THE Elgin Sunday-law Convention was held the eighth day of last November in the Baptist Church, Elgin, Illinois. It was “called by the members of the Elgin Association of Congregational Ministers and Churches, to consider the prevalent desecration of the Sabbath, and its remedy.” The leading preachers present were, W.L. Ferris, of Dundee; J.M. Clendening, A.H. Ball, Wm. Craven, H.O. Rowlands, and Geo. A. Milton, of Elgin; John Mitchell, of Sycamore; Henry Wilson, of Carpenterville; W.W. Everts, Dr. Mandeville, S.I. Curtis, and C.K. Colver, of; Chicago; Staunton, of Rock-ford; Harbaugh, of Genoa Junction; Lea, of Woodstock; Stewart, of Savannah; Helms, of Forrest; Chittenden, of Wheaton; Swartz, of Leaf River; and Harris, of Byron. Besides these there were President Blanchard, President Stratton, and Professor Fisher, of Wheaton; Professor Whitney, of Beloit; State’s Attorney Cooper, of Du Page County; Hon. T.E. Hill, ex-Mayor of Aurura; and Frank W. Smith, the Evengelist and Andersonville lecturer.
The Convention passed the following resolutions:—
“Resolved, That we recognize the Sabbath as an institution of God, revealed in nature and the Bible, and of perpetual obligation on all men; and also as a civil and American institution, bound up in vital and historical connection with the origin and foundation of our Government, the growth of our polity, and necessary to be maintained in order for the preservation and integrity of our national system, and therefore as having a sacred claim on all patriotic American citizens.
“Resolved, That we look with shame and sorrow on the non-observance of the Sabbath by many Christian people, in that the custom prevails with them of purchasing Sabbath news-papers, engaging in and patronizing Sabbath business and travel, and in many instances giving themselves to pleasure and self-indulgence, setting aside by neglect and indifference the great duties and privileges which God’s day brings them.
“2. That we give our votes and support to those candidates or political officers who will pledge themselves to vote for the enactment and enforcing of statutes in favor of the civil Sabbath.
“3. That we give our patronage to such business men, manufacturers, and laborers as observe the Sabbath.
“4. That we favor a permanent Sabbath organization for the State of Illinois; the object of which shall be the creation of public sentiment and to secure the enactment and enforcement of necessary laws for the protection of the Sabbath.
“5. That we favor the organization of auxiliary societies to accomplish the above object.
“6. That four committees be appointed by this convention, consisting of two persons each, a minister and a layman; one committee to carefully and accurately investigate and report to the next convention all the facts obtainable concerning Sunday business; one to investigate and report similarly concerning Sunday newspapers; one concerning Sunday pleasuring; one concerning Sunday transportation and travel.
“Resolved, That this association authorizes the Executive Committee to request railway corporations and newspapers to discontinue the running of Sunday trains and the publication of Sunday editions of their papers.”
Notice, the Sabbath is here set forth as an institution of God, and also as a “civil institution.” It is for “candidates or political officers who will pledge themselves to vote for the enactment and enforcing of statutes in favor of the civil Sabbath,” that they will vote.
Now we shall present some of the arguments upon which they base this demand for laws in favor of the “civil Sabbath;” and also showing what they want these laws enforced for.
Rev. Henry Wilson said:—
“The industries of the world should be silent one city in seven, that the toiler may hear the invitation of the Master, ‘Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,’ and that the spiritual temple of God may be built without the noise of the hammer.”
Exactly. The State must compel everybody to keep Sunday “that the toiler may hear the invitation of the Master” and “that the spiritual temple of God may be built.” And then they will call that a civil statute! If such a statute as that would be a civil one, then what would be required to make a religious statute? But suppose the toiler should then refuse to go to hear that invitation; what then? Will the State compel him to go? If not, why not? The State compels him to keep Sunday that he may hear the invitation; now is the State to allow its good offices to be set at naught, and its purposes frustrated by the toiler’s refusing to hear the invitation? And the church having gained the recognition of the State to that extent is she going to stop short of her object? Other quotations will answer these questions.
Dr. W.W. Everts, of Chicago, said:—
“This day is set apart for divine worship and preparation for another life. It is the test of all religion. The people who do not keep the Sabbath have no religion.”
