THE “federation of churches,” in alliance with the Amalgamated Association of Iron Workers, at Pittsburg, Pa., are pushing steadily forward in the joint enterprise of securing Sunday closing in mills and factories. The latest word on the subject comes in a press item from Pittsburg stating that “committees representing the mill men and the local clergy met yesterday afternoon in the office of the Amalgamated Association to devise plans for stopping Sunday work in the mills.”
At the mass meetings held recently in Pittsburg to further this project, president Shaffer of the labor union, with other speakers, referred to certain mills in the State which are being operated on Sundays. Most prominent among these are the Carnegie mills and the Johnstown mills. These mills were referred to in terms of severe denunciation. They were to be made the special objects of attack by the church and labor combination.
It has been mentioned as a singular fact that a great labor organization, like this “Amalgamated Association” in Pennsylvania, should undertake to enforce the Sunday laws. It is the first time such a thing was ever known. A correspondent in that State, referring to the  matter, says: “I was a member of different labor unions for twenty years, but I never before heard of one professing religion.” It is a strange thing, and as significant as it is strange.
But there is a fact in connection with this that has not been mentioned, but which is vastly important; namely, the mills which are to be severely disciplined by the church and labor confederation are non-union mills. Is there any connection between the labor union’s alliance with the church force, and the union’s desire to discipline the non-union mills?
There is a chapter of ancient history which can be very profitably read in connection with this account. And singularly enough, that, like this chapter of modern history, relates to the enforcement of Sunday laws. That chapter takes us back to the time of the Roman emperor Constantine.
In Constantine’s time the professors of Christianity had become a powerful party in the empire. Constantine, who was above all things else a diplomat, saw that this power was essential to his security upon the throne. He determined to profess Christianity. Upon this point Constantine said:—
“My father revered the Christian God, and uniformly prospered; while the emperors who worshipped the heathen gods, died a miserable death; therefore, that I may enjoy a happy life and reign, I will imitate the example of my father, and join myself to the cause of the Christians, who are growing daily, while the heathen are diminishing.” 687
In 321 A.D., just before his profession of Christianity, Constantine enacted a Sunday law,—the first Sunday law ever framed, and the beginning of all the Sunday legislation that has been passed through the centuries from his time down to the present. That law commanded people in the cities and towns to rest on “the venerable day of the sun,” but left people in the country places free to do Sunday work as usual.
After his profession of Christianity, Constantine added to what he had done as a pagan emperor, in giving his sanction to Sunday observance; and, says the historian, “By a law of the year 386, these older changes effected by the emperor Constantine were more rigorously enforced; and, in general, civil transactions of every kind of Sunday were strictly forbidden.”—Neander.
The bishops of the church in Constantine’s day had become divided over points of doctrine, and there was a violent struggle between the opposing factions for the supremacy. By their disputes, says the historian, they made themselves dependent upon the emperor. Each faction sought alliance with the imperial power. They wanted the help of Constantine and the civil power; and Constantine, on the other hand, wanted the help of the church’s powerful influence in carrying out his plans as emperor. Each side say the opportunity for an alliance which would be to their mutual benefit; and accordingly the thing was done. Constantine, quite naturally, took sides with the most powerful faction.
This alliance continued after Constantine’s death, and grew stronger and stronger; and the legal channel through which the civil power came into the hands of the church was the Sunday laws. Neander, the church historian, after enumerating the Sunday laws and edicts from the first one by Constantine down to a century later, says of them, “In this way the church received help from the state for the furtherance of her ends.” 688
When the church is allied with the state, state and church have each a purpose of their own to serve by the alliance. That is the way it has always been, and will be until human nature changes.
The secular unions of the present day represent the civil power. They are beginning to ally themselves with the church unions. They will have a purpose of their own in this, and the church will have a purpose of her own. Each lends its aid to the other; and in this way the weapon of civil power will again be placed in the hands of the church.
That is what is coming; and that is the sinister meaning of what is seen to-day in the alliance of church and state forces.