JOHN MATHEWS, a Seventh-day Adventist, of Selton, Ont., was on August 28 put in jail at Chatham, Ont., for doing ordinary labor on Sunday. His “crime” was cutting hay on Sunday, July 7, and building a fence on Sunday, August 4. He was given the alternative by the judge of paying $20.65 (fine and costs), or of spending thirty days in a prison cell. As he would not be a party to the iniquitous proceeding by any voluntary act, he refused to pay the fine, and is now in jail. And thus, to borrow the language of Gibbon, the world is fast becoming “a safe and dreary prison” for all such as honor God by keeping his Sabbath, and refuse to honor the rival institution, Sunday.
THE Knoxville (Tenn.) Tribune remarks that “Sunday laws are taking a new grip on themselves all over the country.” This is true not only of this country but of all the world; with this exception, that said “laws” are taking a grip on Seventh-day Adventists rather than on themselves. If they gripped all violators alike, their purpose would be less evident and the Tribune would not be issued on Sunday as at present.
But an unjust statute is not made better by being universally applied, and we are glad that while Adventists toil in the chain-gang for private Sunday work the Tribune is unmolested. Every man has a natural, God-given right to work on Sunday whether he keeps another day or not, and he has that right even though he gives his voice in favor of denying the same right to his fellow-men.
AMS stated in these columns last week, the authorities of Rhea County, Tenn., not content with depriving honest, Christian men of their God-given rights and driving them in the chain-gang for nearly two months, have decided to require them to serve an additional length of time because they would not work upon the Sabbath of the Lord, the seventh day.
Inasmuch as Sabbath-keepers alone have been singled out for prosecution, while others who have worked much more openly and in a way better calculated to disturb the general quiet of the day, than have Adventists, have not been prosecuted, it is patent to all that Adventists have been imprisoned and driven in chain-gangs, not for Sunday work, but for Sabbath rest. But plain as that is, it is even plainer that this additional penalty is a penalty imposed upon them directly for Sabbath rest. They are thus made to pay directly for the privilege of keeping the Sabbath; and this under a constitution which declares that “no human authority can in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience.”
A Sunday-keeper must have his day protected by law, but the Sabbath-keeper must pay for the privilege of keeping the Sabbath of the Lord by a hard day’s work for every Sabbath that he keeps while in prison; and by spending in idleness, if he obeys the “law,” one day for every Sabbath he keeps while not in prison.
Certainly the State of Tennessee has reached a point where even the most obtuse can see that its prosecution of Seventh-day Adventists, is persecution, pure and simple.
THE Kentucky Baptist Standard (Waco, Texas), of August 15, has a very ill-natured note upon the imprisonment of Adventists in Tennessee, in which it sharply rebukes the Indiana Baptist and the Journal and Messenger for the sympathy they have given to the persecuted Adventists. The Kentucky Baptist Standard says:—
The Adventists are entirely familiar with the laws of the land on the Sunday question, and they get in jail for the very purpose of eliciting the sympathy of the public. We do not blubber over them at all. If they want to keep out of jail let them obey the law like other decent people, and they will be certain not to get into trouble. We think the authorities in Tennessee did exactly right in enforcing the law, and believe the Sunday laws we have are good laws, and that they ought to be kept on our statute books and rigidly enforce.
This is a strange utterance for a Baptist paper, and shows that intolerance has gained a foothold in that communion as well as in other churches whose past history does not justify us in expecting so much of them.
The statement is false, that Adventists “get in jail for the very purpose of eliciting the sympathy of the public.” Adventists have done everything they reasonable could do to keep out of jail, except to surrender their consciences. We think the Kentucky Baptist Standard would do well to read up a little on the life of Roger Williams and the early history of the Baptist Church. Scores of Baptists have died in past ages for violating civil laws with which they were entirely familiar.
REV. EDWARD THOMPAMSON, LL.D., manager of the Sunday League of America, is conducting a Sunday campaign in this State. He spoke at Syracuse on a recent Sunday, the burden of his discourse being to show that this is a “Christian” nation. Of course, the “clinching” argument was Justice Brewer’s decision in the Trinity Church case. “Dr. Thompson announced,” says the Syracuse Post, “that he expected to hold a series of meetings in the city in about six months’ time to agitate the Sunday question. Meanwhile the league, membership blanks for which were passed throughout the congregation, would busy themselves in the distribution of literature, which should set the people of Syracuse to reading, thinking and studying on the subject.”
A few thousand copies of the AMERICAN SENTINEL, judiciously distributed in Syracuse, would do very much toward giving proper direction to the thoughts of the people on this subject. Who will do it?
THE Iowa State Press, published at Iowa City, comments as follows upon the persecution of Seventh-day Adventists in Tennessee:—
This sect is quite correct in contending that the Sunday of Christian observance, and the Sabbath kept under the old law, are not the same. The first Christians changed the day to be observed as they changed divers other matters, and the new holy day first obtained civil recognition under Constantine. He allowed them to hold services openly, and protected them from heathen intolerance. We of course know nothing of the gravity of the offense, but if it was only working on Sunday, without doing it so as to annoy people who worshiped on that day, we think the laws of Tennessee should be amended, so as to give the most perfect liberty to all, to keep every day as one of rest, if they can afford it, or not keep any day if so that pleased them better, always providing that the liberty to do as they please, did not extend to preventing anyone else from doing as they pleased.
We do not believe State interference in matters of belief, has ever been of any benefit, and we know it has invariably lessened respect for religion. The Adventists in Tennessee may have made themselves offensive, not by their pious observance of the old Sabbath, but by a determination to keep it in such a way as to annoy others, to whom they knew it objectionable. Like where Macaulay says the Puritans abolished bear baiting, not because they pitied the bears, but because they knew it angered the Carders who loved the cruel sport.
We can assure our Iowa contemporary for the Tennessee Adventists have not intentionally disturbed anybody; indeed, we might go further than that, and say that There has been no real disturbance to anybody. Adventists are considerate, not only of the rights but of the prejudices of their neighbors. They are are [sic.] not only a liberty-loving people, and so go just as far as they conscientiously can in respecting the wishes of their neighbors. None of the work complained of in Tennessee was of a character or done in a place to be any real annoyance to anybody. The most noisy work done was putting clapboards on a house. Such work might be a real annoyance in a village, but this house stands in the woods at a distance from any other building; and the noise occasioned by the work, if heard at all by others would certainly not be loud enough to occasion any real annoyance, except annoyance such as a Protestant might feel in seeing a Catholic making the sign of the cross or sprinkling himself with holy water. Of course, this is very annoying to some people, but no person has any right to be annoyed at such things. Adventists have not made themselves offensive in any proper sense of that term; they have wronged no man; they have defrauded no man; they have trampled upon the civil rights of no man.