DOWN in Richmond, Va., if report be true, the Sunday law “reformers” have had the courage to take a step towards consistency in the enforcement of Sunday “laws,” and have secured a municipal order stopping the street railway service on that day. It is altogether probable, however, that such consistency would, in most of our large cities, be fatal to an increase of the Sunday congregation, which is the real object sought in the crusade for compulsory Sunday rest.
THE Sunday translation of the New Testament which is issued by the American Bible Society, has taken a decided step in advance of the English and other versions, from the standpoint of belief in divine honor for Sunday. It makes the translation of the first clause of Revelation 1:10, read: “I was in the spirit on Sunday,” instead of the common rendering, “I was in the spirit on the Lord’s day.” Thus, by the authority and word of man, Sunday has at last obtained Scriptural recognition. This proof for Sunday will do to add to that furnished by Congress in 1892, when it voted that Sunday was the Sabbath.
ELDER H. P. HOLSER, Superintendent of the Seventh-day Adventist missions in Europe, writes to the Review and Herald, the official paper of the denomination, that the police of Basel, Switzerland, are very diligent in keeping watch of the Seventh-day Adventist publishing house in that city, to discover if work is being done on Sunday; but that they persistently close their eyes to other work going on in the immediate vicinity. For instance, on one Sunday they professed not to see a gang of workmen on the opposite side of the street from the publishing house, hammering and sawing, building a grand stand for a race to take place the same day. This shows very clearly that in Switzerland, as in the United States, Adventists are not persecuted for Sunday work, but for Sabbath rest.
THE article, “Zealous in Details,” on page 292, deserves more than passing notice. It is calm, dispassionate, and logical. Its manly, Christian tone is in sharp and striking contrast with the intolerant bigotry of the paragraphs which the writer quotes in the outset of his article. Probably without realizing it, the Advance admits the religious character of the Sunday statute of Tennessee in the words, “They [the Adventists] are taken sharply to task by the church and civil authorities.” It is the same old story over again, the Church using the power of the State to enforce her dogmas.
The charge that the Dayton (Graysville) Adventists “were planning for notoriety,” is unreasonable. The Graysville Adventists had every reason to desire to be permitted to quietly attend to their own affairs. They selected the village of Graysville for the establishment of a school largely because it was a quiet place, where they supposed they would be unmolested; and now to charge them with courting persecution is the height of folly as well as the depth of wickedness. A little more attention to “details” in the matter of obeying the ninth commandment would be an excellent thing for those who are so ready to speak against the Adventists.
EITHER religious liberty is a natural right of all men, or it is not the right of any man, for, “all men are created equal.”
Religious liberty being the natural right of every man, it can have only natural limitations.
The only natural limitation to natural right is the equal rights of others. “Every man,” says Macaulay, “has a right to all that may conduce to his pleasure, if he does not inflict pain upon anyone else. This is one of the broadest maxims of human nature, and I cannot therefore see how its supporters can be fairly called upon to defend it—the burden of proof lies, not on the advocates of freedom, but on the advocates of restrain.”
The principle is that every man has a right, as far as his fellow-men are concerned, to do as he wills, provided that will does not lead him to trample upon the equal rights of his fellows. This principle has been seen and recognized by the defenders of religious liberty everywhere. The constitution of Maryland provides that—
No person ought by any law to be molested in his person or estate on account of his religious persuasion or profession, or for his religious practice, unless under color of religion, he shall disturb the good order, peace or safety of the State, … or injure others in their natural, civil, or religious rights.
It will be noticed that in this the line is drawn at the rights of others. Up to that point no man has any right to question the right of his fellow-man to do as he wills.
This principle, while admitted theoretically in Maryland, as elsewhere, has in almost every State of the American Union, been violated in practice. In practice men are not permitted to do even in obedience to conscience everything which does not trench upon the equal rights of their fellow-men. For instance, in Maryland and other States, men are not permitted to exercise their natural right to labor when they choose, but are forbidden to do secular labor or business upon the first day of the week; and this whether it in any way interferes with the equal rights of others or not.
It is not sufficient to answer that by such work they cause mental pain to their fellow-men, because others by Sabbath work cause pain to those who observe that day; and rights being equal and to be equally protected, if to be preserved from mental pain were a natural right, then there should also be a law forbidding work upon the seventh day. But nobody would contend for anything of that kind for a moment. Government cannot undertake to protect the feelings of the people. Government can protect only the reputation, the person and the goods of those whoa re under its jurisdiction. It cannot undertake to shield from the annoyance of their own bigotry and intolerance, those who imagine that others should do as they do, and believe as they believe.