“That Civil Sacred Day” The American Sentinel 6, 28, pp. 217, 218.

July 16, 1891

QUESTION number three and its answer, of that important document, Leaflet No. 31, National Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, Sabbath Observance Department, are as follows:—

3. Should not the national Sunday-rest law simply enjoin a seventh day, and not presume to settle the vexed question as to which is the Sabbath?

Answer. The law could never be enforced unless the day was uniform, and it is reasonable to choose as the civil rest day the day recognized by the vast majority as a sacred day, rather than one so held by less than one-half of one per cent. of the people. The bill speaks of the first day of the week without touching the “vexed question.”

If the day of rest which they require be only of a civil character, and the rest be only for sanitary reasons, then why is it that a law cannot be enforced, simply enjoining rest on one day of the week, without reference to any particular day? It would be just as easy to enforce such a law as that as it would be to enforce a law demanding that Sunday alone be observed as a rest day. For the truth of the statement that such a law could never be enforced we have only the bare word of Mrs. Bateham to that effect. But as to why it is so, she offers no direct proof whatever. Yet in the words which follow, there is indirect proof as to why such a law could not be enforced, and that is that it is not the civil rest day at all that they want enforced, nor is it in any sense for sanitary reasons.

It is “as a sacred day,” and that only, that they want laws enforcing the observance of a day of rest; and it is for religious reasons only that it is demanded. And this is why the law could never be enforced requiring the observance of simply one day of the week as a day of rest with out reference to any particular day. If such a law as that were enacted there would be no recognition of any particular day “as a sacred day;” and therefore those who demand the enforcement of a sacred day would have no heart to enforce such a law, and those who care nothing for it in the first place would not enforce it. Consequently thus, and thus only, is it true that such a law “could never be enforced.” Therefore, as it is a sacred day which the Sunday-law workers want recognized by the Government, and its observance enforced, this, and this only, is the reason why the day must be uniform.

The reason which Mrs. Bateham gives why it must be uniform is that “it is reasonable to choose as a civil rest day, the day which is recognized by the vast majority as a sacred day.” That is to say, the State must adopt the ideas as to a sacred day entertained by a part of the people, and enforce upon all the people the observance of these ideas of sacred things. This is simply stating in another form the. question and answer which we noticed last week, that the things generally considered holy shall be adopted and enforced by the Government as such, and the same remarks which we made upon that will apply fully to this. If a thing is really sacred, it is easy to get people to respect it as such, without any effort on the part of that which is profane to compel the recognition of its sacredness. Any such effort certainly profanes its sacredness just so far as the effort is recognized. When that which is sacred is allied wits that which is profane, then the sacred is profaned just so far as the alliance is recognized. Therefore, the true respect and observance of sacred things can never be secured by any other means than that of the sacredness of the thing itself, and the power of that sacredness to secure the required respect and observance. So that if the thing be sacred indeed, no other means can ever rightly be used to secure the [218] repect and observance of it; and if it be not sacred, then it ought not to be either respected or observed by anybody; and any attempt to compel the respect or observance of it is simply an attempt to compel men to do that which is wrong in itself, to compel them to sin, to compel them in a sense to commit idolatry in that it compels them to respect and observe and recognize as a sacred, a holy thing, that which has no such character.

Again, it is but proper to say that if a thing be sacred indeed, it needs no help whatever. Its sufficiency is in itself; and if it is not sacred, then no sufficiency ought to be manufactured for it nor added to it. Let its lack of sacredness be discovered and exposed as soon as possible, and the sooner the better for all concerned, and the more honor to him who does it first and most completely. But this is just the trouble with the Sunday institution. It has no sacredness of its own to which appeal can be made, or which can be urged upon the consciences of men; and this these people know. We have given in these columns their own statements, repeated, that there is no definite command, that there is no word of Christ, declaring it sacred or enjoining its observance. The only basis which Mrs. Bateham presented for it is the probability that Christ spoke about it in the forty days he was with his disciples after the resurrection, but of which there is no record whatever; and the only basis which the American Sabbath Union has given for it is a “spontaneous growth” in the minds of the early Christians. They know that it has no sacredness, and mankind being in itself unholy, never can give to anything any shadow of a sacred character. And knowing this, and realizing their inability to secure respect for it as a sacred thing upon any such basis, they demand that the Government shall declare that it is sacred, that it is holy, and shall exert the profane power of government to compel all men to recognize, respect, and observe, this declared sacredness. Such is only to cause the Government to usurp the place and prerogative of God; to re-establish the old office of Pontifex Maximus, which in a little while would be merged in a religious dictator, otherwise a pope. So that, as a matter of fact, Sunday, as a “sacred” day, does bear in itself the Papacy, and laws compelling its observance simply compel men to do honor to the Papacy as in the place of God.

The last part of the first sentence of Mrs. Bateham’s answer is as dishonest as the first part is disingenuous. She says that the day recognized by the vast majority as a sacred day should be chosen, “rather than one so held by less than one half of one per cent. of the people.” In this she refers to the seventh day, observed by the Seventh-day Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, and some Jews; and the statement implies that this is simply a contest between two days as to which shall be observed and that those who observe the seventh day are arguing that that day should be recognized as a sacred day and enforced; but she and all the Sunday-law workers know full well that that is not the case in any sense. They know that those who observe the seventh day do not ask for any governmental recognition of the thing at all, nor any laws requiring anybody to observe it in any way whatever. They not only know this but they know that the Seventh-day Adventists at least, absolutely deny the right of any government to legislate in any way respecting it, even to the extent of embodying in a Sunday law any such exemption as that which the Sunday-law workers have so very “generously” offered. Therefore it is not honest for any of these to state even by implication that the observers of the seventh day even desire, much less require, any governmental recognition or enforcement of such observances either upon themselves or anybody else.

The last sentence of the answer is of much the same character as the first one. It says that the “bill speaks of the first day of the week without touching the vexed question as to which is the Sabbath.” That is to say that the bill proposes to declare that Sunday is a sacred, holy day, and the only one, and shall compel people to observe it as such, and by so doing avoids, not only the vexed question, but any question at all as to which is the Sabbath. In other words, the law is to declare that day, and it only, is the Sabbath, and everybody must recognize and observe it as such without any question. The Government, at the dictation of the Sunday-holiness folks is to decide that, and that is to be the end of it.

Now, let us say again that we do not object at all to anybody’s observing Sunday. Every man has a right to observe it if he thinks it ought to be observed, but we forever deny the right of those who observe it to compel anybody else to observe it, and we deny their right to commit the Government to any such course, or to use the governmental power for any such purpose. We deny the right of any government on earth to do anything of the kind even of its own volition. With such things the Government has nothing whatever to do, and never can of right have anything to do. These things pertain solely to man’s relationship to God and their own consciences, and there let them remain without any interference or control whatever on the part of anybody.

A. T. J.

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