“Obey the Law Until Repealed” American Sentinel 9, 49, pp. 385, 386.

LAMST week, under the above heading, it was shown that the advice given to Seventh-day Adventists—that they ought to obey Sunday laws until they could secure their repeal—by justices of the peace and judges of superior courts, as well as by those who are responsible for Sunday law prosecutions, was advice which, had it been followed in the past, would have stifled every great religious reform from the days of Daniel in Babylon to Roger Williams in America. It was shown that Daniel, the three Hebrews, the Lord Jesus, the apostles, the early Christians, Wycliffe, Huss, Jerome, Luther, the Protestant princes, Tyndale, Latimer, Ridley, Knox, Bunyan, Wesley and Roger Williams, all came in conflict with civil law in carrying forward the reforms of their day. It was also shown that they did not submit to the law until they could secure its repeal, but were true to conscience and suffered the consequences. It was also shown that the Protestant world to-day applauds the faithfulness of these violators of human law, and attributes to their faithfulness the liberty of conscience so long enjoyed.

But it is denied that there is any conscience involved in obeying a law enforcing idleness on Sunday, the first day of the week, and to this question we address ourselves in this article. However, this charge is not new. It has been made against every Reformer in every age. The conscientious scruples of the persecuted have always been denounced by the persecutor as fanatical stubbornness. The Roman rulers denounced the refusal of the early Christians to offer a few grains [386] of incense on the altar of the gods, in order to save their lives, as unreasonable and unpardonable obstinacy. Cotton Mather and the Puritan defenders of the cruel imprisonment and barbarous whipping of Elder Holmes, the Baptist minister, in replying to the criticisms of their Puritan brethren in England, answered that Elder Holmes was not “compelled” by conscience to “come into this jurisdiction” and take upon him to baptize.”

But it is objected that all the reformers of old were forbidden to preach or practice their faith, while Seventh-day Adventists are not prohibited by Sunday laws from doing either. But they are so forbidden, and there is a principle of conscience involved.

The following conversation between an editor of the SENTINEL and a Sunday law champion will aid in making this manifest:—

Ques.—When you labor on Saturday, the seventh day, don’t you, by that labor, preach to the world that you do not believe that Saturday, the seventh day, if the Sabbath?

Ans.—I do.

Ques.—Ought not Seventh-day Adventist to have the right, then, in a free country, in a land which boasts of granting equal religious liberty to all men,—ought they not to have the right to labor on Sunday, the first day of the week, and by that labor preach to the world that Sunday, the first day of the week, is not the Sabbath?


The same questions were asked the secretary of the Pennsylvania Sabbath (Sunday) Association, at its recent meeting in Williamsport. To the first question the secretary answered in the affirmative; but in the midst of the second question, he said, “Stop! I see the point you are making. No; Seventh-day Adventists do not have the right to work on the first day of the week, and teach thereby that it is not the Sabbath. We can’t permit you people to desecrate the Sabbath [Sunday], and set a bad example before our children. We are in the majority, and the minority must submit.” This is the situation frankly stated. “Actions speak louder than words,” and in obeying the command of God to rest the seventh day, and following their usual vocations on the “six working days” (which includes Sunday, the first day), Seventh-day Adventists are preaching that the seventh day is the Sabbath, and that the first day is not, so loudly that their enemies, who have no divine command for Sunday observance, undertake to stop their preaching by the State churchman’s old weapon, civil law. Yes, verily, this Sunday law crusade against Seventh-day Adventists is as certainly an attempt to stop their preaching as was the enforcement of the law which imprisoned John Bunyan an attempt to stop his preaching. And now, if there is any conscientious principle involved in a law forbidding preaching, then there is a conscientious principle involved in the law compelling Seventh-day Adventists to rest on the first day, a day which their enemies proclaim to be the Sabbath by resting upon it.

To eliminate the conscientious element from the Sunday law dispute, an effort is made by a large class to show that Sunday laws are purely secular enactments, and have nothing to do with religion. No phase of the Sunday law controversy is so manifestly weak, erroneous and wicked, as this. Even Judge Hammond, of the United States Circuit Court, felt called upon, in the King case, though deciding against the defendant, to rebuke this plea by applying to it the term “disingenuous;” and we heartily agree with his honor in applying this term, which, being interpreted by Webster, means that the claim that Sunday laws are not religious laws, is “wanting in noble candor or frankness,” “uncandid,” “mean.” Nothing can be more clearly demonstrated than that Sunday laws are religious. Sunday laws originated in a union of Church and State; they are clothed in religious terms, and are perpetuated by the religious element. On this point Mr. Crafts, the Sunday law champion of the United States, says: “During nearly all our American history, the churches have influenced the States to make and improve Sabbath [Sunday] laws.”

The Sunday laws of the United States are descendants from the Sunday law of Charles II. of England. This fact is acknowledged by their advocates. And no one will deny that the Sunday law of Charles II. is religious, because it honestly states that its object is to secure the “keeping holy the Lord’s day” “and repairing to the church thereon,” and the exercise of the “duties of piety and true religion, publicly and privately.” The Sunday law of Maryland, under which two Seventh-day Adventists are now imprisoned in the county jail at Centreville, is nearly as honest in avowing its religious character as is its ancestor the Sunday law of Charles II.; for the section under which they are imprisoned is entitled, “Sabbath-breaking,” and three times uses the religious term, “Lord’s day.” It also punishes persons who “profane the Lord’s day.” Webster defines “profane” as “to violate anything sacred.” Thus the Sunday law of Maryland, like its antecedent the law of Charles II., attempts to compel men to keep sacred or holy the Lord’s day on the first day of the week, when God commands men to keep holy the Lord’s day on the seventh day of the week. He says, “Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord.” The seventh day is therefore the Lord’s day, and must be kept sacred on that day and not on “the first day of the week, commonly called Sunday.”

And now, we ask again, is there not a question of conscience involved, when the law attempts to make Seventh-day Adventists keep sacred the “Lord’s day” on a day which is not the Lord’s day, but one of what the Lord himself calls the “six working days.”

At this point an attempt is made by judges and prosecuting attorneys, and by Sunday-law apologists in general, to parry the force of this argument, by asserting that while the law does compel the Seventh-day Adventist to recognize the sacredness of the “Lord’s day commonly called Sunday,” it does not forbid him to hallow the day he regards as the Lord’s day, the seventh day, commonly called Saturday. And so long as he is left free to observe the day of his choice, there is no infringement upon his rights of conscience when he is compelled to observe the “Lord’s day” of the majority.

The decree of Nebuchadnezzar, calling upon Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, to fall down and worship the golden image on the day of its dedication, did not prohibit these three Hebrews from worshiping Jehovah on the seventh day, the day dedicated to his worship, and yet they refused to bow down, and the “Judge of all the earth” sanctioned their refusal and rewarded their “anarchy” with a marvelous deliverance from the fiery furnace.

But it is here objected that the cases are not parallel, because the golden image stood as the sign of an apostate and idolatrous worship, which was a rival of the worship of the true God, who had given explicit command against worshiping idols. This point will be treated in our next. [386]

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