February 19, 1891
ON account of traveling from the Pacific to the Atlantic, and one third of the way back again, we lost the connection in the numbers of the Christian Statesman by which Mr. Crafts is communicating to the public his wisdom in relation to Sunday laws. Now, however, we have gathered up the copies of the Statesman, have made the connection, and are again ready to notice the points which are of interest to the public, regarding the Sunday-law campaign.
In number three, of his contributions, Mr. Crafts declares that
Our Republic is bound by the laws of self-preservation to protect the Sabbath as a weekly opportunity for moral culture.
There is not a particle of truth in this statement. And for two reasons: one is, that our Republic has nothing to do with moral culture. This Republic is not a moral institution; it is a civil Government. The Republic has no question to ask whether the people are moral or not. All it wants to know is whether they are civil, and its offices are rightly exerted to that purpose and no other. The church and the family are the instrumentalities, and the only ones in this world, that can have to do with moral culture. And when any plea is made that the State shall enact Sunday laws, or enforce those already enacted, or do anything else in the interests of moral culture, or when the State is asked to do any of these things, it only works, or is asked to work, in the interests of the Church, and the union of Church and State is the result. So certainly does a union of Church and State inhere in every phase of Sunday laws, and in every plea in their behalf.
The other reason is, that this plea for self-preservation, in the way in which it is used, is a fraud. Mr. Crafts, however, is not the only one who is guilty of playing this fraudulent trick with words. It is impossible for the State to preserve itself from supposed dangers which threaten from the delinquencies of a majority of the people. The State is composed of the people. When the majority of the people are doing what they think or even what they know, to be wrong, laws against such actions are a nullity. The State, practically, is simply the majority of the people. If the majority of the people are doing wrong, and laws are enacted prohibiting the wrong things which they are doing, they being the majority, can disregard the law without fear. And that is what is invariably done in such cases. Such a law, therefore, is not only a nullity, but the general disregard of that law insiduously [sic.] cultivates a disregard of all laws; so that such attempts of the State at self-preservation only carry it farther toward the destruction which it endeavors to escape. It is the same old story of the man endeavoring to pull himself out of the quicksands by the straps of his boots.
Another evil in all such cases, is that the only use made of the laws so enacted, is by bigots, who use them as a convenient means of venting their spite upon their neighbors.
This is precisely the situation in the case of Sunday laws. In a previous article we have given abundant and strong testimony in Mr. Crafts’s own words that the majority, even of church members, do not observe Sunday as they profess to believe it ought to be observed. Counting these with the people in this country who are not church members, and care even less than the church members do for Sunday observance; and it is found that the  vast majority of the people of the United States care very little or nothing at all for Sunday observance. And this is true in the face of the fact that in all the States except three or four there are strict Sunday laws. Now what is the use of making more Sunday laws when there is such a universal disregard of those already made? And especially what is the use of making more Sunday laws when even the church members who profess to believe Sunday observance to be right, so generally disregard both their own profession and the Sunday laws which are already made? How is it possible that there can be any self-preservation on the part of the State in the enactment of additional Sunday laws whether State or national? In the existing condition of things every additional Sunday law will not only be disregarded, but the general disregard of such laws, silently but surely, permeates all society with the spirit of disregard of all laws, even those which are sound and wholesome in themselves.
There is such a thing as not only the right, but the necessity of self-preservation on the part of the State; but it is self-preservation against insurrection, or armed invasion. And it is literally impossible for the State to exercise this prerogative against the moral delinquencies which inhere in the individuals who compose the State. More than this, it is impossible for the State to exercise this prerogative against even the civil delinquencies of those who compose the State if those delinquencies control a majority of the people. In such cases it is simply the endeavor of each man to compel himself by a law to do what he will not do.
All this is but the statement in other words of the familiar observation that laws, to be of any force, or any value whatever, must be sustained by public character. If public character does not sustain the law, then that law is nothing more than a legal farce, and the more laws that are made under such circumstances, the worse it is for the State. There is a true doctrine of the right of the self-preservation of the State, but this doctrine set forth by Mr. Crafts in his plea for Sunday laws, and by others upon other subjects, is just as false as false can be.
