“Is There Nothing Selfish in This?” The American Sentinel 6, 3, pp. 17, 18.

January 15, 1891

THE third article published by Mr. Crafts in his series in the Christian Statesman is under the inquiry, “Are Sabbath laws consistent with liberty?” and he claims that they are not only consistent with it but essential to it; to civil liberty, religious liberty, and personal liberty. He says that centuries ago the Dark Ages were suddenly lighted up with the watchword “Religious Liberty,” and that this meant to those that raised it, liberty to die that others might have liberty to pray, and that “there is nothing selfish in that.” Then he says that this sent along another watchword, “Civil Liberty,” and that this meant “liberty to die in resisting tyrants, that succeeding generations might have the liberty of self-government,” and “there’s nothing selfish in that.” And now, Mr. Crafts in his Sunday-law campaign, professes to be sounding forth the true notes of the other watchword “Personal Liberty.”

But where has there been in all his Sunday-law career any manifestation of the liberty to die that others might have any benefit from anything that he does or proposes? Why, he does not even exercise the liberty to talk an hour, not even on Sunday, without a previous guarantee of ten dollars in cash, and it must be spot cash, too! And “there is nothing selfish in that,” oh, no! That is a personal liberty. But if a poor man should work all day on Sunday for $1.50 or $2.00 to obtain the necessary means to support his needy family, that is such a heinous crime that he must be visited by a penalty of a hundred dollars’ fine, the half of it with his earnings to go to the spying loafer who will prosecute him. And “there is nothing selfish in that.” No, no; all that is personal liberty!

Next, he criticises the New York World for saying that “the State has nothing to do with the sanctity of Sunday except to protect every citizen equally in his rights to use the holiday as seems best to him,” and says that such a principle “brings pleasure to the theatre-goers and toil to the actors who have repeatedly pleaded for their rest-day.” Yes, and the “Pearl of Days” says that the saloon-keepers also have pleaded for their rest-day. Now, it is one of the fundamental principles in the argument of the Sunday-law advocates that the object of the Sabbath is to give physical rest in order that the individual might be better prepared for work on the other six days of the week. This argues that all occupations are equally meritorious, and that it is proper that the actors, the saloon-keepers, the gamblers and all such should be granted a day of rest to recuperate their wasted energies in order that they may be better fitted for their several occupations through the other days or nights of the week.

Next he says:—

Plucky Mayor Rankin of Elizabeth, New Jersey, enunciated a great principle in connection with his recent enforcement of the Sabbath law, when he said that the persons who keep their places closed on Sabbath are done an injustice by those who are permitted to remain open. The personal liberty of one man often means Sunday slavery of a dozen competitors who would prefer to close.

That is to say: That a man who wants to close his place of business and keep Sunday, cannot do it because he is afraid he will lose a chance on a few cents. And therefore this chance must be secured to him by compelling everybody else to do as he wants to do. And “there is nothing selfish in that,” of course.

Again, this argues that the man who wants to keep Sunday and be religious, is willing to enjoy his religion if he can be assured by the Nation that it shall not cost him anything. And “there is nothing selfish in that.” No, no. [18]

Yes, it is true, Mayor Rankin did enunciate a great principle—the great principle of selfishness—which is the basis of all Sunday laws.

Again says Mr. Crafts:—

An advocate of the Sunday opening of the World’s Fair says that “the Mohammedan ought to be at liberty to make himself at home on Sunday sin this non-religious Fair.”

And to this he replies:—

But why not let the thousands of Christians who work six days in the week about the Fair have “liberty” to be at home on that home day?

Why, they can have that liberty easy enough. What is to hinder the managers of the Fair from employing people on Sunday who have not worked the other six days of the week about the Fair? That would be easy enough. We know a street-car company which does that very thing. It would be perfectly easy for the managers of the Fair to let all the people who work six days in the week about the Fair have liberty to stay at home on Sunday. But that would never satisfy Mr. Crafts and his fellow-workers. That is not the kind of personal liberty they want to see established. The only kind of personal liberty that they know anything about is that in which everybody is compelled to do as they want to do. And “there is nothing selfish in that.” No, indeed.

