November 27, 1890
AT the National Reform Convention held in Washington City last spring, Judge M. B. Hagans, of Cincinnati, gave a long address upon the “civil Sabbath.” The first half of it was devoted to a historic parallel which he finds between, the time of Nehemiah and our own. And of the time of Nehemiah, he says:—
Both Jews and Gentiles were guilty of performing what the American statutes on this subject denominate common labor on the Sabbath, and were clearly violating the command of God which subjected the Jews, at least, to the severest penalties and direst judgment.
But, says Mr. Hagans:—
Nehemiah was not troubled with the modern contrivances of police courts, grand juries, witnesses and jury trials, and I may add lawyers, in enforcing his authority as both mayor and chief of police, so to speak, in Jerusalem.
Indeed he was not. The form of government under which Nehemiah acted was a theocracy. It was a government of God and the laws were the laws of God. Nehemiah was only the representative of God, and needed not to be troubled with the modern contrivances which Judge Hagans mentions. After showing the summary effects of the triumphant result of Nehemiah’s action, it seemed to dawn upon the mind of Mr. Hagans that his example was proving too much both for the “civil Sabbath” and for all systems of government; consequently he attempted to apologize after this sort:—
Now, I am not here to commend or approve such proceedings against our modern violators of Sabbath laws, except in so far as they may find authority in the statutes of several States of this Union. Under our institutions the wielding of such summary power would be highly dangerous, indeed impossible and wrong to the last degree. But, oh, that we had mayors with the resolution and back-bone of Nehemiah!
Well, if under our institutions the wielding of such summary power would be dangerous, and impossible, and wrong to the last degree, what in the world does he want with mayors, with the resolution and back-bone of Nehemiah, who he says was both mayor and chief of police? Suppose they had in Cincinnati such a mayor as Nehemiah, what could that mayor do so long as he was “troubled” with “the modern contrivances” of police courts, grand juries, witnesses, jury trials, and lawyers? What then would become of his resolution and backbone? And if Nehemiah had been troubled with these contrivances would it have been possible for his resolution and backbone to accomplish the summary result which Judge Hagans applauds?
The Judge’s apology is as bad as the presentation of the example for which he found it necessary to apologize. The trouble is that he endeavored to fit two things together which are absolutely incongruous. The example of Nehemiah never can be cited as a precedent on any subject under any form of government but a theocracy, and when it is cited as an example in any instance in the United States, it can be so only upon the theory that the government of the cities or States of the Union and the Union itself should be a theocracy, and should dispense with such “modern contrivances” as police courts, grand juries, witnesses, jury trials, and lawyers. In other words, dispense with the modern contrivance of government by the people.
This also shows the utter impossibility of advocating Sunday laws upon any other than a religious basis. A theocracy is essentially a religious government. Sabbath laws belong only with a theocracy. Sunday laws being advocated upon a theory that Sunday is the Sabbath, likewise are inseparable from a theocratical theory of government. In such a theory Sunday laws originated—with such a theory they belong, and every argument in behalf of Sunday laws is, in the nature of the case,  compelled to presuppose a theocratical theory of government.
Nor can this result be avoided by calling it the “civil Sabbath.” To call it the “civil Sabbath” and then attempt to support it as such by arguments, everyone of which rests upon a theocratical basis, is simply to demonstrate that the title of “civil Sabbath” is simply a contrivance to save appearances, and is essentially a fraud.
After having argued what he called a “civil Sabbath,” through nearly fourteen columns of the Christian Statesman, persistently asserting all the time that it is civil, yet being forced by the necessity of the case to argue for it as religious, he closes his long disquisition with these words:—
Such a day, if no more than the civil Sabbath, observed according to the requirements of law, will furnish a perpetual education to the soul, bringing refreshment to the body, and turn the hearts of men to Him who made the Sabbath for man.
If such a result as that can follow the observance of a “civil Sabbath” according to the requirements of the law of the States of this Union, then what need is there of any other means to furnish perpetual education to the soul and turn the hearts of men to God? And if that would be the effect of statutes enforcing a civil Sabbath, what could be the effect of statutes enforcing the religious Sabbath? The education of the soul and the turning of the hearts of men to Him who made the Sabbath for man are religious exercises. Any iaw or any effort which will accomplish this is religious and nothing else, and when a statute, though called civil, is intended to accomplish any such purpose it is a religious statute.
When such a long disquisition, by such a man, upon the civil Sabbath, follows such a course and ends in such a way, as does this by Judge Hagans, it is as clear a demonstration as needs ever to be, that Sunday legislation is religious legislation, and that only; that Sunday laws are religious laws and nothing else, and that the “civil Sabbath” is only a mask for the religious Sunday.
A. T. J.