THE leaders in the Sunday movement make one of the foundation claims of their work “the preservation of society, the State, the nation.” It is for this that they insist upon the enactment of Sunday laws. Accordingly they are always calling for more Sunday laws. It matters not what far-reaching Sunday laws may be already on the statute books, they call for still more Sunday laws, and the more vigorous enforcement of them all round.
Yet this whole thing is one of the most pernicious of fallacies. It is not only such pernicious fallacy in principle; but it has been abundantly demonstrated to be such in practice. Every point advocated by the Sunday-law workers to-day has been weighed in the balances of practice and of experience; and has been found utterly wanting. The whole thing has been tested on the world-theater, and has been found absolutely vain and ruinous.
The greatest example of national ruin, the most complete destruction of the State, the most thorough annihilation of society, that has ever been seen on this earth, occurred where there were the most and the most far-reaching Sunday laws. That was in the Western Empire of Rome.
In A.D. 313 the Western Empire became “Christian.” In 314 the first State favor was shown for Sunday. In 321 the first direct Sunday law was enacted. And so it went on with one Sunday law after another, till by 425 every kind of secular work or amusement was strictly forbidden on Sunday. By that time, too, wickedness and corruption of every sort had multiplied in this “Christian” empire to such an extent that the judgment of God in destruction had already begun to fall unchecked.
In 351 the Franks and Alemanni swept like a sire, a space of one hundred and twenty miles from the source to the mouth of the Rhine.
In 400-403 the Visigoths carried destruction and devastation through Roumania and into Italy as far as to Milan.
In 405-29 a mighty host of Suevi, Vandals, and Burgundians ravaged Italy as far as to Florence, the greater part of Gaul, all of Spain and all of Africa to Carthage.
In 408-419 the Visigoths overflowed the whole of Italy, all southwestern Gaul and all of Spain.
In 449 the Angles and Saxons entered Britain and never rested until “the arts and religion, the laws and language, which the Romans had so carefully planted in Britain, were extirpated;” nor until “the practice and even the remembrance of Christianity were abolished.”
In 451-453 the Huns under Attila carried fire and slaughter, from the Danube to Chalons, and to Milan.
In 453 the Ostrogoths took possession of the province of Pannonia, and the Lombards of Noricum.
In 476 Odeaur and his barbarian followers to possession of Italy and abolished the office of the emperor of the West: and the Western empire of Rome—the State, and even society—had been swept away by ruin upon ruin.
And that was the “Christian” empire of Rome. That was the empire that had exhausted the subject of Sunday laws and enforced Sunday observance. That was the State that had done all this on behalf of the kingdom of God, and for the preservation and even the salvation of the State.
There is not a method of Sunday enforcement either mild or cruel that has not been in that “Christian” Roman Empire. There is not a phase of Sunday laws that has not been employed by the clerical managers of affairs of that “Christian” Roman State. There is nothing on that subject left by those, for the Sunday-law clergy of to-day to discover. And the Sunday-law clergy of to-day must hide their eyes not only from the principles, but also from the practical effects of Sunday legislation of every kind, before they can go on in their pernicious Sunday-law course.
For, pernicious that course is even to the ruin of the greatest nation and state in the world. This has been thoroughly demonstrated to the last detail. And in the demonstration it has been made plain that enforced Sunday observance is the worst thing that can ever be put upon a nation or practiced in society.
A. T. J.