“Sunday and the Reformation” American Sentinel 9, 44, pp. 348, 349.

THE following from a standard publication of the Baptist Church, states clearly the position which that church has held from the days of Roger Williams, but which it violated in joining with other churches in petitioning Congress for a law closing the World’s Fair on Sunday:—

The duty of the civil magistrate in regard to the observance of the Lord’s day.

Christ said (John 18:36): “My kingdom if not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now is my kingdom not from hence.” Here Christ refuses to employ physical force. His kingdom is not of this world; and civil laws and the force of the magistrate are not the means to promote its advancement. It is a kingdom of truth and love, because each man is a free moral agent under the government of God, he is accountable to God. This personal accountability to God carries with it the right of every man to decide for himself his religious belief and his worship. With these the State has no right to interfere. These rights of conscience are inalienable. For the protection of these, with other inalienable rights, States are organized, civil laws enforced, and magistrates elected. So far as religion is concerned, the sphere of the State is described in one word—PROTECTION….

However much we may deprecate the demoralizing tendencies of Sunday theaters and concerts, games and excursions, and the sale of candies and fruits and newspapers on the Lord’s day, still we ask for legal restrain upon such things only in so far as they may directly interfere with public religious worship. As Christians, we ask of the State only protection in the exercise of our rights of conscience; and we will depend along upon the truth of God and the Spirit of God to secure the triumph of Christianity. With an open field and a fair fight, Christianity is more than a match for the world, because “the foolishness of God is wiser than men.” 1 Corinthians 1:25. The almightiness of Eternal God is in the cross. Hence Christ said: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.”—“The Lords Day,pp. 29-31, by D. Read, LL. D.; American Baptist Publishing Society, 1420 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia.

Many earnest appeals were made by Baptist ministers against the denomination’s leaving these principles and participating in the Sunday-law crusade. The following from the pen of Rev. G. W. Ballenger, of Chicago, of South Chicago, March 7 and 15, 1892, will furnish a sample of these courageous protests:—

Since I am left free to remain away from the Fair [350] on Sunday, I do not consider that my rights are invaded, and I shall not invade the rights of others by asking that Congress, State Legislatures, or national commissioners compel them to act in harmony with my view of Sabbath sacredness.

Personally, I wish that all men were consistent Christians, and that the Sabbath were universally observed; but all are not Christians, and all do not observe the Sabbath. Under these circumstances it is the duty of the Church to use the God-appointed means to accomplish these reforms. When these fail, the responsibility rests with the individual transgressor. Christians have no right to appeal to civil law to compel men to conform to their ideas of worship.

I am opposed to securing compulsory Sabbath observance, either by laws avowedly in the interest of such observance, or under cover of purely civil enactment. I simply want the Sabbath institution to stand on its own eternal foundation, unaided by laws impelled by political strife, embittered by partisan feeling, as one of the blessed gifts of an all-wise and loving Creator to humanity for humanity’s good. The blessings of the Sabbath will be realized by all who observe it, but when an institution of the loving Creator is made by any man or set of men, a means to coerce or render less happy the lives of others, then the Creator is dishonored, religion is injured, and the individual is farther from the kingdom of God than though he had been left free to be won by the power of the gospel…. When we attempt by the power of the civil law to compel the observance of our ideas by others, an unseen hand will write, “Ichabod” over our portals, and our glory will have departed forever. [352]

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