“Sunday Laws Invade the Realm of Conscience” The American Sentinel 6, 2, pp. 9, 10.

January 8, 1891

MR. CRAFTS’S second article is entitled “Is the Sabbath Imperilled?” Of course he means to ask whether the Sunday is imperiled; and to this inquiry he answers, “Yes.” And he declares that “Sunday’s worst foes are of its own household.” We here present quite a lengthy extract on this point, as it gives an excellent view of the Sunday-law question; and coming, as it does, officially, is of particular value. He says:—

But I believe the chief difficulty is that in the Christian descendants of the Puritans on both sides of the sea conscience is no longer regnant, but indulgence reigns in its stead. Christians break the Sabbath chiefly because it seems pleasanter or more profitable to do so than to do right. Even church committees receive men into church membership who are doing needless work on the Sabbath, and intend to continue so doing, sanctioning the excuse that otherwise a salary will have to be sacrificed. That is, a man ought to do right except when it will cost him something. With such a fountain the subsequent Christian life cannot be expected to rise above the idea that the Sabbath is to be kept only when it is perfectly convenient to do so. [The preachers ought not to blame the people for that, for it is the preachers who have taught the people so.—ED.] Thus convenience has displaced conscience in thousands of Christians.

“What shall we do with our Presbyterian elders?” said a pastor to me recently. “One of my elders owns the motor line, and another the electric cars that carry the people to Sunday picnics and baseball.” Half the railroads of the country, I believe, after abundant opportunity to inquire, are owned by men who are devoutly singing, “O day of rest and gladness,” in the churches, while their employes are toiling and cursing on their Sunday trains. The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church is itself a stockholder in a liquor-selling, Sabbath-breaking, railroad. Some commissioner should raise the question whether it ought not to follow the example of its illustrious adherent, Hon. Wm. E. Dodge, and refuse to share the “wages of unrighteousness.” Sunday camp-meetings, which the New England Conference calls “the scandal of Methodism,” are not yet wholly abolished, nor that other scandal, the use of Sunday trains by some presiding elders.

In one of our great cities a leading officer of a Congregationalist Church devoutly worships every Sabbath morning, while his employes indevoutly work, driving all over the city to furnish the people that necessity of life, ice-cream. One Easter Sabbath I looked into a post-office and saw those who had been learning of the spiritual resurrection in flowers and songs and sermons, with prayer-books and hymn-books in hand, and one in a Quaker bonnet, getting their letters and bills and newspapers, as to bury the risen Lord again.

Taking a swift run from city to city, let us see who are the owners or controllers of the Sunday papers. In this first city a Baptist trustee, in this next a Methodist steward, in this next a Presbyterian elder, in this next the editors of both Sunday papers are Methodists, and so following.

Who owns that little store that sells candies and cigarettes and fire-crackers to little embezzlers on their way to Sabbath-school? A Covenanter, who is very particular that no one should call the Sabbath Sunday, but allows it to be heathenized in her own buildings rather than risk the rent.

“Judgment must indeed begin at the house of God,” which means discipline. Candidates for the ministry and for membership should be examined as to their Sabbath observance, that they may start right, and then be admonished at the first open violation of their vows in this line. “I commanded the Levites,” said Nehemiah, “that they should purify themselves, and that they should come and keep the gates to sanctify the Sabbath day.”

From this it appears that the churches are filled with people who have little respect for the rules or discipline of the churches to which they belong, and less respect for Sunday. And this extract fully justifies the statement which we have often made, that the main object of Sunday-laws is the enforcement of church discipline not only upon the church members but upon the people who do not belong to the church at all. That is the secret of all the Sunday laws that ever have been. It was the [10] object of the first Sunday-law that ever was made. This lengthy extract from the chief worker for Sunday-laws, shows that the logic of Sunday-laws is that there are hosts of people in the church who profess to be what they are not, and therefore these laws are demanded in order that they may compel everybody else to be just what they are.

Of course we do not blame anybody for not observing Sunday, nor do we blame anybody for observing it. Any person has a perfect right to observe Sunday if he chooses, as also a person has a right not to observe it at all if he does not wish to. But when men who profess to be observers of the day attach themselves to a church whose rules require its observance, then we do insist that they ought to be honest enough to stand by their professions. But if they are not honest enough to be indeed what they profess to be, then if they obtain laws compelling other people to act as they do, the only possible fruit of the enforcement of such laws can be but to multiply hypocrites.

If all those who profess to observe Sunday were to put their hearts in it, and observe it consistently with their profession, they would do ten thousand times as much toward securing its required observance as all the Sunday laws can do in a thousand years. But if they have not conscience enough nor honesty enough to respect the rules of the church to which they belong, or obey the laws which are already on the statute books of nine-tenths of the States and Territories, then what in the world is the use of multiplying laws? If they will not obey the laws already enacted, how can they be expected to obey others that may be enacted?

From the first sentence of the foregoing extract it appears that Mr. Crafts’s object is, by means of Sunday laws, to create in the church members sufficient conscience to lead them to do what their church obligations already require that they shall do. Because, he says, “In the Christian descendants of the Puritans conscience is no longer regnant, but indulgence reigns instead.” This, in fact, is the tone of the article all the way through. He complains against the Sunday newspaper because that by it “families are solicited all the week to violate conscience by announcements that the best articles are being held back for Sunday readers.”

But whether or not he expects Sunday laws to cultivate conscience where there is little, and create it where there is none, this much is certain: this statement shows as plainly as words can, that the intent of Sunday laws is that they shall have to do with the consciences of men. This is another fact that annihilates every vestige of the authority of the civil Sabbath. Civil statutes have to do only with man’s actions as relating to their fellow-men. But there is no such thing as conscience toward man. There is no such thing as conscientious relationship between men. Conscience pertains wholly to man’s relationship to God. Conscience has to do with God and with the things of God. Conscience pertains wholly to the realm of religion, and whenever it is admitted that Sunday laws have anything to do with conscience, either directly or indirectly, in that it is admitted and claimed that such laws have to do with religion.

In this statement, therefore, it is formally admitted by Mr. Crafts that Sunday laws do invade, and are intended to invade, the realm of conscience.

A. T. J.

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