Next he says:—

The Republic cannot endure without morals, nor morals without religion, nor religion without the Sabbath, nor the Sabbath without law.

Well, then, if religion cannot endure with the Sabbath, nor the Sabbath without law, then what is it but religion, that they want the Sunday laws for? This is another of his statements that annihilates his theory of the civil Sabbath. And this statement he supports with the following “simon pure” National Reform doctrine:—

The right of the Sabbath to be protected by law is strengthened when we remember that this is unquestionably a Christian Nation. Certainly a nation as well as a person, has religious liberty, liberty to have a religion…. But Christian morality is recognized as common law, and the Sabbath is protected as the reservoir of that morality. To repudiate the union of Church and State does not necessitate a “secular” union of the State to the devil…. In the words of Dr. Lyman Abbott: “We run up the Puritan flag, and emblazon on it the motto of a modern and modified Puritanism; a State Christian, but not ecclesiastical; with faith, but no creed; reverence, but no ritual; a recognized religion, but no established church.

This is a batch of statements that is just about as full of nonsense and self-contradiction as anything can possibly be.

1. This is not a Christian Nation. There is not a State, nor a city, nor a town, nor a village in the Union that is Christian. And this the National Reformers and all other people know.

2. A nation, in the sense here used, has not liberty to have religion. Such a thing is impossible. The only way that a nation, in the sense here used, can have a religion, is to have some sect get control of the civil power, and force upon everybody else the religion of that sect.

3. A flag of Puritanism as a religion, ought never to be seen again; not even with the motto of modern and modified Puritanism. The modern and modified form of it is just as wicked as the original and unmodified form. In the original, they hung placards on the breasts of people who did not choose to conform to the religious views of the majority; and in the modern, as represented in Mr. Crafts’s own words, they propose to do the same thing. In his book on the Civil Sabbath he has a placard printed in big black letters, which reads: “To be hung on the breast of every one who buys postage stamps, cigars, provisions, or whatnot on the Sabbath.” And it is for sale by the hundred, for the “modern and modified” Puritans to hang on the breasts of their neighbors.

4. A State cannot be Christian. Whenever it has been attempted to make it so, it never could be done without making it ecclesiastical, and it will be so till the end of time. It has been tried often enough to demonstrate this to the observant mind. That is the very proposition that was made to Constantine when he suffered the bishops to palm off on him the theory of a Christian State. It should be Christine but not ecclesiastical; but it became ecclesiastical, and when they made the proposition they intended it should be so. It is singular how men who can read can hide their eyes to this the most important lesson that history can possibly teach.

5. With faith but no creed. Now the word “creed” comes from credo, which means “I believe,” and faith is belief. Belief is faith. This statement of Dr. Abbott’s simply says that he will have belief with no faith. Perhaps he will.

.6. The idea of a recognized religion without an established church is the same as a “State Christian but not ecclesiastical.” It means in fact a recognized religion with an established church. Because just as certainly as any religion is recognized by the State and made the favorite of the State, just so certainly will the hypocrite and the political demagogue join themselves to the church in which that religion is recognized, to such an extent as to give it control of the civil power and that power will be used in the interests of that church, and will inevitably create an established church.

Again Mr. Crafts says:—

If a law is for the “general welfare” it ought to be no objection even to a secularist that it is also favorable to religion.

But no law that is favorable to religion can ever be for the general welfare. Every such law that ever was made has been against the general welfare, a curse to society and to the State.

Once more, in speaking of the several reasons which justify Sunday laws he declares that “the religious obligation is the basis of them all in the public conscience.” Isn’t it singular that these men will persistently hold forth their pretensions to a civil Sabbath when they can hardly write a complete sentence in reference to it without showing it to be religious and nothing else? And it is yet more singular that there are so many people who think so little as not to be able to detect the hypocrisy betrayed in such blundering pretensions.

A. T. J.

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