October 18, 1894
NO greater mistake could be made than to suppose that to habitually treat Sunday in all respects as an ordinary day is not a matter of conscience with Seventh-day Adventists. The Christian’s rule of life is: “Whether ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God;” and the Adventist following his plow on Sunday is as truly serving God as when going to church on the previous day.
BUT the State has no right to inquire whether an act is done conscientiously or not. If any act does not infringe the equal rights of others, the State has no right to forbid it, whether conscientiously done or not. The Sunday-keeper is no more entitled to undisturbed rest on the first day of the week than the Sabbath-keeper is to undisturbed rest on the seventh day; and since the Sabbath-keeper can rest and worship while the Sunday-keeper is at work, so can the Sunday-keeper rest and worship equally as well while the Sabbath-keeper works. The question of conscience cannot be considered by the State further than this: If any law affects the conscience and not the equal rights of men, that fact alone proves that it is outside the domain of proper civil legislation.
EVERY clause in every Sunday law in the world that exempts those who “conscientiously” believe in and observe another day is a confession that such legislation is improper. Every such provision is a confession that the keeping of a Sabbath is a question directly affecting the conscience and not affecting natural rights. No statute against murder, or assault, or robbery, or slander, or arson, ever contained a clause exempting from its penalties persons who might violate it conscientiously. And why?—Simply because such things are not matters of conscience but are matters of right, natural, human rights; and no man has any right to take another’s life or property, or to burn his house, or blacken his reputation under any circumstances. No amount of conscientious conviction can, by any possibility, confer any such right. Rights exist independently of conscience; they are not created by conscience, but exist in the nature of things according to the divine order, and one man’s conscience cannot of right trench on another’s rights. But that is just what is done when the conscience of the majority is incorporated into statutes for the government of the minority, however small that majority may be.