July 4, 1895
THE charge against the Seventh-day Adventists on trial this week at Dayton, Tenn., for Sunday work, is that they are guilty of nuisance, because Sunday work is “immoral and of pernicious effect.” But is Sunday work immoral?
The word immoral is defined by the best dictionaries, as follow:—
Not moral; inconsistent with rectitude, purity, or good morals; contrary to conscience or the divine law; wicked; unjust; dishonest; vicious; licentious, as, an immoral man; an immoral deed.—Webster’s International Dictionary.
Not moral; wanting in principle of or morality; unprincipled; dishonest; depraved.—Encyclopedic Dictionary.
Not moral; not conforming to or consistent with moral law; unprincipled; dissolute; vicious; licentious.—Century Dictionary.
It is evident from these definitions that the moral or immoral character of an act rests upon a more substantial basis than the mere whim or even the delicate judgment of men; it is inherent in the act itself. An immoral act must be violative either of one’s duty to God or to his fellow-men. Nothing can be made either moral or immoral by human law. For instance, marriage, which is a proper, natural and perfectly moral relation, would not become immoral even if prohibited by civil statute; nor would prostitution become moral even if legalized in every country in the world. The divine law alone, whether revealed in nature or by inspiration of God, gives moral character to human actions.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men,” and that for this purpose and within this sphere “the powers that be are ordained of God,” and ought to be obeyed. Outside this sphere all pretended civil authority is usurpation and is itself immoral.
Sunday Work Not An Offense Against God.
That Sunday work is not an offense against God is evident from the fact that it is forbidden by no divine law revealed either in nature or by inspiration. The divine law of the Sabbath declares: “The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work.” To violate this law is to be guilty of immorality: but the Tennessee Adventists do not violate this law. It is admitted on all hands that they obey this divine Sabbath law. They must therefore be acquitted of immorality from the standpoint of duty toward God. The Divine Being does not require Sunday rest. But even if this were not true; if Sunday were the divinely-appointed Sabbath, and everybody admitted the fact, secular government would have no right to enforce its observance.
Sunday Work Does Not Interfere With The Natural Rights Of Others
It is argued by some, however, that the prohibition of Sunday labor in Tennessee does not rest upon the religious ideas, but upon a purely civil basis; and that the immorality of Sunday work lies not in the idea that it offends God, but in the fact that it is a violation of civil law. But such forget, or never knew, that “no man has a natural right to commit aggressions on the equal rights of another; and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him;” and that “every man is under the natural duty of contributing to the necessities of the society; and this is all the laws should enforce on him.”
It is not pretended that private Sunday work by one man or by one family interferes with any natural right of another man or family, or that it prevents others from resting upon that day. No such charge is made against the Tennessee Adventists. Indeed, the universal testimony even of their enemies is that they have not disturbed others by their Sunday work: and the courts of the State have held that “it is not necessary to show that anybody was disturbed.” In Georgia it was expressly stated by Judge Janes, in the Allison case: “You are not on trial for disturbing anybody.” It follows as certainly as effect follows cause, that Sunday work is not immoral from the standpoint of natural human rights: and again and finally, the Adventists must be acquitted of the charge of doing that which is “immoral and of pernicious effect.”
Sunday Workers Not Immoral.
If Sunday work were “immoral and of pernicious effect,” as is charged by the courts of Tennessee, its evil effects ought certainly to be most clearly seen upon those who engage in it habitually; but instead of being noted for immorality, the Seventh-day Adventists are everywhere acknowledged to be most exemplary people, honest and of good report. Even their enemies being the witnesses there is no fault to be found with them except concerning their Sunday work: in all else they are admittedly the best of citizens.
The Immorality of Sunday Statutes.
But what shall we say of the morality of Sunday laws, so-called? They, as we have seen, contravene the divine law of the Sabbath. They command rest when the law of God enjoins activity; and they, indirectly at least, enjoin work when the law of God commands rest. The inevitable effect of such “laws” must be to destroy respect for the law of God, and to exalt the creature to the place which belongs of right to the Creator.
When the States forbids honest labor on Sunday it forces men into idleness. When God enjoins rest from labor, it is that the time may be employed in spiritual worship. God requires man to cease from his labor on the Sabbath, but he gives to man a spiritual nature, by means of which the cessation from labor is profitably employed. On the other hand the State compels idleness, but does not and cannot give to the idler that spiritual nature which enables him to properly employ the enforced idleness; and therefore, as Satan finds some mischief for idle hands to do, the State, in enforcing idleness on Sunday instead of promoting morality, is in reality fostering immorality. It is generally admitted that more crimes are committed on Sunday than on any other day of the week.
Again, Sunday statutes are immoral, because they demand for the State that which belongs to God. A weekly day of rest is the badge of God’s authority, a sign of loyalty to him as the Creator and of faith in his power to save. By its Sunday laws, so-called, the State robs God of the honor due him, destroys reverence for his law, and stifles the conscientious convictions of many who might otherwise be won to the service of the true God and to the keeping of his divinely-ordained Sabbath.
Again, when the State exempts certain occupations, such as barbering, railroading, steamboating, and certain trafficking such as selling drugs, meats, and groceries during certain hours,—by these exemptions the State undertakes to amend the law of God and to decide for the individual what necessary or charitable labor is permitted on the Sabbath and what is not. In other words, the State presumes to act as conscience for the individual and to decide questions which belong to the domain of individual conscience.
From the reasons thus briefly given it must be clearly seen that Sunday legislation and not Sunday work “is immoral and of pernicious effect.”