“National Reform and the “Civil Sabbath’” The American Sentinel 5, 50, pp. 393, 394.

December 18, 1890

WITH its issue of October 2, the Christian Statesman began a series of articles, to continue for three months, by Rev. W. F. Crafts, the “founder of the American Sabbath Union.” It seems that the Statesman is making a sort of a campaign out of it. Last year Mr. Crafts could say that he was not connected with the National Reform system; now, however, he is a thorough convert. He has gone the whole course. He has adopted the National Reform organ as principal channel of communication; he advocates the National Reform Amendment to the Constitution of the United States to make this a Christian Nation, while asserting all the time that it is a Christian nation. In short, he advocates the whole National Reform scheme. This will appear as we proceed because we intend to notice from time to time such portions of the matter which he presents as may seem worthy of attention.

The articles are to form a supplement to the two books already published by Mr. Crafts on the Sabbath question. The first article is entitled, “Is the Sabbath Surrendered?” After mentioning a number of publications on the Sabbath question, he says that “the uninimity [sic.] of these numerous books in recognizing the Decalogue as the basis and guide of Sabbath observance, at once represents and strengthens the general conviction of British and American Christians that the Lord’s day is also the Christian Sabbath.” Two of the books which he mentions amongst the valuable ones are “The Abiding Sabbath,” by Rev. George Elliot, of Washington City, and the “Lord’s Day,” by Professor A. E. Wade, of Jamestown, New York. These are two prize essays, the former $500, and the latter $1000. We have at this office a pamphlet of 173 pages, written by the editor of THE SENTINEL, which gives a thorough review of both these books. Anybody who will carefully read the books or this pamphlet either, will see clearly enough that so far as these books are concerned, the Sabbath of the Decalogue has certainly been surrendered. This pamphlet will be sent any where in the United States or Canada on receipt of twenty cents.

Mr. Crafts says that the Sabbath organizations which have recently multiplied in numbers all recognize the perpetual authority of the Sabbath law of the Decalogue, and that the lecturers on this subject have “made the fourth commandment their leading theme,” and “every lecturer for the Sabbath stands on that platform.” Under the circumstances this is a grand admission. The last Sunday book which Mr. Crafts has issued is “The Civil Sabbath.” During his whole campaign of the present year he has made the civil Sabbath his constant theme, and now, at the end of his tours round about and across the Continent, he makes this positive announcement, that every lecturer for the Sabbath stands on the platform of the fourth commandment and makes that his theme. This demonstrates by his own words that which we have constantly held, and which we have told the people all the time, that the plea made in behalf of the civil Sabbath is a fraud; and this shows also that they know it to be a fraud. But they know that they cannot win the favor of the people for their movement if they present it as it is, and as they know it is, in fact, in behalf of the religious Sunday; and therefore in their words they plead for the civil Sabbath, while in their hearts they know it is the religious Sunday that they have in view.

By this means they are enabled to win favor that it would be impossible for them to gain if they should plead for what they really want. And strange to say they [394] have won favor in the very quarter where it would naturally be supposed there would be the least possible hope of it. That is amongst the Liberal Leagues. Even the the [sic.] American Secular Union acknowledged itself ready to sanction “Sunday laws enforcing the observance of Sunday” as “an economic” institution—at which Mr. Crafts laughs slyly in his sleeve and replies to the Secular Union that there are even now no Sunday laws of any other kind, and that they do not want any other. But when they get the Sunday laws which they do want, and the enforcement of the Sunday laws which already exist as they want them enforced, then the Secular Union and everybody else will find out that there are no economic reasons for Sunday laws, nor any other than religious reasons. Then the people who have allowed themselves to be wheedled with the purring notes of the “civil Sabbath song” will find that they have sold themselves to the despotism of a religious Sunday. They will then also know that which we have always said, and still do say, that the pretensions of ecclesiastics who grasp for civil power can never be trusted.

There never was a Sunday law made that was not religious; and there is not one now on the statute books of any State in the American Nation that is not religious and that was not intended to be religious when it was put there. We know full well that in some cases judges have said that these laws are civil, and that they are not religious; but not only is this not true, but every judge who has ever said it has clearly violated one of the fundamental principles of the interpretation of law. That principle is, that, the meaning of a statute is fixed when it is adopted and it is not different at a subsequent time when a court has occasion to pass upon it. A statute is not to be made to mean one thing at one time and another at some subsequent time when the circumstances may have so changed as perhaps to make a different rule in a case seem desirable.

The foundation, the meaning and the intent of every Sunday law that has ever been enacted has been, at the time of its enactment, religious and religious only. And now when the progress of the American people under the enlightening influences of the national Constitution has carried them beyond any recognition of laws enforcing religious observances, judges on the bench endeavor to subject to a religious statute, the free spirit of the American people by making these statutes civil, and reading into them a meaning that is not there, that was not intended to be there when the statutes were made, and that never can truthfully be put there.

Civil Sunday laws are judge-made laws, and that only, and that in direct violation of one of the soundest principles of jurisprudence. Even though every judge in the United States should say that Sunday laws are civil only, it would not be true. It would not be true even though the laws in question were enacted with that intent. But it is doubly false when every one of these laws is not only religious in itself, but was enacted with religious intent. There is no such a thing as a civil Sabbath. Sunday laws never enforce the observance of Sunday as an economic institution, nor can Sunday laws be justified by physiological, secular or any other reasons. They are a connecting link in the union of Church and State. They are religious only and are the relics of the religious despotism that is in the past, and at the same time are ominous signs of the one to come.

A. T. J.

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