“Dr. Sunderland on Persecution” American Sentinel 10, 37, pp. 290, 291.

REV. DR. SUNDERLAND, of Washington, D.C., has taken occasion to review the AMERICAN SENTINEL, of July 18, in a three-column article in the Boston Daily Standard, of September 3.

The first thing the doctor notices is the “Roll of Honor,” a list of about 120 papers that have condemed [sic.] the persecution of Seventh-day Adventists. Of the attitude of these papers, he says:—

It is comparatively easy in this country to denounce the action of the civil authorities in pursuance of existing law as the perpetration of crime upon inoffensive men and women, who yet stand the open, confessed violators of existing civil law, and yet claim that they are inoffensive people, whose conscience will not permit them to obey the law, because the law is man-made, and not God-made, in their opinion. Thus they turn upon the law and its faithful administration by those who are lawfully charged with its execution, and claim to be “oppressed” by this “un-American, unjust, bigoted and intolerant proceeding.” They claim to be more holy than the law itself; that, indeed, the law is in direct contravention of God’s law, and that in deference to God’s law they are perfectly justified in trampling on the State law, which they claim should be at once abolished.

This shows that the doctor’s sympathies are entirely with the persecution and not with its victims. He speaks of turning “upon the law and its faithful administration by those who are lawfully charged with its execution,” etc.; but the same number of the SENTINEL that published the “Roll of Honor,” published an article, “Partial in the Law,” showing that those “faithful” administrators of “law” conveniently closed their eyes to all violation except by Seventh-day Adventists. This fact alone brands the so-called enforcement of the Tennessee Sunday “law” as religious persecution.

But that Dr. Sunderland has no appreciation whatever of the real question involved is evident from this statement:—

The whole structure of this argument rests upon one small pivot, the calendar of the Sabbath. It turns simply on the question whether the Jewish or the Christian calendar is in vogue. They cling to the Jewish calendar, and ninety-nine one-hundredths of all Christendom accept the Christian calendar.

The whole question turns upon nothing of this kind. The question is a very simple one: Shall the minority have the right to believe and practice as they please in matters of faith, so long as they do not interfere with the equal rights of others?

It is utterly absurd to contend the private work, such as is carried on by the Adventists, in any way interferes with the right of the majority to keep Sunday, or that it interferes in any way with the due observance of that day by anybody who wishes to keep it. The very most that can be claimed is that it is offensive to the moral sensibilities of those who regard Sunday as a sacred day. But has civil government any right to undertake to “protect” the majority from such a shock to their moral sensibilities? To do so would be to return at once to the maxims and methods of the Dark Ages.

Moreover, the circumstances show that the moral shock is not due to the fact that the Adventists work on Sunday, but that their Sunday work, coupled with their Sabbath rest, is a protest against Sunday sacredness. No effort is made to prosecute others who work on Sunday; railroad trains, iron furnaces, coke ovens, livery stables, are operated on Sunday, and no effort is made to interfere with them. Daily papers are published in Tennessee, and in the cities street-cars run; and yet all these things are against the law equally as much as is the work done by Adventists. As stated in the number of the SENTINEL, which Dr. Sunderland reviews, a member of the grand jury, that found the indictments against the Adventists, and was very prominent in their prosecution, works himself and employs others to work for him on Sunday in the fruit season, simply to shield himself from loss; and again, we say, the question is not as to the calendar, but as to whether Seventh-day Adventists shall enjoy equal rights with other people.

The doctor’s talk about “Jewish calendar” and the “Christian calendar” is all about nonsense. Both Jews and Christians have the same week, and have had from time immemorial. The contention that man’s first day was God’s seventh day, is utterly without foundation. There is not a scintilla of evidence to support it. It is true that man was created on the sixth day, and that his first full day was the seventh day of creation week; but that it was his first day is absurd, for the man was not only created upon the preceding day (the sixth), but the woman was also created upon that day and given to man, so that the sixth day was not only Adam’s first day, but it was his wedding day.

But this whole matter of man’s first day being God’s seventh day, is too silly to discuss seriously. We are not dependent for our knowledge of the Sabbath upon man’s count of the weeks. It was a matter of direct revelation to the children of Israel. When they came out of Egypt and were led into the wilderness, God removed all possibility of doubt as to the identical day to be kept, by withholding manna upon that day every week for forty years. There was no possibility of a mistake there; God makes no mistakes.

Then again, at the time of the crucifixion we have the Sabbath unerringly pointed out by the statement concerning the holy water, that “they returned and prepared spices and ointments, and rested the Sabbath day, according to the commandment.”

Within less than a generation from that time the Jews were scattered to every nation under heaven; and yet history records the disagreement arising either among the Jews, or between Jews and Gentiles, as to the correct numbering of the days of the week. This agreement is utterly destructive of the claim that any change of calendar could change the reckoning of the weeks; and it is equally true to the contention that nobody can tell which is the seventh day of the week.

The doctor’s contention that the first day of the week is called the sabbath in the [291] original of Matthew 28:1, etc., is not worthy of serious consideration. No reputable critic has ever taken any such position, nor is there any probability that any such will take that position, for it is utterly untenable.

Toward the close of this long review the doctrine returns to his defense of intolerance in the matter of enforcing Sunday laws, but he does not use a single argument that was not used by the Puritans three hundred years ago to justify their intolerance toward Baptists and Quakers in Massachusetts. The only question and the one which will not down is: Shall observers of the seventh day enjoy equal rights with others, or will the majority continue to override by despotic power the rights of the minority? Adventists are not asking for toleration merely, they are demanding rights. The majority have the physical power to deny these rights and to punish men for exercising them; but no physical power and no amount of sophistry can destroy God-given rights.

But the doctor denies that God has ever given any man a right to do wrong. That is true so far as man’s obligation to God is concerned. No man has a right from the divine standpoint to do wrong; “for God will bring every work into judgment with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil.” But so far as his fellow-men are concerned, God has given every man the right to do just as he pleases in moral things. To take any other position would be to justify the Inquisition.

The doctor’s closing “argument” amounts to no more than calling those who observe the seventh day, “cranks;” but that settles nothing. Those who have chosen to obey God rather than men have always been accounted cranks, and have always been cried down as the perverters of the truth and the disturbers of social order. But “nothing is settled until it is settled right,” and the doctor and all others may rest assured that this question of the rights of conscience cannot be settled in the way which he proposes. It must be settled right.

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