“Sunday-law Ideas of Protection” The American Sentinel 6, 27, pp. 209-211.

July 9, 1891

THE second question and answer in the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union Leaflet No. 31, the first of which we noticed last week, is as follows:—

Question 2.—In the preamble of our Constitution we find this pillage: “Establish justice and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and to our posterity.” Would it be justice and liberty to dictate to a free people what day to keep holy?

Answer.—Certainly not; yet the day generally considered holy should be protected from disturbance, and in order to establish justice and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity we must protect the right of all to a day of weekly rest.

This answer, like the one that preceded it, is a queer mixture. First it confesses that certainly it would not be justice and liberty to dictate to a free people what day to keep holy, and then immediately contradicts that by declaring that it is necessary so to dictate in order to establish justice and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. This is precisely what the answer amounts to. It declares that though it would not be justice and liberty to dictate what day to keep holy, yet it demands that “the day generally considered holy” should be protected. Notice: it is the day that is to be protected, and not the people. It is the day as a holy day that is to be protected, and not the people. That is, the Government is legislatively and legally to declare that Sunday is a holy day; and then is to protect from disturbance, that holiness. That is, the Government is to allow nothing to be done on that day which would be out of keeping with the character of holiness which the Government, to please a certain class of people, shall have declaed attaches to the day. Just so surely as the Government does such a thing as that, the very doing of it does dictate to a free people what day to keep holy. It even goes further than this, it actually compels them to keep it holy; for not to allow a people to do on a certain day declared to be holy anything that would be out of harmony with the declared holy character of the day, is to compel them to conform to the declared holy character of the day, and therefore does actually compel them to observe the day as a holy day.

But why should a day generally considered holy be protected by the Government as a holy day? What right has the Government to adopt and to enforce upon all the people the ideas of holiness which are held by a part of the people? What right has the Government to compel one part of its citizens to conform to the ideas of holiness entertained by another part of the people? This is simply to ask, What right has one part of the people to compel the other part of the people to conform to their ideas of holiness? What right have I to compel my neighbor to adopt my ideas of holiness as his, and to compel him to observe these as though they were his own? This makes me a judge for him in matters of religion. This is at once to put myself in the place of God, and to usurp his prerogative; and when I add to this the claim of the right to compel my neighbor to conform to my ideas of holiness, then I have not only usurped the prerogative of God, but have begun to exercise that of the devil.

Questions of holiness are to be decided by God alone for the individual; and individual is to decide for himself before God, and as God may enlighten his conscience, what is required of him in the way of holiness and the observance of holy things. No government has any right whatever to exert its authority in behalf of anybody’s ideas of what things are holy. This is what has cursed the [210] world from the day that the Saviour sent his disciples to preach the everlasting gospel, and thus to set before the people of this world the true ideas of true holiness. In the Roman Empire the gods were “generally considered holy.” The emperor as the living representative of the chiefest of these gods was particularly and almost universally “considered holy;” and the government considered it to be its bounden and supreme duty to “protect” these things which were so “generally considered holy.”

Therefore when the Christians, announcing and observing the true ideas of holiness which Jesus Christ had given them, disregarded as the unholy things which they were, all these things which were so “generally considered holy” and to protect the holiness of which the government exerted its utmost power,—this, and this alone, it was which caused the persecution, even to death, and for so long a time, the first followers of Jesus Christ. Yet in the face of all the exertion of all the power of the government the Christians steadily and positively refused to recognize any such ideas of holiness, or to submit to the governmental power in its exertions to “protect” the things so “generally considered holy.” And by their devotion to the genuine principles of holiness as announced by Jesus Christ, they compelled the Roman Empire to renounce its ideas of protection to the things so generally considered holy, and to leave every man free and undisturbed to pursue his own ideas of holiness and to observe for himself such things as he might consider holy.

Then when the Papacy was formed and the power of the empire was seized upon by the professed Christian Church, just as these people are now trying to do to “protect” the day and the things “generally considered holy,” there was again introduced the spirit of persecution and the principles which produced the Dark Ages and the fearful despotism that ruled in those ages. And when the Reformation came, again holding before the world the true ideas of holiness and of holy things as announced by Jesus Christ, the persecutions which were inflicted upon those who chose to disregard the governmental idea of holiness and holy things, outdid by far the persecutions which pagan Rome had inflicted at the first upon those who chose to decide for themselves before God what was required of them in the matter of holiness and holy things. And our fathers who framed this new Nation, seeing the long course of oppression marked by a steady stream of blood in the attempts of government to protect things and institutions generally considered holy, decided that this Government should be cursed with any such thing, and therefore declared that “no religious test shall ever be required as qualification to any office of public trust under this Government;” and that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” and so they rightly decided to leave holy things to themselves and to protect themselves.

