“The ‘Canadian Baptist’ and Sunday Laws” American Sentinel 10, 27, pp. 210, 211.

A CORRESPONDENT has sent us editorial clippings from the Canadian Baptist, Toronto, relative to the question of compulsory Sunday observance. He underlines some of the inconsistencies in the editorials, and then writes at the bottom of the matter the words, “probe tenderly.” The advice is good; and, at no time is it more needed than when examining a Baptist’s attempt to justify enforced Sunday observance. After all that Baptists have suffered for their refusal to obey State-enforced church dogmas, and while proclaiming to the world that one reason for their existence is to teach the world the great principle of “soul-liberty” and separation of Church and State, to find them now defending the prosecution of seventh-day observers for refusing to bow to the laws enforcing the traditional church dogma of Sunday sacredness, it requires the exercise of more than human charity to prevent one from probing deep and energetically. But remembering our own mistakes, and how patient the Lord has been with us, and how slow we have been, and still are, to see and faithfully obey the unfolding light of truth, we are admonished to “probe tenderly.”

The Canadian Baptist is led to notice the question of Sunday laws, by learning of the conviction of Seventh-day Adventists, J. Q. Allison and R. T. Nash, of Georgia and Mississippi, for doing farm labor on Sunday, and of the resolution passed by the American Baptist Publication Society, at its recent annual meeting at Saratoga, condemning these persecutions.

After criticising the severity of the Georgia Sunday laws, the Canadian Baptist says:—

But, on the other hand, what are the State authorities, entrusted with the enforcement of the laws, to do with men who openly and, possibly, ostentatiously, persist in working on Sunday in the open fields, when their fellow-citizens are not permitted to do so? Is it clear that such persons have any claim on our sympathies when the laws of the land are put in force against them? It may press hardly, and no doubt does so, on many, to lose the second day from the week. But, is it not the duty of a good citizen to obey the laws of his country? He may, of course, meanwhile do all in his power to obtain a modification or repeal of the law which he believes to be unjust.

To show that this is the language of the persecutor, we will put it, slightly altered, into [211] the mouth of Cotton Mather, and direct it against Baptists.

It is true that the laws requiring Baptists to have their children baptized, are severe, but what are the civil authorities, entrusted with the enforcement of the laws, to do with men who openly persist in refusing to have their children baptized, when their fellow-citizens are not permitted to disobey? Is it clear that such persons have any claim on our sympathies when the laws of the colony are put in force against them? Is it not the duty of good citizens to obey the laws of their country? They may, of course, secure the modification of the law (however they should not be allowed to succeed in this), but in the meantime it is their duty to obey the law and have their children sprinkled.

At this point an attempt will be made to show that the cases are not parallel, because the statute enforcing the traditional church dogma of infant baptism is a religious act in conflict with conscience, while the acts enforcing the observance of the traditional church dogma of Sunday sacredness are not religious statutes. But this no man can do.

The Canadian Baptist will not deny any of the following statements:—

1. Sunday statutes originated in a union of Church and State.

2. They were originated for the purpose of enforcing the religious observance of the day.

3. No attempt was made to defend them on civil grounds until the great principle of separation of Church and State was applied to governments.

4. And even now the greater portion of those who advocate Sunday statutes do it on the religious basis.

5. The very wording of the statutes even to-day betray their origin, nature and object.

These facts are so patent that we believe that the Canadian Baptist will not have the hardihood to deny any of them; and yet, while admitting all this, it attempts to prove that though Sunday laws were born and reared in a union of Church and State, and still wear their ecclesiastical dress, and are vitalized and utilized by ecclesiastics, that nevertheless they are purely civil enactments.

The Baptist historian, Robert Baird, has this to say on the civil excuse for ecclesiastical statutes:—

The rulers of Massachusetts put the Quakers to death and banished “Antinomians” and “Anabaptists,” not because of their religious tenets, but because of their violation of civil laws. This is the justification they pleaded, and it was the best they could make. Miserable excuse! But just so it is; wherever there is such a union of Church and State, heresy and heretical practices are apt to become violations of the civil code, and are punished no longer as errors in religion, but infractions of the laws of the land. So the defenders of the Inquisition have always spoken and written in justification of that awful and most iniquitous tribunal.—“Religion in America,” p. 94.

The Canadian Baptist urges seventh-day observers to obey the Sunday act, even though they must lose one sixth of their time thereby. If it were merely a matter of loss of time, this advice would be good from a financial standpoint, since the fines and imprisonments are far more expensive than the loss of one day each week. But their attitude toward the act does not turn on the financial problem. Once for all we want to impress the Canadian Baptist with the thought that Seventh-day Adventists cannot conscientiously obey Sunday “laws.” They regard the Sunday-sabbath as the sign of papal apostasy from the Word of God, and Sunday “laws” as attempts to compel them to bow to this mark of the papal beast.

The Canadian Baptist may deny that they are conscientious in the matter, and that the enforcement of the “laws” is religious persecution. Russia denies that it is persecuting Jews and Stundists, and argues that its “laws” are for the good of society; but that does not change the facts. The Massachusetts authorities denied that they persecuted Baptists and denied their claim of conscience, and contended that the laws were wholesome and necessary for the common weal; but this did not change the fact that Baptists were conscientious, that they were persecuted, and that the acts under which they suffered were persecuting measures. Oh! for another John Bunyan, or Roger Williams!

It is gratifying to know that the Canadian Baptist still regards the Sunday-law problem as a “vexed and difficult question.” This indicates that the struggle between Baptist principles of separation of Church and States and the old error of Church and State union have not yet been definitely settled in its mind in favor of persecution.

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