THE Defender, a New England organ devoted to Sunday and its compulsory observance, devotes several columns to the publication of queries, complaints, etc., from correspondents. One of these expresses his concern over the Sunday situation in his neighborhood as follows:—
“I wish you would tell me where I can get a copy of the laws in regard to the observance of the Sabbath, that is, something that defines what is in violation of the Sabbath according to the laws of the commonwealth. There has been some work on the Sabbath in this neighborhood lately, and I know it was absolutely unnecessary, but I do not know as I could prove it before the court where the case would be tried if they were prosecuted. I went to the chief of police, to see if I could find out what steps were necessary to stop such work, and he said that ‘I would be unable to sustain any case, as the man would say it was necessary work.’ It makes me sad to think that in good old New England one has got to sit down and let evil reign supreme. There is something wrong somewhere. Either the laws are not what they should be, or else those in positions to execute them are in league with those that break them.”
This is the view of things to which one is educated by the teaching that Sabbath observance must be preserved by law. Unless the laws against Sunday observance can be enforced, “one has got to sit down and let evil reign supreme”! No hope in the efficacy of gospel preaching to overcome evil, no hope in the power of God to regenerate the heart, or in the softening influence of the message of divine love upon even the hardened sinner—no confidence in any power to overcome evil except that of human statutes executed by the sheriff and the courts! How far from Christianity is such a view!
Yes; “there is something wrong somewhere,” and not only in that neighborhood, but in every neighborhood the world over. Men are bad, thoroughly bad. The great majority of them are controlled by the carnal mind, and the heart that “is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” And the great majority of the race have been in this condition almost since time began. Adam, the head and beginning of the race, fell from his perfection and became carnal, in the Garden of Eden. That is the something that is wrong somewhere and everywhere; but the Defender’s correspondent seems to be nearly six thousand years behind the times in getting at the fact.
There is no use trying to reform society by law. Only that which can transform can properly reform the descendants of Adam. Laws are useless without sentiment to support them, and the sentiment cannot be manufactured by the law. The sentiment is the proper source of the law, and not law the source of sentiment. The transforming power that is available in this world is that of divine grace; and that is as powerful to-day as ever. Relying upon that, no one need ever feel that he must sit down in despair.