TUESDAY evening, March 11, there was held in Association Hall, this city, a Sunday-law meeting. It was under the management of Rev. J. H. Knowles, Corresponding Secretary of the American Sabbath Union. The speakers were Rev. R. S. MacArthur, of Calvary Baptist Church, this city; and Bishop Andrews, of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Besides these, the management rung in “a workingman” as a figurehead.
As usual, the whole meeting—speeches and all—was one straight ahead religious effort in behalf of the religious Sunday, with the word “civil” thrown in occasionally to save appearances.
The chairman, in opening the meeting, said there were many important questions being discussed, but “the one question above all others, is the one to be discussed here to-night. What shall we do to pre-serve and protect the Christian Sabbath?”
Dr. MacArthur said, “This is confessedly a difficult subject.” Yes, it is, for those who are on the wrong side of it.
He said the difficulty would be relieved if there was uniformity of views in regard to it, and “if all men would take the word of God as the rule of their faith and practice we might expect uniformity.” Assuredly; especially when everybody has the example of such delightful uniformity among the churches, all of which profess faithfully to take the word of God as their only rule of faith and practice.
He said, “It is only to be expected that the Lord’s people will observe the Lord’s day, and observe it as the Lord’s day. And all American citizens ought to observe the American Sunday. And we have the right to oblige them to do it. If the American Sunday becomes a holiday and not a holy day, then the right of the workingman to any day will be destroyed.” But a civil rest-day is only a holiday, nothing more nor less: while a holy day is religious, and nothing else.
He said, “I would make the observance of the day one of joy.” But that cannot be done by law. That is what it must be to be Sabbath observance at all, but that can be secured only by the love of God as manifested in the grace of Jesus Christ. Nothing can be plainer than that the Sunday-law movement is directly contrary to the eternal counsels of God.
He said that in the observance of Sunday “much must be made of the public worship of God. And here is where the excursion and the Sunday paper are most objectionable. Little good will worship do to that man who comes with his pockets stuffed with papers, the reading of which he has just dropped to go in to say his prayers.” The Doctor had just before referred to the work that is done on Sunday in making and distributing the Sunday papers. He said the work done on Sunday in making the papers was not so much to be objected to as the work made necessary in distributing it. But, as above, all this work is almost as nothing compared to the enormous iniquity of the interference with the worship. Yet it is the civil Sunday they want all the time.
Then, in addition to all this, and more in the same line, he strongly and impressively declared: “The man who lifts his hand against the American Sunday is an enemy of the Republic. He is an enemy of the RACE. He is an enemy of GOD.”
Rev. W. J. R. Taylor said that “it is wonderful how near the spiritual and the material run together in parallel lines, and they sometimes cross.” Yes, it is.
Then he said that “Sunday is an institution,—a religious, a civil, a social, a national, a Christian, and a personal institution.”
The next speaker was Mr. Kenneth McKenzie, a book-binder. He said: “In this city the people seem to be getting worse. They run down because they have their own way. Sabbath-breaking leads to depravity. A little child in one of the low parts of the city wandered away, and was hunted high and low for three weeks, when finally one day it was seen sitting on the steps in one of the worst regions of the city, with a number of other children, in front of a place where drinking and carousing were going on. The child was perfectly contented, and considered itself at home because it seemed so like the home where it belonged. A man said to me that for ten months he had not seen daylight: he had not seen the sun. He was a gambler, and had to carry on his business in secret. A man said to me the other day, ‘These women are curious creatures, ain’t they? I stayed home last Sunday, and it was jaw, jaw, jaw. I said, “Mag, what’s the matter with you? It’s nothing but jaw, jaw, jaw, all the time, and I haven’t said a word.” Said she, “Well, why don’t you say something? You sit round here and don’t say anything. If you wasn’t here you would be off with your cronies.”’ In my regular mission work, I have been a kind of prison chaplain, where there are thousands of prisoners, and I have had a chance to know something of what comes of people having their own way. If we talk to the workingmen they say, ‘Oh, we don’t want any of your ghost-stories.’” But as to how a Sunday law was to help the gamblers to see the sun; or the workingmen to hear “ghost-stories;” or those “curious creatures” to be less curious, he did not in any way explain.
And that was the workingman’s part of the meeting. We have not the stretched the story a particle. We do not blame Mr. McKenzie: he did the best he could. What seems queer to us is that men with the intelligence that the Sunday-law managers are supposed to have, will so presume upon the stupidity of the public as to think that, to save their pretense of anxious care for the “enslaved toilers,” they can stick up a figurehead “workingman” at every one of their meetings without the transparent trick being detected.
Bishop Andrews, dealt the civil and physical rest day a heavy blow in saying that “in China (from which he had lately returned) they have no septennial division of time, no weekly rest-day, merely annual festivals.—They work right along all the time with no day of rest as such; yet they live to a very advanced age. This fact has lead one of the most careful thinkers who has ever been sent as missionary to China, to raise a serious question, whether the great purpose of the Sabbath is not for worship and communion with the other world.”
It would seem that people who read the Bible ought to have been able to find that out, without having to go to China for the discovery. Yet, it is good that they do find it out, even by such means. And we shall not complain.
Next the Bishop said there are two limitations to legislation on this subject. (1) Men cannot be compelled to religion, and (2) there must be no union of Church and State. But both of these he said they utterly disavow. And having made the disavowal, he proceeded to justify legislation that pass both the limitations. He said: “If it be made to appear that the stability of Government depends upon the conscientiousness and sobriety of life as inculcated in the religion of Jesus Christ, then the majority may assert its will in this and compel respect to it.” That argument will justify every form of oppression, and of the union of Church and State, that has ever been people.
He said: “We must insist that the Government shall absolutely refrain from work on the Sabbath. That six days shall be for the six day’s work and the Sabbath for worship. It is the conviction of a large number of us that upon religious bases rests our public welfare. Over the whole land there should be enforced the quiet peace of God’s holy day.”
The Doxology was then sung, and so passed this, another meeting, in behalf of the civil Sunday.
A. T. J.