ONE of the principal arguments put forward in support of the demand for Sunday laws, is that they are necessary in order that the workingmen may be free to rest on Sunday; in other words, they are necessary in order that the workingmen may have more liberty.
It is said that “the right of rest for one is the law of rest for all;” and by this is meant that the right of one person to rest on Sunday, demands a law compelling rest on the part of all. In this way men are to be made “free” to enjoy their rights.
This is not the freedom that men need. It is not real freedom at all. Rights are to be secured to people, but not thrust forcibly upon them. A right is of no value to an individual when separated from personal freedom in the matter of its exercise. If the individual does not choose to exercise a given right, to force him to do so only makes that right a curse to him instead of a blessing.
Every person has the right to rest upon the first day of the week; but not every person wishes to claim the right in his practice. A large number believe that another day is the proper day for the weekly rest, and that such rest upon the first day is wholly improper. A still larger class believe in spending the day in any manner that may suit their tastes, whether it be working, or resting, or seeking amusement and pleasure. To enforce Sunday rest upon these classes would not be securing to them a right, but denying one: since the right to Sunday rest is but an outgrowth from the more general right to rest (or not to rest) upon any day of the week, as conscience or convenience may direct; and they would feel that their right had been invaded rather than confirmed. Nor would such enforced rest be any less an invasion of the right of all other persons in this respect, whether they were conscious of the fact or not; for the rights of all classes are the same.
And thus the assertion that “the right of rest for one is the law of rest for all,” is self-contradictory, since it is equivalent to saying that “the right of rest for one” denies the right of rest for another. Such a proposition is, of course, an absurdity.
Those who believe Sunday rest to be a duty which they owe to God, should not call for a Sunday law compelling people to rest, in order that they may have “liberty” to do so. They already have the liberty, in common with all persons, to do what is right. Sin is a voluntary, not a compulsory act; otherwise the sinner could not be held responsible. True, the pathway of right doing is not free from obstacles; but under the provisions of the gospel, none of these obstacles can bar any person from the liberty to walk therein.
It is only a lack of faith in God that keeps an individual from doing what he believes it is the will of God that he should do. He is a slave to fear; he has not that soul-liberty which would make him free to obey the dictates of conscience. He who sins is the servant of sin, and all sin’s servants are slaves. John 8:34. Such persons might take Sunday rest under the “protection” of a Sunday law, but it is evident that they would be in slavery still. What they need is not a change of circumstances, but a change of heart.
He who will not obey a divine command until he has the “protection” of a human law in doing so, pursues a course that is most dishonoring to the God in whom he professes to believe. His very obedience, rendered under such circumstances, must be offensive.
As regards those who desire Sunday rest on other than religious grounds, they have the privilege of securing such rest by any means which will not invade the equal right of their fellowmen.
There is a liberty which all men need, and their need of this is the world’s greatest need to-day. It is the liberty which frees men from the slavery of sin. And there is a “law of liberty,” which is perfect (see James 1:25; Psalm 19:7), and insures perfect liberty in the life that conforms to it. And one precept of that law declares: “The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work; … for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day; wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.” Exodus 20:8-11.
That liberty comes with the attainment of perfect trust in the power of God; and the Sabbath—the memorial of creation—is the divinely-appointed “sign” of that power. See Exodus 31:13; Ezekiel 20:12, 20.
This shows the relation between God’s Sabbath—the seventh day—and that which is liberty in the truest and highest sense. The keeping of the Sabbath signifies allegiance to the true God—the Creator—and that allegiance is a perfect trust in the power of the true God, which casts aside all fear of the consequences of full obedience to his commands.
To all this a Sunday law is contrary. Instead of leading men to trust in God—setting them free in him—it tends to confirm them in the bondage of that fear which debarred them from the path of obedience to their convictions of right. It is the expression of trust in the power of man, which is contrary to trust in God. For, “Thus saith the Lord: Cursed is the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.” But “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.” Jeremiah 17:5, 7. A like statement is made by the Apostle Paul: “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” Philippians 3:3.
Thus it is evident that a Sunday law is not for liberty in the case of any man, but against it. It can be nothing more than a badge of the bondage of those who would take refuge beneath it. It is contrary to the perfect law of liberty, which is the law of God.