THE SENTINEL has constantly charged that this Sunday-law movement is a religious movement, and one of the reasons we have given, for so charging, is that the prime movers, the organizers, and the real workers in it everywhere are invariably strict religionists, led by preachers. This same charge, and the same reasons given for the charge, has been made against the movement by some of the workingmen. Mr. Crafts attempts to answer in the following manner:—
What, then, is the object of ministers in establishing hospitals for incurables and foundlings and magdalens?
In this as in the justification of Sunday law always, he misses the point entirely. The object of ministers and religious people in establishing such institutions as these is entirely benevolent, and we wish them God-speed everywhere. But if these same ministers and religious people who have established these institutions should now start a movement to get either the State governments, or the national Government, to support them from the public treasury, or enforce their rules as public laws, then we should charge, and the charge would be just, that that was a religious movement to get the State enlisted in the interests of religionists and their institutions.
Let the religious people and the preachers establish the observance of Sunday or whatever other church days they please, and just as strictly as they please. Let them do so of themselves and keep it confined to themselves, without any call upon the State governments, or the national Government to support or enforce it, and THE SENTINEL will never have a word to say against them or their movements. If they had done so, there would never have been THE AMERICAN SENTINEL. But as it is, we do charge, and the charge is just, and fully sustained by proofs, that the Sunday-law movement carried on as it is, by religious people, led by preachers, is wholly a religious movement to secure the control of the civil power, to enforce upon all the observance of their own peculiar religious institutions.
Again, Mr. Crafts puts himself in a box, by the following words:—
God gave unfallen man both labor and rest. To loaf on other days is as much a violation of God’s law as it is to labor on the Sabbath. The man who does not habitually obey the commandment, “Six days shalt thou labor,” be he lord or tramp, breaks the fourth commandment as surely as the man who does not rest, and let rest, on the rest day.
Now in his book, “The Sabbath for Man,” he says of those people who observe the seventh day and work on Sunday, that
The tendency of Legislatures and executive officers toward those who claim to keep a Saturday-Sabbath is to over-leniency rather than to over-strictness…. Infinitely less harm is done by the usual policy, the only constitutional or sensible one, to let the insignificantly small minority of less than one in a hundred, whose religious convictions require them to rest on Saturday … suffer the loss of one day’s wages.—Page 262.
By this it is evident that were his will in Sunday-law matters performed, he would compel those people “to loaf” every Sunday, and thereby prohibit their obeying the commandment, “Six days shalt thou labor.” Therefore by his own words it is demonstrated that he proposes by his system of Sunday laws to compel people to break what he himself knows and declares to be the fourth commandment of God; and that he would do it if he had the power. Yes, “self-preservation” and enforced loafing go well together.
There is another point in this too. Suppose a man does voluntarily break the fourth commandment, what has the State to do with that, if it be true that the State has nothing to do with religious questions and observances? The fourth commandment is wholly religious. The institution guarded by that commandment is religious only. Then as certainly as any State attempts to take cognizance of the actions of any man with reference to that commandment, so certainly does that State assume to deal with religious questions.
This is also shown again by Mr. Crafts’s own words in the article now under consideration. He proposes Sunday and its enforced observance as the day enjoined by the commandment. It is true, that it is not by any means the day there mentioned but that is neither here nor there so far as this particular argument is concerned. He argues that it is so, and we here simply answer his argument as it is given. He then counts the fifty-two Sundays as fifty-two “sacred vessels,” and in his Sunday-school-boy-Jack-the-Giant-Killer fashion draws a parallel between the act of Belshazzar polluting the sacred vessels of the house of God, and the action of our Government in desecrating these “fifty-two sacred vessels we call ‘Sabbaths,’” and then he says,
Let these cups be rather the weekly sacrament by which we keep in memory the God of our fathers and renew the Nation’s loyalty to God, our King.
And that is how he would have the civil Sabbath observed, and its civil observance enforced by the Government.
A. T. J.