Is it then the province of the State to pass  and enforce statutes in the interests of divine worship? Is it in the nature of a civil statute to prepare men for another life? “It is the test of all religion,” says the Doctor. Then what is the enforcement of the Sabbath but the enforcement of a religious test? And what is the application of it to “candidates and political officers” but the application of a religious test? And what is that but an open violation of the Constitution of the United States, which says, “No religious test shall be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States”? It is true that, under the decisions of the United States Supreme Court, this provision of the Constitution does not prohibit the application of any religious test as a qualification to any office under any State. And if there be no such provision as this in the State Constitution, these preachers of Illinois, and of all the other States, can go ahead unrestrained in the application of their religious test to all the candidates for State offices. But there is one thing certain, and that is, Sunday being “the test of all religion,” no Sunday-law test can ever be applied to any candidate for the House of Representatives, for the Senate, or for any other office or public trust under the United States, without a direct violation of the Constitution of the United States.
Further says the Doctor, “The people who do not keep the Sabbath have no religion.” The antithesis of this is likewise true. The people who do keep the Sabbath have religion. Therefore this demand for laws to compel people to keep the Sabbath, is a demand for laws to compel people to be religious. And yet they have the face to call it “the civil Sabbath.”
Again Doctor Everts says:—
“He who does not keep the Sabbath does not worship God, and he who does not worship God is lost.”
Perfectly true, Doctor. The antithesis of this also is true, He who does keep the Sabbath, does worship God. Therefore your demand for laws to compel men to keep the Sabbath, is a demand for laws to compel them to worship God. And that is only to introduce the system of the Papacy and of the Inquisition. There is no use for you to deny that you want laws to compel the observance of the Sabbath, and that, too, with the idea of worship, because in the very next sentence you say:—
“The laboring class are apt to rise late on Sunday morning, read the Sunday papers, and allow the hour of worship to go by unheeded.”
Here are the steps plainly to be taken, as surely as these ambitious clerics ever get the slightest recognition of their Sunday law demands. First, a law compelling all labor to cease on Sunday. Then the laboring class will read the Sunday papers, and so allow the hour of worship to go unheeded, consequently there must be, Secondly, a law abolishing all Sunday papers. But suppose then these people take to reading books, and let the hour of worship go by unheeded, then, logically, there must be, Thirdly, a law abolishing all reading of books on Sunday. But suppose they let the hour of worship go by unheeded, anyhow, then, logically, there must be, Fourthly, a law compelling them not to let the hour of worship go by unheeded. Having secured themselves in the first-two of these steps, what is to hinder these divines from taking the other two, which just as logically follow, as the second follows the first? There is just nothing at all to hinder them. Well, then, having taken the first two, will they not take the other two? Anybody who thinks they will not, has studied human nature, and read history, to very little purpose. And anybody who thinks that they do not intend to take the other steps has read the Sunday-law propositions to very little purpose. Prof. Samuel Ives Curtis said in this convention: “We are not commanded to remember the Sabbath as a day of rest and recreation, but to ‘keep it holy.’” And last spring in the Boston Monday Lectureship, Joseph Cook said:—
“The experience of centuries shows, that you will in vain endeavor to preserve Sunday as a day of rest, unless you preserve it as a day of worship.”
There, that ought to be plain enough to make anybody understand what is the purpose of the demand for “civil” Sunday-laws. The only safety is in never allowing them to secure themselves in the first step—that is, in never allowing them to secure any sort of a Sunday law. For just as soon as the so-called Protestant churches in this land become possessed of power to wield the civil power in the interests of religion, we shall have the Papacy over again.
But Doctor Everts continues; it is not enough that Sunday papers must be stopped in behalf of the churches, but Sunday trains must also be stopped, and for the same reason. He says:—
“The Sunday train is another great evil. They cannot afford to run a train unless they get a great many passengers, and so break up a great many congregations. The Sunday railroad trains are hurrying their passengers fast on to perdition. What an outrage that the railroad, that great civilizer, should destroy the Christian Sabbath!”