In fact this is all any government, can rightly do. No government can really protect anything that is really holy. If it be indeed holy, whatever connection the government has with it will just as certainly make it unholy to the extent that this connection is recognized by anybody. The sum of the whole matter is just this: If a thing be really holy, it is fully able to support its own character of holiness, and to secure respect for itself as such. If it is not really holy, then it ought not to be protected at all, for the sooner the falsehood is exposed and the unholy thing destroyed, the better for all concerned. The government can not protect a thing that is really holy, and to protect a thing that is unholy is to compel men to unholiness, to sin, and thus to make them worse than they could possibly be otherwise. If the Sunday institution has not enough holiness to sustain itself, and to secure the respect and observance of the people, then let the fact be known, let the fraud be exposed, and let the thing stand forth in its true character of unholiness, and the sooner this is done the better. And that Sunday does lack this character of holiness is confessed by the very fact that those who most claim that it is holy are compelled to resort to the Government, which is not holy, and to unholy measures, to preserve it, and to compel respect, to its claimed character of holiness.

From the latter part of Mrs. Bateham’s answer, however, it seems to be implied that the people must be protected in their right to observe the day as a holy day; but no such means is needed, because no one is denied the right to observe the day as a holy day. This they themselves know, and they always say so, except when they have hopes of gaining sympathy by presenting the plea that it is otherwise. Not only is this true as to the abstract idea of the right of all to observe it as such, but it is true with regard to the idea that those who observe it need to be protected in such observance; for, during the hearing before the Senate Committee on the national Sunday rest bill, Mrs. Bateham stated that there were opposed to the movement only “the daily newspaper press, the railroad managers, steamboat companies, saloonists and their backers, a class of foreigners who prefer the Continental Sunday, and the very small sect of Seventh-day Baptists.”

Hon. G. P. Lord, in his remarks, said that “not more than three millions of our population work on Sabbath, and most of this number are unwilling workers.” He said that “the balance, or more than fifty-seven millions of our population abstain from toil on the Sabbath.”

Taking these statements as the truth, it appears that the overwhelming majority of the American people are not only in favor of Sunday observance, but they actually keep that day as a rest day.

Now is it not rather singular, and a doctrine altogether new in a government of the people, that the majority need to be protected? From whom are they to be protected?—From themselves, most assuredly, because by their own representation they are so vastly in the majority that it would be impossible for them to be oppressed by anybody else. But in a government of the people, when the majority are oppressing themselves, how can laws prevent it when the laws must be made by the very ones who are carrying on the oppression? If to them this argument is new, we would cite, entirely for their benefit, the words of the Supreme Court of Ohio, that the protection guaranteed in our constitutional provisions “means protection to the minority. The majority can protect itself. Constitutions are enacted for the purpose of protecting the weak against the strong, the few against the many.”

The observers of Sunday are not the ones to ask for protection, because upon their own presentation of the case they are so vastly in the majority that nobody can protect them but themselves. If there be rightly any place for protection in the matter, it is those who do not observe Sunday who should ask for it. If protection is needed in this thing assuredly these are the ones who should have it. But these are the very ones who do not ask for any such protection. These are the very ones who know that no such thing is needed, and who show their confidence in the real holiness of the day which they observe, by not only refusing to ask for protection, but by rejecting all proffers of what the Sunday-law workers choose to call “protection.”

But suppose those who observe Saturday should change their mind and decide to ask for protection. Suppose that the people who observe the seventh day in this country should start a movement and spread petitions all over the country, and secure representative signatures, and individual signatures multiplied seven million two hundred thousand times upon each one. Suppose they should then go with these petitions to Congress to have a bill framed to protect the seventh day of the week as holy, and to protect them in their right to observe it, by compelling everybody else in the United States to refrain from all worldly employment or business on that day—for their “physical good” and for “sanitary reasons.” What would these Sunday-holiness people think of that? What ought anybody to think of it, but that it was a piece of unwarranted assumption of authority to force upon others their ideas of religious observance, and of Saturday holiness? [211]

That is all it would be, and it would be utterly inexcusable. And we risk nothing in saying that these Sunday-holiness-protection people themselves would be the very first to denounce it as unwarrantable and inexcusable. But if that would be so in the case of a minority who actually need to be protected from the proposed protection of the Sunday-law workers, then what ought not to be thought of these people who claim to be in the overwhelming majority, in their mission to Congress, asking for laws to compel every body else to rest on Sunday for their protection?

Ah! gentle reader, it is not protection, but power, that they want. It is not protection for themselves, but power against those who do not agree with them in their ideas of Sunday holiness—this is what they want.

A. T. J.

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