“Bishop Satterlee on Sunday Laws” American Sentinel 12, 4, pp. 51, 52.

A “MAMSS MEETING” in the interests of “national reform” was held in the Metropolitan Methodist Church, Washington, D. C., January 17. Dr. Lyman, president of the “Reform Bureau” at Washington, presided.

The principal speaker was Bishop Satterlee, of the Episcopal Church, who addressed the meeting on the subject of “Sunday laws.” Some introductory remarks were made by the chairman, in which he said: “What we desire for the capital of this nation, a Christian nation, is that it shall be a Christian city.” This was to say that at present Washington is not a Christian city, and this opinion found ample support in the speeches following. How it is that the nation can be Christian, with its capital and seat of government unchristian, he did not explain.

Bishop Satterlee began by saying that he was a Christian, and believed that “no man can call himself a [52] Christian unless he is in all times and places a true witness for the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Judged by this rule, what must be thought of the propriety of calling the United States a Christian nation? Is it “a true witness for the Lord Jesus Christ” “in all times and places”? No sane person would affirm such a thing. Yet Bishop Satterlee is fully assured that this nation is indeed Christian. Have the advocates of “national Christianity” two standards of Christianity, one for the individual, and another for the nation? It would seem that they have. Nevertheless there is but one true standard, and by that standard no such thing as national or governmental Christianity can be possible. Christianity will fit the individual, and nothing else.

It must be said that Bishop Satterlee’s speech did not speak well for his own knowledge of Christianity. As proof that this is a Christian country, he affirmed that it “is a country of universal suffrage,” and said that by this the nation manifests its confidence in humanity, and imitates the example of Jesus Christ, for “He trusted human nature”! What an assertion! If there was one thing Jesus Christ did not do, it was to trust human nature; and if there is one thing the follower of Christ must not do, it is this same thing. Human nature is fallen nature, and fallen nature is sinful nature so sinful that it can descend to the lowest depths of wickedness. The whole mission of Jesus Christ to this earth was to replace human nature by the divine nature, in which alone any being can safely trust.

To such lengths of error are men of intelligence and high church standing led in the search for some justification for Sunday laws.

“The highest law court in the land,” the bishop continued, “has decided that this is a Christian country. And the highest law in dictionary that I know anything about says that Christianity is the common law in America in every State but Louisiana.” This being so, we may fairly expect, if Christianity amounts to anything, to find a wonderful difference between Louisiana and other States with respect to the moral condition of society; since in these States all persons would be Christians except such as are lawless. It does not appear, however, by comparison with her sister States, that Louisiana suffers in the least from the failure of the common law in her domain to include Christianity. Nor does it appear that the people of those States which claim Christianity as part of their common law, however faultlessly they may observe the latter, are raised thereby one degree in spirituality above the plane of ordinary human nature.

Coming to the subject of the pending Sunday law for the District of Columbia, the bishop said:—

“Now I wish this law first of all, ladies and gentlemen, because first of all there is a great advantage in this Sunday law that it is proposed to enact, it seems to me, simply because there is not a single word—Christian, religious word—in the law itself. We believe in the eternal separation of Church and State in this country. It must carefully guard that, and we must not force our opinions upon others who have different opinions, and yet who are under the dominion of the same law. I have heard this Sunday law described within the last week of a very prominent legislator as the most moderate on the subject of Sunday he had ever seen in his life. Therefore it offends no prejudices; therefore all men can unite as far as that is concerned, and become at one with it. There is no place where one can insert an entering-wedge. There is not a single knife edge where this objection can be made. Throughout the law, from beginning to end, it speaks only of Sunday and the Sunday rest.”

It certainly would not be clear why a bishop in the church, rejoicing in the belief that this nation is Christian in character, and addressing an audience gathered for the express purpose of making the capital of the nation Christian by means of a Sunday law, should consider it a “great advantage” in that law that it contains not a Christian or religious word—were it not for his explanation that “we must not force our opinions upon others who have different opinions, and yet who are under the dominion of the same law.” In this country, “We believe in the eternal separation of Church and State. Therefore, “we” must say “Sunday” in our Sunday bill, instead of “Christian sabbath.” That makes a big difference in the character of the bill!

In other words, if “we” should force people to rest on the “Christian sabbath,” that would be forcing our opinions upon others of different belief. Hence we must enforce them to rest on Sunday!

The bishop would prevent any union of Church and State, and any forcing of one person’s opinions upon another, by disguising the means that would be used in their accomplishment! But a thing is disguised only that it may the more surely accomplish the purpose for which it is used. And that is the case with this Sunday law. It is a religious law, disguised as completely as possible in order that it may, if possible, deceive Congress and commit that body to Sunday legislation. That is the “great advantage” which the bill contains.

If any further proof of this were needed, it is furnished by Bishop Satterlee’s own words, uttered in the same connection; for it is with this evil scheme of Church and State as it is with murder; it “will out.” And so having called attention to the bill as one not at all religious and that could not offend the prejudices of anyone, the bishop in the very next breath stripped the disguise completely off, by saying:—

“We are following the sample of the first law, following after the line of the first law—Sunday law, which Dr. Elliott, who is present here this afternoon, told me to-day was ever enacted in the world—that is the law of Constantine. When the Roman Empire became Christianized many of its people were still heathen; and therefore instead of saying upon the Lord’s day, or upon the Sabbath day, in that law of his, it was enacted that upon the great day of the Sun no work shall be done.”

This is as true a statement of the purpose of the [53] movement for Sunday legislation by Congress, and as strong a condemnation of it, as was ever uttered. Nothing worse would be said of it than that it is a repetition of the movement inaugurated by Constantine in the fourth century. That first “sample” Sunday law, which was a very mild one, was speedily followed by others more rigid, until the “venerable day of the sun” was forced upon the observance of all classes by a law as complete and undisguisedly religious as the most ardent sun worshiper could desire. Out of that movement of Constantine’s, begun by his Sunday edict, grew the union of Church and State, the Papacy, the Inquisition, and the persecution and death of millions of Christian martyrs. How much worse could anything be than a movement which starts out in the United States Government upon this same line?

Therefore, upon the representation made by the friends and advocates of this proposed law, as well as from what appears in the law itself, we are totally and unalterably opposed to its enactment. Nor can we see how any lover of liberty who is familiar with the history of Constantine and of the ear which he inaugurated in Church and State, can fail to be as fully opposed to it as ourselves. That the religious character of this bill if disguised, only makes it the worse, and the more worthy of opposition.

Share this: