealed up; and then, in addition, there must be a system of checks and balances by reports of the superintendent to the parents, so that they can be certain that their children are honest. To teach honesty as well as all the other virtues is supposed to be the very object of the Sunday school. It is certainly the object of Christianity, and it is likewise supposed that parents who are sufficiently interested in the cause of Christianity to give money for missionary work, and to teach their children to give it, are at least, professed Christians, and are therefore, supposed to instruct their children in the Christian virtues and graces. At least all this ought to be, but from Mr. Crafts’s statement, and from the whole tenor of his book, it would appear that such is not his understanding of what the purpose of the Christian religion is, and that the instruction in Sunday schools under his guidance would not take this direction.
For ourselves we have more respect for both the parents and the children in the Sunday schools of the United States than to think for an instant that they are such characters as he pictures. But this is the theory upon which he would have them proceed, and this is the theory upon which the whole scheme of Sunday legislation is based.
But this is not all of that quotation that is objectionable; this is not the only point that is contrary to the gospel of Christ. The last expression in that quotation reveals another important point, in which the teachings of the Sunday-law workers are directly opposite to the teachings of Christianity. He says that such a “system, more than the saving of money, means prevention of Sabbath breaking and conscience breaking by little embezzlers who were not before sufficiently protected against temptation.”
The idea of protecting people from temptation, and of taking away all prospect of temptation, rather than to instill into the individual a courage that can meet temptation, and a power that will overcome it, is the point to which we refer as being contrary to the teachings of Christianity. This is not peculiar to Mr. Crafts. This theory runs through all the movement, of which he is but a part, notably in the work of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.
Not long since, in Washington City, we went to a meeting of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. Quite a lengthy speech was made upon the work and the aims of the Union. The whole idea of the speech, and the one point of it all was the object of taking away temptation from the people of this world. The speaker with much enthusiasm described the peace and glory of “the good time coming,” when, by the work of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, all evil shall have been suppressed by law and all temptation removed; when the mothers can take their little boys in their arms and dandle them upon their knees in the blessed assurance that that they will never have to meet any temptation.
Now there is no such time ever coming in this world as that speaker described. The time will never be in this world when people will be free from temptation; and, aside from this, the theory of morals that would take away temptation for fear that a person will do wrong, is utterly false. Virtue can never be inculcated nor cultivated by any such process. Morality can never be developed by any such means. If such a theory were true, then the proper thing for the Lord to have done would have been to have staid in Heaven and killed the devil at once. He certainly had the power to do so. It would have been easy enough for him to have destroyed Satan at a breath, and with him to have swept away every vestige of evil and temptation in the world, but nobody in the world would ever have been any better by it. Such a proceeding as that would never have fitted a single soul for the society of angels, nor to dwell in the presence of God. Instead of doing such a thing as that, the Lord came to the world himself, took upon him man’s nature; stood in this world as all men stand; met all that men meet; was touched with the feeling of our infirmities, and was tempted in all points like as we are; and by his divine power conquered every temptation in order that men may by the same divine power also conquer temptation, and build up by his grace such characters as will love the right only, and will do the right which they love, in the face of all the temptations that can ever be invented in this world.
The theory of the gospel of Christ therefore is, not the taking away of temptation for fear that men will do evil, but the implanting in man of an enmity to evil, the implanting of a supreme love of right, and a power to do the right which they love. The theory of the gospel is not to keep men in perpetual infancy by taking away every form of difficulty or trial, but to build up strong, courageous, manly men, by the divine power which it brings to them. Consequently the Scriptures make no promise to take away temptations from men, but, instead, exhort, “My brethren count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations,” and pronounce, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation,” and, again, speaking of the living hope into which God has begotten us by the resurrection from the dead, the apostle says: “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations.”
The Lord has not promised to the Christian that he shall have no fighting to do, but instead, the command is, “Fight the good fight of faith.” The Lord has not promised the Christian that he shall have no race to run, the command is, “Run with patience the race that is set before us,” and “So run that ye may obtain.” The Lord has not promised a triumph to those who have done no fighting, but to those who have conquered. “To him that overcometh [conquereth] will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame [conquered], and am set down with my Father in his throne.”
It would be easy to fill one of these columns with scriptures clearly showing the same thing, but these are sufficient to show that those who are working for religious legislation are proceeding upon a false theory wholly; that, although they profess to be Christians, they employ methods and hold ideas that are the opposite Christianity; and that, although they profess to be ministers of the gospel, and gospel workers, their whole movement, its methods, its theories, and the very idea of it, are directly contrary to the Jesus Christ.
It is for this reason, as the chiefest of all reasons, that we are opposed to the movement in behalf of religious legislation to any extent whatever, and for this reason every Christian ought to be opposed to it. Every person who loves the gospel of Christ ought to denounce such a movement. It is of itself evil, and nothing but evil can ever come of it.
A. T. J.