ONE of the most striking examples of the fall of American Protestantism from the principles of complete separation of Church and State is to be found in the Christian or Disciple Church. Alexander Campbell, the founder of that church, as early as 1820, combated certain “moral societies” of Western Pennsylvania,—the ancestors of the National Reform Association,—whose principal object was the enforcement of Sunday laws, in the following forcible style:—
There is no precept or command in the New Testament to pay any regard to the Lord’s day, any more than any other day.
Therefore to compel a man who is not a Christian to pay any regard to the Lord’s day, more than any other day, is without authority of the Christian religion.
The gospel commands as duty which can be performed without faith in the Son of God. “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”
But to compel men destitute of faith to observe any Christian institution, such as the Lord’s day, is commanding duty to be performed without faith in God.
Speaking of his motive in opposing these compulsory Sunday observance societies, he said:—
I wrote from principle; I had no object in view but one; viz., the suppression of an anti-rational, anti-scriptural, anti-constitutional confederation, that I conscientiously believe to be dangerous to the community and inimical to civil and religious liberty. And while I am able to wield a pen, I will oppose everything of the kind, from the same principles, that comes within the immediate sphere of my observation.
When the movement was inaugurated, by which the churches compelled Congress to enacted a law closing the World’s Fair on Sunday, the denomination of Alexander Campbell repudiated the principles of its founder, and joined in the movement. A small minority vigorously protested, calling attention to the principles so persistently advocated by Mr. Campbell. These arguments were declared by Dr. D. R. Dungan, a leading light of the denomination, to be “streaked with insanity,” and one of the organs of the denomination characterised those who maintained these views as “evangelical preachers out of color.”
The following from the pen of one of the dissenting minority, Dr. J. I. Parsons, pastor of the First Christian Church of  St. Louis, published in the Christian Oracle of Chicago, July 13, 1893, is worthy a place by the side of the noble utterances of Mr. Campbell:—
I am opposed to Sunday legislation. It is contrary to our Constitution and to the New Testament. On the same principles I am opposed to the American Sabbath Association (Union). It is itself anti-American and anti-evangelical. It is the same thing in principle that Mr. Campbell opposed in the moral societies of Washington County, Pennsylvania, seventy-five years ago. I stand by the principles of this great man on this question. In respect to seeking the aid of the State in maintaining its pet notions and institutions, Protestants are scarcely a whit better than Catholics. In seeking the aid of the national legislature to prevent worldly men from “desecrating the Sabbath,” Protestants are doing the same thing they condemn in Catholics. Both Protestants and Catholics are wrong in this regard, and if either party succeeds, it will bring ruin to both our civil and religious liberties. May God defeat them both. Let us fight out the question of religion and of observing holy days, and especially the Sunday question, with the “sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God,” and not with the sword of Cesar.
Another Christian minister, Dr. James A. De Moss, writing in the Christian Standard, of Aug. 12, 1893, offers the following courageous protest against the part his denomination took in securing the law closing the World’s Fair on Sunday:
What have we done?
Our plea for apostolic Christianity, our plea for Christian union, our work and labors throughout the whole … for Christianity pure and unalloyed, our fights upon all things that bear the marks of Romanism, are marred by our notion in the Sunday question that has been under agitation, and will be agitated for a few years yet to be.
It seems now that we list to the misapplied Sabbath-day,—misapplied by the “infallible pope,” and received as righteousness by the sectarian world. We excuse this action by differential statement, designating it the “civil Sabbath.”
What has constructed or made a “civil Sabbath”?—Law. What makes law?—Man. Who made the Sabbath?—God. For whom did he make it?—For man. Can man make it for himself?—No. Then we bow before the force which takes the affairs of God into its own hands. Who is “above all that is called God?—The papacy. To whom and to what do we bow in this question of the “civil Sabbath”?—To the pope and to Romanism.
There can be no doubt that this legislation upon the Sunday (Sabbath) question is a “mark of the beast.” As a people who have vied in the creation and enforcement of this “Sabbath law,” we have received upon our foreheads and upon our hands the “mark of the beast.” We have not too much evidence that the first day of the week is the Lord’s day: while we have conclusive evidence that the first day of the week is not the Sabbath day.
If, as we infer, the first day be the Lord’s day, then what authority have we to enforce the Lord’s day upon the world, or expect its recognition by legal force? Or by what authority do we assume to exact from other brethren by legal force the rights of honest, conscientious worship on the only day embodied in the divine law? Church and State should not be combined. Our glorious brotherhood must not assist in combining them.
If we engraft (it has been engrafted) in law the first day “Sabbath,” then, indeed, as all law, it must be enforced. Besides injustice to very good and honorable people, we should know we have no right to enforce God’s law upon the people that dwell in the earth, presuming it to be the Sabbath day, which we all know quite well it is not. As well might we exact a law to compel all men to be baptized, or fix in law what may constitute a Christian, or by law create Christians.
A person out of Christ is no better by respecting, or being compelled to respect, a day of worship; for he is not spiritually or otherwise in the realm of worship, and therefore beyond the reach (jurisdiction) of God and the Church; still this carnal law, when enforced (and enforced it will be sooner or later), has gotten higher than God.
What now is “higher than all that is called God”?—Why, it is papal authority, unmistakable and certain. And the “saddest of all sad things” is that the Church of Christ has stultified itself in its actions in this matter, and taken one step backward toward Romanism.
We have brethren who thoroughly understand this question, and this line of prophecy now under fulfillment, and know well these are facts we must confront.
For shame! May not the general convention further compromise our position upon these questions, by indorsing our national legislation upon the subject, or giving support by resolution or otherwise to a “national Sabbath”—the beginning of the union of Church and State in America.