Oh, yes! The church members, and the church-goers, will go on Sunday trains and Sunday excursions, etc. Therefore the trains are responsible and are hurrying their passengers on to perdition. Therefore by all means stop the Sunday trains, so as to keep these excellent church-members out of perdition, for if they have any chance they will go. Shut up the way to perdition, and then they will go to Heaven. They haven’t enough religion, nor love of right, to do right, therefore they must have the State to take away all opportunity to do wrong. And these people will boast themselves of their religion, and their being Christians! It is difficult to see how a Sunday train can hurry anybody to perdition who does not ride on it. And if these church-members are hurried to perdition by Sunday trains, who is to blame? Right here lies the secret of the whole evil—they blame everybody and everything else, even to inanimate things, for the irreligion, the infidelity, and the sin that lies in their own hearts.
The following statements made by Dr. Mandeville, in the convention, are literally true, in a good deal deeper sense than he intended:—
1. “There has been an alliance formed between the church and the world.”
That is a fact, and it is going to ruin both
2. “Let us not deny it.”
Amen. We earnestly hope you will not. There is no use in trying to deny it. But instead of going about in the right way to remedy the evil, you set on foot a scheme to compel the world to act as though it were religious, and so to bind closer the alliance, and increase the evil.
3. “Influential men fasten themselves upon the church: a sort of political Christians.”
Most decidedly true. And the most “influential” of these “political Christians,” and the most of them are found in the pulpit; and they organize conventions and pass resolutions to give their “votes and support to those candidates or political officers who will pledge themselves to vote for the enactment and enforcing of statutes in favor of the civil Sabbath,” “as a day of worship.”
4. “Too many men are in the church for self-profit.”
Indeed there are, a vast number too many.
5. “We pastors are to blame for allowing them to rule.”
Yes; you are. You are especially to blame for those influential political Christians fastening themselves upon the church and ruling it, and trading off its votes through Sunday-law conventions. The churches themselves, however, are not clear of blame in this. They ought to rise up and turn out the whole company of these political Christians, and fill their pulpits with such Christians as care more for the love of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit than they do for votes and the power of civil government.
But the following statements by the same gentleman, we do not suppose have any deeper meaning than he intends:—
1. “The subject has two sides. We must not look alone at the religious side. The interests of the Church and State are united.”
And yet you are all opposed to a union of Church and State, aren’t you?
2. “The merchants of Tyre insisted upon selling goods near the temple on the Sabbath, and Nehemiah compelled the officers of the law to do their duty and stop it. So we can compel the officers of the law to do their duty…. When the church of God awakes and does its duty on one side, and the State on the other, we shall have no further trouble in this matter.”
Yes, we remember how it was before. The gentle Albigenses in the south of France greatly disturbed the church. They refused to obey its commands. But the church was wide awake, for Innocent III. was Pope; and he awoke the State with the call, “Up, most Christian king, up and aid us in our work of vengeance!” And thus with the church awake to its duty (?) on one side, and the State on the other, the Albigenses were swept from the earth, and there was no further trouble in  that matter. Woe, worth the day, and thrice woe to the people, when the religious power can compel the civil. And that is precisely what this Elgin Sunday-law convention proposes to do.
It would seem from Dr. Mandeville’s citation of the example of Nehemiah that they intend to set up a theocracy here. If not, there is no force in his argument, from that instance. But from the following it is quite certain that that is what they have in view. Prof. C.A. Blanchard said:—
“In this work we are undertaking for the Sabbath, we are representatives of the Lord God.”
Therefore it follows that when they vote to support those candidates and political officers who will pledge themselves, etc., they will vote as the representatives of God. And if any of themselves should secure votes enough to send them to the Legislature or to Congress, they would go there and legislate as representatives of God. And when they get into their hands the power to enforce the law, and to compel the civil power to do their bidding, they will do it all as the representatives of God. And thus again it is demonstrated that if these influential “political Christians” once get the Sunday laws for which they are so diligently working, we shall have in this Nation a living image of the Papacy. And again we say the only safety is in not letting them secure the enactment of any sort of a Sunday law, nor anything else through which they may dominate the civil power.
NOTE.—We have not selected all these quotations about the religious Sabbath, and left out what was said about the civil Sabbath. We have carefully read the whole report, and we state it as the literal truth that outside of the resolutions, there is not in all the report a single sentence about a civil Sabbath. It is all religious and that only. And yet, just like the California Sunday-law Convention, when it came to putting the thing in form to get votes and legislation they deftly insert the word “civil.” All this goes to show what we have often stated, that there is no such thing as a civil Sabbath; and it shows that these men do not really intend to secure, nor to enforce, a “civil” Sunday-law, but a religious one wholly.
A. T. J.